Thursday, October 29, 2015

A little chillier, a little darker, a little quieter...

The days are getting a little chillier, a little darker, a little quieter, a little shorter. I've had to break out my gloves and warm winter hat.  I'm not very well-adjusted yet to these colder days of 45 degrees for a high.   The hens have a heat lamp in their coop now that turns on at about 5:00 am and stays on until the sun rises fully, giving them a little extra light which stimulates egg production.  Twenty eggs a day makes me think it's a good idea.  This afternoon as the sun sank low, I noticed several hens and the rooster standing on one leg.  The ground is getting colder now too and I guess they are feeling it.

The weaning has begun.  Yesterday we got the cows and calves in and put these yellow nose flaps in the calves' noses.  The flaps are made of a flexible plastic with little nobs that stay in the their nostrils.  The flaps prevent the calves from sucking their mothers which eventually results in a weaned calf.  Weaning is one of the most stressful times in a calf's life.  Separation from mom as well as separation from their milk supply can cause stress and sickness.  Our hope with this new-to-us weaning method is that the sickness and stress is greatly reduced during the process.  In about 5-6 days we will bring the cows and calves back in and sort the calves away from their mothers to complete the weaning.  You might wonder why weaning is necessary.  The cows are pregnant right now and the double demands of the calf requesting milk and the developmental needs of fetus-calf puts a large nutritional demand on the cow. The calf is getting the majority of its nutrition from grazing now anyway, but the attachment to mom is still strong.

 I picked the last of the calendula flowers and parsley to dry.  
I'll use calendula in my body creams and parsley for cooking.

With the cold, fall days comes my desire to bake.  I especially like to bake bread and EAT bread.  I've come to the conclusion that I don't like store-bought bread.  For years when the kids were at home, I made our daily bread.  At least ten loaves a week.  After they flew the coop, I made bread only occasionally, but now I want to go back to baking all the bread we eat.  It's just the two of us, so it's not quite the chore it once was, and we both appreciate the crusty, rustic loaf and the healthful goodness it provides.

 I made a sourdough starter this past week and used it for these loaves.  They are a mix of white and whole wheat flour along with some ground flax seed and honey.  There's no oil in the bread except for what was in the pans to keep it from sticking.  But I sometimes like to butter the crusts of the loaves when they come out of the oven, and then there's the butter that must be smeared over each slice before eating! I found that by kneading the dough for an extra long time (maybe 15 minutes) the interior was very soft and the exterior crunchy. I think this bread would even make a good sandwich loaf.  I had a "good do" this time!  I've had my share of failures.  I was thinking that maybe tomorrow morning I'd use some of the sourdough starter to make sourdough pancakes for breakfast.  Doesn't that sound yummy?  Yep, I think so too.

If you watched The Great British Baking Show on Sunday, did you also watch the short clip about the  National Loaf?  During WWII England's Ministry of Food established a wheatmeal loaf as part of a food-saving plan.  The Brits preferred a white loaf, but because Britain imported 70% of it's grain at the time, it was determined that the national loaf must use the whole grain, thereby using all of the wheat grain without wasting any of it.  Although the people did not like the national loaf,  the wholewheat bread proved much more nutritional than the white breads.  I prefer the taste of whole grains and seeds in my bread loaves.  What kinds of bread do you prefer?

"How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" --Julia Child

Friday, October 23, 2015

Itty bitty bows....

I've been fiddling around with felt and came up with these itty bitty hair bows for my lil girl grandies.  The two on the left are larger, about 3" wide.  But the other bow on the right and the one in my hair are much smaller.  Perfect for baby girls.  I found a cool method of making hair clips stick in fine baby hair -- grippy shelf liner.  You cut a small bit of shelf liner and glue it to one side of the clip and it will grip onto the finest hair.  I made all of the clips like that, even for the big girls.  Why not?

I found the tutorials for the hair bows here and here.  All it takes is some wool-blend felt, scissors, needle & thread, a hot glue gun, and metal hair clips.  Give it a try.  It's fun!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Old tools -- a 1950s Cord Wood Saw

This old saw has been around for a long time.  Hubby's dad likely used it when he was a young man to cut wood for heating the old house.  When coal became inexpensive and available, the old cord wood saw was put out to pasture.  In the 90s Hubby and I got the saw out and cut up a bunch of old fence posts for firewood.  It was cool to see how it worked and how quickly we could saw up a lot of posts. 

NumberOneSon really wanted to get the saw out this past weekend and run it with his favorite tractor, the John Deere Model A.  He and Hubs set up the saw and fired up the tractor which would turn the belt which powered the saw.  The original belt broke on their first run so they had to figure out something else to use.  Resourceful as they are, the guys went to the shop and found a piece of baler belting and attached that to the saw and the tractor and zoom!  Away it went!  The old saw whirred beautifully and didn't have a bit of wobble in it despite its years of storage out in the open.  The men cut up a few fence posts and decided the saw might need a little sharpening.  It could easily cut through softer fence posts, but it took a little longer to saw through the hard pitch posts. 

The guys were truly amazed at the quality of workmanship that went into building the saw.  It was well-balanced and perfectly round, keeping it spinning without the wobble that comes when things are not machined just right.  I think it probably does a better job of cutting firewood than the chainsaw.  The nice part of using it is that it stands at waist height which makes it much easier to cut a lot of firewood at a time.  Not quite such back breaking work as it is leaning over a chain saw.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Carrot-Orange Cookies...


From the 1980 Betty Crocker Cookbook
which was given to me for a wedding gift in 1981, 
this recipe is one of those yummy frosted cookies
that hardly anyone makes anymore. 

Carrot-Orange Cookies
(Originally called Carrot-Coconut Cookies - revised)

1 cup mashed cooked carrots (about 4 medium)
3/4 c. sugar
1 cup shortening (half butter)
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. shredded or flaked coconut (opt.)
2 tsp. orange zest
2 T. orange juice
Heat oven to 400* F.
I grate some carrots and cook them a little in the microwave.
Mix carrots, sugar, shortening/butter and eggs.
Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add orange juice and zest and optional coconut.

Drop by teaspoonfuls about 2 " apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake until almost no indentation remains when touched, about 8 minutes.  
Do not brown. Remove from pans immediately. 
Frost cookies when cool.
Makes about 2-3 dozen.

Orange Butter Frosting

2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 to 2 c. powdered sugar
dash of salt
2-3 T. orange juice
2 tsp. orange zest

Mix well to spreadable consistency. 


I was inspired to bake the Carrot-Orange cookies after reading Thimbleanna's recipe for Frosted Orange Cranberry Cookies, which I intend to try very soon.  Her cookies reminded me of this recipe and I had the ingredients on hand -- including a garden full of carrots --  so I baked.  And I'm glad I did!  It's been years since I've baked these little cakey cookies.

Speaking of baking, this past Sunday I found the TV tuned to the PBS channel and the program was in progress was The Great British Baking Show.  I just love things that are obviously named like a black kitten named Blacky or a late night show called The Tonight Show, and The Great British Baking Show is exactly what it is.  The fine bakers who are competing for the title of Best British Baker are so much fun to watch and listen to, and the judges are so brilliant and use the best adjectives to describe the baked goods.  When one of them used the word "scrummy" my heart leaped!  If you enjoy baking or eating delicious pastries and buns, you will love watching this show.  Check out the preview here and find the airing time where you live.  Don't miss it this Sunday!  Oh, and after the baking show is Masterpiece Theatre!  I like the one right after.

In this house carrot cake and carrot cookies count as vegetables.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cows, preg checking, weaning, fencing...

Fall is a very busy time of year on the ranch.  There are cows to pregnancy test, calves to wean, and livestock needs to be moved out to winter pastures.  After 25 years or so with Ralph pregnancy checking the cows, he retired to full-time ranching and we've had to hire someone new -- a lady vet named Chandy. And she's good.  That job is behind us now and we have just begun to wean calves.

Have you noticed a lot of semi-trucks on the road lately?  It's livestock shipping time and if you live in rural areas, there's no end to the trucks taking dry cows or weaned calves to and from sale barns or  ranches or feedlots.  The only livestock we ship this time of year are the dry cows.  Dry cows are not pregnant. Often they are called Open Cows.  At the sale barn they have a big O on their backs if they were tested there.  Our cows have a big paint stick mark on their sides and back which help use to identify them when we sort cows.  Tomorrow Hubs will take in the remainder of the open cows to the sale barn and their calves will be weaned.  Later this month and into November, we will wean more calves, a bunch at a time.

Yesterday afternoon I went along with Hubby to help him finish fencing.  We had a long stretch, about a mile, of fence to fix.  The fellas had most of it done the day before, but there were a couple gates to build and some steel posts to clip.  Hub made the gates while I walked the fenceline and clipped the wires to the steel posts.  The photo above is what the clips and the wire pliers looks like that I was using.  On the wider steel posts, I have to use the wire pliers, but on the skinnier posts, I can twist the clip on with a nail spike.  These past few days have been gorgeous.  Sunny and warm but not hot, with a gentle breeze.  Glorious fall days for fall work.  I'm soaking up all the sunshine I can!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Golden glow then blow wind blow!

The green ash trees have been bright and gold with the sun shining through the leaves nearly making them transparent.  They are glowing, as Pom Pom puts it!  But after the glow, the west winds blow!  Today was a crazy west wind with gusts up to 50 mph they say.  The leaves went flying off to East Dakota as our Uncle Edwin used to say.  The shimmering golden Ash Tree of yesterday now stands disrobed and bare.  A few of the Cottonwood leaves remain, but many of them had to let go and fly away too.

The blackbirds are flocking like mad, making formations in the sky that almost looks like gray clouds.  They fly this way and that way and then land in the great Cottonwood Trees making all manner of noises and squawking.  I like them.  I'm seeing flocks of robins too and meadowlarks.  I hope they aren't planning their long journey south yet.  It's been so nice, I think they should stay a while longer.

The milkweed are letting go of their seeds just now too.  They have the silkiest seed cotton.  It's beautiful to watch the pods open and let their seeds go floating and landing -- the promise of new life  next spring.  I like to collect the remaining pods and use them in Christmas wreaths.

The pumpkins did a fine job of getting jolly and round and all have turned bright orange.  A few voles tried to chew into them and left little tooth scars on some of the pumpkins.  It just adds character.

Today I clipped the last little bit of oregano from the garden and dug up some of it to transplant to pots.  I'm hoping it might grow indoors this winter and give me some fresh herbage to cook with and to use for tea or infused oil.  I have been studying the benefits of oregano  for fighting all kinds of things:  colds, flu, ear infections, and skin infections among other things.  I just set a jar of fresh oregano and olive oil in a mason jar to infuse with hopes of using it to boost immunity through cold and flu season.  I've been chopping fresh oregano and putting it into little tea bags , making hot tea with it.  It seems to give me some relief from a head cold thing I've been fighting.  I must chop up some garlic to swallow too!

These past few October days have been so beautiful here.  The morning starts out cold and crisp and I need a light jacket for a few hours and then it warms up enough that by noon I change into my shorts, and by suppertime I am back to jeans and a jacket.  I want to soak up every last ounce of warmth and sunshine and birdsong because I know what's around the corner of autumn.  I can think of a number of things to do to be outdoors right now.  And if I can't find anything to do, taking a walk or just sitting in the sun works for me.  Have you noticed the boxelder bugs and wasps flying these sunny days?  I don't like that part of fall.

The chickens seem to go to bed earlier and earlier each night as the daylight is waning now.  I really seem to notice it with each evening that passes.  I must always be diligent to get the door on the coop shut before dark because the skunks and raccoons are out prowling about, looking for something to eat.  Most times when I've found them in the coop, they are looking for grain, but I've also lost chickens to raccoons.  Once they get the taste of chicken, they don't forget it and will be back night after night until they've eaten them all.  I remember the time when we had to screw on heavy metal screens over the windows to keep coons out.

Shorter days and longer nights means that the daily ranchwork ends a little earlier and the family comes together to eat supper at a regular "supper hour," and we have time to play games or watch a movie or do some handwork before bedtime. I like that part of fall. I hope you are enjoying the beauty that autumn brings too.

...I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air. 
~Nathaniel Hawthorne, 10th October 1842

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dishes and sugar skulls...

Thank God for dirty dishes;
They have a tale to tell.
While others may go hungry,
We're eating very well
With home, health, and happiness,
I shouldn't want to fuss;
By the stack of evidence,
God's been very good to us.
My grandma had a little plaque on her wall with this poem. 
I taught it to my own children. 
When you were growing up, did you cover up the clean dishes with a tea towel when you were done?  Or did you wipe your dishes dry with a tea towel?
I think we did a little of both.
Either way, I'm happy with my newest tea towel featuring sugar skulls
from here and here.

It's football season and that means I spend a few hours each Sunday
watching the Broncos and
Love it!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

In the garden -- diggin' it

My garden is happy.
It's producing like crazy.
Tomatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins,
 squash, potatoes, basil, parsley, and some late lettuce.

I have noticed these last couple of years that my raised beds seem to dry out more in mid-summer and don't seem as productive as my in-the-ground gardens used to be.  So I decided to till a little patch this past week right next to the raised beds, then I filled them up with some yard mulch -- grass clippings and leaves.  I also intend to put some rotted alfalfa hay there and let the worms and bugs go to work on it, building up the soil there.  Next year I'll plant and see what happens.

 What I really want to do is dump half of the raised beds and till them under too, but I might only get one of my boxes dumped.  It would be a good experiment to see the difference in gardening next year.  I do have an in-the-ground garden on the sidehill next to my fenced-in garden and it really does great.  Weeding might be more of a problem, but I will deep mulch and that should really help a lot.

Have you heard of Ruth Stout?  She's an old-time gardener who was a big believer in deep mulch gardening.  She never tilled or added manure or fertilizers.  She just kept piling on old hay mulch year after year and let the bugs do the digging and fertilizing.  She called it Lazy Gardening, but I call it smart!  She wrote a couple books about gardening without the work, and there are a few articles and videos about her methods.  Here is an excellent article in Mother Earth News about her.  And here is a sweet video of Ruth telling about her gardening in her own words.  Ruth lived into her nineties and did all of her own gardening.

I took up the deep mulch, no-till method of planting potatoes a few years ago, and I can testify that it does work!  I rarely even water the potato patch and it produces more than we can eat.  I've used straw in the past, but I think this fall I am going to add a layer of old, moldy alfalfa hay to it.  I think it will be healthier for the ground and add more nutrients to it.  

 I just had to show you this beautiful plant that has climbed my garden fence.  It's a Hyacinth Bean Vine.  Kathie from A Sparrow's Home sent them to me a few years back.  I had tried planting them a time or two, but they never grew.  This year, I found the calico pouch with a few more seeds in it and decided to try once more.  And here they are!  Beautiful, purple-y blossoms with deep purple pods.  I think the beans are mostly ornamental, and I've read that the raw pods are poisonous, but I've also read that if you cook them well, you can eat them.  I just think they are beautiful and don't plan on eating them.  I hope that they might reseed and come up again next spring.  Thank you for the lovely gift, Kathie!  I think of you when I see them.

I can't quit bragging about my geraniums.  I love a pot or a bucket of geraniums on the front porch, and I've grown them every year that we've lived in this house.  There's just something about a bright red geranium that says, "Welcome home!"  At least that's how I feel about them.  The two pots I have are having a second flush and are in full blossom.  I'm so glad it hasn't frosted here yet because the flowers and veggie patches are doing remarkably well, even this late in the growing season.  Every once in a while God gives us the gift of a long summer.  I'm grateful!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

31 Days of Living Well and $pending ZERO

The kitchen pantries/cupboards were dumped out and wiped clean.
 Threw out the outdated stuff and organized.

 One of two upright freezers.  
This one holds two shelves of cow colostrum.
Clean, organized and room for other items.
The refurbed trunk has all the games in it.
Tossed out the stuff we don't play. Not on the to-do list, but why not?

There's a new challenge going on.  Actually, it's not new.  There are lots of bloggers doing a 31 Days of _______ for October.   One of them is 31 Days of Spending Zero over at Living Well Spending Less,  and it's the one that OnlyDaughter and I are doing together.  For the first couple days of the challenge, we are cleaning out our pantries and freezers and taking inventory of what we have.  Last night I spent the evening emptying out my two pantries.  One in the kitchen and one in the mud room.  Oh dear.  What chaos.  Plenty of food -- some outdated, some good -- but all of it in great need of organizing and putting to rights.  The other positive in this exercise is that my pantries are clean and shiny, and I know what's in there.  I don't try to totally organize cupboards in a different way because I'm of the age that I won't remember where I put something if I change things up too much, but having finished the tasks of cleaning and inventorying my pantries and freezers has been just lovely.  This way we know what we will be eating for the next 31 days because we will be eating down our pantries and freezers.  This is a much needed exercise for me since I am a ranchwife who has practiced building a well-stocked pantry and freezer for 34 years, and sometimes I just keep on stocking and stocking and don't move too much food out.  At least not like it was when we had five kids to feed every day.  With just the two of us now, we don't need quite the stockpile we used to.  Still, it's hard to take that "be prepared for anything" habit away now that I've been practicing it for so many years.  I won't quit, but I will modify.  At least I'll try.

Today we are supposed to plan a month's worth of meals using the foods in our pantries and freezers.  We will allow ourselves to buy just a few basics each week.  Things like milk, bread, eggs, cheese, toilet paper, etc.  Or whatever your few essentials are.  Mine will be milk, cheese and maybe some fresh fruit.  I'm lucky to have plenty of eggs and garden produce this month.  My daughter says we should barter with each other for a few food items since I have some things she'd like (eggs) and she has a few things I'd like.  This is all *legal* in the Zero Spending game.  The goal is to use what you have, use it up, go without, or find a way to get what you need without spending money.  I think the challenge will also help us to realize how little we really do need when we are focusing on just the essentials -- food, shelter, heat, gas in the tank.  In America it's just so easy to think that our essentials are much more than that.  I did a version of the Spending Zero last October and I was amazed at what I had left in the checking account that month.  It's a good way to "save" for a few Christmas presents or for something you might be needing -- like a new sewing machine.

 I'm planning to go through my cook book:  Autumn From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch.  There are many delicious recipes -- and inspiration -- that I can cook and bake with the things in my pantry, freezer and garden.  Plus... what fun to try some new-to-us recipes from a very good cooker!

So....if you're interested, click on over to Living Well Spending Less and join us!  There are lots of tips and ideas that are given each day that will help you through this month of spending ZERO.  I'm excited!

One more thing I want to share with you.  A night or two ago while surfing the web for an article, I found an archive of Laine's Letters.  As a young mom I remember reading through many of her letters and being so encouraged.  I knew she did not have her website up anymore, but I was excited to find a web archive of her letters from many, many years ago.  Within the letters you will find lots of excellent ideas for homemaking on a budget, thrifty recipes, advice for living with husbands and children, and doing it under the banner of God's love.  Good stuff.  I look forward to read through them again.

Here's a tip from Laine's Letter called: 25 Easier Ways:

3) Set your table early in the day, if possible. It will just motivate you to cook! And it looks so welcoming to your husband when he comes home. Your children will look on in anticipation as well.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...