Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Everyday nature...

Whitetail buck
Great Horned Owl

This time out I had the big camera with me and was able to capture a few more photos of the owl as well as a nice one of a whitetail buck.  Even though I see these animals and birds often while I'm walking, it still gives my heart a thrill to see them up-close or even far in the distance.  The sounds of the trees creaking in the wind, the scuffle of the jackrabbits out of their burrows, the brisk chill of a fall day, all draw me close to the Creator of it all.

One of my granddaughters is very excited about all things nature.  When we are together she wants to look through the bird field guides with me and show me her nature drawings.  
She tells me, "Gram, there are so many, many things to learn about, aren't there?" 

Be still my heart,
someone who loves nature like I do!
(and she's my neighbor)


What is the good of your stars and trees,
 your sunrise and the wind, 
if they do not enter into our daily lives? 
 ~E.M. Forster

Friday, November 20, 2015


 In trees, in the grass, in my bird feeder.

Two little crab apples 
hanging in the forgotten tree in The Woods.

The Great Horned Owl.  
I see him when I have a phone camera and not my big camera
so my photo is not as crisp and clear as I'd like.
I'll keep trying!

A Jackrabbit 
(among many) lying still in the grass.
He thinks I don't see him.

I'm not sure I've ever seen one here on the ranch.
I went to add some sunflower seed to the feeder and there he was.
Looking at me,  not moving, just waiting
for seeds.
The book says they follow the seeds no matter the weather.
It snowed a little today and it was cold, but the Pine Siskin was here!
Check out this article on their migration to the lower 48.
The Red Polls are Coming, The Red Polls are Coming, and Siskins Too!

Nature is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished.
~Francis Bacon

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Emmy's Wing-It Quilt...

 (lots of gray November days make my photos a wee bit dull)

Emmy's Wing-It Quilt is here!
(I feel like I just birthed something.)

Hubs bought me a new sewing machine,
the first new one in 30+ years since my Viking.
It's a Bernina.
It's wonderful. 
And I'm having fun learning and exploring all it can do.

Our newest grandbaby was born in September and as is my tradition, I wanted to make a quilt to celebrate her birth.  Her mommy asked if I could make this particular quilt pattern "Interwoven"
 in Moda's *Just Wing It* fabrics.
Finding the Just Wing It was a little tricky since it is now OOP, but there were a few Etsy sellers that still had charm packs and yardage left for me. 

I didn't bind this quilt in the traditional manner.
Instead I made a quilt with no binding according to this tutorial. 
I like the clean, modern look of it.

I did some free-motion machine quilting in loop-d-loops.  
I have done a very little free-motion quilting, and I am still a novice at it.
But I figure if I don't try, I won't get better.
Emmy won't mind my imperfection.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Keeping Christmas simple...

Brita as Iduna.                          Christmas Morning
Art by Carl Larsson

Dear Friends,
I know it's not Christmas yet, but if you're like me, you are already hunting for those special little things that you want to give to your loved ones.  Things that tell them they are loved and special.  Sometimes it's hard to find just the perfect gift and sometimes the big holiday can't be attended by every family member.  What do you do?  Well, tonight I found this little love letter from a mother to her daughters (and son), and it meant so much to me and said pretty much what I feel in my heart, so I wanted to share it with you too because maybe you feel this way, and you wish your children could know it.  I passed it on to my grown-up kids.  They were glad, I think.

Dear Daughters (On Keeping Christmas Simple)

Be blessed,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Nature walk...

Tree Sparrow (or Winter Sparrow)
Golden Eagle
Jackrabbit (white-tailed)

I took another walk through The Woods today, but along the way I found a few creatures that caught my eye.  The first was the Golden Eagle.  My DIL called me after breakfast to say that there was a huge Golden Eagle in the Cottonwood tree below our houses.  Sure enough, he was perched right up towards the top of the tree and didn't budge at all when I walked right underneath him. It's that time of year once again when we see the eagles come back for the winter to hunt jack rabbits, cottontails, and mice.  We have a plentiful supply of all three so I hope they eat their fill!
As I was walking into the shelter belt, I spied the cute little American Tree Sparrow or winter sparrow.  There was a pair of them, but this one perched nicely for me to take her picture.  Many of the summer songbirds are gone now, but the tree sparrow comes for a winter visit.  Our American Goldfinches sometimes stay for the winter depending on how cold it is.  They have changed their clothes from bright yellow tuxes to their tweeds of gray and white.

Do you see the white fur starting to color in the jackrabbit's coat?  The jacks are hanging close to the shelter belts now and that usually means that the weather is going to change -- likely cold and probably snow.  I haven't seen the Sharptail Grouse in the trees yet, but when they arrive, that is a sure sign of winter weather coming.  They like to nibble on the Russian Olives.  

I saw an owl fly by twice today, but again, I didn't get a good look at him.  I will though.  You can be sure.  I got to thinking that it might be a young Great Horned Owl too.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Morning fires, fall walks, recipes and more...

The mornings start out downright chilly now, even in the house. It's a great comfort to get up and start a fire in the stove and just sit there and sip coffee with the man.  I have found nothing so radiantly warm and mesmerizing as a wood fire.  I can stand with my backside to a fire for a long time before I feel like I'm heated through, and I can sit before a fire for an hour just gazing at the flames flicking this way and that and changing from red to yellow to blue.  We've had no snowy weather yet, but with the sun so low in the sky, it never seems to be bright and sunny anymore.  It's mostly gray and hazy with a sharp wind.

The colder, biting weather keeps me from walking up the road or through the open pastures, but instead I like to take to The Woods.  The Woods are really shelter belts planted long ago to block wind and snow from homes and for livestock.  For me, The Woods make for a quiet, mostly wind-free place to walk, and the scenery is altogether different from the open prairie.  I have to take my time walking there because there's quite a lot of down trees and limbs lying around and the grass is fairly tall and lays over certain branches.  The trick for me is to keep track of my footing whilst looking up in the trees to spy out owls and grouse and raccoon.  

Yesterday I took a long walk through several shelter belts around the houses and barnyard and I did find one lone owl.  Actually, I didn't spot it on my own, but I was making so much noise stumbling  amongst the branches that I scared it from its perch and it flew away.  I couldn't identify it, but it was smaller than a Great Horned Owl and did not have ear tufts that I could see.  I'm anxious to go walking again and see if I can get a look at it again -- maybe close up.  It could be either the Short-eared Owl or the Eastern Screech Owl.  If you have time, there is a short video on the camouflage of the Screech Owl.  They are HARD to find when perched because they blend in so well with the tree bark.  See this one below.

Eastern Screech Owl, 

From the Garden: 
I roasted the last of the tomatoes tonight.  I had a box full of green and slightly ripening tomatoes that I plucked a month ago and hoped would ripen soon or later. Most of them did, but some of them just went bad and I fed them to the eager chickens.  I've decided that I like roasting and freezing tomatoes best of all methods of preserving.  They tend to be sweeter and less acidic than canning.  I brought in a big bucket of carrots from the garden and covered the rest that are in the ground with a heavy layer of hay mulch in hopes that they can stay there awhile longer.  I've found that carrots tend to stay crisp and fresh longer in the ground than any other place, but I can't let them freeze or they will turn to mush.

The butternut squash were plentiful and are especially delicious.  I found a really good recipe in my cookbook by Ina Garten called "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics."  I involves roasting the squash  with pancetta (or bacon) and garlic and sage.  Oh is it ever good!  Click here for Maple Roasted Butternut Squash!

About Weaning Calves:
All of the calves are now weaned and eating feed -- ground hay and a very little cracked corn.  We used the calf weaning nose flaps on one bunch and that seemed to work out pretty well.  We decided that next time we will keep them in for 6-7 days in hopes that the calves don't wean as hard as they did.  It takes time for the bawling part to subside even though the pairs are together in the pasture.  We've had a few sick calves, but very few.  Those who do get sick are the calves that won't eat.  They tend to pout and sulk and stay away from feed and water and that makes for sick animals.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Wild birds -- in felt

 Black-capped Chickadee, Lazuli Bunting (blue), Downy Woodpecker

American Robin

Guess what?  I found DownEastThunderFarm!  And you know what Susan does there?  She makes patterns for wild birds -- made of felt.  Lots of them.  And you know what else?  She lets you print her patterns for FREE.  The only stipulation is that you don't sell them for profit.  I am so excited because each of my eight beautiful grandchildren are going to have a wild bird ornament clinging to their Christmas tree this December.  So far, I have these three made and another black-capped chickadee ready for its wire feet.  I've got an American Robin, Meadowlark, Burrowing Owl, Wren, and Red-winged Blackbird printed, and there are so many more to choose from.  Susan's patterns are clear and easy to understand.  I think the birds look very life-like, and as a bird-watcher, this thrills me.

If you're not into birds, there are also a few patterns for wild animals.  I'm especially smitten with the Whitetail Fawn, and the Christmas Moose is really sweet too.  I hope you might find your favorite bird at DownEast Thunder Farm.  Even if you don't intend to stitch up any birds, take a look around the farm anyway.  I think you'll appreciate the beautiful birds Susan has created.

Bread and milk for breakfast,
  And woolen frocks to wear,
And a crumb for robin readbreast
  On the cold days of the year.

~Christina Rosetti

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Halloween Fun!

Dressing up
Trick or Treat
Eating "bones, skeletons, and monster cookies"
Chili and Cauliflower-Cheese soup
Pumpkin Ale

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!


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