Friday, November 21, 2014

Louise and the Kindness Elf....


My grandgirl, Miss Bee, has a love affair with dolls and her baby.  Baby Jane is not a doll (Pssst, yes, she is, but Bee says no.).  Baby Jane is her baby and Miss Bee is the Mommy.  Period.  Dollies on the other hand, are dollies.  They're more like friends rather than children who need mothering.  Louise, one of Bee's dollies, needed a hair makeover.  The first hairstyle Louise had was my favorite, but the fluffy, soft hair shed all over everything and Mommy said we must do something else.  So in came the pink hairstyle.  I liked this one too, but it got  mangled, and so it was time for Louise to get a reasonable hairstyle that wouldn't pull out or shed.  I'm hoping this is it.  Brown, loopy pigtails.  I will admit to you, because you are my friends, that I will never make another dolly again.  I think they are fussy and difficult, and of all the sewing projects I've made, this is the most tedious -- from the body to the tiny seams in doll clothes.  I just don't want to do it anymore.  So although I love the Wee Wonderful dollies -- and you really should go see how cute they are -- I am done trying to create them.  Instead, I will buy them from Land of Nod.  I think they are reasonably priced there and well worth the money in comparison to my sanity.

Have you heard of the Kindness Elves?  They are the opposite of Elf on the Shelf.  Instead of naughty deeds, Kindness Elf does thoughtful, loving deeds.  Hillary Lang, from Wee Wonderfuls, made her adorable version of the Kindness Elf with one of her patterns.  I even thought of making one..........but no.  I want to have a kind, cheerful attitude for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Come, walk with me...


First things first! Let's walk into the laundry room and throw a load in.  There's always wash to do,  and look who's blooming just for us.  It's the Holiday Cactus, who started blooming on Halloween and will continue blooming through all the holidays up to Easter.  The only ones who see her beauty are those who do the household laundry.  (Me.)


Next we'll jump in the pick-up and go to The River to feed the cows.  Normally it's a little early in the season to start feeding cake to the cows, but with the very cold temperatures, they need a little extra feed for their transition into the winter cold.    We've had daily highs in the single digits and nighttime lows below zero. That kind of cold burns up a lot of energy when you live outdoors.


After our chores we take a lunch break, and then I like to take a walk outside.  Since it is so cold, I pull on my woollies and heavy boots and trudge through the shelter belts.  When there is wind with this cold -- and there is -- it's really hard to be outside for long, but walking through the trees makes it a little more bearable.  They break the wind plus I get a change of scenery from the open prairie.


We do have to walk across some prairie to get to the next shelter belt.  There are three tree patches  that I walk through most of the time.  I'm so glad that Hubby and his dad planted these shelter belts long ago.  They not only provide wind and snow protection for livestock, but they create wildlife habitat too.


A jackrabbit runs by on the road and stops just for a moment so I can snap a picture.  His fur is turning white, but isn't fully white like it will be soon.  He's well camouflaged, isn't he?


The grass and the curlycup gumweed has a nice dusting of snow.


 Up in the trees you can see a Sharptail Grouse.  They blend in so well right now that often I don't see them until they move or until they fly up....


...Like this one below  How did I get this shot?  Luck.

 After our walk we'll warm up inside with a cup of tea or coffee and a cookie.  And soon enough there are chores to do.  I gather the eggs early in the afternoon so they don't freeze and crack.  The chickens are waiting for the leftovers from my slop bucket.  They love to eat our throw-aways.  The only warmth they have in the coop is a heat lamp that keeps the water bucket from freezing over.  I try to keep enough bedding on the floor so their feet don't get too cold.  They seem happy enough so far, but I might need to spread some extra bedding down if it stays cold.  The handsome Speckled Sussex rooster doesn't have a name, but he should.  Do you have some suggestions?


The sun sets early and the nights seem very long to me now.  It is fine with me.  It's as it should be.  Winters bring a slowness to everything.  You can't hurry when its cold.  It takes longer to dress and undress.  It takes longer to walk.  Cattle move slower and pick-up trucks take a while to warm up before we can go to work.  These November nights I'm ready for bed at about 8:30, but I stick it out until 10.  I'm working on more embroidery in the evenings -- both patching little jeans and stitching tea towels.  I'm going to start darning Hubby's thick, winter socks.  Mending is satisfying work.  I enjoy it. I ought to pick a new book to read too.  What are you doing to occupy the long, dark evenings of winter?  Any book recommendations or ideas for Christmas gift making?  Tell me in your comments.  

I have come to regard November as the older, harder man's October. I appreciate the early darkness and cooler temperatures. It puts my mind in a different place than October. It is a month for a quieter, slightly more subdued celebration of summer's death as winter tightens its grip.  
~Henry Rollins

Sunday, November 09, 2014

November chores and shifting gears...

 November has brought plenty of activity here at the ranch as we shift gears into winter.  The birds have mostly migrated and left the prairie very quiet. I miss the sounds when I go out walking.  We've been moving livestock to winter pastures with the incoming cold weather that is swooping down from Canada.  It was a gorgeous day here today in the 50s, but now that night has fallen, the temperatures have too.  We are expecting to go into the single digits all week long here.  Brrrr.  We've been so spoiled by a mild fall so far.  I guess it's time for a change.

We gathered up the ewes and put them through the gate into the hayfield.  I love watching sheep  go through a gate like water pouring through a funnel.  The ewes have produced a really heavy wool fleece.  They're fat and fluffy!   Toodles said to me, "Gram, they have their snow pants on for winter."  Yes, they sure do!


 The calves are all weaned now and are learning to eat hay and a little corn from a feed bunk.  Some are good eaters and some are struggling to eat differently.


 I dug all the rest of the potatoes from my garden and weighed out about 100 pounds.  I ended up throwing quite a few nice sized spuds over the bank because the voles got under the straw and gnawed on so many of them.  Pooh!

 I pulled up all the rest of the carrots from the veggie patch too.  My goodness, they did so well.  I didn't weigh these, but I did fill two grocery sacks full of carrots and stored them in the garage fridge.  They should last quite some time there.

 The grandgirls helped me snip the stems off the carrots and wash them up in the lawn.

I had cut the parsley all down with the first frost we had back in September, but look how much it grew back!  I whacked it all down and brought it in the house to dry on a sheet on the kitchen table.  I'll have lots of parsley to share. Did you know parsley tea is a good-for-you tonic?

 Early this morning, before the crack of dawn, Hubs and I took the Rangers out to the North pastures to gather up the cows and move them cross country to the River.  It took a long time until it was very light with all the cloud cover we had.  The cows were eager to go.  I think they can sense when it's time to go to winter pasture, and they are so happy to get a fresh pasture to graze.

 Time for a drink at the dug-out before moving on to fresh pasture.




 The grass is brown now but it's still packed with nutrition.  There was so much regrowth this fall with the moisture we had that there will be some green pickings down below the dry grass for a short time.  The cows were happy to get to their destination after about a seven mile walk through the plains.

This was my view from the side mirrors.  Two different perspectives -- moving forward and looking back.

Many little, but necessary chores are completed.  All the livestock water tanks have their heaters installed, the chicken coop is cleaned, the firewood is in, the gardens are cleared and the bicycles are put away in the old bunk house for the winter.  I even had the chance to paint a granary door and wash a few windows on my house before the cold snap hit.  The jeans are mended and winter coats and hats are pulled out of the closet and hang on their pegs.  Tomorrow we are expecting snow and deep cold so I plan to find some cozy indoor things to do like baking bread and maybe a batch of cookies.  We'll stoke up a fire and sip coffee early in the morning.  I love a fireside mug of coffee.

We will be selling bulls tomorrow.  It will be opening day for our new way of selling bulls -- private treaty instead of at a full-blown bull sale auction. Many ranchers have already stopped by to look at the bulls and make their picks so the phone lines will be open early in the morning -- first come first serve!  We are looking forward to trying something new and seeing how it all shakes out. 

I want you to know that I made that Fire Cider and it's pretty good stuff.  You can read about it here.  It turned out to be a very good thing to have on hand.  When I've begun to feel a little blah or feel a sniffle or the aches come on, I just take a tablespoon of it and chase it with some water.  I haven't been sick yet.  I really think that onions and garlic can't be beat for keeping the body healthy and strong.  They can really fight off colds and flu (at least for me).  I like to chop a clove of raw garlic into bits and swallow it like little pills along with a glass of water when I feel a cold coming on.  Nips it in the bud every time.

The lemon infused vinegar was also a successful little project.  It smells SO much nicer than just plain white vinegar, and I'm enjoying using it for cleaning purposes.  I use it for cleaning windows and for everyday jobs like mopping, deodorizing, and cleaning off the stovetop.  I'm sure there are lots of uses for it too.

How is your November going?  What are you doing to prepare for winter?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

More mending with little details...

 This time I patched a pair of girl jeans on the outside.  I embroidered the patches first and then machine sewed them on.  Only the knees are my embroidery.  The other was factory stitched.  
(I love the factory stitching.  Cute!)

 Patched a major rip on Hubs' jeans.  The patch is underneath the rip and then sewed over with denim colored thread so it doesn't show much.  I stitched the Xs around the rip for fun.

I put total fronts on Hubby's jeans, patching over the top. They look almost like chaps covering the legs. The jeans will be extra-warm when the weather turns cold. These two small embellishments are  in fairly obscure spots -- tiny signs that I was the mender of the Man's jeans.
We'll see if he notices.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

More groovy jeans patches...




I feel like a 7th grader again, 
drawing on jeans and embroidering them
 to my heart's desire!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunshine (and other stuff)....


I'm so thankful for the October sunshine we've been having.  It's still Indian Summer here on the plains, and I'm thrilled!  It means we have beautiful days to get fall work done, and I have time to spend sunbathing before the cold weather comes upon us.  Living so far north, we tend not to have days for soaking up the sun much after September.  Some of us get a little more sluggish or bluesy or melancholy when the winter months hit.  I think it's called SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and it tends to start and end about the same time each year.  I know I feel a little more blah when winter hits so I'm always working on catching some sunshine each day, even if the weather is cold and I can't sit in the sun with shorts and a tank top.  Since our bodies need the sun to make vitamin D, and winter doesn't give us much sunbathing weather, I take a vitamin D3 supplement from fall through June or so.  Hubs and I also test our vitamin D levels twice a year to make sure we're in the "good" levels. I'd rather not take D3 pills or drops, but we have little choice in the north.  There's an excellent article by Mommypotamus about why we should choose sun over supplements.  Click here.

Have you also noticed that when the weather turns to cold, dark winter that there are more colds and flu?  I think there is a definite link to the sunshine and wellness.  So many of us don't spend any time outdoors since much of our work and even our play is indoors.  I read an article that mentioned taking a daily sunshine break at noon.  Instead of staying in for lunch, eat in the sunshine or choose to sunbathe over your noon hour.  I like that idea.  It's practical except when it's -20 degrees, the wind's blowing and there's a foot of snow on the ground.  Better take some D drops on those days!

On another health note, OnlyDaughter sent me a link to an interesting article on the flu shot.  With all the giant signs at every grocery store, pharmacy, and even the car dealerships shouting:  FLU SHOTS HERE, it merits some attention this time of year, but a Johns Hopkins scientist says that the shot  really is ineffective against the flu, and can be seriously detrimental to small children.  Click here for that article.
(CarpenterSon's shop/garage, minus sliding doors)
 
In other news, the shop that was built for CarpenterSon is complete!  The men did it all themselves and it looks great!  Today I helped my boy brush on the oil to preserve the raw wood boards and batten that are the exterior of the shop/garage.  I am so glad that he bought himself a sprayer so he could do the majority of the work spraying on the oil.  I brushed around windows and doors and next to the roof line.  Now he's ready to put up workbenches and set everything up the way he wants it.  One more job that we were able to complete during this stretch of Indian Summer.
  

Yesterday the vet and his helper came to fertility test the bulls.  I was in charge of fixing a lunch, and since Dad gave me another bucketful of his apples, I decided an apple pie would be nice.  I have the very best pie dough recipe that I make.  It was given to me by a farmwife many years ago and I still use it for every pie I bake.  It makes a big batch of 7 single pie shells so I roll it all out and lay it in pie plates and then bake what I want for the moment and freeze the rest for later.  I had a couple of frozen crusts left in the freezer so an apple pie was whacked up fairly fast!  MMMMmmmmm good!  I didn't get a picture of the finished pie, but trust me, it was good!
--------------------------------------------------------------
Big Batch Pie Crust

5 c. flour
2 c. lard (or other fat)
1 T. salt
2 t. sugar
1 egg,
Cold water

In a large bowl mix dry ingredients and Crisco together until it resembles small peas.
Add egg to a measuring cup, whisk and then add enough water to make 1 cup of liquid.
Gradually mix in water/egg mixture until dough stick together.  If needed, you may add a little water or reduce the water, but do so by the tablespoonful.

Divide dough into 6 or 7 pieces.  Roll out for pies.

*This dough freezes very well.  I usually roll out crusts, put them into pie plates and freeze with waxed paper between them and cover with 2 layers of plastic grocery bags.  So nice to pull a crust out of the freezer and have a quick pie.
--------------------------------------------------------------


I hope you're soaking up the sun (in your soul and your body) on these short fall days and save it up for winter.  And if you are in need of a cool down and rains where you live, I wish you that!  God bless you, friends.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Simple things....

A perfect apple, the only one, found in the grass at the bottom of the tree by six-year-old hands.

Slicing the perfect apple and sharing it with loved ones.

Noon sunbathing on a cozy blanket on the lawn.

Taking a walk to the mailbox at sunset and hearing two Great Horned Owls calling to one another under a full moon.  (Listen here)

Grandchildren coming over for a visit.

Hanging clean laundry on the clothesline for a fresh-air drying.

Eye-ing sheep (shearing their faces) in preparation for winter snow and frost.

Yellow and orange Calendula flowers that persist through cold nights and little water.

Bees who are sucking up every last bit of nectar from their flowers before they wither and die.

The earthy smell of decaying fallen leaves.

Pulling up big orange carrots from the veggie patch as we need them.

Cutting fresh lettuce from the veggie patch.

Finding more pullet eggs in the nests each day.

Selling the last of the lambs today.

Fresh-baked apple pie from Dad's apples.

The low sun shining into my kitchen windows.

Mending.

Flannel shirts.

What are some of your favorite simple things?

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
~Laura Ingalls Wilder



Friday, October 03, 2014

Jammin'....

Fall is that special time of year when you start getting baseball bat sized zucchinis stuffed in your mailbox or trash bags full of very ripe fruit delivered to your door.  My dad, bless his heart, called me first, at least, and asked me if I could possibly use a trash bag full of ripe plums.  Ummmmm.  Well.  Sure!  Yes, I could use an entire trash bag of plums for something, I guess.  I thought to myself, if nothing else, I could feed them to the chickens.

The day arrived when OnlyDaughter delivered them as she picked up her children from a two day stay.  Now it was time to figure out what I'd do.  The first thing I thought of was jam.  I had never made plum jam, but I figured I had the ingredients for at least one batch so I'd give it a try, not knowing whether or not Hubs or I would actually eat the stuff, or if we'd just leave it to age on the shelves of the canning cupboard for years and years and then let our children throw it away once we passed on.  I'll write the year on the top of the jar just for conversation.  I could hear them saying, "Geez!  Mom made this stuff in 2014 and here it is 2044 and the seal is still good!"

First, there was the washing and then the sorting and pitting of hundreds of little cherry-sized plums.  This was the time consuming-est part of the process, but I pressed on, hoping for the best.  I always make jam to taste, not following a recipe exactly when it comes to measuring out the sugar.  You never know if the fruit is going to be very sweet or very tart so I add the sugar a bit at a time and taste.  One lick of the spoon and I knew this jam was going to be the bomb diggity.  And it was!  I had a glob on some fresh-baked bread and it was to die for!  Then I had JJo try it that evening.  She was floored by the flavor and took a pint home for herself.  I took a jar to JLo's too figuring they might like to try it.  Since the experiment turned out so well, I bought another case of jelly jars and a little more sugar and pectin and made another big batch of jam, and froze the rest of the pitted plums in the freezer for more jam later.  Or perhaps Dad might want some plums for wine making.

The dreaded trash bag of plums turned out to be nectar of the fruit gods.  So far we've had that plum jam on toast and on ice cream, and next I plan to use it as a layer in coffee cake.  Can't you just taste that tangy sweetness and see that beautiful red swirl in the middle layer of morning coffee cake?  Oh yesssssss!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mending li'l jeans...

 I am having too much fun!
Seriously.

 I love denim.
And I have always been a mender of jeans.
Lots of jeans.
Living with five kids and working
on a ranch
 along with a husband who works hard, 
jeans ripped 
and tore
and wore out.
I have mended innumerable jeans
(meaning I have never numbered them and wish I had).

 When I was in seventh grade,
 I started embroidering...
on my jeans. 
I drew on my jeans with a ballpoint pen during class
and went home and embroidered them at night.
I wish I still had those jeans.

 Now I feel like I'm re-living seventh grade.
OnlyDaughter brought me four pair of li'l girl jeans
to mend.
And this is what I have been doing in my spare time.
Love it!

 Soon I will go next door and grab the other little jeans
that belong to more of my little people
and stitch on them too.


Won't that be fun?
Yes, it will!

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