Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It's been a busy day on the ranch.
We started out early riding horseback to take the 2 year-old heifers back to the North Pasture after weaning their calves this past week.
The mother cows were reluctant to go,
but go, they did.
We've had some beautiful rains here in the past week and there were puddles everywhere we rode and blades of new green grass shooting up.
The pastures are freshened and growing again.
Good news for a cow.
After taking the cows out, we rode down to the Shearing Pens where we always work sheep. The shearing pens were used extensively "back in the day"
when our ranch was exclusively a Sheep Ranch.
Now we raise mostly Hereford cattle
and just a few sheep on the side.
The ramshackle building you see
was used for shearing sheep
and these weathered and worn corrals were used for sorting sheep,
and we use them just the same today.

Our Border Collie dogs, "Jessie" and "Sue" are helping us corral and sort the sheep....
and they LOVE their jobs!

The ewes here have been sorted away from their lambs
and will be turned out that gate to the left of the horses.
They'll be free to graze as they please.
Most of the lambs will be sold at the livestock yards tomorrow,
but we did keep back about 40 head of ewe lambs
which will go back into the herd as breeding ewes.
I also talked the men into saving back a couple lambs
to take to the butcher for next week.
(Can you say, "Lamb chop?")
Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Crab apple picking

Saturday I decided to walk up to the crab apple tree to see if there was going to be a harvest there or not. In the past 7 years or so we have not had any crab apples due to drought, but I figured this year we would find a little something there. Although much of the tree had died, the limbs that were left were LOADED with crab apples. Two sons and one daughter-in-love and I drove the pick-up truck loaded with buckets and boxes and a large blanket to gather our harvest in. It was one of the best crab apple pickings we had ever had! In the next day or so, we'll boil the crab apples until they pop and extract the juices. We'll strain the juice and make a family favorite...... crab apple jelly....which is the lovliest blush-pink jelly you've ever seen.
These little jewels are rich in pectin, so all we need to do is add equal juice to sugar and boil until it gels. Crab apple juice can also be mixed in with other fruit juices that are low in pectin to make jellies and jams gel beautifully.

Aren't these the prettiest color?

We took another hour or so and finished picking the green apples off another tree. These apples we will turn into apple sauce and apple butter. We've got lots of work to do here. It's supposed to get cool and rainy for the next few days, so I'm fixin' to sweeten up the house with the smells of simmering apples.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pullet Eggs

The last few times that I gathered the eggs, I found a little green egg amongst the larger white and brown ones. These green eggs were laid by one of my pullets. For those of you who don't know, a pullet is a young hen, not even a year old. I have a dozen American-Auracana pullets that will likely lay green to blue-green eggs. They are not yet five months old (the usual age for pullets to begin laying eggs), but one of them has already begun to lay. Notice how small the pullet eggs are in comparison to the white hen's egg. I would use 2 pullet eggs to equal one large hen's egg in my baking. I'm so tickled about my visits to the chicken coop now, and I'm anticipating that others of my pullets will soon follow suit.

Now, for one of my favorite egg recipes, which is really not a recipe at all, but rather, a method.

Hearty Country Eggs
Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in an omlet pan over medium heat.
Add chopped onion, chopped green or red pepper, chopped baked potato,
and a few bits of sausage.
Saute until softened. Now add two slightly beaten eggs over the top.
Allow them to bubble up and then flip the whole works over and cook on the other side.
You may top this with your choice of grated cheese and allow it to melt
and serve with chopped, fresh tomatoes or salsa.
A few slices of hot, buttered toast on the side
and a cuppa hot coffee
will accompany the eggs perfectly.
This dish makes a terrific breakfast, lunch or supper.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Distant Storm

Rain in Summer

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs
Like the tramp of hoofs!
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Engulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.

In the country on every side,
Where, far and wide,
Like a leopard's tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!

In the furrowed land
The toilsome and the patient oxen stand,
Lifting the yoke-encumbered head
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man's spoken word.

~Henry W. Longfellow

Friday, August 17, 2007


I mentioned in my post under "Baking Day" that we were pregnancy testing our heifers. I thought I'd share a couple of pictures I took while we were in the North Pasture gathering cows. You'll notice that the pictures are a little bit hazy. There are many fires burning in Montana and the smoke keeps us in a gray haze when the wind is from the west.

All the cattle are standin' like statues,
All the cattle are standin' like statues,
They don't turn their heads as they see me ride by,
But a little brown mav'rick is winkin' her eye.....
Oh, what a beautiful mornin'
Oh, what a beautiful day,
I've got a beautiful feelin'
Everything's going my way.

"Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'
From the musical "Oklahoma!"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Baking Day

Today I awoke to a cool 55* F morning with a lovely breeze blowing, and since our veterinarian and his crew are coming late this afternoon to pregnancy test the heifers, I knew that baking was in order for the day. We'll all have supper together and then the crew will stay the night and get up early in the morning to go to the next ranch to test cows. I'll set up the coffee pot for them tonight before bed and have cinnamon rolls set out for for a take-along breakfast. They generally leave between 3-4 a.m. to get to their next destination by daybreak.

Today's baking included Cinnamon Rolls and Cranberry-Apple Crisp. These are two top recipes in my baking repertoire. My little apple tree is loaded with apples just now so I knew I had to make this crisp for our dessert. I even had a few frozen cranberries to plop into the mix. If I don't have fresh or frozen, I often use dried cranberries instead. The recipe comes from one of my favorite homemakers and business women, Susan Branch. If you have the chance, check out her book entitled Autumn From the Heart of Home. You'll be inspired by her beautiful art throughout the book, her delicious recipes, and her ideas to make autumn a joyful season at your house. Check out her web site here.

Susan Branch's Cranberry-Apple Crisp

4 large green apples, peeled sliced

1 c. fresh cranberries

3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. old-fashioned oats

3/4. t. cinnamon

3/4 t. nutmeg

1/3 c. softened butter

Preheat oven to 375*F. Butter a square baking pan. Place apple slices and cranberries in the pan. Mix remaining ingredients well and sprinkle over fruit. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Career/Home -- Yin/Yang?

Mother and Child by Frederick Leighton,

I was thumbing through a book that a friend just gave to me. She handed it to me reluctantly and said that she didn't totally agree with the philosophy of the author, but thought I might enjoy it anyway. I've fast learned that I don't always have to agree with an author fully to gain some new insight or wisdom. Besides, I had read this author before and learned to "eat the meat and spit out the bones," so to speak. So as I was paging through Something More by Susan Ban Breathnach, I came to a short bit called "O Pioneer" which caught my attention. Here's the quote that really got me to thinking today.

"I find it fascinating the way the ancient Chinese belief of yin and yang -- the complementary opposite female and male energies inherent in the Universe -- runs as a pattern through every aspect of our lives. Career and home, dark and light, cold and heat, sorrow and joy, intimacy and solitude, aggression and passivity, Earth and Heaven. Push or stay put."

First off, let me say that I'm not into Chinese religions or beliefs, but I do see very clearly that there are definite opposites in the world. However, the one example -- career and home -- that this author gave as yin-yang, really struck a chord with me. I even read it again to see if I misunderstood something. Then I decided to go to the dictionary to see if I truly knew what the word "career" meant. Here's the definition from my American Heritage Dictionary:

Career: 1. A chosen pursuit; life work. 2. a path or course

After reading the definition, I thought about whether or not "career and home" are truly opposites. If "career" is my chosen pursuit and my life work, and if my pursuit is my home, then how can they be at opposite ends? Is Ms. Ban Breathnach not leaving room for the woman who chooses a career as wife, mother, homemaker? Or is "home" just a place where we land after we're done doing our career all day long? Is "home" merely the place where the laundry must be done and the dishes washed and put away? Perhaps she means that "home" is a place of rest and not work. Although it is true that home should be a place of rest and peace, I find that I am constantly working at "home" -- trying to make it more organized, more comfortable, more inviting, more peaceful, more beautiful along with creating a restful atmosphere, but that takes hard work and effort on my part. Why? Because it is my career. My rest comes in knowing that this is where God has called me.

If I have a career outside of my home, then when I arrive home from my career, is cooking a meal a mere chore or duty? And who is responsible for preparing the meal or making sure that everyone has clean socks and underwear in their drawers? I was discussing this topic with Hubby last night and he just recently heard about a new survey which stated that the number one conflict in marriage today is "shared housework," so I did a quick search online and found this article entitled "Housework is Key to a Happy Marriage." Quoting the article:
The Pew Research Center survey on marriage and parenting found that children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages, well behind "sharing household chores," "good housing," "adequate income," a "happy sexual relationship" and "faithfulness."

So what does this say about the chosen careers of women today? If she must go out and spend her days at a 40 hour per week job, I don't blame her for feeling abused when she is expected to take care of all the needs of her household as well. So I ask, who tends to the children? Who washes the clothes? Who scrubs the floors? Who is making "home" a place where the family is happily thriving and growing, and who is teaching the children about their responsibility to the family unit? Who is teaching the children how to cook a simple meal or do the laundry or keep a home clean? Who is listening to the problems of Little Ones or giving advice on dating? Is there anyone waiting for me at home anymore? In my dictionary the first and second choices defining "home" are: 1. A place where one lives; residence; habitation. 2. The physical structure of portion thereof within which ones lives, as a house or apartment. But I prefer the third and fourth definitions: 3. One's close family and one's self; a person's most personal relationships and possessions. 4. An environment or haven of shelter, of happiness and love. How can a home be such if there is no one there making a life work (career) of it? Does "home" just happen, or is it created by a loving human who makes it her purpose in life to make home a haven of shelter, of happiness and love for her family?

So what do you think? Is career opposite of home in your view? I have heard of many women who say they have given up their careers to stay at home with their children, but have you ever heard anyone say that their career choice is home & family? Is it even accepted as such in our culture today? Or dare we say it for fear of being considered out-of-date and old-fashioned or worse yet, shackled and chained to a medieval institution for the slavery of women?

"The woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies."

~Excerpt from "Secrets of a Happy Home Life" by J.R. Miller 1894

Friday, August 03, 2007

My Heritage

Isn't this a wonderful photograph?
It was taken in the very early 1900's in South Dakota.
I knew these people personally, all except the man standing by the horse -- that was my great grandfather, August. The woman was his wife, my great-grandma, Teresa, whom I remember well. She was a quick-witted woman, clever, and full of life. She lived into her late 90's. The little boy in the carriage was my grandpa Ray and his sister beside him was my Aunt Ethel.

When we think of history, we really shouldn't think about it as "facts and dates" but rather, we ought to remember it in the span of a life. A real life. A life of someone we know today or once knew. When I think of Great-Gramma, I can imagine her going through the Roaring 20's with her young family on this wheat farm. I can see the threshing of the wheat (my dad has pictures of that too). I can imagine her making-do during the Great Depression, living on their fresh eggs, pork, milk, and grinding wheat for flour. I suppose that they lived fairly well since they produced most of what they needed there on the farm. Others who didn't live an agrarian life had it much tougher and often worked on farms for food and a place to sleep.

I can imagine my grandparents excitement when the automobile was invented -- going from this cart and buggy to a Ford. From Fords to fancy cars and airplanes. Later on, they would see men go to the moon and back. Now that's a chunk of history in one lifetime, isn't it? But see how much more real history becomes when we can attach it to a person's life? Since we are a home schooling family, I'm always trying to find ways to make learning come alive and attach itself to my children's brains. Talking to their own grandparents and family friends about the Depression or the War and hearing stories of how they lived their everyday lives really does make an impression on my kids. Not to mention, they learn a whole lot about sacrifice, living without, getting by, hard work, faith, disappointment and challenges which all build the house of Character in a life. Those are the real lessons I want them to learn. In this life, it's not what you know, but who you've known along the way that really matters.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Leopard Frog

It's been a long while since we've seen many frogs about. With a severe 7 year drought, they've really died off. Not completely, but they have been greatly reduced in number. Nowadays though, we are seeing them everywhere. As I mowed the lawn yesterday, they were hopping about in between swaths of mowing and jumping out from beside the house as I walked by. They were moving underneath the weeds and flowers I was pulling up in the garden. It seems they've made an excellent come-back this year. While pushing the mower the gnats were billowing up from the grass so I can imagine that the frogs were very content to be there -- sticking out their tongues to catch them like snowflakes falling from the sky.

Hubby was out baling straw in the neighbor's wheat field all yesterday and he came home to tell me that he saw several large frogs in the field. If you've ever been in a wheat field, ripe for harvest, you know that it's a very dry place --not somewhere you'd expect to see slimy, water-loving, google-eyed amphibians. It is shady with tall wheat heads floating high above, but it's still dry. Perhaps there was a little muddy creek there somewhere closeby. The straw is so dry it must be baled "in the dew" of the early morning or night, which Hubs was doing, so that may explain his sightings.

Did you know that frogs are chameleon-like in that they will change the color of their skin to match their environment? If they're in a very green grassy place, their skin will be bright green, but if they are found in slate-colored mud, they will match it and blend right in.

The Frog
by Hilaire Bellock

Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy-Skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise, "Ugly James,"
Or "Gape-a-grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
Or "Billy-Bandy-knees";
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair,
At least, so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).


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