Thursday, April 23, 2009

Aprons, tie one on!

One of my fellow Ranchwives caught my eye with her Church Ladies' Aprons and I knew I just had to find the pattern. It's a reversible pattern which is nice because I can get more bang for my buck. This apron has a red/white ticking teamed up with a blue and red floral. The pockets have some red rick-rack to give a little pizazz. (click on photos for a closer look)

The willow tree in my backyard makes a nice model,
dontcha think?

This is another Church Ladies' Apron in pink gingham and white muslin. I took up a challenge from Amy at Angry Chicken's Tie One On blog to make an apron with No $$. The idea is to spend nothing and create an apron with whatever materials you have on hand. If you're interested in submitting an apron, check out this link. You have until April 30th to submit a photo to Amy.

I added chicken scratch embroidery to the bib and pocket edges on the gingham side of this apron. It's a really fun and old-fashioned technique that gives a lacy look to gingham. For more on how to do chicken scratch, click here, here, and here. You'll find some chicken scratch photos on this gingham apron gallery too.

Isn't Miss Willow looking very Susie Homemaker here?
To find the Church Ladies Apron pattern, click here. 
Its creator is Mary Mulari.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The "video" part of this was not my main concern, but rather, the sounds of the frogs croaking. It was a perfect spring night....calm, quiet, frogs "singing"... and I wanted to capture that. Along with the sounds, the sky was pretty at that time of night. Turn up the volume, listen, and enjoy the night sounds.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Second breakfast and making coconut bee butter

The first time I heard the term "second breakfast" was when I read aloud the book Little Britches to my young children. We so enjoyed that book and it's companions mainly, I think, because we could relate to a family of ranchers -- the chores, working with horses and cows, chickens, gathering firewood, and getting along with your siblings while you work. Second breakfast was one of those things that we had in common, but didn't have it named.

As you might guess, it is important especially during busy seasons (lambing, calving, fencing, and haying) that a ranch family gets out the door first thing in the morning to tend to livestock and such. Generally, cows eat before humans. So First Breakfast is very quick and simple. It may consist of a handful of almonds and/or raisins or dried fruit, a bowl of cereal, a granola bar, a peanut butter sandwich or a banana. The idea of First Breakfast is to give you enough of a boost to get your first chores done so you can get back to the house for Second Breakfast which is usually more generous. Like today's Second Breakfast, it might be left-over steak with eggs and toast or pancakes and bacon, sausage/egg muffins, yogurt parfaits and toast, and oftentimes it ends up being just another helping of what you had for first breakfast. There's always hot coffee and milk or juice. Breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. I love it and all the foods that go with it. My kids tease me that I love it so much that I like a little dessert at breakfastime. For me that would be toast with jelly or honey AFTER I've had my buttered toast with eggs and the fixin's. " Dessert toast" is the label they've attached to it and I like it.

You know the old saying, "Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Supper like a Pauper." I wholeheartedly agree. But I wonder, is there room for Elevensies too?

My first morning chores were to feed the sheep and to make bee butter. I have been making bee butter for a few years and I really love it. The recipe can easily be changed to incorporate your favorite oils and fragrances. My family and I use it especially for dry feet, hands and elbows, but it can also be used as a body butter. This is one of those all-natural creams that is good for your skin, leaving off the often-used petroleum based oils that commercial products use so liberally.

Originally, I found this recipe on the Care2 website and it is named non-petroleum jelly, a natural replacement for Vasoline Petroleum Jelly. I used to use Vasoline on my dry feet, hands and lips, but I wanted to try something a little more natural, so I gave this recipe a try and fell in love with it. I recommend making it in small batches, as written. I have doubled and even quadrupled the recipe, but I think it's better to make small batches and use it up rather than letting it sit around for a long time even though it keeps for up to a year. I renamed the recipe Bee Butter because the bees wax gives it a mild honey smell and flavor. I haven't added essential oil fragrances yet because I like the natural smell of the bees wax. Today I substituted coconut oil for half of the olive oil so this batch has a coconutty fragrance which I really like.

I was just looking at my Burt's Bee's lip balm and noticed that the first two ingredients on it were coconut oil and bees wax. The recipe I share with you looks very similar and is at least half the cost to make.

Bee Butter
(non-petroleum jelly)

2 ounces olive oil
1/2 ounce grated bees wax
12 drops grapefruit seed extract (natural disinfectant)

1. In a double boiler over simmering water and medium heat, combine the olive oil and bees wax until the wax has melted. (I use a pyrex measuring cup in a small pan of water)

2. Remove mixture from the heat and add the grapefruit extract.

3. Beat mixture with a hand mixer until creamy and pour into clean containers.

Makes 1/4 cup. A small wide-mouth mason jar works great.

*I have made this without the grapefruit seed extract and it still maintains a fairly long shelf life. I have also added a couple capsules of vitamin E oil to the butter to enrich it more. You may like to substitute part of the olive oil with sweet almond oil, coconut oil or others. It is fun to experiment and find the combinations you like best.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

of rain and being "green"....

This wet morning I went with Hubs and 3rd Son to move the ewes and lambs to a fresh pasture. We took them up the road with Son driving before them, luring them to follow with the cake feeder (see the white box on the back of the truck?) and Hubs and I followed behind in the Ranger. Every now and then I jumped out to walk behind them to push them onward. This is fun for me. I like to walk, especially behind sheep. We deposited them through the gate into "green pastures" just like the Bible says shepherds do. It still looks brown, but underneath that old grass is new-growth green grass just waiting to be nibbled. They were so, so happy. How do I know? They ran through the gate and spread out and put their little heads down and began to eat and eat and eat.

The view through the Ranger window. I like it. It's not snowing, it's raining. It's warm, the snow is nearly melted away, and it feels like spring. I've even found the tips of my tulips, daffodils, and iris coming up.

And now onto "being green;" and I don't mean green as in green grass.
Just yesterday I met up with Only Daughter and we went to a nice little adoption party. We were discussing this-and-that with the guests and Only Daughter announced to a friend that her mother is "very green." She told about a little quiz she saw on Good Morning America that helped one to know how "green" she is. OD told me, "Mom, you weren't 'just green' but 'very green." I asked her how so, and she said that for instance, a person could be un-green by buying white, pre-sliced bread or you could be a little greener by buying whole wheat bread or VERY green by making your own bread. In that category, I was VERY green because I have been baking the family's bread from its establishment. I don't boast in that. For me, I do it for reasons of economy and good taste. Our family prefers the homebaked loaf to the store-bought loaf. Another test for green-ness was yogurt. If you were un-green, you would buy the flavored, sweetened yogurts, greener meant buying plain, organic, yogurt, and a VERY green person made her own homemade yogurt. Again, I win the VERY green honors, and again, it is a matter of economy and taste preference. The other green test was in cleaning products. The un-greeny would buy harsh, chemical-laden cleaning products, the greener person would buy the new non-toxic products you see popping up everywhere, and the VERY green housekeeper would make her own out of vinegar, baking soda, borax and such. Give me another knuckle pound for that! And once again, frugality and preference wins the points for me.

All this said, I am proud to wear the Green Sash over my shoulder, but I do not wear it because I am trying to be politically correct or save the planet one yogurt-making session at a time. I am simply living the way I've lived for a long, long while. Making-Do is one reason for my lifestyle. There are so many times living on a ranch, an hour's drive from the nearest grocery store, when I don't have the luxury of making a quick trip to the store for yogurt or for Mr. Clean so instead, I make do with what I have, and I always have milk and vinegar. Milk for the yogurt, vinegar for the mopping. I've learned to keep the most basic of all ingredients on hand in large quantities for just this reason.....Making Do. If you've got a 25 pound bag of flour and you run out of bread, you simply make-do and bake-your-own. When you run out of Windex while cleaning the bathroom, you make-do --pour out some vinegar, mix it with water in a quart spray bottle and you have instant window cleaner. After you realize that your substitutions work every bit as well (or better than) the brand name products, you begin to leave those items off your shopping list and save money in the process. Three tablespoons of vinegar is cheap when compared to a quart of Windex. In a time when the economy is challenging everybody's pocketbooks, this simple lifestyle just makes sense no matter what your political preference is.

Have you noticed though that most products considered "green" are much higher in price than their counterparts? Consider recycled toilet paper and paper towels with "Eco-friendly" stamped on them or the cleaning supplies marked "all natural ingredients." This makes me wonder if the whole "green earth thing" is about making money or about really getting people to be more conscientious about their choices. If a product is made out of something recycled, shouldn't it be less costly? My blue jeans quilts cost much, much less to produce than quilts made of new materials. I don't make jean quilts to save money or to be "green" but because my kids love them and request them. My homemade all-purpose cleaner costs pennies to make with all- natural ingredients so why does Dr. Bronner's or Method brands cost twice what the bottle of Ivory Liquid costs? I can buy a bar of Kirk's castile soap (all natural) for $1 at my grocery store and a bar of Dr. Bronner's is $5. What gives?

One new cleaning tool I'm singing the praises of is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (or it's generic brother found on the shelf next to it) in your cleaning supplies aisle. This sponge is just amazing! If you've got textured appliances or bath tubs with scratches and stains or if your tile grout is looking poorly, grab a Magic Eraser and wet it with a little water and you'll be amazed at what it can do. I like to add a drop of liquid dishwashing soap to mine and I can get my tub and shower sparkling clean -- with no abrasives or harsh chemicals. My fiberglass tub had some blue stains in the bottom due to the many types of cleaners previously used on it. I really thought it was hopeless and accepted my blue bath tub ring until......magic eraser came along. Now I keep several of these sweet cleaning sponges around and hand them out to my kids to take home and try. A few more uses my family has found for the magic eraser are: cleaning dingy tennis shoes, getting out greasy-dirt from the creases in the hands, removing scuff marks from the floor and walls, cleaning the gunk from the sink drain plug, getting stains out of blue jeans, cleaning the oven door window -- just to name a few. For a very lengthy list of ways to use the magic eraser, click here. I can't wait to try it on my deck chairs this summer. Now to me, this is a very eco-friendly way to clean and it's cost effective too. The generic magic eraser costs about 50 cents per sponge.

I was going to tie this up with a little "How Green Are You?" quiz, but I didn't find any that I liked. They were all very political in nature so I decided against them. Instead, would you mind telling some of the practical ways that you are being Green? Perhaps you are like me --you are following in your mother's footsteps, you hate to spend money on cleaning supplies or expensive bread, or you 're broke and have to get by with what you have. Whatever your reason, I'd be interested to hear about how Green you are.... Un-green, Green Enough, Very Green.

Oh, one more interesting thing I heard on the radio yesterday.... did you know that vegetable gardening and the sale of veggie seeds is up 20% over last year? And more people than ever are raising chickens, even in the city! In fact, I just called my local feed store today to find out when the shipment of baby chicks is coming in. The lady said that there has been such a high volume of orders that the hatchery is WAY behind and we won't get our chicks, which were to be delivered in April, until June! I don't know if you'd call this a "green awakening" or an "economical awakening."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gather ye sunshine while ye may.....

Gather Ye Rosebuds Rosebuds While Ye May
Painting by John William Waterhouse

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

Tomorrow will be dying.
~Robert Herrick

Today we are gathering sunshine while we may. We are far, far from having rosebuds, but a little dab o' sunshine will do us for now. The snow is melting down into puddles and creeks and soaking down into the sod. The birds are chirruping and the little creek beside our house is gurgling past. Most of the time, it is dry, but during very wet seasons and after strong thunderstorms, we enjoy a gurgling creek. The weather man is predicting heavy showers tomorrow and possibly more of the "S-word" as the week progresses. I wish it could stay 65 degrees for just a week.

As for now, we shall enjoy the sunshine while we may.....

...listening to the creek gurgling by

...taking a nap in the sunshine

....bridling the horses and saddling up for a short ride through the cows & calves

....feeding the bum calf

....watching hens taking dust baths in the dry, soft dirt.

...capturing that fresh-air fragrance in the clean sheets

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son...

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting. Refrain

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above. Refrain

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Even now, Even there, Even so...

Common Flicker (red-shaft race) in my back yard.

For "Faith reaches out to what it does not grasp"; it is always saying, "Even now, Even there, Even so." But I know that even now that which is beyond human hope can be. I know that "even there, in the uttermost places, shall Thy hand lead me and They right hand shall hold me." And most tender, most intimate of all, "even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight." and here, as we know, "Even so" means simply "Yes." "Yes, Father," yes to everything, to every challenge of faith, to every mystery. And then before we are aware, we have crossed the waters and they did not overflow us. And we look up, and away beyond, and high above us, like a finger pointing up into the sky, is the summit of a mountain, the mountain -- our hearts tell us so -- that is set for us to climb.

Amy Carmichael, Gold By Moonlight

Happy Easter!
He is Risen!

Saturday, April 04, 2009


I just can't help myself. There are SO many cute little softies and eggs to make for Easter that I can't quit. I'm snowed in, the bathrooms are clean, the floor is swept and there is no reason to go outside until it's time to gather the eggs, so.....I sew! Too bad I don't have about 10 more grandchildren so I have an excuse to keep sewing and stitching! Perhaps I'll stash a few for gifts. You can find the embroidered bunny softie pattern at Wee Wonderfuls. I gave my bunny softie a little fabric dress and a corsage.

This sweet bunny was supposed to be a cashmere bunny, but all I had to work with was a brown minky fabric. I just love how he turned out! And he's soooooo soft and loveable. This was REALLY easy. He looks three dimensional, but he's not. Check out Betz White's tutorial here. I added a bit of interfacing to the bunny's ears to get them to stand up, but you can leave them without for a floppy-eared bun.

If you're looking for more Easter tutorials, check out Sew Mama Sew to find several more ideas.

Snow and the doughnut recipe...

Robin in the Snow

We were supposed to get just 3-6 inches of new snow, but so far we've got about 8-10 and it's supposed to continue snowing most of the day. There's a whole lot of good, wet mud underneath which I'm grateful for, but oh my, it's hard getting around in this stuff. Thankfully, we are all done lambing and we've got just a handful of heifers left to calve. The mature cows start calving in a week or so and I guess they're just going to have to have their babies in the snow.

After posting "Doughnut Day" I received a request from Cottonpicker for the recipe. I'm glad to oblige you. Enjoy!

Raised Doughnuts
~The Joy of Cooking (with my edits – Jody)

Combine and let stand for 3 minutes:
1 c warm water (not hot)
2 packages dry yeast (4 tsp)
Sift and stir in:
1 c. flour

Cover this sponge and let rise about 30 minutes in a warm place.

Beat in:
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
2-3 eggs (added one at a time)
1 t. salt
3 1/2 c. flour (added gradually)

Beat for five minutes. Cover and let dough rise about 1 hour or until double in size. Punch down and then roll out on a well-floured cupboard. (dough will be a little sticky) Roll out to about 1/4" and cut out with round cutter with hole or cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Strips should be about 1" wide by 4-5" long.

Heat Crisco in large pan to about 350*. Before frying strips, twist slightly and gently lay them into grease. Turn when golden and drain on paper towels. Dip into powder sugar glaze or dip into sugar or cinnamon/sugar OR leave plain.

*I double this recipe for my family of seven. We sometimes have doughnut suppers in the spring during calving and lambing. I learned to make the twisted doughnuts after reading the book Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Almanzo’s mom always made doughnut twists because they "nearly turn themselves in the hot fat." ~Jody

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Eggy Chicks...

I've been thinking about a fun Little Something that I could tuck into the Grandangel's Easter basket. I think I've discovered it. I saw some ideas online similar to it, but I made my own version. I used flannel for the egg shape -- cut with pinking shears, and then I used heat & bond to applique my chicks. The rest is ribbon embroidery with very simple stitches. After I embroidered on one half of the egg, I simply machine stitched around the egg, leaving an opening to stuff it with fiberfill and completed sewing the seam closed. Simple and fun!

My next project is to plant some wheat into buckets and baskets for "living easter grass." It takes about one week to get a nice stand of grass. I used to do this with my children when they were Littles. Here's a sampling of how Martha Stewart did it.

Addendum: You can find wheat seed at any feed store for a much cheaper price than buying pre-grown wheat grass. Line baskets and buckets with plastic or other containers before planting. Plant seed about 1/2" deep in soil. If your grass gets a little too long before you're ready to use it, just trim it with a scissors to the desired length.


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