Monday, March 30, 2009

Doughnut Day!



I've been looking out the window again as we encounter yet another blizzard. This time we've probably only got 6" or so, but the wind has been howling and blowing the snow about so we have been indoors most of the day. What better to do when you're snowed in than to have a Doughnut Day? I had been thinking of it, but when my boys mentioned doughnuts too, that cinched my plans. I made a big batch of dough in my Bosch and turned out some kaiser rolls, cinnamon twists, and my raised doughnuts (the fluffy things in front). As you can see, I don't fuss with a doughnut cutter and holes and all that fiddle-faddle. Instead, I make doughnuts like Mrs. Wilder from the book Farmer Boy. I roll out the dough, cut it into strips, twist it and fry it in hot fat in my cast iron skillet. The doughnuts practically turn themselves. This is totally my Lazy Homemaker style. They all taste the same anyway and I can fit a lot more in the pan at a time so I am done frying faster.



The Grandangel and her parents came over for doughnuts and games and while H. and I were looking out the window, I spotted this beautiful bird! I was so excited that I dashed for my camera just in case it flew away and I wouldn't know what it was. It took me awhile to find him in my field guide. I was quite sure he was of hawk or falcon origin, but I had never seen one of these birds before. What a treat! And right in the front yard to boot!



The American Kestrel was smaller than most hawks I've seen here and I figured that he's probably been scoping out the many sparrows, juncos and finches around my house today. That's the price you pay when you feed birds. Sometimes a hawk (or a kestrel) comes looking for a Tweetie Bird Dinner. I'm sorry that the quality of these photos isn't so good. I was shooting through the dining room window at quite a distance even for my zoom feature.



And now for a little film clip of Mr. American Kestrel from one of my favorite new bird sites, Bird Cinema.

Kathie, from Island Sparrow is in much the same weather pattern as we have been for several weeks and I really appreciated what she said about snow being "poor man's fertilizer." In fact, I was thinking about how God has blessed us with "tons of fertilizer" this winter and especially this spring. Our land has been in a drought pattern for so very long -- about 7 years -- and I'm looking at snow from a whole new perspective. These spring snowstorms God is sending to heal to our land. It will be well-soaked and well-fertilized and the stock ponds and puddles will be brimming. And oh my! the grass will be green and tall, the hay will be plentiful and the wildflowers will be riotous. I am also envisioning ripe, red tomatoes, golden potatoes, crisp cucumbers and garden peas in my veggie patch. So nowadays, when I look at all this snow, I thank God for the mud and for the beauty that is just around the bend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Storm...


Welcome to my front porch!
A snowstorm swept through our area for two days beginning the early morning of 3/23/09 and ending on the afternoon of 3/24/09. We figure it dumped 2 feet of snow on us. Accompanying the snow were extremely high winds that caused areas to drift as you can see by this little photo journal.



Here is part of the drifting that happened around our barns and corrals.



And this is the sheep shed where we've been lambing for a couple of weeks.



This is the Youngest Son who walked up our road to see if the wind had drifted snow back into the path that we drove through just a couple of hours previous. We didn't want to get stuck in a deep, hard snowdrift.


Western meadowlark

Not the greatest picture, but this is my little bit of "sunshine amidst the storm." Lots of meadowlarks and robins were grounded during this storm. There are gobs of them home for the spring/summer. "Spring" in the north can look like winter. The good news is, it won't last for long, there will plenty of water in the stock ponds, and green grass is just around the corner.

P.S. The livestock made it through the storm just fine. We didn't lose our electricity which is a very common occurrence during weather events.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Meat & Potato Bake-over....



This was today's lunch. It's so easy and it's a meal that can really stretch a food budget dollar. It's something like a pot pie, but flipped. I found this idea some years ago through MaryJane's Farm (the magazine). She had several different types of bake-over recipes all using her "Farmgirl Budget Mix" but me, being the cost-cutting woman that I am, figured out my own Ranchwife Panbread recipe. (It's much like a biscuit recipe)

My Ranchwife Panbread

3 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a measuring cup, mix together:

3 T. olive oil (or butter melted)
2 T. honey (or 1 T. sugar)
1 cup very warm water

Pour liquid into dry ingredients and stir until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Turn out onto a floured cupboard and roll out for your bake-over crust. I have also used this recipe for a quick pizza crust.

Meat & Potato Bake-over

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 potatoes, sliced very thin
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 c. Gouda cheese (or whatever you like)
1 T. fresh rosemary or 1 t. dried
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425*
In a cast iron skillet (or any oven proof skillet, brown meat and add a little olive oil to the pan as you add in the onions, potatoes, and garlic, rosemary and S&P. Saute just a little bit since the veggies will have time to cook in the oven. Now add the cheeses trying to layer a little bit if you can or just toss it. Lay the panbread dough over top. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until golden. Turn out onto a large plate or platter.

As you might guess, this can be changed up in any fashion with veggies of choice, herbs, meats like sausage, bacon or chicken, or you can do sweet bake-overs -- fig and bleu cheese or apple-raisin-nut. The variations are endless.

I have found that the panbread recipe makes quite a thick crust over my 12" skillet. I would sometimes like less crust, so you can easily make two thinner crusts with the recipe. If you like a thick crust, this is just right as is.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coffee break...



This Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed my regular coffee time, but added a couple of sweets. One sweet cinnamon roll and a sweet letter from a friend. She also included a bit of spring sweetness...



....from 1,000 miles away....
a pressing from her Jasmine bush.
Oh, the wonderful fragrance that filled the air when I opened the envelope. Sweet!

We don't get mail on Sundays, but no one had fetched the mail for a few days since the gravel roads have been in poor condition for our mail carrier. It was nice to find "real mail" amongst the bills and newspapers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trills of the Western Meadowlark....


Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth
U.S. Fish and Wildlife


"Turn on the Spring Sprink-le-r" is the description of the western meadowlark's song which my once-five-year-old son came up with many years ago. Another friend who lives on the prairie says her dad thinks the Meadowlark trill sounds like this: "Don't eat my noodle soup." After living amidst the meadowlarks some 28 summers, I have found that the prairie native can have many variations of its song throughout it's spring and summer stay in the open country. There is a link to the Western Meadowlark at E-nature that I like because the song they have recorded is so similar to what I hear. O My Goodness! I just found another site that has video of all kinds of birds "doing their thing." And here's one of the Western Meadowlark....singing, of course!



Check out other bird video clips at Bird Cinema.

Last evening I took a short little walk out to the Horse Creek Pasture and that's where I first heard the meadowlark. It's a bit of a contest in our family, to be the first to hear the meadowlark in the spring or the first to hear a robin. Generally, we hear the birds before we see them, so the other contest we have is "The First to SEE a robin, meadowlark, warbler...." These events go on my calendar since they are Events, after all.

Did you know the Western Meadowlark was designated the official state bird of Montana in 1931 -- chosen by Montana's school children (overwhelmingly) to represent the state? What birds are coming home for a Summer Stay where you live?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Simple Joys...



*My Christmas Cactus continues it's on-going Bloom Fest!
Winter has hung on a long time, so I consider it a little bright spot in my days --a gift from God. There are still new buds coming! I don't know what I did to bring this on.



*Meet Quad-Mom.
With all the talk about Octo-Mom, I just couldn't resist a little blurb about our "natural" quads born to this Mama ewe. The amazing thing is that they are all a very good size, are all healthy, all have nursed and need no medical attention whatsoever! We did divide them up. Quad-Mom now has only two lambs, and the other two lambs went to new mamas with single lambs. Generally, most ewes can only raise two lambs successfully and so when triplets or quads are born, we seek to graft the "extra" lamb onto another ewe. When we see a ewe is lambing, we wait and watch to see if she'll have a single or twin lambs. If she has a single, we quickly grab it, wipe all the birth-slime onto the "graft lamb" and put it in a pen with the ewe and her own lamb, hoping she will smell all the natural newborn-smells and accept the grafted lamb as her own. It's been working very well for us thus far.



*Another simple joy is our Bloomin' Narcissus (paper whites).
I planted them on Ash Wednesday, figuring they'd bloom by Easter, but they've been especially happy and have decided to pop-out early. Aren't they pretty? My family insisted that they go from the supper table to the laundry room since they've bloomed. Why? Well, my sons insist that the *fragrance* is that of urinal cakes found in the men's restrooms. After thinking about it, I suppose they are quite right. I did think that the "fragrance" was giving me a sore throat (I'm smell sensitive). A&J thought they had left a dirty diaper under their kitchen table, so perhaps they are a "toilet flower" after all. Still, I'm grateful for a little bit of bloomin' beauty just now.

*The Snow is melting! It was 52* today and the snow and ice are melting into puddles and creeks and there's mud, mud, mud everywhere. It's glorious!

*Hard Work is a gift. We've had some sunshiney days of late, and working outside together is really a pleasure. Falling into bed exhausted brings the gift of a good sleep.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Strawberry jam and a pink moon...



Yesterday my daughter-in-love and Grandangel, Hazel Peach, and I made strawberry jam at their house while Frank Sinatra sang in the background. It's a tradition we have -- playing Sinatra while making Strawberry Jam. I didn't do very much stirring or jamming or anything. I mostly played with Hazel and we read a book together, Good Night Moon. I got to take one jar of jam home and let me tell you.....it tasted like spring had sprung. I nearly ate the whole thing on my morning toast, but I resisted for the sake of the rest of my family. However, I did take the last of the uneaten fresh strawberries on my counter, added in a few frozen strawberries, and made a small batch of jam of my own. As you can see, I licked the pot clean!



This evening after chores, l@@k what came up over the snowy horizon...
A Pink (nearly-full) Moon!
Tomorrow night is the real Full Moon.
Tonight at 10:15 p.m., it is -8* and I'm staying up to check the heifers and lambs before going to bed. It's going to be so cold out there, but I'll bundle up really well. Poor lil babies out in the cold. Good thing they have mamas to cuddle up to -- warm and snug.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Lambies...



The lambs are arriving.



Newborn lambs aren't fluffy at all. They are cute, but they are leggy and have saggy skin with a little bit of tight wool. Not much like the picture storybooks.....yet.



"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me..." ~John 10:14 I am always reminded of this verse when I see pictures like this. S. is our good shepherd and his sheep sure do know him. They're licking and nibbling him as he lets them back into the shed for the night. (Notice how the shepherd doesn't mind if his sheep have boogers hanging out of their noses or if they have wrinkled noses or dirt in their eyes. He loves them.)

It's cold again. Just 4 degrees tonight. We've gotten a new 5 inches of snow after the last foot melted down. Tonight and tomorrow we're expecting more. The lambs and their mothers will be staying in the sheds until it gets warmer.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Simple Joys....



Here's the 2 foot drift I've been walking through to the clothesline today. It's feeling very spring-like again and so far, we're up to 55 degrees and hoping for a little more warmth and sunshine in the days to come. ~happy squeal of delight~



My domestic little heart, aching for some clothesline refreshment, got its wish today. I love that feeling of a gentle breeze blowing, the sun shining and warming, the birds chirping, and the scent of the breeze wooshing through clean sheets and clothes. (snifffffff) Ahhhh! The few bugaboo's in snowish hanging of clothes is that I must be extra-careful not to drop them on the ground. I also must know the wind direction because this time of year, the barnyard has an extra pungent, wettish aroma that wafts over to the house with an easterly breeze. Thanks be to God, my first day of the Clothesline Season carries a fresh, clean westerly breeze to my clothesline!

Oh, and one more bit of excitement today......
I saw the First Robin of the year! ~happy squeal~ S. took a picture of him, but it was so far away that it wasn't worth posting, but I will be on the look-out for him again and will be carrying my pocket-camera with me. Simple Joys to be sure.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Black and white and snow all over....



Still..........the land of snow and ice.



I'm playing with my camera. Here, I took the photo in black & white to see what kind of effect I would get of the snow in comparison to the color photo above it. I don't know about you, but I'm a lover of the black & white photograph. I have several of my own children when they were little which were taken with real film.

Speaking of black & white photographs, I've also been doing a little research on Robert Frank, a photographer who became notable after WWII. This Swiss man traveled the United States in the 1950's and came up with a photo journal which became published in 1958. The Americans has been considered a cult book and has never waned in its popularity. I have only been perusing the internet for various images by Frank, but have yet to see the book, The Americans. I plan to see if my library carries it and if not, there's always Amazon.com. By the way, there is a 50th anniversary book available just now. The photographs have been rescanned to resemble the originals more closely.

....a couple of Robert Frank's images......


copyright Robert Frank


copyright Robert Frank

In LIFE magazine (November 26, 1951), Frank said, “When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”

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