Thursday, April 29, 2010

First mowing of the year....

I know.  It seems like a dumb blog post.  But really, I do look forward to the first mowing of the year.  When you live in what I call "winter country" where winter can stretch from October through April or May, then you understand why I look forward to getting the mower out.  When the mower comes out of hibernation, it means there are green things growing, and that makes me very happy.

I was so relieved to find that I had actually drained the old gas last fall and so all I had to do was to drain the old oil, add new, add new gas, jiggle the spark plug, give the cord a pull and zoom, it was running!  Sure, I should have had my son sharpen the blade and put in a new spark plug and a carburetor filter and all that before I began my first mowing, but he is really swamped with mechanic work in the shop and I just wanted to mow.  So I did.  And it all worked just as I had planned it.

I mowed our yard and the side banks and then I mowed Grandpa's yard, and today I mowed around the buildings and out by the fence where we sometimes park.  I fired up the weed whacker today too with hopes that I might be able to "mow" the tree patch near our house.  It's too thick and jungley for the mower.  I really am not fond of the weed whacker.  It hurts my arms and shoulders, but I needed to do the job.  So I did.  It was a big job, but I was so thrilled to accomplish it that I continued on and trimmed around the shop, the barn, the fence, and everywhere else that had tall barnyard grass growing alongside it.  Why the mowing and whacking frenzy?  Well, it is supposed to rain tonight and then rain and snow for the next few days.  I don't think we are going to get "measurable snow" like we sometimes do in the spring (look here and here to see what I mean) but we are supposed to have a couple of inches or so.  Snow and rain on already-green-grass means that it will grow, grow, grow and I didn't want to be cutting two foot high grass instead of six inch grass. 

I picked a big handful of daffodils and a few tulips to bring inside, just in case the snow ends up being more than we thought.  Besides, I love bringing a little outdoor beauty indoors.

My outdoor work is done (whew!), the clouds are moving in, the sun is hidden behind them, and I'm having my afternoon cup of coffee and some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.  No, I didn't make a batch of dough.  I have frozen cookie balls!  This is the life!

The men are gone tonight to the Big City to hear Coach K, championship basketball coach of Duke, speak.  I'm staying home, eating left-overs and might watch a movie.  I'm thinking a Jane Austen movie, Sense and Sensibility, my favorite.  I watched a movie last night which I loved called Return to Me.  It's a love story about a man who falls in love with the woman who received his wife's heart.  He must decide which woman it is who holds his heart.  Add it to your Netflix queue.

Monday, April 26, 2010

This and that....

It's been raining here and cold here lately, but I was in the mood for some sunshine!  This lemon cake, served with homemade lemon curd and whipped cream, was like eating sunshine from a fork.  I sent some cake and curd with my college boy to share with his friends and we've been nibbling at the rest.  If you've never had real lemon curd, you are really missing out!  It's pretty easy to make if you have plenty of eggs and lemons.


2 1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 T. butter, cut into pats
3 tsp. lemon zest (or more)

In pyrex bowl mix together the sugar and cornstarch.
Whisk in lemon juice and eggs and yolks.
Put in the microwave for 2 minutes and whisk, continue to cook at 2 minute intervals and whisk until the lemon curd becomes thick.  Add butter lastly and whisk well.  Allow lemon curd to cool and then refrigerate.  This recipe makes about 3 cups.  You may store curd in jars in the frig for a week.  I like it on everything from cake to biscuits to toast or straight off the spoon.

Today was another windy, cloudy day so I didn't get to hang my bedding on the clothesline like I usually do on Monday.  The laundry all went through the dryer.  Since it was an "indoor day" I decided to make another bonnet to stay at my house for the days that Hazel Peach comes to visit.  This way we always have a sun hat for working and playing in the yard.  I really like this one.  It's reversible.

I also spent a chunk of time with my itibit sampler.  I embroidered three more squares and am about ready to go stitch some more tonight.  It seems some days I get the bug to stitch, and I don't want to quit.  I'm looking forward to finishing my sampler and then possibly starting another.   Amy from the 39 Squares Stitch-Along is going to have another stitch-along called Counting My Blessings.  The idea is to embroider one hundred square inch blocks, each one representing a blessing or a prayer.  I really like this idea.  It might take an eternity for me to finish, and it's not because I don't have enough blessings, I do, I just don't always keep up with everyone in the stitch-alongs.  But  that's okay with me.  I'll just begin and see where the project takes me.

Another item of interest is that BW, the calf, has a mommy.  He hardly knows what to do with her since his birth mother didn't lick him off, let alone feed him.  The men had to suckle BW on her so he would get the idea of where the milk comes from.  He thinks it comes from us!  This particular mama cow lost her calf to a fast-moving strain of intestinal disease.  The vet posted the dead calf (did an autopsy) and found out what it was, and we plan to vaccinate the young cows' calves as soon as we can get the vaccine.  In the meantime, BW and his new mama are getting to know each other.  I think he'll enjoy sucking real milk from the cow much more than drinking that icky powdered milk we were feeding him, don't you?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Earth is crammed with Heaven...

 Sagebrush Buttercup

Ewes and Lambs

Rain on the Range

Rain on Me
Reign in Me

Earth is crammed with heaven
And every bush aflame with God
But only those who see
Take off their shoes.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth."
~Psalm 100

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A patch of green -- country yards & gardens

What I'm looking forward to in May

My mother-in-love once said, "I just need a little patch of green to keep me sane out here on the prairie."  As the years and the droughts go by, I can so relate to her wise words.  I, too, value the little patch of green surrounding our home.  It's not fancy for sure, but it's green -- even if some of the green is crab grass and dandelions --  it has a few rustic wildflower borders and a 50-yard line.  When we first were setting about making our yard, I was thinking along the lines of a circular rose garden smack in the center of our front yard, but when you live with sports-lovers, five boys (one of them my husband) and one tom boy who loves sports as much as the guys, then rose gardens and flower beds had to take the sidelines.   Now I'm grateful that we didn't put in that center rose garden because I learned these 28 years that roses don't do well out here and we'd have missed  out on playing croquet on the front lawn on the Fourth of July.  We'd have missed mowing the lawn into a baseball diamond and playing whiffleball on summer nights.  And then there's night Frisbee with a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee.  Landing in a rose patch while leaping for a catch would not be nice, though memorable.  As time has elapsed the sports have changed a little and now golf is the best loved sport and my front yard is a good place for chipping and a little game called Poison.  The side area, over the bank where I mow but don't consider "the lawn," is now a tee box for driving the ball out in the pasture to the south.  Can you say Willie Nelson Golf Course?  All this I can see and enjoy from my kitchen window or my front porch swing. 

At present, my country yard is just starting to come alive. It takes us a while up north before we see "green" and I'm just loving the process.  Every new shoot, every nubbin of rhubarb, every blade of the daffodil, I see and take excitement in.  I have some tulips growing around the trees in the front yard that are just poking up and the grass comes up right along with them. I don't mow that grass around the trees until the tulips are all finished and even then, I kind of like the grass growing tall beneath the trees.  I know in town it is seen as unsightly or ill-manicured, but lucky for me, I can let the grass grow or not.

We play hard in our yard, we always have, and so I do keep it well-mowed so we can whack the croquet ball with ease or run to first base without tripping over a tuft of crabgrass.  Generally, I like the grass to be longer than most yards I've seen.   It looks greener that way and feels softer underfoot. Surrounding our home and yard we have pasture and I like it that it grows up tall all around us. I remember when  the kids were little and would play hide & seek out there.  They even liked hiding-out from Mom when she called.  It really was fun to be able to sit in the grass and have it completely hide you and swallow you up.  We would even have little tea party picnics out there sometimes.  When son, S.,  was a little boy of six or so, he especially loved hiding and playing in the tall alfalfa next to the house. He told me then, "Mama, when I have my house, it's going to have a pasture of alfalfa surrounding it.  It's tall and pretty and the flowers smell so good and it makes hay."  I sure hope his boyhood dream comes true one day.

A country yard and garden on the northern prairies has to be hearty -- drought tolerant and winter hardy.  My lawn grass is mostly fescue and it holds up well and doesn't need as much water as other grasses.  Many folks out here just mow pasture grass around their homes, but that's not my idea of "a little patch of green."  Pasture grass is okay in the spring, but by summer it's dry and stubbly and nasty and doesn't provide the balm for the soul that I want when the summer goes hot and dry and the dust blows.  There were summers when I had very little water to sprinkle the lawn or the flowerbeds and so I had just the edges of my lawn close to the house that remained green.  It was enough.  And for the volunteer flowers that came up, I used my dirty dishwater to soak them.  Instead of draining my dishwater down the drain, I used a plastic wash tub in the sink for dish washing.  That way I had a little something to offer to wet down the parched flowers that persisted through summer.

We really only have 4 months of growing weather between frosts and so the things I plant must have a short maturity and I like to grow things that are typical to my surroundings.  My yard tends to be very pretty in the spring when it's wet and warming but not overly hot, then towards the middle of July, it becomes less vibrant and dry, but that's how it is out on the prairie too. When mid summer comes, so do the sunflowers and black-eyed Susans, the coneflowers and hollyhocks, while the tulips and bleeding heart and iris are long faded away.  It's not a fancy yard with fancy flowers, but I love every blossom.  They give and give, though humble in rank among the flower kingdom.

When I go to town and see my parents' yard, I am often very envious of it. It's always lush, always blooming, and well manicured, and I sometimes wish I could have something so lovely, but I don't have underground sprinklers and endless water and I have to spend some of my time on the tractor in summer too, so my country yard is what it is.  When the stock pond is full, there are coils of watering hoses, sprinkler heads and hand sprayers around, and I'm grateful for being able to water what I have.  The harshness of our climate makes it impossible to have a Better Homes and Gardens yard, but just a little patch of green does wonders for the soul in the hot, dry summers and after a long, cold winter.  And what could be better than going to bed and hearing the killdeer calls, the  frogs croaking and the crickets serenading you to sleep,  or waking in the morning to meadowlark trills and robin chirrups?  I'm thanking God for my little patch of green out here in the middle of nowhere.   He put me here after all. Tell me about your patch of green. 

For mine is just a little old-fashioned garden where the flowers come together to praise the Lord and teach all who look upon them to do likewise.
~Celia Thaxter

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Calf update and other things...

Here's little BW (for backwards).  Mama Cow decided she didn't care a flip for her calf and would rather run off like a lunatic.  She just earned herself a free ride to the sale barn this Friday.  We don't like keeping nasty  cows like this on the ranch.  She's dangerous and she's not motherly.  Two perfect reasons for her to leave. 

So we've become BW's foster parents for the time being.  He's sucking the bottle with gusto and is also standing well on his hind legs.  All in all, he's getting along fine.  Often when something like this happens there is a happy ending.  We are a ways off from being done calving and there might be a mama cow who loses her calf and needs this one, but in the meantime, we'll do the feeding and the loving.

The Grandangel came to play today and we had a fun time digging in the dirt and picking daffodils to carry around the yard.  We even brought some flowers in for the table.  I snipped some apple branches that are about to blossom and put them with the daffies.  Doesn't it look nice?  I can't wait for the pinky-white, sweet smelling apple blossoms to pop!

I made a fun little sun hat for Hazel Peach this afternoon while she took her nap.  Her mama found the pattern online and made one so I thought I ought to make one to have on hand when she visits here.  It's a free pattern and easy to make.  Click here.  I made my hat lined so I made two hats and sewed them together instead of using bias tape to cover the seams.  I also added some ribbon ties for windy days like today.   I hope the wind blows in some rain as the weatherman is predicting.  We could use some April showers for our May flowers.

A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.
  ~Frederick the Great

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Calf born backwards....

Hubs was out checking the cows on the range this morning and radio'd back to send someone to open the gate into the corral.  He had "a backwards calf."  A backwards calf means that he noticed the feet presented were hind feet tipping upward as you see in the first picture.  Normally, a calf presents front feet first in what I call a "diving position."

The first thing to do is to get the cow into the head-catch and then glove up.  Eldest son, A, would be the man to assist in this birth so he put the nylon straps onto the calf's feet and got ready to go to work.  The straps serve as a handle so he can help pull the calf.  As the cow pushes, A. jacks and pulls downward.  Pulling a backwards calf has its complications.  Often the calf is not born alive depending on how long the mother cow has been laboring.  Also, sometimes the calf drowns because the fluids are trapped in its lungs since he's coming out the wrong direction.

Here the calf is halfway out.  Once the hips are birthed, the rest is much easier.  But we still have to be ready to tip this little fella upside down once he's born in order to allow the fluids to drain from his nose, mouth, and lungs.

He is born, he's alive, and now he will be hoisted upside down by a hook & rope for a few moments.

Here's A. pulling the mucous and the membranes from the calf's nose and pinching him a little to get him to breathe.  When a calf is born naturally in the "diving position,"  the sack usually breaks and the calf is already tipped upside down whilst the cow stands and pushes or lies down to push.  The calf often starts breathing even before his is fully birthed.  Hoisting the calf like this is simulates the natural birthing process.

A job well done.  He made it!  Now it is up to his mother to lick him off and get him going.  Often we find that backwards-born calves have a harder time getting up.  Their back legs are often weak and they have trouble standing and sucking.  This lil guy will be watched closely for a few days.

As of this writing, we find that Mama Cow has not licked him off or looked at him whatsoever.  She's very up-tight, defiant, and nasty.  She doesn't like this situation at all and she's really on the fight.  This is not good for the calf.  Hubs warmed some frozen colostrum and fed him this afternoon.  If Mama Cow continues to act unmotherly, this calf will be a bum (orphan).  Time will tell.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I took a long walk
thought about a lot of things
and then I saw...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pretty little things....

Catkins hanging from the Cottonwood Tree
These are the male blossoms of the Cottonwood

Close-up of the catkin
It will be full of pollen soon

Female goldfinch
I hope she tells all her friends about the sunflower seeds
she's found.

The first daffodils are in bloom

Do you see him?

The bee fairy has pollen all over himself
You can almost see his face
(click to enlarge)

Look at the lilies of the field grow;
they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet even Solomon in all his glory
did not clothe himself
like one of these.
But if God so arrays the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow
is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more do so for you?

~Matthew 6:28-30

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cookies and cookie balls...

It was another windy day on the prairie.  On the Beaufort Wind Scale, I'd say we had a force of  8 -- Gale.  On land, whole trees are in motion, resistance is felt walking against wind.  Yup, a gale.  I really don't enjoy outdoor work on gale force wind days, so this little housewife stayed inside next to the oven.  I didn't do a Big Bake like the other day, but I did a small bake of chocolate chip cookies.  The men were out vaccinating the steers and so I thought they'd really love it if I made them cookies for their afternoon snack, and was I ever right on that!

They radio'd me, "Mom, do you have any cookies for us?"

"10-4, you bet I do.  Fresh from the oven!"

Here's a little trick that I do when I've had enough of baking a double batch of cookies.  I bake off all I want and then I roll the rest of the cookie dough into cookie balls.  I put them individually on the cookie sheet and then freeze them until they are hard and sack them up in a ziplock for another day.  The nice thing is that I can bake up a dozen cookies or just a few or eat the cookie dough right from the bag.  When it's time to bake the cookie balls, you can either defrost them and bake as usual or you can leave them frozen and add just another minute or two more to the bake time.  These cookie balls have come in handy when pop-in company arrives  or when the urge for a fresh chocolate chip cookie hits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another *hip* mending project....

If I could have a buck for every patch I've sewn on a pair of jeans, I think I'd have a million dollars by now! And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars), I'd buy you a house (I'd buy you a house)......
Well, a while back, one of my sons, S., asked me to mend his jeans with a bandana and it's time once again for another BA mending job.  Here are J's jeans which are in great need of a patch.  To keep it cool and hip, I'll leave the ragged fray and patch it underneath the hole with a blue bandana so it just peeks out.  I've made a photo tutorial to show you how I did it.

I started with a plain bandanna.  I pressed it first and then ironed on some heavy duty interfacing to give the patch some umphf so it will hold up to sewing and the rigors of a 17 year old.

Next I opened up the seam on the side of the leg with a seam ripper.  Make sure you open the seam that is NOT topstitched.  There will be two layers of stitching here.  Open an area large enough to accommodate the patch and give yourself some space to move around.
You want to smooth out the jeans and then pin on the patch so the right side of the bandanna is facing the wrong side of the jeans.  We want the bandanna show through the hole.  I like a large patch that gives some heft to what's left of thin, worn jeans, and I like my patch to go a little past the open seam so I can catch it in when I close up the leg seam.
I pinned the patch on the wrong side, but I'm going to add a few pins on the topside to hold it in place.
Sew the patch down from the topside of the jeans so you can hide your stitching as much as possible in the other seam edge and etc.  You really need to be careful not to catch in the backside of the leg as you sew.  Adjust, adjust as you sew along. Speaking of adjust, I noticed that my stitches were much larger than they should have been and upon further examination of my sewing machine, I saw that my tension knob was WAY off.  Hmmmm...I recall a lil Hazel Peach was here the other day.  She likes to press buttons and turn knobs.
I've sewn around the three sides and left the open side seam alone.  That will get sewn down when we close up the leg, but before we close the leg up, I want to sew around the hole a little bit.  I'll sew a little way from the hole so the denim can flop open a little to expose the bandanna underneath. More coolness.
Now it's time to turn the leg inside out and sew it shut.  Make sure the patch is smoothed out and that you will be catching it in with the jeans' side seam.  I straight stitch the inner seam and then zig-zag the outer edge. 
Ta Da!  One more hip mending job complete -- frays in tact!
 Now.... if I had a million dollars!

Baking day....

One loaf of bread left on the pantry shelf.  
It HAD to be baking day....Today!
I started with bread and it grew from there.
This is what I call my Everyday Loaf, but my 17yo son calls it 
The Queen's Loaf.  ~mother's smile~
It is made with white flour, wheat flour, ground oats
and it's sweetened with molasses.

 While the bread was rising, I thought a peach pie would be delicious for dessert tonight so I grabbed a couple jars of the peaches I canned last fall, drained them, and made a thick filling from part of the syrup to pour over the peaches for the pie. I drank the rest of the syrup  -- liquid of the gods!  A little fresh grated nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon and I had a pie in progress.  I am such a messy cook.

Two items down.

But I had been thinking of those chocolate muffins we had at Easter for days so....
They came next.  
The muffins have strong coffee and vanilla chips in them
so I gave them a new name...
Perk-up Chocolate Muffins.
I know.  You want the recipe.

Perk-up Chocolate Muffins
1/2 c. baking cocoa
2/3 c. hot, strong coffee
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, soft
3/4 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. vanilla chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix coffee & cocoa and set aside to cool.
In a bowl, cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Now add the coffee mixture.  Lastly, fold in dry ingredients and chips.  Do not over-mix.  Pour in lined muffin tins.  Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes.
Makes 12 scrumptious muffins.
It's time to clean up the mess and then.....
it's coffee time!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good Things....

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs..... 
I've been making hard boiled eggs since I was a 19 year old bride.  I did it like my mom and step-mom did -- over-cooked!  When I was asked to bring deviled eggs for Easter, I cringed a little because I have such a devil of a time peeling the eggs.  I've tried all kinds of tricks but my dear mother-in-love used to say that you need to use old eggs, not fresh for best results.  Well, when you live in the country and have laying hens, you mostly have fresh eggs.   It makes me wonder how old the eggs at the grocery stores are.  While waiting up last night for my son to come home, I was looking at some of my favorite cooking blogs.  I found the "recipe" for the perfect hard boiled eggs here!  And mother-in-love was right!
Fruity Water....
A friend, Abby, told me about this.  She said while staying at a ski lodge in Colorado this winter, the lodge supplied pitchers full of fruity ice water.  I thought I'd try it at home.  I filled my glass with a couple frozen strawberries and some lemon slices and added ice and fresh water.  What a treat.  Subtly sweet and  refreshing and pretty to look at.  Throughout the afternoon, I just added more water and ice to my glass.  Think of the fruity combinations you could try.  Another friend, Joyce, said to try cucumbers.  I haven't yet.

Frozen Fruit....
Speaking of  fruity water, this reminds me of frozen fruit.  I just love the stuff.  Since I live a good hour from a grocery store, I don't dash to the store for fresh fruit.   I buy fresh when I can, but I stock up on frozen too.  I use it for breakfast smoothies (strawberry, banana, orange), for my Strawberry-Yogurt Scones, for fruity water, to top my breakfast yogurt, to top plain cakes, to make jam and syrups, and to eat right out of the bag.  It's always there, always fresh, and never spoiled.

Bone Stock....
"Good broth will resurrect the dead," says a South American proverb. Some members of my family have been suffering from nasty head colds or some strain of flu so I decided it was high time to make some good stock.  I make mine mostly out of beef soup bones, but you can make good stock out of any bones, not just soup bones. Chicken, and turkey make delicious stocks and so does lamb and pork although pork carries quite a bit more fat which can be removed after chilling.  Homemade stock is loaded with vitamins and minerals that come from the bones which break down under slow cooking.  Stocks have been made for centuries to nurse the ill and to build healthy families.  My favorite recipe for beef stock comes from Karey Swan's cookbook, Hearth & Home which is now out of print, but available through used book sellers.

Browned Beef Stock

In a large stockpot add:
6 lbs of beef soup bones (neck, shin, shank or marrow bones)
1 large onion
2 medium carrots, cut up in chunks
Place these in a 450* oven and let them brown evenly for about 30 minutes, turning once.  When beef is browned, add 3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 large tomato, cut (opt)
8 whole black peppercorns
4 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves garlic, halved
1 T. sea salt
12 cups cold water
(I also add any other veggie scraps or herbs you like and a splash of vinegar)
Bring all to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 4-5 hours or more.  You can use a crock pot and simmer broth over night.  Remove beef from bones and strain stock.  Stock may be cooled and frozen into quart containers for later use.
When chilling homemade stocks, you will notice it turns to gelatin.  That is GOOD! 
For more good information on homemade stocks, click here and  here.

 Range Calving....
I went with Hubs this morning to check the cows on the range.  We found two new babies today.  The clouds and fog were just rolling in as we took this pair through the gate.

Monday, April 12, 2010

While digging in the dirt today....

.... I saw this little guy hopping around.  At first I thought it was a grasshopper and I was about to be totally disgusted that a grasshopper should be out chowing down this early in the spring.  But upon closer inspection, I found him to be a tiny Leopard Frog, the same frog family that sings me to sleep.  I caught him and put him in a jar for awhile until I could take more time to study him.  He is one of the common frogs we have here on the northern plains and it's probably the ONLY frog we have in our area.    
 Here he is in the jar looking out with sad eyes that begged me to release him, which I did.  
I wonder what I looked like to him through the glass?  

See how tiny he is?  About two fingernails in length.

It was a glorious day here at my house -- 70 degrees, partly cloudy with a light breeze.  Perfect weather for working outdoors.  I spent from 9:00 to 3:00 out working in my yard -- smoothing out some patches for grass seed, planting grass, laying down some weed and feed over the lawn, and carrying shovels full of rotted sheep manure to plants and garden beds.   I got a really good workout, one which I know I will "feel" tomorrow.   Raking, digging, shoveling, and carrying all take a toll on my out-of-shape winter body.

When you garden and turn over the soil, do you ever find things?  I do.  All the time.  Mostly I find toys and things that my children were playing with when they were little.  In the past have dug up those green army guys, a yo-yo, multiple Hot Wheels cars, spoons and forks.  When we bring up the manure compost from the old sheep shed, sometimes I find interesting things did not come from my own family.  Old coffee cans and cool-looking bottles or docking tools.  Here's what came up from my diggings today........
An old hand trowel (I wondered where that went!), a jaw bone of a sheep, a pliers rusted wide open which I'll soak in some oil, and a golf divot mender that says it was from Lake Oahe, a place we golfed quite a few years ago.  Funny how these things surface.

I am so, so pleased with my accomplishments today!   I even got the sheets washed and hung on the clothesline to dry.  You know that Monday is Wash Day and I hate to mess up the weekly program.  The only thing I didn't complete was spading  two of the four raised beds.  I just decided it could wait another day.  My arms and my digging foot had had enough for one day.  Now all I need to do is wait for the rain which is promised for tonight and tomorrow and maybe even Wednesday.  That would be just lovely on my newly sown grass and my fertilized lawn.  

Hubs and J. worked on their "tee box" today and over-seeded the grass there.  Our family is a golfing family (everyone but me) and so we have a nice spot close to our house where they like to practice.  They drive  their balls out into a large pasture to the south of our house.  It's kind of a "Willie Nelson Golf Range" but it's pretty darn nice in the spring and early summer.  The guys try hard to keep their tee box in good repair and I do the most of the mowing.  I'm not a golfer, but I like to watch them play while I walk the courses admiring the pretty flowers, the trees and the lush grass.  My kids say I could be good if I'd  "get serious" but I just can't.  I'd rather look for birds and not worry about making eagle, birdie, par or a snowman.  A snowman is what we call an 8 which is something you don't want on a single hole.  Nope.  Just give me my Birks, some sunscreen, my camera and let me walk the course.

Speaking of Birks and walking, I have an excellent product to share with you as you move from your clogs and heavy boots to your sandals and flip-flops.  It's called Corona Ointment (aka:  udder butter).  I buy this product at the local farm and ranch supply store.  We mainly use it when the cows have chapped teats and on horse hooves, but it makes an excellent cream for dry, cracked heels and chapped, hard-working hands.  It's made of 50% lanolin (from sheep wool) and so it's an excellent, protective balm for the skin.  I've even used it on my chapped, red nose when I have a cold.   I don't like the Udder Butter in the green tin that you sometimes find in department stores; Corona is much, much better.  Good stuff.  Get-ya-some.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Can you dig it?

Thyme greening up again

I'm so ready to start digging and playing in the dirt, but the best I can do for the now is to pull up a few weeds or turn over the soil in the raised beds and walk along looking for signs of life.  And that is exactly what I've been doing.  A few of the daffodils have buds forming and so they'll be opening soon, I think.  The tulips are quite a long way off from sporting their bright colors.  Some have great gobs of leaves above ground and others are still barely poking through the soil. 

I found my thyme plant coming back to life in the raised beds and  I'm excited about that.  I trimmed it up and the smell it left on my hands was earthy and fresh.  I love fresh thyme and can't wait to plant the other herbs I enjoy using in season.   This year I'll be planting basil, rosemary, and parsley while the dill, chives, and mint will volunteer on their own.

This weekend I spent some time out in the sunshine pulling up the dried remains of last fall's Black-eyed Susans, the second wave of Bachelor Buttons, and the stalks of the hollyhocks.  I chopped off the old blue flax and the mint stems.  I saw glimpses of green coming up here and there, and I recognized some of my happy little flower friends who were just peeping up after a long winter.  There was Hollyhock, Pasqueflower, Prairie Smoke, Columbine, Dame's Rocket, Bleeding Heart, Iris, Blue Flax, Poppy, Viola and probably some others that I didn't find beneath the leafy mulch.  I  found the rhubarb nubbins coming up and the chive spears are shooting up too.  I love to snip fresh chives and use them liberally in my cooking or fresh in salads and as garnish.  Such a tender oniony flavor.

I wish I were digging and planting, but it is simply far too early for us up north to start into that.  I usually don't begin setting out seeds and garden plants until mid to late May and some years I have waited until the first week of June to plant.  One farmer we know said, "If you can't put your bare butt on the soil and feel comfortable, it's too cold for planting."  That's really the truth.  I haven't tried putting my fanny in the garden, but I do want my hands to feel warmth in the soil before I can trust that a seed will want to germinate. Last year when I was spading my raised beds, I came upon clumps of frozen soil.  When you're turning up frost, it's a sure sign the seed will just rot in the ground.  Been there, done that.

We are expecting showers of rain this week and so I'm hoping to spread some fertilizer on the lawn and plant grass seed in the bare spots where we removed some dead bushes and trees last fall.  I'll add an extra shot of old, rotted sheep manure to the rhubarb patches and dump a little on the front flower beds too.  Mix it all together with a gentle rain and you've got manure tea.   It's good for you...............if you're a plant!

Look who is singing me awake each morning!  The Western Meadowlark.  He's much nicer to wake up to than an alarm clock and he starts his song right around sunup. And guess who sings me to sleep?  Be sure to click "listen."


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