Thursday, July 29, 2010

Countrygirl salad spinner....

Today you will know that I'm a little crazy when you hear about my "salad spinner."  Here it is in the picture.  It's one of those mesh bags that you get onions or apples in.  After washing your garden lettuce leaves in the sink, you load up the mesh bag and take it outside where the spinning happens....

Grab the bag by the end and start spinning it around and around.  Get a little wrist action into it.

Spin it around another time or two until the water stops spraying out....

Imagine me trying to take a picture with one hand whilst spinning lettuce with the other.  Ahem!
Now it's time to make salad.

Ta-da!  Lovely spun lettuce makes a perfect green leaf salad.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July's full moon...

"July's full moon is called the Full Buck Moon.  July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon." ~Farmer's Almanac

It's a beautiful full moon.  Aren't they all?  We can attest to all the reasons that the full July Moon is called by so many names -- all of them evident where we live.  Very soon those velvety buck antlers will begin to itch and they'll come in close to where we have trees and start scraping the velvet off their horns and injure the tree bark of the youngest of the trees.  Now is the time to make sure young trees are properly fenced against the deer.  The deer are also becoming bored with their dry prairie feed so they will start moving in to the home place for some more interesting forage -- tree leaves, carrot tops, geranium petals and other such delicious greenery.
On the plains it is definitely thunderstorm season as well.  We've had temperatures climbing into the upper 90's and low 100's and since we've had a good, wet spring and summer, there is a lot of humidity in the air to help fuel evening thunderstorms.  It's an awesome and beautiful thing to watch thunder clouds form in our big skies.

These evening cloud formations didn't amount to anything but a few sprinkles here, but may have developed more intensity and dropped more rain as they traveled eastward.  We have more clouds developing tonight.  I'm hopeful that the clouds are only of the rain variety and not hail.  Many ranchers around us have had terrible hailstorms that destroyed gardens, wheat fields, hay crops, and damaged homes.

We are still busy cutting hay in the hay fields.  For the second time in my life here on the ranch, we are getting a second cutting of alfalfa on our best field.  We live in dry country where there is no irrigation and usually very little rain in mid-summer and so it is rare, very rare, to get a second cutting of alfalfa.  What a gift.  Most often the second cutting is especially rich in protein and vitamin content and sells for a premium price.  We will make some of it into small square bales for the sheep to feed during lambing time.

If he doesn't get rained out, Hubs will be baling by the light of the Full Hay Moon tonight.  Nights are often the best time to bale alfalfa hay because it starts to cool down and dew begins to develop and give the hay just enough moisture so the leaves aren't beat off the stems as it goes through the baler.  When there is too much moisture in baling, you get rot and mold.  It's a fussy, meticulous process which results in excellent hay.

Happy Buck-Thunder-Hay Full Moon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A children's moon and gardening bits...

Tonight we have a Children's Moon.
I had never heard of it until yesterday while visiting with my daughter.  She said she it was mentioned in a book she recently read -- either My Friend Flicka or Thunderhead or Green Grass of Wyoming, all by Mary O'Hara.  A children's moon is one that is mostly full and is out during the day or in the very early hours of the evening so that a child would be able to see it before going to bed.  I think it is a sweet way to think about the moon.  I took the moon picture this evening and somehow got it to look grainy like pointillism.  Have you ever seen pointillist art?  I like it.


This is a sample of pointillism called 
"Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte" by George Seurat.

Today was Grammy Day and I had Hazel Peach here for the entire day whilst Mommy and Daddy went to the Big City to do some shopping.  We had fun digging in the dirt, pulling up weeds and watering the flowers with the hose.  We also did a little picking.  There were oodles of snap peas to pick and we thinned out the carrots and got some nice fingerling sized ones.  H.P.  enjoys holding the bucket while I pick.  She also likes to eat the peas while I pick.  We both do.

We washed up our veggies and then Grammy fixed a supper from left-over roast beef and the veggies we picked.  I also sliced in a red pepper, celery, some onion and tossed in a handful of chopped almonds and quick fried it in olive oil in a hot pan.  Then at the last minute, I added our favorite Teriyaki sauce called Veri-Teriyaki and served it over hot rice.
Oh, yummy.  I love fresh summer veggies.

Ready to stir-fry
The green beans are coming soon and I can't wait for a mess of bacon and green beans.  Are you eating from  your veggie patch?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stock dog family round-up...

The oldest member of our stock dog family
is Jessie.  She's  a  Border Collie with a small part Australian Shepherd.
She is 13 years old, which is quite old, especially for a working stock dog.  
Although Jessie doesn't work as hard as she used to,
she still loves to be in on the action whenever we are
working with livestock.
Jessie is also a loving companion who loves to catch a Frisbee
and plays fetch with anyone who will throw a ball or rock for her.

Sue received the Dog of the Day award yesterday, and she did a nice job of helping us out again today as we loaded up the sheep to take to the sale yards.   Sue is the daughter of Jessie and is 5 years old.
Sue also loves to fetch a ball or rock or stick, and she has a special desire to please Jessie.  Every time they are chasing balls together and Sue gets it, she always lays the ball in front of Jessie to bring it back to the thrower. 
She's a thoughtful pooch!

Here's the newest member of our stock dog family, Penny, who is a
Pembroke Welsh Corgi/Border Collie cross who turned one year old this spring.
Our son and daughter-in-love bought her as a companion, 
but she shows great promise as a working dog despite her small size. 
Corgis are considered herd dogs so she has a natural
interest in the sheep.  
Penny is Hazel Peach's best friend which is a fine thing to be.

"The dog was created especially for children.  
He is the god of frolic."
  ~Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Counting sheep....

This is the place we call The Shearing Pens because years and years ago, this is where all the sheep were worked and sheared.  Since then, it continues to be the place where we work the sheep.  We no longer shear here, but we always work and sort and load sheep in these corrals which were built especially for sheep.

Today, the order of the day was to cull ewes, sort the wether lambs from the ewe lambs, and then choose the best of the ewe lambs to keep as replacements for the coming year.  We also docked the long-tails that were born to the yearling ewes late in the spring. 

The grasshoppers were pretty thick down here.  It looks like all these hoppers were climbing up the alley to see if they could help us push up the sheep.


These ewes were marked  as culls.  We use a special spray paint that eventually washes out of wool, but allows us to mark ewes clearly so we can sort them out of the alley when it's time to sell them.  They were culled for a number of reasons:   not raising lambs or for being unmotherly or because they had physical problems that are undesirable for raising lambs.
Every pen of sheep that is worked down the alley is counted out and tallied in the book.  We need to know how many breeding ewes we have, how many ewe lambs and wether lambs there are, and how many culls and replacement ewes we have.  The count is important because when the sheep are brought in to be sold, we need to know that we have them all.   We need to know that the herd is together or if some have strayed through a hole in the fence into the neighbor's pastures.  Each one must be accounted for.  Whenever we work sheep like this, I think of the Proverb that says, "Know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds..."  (Proverbs 27:23-27) 

Sue gets the Best Dog of the Day award!  She worked so hard and put forth so much effort and didn't even get into much trouble while doing her favorite thing -- working sheep.  We couldn't get the job done without our dogs.  We have two border collies and one corgi and they are all pretty good stock dogs.  The corgi is the youngest and has the most to learn, but she did better this time out.

There's nothing like the picture of turning out the herd to pasture after a hot summer day's work.  They are so glad to go back out to green grass and water, and we are satisfied in knowing how they are faring out there on the range. 
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul."   ~Psalm 23

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dust...

 alfalfa field, in full bloom, next to our house
ah, the sweet fragrance!

Dust
Here is a problem, a wonder for all to see.
   Look at this marvelous thing I hold in my hand!
This is a magic surprising, a mystery
   Strange as a miracle, harder to understand.

What is it? Only a handful of earth: to your touch
   A dry rough powder you trample beneath your feet,
Dark and lifeless; but think for a moment, how much
   It hides and holds that is beautiful, bitter, or sweet.
Think of the glory of color! The red of the rose,
   Green of the myriad leaves and the fields of grass,
Yellow as bright as the sun where the daffodil blows,
   Purple where violets nod as the breezes pass.

Think of the manifold form, of the oak and the vine,
   Nut, and fruit, and cluster, and ears of corn;
Of the anchored water-lily, a thing divine,
   Unfolding its dazzling snow to the kiss of morn.

Think of the delicate perfumes borne on the gale,
   Of the golden willow catkin's odor of spring,
Of the breath of the rich narcissus waxen-pale,
   Of the sweet pea's flight of flowers, of the nettle's sting.

Strange that this lifeless thing gives vine, flower, tree,
   Color and shape and character, fragrance too;
That the timber that builds the house, the ship for the sea,
   Out of this powder its strength and its toughness drew!

That the cocoa among the palms should suck its milk
   From this dry dust, while dates from the self-same soil
Summon their sweet rich fruit: that our shining silk
   The mulberry leaves should yield to the worm's slow toil.

How should the poppy steal sleep from the very source
   That grants to the grapevine juice that can madden or cheer?
How does the weed find food for its fabric coarse
   Where the lilies proud their blossoms pure uprear?

Who shall compass or fathom God's thought profound?
   We can but praise, for we may not understand;
But there's no more beautiful riddle the whole world round
   Than is hid in this heap of dust I hold in my hand.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mini-bike basket...

I just finished the bike basket for Hazel Peach's new Strider
-- a birthday gift from Grammy and Papa.
I had to make an adjustment to the velcro tab that attaches the basket to the handlebars.
The Strider has a middle bar between the handlebars so I had to make two velcro attachments.


Now we're ready to roll!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Around Home....




A friend sent me some "bird words" that are magnetic and so I put a bunch of them on the fridge to see what would happen. So far, these meditations have been created.
Hmmmmm.



 This fella was on the porch, right by the front door.  S. helped me scare him away.  I used a broom and S. took a rake and eventually S. took the hose to him.  He slithered away and up a nearby bush and stayed there until we left him alone.
He's a bull snake.  Harmless.  Just eats mice.
I prefer snakes not to live at the front door.

I picked a flower for my basket.
It's simple and fun and cute.
I made a small fabric bike basket for Hazel Peach, but it didn't fit her handle bars the way I wanted it to so we'll figure out another way to attach it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Simple Things...

 Monarchs are flying about the trees and milkweed.

It seems to me that when I am doing the most basic of tasks, it's the simple solutions that give me the most pleasure.  Some of the Simple Things that I'm going to share with you may seem weird or out of the ordinary, but they are things that I have been doing or using for a long time.  I figure lots of you will already know about these simple ideas, but maybe some of you will be enlightened. Or not.  Either way, thanks for stopping by.

Using leaves or weeds to clean a slimy bucket.  If any of you raise chickens or have barnyard animals or outdoor pets, you know that their water buckets can get pretty slimy and gunky and dirty.  Whenever I'm at the coop and decide that the water bucket needs a quick scrub, I grab a handful of weeds or leaves and use them as my disposable scrubber.  Add some water.  Scrub.  Rinse.  Repeat if necessary. 
'Be careful NOT to use poison ivy or oak.  Leaves of three, let it be.  ID them here.

Using snow as a scrubber in spring and winter works nicely too.  I use it on my buckets and as a window cleaner when I've been driving in wet, muddy, slushy conditions.  It works great!  (Those of you who are experiencing HOT temps right now can think about scrubbing with snow and see if it helps.)


Sticks are useful, simple things.  As I was mowing some tall grass, I started plugging my mower.  As I tipped it upside down, I realized I was going to have to scrape the inside.  What did I see right at my feet but a sturdy stick.  Instant scraper!  On another note, have you ever noticed how much creativity and playtime can happen when you give a child a stick?  A stick is a toy!  Use sturdy sticks in the garden to stake tomatoes or anchor your chicken wire.  A stick fence in the garden looks rustic and beautiful.

Baking Soda.  Just today my daughter was telling me about the woes of hard water.  She and her hubby just bought a new home which did not come with a water softener, and the city water is super-hard.  When G. asked me for some ideas for her dish washing and laundry, I suggested baking soda.  It's a natural water softener.  To the dish washer, add approximately 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda per load along with good dish washer detergent (I like Cascade).  Baking soda may also be added to the sink for hand washing and to the bath water to soften water.  To the laundry, start with approximately 1/2 cup of baking soda per load and add up to a cup, depending on water hardness.  Add it along with your regular laundry detergent and use the warmest water possible for the fabrics being washed.  A site that I recently found and like a lot is Sensible House Cleaning Solutions.
 
Dry dishes from the dish washer by hand immediately following the rinse cycle for sparkling clear glassware.


Vinegar.  Oh yes, vinegar to the rescue with hard water troubles too!  In the rinse cycle of the dish washer, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar.  You can also put plain white vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser of your dish washer for good results.  I use it in mine instead of Jet Dry-type products.  Weekly, pour a cup or two of vinegar in the dish washer and run it to descale it.  Vinegar can go into the rinse cycle of the washing machine too.  Fill up the rinse dispenser with white vinegar for softer clothes.   Use straight vinegar to descale faucets.  I used to wet a cloth with vinegar and lay it on the faucets,  to let it sit and work awhile, and then wipe the scale away.  If you do this regularly, it does help with hard water.  Still, from time to time, I had to bring out the Big Guns.

The Big Guns for hard water scale.   This may not be popular, but I'm putting it here because it works.  (Can you tell I've dealt with hard water most of my life?)  Start with the smaller gun first.  If your sinks, faucets or appliances have mineral build-up from hard water, try the products called CLR or Rust Away.  These work pretty well if used regularly, but if the scale looks like it needs to be chipped out, get the big gun -- muriatic acid.  An appliance repair man told me how to use muriatic acid in the dish washer since he could see that I needed extreme help with my hard water problems.   I buy it at the farm/ranch supply store for about $7 per gallon.  First, let the D/W fill up with water.  You are going to run a normal wash cycle with NO DISHES in it.  When it's filled, add 1 cup of muriatic acid, slowly pouring it into the water.  USE WITH EXTREME CAUTION.  It has strong fumes and can burn skin, clothing and etc.  I always held my breath when adding it to the washer.  Allow the D/W to run through a full cycle.  Scale will be dissolved.  Depending on water hardness, descale monthly.  For more information on using muriatic acid, click here.  The best solution:  get a water softener or conditioner.  We have had a water system for over 10 years and LOVE IT!

Coconut oil.  Now back to something a little more natural and non-toxic.  While mowing, I wore my halter top to catch a few extra rays.  (Hey!  I live in the country where nobody's looking....unless the UPS man drives up!)  I didn't use my head and got a sunburn.  I'm dark-skinned naturally, so I don't get bad sunburns unless it is the beginning of summer so this one wasn't terrible, but bad enough to need extra care.  After a cool shower, I had Hubs slather on some coconut oil.  It moisturizes, soothes, and heals sunburn.  It also helps to use it when that itchy sensation of sunburn hits.  I like aloe vera for sunburn too.  I often use them together.  First the aloe and then the coconut oil.  I also use coconut oil on my naturally curly (and often frizzy) hair.  I apply it generously to my hair and wrap it in a towel or plastic and let it soak in, then wash and condition as usual.  You may need to shampoo twice. Check this:  Six Healthy Uses for Coconut Oil

10 or 15 or 30 minute nap.  We've been really busy here.  We have been going to bed late and rising early in the morning which makes for overly tired people.  I find that if I can catch just a few minutes of sleep, it makes a tremendous difference in my day.  Sometimes I go to my bed and get under the sheets and set my alarm clock.  I can really sleep hard and comfortably knowing that I won't sleep the afternoon away.  For me, I get the best rest in my own bed.

Coffee Break.  I look forward to my afternoon cup of coffee -- hot or iced -- every day.  I think its a healthy thing to plan to take a break in the afternoon and reward yourself for your hard day's work.  Grab a book or magazine, check your email, or sit down in the lawn chair to relax and soak up your reward!

Have a Happy Day!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Breeding season...

Since the branding, we sorted off cows-calf pairs into breeding bunches.  Some of the cows were turned out with bulls (naturally) but some were kept back for AI (artificial insemination).  Every day since the sort, we have been on horseback, morning and night, to sort off the cow-calf pairs that are in heat.  In the picture above, Hubs is in the middle of the cow bunch sorting while the rest of us are holding the cows in a corner of the pasture.  When he brings a pair out, we help him ride them over to the other side of the pasture.

A. and Hubs are cutting out a cow and some calves.

S rides this pair out of the bunch.

Look at that sky!
Mornings are a beautiful time to be on top of a horse.
J. is holding the cows and calves on his side.


Good Ol' Pete.




 
I have been thinking lately about how summers around here seem like "camp."  We are in and out the door all day long.  We practically live outside all during the daylight hours.  Inside the house, the floors get really dirty from everyone traipsing in and out with boots that have been at the barn or in the hayfield.  I sweep it out and not too much longer I need to sweep it again.  We eat lots of sandwiches and barbecue on the grill, we slap mosquitoes and flies, and we sit in the lawn chairs at night when it's cool, enjoying a refreshing drink while the incense burns  to keep the bugs at bay.  It's really quite fun, but it is all temporary.  It won't last.  Summer days are fleeting in the northern prairies so we must drink in the honey of these summer moments while we can.

Why is it that summer goes by way too fast
and winter lasts too long?
The end.

Happy Birthday Hazel Peach!

July 11th was H.P.'s 2nd birthday.
We had a fun day with several family members there to share lunch and a delicious cake made by the birthday girl's mommy.  
Can you tell, 
she likes the moon and stars?

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