Friday, September 30, 2011

In the Land of the Northern Lights...

In The Land Of The Northern Lights from Ole C. Salomonsen on Vimeo.
You might like to click on the link above for a larger view of The Lights.

This video is a real-time experience of thousands of still pictures and 6 months of work capturing the Northern Lights in Norway on camera. This is what it's like to actually experience the Northern Lights in motion. If you've never seen the Northern Lights *in real life*, this is your chance. Thank you Ole!

If you want to be updated on the next big display of the Northern Lights, keep watch over at Sky & Telescope.  You can also find updates on what you are seeing in the night sky by clicking their side link called This Week's Sky at a Glance.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thin as the curve of a raccoon's whisker...

Tonight on the horizon

"How dark is the dark tonight?" asked the little raccoon?
"Not so dark," said his mother.  "There is a new moon tonight, thin as the curve of a raccoon's whisker in the sky above the tree tops."
"Can I see it?" asked the little raccoon.
"No," said his mother.  "You must wait.  Wait till the moon is full."
"How big is the night?" asked the little raccoon.
"Very big," said his mother.
"How big is Big?" asked the little raccoon.
"Wait," said his mother.  "Wait till the moon is full."

~Excerpt from Wait Till The Moon is Full
By Margaret Wise Brown
I gave myself a crash course in night photography yesterday after reading the short version booklet that goes with our big camera.  I don't know if I learned anything, but I tried.  I waited and waited last night for the midnight hour  when the next wave of Northern Lights would come upon us, but......there were clouds.  Strangely, I could see the lighter night sky glowing behind the clouds, which was very cool because there was no moon last night. Hubs and I drove out to our spot to watch, but we couldn't see The Lights.  I woke up a time or two in the middle of the night to see what I could see, but all that I could see was Dark.  It was cloudy.  Rats!  Maybe tonight.  I don't know how many more nights in a row of this I can do, but I'm livin' large.  I'm trying to live large.

Northern lights seen from Kennebec, S.D. on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. (Photo courtesy Randy Halverson)
Click to enlarge

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No, this is not an ad for Toyota....

This is a Gumbo Lily post about empty-nesting.
Yes, it is! We don't even own a Toyota.
We drive a Malibu! (and dirty old ranch pick-ups)

Did you see them? Northern Lights...

 Northern Lights, similar to what we saw last night.

Last night after the Ten O'Clock News, Hubs told me that we would be able to see the Northern Lights for the next couple of nights round about midnight.  These sorts of things excite and thrill me.  I'm a watcher of the sky.  So after we snuggled into bed and talked about the day for an hour, I asked if he would like to join me outdoors to see The Lights.  We pulled on our jeans and sweatshirts and walked out through the crunchy cottonwood leaves in the yard to see what we could see.  There they were!  The greeny-blue curtains of light on the northern horizon.  We decided we might have a better view up on the hill towards the mailbox, so we drove up there and watched some more.  The lights would spike and send green runners up into the sky and then fade away.  It was lovely, but not as impressive as some other Northern Light Shows we have seen in the past.  Maybe tonight it will be even prettier.  I wish I could have taken a picture of them for you, but I am not that savvy with night time photography so I'll share a few pics from Google with you.  Here's a little blip on the Geomagnetic Storm that causes us to see the Northern Lights.

This sky is similar to one we saw back in the early 80's when we were just married a year or so driving home from Canada.  We stopped and got out of the car to take it in.  We really did think that Jesus was coming back, riding on the clouds of light.  Imagine streaming red, blue and orange through the ribbons of light and you would get an idea of what we saw back then.  I hope you're up with us tonight watching the sky!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


There are lots of things about September to write down in the journal...

 *The turkey.  She is still with us.  She once had five other friends, but now she is one.  I caught her enjoying the flower garden through the window one early morning.  She likes to hang out with the chickens sometimes during the day.  I've seen her roosting in the old Cottonwood tree by the pond near our house.

*The hollyhocks are appreciating the last of the hot days left in September and the bees are thankful that they remain.  The moss roses are still happily blooming in their buckets and only a few Black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers are left blooming.

*The grass has turned from green to mostly brown.

*Only Daughter turned 25 this month.

*The bucks were turned into the ewes on September 20th.  The gestation for sheep is five days less than 5 months which would make it February 15th when we see our first lambs.  Do you see the big buck peeking over the ewe's back?  The sheep herd is grazing the alfalfa re-growth in the hay field and they are FAT.

 The buck is bringing up the rear.

*The big Poplar tree in the yard has turned from green to gold this past week.  H. Peach loves to walk in the crispy, crunchy leaves, and M. Toodles likes to eat fallen leaves.

*We must shake out the clothes after hanging them on the line now that the wasps are out.

*The spiders and crickets are everywhere.  My dad told me that when you see lots and lots of crickets on the ground, it's a sign of a cold winter.  O dear, there are lots and lots. 

*I hear the Great Horned Owls at night.  "Hoo - Hoo, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo - Hoot"

Looking way up high.

*The Folks have been here this week.  We've had a good time.  Dad's been disking up the old hay field, Hubs and Son have been fencing while L. and I have been painting the family room.  

*I have more paint for the guest room.  

*I'd like to paint the granary before winter comes.  The paint is peeling.  

*The hay has been hauled in.

*The pullet hens are laying!  

*Something got into the coop the other night.  One hen is missing and there are white feathers all around the door.  Another hen has been grabbed around the neck as her comb is torn and some of her neck feathers are missing.

*Must shut the chickens in way before dark.  The critter will be back.

*The sun is shining into the dining room and kitchen windows since the Fall Equinox.  I like that.

*The Indian Corn and the dried sunflowers are at the front door.  Welcome!

Prairie goes to the mountain,
Mountain goes to the sky.
The sky sweeps across to the distant hills
And here, in the middle,
Am I.

~Kathryn and Byron Jackson
from Open Range

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tacking up fences and standing firm...

I wrote this some years ago, but after fencing with Hubs just a couple days ago, I remembered it again and thought I would look it up and share it with you.  Here's a little rambling with the prairie winds.
T. asked me to walk the fence line today and take my hammer along with several fence staples to do a little "tacking up."  It was such a gorgeous day, that I was eager to do the chore for him.  I think of these walks as "spiritual walks" when I can spend a good deal of time to doing some thinking of my own.

As I walked along the fence line, I thought about what I was doing and why.  Besides doing something useful like fixing fence, I figured there might be a lesson in it too. There's just something about doing ordinary things that makes me think about what God might be teaching me through it.

I was focusing so hard on each post as I walked by--checking to see that all the staples were firmly tapped in, checking to see if there were any loose wires where staples had got free and were left them dangling.  I also noticed places where the wires had broken so that I could tell Tom where to go fixing them since I didn’t carry any fixing tools besides a hammer.
Post hole cleaner

I thought of the posts as people.  Each one had a job to do.  Some posts were very old and had been set in the fence line some 40 or 50 years ago.  Even though they were very old and weathered, they were set firmly in the soil and did their job nobly.  They stood.  They were firm in their foundation even though aged.

The root of the righteous will not be moved.  ~Proverbs 12:3

Other posts were old and slightly broken in their places.  The wires were still partially attached, but the poor post was left swaying in the wind.  Even though this post was broken, because it was standing in between two firm posts, it still served a purpose.  We ranchers call this post a "stay" because even though it was loose, it still provided something for the wires to hold on to and still gave a little support between the firm posts.  It wobbled, but it could still give a little support.  Isn’t that like us?  Sometimes we think we don’t have much to offer.  We’re wobbly, but we can still give what we have.  

There were new posts in the fence line that were planted deeply and whose wires were stapled firmly on.  They didn't waver nor did they totter.  Some of the new posts however, did have a loose staple and some had a few staples missing.  They were doing their job of standing, but needed a little tacking here and there.  They needed my gentle tapping to firm up their hold on the wires.  Sometimes I need a little tapping, a little assistance in doing my job.  It might even hurt a little when God needs to send a sharp staple into me, but it’s for the good of the whole.

I thought how important it is for all the posts to be "in line."  If they were not in line with one another, it caused undue stress upon the wires which were to keep cattle and sheep either in or out of the pasture.  And what was the main job of all the posts?  To stand.  To stand firm and hold fast, keeping in line with the others where the Fence Builder had set them.
“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with the truth..."   
Ephesians 6:14
I could see that in areas where the posts were set in low places, the snow would tear the wires off or would cause the posts to be loosened from the soil.  The cows would sometimes rub on the wires and loosen them too.  How often are we loosened from our firm standing?   Sometimes it's a cold snow bank we are standing in.  Sometimes it's a big Hereford bull that rubs us down relentlessly.  Sometimes it's a spring creek that rises and floods through the fence and loosens the staples and causes our standing to be fairly useless  until someone (a friend, a stranger, God) comes along and tacks us up, presses us back into the soil where we were set, and anchors us down with a little wire and another stub posts here or there.  Those of us set in hard places like that need a little more support around us to keep on standing and holding up the fence.

"To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, 
for the Lord is able to make him stand."  Romans 14:4
Some fence posts are put in less stressful places where there is less pressure from the cattle or the weather.  There’s a lot less fence fixing in these areas.  Not all of us will be required to do the same job or to stand under the same pressures.  It’s all in the hands of the Fence Builder.

Some posts were made of steel rather than wood.  Some ranchers make entire fences of steel and add a wooden brace every so often, but at our ranch, we consider them less than "the best."  Steel posts certainly are easier to set, but they tend to pull out more easily than the wooden ones that require more labor to set.  Some of these posts lose their place in the fence much faster than the long, hefty wooden posts that can be set more deeply.  Steel posts do the job, but their life expectancy is shorter.

"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, 
act like men, be strong."  ~1 Corinthians 16:13
A pic I took in western Montana
Then there are what I call the dead posts.  I don’t know if everyone calls them that, but I do.  They have come totally free from the fence line.  They are sometimes found lying flat on the ground.  Some are falling close to the ground, hanging by a single staple.  One little push from a sheep would topple them over.  Some are old posts that have been tacked and re-tacked and then end up breaking and leaving holes in the fence.  Others are simply poor quality posts that can’t stand up under the pressure  and some posts aren't set deeply enough to support the fence.  There are perfectly good posts that get into accidents where one cow pushes another into the fence and the post snaps and breaks. I'm fond of the very old, gnarled and twisted cedar posts that have so much character.  I often bring them back home with me and put them around my gardens. Others end up as firewood for winter.  When their time has come and they have fulfilled their purpose, we gather up the old and dead and put in new posts to stand in their places.  Does that sound like a life cycle?  I think so.  See how much thinking a girl can do when she's left to herself to walk a fence line?

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to tear down and a time to build up…." ~Ecclesiastes 3:1,3

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Art harvest....

Farmer on the Tractor
Robert Riggs (1896-1970)

Filling the Biggest Lumber Order Ever
Robert Riggs

Slopping the Pigs
Robert Riggs
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
~William Blake

Friday, September 16, 2011

Out and about and a Monarch Paramount....

I drove to town today to do some grandmothering (I don't like the word babysitting)  with my little Cuppycake.  These are a few pictures of the homesteads, old and new, along the drive there and back.  There used to be a very small town just 6 miles down the road from our ranch where the gravel meets the pavement.  I know that part of it perished by fire years and years ago,  and the rest of it disintegrated from the dwindling rural population.  Albion had a post office, a store, a livery, a grade school, a community hall and a few homes.  This was one of the old sheds from that small town.  The school and hall still stand.

Our neighbor passed away a week ago.  He has lived in our community all his life and attended the grade school just a mile down the road.  This is his ranch alongside the highway.  We don't know what will become of it since he had no family of his own to pass it to.  It's a beautiful ranch along the river.
Isn't this picturesque?  This old set of corrals and barn have been here a long, long time.  I asked Hubby if he knew who had it or if there was a story behind it.  He said he didn't know, but his dad was sure to know.  The small river nearby sometimes floods right up to that bank that is cut out next to the corrals. There are beautiful finger buttes in the background.
I'm considering hauling this old Monarch Paramount range home.  It would need some cleaning-up, some  repairs and some renovating, but I think it would be lovely in my country-ranch kitchen someday. I have been poring over magazines, books, and web pages trying to get just the right ideas for remodeling our kitchen.  Hubby decided for our 30th anniversary that we should give ourselves a newly renovated kitchen since it has always been the hub of our family life.  Every holiday and every gathering when all the kids come home with friends and husbands, wives, and girlfriends, and grandchildren, we find that the kitchen is literally stuffed with people standing around talking.  We want a bit more room for family to participate or just yak over the counter and into the kitchen where all the bustle is.

Hubs and I have lots of ideas, and that is sometimes the difficulty of this project, for we must narrow down the good ideas to just a few that will fit into our space.  Before the actual work is to be done, there is a pile of work just in the planning.  It's fun, but it's a job too.  So many choices.  So many decisions.  So many little details.  Maybe one of these days I'll share some picture-ideas here with you.  If any of you have ever remodeled your kitchen, I am open for suggestions that start with... "The Best Thing we ever did was..." or "The One Thing I'd do in my new kitchen is...."
I hope you'll share.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Foods I'm eating....

Open-faced tomato sandwich
Toasted bread, spread on mayo, add a thick sliced tomato, sprinkle salt & pepper.

The FF (family favorite)
Sent a couple dozen to J. in Tucson.

This is the "before" shot.
The recipe calls for sauteing the onions and veggies.  I did not.
It's a great recipe for kids to make since you use flour tortillas for the crust, and it's a quick supper for two.

Next is the "after" baking.

I don't have a baking stone (as called for in the original recipe) but instead, I use a regular cookie sheet.  Set the timer for 10 minutes and check pizzas.  Mine are usually done by this time.
I'm alone tonight so I made me a Garden Pizza -- all veggies & cheese -- tomato, onion, green pepper, olives, fresh basil and flat leaf parsley from the garden.  Make it Your Way!  Eat with your hands.

(that's good-bye and good eating in foodie language)

Late summer blooms and hummers...

 This sunny volunteer came up in my veggie patch. 
What a happy late bloomer!
She makes me happy too.

We usually don't have hummingbirds stay during the summer, but we must be in a migration flyway because each year I see them early in the season and in late summer. I believe this is a Ruby-throated Hummer with no ruby throat, so I'm presuming she's a she-hummer.  (If you click the link, be sure to listen to the hummer's voice/sound) I saw two of them together and both had white chins.  I sat on the straw of the veggie patch garden for quite some long time before she trusted me enough to come down off the fence and begin humming about the flowers in search of nectar. I was close enough to hear her tiny peep after she withdrew from each flower.  She loved the glads but spent a good amount of time in the squash and pumpkin blossoms too. 

I'm trying to keep the flower beds watered down well so that the blooms have lots of nectar inside.  I want to ensure there's something to nourish the little ones for their migration.  They give me such joy, I must reward them some way.  Jesus said to offer a drink of water to the least of these.  Here's a toast to the flowers and the hummers.

 All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures, great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Hymn by ~Cecil Alexander, 1848

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loyalty to a Brother...

Our flag
As our kids were growing up at home, we read excerpts from The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass complied by William J. Bennett.  This was one piece that is still bookmarked and was read more than once.  As I reflect on 9/11/01, I think about those who died,  those who rescued, those who waited for help to come, those who waited for phone calls, and those who have fought and continue to fight for something noble -- our liberty.

One of two brothers fighting in the same company in France fell by a German bullet.  The one who escaped asked permission of his officer to go and bring his brother in.

"He is probably dead," said the officer, "and there is no use in your risking your life to bring in his body."

But after further pleading the officer consented.  Just as the soldier reached the lines with his brother on his shoulders, the wounded man died.

"There, you see," said the officer, "you risked your life for nothing."

"No, replied Tom.  "I did what he expected of me, and I have my reward.  When I crept up to him and took him in my arms, he said, 'Tom, I knew you would come--I just felt you would come.'"

There you have the gist of it all; somebody expects something fine and noble and unselfish of us; someone expects us to be faithful.

~Walter MacPeek
 Albert Handerson Thayer  "Angel"  1903

"But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
~Psalm 18:24

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Two things that money can't buy...

The majority of the heirloom Rainbow tomatoes are jarred up!  I saved a few for my daily tomato sandwiches (toast, mayo, thick sliced tomato, salt & pepper).  I hope that my own tomato plants will be ripening up soon so I can continue my sandwich routine.   Aren't tomatoes in jars the prettiest?

Tomato Memory...
One summer night a couple of friends of our kids were here.  It was one of those late summer sleepover things.  A. (our eldest child) and R. (his friend) were out in the garden.  I'm not sure if I had sent them there to pick or if they were just out looking around at the varieties of tomatoes.  (Ha!)  G. had her girlfriend over who happened to be R's sister and the girls were upstairs in G's bedroom playing and taunting the boys below.  Don't ask me where I was.  

You know how sisters can sometimes be.  Yelling out the window, making faces at their brothers, giggling, taunting.  The boys couldn't take one more minute of  those girls from the high bedroom window that overlooked the garden.  It became irresistible to them -- wanting to give those heavy tomatoes in their hands a heave.  At their sisters.  The tomatoes were flung and the girls were their targets.  I honestly don't know how many tomatoes were thrown at that window, but there was a lot of cleaning up to do.  The boys had to hose off the house and clean every bit of juice and seeds away.  I can't remember if the girls had to help them or not.  It WAS a mess.  That's all I remember.  I had plenty of tomatoes that year.  The incident  didn't seem to affect my canning production.  I'm sure the girls had to help can tomatoes the next day -- a chore my daughter despised.  Sweet, motherly revenge.

Now I leave you with my favorite summer song.

Homegrown Tomatoes 
by Guy Clark

Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden

Get you a ripe one don't get a hard one
Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one

Homegrown tomatoes homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice
Eat `em with eggs, eat `em with gravy
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy
Put `em on the site put `em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I's to change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day...

Homeward, 1933
I don't know about you, but growing up and living out here on the ranch, Labor Day was not a day to go camping or take a vacation, but instead, a day to labor.  Usually we painted something like a house, did yard work, planted trees, or cut firewood.

Today, nothing's changed for us.  Because one of our friends has a gravel truck and another friend has a road grader and they both are taking the day off, we were lucky enough to be able to borrow both implements over the weekend.  My guys are in 7th Heaven.  They've been hauling gravel over old trails that have deep ruts.  They're graveling much-traveled trails to pastures and hay fields, and they're dumping gravel by barn doors and shed doors that have been sadly neglected.  It's work, but it's work that brings them great pleasure because it's something they don't *get* to do every day.

Ernest Ralph Norling (American artist, 1892-1974) 

Today I'll be out mowing my yards and then I'll rev up the pressure canner and get some peaches and tomatoes into jars for the winter.  It's what we do.  Sometimes we lay down one kind of work for another that seems a little more pleasing or different, and it just feels restful somehow, even if it's not rest.
Happy Labor Day--whatever you're doing!
Images from a terrific art blog called It's About Time.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Wreath party....

The Nesting Place is having a Wreath Party!  What's a wreath party?  It's a bloggy thing where everyone links to their own homemade, handmade wreaths.  So I'm in.  Yesterday I did some baking and came up with these bread wreaths.  I'm going to fiddle around with making some more in the days to come leading up to Christmas so I can get it perfected.  Wouldn't these make nice gifts or pretty breads for the holidays?

I made my wreaths out of a French Bread recipe and then did the fancy cutting using this tutorial at Kitchen Mage.  You could use any bread dough you like -- even frozen bread dough would work for this.  The main thing is to roll the dough into a nice rope and then stick it together.  Let it rise for about 30-40 minutes and then do the snipping with a scissors, just before baking.  Hang it up with a ribbon if you want to or just tear off a little "leaf" and eat it up!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Bread & Butter Pickles....

We stopped by our friends' house yesterday.  They said they had lots of cucumbers.  They weren't kidding.  I didn't even take half of what they offered me, but I did get some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, a watermelon, a cantaloupe and some okra.  What I will do with okra, I'm not quite sure.  Anyway, I commenced to begin with the cucumbers this morning making bread & butter pickles -- the family's favorite from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  My book has a copyright of 1987 (almost an antique like me).  Do you think 11 pints is enough pickles for the winter?  Yeah.  And there's more.  More cukes, that is.  We'll eat as much fresh as possible, but then what?  Relish?  How much pickle relish do two people and their guests need?  I'm so happy with my fresh goodies, but a bit overwhelmed.

Check out this bounty will ya?
My wish for homegrown tomatoes has come true!  How do they do it?  They have a greenhouse to start these fine tomatoes. See the colorful ones that are yellow, orange, red & orange?  Those are called Rainbow Heirloom tomatoes.  Oh, so mild, sweet and ever so pretty.  These babies are bigger than the palm of my hand.  I think they are of the Beefsteak variety.

Don't we have some good, kind friends?
Yes, we do!

I also bought a box of Colorado Peaches to eat fresh, make pie with (one in the oven right now) and to preserve.  I'm going to be busy in the kitchen this Labor Day Weekend.  What about you?

I only just picked one tiny Sweet One-Hundred tomato the other day from my own veggie patch.  It's a beginning, even if it is a meager beginning.


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