Saturday, March 29, 2008

Art and inspiration.....

Femme et vaches par l'eau
~Julien Dupré (1851 - 1910)

This pictures really speaks to me. Perhaps it's because I live with cattle. We have some old cows and even some bulls who are pets. It's amazing to some people who come to visit when they see one of us get out of the pick-up truck and walk into a pasture with a great big bull and begin to pet and scratch him and feed him by hand. All the while, the bull laps up the attention and even rubs up against the one dishing out the love.

This milk cow isn't wanting to cooperate with Mistress Milk Maid at all. Bossy's got her mind made up that she wants to drink. Notice that the maid does not have much of a "tow rope" to bring in this beast, but rather, a small leash of sorts to throw around the horns which implies, "You are captured, and now you must follow me." The cow knows the routine, she knows it's milking time, she can feel the tightness in her udder, but she wants to give Mistress a little resistance and wants her way. Perhaps this one time the maid will relinquish her hold. But no, Bossy knows she really does need milking and she will succumb to the maid's wishes. After all, Mistress loves her and know her best.

"I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me." ~Jesus

~John 10:14

You really must see this picture in its full size. Click Rehs Gallery to see it and many more wonderful works of art by Dupré.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wedding mints....

The wedding mints have been made!

It's been a tradition in my family since way back in my Gramma's day that we make mints for weddings. I even remember making mints as a little girl with my Gramma S. I think it was likely my Aunt Nancy's wedding since she was the last of my aunts to marry. She was in her 30's (O-L-D, so I thought back then). Wedding mints were also made for my wedding some 26 years ago with my sister, neighbor ladies, and my step-mom carrying on the tradition.

Now it's time for another generation to make wedding mints. My daughter, G., is getting married in May and so her Gramma S. called to see about when to make the mints. My daughter-in-law, G, one of the bridesmaids and Gramma S. all gathered one evening for the mint-making party. I always think of mint making as a party. "We must always have a glass of wine whilst making mints," says Gramma S. And we always do. "Cheers!"

We made pink hearts, ivory and pink roses and light green leaves. The leaves were spearmint flavored but the rest of the mints were vanilla, at the bride's request. These homemade mints make a pretty tray to add along side the wedding cake.

One more thing checked off the To Do List!

Wedding Butter Mints
~Grandma S.

1 lb. powdered sugar (always need extra)
1/3 c. butter (softened)
1/3 c. white corn syrup
1 egg white
Flavoring as desired
Food color as desired

Mix together well. Add more powdered sugar to make a stiff “dough.”

Roll bits of dough in sugar before putting into molds.

If dough sticks in molds, wash, dry, and start over again.
Sometimes it helps to put a little sugar IN the mold too.

Makes 150 mints

In answer to Thimbleanna's questions I thought it best to make an addendum here for everyone. After we unmolded each mint, we place them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. This way we could move the mints to the freezer for a quick freeze of a few minutes to firm them up for boxing. A shirt box works well. We boxed the mints in layers between wax paper, the same pieces they were lying on in the freezer. It's a nice way to transport them without touching each mint again or pouring them out. One person holds two corners of the wax paper and another holds the other two corners to gently place the mints into the box.

Since the wedding is not until May, we froze the mints in their lidded box. They will last indefinitely this way. This would be my best recommendation for storage.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

There is a Fountain....

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

Happy Resurrection Day!

Hymn: "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood"
By Selah from their album, Press On

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hot-Cross Buns

Hot-cross Buns!
Hot-cross Buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-Cross Buns!
Hot-cross Buns!
Hot-cross Buns!
If ye have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
~Mother Goose

It's Good Friday, the day we remember the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus on the cross. In remembrance, I baked bread and made part of the dough into Hot-cross Buns.
I'll serve them with supper tonight

"O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him, There is no want."

~Psalm 34:8,9

Monday, March 17, 2008

Today I'd like to share a few wonderful homemaking blogs and sites with you that have really inspired me and reinforced my commitment to keeping myself about the tasks of "home and family." I hope you'll find some encouragement and inspiration too.

Laine's Letters has been around quite a long time. This Christian woman has lived on a tight budget in California for many years raising her children and teaching them to pitch in and help in the home as well. At Laine's site you'll find an archive of her past email letters of encouragment, recipes, and tips for economical homekeeping. I have learned so much from her and I still like to go back to the archives and read her uplifting, real-to-life letters from one homemaker to another.

I just recently was one of five winners in a contest that Marilyn Moll was having at her blog. She asked her readers to give their Top Tips for Busy Homemakers so I gave it my best shot! There were 30 contributors so there's plenty for you to glean from. You'll find gobs of ideas for feeding and watering your flock in healthy, practical ways at Marilyn's. Also, I fully recommend her fine online store, Urban Homemaker. Every single thing I have ever purchased from UH has met my highest expectations. From good quality bread pans to water purifiers to deodorant stones --- you'll find it at Urban Homaker.

Ever since its conception, I have been a faithful reader of Storybook Woods. Clarice is so genuine and so full of practical, frugal, creative ways to make a house a home. She's a fantastic cook and she shares recipes that will make your mouth water just reading about them. She can set a perfect tea table, home school her sweet daughters, and pinch a penny so hard it'll scream. I absolutely can't wait to see what Clarice will post next.
Another lady who is dripping with creativity is Deb at Homespun Living. This woman just amazes me with the many projects she does day in and day out.....knitting, sewing clothing, sewing totes and purses, painting barns, refurbishing her kitchen and the list continues on and on and on. I promise, you'll be inspired (or challenged). Deb also has a nice Etsy store where you can buy some of her handcrafted things.
For the young mother with kidlettes hanging round her legs, you'll be refreshed with Soule Mama. My kids are all grown into teens and twenties now, but I still enjoy visiting this blog. Perhaps it's because it reminds me of those days when my kiddos were little or maybe it's because I'm going to be a Gram in July. Whatever the reason, I love it. Oh, and she's just published a new book -- The Creative Family.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday art and inspiration....

"Tending the Herd" by Julien Dupré
Picture from Rehs Gallery.

We're in mid-March and it feels cold like this picture. The skies are more gray than blue and the water goes from slush to ice over night. We get mere glimpses of spring with a day's warm wind and an afternoon of glowing sun, but as soon as the sun sets over the horizon, the deep chill comes on and it feels much more like winter than spring. Technically, by the calendar, it is still winter until March 20th when we can officially declare it Spring. However, I know very well after living on the northern prairie these 26 years, that the snow and cold are far, far from gone whether the calendar says it or not. Some of our biggest snowstorms of the year have come in April and May.

This time of year my mud room lives fully up to its name. Between thawing and freezing, the mud tracks in on overshoes and boots. Why is it that most boots today have that waffle pattern on the bottom? It's a homemaker's nemesis. How I wish for the smooth, crepe rubber sole that does not soak up the mud between the traction, only to dry and crumble out again . We all try very hard to stomp off our boots outdoors before entering the house, but it is inevitable that mud will come in. Not only mud, but manure and straw from the cow shed and the sheep shed. When you work with livestock, part of it follows you right into your own shed/home. My mud room smells like barn. My jeans have blobs of lamb manure on them. My hair stinks. I try and try to stay on top of things -- sweeping up dried bits of mud and straw, shaking the rugs out regularly, giving the floor tile and sink a good mopping-up between times, and taking a nightly bath or shower, but it's just that time of year. I accept it, but I will not relent. I will carry on sweeping dirt out as every good ranchwife should. I have found that if I stay on top of the sweeping, I have less mud. If wet boots come in on a dirty floor, the dried dirt turns into mud, and mud means an eventual mopping.

Many people are talking about spring cleaning this time of year, but I can't even begin to think of that. It will be a few months before I can focus my efforts on deep cleaning. For now, I must be content with shoveling out the "big chunks" and trying to stay on top of the regular chores of housekeeping. The focus is on the livestock right now.....and keeping everyone fed and in clean jeans and underwear. Happy Spring!

A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead and dreams of a faraway place. A traveler on the plane sees the farmhouse....and dreams of home.

~Carl Burns
The Drug Shop

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lambing 101

It's lambing time! Not only is there a whole mess of adorable baby calves, but now we're getting a bunch of sweet lambkins too. I'll tell you all about it.

The ewes were sheared a couple of weeks ago by a local shearer, Chuck, and his crew. It's important to us to shear the ewes before lambing for a couple of reasons. First, when ewes are at the peak of their wool growth, they can easily get stuck on their backs. From time to time we find a ewe who has lain down and can't get back up because she rolls over to her backside. The wool makes her very heavy and add to that a bellyful of lambs and you've got one stuck sheep! If you don't find her in time, she can die. The other reason we shear ewes before lambing is so that the newborn lambs can find the teats and nurse. When ewes are all woolly, sometimes it's hard for the little lamb to find its nourishment.

Sheep often have twins. In fact, this year so far, out of 40+ ewes we have had 35 sets of twins. We still have another 100 head or so to go, but it's looking like we're going to have a wonderful lamb crop. We've had one set of quadruplets (all died due to premature birth) and 3 sets of triplets. When triplets happen, most of the time the ewe can't raise 3 lambs very well. Generally, one of the lambs get's pushed out and doesn't get enough to eat so we try to graft one of the trips onto another ewe if possible. The best way to do this is to have another ewe lambing at about the same time. If she only has a single lamb, we'll rub the afterbirth and liquids from the single all over the triplet so that it smells like the single's brother. The mother ewe will lick the lambs clean after they are born and she wants to smell that same smell on both lambs so if we douse the triplet with her after-gunk, she likes him and thinks he's her own. If not, she can smell that he is someone else's lamb and she won't accept him. In this case, we have a bum lamb and we'll have to bottle feed it until another ewe decides to give birth and hopefully has a single lamb. The process begins again.

Lambs are amazing creatures. They are born skinny, scrawny, wet little animals -- all legs and ears. They aren't fluffly and white like the storybook lambs. You'd think they could never survive when you first see them born, but in just minutes, they are blatting and struggling to get on their feet and find their nourishment. The mother ewe constantly "talks" to her babies with little grunts and bleats, licking them madly, which stimulates her lambs to get up and going.

This time of year we must bring all the ewes and lambs through the shed. Every ewe that lambs gets put in a small wooden pen (we call it a jug) so we know that she has made a good bond with her lambs. We need to see that the lambs have sucked and are healthy before we turn them out to pasture. We mark a number on the twins and their mother with a spray paint made especially for wool . This way we know they are a set. If the twins happened to get separated from their mother in the pasture, we can easily see who it belongs to by the number and put them back together.

With unpredictable northern spring weather, we must keep lamb bunches closeby so we can put them back into sheds in a hurry in case of snow or extreme cold. Young lambs will not withstand a winter snow storm or driving rain or deep, cold temperatures. Their mothers are very good at protecting them from harm, but it's ultimately the shepherd's job to watch over the flock.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday art and inspiration.....

Retour a la Ferme By Julien Dupré (1851 - 1910) Provenance
Rich, pastoral scenes that I love. I can just smell the green grass and manure and feel the squishy mud beneath my feet. Can you?
Find more art by Dupre' at Rehs Gallery online.
". . . in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses." 2 Corinthians 6:4
It takes Almighty grace to take the next step when there is no vision and no spectator - the next step in devotion, the next step in your study, in your reading, in your kitchen; the next step in your duty, when there is no vision from God, no enthusiasm and no spectator. It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the Gospel.
Every Christian has to partake of what was the essence of the Incarnation, he must bring the thing down into flesh and blood actualities and work it out through the finger tips. We flag when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and the only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you. Continually get away from pettiness and paltriness of mind and thought out into the thirteenth chapter of St. John's Gospel.
~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Mar 6)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wildflowers in winter -- first flowers, in March?

Wildflowers in Winter announces week 8 -- "The First Wildflower of Spring photo challenge. Be searching for wildflowers in your area. Try to find the first one blooming and post a photo of it on your blog. If you don't know what it is we will try to help you identify it."
What do you think? It just snowed 5" last night and today and I really don't believe I'll dig down under the snow and find anything blooming. It's 12 degrees F just now. Nothing's growing I'm afraid. However, I hereby introduce to you............The always faithful, low-growing, herb-a-licious, First Flower of Spring here on the northern prairie...... Drum roll please..........
The Desert Biscuitroot (or carrotleaf lomatium). There's another one similar to it called Wild Parsley (or wild carrot) which comes up at the same time. The stems of both of these really do taste like parsley. I have to try a little bite every spring. It will show up in late March to early April here.

Below is Prairie Chickweed which is another early spring riser.

And lastly, a Prairie Mother's favorite, just in time for Mother's Day -- Golden Pea. My children and their father have picked "Sweet Peas" for me every spring on Mother's Day. There's nothing sweeter to sniff and nothing more breathtaking to see than an entire pasture of them.

Okay, I can't resist. Here's the pastureful of Sweet Peas.....
(click up any photos for a larger view)

Thank you to Elizabeth Joy for hosting Wildflowers in Winter.
It was a load of fun to me.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Short on words, deep on meaning...

Photo by Feuillu

This morning while sipping my coffee and reading my email, I came upon an email from one of my favorite blogs, Bravewriter, and thought I'd check out what was happening there. Julie is a homeschool mom and a writer who shares her skill, love and gift of words with all of us homeschool moms and our kids. I told her, "You do all the work, I just copy you!" If you ever need help with inspiring your kids to write, I enourage you to visit Julie's blog. Anyway, I was browsing Julie's side margins and came upon her link and clicked it up. I'm curious that way sometimes. I found this article: Short on words, deep on meaning, and my interest was piqued. The author asked people for six word memoirs or biographies of their lives and the response was so amazing -- some funny, some deep, some outrageous. Read it and see what I mean. Well, right away the light bulb went on, and I decided that for Today's Writing Lesson my teenage sons and I would write Six Word Biographies. We'd write one for ourselves and a few others for people we know -- either family members, friends, or famous people. What fun we had! Here's a sampling of a few we came up with.

Hope. Change. Yes we can! What?
~Barack Obama

Get ‘er done today. Golf tomorrow.

Prayed. Got Tom and five kids.

Does this have to be serious?

God, coffee, family. In that order.

Hey, everyone’s got to breath air!
~Dr. Phil

How did you spell that….again?

Die you must, live I will.

Snowed. I’ll practice my bunker shots.

She was weaned on a pickle.
~Hillary Clinton

Never should have taken those steroids.
~Roger Clemens

Isn't it amazing what just a few words can say about a person?
The best part of the day was the kiss on the cheek from each son and, "This was fun, let's do it again." Yes, we will!

It's a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.
~Franklin P. Jones in Quote

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wildflowers in winter.....

Virginia Bluebell By Joseph
Today's post for the series Wildflowers in Winter , Elizabeth Joy asks us to share our children's wildflower art. My children have kept nature journals all their lives, but as I paged through them today, I notice far more birds and animals than wildflowers. We always had contests in spring and summer to identify the first wildflowers as they blossomed in the pastures, but I guess the kids didn't choose to draw them. My 4 sons preferred drawing cars and rockets and barns more than flowers, but I did manage to find a wildflower sample for each one. My daughter, on the other hand, loved to draw flowers and birds and butterflies. Isn't that how it goes? I hope you'll enjoy these clips from my children's old nature journals. It's Art to me!

Sagebrush Buttercup By Adam

Sunflowers By Grace

Love in a Mist By John

Sunflowers By Seth


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