Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekend things....

Mowing, trimming, pulling weeds, and spraying dandelions....

...checking in on the baby robins.
They've really grown some feathers in the past few days
and their mouths pop open when I rustle in the tree.

It's rhubarb time!  Mine is still fairly short, but these stalks were harvested
from my parents' plants.  It's huge and juicy!

I decided to make a rhubarb pie (our favorite)
and chopped up the rest with some frozen strawberries for 
Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam (or sauce, if you please).

I love this stuff on just about anything,
but especially over vanilla ice cream!
Spring on a spoon!
Just in case you'd like to try the recipe, 
I made it up, using bits from various recipes.
Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam

5 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped strawberries (you may add more)
2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar (depending on your tastes)
juice of one fresh lemon
*red food coloring (opt)

Combine all ingredients in a large stainless steel pot.  Allow it to sit at room temp for an hour or more to allow the sugar and fruit to juice up.  Bring the pot to a good boil and continue it for 10 minutes and reduce heat to medium-low to simmer.  Simmer and stir until it is thick, approximately half an hour or more.  Ladle into clean jars, add lids and set aside in a non-drafty area to allow the jars of jam to cool and seal.  You'll hear a *pop* when they seal.  When you press your finger on the top of the jar lid, it should not move if it is sealed.  If it pops up and down, your jar is not sealed.
Any jars that don't seal, put into the fridge and use first.
Serve over cakes or ice cream,
over hot cereal, on toast or biscuits.

*I sometimes add a drop or two of red food coloring for a little extra color, but it is not a necessity since the strawberries add color.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Redwork stitches....

Two redwork tea towels are now complete.  I decided to add a little edge finish to the bottom of each one to give it a bit more pizazz, and I like how they turned out.  If you like these two patterns, you can find them here and here.  The patterns come from  Doe-c-Doe  who is a blogger and contributor at the Hoop Love Vintage Transfers.  If you love to embroider, you really ought to become a member of this group.  Fantastic vintage patterns are shared.  I'm hoping the links to the two transfers come up for you.  You may be asked to join Hoop Love in order to see them.

Did you know that beginning in the 1880s women had been willing to pay extra for Turkey Red thread for redwork embroidery because unlike most colors, it was colorfast?  Turkey Red was more than just a color though, it was a dye process that produced the cool (blueish) red color that didn't bleed and was most desired by quilters and needle workers.  Here's a quote about the dye process for your enjoyment.
...involved thoroughly cleansing the yarn or cloth by boiling with alkali; steeping in rancid olive or castor oil, soda and cow or sheep dung, mordanting with alum and sumac; dyeing in a batch of madder, ox blood and chalk; finally, washing to brighten the colour. In the early nineteenth century the process could take three weeks or more.
 For more history on redwork embroidery, click here, and if you'd like to know more about Turkey Red, click here.  I like to use the DMC Perle Cotton red #321 in size 8 for my redwork, and it doesn't have any manure odor or rancid oil flavor.  Thank you, God, for technology!

For excellent quality flour sack towels, click American Chair.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Robin report....

Here they are, three hatchlings and one egg left to hatch.
I didn't know how far along the eggs were so I'm glad I checked in on them.  It's been raining and Mrs. Robin has been faithfully sitting in her nest with her chicks keeping them nice and cozy, that is, until I disturb them.
She does get feisty when I come to peep in.

She was really giving me "the dickens" this afternoon.
I've been sighting more feathered emigrants, but with the cloudy, dark days and drippy weather, I've not got a good picture off.  I'll try again tomorrow.  I did manage to click a pretty Bleeding Heart just coming into bloom in my flower bed.

I am always amazed that something so beautiful and intricate-looking could live where I do, but it comes faithfully every spring to tell me it is possible.

And the winner is.....

Thank you, everyone, for always posting such kind comments here.  I appreciate each and every one of them.  The winner of the Peterson Guide to Birds of North America is Tina of IneXplicable.   This lady has a lovely photography blog that I think you'd enjoy visiting.  Congrats, Tina!  Please contact me via email so I can get the book shipped to you.  gumbolily62(at)gmail(dot)com

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Western Tanager...

More migration!
  This fellow is a Western Tanager.
I've only ever seen one other in my life.  
Isn't he a beaut?

He and his wife (below) are likely stopping over for a rest 
as they migrate to Western Montana to the forests.

Mrs. Tanager is pale, olive green to yellow, and no bright red head
like her husband.  
I'm seeing a few warblers showing up.  So far I've seen

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A cleaning phenom...

Two posts in one day, but I just couldn't resist telling you about my newest discovery in cleaning technology.  Microfiber cleaning towels!   I know I am behind the times.  I'm a very basic, very old-fashioned homemaker when it comes to cleaning.  A stack of rags, soap & water in a spray bottle, vinegar & water in another, a shaker of baking soda, Dawn dish soap, and a bottle of ammonia and I can clean almost anything.

Well, when I was out shopping to replenish my bare cupboards, I decided to mosey on over to the automotive department to get some microfiber cleaning cloths.  The purpose was not for cleaning, but for the pocket diapers I'm making. They say microfiber makes a good soaker.  I found this stack of eight cleaning cloths, 14x14 inches, for just $5 at Stuffmart.  Since I always do some cleaning on Saturday, I thought I'd break a couple out and give them a try.  Well, for crying in the sunshine!  Why haven't I tried these before today?  Amazing, I tell you!

I used a damp, wrung-out  microfiber cloth to wash the windows and a dry cloth to shine them --no cleaning solutions at all.  They came squeaky clean!  I used a damp cloth to dust furniture.  Wow, does it pick up dirt and dust and even wiped away a pencil mark on the coffee table that Hazel Peach left behind when she was writing.  These cloths rinse clean easily under the tap and go right back to work like nothing I've ever used.  I was wiping everything down and dusting everything in sight with remarkable results.  Even textured lampshades dusted clean with ease.  Oak dressers, woodwork, doors, scuff marks on the screen door all got a quick swipe and were shiny clean.  Toss the cloths in the washer, line dry or tumble dry (no softener or dryer sheets) and they are ready to go back to work.  I have to say, I'm impressed!  I'm keeping these microfiber towels in my cleaning stash.

*One note:  I think the feel of the fabric on my hands is weird.  It tends to cling or stick to rough hands.  When they are damp or wet, they tend to not seem so sticky.

Homemade flour tortillas...

Old Mother Hubbard's cupboards have been bare this past week, and so what does she do when there are no tortillas left?  Make some homemade!  I used to make flour tortillas more often when there were seven of us at home.  We went through lots of them since tacos have always been our default meal.  Do you have a default meal that you go to regularly at your house?  Let's get on with the recipe.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
4 T. shortening or lard
1 c. very warm tap water

Combine dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening until crumbly, as for pie crust.  Lastly, add water, a little at a time, until the dough gathers itself into a ball.  You may need to add a bit more water.  I always do.  Knead dough on a floured cupboard 15-20 times.  Let dough rest 15 minutes.  Shape into balls about 1 1/2" round.  Flatten and roll out very thin on floured cupboard.  Place on a hot griddle.  I use a dry griddle -- an electric skillet set at 400*.  Wait for the tortilla to bubble up and the edges to curl (about 30 seconds) and turn with a spatula and fry on other side another 30 seconds or until lightly golden in spots.  Remove from heat. Continue rolling out balls and cooking them.  I can usually get 11-12 large tortillas with this recipe.  You may even like them hot from the skillet with butter & honey or cinnamon & sugar.

Start with balls approximately 1 1/2" round.  Flatten and roll out.

Roll out very thin.

Cook on a very hot griddle until tortilla bubbles up.

A nice stack of tortillas, ready to eat!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looky what I found....

This morning I was out mowing the shelter belt and pulling up old brush and saw Mrs. Robin suddenly fly up out of small juniper.  I knew there had to be a nest.  And this is what I discovered.  
A robin family is on the way!

How do robins build their nests?
Robin Redbreast told me--
First a wisp of yellow hay
In a pretty round they lay;
Then some shreds of downy floss,
Feathers, too, and bits of moss,
Woven with a sweet, sweet song,
This way, that way, and across;
That's what Robin told me.

Where do robins hide their nests?
Robin Redbreast told me--
Up among the leaves so deep,
Where the sunbeams rarely creep,
Long before the winds are cold,
Long before the leaves are gold,
Bright-eyed stars will peep and see
Baby robins--one, two, three;
That's what Robin told me.

~George Cooper

I just realized that this is my 500th post.
To celebrate, I'm giving away 
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America
to one lucky reader.  
Just leave a comment on this post and you will be entered.  
Enter by Saturday night at 12:00 MST.
Winner will be announced Monday, May 24th.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Turning out and other things....

Yesterday we turned out 300+ head of steers from their winter feeding pens to our big north pastures.  They were so happy to be out on the prairies eating green grass and clover.  I was happy to be out there too.  The men and I spent some time in the saddle trailing them out.  It was a glorious day for it. I know this grass doesn't look green, but underneath the old grass is new, green, delicious grass.  The steers will be out grazing and getting fat for the next couple months.

As I was doing the morning dishes, I noticed something moving out on the Ash Tree.  It was this lil guy called a Nuthatch.  He was so busy, like a little acrobat hanging upside down and creeping sideways all over the trunk and branches, picking bugs from the bark, not thinking about anything at all except his breakfast.  
  (you may click any pictures to enlarge them)

 Do you see the flash of orange in this picture?  This is a Bullock's Oriole.  My eye is always on the look out for this lightning-orange fellow.  Here, come in a little closer.

Like a loud, obnoxious uncle, you know the Bullock's Oriole is near when you hear his chatty, whistley song.  Last summer we had one that sang right by our bedroom window every morning around 5:30.  There were some mornings that I wanted to throw a slipper at him.  You can hear his song on the link above.

In my devotional time the other day, I read this from Oswald Chambers:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they simply are!  Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars, and the moon -- all these are, and what a ministration they exert.  So often we mar God's designed influence through us by our self-conscious effort to be consistent and useful.
 When I watch the birds eating from feeders or picking bugs from the bark, they aren't worried about appearances.  The cattle eat grass and lay in the warm sunshine, unaffected by economic downturns.  The tulips and wild bluebells don't ask, "Why am I here?"  They just grow and bloom, and in a short while they are gone.  I am a moon-gazer and always, I am ministered to by it's presence.  It has no sermon to preach.  It simply is.  How many people before me, throughout all time, have looked at it and wondered about how big God is and how small we earthlings are, and yet, He thinks of us.  Each of us. 

"Consider the fowls of the air....Consider the lilies of the field."
~Matthew 6:26, 28

Monday, May 17, 2010

When the dandelions bloom....

In May when the dandelions are in full bloom,
so are the Goldfinches...

They look like they are going to prom in their yellow and black tuxedos.
The warblers are coming home.
I like his bandit mask.

This warbler is someone's wife.

 The Rose-breasted Grosbeak has found our seed.

The tulips bloom....

....and bloom....

And so do the tiniest violets.
Spring in the northern prairies is a true celebration.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Saturday was a big workday for us.  After regular chores, we moved a bunch of cow/calf pairs out to a fresh pasture and then gathered another bunch up to bring in.  We sorted the calves off and boosted their vaccinations and Hubs greased the udders on these mother cows.  They had had some harsh weather conditions which gave them a bit of chapping.  

After lunch, it was on to the sheep.  They were brought into the sheep corrals where we sorted the ewes away from the lambs.  S. and I, along with the dogs, were herding the sheep into the alley to sort them. 

Down the alley they go!

Our dogs love their job!

A. gave the lambs deworming medicine, a drench down the throat.

Sorting the bucks (the big ones) away from the ewes and lambs.

Hubs is counting the ewes out  the gate.  It's funny to me how they always jump when going through the gate -- a statement of freedom and joy!

This is Penny, our son's family's dog who loves to work sheep too.
Notice how tight the rope is?

Turning the lambs out the gate to join the mama sheep.

Going up to fresh pasture.

It's time for some refreshment! 
Have a Coke and a smile!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

RED - work - woodpeckers - diapers...

I finished one of my redwork tea towels and I like her.  At first I thought she was a tomato, but now I realize she must be an apple.  The stem and leaf at the top give it away for me.

I clicked this photo of a Red-headed Woodpecker this morning.  He was resting in the Willow Tree out in the backyard.  It snowed and rained again a little bit this morning, but has since stopped.  The coming days are supposed to be sunny and warm.  Yippee!  The rain has been a blessing though.

My friend who recently had the baby was considering using cloth diapers.  She was showing us one of those fancy new diapers you can buy and was debating the pros and cons of buying a dozen.  Since then I have been studying homemade diapers online and came up with this lil cutie.  It's called the RRP (Rita's Rump Pocket) classic diaper.  She has a free diaper pattern here, and really, it was a snap to make.  This particular diaper has a pocket in the center that allows you to add an absorbent pad or cloth pre-fold diaper inside.  It will need a single diaper pin in front to close it, but as the baby gets bigger it can expand and will take two pins or a Snappi (have you seen these?), or I  could add velcro closures to the diaper.  I made the diapers out of stuff I had at home:  thread, a red flannel sheet, a windshirt my son was throwing out, and some elastic.  I am hopeful that the blue diaper's outer covering will be water-repellent, otherwise these diapers will need a cover.  As I investigated the *new to me* cloth diapers, I found a great idea for a pad that goes into the pocket of the diaper --  Shamwow! or microfiber chamois or those super-absorbent cleaning cloths you can buy for a buck!  This would reduce the bulk in the diapers and add super-absorbency!

This picture shows the diaper completely open and one diaper closed.  Aren't they neat?  I wish I had had something like this when I was diapering my five babies in cloth.   I felt blessed to have the pre-folds with pins and plastic pants.  I always had two in diapers so I know that I saved a TON of money diapering my kiddos in cloth.  I did buy the not-so-good-back-then disposable dipes for night time and for trips to town though and I think it's always smart to have them on hand.  I washed diapers every other day and on nice days I hung them out on the line to dry.  I know I could cloth-diaper a baby in my sleep yet today!

This afternoon I mailed out six diapers to my friend along with an extra super-absorb cloth and a cute fleece cover like this one.... 
I used this pull-on training knickers pattern  for the diaper cover. Cute eh?  Check out these DIY diaper sites:  the Nappy Network , Diaper Jungle and here's a YouTube video for sewing the pattern I used.    For excellent diaper-making supplies click SewShoppe.  These rainy days have brought lots of opportunities for indoor projects, but I'm itching to plant potatoes, onions, and lettuce.  Maybe tomorrow!


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