Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cutting firewood...

 A pick-up load of firewood -- ash and box elder wood.  The cows are in the background.

One of the things I love most to do in the fall is to cut firewood.  I don't know why, but I always have.  Even growing up at home, the whole family spent many Saturdays in the fall cutting pine and aspen in The Hills for our winter fuel.  We had a furnace too, but we tried to heat as much as possible with wood to keep heating costs down.  I remember packing a hearty lunch, a cooler of water, a thermos of coffee and always a dessert of cake, cookies or bars -- something sweet to boost our energy and our morale.  That sweet treat went well  with the coffee round about mid-morning.  I think it was the togetherness that I cherished most about cutting wood when I was a girl.  We always seemed happy working side-by-side even though it was a hard day's work. 

Today, Hubs and I went wood-cutting alone and enjoyed being together, accomplishing several things -- clearing dead wood and slash  from the bottoms, cutting some winter fuel, and taking in a beautiful fall day.  We didn't bring a lunch nor a sweet treat with coffee, but instead, lots of water.  We reached the 60's for a high temperature and so water was the drink du jour . We only spent a couple hours of the afternoon cutting so we were back home in short order.  I had my afternoon coffee and a hunk of carrot cake after we unloaded the wood in the garage.  By the way, the carrot cake recipe came from Food That Really Schmecks.

Here on the ranch, we have a good wood-burner, but we don't rely on it solely for our heat unless there is a power outage, and then it can become a primary source of heat -- at least until the generators are up and running.  Still, is there anything better than sidling up next to a blazing wood fire?  The heat penetrates to the bones and warms a body like nothing else.  And then there is the beauty of a fire:  the glow of tongues of yellow-orange flames, the incense of burning wood, the crackle and hiss as it burns through the wood and the immense pleasure it brings when everyone gathers around it.

A fire in the fall and winter provides us a "fast dryer" for our wet mittens and gloves or for cover-alls that have been soaked through while outdoors working.  I made a little twine clothesline complete with clothespins that hangs from the barn wood mantle so we can hang our damp hats, mittens, gloves, or boot liners from it.  There are pegs on the mantle where we hang the marshmallow forks, the ash shovel and a red tin candlestick holder.  The oil lamps, a candle or two and matches are perched on the mantle so we can find them quickly when there is a power outage.  Although most folks think fall and winter are the chilly months of the year, out here on the northern prairie, spring is also a wet, cold month, and since we spend more time outdoors in spring calving and lambing, we get chilled down easily.  We often have the deepest snows of the year in spring, but thankfully, they melt off quickly.  So you see, the wood stove is the hub of our home for the majority of the year from the  fall through to spring. 

Besides warming up and drying clothing, we like to be near the fire to roast marshmallows over slow, hot coals and occasionally we pair them with squares of Hershey bar and graham crackers for S'mores.  You'll often find us playing cards at the dining table because it's located very near the stove.  We especially like  to play cribbage, canasta, 500, various forms of rummy, and a new-to-me game the kids like, Egyptian Rat Killer.  I still don't get that game, but I like to watch the kids play it.  It makes for lots of slapping, whooping, laughing and insults.  We are a competitive bunch of card players!

Do you have fond memories gathering around a fire?  Do tell!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hot chocolate and buttered toast...

It's just a thing.....
I like hot chocolate and buttered toast together...
especially when it turns cold.
It is scrumptch for breakfast, but this is
my supper-for-one tonight.
What sounds good to you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Around home....

Wait till the snow flies 
before you roll up the garden hoses
and empty the gas from the mowers
and take them to the barn
for the winter.

Wait till the snow flies
before you pull in the hose and bucket
from the stock pond
and take up the pump
that has watered the garden all summer.

Wait till the snow flies
before you push the wheel barrow back to the barn
and park it in it's same old spot
for mucking stalls and pens next spring.

Wait till the snow flies
to finish digging the rest of the potatoes
and carrots.
They will keep better in the earth.

Wait till the snow flies
before you pull the cabbages
They'll weather the storms and snows
No need to take them up yet unless
you need one for supper.

Wait till the snow flies
before you dump out the geranium pots 
still in full bloom.
Wait till they wither and fade first.

Wait till the snow flies
to gather in the wood
so we can have a crackling fire in the stove.

Wait till the snow flies.

The first snow flurries fell today as I hustled around rolling up garden hoses and taking in the pots -- rosemary, ivy, and a little pepper plant.  I'll keep them alive inside while the outdoors gets colder and freezes down.  I always think that I'll overwinter the geraniums, but it never happens.  The red petals fall and stain the wood floor and then the leaves dry and get spindly and I end up dumping them after all.  I couldn't tip out the geraniums today though.  They're looking so glorious just now.  How do you tip out the pots when they look so happy and pretty?  I couldn't.  I may take them to the garage and save them awhile just in case the weather should warm up again.  For now, we're expecting a cold front and possible snow.  I don't think it'll be much snow, but snow nonetheless.

The wind is raging.  The weatherman predicts that we'll have 40 to 50 mile per hour gusts for the next few days.  That'll make the world outside seem even colder.  Did you see the feather tufts on the owl above?  They are blowing from west to east!  I'm taking my walks amongst the shelter belts now that the wind is so fierce.  The dogs and I scared up three white tail deer fawns and I nearly got run over.  They were so frightened that one hardly paid any attention to me as it ran by.

I've been bringing in armfuls of firewood from the garage to keep a fire going in the stove.  The cold wind seems to find its way in through the cracks and under the doors of our house.  The fire looks so pretty and brings extra comfort inside.  I've been burning a Hazelnut candle on the kitchen table.  Firelight seem to bring a feeling of coziness to our home on this gray, windy day.

I have been playing with some fuzzy yarn and made two hoot owls.  I think of them as owlets and not full-grown owls.  Remember the British granny who made pom pom animals?  I decided to take her lead and make owls.  I used two poms poms, tied them together and then used some felt scraps for eyes, ears, and wings.  One owlet has a felt beak and the other has a pine cone bract for a beak.  I snipped off the sharp parts before I glued it on in case small, tender fingers found it.  The owlets are so soft and cuddly, unlike real owls.  Hazel Peach took the white owl home with her this afternoon.

What's it like around your home today?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Feeling owly?

 Just below our backyard there are some great big cottonwood trees.
Guess who we discovered in them?
The Great Horned Owls.
I think they look like Mister & Missus.
Aren't they sweet together?

Close-up of Mister Great Horned

And one of the Missus 

Who-oo are you-ooo?
Even though these owls are considered "eared," those tufts on their heads are not ears, but feathers that look like ears to you and me.  Check out the hooting here.  We've been hearing them a lot at night and when Hazel Peach hears them and says "Howl (owl).  Hoo Hoo!  Let's go!"  This means let's go find the owl, and she heads out traipsing through the tall grass to look for them. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Pumpkin Pie Blizzard....

Because I want it NOW!

When you live in the country, you try things.  Like pumpkin pie blizzards.  I just knew I could copycat the recipe or at least get it pretty darn close.  You can too!

Pumpkin Pie Blizzard

You need:
vanilla ice cream
sweetened pumpkin pie filling
pumpkin pie spice

You could make this by hand with a spoon and cup if you have no blender.

In your blender add several scoops of vanilla ice cream and a little glug of milk.
Blend on low or on pulse.  You want it fairly stiff.  If it's too runny, add more ice cream.
Now add a cookie.  I added half of a homemade oatmeal cookie, but you could add a shortbread cookie or any type of cookie you want.  Don't crunch it up, just break it in half and let the blender do the rest. Pulse the blender a tiny bit.  Lastly, add a good glop of sweetened, spiced pumpkin pie filling.  I only had the plain canned pumpkin so I simply added the sugar and spices according to the pie directions on the back of the label.  Don't add the egg or milk.  Pulse a tiny bit.  You want to see the pumpkin swirled in.  Pour into a glass.  For the Big Ta-da, add a generous squiggle of whipped cream to the top and a sprinkle of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice.  EAT!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Treasures for wee folk....

With the happy news that Only Daughter and her husband are going to have a baby around Easter, I have been one of those grammies whose mind has gone all a-swirl with ideas for gifts and handmade projects,  books to share, and even sweet videos to watch.  Not only is Only Daughter having her first baby, but Daughter-In-Love and Firstborn Son are having their second baby, coming right up in January.  Imagine how much there is for me to do!


1.  Quilts for two grandbabies

Well, as you can imagine, the list grows as I start to think about it, and so I decided to put it on paper so I could promptly get started with the little Grammy Things I want to do.  Some things will remain secrets, but some will be shared.  Things like baby quilts will be shared because I want the girls to help me pick fabrics that they like.  Only Daughter told me that she would like her baby's nursery to have a Peter Rabbit & Friends theme with the Beatrix Potter animals and stories that she grew up listening to me read aloud.  That got my mind a-spinning with quilt ideas.  Wouldn't a patchy quilt sprinkled with Peter Rabbit embroideries be the sweetest thing?  I went online trying to find Peter Rabbit hand embroidery patterns, but with very poor luck, and then I thought, "Why not find coloring book pages to trace and embroider?"  I did find a nice selection of those online, free for the printing here and here.  Little Hazel Peach will also enjoy coloring some of these pages when she comes to visit, and I'll have fun coloring too!

As I was out looking for all things Peter Rabbit, to my excitement and pleasure I saw that there was a wonderful rendition of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit in DVD form so I went to find out if there might be a preview for me to watch on YouTube.  Yes, there was!  Look here and enjoy yourself.  Don't forget to pour  a cuppa tea first.  Is this not the best stuff for Grammies and their Littles to watch together?  Better add this to my Christmas list.

List (cont.)

2.  Cloth diapers to sew.  I like this pattern.
3.  A jeans quilt for My Baby who will be graduating this coming spring.  It's a family tradition that every child  who graduates, leaves home with a denim quilt made of the family's old jeans.

4.  Make little dollies and fairies made from the book Felt Wee Folk:  Enchanting Projects by Salley Mavor

I was so happy to bump into this author's book via Maya*Made blog.  This artist has created several books in the past that were illustrated in felt and embroidery pictures that she made herself, and in 2003 she published Felt Wee Folk to show us how to make adorable dolls and fairies like hers.  Salley Mavor has recently published a new book called Pocketful of Posies, A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes that I have added to my Wish List.  Take a look and be enchanted.

5.  Make fluffy pom pom animals.  I found the most wonderful video on how to make pom pom animals.  This sweet British grandmother gives instruction to children on how to do it, and I was totally enthralled by her voice and her ways.  Whether I end up making a pom pom animal or not, I want to watch this lady teach art,  and I wish all children could learn art from a granny like her. Perhaps I ought to practice my British accent for teaching the Grands.

Even though my list (so far) has just five things, they seem like biggish things to me.  I feel I really ought to start tomorrow.  The days go by ya know!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall weaning time....

My morning was spent in the saddle, and a perfectly beautiful morning it was to be astride a horse.  Do you remember the old song, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning?"  Well, that's exactly what it felt like out there on the prairie rounding up the cows and the calves.  The sun was shining, the meadowlarks were singing and all was right with the world.  The fellas and I gathered them up and brought them into the corral to sort the calves away from their mothers.  Man, was it ever dusty in out there with 300 cows milling around!  You should have smelled my hair when I finally got into the shower.  I swear there was muddy water dripping off my head as I stood under the water spicket.  And then there's the nose blowing. 

This time of year we must wean the calves from their mothers.  The weaning process has already begun naturally by now.  The mama cows gradually suckle their calves less and less the older they get, but we intervene in the fall and make it a final weaning.  We do an "across the fence weaning" where the cows and calves can see, hear, and even sniff each other for a few days, but they are separated by a fence or gate.
And this is really how it is all day long -- one mama and then another comes looking for her baby.  Kinda sad.  Hubs says the process is more psychological than anything and is the very best way to wean, for both mama cows and calvies.  After a few days, the cows will be trailed out to another pasture and the calves will continue to be fed ground hay by feed bunk.
Around Home...
I thought I'd share a little of what our mild, beautiful fall has been like here.  We have yet to have a frost and so the flower pots on my front porch are looking better than they have all summer long.  The leaves are turning and falling from the trees.  I love being outside when there's a good wind blowing and the leaves come falling down on me.

I hung out the sheets today for Monday is always wash day -- in particular sheets and bedding.  This afternoon we had a shower of rain come over and my sheets got fairly soaked.  Now they are draped over chairs and furniture to finish drying.

This is one of the lovely cottonwood trees that lives in our yard.  Isn't she a beaut?  She has since lost all of these glorious leaves, and they have been gathered into the compost heap to make rich garden soil for next spring.  There is yet another cottonwood and just today I spotted a chunk of gold leafage developing in the center of him. 

Out on the Prairie and Among the Trees...
Look at these two enormous cottonwood trees still green and looking full of life despite what has happened to them.....

Some over-zealous beavers decided to gnaw them down for their dam.  Now really, Beavers, do you sincerely think you could have carried these big boys to the river?  Do you?

Here are the yearling heifers coming up to see what we are doing.  They are so curious.  These girls will become first-time mothers this spring.

If you enlarge this picture, you'll see the sky is full of birds.  Robins!  They have all flocked together and the shelter belts are loaded with robins.  It's the same sound of chirruping that I remember hearing when they all arrived in spring, but now they are gathering to bid me farewell and to fly away together to warmer climes. 
I always, always miss the sound of birdsong when fall comes to a close.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Just add light...

 Fall is that time of year when the skies get a little darker, the air turns crisp and chilly, and the daylight becomes less and less.  For me, it's the time I like to add more low light to my home to make it feel cozy.  In the kitchen I added a espresso cup-candle alongside a platter that I use almost daily and Hubs' indispensable  toothpick dispenser.  The platter blocks an ugly outlet that is less visible this way.

To make the espresso cup candle, I just added ordinary table salt to my cup and scrunched the tea light down into it.  A simple touch.

I love the low light on the highboy dresser.  I like to have it on in the evenings even when we are not in the bedroom because the soft light looks so welcoming and warm. 

A reading light alongside the bed is a must, and begs the sleepy one to read just a page more before turning in.

The wood-burning stove is the hub of our home in fall and winter months and in the cold, wet springtime too.  It's where we warm up after coming in from chores, and where we hang wet mittens and gloves and an occasional pair of cover-alls to dry. I always keep my oil lamps on the mantle in case of a power failure which happens frequently out here.  The candlestick holders I bought for $1.50 second-hand and painted black.

Near the stove is a sitting area where we like to sit and talk over our day or read or simply rest and watch the fire flicker.  Light.  A simple thing and yet a profound thing.  A small lamp or a candle can make a home  feel more cozy and welcoming.  How are you creating cozy spaces in your home this autumn?  For lots of good ideas, check out The Inspired Room.  I'm enjoying her 31 Days of Autumn Bliss.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Food that Schmecks!

 Hurry Up Cake from Food That Really Schmecks
This time of year I start to leaf through my old cookbooks and recipes boxes looking for just the right hearty recipes to fill hungry men.  I'm feeding hungry men in every season, but it seems when fall rolls around, it's time for a different kind of food.  It's time for comfort food.  There's a favorite cooking blog that I can always count on for good, hearty, family-style foods.  If you've never been to  Mennonite Girls Can Cook, go now! It's packed with homestyle recipes that every family will gobble up. I haven't been to the blog in awhile and have  been really enjoying myself reading through the recipes.  This blog really schmecks!

Recently my son asked me, "Mom, do you know what the word schmecks means?"  I don't know where he came up with it, but he has been studying German for a couple years and so perhaps it came up amongst his reading.  Or maybe he has a new North Dakota friend on Facebook.  Anyway....

"Sure," I said.  "Schmecks is a German word that means tastes, tastes good or is flavorful."  

Have you ever heard of a Schmeckfest?  It's a food tasting festival.  You find them a lot in North Dakota and in German communities.  Regular homemakers gather together to show off their down-home cooking and the recipes passed on to them through the generations.  Usually the Schmeckfest is a fund raiser that gathers lots of people together who want an old-fashioned, hearty eating experience.  I have never attended a Schmeckfest, but I understand the cooking.  Being of German decent myself, I have a few recipes in my own repertoire that my Grandma Schumacher used to make.  The Mennonite Girls blog reminds me of a book that I have been meaning to purchase for many years called Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler.    These are traditional, German-Mennonite recipes that are said to be tasty in every way. Has anybody ever use this cookbook or the sequel,  More Food That Really Schmecks?  I ordered More Food just tonight.

Here's a sample of a recipe from Food That Really Schmecks and it's a good one.  We sometimes call it Dump Cake because you dump the ingredients straight into the cake pan to mix it up.
Hurry Up Chocolate Cake (use a 9x9 cake pan)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 rounded tablespoons cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
1 cup lukewarm buttermilk
Sift all the dry ingredients into the pan and stir to blend. Bump pan on the counter to level off. Make 3 hollows in mixture with a spoon. Put vanilla in one hole, vinegar in second hole and melted butter/margarine in 3rd hole.
Pour buttermilk over top. Stir and blend until smooth with no flour showing.
Thump on counter and bake in 350F oven for 25- 30 minutes.

Cocoa Fudge Icing

1 cup sugar, brown or white
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar and cocoa. Stir in milk until smooth. Drop in butter and stir over moderate heat. Boil for 1 minute only.
Remove from heat and cool quickly (cold water in sink.) Stir in vanilla and beat until creamy and thick. It will stay soft - but firm, on cake. 

Maybe we ought to have our own virtual Schmeckfest online.  Think about what tasty recipes you might share.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A novel idea...

How about making a wreath out of an old paperback novel?  The first paperback wreath I saw this week was at Pleasures of Homemaking.   I really liked the coffee filter rosette she put in the middle of hers.  Then I went looking around and I found several pretty paper wreaths at Apartment Therapy, and the best tutorial was found at Living With Lindsey

I made my wreath very, very simply with Lindsey's recipe, but instead of a styrofoam wreath,  I traced around a dinner plate onto cardboard and used it for my base.  It was easy-peasy to do, and I made it in one evening -- even with the distractions of a two-year old grandgirl.  I added another cardboard circle to the center of the wreath to cover the edges of the paper and then glued a classic silhouette inside (thanks Clarice from Storybook Woods!).  Lastly, I  hot-glued a black ribbon on the back.  I can easily change out the middle silhouette for another one for special occasions and holidays.  Wouldn't these make fun gifts?


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