Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hot pink sun...

A hot pink sun slides over the REA wires above our hay field tonight.  Pretty, isn't it?  I think so, but the reason the sun is hot pink is not a very pretty thing.  There are forest fires raging all around us, and the sky is a perpetual smoky-gray haze.  It has been so terribly hot these past days and the weather man promises even more heat for the rest of the week.  At least the gray haze keeps the sun from beating down in full strength, but the heat continues to penetrate.

The haying is all done except for a little cutting along roadsides and feed grounds.  We are thankful for what we got.  Some ranchers won't get any hay put up this summer.  Too dry.

We are laying water lines this week out in a couple of the summer pastures.  The stock ponds and reservoirs are so low that it is very likely we will run out of water for the cows unless we can pump water into stock tanks.  Hubby rented a trencher and backhoe from Monday through the July 3rd.  My parents came out to help.  The menfolk are out trenching, gluing pipe, setting tanks, and burying water lines.  Today I helped them for a few hours, but there were also the livestock to drive out to.  We try to check on the cows, sheep, steers and bulls every day, making sure they are not hurt or sick or bogged in the mucky stock dams and checking to see that our cows are in their proper pastures and not across the fence in the neighbors' pastures.   A couple of the neighbor's bulls were in our cows today so they were put back on their own side of the fence.  Have you ever heard the line from the Robert Frost poem The Mending Wall?  "Good fences make good neighbors."  When you have livestock, it's true.  So true.

There is always work to do, but I'm looking forward to some Summertime easy living, aren't you?  I want a little time to sew and embroider and to do some lawn chair-sitting in the shade with a good book and a tall glass of iced coffee.  My book-reading is sparse right now, but I am enjoying snippets of Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Daybook (June) and I'm catching up on my Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living mags.  I haven't started my summer traditional ice cream-cone-a-day yet, but I did make some strawberry-yogurt popsicles and put them in the freezer!  How do you celebrate summertime?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Raking hay...

 Since we are now into haying season, I have a new "sweet ride."  This John Deere 2520 tractor and the Heston Rake are all the equipment I need to rake hay.  I like it that this tractor is "open air."  I can watch hawks fly overhead, I can sit down or stand up while I drive along, and I can hear, see, smell, feel, and even taste what I'm doing.  The taste part might be a stray bug flying in my mouth and sometimes I think I can taste the exhaust....not my favorite flavor.  I get a good sun tan doing this job, but I try hard not to over-do it.  Usually after noon I am totally covered up with long sleeves, jeans and boots so my hide doesn't burn.   The negatives about open air tractoring are the constant heat, dust, and wind.  It wears a guy or girl out by the end of the day.

 Here you can see the swather way off in the distance cutting down hay.  I think that's Grandpa cutting.  The hay isn't nearly as good as it has been for the past four years, but we'll take what we can get.  We had a dry winter with no snow pack and the spring has been equally dry so they hay crop will not be as bountiful.  We're just grateful we have quite a bit of carry-over hay from the past couple of years.

Looking back from the tractor seat, you can see the wheels and their tines spinning the rows of cut hay into a larger row that will be picked up by the baler when it has dried just enough.  We don't want to bale hay too dry or the leaves fall off the alfalfa and it shatters into bits, but we don't want to bale hay too wet or it will mold.
 These are raked wind rows -- the best hay we've cut -- all fluffed up and drying in the sunshine.  The birds love to pick the bugs off the hay and there are gobs of baby birds around the rows too.  They usually run out or clumsily try to fly out of the way before I get to them.  There are lark buntings, black birds, cow birds, horned larks, and willets in the field now.  There was a great swooping hawk out there with them too.  It's so fascinating to watch a hawk making his flight maneuvers as he looks for mice, snakes, and rabbits.

 Hubby does most of the baling but NumberOneSon does some too.  The FourthBorn either swaths or rakes.  It's nice to be able to swap jobs and relieve someone for a few hours.

 This REA pole's wires stayed covered in birds for the entire day yesterday.  They would take turns flying down, but as a few flew down, a few more would fly up and perch, all neatly spaced apart from one another.

 The sky was picturesque yesterday.  The day before, I was raking in a sweatshirt, stocking cap and gloves and was freezing by the end of the day, but yesterday it was hot and dry.  It sounds like there will be more hot, dry days ahead.

I started getting really sleepy at about 2:00 in the afternoon.  I had to stop and rest awhile.  I took a long drink of water, walked around the tractor a few times, and put my feet up for a few minutes.   Then it was back to work.  Wanna go for a ride with me?  There's not much room, but you can sit on the tire cover for a little while.  It's pretty bumpy out here so don't fall off.  Here we go!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The laundress...

I've been thinking a lot lately about laundry.  I know it's not the most popular topic, but if you run a household,  laundry is something you must deal with on a daily basis, so let's talk about it.  All of my married life, I've been in charge of the laundry even though I didn't ask for the job.  My hubby went from his mother doing all of his laundry to his 19 year-old wife doing it.  Someday I'll teach him.  All these years of washing, hanging out the clothes, and pressing shirts, and I am still learning things about getting whiter whites, banishing arm pit stains, removing oil stains and much more.  

Since today is the first official day of summer and because I want to wear my favorite, white summer tops, I need to talk about armpit stains.  This is a troublesome thing for me and always has been.  You'd think that my husband and our four hard-working, hard-playing sons would have had pit stained shirts, but no, it was us girls that always did.  I figured that I was just doomed to  pit stains and would have to throw away my white shirts at the end of every summer. Well, yesterday while I was sniffing around a few laundry links (pun), I came to this one and watched their video on removing stains -- which included armpit stains.  Today, I tried it out.  I dribbled some liquid laundry detergent directly on the pit stains, rubbed it in and then poured boiling hot water from the kettle right over the stains.  Then I added in a cup of white vinegar to the tub and with more boiling hot water and let the shirts soak for a couple hours until the water was cool.  I dumped the whole tub -- shirts, water, vinegar and all right into the washer and proceeded to wash them in a regular wash cycle on HOT wash, COLD rinse.  The results:  the cotton/synthetic blends did not come totally clean, but the stains were more faint.  The 100% cotton shirt's armpits did come clean.  These were pit stains that had been there since last summer.  Really now, I need to work on pit stains sooner rather than later, but which stain remover works best?  Tonight I re-treated the shirts with recipe #2 below and I'd say that it cleaned the old sweat stains from my white shirts even more.  Yay!

Here are a few formulas to try on pit stains:

1.  Pour vinegar over pit stains, rub in course salt.  Put garment in the sun to dry.  Then wash as usual.  (Tip from Frugal Living using Vinegar as Stain Remover)

2.  Mix 1 part Dawn dish soap with 2 parts hydrogen peroxide.  Scrub with a brush, let sit for a few minutes and launder as usual.  (Tip:  Jillee added a little baking soda for more scrubbing power. ~ from One Good Thing Good Bye to Yellow Armpit Stains)

3.  Soap Jelly (I like the name of this):  Shave one bar of laundry soap (or bar soap like Ivory) into a quart jar.  Add boiling water to fill jar.  Stir or shake hard until soap is dissolved.  Allow to cool.  It should form into a jelly.  If too liquid, reheat and add a bit more soap.  If too stiff, add more hot water.  Apply to stains before washing. (from TipNut)

4. Laundry Pre-treat:  Mix 1 part dish washing soap (Dawn), 1 part ammonia, and 1 part water.  Add to spray bottle and spray on stains.  Use a brush to scrub it into tough stains.  Do NOT use this formula when using bleach.  Ammonia and bleach do not mix! (from Sunny Simple Life)

So far I have only tried just dish soap on stains and now recipe #2 for pit stains.  I have used bar soap for general stains on occasion too.  I want to make the soap jelly and try it, and the vinegar and salt  intrigues me.  Perhaps YOU have a tested, all-purpose laundry stain remover to share in the comments?  Please do!

Along with the arm pit stain solution, I found some other laundry solutions that you might be interested in.  When I was a girl at home, we always used Clorox bleach for whites.  Eventually the laundry was eaten away by the bleach and without fail someone's favorite colored T-shirt had bleach spilled on it.  Don't get me wrong, I still keep bleach in my laundry cupboard, but I rarely use it.  I do use it to scrub out the toilet bowl and we clean out water tanks at the corral with it too.  Occasionally I use bleach for really stinky, rank stuff, but most of the time, I prefer bleach alternatives like a good soaking in borax or washing soda before washing .  You can also improve your laundry with the most wonderful stuff -- baking soda!  Baking soda softens water and helps boost detergent.  Check out these links here and here for more bleach alternatives for your washing.  Of course, we know that sun bleaching is another great way to whiten whites.  Letting clothes dry in the sun for a day or two will help to bleach them naturally, and who can resist that "fresh air" smell?

Before we had Good Water here at the ranch, we had Horrid Alkali Water that had rust in it.  We couldn't drink it, but we did wash in it.  Not many people have rust in their water these days, but some of you who have wells in the country and don't have some sort of water system hooked up know what I'm talking about.  I hardly ever bought anything white because the only way things stayed white was if you didn't wash them or if you washed them in town.  After one washing in our horrid water, white clothing or towels turned creamy-white, then beige and continued to darken with every wash.  My mother-in-law helped me out with this problem and I figure I might as well share her trick with you if you just so happen to have rust in your water or if you get a rust stain on something.  We used a product called Rust-Away.  My local grocery store, which has a strong ranching customer base, sells it in the cleaning/laundry aisle.  I would put my white items in a dish pan or tub and get them wet, adding a small amount of water in the tub and then start working some of the Rust Away into the clothes, letting them soak until the rustiness lifted.  Then launder as usual.  Rust Away is rather nasty stuff and I think eventually it would eat away at your clothes, but it does work when you need it.

In my reading about alternatives to bleaching white clothing, I ran across the old idea of grass bleaching.  Have you ever heard of it?  I hadn't.  I have read many stories about pioneers drying their laundry on tall prairie grass because there were no clotheslines, but I didn't know that grass and sun combined can bleach fabrics. Wives' tale?  From the National Geographic website:  

To whiten fine linens and delicate heirloom quilts, try the traditional grass bleaching method that people used as late as the 1930s to bleach the print from flour sacks they planned to cut up for quilt blocks. Women spread the linens or quilt on a patch of grass in full sunlight, sometimes leaving them there for days until the fabrics reached a desirable degree of whiteness. The prevailing wisdom held that the sun and chemicals in the grass worked together to bleach the fabric.

Lastly, we come to the final touches part of laundry -- pressing --  which is much pleasanter to me now that I have my new, old-fashioned iron.  This one is a Black & Decker.  My mother-in-law, who loved to press clothes, had one very similar to this model.  It's heavy, it's got a slick, all-aluminum soleplate.  It does not have an irritating switch that turns it off every few minutes.  It doesn't look like a space-age iron nor does it have a modern, non-stick soleplate that is always gunked up.  With this classic, you can iron smoothly with or without steam, and that orange button there lets you mist as you iron if you want to.  Try as I might  to clean the soleplates of my non-stick irons, they would not come clean so ironing was not a smooth process and my clean clothes sometimes came off the ironing board with dark marks from the iron.  Those irons were light weight, yes, but it seemed I was always pressing down hard to iron out wrinkles.  Maybe I'm a bit quirky, but I like this simple, old-school iron.  Today a half dozen shirts were pressed proficiently, and I enjoyed it!

If you have any laundry tips to share, please do so in the comments.  Is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle  in the reading audience?  Perhaps she'd like to share her laundress secrets!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Do small things...

I love this quote from Mother Teresa:

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

When I was a young mom with five Littles always hanging on my ankles or perched upon my hip, I remember thinking that it was hard to get Anything done.  By "anything", I mean anything!  It seemed like there was always a basket of laundry that didn't get folded or a stack of dishes that never seemed to shrink.  The floor always needed sweeping and the family always needed feeding.  Just managing the basics was task enough, but I wanted to do Other Things too like sewing, embroidering, reading or trying my hand at watercolors.  Once in a while I would leave off scrubbing the floor from my to-do list for just a few minutes of sewing time.

I remember how I would plan out a sewing project.  One day I would cut out the pattern, the next day I would pin down the pattern and cut out the fabric.  On another day I would take just 15 minutes and see how much I could sew.  Eventually, with 15-20 minute tidbits of time, I could complete a project.  Small things, great love.

I think most of us believe that the chores we do at home day after day really aren't all that weighty in the great scheme of life.  They certainly aren't always noticeable, that is, unless they are left undone for any length of time.  It's a list of small things, not great things we do, but when you piece them all together like a patchwork quilt, all those little tiny pieces stitched together turn into a thing of beauty.   Every needle threaded, every little block sewn to another, every thoughtful deed done counts toward the Big Beautiful Quilt of Your Life. 

Then there is the Great Love part.  When we love someone, we don't mind doing the dishes for him, and we don't mind teaching him how to do the dishes for others.  We read a favorite story to a wee one over and over and over again even though we'd like to read something new.  We rub sore shoulders, we knit warm socks, we bake cookies and share them, we stay up late and talk on the phone to a child far from home -- doing small things with great love.

I embroidered the tea towel above as a little birthday gift for a dear friend.  She is someone who does lots of small things with great love, and I wanted her to have something to remind her that what she does, matters.  Small things like drying dishes is important to her family and to God.  Even when nobody else sees all these little things, you can rest assured that God does, and He smiles.  The patchwork quilt is taking shape!

Do small things with great love pattern can be found at Nana Company.  Thank you, Amy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Night Moon (audio recording experiment)...

I've been experimenting. Yes. With the the Mac computer. It's so much fun that I really must share with you all about it. To begin with, the inspiration all started with my DIL, J, who said she would like a CD  of some of the old folk songs that our own children grew up with, but she couldn't find any recordings that she particularly liked. I mentioned that perhaps I could figure out how to record onto the Mac and see what I could do. J seemed receptive of the idea, and so began the experiment.

FourthBorn, S, helped me get started with Garage Band, a program on the Mac, but we had some difficulties with it so later on I  searched the web for help and I found it! Yay! So all by myself, I figured out how to record my voice and save it to iTunes. Now, any time I want to make a disc or send a recording to my children or grands, I can.

For the first experiment, I used the grandgirls' favorite book, Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The recording turned out so crisp and clean. I was thrilled! The more I play with Garage Band, the more I am realizing what I can do. I could add some nice background music to my storybook reading if I wanted to,  but I haven't tried that yet. The next thing I wanted to do was to see if I could actually upload my audio storybook to the internet. I did more web searching and found gobs of ideas, but one of the simplest websites I found for this was Vocaroo. It is so easy -- you can RECORD your voice on Vocaroo and then get the code to embed it on your blog. How fun is that? All you need is a microphone within your computer -- most newer computers do.  I hope you'll try it. Just think of all the possibilities! It's going to be so easy to make recordings for our children and grandchildren. Sound like fun?  I hope you try it.

So.....  tum ta ta da is a sampling of my first-ever digital recording.   Here's me, Gram, reading Good Night Moon to my Littles.  Click below.

Record and upload audio >>

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Out in the gardens...

Electric red-orange poppies and hot pink roses delight me!

NumberOneSon made me this lovely bird bath out of a tractor disk.  
It's a really unique addition to my flower gardens.

The potatoes are up!  
I am so excited about this no-dig potato growing.
So far, so good.
Do you see the swather in the background?

The lettuce, spinach, and the radishes are doing well.
The onions are too, but look at the bug-chewed peppers in the back of this bed.  Oy!  I sprinkled on some garden powder to keep the bugs at bay.  I hope they make it through.

Today was the first official day of haying.  Hubs started out cutting around the houses and then swathed in the buck pasture hayfield.  There won't be much hay this year.  It's just been way to dry for growing much, but we will make the best of it.

At the end of the day, 
there was supper 
and then there was dessert...

Ummmm MMMmmm

Friday, June 08, 2012

Hot dog!

Did you ever go to a Pamida store?  No?  Well, Pamida is the small town folks' Walmart -- minus a lot of stuff -- but one thing you can find at Pamida are these hot dog flavored chips.  I had never heard of them until I saw them made on the Food Network a couple days ago.  When I saw them selling in my Pamida, I just had to give them a try.  And whatdayathink?  Good!  They really do taste like a hot dog with ketchup and mustard. 
Tonight, guess what's for supper?  Bratwurst and hot dog chips!  I never met a chip I didn't like.  It's Americana.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

An evening walk...

 I went for an evening walk the other night and grabbed my camera.  I couldn't help taking a picture of this toadstool for my bloggy friend, Pom Pom, who adores toadstools.  This is the real deal -- 'shrooms growing strong on a pile of cow manure.  Some might not think it's a pretty sight, but I do.  I like mushrooms and toadstools.

 I walked myself a mile and a half, down the trail to the old shearing pens where we work our sheep.  The sheep and lambs aren't here today.  They're out to pasture now, grazing to their hearts content,  and the yearling ewes are having their babies all on their own.

 I walked through the alley where we load sheep into the trailer and I hopped over this white, rusty gate to get to the barn.  I had heard that there was something special growing inside, and I had to see it for myself.

 See how broken down this old place is?  The tin is off the roof and so are the boards.  It's still standing despite the wild winds we always have and despite the heavy snows.  When I look up at the holes in the roof of this barn, I imagine them as holes in the floor of heaven.  There was a song by that name.  Do you know it?  I think of those holes as places where God sends his mercy down and where our prayers rise up to Him.

 Back to the thing growing in the shearing pens barn -- this tree!  From what I can gather, I think it's an apple tree.  The bark and leaves look like an apple tree, and it makes sense that there would be one growing in here.  Hubby says he threw many an apple core through the roof when he was a boy, and I'm sure the old shearers had their share of apple cores left behind.  It's a perfect growing place for a tree too.  Lots of protection from deer, from wind, and from hail (unless it came through the top).  It has the perfect amount of sun -- not too much scorching prairie sun, and not too little.  I hope it grows through the roof and puts on apples some day.
 I found these letters on the wall in blue paint -- G R with a curlycue underneath.  I wonder who that wrote it?  I can't think of anyone in the family with those initials.  Maybe a shearer or a friend who came to help dock lambs.

 And here's a tool that was left to rust on the beam.  It's a sheep piller.  You put a tiny pill (likely de-worming medicine) in the tip and put it down the throat of the sheep.  I brought it home.  I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but something will tickle my fancy, I'm sure.

This is the stockade on the south side of the pens.  I just liked the look of it against the blue and white sky.  I realize it's not officially summer yet, but are you taking summer evening walks?   What do you see when you are out for a walk?


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