Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bits and pieces of the week...

Behold, He cometh with clouds.  ~Rev 1:7
"In the Bible clouds are always connected with God.  Clouds are those sorrows or sufferings or Providences, within our without our personal lives, which seem to dispute the rule of God.  It is by those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith.  If there were no clouds, we should have no faith.  'The clouds are but the dust of our Father's feet.'  The clouds are a sign that He is there.  What a revelation it is to know that sorrow and bereavement and suffering are the clouds that come along with God!  God cannot come near without clouds, He does not come in clear shining."
~My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

The excerpt above was part of my morning coffee & reading time.  We had clouds and a light shower of rain early this morning which was refreshing before the sun burned through the clouds and the heat of the day came on.  I watered the veggie patch and the flowers and noticed how much the young, speckled birds and their parents appreciated the sprinkler too.

Purple prairie coneflower, AKA:  echinacea

It was a full week of helping out with the Littles and painting the interior of M&G's new home.  Oh what a coat of fresh paint can do for a home! Who needs to remodel when you can get such dramatic results from a can of paint?   I love to paint because the results stay.  Painting doesn't become undone like the laundry and dishes do.

In the middle of the night Friday I heard a big thump outside and the dog started growling and barking, and I just knew there was a skunk nearby.  The evidence wafted up to our bedroom window and I jumped up to close windows and block the stench from penetrating inside any more.  Oh, I get so frustrated with skunks! Perhaps if I hadn't forgotten to bring the dog in before bedtime, the skunk would have walked by unalarmed, and we might have avoided a stinky house and front porch, but that wasn't the case.  

In the morning I commenced to begin de-stinking the dog and the house.  I have a terrific pet deodorizer that works like a charm:  1 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 c. baking soda, 1 tsp. Dawn dishwashing soap, and a gallon of water.  Pour this over the dog and scrub in.  Let it sit for five minutes or so and then rinse.  That was easy.  I figured if it worked on the dog, it might work on my house and porch.  I mixed up everything, minus the water, and added a few drops of lavender oil and put it into a hose-end sprayer.  I dialed it to 8 oz. per gallon and began to spray the house and decking.  It smelled much better and it was actually a good idea to spray down the front of the house since the flies had been getting bad and there were a lot of fly specks to wash off.  I washed down the porch chairs too.  I  left it to soak for a few minutes and then hosed everything down.  A half hour later when the sun dried everything, I could still smell stink.  I searched the web and found that liquid bleach is a good deodorizer for skunk odor left on solid surfaces so I added some bleach to my hose-end sprayer and hit the house with it again.  That really helped.  A.  Lot.  I am quite sure that the skunk must have sprayed close to our front door because that is where the odor is the strongest, but it's a lot better.  I'll probably spray that area down again today.  

On the inside of the house, there was just a little bit of odor floating so I lit candles and set out bowls of vinegar to absorb some odors and then scrubbed my floor, adding in some lavender essential oil to the mop bucket.  I always do it, but I added in a few extra drops for good measure.  I washed all the rugs too which really freshened the house.

I received a lovely book, Sew Pretty Homestyle,  from a thoughtful friend.  It included patterns for the sweetest embroidered roses.  I immediately traced them out with a Sulky Iron-on Transfer Pen and ironed them onto some napkins and fabrics and have been thoroughly happy satin stitching.  Now I want to cover everything in roses!

Are you watching the London 2012 Olympics?  I am.  I am normally a Winter Olympics watcher, but since the Summer Games are in London, I felt a certain connection.  My daughter and I traveled to London in 2005 and I remember seeing lots of posters around urging Londoners to "Back the Bid" for the 2012 Olympics and now here we are!  It's fun to see the green, English countryside where we traveled by train and to experience again the sights and places where we walked the streets of London together.  So far my favorite events have been the Bicycle Road Races, Rowing, Swimming and Beach Volleyball.  What are your favorites?
Speaking of the Olympics, does it ever inspire you in your everyday life when you see these athletes overcoming cancer, performing under difficult circumstances, or with injuries that they choose to ignore in order to win a medal?  I've been struggling this past week with a sore foot.  It has given me trouble every  so often for several years, and it's back to acting up again.  From what I have read, I think it might be Morton's Neuroma so my best defense is to pad my sandals and shoes under the big toe.  It seems to help.  I am a walker and I do not intend to give it up so I am very determined to find a way to keep moving.  Yesterday it was time to go for my daily walk and the first few steps started with shooting pain up the middle of my foot through to my toes.  I thought to myself, "This could be a long 2 miles," but I was determined.  After all, if those Olympians can perform through injuries and difficulties, certainly I could walk to the mailbox and fetch the mail.  And I did!  There was not one more outburst from my foot after the first one.  After my walk I spent some time stretching my calves, in particular the left one, and that seemed to help.

We started haying again.  We have a piece of land that we lease which has quite a bit of wild hay that could become a fire danger so the guys decided we should go harvest it even though it is past its prime.  Hay is hay during a harsh winter on the prairie, and we're sure our cows would gladly eat it on one of those cold, windy mid-winter days.  Feed is going to be expensive (and already is) this year so it's best to harvest all we can despite the quality.

Monday our youngest son competes in a state amateur qualifier, golfing 36 holes in one day.  It'll be a tough day since the temps will be in the high 90s with humidity of approximately 70 percent.  He loves golf though and I know that he has that inner strength and confidence to do whatever it takes to do his best.  His caddy-friend is determined that they shall WIN!  I hope so.  Hubby went along to keep the team supplied with  fresh, cold  water, snacks, and towels. 

Today is Resting Day.  I have a chicken slow-roasting in a low oven, the Olympics on the TV, and a good book to read.  I think I'll take a nap this afternoon, and maybe I'll embroider a rose on something.  Happy Sunday.

Work is not always required...
there is such a thing as sacred idleness,
 the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.  
~George MacDonald

Sunday, July 22, 2012


A barn swallow baby is the last one left in this spent nest, 
but he's hanging onto the remains of his home for as long as it will support him.

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Growing anything but grass...

The best thing to grow on the prairie is grass.  Grass as far as you can see.  I've lived on the northern prairie for 31 summers and I can tell you, it's the best place ever for growing grass, but try to plant a shade tree or a rosebush and you're just asking for frustration.  That doesn't mean it won't work to grow something besides grass out here, but there will be frustration.  Always.

The Northern Prairie is harsh country.  It is said that our average annual rainfall is 11 inches.  It's hot in the summer -- often into the 100s -- and freezing cold in the winters -- going well below 0 degrees F.  Not only are the temperatures extreme, but the winds are too.  There is hardly a day that goes by without wind, and you know what they say about measuring the wind speed on the prairie don't you?  If you hang a logging chain on a fence and the chain is sticking straight out, it's a pretty strong wind.  Native prairie grasses can take a wind-whipping, but not so much begonias, rose bushes, tomato plants, and lettuce.  Just last night I went to look over the garden after a hot day of 98 degrees and a harsh wind.  The tomato plants and lettuce leaves were shriveled.  The edges of the leaves of every plant were curled and burnt looking and the plants, though well-watered, struggle so to overcome the elements.  I don't know if I'll get a ripe, homegrown tomato out of my veggie patch this year or not.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose out here, but that doesn't mean I'll give up.  Each summer is a summer to try.  I only have so many summers left, you know, so I'll keep on planting tomatoes and all manner of vegetables and flowers in hopes of getting something out of the deal.

I planted a ground cover rose a year or two ago, and it is one tough nut!  I'm telling you, this beauty just grows and blooms like nothing else.  I'm sure when I bought it that it was on sale, and I didn't even know what variety it was.  You know how sometimes the plants at the discount stores are disheveled and mismarked at the end-of-the-season sales?  Well, this one had a shrub rose look to it or I wouldn't have picked it out to take home.  I don't even know it's name, but it's a "rose among the thorns" out here.  I think I'll have to look for some more like it.  I know that "ground roses" can't compare to the beauty and scent of a lovely English Cabbage Rose or a Tea Rose, but to me, it's the most beautiful thing ever.  It was so thorny when I went to pick it that I had to use the scissors to handle it to put it into my jar.  The ground cover rose does well, I think, because it is similar to our wild prairie rose which hugs the ground and doesn't stick it's blooms too much into the wind.

Back when my mother-in-law was alive, she tried to grow roses.  She planted Mr. Lincoln, Peace, Barbara Bush, and a few other varieties of tea roses.  Some years they made it, and most years she lost a rose or two, but that didn't stop her from trying to grow roses.  I think she almost relished the idea of buying a new rose to replace one that died the year before.  There was always the chance that a rose might survive.

I am a flower lover too, and I can hardly wait for spring so that I can begin enjoying them.  I have found that for me, the first flowers of the growing season are the best.  Tulips and hyacinth seem to flourish here.  They need the freeze and heavy snows of winter, and they can hack a heavy spring snowstorm too.  This spring my tulips came up, but because we had almost no snow cover last winter, very few of them flowered.   The other types of flowers that I tend to grow with success are those that are similar to the wildflowers of our prairie:  larkspur, prairie coneflower, blue flax, black-eyed Susan, wall flower, California poppy, sunflower, and a few daisies.  I have had success with columbine, bleeding heart, and some lilies too.  This summer all of the flowers have made an appearance, but like the tulips, the blossoms have been very minimal.  No amount of hose-watering can compare with rain from the heavens, and when we have a hot summer like this one with day after day of 90s and 100+ degree temps, it's hard to be a flower on the prairie.

The poor shade trees are struggling this year as well.  The shelter belt right next to our house has been flourishing these past few wet years, but this year the leaves are curling up and falling already, and we have the hottest months ahead of us.  Once again, it reminds me that the prairie is the prairie because it is meant to grow grass, not trees.  If we can get trees to grow, we count ourselves blessed.  If they don't grow, we know why.  The Creator knew what He was doing when He put things where they are, but I can't help trying to surround myself with a little bit of Heaven by planting a few flowers that I like around me, even if they only last a year or two.

By the way, we had an itty bitty rain a couple nights ago.  Two tenths of an inch!  Not much, but it felt nice.  Just down the road from us, some ranches got a gully-washer that measured full inches in their rain gauges!  I'm just thankful that somebody is getting some rain.  As soon as the sun goes down tonight, I'm going out to water the vegetable patch and sprinkle some water on my pots and flowers.  Oh, the moss roses are thrilled with this heat.  I'm glad something is!  I used to think I wanted summer to last forever, but I'm actually looking forward to

This hot July I'm reading the book,  Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.  The story starts out with Katherine, a young woman of 16 from Boston, being sent by train to a ranch near Calgary, Alberta in the depths of winter.  She mentions it is 40 degrees below zero while en rout.  She takes a bobsled to her Uncle John's  (in -40* weather) where she is to recover from pleurisy.  While there, Katherine falls in love with Sgt. Mike, a Canadian Mounty, who marries her and takes her 700 miles by dog sled to the northern most parts of Canada to Hudson's Hope where he is stationed.  Let's just say it's a "refreshing" read out on my lawn chair in the middle of July!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Countrygirl Chore Apron...

My goodness, but it's been a windy bugger of a day here today!  And hot too -- 105*.   Once we got past 8:00 a.m. the wind has raged all day long.  It's so frustrating to work with gale force winds when you're trying to hang out the laundry.  On Saturdays, I always try to wash work clothes and bath towels and while I was out trying to pin the clothes to the line, my bag was whipping and ducking around on the line until I finally just took it off and put it down on the grass.  All the while I was thinking, "If I had a clothespin apron, I could do this job in no time with no bouncing clothespin bag to deal with.  So after most of the laundry was done, I went to work at my sewing machine and came up with this number. 

I knew I wanted to repurpose a pair of old jeans for this project as the base.  I used Hubby's jeans since men's jeans always have such good-sized pockets.  I cut the legs off, cut the seat out, and saved the frontside.  As you can see, all I did was to add a large pocket across front, doubling the fabric to make it a more durable pocket.  (I wish I had interfaced one side, but I didn't.)  Then I made two 3 x 45" wide ties and attached them right near the front belt loops and also stitched them along the top of the waistband.  This way I could loop them back through the belt loops after wrapping it around my waist and tie it in front.  I did tack the pocket at the top-center on either side of the fly.  I could have sewn a divider down the middle, but it would have had to start at the zipper and that wouldn't work.  Besides, if the apron is filled with clothespins, it will work just fine.  I added a little bit of cotton lace on the bottom and on the edge of the pockets.  What I love about this apron is that I have the large pocket in front, but also two large jeans pockets as well.  I could put my jackknife and some gum in one pocket and my camera in the other.  This apron would also work for gardening and everyday choring.
One more thing about clothesline drying that's been bugging me all summer.  I must get myself the right kind of clothespins.  Last year I picked up some random brand and ever since, I've been frustrated with how un-pinny they are.  They just don't grip like the good ones.  And the good ones, by the way, are Diamond brand. If you're hanging out the wash on the windy prairie, settle for no other brand.  (end of commercial)  Have you ever tried the peg-style clothespins?  I never have.  Maybe they are even better.  No springs flying.  Let me know what you think.

We worked sheep early this morning and weaned the lambs.  I can hardly believe that they are five months old already and they're as big as their mothers.  We turned the ewes out to the range and left the lambs to graze on the alfalfa field regrowth.  The menfolk set a new water tank in the hay field for them yesterday.  It reminds me of the Good Shepherd leading His flock to green pastures and good water.  Those lambs are going to get so FAT out there.  We will likely sell the wether lambs in three or four weeks, depending on the markets.  It was so wonderful to work with those beautiful woollies again.

(Ewes & Lambs -- can you tell the difference?)

We have a good chance of thunderstorms this evening and tonight.  I'm saying a prayer for rain.  I know there are lots of you who live in states that are in drought like we are.  It's hard.  I'm praying for rain for you too.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's Tea O'Clock...

Seven years ago my daughter and I went on a 12 day trip to England to see what we could see, and we saw All That We Could See in that amount of time, including my British friend, A. who took us out romping in the Midlands and showed us great hospitality.  It was at her home that I first saw an electric kettle, an essential now in my own home. Oh what a time we had together!  Today A. mentioned that she was having a cream tea in my honor and since my daughter, G. gave me this dotty Stoke-on-Trent mug, made in the year of the Queen's Jubilee, I decided to have my own cream tea this afternoon.

Cream tea does not mean "pouring cream in tea," but instead it means having scones (what we call biscuits in rancher talk) and plopping them with whipped cream and jam.  This is a real treat!  I used my own strawberry jam on these.   Hubs enjoyed it too although he did not take any tea with his biscuit.

I enjoyed re-reading some lovely cards.

Then I decided to take a turn around the garden.

I love moss roses and they are thriving in the heat of the sun...

...and lilies and hollyhocks are holding on.

Mrs. Robin and her fledglings were out and about the yard.
It's another hot afternoon, but still, taking a cream tea was very refreshing to the soul.

If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you. 
 ~Gladstone, 1865

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feeling very homemakery...

 The morning started with a ride on Pete.  The men and I gathered up the cows and calves and sorted the ones we needed to bring in to breed.  After that, I got on the riding mower and did some mowing around the barn that was really bugging me.  I want things to look nice -- like somebody cares -- you know?  It's not perfect; it's not a perfect-looking barnyard, but it looks neat and trimmed now.  After that I cleaned up and spent the rest of my day around the house doing homemakery type things.

First I tied on my pink gingham apron and got a big batch of bread going in my mixer.  While that was mixing, I started washing and cutting up some fresh strawberries that I found on sale at the local grocery store yesterday.  Just $1.38 a quart!  Jam was the order of the day.  Jam and bread, that is.  I set the bowl of bread dough out on a chair on the porch where the hot 98 degree weather would surely give me a good rise on my bread.  And it did!

 Before I go on, I wanted to show you my new kitchen rugs.  I am so happy with them. I have been hunting and hunting for just the right thing, and I finally found them on Etsy here.  The price was reasonable, especially considering the size (25 x 58"), and I just love the style -- rustic country kitchen.  The rugs are made of scraps, mainly denim, so they are tough and washable.  I like the red stripes on each end.

Back to my day.  I didn't sew this cute little pillowcase dress today, but I did make it yesterday afternoon.  It was such fun and very simple to make as you can see.  Our little Peach is 4 years old today and this was one of her gifts from me along with a drawstring bag with a small notebook and fat pencil inside and her very own watering can so she can water the flower pots with Mama.

I spent some time watering and weeding my veggie patch and hung out a load of work clothes on the clothesline.  There is just something about hanging out the laundry that feels very satisfying to me.  It's an ordinary thing, but I only have a few good months of outdoor drying weather so I enjoy it while I have it.  The baby robins were hopping about the backyard while I worked.  They are so adorable with their spotted breasts and their friendly ways.

Here was the result of the jam making and bread baking.  One of the loaves of bread wouldn't slip out of the pan and so I had to take to it with a butter knife all around the edges and still, I left the bottom crust in the pan and split the whole loaf in two.  Ah well, we will slather it up with butter and a big glob of strawberry jam and eat it all the same!  I hope you had some happy homemakery moments today.

 “The woman who makes a sweet, beautiful home, filling it with love and prayer and purity, is doing something better than anything else her hands could find to do beneath the skies.”
J.R. Miller,

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A certain beauty...

 Though crushed underfoot by happy family
celebrating on the front porch, 
there is yet 
a certain beauty.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.  

Friday, July 06, 2012

Horses, cows, and bouquets...

 This is Red.  I call him Reddy because I love him.  He was my ride for the day.  We started artificially inseminating (AI-ing) cows as of yesterday.  This means that each day, morning and night, we mount up and ride to the horse pasture and gather the cows and calves up into the corner of the fence and hold them there while Hubby sorts out the cow/calf pairs who are in heat.  My job is mostly to hold cows and not let them get away, while the other guys do more helping with sorting and moving them down the fence line.  I figured out today that Reddy is a bit lame and he nearly fell down with me, poor thing.  I'll probably not ride him tomorrow, but will pick Pete instead.
Here is Hubby with his good horse, PC doing the Thing that they does so well -- cutting out cattle.
He's really good on a horse.

 After we were done riding, we put the horses back into the corral pen and P.C. does what he always does after a ride -- rolls his sweaty body around in the dirt.  We call him Pig Pen for short! 

 We had a little, tiny rain last night.  Just 3/10 of an inch of rain.  Most ranchers around us got between an inch to three inches of rain overnight.  It was nice that it was wet and not blowing dirt around this morning.  In fact, we had a misty-moisty kind of day and all the while we rode, it felt like someone was misting us with a spray bottle.  Much, much better than 100* and wind.

 I decided if I was going to have a garden bouquet this summer, I'd best be for picking one.  So I did this afternoon.  I love garden bouquets and this one is made up of lilies, prairie cone flowers, and dill from my flower beds.  I like it.  I doubt there will be very many more garden bouquets this summer.  It's just too dry despite my efforts at watering.

After I had picked my bouquet, my sweet man came home with this lovely rose bouquet from town -- an early birthday present.  Isn't he thoughtful?  I'm blessed.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Freedom to go to the beach even if there is no beach...

Grandgirls playing in the hose "at the beach" they said!  
They surfed and then tanned on a beach blanket in the sun.

I hope you're enjoying your FREEDOM today!
Happy Independence Day!

"The love of liberty is the love of others; 
the love of power is the love of ourselves."
~William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Blue snow cone...

 We all went to the park today to listen to Cousin L. sing in the regional  Texaco Country Showdown singing contest.  It was a good time sitting in the shade on lawn chairs and on blankets, sipping cold water and ice cold pop and eating snow cones.  Miss Bee had her first snow cone, and Papa decided it should be blue.  You know, Blue Lips!  Every mama wants to see her child with blue snow cone stains on her lips, teeth, neck and shirt, right?  It was another hot, hot day, typical for the 4th of July festivities.

Cousin L. WON the competition today and will go on to the Dakotas' state finals in a couple of weeks.  He's a young kid, just graduated high school with big singing dreams.  He loves the old-time classic country,  and  he sings it really well.  This afternoon he sang a Marty Robbins song, Don't Worry and Johnny Cash's classic, Folsom Prison Blues.  The crowd loved it.  Cousin L. will be singing the National Anthem every night of the Round-up Rodeo too!  We wish him all the best!

Here's to hot, summer days, 4th of July,country music, buckin' broncs, and blue lips!
Happy Birthday America!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

For a little patch of green...

 When I was a young bride and had just moved to the ranch with Hubby, my dear mother-in-law used to tell me about her own mother-in-law who didn't like to garden or grow flowers or keep a lawn.  She thought it was a waste of time, but my mother-in-law loved all these things.  She told me, "Sometimes keeping a little patch of green keeps a woman sane out here when all around is dry and brown."  She was right.  So right.  A couple of days ago the fellas rigged up the trash pump for me and set it at the stock pond by our house.  Most years, I can pump water out of the pond through my hydrant, but the water is too low this year for that set-up so the only way to get a good soak on my lawn is to use the fire hose and flood the yard. It's an all-day process that requires a lot of moving of a heavy hose, but it is so worthwhile.  That brown grass is much greener today for the effort.

 Here is the pump.  The yellow hose sucks water up out of the dam and the gray hose brings it to me.  The guys can use this pump when they go to a fire so they can fill a pumper with water directly from a stock tank or reservoir.  It works so slick, and the pump is easy enough for a woman like me to run.  One pull on the rope, and it purrs.  It's got a good Honda motor.

The pond is lower than usual.  See all those green pond weeds around it?  The water level used to be way up the sides and clear out in the distance where it is still green-ish.  Hubby says I might as well pump all the water I want out of this pond since the evaporation is taking it down daily.  We have a good stock waterer for the horses that are sometimes in this pasture so it'd be ok if the pond goes dry.  Sometimes when our stock ponds and reservoirs go dry, we hire a Euclid to come and clean the bottom and dig it down deeper so it can hold more water.

Right now my yard looks decent.  It's not a bright, healthy green, but more of a struggling, browny-green, but I'm thankful for my patch.  The garden flowers are trying to push forward, but it's so dry and the wind is so harsh that they don't have near the gumption to keep going.  Some flowers come up, but just can't bring forth much of a bud and then fizzle out.  The lilies are just now blooming and bringing much joy to their gardener.  I'm allowing anything (flower-wise) that wants to grow in the flower beds go right ahead.  I'm not being selective.  Any little bit of green or pretty blooming color is welcomed to live in my gardens this year.  I see that the gladiolas have pushed their spears up in the veggie beds.  Their blooms always look so exotic in my rustic, country garden.

This week we are expecting temperatures to stay in the 90's along with winds.  The poor fire fighters in the forests are really struggling.  Today we have an east wind and there is still a strong smoky smell in the air, but tomorrow when the wind switches to the west, it will be even stronger.  It reminds me to pray.  I hope you have a nice little patch of green around your home that you enjoy tending this summer. 


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