Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall chores and doings...

 This pun'kin got out of the fence.

The garden has been producing well just now.  It's end of September, but never mind, the garden wants to grow and thrive so I'll let it!   I'm not sure why it waited so long, but I'll take what I can get and be thankful for every bit of homegrown goodness it will give.  Every time I slice a tomato or cucumber or zucchini, I think about what lovely organic veggies my garden has willingly produced.  I know that in a short month or less, I will be fresh out of fresh veggies and will resort to the grocery store bins once again.

Today I picked all of the ripe and orange-tinged tomatoes, all of the peppers and onions, and I gathered up a bucketful of lettuce that I planted in late summer.  The basil came back strong so I snipped it back down to the ground, cleaned, and froze the leaves in a freezer bag to use later.   I'm leaving the carrots in the ground, and I'll pull a few as I need them.  They are quite insulated under the ground until the hard frosts start coming with regularity.  We are expecting a possible freeze tonight and tomorrow night so I'll cover the tomatoes with blankets to guard against the cold.  The high elevations and mountains nearby have a chance of snow while we have good prospects of rain the next couple of days, and as is usual for us, after the chill, there are nice days to follow.  Could it be Indian Summer?  I hope so because I have a lot of green tomatoes left on the vines.

I spent part of the day gathering scrap wood from the shed that the fellas are building.  They saw off the short ends and drop them on the ground and I have been picking them up to use as starting wood for our soon-to-be fires in the stove.  I ended up sweeping out the garage and throwing out some junk from certain corners, and then I stacked wood in the proper corner where it belongs.  Gathering firewood is always a fall chore that I enjoy.  I especially like to go cut fallen wood with Hubby.  I like the smell of the chainsaw cutting through logs and the flying chips of wood.  A thermos of coffee goes well with wood cutting.

The cottonwoods are turning.  There is one particular cottonwood tree that I always watch every Fall.  It's on the way as I walk to the mailbox.  It starts out like a middle-aged man with a streak of gray coming at the temples, then it gradually progresses a little more and a little more until his whole head is gray -- or golden in regards to the cottonwood.  Finally all his hair falls out.  We have a couple cottonwoods and several ash trees in our yard that always sport autumn gold leaves.   They give the grandkids great joy when they fall and can be raked into piles for jumping into.

I ordered a quarter beef  from the local butcher a couple weeks ago and called them today to ask if they'd keep as much tallow from the beef as possible for me.  I have plans of rendering it down to use for frying.  Here's a good link on the how-tos of rendering.  Nothing much better than deep frying or cooking with good tallow, and it's good for you too!  The clerk mentioned that they have some fresh lard blocks available from recently butchered pork so I'm going to buy a little of that for my freezer.  I'm beginning to do some Fall stocking-up.

I've been busy with some painting projects this fall.  I helped my daughter paint the outside trim on her house, and then I helped the newest Mrs. in our family begin painting her Honeymoon Hut so she and J. can move in in January.  There is much more painting left to do there.  I just completed a painting project in my kitchen too.  I'll share that with you later on.

All but a few more loads of hay have been hauled in to the hay corrals.  Number1Son made a third cutting of hay in a low spot of one pasture.  Unheard of for us.   He hopes to get it baled into small squares, but at the moment, it won't cure.  Not much heat this time of year. 

The pullets are laying eggs like crazy.  I'm so proud of My Girls!  I even have a pullet hen who lays double-yolkers!  So far the raccoons and fox haven't found the door to the coop and I hope they don't.  I really must guard against forgetting to shut them in at night before it's totally dark.  The roosters are going to have to go soon.  I'm thinking about roast chicken.

I'm always sad to see Summer go away.  It seems like such a short season for us here in the North, but I know with the passing of Summer there come new things to look forward to in Fall.  Cool Fall days bring sweatshirts, faded jeans and wool slippers to replace shorts and T-shirts and bare feet.  The hoses get rolled up and put away and so does the mower.  The potted posies are replaced by pumpkins and Indian corn.  Cold salad lunches are replaced with hot soups and chowders.  Air conditioning and fans are replaced with a wood fires and candle light.  The sun fades earlier and earlier and darkness calls us away from our outside work and indoors to each other.  I like that part of Fall best of all.  What is your favorite part of Fall?

Thursday, September 19, 2013


In the fall we spend quite a bit of time working cattle here on the ranch.  Working cows usually means that the cows and calves are brought in from the pastures and into the corrals.  Working cattle can mean anything from giving vaccinations, pouring insecticide, weaning, or doctoring.  At our place it means bringing the cattle down an alley and catching them in a chute or head-catch so we can do the thing we need to do.  These last few days we have been vaccinating calves with their booster shots, and we've been pouring them with insecticide.  We poured the mama cows too and did a little sorting.  We've had a rash of pink-eye in the herd this summer on-and-off, and we're not the only ones.  Last week we went to buy tetracycline, and the store was all sold out.  From what I understand, pink-eye in cattle is caused by flies that carry the infectious bacteria.  There are always flies here, but some years are worse for pink-eye than others.  This happens to be one of those years.  We boosted the pink-eye vaccine in the calves but it won't take effect for a couple weeks so we had to doctor some of them with tetracycline and eye patches.

Through the process of working cows and calves, I figured out something about my job description.   I am a Cowpoke.  Yup.  I don't know why I never thought about it before, but last night I went to bed with my arms and shoulders and armpits aching from poking up cows.  It was then that it dawned on me where cowboys derived the name Cowpoke -- one who pokes cows and calves down an corral alley.  I'm not totally sure that's where  the name came from, but it makes sense to me.  When the kids were home, they were the main cowpokes, and now that I'm the main help, I poke up calves.  We don't have to poke the cows so much because they are older and smarter, and they know the routine that you "have to go in to get out." They've done it many times before, but the calves don't know squat.  They only know they don't want to go.  Instead, they back up or turn around or balk and do nothing.  I have a particular poking stick that I use to get them moving -- it's not too long, not too short, and it's good and stiff.   The last couple of days working cows, I nearly had to twist every single tail or poke each calf all the way up the alley.  Let me tell you, these 51 year-old arms and shoulders are either getting stronger or weaker from being a cowpoke.  Tonight I feel better than I did last night.  Perhaps, then, I'm getting stronger.

I'm also the one to pour the cattle.  That's what we still call it since long ago we used to have a dipping cup that measured out the insecticide to be poured on.  It was nasty stuff called Warbex.  We poured a cupful on each cow's back as it went down the alley.  Nowadays we have a container with a gallon of ivermetin with a tube and a squirt handle on it.  It's much improved over the dipper method for safety, but my hands get so tired of squeezing that squirt handle.  I used my left hand as much as I could today to get it strengthened and to give my right hand a break. 

 That's what I do.  I suppose there are other things a cowpoke does too.  I'm an ever-ready helper when the men need a hand, and I love my job.  This particular cowpoke cooks lunch after poking up cows, washes manure splattered blue jeans, shirts, and boots after poking cows, and gets to cuddle grandbabies when her work is done.

I'm also known to poke sheep up the sheep corrals, but I've never heard of a sheep-poke, have you?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Towels & dishes & sandals...

 "Can I use a towel as He did?  Towels and dishes and sandals, all the ordinary sordid things of our lives, reveal more quickly than anything what we are made of.  It takes God Almighty Incarnate in us to do the meanest duty as it ought to be done."
~Oswald Chamber, My Utmost for His Highest

I remember well the days when I was a young, busy mother of five.  There were loads of towels and heaps of dishes and the mud room was lined with dirty boots and shoes and flip flops.  It seemed my work was never done.  Then there were the rare days when someone brought a hearty casserole in a tin pan that didn't need to be returned to the giver.  Why does a casserole like that taste so good? And why does sitting at the neighbor's table for a meal feel so luxurious?  I remember gathering the children from the grandparents after a hard day's work to find them fed and bathed and in their jammies.  These are  loving gifts that can only be given with the hands and the heart.

This past weekend was a week of towels (and wash cloths and rags) and dishes and sandals.  The newest grandchild was born and the Littles were with us while Mommy and Daddy were away.  Can I use a towel like Jesus did?  I hope so.  Just when I think God might not be using me, way out here in the middle of nowhere, He makes me understand that my assignment is simple.  With love, towel off little girls after a bath; with love, cook up a healthy meal for my people and joyfully wash up the dishes;  with love, strap on little sandals several times a day and then strap on my own so together we can go out to play in the sunshine.  Our chores are ordinary, constant, unseen by many, but may we do them out of love, and scatter joy wherever we are.  When the Littles are not here, I ask God to remind me that my Dearheart is also in need of towels and dishes and sandals boots.  Just because there are less of us at home, does not mean that I neglect doing the same things with hands and heart for him, for us.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Number 5...

Our 5th grandchild was born yesterday
Jack is a big boy weighing in at 9 lbs. 4 oz.
Everyone is happy, healthy, and blessed.
We're giving thanks to God for a fresh, new life.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Venus at dusk...

This afternoon we said good bye to our youngest son who had been home for a much needed break after a full summer of college courses.  It was so good to have him home for a while, and he and I took evening walks most nights at dusk or later --dark-thirty.  As we walked and talked, we pointed out satellites flying by, constellations, the Milky Way and we noticed bright Venus in the southwestern horizon.  It's just beautiful to see Venus setting with a pinky-orange sky as her backdrop. 

We noticed the extra-bright milkiness of the Milky Way.  With a moonless night, the Milky Way is brighter now than usual.  I like how Akira Fujii describes it from one of my favorite sky-gazing sites, Sky & Telescope:

The Sagittarius Teapot and the surrounding rich Milky Way are highest in the south right after dark at this time of year. The brightest puff of the summer Milky Way seems to rise like steam from the Teapot's spout. All of the labeled objects here and many more are good binocular targets under a dark sky. Click the image for a larger view.

~Akira Fujii
Have you ever used binoculars to sky-gaze?  It's fun.  When the moon is in its various phases and not full, you can see so many craters and mountains with just a good pair of binoculars.  You can see the moons around Jupiter and get a close look at other planets when they are in view.  One October night when the kids were young, a friend brought her telescope out to the ranch.  She wanted practice using it and needed a sky with no street lights invading it.  We had such fun looking at the moon and planets and some of the brighter stars, and it was then that I found out that you could use a simple pair of binoculars to get a really good look at the night sky.  No need for expensive equipment.  Our family spent many nights looking through binoculars with arms anchored to the pick-up box to get a steady, close look at nearby planets, stars, a few comets, and the moon.  Check this link  and this one for articles on using binoculars for sky-gazing.  One of our most useful books for learning the constellations back in our homeschool days was H.A. Rey's book, Find the Constellations.   We also used the Sky & Telescope website a lot.  The "Sky at a Glance" link became a well-worn tool to guide us in our sky-watching.  I've just come upon this book:  A Child's Introduction to the Night Sky.  It looks like a book I may want to buy for the grandkids and for myself.  The book and a pair of binoculars would be a great family Christmas gift, I think.
Do you like to Sky-watch?
Psalm 19

1The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.


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