Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sheep shearing day...

The sheep come through the alley from inside the barn and walk up the ramp and into the shearing trailer where four strong, high-endurance men sheared each ewe.  We were so lucky to get a perfect day for shearing.  It was about 60 degrees and sunny which is very unusual for us for an end-of-January-day.

 The shorn wool goes out the right side of the trailer to the skirters who take off all the dirty parts and bag them separately from the good fleece, and the shorn ewes go out the left side of the trailer through a trap door that leads them out to pasture.  The sheep look very pinky-white and are so clean.

 Here the skirters throw fleeces onto a rotating table where they take off all the dirty pieces.  Then the fleece is folded up and put into this sacker contraption that pushes all the wool into sacks that will be taken to town and sold at the local wool warehouse.  We had five sacks of fleeces and two sacks of what are called "bellies" which are the underparts and the short bits of wool.  Generally, the skirters can get about 50 fleeces into each sack, depending on the weight of each.  In the past, we've had fleeces that weighed approximately 10 pounds each.

 This ewe has a black speckled nose and black speckled eyes and ear tips.  She's pretty, isn't she?

Fresh-shorn sheep grazing .  You may not believe it, but there is actually a little green grass coming up amidst that old, brown grass.  Sheep have perfect mouths for getting at that low-growing grass.

After the shearing, everyone came up to our house for a late lunch.  I think we served about 14-15 people today.  It seemed all my mom and I did was wash and dry dishes.  We had beef brisket sandwiches with homemade barbeque sauce, coleslaw, fresh fruit salad, oven roasted potatoes and chips.  There was warm coconut-oatmeal cake and ice cream for dessert.

Tally:  258 ewes sheared
             14 bucks sheared

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Forever in blue jeans....

I've decided it's time.....

 ...to cut up blue jeans.  My mother-in-law used to say she "turned jeans out to pasture" when they were worn out enough to start cutting them up. You cannot imagine how many, many pair of jeans I have stashed for use in mending and for jean quilts.  I've made all of my kids blue jean quilts from our family castaways, and now I feel it's time to get cutting again and start making more quilts.  My main goal is to get squares cut in various sizes.  That task alone takes lots of time when you consider that you must take off all the seams and hems before you can even begin to measure and cut.  I figure if that part is done, the sewing will come easy. So far I've cut 6" and 7" squares and 8x5" rectangles, all with hopes of sewing them together into quilts.  While I've got the bug, I'm just doing it!  I
think picnic sized quilts would be the best since denim quilts are SO heavy and hard to handle on a sewing machine when they get very big.

(I couldn't resist adding this label from the pocket of a pair of old Levis)

Do you remember the days of the Shrink-to-fit, button-fly, 501 Levis?  I think they still make them, but those were the very best jeans back in the day.  If you had a pair that made it to nearly faded-white, you really had something.  Those jeans wore like iron.  Nowadays we are lucky if we can get a pair of jeans to last 6 months with hard wear.  And what's with the pockets in women's jeans?  You can't even fit a tube of chapstick in them let alone a pocket knife!  Now take a look at this Levis pocket label -- it's big enough to write a whole paragraph on it and add some swanky emblems and such.  Those were some real pockets.  And who doesn't love the Levis back pocket with the little red tab peeking out?

This past week I assembled a few of my squares into a small quilt -- baby sized.  I've decided I'll  leave it unfinished for now until I decide who to give it to.  It might be for one of my grandkids, but it might be for someone else.  I think it will be nice to have a few of these in my gift stash when a baby comes along or when someone needs a heavy lap quilt or picnic quilt, and then I can add the backing and the binding to match the person. 

Here are three of the five jeans quilts I made years ago.  Here and here and here.  My kids love them!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New moon, stars, and Lovejoy...

What is it about the wintertime sky that makes it so absolutely black and the stars so absolutely bright?  Of course, the moon, being new, keeps the night sky dark, but there's a crispness, a sharpness that makes the stars so very clear this time of year.  This is a very amateur photo of the night sky just at dusk where you are seeing Venus and the New Moon.  I was reminded by MK over at Through a Glass, Darkly that there is much to see in the sky right now.  Her husband, Adam, is conducting an  Astronomy class, and they, too, were observing the New Moon and Venus.  See it here.

So after enjoying a lovely gaze at the Moon and Venus, I ventured into the Eastern Sky to look for the comet, Lovejoy.   I had tried to see it back around January 7th when was supposed to be at its peak brightness, but I could not spot her then.  We were in-and-out of cloudy weather at that time so perhaps that was my trouble.  I went back to my favorite sky-gazing website, Sky & Telescope, to find out where Lovejoy should be found since it continues to move away.  S&T said it was between Pleiades and Aries.  First I looked in the Eastern sky for Orion's 3-star belt, then up from there I spotted Pleiades.  With bare eyes, Pleiades looks like a dusty web of stars way up above Orion, but with binoculars, the star collection is very clear.  Then I found Aries to the right of Pleiades.  Now.....somewhere in the middle of the two, there should be a fuzzy green ball of light that is Lovejoy.  We usually think of comets with long, bright tails, but with just a pair of binoculars, all I would see was a fuzzy green-gray ball and no tail.  Here is the link to tonight's viewing of Lovejoy in case you want to see the sky map.  Lo and behold!  I found it.  I found it several times to my great joy!

(From Sky & Telescope by Alan Dyer)

I was so excited, I had to share the fun by calling my parents in town.  They had been looking for Lovejoy these past weeks too.  OnlyDaughter and her two children were there for supper so they all went out on the deck to see the New Moon and Venus, and to try to spot Lovejoy.  I phoned the neighbor grandkids too and told them I'd come over to show them the stars and the comet.  All of our littles have learned to spot the moon -- day or night -- and they are turning into curious little sky watchers. (Do you know how that thrills my heart?)

Outdoors I went, tramping through the little bit of pasture that is between our houses and met the grands who were in their jammies and who were pulling on their coats, hats, mitts and boots to go out to look at the sky.   Their Mama, JLo, and the oldest, Peach, are very good students, trying hard to see each thing, but Toodles and Boy Blue just enjoyed running around in the darkness screaming and playing.  We found the constellations and JLo found the comet too.  I'm not sure if Peach did, but we did see another interesting thing.  A star, I think, that was flickering red, green, white.  At first I thought it was a plane, but it stayed stationary in the sky and was very bright, easy to see with bare eyes.  It was located near Orion. I looked for it on Sky & Telescope's "This Week's Sky at a Glance," and I think it must be  R. Geminorum (from Jan. 20th's posting).  It says, "R. Geminorum is a red long-period variable star."  That certainly described it.  So many, many things to see in our vast night sky.  I hope you are able to take a few moments of your evening to enjoy it.  So much to see!  So much beauty!
Gemini shines high in the east these evenings, off to the left of Orion. In Gemini's center lies R Geminorum, a red long-period variable star sporting the rare elements zirconium and technetium. R Gem is brightening toward a February maximum - See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/weeks-sky-glance-january-16-24/#sthash.OIIyQHKO.dpuf

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bloomin' paperwhites, beans, and other stuff...


The paperwhites I potted are blooming on the kitchen counter right next to my window. They seem happy.  I love real flowers -- growing indoors or fresh cut -- especially in winter.  Oh, I guess I like them in all seasons, but there's just something especially wonderful about flowers in the bleak midwinter.  Do you have flowers in your home? 

Today we have a sunny and warm day with a temp of 42 degrees, but oh does the wind blow!  I took my daily walk anyway and just tied my earflaps down tight so I wouldn't get an earache. The little snow we had is mostly melted down and turns to ice overnight.  Sure does make it slippery for the cows to walk across the pasture.

JJo and I went feeding cows and sheep this morning and we took the baby with us.  He slept the whole time.  The bumping and rocking of the pickup truck made it easy for him to doze.  He's now one month old and cute as the dickens.  His lil cheeks are so chubby from his mama's rich milk.

The sheep will get sheared in a couple weeks or so in preparation for lambing.  Then our slow, winter days will come to a halt and busier days will commence.  I do look forward to baby lambs.  I hope it stays nice and doesn't turn frigid.

Yesterday OnlyDaughter came for a visit and brought her two girls.  They had fun feeding cows and sheep and chickens too.  There's a handful of cows and several ewes that will eat out of our hands and the kids think it's the greatest thing ever.  It is!  OnlyDaughter is getting a big belly as she waits for her new baby to be born in the first week of March.  You can see it sticking out on the left side of the photo with the purple plaid coat over it.  This will be their third baby.  The cousins were glad to get together, and they had fun sledding on the last of the snow.  I did too!

I've been reading up a little bit about the health benefits of eating beans of all kinds.  Did you know that eating beans, especially black beans and lentils, can help reverse aging?  I don't mind getting older, but I'd sure like to preserve as much spunk as I can.  Since Hubs and I are trying to keep carbohydrates fairly low, I find that I need to keep my intake of good protein and nutrient-dense foods high, otherwise I really crave things like chips and cookies and sweets.  Even though beans are considered starchy, I thought maybe if I added them to our diet, it might help curb cravings for junk and keep our tummies satisfied.  I think it does help.

I made myself a Black Bean Chocolate Brownie Smoothie this afternoon after seeing a recipe here.  I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but since I had a few black beans leftover from last night's meal, I thought I'd at least try it.  I'll admit, it wasn't bad, but next time, I will change it up a little.  Actually, I changed it up today so I could use what I had on hand.  Instead of dates, I used a fig.  I also thought it needed a little more sweetness, so I added about 1 tsp. of honey and 1 tsp. of peanut butter.  I didn't have hemp seeds so I added a tblsp. of ground flax seed.  Next time, I'll leave out the fig.  It kinda made the smoothie chewy in a weird texture kind of way.  I do love figs, but not in my smoothie, I guess.  While you are at The Muffin Myth reading about the black bean brownie smoothie, check out some of her other ideas for healthy smoothies.  The Chocolate Banana Bread Smoothie sounds interesting.

There's a really good article I found by Dr. Alan Christianson who is a naturopathic medical doctor.  I've been receiving his newsletters for a few weeks, and he's got some really smart ideas for keeping people healthy.  The article is about how beans can improve health.  I always thought of beans as a way to stretch a family food budget, but they are also very nutrient dense and full of fiber and goodness.  Do you like beans?  How do you incorporate them into your diet?

Thanks for stopping by, Friend!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pizza burgers...

When I was a teenager back in the 70s, I worked every summer at a drive-in called The Penguin.  We made everything from burgers to bananas splits, and served it to you in your car with one of those trays that hooked over your window.  The car hops, one of which was my younger sister, was glad to bring you your food, fresh from the grill.  She even had a cute coin changer hanging from her belt that jingled when she walked.  She could count your change back to you like nobody's business -- right then and there.  Oh, those were the days.  (Does anybody count change anymore?)

I was not a car hop, but instead, I worked inside at both the fountain and at the grill making beautiful twist cones on a six hole cone tray or slinging burgers on the grill: "Order out!"  One of the best-selling burgers we made was the Pizza Burger.  It was delicious!  Tonight I was craving a pizza burger, but you know, The Penguin is long gone, and if I could get a good pizza burger somewhere, it would be at least an hour drive to the nearest grill.  So I decided to make Hubs and I a drive-in special at home. 

Here's what you need:

ground beef
cheese of choice (may use a pizza blend)
veggies of choice, sliced
pepperoni slices
salt (I like Lawry's seasoning salt) & pepper
your favorite spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce

Here's how I did it, which is similar to my old pizza burger flipping days, but with a twist.  First, you need a couple big patties of burger.  Salt and pepper them really well.  I like to use Lawry's Seasoning Salt on burgers.  Once they are seasoned, melt a tablespoon or so of bacon fat in a cast iron skillet (or non-stick skillet).  I know ground beef has its own fat, but bacon fat will give it extra browning and good flavor.  When the fat is melted and your pan is good and hot, slide the burger in.  We like ours on the thin side and wide enough to hold lots of toppings, but do it however you like it best.

While you are frying that burger, saute your favorite veggie toppings in another skillet.  I used sliced onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  Get some of your favorite cheese -- sliced or grated -- along with a few slices of pepperoni and the sauce.

When it's time to flip the burgers, then you can start piling on the goodies.  Start with a generous amount of sauce.  Spoon it out to the edges of the burger.  Next add the veggies if you are adding those and top the whole shebang with a good layer of your favorite cheese. At the drive-in we used a pizza mix, but tonight I used a combination of Dubliner and American.  Lastly, throw a few slices of pepperoni on top of the cheese and grab a lid and slap that over the pan so the cheese gets all melty and gooey.

If you're going to serve a bun with your burger, be sure to butter the flat side of each bun and toast them quickly in a pan before the burgers come out. We always, always toasted our buns at the drive-in. 

When you think your burger is about done, go ahead and load them onto your toasted buns and serve with an extra side of warm marinara sauce.  I'm telling you, Hubs and I didn't miss the bun one bit.  I can't say this is a low-calorie meal, but it is high in satisfaction and deliciousness! 


Thursday, January 08, 2015

A new hat for a cold day...

OnlyDaughter crocheted me a new hat for these cold days.  She knows that I spend a lot of time outdoors, and she was so sweet to crochet this heavy wool-blend hat especially for me.  I do not knit or crochet, although I've tried, and I so appreciate the love and time that goes into making something by hand.  OnlyDaughter used two strands of yarn in gray and green to crochet a tightly woven hat.  I'm not so good with the camera on my new phone, but hey, I did it!  Isn't it a pretty hat?

This was the day that I walked into with the new hat pushed hard on my head.  The wind howled and the snow blew and blew all day long.  I only went out for a quick trip to the chicken coop and back, and honestly, that was quite enough.  I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow.

(holding a long note in G)  The........................sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar there'll be sun!  (I hope so!)

Monday, January 05, 2015


 To add a little life to January, I like a few green things growing, indoors of course.  My Christmas Cactus (AKA:  Holiday Cactus) continues to bloom, but not as profusely as it did last year.  At my kitchen sink window, I have four paperwhite bulbs shooting upward.  They should be a cheery spot during the bleak days of January.

Despite the cold, snow, and wind, I took a little walk-about with Sue.  Although it started out very cold, in the teens, the temp jumped up to about 35* and that's when I stepped out the door for a tramp through the trees.  The wind was harsh so staying in the trees made it more bearable.  We spotted quite a few mostly-white jackrabbits and a couple white-tailed deer and just one sharptail grouse.

Two burners on my gas range won't light.  I've been online trying to figure out why and what parts I might need to fix them.  I think I need another set of eyes to look at the burner assembly.  One of the sons will be best at figuring that out. 

I've almost got all of the family photos from 2014 assembled into albums, but I ran out of space so I'll go find another book tomorrow, I hope.  It seems so 1980s to put photographs into books now, doesn't it?  Depending on the road conditions, I hope I can do a quick shop in town along with a couple errands so I can wrap that little project up.  Then it's on to taxes.  Bah!

I've been thinking about this anonymously written poem a lot lately.  I hunted it down after hearing Ravi Zacharias recite it on a Blaze TV interview.   I just loved how the words so articulately and precisely flowed from his mouth.

When God wants to drill a man, and thrill a man, and skill a man;
When God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all his heart to create so great and bold a man that all the world might be amazed;
Watch His methods, watch His ways.
How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects.
How He hammers and hurts him,
and with mighty blows converts him,
Into trial shapes of clay that only God understands,
while his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands.
How He bends but never breaks, when His good He undertakes.
How He uses whom He chooses and with every purpose fuses him,
With mighty acts induces him to try His splendor out.
God knows what He’s about.

-Author Unknown

Saturday, January 03, 2015

A January day...

Yesterday morning we read the sky:
Red sky at morning shepherds take warning!
The weatherman predicted a snowy, cold day or two to come.

Hubs and I took Peach and Toodles out feeding livestock this morning after breakfast.  Along the way we saw a pair of Bald Eagles in the trees near our sheep barn.  They were there last year too.  I guess they've come back to hunt jackrabbits on the prairie again this winter.

 The cows were glad to see us on this bitter cold day.

FirstbornSon fed hay with the tractor while we fed alfalfa cake on the ground.

The sheep were happy to see us and came running from a distance.  They are extra woolly right now.  It looks like some of the ewes are in heat -- there's a buck jumping up to do his job.  Most of the ewes were bred to lamb in February, and then we turned the bucks in again on December 24th to clean up what didn't catch.  The ewes bred now will not have lambs until May.  To me, that's a much more reasonable time for baby lambs. 

Hubs and I got new smartphones a couple days ago.  We are learning how to work them.  Thankfully our daughter and her husband helped us out one morning, and I think even they learned a thing or two.  They guys skyped each other which neither had done from their phones before.  We added files from our cow records to the phone so data could be recorded that way.  I added a Bible app to my phone in case I'm ever in a place where I'm waiting and want to read.  Otherwise, I really do prefer a book in my hands. To be perfectly honest, I like life without a smart phone just fine, but I know I'll need to keep abreast of technology. 

We'll stay indoors for the rest of the day until it's time for evening chores. I'm glad for a warm house and hot mugs of coffee and tea.  Now I'm going to go start a fire and put the kettle on.  I can't seem to get warm today.

A  happy January day to you.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Brand New!

 What I love about a new year is that we get to start over -- a brand new calendar with fresh new dates and nothing filling in the days.  This is the calendar I picked this year.  I love big, open spaces to write in.  How quickly that open space changes.  I don't know about you, but when I get my new calendar I immediately write in all of the family birthdays, anniversaries,  due dates, and lastly, add in the dangling January appointments scribbled on the bottom of the December page.  For one small moment though, the new year is fresh, clean, open!  It's fun to think about it for that small moment in time.  (Let's pause and think about it.)  How swiftly the new year marches in with its schedules, appointments, special dates and events.  

Do you ever take a little extra time to look at your old calendar as you add the birthdays and anniversaries onto your new one and notice what a full year it was?  It is quite fascinating to me.  My mother-in-law had a large wall calendar that she received yearly from a livestock newspaper.  It had big boxes for writing in, and she always kept a mini-diary on it.  I loved seeing her teacher-like penmanship written in each square with all the activities of the ranch and family life inked in.

I'm not a New Year Resolution Person.  Are you?  I like to think of a few things that I want to do and hope to do in the new year and pencil them into my journal, but I know that sometimes my best laid plans do not always materialize for one reason or another.  I like to remain open to things that God might put in my path, things that I may not have had on my radar screen for the coming year at all.  That's not to say I don't plan, but I know that My Plans are not always God's Plans.

Another thing that I have been thinking about in this new year is the fact that God is in control.  I have had to remind myself of this fact a lot lately.  There are so many, many things that trouble my heart, especially when I watch the news or read the headlines.   Sometimes I just want to cry for humanity.  The other day I was typing an email to a friend, and I believe God inspired the ending with the lines from the carol, O Holy Night

 "Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever!  

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!"   

Christ is the Lord, I will trust Him.  I will put my hand in His.  I won't worry, but believe.  I will wait to see His power and glory happening, and then I will proclaim it.  

 Dear Friends, I wish you all the best in this new year, 2015.  May God speak to your heart and may you have ears to hear His whisper.  May He show you big, beautiful things, and give you keen interest in the humble little things too.  In the troubling things, I hope you'll be able to trust.  Above all, may you know His love, forgiveness, peace, and hope.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  ~Romans 15:13


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