Sunday, July 31, 2016

It's hot, and so's the coffee...

I know this may seem weird, 
but I like a cup of hot coffee
even on a 100 degree day.
It's Sunday
and so
I think it's nice to have a leisurely cup 
with a frozen cookie on top
(so it will thaw perfectly).

The clouds are developing, looking threatening.
Maybe rain.
But we are watching the skies for lightning (again).
Because of heat, because of wind,
and because it's so crackling dry here,
we're under high fire danger.
Actually, a warning for today.
I'll sip my coffee and watch.

I dragged my hoses around the yard and gardens this morning.
It's my weekly watering of trees and shrubs
and whatever else I think needed a dousing.
A good, hard rain would be most appreciated.
Please God.
Thank you.
 When He imparted weight to the wind 
And meted out the waters by measure,
  When He set a limit for the rain 
And a course for the thunderbolt...
~Job 28:25,26


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I've seen fire and I've seen rain....

Catchy title today, right?
You know James Taylor, yes?
(author of Fire and Rain, his first hit in 1968 )
We saw him this weekend.
In concert!!
I've always wanted to see him.
It sounded just like JT!
Some people came to the concert 
in this fun and funky double-decker VW Van.
Isn't it cool?  And so appropriate for a JT Concert.

 This July has been full of fire for us.
I've seen fire.
Every single cloud that comes over shoots lightning out of it,
and the men have been out fighting fires a lot.
But guess what??
We got RAIN!  Twice.
Wet, delicious, air-freshening, grass-washing, puddle-making
And I've seen rain.

Thank you God.
We can trust YOU.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cranes, cows, calves, bulls, and sage grouse...

 JLynn and the grandies and I went to check cows this morning.
As we drove up to the gate, we saw three Sandhill Cranes.  Two large and one small one, perhaps a baby.  The kids had their binoculars and I had the big camera to zoom in!

 These are the cows and bulls that we went to check on.
If you click on the pic, you'll see the horned bull.

 Cows, calves and another bull.

 Hello Big Fella!

As I was yakking on the phone this afternoon with OnlyDaughter, a Sage Grouse came walking through the front yard.  I snapped this photo through the window.  Isn't she lovely?

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Chokecherry jelly...

It's been a few years since I've had any chokecherries left on the branches for a batch or two of jelly.   Every year it's a race with the birds to see who can get to the chokecherries first.  This time I picked my chokecherries a little earlier than I would like, but hey, I have birds to contend with!  The whole time that the grandkids and I were picking, the robins were really giving us the dickens!  They twirted at us quite a bit, telling us to get out of their chokecherry bushes and to leave  their berries alone.  I was so proud of the kids for sticking with our chore.  It takes a long time to pick a single gallon of chokecherries because they are so small.  

After picking the berries, the whole jellying process had only just begun.  We sorted through the chokecherries for stems and leaves and then washed them, picking through them some more.  After the wash, we poured the chokes into a big pot with enough water to just cover them for the boil.  We simmered them to get the cherries to release their juice (maybe a half hour or so).  I like to give them a little squish with a potato masher as they soften.  After juicing comes the Big Squeeze.  I poured the hot chokecherries and juice through a colander lined with a clean tea towel which was placed over a gallon ice cream bucket.  After the berries cool down a little, I wring the tea towel over a bowl to collect every drop of juice I can get.  Then I hang it from the cupboard door to let it drip a little more over the bucket.  The juice goes back into the big pot along with lemon juice and the pectin.  It gets stirred and brought to a boil.  Then the sugar is added and two more minutes of boiling and Viola!  jelly!

The girls were excited to lick every sticky utensil we used.  Then it was time to sample it on bread.  I'm only sorry I didn't have a fresh loaf to smear the jelly on,  but our store-bought bread worked just fine.  It was tasty if I do say so myself.  

If you have chokecherries nearby that you can pick, you might like to try this recipe from a Ranch Mom.  She has some nice step-by-step pictures to walk you through the process on her blog.  I liked this recipe  better than anything I've ever tried before.  I think it's the lemon juice that makes all the difference.   And maybe because she's a ranch mom!  

Choke Cherry Jelly
  • 3.5 cups chokecherry juice
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
  • 1 pkg dry pectin (1.75 oz)
  • 4½ cups of sugar
  1. Pour juices in kettle.
  2. Add pectin, stir.
  3. Bring to a boil, add sugar.
  4. Boil and stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, skim.
  6. Ladle into jars.
  7. Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.
  8. Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nature Notes: little babies, big babies...

Little Babies
Barn swallows


Big Babies
(These two photos courtesy of my DIL, JJo)

It's so exciting to encounter baby birds when you're out on the range or simply doing your chicken chores.  The neighbor grandkids,  JLynn and I were going to the chicken coop to tend to the chicken chores when a barn swallow flew out through the door as we walked in.  A lot of weedling sounds came from the rafters where an old barn swallow nest was.  It had been there since I can remember, but never had babies in it.  The grands were so excited.  We got a 5 gallon bucket and tipped it over to stand on so we could look in the nest and see wide-open  bird mouths begging for a bug or two.  I just love the wonder and thrill in the eyes of children when they see real new-life like that in their everyday lives.

JJo and CarpenterSon and Chief were out checking cows one day when they drove upon a high spot in the North Pasture.  They found this amazing sight!  Furruginous hawks.  JJo said that Mom and Dad Furruginous were flying  high above and screeching while she clicked the photos quickly and jumped back into the pick-up before she got dive-bombed.  Good wildlife capture, isn't it?

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Friday, July 08, 2016

Lamb crop....

Bringing ewes and lambs in to the sheep corrals.

We made the decision to sell the lamb crop early this year.  Normally, we sell them in late August, but this year with the lack of water and grass, and because the lambs appeared to be so big and heavy, we decided to sell.  We sorted the lambs off the ewes and then sorted the wethers from the ewe lambs.   The last sort was for our replacement ewe lambs.  We always keep back about 50 ewe lambs or so to replace any cull ewes that we will remove from the herd in the fall.  This year we sorted off 55 ewe lambs to keep in the herd.  They're sure pretty ewes.

We loaded up 198 lambs to take to the Sheep Yards on Wednesday and yesterday they sold.  They were at the top of the market for weight and price.  The average weight was 110 lbs. which is really good for this time of year (or any time of year).  We think that the reason they gained so well is because we let them in on the alfalfa field early in the spring to graze and now that the prairie grass is dry and hard, it is high in protein and nutrients.  Out here they call our kind of grass "hard grass" because it's very dense, nutritious feed, even if it's dried out.  This is truly good sheep country.

We got our reservoir water samples back yesterday.  All the water except one reservoir were good or acceptable for livestock.  The sons fenced out the one bad reservoir with electric fence to keep the cattle out of it while they are in that pasture.  Otherwise, we're doing OK.  The one big reservoir that we water lots of livestock and our yards and gardens from is pretty high in TDS (total dissolved solids) but still acceptable.  I'm thinking this is one reason my garden is not doing so great.  It's the only water I use on it and we haven't gotten any rain so the water is pretty high in sodium which isn't great for growing plants.  So my new strategy is to keep a wash tub in my kitchen sink and catch all the water to pour over the garden plants.  At least our drinking/washing water is really good so it might maybe hopefully help!  I also have a theory that raised bed gardening might not be the best thing in our arid country.  It seems that the beds dry out so much faster than my ground beds do.  I might have to make some changes in my gardening beds this fall.

The thing about crops is that there are so many variables in nature that you can't always count on a "good crop" every single year.  This year the lamb crop was amazing.  The hay crop was minimal due to lack of rain and lots of heat.  The calf crop is looking good so far.  We'll see how they look by weaning time.  The veggie gardens production is yet to be seen.  There is hope, but I don't think it'll be a great garden year unless we get rain.  There's still time, so we do what we can do and wait to see  how it all shakes out.

The farmer/rancher is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.  ~John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, July 05, 2016


Gray clouds above with smoky, brown puffs on the horizon tells the story -- clouds with dry lightning and no rain.  After our Independence Day celebrating, we came home, settled in, and then the lightning cracked and fires popped up everywhere around us.  The dispatch fire pager had chatter about fires in every direction.  Lightning struck our land and a fire started in the East Pasture, and as soon as the men had quelled it and were mopping it up with our range fire trucks, another fire started up right next to them just over our fence on the neighbor's place.  After fighting one small fire, they were running out of water and so called me to bring up the tender truck that holds 1000 gallons of water.  It's an old, old antique of a thing, but it still runs and carries water.  It's a manual, stick-shift with a big steering wheel with no power steering.  That's how I learned to drive!  I bumpety-bumped through the pastures and got the truck up to the fire area so the firefighters could refill their rigs.  JJo and Chief came behind me with the Ranger and took us back home to keep watch and to direct any other trucks up to the fire.

1960 Chevrolet Viking Water-Tender truck

Tonight we are expecting more clouds to come over.  We're hoping that there will be rain in them.  It's going to be a long summer if this becomes our nightly job.  I know we aren't alone in this.  Many in the West are fighting fires.  Just today we were bringing the tender truck back to refill it and a long way off I could see smoke.  It was in Wyoming, just over our border.  Too far for the men to go unless they were in great need of trucks.  We're watching the skies tonight and keeping an eye on the horizon all around.  If you think of us, pray for rain.  Thanks.


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