Monday, December 25, 2017

Quiet, stay-at-home Christmas...

It has turned out to be a quiet, stay-at-home, cozy Christmas for Hubby and I.  The whole lot of us (kids and grands and us) came down with the Christmas Crud (stomach virus) this past week and even before that, so we all opted to stay at our homes and just take it easy, recover, and not have our traditional Christmas Feast on the day.

As it always is here on the ranch, the winter feeding chores must be done no matter whose birthday it is or which holiday celebration is happening.  The Sons managed feeding the calves and thawing out the frozen water tanks.  After our morning coffee and a little breakfast, Hubby and I went to feed the cows and sheep.  It was -6 degrees F when we left so the livestock were very happy to see us pull up.  I thought the black cows' faces looked so cute with their whiskers all frosty white.  The sheep came on the run and were absolutely crazy for the salt blocks that were alongside the water tank.  It's funny, they know where the salt is, but they don't think about going to it unless they go down for a drink, and they don't drink much when there is snow on the ground.

I always think fondly of livestock on Christmas Morning, wondering about the animals that might have been in the same barn as Jesus was.  How strange to have people lingering so long and not going in to the house.  I wonder if Joseph might have had to feed some hay to cows or sheep or mules that morning while Mary suckled a warm baby Jesus, tucked in close beside her -- full and content. 

For our Christmas Dinner, I made a simple roast beef with potatoes, onions, and carrots all in the same pot.  The gravy that comes from that combination is the best!  As we enjoyed our salad and dinner, I popped a cherry pie in the oven.  I like to make mine with a mix of frozen sweet and tart cherries.  Hubby says it's his favorite pie.  Here it is, hot out of the oven.  We'll let it cool and have it for afternoon coffee along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Oh!  speaking of ice cream, do you ever put a small spoon of ice cream in your coffee?  It's a nice treat once in a while.

It's been a quiet day for us, the first Christmas we've spent "just the two of us".  We've enjoyed it, but it's different from the rowdy houseful of kids and grandkids that we are used to for holidays.  We will all celebrate together very soon though.

I hope you're enjoying this day when we remember the Reason for the Season -- Jesus!
Merry Christmas, friends!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter birds, Winter Solstice...

It was a dark-ish day here so please forgive the less-than-perfect light in my photos.  

There are a few birds that stay here for the winter.  These are tough ones:  the majestic Bald Eagle and the petite Redpoll.  Out on the prairie, the Bald Eagles are numerous in the winter months where they sometimes nest in January and February and then leave in spring.  They spend their time eating mostly jackrabbits and roadkill.  The Redpolls, on the other hand, enjoy seeds and so they are happy to entertain us at the backyard feeders.  The grands like to get close to them by just standing still out by their feeder and letting the Redpolls feed above and below their feet and even at eye level.  That is an amazing feeling -- being so close to a beautiful, wild bird.  We have no chickadees here this winter.  Sometimes they come, and sometimes they just don't.  I've seen a few Sharptail Grouse around  -- another year-round bird for us.  I heard from my father-in-law that he saw a Snowy Owl north of us about 20 miles.  Quite a sight!  I've only seen one in my lifetime and I'm half tempted to drive over where he saw the owl with the hope of maybe seeing it.  There's a chance!  Others in the area have reported sighting him too. 

The weather here has gone from very mild to very cold in just one day's time, and as I type this at 5:00 pm, it is already down to just 6 degrees F.  Chilly!  Colder temps are in the forecast.  There's an inch of snow on the ground and I'm glad for its covering the dirty brown beneath. Thankfully, our wood supply is ample and I'm keeping a fire in the wood stove.  My latest aromatherapy is to put anise seed stars into my kettle of water on the wood stove.  The wafting scent is sweet and spicy.   I find the stars for very little cost in bulk at my health food store.  Winter love!

It's Winter Solstice today, the longest night of the year.  From here on out, we get longer days -- that's the way Hubby sees it.  He's always positive.  Will you celebrate the Solstice?  I did by getting my wool pants out and taking a mile walk up to the mailbox.  I might make us a little mulled wine to sip by the fire tonight and light the candles.  Doesn't that sound nice?

"He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter."  ~John Burroughs
He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.
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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tillandsia or air plants...

I was out shopping last week and mainly looking around in a local store that I hadn't had time to explore very much.  The owner sells and uses the Annie Sloan chalk paint and she sells many of her up-cycled creations along with other items like handmade jewelry and clothing.  I passed by an area that had some rocks and plants and woodsy things and it caught my naturalist's eye.  Upon deeper inspection, I realized that none of the plants were in soil but appeared to be just plopped into  natural vessels so I asked the owner what type of plants these were and she said, "Air plants, also known as tillies, short for Tillandsia."  I was immediately enchanted by these unusual plants.  The only air plants I remember from my childhood were those "air ferns" which people sometimes grew in their bathrooms.  I never thought they were very attractive, but these plants have much more substance and character to them than the air ferns did.  Some are of the succulent group of plants, but all need no soil to live and thrive.  Some of the air plants like to eventually attach their roots to woody objects like drift wood or an old chunk of shaggy wood.

As I asked more questions, the store owner explained that all of the plants would bloom the most exquisite and colorful flowers.  That also intrigued me, so I decided to make a purchase then and there.  I bought the Ionatha at the top.  It is green with orangy-red colors coming from within it and is said to produce lovely little purple blooms.  The grass-like air plant in the second picture is called Juncea and right beside it in the rock is another Ionatha.  In the white vase is one called Funckiana.  Another plus to growing Tillandsia is that they will reproduce and pups will form after they bloom or after they reach a certain size.  I love it when plants have babies!

Air plants are considered "easy care" because all they really need is a dunk in a bowl or tub of water every 7 to 10 days depending on how humid it is in your home.  And that's it.  Some people spray-mist them and others I've read say it's better to saturate them by dunking them underwater for a few minutes, so I guess I'm of the dunking theory so far.  Did you know that Spanish moss is considered an air plant?  Some people combine the Spanish moss with the air plants in their arrangements.  I am so fascinated by these plants that I have been doing a little research online to learn more and I have discovered some beautiful ways to display air plants that really appeal to me -- rocks, wood, even hanging suspended in mid-air.  I will add some links for you to browse below.  I also have found that you can buy air plants on Etsy as well as other online stores.  They are, after all, easy to ship with no soil, and very little weight.  However, if you live in the north like me and it's a very cold season, shipping might not work so well.  It might be best to find a local plant seller or wait until warmer weather comes to purchase tillies online.  So my gardening continues through the winter months  indoors with my new-found plant love -- Tillandsia!

OK, now for the links to some fun stuff!

 How to Display Air Plants (video)
Air Plant Care 101 (e-How) 
Air Plants Care and Design Made Easy
Wedding Worthy Air Plants

If  you dare to go on Pinterest and search for air plants, you will be overwhelmed and very tempted to try them for yourself.  There are such gorgeous ideas out there.  Do you grow air plants or have you seen them growing wild in trees in temperate climes?  Do tell!

Friday, December 15, 2017


Our very small creche sits table high so our grandkids can enjoy it and imagine the awe of that Christmas night.  The figures are set in some bark to make it look somewhat crude and cave-like along with tiny lights.  The creche is a Fontanini and the tallest figure is only 2.5 inches in height.    I'm thankful I have the main characters in the manger scene.

The Star on the Barn is up and lights the dark near the county road that goes by our ranch.  These two things are my favorite Christmas traditions.

I've been doing a very little baking, mainly two kinds of cookies so far -- soft molasses cookies and snowballs.  I will make a few cut-out sugar cookies before the big day comes.  It sounds like our fair weather is about to change and cold days are coming.  They will be good days for being indoors and for baking, but while it stays so nice, I'm out walking every day.

How are your Christmas days going?

Sunday, December 10, 2017


I like December for so many reasons.  Days are short and indoor living is long.   That could be considered a bad thing to some, but to us it feels like we are resting from a very busy year of outdoor work.  It feels cozy and homey.   The sheep and cattle are in their winter pastures and  although these pictures show a little bit of snow on the ground, the grazing is open and that means a longer time without feeding hay and cake.  We still go out to the cows and sheep to gather them up, inspect them, and give them a little something to eat as their reward for coming to us.  Everything is looking good and healthy right now.  The ground is bare again and thus far, our winter has been mostly mild, save the wind which has been anything but mild.

We are enjoying the joyful bustle of Christmas with friends and family. Christmas cookies and coffee was our treat at the neighbors' yesterday afternoon. Our home is "lightly decorated"  with mostly greens and cones and candles.  The Christmas tree is up and shining and so is the tiny creche.  I have one of those Fontanini  nativity scenes that are both beautiful and durable which allows our grandkids to touch and imagine with the figures.  I like that part so much.  Singing Christmas hymns at church warms my heart and lifts my spirits.

I have a few embroidery projects going, nothing difficult or extensive, but they keep my hands busy while watching a football game or a Christmas special.  Sometimes I just enjoy embroidering in the quiet with candles burning and twinkle lights glowing and a cup of hot tea to sip.

I hope you are enjoying these December days, appreciating the little things -- noticing the quiet of nature, appreciating the warming sips of coffee or tea on a cold day, enjoying the familiar Christmas hymns that you memorized through many years, lighting the second Advent candle, holding hands.

I wish you JOY.  Take JOY.


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