Friday, July 25, 2014

Hen and chicks...

These are the hens of the northern prairies, the Greater sage-grouse.  The photo above is a Sage hen with her young.  NumberOneSon swathed the area around our houses today and guess who had been hiding in the tall, tall grass?  This hen and her four chicks.  Every year about this time, sage-grouse show up around our yard and in a nearby alfalfa field.  Sage-grouse nest in sage brush areas and brood their chicks there, but when the chicks are old enough, they travel from the dry sagebrush areas and come down near us and eat whatever they like -- soft, green alfalfa seeds and other forbs.  The main diet of the sage-grouse is sage brush seeds, but they will also forage on other types of seeds, plants, and insects.  Today  JJo and I watched them walking through the yard nibbling from the ground. The grouse fly, but prefer to walk like chickens.  At one point the chicks got separated from their mother when the guys drove by.  It startled some of them and they flew, but the sweet low cluck of the nearby mother and the higher pitched  muffles of the chicks brought them all back together again.  The breeding ground of the sage-grouse is called a lek.  We really don't have any leks that I know of on our ranch, but I have seen the Greater Sage-grouse strut-dance one time.  I was far off, but it was amazing to see and hear.  Below is the mating dance of the male during breeding time.

We love our prairie hens and chicks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spell me...

(backyard garden)

Hubby radio'd me this afternoon to see if I could go rake some hay for him.  Yes, I could.  I took the Ranger out to the hay field and proceeded to turn hay over.  We had had a lovely rain the day before and so only the thin hay was going to be baled today.  The heavy, wetter stuff would have to wait.  Anyway, as I was working on the second hour of raking, NumberOneSon called me on the radio.

"Mom, would you like me to spell you?"

"No, I'm ok," I said.

"I'm going to give you a break anyway," he insisted.

As I waited for his arrival, I thought about what a lovely phrase it is:  "Can I spell you?"  I don't think it's a phrase often used these days, is it?  Just like the phrase, "Sit a spell."  How often do you hear those words out of anyone's mouth who's under 60?  I like the old-fashioned phrases and words.  They make me think of simple days, of my grandparents and even my own parents who aren't so very old, and I wonder if one day my grandchildren will remember words and phrases that I used?

That reminds me.  Yesterday JLynn (first-DIL) and I were working in the kitchen on some plantain infused oil.  I had gathered a basketful of it from below the backyard and was washing it up and spinning it dry.  The grandkids were here too and they just love to mess around in the kitchen at whatever I'm doing.  We were packing the plantain leaves into mason jars and pouring oil over them.  I remembered that I had some mini glass roll-on containers that I thought might be nice to put some of the oil in for carrying in a purse or diaper bag when the need arises.  As I was fishing them out of the plastic, Peach and Toodles thought that they would each like a "potion jar" as they call them to take outside.  They proceeded out the screen door with their jars in hand and collected a few rose petals in them, determined to make their own potions.  It thrills my heart to see them creating things from nature, whether real or pretend.  They see us and they want to do it too.  JLynn said we may need to make a recipe book of Gram's potions one day for wedding gifts.

If you are curious about making plantain infused oil or salve, click on these links:  Wellness Mama or Mommypotomus.  Plantain oil or salve is great for relieving bug bits, poison ivy or oak, for healing scrapes, burns or nasty diaper rashes.  Check out MK's posts about it too!  Sit a spell and enjoy the reading!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

His 'n' Hers boots...

His 'n' Hers boots, clean and oiled

Hen & Chicks blooming

Ewes and lambs

 A few cows & calves

 Prickly pear cactus blooms

Buffalo grass

By popular request, the dirty boots are now cleaned and oiled.  They don't look beautiful, but they are clean(ish).  The oil makes our boot leather turn very dark which is not the most attractive, but it does saturate the leather and conditions it.  These are our work boots so they aren't meant to be "pretty" but rather, functional.

Have you ever seen Hen & Chicks blooming?  I don't think I ever have.  I wonder what will happen next?  Do you suppose it will send out seed?  Or will it just die?  I wonder.  There are some "chicks" below it so I'm sure they will establish themselves in the soil there.  I hope so.  I think I may take a few chicks and start them in a pot.  I love succulents.

Hubs and I went for a Sunday drive to check on the sheep.  The lambs that were born in February are nearly as tall as their mothers.  We found three longtails (late lambs born after we docked). We will likely wean them all in a couple weeks and then sell them in August.  They are so healthy and FAT.  Beautiful sheeps.  I love my sheeps.

We drove by a small bunch of cows and calves that are in the cull bunch.  They look good too.  All the cows are now out in their summer pastures, happily grazing on green grass and clover.  It's a huge clover year here.  I should have some bee hives, but I don't.

I took some pictures for you of the buffalo grass that is a native of our prairie.  It is not the dominate grass here, but in various areas on our ranch it grows with vigor.  It's a low-growing, tight sod.  I honestly wish I had it growing in my yard around the house.  I'd never have to mow!  It is possible to plug buffalo grass into yards.  It's sold by xeric plant catalogs like High Country Gardens, but I think it would take a ton of money and a century before it would be totally established in a yard.  Some things just work better naturally out on the prairie.  

Did you see the prickly pear cactus blooms?  I can't help but love them -- the blooms, that is.  Nasty, hurtful plant, growing in hard, dry ground, undesirable, and yet -- BEAUTIFUL.

We've had very cool days lately.  Low 70s for high temps.  It's nice.  It feels more like fall than mid-summer, but we know it's not going to last.  It'll turn hot once again in just a few days.  My tomato plants and cukes WANT heat.  Everything underground in the garden is doing great -- potatoes, carrots, onions.  And the cool season stuff -- peas and lettuce and kale -- are happy.  The rest is just so-so.  Oh, but wait!  The pumpkins are really vining like crazy.  We'll see if they produce.

Haying is in full swing.  We are going to have more hay than we thought.  Much in the hay fields has come back.  I spent part of Sunday afternoon raking hay.  I like to do that.  Now that our CarpenterSon is here working on the ranch, I do less of it, but I still like to make hay and take my turn at it now and then.

I hope your summer is going well.  I'm enjoying it.  I sometimes have to pinch myself when I see the green grass and flowers and birds.  It's hard to believe I'm in the same place that had feet of snow and sub-zero temps just a few short months ago.  But it is.  Enjoy each day!

I read up on the hen & chicks (sempervivum) and found that blooming is the beginning of their death.  What a beautiful way to say good bye.  Check it out here: Flowers on Hens & Chicks

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cleaning boots and growing grass...

One of the disadvantages of wearing leather boots to do barn work is that you have to clean them once in a while.  We've been in the fresh, green poop a lot lately with AI-ing cows, and so our boots have been really suffering for it.  These boots, although still dirty, were washed up and scrubbed with a brush once already.  This evening I took my jack knife to the edges and got the rest of the manure scraped off before I oiled them.  This can of Nor-V-Gen leather oil has been in our house for 32 years and it still hasn't run out.  It reminds me of the Bible story of the widow woman who's flask of oil never ran out (2 Kings 4).  We bought the oil from a local cobbler, Mr. Didier, who used to fix boots and mend shoes, but died of a heart attack shortly after we bought it from him.   I think of the fella every time I get it out to oil our boots and shoes.  Manure is just like acid on leather so it's pretty important to clean and oil our work boots regularly.  Sad to say, these boots have been sorely neglected, but tonight they'll be revived.

The last bunch of cows has been run through the corrals and worked this week, and on Sunday they will be the last bunch of cows to be AI-ed.  Then they will be turned out to summer pasture with the  bulls who will get to finish up the job.  I really think it should be totally up to the bulls to do the breeding, but I'm the "naturalist" in the family.  I prefer the old fashioned methods of breeding cows among other things.

The weather has turned hotter lately so that means our grass is maturing and drying up.  It is July after all, and that's the natural way of things on the prairie.  Since the wind usually blows along with the hot sun, it can get dry in a hurry.  There's a chance of some rain tomorrow which would be really nice to keep the un-cut hay green until we can get to it.  The pasture grass that the cows and sheep are grazing is so good right now and a rain would be just dandy for it too, plus it would settle the dust.  I do hope we get a nice rain.

Smooth bromegrass (the tall) and some Crested wheatgrass (shorter)

Grass is what the prairie is all about.  It's not a great place to grow trees, shrubs, or fancy flowers. We do grow a few of these with some nurturing, but the conditions are not the best for tree-growing and such.  It is ideal for growing grass though, and I've heard it said that our northern prairie grass is the best there is.  It's called "hard grass" because it grows under mainly dry conditions and it's not full of water like some grasses grown in wetter areas.  When it dries, the protein levels are said to be far superior to "washy grass" as our men call it, so the livestock does really well on it.  I took some pictures of some of the grasses that are mature right now on our place.  Some of the grasses that I've pictured are transplanted in the rock garden in my backyard.  There are a few late season grasses that I hope to share with you later on.

Crested wheatgrass pollinating

Timothy grass.  A rare and desireable grass for us.  
Usually found in wet, low areas.

Timothy grass, flowering & pollinating. 

In the rock garden:
Western wheatgrass (tall), salt sage (short gray), 
prairie sage (gray tall), and blue flax.

Gretchen Joanna shared a wonderful poem about grass that I really like.  I thought you might enjoy it here too.

The Grass 

The grass so little has to do,—
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine,—
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

And even when it dies, to pass
In odours so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away,—
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!

~Emily Dickinson

Saturday, July 05, 2014

I say potato, and you say potato...

I say tomato, and you say tomato...

Seeing soft purply potato blossoms in the garden make me smile.  They are so healthy, I've picked only a handful of potato beetles off the plants so far.  When the kids were at home, I'd send them out to the potato patch with a little gasoline in a tin can.  They were to pick off the bugs and toss them into the can of gas.  It worked well, but why didn't I put alcohol or something else in the can instead of gasoline? 

Potatoes, thickly mulched with straw.  They're growing with great vigor.  This is their second mulching.  My hope is that as the potatoes push up, they'll stay covered by the straw and be easy to harvest.

Problems with the tomatoes:  I think it's curly leaf virus, but I'm not sure.  It's like the leaves are shriveled and won't unfurl as they should.  I've pulled off several nasty looking leaves that are yellow and spotted and pulled off some of the curled up leaves and tossed them into the burning barrel.  I mulched the plants  and hope that keeping the water off the leaves will help.  There are other tomato plants that look really healthy, but about four of the eight look ugly.  I hope they'll come out of it.  I've read that humid, wet conditions can cause this.  Usually, this is not a problem in our neck of the woods where summers usually are hot and dry, but this year it's been wet and cool.

We're eating gobs of fresh lettuce and radishes so far.  We're a long way off from homegrown tomatoes.  Maybe the cherry tomato plant will set soon.  We had a good, hot day today -- 98*.  A good day for making hay!

"From Spring through Fall, Thomas Jefferson planted a teaspoon of lettuce seeds every Monday at Monticello so they'd have lettuce all summer long."

From spring through fall, Thomas Jefferson planted a teaspoon of lettuce seeds every Monday at Monticello, so they’d have lettuce all summer long. - See more at:
From spring through fall, Thomas Jefferson planted a teaspoon of lettuce seeds every Monday at Monticello, so they’d have lettuce all summer long. - See more at:

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy 4th of July!


Hometown, USA 4th of July Parade.
Sunny and HOT -- 94* F

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Summer is here....

I think summer has finally arrived on the northern plains.  Today we should reach nearly 80 degrees and we're going to get hotter as the week goes on.  So this heat-up means it's time to start cutting hay!  Thankfully, with all the rains and cool weather we've had, much of our hay is coming back.  The field pictured was one that did not get hit by the early June hail.  The hay is terrific.  Probably the best it's ever been.  The other fields are looking better and we're excited that we might actually get to cut those once hailed-out fields!  I'm anxious to get on the tractor to rake the hay.  I love that job -- riding in the open-air through the fields turning hay.

It's also the time of year when we are breeding cows.  The fellas have an AI (artificial insemination) program that they are following and so we've been working cows through the corrals quite a bit.  We've also been vaccinating calves against pink-eye and pouring insecticide on all the livestock to keep flies and parasites away.  Everything is looking so good right now.  The cows and calves are shiny and fat and this is a perfect recipe for a good breeding season.  The bulls are out doing their job too.

I've been fiddling around with a few sewing projects.  I made a maxi skirt with a fold-over yoga waistband for myself and I really love it.  I'd like to make a short version of it next.  I have also been dipping into the watercolor paints lately.  I saw a cool idea on Pinterest about lettering with watercolors so I made a few post cards.  I need more practice, but it was fun and simple to do.  I like to use the Pentel Waterbrush for this because the lettering can be made more sharp and clear. 

It's almost the 4th of July and that means our Hometown, USA will have a parade with horses and cowboys and rodeo queens.  There will be barbeques at home and fireworks too!  Yay!  We also have quite a few family birthdays this month.  The two youngest sons have their 22nd and 24th birthdays on the 2nd and 3rd.  Wahoo!

Friday, June 20, 2014

In the garden...

(the first poppy blooms)

 (tomatoes, pruned and staked)

 (lettuce, kale, peas, carrots)

 (cucumbers and onions)

(pumpkins and zucchini in front, potatoes in back)

In the garden..... I decided to stake the tomatoes.  I always put an ice cream bucket around them when I first set them out to protect them from our strong prairie winds, but there comes a point when they must stand on their own.  I stake them so they don't fall over as they grow heavy with tomatoes, and I regularly prune the leaves so most of the energy of the plant goes into producing tomatoes and not leaves.  I tried this process last year and it worked very well, plus it conserves space in my raised bed gardens.  I planted some carrot seed and lettuce seed around the tomato plants for the first time so we'll see how that works out.

It seems that most of my garden things are a little slow, but it's probably because we've had such cool weather.  The peppers really want HOT days and I think the tomatoes do too.  The potatoes are really looking good and need another layer of straw mulch.  I did a version of the "no dig method," but I did dig in a little bit.  NumberOneSon tilled my spot and I pressed the spuds into the soil about 3" before covering them up with a thick layer of straw.  The idea is to get more potatoes growing up in the straw and not have to dig them too much.  The pumpkins and squash are looking healthy and the herbs are doing well.  I planted lots of parsley, basil, cilantro, and thyme by seed, and I'm excited to use them all fresh.   I planted sage and rosemary transplants out in the beds too. The dill volunteers all over the garden beds, even in the flowers beds.  Did you see Susan Branch's Basil Lemonade recipe?  Oh boy, that one is on my summer drink list!  And I love fresh basil and garlic with tomatoes over pasta.  I can't wait for homegrown tomatoes, but for now, I'll be satisfied with the small sprouts and remain hopeful for a bountiful garden by summer's end. 

Happy Birthday to CarpenterSon today!  He's 26 years old!
Happy Summer Solstice to you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Peasant dress...

I'm tickled pink about the newest peasant dress I made.  JJo (our newest daughter-in-love) thought the little girls' peasant dresses were so cute and wondered if there might be a pattern out there for us big girls.  Yes, there was!  I found this one from Scientific Seamstress on Etsy.  It's called Sis Boom Meghan Peasant Dress.  There are lots of pattern sizes (XS to 3X) and several style options.  This peasant is made with a light stretch knit, and it fits JJo just perfectly.  I made her dress with an empire waistline, but there are options for different waistlines, bust sizes and sleeve styles and styles.  This dress has a hemline just above the knee.  The pattern is easy to follow and easy to sew, and I hope to make a few more peasant dresses this summer.  JJo says it fits well and is very comfortable.

On another note, we've had lots of crazy weather in our area these past couple of days.  A tornado touched down just about 30 miles down the road from us and tore out power poles and wires and left the county without electricity.  We are still running generators tonight so we're going on day two of no electricity.  The company says it should be up and running by this evening.  Thankfully, no one was hurt even though the tornado was a mile wide and was on the ground for quite some time swirling around out in ranch country where there are few people or buildings in harm's way.  There was also a lot of hail in the storm with high winds and torrential rains that caused lots of rivers, creeks and streams to flood and bridges and roads to washed out.  This time we missed the hail and destruction and received an inch of rain instead.  The hay fields that were destroyed by hail a couple weeks ago are showing signs of growing back.  They will not likely make hay, but there is a chance that we might get a little bit of grazing from them this fall.  We'll just have to see what happens.

It's almost Summer Solstice.  I wonder if we'll start to warm up when real summer hits the northern plains?  We've probably only had two days so far with temperatures of 80* and above.  I'm not complaining.  We've had several lovely 70-something degree days that were next to perfect.  I know some of you out there are suffering under sweltering heat and drought and that's really hard.  If we could just take a large hand mixer and swirl all of our weather together all over the USA, maybe we'd get a perfect blend of sunny days and rainy nights to make a pleasant Garden of Eden.  That would be nice, wouldn't it?

Sunday, June 08, 2014


The Light of the World
(Jesus knocking at the door)

by William Holman Hunt
Kensington, London

Do you look forward to a knock on your door?  It's a lovely anticipation, isn't it?  The knocker, eager to come in, makes himself or herself known by the knock and then waits.  He waits for the one inside to open to him.  It would be impertinent to burst in and not allow the one who abides within to show her willingness to open to you.  It is a very personal thing to open the door to someone, isn't it?  Sometimes when I am unsure about the person at the door, I stand in the doorway until I find out the reason for the knock.  It could be a salesman or a lost traveler or someone warning of fire or trouble of some kind.  At other times, I am expecting someone to come for a visit, and I hear the knock as well as the voice. I run eagerly to the door, knowing that it is a dear loved one here to call on me.  The UPS man is a happy knock to anticipate.   And then there is the unexpected knock that brings a surprise from a grandchild or neighbor.  No matter who is knocking, it is up to me to open to that one outside.  

The Light of the World (1853–54) is an allegorical painting representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on a long-unopened door overgrown with weeds.  It illustrates Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me".  Notice the door has no door handle on the outside, but it must be opened from the inside. 


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