Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Corn!




Sweet Corn is ripe and being picked daily at one of the the local farms near our HomeTown.  This is the best sweet corn -- tender, white and yellow corn that is juicy and sweet as can be!  The farmers have a roadside stand where they sell it out of the back of a pick-up truck by the dozen.  Today JJo went to town and called to say that they were still selling corn and how many dozen ears did we want for freezing?  JLynn wanted 7 dozen and JJo and I each wanted 4 dozen. 

I went about shucking the corn outside in the sunshine, and then moved my work indoors.  I use my German grandma's recipe where I cut all the raw corn off the cob first and then boil it with salt, a little sugar and water.  I cool it and then measure it into freezer bags.  It's so simple!  And it's so wonderful to enjoy the taste of delicious, fresh sweet corn when winter rolls around.  I sacked up 29 cups of corn today into 2 cup and 3 cup bags.  There's still time to freeze more corn and still time to eat more corn-on-the-cob until it runs out! 

On another note, I'm happy to report that I'm now getting 6 pullet eggs as of today!  They're kicking it in gear!!  Yay for new laying hens!  They also enjoyed nibbling on the discarded cobs today.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

35 Years....

We're celebrating!
(Thank you God)
35 years married.
Best friends and lovers.
You Take Me The Way I Am.
...............................
 
We went for a Canyon Drive,
ate at our favorite place, 
and went to the movie, Ben-Hur.
You should go see Ben-Hur.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Canning peaches...



It's that time of year again when the Colorado Peaches show up in big trucks.  OnlyDaughter, JLynn, and I bought a case each of beautiful peaches.  We eat as many fresh as possible, make pie, and the rest we can for the winter months.  Today was the day that we decided the peaches were soft enough to process and preserve.  The girls came to my house for the canning bee.  We got all our stuff organized:  Ball Blue Book (1987 version), clean jars, rings, lids, hot water, wash tubs, sugar, pots and pressure canner, magnetic lid grabber, jar funnel, chopstick (for removing air bubbles) and knives. Between the three of us ladies along with eight children scampering here and there, we got the job accomplished.  Three cases of peaches and 26 quart jars later, we were done!  With time to go outside and play!


To quote my dear mother-in-law, 
"Many hands make light work,"  

And a good day was had by all.

Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The first pullet egg is laid!

 I don't know who did it.
It could be this lovely pullet hen...
 ...or one of these white beauties.
One thing is sure, it was a perfect, tiny, white egg 
that could only be laid by a Pearl White Leghorn.
All the other hens are either brown or green egg layers.


My dear mother-in-law used to ONLY ever buy Pearl White Leghorn chicks.  She knew their reliability and egg-laying efficiency.   I think she was very frustrated with me when I brought home brown egg-laying chicks after she retired from taking care of the chickens.  I remember one time in particular when I asked her to gather the eggs for me while I was gone, and do you know what she did?  She brought in only the white eggs and left all the brown eggs in the nests.
Isn't that hilarious?

It is noted on the Murray McMurray Hatchery website that the Pearl White Leghorn is hands-down the best egg layer.  They start laying earlier than other breeds -- around 4 to 4.5 months of age -- and they lay eggs longer than the other breeds do.  My mother-in-law knew that they were high-powered egg layers and that they performed well in harsh, cold climates as well as hot climates which is what we have here in The Land of Extremes. They also eat less feed than heavier breeds which makes the feed to egg ratio a little more economical.  I'm excited to have the Leghorns back in production this year and the evidence of their productivity is already showing itself since our first egg came at about  4 months of age!

Last year I bought several different varieties of hens:  Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, and White Rocks.  I had a American Auracana left over from the year before.  I have to say that this year was our worst year ever for egg production.  It seemed that they were poor, erratic layers.  For a few weeks we would get lots of eggs and then the next week we'd get half that amount.  It's  very frustrating when you are trying to feed three and sometimes four families with the eggs!  This year I have 22 Pearl White Leghorns and I anticipate 22 eggs per day when they all start laying which should be very soon!  

Have you ever noticed when buying "organic" or "free-range" eggs that they are always brown?  It is a misconception that the "healthier" eggs are always brown.  My white eggs will be every bit as "country fresh" and "free-range" as any other egg that has ever been produced here. 

Do you eat free-range eggs or farm-raised eggs?  What do you think of the comparison between eating a farm-raised egg verses a factory-raised egg?

One more thing to share and then I'll let you go.  Last week I learned about the best way to  hard-boil farm fresh eggs.  First off, I have never been able to make pretty deviled eggs using my home-raised eggs.  My wise mother-in-law always said to let them age a week or more before hard-boiling them for an easier peel. Well, who has a week to wait for that?  So I did a little looking around on Pinterest for a method to make the best hard-boiled egg with ease-of-peeling qualities.  And the verdict I came to was to steam the eggs.  Here's the link from Fresh Eggs Daily.  It worked for me beautifully!  I hope you'll give it a try, particularly if you use very fresh eggs.  OK, that's it.  May your eggs be perfectly cooked, however you like them!  By the way, how do you like your eggs?

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.
Ugh.
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.
AWESOME! 
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
RAIN!
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
Author:
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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

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