Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nature Notes -- birds 'n' blooms...



This bright fellow is the Evening Grosbeak

God sends love notes to me by way of nature -- 
a beautiful bird, 
a feather,
a swallowtail butterfly,
 a flower I didn't know was planted amongst the others,
unexpected morning rain,
afternoon shade from our trees.

 Moonshine yarrow

 Japanese Iris

 This purple-blue stem is Smooth Blue Beardtongue or Penstemon 
which I haven't seen in my flower beds in a long time.
A happy surprise! 


Clematis on left and Sweet William on the right.  
 

My geranium pots.  They just seem right on the front porch.                 


Mostly poppies and larkspur here and a pink shrub rose in back.

Homegrown lettuce and spinach is doing very well in the garden.
We are loving the fresh salad greens every day.
 
I picked up this fizzy mineral water yesterday -- San Pellegrino.
I thought since it was on sale, I'd get a couple bottles.
Little did I know, it's a good-for-you drink!
Click here for the reasons why.
When it says "mineral water" it means there are lots of good minerals in there along with some carbonation that makes it fizzy.  
I added some lemon slices to my water.
So delicious!

One more nature note -- Monday, June 20, is Summer Solstice and the Full Moon.

CarpenterSon was born on June 20th, the first day of summer.  He'll be 28.
Back then it was very hot and dry and the country was on fire.
The night he was born, Uncle Ned's forested ranch was ablaze. 
It was a year of watching the skies for lightning and fire fighting.
.........................................

The earth, gentle and indulgent,
ever subservient to the wants of man,
spreads his walks with flowers,
and his table with plenty.
~Pliny the Elder

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Haymaker's punch...


Haying has begun.  
A few bales, but bales, nonetheless.
It will feed livestock.

 This is the tractor I drive, and I pull the dual rake behind me to rake up the mowed hay into windrows for the baler to pick up.  As you can see, it's dusty!  I'm covered with dust by the end of my turn on the rake.

We've been in the hay field since Sunday.  It's drying up fast here and so Hub decided we'd better get to it before it is totally burned up.  There are very few bales, but every little bit will help.  We have enough carry-over hay for this coming winter.  We're so thankful for that!  Our haying time will be very brief, but that will give us time for other things.

I spied this sweet bird near my gardens yesterday.  I'm not sure I've seen it here, but I recognized it..  It's a Cedar Waxwing.  I suppose it will want to nibble on my chokecherries and the juniper berries.

One delicious recipe I have been making on these hot, hot days is Switchel.  It's alias name is Haymakers Punch.  It's one of those thirst-quenching drinks that has a little sour, tangy, fermentation-thing happening!  Hubby and I really like it and it's good for us!  Read more about it and get the original recipe on Radiant Life Blog.


This is how I'm making Haymaker's Punch
(Switchel)

Quart Jar
1 - half inch slice of fresh ginger*
1/2 a lemon, squeezed (or bottled lemon juice, about 3 T.)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar (Braggs with the mother)
2-3 T. honey
Water
Pinch of salt, optional (my addition)

In a quart jar, I pour a cup of boiled water over the ginger.  Let it steep for 5 or 10 minutes.  Then add the honey so it will dissolve in the warmish water.  Add the rest of the ingredients and top off the jar with cold, fresh water.  Stir.  Let it stay in the fridge for a couple hours to let the flavors marry and steep together.  Then pour Switchel over ice and drink.  You may adjust any of the ingredients to your liking.  I like to make the punch at night and let it sit overnight in the fridge and drink it the next day.  It's so easy to make and very refreshing.  I think you could also make a "concentrate" of this recipe and store it in the fridge and add water and ice to get the taste/strength you like.

* I learned a great trick for keeping fresh ginger root on hand.  Peel ginger root, then slice it into 1/4 or 1/2" rounds or chunks.  Flash freeze it on a cookie sheet and then store in a ziplock bag so you have ginger anytime. 
--------------------------------------------------------

It's going to get very hot again tomorrow -- breaking 100.*  More punch please!!


Saturday, June 04, 2016

Nature Notes and Eloise Wilkin...

 The "chicks" got out of the coop for the first time this week.
Remember, we have all white pearl leghorn girls this year?
All except one Black Cochin...



I think the Black Chochin may be a rooster.
He's got feathery legs so we call him/her Little Britches.
 It's a great, big world out there!

 Both girl cats had babies at the barn.  As you can see, one set of 5 is a couple weeks old, and the new set of five kittens was just born a couple days ago.  The cats are co-mothering.   I separated the bigs from the littles one night and the moms put them back together.  I hope the big kittens don't get all the milk. 
Have you ever read Eloise Wilkin's books?
They are the sweetest little stories with the dearest illustrations of children and families and nature.  I have my own small collection, and I love to give these books to my grandkids and as baby gifts.    I don't have any of Wilkin's kitten books, but I do have Baby Listens with this picture of a kitten.


 As I was mowing and trimming the yard, I spied this Cecropia moth in the grass.
This is the time of year when we see them.

 Look at the fat, red & white, striped body!  The grands call them candy cane moths.
Eloise Wilkin, my favorite children's author/illustrator, captured the Cecropia moth beautifully in her book,  Wonders of Nature


I've been watching a robin family who nested in my backyard tree and now the babies are out of the nest.  This little fella was in my garden, sitting still as could be.  I've seen several of them about the yard with their parents who are still feeding them.  Whenever I see a baby robin, I think of these two pictures that Eloise created.  The first illustration for Wonders of Nature and the second for  



Do you have a favorite children's author or illustrator who depicts children in nature? 
Do tell!
 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Burger buns 'n' pie...

 Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie and Bing Cherry Pie
 
 Light Broiche Buns
 
We branded today!  We are running 100 cows on shares for a neighbor (20 miles away) and today was the day to brand their calves.  Two brothers and their hired man came to help so I didn't need to go to the barn.  Instead, I cooked the noon meal.  It was simple, but I spent the time to make fresh brioche hamburger buns for our grilled hamburgers and homemade pies for dessert.  I mean really, who doesn't like to eat homemade bread and pies no matter what else there is on the menu?

I guess I had made the brioche buns before because I wrote "excellent" on the recipe (although I don't remember doing it) so I decided to make them today.  They were excellent.  The dough was incredibly sticky so I didn't handle the it much at all except at the end when I formed it into rolls, and even then, I used a scraper to portion out the dough for each bun.  The recipe recommended using the scraper and that was a great tip.  I used flour as a help for forming the buns so I could lightly touch them and get them into the pans.  The thing I learned is that the stickier the dough, the lighter the bun, and these were pretty light and tender.  I'll be making them again.  If you want the recipe click here.

Now onto the pies.  I made the family favorite -- Rhubarb Custard Pie as a gift for CarpenterSon & JJo's anniversary on Wednesday, and so I figured I'd make another pie for OnlyDaughter & OnlySIL's anniversary gift.  Their anniversary isn't until the last day of May, but I'm going in to babysit grandmother for their girls as they keep a golf date they have planned.  Anyway, I made one Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie for them and a Bing Cherry Pie for my branding crew today.  I had frozen several quarts of Bings last summer and I figured I might as well use them up since it will soon be cherry season again.  The Bing Cherry Pie was a huge hit!  The men raved about it.  It was really quite simple:  just cherries (about 4 cups),  3/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 c. cornstarch, and two capfuls of almond extract.  Toss it all together and put in a crust, dot the top with butter and add the other crust and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mix.  Bake about an hour at 375*. 

The Strawberry-Rhubarb pie recipe was very similar.  I found the recipe here , and although I cannot give you an actual quality-control taste recommendation, the look of the pie is amazing.  I really thought I should take a little nibble out of it for testing purposes, but I didn't think it would be nice to sample an anniversary pie before the couple got a taste.  (I do hope they let me have a bite though!!)

It was really fun for me to spend the entire morning in the kitchen.  It's always enjoyable to try out new-to-me recipes and to whip up old standby recipes.  I have an old standby pie crust recipe that makes seven single crusts.  You know it's an old recipe when you read "lard" as one of the ingredients.  I have since changed it up a little by making the crusts with half lard and half butter.  I think it's superior to the old recipe, but honestly, an all-lard crust is heavenly too. 

How do you like your pie crusts?  Do you have a favorite pie recipe or favorite pie you like Best Of All?  I just love all pies.  My step-dad used to say he liked only two kinds of pie.  Hot and Cold.  I wholeheartedly agree!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May baa baas...



 Baa Baa, the web's most famous ewe!




Lambies are being born to the yearling ewes this month.  The yearlings do not always have babies because of their youth, but since our lambs are born in February, they are older and their bodies are  mature enough for breeding.  If we breed them to lamb in May sometimes they will "catch" and conceive.  The majority of them did and here they are, doing their job out on the grassy, green pastures.  Aren't they pretty against that lush green?

I went up to Dick's Pasture tonight to check on them and thought I saw a ewe, dead on her back.  Then I thought I saw her leg move a very little bit so I drove over to her and got out to see.  Sure enough, she was alive, but had probably been there a while.  I flipped her up on her legs and she toddled off.  She was an older ewe and super-big and pregnant.  It happens sometimes when a pregnant ewe lay down, she has a hard time getting back up.  I hope she'll be ok.  Sometimes when a ewe is on her back for too long, her equilibrium gets all wonky and she end up on their back again.  We will have to watch for her.


I was in town today visiting the "townie grandgirls" and shopping for flowers at the farm/ranch store.  As we were waiting in line to buy our flowers, the girls pulled me over to see the baby ducklings.  They were very sweet, but the cutest, most interesting thing to me was this Siamese cat who was  stretched out over the screen that covered the ducklings. I'm sure it was a warm, cozy place for her to nap,  but I thought it was so funny --  like "the fox guarding the hen house."

My gardens are all planted to capacity now and the new hay field is planted too so all that's left to do is pray for rain.  As green as it is, we are seeing signs of it drying up and the reservoirs could sure use a topping off.  A good inch of rain would do us just fine right about now.  We've got chances for rain most of this week so we are hopeful.

Tomorrow I'll plant a few flower pots with one of my favorite front porch flowers -- red geraniums.  I picked up some white wave petunias to mix in with them.  Can't wait to show you!  Until later, thank you for stopping in to say Hi!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

For the birds!

 Northern Oriole or Baltimore Oriole
I call him "Orange Lightning" because he flashes by so quickly I'm not sure what I'm seeing! 
The neon orange is a dead giveaway and so's the song.


This fellow is the Black-headed Grosbeak.
He and his wife have been occasional visitors to my feeders.
This is a noisy bird when the window is open in early morning.

 Friendly acrobats, the American Goldfinches are happy with my new mesh feeder.
I particularly like the call "See Me?" among their many squeaks and warbles.

 We've had many, many of the Spotted Towhees on the ground, busily digging and scratching amongst the mulch in my garden beds. They are the size of sparrows, but have that rusty-orange coloring on their sides like a robin.

This is the White-throated Sparrow that I've told you about before.
They are staying close by and treating me to their sweet song.
"Sweet, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada."
Below in the shadows is another Towhee.

Peach, my neighbor grandgirl who is now 7.5 years old, is a great lover of birds.  She reads and studies her bird field guide all the day long, and she loves to be outdoors scouting out the birds in the shelter belt beside her house.  Her mother says she can hardly eat a meal because she is so transfixed on the birds outside the sliding glass door next to the table.  She and I have many excellent bird talks together. 

Her sister, Toodles who is 5, has become an observant bird watcher by default.  She told me of a bird she saw with her dad when they were out farming a field in the tractor.  "It was a very large bird with tall legs and a long neck.  It had a body about this big with a head about this big and it's beak was long and pointed, and it had a little tuft of hair on its head."  I knew immediately the bird she described -- A Sandhill Crane She was so pleased to be able to tell her big sister she saw a Sandhill Crane!  Her silly dad thought it might be a Flamingo, but Toodles knew better because, "Flamingos are pink!"

What birds are you seeing this spring?  Do you have any birding tips?  I've found that a filled bird bath is a great attraction for backyard birds.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Origins...

 This, my friends, is the humble Gumbo Lily
from which this blog name has it's origins.

The gumbo lily (Oenothera caespitosa) grows in gumbo soil which is a very heavy clay soil.
When it rains, gumbo becomes very slimy and sticky and then drys and cracks when  as you see in the picture above.  It does not grow much grass, but only a few select flowers and forbs which can sustain a life in hard clay. The roots of the gumbo lily go down deep as a tap root.  I've tried to transplant them in years past without success.  Either I didn't get enough of the root, or the soil conditions were not right for it to thrive -- or possibly both.  I've always considered myself akin to the gumbo lily.  When I first moved out to the ranch as a young bride of 19, I didn't know how well I'd adapt to lonely prairie life, but as the years passed, I began to put down my root deeper and deeper into the soil of the land and life, and now I doubt you could pull up enough root to transplant me anywhere else.  This is where I belong.

Hubby picked  gumbo lilies for me this Mother's Day.  
I wish you could smell them.  Heavenly.

 Hubby and I went out feeding and checking livestock this morning.  I hope you'll enjoy the pictures I took below.  The cows and calves are very content in their summer pasture.  The calves below are branded and turned out.  There are others yet to be branded and vaccinated before we can take them out to their summer pastures.

Locoweed
Lambert's Locoweed ( Oxytropis lambertii) purple
 White locoweed (Oxytropis sericea Nuttall)

Locoweed is just what it sounds like.  A weed, although beautiful, that can make livestock crazy or actually poison them and kill them.  Most of the time, livestock avoids these plants, but occasionally, they will ingest the weeds when the grass is tall and covers them up.  We think we lost a cow this spring to locoweed or more likely to Meadown Death Camas.  It looks very much like wild onions that grown rampantly on our prairie.  It is said to be more poisonous than strychnine.  Thankfully we had a cow mama that had needed a baby, so we grafted the calf on her.



 

The apple tree in bloom on the right has it's origins in an apple seed.  Hubby used to throw his apple cores over the shop roof for fun, and one day an apple tree sprouted and grew.  So far we've only had one apple crop from it, and every year I am hopeful for another.  The apple tree on the right is one Hubby and I planted called Northern Lights.  It has produced a handful of small apples, but never much.  It's still young.  Do you see the bucket of apple blossom stems in the right-hand pic?

I'm experimenting.

Maryann, an 80 year old nursery owner, told my husband that when you have a plum tree with no other tree to pollinate it with, you can cut some branches from another plum tree and put them in a bucket beside the one you wish to pollinate.  Well, I thought that was such a brilliant idea, that I decided I'd try it with my own apple trees.  I cut branches from the Shop Apple Tree and put them by my Northern Lights to see if it might help it to pollinate.  I also took some branches from an old Whitney Crab tree from the pasture and brought them over to the Shop Apple Tree to see if it might help it to pollinate.  I'm just trying to be a Good Garden Fairy.  I hope that spreading the fairy dust helps!

 Little American Goldfinches are visiting my backyard in their yellow tuxedos!

I hope you're having a wonderful Mother's Day today.  I'm enjoying the outdoors!



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