Monday, December 05, 2016

Ravished with wonder...

I mentioned to you that I am reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp for my Advent meditations and so far, it's been a very good thing for me.  One phrase that has captured my attention comes from a quote from John Calvin.  
Every human being is "formed to be a spectator of the created world and given eyes that he might be led to its author...first to cast our eyes upon the very beautiful fabric of the world in which God wishes to be seen by us...As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at His infinite goodness, wisdom and power.
The phrase "ravished with wonder" has captivated me.  I think about it now in lots of little things I see and feel and hear and smell.  Since I am a lover of nature, I am ravished with wonder at the chickadees, nuthatches, starlings and grouse that overwinter with us.  It's cold here.  Just 10* tonight and promises of colder days yet to come.  And they are here, happily visiting our feeders and living in the tree patches and hay stacks.

Since the cold has returned, we've been building fires in our wood burning stove and I am ravished with wonder to watch the beautiful tongues of fire and to feel it's warmth as I stand with my cold backside to it.  In winter there is no better way of warming-up that is better than the warmth of a wood fire.
Walking in the biting wind with snow pelting my face as I close a gate in the pasture, I am ravished with wonder at the power and strength of the wind and the cold temperatures combined, and I am amazed at how quickly I get chilled, bundled up as I am, but our thick-hided Hereford cows and woolly sheep can tolerate this weather seemingly without a care.

Do you love the smells and tastes of Christmas as I do?  Are you ravished with wonder at the aromas of fresh-baked bread,  juniper branches, or the spices of star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ginger?  I love those warm, earthy smells and flavors.  I like to put them in my pot of water on the wood stove and let their spicey goodness permeate the air, and I like to taste them in my hot lemonade and in cookies and cakes.  The pomegranates are in the grocery store now.  They are so delicious!  I am always taken by the beautiful red jewels that grow inside -- the sweet, juicy seeds that we love to eat this time of year.

I am ravished with wonder at the sounds of our youngest grandchildren learning to talk, saying the names of their siblings or saying, "Bye bye" and "Yeah" and "No!" and "Air compressor" and "Water tank" and "Bye Gammy!"  And I am blessed to hear the older grandchildren learning to read and love books.  It is a fine thing to have little people climb up into my lap with their favorite books who seem to be ravished with wonder as I read the same stories to them over and over again.  It's a joy, and an honor, and a blessing to me.

So I challenge you to be ravished with wonder this Advent season.  Go to the window, to your back door, go for a walk, look up at the stars, listen to a child and listen closely.  Breathe in the spices of the season, taste it, feel the cold of a snowy day or the warmth of a mug of hot tea.  Love is there.  It's a gift, just for you, from the God of Love.  He is the author of it.  Come, let us adore Him!

Friday, December 02, 2016

A little break in the weather, a little cheer...

 We went from Blizzzzzz.... sunshine and melting in a few days. The poor chickens were literally cooped up while the wind blew and the snow sifted into the cracks of the hen house and the barns.  Today the snow melted off, mostly, and the girls got to go out and scratch in the sunshine.  Do you see the kittens amongst them?  George and Elaine.

I've been puttering around about the house and in the Christmas things.  I decided to make a couple of little wreaths with juniper greens that I cut from our trees.  I just wired the greenery on wooden embroidery hoops and added a smart, red ribbon.  Ta da!  I like to put branches of juniper here and there around the house in vases and around candles.  It smells so good.

This is my new tinsel tree.  
I've always wanted one, and this year I splurged.
The star on the top changes colors 
which I think goes very well with my retro-vintage tree.

The mantel above our wood stove is decked out with greens and lights and Nativity.  I used to try to put candles in those glass hurricanes, but learned to just put some battery lights in them instead.
This is my tiny nativity set which sits on our old trunk so little ones can look closely at the scene.  The Fontanini sets are so nice because they don't break and I don't have to worry about small hands holding the figures.

I've started my own Advent study using this book:
 by Ann Voskamp.
So far, I'm really enjoying it.

The men hung the Star on the Barn 
and set up the cross on the well house
so we are all set for the Christmas Season to begin.

I hope you're enjoying special moments as you unwrap Christmas treasures, hang wreaths, light candles and sing jolly songs.  May you take JOY in every gift of every day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Day of Preparation...

It's the Day of Preparation at my house. Yours too?
Helpful tip of the day....
Taste your batter, fillings, and everything.  You never know if you missed an ingredient like sugar.  Yes, sugar!  One year I was making pumpkin pies.  I poured the filling into the shells and slid them into the oven.  While cleaning up the bowls and beaters, I tasted the pumpkin pie filling -- ick!  No sugar!  Thankfully I was able to pull the pies out of the oven poured the filling back into the bowl so I could add sugar.  One little lick of the spoon or beaters just might save the day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Snow day and eyeing sheep...



The snow blew in this morning around 6:00 and didn't stop all day long.  I suppose we have 3-4" of snow on the level, but since the ground was warm, there was plenty of melting underneath despite the constant snowfall on the topside.  We are so grateful for the moisture it's providing.  It settles the dust and softens the grass to make it more palatable for the livestock.  The sheep love to eat snow just like children like to eat snow!

Hubby and I went out to feed cows and sheep this morning.  They were glad to see us.  It really wasn't that cold -- maybe 25* -- but they always love to hear our horn honk and see the cake feeder driving up to them.

Yesterday our neighbor sheep shearer came over and we eyed the sheep.  That means he sheared the wool off the sheep's faces so they can see in winter conditions.  Some sheep have lots of wool on their faces despite our efforts to select "open faced" ewes when we choose our replacements.  When they have so much wool on their faces, we call them "wool blind" and it can be a bad thing since sheep flock and follow one another.  You know the phrase:  the blind leading the blind?  That's what can happen when the majority of the sheep are wool blind and get a layer of snow and ice caked over their eyes.  They can drift in with the snow and not know where they are or where they're going.  But as you can see, our sheep are not wool blind but have nicely sheared, open faces -- and in just the nick of time!  The snow came the following day!  I'm happy for the sheep being able to see and to lick snow today.

What is your November weather looking like?  We built a fire in the wood-burning stove today.  Nice 'n' cozy!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Moon shine...

When I look at YOUR heavens
The work of YOUR fingers
The Moon and the Stars
Which YOU have made
What is man
that you are mindful of him?
and the son of man
that you care for him?
~Psalm 8:3
Are you looking up?
At the moon? 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Fly-Over Country....

Yesterday was Election Day and I was honored to sit on our local election board serving at my first General Election at the Community Hall with the Outdoor Toilets.  This is how we roll in the Sticks.  The first time I voted in Rural America 35 years ago, we all voted at the Little Missouri Lutheran Church which also has outdoor toilets, but that polling place is no more.  Folks come from approximately a 50 mile radius to exercise their right to vote at the Hall.  And boy, do they turn out!  Although we are a small community of souls, our voter turn out was 96% according to my calculations.  How about that?

There are lots of smiles and handshakes and "How ya doing?" at the Hall on Election Day.  Its as much a celebration for us as it is an exercise of our rights as citizens of the USA.  These fine folks are proud to be Americans and they'll gladly let you know it.  We don't get many politicians coming to our state or our communities to glad-hand for our votes.  We live in Fly-Over Country.  It's big, it's vast, it's rural, and our population is small so we tend not to be heard so much, but we take our right to speak through our votes very seriously.

Today, the day after the election, I was appointed to deliver the counted ballots to the county seat, a 72 mile drive, one way, through Fly-Over Country.  I thought it would be fun to take you along so here's a little photo journal of my trip. (And here's a little road trip music for your listening pleasure -- a song I woke up with in my head yesterday!  Peace of Mind by Boston.)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Po-tA-to, po-tah-to....

I finished digging up the rest of the potatoes today and there were loads of them.
Thank goodness for littles who like to kneel down and pick up spuds!  The grands were a great help.  I'm guessing we dug up 50+ pounds of potatoes today, adding that to about 25 pounds previously dug.  I'm happy with it, especially in a dry year.  One thing I'm a bit frustrated with though is the scabbing that happened on them.  At first I thought it might be due to some insects or maybe pill bugs (roly poly bugs), but upon further research, I have come to find out that it's a bacteria that happens on tubers when the pH is too high or when watering isn't sufficient or is applied at the wrong time.  There are also potato varieties that are more prone to potato scab than others.  So now I'm armed for next year's planting with more information.  As I've said before, every year is an experiment in the garden.  Just when you think you've got it figured out, you find another twist in the garden variables that you didn't reckon for.

 Letting the freshly dug spuds dry for a few hours in the sunshine.
 Do you see the scabbing?  
I noticed it more on the red potatoes than the white, but the white had it too.
I also noticed that the smaller spuds didn't seem to have as much scabbing.  Perhaps they got more water at the particular time they were setting on?  I'm not sure.  The good news is that the scab doesn't affect the edibleness of the spuds.  They won't win any awards at the fair and won't bring prime dollar at the farmer's market, but we'll give thanks and eat them up gladly!  I have to say, there's really nothing like a homegrown potato! 

Next year's pre-planting chores:

*  Test the soil.  pH should be 5 or 5.2  No higher.  Add sulfur to decrease pH.
* Choose scab resistant varieties:  Chieftan, Netted Gem, Nooksak, Norgold, Norland, Russet        Burbank, Russet Rural, Superior, Viking.
*  Water well especially during bloom time when potatoes are setting.
*Consider a new plot (?)

One more thing I wish to share with you.  Since I do the "No Dig Method" of potato planting, I've also been looking at the "No Dig(Till) Garden method.  Basically, you smother grass and weeds with a good layer of compost or use heavy carpet or other stuff to suffocate the grass.  Instead of tilling, you apply a thick layer of compost or well-rotted manure on top of the soil and plant.  I'll leave a couple links for you to explore if you're interested.  This fall I dumped my raised beds and added more rotted manure to my fenced-in garden.  In our dry climate, I have found that the ground beds seem to hold moisture better than the raised beds.  I didn't till the garden because the tiller quit me.  It needs a carburetor.  It turns out to be a blessing -- I will try the no-till method instead!  Less work!

All that's left standing in the gardens are the asparagus, parsley, and a few short lettuce plants.  I think I'll dig the lettuce up and bring it indoors for a mini-salad garden under grow-lights.  I've ordered a few lettuce seeds to plant indoors for winter.  Another experiment!  I did cut a gob of parsley yesterday and I'm drying it on the dining table.  It really does taste better than the dry, powdery stuff you buy at the store.  It's SO green!  And delicious!

Thanks for stopping by!

No Dig Abundance, Charles Dowding
No Dig Organic Gardening

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hallelujah carrot....

 I've pulled up all the carrots, washed and bagged them up for the garage refrigerator.  I always like seeing what kinds of extra legs and limbs some carrots grow.
I found this one amongst the bunch and named it
The Hallelujah Carrot.
CaregiverSon says, "Your garden is blessed."
It was fairly successful despite the dry summer.
The potato patch produced quite well. 
I've uncovered and dug up half of the spuds.
  I'll wait to dig the rest until it sounds like a cold snap is coming.

 We have finished weaning calves and turned out all the cows to their winter pasture.

 Wide open spaces.
Can you just breathe in the clear, fresh air?
Crisp and clean.
Fall has been snappy these past couple weeks--
Sunny, but with a chilly wind that forces me to understand
that summer is past and winter is just around the corner.
Even though I've brought the Big Geranium into the garage to keep it safe from frost,
I know better than to think I will save it forever.  I brought in the Rosemary and Oregano with hopes that I might keep it growing indoors awhile, but the lack of sunshine hours will likely cause them to fade quickly.
Fall is here.
And that is that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

First Snow...

Was the First Snow.
Just a skiff,
but still
It's gone today.
That's okay
by me.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Work and play...


Gathering cows from the far North pastures takes time.
The pastures, as you can see, are terrible.  There has been less rain up there.
We probably should have brought the heifers home sooner.
We've been working cows, boosting vaccinations on all the calves, sorting into bunches,
and weaning some of the calves.  We've had several days of this.  It's fun to go through all the cows and calves and see how they are doing, but it's a lot of hours of work too. 
 Cowpokes like me feel it in the shoulders and hands.

We also worked the bred heifers to see which ones we will add in to the herd and which ones we will sell in November.
154 head averaged 949 pounds.
(a tally we need)
We DID get some rain!  
About an inch, which is wonderful for us.
No water running into stock ponds, but moisture nonetheless.


 When I'm helping trail cows, I am always looking for interesting things along the way.  I find feathers and plants, rocks and bones.
On this particular day, I found a pile of bones.  An old cow died.
This was her skull.
Evidently she had a lump jaw.  
I thought it was cool how the lump turned into a kind of calcium coral reef.
Ugly and beautiful.

Below is more of my playing...
...fiddling with watercolor paints.
I've been having fun with some video tutorials.
They are very inspirational!

 The sketchbook on the left is my nature journal.
When I homeschool our kids, we all had nature journals to keep.  I've kept one on and off since retiring from my teaching job, and I've decided to start up again.
I tried to plunk a little watercolor in on my sketches.  It works ok.
I like it, but the paper is not so great (for watercolor) since it's just sketch paper.
I might look for a watercolor journal next time.

 Do you know the movie:  
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?
I grew up watching it when I was a girl, and our kids grew up watching it too.
Now it's time for the grandies to love it.
Well, my pumpkin watercolor above is a tribute to that Charlie Brown story 
and a tribute to my pumpkin patch
which is very sincere.
My grandkids had fun picking their very own pumpkins -- for decorating
and for carving jack-o-lanterns.

Sunflowers and a chickadee.
The chickadee is in my nature notebook too.
They've stopped by to feed and water in my backyard.
I do hope that some of them will decide to stay with us through the winter.

I've pulled up all the tomatoes now and have the green ones setting beneath newspaper in the garage with great hopes that they will ripen as the days pass.  The kids helped me pick all the pumpkins and those, too, are stored in the garage.  I'm leaving the potatoes and carrots underground and will pull them up as we need them.  They store best in the earth....until it freezes.
We did have our first freeze last week.
It's turning.
Fall is here!
Guess what?
I'm getting 33 eggs per day from the hens!
It's an EGGstravaganza!
Omelet anyone?

Are you taking a little time to play this fall?
Please tell me about it.


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