Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cookin' With the Best!

     Now that the holidays are nearly over, I pause to reflect on many of the treats and meals I've fixed. I love to cook and I love to experiment in the kitchen. I figure most of the recipes I use were, at some point, experiments that worked out pretty well. But there are just some recipes that you don't mess with. I prefer to call them the "Champion Recipes", provided by top-notch cooks in the area.
     I have a fetish for cookbooks, especially community books. I love thumbing through local cookbooks, even if they're not from my community. I've come to recognize the wonderful cooks in all the cookbooks if I didn't know beforehand. In my own community, however, I know which recipes to trust to the utmost.
     You can tell which cookbooks are my favorite simply by their tattered and torn covers. There are two Edison cookbooks that are fondly referred to as the "green book" and the "orange book" by those who own them. We know of which book we're talking about. I've long lost the green and orange covers of these two books, but I know exactly which is which. I love one of the recipes in the green book submitted by Lillie Anderson. It's not so much the recipe as how it's written. It's how to make chicken dressing. It reads, "Roast one fat hen until tender." Then it goes on to tell how to make the dressing from the broth just secured from said fat hen. The dressing is marvelous!
     Corky Golding has a cookie recipe in one of the books that says to use a 15-cent Butterfinger candy bar. It's a bit challenging today knowing what size of Butterfinger candy bar that is, thus the experimenting. Same with a number 303 can of beans, vegetables, etc. But it's all good.
     I'm sure each of you have your favorite "cooks" who have submitted recipes in your local cookbooks. Here are a few of mine that are definitely "no-fail" cooks: Corky Golding, Mable Keller, Margaret Gieck, Marge Anderson, Shirley Eichman, Shirley Eichman (yes, there are two of them), Pearlie Geist, Juanita Rasner, Etta Jenkins, Ellen Tanner, Corinna Sullivan, Irene Keller, Peggy Bennett, Penny Book, Janell Reid, Patsy Tompkins, Jody Gieck...well, heck, that's practically all of the green and orange books.
     Mike Kenney submitted a champion Peanut Brittle recipe (along with Vada Harmon, Mary Golding, and Marge Anderson) that I use every year for my holiday brittle. Jake eats the brittle out of the container and I usually have to make about six batches.
     In addition to the community cookbooks, I also own Margaret Gieck's book, two by Patsy Tompkins, a Falcon Fire Department book that's almost seen its better days, a Tri-County Fire Department book that's super, a wonderful Simla cookbook (Lorene Florey, Alberta McKim Moreland, Linda Maranville, Mary Ann McKim, May Ann Allen...just to name a few of the wonderful cooks).
     Well, all this talk about cooking is about to make me hungry. I might have to break out one of the books and create something new and different for dinner tonight. How about a recipe from "Tried & True", recipes from Colorado's Cattle Country, which includes submissions from the Cage Ranch at Wild Horse, my good friend Jerilyn Vick from Boyero, Janell Reid, Jean Reid...the list goes on. I figure I can't go wrong if the recipes are used to feed hungry cowboys during big spring brandings!
     I will share the peanut brittle recipe with you, just because it's still the holiday season and I'm in a sharing mood: 1 c. sugar, 1/2 c. white corn syrup, 1/2 c. water, 1 c. raw peanuts, 1 tsp. oleo, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. soda. Cook sugar, water, and syrup to soft ball stage. Add peanuts and continue cooking until syrup is light brown in color and gives a hard crack test. Remove from fire and add vanilla, butter, and soda. Mix well. Pour onto buttered platter. When cool and hard, break into pieces.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best Christmas Ever!

     Funny how every year we seem to say "That was the best Christmas ever!" Well, I do believe this was the best Christmas ever for me. It was the best because it was simple. Our family got back to the basics. We didn't gorge ourselves on food. We didn't have an over-abundance of gifts. But we did have each other and that's what made it the best.
     Our oldest son was able to come home from Arkansas for a week. He has to be back at work tomorrow. Our youngest son was not able to come home from Kansas for Christmas because he took off the Thanksgiving week. He did that because his co-worker lives in Indiana and Jade offered to give up his Christmas break so Ryan could have more time with his family in Indiana. That's how we brought them up, giving to others. Jake needed to be back early because his co-worker also wanted a couple of weeks off. He, too, took off Thanksgiving week so she could have more time off at Christmas.
     It was a dicey decision-wondering if I should make the trip with my husband to Hays, KS to spend Christmas with our sons. Jake took his vehicle and left for Arkansas today after spending a couple of quality days with his brother. I love that they are so close. I was concerned about my dad's health and condition, so I considered not going to Kansas. But Dad had a great day Friday when we went in to visit he and Mom. We took them a John Deere windmill and put it outside their patio door. Tears streamed from their eyes when they saw that windmill. I know it brought both of them back to the ranch for a while.
     So I decided to go to Kansas and spend a couple of days with the family there. I took all the fixings for a ham dinner for Christmas Eve. Simple--bone-in, spiral ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed sweet potatoes, fresh steamed asparagus, blueberry, cherry, and pumpkin pies. For Christmas Day, Jade smoked a brisket for us and I fixed mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh green beans, and, of course, the pie. I'm proud that my boys both know how to cook and aren't afraid to do so. That was a wonderful present, eating that delicious smoked brisket that Jade prepared. We weren't rolling out the door complaining of over-eating. It was just right.
     Just as the gift opening was just right. The boys "pre-selected" their Christmas presents. They didn't want much, which is great. They just wanted to be together. I enjoy purchasing little things for them, like maybe a western shirt that they know they're getting. What they don't know is what I've done to those "little things", such as having their respective cattle brands embroidered on the shirts or on the hot mitts I purchased right in front of them. So there remains that element of surprise.
     And, just like little kids enjoy doing, the boys dressed in their new "duds" and we went to church with Jade on Christmas morning. Then we enjoyed the delicious lunch and visited some more before Harold and I departed for Colorado, leaving the two brothers to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon and evening together, visiting and reminiscing. They called us just as we pulled into the yard. They hadn't gone to a movie or done anything other than ate leftovers, visited, and were watching a football game on television.
     That's the best Christmas present any parent could ask for--siblings so close and spending a simple Christmas together with the family and simple eats. It doesn't get any better than that. Merry Christmas to all of you and a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snow Days

     God is blessing us with beautiful snow that has blanketed everything. Yes, because we live on a ranch, the snow does create more hard work. It's difficult feeding the animals and it takes about double the time to get chores done. But it's worth it. The moisture will pay off next spring. And the beauty we see through God's reflection in the snow is priceless.
     My dad always looked forward to snow days. He'd venture out to the shop and build a toasty fire in the old pot-bellied stove. Usually, it was warmer in that shop than in the house. Many things would be accomplished in that shop on snow days.
      If our neighbor, Slick Moreland, would finish feeding his cattle and could make it through the pasture, he'd come up and spend hours visiting with Dad in that shop. Sometimes they would work on a project, but more often than not, they would just visit. I miss those days.
     I honed my basketball skills in that shop on snow days. The goal was obviously not a ten-footer, so I perfected my dunking technique...not that those particular skills paid off later. But the shooting and dribbling skills did get perfected and, more importantly, it meant quality time with Dad.
     I loved watching Dad weld something. He could fabricate just about anything. And, I can weld much better than I can sew, which really isn't saying much. It's not my mom's fault that I can't sew. She tried teaching me. But I just wanted to be outside more than I wanted to spend time in the sewing room. I also learned how to change the oil in vehicles and how to do some basic auto mechanic work on snow days. Dad used to always tell me, "Monkey (that was his pet name for me...don't ask), if you're gonna drive, you've gotta know how to take care of your vehicle. Check the oil...the gas will take care of itself."
     Watching Dad weld something seemed to mesmerize me. He'd always say, "Monkey, go get a welding helmet on. You can't watch me weld if you don't protect your eyes." And I'd grab an oversized helmet and sit and watch him fabricate something. There's just something about watching welding sparks dance on the table through a colored visor. It presents a different outlook on things...much like Dad would present a different outlook on things.
     Dad and I made lots of things in that shop. We'd visit and build. Sometimes we'd "invent" something for Mom to put in the house. I don't know exactly how proud she was of some of those things, but, being the good mom she was, she always displayed them. I thought they were pretty special, but looking back on those times now, I think it was just more the time spent with Dad.
     My dad's days are waning. He's under hospice care. He celebrated his 90th birthday in October. Last year I took a photo of he and Mom at Christmastime. He was in a rehab center, trying to build enough strength to move back to the apartment he and Mom share at assisted living. He did that because he's tough. He's made his living off the land. He's a survivor. This year I took a photo of he and our sons at Thanksgiving. His eyes lit up when they walked in the room. He doesn't talk much these days, but when he saw those two boys, he found some conversation deep within him.
     This is most likely my dad's final Christmas on earth. And on this snow day, I really wonder what he's fabricating in the shop in his mind? I think I might venture out to the shop later today and see what there is to do. And Dad, Monkey's gonna put on her welding helmet cause "I've got to protect my eyes."

     Thanks for the snow day memories, Dad!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Tis the Season!

     I love looking at Christmas lights. My family (well, I) used to put up outdoor lights and decorations, but that novelty kind of wore off a few years ago and I just enjoy looking at the ones others have so eloquently displayed. Tonight the local news featured a place in Pueblo that uses 83,000 lights. The thought of that boggles my mind. I thought 8 STRANDS of lights were a lot, but I can't even fathom 83,000 lights!
     When I was on the school board, I loved attending the annual state board association conference at the Broadmoor because the place is always so lavishly decorated and they put on the ritz in the old building. You can get free hot chocolate and cookies there, see massive ginger bread villages, and model train sets. Usually there are carolers dressed in period attire and it's all just a throw back to what we envision Christmas to be like.
     Another of my favorite haunts is the Seven Falls. They always light it up so beautifully and the drive up the canyon is simply breathtaking. If you visit on a beautiful night when the snow's not flying, you can roll down your car windows and listen as the Christmas carols echo throughout the canyon as you make your way to the Falls. There, your eyes are treated to multi-colored lights dancing off the roaring falls as the water tumbles beneath the ice. No photograph can do it justice.
     The past three years my travels in search of beautiful Christmas lights have taken me out of state. I've included a photo of this stop, which has become a favorite of mine. I probably won't return for many more Christmas seasons, however, because I won't have a reason to travel to Arkansas. Oops, I tipped off where the location is, but you should have guessed that if you scrutinized the photo well enough to see the razorback in the middle of the picture. They're proud of their hawgs in Arkansas, especially in Fayetteville, which is also home to the University of Arkansas Razorbacks.
     Despite all my ramblings through big cities and into five-star territories, I still prefer to take in the sights and sounds of rural Christmas settings. I find that rural dwellers seem to be a bit more creative when it comes to stringing lights and putting up decorations. There's just something about a real tractor all decked out in lights, pulling an old-fashioned wagon, plow, or manure spreader that's equally as illuminated. And Santa rarely dons a red cap--usually it's a grungy old Stetson that's probably seen it's better days, but still hangs in a special place on the front porch of the house that's beautifully and tastefully decorated with REAL wreaths and bows. Most of these places look like they've just leaped out of a Christmas card. That's probably where the card idea came from, don't you suppose?

     Well, I've put up a few photos for you to look at. They're urban decorations, but they carry the same message to all of you--have a blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trimming the Tree

     I finished trimming our Christmas tree today. That's a tiresome task, lots of ups and downs, both physically and emotionally. Normally my family members don't jump at the chance to help trim the tree, but I don't really mind. I like taking my time and reflecting on what the ornaments mean.
     Our tree is an artificial one, but the memories and love connected with it are so very real. Each ornament tells a story. My favorite ornament is the silver cross that is so detailed, it appears to be made out of wood with a silver coating. It  reminds me why we celebrate Christmas--to honor the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That ornament ALWAYS occupies a prime limb on the front of the tree.  My second favorite ornament is the gold Christmas bells bearing the date "September 25, 1982" and my husband's and my name. That's the day I married my best friend.
      I've bought an ornament every year for each of my boys since they were born. When they finally get a place of their own and want to set up their own Christmas tree, this can be a great start for them if they so choose. These ornaments probably won't mean nearly as much to them as they do to me, but that's okay. It was the love that went into choosing each individual ornament that really matters. The ornaments reflect their interests as young children, on through their school years, and now into adulthood. They range from homemade masterpieces each boy made as a preschooler, right through the shotgun shell ornament dictating their love for trap shooting. My three favorite ornaments for them depict the lifestyle they have come to love and they will always bear these roots, regardless of where they settle in life. Those three ornaments are a John Deere tractor, the aforementioned shotgun shell, and a cowboy riding a horse.
     The boys spend countless hours when they are together enjoying the freedom we are privileged to have and that is the right to bear arms. They love shooting their shotguns. Their grandpa instilled in them at an early age the importance of being good stewards of the land and how to drive the big tractors. And they quickly accepted my love of horses and riding and they so look forward to riding their horses and engaging in brotherly conversation whenever they are reunited at home.
     There are ornaments on our tree that are constant reminders of the tragedies that have occurred in our lives--everything from the 9-11 attacks on our beautiful nation to those special ornaments that revive the memories of a lost loved one--be it a relative, close friend, or former co-worker. Other ornaments force spontaneous outbursts of uncontrolled laughter as I recall the event or events that led to the purchase of that particular story-telling ornament.
      Well, the tree's all lit up for another year. Some people express their talents through their Christmas trees by decorating them with beautiful bows or making them themed trees. Our tree looks pretty much the same every year. This year I forgot to string the shotgun shell rope around the tree, but that's okay. The shell ornaments carry the same message.





     So Merry Christmas to each and every one of you from our household. May the memories you create this year be special ones and may you forever remember the reason for the season!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today's Special

     So there's a food booth at the Colorado State Fair that specializes in "out-of-the-ordinary" cuisine. You know, those food dishes you don't normally find on most menus--yak burgers, kangaroo burgers, alligator on a stick, alligator stew, chocolate-covered ants, maggot sandwich--just to name a few. I will say that I didn't patronize this particular food stand when I visited the fair on Saturday. I don't know, I guess I just wasn't in the mood for a maggot sandwich.
     But I'm thinking I could supply their cause. We seem to have an infestation of these yellow and black worms. They're everywhere! It's kind of like when the President addresses the nation--he's everywhere and you're gonna miss Flipper! Well, these worms are everywhere and we can't even find Flipper for all the flippin' worms! Somebody told me we have these worms because of all the moisture we've had. I also have not found all this moisture to which they are referring, but, hey, it sounds like a great reason.
     I think they are New York worms because they are always in a hurry. They get on a mission to get somewhere and they go as fast as their little short legs can scurry across the driveway. Most of them attach themselves to green tumbleweeds. So I don't really need to paint the vivid picture for you of what it looks like when you step on one. The chickens don't seem to want to eat them. I thought chickens ate about anything. The pigs, however, think they are a delicacy!
     I think I could capture a bunch of these and take them to the state fair and sell them to that exotic food stand. I'm thinkin' second income here. Well, maybe it's a first income since I do ranch for a living! I wonder how you'd rope one of these critters? I'd probably have to pick them up and the thought of that doesn't exactly rank high for me on a scale of 1 to 10. I watched them today--they even like to race each other. I told you they are New York worms!
     Getting back to those chocolate-covered ants--do you "oldtimers" out there remember the freshman high school initiations we used to have to endure? For you newbies, that's a legal form of "hazing" freshmen into high school. We used to have to dress up in some stupid looking garb, like wearing a tea-towel for a diaper over a pair of sweat pants, an over-sized straw hat, and, my favorite one, the onion around the neck. I managed to slice my onion somewhat just to impress the upperclassmen. What the upperclassmen forgot was they got to endure the awful smell of the onion. Wearing one for a necklace somewhat took out the sense of smell and it wasn't all that bad.
     The upperclassmen also forgot that what they viewed as "punishment" actually was a reward for us--like having to stay after lunch and help the cooks do dishes. This was back before paper plates were used and actual silverware graced the cafeteria. It always took us such a looonnng time to get those dishes done! And the cooks always rewarded us with cookies or cake for a job well done.
     Initiation also involved a "special supper" prepared by the upperclassmen. It usually involved cow's brains (spaghetti), maggot pudding (rice or tapioca), and, in our case, actual chocolate-covered ants. Some candy store in Colorado Springs was selling them. I thought they were good. They tasted like those Nestle Crunch candy bars.
     On second thought, maybe I'll head back to the fair and try one of those exotic dishes. All but the maggot sandwich--I've seen tooooo many dead cows to go against my better judgment on this one. And maybe I'll take along a few of my "wiggly friends" to see if they're interested! Bon' appetit!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In The Spirit of the County Fair

     It's been a while, hasn't it? I've been busy, I guess. It finally rained, things are looking more promising, the cows aren't chasing the pickup looking for feed, God is good. We're in the heart of county fair season. My boys are too old for 4-H, but I miss them showing. I miss helping them work with their animals, going on daily walks with steers and hogs, and, yes, even the stress involved with getting ready for the fair.
     I wanted to share a few photos of the El Paso County Fair with you. I don't think these kids will mind me using them in my blog. They're great kids--they remind me of my sons when it came to fair time--hard working, helping others, seeing what they could do to help out in any way. They're also in my 4-H club, so they are truly "my kids." I laugh with them, I cry with them, I coach them, I see them through their disappointments, I celebrate with them. And years from now, I get to reap the rewards if knowing I had a small part in their character-building process back then.
     Before we get to the kids, I wanted to talk a little about how I actually got involved in the "fair preparations" this year. I was headed out the door, running late as usual, trying to make the breeding shows at the fair. I had a couple of kids showing heifers and goats and wanted to be there by show time at 8:30 a.m. As I was leaving my yard, I happened to glance at the bathtub that Jake had buried a couple of years ago hoping the ducks would use it for a swimming hole. They don't. These ducks are afraid of water if they can't touch the bottom. Go figure. The dogs love the tub, however, because it does make a great swimming hole for them on triple-digit days. But I'm not sure where the chicken population figures in.
     I happened to see something in the tub and it wasn't a duck and it wasn't a dog--it was a chicken. She was just floating in that tub. I know chickens aren't the greatest swimmers. I was mesmerized at the county fair one year watching the poultry kids prepare their chickens for show. They stood them on five-gallon buckets, soaked to the last pin feather, and were blow drying the hapless hens. One of the poultry kids told me the chickens can't fly off the buckets when they're soaked. They were not, I repeat, NOT using steer blowers, although that might have been fun to watch. Hair dryers seemed to do the trick.
     So I plucked my water-logged hen out of the tub and knew I needed to dry her off. She was shivering uncontrollably and couldn't stand up. I'm not sure if she spent the night in that tub of water, but she was weak, cold (even though it was already 90 degrees), and had given up. I raced into the house and grabbed my hair dryer. About that time my husband drove through the yard and did a double-take. There I stood, hair dryer in hand, hen perched on a bucket, blow drying the egg producer. The more I dried, the prettier she became and the livelier she got. I knew this had to be working, but I also needed to hit the road to get to the show. I quickly finished the job, perched her in the sun next to a pan of water (to drink, not to swim), gave her a little grain, and headed to the fair. When I returned that night, she was running around, clucking like crazy. Success!




     See--4-H leaders can learn from their kids! I knew those demonstrations throughout the years would pay off if I just paid attention to content and not presentation only. Anyway, I wanted you to see the hen in the tub. Sorry I didn't get any photos of the finished product. I also wanted you to see the love of the kids and their 4-H animal projects.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Party Hats & Ice Cream Cones

     We were enjoying dinner tonight at Applebee's when in parades a family plus others who are obviously going to celebrate someone's birthday. I only knew that because they were carrying birthday banners and presents. The presents were NOT a dead give-away, but I kinda figured the birthday banners were. Anyway, it got me to thinking (eating and thinking for me at the same time is way multi-tasking!). Who designed those hats that are worn at birthday parties and sometimes at New Year's Eve parties? You know, those cone-shaped hats that look like a miniature dunce hat precariously perched on a basketball.
     After everyone got seated and before the wait staff could take any orders, everyone in that party had to put on one of these hats, you know with the thin rubber band engulfing your chin so you can't really talk for fear of it stretching to its limit and smacking you right back in the kisser. They do look kinda stupid sitting there on top of someone's head, don't they? Although, when you think about it, no one really seems to mind. They're more interested in seeing if the candles can be extinguished with one fell swoop (I know some people who can't, but that's another blog!) or what's inside the pretty packages. I, for one, am more interested in getting to the heart of the menu and then to the traditional cake and ice cream that follows.
     So, really, where or when did these hats first make their appearance? Any trivia or history buffs out there? I probably could look it up, but that would be just way too easy. So I'm asking anyone willing to offer an explanation here. I do have an explanation, so I'll start this silly little game. Take a good, hard look at the hat when it's sitting on someone's head. Then slowly tilt your own head clockwise until your hair part reaches six o'clock. That would mean your chin is at noon (or midnight, whichever you prefer). Do you see what I see? Yes, it's actually an ice cream cone.
     Look again, quickly before it melts--er, leaves, or goes away, or whatever. The cone hat on top of the head makes it appear as an inverted ice cream cone. So if you tilt your head clockwise (or counterclockwise, whichever floats your root beer), you can see that the person's head becomes the "ice cream scoop" and the hat is the cone.
     So I offer this explanation of why the pointy hats were designed that way--ice cream cones and birthday parties are a great marriage. So much more longevity than any of Elizabeth Taylor's unions. So I think the hat was designed with the ice cream cone in mind. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fred

     Fred croaked.
     Well, actually, Fred died. He must be a victim of the drought. I think I first met Fred when he was just a little tad a couple of years ago when it last rained 'a good 'un.' Fred was on my doorstep and I nearly accidentally ended his life then when I stepped outside and he didn't give me a warning sign.
     I didn't see much of Fred after that. Oh, I saw him a couple of times hopping around the yard, looking for a swimming hole. But those were few and far between, as they still are. I never really thought much more about Fred until a few days ago when he surfaced--all petrified in a frog-sitting position. It's kind of sad seeing Fred that way. He was such a vibrant fellow, so full of life.
     But, actually, he appears to be "frozen in time", if you will. We discovered him in the bottom of the well pit. Poor guy probably thought that was his last resort so he tried to find water the only way he could. I'm sure it was dark in that well pit, but, then, I don't think frogs really mind if it's dark. They're probably most happy if there are a few insects to munch on and I"m sure there isn't a shortage of those in the well pit. From the looks of things, Fred grew up to be a good sized fella.
      I'm not sure what kind of stories Fred could tell if he were still alive. Probably a few about how he survived dry conditions as long as he could. I really hope Fred's predicament isn't an omen for the rest of us trying to weather out this drought. Hey, Fred, it's actually thundering outside right now. Could it be? Or is that just you singing your choruses in Froggy Heaven? Well, it's got a nice beat, but you can't dance to it.
      I would have enjoyed hearing Fred croak rather than seeing that Fred croaked!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hensama Bin Layin

     I am thoroughly convinced that I own a terrorist hen. At first I thought she was simply the "leader of the hood", so to speak. She always comes running up to me at somewhat of an angle, kind of like she's going to jump up and attack, but at the last minute she changes her mind when I give her a piece of my mind. When she sees me or hears me come out of the house, she comes on a dead sprint from wherever she is on the farm. Well, she definitely is a "free-range" hen.
     No vehicle is safe from Hensama. If a door is left open, she not-to-politely invites herself into the vehicle. She'll stand there a minute, contemplating the best way to hop into the vehicle. If it's a pickup, she opts for the floor because it's too far up to the seat. If it's a car, she's pretty confident she can leap onto the seat with a single bound. If the door is shut, she'll stare down the front bumper and eye the top of the hood.
     But Hensama did something a couple of days ago that earned her "the" name. I cruised into the feed barn to toss out a little hen scratch. Hensama came on the run and flogged her way to the front of the proverbial pecking order. I just picked up the nearly-empty sack and tossed out a little feed--along with a mouse. Forget the feed! Hensama spied the mouse and the chase was on. She'd take her claws, talons, whatever they're called, and try to step on the mouse. Mighty Mouse would zig and Hensama would zag. All the while she is clucking at the top of her lungs and the rest of the chicken ranch residents looked at her as if she had totally lost the remains of her pea brain.
     After a couple minutes of unsuccessfully trying to stomp Mighty, ole Hensama finally succeeded. She had the little furry creature slapped down on the ground underneath her claws. Down came the beak with a mighty stroke and little finesse. And that, my friends, was the end of Mighty Mouse. But Hensama didn't stop there. She proceeded to have herself a little mouse for breakfast. Perhaps it's a delicacy for chickens in some parts of the world, but here in Edison, Colorado, I prefer to think of it as a terrorist hen's delight!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's a Ducky Day!

     Ranchers are much like domesticated ducks. It doesn't take a whole lot to make us happy. Just shut off the wind, give us some sunshine, and, above all, send us rain and we will flaunt our feathers and quack with happiness. Cows are hardy creatures--they seem to be able to exist on bare necessities. They can find a green sprout underneath a pile of dirt, given enough time. And it amazes me how the momma cows can provide, producing calves that flourish even in dismal conditions like we have experienced this spring.
     But last night it finally rained. I didn't sleep much because I didn't want to miss hearing one single drop of rain splat on our roof. It was a beautiful rain, soft and widespread. There was some lightning associated with it, but, in all, it was not violent. It was, as they say, just what the doctor ordered. This morning we were blessed with birds chirping rock 'n roll tunes rather than droll, twangy, 'cryin-in-your-beer' type songs. We were also blessed with puddles in our yard and a lake on the south side of the corral.
     You don't have to be a duck to enjoy the water in the yard. But it didn't take the ducks long to find the liquid treasure and begin splashing away. The chickens merrily clucked and scratched on the "beaches". The cows waded into the ditches and murmured how thankful they were not to have to travel a half mile to water. It was all provided in the ditches for their enjoyment.

     All the animals--dogs, cats, ducks, cows, horses--and humans seemed mesmerized by this environmental change overnight. Everyone seemed to be smiling. The cows didn't tarry over their hay like usual. They wanted to wrap their lips around the moist, albeit still brown, grass. The horses bucked and kicked. The dogs swam a quick lap across the duck's self-proclaimed pond. And I soaked in all of the wonders given to us by The Great Provider. Yes, it was a ducky day indeed!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Yard Cow

     We have an official yard cow here at our ranch. She's number 183--she doesn't really have a name, but we refer to her by that ear tag number. She's worn that number for several years and for those same years she has held the distinction of being our official yard cow.
     Number 183 usually waits until May to become the yard cow. She always calves early in the season and proceeds to be a great momma cow--that includes teaching her offspring EVERYTHING that calf does and does not need to know--like how to be a future yard cow (if it's a heifer). This is one of those cows who sticks her nose in the caker and stops the range cubes from falling out because she needs to get her "cake" fix before the rest of the herd gets a bite. She also has to beat Numbers 55 and 57, respectively, to the caker.
     She doesn't have to beat any other cow when it comes to being the yard cow. About May, when the weeds are beginning to come on strong and some of the green grass is poking through (remember, this is a story and today, it's a fantasy story!), the yard cow likes to step across the cattle guard and wander on into the yard to see what's growing. She teaches her calf how to gracefully step across the cattle guard as well. There is no jumping, there is no twinkle-toeing across, it's just a long stretch and she's on the other side. Her calf usually has to take a running leap, but is usually successful. If not, the calf can wait until the yard cow returns from her adventures in the yard.
     But since there is no green grass poking through the oceans of sand now pooled in the yard, Number 183 knows where the horse hay is. So she steps across the cattle guard and makes a beeline for the horse hay. She is quite uninhibited, this yard cow. She doesn't mind leaving evidence that she's been in the yard. She sees me coming out of the house or through the yard, and she immediately high-tails it out of the yard. She knows her limits, but she has to push the bounds.
     This morning, Number 183 decided to take a little closer look at domesticated living. There I sat in the dining room, having done the chores and I was relaxing with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and preparing to do my Bible study when something outside the window catches my eye. I did a double-take and there, looking right back at me through the dining room window was Number 183. She was scoping out the dining room, either checking to see if I was home or to see if there might be some horse hay or something better in there. Or maybe she was just trying to figure out a way to escape the umpteenth consecutive day of tornadic-strength winds.
     There is a question here that needs answered for those of you who know me and know who, or what, else resides on this ranch. Where, you may ask, were our two fearless cow dogs--Tulo and Air Jordan? Stretched out in front of the dog house, totally unconcerned that Number 183 had invaded their space. And this is what I feed them expensive dog food for?
     I opened the back door of the house, step outside and whistle at Tulo (aka Patches). She hops up all excited, grabs her ball, and heads for the door. Number 183 pivots in the front yard and heads for the cattle guard. I slammed the door shut and left both of them to fend for themselves.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the Spirit of the NFL Draft...

     While the courts are trying to settle this whole NFL lockout thing, my dogs are definitely in the spirit of the NFL draft that's ongoing. The nice thing about my dogs is they don't negotiate huge contracts. A little high protein dog food every day and occasionally a nice steak bone keeps them very contented. They love playing the game. Heck, they'd play even if they weren't fed, but they do enjoy the perks.
     I'm really wondering what kind of pay the top draft pick will command when it comes to signing on the dotted line. I've never really understood why college football players, who are unproven in the professional world, think they are worth millions. Baseball players work their way up through the farm ranks, but football players immediately think they need huge paychecks without ever stepping foot on the field. Sure, they've earned all these honors in college but, let's face it, that's a whole different ball game. It's like stepping up from junior high to high school. I think all collegiate players entering the pro football ranks should be given a base pay for the first year. Everyone on an even keel. Then after they've proven themselves, they can negotiate. That way a youngster coming out of college doesn't make more money than, say, Peyton Manning.
     That's where my dogs come into play. They'd be happy to play for bare bones, shall we say--pun intended. They don't really care what shape the ball is, as long as it travels and they can carry it in their mouth. They're really not true football fans, however. Patches, the Blue Heeler, carries the nickname Tulo. So you can figure that baseball is her sport. She can stop a hot grounder just like the Rockies all-star shortstop. We fondly refer to Tippy as Air Jordan. She loves basketball. Ask any kid who has tried to dribble past her--it just doesn't happen. She plays defense unlike anybody--dog or human. She uses her nose and bats the ball away just when you think you've gotten past her.

     But, like I say, they just love playing ball. The reason they are currently playing with a blue football is because they have lost their favorite rubber balls. I think that with the recent windstorms, those balls may now be in Kansas somewhere. So they dug up this beat up football. It's a little tough for me to get some distance on it when I kick it, but they don't care. It's the opportunity to chase a ball--for minimal pay and maximum fun. Isn't that what it's all about. And it didn't take a court order to decide that.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Wheels on the Cart Go...???

     So I must ask why, out of the multitude of shopping carts in a store, particularly a grocery store, I always seem to choose the one that has problems. It either has a squeaky wheel, or it pushes hard, or one wheel is out of round, or it pushes like a car needing an alignment job, or...
     I'm thinking there should be some type of job security out there for someone who can be a fulltime cart repair person. Perhaps that can be my new profession, or at least my second one. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible at a grocery store. There really should be no pomp and circumstance surrounding the spending of hundreds of dollars on a few items that fill only three sacks (or, if you're into green, fill only two bags that are brought from home).
     There I am, headed down the breakfast meat aisle, when all I hear is "sqwaak, thud, sqwaak, thud, sqwaak, thud." It doesn't help that I cannot seem to find the lean hog meat that we consumers are supposedly demanding these days. The judge just put an ultra-trim hog on top of the class at the county fair, but that gilt apparently did not make it to the grocery store. I think some cull sow wound up on the cooler shelves. So now everyone is looking at me, wondering what--or who--is making that awful noise. No, the "sqwaak, thud" noise, not the noise somewhat loudly complaining about the lack of lean hogs.
     I throw in some of the leanest fat bacon I can find, then head on toward the dairy products. "Sqwaak, thud, sqwaak, thud." What!!! That's highway robbery--three bucks for a dozen eggs. Oh, I see. They're from cage-free, organic, free-range hens. Well that explains it. Maybe those egg producers could donate a little of their profits to getting these free-roaming grocery carts fixed. I don't get three bucks for a dozen eggs and my hens most definitely are free-range and cage-free. Heck, I have no idea where they range all day long--unless I spy one out in the pasture chewing her cud with the cows.
     This cart is really beginning to annoy me. I am no longer inconspicuous (like I ever was!). I wander on over to the bread aisle, herding ole thump-a-long as I go. It's got a nice beat, but you can't dance to it. Holy smokes--$3.65 for a loaf of bread and the wheat producer gets how much from that loaf? Of course, with nearly four dollar fuel, it's obvious the grocery store can't afford to buy oil for the cart wheels.
     Well, it's a good thing this grocery shopping has nearly come to an end. I'm nearly worn out from the push me-pull me that's holding my little pot of gold ('er food). Yep, think I'm gonna pursue that idea of becoming a shopping cart repair person.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sometimes, Simple is Better

     I just heard this morning on the radio that the royal wedding is going to cost $34 million. Can you even fathom that? $34 million! I don't think I even spent $1,000 on my wedding. I thought mine was a royal wedding, but guess it didn't compare to this one coming up at the end of the week.
     Let's try to grasp that number--34 million. What could be done with that much money? Well, if it was divided equally among three places in the world, it could provide some rebuilding relief. How about Christchurch, New Zealand (have we forgotten that city was devastated by an earthquake?); or Haiti (how quickly we've forgotten about them); and then there's Japan (topping the headlines these days). That would be slightly over $11 million each and I'm sure each of those places would be so thankful to receive that much money to help out.
     We could bring it back to the United States. No, I'm not talking about plugging it into our budget, although that might be helpful too. Devastating tornadoes ripped our nation's midsection last week. A middle school was destroyed in Iowa. Can you imagine if your community's school was leveled in a disaster? That's the heart and soul of a community, particularly a small, rural one. Those kids have nowhere to turn right now. The families have been displaced from a school and many from their homes. Southeast Oklahoma lost many lives and homes in a rash of tornadoes. St. Louis was rocked just a couple of nights ago. It breaks my heart to see so much devastation. Arkansas is being flooded right now. Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas ranchers and farmers are going to need some type of financial aid pretty quickly if we don't receive some type of measurable moisture.
     And yet the British government is spending $34 million on a wedding. I really, truly wonder what Prince William and Kate really think about the whole deal? It kind of reminds me of a beautiful Easter church service. You can have elaborate choirs, instrumentalists, and bands playing to bring home the Easter message. Or, you can opt to reveal the word in simplicity, with your pastor singing a solo that definitely tugs at the heartstrings; or a good friend who has taught herself sign language and chooses to sign a beautiful Easter hymn.
     Most times, simple is better.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Back Yard

     Welcome to my back yard. I'd invite you in to sit a spell and enjoy a glass of sweet tea, but the sharpshooters on my roof tend to frown on uninvited guests. They also tend to point first and ask questions later. So you'll have to view my back yard from a distance.
     It wasn't always like this. About 35 years ago you could actually come through my back yard and into my home. I would even take you on a tour of my lovely house. I would explain many of its historic values and sometimes I would even invite you into my den--more commonly known as the Oval Office. If you were real fortunate, I'd even take you to the kitchen where, occasionally, I'd fix myself a late night snack without anyone else having to do that for me.
      I enjoyed showing off my home and my back yard because I really felt like it belonged to everyone--not just me. We'd light a huge Christmas tree together on the grounds. We'd hunt Easter eggs together after attending a Christian church service that morning. Oh, how I long for those days when we could all enjoy my home and my back yard.
      But those days are gone, thanks in part to 9/11 and some in part to my own choosing. Now I like to think of this place as "mine." I don't have to share it with anyone else. Wrought iron fences surround my back yard and you can peek through the fences, but you can't advance any further. You don't have that right. You're a commoner. But perhaps someday, when we once again begin using the constitution that was framed by some extremely wise men well over 200 years ago, we'll all be able to tear down those fences and enjoy my back yard!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Where, oh, Where???

     I was eating lunch today at a fast-food place. I'm not naming names, but it was the place that's been accused of omitting a good portion of its beef out of the orders. Point of the story is--it wasn't a five-star restaurant. Which brings me to the next point of my story--why is it so difficult to decide where to sit in a fast-food restaurant?
     We're not exactly looking for a seat with a view here. I've got two choices--either I can watch the traffic fly by on Academy Boulevard, or I can stare at the nearby 7-11 store. So where I choose to sit is basically a no-brainer. But it almost became a comedy of errors watching some people after they picked up their order.
     Okay, guys, I'll give you some credit here. It's usually the male who FIRST chooses the seat. He meanders on over to a booth, fixin' to sit down and tear into his triple-decker, soft/crunchy tacorino, when he suddenly is halted in his tracks. "That table's got some hot sauce on it. Let's find a cleaner table," she screeches. "This table is cleaner 'n that one," he counters. She shoots him THE LOOK. He obediently turns, drool dripping down his chin from the anticipation of biting into that tasty tacorino, and trudges to a table clear across the restaurant. It's the one with the view of Academy Boulevard.
     He places the tray on the table and begins to slide into the bench seat, but he's abruptly halted in that half-crouch position. "Eewww! I feel something sticky on this table. Let's move to that one over there," she orders, pointing back across the restaurant to the table next to the original choice. He glances at the tray filled with mouth-watering, heart-clogging temptations. Then he glances at the table across the way. Back and forth he shifts his glance, all the while maintaining the half-crouched position.
     "Come on," she growls. He pries himself away from the booth and trudges obediently to the other table. He carefully slides the now-lukewarm meal onto the table, hoping to salvage some semblance of a hot meal for lunch. He shoots a passing glance around the room, probably figuring this will not be his final destination. He's right. He doesn't even get into the crouch. "This table is too close to the door. Let's move to that one," she directs, pointing at...the original choice which, by now, has been wiped clean and invites hungry lunch-goers to utilize its dining prowess.
     She checks her watch. "Hurry up and eat!" she orders. "We're gonna be late for our appointment. I told you we didn't have time to eat lunch."
     By now, I'm on my third tacorino, trying to figure out what they did with the excess beef!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cats, Chicks, Canines...and Crayons

     I came across a saying the other day that totally impressed me. I shared it on Facebook, but, in case you missed it, here it is: "We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright; some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box."--Robert Fulghum
     That's kind of the way it is around our farm. Our animals are much like crayons in a box--they have all learned to live together. It is not unusual when I am feeding the horses or feeder calves in the morning to spot a hen casually clucking and scratching under the feet of said large animals. But no fuss or fight is made. They all coexist. I think there's something to be learned here.
     Our chickens, I believe, think they are part human and part dog and cat. They love eating the dogs' and cats' food. The photo below confirms that. They have no fear of those animals and, in fact, have been caught pecking a cat on the head for shear enjoyment, I guess.
     In the late afternoon when I go to gather eggs, it's a literal zoo at my feet. Cats, chickens, and canines surround me while excited clucks, meows, and an occasional 'woof' fill the air. It's comical to watch. When I'm filling a vehicle with fuel, I don't dare leave the door open or one of the feathered friends will hop in and check out the digs.
     The two remaining ducks that reside on our farm feel as though they are the queens of the place. If they hear any human voices, they immediately begin squawking and quacking, voicing their opinion on the matter. They love to pester the dogs by trying to sneak food out of the pan right in front of them. You can see in the photo where Patches is protecting her 'plate.'


     I like how these animals are unassuming and have no fear. They're a friendly bunch and there is no proverbial pecking order, if you will pardon the pun. They all coexist--much like crayons in a box.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Only in Colorado?

     I am a Colorado native. More specifically, I am currently living where I was raised (English teachers say you 'raise' cows and chickens and 'rear' children--I was raised). So over the years, I have come to understand that Colorado natives should not be surprised by our ever-changing weather, particularly in the springtime.
     Right now, as I look out my window, it's snowing and the wind is gusting over 50 miles an hour. This morning it was 70 degrees at 9 a.m. We attended church and a social function this afternoon, and upon returning home at 4 p.m., it was 44 degrees. That's, what, a 26-degree drop in seven hours? I almost didn't take a coat with me this morning when we left the house, but then I remembered I do live in Colorado. It once snowed on July 4th while we were at a rodeo. This was in southeastern Colorado, not in the mountains where it really never is summer.
     During calving season, I have had to move baby calves out of a raging snowstorm and put them behind windbreaks for protection. But I don't ever remember having to pick up a newborn and move it out of a sand-blasting dirt storm--happened one day last week. That would be the same day that three wildland fires were burning out of control to the south, east, and north of us. That, too, is very unnerving. It seems as though the whole state is on fire. Right now there are two wildland fires burning out of control south of here. One is only 30 miles away, the other near the Kansas border, but they have had to evacuate that nearby town.
     Tomorrow the high temperature is supposed to be in the mid-40's. By Wednesday, the high will push 70. We'll have our windows open again and be basking in the sun, all the while fighting "breezy" conditions. Out here, if it's going to be hurricane-force windy, the weatherman doesn't even bother mentioning it any more in the forecast. But if it's only going to be "breezy", he'll say it will be windy. We natives know of what he speaks.
     Last week we were reveling in eight inches of wet snow that had melted before mid-morning. It left behind approximately four-tenths of an inch of moisture. That's great for the green grass that is yearning to pop out of its winter doldrums. Eighty mile per hour winds do not aid the growth of green grass.




     So, having said that, if I can figure out all this technology, I'll post some photos with this showing the severe weather differences in a week--heck, even in one day. The natives know of what I speak! 

Monday, March 28, 2011

CPR, Anyone?

So I heard on the radio the other day that there is a growing number of people out there who are becoming CPR certified--on animals. It's called "Mouth to Snout." I'm not kidding you here, it's for real. I must admit that I am batting a thousand on my CPR animal attempts. I have actually performed CPR on three different newborn calves and managed to save them. I probably would attempt it on dogs and cats, too. I am a self-professed "chicken whisperer", however, I don't believe that would fall into my realm of performing CPR. And I absolutely, positively, would not perform CPR on a reptile of any kind. And, believe it or not, there are people out there who are getting certified to save said reptiles. I always have had the philosophy that a good snake is a dead snake. Well, I'm not quite that harsh. I have been known to gather up a bullsnake or two and toss them back over the fence into the pasture, while giving them a good scolding on why they are not to ever appear again in my yard. I'm sure they have understood every word I said. Rattlers, on the other hand, are a different story. I use no bargaining power with them and it will be a cold day before I perform CPR on a rattlesnake. I remember the time I was working for the local weekly newspaper and there was a murder/suicide in Elbert County. These people had all kinds of snakes in the house, including some very poisonous ones. The sheriff invited me to go along so I could get the "scoop" as they attempted to capture the snakes which had been set free before the human deaths occurred. I politely declined the offer to tag along. So that's probably why I am NOT the proud owner of a Pulitzer today. Anyway, throughout the ordeal, the law enforcement officials and some snake experts from Reptile Gardens in South Dakota managed to corral all but one of the slithery creatures. The one missing? A cobra from Thailand. They searched high and low and could not find this guy. Oh, I might add that this was all being done in the month of March. Let's connect Colorado, March, and Thailand. What do those have in common? Well, Colorado and March have cold in common, which is not too common in Thailand. The "brains" decided to look between the mattress and bed springs and there he was...too cold to move. They scooped him up, put him in a special snake barrel and fired up the heater in the pickup. It didn't take Ole Slithers too long to come alive! They shipped him to the Reptile Gardens where I'm sure he lived a full and happy life with his other slithery friends. So, I ask, should CPR have been performed in this instance? Maybe on me if I had been there!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Scrambled Mind Today


Today is tough. I've got my Bible open and I'm trying to read, but sometimes all I see are words. That's not right. There is a meaning here. Last night, Limon police officer Jay Sheridan was killed in the line of duty. That cuts deep. First of all, things like that are not supposed to happen in Limon. They're not supposed to happen anywhere, but it is the type of news we'd expect to hear in Detroit, Chicago, New York, and, perhaps even Denver. It shouldn't happen in Limon. That peaceful little village was rocked by a devastating tornado years ago. They rebuilt from that and they will rebuild from this horrible tragedy. But the tragedy goes even deeper. I know the family. I know the in-laws particularly well. They have been my friends throughout life. Now what kind of words can I offer than can help in this situation? There are the cliches--"if you need anything, let us know"; "what can we do for you?". Everyone is sincere when they say those things, but it sounds so cold. I want to be able to do something, so I am. I'm dedicating this blog to the Sheridan and Pfeiff families. Their lives must go on. They have to find a way to cope. I think of the new Rascal Flatt's song that could easily be played on Christian stations: "I will stand by you, I will help you through, when you've done all you can do and you can't cope; I will dry your eyes, I will fight your fight, I will hold you close and I won't let go." That sounds so much like God talking here. Yes, we can question God, we can wonder "why?" But isn't it in these situations that God is testing us for all we have? He knows where the rapists and murderers stand, but doesn't He want to see where we stand as Christians, to do things "For His name's sake?" Two scripture verses jumped out at me this morning: "I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." And the other verse: "Be still and know that I am God." May God bless you, Tim and Penny, Heather and Firecracker, and all the rest of your family. Please know that we are here for you in whatever way you need us! We love you.

A Scrambled Mind Today

Today is tough. I've got my Bible open and I'm trying to read, but sometimes all I see are words. That's not right. There is a meaning here. Last night, Limon police officer Jay Sheridan was killed in the line of duty. That cuts deep. First of all, things like that are not supposed to happen in Limon. They're not supposed to happen anywhere, but it is the type of news we'd expect to hear in Detroit, Chicago, New York, and, perhaps even Denver. It shouldn't happen in Limon. That peaceful little village was rocked by a devastating tornado years ago. They rebuilt from that and they will rebuild from this horrible tragedy. But the tragedy goes even deeper. I know the family. I know the in-laws particularly well. They have been my friends throughout life. Now what kind of words can I offer than can help in this situation? There are the cliches--"if you need anything, let us know"; "what can we do for you?". Everyone is sincere when they say those things, but it sounds so cold. I want to be able to do something, so I am. I'm dedicating this blog to the Sheridan and Pfeiff families. Their lives must go on. They have to find a way to cope. I think of the new Rascal Flatt's song that could easily be played on Christian stations: "I will stand by you, I will help you through, when you've done all you can do and you can't cope; I will dry your eyes, I will fight your fight, I will hold you close and I won't let go." That sounds so much like God talking here. Yes, we can question God, we can wonder "why?" But isn't it in these situations that God is testing us for all we have? He knows where the rapists and murderers stand, but doesn't He want to see where we stand as Christians, to do things "For His name's sake?" Two scripture verses jumped out at me this morning: "I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." And the other verse: "Be still and know that I am God." May God bless you, Tim and Penny, Heather and Firecracker, and all the rest of your family. Please know that we are here for you in whatever way you need us! We love you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Was Late for Church Because...

I was herding a chicken. That's why I was late for church yesterday. I'm thinking this could be a new Olympic sport--hen herding. No, I wasn't doing this just for the sheer fun of it or just to practice. Let's start at the beginning. Hubby went out yesterday morning early to feed the cows. I headed out to go check for new babies. It pretty much works this way every day of the week, so why should Sunday be any exception? I'm making the rounds, drumming my fingers to the beat of Randy Travis singing "Diggin' Up Bones", tagging a few calves, and generally enjoying life on a beautiful Sunday morning. Then I pull back in by the cattle cafeteria line to check on the babies lying around there. Nothing going on here, so I start heading for the house--a half mile away. That, my friends, is an important distance. The cows are nonchalantly munching hay while the babies are basking in the sun. That's when I spied her--the hen from the hood. I have two hens that definitely think they are "hood hens"--they somewhat have an attitude, like to give you a certain look, cock their heads and peck the cats on top of their heads. There she was--bright ruddish-colored feathers with the black-highlighted tail--busily scratching in the hay. I had to do a double-take. I couldn't believe my eyes. So I get out to see if I can catch said hen. She's just swift enough to get past my outstretched arm and she ducks under the pickup. We go round and round to no avail. Finally I create a wire hook and try that--again to no avail. So I get back in the pickup and slowly pull away, heading toward the house. This hen begins to follow, just like cows follow the feeding truck. I again cannot believe my eyes. There she is, coming on a trot behind the pickup. This works for a ways, then she decides she needs to go back and scratch in the hay. Through all of this, the cows and babies are undaunted. I manage to jump out of the pickup and turn her around. She darts back under the pickup. So I begin driving the pickup down the trail a ways, then get out and herd her back toward the pickup. As long as the pickup is a refuge, she keeps coming. Well, this is gonna take a while. Meanwhile, hubby has fed a cull cow in the corral and notices me in the pasture so he heads my way thinking I'm having problems with the pickup. He is not a hen herder by trade, so he headed back to the house, I'm sure laughing all the way. Well, me and the hood hen keep making our way in little baby steps back toward the house. I decide to try catching her again with the wire hook. I am nearly successful, but the wire isn't strong enough. It's enough to startle her, though, and she takes off on a dead run toward the house. I'm jogging behind her, wire hook in hand, herding her much like kids drive hogs at the county fair. (I always knew that experience would come in handy). We round the corner at the hen house and there is hubby, looking for a cage to bring back out in the pasture and help me. "Bet you can't bring a chicken in from the pasture!" I proudly exclaim to him. He shoots me that certain look and replies, "Bet I don't need to, either. But I will get you a champion chicken herding patch for your jacket."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lessons From Animals

I was out working in the pasture today, doing a little "animal control", if you will. The date is March 2nd and it was a balmy 68 degrees. There was absolutely no wind, America's Mountain shined graciously on the horizon, and there wasn't a sound to be heard. The cattle were grazing, occasionally shooting me a somewhat unconcerned glance, even from a couple of momma cows who had bedded their babies down while they went to eat. I couldn't even hear the cattle eating. It was almost eerie at how quietly the cattle ate, slowly moving their way from point A to point B. They didn't even care that the dogs were lying beside the pickup. Of course, they probably realized it would require some generated energy for the dogs to move, so the cows weren't too concerned. Pretty soon, one of the baby calves stood up and stretched. Momma, grazing at a distance, immediately stopped eating, looked at the baby, and smartly made her way to the calf. There was no pomp and circumstance. There was no noise. The momma gently nuzzled the baby, who decided it was time for an afternoon snack. I kept working, but was also watching the mother-baby bonding. When snack time was completed, the momma and baby trekked to the stock tank for Momma to replenish herself. Then they walked on about a quarter mile before Momma resumed grazing. The baby skittered and played a little bit (as much as a day old calf can play), before lying down again. The thought occurred to me that animals are very intelligent (just in case you didn't already realize this). They don't need anyone to tell them to feed their children. They put their kids down for a nap and the kids obediently stay there until Momma returns. There is no fussing and feuding. Momma knows best. They are fed nutritious meals and do not worry about what the consequences might be of ingesting too much lactose. The children are taught to play freely with each other and they get plenty of exercise. When they misbehave, they hear a stern beller from Momma and they immediately know they had better respect the discipline. I'm thinking we humans all need to learn some lessons from animals and there is no better time for school to be in session than right now. Springtime brings new beginnings. Winter is waning away and new life springs up everywhere. Let's watch the animals and see what we can learn about parenting. It just might humble all of us.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Toddler's Mentalilty

It's been awhile. I'd forgotten what it's like to deal with a toddler's mentality. But yesterday I was reminded of how fickle toddlers can be. This toddler happened to be the four-legged kind, namely Patches, our Blue Heeler pooch. She is so funny and has such a personality. And she has added years to Tippy, our Border Collie. But yesterday was one of those touchy-feely moments where Patches received a life lesson. We're starting to calve and the dogs are not allowed to ride in the cow checking pickup. They can ride in the flatbed all they want, but the cow checking pickup is off limits. It's sometimes spooky enough for me to tag new baby calves what with Momma's temperament, but I definitely don't need two inquisitive dogs teetering on the edge of the pickup seat, hoping for a chance to bite a hunk out of Momma's leg or nose. So yesterday morning when I left to go check cows, Patches naturally assumed she could ride along. Tippy had already retreated to her dog house. She is old enough and wise enough to understand what time of year it is. But the spry, uninhibited little Patches dog just hasn't yet grasped that concept. I threw a glaring look her way and offered a firm "Stay", then I drove off, rather unassuming. So there I was, plodding along through the bulk of the cows as they munched on some delicious sorghum hay, tapping my fingers in rhythm with the Dixie Chicks (yes, there is a local radio station that still plays them and I do enjoy their music, despite their lack of common sense) and occasionally howling out a few lyrics. Suddenly, the cows are headed toward the pickup in an odd manner. I wonder what could be wrong when I look in the rear view mirror and spy Patches racing behind the pickup, trying to catch up. My only option was to let her in the pickup while we finished the checking rounds. As she effortlessly bounded into the front seat, I smacked her little fanny (no, I do not believe in time outs!) and seriously scolded her. She immediately cowered down and turned her head toward the passenger door, ears pinned as far down on her head as she could get them. She rode that way throughout the remainder of the trip. Not once did she even offer to look at me. I even stopped to check on a stock tank. She never bobbed that head one little bit...just stared at the passenger door. Well, now, this is something I haven't seen in nearly, oh gosh, a year? (Just kidding, sons!). They were pretty small when that last happened and even then there was always some type of comeback from one of them--the reasoning powers always kicked in. Patches didn't offer any type of reason or logic. She just likes to ride everywhere. We got back to the house and she skied over my lap without even shooting a glimpse my way, and bounded to the dog house. Tippy offered no sympathy. In fact, I could almost see her saying, "I told you so." This morning Patches obediently sat on her haunches and seemed to wave a sad goodbye as I left the yard in the cow checking pickup.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Musings

Been away from the blog a while, it seems. Well, I really didn't have much to talk about (some of you would think that's pretty normal if you've read my blogs!) and this thing called time also creeped in and made itself at home. So I got the bulls moved to another pasture, but the dogs weren't impressed. I just honked the horn on the flatbed and the bulls hauled out of the pasture they were in and galloped alongside the pickup, trying to steal a bite of cake (that's range cubes for you novices). One of the bulls kept trying to stick his head inside the cab of the pickup, hoping to get a special treat, but all he received as a snip on the nose from Tippy. Patches was too busy trying to bury herself in the floorboards as far away from that humongous big black thing as she could get. Got the cows moved into the calving pasture, too. Same process, just quite a few more. I love how cattle string out like a freight train, methodically following one another to the appointed destination. I had a friend in college (yes, I did have friends then) who once asked me which cow decides when it's time to go get a drink of water. I'd never really thought about that I guess. To this day I don't know which cow decides that they are all thirsty and should go for water. In between all the ranch work we sneaked in a trip to Arkansas to see the oldest son perform in a play his college was presenting. This was awesome! Everything was done so professionally--kind of like watching a high school basketball game, then going to the Nuggets. Well, maybe I shouldn't compare a high school team to the Nuggets--high school players want to play, not whine until they're traded to another team. But that's another blog. (Happy trails to you, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups!). Speaking of whining--yesterday I received a cortisone shot in my left thumb. I don't think we give our thumbs and big toes enough credit. We don't remember they are there until they hurt. The doctor assured me this shot would help. But, if not, we can always do a joint replacement. What???? He said that as if he was just going to pull a splinter out of my thumb. We've had great results with the joint replacements, the doc assured me. Today I think he did the joint replacement and I didn't know it. I have a really high pain tolerance, but I about had to change my diaper when he injected that thing. Yes, he deadened it first. I had no feeling from my thumb clear up to my shoulder. I think the dentist could have filled a tooth and wouldn't have had to shoot any deadener in there. Then he injected the cortisone which nearly caused me to have an adverse reaction and smack him in the face. I thought he deadened the thumb! He also reminded me that I probably wouldn't be able to do a whole lot today because the thumb would be sore. Oh, pfffhhhtt. What could stop me? Perhaps a sore thumb? Gee, he must know what he's talking about. Well, it's time to go get something done. What can I do that requires minimal use of a thumb--clicking a remote with the right hand, perhaps? Now there's an idea!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stock Tanks and Pizza Places

They really don't have much in common, stock tanks and pizza places. But today, as I was attempting to clear a tank in preparation for cattle to be moved into that pasture, I discovered a definite link between chopping ice out of a stock tank and a certain pizza haunt. Well, it's not really a pizza haunt for us now, but when the boys were younger, we seemed to spend several birthday parties there, either celebrating the special day of a friend or one of our own. So there I was, whacking away at the seemingly endless mass of iceberg on a finally 50-degree day! Hallelujah! After I finally hit 'liquid silver' (that would be water underneath that mass of iceberg), I began chipping away from the edges of the tire tank to get even a small hole started. Finally a diamond-shaped piece splintered off! Eureka! Success! That gave me a starting place. The dogs were doing all they could to stay awake and cheer me on (yeah, right) as the sun shone brightly on them. Well, I kept hacking away and the pieces got larger. Suddenly I felt like a lumberjack shortly before he yells "Timmmberrr!" Either that, or I felt like the captain of the Titanic when it met the iceberg--"Now what do we do?" Huge pieces were chunking off the mass. I was definitely making progress. Then it dawned on me that I might not be the he-woman I thought I was and would not be able to lift said pieces out of the tank. By now the dogs are snoring--they're no help. Okay, I think I'll take a few whacks at the mini icebergs floating in the small ocean. That's where the tie between the pizza place and stock tanks comes in. You know that pizza place where you can whack the groundhogs' heads when they pop out of the hole? You get to use that big ole' mallet and just whack away. It's a great place to vent your frustrations. That's what I did to these humongous ice pieces floating in the stock tank. I pretended they were those ground hogs (really, they more resembled prairie dogs) and I whacked away with the axe. Oh, baby, it felt good! Warm day, axe in hand, dogs snoring on the shoreline...wait, what paradise(?) island have I escaped to? Zooming back to reality, I realize I have about accomplished my mission of clearing this tank. I'm sure my muscles will thank me for it later tonight (not!). Anyway, I came back to the house and popped a pizza in the oven. Kind of fitting, huh?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

O, Say Can You...Sing???

Okay, by now virtually everyone has heard about Christina Aquilera's guffaw with the national anthem at Sunday's Super Bowl. I don't sing, but I do play a mean radio. I can hold a tune in the car quite easily, thank you very much. But, please, these are professional singers performing a song that leaves little room for compromise when you're on the world's largest stage. First of all, I have a real problem with the national anthem being all 'juiced up' and sung in different ways. Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics and I think he had a tune in mind when he penned the song in the heat of battle. Why does it have to take on a different personality with different singers? Why can't it just be sung the way it was written to be sung...and that would include ALL the words and verses? The 12-year-old phenom from America's Got Talent got it right at the outdoor hockey match in Pittsburgh on New Year's Day so one would think someone as famous as CA could belt out the anthem with no problem. Heck, I know of three young, very talented, ladies at Edison High School who could have handled the Super Bowl assignment with no problem. They sing the anthem all the time at Edison volleyball and basketball events. No, I'm not comparing Edison sporting events to the Super Bowl, but the song remains the same. I'm sure these three talented singers would have gladly accepted the challenge to sing on the Fox network Sunday night. But answer me this, if you can. The Super Bowl was being played in Texas--home of some awesome musical talent, some talent, in fact, that hasn't even really been discovered yet. Why not showcase Texas music by letting, say, the Randy Rogers Band play the national anthem? Heck, why not let them do the halftime show? Then maybe we wouldn't have had to watch people (?) in illuminated suits with boxes on their heads prancing around on stage. Although that did give us a quick minute to get a sandwich and settle in for the second half of ...commercials!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How Great Thou Art

I love music and I love many, many songs. I pretty much listen to all genres of music, but I prefer listening to gospel, classic country, and rock 'n roll. But throughout all that array of music, two songs really top my all-time favorite list: "Amazing Grace" (performed by Elvis) and "How Great Thou Art" (performed by the Gaither Vocal Band). Have you ever really thought about the words in "How Great Thou Art"? We sang the first stanza in church this morning and it really hit me that this is a tremendously powerful song. "Oh, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder; consider all the things thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder; thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee; how great Thou art, how Great thou art. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art." Think about that--when you stop and consider all the things God created, not just the earth, but ALL things throughout the universe displayed. The mysterious wonders of His works are displayed throughout the universe, not just here on Earth. Why, there are things out there that He created that we will never see in this lifetime because of the vastness of the universe. So if the Big Bang theory is correct and we all just evolved from a hiccup somewhere in the universe, how do we explain DNA, chromosomes, fingerprint patterns, no two snowflakes being alike, Nature's exquisite detail? The list is endless. Yes, I sit in awesome wonder at the things my God has created. I am not ashamed to call Him 'my God', but I'll gladly share His story with anyone who wants to listen. How great Thou art!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Calf Meringue

I just pulled a coconut cream pie from the oven and had to smile at how pretty the meringue looks. I sometimes struggle with meringue. My aunt used to make cream pies with the most beautiful meringue. She gave me her meringue recipe but, like most recipes that are handed down, it just doesn't work as well for me. Oh, it looks nice, tastes great, and all that, but it just doesn't stand up and salute like some meringue you see. You know the kind, the pies that are loaded with meringue and down there underneath if you look hard enough, you'll see the actual pie. I like meringue on my cream pies. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind some good whipped cream on top of them either, but I just think meringue adds to the pie. But, for some reason, this pie-baking session took me back to my childhood days when Mom used to bake cream pies. She made the most wonderful chocolate and coconut cream pies with the most beautiful meringue. But, like me, she was never satisfied with the way her meringue looked. As kids, though, we didn't mind. We loved it. But we always called it "calf slobbers." I'm not really sure why. I guess if you study meringue long enough, it sort of bears a resemblance to said 'calf slobbers.' I am sure many restaurants who pride themselves in their bakery departments would not appreciate hearing meringue referred to as such. But that's just the mentality of kids reared on a ranch. You know, kind of like looking at something sort of yellowish-green and thinking it looks like, well, you know. It's related to calves too. Anyway, I've got a pretty good looking coconut cream pie here, complete with calf meringue. Happy trails!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

That Noah Feeling

I think I now know how Noah felt, taking animals two-by-two onto the ark. It is not an easy task. Yesterday morning, it was warm, clear, and the sun was shining. So I decided to turn out the chickens so they could maintain their "free range" status. I wouldn't want anyone accusing me of selling "caged" chicken eggs. The dogs and I took a little jaunt to Fowler to get some feed for the menagerie and we returned home just in time to unload feed in a raging blizzard. Naturally, the chickens are more intelligent than most of us give them credit for. They and the two ducks had all gathered inside the cat house. Now the cat house was the chicken house when I was growing up, but since that time we have built a new chicken house and allowed the barn cats to reside in the old chicken residence. It's not that complicated, but it sounds like it is. Anyway, the cats and chicks were sharing the cat house yesterday and I figured I'd better get the chickens back to their own digs. So I did what any good chicken herder (?) would do--I tried shooing them out of the cat house. They looked at me like I'd lost my mind. The ducks quacked, the chickens clucked, and they all cocked their heads and just looked at me. That's when my 'Noah' instinct kicked in. I'd just have to take them, two-by-two, to the chicken house. And I guess that's what they expected. The chickens would squat right in front of me, and look up at me as if to say, "Pick me up, let's go." My sons don't like chickens and, at times, I understand why. So I toted the chickens, one pair at a time, over to their own house. The ducks didn't want any part of being carried, so they complained all the way as they waddled across the yard toward their hotel. They don't quite move like the ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis! We completed the move, the poultry was happy, the cats were thrilled to have regained ownership of their place, and I decided that for the next couple of days the chickens would have to chance being labeled as "caged" because they would be held captive in their little house until the 'Great Thaw' occurs.