Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Treasures on The Prairie

Besides saving gas and giving me exercise, the walk to and from the corrals is an adventure. You never know what you will see, a golden sunset, an interesting bug, or wildlife. Yesterday, I discovered baby birds on my walk back up the long hill.

They lay in the middle of this over-grown road about fifteen feet apart. To this ignorant bird watcher, they appeared to be Meadow Larks. Yet, I'm not sure because their was a Horned Lark around but it didn't seemed at all interested in my photographing these tiny creatures. That seemed unusual since most momma birds fiend injury to lure us away and then switch to another tactic, like screaming at us or dive bombing us. The Horned Lark just stood there and gazed at me in an uninterested manner.

After I had snapped some pictures, I reluctantly left them and walked on home praying that mom returned for them and moved them to a safer location. This road seldom has traffic but there is the occasional four-wheeler driven by a kid who travels at high speeds.

As I neared the back gate, a familiar noise caught my attention. It's like someone quickly running a finger along the edge of a comb, only the pitch is deeper. Smiling, I searched the blue sky for the Nighthawks I knew would be dancing across the breeze. It is the end of June and every year they perform a mating ritual at this same time. The two Nighthawks take turns soaring high into the sky, then fold their wings and plunge downward, diving toward the ground. Nearing the earth, they extend their wings and the wind screeches through their feathers causing the distinct sound. When resting, they sit upon the frame of our greenhouse, perched the same way the top metal bar runs, a distinct pose for a bird.

Monday, June 29, 2009

These Little Piggies Came Home

Now the number of livestock is complete, for two little gilts arrived this weekend. It wasn't necessarily our intent to pick girls, it just happened that way. At first, I chose a long sleek bodied pig of undisclosed gender and climbed into the small nursery pen with the owner, Nancy. - There are several reasons you put small pigs in a little enclosure, one is they feel more secure, and another is they are like greased bullets to catch. - She positioned herself on one side of the pen and I the other so we could work the piglets back and forth between us and close in on the one of our choice. My husband took a ring side seat to watch. I'm sure it must have been quite a sight as two nearly fifty year old women dove, snatched, and scrambled, to catch eight week old pigs. Most of the time, we only caught the breeze left by the pigs as they escaped our grasps. Well, not every time, for there was the time I snatched pig poo. Nancy began to profusely apologize as she saw my smeared hand. I stopped her by holding up my right hand which had several drops of dried blood on it. I had forgotten to wash my hands in the rush to leave for her place. Kirk had changed the gender of our calf, Pedro, from bull to steer while I helped hold him still. That was right before we left.

"Oh, well, then this is no problem.", Nancy said with a smile after hearing my explanation, and we proceeded to nab the first little pig. Then she handed her over the fence to Kirk, who placed her in the horse trailer.

The second one was another story as he alluded us time after time. He had this little kick that he did when he felt your hands closing around him. It was quite effective as it sprung him out of our grasp.

After I missed a half dozen times, I tried landing in front of him on my knees to block his path as I lurched for him. He just used my arms and legs for a springboard and sailed off. When Nancy finally nabbed him and up ended him, she turned him our way showing us his umbilical cord hernia and told us to choose another pig.

I eyed the decreasing choices and pointed to the next longest piglet while grinning at her little pop belly. After a few rounds around the pen, and a few misses by us both, I caught hold of her legs. Then handed her over to my husband and climbed over the fence. I studied his face wondering at the fact that he didn't have a grin on it. We must of presented some pretty good entertainment for him as he hasn't teasingly called me Grace for nothing all these years. But, to Kirk's credit, he never said a word or even let loose a snicker, after all he hasn't reached fifty-two without learning something - like it could have been him.

As we left the barnyard, we were trying to figure out why Nancy's great grandma would plant corn in clusters of three or four plants. For we had been visititing with Nancy's mom when we first arrived at the ranch. I had questioned her about why she planted her corn in clusters and not rows and asked if it was to help them withstand the winds? She said,"No", leaned against her hoe, gazed out at her garden, and then back at me. "My mom just did it that way."

Nancy's mom is in her late seventies and spry. In fact, she said she had been working in the hay fields that morning. Kirk and I commented as we journeyed home on how good she looked and how agile she moved for a women of her age. Then I laughed and said, "Ranch women are some tu..ff birds." They live a challenging life and it seems to keep them young. Whether its the hard work, open air, or the fresh food, I don't know. I do figure that there must be a good reason Great Grandma planted the corn that way and next year, I'm going to put some of my patch in the same way, just in case they know something I don't.

In this windy country where the season is short, and the elevation is over five thousand feet, with clay soil that packs hard, one can use all the help they can get gardening. Then again, who knows, Great Grandma might of planted her corn in clusters because her mother always did it that way.

P.S. I named the kitten Percy, it's a boy. You know Purr... see?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bald Top

A natural bald spot on top a chicken's head? Strange wonders never cease. No, the chickens not old. Remember the baby chick with the puff on top his head that looked like a marshmallow stuck up there? Well, he's growing a fine headdress all but the crown of his head. What's with that? Do chickens have a bald chromosome that they inherit on their mother's side just like humans? We had a Buff Polish rooster up until last year and he didn't do this. Since this young cockerel is so young, it is probably just a quirk and he'll gain feathers on the bald spot eventually.

When his headdress gets to be four inches long he will be quite a site.

P.S. Our daughter commented that some of my readers may not of gotten the joke about the prints in the pictures on the kitchen walls, or rather lack of them. The paper prints supplied by the manufacturer are the brunt of the jokes and we have named the people in the prints and given them identities. Our oldest daughter and I have started toying with a story exchange about the fictitious character named Mark and his brothers George and Paul. It is in the comment section on the last blog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Are We Done Yet?

The cupboards are hickory, the counter top granite, the wall above the granite is tile we combined in a mosaic pattern, and the floor is tile. The counter top and cupboards were done by a contractor. The rest of the kitchen we have done.

We started in October and planned to have the cupboards, tile, floor, and counter top in by Christmas. Instead we spent months with a piece of plywood for a counter top, digging through boxes for food and dishes, and a wood platform for the slide in stove.

What would have be a comedy of errors had it been funny ended up three months of intense frustration. Some of the problems were due to the store miss ordering and other times the manufacturer sent the wrong product. The cupboard next to the dishwasher was the worst mess. It arrived the first time with the door cut out on the wrong side. When in place, it opened into the side of the dishwasher, then it came with the opening on the correct spot but no door, then the wrong style of door was shipped to replace it. Since the cupboards are individually made, we waited weeks in between each shipment. I don't know if a single cupboard was correct the first time. Our contractors said they had never experienced anything like it before. And before they were done they ended up custom building a cupboard for the microwave-convection oven and one for the slide in stove.

Kirk laid the tile above the counter top, then we were too busy with other pressing projects to continue. So here we are, its June and we're finishing up the kitchen. We need to complete the kitchen adding decorating touches and decorate the main bathroom we redid before the kitchen because the master bathroom is next. My sister asked for pictures and so here they are on my blog as I wished to share them with you also.

We just completed the window seat Friday and I put the last coat of sealer on it Monday night. It was another challenging task as the seat is wider than a oak board and longer than a sheet of plywood. Designing and shopping are part of my designated tasks and it took three stores before I found a place with a large enough variety of trims and someone who could think outside the box with me, so to speak. The back trim pieces hide the gap left by the inadequate width of the board and on the front where the trim is eight feet not eight feet three inches we added square blocks similar to the ones on the window trim. We are pleased with the results. Who knows had it not been such a challenge maybe it would not have turned out so well.

The back of the microwave and slide in stove is paneling and I'm so glad we decided to spend the extra money and have doors put on. The paneling was just too uniform in pattern and contradicted the random coloration effect that hickory gives.
Mark, our tenth cousin, twice removed, whom we've never met.

What comes next is the curtains which I've yet to find the fabric for and decorating the walls. The picture frames have been up for months to my husbands disgruntlement. He says if we have to look at Mark, our tenth cousin twice removed, whom we've never met, one more month he's going to go insane. As for me, I don't mind Mark. He's quite a pleasant fellow. He's always cheerful and he's yet to make one demand of me. On the other hand, our son says he's rather put out since there are two picture frames filled with pictures of this shirttail cousin, be it the same exact ones, and none of him, the beloved son of his parents. Kirk said I either made it a priority and put some pictures in the frames or I had to come up with a good story line for each of the strangers that graced our walls. Me, well, I'm just trying to decide whether I like the intense Tuscon color on the walls or whether I should repaint the kitchen. I'm rather a boring cream colored wall person by nature. The kids said I had to break out of my boring mold and add some color to my world so here it is and I'm still trying to adjust. Though the photo does not do it justice, the deep red is a cool color. It's that orangy thing above it that bothers me. It didn't look anything like that on the paint swatch.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Name That Kitten

Aren't they adorable?

Bibbs, their mom, moved them from the hay barn to the milking shed right before I left for my Mom's on Tuesday. The hay barn seemed like such a good play pen for them so why, I couldn't figure out, did she move them. There was a chance she'd change her mind and go back to hay stack. She didn't. So, when I returned, I began to dismantle the make-shift home we'd built for the kittens, with the intent to feed the hay. Hefting aside one of the bales that formed the roof, I uncovered four newborn babies. They must be Cinders, she's Bibbs's best friend. Now I know why Bibbs vacated her home. Cats can really be sweet.

The calico on the right is named Sandy. It's a no brainer, she's a girl. All calicos are a girls, but the gray one, well... I think its a girl but I'd better take a good look. Last years, quick glance transformed before our eyes from Maggy to Magnum. That wasn't bad but a few years ago a fast glance ended up being stuck with Sue. He's a three legged, onery fighter.

I'd welcome suggestions on names and meanwhile I'll make a thorough exam to disclose the kitten's true gender.

This is my frost bitten garden.

. The top picture is a potato plant and the bottom one a pumpkin. Winter has been long in passing. In fact, on the Big Horn Mountains, there was still four foot snow drifts by the road, when I drove over them to my mom's.

The gardens on the other side of the mountain look as bad or worse than my own. So, I don't feel so bad about mine, that is until Jim started e-mailing us pictures of his garden. Green tomatoes with just a blush of red - cantaloupe heavy on the vine and the even though I realized he's in Alabama, not Wyoming, it still makes me feel jealous.

Neighbors baby geese are so adorable.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Any Day Holiday Waffles

Gingerbread waffles with raspberries, goat whipped cream, and powdered sugar.
Looks good doesn't it? Well, just reach for the waffles in the freezer. No, not the ones from the store, but the ones you made the other day and froze. My favorite is gingerbread waffles with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, a handful of raspberries, and a dollop of whip cream. M...M..., they are sweet ambrosia. Kirk, on the other hand, loves anything chocolate - so chocolate waffles with strawberries and whip cream on top has his approval. Then, there's blue berry waffles with maple syrup or better yet, heap on more blueberries or blueberry pie filling with a generous helping of whipped cream.

But, wait, don't stop there, add to your favorite plain waffle recipe pumpkin pie filling with cinnamon. Or, you can try smashed overly ripe bananas and don't forget to add the miniature chocolate chips. You'll put those cardboard waffles from the store to shame and if you serve this to company you'll endear them to you. To make a really big impression, serve the pre-cooked bacon I told you about in a previous blog and scrambled or fried eggs. You'll have a breakfast that will tide you over for hours.

I know your thinking it. How do I have the time to make waffles and freeze them ahead. Instead of cutting a recipe in half or wasting waffles because the batch makes way to many for just the two of us, I freeze what we don't eat on a cookie sheet. When they're frozen, I slip them into a freezer bag. Then, when we want them, I place a waffle plus the frozen fruit in the microwave, reheat and meanwhile, I have a small amount of whipping cream, goat of coarse, in a tea cup and with a hand mixer on high, I have it done in no time. Into the frothy mixture I add a little powdered sugar and vanilla. Then voila, you have a breakfast worthy of the holidays or any day you deserve to be treated special.

How about tomorrow? You have to work. Well, just take everything including the already whipped cream and place them in the refrigerator. When it's break time, microwave the waffles and fruit and then top with powdered sugar and whip cream. You'll be the envy of your coworkers.
Black Forest (chocolate) Waffles with homemade cherry pie filling, goat whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Next time, I'm going to serve the cherries cold. They really wrecked havoc on the whipped cream. Kirk decided he preferred strawberries to cherry pie filling.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Wonderful Ending

(Part three of three postings this week)

We had gone early Sunday morning, before church, in search of the Mallard hen and drake who were parents of ten ducklings. Toni had found them swimming in the library's pond a few days earlier. Today,they were no where to be found, but we had a lovely stroll around the grounds studying the plants, and enjoying the sleeping city while listening to the birds greet a new day.
Bronze sculpture by the Library

As we wondered, I was reflecting upon our weekend and having a hard time excepting the fact we would be leaving for home in a few hours. I giggled, recalling the verbal shuffle in our car's backseat between Toni and our son, Kalob. We were returning from supper on Friday night and Kalob was sitting with his arm around his girlfriend staring out at the street signs and complaining about the problems they'd encountered trying to find his sister's home.

"It would help if the presidents were at least in order." he grumbled."If I built a city, the signs would have pictures not words -- like stick man with a club."

Musing along those lines, Toni piped in, " Then I'd live on the corner of Stick Man With A Club and Kitten With a Ball of Yarn. Which is one street past Fat Lady On A Bicycle."

Most anxious to see how this conversation played out, we didn't want to interrupt, but Kirk and I were really struggling by this time to stifle our laughter.

"The only problem would be how well people could draw." replied Kalob.

"I can just imagine the postman looking at an envelope and saying, 'Is that a fat lady on a bicycle or is it a buffalo?' quipped Toni."

That was it, we couldn't hold it in any longer and burst out laughing.

Kalob's girlfriend hesitated a moment and then joined us. I wonder what she thinks of this crazy family? This was only our second meeting. Though we had toned it down, you couple our verbal reconnaissance - often similar to Who's Line Is It Anyway (with a G rating) - and the fact we are so easily entertained- probably, because we usually bring it with us -, and the unsuspecting are thrown out of balance.

For example, earlier that night, Kalob's girlfriend had looked pretty uncomfortable outside the mall where we'd just bought ice cream. Music was playing and inspirited by the beat, Toni's and my feet moved of their own accord and began dancing. She hung back and appeared to be tasting a foreign flavor and it wasn't the ice cream. Sometimes, it's best to reveal your true identity at a later date - a bit at a time might be best.
My mind was brought back to the present when I witnessed Kirk and Toni laying on the sidewalk next to the library, cameras in hand, flopping about like fish out of water as they shifted trying to capture the dew drops upon the wilted leaf as the early morning rays transformed them into glistening jewels.

'It doesn't take much to entertain this family', I thought laughing to myself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sculpture Park

(Part two of three blogs to be posted this week)

Toni Rexroat photography
(Click on photos to enlarge)

A thirty minute nap after a late lunch and we were refreshed from the four and a half hours at the car show and ready for a stroll through Sculpture Park.

Surrounding a meandering pond were bronze sculptures scattered upon the lawns and tucked in amongst the bushes and trees that fringe the water.
Toni Rexroat photography

Many of the bronzes, especially in the children's area, lent themselves to playful interaction and we took full advantage of the opportunity.
Here Kirk and Toni sit beside a kind looking gentlemen to whom we never were formally introduced.

Toni joins in with the group of children who appear to be playing ring around the rosey.

A sidewalk ambled away from the lawn into the natural underbrush and we followed finding this surprise.

This large canine appears to be trying to get our daughter's attention or does he just want to shake Kirk's hand?

When we came upon these frogs, Toni and I had to give them a kiss just in case by doing so, a spell would be broken releasing an enslaved prince.

By the grumpy look on their face, the thoughtful gesture wasn't appreciated.
Toni Rexroat photography

Evening soon approached and we had a long ways to go to completed the loop around the pond, so we picked up the pace, hustling underneath these bronze crows.
Toni Rexroat photography

As we studied the statue of three eagles, the sun slipped below the horizon, and Mother Nature put on a light show as she bid us goodnight.

Toni Rexroat photography

Toni Rexroat photography

Toni Rexroat photography

Even after the darkness had veiled man's artistic creations behind its black curtain, we tarried. Toni used her flash to photograph an intricate stainless steel sculpture, then we crossed the bridge to the gazebo. Resting upon the benches, we listened as a chorus of frogs serenaded the night.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Good Guys Car Show

(Part one of three blogs to be posted this week)

I don't know if it was the Wyoming license plate that endeared us to this 1941 Willy's truck or the fact it was paired with a cool Willy car but, as I gazed upon it, a pen cartoon drawing from my youth played across my mind. A rugged, sinewy cowboy in a faded pair of blue jeans and a worn cowboy hat was driving down a dusty road outlined by a barbed wire fence. Where he was going, I never found out, for my husband pulled me back from my musings and pointed out the identical fenders, hood, and lights on the two vehicles manufactured in the same year.

These two relics and hundreds of other cars and trucks were on display at The Ranch where the Good Guys Car Show was held this past weekend in Loveland, Colorado.

We were here two years ago, but the show seems to have grown a great deal. Our oldest daughter returned with us and we wandered across the expansive lawns and huge parking lot, admiring Chevys; Fords; Dodges; Diamond T semi's, Studabakers, and Nashs, along with others who are no longer in production. Tucked in here and there were a splattering of foreign vehicles such as the one below that dates back to the 1950's in Germany.

This snazzy little number caught my husband's eye as he has always wanted a red Corvette.

Some of the vehicles at the show were restored to their original design when they came off the assembly line. Others, like this sleek black number, were an artist's canvas. Their striking paint strokes, revealing the depths of the artist's talent.

This bronzed, red hot rod, that sat apart from the rest of the pack, transformed me back in time. I could see on the big screen a white t-shirted youth, his arm resting on the open window, a cigarette pack rolled up inside his sleeve. The hot rod engine revving, its deep throat rumbled, vibrating the air. A contender pulls alongside, and the tension mounts as a challenging look passes between them.

Behind the wheel of this classy number, I envisioned a silver haired gentlemen from old money in a pale linen suit , a beautiful women by his side.

Of all the cars at the show, this one was my favorite. I loved the car's body shape, the shimmering copper color, the creamy leather interior, and the tiger painted on the firewall by
the engine, which insinuates it purrs.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Babysitting Blues

There are times when babysitting goes way beyond haying, watering, and milking and I wonder what I've got myself in to, like a couple weeks ago. I went over to run through the chore schedule with Linda and acquaint myself with the changes since the last time I'd babysat her livestock. One of her new Holstein bum calves couldn't help but catch my eye as its tail stuck straight out and his back was hunched as he continually strained. The signs of constipation are pretty universal. What concerned me was that it was evident the calf had been at it for quite some time. I asked Linda if she would mind if I went home and brought my constipation kit and doctored the calf. She said, "Sure".

As I drove home I chastised myself, 'Maybe, things would work out fine without your interference'. 'After all, Its not your animal. You really should butt out once in a while.' I couldn't though. The scene of the suffering calf kept replaying in my mind. Besides, I reasoned, I would be dealing with the problem the next morning anyway. By then, the situation would probably be worse. I'd seen the next stage of this problem. It wasn't pretty. The calf would begin having a hard time breathing and become to weak to stand. Foam would bubble forth from his mouth. Death would follow.

It took a surprising amount of warm water doused with a couple drops of Dawn dish washing soap to do the trick. More than I've ever had to use before. I administered it via a human enema bulb, small doses at a time. Then, I waited ten minutes or so for it to soften the blockage and did it again and again and again until I felt like the calf was turning into a water balloon. The stress from the fear of rupturing the intestines caused me to stop. In reality, as gentle as I was, the water would simply have flow back out rather than damage anything. But, my over zealous imagination sometimes over rules reason which whispered to me that the blockage must be far up inside the intestines.

I figured to give the water and soap time and explained to Linda that I needed to do chores but would be back shortly and maybe by then the herbal, digestive aid, pill I'd rudely force him to swallow would have gone to work.

The scene hadn't changed when I peered over the fence once more. The calf still had his tail way up in the air, his body hunched and pushing. Linda took her former position holding the calf by his halter and we proceeded to fill him with more fluid. When a strain a few minutes later expelled a small amount of softened feces, I could have cheered. Their wasn't any plan B and I don't know what I would have done if the enema failed to do its job. We were at the wait and see phase and so I went home praying that the calf would be much better in the morning.

Thankfully the next day, the calf was fine. I had no further problems with him or his black and white companion.
The story wasn't the same with Pumpkin's foal a few days later. He died in my arms. Their wasn't anything I could do to save him. He was born premature and his owners had spent the night feeding him every few hours. But, jobs called them away and so they asked if I could feed him a couple times while they were gone. The message was left on my both my answering machines as I had been off doing my own livestock chores. When I arrived, another friend of their was already there. He was doing his best to assist the little colt but experience wasn't on his side.

I took over. First, I milked the mare filling a baby bottle three-fourths full. The task isn't anything like milking a cow or goat. Equine teats are an inch long but since this couple has nearly thirty mares, I've had practice. Squirting a small amount of the precious fluid into the colt's mouth, I then stroked my hand gently downward along the front of his neck encouraging him to swallow.

When the bottle was nearly empty he had gained the strength to suck and afterwords could stand with assistance, swaying in our protective arms. I thought he had it made when he collapsed into a heap falling into an exhausted sleep for his breathing was stronger and he had a healthy dose of fluid inside his tiny body. As I covered him with an old towel to ward off the slight chill of the breeze, I expected to return two hours later to find the colt raised up on his chest.

Instead, it was evident when I pulled up and glanced out my pickup window, that the foal had begun the journey with death. Lifting his head, I called him back but by now he wasn't breathing and his heart had slowed. I began CPR but he did not respond and died in my arms.

All in all, it was a hard week and I was glad to relinquish my babysitting responsibilities and return to the flow of my own routine chores.

A filly is a female, baby horse.
A colt is a male, baby horse.
A foal is a baby horse.