Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Collecting eggs is a little like having an Easter egg hunt every day especially when the floor becomes covered in bedding for the hens lay here, there, and everywhere.
It's our oldest granddaughters favorite chore at the corrals and at the time of this picture I was needing to clean the coop. Not that it was real deep but the hay build behind the nest has become the place where they lay most of their eggs. The others are strew here there and well, a few everywhere. Just give them a clump of hay and that's where they'll lay. I suspect it isn't because of the cushy seat. No, I think it's the snacking that must go on while they wait on the internal elevator to roll out the egg. You think I'm kidding don't you? But every time I toss a pile of nice new alfalfa hay in the corner it's nearly gone by evening. I'm hoping it is inspirational. Okay, maybe that's a bit strong of a word but wouldn't it help to encourage the hens to spend time in the corner. Snacks as you go kind of thing just like putting wooden eggs in a nest to set the mood hopefully causing a hen to become broody.

Oh dear, that does cause the brain to wonder off. Don't even breathe a word about this cause Kirk doesn't read my blog so he'll never know unless you tell but Oh, dear if I left snacks in the bathroom I'd never get him out of there. He already has a knife book or two set by the throne.

Okay, you'd never get me out of there.

But really how do you guys do it? I read all these posts and everyone is putting down sawdust, or straw in their coops and if I did that I'd be having a egg hunt every day. Your nests must be much more attractive than mine. I provide munchies what else do I need to do. It's almost Easter and the time of year I force myself into the store to buy a dozen white eggs for the grandkids to dye eggs. To refresh my memory I looked up what the numbers on the side of the carton mean.
267 Sell-By Oct 23
The sell by date is a no brainer but the 267 is the day of the year the carton was packaged. So that means it was packaged on September 24 th. So if properly refrigerated they will be good for 4-5 weeks. The sell by date can not by law be more than 30 days past the Julian date.
Eggs have thousands of pores in the shell and as time passes moisture leaks out through these holes. The egg yolk becomes flatter and the whites runnier. Keep this in mind if your making angel food cake for eggs are a leavening, old eggs - flat cake or souffle. They are used as a thickener. Think of the custards such as the one in ice cream. Oh, yeah by the way ice cream is great made with yogurt. Chicory is about dry and the other two goats are so I used goat milk and store yogurt that was on sale to make ice cream last time. Yum!. can't wait to make goat milk yogurt and try it instead of the stores.

Another thing that is handy to know is how to combine egg sizes to equal the number of large eggs a standard recipe calls for. Then I really need to run off to town and go shopping. Yes, the Easter Bunny has much to do before this weekend.

4 large= 4 extra large = 5 medium

5 large = 4 extra large = 6 medium

6 large = 5 extra large = 7 medium

Got to go but I talk with you again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. Life throws us all curves now and then and we roll around the corners and look in a new direction searching for the sunshine that will come after the darkness. Kirk says we've become too complacent. In what way I'm not sure yet but he's going to have to expound on that comment as soon as we slow down enough to catch a breath. As we open our arms invitingly and move our things around in our small home to make room for 4 more, we are seeing much that we could really do without.
For instance, if I can get away with not wrapping a present I don't. So why do I have a large package of bows? I don't' use them. They must be 8 years old. They're bent and bedraggled and though they match perfectly with the quality wrapping you see on presents from me, poor quality that is, I think I can safely toss them and not feel a pang of guilt. Besides, I like them much better as flowers on our granddaughters artistical drawings and the offering of them to the girls made me real popular despite the fact I make them wash their hands umteen times a day. If you're going to cook with me your going to have to wash your hands. The minute I get a bowl out the girls are there with a kitchen chair slid up against the counter. They both climb up and take turns cracking eggs for whatever I'm making. They consider themselves essential assistants.

It's amazing how they whack those eggs on the granite counter, I have to stop them after the third good slam, and though there's a little yolk or white dripping off their hands and onto the counter, no egg shell makes it into the bowl. I insist they use a cereal bowl just in case. It must be true Michelle, if you crack an egg on the counter not on the side of the bowl you won't have egg shell in your food. The girls have thoroughly tested the theory. Good thing the hens are laying well because between the three little girls, they can eat 6 eggs and 5 large pancakes. That's 7 eggs not including the adults. Kirk's learned not to expect over easy. Right now it's not on the menu. The eggs are scrambled when they come out of the shells.

I'd really like to talk about meat but I need to substitute. Here's the recipe and the tale of its creation. I loved the results.

Pizza Dough

1 cup water
1 Tablespoon sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
I used instant yeast and it proofs very quickly.

Then I added
2 cups white flour / add the extra 1/2 cup if needed.
1 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon salt

Plus a drizzle of olive oil about 2 tablespoons.

Stir until you have to switch to kneading. Knead and knead and knead until it withstands the window pane test or in other words you can stretch it thin with out it creating a hole. Try your skill one handed while holding a tired 1 year old who's flopping back and forth between watching the bowl and laying on your shoulder sucking her thumb just to heighten the challenge.

Skip the putting the dough into a lovely clean oiled bowl. One more dish to wash is just too much so just dump it back into the bowl you mixed it in and place a plate on top. My commercial sized plastic wrap roll is over fifteen years old. It probably will be displayed at our fiftieth wedding anniversary. If I can get away without tangling with the stuff, I do.

When the pizza dough has doubled in size punch it down. Go rock the crying 1 year old who's hanging on your leg and break up the disagreement over the Barbie with the 3 and 5 year olds. Pass off the baby to Grandpa and return and decide chicken noodle soup sounds much easier and push aside the rising dough and begin chopping carrots and potatoes. In the stew pot dump in some frozen broth from a chicken you roasted a few weeks back, chicken thighs you bottled last year, some purple pearl barley to make the kids ask, What is this?" while staring into their spoon, along with the last of the frozen semolina noodle you made last week.

Then call it quits on the pizza dough and though it's on its partially risen again toss it into a storage container and put it in the refrigerator. Give the kids baths and let their mom who just returned and Grandpa take over from there. Meanwhile you call your older sister and ask her if you should roll the pizza dough out, let it raise, then freeze it or freeze it before you let it raise. Then tell her your sob story for the day and be so exhausted from the tale that you decide to just put the dough in the refrigerator for tomorrow's lunch.

The next day take it out and roll it out into a pizza crust. Let it raise then add desired toppings and cook at 4oo Fahrenheit on a preheated pizza stone.

Got all that?

The sauce was a bit too spicy for the kids I'll have to tone it down but the pizza dough was awesome, a cross between Pizza Hut's thin crust and a thick crust. It has a slightly flaky texture. My oops, will definitely be put on the repeater list.

Yup, life is one BIG adventure.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Not Much

She loved her new quilt.
The granddaughters enjoyed the moments cuddled with grandpa.
It didn't matter that it was a meat cutting video that he stopped working processing the beef to watch the next step.
Time spent with him is always special. As much interests as the youngest had in the video, who knows she may cut meat when she grows up a bit.
It was an informative DVD and though we've cut up six or better beef there is yet much to learn. One little tid bit for you is that the cuts from the back are the most tender and then the hind quarters and the most tough is from the shoulders. It is due to the amount of exercise those muscle perform.

We have had a major family crisis and our lives are turned upside down. Things will really change around our home. Tomorrow afternoon I should be able to blog but for now please except this brief post and know that I thought of you often today but was needed badly by our little granddaughters.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy,

Yup we're at it again, cutting up meat. This time it is a beef. It's all hands on deck to get the job done so if you'll excuse me for one day, I must run back out and get to work. On Monday and Tuesday I'll explain where different cuts of meat come from such as the T-bone , round steak etc. and why one is more tender than the other.

Kirk just opened the door and called, "Your minutes up!" We have a DVD that has enlightened us in several areas and ... and... I really have to go. See you Monday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some of My Favorite Things

When I'm feeling "I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't fee...l so... ba.........d."Okay, I don't sing as well as I use to but when I'm depressed I sing. Yes, sing. The Sound Of Music comes to mind when I'm down in the dumps. Of course when I'm overwhelmed which is easy since I'm Autistic, then I sing a different tune, "In my own little corner in my own little room, I can be what ever I want to be."

Blame it on Concert Choir if you want but Mr. Penny was an excellent director and instilled a love of music in me. Of course you could say it was inherit from my grandfather who came over from Wales and spent some time as a professional singer. When he was fourteen he won honors from the Queen with a choir he directed. I don't claim to have inherited his beautiful tenor voice. Duh!, I'm a high soprano but I did inherit a voice that carries, filling up a room for better or for worse. Our son once told me that he heard angels when I sang. Then he was only four years old at the time. In actuality my voice isn't anything special but I suspect he felt the love flowing through the music I sang to him.

Now I often sing to calm the beasts. The ones inside me. So as I wait for my increase in Progesterone to arrive dispelling my chemically imbalanced spirits, I sing and emerce myself in a few of my favorite things, "And then I don't fee...l so ba......d" Sorry, I couldn't help but burst into song again.
One of those favorite things this time of year is the anticipation of chicks. The incubator is near full and I can't wait to candle the eggs. To peak inside through a light beam and watch the development of a chick is somehow mystical. It's only been a week and they've two more to go and I've resisted the urge to check which eggs are fertile and developing and which are not. I want to share the event with the grand kids. At night when it's dark we'll light up a small box with a hole in the top where the egg will rest and the light from inside the box (a strong flashlight or light bulb) will penetrate inside the egg showing up the fascinating world of a developing chick. I anticipate that our oldest granddaughter will be very intrigued for when her youngest sister was developing inside her mother, she kept tabs in the book that charted a babies progress in development. One day when her mother announced she was going to the doctor, she became very alarmed, "No mom, the baby is not ready to come out yet." thinking he was going to deliver her sister too soon. She was 3 years old.
Then there is the seeds just starting to sprout. It's only been three days so it must be the corn salad or the arugula I planted. What I don't know your asking? No, I figured the surprise would be fun so I didn't label the tray full of different kinds of salad greens. I'll know when they get a bit larger anyway and the suspense brings a bit of delightful anticipation. Now the various types of tomatoes I did label for I'm trying a few new kinds this year and I labeled the cucumbers and melons to tell them apart for they go into different areas of the garden. I'll start a few more plants, pumpkins etc. when these have sprouted and moved under the grow lights. Some of these same species I'll direct seed out in the garden but in order to extend the harvest time, I'm starting a few indoor and getting a jump start.
Then there is the nap quilt I've been working on for our middle granddaughter.
I should have gotten it done months ago. It seemed like a good comfy project to work on right now when my energy levels are low.
I can just imagine our granddaughters delight this weekend when she finds
out she too gets a nap quilt. Her oldest sister received one when she was three years old also. It's a grandma tradition I've started making a bed size quilt for them when they turn two and a nap quilt when they are three. I'm hoping to get a sweater made for our oldest granddaughter this year. I want traditions that each grandchild can look forward to as they turn different ages. My grandmothers did the same for me. When we granddaughters turned twelve we began receiving things for our hope chest, embroidered pillowcases etc., and each Christmas the grandmothers made an ornament for our future Christmas tree when we were on our own. When we married we received a handmade crocheted afghan and our first child received a afghan and a receiving blanket. A creamy colored afghan still sits on the favorite rocking chair of my grandfathers. That chair rocked me when I was small and in turn each of our children. I've had it restored and now it rocks our granddaughters.
So while I watched a BBC series on the computer I pieced together the quilt. Very slowly we are remodeling our home and this room does not have flooring, just a painted plywood floor. We're paying for things as we go. The house is paid for and we don't want to accrue debt again. The floor works great for small quilts. With the front and back of the quilt cut to the same size, I taped the back fabric until it was taunt, the printed side toward the floor. Masking tape works great for this.
Then used a quilters spray glue that rinses out in the wash, I sprayed the fabric all over. Don't worry about getting it on a slick surface floor for remember its' washable and I just run a mop over the floor when I'm done to remove the sticky residue.
Next, I took a batt folded in half lengthwise and again width wise and laid it on the glued back fabric. I used a double size bed batt for the project.
The first layer of the batt is glued lightly down to the fabric. I love this spray because you can move the batt off and reposition it if it isn't just right. The batt is double thick since it was folded lenght wise first of all. I then peeled the top layer to the side and sprayed the bottom batt layer and flipped the top layer back over it so it was then two layers thick again. Then I sprayed the top layer of the batt. When I tie a quilt, I always have a double layer of batting. The quilt ends up limp if I use one layer only. When I'm machine quilting I use only one batt layer.
Then I laid the top fabric over the sprayed batt, folding it in half to position it and then stretched the other half over the rest of the batt. Large safety pins work great to securely hold all the layers together. I placed them about every 5 inches.
I then tied the quilt while I basked in a BBC television series set in the Sence and Sensibility era that I found on the computer. We don't have satellite or cable t.v. because we don't watch much. When I'm blue I find myself wanting to be distracted and I listen to books on tape a great deal to divert my mind and keep me moving and getting something done or I'd have a tendency not to do anything. That of course fuels the depression so I do a few of my favorite things during whatever season I'm in.
A few of you quilters may notice the edging. I'm not telling you about it because I'm never doing one quite like it again. Took me a whole day of frustration to get it done. Nope, never will I do one quite like that again.
P.S. I didn't have pie for breakfast. I was a good girl and had leftover egg and cheese souffle from last night, salad is for lunch. I'm not always a bad girl just sometimes my resistance is low.
By the way, have you got a wonderful depression lifting formula? I know that things that lift one persons mood may not another but it's always nice to hear what others do. It may be something that I haven't thought of or will work for others who read this post.
I know I can find comfort in the scriptures.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Finale

Okay, you've caught me, I'm having a piece of pie for breakfast a...gain, apple this time. I know I really shouldn't but surely just a sliver won't hurt me. It's this post's fault. How can you write about pie and not eat it? Especially since it is one of my favorite desserts.

Wait some of you may be thinking, didn't you make that a long time ago? Here comes another confession yes and well... no. A busy schedule kept me from making the pie crust dough for several days. Then the dough got made but it was rather late in the evening to be baking pies so I put the dough in the refrigerator. Two days later, I still hadn't made the pies so I forced myself to whip together a pecan pie filling and a squash filling thinking that would push me to get it done. Then as I was reaching for the pie crust in the refrigerator, I just couldn't stand the body aches anymore and put the fillings in the refrigerator instead and went to lay on our bed. Call me a quitter if you want but all this procrastinating isn't my fault. The doctor did it. Well if you're going to procrastinate royally then you might as well blame someone else too don't you think? One good sin deserves another. Yes, I went to church last Sunday and I've heard the little story about the spider and "what tangled webs we weave when we first try to decease (sorry typo I mean deceive)".
My great grandmother use to recite a poem to the effect instilling in me not to tell a lie. But the truth is, it's my doctor's fault. He thought it would be a good idea to take me off my adrenal medication. We had slowly been able to lower the amount as I progressively got better. BA...D move and then in the flurry of all the discussion of my long list of health issues, all related to one another, he didn't renew the new strength on another medication. It left me terribly achy and depressed and moaning for more hormones. Most of you thankfully have no idea how many of those things the body produces and how the body shuts down without them. The list is long and I swear I'm on most of them. I'm a bit of a drug addict. No not the traditional kind. In fact, I once thought a box of compounded medications made just for me had been stolen in the mail. I called my pharmacist and she laughed. " I'm sorry." she said, " but the image of a drug addict opening the box and finding out what was inside is hilarious. Boy will they be disappointed!" So you see it is my doctor's fault for this post series not being completed sooner. I'm still waiting for my meds but I was too depressed Monday and Tuesday to call him and remind him to call to renew the prescription. See procrastinating is his fault. I know. I know. We are given weakness that we might overcome them and be strong. See I was listening at church. I promise to do better today or... maybe tomorrow.
But all that procrastination did teach me something. Leaf Lard pie dough does stay nicely in the refrigerator. Another tip, you can roll out your pie dough to the desired thickness, put it in a pie plate, then wrap the plate in plastic wrap, then foil , and freeze. It can be frozen for up to --three months. This is great for pumpkin pies and custard types. Or you can roll out several pie crusts layering them with parchment in between to separate them, wrap in plastic, then in foil, and freeze.
Or better yet, assemble a whole pie, the crust and filling such as in a apple pie, then freeze it. It can be frozen for -- one month. When you take it out, it can go straight into the oven. A great idea for when you have company coming. I baked my squash pie and berry pie and froze them. This Friday our daughter and her family are coming and we are going to cut up the beef. I don't have time to worry about baking pies even if they are frozen and I don't have to make them. I know I'll forget about them in the rush and they'll burn so I made them ahead and they can thaw while we're busy cutting meat. Now I just have to think of what main dishes I want to make ahead of time to reheat while they're here.
The whole point of this post was to tout the wonderful properties of Leaf Lard and once again I've procrastinated until the end. But lest you think I never get anything done, I had better tell you about the wonderful virtues of Leaf Lard and the benefits of making it yourself. Using lard in baking is finding a resurgence with cooks and chefs in Europe and the USA right now. Pie crust made from Leaf Lard is more flaky than a crust made with butter. Note that I'm saying Leaf Lard, for this particular lard has the mildest flavor of any of the fat throughout the hog making it perfect for pie crusts. It is the highest grade of fat and if you are purchasing it from a store, look carefully at the label. Most of what is available for you to buy will be a combination of fats from various parts of the pigs body. Some areas of the country are selling Leaf Lard fat frozen for you to render yourself in to lard. In fact, a new industry is booming where specialty farmers are raising old traditional type, fat hog breeds raised especially for their lard.
So if you want a flaky, moist crust try Leaf Lard. You'll really notice a difference. I love it because it is so much nicer to work with and rolls out so smoothly. If you missed out on the post on how to render Leaf Lard and where you can find it on a pig click on the word Lard
and if you want to know about making the pie crust dough click Dough.
Every time I do something I learn. Often what not to do but still, I learn. From making pies this time I found that I like my simple squash pie recipe best. I'm almost embarrassed to call it a recipe. Really its just pureed squash, I used some I had in the freezer, a touch of cinnamon, and a little sugar and goat milk mixed all together until it tastes right and is the right consistency. I thought about measuring just for you but I hadn't the energy. Also I picked up a tip from Throwback At Trapper Creek when she said she pulled the bottom crust up over the top and pinched the edges instead of the other way around. It is so... much easier that way. Now one of these days I'm going to use cute tiny cookie cutters to make the holes in the top crust instead of the boring bland slits with the knife to let the steam out. But first, I'm going to need some medication if I'm going to get much of anything done. If they arrive soon, I might even make Swiss Cheese Chicken Pot Pie with the roosters needing butchered. I can't seem to get enough of Leaf Lard pie crust.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Call Me A Scrounger

Call me a scrounge for that's what I am. See these wooden frames covered in plastic. They came off a construction site yesterday. A new fire hall to house the fire department is under construction and these wooden and plastic frames were covering the window, then cast aside headed for the dump. Kirk saw the potential of making them into cold frames for the garden. Teasingly, he told me to put on my begging face and go to it. The site foreman was happy to get rid of them for it was one less thing they have to haul off when their done. Yup, we're finding construction sites a great place to find scraps for projects. I'm just kicking myself for not asking if they have any lumber they also want to get rid of . Now I'll have to go back. We've a big wooden box in the backyard that Kirk got from the coal mine that we were going to build a small chicken coop for the garden and we need some more lumber to complete the simple design I have in mind. Yup, Kirk's learned to put on his best begging face too. The large wooden box once held a piece of heavy machinery for shipping. I'd feel bad asking but the things we approach other for are either going to be trashed or have sat unused for a very long time. The ticket to asking is being very polite and with companies be brief for you're taking the boss away from their work.

"May I please have ____ if it is going to the garbage dump. I want to
use it for _________. I really appreciate this. Thank you. I'll hall it off right away."

Then be prepared to remove it immediately or very soon so it doesn't sit around and they wonder if your word is good, meanwhile an opportunity for them goes by when they could of gotten rid of it so they aren't real happy with you. Remember he might be the one ahead of the next construction site you want to scrounge from.

I think this scrounging mentality began when I was growing up, the youngest of four. My mother and father divorced and that placed us on a very limited budget. Hand me downs or second hand clothes made up the bulk of my wardrobe. Before school started mom would buy me a few new things and then again on Christmas I had something new but all my dresses were passed down from my sisters. You can guess that they weren't always the style or the color that I liked and in part that is why I learned to sew on my grandmothers old Singer sewing machine. The one she once sewed my mother's baby clothes on. I still have that machine all 45 pounds of it.

Because of medical bills, money was always a bit tight when we were raising our children. Cooking, sewing and gardening were a way of life and I made everything from their underwear on out when they were little while learning to cook from scratch and can or freeze food from the garden. The kids are raised and Kirk and I aren't poor like I was as a kid but stretching his hard earned money is part of what I see as my job. It's how I show my appreciation for all his hard work. Kirk's knives bring in a little income that allows him to buy a few extras but is really just an artistical passion that he pursues.

Something that you spend hours at does not necessarily have to have great financial benefits. His knives fulfill a longing to create -- something that is inherit in us all. We express that differently but everyone needs to be creative whether it is with fabric, food, garden, scrap booking, or whatever. God is creative and we in his image have the same desire. So Kirk pursues his talents, I pursue mine, and we work together on joint projects. Because we don't have a money tree producing an abundance of funds we become even more creative. Kirk builds or revamps machinery for his knives and we gather inexpensive materials or scrounge items for our projects. I think it's better this way. Not easier mind you but better. Because we don't have lots of money to spend we naturally recycle items, and become more appreciative of what we have., Creativity blossoms for necessity is the mother of invention. I'll show you a few things in the barnyard that were once scrounged and because they were they have lots of character and memories.

The A-framed chicken coop was once a blasting shed on the Jacob's Ranch Coal Mine. When it had served its purpose and it was headed for the dump Kirk hauled it home. The wood floor is is bad shape but some black heavy rubber belting from the mine now covers it up plus warms the floor. (Wish you could still get some of that stuff but the mines now sell their junk to companies for recycling.) The tin on the outside of the old frame is new something kind of rare in the old barnyard. There is a funny story behind it, I'll have to tell you someday.The two nests in the coop are a friend's old 4-wheeler tires that went flat. The hay shed is an old, now antique, loaf stacker for hay that has the floor removed. It once sat discarded on a ranch and having watched it sit unused year after year I asked about it, looked it over, and made an offer of $200. It was all we could afford at the time. We stack small square hay bales inside. The vents you can see on top don't make the shed exactly waterproof but we live in an arid climate and a covering of plastic over the hay keeps everything dry saving us lots of money we would normally have lost from weather exposed moldy hay we couldn't feed.
Part of the plastic is recycled and used in the springtime in the garden.
This shed was originally built for one of the first town parades for the judges to sit in and tally their votes. We've won categories in every local town parade we entered. Come summer I'll have to pull out the photos and show you some of our hilarious floats and costumes. The first parade we were in we did Beach Bums. Two, two month old bum lambs dressed in tank tops and shorts with sun visors on their heads trailed along side our kids dressed in shorts carrying cardboard surf boards. Our youngest, our son, was about three years old. They walked along as I held a tape recorder blaring music of the Beach Boys.

Sorry, my mind trailed off down memory lane for Halloween, Christmas caroling, parades, just about everything thing we did usually involved the animals and it was a fun time. If you want to check out Christmas caroling with reingoats. Clink on the underlined word reingoats if you want to read this past post.
We added a front and door to the shed, put it on skids, insulated it, and added a rubber belting floor making it easy to clean and much warmer. It has housed the goats for years.

When our neighbor quit raising hogs, I asked to buythe shed and received it for free. Sorry, no picture. We in turn have given a shed, feeders etc. that we no longer use to others for we appreciate the things given to us. Oh, I almost forgot the cow panels that fence in the animasl that we were given from a job site for free. Then there is the chain link fence that FEMA gave us after the tornado. They were going to haul it to the dump and called me instead. We put it inside the cow panels around the goat pen to keep the kids in. I almost forgot the round bale feeder that Kirk cut the good parts off and modified into a corner beef feeder. It worked great for one beef but when we put two in the pen there jostling competition for feed tore it up. Our son has agreed to modify it again and rebuild it in May in exchange for all the weeks I've babysat his hyperactive bird dog.

Yup, barter, ask for, and modify, to your use is something I think we will all need to perfect in the difficult days that will be ahead. I'm glad were already learning how.

I'm curious. What has been your best scrounged item. I'm always looking for ideas on how to convert one thing into another.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Home On The Range

Photo is of the buffalo on the ranch and changed in a photo program to watercolor.

Just a few miles from our house lies the Durham Ranch where over a thousand head of buffalo roam with Rocky Mountain Elk, mule deer, white-tail deer, and antelope. We live on the grasslands of Wyoming where a rich abundance of wildlife share the open prairie. These bison, which are commonly called buffalo in the USA, are small black specs that we see out our front window have inspired my husband's latest project. Home On The Range, a knife, where buffalo trail off single file through blades of waving grass. My husband is a Mastersmith knifemaker and he utilizes many of the techniques of blacksmiths of old along with modern technology. Everyone of his blades begins in the forge and is pounded into shape upon an anvil.

Don't be misled into thinking that these buffalo are etched or engraved upon this blade. What you see is hundreds of steps masterfully executed to form this one of a kind piece. The blade is still a ways from being finished but I thought you might like to come along with me and take a brief glimpse at the journey the blade has traveled to get to this point.

Kirk and I have a strong belief that we should be learning always and improving ourselves and our talents. With that philosophy, Kirk began exploring a new way to do mosaic pattern Damascus which would equate to less distortion of the pattern.
The buffalo are cutouts from a large sawmill blade. These cutouts were stacked one on top of another four inches tall and placed in a 4x4 inch metal tube. The tube bottom was covered with a plate and welded shut. Then Kirk poured in powdered metal of a different chemistry to form contrast with the buffalo until the tube was completely filled. Then a lid was placed on top and welded. Into a fiery hot forge Kirk positioned the tube and he cycled it in and out keeping it glowing red while he sometimes subjected it to blows of his hammer and other times pressure of his hydraulic press. In this manner of careful manipulation he compressed the tube down to a 1 x 1 inch square 16 inches long. I watch the process yet I can't comprehend how the buffalo are reduced down to this tiny size and not become disfigured. From here on out it makes more sence to me. The buffalo piece is cut into tiles and aligned side by side. A custom built suitcase is arranged around them to hold them in place while they are subjected to the forge, hammer, and press once more. This unites them into one piece. Here the buffalo are being removed from the metal suitcase.

The grass is then created which is hundreds of layers of metal forged and twisted to create these small strips. A trip hammer dating back to 1806 that was once use on a South Dakota farm to pound out plow shears has found new life in Kirk's knife making shop moving hot metal to produce art.

These three Damascus pieces are formed around each other to create a blade.

Then once more put into a custom built metal suitcase and back once more they go into the hot forge.The heat, pounding and pressing forge weld the three pieces into one. The metal suitcase is then removed.
This intricate blade is still in its rough form even after many hours of labor.
The look is exquisite and we are excited about how it turned out. I look forward to collaberating with Kirk choosing handle material, guard design, and butt design. The creative process where our ideas flow back and forth as we brain storm together about the little details is a special time that we share together. I can't hardly wait to get started and I'll let you have a glimpse of the knife when it is done. If you're interested I'll blog briefly about the completion stages.

Hopefully other projects won't shove it aside for long for we have a beef to process and it is hanging in the garage right now. Also Kirk has a full time job besides building knives and designing for two knife companies. If you want to see more of Kirk's knife artwork go to he will be blogging about this knife soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I don't mind a little attitude, it gives animals

and people personality. Talking about a child with attitude, this one has it. You probably picked that up from the stance. Now she's not always easy to get along with being that her decisions are often emotional ones. Actually, always emotional ones and her grandma is extremely logically based. None the less, we adore each other and grow from our time together.
But when it comes to livestock there are a few things I don't tolerate. Orville here thinks he's a lady's man. And he does rule the roost right now but he's developed a real nasty streak this last week. Oh it's partly my fault being that I kept him with our mean Autralorp rooster. I thought I'd get by okay but once again I was a fool. How many times have I seen a calf turn out with a mean temperament just like it's mom because the traits were either inherit or taught.

That's why when a rancher, we admire, had a cow take down the hired hand and send him to the hospital he sent her to the sales ring the next day. She was already headed for the sales ring when she attacked him on a 4-wheeler almost knocking him off when he tried to move her to another pen that evening. Didn't matter how pretty her calf was or that she might of been overly protective because she had a calf. It isn't worth the risk, the headaches, or possible hospital bills. There are other animals out there who are just as nice looking and have a good personality too. Why perpetuate animals that have bad conformation or a ornery dispositions? I don't know about you but I don't need to make my days more difficult and challenging than they naturally are.

Our daughter had five surgeries over thirteen months due to an ornery FFA steer named Axton that pinned her in a horse trailer after she trimmed him one day for a show and he wasn't in a good mood about it. He used her as a punching bag with its head. Later we learned that his breed wasn't known for a sunny disposition. But in the end it was our fault because we didn't research breeds before we purchased him and we didn't establish enough dominance with him. It was his personal nature to rule. Since then I've had my Miss Beasleys who were a joy except once every few weeks when she tried again to establish dominance by lowering her head and forcefull pushing on me. The next time I got in the pen it was with a piece of 2 by 4 board reestablished that I was in charge by a firm rap on the bridge of her nose when she lowered her head. Being nice didn't get the job done but neither did I beat her. Just a mildly painful tap. She was as sweet and loving as ever for three more weeks. Then there was Jack who didn't care who was in charge. You could have crawled under and around that steer and he would of stood perfectly still.

This is Tinker Bell with Kirk playing a dominance game that reestablishes him as the alpha male. Note he is standing slightly sideways with his head lowered in a passive position so she will walk up to him.

Which brings me to the point that there are activities that you can do with different animals to establish yourself as the dominate one in the pecking order. My mare has a personality that makes her test you and she is ultra sensitive to body language being a visual learner. I never feed her and let her eat without first telling her she can. This is something the dominate horse in the pens or herd does. I place feed in my horse's feeder then step back a pace and turn sideways while tipping my head down. This signals that she may come forward and eat because that is a passive body position. Aggressive is squaring your body becoming large and moving toward her which is what I do if she tries to eat without permission. How nice it is to carry food without fear of her running me over or snatching it and missing burying her teeth in me instead. Looking directly into her eyes is another aggressive move.

Animals will learn to become desensitized to body language cues but they also loose respect and become less mannerly. Many owners just don't notice it until the horse jerks on the halter or worse, kicks or bites. When our middle daughter was a teenager she complained that my mare would snip at her. I couldn't hardly believe it and asked our daughter to walk up to my mare to see what was going on. Sure enough I saw subtle signs of nervousness and she bared her teeth. I changed the way our daughter walked up to her and The End. No more teeth bared. My mare wasn't establishing dominance she felt threatened.

After Axton we took a crash course from our neighbor, who is a horse whisperer so to speak, on what things different animals perceive as an aggressive move by humans. He had me stand in a pen full of mares and sometimes a stallion was present. Or it could be a group of geldings. I had to tell him what each animal was saying to the other. That way I also learned the differing behavior of males and females. A definite pecking order is involved and this will change as new animals are introduced or the younger members wish to move up the ladder. Then he taught me to think and move in a similar manner.

One no no move is bending down when directly facing a beef. I've stood in front of a steer and bent over as I scooped up manure. Wrong move as they immediately bend their head in a charging position. It will come back up as soon as you are no longer in that position if they haven't already charged. Most people never even notice animal's reactions to the way they position their bodies. But animals as a whole do not have large vocabulary and speak mostly through body language. If you understand it you can become a bit of a Doctor Doolittle. With every move you make around an animal you are speaking to them whether you know what you are saying or not. Therefore you are also training an animal every time you are around them for the good or bad. Animals that aren't handle often will consider you strange and often will be more tolerant of your misdirected body language. The problem comes in when you are excepted as part of the herd such as when you bottle feed a calf and you become its surrogate mother. When the calf reaches over 1000 pounds those cute aggressive moves such as pushing on you won't be funny anymore and more difficult to stop. My rule is don't allow any behavior when they are small that you don't want them doing when they are grown. Whether it is a 6 pound cat or a 12oo pound horse. You just confuse them with the mixed messaging and they will often become upset when you no longer except the behavior. This is can escalate the scene to a possible dangerous situation. For this reason I don't rub cattle on the forehead like you do horses. For horses it's a positive action for a domineering beef it means, Oh, you're rubbing my head, let me rub you back with my head which means he might just lower his head and hit you one. His love tap being rough enough to send you across the pen. I always rub beef on the neck. Some you'll get away with the head and they won't try anything as they are a passive personality.

With most animals you can teach them without even laying a hand on them if you understand body language. My mare if let loose in an arena will change direction and speed with hand signals. She will side pass, move her hips or shoulders over, stop, and even back without me laying a hand on her or her even having a halter on. My dad made fun of my training until one day I shifted her over and around into position in the horse trailer without touching her. He saw how much safer and handier it was. My mare is sensitive to body language being a visual learner. She is also very sensitive to tactile cues. As far as a verbal learner she's just fair. Many of you probably hadn't thought of animals as being a visual, tactile, or auditory learners. They are and so different training methods are more successful with different animals.Breeds have domineering personalities and traits also. Our son's dog has A.D.D. I swear it and you must be very firm with him and consistent. He wishes to be the Alpha and will test you continually. More so as a puppy but it is a trait of the German Wire-Hair breed. One tip with a bird dog is if you grab their flank they will naturally drop the bird in their mouth. Handy when your training a puppy that doesn't want to let go of the pheasant he just retrieved. So when Orville showed some real attitude - bad attitude - by attacking me big time with beak and spurs when my back was turned as I was just about to step out of the coop, I knew it was partly my fault. I'd left him with the ornery Australorp rooster having nowhere else to put him. I couldn't leave him in the coop with the hens for he'd remove all the feathers off their saddle like he did the past three weeks and it gets mighty cold around here. Oh I laid into him kicking his behind all the way out into the run. Unfortunately, the respect he gained won't last. He'll only get sneakier and wait for an opportune moment to strike again. Something I've learned from past roosters. Today, I found out he'd nailed Kirk last week. Just a peck on his hind leg when he was turned but none the less a bad move especially if he'd of had shorts on. He let him know who was boss but a week later he attacked me more.

It's a loosing battle. How do I know? Well, I've had a few ornery rooster over the many years we've raised them. I've never been able to teach them through becoming nice or acting the alpha either. So past experience has taught me they haven't enough brains to be re-trained. Over the years goats, sheep, horses, and beef cattle have all learned proper manners with careful training. Even the little buck sheep that within a few minutes of birth was hammering his mom and twin around with his head. He only did that to me a few times when he was little and he became a nice amicable show lamb for the kids without another problem.

So I don't care how much he crows about how cool he is. There's only one place he's headed. I'm inviting him to dinner this week. Want to come over, were having chicken noodle soup. The hen's eggs are in the incubator and his service to the flock is over. Little does he know that all his offspring are headed for the freezer anyway because I found out that Buff Orpington hens quit laying when the weather gets cold.

Now I'm left with the dilemma of what to do with the Australorp rooster. I wanted to put him in next and hatch some chickens, keeping a few of the hens. But the neighbor also has an Austrolorp rooster and he once acted aggressively but he hasn't since. We're guessing she might of moved in a way that the rooster perceived as threatening. Swinging a bucket, not moving slow enough and walking directly toward them will all be judged as aggressive actions to a chicken. He's been fine since so maybe Austrolorps are not a strong alpha type male.

I'm saddened because normally chickens like me and I try to move slow and deliberate around them. When I'm in the coop there is usually a Wyadotte and a Buff Orpington hen that follow me around standing next to me when I stop and I reach down an pet them. The Wyadotte has much to say to me though I can't understand a word but I uhuh along agreeing with her. My hens stay on the nest and I can pet them and reach under to slip the eggs out. As for cocks, I've had several pet roosters but the three roosters I have now are not among them. Last year we had Puff Head, a Polish rooster. We adored him and he gave us more entertainment than any rooster we've ever had. He slept with the barn cats and even ate cat food with the barn cats. They excepted him as one of their own. He never did start catching mice though preferring to remain a welfare recipient.

As for the Autralorp, do I dare breed him to my hens? I know in some breeds all the roosters are mean. That I know because I had a conversation one time with a hatchery owner. But I think the problem with our Australorp was that some town kids teased him. The neighbors had trouble the same summer with their hens.

Have you any advice for me?

If I can find a nice Wyadotte rooster this summer, he's coming home with me. I've had several and two ended up pets until they died of old age. What about Barred Rock roosters? That was the breed that was running loose attacking us. I like the personality of my two hens are the roosters as nice? Then again the hatchery owner said some of the breeds have nice hens but mean roosters. What's a girl to do?