Friday, December 30, 2016

Snow, Snow Snow!!

The forecast is for snow starting this afternoon with accumulations of 2 to 6 inches and if the weather is anything like it has been, then we will get the 6 not the 2 inches. As you can see we need more of the white stuff ha, ha. And since Old Man Winter does not think we have enough, another storm is to hit on Sunday and Monday. They promise just flurries but we shall see. This year the weatherman keeps upping his predictions right before each storm and being on the edge of the Siberian Vortex thingy, I suppose we shall see much more of the white stuff before spring. I'm just grateful we are on the edge not the middle. 

It wouldn't be so bad if we could simply sit by the fire and read stories but......

first we have to unbury the livestock. The goat stalls are on the left and the chickens on the right. The board across the coop is to keep the wind from destroying the door, also keeps the predators out. If you look closely you will see raccoon claw marks by the handle which has a clasp.This was Christmas's storm with howling winds. 

The work is not done though for after we unbury the livestock we have to get the hay to the them through the wide and drifting snow "OH!". Sorry I felt a song coming on. Our four year old grand daughter loves, " Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go" since we go over the creek and through a grove of trees before climbing to this grandmother's house.

Tromping through the snow drifts with hay is after we unbury the hay bale. Hay does not unwind off a round bale if it is packed tight in wind driven snow. We spent hours just shoveling. Then we unburied the gates to get through them. Luckily the goat gate does not get buried very often and the beef one we dig through when a storm is to hit with low temperatures for we put the calves move the calves from the pasture to the barn. The temperatures are suppose to dip low again on this coming Sunday and last for a good week at least so they will get moved once more. Sam gets lonely but he can hunker deeper in his small shed and is tough enough to weather the storms.

Luckily on Christmas our oldest daughter was snowed in with us. All the roads were closed due to blizzarding conditions. So on Monday while plows cleared the highways and county roads, she was here to help out. Wisely she had brought her snow boots and with my wool German army pants she got by. I have Swedish ones too. The German ones have a plastic like stuff in the knees and butt which is great for wollering in the snow but the Swedish ones have longer legs and I like that. Yesterday I found the smaller sized Carhart insulated bibs so they will be here for her. They are the workhorse brand out here and what I usually reach for first. 

 As for boots, I told her if she wanted to hole up here, she had to get more country footwear. She is now looking for a pair of Boggs or Mucks as it seems we are always cleaning stalls or shoveling out when she comes. True to form, we cleaned stalls after we had shoveled out. The snow crept in. Seems we have some more tightening up to do on the goat stalls and goat milking barn too. Nothing like a blizzard with high winds to show your shelter's weak areas.

When the livestock chores were done then we unburried the porches and sidewalk. While we shoveled, Kirk manned the tractor and cleared the snow in front of the barn and garage then moved on to clearing the 1/2 mile of road to the county road. It could be a very winter. Funny, my back is not hurting but my hind end sure feels it after this long week of shoveling. The wind keeps howling and driving the snow around into new drifts or making existing ones higher.  
 The grandkids lucked out. They snuggled by the fire early Christmas morning just before taking off with their mom to her house, just before the storm hit.

I see a red sky this morning and you know the saying, "Red sky take warning." After livestock chores, I've got wood to haul and stack in the garage. I'm then going to run to town for a grocery run. Our oldest granddaughter has a birthday on New Years. She turns 12. For her birthday dinner she wants hamburgers and we have no beef in the freezer. Another task needing done, process the beef for the freezer. We have no Yak hamburger left either which she would have loved too. Yak is the kid's favorite meat.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Snuggle in, drink that eggnog, and huddle by the fire because the weather is going to be frightful! We have a forecast for 5 - 8 inches of snow, 25 - 35 mph winds with up to 50 mph gusts. And with a high temperature of the day forecasted to be a whopping 12 Fahrenheit at its height, it will be well below zero wind chill.

Last night we tucked the calves in the barn, the goats into their stalls, and the chickens and the rabbits in the insulated coop. A few chores will be done early this morning before the full force of the storm hits and then we will stay by the fire. I've got pajamas to finish and knitting to do so I'll stay busy. I think I will even make some candy and watch a movie - after all it is Christmas.

What we won't do is go to church. I love church and the service will be a special one but we live 24 miles away. Our exit off the Interstate is lit up with web cameras because it can become so frightful. It might be a rather sleepy exit traffic wise but it is not a nice one in the winter.  We finished reading the Christmas story last night to the kids and now Santa Claus is on their minds.

The kid's momma will pick them up when her grave shift is over early this morning. That is after a large breakfast I have planned. It will be just the three of us today then, our oldest daughter and us. We have never had a laid back, lazy Christmas before. I'm rather looking forward to it. Not that I'd like it every year but this one it would be especially nice as my body and brain need a long winter's nap. I could use a little peace on earth.

The kids set their alarm clock for six and it will soon go off. I'd better get the hot chocolate going. Never heard the likes for our kids had us up at 2 or 3 in the morning each year. I could get use to this though. I'm always up by 4 or 5 at the latest and a little quiet before the storm is rather nice.

Have a wonderful Christmas!!!  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Train Wreck

I'm ready to put my decorations away. My daughter says to hang on until after Christmas but I just want to de-clutter. There isn't such a word except in my vocabulary but if you have not guessed, it means slow the fast train down. Grandma wants off. My life is over flowing on the best of days and with the holidays, I slipped over the cliff into exhaustion. Exhaustion is not good. It put me down for a week with low vitals and I did not have a week to give where I was too weak to even knit or sew.

Kirk and I have begun working on organizing this fall. We are feeling our world spinning out of control and we desperately need control. Each box we go through and toss items from gives us a cleansing feeling. Each organizational project we accomplish eases our work load. Everything we get done for the livestock whether it is a shed, gate, or cage makes our life easier. "A place for everything and everything in its place." my grandfather used to say but then he did not have so many things but we shall try.  You need tools, tools, tools.It is the curse of being self-sufficient.

Don't misconstrue me into a Ba Humbug. I've noticed that those of you from town or city situations are extremely big on entertainment. It would be hard to begin to comprehend out lifestyle especially in the addition of fill in parenthood at 57.  Even though many of you don't comprehend what it takes just imagine  for a moment if you were in charge of maintaining your own road  which includes clearing snow and smoothing the washboards; if you had to treat and deal with your own sewage; your own water resource and treatment system; if you had to produce your own food and do your own house repairs, then how much stress would you feel during the holidays? Holidays blown out of proportion by society but that is my opinion. I believe commercialization has made the holidays very difficult for all along with more people with free time on their hands.

I love Christmas music, decorations, and I adore my Savior but this holiday after holiday thing ruins my good cheer by the time Christmas roles around. Some money would ease the situation but what I'd really like is to reinvent the holidays. I'm not really sure how. If you've got ideas, I'd love them.

As for Halloween, I've made a decision  about the grand daughters. I'm not making costumes if you are eleven and older. I've made most of the four grand daughter's costumes since they were tiny. I've tried the not making them but that brought about disaster each time so I've got to find a way to slow down. That is my first step. I've assigned the eleven and older girls to make their own costumes since there is no school party. Next year I will have two, not four to make. In fairness the present eleven year old did her own costume this year which gave me the idea.

If I could really reinvent the holidays, I'd skip Halloween all together but I know there are those who adore the thing. As for Thanksgiving, since we won't have Halloween then lets put it in October when the garden harvest is fresh. That would give me two months until Christmas. It was difficult when we lived in town but  I sent Christmas cards before Christmas. I made up plates of goodies for friends and neighbors and yes, struggled to get presents done but still more did get done. Yes, it would all be different if we did not have the four girls but I would not trade that for easier holidays so I'd better figure something out.

This year I skipped Thanksgiving and Kirk and I had leftovers. The task was big but it is much larger now. There just was no way to get the sheds, corrals, and cages all cleaned because all the grandkids would want to tromp in and out to visit the animals. I knew Iwould not get the house cleaned and the food all made so I simply took the holiday off. Next year I will have to push much, much, more on to others and see what happens. If it does not work then we will have do something else.

For Christmas the girls have decided to spend part of the day with their mom instead of all of us staying here. I can't blame them as they are there so seldom. I will do a large breakfast for when their mom arrives after graveyards and after church they will stay with her for a few hours before she goes on graveyard shift and they return. I really need to rethink birthdays too. Something has to break besides me.

Can we move Christmas off to January for what I really want is to get back to organizing and finding a place for everything and put everything in its place. The things we did over the last year have made a huge help in time savings and work load. There is so much more of fixing and organizing to do and I'd like to get doing it. Workaholic I know but I do the same for a holiday it is just I can't work any harder. As we become more self-sufficient I'm sure the busy work will lesson as things become more efficient but that won't mean we are any less busy. I don't want to wish the holidays away but there has to be a semblance of peace on earth or this grandma is getting off the run away train.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Tomatoes Had Aphids!

We have been watching the parade of deer today. Back and forth they trek across the back of the house. They keep checking but the double high woven wire fence just does not come down. Poor things, no more lush alfalfa hay. The good thing about having so many deer in the yard is sheds. No, not the kind made of wood or metal but the antlers growing on the deer's heads that fall off in the winter time. We have a couple four point antlers they've left as presents. In Wyoming you count the tines on one side not both sides like you do back East. We often call antlers horns but technically they are not. Horns remain and grow for the life of the animal and antlers are shed once a year.

We keep a close eye out for antlers and keep them picked up. Many a rancher has had an expensive tractor tire punchered by one.

My sister called today. She has aphids on her Tiny Tom tomato plants. Me too or rather I did. (I sent small starts with my other sister this fall to give her.)I would guess it is a condescendence that hers and mine both have them as it has been months since her's left my house. She said she was using an insecticide but with such few plants I found it quite easy to just take the pots to the kitchen sink, tip it on its side and use the power spray nozzle to hose the tops and bottoms of each leave sending the aphids down the kitchen drain.  

Two of my tomato plants got pretty bad. I've pictured one. I finally just threw the two plants in the pot deciding that I had six more starts in small pots and four full size ones in larger pots. It just did not seem like it was worth the effort to fight this one back to health with all the drama going on around us. I would have to hose the plant of daily. The others seem to been fine with just a couple thorough hosings.

 The aphid problem was my fault. I had neglected the tomatoes and they were not getting fertilized or watered as they should. Stress often brings on disease or the bad guys. Stress seems to be a part of life.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Huddled outside the kitchen window are 10 head of deer.

As I write this, the double Polar Vortex is in full force. The temperature outside says 21 below zero Fahrenheit. That is 29.4 Celcius for those of you in other parts of the world. I hope our dear Sam is alright. I can't see as it is dark outside so I can only stew about the problem. Not that I'm anxious to go out there myself. It is one thing for a herd of cattle to stand out in this cold but quite another for a lone steer. Heat radiates off the backs of the herd as they huddle together and all benefit from this shared warmth. In the winter, wildlife herds build to the hundreds.

While we shifted the smaller animals around, I debated about bringing Sam in to the small area between the goat stalls and the chicken coop but alas the drifts are deep and long. He could make it but not likely would he do it. Then I also thought about how when he was smaller and stayed in this area he use to poop right in front of the goat stall doors freezing them shut. I had to chisel his frozen manure out of the way. Maybe he is better off out in the pasture shed.
Pronghorn antelope in the fall.
I remember one raw winter in our previous home where the temperature did not rise above 18 below for a solid week. The Pronghorn antelope were bunch in large herds around town absorbing the heat emitting off the houses. One morning we awoke and discovered a Pronghorn standing up all by himself. He had frozen to death. It was two days before he fell over. Sam is hardly a skinny antelope at 1300 pounds but he is my baby and so I worry like I do for all our animals.

Yesterday the wind chills hovered at -36 with the temperature  around 6 above at its highest. The wind howling and snow a blowing drifting the white stuff. Last evening it dipped below 0 and the wind chill rose to the 20's. That was somehow colder. Some of you are reading this and laughing and saying "What panty waists." or something to the effect. In my defense, I have experienced Jackson Hole, down by the river in the winter. The cold hovers in the trees in the valley and the humidity pierces you to the bone. The truth is my adrenal glands can't take that kind of cold. I just spent this past week in bed because of low vitals and major out of balance electrolytes that caused me to loose 10 pounds in 3 days. I don't need that kind of stress. While I admire those of you with more anti-freeze in your blood, I'll stay in my relatively toasty spot.

The sun is up and so are the kids. I guess I'll have to quit writing, watching the deer huddled around the house (The numbers keep rising.) fix breakfast, and feed stock. Brrrrr.....!! it won't be an easy morning outside.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To Ghee Once Again

It has been a few years since I made ghee. Time is so constrained with so much to do. I am trying to figure out ways to save on our grocery bill and I do have lots of cream. I have made ghee each week from freshly made butter but now I can see the next batch will come from the freezer. I was wise and froze quite a bit. The goats are quickly drying up as the low temperatures drain their bodies. Calories are being spent on keeping warm, not producing milk especially since they are pregnant.

The plan is to have enough separated milk to keep buttermilk, and yogurt going. I usually use whole milk but not during this time of year. I will use separated milk and hopefully have enough to drink also since we don't drink much milk. I  put away some canned milk for cooking earlier this fall and hopefully that will help ease the need for frozen milk. The cream I froze will become sour cream of which I have not started culturing. It will probably have to wait until Christmas gifts are done. I also will make ghee and cook with cream. It will be interesting to see if I have frozen enough. What would have been better is if I had already made my ghee and canned it as I wish to eliminate one of the three chest freezers we have. I also want to play with making cultured butter. The butter I make now is not as flavorful as I like so I buy less expensive butter to cook with and Amish cultured butter to eat.

Someday I hope to be making all my own butter and ice cream but energy, time and enough cream is a problem.  Problem is winter is when I have the time to do the most things with our milk and it is at its lowest supply. I could make lots of butter and pack it away in the freezer. I could make lots of ghee and can it for the rest of the year in the winter IF there was more milk. 

 It is impossible to do everything all year long. Winter I could also try my hand at cheese and freeze some. Maybe dear little Ellie can fill that winter void. I hope to calve her in September of 2018 allowing her to raise her calf for five months. She would produce more milk than the calf needs so the extra would supply us with milk during the winter along with the plethora of things that it can be made into. I know how to make Feta and mozzarella, and want to start making Monterey Jack. The last being a cow's milk cheese. I would continue to milk the goats fall and into December and hopefully this would help create that freezer surplus along with milk from Ellie.

One of winters tasks this year will be trying to figure out when different tasks can be done and how to push others into a season when the tasks can more easily be done  because things are just a hair bit slower.We need a cellar I can see to help with the vegetable side of this.

Ghee lately has been substituted for most of the olive oil we once used. That is definitely saving us some money. Ghee is now what we fry with since it has a higher smoke point. It is what I use in bread making too. It is not the best in pie crusts and cookies - rather greasy. It would be good if it was except I would never be able to keep up making the stuff because unfortunately we love our sweets. We want to use ghee because it is even more nutritious than olive oil. We don't use it because it is cheap. It is only less expensive for us because the base (whole as in cream and all milk) is something we already have.
The children who dislike the smell of it cooking don't dislike the taste. Some of the children think it smells like buttered popcorn, others think it stinks.

What I learned is that ghee comes at a price. These two half pint jars that I figure is equal to a wide mouth pint jar is what is left after cream is separated from over two gallons of milk. I get about three quarts of heavy cream from 2 gallons of milk this time of year. This cream is then made into butter. The butter is then cooked down removing the dairy part. The dairy forms a clump on the top of the oil and sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.What remains is this pint of ghee. I saw one person feeds the butter cast off to her dog. I think I will start feeding it to our barn cats. An area I am working on saving money too is buying less cat food.

If you wonder why ghee is so expensive at the store. Over two gallons of milk down to just one pint is the reason. The health benefits make it worth the effort but I don't recommend that you go to the store and buy organic butter to make ghee from except as an experiment to learn how. I have been going through about a pint and a half a week - pricey indeed. But this is all a part of self-sufficiency. What I have not done yet is use this oil for light. Yes, that is possible. Ghee is indeed nutritious and versatile.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Gift Of Time

Brrr..... It is cold. One degree Fahrenheit right now as I write.  We had such a long, warm fall that the natural antifreeze is low. I guess Old Man Winter is here. They say the extra early and bitter cold winter in Siberia is going to effect us. Luckily we are on the edge of the front systems they say will come our way. Then again they seldom get the forecast correct so who knows. I really should not complain. Others have it worse than we do. We just aren't ready yet. More so than last year but still a long ways off from ready. The list is long of yet to do's, a few years out of to do's. We hear Old Man Winter can get brutal up here with neighbors caravanning behind a tractor plowing through large drifts to reach the highway. Then a time is set for everyone to meet to follow the tractor once more as it plows a way back home again. I hope Old Man Winter's worst waits for us until we are ready. Money and time have not been our friend.

If you wonder where I went the last couple weeks then just know I am running as fast as I can and falling further behind. Fix something, something else needs fixed. That is on top of the things to do lists which does not mention broken. Unfortunately, it is our 4-wheel drive pickup right now which needs a new U-joint and the 4-wheel drive fixed. This is just as we finished one snow piling storm this week and four storms are in the ten day forecast. The neighbor had to play taxi for the kids to get them the few miles to and from the bus stop today as hubby in his stressed out state after we rearranged part of the garage to get it in to and take a gander at the damage, took the truck keys to work. He travels an hour both ways to work so they are completely out of reach. Kirk put chains on the back tires for this past storm. One of the four tire chains needs fixed.

Our four-year-old last night said, "Grandma get up and do something." Apparently my sitting for a spell is rather disturbing to her. Since I have not been sitting, I have not been blogging either.  Christmas is around the corner and I have not gotten anything done yet. No money to buy much and no time to do. Oh well, I am getting in some do for you projects. I taught my first of a series of lessons on how to make bread to our daughter-In-law. I plan on very soon teaching my step-mother-in-law how to make crepes. She voiced an interest.

I may not have finished decorating for Christmas, (I skipped Thanksgiving having left-overs instead because we were so.... exhausted). Even if not much gets done in the form of decorating or gifts before the big day; I plan on making sure the gift of time is given. Maybe not a lot but something special to say I LOVE YOU!