Monthly Archives: May 2011

Kids and Yearlings.

I just love white clouds against blue skies, don’t you?
Last week on one of our walks, I took my camera along. I had intentions of getting a few good pronghorn shots, but none showed. So instead, I took random photos of my kids. Little did I realize they would end up being some of my all-time favorite pics of them! They are hilarious. Well, it was hilarious being with them…not sure if the pics quite capture the humor. I laughed myself silly that day…could barely snap pictures for laughing. :) Yes, I am enamored by my kids. Like any parent, I think they are the bee’s knees.
We were walking down the gravel lane, and when we got close to the fence/cattle guard where the next pasture begins, I seen some yearlings standing by the gate.
“We are about to be surrounded by yearlings,” I remarked casually. When they were younger, my kids could get a bit frightened when the yearlings came crowding around. I wasn’t sure how they felt these days.
“Good! then we can chase them!” Frank said gleefully. I chuckled, but when we crossed the cattle guard, he went flying after them, sending them running. I started to laugh, and told him to do it again so I could snap a pic. He gladly did it again. Yearlings are so silly – they will run pell-mell away if you so much as snort at them, or wave your hand. But a minute later, they stop, turn around, and run right back atcha. Its annoying when you are trying to get something done, but funny if you have a son who loves to chase them. Frank and Jenni chased and re-chased these same steers like 3-4 times, till we finally were across that pasture.

Send em flying, Frank!

Then we walked around the ranch headquarters, and back towards our house. They wanted to walk along the irrigation ditch, so I let them.  The neighbor’s dog likes to walk with us, since my kids willingly toss sticks, rocks, and all manner of junk for him to fetch. Sometimes he fetches things before they throw them. He is weird. They especially like to toss rocks into this ditch, just to watch him dive head first into the water and fetch it out. Anyways.

 Then they like to jump the ditch. Its one of those that is almost too wide to jump, so they take a run at it like 4 times and stall out before actually getting the courage to make the jump. Oh, the carefree days of childhood!!

Course, they had to pet Fred as we passed by. He is their personal horse.

Oh, and we can’t forget ‘Cia! She love when we go on walks.

18th Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show

On Thursday afternoon, I drove down to CO to drop off our kiddos with a babysitter. Then came home and threw some  things together, and My Cowboy and I left for  our annual trip to the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show in Sheridan, WY. 
We started up a small road through the canyon, and over the mountain. It was getting dark, and then we hit fog. Thick fog. Then the normally-decent road turned to dirt. I didn’t realize they were doing road construction on it… so we poked along through the potholes and darkness and fog.
I was on a high from the excitement of finally being on our long-awaited trip. But My Cowboy was tired. He had just worked a long, tiring day, and he was just trying to keep his eyes open.
We were only about 2 hours from home when we finally gave up and stopped for the night. I told My Cowboy that we may as well enjoy our trip, instead of fighting sleep!
The next morning we left by 6 am, like the true early-birds that we are. I love driving early in the morning. Nothing quite like it.
It was cloudy.
Dark and mysterious.
Gloomy and foreboding. 
Well, cloudy, anyways.
It was pretty, tho. I love driving through Wyoming. See how empty the FREEWAY is??? This is how driving should be.

 Pretty little lakes…

 And tired old cowboys.

 …and gigantic Wyoming jackalopes.  (That’s a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope, in case you aren’t from WY.)

 Here is another example of my obscure, slightly twisted sense of humor…
In case you don’t get it – I get a kick out of the ‘green’ wind farm directly behind a power plant that is belching smoke!! Ha ha! I love it!!

And here we are at the leather show itself.

 My Cowboy checking out the knives…

 Somehow I managed to snap photos of leather piles, and not many tools. But I do love the leather. It smells so good. The whole place smells like leather.
There is leather-suppliers, tool suppliers, hardware suppliers, saddle-tree suppliers, leather soap/cream suppliers, leather-dye suppliers, etc. It is fun of you build saddles. Or are married to someone who builds saddles.

Then there is a room christened the ‘World Leather Debut’.  In it are the best of the best, in leather making. Craftsmen and women enter their best items for judging. It is always a popular room. I love the gorgeous items they make. I can’t wait to see a saddle sitting there some year with a little sign that says:
“Cliff Schrock – Maker”.

Meanwhile, check out this stuff…
Beautiful woolly chaps. Not that the white wool would be practical, or anything! :)

 Amazing guitar.

 I love the detail on the back of this saddle.

 This gave me a good idea for the fox that is living under my barn, and desiring my chickens. The mannequin that was holding this handbag had the rest of the fox fur draped around her neck! lol!

 Awesome boots!

Check out the tiny miniature saddle! I love mini’s. They had several there, but this one was the fanciest.
 And here is a briefcase for all you businessmen who don’t need chaps or a saddle! It was amazing. Simply amazing. It won first place in its category. No wonder. It was THE best piece of workmanship in the whole room, I thought. Nice, clean lines, and straight, neat stitches. Plus all that carving.
 This won first place in several categories, I think. Anyways, for floral carving, that’s for sure. It was superb.

And that’s it, folks!
Sadly, it poured rain the entire time we were there, so I didn’t get to go yard-saling…but I am sure you aren’t interested in small details like that. We did enjoy ourselves. Here’s to saddle makers everywhere!! …and the cowboys that need em.

diy pallet chicken coop

DIY Pallet Chicken Coop

I like chickens.

A lot.

Maybe because when I was small, I remember walking out to my mother’s chicken house, and gathering eggs…I’m not sure why I like them so much, but every spring I look at the signs that say: “Chicks here!” and want them so badly. We recently got a Murdoch’s  Farm & Ranch store in our town. I love Farm & Ranch stores, by the way. Anyways, so when they started advertising ‘Chick Days’, I stopped in a few times to let the kids look at the chicks. At least that was my excuse! It was actually a good excuse for ME to get my chick fix. I have tried 3 times to keep chickens here, and they always get eaten – either by fox, coon, or skunk. I had told myself firmly that it was a waste of time, money and energy to try again. But on the third trip to Murdoch’s, I caved. I got 3 Red Star, 3 Buff’s, and 3 Wyandottes. I like variety. I also was trying to get cold-hardy birds, since they will be living in a drafty coop most of the year. If they survive.

I knew the set-up I had been using was not going to work, so I set out to build me a coop. Now, as you know, I am not a carpenter. I do, however, believe anyone can do anything if they want to bad enough. I think more ‘skill’, and ‘talent’ is in our hard work, than in natural ability. I think anyone can be a musician, great cook, cowboy, writer, or, yes, even a carpenter, with enough learning, perseverance, and hard work. I know certain people can naturally do certain things alot easier than others. But usually its more experience or desire than actual talent.


Case in point: My Cowboy never wanted to be a carpenter. Never enjoyed it. But he is an excellent carpenter. He can build anything, without a plan. And it lasts, believe me. Why is he so good? Because he started when young, and worked with his dad, who taught him all he needed to know, little by little, hard day of work after hard day of work.

Me? Why, I had a dad who despised carpentry, never built anything he didn’t have to, and therefore most of my family is slightly lacking in carpenter skills. (except for a few brothers who actually enjoy it, and learned later. ) So I had no examples, and certainly no help building things. But I have built my first freestanding, semi-solid, totally un-square, sorta-kinda-cute, and totally functional structure! It held my chickies for the first time last night, and despite the multitude of cracks, they (the chicks) are still all there this morning! I hope the critters don’t find a way in – cause I have certainly tried to make it critter-proof, if not weather proof.  It does keep out the rain, thankfully, as it rained last night. Here is how to build a coop on the cheap frugal, with minimal zero expertise…

I dug about 24 of these 1×4’s out of the ranch dump. They are from a fallen windbreak, I think. They are 8 ft. each. I had to jerk out about 4-6 old nails out of each one.


Then I got 3 old pallets that were sturdy, and nailed the boards over the cracks. Instant studs! Yay!

I cut out a section of the one pallet for a nest-box entrance, and made a nest box out of scraps I found in the barn.

I missed taking pics of whole sections of the process, but anyways, here it is – the nest box isn’t finished yet, and it need some paint. The roof is longer in the back to help protect the nest box from rain/snow. (that sounds good, anyways…the real reason was because i didn’t want to cut metal, and this piece was basically the right size.)

 The front. I did have to frame this, since I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to cut/fasten a door in a pallet. It was pretty easy, tho. Took me two tries to get the angle right on the door cross-support. Just being honest here.

The inside. here you can see the pallets. I used some corner braces to fasten it to the floor. I couldn’t think of any other way. Didn’t have long enough screws to screw through the oak stringers.
Check out my skylight! I wasn’t sure how to build a window, so I found this piece of clear roofing, and it works great as a skylight. Some days I will have to leave them in the coop all day, and I wanted them to get light.

Frank painted it last night. Well, some of it. See the nest box out the back? It missed getting painted, but I will finish it soon. I am quite pleased with my little coop. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but functional, and not totally sloppy-looking. And I didn’t have any help from the master carpenter, aka: My Cowboy.  The cord is for the heat lamp, in case you wondered. Its still pretty cold here at night. (30º – 40º)

I was so worried last night, I kept waking and wondering if the fox/coons had found a way in to the coop…I went  out this morning and there they all were – hale and hearty.   I got that Tom Hanks/Castaway moment of “I can build! I have made a chicken coop!” Ha ha!

I had several things I wanted in my coop.
1. Easy access to the nest box from the outside. Check.
2. Natural light source, so I wouldn’t have to run a light. Check. I have to have a heat lamp, but don’t want to have to run a light when they are grown.
3. Door big enough for an adult to get in, if necessary. Check.
4. Somewhat rustic/cute. Check.
5. Critter-proof. Check.
I am satisfied.

Branding, 2011

First, our good friends that have lived and worked on the X-Bar for the last 2 winters. I wish they could stay here always. They are good hands, and I like having a woman around. But they have been working on another ranch during the summer. So i don’t see them as often as I would like.

 Lane and Karmen.

 And my favorite photo of the day! Buck-off! No, I don’t want them to get bucked off, but it makes good pictures. Plus, what else do they expect when they bring green colts to a branding? I guess he wasn’t hurt too bad…no blood, and he was pretty active the rest of the day.

 …right onto the ground.

Cliff’s boss (Miller) on the left,  and Miller’s partner.
 …And their wives.
 The guy on the right is Cliff’s current co-worker.

 And My Cowboy, of course. He wrestled calves the first part of the day.

Then he took a turn ropin.

                           

                          

 Everyone was having some trouble  catching that day. The ground was sticky, and it seemed to bugger things up a bit. But still, they got the job done.

 Check out the handful of ropes he holds in one hand.

Friends~The Spice of Life.

Last Saturday was alot of fun. ALOT of fun! Mainly because these two crazy friends came and spent the day. I love having my friends come…who doesn’t? But I think I value it more because I don’t often have the pleasure of entertaining my friends. We live 2 hours from most of my friends. I have had a few more guests than usual the last couple months, and I have loved every minute! I always get that nervous/panicky/I-think-I’m-gonna-hyperventilate feeling in the pit of my stomach about 15 minutes before guests arrive. That never happened to me before we lived here. I just love having people up – its just too exciting, I guess. It does get just the teeniest bit lonely out here…
Anyways – back to the branding. I took 350+ photos, so you will have to indulge me while I share the best ones… Like my friends, here…

I finally have a woman friend who knows what MUCK boots are! :) …and she isn’t afraid to wear them. Go Cowgirls! :)

My Cowboy and his other friend who was helping at the branding. This guy has helped brand before.

And my sweet little ‘fat boy’. This kid is delightfully chubby and tubby and all kinds of sweet. I would kidnap him, but his mom knows where I live! :)

Our kids had a blast…well, ‘cept Frank seemed a bit bored.

Cutest little cowgirl. What a heart breaker!

Lots of funny stuff goin’ on here…


 

Maybe the loop could be just a ‘tiny’ bit bigger, sweetie. You know this kid is gonna be a good hand, one day! :)

More calf-wrestling…

Aahhh…the aroma of burning hair!

Uh-oh… someone is upset about something…

No worries. Her pal will figure it out! :) These girls are too cute and funny together!

Grab that baby!! This picture is deceptively calm. I had to laugh as they wrestled this one down. It was kicking like crazy.

But of course they got it!

Kneeling on the neck is a wonderful way to control calves. And it doesn’t hurt them as much as it might seem. These babies are tough.
All in all, it was a wonderful day of fun, food, and belly-laughs! I can’t remember a branding that was ever quite as fun as this one, when our friends came.
When you have good friends, its a blessing.
when you have friends that are also brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a double blessing!
I still have some photos of My Cowboy I wanna post… stay tuned!

Cowboys and Indians

I have wanted to do this post for awhile… ever since our friends came all the way from CO to My Cowboy’s rodeo, last year.
We have a good friend who is an Indian. Not the kind of ‘Indian’ we think of here in the USA, but a ‘real’ Indian… from India. Santosh is a computer-programmer-citykid-cricket-lovin-guy. About as opposite from My Cowboy as night from day.
Santosh works from a home office. (mostly)
My Cowboy works on the wide open prairie.
Santosh can type faster than I can talk. (that’s fast!)
My Cowboy types with one finger. Agonizingly slow – even for me.
Santosh goes to baseball games and yells till he is hoarse.
My Cowboy watches ranch rodeos with a quiet grin.
Santosh wears…I actually don’t know what they are called; those slick-puffy-jogging-workout sweatpants-cousin pants. (what ARE they called?)
My Cowboy wears Wranglers…
You get the idea.
Despite these many differences, Cliff and Santosh have become great friends, and we absolutely love when Santosh and his beautiful wife and cute kids come visit us. Today was branding on the X-Bar.
Welcome to modern ‘Cowboys and Indians’.
 Getting instructions.
 Dragging in the calf.
 Grab that tail, Santosh.
 Then grab the foot.
 .
The Indians weren’t our only friends that came up to help us. Stay tuned for upcoming posts….
 Don’t squat with your spurs on.  ~Cowboy Proverb.
 Cowboy.
 Indian.
Lil Cowgirl.
 Lil Indian.
Lil Indian who is gonna grow up to be an Indian Cowboy. I think. He really wanted in on the action today.

Dutch Oven Bread

I grew up making soft bread from scratch. the crust was barely golden brown… we didn’t want it crunchy and hard! perfectly soft and fluffy and delicious! And its still my favorite kind of bread.
But.
I found this intriguing bread recipe a few days ago, and decided to try it. It is the epitome of simplicity. It is hole-y inside, with a very chewy crust. Very chewy. I recently discovered that My Cowboy like bread with a chewy crust. It was a real eye-opener to me, since I never was crazy about getting sore jaws from chewing. But hey, if he likes it, more power to him. :) So I decided to try this recipe. Plus – it sounded so simple, I couldn’t resist! Now, I took lots of pictures of the process, but it really isn’t hard at all. Simplest bread ever, and I thought I had already perfected the simplest bread in the world!  
Basically, you dump all the ingredients into the mixer (or bowl, and stir)and mix till well mixed.
2. Cover with plastic wrap overnight.
3. Turn onto a floured counter in the morning, fold a few times.
4. Plop into covered casserole dish or dutch oven.
5. Bake 30 minutes covered, 15 min. uncovered.
6. Cool one hour before eating.
But, here is the photos;
Put 1 1/2 cups water into a bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon yeast. (yes, that’s right! 1/4 teaspoon! Its essentially a type of sourdough bread)

 Throw in 3 cups flour. White, wheat, or a combination.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Use a spoon if you don’t like to eyeball it. I hate measuring.

 Stir with a spoon if you don’t have a stand mixer.

 It is very sticky when its mixed. Do not try to make it like regular dough. Just put in the 3 cups and don’t mess with it.

 Once its mixed well, cover with plastic wrap.

 Let it set on the counter overnight, or 12-18 hours. In the morning it should look like this:

 See the bubbles on the top?

 Turn it onto a floured surface, and make sure you use a fair amount of flour, since it is so sticky. Use a spatula to take it out of the pan. Sprinkle flour on top, and…

 …fold it over 3-4 times. You’re not kneading it here – be gentle.

 Then sprinkle flour on a clean cloth. Place the dough on the towel, cover, and let it set 1-2 hours. (use a bit more flour than I did here…

 Or you will get this when you try to put it in the pan! When you put it in the pan, scoot your hand under the towel, and gently slide it in the pan upside down.

 Shake it a bit if needed, to get it centered in the pan.

 Bake, covered, at 450* for 30 minutes.Use a dutch oven, or any large covered casserole dish.

 After 30 minutes, take the lid off, and let it bake 15 minutes more, or until browned to your desired brown-ness. Even if the crust is really dark, the middle will be soft and chewy. here it is, starting the last 15 min.  uncovered.

 Done! Mmmm! I was surprised how much I liked this bread. It would make great garlic/cheese bread.

 Mmmm!

Dutch Oven Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon yeast
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Preheat oven to 450* with  the dutch oven/casserole dish inside the oven.
Mix the ingredients together. Dough will be sticky.
Cover with plastic wrap and let set in a warm room (70*) for 12-18 hours.
Turn onto a floured surface and fold over several times.
Place on a floured towel, seam side down,  and cover with towel for 1-2 hours.
Gently slide your hand under the dough, and lay in in the dutch oven, seam side up.
Bake for 30 min. covered. Bake an additional 15 min. uncovered.
Remove from pan and cool one hour before cutting.

Day after May Day.

May 2, 2011. I love snow in November, when the grass is brown and the summer is over. I love thinking of Christmas, Jingle Bells, and hot chocolate. I love the long evenings, and the board games.
But.
Along about April or May, I am tired of  “Christmas Postcard Scenes”. I kinda really want green grass and sunburns. Not that I ever sunburn, but you get the idea. I want daffodils, lilacs, and robins. Gardens and tillers and mowers and baby puppies.
But during May in the Big Laramie Valley, this is what you get:

                                            And this:

              And this:   (My Cowboy is digging holes for a new fence section. )

 But then you get this when the sun comes up:

 And it is beautiful. In fact, I think the mountain is most beautiful with a bit of snow on it. Just like our lives. We are drab and cold and dark. But when the Son shines on us – the very cold, hard things that were a curse – become a beautiful blessing. And Jesus shines in the dark. He lays a pretty blanket of warmth and color over our lives. He makes us shine and glow and reflect His Glory.
                                        

Bobcats and Baby Chicks.

My Cowboy went to the first branding of the season this morning. Since I must stay at home and wrangle kids all morning, I decided to reward myself by writing. A blog post. I know – I’m nerdy that way. :)
Anyways…
The flower shop delivered some gorgeous flowers last week. They are from my even more gorgeous sister. (Truly.) They are so fresh and spring-like. Iris are one of my favorite flowers.

 My mom sent me a beautiful bowl of flowers, too.She sent hers a little early, but the interesting thing is, that every year she can’t wait till the 28th, so she just sends them early. I have received them on the day the canal starts running in the spring, for the last 2-3 years.  And even I don’t know when that canal is gonna start running. I find it interesting and so special that God has planned that a day that is always tough for me (and yet rather unimportant) is always greeted with flowers from my mom. God is cool that way.

 And I have been playing around with my new camera. Lucia is always a willing, cute, and available subject. She is the only one in the house still young enough to look adorable even when her hair is a mess. :)

 The Boss found a road-killed bobcat a few days ago. I’m not sure what the rationale was in bringing it to the X-Bar. But Frank thought it was cool. It is kinda cool – as long as its dead.

 The Hershey family made our whole week by coming up on Saturday afternoon and staying till evening. I talked,  the men moved some yearlings on horseback, I talked, the kids played, I talked, the boys played with our new chicks, I… well, anyways. I sure enjoyed it. We made food for Sunday potluck, and food for supper. Franklin and Brandon were having fun with our baby chicks.  Can I have any volunteers to come build me a chicken coop? I have plans to build one myself, but I fear for the aesthetic aspect of it all. And I really need to find some scrap wood.