Monthly Archives: April 2014

Of Spring, and country roads, and how a cow gets up.

Last week there was a branding. At the neighbors. And not just any neighbor – but the one whose property borders ours to the west. I wanted to go, because this particular branding was to be held close to our ranch.

You may not understand this if you aren’t from the West, or from a ranching background, but let me tell you – it can be hard to find the brandin’ trap if it’s ‘way back in the end of a huge pasture! Especially if you’ve never been to that place before. So when My husband told me that it would be held in a pasture close to us, I jumped at the chance.


I had dentist appointments for my kids that morning. Of course, a town run isn’t a big deal, we only have 25 miles or so. But still. I hurried back after the dentist – hoping to make it to the branding before it was completely over.

This is the beautiful country we are blessed to live in! this is close to the the west edge of the ranch. I can’t get enough of the springtime green! The distance is hard to capture with the lens of a camera. I love this prairie country. It gives a person a big feeling, living where you can see for miles and miles.



I had never been to this particular branding pen before, but I knew the general area – and I am getting better at finding them in the middle of nowhere! :) I found the trucks and then followed the two-track back through the cow-pies and sagebrush till we found them. Unfortunately, just as I drove up – they were laying a brand on the very last calf. :(


All that rushing, and I missed it! Oh well. There’s always tomorrow… So I turned around and headed home. Stopping along the way to grab a few photos of this mallard that I have been trying to photograph for weeks.



The beauty of dirt roads, is that you can just stop and snap pictures! Well, at least on a WY ranch road, you can.



Animal trivia: Horses always stand up with their front legs first, followed by their hind legs.

Cows always stand up with their hind legs first – followed by their front legs.

It’s fascinating, if you like animals. :)¬†trues3


And those are said neighbors’ cows, by the way. We don’t run white cattle here. (unless a bull comes through the fence! ūüėČ ) I kind of enjoy driving past their place and seeing the white cattle. Interesting colors.

And since I didn’t make it to the branding, I thought I would share a photo or two from last years’ branding with you. Last year at the same place, that is.

IMG_0071 IMG_0099

I’m Not a Cowgirl

not a cowgirl

You read that right! I am not a cowgirl. Here’s how described it:


  [kou-gurl]   noun

1. a woman who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, especially in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of her work on horseback.

2. a woman who exhibits the skills attributed to such cowgirls, especially in rodeos.

Well, let me tell you – I don’t go about ‘most of my work on horseback’. I mean, pretty hard to wash dishes from the back of a horse.
Or change a baby’s diaper.
Or mix up bread for dinner.
Besides that – I really prefer to keep the animals outside. ūüėÄ


OK, enough silliness. But seriously. I get called ‘cowgirl’ a lot. And while I know it’s meant to be a compliment, (and I take it as such!) I really don’t ¬†like being called that. I am not a cowgirl in any sense of the word. I do not tend cattle most of the time. Sure, I am an extra hand if there’s work that needs done, I can bottle-feed a orphan calf or give a shot if needed. I can certainly stand in the gap and help direct cattle, I know a little bit about moving cows with just the right amount of pressure, ¬†(walk through enough cow-pastures, and you figure that one out pretty quickly!) I can gather strays a’horseback, and move cattle in a pinch.


But that’s not my day job. That is what I do on the side. I have a husband who does that stuff for a living. He rides, ropes, doctors, tags, brands, cuts bulls, dehorns, micro-chips, settles, pulls calves, moves bulls, all between fixing fence, building corrals, and if needed – fixing machinery.


I usually introduce him as a cowboy. He will invariably reply that he isn’t a cowboy – he is a ranch hand. Partly because he doesn’t spend all his time horseback either. He does a variety of ranch jobs. (partly because ‘cowboy’ can be a Hollywood, rodeo-type term. that’s not who he is!)




I would describe my self as a ranch wife. I am the cook. The baby lover. The gardener. The filthy-jean washer. I make sure there’s hot coffee and fresh bread. I make the grocery runs and take the kids to the dentist. I make sure my Man has a warm house and a soft chair after a long day working cows in a blizzard. In short – I keep the home fires burnin’.


I am a wife and a mother. If I can sneak in a little cowboy work here and there – great! I enjoy riding – though I rarely ride these days. I enjoy working with cattle, although most of my experience is bottle-feeding calves. I think I would enjoy roping, but I haven’t had the chance to learn so far. Oh, I can throw a loop at the ropin’ dummy, but catchin the dummy and roping off of a horse are two different things, I hear.


I know there are lots and lots of women who do both. They ride all day with their men, packing the babies right along. Stick their kiddos on horseback from a tender age – and that’s OK! I admire these women. I really do. But my husband and I are pretty cautious with our little munchkins. I guess losing one does that to ya. In our experience – it’s not IF you will have a wreck on a horse, but WHEN. And while I do love seeing my kids get out and ride with their Daddy, I don’t think I could forgive myself if I was totin’ a baby and we had a terrible accident. (And don’t talk to me of ‘safe’ horses. No such thing)


So, when it’s cattle-working time, the husband and older kids load up their horses and ride away, and I stay home with the babies. And you know what? It’s OK! I like to be a housewife! I really do. Yes, some days I look at my daughter coming home all windblown and tanned, and I think: “how does she get to go have all the fun?!” But mostly, I am quite satisfied with housework. I will have plenty of time to learn to rope once my babies are a few years older. There are a lot of years left to rope, and really – I could be the best ‘cowgirl’ out there, and yet, what kind of legacy would that leave? None. My kids, on the other hand – no time spent with them is wasted.


I have lots of memories of my mom working, and when she did – our home didn’t have that cozy, ‘mom’ feeling. It was a rushed, tired, cold kind of place.
When she was at home – there was fresh pumpkin pie, music and she would be singing.
I loved the sight of Mom in the kitchen – wearing an apron and stirring jelly or rolling out pie crusts. When she was working, however, there was a hurried, unsettled feeling. The dishes didn’t get done as fast, the meals lacked mom’s special touch, and the house was often left go. Oh, us kids had to pitch in and help, don’t worry. We didn’t have much of a chance to laze around in the mornings, or anytime, really. And that part was OK. But I just wanted mom to be in the house. Granted, we weren’t ranchers. Dad was a logger, and mom operated a home bakery that was just in the back yard. Would it have been different had we been riding together? possibly. But then again – who doesn’t enjoy coming home to a delicious meal after a hard day’s work?


I know that the days I work with my husband, I don’t feel like cooking, cleaning up, doing laundry or anything else that evening. I just want to sit down and rest! So, while I do enjoy an occasional day working with him, most of the time I would rather be a ranch wife. At home, creating a warm, inviting haven for my family to return to. Not perfect by any means. But relaxing.
With Mom in the kitchen.


Will it always be this way? I doubt it. As the kids grow and our herd grows, I am likely to be out there helping more and more. But my home will always come first, and I still want to be known as a ranch wife.


Did you grow up with a mom at home, or did she work? Does that factor into how you treat this issue?

Easy Pizza Sauce

pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is a staple at our house. We use it for our Saturday night pizza, but also for spaghetti, tater-tot casserole, etc. I love to can my own, but I haven’t been able to save my tomato plants from the deer for years, now. So I have to buy it. But I am a very frugal grocery shopper! I dislike paying a lot of money for staples. So I came up with my own frugal alternative.

I have a Sam’s Club membership, (worth it just for staples, when you have 4 growing kids!) so I buy the large cans of tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz) and add my own seasonings. I am notorious for just throwing stuff in, but since a friend wanted this recipe, I did measure this time, and I think it’s pretty close. :) But it is very adjustable. Add more or less of any spice you like ¬†– make it how you like it.

pizza sauce

I just stir it all together and then ladle into jars (leaving a 1 inch headspace or more) and store in the freezer.

The can of sauce costs 2.77 at my store, and the spices are minimal. It makes about 4 normal size pasta jars full. I usually spread it between 5 jars, though, so the sauce has room to expand as it freezes.

Easy Pizza Sauce
Prep time
Total time
  • 1 can tomato sauce (6 lb 10 oz)
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 teaspoon onion powder
  • 5 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 2½ teaspoons garlic powder)
  1. Mix all together.
  2. pour into 5 jars.
  3. store in freezer.


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I love all the Christian holidays. Despite naysayers and historical accuracy (or inaccuracy, as many would say) I love them. Why? Because they are a time to reflect on the goodness of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, the world has secularized them to the point of no return, but that doesn’t hamper my reflection, nor constrain my enjoyment.

Is Easter the actual date of Christ’s Resurrection? Is Christmas the time Jesus was born? I have no idea! I have read wildly differing ‘facts’, opinions, and arguments. I have dear friends and family that hold (very) strong beliefs one way or the other. More to point, I believe, is the question: “Does it matter?”

Does it really matter what day Jesus was born? Or died? Or resurrected? If you are so dogmatic about it – maybe you actually need to stop studying into the history, and start digging into the reason for the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus! He came to save us from ourselves. From our own pride and arrogance.

Of all the holidays, though – Easter is the most meaningful to me. Christmas is fun and heartwarming. Usually associated with family. But Easter… Easter is more reflective. Introspective. Was His death in vain – for me? Do I understand exactly why He died and rose again? Do I live like one whose Savior has conquered death and the grave?

Jesus died for a reason beyond saving my sorry soul from hell. He wanted to save me from self. He wants me to live victorious over the death that is my own un-redeemed flesh. He died so that I could live. So that I could live a life hidden in Christ – by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Jesus became a curse, so that I could become a blessing.” -Zac Poonen

Jesus’ death and Resurrection would be good if all it did was save us from hell. But it was for so much more! His example of perfect sinlessness (in a human body) showed us a path of walking in complete victory over sin.

It wasn’t some dark ritual that God had to carry out – to save the human race from death – it was an atonement for our own desperate sinfulness, and an example of the righteous life that we can live in Jesus.

As I ponder the significance of Easter, I have to wonder: How have I lived, in light of the Gospel? Do I live as one who has been redeemed? Or am I content to say that Jesus died for my sin, and continue to enjoy (and excuse) the sin in which I am currently living?


Why We Ranch

why we ranch

The bawling of young calves, drowned by the anxious mooing of their mothers.
The swish of the reata – swirling through the the air – followed by the ‘zzzt!’ of the loop tightening around a calf’s leg.
The sizzle of the branding iron, the swipe of a pink crayon.
Mounds of mashed potatoes, fresh-baked rolls, steaming roast beef.
Stories of cows, bulls, and ornery horses.
Laughter and joking and praising the cook.
Thanking God for rain, planning the next ranch rodeo.
Sunshine casting golden streaks over fresh-mown hay.
Sweating over small bales, greasy from the broken-down baler.
Sipping iced tea, looking anxiously toward the sky.
Working till dark and then some.
Gathering cattle, filling water tanks, fixing windmills.
Admiring a bull elk as the sun rises in a pale sky.
Kids riding the old horse alongside Dad.
Teaching the son to carve leather and the daughter to feed a bottle calf.
Eating homegrown food around a big table.
Sitting on the porch in the stillness of evening, listening to the creek rushing by.

This is why we ranch.


Photographing the Blood Moon

I wasn’t going to get up at the unearthly hour of 2 AM to see the ‘blood moon’. No, I was fully intending to stay tucked deep under my cozy blankets, warm and asleep.

But I am a sucker for kids who like science.

And they asked if I would wake them up to see the lunar eclipse. I hedged. They pleaded. I stalled, and balked, and told them that they wouldn’t want to get up in the middle of the night.

They insisted.

I caved.

I set my alarm and warned my husband that it would wake him at 2 AM, but that he didn’t have to get up. Obviously, I don’t set my alarm much. I normally wake up between 5-6 AM with no alarm. Have for years. It’s my internal wiring, I just can’t help it.


So, when the annoying alarm sounded, I stumbled out of bed, drug a robe on, and shuffled over to the door. I couldn’t see the moon. I went to the other side of the house and looked out that window. Still no moon. Bummer. I sighed as I put on a jacket and slipped into my sandals. Maybe I couldn’t see it at all, then I could just go back to bed.

But no – there it was, just over the pine. Already a warm, orange tone. I shivered and went back into the house. The kids woke fairly easily, considering the fact that it was 2 in the morning. When I whispered that they would have to put on a coat and step outside, they groaned and almost went back to bed.

I knew how they felt. April in WY is no joke. The temp was somewhere around 20 degrees, “too cold to endure when your defenses are down,” as James Herriot would say.

But after getting them up, I wanted them to at least step out and see the moon – mainly so they wouldn’t be mad in the morning when they got up and realized they’d missed it. :)

So they jerked on coats and boots and stepped out. The sharp air slapped their faces awake, and they ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed at the reddish wonder in the sky for about 27 seconds, before hurrying back into the warmth of the house and their beds.

Unfortunately, I was now fully awake.  I knew I had to capture this in a photo. So I dug around in the dark house for my tripod, fumbled at the screw to hold in in place, and then braved the cold once more. I tried holding it steady against the porch railing, but that was rather pitiful:


Poor mars is but a tiny, white squiggle! ūüėÄ

Even on a tripod, it was shaking just from the movement of pushing the shutter button:

IMG_4583So I set the self-timer, with a 2 second delay. This worked pretty good. Here is the result, straight out of the camera – no editing.

I¬†liked it – although I wish I’d taken time to center the moon better.

blood moon


But I was cold, and my bed was calling…

Did you brave the elements and see the blood moon? :)

Easy Strawberry Cake

easy_strawberry_cake_recipeStrawberries are coming into season around the country right now, red and luscious and oh so delicious! Strawberry-anything suits me just about right!

Fun Fact: Did you know that strawberries have more vitamin C, oz for oz, than oranges? Yep. (but don’t ask me where I read that, because I forget. But go check it out yourself! Dare ya.) :)
IMG_4403After I’d made several batches of jam with these babies, I still had some bright berries left over. I decided to make a simple strawberry cake.

I didn’t feel like digging through my very un-organized recipes to find one, so I just made up my own. It was fabulous. (Yes it was!)

First, I sliced the strawberries and stirred in the sugar. Then I let them stew in their own juices while I mixed up the cake.
easy strawberry cake I cut the butter into the flour, added the sugar, salt and baking powder, then added the eggs and milk. Stir it together, spread it in a greased 9×9 pan, and into the oven it goes.easy strawberry cake I let the cake cool almost completely, (not in the fridge! You want it soft) then just before serving I spooned the strawberries over the top, drizzled with some soft whipped cream*, and served immediately. Yummy.¬†Leftovers can be stored in the fridge. The cake stiffens up in the fridge, but it is still very tasty! This is a faster way to serve the scrumptious strawberry shortcake. Especially for a big group.


Strawberry Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 9
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 lb strawberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1-2 cups whipped cream or cool whip
  1. Slice strawberries, mix with ¼ cup sugar.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
  4. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter.
  5. Add beaten egg and milk, stir.
  6. Spread batter in a greased 9x9 pan.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Cool.
  9. Spoon strawberries over cake.
  10. Spread cool whip over strawberries.
  11. Cut and serve immediately.
  12. Store leftovers in fridge.

*I had some real whipped cream leftover from another dessert, so I stirred it up, (which made it kind of runny) and drizzled it over top. Regular Cool Whip would act differently, of course.

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Fresh Growth (or: Spring is Coming!)

Green things growing, birds calling, kids playing all day out side – these things tell me Spring is coming!


I¬†wait through the lovely Holiday season…
I wait longingly through January and February – those two eternities of blizzards and snow and bitter cold.
In desperation, I thumb through the seed catalogs and order some strawberry plants and zinnia seeds. “I will have some bright color in my garden!”

So, when the weather actually starts to mellow, and the biting cold wind softens to a gentle warm breeze – I head out doors. I take my camera and I go searching. Searching for any and every hint of Spring. Of sunshine and warm air. Of new life and the color green.

And yesterday I found some.


I gently pulled back the dead leaves and grinned when I discovered green beneath them. I stared in delight at the tiny peppermint leaves that were uncurling. After I’d snapped a photo, I carefully covered them again with the leaves, to insulate them from the cold nights and the last few snowstorms that are surely coming.



I have a nice greenhouse in my yard, although I haven’t used it so far. (crazy, I know!!) I have been to scared to plant stuff in it – thinking I don’t know enough about greenhouses to actually grow things in there. I mean, if you go to our trusty friend Google, you will find articles that make your eyes glaze over and your mind shut down. talk of ventilation, fans, heaters, thermometers (remote, no less!!) drip lines and self-watering and timers and hydroponics.

While all that is good, I simply want to grow a tomato plant in there, with no heater, and nothing I need to buy, if possible. (except for the plant, of course!) So I decided this year to just dive in and see what happens. If I fail – well, I haven’t invested in fans and thermometers and special drip lines. If I succeed, perhaps I can help someone else who just wants to grow tomatoes. :) I am all about simple, by the way. I may have the ability to devise or follow elaborate schemes, but rarely do I have the funds.


After a trip to my new favorite store (Menards), where I bought several bags of the cheapest potting soil I could find, I went to my trusty Wal-Mart and picked up a few tomato and pepper plants. I was going to get a cheapo thermometer too (just because it would make me feel more authentic) but I forgot.

I came home and filled some plastic pots with the soil, added my plants, and watered them well. Now begins the waiting! I love planting – but waiting is so hard! To fill my time, I plan to keep planting in there til the greenhouse is full of all kinds of plants. it’s a big greenhouse, so I may as well fill it up, right?! :)

tomatosI am hoping I will have a nice, picture-perfect kind of journey in my greenhouse this summer to share with you. ūüėČ But – grow or fail – I will try to keep you updated. :)

What signs of spring have you found this week? If you live somewhere sunny and permanently summer, please go out and enjoy some green grass and sunshine for me, will ya? :) Thank-you.


Basic Meatballs

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Who says ground beef has to be boring? We love it around here! Meatballs are so versatile, you can make many different dishes with them. 

Spaghetti and meatballs,

Meatballs in cream sauce over pasta,

Meatball subs,

BBQ meatballs…¬†

But the best part is having them on hand for those busy nights when you just don’t have time to cook! My kids (and me!!) love those frozen, fully cooked meatballs. But I refuse to buy them when I have beef in my freezer. I mean, how silly would that be?

So I decided to make my own precooked, frozen meatballs. I mixed up a big batch of these and baked them for 15 minutes, then bagged them and stuck them in the freezer. Now I can pull them out at a moment’s notice and pop them in the oven to reheat or in a pan of sauce on the stove-top. How cool is that?! :)¬†

I like to freeze these meatballs raw, too. Both ways work fine! Obviously, you will need to bake longer if you are freezing them raw. :)

My preferred method is to scoop the meat with an ice cream scoop, and then gently finish smoothing the meatballs with my hands. This way, they are all uniform in size. You can find a scoop on Amazon. 

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Basic Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs, ground fine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Shape into balls.
  4. Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Cool and freeze.
  6. Can double or triple recipe easily.


Spring is coming!

This morning I took Baby Dear, and my camera, and hopped in the truck with My Cowboy. He was driving through the cows – making sure everything is OK. The mama cows are still calving, so he drives through them regularly, just to keep an eye on things.




It was a beautiful morning! Started out crisp and cold. The golden rays of sunshine quickly melting the pretty frost off the windows. Southern Gospel music crooned from the radio, muted by the hum of the heater.

frosthorseThe horse stood in the corner of the corral where the sun threw its warming rays.

My Cowboy drove through pastures, up and down hills, and along the top of high bluffs – looking all the time for anything out of the ordinary. Meanwhile I snugled Reata closely in my lap – cushioning her from the rough pasture bumps. She ‘mooed’ when she’d see a cow, and complain cause I wouldn’t give her my coffee.

checking cows checking cows on the ranch ranchThere are small ponds where there hadn’t been before… this winter has been great for water! After the awful dryness of 2012-13, it is a welcome relief to see water standing everywhere.

Welcome, welcome water.

ranch lake

My Cowboy had doctored a few calves the day before, so he was looking for them. Wanted to see how they were doing.

Ya know – it may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s the little things in life that determine your character. We were in a huge pasture, away from the road and houses. No one would know if he got out of the truck to check on that little calf that was laying there. If it turned up dead the next day, they would have chalked it up to unknown causes. No one would have gotten blamed, no one would have known he ignored it.

But he would have known.

So he got out and checked it. Made sure it was ok. I’m sure he never gave it a second thought, but I had to think: “This is what separates the bad help from the good. This is why some guys will never get anywhere in their pursuit of their goals. Because they overlook or ignore the seemingly small things in life. They don’t put in that extra care – they don’t care about the Boss’s business like they should. They think if only it were their own deal, they would put the time and effort into it.”

I think the way to reach your goals is to be faithful and trustworthy in every job you’re given.

Have integrity.

Be careful.

Be responsible.

Do your job.

That’s what you’re being paid for.

Do unto others.