Kay is a mom of four sweet kids, and the wife of a working cowboy. She untangles her thoughts through writing, and enjoys sharing stories about life on a working ranch. She also enjoys puttering in the garden, whipping up new recipes, and holding baby chicks. Jesus is her hero - she reads about Him all the time. You can connect with Kay on Instagram @a_ranch_mom, and on Facebook. You can also keep up with her chicken coop obsession on Pinterest.
Do your kids have those days where nothing is interesting, anymore? Mine too. This morning, my youngest told me mournfully: “Mom, your phone doesn’t work, the iPad doesn’t work, and the dvd player doesn’t work. There’s nothing to do!!”
Oh my goodness. Child, mama will find you something to do! 😀 So after lunch, I pulled out my stained recipe, and punched up some play dough.
Trust me, once you make this easy recipe, you won’t want to spend another dime on the boughten stuff! This makes 2+ cups (maybe 3 cups?) of dough, and it smells so good, and is so soft and fun to play with. My kids LOVE the homemade version. They love picking the scents, too!
What’s great about this recipe, is the fact that it uses only 4 simple ingredients. The only one I have to specially buy is the drink mix. But it is very inexpensive, so I buy a 10 pack and keep it around for sudden play dough urges.
You can use any type of flavored drink mix to scent it with. The recipe calls for 2 envelopes, but I have scraped by with one, if I don’t have two of the same kind. Note: if you mix 2 kinds of drink mix, your play dough may turn out brown.
The process is quite simple: First, you mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Then, you set that aside for a minute. Put the water in a large kettle, bring to a boil. Once the water boils, remove from heat and add the dry mixture. Stir well.
The dough will look terrible for a bit, but use a sturdy spoon and keep stirring!
Once it starts forming a ball, turn it out on a clean, dry counter, and start kneading. CAUTION! The dough will be very hot at this point! Be very careful or wait till it cools a bit. Don’t let it cool completely, though, or it won’t get nice and smooth.
I gingerly start kneading it with my hands (stand mixer with dough hook might work too!). After 3-5 minutes, it becomes very soft and smooth. If there is still small specks and lumps in it, you can either knead longer or just give it to the kids. Once in a while, mine doesn’t quite get smooth, but my kids still love it!
So there you go! A large ball of play dough for mere pennies. Scented, non-toxic, and child-friendly.
Here are some cookie cutters that would be fun to use with the play dough! My kids have a big basket of cutters.
We keep ours in a zip-loc bag for several days up to two weeks and it stays nice. Usually they play with it like crazy for about a week, then someone leaves it set out for a night, and it dries out! I would guess it would keep several weeks in an air-tight bag or container.
TIP: Make several batches to give as gifts. Any kid will enjoy it!
Mix flour, drink mix, and salt in a bowl. Place water in a pot, bring to a boil. When water boils, add oil and dry mix. Stir vigorously till it clumps together. Turn onto a clean, dry surface, and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until smooth and soft. Caution!! Dough will be hot!!
Store in a airtight container or ziploc bag between uses.
A few days ago, my Cliff and I saddled our horses and drove to the back pasture. The plan was to ride through the cattle, checking for sickness, etc. Maybe that would take an hour or so, then move some mineral tubs and go home by noon.
As you ranch wives know – things rarely go as expected! As we were driving there – we passed a bunch of pairs that were happily grazing in the neighbors’ pasture! Oh boy. That means a gate open or fence down, somewhere.
We drove up to the property line and parked. Backed our horses out of the trailer and mounted up. Sure enough, there was a big section of really trashy fence. The cows had just walked over it, and they’d scattered across the neighbors’ pasture.
We gathered a few pair that were near the gate, pushed them through, and then called our daughter to come help. She brought extra fencing supplies with the ATV, so Cliff could fix the fence. While he was working on the holes, Jenni used his horse to help me start gathering the strays. They had drifted down the hill, so of course we had to push them uphill to get them back to where they were supposed to be.
We spent all morning gathering strays, and then went home for a quick lunch. Afterwards, we went back with another horse, and all three of us worked at bringing them all back. We went up and down that hill three times, then worked on cleaning out the aspen groves, and then we tried pushing them further back into the home pasture, so they wouldn’t mash the fence down till we had a chance to fix it better.
This all sounds very straightforward, but as you ranch women know – it was anything but straightforward! The easiest way to move cattle is to drive them along a fence. But, if you push calves too hard, they pop right under or through the fence! Cows will go through too, but calves are really problematic.
If you are moving cow/calf pairs, they tend to get separated. The mamas are calling for their calves, or trying to turn around and go back. Calves are poky – they get tired sooner, and they just stop moving. Soon you have a bunch of calves at the back that you have to really work to keep moving. And, there is always that one high-headed cow that tries to run everywhere except where she is supposed to! We take it easy and quiet, but sometimes they just don’t move well.
As I was riding along behind those cows, I had to think about how many times I have strayed from God. I think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, so I push through the fence to get to it. And when God tries to herd me back, I resist. I try to turn back, I bawl, I poke along, and even try to jump back through the fence!
But God doesn’t give up.
We spent 7 hours on horseback, gathering all those strays. I would have spent longer if necessary. Those cows are our bread and butter, and we do what it takes to keep them healthy and safe. (we also try to be good neighbors!) So yes, we spend whatever time it takes. That wreck* happened on a Saturday… on Monday we were back out, gathering and moving a few more pairs. We would have went out as many times as needed till they were all in the correct pasture.
So it is with God. He will not stop. He doesn’t give up on us. He will continue putting a little pressure on us, till we come home. If we go through the fence again – He will come after us again. More pressure from the flanks, more guidance. He makes the way home the easiest thing. That gate is the only place where the pressure eases.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
We have a tendency to wander off, out of His will, off the path of Life.
We allow some small grievances to grow in our heart,
we want ‘just a little bit of my own way’,
we begin to love money or
we get a bit proud of who we are,
what we have accomplished, and so on.
Each wandering begins small. A small hole in the fence, so to speak. But that hole gets bigger – and sometimes we even take our friends along. So, God send His cowboys to gather us back home. His Spirit works through pastors, friends, spouses, the Bible — God wants to bring us home. He will not tire of the job. And those who love God and His family will not tire of it, either.
Have you been straying from God? Do you feel His pressure to come back home? He won’t stop. He never tires and never sleeps. He will arrange your life to keep you headed back to the gate. You can try to run off, like a high-headed cow, but He is faster than you! Of course He won’t force you, He gives us free choice. But He will make the gate the best place to be.
You are worth His time, and you are worth my time. You are worth a place at the table.
Come on home, my friend.
If you need a listening ear, please feel free to message me.
*when things go wrong on a ranch, we call it a wreck. Whether it means a bunch of cows got out, a horse that bucked someone off, an accident, or whatever.
View from Kennaday Peak, overlooking Coad Mountain and Elk Mountain.
Summer is nearly over – a summer full to the brim with work, fun, activities, and lots of time outdoors! We crammed as much into the last 3 months as possible. Soaked up every drop of Wyoming sunshines and sage-scented breeze. We swatted mosquitoes in June, drove to branding after branding in July, and made hay between rainstorms in August.
My parents spent the month of July here at our place. They parked their camper in the backyard and enjoyed the beautiful weather. (they did not enjoy the skeeters, but they put up with them!)
Mom sewing a dress for Reata.
Dad and Reata.
Dad’s camper and car – as they leave the ranch.
In August, my mother-in-law and brother-in-law came for a few days. We really enjoyed showing them our part of the country. We drove to the back of the ranch, went fishing, had a picnic at Turpin res, and took them to the top of Kennaday Peak (first pic).
Cliff and his brother Josh, canoeing on Turpin Res.
Jenni and Lucia get a ride with Uncle Josh and Grandma.
Our boss blessed us with 35 dozen ears of corn one fine Saturday, so the kids and Grandma and I, pitched in and put it up for winter. Husked, blanched, cut, and bagged – it made 23 quarts of corn (if I remember correctly). Such a good feeling to get corn in the freezer!
We stopped and watched the eclipse, too. Although we were only 98%, and from what I have seen, the 100% totality range was far better. But we still enjoyed the eerie duskiness, and the kids will surely remember the day it got dark and cold at noon.
Taking a break from raking hay, to eat a bite and watch the eclipse.
Our son learned to rake hay this summer. Our oldest daughter learned, too. They have been raking a few days each week, and I am so happy to see it! Nothing like hard work to mature a kid. Yes they get hot and tired. Yes they get hungry between meals – it doesn’t hurt them – it prepares them for life. Real life.
I am concerned for our current culture where folks think they can eat and live with minimum effort. I mean, there is nothing shameful about hard work and a little discomfort.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be sissies. Let them taste hard work, and the resulting contentment. Let them get tired and sore and wind-blown. It will put steel in their backbone and strength in their arms. It will make them more understanding, and they will have less time for foolishness. It will teach them LIFE.
I see kids at age 8 and 9 who have never pulled a weed or picked up sticks. The poor kids have no idea how to work! It really is a disservice to your child to not allow him the privilege of honest work.
You live in the city? Your yard needs raked and cleaned up, no? Teach your child.
You eat and live in your home, right? Teach them to cook, clean, and repair.
If you can’t think of a single job for your child – volunteer. Take them to a soup kitchen or hospital or park board, or enroll them in 4H. There are plenty of businesses that need small jobs done. Get creative of you must, but please teach your child how to work. They may dislike it now, but will thank you later.
Frank raking hay.
My sweet mother-in-law picked these flowers for me.
I have been an avowed workout-hater. I mean, I made all the snide remarks and shared all the funny memes. 😉 But, last fall I began exercising daily. Monday-Saturday, every morning. I have a real love/hate relationship with exercise. I hate cardio, even though it is good for me! But I love strength training! I enjoy pilates and core work, too.
Well, this summer I got so busy and had so many guests, I have fallen off the proverbial wagon. I want to start exercising again, and I think you should too! Here’s why:
It makes you feel good! You know that satisfied, happy feeling after a large, carb-y meal? Or when you eat chocolate? The same endorphins – happy hormones – are released when you workout.
Also, my clothes started getting loser! I could literally go down a size in jeans and I hadn’t lost any weight! Wow.
Another benefit: muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn! (You won’t get bulky unless you really try, so relax about that)
Well good news! A bunch of trainers got their heads together and compiled a huge bundle of fitness products for you, for one low price. I am late to the party, so there is only 3 days left in this awesome sale! Better go grab your bundle here: Freedom Fitness Bundle!
Personally, the Endurance/HIIT section pretty attractive! I mean, check out this title:
I Want Abs: A Documentary For Regular People Who Want To Get In Shape, But Don’t Know How by Sergei Boutenko ($45.00) <——-That alone would nearly pay for the whole bundle!! Totally worth it, right? I mean, skip one meal out, for a bundle worth over a thousand dollars?! Sounds good to me!
Yeah, that would be me! 😀 Also the Quick home workouts – honestly that’s probably all I’ll use. I am busy – no time for long sessions!
As I’m sure you’ve seen, the internet is brimming with workout plans and video tutorials that feature fit men and women who promise big results.
And while I love how the convenience of the web can help people reach their fitness goals, you also have to be careful.
Just because someone is fit, doesn’t mean they got there in a way that’s healthy and safe. And following the advice of a fake expert on YouTube can lead to serious injuries that derail your progress, torment you with pain, and rack up expensive medical bills.
What’s the best way to avoid these headaches? Only buy trainings that have been created or approved by real experts.
And the easiest way to do that is the Freedom Fitness Bundle.
You want to connect with your child, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you didn’t grow up with siblings, maybe you didn’t have a close relationship with your own mother. Anyways, you aren’t sure how to go about building those connections.
When I became a mom, I didn’t know how! I thought connecting would come naturally, like learning to comb your own hair. But as it turns out, it can be hard! Maybe it’s just my independent nature. I like to be left alone to red a book, or take a walk, or whatever. I am somewhat of an introvert, so I can handle alone-ness quite well.
But, to be a friend, one must step outside of their comfortable space, and step into the life of another. And this was where I got hung up.
“But your own kids?! What is wrong with you?!”
I don’t know. Maybe I am just weird. Maybe I am more of a introvert than I thought! Maybe I didn’t have a close enough relationship with my own mom. At any rate, I struggle with this!
One easy way I have learned to connect with my kids, has been to laugh with them. (not at them!) Who cares if their jokes are corny or their stories repeated? I just laugh with them! We laugh at silly pictures we find online, we laugh at corny jokes and puns (latest obsession!), we laugh at funny accents and just pretty much anything we can. Now, I am the first to say “cut the foolishness”. After all, God’s Word tells us that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15
So, we sure don’t want to encourage foolishness. But happy giggles, clean fun and lots of laughter – oh, this is good for the soul!
I purposely look for funny things to share with my kids, so we can laugh about it together. There is something about laughing together that builds a bond.
I encourage you to try it. Google “clean kid jokes” and you will find some great ones! Surprise your kids with some gut-busting humor today. 😉
Do you like to joke and laugh with your kids?
Is it hard to connect, or what things do you do, to build that connection?
Let us know by dropping a comment below, we’d love to learn from you!
The TA is a ranch west of us, that hosts a large branding every year. They actually have several ranches – quite a good-sized outfit. We were able to make it over for one of their brandings this year.
Cliff and I loaded up at 4:30 and drove around the mountain to meet at the ranch at about 6 am. We were there early, and joined the long line of trucks and trailers lining up to park.
The sun wasn’t up yet, when we mounted up and rode down to get instructions. They divided us into 4 groups, and off we went. We trotted a couple miles to the back of the pasture, got behind the cattle and started moving them back towards the corrals. In this part of the country we don’t round up and drive.
We gather and push.
As in: “We’re gonna gather this pasture, and push them to the green gate.”
We were close to the back of the pasture when we came to this deep wash. (or gully, if you’re from the east)
The far side was steeper than it looks in the photo. One guy broke a rein-chain, and we all stopped at the top to get situated, readjust saddles, etc. This is why we use breast collars – because if you don’t, your saddle may end up over the horse’s rump.
We rode a bit further and there they were – the cattle were already starting to move, thanks to another group of riders that had reached the back of the pasture first.
As we got closer to the corrals, the sound of lowing cows and bawling calves grew louder. The circle of cowboys tightened gradually, until we were riding side by side and bunching up to go through the gate.
It was a lovely, overcast morning. Cold at first but warming without getting too hot.The scenery was amazing, and the remote location meant no sounds of traffic or other civilization. Just cowboys, cattle, and horses.
Quite the long line of trucks…
Question: Do you say pickup or truck? I was having this conversation with a friend recently, and I hadn’t thought about it much, but now I pay attention…. and yes, we say truck! 😀 Or at least I do. I guess I need to listen to what other around here call them. I have lived so many places in my life that I never know if I am speaking local slang or just carryover from my childhood.
PS – extra points if you recognize our rig. 😉
Once we had all the cows and calves into the corral, we waited for them to pair up a bit while we got instructions. Well, they got instructions. I offered my help but since there were so many people, the boss told me to just go take pictures. (Thank you Mr. Haskell!)
Firm handshakes ’round here.
Oklahoma buckaroo Cody holds a calf while it gets a brand.
Janet Jordan from Walden, CO throws a nice loop out there.
There were 800+ calves that day. They gathered, roped, and branded them by 11:00 am. There were two branding pots set up, and lots of ropers! Still, that’s pretty impressive. I had so much fun photographing them. Hope you enjoyed this little piece of western life.
Big drops of sweat ran down my face as I gently pulled the briars away from my skirt. I gingerly stomped at the base of the brambles ahead of me, trying to mash them down away from me, so they wouldn’t grab my clothes and skin. I steadied the plastic ice-cream bucket with my other hand, careful not to allow any berries to spill.
I picked all the ripe blackberries within reach, then carefully reached through the briars to pick a few more. I reached as far as I could without spilling my bucket of berries, or falling face-first into the briars. No matter how careful I was, I would get my arm caught on a thorn, then I’d grit my teeth as I unhooked my skin. Sweat ran down my face and down my back and down my legs.
The bees buzzed lazily around the sweet blossoms, and crawled over the ripe, juicy berries. Ants scurried over the berries, too, getting their fill of the sweetness. Every so often, I’d have to pick a tick off my arms or my dress. But they were less annoying than the chiggers that I would certainly find the following day. We’d rub Avon ‘Skin-So-Soft’ oil all over our arms and legs before we began, but it didn’t work that great. We still came home loaded with ticks and chiggers.
After several hours of picking wild blackberries in the soggy, stifling heat, Mom would finally sigh and say: “Well, I guess that’s as much as we can get today. We better go home.”
Sweeter words were never spoken.
We’d untie the scarves from our waists, carefully pouring our buckets of berries into the huge, stainless steel bowls. We’d climb wearily into the van, picking off the last few briars and sticks and other debris from hours trampling around in brambles higher than our heads.
If mom had a bit of extra money, she’d stop at the Little Red Barn on the way home, and buy us an ice cream cone. It didn’t make up for picking blackberries, but it sure was delicious! I would lick the ice cream as fast as I could, trying to get every drop of cool sweetness before it dripped and was wasted. The hot summer sun burned down and the wind from the open windows felt hot, not cooling at all. But with no AC, moving air seemed better than still air, somehow.
When we arrived at home, mom carefully washed the berries, and spread them on a clean towel to dry. Then she would put them in bags and into the freezer. They would make many delicious pies all year long.
But she didn’t freeze all of them – she made pie, too. And jam. But the pie was my favorite! We’d have blackberry pie for dessert, Saturday evening, then we would have a slice for breakfast Sunday morning. It was the most delicious thing I ever ate! It tasted like hot sun and sweet summertime and mom’s love.
Here is my personal recipe for blackberry pie. Mom never measured, and I don’t either. We add and taste! But just for you, I measured. I measured several times, over several weeks, trying to perfect the taste. I think I have it!
Now, I don’t live in the blackberry mecca of the Midwest, anymore. There aren’t any blackberry bushes out here, that I have found. So, I start with frozen blackberries from the grocery store.
Put them in a kettle, add some water, and let them simmer. You don’t want too much water or you will end up with a lot of sauce and not much fruit. The berries really cook down! Also, I buy Clear Jell from Amazon. You can substitute corn starch, but I do not know the ratio. Here is the kind I buy: (click on photo)
When the berries come to a simmer, add sugar, butter, and lemon juice. Stir occasionally till it boils.
Add the clear jell mixture, and stir quickly because it begins to thicken almost immediately. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. You can fill your crust immediately, or let the filling cool. Either way works.
Tips: –Cornstarch thickens more as it cools. Clear Jell reaches its full thickening when it boils.
–This recipe is crafted for tame, store-bought blackberries. if you use wild berries, they will definitely need more sugar! They make better pies, in my opinion, but they are much more tart. Fresh berries work great, too.
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:28-33
The ‘water’ in our life can take many forms. Health problems, financial difficulties, marital tension, relational problems, family issues… the list goes on.
Peter recognized Jesus in the midst of his storm. He saw Jesus, and he wanted Jesus! Notice Peter didn’t ask Jesus to quiet the storm. He just said “command me to come to You.” Peter wanted to be with Jesus.
What an example! He didn’t care about the storm, he wanted to be in the presence of Jesus more than he wanted the storm to be still. I want to be like that – to look UP. To look above the storms and wild waves of my life, and see Jesus – walking on top of the water.
Have you seen Jesus in your storm?Have you asked, with your small faith, to come to Him? He offers the same power to us, that He did to Peter.
“Come!” Jesus command rings out with power you can grab on to. Grab hold, my friend! He will not let you drown. But don’t take your eyes off Him – even for a second. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and you will walk above the waves of your stormy sea. Water is for walking on, after all!
I often identify with the impulsive, passionate personality of Peter. He would shoot off at the mouth, get angry, even lie. Then – almost immediately – he would be remorseful, repentant, and fall at Jesus’ feet in love and adoration. I know that feeling. Oh, how often I get in trouble with my impulsive, passionate nature! Yet Jesus is always there to rebuke, instruct, and love. He keeps tenderly, lovingly, gently drawing me to Himself.
Even though Peter was not the model disciple (as we would think), he was the only one who walked on the water with Jesus. He failed miserably many times; in anger he cut off the soldier’s ear, in fear he denied knew Jesus, in despair went back to his nets when Jesus was crucified. Yet Jesus saw his faith, small though it was. Jesus still loved him and gave him power. Peter was the one to whom Jesus said “Come!”
We may not look put together, we may be messy and have a lot of work to do yet. But if we love Jesus deeply and passionately, and have faith – we too, can walk on the waves.
Let’s lift our eyes above the stormy waves, and cry out to our Lord to save us. To help us. To give us wisdom. He will, you know.
I was married young – 19 years young, in fact. And then boom! A year later we had a baby. And we had another… and another. So we didn’t have much time with ‘just us’. We soon learned that if we wanted to go on dates, we would have to work harder than most couples, to make it happen.
We lived by my in-laws the first 4 years of our married life. That was great – we could leave the babies with them. But then we moved to the ranch. Yeah, not so easy to go on a date when there is no family, no one willing to babysit. But we didn’t stop dating – we became creative!
I call them ‘Ranch Dates’. We live on a ranch – we don’t live where there is a cafe on every corner. We often can’t get off work to drive the hour to town, and even if we did, where’s the money for that on a cowboy’s wage, amiright?
One of my favorite ways to squeeze in some couple time, is riding together. If he’s feeding cake; I jump in the truck. Yes, I have to open gates for him, but I also get to talk to him for several hours! Ha! Sometimes us girls just need to talk – to get all those words out of our system, you know.
Or, if he is feeding hay in the winter – I jump in, whether it is the truck or the tractor. Often, I bring along the youngest kiddo. Babies fall sleep pretty fast when they are rocked to sleep by a tractor. Again, may have to open a few gates, but c’mon, girls! Who’s fussing over a couple gates, hmm?!
When he is riding cattle for health – ride along. Now, this is going to vary widely depending on your parenting philosophy. After losing our Andy, we realized that accidents can – and do – happen to our kids. We are extra cautious with our kids, with what risks we allow. You may be comfortable with tossing your one-year-old up one a broke horse. You may feel comfortable to leave your kids at the house at a younger age than we do. But once they are old enough to stay home, ride out sometime with your man and no kids. The kids will be ok, and you will feel like a honeymooner again!
When your husband needs parts from town – go along!! Please, please, please. Whatever you may think of my other ideas, at least try this one! The house can wait. Take the baby if that’s easier. But for Pete’s sake GO! I’ll tell you the secret reason: there is ice cream in town, and if you don’t have the whole passel of kids along – he might just swing through and get ya some! (yes, I am sneaky!) Ok, but seriously. You may sit in the truck waiting for an hour at the parts store, or the feed store, or Murdoch’s, but you get the whole drive in and back to talk, and again – ice cream. ‘Nuf said.
Couch dates. Put the kids to bed and snuggle up on the couch with fun snacks and drinks, and turn on a movie. If you live in Wyoming, you should have plenty of long, cold evenings to try this idea! 😀
These are some of the ways we work in dates together. Sometimes it is not convenient to drop my work and go on a town run, or ride in the tractor. But when he sticks his head in the door and asks: “I have to go check a well in the back pasture – want to ride along?” I try to make it work.
How do you make your marriage a priority? Do you make time for just the two of you? I’d love to hear!