Archive | April 2013

Gardening – for a “Less Stress Life”

No secret around my family …. I am most happy when I am digging in the dirt! So I am very excited to undertake a new project this summer.

In keeping with our old homestead, I hope to make a beautiful garden using our old windmill as the “center piece”. When we moved to the property in 2004, I was totally enamored with this windmill. Didn't matter if it had any water pumping from it or not. For me, it was just what I wanted to look out onto from the bedroom as I arose in the morning. It seems to just stand there, year after year, watching over the old farm.

I have spent hours snapping pictures of the windmill – in the early morning or as the sun sets in the evening. Through winter months and summer. We have some lovely yellow rose bushes planted nearby that were supposedly hand-carried here by the original Scott family. Their blossoms, with the windmill in the background, are amazing,

 

In December, the windmill doubled as our Christmas tree.

 

Now that the holiday season is over, we have spotlights that come on at dusk just to say “hello” in the cool, dark air.

 

So, why not make a garden around something I enjoy so much?

There were numerous old pieces of farm equipment left on the place when we bought it. I guess many people find relics of some sort on a lot of old abandoned farms. One was a Minneapolis-Moline tractor. Kevin figured he could fix it up one day, so this one was spared a trip to the steel recycler. It still has the old “crank” on the front of it!

 

We also kept the old “planter” from the 1920s era.

 

My first order of business was talking Kevin into dragging this heavy old tractor, with the flat front tires, through the field to rest happily by my windmill. His first response was, “Well, I am going to fix that up someday” – to which I promptly replied, “you can have it back when you get ready to do that.” (I lied – I think I am keeping it).

It looked so cute in it's new parking spot, that Kevin suggested moving the planter over next to the tractor.

Next came a birdhouse that had been 'specially made to look like our old barn. I liked that! I will need more birdhouses and lots of flowers. A friend suggested pampas grass, sunflowers, and a couple of pumpkin plants. I have all those plants started and will plant them as the weather warms.

 

 

I have oodles of flowers started in little peat pots to brighten a wood bark walkway to the windmill from the house….or perhaps maybe a “dry river bed” look with stones leading you down the path. At any rate, lots of flowers and lots of cheery birdhouses. These two birdhouses were a special Christmas present from Aspen and Blake, my two grandchildren. They are going in the garden for sure!

 

I probably won't know for sure what it will look like until I actually start digging, but, with the help of a little computer software, this is the look I will be searching for.

Bright, cheerful, inviting. Something to sit on the deck and admire….raise a glass of wine. Cheers!!

 

Lolli – Our Ranch’s Best Help

Many ranchers have the dependable Border Collie or Heeler to help in the daily ranching chores. We have Lolli, our Chocolate Lab, whose enthusiasm for life is contagious. She waits by the door every time Kevin heads for his coat. She hops up into the old ranch truck and heads out to check cattle and feed. Don't ever leave her home……she pouts.


We had a crazy storm yesterday. The temperature dropped like a rock and the winds howled for hours on end. We both hoped that the momma cows would not think this a good day to calve, but some times I think the big change in the barometer must do something to them. Inevitably, a calf ends up being born in a storm.

All looked good at about 6:00 pm as Kevin and Lolli fed. It wasn't raining or snowing yet. Everyone munched their dinner quietly. But by bedtime, the rain, now mixing with snow, had coupled with a driving wind as he and Lolli headed out to check the expectant mommas. A few minutes later, they were back. #53 had given birth and the little calf was alive, but wet and shaking. Out we went – Kevin hopped the fence and stole the calf away from a most indignant new momma cow. We jumped in the truck and headed for the house – rubbing the calf with towels and leaving the truck's heater on full blast. We carried the shivering little heifer to the kitchen where (thankfully) our wood stove was blazing.

Lolli sprung into action. By golly – in her mind, if that calf's momma wasn't going to finish licking off this poor, shivering baby, then she was taking over. And took over, she did!!!

 

We rubbed and Lolli licked. When we felt the calf was dry enough, we fixed a bottle of colostrum to hold it over until the storm let up. We made a makeshift pen around the calf so it couldn't get on the carpet. Lolli laid there forever – just wishing she could get in there and lick that calf some more!

Well – with a sleepless night behind us and the wind still howling, we fed the little heifer some more milk replacer and put it out in the garage. She wobbled to the boot closet and proceeded to nap. I guess sleeping on the boots and shoes beat the cold garage floor.

The storm has left us now. #53 and her newborn calf have been reunited. But, one time, this afternoon that little calf let out a beller…..I looked down at Lolli as she peered in through the panel. She whined, in response.

Checking the alfalfa….


Such a help in the vegetable garden…

 

Hunting with Kev….

Lolli is a keeper!

 

Grassfed Soap

When I would pass someone a bar of soap that I had made, their smile used to turn to wonderment as they looked at the label. Sure, it's a hefty bar – big enough to be comfortable in Kevin's large hands. And sure, it has a fabulous fragrance. It's even a pretty color. But, oh…..it's made from beef tallow? Really???

 

Yup. I have been making soap for a few years now. I love the joy of giving someone a gift that I have made with my own two hands. I enjoy including a soap shaped like a duck or cow in my grandkid's Christmas stocking, or adding a few bars of soap made especially for an infant to a baby shower gift.

I had always purchased the soap oils online and had accumulated lots of great recipes. It was fun to try new fragrances like sandalwood and pine – and had totally fallen in love with a cinnamon-orange scent. So it seemed like a perfectly natural progression (to me, anyway) to render down the fat from our beef and use it in a soap recipe. After all, our pioneers did it…..

The search began for a recipe using our tallow. Kevin and I wondered whether it would smell funny (who knew?) I figured that some people might be put off by the whole idea even though tallow is actually turned into a different substance through saponification when it is combined with lye. They fear they are spreading animal grease all over them! Actually, some of the characteristics of using tallow in your soap are a creamy lather, mild cleansing, and a fairly hard soap.

Before I get into trouble with anyone, let me first clarify by saying that we raise grass-fed/grass finished beef and our ranch is certified with the Animal Welfare Approved Association. Our cattle are humanely raised without feedlots, antibiotics or hormones, In the interest of trying never to waste, the use of tallow seemed a natural progression.

The recipe I have been using is a blend of coconut oil, olive oil and beef tallow. The amounts I use are as follow:

44 ounces beef tallow

20 ounces olive oil

20 ounces coconut oil

12 ounces of lye

32 ounces cold water

The coconut oil adds a wonderful sudsing quality to your bar, and the olive oil gives it it's mildness.

Well, the soap has been a hit. One friend called to tell me that she had had a patch of skin on her face that she just couldn't get rid of, and it was going away since she started using this soap. She wondered if her old commercially-made soap had been giving her the irritation. We will never know.

I do believe, though, that the less chemicals and preservatives we use, the better we live. The soap makes it just one step closer to healthy living .

 

 

 

How ’bout Planting an Extra Row?

Spring is springing!! The strawberries in my high tunnel are blooming with the great promise of nummy goodness in the near future. The broccoli that we planted last fall made it through the winter and is making heads as we speak. The recently planted lettuce, spinach, beets, green onions, broccoli and radishes are peeking through the soil, the carrots and cauliflower have yet to show their faces. My high tunnel is reaching some crazy warm temperatures – over 120 degrees and we have just finished the month of March. Special care has to be taken daily to roll the sides up on the structure to provide cross ventilation or the fledgling plants will wilt.

We have been checking soil temperatures in our fields and outside gardening areas. Besides the soil temperatures being a concern, our farm needs to also grow the supplemental forages for our grass-fed beef. Colorado has been coming up short in the moisture department for the last couple years which seriously decreases the time the cattle can graze a pasture. We have had to rotate the cattle through the fields quickly to protect the grass from over grazing. Most of our crops withered in the field in 2012, so careful thought has been given to a great forage that we could get to maturity!!!

With the hope that we could take advantage of our spring moisture, we began to plant an oat/pea mixture that will germinate at 40 degree soil temperature. The weatherman says we could get some precipitation in the next couple of days – so with 53 degree soil temps, the tractor and planter went into action last night. C'mon rain!

My outside raised beds have really warmed since our big snow about ten days ago. It's time to plant the onions, kale, and lettuce out there. We are going to put the onions in a block planting – every 4-6″ every direction. Onions are sensitive to photoperiod, so the earlier the planting, the larger the bulbs. Our raised beds will provide uncompacted soil and great drainage.

Gardeners across the country (even the world) have such a power to provide. A few extra seeds here and there – and with love, sunshine and water we can share our surplus with food banks. Our little town has a wonderful community outreach program. Many times, as I drop off my extra produce (course I have to look through the second-hand stuff to see if there is something I just have to have!) my fruits and veggies are already gone from the shelf. Something that seems trivial and extra to me means so much to others. There are many programs out there – Plant a Row for the Hungry supplies food banks with your farm fresh goodies. Many times food banks are only able to keep canned veggies on hand – merely because of the time it takes to store and distribute them. Produce for Pantries connects youth growing produce in school gardens, residents growing in community gardens, and citizens growing vegetables in home gardens to help nourish their neighbors in need. You can participate with a formal program or just gather your goodies and head for a local drop-off place.

So when you start tucking those seeds in the ground, add just a few extra to share with the food banks. Such a simple thing can really make a difference!