Wednesday, February 23, 2011

5 - 6 Pick Up Sticks

Wedged between cold winter days, today was a beautiful spring-ish day in the 50s --- great for outdoor work. It was glorious. Geese were flying noisily overhead on their way back north.
The first of two carts full of 'sticks'

The elm trees drop many branches during high winds so I spent the morning picking up sticks! Of course, Lacey thought it was a great game.

We got the supplies to mend the arbor which broke under the heavy foliage of the morning glory late last summer; and Mark started making the tomato cages out of concrete wire mesh. The tomato cages last year were puny so we decided we needed heavy wire. Tomatoes are the stars of our garden. We both love them and I didn't plant nearly enough last year. We've corrected that mistake so this year we'll have 20+ plants!
The first six of the tomato cages DONE
I'm working out the calendar for starting my garden seeds indoors. I'm just itching to get started but then the weather forecast slams me back to winter reality.
Soon, it will be spring. The geese and Sandhills cranes are telling me so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feeding The Yeast

Sourdough is made from a starter that traps wild yeast from the air. I have been making sourdough bread, pizza dough, pancakes and crepes since I took a class in The Science of Sourdough at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California in 2007. I created the current starter during that class and have kept it alive since. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I fed it during the move to Nebraska and even took it with us to North Carolina during our 2009 Christmas trip. It remains sound and smells delightfully doughy and makes the BEST bread as Mark and many others can attest. I have shared the starter with family and friends. The 'chore' of feeding the yeast takes less than 10 minutes a day which is so little time for the big outcome but it is a commitment.

Mixing the food for the yeast --- 2 cups flour & 
2 cups water ---very simple 

When I'm not baking with it, I "stall" it in the refrigerator but must feed it once a week to keep the yeast alive. It must be removed from the refrigerator three days before baking & fed twice daily to increase the activity of the yeast to the level needed for baking.

The 'food' then is mixed into the starter to feed the
yeast and to attract more wild yeast from the air
Cheesecloth is added to the top so only the
wild yeast can get into the starter

I love maintaining and managing the starter and truly love kneading and baking bread. There is something meditative about it. Plus you get the great smell in the house along with the yummy healthy bread. I use King Arthur white whole wheat flour which is a type of white wheat that is milled to include the entire nutritious kernel, King Arthur bread flour and several grains including flax seed, walnuts, oat bran and sometimes oatmeal, sesame seeds, raisins & other fruit, rosemary or other herbs and/or rye flour. Sourdough bread lasts longer at room temperature than other bread.

We're back to single digit temperatures so it's a perfect day to bake.....bread and 7 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies for Mark. Is that man spoiled or what? Wish you could smell the house...or better yet, be here to share the goodies.


One of the guineas sitting on the back deck railing - a big NO NO.
We certainly don't want birds on the deck. She didn't stay long but
squawked long and hard when I shooed her away. The guineas are
patrolling around the house so I'm encouraged that they'll stay closer
in this spring to capture all those creepy bugs that may want to get
into the house.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Is In The Air

Such a beautiful picture full of promise; my seed
order from Seed Savers Exchange has arrived

I know, I know, it's still winter. But with the temps in the 60s maybe 70 today, the smell and feel of spring is in the air. Buds on the trees are starting to swell and thoughts in my head are planning when to start the seeds indoors and how the garden will look this spring and summer.

My seeds from Seed Savers Exchange have arrived (which makes spring more real), I've purchased the starter soil, and have some extra egg cartons that I will be using as starter pots. Now its all about waiting..

If you are still in the planning stage, consider SSE
for your seeds; check them out; contact details in
the Favorites column on the right of the blog.
In the meantime to enjoy this lovely weather, Lacey and I go for daily walks in the pastures so she will learn the ranch's boundaries that is hers to protect. We're learning the eastern pasture right now because its rolling hills gets lots of sun and therefore is drier and safer for me to walk up and down the hills. We'll attempt the western pasture with its steeper hills and gullies later when the ground is dry. Lacey has been handling the training leash beautifully; yet when shes off the leash she runs and explores but then stops to check on me. She is a delightful companion.
Is there some pointer in her? She checking out
the guineas. We're just starting our daily pasture walk.

The far eastern edge of the east horse pasture

The north side of the east horse pasture

Lucas and Lacey meeting at the Dot House

Lucas at his favorite place on the ranch; he LOVES
the Dots and could stay here watching them all day

another scrumptious Nebraska sunset last night

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Whole Grains....Are Delicious

I've discovered a new whole grain that is delicious. Farro. Semipearled. It is a hearty ancient European grain with a nutty flavor. It looks like wheat but is a distinct grain. Farro, quinoa, kamut and amaranth are actually some of the oldest foods on earth and I plan to try them. Any that we like I'll incorporate into our diet. So far, farro is a huge success, we both love it. It is prepared like rice, very easy so it's a permanent resident in our diet now.

How did the modern world get so far off track with good nutrition? We somehow managed to take the nutrients out of all the grains - e.g. white flour and white rice, both stripped of their great nutrition for looks. Potatoes are nutritious in themselves but we've managed to add lots of flavorful but fat laden toppings so even potatoes became unhealthy for us. Potatoes seem to be the primary starch in the American diet followed by pasta. We eat pasta but it is whole grain. It took awhile to get used to the change but our taste buds love the whole grain pasta now.

We have been eating brown rice for years now. Love love basmati brown rice.
Our recent favorite is Rice Select's Royal Blend whole grain that includes Texmati brown and red rice with barley and rye. Yummy! It is delicious on its own but also wonderful in soup or as a base for veggie stir fry.

Speaking of vegetables, I ordered the organic seeds I needed for my garden. I saved alot of seeds last year that I intend to start indoors this spring so I'll have homegrown transplants to put into the garden. I have kept the seeds in the refrigerator with silica which helps keep the moisture out. We're thinking of adding two more stock tanks so I have more space for crop rotation.

Saved seeds in container in fridge. I saved seeds
in some of the original containers as well as plastic
bags. I'll be testing them for germination viability soon.

I also ordered the ten baby chicks and they will be arriving late March. Baby chicks and baby plants are the official arrival of spring at our house.

S. Worrell BCM
French cuckoo marans chicks ---
They will be the newest addition
to our chicken stock.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'And I Shall Have Some Peace There' book trailer

I want to share this video about the forthcoming book of Margaret Roach, the author and blogger extraordinaire of A Way To Garden, my all time favorite blog. Check out her book trailer and consider buying it if you are a gardener or are interested in a drop out memoir. I can't wait for it to arrive...its to be released in a couple weeks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yaktrax are Fabulous

Now, if you don't live in snow country, this post won't mean much to you. But if you live in snow country where its below zero for a few days and nights then in the single digits during the day and still zero at night and then in the 30s and 40s during the day and in the single digits at night --- you know what I mean. Our 12+ inches of snow began to melt during those 30s and 40s but froze into solid ice at night. That happened for a couple days and then the temperature took a dive and we're left with a sheet of ice over our yard. Check this out...

Yard ICE!

Yaktrax Tracks; see the ice beneath the snow?

Yaktrax Walkers are a miracle product. Until I bought them, I literally couldn't cross the yard to gather eggs or walk to the mailbox or go outside to play with Lacey. The ice beneath the snow was so slippery that I couldn't stand which is dangerous particularly with my new knee. Now, I strap them onto my boots and I can walk anywhere, confidently, on packed snow and ice. Just like they promise.

Here they are --- Yaktrax Walkers on my Uggs

The yard ice from the Dot House to the cottage

Sweet Lacey is GROWING

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dots in Winter

Lucas watching the Dots on Friday; it has warmed
to the 30s so it was very pleasant & the Dots were
happy to be outside.  So was Lucas!

Lacey and The Dots sharing the safe pen. When
Lacey isn't in the hay house, the Dots are checking
it out. They've learned to co-exist and are doing
quite well together.

The Dots are still laying and the egg numbers are
going up since the slight warmup; today we got 8
eggs in the morning and 4 more in the late afternoon
so all but 2 hens laid eggs today. Pretty good production.

All the pretty eggs

Wild birds waiting their turn to eat at the feeders

The feeding frenzy during the below zero days this
past week. They ate a lot of seed.

This morning when we let the Dots into the safe pen, Lacey came out and first spent time with Mark doing chores. He then left her out of the safe pen on her own when he came back into the house. We watched her to see what she would do. She circled the Dots safe pen a few times, then laid down outside the pen. She played with sticks, wandered around the yard a few times, came to the door a couple times but always went back to The Dot House and circled it and then laid down again. Seems that she is getting the hang of protecting the Dots. It was a successful first day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Have you discovered Marjolein Bastin?

This is a nature painting by a Dutch woman I admire, Marjolein Bastin. You've probably seen her greeting cards or maybe even received one from me; or perhaps you use one of her spectacular nature calendars. Her work is so exceptional because she has a keen eye for the details and whimsy of nature. Hallmark enticed her to offer her art through their company and it has been a great relationship. She and her husband bought property in Missouri near Hallmark and have been restoring the land back into a tall grass prairie. I look forward to visiting it one day.

Check her website at to learn more about this talented woman and her products.

 by Marjolein Bastin

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Its a Small World Afterall

I have software that keeps stats on my Country Tales blog visitors and I have readers in the following countries;
USA, Germany, Canada, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Thailand,  Czech Republic, Switzerland, Australia, China, Columbia, India, Denmark, Puerto Rico and Brazil.
It's a small world afterall.

Sharing our life on the Plains of America with people all over the world is a priviledge. This is a part of America that isn't portrayed often in media other than in old western movies so it remains foreign to many Americans too. It is easy to be wowed by the manifest beauty of nature and man's monuments, but the subtle beauty of nature can take ones breath away if we only look. The Plains is a lovely place to live with its four seasons, range of temperature, varied landscapes, legion of wildlife, friendly people, prodigious sky---and iconic monuments.

Everyday I notice another aspect of the vast beauty of this area. On the way home from town last week, Mark and I witnessed a bald eagle soaring over a field. It was a magnificant bird and an incredible sight to see on an otherwise ordinary day. Is there such a thing as an ordinary day when we really observe the natural world around us?

Enjoy your ordinary day. Thank you for visiting!

Photography and visuals thanks to Google!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Please Indulge Proud Grandparents---May We Present...

This is our granddaughter, Kelsey, standing in front of a painting she created in Thailand as a final school project. This time in Thailand is part of her college's junior year semester abroad program. As you can see, she is a talented artist. Her Mom, Sandra, went to Thailand last week to visit Kelsey and they are touring the region together for a few weeks before returning home later this month. We are so proud of Kelsey - both her talent and her adventurous spirit.