Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ramblings at the Ranch

This is the Dot House and the safe pen for the chickens. Brianna and William helped Mark expand the pen, nearly double in size. It's like I have two flocks - the original DOTS and the new pullets of French Marans and Ameracunas. They don't mix inside or outside the Dot House. Sigh.

And, the Big News is that Lacey no longer lives with us!  I came home one day only to find Lacey sitting on the front lawn eating one of the French Marans with a dead Ameracuna at her feet! OMG! All trust went out the window so I found a new home for her with a retired famer and his wife. She'll have a great home as a pampered pet...with no fowl around to tempt her.
The magnificent Tree of Heaven which creates incredible shade. Love this tree but not all the baby saplings it sends up throughout the yard!

We've had many storms this spring/summer so far and after a recent storm I looked out the kitchen window and saw the rainbow and the wonderful light. These moments just take my breath away.
And here is the other end of the rainbow, right over the barn. Storm light is so beautiful.

A beautiful Nebraska sky...after the storm.

Another view of the rainbow behind the Dot House.
The old cherry tree has come through another year with an abundance of sour cherries. I'll be picking this week and will begin making jam and pies. The wonderful birdhouse was a Christmas gift from Megan, Lucas's Mommy. I thought the cherry tree was the perfect setting for the unusual birdhouse.

The birdhouse flowerbed in the front yard is beautiful this year. See the closeups that follow...

I hope you are having a lovely summer,

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The June Garden

June is all about the garden. Check out my gardening partner! My little friend Lucas spent a morning with me while I was planting tomatoes. Part of the time he watched from his comfy chair, part of the time he blew bubbles and part of the time helped weed. We had fun!
Helping weed and stack twigs
This week my new friends from the Nebraska Master Gardeners course visited our ranch. We had a great time touring the garden and yard flower beds while comparing notes and learning from one another. We are visiting each others gardens which is a lovely way to get to know each other. After our time on the ranch, we went to a fun local restaurant, House of Memories. It is the childhood home of the proprietor which she and her husband turned into a successful restaurant and gift shop that just celebrated its 10 year anniversary this week.

The Master Gardener Interns, Me, Pat S., Jo Ann L., and
Kaye M. enjoying coffee and cookies in my dining room
before we toured my garden
Check out my beautiful heirloom tomatoes from Laurel's Heirloom Tomatoes (http://www.heirloomtomatoplants.com/). When they arrived in the mail, they were spectacularly healthy and packed so well. So, all in a row are Anna Russian, Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red, Beefsteak, Goldman's Italian-American, Sunset's Red Horizon, Big Beef, Giant Belgium, Marianna's Peace and Paul Robeson along with my little cherry, plum and purple cherokee plants that I started as seeds a few weeks ago. So in all, we have 23 heirloom tomato plants with tomatoes of all sizes ripening from early to late season. It will be a busy season of caretaking and putting up tomatoes.
My tomato seedlings finally in the ground
Looking north at part of the tomato bed which this year is in
the ground; check out the cages Mark built which should hold
the large plants when they are full of tomatoes! The rhubarb
is spectacular this year
Seeding tomatoes and peppers was quite easy and I never did get a grow light. The egg cartons worked very well to start the seeds and then I transplanted to 4" pots into which they quickly established strong roots & stems. The setup in my laundry room was perfect for the seedlings which grew healthily and quickly. The thing is though, after being cozy and protected indoors, moving outside to the garden can be quite traumatic. You have to "harden off" meaning that the tender little plants need to be exposed to the outside sometimes cruel world of changing temps, hot sun, rain, maybe hail and wind. My seedlings have been hardening off for several days so were ready to plant today. We'll see how they compare to Laurel's during the season.
This is the finished asparagus bed. If you look closely
you'll see the small skinny asparagus plant ferns - there are
five from last year and 6 new ones I planted this year. It'll be
a couple years before we start enjoying the spears.
As I've mentioned to you before, the yard is my gym. Mowing the lawn & yard around the barn, Dot House and driveway easily gives me 10,000 steps a day for two days which is my typical routine. Sometimes based on schedule, I will break that up more. Well this week, I got into the 'zone' and mowed the ENTIRE yard in one day and I have the proof on my pedometer...22022 steps! OMG! I wasn't as sore the next day as I thought I'd be. Advil was definitely my friend that night in helping me get to sleep. It showed me that I've made progress with movement & strength. Call me crazy but I actually enjoy pushing that mower around the yard. It makes more sense than joining a gym and paying to exercise & then sitting on a rider mower.
My compost pile that should help make the garden
soil richer next spring. We're going to expand it so I
have 2 bins to fill since I have so many beds to enrich.
As you can see, Mark made it from pallets. Works great.
The first iris bloomed which was a gift from friend Connie. I love iris, isn't the picture logo beautiful?  The roses are blooming, but no peony blooms yet...this season - so sad. I just planted them last fall so that could be the reason since they need to get established. I was careful not to plant them too deep as they are very picky about planting depth. But once established, they will grow for years. Friends around here have told me their plants are 35 to 40 years old! Peony's are my favorite flower so I'm disappointed with my lack of blooms since I had great visions of what my peony bed would look like from my kitchen window but will be patient until next year. Boy, they better bloom then. I had a couple daylilies in the peony bed which was a huge mistake. Those plants really proliferate and there are too many lilies so I'll be transplanting them to an area of the yard where they can grow and reproduce to their lily hearts delight. Then we'll all be happy.

Highly fragrant David Austin Rose 
Ambridge Rose

Here are a few of the blooms we are enjoying right now! The fragrance of all my roses is wonderful.

The baby chicks are no longer babies and now equivalent to teenagers. They are living with the old Dots and both are struggling living with each other. The older hens are bossy and not so sure they like the young'ns around. So the young pullets move around the yard in a group more for protection than company I believe. It's getting better every day however.
The 'baby' chicks are big, huh? They are buddies

The black/white pullets are French Marans &
the light colored brownish pullets are Easter Eggers

Here they are up and eating, even the leaves
on the trees

We had special friends from South Dakota, Sandy and Rick, stop by for a visit this afternoon on their way home. We had lunch and a wonderful visit. We had such fun touring the ranch and visiting that I didn't think to take a picture. Well, I have the memories which are even better.

Hope you had a lovely day,

P.S. Today is my late Mother's birthday. Interesting how that date never leaves the consciousness. I am having lovely thoughts about her today.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High Brow Cat

High Brow Cat is a new name in my world but an important name in the horse world of cattle cutting competition. Mark has a couple High Brow Cat descendants at the ranch (check out his website address to the right - Edwards Ranch) and he has been very involved with some local friends who are competing in the High School Rodeo Association events.

When Mark's kids were in high school, he trained his son and eldest daughter for the cattle cutting competition in the High School Rodeo events. They each won their division at the state level to become the South Dakota high school champions in 1979. It was the first time in state history where a brother and sister won the same year on separate horses. A big accomplishment in that world.
Below is a picture of Mark's son's saddle that was the first prize trophy for winning the State title.

Check out this video to get an idea of what cattle cutting is if you are unfamiliar. It's a timed event where the rider has to select one cow out of the herd and then must keep that cow from reentering the herd. It's a difficult event because you never know what the cattle will do...so a great horse is helpful. Watch the horse in the video --- it knows it's job.

When Mark was asked to train our friends grandkids here in our community he was thrilled and has been having the time of his life until May 12 when he had an accident after cutting practice while loading the livestock into the horse trailer. Three steers turned around and charged a gate behind which Mark was standing. The gate hit him and threw him to the ground, breaking his hip. His hip was replaced in surgery the next morning and we were grateful that his accident resulted in a surgery that is commonly successful. So we're working hard on recovery and I am confident that he will be 'back in the saddle' again.

In the mean time the kids continue to practice and to talk with Mark about what they are doing, getting pointers etc. He loves their company and they are the best medicine for him.  All three have placed first in their event at different competitions so they are gaining the skills to be contenders next year.

This, dear readers, is the reason I have been sporadic writing posts for the past few weeks.
Our lovely granddaughter, Ashley, visiting Grandpa Mark just 5 days after his hip replacement surgery.  She was here during his surgery which was so helpful to me. He was so delighted by her visit which lifted his spirits.  He's looking good here, isn't he?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Boon's New Baby Boy

Our sweet little mare, Boon, gave birth early this morning. By the time I got out of the cottage this morning to do chores, he was already pretty steady on his feet. Check him out...
Isn't he adorable?
We have 2 filly's and 2 horse colts this spring. Boon's baby is the only one born on Edwards Ranch though. The other three mares are at other places where they will be bred with different stallions for next years babies. The mare can get pregnant again 9 days after giving birth or then 21 days after that! The gestation period for a horse is eleven months. I can't wait to see our other babies. They'll be coming home soon.

Here are more baby pictures...Enjoy...
I mowed the yard most of the day and had the delight to watch the baby all day. It was fun to watch Lacey nosing around Momma Boon and new baby with great curiosity. She did lots of sniffing but Momma kept her at bay.
I hope your day was filled with delight,