Monday, November 28, 2011


Whenever Mark helps our friends with farming, he leaves early in the morning so I am then responsible for 'chores'. He streamlined some of the chores in order to accommodate my abilities and since I've been doing them regularly I have become much stronger. There is something quite fulfilling in feeding the animals early in the morning. The animals are all happy to see me and the world is so peaceful then. It sure beats working out in a gym!

I grain the horses...
and the miniature donkey, Oats. See Buddy in the background? He's working on his 'stay' command. When he does, he is quiet...and so are the horses. If he's not 'down' with the 'stay' command, he barks and runs around excitedly which excites the horses. When I'm graining them, its best if they are calm. We're all learning!

The studs are peacefully eating at this point when the picture is taken. They vie for position at the feed bunks so it can be quite aggressive and lively until they settle into their social position. All the jockeying for position reminds me of the executive suite in corporate life!

The mares are calm on this day. As new mares were introduced to the mare pasture, it resembled the "mean girls" at school while they learned their social position. Lots of kicking and pushing. The boss mare is Boon. She's always been at the bottom of the pack in years past but this year she was in the pasture first so she holds the boss position. She's a sweet horse so the dramatics are minimal. If you recall, she is the mom of Duley who was born this spring here on the ranch.

These are the babies with Oats, who share a large corral. It was a beautiful warm day so after eating they sunned and relaxed until late morning when they ran and played around the corral. They are young so they are very playful and curious. When I am in their corral getting the grain for the other horses, the babies will come and bite my coattails, sniff around me and stand close to watch what I am doing. They can be a nuisance when they are soooo friendly but I love being around them.

It's then time to let the Dots out of their Dot House and to feed and water them. They are getting along now quite well but the Dots aren't laying eggs much anymore which is typical in the winter. I only have three spring chickens (born last spring) left and they've quit laying with the cold weather; and the black copper French Marans won't lay until spring so I don't get many eggs now.

I open the door to the Guinea Shack so the guineas can come and go as they please during the day. As you can see in the picture, the babies are growing and looking like miniature guineas now! There are 5 left and one has an injured leg so it stays in the Guinea Shack while the others venture out with the adults.  One day recently, Buddy was curious and went near the babies to check them out and one of the adults screamed, flew to Buddy and landed on his back. He now gives them a wide berth which is great so I don't have to worry about the safety of the little guineas. I feed and water the guineas in the Guinea Shack but they still like to eat weed seed heads, spilled grain, etc. They are still pretty wild but do return to the Guinea Shack often during the day for water and to check themselves out in the mirror (whatever that is about in the guinea world) and definitely every night where we lock them in.

Last but not least is to feed Buddy. He follows me everywhere in the morning doing chores. He is settling into the watchdog of the place which is good.

The chores takes me about an hour to accomplish and then it's time for the rest of my day. My garden chore today was to continue watering trees, this time the fruit trees and berry bushes. I will continue to deep water the saplings, small trees and then the established fruit trees - cherry, apricot and mulberry. We may be getting our first snow on Wednesday so I'm on a schedule to get the deep watering finished.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My sister, Sandi, was here again this year and we had a marvelous time just hangin around the house --- cooking, eating, playing with Buddy, doing chicken and guinea chores, playing Sequence, visiting and of course, drinking some wine.

We made a beautiful bay and lemon brined bird this year that I failed to capture in photographs (why oh why didn't I think of it?). I've never had a turkey with such a rich mahogany color plus the turkey was moist. I will brine again.

Sandi furnished a delicious sweet potato recipe that was the hit of the meal since it was a different twist to the traditional sweet potato recipe. Here's the recipe...

Sweet Potatoes
1 (28 oz) can cut yams, mashed or better yet, 3 cups fresh sweet potatoes that have been roasted first, then mashed
1/2 cup sugar
2 T butter
2 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk (or non-dairy creamer)
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine mashed sweet potatoes with sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and milk.
Spoon into greased 8 1/2 by 11 inch baking dish.
Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top of the potato mixture. Bake for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until topping is lightly browned.

Makes 10-12 servings

Our meal also included dressing, my fresh cranberry relish with wine and star anise, green beans with wild mushroom sauce, fresh sweet peppers, and finished with Midnight Pumpkin Pie which is the traditional pumpkin pie only with chocolate! Yum! Tradition with a twist.

We had the good fortune to have two Thanksgiving meals this year. We celebrated with our dear friends and their family on TG day with a bounty of food that was delicious and company that was lively.  Sandi arrived late on Thanksgiving Day so we had a small supper and had our Thanksgiving meal together on Friday.

I try to feel gratitude every day not just at Thanksgiving. I love and appreciate my friends, some who are Family of the Heart. I feel gratitude for my relatives and family including my three wonderful special sisters--- Marcine, Bonnie and Sandi; also for my husband, Mark, for the gift of his love and friendship. I know that I have so much as a citizen of the United States - I am grateful for the freedom and abundance. I love my simple life surrounded by nature.

Speaking of nature, today I'm watering the saplings since we haven't had rain in a long time. The birds followed the hose to each sapling to drink and play in the water. We put a tomato cage around each of the small saplings so the deer and Buddy won't chew on them this winter.
For all this, I am thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bird Watching

When I was younger, I thought bird watching was lame, something nerdy that people without a 'life' did. But I've loved birds my entire life. I was always aware of the birds in the area in which I lived and loved to be still and watch them. Once retired, I learned about Project Feeder Watch through Cornell University's Ornithology Lab and felt I could finally put my interest to a good use and it doesn't feel lame at all. In fact, it feels rather great to be helping scientists track what is happening to our North American birds. Can you imagine a world without birds? Unfortunately some are disappearing so if I can help in my little way, then it's worth the time spent.

The citizen scientist program doesn't take alot of time - just some time of your choosing on two consecutive days per month at the least; and as much more as you desire with some scheduling restrictions. With this process, I've learned the names & habits of common birds for our area of Nebraska, the thrill of seeing a predator swoop down to catch one of my feeding birds not always successfully, or seeing and identifying an unusual bird for our area.

For instance, today is a count day for me. It is in the low 20s with some freezing rain and wind. I've only seen 5 chickadees, 1 white breasted nuthatch, l blue jay, 5 juncos and 1 house finch so far. The rest, I'm sure, are tucked in somewhere warm but these ventured out for water and food.

If you have school age children or grandchildren who visit, this can be a wonderful introduction to bird watching and nature. Children are drawn to birds and so the educational part is easy with them. Project Feeder Watch has a program for school kids too. It can be an interesting way to get a kid interested in science too.

When I watch Lucas, now almost 2 1/2, he loves to sit at the french doors and watch the bird activity. He also loves to run after my chickens! The above picture was taken last winter.

Consider this contemplative nature activity in your life and check out Project Feeder Watch in the video above.

Happy bird watching,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Buddy and Friends

Buddy @ seven months
A handsome calm dog
Here's Buddy! He's really grown hasn't he? We've been working on training and he has mastered 'down' and 'stay' if it isn't too long a time. That's the big push right now, to get him to stay. He's actually doing quite well and is a pretty mellow dog.

I hear him occasionally at night really barking so he's obviously tuned into something that shouldn't be here. Although I've noticed since we've had Buddy that we don't see turkey's like we used to and there haven't been any deer visible on our property and squirrels are rare. We haven't had any snow this season as yet so once the ground is covered with snow and the deer are foraging, we'll see how effective our Buddy is! Although we haven't yet had snow, it does get very cold at nights and some days so Buddy's coat is very very thick since he is an outdoors farm dog. He has a house but he prefers being out on the ground or on the deck.

He loves his tennis ball and I play fetch with him at least once a day. He's just learning the Frisbee. One of the annoying puppy behaviors is bringing all his 'toys' to the front yard. Those toys include huge beets that disappeared before I could chop up for the compost pile, acorn squash he found ---must have been volunteer squash in the pasture since I didn't plant them this year, bones, branches, horse manure, tennis balls, and his all time favorite cloth braid with which to play tug-of-war. I clean it up and new items appear such as squashed cans, bits of plastic, pieces of get the picture! I can't wait for him to grow up to adulthood with hopefully less of these behaviors. But as Mark pointed out, he is cleaning up all the debris he finds in the pastures.

Playing fetch all out
He loves his tennis ball
Listening for trespassers

Mellow Buddy
These are the baby guineas or keets. They are growing so quickly and can fly so they fly to one of the upper decks in the guinea shack to sleep with the adults at night but fly down to the floor where they spend the day. We provide food, water and a heat lamp so it's a good environment for their safe growth. With the seven keets, we're back to a dozen guineas. They don't like humans in their pen so the pictures are not the best since I have to point and shoot while defending myself from mama but you'll see that they are growing in their adult feathers. It doesn't take long for these birds to grow up.
Not such little guys anymore

And the season for Project FeederWatch has begun so I'll be counting birds for Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology again this year. The key is water and having the country birdbath (skillet!) with a heater to keep the ice from forming on freezing nights. We're seeing lots of birds bunched up, like the robins today. They have been monopolizing the birdbath.
At one point we had robins, blue jays, chickadees, yellow finches, cardinals and waxwings! It was a beautiful sight but I couldn't get the camera quick enough to capture that mix! Buddy lays in the warm sunshine on the back deck near the birdbath and feeders and he ignores the wild birds which is a relief.

I'm starting projects like deep cleaning and soon window washing. There is something satisfying about cleaning since there is instant gratification. I'm still thinking about creative projects I want to do this winter. More on that later.

Have a great week,