Friday, September 28, 2007

A View From My Kitchen Window

I heard that the weather has been simply beautiful this week.

I wouldn’t know.

I’m still in the kitchen ~ watching the world go by from my kitchen window. It’s not much of a view either. Someone (had to be a man) built a workshop / storage shed directly in front of the kitchen window. The hammer in the window is the latest in kitchen design. Honest. I saw it on HGTV. And not only is it decorative ~ it’s practical as well ~ it’s the only way the window will stay open and this kitchen is an absolute sauna when I’m cooking. So this is what I see:

I installed the bird feeder there so that I would at least have something interesting to look at. I tried planting flowers in the bed, but the previous manager sprayed some sort of chemical sterilizer in all the flower beds in order to kill the plants because they were afraid of snakes. Granted, they had two small children, but honestly ~ children raised on a ranch know to watch for snakes and snakes will rarely wander into a yard filled with chickens, cats and dogs.

Apparently hanging baskets don’t like it there either although they have been somewhat neglected this week. I contemplated painting a mural there. I miss my mountains, so mountains would be nice. There’s one problem. I can’t paint. Oh I can paint walls, but as far as painting a picture, well, let’s just say that painting is better left to someone like Michelangelo. Believe me; no-one would be praising the Sistine Chapel if I had painted it. So I’ll slap a coat of white paint on there sometime and call it good. I spend a lot of time at my kitchen sink and I have become quite familiar with the side of that shed. Stupid men.

This morning I played a game of ‘flip the breaker switch’ with the electricity. As the bacon was sizzling, the Honey Bun Cake was baking and I was beginning to flip pancakes, I suddenly found myself shrouded in darkness. Well darn it! Caitlin was just on her way out to saddle up and I asked her to please check the breaker switch. She flipped it a few times and the lights flickered back on. Whew! Reset the oven. Turn the bacon. Flip the pancakes. Not even 2 minutes later ~ off they go. I run through the dining room wielding my trusty spatula and fly to the breaker box in the living room. Flip. Flip. Back to the kitchen. Lights on. Breathe. Off they go. Run back to the box. 7 TIMES! Gary came in and told me that I would have to move the griddle to a different outlet.
Hmmm…only two outlets in the kitchen (probably designed by men.). Should I cook pancakes in the bathroom? Probably not. So I settle for the corner of the dining room. On the floor. The dining room table has filled up with cowboys who are trying not to laugh at me. My father-in-law asks me if I want a Dunce hat. Very funny Grandpa! I finally turn to them and tell them that they might as well get it out and they all burst into laughter. Gary brings me the piano bench and a chair ~ ah, chivalry does still exist! He also tends the bacon while I continue my pancake vigil. I knew I loved that man!

So all the men jingle out the door into the still dark morning and I return to my incredibly cluttered kitchen, sigh, and fill the sink with hot soapy water and turn to yet another mountain (NOT the mountain I was referring to earlier) of dirty dishes. Sigh. Does anyone feel sorry for me yet?! Anyone… Just kidding. I really do enjoy when we work, even though I would like to get out and take some pictures once in a while.

Here’s a peek at today’s menu: Tea ~ Lasagna ~ green beans ~ salad ~ Butterhorns ~ Strawberry Shortcake Dessert

And stepping back a few days, here’s what we’ve had:

Tuesday: Tea ~ Barbeque Sandwiches ~ Corn on the Cob ~ Cole Slaw ~ Cajun Potatoes ~ Tabasco Pickles ~ Peach Cobbler w/ Ice Cream

Wednesday: Tea ~ Enchiladas ~ Beans ~ Rice ~ Salad ~ Rolls ~ Auntie’s Chocolate cake w/ Ice Cream

Thursday: Tea ~ Barbeque Sausage ~ Ribs ~ Baked Potatoes ~ Baked Beans ~ Calabacitas ~ Stuffed Jalapenos ~ Angel Biscuits ~ Cherry Pie w/ Ice Cream

And tomorrow: Tea ~ Chicken Fried Steak ~ Gravy ~ Corn ~ Mashed Potatoes ~ Ranch Rolls ~ Buttermilk Pie and Pecan Pie

I've served various breakfasts, but tomorrow's the day everyone looks forward to ~ homemade donuts! I'll make eggs and bacon and toast, but everyone will be saving room for donuts. I always make donuts on the last day of works. After all these years I HAVE to make donuts if I want to avoid a mutiny.

All is going well according to the one or two sentences Gary and I have had the time to utter to each other this week. This afternoon we were waiting for Dave and Grandpa to come in for dinner and I sat down with the rest of the crew for a few minutes. They were discussing the possibility of rain. Clint made a comment that he noticed a few sundogs on the sun and that was supposed to be a sign of rain. Travis asked whether anyone noticed the white ring around the moon last night and then he added, “That’s supposed to mean…something.” There was a pause and I just couldn’t help myself, “Yeah Travis, maybe it means its night.” I thought they were going to all fall out of their chairs. Once their laughter subsided, Travis began to pout and said, “I wanna go home”. I laughed, “Oh Travis, you know that we only pick on you because we love you”.

I miss out on most of the fun banter and practical jokes that take place between the crew ~ since I’m always in the kitchen. From what I can piece together I’ve missed out on something that has to do with a rabbit that came from lineage that included the famous bloodlines of “Spotlight”, Karaoke that included a few members of the crew as stage dancers, and a chicken dance. Hmmm… come to think of it ~ maybe its better that I don’t know the whole story!

I’m going on strike this weekend. As far as sustenance ~ it’s going to be every man for himself.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Can Be Found in the Kitchen

It’s only Sunday and I’m already tired! Our fall cow works don’t even officially begin until tomorrow, but I am ready to drop. Not good. I am really looking forward to this week, but oh my goodness, I need some more energy!

I started my morning with my 3 mile walk. I washed all the bedding here and in the bunkhouse, every bath towel and every kitchen towel and rag. I cooked 15 pounds of roast, shredded it and added barbeque sauce for barbeque sandwiches. I washed dishes. I cooked another 4 pounds of ground beef (already have 8 pounds cooked and in the freezer) and prepared the potatoes for the Buckaroo Bundles. I washed dishes. I made the Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert and added it to the freezer. I cut up the cantaloupe. I made guacamole to add to the BLTs for tonight. I washed dishes. See a pattern forming here?! I add bleach to my dishwater (no dishwasher here) to insure no one gets sick and by the end of the week, my hands will be completely dried out and shriveled up. However, they will also be completely germ free!

Yesterday, Tyler and I headed into town before 7 in order to tackle the ginormous list I had amassed. I dislike going into town immensely and being in town on a weekend is even worse. I guess that Roswell is not all that large in comparison to many cities, but there are just too many people there for me and the weekends are horrendous.

First stop was Paul’s Vet Supply to return 2 extra bottles of blackleg that were not on our invoice. Paul is a great guy and he thanked us profusely for our honesty in returning them. As I crossed our stop off of my list he exclaimed, “THAT’S your list!?” He then remarked that we were out bright and early, to which I replied, “Well, actually, we’re kind of running late.” He thought that was a funny comment to make at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. I’m so glad that I amuse people.

Next stop. Sam’s. It was completely empty ~ yippee! Tyler and I navigated through the aisles like we were on a mission, which of course we were. 1hour 45 minutes later and $306.25 poorer, we had crossed everything off and made our way to Walmart. I hate Walmart. Alas, it allows me to make one stop and pretty much find whatever I need from potting soil to apples to Tylenol (which I will most certainly need after spending a couple of hours in that store). Once again, Tyler and I made a great team. We headed to the checkout with 2 precariously full baskets and shelled out $389.92. Ouch.

My kids have been well trained in this area. When we lived in West Texas, we were 3 hours from Midland / Odessa which was where we drove to shop. Needless to say, we did not make the trip but once every 6 weeks or so. I would put it off as long as possible so then, of course, we had a ridiculously long list. We would tend to all the other errands and then tackle the grocery store. Three people ~ two of them small children. Three baskets. Tyler was pretty good at maneuvering his, but I would push mine with one hand and pull the one Caitlin was pushing with the other. She could barely see over the handle of the cart ~ poor kid. They were both so good, but I hated dragging them through that. When they become adults, they will probably have to find some sort of 12-step program to help them get over the grocery shopping nightmare they were always dragged into by me. Those sweet kids never complained or asked for anything. I never once remember them asking for candy or a toy or even something to drink. I would usually get them something to eat on the way out of town and they would be so excited. Not 5 minutes after we started for home, they would be sacked out in the back seat. Their heads would be resting upon the 25# sack of flour and the giant bottle of syrup or barbeque sauce would more than likely be poking them in the ribs. They slept like angels all the way home. Then Gary would come out and help me unload everything and we would carry those babies into their beds. I miss Texas, but I do not miss those 3 hour drives to shop and the return 3 hours that almost never brought us home before 11:30.

Oops ~ didn’t mean to go off on a tangent like that. We now return you back to present day events:

Breakfast at 5:00. That means I need to be dressed and in the kitchen at 4:00. Here’s tomorrow’s menu:

Breakfast: Coffee ~ Tea ~ Milk ~ Pancakes ~ Syrup ~Peanut Butter ~ Cantaloupe ~ Scrambled
Eggs ~ Bacon ~ Honey Bun Cake
Dinner: Tea ~ Steak Tampiquena ~ Mashed Potatoes ~ State Fair Rolls ~ Corn ~ Salad ~
Green Chili Bake
Dessert: Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert
Supper: Taco Soup ~ Cheese ~ Sour Cream ~ Cornbread

If anyone happens to be looking for me in the next 7 days...

I can be found in the kitchen.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Kicking it into High Gear

Life at the end of the dirt road is quiet. And peaceful. And serene.

For the most part.

However, we do have times when things get crazy busy.

This is one of those times.

We are in the process of jumping into our Fall Works (Shipping). For any readers (not that I have any! =D) who are unaware of what that entails, let me give you a short description. Fall is one of the busiest times of the year on a ranch (and my favorite). The bunkhouse fills up with bedrolls and dufflebags; the lot between the house and the barn is crowded with various pickups and trailers, the pens accomodate strange horses, the tackroom houses an array of saddles, blankets and tack, the crew settles in for the duration of 1-2 weeks and the days begin at 3 or 4 a.m.. This is a time of year that is eagerly awaited on the ranch. Although we live in the desert, this year we have been blessed with amazing rain ~ last night we received another .9" here at the house. And yes, we measure every drop! So the cattle are fat and soggy, the pastures are thick with grass, the dirt tanks are full to overflowing and the men are happy. Add to that, the fact that beef prices are good and we can pretty much call it an awesome year.

In the fall, the crew gathers the pastures and sorts off the calves (weaning). We then sort off the steers and heifers. The steers are shipped off to buyers who will either put them in feedlots or out on wheat pasture. The heifers are sorted into keeper heifers and cull heifers. If we're working the Corrientes, the calves will also be branded. We run both Corriente and beef cattle here and next week we'll be working the Corrientes (we'll work the beef cattle in October).

My favorite thing to do when the crew is working is take pictures. I don't have the opportunity to do that very often as I am the designated cook and I seldom have time to clean up the kitchen after breakfast, drive to whichever set of pens they are working in that day, take pictures, drive back home, and make dinner. I hope to sneak out with my camera at least one day this year!

All of this doesn't begin to take place until Sunday, when the crew begins to arrive, but the previous week was kind of crazy as well.

This past week we had 10 hunters in for the weekend for the antelope hunt. 10 men. 1 bathroom. Huge amounts of barbeque. Beer. Old septic tank. Next to ancient trees with wandering roots. Need I go into detail? I think not. Sigh. Add to that the fact that we just had new floors installed in the bunkhouse last week. Sigh.

Enter my sweet husband who can fix anything. He was able to get things back in order, DK cleaned things up inside (dear man) and then we called to have it pumped out completely. The septic man showed up on Wednesday. Just after the man who arrived for an interview for the opening we have here at headquarters, but before the neat new couple we hired for a position we had at North Camp pulled in from Kansas that evening. They had 2 blowouts and ran into a rainstorm on their way here and yet they both had smiles on their faces when they arrived. We helped them unload their things, left them pizza and a few beers and gave them a few days to settle in. Never a dull moment around here I tell you.

So today I am planning my menu in order to feed a dozen ravenous men next week. The amount of food that will be consumed next week will be staggering. It's a lot of work, but I really do love it! A friend sent me a couple of new dessert recipes that I am eager to try ~ this bunch has an enormous sweet tooth ~ thanks Marquita! I am always looking for something new to add to my menu and any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

We are also planning to get in a full day of school. I hope to sneak in just a little bit this weekend too since we will be laying the schoolbooks aside for next week. It's a constant juggle to keep school balanced with ranch life, but the flexibility that homeschooling affords us is a huge blessing.

So, with that being said, I am off to direct my students in the general vicinity of their schoolbooks. One has recently been spotted hauling kitten chow and milk to the litter of kittens taking up residence in the chicken coop and the other can be heard playing his guitar from the dark recesses of his room.

Here's hoping that I will be successful in my crusade!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Bunkhouse, a Daughter, and a Toilet

Okay ~ I'm not so sure this blogging thing is for me. Some people just come naturally by it, some don't. I would qualify as an honorary member of the "don't" catagory. My daughter blogs, and blogs were created for people like her. This kid is a hoot. Today she compared herself to Cinderella. She's 14 and has no interest in the prince aspect of the story at this time (she is still focused on horses ~ her Daddy says she needs to keep that focus until she's 30), but she feels like a maid. Chores, chores, chores! Is there no end to the drudgery of chores? Poor kid. Not.

Yes, this morning was filled with chores. The dreaded project? The bunkhouse. However, it really only needs a good cleaning about twice a year. We live on a ranch and the bunkhouse is like a hotel on a ranch ~ without room service. Most often it is used when we plan our spring branding and fall shipping works. The cowboy crew that we hire to help work the cattle take up residence in the bunk house then. This weekend it will be filled with antelope hunters. Ten hunters. Six beds. Guess they'll have to flip for a bed.

After 6 days of labor, the new floors were finally installed yesterday. They were cutting it close, but the nasty, disgusting carpet (I'll never know what possessed someone to put carpet in a kitchen and dining room in a bunkhouse!) and 3 layers of old vinyl and linoleum were finally banished and are now taking up residence in the dump. Guess it just wasn't what the poor kid who came out to do the job, was expecting. He mentioned the fact that he would probably quit after he finished. I stayed out of their hair. Just took them Gatorade and cookies. Maybe he didn't like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

It was actually a joy to clean today (my darling Cinderella begs to differ), but this time when we cleaned, it was actually clean. The poor mistreated child had to make up the 6 beds (which her wonderful mother stripped) with the fresh linen (which her dear sweet mother washed). Then she had to run the horrible vaccuum over that brand new carpet and sweep the sparkling new floors. All the while her mother spent 2 hours paying homage to the tub and toilet while she scrubbed away 50 years of rusty buildup with her new best friend, CLR (a Calcium/Lime/Rust remover). I'm telling you, this child is so mistreated.

Let me go back in time for a moment. Not so long ago, I seem to recall another scenario. Same daughter ~ then 6. Same mother ~ let's just say she was younger then. Different bathroom, but a toilet was present and the mother was once again kneeling in front of it (sigh). The dear daughter was humming and wiping down the counters when the mother was quite suddenly attacked from behind. Her daughter had flung herself exuberantly onto the back of her mother and wrapped her little arms tightly around her exclaiming, "Oh, Mommy! This is the MOST fun I've EVER had!" Honest. True story. Poor kid.

Yes dear, you actually ENJOYED cleaning at one time. Alas, I was unable to capture that moment and bottle it for future use.

Just think, whenever that prince does arrive (sometime after that magical age of 30) she will have all the skills necessary to make a house a home. What a horrible thing to do to a child!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

From Europe to a Dirt Road

A weathered cobblestone street. Then a dusty dirt road.

An imposing stone statue standing sentry through the centuries in the bustling city square. Then a towering wooden windmill once again announces the arrival of the perennial spring winds as it stands at attention in the middle of the pasture.

A pristine white tablecloth holds an elaborate array of silver trays along with fine-boned china and expensive crystal glassware. Then an impromptu tailgate picnic in the back of an old dilapidated ranch truck at the edge of a creek.

A contradiction in terms? Perhaps, but these are the threads that make up the fabric of my life. Life. A series of choices that have led me on an incredible journey from the crowded streets of Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria to this peaceful place at the end of the dirt road.

If you think about it, it's not such a huge transition ~ Europe is filled with cobblestone streets. My parents beg to differ.

I was born in Frankfurt, Germany, raised in San Antonio and finally find myself at home on a ranch at the end of a dirt road. I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love my life although my parents still think I have lost my mind. Born in Europe to two educated, cultured parents. An only child.

What will she be?

The sky's the limit. We moved to America when I was two ~ the land of opportunity.

Where will she go?

The end of a dirt road.

Married to a rancher.

Don't think that thought ever crossed their minds.

I had a wonderful childhood, but I always felt like a fish out of water. Here, at the end of the dirt road I have finally found my home.
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