Saturday, May 31, 2008

Leaving North Camp

Today is a sad day out here on the ranch. No sarcasm will be found in this post. Only dejected faces and a tear or two will be spotted.

The couple that works for us, Clint and Tiffany, are leaving North Camp and moving back to Kansas. Just writing that is hard. We've known for about 6 weeks, but I've been pushing the thought aside until I could no longer deny it. Last night we took them out to the local steakhouse for a farewell supper and this morning I took some cookies over for their road trip.

Clint is going back to help his dad who is losing his eyesight. His dad has a feedlot and Clint will be taking that over and helping him out. Knowing they are going to help family makes it easier to see them go, but we sure did enjoy having them here these last 9 months. We prayed hard when we began the interviewing process and feel like our prayers were answered in Clint and Tiffany.

Clint is so much like my DH. They both have an amazing work ethic. They think alike. They make an awesome roping team. They like each other.

Tiffany is just neat. She's fun to be around and I adore her. She's smart, funny and we have much in common.

We've enjoyed spending time with them in restaurants, while working, while running around town, in the roping arena, and around our dining room table.

They also recently announced that they were expecting. We're so happy for them, but sad too - we'll miss them.

The good Lord tells us that to everything there is a season, alas, this season was just too short! Yes, I know, He also tells us that His timing is perfect so I will cling to that and know that His plan is perfect as well.

We wish them well and know that God is using all things for good. We're thankful that He sent them our way in the first place and for the bonds of a new friendship that won't be lost because of a little distance.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5 Random Things

Goodness! I'm being tagged by everyone! How many random things do you REALLY want to know about me? I'm not all that interesting people.

What I Was Doing 10 Years Ago

1. Celebrating the start of summer
2. Planting flowers
3. Living in the mountains
4. Laughing at the antics of my 7 and 4-yr old
5. Loving my life

5 Things On My "To-Do" List Today

1. Scrub the kitchen, dining room and bathroom floors
2. Do a 25 Fling Boogie (I don't follow Flylady but I do like this concept)
3. Finish hauling off the branches and twigs that are sitting in various piles in the yard
4. Complete a scrapbook page
5. Iron my quilt fabric

5 Snacks I Enjoy

1. Homegrown tomatoes straight from the vine
2. Watermelon
3. A spoon covered in brownie batter (well, not the actual spoon, just the batter)
4.Strawberries (ok, any kind of fruit!)
5.A good strawberry shake

5 Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire

1. Give to St. Jude's Hospital
2. Give to animal rescue facilities
3.Not worry about sending the kids through college
4.Buy a ranch
5.Build a log house with a fireplace next to a creek in the mountains at the end of a long dirt road

5 Bad Habits

1.Not getting birthday cards and the like in the mail on time
2.Waiting until the last minute to go to town
3.Not grading homeschool math papers in a timely manner
4. I use too many onions (I put them in just about everything I cook)
5. I'll go a year without getting my hair cut and I always look like a mop

5 Places I've Lived

1. Frankfurt, Germany
2. Colorado Springs,Colorado
3. San Antonio,Texas
4. College Station, Texas
5. At the end of the dirt road

5 Random Facts About Me

1. My mom was once approached by a man who wanted me to be a part of his harem!?!?!?
2. I have fed Tommy Lee Jones dinner
3. I have played pool with George Strait
4. I've stood in the middle of an irrigation ditch with a calf in my arms in order to keep it from drowning

5. I once resuscitated a baggie filled with crickets using a straw (don't ask)

Monday, May 26, 2008

2:30...A.M... Darn Quirk!

I've heard of early risers, but this is a bit extreme. Yes, it's just past the morning and DH and DS are outside saddling up their horses. This morning they are helping the neighbors brand and breakfast will be served at 4.

I'm not cooking it so why am I up?

Good question.

Apparently I have this strange quirk that doesn't allow me to stay in bed when DH starts his day. Wish I didn't have this quirk, but somehow I just feel better when I can see them off with hugs, "I love you"s and "be safe".

How does one acquire a quirk?

That's an odd word.


It's a peculiarity of behavior that eludes prediction or supression. Wish this particular one would choose a more reasonable hour to present itself.

Most neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate it if you showed up at their doorstep at 4 in the morning, but it is at their request and around here, you never think twice about NOT helping your neighbors. We all rely on each other and in this day and age, it seems that has become rare. We've got amazing neighbors.

They'll cheerfully meet you half way to bring you some eggs... or borrow a cup of sugar... or lend you a vehicle until you can get yours out of the shop... or get up at 2:30 in the morning to lend a hand.

Out here, neigbors are a long ways off...25 miles and it takes 45 minutes to get there when you've got to trailer down a long dirt road. They'll stop at North Camp to pick up Clint before heading to Ricky's this morning.

Why begin the day in the middle of the night? Well breakfast will be finished at 4:30 and it takes almost an hour to trailer over to the other side of the ranch. By then, it will just be getting light enough to see your hand in front of your face and the crew will divide up and start gathering the pasture. This time of year, the afternoons get hot here. We're expecting 96 degrees today and we don't want to work the calves in the heat of the day. It's hard on man and horse and calf. They'll be finished by noon or earlier, eat dinner and then head back over this way to put in another 7 hours into the work day. You know, the funny thing is that none of them would have it any other way...including me.

However, I suddenly feel a deep desire to spend some more time with my pillow and I'm going to follow it. Let's hope the quirk is ready for some shut eye as well.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Made in the USA

Is there anything made in the USA anymore? Is there anything NOT being outsourced and constructed in China or Japan?

Heck, now I don't even want to continue this post. My Dell computer monitor and keyboard are made in China. Michael Dell started Dell Computers in his garage in Austin, Texas. It's disheartening and discouraging.

Now I'm running around the house looking for that made in the USA logo.

Surely it's on the Wranglers that the all american cowboy wears! Nope, those are made in Costa Rica.

How about my son's baseball mitt? Not a chance...made in China.

Now I will be the first to admit that I am completely attached to my digital camera and wash machine and dryer; none of which are American made, but it seems that made in the USA is becoming extinct.

I was somewhat consoled last week when I made my weekly pilgrammage into town and left my money at the local Walmart (I hate that store). Aside from the basket filled with getting-more-expensive-by-the-day groceries, I came home with three things: A gallon jug in which to make sun tea, a Pyrex pie plate, and 4 large iced tea glasses. As I peeled the sticker off of the glass jug I noticed a little flag. Could it be...yep, made in the USA! I hesitantly reached for the pie plate and rejoiced at the sight of those three little letters...USA. The iced tea glasses are homegrown as well. It definitely made my day to know that I could wholeheartedly enjoy my iced tea and buttermilk pie that afternoon.

Alas, my excitement didn't last too long when I went to pull on my shoes to walk off that piece of pie the next morning...sure enough, my shoes were made in Japan. Darn it all.

Think I'll go lose myself in the pages of Huckleberry was made in the USA and written back when we didn't rely on the rest of the world to make the things we once made ourselves. I'll curl up under the quilt made in the USA by my mother-in-law and snuggle with my kids....also made in the USA.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ode to Friendship

I suddenly have the urge to reflect upon this rather complex relationship. Presently, I have a dear friend that is experiencing some enormous changes. My heart hurts. I am deeply saddened. I mourn the loss. I celebrate the growth. I respect the choices.

Through the years, I have come to realize the immense value that friendship holds, the richness and beauty it adds to our lives. The side splitting laughter. The heartfelt tears. The precious trust. The loving honesty. The inevitable growing pains. The treasured memories.

Friendship also allows for growth. For change. For forgiveness.

Through the years I have seen friendships come and go. I treasure old friends and celebrate new ones. I can't imagine my life without either.

When I was 5, her mother moved in with us during the tumultuous breakup of her marriage. She lived with us for 2 years. We giggled and laughed and fought and played. Her mother remarried and severed all ties with previous friends. She and I lost touch.

When I was 14, she befriended me in History class. We became fast friends. We passed umpteen notes and giggled over the cute new boy with the southern drawl and the one with puppy dog eyes. We whispered long into the night during sleepovers and cried over our first broken hearts. She left to live with her mom, married, moved and we lost touch although recently, I celebrate the fact that I received a note from her via e-mail and look forward to renewing our friendship.

When I was 21, she became my roommate in college. Our friendship ebbed and flowed but never wavered. She introduced me to fashion and shopping. She was neat. I was messy. She has an infectious laugh. She's an intelligent entrepreneur and a fabulous mom. Our phone calls last for hours and my heart was crushed for her when she lost her Daddy and then, many years later, her Mother. We've shared the celebration of our marriages and motherhood as well as the times we just want to bonk our beloved husbands on the head.

When I was 23, and newly married , she was a customer at the bank where I worked. She invited Gary and I to eat breakfast at their home after a Valentine's dance in town. We had no children. She had 5 and I fell in love with all of them. She is hands down the most amazing mom I know. She worked 80 hour weeks with her husband, building a business and always tended to her family. Just watching her exhausted me. It still does. Gary threw away the Pictionary game after the four of us played it. She and I just think alike and the boys didn't have a chance. We have an uncanny way of starting each other's sentences and knowing what the other person is thinking. It's a good thing we don't live next door to each other (it would drive our husbands crazy), but I still wish she did.

When I was 33, she was wandering around a trade show with a toddler on her hip and another little one tugging at her jeans. I stopped to comment on the blessings of motherhood and how they grow all too quickly. Gary pointed out that she was the woman who had written an article in Western Horseman entitled, "The Busy Day" and her words resonated with me. I went back to praise her for her gift of writing, we exchanged addresses and a friendship was born. We wrote voraciously. Long, long, long letters exceeding 20 or 30 pages every 10 days or so. She helped me navigate the homeschooling waters when we chose to educate our children at home. We exchanged recipes and spent entire nights and early mornings talking about life in the parking lot of the hotel when we saw each other at various cowboy gatherings. She challenged me to think and grow and reach.

When I was 42, she, or rather, they, bowled me over with their passion for life. At a time when I was struggling to bloom where I was planted, the Lord brought me two tremendous blessings.These two women both have amazing hearts for the Lord. I will never forget the morning spent in a cornfield. A morning of laughter. A morning of gathering corn. A morning of precious prayer. Day trips with these two are a complete hoot. I think we have been banned from Lubbock for having too much fun. We embarass our children with our vivacious laughter. We come bearing food and chocolate and hugs and prayers.

Friendship always brings me to my knees in prayer. It brings me to the feet of the Father - for gratitude and forgiveness and guidance and mercy and love. It is the only perfect relationship. The only lasting bond, but our earthly friendships are touched by His hand and leave lasting impressions on our hearts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spring Works

It doesn't seem possible that an entire year has already passed and we are once again smack dab in the middle of our Spring Works. For those of you that aren't familiar with that, it means that we are branding the calves and along with Shipping in the fall, it's the busiest time of the year for us. I spend the majority of it in the kitchen since these guys tend to work up quite an appetite when they work this hard. Mornings start at 4:00 am and by 9 in the evening I am passed out. The nights are short and the days are long, but it's also my favorite time of the year.

This spring is unusual as we are running a short crew. The help we had lined up couldn't make it, there wasn't enough time to track anyone else down and we can't reschedule because the calves will get too big. So we are all pitching in just a little bit more than usual and getting it all tended to. Some outfits use a calf table or brand using a chute, but we still drag calves to the fire.

I love to watch the crew work. Everyone has a job and they are amazingly efficient and work well together. They are like a well oiled machine and within seconds the calf has been innoculated, ear-marked, cut (if it's a bull calf), and branded.
Even with only 8 on the crew, they split into 2 teams and work 2 calves at a time:

When the calves are smaller, DD helps with flanking, but when the calves are this big, she runs the syringes. Everyone get a turn at dragging the calves to the fire. We have a friend who sings a song called, "That's My Boy Draggin' Calves to the Fire" and it goes through my head when DS gets his turn at roping.
Working as a family is one of the biggest blessings of living this lifestyle. Since the kids were little, we've all pitched in together.
I get a little bit of a break this week because I don't have a bunkhouse full of men to feed at night. The help we do have are neighbors. We are incredibly blessed with amazing neighbors in all directions.

After this many years of cooking for a crew, I have been able to simplify and organize my week in such a way that I can usually sneak out and grab some photos a couple of days a week. The beef cattle are on the north side of the road so we don't do any branding here at headquarters in the spring since headquarters is on the south side. That means I have to drive about 40 minutes to get to any of the pens with the exception of North Camp. When they brand at North Camp, I make barbecue sandwiches, Cajun potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, stuffed jalapenos, Tabasco pickles and Auntie's Chocolate Cake with ice cream. I can make much of it beforehand, leaving me time to play behind the camera.

It's all too easy for me to lose track of time and before I know it, I've got to scat back to house and put the finishing touches on dinner. I am always reluctant to leave my perch on top of the fence:
We're expecting a cold front tomorrow, but today it was pretty warm although the wind kept it's distance. Actually, it was the perfect day. The bawling calves, the smell of the branding fire, and the sound of the crew's easy banter mingles in the air.:There is nothing like the sounds and smells of branding day. At the end of the day there is a palatable feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done, a second piece of pie, and a good night's sleep waiting around the corner.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Swimming in Fruit Salad

Not really, but it feels like it. Today we were supposed to be giving a baby shower for Cottonpicker's soon to arrive grandbaby who chose to make her entrance into the world today. Guess she didn't want to miss the shower. I want to tell y'all more, but it's not my story to tell and I couldn't tell it like cottonpicker in a million years!

Suffice it to say, she is here, she is healthy, she is beautiful, Mama and Daddy and everyone else is pooped out and she has eager Aunties waiting to cuddle her.

Welcome to the world little one!

So, I had decided that fruit salad would be a refreshing addition to the shower and thus bought every fruit I could find in order to make enough for 25. Fruit doesn't keep forever so since we have yet to reschedule this joyous event, I am eating fruit salad until it comes out of my ears.

Anyone that dares to venture down this dirt road in the next 36 hours will also leave with a large bowl filled with fruit salad.

Think the cowboy crew I'll be feeding this week will take kindly to fruit salad???

Friday, May 9, 2008

Have Guns, Will Travel

Whew! Let me catch my breath! It's been a crazy week. After being away this weekend we hit the ground running. DD had her Piano Guild on Monday, Piano lesson and errands and DS had his college class on Tuesday, DD got her braces off on Wednesday (BIG day for her! Jump on over to her blog to read about it. She practically declared it a national holiday! Grin!), baby shower on Saturday and our Spring Works start on Monday so I've got to stock up on groceries. So that's the short version. However, this post is not.
This past weekend, the kids and I packed clothes and food and guns and ammo and chairs and sleeping bags and just about anything and everything else you could think of

and headed north to Raton and the NRA Whittington Center for the 4-H State Shooting Sports Competition. We left on Thursday and returned on Sunday evening, happy and tired - very tired.

The competition didn't begin until Saturday but we left a day early in hopes of getting a little extra shooting in and making a trip into Colorado to look at the renowned Trinidad Gunsmithing Program.

Before we even left the dirt road DD hollered, "Wait! Stop. I can't get my seatbelt out."

DS commented, "Oh great! We've driven exactly .4 miles and we already have to stop."

Think he's taking after his father who is a point A to point B traveler. DS learned that traveling with 2 females and a point A to point B passenger, makes for an interesting trip. Grin!

We arrived at our destination and eagerly looked forward to hitting the bunks. Alas, it was not to be. We were registered for cabin 3, but the key would not cooperate and try as we might, we could not unlock the door so we drove the 3 miles back to the front gate and were given a second key. No luck. Back to the gate. Lets try cabin #5.....or 9...or 10. Arrgh! After 7 trips from one end of the Whittington Center to the other, in the dark, we still were unable to get into a cabin. Roger told us to go on into town and get a bite to eat and he would try to get in himself. When we returned, he too had been unsuccessful. I told him that we would gladly sleep in the gift shop. We just wanted a place to unroll our sleeping bags for the night. He was very apologetic and said that he couldn't believe how jovial we were about the whole situation. We were laughing about it. I mean, what are you gonna do? There wasn't any sense in getting upset. He said that he had a Founders Cabin available for just that night and we grabbed that right away and we were thrilled! And completely spoiled! These were our accommodations on Thursday night:

We were so excited that our desire to hop right into bed was forgotten and we all reveled in 20 minute showers in these luxurious bathrooms. Compared to our cute little rustic cabins:

that sleep 10 with no heat and sparse amenities, these were quite extravagant. Can you tell it doesn't take much to entertain us?

We slept like babies that night
and dined like kings the next morning ~ in swivel chairs with a view!

The kids let me snap a few photos while we savored the crisp, morning, mountain air:

Then DS shot 3 rounds of trap and 3 rounds of skeet that morning,before we loaded back up and drove 20 miles north into Colorado where we shared plates of yummy Mexican food at a place called Tequilas before meeting with the director of the Trinidad Gunsmithing School. What a cool place that is! We met people like Tank and Lurch and Speedy Gonzales (who happens to be a professor) , and spent over 2,very interesting, hours immersed in the engineering of building guns. We were completely fascinated.

Then it was back to the Whittington Center where they were frantically working to get keys made for all the cabins. Apparently the locks had been changed over the winter, but keys had not been made. They were completely booked for the weekend and were trying to get everything in order.

We met up with the rest of our team and drove into Raton and K-Bobs for supper before turning in for an early night. We know from experience that Saturday is a long day. The kids shoot all day long. They shoot air gun first (3P and silhouette), followed by .22 (3P and silhouette) and then Shotgun (trap and skeet). They've got to save some energy for the dance that evening as well.
Usually we all shoot all year at the New Mexico Military Institute, but they are remodeling the building this year so the kids really only shot 4-5 times this year, with the exception of shotgun, which DS shoots on his own. So taking that into consideration, I though they did quite well and they should be very proud. The team didn't place well, but individually DS and DD shot well. DD shot air and placed 9th in the state.

Oh, by the way, just for your information, I'm a trouble-maker. A rule-breaker and a non-compliant citizen. Who knew?! I was ousted from this building just after taking this photo because my flash went off. I honestly thought I had turned it off, but like me, my camera must have a rebellious streak and I was told in in no uncertain terms and a rather gruff manner to NOT take any more pictures. Okay. I apologize, but goodness, he could have been a bit less combative. Humph!

Both kids shot .22 and DS placed 9th and DD placed 14th out of 114.

DS placed 10th in the state for shotgun. They both thought they could have shot better and set goals for next year, but they shot personal bests and should be proud.

Now that everyone has completed their shooting, it's time to kick back and let the stories fly:

And everyone knows that wherever teenagers gather, food (large quantities of food) must be present so the pre-meal ritual must take place:
and the eating can commence:

On Sunday morning, DS and Dakotah went back to the shotgun range to shoot a few more rounds and a group of us headed up the mountain for a morning hike. We walked up to the old abandoned ghost town and coal mine. It was absolutely amazing and I became extremely homesick for the mountains.

And what's left of the stables. Stepping back into time like that made me realize just how spoiled we are. I cannot imagine blasting all that rock and hauling it in order to build this:
The deer are always inquisitive:
and venture close enough that you can almost reach out and touch them:
And we discovered a strange, new species during our morning trekk.

They're lovable, feisty, comical, fiercely independent and always hungry all at the same time!

So here's to coaches who put up with both kids and parents all year, to kids who make it all worth while, to parents who support them in their endeavours and to an amazing program called 4-H!

So that concludes our weekend. Now we're getting geared up for a busy couple of weeks ahead so please be patient with me if I become remiss in posting. Sometimes there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sure Do Thank You for A Good Spring Rain

Wow! Two posts in two days! I'll have to back off. Don't want y'all getting used to that.

From the title of my post you can probably surmise that this is a praise post and you would be correct in that assumption. We have lots to be thankful for! We awoke to these strange objects this morning.

This is called mud. It's a blessing. A HUGE blessing! It's been a long time since we've seen this:

And puddles!

Lots of puddles!
BIG puddles!
Puddles, puddles everywhere!
So this morning my post is about answered prayers. It's been a long time since we've had any moisture and I know that the Lord's timing is perfect, but sometimes it's hard to wait. Last night we fell asleep to the heavenly sound of rain beating upon the roof and against the windows. The radar looked scary on the computer and DD's best friend was caught in a dangerous hail storm. Thankfully, they arrived home safely, but that must have been a harrowing experience and we were certainly in prayer mode for them. We only had a smattering of hail, but there were reports of tornadoes and the sky was bright with sheet lightening. I'm hoping that everyone stayed safe. This morning DH dumped 1.8" here at the house and 2.4" at Antelope and I couldn't resist spending some time outside.
Here are words from a song that I fell asleep singing. This song is on an awesome CD called Burson Family Ranch. They're friends of ours who have been blessed with this wonderful musical talent. Ever since I met them, this song runs through my head when it rains and when it doesn't rain, I pray that I'll soon be able to sing it. Wish I could find a link to it but you'll just have to get the CD for yourself.
Rain Song

I been prayin' a long time
The Lord would bless this grass of mine
With a good ol' soak; here it came
Sure do thank You for a good spring rain

I know it's gonna green up
Sure as coffee fits in my cup
And I'll keep on singin' this refrain
Lord I sure do thank You for a good spring rain

Cows got washed; they're at play
I get to quit feeding cake and hay
And that'll sure help my back pain
I sure do thank You for a good spring rain

I know it's gonna green up
Sure as coffee fits in my cup
And I'll keep on singin' this refrain
Lord I sure do thank You for a good spring rain

Well life goes on and them bills are due
And I'll have some troubles, maybe one or two
But the grass is green and I can't complain
Sure do thank You for a good spring rain

I know it's gonna green up
Sure as coffee fits in my cup
And I'll keep on singin' this refrain
Lord I sure do thank You for a good spring rain

Sure do thank You for a good spring rain.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Breakfast Pockets

We've been out of town since Thursday and I'll post in a day or two, but I had this recipe already typed out to share so that's what you get today.

This weekend we headed north for the 4-H Shooting Sports Competition. 13 of us stayed in rustic cabins with no kitchens and brought our own food. These breakfast pockets made it quick and easy to get a hot breakfast into these kids. I know there are similar choices at the grocery store but, we just don't buy much in the way of prepared food and these are so much better. Well, I wouldn't really know if they are better or not since I haven't tried the others, but these disappear quickly and I have no plans to buy the other.

These have come in handy throughout the 11 years I've been making them. I have memories of DH and the kids and I scrunched in the cab of the pickup at 4:30 in the morning, headed down the dirt road to meet a cattle truck that did not show up until 10. Everyone was munching on these and I can still smell the warm aroma of breakfast pockets, mixed with the crisp mountain air, tinged with the smells of horses. Heavenly! I am not being sarcastic either. Those smells rank right up there with the smell of rain. You would be hard pressed to find a better one.

Breakfast Pockets

2 pkgs yeast (I buy yeast in bulk and just use 2 scant Tblsp.)
1/2 C warm water (110-115 degrees)
3/4 C warm evaporated milk (110-115 degrees)
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
3-4 C flour

1 lb bulk pork sausage
1/2 C chopped onion
2-1/2 C hashbrowns (I have used cubed potatoes and Ore-Ida Obrien Hashbrowns, thawed)
7 eggs, beaten
3 Tblsp milk
pinch cayenne pepper
3 C shredded cheddar cheese

*In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add evaporated milk, oil, sugar, egg, salt, and 2 C flour; beat until smooth.

*Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Do not knead. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

*Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the sausage and onion over medium heat until sausage is no longer pink; drain. (I use the reduced fat sausage - no need to drain)

*Add potatoes or hashbrowns and cook until warmed through.

*Add eggs, milk and seasonings. cook until the eggs are completely set.

*Sprinkle with cheese. Keep warm

*Punch dough down. Divide into 14 pieces.

*On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into 7" circles.

*Top each circle with filling; fold dough over filling and pinch edges to seal.

*Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

One of the things I really like about this dough is it's elasticity. You can really pile in the filing and the dough is soft enough that the filling will not spill out during baking as long as you crimp the edges well.

We doubled the batch for this weekend and warmed them in a roaster. With yogurt and fruit, they made the perfect breakfast.

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