Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Record Snowfall

Around here we always keep a close eye on the weather. Not that we can change anything, but we can prepare for it if need be. The forecasted blizzard blew in on Saturday afternoon and dumped a record snow on us.


It's really hard to measure how much snow fell when it was accompanied by 50 mph winds. I love it when it snows, but this snow was not fun. Livestock needs to be tended to, blizzard or not.


The tractor has been working overtime:


I will say that having the kids home has spoiled me. I didn't even go out to tend to my chickens today as our boy trudged and shoveled his way through the 4-foot snow drifts to bring hot water to my girls and keep them in pellets, as well as gathering the eggs. This morning they got oatmeal. :)


He found this little bird hiding out in the coop...smart little thing:


Our girl had a friend come out on Saturday night and he ended up staying the night on our couch. Made no sense to have him out on the road and he's stayed here often in the past. It snowed most of the day on Sunday...accompanied by those ferocious winds. DH had to check on a few pump houses and got stuck so DD and DS drove off to the rescue and also got stuck after pulling DH out. Our new camp man came over and he got stuck. I imagine there will be a few more rescues on the horizon


On Monday the day dawned sunny and cold with no wind. Yay! Time to pull on those boots and venture out. Harvey sure enjoyed his first snow

A lot!


Since we don't have grandchildren, y'all get pictures of our grand dog:


And the horses were thankful for full bunks of hay:


Its funny to watch the quail scurry about:


We ended up with probably 15-18". Its hard to measure when the winds were so strong, but town is completely closed down. Roads in all directions were closed until today. The county doesn't have snowplows so they have to call in the state to bring in equipment. The National Guard has been overwhelmed rescuing stranded motorists. This was a record snowfall for our area. Yesterday our propane tanks were barely keeping their heads above the snow:


We're not expected to get up above freezing for a week with lows in the single digits, but the sun is shining in a brilliantly blue sky and the landscape is breathtaking. My mom was supposed to fly out today and all systems were go until we got to town and received a text that her flight was cancelled. No flights available until Saturday so we booked her on a flight out of Amarillo tomorrow. It's not looking good as it snowed pretty hard again today for about 3 hours. The main road was good, but DH bladed the 2.5 miles to the pavement yesterday. It was still a harrowing ride. Last year my mom was here for 4 extra days because of an ice and snow storm and we still had to take her to Amarillo. She said she was going to stop coming at Christmas. :)

We kept busy with our annual Christmas puzzle.

Everyone joins in, but DH and I are the die hard puzzlers in the family. We don''t put together puzzles any other time of the year, but its a tradition over Christmas and we have a hard time stopping. We've been known to be up past midnight searching for the next piece. This year we had some extra help compliments of Harvey


Who was plumb wore out after his adventures in the snow this morning:


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Just in the Nick of Time

Whew! Christmas festivities are in full swing at the end of my dirt road. My mom flew in on Tuesday and poor thing hasn't left the kitchen sink since she stepped foot in the door. We made all of our favorites which include Oreo truffles, dipped pretzels, Rolo Pretzels, Sugar Cookies, and my favorite - Gingerbread Cowboys.


And since the kids were babies, we've always made my Sour Cream Cranberry Pound Cake for a Birthday Cake for Jesus:


We were unable to make our annual trek to the mountains to cut a tree this year and 2 weeks before Christmas, there was not a tree to be had in town. DH said we had a bumper crop of tumbleweeds so we went in search of the perfect tumbleweeds.


Have y'all heard of The Tumbleweed Christmas Tree written by Andy Wilkinson and performed by Red Steagall? All I can say is that we failed miserably. I had to sit in the bed of the truck and hold on to the tumbleweeds while DD drove and then we couldn't get them in the door. And can you say stickery?! We did get one in the door and it wouldn't fit in the corner of the living room and we had to drag it back out. Needless to say, we'll be finding tumbleweed stickers in the house until the 4th of July, but we gave it the old college try.

DH smoked 52 quail for dinner today


and I am telling you that it was the best thing we've ever eaten and yes, we do say that every time he smokes quail. :) While my mom and I were baking, our college girl spent an entire hour prepping the quail:


They each get a slice of jalapeno, wrapped in bacon, and dusted with a smoking rub. Best. Dinner. Ever.


And as good as those quail were, it's going to get even better. I make a smoked quail soup with the rest of the quail and I've been informed that its everyone's favorite meal of the year. I wholeheartedly agree! The weather has been unseasonably warm this December, but according to the weather experts, we're in for a big change:

See those lows?! And that's in town. We'll be up to 10 or 12° colder here. I'm looking forward to the first snow of the winter on Sunday though! You can bet we'll be snuggling a little deeper into those quilts when we get back from making feed runs!

Our boy will be here in a few hours and we'll head to church for Christmas Eve services before going out to eat. We're all on the fence about eating out. We know its going to be hard to top those smoked quail!

I know y'all are all busy as cats in a room full of rocking chairs too, but I think I'm just in the nick of time to pop on here and wish all of y'all a very Merry Christmas from  here at the end of the dirt road.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Chocolate Pecan Caramels

I finally started my Christmas baking on Saturday. The list is long, but it's tradition and I love traditions and baking for the holidays is just fun. I made these Chocolate Pecan Caramels that I found in a Taste of Home circa 1999. Gosh, that used to be such a great magazine! Now its new. And improved. And I don't care for it so I let my 25 year subscription expire, but many of our favorite recipes have been gleaned from its pages through the years. This is one of those recipes:


Chocolate Pecan Caramels

1 Tbsp plus 1 C butter (no substitutes), softened, divided
1 1/2 C coarsely chopped pecans
1 C (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
2 C packed brown sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 C water
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

*Line a 9x13" baking pan with foil; butter the foil with 1 Tbsp butter. Sprinkle with pecans and chocolate chips; set aside. In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat. melt remaining butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in milk and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 248° (firm ball stage). Be patient. It'll take a while. :) Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan). Cool completely before cutting into small squares.

Do not go past 248°:...not even a smidge or your caramels will turn to rocks. And I don't refrigerate mine - we like them at room temperature so they stay a little softer.

Monday is the last cattle sale of the year and all the girls bring goodies and set things out for the buyers. I'm taking queso and chips and probably these although I'll keep some back for us. :)

Fair warning: these are really caramel-ly. In other words, be prepared for your teeth to stick together and you may or may not look like a puppy eating peanut butter, but some things are just worth it. :)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The First Week in December

We rarely work cattle in December, but we gathered a small crew to brand a few late calves and process some cows for a few days.


 That put me back in the kitchen.
Thursday's menu was Steak Tampequena, mashed potatoes, corn, taquitos, salad, and rolls, and I made Cajun Cake for dessert - recipe posted here: Cajun Cake.


Then I went easy on myself on Friday and made stew with french bread rolls and leftover cake for dessert.
Our mornings are a tad frosty around here this time of year and I felt sorry for the boys when I dropped them off to gather cattle in 17° as I headed back to a warm kitchen:


The sale barn Christmas party was last night so we dusted off our social skills and dancing boots and two-stepped the night away. We used to do that a lot and it was still fun.

I'll have a crew again on Tuesday. Menu to be decided. :)

I've been packing away fall and pulling out Christmas boxes as time allows. We are a real tree family so it doesn't get put up this early, but I'm making progress in the Christmas hall-decking.


I want to finish up a few quilt tops before I put my stitching up for a few weeks. We just have too many family and friends staying throughout the holidays to keep it out. Well, we can never have TOO MANY friends and family, but the house will be bustling.

I did manage to make the 24 extra blocks for my Ginger Belle and get it pieced.


I thought I was done, but I forgot about the borders that completed the design so I had to dig fabrics back out and do some more figuring, cutting and stitching that included making another 72 4-patches:


Hope to have this one ready to hand off to Jackie next time I get to town. It ended up being 108 x 108. Just how many king-sized quilts does one family need?

As I've set this to post, I'm either hauling hay from the barn floor to the chicken coop or bouncing across pastures making a feed run with DH... or sneaking in a nap! :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

What I've Been Up To

My sewing time is about to come to a halt for a while, but its for a good reason. Our girl and her pup arrived yesterday and have settled in for a week:


Good thing he likes a bath. He's discovering all sorts of treasures around here:


 She even brought a delicious apple pie she had baked the day before. Her Daddy loves apple pie and he loves it twice as much for breakfast!


We've been spending lots of time putting out mineral:

Searching for cattle:


And filling up the hay shed:

Hubby brought home a deer on Saturday. He found him on the north side of the ranch and was able to stalk 10 yards away from him. That's close! He said he was making too much noise so he took his shoes off and moved in closer to him for about 70 yards in his socks through the sand burrs and mesquite. Then he hobbled back to his shoes and pulled the burrs and thorns from his socks. :) So we dined on tenderloin that night and will be putting the dehydrator to work making jerky for the better part of a week.

Then we had a cake calamity in the kitchen:


And yes, that is the way it came out of the oven. Do not ask me what happened. I have made 300 of these through the years and alas, this one was a total loss. Our girl said that we needed to mark the occasion with a moment of silence.

I don't know if I'll ever get that pan clean again and we won't even talk about my oven. I am so glad that I keep aluminum foil on the bottom of it. I had to redeem myself:

On the sewing front, before our girl came home, I managed to get all the blocks pieced for Ginger Belle, squared them up, and stitch the top together:


and then I decided, yep, you guessed it...it needs to be bigger. So back to making blocks. In order for the design to stay balanced, it needs two more rows both vertically and horizontally. These are 15" blocks so that adds 30" both ways. Perfect for a king sized bed.

I had this in my stash that'll work for a backing:


And I will be making a scrappy binding, but it'll have to wait because we are going to soak up the essence of Thanksgiving this week even though we'll be missing our boy and hoping he'll be here for Christmas. I don't know if I'll be popping in between now and Thanksgiving so I wanted to wish y'all a blessed one. We've been enjoying such a pretty autumn this year. This morning it was 16° when DH went out. I am going to hang onto autumn as long as I can.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Fun Flowers Baby Girl Quilt

I recently finished this happy little quilt that I pieced from leftovers from a previous project:

I love the addition of that black and white dot! It made everything else pop and it was the perfect binding:


Jackie quilted it using a pattern called Flower Power and it's 45" x 45".

It's a pretty day to just hang out around here this morning:


We had our first freeze the other day, but I hope this fall weather hangs around for a good long while before winter settles in:


I didn't have quite enough of the flower print for the backing so I just added a bit of this pink dot from my stash to frame it on two sides:


I had fun trying to figure out how to best use what I had left from the original project and I hope it'll become a favorite for the little baby girl who receives it.


That's 11 finished quilts so far this year. I'm hoping to squeeze in two more since they're Christmas quilts. It feels good to be finishing quilts although you probably won't be surprised when I tell you that I'm starting new projects as fast as I'm finishing old ones!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Inspired by...

I have a blogging friend, Nancy, who blogs over at Joy for Grace, and she recently began a weekly link up as a way for bloggers to share the inspiration behind their quilts. Here's the link to the first one and I'm linking up this week here. Quilty Inspiration #7

It made me stop and think about my own source of inspiration so thank you, Nancy for the inspiration for this post. :) In a recent email. Nancy wrote:

We quilt bloggers usually post about the fabric for a quilt, the first blocks, the progress, the final quilt -- which gets so many kudos -- and yet I think what happens in our minds and imaginations before we ever put cutter to fabric is equally important in the "life" of a quilt.

Not only does she make beautiful quilts that she hand quilts, but I should mention that Nancy has a wonderful way with words too. The quilts we make have meaning and are made with love, but they have to start somewhere. There must be an initial creative spark that draws us to make that first cut or reach for that particular fabric.

Recently, I finished this quilt and I blogged about it here. Family Tradition Quilt. Our ranching lifestyle was definitely the inspiration for every stitch. It was as if the designer, Shelly, had designed it for us personally and when I first saw the pattern, all the pictures I shared in the Family Tradition post instantly came to mind. I could have share hundreds more, but I thought I probably shouldn't get too carried away. :)

Whenever I attend quilt shows, I am always curious to know what inspired the quilt maker to make that particular quilt. I know there's a story. There's always a story.

Sometimes it's as simple as a piece of fabric like this piece for me:

I was in the little local quilt shop with a friend about a month ago. I didn't need a thing. I was only there for moral support. :) And then she pulled out this fabric. It's called Indian Summer. We both knew instantly that we were going to be making a quilt with it and the brainstorming began. It makes me laugh to think of others who were close by and perhaps listening into our conversation. She and I play well off each other and I can only imagine that our spoken thought process probably sounded confusing. One of us often says what the other is thinking and it is always intermingled with much laughter.

It was the coral colors that spoke to her and for me it was the wild abandon of the entire collection of wildflowers. I've been collecting floral fabrics for a few years now for a simple patchwork quilt and this one pretty much summed up all I had been trying to capture in one fabric.

I had brought this book:

to show her this quilt

that I wanted to make using fall fabrics. After a quick conversion of blocks to make that floral the focal point, we had a plan. I went home that night and began to pull fabrics

and a week later I had made 58 square in a  square blocks:

I brought my stack of supporting fabrics to the sale barn to share with her and we shopped together for others to fill in the gaps. I have a stash and I thought every quilter did, but not C. She buys exactly what she needs for each project and nothing else. I do believe this is the first time I ever bought 1/8 of a yard of anything! I told her I couldn't bare to watch them cut such a small sliver.

So my Indian Summer quilt started with a fabric, mix one part quilt pattern, and 2 parts friendship, fold in a variety of supporting fabrics, stir in a double dose of laughter, a little math to add our own spin, add a few stitches and you have the beginnings of a quilt!

Do I NEED to add another quilt to my list? No, but as C would say, "What does need have to do with it?" and who am I to argue with such logic?
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