Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Another Little Mouth to Feed

 Last weekend I heard a pitiful little cry just west of the chicken yard (the chicken coop is about 30 yards south of the house) and when I went to investigate, I found a tiny little kitten. I looked over and didn't see a mama around, but I wanted to give her a chance to pick him up although I did check him over to make sure he wasn't hurt. The mama kitties will often move their kittens and for the most part we let them do their job. We have a lot of barn cats around here and I throw cat food onto a slab in the evenings and everyone comes up to eat, but the cats are wild. They are hunters and do a good job of keeping mice and rats and snakes cleared out of the hay, barn, shop, and salt shed. I've been noticing our herd declining and figure we've got coyotes working around. I worked around the chicken yard and watched closely, but never saw the mama. We've got a few mama kitties tending to babies, but no-one claimed this little fella, so I picked him up and brought him into the yard. Meet Oliver:

I wasn't going to name him, but he was so tiny and skinny underneath all that hair that I brought him into the house and DH said he looked like an Oliver so Oliver it is. Thing is, I do not want an indoor cat, but I have to save him if I can so warm milk is being doled out every 3-4 hours.

Poor thing was terribly constipated and probably dehydrated. I did fix him a little box with a towel and when I was in town on Monday I picked up some milk replacer, kitten chow, and some litter. Later, I noticed 2 kittens squeezing into a spot under the house and they would wander out to play by the chicken yard. When I put Oliver out with them, they acted like they were familiar with each other so I'm certain they are litter-mates and Oliver is just a runt and something happened to their mama. 

The other 2 are short haired and more active, but I also started putting warm milk and kitten chow out for them in an old discarded pan twice a day. Once their tummies are full, it's nap time:

For now, I let Oliver sleep in his box in the office at night, but I put him out with his siblings during the day. I want him to know how to be a kitten. 

The funny thing is, I will step outside and find him sitting at the front door, or I will peek around the other side of the house and if he sees me or I call his name, he will begin to meow and run to me. And those of you who are members of Skeet's fan club will love him even more:

He is SO sweet and gentle with Oliver and when I walk outside and look for Oliver I ask Skeet, "Where's the baby?" he helps me look for him. I know everyone loves their dog, but Skeet truly has the most incredible heart. Oliver even talks to him. LOL (Skeet was right next to me when I snapped this shot)

Oliver's a little fluff ball, but there's nothing under all that hair so we're doing our best to put a little meat on his bones and turn him into a healthy, happy kitten. This is a good start:

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Under the Needle: May

 I know May's not over yet, but I've got a full week ahead and I know sewing won't be a part of it. It's been a while since I've posted an Under the Needle report. I had intended to post them once a month, but I haven't been very good about getting that done. Lately, I've just been puttering here and there in my sewing room. I always have multiple projects in various stages of completion going on at once and this time of year it's harder to get to them when so much of my time is spent outside.

DH has helped the neighbors 4 days in the past few weeks and that means we're crawling out of bed at 2:30 in the morning. Crazy hours. He always tells me I should just stay in bed, but I always feel better if I at least make him some coffee to take along and then I brush my teeth and then I'm just awake. So, more often than not, I will write a blog post, clean something, read a little, and then spend that free time playing with fabric.

And yes, later in the day, there will be a nap. πŸ˜‰

Recently, I've been working on trimming a pile of HSTs I made in an attempt to empty a bin of fabrics leftover from another quilt. There were 408 to trim. I recently splurged on a 3-piece set of Bloc-loc rulers and I have to say, I am really liking the accuracy:

I am also piecing a quilt top that uses 155 of the above HSTs and includes another little appliqued sailboat:

And when I get the hankering to just run fabric under needle, these little 16 patch blocks are piling up. I am working on Bonnie Hunter's Winter Blues quilt: 

Around here, we don't get the blues in the winter because although we get really cold, we always have incredible sunshine so I will probably end up renaming this. I have a healthy stash of blues and even though these pieces are small, surely I am making a dent in the bin.

I'm making a little progress on my Follow Your Heart project:

This was a Sweetwater Kit I bought 4 or 5 years ago. I'm not a fan of kits, but I still love this and I'll love it even more once it's out of the project bin and an actual quilt. All the squares have been cut and I'm drawing hearts onto Heat & Bond Lite, cutting them out, and pressing them onto the blocks.

I am also binding a quilt I started in 2016

And I finished this quilt a few weeks ago

Farmhouse Flannels Quilt

So apparently I'm very productive at 3 a.m. πŸ˜• Alas, unless DH is helping the neighbors or I'm cooking for the crew, the only place you'll find me at 3 a.m. is snuggled under a quilt, snoozing. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Special Company

 A few weeks ago we were blessed with a visit from this little bright-eyed nugget

Her mama and daddy are so good to share photos. I love this series from Easter


And we're always so grateful when they make their way home

They came after Easter to meet the chickens:

To read some stories

To explore outside

To play Peek-A-Boo


And again

And again

Hey, Gram! Pap is REALLY funny!


To bake a cake:

To celebrate a special 1st Birthday!

And to make some memories:

I missed them before they even made it to the other end of the dirt road

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Pepper Steak

 I've been making this for 20 years or so. The original recipe came from Taste of Home, before they became 'new and improved'. It was a Crock-pot recipe, but I usually make it on the stove in a saute pan because I don't always think far enough ahead to allow for the 6 hour Crock-pot method and I really like to brown my meat first because I think it gives it more flavor. That also means this would be great in the Insta-Pot. 

We always have a ton of beef in the deep freeze and I have the round steak tenderized when we have our beef processed. This is one of the ways I like to use it although I also have an amazing chicken fried steak recipe from a friend that I need to share with ya'll one day. It makes a huge mess, but if I make it for the crew in a few weeks when we brand, I'll write up a post.

I made this last week when I needed to throw a quick meal together. I've been spending so much time outside that I lose track of time and before I know it, it's time for dinner. Dinner is our noon meal around here and this time of the year, I use the grill more than the stove and oven, but this quick meal has stood the test of time and you can really throw any vegetables in and just call it a stir fry.

Pepper Steak

2# tenderized round steak, thinly sliced. It's so much easier to slice when it's still partially frozen.

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1 Tbsp butter

salt-pepper-granulated garlic

2 Tbsp Worchestershire

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 large peppers. cut into strips (I usually use a combination of colored peppers)

1/2 tsp ground ginger (or fresh grated if you have it)

1/4 C soy sauce (I use Coconut Aminos)

I can petite, diced tomatoes, undrained

1-2 Tbsp cornstarch (I really like using Tapioca Flour for a thickener too ) + 1/4 C water

Cooked rice (I use brown rice)

*I will often grate a carrot and top this with shredded carrot.

*In a large saute pan, brown sliced round steak in oil and butter, seasoning with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and Worchestershire. Toss in your chopped onions,  garlic, peppers and ginger - continue cooking for a few minutes. Add Coconut Aminos (or Soy Sauce) and diced tomatoes. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water and stir into pepper steak. Simmer until thickened. Serve over rice. This time I served it with fresh green beans - they've been so nice in the produce department lately.

And I can vouch for the fact that this is equally good without the tomatoes because I didn't have any. πŸ˜„

Monday, May 16, 2022

Farmhouse Flannels Quilt

 When I made my list of quilts I hoped to finish this year, this quilt wasn't even on it. I guess I just forgot to add it so I'll just call it a bonus quilt. πŸ˜‰

A few years ago, I stopped at Front Porch Quilts in Benjamin, Texas and one of the things I bought was this Layer Cake

I loved that little quilt shop, but we ran into the owner at a quilt show in Dimmit last month and she said she closed the shop in January. Her business partner had some health issues and the shop was just too much for her to handle on her own. Plus she had a really good cash offer from the county as they wanted it for a county building. 😞 I didn't pass through there often, but when I did, I left a lot of money there!

These fabrics are SO soft! When the 2nd coordinating collection hit store shelves, I waited for a sale and bought a companion Layer Cake and then they sat. And waited. 

For inspiration. When this quilt popped up in my Pinterest roll, I knew it was the one:

I loved the simplicity and the fact that it leaves the fabrics big enough to enjoy the prints.  I also like that there is no waste although I think there were 2 pieces I didn't use because I didn't need the extra blocks for my setting. According to my records, I started this quilt in April of last year. I couldn't find any pattern information, but if anyone knows of any, please let me know and I'll edit to include that information here. I don't want to infringe on any copywrite, but I made mine without a pattern. It was easy enough to figure out - I simply cut 2 strips :


Then I stacked them and moved the bottom fabric in the second stack to the top:

Then it was time to just sew and in no time, I had a stack of blocks and then a top. I am always in need of rustic, masculine quilts and these classic, neutral colors, are perfect

It sat again until I found this flannel on sale for the back (I had my heart set on a plaid) at a vender at a quilt show and I added this print for the binding:

Jackie and her daughter, Sandy, chose the perfect quilting pattern...again...it's called Mesa

It's 70" x 84" and as I sat and worked on the binding in the evenings, DH kept asking, "You're not giving that one away, are you?"

We don't have a flannel quilt, but now we do! 

πŸ˜‰Alas, it'll be a good 6 months before we're ready for flannel around here, but you can bet we'll be grabbing it first chance we get!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Spring Days

 And they didn't last long because last Saturday, May 7th, we had our first 100° day. Sigh.

But I know it's Spring because we've had weeks of nonstop wind. There's nothing to stop it out here in the desert. It's relentless. Now if it would only blow in some rain. Not a drop since September and our dew points are consistantly negative. Much of NM is on fire, but thankfully we haven't had to contend with any of that yet. The closest was about 20 miles from us, but it's horrible for those who are in the path of the flames. Some of you have checked in on us and I am touched by your thoughtfulness - thank you. We're drying up and blowing away, but we're safe. Seems that praying for rain is something we do on a daily basis out here. Right now those prayers are for all of those in the path of the fires as well as for the firefighters and folks out there battling the flames.

But the fact that I haven't been posting is proof that winter is behind us! I've been spending my days outdoors. I planted a small garden and am eagerly awaiting the first tomatoes:

Gardens are hit and miss here. I water at dawn and at dusk, but without rain, they grow, but they just don't grow the way they do when God does the watering. I planted tomatoes (both cherry and regular), jalapenos, red-yellow-green-orange peppers, squash, zucchini, onions, radishes, and carrots. It's too hot for lettuce and spinach, but I'll plant those in the Fall. I wish I could find some rhubarb plants, but I may have to start those from seed if I can't find any. I should have done that a few months ago. Yesterday I found some information about starting some from store bought rhubarb so I may have to give that a shot.

I bought a white Crape myrtle to try. Around here, plants have to be hardy. They need to be able to weather 120° in the summer and sub 0° in the winter, not to mention 40-50 mph sustained winds on a regular basis in the Spring. That's asking a lot of a plant. 

I also splurged on a desert willow. Nurseries are a weakness for me, but for the most part, I've learned to be strong after spending too much money just to watch plants wither away. I have spent good money on beautiful hanging plants, watered them faithfully twice a day, and taken them down day after day to protect them from the wind. and just watched them struggle. 

The Cosmos I planted a few years back seem to be faithful though - they're not blooming yet, but they are growing quickly and soon I'll have a 20' flowerbed filled with happiness. I friend once told me they were God's gift to ranch wives because they thrive in these brutal conditions.

The other hardy plant that seems to have established itself here is Vinca Major:

Our girl gave me some elephant ear bulbs a few years ago and I have one spot where they are protected from the afternoon sun and they do well here:

I've also spent 4 mornings fortifying the chicken coop:

I talked to a fella that works at the Farm Store last week He grew up out here. His family moved here in 1961 when he was 8 and he said the chicken coop was here then so that explains why the poor thing looks so dilapidated, but my chickens are plumb happy so I just keep mending:

The baby chicks are growing fast and yesterday was moving day - it was time to introduce them to the chicken coop:

A few years ago we cobbled together this pen to keep the babies separate from the older girls until they all acclimate to each other.

 I'll keep them in here for a few weeks and then set them loose, but still keep them shut in the chicken yard for a few more weeks so they'll know where home is. My older chickens will not be happy because they are used to running free.

Mowing and weed eating has begun as well and I always have a sprinkler going somewhere - our yard, the bunkhouse yard, and trees out at the barn, as well as trees by the chicken coop, and around head quarters are always being watered so that's a lot of hose hauling. I have multiple 100' hoses, but am forever moving sprinklers.

Doesn't leave a lot of time for sewing, but I love playing in the dirt and my trusty assistant is always on hand to keep me on task:

This has been my most recent project:

We've been going pretty hard and  between unloading 50# sacks of feed, hauling 40# water bottles, and all of the coop, garden, and yard work, my back reminded me that it's no longer 20...or 30...or 40...and it's closer to 60 than 50 so I stretched out on the floor this afternoon to give it a rest and Skeet trotted in and promptly plopped down next to me. Sometimes when he runs with DH or tags along when he's horseback, he comes back limping so we give him a Carprovet (an anti-inflammatory medication for dogs). I think we both need one today.

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