29 June 2010

Kids should come with instruction manuals

I have three kids. I felt fairly confident in my parenting abilities while I was pregnant with the third one, but she is teaching me that I'm an idiot. Nothing about her is what I expected. She definitely has a strong personality and apparently, likes to be the boss. My first two kids were both born on the same day of the pregnancy, nine days early. I didn't expect her to hit it exactly, but she didn't even come close. She waited until she gained another pound, the little stinker. Most babies have a "quiet alert" period after birth. Not her. She screamed at me for an entire hour. I guess I was doing things all wrong. My first child was a wonderful sleeper. He took long naps during which I would get my projects done. This one will not take a nap unless you hold her the entire time. And don't think you can put her down when she's awake either. Not unless you stay right there to talk to her. I was not exactly a baby-wearing mom before, but I really have no choice with this one. She sleeps pretty well at night. I can't really complain about that, except that no two nights are the same. She keeps me on my toes. I just really need an instruction manual for her to help me troubleshoot when an error code comes wailing out of her mouth. sigh...
And speaking of trying to understand kids.... why do my kids cry like I'm torturing them when I ask them to tidy the room or put away clothes? I sentenced them to life in the room without parole apparently, when I told them they were to stay in the room until it was cleaned up. Oh, the tears, the fits, the fights about who's not helping enough, the whimpers about how hard it is to pick up those pieces of cookie that somehow got there without either one of them leaving the kitchen with a cookie. The dirty socks are so heavy and the laundry basket is all the way past the bed! And the renewed weeping when I pointed out the collected rubbish in the corners and under the bed...holding snack time hostage was almost more than they could bear! It wasn't that bad to start with really, but they sure made it a miserably long task.
It was just one of those days yesterday, when everyone wakes up already needing a nap. Unfortunately, I couldn't enforce the family nap because I had to watch my brothers kids and naps just don't happen with them around. They were added to my sisters kids who are always here. It's a bit exhausting helping the kids figure out how to play with each other again. It was especially bad yesterday... someone always being left out. I finally got a break when my mom got home from work.
Yesterday was a bit of a stormy day, dark clouds, lots of wind, a little lightning, but no rain. A useless storm. It fit my mood perfectly. I just stood out in the wind for a while in the evening and then decided to stop being useless and I pulled weeds in the garden and tried to secure things down so they won't blow away during the night. It was a crazy strong wind. I haven't been out in the wind in a really long time. I live in Wyoming, where the wind blows a lot. I love the wind. It's hard to explain why. There's something about it that clears my mind. I think it reminds me that there is a much greater power than myself. There is a much bigger picture than these daily battles and these little annoyances (meaning the whining and fighting, not the children themselves) should not overpower my life. Hopefully today will be better.

Branding day menu

Our branding lunch always has my mom's beef enchiladas. I don't know when she started making them, but I can't remember ever not having them. You need many tortillas, hot oil, enchilada sauce, beef, cheese, and we put onion in the beef too. You could use just cheese, or whatever your heart desires. Oh, and we put sliced olives on top when we remember.
When there were more of us at home, we made a big assembly line. Good times, good memories.

First, you fry the tortillas one at a time in some hot oil. (Mom usually did this) Not too crisp, but it's necessary to keep the tortillas from sopping up all the sauce. I know, I tried it once without that step...yuck.
Then into the enchilada sauce. One sister coats on both sides, then puts it on a plate for the next sister to assemble the parts. Beef and cheese -next sister- roll it up and put in pan. We had another girl in charge of bringing new pans and removing the full ones. (That's right, five women in one kitchen. My other sister was already gone to college when I was big enough to help.) When the pan is full, pour more enchilada sauce over the whole thing, sprinkle cheese on top and then toss some sliced olives on. Then we cover and freeze because this is usually the week before we actually cook them.
The next step is very important. Fry up more tortillas, this time till crisp. As soon as you take them out of the oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Tear apart and enjoy the feeling of finishing a big job.
To cook, defrost (or just stick it in the oven after assembled) then stick it in a 350 oven for as long as it takes for the middle to melt. Sorry I can't be more technical on that part. Shouldn't take more than an hour. For the branding, we layer the pans into great big roaster pans and cook at about 300 for the morning hours while the branding is going on.

Then, we make buckaroo beans, also something I don't remember ever not having. We quadrupled this recipe because we usually run out. We had leftovers this year. This recipe is for cooking on the stove top, but when making huge amounts, we use the oven or the big roaster at 300. That's what that little note at the bottom is for.

To go along with these, we usually have several salads, some watermelon, grapes and chips. The kids usually only eat watermelon, grapes and chips, but since it's like a holiday, I let them eat what they want.

28 June 2010

What a week

Whew! I made it! We held our annual branding last week. Preparations took most of the week before and we're still trying to get things put back together. It's exhausting, but so much fun too. Around here branding season is something everyone looks forward to. It's a time to get together with neighbors and friends and show off buckaroo skills. Cattle rustling is still alive and well in the west, and actually increasing lately, so branding is still a necessity to ensure that we find all our cattle in the fall. My dad is as cowboy as they come and insists on doing things the old fashioned way. We don't have any ATV's on the ranch, and we do nearly everything on horse-back. Branding is no different. We still rope the calves from our horses and dad insists on things being done well. No crashing around, no racing. He likes to see the cowboys using good horsemanship and good loops to ensure that the calves aren't overly stressed. All five girls in the family learned to rope and our branding has become a place where other women feel welcome to work with the men. Cowboy traditions are important to my family. We feel strongly about preserving this way of life. That's why we also started a kid's roping pen- to teach the next generation the cowboy way. We sort off the smaller calves and let the little guys have a go at roping. This picture is my little man, setting off to catch a calf. The parents are right there to help out and give instruction.

The bigger kids also get a chance to rope from horse-back, learning and practicing until they feel comfortable roping with the adults. I wish we would have done this when I was a kid.

My role during the branding has changed. Where I used to be one of the hands, now I'm the cook and nanny. Since I'm the one with the youngest child, I sit out from roping and make sure lunch is ready and that the kids are okay. It's been a hard transition for me, going from ranch hand to baby sitter. I've had to realize that I just can't do everything, and that my job now is just as important as any other. We put on a big spread of food for everyone, since that's the only pay they get for their help. It's a big job, preparing in advance and then getting everything heated and ready. It feels good to be the one that makes sure everyone gets enough to eat and I do enjoy cooking.
Getting the kitchen back under control has been a battle though. Things are still a mess from the flood we had as well. We are in the process of moving off the ranch for hubby to finish up school, and this week was when we had to move our stuff, so add the craziness of moving to the general mayhem, and you have my week. I'm looking forward to getting things back in order this week. The dishes are finally tackled and I made it to the grocery store today. Laundry tomorrow...

22 June 2010

I'm so proud of my little man. Today was a big day on the ranch. We had to gather all the cows and calves and push them several miles in preparation for the branding tomorrow. My five year old loves to ride his horse, and really wanted to go on the gather. He thinks he's so grown up and he really wants to be just like papa. So I told him he could go, and then worried a lot last night. I packed tons of snacks and drinks into his saddle bags and prayed for safety. I can't go because I've got a little one that needs me often, so off he went with his dad, papa, aunts and two other little cousins. I met them on the other side with a late lunch and the three young girls, not quite knowing what to expect. All smiles when I got there. It sounds like it went nearly as well as it could have. He had so much fun and was actually good help. (The horses see to that, whether the boys want to or not.) There will be no stopping him now. Tomorrow is a very long day. We will be branding calves and I will be watching a herd of kids, getting lunch on, and cleaning up. Off to bed!

This is not a picture of today, I forgot the camera. This is one of my favorite pictures of my little man when he got a saddle for his birthday.

16 June 2010

Garden tour

My dear husband is so supportive of my gardening addiction. I think he's a little addicted too because he's always coming up with ideas to make things better and bigger. Really, the garden would not have happened without him hauling dirt, spreading dirt, digging in dirt and pumping water. He still lets me call it my garden though, even though I get the fun part of picking through seed catalogs, watching the seeds sprout, and sticking them in the ground. I think he knows how good it is for me to see things coming to life when it's still cold and gray outside.
Here's a picture of his hard work.

I thought I'd share how I garden in this climate. I'm still experimenting with different things. I suppose my garden will always be a work in progress. This year my husband decided to build me a hoop house. We found some plans that called for 1" pvc. It looked great. It was nice and warm inside, even with the snow outside.

But then we had some very heavy snow, followed by some very strong winds, followed by more snow and more wind. The hoop house collapsed. Several times. I'm sad about that.. I really wanted it to work. We learned that 2" pipe is better in this climate and that the weak points are where the connectors are located. A complete 20' long 2" diameter pipe would have probably stayed standing. Live and learn I guess. We have lots of ideas for a new, improved hoop house someday.
A few weeks ago, I abandoned the hoop house idea and reconfigured the pieces into smaller tunnels.

Please ignore the mess. I'm still working on other projects with the remaining pieces. On the left, you have the "tomato house" with some squash and the eggplant that my three year old planted. I can't believe it survived this long. In the middle, under the cloth cover, sweet corn just started coming up. It's late, I hope it makes it. On the left is the "cucumber house", also with a few squash. We'll see how this works out.

And here is the garden in all it's glory. I love reading about and seeing pictures of beautiful kitchen gardens and pottagers. Mine will probably never look like that. I'm just trying to get these plants to survive. I use plastic covers, agribon row covers, wall-o-waters, even tires to keep my plants warm.

The black metal frame thing in the back is the melon house, but my daughter's cantaloupe just isn't going to make it. The funny looking blanket in the middle is more corn. You can't really see the potatoes or salad beds, but they are there behind the corn. The long low tunnel has just about everything in it. Summer squash, tomatoes, cucumber, and beans. They are doing quite well under there. To the left, inside the tire chunks, is a pumpkin and a butternut squash. I got that idea from the deliberate agrarian blog. We'll see how it works. I built a pea tower out of willow sticks, but only three peas came up. However, the willow branches have come to life. They all have leaves.

Many of my neighbors thing I'm crazy for trying so hard to garden at this altitude. Really, we can drive an hour or so and buy all the produce we could want. Why am I so determined? I don't know. I just feel the need to learn how to grow my own food. And seeing the first blossom on the "mystery squash" (it came up next to a tomato seedling-no clue what it is, but it's doing great) somehow makes it all worth it.

15 June 2010


I finally transplanted everything into the garden! I'm way behind schedule, but at least it's done. I think everything is finally planted. If things goes well from now on, we will probably be buried in summer squash before long. That's okay with me, we didn't get any last year. Those poor pumpkin seedlings were miserable in their tiny pots. Hopefully now they will be able to stretch out and take off. This is basically my third year as a serious gardener and I am addicted, I think. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew this year though.
I really miscalculated how much I would be able to do with a new baby. Granted, she's four months now, not exactly new, but she just doesn't enjoy the out of doors like I do. The slightest breeze takes her breath away, and when she catches her breath, she lets me know how irritated she is. The only time I can get in the garden is early morning, when everyone is still sleeping, but I have a very hard time getting up. That is a goal of mine-- to get up early and have some time for my little projects, scripture study, and just some peace and quiet for day-dreaming. Maybe tomorrow...

08 June 2010

When it rains, it pours and when it floods...

What a day. The result of April and May's wintery weather and then the unseasonably warm weather this week? High water. Way higher than usual. The last time it flooded like this was 1983 when I was just 3 years old. We spent the day yesterday pulling tons of stuff out of my mom's basement and then trying to get the water cleaned out. It was mostly dry this morning, until the water level rose again. Here are some pictures from yesterday, but the water is even higher today.

He doesn't have to stand in water, he just is.

The road to a sister's house.

The mares and foals.

We had to dig a trench in the road to relieve pressure on the bridge. It washed out today anyway.

Our yard. The kids are having a great time.
Yesterday was a really rough day, and it's still not over, but I did learn some things. First of all, de-clutter. I've always heard the statement "if there was a fire, what would you save?..." I would change that to, "If there was a flood, what would you not want to drag out of the house, soaking wet?" Second, have an emergency plan. I was so overwhelmed, I had no idea where to start working. As a result, several old blankets are safe and sound, but some of my food storage is ruined. I cried about that. And last, it takes a humble person to allow neighbors to go through your horribly unorganized and overcrowded basement. I was mortified when a few ladies showed up to help. I desperately needed the help, but it was so embarrassing to let them see the absolute messiest part of the house.
Well, I'm off to pump water out again.

06 June 2010

Spring flowers

I hate to complain about the weather again, and I'm not really complaining, it's just crazy! We had spring back in February and March, winter in April and May, and now we're having summer weather. The forecast says we'll be back to spring by the end of the week though. After my last post, the weather really turned nice and I enjoyed some beautiful days to garden and enjoy our spring flowers. My mother's tulips can always be counted on, even when they get snowed on, and my Grandma's daffodils still come up every year. I love that they remind me of her. She had a true green thumb and her poor yard just hasn't been the same since she left us. I so appreciate these spring flowers. They are tough and dependable, like the women who planted them. I try to plant some everywhere I live, in hopes that someone else will enjoy and appreciate them as much as I do.