I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

Sunday, June 28, 2015

There is always something...

When I started this blog I wondered if I would find enough things to talk about.  Truth is there always seems to be something going on.  Maybe to some people they aren't earth shattering events, but to me it is the little bits of fabric that make the quilt of life.  

I try to keep posts small, but this week was packed with adventure.  I will begin with the little guy below.  While out at our property we saw this little bugger.  He was certain I was his mother.  They must not have good eye site at that age.  It was hard to keep from picking him up, but I'm sure his mom was close by.




My Miss Kim lilac bloomed this week and hosted quite a few admirers.  I kept the camera handy while relaxing on the porch and wasn't disappointed.  There were plenty of guests.
This guy was much smaller than the hummingbird moths I normally get.  He looked so soft and had such pretty colors.

My garden has been filled with bumblebees this year.  They love the columbine flowers.  It is good to have them back.  A few years ago they were pretty scarce.  
A few closeups of my favorite springtime flowers.  The yellow rose smells heavenly.  I wish they bloomed more than once a year.  I'm always taking close ups of iris blooms.  They have so many different textures.  The velvety leaves, fuzzy stripes, and contrasting colors.  They are amazing flowers.


We have been getting plenty of rain, but I couldn't resist staging a photo shoot with my watering can.
These red iris remind me of stained glass windows the way they capture the light.  My husband found them and knew I would love them.  He is always looking out for me.

I end with one of my favorite springtime sites.  A doe and her twins.  Captured on our trail camera.  I hope everyone is slowing down and taking a few moments to enjoy the little things in life.  In reality, I find they are actually the big things.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Busy as a bee...

I've been busy as a bee.  Projects all over the place.  The weather is so nice I can't sit still.  

Project 1:  Making stepping stones and a bird bath using leftover cement.  Giant rhubarb leaves served as the mold.  We covered them in cement.  The stepping stones were laid flat on an old piece of drywall.  For the giant birdbath, we took the biggest rhubarb leaf and spread it over some grass clippings to make a concave form.   Since it was so large, I added fencing as rebar.   The stepping stones turned out great.  I will let them dry a bit longer and then stain them.

 I'm letting this bad boy sit for a while.  It will be tricky to get it turned over.  We shall see in a few more days.




 Project 2:  This winter my little sign fell off of the fence.  It was hard to see during the summer, because the plants covered it.  I took its demise as a sign to move it to higher ground.  I put it on top of the cow waterer bird feeder/bath combo we made a few years back.  The wood was a piece we had sitting around, because it was twisted.  It is still a bit twisted, but I like the outcome.  All that is left is to plant a vine at the bottom.





 Project 3:  The Maitake (Hen of the Woods) Mushroom log.  I am super excited about this project, but patience is the key.  The mushroom plugs came in December and have been patiently sitting in the refrigerator.  A few weeks ago my husband and I cut a fresh oak log to innoculate.  It had to sit for two weeks before adding the mushrooms.  It is super important that the log does not get exposed to other mushroom species.  It sits off the ground on a pallet.  Finally, inoculation day.  I gathered my tools.  First, I drilled 5/16 holes in the log.  I tapped the plugs in the hole and then covered them with melted beeswax.  That was my favorite part.  The beeswax smelled heavenly.  Now it must sit and stew for several months.  I will keep you updated.


Yes, I have been busy.  It keeps me young.  We have had lots of rain and it is so green and lush Happy Fathers Day!  What project have you been doing?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A walk in the garden...

Finally some flower photos...
The maroon columbine is insane.  It is like a weed. 
 The ajuga is intense and the bumblebees LOVE it.
 A miniature iris among the ajuga.

 The greenhouse is doing great.
 The camomile in the washtub is already blooming.
 The tomatoes, peas, broccoli, lettuce, peppers, and carrots are doing great.  There is also one hardy bok choi. 
 The parsley, asparagus, and volunteer garlic look wonderful.  I'm hoping the big leaves are borage, but I have a bad feeling it isn't.
 Peppermint, lettuce, and more volunteer garlic.
Chives, marjoram, actual planted garlic, little radishes and baby beets. 

Well, that is the garden.  I do have some sweet corn up.  I need to get some rosemary and thyme, as I lost mine this winter.  It is pretty wet here.  My beans still aren't up.  I do have some lemon cucumbers making an appearance.  My flower beds are struggling.  They need sunshine.   How does your garden grow?  Anything new you are trying this year?  I'm sticking to tried and true things this year.   

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bear Maintenance...

I bet you thought this would be about the bear hunt.  Well surprise, it is about garden decor.  More specifically my fishing bears.  They are dry cracked and two of them have lost their marbles.  They needed some TLC.
I stained them with some deck stain.  Giving them a nice summer tan.  Then I glued their eyes in, or tried to.  Don't think that was a simple task.  The little bear has big eyes and the big bear has little eyes.  Of course, I came to that realization after I dropped the big marble in the eye socket of the big bear.  My husband commented that it looked like he had a head injury because his pupils were unequal.  Do you think I could get that marble out?  We had major optometry surgery on the porch.  It took awhile but the operation was successful.  I got the marbles in the right bears and glued the heck out of those eyeballs.  
 I found them some fishing line and even a bobber this year.  I put the pump in and the bears are back on the porch.  I think they even look happier.  Now that I think about it, we did see three bears on our hunt and fishing trip to Canada.  Like the little guy, we even caught some fish.
T 
That isn't the end of my bear story.  I am here to say Gumbo Lily is right and there is nothing better than lard when baking.  I took our guide's advice and made a blueberry pie using the bear grease in place of shortening.  WOW.   Again I quote my husband (twice in one post he is on a roll), "I don't like change, but this is the best pie crust ever."  
Not only did I use the bear grease for a pie crust, but also in biscuits for my morning egg sandwiches.  There are no photos of the breakfast sandwich, because we were hungry.  I did have a biscuit leftover, slathered it in honey, and took a photo before eating it.  The honey is from our beehives.  Though I don't know if we will have bees much longer.  Our keeper brought in a new hive and they are ornery.  I've been stung 4 times already this year.  Before this year, I've only been stung once since we got them in 2009.  I wasn't even poking around the hives.  Just working in the orchard.  If they don't settle down they may have to go.  
Anyway,  back to the bear grease.  My only advice would be add add more flour or use less grease.  Here is my cloud biscuit recipe.  It makes four biscuits.   Just right for two people. 


Cloud Biscuits
1 c. flour add another 1/2 if using bear grease
2 t. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. bear grease or shortening
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
2 t. baking powder

Sift dry ingredients, work in shortening until crumbly, add egg and milk.  Don't over stir.  Pat out on a floured surface.  Don't overwork the dough.  Bake at 350 degrees until brown.  Sorry forgot to watch the timer.  

Geeze, quite the weekend.  That was only a quarter of what I did.  It is good to get outside and get things done.  Hopefully, some flowers will start blooming.  What did you do this weekend?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bear Grease and Prairie Grass

I had lots of questions about our bear hunt.  Yes, we ate bear meat.  No, it isn't horrible.  I tentatively cooked up some of the back straps when we got home.  Despite what most people stated, it tasted great.  I'm sure part of that is because I was careful butchering and made sure there was no fat. The meat was marinated overnight, then seared in a frying pan, and slow cooked to perfection.  Bear meat must be completely cooked, so no medium rare.  I can't wait to finish butchering the rest of the quarters.  I am anxious to make summer sausage using casings for the first time.   

Next, I followed our guides advice and rendered the fat to make a type of bear lard.










I took cleaned chunks of bear fat.  I put them in a pot with 1/4 cup of water and put it on medium for several hours.  It slowly became a beautiful amber liquid.  I strained it through cheesecloth and after it had cooled poured it into jars.



After it had cooled more, I put it in the refrigerator and it is now a solid white.  Our guide said it makes the best pie crust.  I will let you know how that goes next week.   I have also learned it is good for waterproofing leather, great for hand lotion, and can be used to make candles.  I will also try a few of those projects later.

  Bear grease wasn't all I was busy with last week. My husband and I recently acquired some land on the Belle Fourche River.  We couldn't wait to see the opportunities provided on the prairie property.   
We were greeted by a newly born lamb in the pasture next to us.  It didn't take mom long to get him cleaned up and moving.  The river wasn't so welcoming.  All of the rains have the Belle at full capacity.  She was roaring.  We did manage to catch one channel catfish.  
Of course, the first thing I had to do was plant things.  It is hard for a girl who spent most of her childhood planting trees to live in the forest.  Here I was right at home.  The first trees in were some little cedars for a windbreak.  Next was an orchard of apricot, current, aronia, black walnut, and elderberry.   Can you tell I love berries?  Part of the draw of the property was the wild buffalo berries, chokecherries, and I also found a huge gooseberry bush.   In the photo below the chokecherry is on the left and the buffalo berry on the right.  Also if you look closely at the picture on the right, you can see hoards of ticks crawling onto my sweatshirt, while it hangs on the steel post:)

 Everything is green and lush.  There are several stately cottonwoods.  I'm afraid there are also a plethora of ticks.  Despite all caution we were inundated with them.  Luckily all were found before they got anchored.  I guess with everything good comes something bad.  
 Well, it was a busy week.  I am excited about our new property and projects.  It is always good to have something to keep a person busy.  Is anyone else having a problem with ticks?  This is the worst they have ever been, both in the hills and on the prairie.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Birds, bees, berries, blooms, and BEARS!

My husband and I went on a great adventure last week.  We went to Saskatchewan on a bear hunt and fishing trip.  Wow was it ever a fun. I am reminded of something I saw that said, "When was the last time you did something for the first time?"   It was a whole trip of firsts... 
The first time I was lulled to sleep by the loons.

 The first time I had ever fished for Northern Pike.  
We caught many and now I am the one hooked:)
 The first time I have been to Canada.  It is beautiful country with wonderful people.
                    The first time I watched beavers at work, while I peacefully fished.
 The first time I've been on a lake that was so big you needed a map to get around.

The first time I have been lost on a lake, despite the map. 
The first time I have seen a spruce grouse.

The first time I watched a bear in the woods.



The first time I have hunted a bear and I was successful.

It was a phenomenal trip of firsts and I was lucky enough to experience them with my best friend.