Friday, December 26, 2014

Crystals for Christmas...

We got some snow, so I thought I'd go snowshoeing with Ella.  Everything was crystallized. It was beautiful.  A wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

I tried to take this with our Christmas lights on, but half blew into the gutter and are covered in snow.  The other half shorted out.  Drat.  Guess that is a sign that Christmas is over.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas...

Merry Christmas

Photos from the Hayes International Airport.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Projects projects...

I've been keeping busy the last few weeks on several different projects.  Some were successful and others not so much.  My homemade bath bombs was a pass fail.  They were a huge mess to make and didn't turn out pretty, but they do work quite well in the tub.  They left my skin feeling soft and silky smooth.

Oatmeal Bath Bombs
1/4 c. baking soda
1/4 c. oatmeal 
2 T. citric acid
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. almond oil
1 T. water
Mix dry ingredients, slowly add oil, then water.  Press into molds and remove after 12 hours.  The site didn't mention they would explode out of their molds like an 8th grade volcano science project.  It was ugly and messy, but they did work great.

Next I had some cucumber leftover.  I have been wanting to try this toner forever.  

Cooling Cucumber Toner
1/2 cucumber with peel, chopped
3 T. Witch Hazel
2 T. distilled water
Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture through a food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove all of the solids, then pour into a clean bottle with a tight fitting lid.  Store in the refrigerator so it will last longer.  It didn't last more than 3 weeks, so it was a disappointment. 

My next project was making serviceberry syrup. I got this recipe from the Ball canning cookbook.

Service Berry Syrup
2 quarts of berries
6 c. water
1 T. lemon peel
3 c. sugar
2 T. lemon juice

Boil berries for 15 minutes.  Sieve through cheesecloth.  Combine with sugar and boil until 230 F.  Add lemon peel and juice.  Boil another 20 minutes.  Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

I finished a wood project that I started this summer.  It took me a while to figure out how to put the handles on this breakfast tray.  
 Finally, some food.  I've been craving chocolate, so I gave these two projects a try.  This is just pomegranate between melted dark chocolate chocolate chips.  I really like this.  It is the perfect blend between sweet and juicy.
I got the idea from the following blog.  I've made it in cupcake tins and didn't think it worked very well.  This time I put them in a little cake pan lined with tin foil.  I was much happier with the results.
I have my chocolate fix now.  I also made these Brigadeiros.  They are a Brazilian version of a bon bon.
3 T. Dutch Processed Cocoa (I just used plain old cocoa)
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 T. unsalted butter
Heat over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Let cool until you can roll it into a ball.  Then roll in a topping of your choice.  YUM.

There you have it some winter projects.  Some were great others were ok.  I am sure everyone else is busy with Christmas projects.  What are some of your favorites?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

That dog won't hunt...

Actually, it is the opposite.  Ella loves to hunt.  The problem is there aren't a lot of opportunities for her.  Since yesterday was perfect, we decided to see if we could find some of those grouse that were plentiful during deer hunting. 
 You have never seen a happier creature.  I am amazed at her natural instincts for hunting.  She made good tight circles and paid close attention to the wind.
 She kept an eye on Kelly and was so anxious to find something for him.  We did scare up a few rabbits, a giant bird of prey, and a squirrel.  No grouse.
 As you can see, that really didn't matter.  She was just happy to be out working.
It would have been nice to find her some birds, but the truth is it was still a great day to be out enjoying the weather and a happy hunting dog.  She wasn't quite as pleased about the bath she got today.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Berries, birds, and bucks...

While at my parents, Dad showed me his latest discovery.  A drift of brilliant orange among the prairie browns.
My dad has lived on the homestead his whole life, so for him to find something he has never seen before is somewhat surprising.  He did his research and found them to be bittersweet vines.  Without the leaves, it is hard to tell if they are American (very rare) or Oriental (very invasive). Either way they were beautiful intermingled with plum thickets.   

Not only were the bittersweet vines brilliant, but so were the cedar berries.  A few of the cedar trees looked like decorated Christmas trees. 
 Back in the Hills, I was excited to see my latest visitors at the bird feeder, the evening grosbeak.  When we built our cabin, I had a flock of 40 that would clean out my feeders in a day.  That was 13 years ago.  It is rare to see them now.  This small family included a male, female, and 2 juveniles. They must have been on a family vacation.  They hung around for a day and then were gone.

 My other visitor was this nice little buck.  He was sure looking our cabin over.  I enjoyed taking photos of him from our basement door.  I should have invited him.    

I'm getting over being sick.  It was nice to have these visitors to keep me occupied.  There is nothing more amazing than what Mother Nature has to offer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Soups on...

I made a trek across South Dakota this weekend for a belated Thanksgiving.   Mom had shoulder surgery and I went home to help out.  I was immediately pleased that the patient seemed to be on the road to a successful recovery.   She didn't have a lot of pain and was following the doctor's orders.
Dad was doing a wonderful job of keeping her comfortable.  My father is a talented man.  Being a farmer/rancher you need to know a lot about a lot.  He runs a tight ship and the home place always looks sharp.  He raises good crops, great cattle and there is always a solid horse in the corral.  He has just one weakness, the kitchen.  The only thing any of us kids ever saw him make was oyster stew.  Don't get me wrong, it was always delicious, but that is the extent of his culinary repertoire.  The first thing I did when I went home was open the cupboard.  Now I know Mom wasn't feeling up to par and soup is encouraged for recovery, but I felt there was a need for sustenance.  Not just for Mom, but also the hired man.  (Please note all the cans of oysters).

I actually went back with a plan, freezer meals.  Enough for a week or so.  I made lasagna, meatloaf, turkey pot pie, and ham & cheese sliders.  I also made a turkey breast and mashed potatoes (a mini Thanksgiving meal).  The turkey would make good sandwiches to go with the soup.  We had some pumpkin pie and I made hot fudge pudding cake.  I labeled everything with marker, so Dad would know when to put it in and at what temperature.   A few calls back and so far nobody has a case of food poisoning.  I guess the hired man wants to know if I'm coming back this weekend.

I had to call Dad to ask for his recipe.  My siblings and I have been chuckling about the fact that none of us know how to make oyster stew.  I got some oysters this week and will give it a go.

 Dad's Oyster Stew

canned oysters
Heat to desired temperature

 It was a short but positive trip back.  It is always good to go home.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving...

This is an old photo, but I can't help showing it every year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Still eking it out...

Believe it or not, I'm still harvesting.  I saved 5 pounds of deer roasts for jerky and today was jerky day.  I also canned 6 jars of stew meat.  Yum!

Last year was hard on everything and we ended up without a raspberry harvest.  This is the first year since we moved here I haven't had raspberries.  Finally the inevitable happened... we ran out of raspberry jam (my husband's favorite).  I dug through the freezer and found a bag from last year.    Jam it is.   I even managed to get 10 pints.

The beekeeper stopped by and dropped off 10 pints of honey.  It looks white in the photos, because it froze.  A hot water bath will bring it back to life.  

Last, but not least I bottled up my Rowdy Rhubarb and Perfectly Peach wine.  I was a little concerned about the peach, but maybe it will taste better after it ages some.  I don't know why I get such a kick out of taking photos of my harvest, but bare with me.  

There is more jerky in the oven.  That little bit is just for representation.  The little wall hanging is something I've trying to finish today.  I really had fun making the tree.  There was a wonky star, but it turned out awful, so I took it off.  

I'm not the only one still harvesting.  The turkeys finally realized that there were still crab apples on the tree.  Two jumped up trying to get them and several stayed on the bottom gathering what fell off.  My husband got a few photos for me.

I am finally done.  Of course, there will still be wine.  I make a batch once a month.  I think I am ready to settle in for the winter and projects.  I'm looking forward to doing some quilting. What are your plans and projects for the winter?  

I also will be making projects for the Christmas in the Country Gift exchange, hosted by Robyn at The Ranch Wife Chronicles.  If you get a chance stop by and sign up.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Winter let fall fool us all...

Winter let fall fool us all.  We were enjoying 70 degree days and then BAM, the polar vortex nailed us.  I went to work Thursday and it was -20.  Blah.  Did Old Man Winter have to come in with such a bang?  

We braved the cold temperatures to go hunting this morning.  I actually wasn't looking forward to it.  Last year I didn't see anything and finished the season with a bowl of tag soup.  Again I was fooled.  Despite the cold (5), snow, and strong winds it was a great hunt.  

I saw a small doe on the hike into my spot.  I decided to sit tight and my instincts were right.  A nice buck showed up and gave me plenty of time to make the decision to pull the trigger.   It was a good shot and I took my time dressing him out.  I had wonderful company as a covey of curious sharp tail grouse flew in to watch me.  By the time I was finished and had pulled him to a place where he could be loaded, my husband arrived.  We loaded him up and brought him home.

Tomorrow, I will be the butcher and we will eat grilled back straps.  A much more delightful meal than tag stew.
 I enjoyed watching them hang upside down to reach the Russian Olive berries.  They watched my progress with great interest.

It wasn't a bad way to start the winter.  At least we will have plenty of venison on these short cold days.  Happy hunting.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Winter is coming...

Winter is coming.  It was bound to happen.  We have had a good run of it.  One of the nicest falls we have had for a long time.  I didn't need the weather service to tell me a storm was coming the birds and chipmunks were a pretty good indicator.  

The chipmunks really enjoy the squirrel feeder my parents gave me.
The cry of the cranes as they fly over.
The turkeys are frequent visitors.  Would they be so bold if they knew Thanksgiving is around the corner?
The goldfinches, pine siskens, and white breasted nuthatches are sure thirsty.
If you are wondering why there are so many sunflower hulls in my bird bath the photo below will explain.  He likes to picnic by the water.

 This nuthatch has it all figured out.  He grabs a seed from the feeder, crams it into the crack, and then pecks until he gets it open.  It is a pretty slick deal.  The pine sisken below is looking to see if the nuthatch is getting seeds from the crevasse.  He seems confused.

I'm very pleased with the bird bath and feeder we made from the old cow drinking bowls.  On one side the blue jay is getting a drink and on the other he gets his peanuts.
I guess I'm as ready for the snow as I will ever be.  Hope my furred and feathered friends have filled their bellies.