Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wet snowy Sunday

As I was outside pulling apart my round bale this morning giving the animals their morning hay, my lungs started taking in more air as my body worked. I felt that tell tale sign winter is upon me, that sharp, cold air in my lungs. It's both a good feeling and a bad one to me. I have a love hate relationship with winter, which most people probably do. I don't like being cold, but I love the cold outside. I love when the ground freezes and it's easier to hike in the bush, I love big fluffy snow flakes, and clear cold starry skies.

I look foward to winter, to the wood stove burning away, to the many evenings full of warm bowls of soup and bread, and to playing in the snow with the dogs. Of course there are things I don't look forward to, like ice, the possiblity of getting buried in snow. But who knows what this winter will bring us.

Today we got mud. The wet snow that is pretty to look at is just saturating the ground and making a mess. I tried to take a wheel barrow load of manure out of the barn only to sink to my ankles along with the wheel barrow in mud. As I was standing there contimplating what to do especially since the wheel barrow was packed high with heavy manure, the sheep decided they should all race me and try to get back into the barn to get into the grain bins. They know full well when to take advantage of a sticky situation.

I had to dump the wheel barrow right outside the door, exactly where I did not want to dump it because I had no choice, I couldn't move it with it being so heavy and buried in mud. Empty it's easy to pick up and move.

Charlie came over this afternoon, he does all our roads on the farm we cannot do ourselves. We walked out and showed him where we are going to work this fall on a new road. It got colder this afternoon as we were out walking in the bush. Lots of hounds barking and gun shots as hunting season opens tomorrow for two weeks.

On the way back we saw a huge owl who didn't fly away from us. I assume he must have had prey near by or just wasn't afraid. He was quite large but I believe he was a Barred owl. I wish I had my camera with me but I didn't realize we'd be out for a walk, so I had left it at home. It was a beautiful sight to see. Almost never do I see an owl that sits there and lets me get such a good look at him.

We came inside to warm up by the fire and have a cup of tea. I made Molasses cookies this afternoon for the first time this season.

They are one of my favorites. I used this recipe from the Joy of baking with one exception, their recipe calls for ground cloves and I do not add them. So if you'd like to add 1/2 tsp of ground cloves to this recipe.

2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (210 grams) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or safflower oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar for covering the cookie balls before baking

Molasses Cookies: In a large bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add the oil, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in the flour mixture mixture until well incorporated.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place about 1 cup (200 grams) of white granulated sugar in a medium sized bowl. When the dough has chilled sufficiently, roll into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls. Then roll the balls of dough into the sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place on the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart and, with the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly. Bake for about 9-10 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crinkles yet are barely dry. (They will look a little underdone.) Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Usually I whisk by hand but seeing my brand new mixer was starring at me, I used it. I have these new books to work on this winter too:

For dinner tonight there is a pot roast cooking, and when I come in from doing the evening barn chores I will roast some potatoes with some lemon and garlic and some asparagus. Then  I am going to curl up with the dogs and enjoy a couple of Vincent Price movies. I love old scary movies, they remind me of my dad since he enjoyed them so much. And of course, no one beats Vincent Price.

Happy Halloween everyone!

It's snowing

Saturday, October 30, 2010


It's a rainy and damp day here today, a good excuse to work inside and keep the fire going, and keep the hot tea flowing. Since it's Halloween Turner Classic movies has been playing lots of old scary movies, it's a riot.

The 28th was Douglas first Birthday. Hard to believe he's a year old already.

He was such an adorable baby, and now he's a big full grown Pug, all muscle and a terror!
We unpacked the camper in one day, so everything in it came into the house and just got piled up in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom. It's amazing how much stuff you can pack into a fairly small camper. I told Kevin no way are we getting a fifth wheel because I'd never be able to unpack it. I thought about taking pictures but I really didn't want to have to remember the mess. I am mostly through it now, the kitchen is clear and the living room except for a few piles of books. The laundry is the main job now with several loads piled up.

The camper is off the truck and winterized which is why we had to hurry to unpack it in one day. It's getting cold and will soon start freezing at night. We took out all the hoses from the barn last night and drained them.

We got a big load of feed dropped off, about 18 bags total 5 of those shavings to get us caught up again. Since we still had the camper on we couldn't drive to the feed store so they drop it at the end of the lane for us. They cannot get their truck in our road, the mile in and out is too difficult for them so they just leave it at our first gate to make it easier for them and it works for us.

Our first day home I loaded up on pumpkins, I love them, and the animals enjoy eating what we don't use so it makes us all happy. Hopefully this evening I'll get into a couple and gut them so I can roast some seeds.

The next big thing on the agenda is to get wood in. Kevin's son is coming up for a couple weeks so he'll be able to help get a lot of our winter supply of wood in. In early December I'll be having surgery so I will not be able to help with wood for most or all of the winter. I'm not allowed to lift or do my normal activities for about 6 weeks, so it's going to help a lot to get as much as we can done before then. Our farm hand Jim will be staying with us through December and most of January to take care of the animals and help Kevin, so we should manage fine.

I finally got my new mixer! We ordered it from the Cupboard which is a great kitchen store in Fort Collins Colorado. We had to order it ahead because I wanted it in the Boysenberry color and they don't stock that color. In 2009 they told us to go ahead and order it a month before we went down this year. So we did.

I'm excited to use it. I'm so tired today it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Ferd is growing like a weed, he's a big fella now and not done growing yet. He loves the dogs and playing with them.

Ferd chilling in Norman's house

We make all different kinds of pizza's but this was one of the best by far. Often I swap Tomatillo salsa for the tomato sauce, it tastes way better than you think. Try it sometime. For this pizza we used mild tomatillo sauce, artichoke hearts, red peppers, portobello mushrooms, and, onions. On top of that, Prosciutto and mozzarella. Yum.

Anyway that's all for now, back to the laundry.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Our October trip

As I said, we took lots of pictures! Here is my attempt to share our trip with you, or at least as much as I can. We saw so much this trip, it's kind of overload. We hiked a lot of miles and saw some amazing things. When I get more time, I'll put more of our pictures on photobucket or something and share the link if anyone wants to look at more of them. For now, I'll do my best.

We drove from Fort Collins to Mesa Verde, near Cortez, Colorado, in one day. It was a beautiful drive, lots of fall colors and ranches to look at. We went through the wolf creek pass at 10,800 feet.

The entire time I was beyond excited about getting to Mesa Verde. I love history, and archaeology, next to goats and cooking, it's at the top of my list. Mesa Verde is an adventure. We got there in the dark, and as we were setting up our camper in the complete dark, just a few stars above us, we realized there were eyes all around us. Kevin quickly shined the flashlight only to see we were surrounded by Mule deer, bucks, and, does, milling about, lying down, watching us. It was perfect. I didn't sleep all night, I just lied in bed starring at the stars knowing soon I would see something I would never forget.

The next morning we got up and quickly headed the rest of the way into the park. We went to the visitors center first. The Wetheril Mesa loop is closed in October, so the Long house is not accessible. The Spruce tree house is the only self guided ruin open this time of year. Thankfully the Cliff palace, the biggest site was still open, along with the Balcony house, which closes in November. Visiting them requires going on a ranger guided tour and climbing up and down the sides of the cliffs to get to them. I was a little worried about Balcony house since getting up to it requires you climbing up a 32 foot ladder just to get to it. Never mind the three ladders to get out and the stone wall you climb up. I am not afraid of heights, usually, but I was nervous.

Then you realize that the ancient people who lived in these cliffs, they climbed up hand and toe holds. Little slots they made in the side of the cliff just big enough for their hands and feet to hold onto. And if you didn't start up the path with the right foot, you'd get stuck half way up and not be able to go up or down. Now that is really scary, never mind the ladders.

My first glimpse of Cliff Palace which I've looked at millions of pictures of before, was breathtaking. It was unreal actually laying my eyes upon it. It was fairly easy to get down to, and getting out required three ladders but all inside stone walls which blocked the view. No problem. The only thing we had to keep in mind was that at 7,000 feet the air is thinner and coming from a low elevation like we do, our lungs had to work a lot harder.

climb out of Cliff Palace

In the Cliff Palace you can still see the soot on the walls from their fires. You really can feel the people there. It's quite incredible.

Balcony house was a real adventure. As I stood looking up at the big ladder my knees actually got weak, but I would never allow myself to miss something because of nerves. I got up no problem and so did Kevin. Balcony house is really something, it's smaller, but quite fascinating. In this cliff dwelling you can see signs of the ancient people making sure unwanted people did not get in. You must go through an narrow entrance to get in, and to get out, you need to climb through a very narrow tunnel, on your hands and knees. To get back up we had to climb three more ladders and go up steep stone steps.

Balcony house

my turn
Kevin coming out of Balcony house

the ladder into Balcony house

the ladders out of Balcony house

Square tower house is a really unique place, named for it's large square tower.

In Spruce tree house you can actually go inside a Kiva. A Kiva is their ceremonial room. Inside you find benches, a fire pit, and a Sipapu, which is where they believe (at the least the modern Hopi do) that they came from the last world, into this one. 

Mesa Verde is really an amazing place. We took so many pictures because there is just so much to see. Aside from the cliff dwellings there are Petroglyphs pit houses, farming terraces. It's really something everyone should see.

We stayed 2 days at Mesa Verde. From there we drove to Hovenweep National Monument, which is on the Colorado/Utah border. We got there late just before dark because we decided to follow the GPS at first and it got us lost. We camped there in the park. There was a sign that said I could have my dogs on the trails on leash. In most places you cannot have your dogs outside of the parking lots or campgrounds. So I figured even though it was almost dark, we'd go for a short hike to some ruins. Me and the boys took off down the trail which was only marked with small stones along the side. We kept walking, and walking, and climbing up rocks and down. Finally as the light was fading and I wasn't sure where I was, we stumbled upon some ruins. I got some pictures, but the next morning I went back to get a better one since it was nearly dark when I took the other ones.

From there, it was on to Monument Valley Utah, and the Valley of the Gods.

That night we ended up at the Navajo National Monument in Arizona, near Kayenta. We stopped in Monument Valley at Gouldings camp ground, they have a complete monopoly there in the midst of Navajo lands. We could not get a campsite there because instead of selling us a site we could fit into, which they had many of open, they tried to put our truck and camper in a tent site. I'm glad we had trouble there because it caused us to push forward and keep going to the Navajo National Monument. They have a wonderful campground, which is open year round, clean, quiet, and free. All they ask is for a donation.

Aside from having a great spot for camping, the Navajo National Monument is where you will also find the cliff dwellings of Betatakin and Keet Siel. We were fortunate enough to see Betatakin from a view point, Keet Siel, which is one of the best kept dwellings is an 8 mile hike in, and then out. Our friend Harrison who we met there, was kind enough to spend some time with us and tell us about the plants and the medicinal and traditional uses for them. It was a highlight of our trip.

From there it was on to the North rim of the Grand Canyon. I've never been to the Grand Canyon but Kevin has been to the South rim several times so it was important to him on his list of things to do, to go to the North rim. The North rim was beautiful and I am glad we went there first. The North rim does not have the large amounts of people that the South does, and you are in beautiful fir forest most of the time. I also managed to get a peek at one of the squirrels that only lives there, but of course no picture, it was too quick. The Kaibab squirrel is a really cute little creature, black with a big fluffy white tail. We had a great night camping there in the cooler weather at 8,000 feet. We enjoyed a campfire and drinks. The next morning we had frost but it warms up so quickly in the sun you'd never have known it froze the night before.

One thing I learned about both rims of the Grand Canyon, you can get beautiful pictures, but it's really difficult to capture on film just what you are seeing, it's quite magnificent. The silence in the canyon is really heart stopping, you know down there it's just like a whole different world playing out it's day to day existence.

North rim

The South rim has some great views, more open views that the North rim allows. You really need to see both, both have their own unique features. The North rim has a lot less visitors because it's difficult to get to and you have drive all the way out the way you came in. But it's worth it.

South Rim

From there we drove to Wupatki National monument and spent a few hours walking out to some of the ruins and seeing the largest one which even includes a ball field. A lot of the ruins have been closed to the public in recent years because of theft and damage. It's unfortunate that people who destroy these irreplaceable remnants of history, ruin it for everyone by taking away our opportunity to see some of the amazing things the ancient people created and did. We say that at a lot of the National Parks and monuments, things were getting closed off because people were destroying it.



Wupatiki National monument and Sunset crater volcano are on the same road.

lava flows

Sunset Crater volcano National Monument is quite a place to visit although you can no longer climb to the top or walk inside the lava tube as you once could. You can still see the crater and the lava flows and the interesting remains of a volcano, the ash, lava, flowers that grow in the midst of it all.

We got done there late at night and then drove to Phoenix to our friend Steve's house. We got there about 9 PM. Up at the crater it was cool, about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Then we dropped elevation and got to Phoenix, and it was  85 degrees.

It's hot at Steve's house!
Kevin and Steve had to do some work on the camper and truck

Steve spoiled us the entire time we were there, taking us to dinner every night, letting the dogs run around the house. We should have stayed longer though!

Steve eyeing up my pizza Margarita, yes, that's buffalo mozzarella baby!

From Steve's house we drove about 1/2 hour to Kevin's brother Bill's house. We visited with him and his wife Joanne for a couple days and then hit the road again.

Our last major stops were at the Petrified forest and Painted desert. We hit the Painted desert just before dark so we didn't get to see it with all it's colors shining, but it was still pretty. The Petrified forest is an amazing place, seeing these great big huge logs turned to stone, full of colors inside like hot wax was spilled in them... it's really an amazing thing to see.

Petrified wood


Painted desert

From there we drove into New Mexico and Texas, two new States for me, and then home. We made it home quickly, in three days. We had to get home to get things ready for winter here. We had such a great trip, but it feels good to be home. We've been away from home so much in the past several months, even in August and September we were always on the go. We are hermits, both of us, at heart so it's good to be home and be able to stay put for a while now. We've done 15,000 miles the past few months.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Home at last

We made it home safely early this morning, about 12:30 AM. We drove almost 48 hours straight with only a small break, about 2-3 hours of sleep. We stopped at 2 AM in a Walmart in Noblesville Indiana, and knew we were in for trouble. The wind was hitting us so hard the truck and camper were swaying and shaking. I woke Kevin up at 4 and told him I was scared. He said not to worry, it's just wind. Shortly after that he told me we better get moving, this wasn't good... There were tornado warnings in all the counties near us and in Anderson Indiana, right where we were headed. We hit the worst weather I've ever been in at Anderson, you couldn't see because it was blowing rain so hard, the weather alarm was going off on the radio with the "beep, beep" "lie down in a ditch if you don't have a safe place to go". Trucks were flipped over on their side. We stopped for a few minutes between two hills since we were driving through open fields making it worse.

It was pretty eerie. I've been in a tornado before, but I was in my house at the time, being in the truck did not make me feel good, especially driving through that wind and the dark skies. The National weather service confirmed eight tornadoes but mostly weaker ones, F1's. The strongest had winds of 110 mph.

Thankfully we made it through fine and came through the worst of it although the bad weather followed us all the way home with continuous heavy wind and rains.

This morning it was warm, windy, and blue skies, when I woke up in my own bed, which felt so good. We had a great trip, but it always feel nice to be home again. I woke up to Kiwi the Kakarikis calling "hello, what are you doing?" Everything here is good. Tomorrow breeding season starts for my goats, and we've got to get the camper unloaded and ready for winter as quickly as possible since the temperatures will drop over the next few days. The house is just full of piles of things to put away, but for now I'm just looking forward to a full nights sleep!

I've got go through the thousands of pictures we took on our trip, but I'll post as soon as I can about our trip the rest of the way home.

Goodnight for now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dinner with Steve

in Phoenix

thanks for the new ball, Uncle Steve!

We are in New Mexico tonight. We saw the Petrified forest and the Painted desert today on our way. Working our way home. I got an update that Buckwheat the billy goat is ready to go and testing all our fences! Almost time to make kids for spring.

We'll be somewhere on the other side of Albuquerque NM tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quick update

We have seen so much in the past week it's hard for me to even know where to start. We left Fort Collins Colorado and headed for Mesa Verde National Park. We've also visited Navajo National Monument, Wapatki and Sunset crater National Monument. We've been through Monument valley and the valley of the God's. We've been to the Grand Canyon, both the North and South rims. We've taken thousands of pictures, and I'm not exaggerating.

We've been dry camping since we left Fort Collins, so no services, we've been out in the wilderness, up in the mountains, and out in the desert. There has been no power, let alone wifi! Right now we are in Phoenix Arizona at our friend Steve's house. It's been about 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit here. At home, I've been told we've been getting snow flurries. This afternoon we'll leave from Steve's and go visit Kevin's brother who is just up the road. Then we'll head for the Painted desert and Petrified forest and then likely start home.

We've had so much fun and really been exposed to so many things. Kevin has seen a lot of this before but to my eyes it's all new and it just leaves so much more to think about and learn about. I will share pictures as soon as I can and update again. :)

I'm on Steve's computer so I can't share photo's right now. But as I said, we've got a ton.

The dogs are loving the heat and sunshine here and Douglas is amazed that Steve has an actual "Ball" tree in his backyard! They are actually grapefruit, but Douglas thinks it's a constant supply of balls to play with! Steve has fed us so well, it makes up for the huge amount of exercise we've had this past week climbing mountains and cliff dwellings at 7,000 feet elevation. Our lungs and legs got a good workout!

For now, we are back on the road.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Too funny

I just got my first EVER manicure/pedicure. For a farm girl, I was pretty impressed with the wine, pampering, massage. One could get used to that. Now that I'm back in the hotel Douglas is trying his best to eat the sparkles off my newly done toes!

I had to share this picture because it's just too funny not to!

Leg one of our trip


(They grow the cows big in Nebraska)

We got into Colorado late last night and boy are we tired today. We pulled a couple really long days driving across the prairie where there is absolutely nothing to look at.

The dogs are doing surprisingly well in the hotel room, and they have been great on the trip. They are both excellent travelers and Douglas is getting better all the time. I'm really proud of them.

Our first stop still in Ontario was to see my closest friend whom I've know for nearly 20 years. We spent the night with her and her family. She has a Bulldog and a Mastiff, and all four dogs got a long quite well. Daisy wasn't really sure what Norman was, but eventually she figured it out. They were both trying to be the boss of everyone which was interesting to watch.





She has the goofiest cat, which Douglas quickly fell in love with. Norman doesn't like cats that much since one tried to eat him, so he barked at him. Douglas on the other hand was falling all over himself.



and Norman was trying so hard to collect all the bones, which were bigger than him....


Then we headed into Pennsylvania to visit one of our friends who is spending some time there, and we spent the day with him. Most of the leaves have blown down in PA which is a shame because it's usually gorgeous this time of year, but it was pretty gloomy with the gray trees, and it rained our entire way through. It was cool but comfortable.


Tuesday we were able to make a couple quick stops to see where Carl Sandburg was born, although the museum was closed which was too bad. It was a really fascinating place and he is actually buried in the backyard. He was born in Galesburg Illinois. You can read his bio here.



his grave

Along the pathway to his grave in the backyard are stones with some of his writings. It's just beautiful.


Then we traveled on and stopped at Wyatt Earp's birthplace! Of course, it was closed to. You apparently have to call several days ahead to make an appointment to go in the museum because it's not staffed. But it was interesting to see even if we were just outside. Wyatt Earp's birthplace is in Monmouth, Illinois. If you want to read more about Wyatt Earp, you can do so here. They even have a little OK corral they built and do reenactments at each year.



This is the kind of stuff we love doing, looking on the map, finding something interesting, and just pulling off to go find it and check it out.

Yesterday was our biggest day for getting in some sights. We had so much fun even though we didn't have a lot of time since we needed to get here.

Our first stop was at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie pioneer which is mostly closed this time of year, they have a full working town and sheep ranch that are both closed for the season, so we were only able to get to see a small part of it. It's a beautiful museum and worth a visit to. It's located in Grand Island Nebraska. You can visit the website if you'd like more information on it.


Then it was off to Ash Hollow State Historical Park, a few hundred miles up the road. This place was incredible. It's hot here still, not like the 60 degree Fahrenheit temps we left at home. On the prairie the sun is still burning hot and it's about 80 degrees during the day still. We had to hike up this huge trail that winds uphill, I wish I could explain it to you. It's not for the faint of heart to walk, lets put it that way!


At Ash Hollow State Historical Park, you can still see the ruts dug by the wagon wheels that went through here in the 1800's. This is part of the Oregon trail. To look out and down and see these ruts is one thing, but when you actually realize what you are looking at, ruts put in the ground by pioneers traveling this rough country in wagons, it's hard to grasp. You can visit the website here. It's absolutely amazing what these people traversed through to get to their destination. I can't imagine living in those times.


see the ruts in these pictures, those are not recent trails, these are wagon ruts!



Then we drove up to Chimney rock National Historical site. Chimney rock is a famous landmark used by travelers along the Oregon trail. Pioneers used this rock as a guide, they knew when they found it, they were on the right trail and making significant progress on their journey. They could see it for days across the prairie before arriving at it's base. Many pioneers were buried near the base of it. Read more about the history of Chimney rock.


The sign reads: "During the westward migration through this pass, many died as they looked for a better life"


They have a great museum as well. The only trouble is there are lots of rattlesnakes all over here, so you've always got to stay on trails and keep alert. I was especially cautious at Ash Hollow because I brought the dogs up the trail with us.


At the gift shop at the museum we got two books by Willa Cather a Pulitzer Prize winning author who wrote about the West. I'm really looking forward to reading them. She was quite a remarkable author and lady. On her website there is a quote from her, something she said during an interview and she said "when people ask me if it has been a hard or easy road, I always answer with the quotation, the end is nothing, the road is all."

Then we traveled just up the road to Scotts Bluff National monument. It's just amazing to be driving along this flat land and see this rising up out of it. I can only imagine what it looked like to the pioneers who not only had been traveling for months to get to this point along their journey but also had never see anything like this in their lives. It served as a marker for people traveling the Oregon trail, the Mormon trail, and, the pony express.


What was most impressive was that you could actually drive to the top! They have built a road and tunnels right up.


Once you get to the top, you can hike a little ways to get great views and pictures. It was a gorgeous evening too, after a hot day. It was almost 5 PM when we were up there.


don't fall of the ledge!



I took this picture looking down from the truck as we were driving on the road, there is no side, just a straight drop off!


and these are wagons on the actual Oregon trail which runs just along the highway.


This is the road we drove up.... see the tunnels up there?


Now we'll be here for a few days, and then it's back on the road. We were short on time coming up here but intend to just take it as easy as we can on the way home. We can't spend forever, but we don't have a real deadline. I am so excited about Mesa Verde I can hardly stand it.

Just standing there staring at those ruts in the fields I had to ask Kevin again and again if it was what I thought it was. Standing next to some of the ruts dug, and placing your foot there. It's amazing to be that close to history and the people who lived it. It's important to remember these things and keep them fresh in our memories. All of it.

All for now, but I'll update when I can.
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