Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter weather.

Old Man Winter has come to stay awhile. I am OK with that. I never thought I would say that - but after nearly 5 years in WY, I am acclimated. I think.
You know, in the Midwest you have Summer - then a few months of winter before getting back to Summer. In Wyoming, you have Winter - then a few months of summer before getting back to Winter.
I like the Midwest better for that reason, but hey. It's an imperfect world. (That's my new favorite phrase. just ask my sister and my husband. they have to listen to it at least 10 times a week. It explains so much so well, though!)
       So anyways, its winter. Which means snow. And icy roads. And wind. Repeat multiple times. My kids go sledding the first 2 times it snows, then they get tired of it. It has snowed at least 6 times so far this winter, so they have filled their quota of sledding. At least for now. I, on the other hand, would likely never go sledding if I didn't have to take my kids out.
I have been checking the ice frequently, however, trying to determine how thick it should be to bear the weight of three small kids and one large mom at the same time. How thick should ice be? And should one carry a long pole the first time across, just in case one falls though, while testing the safety? I don't know these things. Because when I was a kid, I spent most winters in Florida - where all normal people winter. And they don't exactly have frozen ponds down there, if you get my drift. Now, I could tell you when to go to the beach to find the very best seashells, and which beach is the most secluded, and where you will be likely to see dolphins playing, or where you just may step on a jellyfish if you aren't careful. 
But ice...well, its just not my thing. And My Cowboy loves to ice skate, so I am trying to instill the same love in my kids. I am glad we have a nice-sized pond in our backyard, so we can go skating at home.
    In other news - we have been 'dog-sitting' for a friend the last 10 days or so. A border-collie, no less. I am not a fan of border-collies, but My Cowboy is. he has been hauling the dog around in the truck. He is getting the urge to get another border collie, I think. A working dog, of course. A good cowdog is worth 2 men, sometimes. At least when working cattle. But the problem is; either you have to get a puppy and train it, (read: Time) or you have to buy a trained dog, (read: Money) either way, its gonna have to wait awhile.
    My Cowboy is currently working in his leather-shop most evenings, trying to get caught up on orders. He has a saddle that is long overdue, (sorry, Axel!) And a few other misc. orders to fill. I like that he has a waiting list, though, that just means he's good!
   My current project is finishing a quilt that was ordered a long time ago. I am almost done! So ready to get it out of the frame, and get some other things done. I have some sewing that I wanna get done before Christmas, and I really want to make some cute aprons. I was looking at some pictures of aprons online, and was reminded how much I like aprons. I don't have any I like right now, though, so I want to find some cute fabric and sew some up.
  I have a new craft that I want to learn. I am not going to tell you what it is just yet. (I will soon, don't worry!)  But I will give you a hint: It will help My Cowboy in his saddle shop, and it has to do with Mohair. If you are not familiar with mohair - I am sorry. And if you do not, or have not, lived with cowboys - my apologies.

Enough rambling for today - I have a quilt to finish!

Riddle: What is this creature?

Monday, December 5, 2011

This Day in My History...

It was a normal day... I was out in the cold, damp, Southern Illinois woods, working with my dad on his sawmill. I hated IL winters! So drab and dreary and wet and cold and miserable. My mom once kept track - and she didn't see the sun for 6 weeks straight. That's bad. Anyways. I was 17 years old. I was the oldest kid at home at that time, since all 4 of my brothers had flow the coop, and my older sister was teaching a term of school in another state. I worked with my dad on his sawmill most days of the week.
  It was a Saturday night. I was exhausted as usual, so I didn't stay awake very long that night. Knowing me - I probably tried to read a book, but fell asleep and gave up. But then something unusual happened. My Mom was shaking me awake.
"Kay! Kay! You need to wake up." She was gentle, but I heard the fear and shock in her voice, even though she wasn't speaking loud at all. I sat up, then jumped out of bed. Pulling a robe around my shoulders in the chilly air, I followed her downstairs. Dad was sitting in his easy-chair. Looking frozen in time. I looked at mom. She sat down on the couch, and no one said anything for a minute.
  "What's wrong? What happened?" I knew something awful had happened, but couldn't quite figure out what it might be.
"We got a call... Allan was in a wreck, and he's gone." The words were quietly spoken, but unbelievable. I sat stunned. I couldn't cry. I didn't know what to say. What does one say when their hero dies? Dad and mom told me how they had received a call from the local police office, asking if they could come over for a bit. Of course, Dad asked which child had died, but I guess protocol restrained them from saying over the phone. So they came. They told my parents that my big brother had been in an accident, and was dead.
The funny thing was, the accident had happened in the afternoon, and it was late evening before we found out. Even with time difference, it seemed strange.
Mom told me how Allan had been driving over the Cascade mountain range - headed to some family friends for the weekend. It was rainy and the roads were wet. He apparently skidded into the oncoming lane, and was struck by a 4x4 pickup - broadside. He was pronounced dead on the scene. The people in the other vehicle had a few minor injuries, nothing too serious. My brother was driving a SAAB. You know, those funny looking cars from Germany or somewhere? :)
After Dad and Mom were done telling me what had happened, I just got up and slowly walked back up to my bedroom. There were no hugs. No words of comfort with each other. Our family life was strained, and it never occurred to me to give my mom a hug. Which she desperately needed. There were tears in her eyes as I turned to leave.
I felt hollow.
I felt numb.
Its true - you can feel those rather abstract emotions.
   Allan was the firstborn in my family of 8 kids. He was a quiet, reserved man. Tall, dark and handsome.Very intelligent and 'bookish'. He loved a good book, and good music. He also had a wonderful dry sense of humor. He was always kind to us younger kids. One of my earliest memories, is playing with my dolls under the kitchen table, while Allan mixed a huge batch of bread, singing "I'll Fly Away" in his beautiful tenor voice. I was told later it was his favorite song. He was a good cook, probably because with 4 boys first, my mother taught Allan to help her in the house. He could clean and cook and tend babies as good as any woman. He never married. We gave him such a hard time about that, but in retrospect, it was a very real blessing, that he left no widow or fatherless babies when he died at age 30.
I am now 30. It seems so long ago - and yet so recent. How can something feel like that???
When I went back to bed that night, I remember laying there, feeling a dull ache in my chest. It was the first time i understood that emotional pain can be physical. I tried to sleep and forget it all, like a bad dream. But I couldn't . I just wept and wept. Lying in the darkness, feeling all alone, I finally started talking to God. I said: "God, I don't understand this. Allan was such a good person. He loved You. He was young and full of life. But I know You have a plan for everyone, and somehow this is part of your plan for my life. I accept it. But my heart is hurting so badly, I just want to rest. Please hold me, Father."
Immediately I stopped weeping, and felt the Presence of God so strongly. I just felt a comfort and a peace... and I slept.
There were no physical 'feelings', but  just the Presence of a true Father, comforting me. I learned an important lesson that night. You don't have to understand. You don't have to be an experienced Christian, you can be a spiritual baby - you just have to place your trust in God, and rest in Him. He will hold you through the toughest times. Later in life, I was thankful for this experience, as it helped me through an even darker time in my life.
there's a  part of my heart that is happy that he went on before - so my son, and several nieces/nephews can have such a wonderful uncle in Heaven with them.

                                      I will see you soon, Allan!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day ~2011

I have always liked Thanksgiving Day.
When I was a kid, my brothers always came home on Thanksgiving. Mom would bake her fabulous pumpkin pies, and make delicious stuffing.I would listen to my brothers tell stories, and afterwards I would curl up for a whole precious day of reading. Then Mom would make some cold turkey sandwiches, and pop some corn, and we would play games. Pretty typical of many American families, I guess. Those simple traditions may not be exciting or anything different or new - but the very sameness made it comforting.
I haven't spent a Thanksgiving with all my family for more than a decade. My husband hasn't had the whole day off for Thanksgiving for 5 years. But I still love Thanksgiving, and there are many reasons to be thankful today, as there is every day.

Some of the things I am thankful for:

Family. Even these nutty brother-in-laws!
       The fact that my husband has a job - there is so many right now who don't.
 Lucia. My silly girl.
 Franklin. My handsome son.
 Jennifer. My cowgirl.
 The creek that runs past our place, so my kids can make memories like I did.
 ...and last but certainly not least; My Cowboy.
He makes me laugh.
He holds me when I cry.
He supports me in every crazy idea I have.
He loves me unconditionally.
He shows me what integrity looks like.
He never gossips.
He loves God.
He is committed to our marriage.
He slays my dragons.

And yes - I will be sappy about him as long as we both shall live. I can't help it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Morning on the Ranch.

It pays to get up before the sun. I didn't want, I wanted to stay curled up in my warm bed. Its chilly out there,  man. But I decided that I would never get my sunrise picture unless I was outside when the sun rose. Funny how that works.
I got up.
I went.
I conquered.
Or something like that.
I bumped out through the field on the two track, trying to keep my car off the rocks. I was so glad that the gates were all open. Do you know what that means? It means I don't have to get my lazy self out of the car to open/shut the gates in the chilly air. Only ranchers and farmers would understand that luxury.

The ranch was still and pretty in the darkness of pre-dawn.

We've been shipping this week, so the field was empty. Just cow-paths and water tanks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wherein I Cook Too Much Food.

All I wanted to do was toast some coconut to a golden brown for the coconut cream pie. Is that so hard? Apparently it is, because I was working in the kitchen, and I started to smell something burnt. I didn't think anything was on.....but then it hit me. The smoke that is - as I opened the oven. I had stuck the coconut under the broiler, and promptly forgot it.
I was so  sad.
 Because the coconut was so black.
But coconut cream pie tastes just as good without the garnish.

 All the pies waiting in the fridge. Coconut cream and peanut butter cream.
 The table is purposely empty - to make room for the food. I love having a table this big. This was just for the guys. The kids and I sat at another table in the adjoining family room.
 Like my napkins? Albany County Cowbelles.  :)
 Here they come! (actually, they were leaving. I was too busy  too take pics when they came in)
 I did have a bit too much food. Too many meatballs.
 Too much gourmet potatoes.

 Too much beans. But hey folks! I finally found a recipe that the Pioneer Woman makes that is absolutely the best ever!  These are so good. I could have skipped the rest of the meal and just ate these. Please try them.
 I thought purple cabbage in the slaw would be just made it all a weird lavendar color.

 And leftover rolls.

And we had pickles, of course! :)
The last lonely piece of peanut butter pie in the pan. I had another whole pie in the fridge, though.

 And the coconut cream pie - sans the ill-fated garnish. By the way - leftover pie? Not a problem. Totally not a problem.
 I found some mums on sale for .70 each, so I had to get some to brighten my doorstep. Normally I don't like mums. But when the air is this nippy and Old Man Winter is threatening, I like any flower.
 And the inevitable aftermath. But guess what? I have a dishwasher! :) Here's to modern conveniences!

And they were gone.... all eight of them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cows and Cowboys.

I was all excited when My Cowboy told me that they would be pre-conditioning. I had been wanting to get some photos at our new place, and pictures of cows and cowboys are so much more interesting than grass, trees, and the odd bird.

But I didn't realize how sadly lacking I am in the fine arts of camera focus, till I came home and looked at my pictures. I must say, there is zero pictures from this day I am happy with. I couldn't seem to focus properly, and the lighting and composition was pretty bad. But I promise you - one day I will have my camera figured out, and then you will be able to see the true beauty of this wide-open land of cows and cowboys.

                                          Here comes the cows from the south.
                                          Down the lane to the corrals.

 Look at all that gleaming new corral fence! My Cowboy had been working on it quite a few days...along with some other guys.(OK, it doesn't really gleam - but it almost does, its so new and straight!)

                                   ...And here come the cows from the north!

 See how innocent and cute he is? Baby, you better get yourself back in the corral before some handsome cowboy spots you!
 Too late. Here comes My Cowboy - acting all uninterested. Looking away from the erring youngster... But he's not uninterested. Oh no, he's not. Its all part of an act. He wants the calf to think he's not paying attention, so he can slip in front of him, and catch him off guard.
                                             And that's how you do it, folks. 

Now its time for this ranch mom to get back to mom things. Like laundry. Like teaching school. Like dishes. Like going to town and getting supplies for the meal I am gonna make for the crew tomorrow. I am so excited. I love to cook, and hungry cowboys are my absolute favorite people to cook for! (Isn't God good?? He gave me a hungry cowboy to feed 3 times a day! :) But seriously. I do enjoy cooking for a crowd. And if I remember, I will try to get some pictures of the cowboys tomorrow.

Be blessed, and Ride The Brand!