Monday, September 30, 2013

Cousins and Other Kinfolk

It had been kind of cold and cloudy all week. I got up Thursday morning and it was beautiful out. Needing to keep myself busy I canned a gallon of stock and cut up a 16 lb turkey and canned that as well, checking my laptop frequently for emails, with eager expectation.

Pacing the floor and double checking that I had everything ready that I could get ready for the weekend, I waited. I had considered having Thomas the turkey as guest of honor at a Saturday night dinner. He misunderstood the invitation and I had to kick him out the back door.

 Taking my eyes off the ranch driveway for just a moment, I turned back to the sound of soft knocking. I scurried to the door and there stood 3 beautiful girls, Shyanne, Kaylee and Hannah, accompanied by my daughter-in-law Laura and oldest son, Matt. An absolute sight for sore eyes, and just what I had been waiting for!

After a quick tour of the barn and cabins, they took the 4 wheelers and went to investigate the processing corrals 3 miles down the ranch road.

 We threw together dinner with some homemade steak fries and BBQ burgers on homemade buns.

I had started some cinnamon roll dough in the morning so after some quick instructions, the girls rolled it out, buttered it and put on the cinnamon/sugar mix, I helped roll it up and they cut and placed the rolls in the pans to rise overnight. A batch of dough for our early Thanksgiving dinner rolls the following evening was also put together.

We had fun and after the kids went to bed, their folks kept me company, laughing and sharing memories until midnite. Sleeping didn’t come easily, as my other son  Cody, and Krystal, Abby and Kinley his family, were on the way up as well. I fitfully tossed and turned and wondered where on their 12 hour journey they might be, hyped up and excited to see them and before I knew it, Randyman shook me awake saying “They just pulled up”. 

We spent a most excellent weekend. The little ones played a rousing game of hide and seek and asked my friend if they could hide in her bedroom. She agreed and they took cover while Shyanne counted down. Their mom happened by and asked the little ones

 “Did you ask before you went to hide in Chery's room?” to which we all answered “yes” and I told her “You aren’t very good at this game are you?” amid laughter.

After a cinnamon roll,  sausage and fresh ranch eggs breakfast cooked by the Randyman, we headed out for some pokin' around. I double checked my list...I had already made 2 Butterbrickle Carmel Pecan Cheesecakes, had candied yams in the fridge ready to be baked,  bread and cornbread had been baked and cubed and seasoned to use for the cranberry cornbread stuffing in the 21 lb turkey, (NOT THOMAS) it was assessed that all I had to do was get the bird in the oven about 2 pm, and make the potatoes, gravy, creamed corn and bake the butterhorn rolls. That gave me 3 or more hours to play and there were plenty of hands to help out making dinner.

The old barn is the PERFECT place to stop and enjoy a sippy cup!
Abby and Kinley have fun playing with cousin Hannah.

Kids scampered up to the top story of the barn, way up, dizzyingly high in the air for pictures, happily gathered around the old wagon and various places for pictures, in between treks out to visit the critters.

Don't be fooled by this one's girly looks. She wanted to catch a live snake and go shooting!

(pictures courtesy of Krystal Plank)

One a trip out to the pasture to visit horses and cows, Laura vaulted to the other side of me at light speed, unable to exclaim anything other than...


The little guy slithered a ways off, only as far as his terribly startled and rapidly beating heart would allow, as the kids all clamored to see.
Mister enjoyed lots of skritching and petting, as did EmmaLouMoo. Even Wimpy stood long enough to allow Hannah to walk up to him and rub his forehead, something he never lets ANYone do when he’s out in the open! Mister was pretty attached to Kaylee and was content to just lay his head on her shoulder.

Somehow the conversation came up “Where did last nite’s hamburger come from?” And the information was passed along that it was from one of our former steers. I jokingly asked where they thought chicken strips came from and they guessed rightly, then when someone asked where did ham come from, Kaylee shot back “HAMsters, of course!” We all found that pretty funny.

On the way back, I invited the kids to see “EmmaLouMoo’s Secret Clubhouse”. It is a path thru the huge willows by the creek where the cows and horses like to hang out in the shade by day or sleep at night. I told them “you have to know the secret password to gain entrance though...”

One of them asked me “What is the password?”

And I bent down carefully and whispered in her ear so as not to compromise security,   
“It's 'moooooooo'.”

They had a great time exploring in the willows and dashing across the rocky creek and doing whatever they did while they were out of OUR sight, but still under the watchful eyes of the Polar Bears. On the way back, they picked apples off the trees and munched on them.

The turkey was stuffed and placed in his cooking bag, the yams pulled out to come to room temperature, the rolls shaped and set out to rise. I took the kids out to dig potatoes and we got a pretty hefty basketful. 

Dinner turned out great. Everyone had a full plate in front of them. Seeing as how it has been just Randyman and I for the past several  years, we are short on serving ware. My nephew, the former cowboss, donated the last 4 dishes we required, but I didn’t have enough glassware, so I grabbed some handy Mason jars. Setting them in front of the teenagers, Kaylee piped up with 
“Oh sure! She gives US the ones that say “WIDE mouth!”

 I’m not sure, but I am suspicious that there might be a class clown in the group....

We had a vote on the elements BEFORE the cheesecake, as I knew that would skew the polls. 

Kitchen chaos=sign of a successful family dinner!

It all turned out better than I had hoped and after another night of chatting until our eyes would no longer stay open we retired.

After we all cleaned up I wandered through my darkened bedroom towards the bathroom. Hannah stepped in and asked if I knew where Abby was. I told her 
"I really don't know, she's not in here..."
Hannah thanked me, turned and continued her search. 

Suddenly a little voice from out of a dark corner startled me as it said 
"Good job Gramma!"

Apparently, I AM good at this game.

At about 6 am I awoke to 2 little bundles being carried into the living room as I had happily agreed to watch the wee ones while they went hunting with the boss’ oldest son. I found I was unable to utter a word or even whisper to them due to a very swollen and painful throat. It continued all day and into the night. Little Kinley wept for her Mommy and Daddy while Abby slept through several showings of Nemo. Hannah showed up and Kinley immediately brightened up and felt better. They are all truly something special. I've never seen kids get along so well as the 5 of them...especially not GIRLS.

Sadly, half of our little group had to leave for home,but not before Cody and Krystal came back with a nice 4x4 buck in the back of their pickup. Abby entertained everyone with a ‘puppet show’.

After a final quad ride, half the family packed up, along with some raspberry starts, jam, recipes and sourdough starter and began the long trek back to California, until the next visit. The other half will stay a bit longer and hopefully bag one more buck.

It was a great weekend. I couldn't ask for anything better. There's nothing that can compare to family.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


So much to be thankful for.

My sons. I have memories of them growing up that never fail to make my heart swell. I laugh recalling their antics and when I close my eyes, I can sometimes still feel the soft little hands on my face and arms around my neck as I hugged them tightly and hearing them speak my favorite name in the world, “Mama”. Nothing can take that away. Now, when I lay eyes on them, I am breathless at the amazing men they have become both as husbands and fathers. I am pleased and proud, even though my heart often feels it will break because I miss them so very much. 
There are our daughters and daughters-in-law, raising their own broods of little ones, navigating life’s waters with an eye to the future and the kind of people they are molding their own children to become, learning to balance life between being mother, wife, friend and career woman, giving their all to each endeavor. I remember well those days.

Then there is unrelated family. That is, those who we love and love us back as if we were family. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I have not known them all my life.
This includes our ranch family. People we are blessed beyond belief to know and share life with.

Things have been so hectic here recently, I have had NO time to blog. Cleaning out cabins and houses for both visitors and new ranch family members. Moving stuff in, moving stuff out. The ranch is putting in pivots and much needs to be done, keeping Randyman hopping. Some of our little people came to visit and their dad worked hard taking down a mile of fencing among other things, helping out, while 9/10’s of the ranch crew was out fighting fire. It was a blast to have them here and it already seems like they have been gone too long.

A new family moved in to fill the cowboss position opened by our nephew leaving, a sad event in itself. I didn’t see him much, as he was always working and I have been sick the past couple of years, but it was comforting to just know he was here. On the bright side, Randyman’s mom, sister, daughter and newest grandson came up for a long weekend to help him get moved. It was bittersweet. A few tears were shed as goodbyes were offered.

An old friend is moving in with us, to help me on those not-so-swell-days, so everything stored in our back bedroom needs to find a new home. New shelves had to be built and there is much going on. 

The rocketcar people are coming back and there are supposed to be 42 of them staying at the ranch in various situations....cabins, tents, motorhomes. I think there has been more activity and more people here lately than I ever saw in the city. It's fun and exciting but I am also looking forward to the quietness of winter again, when things are not quite so hectic.

My sons and their families are due next weekend so I am excitedly making plans and figuring out strategy of how to get things done and still have time to enjoy them. If I can do the food planning ahead of time we will have a little better chance to do some fun stuff. One set will be hunting all week, the other will have but a day to see their way around. I'll be trying to fit a weeks worth of stuff into just a few hours that day.

I personally, am in a period of transition and also one of great expectation. My mind and body can’t quite keep up and grasp it all, hence no blogging. A great percentage of the time, my mind has been pretty much a blank. Trying to settle into a 'new normal' has proved to be a little more challenging than I had expected.

The ranch kids have gone off to college, all but the boys. I sent them along with 'care packages' of home canned soups and meats as well as sending some along with one of our daughters, which has left our own shelves kind of bare. I got some beef chunks canned this morning in the new All American Canner (which I LOVE). In a couple of weeks I will begin to restock the rest of the shelves with soups and stews and more sandwich and dinner meats. Unfortunately, our cold summer kept my tomatoes from ever ripening or even getting close, so there won't be any bruschetta, BBQ sauce or any of the other goodies I had hoped and planned to put up.

Beyond that, two amazing cheesecakes are in the freezer, a special salad is marinating, turkeys are defrosting and plans are in the works to get yams and stuffing made before Saturday so I can just stuff the bird, bake the breads and heat everything else up. It is the first time in 8 years the whole family has been able to get together so I am celebrating with a very early Thanksgiving Dinner. Bread cubes from the last loaf of homemade bread are drying in the oven and will be seasoned tonite, after we eat homemade pizza. There were just enough basil leaves left for me to make pesto for the sauce on one of them.

More good news, EmmaLou is about 3 months pregnant, per the vet and SushiMoo is big enough to be bred, whenever we can get her to a bull or a bull to her. The Polarbears are diligently protecting the sheep from what sounds like record numbers of coyotes. One night they woke me up, the howling was so loud and pitched. I went out with a flash light and the hair stood up on the back of my neck as I listened to large packs in three different directions around me. I was concerned for the dogs, that they may have become separated, attacked and overwhelmed. But they returned in the morning, as usual, unharmed and the coyotes seem to have moved on as its been pretty quiet lately.

I've managed a couple of rides with my friend which makes all the difference, not having to ride alone. Even though I am getting on and off to open and close gates, it helps tremendously for her to be there to block Mister when necessary from stepping away while I balance precariously on rocks, stumps or next to ditches to remount.

It's all good.