Saturday, January 25, 2014

All's Well that Ends Well

As January comes to a close, our friend, Afif and his guest are packing up to make the long trek home to Nebraska for another year. They had a gppd trip, considering it was a bad year for hunting. Luckily, that is because they are not as much into shooting birds as they are into the experience of watching the dogs work and enjoying the scenery...and they covered a lot of that. Several days they hiked 4 miles or more up the mountain then back down. They ran across bighorn sheep, mule deer, chukars, several different varieties of partridge and quail, antelope and just about all the neat things the area has to offer. After a daily dip in the hot springs, they would then come to the house and cook dinner for us all. That in itself was pretty neat, in my opinion. Prime Rib, Lamb Kebabs with Bernaise Sauce, Braised Spanish Chicken, Rib Steaks with Maitre'D Butter, Bananas Fosterwhat a month!

Having them fix dinner freed me up to do other things, and I got a lot accomplished much this month. Ranch Rustics inventory is in pretty good shape and as no one was here during the day but me and the critters, I would spend the days multi-tasking. Here’s what that looks like...

On this particular day.

Take a big chef knife and cut a slab of tallow into small pieces. 
Feed it thru the sausage grinder on the KA and grind tallow into a large stock pot.

 Turn the burner on low (I use a diffuser under the pot so nothing on the bottom will burn) and let it melt down and simmer for a couple of hours. While that is going on, grab 10 beef roasts (average of 4 lb) out of the extra fridge where they were defrosting. Cut away all the fat and bone and cut them into chunks. 

1/2 the meat goes into the big electric roaster with the ingredients to make Charley's Slow Cooker Mexican Style Meat  the other half goes in a large bowl and back in the fridge for tomorrow’s canning session.

 Let the Charley's cook a few hours until most of the flavor has had a chance to work its way into the meat, then prepare to can it. The tallow is pretty much rendered by now, so take it off the stove to cool down enough to strain it into a big plastic bucket. Once that is done, the bucket goes into the 'store' room in the back, with all the soaps, candles and other stuff for Ranch Rustics.

Out comes the pressure canner, 7 qt jars and the rest of my stuff. After sterilizing the jars, heating the lids and filling the jars up, The Charley meat goes in for processing at 90 minutes.  When the 90 minutes of pressure canning is up, I have enough time to go out back and feed the horse, sheep and chickens before the pressure goes back down and I have to open the lid. EmmaLouMoo and Sushi are hanging with the cows at the bottom of the pasture most days, so feeding is fairly quick, barring any filling of water troughs or problems.

Back in the house, its time to remove the canner lid, wait my 5 minutes and take the jars out to cool overnight. I throw everything into the sink, do all the dishes just in time for Afif and his guest to come in and start dinner, while I visit with Mr Potamus, who is still limping from being caught in the leg trap.

I sadly mention that my KA burned out while grinding tallow. Next thing I know, our friend is making a generous contribution towards a new Bosch mixer...which is great, because I need a stand mixer every day. I use it to make all our bread and other things as well as using it to make Whipped Tallow Butter for the Ranch Rustics store. 

The Bosch Mixer…my new love. This bad boy can handle 15 lb of bread dough at a time!
It was a good day.

After a good bye to all the dogs, our friend loaded up with a pile of soap, a tartwarmer and spiced cider wax tarts, and his young friend bought the same for his girlfriend. I'm sure he's gonna be welcomed like a rock star.

Feel free to stop in at and have a look around at the homemade soaps, candles, wax tarts and body butters. See ya around!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

After 2 months of being confined to the small pasture with the sheeple, the polarbears finally had the freedom to go back to work and patrol on Christmas. Unfortunately, a recent guest at the ranch decided to do some trapping, setting metal leg traps in one of the pastures just below our house and we knew nothing about it. Potamus was very late coming home one morning and when he finally made it, on 3 legs with one very large, swollen foot up in the air, we could see immediately it had been caught in a trap. This could have been a lot more tragic if he had been engaged with a predator, or a pack of them. Angry as I am, I didn’t feel the least bit bad when I heard he bit the trapper, who finally showed up to set him loose. I would be pleased to do a lot worse and restraining myself is taking a great deal of effort.

A few days of pampering, ice, epsom salt poultices and pain killer and he is back to light duty. They are back in the sheep pasture again, until his foot can handle the extra burden of carrying him wherever they need to go at night.

About 3:30 this morning I heard every dog on the ranch sounding an alarm, including Bruno and Potamus. Mind you, that is a lot of barking as there are 29+ cowdogs here and also our 2 Maremmas. (Cider and Scottie sleep in the house and remain clueless to whatever happens outside)
It's not unusual for all the cowdogs to be barking, but Potamus was doing his 'woo woo' bark and Bruno was barking. If Bruno barks, something serious is going on.

I stepped out back to see what was causing the fuss and made it just in time to see Bruno crash the gate and go through it. This is the same fence and gate that held them for over 2 months. Potamus was on his heels and they tore towards the draw, then veered sharply and disappeared around the corner in front of the cabins. Whatever their prey was, it then led them past the barn and out towards the ‘boneyard’. That is where the cougar was first seen and, I suspect, that is who was prowling around last night. Bruno continued the pursuit, as Potamus ran back and forth, checking on me and the sheep and then checking on Bruno, ready to back him up if need be. After a pretty wild ten or so minutes, they were quiet again and headed home, so I went back to sleep. They were on the back porch this morning, none the worse for wear. Potamus is limping again, slightly, but not like before. I was pretty happy with them.

This has been a really amazing month.
Our friend, the chef, is back for his annual month long bird hunting visit. He brings his 3 upland game dogs and he eats at our house…let me rephrase that..he COOKS at our house! He brought one of his young kitchen helpers along this year and he has been pretty awesome as well, more often than not volunteering for dish duty.
We've been enjoying amazing meals and desserts. Shrimp Scampi, Bananas Foster, Braised Chicken, Lamb kebabs with Bernaise sauce (my new favorite in the whole world). It was a long haul for them from Nebraska. They also met up with another guy who worked alongside them last year, that lives here locally…so one night I had THREE chefs in our little kitchen. I was not one of them. 

After posting these, I had to laugh…these guys remind you a little of anyone on a rather popular tv show? Well, they fit right in here.

In my defense, I fed them a couple of times too. They got some sourdough Belgian waffles for breakfast and beef dip sandwiches, taco salads and a couple of other quickie things I whipped up when they were too exhausted from hiking and hunting to fix dinner. Our friend also brought us a beautiful french chef's knife as a gift. It's awesome!

Not having to worry about cooking has freed me to get my inventory built up. My little cottage business now has its own webstore now, at It’s been wonderful because you can now browse through the products and pay right online and I can ship it out immediately. I also want to take the time to thank all of you who have already dropped by and those who have ordered. I so very much appreciate it. Your response has been VERY encouraging!

I've been working on putting a little extra into the newest soaps I am  making. Not ALL soaps are quite this fancy, but I am workin' on it.

The new Honeysuckle

The new Bay Rum

Valentines Day is around the corner and coming fast! I have a few ideas for you this year on what to give your sweetheart.

...And since I can, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell a little about my products.

I love heart shaped shortbread cookies or chocolates, but now imagine pairing them up with a beautiful tartwarmer and some wonderful smelling wax tarts in Simply Vanilla, Chocolate Brownie or Pumpkin Spice! I also currently have some Spiced Cider and MacIntoshApple tarts. I'm open to suggestions of any fragrances someone might like me to try and explore.

Pictured left to right, front to back: 3 oz clamshell tarts (spiced cider), med wax tarts (MacIntoshApple) , large wax tarts (LemongrassSage, MacIntoshApple, PumpkinSpice) , 4 oz candle tin, 8 oz mason jar candle, Almond Honeymoo soap

You could add a small tin or mason jar candle for the bath and some Artisan soap in a variety of  fragrances. Think champagne glass and bubble bath and “oooh lala!” 
I really love the tart warmers. They are electric so there is no flame to worry about and they double as nightlights. The little plug-in ones are PERFECT for the bathroom and the larger punched tin rooster ones are wonderful in a bedroom or other  large room. I actually think the warmers throw scent farther than the candles. I carry the little ones in white and black (pretty neutral colors, yeah?) and the large come in French Blue, Dk Green and Ivory. I notice that even Randyman, who usually complains about any fragrances in the house (which is hard on him as I soap and stuff a LOT) turns on the tartwarmer himself. He either likes the light pattern it makes or he is actually loving the smell. Who’d have guessed?

The tarts come in different sizes  (and fragrances) so I suggest the clamshell or medium sized tarts for the small plug in warmers and the medium or larger for the larger punched tin ones with the longer cord.
(warning- do NOT use WhiteChocolateFudgeBrownie tarts unless you actually have brownies made. It makes men very grumpy to smell and not get to eat it.)

Don't forget the Whipped tallow body butters. It only takes a tiny bit, so it lasts a long time and is much more natural for your skin with no unpronounceable, weird additives. Just the pure product with a bit of fragrance to make it more luxurious and add to the pleasure of moisturizing your hands, feet or wherever your skin is needing some nurturing. It’s really nice after being out in the cold, feeding critters or milking cows and not worrying about the effect of all the dishes I wash, drying out my hands anymore. I finally have something that works and doesn’t have to be applied every 10 minutes to soothe my once chapped skin...and that is saying a lot.

Here’s hoping you all have a great week. I’m off to do some canning, housecleaning *sigh* and then I’m making some wax tarts in a new fragrance to test. Poor, poor me. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Let me wipe the smile off of my face so you can try and feel sorry for me. Nawwho am I kidding?
Life is good.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Part to Fairly Cloudy

It’s been a fabulous 2014 so far. As happens every year, our good friend, the chef, comes to spend a month bird hunting and is generous enough to cook for us, in spite of the fact it is his only vacation for the year. We are so beyond blessed!

Because this can be a difficult season for me as far as barometric pressure and flares, not having to fix nightly meals helps immensely. I’m doing well this year so I am working hard to get all my soaps, candles and body butters made and my inventory built up because we now have an ONLINE WEBSTORE! A good friend in Tennessee worked with me and built it and I am very excited about it. It’s a totally new experience for me. If anyone is considering having a site built, I'd be happy to recommend him and please feel free to leave feedback.

Our chef friend has had nice things to say about my wax tarts, as he is sharing a cabin with 3 dogs and has been singing the praises of a little ‘Simply Vanilla’ tart that is in the warmer, keeping his cabin smelling nifty. Tarts and candles are made from clean burning and sustainable soy wax and both the hot and cold throw is amazing. I’ve learned to be very careful not to burn the White Chocolate Brownie candles unless there are actually brownies IN the house. It’s just too cruel.

I’ve had amazing feedback from the candles, tarts and Whipped Tallows and cannot thank you enough, those of you who have shared. In addition to the above, I rendered some tallow from grass fed lambs and the resulting product is nothing short of decadent! The tallow is WHITE, WHITE and is of such a beautiful, delicate fat, when used in my "Baaaa-D Butter" (as opposed to body) it tends to melt right into my skin, leaving it luxuriously soft. As it is difficult for me to come by this tallow, I will be offering only limited amounts of this particular body butter for now and for obvious reasons, it is a tad more expensive. But that is not to take away from my regular Whipped Tallow Body Butter which is truly wonderful and very nutritious for your skin. Our skin is the largest organ on our body, so it only stands to reason we are better off using products that only contain ingredients that are healthy, unlike so many sold commercially. Tallows contain many attributes that nourish skin and  closely resemble the sebum created by our own skin with a similar cellular makeup. It's a natural. Naturally.

Dinner one night last week was Broccoli-Beef stir fry in my (sorta new) carbon steel wok. I was happy the chef felt I had made a good choice, as there were so many options out there. Teflon or non stick coated cookware just doesn’t fly with me, for more reasons than I can name. Each year I try to acquire something for the kitchen that our friend, ‘Afif’, feels it should have. He outdid me though, having brought an incredibly beautiful and high quality French Chef’s knife as a Christmas gift. I was just speechless at his generosity and the craftsmanship of the offering. He also made us Bananas Foster for dessert, caramelizing bananas with orange juice and a dark rum flambe and serving it over ice cream. Heavenly. How do you ever repay someone like that? We’ve met some of the best people on earth, since coming to live here at the ranch. Last night’s fare was ‘Roast Beast’, Rosemary Mashed Potatoes, made by infusing fresh rosemary in heavy cream and simmering on the stove, adding a little garlic and butter at the end when mashing the tender red spuds. Our neighbor friend, Aki from Okinawa, had dinner with us and it was fun to listen to the two of them share stories of Japan and other far away places, to which I shall never go. I don’t need to, I can enjoy the stories and still relax being right here at home.

Heavy winds blew last night. First came rain, then snow and lots and lots of wind.I went out in the dark and put the waterproof blanket on old Mister, as he has no shelter of any kind to speak of and being wet, then windblown, would be too hard on him. I had worked hard the week before to get Ray the ram in a pen by himself as he was bent on destroying the goats and the baby lambs, who are in a little area with a soft kennel, next to the other sheep. The Maremmas went back in the pasture with the sheeple to keep an eye on everyone and help keep Patch warm.

All night we could hear the wind roar past our little rock home. I waited to hear the cracking of trees, as there are two extremely tall hundred year old sentinels out front, which are hollow. It’s only a matter of time before they come crashing down, yet I hate the thought of seeing them go, as they have witnessed history on the ranch I can only imagine hearing...the bustle of skirts as the ranch wives must have thrown scratch to the chicks, the clink of canning jars on the way to the root cellar, the jingling of spurs as the cowboys ambled to the cookhouse for a meal and the raucous laughter and timely wisdom of the same, as that is the nature of most men who live and work this lifestyle.

Voices of the past lulled me back to sleep despite the ever growing tumult outside. I woke up once to hear TheMan growling because the power was out again and it caused unspeakable insult to his foot, when he got up and was prowling around in the dark. I got up and rummaged around for the flashlight and handed to him. The wind howled and gusted, I thanked God for his care of the critters and beasties on the ranch and drifted back to sleep.

Morning came, with some puffs of wind, a few clouds of a dark nature and bone chilling cold. I climbed into my bluejeans and surveyed the damage. One of the lambs had somehow wound up in the pasture with the sheep and goats and was doggin’ Bruno’s shadow to stay safe from being bullied. The other was still in his pen, crying out in loneliness. Mister stood in the large corral, disgruntled, with his blanket folded up over his back and Ray Ram was nowhere to be seen. The fence behind his pen had blown down and he had escaped into the pasture with EmmaLou and SushiMoo. His shelter was torn away from the front fence and laid down nearly flat. The enormous and terribly, awfully heavy, hay tarp had flipped the 30 tires off of the top and slid down between the large stack and the fence, leaving 9 tons of hay uncovered. 

I returned to the house where I lit the stove, put some coffee in a small pot to warm up and cut yesterday’s soap. This batch is Honeysuckle.

It’s always fun to do, as being handmade, every single batch comes out looking a little bit different. I was pretty pleased with today’s results. Measurements for soapmaking have to be very precise, so yesterday I spent the morning pre-measuring my lye solutions for my various different formulas, then marking them and setting them under the soap sink for use later. Later I will measure out fixed oils to do the same, so even if I have a day where I am a little addled (which happens), all will still go well with soaping.

After lunch, TheMan went out and helped put the tarp and tires back over the hay stack (technically…"I" helped HIM, as he did the lion's share of the work while I stupidvised). He repaired the fence to the sheep alley so Ray the Ram could go back into his pen, and rewired the fence where the bummer lambs were climbing in and out of their little spot. They seem to be doing ok with the other sheep and they know to look to the dogs for protection, so as long as I can get their milk to them out there, they can stay. EmmaLou and SushiMoo and friends came up for a snack while TheMan was making repairs, before heading back to work himself.

We could see the kids in the background bringing their horses up. I miss the days of swinging up bareback and taking off for parts unknown, myself, and may have to saddle up one of these days and just take off for an afternoon. It's been awhile.

Afif is going to fix a leg of lamb tonite as I had one thawed out from the freezer. I have a 5 lb Thomas roast to put on as well, so TheMan can have turkey sandwiches. Sounds so good I can hardly stand it….maybe I will do that tomorrow for a hot lunch and sandwiches after that. Ahhh…the good life. Who could ask for anything more??

P.S. The Webstore has been an overwhelming success thanks to you, my  awesome readers. I want to let you know, I do have all soaps in stock, but some are still a bit soft from being more recently made. To those ordering the softer soaps, I recommend letting them sit out for a couple of weeks to air and harden to extend the life of the bar. I will attempt to send a smaller, harder, fully cured soap along to use in the meantime for those who do order the softer soaps. Thank you and God bless you!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What's Cookin' At The Ranch in 2014??

It got pretty cold in early December. Thankfully, we had already gotten the hay in and stacked before the storms hit. It’s always great to wake up to a white, pristine wonderland, at least until it’s time to suit up and go feed!

One morning I went out and found Cowboy the rooster, apparently stuck on the top rail of the pipe fence. Emma was licking him and so I figured his feet must have gotten frozen to the pipe and he was stuck. I went for a closer look to try and figure out how I could save him, only to find that he just didn't want to stand in the snow. He jumped down then scampered back up on to one of the sheep. I had no idea sheep made good snow boots but they make him a darn nice wooly slipper as he sat and got kisses from one of the lambs.

Things eventually warmed up however and the snow has all but disappeared for now which has made the experience a lot more comfortable. Emma and Sushi are out back with a few other cows, enjoying the company, and so far I have not noticed Sushi in heat. I am keeping my fingers crossed that she is bred.

Christmas was, as usual, a fairly quiet ordeal. We invited our ‘neighbor’, a Japanese exchange student from Okinawa over and our roomie was here as well, before moving back down closer to family. I made Eggs Benedict for breakfast. I told our friend, Aki, we were having Prime Rib for dinner and his response was...


His response made me giggle.

We enjoyed the Prime Rib, Twice Baked Potatoes and Arkansas Green Beans with Pumpkin Layer Cheesecake for dessert. I always think of my youngest son when I make any kind of pumpkin pie...but that is another story, for another day. I raked tumbleweeds for TheMan to burn, cleaned corrals and after I finished the dishes, we opened gifts and watched a movie and it was a nice, relaxing Christmas.

The best Christmas gift to me, this year was finding that the State Trapper had taken his traps and left the ranch. That meant the Maremmas could go back out on patrol. They have been pretty exhausted in the mornings, as they have had to start all over, re-establishing their boundaries and pushing back the predators that, once realizing the Maremmas were confined, had the audacity to start prowling the yard and corrals at night. I’m not too worried about the cougar showing up here anymore, although I can’t vouch for the boss’ house, as my dogs don’t really patrol up there and their dogs have proved futile against the darn thing, as he impudently entered their shed and ate the dog and catfood at will.

The first couple of mornings after backing up Bruno on patrol, Potamus would race over to check on Patch and then his sheeple. Now that things are more under control, he is not as anxious. The twin bummer lambs are living with Patch now so he is no longer lonesome.

My friend moved back to California and we had Aki over again, for New Year's Eve. 
We pigged out on homemade pizzas, baked wings and fudgey chocolate brownies...the brownies were a must, as you shall soon see.

Meanwhile, these guys must have partied like animals!!!

Over the past couple of months, I have been working on some new products and I am pretty excited to start offering them online. I am currently accepting orders and things will become more available as I am able to produce and increase my inventory.

One of those is candles and wax tarts. Wax tarts are especially nice as there is no flame involved. I have electric tart warmers and have made good use of them! Two are plug ins that double for night lights and one is a punched tin warmer with a long cord that works well in my living room. I hope to be able to provide these to you in the future.

I’ve enjoyed this thoroughly and have found a few exceptional fragrances that I think you will all like. Simply Vanilla, Pumpkin Pie and White Chocolate Brownie have been my personal favorites, and the latter has forced me to keep real brownies in the jar because the fragrance is so true to its calling. I am thinking I need a brussels sprout or spinach fragrance to keep me from wanting to eat!

The other product I am very excited about is Whipped Tallow Body Butter. This is made from grassfed tallow I have rendered myself and it is simply amazing. Tallow is a time honored skincare ingredient. Being so similar to our own skin cell structure with the same 50%-55% saturated fat,  it also resembles the protective sebum coating naturally produced by our own skin. It also contains vitamins A, D, K and E which are found only in animal fats, as well as CLA and palmitoleic acid which has anti inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-carcinogenic properties.  Vegetable based lotions and butters can’t possibly compare to this. I have added calendula oil, jojoba and fragrance oils to increase the luxuriousness of this body butter as well. My ‘crash testors’ LOVED it!

I also still have quite a few soaps available and will be replenishing those which sold out over the following month.

Stop by the Ranch Rustics website and or contact me with your questions or orders!

May your New Year be a blessed one!