Walker Branch

At six o’clock, we gassed up the four-wheeler and the five of us piled on…yes, insanely illegal…but for pasture trailing, perfectly okay!  So, here we go, bumping up the ruts of the steep hill behind our house to the swinging gate that is just wide enough for our atv to squeeze through– intricately stacked rock wall stretching out up the hill to our west and down the hill to our east…grass at its most beautiful–thick and green with sprinklings of purple, pink, and blue wildflowers clumping up here and there… As we tear across the flat bank of the fishing pond, we see the horses–all 17–grazing, their silhouettes stunning in the golden sunlight. Sigh. Mares, colts, yearlings and geldings belonging to us, my father-in-law and s&bil. Four-wheeling into their midst, our gray roan gelding, Legend, friendliest of the herd, noses us all and nips at the white plastic bag I’ve strapped to the atv’s rack–its content’s a secret from our 3 girls… He won’t leave us alone as we try to coax the baby colts near enough for our almost 2 year old to get a “pet”… All the horses have tangles in their manes, a few cuckleburrs…but they’re loving a summer of freedom and prairie grass. They get to laze and graze from April to September before we bring them home to the block of horse pens stretching down from our horse barn. Then it’s hayburning time. “Hayburning” a hole in our pocket book! We’re not in the horse business for the money, that’s for sure. Horses just don’t bring much $ these days…but it’s a lifestyle my dh loves and wants for our girls.

After satisfying ourselves that none of this year’s foals have hurt themselves running through fence, and that the horses aren’t out of their salt and mineral blocks, we head to Walker Branch. One of my most favorite places to play and the girls have no idea! The white plastic bag that the they and Legend were so enamored with contains water mocs, a towel and a change of clothes for our toddler. Walker Branch is this wonderful bubbling creek that meanders around and through a gravel bed. The stones underfoot are water smoothed and slightly mossy in places…and to one side is a sheer vegetation-covered cliff-overhang, to the other, gravel and a  bluff of tall prairie. When we arrived, the sun was a foot above the horizon…perfect for casting our shadows over the glossy brook and its sand-brown rocks. Of course, we immediately start looking for crawdads and minnows and are not disappointed. The biggest minnows we’ve ever seen are soon bumping into our sandal encased feet, soft slimy things…5 yo is pulling back screeching while the rest of us are in awe and trying to catch one of the slippery things on its way past! No luck!

I kept thinking, when are the bugs going to start biting? Anyone who has been to our state seems to first of all notice all the “stinging” varieties of insects…be it chiggers, mosquitos, etc. Amazingly, none dared ruin our outing tonight. We followed the water till the creek widened and deepened…not once seeing a snake…saw some tadpoles though! When we’d gone a fourth of a mile through the creekbed, we turned around and ended our water-fun with a lesson on skipping rocks. Yes, there is definitely a technique and passing it on from generation to generation is a necessary thing.

There is something so sacred and pure about being in a pasture before sundown. Acres of green, hills of it stretching forever…and the sounds of nighttime growing increasingly louder… We dried the girls’ legs off and switched their water shoes for their boots and tennies. At exactly this moment of packing up our fun, a chorus of frogs started chirruping from the creek.  Loudly. Wow. My dh says, “I bet it’s 8 o’clock”…I just look at him. He grins. “What do you want to bet?” He pulls out his pocket watch and smirks. Turns it to me. 8:01 pm.

On the way home we swing through a herd of black bald face cattle and get a head count for fil. 68.

Came home via the gravel road so we could avoid the three pasture gates. Saw a deer, panicking, her head darting alertly. On the other side of the road ran her crazed fawn…white spotted back and everything.

What more could a person ask for?

Mary

Marinating Steaks

Yes, we are! And I have the recipe for you too…it’s the best, honest! Got it from my pastor’s wife EONS ago and it never fails to earn raves…

Marinade for Shish-Kabobs or Steak or Chuck Roast–ultra flavorful and tender

*I always use Sirloin steaks…yummy!

Ingredients: 1/2 cup veg. oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 4 teas. Worcestershire sauce, 2 TB Wine vinegar, 2 TB lemon juice, 2 tsp dry mustard, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes, 1/2 clove garlic–crushed, beef, and veggies if you plan on doing the shish-kabobs.

Combine all marinade ingredients in bowl; mix well. Place beef in whatever you are going to marinade it in and pour marinade over. Refrigerate, covered over-night or for 6-8 hrs. Grill over med-hot coals to desired doneness. Yield: 8 servings. (Unless you double the recipe like I do and throw all the steaks you can find on the grill ’cause you love leftovers!!)

So, dh calls me this morning and says to marinate steaks because he’s grilling tonight! Yay, another sign of summer!   I popped some beautiful pie cherries out of the freezer to thaw and made 2 cherry pies to go with…it feels like Memorial day early!

Soon as toddler wakes up we’re off to buy briquettes!

Mary

Our cow is lonely. Some Christians are too.

We took the last of the colts to pasture this weekend and ever since our lone mama cow has been bellering for her buddies.  Plus, she’s not due to calve till June, but her udder is tight and she looks suspiciously close. But what do I know? 

We skipped the trip to town for horseshoes in favor of more playtime outside.  Can’t take these sunny days for granted with all the rain we’ve had lately.  I filled up a big aluminum pan with water balloons and we had a free-for-all!  The girls were outside from 11 am till 6 pm, and they’ve eaten and are happily ensconced under their covers.  What a great way to wear out!

I was talking books with a girlfriend who is helping me with VBS.  She has no idea I’m writing.  She made the comment that she didn’t like Karen Kingsbury’s Redemption Series because the Christians face so much turmoil.  She tossed her head and rolled her eyes and I about died laughing.  I was glad to know that not ALL readers out there have to have back to back conflict.  But it got me to thinking. We all have our own unique areas of testing…whether it seems to always be health, job, or finances, or family conflict.  Maybe your vehicles are always breaking down.  I don’t know.  Some people seem to be like Job…everything at once.  When we were self-employed I had to hang on to that verse about contentment…Godliness with contentment is great gain.  I learned a lot in those lean years.  I have one painful memory of the humiliation of a bank overdraft that I didn’t know how we were going to cover, but that’s the only really bad memory I have.  And yes, I’m kind of glossing over it (no need to mention how I sank to my knees in the corner of the kitchen and wept, so sick of it all) but it was a big deal to me.  When I think back to those times of wracking my brain for creative snacks for the kids, or how to stretch point A to point F…or looking at other families with two incomes and wondering why God wanted me at home? Now, instead of all that, I remember the good things.  Like the piles of bagged popcorn in my upper cupboard that had accumulated year after year from our farming neighbor…just waiting to be used as a last resort snack…which became the kid’s favorite! (Ever make cinnamon popcorn with red hots?) Or how I had to get in the habit of baking homemade bread out of sheer necessity…which was like a delicacy that I’d been too lazy to discover!  I remember devouring Tightwad Gazette volumes 1,2, and 3 and being amazed at all the ways I wasted money!  Even now that I don’t have to I still wash out my ziplock baggies, not the sandwich ones, but everything else! We discovered the best beans out there–Anasazi beans, that require hardly any soaking and they’re SO pretty in glass jars!Are there any Christians untouched by suffering?  If there are, I bet they only appear to be. Our pastor had a great message on Sunday about loving one another.  He said some lady did an experiment in a well known city in Nebraska.  She visited 18 churches consecutively and sat up toward the front.  Her purpose was to score each church for their friendliness factor.  I can’t remember the exact “point system” she used but suffice it to say they got around a 100 points for each person who came up to her and shook her hand.  They got even more if they introduced themselves to her.  And even more, like 500 if they said, “Hey, you should meet so-and-so”…there were all sorts of simple ways for these church folks to gain points.  And to make it easier on them, this gal made her way slowly from the front pew where she sat to the back at each church, making eye contact with whoever she could…essentially being friendly herself to pave the way for a return on her investment!  Sadly enough, the highest scoring church had only 100 points.  

Now that’s hard for me to believe.  Our church is pretty friendly, in fact, that’s one reason my dh and I kept going back…we were made to feel so welcome.  I know I’m guilty of being in too great a hurry to run back to the nursery, collect my kids and get home for lunch…but what’s the deal with 18 churches in the same town all being too inhibited to be friendly to a newcomer?

What a ramble.  Guess I should put my soapbox back where it belongs now!

Gonna hit the book,

Mary

No-Knead Crusty French Bread

No-Knead Crusty French Bread

1 pkg active dry yeast; 1.5 cups warm water, divided; 1TB sugar (can subst. honey); 2 tsp salt; 1 TB olive oil or melted shortening; 4 cups all-purpose flour, could use half whole wheat; cornmeal

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup water.  Add sugar, salt, olive oil and remaining warm water; mix till dissolved.  Add flour and mix till smooth (do not knead).  I use my Kitchen Aide mixer, but this can be done by hand…it’s just harder!  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.  Turn onto a floured surface.  Divide in half; let rest for 10 minutes.  Roll each half into a 8″x10″ rectangle.  Roll up from a long side; pinch edge to seal.  Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle tips with cornmeal.  With a very sharp knife, make 5 diagonal cuts across the top only of each loaf, about 1/4″ deep. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or till lightly browned.  *If desired, these can be made into breadsticks after first rising, just rollin a rectangle, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with italian seasonings and parmesan.  Cut into sticks.  Put in a cold oven, turn oven to 400 and bake for about 25 minutes.

This is a tried and true and oft requested recipe at our house!  I love quick and easy breads!  We’re having this tonight for French Dip sandwiches…yum!  Perfect for this rainy day of rosy wind-bitten cheeks!

Sold another border collie pup today!  Two left out of six which is pretty wonderful!  A litter of six pups can soon eat more of my budget than my human family of 5! 

Still typing away, but focusing on arranging the various scenes/plots in my novel to the best advantage.  I’ve had some cool ideas for advancing certain themes in my plot faster and with more conflict…and am adding to both hero/heroine’s bios!  All good! 

Getting off here,

Mary