view sourceprint? 01 Ramblings from a Ranch Wife: 2014

Random Thought:

"The darkest nights produce the brightest stars"

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nothing Good Can Come From This…..


One of the things I enjoy the most about my boys is how easily entertained they are.  We don’t need any fancy toys because chances are they will rather play with the box the toys came in.  “I’m bored” is not a phrase they use often because if you give them a few rocks, a stick, and their imaginations, the next thing you know, they will be fighting dragons to rescue a princess, in a war with some bad guys, or catapulting rocks at a target (or more likely each other!).  The phrase “What one doesn’t think up the other will” rings true at our house, and you never know what is going to happen next.  Every day is a new adventure.

If you have spent much time around us, you’ve probably heard me say “they may look like me, but they act just like their dad” a time or two, because looking at my boys is like looking in a mirror for me.  That is where the similarities end though.  They are brave, outgoing, adventurous, and thoughtful, just like their dad.

Or so I thought….. Sunday, I got undeniable proof that they may possibly, maybe some days, kind of act like their mom, but just a little bit! 

We went to Mountain City to visit and brand a few calves.  TR and QT scattered, taking their cousin PJ with them just as soon as the car came to a stop.  They were out of sight, but in ear shot.  Before too long they were entertaining themselves and us.  They had found a hill and a red Radio Flyer wagon.  Two would climb into the wagon and then rock it till it would start rolling down the hill.  TR took charge as pilot and would steer with the wagon handle.  Can you see where this is going?  I almost told them that riding the wagon down the hill wasn’t a good idea…  Almost.

It reminded me of a summer a few years back and a couple days spent in Charleston with my sister and Cousins Becky and Kyla.  Our new brother had just arrived and we were letting things settle at home.  Being ranch kids, ages 4-8 we didn’t watch much TV.  We had 100’s of acres to explore, a lot of mischief to find, and not as much supervision as we probably should have had.

Our adventures led us to the barn and the milk cow’s calves one afternoon.  We decided our time and energy would best be served by teaching the calves to pull a wagon.  The girls and I got busy gathering supplies, which included a couple old lass ropes, a can of grain, and you guessed it, a red Radio Flyer wagon.  What we lacked in experience training calves to pull carts, we more than made up in enthusiasm.  This was going to be epic!

In our infinite calf training wisdom we determined that the biggest calf would most likely be the best at pulling a wagon.  We got to work chumming him into the round pen with the bucket of grain.    “Toro” would be the best for pulling a wagon full of girls around the pen.  Once he got pulling the cart mastered, we would drive him up to the house to prove to Auntie how handy we were. Catching Toro was the easy part. Leppies will do anything for grain we learned.  Getting him to stand in place long enough to be tied to the wagon, and actually tying him to the wagon was the challenge.  We had to make a second trip for more grain, but we got it done.

All 4 of us girls climbed into the wagon, got set, and Becky being the oldest assumed driving duties.  She clucked to Toro just like we’d seen our dad’s do to the work horses in the winter.  Nothing happened.  Finally after clucking some more and whacking Toro with the end of the line, all hell broke loose.

Toro lunged ahead and the clatter of the wagon and shrieking of girls must have spooked him pretty good.  He was off like a rocket and Becky and I baled.  Cara and Kyla made it about 2 feet before the wagon rolled and spilled them as well.  Poor Toro made about half a lap around the pen before he finally came clear of the wagon, but had to drag his ropes until chore time came and some adult came to turn him loose.

We had some tears, bumps, bruises, and a few scrapes to bandage, but we survived!  We also learned a valuable lesson.  Milk calves are not good at pulling wagons.  They are pretty much unteachable!

It’s a good thing Aunt Cara doesn’t have a pen of milk calves at her house, and Becky and Kyla’s boys are so far away.  It’s genetic for these wild little ranch kids (on their mother’s sides of course!) to get into mischief with red Radio Flyer wagons.  This time, as long as TR did the driving, things went pretty well.  He kept the wagon balance, upright, and was able to turn the wagon before running into the big mud puddle or hitting the loading chute.  Letting QT drive was what got them into trouble.  He turned too sharp, too soon, spilling himself and PJ.  There were some tears, bumps, bruises, and scrapes to bandage, but to quote TR “We survived!”  The jury is still out on what lesson was learned, other than not to let QT drive!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Good Help is Hard to Come By

Good Help is Hard to Come By

Why is it fall feels like it is so much busier than the rest of the year?  I think it is because you have to work around other people’s schedules more than any other part of the year.  You have to preg your cows when the vet can be there and ship your calves when the trucker can haul them and it is convenient for the buyer to receive them, all while working around helping neighbors and school.  In the summer, if you can’t spray weeds because the wind is blowing, or you don’t get through the heifers in the Red field, you can probably do it the next day and not worry about scheduling conflicts.  You have more flexibility during the winter, spring, and summer months.

I feel like I have been running since fair time and haven’t stopped to catch my breath yet.  Between getting the boys to and from school, my college class, and working for the Cowboss I haven’t had much opportunity to get into any trouble.  On the upside, all 3 of my boys have been too busy to get into trouble as well!  QT has been busy helping the Cowboss and me in the mornings before school. 

QT and I had a really hard day last week.  After we got TR on the bus and off to school, we caught our horses to help the Cowboss and Russ move a bunch of yearlings from the Barn field to the Ryegrass field.  After we got them moved, QT and I were to go back for the pickup and trailer, then meet the Cowboss and Russ at the house.  Right off the bat we found a yearling that we had missed.  We got around her and got her put where she belonged, and headed on our way to the pickup.  We were given very specific directions to load our horses, then drive through the pairs in the field next to the Barn field, checking to be sure no heifers had crawled in with the cows and calves.  After driving through the pairs we needed to hurry home and get QT fed and ready for school.

We got our horses and dog loaded and drove through the pairs.  We didn’t notice any yearlings and were ready to go home.  Then I noticed 1 hot cow and 13 yearlings in the field we just came out of.  I asked QT what he thought we should do, let dad get them later, or unload our horses and put them away ourselves.  He was pretty sure we better get them for dad, so we parked the trailer a little closer to the gate we would push them through and unloaded our horses and dog.

The cows were pretty wound up, and took off in a long trot in the wrong direction when we got on our horses.  We trotted off to get around them and QT did a really good job keeping up.  Then we chased those cows all over that field.  If there was a wrong way to go or a chance to scatter, the cows took it.  It felt like we were trying to herd cats.  We ran back and forth across a boggy creek 3 times before the cows bee lined it for the willows.  I got QT back across the creek and told him to sit right where he was and I would chase them through the willows.  It took me a good 15 minutes up, down, and across the boggy creek in the willows, a few tears and a lot of swear words before I finally got them out of the willows and headed somewhat in the right direction.  I let out a holler for QT to catch up, and he and old “Knothead” made good time trotting across the field to me.

I told him that if we could get the cows past the barn at the Oglvie and could keep them on the fence we would be in the clear.  If he could keep them coming, I would stay on the side and keep them together and going the same direction.  I’m not going to lie, I had my doubts we were going to get all of them past the barn and to the gate.  Between my 5 year old cowboy, 6 month old puppy, and colt, things were not going well and I was ready to cut my losses and let the Cowboss get them another day.  Every time I looked back though, my little man was whooping and hollering, working back and forth pushing those cows for all he was worth, never slowing from a trot.  We got them past the barn and QT held them up in the corner while I got the gate opened, then he brought them to me and I turned them in.  I don’t know how we did it, but we finally got them through the gate.

Riding back to the trailer I told QT that I was very proud of him.  I said he did a good job, I was so glad he was there to help me, and that I didn’t think I would have ever got those cows on my own.  He looked up at me just as serious as could be and told me “I know mom.  Let’s go home so I can go to school.” He’s good help.  I'll take him over most people any day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Things I Love....

I love watching the Cowboss with my boys.  There is nothing sexier in my opinion than a dad that spends time with his kids.  I am so thankful that we live in a lifestyle where we are expected and encouraged to take our boys to work with us daily.

I love early morning cuddles with my little manly men.  I have to get used to the idea that my babies are growing up and don't need mom like they used to.  Most days they prefer fist bumps to hugs and kisses.  I live for early mornings where one of my boys will crawl into bed with me and just snuggle for a few minutes, forgetting that it isn't cool to hug mom.


I love the exuberance and enthusiasm my dog greets me with when I get home.  Whether I have been gone for 3 days, or just stepped out the back door and came in through the front door, she lets me know that I was missed.  She meets me at the door, jumping up and down, and the minute she can touch me, she is jumping up on my leg greeting me.  Makes me feel good to know something cares about me and is  happy to see me!

I love fresh horses on brisk mornings.  Isn't it excited to put on a wool sweater, felt hat, and chinks, then step aboard a fresh young horse and have them take a little hop or two on a cool morning?  You get warmed up quickly.  It is a thrilling way to start your day!  Tight horses on brisk mornings make me smile, as long as I can cover them.  If I get frapped, I know it is going to be a bad day!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Flash Back to the End of September

Can you imagine anything better than a crisp autumn morning in Mountain City?  It's cool enough for a wool sweater and wild rag.  The sun is shinning with the promise of a warm day, as you trail just weaned mama cows back to their field before you ship off their babies?  The scent of damp sage fills your nose (making me sneeze, so glad for Benadryl!), and birds chirp as you ride along.  This is my idea of heaven.

I really like where we are living right now.  Lamoille is beautiful year round, but it isn't home.  I don't get homesick for Lamoille.  I get homesick for Mountain City and Merit Mountain, especially in the fall.  Cool mornings, wool sweaters, felt hats, and cotton gloves.  Bring on fall!

Thursday, July 31, 2014


The Cowboss and I roped together in a branding contest one saturday in March.  I used my favorite horse Cricket, and he did awesome.  I felt like I could rope bridleless and he would put me where I needed to be.  He was wonderful.  He has been my sidekick for years.  The horse I depended on to take care of me when I put myself in a bad place, bring me in for a heel shot when I can't think, ride, and rope all at the same time, gave me the courage to do what I didn't think possible, and wings, so I could fly.

Then on that following Tuesday Cricket colicked, and I held my breath.

Wednesday he was better, and I let out a huge sigh of relief.

Thursday I put him down, and I cried.

I keep telling myself how fortunate I am to have had him for 13 years and how lucky we were to have one last great ride, doing what we both loved together.  Honestly though, it hurts.  I feel like I've lost my best friend and can't get over it.  He was the one constant horse in my life.  I rode him through both of my pregnancies and gave he gave both of my boys their first rides.  When I needed to get something done or didn't feel my best, he was my go to guy.  I just knew he would be the horse to teach both the boys to rope.

When given the option of surgery or putting him down, I made the choice to put him down over the 5 hour trailer ride for surgery when the odds weren't in our favor.  He was in so much pain and kept looking to me to make him feel better.

I loaded him in our trailer and I drove him home.  I unloaded him in the drive way, and lead him just as slowly as he wanted to walk down in the pasture where he would have shade and a beautiful view of the Rubies.  Then I held his head and scratched the spot I knew he liked the most while the vet gave him the shot that took all of his pain away forever.  And I cried.  A lot.

I really hope he is with a girl in heaven who needed a good horse.  Who can appreciate him for what he is.  Look past his quirks and love him like I did, because he deserves that much.  Maybe someday I will find another horse just like him, who challenges me when I need it and takes care of me on the days I can't.  Until then I know I will have some hard days.

Saturday I rope in the first branding contest I've entered since I lost him.  I feel lost.  I feel like I can't rope, and I just really want to stay home and pretend that he is down in the field with his ears pinned back, glaring at any other horse who gets too close.  I could really use my copilot for one more ride.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Stevens

Thursday, April 24, 2014

5 Things Every CowboyGirl Should Have

1.  A Good Bridle Horse.

Everyone has that neighbor, or friend, or friend of a friend who is a wreck waiting to happen.  Sooner or later you will have to work around them horse back.  It is comforting to know you have something to ride who can take that stress without having a come apart.

Case in point:  We helped some family brand this spring.  Whether it was the neighbor kid running under my horse's head to get to the calf we just heeled and were headed to the fire at a high trot, or the drunk idiot stumbling through the middle of the branding pen you had to watch out for, there was always some kind of chaos afoot.  Knowing the potential I took "Natty," my bridle horse the Cowboss made for me (who I am still trying to get used to after losing Cricket).  She was doing pretty good.  Then I pantyhosed a big calf.  Instead of dallying, I went with the calf, bucking across the branding trap (calf, not Natty), hoping the rope would slide off it's flanks and I could get dallied before slipping a foot.  When that didn't work, I went to turn the calf off the fence.  I was thinking I could reach down and slip the rope down.  Just as soon as I got close enough to reach down and move the rope, someone decided to help me.  They came running at me, spooking both Natty and the calf.  The calf darted behind my horse still roped.  We were a tangled up mess. Instead of panicking with the rope around her feet, Natty held her breath and waited for the dust to settle.  In case you are wondering, I lost the calf.  Natty didn't have a come apart.  She didn't lose her head.  She stood there and waited for a cue from me.

You should always have a horse that can keep it's head when things come tight.  Not just for your safety, but for everyone around you.

2.  Pretty Boot Tops.  They are like expensive lingerie.  Nobody has to see them, but you still feel sexy.  Feeling sexy makes you confident.  When you are confident, you rope better.

3.  Pretty Silver Earrings.  They make you feel good and like you are put together.  You are more confident when you look and feel your best.

4.  Painted Nails.  Either finger nails or toenails.  Just because I work with a bunch of men doesn't mean I need to act like one.  Painted nails are a good reminder that I am a girl and should always act like a lady.

5.  A Good Cinch, and not just because I tie and sell them!  I feel a cinch is one of the most important pieces of tack a person should have.  It keeps your saddle on your horse.  You need to keep it clean and check it often for broken strands.  There is nothing worse than soring your horse or roping a soggy yearling and having your saddle come right off your horse!  Your horse will perform better when they are more comfortable.

Photo Courtesy of the Fabulous Heidi Stevens!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Naming Cows

Do you name your cows?  Apparently we do.  I guess you could say it's been a long winter feeding here because now the majority of our cow herd (and some of the corrientes too) all have names.  Of course it falls on mom to remember all of the names and who each name goes to.  When there were only 3 cows and calves, it wasn't this hard!

I do take full responsibility.  I encouraged the boys to name the twin heifers their grandpa gave them a couple of years ago.  QT named his "Rosie," and TR had "Juliet" and her calf "Gnomeo" (who is now our herd bull).  Our other bull is named "Tybalt" to go with the Gnomeo and Juliet theme.  Some names are pretty unimaginative.  We have a "Blackie" (she's black), "Red" (she's red), "Baldy" (who has a white face), and "Roanie" (you guessed it, she's roan).  Then there is a "Vindicator," our muley herford heifer and "Ely the Second" (Ely the first belongs to the ranch and resides at Red House).  Some names are really off the wall.  We have a black calf named "Sunshine," a red cow fondly known as "Mustard Sandwich," (because QT likes mustard on his sandwiches), and a black and white corriente known as "Snowflake."

I have vetoed a few names.  We just can't have a bull named "Sprinkles."  I wouldn't let them name the cow that got me down last winter "Fighter Attack" either.  We need some more color in our cow herd because the color black is about exhausted!

Friday, April 18, 2014

5 Things Every Cowgirl Needs in the Kitchen

When the Cowboss and I were first married, we had a camp job.  I spent 9 months of the year in remote cow camps, and it was heaven.  Some months we lived in cabins, but a lot of the time we lived in a camper. Not a very nice camper, but camp was way better than the company house we had to live in.  I could put my arms out and touch both walls, but I didn't complain.

Since we moved about 8 times a year, we packed pretty light.  Not having electricity and packing water, we didn't have much use for a lot of kitchen gadgets either.  This is my list of 5 kitchen items I think every cowgirl needs.  They are the 5 I couldn't live without.

1.  Cast Iron Skillet.

Cast iron is awesome!  You can use it on the stove, in the oven, or even the campfire.  It is easy to clean and helps prevent anemia.  You can use a skillet to fry and egg, bake biscuits, cook a steak, or bake a cake.  It is super versatile.  Have I mentioned they make a great tool for self defense?  Or attitude adjustments?*

2.  Cast Iron Dutch Oven.

Like a cast iron skillet, it can be used anywhere.  I used mine much as a crockpot.  I can adapt any crockpot recipe to cook in a dutch oven in my oven.  The biggest obstacle I had was getting it to fit in a camper oven!

3.  Mixing Bowl.

Mixing up biscuits, pancake batter, or scrambling eggs is definitely easier if you have a decent bowl to do it in.

4.  Wooden Spoon.

You have to have something to stir with.  The nice thing about a wooden spoon is it won't melt, so it can be used on the stove top, and if you don't have a potholder, you can use it to lift the lid off a dutch oven.  They are also pretty cheap, so you can replace them very easily.

5.  Spatula.

Comes in handy flipping pancakes and eggs, or serving dinner.

What are 5 kitchen tools you can't live without?

*The Rambling Ranch Wife does not condone adjusting spouse's attitude with a cast iron skillet.  The threat alone of using said skillet should do the trick!  ;)

Monday, April 14, 2014


I just completed 3 months of U.S. Census phone surveys.  One of the questions I was routinely asked was "How many hours did you work last week at your primary job?  How many hours did your husband work at his primary job?"  WE live on a ranch.  I am a cowgirl.  The Cowboss is a cowboy.  Do you think they would believe me if I responded with "Well, there are 7 days in a week and 24 hours in a day, so I guess 168 hours?"

While we may not have been physically working on the ranch, we were on call that entire time.  For me this is a very hard question to answer.  Do I just account for the hours of physical labor?  What about the bookkeeping aspect of it, or even just the hours I spend thinking about my ranch job?  Things like figuring how much to feed each cow or horse, and how much hay we need to get through the winter, or what vaccines we need to give and how many doses we need to purchase, or even what jobs I need to complete here on the ranch.

Ranching isn't a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday job with a 40 hour work week.  We don't get a time card to punch when we get to and leave work.  We don't have weekends off or vacations.  If we take a trip away from the ranch we spend that time worrying about what is going on at the ranch.

Why do it?  I have a college degree and can have a job anywhere with better hours and better pay.  The Cowboss could get a job at the mine, work 15 days a month and make significantly more money.  We could both drive brand new vehicles and have a brand new horse trailer.  We could go home a the end of the day and not think about our jobs.

On the other hand, we wouldn't be able to take our boys to work with us whenever it strikes our fancy.  We wouldn't have the teaching opportunities to teach things that are important to us, like work ethic, compassion, or the cycle of life that ranch living grants us.  We wouldn't be able to stop in the middle of work to watch a cow calve, cranes dance, baby geese swimming, or even a coyote hunting mice in a ditch.  I really don't know why people would want to work anywhere else!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Menu Monday

Today started off with me working on my weekly menu plan.  That fell by the wayside as the day happened and after working on taxes, sales and use tax, some bills and a trip to Hunter.  I am just now finishing up my menu.

Weekly Menu.  I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest, so here is a link to my Weekly Menu Board where I have pinned a few recipes that I want to try this week.

Leftovers (I kind of forgot I had a meeting tonight, and didn't get anything in the crockpot before I left this morning).

Italian Drip Beef
Cabbage Salad
Sourdough Biscuits

French Dip Sandwiches
Butternut Squash
Green Salad

Crock Pot Meatloaf
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Jello Salad

Friday and Saturday:
Branding Calves in Mountain City

Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak
Ranch Potatoes
Sourdough Biscuits.

If you haven't noticed, there are 2 things my family likes.  Meat and Sourdough Biscuits.  It has taken me a year, but I have finally mastered sourdough biscuits.

Today's Meat Eater Monday Recipe:

Tri Tip.  One of my absolute favorite cuts of beef.  I found this recipe on Pinterest awhile back for Santa Maria Tri Tip Roast and thought it sounded good.  This is my spin on it.


1 Tri Tip Roast

Dry Rub
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar

Basting Sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 cloves crushed garlic


Preheat broiler to high.  Combine all dry rub ingredients and rub on beef.  Add basting sauce ingredients to remaining rub.  Place meat on a broiler pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, turning then basting every 3-4 minutes, until center of meat reaches your desired doneness.

Very easy and very good!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sometimes A Mom.....

just needs a long hot shower without someone pounding on the door every 2 minutes or flushing the toilet!

to take the outside circle on a long trot with a green horse, and maybe her dog.  NO ONE ELSE!

an hour without the question why?

an hour where "Because I said so" is sufficient.

a nap!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

So Glad March is Over!

I don't know about you, but I hated the month of March.  I am so glad it is over.  It was a pretty hard month here.  I had to put my favorite horse down (more on that on a later post, I'm still getting over that), the boy's dog ate Ivermec horse wormer and tried to die, we lost a calf, and the list goes on and on.  I might also mention, in going out like a lion we got more snow the last week of March than we did all winter.  I've been discouraged, in a funk, and not wanting to do much of anything.  But life must go on and what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, so it's time to get my act together!

I've started trying to meal plan.  I'm going on week two now and I think I am getting the hang of it, somewhat!  My biggest problem is I never know where we will be or how the day will go, so there have been a few days that the plan has had to change last minute.  Since I can't see into the future, I can't determine which days work will go long.  The biggest benefit I have seen though is when it comes to grocery shopping. If I have my weekly menu planned out before I go grocery shopping, I am guaranteed to have the ingredients I need to make what I want, and not being at the last minute scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner and not having anything to cook with.  Nothing frustrates me more than to know what I want to cook, then find out I am out of a key ingredient.

I am also trying to utilize my crockpot more on the days I know I won't have time to actually cook a meal.  I teach class 2 nights a week, so I know those nights I can't cook a meal.  Having a plan seems to be making a big difference for me.  It also takes away some of the anxiety I have with cooking a meal for a family.

This morning I made strawberry scones.  They aren't the prettiest scones I've seen, but they aren't half bad. The nice thing, is you can do most of the prep the night before.  If your stove is anything like mine, you will have plenty of time to throw these together while your oven preheats.

Jennifer's Strawberry Scones

1 1/3 c. Flour
3 T. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 c. Heavy Cream
1/2 c. chopped Strawberries
Coarse Sugar for Sprinkling

1.  Preheat oven to 400*.
2.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add strawberries and cream.  Stir until dough comes together.
3.  Drop by large spoonful onto a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
4.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or golden.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Valentines Day Meat Eater Monday Style!

Nothing says I love you in our house, quite like a home cooked meal with lots of bacon!  We don't do flowers and candy on Valentines Day, we do food and tack!  Lucky for me, the March editions of my Food Network Magazine (thanks to my sister!) is dedicated to this glorious meat!  They have everything from bacon trivia, gag gifts, and even tips on how to cook bacon.  They even had a fabulous recipe for Bacon-Pineapple- Upside-Down Cake, which I blew up my news feed on Facebook, instagram, and twitter with!

Valentines Day falls on a Friday this year, so besides being a busy night to try and go out to dinner in town anyway, it will be nearly impossible to get in somewhere good to eat.  Throw 2 wild little boys into the mix, and you guessed it, it's much easier to just stay home.  So, like every other Friday night, I will be cooking dinner.  The only difference is that I am planning ahead this time.  Most nights I look at the clock and think Shoot!  It's 4:00!  What am I going to make for dinner?!

The best part of my menu is that most of it can be made ahead, so I won't have to spend all day Friday in the kitchen.

The Menu
Bacon Stuffed Potatoes
Bacon Wrapped Blackberry Pork Roast
Haricorts Verts with Pancetta
Sourdough Biscuits
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Red Velvet Cake

Bacon Stuffed Potatoes  (Food Network Magazine, March 2014 edition)
Toss 1 pound baby potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake at 450* 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Halve and scoop out flesh.  Mash flesh with 2 tbsp. each butter and sour cream, add 3 slices cooked bacon crumpled.  Stuff into potatoes and top with shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake 5 more minutes.

Bacon-Wrapped Blackberry Pork Roast  (Food Network Magazine, March 2014 edition)
1/4 c. blackberry preserves (I'm going to substitute raspberry because that is what I have)
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
kosher salt and pepper
1 4-5 lb. boneless center-cut pork loin, trimmed
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 red onions, quartered
8 slices bacon
2 tbsp. Wondra
3 c. chicken broth

1.  Combine first 5 ingredients (only 1 tbsp. vinegar) in a bowl.  Poke the pork in a few spots with a paring knife, then rub with the garlic.  Rub the pork all over with preserves mixture, transfer to  a large resealable bag and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
2.  About 20 minutes before roasting, remove the pork from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 325*.  Put the red onions in a metal roasting pan and set a rack on top.  Wrap the pork with the bacon, then set on the rack.  Roast until the bacon is crisp and a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145*, about 1 1/2 hours.  Transfer to a cutting board, let rest 10 minutes.  (I know you are thinking pork should be cooked longer because it should be an internal temperature of 160*, but the pork will continue cooking after removed from the oven)!
3.  Meanwhile, make the gravy:  Discard all but 2 tbsp. of the drippings from the pan.  (Place onions in a serving dish).  Place the roasting pan over 2 burners over med-low heat ans whisk in the flour until incorporated.  Add the chicken broth and whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining 2 tbsp. vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
4.  Slice the pork and serve with onions and gravy.

Haricots Verts with Pancetta  (Food Network Magazine, March 2014 edition)
kosher salt
1 3/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
4 oz. pancetta , diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 c. bread crumbs

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender.  Drain, then plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Drain again, then transfer to paper towels and pat dry.
2.  Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over med. heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp.  Remove to paper towels using a slotted spoon.  Add the garlic to the drippings and cook till golden.  Add the bread crumbs and cook, until toasted.
3.  Add the green beans to the skillet and cook until evenly coated.  Stir in pancetta and season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy, Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Curled Up With a Book

I see a lot of people who are critical of Kindles, Nooks, pretty much any type of e-reader. Nothing beats the feel of a book in your hands, and the smell of the ink in it.  I admitt, I used to be one.  I love to read.  Nothing makes me happier than a good book, a cup of tea and 30 minutes quiet to enjoy it.  I have been like this ever since I learned how to read.

A year ago in December I bought myself the best gift ever.  I bought a kindle.  My whole perspective changed.  You see, the closest Barns and Noble or really pretty much any kind of bookstore is a good 4-5 hour drive away.  My library consisted of what I found at WalMart, or the grocery store.  Not a very great selection.  I ordered books off of Amazon, but generally paid more in shipping than the book was worth, then had to wait (impatiently) by the mailbox for them to arrive.  Don't get me started on the 2 big boxes of books in my basement, or the filled in bookcases in my house.  I even resorted to mailing nearly every book I read to my friend in Montana, whether she wanted them or not!  Now, I have books at my fingertips.  Finished a book, no problem, hop on Amazon and download another one.  Plus I don't have books lying everywhere!

Granted, a kindle does have it's drawbacks.  For one, I haven't figured out how to jump ahead to the end if a book is really intense and I need a little reassurance that it will end the way I think it should (I know, I'm one of those people), and I can't jump ahead a chapter or two if I'm not really getting into the book to see if it gets any better.  But, I don't have to wait a week for a new book to arrive, or am limited to grocery store romance novels.

Currently, I am reading Shadowland:  A Tale From the Dark Ages by C.M. Gray.  (You can download it from Amazon here). I'm not even sure why I picked it, it's not really my forte as far as books go, but I loved Eagle of the Ninth, and it is similar.   I signed up for an online newsletter that sends deals on books to my inbox everyday, and it probably came across that way.  I am fascinated by it.  It's pretty good.
The gist of it:
We grow up with the Legend of King Arthur ... But where did he come from? Who was Merlin? What part did the Druids play in bringing Arthur to his round table? This is the story that came before, when Britain was just a Shadowland.

Shadowland is a story of historical fantasy set in Dark Ages Britain.

`I have lived more years than I can remember, probably more than the sum of all your years combined. Kings have called me friend and brigands have sworn to burn the flesh from my bones even if they have to search all seven halls of the shadowland to find me.'

On the night of midwinter's eve, a storyteller takes his listeners back to the Dark ages and a tale from his youth.

Deserted by its Roman masters, Britain has been invaded by the Saxons at the invitation of Vortigern, traitorous leader of the Britons. Now, as the tribes unite to reclaim their land, one man must rise to lead them and become their true and only king.

What is on your Kindle this week?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Blues

This time of year is really hard for me.  It's cold outside and not much sunshine.  The ground is really slick and I have a hard time staying on my own two feet, so I can't really go for a horseback ride either.  I hate it.  I get really bummed.  It makes me tired and when I'm tired I get cranky.  I can't sleep at night and I can't wake up in the morning.  I'm just miserable and don't even want to be around myself.

Today was a good day.  The Cowboss, QT, and I took some horses to the Horse Palace to ride.  The Cowboss and I are both riding colts.  I'm riding "Freckles" who the Cowboss bought (and QT says is his horse), and the Cowboss is riding my filly "Junie B."  (Fittingly named after Junie B. Jones, one of my favorite children's book series, and her papered name is Juniper Berry something or other....).  She has a stronger personality (a lot like her namesake!), of the two and better suited to the Cowboss.  Long story short, I'm a little bit of a chicken and not brave enough to ride her just yet.  Freckles is pretty laid back, a little more my speed!  QT rode "Cowboy" who is one of the best kids horses I've ever been around.  He is an excellent babysitter and I love him!

Freckles says "I don't think I like this very much!"
The Cowboss utilized one of the round pens and QT and I had the arena totally to ourselves.  After we got over spooking at tracks in the dirt, fence poles on the ground, and banners hanging on fences, it was time to play.  QT and I played Red Light Green Light and tag.

Tag on horseback can be a difficult on a broke horse.  It takes a lot of patience and is very challenging on a green broke colt.  It is great for sacking them out though, and it is really good for young riders to build up confidence and horse handling skills.  They have to work hard to get their horses to stop, back up and turn away from you so you can't touch them.  We had a ball!  QT got to giggling so hard I thought he was going to fall off his horse!  He thought it was pretty funny that mom's horse would shy away from him every time she tried to tag him!  He got pretty good at turning his horse away from me, stopping, and backing up.  Freckles has started to turn better for me after today too.  QT told me "Today is the best day ever!" when we loaded up to go home.

I get really tired of riding with my boys.  All of the questions they ask and nonstop talking exhausts me.  I find it a challenge to keep them lined out in the right direction, not riding in front of me, or bumping into my horse as we go along, while trying to get a job done.  I really enjoyed today just playing games and not trying to work too!

My little man on my old man.  =)

Monday, February 3, 2014

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Last week was crazy!  It was busy, hectic, and overwhelming, but I think I got through it!  If you aren't familiar with the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering you can learn more about it here.  It is a huge gathering of singers, songwriters, poets, and artists.  There are also several gear shows.

"For the Birds" Cinch on Visalia buckles I submitted in the Expressing the Rural West Exhibition during the gathering 
Monday started off with me visiting five 3rd grade classes at TR's school.  Talk about being out of my element!  I teach college kids, not elementary and for a very good reason!  I got to talk to them about being a cowboy and why it is so important.  I loved it.  I put together a great little PowerPoint presentation full of pictures, and got to visit with each class for about 30 minutes.  We talked about how great cowboys are because they take care of cows, and all of the wonderful things we get from cows.  I admit, I had an agenda. This year I want to do more public service type things that will help promote my ranching lifestyle, and this fit in perfectly.  If you are interested in my PowerPoint, let me know.  I would be very happy to share it.

Tuesday I taught a cinch tying workshop.  It was awesome!  I had 9 wonderful students, including a gentleman who is 97 years young!  I really enjoy teaching my craft to interested people.  Everyone tied a cinch before they left that day.  I should have taken pictures, but I didn't.

Wednesday I started setting up my vendor booth.  I sell cinches and my friend sells Sunbody Hats and Wild Rags.  It was my easiest day last week.  I should probably mention that I helped feed cows every morning (except Tuesday) before all of my "extra" activities)!

"5 Crosses" Yakhair Cinch I entered in the Expressing the Rural West exhibit
Thursday was the opening of the gear show.  I also had class that night.  So I was late getting home.

Friday I had the gear show, I was on a panel for people who went to college and made the decision to come home to ranching, and a reception for the Expressing the Rural West Exhibit.  The panel was pretty cool actually.  There were 4 of us who are all highly educated but chose to ranch instead of a high paying job.  I really liked being able to share my love of ranching and explain why we do it.

The Expressing the Rural West exhibit is for artists and gear makers under the age of 40.  The craftsmanship exhibited at the Gallery at the Western Folk-life Center in Elko is amazing.  It blows my mind that we are all under the age of 40 also.  If you have the opportunity to see the exhibit in person, do it!  If not, you can check it out on Facebook.  Expressing the Rural West

Saturday I got to spend the day at the gear show.  I had a great time catching up with other artists, and just visiting with people.  I didn't sell as many cinches as usual.  So if you are in the market for a unique cinch, or want to see some pretty cinch pictures, check out my webpage!  Jennifer's Custom Cinches

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beans Beans Beans

The boys bought me a pressure canner for Christmas.  I've been wanting one for a couple of years, but hadn't shelled out the money for one.  I finally got around to trying it out yesterday.  My first project pressure canning was beans.  Not overly exciting, but I like to keep some canned beans on hand.  They come in pretty hand in a pinch for a quick lunch or dinner.  I like to mix canned beans with some ground beef and canned tomatoes for an Indian Taco or warm meal on a crazy day.  I thought my beans turned out kind of pretty.

I had a couple cups of dry beans left over so I decided to soak them last night and cook for dinner today. My bean recipe is pretty simple.  Throw soaked beans in the crockpot, at seasonings, meat, and tomatoes and cook until beans are tender.  You can add as you see fit.

This is what I did today:

Before leaving to feed cows, I drained the liquid from the beans I soaked over night.  I added them to the crockpot and covered with a couple inches of water and turned on low.  Around 2:00 this afternoon I browned 1 pound of ground beef until cooked through.  Remember, ground beef needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160* to prevent food born illness.  I like to cook my ground beef to death, but not burned.  I think it gives a better flavor.

Who doesn't love cast iron?  I have 3 cast iron skillets that I use almost daily.  I read somewhere that they are actually better for you because they can add iron to your diet.  Who knows how true that is.  This skillet is my favorite of the 3, and is older than me.  After my ground beef was cooked to my liking, I added about 3/4's of a cup of onions and cooked them as well.

Forgive the blurry cell phone pictures!  I added the meat mixture, 2 medium sized cans of canned tomatoes, a bunch of garlic, and seasonings to the beans in my crockpot.  

I love crockpot liners.  They make cleaning up so much easier!  I cranked my crockpot up to high so everything will be warmed up by the time we eat later tonight.

I really like Chorizos in my beans, but didn't have any today.  If I'm feeling ambitious, I will make a pan of cornbread to eat with the beans for dinner.  Beans are super easy, a little go a long way, and you can add anything you want to them!  Enjoy.