No Weed-No Water Garden!

As the seasons arrive in their proper order, Spring wildflowers appear in an orderly fashion.  They are as beautiful as any cultivated garden and the only requirement is to admire and enjoy.  No watering or weeding!  One of the first flowers to make it’s appearance is what we call Sweet Williams. These have a very beautiful delicate purple flower.  I have been tempted to transplant to my flower beds but wildflowers do not cooperate in forced plantings. These are found along the sides and ditches of country roads. They’ll often appear in areas where the ground has been plowed up releasing long buried seeds.

Before the Sweet Williams have died, the next beauty to appear is the Indian Paintbrush. The Indian Paintbrush will blanket the cattle pastures in a sea of bright red.  Next comes the Navaho Indian blanket with it’s gold center surrounded by deep red and outlined in gold.  Pastures and sides of country roads will be covered in waves of the light and dark reds of the Indian Paintbrush and Navaho Indian Blankets.

As Spring progresses into Summer there will be many more wildflowers that will make their appearance.  Some of these flowers will only show their beauty under certain conditions.  The beautiful yellow blooms on this Prickly Pear Cactus actually bloomed during one of the worst droughts we had in 2011. This Barrel Cactus also gave a rare show of blooms during that same drought. In fact, all of these flowers bloomed during one of the worst droughts in Oklahoma. Goes to show that some of the worst trials and conditions can produce the greatest beauty.

Building a Homestead – Part 2

In order to finish our porch, which was 13.5 ‘ by 40’, we would need a way to saw the logs.  We began our search for a saw mill.  We attended a local farm show to see some of the saw mill vendors that were demonstrating.  It was very interesting and very expensive.  A few inquiries and we soon had different brochures from various manufacturers.

I started browsing some of the woodworking forums and the EZ Boardwalk  Jr. Portable Sawmill was discussed as a well built and affordable alternative.  The company is owned and operated by Mennonites, who are known for their hard work ethic and quality products.  The company is located in Missouri.  The owner often make trips South to assist with storm cleanups and often makes deliveries on the way for a small fee.

After investigating other saw mills, we settled on the EZ Boardwalk Jr.  The price was lower and the quality superior to anything else we saw. We were able to coordinate a delivery of the mill off a nearby Interstate.  My husband had never operated a mill in his life, but he is very mechanically inclined. With a short learning curve he was ready to begin sawing logs. He found a planer and some other wood working tools for a small price at a local estate sale.

During this same time period, we found a reputable local builder who was able to correct the problems we had with our porch, framing it in, installing windows and a door.  Our dreams of a sun room were beginning to materialize.  We insulated it ourselves, installed sheetrock and plywood. My husband and a friend ,an electrician,  installed the electrical wiring.  I ordered the lights online, found the flooring from a nearby business and painted the ceiling. In three months he:

  1. sawed the logs
  2. cut and planed the boards
  3. applied Helmsman Spar Urethane,let it dry, sanded each board and start the process again three times.  This produced a beautiful shine for the final finish.
  4. Measured and cut each board.  Unfortunately the porch was not square although the window openings were corrected.
  5. Made window frames, floor molding and quarter round molding.
  6. Installed plywood for subflooring.

My husband is a hunter so his “trophys” are now hanging up and look quite appropriate with the Eastern Red Cedar.  Before you get upset about the displayed deer and turkey feathers, we eat everything that is hunted.  For one year we had no other meat but deer. Deer is very lean and a healthy red meat. Our ancestors survived off the land by hunting and fishing and we carry on that tradition.

Later we found an electric fireplace at an outlet store.  The fireplace was in working order but the cabinet was missing pieces.  That is why we got such a good buy for it.  John built a corner cabinet that would also hold a television and DVD player.  John found a used pool table and our family room was complete.  This makes a wonderful play room for our 4 grandchildren that are ages 8, 6, 3 and 1.  They are really what this is all about!

Building a Homestead – Part 1

When we moved here in 1995 the land was covered with junk cars, remains of oil field drilling equipment, old appliances and trash dumped in ditches.  When my husband brought me to see the home and land, my first response was “You’ve got to be kidding!”.  But, what I’ve learned over these past years is that my husband is a man of vision.  He immediately could picture everything cleaned up, fences repaired, a pond in front of the house.  All of that, except the pond, has been accomplished.  Single handed with dogged determination and back breaking hard work,  John has cleaned up trash, hauled off old cars and anything else he could take and sell for scrap iron.  I wish I had before and after pictures.  Driving fence posts by hand thru sand rock and stringing fence around 110 acres is a blog post by itself.  He did all of this while holding down a full time job that he worked 40-50 hours per week. I am in total awe of what he has accomplished.  At the same time we slowly remodeled our fixer upper.  One of the remodeling projects that took the longest to accomplish is the point of this post.

I need to back up a little and explain when we first moved here another thing that covered the land was the Eastern Red Cedar.  For those not familiar with this tree, it is considered a noxious weed to cattle ranchers to be cut and burned at every opportunity.  When given a chance it spreads like wildfire.    It looks like an innocent Christmas tree. Some have used it for that instead of buying a tree. This is no innocent tree.  According to OSU Department of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources, one tree 12 inches in diameter can drink up to 48 gallons per day.  Vegetation cannot grow under the trees destroying acres of pasture land for ranchers. Because red cedars have volatile oils,  they contributed to the major wildfires Oklahoma experienced in 2011.  After years of severe drought and fire danger, the USDA decided something had to be done. A Federal grant was offered to entice landowners to clear off the cedars.  ALL of them!  This would mean more usable pasture land for us so that we could keep more cattle and a little extra money for our trouble.

The project was split up into two parts.  Our home and the original 55 acre tract and the 60 acre tract that we purchased later. We would have to pay for expenses to hire dozer work and hired hands up front to be reimbursed when the job was completed and final inspection done by the local USDA agent.  The dozer could get large trees, but small trees would have to be taken down with either a machete or chain saw.  There were thousands of small trees!  John, along with a hard working teenage neighbor of ours worked on this for about a year.  Blood, sweat and tears. When it was finished and the final inspection was done, we were given approval on the first inspection.  Some of the land owners had 3 or 4 inspections before approval becaused they wanted ALL of those trees gone!

There were thousands of trees laying on the ground and we had to decide how to dispose of them.  Many of the small ones were piled together and burned.  The large ones were a different story.  The Eastern Red Cedar may be a nuisance to the rancher, but it has some of the most beautiful wood God has ever created.  Burning something that could be used to create something of beauty just couldn’t be allowed to happen!  Which brings me back to that remodeling project we wanted to do.

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Just a few of the red cedars of the thousands that were removed.

On the south side of  the house was a full length attached porch that had been built with cement blocks and openings left for windows.  We had attempted to frame in the windows ourselves but nothing was square and the window openings were all different odd sizes.  So the porch set unfinished for years. Over the years we had a couple of people give estimates to finish it and the prices were too expensive. So hope of ever finishing it had pretty much died.  We began to envision this room being completed in red cedar.  This is the room I wrote about in Sacred Spaces.  To be continued.

 

 

Tornado Season Has Arrived!

Spring on the prairie means the arrival of wildflowers, blue birds building nests in the boxes we built, new baby calves and in Oklahoma, Spring also means the arrival of tornado season.  We do have tornados in every month of the year.  I have seen very destructive tornadoes in December.  But our main time of the year is from April through June.  Because Spring has arrived early this year, I am preparing early.

We are fortunate to have an underground cellar next to the house.  It would be nice to have a safe room in the house.  We have an older home that we added a cellar after the F4 tornado in Moore, OK on May 8, 2003. Moore was devastated on May 20, 2013 by an F5.  F5 is the maximum rating on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. There were 24 deaths and 212 injuries. Sadly 7 of those deaths were at an elementary school.

Even though Oklahomans have got used to this as part of our life, tornadoes are serious business.  Being prepared and knowing what to do during a tornado is a must.  We live in a rural area where there are no tornado sirens blasting to warn us like there are in the towns and metropolitan areas.  Fortunately, with modern technology and improved weather forecasting, it’s easier to keep a heads up to deadly weather.

I recently cleaned  our cellar to make room  for my husband and I, our 2 dogs, as well as close neighbors who sometimes join us, along with my son and his family when they are visiting. It does get a little crowded sometimes!  This picture is before cleaning!

The cellar is used to store canned goods, extra water and important papers.  It’s also a good storage area for potatatoes packed under straw.  The cool consistent temperature underground is ideal for food preservation.  I’ve never had a potato go bad this way.  When I find a good sale, I can stock up.  Last year I experimented with pumpkins and green tomatoes in the same manner.  The pumpkins looked good for several months but when I tried to blend the pumpkin meat it was dry and stringy compared to the freshly picked.  The tomatoes did ok, but I should have floured and froze them for fried green tomatoes, yum!  I had a busy garden season and was over run so I got lazy. Other items in the cellar not shown:  folding table, folding chairs, emergency weather radio that can be ran on batteries or hand cranked, plastic cups, several gallons water, snacks and coloring books and crayons for the grandkids.

Before we had a cellar, we would go to the central location of our home without windows and have a mattress handy to keep protected from flying objects.  Fortunately, we’ve never been hit but have had some scary weather close by.

tornado cloud
This was behind our home in 09/2015 but was not a tornado (I think!)

 

Sacred Spaces

Sacred – set apart for – Do you have a place you go to daily to recharge your batteries, rest your mind, speak to God and listen for his Holy Spirit?  Each morning I go to my special place to praise and give thanks to God.  I pray for my family, friends and God’s work and purpose here and abroad.  This is a peaceful beginning to my day and prepares me for whatever the day may bring.  I then begin my daily Bible study and homework from Bible Study Fellowship.

If you don’t have a special place, think about where that place could be for you.  It could be a comfy chair next to a sunlit window or even a place outside where the view will draw your mind upon God and away from the daily grind.  Susannah Wesley (1701 – 1800) bore 17 children, two which were John and Charles, the founders of Methodism. When she needed time to pray, it was said that she would take her large apron and cover her head.  Her children knew this meant not to bother their mother during this time.

Another person that comes to mind, is the fictional character, Clark Davis in the movie, Love Comes Softly.  Set in the wild prairie of Montana, with no church buildings, Clark had a special place with a panaramic view where he would pray, sing and worship.  It was on a wooden bench similar to this one.wooden bench

The wood on the walls and bench is Eastern Red Cedar.  My husband cut the trees, sawed on his sawmill, planed and nailed the boards.  If you have ever dreamed of building your own home or finishing a room like we did, I’ll be giving more details soon.

 

 

Food from the Homestead

 

Opened up the last jar of canned pinto beans that we grew in last year’s garden.  It was an experiment to grow pintos, navy, and lima beans.  I planted a row of each about 20 feet long.  I found out it takes alot of planting to get a substantial amount of beans but it was fun watching them grow.  I ended up with enough pintos to can 3 quarts which hardly seems worth the effort.  But, it’s nice to say that we are eating what we grew ourselves.

Along with the beans we had a mess of crappie (pronounced croppie) caught by my husband in a creek behind our home.  This is a wonderful white meat fish found in lakes, ponds and creeks here in Oklahoma. Even those that don’t care for fish usually love the mild flaver.  Along with a fresh salad, it was a wonderful dinner.  There is an art to fried fish to make it crisp and light brown on the outside and nice and flaky on the inside.  On the side, tartar sauce with my special receipe

For nice crisp fish:

The batter is half white flour and half cornmeal.  Fish is filleted.  Use about a half inch or inch of vegetable or canola oil in a cast iron skillet.  Heat up the skillet first for a few minutes and add the oil.  I just rinse my fish in water and dredge in the flour/cornmeal mixture.  No seasoning is added yet. Make sure the oil is sizzling before adding fish. Let it cook a few minutes until lightly browned and turn.  The pieces are pretty small so the cooking is fast!  I remove the fish to a platter and then (the secret ingredient) sprinkle with Lowry’s Seasoning salt. Cover with a towel to keep warm and cook another batch.

For the best tartar sauce:

Start with Miracle Whip salad dressing, about a cup.  Add about an 1/8th cup of chopped white onion and an equal amount of chopped dill pickles.  Finally, sprinkle with Lowry’s and mix together. Deliciously simple!

We know it’s Spring when the crappie are biting and the daffodils appear!daffodils

 

Bird Whisperer

Busy day today.  I drive two hours to attend my weekly bible study with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) every Tuesday.  In the future I will blog about BSF because it is so worth the time spent.

I wanted to share a video of my husband spending a moment with a beautiful red cardinal.  Bet you have never seen anything like it!  I never have and glad I was able to catch it with my phone.  Winter is still technically here but we are seeing signs of an early Spring; warmer weather, blue birds making nests and neighbors planting gardens against better judgement.  Our last Spring freeze is considered around April 15th.

I hope you enjoy!