Life Has Changed On The Prairie

Like everyone right now, we are faced with uncertainty mixed in with fear.  Taking action has added excitement and has helped to get our minds off dread of the virus and the future.

Our household now includes myself, my husband, my son and his wife and their 4 children, ages 12, 10, 7 and 5.  We have 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and a large room additionSacred Spaces that was a back porch that we enclosed.  My son and his family were renting a two story, 4 bedroom, 2 bath home on 10 acres that was perfect for their large family.  Their family included 2 cats and a growing rabbit family.  Then one day all that changed in an instant.  During a repair of a plumbing leak under the kitchen sink, the repairman thought he saw black mold which extended into the upstairs bathroom.  Before long, they had to move out.  School had started and because we live in a very rural area, there is a shortage of rental homes, especially for large families.  So we adjusted.  Our back porch is now their living area and we have 4 small children in one bedroom, ala “The Waltons”.  Its been exciting, challenging and a blessing to be a part of their lives every day.

Our life has always included a bit of “prepping”.  That’s part of country life.  In Oklahoma we need to be prepared for tornadoes and for winter ice storms.  A few years back our electric was out for 14 days due to an ice storm.  Fortunately our generator saw us through.  When the news begin to cover the Covid-19 and it’s possible spread to us, I began to inventory what we may need.

  1.  Prescriptions- I ordered a 90 day supply for John and I.
  2.  Over the Counter meds-Everything from headache, stomach, first aid to allergy relief.
  3.  Canned goods.
  4.  Meats- this year we are fortunate to have more than usual.  We have a deer that was harvested last November, part of a beef from the year before and a pig that was purchased from a lady who attends our church.
  5.  Gardening seeds and supplies.  In recent years our vegetable garden has got smaller each year.  This year my son and daughter-in-law has suggested we have a real garden, one that will support us.
  6.   Baking supplies – Flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt
  7.  Cleaning supplies – Lysol spray, disinfectant wipes, bleach, hydrogen peroxide
  8.   Paper goods – We don’t hoard toilet paper but with a family of 8 we keep a pretty good supply on hand.  My D-I-L purchased flannel to make “family cloth” if needed when the tp supply runs out.
  9.  Fuel and oil for cars, tractor and generator.
  10.  Get the cellar cleaned and stocked for tornado season.

I have a small flock of egg laying chickens that we keep in a movable pen.  They are aging and egg production has slowed down.  Yesterday, my Daughter-in-law and I went to Atwoods, our local farm goods store,  to purchase chicks, starter feed, and feeding equipment.  My plan was to only buy about 12 but my son suggested we get about 20.  They are straight run so we probably will have extra roosters that can be used for chicken and dumplings.

School has let out until April 6th here.  My grandchildren’s school year ends the first week of May so we expect school will not start back until the fall.  D-I-L is planning to homeschool the remainder of the year and possibly next year.

I’m sure there are holes in our planning.  We just do what we can and trust God for everything.  This is uncharted times for our generation but I feel as a family and a nation we’ll be much stronger having gone through this together.  How has your family prepared and what are you doing to keep up your spirits?

 

 

 

Slowdown on the Prairie

 

We awoke this morning with an unexpected blanket of snow on the ground. Once again Oklahoma and God has provided an unexpected weather change. Yes, it has been very cold the last couple of days (for Oklahoma) but the weather man predicted just a dusting.

When the ground is covered in snow, everything seems to come to a stall and there is a quiet reverance on the prairie. John says it’s God’s way of saying, “time to slow down”. Cows still have to be fed and ice on the ponds must be broke for watering. But, once that’s done life goes at a much slower pace. A hearty soup can be put in the crock pot and with a pot of steaming coffee one can relax with a good book or just enjoy the view.

 

winter-010617
View from our West Windows
play-ground-010617
Winter Playground

 

Man Week Has Arrived, a.k.a. Thanksgiving!

When I met my husband I soon learned that Thanksgiving doesn’t revolve around the turkey,  but the deer.  It’s rifle season week in Oklahoma.  Before we bought our home, we would make the trip to his sister’s home in the country so he could deer hunt.  I was very happy when we bought our home in the country so I could have our Thanksgiving dinner at home.

For many years now, I have called the beginning of deer season, “Man Week”. This was due to the invasion of men at our home.  Man Week has now become Man Season as duck hunting has become a popular past time as well.  Deer season has 3 phases: bow, primitive arms and rifle.  John does not bow hunt but we do have friends arriving who do.

A tradition on the first day of rifle season, which is tomorrow, is that John will get up way before day break and cook breakfast and have coffee ready for the men who will be hunting.  This year man week will include our granddaughter who took her first deer last year and is very excited to go out again.

I am a little tired (exhausted) by the time Thanksgiving is over, but it’s a wonderful feeling to have a family and friends tradition  that all look forward to coming back for the next year.

What traditions does your family enjoy around the holidays?

Recent Rains Have Us Kickin’ Up Our Heels!

It’s been dry for so long.  We’re enjoying the recent rains.  In past summers the drought and extreme heat killed pasture grasses forcing us to put out hay for cattle in August.  Shortage of hay drove up prices from $25 to $100 and up per round bale.  Ouch!

Praise God, it’s October and the cows are still enjoying green grass and children are happily playing in mud puddles!

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.” Isaiah 55:10  NLT

 

 

She was Tougher than Caroline Ingalls

My husband grew up on a dairy farm.  The stories he’s told me about his experiences are more like the 1800’s rather than my experiences of growing up in the 60’s. His younger years were in a home that did not have electricity or running water. They would haul water in buckets from their water well. His father worked and lived during the week in town over two hours away to help support the family while his mother stayed at the farm raising 6 girls and 1 mischievous boy. She didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense from her youngest son but she was a very loving mother. Her days consisted of cooking four meals. Yes, four: breakfast, lunch, a light supper and dinner.  After the children were in bed she would be sewing school clothes out of flour sacks. They had no telephone or television. They also grew all of their food in a large garden. After the dairy was sold, they raised thousands of rabbits which were sold to the U.S government.

Their nearest neighbor was about 3 miles away and she didn’t drive. Circumstances demanded she be strict and tough. She didn’t do all of this single handed, the children worked on the farm!  To her honor and credit all of her children stayed out of trouble and grew up to be responsible adults.

Before I knew my husband, Dessie cared for his invalid father at home until his death, where many would’ve placed him in a nursing home.  Even though she had a very difficult life she was not a bitter woman.

I knew Dessie in her elder years. She lived in a mobile home next to one of her daughters in the country. Once or twice a year she would visit my husband and I for about a week. Most daughter-in-laws might cringe at having their mother-in-law stay in their home for a week. This was never the case for me. She didn’t have to be entertained nor did she demand special accomadations. She became part of the household and would help with dishes, laundry or whatever chores we had to do. One year she noticed wild plums were on the trees ready to be picked and we were soon canning wild plum jelly. During the day she would lay down and take a short nap. I would guess at this time in her life she was in her late 70’s. As she aged she could no longer make the 3 hour trip and I really missed those visits. She had such a sweetness of spirit to her that it was hard to imagine the tough no-nonsense Mother he had growing up.

Dessie has been my role model for the perfect mother-in-law. She was helpful, flexible, not seeking her own way and she did not offer opinions on what her adult children should be doing with their lives (unless asked). I can’t say I have always followed in her footsteps perfectly but so thankful she created a path for me to follow. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 perfectly describes Dessie and what I hope to attain:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Dessies sewing machine
Dessie’s sewing machine

Miracle on the Prairie

We have a small herd of cattle here on the Prairie.  We’ve reduced the herd in recent years due to the drought, high cost of hay and our land would only support so many due to the large amount of cedar trees on our property. The drought appears to be over (we hope), hay costs have come back down and we have more available pasture land thanks to the mass removal of cedar trees  Building a Homestead – Part 1.

Building up the herd is a slow process.  We started out with one small heifer (female calf) given to us by a neighbor when we first moved here in 1995.  It was a hot July and our neighbor was talking to my husband lamenting that he was thinking about selling off his herd. It was hot, grass was brown, hay prices were high and he didn’t think his herd could make it through the summer.  We had lots of grass, 3 ponds with water,  but fences that needed to be repaired.  John suggested they work together to get the fence put up around 55 acres. In 100+ degree temperature and with only machetes to clear high grasses and trees, the fence was repaired where possible and new fence put in where the old fence was no longer usable.

Our neighbor’s cows were moved and the herd was saved!  So when the first calf was born, he gave it to us as a thank you.  John was not so sure he was ready to get in the cattle business since he did have a full-time job.

Fast forward to this year,  we’ve been waiting and longing to see some new calves this Spring and finally one has arrived!  When we first spotted her she seemed very alert and healthy.  As time passed John noticed she was not nursing.  Then we noticed she was trying to nurse but was sucking on the flanks of her mom.  This was definitely a new situation!  We’ve experienced a mom reject her calf, refuse to nurse resulting in us bottle feeding.  This usually happens after a difficult birth.

John tried to coax the calf to its mother to nurse. Nursing is so natural, that trying to teach a calf  to nurse is …..just unnatural!  We got out the bottle (like a baby’s, only bigger) and the milk replacement and started her on the bottle.  She took to this quite well.  We really did not want to continue bottle feeding.  It’s like having a new baby in the house and we’re getting too old for that! Plus, bottle fed calves don’t thrive and grow like momma fed calves.

We began to wonder if she might be blind.  We loaded her up in the pickup, just like we would a little baby, taking her to the Dr. (vet).  The vet checked her out and pronounced her certifiably blind! It appeared she had cataracts. There was nothing he could do for her. We had a week-long trip planned out-of-state for our Grandson’s graduation.  It’s one thing to ask your neighbors to feed your dogs, but you don’t ask anyone to bottle feed a calf!  Now what were we going to do?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6  Yes, this is what you do.

John thought perhaps he could train the calf to find its mama’s teats by lowering the bottle to force the calf’s head lower to mimic how he would nurse his mama.  He then transferred the calf to his mama.  Once the calf found the teat and began to suck, she got the idea quick.  No more bottle feeding!!

Then we begin to notice the calf was running, playing and bucking just like any other young calf.  She was not running into fences and she was no longer blind!  When we relayed the good news to the vet, he thought perhaps she must have had a virus that cleared up by itself. We are very thankful to God for this miracle on the Prairie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkeys and Tornadoes Calling

Last week and through yesterday the weather reports were indicating that we had a very high chance of experiencing severe weather, including large hail and tornadoes.  It’s April, nothing unusual for Oklahoma.  A few weeks back, I had cleaned  our cellar. Tornado Season Has Arrived! My son and his family of 5 would be joining us since they don’t have a storm cellar.  So I rearranged the cellar the day before to make sure there would be plenty of room for everyone along with our 2 dogs.  I decided to order pizza so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning since predictions were indicating the storm could arrive around 5:00pm.

Earlier in the day I went to my BSF bible study thinking everything would be under control when I came back home.  Best laid plans. While I was gone, John was cleaning out a drainage ditch so that the heavy rain expected would flow through.  It began to thunder which caused some turkeys to begin gobbling.  Any loud noise will cause them to announce their location.  If I hear thunder, I automatically think “lightening, I’m done, in the house!”  But, the sound of turkeys and it’s turkey season, mean’s go get the gun for John!

When I came home, the proud hunter had a turkey that probably weighed about 25 pounds! John knows I do not clean fish or any wild game, just cook.  So he dressed and plucked.  Then it was my turn.  I’m only thinking about how am I going to cut up this turkey, find room to hold it until I can decide what to do with him and in enough time to get to the cellar!  I cut him up like you would a chicken and put the pieces in a large stock pot.  Fortunately, John’s small ice box in his shop was available to keep it refrigerated until the next day.

turkey

 

My plan is to make turkey jerky with one of the breasts, crock pot the legs and one of the  thighs for turkey pot pie and I’m going to try canning the other breast and thigh.  Wild turkey is much leaner than ones you would buy at the grocery store.  Turkey jerky is very good and I’m expecting the crock pot and pressure canning will produce a tender meat.  I love chicken that’s been pressure canned.  It actually improves the flavor.

His beautiful feathers will be used for a display that will include red cedar.  This will be a gift for my sweet daughter-in-law who loves these displays along with the European deer mounts John makes.

 

So all turned out well.  We did make a trip to the cellar.  Some high winds passed over with only one broken branch of my crepe myrtle bush and a lot of turkey to eat!

Fast, Frugal and Filling – or What’s for Dinner?

I have to admit it – cooking is not my passion, even though I do cook most nights of the week, 52 weeks a year.  That may come as a surprise since women on the prairie or Pioneer Women on the Osage prairie are supposed to be great cooks, while raising a large family, homeschooling and writing blogs and books. I’m just not that talented or energetic.  I do have a meat and potato kind of guy but he tolerates my food experiments.  Tonight’s experiment was an A+ so thought I would share.

Sometimes I’ll try a new recipe but tonight it had to be fast, frugal and filling.  I opened the freezer hoping a fully cooked meal would appear and found some chicken and broth I had frozen about a month ago.  This was actually the leftovers that were boiled to pick the last goodies from the bone.  I had a small amount of Amish noodles, along with some fresh mushrooms and some wild onions in a moment of soup inspiration.

wild onions

I love creamy soups; clam chowder, cream of chicken, creamy potato but I’ve learned to start with the basic white sauce to make them. It can also be used to make a delicious pot pie.  It seems to be a lost art with so many canned soups available at the store. A white sauce is cheap and can save a last minute trip to the grocery store.  So for those who’ve never tried:

  1. 3 Tablespoons butter
  2. 3 Tablespoons flour
  3. 1 cup milk, half/half, or chicken broth

The above recipe is equivalent to about 1 can of soup.  You can add any ingredients you have depending on your soup mood.

Melt butter over low heat, add the flour and cook until absorbed by the butter.  Add the liquid while whisking.  Continue stirring until the mixture is the right thickness.

Once I had my creamy soup base, I added all ingredients except the noodles.  I brought to a gentle boil and added the noodles and cooked for an additional 10 minutes.  I had some leftover cornbread muffins and even my meat and potato guy was happy!

Soup and cornbread

There really isn’t a recipe, since I just threw things into the pot, but if there was a recipe, it would be something like this:

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom and Noodle Soup

Makes Three 1 cup servings or 2 man size bowls

  1. 1/2 cup shredded chicken
  2. 1/4 cup chopped green onions or to taste
  3. 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  4. 2 cups chicken broth
  5. 2 teaspoons chicken broth base seasoning (better than the cubes)
  6. 1 cup white sauce
  7. 1/2 cup dried noodles
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Make basic white sauce. Add all ingredients to the white sauce except noodles.  Bring to a gentle boil and add noodles.  Cook according to length of time given for noodles. Enjoy!

 

The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle

In today’s economy, knowing the Three R’s is a valuable survival skill for all, but for the rural homestead family, it’s not an option.  There is this false fantasy that moving to the country is going to be “The Simple Life” and we’ll just quit our jobs, grow a garden and live off what we eat.  Sounds good but, it also can be a very expensive life.  There are property taxes to pay, expensive homeowner’s insurance- especially in Oklahoma where tornadoes, ice storms and now earthquakes are common place.  There can also be trucks, tractors,  garden tillers and outbuildings for storage.  All of which can be quite expensive, even though we usually always buy used and do our own maintenance. In most rural homesteads close to us, these necessities take priority over new furniture, vacations, home improvements or appliances. There is a time and place for the nicer things, but they don’t come first.  All of this is a lead up to a small project I recently completed that even my husband asked why I didn’t just buy a new one.

We were given a used swing set about 7 years ago when my first grandchild was born. Now, 3 more grandchildren later, it has seen much better days.  We’ve been having visions of a wooden fort/swing set that John could build from cedar.  Cedar stands up very well outdoors and the kids would love it.  But he has a lot of projects going on right now and I wanted something they could use now that warmer weather is here.  I thought about getting an inexpensive set at Walmart which starts at about $185 including tax. Looking closer it really wasn’t any better built than what we already have, just nicer paint.  Ours was still solid, had a nice slide and a double seated swing along with two hanging swings.  It did need to be staked in the ground and painted.  It was very rusted but still intact.

A visit to Walmart and I purchased 4 cans of Krylon Supermax paint at $4.00 per can that can be used on metal.  It said it was no rust, no sanding and no primer.  Same brand had a nice paint to be used on plastic.  I bought 2 cans for $4.50.  I ordered the stakes online with Walmart for $11.47.  The total cost $38.72 including tax.  A savings of $146 and I think a nicer swing set than if I would have bought new!  It didn’t take long at all.  We did gently sand the rough rusted surface and then spray painted.  It dried very quick. Can’t wait to find out if the grandkids notice the difference.

It’s very rewarding to restore a used item, keep it out of the landfill and save money!

 

Schroom Time

It’s been very dry this Spring but we recently had some nice rains with sunshine expected the rest of the week. The rain and the sunshine should produce the rare delicacy of wild mushrooms.   Hopefully tomorrow we’ll take the 4 wheeler out in the woods and began the annual ritual of mushroom hunting.  Actually this will be the first anniversary of a successful mushroom hunt.  We have lived here since 1995 but coming from the city, we were a little hesitant to eat something we could not properly identify.  If you don’t know what you are eating, it can make you very sick.  Also, neighbors do not reveal their hunting spots.

Two years ago, our daughter-in-law who was raised in this area, discovered Chanterrele mushrooms on a hillside near a creek.  We were a little leary, but she had ate many times before.  She sauteed in butter and they were quite delicious.

Chanterrelle 2
Chanterelle mushroom

The Chanterelle has a toxic look-a-like called the Jack-o-lantern mushroom.  It is a bright orange mushroom that has yellow orange meat inside.  The Chanterelle has a white colored meat. Underneath the Jack-o-lantern are gills that look like fans of pages of paper stacked together.  The Chanterelle has ridges as you can see in the picture above.  This mushroom comes out in summer.  It was my favorite. They are also high in vitamin D.

Most mushroom hunters look for the prized Morel, which is what should be popping up any day now.  Last year my husband found the mother lode underneath a tree close to his deer stand.  They love stands of Oak trees with lots of leaf cover on the ground. The picture below shows some of our first finds.  Unfortunately, later I discovered that you should not pull them up by the root.  They should be cut off at the base, leaving the root and put in a mesh bag to help spread the spores around so they will pop up next year. As you see these are coned shaped covered in ridges.  Not to be confused with the false morel. False morels can have a large dark colored head that looks like a brain and is solid inside while the Morel is hollow.

Morel Mushroom
Morel Mushrooms

If you go mushroom hunting take someone with you who can help you identify the correct mushroom!  After we picked our first batch, we had a neighbor inspect for us.  Now we know what to look for.

The next mushroom was found by a friend of my husband.  It is called Chicken in the Woods.  It can be battered and fried and the meat has a taste very similar to chicken breast.  This one weighed 5 pounds!  They are found at the base of dead trees.

chicken of the woods (2)

Do you go schroom hunting?  If so, what are some of your favorites?