It’s Sunday morning, December 13th and we woke up to a very rare thing in Oklahoma, SNOW! Snow has a way of covering the ugliest things with a pristine white beauty. It has a calming tranquility that insists all work be put aside and enjoy the view.
No need to worry about using the storm cellar right now, except for extra storage!
But, for children, it means snowball fights and building snowmen.
Plotting the Battle and A Snowman in Progress
One Brave Hen Ventures out and The Summer Garden Put To Bed
You can tell from the pictures that we were not ready for winter. Cushions left on outdoor furniture, garden tool on hen house, trellises and tomato cages still in the garden. My son told his wife Sarah when clean clothes were still on their bed at night, “Could you move your good intentions?” Our “good intentions” got left out.
One of Oklahoma’s notorious ice storms has hit and covered the state. It has a beauty to it but it can be deadly, both to the unprepared and to the prepared. In 2007, a bad ice storm hit leaving us without electric for 14 days. Fortunately, we have a generator and was able to get gas to run it.
Adults went into action getting out candles and stored water. Chickens and rabbits still had to be fed and watered so the children bundled up and took care of the rabbits and John took care of the chickens.
Fortunately our heat and cooking is from propane so we were quite comfortable. Sarah put on a large pot of Hunter’s Stew. I settled in with a real book I recently ordered on disaster preparedness of all things! This storm along with the pandemic showed me some of the holes in my preparedness plan.
When the lights went out, the atmosphere became a different place. Think Little House on the Prairie. My 8 year old grandson announced he wants to live without electric when he grows up. The rest of the children, ages 15 through 6 decided to play the board game, The Settlers of Catan. Normally homeschooling, their local school was out, so they enjoyed the day off too. No requests to watch television or play with electronics, just children gathered around the kitchen table playing a game of strategy. Without lights or electronics, choices for activities become simpler. Life slows down naturally.
Our day without electricity ended pretty quick, thanks to our local electric co-op linemen. I want to keep the peacefulness just a little longer.
The last few weeks have been a blur of canning and freezing as the end of the garden season comes to an end. Besides the usual diced and whole tomatoes, salsa, tomato and spaghetti sauce, I’ve tried ketchup and tomato preserves. The tomato preserves are surprisingly delicious. Another new experiment this year was Jalapeno Jelly. The mixture of spicy and sweet has proved to be addictive. Okra was a big producer this year so we’ve froze it both battered and plain. Okra is a wonderful addition to soups. My mother always made okra cooked in tomatoes, bacon and onions which is quite yummy so I’ve canned okra and tomatoes. However, my brother and I are the only ones who like it this way. It has to be battered and fried for everyone else!
The night before last we were warned of a possible hard frost. It was all hands on deck to try and save as much as possible of the last of the tomatoes, both green and red, and a mountain of Banana, Hungarian, Bell and Jalapeno peppers. The harvest filled a deep wheelbarrow. We were happy to split it up and share with relatives and neighbors.
To get out of the house and the kitchen, I took a little trail ride with John to see his latest tiny cabin on stilts (hunting stand). Bow season for deer hunting has started and it soon will be muzzleloader or primitive arms season. This is a very big deal in our family as I’ve talked about before in https://osageprairie.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/man-week-has-arrived-a-k-a-thanksgiving/. This is not just sport but food for our family. John never harvests anything that is not food.
John designed his cabin to avoid climbing and hunting from a tree stand which can be quite dangerous. Now he has a comfortable place to sit with a propane heater when it’s cold, drink his coffee and even fall asleep without falling out of a tree. He invited me to climb up and inspect. He even has carpet on the floor! The pictures at the top right was my view out of the windows. Very peaceful with only the sound of birds. All summer with the hustle and bustle of family life and a big household I’ve been dreaming of a quiet place to get away where I could be alone with God and pray.
Osage (pronounced O-say-ge) County Oklahoma was named after the Osage Indian Tribe who reside there. The oral and historical history of the tribe dates back to 200 to 400 A.D. *
The Osage Indians had a well established presence in Oklahoma as far back as 1750. In 1839 the U.S. Government removed the Osage from Oklahoma and Arkansas to Kansas to stop fighting between the Osage and the Cherokees. The Osage were removed back to Oklahoma in 1871. In 1872 Congress established the boundaries of the Osage Nation consisting of approximately 1.47 million acres. The lands in Kansas were sold at a profit which allowed the tribe to buy their own reservation and complete sovereignty as a nation. This became a part of Oklahoma Territory in 1890.**
In 1906 the land was divided up among 2228 tribal members in the Osage Allotment Act. They received 657 acres each. Each allotment of land was called a headright. The Allotment also separated the mineral rights from the surface rights to the Osage Indian Tribe in perpetuity.***
The Osage were encouraged to farm the Oklahoma lands but found the soil poor, but it was rich in range land for cattle. Today 39,650 acres of that range land has been restored in the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve North of Pawhuska, OK. The Osage began leasing their land to cattle ranchers which increased the tribe’s income.
In the 1920’s oil, known as Black Gold, was discovered in the Osage. Luck and successful negotiating by the Osage brought them great wealth. In 1924 the annual headright from oil leases had reached $13000. For a family of four annual earnings of $52000 was worth $772,400 in today’s purchasing power!
The Osage were soon driving the finest cars, wearing haute couture fashion, building mansions and sending their children to the best private schools.
Concerned about reckless spending of the Osage’s wealth, the U.S. government appointed white guardians to anyone who was at least half Osage or a minor. This system along with allowing non-Osage to inherit headrights became a breeding ground for greed, corruption and murder.
Having grown up in Fairfax, where much of this happened, I never heard about this part of our history. Author, David Grann has brought this story to life in his New York Times Best Seller, Killers of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.
The book centers around Mollie Burkheart (shown with her two sisters above). This picture was provided to David Grann by Raymond Red Corn. Mollie’s two sisters died mysterious deaths just a few years apart and now Mollie was getting sick. I’ll stop there because it’s a great story. If you haven’t read the book, read it when you can stay up late. You won’t want to put it down!
Another person who thought this story needed to be told is the famed movie director, Martin Scorsese. The movie has been delayed due to Covid, but it is being filmed in the Pawhuska area with an all star cast that includes Leonardo DeCaprio and Robert De Niro. I’m excited that they are making the movie locally and the Osage people will be part of the telling of this sad chapter in our history.
It’s late summer and the call of Fall and the deer hunting season is strong. John went deep into the woods behind our house to remove one of the rarely used hunting stands in that area of our property. It’s actually a miniature hunting cabin complete with door, windows, built in seats and propane heaters. They’re built on metal stilts with a ladder to give an excellent view to spot game. The finishing touch is completed by camouflage paint and cedar branches.
In the process of removing the stand John spotted a bright red wildflower that he had never seen before. He wanted to show me the beautiful flower so we took off into the woods on our four wheeler.
This area of the woods offered up some delightful wildflowers that we haven’t seen before. Each year there is a season on wildflowers. In early Spring we see a violet bouquet of flowers we call Sweet Williams. Then comes the Indian Paint Brushes with their brilliant red flowers on upright stalks followed by Navajo Blankets and Black Eyed Susans. The unidentified red flower looked like a cross between a trumpet flower and a Bird of Paradise. But to me, the star of the show was the magnificent stand of purple ball flowers. In researching, I believe they are called a Texas Thistle.
So blessed to be able to get out and admire God’s amazing and unusual creations!
I was all set to do a series on the many projects we have going on, but honestly it’s just been too much. By the end of the day, I’ve not felt like using any brain power to write. I just needed some mental space. In the middle of the pandemic, and gardening and canning season my daughter-in-law needed surgery which would require 8 weeks of down time. Along with 5 kids and 4 adults who expect to eat every day, this required every bit of strength and energy to get through each day.
Sarah would homeschool the children after she had a few days of recovery time. The children were good about getting their own breakfast and lunches. Sarah made sure to have plenty of foods that made it easy for them.
John pitched in to weed and water our huge garden that was rapidly producing. We’ve never had a garden that produced in this quantity. I would pick and can whatever was needing it the most.
We purchased Mrs. Wages Pickling mixes earlier in the season so we’ve canned Polish Dill, Kosher Dill, Spicy Pickles, and Jalapeno Pickle Relish. We’ve kept John supplied in cucumbers and onions mixed with vinegar. We’ve given cucumbers to our neighbors and relatives. I’m out of ideas for cucumbers! Any ideas? Maybe I should try to make dehydrated cucumber chips. I know they are pretty good breaded and fried.
The tomatoes have been bountiful. We have heirloom varietys and the standard Big Boys which are doing great. I’ve canned whole and diced as well as dehydrating them. Recently I pressure canned okra and tomatoes. When I was growing up my Mother would fry some bacon with diced onions and add a can of okra and tomatoes. Delicious! I’m the only one in my immediate family who likes okra cooked this way. Everyone else wants okra fried.
I’ve been slicing okra, dipping it in buttermilk and egg and rolling it in a half/half mixture of flour and cornmeal. Each piece is frozen separately on a cookie sheet and then put in a gallon bag in the freezer. This is the traditional Southern way of cooking okra.
We’ve been blessed with an abundance of squash, pumpkins, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, basil, zucchini, green beans and beans of every variety. Not sure what to do with all these peppers!
Yesterday I was really excited to find this!
There are many more projects going on around The Prairie but need to get busy for now. I hope you and your family are safe and healthy. My prayers are for those battling Covid and for the families who have suffered so much from hurricane Laura.
We have two families under one roof with 9 people. Sarah’s older son is visiting for the summer. Since the Covid 19 pandemic we’ve been eating together. I was cooking separately for John and I because we have some dietary restrictions and we eat earlier in the day. That was just too complicated and too many cooks in the kitchen!
I’m fortunate to have a lot of cabinet space and a separate laundry room/food pantry. But over the years the cabinets and laundry room have become a place for extra storage. I have a reputation in the family for being a “tightwad”. I call it frugal. The thought of renting a storage unit to store extra junk would never cross my mind . However, I’ve resorted to buying a pantry for extra food storage when I could sort through all the cabinets to make room for the extra food that is coming into our house. Right now with gardening, raising chickens, and canning I just didn’t have the energy. This unit I bought can always be used for my quilting and sewing supplies if it’s no longer needed for food in the future. Plus, I got a great buy.
I purchased this direct from Sauder online. Years ago I purchased a Sauder office desk when I was working from home as a Mortgage Broker and it’s still holding up very well. I love the built in shelves on the side door. Shipping was free also. This is not a paid commercial! The only downside is that it came in many pieces. John is quite mechanical but he really wasn’t in the mood to be putting this together. After he laid out the pieces it went together pretty fast.
Back in The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle The Three R’s – Reuse, Restore, Recycle I told how I took a old rusty swing set that had been passed along to my grandchildren and extended the looks and life with some metal paint. Four years later and the set has not only lost it’s looks but had become dangerous. One of my granddaughter’s fell from a swing and hurt her back when a chain broke. The swings and slide were promptly removed. Our newly expanded garden would be needing trellises for green beans, squash and cucumbers. My daughter-in-law had the wonderful idea to use the swing set frame for one of the trellises.
A neighbor who has a tire shop was happy to give us some tractor tires. The tires are a smaller tractor tire but larger than pickup tires. These will be used to grow potatoes. As the leaves grow up another tire is stacked up, dirt added and more potatoes are added. This method not only saves space (which isn’t our problem) but saves labor (which is our problem).
Another reuse project is converting a well used sand box that had lost most of it’s sand, actually small river rocks, to a kitchen garden.
Farmers, ranchers and homesteaders have always had to make do and reuse what they had on hand. Funds, time and shopping options are limited. We’re carrying on that tradition.
It’s been a busy, hectic and stressful week on the Prairie. In many ways, this is a good thing. I’m thankful for grandkids that need to be fed 3 times a day, dishes that need to be cleaned 3 times a day, chickens and pets that need to be fed and watered, and gardening activities. It takes our mind off the worry about this strange silent killer that has taken every one hostage. I’m thankful that we are all together and working together as a family. Right now the children are outside enjoying the warmer weather, laughing and enjoying a Spring day. It’s moments like these that bring hope.
Our little flock of 8 chickens that are close to retirement have decided to step up production to 6 eggs a day. They are Novagens. When I decided I wanted to try pastured egg layers, I wanted to have a flock that were already laying. I found these on Facebook Marketplace. Novagens are commercial layers that are a cross between Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns. They do well on the pasture and lay beautiful brown eggs. Their prime egg laying is up to 18 months so that’s why we went ahead and bought the chicks as their laying numbers have declined.
We bought a mixture of breeds at Atwoods, Rhode Island Reds, some black chicks that may be Barred Plymouth Rock (not sure yet) and some white chicks that have grown at a much faster rate than the others. It’s possible they are Cornish Cross. I used to raise the Cornish Cross for meat with the movable pens and they were ready to butcher in 8 weeks. Today I noticed that the white ones had some sores on them and then the little Rhode Island Reds were picking at them and pulling out their feathers so we had to separate them. I was surprised the little guys were picking on the much bigger chickens.
The indoor plants are coming along very nice but they need to go outside quick. Our last frost date is April 15th and I usually try to stick to that date. Oklahoma can have such nice weather in March that you really want to get those tomato plants out in the garden but along comes a hail storm and it’s all for loss. We’re so close to that date and the weather report is showing warmer weather, I think we’ll risk it this week.
Like everyone else our world is getting smaller. I’m so used to many friends of ours and our kids coming by on a daily basis, but that’s all changed. Our front gates have been closed and we’ve set out a little table for packages to be left by the post office or FedEx.
I miss attending our local church. I’ve been watching online. It’s Palm Sunday today. This virus has stripped us (me) down to the bare essentials; Health, home, food, family and faith.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 NIV
This has been a busy week. A friend, whose Mother is in a local nursing home, sent out a call for seamstresses to make face masks for the staff. I have leftover fabric from quilt making and the blessings of You Tube provided the instructions so I’ve been called into action. I’ll go into more detail later. Sliced bread is sold out as quick as toilet paper here so we’ve been making our own. Yesterday I made a recipe for sandwich bread but it was too crumbly for my liking so I’ll need to research what went wrong and try again.
John has been getting out of confinement to check for fish at the creek which runs behind our property. While I was planning to start breadmaking, he rushes in and tells me to buy a fishing license online because the fish are biting in a big way. Every cast is a sand bass on the line. So off we went. There is no limit on sand bass because they are so plentiful. What a blessed way to fill our freezer! We cut up 13 quarts of wonderful white fish. I would rather eat fish than steak any day! Like the Southern girl I am, it has to be fried in a half and half mixture of flour and cornmeal topped off with Lowry’s Seasoning salt. I always make my own tartar sauce by dicing onions, pickles and mixing with Miracle Whip and again a little Lowry’s.
Later in the day, my sweetheart brought me this wildflower bouquet. Wildflowers have a season here. The first to arrive are what we call Sweet Williams and such a heavenly aroma they have.
We have a spot (secret) on our property where the Morel Mushrooms appear to let us know it’s Schroom Time Today two magically appeared. My son and family are off to the woods right now to hunt for more.
The world is in chaos right now, but fish, Sweet Williams and Morels are a reminder from God that He is still in control.