Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gone Playing Again!!

Back from camping and off again for the big school shopping and last of summer 'hurrah' city trip! Lots to share, but I gotta go!

Here are some quick highlights from our first ever Sexton Family Camp Trip:

Camping was a blast... cold, but fun!
Yes, lots of Yahoos... two shots were fired in the 'no firearms allowed' campground at Olive Lake, oh, about 2 am.. The Nervous Nellie in me was wondering was it because of a Bear? Or were the Yahoos just being Yahoos? Visons of the Far Side comic where the bears are checking out the 'sandwiches' at the campground (people in sleeping bags) kept flashing in my mind.. I never slept (I am sure)... all four of us were in the tent together, and it was very cozy! Good thing cause it was dang cold! Brr!!! Jake and Dick both talk in their sleep... Dick also snores, and we had 'visitors' of the cloved foot kind! Jake yelled in his sleep and then a bunch of critters 'stampeeded' off! Oh joy, was I freaking out....

We got skunked fishing, at Crawfish Lake, and Jake fell in into the lake while navigating a fallen log...this was 1 1/2 miles from our vehicle.. did I mention it was a cold day? Poor little guy. I made him get nekid so I could wring out his clothes... I gave him my sweatshirt to wear, and my extra socks (seems he didn't have his emergency pair in his backpack)... he had to hike back in wet 'choose', undies, and 'pantaloonies'...(language is in memory of my deceased Grandpa Leonard - who said 'choose' for shoes, and 'pantaloonies' for pants..)...

OK! Gotta go! Thanks for visiting and I will post photos and 'more' when we return 'later'!

p.s. We return Thursday, but that is Dick's birthday... Most likely won't post till Friday...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gone Fishin' Again!

Howdy friends! We are taking off for a quick camping and fishing trip on Sunday, so won't be 'seen' for a couple of days... I'm sure I'll have lots to share with you, after all, archery season opened today, and alas, most likely we will run into some 'yahoo's' out in the wild - other than us, that is..

So, gotta tell you, I have two more fish stories that involve cats... not mine, mind you, but from some of my buddies at the Pendleton Farmers Market.... let's just say, fish hooks are involved...

I also have another bird in the house story - pigeons and a canoe, that also comes from the Pendleton area,

and lastly, a "Loch Nes Mower' story to tell... seems I'm not the only one that has a mower with it's own mind!

Before I go, I do want to wish Sharon and Jack a happy anniversary... Jack will also be celebrating his birthday this week... I have a wonderful photo of them and will also post that later along with my 'favorite market manager' testimonial!

See ya!

These are all in 'the hopper' waiting to be told!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tasty Eye Candy!

Just a Peak! Only a Peak!!

My ABC tags arrived yesterday. Yippee! In February I was invited to participate in an ABC Tag Swap with 25 other artists across this 3rd rock from the sun... the tags arrived yesterday - well, 25. We are missing one letter and I'm thinking of ways to fill the gap... Some of these beauties traveled all the way from Norway, Germany, Australia, France and New Jersey! They stopped in Canada for assembly by our swap organizer, then made their way back out across the miles, this time in sets, to all of us.

Can I tell you how honored I am to be in such company? These gals are true Artists! Some teach classes, have written their own books and have stamps named after them! Several are on design teams. I am one of the 'newbies' and was so touched that Deborah invited me to join her group. The invitation alone was a hallmark occasion for me. Each tag is a work of art with so much detail!

If you look closely you can see my tag, it's the one in the middle with the black silhouette flowers.. I can't show you the whole enchilada until next week. Our leader, Deborah March, is working on the possibility of our tags being published. We find out next week! If this happens, it will be my first Art publication (other than my writing, that is).

Once we get the 'OK' I will share with you a tutorial on how I made my tag. It has a full-moon image and was for the letter 'M'. Oh! My set came with an 'extra' X. As her luck would have it, it was Deborah's! That gal deserves a crown, a medal and a cake for all the work she put into this. Thanks, Deborah!

Veggie Bella From Dawn

Here's a Cute Card from my friend Dawn!

So, this morning I 'got' a brainstorm... Why not post cards or layouts that 'fit' with my written posts? I'm going to give it a try.. this 'might' slow my posting schedule. It is so much easier for me to just 'sit and write' versus sitting and creating in my crafty place! But, I'll give it a try...

To kick off this new format, I am posting a card I recently received from my friend Dawn. This is a Bella image (Dawn and I both love these stamps!) that goes perfectly with my previous garden post! Thanks Dawn!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Intensive Gardening - Andi Style

The 'Old" Garden Site

Southern Side of the House
and Location of my Intensive Garden
(between the junniper bushes)

Zucchini Flower and Hidden Zukes!

Intensive Gardening:
Cabbage, Tomato, Zucchini & Sage

About six years ago I wanted to have a garden with enough production to take extra veggies to our local Farmers' Market. Dick wanted the garden out in the field behind the backyard... I wanted the site closer to me, in the backyard, and where I could gaze at it lovingly from my kitchen window... and I wanted to kill 2 birds with one stone - reduce the size of the mowing area and have the luxury of walking out barefoot to the garden without stepping into surprises. Since Dick was the man behind the ground breaking machines, his location won. We bought a greenhouse kit, raised beds were made and into production I went.

We put a hot wire around the garden area. Yet, the cattle and sheep still kept sneaking in and eating stuff. I would find footprints in the raised beds (huge), tomato cages and pea fences scattered and twisted out the field, and drip hoses drug off from their staked positions. My garden became 'mobile'. Not only that, when the adjacent field was being flood irrigated, so was my garden area. I had to wear rubber boots - sometimes losing one from the suction caused by the soaked ground. The greenhouse was flooded, and my beautiful basil, eggplant and tomato plants looked horrid. And, to make matters worse, the site did not want to give up it's identity as pasture. After three years, I abandoned ship.

About the time the greenhouse was being built I happened to rescue two cool glass doors from the dump (Yep, me. The gal who complains about trash day and all the nasty germs!). Not the County dump. The Haines dump, which is only open on Saturdays from 7am until noon, and is 'so much nicer' than that big City dump. Anyway, I had cold frames made for the doors, and put the cold frames on the south side of the house. Their purpose was for the more delicate goodies: lettuce, basil, and a few herbs.

Well, this year I decided I wanted a garden again. I missed my tomatoes and zucchini and other favorite garden friends! But, I didn't want the hassle of the old site. Too much work. My greenhouse has been overrun with cattle and the pasture has reclaimed it's site. I planted my garden friends all together in and around the cold frames. I decided to experiment with 'intensive gardening'. Kind of similar to intensive grazing, where you have a large number of animals in a small area for a short period of time, and rotate them. The difference here is, the plants don't get rotated per se, but I will rest the ground come late September.

I had to retire 2 zucchini plants. I should have pulled out some cherry tomato plants as well, but can't bring myself to do it. Our first frost is about September 3rd, right when the tomatoes start ripening up, and each one is precious.. Looks like I'll be doing some canning if these babies stay on!

The zucchini and cucumbers have been very successful, and I now have a handful of my first ripe tomatoes! I also have green onions. Yum! This summer's garden was fun. The way it should be. Oh! I have a zucchini recipe to share, too! I'll put that on the next post.

Tagged - The Number 8

Rats. I've been tagged.. I'm not good at these things, but I'll give it a try.. I'm supposed to tell you 8 things about myself that you don't necessarily know...interesting tidbits, out of the ordinary things. Something that grabs your attention.. Hmm..

Sandy tagged me (she is on my blog list). You can go visit her and check out her 8 things, as well as our friend Dawn (also on my blog list)... So, keeping with Sandy's tease, I am going to throw in 3 extras that are 'little white lies'. You can guess which are the fake ones!

  1. My full name is Andrea Marina and I am named after my great grandmother Andrea Torres (used to be De la Torre, but they changed it during the Mexican Revolution, or Spanish War, something like that), and my grandma Marina Campos. I am a descendant of a Mexican Princess!!
  2. My Grandpa on my fathers side was Bill Walsh.
  3. I was born in Hollywood, CA
  4. I 'traveled' across the US with a backpack from CA all the way to New Orleans, LA and up near St. Louis, Missouri when I was in my early 20's.
  5. I am left handed, my husband is left handed and his dad is left handed.
  6. I have minors in mathematics and computer science, a BA in Geography and my Master's in Natural Resources Management, but my passion is writing, scrapbooking and stamping.
  7. I have had to sign a document that I would uphold the Constitution of the United States, and had a background check for a previous career.
  8. I used to be a big mountain biker and road biking chick. My mountain bike was a Kline and I bought it from a famous racer. It was an all aluminum frame and I sold it to pay for my wedding.
  9. I have never drank, smoked or done drugs in my life.
  10. I wear size 9 1/2 shoes.
  11. I am the oldest of six girls!

OK! Try and guess which are the fake ones! Especially SANDY! Paula, you must promise not to give out any of my secrets!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gone Fishin'!

Summer is the peak season for our ranch business. Irrigating, haying, the farmers markets and lambing and calving are all packed into the months between May and August. Thus, our kids get the short end of the stick when it comes to a summer vacation. I do my best to take them on adventures that involve water parks, bike rides, swimming pools, or an ice cream parlor. Things that can be done in a day. I had hoped to take them on an adventure once a week, but often other tasks get in the way.
Back in May, Dick and I promised to be better this year, that we would take the kids camping and fishing and have some family time. So, we are 'cramming' our family trips into the last weeks of August, before the kids go back to school. The trips also have to be midweek, because of the markets.
Yesterday was our family fishing trip day. I am still floating on cloud 9! Have you ever had one of those days that just makes you happy to be alive and thankful for the things you get to experience? One that will be a favorite memory for the rest of your life? Yesterday was one of those days... I'll share it with you.
Our kids have never been fishing. Real fishing. The irony here is that Dick loves to fish, but he rarely gives himself permission to take time off. We usually have Christmas, Easter and the 4th of July as our holidays, but after irrigating or feeding has been done. This trip was huge. To prepare for our big adventure, Dick has been giving Sami and Jake lessons at our pond, which does not have fish! It's used for irrigating and is visited by ducks, geese and frogs. Not fish.

Tuesday night was packing night. Fishing gear, lunch, snacks, you name it. When Dick gets his mind set on something, look out! He researched everything. Best place(s) to go, what flies to buy, etc. Our marching orders were that we were leaving Tuesday at 7:00 am. This wasn't early enough for the kids, who said 'we get up early to leave at 4:30 am for the Boise Market' (and sleep the entire 2 1/2 hours I might add!), so we compromised, 6:30 am.

Off we went! We got to the parking area and hiked in. Uphill. Straight, I'm sure. Oh man, my buns are killing me today. Everything hurts, but in 'a good way'. We got to Van Patten lake about 9am. What a beautiful place! And we had it all to ourselves. Not a soul - until about 1:30 pm. We all proceeded to gear up after a brief rest to recover from the hike!

A very Hallmark happy family moment. I haven't fished in at least 9 years. So, I'm sitting there, tying a fly, pull the line tight to get my knot, and poof! I sink the fly right into my pointer finger. Deep. All the way in. Hook, barb, etc. The hook isn't even visible. This is my writing hand. I scream. And, after a good shared laugh about how could I do such a thing, right when we get here, Dick offers to pull it out with the only tool we had - nail clippers. I did have my Swiss army knife but I wasn't offering it. I declined his offer and spent the next hour trying to get the fly out. The slow, methodical, 'I can do this without any further pain' technique, along with moments of light headedness, 2 Tylenol and an antiseptic wipe. I sent my family on their way - go fish, have fun, I'll be along shortly! I got to 'hear' my kids catch their first fish! Right away! Success! I got the hook out. I thought about taking a photo of it in my finger, but the whole 'find the camera' process was awkward. Every time I moved or twitched the hook would pull. I didn't want to take any chances. Sigh...

So! I did get to fish! I didn't catch a darn thing, but what a beautiful day. I love the 'art of fly fishing'. Playing with the line, back and forth over the water, casting, bringing it in. I love looking at the water, watching the wind dance on the it's surface. I love watching the fish swim up, check out the fly, dart away. I like the Big picture. Granitic rock, sky, pine trees, a Peregrine falcon or whatever fishing bird came in - crashing into the water to get it's catch. A breeze, and hot sun exchanged for cloud cover. Just an awesome, quiet, peaceful day.

Sami, Jake and Dick were just so much fun to watch - three kids really. It was so wonderful to see my husband having a great time doing something he loves, and watching him share that love with our children! Sami and Dick went around the whole lake, and Jake hung out with me. Some clouds came over, we had a little bit of rain. About 1:30 another couple showed up. About 2:00 pm we packed up and started our climb down. We left the lunch at the truck. Jake was upset we would not let him run down the trail. Good thing. Dick had to hold his hand, he fell down most the way. Sami fell, too. A nasty crash. Her side landed on rock. After a good cry, she got over it.

Back at the truck we had a picnic. BBQ chicken, red grapes, chips, Sami's brownies, and water. It all tasted great. On the drive home, we were tired. Exhausted. When we got home, Dick taught the kids to clean the fish, while I cleaned up. We all napped for 30 minutes. Then chores, and dinner. We had grilled brook trout, dipped in egg, spices and battered, along with zucchini from the garden. Oh, it tasted so darn good. I complemented my three fishermen. I told them I have not tasted anything that good in years. I thanked them for their skill, and for giving me a great memory. I am practically in tears. From exhaustion? Partly. Mostly, I was thankful for this day.

A conversation with my sister Paula reminded me that our fishing day was the anniversary of our Father's death. David Paul Walsh died in 1990 of cancer at the young age of 55. My gosh. I had forgotten. A first. I wonder if my emotional side was tuned in to his passing. I have spent the past 17 years regretting that he missed some milestones: he never met the man that became my husband, my wedding, the birth of his grandchildren, and how much if 'him' they have. In my heart I feel him. I sense him near me, talking to me, giving advice. I'm glad yesterday was such a memorable day for me, and in a happy, uplifting way.

The photos in the post below are from our trip.

Photos From Our Fishing Trip!

This is Jake, when we arrived at our destination. The hike is brutal!

Sami Fly Fishing (Dick is giving lessons)

Jake - Fly Fishing with my Powell Rod!

The Catch of the Day - Jake 2, Dick 8, Sami 4.
All Brook Trout. The fish were jumping!!!

Me, sharing my catch of the day!

The Trail Head - We hiked uphill to the trail head,
and still had 1 more mile to go - also uphill!

Our Destination. Van Patten Lake, part of the
Anthony Lakes complex, 17 miles from our place!

The view from our front door faces the Elkhorn Mountains. Our ranch is right along the Anthony Lakes Highway, which takes you up to the Anthony Lakes Ski Resort (best powder in the pacific northwest my friends!), and all of 'the lakes'. The route is part of the Elkhorn Scenic Byway.

Van Patten Lake can only be accessed via foot, horse or mountain bike. We hiked in, and let me tell you, it is brutal! The trail head is about a mile from the parking area, and then you still have another mile to get to the lake.. But worth every single 'bun killing' step! There were so many fish jumping! Awesome day.. One of the best to be had that I can remember. I'll share more later!

If Elaine from Boise is checking this out, be sure to let your husband take a peek. Fly fishing heaven!

Also, one of my good friends, Jim Clarkson, owns Raptor Rod Works, in Chico, CA (www.raptorrodworks.com). He made Dick's fly rod, and he used to work for Powell Fly Rod, where mine was custom made. Thanks Jim!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trailer Trash - Sexton Ranches Style

You heard me. Trailer Trash. Does the sound of it make your skin crawl? What comes to mind? Cut off jean shorts, a pack of Marlboro's, Budweiser in the can (does it actually come in a bottle?) or Tornadoes wiping out an entire neighborhood? (BTW, all these sarcastic remarks are for my little sister Paula). Um, not exactly the road I was going down, but an entertaining discussion none the less.

Allow me to introduce you to Trailer Trash, Sexton Ranches style....

Monday was trash day. Not trash day like my friends in town who get their trashed picked up weekly. Man, talk about valet service! I'm sure the trash service folks would love to pick up our cans, and charge a mint for it, but, that would mean getting the cans out to the highway. It's not 'that' long of a walk, maybe 1/4 mile, a nice stroll if you aren't carrying anything. But, with full cans, I would have to load them in the pickup, and by the time it's all said and done, I might as well drive to the dump and save the monthly fee!

Besides, trash day at our place comes once every three months or so. Seriously. We have three trash cans out in front of the house that are for 'the dump'. The dump is a good 45 minute drive from here. The County Dump. We also have a burn barrel out back for paper stuff, and a compost bucket in the kitchen for the non meat food scraps. The burn barrel and compost pile are part of my daily chores. Now, the 'dump' trash, which consists of all things that can't be composted, burned or recycled goes in the trash cans.

For those of you that did the math I'm guessing that you're impressed that it takes us 3 months to fill 3 cans. You're amazed with our abilities at conserving, aren't you? Hmm..

Well, remember my 'big girl' post where I mentioned ' having to beg' Mr. Sexton to do chores around here? It's time to let you in on one of our 'go arounds'. You see, those trash cans actually fill up in about a month. That's when I inform Mr. Sexton that it's time for a trash run, and he usually says something along the lines of 'didn't we just go to the dump'? He also has a weird sense of time. Things that happen say, three or four months ago, just occurred last week in my husband's timezone. So, since the cans are full, I start bagging trash and leaving it in the garage, basically, where he would like to park his truck. I also store the bottles, magazines and any other recyclable goodies in the same location. The tons of boxes from our meat business get broken down, and are stacked somewhere in the same vicinity also waiting to 'be gone'.

Into month 2, I start my reminders. 'Dick, we need to take the trash to the dump'. "I can't do it now, I'll get back to you when I'm not so busy", is his reply. By the end of month 2, I have reached my limit, and ironically, Dick starts commenting about 'all the junk' in the garage! HA! We set trash hauling dates, which get cancelled. And alas, finally it is dump day... By this time our 'stuff' ain't gonna fit in the back of a pickup truck no more, and it is 'trailer trash' day.

Yesterday was trailer trash day. 'We' loaded all the junk into the livestock trailer and the kids and I drove to the dump. I had to drive through 2 towns, which makes me nervous. Going through downtown Baker can be exciting with a truck and trailer, especially when pedestrians decide to cross the road. Basically, I don't like to slow down with the trailer, or deal with sudden stops. I would also like to go on record and say, I have never hit anything, alive.... it's not fun going to the dump. It's a stinky nasty place, loaded with nasty germs. Other peoples germs. I had to bark at Jake to 'DROP IT' when he was sorting through other people's trash (UG!)... Sami had to hold the trailer door open for me while I was taking out the cans, she one hand on the door, the other on her nose. the highlight was trying to empty the burn barrel. It's heavy. I dropped that sucker a few times, and had to pick it up on its end to empty it..again, a few times. I'm sure I got all sorts of creepy things on me. The other trash dumping people, all men, did not bother to help when I was obviously struggling with my job. One guy did comment on how well I backed up the trailer though. Meanies. I held my own. I did get the job done (I had no choice!). Another big girl moment for me. But one I would gladly pass on! Pass the antibacterial soap please!

ps. The photo is of our driveway.. The line of trees is near the highway and I am standing in front of the house!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New Wild West Alpha

So! I did get to play today... 2 1/2 hrs later, this is the result. Supplies: SU Wild West Alpha stamps (the star stamp is also from these set - talk about a bonus!); all papers are from the July Self-Addressed kit; star brad: Queen & Co; 'hi' rubbons also from the July Kit; MM hardware; SU ink. Self-Addressed has a website, go take a peak! The majority of my time was spent messing with my new alphas.

I got the new SU Wild West alphabet (stamps) about a month ago. Love 'em! So many ideas for these babies.. coloring them in, etc. But, I had to be a smarty pants and decided I was going to make them 'unmounted' on ezmount foam instead of attaching them to the wood blocks they come with.. I thought it would be easier to line them up if they were on a block, bypass the stamp-a-ma-jig process.

I had two sheets of red rubba. The first sheet mounted nicely, and I snipped each letter out. Then I 'did lunch' (homemade tamales my friends! Courtesy of 'The Ramons' - Ramon works for us and we call his entire family 'The Ramons'). Came back to the 2nd set, snipped a few alphas, and thought, boy these are sticky little suckers, as I was attaching them to a binder sheet. Doh! They were not on the ezmount, just the SU sticky stuff... So, sometime later, got all my alphas cut right, mounted right, and a pair of sticky scissors..

After a few dry runs, Miss Smarty Pants found out that the alphas on a block are spaced too far apart. Even when squished up against each other! So, had to bring out the stamp-a-ma-jig after all. Still need some practice!

Another Big Girl Moment - All Mine

Sundays are my self-imposed 'me' days. The day I set aside to create - write or play in my crafty room.. The day I give myself permission to sleep in, maybe take a long nap after lunch, or the day I paint my toenails. Perhaps an afternoon cocktail while I 'take in' the views out back or front, depending on where I sit. Just a nice free-for-all take it easy and slow down and enjoy life day.

Today started that way. But, as it often happens, I got side tracked. Few loads of laundry, big breakfast for Jake, my son who is constantly hungry (I figure if I stuff him now, I'll be free for at least a few hours!), then take down the curtains in Sami's room - and change them out for a valence - curtains keep falling down! Sit down to write. Then, the kids were 'going nuts'. So I kicked them outside - 'go play on the trampoline'. The fear of wasps set in for them - they have both been stung numerous times already this summer - it's worse when the hives are buzzing with new offspring, and when the heat is on. So, we compromise... I set the hoses so they could jump in their bathing suits, get wet and be wasp free. Of course, I have to set all the hoses, visit my little garden, get sidetracked in the yard. Thirty or so minutes later, I come back in. Five minutes later, the kids come back in. Hmm...

I ignore them. Decide I would like to start the day (now about 9:30 am) with a shower... or I won't get one. BUT, I can't 'just take a shower'! My shower has a plugged drain. Been that way for over a week, and now it's at its peak. A slow drain, followed by four inches of standing water well into the beginnings of a good shower. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.. And no, I'm not a single mom living on her own in her own house. I'm married, to a man who doesn't do home improvements, yard improvements, car improvements, or Mr. Deere improvements, unless I whine, nag or beg for at least a week. I'm not in a begging mood today.

Thursday I bought a snake, a cute little number just for showers and bathroom sinks. I can balance it one one finger if I choose. It's just my size. Not the 'irrigation pipe' monster my husband brought into the house last time this happened. I couldn't even lift that sucker! It also hurt me. Got a nasty cut on my calf when I 'went walking by it' in the laundry room. Cut the corner too close.

Back to that shower. So, after I unscrew the plate, I snake! For quite sometime it seems...keep hitting something, bottom of the pipe. Does the pipe turn? It must. Why won't my snake turn too? Oh well. Keep jamming it. Turn on the water, and walla! Running free water! Yahoo! But, I can't just stop. I need to clean the underside of that plate. I look around, I need to clean those walls and that ceiling. Time to scrub - need a chair, supplies. I get sidetracked into a project. But, it was on my list anyway.

Done! Shower time! Awesome. Hot water, long shower and a drain that works! I'm so proud of myself. It's a Big Girl Moment, and it's all mine.

Goldie - One Tough Mama

Goldie & her new babies!

This is Goldie, my favorite hen... Not only is she my oldest chicken, she is the only one who sits on a clutch of eggs and raises them to chicks. She's very protective - if you come near her she puffs up, puts out her wings and dances around her babies.. If you get too close, she charges and pecks. Jake, our 8 year old son, who doesn't listen very well and has to learn lessons the hard way (that Missouri mentality of 'show me') has tested Goldie a time or two, and been attacked.

Goldie arrived back in 2003 when Dick and I thought we would go into the free-range chicken & egg business. We thought it would be a good project for the kids to sell eggs at the markets and perhaps some free range chickens. Goldie was one of 40 chicks that we were raising for serious production, the type that does not include naming your critters, forming relationships or emotional attachments.

The chick to chicken to laying egg cycle takes a while. We bought our chicks in April, around Easter (the peak season), gave them loving care in a huge chick condo with a heat lamp, let them run around in the yard as they got older, and penned them back up in the evenings. Then, about June, we moved them into their own Chicken House. The Chicken house at that time was 1/3 of the three car shed unit out back - it's had all sorts of uses - the only vehicles that go in are Mr. Deere and a 4-wheeler or two during the winter. It's main use has been for critters (puppy rearing, Maggie's condo, bottle calves, and our first Chicken House).

Anyway, one night in July yours truly forgot to pen up the chickens, and poof! About 30 chickens were gone. Snatched. We found 'evidence' of a few of them in the field behind the shed. The chickens still had not started laying eggs. They don't lay eggs until they are pullets. For our chickens that was late in August, and as luck would have it, right before the weather turns and chickens slow down production... Winter is not egg season, unless it's a mild winter.

Going against the rules, I had formed an attachment with Goldie. She was the last of 'her breed' in the group. My chicken herd was now down to about 10 red gals, Goldie, and a few roosters. Too many roosters, as we learned after witnessing the daily 'attack' of roosters to chickens (one year we were down to 3 hens and 5 roosters - not a pretty site). This group stayed over winter, and we started the egg cycle up the following spring..along with the routine of letting the chickens have free run of the yard, adjacent fields, and to my dismay, the deck.

One day I noticed Goldie was gone. Poof! My favorite hen! After a few days of searching for her, and hoping she would return, I gave up. Life went on... Then, about two months later up saunters Goldie, with a little family of puffballs! I was so excited to see her and her little family! Talk about a a happy day! Goldie continued this routine each summer of disappearing for a couple months, then showing up with a new clutch of chicks. She's an awesome mom.

We almost lost Goldie on Christmas Day, 2004. We were in the house, blissfully surrounded by wrapping papers and new loot. I happened to go to one of the windows and look out, and witness Goldie being chewed on by our new puppies, Maggie and her rotten brother Joe. I screamed, ran out in my jammies and slippers and into the snow to rescue my poor hen. Her backside was defeathered and definitely chewed on. Raw. Meat exposed. Goldie was in shock, I was in tears and the puppies were getting a beating from Dick. We were sure that day was to be her last. We isolated her from the other chickens so she wouldn't be 'abused'. She hung on, in shock for a few days, then slowly began eating, drinking and gradually was moved back with the other chickens. She continued her annual hiatus of hiding a clutch of eggs, and to this day she has an area on her backside that is 'naked'. All moms have their scars, eh?

This year was different. Goldie decided to just stay in the chicken house (a real one) and sit on her eggs, were she hatched them. My intuition is telling me she is just isn't up for staying outdoors and risking her life to the wild critters anymore. She is also getting old. She's has quite the life, and I hope she stays on for a few more years!

These photos above are of Goldie and this summer's clutch. She had 5 chicks, but alas, we are down to 4. No, not a wild critter or puppies. Jake was trying to catch one, and didn't realize his own little boy strength. Both he and Sami came into the house in tears that day. The three of us love our little yellow chicks - and hen!

Friday, August 10, 2007

To Market, To Market....

Well, back to 'work' for this gal! My weekends are my work days off the ranch, selling our natural grass-fed lamb and beef.. Tonight I will be at the Pendleton Market (1 1/2 hrs away), tomorrow at the Baker Market (17 miles away). My route also includes La Grande & Boise (the schedule is posted on our www.sextonranches.com website).

Our Farmers' Market season is from mid-April through the end of October... Sami and Jake have grown up with the markets (I helped start the Baker one about 7 years ago as part of a Master Gardener Project, when the kids were 2 & 1 at the time!). I love that our kids have a hands on understanding of our ranch business, from beginning to end. It's wonderful that they know what their dad does for work, as well as their mom, and that they are 'in the thick of things'. Every day is take our kids to work day.. At the smaller markets they get to play, seek out other kids, and do their own shopping with the money they earn from helping me. At the bigger ones, they are glued to my side. Sami, who is 9, is now helping me with the sales. She loves to run the scale, tell people their total price, and 'man the ship'. Counting back change is our next lesson.

The markets are awesome. Each has it's own sense of community, a make-up of regular customers and vendors that have built strong friendships over the years. Our customers have become our friends, who also have an interest in our lives, our success and often thank us for what we are doing - raising healthy animals, without hormones or antibiotics, in a grass-fed environment, so that they in turn are eating a safe and healthy product. I recently read an article on the eatwild.com website (we are in the process of becoming members) that breast cancer has been linked to added hormones in meat! UG! We are what we eat.

The markets are also my face to face connection with the outside world. I get to visit with people, and I get to people watch! Yep. I am one of those. Now, keep in mind I don't get out much, and my 'world' is very small! I am posting a photo taken at the Boise market last Saturday... I did get permission to take the photo. Boise is our big city, and is 2 1/2 hours away...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Too Much Excitement for One Morning!

Well! This morning Sami and I got the bright idea to 'free' a bird that was trapped in the wood stove.. It was chattering up a storm and we felt sorry for it. Sami was afraid it was one of the cute little birds spotted yesterday - a yellow bodied cutie pie who was getting scolded by a chickadee (or finch, some other cutie we haven't seen all summer!)...

So, about 6:30 am, before I finished my first cup of coffee, we set off on our mission.. Windows were blinded, room doors were shut, we opened the back door... and then I opened the wood stove door... Poof! Out flew FOUR starlings! UG! I do not care for starlings...they are a nuisance. They hog the birdseed I put out for the little birds, they dive bomb the cats, they hang out by the chicken house and help themselves to food, and they nest in the wood stove.

Two flew out the back door right away.. The other two decided to fly back and forth up above us - from window to window, onto the ceiling fan, on the rocks behind the wood stove (20 foot ceiling, not fun), and in and out of the kitchen (GROSS!).. we also had the assistance of 3 cats - all various stages of life who were very eager to offer their professional bird catching skills..
They are finally 'out'. I caught the last one in the kitchen. I let it go - I need the good Karma. Hopefully they won't be back! Otherwise the cats can take over.

New Bella!

I'm so excited! I have a new stamp - a BELLA stamp that my buddy DAWN sent! Thanks Dawn!! This is the jammybella.. A few of us on the stamping board at 2Peas hosted a World Wide Stamping Weekend (WSW) back in June.. We had challenges for 2 whole days and it was so darn fun! Anyway, as we were getting punchy toward the late hours, Dawn had a 'show me your jammies' challenge... So several of us posted photos of us in our jammies... Dawn & I tend to be the goofballs... I borrowed Sami's purple boa, tiera and stuffed pup to do my "Andi aka Paris H" photo ops... This stamp reminds me of that great weekend... and all the wonderful peas that got together to stamp the days away!

Supplies used for card: stamps: BELLA jammybella, Stampin' Up sentiment; ribbon: American Crafts 'Downtown Black' collection; Card Stock: scallop DCWV, bg Bazzil; inks: Stazon jet black, SU black & pink passion; SU watercolor crayons and black stampin' write; embellies MM flower clip, Heidi Swap ghost flower; flower punch...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Meet Ruby

This is Ruby... Sami's new calf. She has some Brahma blood in her, and she 'wasn't very nice' when she arrived...

Ruby kicked, snorted and spent the first three days of her new life with us not wanting anything to do with humans...

Her water bucket had to be wired to the panel so she wouldn't kick it over. This photo is from her mad and nasty day's. Doesn't she look like she want's a piece of me???

Ruby arrived as a bottle baby.. She had to be fed with a calf bottle. Let's say it was a 'rodeo' for a while!

You can learn more about Ruby and how she came to us in the post below, about goats!

The Goat Girl

Our darling daughter, Sami (9) has decided she wants to raise goats... No idea where this came from (we are goatless outfit here), but it has been on 'her mind' for close to 6 months now....

Her visions of raising her own little herd of critters started with the Puppy Batch of 2006... Dick asked Sami if she wanted to be in charge of puppies, tempting her with the riches to be gained...from potential puppy sales. What's an easy going 8 year old to do? Sure! She replied.... So, Ernest, our oldest male McNab (older than Sami!), and Maggie, a two year old McNab 'got married'...

Sami's job was to take care of the mother to be. As most out of the 'out of wack' events go around here, Dick was out of town for a few days in December and Maggie, in her infinite doggy wisdom, decided she was not going to have her puppies in the cozy condo we setup in the vacant 3-vehicle shed...No way, Jose...Even though she had been spending the last month in her own personal digs with clean straw, fresh water and food, and basically her own delux accommodations without others of her own kind, she had plans.

So, on the day she delivered her pups it just so happened I had a group of gals over for a Christmas Crop (scrapbooking - naturally!). Of course it was one of those nasty, windy, cold winter days...where the wind manages to sneak into any crevice it finds and blow it's way into your house (I even covered the air filter over the kitchen stove it was so bad!)... Anyway, it was time for the evening chores and Maggie was running loose, and had obviously dropped a few pounds.... The kids and I then went on a puppy search... and sadly, the crop came to an end...Little did we know that on her daily rompings Maggie was out 'in the elements' digging a den in a straw house that already had two other dogs... She was even bold enough to kick one of the occupants out of his cozy digs. We eventually found the pups, but could not 'see' them... Maggie's den had a narrow opening, and only Jake, the smallest of our family, could wiggle in for a peak. He got to be our scout with a flashlight, and report on the litter size.

Fast forward to May... Six puppies, and $350 dollars later, Sami was a wealthy girl of her age. She and her dad had worked out the income minus expenses thing (puppy food, shots, etc.) before the big goat shopping trip. Now, I would like to say, no one compensated the 'baby sitter'. That would be yours truly who fed the puppies every school morning, picked up all the chewed up items found in the yard (if Mr. Deere and I didn't mow over them) and of course, took a loss on garden tools or other luxury items 'found' and destroyed by the pups.

Sami and her dad prepared for their upcoming goat shopping trips. Ads were clipped out of livestock publications, they compare prices, Sami surfed the net to check out breeds, etc. Then, they went to the Thursday Livestock sale to bid on goats... the first Thursday, they saw goats, but Sami did not buy one. Two weeks later they came home with Ruby...

Ruby, my friends is not a goat. She is a calf. A calf with Brahma influence. Wild. And when she arrived, she was a kicking, snorting, wild bottle baby calf! No human had domesticated the beast. Now, why would a rancher who raises cattle 'let' his daughter pay big dollars for a calf from strangers instead of giving her one of our own?

Probably for the same reason that the same rancher came home with 7 new steers from the livestock sale as well. Let's just compare it to say, Scrapbook supplies. I have enough patterned paper to outfit perhaps the next four generations of family albums. But, I just can't pass up something that I know 'will be the perfect fit' - it has potential, and it's an emotional decision. For the most part, it's all about the experience, and when we are talking about memories and learning experiences, it's as the credit card ads say, "Priceless".

Monday, August 6, 2007

Ode to My Lawn Mower

Most of my friends know I have a love hate relationship with my lawnmower... For the most part it is 'hate'. I 'get to' take care of our yard ... let's just say, 'be careful what you wish for! You might just get it'!

When we first saw this ranch I fell in love with the house and yard, and promised my husband that I would take loving care of it, if we got it. Our previous ranch home did not have a lawn.. just flagstones, and a small yard.. I was in heaven when we bought this place... For ease of simplicity, let's just call the yard a 'park'. A whole lot of grass and trees. Truly a breathtaking place, if you have the time to remember to just enjoy it!

So, every week or 2, a new battle starts between me & Mr. Deere... The mower (a riding vintage model) battery has to be charged, I mow for a while, it decides to poop out.. and alas, it is finished... I on the other hand, have to figure out how to get the 5 hour mow job done with all this 'hassle'... After I mow, I rake the high traffic areas.... like the photo above - which is the middle of the back yard... I also find lots of fun stuff to run over, which is not good for the blades... The dogs bring in 'dead stuff' from the fields (body parts of animals), the kids leave toys or clothing and the pine trees drop at least a million pinecones... I've also been known to run over a hose or two....

So, when the sun beats down on me, and I have had enough of being scarred by pine tree branches, and the battle ... I long for our beautiful crisp fall days, which then evolve into dark thoughts of winter .. a long, cold, bitter season when the snow flies and the temps dip into the low digits and below zero... Yuck... Stay away Winter!!

Mr. Deere, my tempermental friend, who threatened to buck me off when I (once) tried to drive you over the cattle guard, or when I rammed your front end into a fence, or when I high centered you on a tree stump... let's not fight... Let's ride into the sunset, you and I.. with the smell of fresh cut grass wafting behind us...

Let's do the best we can to enjoy our summer together, because alas, today isn't a summer day... It feels like fall and I am not ready to say goodbye...

Perfect Gravy - Why This Title???

I've been collecting stories about our ranch life experiences, well, mostly mine, since this is all new to me (12 years now) for several years. I did not grow up on a ranch like my husband, so every now and then, something 'exciting' or out of the ordinary grabs my attention that I want to capture! Some are hilarious mishaps on my part, others are 'near death experiences' (maybe just in my eyes) and others are about the simplistic beauty we get to experience living on a ranch.

So... Perfect Gravy... The story goes like this....
My husband was pretty surprised that I was not a gravy type of gal when we got married, meaning, I can live without it, don't really care for it, and thus don't make it! Well, Mr. Sexton is a died in the wool (no pun intended, seeing how we raise cattle and sheep!) Gravy Man... When I served mashed potatoes for the first time w/o gravy he just about fell out of his chair.. same with roasts... So Dick taught me to make his rendition of 'Perfect Gravy'...

Twelve years later, I still struggle with the 'technique' of getting the gravy just right... my closest batches often involve a ham, which has the best flavor in my city gal opinion...

Anyway, one crisp fall day, I needed a refresher on the recipe and went into Dick's office to consult with him one more time.. He gave me the instructions, and a light bulb went on... 'Ah Ha!', I said.. "That's It!!" "Yes, Andi, I've been trying to tell you this for years!" my husband explained...

"No Honey, that's the title of the book I am going to write "Perfect Gravy"...
So my readers, this blog is the closest I've come to getting our book off the ground.. My light bulb moment was about three years ago! No rush, right? After all, we do live in the slow lane out here!

OH! The book is also to have our recipes as well. I'll be posting those here, too...

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Rocking Blogger?

So! My super good buddy, Dawn (her blog is in my list), just informed me I am one of her nominees for a Rocking Blogger! I need to find out what that all entails!!

When We Were Young - The Photo!

Here is the photo that goes with the post below...
Pictured are: My husband, Dick, a 4th generation rancher; Sami, our little cowgirl who is now 9; me, a whole lot skinnier 5 or 6 years ago; and little Jake, who is now 8 - but still our little baby guy!

Anyway, one of my favorite photos... It is during the fall, and out in the field south of our home..

When We Were Young

So, I posted a photo of our family off to the side... the one that is 'when we were young'. This photo was taken about 5 or 6 years ago... sigh..... My babies were toddlers then... Makes me sad that they are growing so fast! don't get me wrong... They are just as wonderful now as they were 5 years ago, and of course, so darn fun! I just want to slow this darn clock... keep us all young...

Getting Started....

Well, here I am, taking the plunge into blog land....
My hope is to create a site that combines all my interests and jobs (ranch life, ranch wife, mom, marketer of natural grass fed lamb and beef, my consulting projects and of course, my passions scrapbooking/stamping and writing!)....

I'll try to be organized, have links that are sorted by each theme, throw in some humor, and hopefully some inspiration as well.

So! As my latest fave band sings "Let's Get It Started" (Black Eyed Peas...see? I am a City Girl transplanted in Rural America!!!)...