Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Hayseed Bowl

“When is there going to be a Hayseed Bowl?” I asked Hubby yesterday. He’s been watching a lot of bowl games. He agreed that, once we’re zillionaires, we will indeed sponsor the Hayseed Bowl.

I’ve already jotted down a few ideas.

Naturally, the parade will feature a lot of horses and horse-drawn vehicles, vintage tractors and trucks, blue heelers and Border collies, rodeo clowns, and floats showcasing all aspects of agriculture: food crop, livestock, lumber, and biofuel production—even goat herding. Pam Minic and Orion Samuelson will host.

Baxter Black will entertain during the pre-game show, and Jimmy Fortune will sing The Star Spangled Banner. Justin McKee will join the play callers in the announcer’s booth. At halftime, the crowd will be awed by cowdog and sheepdog demonstrations, and then Joey and Rory will perform while the field is cleaned up.

All 4-H leaders, FFA sponsors, clergy, and military personnel will get free tickets to the big game.

Instead of beer, car, and insurance commercials, television audiences will view brief profiles of unsung Hayseed Heroes such as tree planters, no-till farmers, cow and sheep midwives, therapeutic riding volunteers, composters, veterinarians, drought battlers, wildfire fighters, range managers, horse rescuers, landowner association founders, Invest An Acre donors, and, last but not least, tractor-implement repairmen.

The coveted silver trophy won’t actually be a bowl but a bucket.


“If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand.” –MATTHEW 5:15


Friday, December 28, 2012

All in the Family

It was only meant to be an amusing read: T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which son Zach gave us for Christmas. But serendipity must have guided Zach to this little collection of poems that day. It seems that the Nobel prize-winning Eliot was personally acquainted with several of our own cat’s ancestors! There can be no other explanation.

If the area window was found ajar
And the basement looked like a field of war,
If a tile or two came loose on the roof,
Which presently ceased to be waterproof,
If the drawers were pulled out from the bedroom chests,
And you couldn’t find one of your winter vests,
Or after supper one of the girls
Suddenly missed her Woolworth pearls:
Then the family would say, ‘It’s that horrible cat!’ 

A picture on the wall is askew. A shower curtain liner is in tatters. Sun shines through claw-holes in the bedroom drapes. The bottom third of the Christmas tree ornaments are cockeyed or backwards. Yesterday morning, my glasses were missing from the chest beside the bed. After a frantic search, I found them tangled in some torn fibers of the box spring cover, some distance under the bed. “It’s that Terrible Tiger!”

Growltiger was a Bravo cat, who travelled on a barge
In fact, he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large.
From Gravesend up to Oxford he pursued his evil aims,
Rejoicing in his title of ‘The Terror of the Thames’….
Woe to the weak canary, that fluttered from its cage;
Woe to the pampered Pekinese, that faced Growltiger’s rage;
Woe to the bristly Bandicoot, that lurks on foreign ships,
And woe to any Cat with whom Growltiger came to grips!

Growltiger’s descendant, the Terrible Tiger, not only terrorizes birds and rodents but also goats, dogs, humans, and even other cats. I’d love to adopt one of the poor, homeless strays that happen by our place, but the Terrible Tiger, who possesses no social graces, always drives them away.

In the interest of the disinterest of cat-haters, I refrain from further discussion of the Terrible Tiger and his forebears, but I heartily recommend the book to fans of both cats and comedy.


“Also, since you are Christ's family, then you are Abraham's famous "descendant," heirs according to the covenant promises.” –GALATIONS 3:29


Thursday, December 27, 2012


We’ve got four or five inches of snow on the ground—dense, icy stuff that’s  a bane for drivers but a gift from heaven for us glide-happy cross-country skiers. We never got enough snow for skiing last winter, and the winter before that my knee was in bad shape, so I was thrilled to finally be swishing down the canal road this morning.

Thankfully, the gliding didn’t aggravate my knee, although I did manage to overexert some leg muscles which walking and jogging apparently don’t work very hard. My calf muscles, in particular, feel as stiff as two-by-fours. Perhaps another skiing jaunt later this afternoon will loosen them up!


“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.”          --PSALM 37:4


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Facts and Figures

We woke up to a whitish Christmas—maybe an inch-and-a-half of snow—some of which the cows were wearing this morning. Even though it was only 5°, they were kept warm by their dense, fluffy coats; insulating layers of fat; and internal- heating rumen.

University researchers advise cattlemen that for every degree below 20°, cows require a 1% increase in energy intake, aka food, just to maintain their body condition. Wind chill is factored into the equation as well. As I write, the thermometer reads -4°, sans wind chill, which means that each cow must eat 24% more than she usually does. I’d say that if she's pregnant, she needs even more. A cow doesn’t have to be told to eat that much more; the more inclement the weather, the hungrier she is. (Thankfully, we have more pasture than cows and plenty of hay in reserve, just in case it’s a really tough winter.)

Maybe people aren’t all that different than cows. When Hubby, Zach, and I ate our Christmas dinner this afternoon, we ate approximately 24% more than usual!

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”     –PSALM 107:9



Monday, December 24, 2012

Behind the Scenes

Wintertime on a farm or ranch could very well be called “waiting-time”. The dynamic, nearly frantic hustle-and-bustle of growth, production, and harvest has given way to a much slower-pace of rest, maintenance, and waiting. The winter nights are awfully long and the mornings are exceptionally cold. Nature’s rhythms have slowed so much that they almost seemed to have stopped. Nearly everything that was vibrantly green and growing is now brownish-gray and shriveling as if on death’s doorstep.

The seed catalogs have not yet begun to arrive in our mailbox, but we have an even surer promise of spring’s return: the growing waistlines of the pregnant heifers and cows! If winter seems endless and spring far away—or if circumstances seem dark and spirits feel gray and shriveling—I submit this evidence (courtesy of Clarabelle) that God is working, albeit behind the scenes. Just like spring and baby calves, better times are slowly but surely on their way!

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” –PSALM 27:13

Saturday, December 22, 2012

One Goat Open Sleigh

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh….

Although I’ve never ridden in a one-horse open sleigh, I take their word for it about the fun. At Christmastime, I decorate with miniature sleighs, jingle bells, and pictures and plates depicting the nostalgic horsey pastime. I daydream about driving Sugar around the place with a sleigh full of smiling kids, but even if I had a sleigh and knew how to train her to pull it safely, we seldom have enough snow. I wonder if they make a sleigh with a drop-down axle-and-wheel option.

Times have certainly changed from those on the Currier and Ives scenes of yore when horses pulled sleighs, ice sleds, and hay wagons nearly every winter’s day. In spring, summer, and fall, horses did what cars, trucks, and tractors do now. Not only do modern-day horses have much more leisure time, they’ve managed it so that people are often conveying them. It’s not uncommon to see horses riding around in pickup-trailer outfits that cost more than a small house.

Goats, on the other hand, get a lot less respect. Meels and Blueberry, for example, are transported in a dog kennel in the back of the pickup, which is even less glamorous than what average ranch horses and cattle are hauled in, a gooseneck stock trailer. When I’m seen driving the latter, I get a lot of lifted hands and nods (a standard Wyoming greeting from one rancher to another), but when I’m driving the goatmobile, there’s no such regard.

I don’t mind. If folks knew how feed-efficient, sweet, and comical goats are, and how easy they are to load (no training or cowboying required—if they don’t want to get in, one simply lifts them), then goats would be elevated to a higher rung on the ladder of livestock society. People would not only make eye-contact with us goat chauffeurs, they might even tip their cowboy hats!
“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on
 those whose hope is in His unfailing love.” –PSALM 33:18



Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Merry is Optional

Billings, Montana, our nearest shopping mecca, is nearly a three hours’ drive from here, so a trip there for Christmas and grocery shopping became something of a marathon the other day. I suspected that I wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed, as the tension and weariness that I saw on so many faces seemed to mirror my own.

Perhaps some of those folks struggle with the same disorder that I do: GIPS (Gift Indecision and Procrastination Syndrome). Symptoms include hesitation and vacillation, such as: Will they like it? Do they already have one? Does it cost too much? If not, does it look too cheap? Is it the right color, size, type, or style? Could I find a better gift at another store? I should probably keep looking. Maybe I’ll find something better…. After a few hours of such deliberation, my spirit of the season soon evaporated and was blown away by the icy Billings wind.

Some of us also contend with CCS (Christmas Codependence Syndrome) in which we operate under the assumption that it’s up to us to ensure joy to the world, peace on earth, and goodwill amongst men. Alas, when joy fizzles out, peace unravels, and goodwill goes AWOL, we realize that we’re not up to the task. In and of themselves, our fudge can’t sweeten bitterness, our cookies can’t quench fears, our gifts can’t heal heartache, our lights can’t lift heavy spirits, and our decorations can’t disguise bleakness.

And so it recently dawned on me that I can’t make Christmas merry. Christmas is a gift given to everyone, but each of us is free to decide whether or not to take and open it. Grace, mercy, love, joy, peace, and hope are lovingly offered but not always received or shared. Christmas is a choice!


“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given….And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ISAIAH 9:6



Monday, December 17, 2012

Eighty Winks

Just like people, animals have routines. By mid-morning, just about every animal on this outfit is napping—the cat on the bed, the dog on the loveseat, the cows scattered here and there near the corrals, and the horses in the back pasture. My mare, Sugar, is the soundest snoozer of them all. She lies flat on her side, often with her legs stretched out straight like she’s got a good case of rigor mortis.

I bought Sugar when she was three. Just after I wrote the check and was handed the bill of sale, Hubby and I headed to her corral to catch her and take her home. When we got there, we both looked at each other and inhaled deeply. I’ll never forget my first thought: Great! I just bought a dead horse! Well, we figured out she was just napping, but she was sleeping so soundly that she was difficult to rouse.

We soon got used to Sugar’s daily super-siesta, but we forgot to tell our neighbors. One day while on a road trip, my cell phone rang. “Something’s wrong with Sugar!” my nearest neighbor wailed. “She’s stretched out stiff as a board! My daughter and I went over to check on her, but she just moans and groans!”
   "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” 


Saturday, December 15, 2012


I confess to an inordinate fondness for blue heelers, cats, rose bushes, chocolate, and frosting. I find them irresistible. In my opinion, blue heelers, cats, rose bushes, chocolate, and frosting are indisputable proof that God is good and everything He does is very good. Such theology comes in handy when I need to justify any weakness for or overindulgence in blue heelers, cats, rose bushes, chocolate, and frosting.

Naturally, when I first laid eyes on this adorable heifer, I thought, Frosting! A chocolate cupcake with fluffy white frosting! So Cupcake was christened.

Hubby really likes Cupcake’s refinement and femininity, which he says is a good predictor of reproductive efficiency. Hubby’s a retired ag teacher and Future Farmers of America advisor, so his evaluation of Cupcake is based on more academic criteria than mine. I tend to assess cows according to docility, ease of calving (translation: they don’t need a human midwife), and cuteness—in that order.

In four months, we’ll find out what kind of mama Cupcake is. But she’s already got the cuteness thing nailed!


“Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see - how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him.” –PSALM 34:8


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Smell of Grace

My sister, Jenny, and I were reminiscing yesterday about our childhood Christmases. Papa, our grandfather, could very well have been the inspiration for Santa Claus—not in appearance but in heart. Every year, he’d sneak an eye-popping green bill into our pockets and whisper, “For Christmas!” It went without saying that the money was only to be used for the purchase of presents for the family.

In those days, we had no mall or Walmart, so Papa took Jenny and me downtown to the JCPenney store, where, we recall, we always chose pretty much the same gifts: Estee Lauder bath powder for Mimi, our grandmother; Estee Lauder perfume for Mom; and Old Spice aftershave for Dad. Later, we’d accompany a parent to buy Papa a new package of tobacco for his pipe. Although our aromatic Christmas presents were predictable, they were always received with mock surprise and, apparently, delight.

“Do you think they really did want the same thing every year, or they just pretended that they loved them?” I asked Jenny. She didn’t know either. In our family, the graces of giving and receiving were so sincerely and artfully practiced that the gifting was valued higher than the gift.

Speaking of aromatic:  Sometimes I wish technology would enable me to embed a “touch-and-sniff” feature to my blog. If so, I’d attach the aroma of freshly-baked ginger cookies cooling on my counter right now.  Next to Sugar’s photo, I’d attach another one that would allow you to breathe in the same warm, tangy fragrance that I do when I bury my cold nose in her furry neck. And when the breeze blew in from the southeast, I’d capture (and attach) the sweet, heady aroma of corn silage that neighbors across the river feed to their cows in the winter. But I graciously will not attach a whiff of Mt. Odoriferous, the manure pile composting in the back corral. That’s one gift that might not be appreciated!

“And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” –JOHN 1:16




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No Reservations Required

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and our “local” news station (which hails from Casper, a 3-hr drive away), deer and other wildlife are suffering ill effects from the drought. I’m sure they’re right; however, animals that live anywhere near irrigated hayfields are getting along just fine, as you can see from the photo below, taken just before dusk last night. Just like our livestock, there’s not a skinny one in the herd!
Every night, two to three dozen mule deer (and the occasional flock of geese) take advantage of our all-you-can-eat alfalfa buffet, which Hubby has dubbed the Golden Corral Game Preserve. Our customers are non-paying, unless you count the—ahem—fertilizer that they leave behind for next year’s growing season.

We don’t mind the beautiful freeloaders because there’s plenty for everyone. We’re particularly fond of this buck, who we think is a descendant of a gorgeous monster buck that used to frequent our fields before he was poached a few years ago. The other deer make their way closer to the river during the daytime, but this guy stays here, where he seems to know he’s safe.

“You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me; Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.” –PSALM 40:11


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Bubbles is, by far, the smallest of the Heffies but is, arguably, one of the cutest. Indeed, she is the most vocal. I don’t know if she’s the elected spokesperson of the group or just self-appointed, but if there’s an opinion, complaint, or request to be voiced, Bubbles articulates it—loudly. I don’t speak moo, but given the context, I usually get the general idea of what she’s saying. An example: Enough of this worming business! It’s time to let us out!! Or: We don’t like these stems at the bottom of the feeder! We’re ready for a fresh bale!!

Of course, I can’t prove that those were her exact words. A bovine linguist might interpret better than I. But if I had a recording to play, I’m sure listeners would agree with me on this: all of Bubble’s sentences end with at least one exclamation point!


“May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing…that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.” –ROMANS 15:13

Monday, December 10, 2012

Making Merry

We bid fond farewells to last week’s 50° weather as intermittent snow, wind and cold--down to a measly 1° yesterday morning—paid us a visit. I didn’t mind the return of winter, since it added a more seasonal ambiance to the weekend’s festivities: making sugar cookies and candy, a women’s breakfast, caroling at the home of a dear brother in Christ who’s battling brain cancer, decorating the church, and finally picking out a Christmas tree with Hubby. (It’s a small but gorgeous Colorado blue spruce, no doubt grown on a tree farm somewhere in the Northwest, where trees grow faster than they do here!)

In the midst of the merriment, I asked some folks, “Do you think we’ll have Christmas in heaven?”

One of them smiled. “Every day will be Christmas!”

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” –PHILIPPIANS 4:4


Friday, December 7, 2012

Great Expectations

As of dusk last night, Blueberry is very likely pregnant, and 150 days hence, her kids should be born. According to the American Goat Society’s gestational calculator, her kidding date is Sunday, May 5, 2013. (Meels’ kids are expected the Tuesday prior.) Thankfully, we’ll be all done calving by then.

I doubt that Blueberry’s pregnancy will be followed as closely as that of the Duchess of Cambridge. The little ones surely won’t be as regal or renowned as Kate’s baby, but I can guarantee they’ll be adorable and oft-photographed!


“Be glad for all God is planning for you….” –ROMANS 12:12

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cow Therapy

I had the hardest time picking out a name for this heifer, as you may recall. My first instinct was to call her Shadow because the black on her face looked like a shadow of the Grinch. But who would want a gloomy name like that? One day, the black hair was swirled in such a way as to make it look like a cat sitting on her face, so Hubby suggested Miss Kitty. But the next morning, the cat was gone and the shadow had reappeared.

A week or two passed with no name, until I determined to focus on the white shape, not the dark. Then I saw it: light falling as if from one of those sparklers we played with as kids on the Fourth of July. And so she was christened Sparkle, an ever-present reminder to lighten up—on purpose!

Sparkle was shy at first but now is one of the friendliest heffies. She doesn’t like to be touched, but for some odd reason, she likes to come up and give our outstretched hands a slobbery sniff, maybe even a lick. For an even odder reason that I can’t explain, I always feel favored, even honored, when she does so. Who’d ever guess that a wet nuzzle from a black-and-white heifer could be so good for the soul?

There are therapy dogs and horses. Maybe Sparkle would make a good therapy cow.


“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor….”   PSALM 84:11

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

There, Somewhere

“Are you ready for Christmas?” a friend asked the other day.

Ready? I haven’t even put a tree up yet, or even picked one out. Sometimes we get a Forest Service permit, go to the mountains, and ski or snowshoe until we find just the perfect one. Nothing could be more fun; however, it pains my arborist’s heart to cut down a living tree. I’d be happy with an artificial one, but Hubby snubs them. I think a compromise might to buy one of the tree-farm firs at the hardware store; after all, it’s already given its life for the cause!

But first I need to find my lights. Twice I’ve climbed down and crawled into the crawl space under the house, where my decorations are stored, and searched every tub. No lights! Maybe I forgot to put them in the tubs last year and so stashed the lights somewhere else. But, where is somewhere?

In my search, I found a cache of beeswax candles that I’d lost. They’d make a nostalgic alternative to electric lights that would fit right in with my rustic decor, but I don’t want to risk a forest fire.

Speaking of candles and flames: a sweet, candle-faced heifer named Flame lights up our lives every day. May she do the same for you today!

“The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” –JOHN 1:5



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winky the Whale

Her official name is Winky, but lately I’ve been calling her Winky the Whale. For one thing, when viewed from the side, she’s colored somewhat like an orca. And, although she was one of the littlest heffies we bought last January, she’s since grown up, out, back, forth, and all around. I suppose that, since she’s with calf, Winky’s proportions will only become more and more whalish!


“I pray that you…may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” –EPHESIANS 3:17-18

Monday, December 3, 2012

Second-Best Noel

Noel, which is another word for Christmas, simply means birth. Approximately 2,017 noels ago, the First (and Best) Noel happened. A star blazed. A donkey snorted. A young woman moaned. Her husband paced and prayed. The baby Savior and King took his first breath of earth-air. Angels sang. Sheep bleated. Shepherds ran, skipped, and leapt all the way to town.

The next-best noel, at least for me, happened nearly 14 noels ago. In a little church in a little town probably not much bigger than Bethlehem, the Savior and King asked me a question: Will you trust Me with your life and follow Me?

Only Jesus knew just what He was asking. For decades, I’d been taught that God was, at best, never pleased with me, and most of the time was angry with me. This concept had been emphasized with condemnation, accusation, vulgarity, obscenity, threat, and abuse—every bit of which, I was told, was God’s way of disciplining me. I believed that I deserved no better.

I finally ran away from that God of fear and shame but ended up surrounded by folks who passionately and gratefully loved a God whose love and grace was transforming their hearts and lives. I’d always been told that Christians were just deceived hypocrites. I hung around them anyway because they were so full of love, joy, peace, and hope—and I had absolutely none! On their wall hung a framed scripture that quite literally gripped my heart every time I read it:

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –JEREMIAH 29:11

I figured such words were for good people, not someone like me who had made such a mess of her life while searching down every road that seemed to promise hope and a future but ended in brokenness and failure. But when Jesus asked me to trust Him with my life and future, I realized that He was my only hope.

I didn’t look up, fall on my knees, sing “Just as I Am”, or recite a prayer. I just whispered, “Okay.” No one on earth heard me, but later I found out that there was a lot of whooping and hollering in heaven that night—the night of my second-best noel.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Meels' Big Day

Meels went on a blind date this morning! He’s a handsome but stinky little dude named Cowboy, who was chosen partially for his outstanding dairy genetics but mostly for his dreamy blue eyes.

I was Meels' chaperone on this driveway rendezvous. She didn’t seem to mind Cowboy’s attentions but stayed close to me as if she was a bit bewildered. It took longer to get her out of the truck than it did to get her—how shall I say this delicately—with kid. Actually, Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats usually have twins or triplets, so I should say with kids.

When a doe is in heat, she’s paces restlessly and makes a lot of racket, looking for and calling in suitors, I suppose. But ever since I brought her home from her date, Meels has been quiet, even napping, although she should still be in heat. Could it be that she knows that now she’s what every doe was born to be, a mama?

 A mug of Cowboy when younger that shows his marvelous eyes. See more details and photos at Click on The Stinkers and scroll down.
“Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying His company, delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family.” –PROVERBS 8:30-31

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Choir

I’m trying to keep the Choir alive.

Eight or so darling sparrows spend the night in the barn with the goaties. I call them the Choir because they tend to sit aloft in rows. They chirp more than sing, but hey, I can’t sing very well either. When I let the goaties out in the morning, I love to talk to my little friends, whose down feathers are puffed up to keep them warm.

All this bird-goat-human harmony gets disrupted when the Terrible Tiger, whom I lock out of the barn at night, sneaks into the barn behind me. I have to run at the sparrows, clapping my hands to scare them up higher into the rafters so they won’t be eaten. After evening chores, I have to make certain the Tiger isn’t shut in the barn, which sometimes entails a crazy woman-cat chase. (One time Blueberry helped me chase him out. She doesn’t care much for the Tiger, who, even though he’s greatly outsized, likes to ambush her and Meels from the Russian olives, startling them into running away.)

The other day, Smokey (the Tiger’s sweet alter-ego) was taking his usual afternoon nap indoors. He loves to be petted and snuggled when sleepy, and I’m happy to oblige. That day I saw something sticking out of Smokey’s paw. Upon closer inspection, I identified the foreign object as a tiny feather! I didn’t find any more incriminating evidence in the yard or barn, so hopefully the bird just had a harrowing day but escaped with his life.

“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” –PSALM 91:4




Wednesday, November 28, 2012


On my way back from my morning run, I stopped to give my regards to the Heffies. Blossom came up right behind me, which was a surprise because she’s the bashful wallflower of the bunch. When they’re all together, she’s usually one of the last to be noticed, hanging back bashfully, often seeming to hide her rather plainly marked head behind one of her more striking sisters.

Hubby and I were just talking about Blossom the other day, remarking how her color and personality almost make her invisible amongst the others, yet she has actually grown into a very pretty, balanced, well-muscled-but-feminine young cow, more so than many of her more conspicuous cohorts.

“You’re so beautiful, Blossom!" I told her as I snapped her picture.

As I turned and headed home, I thought, “I can really relate to Blossom. I’ve always preferred to hang back in the shadows where I can’t be noticed, letting the more confident, poised, and admirable ones get the attention. I’m glad that Blossom is starting to blossom a bit. Maybe I am too.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” –2 CORINTHIANS 5:17

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Over the Top

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, Hubby thinks I’m a bit over the top. He's not an elf, so he doesn't realize that, when it comes to decking the halls, there is no top. 
Actually, I'm quite Spartan compared to some elves I know. My friend, Kathy, has been known to have five Christmas trees in her house and even has lights strung up in her bathroom. My sister, Jenny, has so many holiday decorations that she has to store them in a shed on another farm; although she drives a SUV, she told me that she was afraid the Christmas paraphernalia wouldn’t fit, and she might have to make two trips. My editor, TJ—well, I’ll let his own words convict him:

“My attic has 17 tons of Christmas decorations about to crash through the roof. We have Christmas music boxes that play every song written about the holiday since the original trip to Bethlehem by the key couple. We even have boxes marked “never take these down” which contain old lights and antique decorations from the early Pleistocene era. There are stuffed animals taking up at least five acres of the living room each season, and a growing Christmas village undergoing a Malthusian population explosion. We decorate the yard with wooden stuff I cut out and Sally painted including elves, 9 deer (one with the ruby nose), the Clauses, penguins, bears and … well, you get the idea. I’ll be pounding in the stakes to hold them against the wind and no doubt puncturing my underground PVC irrigation pipes again.”

I’m off to town. I volunteered to take Blackie in to get the oil changed before he takes it on a football trip this weekend. While I’m there, I might as well look around for a bigger Christmas tree.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Road

Snow was expected this weekend, but rain came instead, and a very welcome surprise it was! The more our parched pastures and trees get to drink before the ground freezes, the better. I’m especially relieved because now I won’t have to haul any more water to all of this year’s plantings of junipers, willows, cottonwoods, and currants.

Rain, however, is much more inconvenient on our place than snow because of our lane. It’s “the road” when dry, frozen, or snow-covered, but when it’s muddy, it’s “The Road”. The Road is over half-a-mile of the heaviest, stickiest, slippieriest, muckiest muck that any luckless driver has ever faced. When the muck builds up under the wheelwells, it hardens into concrete that can actually prevent wheels from turning, not to mention wear the rubber off of tires.

Lest you think I exaggerate, I quote Jeremy, our Co-op tire guy: “Look at this chunk of concrete wedged in here! It has scraped the sidewall right off the inside of the tire! You must have driven over some wet cement.” I shook my head and said no, I didn’t think so. I could just imagine what Jeremy was thinking: Women drivers! They don’t even know when they’ve driven over wet concrete!

Since removing the concrete is most unpleasant and tiresome, we try to avoid driving on The Road. Fortunately, the ground was frozen early this morning, so Hubby was able to take his car to work. I drove Blackie out to the county road before the sun could warm up the muck. If I need to go to town later, I can shuttle myself out there in the Ranger, which, hopefully, is more amphibious than Blackie.

“Didn't He set us on the road to life? Didn't He keep us out of the ditch?”      –PSALM 66:9


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Life is Good!

On our way to Cody for a Christmas shopping excursion yesterday, we were delighted to see a large band of wild horses hanging out close to the highway.

 These mustangs are part of the Bureau of Land Management’s McCullough Peaks herd, about 168 animals that range over 109,814 acres. The BLM does a good job of managing the area; even though it’s been a drought year, the horses are in fairly good shape. Where he works, Hubby sometimes sees wild horses from the Pryor Mountains. He reports that those animals are smaller and in poorer condition.

Better feed supply is not the only reason that the McCullough Peaks horses are bigger; the herd has a definite draft horse influence. Genetic testing points to Percheron breed markers, along with a lesser input of Spanish breed markers. The herd’s genetic diversity is partially explained by the Friends of a Legacy (FOAL), a wild horse advocacy organization:

 At least one McCullough Peaks horse tested as a descendant of horses owned by the Royal Family in England, probably a relative of the horses they gave to Buffalo Bill when he toured England with his show the Wild West….Ranchers, in the “before fences” era, would allow their horses to graze with the Mustangs over the winter months.”   (

Christmas shopping, eating out, and seeing wild horses up close, all in one day—life is good!

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life….”      –PSALM 23:6


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Who Needs Roosters?

Even though it’s only just 7 pm, I’m really sleepy. This condition is due, in part, to eating too much Thanksgiving cherry pie a la mode and mashed potatoes a la gravy. (I told Hubby that I felt like I’d just eaten a deep-fried whale and would never be hungry again.) But the primary cause of my blurry vision and heavy eyelids is presently scratching Hubby’s new chair: the cat.

Smokey’s latest hunting schedule compels him to wake me up between 3 and 4 am to let him outside. I don’t rouse easily, but after a series of meows and crashes (from books and other items being systematically knocked off my nightstand), I’m awake. As I grope in the dark for my glasses, my arm is batted by the Terrible Tiger. (The latter is one of Smokey’s alter-egos; if he was the Evil Moriarty, he’d be drawing blood.) Next, Bodie (the dog) goes out to scout for danger. Meanwhile, I stand with the door open, waiting for Bodie to somehow communicate the “all clear” sign to the Terrible Tiger, who then joins him outside. Two to fifteen minutes later, depending on the temperature and availability of cottontails to chase, Bodie scratches on the door to be let inside. All of this fresh, frosty air wakes me up enough that I can’t go back to sleep.

Nevertheless, if asked to enumerate all for which I’m grateful, Smokey and Bodie would be near the top of that very long list. Right after their names, though, I’d have to write “coffee”.

“The earth is full of His unfailing love.” –PSALM 33:5

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alternative Energy

We’ve had something of a thaw this week, with several afternoons that are too warm for anything but a sweatshirt. Nighttime lows are still well below freezing and accompanied by thick frost, though, so I was rather surprised to find this hardy little dandelion blooming this morning!

When I looked closely at the dandelion’s habitat, I saw that it was nestled in a bed of decaying vegetation and cow manure, where microbial oxidation is apparently producing enough heat to keep the dandelion from freeze drying.

The moral of my story: If you’re ever lost in a blizzard and find yourself in a barnyard, grope your way (or follow your nose) to the nearest manure pile and wriggle inside until help arrives!
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  PROVERBS 17:22


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dishcloth Angel

I’ll never forget that day 13 years ago. I sat in a Burger King booth across from my son, staring out the window, feeling like an abject failure and steeling myself not to cry.

Not only was I a divorcee and single-mom who was fighting depression and barely making ends meet, but my son had a serious health concern that had required an appointment with a neurologist in the city. I’d taken him out of school in plenty of time, I thought, for the hour’s drive. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere close to the clinic, so we had to walk a few blocks. A big clock in the entryway said we had five minutes to spare. The receptionist checked us in, then a nurse took us in an exam room and administered a series of neurological tests. Then we waited nervously for the doctor. It was almost lunchtime, but I was too anxious to feel hungry.

He never came. Instead, the nurse came in, wringing her hands. “I’m so sorry, but the doctor says he won’t see your son because you were late for your appointment.”

“What? The appointment was for 11:30. We got here at 11:25,” I said.

“No, your appointment was for 11:20,” she said. "You'll have to reschedule."

Reschedule? The emergency room physician had mentioned “possible brain tumor”, we’d waited almost three weeks for this appointment, and now I had to reschedule? I decided that the neurologist’s heart couldn’t be much bigger than a box elder bug.
A good mother would have left a half-hour earlier, I kept thinking, as we drove to the nearest fast-food restaurant. I’m a terrible mom. I can’t do anything right. I couldn’t even taste my hamburger (not a cheeseburger—they cost too much).

I’d noticed the elderly woman wearing a Burger King uniform who was wiping down the tables. She had a very pronounced limp that looked quite painful. I’d wondered why someone her age and condition was working so hard.

But I soon slipped back into my funk of self-criticism. As I stared blindly at the junipers outside the window, the old woman limped up to us, wet dishcloth in hand. She leaned over the table so that her face was right in front of mine, stared intently into my eyes, and said, “God bless you and your son.” Then she hobbled away.

As I took a sip of my soda, I had this thought: She’s an angel. Right then I looked up, and there she was, looking at me with a twinkle in her eyes that told me she knew what I was thinking. Then she hobbled away again.

Maybe it was my imagination, but when I glanced out the window, the sun was shining much brighter than it had been seconds before! A tiny spark of hope began to shine in my darkness.

By the way, my son's symptoms never returned.

I know several people who’ve met angels. None of us has ever had a camera handy to record the encounter--nor would we have had the presence of mind to use it--but I suspect that angels don’t show up in photographs anyway.  Although I can’t give readers a picture of my dishcloth angel, I jump at the chance to show off our beautiful heifer, Angel, who has two angel wings on her nose and one over each eye.

“He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who've been thrown out with the trash, seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best.” –PSALM 113:7-8