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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Don't Tell Hubby!

Hubby’s riding a football high. This weekend, his beloved Montana State Bobcats won a hard-fought battle against their archrivals, the Montana Grizzlies. More importantly, they tied two other teams for the Big Sky Championship and got a bye for the first round of FCS playoffs.

An alum of MSU, Hubby’s been a Bobcat fan for half a century, as are most of his relatives and friends. Since Wyoming has only one university, I find it hard to comprehend the depth of an in-state rivalry. I’m still amazed when I overhear a conversation like: My grandson’s got a terrible coach. He’s a Griz, you know. Incredibly, this statement is answered with a sympathetic nodding of the head!

 Cats don’t feel any more sympathy for the Griz when they lose than the Griz feel when the Cats lose. The victory’s too sweet, I guess. Maybe because I’ve only been a Bobcat for years, not decades; or because I knew that the Grizzlies’ season was over and many of their hard-working, talented players would never play football again; or because I’ve never played football (except one hilarious backyard game on my son’s birthday) but do know what it feels like to be embarrassed by my own mistakes or crushed by others’ hurtful words—don’t tell Hubby!—I feel a bit sorry for the Griz.


A Message from the high and towering God, who lives in Eternity, whose name is Holy: "I live in the high and holy places, but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed, and what I do is put new spirit in them, get them up and on their feet again.”                 –ISAIAH 57:15


Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Time

The goaties are 18 months old and ready to become the dairy goats that they were bred to be. Before there can be milk and cheese, however, there must be a buck and, five months later, some baby kids! Since we don’t want to live with a stinky and (if you ask me) ugly buck all year, Meels and Blueberry will have to settle for a very quick and unromantic date. If these two are as fertile as goats are reputed to be, that’s all it will take.

I’ve put in a call to the Nigerian breeder that I bought the goaties from who has a buck or two that are unrelated. In the meantime, maybe I could enroll them on a goat-dating site. Maybe there’s a,, or Of course, I’d post this photo taken when they were younger and thinner and had less facial hair!

Meels and Blueberry

“God's blessing on your children, the crops of your land, the young of your livestock, the calves of your herds, the lambs of your flocks."     DEUTERONOMY 28:4

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More Than Welcome

We have some new neighbors! Two coveys of grey partridges (also known as Hungarian partridges, or, more commonly, Huns) have moved onto the place. We saw them all the time in Montana, but this is the first we’ve seen them since we moved here nearly six years ago. They’re quite cute--kind of like chubby little chickens. The Huns are awfully skittish and camera-shy, and thus far, haven’t allowed me to introduce myself. (Photo is from Google Images.) Huns aren’t migratory, so I hope they settle down here and stay a while! 
Who are those who fear the LORD? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the Promised Land.” —PSALM 25:12-13

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You Never Know

This might be the stupidest way in the world to waste five bucks, I thought to myself that day as I carried the potted tree into the store to pay for it. The tiny, scrawny, lopsided little blue spruce would have made Charlie Brown’s tree look like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Not only that, but it was the middle of summer—the very worst time of year to plant a tree—so I knew that I could be going to a lot of trouble for nothing. But I knew that the store was getting ready to clear out everything in its garden center, and I couldn’t bear to think of a live tree ending up in a dumpster, so I took it home.

Three-and-a-half years and lots of love later, the little spruce has grown rather shapely and beautiful. One of these days, we may be getting a phone call from Manhattan!

“He puts poor people on their feet again; he rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, restoring dignity and respect to their lives - a place in the sun!”                –1 SAMUEL 2:8

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Migrant

The waters north of us must be freezing over, as we’re suddenly seeing and hearing flock after flock of Canada geese in the sky and fields. I happened to glance up at a V of geese that flew right past me on my walk this morning. When I walk, I’m all business—have to keep my heart rate up, have lots to do when I get back. But this particular sight stopped me in my tracks: the vanguard of the flock wasn’t a Canada goose, but a snow goose!

The geese then flew in a figure-eight, eyeing the hayfield beside a little drain pond. The Canadas decided to stop and take a break here, but the snow goose was on a quest. He left his dark friends behind, headed due south, and rapidly disappeared into the light blue sky. I wonder what his story is, I thought. Lord, help him find his own kind.

I’ve always thought snow geese to be exquisitely beautiful in flight, and we hardly ever get to see them here, so this sighting was a double delight! I don’t have a bird-worthy camera or the skill to use one, so I’ve pasted a photo from Google Images and Cornell’s Their video of snow geese will give you chills!

“God's works are so great, worth a lifetime of study -- endless enjoyment!”  PSALM 111:2



A Bit Chilly

Hubby says that, in the absence of a thermometer, the best way to tell how cold it is outside is by the sound of the snow crunching and squeaking under one’s feet. The louder the scrunching noise, the further the mercury is below zero. I was just outdoors doing chores—feeding hay to the goats and horses, breaking the ice in the creek where the latter go to water—and although my ears were covered with three heavy layers, the scrunching was rather loud!

Bodie is something of a thermometer himself. Even though he’s mostly Border collie and blue heeler, both of which are heavy-coated, Bodie is one-eighth Catahoula, a southern breed which doesn’t need much hair. Bodie’s coat is Border-fluffy but Catahoula-sparse, so when it’s sub-zero, he’ll want back indoors before chores are over. This morning he only lasted a few minutes.

Frigid weather is particularly dangerous on our place. When the cat, Smokey, has been indoors too long, cabin fever triggers the arrival of one of his evil triplets, the dreaded Evil Moriarty. Hubby and I both have fresh claw and teeth marks on our person. Bodie would have had some too, had he not defended himself with growls, snarls, and gnashing teeth. Moriarty was ejected from the premises, which was his objective, but he returned after only a few seconds of minus 11°.

Hard to believe we were working in t-shirts (while the animals watched from the shade) just last week!

 Frozen rose hips!

“Warm me, your servant, with a smile….” –PSALM 31:16


Saturday, November 10, 2012

At Last!

It’s our first snow of the season. It’s late by several weeks, but it’s a good one. It snowed all afternoon yesterday, melting into the ground for several hours. Such a blessing for the thirsty, powder-dry ground! As I write this, we have five or six inches of the white stuff, and it’s still coming down. The temperature is supposed to dip to 5° tonight, so it looks like the conditions might be ripe for an early morning cross-country ski tomorrow.

Up until now, we’ve had very little fall moisture—less than half-an-inch—so I’ve still been irrigating all of this year’s tree transplants. After the water was let out of the canal a month ago, I’ve had to use hoses, buckets, and a 150-gallon water tank in the pickup. Earlier this week, I watered them again and mulched them too. This heaven-sent moisture has a better pH than our well water, and the layer of snow on the mulch will help protect the trees from the bitter cold on the way.
The animals don’t seem to mind the snow, maybe because they’re so plump and well-insulated! The calves and heifers are playing instead of lounging around all day. Sugar, something of an equine Jillian, keeps galloping laps around the pasture, leading a less-than enthusiastic and somewhat overweight Solly. The goaties stayed indoors until this morning, when they finally got bored enough to brave the snow, even though a dozen sparrows had kept them company in the barn.

The only one that isn’t happy with the snow is the cat, who fancies himself a Terrible Tiger who roams an imaginary jungle, not a snow leopard who ranges in the Himalayas!

“Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of My the work that I sent them to do...." ISAIAH 55:1--11

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Fencing Crew

Ranch and farm work isn’t for people-people. In other words, if you’re happiest when you’re around others, better keep your day job. Don’t get me wrong—we’re not lonely. We have plenty of folks to talk to and visit with. It’s just that, for the most part, our colleagues aren’t human.
Just this afternoon, I had a very minor fencing repair to do, and I not only had an audience, I got at least half a dozen offers of assistance.  I happened to have my camera with me and caught a few shots of my fencing crew.
 Sparkle, Cupcake, Annabelle
“Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.” –PSALM 34:17

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Molecular biologists and many Christians (to a much lesser extent) know about laminin, the protein that holds the cells in our bodies together, much like rebar imbedded in a concrete foundation. Scientific diagrams and electronic-microscopes reveal that laminin is shaped like a cross, a sort of molecular illustration of Colossians 1: 16-18:

Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see.... Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together.

 If you know Christ, then you know from first-hand experience what the Cross represents—grace, compassion, love, healing, peace, light, power, joy, forgiveness, and redemption—all that Jesus is and all that He does in us. Interestingly enough, the very next sentence in Colossians reads:

Christ is the head of the church, which is his body.

A relationship with Jesus binds all believers together, regardless of age, social status, citizenship, race, gender, or denomination.

Whether we’re sprinkled, dunked, or splashed
Whether we drive a Mercedes, Jeep, Harley, or John Deere
Whether we pray in liturgies, tongues, or whispers
Whether we wear heels or boots, ties or chains, cashmere or denim
Whether we worship with a hymn, a rap, or a tear
 Whether we study from the King James, the Message, or a Kindle
Whether we’re pre-trib, post-trib, or who-the-heck-is-Trib
Whether we praise God in English, Mandarin, or Arapaho
The Cross makes us one.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Better Late than Never

I’ve passed this scraggly little rubber rabbitbrush nearly every day on my morning walks or irrigation rounds. I’ve never given it a second look until a few days ago when I saw that it was blooming! All of its other rabbitbrush friends and relatives started blooming in August and have long since gone to seed. I don’t know what this little shrub had to overcome that the others didn’t. Maybe its roots were assaulted by a bug, maybe someone ran over it, or maybe the dog peed on it one too many times—I don’t know. But it persisted and overcame, and even though the mercury plunges below freezing every night, it’s blooming bravely!

“Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”         ROMANS 12:21

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Free At Last

Today was Liberation Day.

We brought the heifers in from pasture a month ago because the lack of rain was beginning to take its toll on the grass. The heffies hung out in the corrals and stuffed themselves with hay all day because there was nothing else to do. Hubby regularly chided them for eating so much and putting on so much weight, but I reminded him that they were, after all, eating for two.

After a great deal of labor on the part of the humans on this outfit (I could write many a paragraph describing just how hard we worked and just how much my back still hurts, but it would sound like whining), the hayfields, stacks of irrigation pipe, windbreaks, and fences are finally cow-ready. But it’s all worth it, just to see our pudgy darlings running and playing to their hearts’ content—and to not have to feed them for a while!

“All of you set free by God, tell the world! Tell how He freed you from oppression.” –PSALM 107:2


Friday, November 2, 2012

Glamor Girls

Around here, “dressing up” usually means putting on one’s best jeans, vest, and boots. Our area isn’t exactly a center for style and fashion. We have no designers, studios, or agencies to which aspiring models flock to seek fame and fortune. So imagine my surprise when I looked out my son’s window yesterday and saw this flock of leggy beauties gracefully striding, pivoting, and posing like so many fashion models on a runway!

All dozen-and-a-half of these Rio Grande wild turkey hens have been walking since hatched, keeping pace with their mamas by the time they were a few hours old. Other than regular exercise, however, their beauty is completely natural and fuss-free. They need no scissors or gel to get the sleek, full-bodied, layered-in-back look. No salon or dye gave them their low- and highlights. Apparently their diet of insects, seeds, and grains is good for the complexion because their faces are striking without bottles, wands, or brushes. Even so, I won’t be sprinkling grasshopper crumbles over my granola anytime soon.

“For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation and adorn the wretched with victory.” –PSALM 149:4


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Early Show

We’re morning people. Correction: we’re before-the-crack-of-dawn people. We’re in rarified company with shift-workers and donut-bakers, partly because of necessity (work and early-rising pets) but mostly out of habit. The benefits of rising before the roosters are few but oh, so worthwhile: coffee always tastes better before dawn, and sometimes we get to witness a dazzling show in the eastern sky, as we did this morning. Sure beats anything that would be playing on the back of our eyelids!

If the telephone rings before daybreak on Saturday, we know who it is. Hubby's nephew, Rob, who's also a pre-dawn person, calls from Montana to discuss the latest family event or an upcoming football game. He's already back from his weekly grocery shopping at Walmart, where he beat the usual weekend crowd—by several hours!

Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God's Sunrise will break in upon us.
                                 -LUKE 1:78