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Monday, April 29, 2013

Bees and Carrots

This is a pretty random post, but since I've been random in what I do lately (like today waking at 4 a.m. and deciding that since I can't sleep, I might as well make a gigantic batch of granola), why the heck not talk about two topics that really aren't related?

Today after the epic granola project, I had to do some gardening chores. There is a 600 gallon water tank which acts as a thermal mass for the dome. The water evaporates, so I lugged in the hose to top off the tank. While it was filling, I did some planting.

But to make room, I had to pull the last of our Nantes carrots. This is the first time I've grown carrots in the dome and they did well. Now an Early Girl resides where the carrots were. I added some worm castings and growing mix to welcome the new tomato to the block.

Do you like that dishtowel? Thanks, Pattie!

Just outside the growing dome are the beehives. For a while there I was worried: robber bees were trying to get into the beehives with epic battles just outside each hive. I finally reduced the entrances to about bee width so the guard bees would more easily stop the invaders and it seems to have worked. All is orderly again.

Here is a closeup of the entrance to our top bar hive, now open because the robbers are gone. Most of the beekeepers around here use this type rather than the more common box-type hives called Langstroth.

Those little specks you can see against the cinderblock are flying bees.

Each of the bars, which you can see under the metal roof (which needs a good hit with the hammer), is 1 and 3/8 inches and the bees make their combs along the bars' length. There are no frames, so the bees make the combs just the way they want them. When we harvest honey, I hope this year, we lift out the bars, cut the combs off the bars and crush the combs to extract the honey.

This past fall we left all the honey for the bees because they were a new colony and I wanted them to have enough food for the winter. As of last week they still had some honey left, but friend Sue gave me two bars of honey yesterday. So I switched out some lightweight combs (they had eaten most of the honey) with the heavy, full ones. That should hold them for the couple of weeks we have until the flowers bloom. We have a late spring, yes, we do.

Surrounding the bee yard is an electric fence to keep out bears because the last thing the ladies need after a long, cold winter is for their homes to be invaded again, this time by gigantic furry destroyers. Both Ms. P and I have involuntarily tested the fence and it works just fine. The rocks on top of the hives and the orange straps on the ground keep the wind from blowing off the roofs.

I hope by midsummer to expand to four hives, but that depends on the bees and their queens and if there are enough flowers for them, and who knows what else. 

We will hope that all goes well with plenty of honey for everyone this year!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

For Trudy: The Enchanted Forest

Since mom-in-law Trudy can't come visit, I try to give her a sense of what it's like, so she can see, even if we are 951 miles apart.

The weather was in the 70's the other day with a slight breeze, some clouds, but also sunshine. Winter was a faint memory even though just last week it looked like this:

It was gone by the afternoon, though.

So I took a walk to The Enchanted Forest, beyond the grassy expanse you see past the garden wall, across the wooden bridge over the creek, and into the trees.

The day was breezy yet sunny and after checking out the beaver dam I looked at a tree and said, "I think I will sit right down here and have a little nature time."

So I spread out my sweatshirt, sat on the pine needles, closed my eyes and just listened. There is an absence of sounds: no planes, cars, voices, chain saws,  anything mechanical, still no birds. It's too early for them to be singing. No cows mooing, no yaks grunting. Just wind in the pines.

So Trude, here's what I saw to the left:

And here is how it looked to my right:

Looking straight ahead:

I thought, "We need to clean up this tree. There are dead branches on the ground and up its trunk." 

And wouldn't a bed be cool out here? But I thought of rodents and discarded that idea. 

A close relative came to visit a couple years ago and he said, "What are you trying to do, make this a park?" 

Well, yeah. Why not? 

A park with random hammocks. Yeah, that would work.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Lazy Boys: George and Ringo

Meet George and Ringo who have been content to wander around the ranch, eating for a while and then lying down. Then they rest after their hard work, which consists of eating and lying down. There is plenty of grass so they don't need to range far and wide to find food. It's all around them.

But this dried grass is boring! It's like eating shredded wheat cereal!

Lately, though, they've been steers with a purpose: find grass that is green. It's starting to green up, especially along the creek bank, and they are on the job finding all the best morsels.

It's like when we say, "I think I want a salad!" after all those carbs.

Possible rain is forecast for a couple of days and that's just fine. We all want salads in spring.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Snow

Yesterday afternoon while we were sewing at ThreadBear in Las Vegas, the sky and the air looked gray and moisty, like Newport Beach in the winter. Minus the beach.

"I wish it would do something," a friend said.

"Maybe rain?" someone else said. And then she added, "Hah!"

And then it started snowing. We packed up and hightailed it out of there just in case it was a blizzard or something. It wasn't a blizzard, but at home there was a nice two inches of the wet stuff.

By this afternoon it will have soaked into the earth and the grass trying to grow will say, "Thanks, buddy!"

I like the hopeful vibe of the hammock hanging behind the picnic table.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chicken Spaghetti-Another Comfort Food Favorite

Chicken spaghetti is a recipe I had never heard of until it popped up on my radar just after we moved to our place in New Mexico. It's one of those Texas recipes, I guess, because I recently internet searched for chicken spaghetti and Texas, and found many versions of this comfort food casserole.

Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman fame, has an excellent chicken spaghetti recipe on her website and it's hers I tried first. It's still my go-to recipe for guests, creamy and savory, with just a little spicy bite at the finish.

Last week, though, I needed to take a main dish to the Sangre de Cristo Livestock Growers' monthly meeting and couldn't get to a grocery store. In the fridge was half a rotisserie chicken and in the freezer were two broiled chicken breasts.  I had cream of mushroom soup and there was half a block of Velveeta cheese food. I was good to go.

It isn't as good as Ree Drummond's Chicken Spaghetti, but it worked well enough that someone at the meeting asked, "Is that an Alfredo sauce in there?" And I answered, "Yes, Campbell's Alfredo."

Ro-Tel Chicken Spaghetti (Serves 6-8)


12 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes (I used medium spiciness)
1 can chicken broth
1 lb Velveeta cheese, cubed


1. Boil water and cook your spaghetti. Drain your spaghetti into a colander and leave it there while you do the next step.

2. Mix the chicken, soup, tomatoes, and chicken broth in the pan you used to cook the spaghetti.

3. Add the spaghetti and cubed cheese. Mix that baby up so the cheese cubes are well distributed within the mixture.

4. Put a little olive oil on a paper towel square and grease a 13 by 9 inch pan. Or spray it with your oil stuff. Pour the spaghetti mixture into the pan.

5. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes until it's warm and bubbly. You can take the cover off the last 15 minutes if you like a little browning on the top.

6. When you take the pan out of the oven, give it a stir to ensure the cheese is evenly distributed.

Sadly, there are usually no leftovers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

No Yak Puns-Just Some Cute New Babies

I could get all crazy with yak puns, but this week I haven't felt like being funny. There were some happy events, though, here in the valley.

Meet our new neighbors, yak babies born about a week and a half ago.

I call them the sumo babies of the cattle world. Husky, sturdy little guys, aren't they?

I want to just run my hands through that fur!

But I don't think the mommas would like that. Check out those horns!

So what are yaks? The are cattle relatives,  originally from the Himalayas, which makes the winters in Northern New Mexico a piece of cake for these guys. Last year when it was 30 below zero? No worries for the yaks.

Their meat is juicy and a little sweet, like beef but with less fat. Their fiber, which is combed from their coats a couple times a year, is highly prized by knitters and weavers.

Yaks are easier on the environment, too. They eat less than cattle and I suppose that means they poop and fart less, too, so fewer greenhouse gases.  Their feet are small so they don't mess up creek beds as badly as cattle can and they drink less water, as well.

They are, for the most part, pretty docile except for one yak in the herd named P.I.T.A. who has used her horns to throw two different men out of the corral when she was going to be combed.

So that's all from this neck of the forest. Hope all are having an excellent Sunday. I am on my way to a local seed swap and to the local nursery which opened this weekend. Maybe there will be some interesting stuff to plant.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oil and Gas Drilling in Northern New Mexico: A New Film

Reader Angela, who writes the excellent blog,, reminded me of the recent film about our county's fight for its rights.

Here is the trailer for the movie, which gives an excellent picture of what a small community is doing to protect itself from oil and gas drilling.

 When I tell people where I live, more often than not, I hear, "Oh! You live in God's Country!"

Watch this video to see what they are talking about.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Community Rights in New Mexico

Community rights is the idea that communities should have more rights than corporations when it comes to determining what happens to a local community's air, water, and land.Well, duh! Wouldn't that always be the case? Nope. In many cases big business deals trump the welfare of a community, polluting and ruining the environment with no recourse for the community members.

These posters have sprung up in our county and the counties nearby. Mora County residents have recently elected county commissioners who are strong believers in the idea of community rights and they are now the majority on the county commission. They are working to enact community ordinances which would restrict or ban gas drilling in Mora County and protect individual and community water rights.

Around here water is precious and even more so since we are still in a drought.

In Mora County, water sustains cattle, the largest agricultural product here and for many, their only paycheck. Most people in the county drink from their own wells and water associations monitor and regulate how much water each member uses from the acequias (water ditches) to irrigate their fields.

Beautiful, clear creeks and rivers flow through the ranches and public lands in Northern New Mexico and residents fear that hydrolic fracturing could either pollute the water from chemicals used during the fracking process or suck up all the water here for drilling projects elsewhere.

Either way, the ranchers and residents of our county would be screwed.

As someone most aptly put it, "We can live without natural gas. We can't live without water!"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Boyz in the Hood

This morning I drove six miles up our dirt road for coffee with a neighbor. We were going to inspect her beehives, but the weather turned stormy and windy which isn't something bees like. So we took a rain check.

 On the way home I saw these pretty boys and had to stop to say hi.

The guy on the left nickered a hello and ambled closer when I got out of the truck.

Then the pinto decided to investigate whether there were treats involved.

Sadly, I had no goodies but they didn't seem to hold a grudge.

And that ominous sky? Nothing happened!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quilty Pleasures: Ogallala Quilt Festival 2013 Best in Show

Dimmitt, Texas, (pop. 4,423) really knows how to hold a quilt show. The Ogallala Quilters' Society hosts a yearly quilt festival that truly is a world class event. Well, it's not gigantic like Road to California or Houston's International Quilt Festival, but with over 500 quilts on display, there was plenty of eye candy for quilters who came this past weekend from New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and, amazingly, my old home town, Corona, California.

Yep, it's a small world and when my friend Ann took a Pat Speth (she was the feature teacher) class there and found some quilters from Corona, she mentioned my name. Sure enough, one of the quilters knew who I was. I worked with her hubby and taught her daughter. Weird, huh?

What wasn't weird was this awesome quilt which won Best in Show, called Many Mansions, by Mary Steinhauer from Lubbock, Texas.

According to Mary, after reading a post about these little houses on a Dutch blog, she decided to challenge herself to make one little schoolhouse block each day for 366 days (it was a leap year). What is so cool are the little windows with teeny details in them like flowers, kitties, and a Christmas tree. One of the houses has a photo of Mary smiling at the viewer. The blue border has a gently scalloped edge.

Below is the appliqued and embroidered center of the quilt.

The stitching in the sky reminds me of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

There were many gorgeous quilts, and this was my favorite.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lucero, NM Cattle Crossing

The other day I was coming home and had to slow way down because it was a cattle convention in Lucero, the teensy village not far from our place. The cows, their calves, and a very large bull had made a break and were wandering around, but no one seemed to care.

In the 1930's there were about 400 residents in this village. Now there are about 10, maybe. Whenever I drive through, it's like I've been transported to another time.

There are more cattle than humans here. And that's just fine.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Quilty Pleasures Monday: Depression Era Blocks, Paper Pieced

Back during The Great Depression, readers could find patterns for clothing or quilt blocks in their local newspapers. The Kansas City Star was one of those newspapers, and they didn't even charge for their complete patterns. Caroline Cullinan McCormick decided to write a book about some of these blocks from the newspaper and adapted many of the designs for paper piecing.

ThreadBear, my local quilt store, decided to offer a Block of the Month program based on this book. So we have bought the book and just finished our first block.

What I like about ThreadBear's BOM is we may choose whatever fabrics we want. I decided to go with a black pindot background and for this month I chose Denyse Schmidt's fabrics from her Shelburne Falls collection.

This fabric looks so pretty and fresh and this block came together nicely.

How do we get such precise results? For my friends who are not quilters, it's called paper piecing, kind of like painting by the numbers. Here is how it looks on the back. Each number shows the order in which the fabric is placed on the paper pattern. Et, voila! It looks perfectly perfect! Just what this ADHD person needs to keep her head on straight.

No, ThreadBear didn't pay me to write about their BOM. I just like their store.

Now I am on my way to meet up with our Modern Quilt Group. We are going to muddle through my presentation on sewing giant hexies by machine, the class I took from Jacquie Gering at QuiltCon.