Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fire up the Forge


Among other things, my uncle is a farrier.  He trims and shoes horses for people all over the area as well as the horses at the stockyards where he works.  A couple of weeks ago, I came home to see this portable forge fired up on the porch and "sharp shoes" being made.  Really simply put, sharp shoes are like cleats for horses.  Why would horses need cleats?  Well, unlike Florida, they get a lot of ice out here... and ice gets slick... so shoes that will bite into the ice are necessary to keep working horses from slipping and falling in rough conditions.  They also work well in areas where the horses are worked on concrete a majority of the time.  

After watching both him and Angie make shoes, I decided I needed to give it a try.  So, Monday night, when he fired up the forge to make a couple of pairs, I grabbed a pair of gloves and volunteered to do it.  First things first... make sure you've got good gloves!  The shoes get super hot (DUH)  and the tongs get hot as well!  It was kind of awkward at first, but it got easier the more I did. Evidently, if you keep making them, you eventually learn how to work the tongs with one hand... me, not so much!

 The shoes are made by adding chunks of drill-tech to the toe and heels of the shoes.  Drill tech is a mixture of tungsten carbide in a brass-nickel matrix.  (Yes I copied this definition from another site)  It comes in coarse, medium and fine particle sizes (we use the coarse because it has larger carbide chunks and they "bite" better) and look like fat welding rods.  The rods get chopped up into 1/2 inch chunks.

Each shoe goes in and out of the forge about 6 times each.  (This forge is pretty small, so you can't do the entire shoe at one time... you have to turn them to get the heat on the part you're working on at the time.) You have to pay attention so that you get the metal hot enough to melt together.

Once you get the metal hot, you bring it out and put it on the anvil. Borax is used as a flux to help the two pieces melt together. )See it's not just for doing laundry!)   Confession:  There's a small part of me with pyromaniacal (sp?) tendencies, and seeing the borax sizzle on the hot metal is actually pretty cool!  (I know...weird)  

Once you get the borax on, it's time to add the drill tech chunks.  I think this might have been the hardest part for me because you had to get it centered, and the horseshoe was too hot to touch, so you had to use the tongs to put the little pieces on the points of the shoes where the nails don't go.

Then it's back into the forge until you see the metal start to puddle.  I don't really know how to explain it, but I know I have some welder friends who can relate.  It's just one of those things that when you see it, you know it!  Once you see it, the shoes come out and the puddle gets spread around so that it makes a nice little cleat on the toe and heels of the shoe.

 Once they're done, the shoes get dunked into a bucket of water to cool.  I use the term cool loosely, because what it really does is make the water really hot really fast!  Like I'm talking boiling!

Here are my first 6 shoes... which are now being sported by some happy horses at the stockyards!

Disclaimer:  Any false information is my fault... I got a thorough explaination from the Uncle, so if I messed it up, it will be ok!

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Pickin' & Carvin'

Last Friday, the day had finally arrived for Mesa's big sleepover and pumpkin carving.  After work, I picked up Bailey & Addy and met Mesa at the Pumpkin Patch.  Angie told me about this one and then a friend from work recommend it as well, and I can report that it was even better than I would have thought!  We were running late that afternoon, so I was worried that all we would get to do was pick out our pumpkins, but when we got there, we had plenty of time to explore!  

We loaded up on the wagon to ride out to the corn maze and pumpkin patch and these girls were excited!   

First stop was the far side of the corn maze.  You had to find your way through the corn to get to the pumpkin patch on the other side.  I wandered along behind, letting the girls run ahead to find the right trail.  They only had to turn around once before they made it through the maze.  

 I love these girls, they crack me up so much and this picture pretty much sums them up.  Addy always has a crazy expression, but it's one of the things I love most about her!  Mesa is always excited and up for an adventure, and Bailey, well, she's the quiet one... just happy to be going and doing.  They make it so much fun to be out here and keep me from being quite so homesick for my babies at the house.

The corn maze ends in the pumpkin patch where you can pick your very own pumpkin to take back.  I think we probably rolled 10 or 15 pumpkins apiece while they were picking thiers out!  Had to check for soft spots and just the right shape and would it sit up when you went to carve it... such a hard job!

We finally settled on pumpkins and started heading back to the hay wagon to ride back to the store/barn.  Mean old Katie that I am, I made them carry their own pumpkins!  You should have heard the whining!  I loved every minute of it!

The Lucky Pumpkins

I did manage to get one picture with all 4 of us in it... even if it's not exactly all of us!  But I think it's a fun one!

Once we got back to the barn, we weighed out pumpkins, paid the bill and headed to the car, but not before we snapped a pic in one of the great cut-outs that they had!

You would have thought it was going to kill them to wait until Saturday morning to carve them!  Luckily, between playing UNO Spin and sleeping on the floor, they managed to make it through the night!  Saturday morning, we shipped J&J off for a short hunting trip and we headed outside to gut & carve their pumpkins. Jeannie warned me that Bailey didn't like pulling out the guts, but she did pretty good... I only had to tell them about 50 times a piece that they didn't have enough out yet!  Addy was the first one to get all her guts out.  Mesa's pumpkin was a little harder to get into with the scoop to get it cleaned out.  

Gushy Guts!

Important Suggestion here:  Go buy the pumpkin carving kit... then they can do it themselves!  And those little saws just work better!  We did make a pit stop between the gutting and the carving to run to the IGA to see if they had any carving tools... since I forgot to make it to Walmart during the week!  I even managed to let them do it all themselves!  (They drew what they wanted to carve, and for the most part carved them... I did help Addy a little, but she did an awesome job!)  

By the time we got done, and played for a few more hours, it was time to go home.  Mesa was pretty quiet when we got in the car, and I kinda figured this would happen as soon as she got still... evidently Lucy was just as worn out as she was!

Tired Girls 

And here's the final products all lit up!  We had a blast & I think they did an awesome job!  

Bailey & Addy

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mean Old Roosters

I can still remember the first flock of chickens that we had when I was a little girl.  I had the coolest egg gathering basket (I'm pretty sure mom still has it somewhere today)  and it was my job to gather the eggs every day.  The only problem... that blasted white rooster that came after me every time I went in the pen!  One day, after getting flogged yet again and crying about it, Daddy provided me with a bat and told me to use it when I went to get the eggs.  (I'm assuming it was Daddy... that part of the story isn't as important as the fact that I got the bat !)  The next time I went to gather eggs, I stood on the outside of the pen and loudly proclaimed "I'm gonna make chicken & dumplins out of you!"  Not realizing the seriousness of messing with a 4 or 5 year old, that rooster didn't listen to me... but after I rang his bell with that aluminum bat, he thought twice about it!  

Fast forward a few years... we will not say exactly how many... and when I arrived, Mesa's chicken pen housed a beautiful Cochin rooster.  (Blue Splash color for my chicken aficionado friends)  Angie and Mesa both warned me that he would come after you, so I was careful for a couple of days.  One afternoon, I was wandering around the yard while I was chatting on the phone and he snuck up on me!  I kicked him off of me a couple of times and once I connected pretty good he ran away.  

Last spring, the crew out here (who likes to can as much as my crew in Florida) butchered some spent hens and extra roosters and made chicken soup.  After pressure cooking the chicken twice, it was still tough to eat, so they decided to come up with another remedy for tough old (mean) birds- chicken sausage!  Their first batch didn't last very long, so a couple of Saturdays ago, we all gathered up at Jeannie's house to make sausage out of that blasted blue rooster and several other poor wayward birds.  

I didn't start taking pictures until we were past the inital chop and skin phase of the day... some things just don't have to be shared... but the Uncle did the dirty work of getting the birds ready to take inside... I did hold a leg while he was skinning!  

Once we got the 8 birds inside, we started washing and cutting the meat off that we intended to use for sausage.  I use the term "we" loosely, because I mostly watched this time!  The meat off the legs, thighs and breasts were all removed, cleaned, sorted into pans and placed in the freezer to chill before we ground them.  One of the things I learned when I was selling a bunch of Pampered Chef was that cold cheese grates better than hot... same holds true for meat.. chilled chicken grinds better than warm.  

Cleaning Chickens

The one job they did give me was measuring out the spices.  Evidently it must be a "Clark Problem"  not wanting to measure while cooking.  Mom hates to measure and will do every other part of the process if I'll measure out the ingredients for her!  Good thing I was trained well!  

I would tell you all then ingredients, but I forgot them!  Needless to say, between the rosemary, basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dill, and other stuff I can't remember, they needed to be ground up before getting mixed into the meat.  We used Jeannie's Magic Bullet for this job.  We had to fire it and upgrade to a food processor this summer when we made pesto, but handled the spices for this job like a champ!

Before Grinding

While I was measuring out spices, the Uncle started grinding up the first batch of chicken.  In addition to the chicken, we ground up some red bell pepper into the mixture.  Once it was ground the first time, we added the spices, garlic and olive oil before running it back through the grinder again.  The second grind gave it a better texture and really mixed the ingredients together.  

First Grind

Of course, after every batch, we had to cook a sample patty to check the flavor and texture.  Such a horrible thing to have to do... taste test sausage samples! HA!

She's an Expert Wrapper! 

Once it was ground and re-ground, Jeannie weighed it into 1 pound packs and wrapped it up for the freezer.  We used 8 chickens and ended up with 12 packs of chicken sausage.

Ready for the Freezer

Last night, we cooked our first packages.  It was really good with Alfredo sauce and pasta. And I've had it in breakfast burritos at J&J's house.  Obviously, it's not going to last very long, so I guess we'll have to find some more birds soon!  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Five

My friend Annie started doing this with her blog and I loved it because it was short, random things  that you wouldnt necessarily write a whole post about, but would love to share!  I find myself using instagram for things that I would do this with, but I'm going to try to do a little of both!   

So.. here we go! 

1.  I may not be working at the CB any more, but while I was, I got hooked on their glass bottle sodas- especially the honey lemonade!  Is it just me or does everything taste better in glass?  Thursday night when I got home, I was about to go stir crazy, so I rode into Billings to check out the NILE (yes, its a stock show... I know... somethings just don't get out of your system easy)  Before I headed home, I stopped and picked up a 4-pack to enjoy over the weekend.   If you've never had this, I highly recommend it!  

2.  We had two potential snow days this week.  (And by snow days, I don't mean that they were going to close anything down... I just mean it might snow on those days)  The beginning of the week, I headed over to my spare bedroom at J&J's since they said it might snow multiple inches... as it was... all we got was rain and muck!  By Tuesday night, I headed back to the hill... and after slipping and sliding up and down it for 3 more days, this is what the car looked like... Poor Tilly.... I don't think she'll ever be the same... She's been getting baths with the pressure washer out here, just to cut through some of the mud!

3.  Has anyone else played this? The first night I spent in Columbus that it was supposed to snow, we started playing it after supper, and can I just say it might be addicting!  This time of year, it starts getting dark earlier and it's cold outside, so you have to find things to do indoors.  Card games, reading, leather work, you name it, people out here find all kinds of ways to entertain themselves when they can't get outside!

4.  I know this one's fuzzy, but I was taking it in the dark!  Over the summer Mesa put in to have a sleepover at Jeannie's.  So... after 3 months... we finally are having our sleepover tonight.  I picked up B&A after work and we headed up the hill to pick up Mesa, Lucy & my stuff.  We also visited the local pumpkin patch to pick out some pumpkins to carve (more later)  before heading back over to spend the night.  Notice there are 4 little girls... We even had the 2 year old spend the night!  You should have heard all the giggling in that car on the way home!

5.  And last but certainly not least... I have developed a fascination with mule deer!  I just love how they flash those huge ears out at you when you drive by.   Lately, I've seen tons of mule deer does out and about and have finally started seeing some bucks. (I think my count the other afternoon was over 60 by the time I got home)   I ran across this little bunch on the way home from work Thursday afternoon and had to snap a pic.  I have to say, I'm pretty happy with it and think it might be one of my favorite pics I've taken since I've been here!  How many do you count?

So there you have it... this week's version of the Friday Five.  What would your five be?  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chasing the Bugles

I'm a bit of a list maker.  I love to make lists and cross things off.  One of the lists I made before I headed out here was of things I knew I wanted to do while I was here.  A couple of Saturdays ago, we got up REALLY EARLY so that I could cross something off my list.   Yellowstone National Park does a free weekend in the spring and the fall and we decided to take advantage of that to search for some elk bugling.  Thank goodness we went the weekend that we did, since the next week, the government shut down closed the park!

Since it was so early, We threw the girls in the car with their pjs on and let them sleep the two hours from Columbus to Gardner.  Side note- once you pack your clothes bag, don't decide to take something vital out-  like pants- otherwise you might have to wear your pink monkey pj pants all day!  (Although I'm not really sure Addy minded!)  I packed my camera along with my phone (which is camera number 1 these days)  and let Bailey fill in some pics along the way as well.  (Several of these are hers, not mine!)  

Snoozin' on down the road
 Right around 7 am, we were headed into Gardner when we spotted the first and largest herd of elk we saw all day.  There were about 4 or 5 bulls in the heard of about 80 cows.  There was a hunter up on the hill behind us trying to call them up to him, so they were all stirred up and running around crazy.  But it was awesome!  That was actually the only time we heard them bugle all day... so it started out the day on a great note!

blurry, but you get the drift
The bulls weren't really fighting at that time, but they were trying to keep all the cows corralled up and away from whatever was calling them up the hill.  We sat in the car and watched for a while, then I decided I should climb out and take some pictures... from the far side of the car!  Elk are just a little smaller than an average horse... and those antlers are pretty massive... I didn't really want to get TOO close!  

Jeremy, our spotter and informational source, said that there used to be herds of hundreds of elk before they released wolves back into the park.  Now, the wolves keep them thinned down pretty good.  (Almost too good in my opinion!)  This pic of the bulls might just be my favorite one of the day.  If only it had been a little bit brighter!   

The Protectors

After watching for a bit, we headed on into Gardner where we had breakfast at the Town Cafe.  I must have been thinking about my Momma, because corn beef hash was on the menu and I had to have it!

This was my second time visiting the park near Gardner, and I must say, it was way more fun with someone else driving!  Especially when they're a pretty good tour guide!  We stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs at the visitors center so we could get National Park Passports for the girls and I could get mine stamped!  If you like visiting National Parks, Historic Sites and things like that, these are awesome!  There's a list of all the national park system sites by region, a map with their locations and plenty of space to keep track of visits you make!  There's also a kids companion with Junior Ranger Activities and places to write down wildlife, plants and other things you see during your visit.  (I know, I know... nerdy, but fun!) 

That weekend was also the first time it snowed in Yellowstone this fall.  You could see white up on the mountain tops, and as we drove, we hit a couple of flurries. There was even enough snow when we stopped to look at some of the geysers to make a snowball or two!  (which may or may not have gotten thrown!)

Jeremy & Addison enjoying a little steam
Buffalo (Or Bison as Bailey corrected us)  are plentiful in the park... almost to the point that you get immune to the excitement when you see them.  We passed several, including this handsome fellow, on the drive down from Mammoth to West Yellowstone.  There's a lot of warm pockets caused by the geothermal activity in the area and they are pretty quick to find them when it begins to get cold.  

Also sighted on the way to West Yellowstone was this young bull.  According to Jeremy, he was about 2 years old (I hope I'm telling this right).  He had a couple of cows grazing along with him, but I was more interested in the one with horns!  Note... we were sitting in the car when we took this picture... since the elk was about 6 feet away!

We made two stops in West Yellowstone...well 3 if you count getting gas!  The first was at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center.  Since sighting bears and wolves in the park aren't super common, we decided to increase our wildlife count the easy way!  We also got to see some bald eagles, a hoot owl and golden eagles while we were there!  (Attention any LOTR fans... yes... golden eagles are real... and while they might not be as large as they were in the movie, they are definitely larger than the bald ones!
Grizzly... name forgotten! 

White Wolf
FYI... Wolves and Grizzlies are a pretty big issue for stock owners and hunters out here.  In fact, there are some pretty heated debates happening between environmentalists and the other side about the proper way to manage these predators who are at the top of the food chain and don't have any competition to keep their numbers in check.

Bear Riders
 We had to take a picture on this carved bear!  Our second stop in West was the Timberline cafe for some lunch.  Keeping in mind it's a tourist town, the food was hot, and pretty reasonably priced.  Bailey & I had hot open-faced turkey sandwiches, Addy had chili and J&J had some pretty yummy looking burgers & fries!

After lunch & a quick gas stop, we headed back into the park.  We made it back to Mammoth and ran into this handsome fellow just wandering around.  While we were driving around, one of the rangers, kept yelling at vehicles " KEEP MOVING, HE CHARGES CARS!!!"  Of course, our question was, if he charges cars, what keeps him from charging the rangers on foot?  (crazy people!)  

And now comes the part of the day that I have absolutely no pictures to prove.  One thing you will learn when you visit the park is that any kind of wildlife sighting will cause a traffic jam on the very narrow roads.  Its frustrating when the traffic jam is for something like buffalo, which are everywhere!  But you almost have to stop, because if you don't, you will probably miss something super cool!  We stopped three times to check out what a group of people staring at and were seriously rewarded each time!  Two grizzly bears and a black bear!! They were all so far away that we needed the binoculars to see them, but we did see them!  (obviously, camera 1 and camera 2 were not powerful enough!)  (Side Note:  anyone who wants to contribute to the Katie's new digital camera with telephoto lens fund, feel free!)   

While we were stopped looking for the second grizzly bear, we spotted a some other wildlife in the area.  Out on the Lamar Valley, there was a coyote hunting something, which I will assume was a prairie dog (we couldnt see that one).  While we were watching, it jumped straight up in the air and dive bombed the ground just like you see on nature shows!  There were also several antelope bucks in the area and they were evidently beginning the rut.  This fellow ran across the road right behind my car to run off two other bucks!  

The Antelope that ran right out behind our car! 
 I absolutely love to look out over the country and see the mountains, especially when they've got a fresh coat of white on the tips!  They're beautiful all the time, but at their best when covered with the snow!

We finished out a very long day by traveling back over Dead Indian Pass, (which is a story for another day) and ended up home around 9:00 pm.  The only major wildlife I have yet to find are a moose, and a mountain lion.  (Although truthfully, I'm really not sure I want to meet up with the mountain lion... they're pretty fierce!)

Until Next Time!