Tuesday, June 30, 2009


You're Not My Baby
Are you my baby?

Where's My Baby?
Where's my baby?

You Know You Want to Pet the Calf
They look so soft and cute

Where's My Mom?
And loud and skittish.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Branding Specialists

The Brander

First off, it wouldn't be a branding without a brander! There are two brands that are kept hot by a propane flame. He switches off so that the brand is always hot, effective and quick. (by the way, that's hair burning, which is also what it smells like)

The Vaccinator

The vaccinator isn't necessary, as long as you don't mind running after all the calves again or having a sick and probably illegal herd. Soooo, it's a good idea.


Ropers get the calves where the work is done by lassoing their hind legs and sliding them over the grass.

A few of the moms are in the corral with the calves, but most are outside waiting. Not waiting patiently either. I was amazed how loud it was. Even in the middle of the country, if there's 100 mooing moms, it's loud!

How to Flip a Calf

The calves are then flipped onto their back/side by one person pulling the tail and the other pulling the rope that has the legs. It's a leverage thing.

Little Heifer

Then they're held down, one person at the head and one at the feet so that everyone get get to the parts they need access to!

The Surgeon

Then we have the surgical castration. Again, very important only if you want a good, healthy herd.

When I held the hind legs of one of these calves, it wasn't easy, but they really only flinched when the branding iron first touched and the first cut of the knife. I was surprised at how little they struggled once they were down.


And Gordon, he and Edith (who I know from Habitat) own this ranch and threw the branding party!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Black or White

Sometimes I can't decide if I like a photo better in black and white or color. They convey such different places, even though they're exactly the same.

What do you think?

Morning Lake Mist BW

Morning Lake Mist Color

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cotton Snowstorm

The cottonwoods are sending a storm of cotton into the air these days.

Cotton Snow

It's really summer!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


There's nothing like a thunderstorm, a respite of rain in an arid place.

Lightening and Thunder

And nothing quite beats the show either.

Thunder and Lightening

Especially when you don't even bother to get out of bed!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coming together

Duplex Work Crew

Two of the homes we're building this summer are made of prefabricated panels (lumber and sheets of OSB already put together). We also received trusses, drywall, roofing and the lumber that makes up the floor.

They all came together on two semi's last Tuesday. The paperwork from the company delivering said to have six people ready to unload.

So we did.

Gable End

But as you're probably already thinking, that's not enough!

The truck drivers just about fainted when I told them we were going to hand unload their vehicles.

One Semi Down

While Jessica, the NCCC volunteers and I were all ready to work hard, the day was really saved by over 20 volunteers from the WYSTAR program who came, carried, smiled and managed to unload two semi's in four hours! The same it usually takes if you have a forklift!

I was amazed and ecstatic that we pulled it off, that we all came together, that we fulfilled the mission of Habitat of bringing the community together and doing it in a way that promotes affordable housing!

March of the Trusses

We have another semi to unload this Tuesday. We're getting a forklift!

Monday, June 22, 2009

With a View


Good Monday Morning!

Don't you wish this was the view from your office?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Army of Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Puree
Pure strawberry puree

One of my favorite memories as a kid in Utah is sitting on our concrete porch as the sun set, eating strawberry shortcake. The bisquick shortcakes were hot out of the oven, strawberries sweet and juicy from the garden, the evening air cool and the concrete still warm under my legs.

Strawberry Cupcakes
Batter ready to bake (or so I thought at the moment)

When I saw this recipe at Use Real Butter, I knew I wanted to try it. It seemed perfect for an early summer dessert. Little did I know how perfect it was for what I was about to do to it.

Strawberry Filling

I was taking this to a potluck for the Care-a-Vanners, NCCC, Habitat homeowners and Habitat board members, so mini-cupcakes seemed like a better idea than full on cake.

They turned out fantastic despite my fairly significant lapse in direction following (explained with the recipe below) and all 70 were gone by the end of the night.

Strawberry Shortcake's Army

Recipe Strawberry Chiffon Buttercream Cake (Cupcakes)

Strawberry Puree
1 lb fresh strawberries

Wash and trim tops off berries. Freeze berries until solid. Completely thaw berries and puree in blender or food processor. (Fresh is the best, freezing pops the cell walls releasing flavor. Resulting puree is thick, not at all watery like I was afraid it would be.)

Strawberry Chiffon Cake

makes two 9x3 inch rounds (or 76 mini cupcakes)

14.5 oz cake flour
8.75 oz confectioner's sugar
0.5 oz baking powder (omit above 8500 ft)
6.75 oz whole milk
6 oz canola oil
3.25 oz eggs
13 oz egg whites
9.5 oz granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 oz strawberry purée

Heat oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners in pan.

Sift dry ingredients (except granulated sugar) into a large bowl. Mix all ingredients (except the 13 oz of egg whites and granulated sugar) in the large bowl until combined. Whip whites and granulated sugar to medium peaks. Fold into batter gently.

You can also completely forget that last step and leave out the egg whites and granulated sugar. I'm sure the cake is better with it, but I tested the recipe without, and it still turned out really good. Probably a little less sweet and a little more dense, but still good.

Bake until set, about 15-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove from pan.

strawberry swiss meringue buttercream
8 oz egg whites
16 oz sugar
1 lb butter, room temperature
4 oz strawberry purée

Combine egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk constantly over a gently simmering hot water bath until 140°F is reached. Remove from heat. Place on mixer with whisk and whip until stiff. Turn down whip speed to 3rd and whip until cool to the touch (this takes a while - should be cooler than your hand). Change to a paddle and gradually add soft butter by tablespoon pieces. Mix to emulsify. Once desired consistency has been reached, add purée and mix well.

I used a circular piping tip to cut a small circle into the top of each cupcake. Then I removed it and some of the cupcake underneath it with a pointy knife. You can save the top circle, to replace, or not. I did.

Pipe puree into hole. Cover with buttercream.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Real Cowboys

On Sunday I went to a branding at a friend's ranch.

While most everything went smoothly, one calf got let go and ran off before the holders realized he was missing an eartag.

But Really Having Fun

Fortunately running after him was the break a few of the cowboys needed from the real 'work' of the day.

Technically Working

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reclining Nude

I went to a friend's ranch the other day for a branding and passed a lot of cows on the way there and back.

Reclining Nude

None, however, quite compared to this lovely lady lounging in the grass.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of Foundations and Water

June 14 016

Water at the foundation is a little different here than in Seattle.

In Seattle there's layers of gravel, drain pipes, filter fabrics and multiple other methods for keeping water away from the foundation. This is especially important in an area where on the other side of that foundation wall is a living space.

So I asked about all of that and the others said.... well... we do have to waterproof it, but we usually just coat the foundation with a layer of... foundation coating.

Water just doesn't wage the war here that it does in Seattle.

Here we'll get drain tile, we've waterproofed the foundation with a tar-ish coating, and that'll be good!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Foundation Walls of Murphy House

Foundation Walls for Murphy House

It's moving along. With or without me, time is moving along.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Flying Flower

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Late Freeze

Sprouting... something

Karen and Dave were out of town for the latest freeze, but I did call Karen to see what I needed to do to protect in the garden.

I was instructed to put the empty ice cream buckets in the garage over the eggplants and the tomatoes, the most tender of all the garden. There were four of each.

I now know that tomato plants can make it through a light little freeze here, that I can't tell tomato leaves from broccoli leaves and that broccoli isn't hurt by an ice cream bucket, even when it's hard to fit!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A June Summer Sunday

Snowy Summer

Snowy Woodpile

Fire Stove

Ahhh Sheridan...

Friday, June 5, 2009


Well, it wasn't sunny yesterday, but it wasn't rainy either and that was enough!

764 Timberline

Footings got poured this morning after a city inspection.

Timberline 754

The soil, which is so clay-y no temporary retaining walls are necessary (on the other hole, not this two footer), dried out quickly enough to make use of our little weather window!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Railroad Yard

Railroad Yard

Busy day! Isn't it amazing how everything seems to happen at once?!

But at least things are happening!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Trying to Move Forward

Real Lilac City

That was last weekend, so sunny and so hot you could smell the lilacs from a block away (although since they're blooming on just about every block, it could be that you're always close to them).

Foundation Hole

And this is now. And this weekend. And next week.

Soggy excavation hole for a soggy foundation.

And 10 NCCC volunteers arriving today, 4 Care-A-Vanners coming on Sunday and about 14 more the Sunday after to give us their all and build us one single family home and a duplex.

Hopefully we'll all get a break.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sitting the Tank

Tank is Watching

I dogsat Tank last weekend, the most social 100 pounder you'll ever meet (I only had to whisper his name from across the room to get the eye)!

It makes me miss Amelia.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The View from My Desk

View from Desk

It's kind of comfortably familiar. You know, like Nicaragua.