Pony Up!

Get on back on your horse! That is a lot easier said than done. Anyone that has ever fallen off a horse or been buck off (like me! just kidding I probably fell) knows how difficult that is to do.

I don’t have a specific horse per se but I have one I usually ride “Sugar” because she is old and slow like me! Don’t get me wrong she has some spirit in her and can do the work but she like to be leisure. She is a good horse but she has her moments and quirks like any horse or person I guess. For example, do not tie her to anything because she will break loose. If you just drape the reins over a pole without tying she will not move. I can relate to that {don’t tell me I can’t go somewhere but I am usually content to just stay where I am}.

Well, about a month or so ago I got “bucked off” for the first time. We were going up a embankment and she was trying to run to catch up with another horse and I was pulling her back and she hopped and took off and I lost my balance and fell. I lived– barely! I got back on her right then and rode home without any problems but since then I have been hesitant to ride her. I have been riding another horse because now I trust him more — well in the round pen I trust him. I like riding her and miss it but just could not pull the trigger to ride her out on the ranch.

But, yesterday Farnash Creek Ranch expanded by nearly 1000 additional acres and I was dying to ride the new extension of property. Land just looks different from the back of a horse- ya know! So, I debated all night about which horse I would ride. Rodie who rides like a dream but is quick and touching to an inexperienced rider, Cody who rides good but is young and unpredictable, Cisco who is young, big and fast (just kidding I was never considering him) or try my luck on Sugar again. Before bed I decided it would be Rodie but this morning I woke up and decided I needed to try my luck again with Sugar!

I woke up later than expected so the heat had already set in at 8:30 am. We saddled the horses and a few morning snacks and water.DSCN7145

My husband was encouraging and had more faith in me than I did. He rode her briefly in the round pen to warm her up. Then we were off to explore the new place. We are able to enter the property from the back of the existing ranch property so the horses were comfortable and calm out to the back gate. She was walking slow and leisurely trying to get off the trail but following commands well. Then we hit the new property and she was like a new horse. Her ears were pointed forward looking for everything and anything. She had more pep in her step not quite a trot but a fast walking. She was energized and happy. I was still a little nervous but was enjoying her enthusiasm. My husband calmly talked me through her mannerisms and helped calm us both.  We both enjoyed the new property, thoroughly! She had good tall grass and big ponds to drink from and I had beautiful views and cool breezes. It was amazing!

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However, on the way back to the barn she was trying to get a little barn sour. She tried to take off on me a couple of times.  My heart was beating fast and I was tense. I was trying so hard to be relaxed! I keep trying to tell myself all the things to do. Be calm, pull to your hip not your head, don’t squeeze with your legs, don’t lean forward, etc. But nothing was working. My husband was in the front and I was trying to not let him see me look like an idiot. LOL.

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Finally, I just stopped and turned her around and made her stand still. I tried to show her who was boss. I’m not sure she bought it but she did walk slowly back to the barn and I felt better about riding her!

When we got back to the barn I did tie her to the trailer which she broke loose from! Ugh. Then she just stood there not tied while I washed her off! Women! I felt more confident about the ride and look forward to moving past the fall. I believe in life we have to face things head on even when we don’t want to and the same is true about getting back on your horse. Don’t miss out on something amazing because of the fear of falling.

-Chas

Hot Damn! I can!

Well the garden is in full swing! We are collecting the fruits of our labor! We have more stuff than we can eat! So, it is time to start canning it up!

I really feel like canning is a lost art and skill! I feel a little nervous every time I do it because I am hoping no one dies from eating this if I don’t follow the step exactly! I am about three years into this and everyone is still living so that is a good sign! This week I worked on canning peppers! My husband likes it hot! Hotter than hot actually.

Last years peppers:

Me: Bryon are they too hot?

Bryon: NO!

(( I look over and he is sweating with hiccups ))

Me: Bryon? Really?

Bryon: What? they aren’t too hot. I just need to remember to use less of them next time!

My son-in-law also likes it hot too! So, I made a batch for him as well! I also threw in some banana peppers for my oldest daughter.

My advice on canning……. 1. Do it! Its a great skill to have! The food taste great fresh and it is so beautiful going into the cans! 2.Research it, we don’t want people getting sick! 3. Be careful and don’t always trust those pinterest recipes for this type of stuff.

 

-Chas

Lettuce Begin…..

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”- Audrey Hepburn

Our garden at Farnash Creek Ranch (FCR) has started to produce and we have began harvesting several of our meals. We love this time of year when you can go out to the garden and pick your dinner. The spring garden is in full swing. We have a total of four garden patches this year so we can beef up our rotational gardening program. Garden #1 is planted in peas and beans primarily to replace the nitrogen depleted by last years crop. Garden #2 is coming along nicely but not producing, yet. Garden #3 is where the action is happening right now and the one I will highlight  today. Garden #4 is still in progress but I better hurry up and get my stuff in the ground because it is getting late.

First, I would like to give a little props to that fall spinach plant that produced for us all winter even through a few pretty good frosts. It was still growing when I was planting for the spring. For a new gardener wanting to try out a few plants – spinach is easy to grow and is very versatile. We eat it raw in salads and also cook it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It grows well in containers and keeps growing after it is picked. I would suggests when planting in pots to use good quality potting soil such as miracle grow potting mix. I bought the cheap stuff one year and it turned into rock soil in the pots. Secondly, speaking from experience, there is a big different between potting mix and garden mix but the bags look exactly the same. Make sure it is potting mix.

The spring garden has really took off well after much planning and cultivating. Garden #3 has lettuce, cabbage, kale, yellow squash, cucumbers, few interspersed onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. The garden is flagged by dill and marigolds in an attempt to ward off pests.  The first thing produced was a ton of lettuce. Literally, one ton! Ok, almost a ton. This year we really concentrated on companion planting and staggered planting to keep a steady harvest and minimize pests. The lettuce loves it. I have had zero damage (knock on wood) to my lettuce from pests. I planted marigolds at the ends of the rows which I think was very beneficial or maybe our pests haven’t found them yet. Shhhhhh……. We planted butter lettuce and romaine lettuce. The butter lettuce was from seeds started in the ground and it is loving our alkaline soil! I think it is the softest most palpable lettuce I have ever put in my mouth! The romaine lettuce I started in pots and it is growing but slowly- I think my pot selection may have been too small. Luckily, we will be eating butter lettuce until the cows come home. Well really longer than that since the cows are home actually. Note, if you have not invested in a salad spinner please do so. The little device allows me to keep lettuce up to 2 weeks.

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Lettuce move on to another lettuce like plant. The Kale! The Kale has been the beauty of the garden! It is so vibrant and colorful with burst of deep green and purples. We have a little Dinosaur Kale and a ton of Red Russian Kale. This plant is also very versatile, healthy and has multiple uses. We eat it raw or cooked. This week I experimented with Kale Chips! They were delicious. This is a good healthy snack for us late night snackers! Even my son liked them. Maybe he is turning over a new leaf (he he he) since he has a brand new baby boy. May I introduce, our newest grandbaby at FCR. Holden Harrison:

Holden

Now, back to Kale. This too is an easy plant for beginners. We planted in the ground this year from seeds and they have done really well. They grow fast and are low maintenance. I have also planted some in pots and they have done really well. Although, this year the plants in the ground seem to be doing better. I have had problems in the past with not having enough to last us throughout the season. However, this year I may have over planted. So, tell me if I can send you some Kale! Also, the salad spinner works well for this too or a lettuce keeper.

LET’S GET TURNIP! These turnip greens are out of control and I love it! I have thinned them twice and was able to have a huge harvest just from thinning. The leaves were young and tender which tasted amazing. The turnips were small and I haven’t decided yet if I will roast them separately (found a delicious recipe on pinterest) or add them in with the greens. I froze the turnip part for now until I can decide. Just a side note, the turnip leaves or greens will have prickly points on the leaves so I don’t eat them raw but once they are cooked they go away and you never even knew they were there. I could eat greens at every meal. My only problems is that you can’t eat greens without cornbread and I probably shouldn’t have so much cornbread in my life. One pan won’t hurt, right?

 

We also enjoyed a great cream of broccoli & cauliflower soup & modified shepherds pie from the garden harvest! Finally, I will close with this wonderful cocktail made with fresh mint from the garden. I call it a “Barbara Bush” in honor of the recent passing of FLOTUS # 41.

Barbara Bush

It is muddled lemon juice and mint with one part Blanton’s Bourbon and one part gingerale. I know I shouldn’t mix that Bourbon with anything but i was living on the edge!

-Chas

Did you cite that recipe?

Do you cite recipes in MLA or APA? I mean it is part science and part art? Really? citing recipes? C’mon isn’t that the reason we write down recipes is to share them?

I have so many recipes that I would love to share. However, honestly I only have like three things that I make from memory or my own creation. This include chicken & dumplings, tomato gravy & biscuit, and Thanksgiving dressing.  I am sure there are other things I make from memory but part of the fun of cooking for me is making something new every time. I rarely make the same dish twice. Therefore, sharing a recipe would mean plagiarizing someones else ‘s recipe. I want to give credit where credit is due. If you crafted an Italian Manicotti from your memory or own creation that is impressive and I think you need a big WOW!

Plagiarizing recipes is a big issue these days with social media and the internet. Please see the article in Plagiarism Today (https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2015/03/24/recipes-copyright-and-plagiarism/) where they discuss Anne Thorton loosing her cooking show contract because of accusations of Recipe Plagiarism. This is really scary, as Mrs. Thorton says, because there are only so many ways to make a certain dish. According to the United States copyright guidelines (https://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html) you can list the ingredients without a problem but the issue comes with the execution. The problem is there are only so many ways to prepare a dish. For example, if you have a recipe for any type of baked chicken, typically you will bake it at about 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes depending on oven, thickness of chicken, and how juicy you like it. If you bake the chicken for less time or less temperature, it will be underdone and not fit. So, the fundamentals of most recipes will be the same. Which means plagiarizing a recipe is very easy and you can do it without even knowing.

For me, I get the majority of my recipes from Pinterest. I like using Pinterest for recipes because I can just search the ingredients I already have in the cupboard. I think it helps to have a basic working knowledge of cooking and the chemistry of ingredients to know what substitutions you can successfully use. However, we are in the information age and you can google anything. I like to make recipes that I have never made and ones where I can use stuff from my garden. It makes me feel all authentic and shit ( I mean stuff) ! I feel like I am feeding my family with love when I make something grown from my own hands and really it just tastes so much freaking better.

This week we had several tasty things! I am having nuts for dinner and this post is making me hungry but here it goes!

First, I made Baby Seydi some Granny Grub! This is a semi-original recipe. My grandmother would make this for me. Things just taste better when your grandma makes them. It is basically a fried egg (over-medium) over some cheese grits with crumbled bacon or sausage! If you are lucky enough to eat it outside that is the best way! Baby Seydi loved it!

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Next, I had a lot of spinach that needed to be cooked and I had a hankerin’ for chicken so I found this delicious recipe on Pinterest called (wait it does have an official name- I will name it) Chicken Yo Self Spinach. It’s actually a chicken, spinach, sun dried tomato and bacon dish. I had to modify this dish because I burnt the bacon – BAD! Timers are for babies or people without burnt bacon! I also used freshly shredded monterey cheese with jalepenos instead of sliced. My mother-in-law, Pat, always told me to use freshly shredded cheese because it was better and she was right! It was delicious! Here is the best picture I could get. We also had a side of parmesan zucchini! Which was scrumptious even though I shredded a little skin off my thumb into the parmesan (Just a little extra protein- right?) Just kidding!

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Over the weekend I also made a couple of Korean and Thai dishes that were not only mouth watering but healthy. The mandoline is also a very dangerous tool – use the guard! One of the dishes was a cabbage / beef stir fry. It was made with grass fed beef from the ranch! It was a steer we named “Rug” because we knew we wanted to keep his hide! I also had to modify this recipe because I ran out of Soy Sauce so I used Teriyaki sauce! I also used some fresh ginger I grew last year. Ginger is easy to grow and harvest just be patient ( I tried to throw it out like 47 times but my husband kept making me wait). I have several roots I froze last year and don’t foresee running out any time in the next couple of years! It freezes well! We had a side of Thai cucumber salad with this dish. It made for a light fresh meal for a warm spring afternoon!

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I tried to give credit where credit was due! The best part of cooking is watching the people you love enjoy it!

Water you doing?

We have gotten a little shower in Texas the past few days and the garden is loving  it! Everything is so big and bountiful! I even have a beautiful new yellow rose that is blooming from bushes I transplanted a few weeks ago!

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The garden loves the rain so much. Every gardener knows the importance of good ole natural rain! But, why is the natural rain so much better for your garden? Have you ever researched the science of rainwater vs tap or filtered water?

I found a great paper on the collection and benefit of rainwater in Texas.

http://www.twdb.texas.gov/publications/brochures/conservation/doc/RainwaterHarvestingManual_3rdedition.pdf?d=34588.19999999832

There is evidence of rainwater collection cisterns dating as far back as 2000 B.C. The Incas at Machu Picchu also had a very elaborate water irrigation system fed by a stream supplied by rainwater. So, the importance of rainwater has long been recognized.

Rainwater is in its purest form right when if falls from the cloud. It is the softest then and has a nearly neutral pH. As the raindrop falls from the cloud it dissolves carbon dioxide and nitrogen which causes it to be slightly acidic. Rainwater pH is about 5.7 compared to tap water which is about 7.5 according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It can be slightly more acidic in North Eastern Texas due to atmospheric components. The higher pH can cause nutrient lockout for your plants. This means that plants cannot absorb valuable nutrients because of the pH. The slightly acidic pH of rainwater is optimal for nutrient absorption.

In addition, rainwater has no sodium compared with tap water that is loaded with sodium.  Municipal water contains anywhere from 20 parts per million (ppm) of sodium to as high as 250 ppm. Excess sodium is bad for our plants just as it is bad for humans. Too much sodium will cause problems with uptake of adequate moisture which will cause plant tissues to dry out and stunt the growth of the plant.

In addition to pH and sodium content, rainwater also lacks chlorine and chloramines (used to disinfect tap water), fluoride and other particulate matter that is harmful for your plants. Rainwater has 2-20 mg/dl of atmospheric particulate matter vs 100 -800 ppm for municipal water.

There are obvious benefits of a fresh rain shower in our garden but in Texas rainfall is very unpredictable. To have rainwater for your garden all year long you will need a large runoff water collection system. A runoff collection system for your garden should include five components: 1) catchment surface such as roof 2) gutters and downspouts that channel water from roof to holding tanks 3) screens or components that remove debris from the water 4) storage tank and 5) some type of delivery system such as gravity or a pump. You must keep in mind that every surface your water touches will potential absorb components of that surface. Therefore, it is very important not to use harmful materials for your collection system such as lead, toxic sealants or items that may rust easily. Also, having an elaborate runoff collection system does not mean it is safe for drinking because of contaminants such as bird feces, which stinks.

The article attached “The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting” is a great resource for anyone thinking of doing a rainwater collection system. Until I get mine up and running I will be doing a little rain dance. If the neighbors ask “Water you doing” ? I will just “runoff” !

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TTYT- Talk to ya tater!

-C

Love the Soil You’re In

In life, people and plants often get transplanted. It can be an opportunity for them to flourish to grow and to be even more magnificent. There will always be some obstacles to overcome. One of those is the soil in which we put down our roots and our little seedlings.

I grew up in deep East Texas and still have a family home there. I now spend most of my time in the Northern Hill Country. The soil types and experiences are polar opposite. They each afford different opportunities and barriers to growing.

The eastern part of Texas is known as the East Texas Timberlands, according to the Texas Almanac, with soil that is acidic deep sandy loams with scattered clay pockets. It is easy to grow there and make deep roots but the hidden clay pockets can make it hard for you to navigate times. It is often not what it seems. You start digging with your shovel and it seems easy to remove the dirt, but then you hit a hard red clay loam that is harder than a rock. You dig and you dig but it will not budge. If you put your plant there the heavy clay will suffocate the root and it will die. Navigating the clay in life is the hardest part; none the less, it is absolutely possible. So many wonderful things near and dear to my heart have grown from Eastern Texas soil. I specifically love and miss my all grown and tall pine trees.

Sometimes, I just have to peak through the Pine Curtain to see how things are growing along or withering away. So, I am grateful to still be able to split my time between East Texas and the Northern Hill County.

Most of my time now (67% to be exact) is spent at Farnash Creek Ranch in the Northern Hill Country of Texas. We are in a soil type call the Grand Prairies according the the Texas Almanac. We are just south of the Western Cross Timbers and just north of Edwards Plateau. The soil is alkaline with shallow dark-gray clumpy loams over rocky limestone which means it is difficult to cultivate. Growing has been much more difficult to get started. It is hard to penetrate and we often have to get inventive with growing strategies. A mere shovel will not do the trick for our seedlings.

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We have to do much more preparation for the soil. But we are learning when we prepare and work our soil for the roots we want to plant, they will flourish. We remove the rocks or obstacles for growing and the soil becomes a soft fluffy bed of growing gold. The rains will come again and attempt to harden our ground but we will keep working it back to downy again and again. Nevertheless, I have no doubt once people get their roots to take hold they are there to stay. For me, this is unlike the Piney Woods where over time heavy downpours, cutting down or logging, and the compacted slippery clay minds cause things to wash away. And honestly, sometimes things need to wash away from our gardens- it is Mother Nature’s way of keeping balance.

I’m learning to love my Grand Prairie’s soil and grow in it each day! I am finding gratitude in all things these days because life is too short and precious to waste time complaining over bad dirt! Dirt let life’s ups and downs soil your whole garden!

– C

Gettin’ ReFarnash’d

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Last week we had some visitors on the Ranch. My sister and her family came out to get ReFarnash’d! The Ranch is a great place for everyone to get rejuvenated and back to nature. Our family has had a particularly hard 2017 and we all needed to get renewed!

2017 was a season of sorrow and loss for us but we try to remember it is just a season of life that will pass. Our hearts will always be heavy for the losses we all share but we are grateful to still have each other.

My sister and our #4 daughter (Abby) share a birthday on March 13th which is usually spring break for us here in Texas. We have been so lucky to share those birthdays in such wonderful places such Ben and Jerry’s in San Francisco! But, this year we spent it on the ranch. We needed some ranch R&R or ReFarnashing! We started the day with breakfast in bed at the Frankston home before heading out to the Ranch! Lyla (my niece) and I decided she needed a big breakfast since it was such a BIG birthday!

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Then, we headed out to the Ranch. My sister and her husband did some detouring but Lyla and I headed straight for the antique stores (my choice not hers)! We had to make a few stops to get ready for the birthday celebrations. Once we arrived on the ranch we had a quick little candle blowing for the birthday girls……

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before we headed out on the new “little red wagon”!

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Just kidding….. the battery was dead. So, we all headed out on the old “green mule”! Loaded with our usual Ranch Ramblers and the company of each others laughter! The next day we enjoyed a day at the Farmer’s Market picking up plants. We all spent the afternoon working in the garden getting ready for spring.

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Lyla especially loved planting! More than anyone expected!

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That sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it? We all know families are not fairy tales but they are what we make them. We all have a story but we can all choose happiness and love! We can blend families and try to help each other mend old wounds. It will take time, patience and understanding! It will take looking inside yourself and seeing things from others point of view. Nearly every visit there is a misunderstanding but on EVERY visit we are extremely grateful for the love of family and a feeling of belonging. I am so thankful to have such a beautiful and temperamental family! I guess I am the only one to blame! I would not have it any other way! Re-Farnash’d for 2018!

-C

Women in History- “Hussy”

In honor of Women’s History Month I would like to introduce one of our famous Women around here! Meet our little “Hussy”.  She is ranch legend and icon. We all know her by name and give her the due respect and caution. She makes history every year on the ranch!

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She has earned her name by always doing what she wants when she wants! She is one of those women who are always getting into trouble. She doesn’t care what the other cows and heifers think. She is not afraid of anything. She might charge or chase you if needed. She doesn’t even care what the horses think. She routinely breaks into the barn and steals the horses hay! She just bellies up to the hay bar and helps herself. She is a key player in the Bovine Women’s Suffrage movement. She is feisty and rowdy at times and always seems to find trouble. Even when she is in Bovine jail, she remains composed but fearless!

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Someone advised us to not sell our ugly cows because they are good producers of calves…… and she is ugly! But, she is the best momma. She produces a calf every year and guards it with all her fury. The first calf she had we named “Baby Huey” because he was almost as big as her and he would run from the dog and hide behind her. She would charge the dog every time this happened. We later noticed that “Baby Huey” was actually female. So her name is “Baby Henrietta” now.  Good thing the ranch went Bovine transgender not too long ago. Sometimes the cows pick their gender and sometimes we do! Baby Henrietta and Hussy are both still with us and consistently produce calves that grow into food for your tables.

She reminds me of the woman in the Ashton Shepherd song “aint dead yet”. The lyrics go something like “I got a baby at home, a to do list a mile long…….its my responsibility……. I am usually in bed by nine……. BUT I STILL LIKE A COLD BEER AND A LONG DIRT ROAD”. That’s our hussy! She’s got babies on the ranch and takes care of them because its her responsibility and she usually does what she is suppose to but she still likes some GOOD HAY IN THE BARN!

We love our Hussy, but in all seriousness there are some really amazing women in ranching history. If you have not had the chance to read Texas Ranch Women: Three Centuries of Mettle and Moxie by Carmen Goldthwaite it is a great read. She talks about women in Texas Ranching history in a chronological order including ranching Giants such as the King Ranch Queen- Henrietta King. In addition to but not limited to Margaret “Peggy” MCCormick, Manuela Ramon and Patricia de la Garza de Leon. I hope you enjoy and would love your feedback on the read!

– C

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