Horse Fence


Tools of the trade . . . .

We decided to test whether or not frost in the ground had abated enough to dig some post holes.  Plans are to build a paddock where our horse Tilly can have a small pasture to romp in when we are away.  She hates being confined in the small corral attached to her loafing shed and has begun to gnaw on the poles when we don’t turn her out.  Our first step was to plant two ancient cedar posts for a man gate where we will re-use an old gate and some ancient technology.


Gate anchor–of sorts . . . .

This old aluminum milk pail filled with rocks served the previous gate for as long as I can remember.  The pail was chained on the downside of the gate and the gravitational pull kept the gate closed, even in Wyoming winds!  Since the old path from the barn to the house drops down a steep bank to the creek bottom, the milk pail anchor swung freely whenever the gate was opened, banging the gate shut after you had passed through it.


Post hole digging made easy . . . .

We have tried digging post holes in our barnyard by hand and learned that beneath a foot of topsoil is a plate of hard-pan gumbo that will cause your shovel to bounce and your arms to tremble.  We cannot even penetrate it with the tractor-driven post hole digger without filling the hole with water, letting it soak overnight and drilling it out next day.  At this rate, Tilly has a long wait for a paddock fence!


Progress, at last . . . .

The plan is to re-use the old wooden gate leaning against the fence post.  It is fairly sturdy for a 50-year-old gate, give or take ten to a dozen years, and fits the personality of the old cedar posts, that are likely as old.  The part I don’t remember is how the milk pail gate anchor is chained to the gate, and what was used as a “stop” lever so the pull of the anchor doesn’t drag the gate open on the downside.  This part will require some heavy thinking. Another problem is how to remove the bent rusty nails that hold the hinges onto an old post that needs to be detached.


If old posts could talk . . . .

The beautiful patina, ancient scars and timeless character of the old cedar posts salvaged from piles of Dad’s abandoned poles and lumber scraps have a story to tell.  It seemed fitting to mount them where the former gate once stood, and swing another old salvaged gate between them.  Now if we can sort out the milk pail anchor technology, we’ll be back in business.

Mother must be looking down on us, remembering how many times she walked that steep path to the barn to milk Nancy and Doodle, our milk cows.  I loved walking to the barn with her and can clearly remember one day after a torrential rain we had to sit on the bank, watching the water rush by and fretting over the bawling of anxious cows waiting to be milked.  All these old memories come to mind as we build Tilly’s fence.

Granny’s Bread Pudding (with some differences)

A favorite recipe that we have enjoyed countless times began with a scratchy little note I made as my grandmother Clara demonstrated what should go into a good bread pudding.  I still have the original note on a tablet sheet of yellow lined paper, and have added my own notes to it a few times.  It is wrinkled, splattered and in terrible condition.  I actually misplaced it and managed to find it in a thorough search of my miscellaneous loose recipes a couple of days ago.  Strangely enough, yesterday I had a request for the recipe and was so relieved I still had it!  The timing was oddly coincidental.

Granny raised chickens and we grew up eating lots of fresh eggs.  And any economical cook knows that a great way to use up eggs and salvage stale bread is in a pudding.  One of the great discoveries (in my opinion) was the addition of challah bread to make a pudding. We ordered this dessert at the Alley House in Pagosa Springs, Colorado a couple trips ago and since that time, I have used this same bread for a rich, delicious bread pudding.

Granny Clara’s Bread Pudding

8 eggs (pullet) or 6 regular

3/4 C white sugar

1 tsp vanilla

l/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 qts. milk

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 challah bread loaf, torn into bite size pieces and left to dry a bit

raisens (optional)  slivered almonds sprinkled on top (optional)

Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk.  Place bread pieces in a 12-cup greased baking dish (I still use my grandmother’s decorative glass Fire King dish to make bread pudding and custard).  Pour milk mixture over bread and let sit for 5 minutes so the break can absorb the moisture. Sprinkle with raisens and/or sliced almonds.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes–test by inserting knife into center.  If milk mixture clings to knife, bake 10 additional minutes.  Should be a nice golden brown.  Cool in baking dish on a rack while you prepare sauce.


1 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

dash salt

l/2 cup water

l/3 cup unsalted butter

1 tsp. maple flavoring (can substitute dash of nutmeg with 1 Tbsp. bourbon)

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.  Mix dry ingredients with water, add to butter stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  When sauce is thickened, remove from heat. Pour while warm over individual servings of bread pudding.


Soup Kitchen is Open


Veggies and more veggies . . . .

Cold winter afternoons are great for making soup!  On this particular day, an emptying of refrigerator drawers and the freezer, added to a few things off the pantry shelf resulted in a delicious, hearty vegetable soup.  Primary ingredients for this vegetable medley included carrots and golden beets from the garden that are wintering nicely in the downstairs refrigerator and are as sweet and luscious as the day we dug them out of the ground; green beans that I froze in August; rutabaga; leeks; onion and garlic; cabbage and canned tomatoes.  A few chunks of summer sausage added a flavor boost, along with herbs, salt and pepper.  Great for lunch and supper!


Where’s the beef? . . . .

Beef burgundy in a crock pot was a first.  We usually prepare it in the oven but it doesn’t matter where you slow cook it, so long as it is slooooow.  This time a raid for ingredients fell short of mushrooms which make this dish truly wonderful, but we had the pearl onions and a good red wine which helped.  The beef is the star of this dish and it was delicious, with a touch of bacon added.


A trip to the fish market . . . .

We don’t find lots of fresh seafood in the grocery stores where we live, so a trip to Fort Collins and Whole Paycheck meant an opportunity to load up.  Plans were for cioppino, a favorite fish stew.  Fresh clams, mussels, shrimp, and a firm white fish are basics.  Some restaurants serve king crab legs, but a tomato based stew makes for a messy finish when you wrestle with crab legs.  We decided against those and chose cod which, while it tasted delicious, didn’t hold together at all well.  Should have chosen the scallops!


Hmmmm . . . .

A crusty loaf of bread, along with a nice white wine, and you’ve got a meal fit for a cold winter evening by the fire.  Other recent favorites were Super Bowl green chili and chicken vegetable soup. They were consumed before I was able to photograph them. Onward and upward!


Wild In Winter


king of the road . . . .

A recent winter-time jeep trip through the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains was filled with eagles and other surprises.  This cock pheasant was sunning himself along the edge of the road and was fairly patient to allow me time to grab a fast photograph.


“Too close for comfort!” . . . .

Our trip took us on a circular drive 10 miles west of where we live and ending up north about 30 miles.  The early hours were foggy and somewhat cloudy but the sky cleared to give us good visibility.  Recent snow left a mantle of white on the mountains and prairie, and frost sparkled on the grass and sagebrush.


“Don’t be hunting on my turf!” . . . .

Wily Coyote is out searching for his breakfast and watched us from a safe distance.  His curiosity at the sight of the jeep on the landscape didn’t seem to faze him.


Elk, elk and more elk! . . . .

The startling sight of a dark mass along the ridgeline came to life in my camera lens.  A herd of elk, probably numbering in the hundreds, split and traveled east and west of the road in front of us.


“What fence?” . . . .


“Meanwhile back a the ranch” . . . .

Shortly after arriving home, we noticed deer gathering in the creek bottom below the house.  Piles of leaves that we had intended to burn have become winter forage for them and they come each day to nibble and browse.  Next year we will rake up piles of the leaves again and leave them for the deer.


“I’d rather have sunflower seeds!” . . . .

This young doe makes her way to the old skillets that catch a few seeds from the bird feeders.  If she is lucky, she might have a nice snack, which beats eating cold, stale leaves any day!