Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Growing season is ending here in Wyoming (even with our ongoing Indian Summer), and since Jason and I are headed off on our work road trip tomorrow, I had to hurry up and harvest some more veggies. There have been some definite surprises in the veggie patch this week, along with some really cool Cauliflower.

I dug up the rest of the potatoes yesterday, and came up with this one - J is for Jason! I ran over to show Jason his special potato, but he was less than impressed. I still thought it was pretty cool, though!

Then, today when I was pulling out a zucchini plant that hadn't been very productive and was WAAAAAY overgrown, this sucker showed up:

To give you some perspective, that zucchini weighs 5 pounds and his ginormous. I guess I know why the plant wasn't very productive - all it's energy was going into that one zucchini!

Then, I finally harvested the Romanesco Cauliflower. Chef Tony specifically requested these babies, and they're pretty incredible looking. They're "fractal", meaning that no matter how close or how far away you look at them, the smallest nodule mimics the whole. Maybe Wikipedia can help explain it better: "Romanesco broccoli resembles a cauliflower, but is of a light green color and the inflorescence (the bud) has an approximate self-similar character, with the branched meristems making a logarithmic spiral. In this sense the broccoli's shape approximates a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels." In the US, it's actually called a Cauliflower, because it looks more like one, but it TASTES like broccoli. Whatever - it's incredible looking, and I'm very excited to have grown it!

Alright! Well, those are the updates from the Ranch. Tomorrow? We're planning on driving about 750 miles to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That's a LOOOOONG drive!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baking again

Sunday I actually felt like baking for the first time in a LOOOOONG time. Of course - I was missing one ingredient from every recipe I wanted to try. I'm not a good enough baker, especially gluten free, to just wing it without the missing ingredient. After all, gluten free baking is more about Chemistry than baking. Finally, hours later (after Heidi got home from town and I was able to steal some chocolate from her), I finally got to the baking process.

What did I make? Gluten Free Tagalongs. Yes - the Girl Scout Cookie. MMMM. You know the one with a cookie and peanut butter covered in Chocolate? THOSE are Tagalongs. They are delicious. And I haven't had one in more than two years.

So, I found this recipe from Jules Gluten Free.

I'm not reposting it here, because, well, it's her recipe and I didn't tweak it at all. And I didn't photograph them, cause they aren't all that pretty - I had trouble dipping them without making a mess. I will say that the process took a long time, I had to chill the dough after I made it. Two hours later, I baked the cookies. Then I had to let them cool. I made the peanut butter filling, spread it on the cooled cookies. Popped them in the freezer for twenty minutes. Then I finally dipped them in Chocolate, and had to let the chocolate set up.

But I WILL tell you that they are delicious. To die for. The Tagalong of my dreams, only better cause there are no preservatives in it!

MMMM. Thank you, Jules, for bringing me back to Girl Scout Cookies.

Now go, see the recipe and try them!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Uncle Pete

Dad (on the Right) "keeps" Pete from running on his wedding day. These are the clowns they've always been.

My Dad's life-long best friend, whom he met at age 5 on the first day of Kindergarten, the man I know as Uncle Pete, passed away today at the age of 56. He was diagnosed months ago with cancer, and he fought it with everything he had. He leaves behind an incredible wife and two handsome sons, both in college.

Pete, Dad and their friend Butchy (yes... Butchy) raised some serious hell - I've only heard bits and pieces of their many stories. They played football together. They grew up together, in and out of each other's homes, having adventures. Getting in trouble. They were brothers. As my mom put it, Pete was more a brother to my dad than his own brother was. And Pete's mom was a second mother to my dad. Pete was there when my parents met. It was as important to my dad that my mom meet Pete's parents as it was she meet his own. That's the kind of friends they were.

My heart is broken. For his wife Tracy, for his sons Robert and Brian, for my dad, for Pete's mother. But I'm not heartbroken for Uncle Pete - because his struggle is over, and he is celebrating in heaven, waiting patiently for his family to someday join him.

Death is not sad for the ones who have already passed on, but for those of us who are left to pick up the pieces and learn how to move on again.

Please pray for Uncle Pete's family - for moments of laughter and joy, for fond memories, for friends and family to surround them and support them as needed, and that they are able to gradually heal.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I know I've waxed poetic about my weekly LoveBombs before, so I'll keep this short. This week's bomb really got me. It was for the family of a twelve year old Virginia boy who died in the flash flood. A freak accident, and a family that has had a hole ripped in it.

The specific post was by his Aunt - her words from his service. And let me tell you, it is so powerful and a reminder that we often get our priorities seriously skewed as adults. You should go and read it - no pressure to leave a comment at all - her words are incredible and worth a read.

At the gist of it were these guidelines, pulled from the life lived by this young man:

"Be Kind.
Pay Attention.
Never Give Up.
Share Others' Joy.
And every day- tell your loved ones how treasured they are."

The one that hit closest to home was Play. Here's what she said, "Play. Be creative, experiment, think things through from every angle and share my gifts with the world. When I enjoy something, I want to enjoy it BIG. And play together. Throw a ball in the yard, even if the to-do list beckons. Snuggle and chat at bedtime, even if it is late."

Wow. Thanks, Jack.

Indian Summer

After two weeks of cold weather - long sleeves, jackets, morning frost and (just two days ago) long underwear, we have suddenly found ourselves in the middle of an Indian Summer. The daytime temperature got up to the mid-80s today, and the short sleeve shirts that I'd packed away in a suitcase, ready for Florida, were suddenly pulled out.

It was gorgeous today. Beautiful. The leaves are starting to turn red, so it looks like Autumn and feels like Summer. A classic Indian Summer, and it's supposed to last through the weekend. I plan to bask in the warm weather before it inevitably turns cold again.

I love Indian Summer!

The wild Hops vines (yes... wild hops - there's some beer making happening here on the ranch!) on the Bunkhouse have suddenly turned red.

The sunflowers are still blooming!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back to the Bunkhouse

Yes... we are back in the bunkhouse. Today we had a day off (owed from last weekend), so we went to town for breakfast and to check out a couple of photo galleries. Then we came back and made the move. I forget how much "stuff" we have with us! I'll have to be really organized in getting it all packed up to travel in a month. Jason took advantage of the opportunity to mostly pack up his clothing. After all, he'll only be here until he leaves on his road trip September 29. After that, he'll be here a few nights at the most when he returns from his trip, and then we're off to Florida with the dog and the hummer.

The bonuses on the move to the bunkhouse? DirecTV. Oh yes - no more DVDs and Hulu (although that may continue as well...). Also, the heater in our cabin was hooked up to a smallish propane tank, one that runs out on occasion or on which the pilot will go out unexpectedly. By moving back into the bunkhouse (which has central heat), we eliminate the need for anyone to have to come and help me every time the wall heater needs service. Plus, I'm not out on the edge of the ranch buildings like we were - and with Coyotes very present on the property, plus the occasional bear or wolf, I'll be a little more comfortable alone for three weeks.

So, we're back in the bunkhouse. This is the beginning of the end of our season. Wow.

Oh! And quick update, my parents' visit to the ranch for my birthday has been approved! Hooray!

Indy doesn't care much where he sleeps, as long as Froggy is with him!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Road Trip Update

Okay! I have some more details to share about our upcoming road trip. We are leaving on Thursday, Sept 29 and driving for two solid days until we get relatively close to Ann Arbor. Why? Because on Saturday we have TICKETS FOR THE MICHIGAN/MINNESOTA GAME!!!!!!!!!! Back to the Big House I go. We've already ordered Jason his first MICHIGAN shirt, so he'll be dressed for the occasion! So excited to get to spend a day in Ann Arbor, to show Jason my school and to see the changes for myself. I'm definitely going to stop by my old co-op (where I lived for 3 years) and see what's changed. :) Who knows? Maybe they'll even let me in the door! And you know? That makes me think of a couple of good stories (one in particular) that I should write on this blog. Hmmm....

Jason's trip keeps getting extended, so now he'll be gone for the entire month of October, arriving back at the Ranch sometime around the 27th/28th, when we'll spend one day letting him rest, and then pack up the car and head for Florida. Because he's going to be gone so long and it will be SOOOO quiet on the ranch (the rest of the seasonal staff leaves on Oct 1), I'm going to ask the Ranch Manager if I can have some family here for my birthday weekend. That'll break up the quiet and give me something to look forward to. Fingers crossed for me, okay? I'm nervous about asking because they've already given me the opportunity to drive with Jason to New Hampshire... Well, the worst they can say is no, right?

Our next group grew suddenly from three guests to six. That's the way it works sometimes - people invite themselves up here. What can you do? They've changed their dates from this weekend to next week, so I have a couple extra days to get the cabins ready. And then we'll head out on our adventure before they're gone. When I get back to the Ranch on Oct. 5, I'll start closing down cabins for the season.

I harvested some of the Red/White/Purple Potato blend today. Still excited about potatoes! Tony's using them in tonight's dinner. :) They're mostly dirty in the photo, but you can see bits of color. This is the output from just 5 seed potatoes, and it doesn't even include the ones I pulled out to save for next year's potato crop!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Napoleon and Bertha

If you haven't noticed, I happen to make up names for the critters around me - whether they already HAVE names or not. For example, I named the baby Robin that I kept discovering in strange places "Waldo" as in, "Where's Waldo?". I also rarely call our dog Indy by his name, mostly I call him SmellyPants. He likes it. :)

One of my duties here on the Ranch (aside from gardening and housekeeping) is birdfeeding. I keep the feeders stocked with Wild Bird Seed, and keep the nectar in the Hummingbird Feeders fresh. This works out well because I'm a bird watcher. No - not one of those obsessive folks with crazy binoculars, but someone who enjoys watching them interact, hop around and take off in flight. They amuse me! Especially fascinating are the hummingbirds, with their tiny little bodies, loud chirps and super-speed. This summer, we had one particular hummingbird who declared himself "Dictator of the Porch and it's Feeders". Seriously - this little guy was a bully. I watched him every day - he would sit in the same spot in the same Aspen tree where he had a view of all the feeders. If another hummingbird dared to try and approach one of his feeders, he would swoop out of the tree, chirping like a maniac and chase them off. Every single time. It never failed. Once he'd accomplished his goal, he'd take a drink from his feeder and then go back to sit in his tree. Because he was so small and angry, I named him Napoleon. I can't think of a better name for a little hummingbird dictator, can you? Unfortunately, I was unable to catch Napoleon in action with my little point and shoot, although I tried my darndest. I would get the camera all primed and ready, would sit and wait, and the camera would go to sleep. Then and only then would Napoleon attack. What a little stinker! Anyhow, if you are curious about what I'm talking about (i.e. When Hummingbirds Attack), check out this montage some guy put together. Alas, the Hummingbirds all started their flight South two weeks ago, but the memory of Napoleon lives on.

Now, part of gardening is dealing with insects and spiders. There are good bugs and bad bugs, and some of the "good" bugs are ones that most of us don't like: spiders, centipedes, bees. I'm pretty sure you knew that bees are beneficial insects, based on their pollinating skills alone. That doesn't mean you don't get nervous when one chases you. The other day, I was in front of the lodge with Heidi, looking at all the perennial plants that are basically done with their season, and I saw a seriously fat bumble bee with it's butt sticking out of a Snapdragon. It was rooting around in there, happy as a clam, and I thought it was just too cute. The next day it was visiting the same plants, and I thought - hmmm.... I think I'll name it Buddha cause it's round and happy. WRONG. Yes, that little sucker is fat on pollen, but she has chased me several yards EVERY DAY for the past week because I dared to walk past her and interrupt her pollinating time. Chased. And we're not talking about a little honey bee - we're talking big, fat bumble bee - the kind that make children and adults scream in terror. No, she has not yet stung me, but has continued to give chase. And I'm telling you - I don't even stop to check her out - I just walk past and sure enough... Bee Chase! Because of her bad attitude, I decided that she couldn't be named Buddha after all. Instead, I've named her Bertha, which seems appropriate for her size and temperament. (Note - I have never actually met anyone named Bertha, and hope that I haven't inadvertently offended you with a negative use of the name!)

So there you have it - Napoleon, Bertha, Waldo and SmellyPants. All appropriately named. :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve really written about life here on the Ranch - mostly because I don’t want to bore you with the same ol’ stories all the time. But I definitely have some catching up to do!

We have OFFICIALLY made it through the guest season! Our last big group of guests leaves the ranch tomorrow, and we just have a few people trickling in and out in the next few weeks. Three women will be in this next weekend and two men in late October (just before we leave). There may be a few others, but that’s really it. Wow!!!!! So now we’re working in reverse - moving from the outdoor kitchen back indoors (thank goodness - the days have been getting cold), closing down some of the cabins for the winter season and “mouserizing” them. (That’s a new verb - it means preventing the mice from nesting in the linens). Getting ready to pull all of the flowers as their season ends. Pulling up what isn’t cold-weather hardy in the garden. Basically, undoing everything that’s been done. We may even be moving back into the bunkhouse so they can shut off the water to our cabin, although the verdict is still out on that one.

Speaking of gardens, did I tell you that we had our first frost on LABOR DAY?! I mean, I know we’re in Wyoming, but sheesh! It snuck up on me and killed the squash plants, the peppers, the beans and half of the outdoor tomato plants. Bummer. The good news? The Cauliflower are still growing (crossing my fingers that they get large enough to FINALLY harvest); the beets, carrots, celery root, potatoes, onions and peas were totally unharmed; and through some major fluke, the frost missed the melons, which were saved because they’re pressed up against the glass of the greenhouse. There are some decent sized melons on the vine right now, and I just hope I get at least one of them ripened. Even without threat of frost I’m covering them with plastic at night now - they like warmth.

I am very excited to report that I harvested my first potatoes this weekend, and Tony served them as part of his seven course meal. They were Yukon Golds, mashed, and so beyond buttery - if you’ve never had fresh dug potatoes before, you’ve never really HAD potatoes. The flavor is incredible! Something about the fact that I actually GREW POTATOES makes me preen a little. Which is totally silly considering that potatoes are the EASIEST plant I’ve ever grown. Put em in the ground, make sure they get some water every couple of days, and when the plant starts producing blooms, you know that there are some thin-skinned “new” potatoes to be dug up. If you’d rather, you can wait until the plant withers and dies, and just dig up potatoes as you need them. The longer you leave them in the ground, the hardier their skins get. Seriously - plant em, give em some water and dig em up. And you can even do them in barrels or trash cans if you want - they take up very little space, and it’s so exciting to dig them up!!!!!

I am ALSO excited to report that I harvested my first eggplants last week. Why am I excited? Well... eggplant is a tropical veggie and likes really warm temperatures. And we’re in Wyoming. Wyoming is ALWAYS cold at night, plus we only had about a month of nice, warm weather this summer. By keeping the Eggplant inside the greenhouse where it’s nice and toasty, and keeping them in pots instead of raised beds, I was able to keep the plants warm enough to produce fruit. As Sheldon Cooper (from one of our favorite shows - THE BIG BANG THEORY) would say... “Bazinga!”

Indy chased one of the cats up a tree this week - again. He reports that it was a total blast and he’s very disappointed that he didn’t get the cat this time. (I was rooting for the cat’s escape - I just can’t tell Indy that, it’d break his heart). He also would like me to tell you that he caught a bird and a mouse in the garden this week and couldn't understand why his mama wasn't thrilled with his dead, mangled treasures.

Last weekend, while all the boys were out of town, Kimmie and I went to a fundraiser for the Valley School - it is a modern, one-room schoolhouse that serves the Upper Southfork. They're raising money for a new playground set, and Heidi and J.W.'s kids will attend school there, so we thought we'd go support them. Great classroom (recently remodeled), and only 7 students in 5 grades. Yes, America, there are still one room schoolhouses. And you know what? The kids at schools like that get to have things like this tepee set up for them. How cool is that? What did you do for recess today? Played in the tepee! I only ever got to stay in a Tepee at Girl Scout Camp in 2nd Grade, and I came home a week later with mats in my hair and wearing the same underwear I wore when I left. (TMI, I know... but in 2nd grade you have better things to think about than changing your underwear or brushing your hair!)

The tepee in the process of being put up. They put it together traditionally - it was very cool to see!

Jason and I are getting ready to head off on our “work” drive to New Hampshire. I should know exactly which day we’re headed out soon. What I do know is that Jason is dropping me at the Airport in Albany, NY on October 5 so I can take four different flights to get back to Cody. What I also know is that we should be making a brief detour through Ann Arbor so I can see my Alma Mater for the first time since I graduated. This way we get to celebrate our 1st Anniversary together (something that I think is VERY important), and I get to get off the ranch for a few days (also important since I’m getting a little itchy to get going right now)! This also means that Jason will almost certainly miss my birthday (his trip continues to several different cities), but since it’s just my 29th I can deal. If it was my 30th? We’d have a problem. :) Either way, he’ll probably be back on the ranch around October 18-19, a week before it’s time for us to finish up and head for Florida.

Speaking of my Alma Mater, Michigan is now 3-0. Go Blue!

Hmmm... what else? We’re really getting excited for our fall/winter adventuring and are considering trading our week in Paris in January for a week of scuba diving in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas or Cabo in February. We are still planning on two weeks in South Africa at the end of January. Then, to fill both of our desires to go back to Europe, we’re talking about a couple weeks of traveling on the cheap to several countries (including France) next Fall after we finish our season at the Ranch. Who knows how it will all pan out, but both Jason and I are fully committed to embracing our adventure while we are footloose and fancy-free!

So that’s it for this longer than intended update - Check back for the tales of Napoleon the Hummingbird and Bertha the Bee!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bombs Away!

I've had a selfish couple of days, and not in any good way. Ranch work is taking Jason away from me for about three weeks of the last six weeks or so we have here. Really. Right now, he's in LA, working for the boss and then driving the photo truck (belonging to said boss) back to Wyoming, arriving sometime on Wednesday. Having him gone is tough - I get lonely. Every bit of me wants to be there with him, getting a chance to see my family, my best friend, my goddaughter (and going to the DMV to renew my driver's license before it expires would be awesome). Plus, last night was the season casting for the Caroling Company - so I am officially not caroling this season. To top it off, I found out yesterday that Jason would now be driving the photo truck to New Hampshire at the beginning of October for a photo conference. What did I do? I cried. CRIED. Felt sorry for myself because A)I keep getting stuck here alone; B)I love the fall, and would love to make that drive with Jason through States I've never been to and maybe get to stop in Ann Arbor to see my Alma Mater; C)He'll miss our 1 year anniversary or my 29th birthday or both. I was pathetic. Selfish and inconsolable. A total hot mess.

(As a side note - Jason called me from LA today to tell me he spoke with the boss, and I get to make the drive to New Hampshire with Jason and then just fly back to Cody - so at least we'll get to celebrate our anniversary together! He will most likely miss my birthday though. Sad. I'll take the trip with him, though and be grateful for that!)

Man - sometimes I get so wrapped up in me,me,me that I can't even breathe. Or I break into tears about something that is actually trivial. That's one of the problems with me having so much time to THINK while I'm here.

It's amazing how God can put things in perspective. Enter the LoveBomb.

I opened up my inbox today, and found my weekly "LoveBomb" mission. First, let me tell you about LoveBombing. It's a team of people (of whom I am one) who weekly drop love notes and encouragement on the blog of someone who's going through a really tough time. Just so they know that they're not alone and forgotten, that there are others (strangers) out there in the big, wide world who care. Who are willing to send good thoughts, pray, and follow their journey. One week we bombed a guy who lost everything, who's trying to put his life back together by knitting the most precious teddy bears. Another week, a pair of sisters, one donating bone marrow so the other might have a chance at life.

More often than not, though, we drop LoveBombs on parents who have lost or are losing a child. A couple I know lost their precious son last December, and as I have followed their story I've seen how incredible the internet can be for connecting parents who have experienced the same as a kind of support network. I don't think any of us who have never experienced that kind of pain can even fathom their grief, and most of us don't know what we should say.

But sometimes, I think, just hearing that someone, some stranger, has read the story of your child, is so sorry for your loss and is sending love and hugs and prayers across the country/world/cyberspace can make you feel like you're not alone. That you and your child haven't been forgotten.

And it sure as hell makes me remember that all the crap that I've been crying about is merely a pebble in my shoe. It puts everything in perspective.

If it's encouraging and supportive to someone I may never meet? That's the whole point. Because it's not about ME.

Want to get on the LoveBomb train? Click here to go to their webpage and sign up for the weekly emails. Bombs Away! And prepare to be moved and humbled.

Happy LoveBombing!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


That's correct - TGFF (not TGIF)! What does that stand for? THANK GOD FOR FOOTBALL!!!!!!!

Jason and I are football junkies. Jason will take any football watching he can get - I mostly tend towards college football. But man... I watch ESPN with Jason like it's going out of style. Jason goes into a sort of Football Depression when the Super Bowl is over and there's no football again until late August. I'm serious about that - he mopes.

Of course, the number one team I'm interested in is MICHIGAN, being that I graduated from there and all. And I swear, a love for Michigan Football comes with the degree.

That said, the last few years of Michigan Football have been, well, ROUGH. Now we have a new coach, we still have Denard "Shoelace" Robinson (arguably one of the most exciting players in College Football - keep your negative comments to yourself), and while still a definite work in progress, the Michigan Defense is starting to show signs of life.

But my love for College Football is not solely given over to Michigan - I will watch any game that isn't a total slaughter. More often than not, you can find me rooting for the underdog, and often you'll find me pissing my husband off with the team I choose to root for.

Still, I'll always back his team, the Florida Gators. Other than that, all bets are off.

This past Saturday, we were released from work early, and Jason and I found ourselves planted in the movie theatre here at the ranch with a cooler, snacks and an entire day of Football to watch. We didn't leave the theatre until at least 9pm. It was all football, all the time. And it was a blast. :)

So, thank God that Football Season is here. I'd say that my husband got lucky that I love the game so much and will willingly sit and watch umpteen games with him, interested all the time.

What else is there to say?