Virginia City, Nevada

Hubby and I spent a day in Virginia City, Nevada last month. We had been there a couple of times before but we’d never dallied about the old west town before.

We started the day with a ride on the steam locomotive that goes from Virginia City to Gold Hill and back. The conductor on the trip was well versed int he history and had some great jokes and one-liners. He was very entertaining. The most interesting part of the train trip in my estimation was the fact that leaving Virginia City the train ran backward to Gold Hill. My husband and I rode in the outside car. Meaning we didn’t have a roof. On the way to Gold Hill there were interesting sites and the conductor told us history and how the railway came to be. The air was crisp and only a faint hint of coal being burnt in the steam engine. On the way back they drove forward. The first burst of the engine to get up the short hill out of Gold Hill and the people riding in the open car were brushing soot from their clothes, arms and hair while breathing in the black sooty smoke from the engine. It was realistic of the travel back in the 1800s. Here are some of the photos:

Our train
Gold Hill
Tunnel ahead! Everyone get ready to breath in the hot, moist steam and soot.

After walking down to the depot and riding on the train, we walked back up to the main street. If you haven’t been to Virginia City it is on the side of a hill. Everywhere you walk besides Main Street is either up or down. Many of the buildings in town are old. The sidewalks in some parts of the street are still boards. They are uneven and you have to pay attention when you walk for fear of stubbing a toe or stepping lower than you had anticipated. But the old town feel is captivating.

On a trip before I strolled through the MacKay Mansion Museum. It was fun to listen to the person telling of the history of the house and the history of the town.

While I strolled through the stores, hubby would sit on the benches on the sidewalk and visit with people. As we sat drinking tea on the outside deck of a coffee shop, we decided we were going to come back and stay in Virginia City for a few days within the next year. We didn’t make it to the cemetery and there is a gold mine tourists can go down into. Not to mention several other museums in the town and we didn’t watch the sideshow. I plan to see them all when we return to Virginia City for an extended stay.

Prickly Pear Jam-not a fan!

When I was complaining to one of my husband’s friends that I couldn’t grow anything outside. It either needed more water than I gave it, or it got too much sun, he said he knew exactly what I needed. The next time he came to visit he brought me a prickly pear cactus.

And I will agree, it does like the soil, the sun, and the lack of water that is the high desert of SE Oregon. The first summer, when it was establishing roots, the plant looked healthy but didn’t grow much. It has tripled in size and this year had the prettiest blooms.

With all the blooms I was excited about the fruit that it had. Magnificent magenta colored, pear-shaped fruit. But beware! They have small spiny moles, as I call them. Spots on the outside that are a mass of small spines that you have to remove before you can do anything with the fruit. This process required rubber clothes, a plastic scrubber and water.

When the spines were off and I’d had to stop many times to pull of the gloves and extract a spine from a finger, I cut the the fruit in half and scraped out the seeds and pulp. The pulp went into the blender and was blended, then strained.

The juice was cooked with sugar, pectin, and water. Then it was poured into hot scalded jars and lids attached before I put them in a water bath to seal the jars.

The longest part of the whole process was scrubbing the “moles” off the outside to make sure you didn’t get any in the jam.

Once the jam was finished, I didn’t really care for it. Hubby said it was okay and work in a pinch, but it wasn’t something he’d have to have. So, it looks like I made prickly pear jam once and will not be doing it again. Have you ever made something and in the end decided it wasn’t worth making again?

Spring Musings

This week we are finally getting some weather that feels like spring is here. I love the long days of sunshine and blue skies. Most of this month has been cold, windy, and wet. The wet I’m all for because it brings spring flowers and puts moisture in the ground for the hay crops.

I also like spring because it brings Memorial Weekend. The reason for the weekend is to remember the men and women who gave their lives so we can live free. I always donate money for a small red memorial poppy. There is a woman who brings them around in a basket at the Sumpter Flea Market. I’ve been attending this event with fellow author, Mary Vine for over five years. We set up a tent and sell our books over the three-day weekend. It has become as much a fun weekend with a friend as it has been about selling books. The fun part is having fans come back each year to buy the latest books.

Sumpter booth

This month I’m also trying to finish the third book in the Spotted Pony Casino mysteries. It has been slow since I’ve been attending track meets to watch the granddaughter that has been living with us the past two years. If I don’t have it finished by the time I go to Sumpter, I’ll be writing in the evenings. It needs to be finished because I’m going on a week-long trip with my sister-in-law to research the next book in June.

With the sunnier weather, I plan to get out and ride my horse more. As I get older, I have become a fair-weather equestrian. LOL I enjoy riding with the grandkids and riding by myself. My horse, Jan, is a mellow fellow and he has a slow easy stride that I like. I hope to go on several long trail rides this summer. If I do, you’ll see a post about it here.

Me and Jan

Earlier in the month my hubby traded some hay for a manure spreader. We weren’t sure what he was getting as an older man we knew called him up and asked if he wanted it. When he drove up with the spreader on the trailer behind his pickup I smiled. It is the cutest thing! The size is perfect to pull behind my little purple tractor and to use in the two small fields we use or the horses and steers.

That’s the end of my musings. I hope you enjoyed this brief look into my life, both writing and personal.

Horses, Hooves, and George

Last week we finally found a new farrier. A person who trims horse’s hooves and puts shoes on them. Ever since moving to SE Oregon I’ve had trouble keeping a farrier. They either move or stop doing it. There are a lot of horse around here that need their feet taken care of, but many of the ranchers do their own hoof care but don’t do it for anyone else.

I can understand why they would need to stop. It is hard on a person’s back. And if you get too many horses that don’t like having their feet messed with, it can even be dangerous.

Luckily, we found a young man, who will, hopefully, keep at it for a while.

My daughter, who lives down the road, brought over two horses and two ponies to get their feet trimmed. She also brought one of her older boys and the two littlest grandkids. The littlest grandchild, tried to help her mom load up, her pony, Candy.

And I had my two horses and George the donkey’s feet trimmed.

Two littles visiting George when they first arrived.

As you can see, littlest grandson thought it was warmer to lay on my gelding Jan.

The horses and Goerge all now have nicely shaped hooves.

Earlier this week, I went for one of my hikes on the hill and was happy to see a buttercup in bloom as well as yellow bells and lupine peeking through the dirt. A sure sign of spring though we had a very dry winter.

Buttercup

The other day, hubby was loading up his pickup and a trailer to take items to an equipment auction. He asked me to help him but using the backhoe to lift up tires. Here’s my view while working.

That’s the thing about living rural, there is never a dull moment! always something to do, whether it’s fixing fence, feeding animals, building something, or moving equipment. Not to mention cutting, raking, and baling hay in the summer. Or going for a walk, riding my horse, or sewing. Yep, I don’t understand people who have nothing to do…

What Came Before

Sunday mornings when the sun is shining, I like to hike on the hills and ridges around our place. I call it my Sunday morning church. I believe in enjoying the world that God or the Creator built for us.

My hubby always meets with other farmers and ranchers for coffee or breakfast on Sunday mornings so I leisurely eat my breakfast, feed my horses and the cats and then Harlie and I take to the hills. Roaming around taking photos and studying the ground.

This time we- well Harlie- discovered an old horse’s hoof. I’m sure it had to have come from a horse that had died many years ago and the hoof either made it’s way to the top of the ground and an animal packed it off or an animal dug it up and packed it off. Either way where we found the hoof wasn’t a spot where an animal could have been easily buried. My best guess is something picked it up somewhere and dropped it where we found it.

The hoof doesn’t look as if it has been chewed on but it is definitely dried out. The outside looks like weathered wood.

The inside is smooth and gives a good look at the shape of a hoof with out the bone, muscle, and tendons.

I found this discovery interesting as you can tell by the three photos. 😉

I always find something that piques my interest when I am walking in nature. How about you? Do you keep your eyes on the trees, the plants, or the ground as you walk through the wonders that were put on this earth for us to enjoy?

Creativity Must Come Out

Making things with my hands, testing color combinations, and creating a final project have always been my way of being creative when I’m not writing. It soothes my brain in different ways to write 3000 words in a day or to piece together fabric for a quilt. Or even to take photos while out hiking.

I love the play of colors in photos and in making quilts. I like the serenity of a walk and capturing the things I see while photographing. I like capturing the colors of my grandchildren into a quilt they can have for a long time. And I sleep better and fear less by putting the words and scenes in my head into books rather than make up stories of tragedy that afflict my family members.

I came up with the idea of making a quilt for each of my grandchildren as a high school graduation gift last year. It was after I had made myself two quilts and enjoyed the process so much that I wanted to continue.

The first graduation quilt I finished was for granddaughter #2. Her favorite colors are teal, dark blue, and purple and she likes butterflies. I scoured the fabric stores looking for fabric I thought went well and reflected her colors. Then I came up with a pattern that wasn’t too intricate but would be fun to make. And this is the finished top of the quilt. Right now it is away being quilted.

The next quilt I tackled was a little more daunting for granddaughter #1. Her favorite colors are red and black and she likes skulls. Again, I came home with different reds and blacks and fabrics with skulls. When I’d decided on the fabric combinations, I then looked through quilt books to find a not too elaborate pattern and came up with this.

Now I am gathering fabric for the two oldest grandsons who will graduate next year. One likes lime green, cars, motorcycles, and hunting. The other one likes the outdoors and snow. I may do a log cabin pattern on this grandson’s quilt. It will depend on the fabric I find.

What do you like to do to be creative?

Chores are not a chore

While there are some mornings that I linger inside before donning my weather-proof pants, heavy coat, stocking cap, and boots or walking shoes, I still make sure I get out and feed the horses and cats by 8 am. It’s part maternal instinct that drives me out to take care of them and part being a farmer, living with animals to take care of my whole life.

Patty eating her grain

I know the importance of keeping animals fed and watered in the cold weather. They need the feed for fuel and the water to help them digest the food and keep them hydrated so their bodies can function in the cold weather.

Animals have been my friends longer than I’ve had people for friends. Growing up we lived rural and at a time when a child was allowed access to the phone. We were 12 miles from town. During the summer we would only make a trip to town when our grandmother who lived with us went for groceries. I’d go to the library and check out books. We didn’t see friends except on my birthday in June. Horses, dogs, pigs, cows, and sheep were my friends. I’d talk to them, talk among the herds and talk to the animals that were curious.

When my children were small I raised hogs that farrowed in time for 4-H members to purchase weaner pigs for fair projects. I enjoyed going down to the barn and cleaning out the pens and feeding them. At the time my children were in grad school. The hogs were less demanding and were always happy to see me coming. LOL My kids complained about food, clothes, not getting enough time to play or watch television. Yes, I enjoyed my unconditional love hogs!

my daughter’s piglets

I didn’t mind feeding the cattle we raised when the kids all started leaving the nest. Many times I’d climb onto the tractor and pulled the trailer piled with hay out into the pastured and stop, dump some hay off, get off the trailer, walk to the tractor, move it forward, stop, and do it all over again about ten times until the cattle were fed. This, of course, was in the winter while I was wearing insulated overalls , boots, and gloves.

It seems the animals need the most attention when the weather is at its worst!

Chores have been a way of life for me. As a child we had rabbits. The pens had to be cleaned and the rabbits fed every day. When the pile of rabbit droppings grew too large under the pens, we had to fill a wheelbarrow and take it to the garden. Sometimes it would be frozen, not fun!

I don’t mind chores and I love having animals. The wild animals that have no one to take care of them are always fascinating to me. Do you like chores? What about animals?

From Angel to Badger

One thing is for certain, life always keeps you on your toes and humbles you.

On the last day of the 2021, I walked out of my house dressed in snow pants, a sweatshirt and my coat and snow boots ready to take on the bright snowy day. After feeding the horses, steers, and cats, I decided it wasn’t too cold to go on a walk.

After walking past the house and the area the dogs run around making lots of tracks, the landscape before me was white, unmarred, and beautiful. I stood there for a few minutes taking it all in and decided I wanted to make a snow angel.

I found the perfect spot with just enough slope I could get up hopefully without destroying what I’d made. I sat down, laid back on the snow and waved my arms and legs feeling giddy. It had been a while since I’d even made a snow angel. The day had just felt perfect for letting my joy loose.

When it felt like I’d waved more than enough, I sat up, pushed down with one hand and managed to get out with out mangling the design too much. See photo below.

My snow angel

Humming to myself, watching Harlie, our dog running joyously up and down the side of the ridge, I continued on my walk. My usual path is a dirt road alongside our hay field. On days when I feel crunched for time, I walk down to the end of the field, about 3/4 of a mile, and back. That was my plan this day.

The road isn’t flat, it wanders up and down small inclines and even tilts toward the field. As I was walking the white untouched snow covered road, I was also staring off at the ridge where a hawk sat watching me. I stepped and my foot continued downward. I caught my balance and looked down at a badger hole that I’d stepped in.

You would think when a badger hole is 8-10 inches in diameter that the snow would go into the hole and therefore make an indention in the snow. But it doesn’t. the snow is level over the holes and you can’t see them when they are covered with the white stuff.

I commented on I should mark the hole with something and continued on my walk. Once again staring up at the ridge and the bird that was soaring around. At this point, the road was at a slant. I looked up, noticing something moving on the ridge and put my foot down. This time my foot fell into a badger hole. My whole lower leg went into the hole and I fell forward.

Lucky for me, I have solid and not brittle bones. I pushed myself up and had to work my foot around to get it out of the hole. Once I had it out, I stood and decided I’d have bruises and few pulled muscles in the morning but nothing worse. However, I made another vow to mark the hole with a stick.

I finished my walk and sent this photo to my hubby.

The badger hole that I went in up to my knee.

Luckily, this was an old hole and I didn’t have a badger gnawing off my foot while I was trying to get it out. If it had been a fresh hole, I would have seen dirt around the hole and wouldn’t have walked right over the top of it.

As I said in the beginning, life keeps you on your toes and humbles you. I went from the top of the world, playing in the snow to wallowing around in the snow to get my foot dislodged from a badger hole. And that is rural life!

Slack Week between Holidays

Daughter and son-in-law packing their Christmas tree we cut down.

This week between Christmas and the new year gives time to stop and reflect and look forward. While the days seem to be lost during this time, I think it’s because we give ourselves permission to think about so much that happened over the year and think about what is to come in the new year.

Reminiscing with family and friends over the holidays is a fun way to look back and remember good times. There is sometimes sadness mixed in with the good, thinking of people who are no longer here, but there is always the brightness of knowing we have another year to look forward to.

Christmas in SE Oregon was white and cold. I loved it! There is nothing like a white Christmas to make the day feel even more festive. The week following is cold. It makes taking care of the animals a little more difficult. Water troughs freeze, the animals are cold and need extra food.

After the chores are finished, it is comfy to sit at my computer with a heater under my desk or in front of my sewing machine while I work on quilts. There is always something to do inside, if the weather outside isn’t pleasant.

I have a hard time understanding people who say they are bored. As a kid I might have uttered it a time or two but as an adult, there is never time to be bored. I can always find something to do. In fact, I never have enough time to do everything I want to do.

What do you do during this week between Christmas and New Years? Do you work, take a vacation? Maybe just spend your time when you aren’t working watching movies or working on a hobby?