Sunday, February 24, 2013


Usually we begin lambing after the 15th of February and hope to be mostly done by March 15th when the sap in the maple trees begins to rise. We check the barn for new lambs every three or four hours day and night, and we really appreciate a warm snuggle when we climb back into bed.  Last fall, when our daughter, Laurel, told us they were expecting a baby around the 4th of March, we decided to postpone lambing until the 1st of April.

Lambing in April should be very different from lambing in February and March – less snow and more temperate weather. I’m really looking forward to not losing lambs to the cold. The ewes should need less food because their lambs will only be growing and not trying to keep their body temperature 100 degrees above ambient. Finally, we’ll save electricity because we won’t be using heat lamps in every pen for the first 24 hours after each lamb is born.

Of course we’ll still check the lambs every three to four hours night and day. We’ll probably still have a bottle lamb or two and we may have ewes with lambing problems. But in April, we won’t be dealing with those things in below zero weather.

Instead, we’re spending late February and early March caring for Simon, our new human baby, and his big brother Kieran. Dave and I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night. We work in 68 degree temperatures. We change diapers instead of shoveling manure. We play with toy cars, we make muffins, we read books, and best of all, we snuggle. If we snuggled lambs like we do our grandchildren, we’d never be able to let them go.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mistakes have been made

I would have expected that anyone who had co-authored a book of stories and recipes would know better than to publish a recipe without editing it. However, last night  I decided to make butterscotch sauce from my January 29 blog posting and was surprised when  the recipe told me to cook the butter and brown sugar for 23 minutes. If you've already tried the recipe I apologize for the mess it must have made of your pot. If you haven't tried it yet, the recipe is now correct and you are only supposed to cook the brown sugar and butter for 2 - 3 minutes. When made the correct way, not only does it make a great ice cream topping, but is fine on bread pudding and apple cake.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


My  mother believed that God was love. She never parted from a friend or family member without a hug. One of Mom’s favorite holidays was Valentine’s Day, the time when it was easy to tell people “I love you” in any way possible. Growing up, we baked heart shaped cookies, made our own valentines and cooked special meals for Valentine’s Day

When our kids were growing up and desserts were for special occasions only, Valentine’s Day merited one of those extra fancy desserts that my mother created. A merengue heart with a scoop of chocolate, cherry or vanilla ice cream on it, topped with a drizzle of hot fudge sauce was just one of the ways she said “I love you” to her family.

Merengue Hearts
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
2 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Slowly add the sugars and continue beating until peaks form.
Put a layer of wax paper on your cookie sheet and spoon the merengue onto the wax paper, in the shape of 4 inch hearts. Make a depression in the center of each heart to hold the ice cream. Bake at 300 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes, until the merengues are  just beginning to brown.Remove carefully from the wax paper. These are best the day they are made.

Hot Fudge Sauce
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 Tablespoon butter
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Add butter and melt. Blend in boiling water. Add sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil over direct heat. Do not stir. Boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. If you boil for eight minutes instead of five, the sauce will harden on your ice cream (also in the fridge, reheat in a microwave).

Serve to someone you love.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

At the edge of night

At the edge of night
snowflakes obscure my footsteps
no shadows, all white

          blizzard, 2-13

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wind blown riches

Strong winds blow across North Dakota bringing its riches to our farm. Yesterday when we were snowshoeing, Dave and I noticed the thin layers of dirt in the snow drifts carved by the wind. The fields of the Red River Valley are flat and black. The farmers work their fields in the fall, leaving them ready for early spring planting, but also vulnerable to wind erosion. In a dry winter with little snow cover, the winds lift the rich, black soil from their fields, and slowed by our hills and trees, drop it on our fields.

We are grateful for the additional topsoil. Heavy rains wash our soil from the tops of our hills to the bottom. Winter winds help replenish the fertility of our hilltops. Of course, even the driest winter can’t begin to replace the topsoil erosion caused by a single heavy rain on bare ground. Twenty years ago, a heavy rain deluged a field green with four inch high corn plants set in long straight rows and stripped the hills of corn and fertility. When the rain stopped, almost a foot of soil had lodged against the fence at the bottom of the field. It will take centuries to replenish the loss.

We no longer plant corn. We grow alfalfa most years and oats in the years we must replant the alfalfa. Our topsoil losses are way down. We spread our manure on the hilltops both for its value as a fertilizer and for the organic matter it holds. We never work the fields in the fall. In fact, we try not to cut and bale hay in the fall. The foot high alfalfa plants trap snow, protecting our topsoil, adding moisture to our ecosystem, and on dry, windy years, harvesting the windblown riches from the Red River Valley. Today, the air is full of wind and snow. Drifts are forming all across the fields. There probably isn’t much topsoil in this snow, but the moisture will sink into the earth and the alfalfa plants will benefit.