Monday, April 25

A strange human

One thing that's guaranteed - if you were to go lie down on the ground in the midst of a bunch of mother cows and calves, you would get some funny looks. When they're used to seeing people horseback or in pickups, it definitely piques their interest when some crazy girl comes out and lies down to take their pictures.

But it's a great way to get them to come close and take a look. The calves strike some pretty good poses for photographing.

I had a long weekend last weekend, encompassing a meeting on Cody about brucellosis on Thursday, helping with some ranch work at Owl Creek northwest of Thermopolis on Friday and branding at that same place Saturday. Sunday morning I drove to Lander to go to Easter service with my sister and enjoy an Easter dinner with a group of her friends at her house. We moved the dinner table outdoors, and it was a lovely lunch!

After the cows on Owl Creek were fed Friday morning I took advantage of some downtime to get some calf photos.

I intend to edit these in color, also, and give them to our designer for the paper so she has more stock photos to choose from. A newspaper can never have too many stock photos, and she always appreciates getting new ones.

Getting good photos of black calves is a challenge, as it's easy for them to all just turn out as black silhouettes. Hopefully I got a few that will print ok in the paper.

The cows weren't too concerned with my wanderings around.

Given this cow's manners, I doubt her calf will learn to chew with his mouth shut, either. :-)

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend! Ours was busy, but the weather was gorgeous for all of our travels and outdoor activities.

Wednesday, April 20

The north deck is done for

Well, a week and a half ago we finished tearing out the decking in the north yard. It was a tough job - Lucy was tired when we got through.

We had torn up a little less than half of it the previous evening we'd worked on it.

It's a shame that all those cedar 2x4s went to a rotting waste. But on a good note, the dogs found all sorts of lost treasures as we pulled up the boards.

All told, we had three pickup boxes full of wood that went to the dump up at the ranch.

It was drizzling and muddy by the time we got done, so I didn't get to rake and clean up the second half of the dirt.

Foxy was tired, too. It was hard work.

So now, the next step is to tear out the fence, put in a retaining wall and put up a new fence. Not sure when we'll get to that, because of the expense, but it sure will be a nice yard space when it's all done.

Tuesday, April 19

Cowboy Color

Amidst my more mundane responsibilities of the paper's week-to-week details, occasionally I build ads for people. This time of year, I'm working on an ad for Moss Saddles, Boots and Tack here in Casper. Business owner Susan and I decided to go for a whole new look for her ad, so this afternoon I loaded an armful of boots into my car and headed out to the pasture where our cows are.

I was hoping to get some neat shots with the boots in the foreground and the cattle in the background. Unfortunately, it was chilly today, and there was a pretty stiff wind out there, so they were all hid down in the tall sagebrush. So I had to settle for clouds and short sagebrush as my setting.

In the process of finding the angles I liked best I kneeled in a cactus patch, of course. Good thing I went when I did, though, because just a few minutes ago it was snowing like crazy here in town, and all sunshine has disappeared.

I'm excited to build an ad for Susan, I will probably use an effect-free photo like the one above. It has to be vertical to best fit the format of the ad. Our Horse Edition is fun to build ads for, because it's a glossy magazine format, and if you take the time to build pretty ads they'll print pretty, too. :-)

Otherwise today I've organized the rest of the weekly paper, did some Horse Edition interviews for my articles and met up with intern Tressa for an interview here in town. Just the normal, busy paper things.

Monday, April 18

The Seedling Saga

So, weekend before last I set up my countertop table and gathered together all my supplies for starting seedlings. I've never started seeds indoors before, so I was nervous to try it, and still am nervous that I can nurse them along until it's time to plant outdoors.

Along with my various dairy containers I also had some flats purchased from Menards, as well as seed-starting mix. I wasn't going to take any changes with regular potting soil - all the online advice I found said seed-starting mix is best.

I carefully moistened the soil to what I thought felt like the appropriate dampness, then made five rows the length of each flat. The one pictured above has cosmo seeds in it.

Turns out, my seeds stretched way farther than the flats and containers I had on hand. That weekend I was only able to plant the cosmos and gazanias, as well as a the cucumbers a few days later.

This is my seed-starting station in the laundry room. The red watering can is a gift from cousin Sarah for our wedding.

Here were my flats, all watered, prepared and seeded. Two of cosmos and two of gazanias.

So I moved them upstairs to the indirect light of the sewing room. I wanted to move them from the basement, hoping the warmer temperature upstairs would help them germinate. All the dairy containers have cucumber seeds in them, and the egg carton has snapdragons.

The snapdragons have very fine seeds that you lightly press into the surface of the soil, and then keep evenly moist. I'm more nervous for them to sprout successfully than I was the others.

Lo and behold - last Friday morning I went in to check them before work, and there were the cosmos.

And the gazanias had also sprouted. Yesterday I moved those four flats back to the basement - the internet experts say to keep the seedlings at cool temperatures so they don't get too big too fast before you're ready to transplant them.

Now the sewing room has three flats of zinnias, one of which also has a few chives in it. No sign yet of any cucumbers sprouting, although they've got about another week before I'll really be worried. Now I just have to get the proper grow light for those that have sprouted, and hopefully we'll be in business!

More updates to come, I'm sure.

A splash of cowhide

Remember a few weeks back, when I posted about my new armoire for the baby's room?

When I first got it, I thought I'd paint it. But the more I think about it, the more this idea looks like a much better look for it:

My mom found the photos and tutorial at this blog post, and it's a perfect look for the ranch/farm theme I'm planning for our nursery. I checked out eBay, and looks like remnants of cowhide can be found for an ok price, although it might be tricky to get big enough remnants to cover the large doors of the armoire.

I've always loved hair-on cowhide... I'd love to have a hide rug, but know that, with the use our house gets between people and pets, it's not a good idea to spend the money on something that's bound to get very worn and dirty. So putting it on dresser or armoire fronts is the next best thing. :-) And I'm bound to have some small hide pieces left after the project, so perhaps I could make a patchwork pillow from them - another look I love.

Once I measure the armoire doors and drawers I'll start ordering some pieces from eBay, and hopefully add that project to my 'completed' list in the near future. Then Scott and I have to figure out how to get it down the basement steps to the baby room....

A weekend of work

And just like that, the weekend's over again, and here I am back to work on the paper.

This month has five Saturdays, so that means we have five editions of the Roundup to work on. We're back down to our smaller size of 16 pages now, so it doesn't take nearly as much editorial to fill it. It's always an adjustment to cut back on the number of articles I prepare - I have a lot of extra from last week's paper.

Last week's cover featured an article by our summer intern, Tressa, who just started writing with the April 16 edition. She wrote the main cover article, on Wyoming FFA's State Star Farmer, and that's her, pictured in the lower right corner. This week she'll conduct an interview and attend a meeting, so she'll stay busy learning. :-)

I was concerned the cover looked pretty Halloween-ish, but it actually printed more peach than orange.

So other than that, I didn't take too many photos over the weekend. Saturday morning Scott, brother-in-law Jay and I headed up to the ranch to clean up where our tent will sit for our wedding reception. Cleaning up entails cutting up several large piles of trees for firewood next winter, and stacking it in the ranch yard. We spent about four hours at that, and made good progress.

Saturday night we had planned on going out to eat with some of the Martinez family, but then that ended up with everyone coming to our house, so after getting back in from the ranch we went grocery shopping and I made three pizzas for the dozen or so people who came over that evening. I was too busy getting things done on time, so no pictures of my recipes, but they all turned out pretty good - pepperoni, sausage with peppers and red onions and ham/pineapple. My new thing is to use Rotel tomatoes instead of tomato sauce for the base, which adds an extra zip to an otherwise plain pizza. Saturday night I used Rotel on the pepperoni pizza.

Following our pizza party, mother-in-law Shirley spent the night at our house, and for breakfast Sunday morning I made sausage patties, fried eggs and Marmalade Muffins, a recipe from PW's cookbook. We also had cantaloupe and strawberries that I had on hand. Again, if I'd been thinking and not so focused on getting things ready I would have taken a picture of our breakfast table. It was pretty and spring-like.

Yesterday after cleaning the office I went to Menards for grow lights for my seeds that have sprouted. Of course, I did some research after I got home and discovered that I had bought the wrong type, so hopefully I can get back to return them today and get the proper lighting for my little seedlings, which I moved back down to the basement. I also got my zinnia seeds planted, and now they're upstairs in the warmth until they sprout.

I do have some photos of the seed/seedling project, so I will put them in my next post.

Basically this post was to say that I did a lot this weekend, but have no photos of any of it. :-)

Friday, April 15

Meatballs with Peppers and Pineapple

Earlier this week I made PW's Meatballs with Peppers and Pineapple. At this point I can't really tell you what day it was that I made this, as the week's been full of another trip to Cheyenne, a visit to the baby doctor, getting our editorial intern off to a good start on the paper, beginning to make calls on Horse Edition... you get the idea.

But I made it, and it was very good!!

The above picture is all those wonderful peppers getting happy in the skillet.

Again, any recipe that starts out with ground beef is right up my alley. The meatballs are composed of the traditional egg, bread crumbs, onions, etc. Because I sometimes have trouble with my meatballs falling apart in the skillet, I was glad for PW's directions to form them, then freeze for about 15 minutes. Not one fell apart as I fried them!

She also said to roll them in flour. Maybe I rolled mine too much in the flour, but I didn't care for the treatment. They were a little too flour-y for me, even after frying in the oil.

Powdered sugar-covered bon bons!

Frying away.

The completed stack. I ended up with plenty, as my packages of ground beef contain more than 1 1/4 pounds, and I just cooked up the whole thing instead of saving some small amount for a random later use. That, and I'm supposed to eat plenty of iron these days, anyway. Something about needing more blood for the baby...

As the meatballs were finishing up I started in on chopping the peppers and pineapple. The fresh pineapple is really good, and it is worth the effort, but to make this a more pantry-friendly recipe, in the future I might just use canned chunk pineapple that I can keep on hand.

After I got the peppers going in the skillet I added the pineapple. This is one of those treatments where you want the burner on high heat, so that everything gets a nice charred finish on the outside, while not getting mushy on the inside.

Then you add a beef broth/corn starch/sugar mix. Yes, sugar. It's what gives the dish it's nice sweet and sour taste, along with the pineapple sweetness.

Then just leave it alone and let it bubble for a while, so the corn starch has a chance to take effect.

And add the meatballs after a little while, so they can start to pick up the flavors of the sauce.

Don't forget to get some rice started cooking at the beginning of the dish, so that it's done about the same time as the meatballs and sauce! This time I used a mix of brown and white rice - I had a little bit of white rice left over from the rice pudding I made some time ago. Usually we use brown around our house.

When the rice is done and the sauce is slightly thickened and everything tastes wonderful, serve it up with plenty of juice over the rice, and enjoy! This has also made great leftovers this week. Last night I cooked up some fresh rice to use with the rest of the meatball mixture.

Make it! It's good. :-)

Wednesday, April 13

Baby Update: 20 weeks

There they are - the much-anticipated ultrasound photos! When I first went to the doctor at nine weeks, an ultrasound at 20 weeks sounded like forever away, but I should have known better. It was here before I knew it.

Yesterday Scott and I went in for the appointment, and everything looks fine and dandy and normal, and development is right on track with my due date of Aug. 31. Growth is ahead of normal, as the baby's size is in the 80th percentile, and my doctor said that was mostly just due to genetics. The good news about my height is the baby still has plenty of room to move around, and my lungs still have plenty of room to breath.

The doctor had a hard time getting good shots through the ultrasound, because the head is low in my abdomen and the feet are crossed up around my belly button. My next ultrasound is scheduled for May 31, and in that one she'll try to get a better look at the umbilical cord, as well.

Confirming my suspicions, the placenta is on the back of my uterus, which is why I can feel the baby moving so abruptly. Yesterday morning Scott was even able to feel it kicking around.

More good news from the appointment was that I only gained five pounds since my last visit a month ago, giving me a total of nine pounds gained since my Feb. 14 visit. Whenever I step on that scale, I'm just sure I've gained more than the standard expected pound a week, because sometimes it sure feels like it. Anymore I can't eat very big meals, because they leave me feeling very full and uncomfortable. Even a simple grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of tomato soup leaves me feeling stuffed.

I still haven't shopped for anything maternity, although the time is approaching where my favorite Cruel Girl button down shirts will no longer stay snapped when I sit down.

I'm considering purchasing another pair of Cowgirl Tuff jeans rather than maternity jeans, as the one pair I have is still very comfortable, and with two percent stretch in the fabric, they're very forgiving and I wear them a lot these days. :-) That way, instead of spending money on maternity clothes, I'd have something I can wear even after the baby's born. The pair pictured here is my favorite style at the moment, and the ones that I would order. My only hang-up is the price - they're expensive - but I asked and Scott gave me permission, so I just might have to send in an order today.

So other than that, I've still been out of the office a lot, and the little time I spent in the office yesterday was spent playing catch-up. I've hired an editorial intern for the summer, so she came in yesterday to go over her first two articles and some other details, and Heather is leaving her position as assistant editor, so getting the word out of the job announcement has also taken some time lately. I'm hoping my efforts result in several quality applications to choose from.

And speaking of babies, Jazz has still not foaled - apparently she didn't get bred as soon as I thought. I didn't realize they'd been locked in the corral the first week of May last year, so it makes sense that she won't foal until mid-April, instead of early April like I expected. I keep calling Jake to pester him about what she looks like and if she looks any closer. So far, he's had one foal out of his mares.

In tragic news, the Redneck colt that bred April last June had to be put down last week after getting hung up in the feeder, so now I'm really hoping for a horse colt out of her, although if I get a horse colt I'd feel halfway obligated to give it to Bob, but maybe not obligated enough. I really want it for myself. :-)

Now that I'm back in the office and around town for a few days, I promise I will have some more postings. I do still have several relating to projects last weekend that I need to put up here, mostly having to do with my seed-starting endeavors.

Friday, April 8

In-depth: Wyoming Water Law

Greybull River, downstream from Meeteetse, Wyoming. November 2009.
For the last two days I've spent my time in attendance at a conference on Wyoming water law, hosted by the Cheyenne law firm Hageman and Brighton, which specializes in agricultural water law. Harriet Hageman and Kara Brighton, two well-respected ag attorneys, head the firm. 

Water law in Wyoming, and other western states, is very different than that of other states with more available water. There is only a limited amount of water available every year - that which falls from the sky, and that which has been stored from previous years. Wyoming is referred to as the 'top of the watershed,' as no rivers flow into the state - all its water is on its way out, and many downstream users want all they can get - Las Vegas, Colorado's Front Range, Arizona. The concepts of water law and water rights were just two of the subjects on which I had a learning curve when I started with the Roundup in 2006.

Much of Wyoming's water originates from the mountains, which fill with snowpack throughout the winter and then drain into the lower basins in the spring as much-anticipated runoff. Some water remains in the mountains as glaciers or mountain lakes. There are thousands of small mountain lakes, and they're all beautiful. Wind River Mountains, August 2010.
This is what the mountains are like in the springtime. Many creeks that are mere trickles through the summer become rivers during runoff, and many drainages that run no water in the summer are full of cold, fresh mountain water on its way to lower country in the spring. Big Horn Mountains, June 2010.
Modern Wyoming water law is still based on laws established in the day of the pioneers and the Oregon Trail's heyday. That's because, as settlers made their claims and proved up on their homesteads, they were assigned rights to a certain amount of water to irrigate and supply their acres. Thus, the earliest water rights in Wyoming easily date back to the 1880s, and I wouldn't be surprised if the very first rights were granted even earlier than that.

As the decades have passed, and as land has been passed down through family generations or sold, the original water right moves along with it, maintaining whatever year it was first assigned. That's known as its 'priority.'

Ever since those first homesteads, every new land with water use has been granted a water right. In some areas, no new water rights can be granted, as the local water supply has been 'fully appropriated.' In times of water shortage - drought years - water users submit a call for appropriation to the State Engineer's Office. It's then that the year of your water right is important - the earlier your water right, the better your chances are of getting water. Those with later water rights are just out of luck if the water supply runs out before their year comes up in priority.

As the years have passed, water law has become more and more complex, with complicated compacts and decrees signed with the surrounding states and other downstream users. As you can imagine, much time and money has been spent in court defending Wyoming's water supply, and making sure that our total amount doesn't get called downriver and away from Wyoming users.

Pathfinder Dam, June 2010.
In most years, Wyoming's water supplies are limited, and we carefully measure everything we get. However, the last couple springs have been incredibly better than the previous 25, as far as how much runoff has come out of the mountains. Wyoming has 'lakes' because it has reservoirs, with maintain water for ag and municipal use. One of the biggest reservoirs in the state is Pathfinder, located southwest of Casper, and last spring it overflowed for the first time in 26 years. The spill's novelty was evidenced by the steady stream of onlookers who paid a visit just to gawk at the giant waterfall. Large quantities of excess water aren't often seen in Wyoming. :-)

So there's a little tip of the iceberg on water law and why it exists and why it's so important to Wyoming, and to agricultural producers in Wyoming.

This conference I'm at has addressed water topics, as well as endangered species, sage grouse, carbon sequestration, environmental regulation, the effects of EPA regulation on agricultural operations, instream flow for fisheries, animal welfare and beetle kill's impact on water sources. Needless to say, some topics are naturally more interesting than others, but most of the topics have been very educational, and I've gained a lot of material I can use in future editions of the Roundup.