Monday, October 31, 2011

THE NEVADA CHUKAR HUNT Part 1

Now I can check something off my “Bucket List”. I’ve always wanted to do a guided bird hunt so last winter I began exploring the possibilities. And although Nellie has never been better as far as her bird savvy goes, she is 8 years old and declining a little physically – not to mention her boss. As chukars are my favorite bird to hunt that was my choice. I also wanted to choose a state I had not hunted so I found a wild chukar guided hunt in NV. It was a three day hunt and the most favorable rate was for three persons so I persuaded my hunting partner, Ken, and he in turn recruited one of his old Air Force buddies and avid hunter, Bob, who lives in Twin Falls.
Ken and I headed out Thursday, Oct 20th for the seven hour drive to Twin Falls. Bob and Marsha were gracious hosts as we spent the night there. We departed the next morning in Bob’s truck for the JD Ranch which is in the middle of nowhere between Carlin and Eureka, NV. Ken’s German Shorthair had recently died of cancer and Bob’s Brittany had an injured foot so we had just Nellie. [Bob is an avid sheep hunter and has hunted big game all over the world. The pictures are from his trophy room which has more than 60 displays]
We arrived at the ranch (really a dumpy three room cabin in the desert) about 2:30 p.m. Ken and I had a three day permit but Bob had a full license because he buys one every year so he can participate in sheep draws. That being the case the guide, Brian, was up for taking Bob out that afternoon and Ken and I tagged along.
We drove for over an hour over the worst imaginable roads before we got to the area he chose. Brian had a 6 year old little 35 pound Llewellyn Setter, Liz, and a 2 year old English Pointer, Rocky. He was very proud of his dogs, especially the Setter. However, Nellie gave them a lesson and Bob was superb too. In two hours Bob got two doubles and a single, all pointed by Nellie. And on the doubles she made double retrieves, bringing both birds back at once. After finding the first bird she would take it to the second one and then carefully position both birds in her mouth at the same time and make the retrieve. After our 3 day hunt Bob commented that Nellie was about 20 times better than Brian’s dogs. I beamed like a proud Papa.
We got back to the ranch well after dark and cleaned the birds while Brian, prepared supper. The meals he served were excellent. All were cooked on a grill out on the porch.
We left the ranch about 8:00 the next morning and I was really excited especially after Bob had done so well the previous afternoon. It was cold in the morning but got plenty warm as the day progressed. The ranch was at 5,600 hundred feet elevation and most of our hunting was above 7,500 feet. Unfortunately Ken caught his foot on something getting out of the truck and wrenched his back. He was in pain for the duration of our hunts. He kept hunting aided somewhat by my daily massages and copious doses of aspirin.
We took both trucks this morning so we could leave Bob’s at a lower elevation and use it to get back to the higher starting point. I chose to hunt alone and leave Brian and his dogs for Ken and Bob. His Setter would not retrieve and was big on pointing chipmunks. The Pointer would retrieve most of the time but would occasionally bust (flush unintentionally or otherwise) birds. We split up with the plan (I thought) of meeting back down at Bob’s truck.
I had gone only a little ways when I heard shooting from the other group. This was somewhat encouraging although I felt a little left out. I had hiked up to a ridge top and was following it in the general direction of Bob’s truck. Nellie made several points on sage grouse which are illegal for non-residents to shoot. Finally, after about an hour of hunting Nellie make a point from the top of the ridge facing down the other side. As I approached her a covey of chukars got up at long range. I got off one shot and got feathers but the bird didn’t drop. Discouraged, I descended the ridge toward the next ridge where I thought the covey had flown. Eventually we got the covey up again with the exact same results. Near the saddle between the ridges Nellie hit a hard point on a big bush. Like a dummy I threw a rock in the bush from behind Nellie rather than from the side. A Hungarian partridge (Huns to us) came blasting out low on the opposite side and sailed down the mountain. I never even saw it much less got a shot and I only know it was a Hun by the chirp they make.
By this time I was getting pretty dejected. Nellie went on point at a very promising spot on the top of the next ridge and I was determined to nail one this time. To my chagrin a covey of about a dozen big sage grouse got up and all I could do was watch. I had gone just a little ways when Nellie again went on point down the side of the ridge. About three chukars got up within range and launched down the hill as is their habit but just as I pulled the trigger the one I was on took a right turn and I never touched a feather. Just a little further along the ridge Nellie repeated her performance and this time the three chukars gave me a crossing shot and I finally bagged one with Nellie making the retrieve.
The morning had become very warm and I had to strip down to just a long sleeve undershirt. I was carrying a hydration pack and two 24 ounce bike bottles of water mainly for Nellie and I was using it liberally. To our surprise there was quite a bit of water in this desert country with several small streams or at least springs.
By now it was about 11:00 a.m. and I was getting tired. I should have eaten something earlier. I trudged up another steep slope where I had heard some chukars but we didn’t find any. About that time Ken called me on the radio wanting to know where I was. I told him I was 1- 1/8th miles south of Bob’s truck but that it would take me a while to get back. After descending the hill I had just climbed and crossing a small steam I began climbing one of the long hills to get to Bob’s truck. Not too far up the hill Nellie hits a hard point at a tall clump of glass. We both slowly crept in at 90 degree angles until I finally kicked the clump and Nellie dove in. She found a dead chukar which was apparently one that I had hit on one of the first two flushes. She went a little farther and made another point down the hill. A single chukar blasted out and I dropped him cleanly and Nellie quickly retrieved it.
I slowly drug my tired body up and down a couple of ridges and down to the road where we had left Bob’s truck. However, there was no truck. I had my GPS so I knew I wasn’t lost. I tried in vain to get Ken on the radio but I must have been too low for him to pick up the transmission. I was not a happy camper! Nellie and I were both exhausted. We both lay down in the shade of some aspens and rested for half an hour hoping that they would return to pick us up. My GPS indicated I was 2.4 miles from Brian’s truck by road but less than ¾ mile cross country which of course meant up and over a mountain. I knew it would take quite a while by road which was also up hill so after taking the road a short distance I diverted to the more direct route. Just before I got to the ridge top I got a call on the radio that they were now back from where I had come. They had thought that I was to come back to Brian’s truck rather than Bob’s which they had moved. I was almost back to where Brian’s truck had been so Bob came back up the road to pick me up. It’s been a while since I was that tired. The altitude could have had something to do with it.
As it turned out, although Bob and Ken had gotten a little shooting they had only one bird apiece. Brian took us to another spot with a little less climbing where we hunted the rest of the day but saw nothing except more sage grouse.
We returned to the ranch with only 5 birds to clean which we did while Brian grilled some pork loin. After a late supper the routine was to sit around and talk hunting and drink a few beers (except for me). There was another young guide there during our stay who spent his days scouting for deer. It was a congenial group in spite of our mediocre success. I slept well that night. [To be continued] M/W

Sunday, October 30, 2011

T'WAS THE EVE OF HALLOWEEN

"Halloween Mummy" [courtesy of Leah]
The day started innocently enough. We set mousetraps last night and for obvious reasons I didn’t want to be the first downstairs. However, after waiting 20 minutes for Mike to get up, I gave up. Donning my clothes so that I’d be ready for anything, I went downstairs.

We had left one of those sticky traps in the dog dish, baited with a few nuggets of chow. Would you believe it! The little so-and-sos managed to steal the chow without getting stuck! The traditional traps had not been sprung, but ironically there was a mouse in the commercial box trap. Go figure.

My task today was to make another batch of elderberry jelly with juice on hand. I accomplished that easily. I had a cup and a half of juice leftover, so I combined that with an equal amount of honey, and that also went fine. I was cleaning the kitchen as I went along.

I think it was 10:30 when I decided to tackle the three “pie pumpkins” that have graced the front porch. Mike came to lend a strong arm to cutting them open. I scooped out the seeds and put the six halves in the oven to roast. I had forgotten about the troublesome innards, but no matter – I’ll roast the seeds later.

“We should get out this afternoon,” suggested Mike. “We could hike around the farm or go geocaching.” I just looked at him. I could already see where this day was heading.

The pumpkin meat was tender in about an hour, and once they cooled it was simple enough to remove the shell. Now I have seeds, shell for the composter in an upturned lid, and a big bowl of pumpkin to puree. But I had to take time out to fix a light lunch.

When the lunch mess was cleared away, I began the consideration of how to puree in earnest. I found the old “Foley Food Mill” and set it up, but my arm just didn’t go round fast enough to make it worthwhile. Then I tried the old food chopper that came with my mixer, but what came out wasn’t smooth enough to suit me. My next idea was to blend it. Useless!

So, all of these utensils are cluttering my counter. None of them is doing the job for me, but they all need to be washed. That’s when I remembered the juicer. And that actually worked pretty well. However, the pumpkin was very dry and in order not to clog the juicer, I would pour in some apple juice from time to time. But oh! What a mess! I have nightmares like this. In addition to the used appliances, I had bowls and pots of every size containing pumpkin puree.

At this point, having finished the puree, I realized I could have tried the meat grinder attachment, though I don’t know if the product would be smooth enough. If I’d thought of it, I would have tried it.

Fortunately I found freezer boxes for the puree – 5 pints. I also had another 3 ½ cups of puree to be cooked for pumpkin butter. The first recipe I read seemed light on the spices, so I used a second which was attributed to Martha Stewart. A little too spicy, I think. I should have followed the tried and true adage, “You can always put it in but you can’t take it out.” Oh well. It would probably make a good base for pumpkin bread or I wonder if I couldn’t mix it with some straight puree for pie.

It’s late afternoon now. The kitchen is mostly cleaned. It only remains to roast the seeds. Mike and Nellie went out to hike without me. Fortunately we have leftovers for supper. Frankly, I’m in no mood to cook! KW


Saturday, October 29, 2011

ANTIQUE QUILT

'Course, one cool night June must ask her [his sister, Edith, who was visiting] if she had plenty of covers and she asked me for another and I had no more, or thought I hadn’t, but there was a woolen one folded on the springs at the head, but I’d forgotten it. Bertha Dobson, June 2, 1936

Quilt Experts, I need your advice.

These are pictures of the only old "Dobson" quilt I have. Mike found it in the shed and asked what I wanted to do with it. We agreed it shouldn't be in the shed, but I really don't know how to clean or store it.

I'm afraid it's been years since this quilt has been treated with respect. Fact is, we originally found it between the mattress and springs on one of the beds. I had another such quilt, perhaps a little more appealing than this one, which had also been placed between mattress and springs,but it was stolen from the farmhouse before we started the re-model project.

So, this is the only quilt I have that Grandma Ina might have made. From her letters I know that Ina was a sewist. She made dresses and aprons, altered and mended, turned shirt collars, made quilt tops, and even created some fun items, such as a doll to muffle the sound of a ticking clock -- all on a treadle sewing machine.

As you can see by the pictures, this patchwork quilt is embellished with hand embroidery and tied rather than quilted. Perhaps some of the fabric was re-purposed. Only one piece is a deviation from the rough homespun type, and it's a lovely black velvet. It's hard to distinguish it from the other black pieces.

The other quilt -- the one that was stolen -- looked to have been made from men's suiting. The pieces were dark --drab even -- but again the hand stitches were a dressy touch. And, in the midst of all that "drabbery," one small bright red velvet piece made an elegant statement. 

So, should I have the old quilt cleaned and use it? Or, should I have it cleaned and display it on a bed or a quilt stand? Or, maybe I should forgo cleaning in deference to its age. I could store it if I knew how, but I think there's something to be said for seeing the things one treasures. What do you think? KW

Friday, October 28, 2011

THE OLD PEAR TREE: MYSTERY SOLVED


It’s a little lonesome and bittersweet coming back to the homestead after we’ve had visitors. We all left on Monday (Oct. 17) after Elderberry Fest, and I see reminders that we were here and happy – a pad with Hallie’s elderberry notes, canning jars sitting in a corner, the canning kettle in the utility room, beds to be made.

I had hoped Hallie and Nick would help me pick pears while they were here. The old tree was loaded with pears this year, but I’m no expert with fruit trees and I didn’t know when to pick them or exactly how to judge. We picked them mid-September only to discover they weren’t going to ripen. Those went into the composter.

Then I began to experiment with smaller pickings week by week, but they still didn’t ripen. However, during our elderberry festivities, I noticed pears on the ground, and I figured they were ripe enough. The problem was that the available crop was way up in the tree. Nick and Hallie agreed to pick them, but then it rained and then we were busy with the elderberries.

So, as we were leaving on that Monday ten days ago, I quickly picked up those windfalls – my little two-gallon washtub full -- and carried them back to town where I refrigerated them for 24 hours and then left them at room temperature. They ripened nicely, and I brought them back to the farm yesterday where I sliced them for the dryer. Ummmm! Smell those drying pears!

I had hoped that I might find more pears under the old tree. No such luck. No windfalls and not a single fruit on the tree either. So, what happens to the pears? Examining the ground for clues, I found unmistakable deer sign. And now I know – the reason the pears have disappeared all these years is that they fall off the tree and the deer eat them – all when I’m not looking. KW

Thursday, October 27, 2011

DAZED AND CONFUSED

Tuesday, knowing that Mike and Nellie were due back sometime during the day, I left off my "creative" work and commenced the house work -- you know, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning sinks and counters, and also making supper. As I was vacuuming the living room, I thought I heard a distinct thunk, like a bird hitting a window. I glanced at the sliding glass door but then decided to check out front instead, thinking that maybe the mailman had rapped to announce a package. Nope, nothing at the front door. But I'm easily distracted and willing to follow the thread of a new thought, so I decided to get the mail and forgot all about the thunk.

Sometime later, as I ran errands between the house and the shed, I noticed this little sparrow (I suppose it's a sparrow) sitting on the step at the sliding door. Obviously "she" had mistaken the reflection in the window for an extension of the great outdoors. She was alive but dazed -- not ready to fly. It's not often I get the chance to photograph birds up close, so I grabbed the camera. I spoke softly to her as she attempted to orient herself -- at least, I think that's what she was doing. Then I left her alone and went about my business.

Still later, going about my business and having forgotten all about the little bird, I opened the door. "Skreeeee," the little bird shrieked as she flew off. And I rejoiced that she had recovered and was off to find her own kind.

Yes, Mike and Nellie are back. They seem to think they had a good time in Nevada. KW

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ME AND THE DAKOTA



Mike often comes up with unexpected ideas. After 36 years of marriage, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, so, I wasn’t totally surprised when he said he wanted to travel in the Magnum instead of the Dakota. He and Ken left last Thursday (Oct. 20) for the much-anticipated guided bird hunt in Nevada. They drove from here to Twin Falls where they joined Bob, another hunter, and Bob drove the rest of the way to the Nevada destination. I expect Mike home today.
 
Nellie, who usually stays here in my care (or am I in hers) when Mike ventures out, went with him, since she’s an essential member of any hunting trip. So I’ve been here at the town house alone, marching to my own drummer, except for the nagging knowledge that I really ought to eat regularly, exercise, and keep the kitchen reasonably clean. I’ll admit that my days have lacked a certain structure. And the blog muse? She must have gotten in the car by mistake when Mike left.

So, I was left with the Dakota. I can either stay home, which becomes claustrophobic – or drive it. Mike meant for me to drive it. It’s just that it’s not such a great vehicle for driving around town. It’s not. I sit low in it and it’s a little blind with its big side mirrors and canopy cover. But – I know I can drive it just fine. It’s just a matter of extra caution.

And drive it I did. On Thursday I drove to Moscow for embroidery club and enjoyed an afternoon of sewing with others. The project was a table runner, and I left the meeting with just the binding to apply, which I finished last night. It’s a little long for my small drop-leaf table, but when the leaves are down – which is most of the time – it’s just perfect. I learned a lot on this project, and I worked hard to make it right. For once I am so pleased!

What else did I do? Well, a friend (of mature years) is going to Australia to be with her daughter and family and will be away perhaps the good part of a year. It’s an amazing adventure for her, but we’ll miss her probing questions at study group. On Friday I helped her with her errands. I worried that she wouldn’t be able to hop into the Dakota, but to my surprise she did so with agility – many times.

Those were the things I had planned to do, but Saturday morning I arose to a world that looked like autumn, and I was enticed to get out to the stores. I started at K-Mart, not one of my usual stops. Nothing had changed there. I wandered for a while and left without buying anything.

In our little town shopping isn’t a cohesive experience. You have to drive everywhere. Back in the Dakota, I drove up Thain to Staples where I indulged in a pretty new notebook for my American Girl patterns. Yes -- indulged! Have you priced notebooks?

Then I drove across Thain to Home Depot, Pier One, Ross. Home Depot is – well, Home Depot, but the rest room is accessible. At Pier One, Halloween and Thanksgiving are now in the background and lovely Christmas things are on display. I just don’t need more lovely things. At Ross I was amazed by the lack of stock, Christmas or otherwise. Seemed strange at this time of year. Is there something I don’t know about Ross? I bought a big frying pan for the farm.

Back in the Dakota, I drove to the other side of the complex where I visited Safeway and bought two Bigelow teas – “Pumpkin Spice” and “Ginger Snappish.” Oh – and some Lucerne spiced creamer, “Pumpkin Pecan.”

Starting the Dakota once again, I continued my southerly climb up Thain to Grocery Outlet. Once I had parked I walked next door to Erb Hardware where I found the elusive gasket for this Hermetic jar we bought at a yard sale three years ago – a find that made my day.

By this time it was after 11:00 and the increase in traffic – and shoppers -- was noticeable. As a retired person, I try to avoid weekend shopping. I decided not to wait in line to make a purchase at Grocery Outlet. Instead, I headed out to Thain again, being safe and turning at the traffic light.

One last stop – Rosauer’s – where, as I filled a bag with bulk oat bran, I spied crystallized ginger in the bin above. Mother had an old box of crystallized ginger that she kept in a dark cupboard under the stairs in the kitchen. She treated it as though it were very dear. Now and then she would break off a tiny piece for herself and give me one, too. It seemed a fitting remembrance to buy just a little. She would have loved this outing. If she had been along, we would also have stopped at the magazine counter and selected a number of holiday issues. Today I avoid buying magazines and opt instead to peruse the ones she and I bought years ago.

The silent auction is coming up and I am now working to build my supply of American Girl outfits to donate. On Sunday, I needed a bit of fusible interfacing and headed to Jo-Ann so that I could finish this outfit. Oh! That was a delightful time. It’s not that I bought so much. In fact, I put things back and left spending only $6.00. But I gained ideas – a lot of inspiration. KW

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CENTURY FARM STATUS



Mike and I were recently notified that the board of trustees of the Idaho State Historical Society has approved Idaho Century Farm status for the Kathy Dobson Warnock Farm, otherwise known as the Julian and Ina Dobson Homestead. This is a humbling experience for me because by happenstance I am the one standing to receive the award that others earned by hard labor and perseverance.  Even so, I didn't initiate the application process -- Mike did. He said we owed it to my grandparents Julian and Ina and my dad Vance, who worked to hold and maintain the land through hard times. I also give credit to my mother, Dorothy Portfors Dobson, who advised me to treasure it as my heritage.


I admit that I am quickly frustrated with applications. Without Mike's help and support I never would have completed the process. We had most of the documentation on hand -- the land patent, the deed, my dad's will, etc. But we had nothing to prove that Ina became the owner upon Julian's passing, and that took research at the Clearwater County Courthouse.





Finally, as we neared the end of the process, Mike suggested I finish the work. I then took over to prove that at least 40 acres of the farm had been in continuous cultivation over 100 years. I was required to provide one document of proof for each decade, and I wanted to do this through my own resources and contacts rather than asking a researcher to provide tax statements. Leah the genealogist provided a great jump start by sending the census of 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 which listed Julian as a farmer. Other documentation included a letter written by Julian, agricultural plans, obituaries, and a statement signed by a neighbor and previous lessee who stipulated that he and his father had leased the farm for 35 years. I made a portfolio of the documentation and interspersed photos throughout for interest. I hope it was interesting. No one said. But knowing that the application was a success has made it all seem worthwhile.

A presentation ceremony will be scheduled. I'll update when I have more information. KW

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ELDERBERRY FEST COMMENCES -- WOOPS! -- CLOSES


I had intended to post at least twice during Elderberry Fest, our newly-adopted autumn celebration. However, late Friday afternoon we discovered our internet service was down. Mike spent 15 minutes with a Wild Blue tech who ascertained what we already knew – that the problem was the dish. The Wild Blue tech for our region doesn’t work Friday through the weekend. So – we were out of luck for any online activity during the weekend. I actually took this well, considering that I am affirmed through my computer, but having Hallie and Nick with us – and lots to do -- made it easier. I had hoped that Hallie could help me customize my laptop, but without the internet, we couldn’t do that. I also missed consulting the worldwide web for offbeat elderberry recipes. Hallie was able to access the internet on her iPhone, so we weren’t totally helpless.

Nick and Hallie arrived at 10:30 Thursday night, telling tales of the whitetail deer they had seen down on the river. Nellie had gone to bed but she arose to greet them and claim her “pig ear.” Hallie always brings treats for Nellie – one for arrival and one for each morning of the visit. It’s fun to watch Hallie and Nellie interact over the dog treats. And the time that Hallie was short a treat, Nellie moped all day.

Friday after breakfast we headed for the elderberry bushes behind the house. As we picked the clumps of berries, Mike zipped them off the stems. Even so, there was more to be done, and Nick finished up at the house while Hallie and I processed the first batch of juice.

Friday afternoon we hiked down the lane to Mike’s tree stand. Nick helped him take it down and move it to another tree while I showed Hallie the elderberry bush at the neighbors’.

Then Hallie and I explored the gully where an old car sits abandoned and rusting away. Hallie, more sure-footed than her mother, climbed to the other side for a better look and took a couple of pictures of the old coupe. She was able to remove a manufacturer’s metal identification tag and then used that information to research the model online. She found it was a 1939 Chevrolet “Business Coupe,” a nice-looking little car.
Having determined this much, I decided to call my half-brother, Chuck, in Utah. Back in the ‘50s, Chuck drove a similar coupe back and forth from Orofino to the University of Idaho in Moscow. No, he said, his car had been a 1936 Pontiac coupe and he parted it out at a junk yard. He said he didn’t know where the car in the gully came from, didn’t know if my dad knew it was there. Further research showed that the 1936 Pontiac was very like the 1939 Chevrolet – even the same color. Seems like a big coincidence, but as all researchers learn, coincidences do happen.

I made a batch of elderberry jelly. Hallie and Nick made a syrup of honey and elderberry juice and also experimented with some whole-berry elixirs. Those have to age for five or six weeks before being taste tested, the idea being to use the liquid a teaspoon at a time for its health-giving properties. The elderberry and honey syrup was tested on waffles both Saturday and Sunday and one bottle was pretty much gone.
Saturday afternoon, friends arrived for a visit with their new German shorthair pup, Mack. Here’s a picture of Mack taking a nap on Nellie’s pillow after playing with Nick and Hallie for an hour. Nellie found him a bit of a pest and dubbed him “Little Twerp.” She was glad to see him leave.

Sunday was the final opportunity for picking and cooking. We had used most of our berries, and Nick wanted to do more whole-berry experiments, so I suggested we visit some elderberry bushes I had seen on the road right-of-way. We practically had to drag Nick away from the bush on Miller Road. The berries were so large and juicy – almost like blueberries. He spent hours de-stemming the berries. In the end they took four gallon bags of elderberries back to Seattle for the freezer.
Monday morning we had just enough time for me to help Hallie crochet a granny square motif, the prototype for Nick’s Christmas stocking. She’ll have to tighten her gauge but she shouldn’t have any trouble with the pattern.

Nick and Hallie left about 10:00 and shortly thereafter the tech from Wild Blue arrived. The box on the dish had failed, even though it was just replaced four months ago. Well, it’s fixed now.

It was fun while it lasted and we were sorry to say good-bye, but you know how it is – there’s more fun coming up. KW



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WHITE FLASHES AND WOLVES

Monday night, as Mike watched football and I crocheted on a doll hat, we were startled by a sudden flash of white light at the south window. Our immediate impression was that of a camera flash. Seconds later we heard thunder roll – not really close but not far away either.

I was relieved to know that first flash was lightning and said as much. “I was relieved, too,” said Mike, “especially when I discovered you weren’t taking pictures.” There’s nothing electric on that side of the house – not for miles and miles – and the thought that some intruder could be taking pictures of us through the window was momentarily frightening.  More sudden white flashes to the south occurred for the next ten minutes with thunder growing closer.
 
Deer hunting season opened Monday, and Mike and Clint were out early. They didn’t see deer – or anything else. With the cooler weather – 47 to 55 yesterday – the deer move to warmth and shelter -- maybe in the canyon or maybe just out of sight in a protected area..

Neighbors came in mid-morning to compare hunting notes. Their hunting style is different from Mike’s, who pretty much stays in one place and waits. These guys wait but also move around. Three guys were riding a 4-wheeler while one followed on a small “dual sport” dirt bike.

Conversation eventually turned to elk. “Oh, I’ll get one for sure,” said Neighbor I. “We see them all the time.”

Really?
 
“There’s a large herd in the canyon,” said Neighbor II. Perhaps a hundred head, he added. They’ve been run out of the North Fork (Clearwater) area, they surmised – by wolves. And by the way, did we know there are wolves here on the ridge? A pack of five.

We haven’t seen elk or wolves. But Tuesday morning, lying quietly in bed, we heard an elk bugle.


[Photo 1: Son Clint and Mike looking over their hunting site. Photo 2: The farmhouse from the old Plank place. Photo 3: Southward from the south field. The reason I took the picture was the snow on the mountains, which doesn't really show up.] KW

Monday, October 10, 2011

HALLOWEEN BARNYARD GROWS


I have some “Original Snow Village” pieces by Department 56. At Christmas, I set them out on a display stand in the dining area of the modular home and call it my Christmas tree. At the farmhouse, where we have a tree, I set a Christmas house and barn on the piano. I never meant to extend the “house hunt” to Halloween, but some years back I happened to find a haunted barn at half price and on a whim I bought it. That occasioned the addition of some smaller, less expensive, unlit accessories, and I display those at the farm. This year I decided my display really needed the balance of another lit piece, perhaps a haunted house. Mike was agreeable. Ever practical, he wanted to know how much it would cost. I admitted I really didn’t know, not having priced them for a number of years, but I set off for the local Hallmark / drugstore where I knew I could find them. It was Saturday (Oct. 8), the annual Hallmark open house.
 
There they were – all the Halloween houses looking properly ghoulish. But the prices were out of sight! When I started collecting, the houses were $40, while larger, more elaborate pieces were $65 to $85. Today the houses are $120 with some of the older, retired houses in the $85 range. Well, it’s the principle of the thing. I’m just not going to pay that much – and I decided I would politely tell the store employees how I felt about it. What did I have to lose?
 
“I came today,” I announced to the manager, a sales person, and anyone eavesdropping, “to buy a Dept. 56 Halloween house.” Their eyes lit up in expectation, and I hated to dash their hopes. “But,” I went on, “I can’t see paying the price. I realize these prices are set by the company, but I just won’t pay that.” The manager agreed there wasn’t much the store could do. The associate said she was glad she could enjoy the displays at the store because she wasn’t going to buy them.

“We do have some damaged pieces that we would offer for less, but of course, you wouldn’t want those,” said the manager.

“Try me!” I exclaimed. “I would love to see them because they readily become damaged anyway.” (After all, that’s one reason I refuse to pay today’s exorbitant prices. They chip easily and I know as collectibles they don’t hold their value. Does anything?)
 
The manager seemed delighted to show me the “scratch and dent” pieces and disappeared into the basement. She was gone a long time. I enjoyed looking around and munching some of their “open house” goodies.

Finally the manager was back with four boxed items. I chose a tree house (unlit) that was missing something – we couldn’t see what – for $9.99 – and also “Spinning Pumpkins,” a rotating display now at $15.00. “It lights but it won’t rotate,” the manager called, as she left the area, leaving the associate to test the piece. When she plugged it in, it worked perfectly. “We won’t tell her,” she whispered, but we agreed that it might be temperamental once it warmed up -- and indeed it is.
 
“And,” said the manager, returning again, “since we’re having a party today, I will offer you 20% off any regularly priced Halloween house you would like.” I figured there wouldn’t be a better offer anytime soon, so I bought “Halloween Victorian House” priced at $85. As I suspected, it appeared in 2005 and was retired in 2007, which accounts for its lower pricing. KW

Saturday, October 8, 2011

BUTTERSCOTCH CHIP OATMEAL CAKE

The other day as I cleaned the pantry, I was dismayed to find that I had a lot of expired food. I take a certain comfort in emergency preparedness, but clearly the food needs to be rotated more frequently. I threw out dry beans, some crackers and cereal, but I kept canned goods, though perhaps there should be a big pot of goulash soon.

I came up with some expired butterscotch chips that had fallen to the back of the cupboard and decided to make “Oatmeal Scotchies,” the standard package recipe. However, in scanning through the fall cake recipes on the Better Homes and Gardens website, I found a listing for Butterscotch Chip Oatmeal Cake and decided to make that instead. We thought it was delicious. Here’s the recipe:

Butterscotch Chip Oatmeal Cake

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 ¾ cup boiling water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, cut up and softened
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp orange peel
1 12-oz package butterscotch pieces
¾ cup chopped pecans

Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.
Place oats in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over oats and let stand 10 minutes.
Add sugars and butter to the oatmeal and stir until the butter is melted.
Add eggs; blend.
Add combined dry ingredients.
Stir in 1 cup butterscotch pieces.
Spread in pan.
Sprinkle remaining pieces and pecans over top of cake.

Bake 40 minutes. Serves 20.

If I were to review the cake on the website, here’s how it would read:

I rate this recipe 5 stars. My husband and I both just LOVED it. I thought it was too much sugar, though, especially since butterscotch pieces seem sorta rich to me, so I cut back to 2/3 cup each of white and brown sugar. I like to cut the saturated fat when I bake, so I used egg substitutes, but with my first try I did use butter for the “to-die-for” quality. This moist, dense cake will become a fall standard at our house. (Oh -- and you don't need to grease and flour the pan; a spray worked just great.) KW