Thursday, June 29, 2017


Rapeseed in foreground -- Wheeler Gulch in background.

The shirts hanging in the bathroom tell the story: a fleece jacket, a sweatshirt, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a short-sleeved t-shirt. On any day, I might change from one to the next. Today I wore a light fleece jacket over my little t-shirt most of the day. The sun is warm, but the breeze wafting through the window was cool. “Always carry a sweater,” my mother said of Idaho summers. And while in recent years June has been a hot month, I remember the June of my youth as quite cool.

“As soon as you’re dressed and have had something to eat, I’ll help you put new fencing around that tire bed,” Mike announced. An early riser, I nevertheless hate to “get around.” “I’ll be waiting out here,” he said, which interpreted means, “Don’t be long.” So, I scurried the best I could. We took down the old fencing, which was in three pieces, and replaced with one piece of new chicken wire. The summation makes it sound so simple, but it had its challenges, including dogs in the midst of the activity.

Rattler in grass on right
Mike saw the first rattler last Friday – a “baby” in the grove where he was filling gopher holes. Then Tuesday (June 27), Bess found one in the thick grass at the north end of the yard. Using my ears, I located it near the cherry tree, where it buzzed away. We left it alone and now it’s gone – maybe.

Bunnies abound, and Mike figures that’s because they enjoy great cover in the rape and protection from many predators.

When we leave the homestead for a few days, we lose momentum with the hummingbirds. The day we arrived back, I had the feeders filled with fresh nectar at 1:00, but they didn’t show up until 5:00. We’re in business now, though, and I marvel at how quickly the “nectar” disappears. Then they’ll send “Buddy” up to the window to tell me the feeder is empty. 

[Hallie asked for hummingbird photos. My effort wasn't too impressive. I believe their are four hummers in the left photo and two in the right.]

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Here are a few recently finished outfits for American Girl Hazel.

This is a machine embroidery design from Advanced Embroidery. Hazel can wear it on that trip to Switzerland – or perhaps more likely, to Leavenworth, WA. This is the first one I've made, and the first one is always the prototype. I tell myself the next one would be better. Anything is possible.

And this outfit is from a panel by Riley Blake Designs. I didn’t think it went together with ease. In fact, I chose the panel with the idea that I could stitch it up quickly, but that wasn’t true. I had to search the internet for a picture tutorial in order to get through it. KW

[Oh! And I should add that these outfits are modeled by American Girl Maryellen. They will be delivered to Hazel soon.]

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Morning at Gilbert, Idaho, looking south over rapeseed fields to Little Canyon

It’s been rather cool here at the homestead this past week. Oh, it’s pleasant enough in the afternoon sun, but the evenings are cool and the mornings are downright chilly! I guess we’re lucky, considering the record-breaking highs in Utah and Arizona, for instance.

From bramble behind house
When I was a child taking morning swim lessons, the first session in June was always chilly. Standing wet at the edge of the pool and waiting for instructions, our teeth would chatter. And in those days – the mid-‘50s – mornings and evenings were always cool here at the farm. Yes, over the last 20-30 years, it has become much warmer here -- and dry. I guess this year is a throwback. And it’s okay. The garden and transplants have had a better start, I think.

Wild rose bramble north of house
Same bramble, north
The spring blooms are mostly past, but I just can’t let the season go without mentioning the wild roses. Wherever they pop up – and every year there are more bushes – they tend to take over. It doesn’t matter much here if wild roses want to grow in those grassy areas between the fields, but road departments everywhere fight them. I concede that the wild rose bramble is certainly a problem in some places, but the roses are lovely. I only know of one spot here where the proclivity to take over troubles me, and that’s at Plank’s driveway where a wild rose has overcome a lilac bush. I’d rather have the lilac, but it’s not our property – and not my problem.
Rose bramble at Plank's

Rose bramble east near June's
The wild roses range in shade from pale pink (nearly white) to deep pink, and I know of an unusual red bush at Neighbor Pete’s. He gave me permission to take a slip, but I have yet to do it. Pete told me that a neighbor lady sent her husband to plant that rose in his mother’s yard because of its unusual color. It wasn’t easy to plant, he said. The wild roses are very “stickery.”
Whitetail buck
A few days ago, as I walked along the road, I heard a rustle in the field below and spied a buck looking at me. I stopped dead in my tracks, wondering what would happen next. Generally, I’m not afraid of the deer, but my impression was that I didn’t have the upper hand. He was not wary of me, and I could tell he thought I was the intruder. I managed to take a picture before he disappeared. I didn’t see where he went.

"King of the Hill"
And here’s a picture of our resident pheasant rooster, an escapee from someplace. He doesn’t have a mate, and Mike was afraid he would die of loneliness, but that didn’t happen. He looks nice and plump and enjoys sitting on the dirt hill in the grove. Mike dubbed him “King of the Hill.” KW

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Elderberry bush -- center of photo
“See that elderberry bush on the other side of the north field,” I asked Mike. “Do you think we could skirt the field and get to it? I want to see it.”

He said he thought we could do it, so in the late afternoon the four of us set out. Bess and Nellie both greeted the prospect of exploring with enthusiasm, and I was happy not to be tramping up Plank’s Pitch.

From the north field (rapeseed)
At first all went well. We had walking room along the edge of the field. But by the time we got to the western edge, the rape was growing densely and we were forced to walk in equally dense grass infused with Canada thistle. Invisible under the grass were uneven terrain, downed tree limbs, and holes of various origins. Had I been by myself, I would have been overwhelmed and turned back. In fact, I suggested we should do just that, but Mike said, “After we’ve come this far?” And so, we pressed on – and I do mean “pressed.” Mike was my pathfinder, pressing down the tall grass and thistles so that I could push through. Bess and Nell remained happily oblivious of the difficulties we humans were enduring.

Mike at elderberry bush
And yes, we came to the elderberry bush, now in bloom. It looks healthy and perhaps could be picked this fall. Hopefully at that time it will be easily accessible and laden with plump little elderberries.

Elderberry bush in bloom
It was not comfortable standing there in tall vegetation, so we didn’t linger. We continued on through the grass and thistles, now passing the plum trees. I saw no fruit on those, and it’s possible they were hit by frost. But – maybe it’s just too soon to see it.

We clambered last that bank.
Finally, Mike headed away from the field and down into the north draw following a deer trail. I would love to have taken more pictures, but frankly I was concentrating on staying upright. Finally we came out in familiar territory near the lane.
Yarrow blossom by Mike

“Well, that gave my tendon a workout,” said Mike. And I felt badly because I had forgotten all about his injured tendon. I don’t think he’s any the worse for wear, but I wouldn’t have taken the chance had I thought about it.

The lane -- a welcome sight
Notes -- It's a lovely sunny day but not warm -- only 70. Last night we watched a doe and her tiny fawn down by the pond. The hummingbirds drain two feeders daily. A quail calls for hours on end, and that becomes tedious. And our resident pheasant continues to tramp the farm looking for a companion. We see the bunny frequently, and the lawn is riddled with rodent holes. KW

Monday, June 19, 2017


The Mile High Warnocks are coming to visit in July, giving us a whole weekend to play with granddaughter Emmy at the farm. I can hardly say that she will experience life as it was back in the day because we are modernized and “connected” here (sort of), but it’s rural and we just don’t “run to town” for everything we might want or need.

Speaking of memories, as I plan for our summer celebrations, I thought about the extended family camping trip my parents sponsored in late July 1960. The original plan had been to rent cabins at Yellow Pine in the central Idaho wilderness, which Mother reserved well in advance. However, the owner refunded her money with the excuse that a large party had trumped her reservation by renting all of the cabins for several weeks. So much for reserving in advanced.

3-year-old Becky at Yellow Pine
My parents were disappointed but undaunted. They decided we would tent camp at a campground in the same area. This was a big production. Besides my parents, Grandpa Portfors, and myself, the party included my four married siblings and their children (a total of five at that time) – 17 in all. I don’t know how long we stayed – seems like it went on forever! And we never did it again. Mother said that my dad made too big a production out of camping – that he was unwilling to go without his creature comforts. I do remember that he actually considered how he might take a refrigerator.

Anyway, speaking of Daddy’s elaborate efforts, I happened to think of Mother baking for that camping trip. Did she make batches of traditional favorites like chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies? No! She made filled cookies – dozens of them. I couldn’t recall that she had ever made these before, so I asked why she would make them now. She said they were a favorite of my brother Charles. (Hmmm. I wonder if he knows that.)

If you’ve never made filled cookies, let me tell you, they’re trouble! First you cook your filling, and I think Mother made raisin and/or date and also a brown sugar filling. Then you mix sugar cookie dough, which you roll and cut into circles and place on your baking sheet. Place a tablespoon or so of your filling on the bottom and then roll dough for the tops. Mother cut a little star shape out of the center of each top before carefully placing it over a prepared bottom and sealing it. Then you bake it.

Can you imagine that?! And she didn’t make just a few either. There were plenty. But even at the tender age of nearly 11, I thought they were rich for casual eating.

Here’s the recipe for filled cookies that I found in her old recipe box:
1 c sugar
¼ c butter
1 egg
1 t vanilla
½ c milk
3 ½ c flour
1 t soda
2 t cream of tartar
Cream butter, add sugar, then well-beaten egg. Add milk, then sift in flour which has been sifted with cream of tartar. Roll and cut with cutter. Place filling between two cookies and bake.
Filling: 1 c chopped raisins, ½ c sugar, ½ c water, 1 T flour. Cook ‘til thickened.


I also found a recipe for filled cookies in Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, 1950. I didn’t look further. KW