Friday, December 30, 2011

To Celebrate

The parties are winding down. Living in the same community where we were born means we’re surrounded by family. Christmas time means juggling lots of subsets of immediate and extended family. It can get complicated.

Some relatives like the parties and always attend and contribute to the festivities. Some don’t. And we can fuss and fret over how to include them, how to make them feel comfortable, how to do it different next year so they'll stay longer. Or we can decide, as I have, that all we can do is create the opportunity. Bake the ham, make the phone calls, give them a warm welcome and leave the rest to them. Hopefully one day they’ll show up and make a connection with a cousin they haven’t seen in years. They might set for a while with grandpa and leave with that wonderful feeling of connectedness that stays with them long into January.  

Besides the parties, we had some great times alone with just the kids. On Christmas evening we watched old home videos. Anna and Seth swing dancing at two and four years old. Mark schooling Callie on Cash in preparation for the 4-H fair. Anna practicing Amelia Bedelia for drama class. We laughed til we cried at the kids, with tights on their heads, dancing on our bed to Birddog by the Tokens. We enjoyed again, watching Seth on the guitar begrudgingly accompanying Anna on the fiddle, and she and I doing piano duets. We relived Callie's winning solo as a senior and her volleyball finesse. Oh what memories.  

With all the togetherness time, the gift giving, parties, traveling and food preparation, there’s plenty of room for screw-ups and hurt feelings. But we forgive and concentrate on moments. We bake pies and light candles. We sweep the walk, hang wreaths, gather up pinochle decks and word games, mash the spuds, and celebrate the season with whoever graces our front door.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Idaho Christmas Card

It's great to have the kids home. Callie took photos while she was here. She always sees the ranch in her own unique way and it's fun to see it from her vantage.

On the white board in the kitchen she wrote: We must learn to look before we can expect to see.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Wreath Primer

It’s just not Christmas until I get the wreath made for the front door. I finally got one fashioned last night and hung it up after dark.

Each year I marvel at the beauty, variety and versatility of evergreen cuttings. I cut some smoky blue cedar from the windbreak, with plenty of berries attached. The bottom of the Christmas tree lent bright green fir bows. I trimmed the arborvitae in Mom’s yard, whose cuttings look straight from the florist shop, deep green and supple. I also cut a few sprigs of long needle pine for contrast.    

I've heard there's lots of crafty blogs out there. So not to be outdone!

A spool of wire from a craft store, a glue gun, and small hand held pruners are the only tools needed. I start with a vine base. I wind my own from wild clematis that grows along the fence lines, but store bought vine, wire, or straw bases work well too. Protect your working area with an old vinyl tablecloth. Bundle 3-4 evergreen cuttings, varying in length maybe 5-8 inches long, and lay them on the base. When you have anchored the wire to the base, wrap it and the ends of the cuttings snugly together. Keep laying bunches on top of each other, covering up the cut ends as you go, and wrapping with wire. Be generous with materials so the wreath is full. When you’ve completed the circle, fill in any holes with extra cuttings stuck in with a dollop of hot glue.  

Add a fabric bow. I like to use the 2.5" wide ribbon that comes on cardboard spools in 3 yard lengths. You can find them in the seasonal section of many stores. It will take all three yards for one bow. Make a loop with the ribbon and twist it at the base, pinching it between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Make six loops, twisting each time, and finish with one just a little smaller for the center of the bow. Trim the ends on an angle and leave tails on the wire to anchor to the base.  

Use hot glue to attach anything else you want to add. I always add a nest, pinecones and other odds and ends. One year it was pheasant feathers, this year it’s tansy seed heads and store bought berries. 

My mom always made a wreath at Christmastime. Her base was a fir tree branch bent in a circle. Her wire was salvaged from a spent window screen. It's a family tradition I'm happy to keep alive. And there’s nothing to compare with the beauty of nature for decorating our homes.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Not Just About Cows

My years as a member of the Sage Grouse Statewide Advisory Committee (SAC) have been hugely insightful. Our meeting this week was one of the best.

David Skinner, a falconer and member of the North Magic Valley Local Working Group, brought his falcon for show and tell. David, who wears a pony tail and Dansko clogs, doesn’t fit my stereotype of a hunter. He looks the part of an ultra-greenie who wouldn't hurt a fly. David began his love affair with falcons as a teenager. He says this is common, as the sport is too all-consuming to imagine picking it up as an adult. He showed us slides of hunting on the Camas Prairie. He calls it sage grouse “hawking,” and he’s passionate about his sport, taking Gabriel out every other day to fly, which is after all what birds do.

Some discussions on the SAC have suggested that falconers have too long of a hunting season and take too many birds (some members believe that hunting should be banned altogether). In fact, of the 20 or so falconry hunters in Idaho this year, only an estimated 58 birds were harvested. For me, I appreciate their penchant for wildlife and their determination to work for sage grouse conservation. I want David and other sportsmen at the table with me, wrangling together on how to save our birds.

We also had a hands-on activity learning to “read” sage grouse wings. Wings are collected at check points during hunting season, aged and sexed, and the data compared to figures collected since the 1940’s. It was common back then to have 3-4 juveniles for every hen. This year, 2011, it was a paltry 1.1 chicks per hen. No matter the numbers of birds, this ratio is significant. Those of us in the cattle business understand reproductive efficiency all too well. I have to agree with the biologist who used the word “alarming” to describe the results.

We listened to presentations concerning habitat maps, the BLM’s priority areas, and good research on predation and the explosion of the raven population.

But more than anything tangible that happens at these meetings, I appreciate the personalities and the diverse viewpoints represented on the SAC. Brett from Idaho Power, Rich from the Idaho Conservation League, Rochelle from the Wool Growers, Dean from Fish and Game, they all add their energy and unique insight to the discussion. I thank them for educating me.

Mark is super supportive of my other involvements and knows that to stay in business, we need to venture out into the larger arena. Making sure ranching interests are represented in conservation discussions is critical, even if my own continuing education is my ulterior motive.

While I was in meetings, Mark and a good crew started the herd home from the mountains. We gave them their annual vaccinations yesterday and walked them to pasture today. It’s good to have them home.
back to civilization