People who hate cats just haven’t yet met the right cat. That’s all. My uncle’s cat, Kitty-Q, is one of those perfect cats. “Perfect” in that she is a delightful blend of normal cat and abnormal cat. She has all the grace and poise and haughtiness and independence and self-sufficiency of the average capable feline, but she has a desperately sweet side, the side that manages to knock down all sorts of barriers, even those created by cat allergies. She never gets tired of cuddling. She is quite the beautiful feline, and none of us would be surprised if she had a little bobcat in her.
No one knows where she came from. She adopted my uncle and his family about seven years ago – She wandered in as a stray and stuck around when they started feeding her. But for weeks she wouldn’t allow them to come near her. One day, my uncle was flat on his back underneath one of the tractors, and the cat came and sat on his chest. From then on, she was their cat.
Sarah and I are house-sitting for my uncle while he and his family are fishing in Alaska. Kitty-Q, without fail, greets us on the porch in the evening when we come inside, and greets us on the porch in the morning when we come out. She meows at us, begging for attention, roughly shoving her bony little head under my chin or into my hands, to insist on affection.
I can’t help but wonder if this is how Adam and Eve were able to interact with God’s creatures in Eden.
On the way to work, I made a short detour to drive through old Rockerville. In the early morning light, Rockerville still slumbered. This old mining town had its heyday in the gold rush years, but those years are long gone. Just the memory remains. How fast the present passes into memory!
A forest of Queen Anne’s Lace sparkled in the waking light, and a cat groomed herself on the porch of an old tumbledown storefront. A few people still live in the area of Old Rockerville, and a single restaurant is a favorite local stop. The past and present mingle in this place.
How many miners made and lost their fortunes in this place so long ago, yet not so long ago? What sort of men were they who spent their best years breaking their backs for a myth of easy riches, or breaking other men’s backs because the other men believed the myth? What professions did they leave to come mine placer gold at a rough and wild gold camp? How many drifted from one gold camp to another, and how many put their roots down and attempted to build up a life for themselves, and perhaps for a wife and children? Where were they born? And where did they die? Where are they now? Where will you be, 100 years from now? Who will remember you, and what will you be remembered for? What will the point of your life have been? Whom are you serving?
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1:24-25
The world tells me that today is the only day that matters, and that I am the only person that should matter to me. But the Bible tells me that every day matters, into eternity, and that what I do with each day matters. Do I serve myself, or do I serve Yahweh, Christ, the Risen King? The Bible tells that the person of Jesus Christ is of eternal importance. This life will fade away, and all will one day face our Maker.
“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Canning is a skill that has nearly faded out of reckoning, but it is a useful and satisfying skill to have. And nothing beats homemade jams and jellies! Chokecherries have produced abundantly and early this year, and can be found growing all over the Black Hills. We picked and processed pounds and pounds of berries from our bountiful chokecherry harvest, and turned them into jelly, using Grandma’s recipe (slightly modified), which made it even more fun!
Grandma’s Chokecherry Jelly
1 pound of ripe fruit or 4-5 cups of berries (should yield 3 cups juice)
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
4 1/2 c. white sugar
Juice extraction: Put 1 pound of ripe fruit (4-5 cups of berries) in a large pot and cover with water. Simmer for 15 minutes, crushing the berries as they soften. Don’t crush the pits, since they are toxic. Strain fruit and water through a colander, jelly bag, or cheesecloth, saving the juice and setting the pulp aside. Put pulp in a pot and again add water to cover. Simmer again and strain again. Discard pulp. (For every 4-5 cups of berries, you should get at least 3 cups of juice. If necessary, use fruit pulp and water once more to get to the necessary 3 cups of juice. )
Jelly: Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to 3 cups chokecherry juice. Stir in 1 package of powdered pectin. Stir well. Let the juice mixture come to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Once it boils, stir in the 4 1/2 cups of sugar, stirring constantly. Bring to a rolling boil. Be careful, particularly if you have an electric stove! The juice and sugar can boil over fast! For this part of the process, an extra pair of hands is helpful – One pair to add sugar and stir, and another pair with hot pads, ready to take the pot off the stove if it begins to boil up. Let boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to keep it from scorching.
Skim the foam off the top. The skimmings are edible, though not can-able! Put jelly in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Chokecherry jelly has become my favorite – I’ll be saving a jar back to enter in the county fair in a few weeks!
Whenever Uncle Scott comes to visit, the girls and I do our best to monopolize his time. It didn’t take much convincing to get him to do a Badlands trip with us, and we just managed to squeeze it in on Sunday evening. What a gorgeous evening for it!
Hwy. 44 from Rapid City to Interior is a beautiful drive in and of itself, with distant views of the Badlands, and glimpses of homesteads and ranches still weathering the climate of the region and thriving amid scrubby grass and hardly a stick of timber. As the Badlands drew near, we were greeted by cheery signs like this one:
We ate at the lodge restaurant near the intersection of the Interior and Badlands Loop roads, a popular spot. By the time we got back on the road, we were nearing the photographic golden hour. The Badlands were glowing in the sinking sun, and our leisurely drive became more eager.
Gazing over the racing landscape, it was like being on another planet, swallowed in the vastness and openness and awesome fierceness of that strange and wonderful place. Amazing how such hostility and such beauty can meet in such magnificence.
The sun set in a blaze of glory over the jagged ridges. The song of the coyotes rang softly in the valleys, and big horned sheep scrambled on the shadowed slopes. Nighthawks dipped and dived, and then the sun was gone and dusk crept in. Harney Peak, miles and miles away, rose out of the prairie like a sentinel, keeping watch over everything within its gaze. I love that mountain.
We drove home in the dark, the stars shining brighter and brighter as the sky grew blacker and blacker. What a beautiful evening, enjoying the wonders of God’s Creation, the glories of the Heavens, and the joy of fellowship and family.
Everybody needs a friend who will just listen, without disagreeing or trying to “fix” everything. Poor Trixie is at that stage in life where she hears “no” and “no” and “no” more often than she hears anything else. But while our friends were out of town for a night and a day, Trixie had just the buddy she needed.
Cleo is a mature critter, compared with Ditsy Trixie, and actually kept Trixie in line for a day. Usually Trixie takes off at the first opportunity (or the first hint of boredom) and hightails it to a cabin-sized brushpile where rabbits live. Yesterday, though, she only ran off once, even though she was off leash for hours. I was impressed.
Those two pups were a hoot to watch. They ran pretty much without ceasing for probably two hours, stopping occasionally for a short breather, plopping down exhausted and panting, until Trixie would pester and Cleo would bolt. Then the games would resume. If they weren’t running, they were tussling, nipping at each other’s faces and feet and jumping all over each other.
One good thing we learned is that Trixie has almost no territorial instinct. While it would be nice to have a dog with some guard-dog tendencies, it is nice to know that she is entirely unaggressive. Our old dog, Baby, would actively protect her space. Somehow, Trixie has no space. Or no personal space. Or both.
The temperature was reading in the 90s, and those girls were still zipping around the yard, sometimes stopping for a dip in the pool, then dashing off again. Trixie plunged her whole self into her pool, submerging her face and blowing bubbles. Cleo was much more dainty and ladylike.
During one of their “breathers,” I got this series of photos where they look like they are laughing uproariously. Every time I look at the pictures, I can’t help but giggle!
I always enjoy watching animals interact with one another. Whether it is watching calves playing on dirt piles, or horses frisking around a pasture, or laughing at the dog and cats as they try to work out their differences, or watching these two pups tear around the yard, I love seeing the interactions of God’s creatures. What a marvelous Creation God has placed us in!
One of the best things about Black Hills weather is the coolness of the summer evenings. Even a day that reaches into the 90s and 100s will cool down to a comfortable temperature by night. We’ve gotten into the habit of eating dinner outside, because by dinnertime it is often much cooler outside than inside the house. How lovely to watch the evening settle, to have our dog nearby, to watch for the cats coming prowling in from the pastures and sheds where they doze away their days, to see and hear the bluebirds and kingbirds and cicadas.
After dinner, we worked in the garden, pulling weeds, tilling, and watering. It is terribly dry in all of South Dakota, but the Black Hills region in particular is in a state of severe drought. Forest and grass fires are a significant risk right now, and ranchers are feeling the effects of the lack of rainfall. Hay crops have been a fraction of what they are in a good year, and gardens are hard to keep watered. There isn’t much of a happy medium in this part of the country. Either we’re getting hailed out and flooded, or we’re dry as a bare-picked bone.
The sun set in a blaze of glories and we began to head towards the house. I was inside doing dishes when Mom called to me. “There’s a bat colony in the Miner’s Cabin!” she called. We had suspected as much about a month ago, but hadn’t verified this. I ran outside as fast as my sprained ankle would let me. She had already counted twelve bats leaving the Cabin attic, and we watched eight or nine more leave. What a sight! We could see them away over the stock dam, and high above our heads. We could hear them scrabbling softly before they emerged from the gable, and I could hear the tiniest, highest little vocal pitches of these amazing creatures as they wriggled out of their roost and swooped noiselessly into the evening. Judging by the number of bats we saw leave, we could have a maternity colony of fifty or more bats, including babies! We’ll have quite the project this fall making the Miner’s Cabin bat-proof. If there weren’t health risks associated with leaving bats in the attic, my vote would be to leave them. I love bats. Fascinating, beautiful little creatures.
Sarah and I watched Master and Commander this evening while I picked over chokecherries. Hopefully we’ll be making jelly on Saturday!