When the weather folks began predicting a Christmas Day Blizzard almost a whole week before Christmas, many of us scoffed. The last couple of winter storms were somewhat over-hyped and, while being a little inconvenient, were really not severe. Christmas Eve rolled around and church was cancelled, and we really began betting on there ending up being nothing worth cancelling church over. Christmas morning rolled around and we got a dusting of snow, or a couple of inches, but nothing worth getting too excited about, and we continued to doubt the meteorologists. But then came the wet precipitation, the ice, and Christmas afternoon finally arrived in a whirlwind of snow and wind. Travel was not advised on pretty much all of the highways in and around the Black Hills, I-90 was closed, and the Christmas Day Blizzard arrived as predicted.
Our mile-long driveway proved to be a hassle, and a lot of work went into shoveling parts of the driveway by hand on Monday, since the only person really familiar with the road grader is out of state for the time being. Trixie was in her element, and spent a good deal of the day tearing around to her little heart’s content. She loves the snow.
Some of us humans love the snow as well, the rushing cold, the gleaming white. Shortcuts through a pasture turn into comical flounderings in knee-high drifts. Walking up the road to Grandma’s takes extra effort, since every step forward on the slick snow costs you six inches in backsliding. Pant legs freeze solid. But it is winter. It is supposed to be like this. The hassle doesn’t get to us. Granted, we didn’t lose power or need to be anywhere. “Hassle” is almost too big of a word to use.
Yesterday was beautiful and it was no problem getting back and forth between our house and Grandma’s, where Mom and Dad are currently staying, and which is the hub for family festivities. But this morning the wind picked up, and all the work that went into digging out Monday was drifted over. I went up to Grandma’s to get some firewood for the Miner’s Cabin, and on the way down I hit a drift and slid off the road. In the process of trying to get it back on the road, it slid deeper off into knee-deep drifts, so my uncle and I spent the next hour or two digging it out!
Currently no vehicle, including the Jeep, can make it all the way up to Grandma’s, so we get as far as we can and then walk the rest of the way. One of the other four-wheel drive vehicles got a flat on the way up, and the other truck is snowed in over at my uncle’s house. Winds of 20-30 miles per hour are expected tonight. More digging out tomorrow.
But God is good. He gives us trials, such as having one’s day turned topsy-turvy in a snow drift, as a reminder that we do not carry out our plans or order our lives – He does. He also sends reminders of his goodness and grace, such as the beauty of blowing snow in the sunlight, blue skies, fresh, crisp country air, starry nighttime, family fellowship, puppy antics, and kittens purring.
Life is good. God is wonderful.
Our cousin William from Ohio was staying with us for the last 10 days, and one of the projects he tackled, with Sarah’s help, was building a stone wall around our garden. We have a tall fence that keeps the deer out, but there is a 10-inch gap along the bottom that lets rabbits in. Of course, we could have just closed the gap with chicken wire, but a stone wall is so much lovelier! More pictures to come! He and Sarah got the rocks from rock slides along our driveway and from one of the several pit mines on our property. He also fixed the garden gate so it now closes properly, and put in flagstones at the garden entry. He and Sarah did beautiful work!
So we have the Black Hills Gothic.
Due to late planting, we don’t really have much in the way of garden produce just yet – We’ve gotten a few zucchinis, a couple of cherry tomatoes, and a tiny handful of strawberries. And lots and lots of dill. The dill volunteered this year, so we left it as a pest deterrent. Unfortunately, though, we don’t have any usable cucumbers. So the girls and I drove in to Rapid to the farmer’s market this morning and picked up a few bags of pickling cucumbers and fresh garlic, and picked the dill fresh from our garden!
Twenty-four-hour dills are a generational favorite – Guaranteed to be ready in 24 hours, although Great-Aunt Margene says they can be ready in 12 hours. Make them in the morning and serve them at dinner! This is my great-grandmother Sarah Adrian’s dill pickle recipe.Grandma Sarah’s 24-Hour Dills
About 20 small-medium sized cucumbers
1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 c. pickling salt
6 1/2 c. water
dill, garlic gloves, and hot pepper, crushed red pepper, onions, or any other ingredients to tasteCombine the vinegar, salt, and water – According to Great-Aunt Margene, the solution doesn’t need to be boiled. However, I remember boiling it in the past, so I deviated from the recipe and boiled the brine. Wash cucumbers. Slice in spears, but leave attached at ends. Slicing them allows them to be properly steeped in the brine after 12-24 hours.Pack cucumbers in pint or quart-sized jars, with garlic and dill (and whatever other ingredients you are using) layered with them. Pour the brine over the cucumbers, and seal jars. Let sit for 24 hours, or to taste.I made one jar with the standard recipe, just garlic and dill, but the other two jars I dressed up a bit – One with crushed red pepper, the other with crushed red pepper and a few slices of hot banana pepper. It will be fun to see how those turn out. I made a little extra brine for a tiny jar for Grandma.
My highschool years were during the duct tape craze – Well, at least among homeschoolers there was a duct tape craze. I know about creative uses for duct tape, although I was never cool enough to do anything unconventional with the stuff. But this was one use I had definitely never seen before.
Dad brought this little guy home yesterday evening. He found him on our long driveway, nowhere near water, and with a pretty sizeable chunk of his shell broken. We don’t know where he came from or how he got there, or how his shell was broken, but some kind person had duct taped him up, and it looked like he was subsequently taped another time or two. Given how warped the chipped piece was, it looked like he’s grown some since the injury. Overall he seemed like a pretty healthy dude.
Trixie didn’t know what to make of Mr. Turtle – She growled and put her ears back and looked all funny at him, but went along happily with Dad to dump him in what little water is left in the stock pond. He’ll be happy there.
Oh, the creative uses for duct tape.
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!
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!