The Most Precious Natural Resource At The Ranch Pen

 

The news headlines scream disaster and death at us every day, breathing worry and distress in our faces–even in Oklahoma with the horrible beheading (I can hardly bear to write the word) of that poor woman in Moore last week. I am not a preacher, but as an ultra-conservative Christian woman, I strain the events around me through the truth of my Bible and find hope in Jesus.

This week, I attended an event with my daughters-in-law, grandkids, and their homeschoolers’ group sponsored by the NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service), which is a division of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The NRCS  was established in the Dust Bowl days of the 1930’s to help farmers and ranchers preserve their land that was blowing away because of poor farming practices in an extended drought. Today, the NRCS still helps farmers and ranchers manage and conserve their farm and grass lands, soil, and water. Our county NRCS agents have worked with Gramps and I on our farming/ranching operation many times over the years with sound advice (most of the agents are farmers or ranchers themselves) and cost-sharing grants to drill wells and plant grass on erosion-prone crop ground.

The NRCS event was aimed at third grade age kids. Several of the nearby public schools had bussed students to the outdoor classroom the NRCS had set up near a lake. They had also accommodated the home school group’s third graders. What they may not have known is, in the homeschooling world, if the third grader goes, so does the fifth grader, the first grader, mom, the baby, and maybe even grandma. Another thing they may not have known is home schooled kids learn hands-on. Everything their mothers/teachers do is an educational experience, so at each learning station, the kids mobbed the teachers, getting up in their business with their hands all over everything and asking rapid-fire questions.

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At learning station one, an NRCS agent talked to the kids about land and water conservation, cutting up an apple representing the earth until only a tiny sliver remained to show the portion of land on earth able to produce crops. He also ended up showing the kids that one drop of water out of all the water on earth was the share of water in Oklahoma.

Gun safety

Gun safety at learning station two

The little girl at the left knew so much about guns she could have taught a hunter’s safety course. The grandkids, Roper, Ladybug, and Blondie are spellbound by guns, too. I think the game warden was somewhat taken aback by the gun knowledge in the group.

Station Three--hides and skulls

Station Three–skins and skulls

The skins and skulls station was a big hit with the kids. The instructor showed them a lot of hides from different animals native to Oklahoma and had them guess which animal each of the skulls had once belonged to. They learned about predators and prey, carnivores and omnivores. All of the kids felt their own canine teeth to make sure they were predators. Many of them also had varmint hunting stories to share with the instructor.

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Station Four was all about pollinators native to Oklahoma. The teacher was a biologist whose job was managing the grasslands in that area, so he knew a lot about the plant, insect, and animal life.

Even though I don’t have a picture of this one, Station Five was all about soil, which I found fascinating since we make our living from it. I’m not sure the kids were as interested, but they did like the NRCS agent’s hydraulic core sample machine mounted on the side of his pickup. He pulled a soil sample from about five feet down in the ground. Four-year-old Grandson, Git R Done, told his dad later that he learned dirt was actually soil.

Station Six--Quail mamgement

Station Six–This lady taught quail management

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Playing a wildlife management game–some kids are quail, some predators

Station Six was about quail management and how overpopulation of any one species can be detrimental. Nature has a way of evening the balance of everything which the instructor attempted to show through a game involving more quail than predators, then more predators than quail. The game was complete mayhem, but they all seemed to enjoy it. (Except, possibly, the teacher.)

Ladybug eating the lesson on wetlands

Ladybug eating the lesson on wetlands

 

Station Seven was a lesson about wetlands (rare in western Oklahoma these days) and their importance. The teacher asked the kids to tell her some of the animal life found in wetlands. The kids ventured a lot of guesses which included sharks and crocodiles, but the cutest one was from three-year-old Ladybug: Mermaids. The teacher then used a layer of chocolate cereal to represent the lower soil layer, chocolate pudding the mud, blue cool-whip the water, pretzel stick cattails, and then green sugar duckweed–the ecosystem of the wetlands. Then she gave a cup of the lesson to each kid to eat. Very clever.

Station Eight was taught by a park ranger. She was really good with the kids and taught them how to respect national park lands. Then she used pictures of animals to teach them the difference between domesticated animals and wildlife. I don’t have a picture of Station Eight since the temperature had risen to near one-hundred degrees and everybody was tired and ready to go home, including the oldest lady in the group (moi).

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a little cutie whose name I don’t know and grandkids Git R Done, Ladybug, and Roper

And the last picture–hope for the future in our most precious natural resource: Our kids.

Thanks so much for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all while you listen to this one gifted man singing, I have decided to follow Jesus.

[youtube.com/watch?v=RPBCwMf0TjQ]

Horse Girls Of Southwest Oklahoma ll

Horse girls of sw Ok

Today I continue my interview with the second of favorite horse lovers, my niece, TL. She’s home schooled–rides the short bus, as she says–loves her teacher, and is eleven-years-old. She started riding a couple of years ago even though she was really nervous about it. Her bay gelding, General, was purchased at a local horse auction and is ten or eleven years old probably.

Even though General is already trained, TL is using some of the Down Under Horsemanship methods to make him into an even better, safer, kids’ horse and teach him better manners.

Tessa and General

Danni: TL, do you love General and does he love you?

TL: (unhesitating) Yes and yes.

Danni: What do you see yourself doing with horses in five years?

TL: I’d like to learn to do cool stuff better…barrel racing, trick riding, authentic trail riding–wait. What does authentic mean?

Danni: The real deal.

TL: Oh, yeah. Authentic trail riding, cross country, jumping, dressage.

Danni: Alrighty. Do you plan to train horses to sell? And will it be hard to see them leave, if you do?

TL: Yeah, after I learn the method better, I’d sell. If we had enough room I’d just keep the horses, though. It’d be hard to sell if I was attached. But if I had to sell, I would.

Danni: Why do you enjoy horses so much?

TL: Well, one day they’re sweet and nice, the next, mean and grouchy, but I have a good horse. Really good natured.

Danni: How much does General eat each day and do you have to buy his feed?

TL: I don’t buy feed. He eats…oh…seventy pounds? Thirty? Quite a bit. I buy my own tack.

Danni: What kind of saddle do you ride?

TL: I ride a barrel saddle and use a regular brow band headstall with a curb bit. Five-inch shanks. Extra long nylon roping reins.

Tessa and General

Danni: What are your favorite breeds of horses?

TL: Oh, I like the generic cross-breds like General. He has a big trot and a good personality. I also like Thoroughbreds because they can jump and do dressage and cross country. Quarter Horses, too, because Mom has one and you can teach them western stuff. I like the western stuff.

Danni: What are some of your favorite horse books?

TL: The Saddle Club, but mainly the Felicity books because she has a horse named Penny.

Danni: Well, TL, what is your favorite joke?

(We wait quite awhile. She wants to use JA’s cowboys changing light bulb joke, but I won’t accept that.)

TL: Okay, I’ve got it…Knock, knock?

Danni: Who’s there?

TL: Banana.

Danni: Banana who?

TL: Banana Bandana.

Danni: Did you make that up?

TL: Yes.

Well, TL, that was hilarious. 🙂 Auntie loves ya and thank you for talking with me. May you always stay on top of your horse and I wish you the very best in all your horse dreams.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Celtic Woman singing one of TL’s favorite songs,  Amazing Grace.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

Horse Girls Of Southwest Oklahoma l

Horse girls

Today I’m talking to two of my favorite horse lovers, my nieces, JA and TL. Both of them are home schooled and love, love, love their teacher. They started riding about two years ago on horses purchased from a nearby horse auction.

The three of us had an informal interview session out at the round pen where they have recently started training their horses using Clinton Anderson’s Down Under Horsemanship method.

Jamie and Pache

JA is thirteen-years-old and the first horse she’s training is a Paint filly named ‘Pache.

Danni: Do you love your horse, and does your horse love you?

JA: Well, I love her, but I think she just likes me.

Danni: Okay, what is your goal for this horse, JA?

JA: I hope to train her to be a soft, supple horse anyone can ride.

Danni: Will you sell her, then?

JA: Yes. I hope to get a good price for her as a well trained horse.

Danni: Will it be hard to watch her leave after all the time you’ve invested in her?

JA: Yes.

Danni: What is Pache’s strength? Weakness?

JA: Her strength, hmm…She backs up good. Her weakness was her disrespect. She stepped on me if I didn’t watch her.

Danni: How much does Pache eat per day, and do you have to pay for her feed?

JA: Pache eats maybe twenty pounds of hay per day and a little sweet feed. I don’t buy it. I have to buy my own tack, though.

Danni: What kind of saddle do you ride?

JA: I ride a roping saddle. My headstall’s a regular brow band with a curb bit and Weaver Leather quick-change reins. Long.

Danni: What do you enjoy most about horses?

JA: They’re so fun if they don’t give you trouble. I also enjoy caring for them, brushing, etc. And their smell.

Danni: Where do you see yourself in five years as regards to horses?

JA: I hope to be a very good horsewoman and tearin’ up jack as my mom says. I also hope to be rich from selling horses, have horses out the wazoo, and a nice pickup.

Jamie and Pache

Danni: What is your favorite horse breed?

JA: Probably Clydesdales and Quarter Horses, because the Clydes are big and friendly and the Quarters are pretty built with good color and make good show horses.

Danni: What are your favorite horse stories or books?

JA: My Friend Flicka. The Misty books. Black Beauty. The Little Britches books by Ralph Moody. Oh…and Clinton Anderson’s Philosophy book. Oh…and Western Horseman.

Danni: And, finally, what’s your favorite joke?

JA: How many cowboys does it take to change a light bulb?  One to hold the bulb, three to turn the house.

That’s hilarious, JA. 🙂 Thanks a bunch. Auntie loves you and I hope all your wildest horse dreams come true. Hang on tight…the view’s better from on top of your horse.

Join me tomorrow for Part ll of Horse Girls of Southwest Oklahoma when I interview my niece, TL. God bless all y’all and enjoy JA’s favorite singers of the moment, The Judds, doin’ When King Jesus Calls His Children Home.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

Springtime and Resurrection Gardens

The Nephew working up my garden spot

The Nephew working up my garden spot

Oh, goodness sakes. I can hardly wait to get out and kick around in that good dirt. I’m blocking from my mind right now last summer’s miserable three months of 100* heat and NO TOMATOES.

ahmmmmmm…

Okay, I’ve erased my memory–not a hard task at my age–and I’ll just tear into the garden planting expecting great harvests of taters, onions, squash, cantaloupes, okra (or okry as real Southerners call it,) and of course, tomatoes. There isn’t any reason to plant sweet corn here because our hot winds blow the pollen away and after months of babying, I find cobs with only a lonely kernel here and there. So very vexing.

In preparation for Good Friday next week, the grandkids and the nieces planted Resurrection Gardens as shown below from the super nifty homeschool blog Homeschool Creations. This is a great opportunity for discussion and giving young children a better understanding of the resurrection of Christ.

Gramps and I grow wheat, so I just trotted out to the grain bin and dumped out the seeds I needed into a bucket, but if you have to go looking for wheat berries at a health food store you might not have time to grow lush wheat grass by Good Friday. It’s worth trying, however. I think you could even use fast sprouting bean or pea seeds. Or pile rocks over the ‘tomb’. (That would be more accurate anyway.)

From Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations:

Resurrection Garden Tutorial 2

I know there are so many ideas floating around for Resurrection Gardens, and our kids have been so excited to put ours together this year.  The Resurrection Garden is a hands-on reminder of what Easter is really about ~ a visual reminder of the tomb and all that it signifies!

For our Resurrection Garden, we used wheat grass and the results were so much faster than using grass seed {only 2 days!!}. I first tried growing wheat grass {sprouted wheat berries, or grain that is used to make bread} last year, and it was so simple and more lush than standard grass seed! Thanks to a great Easter Grass tutorial from my friend Amanda, it seemed to be the way to go for our Resurrection Garden as well.

How to Make a Resurrection Garden

If you’d like to make your own Resurrection Garden using wheat grass, you’ll need to grab just a few supplies, several that can be found outside.

  • Potting soil
  • A large pot base {I picked up a clay base at Walmart}
  • a small pot {to use as a tomb}
  • wheat berries ~ can be found at many whole food stores {see tip below}
  • a rock to cover the mouth of the tomb
  • small stones/pebbles, if desired
  • spray bottle
  • sticks and string to make crosses {we’re adding ours on Good Friday}
  • large pot {optional}

Quick tip: We grind our own wheat, so I had wheat berries on hand to use. If you don’t have any, you should be able to find some at your local whole foods store ~ or bug a friend who grinds her own wheat! 🙂

Resurrection Garden-2

1. Soak the wheat berries in water for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will help the wheat berries to sprout quickly!

Resurrection Garden-1

2. Lay your small pot on its side and fill the large pot base with soil. Arrange the pieces of your Resurrection Garden as you would like ~ stones for a pathway and any other decorations you desire {moss, flowers, etc…}.

Resurrection Garden-3

3. Gently place the soaked wheat berries on top of the soil, where you would like the grass to grow. Using the spray bottle, spritz the wheat berries thoroughly!

Resurrection Garden-1-3

4. Once the wheat berries have been spritzed well, cover the tray to create a ‘greenhouse’ of sorts. I used a large pot as a dome to keep the moisture inside. Spritz every few hours {well, other than overnight!}.

Resurrection Garden-1-4

5. Watch for sprouts! We placed our wheat berries around 6pm at night and when we took the top off the next morning at 7am, they had already started sprouting! You can now remove the cover off and have your kids spritz it throughout the day ~ keep it moist!

Here’s a look at the fast progress of the wheat grass on the morning of Day 2:

Resurrection Garden-1-5

The morning of Day 3:

Resurrection Garden-2-2

This is the morning of Day 5:

photo

On Good Friday we’re going to add three crosses to the garden and roll the stone over the opening of the tomb {and perhaps have the kids find one that is a wee bit smaller!}.

The kids have really enjoyed putting the together and seeing the grass grow so quickly. It’s been a GREAT visual reminder as well for the Easter season.

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Okay, thanks so much to Homeschool Creations and until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Phillips, Craig and Dean doin’ Crucified With Christ

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

*And a very happy birthday  to the youngest niece on her 11th birthday tomorrow! May all your wildest dreams come true, dear Tess. 🙂

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Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part ll

Buzzard and Bugs Bunny Cartoon

Dreams

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.

Langston Hughes

For those of you who might have missed the riveting previous installment of Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams, here’s the link. Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part l Be sure and watch the Starburst commercial, it’s kind of disclaimer in case I start boring you to death. (Or boring you back to death, as the case may be. I’m not sure who or what all reads these posts.)

We ended Part l with the unfortunate demise of my first characters, Rory and Kate. They ended up in the trash can of my writing dreams because I married Gramps when I was sixteen and barely out of diapers. (He wasn’t called Gramps then or I might not’ve had sense enough to marry him. Sixteen-year-old girls can be so shallow.)

At any rate, he was (and still is) my dashing soul mate and we happily dove off the cliff of love into the rapids of experience.

Cliff_Jumping_by_KatieMoyle
Photo by KatieMoyle
Ah, experience. So needful for good writing.

A year later, we two added a little child to make three and most of the writing I did went like this:

Dear Grandma, Thank you for the baby stroller and the twenty dollars…
Dear Electric and Gas Company, We will have the money by the end of the week, please don’t shut us off…
The rest of my writing was in the form of lesson assignments while I finished highschool in my own special ed classes. Sort of like Abe Lincoln. Without the beard. Or the super intelligence.At eighteen, I looked forward to the birth of baby #2 and also received my diploma in the mail, probably while I was feeding my yearling son pureed carrots. He was a difficult child and I expect if I hunted up my diploma, orange blow-by would speckle the semi-expensive paper.

A couple years after that, I wrote my name on a line with Gramps’ and we bought our first little mountain rancho, ten acres and a house from which sheep had been evicted. Son #3 promptly made his appearance. A few months later, I rocked my twenty-first birthday with my three little kids–aged three and under–aided by koolaid and party hats.

Live a real life

All that while, I did almost no writing, but Gramps and I lived a real life while we traveled around and he made money to pay for our rancho. And while I tried to keep my babies and toddlers from self-destruction, I read.

I inhaled books like air, reading most genres except horror–although the book Treblinka about the Nazi death camp certainly qualifies–and cereal boxes. I read my Bible whenever I got a quiet minute. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot while rocking a baby in Colorado. Ernest Hemingway’s  For whom the Bell Tolls while rocking a baby in North Carolina. I even slogged through Tolstoy’s War and Peace a few hours at a time from a curb beside a playground in Illinois.

And, unbeknownst even to myself, my next characters had begun to stir in the womb of my brains…

Finally, I’m not qualified to give writing instruction, but this is my advice to anyone who desires to write:

  • Read voraciously.
  • Get out there and live a real life. Live a life you don’t need to be ashamed of when you’re dyin’, but take chances. Do things. Don’t live a virtual reality through your electronics else you might not have much to write about. We’ve all got electronics. None of us have your particular experiences.
  • Consider homeschooling your kids. By the time you complete each grade four times, or fifteen–depending on the number of offspring–you will have a good grasp of the english language. That helps with the grammar and sentence structure. As you can see. By my sentence fragments.
  • And last, but not least, learn to laugh at yourself first. If you don’t, somebody’ll beat you to it.

Anyway, if you got this far, God bless you for your endurance and now just sit back and enjoy The Isaacs doin’ The Lowest Valley.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

*A special thanks to Son #2 for the heads up on James Wesley‘s super good song and video.

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Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part l

Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part lll

Mama’s In The Graveyard Again?

I hang out at old graveyards sometimes. And I homeschooled my three sons. But stay with me, now, the two are connected.

land run1892

The county in which we farm/ranch was opened for homesteading in 1892 in an event called a land run. Homesteaders raced to stake out the best claims, and soon, nearly every quarter-section of land (160 acres) in our county was homesteaded. People built homes, roads, schools, and had families, but then they began to learn western Oklahoma weather was a grinding, deadly force. Many of the homesteaders fought a losing battle with the hot summer winds that shriveled the crops in the fields and dried up water supplies, and the bitter winter winds that killed their livestock, their children, and them.

Little by little the population thinned as the homesteaders departed for friendlier country, leaving only crumbling dreams–and the dead–behind. Isolated and forgotten cemeteries abound in this area. The two cemeteries I visited today began to see use around 1900. Some of the dead had been born before the Civil War, but many were children and babies. Lots of them.

Rainey Cemetery  Lake Valley, OK

When I visit those quiet cemeteries, I imagine the hopes and dreams buried there. And while I can’t say I enjoy graveyards–not in the accepted sense of the word–they are peaceful.

So, why, I hear y’all asking, did you develop this morbid fascination with cemeteries, Danni?

Hello? The answer is obvious.

I homeschooled my three sons and I needed a place to go where NOBODY WOULD BOTHER ME!

As I stumbled around through the grave stones, I could put my problems in perspective. The twitching hands of my imagination gradually fell away from the throat of the son whose test question might have looked like this:

Ulysses S Grant was a general in which war: (a) War of 1812 (b) Civil War (c)War on Drugs.

C is circled.

No, my boys weren’t that bad. Not by the time they graduated, anyway. If they had been, I might have laid down in the chicken bus and just went ahead and let my hens peck me to death.

Actual chicken house on our outfit

Actual chicken house on our outfit

Inside of Chicken Bus

Interior of chicken bus, with nests, roosts and brooder cover. Handy wheel wells make chickens feel tall.

You may be thinking, “This lady is one cracked pot,” but I prefer to think I merely enjoy a dark sense of humor. The McGriffith clan is known for dark humor. (And crackpots, too, if you must know, but that’s beside the point.)

Two small examples: The young McGriffith boys’ favorite song when they were growing up was Garth Brooks Mama’s In the Graveyard, Papa’s in the Pen. And son #3 had a joke he shared with his grandpa, Earnest, on a regular basis.

He’d walk up to his gramps and say, “There were two maggots fightin’ in dead Earnest.”

That was it, punchline and all. Both of them laughed uproariously every time.

My goodness, with senses of humor like that, don’t let anybody ever say homeschooled kids aren’t socialized.

So, my advice to all you homeschool moms teachers out there in the rural areas of our great country: Just after the quiz–but right before you snap–run, drive, or ride your horse over to a lonely hilltop cemetery somewhere. Let the wind blow through what’s left of your hair for a while.

Enjoy the silence.

God bless all y’all and enjoy the Peasall Sisters (homeschooled, I believe) doing an awesome job singing, Where No One Stands Alone

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ’em.

Get Outta the Way Valentine You’re Blocking Her View of the Pony

I Love You, Frisco!

Gramps Don't stand a chance

Gramps and I have six grandkids codenamed Kevman, Blondie, Roper, Einstein, Git ‘R’ Done, and Ladybug. Some (or all of them), nieces, and assorted other kids show up on Fridays for an art lesson since most of them are home shooled.

Last art class, we made Valentine boxes. Later, Roper and Ladybug’s mom summed it up perfectly.

“Gosh,” she said, “it looks like a craft store threw up in here…”

Everybody had a wonderful time, but unfortunately, one of the laws of the universe states All Good Things Must End and one of the visitors, Sarah, aged 6.5 years (she’d want me to share that decimal), got into the vehicle with her Valentine box–and her mother–to leave.

Now, Gramps happened to be out in the yard working on his pickup, or something. (Doesn’t matter, take your pick from the fleet of old farm vehicles in the yard, they all need fixed.)

Sarah’s mom backed around in the driveway and Sarah leaned out the window, waving and smiling enthusiastically. Gramps is fond of little girls, so his old heart jumped for joy as he waved back at her.

“Bye, Frisco!” she yelled, craning her neck around Gramps for a better view of the grandkids’ Shetland pony.

Ouch.

Can anybody say, Awwww…poor Gramps?

Happy Valentines Day, Gramps, my valentine since I was SIX YEARS OLD! You still make my heart beat really fast. (At least, I think that’s you and not just the jalapeno peppers I’m not supposed to be eating.) I’d do the last thirty-one-and-a-half years of wedded bliss with you again without a second’s hesitation.

God bless all Y’all and enjoy Don Williams doing Gramps’ and my wedding song, Til the Rivers All Run Dry

*This artists doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like him.