"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lollipop Quilt and Rogue Cows

About a year ago, my sister-in-law brought me some quilt tops that a co-worker's father had made before he died.  She asked me to quilt them and I am ashamed to say that I never got around to it.  I wrote about it in a post, last year.  The quilt tops are just amazing.  Pictures of the tops before they were quilted are at the link, just posted, and I also wrote about it with some "before" photos a few posts back. 

I finally got around to putting one up on the quilting machine a few days ago and finished up quilting it, today.  I used a very light polyester batting and wasn't sure I was going to like it but I think it works.  I am not usually fond of "flat" solids but think it turned out beautifully.  I may have to rethink my fabric prejudices:

I threw in a few Victorian Feathers among the meandering.  I didn't think they would show up but in the right light, they do:
Solids used to be very popular when quilting began regaining popularity around the time of the United States bicentennial but I personally don't think hand quilting usually sets them off to their best advantage.   Machine quilting, however, really gives them depth and texture. 
 I think the quilter had a fantastic sense of color:
 It reminds me of a big, traditional lollipop:
This was not a fancy quilting pattern but I'm really fond of how a meander gives texture to pretty piecing/colors.  I used a slightly looser meander and lighter colored thread in the bright blocks to help them pop a bit.  I'm well aware that I am not particularly talented at longarming and trying to do the type of fancy quilting that makes the quilting be the center of attention makes me feel really anxious. 
Plus, this was a quilt top that deserves to show off the workmanship of the quilter who pieced it.  He did an incredible job. 
At Mr. Wonderful's suggestion, I stayed with a solid colored binding (I'd been toying with a stripped one matching the colors in the blocks).  I went with red because I had enough of it and because I thought it would hide stitches better than some other colors.  I didn't take any pictures but am really happy with how the red pops against the black, framing the other blocks.  I am still in the process of stitching it on by machine and plan to give it back to my sister-in-law to stitch it down on the front, by hand.  I still haven't finished my daughters' quilts and it would just be wrong to push them back in line.

My beloved birdcam (not the trail cam) finally bit the dust and after trying everything I could think of to fix it, I gave up and started cruising Amazon to see if I could find a replacement.  Mr. Wonderful suggested I call Wingscapes, the maker, and ask them if they knew how to fix it.  I called on Sunday and left a voice mail with Melissa.  Who knew this company actually had a named person answering the phone!!  I left a message explaining the situation.  I didn't expect much help since it was no longer under warranty but thought maybe it was a common problem that had an easy fix.  While I was out in the studio, today, she called back and told Mr. Wonderful that they were sending me a brand new birdcam!!  I was so excited and impressed!  So, henceforth, I shall tell everyone and their brother what a great company they are.  If you have a chance to get something from Wingscapes, you really should do it. 

Yesterday, I went out to the property to check the trail cam and while there, I kept seeing HUGE deer tracks everywhere.  I wondered to myself if the big bucks had come back and deduced that perhaps the mud had somehow made the tracks look bigger than they were.  And then, I saw this:
Yes.  It is a cow patty.  And I don't HAVE cows!

Once I decided there had been cows trespassing, I kept a look out and, sure enough, saw where they had wandered all through the wooded area and muddied up the pond.  Once I realized it was cows, it is hard to imagine that I had been convincing myself that it was big deer.  Deer that size aren't deer.  They are moose or elk.  Or have been exposed to large doses of radiation.

The trail cam was still strapped to the tree but there were broken branches all around it and it was pointed in a different direction than how I'd left it.  Upon checking the videos, I saw where up to seven full grown cows (not heifers) tried to eat the camera.  They left the evidence on the video.  Two of them grabbed the strap and yanked on it for several minutes.  Fortunately, it doesn't look like they damaged it. 

I don't know what was going on with those cows but on several of the videos, they were running this way and that.  Perhaps they got into loco weed.  It was like seeing heavyset pixies spinning and dancing in the moonlight.  I can't imagine why they would have been in the area where I put the trail cam because it was on the trunk of a cedar in the densest part of the wooded area where there wasn't anything to graze on.  I put it there, hoping to get some videos of bobcats.  But no.  I got psychotic, rogue cows.  And you know what else?  They apparently don't sleep at night, either.  Some of the most enthusiastic camera attacks took place in the dark. 

I don't know where the cows are, now.  I didn't see them while I was out there and I looked.  Our property is right on the Chisholm Trail so maybe they hit the road.  More likely, someone came and got them. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Armadilloes and Cattle Prods

I just got back from spending a day or so with my best friend, Mimi, at her ranch up on the grasslands in Northern Oklahoma.  Her place is about 100 miles north of us and about 50 miles east.  Roughly. 
The Double M is Mimi's brand.

Mimi lives north of Kaw Lake and in addition to her own property, she leases large (at least by city standards) pieces of property to run her cattle.  I understand that in that part of the country, you need about 8 acres to support one cow. 

She's got a couple of bulls.  Look at that single tree off in the distance:

 I don't know if she actually names them.  I didn't ask.
What a different land than around my neighborhood:
Up in the grasslands, they have limestone and, obviously, not too many trees except near creeks and lakes.  It is much dryer than in the Oklahoma City area.  We have more trees, the rock tends to be sandstone, and it is relatively lush in comparison:
I love Mimi's ranch truck.  I am seriously in love with that truck.  I made Mr. Wonderful look at pictures of the truck until his eyes glazed over.  This is a photo of it after Mimi dropped off a big bale of hay:
The spikes on the back are what they use to pick up those big round bales of hay.

Right now, calving season has started.  Mimi puts the bulls out with the cows in April, which means that babies start arriving in January.  Last year, with the hard winter we had, she lost quite a few babies that were born in a blizzard.  This year, the temperature has been wonderful which makes it easier on the mamas, babies, and bovine midwives.

On Thursday, we went out in the afternoon to check for new babies and to doctor three cows that were ailing.  Mimi's dog, Jack, hopped on back and came along with us:
Jack is a complete lover. 
We drove down to Mimi's south pasture (about 600 or so acres) and she drove the cows into the chute.  I helped.  My part involved tazing them if they tried to back up.  Once in the chute, Mimi gave them shots while I battled with the guilt associated with tazing cows.  I am not sure, but I THINK that is a cattle prod.  Mimi told me to be careful and not shock myself because I wouldn't like it.  She clearly spoke from experience. 

After doctoring the cows, we went to look for baby cows.  Mamas will sometimes hide their babies out on the range and finding them is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Mimi spotted one pretty quickly and once she pointed it out to me, I could see it.  I suspect practice helps in that sort of thing.  To be honest, from a distance, it looked like a cow patty.
She was relieved to see it move because sometimes they are dead.  This one was just fine.  Here's the little boy calf, to give you an idea of what the land looked like where we found him: 
As soon as Mimi spotted him, she jumped out of the truck and ear tagged him with number four (he was her fourth baby calf, this year):
Mimi is not afraid to use her teeth when needed.  I do not actually think she is afraid of anything. 

While she was piercing his ear, I was keeping an eye on his mama who was coming over at a trot to see what the Sam Hill was going on.   Mimi didn't seem concerned (she is, after all, fearless), but I was prepared to scream a warning, if needed.  I also knew where they keep the tazer. 
After feeding the cows, we drove to the back of the pasture, just to look around.  The back of the pasture backs up to a large lake and there are trees and a creek. 
As we were driving back over the field, Jack leaped off the truck and took off after an armadillo!
My back east friends may not know what an armadillo is.  It is a varmint about the size of a loaf of bread:
  Mimi and I couldn't believe it - we saw 7 or 8 armadillos racing through the field.  It was wild!
The following two photos weren't taken from a long way off.  I walked right up to the armadillo.  They are incredibly stupid.  I guess they think that armor thing will keep them safe.
The tail (he'd gone into a burrow but left his back end out - idiot):
 The ears (he was in a ditch and I guess he thought I couldn't see him - idiot):
I would not look at the next few photos if you are squeamish (this is a warning to one of my daughters).  Jack caught a couple of the armadillos and killed them. 

 Okay, you can look now. 

Actually, the armadillo in the previous few pictures, after being mauled, managed to get away from Jack and race back down a burrow!  Jack went after it, to no avail:
About that time, I saw Mimi looking down the armadillo hole and she had some pliers in her hand.  She was considering grabbing the armadillo's tail to drag it out.
Mimi had the pliers because, she said, she didn't feel like it was a good idea to stick your hand into an armadillo burrow and grab its tail (with your hand).

Okay, so I will be honest with you.  Even with pliers, I didn't think it would be a good idea to stick your hand inside an armadillo hole and grab an armadillo tail.  But I will be BRUTALLY honest and admit I didn't tell her that because I thought it would be abundantly cool to see her drag an armadillo out of its hole.  Yes,  I admit it.  I am an Okie. 

But at any rate, the armadillo got away while her frontal lobes kicked in and kept her from doing something that, while really cool, was also probably really dumb.  I say that but in my heart of hearts, I am not sure an armadillo would have done much and it sure would have been cool to see, regardless.

My blood was up!

After seeing the armadillos, we drove over to see a horse herd that runs wild.  Aren't they beautiful?  They just came racing over a hill right towards us:  
I thought I counted 22.
 The black specks in the distance are cows:
 They got closer and closer:
 This is when I got back into the truck:
But they were all neighborly and polite while they milled around.  They were smarting off to each other and apparently working out some sort of herd pecking order, but as long as we stayed out of their business (and out of their way) things went well:

 At a certain point, for reasons of its own, the herd continued its race towards the south:

 And then they all just disappeared out on the range:
We drove back to the ranch house and worked on one of her chutes that she uses to doctor cows.  Here is her front yard:
 Here's the backyard:
 Here is where she keeps some of her hay:
Mimi has lots of barn kitties:

 She is the workinest woman!

 I seriously love this truck:
I love my own little house on the prairie but I have to tell you, it was hard to leave Mimi's home on the range!
Yeah, yeah, that last was pretty lame.  But true. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl