Monday, July 29, 2013

How To Pick a Good One!

No ladies, I'm not talking about how to choose a guy.

Today I'm going to share with you my TOP SECRET methods for choosing a sugar-licious watermelon.

Is "sugar-licious" a word? Yes. It is now.

My blog friend, Jennifer, over at Cow Camp Tales was just lamenting the other day about how scarce a good, sweet melon is nowadays. I agree.  There's a lot of junk out there.  But I feel that it is time to share my family's method for picking a good one.

When I was a young girl, we lived in prime melon-growing country.  Watermelons were always free from the field, or dirt cheap on the side of the road. The garage of my grandparent's country house was filled with the sweet and distinct smell that comes from having cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon in abundance during the summer months.

The migrant workers ALWAYS picked phenomenally sweet melons for us and they showed us how THEY pick a good one.

 Hint: It has NOTHING to do with thumping the melon.

I crack up when I see people thumping melons. But then I feel sympathetic because they don't know the secret.

But today I'm going to share my secret with you, dear blog friends.... cuz I love ya.... and I don't want you to knock on melons...ever again.

Here's how I pick a "sugar-licious" melon:

[drum roll please]

Look for the sugar spot.

That's it, my friends. It's that simple.

What's the sugar spot, you ask?

It looks like this:

Do you see that dark stuff that looks like sap?  That, my friends is hardened sugar.  What it means is that the melon was so completely saturated in sugary goodness, that it seeped out.

If the watermelon has a high sugar content, it will also ooze out of the stem when it's cut from the vine like the one below:

If you are rummaging through a big bin of watermelons and none of them have a good, dark, sugar spot on them, turn around and walk away.

I repeat: WALK AWAY!!!!

Those melons are "no bueno"!

Many a time, I've left the store empty handed because I couldn't find a melon with a sugar spot on it. I just won't risk it. In fact, if there's only one with a sugar spot in the whole bin, I still might not pick it, because chances are that the melons were picked too soon.

Usually, when a melon has a sugar spot, it also has a yellow bottom, too.

Here's what my melon looked like inside: (Notice the yellow bottom)

It was at the peak of ripeness, dripping with sugary goodness in every delicious bite!

Since I live high up in the mountains these days, it's not hot enough for good melon growing.  Unfortunately, I have to buy my melon at the store, now.  I got this one at Wallie World for $4.88 and I'm here to testify that if you use this method, you can even find a good melon at Walmart.

We eat at least two a week 'round here when the pickin's are good. And I'm not a traditionalist, like some folks. I don't discriminate for or against seeds. I don't care which I pick as long as it's ripe.

Oh, and just in case you were curious, today's melon came from Pecos, Texas!

There you have it. Now go forth and select good watermelons from this day forward!

But don't share this knowledge with anyone else.  That way, there are more  "sugar-licious" watermelons for you and me.

Pick a sweet one!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Competitive Trail Ride

Last weekend we headed off to a 4-H competitive trail ride put on by one of our local clubs.  It's the first time any club in our county has organized a ride of this type in 15 years, so everyone was unfamiliar with the rules and the strategy behind the competition.

We were all thrilled to go because it was a great learning opportunity for kids and adults, alike. Not to mention that many of the kids on the mountain use their horses extensively in the arena, and they develop problems and bad habits that can be broken by just giving their horse a different job and a change of scenery.  Horses get bored doing the same thing every day, and time spent riding outside of the arena keeps a horse from going sour.

We had to arrive the night before the ride to check the horses in and get instructions.

The horses were each given a stall, and the riders were judged on how clean they kept it, and how well they cared for their horse.  We all had a BBQ dinner and an informational meeting before camping around the pens that evening.  The next morning, the ride started bright and early before the afternoon rain hit.

 (The kids were required to ride with both halter and bridles on. Usually that's a big no-no around our place, but it was so that they could attach a lead rope during stops and vet checks.)

There were three lengths of trails and categories for different age groups:

Pee-wees: 3 miles
Juniors: 10.5 miles
Seniors: 15.5 miles

The horses were vet checked the night before the race for soundness, and to get a baseline pulse and respiration while the horse was at rest.

All riders were stagger started a minute apart, and instructed to set their watches to 12:00 at the start of the ride.

They were given a map of the course and followed trail markers along the way.  They had to learn to pace their horse so they wouldn't go too fast or too slow, and to help them with this, they had a time slot to arrive at each point along the trail.  When their watch read 12:10, they should be at the first crossing on the map, and to the second point when their watch read 12:25 etc. This helped them to know if they were going too fast or too slow.

Along the course, there were obstacles that they had to complete for points: going over logs, crossing bridges, dismounting and mounting, going up and down steep washes, opening and closing gates, etc. Judges were there to mark their score while each task was completed, and points were added or taken away based on technique and horsemanship.

Also along the course were two vet check stops where you had to rest your horse, and have it checked for lameness and sores.  You could not continue until the horse's pulse returned to normal, so if you pushed your horse too hard, or it was in bad shape, you were held back for additional time until the horse was rested.

In the end, you had a window of time to finish the race in. (The juniors had between 3 1/2 and 4 hrs to complete the course.)  If you arrived too early, you were docked a point for every minute, and if you came in too late, you were docked a point for every minute.

After unsaddling, you had to report to the vet exactly 45 minutes later to have your horse checked a final time.  If their pulse and respiration were still high, then you were docked another point.

It was a whole lot of information and many things to remember for our 3 elementary school kids, but they did fantastic! I was impressed that they were very aware of their timing throughout the whole course. They had to read maps, follow trail signs, read their watches, and be aware of their surroundings... a lot for a young kid to handle, but they rose to meet the challenge.

Our littlest pee-wee rode Jake for the 3 mile fun trail ride with no scores kept, and our two oldest rode in the Junior division with my husband riding behind as one of the "safety riders".  Our middle daughter rode Cade, and the two guys borrowed our friend's crazy barn sour horses just for fun so they didn't have to miss out on the ride.  I don't think the two borrowed mares had been ridden in over a year, so we weren't expecting much in terms of technique, but I'm so proud of our son.  He stuck through some crazy horse shenanigans the first few miles with his unfamiliar and irritable mare.

My husband's borrowed horse was bronc-y the first 22 minutes of the ride, and we all joked that the "safety rider" needed a "safety rider" for himself.   She had a little bucking fit just before the race,  but he stuck on the beast like glue, and showed her who was boss.  I can't stop laughing at the entertainment value of the whole scene. HA HA!  By the end of the ride, his borrowed mare was compliant, tired, and broke.

My husband turned to me and said, "We have GOT to find some good horses to buy!"

A fun day was had by all, and ended with three tired kids sleeping in the cab of the truck, and a flash flood and thunderstorm to load the horses up in. The two older kids both tied with a score of 89.5 points out of 100.  Not bad for their first time, and especially for our son who was on an unfamiliar and undisciplined horse for the first time.

We can't wait to do it all again next year!


Monday, July 22, 2013


It's finally over.

We have sold our house and the check is in the bank!


This has definitely been a "sanctifying" experience. The crazier that things got, the more time we spent on our knees praying it over, and drawing closer to God.  And as always, our God has been faithful and blessed us beyond measure.  The sale of our house was a rocky experience, and there were times I wondered how it would all work out because the details were so uncertain.  Looking back, I can now see God's hand working through it all.

We went into escrow in April and even though the buyers had a pre-approval letter from their lender, they nearly lost their funding several times.  It kept dragging on for months as they jumped through hoops with the bank. In the mean time, the rental house that we had been scheduled to move into (and had planted a garden at) went into foreclosure and was no longer available.  Every rental with land that we called on was taken within hours of being printed in the newspaper.

We were disheartened, and completely uncertain about everything. We were a week away from having to put our stuff into storage and move in with my in-laws. Our realtor kept telling us not to sign a lease, close out our 2nd mortgage, or do ANYTHING until the buyers had a loan lock.  For some reason, we felt prompted to step out in faith and do these things anyway.  We drove 3 1/2 hours down to Phoenix to pay off our 2nd mortgage on a Friday.  The next morning, we signed the lease on a house that my husband found on a whim, and we spent the weekend moving equipment and tools to the barn and shop. Our realtor thought we were nuts!

But then, on Monday night at 5 pm, he called us and said, "the good news is that the buyers got a loan lock. The bad news is that you have to close on the house and move by tomorrow or they'll lose their interest rate and the deal will fall through."

So we moved in during a hammering rain storm with lightning all around us, and in less than 24 hours.  If we had not taken care of our banking business, found a rental, and began to move all of our ranching equipment before the buyers had a loan lock, we would have never been able to close our escrow and we would have been back to square one.  If we had closed any sooner, then we would have been in a mediocre rental with no barn or shop, or horse pens, and we would not have found this absolutely perfect rental that meets ALL of our needs while we search for land and a new home. It has a large shop, a barn, tack shed, out buildings, stalls for the livestock, and two paddocks for the horses.  Plus, it's tucked in the pines and close to the lake.  The house fits us all comfortably, and has a few little luxuries.  It was built in the 1940's so it has that old house feel, but it was added onto and updated in the 80's with a giant master sweet that makes our bed and dresser look completely lost.

I haven't had time to take any good pictures, but here are just a few taken with my phone.

Here's the front of the house nestled down a quiet dirt road. I've always wanted a white picket fence. :)

Looking out back toward the horse stalls... the kids love being able to ride every day without having to trailer the horses.

The pigs have their own stall and are staying nice and dry during the monsoon season.

(Sorry for the blurry iphone pic... Cade is checking out his new stall that opens up to a large paddock.

And true to form,  we moved the contents of our entire house with several trucks and the stock trailer.  We sprayed it out really good, but as you can see, it's still well seasoned. HA! Just keepin' it real for all my friends in blog land.

I'm so thankful it's all over! I've spent the last week in a sea of boxes, and the house is finally coming together.

Now we'll begin the second half of our moving adventure... finding a new place to buy!

Moving is exhausting,


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

All American Week (7 Random Things)

1. We've been cherry picking!  We picked enough cherries for 3 homemade cherry pies.  They were so tasty that they lasted less than a day.

We spent several hours taking the pits out. It's a sticky job!

Homemade cherry pies are a LOT of work, but they were TOTALLY worth the effort!

2. We've been festivizing! We had visitors from both sides of the family join us at the 4th of July parade, rodeo, and fireworks display at my in-law's house.

3. We've been Super Fans! The family has been in the bleachers, cheering on our All-Star baseball and softball players.

Our first baseman in action. His team is undefeated and headed to the next level of the tournament this week.

Our pitcher is concentrating hard to strike out the batter. We had to travel several hours to Winslow for her tournament.  It was 100 degrees in that town, and it's been around 80 degrees at home. We were all roasting!

4. We've been fishing and frog catching! Tonight's dinner will be rainbow trout, compliments of my son and his insatiable urge to fish every day.  I draw the line at cooking frog legs this week. I just don't have the time to do it.

5.  We've been sewing. My daughter made me this gorgeous apron all by herself!!!I'm so proud of her. Her sewing skills are getting better every day. She's going to be able to sew anything she needs when she grows up. 

6. We've been trail riding all over the mountain.  We're practicing for a big 4-H trail ride that's coming up in a few weeks.  

7. We've been earnestly praying! We have so much to be thankful for, and at the same time, so many things to be on our knees about.  I can't remember a time when life has ever been so stressful.  

I hope you are all enjoying your summer! It's flying by so quickly!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Noble Steed

A midst this whole moving debacle that won't seem to end, I have neglected to tell you about one of our finest horses. And since our horses are like family members, it's the equivalent of having another child and not filling out their baby book, or sending out birth announcements.

Oh, the guilt!

Earlier this year, we got a little sorrel mare that turned out to be a bad fit for my 7 year old.  Although she was soft mouthed, and really sensitive to leg cues, she had some horrible habits that we didn't have time to break... and she frequently lost her mind.  When we started referring to her by the name given to Woodrow's horse on Lonesome Dove, we knew it was time to get rid of her.

Life's too short to ride bad horses.

Then, like a beacon of light shining down from Heaven, this gray gelding came into our lives out of the blue. 

A friend of ours knew that we were looking for another horse for the kids, and asked if we'd like to have Cade.  Her 16 year old daughter rode barrels on him, and used him for rodeo queen flag running and parades.  She had been training up a younger, faster horse and Cade wasn't getting used much any more. She could do just about anything on him including flips off his back, and nothing phased him. He was perfect for young kids and crowded arena events.

Our friend knew that he'd be spoiled rotten, pampered, and adored by three horse-crazy kids if he came to live with us. She also knew that he would get the chance to be ridden often, go on trail rides, and chase a cow every now and then.  Plus, his rodeo experience would be put to good use with 4-H events.

Cade is a hunk of sweetness and sunshine.  He's a gentle and kind-hearted soul and we are so thankful to have him.

He and Jake became fast friends, and although he's at least 15 years younger than Jake, we still refer to them  both as "old men".

He's got scars on his nose and neck, and if horses could talk, I'm sure he'd have a great story to tell of all of his adventures.  The minute my husband unloaded him out of the trailer, the kids gave him a bath, and spent a  good hour grooming him until he sparkled.  I think that's a great way to bond horses with people.

In a way, I feel like two sets of old souls have bonded, and made an instant connection.  Jake and Cade are well seasoned horses who have seen it all, and even though my kids are young, their personalities were plucked from a different era, as well.

They have a tremendous respect for old things, old people, and apparently....old horses.

Jake and Cade take good care of my babies, and we, in turn, take good care of them.

I'm thankful to add Cade to the list of things that warm this mamma's heart.