9 June 2009

When I was four, I got a Honda 70 three-wheeler for Christmas. While the rest of my friends had these crappy little electric plastic wannabe ATVs, I had the real thing. Because of that, I’ve always said my kids wouldn’t have those crappy little electric things either.

In steps the grandparents.

4wheeler 1

This pink four-wheeler is a hand-me-down from some friends, and, I suppose, it’s a good way for Lillyan to get some psuedo- All Terrain Vehicle experience.

4wheeler 2

After Daddy gave her the tutorial, away she went. And, I’ll admit, she does love it.

4wheeler 3

Gramps had to do some creative adapter business to rig it up to run on the old batteries from Uncle Tyler’s crappy little plastic wannabe ATV. Some of the batteries work for a few minutes, some, for, uh, a few seconds. Uncle Tyler was hard on his toys — make that IS hard on his toys. But at least he shares.

4wheeler 5

I imagine Uncle Tyler’s ATV wasn’t pink. I guess Lillyan is lucky because he won’t be stealing hers anytime soon. Uncle Tyler is not really into pink.

4wheeler 6
Lillyan is into pink. Pink and fishing and mud and ATVs. This week.


Inspections, Inspections, Inspections

8 June 2009

On this big family rally at Liberty Ridge Ranch, we had all hoped to accomplish a great deal toward finishing the interior of the cabin. It was not to be. It’s a very long, arduous story of bureaucratic brick-wall head-banging, but (and this is the short version) we are now still in the process of satisfying inspection after county inspection after state inspection after inspection.

Along with a pre-inspection, structure inspection, plumbing rough-in inspection, electrical rough-in inspection, plumbing final inspection, electrical final inspection, gypsum board inspection and final inspection, we had to also pass a driveway and address-posted inspection. So, we got to work on posting our address. Now, we certainly do not receive mail here, and we are the only people ever venturing that far up this particular mountain — except for, now, the INSPECTORS.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the orange spray paint on a piece of plywood method, so I enlisted some help to post our address.

cedar sign 01

We still have a few brush piles left over from putting our driveway in four summers ago.   I know, it’s a fire hazard, but that’s a LOT of chainsawing when you’re trying to build a cabin at the same time.  The top tree in this pile is cedar (we have mostly piñon pine near our build site), and since it is a hardy wood that looks pretty now and won’t decay quickly, we chose cedar for our address sign.

cedar sign 02My mountain-man husband got to work with his trusty chain saw.  Notice, Kids: He is wearing all his safety gear.  Better safe than missing a leg, I say.  Of course, I wanted a notch to display the red wood, so that put Travis’ not-exactly-his-day-job chainsawing skills to the test.

cedar sign 03Step one, complete.  Doesn’t that blaze orange accentuate his blue-gray eyes?  And the brush pile is shrinking already.

cedar sign 04Now it’s my turn.  Since my dad didn’t want me burning up the belt sander with this project, I did the best I could smoothing out the uneven chainsaw marks with a hammer and chisel.  Like I said, my husband is not quite ready for any Stihl competitions, but he got the job done.  Look at that gorgeous cedar.  Maybe I’ll make a cedar chest for the end of my bed when I’m done with this project.  Maybe I’ll save that for another day. It is starting to get dark.

cedar sign 05Now, it’s our buddy Mr. Kenny’s turn to get in on the action.  After much coaxing, and a threat to withhold his dinner, he agreed to use his RotoZip to carve out our address.  He is very precise and, with Lillyan’s supervision, did a super nice job.

cedar sign 06While the red cedar looked great with just the router contrast, we didn’t want to risk failing this INSPECTION, so I filled in the letters with a black marker.  “Must be CLEAR and LEGIBLE from the public road.”

cedar sign 07Ta Da.  In place at the end of our driveway.  Now, I sure hope we pass that address-posted inspection.

NOTE:  Surely, you know this isn’t actually our address.  A little photoshop help should keep all of the internet stalkers from descending on our little secluded mountain hideaway.  And please don’t send any Christmas cards here.  Who knows who would be seeing photos of your cute little family in reindeer-ear headbands.

They Belong in a Zoo

18 May 2009

zoo 1This child may look familiar, but these other two geeks are not her mother and father.  To her, they are something even better:  her aunt and uncle.


zoo 2Today Lillyan enjoyed a perfect Kansas spring day at the zoo with Aunt VeeVee and Uncle Aaron, who were visiting from Texas.  You can think of Kansas as the staging lanes for the big Colorado cabin-interior-finishing trip.


zoo 3The highlight of the zoo day was the elephant training session.  This elephant, “Stephanie”, did all kinds of tricks for us.


zoo 4We checked out this mama sheep up close, and Lillyan even got to see her feed her baby.


zoo 5Even though she had a wagon to share, this was the preferred method of travel around the zoo.


zoo 6Lillyan shared the day with her “outlaw cousin”.  He is Lillyan’s Aunt’s nephew, but not her cousin.  Figure that one out.


zoo 7It sure is nice to have people who have nothing better to do than cater to your every want and desire and shower you with love and affection.  Can I get some of those people?  Lillyan seems to have plenty to share.


Old-Fashioned Cabin Raising

29 April 2009

higgscabin2Last summer, 11 people and 6 dogs made the trek up the mountain to assemble this mountain cabin.  Kymberly’s Dad designed the building from scratch, and he pre-built as much as possible (floor, stud walls, dormers) back in Kansas. With lots of hard work by everyone, in a little over a week we had an air-tight, solid structure on our property.  The following is a 2-minute timelapse video of the project.  One photo was taken every 5 minutes for 9 days. This summer it’s time to finish the interior.

Blue-Ribbon Honey Oatmeal Muffins

29 April 2009


You are looking at Kansas State Fair PURPLE-Ribbon winning Honey Oatmeal Muffins. No kidding.  I won that purple ribbon more than 20 years ago.  (I originally posted it as a Blue ribbon, but my dear mother corrected me. For you non-4-Hers, purple is better than blue.) An elderly lady at our church gave me permission to use the recipe, and the judges apparently liked them.  Our family has been liking them ever since.  It’s one of our favorite breakfast treats.  I’ve amended the recipe just a smidge to fall in line with our organic principles, but they still taste so good you forget they are (mostly) healthy.  The complete recipe is at the end of this post.

ho-muffins-1To make Honey Oatmeal Muffins, you start with oatmeal, of course.  We use organic, but any instant oats will do.

ho-muffins-2Add all the dry ingredients together in a bowl first.  Sometimes I sift the flour, sometimes I don’t.  Lillyan likes to sift, so today we’ll sift.

ho-muffins-3Once you’ve added the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar (I know, brown sugar is not exactly all natural — I’m still working on an alternative for this recipe), and baking powder, combine them and make a well in the center for the remaining liquid ingredients.

ho-muffins-4Instead of vegetable oil (which is banned at our house), I now use coconut oil in these muffins.  You have to get some Coconut Oil — it will be your new best friend — for your skin, your hair, your baby’s behind and your muffins.  Check out my organic gourmet friend’s post about Coconut Oil.  At 76 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil is a solid, like you see here.  So, if I want to be sure it’s all incorporated throughout a recipe, I heat it up just a tad bit (depending how warm my house is that day).

ho-muffins-5At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, coconut oil looks just like any other cooking oil.  Except it isn’t just any other cooking oil.  Here are some of the latest studies.

ho-muffins-6We use local, raw, unfiltered honey at our house.  Did you know local honey can be a treatment for seasonal allergies?  Sure tastes good too.


Besides the coconut oil and honey, I’ve also added a cage-free, hens-fed-organic-vegetarian-diet egg, and raw milk.  Yep, I said raw milk.  Straight from the cow’s udder to our muffins.  Then we mix it all together …

ho-muffins-8… and fill our muffin cups.  For some reason this recipe only makes 10 muffins, instead of 12.  Maybe it’s because Lillyan keeps licking the spoon.  (Don’t worry, we’re not sharing this batch.  If I make these for you, I’ll make her wait until we’re finished to lick the spoon.  Yes, I know there is a raw egg in there.  Discussion for another day.)

Put them in a 375 degree oven, and in 15 minutes …


… Honey Oatmeal Muffins.  All-natural.  We spread a little butter on the tops when they are hot (homemade butter if we have it that day — yes, made from raw cream).

You don’t have to be as big a freak as I am with the ingredients, but let me know if you give them a try.

Happy Breakfast!

Honey Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/2 cup Oatmeal
1 cup Flour
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbls Baking Powder
2/3 cup Milk
1/3 cup Oil
1 Egg
1/4 cup Honey
Combine all dry ingredients.  Make a well, add liquid ingredients.
Bake at 375 degress for 15 minutes

Worms Are Eating Our Food

28 April 2009

worms1-01Why is Lillyan looking through a bin of rotting food and dirt?  She is looking for worms.  They “help me feel better,”  she says.

With all the gardening going on around here lately, we’ve decided to start composting as well.  But not just good ole, garden-variety, big pile in your backyard composting  —  vermicomposting!

Vermicomposting means using earthworms to aid in the process.  Everything you could ever want to know about it is here, at Worm Digest.  Worms eat organic matter and turn it into enriched soil.  They are little, wiggly natural fertilizer factories.


worms1-02This is our worm bin.  It came from Worms Wrangler, but there are plenty of places on the web to find one.  Ours has five trays and a drip pan with a spout for “worm tea.”  We’ll talk about the tea another day. 

The idea is that you fill the bottom tray, the worms completely compost whatever is in there and then they move up to the next tray.  You don’t have to mound and sort and dry out and separate your worms from your compost like you do in a traditional worm bin. 


worms1-03The worms need bedding along with all the old food, and from my research, Coconut Coir is their favorite.  Lord knows we want these worms to be happy!  Coir fibers are found between the husk and the outer shell of a coconut, and coir is a sustainable resource.  It is sold in compressed blocks like this, but I didn’t need near that much, so I cut one in half with my trusty hand saw.  More difficult than you might think.  That’s one dense block of coconut hair.


worms1-04You have to soak the coconut coir in a bucket of water.  That one half-brick was way too much for this bucket.  As you can see it’s still pretty dense in there.  Be sure you give yourself plenty of room for coconut hair expansion, I guess.  Who knew.



Then squeeze the excess water out of the coir and you have worm bedding!  Those worms are just going to be in worm heaven … wait … Would EARTHworms enjoy heaven?



Then you add a couple of handfuls of organic potting soil, and voila, a five-star hotel for Red Wigglers.  Just wait until they hear about the 5-course meals!


worms1-08It’s helpful to have a two-year-old mix it all up for you while you take the photos.



Most compost bins just love grass clippings, so Daddy has been saving these for us, but we discovered worms are just not that into them.  They can’t be bothered with grass when there are organic navel orange peels to eat.  Guess the grass clippings have to go.


worms1-10This is the stainless steel pail that sits on our kitchen counter for collecting food for vermicomposting.  It has filters in the lid, so even though there may be strawberry tops growing fuzz in the bottom, you’d never smell it.  We put all our fruit and vegetable waste in here, but no meats, fish or dairy.


worms1-11Again, try to get a two-year-old to do your dirty work.  She’s mixing up the old food with all the presoaked coconut coir and a tiny bit of potting soil.



All set.  Now all we are missing are the worms.  We wait eagerly everyday for the mail lady to arrive.  (Worms come in the mail, didn’t you know that?)



Delivered fresh by your US Postal Service:  two-pounds of Red Wiggler Earthworms.  There are about 2000 of those little guys in that sack (according to the seller). They are packed with a little more of, yep, you guessed it, coconut coir.  Lucky worms.


worms1-14Here they are, in all there wiggly, rotten-food-lovin’ glory.  Lillyan was thrilled.



Yes, we used our hands to mix them all up with the old food and coir.  Nothing like squishly earthworms and black banana peels under your fingernails.   Now those worms just need to get to eating!



Everyday we peek in at our worms.  Lillyan insists on telling them “night night” before every nap or bedtime.  They are shy creatures, though, so she has to make it quick.  They hate the light, so when we take the lid off, they dive under the surface. 

Now we just wait …  and let the earthworms feast at their all-inclusive resort. 

We’ll let you know what happens in this riveting tale of rotting food and squirmy worms.

SPOILER ALERT:  We started this project about a month ago, and boy, have those worms been busy.  Stay tuned for more.

A Liberating View

28 April 2009

blog-ranch-sunset-for-webAhhh …  sunset.  Travis’ favorite time of day.  Whenever we are at Liberty Ridge Ranch, we take time out to enjoy the sunset and are rarely disappointed.  Those are the awe-inspiring Sangre de Cristo mountains, named “Blood of Christ” for the color they turn with the sunRISE hits them.  We’re more sunset kind of people, so it may be a while until you see sunrise photos on here.  The banner at the top of this site showcases their majesty even better (it’s the future view from our front porch).  What a testament to the Creator.


blog-sunset-from-higline-trailHere’s another sunset, looking in a different direction in the middle of summer.  The sun is setting directly over the Collegiate range at that time of year. (The photo above was taken in January.)


blog-chainsaw-and-fireIn case the sunsets just aren’t flaming enough for us, the ranch is a perfect place for a daily/nightly bonfire.  We still have plenty of brush piles that need clearing from when our driveway was built.  There’s not too much Travis loves more than a good day of chainsawing.  Maybe someday he’ll long for his white collar job in retrospect, but for now, a good fire and some piñon pine to cut up make him very happy.


blog-ranch-backsideHere’s a view from east of our 35 acres looking down at our meadow and two peaks.  We still can’t believe we will get to live there full time someday, Lord willing.


blog-meadow-flowersDown in that meadow we have a creek running through, and the springtime brings beautiful Colorado wild flowers.


blog-late-summer-viewUsually by late summer, the Sangres have finally lost their snow.  We long for the pleasant days, afternoon thunderstorms and cool, quiet nights filled with a million stars during these sweltering desert summers. 



This was taken from what we call “The Top of the World”.  It’s about 400 feet above the meadow floor and 100 feet above the future house site.  Obviously, this is our “happy place.”  We’d love to share it with you.