Fallwork, Patchwork & Pumpkins

Life is like a patch-work quilt made of bits & pieces of the past, the present and plans for the future. A masterpiece “scrap” quilt only looks as if random chaos miraculously morphed into balance, beauty and order. However, an experienced quilter knows that looks can be deceiving.

Vintage quilts inspire so many words of endearment. We “Ohh and Ahh” when looking at a masterpiece antique quilt. Names, daily life goings-on etc … there are stories in every stitch. Scrap quilts are my very favorite because they include the whole family. Calico scraps left over from making garments were carefully stashed away. As the years passed, the pile grew into an impressive array of colors, patterns and prints. When there was enough to make a quilt top, the cutting and stitching began. A hand-made scrap quilt was often many months in the making. So much meticulous planning goes into creating order from non-order. The “darks and lights” need to be balanced. The colors and prints need to play harmoniously with their neighbors. Balance overall. That’s what it is.

Ideally, we balance work and play with reliable regularity. If a person has the right attitude, you can enjoy making the “quilt”, so to speak, and not just having the end result. Making a life is half the fun … or maybe it ought to be more than half. If we’re lucky, we get to enjoy the journey as well as “admiration day” . Oh, you know, the day when you get to step back, take a deep breath, and drink deeply from the well of self-satisfaction. There are few things as gratifying as the sense of accomplishment when you’ve earned every drop of it. I feel fortunate to have a lifestyle that more often than not makes work feel like play. Autumn is the time ranchers do their “Fallwork”. We hope the weather stays nice enough to get everything on the “to do” list done before wintry weather arrives. I love to look at our rows of hay bales ready for winter feeding. My husband jokes that he likes to arrange them by the highway to show off his ability to arrange tight & tidy rows. Truly, the life of a rancher revolves around grass.

This time of year we move cattle from summer pasture to a pasture that makes gathering them easier for some of the other fallwork. We vaccinate the calves and ‘pour the cattle’ to rid them of parasites. Like branding calves early in the summer, autumn is also a time when neighbors help each other with seasonal ranch work. Below are some photos taken during fall riding and “roundup season” …

It takes teamwork to make a ranch run smoothly. Everyone has a job …

I’d like to introduce you to some of my best friends … my horses (Morgan Horses). They enrich my life beyond measure and they turn work into play. L to R from top: Apple Pi Dolly Rose, Harley Pride, Apple Pi Bluebelle, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.

One of our “hired hands” is a rookie (below). My three-year old filly, Ribbon, was recently introduced to Bull Loading 101. She intently watched from a safe distance (we both did) while the experts (my husband and his horse) worked for two hours to load an injured, grumpy bull. It is common for bulls to injure each other during breeding season. This fellow needed to go to the bull pasture, but was unable to make the trip with the rest of the bulls. The loading job was an exercise in patience since the bull was not interested in nor appreciative of humanitarian aid. He didn’t get in until he was darn good & ready.

The scenery in our corner of Wyoming varies from rolling hills to rocky canyons. Cottonwood trees give way to Pine and Juniper at higher elevations. This is the “High Plains” and here at home we are a little over 4,400 feet above sea level. There are Whitetail Deer to the north in the hills, but out here, we have Mule Deer and Pronghorn Antelope. In the higher hill-country, there is also a healthy Elk population.

Working outside has it’s perks … if you like being outdoors that is. Simple pleasures can be had by the thousands. Riding at dawn and having every mile within sight all to yourself is one of them …

Finding natural treasures is another simple pleasure …

Fall color on the Plains – Sagebrush, native grasses, dark orange lichen on the rocks …

There aren’t as many sheep ranchers in this area as there used to be. My friend, Anita, has sheep though and she is an avid knitter. She is also teaching herself to spin. Pretty soon, when the weather cools, she and her husband will butcher a few sheep. I ate mutton for the first time many years ago at a Basque restaurant in Nevada. Oh my, is it good. Mint or Jalapeno pepper jelly on the side is a must!

I did say that balancing work and play in life is important. So, here’z some genuine farmgirl fun for ya! Some of you who follow this blog know that I belong to our local MaryJanesFarm chapter. “We” are the “High Plains Sage Hens” and we get together once each month. We did so this past sunday – at Michele’s lovely home. As usual, we had a craft project planned. We made stuffed pumpkins from a variety of fabrics. Look for the directions in the next edition of the MaryJanesFarm sisterhood online publication, The Cluck. Michele guided us through the “pumpkin production” project. She also served us a yummy snack … pumpkin pinwheel cookies. We were each gifted with a jar of homemade apple butter too.

L to R: Ann, Anita, Jennie, Michele, Lisa. Michele made an outdoor napping place out of the old iron bed that we pulled from a ranch dump this past summer. Here are a few details about each of my farmgirl pals … Ann is a homemaker, an expert seamstress and she enjoys making wrapped wire jewelry. Anita, well, she is a 10 on the farmgirl scale – what doesn’t she make?! But, she’s also a licensed veterinary technician and she was also the very first fully credited female fireman in Wyoming. Oh, and she’s an EMT. Jennie is a very busy mom to two teenagers and she works as a dental hygienist. Her wit is as sharp as a Samurai sword and just standing next to her makes you smile from the inside out. Michele has enough creative talent for three people. She is so clever and she has an uncanny talent for decorating with the “unlikely”. Her home is a feast for the eyes. She is also an ER nurse. Lisa is the owner and editor of our local paper. She grew up working next to her parents in the same profession. Her grand-babies are the luckiest kids in the world – Lisa is so devoted to creating for them a treasure trove of “family tradition” memories.

Above: Michele’s “new” antique cupboard.

Above: Making “punkins”

Switching gears now … Do you have chickens? I bought Wellsummer and French Marans chicks in May and they started laying a couple of weeks ago. Anita gave me a Leghorn and a Rhode Island Red also. I haven’t had hens for four years and I’m really enjoying them. After I cleaned out my garden tank, I let them in the garden yard to snoop around. They love to dust-bathe in the tank. When Anita and I recently went to a nearby nursery to buy some perennials, I found the cutest little iron hen for garden decor (below). Mr. Punkinhead and his owl live at Michele’s house … I love owls!

Speaking of birds, the Cranes have been flying south for a couple of weeks. They sound like Fall. The Canada Geese wont be heard overhead for awhile yet. Below … when we were working cows in the corral, I spied a pair of Great Horned Owls – one on the roof of a run-in shed and the other in the rafters. Owls fascinate me. It is so rare to actually see one. Usually, you just hear them off in the distance in the dark. What a beauty and what a treat it was to see this one and I had my camera! I must be really easy to entertain … I was thrilled to watch them. Oh my, they are BIG birds. We also have Burrowing Owls out on the prairie. They live in “burrows” nestled in the brush. You only get a glance at them now & then when they fly off. I’ve loped over sagebrush (a’horseback) and flushed them out – no doubt they were near their hole. But again, you don’t get a good look at them. There is so much wildlife here and we do get to see more than most folks I imagine, but I am 54 years old and I’ve only seen a badger twice in my life. There are Mountain Lions and a lot of Bobcats here too, but I’ve never laid eyes on either. I hope I never lose the sense of wonder and awe in getting close to any wild animal. Heck, even the pretty little Song Sparrows with their fancy black & white striped heads stop me in my tracks.

With the passing of each October day, winter is getting closer & closer. We’ve had such a mild Autumn – a real & true “Indian Summer”. Our first hard frost didn’t happen until a little over a week ago and that is a full month later than usual. As time allows, we’re replacing the siding on our house, adding trim also and a new roof needs to happen. Realistically, it will be Spring before we can say the word “finished”. Seems like everything takes at least twice as long as you want it too. All things work in theory and plans are completed right on time too. Then there is reality. Life happens. But ya know, lets not get into that. Autumn is a time to press the pause button. The sagging slant of the sun and rustling leaves tease us … coaxing us to put our work down … maybe go for a stroll, or just sit on the porch for a spell. Work doesn’t get lost, it’ll be right where you left it.

  1. DogpackMOMMA says:

    Great photos! I have really enjoyed my maiden visit to your blog & look forward to many more future visits here…

  2. Debbie says:

    Oh my dear Shery,
    Where do I begin? How about with a good long sigh for starters and a few tears of joy for good measure…Joy abounds in your words and photos! As always I wish I could jump right in! I can smell the sage, feel the roughness of the rust covered jagged rocks buried in the landscape, hear the rustling of the leaves on the familiar cottonwood trees of my girlhood in Northern Nevada, and I long to pat a good horse on the neck from the seat of a saddle. (Once this darned kitchen remodel is done that’s where you’ll find me)!

    I can hear the laughter at your farm-girl chapter meeting and I’m soaking up all that creativity too!

    Your talents are many! So happy you can share them here with us!
    Love and happy fall,

  3. Diane Loehr says:

    I love all the animals – Thank you for introducing us to them. I also love the Pumpkins that you were making with a bunch of your friends. Can you tell us who you made them and what did you fill them with?

    I can’t wait to sit down later at lunch and read through this whole article. I just loved all the Fall touches! What a great time of year!

    Thanks- Diane

  4. Janice K. says:

    Yes! There is a reason that you always have a HUGE smile on your pretty face! I should say many reasons, since you enjoy so many wonderful activities in your gorgeous section of the country. You always make me have a flurry of activity in the creative department as you are truly inspirational!
    Here’s to having a wonderful fall and having more FUN…

  5. KD Earthworks says:

    Same for me. Such a special little visit into your beautiful, real world. Thank you so much. It’s like a mini vacation.
    I live in a beautiful world as well, damp ocean, rugged North coast of California. Beautiful large redwoods, crashing waves.We’re building a farm here, have an acre of veggies, 50 new fruit trees, brick oven, huge outdoor kitchen for processing veggies, meat and bread also – canning is almost done.
    We cleared all the land, milled the wood to build all our buildings.This years goal was trying to build pasture. Clearing out all the roots and brush, moving redwood trees (roots invade gardens).Then seeding. Maybe we too can get to pasture our horses and maybe a cow in the future.
    Sure love getting you blog! Katie

  6. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    Want. Those. Pumpkin. Cookies. NOW! (:

  7. carol branum says:

    Hi Sherry, We are equally having a wonderful fall here in Missouri.My friends and I made the same pumpkins for me to decorate the tables at my one room school reunion.Yes I have chickens and I also have the same metal rooster that you have. We have a lot in common, yes I love fall too, it is so pretty out today here.This weekend is our Folk Art Festival here in town, so I am excited about that, and I have several invitations to Halloween parties and fall get togethers with special artsy friends I am looking forward to. Enjoying every minute of it, carol branum

  8. Jan says:

    Shery, Once again I was totally absorbed in your latest blog. You sure have a wonderful gift with words and pictures! Fall is my favorite time of year, so I was anxious to read your fall blog, and I wasn’t disappointed! The pumpkins that you all made are so cute, will have to try makin one of those. I always enjoy seeing pics of your beautiful horses.
    Happy Fall to you and your family.

  9. RanchFarmgirl says:

    Hi Diane, We (all of us farmgirls at the hen party) made the pumpkins shown above. We filled them with rice. The complete directions will be in the upcoming edition of the "Cluck" – the online magazine for MJF sisterhood member/subscribers. Thank you everyone for the kind words aka soul food. You make my day, week, month. :o)

  10. meredith says:

    Wow! Our life revolves around grass too – amazing how it keeps us and our animals fed. My husband farms (hay, corn, Herefords) and is a hay broker as well, selling hay all over the east coast. Who would think (besides a fellow rancher/farmer) that your life would be run by grass! Love your post- Meredith

  11. Julie W says:

    Shery, Your prose and photography leave me breathless with wonder!!!!!!!! A feast for my eyes and soul. What a treasure.

  12. Kathy says:

    I love your website Shery. I look forward to your beautiful pictures each month. You have such an eye for color and for things of nature. Your pictures always inspire me to put together some of those colors in my home. I too love red!! We’re having an awesome fall in Western NC. The leaves are as beautiful as any I’ve seen. Keep writing and taking pictures. You are so inspiring.

  13. gwen quon says:

    What a beautiful life you have. It would be a life I would love to experience. I have
    horses and bunnies and labs so I do surround myself with critters and nature.
    Your pictures and writing truly take us all there and we can linger longer as we
    sit and look with a good cup of something hot. The season of Fall is my favorite and you captured it in such a lovely way!!
    Thank you

  14. Lucie says:

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful fall experiences. What a talented group of women you have gathered around you. Look forward to hearing more.

  15. mellee says:

    What lovely photos and a great story you tell. A day in your life is truly an event. Thank you for sharing yourself with us; I know I benefited greatly from taking the time to read your post. I am under a deadline for an exam, two kids in two different age brackets with their various obligations, and a husband who works way too hard but still takes the time to entertain the children so I can get some study time in on the weekends. What a different place Wyoming must be from Virginia. You said you are over 4000 feet above sea level; where we live on the bay we are seven feet above sea level! Thank you again for your wonderful post. Can’t wait to read the next one.

  16. Angie Bowman says:

    What is the breed name for the white chicken with a few black spots that is shown in your "Fall Work" blog? Thanks!

  17. RanchFarmgirl says:

    Hi Angie, The black and white hen is a French breed called Cuckoo or Barred Marans – referring to the feather pattern which goes by the name of both of those words. For example, there are Barred Rocks also – in addition to Rocks of other colors etc. If you were referring to the white hen – the dark "spots" are clumps of garden dirt since she was taking a dust bath in my garden tank. She is a common white Leghorn. Shery

  18. Tj says:

    Give your hubby an "Atta Boy!" for his great hay-stacking abilities!! VERY nice!! I’m hopelessly addicted to haystacks, my "previous life" having been running a boarding/training horse stable in central Texas where ALLLLLLLL the hay is trucked in from somewhere (even from just further out in TX). My eyes are green for a reason when I see a luxurious, abundant PLETHORA of beautifully cured, tightly stacked HAY!!!!!!!!!!

    My own DH and kids and I were elk hunting this weekend here in southern Montana, and my heart/mental camera took lots of photos that look so similar to yours down in northern Wyoming… round bales, square bales, huge single-bale high patches and towering 3-high stacks…

    Autumn. Haystacks. Harvest finishing. Good working horses and cattle work and pumpkins and the smell of pine and sage in a hunting campfire… I’m filling my lungs and mind with gorgeous air and images, and smiling from ear to ear!!

  19. Rene Foust says:

    Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy reading your posts and admiring your pictures they are always so full of life and completely awe inspiring!

  20. What a fabulous blog! My first visit and I am completely overwhelmed! I too have a Morgan horse, she’s 21 now and still full of P ‘n’ v! I don’t ride her nearly as much as I’d like to, but just love being with her. She’s starting to get her shaggy "woolly mammoth" winter coat now. Thanks again Shery for the great prose and photos!

  21. Reba says:

    I know I am late sending this, but just had time to pour over, read, and savor all of the photos/writing. You are a wonderful writer and photographer. The fact that you had the Owl on here was amazing, and I had to send this, even late.
    We live in the Southeast in the City, with streetlights (ugh). And as my hubby got up to go to work before dawn, he looked out onto our patio and turned the light on. A beautiful owl was sitting on the bird bath!! He and I both have had an awesome wonder that the owl even came so close to our home and feel blessed that there is peace here so that she feels welcome. Unfortunately, hubby barely had his eyes open, much less have his camera. But she really opened them for him!! He was in awe that she would sit long enough to get a good description of her, to tell anyone that would listen. She was sitting for sometime for him to admire. My only wish is that I had seen her, but he didn’t move away until she did, but was so excited and came to wake me up. Nature is so amazing. Even where we live we have had raccoons, possums, snakes, and other wildlife that visit, I guess, following the large creek in our subdivision. Thank you for your time in writing and sharing and bringing out the sharing in us.

  22. cora jo says:

    Shery, awesome job as usual. can’t wait for next time. your nh friend,cjc

  23. Brenda says:

    Your fall looks lovely from here. Ours seems to be winding down. We had the wind storm that has blown most of the pretty leaves away and hubs has finished dumping out my flower pots of pretty much dead flowers. I am not a winter person and have started hole-ing up with my Christmas gift making. Love the pumpkins, very cute. Just collected the largest egg yesterday we have gotten so far. I would call it a jumbo and think it must be from our giant black hen, or it has to have at least 2 yolks or 3 if possible? Wanted to crack it last night when I brought it in but I did not need it for anything. I could not even put it in the egg carton because it would not close. Posted a picture on my blog I was so proud of my hen.

  24. Louise Fredieu says:

    Hi Shery:
    WOW! What a wonderful life you have! I love all the pictures especially the ones of the animals. They all look so healthy and loved. I especially like….uh-oh….i like them all! The owl is amazing and doesn’t look as if he likes having his picture taken. The cats, dogs, chickens, cows, horses…wow, you do spread your love around. Then the human animals look well-loved and well-fed also. You certainly shared your little slice of Wyoming well. I’d bet you some people call it heaven!

  25. Betsy Cline says:

    I am sooooo jealous. You are living the life I wish I could just visit. I have always said that I would love to go on a round up and be in the saddle because it was my job. You make me close my eyes and dream about what you wrote about. I was always a cowgirl at heart.
    Thanks for the joy from reading your story.

  26. Vicky says:

    Shery, Mary Jane, they would make a neat-o purse but its always best to re-sole a great pair of boots. If you haven’t worn the tops and shanks out than they can be regifted. Those are real knock-out stomping boots. Looking good! What a super gift!

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