Birds of Oklahoma Winter

 

Oklahoma with its mild winter is host to many birds. The meadowlark and the cardinals keep busy and wait out spring along with nuthatches and the tiny tufted titmouse. The meadowlark with its yellow chest and belly and its stripes and choir scarf of jet black is my favorite of all the birds.

The winters are not hard or long here on the Oklahoma plains. With the brownheaded cowbirds and the redwinged blackbirds, the blue jay, a multitude of sparrows, doves, and the indomitable crow we wait together. We hope for a bit of snow and sometimes have ice instead which wreaks havoc on the trees and power lines. The birds don’t mind as long as I fill the feeders!

Here’s my spring poem about the meadowlark. I hope you enjoy it!

Meadowlark

By Elece Hollis

Dandelions in the grass

Smiling sweetly as I pass

Nodding heads of yellow fluff

You tell me I don’t smile enough?

 

Meadowlark perched on the fence

Would you sing for fifty cents?

“I only sing for free,” said he,

“For life is sweet and good to me.”

 

Iris fronds like swords of green

Purple blossoms in between,

You say I’m walking much too fast?

How many wonders I walk past!

 

Oak tree towering overhead

Rooted in a lily bed

My vision is too small you think?

I do not know how deep roots sink?

 

Snow white clouds up in the blue

You tell me what I fear is true.

I hurry, scurry, stop too rarely

Only know my world too sparely!

 

Remind me to come out of self

To take my soul down from the shelf,

To find the Lark’s own cause to sing.

Yes, life is good and sweet in spring.

 

 

Elece Hollis is a mother to seven and grandmother to 24. She lives in Oklahoma where she is retired from homeschooling  and writes full time. Elece likes to paint, write poetry, and is a photographer who enjoys shooting nature, especially flowers. She helps her husband on their 80 acre farm where they grow pecans and raise beef cattle. She is currently working on a book of prayers and a book of poetry.

 

Life with Mama (http://bit.ly/2LIFEMAMA)

What’s Good About Home (http://bit.ly/2MYHOME)

Heart of Spring (http://bit.ly/TeachSprg1)

 

 

Winter Wind on the Prairie

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The winds that sweep across Oklahoma are an amazing thing to me. Wind is a prominent feature of our weather here––everyone thinks of tornadoes when they think of Oklahoma. Right?

The wind brings us cold from the northwest in the winter, warm days and wet in the spring, scorching heat in the summer, and a welcome relief in the fall. Wind sends white clouds dancing across the huge blue dance floor of the Oklahoma sky and it jangles our windchimes for so long at times we have to go out and bring them inside.

Wind is the voice and the song of the prairie.

Here is another wind poem which I hope you will enjoy.

 

Wind Song

Winds blow the leaves from the branches

Trees grow weary and lean,

Winds blow the blue out of the sky

Steals the green from the grasses again.

The fence posts give and the barbed wire bends

Tends toward Texas way,

Grasshoppers gone with the summer sun;

They’ll be back some gentler day.

The winds that roll bumbling tumbleweeds,

Those ceaseless drying winds,

Come uninvited––whip and fray––yet never say

Sorry or make amends.

 

 

The Bible makes many references to the wind. Here are two samples.

Blowing toward the south, then turning toward the north, the wind continues swirling around; And on its circular courses the wind returns.                                                   Ecclesiastes 1:6 NASB

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.    John 3:8 NASB

 

 

 

Read Elece’s poetry and stories in Life with Mama

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/life-with-mama-elece-hollis/1129501922?ean=9781727062755

 

Simple Pleasures on a Winter Day

When winter comes, I still find beauty in the country sights and sounds. Horses stand in the sunshine to soak the warmth in. Bare trees show their gnarled selfs with no leaves to interfere. Fog swaddles them in the early hours until the sun comes and sips it silently for breakfast. Those fallen dry leaves blanket the ground and enrich it for the next spring. Pines are some of the only greens. I love pinecones. Birds fly overhead. Their calls seem to echo in cold white skies. Dried morning glory, trumpet vine, and honeysuckle cling for support to older but stable fences. Snow piles up then melts away. Late afternoon sun warms sidewalk bricks. Flowerbeds of iris and roses hibernate.

 

Cardinals in the Snow

“Cardinals sit like bright gift bows on snowy branches and bring cheer to colorless winter days.” c.e.hollis

Loving Winter

Not a leaf is left on the sky-reaching branches of the sycamore tree outside my family room window. The cardinals love the debarked limbs and the seed feeders hung like Christmas tree ornaments in its branches. They are winter birds that stay here for the duration and enjoy the cold weather. I counted four pairs this morning and in coming weeks more will move in until we have ten or twelve couples.

The sycamore reigns over the farm. It has grown taller now than any of the oaks or pecan trees. My children used to love climbing and playing up in the branches amid the dinnerplate sized leaves. The tree shades my porch and makes the side yard a nicer place for sitting on a hot summer’s day. In the fall we light our patio fire pit, wrap ourselves in blankets, and sit out on the porch swing evenings to listen to the farm.

There is the sound of our cows, the mamas bawling at calves, the mooing, and contented lowing at the “brother-herd.” There is the sound of the wind rattling the clusters of dry leaves in the big oak. It sounds like an African rain stick, almost like fine but unsteady rainfall  on a tin roof. There is the sound of dogs barking and occasionally a pack of coyotes howling at the night. Often we hear owls: screech owls whinnying, great horned owls laughing, barking, yipping, and who-who-who-who-whoing back and forth  to one another from the creek banks and the screech of spook-faced barn owls.

The cardinals songs are varied and musical whistles with tweets and churrs thrown in. They are happy sounds in the dreary wintertime. Their color on a drab gray day or on a snowy day sends a message of hope––beautiful, sweet hope amid the troubles and trials and the harsh parts of life.

Cranberry Pecan Pie is Christmas Special

PecansCranberry-Pecan pie is great for Christmas events. Yummy sweet paired with tart cranberry makes it special. Make two or a honey-pecan at the same time. My family love’s both of these pies!

Here’s how to make the pie crust. (Have no fear. Pie crust is easy-peasy!) I make two crusts using lard which I think makes the best crust. My daughter uses real butter instead. Combine two cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 2/3 cup lard or butter and mix until the dough is crumbly like cornmeal. Gradually add 7 tablesoons of ice cold water and form into a ball. Knead lightly and divide for two pie plates. Roll out on a floured board and fit into the pie pans. Crimp the edges. (Don’t worry about getting the crimping perfect. Imperfection shows the crust is homemade.) Remember the more you fuss and work on pie dough the tougher it will get.

For the Cranberry-pecan pie filling: mix together two cups of fresh cranberries, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup pecans, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour into the crust. Now beat together 2 eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/3 cup graulated sugar, and 3 tablespoons flour. Mix this well and pour over the cranberries. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer. Center should be set.

The other crust can be used for a honey-pecan pie. Here is the recipe for honey-pecan pie: Cream 1/2 butter with 1 cup granulated sugar. Add 3 eggs and beat after each egg. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons light corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of baking soda. Stir in 1 cup pecan halves and pour all into the waiting crust. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the center is set.

Apples and Apple Pies

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My dad loved apples just about as much as anything. Dad was a forester and he worked out on tree farms of Michigan inspecting and marking trees for a living. He often visited with the land owner and sometimes came home with a bushel basket of apples.  He knew where the best apple orchards were to go for Cortlands, Gravensteins, winesaps, and Jonathans. He also knew who pressed cider and always bought us some in the fall.

Dad loved all the textures, colors, and varieties of apples. Certain types like Northern Spy and Romes were best for pies and others like Macintosh were best for eating fresh. Dad carried an apple with him most of the time and crunched away at its sweet juiciness while he drove or worked.

Of a winter evening, Dad loved to slice a couple of apples into a skillet with some butter and brown sugar and eat that with ice cream. It was pie without the crust, but pretty yummy.

I have inherited that love of the fruit from Eden. I love a fresh crunchy apple. I love an apple pie, but I want homemade crust and hot juicy filling. I prefer a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese melted on the top to ice cream. I do love cheese. I do.

My Dad taught me so many things and so many are connected somehow to his love of trees.  He raised Christmas trees and sold trees many years. He knew the names of most all American trees. He brought home sacks of black walnuts from the woods and dried them in the basement on the floor behind the furnace.

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Pie Pumpkins aren’t always Orange

fullsizeoutput_7ad1This pretty white pumpkin isn’t orange at all, but will make at least 4 fine orange pumpkin pies! I never knew there were other colors of pumpkins until a few years ago. Pumpkins come in all shades of orange and tan, and even white, gray, blue, and purple. Yet most are orange meated.

The pumpkins we grew up seeing were round and bright primary orange. The rounded orange ones usually for sale around Halloween are thin-walled and easier to carve so they are just right for the season. The squatty tan pumpkins have thicker meat and are good for pie baking. I have tried all colors even the blues.

I like a pie made from the fresh pumpkin instead of the canned pumpkin. Why not try it?

Pumpkin Pie

Plan for two pies. Make two crusts and place those into pie plates and crimp the edges.

Crust recipe: 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup of lard, shortening or butter. 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut the shortening or butter into the flour until crumbly. Add 7 tablespoons of ice water. Stir into a ball. Knead until mixed well then divide in two balls and roll out.

Cut up and clear the seeds and strings from inside your pumpkin and place it in a stock pot over boiling water to steam for about 30 minutes. Then cut out the soft pulp. You will need three cups for two pies.  Add the cooled pumpkin pulp to 2 cups of sugar and 4 egg yolks and 2 cups milk. Mix together. Add spices: 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat the egg whites until fluffy and then fold them into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into the two pie crusts and place in preheated oven (350 degrees) for 40 minutes.

This makes a wonderful couple of from-scratch pumpkin pies with a nice custard and flavor. Freeze one for later. Serve with whipped cream.