October 21, 2011

Potato Harvest

Sorry for the complete lack of posts.  We have been so busy lately trying to finish our summer projects

Our 400' potato patch has been harvested.  We grew white Kennebec potatoes.  They are delicious mashed, fried, and baked. 

Throughout the summer we battled the Colorado potato beetle.  I tried picking them by hand, diatomaceous earth, and Bt.  Finally, my sister-in-law picked up something called Spinosad.  It's a bacteria only found in an old rum factory in the Caribbean.  It has been used in organic farming since the early 80s.  It was extremely effective at killing the potato bugs, although I did have to use it twice (several weeks apart).  I'm not sure where the potato bugs came from, since we were miles away from the house garden (where we've had problems with the potato bugs in past years).  Interestingly, I tried growing some Russets in the smaller garden, and they did not have any potato bugs.  They must have all flown to the "mother lode" potato patch.

We controlled the weeds by using a rototiller in between the rows.  Some organic farmers think it's harmful to the soil to use a tiller, but we have such heavy clay soil that it's almost impossible to grow anything unless we can break it up.  Plus it was way too much work for one person to try and hoe all those rows.  Our soil is so heavy that the potatoes did not even grow down, they only grew in the hills.  That tells you how hard our ground is!  We have talked about stripping off the top layer of soil and laying down a bunch of manure, then replacing the topsoil.  If we ever get some free time it might happen, but right now we are still pretty busy.

We estimate it was about a 400 pound harvest.  I stored 8 burlap sacks in the basement of the hired man's house, plus we have a couple of 5 gallon buckets in the in-laws' garage full of potatoes that were cut during harvest.  We need to use those first because they won't keep at all.  I am so glad to be done with it.  Hopefully the potatoes will keep all winter and we'll be eating our own organic, homegrown potatoes into the spring. 

September 11, 2011

Got a Picky Eater? Never Give Up!

When I first began learning to cook, I made a dish of orzo with diced red bell peppers and zucchini.  My future husband looked at his plate with absolute horror.  He claimed to despise bell peppers, zucchini, and anything even remotely resembling rice.  Since that incident 6 years ago, I have rarely served any of those 3 items.  But this summer I've been on a low-carb kick.  And I happen to have lots and lots of zucchini in my garden.  I noticed this recipe for Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats on Heavenly Homemakers awhile ago, but figured I could never serve it to my husband.  Surely he would turn up his nose at it.  Surely he would complain the house smelled funny because I was cooking something "wierd".

However, going low carb (or should I say no carb?) can get really boring.  I was making the same dishes twice a week.  And the fastest way for me to get bored with my healthy food is to eat the same thing over and over.  So one night, when we had some leftovers that I knew my husband would eat, I decided to try making the Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats for my kids and myself.  They were quick to throw together, and I let them sit in the oven on low heat while I put the baby to bed.  When the boys were on their way home, I cut out some triangles and taped them to toothpicks to make 'sails' and stuck them in the 'boats'.  My husband walked in and smiled.  He was really hungry and ate 1 1/2 zucchini boats without complaint.  In fact, he said "they were not bad." 

"So," I said, "could you stand eating these once a year?" 
"No, these are good!" he said. 
Wow!!  I was giddy! 

The next day, he requested a leftover boat for his lunch.  And then the next day he did it again!  My husband, a self proclaimed hater of zucchini, actually wanted to eat a dish based entirely on zucchini! 

I have seen him do this with other foods too- fresh pineapple and sauteed broccoli, for example.  Maybe it's because nobody ever properly prepared these foods in an appealing way.  Maybe he wasn't exposed to them enough.  Maybe he just needed to pretend his food was a sailboat!  Who knows?  The point is, when it comes to serving food to your picky spouse, you have to get creative and don't give up!  Now, I don't expect him to ever love rice, but maybe someday he will ask me to cook some butternut squash.  I think I could carve it into the shape of a boat....

August 30, 2011

I'm Back! And Butchering Chickens...

Today I butchered chickens.  Gathered in the corral (krell) were Bertha, Bambi, James (new guy), Butch, Little Buddy, and myself.  It's been very hot and dry, but today was overcast with a light drizzle of rain, perfect weather for processing some chicken carcasses.  We used a propane powered turkey fryer to boil our water.  After waiting and waiting and waiting, the water still was not hot.  My mother-in-law, Bertha, began gathering chickens anyway.  "Gathering" sounds rather peaceful.  There was lots of wing-flapping, feathers flying, and squawking.  I just watched them. 

Bambi decided to do the honor of cutting off their heads while Bertha held their bodies.  Once they are dead, they really do flop around for several minutes, hence the expression, "running around like a chicken with its head cut off".  After they stopped flopping, we would hold them in the hot water.  This makes feather removal so much easier.  They almost fall off when you touch them if the water is hot enough.  I offered to remove the guts, which is probably the least favorite job among us chicken butcherers.   You have to be careful not to pierce the intestines.  Once the guts are all removed, you can save whatever "innards" you want.  James kept telling me to save the livers but I'm pretty sure he was talking about the lungs.  Whatever. 

The dogs like to chew on the feet.  I've read that chicken feet make very nutritious broth but there is so much dirt and poop caked onto the bottoms of their feet that it just seems gross.  We  have a friend from Vietnam who asked us to save her the heads last summer.  She proceeded to make chicken head soup, feathers and all.  I did not taste it. 

Little Buddy wanted to kill one.  Bambi held his hand on the hatchet and helped him whack a few.  I told him he also needed to help us pluck the feathers if he was going to kill them.  I was trying to show him it's not just all fun and games to kill an animal, and that there has to be a purpose behind the killing.  He did not care for the feather plucking.  He did enjoy it when James and Butch helped him cut the feet off the carcasses. 

All told I think we got about 18.  We rinsed the bodies, threw them in garbage bags and into the walk-in cooler at my mother-in-law's house.  Tomorrow I'll bag them individually for freezing.  I'll also take some of them home to skin and cut into pieces.  That way when a recipe calls for chicken thighs, I won't have to defrost several chickens all at once. 

It is a ton of work to do all this, but we feel good knowing where our food comes from.  I enjoy working with the others.  The chickens we butcher ourselves will last us all winter. 

And in case you were wondering, no, I did not eat any chicken today. 

August 2, 2011

Baby Girl is Walking!

My baby girl is walking!!!  She has been ready for a couple months now.  Yesterday she took 2 baby steps.  Today her big brother was pulling a chair down the driveway, and she wanted it, so she started to chase him.  Except she was on her feet!! 

July 12, 2011

What To Do with All That Zucchini

It's that time of year!  Gardens overflow with that beautiful green squash.  I have at least two zucchini plants, which is already one too many, and I may have two more.  Last year I didn't have any zucchini and I actually missed it.  This summer I'm excited about making the most of my zucchini!  I've compiled a list of recipes here that go beyond the usual 'zucchini bread', and I'm determined to try every new one!  I'll continue to update this page as I find more recipes.

Tried and loved:

Chocolate Zucchini Bread (All Recipes)

Sausage Zucchini Bake (Kitchen Stewardship)

Zucchini Basil Lasagna (Cooking Light)

Can't wait to try:

Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats

Cinnamon Frosted Zucchini Bars (Shugary Sweets)

Zucchini Cakes (Pioneer Woman)

Zucchini Crisp (Joy in My Kitchen)

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Crustless Quiche (Food Network)

Zucchini Parmesan (Joy in My Kitchen)

What else can you do with zucchini?  You can slice it up and grill it, you can grate it and freeze it to make zucchini bread in the winter, you can saute it in olive oil with some garlic, and you can dehydrate it and throw it into winter soups. 

How do you like to use zucchini?

June 25, 2011

A Perfect Day

Today was a very good day to be on the prairie.  I had fresh spinach from my own garden with my breakfast.  I was able to get quite a bit of cleaning done in the house (and it stayed clean).  I made buns from scratch to go with barbequed brisket for lunch.  My kids took at nap at the same time, which allowed me to nap as well.  My mother-in-law worked her tail off in the garden, weeding and tilling and planting new things (celery!) and now it looks so much nicer.  I learned how to use the weed-eater (sort of) and cut lots of weeds.  In the afternoon I was able to mow the lawn in front of the hired man's house, a chore I really enjoy (it helps that we have a riding lawnmower I think).  My kids played with their cousin outdoors, and for the most part they were content.  The weather was gorgeous- sunny, not too hot, and hardly any mosquitos.  Pretty much a perfect day on the prairie. 

June 22, 2011

Sun Tea

A refreshing alternative to ice water is iced tea.  But who wants to heat up the kitchen even a little bit by boiling water?  Instead, use the natural power of the sun!  All you need are a clear glass pitcher or jar with a lid, water, and a couple of iced teabags.  Fill your pitcher or jar with cool water (I even put ice in to fill it up faster).  Then pop the teabags into the water.  My tea directions say to use 8 glasses of water with 2 teabags, but I don't measure.  If the tea comes out too strong, you can dilute it with more water.  Put the lid on the container and set it outside in a sunny spot for several hours.  I like to set it out in the morning and it's ready by lunch.  To serve, fill a cup with ice, then pour the tea over that.  Store it in the fridge. 


You should use a glass container so the BPA from plastic doesn't leach into your tea.  But I used a plastic pitcher, because I don't have a glass container that's big enough.  Shhhh, don't tell my Real Foodie blogging friends...

You really do need a lid for your container so you don't get bugs in your tea.  Unless you think you need the extra protein.

June 19, 2011

How Far I've Come

The first time I visited the ranch, my future in-laws welcomed me by slaughtering a pig.  I was a sheltered suburban girl, and while I wasn't an "animal lover", it bothered me to watch my man kill the pig.  I turned around, shut my eyes, covered my ears, and cried until it was over.  I couldn't even eat eggs at breakfast that day.  I barely got some toast in me.

But at lunch... I ate pork.  I can't remember if it was side pork or pork chops. 

Many people find the idea of killing your own food revolting.  I used to be one of them.  Now that I've lived here awhile though, I believe butchering my own meat has given me a greater respect for the animal I'm eating.  I care about what the animal is eating, and the condition of her health when she is killed, because I don't want to eat a sick animal. 

And of course, I have come to believe in the health benefits of eating the beef we raise.  I know the cow has had minimal, if any, antibiotic.  I know she's eaten lots of grass and hay, has been finished on corn.  I know she hasn't been given synthetic hormones to make her grow bigger, faster.  I know she had a nice life- she has roamed the wide prairie for months and only for the past few weeks has she been confined to the corral.  If I want to, I can watch her die humanely, with a single shot to the head.  I can even kill her myself.  It is a quick and painless death.  I know she doesn't suffer.  I will have the privilege of processing the carcass myself (and it is a privilege to me). 

We've branched out from beef since I've been here.  Now we are raising meat chickens, turkeys, and ducks (for our own consumption, not to sell).  I love seeing the birds run around in the grass eating bugs, just as God intended them to eat.  We got araucuna chickens, and they look great.  I really like their multi-colored feathers.  Amazingly, 11 turkey poults are thriving (I once read that turkey poults are suicides waiting to happen- they are very difficult to raise).  And the ducks are my favorite.  Every morning we herd them out of their "nest" and into the reservoir.  They race through the grass, chirping happily, splashing in every available puddle.  They spend their days swimming in the reservoir.  At night we herd them back inside to keep them safe from predators. 

We are interdependent on these animals.  They would not be alive if we did not care for them.  We would not care for them if we were not going to eat them.  We would not be alive without these animals to eat.

Now, when the time comes, I am able (mentally, emotionally, and physically) to kill them and eat them (although usually not in the same day).  That's one way that I have really changed since moving out here.     

June 10, 2011

Gardening With Baby

We had a cool day after some extreme heat last week.  We jumped at the chance to garden.

There's something for everyone in the garden.

Nice kitty.

 Now let me examine your teeth.

Oooh, there's a paw!

Hee hee!

I'm so funny!

June 7, 2011

Important Safety Message

Please go to Parenting's website and read this article on ways to prevent hot car deaths.  According to the article, some 30 children die every year in hot cars, usually because the driver forgets the child is in the car.  Here are some ways to prevent tragedy, from the article:

- put a stuffed animal in your child's carseat, and move it to the front seat when your child is in his carseat

- put your briefcase or purse in the backseat

- have your daycare provider call you if your child is not dropped off promptly

- there are alarms you can purchase that will go off if you leave a child in his carseat; for more information on where to purchase these, please refer to the end of the article

Also, please be aware that cars can heat up very quickly, even on relatively cool days.  A child can die in 15 minutes when it's 75 degrees out, depending on what the child is wearing and when he last drank soemething.  And you can't depend on a cracked window to keep it cool either, contrary to popular belief.

Please take a few minutes to read this article.  It could save a life.

June 5, 2011

Water Baby

Almost as soon as the Great Flood of 2011 happened, it was over.  Now we are officially into summer!  We bought a $20 blow-up pool and tried it out for the first time today.  It met with approval.

I love summer!!!

June 2, 2011

Honey Fruit Salad

If you are looking for the world's easiest side dish to take to summer barbeques, look no further!  My grandmother used to slice up strawberries and toss them with honey for a simple side or dessert.  This weekend I had some berries staring at me from the fridge and I remembered her way of dressing up fresh fruit.

Honey Fruit Salad

1 tsp melted honey
1 cup summer fruit (mixed berries, strawberries, peaches)

Combine honey and fruit.  Serve.

May 31, 2011

Color Collage

I've started researching various arts and crafts for kids because 1) I plan to homeschool my kids, 2) my son is at the age where he can start doing things independently, 3) I anticipate my nephew will be spending lots of time with us this summer, and I want him to have something to do besides watch TV when he's at our house, and 4) I really enjoy them!  I am looking for projects that would be enjoyed by a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, and they should require pretty basic supplies.  So, without further ado, I present our first craft, the Color Collage!  I got the idea from Art Projects for Kids.  The idea is pretty simple: pick a color, cut out magazine pictures of that color, and glue them all together on a piece of paper. 

My 6-year-old nephew made this one.
 My nephew didn't need any help, although I did give him a couple of pictures from the magazine I was using.  In turn, he gave me a few pictures from his magazine, so there was some good teamwork going on!

My son didn't really "get" the whole concept, but he enjoyed practicing with the scissors and the glue.  Plus I felt good about spending "quality" time with him. 

The one my son and I made.

This little project also opened my eyes to the fact that I felt the Little Buddy needed my help to do the whole thing.  I'll have to keep this in mind on future projects, and remember to let him take responsibility for his own work.

May 24, 2011

Update on the Great Flood of 2011

The creek continued to rise after my last post about the Great Flood of 2011.  Yesterday we had a brief respite from the rain, and this is what the ranch looked like:

 This is looking northeast from the concrete bridge:

Behind the chicken house:

Not everyone minded the puddles:

This is what my in-laws call "The Irrigation".  My parents call it "The Waterfall":

Looking the other direction from the Irrigation (or the Waterfall):

In the afternoon, my husband and the new kid cleaned branches off our road:

Also in the afternoon I noticed that much of the dirt that was banked up against the entrance to the bridge had washed away:

It was perfect weather for an afternoon stroll in the wagon:

 By the end of our walk, the road by our house was pretty much dry:

The creek has finally dropped some, but it continues to drizzle.  Hopefully we are nearing the end of the Great Flood of 2011.

May 22, 2011

The Great Flood of 2011

The past week we've had almost non-stop rain.  At first it was nice, but now it's just getting old.  The creek has risen dramatically, and our fields have flooded for the second time this spring.  Also, the basement in our hired man's house flooded, forcing the downstairs occupant out of his room.  Hopefully things will start to dry up this week! 

Here are some shots I snapped yesterday.  This one was taken on the road from my house to my in-laws' house:

 This is the concrete bridge over the creek.  Usually the water is contained underneath the green part of the bridge.  Now it's come out of the banks:

And going up the ramp to the bridge, looking to the left:

Turning 90 degrees from the above spot one can see a fenced-in pasture.  The fence crosses the creek here, and the water is almost to the top of the fence! 

Here's the same fence, viewed from the hired man's house.  We'll have plenty of sticks to pick up when the creek finally goes down:

Today when I went out I had to dodge branches all along that same road as in the first picture.  The water rose even more during the night!

We usually don't get flooding like this, especially this late in the season.  The water will kill some of the hay, but overall it should help it grow.  Of greater concern is the threat of the road being washed out.  My brother-in-law drove out here from town today, and he went through 2 1/2 feet of water in one spot on the county road.  Good thing he has a 4-wheel-drive!  We need it to survive out here!

May 15, 2011

Spring Happenings on the Ranch

Just thought I'd give you a peek at some of the goings-on around here.

We've planted carrots, spinach, peas, cosmos, kale, lettuce and broccoli in the garden. 

That's a brussels sprouts plant that overwintered.  I'm hopeful but not too optimistic that we'll get any sprouts.

That's dirt on her face, not freckles.  She loves being outside in the garden.

We bought 50 pounds of Kennebec seed potatoes.  It was very sunny when we planted the potato patch, so we tried to protect the baby's head. 

Our potato patch consists of 4 rows of potatoes, each about 100 feet long.   We planted them in the middle of a field to be farmed. We are hoping to grow enough potatoes to feed us all winter, with plenty to spare.

We have lots of baby chicks growing.  Most of them are for meat, just a few are for eggs.  This picture was taken 2 weeks ago, and they are already alot bigger.

Most hatcheries sell Cornish Cross for meat chickens.  They are bred to grow really big really fast.  They are ready to butcher in 6-8 weeks.   Many die of heart attacks before they are ready to be butchered, especially if they have access to chick feed at night.  Their legs can't support the weight of their bodies, and it's just gross.  This year we decided to try Araucana chicks instead. They won't be quite as big as the Cornish Cross, and they should be ready to butcher in 12 weeks.

We've started branding our calves and hope the weather cooperates so we can finish this week (but it doesn't look promising).  We've done some farming, trying to grow our own cow feed to save money. 

What are your spring happenings?

May 11, 2011

The Graft

When a calf dies, we often try to get the mother to adopt a calf whose mom is either unable or unwilling to take of him.  A calf might die because of a birth defect, but the cow will go on to produce healthy calves in later calving seasons.  We want to save her, instead of sell her, especially if she is a "good" mom, so we try to keep her milk production up until we have a calf that needs a new mom.  Candidates for adoption would be calves whose moms are sick, crazy, or who don't have milk.  A sick cow cannot care for her calf because of the physical toll it takes on her body.  The crazy cow kicks her calf away, sometimes killing him before we can get to him.  Then there is the occasional cow that doesn't make enough milk, and her calf doesn't thrive.  In these cases, we will take the calf off its mom and "graft" it to a good mom.  A good mom is healthy enough to take care of the calf, has plenty of good quality milk, and likes her calf.  She cleans him off when he's born, encourages him to nurse, and stays near him. 

Tonight my husband had to put down a calf who wasn't going to pull through a severe infection.  We had another calf whose mom wasn't making enough milk, and we'd been bottle-feeding him for at least a week.  Bertha brought the live calf down to the shed in the calving pasture.  Together we skinned the dead calf.  Almost as soon as we were finished, the dead calf's mom walked into the corral, mooing for her calf.  She stood right where her calf should have been, sniffing the ground, eyeing us with suspicion.  We chased her into a pen right outside the shed.  She could hear the sickly calf inside.  We took the skin and made holes for his arms and legs.  Then we slipped the skin on the calf.  It looked like a very warm coat.  Then we let the mom inside.  She sniffed the calf.  She knew something was different, but she kept him close by, mooing softly at him.  We coaxed them into the pen, got the cow into the head catch, and positioned the calf to nurse.  He took off right away, eagerly slurping down the warm milk.  She calmed right down, and pretty soon we let her out of the head catch.  The calf went right back to nursing, very peacefully.  A situation that could have been sad (for the good mom) and costly (for us) had a happy ending for both. 

May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

This morning my 2-year-old left the safety gate leading into the garage unlatched, so the baby quickly crawled in.  He ran after her to "check on her".  A few minutes later he called out, "I'm brushing her hair!" "That's nice," I said.  Then he came to the doorway and showed the "brush" he had been using on my baby's head- a little broom we use to clean the floor!

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter Sunday.  My day went pretty well.  I ended up cooking most of the Easter meal, kind of on accident, but everyone was very complimentery of the food.  I made sweet potatoes, corn pudding, and a broccoli cheese dish from Cook's Illustrated.  The main dish was a ham.  My husband's grandmother brought out an ice cream cake for dessert!  What a treat!  We ate at my in-laws' house, as usual.  In the afternoon we cut up some beef.  My sister-in-law brought her fiancee out to the ranch for the weekend, and it was nice to get to know him a little better.  I give him the thumbs up.  The weather was gorgeous, the food was good, the company was pleasant, so all in all it was a great holiday.  For Lent, I gave up reading blogs, which is kind of challenging when you have your own blog.  I am looking forward to catching up on what's been going on around the blogosphere this week!  Happy Easter!

April 21, 2011

How to Use up Leftover Ham

Easter is this Sunday, and what is better for Easter dinner than a ham?    But how to use up all those leftovers?  Here are my top 5 favorite recipes.  Three of them are soups, just because soup is so nourishing when made with real bone broth. 

Mexican Ham and Bean Soup

Split Pea Soup (this will be on next week's menu for sure!)

Summer Corn and White Bean Soup

Goat Cheese, Artichoke, and Smoked Ham Strata

Not exactly Real Food, but Taste of Home's Broccoli Ham Ring is a yummy snack!

What is your favorite ham recipe?

April 19, 2011

Jamie Oliver Tonight!

Hey Real Foodies,
Don't forget Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is on tonight, 8/7c on ABC.  Can't wait!

April 11, 2011

The Bovine Cesarean

A couple of weeks ago I got to assist with a bovine cesarean!  This was the first c-section they've done in the 3 1/2 years I've been here.  Butch and Bertha called me to let me know what was going on.  I raced down to the barn with the kids.  I was pretty nervous and giddy with excitement.  The cow was already in the head catch.  Bud gave her a shot in the spine, and then several shots around the area we’d be cutting.  The cow stood up the whole time.  Bud started cutting her, then he let me take over.  It was very strange to cut a living creature like that.  I am used to cutting up the cows when we butcher, and this was like reverse butchering.   She didn’t bellow or moo or anything.  I worked very slowly.  Butch was standing between me and her leg, and several times she tried to kick me away.  As the painkillers started working, her kicks became half-hearted, and eventually she stopped.  Bud later explained that the cows have a greater survival rate when you don’t completely block all the sensation.  They are pretty tough animals.
Anyway, once I had cut through all the skin and muscle, Bud took over.  He let me feel around inside her abdomen but I didn’t really know what I was feeling.  Then he cut the uterus and quickly pulled the calf out.  The calf was severely deformed.  His organs were all completely formed, but there was no skin over them.  They were exposed.  He had skin over his arms, legs, and head.  Normal presentation for a calf is front feet first, followed by the head, then the rest of the body.  This calf had presented his intestines first.  His back legs were folded back over his head, almost touching the front legs.  She never would have birthed him herself.  Bud guessed he had only died a day or so before the cow had gone into labor.
After we pulled the placenta out Bertha sewed up the uterus with catgut.  Bud scooped out as much fluid from the abdomen as possible.  He told me that amniotic fluid in their abdomen will kill them.  Then he sewed up her skin.  He pursed the skin together, making it “pucker”.  He said that way it won’t scar.  I tried to help with one stitch but didn’t quite get the hang of it, so he finished the job.  Butch washed her off with disinfectant and we let her go.  She just walked away as the painkillers were starting to wear off. 
Bud told me later that he was impressed with my cutting because she hardly bled at all.  The cow survived, although we did sell her.  Many cows can go on to have normal births after a c-section, but we don't take the chance.

April 2, 2011

What I Did Today

This afternoon, my husband's grandmother came out to the ranch.  She and I each took a 4-wheeler to the calving pasture.  We were going to take cow/calf pairs out of that pasture.  While we were looking for pairs, I noticed one cow about to give birth.  The amniotic sac was hanging out of her.  I made a mental note and moved on.  When we were done putting out pairs, I drove back to check on her.  The bag had burst, and I could see hooves sticking out.  I noticed the white parts (bottom side) of the hooves were up.  This means the calf is either backwards (breech) or more rarely, upside down.  This is a problem because the calf usually suffocates before the cow can get him out.   I called over my husband's grandma and asked her to go back to the house to get my father-in-law.  While she was gone I guided the cow to the barn.  When my father-in-law got there, we chased the cow in through the back gate.  She was almost in the barn when suddenly she turned around and started running towards the gate.  I hopped off my 4-wheeler and swung the gate in front of her.  She paused, giving me about a half a second to jump in front of her and lock the gate.  She turned and ran back towards the barn.  We finally got her in the pulling pen and pushed her into the head catch.  I slipped some straps over the calf's feet.  My father-in-law put the calf puller on her and pulled the calf as far down the bar as he could.  A natural occurrence during childbirth is the release of maternal fecal matter.  This is no different in cows.  At one point, this cow squirted my father-in-law pretty good.  I am laughing about it now as I type it.  But at the time he told me to cover her anus so that wouldn't happen again!  He had to manually pull the last third of the calf's body out because it was so long.    Finally, the calf slid out.  He was enormous.  My father-in-law released the head catch, and the cow mooed over her calf.  She liked him.  She will take care of him.  I am so proud of myself for spotting the backwards calf.

April 1, 2011

I'm Still Alive!

I am very busy calving our older cows.  They are easier than the heifers in some respects- you ususally don't have to fool with each and every one, but they require alot more time riding around on the 4-wheelers.  Fortunately I enjoy doing that.  Unfortunately for my blog, I have less time in the house.

Last week I assisted with a bovine c-section.  It was pretty exciting!  I hope to write more about that later, if I get a free minute. 

The weather has been very rainy, but at least it's slowly warming up.  I got my brussels sprouts started, so far only have 3 sprouts, but I'm excited about that! 

Have a good weekend!

March 28, 2011

Meal Plan 3/28 through 4/3

We've been without power for about 24 hours now.  One of the less pleasant things of prairie life is the tendency toward power outtages, even when the storm is nowhere near you!  Fortunately we've got generators so we can still take hot showers! 
The good thing about the power being out is I was able to make time to plan my menu for a month.  This should ease the burden a little as we head into the second part of calving season (the older cows).  
Here's what's cooking this week. 
3/28 Mon- Beef Taco Soup
3/29 Tues- Beef Fajitas (slow cooker) w/ avocado, tomato
3/30 Wed- hot dogs (I think they're uncured), baked beans
3/31 Thur- steak, fried potatoes, sautéed broccoli
4/1 Fri- broiled salmon, roasted potatoes, peas
4/2 Sat- cavatini (from freezer), steamed spinach
4/3 Sun- leftovers

March 25, 2011

The Green Omelette

I once ate this dish at a breakfast restaurant.  They used only egg whites and called it "White Lightning".  I've kept the yolks because the fat keeps me fuller longer.  You could make this into a proper omelette, but I find it easier just to scramble everything together in the pan.

For each person you'll need:

1/4 cup chopped cooked  spinach (I use frozen)
1/4 cup chopped cooked chicken (preferably seasoned with Mexican seasonings)
2 eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I like Monterey Jack)
1/8 cup chopped avocado

1.  Heat butter in skillet over medium heat.   Add spinach and chicken.  Cook until heated through.

2.  Break eggs into pan.  Scramble all ingredients.

3.  When eggs are almost done, add cheese.  Cook until cheese is melted and eggs are cooked to your liking.

4.  Top with chopped avocado.  Serve immediately.  Also works great as a filler for a breakfast burrito.

March 23, 2011

How to Dice an Avocado

It is possible to cut up avocados with minimal mess!

Cut an avocado in half and remove the seed.  Leave the flesh in the skin.

Slice the flesh lengthwise.  Cut gently so you don't puncture the skin.

Slice the avocado horizontally.

Scoop out as much as you want with a spoon.

So easy!

March 22, 2011

Have a Counting Party

Are you trying to teach a little one about numbers and counting?  Why not throw a counting party? 

There is a Barney episode called "A Counting We Will Go" in which Barney and his friends throw a counting party.  My son wanted to watch the episode over and over again.  I was inspired to throw my own counting party for him.  My parents, mother-in-law, son, and daughter were the only guests, but we had a great time.  I plan to do it again when my daughter starts learning her numbers. 

To set up the party atmosphere, we decorated with balloons and put on crazy hats and beads.  We also got out the New Year's Eve noisemakers to make it more exciting.  You could even send out invitations to family members, decorate with streamers, and set out finger foods that can be easily counted (berries, grapes, and carrot sticks are healthy choices, but my son really liked the chocolate chips).

So what do you do at a counting party?  You can:

- sing songs about counting
   - The Ants Go Marching One by One (be sure to march around the house while you sing)
   - 99 Bottles of Pop on the Wall
   - Knick-Knack-Paddy-Whack
   - Roll Over (There Were Ten in the Bed)

- write out the numbers 1 to 10 on a big piece of poster board and let the kids color in the numbers

- count things like stuffed animals or toy cars

- read books that mention counting or numbers, such as
   - Ten Little Puppies by Marian Harris
   - 1 is One by Tasha Tudor
   - The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey (the puppies count themselves)
   - Baby's First 1-2-3 Book by Amy Barton

- recite the nursery rhymes "One Two, Buckle My Shoe..." and "Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed..."

- for older kids, play games involving counting and numbers, such as Hide-and-Seek or Hopscotch

Our counting party only lasted about an hour but we had a lot of fun.  Doing something out of the ordinary such as having a party makes learning exciting.  Let your imagination run wild and you too can create a fun learning atmosphere for your child!

How do you teach your kids to count?

March 21, 2011

Meal Plan 3/21- 3/27

Ahh, spring is really here!  The snow has mostly all mnelted, although there still are a few tiny patches here and there.  The mud is drying up, and there was actually dust last night when I herded the heifers into the corral.  I didn't mind in the least!  The fields have all been flooded, and now the creek is starting to go down just a little. 

To do this week:  get my seeds started!  Yikes!  I can't believe it's almost April!  I've been so busy working outside that I just haven't had the time or energy to think about the garden!  I need to start my brussels sprouts at least, and maybe some broccoli.

My parents came in last week and helped around the house so I could help outside.  We had a counting party with my 2-year-old, which I'll tell you about tomorrow. 

Yesterday we cut up some beef, so fresh beef is on the menu all week.  Here's what we'll be eating:

Monday- Beef Enchiladas, Corn
Tuesday- Hamburgers, Fried Potatoes, Sauerkraut, Fresh Fruit
Wednesday- Shepherd's Pie with asparagus
Thursday- Beef Ribs, Beer Batter Cheese Bread, Peas
Friday- Fish Chowder (from America's Test Kitchen- new recipe)
Saturday- Homemade Pizza, Spinach
Sunday- Leftovers

March 14, 2011

Meal Plan 3/14-3/20

I'm starting with Monday this week since I didn't get my menu planned until this morning.  We are knee deep in mud, but that's okay!  The snow is finally thawing and it's warming up!  I'm hoping to take some pictures today to post later this week. 

Monday- Manicotti stuffed with venison and cottage cheese, with homemade pasta sauce, served with fresh apples and oranges
Tuesday- eat in town
Wednesday- Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, oven-roasted broccoli
Thursday- Chicken Breasts over Salad, quinoa
Friday- Broiled Tilapia Parmesan (except I'm using Cod), salad, leftover quinoa
Saturday- Meatloaf, served with carrot sticks and fresh fruit
Sunday- Roast Beef with Potatoes and Carrots

March 9, 2011

Frugal, Homemade Facewash for Sensitive Skin

My mom has extremely sensitive skin.  For years she used this homemade facewash, until she found one product she could use.  This is a frugal, simple, easy to use recipe.  It takes seconds to mix up.  Just keep a container of oats where you keep your facewash, and you'll be good to go!

Homemade Facewash:
Mix 2-3 tsp dried oats (instant or whole) into 1/4 cup water.  Let sit for a few minutes (use this time to brush your teeth and put on your pajamas).  Rub oat mixture onto face.  Rinse. 

Frugal facewash

That's it!  So simple, so easy.

And using it will make you so happy, as you can see in this picture of me:

I love my homemade facewash!

Okay, I was just goofing around in that picture, but I think you will enjoy using it!

Linked to WFMW.

March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras King Cake

Are you looking for a G-rated way to celebrate Mardi Gras?  Look no further than the King Cake!  It's called a King Cake after Christ the KING.  Traditionally, a little plastic baby (representing Baby Jesus) is baked inside the cake.  Whoever gets the piece with the baby gets to make the cake the next year.  I just set mine on top because it's less mess.  A King Cake is really just cinnamon bread dough baked in an oval, topped with a powdered sugar glaze and green, gold, and purple sprinkles (the Mardi Gras colors).  I like to let the kids help with that last part!  I also like to decorate with beads like they hand out at Mardi Gras parades.  Here is the recipe I used for King Cake.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!

March 7, 2011

No Meal Plan This Week

Sorry if you were hoping for a meal plan, but I don't have one for you this week!  I knew I should get my act together and just plan for a whole month, but I didn't.  We are busy calving and packaging cat litter, and it's bitterly cold to boot.  I'm planning to pull casseroles from the freezer, eat leftovers, and mooch off the in-laws.  Have a good week!

Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas

I am always looking for recipes that can be made ahead (or at least part of them can).  My family enjoys a hot breakfast in the morning, and I enjoy the nutritional advantage over boxed breakfast cereal (in fact, I can't remember the last time we ate cereal for breakfast as a family).  Here's how I do breakfast ahead of time:

1) Freezer Breakfast Burritos
For each burrito, I use 1-2 slices of cooked bacon, 2 scrambled eggs, shredded colby jack cheese (probably 1/4- 1/2 cup), and 1 flour tortilla (or use your own healthier homemade Soaked Tortillas). 


Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Lay out bacon on cookie sheet.  Layer eggs and cheese on top of bacon (as if you were laying them inside a tortilla).  Freeze about 15-30 minutes.  Place frozen bacon mixture in the middle of tortilla.  Roll up.  Wrap well in aluminum foil.  Label and freeze.  When ready to eat, bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  Unwrap and enjoy a hot breakfast burrito! 

2) Mix up dry components the night before
I make a German Apple Pancake on Christmas morning.  The night before, I mix up all the dry ingredients in a tupperware container.  I even slice up the apples and put lemon juice on them, and store in the fridge.  I set my skillet on the stove and put my stand mixer on the counter (I use it to whip up the eggs).  Then in the morning I only need a few minutes for prep time, and I can enjoy a relaxing Christmas morning with my family!  The same thing goes for biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and muffins- you can easily mix up the dry ingredients the night before...

3) If you follow a Nourishing Traditions style diet, you should be soaking your grains.  I've found soaked pancakes and oatmeal to be the easiest.  For soaked oatmeal, just mix your oats, acid medium (1 Tbsp whey, lemon juice, or vinegar) and water in the pot you'll be cooking them, cover with a clean cloth, and leave on the stove overnight.  In the morning, cook as usual.

4) Make a double batch of waffles or muffins and freeze them.  They are best reheated in the oven or toaster oven.  The microwave tends to make them mushy.

These Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins can be frozen and reheated in the oven.

5) Breakfast Strata- Most strata recipes need to be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.  My favorite recipe is adapted from Cooking Light's Goat Cheese, Artichoke, and Smoked Ham Strata. I make it with whole milk and eggs, double the ham, and use feta instead of goat cheese. 

How do you make breakfast ahead of time?
Linked to Tasty Tuesday.

March 5, 2011

Seed Order 2011!

I am so excited!  I just ordered my seeds from Burpee!  I went a little wild I think, but I know I won't use all the seeds this year.  I love gardening and cannot wait for summer, especially since this winter has been so dreadfully cold. 

Last year's giant pumpkin

Here's what I got:

Seeds (tried to get organic and/or heirloom):
- broccoli
- spinach
- butternut squash
- black beauty squash (zucchini)
- brussels sprouts
- marigolds (for pest control)
- cornflowers (for beauty)
- cilantro
- dill

Plants (just bought the smallest amounts at the best prices they had):
- 25 asparagus roots
- 10 russet potato tubers
- 10 shallot sets
- 300 onion sets (100 each of red, white, and yellow, to split with my neighbor)

Reusable Supplies:
- 25 plant markers
- 2 Tunl Covers (to extend the growing season)

I can't wait to start the broccoli and brussels sprouts in my garage!   My dad got me a lighted tray and it is so great for starting seeds indoors.  Last year I successfully started over 20 tomato plants inside.  This year I'm going to try making my own individual containers out of newspaper, as shown in this video, so I can plant the whole thing directly into the ground.

That is not all I'm growing this year!  I already had quite a few seeds:
- carrots
- corn
- tomatoes
- basil
- kale
- cucumbers
- green beans
- pumpkin

Another exciting new addition is apple trees!  I am planning to order 2 trees through our county's natural resource something-or-other.  We have a terrible time growing trees out here, but I'm hoping that since our county is selling these, they'll have a fighting chance.  I'm planning to get a Lodi tree and a Golden Delicious tree.  Wish me luck, because I'll need it!

Tell me about your garden plans for 2011!  Are you trying anything new?  What's your favorite thing to grow?

March 3, 2011

Shameless Plug

Hey everyone, check out my friend Jenny's Etsy shop!  She sells handmade jewelry, and she recently added homebaked chocolate chip banana bread!  Yum!

The Osh Kosh- Complete!

In this post I told you about the Osh Kosh- the monster truck with a snow plow on it.  For the last 2 months my husband has spent every "free" moment rebuilding it.  It is finally ready for service.

To give you an idea of how big this thing really is, here's a picture of my son standing next to it:

He calls the truck the Gulf-11, which is what it was called when the Army used it.

The truck itself is taller than my house.  The plow is taller than me. 

This thing will push LOTS of snow.

Just for fun my husband had fake decals made.  He named the plow the Polar Expressway 19 Foot One-Way:

Now we just need a huge snowfall!