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Where did your footsteps take you today and what kind of footprints did you leave behind?

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This past Sunday Matt and I got to attend a special church service. The little church (very near where we farm and ranch in Kansas) celebrated 125 years! His grandparents were pastors there at the time they were killed in a car accident in the 1960’s. The message of the sermon was about footprints. My mind immediately began racing about the steps we take and footprints we leave in our farming and ranching choices. The bulletin for the service was titled “Celebrating Northbranch Heritage”; every farmer’s heritage is determined by his choice of footsteps.

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(I didn’t have a picture from when the kids were little of boots – but this one is darn cute!)

I can’t help but think of how BIG some guys feet are and how ADORABLE toddlers are when they try to stand in the boots of those big men! Those young people are shaping their hopes and dreams based on the footprints we leave. Are we constantly stumbling? Are we walking proudly? Are we taking scary paths? Are we taking time to let them follow closely?

Just to lighten this up a bit…I guarantee, several times a week, we step in a pile of poop. When you have cattle in pens, there is bound to be a footprint in a cow pie. There are various ways to then clean those boots or shoes – just make sure you do before heading in the house! And I know I have attempted to step over an electric fence, only to lose my balance and get a zap on my inner thigh – yep, go ahead, laugh along with me! It’s all one can do when that happens! I hope our kids see when, in life, we figuratively “step in the poop” and learn from our mistakes! I also hope they notice that younger kids are already looking to them as an example and they REALLY need to carefully select their path!

Matt and I have been blessed with some pretty amazing footsteps to follow & we have blazed our own path a few times & all we can hope is that our “heritage” is meaningful in some way decades from now. Regardless, those who know us, are not a bit surprised by the spot in our path where there are tons of prints all in one area…those are the times we are dancing!

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Make A Wish…

I have to think that one of the most universal traditions is making a wish when blowing out candles on a birthday cake! If it isn’t, we should all help spread the word! Last week Matt and I got to spend a day driving several hours west to deliver bulls to a friend/customer who had purchased them. Since all of us have spring birthdays and three of the four of us had just celebrated birthdays within the week, I decided it was most appropriate to take a birthday cake along!  It was an absolutely wonderful lunch with some great friends!

Can you see the candle in each serving of cake? Each of us got our very own wish!

Can you see the candle in each serving of cake? Each of us got our very own wish!

One can never share their wish at the time of blowing out the candles, because it might not come true! However – I can now share mine. :) I had one simple wish as I closed my eyes and blew out my candle. I wished (and prayed) for rain on our pastures and wheat fields. Well – what do ya know? It came true! Best Mother’s Day gift ever for this farm/ranch mama! We were blessed with 2.75″ of rain yesterday and it couldn’t have been more timely!  I hope the other 3 had their wishes come true, too!

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These storm clouds were a welcome site!

Part of the cattle got turned out to pasture on Saturday even though the grass was still pretty short – this rain will give us some restful nights now, for at least a few weeks; knowing there will be grass for the cows to eat and water in the ponds for them to drink. Rain is so very crucial to farming and ranching – one only has to observe how much the number of cows in the U.S. has decreased the past few years due to drought. You can see it in the prices of beef in the grocery store and at restaurants. I can guarantee there are very few if any ranch families that wanted to sell their cow herds, but when there isn’t enough feed, you have to keep around only what can be properly cared for, and not permanently damage the land. It is tough emotionally and economically. When your annual source of income (or, your salary, if you will)  all gets sold at one shot – there has to be a tremendous amount of planning, pride-swallowing, and willingness to do something different for a while.  Some ranchers have received rains and are beginning to rebuild herds, but it will take years to get back to what they once had. Best wishes to everyone who has had to make the tough choices!

Hopefully this rain helps the grass to grow - a lot!

Hopefully this rain helps the grass to grow – a lot!

Before I forget – I definitely should share the recipe for the cake I took along to celebrate with! It was from one of the recent issues of Southern Living & it is SO Yummy!!!!!

Strawberries-and-Cream Sheet Cake   I just can’t say enough about how good it is! And – not always does my food turn out like the picture, but this cake did :)

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Picture compliments of Southern Living magazine.

 

 

 

 

Eye Candy…

 

Oh yeah – a little eye candy always makes any less than joyous job a bit more tolerable. Sometime, even enjoyable! And for you young and young-at-heart gals reading this post – keep an open mind as opposed to a gutter mind :) I spent this past weekend qualifying what was within visual range for me as eye candy or, for lack of a better qualification, not eye candy. Here are my findings…

Adorable kids helping work cattle - definitely eye candy!

Adorable kids helping work cattle – definitely eye candy! (And not in a weird way – this is a family friendly blog!)

A pen full of healthy and adorable baby calve - oh yeah! Eye candy!

A pen full of healthy and adorable baby calves – oh yeah! Eye candy!

Lot's of REALLY dirty and poopy clothes to launder (and yes, this example is minor) - NOT eye candy!

Lot’s of REALLY dirty and poopy clothes to launder (and yes, this example is minor) – NOT eye candy!

The flowering crab apple trees are heavy-laden with blooms. Gorgeous eye candy!

The flowering crab apple trees are heavy-laden with blooms. Gorgeous eye candy!

And to not disappoint what I am guessing were your original expectations after seeing the title...a little traditional definition eye candy!

And to not disappoint what I am guessing were your original expectations after seeing the title…a little traditional definition eye candy!

No matter who we are, every day has its low spots and most importantly, it’s highlights. Take a moment to appreciate the little things around you each and every day! It makes even the humblest of situations something you can appreciate and keeps your soul healthy :)

Hopefully on this 5th day into Beef Month you get to enjoy something amazing off of the grill! My recommendation for today (I just made them last week) is this amazingly easy recipe for beef short ribs. They are so tender and delicious! You must try them!

 

Being a Wife…

We are not all that different… you city gals and us country gals. Many of us love a great glass of wine while we cook supper/dinner, we like spring flowers, we secretly appreciate having doors held open for us and generally being treated like a lady. Some of us are great cooks, some are amazing gardeners, many have a knack for shopping, while others shine at athletics, music or business. We all love a good massage and loathe being disrespected.

My Mom, sis-in-law, and I at a Manheim Steamroller concert; enjoying some culture!

My Mom, sis-in-law, and I at a Manheim Steamroller concert; enjoying some culture!

 

I know many of us farm and ranch gals blog about our various duties in our day to day lives that are vastly different from women who may live in the suburbs of a city or a fun downtown loft. After all, how many one-bedroom flat owners get the pleasure of carrying buckets of grain as part of their daily workout or drain water hoses on cold nights after filling tanks, or even wash a couple of loads of laundry that contain manure-caked jeans after a day of working cattle?  I am guessing few to none! However, when it comes to being a wife – we are all so, very, very much alike. We want our husband to be there when supper/dinner gets done, we want them to want to go on a day trip with us, we want to look good for them, and we most certainly want them to be fun and cheerful and not be stressed out!

Matt using a measuring tape of the foot of a newborn calf to determine it's birth weight.

Matt using a measuring tape of the foot of a newborn calf to determine it’s birth weight. And yes – his jeans got very dirty on this day!

I believe every strong and healthy marriage is made up of two people who consciously and constantly strive to please one another and make one another proud – and kiss a lot! :) I also know that most husbands tend to appreciate a good meal; in our house, that meal will never, ever include tuna, cauliflower, or cold noodles and it will often contain beef, cheese, lettuce, and peanut butter (preferably in the form of peanut butter cookies or peanut butter pie). So – I enjoy spinach, cauliflower, and cold noodles when I visit other people or take something to a luncheon and we enjoy his menus at home. It works perfectly! And I believe most wives, early in their marriage, learn what and what not to fix for their life partner!

I also think many of us wives, regardless if city-dweller or country-dweller, tend to set our expectations too high – only to be disappointed. As much as I would love for my husband (and I am sure many of you would, too) to be that smokin’ hot perfect guy we envision as we read the smutty romance novels that you can get for a couple of bucks on Amazon, he is not. Nor is anyone in real life – if you have one of those guys, please don’t tell me and ruin this for me! Real men are concerned with providing for their family, teach their children to pray, pray for their wives and their marriage, take their wives on dates just often enough to remind them that there is still some spark there and as stated previously, kiss their wives a lot! :) Many of them have “their chair” in the living room, keep a lot of guy stuff around (guns, vehicles, tools, etc.) and hopefully will think to toss in a load of laundry now and then or empty the dishwasher (mine does – and yes, I consider myself very fortunate!).  Most husbands are not romance novel hotties, but they are very, very good men who are absolutely smokin’ hot and very charming in their own ways!

Not my husband, but someone else's & Kaydee took this great picture - I just had to share. :)

Not my husband, but a husband, none-the-less & Kaydee took this great picture – I just had to share. :)  His jeans ended up pretty dirty, too!

I would like to think that city-wives and country-wives all make supper for their families on the nights when you aren’t living on concession food at a ball game or dining out. I would have to guess that a major difference is meal time – it is very common for us to eat at 8:30 or later. If we have supper at 6:00, it is some kind of very special occasion – or more likely – someone else has made plans for us! But still – supper happens and our bodies get nourished. And yes – a glass of wine should still be consumed during preparation! :) And yes – I am sure many of us have had a new recipe turn out less than stellar. Call it “tuition.” Sometimes, you just know not to make something again – we’ve all been there!

Regardless of where you live, life happens. And hopefully, if you are married, you get to be married to your best friend and soul mate. Type of work definitely offers different opportunity for humor and challenges and always creates need for lots of kisses at the beginning of the day and the end of the day.  **If you are one of those extremely fortunate wives who gets to work with your husband, consider yourself blessed! My goodness – how fun to observe and enjoy the happenings of the day all throughout the day together. I once had a farmer ask me, since I work in town, how much my husband and I must miss each other throughout the day. His example was great! “What if you see a really neat different bird or something? Who do you show it to if your spouse isn’t there?”  That guy might have been right up there close to the romance novel super star type guy!

Regardless of where we live, being married takes work and commitment and lots and lots of prayer and kisses :) Enjoy every precious minute with your spouse – if you chose them, they should be a blessing to you.

Being married and being parents...blessed!

Being married and being parents…blessed!

 

Wordless Wednesday…

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First of all, let me start by saying that I would typically NOT consider making chili soup in March – I should be thinking spring and light and colorful and dreaming of asparagus and strawberries. Old Man Weather is NOT leaving me with much feeling of spring…yet!

So, on this VERY cold and windy day, when I thought I was heading down to the hang out with Matt (my husband) and the cows, he let me know he was bringing hay here and he would be here for dinner. Woohoo!!! So – chili and cinnamon rolls it would be. He had been having electrical trouble there and that meant water trouble for the cows and the house down there and that is never a good thing. He would be ready for some good “home” time!

We have plenty of ground beef in the freezer, but when I was looking around in there, I also saw a bag of leftover brisket. Hhhmmm….wheels started turning! I am sure there are plenty of you out there who have already done this, but I decided the meat in my chili, on this day, would be brisket. What I had on hand was a heat & serve, pre-smoked, pre-sliced, insanely delicious brisket that I could not believe we hadn’t eaten already! Whatever is your favorite smoked brisket would work just fine in this recipe.

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I diced up about 1/2 of an onion and put it in with the brisket as I heated it.

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These are all of the things I thought I would add in with the brisket and onion. ( I had no chili beans on hand, I have never done the whole dry bean thing, and so, I winged it with some canned baked beans. Turned out to be a wise choice!)

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This is what I ended up actually using. Left out the pinto’s, and added about 1T of the BBQ sauce. I probably used 2T of chili powder, 1/4 to 1/3 c brown sugar, and 1 tsp each of salt and pepper.

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My mom taught me how to make a good pot of chili. This stuff, that I think I will call Smoky Ranch House Brisket Chili is an absolute sensation to the taste-buds! Next time, I would probably make cornbread to go with it rather than the cinnamon rolls – though the rolls, made with the bread recipe from this blog post, are so, very, yummy…

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Though I wish we had much different weather (warmer to be more specific) right now while the cows are having new calves, I am reminded that we are blessed with plenty of straw for bedding, a warm house to sneak into now and then, a tractor with a warm cab for feeding time, and the personal satisfaction of doing our part to raise incredibly nutritious and delicious protein…some 450,000+ servings of beef. Yep – it’s a pretty cool gig I get to be part of! Plus, I can wear fleece jammies pants under bib coveralls while we chore and check cows and no one knows!!!!

Quick after-thought….if you have a Dickey’s BBQ close to you, the brisket from there would be perfect for this!!!! Or, smoke one yourself :)  Stay warm my friends!

Why?…

A question I heard many times from the kids when they were little – and still do sometimes!  ~Why?~

OK - I admit...Matt and I probably promoted more than a little of the asking, "Why?"!

OK – I admit…Matt and I probably promoted more than a little of the asking, “Why?”!

Why do we have to go home and chore? ~ Why is it raining when I have a baseball game? ~ Why is that word naughty? Why can’t I say that? ~ Why can’t we have french fries with pizza? ~ Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do those people have white cows? And on, and on, and on…

Well, now I have a “Why?” for you…

Why do you choose certain types of food when you shop? I ask this because I have heard more than a few times lately the following statement, “I like beef, but I don’t want to buy what is in the grocery store.”

People often ask me if we eat our own beef. Well, of course we do! We also eat beef at restaurants, from butcher shops, and yes, even from grocery stores. I have to admit – I did a quick Google search on purchasing beef in grocery stores and I found very little (practically nothing) helpful, truthful, or objective. So – I want to help you feel assured if you do your shopping in a grocery store and don’t have a separate meat market to buy your beef at.

First of all – the beef from grocery stores comes from the same packing facilities as that in restaurants, butcher shops, and so on. And prior to arriving at the packing facility, it comes from the farms/ranches and  feed yards of people like myself and those who feed our cattle for us.  (I will qualify now – local meat lockers are WONDERFUL and if you have one nearby to shop at, consider yourself blessed!)  One place I would send you for advice is the Interactive Butcher Counter. There is a lot of helpful information there on how to choose a cut for a particular meal and then how to cook it properly.

Even though I have a freezer full of beef, sometimes I am in a hurry and the kids are really hungry for my hot beef sundaes. If I don’t have stew chunks thawed out, I grab a pack at the supermarket and we have a great meal done soon after I get home.  When I choose beef at the store, I like to look for some marbling (flecks of fat in the muscle portion of the meat – this helps assure juiciness and flavor); not much fat around the outside of a piece of meat; good color (a little brownness does not bother me, as I know that meat was just exposed to the air for a bit longer than a bright red piece & it is still safe and tender); and, I look for a good value for what I am buying.

All of this meat looks GREAT!

All of this meat looks GREAT!

So now I leave you with this – WHY don’t you go to the store, purchase some beef, take it home and fix it? Oh wait – what if is doesn’t turn out, you ask? Re-purpose it! More than once I have had a wreck in the kitchen or from the grill! We are all human and that makes it ok for us to make mistakes, right? Golly I hope so!!!! So – if a steak gets too done, chop it in tiny pieces and make steak and egg hash. If your hamburgers crumble, make spaghetti sauce or chili. It will all be just fine and you will still have something delicious and you won’t have wasted any money :)  And if you haven’t cooked with beef much – practice! It is SO worth it in the long run!  If you would like some amazing recipe ideas, go to Beef It’s What’s For Dinner.

Now I get my “Why?” …  Why do us girls say we don’t want flowers for Valentine’s Day when we really do? ~ Why do I procrastinate on certain things and rush others? ~ Why do I get to be so blessed to live in the country and ranch? ~ Why do men get SO giddy over cool vehicles?… And yes, I could go on and on :)

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