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That was the topic of the sermon at church last Sunday.  It was a short sermon because it’s a pretty darn blunt message!  Well, that, and our pastor is just really good at getting the point across in a short time with a LOT of enthusiasm!  There are some awfully good tv shows and movies made about this very thing – trying to get along with neighbors; and for good reason!

So, for today, let’s think about a counter action for different times your neighbor frustrates you, so you can demonstrate those acts of love.  (You have to bear in mind, I am really making up some fun stuff here, because our nearest neighbors are just over a mile away and they are completely not annoying!)

  1.  Your neighbor constantly spies on you and then reports to everyone else what they see you doing.  First of all – how much fun is it to do things because you know they are watching!?!  Do something to give them an extra good story, like writing Christmas cards during the summer or using a fork to eat ice cream (I may or may not do these things regardless if someone is watching).  Then, each and every time you see them, kindly ask how they are doing and offer them a cookie – preferably a Valentine’s cookie at Easter, a Halloween cookie on Valentine’s Day, and a Christmas cookie on 4th of July.  Just generally keep them guessing – cheap entertainment for you and them! 

    I highly recommend a cookie/snack recipe I made this morning – your neighbor will LLLOOOVVVEEE you if you share! 
    Peanut butter Fritos – oh my sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy deliciousness! 
    Here is the simple recipe:
    Dump a bag of Fritos on a serving tray (I used a jelly roll pan covered with foil).  Mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup light corn syrup in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil – stir and boil just until sugar melts and mixture is clear.  Remove from heat and stir in one cup peanut butter.  Pour the entire mixture over the Fritos.  Allow to cool and ENJOY!IMG_7898

  2. Your neighbor parks in front of your driveway so you can’t turn in to your own property.  This can be incredibly maddening!  Your first thought may be to park in their driveway, but it’s probably already full if they are blocking yours.  Let’s think of something SO nice they are completely confused  – my mom always called it “killing them with kindness.”  I would suggest getting your lawn mower and and going to work on their lawn!  Who doesn’t want to have their lawn mowed for them?  Or perhaps, once you have finally found a place to park, you just call and invite them right on over to supper and some entertaining board games.  Wait! I’ve got it!  Put up Christmas lights on their house for them! (I love this idea, particularly if they aren’t fond of Christmas lights, heehee!)
  3. If your neighbor constantly has loud music going or loud machinery outside all the time, here is a potential solution:  Give your neighbors a pair of Bluetooth speakers as a gift.  How loving and kind is that?  Then, you can use your device to blast music into the speakers at random times during the day so they can enjoy your music with you! You can easily sync your device to the speakers so long as you are not too far out of range. You can also blast creepy sounds to make them think their house is haunted, you know, just for fun. 
  4. Your neighbor has all kinds of political campaign signs that you absolutely don’t agree with and they place them in their lawn right up to the very edge of the property line.  This is NOT the end of the world!  Once again, plan a bbq or meal, invite them to watch a ball game, and JUST DON’T TALK POLITICS.  

Honestly try to get to know something about your neighbor that has nothing to do with politics or even their habit that makes you angry.  Do they love to cook?  Are they good at art?  Do they have an amazing garden?  Did they grow up in a small town or a big city?  Have they ever been to a farm?  Do they enjoy sports?  I know I am 100% chatty and I am also well aware of my tendency to hang with people that are just like me.  That is when I remind myself, I am glad I have friends like Jonathon – not much like me, but SUPER cool and smart!  I just have to be willing to show a little love to someone that at one time in my life I would have probably stared at, snuck a pic to send around to friends, and even sent a group “check this out!” text.  That is rude and now I know I should talk to them instead of making fun…In fact, I got to enjoy a completely impromptu shopping trip at a thrift store with Jonathon!

Here is my buddy Jonathan – he has more certifications and qualifications than I can name, he grew up in Hawaii and now lives in New York City, he is a great advocate for modern agriculture and I am proud to call him my neighbor from across the country!

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But in all seriousness – do you see why I would have sent that “check this out” pic!?!?  Blue mo-hawk, a lot of crazy, and quite honestly, stuff you just don’t see much in good ol Clay County Nebraska, USA.

Have a great week everyone – I hope you get to show some unexpected kindness to someone!

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Some pretty great memories are made on dirt roads!  And,  with that statement, I can guess where a few of your minds went – immediately to the slightly disappointing flavor experienced in sharing a can of beer that was snuck out of your parents’ garage fridge or to the stomach butterflies of fumbling through a first kiss, praying no one would drive by and see you.  Yes, many of those growing up moments definitely happen on a dirt road (at least in our part of the world).

I am thinking a bit more nostalgically.  Some of my earliest memories of dirt roads include learning how to skip; individual lessons were given by Roy Henry while we waited for wheat trucks to be filled.  The shoe prints in the dust created a pattern that couldn’t be replicated, as hard as you tried.  There were ground bee holes to smash the mounds on and try to fill in, and grass growing along the roadside.  A great accomplishment was to learn to hold the perfect grass blade just, right between your thumbs and place it against your lips to make some kind of shrill kazoo type sound.  During fall harvest, we would pick milkweed pods, scatter the seeds like snowflakes, and then take the empty pod home to paint to look like a ghost for a Halloween decoration.  (My Mom is one of the nicest ladies ever to always let kids, even to this day, destroy the house while carrying out their “very special” projects!)
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Fast forward to the college years.  It was on a dirt (maybe with a little rock or gravel) that Matt asked me to marry him.  I’m not sure I could drive to the exact spot today, but I am comforted in knowing that he can and more importantly, that I said yes!

Since we have had our own kids, they have also learned to appreciate the beauty of a good dirt road.  (Okay, I’m not gonna lie – there are times, when we have had plenty of precipitation, that we really wish for a lot of rock and gravel on our dirt roads!)  This picture of moving cattle along one of the roads we use often is so pretty!

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I will also confess, on that very road, in about that very spot, we had our pickup sliding sideways down the hill between the steep banks on either side, praying we wouldn’t slide all the way to the bridge and wreck,  with two kids in car seats.  I had sucked nearly all the air out of the cab, but  Matt is a very good driver and had nerves of steel to steer us out of that scary predicament!  But then again, that road served as a perfect backdrop to some of Emmet’s senior pictures.dsc_4857

While a know full well how many great ideas are borne on the thinking throne, there are some pretty great dreaming sessions that happen on dirt roads.  Whether walking, riding horses, driving ATV’s, or just cruising around in a pickup, there is something about a dirt road that spurs your ability to think beyond what is the here and now.  We just need to take time to do it more often!

With that, I hope you take time this weekend to enjoy a dirt road – wherever that is for you.

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The Kottmeyer Place

In farm and ranch country, a piece of property or land typically has a name of some sort.  It may be called by it’s legal description (which is far too much for me to remember!) or a fun brand/ranch name, or a direction (the northeast pasture) or in our case, the last name of the previous owner.  The Kottmeyer Place, as Matt, the kids and I are fondly calling it, is a pasture that has been in my family since the 1920’s.  My great grandma, Lydia Kottmeyer raised her family there, one of which was my Grandma Ruby.  When Matt and I got engaged, Grandma Ruby and I went to the nursing home to let Grandma Kottmeyer know the good news.  When we told her Matt had given me a diamond, she stated, “Oh how nice!  Fred is in Africa getting me a diamond!”  As her mind aged, we just played along and were excited with her, why not, right?  And in her defense, Fred was her husband. 🙂   She was still alive when Kaydee was born; we had her funeral the day after Kaydee was baptized.

When my brothers, sister, and I were little, we went over to visit Grandma Kottmeyer fairly often.  One of her sons, Roy, lived with her in the only house that was ever there.  They never had running water in the house – yes, I got the full on experience of using an outhouse!  No, I don’t think I would have chosen to have that as a bucket list item to someday cross off, but, check that – did it!  They did have electricity and a phone, tv, even a sink…just not running water or a bathroom.  Regardless of the “facilities”, it was so much fun to go there – there was all kinds of exploring to do!

They kept a pile of empty bottles and cans out by the corner of the driveway under a tree.  Oh goodness, the treasures that could be found!  On the best days, Mom would visit with Grandma long enough that Roy Henry had time to saddle up Lady and take us kids, one at a time, on a ride across the pasture to the creek on the opposite side and catch sand puppies (lizards).  Along the ride, he would point out different grasses and weeds and tell us which ones the cows liked best or if the roots were safe for people to eat. Roy Henry was also one of the truck drivers for us during harvest.  Now you may remember from a blog post a LONG time ago that Grandma Ruby hosted the “Grandma Ruby school of truck driving.”  She was very patient and taught us many life lessons.  Roy Henry was the one to have fun with!  While we waited for the truck to be full, we would race; but we never ran, we always had to skip or trot or gallop.  We learned to whistle with brome grass blades like and the most fun was waving at every oncoming vehicle and keeping a tally of how many were friendly and waved back.  Good times!

Roy Henry

Roy Henry

Inside the little, run down house, Grandma kept a table full of violets that bloomed constantly.  We were always welcome to eat the whole stash of store bought cookies (until Mom told us we had enough) and to this day, I can taste the cold, perfect water that I drank straight from the enamel dipper as we filled the bucket from the hand pump water hydrant.

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This year Matt and I were asked if we would like to purchase the property, as everyone wanted it to stay in the family.  We are both honored and blessed to have this opportunity!  We have all kinds of dreams for the place, but first, we had to put up new fence – a lot of it!  And there will be more to do next year!

We have also been working on clearing what was left of the buildings and old equipment that were there.  We celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary digging a hold and burning the house and barn.

I know it was a bittersweet event for some in the family, but those structures, or what was left of them, had stopped serving any purpose other than a hangout for raccoons long ago.

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The cows that are in the pasture are loving it and we are loving the chance to dream about someday making the Kottmeyer Place the Caldwell Cattle headquarters.  A good date night is sitting on a tailgate with a cold beer trying to picture new pens, a barn and maybe a house.  Dream big, they say…we are!  Maybe in another hundred years it will be known as the Caldwell Place…just maybe.

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This week I heard a most profound statement:  “You will feel much greater success when you see your circumstance as a choice rather than a sacrifice.”  Bam! Right in the forehead!  Yes!  Now, I typically do keep that attitude, but I know there have been times where I was certainly less than cheerful about the choice I had made and attempted to qualify myself as a hero for sacrificing SSSOOO much.  That statement was made in a room chock full of successful agriculture women, but it is completely suitable for all people – men, women, urban, rural, everybody.

So, here are a few of my choices, not sacrifices:

  1. I chose to marry a man who’s trade training was in welding; not someone who would likely provide me the opportunity to fly in his corporate jet or take luxurious vacations or live in a mansion. I chose a man who treats me like a queen, makes our home feel like the richest place on earth with his wit and charm, and can make any weekend hanging out together as fun as any possible vacation.  And yes – we have treated ourselves to a few really great vacations 🙂dsc_5038
  2. We choose to live an hour drive away from the nearest shopping.  We get to plan when to be in town and we learn to keep essential supplies on hand.  We could live where there is a Target just minutes away and going to the movies could be a spur of the moment thing to do. Instead, we choose to rent a movie on our satellite, see millions of stars at night, watch a lunar eclipse without going anywhere but our front deck, and grill burgers at home rather than driving through somewhere.IMG_1604
  3. I choose to have a career and be a farm wife and a mom. I have chosen to make time for the kids activities, while showing them that a woman can have a rewarding career in what has traditionally been known as a “man’s world.”  I have also chosen to be involved in organizations where I feel I am contributing to the betterment of the things I love (church, the beef community, all of agriculture, 4-H, FFA, and so on).IMG_7873

While some may say I sacrificed convenience, culture, time with family, or lavish lifestyle, I believe I CHOSE true love, happiness, cherished memories, and genuine appreciation of ALL things, great and small. (Though admittedly, I do NOT appreciate the snakes crawling through my flower beds!)  I guess wherever you are and whatever you do, everyday seems much better if you remember you chose to go the direction you did and you can choose to change it!

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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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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.

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

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