Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Montana, My Montana

This is my first remote blog because I just couldn't stand not sharing!
In a last minute change of plans, Hoag and I decided to drive to Three forks, Mt for a feedlot conference.

I haven' had a chance to upload any pics from my camera but they are quite amazing. So far, we walked though the Lewis and Clark caverns, (a two mile spelunking tour with a lot of ducking and "schtooping" ), toured and ate at the KG Angus ranch (35000 acres of Mountains, valleys and 1400 very lucky cattle) and today is a day of seminars and shopping.

Currently I am here,

And it's going to take a miracle to get me up!

Pics to come! I love Montana!!

-Brought to you from wherever I am!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Never ending learning

When I met Hoag and he showed me his place, I was instantly drawn to the patch of crabgrass and weeds behind his house. I knew that someday after we were married, ( yes I knew we'd be married after day two) that I'd have a beautiful garden with all my own veggies and cutting flowers, and butterflies and hummingbirds and....

Well, you get the picture. The catch here? I knew absolutely NOTHING about gardening. Zip, Zero, Nada. I always imagined I'd be a great one.. but I also had the same imaginary thoughts about dancing and , well, that never turned out well for anyone.

So, 2 days after we were married, tiller in hand, I went to conquer this "back yard" of his. 8 hours later, I started to seriously doubt my sanity. What started as a simple little vegetable garden turned into an all hour backyard renovation, complete with landscaping, a new patio, and tiki torches.

As all gardeners know, it is not a recreational hobby. It is an every day labor of love that you either love or hate to love. The upside is I have created a wonderful little oasis. A place to sit and read, eat with family, or dig in the sand.

Our vegetable garden proves bountiful and a much needed relief on the grocery bill and the flower garden attracts its share of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Each day I'm learning something new, whether I want to or not. Today? Protecting my tomatoes (that I impatiently planted way too early knowing full well that Kansas weather is never as it seems) from the impending frost that tonight will bring.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Boys will be boys

What do you get when you have 7 people, 6 four wheelers, 3 dogs, 2 horses and too many guns?  A fantastic weekend in the hills. 

After many laborious weekends in the hills after longer weekends in the city ( Hoag and I both have office jobs downtown during the week) we decided we were ready for a little downtime with our long lost friends. So after a fast paced Friday to get a majority of the chores done I waited with bated breath for my Big brother, JB, and his Fiance, our friends from Alabama, and my friend from K-State to caravan and hopefully find their way out to the cabin.  That would be the hard part!!

From there, everything else fell into place.  We loaded onto the four wheelers and headed out. What we thought would just be a ranch tour turned out to be Jb's first lesson in moving cattle.   We had a stray bull calf who had slipped through the fence and was badly missing his Mama.  So, the boys went out and, surprisingly enough, moved that big calf without a hitch.  I was a little worried  that this was a bit of a buzz kill seeing how it took almost an hour but JB was ready to go move any other cow that looked like she'd lost her way. I guess it really is in the blood. Success!

From there we went home and Brittanie and I went on our epic ride and upon our return, I decided to put the future Mrs. JB  on my trusty steed instead of the Roller Red since this was her first time.  The last thing I needed was two of my friends soaked to the bone.  Success! 

Then it was the boys ( and the two brides to be) turn for some fun.  Guns loaded, ammo galore and the excitement of 16 yr olds... they headed to the pond to "blow some stuff up"  And that they did.  I wish I could share all the pictures with you but I fear they may scare a few people and make them wonder about our sanity after all. Success!

Come to think of it... you should be a little scared... Of them, not me. I'm totally harmless. Didn't even touch a gun. Just sat peacefully picking wildflowers and taking pictures of my boots... like this!

Once the boys had that out of their systems, it was time for dinner.  A collaborative effort by all of burgers, coleslaw, potato salad, cornbread, corn in the husk, beans and red velvet birthday cake.  I tried to take pictures but I was too hungry and got distracted.  

From there it was guitars, bucket playing, "singing", a fantastic lightning show and great company.  All in all, the trip was a total success and I wish we could do that every weekend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rider's block...

As much as I love my horses and as peaceful as a ride through the cattle pastures always sounds... something always seems to get in the way.

We Finally got caught up on enough work in the hills to have some company out to enjoy our little piece of paradise. Hoag and I loaded up the horses, shut the door behind Maui (as soon as she sees that cooler come out, she's in the truck waiting to go) and headed for the hills on Friday.

Now normally we leave the horses at home in the big pasture if we're just going to be gone a little while but this was a full weekend deal and with my friend Brittanie coming out for her birthday, I knew I'd at least have one riding buddy.

Here's a little secret: when you dont ride your horses seperately, let alone more than once a month, they tend to get a little ... Shall we say... spoiled? Barn Sour? Inseperable? Obnoxious?

Anyways, Brittanie and I had a nice little ride, checking cattle, fixing a little fence and some good girl talk until I had the bright idea to take the horses swimming. Topaz LOVES to swim and by swim I mean stand up to his shoulders in the stinkiest pond we can find and see how wet he can get mom with pawing. Red, on the other hand, doesn't like to swim... but he does love to soak

This picture was about 30 seconds before my mom decided to head back and Red dropped to the ground :)

I mentioned this bad habit to the birthday girl and thought that we had our bases covered ( "kick like crazy and dont let him stop") but boy, was I ever wrong. From the time we made the decision to head home to the time she took her next breath, Red had dropped his hip and his rider straight to the pond. Brittanie almost had it saved with a graceful dismount until she went to take a step back and, still a little hung up, landed smack in the pond and got soaked to the bone.

Happy Birthday, Brittanie. From your friend, Red. Always keeping you young.

 Who says horses aren't smart??!

The in between stages...

The impending flood has been weighing heavily on our minds. Each day we check the graphs, check the fields, check the forecast, check the fields.

In the short time between the last post and today the field has flooded... and even since last night when I took these pictures, its flooded more.

View of South Field 6/9/11
View of South Field 6/20/11

Center pasture 6/9/11
Center pasture 6/20/11

 Its really unfortunate because with the impending floods, we didn't fertilize any of the corn.  Judging on how fast its growing this year, it could have been, and with God's grace will be, a great corn crop. 

6/9/11 corn height

6/20/11 corn height

Hoag just walked in shaking his head.  Apparently one foot made all the difference.  The center field is almost completely flooded, south field has standing water and the north field has standing water.   More pictures to follow... along with more prayers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deep Thoughts!

I read this article on a blog that I follow by The View From My Place and its just so thought provoking I couldn't let it go by.  Please take a moment to read this and please share your thoughts. I'm interested to hear your reactions.

Is Animal Rights the New Prohibition?

In the early part of the twentieth century, one segment of American society succeeded in gathering the political muscle to impose its will on the rest of society in the form prohibition of the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. National Prohibition (1919-1933) came about because its proponents strongly believed that the evils of beverage alcohol, demonized by its opponents as “Demon Rum,” and “John Barleycorn,” far outweighed any benefits to society.

In their attempts to cleanse America of the problems caused by alcoholic beverages, Prohibition’s backers created a whole new set of problems—unintended consequences— that turned out to be worse than the original ones. Things like bootlegging, speakeasies, organized crime, Al Capone, loss of tax opportunities, an overall increase in lawlessness. And by some estimates, the consumption of alcohol actually increased! The “Noble Experiment” turned out to not be so noble after all. Prohibition’s effects were so detrimental that it was repealed in 1933.

As something of a student of history, it appears to me that the controversy being stirred up today by the animal rights people about the evils of “modern farming,” “factory farms,” “animal cruelty,” and so on, have some striking similarities, but also some striking differences with Prohibition. It’s similar in the respect that one segment of society is grossly overstating their case in their efforts to legislate away our ability to choose to eat meat from animals. Because they believe that animals essentially have equal rights with people and choose to be vegetarians or vegans, they believe all other Americans should eat like them, whether they want to or not. And they’re fanatical in their determination to generate enough propaganda, raise enough money, and build enough political capital to make it happen.

The differences are that while there were (and are) some down sides to society’s consumption of alcohol, there is no real (as opposed to the agenda-driven, misinformation regularly found in the mainstream media) down side to the appropriate consumption of meat. People don’t typically commit DUI’s, abuse their spouses, neglect their children, or need to go into rehab because they consume burgers, pork chops or fried chicken. Consumed in reasonable amounts, foods derived from animal protein are delicious, healthy and nutritious products, produced primarily by American family farmers. The stuff about animal cruelty, misuse of antibiotics, and just about all the rest of it is a slickly-packaged, emotionally-based, agenda-driven 99 percent pack of lies and distortions, being force fed to a public no longer connected enough to the family farm to know the difference.

While the particular set of unintended consequences may be different this time around, they’re just as real, if not more damaging. If the animal rights movement gets its way, you could see things like: an increase in world hunger; not only American livestock producers going out of business, but also a large share of the crop farmers who supply feed grains to them; our national security being compromised by sending a key component of our food industry out of the country, similar to our current national dependency on foreign oil; animals in those countries not being treated nearly as well as they are here by American producers; the elimination of one of the few areas in which we actually have a trade surplus; loss of millions of jobs in food processing, manufacturing and other industries that support agriculture; the serious underutilization of one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world; just to name a few.

Perhaps the saddest consequence of all, however, will be the disappearance of a time-honored and noble way of life—that of the American family livestock producer. Since time immemorial, fathers and mothers, grandpas and grandmas, have passed down to their children and grandchildren, the family farm and their love of caring for animals and earning their living by producing food in a responsible manner. If the animal rights people have their way, however, those days can’t end soon enough.

Monday, June 13, 2011

First comes love...

So this is not a ranch post, not a cooking post and not a garden post.  This is a post about love.  WAIT! Don't go anywhere!! I'm not talking about mushy, The Notebook, type love. I'm talking about friends and family and the love you feel when you know they're happy.

The last weekend I was so blessed to be a witness to an amazing couple who joined together in marriage and the first of many great parties for my very best friend and her husband and their baby on the way. 

There's an expression in a book I just read about having a full love tank. And man, my tank runeth over.  First off, Weddings.  I'm a big wedding sap. It took place out at the Circle S Ranch; an outdoor ceremony, her brothers and dad providing the soundtrack for one of the most memorable moments of their lives, the perfect weather, the amazing company... it just doesn't get any better.  She was a breathtaking bride, he was a stunning groom... I love them and we are so happy for them.

And now time for babies!! Well not for our newlyweds but for my Best Friend and her incredible husband.  I have been blessed with friendship from these two for the last 15 years and it would take hell and high water for me to not throw them a baby shower! He's a Doc, she's a hard working mom to be, they're perfect and I count down the days until their perfect little baby joins the world and I can spoil it rotten ... and then give it back!

Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a little cooking as well so.. we had Rosemary Goat Cheese and Steak Crostini, Audra's Chicken Dip, Pickle Roll ups ( a little pregnancy joke), bruschetta, and amazing cupcakes from Baby Cakes in the River Market.  All delish and just what a few people needed after the wedding festivities. 

I love my  girlfriends, I love their husbands and I just couldn't do another ranch post without getting that out.  (My love tank was too distracting! )
Cheers to you, ladies!

Baby Shower Food

To answer your question, no. I'm not one of those people that's good at doing themed food for parties.  There is nothing wrong with those of you who are creative enough to put that together but its definitely not this girl. 

On top of the Rosemary Goat Cheese and Steak Crostini I made for my best friend's shower I threw in a few other simple things that I thought I should highlight.  I didn't take many pictures while making them since they're not beef based but they're tasty nonetheless!

Tortilla Roll Ups!
These are so simple its almost silly.  Whip up some cream cheese and chopped black olives.  While thats working, lay some dill pickle spears out on a towel to drain some of the liquid off. ( Nobody likes a mushy roll up)  Once they're relatively dry, slice them thinly length wise.  Take a flour tortilla, toast it lightly on a flat pan over low heat, shmear the cheese mixture, a little ground pepper and lay the spear on the outer edge of the tortilla and roll tightly! Slice on an angle and devour.

Audra's Chicken Dip-
Our friend Audra who is a fantastic caterer made this chicken dip for an event of ours and we all fell in love with it.  I cringed a little when I found out what was in it but all the good things are bad for us, right?Depending on how many people you're going to serve you can cut this in half.  My recipe is for 25-30 people.  2 cups cream cheese, 2 cups sour cream, 4 chicken breasts cooked slowly in 1 can of rotel then shredded, 2 cups shredded cheese, 1 jar salsa, 1 jalapeno, S&P to taste.  Decandent, dangerous, and delicous!

Dice 2 large tomatoes, 4 cloves of garlic, and 6-8 leaves of basil.  Toss together in olive oil and S&P. Let meld in the fridge for about an hour.  Serve over grilled or toasted sliced baguette.

And dont forget dessert! Mini Cupcakes from Baby Cakes

Thats it! Fun times, great shower, beautiful mom to be!!

Rosemary Goat Cheese and Steak Crostini

Hold onto your socks, people. This one is a doozy.  I recently made this for my best friend's baby shower and from what I could gather from the murmurs and finger licking... they turned out pretty good .

Remember this guy? Balsamic Steak well we're going to marinate round steak the same way. You can really use any cut you want since a lot of the fibrous tissue will break down in the vinegar. I used round because we have a lot of it and I was making this for around 30 people. 

I had mine in the marinade for 2 days but I think 6-10 hours would suffice.  While you're waiting on that, throw a couple fresh red peppers on the grill over high heat.  You want them to be black to a crisp without breaking the skin ( that's where all the yummy juices are hiding) so keep an eye on them but this is a pretty low maintenance process.  If you don't have a grill or its raining or snowing, Please don't go outside.  Simply stick them on your gas stove or under the broiler.   If you go the broiler route, I'd put a pan on the rack underneath to catch any smoke causing drips.    Once they're nice and black, throw them in a paper sack, wrap it up and wait for them to cool down.  From there you peel the peppers trying to catch as much of the juice as possible without the seeds, put into a bowl with a few cloves of chopped garlic and some olive oil and chill for a couple hours.  You can certainly add parsley to this for a pretty color.

Next, chop up a small handful of fresh rosemary ( now, I picked this because I love rosemary and beef but if you can't find it or you have another herb growing in your garden, by all means, use that! It's just a nice extra flavor)  and add it to your log of goat cheese.  I whipped mine up in my Kitchen Aid to make it a little more spreadable and airy.   ... are you starting to see where I'm going with this?

Grill your steak, about 2-3 minutes per side for round over medium heat.  Slice and taste :)  Slice up a large baguette on a slant, drizzle with olive oil and grill for a couple minutes until crispy.  Now we assemble! Baguette, goat cheese shmear, arugula sprigs, steak, roasted red pepper and another drizzle of olive oil and a little sea salt on top. Voila! Now eat!!