Monday, September 1, 2014

The newest member of the family!

When we went to the fair, I was sort of thinking about getting another rabbit (Spot died last summer), but hadn't figured out the logistics.  There are some coyotes that live a little too close to us; we lock our cats in every night for safe keeping.  Bringing the rabbit into the shop every night isn't an option and we're afraid that a rabbit left out would be easy bait.

The club that we were in as kids started a petting zoo (probably sometime in the early 1990s).  The kids always like to go feed the goats, see the llamas and this petting zoo is housed in the rabbit and chicken barn. Well, this year there was a cage full of baby guinea pigs with a "for sale" sign on it.  Totally out of curiosity, I went up to the leader of the club that puts on the petting zoo and asked how much for one of the guinea pigs.  She steered me toward her daughter's 5 month old guinea pig, who was also for sale--cage, food, pig-loo, and all-- included!  She introduced us to her daughter who explained that she is in high school and just didn't have the time to give the pig as much attention as it deserved.  So, of course, Holly fell in love.  We have been telling Holly that --NO MATTER WHAT-- she could buy a hamster with her birthday money in January.  But this kind of was a deal too good to pass up.

So, I spent the rest of the day mulling it over in my head and consulting with Dave  (not really, it was more like, "Hey, we're getting a guinea pig.").  Early that evening, after the cattle show was done, I went back and wheeled and dealed with the nice lady and then after dinner and finishing up cattle chores, we went back and picked up "Elsa" and brought her home!

She is a super sweet guinea pig.  The first night we had her, she sat in our laps and actually purred!  Just like cats, it's a sign of contentment!  Another night we had her out in the living room and she was sitting in our laps chattering away at us, also a sign of contentment, I guess!  I read that when they need to go to the bathroom or are sick of the attention, they'll nibble on your shirt or your fingers or whatever is closest.

Sure enough!  Elsa was sitting on my lap and started nibbling on my shirt, then nipped at my finger, so we put her back in her cage and immediately... um... well, you know... did her "business".

I think that Elsa will be a nice addition to the family.  Holly's really good about going outside to shut in the cats every night, so making sure this inside pet has food and water every day is definitely something I can trust her to do.

I've been reading up on guinea pigs and came across this quote by the French poet Anatole France:

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Random sightings around the farm...

Remember the polar vortex?  Yeah, me too.  I hated this past winter!  I was hoping for weeks and weeks of sweltering 90 degree weather.

Didn't happen (or at least so far, and since we start school in 6 days, I'm done hoping for it).  We've had to wear a sweatshirt every morning except for a couple; we've had our a/c on maybe 5 days --not consecutively, either, and I haven't put more than a toe in the swimming pool.  But, these volunteer sunflowers all popped up in front of the pool and make me happy every time I look out the kitchen window!

Our garden has been bountiful, and I'm really getting into this pickling thing!  The tomatoes are coming along and I finally have strawberries!  Our second crop of green beans should be ready to harvest Labor Day weekend.  The garden is getting a little weedy, but I am o.k. with it.

So, despite the cold weather and the shortened vacation due to snow days, it has been a beautiful summer, nonetheless.

Tonight we are headed off to the fair with the cattle!  Wish us luck and patience... I know I'll need it!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Black Angus Veggie Burgers!

It's August, aka National Zucchini month.  Yesterday I whipped up some delicious brownies (more on that in a minute) and had about 1/2 cup left.  We were having hamburgers for supper, so I thought, "Hmm... what would it taste like if I threw in the rest of the zuke?"

I added some seasoned salt and a little pepper, as well...

slapped them on the grill...

...and I have no pictures to show of the final product because they were so fantastic that we snarfed them down in record time!  Absolutely the best cheeseburgers I've ever made!  I think that the zucchini helped soak up some of the grease from the burgers and while you couldn't taste the zucchini at all and we didn't really notice a difference in the texture, there was just something better about these burgers.  I would HIGHLY recommend them.  In fact, I'm going to freeze some shredded zucchini when more get ready-- some in 2 cup freezer portions, and some in 1/2 cup freezer portions for this very recipe!

And about those brownies:

In a smaller bowl, combine:
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a larger bowl, whisk together:
2 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Using a mixer, add wet and dry ingredients.  This will be almost powdery.  Fold in 2 cups of shredded zucchini, you may add a tablespoon of water if you need a little more binding.  My zucchini was so moist that I didn't need to add water.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  I used a can of chocolate frosting, and these brownies turned out so fudgey and gooey!  You can barely taste the zucchini, and if I had a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, I'd be in heaven! A link to the original recipe, along with a homemade chocolate frosting can be found here.

What are your favorite zucchini recipes?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The SWEAT Pledge

We shipped out A LOT of cattle this past month.  It's just that time of the year.

And it rained A LOT in the first part of the month.  We had something like 3 inches in 24 hours at the beginning of July and then it rained steadily up until about a week and a half ago.  The fields, gardens, and flowers look fantastic, but I am watering the garden these days because I don't want mother nature's hard work to go to waste!

One of the pitfalls of all the rain, though, is MESSY cattle!  (And smelly, but I'll spare you that torture.)

The other morning (after sending 4 loads of cattle off to... eh hem... market), Dave came in for breakfast stinking to the high heavens.  His jeans were caked in manure. What followed was something like this:

Carrie: "You're disgusting!"
Dave:  "You shoulda seen the cattle."
Carrie:  "I feel sorry for the high school drop-out who has to deal with that mess..."  (I'll let you use your imagination to figure out the first step in cattle processing...)
Dave:  "Hey now, don't judge.  He's probably a union worker who makes more than you and I put together."

Touche, touche.

I couldn't stop thinking about this lovely conversation that the hubs and I had...

Fast forward a few days later when I found this interesting post by my TV/Bathroom cleaner crush Mike Rowe!  He strongly believes that 4 year degrees aren't the beat-all-to-end-all, and is trying to pump more life into skilled trades!  (Personal disclaimer:  TOTALLY AGREE!!! WHEN WILL THE AMERICAN EDUCATION SYSTEM REALIZE THIS!?!?!!)

He is awarding $1 million in scholarships to UTI--Dave's alum-- Universal Technical Institute.  All he asks is that if you are awarded a scholarship, you also sign his S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, which stands for Skill and Work Ethic Aren't Taboo.  Please click HERE:   to go directly to his web page where you can read more about this program.

My favorites of the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge items are:

3.  "I believe there is no such thing as a "bad job".  I believe that all jobs are opportunities, and it is up to me to make the best of them."

4.  "I do not "follow my passion".  I bring it with me.  I believe that any job can be done with passion and enthusiasm."

7.  "I believe the best way to distinguish myself at work is to show up early, stay late, and cheerfully volunteer for every crappy task there is."

and my VERY favorite:

9.  "I believe that my education is my responsibility, and absolutely critical to my success.  I am resolved to learn as much as I can from whatever source is available to me.  I will never stop learning, and understand that library cards are free."

Finding and reading this S.W.E.A.T. pledge grounded and humbled me.  Sometimes I get caught up in my professional, white collar world where "Everyone should go to college!" is being shoved down my throat every time I turn around.

God bless the guy who has to clean the hides off the beef that come off a semi-trailer after riding for hours to the packing plant.  Seriously, what would life be like with out that guy?  I hope he IS paid well, finds his work satisfying, and brings his passion with him!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Matter of Perspective...

I was walking back up the driveway from the mailbox today and saw this sight:

I thought to myself, "What are they doing?  Filling the combine with corn from the bin?  What could be the purpose of that?  I thought they were trying to empty out the grain box on the combine so that they could start harvesting oats and wheat?"

Also, I don't know why the sky is gray... stupid phone camera.

Then I got a little closer and it became clearer...

...that my eyes are really getting bad.  It's just a perspective issue.

And then as I was actually upon the scene. I felt really dumb because, in reality, the combine and the auger were a solid 20 paces away from each other.  Boy, did my eyes play tricks on me!  As I took this picture, I was standing under the yellow auger, the one I thought was filling the combine.

Moral of the story:  I MUST see an optometrist sooner than later.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What to do when it rains on your pool party...

Emma turned 7 last Sunday and the rule at our house is that you get to have a "friends" party when you turn 7.  So, we intended to have her friends over for a pool party.

She found cupcakes on Pinterest that were baked in ice cream cones and decorated to look like teddy bears were swimming in rings or floating on rafts.

Piece of cake...  Mix up a box of yellow cake mix, put them in the ice cream cone, fill ONLY TO THE LOWER RIM and bake for 20 minutes.

Yeah.  Right.  Pinterest FAIL.

Oh well, I had 2 cake mixes, so I whipped up the second one and went straight to cupcakes.

It was fun decorating them, Emma was pleased with how they turned out, and they incorporated her favorite thing:  gum!  The beach balls are little gum balls and the rafts are fruit-stripe gum.  Special hint:  Emma found that you have to put the teddy gram inside the gummy lifesaver before putting them on the cupcake.

I bought $0.99 beach balls and wrote "Emma's 7th B-day 2014" and each girl's name on them before the party started.  The girls took turns signing each other's beach ball as a reminder of the day and who they partied with.  They had a good time doing the signing, and hopefully we will be able to keep track of Emma's so she can remember her special party in the upcoming summers.

Because it was too cool and dreary to swim (although 4 of the girls and Holly did get in the pool for a few minutes), Drew and I concocted a game to play.  They did a soda-tasting thing where they had to identify what kinds of soda were in the numbered glasses (pretty easy since the choices were root beer, 7-up and Coke).   Then, we gave everyone a piece of paper and had them number 1-5.  We put a piece of candy in each person's hand and they had to guess what it was and write it on their paper.  We had M&Ms, Skittles, mini Starbursts, mini 3 Muskateers, and mini Milky Ways.  It was fun and used up some of the time.  No one got all 5 right!

I give all the credit in the world to moms who host big parties (or even little parties) for bunches of kids year after year.  One per kid is enough to do me in!  It was a busy day, but a fun one!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy National Cow Appreciation Day!

I'm finding conflicting information on the EXACT date for Cow Appreciation Day, one website says it was July 11th, but Facebook told me it was July 15th.  We're celebrating it on the 15th.

Here are the cows we are appreciating this summer:

Baby Blair!  Isn't she adorable!  She's Danny's bottle calf, she was orphaned this spring when her mom (Danny's cow, "Bernie") got sick and died.

These are our bred-heifers:  The black-white faced cow is Danny's 3rd heifer, Belle, and technically Blair's older sister.  She's a DOLL!  Love her to pieces!

The red-white faced Hereford-looking cow is a replacement heifer that belongs to my parents.  She spent the winter in the 4-H pen and is SUPER friendly, so the boys have broke her to lead and will show her--just for fun--at the fair.

These are the boys' steers:  The black steer is Danny's.  His official name is "Bugsy" because when he was a little calf, his eyes were too big for his head and it looked like he had "bug eyes".  The Hereford is Drew's purebred calf from his fancy, purebred cow that he bought two winters ago.  "Chuckie" won Grand Champion Hereford at the fair last summer.  Hopefully he will do o.k. this year, as well.

We are a stock and custom feeding cattle operation, so we are in the business to MAKE BEEF, not fluffy show cattle.  We feed a ration to put on weight, not grow hair, so we never do very well at cattle shows, but we "hold our own".   It's a fun time nonetheless, and the kids are learning a lot about animal husbandry and RESPONSIBILITY.  So in the end, they really are winners!