Thursday, October 29, 2009

RECIPE: Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Here is the recipe I promised yesterday!

Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole

2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1½ cups green enchilada sauce
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream
1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
½ cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
1½ c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 13 x 9-inch casserole.
2. Combine chicken, enchilada sauce, soup, sour cream and chiles in large skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until warm.
3. Heat oil in separate deep skillet. Fry tortillas just until soft; drain on paper towels. Place 4 tortillas on bottom of prepared casserole. Layer with 1/3 of chicken mixture and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layers twice.
4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and
casserole is heated through.


Can Someone Please Tell Me What Happened to Fall??

Did I miss something? Did God decide we didn't deserve four seasons this year? Is He giving us only three, Spring, Summer and Winter? We've received at least 12 inches of snow in the last two days along with wind all day today. Can you say blizzard??

This kind of weather makes for doing the chores interesting to say the least. Too much snow, slush, mud and large snow drifts to use the four wheeler so we had to drag the hay from one set of corrals to the other to feed the bulls today. That was fun. Can I just say that the tarp was my idea! Danny wanted to carry a "flake" at a time with the pitch fork. I didn't really want to be a part of that, besides, my hay always falls off the fork because it is too heavy to carry and if you don't have the flake "jabbed" just right, the fork is all out of balance and spins in your hand and the hay ends up on the ground. Needless to say, I found a tarp and we did it my way after Danny took one fork full over by himself.

The cold is not as bad as the snow drifts we have to walk through. Some are thigh-high!

These birds wanted to be a part of tonight's feeding. I don't know what kind they are. I'm guessing some sort of black bird. If you know please educate me and let me know what they are. Danny said they use to call them "monkey birds" at the ranch, but I doubt if that is what they are really called!

This picture looks as if the cow is going to eat the bird. Click on the photo to make it full screen and you'll see what I mean. Hit the back button on your browser to return to the blog.

We didn't even bother going out the front door today!

Good thing Skyler doesn't have school tomorrow.
Looks like he has a lot of digging to do before he is going anywhere!

I change the comment section, so if you have tried to leave comments before and couldn't because you didn't have an account, you can now leave comments, even without an account!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2 Chickens = 14 Cups of Meat!

Today has been cold and miserable so I decided to do some extra cooking. Our kids even had a snow day and didn't have school today. Bridgette went out with me this morning to do some of the chores. By the expression on her face, I don't think she was enjoying the snow very much. If you click on the picture you will get a full screen view of the photo. Just remember to click the back arrow on your browser to get back to the blog.

I just got done cooking two of our chickens and ended up with a little over 14 cups of chicken meat for casseroles and such! Hard to believe, huh!? But I kid you not. I cooked two of my big chickens, 7 lbs. each in my big canning pot on top of the stove. Just filled the pot with the chickens, enough water to cover the chickens, a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder for flavoring, brought the pot to a boil, turned it down to a simmer, covered with the lid and cooked for a couple of hours. When the meat started falling off the bone, I took the chickens out of the water and put them a large roasting pan to cool.

When they were cool enough to handle, I pulled all the meat from the bones. I then bagged the chicken meat into quart freezer bags measuring out two cups of meat for each bag. I had seven bags with about a cup of meat left over. I then took the bags and froze them so I'd have cut up chicken meat ready for casseroles or what ever I need it for. I have enough chicken ready for at least 7 meals. This has been a huge time-saver for me and I do it all the time. When I use the last bag in the freezer I cook up two more chickens. I also have close to 16 cups of chicken broth.

I'll post the recipe to one my family's favorite casseroles tomorrow. It is called Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole. YUM!!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Sky at Night, Shepherds Delight...

Wow, what a beautiful sunrise this morning! Made me think of the saying:

Red sky at night, Shepherds delight;
Red sky at morning, Shepherds warning.

At first I couldn't think of the saying. I posted the above picture on my wall on Facebook and asked if anyone knew that saying. My friend Karen replied immediately, but she remembered it as:

Pink sky at night...sailor's delight. Pink sky at morning...sailor's take warning.

She said "I was telling that to my son on the way over to the school this morning. It looked incredible!"

Funny how we were both thinking the same thing at the same time.

Did you know that there is even reference to this saying in the bible? Matthew 16:1-4 says:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.

They are predicting 10-20 inches of snow for this evening and tomorrow. I hope they are wrong. I'm not sure if I am ready for all the extra work that goes along with doing the chores in the snow. Guess we'll just have to wait and see...

Enjoy the video.
(Whitey, the rooster, always seems to crow on cue during these videos!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fixin Fence and the Napping Tree

One of Friday's chores was to do a little fence fixin'. This is one chore I usually don't mind doing as long as the weather is nice. Luckily for me, the weather was beautiful on Friday, just a tad breezy, but nothing that was going to blow me clear across the state to Lincoln or Omaha! I also don't mind fence fixin' because it generally can be done by only one person. This is a good thing, since Danny is busy trying to get up the last of our hay.

I only had to check one section of the fence since we were opening up a new section of pasture for the cattle down on the creek. You never know what kind of wildlife you will run across while you are walking the fence line. I didn't find anything too exciting, just a few prairie dogs. Since we have a creek that runs through our pasture, it is generally easiest to just walk the fence line instead of riding the four wheeler. I also enjoy the exercise and just being alone to contemplate what ever crosses my mind.

Here I am checking the electricity with the volt meter. Check out that blue sky!

Lucky for me, there wasn't any major repairs or breaks in the section that I was dealing with, so I had my work done in short order. Since I still had quite a bit of afternoon left and Danny was out raking hay at the other place we farm, I walked down to the creek to see what the cows were doing. They were all bedded down for the afternoon by the "napping tree." Looked like a great idea, so I decided to join them for a little while...

As I take pictures and video for this blog I am always thinking it sure would be great to have someone taping me sometimes, especially when any animals are involved. So let me set the real scene for you regarding the above picture.

Here I am trying to set up the tripod and camera with a dozen or so VERY curious and friendly cows. All of them want to slobber on the camera, lick the tripod and sniff my pockets for "cake." ("Cake" is a protein supplement we sometimes feed our cattle and they absolutely love it. It comes in big pellets, say the size of your thumb, so it is easy to carry a handful in your coat pocket and I occasionally give it to the cows as a treat.)

So, back to the picture taking. Since it is only me, myself and I running the camera and also being the subject of the photograph, I have to use my tripod and the timer on the camera. I have ten seconds to hit the shutter button on the camera, run to the tree, flop down and assume a natural sleeping position. This would not have been too hard of a task to accomplish, but when you factor in my audience of 12 or so curious cows, well... lets just say it was quite comical!

The worst of the bunch was Charlie, one of our herd bulls and a bull that we showed both at the NILE in Montana and the National Western Stockshow in Denver two years ago. Charlie is very tame and very curious, he was also very willing to play the part of the camera man, but couldn't quite hit the shutter with his nose although he tried a number of times!

I had to use a blanket I found in the truck to shoo them away from the camera several times. I shook it out at them like a crazed matador and they would take a few steps back, but that was about all. It was a little unnerving closing my eyes, even though it was only for a few seconds. I was certain someone was going to knock down the tripod and my camera along with it. Now I want you look at the above picture of me and imagine the audience in a semicircle behind the camera goofing around. Now you can picture the "whole" picture behind the napping photo!

Jose' enjoying his mid afternoon nap in the warm autumn sun.

How Great is Our God

All this week I couldn't help but see God's beauty. There are so many different "beauties" that I am referring to.

Of course there is beauty as in the beauty of nature. How could the earth's beauty and existence just happen?? It didn't, it's is God's own creation.

Then there is beauty in life. The life that God has given each one of us. He made all of us, special and unique. I am reminded of this by the birth of a friend's baby this week. What a true miracle and blessing!

Then there is the beauty in God's love for us. He loves you, me and everyone else in this world, whether they be a sinner or a saint.

If you don't see God's beauty like I do, then maybe you don't see God.

I wanted to share this video with you, it is one of my favorite songs. Enjoy and have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Midafternoon Visitor

Yesterday afternoon just as we were finishing up lunch, Danny looked outside and towards the corral was one of the deer that have been hanging out at our place. I grabbed my camera, thinking I could get some good shots of her. Little did I know that I would spend the next half hour or so in the presence of this beautiful creature.

The video is a little on the long side, but if you need a stress reliever after a long days work at the office, this might be just what the doctor ordered. Enjoy.

Danny watched this whole adventure unfold and wished that he had a video camera to record me taping the deer. At one point when I was hiding behind the baler's tire, the deer was coming straight towards me! Then she decided to go the other way around the baler. I couldn't tell where she was and it almost felt like a game of hide and seek. I was hiding and she was seeking! I felt like she was sneaking up behind me from the other side, ready to shout "I found you!!" as she came around the baler! It was a crazy few minutes waiting for her to come out the other side.

I could not believe how calm she was through out the whole taping. I am sure she knew I was there several times, but she just didn't seem to care. I love the part of the video when she is intrigued with the cat. Watch her carefully as she watches the cat, especially the movement of her tail.

Toward the end of the tape, she actually yawns a couple of times. I imagine she was wondering when I was going to get tired of taping her. Maybe it was getting close to her nap time.

Here are a few pictures I got.

NOTE: If you click on the photographs, you'll get a fantastic full screen view of the photographs. Try it! Click the back arrow on your browser to get back to the blog. If you want to see a full version of the video, click on it and it will take you to the video on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

RECIPE: Pumpkin Wheat Honey Muffins

Here's the recipe I promised. I got it from and it was submitted by Colleen Moir.

Pumpkin Wheat Honey Muffins

1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1.2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, or line with paper liners. Place the raisins in a cup, and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand for a few minutes to plump.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center, and put in eggs, pumpkin, oil and honey. Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. Drain excess water from raisins, and stir in along with the walnuts. Spoon into muffin cups so they are about 2/3 full.
3. Bake for 18 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan before removing from cups.

NOTE: When I make these, I use 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup regular flour.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Danny running the baler

Not much is happening around here today. Nice to have all the chickens processed for the year. I especially am enjoying my new found freedom in not having to feed and water the chickens twice a day! So today was a day to catch up on paper work, laundry, go to town to do banking and shopping and to tackle a few things on my much neglected to-do list.

Danny kept busy trying to get the hay up before the weather changes. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. I got a reprieve from helping with that chore since Skyler was home today. Skyler's school had a teacher "in-service" day, so he didn't have classes. Farm kids are so lucky when they don't have school. Instead of having nothing to do, like the kids in town, farm kids always have something to do! When Danny found out that Skyler didn't have school, he quickly assigned him raking duty. I'm not talking about raking leaves, I am talking about raking hay. There is a huge difference. The later involves a tractor pulling a rake. See the video below. I am certain Skyler was thrilled and thanking the Lord that he lives on a farm. (I'm being sarcastic in case you didn't know.) So Danny spent the day baling and Skyler spent the day raking. I am happy to report that there was no equipment breakdowns today!

I made cabbage burgers this morning along with chicken broth from the parts of the chicken we didn't eat last night. You know... the back and neck. My mother-in-law should be so proud of me! Penny, did you read that? I didn't throw away the back and neck! I made the broth in the crockpot, so easy, just dump the chicken in there along with some water, about 6 cups, onions, celery and carrots along with salt, pepper and what other spices jump out at you in the spice cupboard and let it cook all day on low. Then for dinner, I strained the broth of the bones and left the onions, carrots, celery and meat in it and we ended up having chicken noodle soup with butterballs. I use to love my mother's and grandmother's chicken noodle soup with butterballs. Theirs was fantastic, mine was nothing special. I will have to work on perfecting it so it can be as delicious as my mother's was, if that is at all possible. I am beginning to think it is a mental thing, how much better my mother's cooking was than mine. The secret ingredients of the chicken noodle soup could have been Mrs. Gantz's homemade noodles and butterballs. Mrs. Gantz went to the same church as we did. I wonder if she still makes them, that was over 25 years ago.

I also made two dozen muffins for Skyler to take to school tomorrow morning. He is in one-acts and they practice every morning before school at 7 am . Each person takes turns bringing breakfast and tomorrow it is Skyler's turn. I do appreciate that he remembers when his turn is and gives me plenty of notice ahead of time. This is one advantage of being the youngest child. He has witnessed the "beast" that comes out of me when I am given only an hours notice of these things!! I must admit that the Pumpkin Wheat Honey Muffins I made are scrumptious and the recipe is worthy to be shared on my blog. I will post it tomorrow as it is getting late and past my bedtime for this evening.

I hope you all are enjoying this blog.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who Said Video Taping the Bulls Was Gonna Be Easy?

About a week ago we had a chore at the top of our "to do" list that we finally sat down to tackle. We needed to get some video of our bulls to market them on the Internet. This is the newest thing in marketing and we don't want to be left in the dust so we thought we'd better get on board with this. We have two bulls for sale and also wanted to video our herd bulls so those who were interested in the ones for sale could see their fathers.

All we had to do was get them to walk from one end of the corral to the other. The key was to get them to walk in a natural, normal fashion. They didn't need to act like models walking down the runway swinging their hips and arms around. They also didn't need to act like rodeo bulls a buckin' and a jumpin' all over the place. Sounded easy enough to me.

So, Danny, Skyler and I all headed out to the corral. Let me mention that our cattle are very tame and very use to us. They all will come right up to you and allow you to pet them. Actually a couple of them come up to you and demand to be petted. They love to have their backs scratched too. We had four to film. Skyler would stand at one end of the corral so he could turn them when they got to his end and Danny was at the opposite end ready to turn them when they got to his end. I was in the middle with the video camera. Our instructions from Danny was get them to walk in one direction so I could film the one side, get them to walk in the other direction so I could film that side and then film them from behind to get their back side.

"Shouldn't take long," Danny assures Skyler. We have heard this phrase more times than we can count so we should have known that this would be an all afternoon ordeal! I'll let the video tell the rest of the story! Enjoy!

You'll notice that we have whips in our hands, rest assured that we do not strike the bulls with them, we snap in front of them or behind them. We use the whip for the snap sound it makes not to hurt the bulls. Also these are some of our Lowline/Angus bulls. If you are interested in buying one of them or both of them let us know!!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Here is the recipe that I promised yesterday. I've made this twice now. The first time I followed the recipe, but the second time for time's sake, I did not brown the chicken. I thought that both ways were equally good. I must say this is some of the tastiest BBQ sauce I have ever made, so even if you just need BBQ sauce for ribs or whatever, try this one. It does have a little kick to it, but you can regulate the heat by adjusting the amount of crushed red pepper.

I got this recipe out of the October 2009 Better Homes and Gardens magazine.


(2) 3 1/2 lb whole chickens [I used one of my 6 lb chickens, heaven forbid you have to fix this with a store bought chicken, ha, ha]
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh garlic
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cold water
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup tomato paste
Peanut oil [I used canola oil]

1. Cut up chicken, leaving drumsticks and thighs attached. Season chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to (up to 24 hours).

2. For sauce: In large nonreactive saucepan, melt butter. Add onion, garlic, and salt. Cook over low heat until onion is tender. Add crushed red pepper, paprika, chili powder, and black pepper; cook and stir for 1 minute.

3. Add water, vinegar, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce; bring to a simmer. Stir in molasses. Whisk in tomato paste until smooth. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt if needed. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the sauce to prepare chicken. Store remaining in the refrigerator; reheat to serve.

4. For chicken: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat 1/4 inch oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, place chicken, skin side down, in skillet. Cook until well browned, turning once, about 5 minutes.

5. Transfer browned chicken to two 2- to 3- quart rectangular glass or nonreactive baking dishes. Place skin side up adding breast portions to one dish and leg portions to the other. Add 2 tablespoons water to each baking dish.

6. Spoon reserved 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce over chicken. Cover chicken with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. (Refrigerate until ready to bake). Bake leg portions for 70 to 75 minutes and breast portions for 30 to 40 minutes (170 degrees).

7. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Uncover chicken and spoon on additional sauce. Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 13 minutes or until well-glazed and meat is very tender. Serve with remaining barbecue sauce.

A few things I did differently was I cut the drumstick from the thigh and since my chickens are so big, I cut each breast into two sections for a total of 4 breast pieces. I baked all chicken pieces in a 13"x 15" glass baking dish for 60 minutes covered at 350 degrees, then 15 minutes uncovered at 450 degrees. I had enough sauce left over from the first time I made this dish, to use it again the second time I made the chicken.

Delish, this recipe is a keeper in my book! ENJOY!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicken Processing October 14, 2009

The weather finally let up so we could process some chickens today. This is our last batch for the season and I am more than ready to be done with the chickens for this year. I thought I would share with you exactly how we process the chickens in this post. I know that several of my friends from Facebook have some pretty wild ideas as to how a chicken is processed. They pictures things they have heard about or remember from their childhood about chicken processing. Let me just say, we don't process them like your grandma use to but they taste just as good as hers if not better!

We process our chickens when they are 8 weeks old. Yep, that's right, only 8 weeks to grow a chicken. This is one of my selling points, that they are nice, young, tender birds not old stewing hens! Danny's parents, Bob and Penny, come and help us each time we process. They live near Walden, Colorado where Danny grew up. It takes about 4 hours to get here from there. We could not have our chicken business without their help!

We raise a Cornish cross chicken that we order through the mail from Pennsylvania. The hatchery ships them as soon as they hatch. They usually hatch on Tuesdays and they arrive here on Thursdays. I find it very fascinating that the nutrients they receive when they are still in the egg is enough to sustain them until I get them. I take them individually out of the box and give them each a drink of water by gently dipping their beaks into the waterer. I usually order 200 at a time, so this usually takes me a while, but it is always a pleasure. They are so cute!

I'm getting off track, I was going to tell you about the processing, not the raising and everything else.

Where was I? Oh yes... Two people start by catching the chickens, which doesn't involve us chasing chickens all over the place because by now they are very use to me since I am in with them at least two times a day. They either come right up to us, or we put a board in front of the door of the coop and just take them out of the coop. We transport 10 chickens at a time in a large wagon to the "holding" cage. When we have gathered about 40 chickens we start the process. Danny has four "killing cones" which he puts the chickens in, four at a time, and slits their throats to let them bleed out. The cones are a humane way to euthanize the birds since the cones restrain them. In others words, there are no chickens running around with their heads cut off, no hatchets, no chopping blocks, no broom handles! Ha, ha, I've heard them all!

After the chickens have bleed out, they are carried to Bob who runs the scalder. We have a commercial scalder that has a basket that rotates the four birds in and out of the water for about 60 seconds. This means no kettles of hot water, holding the chickens by their feet and dipping each chicken in and out of the water. After they are scalded, Danny takes all four of the chickens and puts them into a commercial plucker. The plucker is like a huge washing machine that spins the chickens around the tub with rubber fingers in the middle that snatch the feathers off in 20 seconds. The plucker does such a good job that there is no burning the pin feathers off. So no smelling of burnt feathers!

Next the chickens go to the rinse sink where their heads are taken off, any stray feathers are removed and the feet are cut off. We all take turns at this station. After that, they are ready for the eviscerators, Penny and me. Eviscerator is a nice way of saying the "gutter!" We have done so many birds now that it isn't near as bad as you would imagine it!! We can even do it with our eyes closed! Well, almost all of it. There is some cutting which you would not want to do with your eyes closed! Then it is over to the final rinse and into the chill tank. After we have that batch done, we bag them, weigh them and take them to the refrigerator/freezer. And there you have it. Not near as bad as you were imagining it, right?!?

Our chicken processing operation is state inspected and approved. We even have the federal inspector show up every once in a while although we are not under his jurisdiction. You have to process over 20,000 birds a year to be under his jurisdiction. I don't foresee that happening anytime soon! Not here!! We are processing 1000 birds this year.

I will say that a shower has never felt so good after a day of chicken processing. We did 65 chickens today since we got a late start due to the weather. On a good day we usually do 80-100, but we don't push it. One of the things that my customers like so much about our chickens is that they are so clean. We don't want to compromise the quality of our processing for the quantity that we do in a day.

We even had chicken for dinner! Yep, oven roasted BBQ chicken. I'll have to put the recipe on here later. It is a new recipe I found in the latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The BBQ sauce was wonderful and of course the chicken was the best I've ever eaten!

Well, there you are. A day in the life of a chicken processor! Not so bad after all!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weaning Time!

Today, October 13, 2009, we weaned our calves. These calves are six months old. We use a cross-fence method. All the mother cows are put on one side of the corral while all the calves are placed on the other side. The mother cows can still see the calves, but the calves can't nurse. We feel that this method is less stressful on both the calves and the cows. Within five to six days the mothers are ready to be moved out to pasture and will not return home looking for their babies. Note: we have had several inches of snow the last couple of days causing the corral to be quite muddy. Our corral in not normally in this condition.


Thought I'd share this picture I took this morning of the snow!
(click on the picture to enlarge it)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Birthday and RECIPE: Apple-Cranberry Crumble

Well, today was my 44th birthday. We actually were suppose to start processing our last batch of chickens (200 of them) today, but because of the weather, that chore is being delayed. Hopefully we can get started tomorrow. Guess the Lord took pity on me today! Who in their right mind wants to process chickens on their birthday?

Danny's parents, who are here to help us process the chickens, took us out for lunch to the Wonderful House. I seldom look at the menu when we go there because I always get the General Chicken. As always, it was so delicious!

Penny made cabbage burgers for dinner and I found this recipe in the October 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living and we made it for my birthday dessert.


1 1/2 lbs apples (about 3 medium), peeled and cored
1/2 cups fresh or frozen (unthawed cranberries, coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Coarse salt
4 Tsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for dish
1/2 cup pecan halves (2 ounces), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
3 Tsp packed light-brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Quarter apples lengthwise, then thinly slice. Toss in a large bowl with cranberries, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt until evenly coated.
2. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish. Mix pecans, flour, oats, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until combined. Work in butter with your fingertips until topping is crumbly, with pea-size chunks.
3. Spread apple mixture in prepared dish; sprinkle with topping. Bake until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

This was delish!! I also loved that it didn't make a huge dessert, just the right amount for four to five people. That way, I don't end up eating more than I need.

On a sadder note, as I am writing this post, one of our mother cows is mooing, morning the loss of her baby. Danny found the calf in the corral this morning. We aren't sure what happened to it. It never showed signs of being sick. This is one of the hardest things I am finding about ranching. I hate it when we lose an animal. It is getting easier, but it is still painful when it appears to happen for reasons we are not sure about. I always feel like there must have been something we could have done, but sometimes a sick animal is hard to diagnose if they don't show any symptoms of being sick.

I feel for the mother. Her moo is so sad. I am sure her utters are full and hurt. Any mother who has nursed a baby knows this. Men just don't get it! Hopefully she will settle down or we will hear her mooing all night long. Actually, when we wean the calves, which will be soon, we will have several nights of mothers and calves mooing all night long.

Well, we'll see what the good Lord has planned for us tomorrow. Hopefully we can process chickens.

Let me know if you try the dessert and what you think of the recipe!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Snow of the Season, Day Two

October 11, 2009

Day Two of the first snow.

This morning when I woke up I was stuck flat on my back and thought that I was being held captive in a bed where the sheets were tucked in much too tight! As I cleared the sleep from my head, I realized the "pinned in" feeling was due to one cat curled up tight on my left side, one on my right side and one between my legs. Right away I knew it was another frigid morning. Didn't bother looking at the thermometer, didn't really want to know. As I made my way into the kitchen for my beloved coffee, I glanced outside to see how much snow had fallen. Ugh, it looked like at least 6 more inches. So needless to say, another day of doing chores in the snow.

As I was filling the chicken waters I noticed that the water coming out of the faucet was pretty dirty. Oh no, that almost ALWAYS means WATER PROBLEMS! Great day for water problems. I finished up my chores and went into the house. Question for you: Why do you always have to go to the bathroom when you come inside from being outside in the cold?? Anyway, after I flushed the toilet, the tank did not fill back up again... hummm. I said a quick pray to the Lord, praying that this did not mean water problems. Danny was still outside so I was praying that he was just messing with the water. (We have had major water problems this summer and just got done pouring tons of money into our water system.)

Growing up in the city, I always took water for granted. We never were without it. Since we have moved out here, let me tell you, that I no longer take a simple thing like water for granted. I started thinking of all of the ramifications of not having water. My first thought of course was for myself. No more flushing the toilet, I hadn't had my shower yet, makes for tricky cooking and cleaning up afterward... but those thoughts quickly turned to the more important ones like... no water, no chicken processing tomorrow... no water for the cattle to drink, or for the chickens to drink!!

If you have ever had livestock you know what I am talking about. If you haven't ever had livestock, this is a huge problem. I can't even begin to tell you how many GALLONS of water we require each day for our livestock. Danny says cattle drink about 5 gallons of water each per day and we have about 70 head, so that's approximately 350 gallons for the cattle. The chickens go through 32 gallons a day. So you can see, no water poses a huge problem. It's not like we can haul it from the neighbors!

So needless to say, I was starting to panic a little. Finally, Danny makes it back in from doing his chores and the first thing that I want to know is if he had the water turned off. Of course he did (why didn't he tell me he was going to turn it off?) Big sign of relief!!

We missed church today since it took so long to do the chores. We are normally not in the habit of missing church. Around 3:30 I was finally able to get Danny off the couch to help me with the bathroom remodel. I needed his plumbing expertise since I am putting in a new counter top on the vanity and a new vessel sink. Over the years I have learned that no plumbing job can be an easy plumbing job. We only have one shut off valve for the whole house so Danny's plan is to install shut off valves to our bathroom sink and toilet. I assume this will be an easy task and I believe that Danny thought it would be as well. He turns off the water to the house and cuts all the lines and installs the shut off valves to the sink and toilet then has me turn the water back on to check for leaks.

You guessed it! There were leaks, but these were gushing leaks, not just the dribble kind!! Now I am envisioning no water for the house! Didn't we just go through this earlier this morning? This can't be happening again, can it? Since it is now getting close to chore time, Danny sends me into town (20 miles, by the way) to go to Menards to get parts to fix the leaks. He is convinced that the guy who sold him the valves in the first place, sold him defective ones or the wrong ones. I hate going into town not knowing what I am going for, especially when it involves parts that I don't even know what are called. I always feel so inadequate trying to explain the situation to the parts guy!

So I trudge into Menards with my bag of valves and a sample of the pipe to show the plumbing guy that these valves don't work on our pipe. I find a guy in plumbing, which was an accomplishment in it's self! He can't figure out why the valves won't work. Danny was certain that this would be the case, so he instructed me to tell the guy to put the valve on the pipe and blow through the pipe and he would be able to feel the air that was escaping since the valve did not work. So the guy does this, blows through the pipe and lo and behold, there is NO air escaping! How did he do that?? "Sorry ma'am, don't know what to tell you. They seem to be working just fine for me."

Taking the valves with me, I drive all the way back home to tell Danny that he must not have installed them correctly. Was he sure that he pushed them on all the way? Before I left for town I asked him if he had pushed them on at least 1 1/2" like it said to do in the instructions which I read. Of course he did! So I said, "But honey, it says to measure 1 1/2" on the pipe and mark it to insure that you have the valves pushed on as far as they go." Danny replies, "I don't need to mark it, I know how far 1 1/2" is!"

I go into the house and relay what the guy at Menards said. So, we try again, and lo and behold, they work! Thank the Lord!

Tomorrow is my birthday and the only thing we have planned is to process chickens! I hope that we have no more surprises and all goes without a hitch. This is our last batch of chickens to process for this season. I am so ready to be done with them. The weather has really made it tough these last few days concerning the chickens. Danny's parents are here to help with the processing. I don't know what we would do without their help. We are very blessed that they are so willing to help us when ever we need their help!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

First Snow of the Season

October 10, 2009

The first snow of the season. Seems so early in the season to have to be dragging myself out of my nice toasty bed to do chores in the snow! I know already that it is cold outside due to the number of cats who have apprently bedded down with me and Danny during the night. Good thing we have a king size bed or there might not have been enough room for Danny! LOL! I have noticed that the majority of people who don't have to work out in the snow and get to enjoy it (as in skiing, snow shoeing, snow mobiling, hunting...) love the first snow. But in my opinion, snow means more work! Oh don't get me wrong, I do enjoy it's beauty, but jumping out of bed to go outside in 11 degree weather is not my idea of fun.

I really am wishing that we had our last batch of chickens already processed and in the freezer or better yet, already sold and out of here!! But with that NOT being the case, I found myself putting on all my snow gear to take care of them this morning. (Mental note for next year: have chicken done by October 1st.) So after donning my snow pants, sweatshirt, winter coat, hat, gloves and muck boots, I made my way to the chicken coop through three inches of snow although it felt like 3 feet of snow walking a mile up hill... you know the rest!! I knew it was going to snow more last night so I shut all the chickens up in the coop. When I opened the door, not a single soul wanted to come out. This makes feeding the chickens even more of a challenge since they are all hungry and refuse to get out of your way!

I forgot to mention that prior to this jaunt to the coop, I had to make my way to the chicken feed which is a mile in the opposite direction of the coop, up hill... and fill my feed buckets, two five gallon buckets. Of course since we don't have our grain storage building completed, the feed sits outside, covered with tarps and is full of snow which has to be removed before I can get to the feed. So once I have that accomplished, I can resume my mission. If you want to strengthen your shoulders and back ladies, I can recommend that you carry five gallon buckets full of chicken feed, one in each hand a mile up hill in the snow!! (Actually, it's not a mile, it just feels like one and besides I'm just trying to make a better story!)

So with that accomplished, back to the hungry chickens that WILL NOT get out of your way for you to make it to their feeders. I gingerly make my way to each feeder, trying not to step on toes or hit anyone in the head with the feed bucket while 200 chickens are letting me know that they are hungry and breakfast is late! What a ruckus! Wish you were there to see for yourself.

With that done, next is the water, four 4 gallon waters which have to be carried to the water bib on the side of the shop because all the water bibs at the coops are frozen. You guessed it, water is over by the feed, so back up that hill... (and since I can only carry two at a time I must make this trip two times) then carry the full waters back to the coop (more strength building) and get them in the coop without spilling while trying to navigate through 200 chickens who will not move out of your way. Wow, I'm exhausted again just telling you about it! Finally to complete the mission I must make my way back to the feed and fill the buckets again so they are ready for the night feeding which will take place around 5:00 pm. I can hardly wait...

With my mission completed I paused to take in the beauty of the morning. Did you ever notice how incredibly blue the sky is on snow days like these? WOW!! Thank you God for such beauty. A flock of geese fly over my head. I go to check on the egg layers and they are all toasty warm in their coop. The cats are all outside playing in the snow like kittens. I am all the sudden refreshed and decide to tackle the snowy walks and deck. I thought to myself, decks are so wonderful in the summer, but a real pain in the neck in the winter!! With the snow all scooped I go inside to grab my camera. As I am wandering around looking for pictures to share with you I am in awe of God's beauty. I am also thankful for warm clothes He has provided, muck boots (who could do chores without them and I feel blessed to have them), hats, gloves, warm coffee, the moisture...

Corn full of snow, perfect pheasant hunting!

One of the egg layers wondering if she wants to come out!

Three girls wondering if it was too cold to venture out of their nice warm coop!

Beautiful Millie posing in the snow!

Danny feeding the steers.

Chester would rather lay on the hay than eat it!

More feeding, this time by hand.

Charlie and 820 enjoying their breakfast!

A couple of the calves enjoying breakfast.

Closing shot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Post

Well, here I am. Now what?

I suppose I should start by introducing myself and the purpose of this blog. My name is Kathi Manville. I live in Western Nebraska on our family ranch/farm. We raise all-natural beef and farm fresh pastured poultry.

The name of our business is Open A Bar 2 Ranch, LLC and we are located between Torrington, WY and Scottsbluff, NE. My husband, Dan is a 5th generation rancher. One of our goals is to develop an all-natural beef operation using percentage Lowlines. During the summer months we raise pastured poultry. The poultry business started out as a small venture between Dan and Chris and is quickly growing into a profitable venture for us. I will elaborate further on each one of these subjects in later posts to follow.

Dan and I married in 1996 and have four boys: Nick our Airman, who serves our country in the United States Air Force and is currently stationed in Japan; Colton, who has all the brains and is attending South Dakota School of Mines and Technology; Chris, who is our athlete and is attending WNCC in Alliance and is pursuing his degree in Powerline Maintenance and Construction; and Skyler, a sophomore at Morrill High School and is both smart and athletic!

I am hoping to make this blog an informative as well as an entertaining blog. I will be posting stories of my life here on the farm as well as tips, recipes, photos and whatever else strikes my fancy that I think you might enjoy as well.