Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ode to May, Continued...

I showed you the hoo-humm side of May in the previous post...

this is the beautiful side.

PS, Do yourself a favor and click on each picture to see a full screen view of them.
They are meant to be viewed full screen.

Dandelion almost dande-done.

Raindrops on pasture grass.

Raindrops on pasture grass.

Raindrops on chives.

Rain caught in Sedum.

Blue Flax, grows like wild here!

Who knew a naked Dandelion could be so beautiful?

One lonely seed left hanging on to the Dandelion.

Raindrops on Sedum.

Raindrops on chive blossoms.

Raindrops on chives.

Salvia in bloom.

Raindrops on pasture grass.

Raindrops on chive blossom.

Crack Head.
What happens when you overdose on rain.

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Ode to May...

It's hard to believe that this is the end of May.

Where has the time gone?

I have worn shorts only once so far this year...

It has rained what seems all but two or three days this month.

I don't remember the last time there was no mud in the yard.

The rain has provided green pastures, but without the warmth, the grass isn't growing as well as it could.

The rain has been hard on the cows and calves, they continue to look for dry spots in the pasture and have mud caked on their heads.

The rain has been hard on the chickens in the pasture. It's no fun to run around in wet grass ALL the time. I kept telling them while they were in the brooders that they would enjoy it when they were old enough to go out to pasture and run in the warm sunshine and eat the tender shoots of grass. They think I have mislead them and prefer to spend the majority of the cold, wet days in their shelter out in the pasture.

The rain has been hard on the Country Chicken Girl and Dan the Man. It's no fun doing chores twice a day in the rain and mud. The rain only makes the chores harder to do, takes more time and makes the Country Chicken Girl cranky. Dan the Man is still wearing his turtlenecks and long johns.

The rain is hard on the cats who now have a severe case of cabin fever. Although, they do go outside and come back in, tracking the house full of mud. Dirty paw prints are everywhere. The Country Chicken Girl wishes the cats would learn how to wipe their feet.

Goodbye May.

Dear June, I would like to pre-order some sunshine and nice weather for when you come. That is all. Thank you.

Country Chicken Girl

PS Below are some random shots of May on the Open A Bar 2 Ranch, the home of the Country Chicken Girl and Dan the Man. You can click on the photo for a full screen view of it if you want.

Angel and her little heifer nursing.

Cupcake, she is always convinced that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence!
She has this maneuver down to a science so she does not get a shock from the electric fence.
Who knew a cow could be so nibble?

Dan the Man checking on his cows, still wearing his winter gear.

Chickens out on pasture.

Cat tracks in the mud.

Country Chicken Girl tracks in the mud.

Driveway... full of mud.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Update On Mystery Egg

Well, after several suggestions as to what the "mystery egg" was in my previous post, the general consensus is that it is a quail egg. So interesting, because I'm not sure I have ever seen a quail on our property.

Mystery Egg appears to be a quail egg.

According to Wikipedia:

"Quail eggs are considered a delicacy in many countries, including western Europe and North America. In Japanese cuisine, they are sometimes used raw or cooked as tamago in sushi and often found in bento lunches.

In some other countries, quail eggs are considered less exotic. In Colombia and Venezuela, a single hard-boiled quail egg is a common topping on hot dogs and hamburgers, often fixed into place with a toothpick. In the Philippines, kwek-kwek is a popular street food delicacy, which consists of soft-boiled quail eggs dipped in orange-colored batter before being skewered and deep-fried. In Vietnam, bags of boiled quail eggs are sold on street stalls as inexpensive beer snacks.

Quail eggs are often believed to be very high in cholesterol, but evidence shows their cholesterol levels are similar to chicken eggs.

I really think it was sweet Tay-tee Cakes that brought the egg in for his beloved mother (me)! He is such a mama's boy.

Tay-tee and his mother, the Country chicken Girl

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oh the Joys of Calving Season

Just in case you didn't catch my column in the Gering Citizen Newspaper last week, I thought I'd post it here for you. I don't always repost my columns, so you really should just subscribe to the Gering Citizen! It's a great paper and well worth the measly $30 bucks for a WHOLE YEAR or subscribe to the eEdition for only $25 smack-a-roos!


Friday night, May 6th, was my niece's graduation from EWC (Eastern Wyoming College). We are all so proud of her! Friday was a hectic day from the “get go” and I needed to be in Torrington by 6:30 pm for the graduation. I was busy feeding and watering the chickens and trying to hurry so I wouldn't be late. I happened to look out in the pasture, to make sure everything was okay with the cows and calves before I headed back into the house to change my clothes and get ready when I noticed a calf flat on his side looking dead as a doornail. (What a weird idiom that is, dead as a doornail!)

So, I trudged out to the pasture to check on the little guy. Just what I didn't need now, especially since I had somewhere to go and was needing to be getting ready. It seems like these things never happen at a convenient time, but then again, I don't know if there ever is a convenient time for situations like this. As I approached the calf, he remained lifeless, not even a twitch of his ear or flick of his tail. To make matter worse, the mother cow standing near him was "JD", not an especially friendly mother cow. She is the winner of the “over-protective mother” award each year. As I approach a little closer, I saw that he was at least breathing. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. That was a good sign.

JD noticed that I was making my way towards her calf and started making her way towards me. I softly tell her I just want to make sure he is okay and she snorts a warning sign to me that I'd better watch my step. No funny business or she is going to make me her lunch. Not wanting to get too close and cause her concern, I wanted to make sure he was not just sleeping so I whistled real loud and clapped my hands to get his attention. That sure got JD's attention and she snorted and pawed the ground in front of me, but the calf still did not respond.

I cautiously inched my way to the calf, all the while talking softly to JD reassuring her that I meant no harm to her calf. She was on one side of the calf and I on the other. I gingerly squatted down to the calf while concernedly keeping one eye on JD. Slowly I reached out my hand to touch the calf while JD inched closer. She lowered her head to smell the calf and I lightly touched him. I thought that if I could touch him, he would wake-up if he was just sleeping. Nothing, he continued to lay there, not opening his eyes, but still breathing. I tried again, this time a little more forcefully, rubbing his belly. JD snorted again and threw her head a little, but the calf just laid there.

Once again I assured JD that I wasn't going to hurt the little guy, I just wanted to make sure he was okay. One more time I reached out and tugged on his ear. He finally opened his eyes, but that was it. I picked up one of his back legs and gave it a tug. No resistance and when I let go, it dropped to the ground like a dead weight. Now JD was getting a little more agitated with me.

Well, it was clear to me that this little guy wasn't feeling so well, so I went to go get Dan so we could get this calf back to the corral and attend to him. There was no way I could take him by myself, not with his vigilant mother. Dan was plowing a field, so I had to ride the four-wheeler out there to get him.

Dan asked me if the calf was just sleeping and I said I didn't think so and explained all I had done to him and he hadn't responded. Dan and I went back out to the pair and Dan examined the calf. He also agreed that we should take him in and examine him. Besides, he hadn't gotten his ear tag yet, because Dan didn't want to do that by himself knowing that the mother was a little over protective. Dan said we'd better get the truck because he was afraid the mother would try to take him, if he took the calf.

Dan's pickup was hooked to a trailer so we couldn't take his, so we had to take my truck. At first we were just going to nab the calf and put him in the pickup bed. I would drive while Dan would ride in the truck bed with the calf but then Dan changed his mind and wanted to put the calf in the back of the crew cab. I wasn't too keen on that idea, especially since we were using MY truck. I finally consented to the idea, because I was afraid of the mother cow and a little fearful for my husband's life. I also said, "That calf better not poop in my truck!"

Dan promised me the calf would not make a mess, besides, we didn't have that far to go. After we discussed operation "nab the calf", we headed towards the pair. I was to drive between the mother and the calf while Dan jumped out of the truck, nabbed the calf and jumped back in with the calf. Sounded like a plan, but these things never go as planned. I have learned this from numerous "operations" such as this and each one never being executed as planned. I could just picture JD getting all worked up and smashing into my nice truck which I wanted to keep looking nice. My concern was also growing that I was going to be late for my niece's graduation.

We approached the pair and miracle of miracles, JD had wondered off just far enough that I was able to drive right between the two. Dan jumped out of the truck and scooped up the calf with lighting speed and had the calf safe in the cab in record time before JD even knew what we were doing. As we sped towards the corral, JD stood there in wonderment looking for her calf. Wow, that was unbelievable! Our operations never run as smoothly as that! As we were racing towards the corral, the calf suddenly became alert and alive! He must have been thinking, "Whoa, what just happened to me? Hey, you're not my mother. Get me out of this here." Dan had to hold onto the calf with all his might until we got to the corral.

As I put the truck in park, a distinct smell made it's way to my nostrils. I knew that
ill-smelling smell which made my nose wrinkle up! I said, "Did that calf just poop in my truck?" Dan replied, "Uh, just a little."

I was not in the least bit amused at the situation. But on the bright side of things, it would appear as if the calf was just sleeping (very soundly) and nothing was wrong with him. We safely got him tagged and let him back in the pasture where he immediately reunited with his mother. Meanwhile, I drove the truck back to the house and grabbed a bucket full of soapy water and a scrub brush. As I cleaned the mess up, I was thankful that it was a false alarm with the calf and that he was perfectly fine. I also wondered how many other people had to clean calf poop out of their truck before they could go to a graduation?

Just in case you've never seen it...

ooey, gooey, smelly calf poop!
Although it's not much, it's still a massive amount of ick!

Well done Shaina! We are so proud of you!
Now on to nursing school!!

EWC Graduation Class of 2011

Lori (my sister), Shaina and Mark (my brother-in-law)

Adam (Shaina's boyfriend), Shaina and Morgan (my other niece)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free Range Chickens and Gardening

There is one drawback to "free range" chickens.

It's not...

... that the chickens do not stay home. Oh they do. I don't think I've even seen them across the county road. I've seen them wander all around, but for the most part, they stay in the yard and around the house, usually within eyesight. But then again, our yard is pretty big and when I say "yard", I don't mean just the front yard and the back yard, I mean the whole "farm yard" which includes the area with all of our buildings. For you city folk, I guess you might say that our "yard" is about the size of a city block.

{PS, as always, don't forget you can click on the picture to see a full screen view of it. Just remember to hit your browsers back button to return to the blog. The girls (chickens) wanted me to make sure you knew that because they want you to see how beautiful they are. They are so vain!}

... that the chickens lay their eggs all over the place. The chickens almost always return to their nesting boxes in the coop to lay their eggs. Very rarely do I find any outside the coop. Occasionally I do find an egg outside the coop, but it is always close to the coop. It's almost as if the chicken is caught off guard and realizes that she has to lay an egg and can't hold it, so she drops it right there. Kind of like your kids when they wait too long to go to the bathroom. LOL I can just picture the chicken running through the yard back to the coop, trying to get to the nest box before she has an "accident." hee, hee!!

... that the chickens will get eaten alive by wild animals. That has only happened a few times with the egg layers. If I remember correctly, we have only lost two of our egg layers to predators. We are very lucky because some of our neighbors have lost several chickens to fox, dog and other critters. I have lost a couple of my egg layers to a hawk, but that is it. Oh, and the chickens and cats get along just fine. The cats don't bother the chickens and the chickens don't bother the cats. We don't have any dogs. And we seldom have the neighborhood dogs or stray dogs wander into our yard.

... that the chickens will not come back to the coop at bedtime. The chickens always come back to roost in the coop when it is bedtime. It's not like we have to go "round them up" and put them to bed at night. They are such good girls, they are always home before their curfew and all that I have to do is shut the coop door at night.

The one drawback with "free range" chickens is that they love to dig in the dirt. Watch the video and you'll see what I mean. As soon as they hear me start the rototiller, they come running like a herd of buffalo. You can almost hear the "thunder" and feel the ground shake as they all come running.

Not only do they dig and scratch the earth, but they don't care where they dig. I constantly catch them digging in my flowerbeds. Just the other day I planted a few small annuals, alyssum actually, and as soon as I turned my back and went into the house for a few minutes, some chicken managed to dig up three of the six plants that I had planted. Not only did they dig them up, but they demolished the plant. I could not believe my eyes as I walked past the flowerbed and saw that some dirty bird had already dug in that one spot. Oh and let me tell you about mulch. I put the mulch in the flowerbeds, the chickens kick it out when they are scratching and digging. I put the mulch back in, they think they need to throw it back out. This is an endless battle that happens on a daily basis.

So, if you are planning on having "free range" chickens and gardening, take heed to my warning... Anything you don't want the chickens to ruin, you will have to fence around.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Recipe: Cherry-Almond Vanilla Cupcakes

I know it has been forever since I last posted a recipe, well, besides for Dan the Man's grilling, so I thought it was high time I spread a little love with these scrumptious and cute cupcakes.

I made these for Skyler to take to school for a lunch that the student council prepared for the teachers. I must say that in my opinion, they were quite tasty. I hope the teachers liked them! I also made some chocolate cupcakes and used the frosting I had left over for them.

I used a different frosting recipe than what is listed on the cupcake recipe. I used a standard cream cheese frosting flavored with vanilla and almond extract, half of which I tinted pink with food coloring.

Click here to the recipe:
Cherry-Almond Vanilla Cupcakes

Happiness is...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Thank You for Such a Thoughtful Gift

The other morning I awoke and stumbled out of bed without my glasses on to make a trip to the bathroom. I noticed something out of the ordinary on the floor on my side of the bed and couldn't quite make out what it was without my glasses. I figured I would investigate it more closely upon my return from the bathroom with my glasses on.

I put my glasses on and was surprised to find that the UFO (unidentified floor object) was actually an egg.

Hmm... I wonder what kind of egg it is?
Anyone know?

Mystery Egg next to a regular egg.

I find it amusing to picture in my mind one of the cats finding this in the field (actually who knows where) and carrying it so very carefully all the way back to the house in their mouth, being cautious not to break it on the trip back. Then gingerly making their way through the dog door and into the bedroom and then placing it strategically on my side of the bed so that I will notice it. They did break the shell in a couple of places or else it would have been fun to hatch it.

Maybe it was a Mother's Day Present?!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dan the Man the "BIG RED" Kamado Kooker

For Christmas this last year, Dan the Man received a few gifts cards for Mernards from our boys. For those of you who do not have a Mernards where you live, it is like a Home Depot or Lowes. Danny has been sitting on those gift cards all this time waiting for the summer grills to come in stock so he could use them to help purchase a new grill. Danny has been wanting a new grill, a charcoal grill, for a year or so now. We currently have a gas grill that never seems to work right.

He originally did research on charcoal grills several years ago and ran across one called the "Big Green Egg" or some such thing. He has been obsessed with getting one since. The only thing holding him back is that they cost around $800 and while Danny can easily dish that kind of money out for some piece of machinery or equipment for the ranch/farm... he has a hard time spending that amount on something that falls in the "household" category.

Well, he finally found a "knock-off" version of the "Big Green Egg" at Mernards! Oh happy day! It's called the "Big Red" Kamado Kooker of which Dan the Man is the new owner of. It is about the third of the cost of the egg one. I like it, because it is red and matches perfectly with the Cleary building. Green would not have looked so good!

Kamado Kooker

(I just noticed his grilling "tools". What is my garden spade doing hanging from there?)

Oh my gosh, can I just tell you he has been like a little boy at Christmas with his new hot wheels race track that he simply can not get enough of! He has turned into an OBSESSED GRILLING MACHINE! Hee, hee! I'm not complaining, I've actually have enjoyed someone sharing the daily cooking chore with me! I am in charge of making sure there is something thawed out for him to grill each night (unless we are having left overs) and he does all the research on the internet as to the best way to prepare it. Sometimes this can take hours or even days!

We started out easy with hamburgers. Then moved to steaks and chickens.

At one of the winter farmer's markets I bought a chicken roasting pan that Jennie Salters of Chalk Butte Pottery made for me. Dan the Man just HAD to roast a chicken using it in his grill. I succumbed to the notion, but told him specifically, it could not get any hotter than 350 degrees or it could crack. He promised me, that it would not. I told him if it did, he would owe me another one.

Beautiful Open A Bar 2 Ranch Pastured Poulty
(Seasoned with Famous Dave's Country Roast Chicken Seasoning)
5.5 lb Roaster waiting to be roasted in my beautiful
chicken roasting pan, hand-made, just for me...
which by the way I hadn't even got to use yet.

Potatoes with a little olive oil and seasonings ready to roast.

Dan the Man, the chicken and my chicken roasting pan...

Dan the Man carefully setting everything in the grill.

He roasted the chicken for about 2 hours at 350 degrees. One of the nice things about these grills, is that it is extremely easy to keep the heat regulated in.

The finished chicken!

The finished potatoes.

The chicken turned out great! Very moist and juicy. The potatoes... well... since Dan the Man didn't know that he should probably turn them half way through cooking they were pretty brown... well, actually they were BLACK on the bottom half. And perhaps 2 hours was too long for them. And my pan, you are probably asking yourself... CRACKED! Boo, hoo. I am so sad. Guess Dan the Man owes his Country Chicken Girl a brand new chicken roasting pan from Chalk Butte Pottery! Oh Jennie....

Yesterday, he made a huge leap and smoked two 11 lb. chickens! That's not a typo, by the way, the 11 lb. chickens... Some of you know the story about the BIG chickens!!! Those of you who don't... in a nut shell, we had our commercial freezer konk-out on us last year in the middle of chicken production and ended up growing some pretty big chickens, as in 10-13 lb. chickens which we coined as our "churkeys"... chickens as big as turkeys! So these two chickens were from that whole episode.

Anyway, Dan the Man smoked them for 5 hours at 230 degrees and used apple wood chips. Oh my! He might be on to something. Perhaps Open A Bar 2 Ranch will soon be offering smoked chickens! Dan the Man's Smoked Chicken!

I'm just wondering how long this "grilling fascination" will last until it becomes "work" instead of "fun"! When that happens, the grill will end up being my duty!