Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Good-bye Red

Some of my favorite movies include “Secretariat” and “Sea Biscuit”.  Both movies tell us a story about two amazing horses and the people around them.  Both movies inspire us to persevere through difficulties.  The role of the horses and their cooperation with the requests of their owners brings to mind my experiences with some of the horses we have owned.

Steve is riding Misty, a gray mare that is one of the
top three horses I have owned.  Kim is riding a
gelding named Oscar. This is in 2001.

Recently we had to say good-bye to a horse we have had for twelve years.  We called him “Red” because he was a big, red horse.   His registered name was “Rifle Site Tonto”.  We bought Red when he was 15 years old for two purposes.  We wanted a horse the kids could ride and one that we could use for riding pens in the feedlot.  We were Red’s fifth and final owners.

Kim tried using Red as a 4-H horse.  She took him to a
horse clinic and is working on halter class here.

 It didn’t take us long to figure out that Red was more of a feedlot horse than a pleasure horse.  He had plenty of energy and liked to work with cattle.  Red was not my favorite horse but he was a hard working horse for Steve.  Red was the “boss” around our other horses.  He liked to dig through the hay to get the leaves at the bottom thus throwing hay out all over the ground.  I don’t know how many times I said “Red, can’t you just eat the hay from the top down?”  And he would just look at me and keep doing what he was doing.
Kim and her friend Kelly riding horses.  Kelly is on the left
on Red.  Kim is on the right on Haley.  Haley was a nice
bay mare that was my favorite horse to date.  She currently
lives on a ranch near O'Neill producing nice foals!

The past few years Red hasn’t been used for feedlot work.   He has become more of a vacation highlight in the summer when relatives visit.  We have been called “Camp Ruskamp” for the many activities our nieces and nephews can do when they visit and no camp is complete without horseback riding.   Red still had energy but for the most part he was like an older person and just plodded along.  

Kim and her cousin, Megan, riding horses.  I am not sure
what the white tape on their legs was about.  I might have
to ask the girls if they were decorating the horses for fun.
This past winter we were noticing that Red was laying down more and just not himself.  We suspected that his age and winter were starting to show.  After a veterinary checkup confirming no health issues we continued his normal care.  Our horses have an open front barn that they can go into when it snows or rains.  They also have access to hay, water and a pasture that even in the winter allows them to get a little exercise.

Steve is riding Paco on the right.  A college friend of our daughter,
Emily, is riding Red.  Paco was named by Steve and although I
didn't like it the name stuck.  We raised Paco as a foal from Misty.

When Steve gave me the news that Red had died I wasn’t really surprised.  I felt sad in the way we feel when we experience death.  The deep bond of human and horse started to ache inside of me when I heard the whinny of Red’s pasture mate, Paco.  Paco was looking for Red.  As I drove up the drive-way to run an errand Paco was looking at me.  I stopped, rolled down the window and said “Hey, Paco” and he just whinnied, looked around and whinnied again.

I couldn’t help but feel the ache of loss.  Paco had lost his buddy.  Red always made sure Paco knew his place but nonetheless they were still companions.  I had to go over and rub Paco’s forehead and tell him all is OK even though he didn’t have a clue about what I was saying.  

Paco is adjusting but I think we are going to need to look for another buddy for him.  I don’t ride often and I have been teased about having horses around just for decoration.  Perhaps this is a great time to look for that horse that will be a fit for my granddaughter.  I think my list of qualifications just doubled as I think about my granddaughter riding!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bedding Cattle

One of our feedlot jobs is bedding cattle.  When we bed cattle we create a clean and dry place for them to lay down.  Most of the time cattle can find a dry place to lay down.  When we have snow storms or rainy spells we spend time making sure the cattle are comfortable.

One of Steve's favorite pieces of equipment for cleaning cement pads is the rear end bucket.  This bucket is big and can push a lot of snow, mud, and old bedding on a pile.  In this pen you can also see there is a metal windbreak that the cattle will stand behind during a snow storm to block the wind.

Steve is going to clean this up in about 10 minutes.  The cattle are in the back playing on the pile Steve is building for them.

We usually clean several pens first then go back to put the bedding in.  We use a bale processor that can shred large bales for bedding.  This is much faster than breaking small bales apart by hand and using a pitchfork!

Steve will back into the pen and when the processor turns on it blows out shredded bedding.  We are using corn stalk bales.  Steve will go back and forth to cover an area large enough for all of the cattle to lay down.

After the cattle have sniffed around and chewed on a few pieces of stalks they will pretty quickly find a place to lay down.  If you look in the upper right hand part of the picture you will see another group of cattle laying down.  The stalks stay drier when we can put them on cement.

We will also put bedding on mud as it will give the cattle a drier place to lay and it is not as slick for them to walk around on.  These cattle are close to their finish weight so they were next in line for bedding.  Steve spent the rest of the day getting to the other pens so that by dark all 3400 head would be bedded.  We all sleep much better when we know our cattle are resting, too.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Soup's On!

I would love to share with you one of my favorite soups!  This soup is perfect because it is flexible.  You can substitute vegetables according to what you have on hand and it can be available to eat whenever the meal is needed.  Since I tend to make it on snow days I call it my Beef Blizzard Soup!
2 pounds lean ground beef
¼ cup chopped onion
4 medium potatoes, peeled
2 cups cut up carrots
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups frozen corn
3 tsp beef base

Start with a pot of water with about 8 cups of water in it.  Put it on the stove on high heat and wait for it to boil.  While the water is heating put the hamburger and chopped onion in a skillet and brown on medium heat. 
The carrots and potatoes are in the boiling water.
While the water is heating put the hamburger and chopped onion in a skillet and brown on medium heat.

This is one of my favorite
kitchen tools from Pampered
Chef.  I used it to brown my
hamburger and mix the soup.

Once the water is boiling put the carrots in.  Wait five minutes and add the potatoes.  Allow to gently boil for about 10 minutes.  You will have to adjust the time according to how big your pieces are.  I like mine to be small so that hot potato bite doesn’t burn the tongue.  

I love to use the frozen sweet corn I have from my 2012 garden.
I didn't have as much luck growing peas so I buy those!

When the hamburger is browned spread the frozen corn over it and turn down to low heat allowing the corn to soften. 
I am only using two pans for this meal!

Add the frozen peas to the boiling water mix for around 5 minutes.  Next add three heaping teaspoons of beef base.  We use “Better than Bullion”.  Stir until dissolved.  I do not add salt to this soup because of the beef base.  You can add salt and pepper according to personal preference.

This does require refrigeration after opening.
Now you are ready to put your ingredients into your soup kettle. 

This mixture nearly fills a large crock pot.

  I use a crock pot so it can stay warm until someone needs to eat.  Add the hamburger mixture first.  Next pour the potato, carrot and pea mixture with the liquid carefully into the pot.  Stir and you are finished!   

A nice hot bowl of soup!


Friday, March 8, 2013

My Stomach's Talking

With numerous cooking shows on TV, constantly evolving nutrition information, and growing misinformation about farming—not to mention our stomachs constantly reminding us of our hunger—food is almost always on our minds. When my stomach recently produced the “feed me” sounds it reminded me of something our daughter, Kim, said when she was about 2 years old.

Ginger feeding Ella while Emily holds her. Ella has quite a
variety of baby foods to choose from.  
We had just dropped off her older brother, Jeff, at preschool and Kim said “My stomach’s talking”.  I didn’t have any quick snacks to hand her like we do now.  I love the little yogurt bites our daughter, Ginger, gives to our granddaughter, Ella.

As a mom I tried to provide good meals for our family.  I am pretty sure Kim had either a bowl of cereal or cinnamon toast when we got back home as those were our most common breakfast meals.  Our dinner, or lunch as we said when I was growing up, and our supper had meat, potatoes and a vegetable.  Beef was a staple and I can attest that hamburger helped me make a great meal!  I like making casseroles and baking with ingredients that are easy to find.  The other day our daughter, Emily, pointed that out to me.  She noticed that I am a quick recipe type of cook.  I like to get things in the oven and then go do something else while it bakes. 

Scott is filleting fish while Emily and Steve prepare other items
to make Ceviche, a Peruvian dish of fish with lime and onions.
Some of our other children take more after Steve.  They like to explore new recipes and use lots of utensils, bowls and pans when they cook.  Scott has brought Japanese dishes into our lives while Emily and Jeff have brought in Peruvian dishes.  Our son-in-law, Casey, is a hunter and very good at making jerky.  I am really grateful for the many cooks in our family because I have learned to try new things and I get more time out of the kitchen!  I have to admit there are some foods I just can’t make myself eat chicken feet and my husband just loves them cooked with carrots.

Jeff and Kim make sandwiches using tomato, sliced boiled
eggs, avocado, mayonnaise and three slices of bread.  This
would make an excellent sandwich on Fridays during Lent!

Food is a very important part of our daily lives.  We need it to live physically but it is also an activity that builds relationships.  Cooking together and eating together allows for conversations to happen that just don’t occur when getting food from Burger King or a concession stand at a game.  I should know because we ate many meals in gyms or the mini-van while our kids went through high school.  Eating together around a table without a TV on has been shown to build stronger families and healthier kids.  Perhaps we as a country should spend as much time thinking about where, when and how we eat as well as what we eat.

Our family enjoying a meal together in February.  Steak was on the menu!

Recently food has taken center stage in other ways.  Besides several TV programs about cooking there are more people asking questions about how our food is raised and who is doing it.  As a CommonGround volunteer I hear many questions about that.  Part of the misunderstanding is the terminology used in food production today.

If you knew a product was called Streptococcus Cremoris would you eat it?  Well, I eat it and I really like it on a baked potato, in chip dip and in cheesecake.  It is the scientific name for sour cream. 

Dill Pickles!
Many of us like ketchup and pickles.  One ingredient used in both products is vinegar or acetic acid.  If I said pass the pickles with acetic acid I might raise a few eyebrows.  Vinegar is a 4-6% solution of acetic acid. 

How about Saccharomyces cerevisiae?  That is the yeast used in bread and in beer.  Different strains allow more production of either carbon dioxide or alcohol depending on what you are making-bread or beer.  I found it interesting that using yeast for beer happened accidently thousands of years ago when the yeast “contaminated” some flour or drinks.  The results were pleasant for the people using the contaminated products.  I would have liked to have been a mouse watching that scene unfold!

Chocolate Cake!
One of my favorites is Theobroma cacaoor or the fruit of the gods.  You eat theobromine when you eat chocolate.  Eating a chocolate bar sounds better than eating a theobromine bar.

Here are three farmers!  Steve and I are joined by a farmer
from Ireland who stopped for a brief visit.
Terminology can be frightening if we don’t explore what the word/words really mean.  With the explosion of social media it is more important now than ever to seek reliable sources of information.  I would encourage you to double check the sources you use for information and when it comes to food ask a farmer!