Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shipping Calves

When the price of feed grain drops
It is time to sell the calves.
                                  So round 'em up,
                                  Sort 'em out,
                                  Load 'em up,
                                  Let 'em go.

These calves will be sold at auction probably to a feed lot. Cattlemen are more likely to buy and pay a little more when the grain market is depressed. The USDA market report that included all unharvested grain in the field as bushels in storage did just that. Since it likely won't take long for the market to correct (corn market to rebound), Jim shipped the calves that were born last spring as soon as he could make arrangements following the market dip. No one knows what the market will actually do, but we watch closely and use our experience to make the best decisions possible for GriggsDakota.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Keeping the Roads Open

During a snowy winter, such as this, keeping the roads open becomes an issue. With miles between farmsteads, neighbors work together and use their own snow removal equipment between snow plow passes on gravel roads. The townships and counties simply cannot afford to keep it all open. Notice the finger drifts reaching across this gravel road in GriggsDakota. Winds were increasing and it is snowing. This road could be blocked by morning.
The highways are a priority and are kept open whenever possible. 
Whenever drifts begin to build up on the side of the road, the area road crew gets to work.
There are countless stories of snowplows leading vehicles or rescuing people who were stranded on the road or in the ditch during a storm.
 All they ask of us is that we stay out of their way and give them room to work. I was aware of that and didn't quite get the photo I wanted as the snowplow passed. Plus the driver waved at me, which might have slowed me down an instant.
And to let you know how well we take care of one another out here, notice the speck on the road behind the distant snowplow. That was a neighbor in his pickup who stopped just to make sure everything was okay when he saw my pickup stopped on the side of the road. Neighbors on the prairie are the best in the world!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Recipe Bag

When I moved back to GriggsDakota after years in a city, the thing I missed most was the supermarket. I lived in a place where the market was truly super. Despite our land-locked location and coolish climate, the store offered a great selection of fish and produce as well as choices in every category. They had a wonderful bakery and deli which I ran to at the last minute many times.
Now, let me say at the outset, I fully appreciate the GriggsDakota Grocery. The owner is a dear friend to her customers and does her very best. She actually puts on an appreciation supper every year to thank us. But she can't be open 24/7 and when the shelf empties of an item, the supply is gone until the next truck runs through town. That might be a week away. There is not a bakery in GriggsDakota and nowhere to stop by in a hurry on Sunday morning.
So, I learned some tricks of how to stay supplied. With a house full of hungry people who are willing to cook and bake as well as eat, I had to develop a protective method of keeping the ingredients that I need in the cupboard. Usually, speed is of the utmost importance, so I must be able to pull things together quickly. Here is the idea:
Gather the nonperishable ingredients needed for a particular recipe. Include the recipe, which is on the marshmallow bag in this case.
Put it in a labeled grocery bag. I might write a note of what I planned to use the ingredients for. If it's for someone's activities, include their name. "Kirsti play practice 2/2" would be an example. The notes seem to help deter thieves. Tie the bag and put it away.
It works for me to put it back in the cupboard, but you may need to carve out a space somewhere out of the sight of your family to keep these safe. Once your family understands the importance of the bags, they will be respectful of the process. If you keep a calendar, make notes on it as to what your plan is.
When you find a recipe that works well on the package of an ingredient, note that on the bag. The location of the recipe is a key to speed when it is time to grab the bag.
Practice will help you to determine what info you want to include, but I try to include as much of the plan as possible and make notes in my calendar.
Consider taping the recipe to the outside of the bag. Now that I have this process down, I wish I would have done it years sooner. It is fast, easy and thrifty.
At the end of this blog post is the recipe for Potluck Salad to make from a Recipe Bag. If you keep bananas on your counter, the rest is in the bag. You will be ready to make a delicious salad in no time. Follow along with the process.
The recipe is on the bag.
The ingredients are unloaded.
Today I found the tropical mixed fruit, pictured on the left, in the Recipe Bag, but any mixed fruit you like will work just fine.
The liquid must be drained from the canned fruit. You can do this by opening the cans and dumping them into a strainer or colander, but I'll show you my method. Pop the tops to break the seal, but leave the lids in place.
I open the cans, but leave the lids attached to the can by stopping about one fourth inch before completing the circle.
I place a colander into the mixing bowl, then tip and drain the liquid from the fruit.
Let the cans drain into the colander with a bowl under if you wish to reserve the juice.
Why do I use this method? If I don't want to reserve the juice, I lay the can on its side in the sink and save myself the time of dealing with the colander. Let the can drain, then pick it up holding the top with one finger and give it a good shake to get the last drops out.
Today I used the juice in glasses of iced tea. One part juice, one part ice and one part cooled black tea. Very refreshing!
While the fruit is draining, I measured marshmallows, generously of course, and prepared the cherries.
How many cherries? That is a cook's decision. Today we will use about half of this jar. Let the cherries drain a bit on a paper towel.
Then cut them in half.
Assemble the salad by first pouring the apricot filling into the mixing bowl.
Add the drained cans of fruit and marshmallows to the bowl.
Stir by pushing down to the bottom along the edge and lifting through. Canned fruit is soft, so mix carefully just to combine. We don't want a bowl of fruit mush.
If you need this salad for tomorrow, cover the mixing bowl, put the cherries in a plastic bag or small covered bowl and refrigerate. You can finish it in the morning. If day has already dawned, keep going. This salad does not need to be cold to be delicious, but I prefer it chilled, especially in warm weather.
Add bananas as close to serving time as is practical. I like to peel and divide the banana into sections.
Then cut into chunks. Whatever is fastest for you is fine. All I ask is that you use a cutting board and cut down toward it with your knife. No kitchen carelessness, please.
Stir in the banana using the previous method. Transfer the salad into a serving bowl.
If you are taking the salad somewhere, use a bowl that won't break.
Then carefully arrange the cherries on top.
Or drop them on as fast as you can.
You will have a beautiful and delicious bowl of salad in front of you. When I need a salad in a hurry, I can grab the Recipe Bag and have it ready in less than ten minutes. Leave the cherries whole, estimate the marshmallows and cut the time even more! Whip it up in the morning. Then you can drop it off at church or take it to work to chill in the fridge until lunch.
1 Can Apricot pie Filling
1 15 oz. Can Fruit Cocktail
2 20 oz cans pineapple chunks
2 15 oz cans Mandarin Oranges
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 firm Bananas
Maraschino Cherries cut in half
Drain the juice from the canned fruit.
Combine apricot filling, fruit cocktail, pineapple chunks, oranges, and marshmallows. Chill. Add bananas just before leaving for the potluck and garnish with cherries. Serves 12-15.
At a GriggsDakota potluck it always disappears.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gathering Firewood

Gathering firewood is on the the to do list today. We never seem to find time in the summer to get this done. Farmer Fred makes it part of his winter exercise routine. He cuts down dead trees or cuts up trees that have fallen in the shelter belts in GriggsDakota. The clean up is something that should be done, as a strong wind can blow the dead wood into the adjacent field where it is in the way of our equipment during the farming season. 
The day dawned   
  with stripes of color in the sky.
Pictures never do justice to the prairie sky, but this one was spectacular shades of pink, blue and lavender as the sun rose.
On to firewood.
Getting to a shelter belt in the winter is sometimes a challenge.
Above:  The snow was hard to break through as we drove in. This photo is taken from the top of the rise in the field. The trip to the top was back up, hit the accelerator, three feet forward, bam, spin, stop, back up,... It took a while.
Above: Farmer Fred parked and headed to the designated tree.
Above:  It is easy to distinguish the dead tree as it has shed its bark.
Above:  Soon it came down.
Above:  Butler loves to romp in the snow or follow the scents he picks up in his hunting dog nose.
Above:  The chain saw cuts quickly through the dry wood by rotating a sharpened chain around the blade that extends from the body of the tool. This is not a toy and requires strength and care to use successfully. Notice the saw dust that is produced with each cut. Eye protection and leather gloves are a good idea when you are using a chainsaw.
Farmer Fred backed the flatbed pickup near the fallen tree to load. The snow was not very deep and he had no problem.
Above:  From the top of the hill we were able to find a less challenging route out of the field. We left an interesting trail and stopped to look back when we got up on the road. We felt lucky that we aren't stuck out there. We didn't need our cell phone or the tractor today.
Above:  It was easy to dream of Spring this afternoon, but a look at the calendar assures Farmer Fred that we will need all of this wood and more before it arrives.