Winter Visitor

Winter Visitor

Thursday, February 13, 2020

It's A Snow Globe World

The world looked like God had a snow globe in the palm of His hand, then flicked His wrist and gave it a little shake. And the big flakes of snow fell softly and silently back down to earth.

Snow globes remind me of my Grandma Neelly. She didn't travel a great deal. But, when she did, she'd raid the souvenir shops for snow globes or crinkly neon-colored coin purses showing the Grand Canyon or some other American landmark. She was a classy woman, but you couldn't tell it from her souvenir choices.
 
My 8-year-old self loved the snow globes as the snowflakes danced their way from top to bottom, catching in the crevices of the plastic Golden Gate Bridge or some other attraction.  Shake them up, and a kaleidoscope of snow would obscure the plastic figures inside.
 
So, it's no wonder that I upended my to-do list yesterday with as much fervor as I'd shake a snow globe. The flakes - from infinitesimal to ginormous - were calling a silent song as my world became a snow globe, too. 
Yesterday, instead of Empire State Buildings or the White House, the cows and calves in the heifer lot and in the pasture south of the house were the the figures catching the snowflakes' descent.
 
But then, as I returned to the house to make dinner, flashes of red darted through the snowscape scene in my backyard.
 
After patiently sitting on the back steps, trying not to make any sudden movements, I captured a few photos of our backyard troubadours.
After many other days when my efforts were less successful, I was pretty excited.
 
  
But it was my reliable "models" who were most ready for their close-ups.
It's rare that snow falls in Kansas without a gusting wind on the side.
I think 002 has the sweetest face!
Even though the wind came up as we checked the lots and pastures before dusk, most of the day was uncharacteristically calm and still.
 Our little friends had plenty of straw ...
And their own personal milk machines dispensing warm beverages. 
We had six new babies yesterday at various pasture locations. But the human in charge did his usual good job as steward. Honestly, the moms were the rock stars yesterday.
I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently?
 And then it covers them up snug, you know, 
with a white quilt. 
And perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings,
till the summer comes again."
-- Lewis Carroll 

And from author Mark Haddon (below):

Snow blobs and softens the top of every object like cream on a plum pudding. 
 
Hedges, telephone wires, cars, postboxes ... The world is losing its edges.
 
Look upwards and it seems as if the stars themselves are being poured from the sky and turn out not to be vast and fiery globes after all ...

 ... but tiny, frozen things which melt in the palm of your hand.


Thursday, February 6, 2020

Birth Day

This is what happens when you are trying to take a photo one-handed!
In these days of sexual harassment claims, I probably should have gotten this heifer's permission to post her personal "business" all over the internet.
Goodness knows, I didn't want video cameras or even still cameras documenting the birth of my offspring until the action was over. And even then, I let the Lamaze coach and the guest of honor be the focus of the star's first-ever photo shoot.

However, I guess it's in No. 885's "contract" for room, board and plenty of food that the Chief County Line Correspondent gets to have exclusive coverage of her baby's birth story.

The heifers - including No. 885 - are in a corral to the east of our house. That makes it easier for Randy to check them more frequently and gives us easy access to the calving shed. Because they are first-time mothers, Randy checks the heifers throughout the day and night, just in case one is having difficulty.

With the heifers, Randy uses a bull for "calving ease" - a bull whose progeny is lower birth weight but which gains well after birth. Most of the time, the heifers calve naturally, but, once in awhile, they need a little help.

No. 885 had been showing awhile, and after an hour, Randy didn't see any further progression. We ran her into the calving shed to pull the calf, something we do to help both the mama and the baby.
We put the heifer in the head gate, my Christmas gift of 2010. Sometimes cows can be riled up with the birthing process, so having them contained in the head gate is a much safer option for both mama and people. She set her feet and didn't want to go into the head gate. But, once we finally got her situated, she was very calm.
Randy first splashed disinfectant on the heifer to try to keep the birthing canal as clean as possible. (We've been using the same Tupperware bucket for this job since Randy's folks were in the cow-calf business. It was part of our inheritance.) Just like on Grey's Anatomy or Chicago Med, Randy gloved up for the procedure.
I should have done the same, but my work gloves were in the house, and I wasn't all "up in her business," as I might euphemistically describe. It would have just been more sanitary for me. Randy tied a chain above the ankle on each of the front hooves of the calf. Then he tied the two chains together.

Randy attached the chains to a calf puller, which is a long rod with a pulley on the end. (Since I was helping, I used the photo below from another year.)
 Randy put the leather strap of the calf puller on the cow's rear end, and I held it in place to get started.
   
Then Randy used the pulley system to gently pull the calf from the mama's womb, sometimes pausing to wait for another contraction. The baby comes out with the front feet and the head first.

 Welcome to the world, baby!
The mama still had part of the birth sac hanging immediately after birth. Many times, it bursts as the calf is delivered, but not in this case. However, just like with a human birth, the mama then delivers the after-birth.
Mama gets the job of cleaning off the baby by licking it. It's part of the bonding process for the pair.

We left the two alone in the calving shed to get to know each other.
In 2012, I wrote "The Miracle of Birth," which showed photos of the guys pulling a baby calf. Click here to read that post and see the photos. (Since I was just an observer instead of a helper, you can probably see the equipment used better in that post.)

And, while the farm is full of miracles like this birth, this life also encompasses the other end of the spectrum. We did our best to help this baby whose mama didn't accept it. We thought we'd successfully grafted it to another mama. But it died over the weekend. RIP, little 003.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Winter Snowscape Dessert with Snowmen

Dessert is important at women's meetings.

Maybe we don't want to admit it out loud, but it's true. It seems women are genetically predisposed to the promise of a sweet treat at the end of a business meeting.

It was my turn to provide the refreshments at a PEO meeting for one of our January meetings. And I was in search of a treat that would speak to the stark, winter landscape.

I did consider doing a warm dessert, like chocolate cobbler topped with ice cream or an apple cake with a warm caramel sauce. But my mind kept returning to snow and snowmen.

When I found a recipe for White Chocolate Lasagna, I decided it would become Winter Snowscape Dessert for my PEO sisters.
 
 
I also clicked on numerous links for building my own snowmen out of food, not snow. I got the ingredients to cover large pretzel rods. But when I tried it, the eyes, nose and buttons ended up sliding off the top of the pretzel.
So Plan B was born. And they turned out pretty cute, if I do say so myself. Actually, I didn't have to say: My PEO sisters said so, too.

The downside? Constructing a snowman army is time consuming. But the dessert was pretty simple and quick, so I guess it all balanced out.

I know everyone has transitioned to thinking about Valentine's Day this month. But there's some snow in the forecast today. And no matter what Punxsutawney Phil says, I'm fairly confident we're not done with winter. 

Want to try it? Here's how. Enjoy!
Winter Snowscape Dessert
1 pkg. Golden Oreos
6 tbsp. butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
16 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed
7.8 oz. white chocolate instant pudding mix (or use 2 small packages)
3 cups whole milk
White chocolate bar (opt.)

Crush Oreos using a food processor to get a fine crumb. Melt 6 tablespoons butter. Combine with Oreos. Press into the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch pan, covering it evenly.

In a medium bowl, blend softened cream cheese and butter, mixing well. Add powdered sugar; mix again. Add half of the whipped topping. Blend well. Spread out over the crust layer.

In another bowl, combine pudding mix and milk. Beat until thickened. Pour over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate at least 5 minutes.

Top off with the rest of the whipped topping. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Optional: You may top the dessert with white chocolate curls. (Mine didn't make nice, long curls like I'd envisioned, but maybe that made it look more like snow.
Marshmallow Snowmen
Large marshmallows (2 per snowman)
White coating chocolate
Lifesaver gummies
Mini or micro-mini peanut butter cups or Hershey's Kisses
Black piping gel
Orange piping gel
Pretzel sticks, broken in half
Flat gummy candy like Airheads or fruit leather
White sanding sugar (opt.)

Melt coating chocolate. Put a little coating chocolate between the marshmallows to stick them together. I used Airheads and cut them in half for the scarves. I added the scarves right after putting the marshmallows together. The excess chocolate helps stick the scarf to the body. If needed, I added a little more coating chocolate on the underside of the scarf to attach it more firmly.

Attach the peanut butter cup to the Lifesaver gummy to form the hat. Attach the hat to the top of the snowman.

Using piping gel, make dots for the facial features.

On a piece of waxed paper, put a small dollop of melted coating chocolate. Sprinkle with white sanding sugar, if desired. Press the completed snowman into the melted coating chocolate. You may have to hold it up for a minute or so until it begins to set up. You can't work too far ahead or the chocolate will get too hard and you won't be able to press it into the chocolate dollop.

After the snowman is firm, snap pretzel sticks in half. Press broken ends into melted coating chocolate. Push into the bottom marshmallow.

Note: You may have to reheat your coating chocolate in the microwave if it starts to get hard.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Super Bowl = Super Snacks

At Christmastime, I typed "cheese dip" into my blog's search engine, hoping to save a little time and not dig through a pile of printed-out recipes. Some cheesy recipes popped up, but it wasn't the dip recipe I was looking for. I tried other combinations because I was just sure that I must have shared such a tried-and-true recipe before on Kim's County Line.

Nope.

So when one of my friends asked if I was going to do a Super Bowl food blog post, I decided it was time to remedy that oversight. After all, we'll need all the sustenance possible to cheer on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl this Sunday!

This Southwest Ranch Cheese Dip was a recipe shared by my friend, Kim Volker, back when I was compiling favorites for a recipe book project as a shower gift for Jill and Eric.
They've been married more than 10 years now, and both Jill and I have used the recipe over and over again. Even though we eat leftovers for our after-Christmas-dinner supper, I always stir together Southwest Ranch Cheese Dip to serve alongside the ham sandwiches. And it's a favorite with Mexican meals and for parties, too.

It's super simple, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand in my fridge and pantry. Though the original recipe's directions called for using a slow cooker to heat up the dip, I've also sped up the process by combining the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and "zapping" it.
It's great served as-is with chips or fresh veggies. You can also use it as a topping on tostadas or baked potatoes.

It's been 50 years since our Kansas City Chiefs have been in the Big Game, so having the right munchies is paramount. Besides the recipe for the cheese dip, I've provided links to more tried-and-true recipes from Kim's County Line. I don't put them on the blog unless we've enjoyed them ourselves.

With Kansas City known as a barbecue hub, try out the BBQ Oven-Baked Ribs, BBQ Meatballs or BBQ Beef Under a Bun.

Since the Super Bowl is in Miami this year, I shared some tropical flavors with both the Lemon Buddy Snack Mix and the Chili Lime Tacos with Grilled Pineapple Salsa. Or try Jill's Guacamole recipe.

You'll also find a variety of sandwiches, snack mixes and sweet treats compiled below.

Enjoy and Gooooooooo CHIIIIEEEEEFFFFS!
Southwest Ranch Cheese Dip
From the kitchen of Kim Volker
1 can fiesta corn, drained
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. fiesta blend cheese, shredded (the original recipe called for Monterey Jack. I always have the fiesta on hand)
4 oz. can diced japalenos
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
8 oz. sour cream
A little milk, if needed

Mix together all of the ingredients (except milk). Heat for 2 hours on low in a slow cooker, stirring every 30 minutes or so. If the dip is too thick, add a little milk to thin it.

Optional: Microwave the ingredients in a glass bowl. Microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes at a time and stir. Keep heating and stirring intermittently until it's melted. Add additional milk as needed to thin it.

It's also good as a dip for raw vegetables or served as a topping for tosadas and baked potatoes, for example.

***

Click on the links for the recipes pictured below. Looking for something else? Type "bar cookie," "snack mix," "cookies," "sandwiches," "soup," etc., into the blog search engine. The search engine is found in the upper lefthand corner of the blog post.

Oven-Baked BBQ Ribs AND Sweet & Sour Baked Beans

BBQ Meatballs - Make them full-size or bite-sized
Brownies for a Crowd

Let's hope the San Francisco 49ers have Butterfingers - NOT the Chiefs!
Butterfinger Blondies

Peanut Butter S'Mores Bars