Monday, January 31, 2011

Cattleman's Law

You've heard of Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

But I'll bet you've never heard of the Cattlemen's Law. (That might be because I just made it up.)

The Cattleman's Law says: "Heifers will ignore the due date on the calendar if the weather is unseasonably warm. Instead, they will inevitably wait for single-digit temperatures to welcome their new babies to the world."

Here on the County Line, January 28 was the magical date that heifers were supposed to begin calving. (For the uninitiated, a heifer is female cow who will have a baby for the first time.)

January 28 was a sunny, beautiful day with high temperatures in the upper 60s. Did we have any baby calves that day?

Please refer to the Cattleman's Law. Nary a calf was born on the picture-perfect day.

But one heifer did manage to deliver her precious cargo on a beautiful day. Kansas Day - January 29 - celebrated our state's 150th anniversary and our first baby of 2011.

Correction: This was the first live baby of the year.

Our calving enterprise did not get off to an auspicious start. On Wednesday, Randy found a dead heifer during his morning check of the mamas-to-be. There was no calf's feet or head showing, so Randy didn't know the heifer was in distress - until he found it dead.

Then on Friday, Jake found two twin babies dead when he watered the older cows. Those cows aren't supposed to begin calving until February 7. The two babies came early and were too small to survive.

That was an expensive couple of days. The heifer was worth around $1,200. At the sale barn, a newborn baby calf might bring $200. Losing three calves in two days was not the kind of start we wanted for calving season.

So we were especially glad to welcome the first baby of 2011.

And even though this mama is new to this whole parenthood thing, she had the motherly instincts downpat. She was watchful and protective when two humans came sightseeing into the corral around her precious baby.

You just never know with these first-time mothers. Some of them ignore the baby. So we'd much rather have a heifer whose inborn propensity is to protect her calf.

Come to think of it, there are a bunch of human analogies here, aren't there?

This new mother was also smart enough to go against the Cattleman's Law when her 20 other corral mates seemed to be waiting for this week's frigid temperatures.

By the time we checked the new pair as evening approached, she had moved her baby from the muddy lot to nestle in the prairie hay that Randy and Jake had unrolled earlier in the week.

I took those photos by sticking my camera through the fence. They may not be the best quality of photos I ever took, but it beats getting charged by an aggravated, nervous mom.

Her protectiveness meant Randy needed to be quick and stealth-like when he put an eartag in the baby's ear earlier in the afternoon.

This little bull calf is No. 1. And just in case any of his friends question his claim at being No. 1, he can flash them his ID, so to speak.

In this case, the first "1" stands for 2011. The 001 means it was the first calf born for the year. The next one will be 1002. (Next year's firstborn will be 2001 - the "2" standing for 12.)

Randy also writes down the numbers of both the mom (972) and the calf. That way, when we take them to pasture next spring, we'll know which moms and babies go together.

These ladies-in-waiting seem content to hang out, eat and take their own precious time in their quest to become mothers.

They'll probably wait for the day when the high on the thermometer is supposed to be around 10 degrees and the wind chills are forecast at sub-zero levels. That happens to be the same day Randy is leaving to go to a Kansas Association of Wheat Growers meeting in Manhattan.

That's the sub-clause to the Cattleman's Law: "Heifers shall wait until the cattleman is out of the county to have trouble with the birthing process."

Believe me, it happens.

But, at least this time, Jake and I can put my Christmas gift to good use.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Holiday Deja Vu

It's been a month since the smell of turkey and dressing perfumed homes across America. Or maybe it was Thanksgiving when last you enjoyed those holiday favorites.

But you can experience holiday deja vu with one of our favorite casseroles. Pepperidge Farm Chicken Casserole is often on the menu when the kids come home. This year was no exception.

I got the recipe from a long-ago Hoener reunion. This casserole gives us our taste of turkey and dressing without the full-blown meal. It's perfect for using up turkey leftovers, if you have them at the holidays, but this is a favorite year 'round -no matter the calendar date. Most of the time, I just microwave chicken breasts to use in this casserole.

I don't typically endorse products. But I've never made this casserole with anything but Pepperidge Farm stuffing crumbs. Deviate from that tried-and-true product at your own risk!


Pepperidge Farm Chicken Casserole

4 cups cooked and cubed chicken or turkey breast) (The original recipe called for 1 boned chicken and I'm just approximating the amount of chicken I use)
1 can cream of chicken soup
3/4 soup can of water or broth
2 cups shredded cheese (approximate)
1 7-oz. pkg. Pepperidge Farms herb-seasoned stuffing crumbs (not cubes)
3/4 cup margarine

Melt margarine. Stir in stuffing crumbs, mixing well. Combine soup and broth. Spray a 9- by 13-inch pan with cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 of the soup mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with about 1/3 of the stuffing mixture. Top with about 1/3 of the chicken or turkey. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers, ending by putting a layer of the stuffing mix and drizzling with the remaining soup mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, covering after about 20 minutes so that the crumbs don't get too brown.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What A Wonderful World!

I don't have to travel far beyond my front door to realize I live in a wonderful world.

It doesn't cost a thing to get outside and watch a new day dawning.

But, as the commercial would say, the moment is priceless.

If the weatherman has his story straight, it sounds like we may be able to get out and enjoy some warmer temperatures this afternoon. I'm ready to get off my treadmill and take a walk outside.

Here's hoping for a beautiful day for you, too! Enjoy the smooth sounds of Louis Armstrong, as he reminds us, "What A Wonderful World!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Purple Wave

I love seeing my buddies Jacob and Jamar when I go to Manhattan. (For you non-purple people out there, that's Jacob Pullen and Jamar Samuels on the K-State men's basketball team.)

But for the past 6 1/2 years, going to Manhattan has been about more than going to a ballgame. Don't get me wrong: I love K-State ballgames. I've been going to them for most of my life.

As a college student, I camped out in front of Ahearn to get basketball tickets. I was in the football stands at every home game. And you must remember that was back in the 1970s when there wasn't much to cheer about on the football field.

But as much as I love K-State ballgames, there's been another attraction in Manhattan that's been even better: My kids.

Even if it was just for a quick meal before or after the game, I got a chance to talk to them without benefit of a telephone or a text message. It's been that way since August 2004, when we moved Jill into her first home-away-from home - a college dorm room - and started our journey toward an empty nest.

We moved her brother there two years later. K-State games have been a celebration of sorts for me - no matter what the scoreboard said at the end of the game.

So it was a different kind of trip when we traveled to Manhattan for ESPN's Big Monday edition this week when our K-State Wildcats took on the Baylor Bears.

For the past couple of years, basketball games have also meant watching Brent in action. While we had fun as spectators, we also enjoyed our role as proud parents, sneaking peeks at the sidelines and watching Brent work as a student intern with K-State Sports Information.

(November 2010)

But, these days, he's a grad student at the University of South Carolina. And while Jill and Eric still get to some ballgames, they had to watch Monday's game on ESPN.

As we drove into Manhattan late Monday afternoon, the "nest" truly felt empty. Can you still wear your K-State parent sweatshirt when you no longer have a K-State student? (For the record, I don't have a sweatshirt like that - but Randy does.)

Did I miss seeing my kids? Yes ... always.

But it's just another transition in this journey we call life.

And the traditions still felt like family. We did the Wabash cannonball with our whole extended family ...

We cheered as Willie rounded the corner with the giant Powercat flag ...

And we celebrated our nation as a quartet from one of my college alma maters - the K-State Concert Choir - sang a stirring four-part rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.

We witnessed the shower of newsprint to begin yet another K-State game.

And we watched as the next generation of the Wildcat faithful cheered for the purple ...

just like our kids did so long ago.

(A long-ago Christmas card photo)

(Randy & Brent at the football stadium - 1998)

(Jill - our pony-tailed K-State fan)

And all those little K-State cheerleaders with purple pom poms and the little boys with their Wildcat claws, reminded us of the circle of life.

We may not be K-State parents any more. But we're still part of the family.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How Now, Brown Cow?

How now, brown cow? Well, it ought to be a brown cow. Or a black cow. It could even be a black baldy. But it shouldn't be a black and white dairy cow.

I've always wondered if others scratch their heads at the Chick-fil-A commercials. The company does a lot of advertising during ballgames, so I see a fair number of their ads.

Every time, I've wondered if the ad agency knows the difference between dairy cattle and the cattle breeds more often raised to put beef on American dinner tables.

When I saw the giant Chick-fil-A cow towering over Turner Field in Atlanta, I did a little investigating.

Evidently I am not the first person to question the use of dairy cattle to push chicken consumption. The explanation by the company? Holsteins are more lovable than beef cattle.

Come on now! Who doesn't think this face is lovable?

(February 2010)

As a Kansas beef producer, I hope the visitors to Turner Field in Atlanta will ignore the giant dairy cow's advice to get their mitts on chicken.

What's more American than a big, juicy steak or a perfectly grilled hamburger when you're watching the ballgame?

But make mine from Angus, Hereford or a nice crossbred steer please. And leave the Holsteins for the big glass of milk to go with it.

And please, while the ad execs are at it, could the cows find a dictionary? The misspelled words are another "pet" peeve for me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Moving Experience

January has been a month full of moves. The first move involved relocating Brent in a 2,720-mile round trip trek from here to Columbia, South Carolina.

For last week's moves, we stayed closer to home. We moved 38 pregnant cows from milo stalks back to the pasture south of our house.

Just like human mamas, as the time for delivery gets closer, it's best to stay close to home. They had been dining on milo stalks about 8 miles away for the past couple of months.

They are supposed to start calving around February 7. So it was time to get the maternity ward open for business.

The guys used hay to coax them into a corral, guiding them along with the 4-wheeler. Then the cows had to hang out in the pens until it was there turn to take the journey.

The move was slightly more complicated than normal because one pickup is in the shop. Instead of using two pickups and two trailers, we had only one "moving van" available.

So it took five trips back and forth to move the mamas back home and then another trip to go back and retrieve the 4-wheeler and other supplies. (I guess that's not so different from our repeated trips up and down stairs at Brent's second-floor Columbia apartment!)

At this time of year, they are definitely not headed off to "greener pastures," but they are nearby in case they have problems calving.

Since there's not green grass to eat this time of year, Randy & Jake got the pasture ready before their arrival.

They put several bales of sudan out. It's a crop we raised this summer, then harvested and baled in September.

Randy unwraps the net wrap from the bale and then positions the feeder around the bale.

Who doesn't like a great meal after a journey?

Let's hope for moderate temperatures as another calving season begins on the County Line!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is It Soup Yet?

Is it soup yet? With the icy roads and chilly temperatures, homemade tomato soup was on the menu this week at the County Line.

Cream of Tomato and Rice Soup is a family favorite during the cold months of winter. We still open a can of Campbell's on occasion if the cook around here calls in sick ... or maybe just tired. But the little extra effort is worth it for this yummy soup.

The original recipe is from Stafford's first Oktoberfest cookbook. My PEO sister Dwilette Paulsen shared the recipe, and it uses the microwave for preparation. You can't get easier than that!

Since I usually double the recipe, I typically use the stove top instead. Either way, it's a tasty way to warm up on a cold day. Enjoy!

Microwave Cream of Tomato and Rice Soup
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 small carrot, grated
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups pureed tomatoes
2 cups milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Note: I usually use canned, stewed tomatoes because I like the extra flavor. I use my food processor to make the puree. You can use any kind of rice. This time, I had leftover long grain and wild rice in the refrigerator, but it's also easy to make instant rice in the microwave: Just follow the directions on the box.

For the soup: Cook onion and butter on full power for 3 minutes. Add carrot; cook at full power for 1 1/2 minutes. Blend in flour. Add tomatoes gradually. Stir well. Cook at full power for 4 minutes. Slowly add milks, rice and seasonings. Cook on slow cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

You can also use the stovetop for this recipe.

Around here, I serve Randy's portion with a grilled cheese sandwich.

If you're looking for other ways to warm up with soup on a wintery day ...

Try Chili with Corn Dumplings.

Or try Christy's Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Stay warm this weekend! Of course, homemade soup could help!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Beverly isn't my new best friend. She is kind of disgusting.

Before anyone gets offended - especially anyone named Beverly - I must confess that Beverly was the name of a soft drink in the tasting room at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

Beverly is a Coca-Cola soft drink sold in Italy. Evidently, taste buds are markedly different in Italy. It's the color of ... well, you can fill in the blank.

Randy gave it the famous Fritzemeier sniff test. It didn't pass. And it definitely didn't pass the taste test.

Beverly was one of 64 flavors of pop in the tasting room at the downtown Atlanta attraction.

Visitors could drink their fill of soda pops from around the world - regular and diet versions. I'm pretty sure we didn't drink $16 worth of pop to cover our admission price, but it was still a fun way to spend part of an afternoon.

I may not be a fan of Beverly, but I am a diet pop addict. There, I said it: That's the first step in overcoming addiction, right?

I'm not particularly picky when it comes to my diet pop. Store brand ... name brand: It doesn't matter much to me.

But if I were choosing between the Big Two in the diet cola wars, I'd have to choose Diet Coke over Diet Pepsi (though Diet Dr. Pepper is really my favorite).

The World of Coca-Cola traces the history of this fizzy drink. One afternoon in 1886, Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton stirred up a fragrant, caramel-colored liquid and, when it was done, he carried it a few doors down to Jacobs' Pharmacy. There, the mixture was combined with carbonated water and sampled by customers who all agreed: This new drink was something special. So Jacobs' Pharmacy put it on sale for five cents a glass.

This old bottle says it is for headache and exhaustion. I guess it still holds true for me today. If I don't have my diet pop, I probably will have those withdrawal symptoms.

Evidently, I'm not alone. Now operating in more than 200 countries and producing nearly 450 brands, Coca-Cola says it "provides a moment of refreshment -- a billion times a day." Yes, billion with a "B."

This Kansas farm wife was particularly intrigued by one document called "Project Kansas."
Project Kansas is a bold stroke attempt for total victory. It is a sweeping effort to redefine the selling proposition, not just for sugar colas, but for all soft drinks.

In its size, scope and boldness, it is not unlike the Allied invasion in 1944. This is not just another product improvement, not just a repositioning or new product introduction. Kansas, quite simply, can not, must not, fail.
You guessed it: It failed. So, unfortunately, our fair state of Kansas is associated with one of Coca-Cola's most colossal failures - the launch of New Coke in the 1980s. Less than three months after introducing New Coke in 1985, Coca-Cola executives announced the return of the original formula.

I guess it just shows it's tough bucking tradition.

The last stop on the tour was getting our "free" bottle of Coke, bottled right there at the World of Coca-Cola.

Well, it wasn't actually the last stop. Like most attractions, you have to walk through a gift shop to leave. We now are the proud owners of a Coke-logoed golf ball, refrigerator magnet and a Christmas ornament.

Is it any wonder these marketing gurus make you walk through the gift store?