nature, photography, Uncategorized, Wyoming

Big Enough Sky Country

 

Downar Bird Farm Tree

I spent my first year out of under-grad living in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The job was great and the people were nice.  But it wasn’t home.  I missed pink and purple sunsets, seeing the stars at night and sweeping vistas.  Montana might be the official “Big Sky Country”  but Wyoming’s skies are big enough for me.

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country living, Uncategorized, writing

Egg hunt

 

Egg HuntThis is how we hunt eggs at our house at Easter.

We did the traditional dying of white eggs and left them for the Easter bunny.  But after the dyed eggs had been found, a pile of candy consumed and dinner with the neighbors was finished, we spent the evening with the pheasants collecting eggs.  Among Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I, we picked up almost 800 eggs.

It was a beautiful March evening here in southeast Wyoming, with just enough of a breeze to bring some color to my bare cheeks.  The pheasants serenaded me with their pheasant sounds, a weird cross between a cluck, a click and a purr.  Huge flocks of Canada and snow geese flew overhead.  Red-tailed hawks cruised the tree line.  I could hear Wyokiddo and her daddy in the adjacent pen.  Her little voice would rise in crescendo with each large group of eggs they found and Outdoor Guy would respond in his own undistinguishable tenor.  And as I added more and more little brown orbs to my ownaging basket, I marveled at the miracle of this blessed and beautiful life I live.

This is my religion.  Happy Easter.

agriculture, agriculture life, cows, Uncategorized

Cowlick!

CowlickWyokiddo and I attended a bull sale near our house today to chat with a dear friend who was there to buy some bulls for her family’s ranch.  My 3-year old was quite the curiosity in her pink coat…the bulls she surveyed weren’t quite sure what to make of her.

One bull, in particular, caught her attention.  Not because of his potential breeding characteristics, but because of his “bumpy” tongue.  Wyokiddo was transfixed watching this guy lick the wire and pipe in the pen.  In an age where some kids won’t look past their handheld gaming device, I love that my little girl can still appreciate little things like a bumpy tongue on a silly bull.

Teresa

 

cooking, recipes, Uncategorized, wild game

Wild Game Wednesday – Cream Cheese Pheasant with Broccoli

 

Cream Cheese PheasantLiving on a bird farm with 20,000 pheasants outside our backdoor, one might think we eat a lot of pheasant.  Nope.  Outdoor Guy doesn’t care for it.  When we lived at the fish hatchery, we rarely ate fish.  He says when he’s around animals like that day in and day out, the last thing he wants to see at the end of the day is another fish or pheasant.

I will never let him work in a chocolate factory.

But occasionally, I do get to sneak some pheasant onto the supper table.  My cooking method of choice for wild bird is usually the slow cooker.  The slow cooker keeps wild birds, which can often be a tad dry, deliciously moist.  And it will tenderize even the toughest ol’ range bird.

I first tried this recipe with blue grouse and it was amazing.  I’ve tried making it with chicken, but it just doesn’t have the same zip.  There’s something in the combination of the strong and earthy flavors of wild bird that perfectly complements the sweet in the cream cheese and the tang in the sherry.  Mmmmmmmm.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless pheasant breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I left mine whole)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package (1 ounce) Italian salad dressing mix (I use 1 tbsp of a homemade mix)
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 bag (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed (I used fresh)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • Hot cooked pasta (we use egg noodles)

Instructions

  1. Toss chicken with olive oil.  Sprinkle with Italian salad dressing mix.  Place in slow cooker.  Cover; cook on low for 3 hours.
  2. Coat large skillet with nonstick cooking spray.  Add mushrooms and onion; cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add soup, broccoli, cream cheese and sherry to skillet; cook until hot.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Cover; cook on low 1 hour.  Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

My photos really don’t do this dish justice.  This recipe is easy to pull together, but has sophisticated enough flavor that you won’t feel like a slacker serving it to guests.  You can try it with chicken, but I really recommend saving it for wild bird of your favorite flavor!  I promise, you won’t go afowl… 🙂

Teresa

agriculture, country life, Uncategorized, writing

Sale Barn Magic

Sale Barn.jpgLast week, I told my 3-year old daughter she could pick something special to do in town.  Daddy was out of town and I wanted to make the morning a fun, girls only adventure.  The park?  The museum?  Go exploring in a wildlife habitat area?  The choice was hers.

She chose the sale barn.

Torrington Livestock Auction is one of the few remaining livestock auction houses in our state.  It’s the place where area ranchers take their cattle to sell to folks like other area ranchers or feedlot buyers.  Most animals that go through a sale barn are cattle, but occasionally a sale barn will feature lambs, hogs, goats or even horses.

To be clear, we are not in the market to buy a cow.  Or sell a cow.  But Wyokiddo loves cows.  I mean, she LOVES cows.   I thought a trip to the sale barn to see some would make her day.

So that was how we again came to spend our Friday morning surrounded by animals we have no intention of owning.  Ten minutes in and she fell in love.

For two hours, the two of us sat high in the rafters and watched cattle.  As each lot that came in, my little girl would count the animals, assess the sex and declare whether or not she would buy them.  I never could figure out what criteria she was using to determine their suitability for her future herd.  But each time, Wyokiddo would clutch the arms of her seat, scrunch up her little face and mull over the possibilities.  Soon she would proclaim “I’d buy these cows.”  Or, if they weren’t up to snuff, she’d say, very seriously, “I don’t think I need these ones.”

We got some curious looks from the old guard.  I was dressed jeans and a t-shirt.  The kid has chosen black leggings and pink cowboy boots for the occasion.  Clearly, we were not regulars.  But when a serious buyer would venture a quizzical gaze our way, Wyokiddo would catch his eye, smile and wave.  It was fun watching grizzled old ranchers who pride themselves on non-reaction break into a giant smile at the curly-haired dynamo’s enthusiasm.

An hour and a half in to our sojourn, my little cowgirl looked over at me, all seriousness and concentration.  “I love this place, Mama.”

I squeezed her hand and whispered back “I know.”

There has always been something magical about the sale barn.  Any sale barn.  From the first time I set foot in one as a kid, I felt that magic.  Because it’s not just a place to sell livestock.  Sale barns are a virtual epi-center of the agriculture world.  It is a gathering place.  A community within a community.

And our new wonder is no exception.  In a world that is driven by technology and the latest and greatest, the sale barn is delightfully retro.  The color scheme of red, white and blue is circa 1970.  Two phone booths anchor each side of the seating.  The theatre style chairs are threadbare and small.  It smells like a barn.  It’s loud and busy.   But the coffee is always hot, the folks are always friendly and the weather is always a major topic of conversation.  If not for the large television screen above the auctioneer that posts lot weights and prices, you couldn’t discern the sale barns of today from those of 1994 or 1974.

There is something comfortable and homey about the sale barn.  It’s those old, familiar smells of manure and feed and ridiculously unhealthy nachos.  It’s the lulling cadence of the auctioneer’s chant as he tries to eek out another few cents per hundred weight.  I love that baggy sweatshirts, ball caps and sweat-stained cowboy hats are the dress code.  And that the faces are new, but the people don’t change.  Two, sometimes even three generations sit shoulder to shoulder and continue the tradition of raising cattle.  Maybe it’s just the sheer predictability of it all.  The auctioneer will chant, a buyer will buy, more cows will move through the ring, and the process starts all over again.  Life marches on.

Someday, the novelty of sitting next to me and watching an endless parade of livestock pass through the ring might wear off for Wyokiddo.  She will grow up and move on to Barbies and iPhones and (sigh) boys.

But for now, I will take it.  I will sit with her in my lap for hours on end and watch cows.  I will explain breeds and answer approximately sixteen questions a minute about why some cows have white faces or why bulls have those big humps behind their necks or what polar bears dream about.  Because the sale barn isn’t just selling cattle.  It’s a place selling memories of time spent with my beautiful little daughter and those are worth their weight in gold.  Or beef.

Teresa