Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Every once in a while I get caught in a cooking rut, cooking the same thing over and over.  At this point I find one our tried-and-true favorites that I know will satisfy my rancher.  I hit this point this weekend and pulled out an old favorite- Sweet and Sour Meatballs!

Funny thing about meatballs at our house… When we were first married, The Rancher just told me not to bother making them- “I don’t like them,” he said.  Then we visited my parents in Montana and had some meatballs and he loved them!  Guess what honey, that’s how I make them…  Now I have all green lights with the meatballs!

What I love about a meatball is that you can make it so many ways, add whatever you like, take out whatever you don’t and every time it’s delicious!  They are fast to make and really don’t require a big clean up… I make dinners depending on what I am willing to clean up some days…

But the meatballs…

I thought I would try something a little new and threw in some bacon and cheese to give it new flavor.  It’s like a bacon cheeseburger rolled into a meatball!  I have to admit, they turned out AWESOME!  Definitely worth sharing!

So grab all the meatball ingredients: ground beef, onion, bacon, cheese, egg, toast bits, Worcestershire, salt, salt, pepper, milk, and red pepper flakes.  We only mix up once, so you just as well have it all pulled out! 
Start with the bacon, toast, and onion.  I go for a chunkier meatball, so I don’t worry about getting it all so finely chopped up.  But you do what you want!  I just toast a few slices of bread and chop them up rather than buying breadcrumbs.  It’s my way of making good use of the ends that nobody wants to eat!
Once these are diced, you’re ready to throw it all in together.  Yep all of it!

And stir, stir, stir!  If you’re brave you can even mix with your hands.  Unless you’re not into the meat squishing through your fingers…

I added my cheese a little at a time so it didn’t end up in one big pile that didn’t get mixed around.  We are going for a little cheese in each meatball!
When everything has been evenly mixed, its time to roll them into meatballs.  I go for a golf ball size, but they all vary.  I have big cowboys and little cowboys, so it all works out!  Place them in a 9x13 baking dish, spacing about 1” apart. 

Now with the meatballs ready, it’s time to make a little sauce!  Grab all your ingredients again, pour tem in and mix!  I added a little pineapple juice to liven up the “sweet” part of the sweet and sour.  Yummy!

After it’s all mixed up, pour over those meatballs! 

I sprinkled a little parsley on top for just a bit of extra flavor.

Cover it up and throw those babies in the oven!

Let ‘em cook for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.  You know their ready when the house is smelled with a tantalizing aroma that you can’t hardly stand! 

Oh… and when they aren’t pink in the middle (that’s probably a better rule to follow!)

Next step- EAT!  And share… We had friends over to dinner and was perfect to fill those boys up!

If you’re ready for a new dinner to spice up your menu, you’ll want to try these Sweet and Sour Meatballs!  I promise, they won’t disappoint!

Sweet and Sour Meatball Recipe
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb bacon
1/4 cup cheese, shredded
1/2 cup toast, chopped into small pieces
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tap salt
1 egg
1 dash red pepper flakes
Sweet and Sour Sauce
¾ cup water
½ cup vinegar
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce

Prepare bacon, cheese, toast, and onion.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a bowl, combine ground beef, bacon, cheese, toast crumbs, Worcestershire, onion, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and egg using hands (or a wooden spoon) until well mixed.
Shape into 20 meatballs and place 1” apart in a 9x13 baking dish. 
Mix sauce ingredients together and stir until combined.  Pour over the meatballs.
Cover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center is no longer pink. 


Friday, March 28, 2014

To the Leadore Angus Ranch Bull Sale

At this time of year, the ranchers around here have bulls on the brain.  There is a lot of prep work to be done before we turn the bulls out for another summer. 
I have to throw this out there that I am so glad I’m not a cow (for a lot of reasons) because if someone was planning my next pregnancy this close to having my last baby (or if I was about to have a baby) I think I would give them a zap with the hot shot.
Good thing the cows don’t feel this way, because we are getting things geared up out here.  One bull will cover (breed) about 25 cows, which means we need about 35 bulls.  Choosing and buying new bulls can be pretty intense.  The bulls we choose will factor in the end product we have- a good finished steer or a good replacement heifer.
The Rancher, the kids and I loaded up in the truck the other day and headed out to Leadore, Idaho (which happens to be where we met, fell in love, and lived when we were first married!) to find a bull at the Leadore Angus Ranch bull sale.
Before the auction ever starts they give the ranchers time to really look through the bulls.  They give out as much information on the bull as possible to help buyers find what they want.  In their sale magazine they have the parents of each bull, the bull’s individual performance (which is his birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, ect.) and then a list of the expected progeny difference (how they think the calves from this bull will perform).
It’s a lot to take in.  In fact, I don’t even know what it all means!  I guess that’s why I brought The Rancher…  He was looking for a good bull for first time heifers.  What he looks for in that jumble of numbers is a bull that will have a low birth weight (it makes calving easier for first time heifers), a high weaning weight (it means they gain weight well), and high milk production (for the heifers we will keep to be mommas later on).   PS, did you know that milking traits are paternal, not maternal? Another important bit of info to look at was the CED, calving ease direct.  It directly identifies which bulls will lead to easier calving. 
Picking out a bull by the numbers is just the first part.  Since we are looking to market our calves for meat, we want to produce cuts that have high marbling and a large rib eye (the spot where all of your steaks come out of) surface area.  So the next page of numbers we looked at was the results from an ultrasound which gave the bull’s muscle and fat measurements.
After narrowing down the bulls we liked based on the progeny potential and the meat quality potential, it was time to actually go see the bulls.  We look for a really fleshy bull, something with a wide backside and a long, deep body.  Something that would grow a lot of good meat!  We also check out their condition and how well they will make it out on the range.  Some of the areas our cattle will go can be pretty intense, so we need a bull that will keep up and get the job done.
The real fun is when the auction gets started.  There is all of the bustle of the people, the constant rambling of the auctioneer (I know its not rambling, that’s what it sounds like), the cattle moving in and out, and the ring man taking bids.  There is a sort of tension in the air from the buyers trying to bid at just the right time against their competition, the men working the sale trying to get it just right, and the owners trying to have everything just right for a good sale day.  I really meant it when I say the auction is the fun part!  I love it all!
It was a little more stressful for The Rancher because he was busy trying to get in on those few bulls he really liked without paying a fortune!  His patience won out and got him a really nice heifer bull at a good price.  All in all, it was another good day for The Rancher and posse!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Little Fun WIth Some Fuzzy Chicks

Oh what a terrific few days we have had here!  The sun is shining like it belongs!  No cloudiness, no showers, yes wind... but we can put up with it.  I have been out getting my little vegetable patch all ready to plant (a second little garden plot... because one garden is never enough!).  Yes, I don't plan to plant for a while, but I will be ready when its time!

Sunshine, gardening- this can only mean one thing... SPRING IS HERE!  I am acutally having mixed feelings about spring.  Don't get me wrong, I love spring.  Love it!  I have been cooped up with my kids in this house for far too long.  But there is so much work to still get done in the house (I can never keep up with these mess makers!) and all I want to do is go outside.  I'm in a dilemma- either I feel guilty when I am outside because there is housework to be done, or I am sad because I am inside NOT enjoying the sun. 

I just go outside anyways!

Spending time on the ranch is precious and we never get tired of it.  We hang out with The Rancher, we visit the horses and the milk cow.  The Rancher's Sidekick and I practice our roping on the grouchy, white dog (I'm the mom that roped the dog first... I probably shouldn't be setting such a terrible example).  And now we have a few extras friends to visit...

The fuzzy chicks!

Definitely another sign that spring is here!  We have had these fellas for a while, but I have just neglected to share them with you.  My bad!

On one of my grocery runs I convinced The Rancher to come along and that instantly turned my grocery trip into a ranch trip (no complaints here, though!).  At the top of his list was picking up the new chicks at Ward Feed, our local feed store.  We got there to find 20 little yellow, fuzzy chicks waiting for us!

The Rancher's Sidekick was so excited for the little buggers!  He insisted on carrying them, but I didn't think his somewhat careless stroll to the truck would be a very good way to start his relationship with them.  We comprimised by mom carrying the chicks and letting them sit by him.

All the way home we had a whole string of lovely "cheeps" from the backseat.  The chicks peeped a little too...

Once we got home, the kids couldn't wait to get the chicks out and play!  I'll admit, I'm not so brave with chickens (oh, ya... you know that already!) and so I only admired, not touched.  But my kids were all over it.  Maybe it was a little too much loving, but still loving indeed!

Happy spring from a few ranchers that like to pick up chicks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Good Day for a Haul: Taking the Heifers to Locomotive

I’ve mentioned that we like to calve out our heifers on the ranch because they need a little more help.  But at some point they need to make it down to Locomotive.  The range is the ideal place to have the calves to avoid the sickness that can travel through a herd when they are close together.  The whole kids-share-germs-like-candy concept isn’t just for kindergarteners.  Instead of a ball to pass the gems around, it is usually the mud, the straw, or the trough.  Being spread out on the range decreases the contact they have to other germs.

Eventually they will join the rest of the herd in the spring pasture, but when they first get to Locomotive they have their own range.  We haul down a little unloading ramp and unload the heifers and calves right on the range.

Cows have a funny tendency to just take off and run when they get to new pasture.  We like to hold them in a corral if one is available.  If not, which was the case this time, we just unload a few at a time and circle around them to keep them put.  This gives them a little time to mother up and find their calves before they take off.

Taking it slow to unload them might take a little longer, but it pays off to know that everything is paired up and ready to make it out on the range!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Rancher's Wife Living in the Middle of Nowhere

To have the amount of land we need to run the ranch, we live in the middle of nowhere (TMNW). The Rancher would say we GET to, that it’s a privilege.  We have the space to ride and play.  We can have as big of lawn as we want (or the lawn mower can handle).  There aren’t too many neighbors to worry about being quiet for.  We get to live life how we choose to!  I can agree with him now that I have learned a few tricks to living away from civilization, some that are definitely worth sharing!

1.  Get a freezer.  Or maybe two… You will curse yourself every time you run out of food, every time you make an extra trip for more food, and every time you try to cram your groceries in the little freezer space above your refrigerator.  Yep… get a BIG freezer.

2.  Since you bought a freezer, you have room to buy extra groceries… so do it!  Load up on your favorite frozen fruits, veggies, chicken nuggets and of course BEEF!  I even have butter and cheese in there!  And just to be on the safe side, grab a few frozen pizzas for the days that dinner just doesn’t work out.   Stick it all in and enjoy it later. 

3.  Every visit to town warrants a trip to the grocery store.  Even if you think there isn’t stuff you need, go.  I always end up grabbing a couple of gallons of milk.  My family can never have enough milk!  In fact, I get so much that I freeze some to ensure that we don’t run out.

4.  Living far away from a gas station makes you realize how precious fuel is.  In an ideal world you would have your own gas tank at home to fill up at.  But if you can’t manage that, always leave town with a full tank of gas.  Running out of gas in TMNW is SUPER frustrating and there is nobody to blame but yourself.

5.  It’s sad to say, but since there are less trips to town (because it takes up way too much of the day just to get anywhere) you don’t always have fresh stuff.  Either learn to live with that or learn to grow a garden.  I suggest the latter because there isn’t much more satisfying than a good green salad from the backyard!

6.  Those man car skills really are not just for men.  Learning how to change a tire, check the oil, airing up tires, and using jumper cables is something that every person living in TMNW should know.  Cowboy Charming (instead of Prince Charming, right?) is a LONG way away and really doesn’t have time (or even want to) to come save the day. 

7.  You will spend lots of time in the car… LOTS.  Make sure you have a car that will be able to go the distance (especially if you didn’t learn those mechanicing skills we already talked about…).  Just accept already that putting more than 15,000 miles on the odometer in a year is normal.

8.  And if your car is getting that many miles, so are your kids.  There have been a lot of late nights spent on the road.  Teach the kids to sleep in the car.  Take pillows and blankets, at least one for every person… or maybe two.  Heck, take all you have in the house and borrow from the neighbors if you’ve got to!  The extra work is worth it!  And since the babies will be falling asleep always take pjs so they can just got straight to bed once you hit home. 

9.  Take out doesn’t exist in TMNW.  Nor does delivery.  Sorry, you GET to have a home cooked meal every night.  I highly recommend meal planning, left overs, and guilt trips to get someone else (hubby, anyone?) to make dinner.  If all else fails, get out the frozen pizza- that’s why you have a freezer, remember!

10.  We don’t have a time to make lots of trips to town, nor do really want to.  So with each trip, make it worth it!  Hit up the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store, the post office, CAL Ranches, and the local Good Will.  Or maybe just Walmart… they’re supposed to have it all, right?
Living in TMNW can make life tough, but choosing to make it work makes it all worth it.  For us, getting to live where we have the space to do what we love is always worth it, even when I have more milk than I know what to do with!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Taking on Texas

Its crazy to believe that it was only a week ago that we were living it up in San Antonio.  The Rancher and I managed to leave the kids with grandma and took on a little vacation (oh ya, we went to a wedding too!).  Texas is a great place for a couple of ranchers to visit because our boots and buckles totally fit in.  We could have been taken for locals... until you listened to us talk of course!

Before we got too busy with the hair and nail prep for the wedding we played tourist for a bit!

Like to the Alamo!  Which everybody and their dog was there too.  Maybe we shouldn't have gone during spring break...  It was a good hangout for the preacher man too.  I didn't hear what he was saying, but he was pretty fired up!

There were some beautiful places around the grounds at the Alamo.  I wish I could have taken some it home to be at my house.  A little pink amidst the brown would be awesome!

My new sister-in-law said that we had to go to Rudy's BBQ for lunch.  Apparently its famous throughout Texas.  With all of the hype I was expecting something huge and somewhat of a nice restaurant.  But its not... its a hole in the wall.  And in Texas that means that it is the real stuff.  I'll admit that it was stinking good!  This from a bunch of country folk that love their BBQ!  I highly recommend it!

The Rancher found the Rose Palace, the home for George Strait's Team Roping Classic.  He was supposed to be picking me up but got distracted when he saw so many horse trailers passing by.  Ya, he totally ditched the idea of coming to get me.  Eventually he came back (he knows what is good for him), but he started explaining really fast why he was late.  He didn't forget about the roping... We had to go back and check it out before we got on the plane.  I guess its better than going to the roping instead of the wedding...

Walking through the city was so fun for this country girl.  I don't want to live there, but there are so many fun and interesting things to see.  I love the shops, the architecture, the people, the landscaping... ALL OF IT!  Maybe its because we don't see so much of that around here, like a stoplight.  We don't have those in our town of 90 people.  Or tall buildings or cool fire escapes.  Its all so exciting! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Roundup of Other Ranches: A Few Calving Stories Across the Country

You might think that calving can get a little boring.  We do the same thing every day for about two months.  Check cows... check cows.. check cows... We see a new baby born, but hopefully they all follow the same process.  And that happens every year.  Sounds a little monotnous, right?

I'm here to tell you, folks, that it doesn't get that way!  Every morning I call The Rancher (because he usually doesn't call me or stop by the house after checking cows) and ask about any new babies or if anything exciting is happening.  We never get tired of seeing the little babies racing across the pasture or mommas giving a bath (I wonder how many licks it takes to get a calf clean... do you think its as many as it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop?!).

I especially never get tired of the calving stories.  There are always stories of an overprotective momma that wants to eat you for lunch.  When you hear about a grown man running for the fence, you know its a good story.  Maybe I like to hear them because I can relate or I am just proud of what we (the whole herd of ranchers) do to be beef producers.

I've been following long with a few other ranch blogs that have had some great stories and pictures from calving over the years.  Being the thoughtful and generous person I am, I thought I would share them with you too!  Some are great documentaries of cows birthing, something is pretty hard to capture in its entirety because lets be honest, who really wants to have that interrupted with on watchers and photos?  And a few are stories of getting creative when you are dealing with coyotes, cranky mommas, and cold calves!

1. Running of the Panels on
2. Coyotes & Calving on Beef Matters
3. The Balling in the Basement on
4. A baby is born! on
5. Calving 2010 on
6. Calving with Gwen Shepperson in Wyoming on 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy 1 Month Birthday, 7!

Babies grow so fast!  Its amazing the changes that can happen in only one month!  A baby calf is born and can hardly stand and then just a few weeks later you see them racing around the field.  I'm glad that my babies don't grow up so fast!

I had to find #7 and wish him a happy 1 month birthday.  He was the the first baby  born on the ranch this year.  Because he was the first, he has a special place in our hearts.  We couldn't let his birthday pass by with out a shout out!

And we wanted to show you just how much he has changed.  Ok, I know, these aren't great pictures to see the changes but he really has grown a LOT!  I think he didn't want to listen when I told him to say cheese.  I'm just happy that we have a picture of his face. I guess he's like kids- too grown up and embarrassed for momma to have a picture to document the day. Or not willing (able?) to hold still long enough to get a good one!

And I won't have many opportunities for pictures because we have taken him and his momma out to the range in Locomotive.  He's all grown up and off to new adventures!  Maybe at branding time I will have a chance to give him a little pat...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Our Ranching Start at Locomotive

Over the last several weeks I have been looking through some of Grandma’s history books.  She has piles of them with all sorts of family stories.  There is even a Holbrook history (who knew?!).  I’ve been reading through them to get a sense of the ranch’s beginning.  Ranching really is in the Eliason blood!

It really all began at Locomotive Springs, clear back in 1885 when he railroad was new. There was a railroad tycoon that realized that there was good land to be had after the construction of the railroad. He bought up thousands of acres, put some cows out, and created the Bar M Cattle Ranch.  Being busy with the railroad business, he turned his ranch business over to his son.  In turn, his son hired up foreman to do the daily work (probably because he was no cattleman himself!).  This is where our story starts.

August Eliason, The Rancher’s great-great grandpa, had left home young looking for some work to live on.  Somehow (the books don’t really say) he wound up working for Bar M as a foreman (we figure somewhere in his late teens).  He would run with the cows from east of Kelton, Utah (5 miles east) to at least Holbrook, Idaho.

Being a business man and NOT a cattleman, the Bar M owner ran the ranch with little cow sense.  When it came to the grass on range he would have the cowboys graze the range hard.  That left little feed for the winter.  Since they didn’t buy or put up any hay in the summer, this meant that during the winter it was hard eating for the cows.

In 1889, the blizzard of a lifetime came through.  When cows get a hard storm they just start walking, the wind pushes them along until something stops them or they are exhausted. With nothing to stop the Bar M cattle, they walked for miles and miles.  The snow covered what little feed that was there, leaving the thousands (like 45,000) of cattle to die.  There wasn’t a lot the cowboys could do- they wouldn’t survive the storm looking for the herd.  All they could do was wait.

Once they were able to get out to the cows they realized that their losses were huge, like astronomical.  I read in some places say that they lost all but 10,000 cows but another said only 800 were found.  Either way, more than 30,000 died!  They said you could walk for miles walking only on the dead cows.  I can’t image what that must have been like to experience!  I hate when we lose one, I can’t fathom THOUSANDS!

At this point the Bar M just threw in the towel, dissolved the ranch and left everyone to fend for themselves, the cowboys and the cows.  Grandpa August and a few cousins saw an opportunity to be had and decided to strike out on their own.  They gathered up what unbranded cattle they could find and headed north into Idaho.  Having already run the cows that way, they knew where to find good feed and water to set up as their ranch headquarters.  They still would summer the cows in the Curlew Valley and then every fall they would head back to Locomotive to winter the cows.

Over the years they built up a few small shacks for cowboys to stay in through the winter.  Cowboys would stay a few weeks at a time to feed and watch over the cows and then head home for a rest.  We don’t do that anymore, but those old shacks are still around.  I try to envision what it must have been like in those.  No electricity, no running water, and nobody for miles.  Incredible! 

And it’s cool to think that the cows we have now are from some of the original cows that survived that blizzard.  I guess even the cows have little bit of heritage to them!  
On our last trip to Locomotive to check, we took the long way home to go past what Grandpa August started with.  We don’t own that piece anymore so we couldn’t go right up to it, but is was awesome to see it all in context, knowing how it all got started.