Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Tug Of Donkey

We love our donkey girls here at the farm. They have big personalities, make crazy braying noises when it’s time to eat, and they are great at keeping an eye on things. (Our city friends like to call them guard donkeys.)

And while they are oodles of fun 99 percent of the time, sometimes they are … well, um … donkeys!  Sweetie pie is about 7 years old, and from time to time gets a little limpy, which means we need to bring her up into a stall and let her get some rest and TLC.  (Cowboy is convinced that Sweetie Pie plays up the limping when she wants a little extra attention. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past her; she’s one smart chica.)

Well we’ve had some rain, which means we have mud, which is when she usually gets a little sensitive. So out in the mud we tromped to get her a little R&R, farm style.  While with our horses you can whip on a halter and have the job done in two seconds flat, with the donkeys, not so much.

Now don’t get me wrong, Miss Pie is better than her dear sweet Mama Rose (that’s a whole other kind of rodeo), but she is still a donkey.  It’s a lovely rhythm of 2 steps, tug, release, 2 steps, tug, no thank you.  So we work our way up from the pasture to the stalls doing our delicate dance while all the other equines watch on in amusement.  (Yes, I do think they are laughing at us humans sometimes.)

Farm Photo - Sweetie Pie the Donkey
Sweetie Pie being a smidge stubborn. She is a donkey, after all.

And then the final show down – the big bad scary stall gate.  Now little miss knows good and well the gate is not a bad thing, but it’s her last stand.  So she has to make a show of things.  Who can blame a girl for trying. (Notice the taught rope in the photo and those ears and eyes.  She is saying, “No ma’am, no ma’am, mo ma’am.”)

Ultimately, she trots into the stall for some extra special care, at which point I do a little jig of victory.  She gets a good rub down, some fresh hay, and while I think I have won the grate tug of donkey event, I think our girl knows she is the real winner, but she is at least gracious enough to let me bask for just a moment.  Even donkeys have manners on the farm.

 

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

When You Wish Upon a Frog

Farm Photo - Digging of the pool
I just had to climb in at my first chance.

I’ve wanted a swimming pool since I was a little girl. Growing up, it was always my favorite summer activity.  I remember fondly the summer my mom took me to a huge pool club and I would spend hours upon hours dreaming in the pool.  My raft became a dolphin and I an amazing dolphin trainer.  Or sometimes I’d press my feet together and try to swim like a mermaid.  I felt graceful in the pool – something I rarely feel on dry land.

So last fall when I confided my dream to Cowboy of getting a pool, he found a way to make it happen. (Yes, I just love that man.)  I watched from the front porch for 12 weeks while machines and craftsmen dug, rocked, and tiled the pool.  Finally finished, I donned my bathing suit and watched eagerly as it began to fill with water (just a measly 27 hours).

And then the splashing began.  We had my niece down from the big city (Chicago) to splish and splash.  We bought pool toys, floated, and for the first time in my life, someone even told me I looked tan this summer.  That’s because every chance I got, I was by the pool – swimming, reading, and enjoying the view of the horses.  Blessed, simply blessed.

And then the ecosystem started.  First, we had one or two frogs. Kind of cute.  They were especially fond of the rock fountains.  Then there were a dozen.  Each night as Cowboy and I went to take a dip, we’d count frogs.  I’m not sure when it happened, but all of a sudden we were up to over 40 frogs, then 50, then 60.  Until one day, we counted nearly 100 frogs!

I googled to see how to make them move on, but no luck. Any solution would hurt or kill them, so not an option.  And ultimately, it turns out they are great bug control.  Let me be clear, we have no pond or other nearby water source, so how these crazy Kermits found us, I’m not quite sure.  (Other than, obviously the animal kingdom has a network equivalent to Facebook, and I think we must be posted, shared, liked, and loved all over it.)

Back to our ecosystem … so one lovely evening during a warm swim, I was doing my nightly frog count, and a little face poked out of the rocks at me that I had not seen before.  It took my brain a moment to register this creature, which was a mere 10 inches or so from my face.

My first thought was, “Oh, how cute.  Wait, it doesn’t look like a frog.  It has a tongue sticking out at me.”  My second thought was “S-N-A-K-E!”  Quickly followed by a panicked, “Out of the pool. Out of the pool. Out of the pool!”

Holy hades where did he come from?  Well, you guessed it, we were serving up a lovely buffet of a snake’s favorite dish – Kermit a la poolside.  He was more scared of me that I was of him, although I’m not sure that is entirely possible or true.  And over the next week we had two of his associates show up as well.  Fun science fact I somehow missed in biology, ALL snakes swim. (Once again, thank you Google.  And yes, you heard me.  A-L-L.)

Well Cowboy and my dad came to the rescue, and the snakes met their fate.  Sorry fellas, swimming with snakes is not on my list of things to do.  The Kermits are croaking and singing nightly, and we have purchased a snake grabber on Amazon. (Who knew … Amazon really does have everything.)

So yes, I’ve got my dream pool and we are loving every minute.  But let me say, I am thanking my lucky stars for beautiful clear water that you can see what you are getting into, literally.  Last night, as Cowboy and I stood on the porch, we listened as a giant hoot howl sounded very close.  We hadn’t heard that before.  So with my handy dandy phone I looked up their food source – furry creatures and (yep, you guessed it) frogs.  Ribbit!

Farm Critter Pic - Frogs in the Pool
A sampling of our friendly frogs.

P.S. – I never liked swimming in lakes, but with my new all-snakes-swim revelation, I’m sticking to clear water from now on. No exceptions.

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

It’s All About the Ears

Goober is admittedly my baby.  He follows me from room to room, sleeps on my side of the bed, crowds my feet when I’m in the kitchen, and is just generally my best pal.  At the farm for four years now (read his story here), he’s a fixture, on the sofa that is. While he is a hound dog, he is most definitely a couch potato.  But no matter, I love my Goobs.

However, Goober has one super silly trait that always makes us smile around here.  We affectionately call it his “Gooby Ears.”  When I come back from a trip to town, even if I’m only gone 30 minutes or so, I am greeted by bouncing and flouncing and most definitely Gooby Ears.

So what are Gooby Ears?  Well, evidently long ago hound dogs were related to elephants.  Like an excited elephant, Goober distinctly holds his ears out to the side.  The happier he is, the more they flap.  I’m just waiting for him to howl like a trumpeting pachyderm.

So here you go.  Goober with normal ears …

And this is my happy Goobs.  Now those are some serious Gooby ears.  That is one happy pooch!

My Farmtastic Life - It's All About the Ears
That is my happy Goobs. I just adore that face (and of course those ears)!

What crazy habits do your pups show off to greet you when you walk in the door?

Farmtastic Recipes

Farmtastic Recipe – Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love a good soup for lunch or dinner. Sometimes, it just hits the spot.  It’s even better if I can make a giant pot and freeze it for later.  This recipe is perfect for sharing or freezing, making over 15 servings of soup, depending on your appetite.  The best thing about this recipe is that it is chock full of vegetables, and with a broth base, it’s a low cal AND delicious meal.  Double bonus, since there is a lot of chopping, Cowboy and I make this one side-by-side splitting up the chopping duties. The hardest part?  Waiting the hour for it all to simmer together.

Give it a whirl and let us know if this soup hits the spot.

The Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup

The Source: The original was in Harvest Gifts  church cookbook from Saint Ann Catholic Parish in Coppell, Texas, and was called Tortilla Soup with Chicken.  However, I’ve altered it significantly over time.  Proof again that church cookbooks are the best.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

    My Farmtastic Life - Chicken Tortlla Soup
    Yep – this recipe has a lot of ingredients. But it is oh so worth it as the rich flavors come together for one of my all-time faves.
  • 32 ounces chicken stock
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 10 tsp. cumin
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • 5 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped green chilies, from can
  • 10 ounces chopped mild tomatoes and green chillies (Rotel)
  • 14 1/12 ounces diced tomatoes with green pepper, celery, and onion
  • 4 large zucchini, chopped into moons
  • 3 cups carrots, chopped into rounds
  • 3 ears of fresh corn, kernels sliced from cob
  • 15 corn tortillas, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Optional for garnish: Colby and Monterey Jack shredded cheese, crispy corn tortilla strips

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring chicken to a soft boil, approximately 20 minutes.  Reserve broth for adding into soup.  Shred or dice chicken, your preference.
  2. In a large stock pot, at least 12 quarts in size, add in the chicken stock, onions, celery, green onions, garlic and cilantro.  Simmer until tender.  About 5 to 7 minutes.

    My Farmtastic Life - Chicken Tortilla Soup
    Adding in the broth. This is a 12 quart stock pot. noticed how deep the soup currently is.
  3. You will need to add in 16 more cups of water.  Use what you can from boiling the chicken and then make the rest up with water.  You now have 20 cups of liquid in your pot.  (4 cups of chicken stock plus 16 cups of chicken water/plain water)

    My Farmtastic Life - Chicken Tortilla Soup
    Once all broth is added, the pot is about half full.
  4. Add in ingredients from bouillon cubes through tortillas.  Stir.  Add in chicken.  Cover and simmer at least 1 hour.  Longer is okay.  Stir occasionally.

     

  5. Serve immediately.  Top with tortilla strips and cheese, if desired.

    My Farmtastic Life - Chicken Tortilla Soup
    The soup has a vibrant, spicy broth and is loaded with veggies. Make sure to stir the whole pot before serving. The chicken will be on the bottom of the pot.

Farmtastic Notes:

  • Sometimes I make fresh rice, either white or brown, and place 1/2 cup of cooked rice in a bowl and pour the soup over it.  This makes it almost like a stoup, as Rachael Ray would say a cross between a soup and a stew.
  • I freeze this in quart size bags.  It lays flat for easy storage, and it makes a perfect meal for two or side dish for 3 to 4 in a pinch.  Lay filled bags on a cookie sheet for easy transport.

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe, so give it a try and share your thoughts.

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Just Say No to Snakes

We love 99.9% of things about country living.  In fact, neither Cowboy nor I  want to trade in the work, peace, or beauty of the country to go back to the ‘burbs.  However, if there is one thing that can make me shriek and consider condo living, it is the S word.  That’s right, S-N-A-K-E. Those squirmy, sneaky, legless slitherers are NOT my friends.

We’ve been pretty blessed at the farm.  We’ve found just two snakes in five years, and one we only found after we ran over it with the tractor.  Bonus! But with this year’s spring rains they seem to have discovered the farm, and we found three on the porch in 36 hours.  Let me correct that, I found three.

Snake number one slithered onto the porch just as I was about to let the pups out.  Unfortunately, Cowboy wasn’t home at the time and couldn’t get here immediately. (Of course!) Panic mode fully in place, because I was not going to go toe-to-toe or rather toe-to-slither with a snake, I picked up the phone and called my dad.   Dads fix everything, right?

My good natured dad  listened, as I screeched, “Dad, there is a snake on the porch.  Come now.  Right now.”

In his slow drawl, he said, “Awe, you’ve got a snake, huh?”

My anxiety building, I squeaked, “Stop. Talking. Just. Come. Right.  Now.”

We hung up and I stayed glued to the window making sure I knew exactly where that snake was.  I couldn’t risk a get-away, or I may never step foot on the porch again.  Five minutes later, my mom  called me back.

“Your dad is on the way. He’s got his BB gun and shovel.  You cracked him up. He’s grinning from ear to ear,” she said. “He should be there in a few minutes.”

Not so happy to be comic relief, I breathed a sigh of relief as the calvary was on its way. I grabbed my pink rubber boots and stood at the ready.  What an utter goofball I looked like.  You’d think I was going to do battle with the garden rather than snakes.  Whatever works, right? And then I saw Dad round the driveway, that lovely Dodge truck was a white horse.

My Farmtastic Life - Just Say No to Snakes
Dad saved the day, and by day I mean my sanity. Sorry Mr. Snake. You are not welcome on the porch!

Dad saved the day, and was an excellent shot.  Dad did feel bad, as he said it was a “good” snake, i.e. not poisonous.  However, while my brain knows this, my nervous system does not.  In fact, that night I dreamed about being chased by snakes.  Let’s just say, I’m not a fan.

Snake number two and three came when Cowboy was around.  (Lucky, Cowboy!) Snake number two still came with an assist from Dad, as he was stuck up in the porch roof rafters, and unfortunately ate a nest of baby black birds.  Sad about the birds, and this also came with a new realization that I had to look not only down but up for snakes.  Holy cats, are you kidding me?

Snake number three showed up on our side porch wrapping itself around a door handle.  For the love of pete I hope this stops.  By snake number three, Cowboy has this routine down, sadly. Routine starts with a call of, “Cowboy! Snake! Now!” To which I hear him laughing and boots come stomping.  Shovels collected.  Snake in sight.  Snake dead.

The big lesson? Screened in porch just moved up the priority list of projects.  Hardware store here we come!

 

P.S. – Yes, snakes were harmed in the making of this blog.  We’re sorry.  They simply FREAK us, i.e. me, out.  I know it’s not the right thing to do, but I’d like to keep breathing at a normal pace. All were a minimum of four feet. This farmgirl is just over five feet. You do the math.

P.P.S. – Ironically, snake number three came in the middle of writing this blog.  Guess he needed to make an appearance.

P.P.P.S. – I refuse to categorize this as a critter story.  Critters require legs. So you’ll find this under farm life.  Just saying.

 

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Go Fish

Back in the fall I was chatting it up in our local coffee shop, when one of my friends mentioned that she keeps goldfish in her horse troughs to eat algae and mosquito larvae.  I nearly spit out my chai tea latte, when I asked, “Seriously?” (And yes, country folks drink tea lattes, at least this farmgirl does and I adore them. And double yes, if you walk into our local coffee shop you will hear talk of horses, farms, and the town goings-on, all with a dose of southern hospitality.)

My Farmtastic Life - Go Fish, Critter Stories
Our first little goldfish swimming laps in their olympic sized pool, a.k.a. the horse trough.

So I bee bopped home and told Cowboy of my newfound knowledge.  And if you could have seen the look on his face.  Let’s just pull a line out of his favorite TV show, and say, “Well, possum on a gum bush.”  So we started asking around, and sure enough it’s a REAL thing.

We went about purchasing goldfish at a whopping 32 cents a piece and gave it a try.  Admittedly, fall into winter was probably not our smartest time to try, but we gave it a good go. Sure enough, it worked.  Well, kind of.

Enter Lips.  In our last batch of fish, we got one little fella who was all gold with the exception of bright white lips.  So while I had avoiding naming the fish, this one was special.  And you guessed it, his name is Lips.

After a couple of weeks in the trough, he wasn’t doing so well.  He was barely moving and only using his fins on one side.  Cowboy sent me a text one afternoon that said, “Lips is dying.”  Yes, I know Lips is a 32-cent goldfish, but I went into action.  How does one save a fish?  I mean I couldn’t exactly give him CPR or bandage a fin.  (Although, Cowboy wouldn’t put it past me. Some other time I’ll have to share the warnings I get about this and that creature finding their way inside.)

I’d read that sometimes goldfish don’t always do well in galvanized tanks, so I thought maybe this was his problem. I scooped him out and put him in a sassy purple horse bucket, fed him, and watched.  On a daily basis, I would tell Cowboy, “I think he’s dead.”  To which Cowboy would come look, disturb the water, and sure enough, off Lips would swim.  (Maybe I’ll start calling Cowboy the fish whisperer.  I’m sure he’d love that.) Within a couple of days Lips was swimming around again.  So now what’s a farmgirl to do?

My Farmtastic Life - Go Fish, Critter Stories
One fish + one tea pitcher = one very happy Lips the goldfish.
My Farmtastic Life - Go Fish, Critter Stories
A close up of dear sweet Lips, in his tea pitcher house.

If you know me, you can most likely guess.  He came inside, of course.  But while I have kennels a plenty and horse halters galore, an aquarium is not standard farm paraphernalia.  So digging through the cupboards I finally found it – my giant tea pitcher.  And so with a few seashells from our travels dropped in for good measure, Lips was in his new home.  And I prayed that the cats would not turn on the spout and drain out the water before Lips could have a real home.  In addition, a girl can only give up her sweet tea pitcher for so long, fish or no fish.

So long story short, Lips now has a home nestled in a lovely, proper aquarium, complete with air pump, colorful gravel, and decor.  I mean the fish has to have style. So if you are doing the math, this 32-cent goldfish now is a $50 investment, which leaves Cowboy scratching his head, but me able to sleep at night. And where is this aquarium, you ask?  On my hutch, directly beneath my treasured cookbooks, where there will be no discussion of cooking fish.

My Farmtastic Life - Go Fish, Critter Stories
Lips enjoying his new digs. Luxury penthouse in the sky. (Stache is in the front, and Lips is in the back left.)

P.S.  We originally got Lips a friend, who we named Stache, short for Mustache, as he had a black ring around has lips.  But unfortunately, Stache didn’t last too long.  Rest in peace Stache.  We hope you enjoyed your time on the farm.  Lips will remain an only fish for now.

P.P.S.  Goldfish don’t always do well in the troughs.  So we continue to experiment and find the the right balance.  We do enjoy having them and they are big help. If you give it a go, we’d love to hear your successes. 

 

 

Farmtastic Recipes

Farmtastic Recipe – Veggie Pizza

With fresh veggies coming into season, we like to find yummy ways to use them up, whether they come from our garden, a farmer’s market, or our local grocer.  I originally got this fun recipe from my sweet mother-in-law, and the truth is you can really use any veggies that you love to munch on.  Make it up as an appetizer for summer get-togethers, as a snack to share, or for a quick lunch time bite.  Best of all it keeps for a couple of days.  My favorite part – the crunch of the veggies combined with the tart creamy sauce.

Give it a whirl and let us know what you like on your pizza.

The Recipe: Veggie Pizza

The Source: Cowboy’s Mama 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tubes of original Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, 8 count each

    Farmtastic Recipe - Veggie Pizza
    Gathering veggies and accoutrement to put together a scrumptious snack.
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing mix
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium head of broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese

 

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven per direction on the crescent rolls.  Take your favorite cookie sheet, grease lightly.  My favorite way is to put a dab of olive oil on a clean paper towel and wipe down my cookie sheet.
  2. Roll out the crescent roll dough in a flat layer.  Pinching together the seams. Bake according to directions.  I generally go with the least amount of time on the range provided.  Crust will turn golden brown and puff up slightly. Remove from oven and cool completely.

    Farmtastic Recipe - Veggie Pizza
    If only making dough from scratch was this easy. Simply roll out your crescent rolls and go.
  3. Combine all of your chopped veggies in a large bowl and toss until they are completely mixed.

    Farmtastic Recipe - Veggie Pizza
    Delicious bowl of fresh veggies all chopped up. If you have one, visit your local farmer’s market and pick out your faves.
  4. In a medium bowl, use hand mixer to blend cream cheese and ranch dressing mix.  Blend in sour cream until mixture is smooth.
  5. Once crust has cooled, spread your cream cheese mixture onto the crust.  This is your pizza sauce.

    Farmtastic Recipe - Adding the sauce for veggie pizza.
    Spread your sauce on your pizza. I use an icing spreader.
  6. Sprinkle on the cheese, top with the veggies.
  7. Slice and enjoy immediately.  Keep leftovers refrigerated.

    Farmtastic Recipe - Veggie Pizza
    Time to take this perfect snack to the porch. Let us know what you like on your veggie pizza.

Farmtastic Notes:

  • If you want to make this ahead for a party, prepare crust, sauce, and veggies separately.  Store all ingredients in fridge separately.  Assemble right before party.
  • Will keep in the fridge for two to three days.  I usually leave it on the cookie sheet and just cover with tin foil.
  • Sometimes I use Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese.  I think the taste is the same, it is just a lower fat option.

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe, so give it a try and share your thoughts.