Category Archives: Ranch Stories

The Gift of Beauty.

Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

The sun was setting in a cold February sky, sinking behind massive cloud banks to the southwest. The clouds were shades of blue and purple, surrounded with pink and gold and crimson. I turned and gazed at them as I rode along, my hands freezing cold inside the thin jersey gloves, my face icy in the wind.

It was my 14th birthday, and I was spending it in a dreary Midwestern winter, where the damp cold seeped into your very bones. I went to school in the morning, and there was singing and good wishes. But, as soon as I got home, I had to change into work clothes, saddle up my horse, and ride 3 miles to my dad’s sawmill to help him cut lumber.


I hated that sawmill, and never more than in cold weather. I was glad I had a horse to ride, (my begging had finally paid off) but the cold was just going clean through me, till I reached the sawmill.

Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

The sawmill.

Several hours later, we had finished that load of pallet lumber and I climbed back on my horse and headed for home. As the sun set, those blue clouds looked for all the world like a mountain range off in the distance. I gazed at them, soaking in their beauty, thanking God for such a wonderful gift on my birthday! Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

We were poor, and my birthday always fell in the winter when finances were especially tight. This year, mom either forgot about my birthday, or couldn’t squeeze any extra gift money out of her budget.

Anyway, she had a small pair of new sewing scissors that she’d bought for herself, but she wrapped them and gave them to me. I hated sewing, it gave me hot prickles on my neck! But I knew she wanted to give me something, and I appreciated the effort. I knew we couldn’t afford nice gifts. I used those scissors for over a decade, and thought of mom every time I snipped thread. :)

So, after a somewhat dreary birthday – this stunningly gorgeous sunset was a feast to my eyes. God knew I loved mountains! He understood my heart! He knew I wanted to live out West, and He ‘gave me’ some mountains on my birthday! I felt His love and kindness and understanding for me. I felt it deep in my soul. He cared about me! I rode the final mile in near-darkness, but the memory of that sunset has stuck with me for over 20 years.Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

As a child, I felt misunderstood. I got angry because I felt like I couldn’t be heard. As I grew older, I tried explaining myself,  but that didn’t help. I didn’t know how to communicate what I was feeling, without getting into trouble. It was very frustrating, and I lashed out in anger because of it. But there were times when I caught a glimpse of how God understood me. He understood my longings, my fears, my deepest desires. He understood how much I wanted to please Him, how much I wanted to be ‘good’, how I hated myself for my failures. No one else understood me – but God did.

Many times this glimpse of the Father’s heart came through beauty. Beautiful scenes, beautiful pictures, beautiful words, beautiful music. It was like He gave these lovely treasures – memories – that I could carry in my heart forever. I still can get teary about a beautiful piece of music, picture, or story. Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

This world is so broken, so ugly and messed up from sin. But God – our Father – He still loves beauty. He gives us these gorgeous gifts freely to enjoy. I encourage you to start noticing beauty. To begin accepting it as a gift from a loving Father.

God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world. Click To Tweet

God knows what kind of beauty your heart craves. Is it the sight of a perfectly conditioned cow? The gentle ripples in a pond? The mesmerizing flicker of a campfire, or the iridescent sheen on a trout? Does a soaring hawk give your soul wings? Does the sound of a harmonizing chorus make your heart want to burst?

Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

Is it the dance of a cutting horse or the flashing of grouse on the wing? Maybe the lush green of a hay field ready to cut that makes you smile, or the sight of dewdrops on grass. Does the crash of ocean breakers make your heart thunder? Does the unexpected sight of a bright desert flower, or the grandeur of a black starry sky make your eye light up?Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

Whatever makes you stop and smile – thank God for that gift. He is a good, good Father who loves to shower us with beauty and love. Let’s stop rushing through life and see the roses, at least. Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

The funny thing is, I now live by the mountains. Practically in them! I often stop and wonder how this is real?! This gorgeous place we call home. It may not be long-term (cowboys rarely stay one place for real long), but while we live here, I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I am overwhelmed with the beauty around here. I ride my horse through these mountain meadows and just get lost in the wild beauty. God has generously fulfilled my childhood desire to live ‘Out West’ and by the mountains. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve any of the good things in my life. But God understands. He gives good gifts. Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

Lest you think: “how perfect your life is”, let me assure you that there are trials in every type of life. My floors get crunchy and my laundry piles up. Sometimes we have relationship issues we have to work through, and we aren’t gonna retire in Beverly Hills. (horrors!) But, we serve a good God, and if you open your eyes to His beauty all around you, you might start seeing how much He loves you!

Beauty is a gift from God. God uses beauty to soothe our souls from a sin-weary world.

My real life mountain! We live here. Pinch me!

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking.

I have been snapping shutters for many years, but only in the past 2 years have my photos begun to really show the mood and personality that I want in an image. The reason I am beginning to capture great photos, is largely due to two secrets I’ve learned. I am shooting with the same entry-level DSLR camera that I was using 5 years ago – but the quality of my images has greatly improved.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Last week they preg-checked about 800 cows. It was an ambitious undertaking, even in good weather! With shorter days, just getting it all done in daylight would be a challenge. As if things weren’t interesting enough – a snowstorm rolled in during the night, and preg-checking  would happen in an all-day snowstorm!


But ranchers are tougher than most, and they bundled up, saddled up, and were out at the first gray light – pushing cows through the alley to the chute. The vet was there, apron on and wand in hand. The snow swirled as they worked – a couple guys in the back, pushing cows, a couple in the alley, moving the cows into the chute, a few guys at the head – checking numbers, running the chute, writing down info.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #wyoming #cowboy

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranchTwo secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

One man sat in the truck, out of the snow, so he could write down each cow’s information. That seemed like the best spot to be, on this stormy day! (Although he’s the kind of guy who’d rather just be out there working with the others, I think. ) Anyways, each man had his job to do, and they did it well. I didn’t help, but I did go out and take pictures. As Dave Stoecklein said:

“The worst weather makes the best pictures.”

He is so right! My photography made a huge leap when I read that and started implementing it. I wanted great photos, but my natural instincts and personality make me stay indoors (or at least in the truck) when it is bad weather. Especially cold! But I read that by Stoecklein, and decided to put it into practice. It worked! I started getting images far more interesting than those I captured from the comfort of my truck or house or behind the fence.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranchTwo secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

I started getting up early to catch sunrises. I bundled up to get snow images. I just got wet capturing spring rainstorms. (maybe I should get a slicker? 😀 My fingers went numb from standing on a cold hillside on a chilly fall day. But my pictures began showing mood and interesting elements that they’d been missing.

I still dislike cold. I would much prefer to live somewhere tropical – somewhere that palm trees grow and the worst weather is storms over the ocean! But for now, I am here in Wyoming where weather is usually bad and always cold. And I will continue capturing the ranch life through snow and below-zero temps. 😉

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranchTwo secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Another secret to great photos is one I learned from Chris Dickinson. I stumbled across his images on Instagram several years ago, and was immediately struck by the amazing action moments he captured! In your face brandings, over-your-head horses, and hooves just inches away. (that’s how it looks, anyways!)

“Don’t be afraid to get in close to the action!” Chris Dickinson

Chris is not afraid to get in close! He will let calves nearly run him over – and his photos show that intensity. It is mesmerizing – I study each picture at length, feeling the whoosh of air as hooves rush past, smelling the cow-trampled dirt, hearing the swoosh-and-thwack of the rope as it settles around the neck.

You don’t get that kind of action from the other side of the fence! You have to be in there, smelling, hearing, feeling. I have no desire to become the next CD Photog, (even if I could)  but I did learn to get in a lot closer, feel the action, not insulate myself from the experience. Again, my photos improved. I began catching the cowboys’ expressions, the cattle’s motion, the mood of the moment.

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

You can read all day about photography, but the best way to improve is to get out there and start experimenting. If you make some terrible shots, ruin some perfect moments – that will teach you faster than anything else, what not to do. It will force you to learn how to fix it and get better! :)

Another great way is to invest in a photography course or workshop. This will give you hands on help for your specific issues. It will teach you how to get great photos faster than just google or experimentation.

Leave me a comment and tell me what is your biggest challenge in making great photos?

Two secrets to great photos, and some preg-checking. #Wyoming #ranch

Two Secrets to Great Photosand preg-checking on the ranch

 

11 Delicious Beef Recipes for a Crowd

Ranch cooking is usually centered around beef recipes. And often – crowd-sized! I have to double or triple most recipes, when I am feeding the cowboys! I decided to go searching for all the beef recipes for a crowd that I could find, and compile them in one place for us ranch wives. :) Hopefully this will help simplify your meal-planning, the next time you need to feed a bunch of cowboys.11 delicious beef recipes for a crowd.

The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes for a Crowd

Here is a recipe from Dinner Then Dessert: Slow Cooker Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Serves 10


The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes For a Crowd

Here is a large batch of sloppy joes from Shaken Together Life: Big Batch Sloppy Joes For a Crowd.
No serving size stated, but I would guess it makes 20-25 sandwiches.

The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes for a crowd.

Here is a roast beef recipe from Mennonite Girls Can Cook: Roast Beef For a Crowd.
Serves 20-25 people.

The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes for a Crowd

A fun appetizer from Host The Toast: French Onion Beef Sliders.
Makes 24 sliders.

The Ultimate list of beef recipes for a crowd.

Easy beef recipe from Owl Haven: BBQ Beef Meatballs for a crowd.
Serves 24.

The Ultimate list of Beef Recipes for a Crowd

This looks wonderful for cold weather!  From Thriving Home Blog: Crowd-Pleaser Mexican Soup.
Serves 10-12.

The Ultimate list of beef recipes for a crowd.

Here is a big chili recipe from Allrecipes: Boilermaker Tailgate Chili.
Serves 22.

The Ultimate List of Beef recipes for a crowd.

This taco soup looks delicious!! from At Home With The Barkers: Easy Crowd-pleaser Taco Soup.
No serving size mentioned; I would guess around 8-10. Doubles easily.

The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes for a crowd.

These beef sandwiches would be a hit, from Aunt Bee’s Recipes: Hot Roast Beef & Cheese.
Serves 8.

The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes for a Crowd

More delicious sandwiches from Spend With Pennies: Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches.
Serves 12

The Ultimate List of Beef Recipes For a Crowd.

Here is a recipe for nachos! What a great, beefy, game-day snack! From Glitter and Spice: Loaded Beef Nachos
No servings listed, but it makes 2 large pans, so I would guess 10-12.

Pin this post for the next time you need a delicious, easy beef recipe for those hungry men. :)

11 delicious beef recipes for cowboys

31 Days to a better marriage, No Tattling!

31 Days to a better marriage, no tattling.

No Tattling sounds a bit juvenile – I get it. But the problem remains, no matter what you call it. Are you telling your mom/sisters/friends about your husband’s weaknesses under the guise of humor? Maybe as a shared prayer request? Or just flat-out as griping?

This needs to stop.


There is simply no place in a Christian wife’s life for tattling on her husband. How would you like if he told his buddies how you spend too much money – and they all laughed about it? Or if he told his mom how you are such a terrible housekeeper and he never has clean socks?

You know, marriage is a good place for the Golden Rule.

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

But he DOES treat me like this! He tells mean jokes about me to his buddies!” OK, that is a hard place to be. I get it. I have watched men do this to their wives, and it is NOT Christ-like. It is selfish and cruel. But as a Christian, you must treat him the same way you would any other sinner: with love and kindness, always desiring that he would come to repentance.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. Proverbs 31:26

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:12

They (believers) must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Titus 3:2

This is the part of the gospel no one wants to face: death to self. Because death is unpleasant! But if we say we believe the Bible, and we say we are obedient to Christ – then we need to treat everyone with kindness and not gossip. No tattling. No carrying grievances to your buddies. Even if he does. I like how Elizabeth George says, in her wonderful book to wives:

Your goal as a Wife after God’s Own Heart is to help, heal, and to minister to your husband with your words–not to slash and slice him to pieces.Your rash words can resemble the thrusts of a sword, or they can disperse refreshment that promotes health, edifies, encourages, and delivers grace to your husband. (Ephesians 4:29) -from A Wife After God’s Own Heart

What to do if you have a disagreement? I always, always advocate for prayer first. Pray fervently, daily. God and the Holy Spirit can do far more than your nagging and complaining. Yes, there is a time and place for getting outside help. But just the piddly little stuff that irritates you? Nope. Don’t go throwing him under the bus to your mom. No tattling.

Read the rest of the series HERE.

31 Days to a better marriage – Date Nights

31 days to a better marriage - date nights

Do  you find it hard to have an actual ‘date night’?

Me too.


Especially when you have babies and toddlers in the house, it is just hard. If you have family nearby, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. But if you live far from family, you will know exactly what I am talking about!

We have lived far from family for years. We have friends, but here in Wyoming, even our friends are pretty scattered! While we had babies and younger children, we just didn’t have many date nights. We did get a babysitter once a year and take a night away for our anniversary. That was so important to our sanity and closeness as a couple. We also tried to have 1-2 nights where we’d get a sitter and go out to eat. But even that was hard.

But why bother?

I do feel it is extremely important that a couple gets a bit of time alone, now and again. Even if it is only 1 time per year. Yes, you can be a close, loving couple without ever doing it, but frankly, I know very few couples who are deeply in love with each other, who don’t take time out for themselves. (I can’t think of any, in fact)

“We do everything as a family.” That sounds wonderful and so committed – but remember that you were a couple before you were parents. If you never go out, never take a night away, then you will need to be extra vigilant to get some time together at home. You just can’t properly nurture a deep, caring, friendship-love when there are kids climbing over you and listening to you talk.

I know, I know. You disagree with me.  Well, maybe I am wrong. But if you think so, let me ask you: Do you have a deep, loving, friendship with your husband, or is marriage a bit of a disappointment to you? I challenge you to answer honestly. (To yourself, of course.)

The people whose marriages I respect and look up to – they say to get away from the kids once in a while. They say that the kids will be fine. And they are right.

When I was a young wife, I hated leaving my toddlers for a night. I thought they would be scarred for life, haha! But my husband encouraged me to invest in our marriage – and I am so glad he did. I do not regret even one night away from my ‘babies’. We never lost the sense of ‘us’, and I credit time alone as the reason.

But how?

This is the tricky part! It is hard to have the time, money, or sitter. If you have one you probably don’t have the other.

How to find a babysitter: Family is ideal. Friends are second best. If you have neither – then you need to find friends!! Seriously. I recommend that you start by going to church. Even if it isn’t perfect, find a church that believes as closely to Scripture as possible. (just pick the best one in your town.) Then go to that church and make friends, serve them, get plugged in to their lives. You will soon (hopefully) find one or two families who will be willing to trade babysitting. You can also use drop-in daycare. I haven’t, but I think it would be a decent alternative.

I will say that when I had a nursing baby, or one under 2, I often took them along. Especially when we moved away from family.

How to find time: For a night away, I suggest that you put it on the calendar. We used to take a night away on our anniversary, but since we moved to WY (and ranch life) it is a bad time of year for us, so we take our night away a different weekend. But we plan ahead, every year. At least a tentative plan. If we were visiting family over the holidays, we’d plan an extra day, and arrange to leave the kids with grandma for a night.

For date nights we do it differently. If you have a set schedule, then a regular date night may work. It hasn’t for us. We ‘take a notion’ to go on a date, and go! When our kids were little, we grabbed every opportunity we could find. If we had an out-of-state sibling visiting, we left the kids and went on a date.

Now, we have teenage kids!! What a blessing to have built-in babysitters. I remember feeling that this day would never come! But here it is. And we LOVE it! 😀

How to find money: Oh boy. What a tough one, right? Really, we haven’t done much fancy stuff, because we are not rich folk. We would absolutely love to travel overseas or even just to Yellowstone for a weekend getaway. But realistically, we just can’t. The one exception was our 10th anniversary. We saved then splurged, and went to Washington D.C. for several days. That was a huge treat, and a trip that gave us many good memories.

For dates, we sometimes go out to eat, sometimes just ice cream! Right now we live far enough from town, that when we can make it work we will go to town together. We walk around the store, picking up what we need,(not groceries)  then get a burger or ice cream on the way home.

Our dates get simpler and more meaningful as we age. Driving 2 hours to and from town is a wonderful date. Checking water or putting out mineral is another way to get time together while not spending money.

When the kids were small, we’d stick them to bed early then pull out some special treats and drinks and have a date on the couch.

Usually for anniversaries, we spend one night at a hotel in a nearby city. We eat out and maybe catch a movie or a local, inexpensive attraction.

On leaner years, we’d get a babysitter for the kids, then pick up a pizza and some pop, and rent a movie and go home. In some ways, that was as relaxing as anything! Very inexpensive, very private, and no hassle of packing/unpacking.

I highly recommend you try this! Especially of you have sitters that you can easily get for a night!

I hope I have sparked an interest in you to make time for your marriage! Maybe you can’t take a weekend away. Maybe you need to put the babies to bed and light some candles and dress up. Maybe you just need to say YES next time he asks you to go check water. Better yet – YOU ask to go along, then be interesting and helpful and stay off your phone. 😉

Read the rest of the  series HERE.

Ranch and Agriculture Blogs.

I don’t follow a lot of blogs, but there are a few ranch and agriculture blogs that I like. I thought I would share some of them with you. These are blogs that I have followed for years, and enjoy their photos and/or writing. 

The South Dakota Cowgirl 

I put Jenn first, because I have actually met her in real life! Haha! I love Jenn. She is down-to-earth, real, genuine. She laughs a lot and makes everyone else laugh! She is caring, generous, and right handy with a camera. Plus a lot more skills that I can’t even remember. Barrel-racing, colt-starting, hosting interns, you name it. I had the privilege of attending a photo workshop with her this summer (2017), and liked her from the first big smile. 

Ranch and agriculture blogs to follow.

Jenn Zeller, The South Dakota Cowgirl (photo by Abby Prather)


Faith, Family, and Beef

I have not met Terryn – yet! – but I did meet her husband at a branding. :) (I did not know it was her husband until later, though, so that was crazy.) But I am pretty sure we will meet in real life one day! She is a ranch wife from Nebraska, and shares recipes, stories and more on her blog. You will like it! (Also, we are both Stormy Kromer ambassadors, yay! :D) 

Ranch and agriculture blogs - terryn Dreiling

Terryn Drieling, Faith, Family, and Beef.

Corner of the Circle L

Naomi is another Nebraska ranch wife, raising kids and cows on the wide-open range. She loves God and her family. She has been featured in Western Horseman and other publications. Naomi tells the story of her life through her blog and other social media. I hope and expect to eventually meet her, too! :)

Ranch and Agriculture blogs to follow - Naomi Loomis

Naomi Loomis, The Circle L Ranch

 

The Prairie Homestead

For 5 years we were practically neighbors. We lived maybe 30 miles apart (definitely neighbors in Wyoming!), but during those years we both had several sick pregnancies and other things that kept us from meeting in person!  Jill shares homesteading info, recipes, essential oils, and more. (She is technically not a ranch wife, but she is a Wyomingite, and was my neighbor, and I love her blog! :D) I am looking forward to meeting Jill one day.

Ranch and Agriculture Blogs - Jill Winger

Jill Winger, The Prairie Homestead

Agriculture Proud (bonus: one guy’s blog that I had to include! :) )

Ryan Goodman is well-known in the ag scene for his agriculture advocacy. He writes about cattle ranching, ag advocacy, using beef in your healthy diet, and trail running (fueled by beef). I enjoy following his Instagram – lots of trail running updates, which are inspiring! I am NOT a runner, but the sport has fascinated me for years. :)

Agriculture and ranching blogs.

Ryan Goodman

Now, go make a big pot of black coffee to sip as you get started on this list! I know you will find at least one you enjoy. :)

Tell me one or two of YOUR favorite logs! I love discovering new and fascinating blogs. :) Share in the comments.

3 Tips for a stress-free branding meal.

3 tips for a stress free branding meal. Strategies that work for any large crowd.

If you are new to cooking, it may look daunting to get a big meal ready all by yourself! I thought I would share some strategies I use for stress-free cooking for a crowd!

I have been cooking for a ranch crew several times a year (or more) for more than ten years. I have learned some things that help me keep my sanity! 😀 


I like to run out and take pictures while the cowboys are branding or shipping, and I can’t do that if my meal is helter-skelter and I am stressed out! So, I learned to prep the right way. These tips also work for other large-group meals. This is also how I manage church functions with very low stress. 

3 tips for a stress-free branding meal. Works for any large crowd

1. Plan ahead. 

If you take away nothing else – please, please, please plan ahead! This one tip will help you tremendously. If you know what needs done, you won’t get caught off guard. 

  • Menu. Write it all out. Even if it is just boughten cookies or jugs of tea. Next, write down everything besides food that you will need. Paper plates, garbage bags, napkins, plasticware, toothpicks, salt & pepper shakers, cream for the coffee? 
  • Groceries. Now, figure out what ingredients you will need for each dish. Write down everything you will need to buy. Make sure you figure enough! 
  • Time. Check recipes, and figure out how long you will need to cook each dish. If you are making meat and rolls and cake and potatoes and baked beans… do you have two ovens? What order will you bake them? Can you use a crockpot for something? You need to figure this out now, because there is nothing worse than needing to put rolls in the oven, but your meat has the oven busy all morning!

3 tips for a stress-free branding meal, works for any large crowd.

2. Prep the day before.

This is my biggest secret to a restful branding meal! I normally prep as much as possible the previous day. In fact, I try not to plan anything else the day before, so I can just prepare all the food! Trust me, you will not regret spending several hours the previous day! It makes branding day so much easier, and you will be less likely to get in a jam. (remember the oven cramming?)

  • Peel potatoes. If you are making a potato casserole, make it and have it ready for the oven. Or have your baked potatoes scrubbed and wrapped. You can make mashed potatoes and then reheat the following day, also. (Although – sometimes I just want those fresh, fluffy mashed potatoes. :) )
  • Cook your meat. I like to cook roasts slow overnight. It really frees up my oven and – bonus! – makes the roast fork-tender. Almost any meat can be cooked the day before and reheated. The exceptions would be prime rib and burgers. If you are doing pulled meat sandwiches, you can just shred and reheat on branding day. So easy!
  • Make your dessert. Bake your dessert the day before. If you want it warm-from-the-oven, you can still get it ready. For cobbler, I make the crumbs and put them in a ziploc bag, and get the fruit ready. Then you just have to assemble it right before baking. Pie crusts can be made and refrigerated overnight, filling can be made, etc. If nothing else – at least make sure your butter is sitting out overnight so it is soft the next day. If you want to bake your dessert the day of branding, be sure you have time to fit it in with your other oven dishes!
  • Chop salad veggies. Most salads you can prep the day before. Just wait to add dressing till you are ready to serve. Chopping veggies for salad is messy, and this helps keep your kitchen cleaner on branding day!
  • Thaw frozen things. Do you need to thaw vegetables? Fruit for cobbler? At a bare minimum, you need to get your meat out and let it thaw! 
3 tips for a stress-free branding meal, works for any crowd

The branding crew, Chugwater, WY. May 2016

3. Get up early.

I know – who wants to get up early?! (Well me, but I know most people don’t enjoy mornings! :) ) But if you want to have a smooth branding meal, you need to get up at a reasonably early hour. Maybe your man doesn’t want to eat at 5 am, but mine does, so I cook him breakfast. Sometimes I let him eat cereal, but I try to make him breakfast. Then I get started on my day.

  • Start your snack. If you will be taking a snack/coffee break to the crew, you need to make sure that is done first. Are you making cinnamon rolls? Get the dough mixed up to rise. Do you need to bake or make anything? Get it going. 
  • Check your meat. If you had a roast in the oven overnight, you need to check it first thing. Probably as early as 5 or 6 am. If it is done, take it out and let it rest. It can cool for an hour or so, while you start your snack, then you can slice or shred it.
  • Set your table. IF you have the room, get your tables set up for lunch. Set out the plates, cups, etc. Fill the water jugs. Put out butter to soften. Salt and pepper. Toothpicks. Chairs. Get a garbage can ready for all the trash.  Think about the flow… where will the guys come in? Where will they file through to get their food? Make it as easy as possible for them to go from door to sink to food to table. And PLEASE have a big towel by the sink for their hands! I can’t abide little wet rags to ‘dry’ my hands on! 😉 (pet peeve)
  • Get drinks ready. Water is perfectly fine, but whatever you have to drink – have plenty! Especially out West here, we get so dried out! Those hard-working cowboys are going to need lots to drink. 

These tips have served me well for feeding groups of cowboys – as few as 8 to as many as 30. I use the exact same strategy for feeding a church group of 200 or more. Yes, I have made mistakes, and you might, too. Cowboys are generally pretty forgiving of us cooks, as long as we have plenty of food! I appreciate that. 😀
Whether you are cooking for branding, processing, or shipping, you can follow these tips for a relaxing, stress-free meal. 

If you need some inspiration, check out these cookbooks! They are some of my favorite! Beautiful photos and fun stories throughout. 

This post contains affiliate links.

31 days to a better marriage – Dealing with church problems.

31 days to a better marriage - church problems

I can’t think of a more polarizing issue than church and religion. While finance may be a personality difference, and in-laws may be a self-control issue, church and religion are deeply moral, personal, and at the very core of your world-view.

I grew up in a home where my parents did not agree 100% on church and religion. I saw firsthand what happens when you have differences. While you may be willing compromise on money or lifestyle, it is hard, hard, hard to compromise on beliefs. And it should be, frankly. If you are easily swayed by your husband’s opinion, then I question the depth of your personal relationship with Jesus.


However, your husband is the head of your home as a Christian, and he does have the responsibility to lead your home in the way he believes God wants him too. This is not to say he must run over your convictions and beliefs. A Godly husband should always consider his wife’s convictions, and pray together concerning big decisions or problems. But what if you both are seeking God, and you come to wildly different conclusions?

Let’s first lay down the basics.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 1 Timothy 2:14

Eve was deceived in the Garden, and has shown us that women tend to be swayed easier than men. Whether by our own reasoning, emotions, or personality – we can be ‘talked into’ convictions or beliefs when we haven’t really studied out what God’s Word says.

Adam was not deceived, but like many men – he wanted to keep his wife happy. So he capitulated. Lesson from Eve: Don’t lead your husband into a bad situation by your emotional reasoning. Let him lead.

What if he wants us to go to a church that I don’t agree with?

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:24

Go with him. Unless it is a cult – in which rare circumstance you should seek outside counsel – go with him. You don’t have to join, you don’t have to agree with everything. But, if he is taking the family to a Christian church, be thankful.

You can teach the finer points of theology and Christianity to your children at home,  if necessary. (respectfully and not husband or church-bashing) If they are dry and dead, you can still be vibrantly alive. If they are soulish and wild, you can be sincere and spiritual. 

What if our church has a split or other huge issue that we disagree on?

This is the trickiest problem. I can assure you that ‘being right‘ is NOT WORTH YOUR MARRIAGE!! Trust me on this. My parents went to a church where they ended up on opposite sides of a church spilt, and it wasn’t pretty. The aftermath lasted years. (my parents never separated, just to be clear) Growing up and watching this, I saw what happens when you are not united as a couple.

Here is the rub: Do you trust God? He knows that these issues will come up, you know, and He still gives us the command to submit to our husband. Do you trust His way to be perfect?

My advice in this situation is to shut up and drop it. I know, that’s not what you want to hear, in fact, I dare say I lost some of you at this point.  Maybe you can see clearly, maybe you are in the right and your husband/whomever-else-involved is in the wrong. What will happen if you continue to support your husband and your church? What will happen if you don’t?

Think this through carefully. Ask God to give you wisdom. Forgive those who wronged you, so that God’s love can flow through you. As in any situation, sometimes you try your best, and the other party refuses to acknowledge their wrong, refuses to mend fences. That’s ok. That is between them and God. God tells us that “Love covers a multitude of sins” and if there was ever a place where love needs to flow, it is the church!

The exceptions.

I believe there are a few exceptions. Sexual affairs, physical or sexual abuse, or things of that sort. If it is clearly there and you know it, yes – it needs addressing and if your husband is so weak he won’t support you, find help. Somewhere.

But I dare say most of church problems are more common ‘self’  type of things. Cliques, power struggles, pride in their reputation, selfishness, unkindnesses, ‘politics’ in church, church structure, etc.

In the second group there is often (probably always!) sin, but it is the stuff you can live with. Yes, you should definitely discuss these issues with your husband. You should respectfully let him know what you feel is wrong, and ask him how he sees the issue. But if you want to leave church because your best friend did (and how could she possibly be wrong?) and your husband tells you that he wants to stay – then shut up and stay. (this has not happened to me, to be clear!  Just thinking of possible scenarios :) )

I believe with all my heart that if you have a sincere heart, fully respecting and honoring your husband, and fully trusting God – that He will work every thing out for your good.

  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Church issues are sensitive because they are such a deep part of our core beliefs, and this kind of thing can be the hardest thing you have ever faced. But with God’s strength and grace – daily! – you can be an overcomer in this too! You don’t need to fall into discouragement or depression. You can trust Him and His Word, and be filled with His Spirit daily.

 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:19

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Corinthians 10:13

Be encouraged to walk with God in righteousness, and not get sidetracked by Satan’s wily schemes! He wants to distract us and destroy us, and he will use any means necessary. You have the power of Heaven at your back – cry out to God for wisdom! Walk in humility and wisdom. Trust your God and respect your husband and it will go well with you.

Today’s challenge: Do some soul-searching, and some praying for your church. If you love your church and have no problems with it, then ask God to show you how you can best serve the other members. Ask how YOU can be a blessing, instead of always waiting for someone to bless you.

Read the rest of the series HERE.

Don’t help with fall processing if you are pregnant.

A Ranch Mom: Processing yearling calvesThe sun shone weakly through the clouds, but the sharp west wind blew all the warmth away before it reached the ground where I was standing. I pulled my gloves on, and then turned to the car where my kids were waiting.

“OK, kids,” I said, “just play in the car, or, if you need something, I will be over there in the barn, OK? Just be careful of the calves when you walk through the corral – they might kick if you get to close to their legs.”
“OK, Mom,” Jenni agreed, picking up the crayons she had brought along.
I cracked open the windows, and then put the keys in my pocket. I wasn’t about to have them start the car, or anything crazy like that! I checked everything again – they had water, snacks, toys, blankets… they will be ok, I told myself, I can watch them easily.

But it was still hard. Hard to walk across the yard, and leave them there in the car. I was still paranoid from our recent loss. There is no water in the canal, I thought, there is no way for them to hurt themselves. Relax, Kay! Loosen up!

I flipped the latch up on the gate, and slid the bar back. The gate squealed as I pushed it open. I shut it and walked gingerly around blobs of cow manure. The wind blew cold on my neck, so I wrapped my wild rag tighter, and zipped up my coat as far as possible. I instinctively put my hand on my pregnant belly, as I looked over to the other side of the pen, where Cliff and Bill were working on the first batch of calves. I was a little late. Oh well. This shouldn’t take too long, I thought. I was here to help Cliff with the fall processing of yearlings.


A Ranch Mom: Processing yearling calves

I stepped into the lean-to part of the barn, and watched as Cliff quickly injected the bawling calf with a needle full of medicine. There was a slight sizzle as Bill pressed the red-hot branding iron against the side of the struggling animal. Smoke curled up, and when Bill removed the iron, there was a perfect brand on the hide. Cliff pulled some handles, and the chute clanked open. I moved aside as the calf bolted from the chute – bawling his frustration.

“What should I do?” I asked Cliff.
“You can keep the chute full. Come, I’ll show you .”
He led the way back to the holding pen, and showed me how to run 6-8 calves into the small round pen. The small round pen had a gate that could swing completely in, forcing the calves into the chute. Cliff handed me a paddle, and went back to front of the chute to work on the next one.

I waited while the guys worked on two more calves, then I prodded the rest of the calves in the chute up towards the front. There were several swinging doors in the chute, that only opened one way, so when the little animals were through, they couldn’t go backwards, they could only go forwards. They heard their buddies bawling, so they dug in their heels, and bacedk up. But the swinging doors kept them from backing through, and an occasional shock from Bill’s electric prod would send them into the front of the chute.

I walked back to the rest of the calves, all bunched in the corner of the alley. They just bunched together more, till they were almost climbing over top of each other. I gingerly prodded one calf, and sure enough, he kicked. High and fast. I yelled in alarm, and then shook my paddle at them. Little beads inside the paddle made a racket – designed to scare cattle, so the cowboys wouldn’t have to use their voices so much. It’s known as a rattle-paddle. The calves ignored the paddle, so I had to resort to poking and yelling at them.

A Ranch Mom: Processing yearling calves

I finally got one to run away from the huddle, then they all tried to follow him. I ran to the gate and nearly got run over when I tried to shut it in front of a barreling calf. I shook my rattle-paddle at it, and it galloped off, back to the corner. I went through the gate, then latched it.

Then I opened the gate to the little round pen, and tried to get them to run in there. Yeah. Right. They weren’t going anywhere near That Place. I ran around after them, shaking my rattle, and yelling.  Poking them when I thought I could do it without getting kicked. Finally, three calves ran into the pen, and I quickly slammed the gate behind them. I looked at the chute, and they were working on the last calf. Six calves while I rounded up three? This was not good. I will have to get faster than this if I want to keep up with them.
A Ranch Mom: Processing yearling calves
I jammed them as far forward in the chute as possible, and then ran back to the alley. I gritted my teeth, and took a deep breath. I shouted at the calves, and shook my rattle-paddle, and whacked them as hard as I could. They bunched up closer. I managed to get a small bunch to break away from the rest, and into the small pen, but despite my best efforts, Cliff had to come back and help me run them into the chute.

I was starting to pant, and my stomach was churning from the smell of burning hair. The wind was blowing the smoke and stench from the branding right through the lean-to and back to where I was working. It was a bad smell anytime, but my sensitive pregnant nose was nearly overcome. I felt like throwing up. I swallowed a few times, and willed my stomach to settle. I walked back to the end of the alley, trying to get as far away from the smell as I could. The smell was not so strong back there. Or maybe it was just overpowered by the rank odor of fresh cow poop. At least its a better smell, I thought.

“Mom?” Frank was climbing up the fence, straddling it he said; “I need to go to the bathroom.”
“There is a bathroom in the vet room. Go to Daddy, and he will show you where it is, OK?” I looked over to the car. Jenni’s head was visible in the car, but what caught my attention was the car itself. The wipers were flopping, the right turn signal was blinking, and the door was hanging open. Help us all, I thought. We are gonna have a dead battery soon. I clambered over the fence, and went to shut off the lights. I gave Jenni instructions about what her and Franklin were, and were not allowed to play with in the car.
A Ranch Mom: Processing yearllings

Back to the alley. Running. Shouting. Prodding. Waving my arms. Slamming the gate. Pushing the gate in the round pen as hard as possible, and then realizing that the calves were a lot stronger than I was, even if they were only a few months old. I got splattered with cow poop when one went right in front of me. I poked one, and the calf kicked so fast and close that I felt the air from its dirty hoof, as it came within millimeters of my hand. All the while, the stench of burning hair was floating out over me. The wind no longer felt cold. I was sweating. My stomach was churning. I was getting madder and madder at the calves. I would’ve kicked them if I hadn’t been so afraid of being kicked a lot harder in return. (kicking is not recommended – it was my first experience working calves, and I never knew how frustrating they can be! )

Finally, I managed to fill both the chute and the holding pen. So I went up and watched Cliff and Bill. They branded, ear tagged, and gave shots in a smooth rhythm. Never making one extra move, just doing everything in a efficient, calm way.
A Ranch Mom: Processing yearlings story. #fallworks
The afternoon had slipped away into evening before we finished.  I was bone-weary, my feet almost had blisters on them. The sun was sinking, and the wind was getting colder, as I walked slowly back to the car. All I could think about was a hot shower.

And bed.

I sat down in the car and smiled at my kids.

Written in 2010. 

31 Days to a better marriage – Happiness is a choice.

31 days to a better marriage - happiness

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes, I see women who are so sour and long-faced that I wonder how anyone can live with them! Do they blame their husbands, I wonder? Do they blame their marriage for holding them back, or placing demands on them? I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: happiness is a choice.

I hear wives grumble about husbands not doing enough with the kids, not remembering something their wife wanted, not taking off work enough… you name it. I understand. I have been there, sadly. I have had days where I blamed my man for my unhappiness. If he would just do so-and-so, I would be happy! But it isn’t true. We can have the best husband, and still find fault and complain. I know, because I have a pretty amazing husband, and I have complained.


I remember very clearly the day I was driving home with our two small kids, and I was mentally ‘telling him off’. My husband was working on the new house we were building… I can’t remember what I was ticked off about — but I do remember being very upset with him. And you know how it goes; one thing makes us upset, pretty soon it leads to: “He doesn’t really care about me at all! If he really cared, he’d change!

Well, as I drove down that dusty back road in Missouri, God spoke to me. I don’t say that lightly, either. There have been several times in my life when God has put His finger right on the root of the problem, and told me to change. And boy-howdy, when God tells you to change — you change! He told me that this is how it starts – the bad marriages – by getting upset about little things (and most stuff is little), and allowing myself to brood, argue, or nag. To keep account of every wrong he does. I felt the rebuke in my spirit: “Stop it now, nip it in the bud before you end up like so many other ruined couples. You have only been married 5 years – it will be a long lifetime of misery if you continue down this path. It doesn’t matter if you are wrong or he is wrong – love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

  1. This is why I advocate for soaking in Scripture daily. If you put it in your heart, it will bubble to the surface when you need it.
  2. 12 years later and I cannot remember what the issue was. But at the time, I know it seemed huge. When things seem huge, ask yourself “will this matter in 100 years?” (we think our memory will last our lifetime, even though it clearly doesn’t! But in 100 years you will be dead. So will it matter then?)

I know that in many cases, there are real, difficult problems. But, I believe that by the power of Christ, you can be happy in the middle of your trials. Acting and looking like a martyr is not attractive, by the way. If you are in a hard situation, you must begin with prayer and reading God’s word. Ask for wisdom and He will give it! If you feel stuck, find a trusted mentor – NOT a family member if you can help it! Find a Godly married woman who is trustworthy, and ask her advice.

-If your husband is terrible with money, you can choose to be happy that God who cares about every sparrow that falls, will also care for you. 
-If your man speaks unkindly to you,  you can choose to be happy that Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
-When he pays no attention to the kids, or refuses to be a dad, you can choose to be happy that God is a father to the fatherless. 
-When he makes poor life decisions, you can choose to be happy that God makes all things work together for your good.

Yes, many of these things need to be worked out with each other, or maybe you need outside help. But in every situation you can choose to be happy in the Lord, because we have every need supplied through Christ Jesus. Even our emotional needs!

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
Martha Washington

Speaking of emotions, can I put a little note in here for hormones? They are not an excuse for anything. I get so weary of women whining about pms. Yes it is real, it is hard, and it can be debilitating. Do you truly believe the Scripture that says:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4:19

This Scripture is glibly quoted — but most women act like it has a clause in there for ‘women’s delicate emotions’. News flash: it doesn’t. Do you need grace for those days every month? He will give it! Believe His Word! I know men don’t have this problem, I know that many of them brush it off without trying to understand, but Jesus doesn’t. He understands, He cares, and He will help you. (He created you, remember? I guess he understands the thing He created!) And can I please, please stop hearing about your pms every month?? If I, as a woman, get sick and tired of hearing about it, I can understand that men get tired of it too! 😀

 

“Happiness does not depend on outward circumstances, but on the state of the heart.” J.C. Ryle