Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring is here to stay!

I hope spring is here for good, anyway.
I walked into the machine shed yesterday to put the wheelbarrow back and was stunned by the sight of the corn planter!

I hollered at the kids to come stand next to it so that I could snap this wild picture, thinking it would be amazing to see the magnitude of this beast!

The corn planter is relatively new to our operation, the guys up-graded to a John Deere model a few years ago and it has been relatively smooth sailing ever since getting rid of the old one.  The planter plants 16 rows at a time and the big yellow tank on the front applies fertilizer.  The little arms folded over (at the ends) fold down and make marks in the soil to show where you should line up the planter on the next pass down the field.  So, yeah, add another 10  feet on each end when it's all unfolded!!!  The guys don't use these markers much anymore, since most of the planting is done using GPS!   The planter folds in on itself so that it can get in and out of the shed and travel down the road, but the guys have been replacing the "row clutches", which are devices that monitor how much seed is planted in each of the rows.  The purpose of the row clutch is to prevent over population of seed and cut back on waste (seed corn is $PRICEY$)!

We plant a few different varieties, there is quite a bit of science involved in picking seed: from soil type to what was planted in the field the previous year.  Also, we don't want to put all of  our "eggs in one basket".  Some varieties of seed withstand high winds better, some are more bug-resistant than others.  By planting a variety, we are spreading our risk, should any sort of calamity arise.

And, the of course we must plant our refuge corn, as well.  Farmers who plant Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO corn)--like we do-- must plant a certain percentage of non-GMO corn for the insects that the GMO corn is specifically grown to resist have a place to live.  While this may seem counter-productive, farmers are inherently environmentalists and understand that EVERYTHING -good, bad, or ugly- plays an important role in the ecosystem.

If you'd like more information on GMOs, here's an interesting article on creating a GMO from "Popular Science" magazine.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chicken & Asparagus Deliciousness in ONE pan!

I like making a meal, but if it requires a lot of work, then it doesn't happen on a school night.  Sunday nights are our 'try something new' night where Dave and I try to get along and accomplish a "project" together.  Some of our biggest successes have been Steak Diane, Smothered Cube Steak, roasted chicken, sweet and sour chicken and fried rice, and most recently:  chicken and asparagus in a cream sauce.  A version of this recipe was on the cover of "Family Circle" a few months ago, but we of course tweaked it a bit.

First step:  Boil asparagus in about 1/2 inch of boiling water (in my biggest skillet), about 4 minutes.  Then run it under cold water to stop the cooking process and keep it nice and green.

Now that the skillet is empty, fry up about 4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Once the bacon is crispy, transfer the bacon to paper towels and put the bacon grease in another dish (like a cereal bowl).

Now that the skillet is empty (again!), fry 4-6 chicken breasts (that have been salt-n-peppered) in about 1 Tbsp. of bacon grease.  This takes about 5 minutes on each side.

Remove the chicken breasts (like onto a plate) and throw about 1 Tbsp. of flour into the empty (again!) skillet and whisk in a can of chicken broth to form a roux.  Add about 1 tsp. of the bacon grease to this liquid and bring to a simmer while stirring.

Add the chicken and asparagus to the cream sauce and spoon some of the cream sauce over the tops of the meat and vegetable.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until everything is heated through and the roux has cooked down to desired consistency.  Throw the bacon on top before serving!

Dave felt the need to add a quartered lemon because he thought it would bring out the flavors; I'm not a big fan of lemon like this, so I'll leave it out next time.

This dish was REALLY good, and I really didn't have too many dirty dishes! It was kind of time-consuming and wasn't something you could walk away from, but it was REALLY good, so it was worth it in the end!!!

I'm looking forward to Illinois' asparagus season (if spring ever gets here)!  What's your favorite way to eat asparagus?

P.S.  Thanks to Danny Daly for being the official photographer of this endeavor.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A new addition to the family!

Drew's 4-H cow had her baby yesterday!  Even though it's April, it still feels like late November--bad day to be born at the back of the pasture!

Dave and my dad brought Mackie and her calf up to the barn (the cow walked, but the calf rode on Dave's lap in the back of the truck,) and put her in a stall with a little nest under a heat lamp for the calf.
When we came out to see him, Dave got the calf up on is feet and told him it was time to eat!

As we stood there and watched, it was amazing to see his little calf instincts at work, he kind of stumbled around his mom, finally figuring out where he needed to be.  Just as he was almost in "position", Mackie swung her head around and gave him a little bump on the backside as if to say, "Yep, that's it!  Go to town!"

He's a cute little guy, I'm sure Mackie got him all licked off and once his tummy was full he settled back down under the heat lamp and had a nice nap.

As we walked back out of the cow lot, Dave had to love up his favorite cow, "Red".  I didn't realize he had this special relationship... I guess they're quite good friends.

Holly found this baby sleeping by the fence while his mom was up at the hay feeder.  Notice this one's WHITE head?!? I'm sure that this is what baby George will look like the next time we see him.

Oh, yeah!  Drew named him George because he was born on Grandma Georgeanne's birthday!  Happy belated birthday, Georgeanne :)