Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas! 

our Christmas update:

     We have had a fairly uneventful 2012 and that is a good thing!
     Christopher & Brett are a part of our farming/ranching business.  Christopher has also added a feedlot to his business.  Brett would like to get into the farming enterprise, but has yet to find any land to rent.  It is nice to have them with us. 
     Christopher & Paige live in Donnybrook.  Paige works in Minot as Ward County Extension Agent focusing on the agriculture areas.  
     Brett lives with us, though he can’t wait to get rid of us.
     Annette’s parents are doing pretty well.  Dad turned 85 on the 18th.  Mark & Annette along with a few other family members made some surprise visits to Arizona.
     Mark’s mom was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2011.  It was extremely hard on her knees.  She now has two new knees and we hope this will help her considerably. 
     That is about all for our year.  We look forward to hearing from you.

       Wishing you a healthy and wonderful 2013.

                             The Rockeman Family

Here is one of the treats that I made for Christmas goodies this year:

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.
Note: This dough must be prepared in advance. Pasteurized eggs are recommended for food safety reasons. The Swedish cookies are also known as Choklad Biskvier. Our 2011 winner is from Beth Jones of Owatonna, Minn.

For cookies:
• 2 (7-oz.) tubes almond paste, cut into small pieces
• 2 egg whites
• 1/2 c. granulated sugar

For filling:
• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
• 1 c. powdered sugar
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 pasteurized egg yolks (see Note)
• 4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

For chocolate coating:
• 10 to 12 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate
• 2 to 4 tsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

To prepare cookies: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat almond paste and egg whites until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a small scoop, form dough into balls (or drop by heaping teaspoons) and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Moisten the flat bottom of a glass with water, dip into granulated sugar and carefully press prepared glass bottom into dough balls, flattening dough; repeat with remaining dough. Bake until lightly brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare filling: Line baking sheets with wax paper.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolks and cocoa powder, and mix until smooth (scraping down sides of bowl as necessary), about 2 minutes. Using a small knife, spread about 1 tablespoon filling on top of each cookie, making a rounded top. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To prepare chocolate coating: Break chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a microwave oven), melt chocolate. Whisk in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil (or melted butter), adding more to reach desired consistency. Let mixture cool for a few minutes, then dip tops of cookies into chocolate mixture, holding onto almond base. Return cookies to prepared baking sheets and refrigerate until chocolate hardens, at least 30 minutes. Store in refrigerator and serve chilled.
SOURCE:  Star Tribune  28 Nov 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A week of surprises in Arizona

My Dad just turned 85 years old.  It was time to give him a few surprises!! 

My eldest brother and some of his family flew to Apache Junction, AZ on Thursday, Dec. 13.  They had lined up a ride from the airport to Mom & Dad's winter home.  My niece knocked on the door and Grandpa could hardly believe his eyes!!  They took Mom & Dad on a couple of little tourist outings and returned to Minot on Sunday, the 16th. 

Mark & I, along with my sister and her daughter, boarded that same plane and headed to AZ.  Again, the granddaughter knocked on the door and surprised her grandparents!   Oh, it is so fun to pull off surprises like this!!  We were in Apache Junction for Dad's birthday on the 18th.  It was fun to celebrate with him and Mom and some of their friends.  We returned home on Thursday the 20th.

Dad & Mom

This niece is attending North Dakota State University (NDSU) majoring in Architecture.  We took time one morning to tour the Arizona home (Taliesin West) of Frank Lloyd Wright, a well known architect.  It was amazing to see the futuristic work of this man. 

(click on the photos to see them better)

Entrance to Taliesin West
entrance into the house (from the south)

looking northwest at the house

Metal Sculptures by Heloise Crista

Friday, December 14, 2012

Winter Wonderland

We have had numerous days of snow and/or fog.  As I look out the window I see many images resembling Christmas Cards.  My guys remind me it might look nice from this angle; however, it is cold outside! 

Here are some photos of what we can see...

looking south from our mailbox

This photo is a macro of some snow.  After I loaded the pictures onto my camera and noticed that the little bit of sunlight we had was lighting one individual snowflake.

After our vehicle sat outside through a couple of snowy, windy days I got into the driver's seat and found this view!  I liked the layers and imperfect lines.

Frost on our kitchen window

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Paula & Betty's Apple Crisp

WhoooHooo!!  Two recipes in a row and I don't consider myself much of a chef!   Last year we had what seemed like tons of apples.  Some of the family liked my old recipe, but some had been out in the world and liked a more pie-like apple crisp.  So, I combined two recipes - one from Paula Deen and one from Betty Crocker (thus the name!).   Now, everyone is happy.  I made a batch today so thought I'd share it with you.

Paula & Betty's Apple Crisp
Bottom of apple crisp:
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspon ground cinnamon
7 medium apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

As I prepare the apples, I mix them in a water/fruit preserver mixture but you could also use the juice of 1 lemon.  In another bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon.  You could also add freshly ground nutmeg, to taste.  If you used the water/fruit preserver mixture, drain the apples.  Stir the sugar mixture to evenly coat the apples. 

Spread in bottom of 9X13 pan.

1 - 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup softened butter
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, optional

Mix together until crumbly.  (I don't know if I should use more flour.  Mine is usually not real crumbly - but it tastes good!)

Sprinkle over apples.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes - until top is golden and apples are tender.

Best served warm with ice cream on top.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Zucchini Bread

Rain, Snow, Ice, warming, Slush, dense FOG.... so I guess I will do something with that last zucchini!!   Yes, our weather is messy right now, but a little bit of this and we will all feel better!!

First I had to peel and shred the zucchini.  It sure makes me like my ol' food processor.

 Most of the ingredients...
... any brand is fine.

I add the zucchini last as I find I get the rest of the ingredients mixed better that way.  Sometimes it seems dry & stiff, but as soon as I add the zucc it gets juicy.

After an hour in the oven...
Butter or no butter for you?

I got this recipe from my favorite cookbook - "All Time Favorites, Extension Homemakers Centennial Cookbook".  It was printed for the Ward County, North Dakota Centennial in 1986.  I really like the hometown cookbooks with recipes from cooks you know & trust containing ingredients most of us keep on hand.

3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar  (I use 1 cup brown sugar & 1 cup white sugar)
2 - 3 cups grated zucchini
2 -3 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cups nuts (optional)

Beat eggs until light and creamy.  Add oil and sugar, mix.  Add remaining ingredients; mix well.  Put into 2 loaf pans, greased and floured.  Makes 2 loaves.

Let's Take a Closer Look

I follow a blog named Sunday Stills.  This week's challenge was macro photography (close ups).  So, I'd like to share this entry:

It was not until I looked at the photos on the computer that I realized there were cob webs coming off of the the barbs.  I thought it was neat and am considering "mounting" it on canvas for display.

Linking to:  Sunday Stills

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wet Corn

A while back I wrote that we were chopping corn. It was piled into a huge pile and packed firmly with a tractor.  
This is what the corn plants look like after chopping.

This week Brett got a few days to combine some corn. 
Mark got to ride in the combine for a while too.
This is a photo of unloading corn from the combine into the truck.  There is chaff from the grain flying in the air so the picture looks "speckled"!  Also, you might notice that one snout on the combine header is angled up.  There are chains that run under each of the snouts and one had broken.  The guys lifted the snout to get at the chain so they could repair it.

The corn grain is a quite wet at about 24% moisture so we had to come up with a plan to store it until it is time to feed it to the cattle.  To safely store the corn grain in a bin we would like it to be at about 14%.  So, they piled it on the ground.  Today they started to run it through a roller mill.  This machine flattens each kernal of corn making it easier for the animals to digest the food value.  After it has run through the roller mill, they pile it again.  Then, because it is wet, they will pack that into a pile (much like the chopped corn).  They tell me that helps to preserve it better.

This is the pile of wet corn.  It does not slide real well so Mark (and later, Brett) had to shovel it toward the auger.  The grain auger on the right is the one they used to make the pile.  There is a small auger going from the pile into the roller mill.  Then the auger on the left takes the rolled corn from the roller mill to another pile.
This is a shot of the roller mill.  On the top you can see the corn coming in.  It then runs through the roller mill and comes out at the bottom.  There is an auger there to move the rolled corn to the next pile.

Basically the same photo as above, but it shows the pile of the rolled corn.

Corn before rolling

Corn after going through roller mill

Christopher came with the payloader (yes, it finally got fixed) and moved large scoops of grain toward the auger so Brett didn't have to do so much with his grain shovel.
Christopher moving some of the rolled corn.  He will eventually drive on the pile of rolled corn to pack it just like they did with the chopped corn.  He will pack it after they get all of the corn rolled.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Oreo Generation

We've heard the phrase "the Sandwich Generation", well Jeff Foxworthy calls it the "Oreo Generation" and I think that sounds better!  Mark & I had the pleasure of attending one of Foxworthy's shows at the Norsk Høstfest in Minot.  We laughed the entire time.  It was great therapy for two tired farmer/ranchers!

Jeff Foxworthy

So, the "Oreo Generation"...  that's us.  We are the creme filling - occasionally it is Double Stuffed!  Our kids are one cookie and our parents are the other. 

Our boys are in their 20's so we don't have to do much for them.  My parents live 60 miles away so I don't help them too often.  We live on the same farm as my mother-in-law.  She rarely requests our help; however, since being hit with Rheumatoid Arthritis she has needed some.  Plus, her knees are shot.  She just had a complete knee replacement so Mark & I spent a few days staying with her to help out.  She was not allowed to drive for a while so I was her chaufer to doctor appointments, therapy, etc.  If you have never met my mil, she is a WONDERUL woman.  It has been fun spending extra time with her.

I did have the pleasure of helping my parents a couple of times this week.  I picked them up and we went to Bismarck.  It was a nice drive on a rainy day (much needed rain).  They know I am just a phone call (and 1 hour) away.  I have driven to Minot to meet them for dinner or go to the doctor with them.  I think my parents are awesome and do enjoy spending time with them too.  My Dad will be 85 in December and is in fairly good health.

Our two mom's have known each other since college.  They were supposed to be college roommates. No, they did not introduce us.  But they were pleasantly surprised to end up renewing that friendship after so many years - thanks to their kids!

I guess this ended up being a little more like a "get to know us" type story, but at least I got to write about Oreos!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

This & That update

WOW!!  It has been awhile and lots has been going on.  I suppose that is why it has been awhile!

Let's see, what have we done?   We have finished the small grain harvest, fixed the break-downs, chopped the corn for silage, patched breakdowns, hauled straw & hay, waited for parts ....  You get the idea.  It seems we have had a lot of machinery down time. 

The motor went out of the payloader.  There was an air leak on the semi causing the trailer wheels to lock up.  AND the hydraulics aren't working right on the John Deere tractor/loader.  There were a few days that all three of our hay hauling pieces of equipment were down at the same time.  Well, we are still waiting for the verdict on the payloader.  The semi is fixed.  We are using the tractor until it can get to the dealer's repair shop (this Monday).  The hay hauling project has slowed down tremendously.

We hire the corn chopping done.  There is a man out of Alberta, Canada we hire.  It is the type of job that would take us nearly two weeks to do by ourselves.  It also takes three to four people to do it as we need someone to run the chopper, someone to pack the corn pile and someone to drive truck.  (and a full time mechanic to try to keep things running)  It got to be more efficient for us to hire this custom crew.  They don't require anything from us (except the check!) and we can work on other projects.

Chopping corn & filling the truck on the go

Packing the pile

 Christopher is finally getting the last of the buildings from the old fertilizer plant.  He had a hard time finding anyone to haul the hopper bins.  Finally, after many calls from two men, they are getting this done.  There were seven hopper bins at the site.  Four for Christopher and three for a man from another town.  I wonder how long until this whole feed mixing plant is up and running on the feedlot?  It is getting late in the comfortable work season.  (a few snowflakes have fallen already)

I came upon this big Moose cow yesterday when I was taking tools out to the field for repairs.  A couple of days earlier I saw a young cow moose about 10 miles from here.

The cattle are ready to come home.  They are starting to sneak out of pastures looking for green grass.  Not much outside of the fence either as between the first part of June and now we have made had a total of half an inch of rain and most of that came a couple of days ago.  Things are quite dry here, but I don't think we have it as bad as many parts of our nation.

Joining up with a linky party:  Fresh from Farm: Farm Photo Friday

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The tale of six big pigs

We had some visitors while working on the combine today.  I thought you might get a chuckle out of them too.

Mark & Brett are busy working when the pigs show up.  I was helping too but just had to get the camera out and take some photos!  Christopher has six pigs who live on this old farmstead that we own.  They got tired of their barn and broke out a few weeks ago.  Christopher knew they would not go too far as they liked the feed and water in their barn.  So, they are "free range pigs"!!  One afternoon Christopher received a phone call from a neighbor who had to come through the yard to get to his hay field.  The pigs decided to follow him around while he cut his hay so C. had to go get them (and they don't chase that well)!! 
At least we learned that they are people friendly.

They are also curious.  Here one is tasting the scoop shovel.
But the guys needed as little break so had to give Wilbur some attention.
They are eating the canola off of the combine header.

Just hanging out with us.

Wilbur really loves attention!!
Linking to Farm Photo Friday

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Our Labor Day

Labor Day for many means going to the lake and relaxing.  For many North Dakota farmer/ranchers that is not the case as we are harvesting.  However, Mark & I got the chance to go to the lake ... well, ummm, a few sloughs, but it was water - no relaxing however!!  Sunday evening a neighbor called to tell us our cows were out.  Mark & I got there and found it was cattle from two of our pastures.  I don't understand why they think they have to get out as they are belly deep in grass.  Anway, we each took one batch of the herd and returned them to their respective pastures.  We got back in the house about 10 PM  (yes, it was dark and there are no working headlights on the 4 wheeler providing a bit of a challenge for hubby).

Monday AM, after getting the combine serviced, the trucks emptied AND the auger moved to the next bin, Mark & I finally were able to go fix fence while Brett combined canola.   It was quite easy on one pasture - just close the gate!!  Hmmmm, wonder who left that open?  Anyway, the other needed fence built around the slough.  Luckily, the posts had already been installed so we just had to roll out the wire and get it stapled to the post.  We are using plastic posts (made from recycled items) so we could just staple the electric wire right to the post instead of using plastic offsets.    Before we got this project done, some of the cows got out again - this time into our corn.  The corn is about 10 foot tall so it is difficult to find them AND chase them, but Mark and Rufus got the cows out of the corn and back into the pasture.  We finished building the fence and hooked up the power for the fence (solar charger with battery).  Hopefully they will stay in now.  Lucky for us, most the crops around our pastures have been harvested, but it is still not good for them to be out.

Mark "at the beach".  Three years ago we were pumping water out of a dugout just to Mark's right.  Last year there was so much water here that we couldn't use our cross fences. 
This year the water is going down.

Mark hanging the electric wire.  You can see how high the water was last year by looking at the posts here.

This girl knew to find some shade to cool off. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Grape Jelly

Christopher & Paige were oh so kind to give us some grapes.  (If I ever see another laundry basket full of grapes it will be too soon!)  So, I made grape jelly.  I have a niece & nephew who have won great ribbons making grape jelly for 4-H so I thought I must have some of the same genetic talent! 

I decided to photograph and blog about the good, the bad and the broken rules...  

Wash grapes and remove them from the clusters.

Ready to cook before juicing.

I boiled them in a little bit of water until the skins broke open.
I then put them in cheese cloth and squeezed out the juice.  I dislike this step as I usually end up burning my hands.  I juiced another day and used a Sauce Master as shown here:   
I did not cook the grapes first with this.  The only trouble I found with this method was that I got pulp.  So I just ran the "juice" from this through the cheesecloth (over a large bowl) to strain out the pulp.  I used a product SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin to gel it up. 

Cook the juice and SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin on the stove top.  Later adding sugar and cooking some more.  I just follow the recipe in the SURE-JELL package.  Then pour the hot liquid into jars and seal with canning lids and rings.

Here is the breaking rules part....  I cheated and just turned the jars upside down.  It is now 12 hours later and they all sealed.  However, USDA states they should have had a boiling water bath as that is a more safe perservation method.

We have sampled some and it is quite tasty.  We will likely share some as Christmas gifts and much of it we will enjoy ourselves!