Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank a Farmer!

It has always struck me as an oddity when we pray before a meal, thank God for the food and those who prepared it, and yet forget to thank Him for those who produced the food.

Maybe it is just because I've always been raised around farming, or maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive about giving credit where credit is due. Either way, I ask that tomorrow as you gather with your friends and family for a bountiful meal, remember to thank the farmers and ranchers who produced and raised the food you enjoy.

I make this request because of the reason why I celebrate Thanksgiving. I don't celebrate Thanksgiving for the football, the turkey or as the day before Black Friday. I celebrate Thanksgiving to remember how far we've come as a nation since the Pilgrims and Native Americans held the first Thanksgiving. As a nation, most of us don't have to worry about where we will get our next meal because of amazing agricultural innovations and awesome farmers and ranchers. That's a big difference from a bunch of European settlers who didn't know how to raise corn, and that is something I'm very proud of.

Thank you to farmers and ranchers everywhere!

This is the 23rd post (posted on the 26th day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake

On the eve of the French Revolution when peasants were rioting due to the lack of bread, Marie Antoinette supposedly said, "Let them eat cake." While we know Marie Antoinette never actually said those words, it seemed to be a fitting quote for our cattle's diet.

How does a callous remark like "Let them eat cake" fit into our cattle's nutrition? Well, our cows and calves are never rioting because they are out of bread, although they do get a little boisterous when the feed truck comes into the pen or pasture. It isn't bread they want. They really do want cake, and that's what we feed them.

Yes. You read that right. We feed our cattle cake, but they don't get German chocolate, strawberry or vanilla. Their cake isn't tiered, and it definitely isn't frosted. In fact, their cake doesn't resemble cake at all, besides sharing the same name.

Cake for cattle does not equal cake for humans.
I'll be honest: when I first started dating Royce and he mentioned the "cake feeder," I thought I hadn't heard him correctly. "Cake" was not a word I was familiar with when referencing cattle feed. Of course, I wasn't overly familiar with beef cattle anyway, but I knew my mom fed "cubes" to her cows so surely Royce had meant the "cube feeder." This happened a couple more times until I finally asked him what he was talking about. Nonchalantly, he replied, "It is the feeder for the cake." Thanks for that super detailed explanation, dear, but I still have no clue what "cake" is. "You don't know what cake is?! You know, the cubes you feed cows?" Ohhhhh! Now I've got it.

That being said, don't feel bad if the first thought that crossed your mind was of a cow eating a three-tiered wedding cake. My mind might have been the same place at first. Now, I can successfully summon the correct images when someone references feeding cake. Victory!

Cattle cake comes in many formulations with different ingredients and varying protein levels. Every beef producer chooses a ration that works best for his or her operation. On our farm, we are currently feeding a 20% Range ration that is largely corn-based. Depending on what we are trying to do with our cattle (add weight or maintain), we can choose to feed a different formulation of cake. 

When we first start feeding the calves cake, they don't necessarily know how to eat it at first, but they pick up on it quickly. Cattle love cake, and within a day or two, they come running when the pickup with the cake feeder drives up. It is much like my two dogs when I ask them if they are hungry. Of course they are hungry - even if they just ate! 

This is the 22nd post (posted on the 25th day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lunch Dates: Farmer Style

While many people enjoy looking for the next best lunch spot in their city, we do lunch dates a little differently on the farm. Of course, there is no such thing as "typical" on the farm because it is ever changing, but today was a pretty good example of what lunch looks like.

I had to run to Pampa for a couple of errands. Since the guys were harvesting, I offered to pick up lunch for everyone. Turns out, Royce was the only one who hadn't brought his lunch so I just had to find lunch for Royce and me. Easy enough. I stopped at Braum's and ordered two chicken-fried steak sandwiches.

20 minutes later: I arrive at the farm, find the auger running corn into the bin, and am unable to locate my husband. Shortly after my arrival, he appears from somewhere (presumably his pickup). I tell him I'd like to eat lunch with him (over the noise of the auger, tractor, semi and my pickup). He nods then walks off, leaving me to gather the bag of food and two Dr. Peppers. Apparently he couldn't hear my call for help. Typical.

One minute later: With some fumbling and grumbling, I get the food and the Dr. Peppers to his flatbed, also known as the table for super romantic lunch meals. Royce is moving the semi to dump the back part of the trailer. I begin eating my sandwich while being surrounded by the corn bee's wings (floaty chaff that comes off corn). I'm sure those are a healthy addition to my lunch. Halfway through my sandwich, Royce finally joins me for lunch.

Two minutes later: Royce is halfway through his sandwich, I'm still working on mine, and there's a grinding noise followed by silence from the auger. Royce mutters choice words, sets his sandwich back down and runs to shut down the tractor. There's a problem with the PTO shaft running the auger (at least that's what I deduce when he begins taking it apart). You can always count on lunch to break something.

Ten minutes later: Royce finally has the auger running again and gets back to eating his (now cold) sandwich. Since I'm done eating, he asks me to pull the tractor and grain cart around to the truck to start unloading it for the bin. I agree, jump in the tractor to quickly realize I've only driven this tractor once over a year ago.

Three minutes later: I finally remember how to drive this darned tractor (why couldn't we use the ones I'm used to!?) and putter around to the truck. Royce is done with his lunch by this point and is clearly wondering what took me so dang long. He opens the tractor door and tells me to put the auger on the grain cart up. I respond with a blank look. I have no idea which lever controls the auger in this thing. I barely got it over here. He holds up his first finger. I try the number one lever... Nothing. I try pushing the number one lever backwards... Still nothing. I shake my head at Royce. He holds up two fingers. I try the number two lever. Forward, backward... Nothing. Royce starts messing with the hydraulic lines on the back of the tractor.

Seven minutes (and multiple attempts) later: The grain cart auger finally goes up! We rejoice, then he tells me to remember which lever it was so when I'm running this tractor over the Thanksgiving holiday, I know how to do it. Oh joy!

Our seemingly quick lunch meal somehow managed to turn into about a 45-minute ordeal. And that, my friends, is how things happen when you want an uneventful lunch date with a farmer.

Yay corn! And bee's wings with lunch!
The lunch date crasher: PTO.
"Now try 1 again." *head shake* "Now try 2 again." *head shake* "Now try 1 again."
My reaction to "Don't forget how to do this so you can help while you are off of work."
This is the 21st day (posted on the 24th day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Going the Extra Miles

Living in the Texas Panhandle has taught me a lot about planning and flexibility. For the record, I grew up living in rural South Dakota and have also had the pleasure of living in southwest Kansas for a summer. I understood that "going to town" generally meant 20 plus miles of driving, but the Texas Panhandle is a little bit different.

Monday through Friday, "going to town" usually means going to Pampa. Pampa is a 25-minute drive, and we have access to a great grocery store, a Super Walmart, and a couple of restaurants (well, more than a couple, but some I'm not brave enough to try). On a weeknight we decide to "go out," you'll find us at Mojo's, a sports bar. It is the only establishment in Pampa where we can drink and eat in the "pub" type of atmosphere. The service isn't always the best, but we don't have much for options. Plus they have five dollar pitchers most nights of the week. That's a deal!

On the weekends, "going to town" means going to Amarillo, where we can choose from a selection of nice restaurants, shop for clothes, find a decent nightlife, go to the movies, etc. The drive to Amarillo is about an hour so it is generally not a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to town. For example, I have been planning to go to AMA today for an appointment for over a month. Royce has been planning on going with me since Wednesday when he found out about a Farm Bureau event. That, my friends, is planning at its finest for my husband! Another challenge of living an hour from where we "go out" at night is the discussion of who is going to drive home. Oh and the fact that if we close down the bar at 2 a.m., we won't get home until at least 3 a.m. That creates havoc on my sleep schedule, and it also makes it fairly challenging to get to church in the morning. Let's just say that closing down the bar doesn't happen much when you live in the middle-of-nowhere. 

Living out in the country on dirt roads can create a few more challenges. For one, if it rains a bunch, our road is nearly impassable unless you have 4-wheel drive. If it has rained a lot, your usual route to town (as in Amarillo) is replaced by the 15-minute longer route that gets you to pavement a quickly as possible (which is still 4 miles, mind you). Rain makes it really fun when you are planning to have friends out for dinner as well. "Well, it rained a little so you should take O'Neal Road to West Line Road then jump down to Davis Road." OR "It monsooned here. I'll need you to park your car at the farm (2 miles from our house). We'll bring the pickup to come get you." 

When you live in the Panhandle, it is no longer a "run to the grocery store" situation. Before you start making that meal, you probably should make sure you have all the ingredients because if you don't, it'll be over an hour to go get the missing ingredient. That's where planning comes in. I've learned to either plan for something to cook or at least make sure we have a quick meal to whip up just in case. I've learned to plan my appointments in AMA for the same day, and if they aren't available on Saturday, I can plan to take at least a half day off of work. 

Flexibility. There is nothing that will teach you to be flexible with your plans more than when it rains and your route home has to change, even though you really need to be back by this time! Muddy roads are also good for another thing: teaching your friends to invite you to their house instead of your own if they don't want to wait for us to pick them up. 

This is the 20th day (posted on the 22nd day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Panhandle Ranch Horses

To me, horses fit a really unique niche between agriculture and an expensive hobby. Lots of people are "horse people" who know nothing of agriculture but love to spend money on their horses to go to shows, occasionally trail ride, or even let them stand in the pasture. Confession time: I'm one of those people, besides the "know nothing of agriculture" part. I love horses! I always have. As a kid, my walls were covered from floor to ceiling with Horse Illustrated posters. I'm fairly certain I had every horse book known to man, and I could recite horse breeds from all over the world. To say I was horse crazy might be the biggest understatement of the year; I was obsessed and still am (though slightly less crazed) today.

Another confession: I ride a lot, but rarely with a purpose besides my own enjoyment. While my two horses get to graze in a pasture all day most every day (like most horses in the U.S.), a few horses are still out there earning themselves and their riders a living. The horse is still a valued vehicle and tool in many parts of the Texas Panhandle. No, we don't ride our horses to town. The Panhandle is a little more civilized than that. However, the working cowboy still exists in our part of the world, and everybody knows that cowboys need good horses. How else is he supposed to ride off into the sunset?

While horses have moved increasingly into a recreational category in most parts of the country, the "ranch horse" is the preferred method of transportation on many working ranches and feedlots across the Texas Panhandle. With the rough terrain, horses can still get to many places a 4-wheeler can't, and I'm sure you could rope an angry momma cow from a 4-wheeler, but that 4-wheeler can't "work the rope" like a good ranch horse can. A good ranch horse is quick on their feet, can read a cow to tell where it is going, and can turn around a whole lot faster than a 4-wheeler. Just ask me. I've been left standing a few times when my horse has turned and I haven't. It is quite cartoon-like.

Horses are handy when it comes to moving cows from pasture to pasture or pen to pen. Moving cows on horseback is generally less stressful for the cows, especially if they are used to seeing horses. Plus it just so happens that horses and cows tend to travel about the same speed when they are walking. Can your 4-wheeler do that automatically? Didn't think so.

All of those above reasons are great ones, but me being a bit romantic about the Cowboy Way of Life, I think the best thing about using horses is seeing beautiful country on horseback while helping to feed a hungry world. In all seriousness though, it really doesn't get any better than that. I'm just thankful my husband's family lets me play "cowboy" when we move cows. As much as I love my crops, horses have and always will hold a special passion/obsession for me.

My favorite girl, Charley, and I taking in the Panhandle scenery. Thanks, Jamie, for the photo!
This is the 19th day (posted on the 21st day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


In case you hadn't gathered from previous posts, I'm really excited about my first cotton harvest! Today, I found the coolest video shot from a UAV (or drone) of harvesting cotton. I was hopeful it would quench my harvest thirst, but like any good farmer, I'm still chomping at the bit to get into cotton harvest. It is a struggle, but there is hope!

A month ago, I wrote about our cotton crop growing up. I have since learned that cotton takes a long time to reach maturity without a good freeze. Normally in the Texas Panhandle, we've had a hard frost by the end of October or early part of November. This year, our freeze held off until the night of November 10. Fun story: It was 81 degrees on November 10 with a low of 18. How 'bout that bipolar weather?! I read an article this morning from Texas AgriLife about the freeze and the effect it had on cotton in the South Plains. While where are located isn't exactly the South Plains, the rest of the article holds pretty true. This freeze put a hard stop on our cotton, and now once it dries out from the snow we got, we should be in good shape to start stripping cotton. I'm so excited! I obviously can't hide it.

What does that mean for you? Soon, we'll get cotton stripping pictures! And I'll finally get to talk about strippers! Thank goodness! The wait has been killing me! But until then, here are a couple more photos of our cotton, pre-freeze.
With the frost, I'm hopeful the remaining unopened bolls (that big green round thing) will pop open so we can harvest the cotton from them.
We still had plenty of leaves and unopened bolls left on these plants when I took these photos a couple of weeks ago. The frost will get rid of the remaining green parts, making harvest much easier.
Big boll for a dryland cotton corner. 5 compartments!
This is the 18th day (posted on the 20th day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Texas, You Got Milk?

Beef is an important commodity here in the Texas Panhandle. I've talked about it multiple times, but cows are good at another thing too: making milk. Unlike beef cows, dairy cows have been selected for generations based on their milk production. And let me tell you, I sure do love me a good glass of milk with supper!

My parents always told me growing up to drink my milk so I would have strong bones. I'd say it worked. I ended up growing to a strong 6 foot 2 inches, and I've suffered only one broken bone in my lifetime, which happened to be my thumb. I also remember my mother telling me to ease up on the milk consumption because I was going to drink us out of house and home. I still drink milk to this day like it is going out of style and love it!

Seeing as how I'm a big fan of milk, I thought it only fitting when my friend Krista from the Farmer's Wifee suggested I write a post about Texas dairies. Here's the facts about dairies and milk production in Texas.

Texas isn't the leading contributor of milk in the U.S., but Texas does rank number 7 for milk production, which is pretty awesome. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture by the USDA NASS, Texas had only 985 dairy farms with a total of 430,000 cows. If you divide those evenly, that's around 440 cows per farm, which is fairly large in dairy standards. In Wisconsin, the second largest dairy state (behind California), the average farm has only 110 cows.

Another fun fact about Texas dairies: they produce enough milk for one billion gallon jugs full of milk per year. That's a lot of milk! I checked and rechecked my math on that statistic because it just didn't seem possible, but that, folks, is a fact.

I checked out the USDA NASS data on a county level to determine what the Texas Panhandle contributes in the grand scheme of Texas dairy. However, I found some large gaps in the data (mainly missing a large dairy in the county I reside in) so I've decided not to share it here today. I'll do some more research and get back to you.

The moral of the story is: Texas may not be a California or Wisconsin in terms of dairy, but Texas still contributes around 5 percent of the total dairy in the U.S. Again, Texas has proven that everything may be bigger in Texas.

This is the 17th day (posted on the 19th day of November) of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Let It Snow

Yesterday, I shared a few photos from Royce, who is at home on the farm while I'm traveling in the Dakotas for work. Here in the Dakotas, it snowed most of the day yesterday, and today it was snowing off and on with a good gusty wind blowing it around. It definitely was not my ideal weather. Back home in Texas yesterday, it was just abnormally cold, but today, it started snowing there too, which is great!

Why the change in attitude between snow at different locations? Because in Texas, we really need the moisture! Whether it comes in rain, ice or snow, we'll take it! When it warms up again (as it is bound to do because it's Texas), the snow will melt, releasing a steady amount of moisture for the soil to soak up. Along with the moisture, snow also contains more nutrients than rain. For instance, nitrogen: a very important nutrient for our winter wheat. Now the nitrogen from the snow doesn't add up to a whole lot, but we'll take whatever we can get, especially when it is coming from nature.

Having a blanket of snow is also helpful for providing insulation to our winter wheat. We've been frigidly cold in Texas, especially for this early in the season. We rarely see single digit weather in the Panhandle during the winter, much less in the first half of November. That hasn't been good for our wheat, and we are concerned about the possibilities of winterkill, or damage from getting too cold. Winterkill is more prone to happen when the ground is dry and without a cover of snow. Previous to this snow, it had been a couple of weeks since we had gotten any rain so our wheat was a little thirsty. We are hopeful the snow came soon enough to keep us from much damage, but we will have to wait to find out. I'll keep you updated.

With that, I'll leave you with a few photos Royce sent me today.

Looking out our front porch. Obviously, Royce did not want to venture out into the "blizzard."
Ranger (and Rori's butt). This was Ranger's first snow, and I'm pretty sure he's thinking, "Uh, Dad, what's this white stuff? Am I OK to go out in it?" 
Ranger (and Royce) helped Granddad feed the cows this morning because the cattle need to eat, especially when it is snowing.

This is the 16th day of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, November 15, 2014


You know how the saying goes... Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Well, I'm going to edit it a bit and provide a few photo updates of the happenings back on the farm in Texas while I'm in the beautiful and snowy Dakotas. Royce was a trooper and sent me photos from the farm today so please forgive the grainy (pun intended) iPhone photos.

We are storing our late corn in the bins for a couple of months. Royce got the pleasant job of unloading the truck and running the auger to get the corn in the bin. 
He loves his job! But maybe not quite as much when it is cold.
If you look through all the speckles on the truck window, you can see the combine unloading corn onto the grain cart. We had a couple of large wind storms "lodge" or lay down the late corn, making it much harder to harvest.
Another dirty window photo. This time of the tractor unloading onto the truck.
In this photo, you can kind of see the lodged corn, a farmer's nightmare.
Royce apparently jumped ship on the truck and got into the tractor for this photo.
This is the inside of the bin, as the corn dumps in from the top.
This is Ranger, riding shotgun with Royce while he's driving the truck.
 Side story: I mentioned above I'm in the Dakotas. I flew up Friday into Fargo, ND and then drove down to my dad's near Clark, SD. Unfortunately, the snow has come early this year so many of Dad's projects are now getting done in the cold and the snow. It seemed fitting that Dad and his employees were working on building another grain bin while I was here. They made quite a bit of progress today, piecing it together ring by ring.

Tomorrow morning, I'm driving back to Fargo, and Monday morning, I'll be hosting a meeting for the WestBred seed suppliers. It was a quick trip down to see the family in SoDak, but I'm sure glad I made it.

Dad's bins are a little bit bigger (ok, a lot bigger) than our bins back in Texas. He stores a lot more corn than we do, too.
My dad loves his job too! Just look at that smile, even in 20 degree weather and a snow storm!

This is the 15th day of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cow Cud

Over the last two weeks during my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series, I've talked about beef, corn, cotton and sorghum. Back in October, I wrote about our wheat growing and fencing off the corn stalks. What do all of these things have in common?

Prepare to be amazed......

At some stage in all of our crops, they can be used as feedstuffs for beef cattle on our farm. Now I'm sure you think I'm crazy since you've never seen a cow eat a cotton boll. It's true. I'm sure the actual boll isn't super tasty for them, but I digress.

Like I discussed in my posts about corn and sorghum (milo), both of those grains are often used as feed for cattle. Generally, corn and milo is taken to a feed mill where it is processed to make it more palatable for the cattle. Both could be fed as a raw material, but it would be similar to us eating raw oatmeal. We could eat it, but it is way better when it has been cooked for a bowl of breakfast or baked into oatmeal cookies. Oatmeal retains its nutritional value once it has been cooked. That's what feed mills strive to do for corn and milo.

In addition to feeding the harvested corn once it has been milled, we fence off our corn stalks after we have harvested the grain and let our cows graze the remnants. Combine harvesters aren't perfect at getting all of the corn and some falls to the ground. The cows will eat that lost grain and keep it from going to waste. They also do a good job of chewing on the stalks themselves, which helps us in the long run. How? Our cows are doing the work of a plow, saving us fuel for the tractor that would pull the plow and also reducing the risk of soil erosion. Plus, they are "fertilizing" with their "cowpies," if you smell what I'm stepping in. It is a win-win situation.

When I was talking about sorghum, I mentioned two types of sorghum: grain and forage. Forage sorghum is also used as a feedstuff for cattle. We grow a type of forage sorghum that we make into hay. This hay is high in nutrients our cattle need, and they like the taste of it. Other farmers may graze their cattle directly on a field of forage sorghum, or they may harvest the forage sorghum to make silage.

Moving on to the craziness of cattle eating cotton... Like I mentioned above, we don't feed the cattle the actual white fluffy stuff (fiber) used for making blue jeans. One, the cattle don't really like it that much. Two, that is important for blue jeans! During the process of ginning cotton (getting it ready to weave), the gin removes a lot of trash (consisting of leaves, the burr or what holds the fiber to the plant, and seeds) from the actual fibers themselves. While some of the trash really is trash, the seed is not trashy at all. In fact, cotton seeds are a good source of nutrients for cattle so, similar to corn and milo, the cotton seeds are sent to feed mills to be milled into cattle feed.

Also similar to corn, we sometimes will graze our cotton stalks after the cotton has been stripped. We don't necessarily graze cotton stalks every year, but during years of drought or limited pasture, our cotton stalks offer another option for us to recycle and reuse.

It's time for wheat's turn! My favorite! While we don't often graze our wheat on our farm, many farmers in Oklahoma and Texas choose to because winter wheat (planted in the fall for harvest in early summer) offers great nutrients to cattle over the winter months when normal pastures aren't growing. Wheat pasture often serves as the in-between time for calves once they are weaned and before they go to the feedlot. During this time, the calves are given full access to as much wheat as they can eat, and seeing as how calves like to eat, they generally gain weight efficiently on wheat. Some farmers choose to completely graze their wheat out so they leave calves on it until it stops growing. Other farmers want both grazing and grain from their wheat (called dual-purpose wheat) so they will move the calves off the wheat at a certain wheat growth stage to reduce damage to the developing grain. Those farmers will then harvest the grain from the field just like they would have if they hadn't grazed it.

In the media and in the supermarket, the words "grass-fed" and "grain-fed" are thrown around a whole bunch. It is important to note that all cattle spend most of their lives eating grass of some species, whether that grass is forage sorghum, wheat or native pasture. The difference is really in the final "finishing," whether the cattle are finished on grass or finished on grain. I'm not here to say one is right and one is wrong for every farm and ranch. I will say, however, for our farm, feeding grain to our cattle gives us ample opportunities to reuse what might have been wasted, like corn stalks and cotton seed.

And to that, eat beef!

This is the 14th day of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Day Granny's Kitchen Closed

Growing up, my Grandma Norma cooked the dinner (as in lunch) meal for my dad and the hired men on our farm every day they worked, whether they were in the field harvesting or around the farm working. Every day, she had a hot meal waiting for them, plus a delicious dessert. I loved those lunches whenever I went with my dad to the farm. To be honest, lunch was my favorite part of the day.

Then eventually, Grandma Norma reached the age where she thought it was time to retire from the every-day cooking. She was 80 years old (or maybe 81 or 82 - I had already moved to Oklahoma when this happened so my memory fails me). Either way, she had definitely earned retirement. Of course, she still occasionally cooks a meal for the men when they are in the field, but mostly, she does as she likes.

When I moved to Texas in March, I got the privilege to eat at Royce's Granny's house for the noon meal. It was like reliving my childhood! Except maybe with a few more peppers than Grandma Norma used in her South Dakota cooking. For the last 8 and a half months, I've been driving the two miles to Granny's house for lunch Monday through Saturday. Let me tell you, it has been wonderful! A hot, home-cooked meal followed by mouth-watering, home-made desserts. It just doesn't get much better than that!

Well, it was a good thing I cherished those meals. Back in July, Granny announced she would retire from cooking on her 80th birthday, which happened to be Monday, Nov. 10 of this year. A little piece of me died, knowing I'd be on my own to fend for my own lunch after that date.

On Monday, I ate a microwavable pizza. On Tuesday, Royce cooked Hamburger Helper. Wednesday, we were in Oklahoma City for lunch so we had Applebee's. Then today, Granddad asked Granny to make chili for us since it was so cold outside. Because she's a wonderful woman, she obliged him, but I'm certain we won't get too many exceptions to her retirement. However, the chili was delicious, and I am sure glad I didn't miss it.

Granny's retirement got me thinking though. The farm wife/cook has been such a longstanding tradition on the family farm, but now as Grandma Norma's and Granny's generation reach retirement age (which is much later than the normal retirement age), who is picking up that torch on farms around the country? I know I'm not for now, with a full-time job of my own and, let's just say, "limited skills" in the kitchen. It is ironic to me, that as an agriculturalist, I have little to no interest in cooking, and yet I ask consumers to be more involved with their food. Their involvement is cooking their food. How do I relate to that when I'm pretty sure I keep the microwavable pizza company in business?

Until I figure out how to cook, I think I'll heed Granny's advice she gave me when Royce and I started dating: Granny warned me, just as she warned Royce's mother, to not start something unless you wanted to do it every day for the rest of your life (read: or until you're 80 years old). Now that's a commitment!

This is the 13th day of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

30 Days Bloggers

In case you want to read along with the other 30 Days of Ag bloggers (which you do because they are awesome!), below is the list with links to all of them! Happy Reading!

AQHA World

I've gotten really good at "quick trips" over the years, but this quick trip was definitely worth the drive. Yesterday afternoon, Royce and I loaded up in the pickup for the 3-hour drive to Oklahoma City. This afternoon, we made the 3-hour drive back home. What made that 24 hours so worth it? Royce's little sister Tyler was competing at the American Quarter Horse World Show. 

In case you aren't familiar with the horse business, the World Show is kind of a big deal... like one of the biggest shows in the nation. Not just anybody can show there. To compete, you have to win a certain amount of points to qualify at previous shows during the year. Tyler and Hans, the Vonder Horse, qualified this year in amateur boxing. It was their first time at the World Show, and we (as the entire O'Neal clan) were incredibly proud of her. So much so that she had an entire cheering section of about a dozen people. It was pretty fantastic! 

Tyler and Hans showed this morning around 10:45. They had a great run, but unfortunately, didn't score high enough to make it back to the finals on Friday. Either way, Tyler worked really hard for this, and while it's not a trophy, just having competed at the World Show is something a lot of horsemen and women can't say. Good job Tyler! I'm glad we made the trip!

What does this have to do with Texas Panhandle agriculture? Well, Tyler is from the Panhandle and the farm so I think that makes it pretty pertinent. Also, she was competing in a class modeled after working ranch horses so another tie to Panhandle agriculture and ranching. Plus, the American Quarter Horse Association is headquartered in Amarillo, TX. That's my reasoning, and I'm sticking to it! 

Good job, Tyler and Hans!
Hans is a bit of a ham.
This is my 12th day of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Artist

A common theme with farmers and ranchers is the appreciation of Mother Nature's beauty. As a group, we spend most of our time in the middle of a beautiful creation. Our views of sunrises and sunsets are rarely obstructed by a skyscraper or apartment building. More likely, we have to look around grain elevators, barns, tractors or cows; all of which, in my opinion, are much more desirable to have in your field of vision. We have a close relationship and reliance on nature and the weather. We learn to appreciate it, marvel at the power of it, pray for the best of it. We also learn how to read it, prepare for it, react to it.

Last night, as the rest of the Great Plains was talking about the Arctic Blast, I took the last hour of light to capture the sunset. Not only was the sunset absolutely breathtaking, but I also had the chance to reflect on just how blessed I am to have this life here in the Texas Panhandle. With nothing but cows, corn stalks and a camera as company, it sure made me think and rejoice. Some people have told me they have felt alone out in the great openness of the prairie. I, on the other hand, feel very much surrounded by God and the glory of his creation. He is, after all, the greatest Artist I will ever know, and I'm sure glad He thought the Panhandle would make a good home for me.

Have you ever seen a sunset and thought "How could it get any more beautiful?"
Our cows aren't pets. When they see a random lady walking out in their pasture, their instincts tell them to go away, but eventually...
Side note: Notice the gray haze behind the cows? That would be the aforementioned Arctic Blast blowing in.
And then it gets more beautiful?
Corn stalks + cows + a sunset = pretty scenery
Eventually, the cows start to get curious about this person laying/sitting on the ground.
Then it continues to get more beautiful? 
Until finally, you say "Really God? How are you doing this?"
And then He tells that cow to walk right in front of His painting to make it even more perfect.
Then He says, "One for the road!"
Until finally, the sun goes down.
This is my 11th day of my 30 Days of Texas Panhandle Agriculture series. To read more, please visit this introduction postIf you have questions or ideas you'd like me to write about concerning Texas Panhandle agriculture, I'd love to hear from you!