Corndogs and Cavemen (or how to be a “clean” eater)

 

 

There is a running joke in my family about how many corn dogs I ate when pregnant with my first child who is now 5 years old. The image of the Town Pump convenience store marquee reading, “Corn Dogs: 2 for $1” now haunts my dreams. But at the time, it literally made my mouth water as I whipped my car around, dashed into the gas station and had double corn dog dinner for 1 alone in my car sometimes more than once a week.

 

Doesn’t sound that evil right? Except I kept doing it, giving in to my cravings’ every whim even when I had gained 60 pounds during my pregnancy! Could I blame it all on the corn dogs? Maybe not entirely but they had a great role along with my diet as a whole. Late in my pregnancy I had a corn dog from the concession stand at a football game and that night I honestly thought I was going into labor. Instead, I was just reaping the not so beneficial benefits of what that measly corndog did to my digestion! That very well may have been the last corn dog I ate…ever. Now, the running corn dog joke isn’t so much a knee slapper as it is a painful reminder. Let’s break down the basics of a corn dog.

 

First: The stick, harmless and zero calories per serving (as long as you don’t eat it)…not the culprit!

 

Second: the meat. What kind of animal produced this meat? It’s most likely the unsavory scraps from an array of stock anywhere from chicken, turkey, hog and cattle…all together. I mean they all lived together on the farm, yeah? Why not stick em in the sausage press together too?! Bleached, rinsed, dyed, salted, mixed meat.

 

Third: The cornbread. Don’t start counting this as your vegetable serving. Most likely there is no corn in your average corn dog. More-so, a batter made of white flour, white sugar and oil, with some yellow dye and artificial corn flavoring.

 

Fourth: The deep fat fry. A deep, sizzling, bubbling bath of hot Canola Oil.

Enough. I have said enough.

 

Now, how much of the former do YOU want to put in your body. Yes, it all tasted delicious when you put it all together. But like the animals that made up the meat, together doesn’t always mean better! On their own, these ingredients are lacking in nutrients, packed with fat and sugar, OVERLOADED with sodium and preservatives, and drugging your brain to tell you that it’s good and you want more. When really your body is crying out, “I AM GETTING NOTHING FROM THIS GARBAGE! FEED ME REAL FOOD!” But all your appetite hears is, “MORE CORNDOGS!”

 

Slowly but surely I have made more and more healthy decisions about how I was fueling my body. It started with weaning some very commonly known naughty foods from my diet, straying away from ‘fast food’, buying less processed food from the store and eating more from our garden. The real eye opener for me was when I really started to learn about what is IN food and what our bodies NEED from food and how to find REAL FOODS that are friendly to our bodies. This was a gradual process for me as I learned, practiced, made some mistakes and learned and practiced some more! If I were to do it again, I would have cold-turkey cut myself off from all the over processed garbage out there. Completely weaned myself overnight from the toxins, fats, sugars, rubbish in the country’s “food” that does nothing but enable me to become slave to the artificial nonsense we all eat! But that is knowing what I know now and wishing I could fast track the process.

 

Here is my rule of thumb:

 

Would a caveman eat it?

 

This means, could you hypothetically hunt, garden, scavenge or gather this food to feed your family?

 

AND if you did not have unlimited supply of food, how would you ration it to give you the most energy and last the entire day? Answer: Frequent small meals. Frequent small meals. Frequent small meals. There is such wisdom and truth in this concept. Embrace it.

 

Protein: Lean meats, the less processed the better. I live on a cattle ranch and yes we do have our meat processed. You must if you don’t want it to spoil. Meat is not cheap. That’s why meat processing is a thing; people want to be able to store their meat and feed their families. With that said, the cheaper the meat is (2 for $1 corn dogs, 5 for $5 packages of Lunchmeat, etc) the more processed it is and the less meat you are actually eating. GO to the deli or the butcher, read the labels on your meat. Be smart. Support your local butcher shop and in turn you are supporting local ranchers, boosting local economy AND your health. BOOM! Two birds, one stone. That’s how the caveman ate his white meat.

 

Carbohydrates: Shouldn’t “carb” be considered a four letter word? To most the country it is! To the extent that “Gluten-Free” has become the “he-who-should-not-be-named” when referring to the evil Voldemort that is wheat, flour, gluten….CARBS. Except, minor detail, carbohydrates do not always come from grain and they are not all bad! Processed, bleached, refined grains are not digested the way the original grain was meant to be digested. Simple truth. It’s science people. Also, if you still can’t handle the Gluten, get your carbs from fruit, vegetables, potatoes, lentils, whole grains. The caveman ate grains that he farmed himself, vegetables, fruits as well. That or he sent his berry picking kids into the wilderness to gather it for their breakfast.

 

Healthy Fats: Eating fat does not make you fat. Eating bad fat makes you NOT burn off your own fat reserves but eating good fats like those in nuts, avocado, seeds…stuff the caveman would gather in the brush…helps your body by getting the proper biological necessity of fat for healthy brain function AND takes the excess fats out of your system with it. Not to mention, helps your fish not stick to the pan when you are cooking it. Just saying.

 

So if you want to eat “clean” look for foods with very few (and I mean VERY few) ingredients. The closer to nature, the cleaner it is.

 

Learn how to make things yourself! I couldn’t find a yogurt I loved without all the added nonsense…So I learned how to make it at home! Delicious and I know EXACTLY what’s in it! Same with bread! Shopping can be very frustrating when trying to eat clean so simplify it for yourself. Less packaged foods means less packages to read. Remember, CAVEMAN! He couldn’t read so you shouldn’t have to either!

 

Buy in bulk for fruits and veggies. Eat a lot of them so you don’t have to throw it out when it goes bad! Costco is life.

 

Buy local farmers market food! Buy a lot and freeze or can!

 

Plant a garden! Look up square foot gardening, or container gardening if you don’t have space for a full garden. Get an indoor plant light if you live in Narnia (Always winter, can’t rottotill the tundra) like I do. If Matt Damon can plant potatoes on Mars, you have no reason not to plant something. Even if it’s live basil from the produce aisle that just sits in your window and you water it long enough to eat it. Plants are our friends and our food.

 

Most of all, TRY NEW THINGS! If the idea of eating healthy food turns up your nose, grow up you picky little baby! You have a car right? Or know someone who does that gives you rides places…Well you wouldn’t put gas in a diesel engine, or diesel in a gas engine so don’t put the wrong kind of fuel in your own machine, your BODY! Show yourself more respect than you would your car. The wrong fuel in the wrong machine, even if it’s a GREAT machine, a HOT machine, a TIGHT little Sports car with racing stripes or a BEAST of a monster truck and straight pipes…it could blow up! Fuel a pregnant (or not pregnant) lady with corndogs, she will blow up! True story. Be nice to your body. If you want to look good in a loin cloth like Cro-Magnon man, and throw boulders around like no big deal, eat like he did!

National Guitar Day?

My artistic, beautiful, exuberant mother informed myself and City Mouse that today is National Guitar Day. However accurate that is or not, she decided Country-City Mice needed to do something to celebrate.

Flashback to 1994:

The house on Wasuki street was empty. No more couches, dining room table, television, even my mom’s favorite painting of a little cottage in the Swiss mountainside no long hung in its regular spot. But I do remember sitting in the empty living room after watching my mom pull a large,oblong, cardboard box from an obscure closet shelf…the last thing in our house that had yet to be loaded into the moving truck. And for good reason, today was my 6th birthday as well as the day we would leave our Colorado home for the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.

I opened my birthday present. And my heart opened a chamber of love for the guitar on that day that I turned 6 years old that would last every day following!

I didn’t know how to play it of course but I didn’t let that stop me. At the KOA campground we stopped in for the night, I sat under a pine tree next to the walking trail, left out my cardboard box the guitar came in and I begun singing as I strummed open chords on a toy acoustic guitar that surely wasn’t in tune. But I sang my heart out. The words I sang I made up as I went. The topic of which I am unsure but the feeling I felt as passersby listened on, like an older couple with a grey miniture snauzer on it’s leash, was a feeling of refreshment, joy, freedom. I felt capable of marvelous things. AND I made a solid 35 cents in random small coins that passing fellow campers dropped in my cardboard box.

On to the wretched years of Junior High:

I was in 8th grade and I had a vision of my self. I even sketched it in ammeter cartoon style as a pixie-haired rock star with metallic pink pants and an electric guitar. My loving, guiding, supporting older sister City-Mouse handed down her classical acoustic guitar along with a few simple chords and picking patterns. I literally played that guitar until I winced at the slightest touch of my fingers, even shampooing my choppy short hair was painful. But soon my fingers grew callused and my eagerness to practice grew even more.

I tried songs by John Bon-Jovi, Allison Krauss, Jimmy Eat World..but no matter what I did I simply could NOT make my music sound the way theirs did on the radio. I would try and try and try until I was in tears. I finally gave up. I wouldn’t waste another second being something I was not. I was no Bon Jovi. I took what little knowledge I had of music and guitar and I quit. I quit trying to sound like them. I began writing my own songs.

Flashforward to 2007:

I was nineteen years old home for the summer from college and excited to join my mom and younger siblings for a Fourth of July trip to Cour de ‘Laine. We walked the docks near the lake, buzzing with vendors selling trinkets to face paint, balloons, even cars. My mom left us for a few minutes in a scurry back to where she had parked the mini van. I stood, stumped alongside my siblings as we waited. She came back with my large black guitar case. The spoils of my summer job, a $350 Alvarez eletrci-acoustic guitar. Named, Blaze, after the man who sold it to me at Music Villa in Bozeman, MT. I rolled my eyes as my mom pointed to an open spot on the sidewalk and nudged the guitar into my arms. So many people walking around, all anticaipating the firework show planned for that evening. Not as fearless as I had been at the KOA when I was six, I reluctantly began to play and sing, trying to avoid eye contact with any of the many strangers as they walked by, even stopped to listen. I played songs I had written as well as some covers I had finally mastered by taking guitar classes as a college Freshman. Before I knew it a boy my age with an african drum sat down next to me and hit rhythmically along with every song I played! I wasn’t even paying attention to the money accumulating in my guitar case. I wasn’t even AWARE my mother had laid it out to collect! This time there was more than .35 cents worth in coins you couldn’t use on the campsite laundromat. I blushed and kept on performing. Next time I looked down the case was empty. The money was gone. I still had an audience, among whom were my three younger siblings and my mom grinning as they ate hot fresh pizza from a street vendor down the block. I wasn’t upset to have unknowingly paid for dinner, but at least they could have brought me a slice!

Today, February 2016:

My 5 year old son just lost his first tooth. The tooth fairy left a large pile of coins (I’m sure a reward for his reluctant yet consistent care he took in practicing good oral hygiene) of which he decided to spend on a $1.50 Harmonica. He practiced all night with his uncle, an extremely talented guitarist who accompanied him in preparation for last week’s open mic night at the local coffee shop. As we watched him, I could remember myself at a similar age fearlessly playing music for strangers on an instrument I had only picked up the day before. I was so proud of him as I could see a look on his face that resembled a feeling of refreshment, joy, and freedom. He felt capable of marvelous things.

 

Nice Girl Project

I would like to bring attention to a topic that has been heavy on my mind recently and even more so now that all the kiddies are bopping back to school. I would like to contribute some sort of project to bring awareness to the importance of being a life long “nice girl” I haven’t quite decided how or what or when this is going to happen, nor have I found a proper venue to propel this forward. but I’d like to start with a brief background of where I’m coming from. It started by posing this brief question:

I’m working on a project and need your opinions. Men, women, boys and girls: how would you teach your daughter (sister,wife,friend,etc) to be a ‘nice’ girl? Specifically in regards to her interactions with other girls. I see a lot of bullying and I’m working on an article to address it. Thanks for your input!
 
And here are a few of the astounding a answers I received (feel free to comment or email me your own input!)
 
“If you teach your children about how the Savior treated people and teach them to implement this in their lives you cant go wrong. I know this is easier said than done but, I know it is doable. They will also watch the example you set at parents. Be kind, never gossip or trash talk another. Treat people with kindness and respect, even if they don’t necessarily deserve it. It is very hard in today’s society to teach especially girls/young women to have good self esteem. I don’t believe that girls that bully/verbally abuse others have a good sense of self-worth. If they did they wouldn’t bully.” JT June 24 2013
 
“My Mom used to say, “Consider” the Source. A hard concept for a young person to understand but maybe true.” PM Jun 24 2013
 
“i honestly think most times this behavior comes directly from parents, also have noticed with a lot of kids they would rather bully and criticize another for their accomplishmentsrather than b working to improve themselves” CW Jun 24 2013
 
 
There are sooooo many more wonderful words of wisdom that could shed light on this subject. How can we implement them into our lives and TEACH others ( especially girls) by example to be a force of good? Rather than put others down to gain acceptance of the cool crowd?
 
My goal is to put the mean girl fad to rest. She is soooo last season and the Nice girl is the new “it” girl! As it should be! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’m currenly iDoing a giveaway…first giveaway ever! Woot woot! And it’s a sad, small attempt to kick off my project. Here’s the low down: I have some clothing items to give away to a deserving (hard working, honest, humble, NICE to others) girl. The sizes are a size six shoe, xs-small skirt and pants, and xs top. (Probably middle school aged) I could sell these items easily but I would like to ANONOMOUSLY gift them to a deserving young lady who may be financially strapped (but more importantly id like to focus on genuine acts of kindness…this is to focus on a deserving nice girl more than a charity) and could use a confidence boost this school year Please private message me your nominations and include a convincing reason why your girl deserves this special treat! Email me: haelimae.allen@gmail.com

Cheadle Hall

I love where I live as it is. Just the right balance of flat and hills, beautiful skyline, green grass, fresh water, northern lights even! Aesthetically appealing aside, I have an amazing lifestyle I have been blessed to become a part of. People have asked me in the past questions like, “Don’t you go crazy out there all day?” or “Aren’t you bored?” My answer, Not At All! I have 2,000 acres to explore, in-laws who I get along with swimmingly, and every day is different! Sure, the ‘simple life’ by no means is simple. Ranch life keeps you on your toes, and devotes all your efforts. But, There is always something to do on the ranch, family to spend time with, and when we feel like getting out…we have an incredible time and (believe it or not other people live out here in the sticks) neighbors! Our ‘community’ out here is a broad radius of about 30 miles consisting of families young and old, some of which have been in the area for several, several years! And they have all been each others out-of-town social life for generations. Which brings me to my topic, Cheadle Hall.

Cheadle hall is a community gathering place just a mile from our ranch directly off the highway. It was an old army barracks in the 1940s that was actually taken down and moved to where it stands now, and reassembled! For years it was a dance hall, community hall, craft club, school etc. In the last 15 to 20 years activity has slowed as the generation who grew up going to functions there as children have been growing older and many folks have moved away or just otherwise dwindled in interest. It’s become an occasional place for memorial services and monthly volunteer fire fighter meetings.

A few months ago a meeting was held by the caretakers (a couple who have lived next door to Cheadle Hall since the 1970s) and a few other of the more active Cheadle Hall board members. They inquired of us “younger folks” if we would be interested in keeping Cheadle alive, or boarding her up for good. This is where my husband, in-laws, and a few close neighbor friends stepped in. We didn’t want to see this building that has such historical and sentimental meaning to the area simply go to waste. One of the issues was the cost of electricity. A minimum monthly payment of $40 is charged merely to keep it plugged in, regardless whether a switch is ever flicked or not. Membership fees were discussed, fundraisers where discussed, but what it came down to is that we simply needed to relight the fire and get the area excited for Cheadle activities and get-togethers again!

We did just that. Myself, and my family and a few neighbors planned a summer kick-off party. All it took was a cleaning crew, a newsletter, some flyers, a good connection to the local paper and by the time the party night rolled around we had the Hall filled with neighbors and friends and good food! Kids were running around indoors and out having the time of their lives and everyone was full of smiles. The party consisted of a potluck, music and dancing! Myself, my husband and his sister, along with some local musicians who are close friends of ours provided a variety of music to sing along, sit back and listen, or even get up and dance! One of our buddies who came to play music is also a reporter for the local paper and wrote up an incredible article about the history of Cheadle hall and an account of our kick off party! The event was free admission but we collected $150 in donations! Plenty to keep the Hall running for the next several months! I would say with that kind of turnout, and the happy reactions from those who attended, (and even those who couldn’t attend but contributed otherwise) that our goals to stir up some communal excitement were reached! I has several folks thank us for putting the party on and asked when the next shindig would be!

I just adore the sense of fellowship out here on the ranch and its surrounding areas. It’s so different from that which is within city limits. So when people ask, “Don’t you go crazy out on the ranch?” my answer is, “I would be crazy not to live here!” and when they ask if I ever get bored, I tell them, “Bored of what? We work hard, and party harder!” I adore the ranch life, and adore the ranching community. There are millions of wonderful places to live in the world I am sure, but I choose here. It’s where my true happiness is found and I wouldn’t change one thing about it!

This is not a typical “country mouse” blog post. But I feel very passionate about what I’m going to share. It’s a topic that has been hot on my mind and I must expound on it as I believe it is something applicable to many, near and far, if not all.

The word “need” has been thrown around a lot lately. Mostly as a way, I think, to urge those teetering back into the arms of fellowship at church. I first heard it from our stake president,”tell him I NEED him here” and then from my relief society presidency, “remind them how much we NEED them!” Which is all well and good. But I want to express what we all truly “need” from those who supposedly aren’t the ones teetering, or lost, or slipping away. Those who supposedly are the ones in need.

Clicke here for audio: “Need”

We all need to practice what we preach and focus on rescue, on missionary work, and strengthening our families as a byproduct. Revolving our social spheres on Sunday for three hours rather than spreading the gospel by word and deed the other six days in the week is why our investigators and newly baptized members don’t stay or don’t come at all to church. Someone, anyone, everyone should introduce themselves and befriend anyone visiting church for the first time or attending an activity. I have personally had intense spiritual promptings and miracles that lead and inspired me to invite individuals to church or an activity. And at times an even greater miracle that they actually come! I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to hear whispers about “who is that with haeli” while having to drag people by their arm in order for ME to introduce THEM! It’s a huge concern and I really feel like people are just unaware of the impact NEEDED by their actions. Fellowshipping isn’t just about making new families that move in feel welcome…or just saying hi and shaking a visitors hand on Sunday. It’s during the week that builds those individuals up and encourages them to come back and makes them feel like an asset rather than merely increasing population on Sundays. If we invested our efforts in bringing in the lords sheep rather than gossiping or griping about our leaders or our youth or each other…can you imagine how we could bless the lives of those in our midst? That is what I mean when I say Sunday is not my social hour or a Day to dress nice as I’m in Grubbs on the ranch all day during the week! It’s a day to grow so I can be an extension of The Lords work and a vessel through which his gospel can reach all I come in contact with. Never for my own benefit but for theirs. I do feel very blessed however although the work is never easy and more often then not heart wrenching, but it helps me be a better wife and better mother when I am in tune enough to share the gospel. I compel you to truly seek opportunities to serve and to teach. as women especially we hold special and unique abilities and duties as wives mothers sisters and daughters to do that work and teach our families to follow suit.

Xoxo-CountryMouse

Ps…my bestie from texie posted this on her blog almost simultaneously as I posted this. Please follow her missionary example! You never know the impact you can make. If nothing else, learn from the thoughts she shares on being “more diligent and concerned at home”

Country Mouse Goes to a City Wedding

Want to know the recipe for a crazy adventure? One scoop love struck Montana-grown bride to be, two scoops very pregnant home-body little sister, one April wedding in Manhattan, blend it all up with a fun-loving, party animal Hispanic family-of-the-groom and you’ve got your self one eventful weekend! But that’s not all…

It started around Christmas when my older sister, City Mouse called to tell me the most romantic engagement story. Which I’m not sure if I should tell here or save for another Country Mouse-City Mouse blog topic showdown…I will just say, I was in the tractor feeding cows with my husband when she called from her new fiancé’s family’s home in Connecticut after a day in a Christmas adorned time square to tell me she was going to marry Hot Sauce, her spicy, Hispanic, geek chic, funny, intelligent boyfriend! I squealed! Literally. My husband jumped in his tractor seat.

The months and wedding planning flew by and soon we found ourselves coming down to it. The wedding was to be in the Manhattan Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was thrilled to be able to go but had one hang up. My 1 and 1/2 year old wild little cowboy I would have to leave behind. And he was at a very delicate and clingy stage but it had to be done. The visual of a 6 and 1/2 month pregnant me, several bags of luggage, most likely wearing heels, trying to wrangle my little wrangler toddler boy through an airport, let alone manhattan, most truthfully and literally gave me night terrors.

So I went alone, leaving my son with his dad. And I boarded the plane from Billings. Not gonna lie, I got several looks flying in the physical state I was in. I may have only been 6 1/2 months along due to a genetically short torso, I tend to look full term by about 5 months! But I made it. Even though the flight attendants may have looked at me with apprehension. I landed at JFK and found my mom there waiting. Her flight had landed shortly before mine. She and I would be the only family able make the long trip to NYC but we were wide open for adventure.

We spent the next day taking on the big city ourselves. My sister was solidifying last minute wedding plans so we braved the shuttle, train, taxi, and subway, whatever it took to get us in and out, underneath and around Manhattan. It was thrilling seeing places I had only read about or seen in movies. Grand Central Station for one. Not at all like anything I have ever experienced…the biggest train station I had ever been to prior to that was more like a grey hound bus station. My mother and I spent the entire day stumbling through a lost, but eager and excited stupor to visit places like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Manhattan Apple Store, 5th Avenue Saks (I didn’t dare go in…as I doubt I fit the dress code just to window shop there let alone afford anything), the Plaza Hotel(where I was starstruck just know Marilyn Monroe had been in the same Building, let alone lobby, maybe even bathroom! Once upon a time) and of course Central Park. We had vendor hotdogs, got my portrait drawn by a street artist and ate the BEST gyro I have eaten in my life! We walked through a fraction of a corner of Central Park and shopped four…yes FOUR different H&M stores within only a handful of blocks. Sadly I couldn’t find children’s or maternity in any of them but later put together that most manhattan shoppers aren’t shopping for stretchy pants, nursing tops or hauling their kiddos around in that part of the city. But FOUR H&Ms! I was in heaven! Because the nearest H&M store to me back home is a 9 hour drive away!

When the day of the wedding rolled around, my mom and I got dressed early that morning knowing we wouldn’t be back to the hotel until after the day’s and night’s festivities. We were all dolled up, me in my all white top and skirt (which I hunted and hunted and hunted for and miraculously still fit 6 weeks after I bought it in time for the wedding…a lot can change in that amount of time when you have a bun in the oven!) I had a yellow sash that my sister sewed and cute yellow sandals to match. I hairsprayed my curls into stiff but efficient ringlets and crossed my fingers that the humidity would be kind. My mom and I waited in the lobby for the groom’s mother and sister to pick us up as it would be faster to carpool with them, and less hectic and dirty (in all white) than taking the train.

They picked us up and we were happily joking and laughing on our way to see our two widdle wuv birds wed in the Manhattan Temple.

And then the hood began to ooze smoke out of its clentched jaw.
And then the car started making odd noises.
And then the car slowly erched to a hault.
And we were stuck.
Cars honking,speeding past, flipping the bird.
We were stuck in the middle of the freeway.
In the Bronx.
On the way to my sisters wedding.

All I could think is, “if we were in montana some nice old rancher would stop to help us!” But here, with my uncultured white girl, agricultural country girl, terrified of the unknown big city, little simple mind was praying “nobody stop. Nobody stop. Nobody stop” but then a car pulled up and two big Hispanic guys came up. My sister’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law to be rattling in Spanish to these guys. I of course had no clue what was going on, my archived high school and college Spanish language knowledge flew right out the window. But I soon saw they were there to help. They couldn’t do much but soon the police were there telling us we could be in the middle of the road. Duh. As if we wanted to be there. They finally got the car off the road and the cops were still telling us, “you can’t be here.” I figured, “oh sure, we will just hitch hike. All dressed up for a wedding. I am sure some nice friendly gangsters will gladly drive us into downtown manhattan. Or we will just get mugged.”

So the tow truck came. Told us to get back in the car. And the tow truck towed us. INSIDE the car and dropped us off at a sketchy little gas station in the Bronx. We waited another hour and the grooms father and brother finally made it through lunch hour traffic to pick us up.

Despite all the anxiety, more on my part being a very wary, hormonal, pregnant country girl, we made it to manhattan and boy if I have never been more happy to see the gleaming gold on Angel Moroni that adorns the top steeple of the temple. Once inside, the business and hustle of Manhattan outside felt like earths, and moons, and planets away from us. It was quiet and reverent and sanctuary inside. I was able to sit with friends and family to see my lovely sister (emotional but relieved as they had postponed the wedding 2 hours so we could be there…) and her perfect match be sealed for all time and all eternity. It was wonderful.

Following the ceremony we went out into the city and walked though Central Park for pictures of all us sisters and brothers and brides maids, with the bride and groom. The newly weds split a heart shaped pretzel from the street vendors, stopped to give Our respects to the strawberry fields memorial, and rode back to the temple in a bike pulled carriage. Ate some messy but delicious street vendor gyros and on to the reception!
image

 

 

image

I had no idea what I was in for when we pulled up to the church. But we were instantly greeted by caterers offering us coconut shrimp, chicken skewers, won tons, and all kinds of delicious appetizers. We went into the reception area glowing with colorful paper lanterns, and 1,000 paper cranes my sister folded herself in rainbow colors! I had never seen a church gym transformed into such a party scene. We had an incredible dinner, and were just about to eat cake when we heard music playing. Then in through the door comes a full, live mariachi band! What?!

There was dancing, dancing, and more dancing! Much of the dancing being done by my sister’s close Montana and Utah friends who had been able to attend! It was hilarious and wonderful to see a little group of white folks boogying right along side the crowds of hispanic family and friends. The band paused to toast a lively, “Viva Mexico!” Only to be stunned with silence from the crowd. The Mariachi whispered over his shoulder to the groom, “where are you guys from?” Then corrected himself with an sounding, “Viva Honduras!” And the wedding party roared with cheers!

For a pregnant, apprehensive, home sick mama missing her baby and home back at the ranch…I had quite an adventure I will never forget. It was incredible to not only attend such an event full of music, food, and most of all love, but to see that was a big part of the new life my sister was marrying into. It was wonderful. My unborn baby even got excited by the party food and mariachi music. To this day, now 8 months old, she goes crazy over Mexican food and salsa music!

image

Spinning Straw into Gold

Click here for audio: Spinning Straw Into Gold

My husband is a Jack of all trades in a sense. He is a rancher, an auctioneer, a musician, hay broker, and trucker.Just to name a few! Last summer he pulled together his ranching knowledge and love for trucking when he found the opportunity to truck several hundred tons of hay and straw and sell to a large feedlot in dire need of feed. That opportunity opened several doors and he soon found himself with more hay hauls than one can count! The reason being…drought. Statewide we didn’t see the greatest hay crop last summer due to low precipitation all winter and spring. Forest fires were popping up left and right. Roundup, a town an hours drive southeast of us suffered terrible flooding two years ago, and then with a flip of a switch suffered horrible fires last summer. This found ranchers all over in a bind and hay prices were through the roof. Luckily my husband got in there and got a good deal on the stuff and found himself pretty busy loading his hay trailer to haul all over the state. He did this well into the fall, even winter, in time for ranchers to stockpile their hay for the snowy season.
image

Before the grass has even proudly shown its green face, my husband is already revving his hay train engine ready to rock and roll. Knowing that several ranchers don’t have their usual 2 year old hay crop as a cushion this year due to last years drought, I have a sneaking suspicion he will be a busy, hay hauling, son of a bumble bee once again this summer!

image
All this brings up the memory of last years drought. And reminded me of my first ever jab at “cowboy poetry” which is kind of a big deal around these parts. Our very own town holds an annual cowboy poetry festival every summer. These poets are hard core. I would never dare compete against them. But I like to challenge myself every once and again.

“Drought”

We pardoned at the River Styx

And fought in dire righteousness

For something much more

Tangible than gold

We held our hats and gripped the reins

Our horses restless in their manes

As the fiery serpent flicked

His fork-ed tongue

The dust brought in the scent of drought

The cattle moaning in their doubt

That spring would rescue

All their hungry fears

The warm wind bearing the bouquet

Of slightly musty two-year hay

That just may be the

Answer to a prayer

The serpent bruised the horses’ heels

But crushed its head beneath the wheels

Of God’s redeeming

Chariot of gold

—-

Xoxo- Country Mouse

Grass Range Mercantile

Click here for audio: Grass Range Mercantile

So if it were me reading this post, I would already have a visual in mind merely from the sound of the title. But for those of you who don’t have anything come to mind when you hear the word “mercantile” I will fill you in.

image

A sunny demeanered Saturday morning found me driving to Grass Range. A tiny little community that consists of mostly a truck stop called “Little Montana”, The Wrangler Bar, a school, and the Grass Range Mercantile. Grass Range is equal distance from our ranch the opposite direction of where we usually do our business, church, entertainment, groceries etc. Well I have found myself more and more interested lately in going to Grass Range to pick up my ‘Bountiful Basket’ every other week. At first, I started going to Grass Range because it was less crowded than my other options. But I continue to go there for reasons other than fighting off the crowds and battling it out for a parking place.

I arrived a few minutes early and got my baby girl out of the car, bouncing her infant carrier on my hip, hooked in the crook of my elbow, holding my plastic bags in my other hand to bring my fruits and veggies home in. Before I even made it to the swinging red wooden door of the mercantile I found it being opened for me. I looked up to see our organ player from church, Cathie. With a big smile she said, “I always see you either here or at church!” I laughed and replied, “Both good places to be I suppose!” We both entered the mercantile only to be greeted by more smiles and warm countenances.

A couple of the gals volunteering that morning called me by my first name even though I didn’t know theirs. And rather than being shocked or offended, it warmed my heart to feel familiar to them. This was only my second of third time at the Mercantile. Three women and an adorable little blue-eyed girl helped me gather my produce, pack it up, haul it out to my car, and clean up my basket. Meanwhile, making googley eyes at a smiley baby girl in her carrier, a conversation arose between the women about one of the items in the baskets this week.

“What is this?!” Asked Cathie, the organist from church, holding up an odd leafy green stalk.

“Bok Choy?” Someone answered sheepishly.

“Never heard of it!” Said Cathie laughing.”No idea what to do with it!”

“I think it’s kind of like a cabbage? Used in Asian food?”

I looked up upon recognizing the name. I had used ‘baby bok choy’ in a poem I wrote for my College Poetry Workshop when I was a sophomore. The poem in which I compared myself to a pomegranate. Wierd…I know.

“My sister cooks that I think? Or has eaten it? I dunno,” I’m not sure why I am talking at this point realizing my input is irrelevant and unhelpful. “She lived in Japan. For her mission.” I know this isn’t clearing up the Bok Choy mystery but my mouth just keeps moving. I know Cathie knows what I am talking about by “mission” but I doubt anyone else is really following. Everyone is just smiling their friendly, genuine, happy-Saturday-morning-at-the-Mercantile smiles.

“Here…take mine!” Cathie says. Pushing her bok choy into my bag.

“Oh! I don’t know what to do with it!” Laughing nervously, my eyes dart around to my pile of veggies. “Do you want my celery? I despise celery.”

“No. Just take it. I can’t eat all that myself anyway.” Cathie insists I take her bok choy so I graciously accept, remembering City Mouse’s post on “awkward social circumstances” I accept her offering, wondering in my mind how I can repay her act of graciousness. But the more I offer the more she declines. Not because what I’m offering isn’t good enough, or that she expects more, or even anything in return for that matter. She’s just being kind. And giving. She proceeds to give me all of her green bell peppers, radishes, celery (even though I told her I despise it. I take it because I know it makes her feel good) and even gave me her lemons. I cannot believe this woman just gave me over half of her Bountiful Basket!

I thank her again and again as she smiles and heads out the door saying, “See you at church!” And I walk back into the store full of smiley, friendly, cheerful, neighborly people.

I wander around the store looking for something to eat. It was 10:00 in the morning and I hadn’t eaten breakfast and was continuing on to Billings, and hour and a half drive. I snagged a sack of trail mix off one shelf, then circled my way to look for a drink. Finding myself in the hardware aisle (mercantile remember…it’s like a cure-all for your hometown needs.) There are two skinny little ranch boys with huge grins on their faces, looking about 8 and 10 years old. The older one, buzzed dark hair, big metal rimmed glasses, and freckles to boot, holds up a gallon of vanilla ice cream and smiles.

“I asked my mom but she said I cain’t get the 5 gallon bucket!”

“Better than nothing!” I say. Imagining how that ice cream will probably be gone by the time the two walk home. Which isnt far in Grass Range. Which, for the same reason, is probably the mother’s reasoning for shutting down the 5 gallon vanilla ice cream request. Among all other reasons of course.

I find my drink and some Cracked Pepper Spits for the drive, then I step up to wait in line at the little one-teller counter. Three men in wool caps, Carhartt and camo are in line with hardware supplies. I set baby girl in her carrier down on the floor as my arm is much to weak to lug around a 17 lb 7 month old for extended periods of time. The man up to bat at the counter says, “Ah. Let this gal go. We ain’t in no hurry.” Referring to himself and the two men behind him, who appear to be in a different party. I thank him, graciously, and step up to the cutest, round-faced old gentleman at the cash register. He rings up my soda, then looks back and forth from the trail mix to the sunflower seeds. There was no price tag. I panic, run back to the spot where I got them….no price there either. I’m sweating, feeling awkward about the nice man that let me cut him and half the store in line, now I’m holding up the line with a complicated order. The old man just shrugs and says, “I will just ring it up the same as these seeds.”

I know darn well that doesn’t equal out. Especially when my total is only 3.47 and that included at can of pop, a large bag of seeds and a large bag of mixed nuts and dried berry trail mix! But I have learned in my short 20 minute visit to Grass Range Mercantile that these folks are genuinely happy to be alive today. Happy to serve. Happy to share their veggies, share their good news about ice cream and share their place in line with me. Me: geek-chic,big-haired, makeup-junky ranch wife who dresses like she just walked out of Urban Outfitters, not off the cattle guard!

That drive to Billings was so pleasant having had my morning jump started by such pleasant folks. It just made me so happy to live where I live. I found beauty in such an unassuming place. And as I drove the sun spilled over winter-brown rolling hills. Which may sound less worthy than green fields or white beaches but I loved seeing the freckles of sage brush over the shoulders of hillsides that later jet rocks out that spike up like stegosaurus fossils. I just love how raw and unadulterated it is out here. How people aren’t trying to be anyone they aren’t and are unashamed to make others feel good. I hope I can remember that and treat others with the same regaurd. Maybe a pay-it-forward is all I owe Cathie, a widowed, lonely woman who found ‘peace of heart’ in sharing her vegetables with someone since she has no one to share them with at home. Today I told her at church she would have to come have dinner and reap the rewards of her bountiful sharing nature!

Something I learned long ago from a dear family member, “Being charitable includes allowing others to be charitable.” And the best example of that is Christ. If you have stories of charity, or recipes for bok choy please feel free to comment!

Xoxo-Country Mouse

Welcome to the Country

It’s somewhere between 11 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit this sunny Central Montana morning. And that is a heatwave compared to earlier this morning where it stood at a whopping two degrees! I will certainly take the Weather Channel’s word for it while I stay indoors snuggled up to my sweet baby girl, contemplating what to cook for the guys when they come in for lunch. Although it is bitterly cold we are in post-blizzard mode, my husband and little son are out assessing the damage, checking for newborn calves, and feeding hay to some hungry mama cows. The wind the other night raged for hours. Visibility was so poor that our Sunday evening company had to stay in the spare room on bunk beds overnight.

On the upside, I live in the most beautifully balanced wide open space I could ask for. Twelve miles from town (with a population of 6,000 there were more people at the Carrie Underwood concert in the Billings Metra last week than live in our town) and only one mile off the highway, we live on a gorgeous cattle ranch of about 2500 acres, with an additional 3500 acre mountain ranch where we summer pasture. In the winter the fields are golden along a royal blue mountainous horizon capped with crisp white. A vision.

Days like today are a photograph from my living room window, overlooking a pasture of black Angus mama cows and their skipping, bucking, happy baby calves. In a short while my husband and our hired man will bring the tractor out and leave a line of chopped green hay for the hungry cows to bury their cold noses in, rooting for the good flaky bits that fall to the bottom. Like the delicious morsels of oat clusters in Honey Bunches of Oats! Even cattle know what they like!

image

Since about January we have been in the thick of calving season. Which, in a nutshell, involves sorting cows (according to when they are going to have their babies) into heifers, heavies and lates. The lates are usually good out in the field to graze until they get close to delivery (heavy) when we will move them into the calving pasture outside the barn where we can easily keep an eye on them. Checking every couple hours for mama cows in labor. Most can instinctually have their baby on their own, lick him clean and mother up to him. But sometimes they can have a troublesome labor and delivery and may need to be brought into the barn and assisted. I won’t get too gory on ya just yet but having babies is a messy business. Sometimes a cow will have her baby just fine but if the baby is sick, cold, or not latching on to nurse we bring the pair into the barn and placed in a jug (a smaller penned off area) to keep a close eye and give mom and baby time to figure things out. The heifers, are first time mamas. They need extra TLC as this is their first bought of pregnancy and motherhood. More often than not, they will need a helping hand. This is only one phase of the ranch. Like seasons, we will go through several stages of production this year just like last year, and just like the years to follow.

Some of the big events on the ranch following calving (which is a marathon event in comparison to the other big ranch events) include branding which is coming up in April, then trucking all the cattle to the upper ranch in June for summer pasture to graze and fatten up all summer long, also giving us a chance to grow alfalfa, cut, rake and bale it up for winter feed before we bring the cattle back in the fall. Then we wean the calves, now huge from grazing all summer, and ship them off. The most anticipating part of the year, to see what our hard work and sacrifice has brought to fruition, in form of what our calves sell for at auction in the fall.

In a nutshell, that’s the ranch for ya. Bare bones. I will get into the meaty part (no pun intended) as we blog along our happy way. My goals for this blog are to expand not only on the tough, long days as a rancher, but from my stand point as a rancher’s wife. Mostly this will be comically amusing because I grew up in the mountain valley of Souuth-Western Montana where there is agriculture yes but a lot more hippies and summer-homers. Much different from central Montana ranch life where your neighbors are 4-5 miles as the crow flies…close enough that my little Freddie and neighbor Lane could ride horses back and forth from Wild Wild West Ranch to Deschemaeker Ranch. This is a new, evolving process for me. Along with motherhood and all the goodness that comes with it. I will share ranch stories, mom stories, music stories, trucking stories, auction stories and gospel stories. Because despite all else my life is made of, the first and foremost entity in my life is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as a member of his church, my responsibility and desire is to live his gospel in and out every day of my life. Regardless of where I live. But I will say, Christ’s love and our Father in Heaven’s love is abounding. I truly feel his presence here on the ranch and I am blessed with lots of family and loved ones to share that with here at home. And my purpose is to share and teach it to any that read this blog.

Xoxo-Country Mouse