In Focus?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. Most especially through the tiny viewfinder on the camera. I have taken photographs all my life. Which is now turning into a long time. I thought getting old would take longer.

The camera has no opinion of my age, though it does have a way of telling me my eyes are not what they used to be. Lighting can be manipulated, color, tone, etc as well. But not focus. On days I am feeling especially smarty, I tell folks I meant for that photo to be out of focus!

I took a photography class not long ago. The instructor said if our photos are not shared, but most especially not printed, our photography is incomplete. So I have decided to regularly post some of the photos that folks seem to like.

It would be a great joy if you would comment and share some of your photos as well. Include stories associated with photograph, if you like. Which one do you like, and why? I appreciate the feedback.

This one was meant to be out-of-focus. Seriously.

A Good Old Senior who turned 30 Today

This post is from last year when BR turned 30. Now he has turned 31! I thought I’d repost this blog as not too much has changed since last year, except perhaps, a little more white in his coat.

Primary Farm Operator

He was a keeper. That was easy to see from the first. He was the right color, good temperament, but best of all he showed signs of being the perfect height and build. Yes, indeed, he was a keeper.

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He was put together very well.

Foaled February 12, 1988 at Mom’s Tag-Along Farm located, at that time, in Gaithersburg, MD. She had big plans from the start for him. She, and my step-father, Carl, bred, raised and showed Miniature horses for 20 years. It was their retirement ‘fun’. And fun they had. His registered name is Tag-Alongs Boomerang, which was quickly shortened to BR. It has held ever-since.

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Mom and BR had many fun outings at miniature horse shows.

He was just a baby when Tag-Along Farm moved to Clifton Forge, Va. Days were full for this miniature horse who was sure he stood 16 hands tall! He was one…

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Only in Winter

Only in winter, and even then, it does not happen often nor stay too long. However, this past Monday through Wednesday was a different story. An ice storm that kept our part of the world heavily clothed in its command for two full days, and one night.

There was a frightfully, intriguing appeal to being out in that winter storm. Venturing out several times with camera in hand and hoping to capture an image of this beautiful, powerful storm kept me busy looking and watching. It seemed to want an audience. As if it wanted to remind us of just how helpless and small we truly are. Breaking, falling limbs, and trees crashing all around. First a small, creaking sort of sound, followed by a mighty rip of wood falling without knowing from where or to where. Best not to get too close. And the air. It was filled with the sweet smell of fresh split pine. How full the atmosphere was of that woodsy, comforting smell.

This magnificent storm captured my attention and imagination. Perhaps my images will convey part of its mighty story to you.

By the breath of God ice is given,

and the broad waters are frozen.  Job 37:10

What in the World are you Doing?

This is a legitimate question to one who is not familiar with this procedure. It seems so awful, and cruel towards the horse at first glance. Sometimes not everything is as it seems. In the horse world it is called “floating a horses’ teeth.” It can be a life saver for neglected horses because these painful, sharp tooth points interfere with eating and drinking.

At first glance this procedure looks so cruel.


Horses teeth do not stop growing over their life. The expression “long in the tooth”, comes from the horse world. An old horse is described as being ‘long in the tooth’ because their teeth grow longer as they age. Because of this growth, horses need regular dental care. This procedure is called ‘floating the teeth’. In simple terms it is like filing one’s fingernails. Floating grinds down the sharp, uneven surfaces of the teeth. Many times sharp, painful points are formed on the teeth. In the above photo, Dr. Rhode is feeling around Duke’s mouth to find the sharp points. These points are what need grinding down. They can cause pain in the mouth when eating, and could cause problems with digestion as well.

Tracy is an amazing assistant to Dr. Rhode. Duke was in very good hands with her.

Horses are sedated before the procedure is started. In the above photo Duke is obviously not feeling too much pain. A bright light is attached to the mouthpiece that holds his jaw open. In the below photo, it has been circled in a green marker.

The flashlight is that square in the middle of the green circle. It is very bright, as is seen in photo.

His heavy, sedated head is resting on a sling. A close look in the above photo shows Tracy’s gloved hand holding the pole steady. Tracy said Duke was very good because he did not shake his head from side to side, which makes for a very difficult job. I was very thankful.

The sling Duke’s head is resting on can be seen in this photo also. Dr. Rhode’s power drill is loud and big, but it has big teeth to grind down.

After the points had been ground down, tarter was removed from his canines. This was the last thing to do. Duke’s dental appointment was over. Good, good horse. Great vet and assistant.

Tarter is being removed from his canines.

I am not able to post the video for some reason. It can been seen on my Instagram account @primaryfarmoperator.

History Note: Before hand tools were available for this job, it had to be done by the vet with big heavy files by hand! 

  

#chickensmakeuschuckle

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’, so advises The Book of all books. This comes from the book of Proverbs 17:22, which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. It has been said that this book of Proverbs is our guide for person-to-person relationships.

This timely advise forms the foundation of why I created this hashtag #chickensmakeuschuckle. I like to laugh, and it is even greater fun when others join in! So, this is my mission, to spread lots of chuckles to all that love the good medicine of a joyful heart.

Chickens, it seems to me, are some of the most industrious, busy, noisy, funny, sweet and beautiful of all farm animals. They are never ‘off-duty’. How could they be? When one is literally everyones potential lunch? Even when in the coop at night, they all have something to say before finally getting quiet! They fill this farm with laughter every single day. There is not a chicken owner alive that I have met that does not have a funny chicken story and/or photograph.

#chickensmakeuschuckle is THE hashtag to spread the fun, joy and chuckles of life with chickens intertwined with we all-too-serious-humans. Since starting the hashtag last fall, we have nearly 500 delightful chicken photos shared. It was SO difficult picking out these ten. So to have a real fun time follow #chickensmakeuschuckle to be sure to get a daily dose of laughter. Remember, it is good medicine!

Top Row L-R: @poultry’nmotion; @whimsyofwillowsfarm; @lakefronthomestead

Bottom Row: @chickenchikita; @melton_homestead

Top row L-R: @honeycreek_farm; @farmgirllizzy; @my_backyard_paradise

Bottom two: @shortgirlfarm; @glaistighomestead

These accounts are on Instagram. I am very grateful for everyone that shares their chicken fun with us. Go check them out and follow them. They are full of lots of chicken chuckles. You too are welcome to join the fun and laughs. On your Instagram account tag me @primaryfarmoperator, or better yet ‘follow’ #chickensmakeuschuckle. The winning photo is posted every Monday morning. The best way to start the week is with a good laugh, so join the fun with #chickensmakeuschuckle.

Always a Winner- Chili

Happy New Year! Real winter has yet to start here in our part of Virginia, the Northern Shenandoah Valley. We have had snow and ice already, but typically we get blasted in January and February. Which makes this recipe a winner all the time.

It is easy to put together, and by the time your family storms through the door at the end of another busy day, they will be asking when will it be time to eat. Perhaps they are running in only to run back out, then you may catch them eating straight from the crock-pot!

In your frying pan:

Heat: 2T oil of your choice (olive, safflower, sunflower, avocado).

Add : 2 cups chopped onion, and 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

Add: 2 lbs ground beef (Our homegrown beef of course!). Brown beef with onion and garlic well, drain off fat (will not be much with our beef. :))

If the beef is still a bit frozen, place a piece of aluminum foil over pan to help cook meat faster. Set pan on edge of burner to help drain fat.

Rinse and drain:  4 1-pound cans of red kidney beans. Place in crock pot.

Add:  2 28-ounce can tomatoes, 1/2 cup beef stock (I use Better Than Beef bouillon)

The goodies that make it yummy: Remember: T=tablespoon,t=teaspoon

4 T chili powder

1.5 t salt

1.5 t paprika

1.5 t oregano

1.5 t ground cumin

1/2 t cayenne pepper (or a bit more if you are daring)

Add beef mixture, mix well. All ready! Cook on LOW 8-10 hours, or high 5 hours, or on automatic 6 hours.

This chili will take the most wonderful additions. Try any or all of the following:

Shredded cheese; sour cream, greek yogurt, jalapenos, tortilla chips or fritos. Let me know if there is something special you put on yours!

Kitchen Tips

I always season beef when browning. Use your favorite brand.

An excellent way to get iron in one’s diet is cooking with a cast iron skillet. Remember, they are heavy. I would recommend an 8″ skillet. The weight and size are great!

If you noticed in the photo of beans, there was a can of black beans. That is because I did not have enough kidney beans. They worked very well!

Do not be intimidated by recipes. By trying something different you may just discover something wonderful!

Homemade is always best

  

Because I cannot Paint It!

“Are you a photographer?”  Dreaded question.

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I tell folks I like to take photographs.  That is about as far as I dare myself to go.  To call myself a photographer is just too big.  To be a photographer one must know what one is doing, know their camera inside and out (not!), and  how to get just the right image.

It is a big title—a photographer.  Same as calling oneself a painter—oh my!  It is true some of my photos have won prizes, in small shows.  I do sell note cards with images I thought would look pretty on cards, and a couple photos hang in the homes of kind folks.

So the main reason I take photographs is because I cannot paint it!  This post is to share with you photos I have taken.    It will be a joy should they bring a smile to your face or recall a pleasant memory.  Please let me know the ones you like!  It is always fun seeing which ones ‘speak’ to folks.  They all tell a story of some sort, yes?  Share your thoughts with this amateur you-know-what.

Happy Friday to you! 

Cowboy Stew

Who would not enjoy a big, steamy bowl of this fun-sounding stew?

Most of the ingredients are canned. 



Ingredients:

1 lb hamburger

1  medium onion chopped (or 2 onions if you like lots of them!  They are great for fighting colds!)

4-6 medium potatoes

Can of:  green beans, corn, and beans  (your favorite type of bean, any type will work).

Large can of diced tomatoes (if all you have is tomatoe sauce, that is fine).

Slice onion, not too thin.
Chop potatoes in a good-size bite!
Brown onion and potatoes while browning hamburger.

It saves time, and makes for great taste to brown onion, potatoes, and hamburger together.  Should they get sticky in the bottom of your dutch oven, add a small amount of water to loosen the goodness.  Also, turn your burner temperature down.  We tend to cook too hot!  Do not know what a dutch oven is?  Check out blog:  https://bluerockhorses.com/2018/10/05/the-million-dollar-question/

You must know your tools and how to make them work for you!

After the meat is browned, add the tomatoes, corn, beans, and green beans.  Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper.  If more broth is needed, add 1-2 cups of tepid water.  For extra fullness in flavor, stir in a teaspoon of beef bouillon into the water.  Better Than Beef is the bouillon of choice for me.

Remember, this is a stew, not a soup.  Which means it should not have as much broth as a soup.

  

Mix everything gently. 

Please do not boil your stew! It only needs to simmer gently.  There will surely be left-overs, and the best part?  They will taste even better the second and third night (or in a lunchbox!).

  This recipe will serve 4-6 with leftovers, which we always strive for! It can easily be doubled as well.  Simply double everything.

Kitchen Tips

Keep your pantry in a good supply of canned green beans, corn, diced (or crushed) tomatoes.  There are usually 5-6 cans of each in my pantry. 

Onion and potatoes should also have a permanent place in your pantry.  Take them out of the plastic bags (this causes them to rot faster), put them in pretty baskets!  Should the potatoes start growing ‘eyes’, break them off and toss out in your flower bed.  This will extent their shelf life (if you do not, the ‘eyes’ will cause potatoes to shrivel up). 

Enjoy!  

Thoughts and ideas are always welcome!

Homemade is healthiest and best!

The Million Dollar Question

Every mother and wife has heard it forever, it seems.  So, what is this question?

“What’s for dinner?”

And it comes everyday!  Even for those of us that enjoy cooking, everyday is a lot.  I am here to help you with this daily chore.  Sans a complete autobiography, suffice to say I raised four rowdy boys, and one brave little girl on one income in a small 1,800 square foot home.   For a couple years, four of the five were teenagers all at once!

They are all now grown and some with children of their own. Feeding them was a mighty daily chore, most especially with one income.  I can say with certainty it can be done, and done well.

So, I have decided to post on my blog recipes that are real winners with moms, dads, and children.  But before recipes come, the right cooking tools need to be on hand.  And anyone who follows my blog knows I love tools! Here is a fun blog on  The Tool Purse

Required Kitchen Tools:

Crock Pot  I do not recommend one over the other, except this, be sure it has a Low, High and Keep Warm feature. Also, I suggest you choose a good size one, at least big enough to hold a whole chicken, or a nice size roast.

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There are lots of crock pots to choose from.  Be sure it is large enough for a whole chicken.

Dutch Oven  This is a round heavy metal cooking pot with a snug fitting lid.  Can be used in oven or stovetop.  This is your most valuable kitchen cooking tool.  In the photo are two different types of Dutch Ovens.  The green enameled over cast iron cooks remarkable meals in remarkable time!  I use this one in the oven.  The stainless steel one I use on the stovetop.

Good Heavy Slotted Spoons and Solid Spoons  Good spoons are necessary tools for your kitchen.  There are so many to choose from.  Try them out before purchasing to be sure they fit your hand well, are comfortable, and have a good long handle.

 

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Have a good supply of sturdy slotted and solid spoons in your kitchen tool box!  The colored ones are fun!

 

 Good Thick Hot Pads   And plenty of them.  Also hold them in your hand to be sure they fit well, are soft and bend well.  Some are so stiff they are a danger for  handling hot pots and lids.

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Be sure your hot pads are thick, soft and pliable.  Do not forget to make them fun too!

 

So, check your kitchen ‘tool box’, be sure you have good tools for working and preparing the delicious meals you will be making for your family with yummy left-overs.  For a very fast starting recipe try this:

 

Crock Pot Whole Chicken

This is one of the easiest recipes to put together.  Do it in the morning before going to work.  It will take less than 15 minutes.

Remove whole chicken from plastic, discard the giblets.  Rinse chicken inside and out.  Place whole chicken, breast side up in crock pot.  Season with salt, pepper, paprika, or your favorite seasoned salt.

For extra flavor add onion and cloves of garlic.  No need to peel them.  They cook sweeter in their skins and can easily be pressed out of skins at end of cooking time with your fork.  Also add a few potatoes with skins on.  Pour a cup of water over all of it.  Set crock pot to “Low”, and go about your day.

You will need your slotted spoons to remove chicken from crock pot.  It will fall apart upon removal.  Arrange on a plate with the cooked potatoes, onion and garlic.   Allow to cool while your favorite vegetable cooks in a little boiling water on the stove.  After cooling some, remove the skin from the chicken, discard, the chicken will fall off the bone.

For extra yumminess, mash your potatoes with a fork, get a little juice with your solid spoon from crock pot, pour over meat, onions and potatoes.  Enjoy!  Let me know how it turned out!

This will serve a family of 4 or 5 for two nights (providing they are all not teenagers!).

 

Homemade is not as hard as you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calming the Grass-Fed Steers?

The steers have gone to a cool place.  Any reader  familiar with this blog knows what that means.  It is the hardest day for this PFO.  There is little hope this day will ever get easy.  They have been processed and delivered to the buyers.  Buyers who have an interest in the quality of food they eat.  They know the farmer.  They know the farm.

 

“Are they grass-fed only?”  The most asked question heard from interested buyers.  “No, they are not.”

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Are they grass-fed only?

What many folks do not realize is that cattle have a natural fear of man.  Unlike dogs, cats, and other household pets, cattle have to be taught to feel comfortable around humans.  The way this works for us is with feed.  As I heard a cattleman say once, “Feed keeps the cattle humble.”

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Cattle have to learn to feel comfortable around humans.

What does that mean?  Here it means getting close to the cattle.  This is of utmost importance to this PFO.  They are visually checked daily for injuries, pests, and vital signs.  Is their breathing normal, eyes bright, coat healthy looking and coming on nicely for cold weather?  Do they have a good appetite?  Are they interested in their surroundings?

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Feed allows us to get close to them.

When they are trained to come to the feed call and beating of the feed bucket, they are willing to hang around we humans.  If these steers were totally grass fed, I suppose we would need re-training on how to properly care for them.  Until our steers are comfortable with us, they spend all their time in the woods and graze at the farthest points in the pasture.  They bolt away should we get too close.

 

After learning to come in when called for feeding time there is a peacefulness to the day here with all the animals.  They will hang around with the horses and chickens and feel far more at ease.  This is the goal for us.  Is there a more bucolic scene than cattle resting in grass chewing their cud?  Well, do not answer that.  Suppose we are cattle folks at heart!

Training does not take too long.  A couple weeks going out into the field to bring them in quickly gives way to them coming when they hear our voices calling.

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Our steers get plenty of fresh air and all the grass they can eat.

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It does not take them long to learn the sound of the feed bucket.

 

Our goal here at the farm with our hand-raised steers is to give them plenty of fresh air, a place to run, and all the green grass they can eat, along with a little feed to keep them near us for the best of the best care for them.  Right now, as I write this, the steers are out lying in the wet, wet grass peacefully chewing their cud…

 

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Feed allows us to give the steers the best of best care.

 

 

Know the farmer.   Know the farm.

Homemade is best.