Little Kicks

During December with the Christmas season and coming new year I usually find myself doing some reflecting. No matter what the past year brought there is always much to be thankful for in the moment and to plan and work toward in the future. 

To get right to the point, this December I’m doing some extra special planning as I give thanks. That planning has less to do with me and more to do with the small kicks I’m starting to feel more and more in my belly. JR and I are excited, nervous, and feeling a lot of amazement that we are going to be parents in the spring!

People often think of baby animals and new life on a farm in spring, and it seems nicely fitting to me that we will welcome our first baby just as the trees and fields come back to life after Minnesota winter. And yes, it will stay ‘baby’ until then because we decided to wait and be surprised on whether it’s a boy or girl. (Of course I am beyond curious to know, but I just feel it’s right for us to wait for the surprise.) 

My due date is April 8th, which makes me just over 24 weeks. I will be 25 weeks exactly on December 25th. I’ve been quiet about my pregnancy here and on social media until now mainly because I wanted to keep the news special and share it with family and friends before they found out on the internet. We did an announcement in our Christmas cards this year, and now also feels like the right time to share with all of you who read the blog. 

I know a lot of you are parents yourselves, so I’m looking forward to some good first-time-mom advice please! I have started researching infant gear and organizing a few things for baby’s room, but I still feel a little behind the curve. 

Once Christmas is over I hope to start more seriously cleaning,  organizing, and making some choices about what we’ll need. But I also don’t intend to let decorating and all the stuff drive me crazy. :-) Loving and caring for our child and each other is the most important, and I hope to keep a clear focus on that whenever things get overwhelming. 

In case you are curious, I have been taking a few pictures along the way. Here’s a look at the bump.

 

And this is from our Christmas pictures in the yard two weeks ago.  
Aside from being generally exhausted and a lot of foods tasting off during first trimester I have had a pretty smooth pregnancy. I’m thankful I’ve been able to keep working mostly as normal, even if it is getting harder to bend over for things like feeding new calves. For some jobs I do need to go slower or modify, and if I really need help I ask someone. 

We have had a lot of new calves this month so I’ve found myself assisting in more deliveries than normal. My belly doesn’t get in the way too much yet, and I definitely feel a stronger connection to the mother cows as they labor than I used to. I guess pregnant creatures of all kinds feel a kinship with each other. 

My doctor has assured me so far it’s good for me to have an active pregnancy, so in addition to farming I’m still running, doing yoga, and trying to keep my body in shape for baby. I’ve certainly decreased my pace and mileage as needed, and I do take more days off from structured exercise if I’m busy/active at work. Still, I feel better when I’m running at least a few days per week, and I’ll keep it up as long as it feels ok. 

The nice December has meant I’m still running outside when I can, but if it’s icy or too cold and dark I will be safe on my treadmill. Yoga does help with the new aches and pains I seem to be developing, and when I get to class my teacher is great about helping me modify as necessary. Now that baby has started to move more it’s easier to feel connected, and I do spend time just sitting in wonder at the life growing right inside me. The moments and the whole journey truly are an amazing blessing.

That’s my big update for now, and I know I’ll keep sharing about baby in addition to regular blog content. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for me about pregnancy, getting ready for baby, or advice you appreciated yourself I will welcome your comments! 

Posted in Family Fun, This and That | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Much Anticipated Twins

Yesterday morning we had a new set of twins born on the farm. December can often be a cold beast, but lately the temperatures are hovering right around 32 degrees which makes for nice winter calving weather.

I’ve been waiting for these twins for quite awhile. Their mother is none other than Pepé, who you might remember me writing about before. If not, here’s an update from early this year.

 She’s one of my favorites, and ever since the vet told us she was pregnant with twins I’ve alternated between worry and anticipation. 

It’s always harder on a cow to have twins and more complications can come up. Plus, the odds aren’t very good for getting a ‘normal’ heifer calf. 

I say ‘normal’ because for cattle it’s usually the case that a heifer calf born twin to a bull calf will not develop a functional reproductive system. That heifer won’t be able to become pregnant and have her own calves, so she gets raised for meat instead of milk. While meat is important too it won’t carry on the family line.

The simple math is only 25% chance for getting both girls, but I was still hopeful. Every time I checked on Pepé over the last few weeks I had a small feeling she would have two heifers. Twins often come early, and with a due date of December 16th I was getting impatient over the weekend. First thing Monday morning I went to check Pepé, and I was smiling at what I saw. Two lively calves – which in itself is a victory! I carefully lifted the back leg of each, and sure enough she had given birth to two heifers. 

  
   
They are more than good size for twins, and they both already eat well. They are moved into hutches side by side with numbers 4934 and 4935. These two will need names, but right now I haven’t settled on anything. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Pepé herself is doing about as expected. She’s worn down from the process of carrying and delivering twins, but she is mostly eating, ruminating, resting, and giving milk like she should. We’ll watch her closely over the next few weeks for problems, and she will get additional calcium, vitamins, and natural pills to help with digestive health. Hopefully she won’t need more than that, but if so we will treat any complications as needed.

Thanks for reading along today. I’m definitely excited about these calves, and I’ll be sure to update you as they grow! 

Posted in Baby Calf Care, Cows | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Recipes for a Dairy Christmas – Rice Pudding and More 

December is in full swing, and that might mean you’re encountering Christmas music and holiday decorations at every turn. While the holiday rush can be overwhelming and overdone, I admit I still really love this time of year.


I think about connecting with others through cards and photos, preparing for the children’s program at church, and sharing visits, time, and gifts with family, friends, and those in need. People’s hearts are big around the holidays, and I love the unexpected kindness  I often see.


The other thing many of us associate with the holidays is food! A special recipe or cookie can hold a lot of memories, and I know the taste and smell of certain delicacies are closely linked to Christmas memories for me. This year a group of dairy bloggers from around the country are all sharing dairy recipes today, and I’m happy to add one of mine to the mix.

I’ll admit it was a challenge to decide which one. I thought about numerous cookies and candies that contain rich butter, cream cheese, or milk, but I couldn’t make a decision.

I also considered a recipe for cheesy hash brown potatoes that my family would often eat on Christmas Eve. When I was growing up we always had ribs for supper on the 24th, and rich, cheesy potatoes went well with the smoky meat. Christmas Day was a more traditional meal of roasted pork or turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, and the trimmings, but Christmas Eve was my favorite.

 

Mom and me – about Christmases ago!

For my #DairyChristmas recipe I finally decided on something simple and comforting that’s become a tradition for my husband and I. Rice Pudding.

When JR and I met it didn’t take me long to figure out his sweet tooth wasn’t as big as mine. He will eat a few favorite desserts, but (fortunately) he doesn’t ‘run on sugar’ like I sometimes seem too. Rice pudding was always something he liked, and I honestly didn’t eat it very much growing up. I tried a few different recipes to figure out what we preferred, and this version has become a favorite for us.

It’s good any time of year, but I think it’s especially nice for winter and Christmas. I’m often known to double the recipe. While I tend to stick with raisins you could use other dried fruits — such as cranberries, figs, or dates — to give it a festive twist.

Creamy Rice Pudding

1 1/2 cups white rice, uncooked

4 cups milk

2/3 cup white sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup raisins

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter
Cook rice in a large saucepan according to package directions. (You can also use leftover cooked rice to speed things up.)  In a large pot combine the cooked rice, sugar, and salt with 3 cups milk. Cook and stir over medium heat 10-18 minutes until thick.

Stir in the beaten eggs, additional 1 cup milk, and raisins. Cook and stir another 4-5 minutes. Stir in vanilla, butter, and cinnamon and serve warm. The leftovers are good hot or cold, and I’ve definitely been known to eat them for breakfast.


Whenever you feel ready to start holiday baking be sure to check out these other great dairy bloggers and their featured recipes. You will discover some great blogs if you do!

So She Married a Farmer – Italian Soup

New Moon Dairy – Love and Latkes

Kimmi’s Dairyland – Cherry Mint Sugar Cookies

Little House on the Dairy – Winter Iowa Corn Chowder

Farmer Bright – Eggnog Ice Cream

Messy Kennedy – Peanut Butter Balls

Dairy Good Life – Festive Parmesan Frico

Guernsey Dairy Mama – Christmas Tapioca Pudding

My Barnyard View – Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts

Spotted Cow Review – Dairy Delight

Eat, Farm, Love – French Onion Soup

The Deere Milkmaid – Family at the Table

Knolltop Farm Wife – Christmas Dairy Traditions

Dairy Carrie – Cheddar Olive Bites

Truth or Dairy – The Best Christmas Cookies in the World

Farm Barbie – #DairyChristmas

 

Posted in Cooking and Foods, This and That | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

We Are Blanketed in White 

Happy December to all!

In typical fashion I continue to chronicle the weather here at Cow Spots and Tales. We woke up to green on November 30th, but by nighttime the ground was completely white. On December 1st it truly was looking like winter. Our first big snow of the season wasn’t too harsh, and I think it measured about four inches. The last few days have been beautiful with temperatures in the mid-30’s, so I don’t know how long this snow will stick around.

Calvin thinks the farm is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

  
Blowing snow and icy roads always worry me a little, especially at night, but I still think fresh snow looks beautiful under a sunny sky.  

I hope December is bringing good things your way in 2015.

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Calvin, This and That | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Thanksgiving Fare

Happy Thanksgiving all!

I expect you are busy preparing to make and/or eat some delicious things in the upcoming days. I also sincerely hope the busyness of preparations, travel, cooking, or guests aren’t stopping you from reflecting on the positive and what you are thankful for this season.

I know our culture has a way of inflating expectations and making us question if we are good enough, if we’re doing enough, and if our contribution is worthy. Let me assure you that you are enough. Whether your turkey is burned or golden perfection and your whipped cream is fluffy or runny – your celebration is special. 

While JR and I will gather with our families to celebrate, I’m not in charge of bringing anything specific to the feast. Maybe I’ll bring something small anyway, but there is always more than plenty to go around. Instead my main food venture is preparing things for the barn. I don’t mean for the cows though — they will eat their normal diet without any extra cranberries or gravy on top. 

  
I always plan to put out something tasty for our workers on holidays because most are here for the day,  and we don’t close down the farm. We appreciate our team of people, and the cows do too! For Halloween it was just candy, but in my mind Thanksgiving and Christmas especially require something more. I’ll be working at least part of the day too, and I appreciate being able to grab a snack as I go about my chores. 

So far the spread will include scotcheroos, carrot cake muffins with cream cheese frosting, and lots of sliced cheese, meat and crackers. We had JR’s deer from this fall turned into a variety of delicacies, so the meat will be sliced venison summer sausage.

  

I also want to make something with pumpkin, so we’ll see how ambitious I am tonight. 
The Scotcheroos in question are actually a misnomer because I don’t use butterscotch chips at all. It’s the easiest recipe ever, so I’ll share it briefly even though you probably have your own version. 

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1 cup peanut butter

6-7 cups cereal (Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies or Special K)

1 package chocolate chips

Heat and stir the sugar and syrup together until they just come to a boil. Remove from heat immediately after and stir in peanut butter until melted. In a larger bowl combine this mixture together with the cereal. Press into a 9 x 13 pan. Melt the chocolate chips and spread over the top of the bars. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate if desired.

  
A few notes: I like semi-sweet chips, but JR prefers milk chocolate. Sometimes I add peanut butter to the chocolate, and you can also use half chocolate and half butterscotch chips. Feel free to decorate the top with festive sprinkles, chopped nuts, or candies if you wish.

In the midst of our celebrations and planning I continue to think about those across the world suffering right now. Sometimes it’s evident such as refugees fleeing war or persecution, and sometimes it’s people in your town or city you didn’t even realize needed help. Whether you give time, money, or prayers, I hope we can all make the effort to reach out as well as give thanks. I know it’s hard to be certain your efforts will actually bring support to what you intend, but I do think each gesture and prayer can combine to work toward good. Wishing you lots of happiness this Thanksgiving. 

What easy recipe can I make last-minute with pumpkin? 

Do you have any charities or programs you especially recommend supporting? 

Posted in Cooking and Foods, Family Fun | Tagged , , | 2 Comments