Category Archives: Foodie Fun!

Q Fun…

Lest you all think that I am a complete bah humbug about the snow, I figured that I would share a few pictures from our family sledding expedition on Saturday afternoon. 

The snow was perfect for sledding and the afternoon weather was gorgeous!

The snow was perfect for sledding and the afternoon weather was gorgeous!

My 8 year old dare-devil...

My 8 year old dare-devil…

My 41 year old little boy...

My 41 year old little boy…

My ornery 10 year old cowgirl/chef/trouble maker...

My ornery 10 year old cowgirl/chef/trouble maker…Yes, she did drop it on her sister’s head!

My favorite teenager who kept loosing her sled on the way down the hill...

My favorite teenager who kept loosing her sled on the way down the hill…

And yes, even the girl who traded her flip flops for cowboy boots enjoyed the hill!

And yes, even the girl who traded her flip flops for cowboy boots enjoyed the ride!

Even Shellie, the family mutt, enjoyed the outing :)

Even Shellie, the family mutt, was thrilled with the snow :)

The girls keep Matt and I smiling, and I cherish all of the memories that we make together!

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Anne Dive Bombs A Cow: Part 2…

By: Bill Wiebking

The ride was a birthday gift to me. Prior to asking Anne, I remember asking about 13-14 other friends if they wanted to go. There were a lot of concerns, but the two biggest included the following. First, many thought I was going to be the pilot. Second, they were terrified of flying without an engine.
What made this flight even more unappealing was the associated ‘stunt’ package, where the pilot would perform loops and other aerobatics.

Anne, who shares a birthday very close to mine, actually thought it was a splendid idea. And with that, we were airborne.

Anne’s acceptance speaks very highly of her daring and adventurous character, which she has in spades. I know this because I’m a rather large person, and the pilot crammed me in the back of the sailplane for weight and balance reasons. (I actually wanted more window being the aviation buff.)  Anne doesn’t know this, but at least one point in the flight I thought I was going to hurl, and the back of her head was the likely discharge point. So like I say, she is very adventurous.

Our sailplane was pulled aloft by another plane. It was a red bi-wing. We probably flew for a good 30-40 minutes sightseeing before the sailplane pilot released the tow cable. The sailplane banked and dove to the left while the bi-plane dove to the right. The sailplane, I believe, immediately did its first loop.

In geography that only matters to Anne, the sailplane slowly made its way to the intersection of Jog Road and Hypoluxo Road in Palm Beach County Florida. At the time, we were flying over serious cattle country. Now, it is a massive housing development.

Our pilot proceeded to execute more stunts. It was very exhilarating, but as the hour was almost up the pilot decided to put the plane in a downward spin to lose altitude. We were over a grazing field with a herd of cattle when he nosed down. For fun, the pilot selected a cow out of the herd and dove on it.

So here is the picture from my perspective. The entire planet is spinning wildly with the exception of that one cow, the windscreen, the back of the pilot’s head and the back of Anne’s head. With the exception of those four things, everything else was a huge blur.

In my mind’s eye, I swear that cow was looking up at us, too. I also thought that I heard it say “Moo?” in quiet confusion, which is impossible being in a sailplane at around 2,000 to 1,500 feet. But, that is the memory.

That memory also includes Anne. She was very excited about the spin and the cow. Before it occurred, she was also in some sort of discussion with the pilot. To this day, I think she hijacked my flight. While it was hard for me to hear, I also think she was giggling or at least very amused in the spin toward the cow, which in a very literary sense would be a huge foreboding to her future with Matt, Nebraska and all her favorite Cornhuskers.

So thanks, Anne, for saying ‘Yes’ to the flight. Your heart in both adventure and compassion relieved my growing desperation. It also created a stronger bond of friendship between us, to which I’ve always been grateful. The flight also seems to have pointed toward your future, which makes that memory all the more wonderful as I continue to enjoy Feedyard Foodie.

Little did we both know at the time that I would spend my adult life caring for cattle!

Many thanks to Bill for bringing back good memories…For those of you that are wondering—we did not land the plane on top of any bovines.  We landed safely back at the airport. My favorite memory of the ride was making Bill nervous as we looped and drove through the sky (The pilot and I did do a little bit of plotting… ) I tease my girls that they are ornery—I wonder where they got that from??

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The Aquatic Predator…Feed Yard Foodie Dive Bombs A Cow–Part 1

Here are Bill and I with our Coach shortly after we both completed an ocean mile race…

Bill Wiebking is one of Feed Yard Foodie’s most loyal readers.  Bill is the current Communications Director for Hargrave Military Academy and a long-time friend of mine. My junior and senior year in high school, Bill and I trained 4-5 hours a day together in a shared effort to compete and place at the national level in swimming. The practical jokes, teasing, and laughter that dominated our relationship enabled us to get through the intense training which brought both of us to a new level of athletic accomplishments.

Interestingly enough, when I left Bill and our beloved coach (Allan Andersen) to compete on the collegiate level, I was never able to replicate either the relationships or the swimming success that I saw when training with these two wonderful guys.  Both Bill and Allan played a pivotal role in shaping the person that I am today.  They taught me that hard work led to success, and that a few practical jokes and laughing moments made that hard work a joy to experience.  I take those lessons with me each day at the feed yard, where my crew and I can often be seen laughing and teasing each other while we push ourselves to tenaciously pursue our goal of outstanding animal care.

The following is a story that Bill wrote about an experience that we had together.  It has an interesting tie to the life that I have chosen in Nebraska! Bill is possibly even more verbose than I am so I have divided the story into two parts.  Part 1 is listed below and Part 2 will come up on Thursday.  Enjoy!

“Anne Dive Bombs a Cow”

By: Bill Wiebking

Many years prior to Nebraska, before Will Feed, Inc. and a few years prior to meeting Matt, Anne was a scrawny little girl who could be seen driving her Daddy’s big blue Suburban to and from swimming practice. She swam on a team where at least two members, the coach and myself, often held our faces skyward toward Palm Beach International (PBI) airport and its main runway, which was literally less than a half mile from our pool.

While I think we all shared a love for being outside in the hot sun and cool water, I don’t think she cared much for aviation. On rare occasions the Coach would stop or ignore practice so we could watch an unusual aircraft take-off, such as a giant U.S. Air Force C-5a Galaxy departure on PBI’s massive main runway. Or, watch the goings on when then President George H.W. Bush, Sr. flew into town on Air Force One visiting his mom.

Anne and several other female athletes on the team, (and there were many), would roll their eyes at our wierdness. I have one memory of Anne and a few others standing at the pool wall completely dejected since ‘we’ were holding up practice for something as meaningless as a plane taking off. And when I mean dejected, they were standing like women spurned. The water was steaming.

Anne, at the time, must have been a high school junior and was very focused on school and swimming. She was very hardcore in both academics and her athletics. She was also a stunningly tough competitor and, despite a large age and speed difference between us, an awesome training partner.

Anne was more than a little quirky, however. Often this crazy clinical scientist personality would kidnap the Anne we trained with every day. That side of her was awkward and often didn’t get a simple joke. While we were used to it and completely accepted her, it was strange that this top-flight academic would give us a blank stare. It was precisely that reason that she was far more one of us than not. It humanized this otherwise terrifying aquatic predator.

(She has since told me that she is not that person anymore, but to me that primal stuff never leaves the ID. And her girls compete successfully both on land and on water like their Mama, so guess what? It is still there, but it is regulated to a set of narrow eyes looking out from the dark places in a jungle.)

And so with that, it seemed strange to me that Anne accepted my offer to go flying. This was not a normal flight. We weren’t going cross country. The flight would take-off and land at a local airport, which was some distance from PBI.

The flight was for a ride in sailplane, a completely motor less and utterly quiet aircraft designed to ride thermals or heat rising off the land. Florida has plenty of heat, so it is a great place to fly a sailplane…

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Spring in Nebraska…

In the almost 15 years that I have lived in Nebraska, spring has never ceased to amaze me.  I am pretty sure that I have spent every March feeling as though I was doing my best Mary Poppins impersonation!  My guys at the feed yard tease me that I need to put weights in my shoes so that I do not blow away… The wind in March is constant (constantly blowing 30+mph)–just as constant as the geese migration. The link below has an amazing video that Matt took just a couple of miles from the feed yard…

http://www.youtu.be/4ondGfXdhtg

Every spring I am reminded of the natural cycle of life as plants come out of winter dormancy and new life is prolific.

The brave crocuses in our front yard are in full bloom...(At least until the next snow storm!)

Wheat is one of the first things to "green" up. This field of Matt's is trying hard to turn green!

The highlight of spring is the baby calves that make their way into the world…

This little guy is just a few days old.

Mama takes him with her as she trails over to where supplemental hay is being delivered...

He is trying to figure out what to do while Mama eats her dinner...

And perhaps figure out where his "dinner" comes from too!

I am left in awe as I take in the beauty of new life.  I am also thankful to be a part of the process.  I am, after all, not just the humble inhabitant (https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/the-humble-inhabitant/), but am also an active participant.  Thanks to teamwork, this little guy of Tom and Pam Laird’s will one day come to my feed yard and make great tasting and healthy beef for me to feed to my family and to yours…

A year ago, this big guy was born at Tom and Pam's pasture and he is now at my feed yard...

The March winds bring the promise of spring and the next life cycle.  What a beautiful progression to be a part of!

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Life in a “Fly Over” State…

I was born and raised in a “destination” state…

I live and will grow old in a “fly over” state…

For those of you that are Country Western music fans, Jason Aldean has a new song out.  It is entitled “Fly Over States”.  My girls and I heard it on the radio last weekend, and I loved it.  It talks about the Great Plains region of the United States—at first from the perspective of someone flying over at 30,000 feet from New York to LA, and then later from someone who actually lives in a fly over state.

From the city to the farm…

My middle daughter indignantly pointed out that Nebraska did not make the song (apparently, even as fly over states go, Nebraska does not rank high enough in popularity to be mentioned).  My oldest daughter (a dedicated college football fan) just plain sputtered as the song ended having talked about Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas (home to our biggest rivals during the years of the Big Twelve) but no mention was made of Nebraska.  As my oldest continued to dramatically expound on the unfairness of being forgotten, her littlest sister, stated “Its ok, Ashley, WE know how important we are!”

The perspective of a “farm kid”…Tractors and barn cats!

I simply stood there, laughed, and marveled at the pride that my children have in their home state.  They, quite honestly, cannot fathom that anyone would think that their beloved state was simply:

Just a bunch of square cornfields and wheat farms,
Man it all looks the same,
Miles and miles of back roads and highways,
Connecting little towns with funny names,
Who’d want to live down there in the middle of nowhere…

To them the middle of nowhere is home—and the town of Cozad most certainly does not have a funny name!

Home to about 4000 people, and proudly marked on a local grain elevator…

The gravel roads that we drive on…

Our house is down this road and behind the trees…

The fields tended by their daddy and his crew…

The rural version of a “Jaguar”…

The cattle that they learned to care for long before they had ever ridden in an elevator…

A view that greets us every morning…

The small town where they go to school…

Learning life lessons on teamwork and community pride from teacher and coach mentors…

The sunrises and sunsets that will literally take your breath away…

God’s paintbrush…

The view out their bedroom windows of sky and fields, and the vast expansiveness of the Platte River Valley…

Our valley, aglow with life under the summer sun…

Home is a place where cattle out number people 4 to 1, and 93% of the state’s land (45.6 million acres) is utilized by farms and ranches.  Home is a place where natural resources and Mother Nature determine the realities of life.  Home is a place where heart and soul and pride are all rolled up into one expression:

The Cornhuskers

We all define “home” in different ways, just as we all search for something unique as we journey through life.

I remember telling friends at Dartmouth that Matt and I were moving “home” to Nebraska after graduation.  Amidst a sea of surprised faces came the comment, “Nebraska, that’s right next to Kentucky isn’t it?”.  My favorite wedding gift was a map of the United States where my friends marked the routes “out of Nebraska” and back to their homes on either coast…

I am captivated by ranch windmills…They are so simple, yet so beautiful and functional…

My life is no longer full of traffic and beaches and shopping malls and movie theaters.  I traded those for tractors, cattle, corn, alfalfa, horses and prairies. Although Nebraska has never been termed a destination state, it is my final destination.

**Your homework this weekend is to look at the map of the United States and find Nebraska!  It should be easy to note that it is NOT right next to Kentucky..

 

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The Gift of Food…

There are days when I worry about making my payroll and keeping my farming business financially sustainable.  There are days when I worry about how Matt and I will pay for all three of our daughters to go to the college of their choice, loan free (which both Matt and I were blessed to be able to do).

There have never been days (in all of my almost 37 years) where I have worried about how I would get food to feed myself and my family.

She is blessed to have never known what it is like to be without food...

Matt’s and my farm is a modern farm, and like many farmers in the United States, the fruits of our labor will feed not only our family but also thousands of other people all around the world.  In a normal twelve month cycle, I ship between 5000 and 5500 animals to harvest.  It takes only one of those animals to feed my family for a year.  The other 4999 animals feed people who spend their lives doing something other than farming and growing food.  Without me, you do not eat.  Without you, I am not blessed with many of the other perks and necessities that fill my life.

He will feed my family for a full year...

It is a system of teamwork; one that enables each American to use their individual talents to bring to fruition the American Dream.

I had never seen subsistence farming until I traveled to Kenya.  Webster defines subsistence as the minimum (as of food and shelter) necessary to support life.  While not all farming in Kenya is subsistence farming, this is the way of life for many Kenyans.

Small plot of farmed land...

Small plots of land tilled, planted, weeded, and harvested by hand marked the countryside.

A woman harvesting by hand...

Small groups of livestock, either herded by a family member or tethered by a rope on the side of the road to graze, were common.

A cow, tethered (on a rope leash) along the side of the road, to graze for the day...

A group of livestock, out to graze for the day, herded by a couple of young men...

Any additional bounty was hauled (predominantly by hand) to local markets to be sold.

Produce, bagged and waiting on the side of the road, to be transported manually to the market...

Some is transported by walking, some by bike, and some by livestock cart...

A roadside market...

The unemployment rate in Kenya is higher than 40% and there is not government assistance to those who do not have a job.  Consequently, large family groups work as a team to create the necessary resources for subsistence.  There are many that, unlike me, worry about what they will eat for the next meal.

Any of you who have a vegetable garden know how much work goes into growing food.  The last couple of years, I have been on a mission to teach my children how to grow their own garden.  My single largest challenge has been motivating them to do the “grunt” work of weeding.  They just plain do not want to work that hard because they know that they can always go inside to the refrigerator and effortlessly find food to eat.  My children have never been hungry.

Imagine growing all of your food by hand (no tiller, no planter, no mechanized way to weed, no sprinklers to water with, no mechanized way to harvest, no car to use to transport the excess to market or to a friend or family member that you share with).  Imagine spending your morning milking a cow or goat, then walking a mile to the stream to gather water, then spending your afternoon planting/weeding/harvesting your garden.  Hunger is a powerful motivator.

A fence made out of thorny bushes which encloses a Samburu village. Livestock are brought inside of the fence at night to protect them from predators. At night, the cattle are free roaming around the village, the goats are placed in small pens within the village perimeter...In the morning, the men take the livestock out to graze after the women have milked them. The women then walk to gather water for the day...This group of semi-nomadic people eat only meat, milk, and chocolate milk (milk mixed with cow blood). They do not raise crops.

Kenya (like the United States) is seeing a large influx of population shift from the rural areas to the city.  Young people are looking for a different life than the one described above.  The challenge then becomes creating a farming system to feed 40 million people when much of the farming is still done by hand.  As we drove across the central part of the country, I saw some large “European style” crop farms that looked quite a bit like my husband’s farm.

Acres tilled, planted, maintained, and harvested by machinery (like we do on our farm)...

I also saw some huge greenhouses dotted along the countryside (cut flowers exported to Europe is one of the largest industries in the country).

Tucked behind the trees, these modern greenhouses are used to grow flowers for export...

But, intermixed between these, were many more subsistence farms.

These goats provide both meat and milk to a family...

There is a big debate going on in our country right now about what type of farming is best.  Is it modern farming?  Is it local farms and markets?  Is it organic farming?  Is it some combination? While this issue is very complex, my trip to Kenya reinforced in my mind that hunger is still an issue.  With a growing world population and a limited number of natural resources, as a farmer, I must continue to strive to do a better job just plain feeding people.

Instead of getting caught up in philosophical issues about what type of food is best, I need to be eternally thankful that I have never wondered what I would feed my children for dinner. 

There are many people both in this country and around the world who do not have that luxury.  As a farmer, I can work to make that better…

It will be very interesting to watch my girls this summer with our vegetable garden to see if the trip to Kenya taught them anything about appreciating and growing food…

 

 

 

 

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words…

Kenya Memories…

Our welcoming committee: wart hogs, white rhinos, zebras, impallas, and gazelles...

The King...

The next generation of "Kings"...

The "Kings" and their kill (a Cape Buffalo)...The males eat first, then the females, and lastly the young...

A female leopard...Pure natural beauty...

Her son: going up the tree to eat his "kill" (a Thompson Gazelle)...

The Infamous Cheetah: Lording over our jeep...

A Masai Giraffe...The great ambler!

A Besa Oryx...A type of antelope.

A Gerenuk: The "Giraffe Gazelle"...

Hyenas...

Common Zebras...The stripes are all unique and help for safety from predators and temperature control.

Elephant ears are like fingerprints: Each one is unique...

A Black Rhino: he runs about 42 miles per hour and can make sharp 180 degree turns...

Cape Buffalo...He reminds me of a Brahma bull!

Sunset on the Mara...

A Young Samburu Warrior...

A pair of sad eyes and a pair of "shell shocked" ones...

A Samburu Elder with his child...

Our Maasai guide and guard when we went on a "Nature Walk"...

The Matriarch, The Patriarch, and their grandchildren...

A proud lion shakes the Savanna

with a roar;

A beautiful leopard is about to

score;

A tasty, young, male gazelle;

As beyond the trees the sunlight

fell.

Ashley Grace Burkholder

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The Complexities of Nature…

I have fond memories of riding on the top of my Dad’s hunting rig keeping a watch out for his bird dogs as they looked for quail.  I was always content to just be outside looking for animals and enjoying the landscape.  It was peaceful, quiet, and soothing to my soul—a sharp contrast to the city where we spent most of our time.

My brother and I next to the hunting rig with one of my dad's dogs and the quail she found...

It has been decades since I did that with any frequency… By the time that I was in Junior High School, swimming workouts and competitions dominated my life and kept me from weekends out at the hunting camp; but those early years with my family hunting on cattle ranches in South Florida gave me a glimpse of what I wanted my life to be like.  The quiet solitude that I found in the rural Lake Okeechobee area opened my eyes to the complexities of nature and gently steered me to the life that I live today.

My children take for granted the quiet solitude of rural life, and have learned early to respect the awesomeness of nature.  They watch the challenges that their daddy and I face everyday farming and caring for livestock amidst the irreconcilable force of Mother Nature.  Our life revolves around animals which both fascinates and frustrates them (depending on the day!).

The landscape of "The Mara" in Kenya---really not that different than the grasslands in Nebraska...

When Matt’s parents suggested a family trip abroad, the idea of a safari appealed to us because of our fascination with animals. However, it was not until I stood up for the first time in the safari jeep that I felt the sense of déjà vu taking me back to my childhood memories of riding on the top of the hunting rig.  I remembered trying so hard to spot animals and keep track of the dogs…I remembered the rush of pleasure when my dad would tell me what a great “look out” I was…I remembered the quiet beauty of the grass lands and the marshy swamps…

Megan, on the "look out" for animals...

As we spent our days riding around in the jeeps on safari, I smiled watching my middle daughter, Megan, look for animals with the same tenacity and fascination that I had as a child.  Her expression of awe and pleasure as she took in both the animals and the landscape warmed my heart and reminded me so much of both myself and my dad.  As the saying goes, the apple does not fall very far from the tree.

They come from different worlds...

My oldest daughter, Ashley Grace, brought home memories full of facts on the animals and the culture of Kenya.  She is a twelve year old walking encyclopedia with a keen ability to remember facts and details, and soaked it all up like a sponge.  I am fully expecting for her to periodically surprise us with random facts from Kenya for many years to come!  I am also trying to get her to write some poetry about the trip, and hope that she will accommodate us and put some up on Ashley Grace’s Corner soon.

It looks quite a bit different than our house...No electricity, no running water, a dirt floor, and it houses eight people in a room smaller than my kitchen...

My youngest daughter, Karyn (age 7), had perhaps the biggest epiphanies on the trip.  The afternoon after we visited a tribal “homestead”, she looked at me and said: “Mama, I learned something today.  Not everyone here has everything that they need.”  As a parent, I cannot think of a better lesson.

She got a little bit braver after the initial shock wore off and she was no longer sitting in the seat directly below the cheetah...

About two days after this, a cheetah jumped up on the roll bar on the jeep that she and Megan were riding in.  Karyn and Megan were riding in the back seat (right below where the cheetah jumped up), and Karyn amazed everyone with her ability to move with ROCKET SPEED to the front of the jeep!  Megan had just remarked early that morning that she really wanted to see a cheetah—After the cheetah jumped on their jeep, Karyn told Megan that getting THAT close to a cheetah “really was not necessary”.

Up close and personal...

Although Karyn remembered with clarity, sometimes it was challenging for the rest of us to recollect that the animals were wild and untamed.  The guide told us that the first thing that the animals learn when they are young is who their mom is.  The second thing is what a jeep looks like.  They view the jeep as a “cage”, and as long as we stayed inside the jeep it was just a natural part of their environment.

Am I going to make it?

The same cheetah that jumped up on Karyn and Megan’s jeep also jumped up onto the jeep that Matt and Ashley Grace and I were riding in.  As awesome as it was to see it that close up, it was incredibly disconcerting every time that the big cat looked down into the jeep at us.  I have to admit that it even made me a little bit nervous.  Interestingly, as you can see from this picture, Ashley Grace (my cat lover) was without fear and completely enamored by it.

Aglow with wonder...with an unrestrained wild cheetah close enough to reach out and touch...

Although all three of my daughters created their own independent experiences and memories in Kenya, they all brought home a new perspective.  They gained a new appreciation for both nature and for the blessings of living in a country where food, opportunity, and modern technology are aplenty.

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