Monday, April 30, 2012

Chicken and Asparagus Pasta

 We were given some asparagus a few weeks ago.  Asparagus is a favorite around here and normally we boil it or grill it - grilling is my favorite!  It is so easy!  But, since we had about 6 bunches of asparagus I had to come up with a new way to eat it. 

I like asparagus as a side dish, but decided to try it in a pasta dish.  Here is what I did:

You need:
- 2 cups penne pasta
- 1 bunch asparagus cut
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup milk
- garlic
- Parmesan cheese

1. Boil water, add pasta and cook for about 6 minutes.  Add asparagus then cook until asparagus is done. 
2. Meanwhile - cut the chicken up into cubes and cook with the garlic. Set aside when done
3.  Make white sauce - add butter to pan and let it melt (over medium heat). Stir in flour and let boil, add milk and stir until thickened.  Add some minced garlic (to taste). 
4. By this time everything should be cooked - mix it all together and you are done!  

I really liked this but Michael doesn't like the asparagus in with the pasta.  I made double what we would eat so I could freeze some for lunch.  I portioned the leftovers into containers and froze them.  They reheat well but the asparagus doesn't look as good when reheated - it still tastes just fine but it looks a little deflated. 

If I make this again - I would marinate the chicken before hand and add some more garlic to the sauce.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

6 Years ...

Today is April 29th ... on this day 6 years ago my grandpa lost his battle to cancer.

He had a long battle (4 years) but we only know about it for 4 months.  In 4 months he went from a healthy, strong man to bed ridden and unable to speak.  Cancer literally sucks - it sucks the life right out of people.  

He was my hero - the greatest man I had ever know.  He was a teacher and a principal and was very good at what he did.  As a kid, I was very lucky to go to a school in the district he had retired from (he retired when I was born). Many of my teachers were hired by him and they were all amazing teachers.  When he died I was in college - to become a teacher.  The semester after he died I walked into the first day of class (late - because the class time changed and I didn't find out until that morning) and my teacher was annoyed that I was late.  She told me that class starts at 8:00 and I need to be there then.  She told me to sign in and make myself a name tag for my table.  I apologized then did what she said.  I put up my name tag then started getting caught up by my classmates (I was in a cohort so I knew everyone in the class).  Out of the corner of my eye I saw her looking at my name, she checked the class list, smiled then stared happily at my name tag.  It is hard to describe but I will never forget it.  She walked up to me, smiling, and said, "This may sound crazy but I just have to know, Do you know ____?" I told her yes and that he is ... was my grandpa.  She told me that she was so sorry to hear that he had passed.  Then her eyes were full of hope and she told me that he was her first principal and he had made such an impact on her.  During that semester she would write notes on my papers like "Your grandpa would be proud" and "You have your grandpa's compassion (or other trait)."  She inspired me just like my grandpa had inspired her.

People would tell me that it gets easier.  They didn't know I was crying myself to sleep every night.  They didn't know how hard it was for me to get out of bed in the morning.  It doesn't get easier - you just get used to the pain.  You get used to them not being there - you don't miss them any less.  

A few weeks after he died Michael and I walked the Komen Race for the Cure - my grandpa didn't have breast cancer but once they find a cure for breast cancer it will be a big step for all cancer (at least I hope it will).  We have walked every year since and are walking again this year.  My class did a coin drive two years ago that melted my heart - we raised $150 (they brought $75 in coins and I matched it)!  When the class tried to decide who to donate it to - they couldn't choose and we donated $50 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, $50 to the children's receiving home, and $50 to a local homeless shelter (it was their idea to split up the money).  It was such a positive thing in honor of such a sad event.  

So, here I am six years later still sad but trying to focus on the positive.  I clean when I am upset and my house really needs it, so I will distract myself from the past with cleaning.  I also bake when I am upset (I know - weird, right?) so I might do a little of that also.  

Hope today is not as sad for all of you.  What do you do to honor loved ones?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Farm Day

When I was in high school we went to our county's Farm/City day with a bunch of other FFA members to be tour guides for the day.  It was always a great event and such a great experience for the kids!  It happened every year but in my county they do not have an even like that (at least not one I am aware of). Ever since I started teaching I have been dreaming of hosting a Farm Day at our school and it finally happened!  It took A LOT of work and coordinating (I have been working on it since last November) but, it was worth it!  Last Friday was Farm Day at school!  The first date had to be cancelled because of the rain
 Luckily, everyone was able to reschedule.  

 There was a local FFA member with her pig.

 She let the kids pet her.

 A local 4-H member (and his amazing mom) brought a chick,

 a rabbit,

 2 kids (baby goats), 

 his showmanship chicken, 

 and two ducklings. 

 Two FFA members brought their market goats. 

 A local rancher brought a beef cow.  This is one of my favorite pictures of the day.  One of my girls with a farmer and the cow - looks like they are having a deep conversation.

 Usually there was a huge line to pet the cow. 

 She was so mellow and perfect for the kids!

 We even had a tractor!!! 

 Michael and his dad brought one of his dad's tractors.  Michael was such a good sport!
The kids even got him sick (he has a man cold right now).
The line was always long for the tractor.

 But, I cup right in front of everyone and got on!  Even tho I drove it on the trailer to bring it down to school, it was fun it sit on it!

 An FFA member brought her pigmy goat. 

 There was a sheep - it was an FFA member's but the amazing advisor is holding on to her. 

Last but not least, there was another rabbit brought by an FFA member.  

It was an amazing day for the kids!  They are still writing about it in my class and I am sure it will be an event to remember for a long time!  I am so thankful to everyone who came out and donated their time and animals to help our students to connect to agriculture in such a memorable way. 

What do you think of Farm Day?  Do you have a local event like this?

Flat Aggie visits a Hog Farm in Indiana

 Flat Aggie made her way To Jennifer's family farm in Indiana.  Jennifer had this to say about the adventure:

I was so excited to have Flat Aggie come visit me in central Indiana – we had a very busy day but she was a trooper and kept up with me all day!
The first thing I made Flat Aggie do was a little homework – we live on a farrow-to-finish confinement hog operation and I wanted her to read a few of my blog posts to better understand what she was going to see down at the hog barns!
Farrow-to-finish means that we have sows (the momma pigs) who give birth on our farm and we raise those piglets all the way to market weight or finish weight as well. Confinement means that all our hogs are in barns (indoors) and not outside.
She read about our gestation barn and how it helps keep our sows healthy and how it helps the piglets as well. She also read about selling the finish hogs and then she was ready to help me work!
We went out to the cattle barn to feed the 4-H calves -
she learned that they are on a very strict diet of ground corn, soybean meal, cottonseed hulls, Baby Beef (a mineral protein supplement) and that we have to weigh the feed every time so that they get the right amount.
She made fast friends with Bandit however the other 7 calves preferred that she stay out of the bunk while they ate!
Then we headed down to the hog barns – I let her drive my truck, she did a great job!
Of course just like all kids the first thing she wanted to see was the baby’s – so we started in the farrowing barn – where the sows (momma pigs) give birth.
At first the piglets seemed a little skiddish of Flat Aggie -
but then they got a little nosy -
and decided to check her out!


 Then she asked if she could get in with them -
she seemed a little scared stiff at first


but then she relaxed a little and made friends with the piglets!  The piglets stay with the sows for 4weeks and then we wean (take them off their mothers milk) them and put them in the nursery barn on full feed.

So that is where we headed next to one of the nursery’s.
The pigs were a little scared of her at first but pigs are really nosy and they had to see what she was doing!
The piglets go into the nursery at 4 weeks of age, weighing 12-15 pounds, they stay in here for 9 weeks.
Then we move them to a finishing barn-


when we bring them into the finisher they are 13 weeks old and weigh about 80 pounds – they will stay here for 14 more weeks – by then they will be 27 weeks old, weigh about 280 pounds and be ready to ship to market! After learning about the hogs Flat Aggie and I had to plant soybeans -
here she is helping my Father In Law fill the planter with seed -
then she helped me fill the tractor with fuel -
then we were off to plant, Flat Aggie did a great job helping me watch the monitor that told me the speed I was going, the population of the seed being planted, the acres that I planted and that all the rows were putting out seed -
I also taught her how to check to make sure the seed was planted properly and at the right depth.
She was an absolute joy to have in the cab with me all day – she didn’t complain once about being bored, she didn’t mess with the radio stations and never once complained about my singing!
Later that day when Cole got home from school he wanted to take her with him for a ride in the corn planter -
he also showed her all the monitors that we use when planting corn -
we told her she could read more about planting corn and the monitors on my blog.
Well after a day like that I took Flat Aggie out to my front porch (my favorite place) where we just sat and relaxed – I was tired and she was just flat exhausted after our day!

To learn more about Jennifer's farm please check out her blog, From My Front Porch, follow her on twitter, or find her on facebook. Thank you for an amazing adventure!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots

Remember when I showed you my new favorite book, Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse? well, I ordered this little gem of a book at the same time and LOVE IT!! 

It is about the same little girl who is stuck living in the suburbs with her two wheeled horse (her bike).  She gets a new pair of cowgirl boots and tries to make friends with her tutu wearing and ballerina dancing new neighbors "the glitter girls."  So, she sets out to have a barn dance in her barn (aka her garage) and ends up making quite the mess!  But, in the end she has a new friend AND dancing boots ... what more could a girl need?

While this book doesn't have as much of the ranch vocabulary as Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse it still has the country sass that makes it a joy to read.  This book can be used to teach writing also - the voice and word choice are both amazing! 

There is another Every Cowgirl ... book coming out in late May and I look forward to adding that book to my growing ag book collection. 

Do you have this book?  What is your favorite ag book?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Flat Aggie Visits a Farm in Missouri

Recently Nicole from Life's a Beach had a visit from Flat Aggie as he was passing through Southwest Missouri.  He decided to swing on over to Nicole's farm and see what was new on the Agriculture front.
A note - I always refer to Flat Aggie as a female since the original Flat Aggie was female. When we made the Aggie army to replace our original Flat Aggie that was lost in the mail we made 2 boys, and one of them made the trip to Missouri.  So, poor Nicole wasn't too sure about the Flat Aggie that showed up in her mailbox.  Sorry Nicole!  Check out her post here also.

Flat Aggie came just in time to help us around here.  The first thing he got to do was help brushog the field.

The tractor was acting up.  So he got to help clean out the engine to see if they could find out the problem.  He learned a very valuable lesson, if you are going to stick your hands in the engine of the tractor, make sure the tractor is turned off so you don’t lose any fingers.

Next he helped check to make sure the tractor had diesel fuel.

Once they got the tractor back up and running it was off to the field to brush hog the cedar trees down.  This is a new field we’re getting ready to start putting into hay production and cedar trees can grow in the poorest of conditions and take over an entire field so they need to be taken down.

Once the cedar trees were knocked down, it was time to load the dogs up and head for the house. 

The next day Flat Aggie got to help us put bees into our beehive.

First things first, you have to suit up so the bees don’t sting you.  You have a helmet with a net.  The net zips into your suit.  The suit covers you from wrist to neck to ankles.  Then you have large gloves to protect your hands.  Make sure you wear tall boots so the elastic on the bottom of the suit has something to be snug against so your ankles don’t get stung either.

Two very handy tools are a Bee Brush which allows you to move bees out of your way without crushing them and a hive tool which helps pry the boxes apart and pull the frames out.  The frames contain the honeycomb.

When you approach the Beehive, stay toward the side or back away from the entrance. 

In the spring, especially when you are starting out with a new set of bees you want to start with a smaller hive.  Let them claim the hive as their home before you start adding more rooms to it.

To enter the hive, you use a smoker to gently “chase” the bees away so you can get inside without them being upset.  For the most part bees are gentle as long as you move slowly and don’t swat at them.  They just don’t want to feel you are a danger to them.

This top layer is the bee feeder.  You mix water to sugar in a 1 to 1 ratio.  As the bees are getting used to their surroundings, it is good to supplement their feed with this sugar water.

The next level down is where the frames are located.  These bees have been in their hive for about a day, so we were looking for the queen to make sure she was there.  If a hive doesn’t have a queen, they will swarm and leave.

We found the queen, so we put the frames back in the box, stacked the boxes back up and placed the lid on top.  In a couple of days we’ll have to feed them the water/sugar mixture again.

We got a phone call from some friends and they had three baby piglets that needed to be fed with a baby bottle so they had us come over to help feed them.

The piglets are so tiny that they are kept in a small box in the house under a heat lamp for now.  Currently they are being fed with a syringe full of milk until they get a bit bigger and can nurse on a bottle.

We hope Flat Aggie enjoyed his visit to our farm.  For us it is still a little early for most of what we do on the farm.  For now, I hope he had fun, learned a little and is definitely welcome back anytime he’d like to learn more.