Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

French Bread - Recipe with Photos

I love baking. I suspect my friends have figured that out by now! I especially love fresh-baked bread. Mmmm... I know that if I make fresh bread, my family doesn't mind a new - sometimes weird - recipe. So I make bread a lot. Like, a lot! :)

I have seen this recipe on Pinterest several times, and maybe you have too. The funny thing is, I have been a loyal subscriber to the original source: for several years, and have not tried this bread. Till now.

I tried it. My friends - you should try it too. Eat it warm. With lots and lots of real butter. I'm tellin' ya!

First, you pour warm water into the bowl of your mixer.
(Yes, you are allowed to mix it up by hand. Doesn't make a difference.)
I love my Kitchenaid, and use it all the time.
Next, dump in the yeast.
Add sugar...

...and vinegar. Yes, you heard that right! Weird, huh? I have never ever made bread with vinegar in before.
(I found 'real' vinegar at Walmart, recently. Did you know you really need to buy vinegar with the 'Mother"? You didn't? Well now you know.:-) )

 Then dump in oil...

Let it set for 5 min, then add flour...
...and salt.
 Mix on low speed till the flour is incorporated.

Then turn it on medium speed, and mix it good for 3-5 min, or until the dough starts to clean the bowl. Like this:
 Let it rise till doubled. This was perfect.
 But -  My Cowboy called and said he needed me.
To come out and help him get a cow into the chute.
So I helped him.
When I came back in the house, this is how the dough looked:

 Well, it doesn't really matter. Bread is very forgiving. Just turn on the mixer a second or two to 'punch down' the dough, and let it rise a second time - if you have time to wait.

Sprinkle a sheet pan with cornmeal,
 The divide the dough into equal parts. More or less. It's really, really hard to shape a loaf of bread while taking a picture, so holding it in my hand was about as good as I could do. Just imagine pulling and shaping it into a long loaf.

Then repeat on the other half. It should look like this when you're done:

Then beat the egg, and brush it on. I hope you don't have to do it left handed, while taking an awkward photo with your right hand - very unhandy!

After the egg wash, take a sharp, serrated knife, and cuts slits diagonally along each loaf.

Let it raise while the oven is pre-heating. My house is warm enough, that once the oven is preheated, the bread is risen sufficiently. You may have to leave it a bit longer. But this bread has a lot of yeast, so it does rise faster than some bread. It should look something like this when risen:

Bake. When you remove, this is how it should look - beautiful, golden, yum!

French Bread Recipe
2.5 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons yeast
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 Tablespoon salt
1/3 cup oil
5 1/2 - 6 cups flour
1 egg
Mix water, yeast, sugar, and vinegar. Let it set 5 minutes.
Add flour, salt, and oil.
Mix 3-5 minutes.
Let rise till doubled.
Punch down and let rise again. (second rising is optional)
Divide into 2 loaves.
Preheat oven to 350*.
Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal.
Beat egg, brush onto bread.
Cut slits in top of loaves.
Let raise till doubled.
Bake 20-25 minutes, or til golden brown.
Do you have a favorite French Bread recipe? I'd love to see it!
Go over and check out and see some more yummy recipes.
(Note: I was not reimbursed for this post. Opinions are mine. I just love their services.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Feedin' Hay

One sunny afternoon a few weeks ago, I took the 'little girls', and went with My Cowboy to feed hay. We usually feed round bales, but - thanks to the drought of 2012 - we have some large squares here, that we had to buy for the cows.
I use the term 'we' loosely.
Driving out to feed, this is what you see...
 Then, there is the babysitter. Yes, cows do babysit. A couple cows may go to get a drink at the water tank or creek, and their calves will hunker down together, while another cow stands guard. It's touching. Sorta.

At the sight of the hay truck, they come running.
And then wait patiently while My Cowboy cuts strings off the bales and starts forkin' the hay off.
Or not...

Actually, cows know not the meaning of the word patience.

It's all noses to the hay bale, people! (I mean, cows.)
    I was doing what I do best, (next to makin' cinnamon rolls): Holding my baby, taking photos and videos by turn, and steering the truck, while making sure the drenching bottle stayed more or less upright. (My Cowboy had to drench a sick calf after feeding.)
You see, I dislike driving large vehicles, so I opt out on any excuse I can think up. Like taking videos. Or holding my baby. Or just about anything.
I act like I'm helping by reaching over with one hand and steering. But it's not really necessary. He does it every day or so by himself.
So I hold the baby and take photos and My Cowboy starts the truck, then climbs onto the back of the truck (while it's moving!) and forks hay. When he's done,  he climbs back through the door and continues driving.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pairin' Out

After taggin' calves, comes pairin' out.
Note: I do not write "pairin' out" just to be cool or funny or Hollywood. That's just how people around here talk. I don't think I've heard the 'g' sound on the end of a word since I moved to a ranch. It's all: "calvin', taggin', pairin', brandin', and movin'." or maybe "pushin'".
So it feels weird to write "pairing out", cause we just don't talk that way.
First, the cowboys gather the cows and their calves and push them into a 'trap'. Basically a small fenced-in enclosure.
 Here comes the cows, up from the creek bottoms.

The Boss - on the side-by-side, and a neighbor on a horse. Just makin' a sort of a fence so the cows go in the right direction.
Like Mama, like baby.
Here comes Tom, pushin' pairs up from the creek-bottom.
And there's My Cowboy and Obie, getting a few calves out of the willows.

After the pairs are in the trap, they sort them out, one by one, and after determining the gender of the calf, they send the heifer calves (and their mamas) one direction, and the bull calves a different direction.
The purpose of pairing out is to separate the bull calves from the heifers, and to get the pairs out of calving pastures, into larger pastures. At least, that's how I understand it.

Discussing important things. I'm certain.
Anyways, that's how it's done. More or less. I had a squealy baby in the backseat of the Suburban, so I had to leave before they were done. :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Taggin' Calves

One sunny day last week, I rode out with My Cowboy to tag calves. No - I didn't saddle up and ride out - I was far and away too lazy for that! I rode out in my Suburban. Much faster, easier, and more comfy. Yes, that's how us ranch-wives roll. At least, this ranch wife.

I can drive right up and stick my lens out the window. No need for actually braving the elements.

How do you tag calves? Well, it's about as easy as it just ride up to a new baby calf, rope it, and tag it.
First - you have to know how to rope. Therein lies the first difficulty. Of course, My Cowboy knows how to rope, so no worries!
 Here he has the calf roped...  

 Then you kneel on the rope,(so baby doesn't go bananas and freak out your horse) while writing the mama cow's number on the calf's eartag. You know - so you can tell which calf goes to which cow. That's sorta the whole point...

Then you throw it, like this...

 Then you carefully place the eartag into the eartag-pliers-thingy, so it doesn't fall out... ( I really have no idea what those pliers are called??)

Then you put the pliers over the ear, and squeeze, which, when done correctly - attaches the tag in the ear much like an ear ring. No - I don't think it hurts them much, cause they don't usually bawl. Besides, how many women and girls pierce their ears? Pretty much the same thing, I'd guess.

 Then you loosen the rope...
 And let Baby run back to mama....
 And everyone is happy.

And My Cowboy is off to rope and tag another calf.

Now - multiply that process times several hundred.
Yes. That is a lot of roping.
Roping = Fun

Have a happy day, and find something to rope!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy National Ag Day!

Happy National Ag Day!
Did you thank a farmer or rancher for your food? You should. Every farmer/rancher feeds 150 people. Don't ask where I got that statistic...I forget. :)
Today was a rather normal Tuesday. Tuesdays around here are pretty predictable.
Mondays are also predictable.
So are Saturdays.
And Sundays.
The rest of the week is wild, let me tell you. Like, homemaking-homeschooling-and-diapering-the-baby-wild. (OK, so that's not really wild, is it?)
This morning I fried sausage and eggs (homegrown, brown, Omega-3-loaded, from-my-own-chickens-eggs, mind you) and toasted some bagels.
And made coffee.
Of course.
Then it was getting the kids started homeschooling, starting laundry, putting supper in the crockpot, And mixing up a batch of dinner rolls. In between, I fed the baby, diapered the baby, and laid her down for a nap.  

Sometimes I say: "I put her down", (for a nap) but My Cowboy says that sounds like I just killed a cow or something. (As in: "Honey, there was a sick cow - I had to put her down.") Yikes. I'm trying to specify that I laid her down for a nap.
The kids are trying to take photos of each other to send to Working Ranch Magazine. WRM has a kids issue coming up, and they have a contest for the cover photo...Of ranch kids, by ranch kids, doing ranch-y stuff. So I sent them out this morning with my big camera and lots of "be careful's", to snap some pics. They did a pretty good job, although I think they misunderstood when I told them to keep the sun behind them. Anyway, I love this picture, so who cares? 
 I had started a cinch on Monday, and there was about an hour's work left to do on it. So I finished that up before lunch.
My first all natural colored cinch. It's a special order for a customer in Texas.
After a quick lunch of stew and fresh dinner rolls, I packed up the kids and we headed to town. We had several errands...Wal*Mart, the bank, post office, library, Murdoch's, and then some half-price-Happy-Hour slushes from Sonic, before the kids' music lessons.
After all that, I made it home about 6 pm. Just in time for supper.
I love my crockpot on days like today. Coming home to hot food is beyond wonderful.
And that, my friends, is how I spent National Ag Day.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Faces Of Agriculture...check it out!

Happy Monday!
Don't you just love Mondays?! I love the feeling of a 'fresh start', the burst of energy and ensuing accomplishments that characterize most Mondays for me. (yes, I did say 'most'. Sometimes even Mondays don't go as planned!) I seem to accomplish more on Monday, than any other day all week.
Today I am being featured over at Faces of Agriculture. They are a neat blog featuring - you guessed it - Agriculture! Specifically, families in the agriculture business, whether it's farming, ranching, or some other facet of agriculture. You really need to check them out. Very cool stories!  You can find them at: Go on, now.
I had a town run this morning, to stick some headstalls in the mail for some customers in Texas.
On the way, I saw the damages of the last big wind that blew through here. You'd think that when the overhead sign says: "No light trailers; wind gusts 65+ mph",  people would listen. But do they listen, I ask you? No. And then this happens.

Then there's the new baby calves that are filling up the fields around the ranch. Cutest lil' things you ever did see. But I'm warnin' ya - don't get too close to their mama! She'll run you over, man.  (I can't blame her - I kinda wanna run people over too, if they mess with MY babies!)
I'm off to do some more productive, fun Monday-stuff.
Today I am thankful for productive Mondays.
What are you thankful for today?