Bridging the Gap

Yesterday I traveled to Missoula to attend the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting at the Doubletree Inn. I’m always nervous going to these meetings, especially alone, because I’m super shy and I hate talking in front of a crowd. I also can’t STAND tree huggers.
The first person I met when I walked in the door was a nice looking lady from Whitefish. Here’s how our conversation went:
Lady: “Are you here for the bear meeting?”
Me: “Yep.”
Lady: “Do you work for FWP?”
Me: “No, I’m a rancher.”
Lady: “Oh, so you hate bears.”
Just like that, I had to make a choice. Do I call her an ignorant rock licker that doesn’t know a damn thing about real life, or do I extend that olive branch and politely explain my side?
Well, thanks to all the training I got from Ryan Goodman and Sarah Bohnenkamp during the Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Class last year, I made the right decision. I told her calmly and politely that I don’t hate bears, I just want to see them managed in a way that keeps my family and my livestock safe. Suddenly, I had made a friend. She explained she was with People and Carnivores, an NGO based in Montana that focuses on reducing conflicts between humans and predators.
Because of my decision, she now has my business card and is going to call me with resource options for fencing and other supplies that many livestock and crop producers need to keep bears out. Sadly, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is so undermanned and underfunded, there’s no way they can keep up with the demand for fencing, guard dogs, propane guns, critter getters, etc. that people all over the western half of Montana are demanding.
We all have a common goal – to delist the grizzlies and minimize conflicts – so why not work together to achieve that goal instead of working against each other because we don’t share the same opinions?
Now, I’m not saying I’m going to run out and join the Sierra Club, but I think its time for us to set aside our stubborn pride and accept the help that they’re offering. After all, if your kid’s 4-H lamb is safely behind an electric fence when a bear comes in the barnyard, does it really matter who paid for that fence?
Think about it.
Until next time,
Trina Jo

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What You Need to Know about Calf-killers

The news has been full of reports of livestock kills on the Rocky Mountain Front over the last several weeks, and scores of ranchers have been scrambling to keep their herds safe.

Thankfully, our local “government trapper” Mike Hoggan, USDA Wildlife Services, has been working tirelessly to catch the bear that has been on a killing spree west of Dupuyer, and now our herds are safer and we can all breathe a sigh of relief – for now.

Fortunately for these ranchers that suffered losses, verified and probable livestock kills by grizzlies and wolves are reimbursed by the State of Montana’s Livestock Loss Board, which means the majority of these ranchers will be reimbursed for market value of their livestock.

Unfortunately, the damage this bear did goes much deeper than the pocketbook. This bear didn’t just eat some beef worth somewhere around $1.50/pound. This bear killed and ate a grown cow, which means a loss of not just that animal, but also the calf inside her, as well as turning the calf at her side into an orphan.  This led to the calf not gaining as it should, and coming in small at shipping time means more loss for the rancher. The Livestock Loss Board doesn’t cover those losses.

The same goes for the 10 heifer calves that were killed west of Dupuyer. Those were replacement heifers for a registered herd, valued at around $100,000. Again, it’s not just the monetary loss these ranchers are facing. They’re now short 10 replacements, which means future losses for the rancher due to decreased herd size.

Another factor to consider when looking at these death losses due to bears is herd health and well-being. If cows and calves are being preyed upon continuously, their stress levels are higher, which means they’re not eating as much as they should, which means the calves aren’t gaining and the pregnant cows are not getting the nutrition they need. High stress levels in cows also leads to abortion, which again means more losses for the ranchers.

All of the ranchers that had losses this fall have dealt with bears for years, and are constantly working as hard as they can to coexist with grizzlies, but the fact of the matter is there are just too many bears. These bears have learned that humans provide many excellent food sources – beef, mutton, grain, peas, etc., and these food sources are readily available. As bears become more accustomed to being around people and ranches, they get more dangerous. They also pass these learned behaviors down to their offspring, who then begin life with no fear of humans, and that’s when things really get scary.

It is time to get these grizzlies delisted so they can be better and more strictly managed in order to avoid conflicts, especially rampant killing sprees like we witnessed this fall. The only way to get this message across is to make our voices heard – not only locally, but state and nationwide. Write to your congressmen, your senators, Ryan Zinke. Show up for Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Subcommittee meetings and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meetings. Represent the facts. Share your story. We cannot win this fight by being silent.

Until next time,

Trina Jo

Prairie Bears

Spring has sprung, and with the scent of fresh, green grass and the beautiful song of the meadowlark comes the emergence of grizzlies from their dens, and their annual trip from the mountains to the prairie.

Yesterday I traveled to Kalispell to attend the Spring Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Committee Meeting, where Ken McDonald and Gary Bertellotti talked about FWP’s plans to manage “Region 4 Prairie Zone 3.”

Keep in mind that until the NCDE Conservation Strategy is in place, which would go into effect AFTER the grizzlies are removed from the Endangered Species List, Zone 3 doesn’t actually exist, nor do Zones 1 and 2. HOWEVER, for the sake of argument, its nice to be able to look at a map and see the area these people are talking about.

According to the proposed NCDE Conservation Strategy, Prairie Zone 3 begins on the east side of Highway 89, goes north to the Canadian border, east to Havre and Fort Benton, and south to Big Timber. That’s an area of 12,158,183 acres of private and public land.

ncde zones map

According to the Conservation Strategy,  “Management Zone 3 primarily consists of areas where grizzly bears do not have enough suitable habitat for long-term survival and occupancy. Grizzly bear occupancy will not be actively discouraged. Grizzly bears will not be captured and removed just because they occur on Zone 3, nor will they be captured and removed from Zone 3 unless there are conflicts that can only be resolved by capture and relocation or removal of the offending bear.”

Well. Sounds like we’re rolling out the welcome mat for the grizzlies on millions of acres of farm and ranch land, not to mention all the towns and cities these bears have in their paths.

Valier, Montana is one of those towns in Zone 3 – 40 miles from the “Front,” and very much a prairie town. The reports of bear sightings in town limits last year, coupled with the urging of some very concerned townspeople, motivated Region 4 FWP to establish a phone tree for the town of Valier and the surrounding area. On Monday, April 24, 2017, just two days ago, the first report came in – a sow and THREE cubs strolling down main street at 2:30 a.m. A call was sent out on the town phone tree at 2 p.m. the following afternoon. Effective? No.

FWP was also asked to post Bear Aware signs at the Valier Lake Frances Campground at the beginning of summer. The signs were finally put up in September, but at least the campers will finally be aware that there is a significant amount of bear activity at the lake.

“We try to do more proactive, preventative things,” Gary Bertellotti said. “But conflicts are going to happen.”

So what is FWP doing in 2017 to further conflict prevention in Zone 3? According to Ken McDonald, FWP is taking a “three-pronged approach.”

The first step in prevention is the addition of another bear specialist to be based in Conrad. Unfortunately, the position is just this week being posted, and it will take AT LEAST a month to finish the hiring process, which means our second bear specialist will not be established until the middle to end of May, three full months AFTER the bears have emerged.

According to McDonald, this specialist will focus on conflict prevention and resolution strictly in Zone 3, covering “everything east of Highway 89 and north of Highway 200.

The second step in the prevention planning is the formation of a carcass removal program. FWP, USFWS, Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation have been working together this spring to remove carcasses from farms and ranches in an effort to keep bear attractants to a minimum. Due to many government regulations the program has been off to a rocky start, but I’m hopeful that they get the kinks worked out soon and can do some good for the farms and ranches in Zone 3.

According to McDonald, the third step in helping Zone 3 is a quick and aggressive response by FWP staff to conflict reports. Now, I live in Zone 1, so I’m basically smothered when it comes to bears, as we have about a 1:20 bear to cow ratio here. “Quick and agressive” is not the way anyone on the Front would describe the way FWP responds to any type of call.

“Hopefully our response time drops considerably with the new bear specialist,” Bertellotti said.

Hopefully.

Along with the “three-pronged approach,” FWP is also going to continue to hold educational programs, and has received a grant from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee to visit schools in many towns in Zone 3 this spring, which I think is an amazing idea.

Berellotti talked about sharing information with the public, and making sure everyone knows what resources are available, such as electric fencing and bear proof garbage containers.

That’s all great and good, but knowing there are resources available but not having access to them is not helpful, and that is the dilemma that many people on the Front and in Zone 3 are facing.

Due to government bureaucracy,  bear specialist Mike Madel does not have a tech yet, and we’re already two months into “bear season.” I requested a fence for my daughter’s 4-H lambs at the end of March, and I’m still waiting. We have bears going through here several times a week, and its only a matter of time before they discover the delicious little lambchops.

Maybe instead of spending all this money on grizzly family trees and other ridiculous research, FWP and USFWS should put a little more funding into boots on the ground to prevent conflicts from ever happening, and then they wouldn’t have to spend so much time responding to calls about livestock depredation and destruction of property.

Just my two cents.

Click  HERE to read the entire text of the proposed NCDE Conservation Strategy.

Until next time,

Trina Jo

In Rural America, Bears Actually ARE a Valid Reason for Teachers to be Armed

According to NBC News, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, told lawmakers that guns might have a place in schools due to the threat from grizzly bears.

The article reads, “Pressed on whether she could say ‘definitively’ if guns shouldn’t be in schools, she referred to an earlier remark by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, that had erected a fence to protect children from wildlife.”

DeVos’ answer was simple: “I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

While people in Washington, DC, New York, and cities all over America think what she said is absurd, folks in rural Montana, Wyoming and other western states are glad someone finally noticed our plight.

I served on the Dupuyer Elementary School Board when we decided to erect a six-foot, chain link fence around the school because there were so many bears roaming the area. This fall, a grizzly was seen within three blocks of Valier Elementary at 3 p.m. – just 30 minutes before school was dismissed. Many Hutterite colonies in the area have bears in their gardens and schoolyards every year. A school in Bozeman – not a rural town but a “big city” – had a black bear INSIDE their school.

The idea of a grizzly being a threat to school children is not absurd to anyone that lives in grizzly country; it’s a real and constant worry for parents, teachers and administration. As the parent of a third grade student, I for one would be totally supportive of our teachers and staff being armed in case of a bear attack. Yes, I fully believe in the use of pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent. HOWEVER, pepper spray doesn’t always stop a bear.

A bullet will.

Some schools have armed police officers to protect staff and students from attacks from other people. Why wouldn’t we want our children to have the same protection from a wild animal?

Some people say there is too much of a risk having teachers armed because they may miss their target. I say in rural Montana and Wyoming, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person that isn’t good with a gun. I also believe that any person – teacher, administrator, janitor – that is allowed to carry a firearm at school should be trained and certified to use one.

The truth of the matter is this: the grizzly bear population in Montana and Wyoming is fully recovered, and their numbers are increasing so rapidly that many grizzlies are venturing out onto the prairie in search for new and easier food sources. This means our little towns are in their path, and with so much activity in a town, a curious and hungry grizzly isn’t going to avoid the place. We need to be proactive in our efforts to keep our children and families safe. If that means arming our school teachers, then so be it.

Until Next Time,

Trina Jo

Self-Esteem vs. Self-Compassion

Recently, I watched a TED talk by Dr. Kristen Neff titled, “The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion,” and it really hit home with me. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to self-deprecation, as I am sure several of my classmates are as well.

Dr. Neff talked about how self-esteem is the most common way to gauge how a person feels about him or herself, and how in the American culture, it is insulting to be “average.” We NEED to feel special or above average to believe we have any self-worth.

What this need leads to, she explained, is people over-valuing themselves, and putting others down in order to feel better.

“There is an epidemic of narcissism in this culture,” Dr. Neff said.

She went on to point out that along with the narcissism, there is an epidemic of bullying and racism because people are always looking for something to be wrong with their peers in order to build themselves up.

This is where self-compassion comes in. Instead of relying on self-esteem – which is contingent on success – to help us feel better about ourselves, Dr. Neff suggests we rely on self-compassion – showing understanding and empathy to ourselves.

“Treat yourself with the same care and concern that you would a good friend,” she said.

Along with that, instead of focusing on how you are different from everyone else, focus on how much you have in common – no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.

Dr. Neff said as humans, we believe we need our self-criticism to motivate ourselves, but in fact, self-criticism only leads to higher stress levels and lower productivity levels, and our bodies will eventually shut down and go into a depressive state.

Self-compassion, however, will allow us to give ourselves a break and accept that we are never going to be perfect, and we’ll continue to be productive and work to improve ourselves.

“When we’re kind, we are in the optimal mind state to do our best,” Dr. Neff said. “Just when self-esteem deserts you, self-compassion steps in and gives you a sense of value.”

In this fast-paced age of social media and technology always at our fingertips, it is a great idea to sit back once in a while and self-reflect and get in touch with ourselves and what is actually going on in our lives.

“The more we are able to keep our hearts open to ourselves, “Dr. Neff said, “The more we have available to give to others.”

I have included the link and I encourage everyone to watch it – and take notes.

Until Next Time,

Trina Jo

Bears…

Tuesday, April 19, I attended the spring Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) committee meeting in Choteau. While there, committee chair Jim Williams acknowledged that because of an increased number of grizzlies, ranchers have changed the way they operate at a great cost to themselves.

I don’t know of any ranchers – especially west of Highway 89 – that haven’t had to put up electric fences, or avoid using certain pastures, or had to be armed every time they leave the house, or started driving from the house to the barn because it’s not safe to walk that half mile anymore.

Cases of grizzlies vs. livestock have increased every year due to both the population growth as well as the desensitization of these bears. They are no longer scared of people, and they know where there are people, cattle and sheep, there is an endless supply of food. This comes at a cost of thousands of dollars every year to the ranchers, with very little assistance from the government to make up for these losses.

However, a great resource that we have is the Montana Department of Livestock’s Livestock Loss Board. Their mission is, “To help support Montana Livestock communities by reducing the economic impacts of wolves and grizzly bears on individual producers by reimbursing confirmed and probable wolf or grizzly bear caused losses and helping to reduce their losses by approving projects and funding programs that will discourage wolves and grizzly bears from killing livestock.”

Last year, in Pondera County alone, the Livestock Loss Board had 14 confirmed grizzly kills, and paid out $11,124.63. In total, the Board reported 168 confirmed grizzly and wolf kills, and paid out $191,895.63. That comes nowhere near what the actual monetary damage was to those producers, but it helps soften the blow.

For more information on the Livestock Loss Board, I encourage you to talk to George Edwards at (406) 444-5609, or visit their website – http://liv.mt.gov/llb/default.mcpx.

2016 MSGA Leadership Series

Last fall I applied and was accepted into the inaugural Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Series, which is a year-long “class” that will help mentor and develop fourteen young ag leaders from across the state of Montana.

As you all know, I am a born and bred cattle woman. I eat, sleep and breathe cows, and I want to make sure that my daughter has every opportunity to carry on this lifestyle and keep this ranch in the family for years to come. Therefore, I have been working on stepping up and getting involved in ag advocacy for the past few years. I have recently become a Director for the Marias River Livestock Association, I am a 4-H Cloverbud leader, and I have been working on establishing a CattleWomen association in my area.

The Leadership Series is a perfect opportunity for me to focus my energy and hone my skills as a leader, as well as being the perfect place to network with fellow lovers of ag from all over Montana.

We are now four months into the program, and I have come to realize several things about what true leadership is to me. I have also had to some serious soul searching, and admit to myself some things that I really didn’t want to admit to.

I could go on and on about the things that I am not, and the things I suck at as a leader. HOWEVER, our insanely wonderful and slightly crazy leadership coach has impressed on us NUMEROUS times that we do not need to focus on what we aren’t – we need to focus on what we are.

So here are some things that I know to be true about my leadership skills:

  1. I am bossy. I know what needs to be done, and I know who needs to do it. I have no problem giving orders, and I expect things to be done in a timely manner, and done right.
  2. I work hard. When there’s a job to be done, I don’t quit when I’m tired, I quit when I’m done. A good leader doesn’t just give orders; a good leader gets her hands dirty.
  3. I’m stubborn. I’m not going to take no for an answer, and when I get a great idea, I get after it, no matter the obstacle.
  4. I love to learn. I love learning about everything, and that comes in handy when I take on a project I’m not 100% familiar with, or when a new issue comes up.
  5. I’m a good listener. I always have an ear to lend for a friend, and I am learning to listen to the “other side” – the people that oppose ag, or certain ag practices, etc. In order to be a great advocate for our ag community, I need to be able to listen to the concerns of our consumers and look at things from their point of view.

This Series has been eye opening to me in many ways, and I have made a plethora of new friends along the way. I cannot wait to see what Sarah and Ryan (our coaches) have in store for us in the coming months.

I am hoping that this program will continue well into the future, and I encourage every young rancher in Montana to apply next year. You won’t regret it for a second.

Until next time,

Trina Jo

Calving vs. Zombie Apocalypse

Happy middle of January! We are counting down the days until we start calving – should have about ten left…then its busy, busy, busy here at the Bradley Ranch.

As I was preparing my freezer meals again this year, I remembered that the only thing I look forward to more than calving every year is the zombie apocalypse. Then I started paying attention to all the things we do to get ready for calving, and I realized that we could well be preparing for either event. So I’ve made a list of the similarities. Let me know if you agree, disagree, or notice something that I’ve overlooked.

CALVING/ZOMBIELAND SURVIVAL RULES

  1. ZIPLOCK BAGS. I’ve been hoarding food that will last us at LEAST three months. We’ve got a fresh beef and pork in the freezer, along with about 20 frozen crockpot meals, pizza, lasagna and ice cream.
  2. DOUBLE TAP. I recently took a quick mental inventory of our fire power in this house – you may not think we need guns for calving, but we do have wolves, coyotes and bears here. Needless to say, we can stand off carnivores of any kind for a WHILE.
  3. THE BUDDY SYSTEM. We have a night watchman – namely Peter, my husband. He usually goes to bed around 8, I check at 10 then go to bed, he checks the rest of the night. The cows are never alone very long, and we’ll know if any zombies are storming the gates.
  4. CARDIO. I started the Couch to 5k program two weeks ago in preparation for calving, but as we all know thanks to Zombieland (best. movie. ever.) we need to also be able to outrun the undead.
  5. DON’T BE A HERO. We try not to keep aggressive cows, but sometimes they sneak up on us. I make it a practice to stay far away from those. I’m no hero. Those cows will eat you as fast as a zombie will kill you.
  6. ENJOY THE LITTLE THINGS. This is the most important rule for us – we get so caught up in taking care of the cows and being exhausted that we forget that we love what we do. So take the time to say “awe” when you see an adorable calf. Make your husband his favorite dessert when he gives you the afternoon off. Kiss your wife and tell her thanks for everything. Make time for your kids, even though you’re too tired.

I posted my freezer meal recipes last year, but I’ll post them again in case you missed them. I also added a few that I found recently. Happy Calving/Zombie Hunting!

Until next time,

Trina Jo

Sweet Barbecue Hawaiian Chicken

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 4-6 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 20 oz. can Pineapple Chunks, undrained
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbs Corn Starch

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Add ingredients. Seal bag, mix ingredients, lay flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over rice.

Black Bean Taco Soup

This recipe makes 2 bags. Split these ingredients between 2 bags.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 package mild taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (16 oz) bag frozen corn
  • 1 (16 oz) can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14 oz) cans stewed tomatoes (half in each bag.)
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilis
  • 1/4 cup olives (optional)

Directions: Brown meat and onion, drain. Let meat cool for a minute, then dump into two freezer bags and mix together. Let the excess air out, lay bag flat, and zip bag closed.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on HIGH for 1-2 hours or LOW for 2-3 1/2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole.

Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Alfredo

This recipe makes one bag.

  • 4-5  chicken breasts
  • 2 cups fresh or 1 cup frozen spinach, drained
  • 1 (16 oz) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained

Directions: Write recipe name and instructions on freezer bag. Seal bags, mix ingredients, lay bag flat and freeze.

Directions to write on bag: Thaw overnight or for 24 hours. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Serve with noodles, salad and breadsticks.

Crock Pot Beef and Mushrooms

This recipe makes two bags.

  • 4 pounds stew meat, cubed
  • 4 (10.75-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 (4-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms, with liquid
  • 1 cup apple juice or red wine
  • 2 (1-ounce) packet dry onion soup mix

Divide the cubed stew meat and add to 2 resealable gallon-sized freezer bags. Add 2 cans of mushroom soup, 2 cans of sliced mushrooms with liquid, 1/2 cup of juice or wine and 1 packet of dry onion soup mix to each bag. Zip closed. When ready to eat, remove a bag from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on HIGH for 6 hours or LOW for 10 hours. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or noodles.

Hearty Beef Stew

This recipe makes one bag.

1 pound beef stew cubes
4 carrots, sliced
4 red potatoes, cut into large cubes
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 cans 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (10 oz) package frozen green peas
Place all ingredients in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on LOW for 7-10 hours (or HIGH for 5-6 hours).

Slow Cooker Sweet Teriyaki Chicken

This recipe makes one bag.
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts

Mix together soy sauce, sugar, garlic salt and chopped onion in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Place chicken breasts inside the bag and zip closed.
When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 7-8 hours.
Serve over rice.

Slow Cooker Creamy Ranch Pork Chops and Potatoes

This recipe makes one bag.
1 1/2 lbs pork chops, boneless (about 4-6 chops, thick sliced)
6-8 medium potatoes, chopped into large pieces
2 (10.75 oz each) cans cream of mushroom soup
2 (1 oz each) packages dry Ranch dressing mix
1 cup milk
Dried parsley to sprinkle on top (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the soups, milk, and ranch dressing mixes and pour into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Combine all other ingredients together and zip closed.
When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 6-7 hours.
Use the extra sauce in the slow cooker as a gravy for the potatoes and the pork chops. Sprinkle with dried parsley if you want.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

This recipe makes one casserole.

1.25 pounds ground beef (I used 2)

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (I used 1.5)

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 8 oz bag Egg Noodles

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/4 cups small curd cottage cheese

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown ground chuck in large skillet. Drain fat, then add tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Stir, then simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cook egg noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add to noodles and stir. Add green onions and stir.

To assemble, add half of the noodles to a baking dish (I used a 9×13). Top with half the meat mixture, then sprinkle on half the grated cheddar. Repeat with noodles, meat, then a final layer of cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until all cheese is melted.

To make this a freezer meal, just assemble the entire thing, cover, write the instructions on the top, and throw it in the freezer. Make sure you take it out to thaw the night before you want to eat it.

BBQ Chicken and Veggies

This recipe makes two bags.

2 green peppers, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1 onion, chopped

6 red potatoes, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 chicken breasts

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 bottle BBQ sauce (didn’t tell me what size, I just used a small size)

Split ingredients into two bags. Cook in slow cooker on high for four hours or low for eight hours.

Crockpot Ham and Potato Soup

This recipe makes two bags. You will need two gallon bags and two quart bags.

8 carrots, peeled and diced

4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks

4 ribs celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup uncooked medium barley (not quick cooking)

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp ground thyme

8 tsp chicken bullion granules

16 oz bone in ham steak, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

12 oz evaporated milk

8 cups water (not needed until day of cooking)

Label your freezer bags: Thaw 24 hours. The morning of cooking, pour contents of gallon bag into crockpot and add 4 c water. Keep bag of evaporated milk in the frig. Cook on low for 8 hours, then stir in evaporated milk and leave lid open a crack. Continue to cook 15 minutes or until heated through.

To your gallon bags, add all ingredients except evaporated milk and water.

Add evaporated milk to a quart size freezer bag. Seal, and add to gallon bag.

Remove as much air from the gallon bag as possible, seal and lay flat in your freezer.

Crockpot Hamburger Vegetable Soup

This recipe makes two bags.

8 carrots, peeled and diced

4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch chunks

1 small onion, diced

2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp pepper

8 tsp beef bullion granules

2 pounds ground beef

8 cups water (not needed until day of cooking)

Label your freezer bag: Thaw 24 hours. The morning of cooking, pour bag into crockpot and add 4 c water. Cook on low for eight hours, or until beef is cooked through. Break apart beef, stir and serve.

Happy New Year!

Well, another year has come and gone, and here I sit thinking about all the resolutions I made last year – to spend more time cleaning my house, to blog more, to keep my office more organized, to get in shape…

This year I am resolving to do one thing – take things one day at a time! I’m sure many of you can relate to the pressure of being a ranch wife – not only do you need to cook, clean, launder, file, etc., you also have to keep your kids alive, clean and in school, and on top of that, you are the non-paid hired man that is needed at all the most inconvenient times. I have finally come to the realization that nobody is going to die if my house looks like three teenage boys live here ALONE. There are much more important things in life – like spending time with my family, reading, crafting, sleeping… My point is – don’t kill yourself trying to impress other people with your clean house. Instead, impress everyone with your mad family skills, because in the long run, no one is going to care how clean your house was, but they will remember all those fun times they with you.

Anyway, I don’t really have much to say except that we’re coming up on calving quickly, and life is about to get super busy again, but I am going to do my absolute best to keep this blog updated – and SUSAN is going to contribute as well. After all, she’s only got two cows and they don’t calve till May, so she REALLY doesn’t have an excuse not to blog about her remodeled house and all her retirement excitement. 🙂

Until next time,

Trina Jo