Cheese and Rice Casserole

An excellent non meat recipe.  But meat can easily be layered on and consider other vegetables.  Pictured here, I used sliced zucchini from my garden and added ground chicken breast from pastured poultry raised by my friends at Pigeon Creek Farm.

Cheese and Rice Casserole  (Riso e Formaggio) 

8 servings 

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked regular rice (or barley or couscous or any combination thereof)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper sauce (optional
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium onion (I used green onions)
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Heat water, rice, salt, mustard, red pepper sauce, and pepper to boiling, stirring once or twice; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  (Do not lift cover or stir.)  Remove from heat.  Fluff rice lightly with fork; cover and let steam 5 to 10 minutes.

Layer half the rice mixture in bottom of greased 11 x 7 x 1 ½ inch baking dish.  Top with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (and 1 cup vegetable if desired); repeat.  Whisk together 4 eggs and 2 ½ cups of milk then pour over rice mixture.  Sprinkle with ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese.  (Casserole can be covered and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.)  Cook uncovered in 350°F oven until set; 45 to 50 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into squares.

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Thoughts on Lease Cropping vs Grazing Your Own Stock

There is something wrong with me that leasing and renting properties never seems to work out.  Even when there is a contract with goals and procedures laid out life, weather, resources change and stuff just doesn’t happen as plan.  But, by and large, my disappointments seem rooted in being too accommodating.  Or maybe it’s a lack of communication though for sure i don’t hold back giving my opinions and expectations – to a fault, i’m afraid.  Nevertheless, things never turn out quite the way i want.

Currently, i’ve leased 120 acres for organic farming for 4 years.  My goals are to eliminate or drastically reduce endophyte infected toxic fescue and build organic matter through the use of cover crops.  I knew going in that my renter has no intention of ever letting cattle graze the cover crops, so i can’t be unhappy about that, yet, the more i see happening and the more i read, it is clear that my soil is lacking due to the removal of animal impact.

Our contract was spelled out and ends after next year’s crop (it was a 4 year deal).  I had hoped that it would be successful and that then we could move forward with working another piece and removing more fescue, but it doesn’t work.

Here are some bullet points i have:

  1. animal impact is essential to making cover crop and soil improvements financially viable as well as building organic matter and tilth.
  2. in a lease situation, the owner doesn’t have the power to make certain that soil is covered.  This past year, the soil did not have anything in it from November until June (except volunteer ragweed growing in the spring) and now that it’s been worked and readied for more soybeans, it still lays open to the sun, wind, and rain with prevented planting.   Cover crops simply don’t get planted even though that was the written goal.
  3. I knew going in that i was incurring some opportunity costs by leasing vs grazing my own cattle on the property.  I weighed that against the possibility of getting better control of the toxic fescue and giving my friend an opportunity to expand his organic cropping endeavor.  Bottom line, from a purely income/expense perspective, I make more money with grazing vs leasing the property for row cropping.
  4. Lessees do not care for your property as you would.  Trees and brush are growing rapidly in fence rows and untilled portions of the land.  I still do the labor of keeping them under control and since the crop is organic, i must follow the rules of how to manage.  In other words, i can’t chemically treat the plants or stumps if they are within 20 feet of the crop – So they grow and grow.  It will be 7 years from the time i cut brush and treated and the time i regain control of my property.  A lot gets big and away.  More work at the end of the organic regime.
  5. This experiment was worth the pain since i now know that it simply is not the way i would ever do this project again.  I’m especially glad I went with the organic approach despite the stumbling blocks since a conventional farmer would have slathered the soil with toxic chemicals year after year and farmed fence row to fence row and through the waterways.  My friend is careful to leave ample grass strips in waterways and leaves 20 foot buffer from the fences (organic rules).  At the same time this leaves at least 20 acres that is not be utilized for any purpose since he won’t allow grazing at any time.
  6. The weather immediately turned into drought mode for these 3 years and I’m having to downsize my cow herd drastically to accommodate since my acres for grazing is reduced.  Incredibly, this has turned to be a blessing since i’ve culled deeply (after this fall, it will have been about 40%!), no cow gets a second chance and i’ve sold a lot of older cows that i would typically try to ‘get one more calf out of.’  This year’s calf crop is the best I’ve ever had.  Now if only market prices weren’t in the tank.
  7. If i had my own farming equipment and the desire to run it, i think there is opportunity to improve the soil, increase tilth and organic matter, create better wildlife habitat, create another employment opportunity, and increase profit with combined cropping/grazing especially if a value added food crop market is developed.  We actually do have all the equipment, but not the time or energy to develop the plan, work the plan, and market.  The equipment mostly sits in the barn and serves as depreciating assets against income.
  8. At the end of the day,  we do the best we can and then we die.  The hope is to leave a legacy of some sort – be it a physical asset, money, or wisdom.  A friend recently sold his rather large farm he had promoted, taught, enjoyed, and improved with holistic, organic practices for all his life yet it sold to conventional farmers who are likely to plough it all under and row crop until it is degraded. That is sad, but life goes on.

At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to bringing the 120 acres back under my management even though i will only graze it once i get it seeded back down.  With managed grazing and some brush/tree removal, the pasture will be back hopefully making money for me soon.

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You can see the worked field which has now been bare soil since harvest of soybeans last November.  That means 10 months and counting of open, unprotected soil.  

Managing Stock and Pasture

With an exciting title like that, one can hardly wait to read what’s within!  HA!

Nevertheless, managing our resources (in my case it’s primarily land and cattle) is a must and, yes, even biblically (Genesis 2:15) mandated, to not only preserve unadulterated landscape (not to be confused with managing by removing human and wildlife impact or just letting nature take its course – ‘mother nature’ is not wise), but also we can use intense management to restore and improve ravaged soils and water.  There is a cost, time, and planning involved – and, to most, that is just not exciting.  It’s more fun to blame someone else for whatever climate change, global warming, environmental downfall you believe in on someone else and, those in power play on emotion to create ways to transfer wealth out of yours and mine pocket and put it in theirs.  But the fact is that each of us can make incremental changes in our own lawns, houses, driving habits, purchasing choices which will make us feel better and it will, rather that cost us, put money in our own pockets.

We have waste on our farm and farming practices, to be sure, just as any company or household has – oftentimes there is a cost to manage the waste, so it’s more profitable to waste.  No harm in that – usually.   For example, after having my timber and draws profitably logged which also improved the land, air, water, wildlife, soil, the resulting branches and small logs are more effectively burned where they lay vs  chipping or chopping for firewood.  It is a huge cost to do either of latter.  However, before burning, i’ll allow them to rot down, putting nutrients and carbon back on the soil and provide some shelter for wildlife before i burn the piles.  So not a total waste.

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Here I’m installing a single strand poly braid electric fence with step in posts to keep the cows on the tall (older forage) grasses to the right.  I did this because the south half of this paddock was grazed Jun 23-25.  Although there is little regrowth even after 45 days (we are still dry despite the green forage), it will be more tasty to the cows and they will grub it down to the soil thereby setting it back for regrowth and allowing the drought to get a deeper grip.  Bare soil and short roots make for a disaster.  Soil erosion, high soil temperatures, slow regrowth, microbes, essential to soil health, will start dying off.
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Photo showing the shorter regrowth up front, the poly braid, and the taller, older forage in the background. The taller forage has not been grazed since last December and, though we are short on moisture, the rains have been much more timely than the past two years, so there is a nice variety of forages available and many of them have already gone to seed – adding to the reserve or seed bank in the soil for the future.
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Variety in the sward and decent ground cover for my worn out soil.  It has taken years to build a better pasture and this is actually some of the best.  It is located near the ditch so it has the topsoil from the ground above it plus more moisture.  However, even the worst soil is starting to support a thicker stand.  I’ll get a photo – i’m very excited about the improvement at long last!
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Not much regrowth despite being rested for 45 days.  Thankfully, through managed grazing, i can let this rest at least another 45 days.  You can see my boot in this photo – estimated height of sward is 6-8 inches.
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Perfect time to allow a long rest to allow this birdsfoot trefoil to go to seed!

Starry Campion (Silene stellata)

As i was spot spraying woody brush on the road banks the other day, i came upon a tall slender plant with lovely white flowers.  Being morning, it was in full reaching-for-the-sun glory and i realized i had never seen or at least not noticed this beauty before.

The query was posed with a photo on Facebook as to its identity with no correct responses.  Later that evening, i drove back to my farm to spray brush again and pulled up a plant.  I took more photos and sent them to my daughter-in-law who is a top notch plant identifier in addition to her agronomy degree.  Within minutes, she had it nailed.

Starry Campion  is a Missouri native wildflower, but is not limited to Missouri.  It can be white or pink and is a member of the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae ).  Here’s the official description from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Description

A perennial with several stiff stems having short, soft hairs. Flowers in a loose panicle, subtended by a pair of small, leaflike bracts, with a cup-shaped calyx from which 5 white, finely fringed petals protrude. Stamens are long and slender. Blooms June–September. Leaves mostly in whorls of 4, lanceolate to oval-lanceolate, sessile, opposite, to 3 inches long.

Size

Height: usually 2½ feet.

Also called widow’s frill, this plant is a flowering forb but doesn’t seem to be desirable for most grazing mammals.  I don’t know – i’ve never seen it in my pastures!

Seek out beauty!

Cheers

tauna

 

Silene stellata
Scientific classification
Kingdom:
(unranked):
(unranked):
(unranked):
Order:
Family:
Genus:
Species:
S. stellata
Binomial name
Silene stellata

 

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My New Daughter!

Mercy me!  What happened to June!!!  Busy month for us, but the biggest event by far was that our youngest son is now married to a wonderful farm girl from Iowa.  They are now settling into life together in a small place outside Des Moines.  It’s a bit of a drive to her work and he works at home remotely for the same outfit he worked for in Parkville, MO.  Although they’ve never lived together, they say that after only three weeks, it just feels normal.  Even the pastor who married them commented to me that they may be the most suited for one another couple he’s ever married.  They both love God and serve Him by teaching youngsters and reaching out to international students when they were each in their respective universities.  In fact, it was through their involvement in the non denominational on-campus Christian ministries that they met.  God is good all the time.

It’s a huge adjustment for me that my baby is married – that gives us moms a different position in their sons’ lives and it’s tough to accept, but it’s a good thing. Her parents and sisters and extended family are our family now and we could not be more blessed.

I still cry, but hey, that’s just the reality of it.  I’m happy for all of us, but the realisation that so much change is and has been and the years just simply flying by and getting old, and, and, and…..

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

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Photo by Sarah Wilson, sister of the bride.  Leaving the reception held at the Iowa Arboretum
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This is Nathan’s old car which his great Aunt June gave to him about 4 years ago – she could no longer drive.  It’s a 1998 Lincoln Town Car with a bit over 100,000 miles – i think he put most on during his time in college and courtship of his now bride.  Aunt June will be 100 in September and she was tickled to see her old car as such a fabulous getaway car.
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Mother of the groom (that’s me) and our daughter, who was a bridesmaid.
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Thank you, Courtney, at The Salon, Ames, IA for making me look my best for the big day.   She created this do from my long stringy hair at 11am and with some product, teasing, and 93 bobby pins later it was not only gorgeous, but lasted all day – actually until i took out the pins some 10 hours later. Amazing!

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June Grazing

Pretty good article by Hugh Aljoe, Director of Producer Relations, Pasture and Range Consultant at the Noble Research Institute as published in the June 2019 (Issue 6) of Progressive Cattleman entitled, June:  The most critical forage Month of the Year.


Many of his pasture preparation ideas i would not implement, but his final thought is well said and quite possibly all that needed to be said.

Keep Past Seasons, predicted weather in mind

Recent weather trends – featuring more-frequent fluctuations and greater intensities of extremes across the country (USA) – should influence our management toward a more conservative and intentional approach to our pasture and grazing management.  The greatest probability for a successful forage season comes from preparing operational strategies based upon predicted weather conditions as well as adapting our management strategies to address issues or opportunities carried over from the previous seasons. 

With June being the most critical forage month for most of us producers, our pasture and grazing management strategies should be fully implemented early in this month to capture the full potential of our growing season.

All the best!

tauna

Friday Night Homemade Pizza

A tradition in my family growing up was to have pizza on Friday night.  I’ve carried that through to my family and seldom do we miss having home made pizza on Friday evening, even though the children are adults now and two live away from here.

Growing up, home made pizza was Chef Boyardee from a box.  No matter; Mom doctored up so it was great!.

Here’s my recipe.

For the dough be sure to allow at least 2 hours. (this makes two large crusts, so before the second rise, i stick 1/2 into a Ziplock Freezer bag and pop it into the freezer. Just bring it out of the bag enough time ahead for it to thaw – don’t leave it in the bag because it will rise as it thaws)

Pizza Dough - Wall Street Journal

PIZZA DOUGH

THE INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all purpose or bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoon sea or Real salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water

THE STEPS

Add flours, honey, yeast, and salt to the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer and process to combine  (i just put it in the bowl of my Kitchenaid Artisan bowl and mix by hand briefly).  Add water and 2 tablespoons olive oil and continue to process until dough forms a ball.  If dough is sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.  If dough is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until you have a smooth elastic ball, about 5 minutes.  I use my Kitchenaid Artisan mixer.

Form dough into a smooth ball and place in a large bowl greased with olive oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.  Cut risen dough in half.  Knead each half briefly and then shape into a ball.  Place the two balls on a lightly floured surface and cover loosely with a clean towel or plastic wrap.  Let rest 1 hour at room temperature or in the refrigerator up to 24 hours.  If refrigerated, let dough come to room temperature before continuing.

Use a rolling pin to roll out and your hands to stretch each ball into a circle or whatever size your pizza pan.  If dough becomes too elastic, place it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to relax before continuing.

The toppings:

That’s wide open and just your favorites.

If you want stuffed crust – Usually, but not always, i roll out the dough large enough that i can place thin slices of cheese along the edge of the pan and cover with dough for stuffed crust.

I top the dough with home made pizza sauce (still perfecting it, but it’s pretty good) or whatever commercial product you like.

Top with Parmesan or Parmesan mix shredded cheese.  I use 4C Homestyle Brand Parmesan or Parmesan/Romano Mix both of which i buy at Wal-Mart.

Next on is previous cooked, drained, and cooled 1 lb of our home raised ground beef (or i plan ahead and turn it into beef sausage – i don’t eat pig).

Thick sliced Portabella (Babybella) mushrooms and sliced natural olives.

Shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese, but often i add Cabot Extra Sharp White Cheddar in the 2 lbs package which is also available at Wal-Mart. 

Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

 

 

 

 

Faith, Family, Farm

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