A Star Is Born?

Nathan here, guest writing once more!  This is the narrative essay I wrote for my dual credit Composition class at NCMC.  I had forgotten to release this story a couple weeks ago, but now I can claim that my blunder was simply a calculated step to save this tale for the one-year-anniversary of opening night for Les Miz.  So anyway, to the story!  Enjoy. My hands were shaking as the emcee finished his opening remarks, so I took a deep breath to slow my pulse as the orchestra began to play.  The line in front of me had begun shuffling forward onto the stage, mallets in hand, moving in time with the music.  Despite every instinct screaming for me to turn and run, I gripped my own mallet tightly and fell into step at the end of the line.  Two measures and four steps later, the hardwood floor of the wings gave way to large square sections of plywood and for the first time in my life, I stepped onto the stage as an actor.  Working for this moment had taught me perseverance far beyond any I had ever known, and now it was about to pay off. The entire saga had begun eight months earlier, when my music teacher, Olivia Coon, suggested I audition for a role in the upcoming production of Les Misérables being staged by Carousel Productions in Macon, Missouri.  The words “Les Misérables” had hardly left her mouth before I was asking when auditions would be held.  It had always been my dream to perform Les Miz, as it’s known to its fans, and besides, how hard could an audition possibly be? It turns out the audition was much harder than I could have imagined.  On a cold November evening, I walked into the Royal Theatre for the first time, at once supremely confident and extraordinarily nervous.  People continued to trickle in until the whole lobby was full; by the time I was called into the audition hall there were at least 50 people, and with every competent-looking individual who had entered, my confidence had taken a hit.  Suffice it to say, a bad case of nerves and a shattered confidence did not serve me well during my audition.  Little more needs to be said except to explain that I was assigned spoken lines in a musical. In spite of my setback, I was determined to carve a role for myself; so when rehearsals began in January, I decided that if I still failed, it would not be for a lack of effort.  I made sure to arrive on time, if not early, for every rehearsal.  I practiced every chorus and every minor solo.  I leapt at any opportunity to fill in lines if someone was absent and to accept whatever part was available.  By the time the cast was finalized at the end of the month, I was rehearsing as Courfeyrac, one of the students; Constable #1; and as a convict in the chain gang. February was a hard month; whereas January had been very fluid and relaxed, with most of our rehearsal time being spent solely on the music, in February we moved into the theatre and discovered the challenge of fitting 60 people into a space designed for a much smaller cast.  I think the cast’s first realization that this was real— that our community theatre truly was performing Les Miz— came in this first week of February, as we quieted our jokes, shortened our conversations, and extended our rehearsals.  We no longer had time to sit and chat, especially those of us with multiple roles.  It was not uncommon to see fellow actors run from one wing, down the stairs, and into the dressing room to change, all before racing back to the other staircase to be in position for the next scene.  Because of these challenges, it was in this month that the bonds amongst our cast were forged.  Whether it was reminding someone of their position or helping a friend tie his ascot, we realized that we must support one another for the show to succeed. With just three weeks until the show a sense of urgency developed in the cast.  We were now able to run through the entire show consecutively, but we still were not close to having a stage worthy performance.  Despite any worry this may have caused our directors, though, we never panicked.  Much of why we were able to stay calm and focused can be attributed to the efforts of the principals; those people who held lead roles and helped lighten the mood while never being distracting.  Our Jean Valjean, Joel Vincent, was especially supportive of our motley assortment of revolutionary students, and even when we completely botched a scene, he would always be there with a silent high-five and congratulations. Finally, with a week to go, we were ready.  All the patience on our director’s behalf, all the determination of the actors, and all the tolerance of our families had come to this point— now there was nothing to do but wait. The tension in the air was palpable on opening night.  The audience’s, the cast’s, my own, it all washed together as we, the chain gang, entered stage right.  An expectant hush fell over the crowd as the two lines of convicts opened the show, our footsteps in time with our rhythmic chant as we reached our positions on stage.  I took my spot in the front corner of the stage, dropped to my knees, mallet held ready, and waited for the cue to start work. Our mallets kept the rhythm throughout the scene, but the crowd didn’t notice; they were enthralled by the energy sparking between Javert and Valjean.  “Do not forget me,” you could almost hear the audience as they took a breath in anticipation of Javert’s final line, “2-4-6-0-1!”  The rest of the chain gang and I stood, turned, and exited the way we had entered, and as we left, we echoed the ominous words of the chain gang’s lullaby: “Look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave, look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave.”  The thundering applause that escorted us from the stage didn’t make me feel like a slave, however: as I raced down the stairs to change for the next scene, I felt as though I could fly.

Winter Lessons

This afternoon is forecasted to be a return to almost normal weather.  Everyone here is looking forward to that to be sure, especially given that this is the second winter in a row of being exceptionally long and cold.  Like last year, there has been little opportunity to do outside work, so we’ll all be in a rush to catch up once the weather cooperates.

My difficulties, like last year’s, have been pretty much self-induced.  From not castrating the ram lambs in a timely fashion (so I have lambs being born now in this bitter weather) to having purchased fall-calving cows which are STILL calving.  Had four calves born just this week!  Thankfully, the calves have come without trouble and are doing well.  The lambs, however, simply do not have enough body mass to survive the cold – more specifically, the wind and cold – so I’ve brought them indoors for nursing.  It is unlikely that i’ll be able to get their mothers to take them back after being bottle fed for 3 days, but I will try this afternoon.

This ewe sensibly accepted her lambs after being roped and tied to a tree stump.  She wanted nothing to do with them in the beginning.
This ewe sensibly accepted her lambs after being roped and tied to a tree stump. She wanted nothing to do with them in the beginning.

I also did not allow for enough stockpile grazing.  When winters were more normal, it took about an acre of good stockpile per cow to get through the winter.  However, winters have become more severe so it not only takes more food for the cows (because it’s extra cold and damp), but also the stockpile deteriorates months before new grass comes on in the spring.  This year’s stopgap was to purchase and have delivered 150 additional bales of hay to carry me through another long and difficult winter.

It’s very difficult, i suspect, for anyone in the US to believe in global warming, but certainly there does seem to be some climate change and either I’m going to have to plan better or I need to move to a warmer climate.  Even if this is a cyclical pattern (and i suspect it is), moving still sounds like an attractive plan.

Interestingly, we have begun considering the option of purchasing most or all of our hay needs and selling off our hay making equipment.  Purchasing hay and unrolling it for feeding, not only feeds the cows, but adds considerable nutrient and fertilizer to the soil.  We may also use hay feeding as a way to expand the cow herd without expanding our land base.  Land has become far too expensive to buy now because of the government enhanced commodity support programmes and vast amounts of pasture land have been ploughed up for row cropping.

Additionally, the fences and trees have been pushed out to make more acres to plough, so it’s unlikely to return to pasture anytime in my lifetime.   However, maybe it’s best not to purchase more land as my husband and I both approach retirement ages.  We actually may not retire because we enjoy what we do, but we may cut back and additional land means additional expense and management.  If we expand using purchased hay, we can cut back anytime.  If we were to sell our land, it would be ploughed immediately by the new owners.



Vegetable & Beef Soup

Since both sons are still croupy and sick, and it’s still bitterly cold outside, another batch of soup is on the menus today.

beef soup 005
If you can, try buying beef in split sides, half, or whole carcasses – This will save a lot of money and allow you to buy a premium product. Check with your local producer. Of course, we raise our own and have it processed at a local state inspected custom butcher, King Processing in Marceline, MO

Last night, a 1 lb package of  boiling beef was set out to thaw in the kitchen sink, then this morning, I dropped the meat into a 3 quart pot (I like my old copper bottom Revere Ware, but beware of the thin new stuff, it won’t sit flat on the burner for long) and added about 2 quarts of water and set to boil.  As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer for 2-3 hours.  Meat will become very tender.  Take out the meat and let cool.  While it is cooling, I add about 1 1/2 cups of chopped celery, 1 cup sliced carrots, and 1 chopped medium size onion.  I know that’s a lot of onion, but onions are supposed to have curative properties, so I push the limit.  Also, I add up to 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 4 tablespoons dried parsley, 2 teaspoons dried sage, and 1 teaspoon powdered thyme along with a teaspoon of black pepper and 1-2 tablespoons Real salt.  Pull the beef off the bones and any sinew and pull apart into bite sized pieces and add back to the pot.  Let simmer for a while, once the veggies are cooked through, it’s ready, but even longer will allow the flavours and spices to meld, so enjoy leftovers!

 I have some day old bread that needs using up, so thin slices will be placed in the bottom of the bowl and the soup poured over top.
I have some day old bread that needs using up, so thin slices will be placed in the bottom of the bowl and the soup poured over top.

Use organic ingredients if at all possible!  Adjust and substitute to your family’s tastes.

Stay Warm!!!



Lonely Statues

My son, Nathan, is guest writing today!

Lonely Statues

Standing on a faded red and white thirty foot tall tower, the white Charolais bull statue at the junction of Highways 5 & 36 in Laclede, Missouri, is a local legend.  Erected in 1972, the statue has for many years informed passersby of the location of Lamme Farms, the now-defunct ranch once run by June Lamme and her late husband, Bill.  Despite the statue’s landmark status, many people have forgotten that Lamme and her husband were instrumental in the introduction of Charolais cattle into the region.  Lamme Farm Charolais sign

Initially, Lamme’s husband raised Charbray cattle, a Charolais-Brahma cross developed in Mexico, but Lamme says, “They were really touchy.  They wouldn’t let us pet them, we couldn’t get close to them.”  Their experience with the Charbray taught Lamme and her husband they would prefer to work with a breed that was more approachable.

Finally, in the early 1950s, her husband made the decision to “breed up” to full-blood Charolais, which was a tamer, gentler animal.  He then bought full-blood Charolais from the Wrigley family in California.  When asked if she meant the family that founded Wrigley Company, Lamme exclaimed, “Yes, and Bill always said it like that, ‘Wrigley Chewing Gum people is where we got our start!’ ”  With this choice, Lamme Farms became one of the first breeders to introduce pureblood Charolais into Missouri, along with the McGinnis brothers of Lathrop, Missouri, and the Litton Charolais Ranch of Chillicothe, Missouri.

Lamme and her husband then joined the American-International Charolais Association, or AICA, a registry designed to prove the pureblood pedigree of Charolais cattle.  This required them to send in paperwork and documentation for every animal to the headquarters of the AICA, which at the time was in Houston, Texas, but was later moved to Kansas City, Missouri.  She remembers travelling with her husband to the international meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.  Lamme tells how one year she and her husband were invited by their hosts to dinner at their host’s home in the mountains, “We could look down and see Phoenix, and see all the lights.  This was quite an experience for me.”  She sweeps her arms apart as she speaks, to symbolize the magnitude of the view, and her eyes sparkle as she stares into the distance.

The Lammes also worked to promote the Charolais breed as a whole, and in 1963 they helped found the Missouri Charolais Breeders Association, or MCBA, an organization devoted to the promotion of Charolais cattle.  Lamme laughs as she passes on the wisdom of her husband, “Bill always said it’s easier to sell someone else’s cow.  You can brag on it and it doesn’t sound like you’re the one bragging.”  Mr. Lamme would be elected to the first board of the MCBA, and would later serve as president of the organization.

When asked about her role in the group Lamme says, “They’d give anybody a job.  One time, they asked me to be in charge of decorations at our Charolais Congress in Kansas City at the Muehlebach Hotel.”  The Charolais Congress was an educational event on the promotion of Charolais, which preceded a “Red Carpet sale,” held in conjunction with the American Royal livestock show.  “For the first time [the Charolais Congress] met, I had these beautiful flowers for the head table, then I would move them to…wherever there would be a meeting.”  Lamme smiles as she reminisces about the splendor of the event, “Then we moved, on a Sunday, to the Red Carpet sale… We used the same flowers all around where the red carpet was and the cattle were brought out on the red carpet to be introduced to the crowd, who would then start buying… Who’d ever heard of going to a cow auction and have flowers there?  But the Charolais people did it up right.”

Despite all that, in the mid-1970s the Lammes decided to sell their herd, after Mrs. Lamme began leading tours.  “In 1970, I planned my first tour to Europe.  It was 21 days long and it cost $750… We had enough [people] that we did two tours.”  Mr. Lamme had planned to join her for the first tour, but one of his bulls injured him and he was unable to travel.  The next year, however, was different.  “Bill got to go this time, and he realized what a wonderful trip it was, and I enjoyed it so much more when I could share it with him.”  A fond smile tinged with sadness crosses her lips as she describes travelling with him, “I’ve had a wonderful life, and gone on wonderful trips, but those years when Bill and I went together, those were the best years, looking back on it now.”

Shortly after those first trips, Mr. Lamme began contacting other ranches, looking to sell his herd.  Lamme sighs wistfully before completing the story of their herd,  “He had been writing this ‘special report,’ as he called it, a list of every Charolais breeder that advertised in any magazine…he knew quite a few people through that, so he talked to somebody up in Canada, and they came down and bought all of [the Charolais].”

Lamme Charolais cattle 1990

The Lammes sold their herd, and after everything they had done to promote Charolais, they were now out of the business.  Mr. and Mrs. Lamme would go on to start the Green Hills Travel Center and would lead tours around the world together until Mr. Lamme’s passing in 1991.  Now, many people have forgotten the history of Lamme Farms, and this story ends where it began, a lonely white statue atop his tower, watching over pastures long void of his kin.

Lamme, June.  Personal Interview. 2/9/2015

Heifers and Mature Bulls

This advice goes for all animals species, not just cattle!  Our personal experience is that we prefer to breed those virgin heifers at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years of age.  Breeding them to calve as 2-year-olds is comparable to a girl giving birth at 14-15.  Breeding and calving later can reduce calving difficulties by allowing the youngster to fully mature.  Even though conventional wisdom says it’s not profitable to miss out on that first calf and that by selecting for early calves, you are selecting also for early maturing, is sound business.  However, there are some ranchers who feel they more than pick up on the other end with their cows producing until they are 14-15, rather than dropping out of the herd at 10-11.  So, right or wrong, we don’t necessarily ‘develop’ the heifers, we simply let them grow up with the mature cows and become sensible, healthy, and productive females.

Here is another thought from Burke Teichert, a man whom I’ve yet to meet, who has words of wisdom and experience worth pondering taken from his column “Strategic Planning for the Ranch” in Beef magazine.

Don’t overdevelop replacement heifers.

“It will cost you money in several ways.  If some don’t breed, take heart in the fact that the “good ones” did.  At first breeding, 55% of expected mature cow weight is adequate in most situations, as opposed to the 65% that’s long been recommended.”

Don’t take better care of bulls than they should need.

” Since a bull doesn’t need to gestate or lactate, if he requires exceptional care, do you really want his daughters to become your cows?”

Burke Teichert, a consultant on strategic planning for ranches, retired in 2010 as vice president and general manager of AgReserves Inc.  He resides in Orem, Utah.  Contact him at burketei@comcast.com

“Not-To-Do” List

Here is another thought from Burke Teichert, a man whom I’ve yet to meet, who has words of wisdom and experience worth pondering taken from his column “Strategic Planning for the Ranch” in Beef magazine.

“We can all think of things we used to do.  We quit doing them because we discovered they were not necessary –often long after they’d ceased to be necessary, if they were ever necessary in the first place.  I’ll guarantee most of us are still doing things that don’t need to be done, but cost us time and money.”

Burke Teichert, a consultant on strategic planning for ranches, retired in 2010 as vice president and general manager of AgReserves Inc.  He resides in Orem, Utah.  Contact him at burketei@comcast.com

What are some things you do that are time wasters?  I know i have some, but it seems like they come from poor planning rather than day to day wasting (although this blog may easily fall into that category, but I am hoping it will build into a business someday).  Questions i ask myself:  What am i doing right now?  Is it costing me time and money? or is it a good investment for my time and money?  If it is a cost, why am I doing it?  Sometimes we do things because we enjoy them and that’s okay IF we can afford it.  For example, if we have no debt, if we have some serious savings, and if we can easily live within our means.  But if we struggle with finances, we need to seriously slash those costs that yield no income.  Don’t fall into a trap of justifying anything.

Hungarian Beef Goulash (Bogracs Gulyas)

Years ago, I put together little ‘thank you for your purchase’ packets of premixed spices for dishes which could be utilized with our grass finished beef.  Customers who purchased a certain amount of beef or lamb from us would receive a packet or two.  Although, I no longer offer fully grass-finished beef and lamb at the retail level, I try to keep a few of these on hand for gifts and such.

Here is one of our favourites!

Hungarian Beef Goulash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2-2 lbs beef (stew meat, round steak, etc) cut into 3/4 inch cubes

2 cups water

8 ounces of chopped tomato or tomato sauce

3 medium onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon instant beef bouillon

1/2 teaspoon caraway seed

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 medium potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 green peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces

Heat oil in Dutch oven or deep 12-inch skillet until hot.  Cook and stir beef in hot oil until brown about 15 minutes.  Add water, tomatoes (with liquid), onions, garlic, paprika, Salt, bouillon, caraway seed, and Pepper.  Break up tomatoes with fork.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer 1 hour.

Add potatoes; cover and simmer until beef and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.  Add green peppers; cover and simmer until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve in soup bowls with chunks of French bread for dipping into hot broth.

That’s it!  My packet of spices makes it easy in that you don’t have to chop onions or garlic and there is no need to keep all those spices on hand.  Additionally, my packets only contain certified organic or all natural ingredients and no preservatives.  So these are best kept in the freezer for long term storage.

Recipe right on the packet!
Recipe right on the packet!

As with any recipe – be flexible with what you have on hand and what you like.  We aren’t keen on cooked peppers, so i replace them with green beans or peas.  It might accommodate sliced fresh okra as well, but haven’t tried that one.  I suspect using grass-finished ground beef would work, too!  Of course, you don’t have to use clean grass finished beef, but since that is what we raise, I tend to be biased that way!



Faith, Family, Farm

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