The Cowboy and the Steer

Some days, no matter what you do, you just can’t get the cows to do what you want.

We had one of those days recently. Our steer was ready to be butchered, we had a stock trailer standing by, and extra guys to help load him. All we needed to do was get that one steer into the stock trailer.

That’s all. Just one steer.

That proved to be easier said than done. That steer did not want to be caught. He lead them on a merry chase that ended when he walked through the fence into the neighbors pasture, and stood there, just out of reach, smugly looking back.

It was so frustrating.

One of the guys commented that the only way that we were going to catch that animal was with a professional cowboy.

Everybody looked at him incredulously. Just where does one find a professional cowboy in southern Iowa?

Believe it or not, living just a few miles away! Now in some parts of the country, real life cowboys are a dime a dozen, but in southern Iowa, they are a rare commodity. And we had one for a neighbor!

So they called him.

And he came.

He stepped out of that big diesel pickup every inch a cowboy, from his boots to his belt bucket, all the way up to his hat. He even had spurs (but no chaps, but then, it was only one cow.)

He had five dogs, all with radio collars, and his horse. From the time he saddled up and let all five dogs loose, it took him less than 15 minutes to have that steer lassoed. Fifteen minutes.

The dogs then walked that repentant steer right up to the trailer.

When the guys picked their jaws back up, they helped him load that now docile steer and sent him on his way to become our dinner.

Thank you cowboy, you not only saved our steak and hamburger, you gave our friends an exciting, but very short rodeo. Not bad for a night’s work!

The Hidden Blessings

The unexpected, extended time with our kids has been a hidden blessing during this tough season.

It’s almost surreal how life goes on after cancer turns everything upside down.

Meals still need to be made. There’s always laundry to do. And if you live in the country – cows need to be feed, fences fixed, and hay baled.

And Jan wasn’t able to do any of it.

That’s where the kids stepped in.

Thankfully, Nate is still living at home and has taken on the biggest share of the outside work. But his siblings won’t let him carry that load alone. Every weekend, whoever is available shows up. Sometimes just one, sometimes a whole crew.

Every weekend.

They’ve mowed the lawn and trimmed, moved fences, chased cows, cleaned pastures, put down mulch, helped in the garden and picked up groceries. Whatever needs to be done, they do it.

Jan is right outside with them. On good days he’s fixing mowers, talking technology, and playing with the grand baby. And life seems almost normal.

On not so good days, he does more sitting and watching. Laughing at Indy’s shenanigans, and just enjoying the loved ones around him.

Savoring each moment.

Thankful for the precious gift of time and family.

A hidden blessing in a tough time.

The Silent Months Pt. 2

Just as Steven and Laura were coming out on the other side of their hard journey, Jan and I entered our own.

The day after Thanksgiving Jan noticed some odd tingling in his left leg.We weren’t very worried at the time, we just figured it was a herniated disk in his back.

But as the days and weeks and months went by, his pain increased and his mobility decreased. It hurt to get in and out of cars. To sit. To stand. To lay down. At times the pain was excrutiating.

We went to chiropractors, doctors, surgeons, physical therapists, and fought insurance to pay for the MRI’s everyone agreed he desperately needed.

He lost weight and started walking with a cane so his leg didn’t give out.

Covid -19 happened, making it even more difficult to get any answers.

An MRI of the back showed no reason for the pain, so we began the process to get an MRI of his hip.

It was finally approved the Friday before Memorial Day. Everybody’s best guess was a labral tear. We were expecting surgery and a year of physical therapy to learn to walk again.

But everybody was wrong. Very wrong.

The surgeon called us as we were driving home. There was a tumor on Jan’s hip. It was large and looked aggressive. He had referred us to an orthopedic oncologist in Iowa City.

I can tell you the exact spot on Mills Civic Parkway that cancer entered our lives.

The next three weeks were a blur. Waiting. The trip to Iowa City. Seeing the MRI and knowing it was bad. Tests. More tests. More waiting. Covid -19 restrictions.

Finally a diagnosis. A name for the insidious evil that was stealing my husband.

Large B Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, DLBCL, a very aggressive form.

But, very responsive to chemotherapy. Very treatable.

The oncologist is optimistic. But the journey is hard. So very hard. Six rounds of chemo, six days in the hospital each round with 4 days of 24 hour chemo, then two weeks at home to recover.

The first round he was in the hospital by himself because of Covid restrictions. Things were more relaxed for the second round and a primary caregiver (me!) could be there for a limited time every day.

The last few months have been a roller coaster of emotions that zapped my energy, my creativity, my words.

And that is why I’ve been silent.

But now we know what we are fighting. We have a battle strategy. And we have a big God.

And my words are back.

The Silent Months Pt. 1

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared with you all.

A long while.

My silence wasn’t planned, but sometimes God takes us down paths we never expected to be on.

Soon after my last post, our much loved son-in-law was shot while serving a warrant as a deputy sheriff. Thankfully, he is healing well, but the trauma and uncertainty of those months was intense.

It was so hard to watch them walk through the pain, but they did it by the grace of God and are stronger for it.

There is much about their journey that I could have shared, but it wasn’t my story to tell.

And, to be honest, it was something Jan and I needed to heal from as well. The shock and pain of that night and the days following were hard. Very hard. There are certain images that will be forever embedded in my mind. There was so much I couldn’t put into words.

And I respected their need for quiet as they processed their new reality.

A reality that meant lots of doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.

And early retirement from law enforcement and a new career. Something they never expected.

But God is good. He is faithful. He is kind. He is taking the bad and turning it into something new and beautiful.

Their next steps are still uncertain, but their faith is strong and their God is big.

And I finally found the words to share their story.

Part 2 gets harder.

Labor Day on the Prairie

I’m not sure how it happened – but it seems like yesterday was mid-July and now Labor Day week-end is over!

And once again we filled it full of family and fun – spending the weekend at my parents with most of my extended family at our 27th Annual Labor Day celebration.

We now have three generations making memories on the Prairie (as the grandkids call Papa Jim and Nana’s place).

Three generations that include our Indy, who was a rock star at her first Labor Day celebration! It seems like just yesterday that my kids were the littles on the prairie – and now I’m the Nana introducing Indy the wonders of Great Papa and Great Nana’s house.

With the official count at 51 – we had tents and hammocks and cars everywhere!

So much laughter!

So much food!

So much fun!

So many old traditions to keep up, like Annie Annie Over, massive bonfires, s’mores, making Puppy Chow at midnight and playing Peanuts.

And the annual trek to The Rock, with Papa driving all the little’s in a wagon.

Since it was 45 Labor Day weekends ago that my parents moved us to the prairie, into the big old farmhouse they had moved in and that was not yet finished…

…we celebrated 45 years of memories watching old videos on a red neck movie theater on the lawn that the guys improvised by hanging a movie screen on some 2 X 4’s from the bucket of Uncle Delbert’s tractor.

It was a beautiful reminder of the legacy my parents have built.

A home full of love and memories.

A place of belonging that brings us back year after year.

A family that is bound together by laughter and tears.

We are truly blessed.

Photo credits go to my sister Sandy! I was so busy being Nana that I did not take a single picture all weekend! 


Moving Day

It was moving day again at Windy Ridge.

Another chick has flown the coop!

Thankfully, she didn’t fly far!

Anna is renting a house about 25 minutes away, closer to church and friends, but a little farther from work. Far enough away to be independent, but close enough to see often.

She’s spent the last month finding furniture, figuring out utilities, and otherwise preparing to be on her own. And I searched my cupboards and went to garage sales to find the necessary kitchen items – important things like a cheese grater and pizza cutter and ice cream scoop.

This is our fourth child to move out – and the most complicated move. The other kids just packed up their cars or trucks and waved goodbye as they drove out the driveway.

But this move involved furniture – heavy furniture – that needed to be transported over 4 miles of very dry and dusty gravel roads.

This move needed dad.

And he orchestrated it all with finesse.

It took two cars, a pick-up and a borrowed enclosed trailer that we pulled down the gravel roads at about 20 mph so we we didn’t kick up dust -but we got it all delivered, unloaded and arranged.

Now our chick is setting up her own nest.

We are so excited for her!




4H Mom No More

It’s county fair time again, but this year has brought some changes. For the last few years I’ve worn two hats – 4H mom and 4H leader, making for a pretty stressful fair week.

But for the first time in forever, I do not have a child with 4H exhibits. I am no longer a 4H mom.

To be honest, this change brought some sadness, but trust me when I tell you it only lasted about five minutes.

After years of crazy fair weeks, coordinating multiple projects with multiple kids, early morning baking sessions, printing off last minute project reports and a mad dash to the fairgrounds with a stop at Hy Vee to print off pictures, there were no projects from this house.


Instead of the exhausted, stressed out 4H mom secretly eating chocolate to stay calm, I became the quiet, calm 4H leader.

The mentor.

The cheerleader.

The support staff.

The filler-outer of forms.

The finder of classes.

The high-fiver.

And I took great pride and joy in the accomplishments of my 4Her’s, even sitting through the 4H rabbit show (which is as exciting as watching paint dry.)

And when the judging was over, I went out to eat with my co-leader and hashed over every blue ribbon, and purple ribbon, and State Fair ribbon.

Then I returned home to a quiet and clean house.

And ate some chocolate – just for the memories!


Beware the Swing

I love adventure days with my husband! We took one recently that included two states, three green houses and three different Amish groceries.

And Orscheln Farm and Home.

Because there is always some doodad or thingamajig that the tractor or the animals or the farmer needs. Always.

I don’t mind these Orscheln stops; at least they have nice bathrooms.

And I’ve found a few favorite things to look at while my husband is checking off his list. I take a quick walk through the clothing, then I checkout the book section, and this time of year, I take time to try out all the lawn furniture.

This trip was no exception.

I worked my way around the store to the patio section and systematically tried out every chair – in every color combination.

That’s when I saw it.

The hanging swing on display.

It looked really fun.

I wondered if it was comfortable?

I wondered how easy it was to sit in and get back out?

I walked over to it. I touched it.

Then I looked around to see if anyone was looking.

And I sat down in the swing.


The next thing I knew I was on the floor in a heap of canvas, wood, and metal.

My husband heard the crash and came running. Somehow he knew it was me?! He helped me quickly extricate myself from the mess and put the swing back together.

And he never laughed.

At least until we had quickly exited the store and sat in the car. Then we both lost it.

Honestly – we still laugh when we think about it.

Beware the display swings people.

They were meant to be a display. (Even if there is no sign anywhere that says Display Only!)

And girls – marry the guy who will keep a straight face while pulling you out of a mess of canvas and metal in the middle of a store and then laugh with you later.

That man is a keeper.


Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

You know what’s as good as going to see my grand baby?

When she comes to see me!

Which she did last week.

It was wonderful!

And honestly – this Nana didn’t want to do anything but be with her! And I do mean anything – including cooking. But for some reason, everybody still thought they needed to eat! Go figure?!

So I decided to let the crock pot cook for me and got creative with what I had on hand.

Crock Pot Mexican chicken was the result.

Nothing fancy, but it sure tasted good and was really easy to make.

So here it is – just in case you have a super busy week and need a fast and tasty meal!

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken  

3-4 pounds chicken breasts or thighs, I used bone-in

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 can Rotel tomato and peppers

2 (or more – depending on how hot you wish to make) Chilpotle peppers in adobe sauce*

Place the chicken in the crock pot. Sprinkle with the spices. Add the Rotel and as many Chilpotle peppers as you wish.

Put the lid on and let it cook on high for 5 hours. (Add more time if the chicken is frozen.)

Pull the chicken off the bone and serve it on tortillas or chips with all your favorite Mexican toppings.

*For those of you unfamiliar with Chilpotle peppers, they can be found in the Ethnic food section of the grocery store. They are a little hot but add a yummy smoky flavor to dishes. This recipe uses two peppers from the jar – not 2 jars of peppers. The remaining peppers keep very well in the fridge!




The Weather Radio


Ah…spring in the country.

Blue skies, green grass and the singing of birds!

And the incessant buzzing of the weather radio.

I have a love/hate relationship with this vital piece of our homestead.

I obviously love it because it has the potential to save our lives.  When you live beyond the sidewalks there are no tornado sirens to warn you of impending bad weather.

We can’t depend on the local TV station – because there isn’t one. And even if there was – satellite TV is the first to go when the clouds roll in.

Not that they would be able to tell us if we were in the path of the storm. Even our GPS has no idea where we are. When we turn on our gravel road it tells us “Driving on (then a pause as if confused) road.”

Our cell phones are useless. Our cell service is spotty even in good weather.

We really depend on that weather radio.

So, why do I hate such an important and useful tool?

You would not be asking that question if you had ever been awakened from a deep sleep with the incessant beeping of a weather radio.

Seriously. It’s enough to cause a heart attack. Or bladder issues.

And when you are in active weather pattern like we have been for the last ten days – it goes off night after night after night.

We get so sleep deprived, I want to unplug the thing, kiss my husband and say “If we don’t make it through the night, I’ll see you in glory, honey!”

It would be bad enough if it was just storms that directly affected us. But the weather radio covers a large listening area and many of the storms are well north, or south, or east or west of us. Then, when you finally settle back to sleep, it goes off again to tell you that same area has a flash flood warning.

You would think in this day and age someone would create a personal weather radio. One that said, “Hit the basement, Melinda! The tornado is about ten minutes out!”

Or, “Wake up! You have 15 minutes to get the chickens in before the torrential rainfall begins!”

Or. “Better cover your tender plants, it’s gonna freeze tonight!”

Surely, with our GPS capabilities this could be a thing!

Oh wait, GPS doesn’t even know where we are.

Scratch that idea.

And there it goes again – the incessant weather radio alarm informing me of our daily afternoon storm. Better get this posted – I’m about to lose internet.

Ahh…spring in the country!