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Gaining Perspective from Traveling

October 23rd, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

Growing up in Grimes county, I remember being surprised that most of my schoolmates had not been out of the great state of Texas. True, it is a big state with a lot to offer. We were young, and I was hardly a world-traveler myself. But I was even more surprised by the fact that some of my acquaintances and friends had never been to Houston. It is literally one and half hours from us, and I mean downtown. Obviously, suburbia is much closer.

Even as a fourth-grader I understood that broadening your experiences gave one a better perspective in life. Travel is an easy way to gain perspective. For example, seeing what life is like in the fourth largest city in the United States allows you to see how others live. You can develop an appreciation for where you live and/or appreciate what another place can offer.

My husband and I want our children to see as much of the world as possible. We personally treasure our trips to Hawaii and Mexico. Therefore, we have driven our children across the southeast part of the country visiting places along the way. They have also been able to see parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and a couple have been to Illinois.

When our oldest was eight, we allowed him to visit family in Alaska. Our daughter has had the opportunity to travel to Honduras. Four of us were thrilled to get the opportunity to venture to Uganda this past summer. (Talk about a life-changing trip.) Now this up-coming week, our middle child gets to travel to Oregon.

As we pack his bags and prepare to send him off, I am so excited for him. Adventure awaits. As he sees different parts of the country from the high desert to the mountains, I know that he will grow by the broadening of his horizons. I cannot wait to hear all about Oregon.

We have been greatly blessed as a family to have these travel opportunities. Although the beaches of Hawaii are beyond beautiful and the green mountains of Arkansas are gorgeous and the city of Houston has many things to offer, there is still nothing like home.

Home is definitely where the heart is and that will never change. If anything, traveling will just make that truth more dear to your soul. As we are already anticipating his return, join us in wishing our son a safe and fun adventure away from the ranch.

Little Britches

October 16th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

Right after I published the article for last week, we finally had a very nice cool front blow in from the north. A taste of autumn has been enjoyed to its fullest. My boys especially spend most of their free time out of doors in the cool sunshine.

Today they each had a lasso and were roping upside-down feed buckets in the driveway. I watched for a moment as each of them brought the ring of rope down around the bucket time and time again.

As the nights hopefully continue to grow cooler and cooler along with the daylight getting shorter and shorter, my little cowboys will snuggle up before bed to be read to and/or told stories.

They love me to tell them my versions of fairy tales like “Jack and the Beanstalk” or “The Three Little Pigs.” They enjoy to be read fictional books like My Father’s Dragon or Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which are full of imaginative plots and characters.

I grew up on the Little House on the Prairie book series, which still holds such a sweet place in my heart today. It of course is based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. All of my boys have enjoyed her book, Farmer Boy, which follows the childhood of Laura’s future husband, Almanzo. However, they don’t share in my deep affection for the rest of the series.

233711So if you have aspiring cowboys at home, I have the best book recommendation for you this fall. It too is auto-biographical like Little House on the Prairie, but it is written by Ralph Moody. Little Britches:Father and I were Ranchers is the first and arguably the best in the series about growing up ranching in Colorado. The setting changes in later books as Ralph’s life and circumstances also change.

Your whole family will love to hear the adventures of the Moody family. It is filled with love, life lessons, and laughter. You don’t have to know anything about ranching, being a cowboy, or farming to enjoy the stories.

I hope that you will try this book recommendation whether you are old or young, male or female, but especially if you have little cowboys/cowgirls at home. I know that you will love the book and the series if you give yourself a chance to be transported to Ralph Moody’s world.

Fall Games 2014

October 9th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

The calendar does not lie. It really is October, but it does not feel like it at all. In fact, I don’t think we have had such heat and humidity in October in my lifetime. It is just as hot as the summer. The meteorologist from Houston marveled over the dew point last week stating that it was typical of June and July, not October.

Fall is supposed to mean sweaters in the early morning and evening. Soups and fresh bread. Campfires to sit around at night and tell tall tales. Pumpkins and autumnal foliage. In this part of Texas we have so many evergreens that we have very little leaf color, but even that is not visible.

Fall is also time for hunting. I see deer corn flying off the shelf and loaded down pick-up trucks with deer feeders and ATVs cruising down the roads. Camouflage is everywhere. Dove season has already begun. Regular deer season is fast approaching and bow season is already here. It sure does not feel like it though. Hunters like the cooler temperatures because it helps to get the game moving.

Another big game in the fall is football. Whether you prefer professional, collegiate, or high school level play, there are games being fought out everywhere. Again it is just too unseasonably warm to truly enjoy the game. You shouldn’t have to wear shorts and flip flops, slather yourself with sunscreen, and swat mosquitoes the whole time.

There is just something missing this fall, and it is the crisp air, the cooler temperatures, and colorful display of change in nature. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons for the reasons listed above so if it wasn’t for hunters and football fanatics I would not even realize we were in October.

I am definitely no expert, but I did a little research to see what this type of autumn forecasts for winter. Apparently we are not to be fooled into thinking we are living in a perpetual summer. Winter will come and it will come with power. In fact the winters are usually so much harder that this time period allows us to stock our food supply even higher.

Since most of us have grocery stores we can visit year-round, maybe we should make sure we have sufficient firewood or natural gas. For ranchers having plenty of hay will be the issue. In other words, get prepared. Fall might not be here, but winter will be. In addition to the fall games of football and deer, mother nature is playing a game with us.

Candy Connection to Cattle

October 2nd, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

Halloween candy is everywhere. You walk into a grocery store and have to practically wade through aisles and kiosks filled with chocolate and sugary sweets. It makes me think back a couple of years to when the owner of the United Livestock Commodities group, Joseph Watson, recommended feeding stale candy to cows.

No, you read correctly. Candy for cows. And, no, I cannot make this stuff up. Truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

When corn is expensive and/or scarce, Mr. Watson felt that candy’s high sugar and fat content would be a good substitute. An additional bonus was that the paper wrappers could add fiber and fill to the cattle. His plan was a win-win for the beef producers and the candy companies. The latter had a way to unload their surplus product and the former had a way to cheaply feed their animals.

This plan does not seem to be a win for consumers though. I tried to find studies on what feeding candy did to the beef since two years have passed since the recommendation, but I could not find any information. Without a scientific study into the beef of candy-fed cattle, I am left with my own opinion.

I know what candy does to people. I know it is not a healthy part of anyone’s diet and should be eaten only in moderation. Therefore, I cannot imagine how anyone would have thought this was a good idea, much less publicly state it.

Grass-fed cattle do take longer to reach a harvest weight compared to grain-fed and/or candy-fed cattle. All that sugar and fat does make a cow or a person gain weight. As producers and consumers, we both have to show patience and trust the natural process. Then we know through countless studies that grass-fed beef has health benefits.

I tell you, the older I get the more I think our society has lost its mind. It is truly a strange world in which we live. As you pass out candy corn and bubble gum at the end of the month to costumed children, think about how you are keeping this candy out of the feedlots. I never could have imagined a candy connection to cattle.

New Video Released

September 25th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

Here it is! Sibling Rivalry‘s brand-new music video! When you go to view it, please make sure to put it on full screen. I had a little trouble embedding the correct size video.

If you are confused about what I am talking about, please go back and read, “Sibling Rivalry.”

The entire video was not filmed here at Cross Creek Cattle Company, but a good portion of it was. It should be obvious for example that we do not have a race track on the ranch. The woods, the horses, the cows, the old, red bunkhouse, the tall grass, etc are all from here. For people that have visited here, you will see places you recognize.

We were honored to be a part of this promotional video for this music duo. Enjoy their story, their music, and the scenery. If you live relatively close, Sibling Rivalry will be performing October 4 at Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville. It will sure to be fun.

To Clean or Not to Clean Eggs

September 18th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

Since many of our grass fed customers are also looking for pastured pork and free-range chicken eggs, an article this week grabbed my attention and I thought it might be interesting for you. It has nothing to do with cattle or beef, but is about eggs.

One of my main chores growing up was to feed and collect eggs. I grew up watching little chicks grow up into egg-laying hens. In many ways the chickens fed me: through the variety of ways in which you can prepare an egg, through actual chicken dishes, and through teaching me responsibility.

With that in mind, one of the first animals that we brought to our home were two dozen chicks. My children became their caretakers and in turn received the same benefits as I had from my childhood. Today we have many more animals, but the chickens are our mainstay. They are easy to raise and earn their keep through their eggs.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about eggs. When I had a surplus and gave them away, many people were surprised that they were not clean and sparkly like those at the grocery store. Some even complained after I gave them free eggs. They did not seem to care that scrubbing them actually stripped away the protective barrier around the egg making the egg itself vulnerable to bacteria.

Needless to say, some people stopped receiving free eggs. Understand, I don’t crack the egg and let a feather fall into the bowl with the yolk. I wash my eggs before using, but Americans in general are particularly crazy about cleanliness.

Why the U.S. Chills Its Eggs and Most of the World Doesn’t” by Rae Ellen Bichel is an interesting read. If you have ever wondered why other countries don’t have clean, refrigerated eggs like we do, then you should read this article. If you raise chickens and have wondered if you should clean or not clean your eggs, then this is a must read.

No More Horse Blankets?

September 11th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

As the fall is approaching and we enjoy our first days of autumnal temperatures, our eyes turn to the predicted colder-than-usual temperatures this winter. As ranchers we have two main concerns: our cattle and our horses. The latter will be the focus today.

Tradition says to stall up your horses in order to provide a wind break. The different bodies heat up the interior of the barn making the stalls warmer than the outside temperatures. For years we have followed this tradition as well as feeding grain and hay. On really cold nights, we blanket the horses, especially the older ones. We have one horse in particular, who can be seen shivering in the cold.

Well, tradition is not always best or right. We looked beyond the “traditional” ranching practices of raising beef when we began raising grass fed beef. We looked further back to how they were created. I read an intriguing article that takes the same approach for the care of horses. The author considers, “How was the horse created to withstand natural climate change?”

Her findings appear scientific and logical, but go against mainstream American horse care. If you have horses, please take the time to read this article. It is a long excerpt from Holistic Horse and Hoof Care by Natalija Aleksandrova posted on “The Soul of a Horse” website.

The summation of the article is that horses need 24/7 access to free-choice hay. Horses in cold, rainy, or snowy weather need a windbreak in the form of trees, shelter, etc. that they can leave when they so desire. She believes that they do not need to be stalled based on the fact that it restricts their movement as well as separates them from sharing body heat with other horse companions. Horses also do not need to be blanketed. This actually hurts them the worst.

By and by the article is very interesting. I found her findings intriguing and compelling. Now to decide how we are going to care for our horses this year: the “traditional” way or the really traditional way?

Mild Summer

September 4th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

I cannot believe that it is already September. School is back in full swing and routine is setting back into our lifestyle.

The other day I was shocked when a meteorologist in Houston, Texas announced that on record there had not been one day this year that reached 100 degrees. That is so unusual! 1997 was the last time that this has happened.

The ranch is farther north and further from the Gulf of Mexico than Houston, and has I believe achieved temperatures to 100 degrees this summer. However, the point remains that this summer has been unusually mild.

I am in no way complaining. In fact, I am celebrating the fact. It is wonderful. It has been hot; don’t get me wrong. It has not been scorching hot.

This is better for our cattle and animals. Nothing does well when there is no relief from the heat. Without the scorching heat, our pasture grass does better, too. It is not getting burned back and turning brown. It is still green and growing.

So what does this mean for the rest of the year? Will we continue to experience below normal temperatures through the winter,too? NOAA predicts exactly this pattern. In fact, only Texas and New Mexico are facing below normal temperatures this winter. Click here to read up on it.

I’m no expert, but I hear freezing temperatures more often than normal, which means that we need to have good windbreaks for the cattle and plenty of hay. It would be much better to be overly prepared than not prepared at all.

Enjoy the last few weeks of our mild summer. You might consider using them to get prepared for less than normal winter temperatures.

Open Air Meat Market

August 28th, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

meat market smaller

My husband, our only daughter, our 13 year old son, and I just returned from a mission trip in Uganda. We had an amazing time together serving the community, the missionaries, the church, and the Lord.

If you have ever traveled to Africa, you know about sensory overload. There are so many sights to take in and so many things that you don’t normally see that your mind swirls trying to process everything. As we passed through a bustling town filled with customers and vendors, we pulled over to purchase drinks for the remainder of our drive.

I looked to my left and there was an open air meat market. Beef was hanging from hooks while butchers were cutting off hunks of beef for waiting customers. It was fresh beef. The hooves and head were laying on the ground. On a table were the organs and other miscellaneous pieces. One vendor was weighing out organ meat to sell.

Beef is expensive in Uganda. At restaurants, beef costs a lot, chicken is more, and pork costs the most. So it is quite the opposite from the United States. In a culture where villagers live off of a diet high in starch, most of their protein comes from beans and peanuts, which they call ground nuts or g-nuts.

When we were served beef on occasion at a villagers home, it was usually beef bone broth. I knew how healthy the bone broth is as well as how uncommon it is to have beef on a daily basis in Uganda. They were putting out their best for us.

Inevitably when you return from a third world country, you cannot help being humbled by how blessed we are as a family and a nation. I wanted to show you this photograph and describe the open air meat market because I thought it would interest you as grass fed customers and/or fans of ranch living.

There is a movement to go back to how things were done in the past. Slow food movements, lacto-fermented foods, and traditional sourdough breads are among the trends of my health-conscious generation. I have a feeling that many of you would feel uncomfortable purchasing your beef in this fashion. Please let me know if I am wrong by leaving a comment.

End of the Summer Blues

August 21st, 2014 by Lara DeHaven

It is that time of year when you cannot walk into Wal-Mart or other stores without noticing that it is Back-to-School time. Aisles and shelving units are full with crayons, glue sticks, scissors, and notebook paper. Backpacks and locker organizers fill every nook and cranny.

This year is a little different for our family. It is the first year that one of my children is embarking on a new stage of life. My oldest son is on his way to Sam Houston State University. As exciting as it is to see him on his way to further his education and move boldly into adulthood, a little part of me is sad.

I honestly don’t know where the time went. It seems like just yesterday when he began Kindergarten. They say, “Time flies when you are having fun.” I know not everything was fun as I parented and loved and trained my son. It is hard work, but it sure did fly.

I also know that my parenting job is not over. In some ways it is only getting harder. I am having to step back big and let his wings soar. He will make mistakes and he will suffer the consequences, but he will most importantly learn from them.

Since we have a multi-generational herd, it is interesting to watch as mama cows love and care for their baby calves. They nurse them and clean them. They protect them and cuddle up beside them at night. Then at a certain time, the calves are weaned. Usually we wean them, but a mama cow will eventually wean their own calves. It is not natural for a grown cow to still be nursing. How strange would that be?

This whole parenting journey has been one long weaning process as I keep training and teaching my children. Then simultaneously I keep stepping back and letting them learn by making decisions for themselves. This marks a huge turning point in our lives.

It is the juxtaposition of excitement and sadness, which makes this life event so trying. It marks a new dynamic in our family. So instead of nerdy thrill I get from buying boxes of new crayons and finding bargains on spiral notebooks, I am dealing with a mild case of the end of the summer blues. The good news is that Sam is less than an hour drive away.

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