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Archive for the ‘Hardwork’ Category

Summer in Full Swing

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Summer on the ranch doesn’t differ too much from year to year. Really the only thing that changes is the amount of rainfall. Other than that, most things are unchanged. The heat is a dependable presence. Summers in Texas are hot and the temperatures have really begun to soar. These high temps combined with high humidity make for an awesome day. You step out of your nice air-conditioned home into an oven, and your body immediately begins perspiring.

This year in particular we have enjoyed nice rains. Therefore, we have more grass than ever. Not bad when you are in the grass fed business. Recently we had our first hay cut. We asked for round bales only. These are easier to feed a herd of cattle in the winter. We now have all the hay out of the field and stored for colder days.

The higher temperatures of summer mean that warmer water temperatures. We don’t have a swimming pool, but we do have several ponds. My children, especially the boys, love to jump in the water in an attempt to cool off. The cows do too, especially the Devons. Well, they don’t jump in, but they do like to stand mid-belly deep in the cool waters. Summertime means finding ways to cool off for both humans and animals.

Gardening is also in its prime time. Vegetables are ripening at lightning speed. We are getting to enjoy the fruit of our labor. Summertime is usually filled with putting up our produce and giving away our excess.

Summers are also a time filled with camps, fun outings, and trips. We like to spend time with our children enjoying this season together. From backyard barbecues to family floating trips, we seize time to spend with family and friends.

This is what summertime looks like at Cross Creek Cattle Company. We are busy doing both hard work and having family fun. We are truly enjoying the sunshine and cool waters. The smell of fresh cut hay fills the air. As I breathe in deeply, I know summer is in full swing.

Our Weaning Process

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Calves in the weaning process.  Notice the cows on the other side of the fence.

Calves in the weaning process.

In traditional ranching, calves are typically weaned young. The purpose is to get the calves on grain at a much younger age to bulk up. Cows are then allowed to recover quickly from nursing and be ready to be bred again at a faster rate. Traditional ranching is interested in getting beef faster and quicker.

On the other hand, grass fed beef ranching is truly a part of the slow food movement. We are interested most in quality. Therefore, we keep our calves at their mama’s sides for a much longer time. At Cross Creek Cattle Company, we typically aim for weaning at eight months. We feel that this gives the calf the best start.

Of course, we carefully monitor the condition of the mama’s. First calf heifers can sometimes not nurse a baby for eight months without losing condition in her own body. If we observe this, we wean the calf a little earlier.

We have just weaned calves again. We try to make this stressful time for both calf and cow as stress-less as possible. We separate the calves into a well-built pen, but do not cart them to the home ranch immediately. Instead we leave them in the pen with alfalfa cubes, hay, and fresh water for a few days so that the mama cows can be right on the other side of the fence.

The calves settle down in the presence of their mamas. The cows begin to dry up. They eventually will leave to go graze like any normal day. This is our signal that the weaning process is complete. We then will trailer the calves to the home ranch.

A few of our eight-month old calves.

A few of our eight-month old calves.

We want what is best for our calves and our cows. Doing what is best for our calves and cows also translates into what we believe is best for our grass fed beef customers. Cross Creek Cattle Company is dedicated to raising quality beef at affordable prices.

Real Cowboy Work

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Jake on the right riding Jack in the middle of the competition.

Jake on the right riding Jack in the middle of the competition.

At the 2013 Grimes County Fair, Jake DeHaven competed with two friends in team penning and team sorting events. Unlike speed events like barrel racing, these events are a test of true working cowboy skills on horseback. In fact, the event was created to enable cowboys to showcase their horsemanship skills. Because one of the boys on the team is sixteen years old, they had to compete in the senior division.

In team penning, the contestants are given a number announced over the loudspeaker as the time begins. The number corresponds to three calves in a herd of thirty. They are to sort the three calves out and pen them in a small pen at the opposite end of the arena. The fastest time wins. Deductions are made if any other calves cross the sorting line. It is harder to do than to describe in writing.

In team sorting, the contestants are also given a number as the time begins. It is similar to team penning, as they have to cut the calf with the said number out. Then they have to go in numerical order and cut out the remaining cattle. For example, if the judge called #5. Then they would remove #5 and then 1,2,3, and 4 in order. The fastest time wins with deductions given for mistakes in the order.

This was Jake’s first time to compete in either event. It was a joy to see him out there giving it his best effort. There are so many factors in a successful run. The cowboy has to be focused and paying attention. He/she has to have a reliable horse with cow sense. Together they make up one team. Then add two more riders and their horses and the teamwork needed increases.

We are proud of Jake and the other members of his team. They brought home the 3rd place prize in the Senior Division for both events. Regardless of the prize, they gained valuable experience that can only translate into better horsemanship skills on the ranch. At home or in the arena, Jake can do real cowboy work.

Surprise Swimming Party

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Last Saturday many from my family and some friends went fishing at our big lake on the new ranch. My eleven year old son, Jake, and an adult family friend decided to go fishing in the rowboat together, which was not a good idea. The boat was not big enough for the two of them.

At first things seemed fine, they rowed out to the middle of the lake with a large expanse of water separating them from the safety of the banks on all sides. As the friend cast out his line, he lost his balance. Jake attempted to correct the momentum of the boat as it rocked far to one side by leaning in the opposite direction. His boat companion tried to regain the boat’s balance by standing up (not a good idea). Jake bailed just in time before the side of the boat smacked the side of his head or landed on top of him.

Jake found himself in the cold water in the middle of the lake fully clothed including his brand-new cowboy boots, which he had just received for his birthday. He can swim, but he has never had to swim so far especially encumbered by so much clothing and footwear.

After making sure that each of them were not hurt, they tried locating the fishing poles and oars. Together they tried to drag the boat with them, but after about fifteen minutes they decided to abandon ship. Both were becoming tired.

Meanwhile, my dad jumped into the lake and began swimming toward the wet fishermen. He is an excellent swimmer and with good presence of mind removed his phone, boots, shirt, etc. before plunging into the cold water. He reached them about the time they decided to just swim to shore without the added burden of the boat. Daddy was surprised to turn around and see his faithful companion, Lily, a dog who does not normally swim, paddling up behind him.

Now there are two men, one boy, and a dog in the lake and at this point all of them are tired. Lily tried to rest by climbing up my dad’s back. Her claws scratched his back badly and he began bleeding. I sure am glad that we do not have sharks or piranha in the lake because they would be in really bad shape at this point.

Thank God, they all made it back onto shore safely. They climbed into chairs deep back in the shade under some trees to rest.

My daughter, Grandma, and the friend’s mother had left to run a short errand on the ranch only to return and see an empty lake with a boat standing straight up in the air and oars floating on top of the water. Panic set in immediately.

It did not take long for the two groups to meet and relief to soothe the fears of both parties. Jake’s boots dried out and he conditioned them well so he should be able to enjoy his birthday present for awhile. It might not have been his actual birthday, but it was definitely a surprise swimming party that we hope will not be repeated.

Excitement on the Ranch

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

We have had some excitement on the ranch in the past week. First we have gotten some much needed rain. Storm systems came through dropping good rain for a few days in a row. We have not had flooding like Houston or the tornadoes which occurred in northern Texas yesterday, for which we are very thankful. We still pray that God will continue to bless our land with rain throughout the summer.

Last Sunday a week ago, my youngest son, Andrew, grew ill. We thought he had contracted a stomach virus, but something about it seemed odd. In order to make a long story short as well as spare you the details, early Monday morning it became apparent that he needed medical attention. My husband and I drove to the nearest good medical hospital, which for us is in College Station.

Andrew received excellent care and had to endure an emergency appendectomy. After a total of three days in the hospital, we were released to come home. He is still recovering from the surgery, but is doing much better.

The challenging part will be to keep him from getting hurt for six whole weeks. Boys will be boys and we discussed no wooden sword fights, no trampoline, no wrestling, etc. Instead, we have been entertaining Andrew with playdough, Uno, Legos, go fish, puzzles, etc.

After dinner on one of our first nights home, we went on a slow walk through the pasture after a light rain. We ate our weight in dewberries for dessert. It was such a blissful evening. We delighted in the normal scenery. There were the horses grazing in green pastures. There were the cows in belly high grass. There are fish jumping in the lake. We were home!

We are so thankful for the rain and the health of Andrew. We caught the appendix in time before it ruptured. He is getting better each day. As I researched all there is to know about the appendix, I am also thankful that cows do not have them. That would really put a different spin on herd health management. It was hard enough to get a five-year old to articulate what he was feeling. I cannot even imagine having to monitor appendicitis in cattle.

Please pray for Andrew’s continued recovery and for rain to continue to replenish the soil in all the drought stricken areas of the United States. God does listen.

Whole Foods Grilling Tutorial

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Learning how to cook grass fed beef takes practice. It really involves understanding time and temperature differences from traditional cooking. Against the advice of many, you do not have to treat grass fed beef with kid gloves nor do you have to marinate everything for 24 hours. We give our customers “6 Cooking Tips for Grass Fed Beef,” which comes from an article on this blog with the same title.

Still, I get questions specifically pertaining to grilling steaks. I found this short video with very simple instructions and ingredients from Whole Foods. I liked it because it was so simple and the video does not spend the whole time extolling all the virtues of eating grass fed beef.

Instead it focuses on the how-to of grilling grass fed steaks, which is what our customers want. They already know why they have purchased the grass fed beef. Take just over one minute to watch a tutorial showing you a simple method of grilling.

Baby Time

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

If there is anything on earth that makes the hardest heart melt, it has to be the sight of baby animals. Regardless of the species, the sight of the very young makes people “oohh” and “ahhh.”

Baby calves are no exception. Our Beefmasters usually have long legs and big ears. They almost all look alike this year. Although, some have very distinct markings. On this Valentine’s Day, I am posting pictures taken of some of our calf crop. They are all about the same age, which is about two months old.

Please enjoy the photographs. And, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Camera shy calves.  These separated themselves out of curiousity and then grew camera shy when I went to take a picture.

Camera shy calves. These separated themselves out of curiousity and then grew camera shy when I went to take a picture.

Calves, like children, like to spend time together.  Usually one mama cow will baby-sit the calves while the other mamas take a break.  Here I found several calves hanging out together on a beautiful afternoon.

Calves, like children, like to spend time together. Usually one mama cow will baby-sit the calves while the other mamas take a break. Here I found several calves hanging out together on a beautiful afternoon.

They all look the same!  If it wasn't for good records, we would not know which belonged to which cow.  The green tags in the ear reveal their birthdate and dam.

They all look the same! If it wasn't for good records, we would not know which belonged to which cow.

Nursing on the run.  I always get tickled when I see a mama cow busy grazing and a calf nursing from behind, which is the only way to nurse on the run.  The mama cow is multi-tasking for sure.

Nursing on the run. I always get tickled when I see a mama cow busy grazing and a calf nursing from behind, which is the only way to nurse on the run. The mama cow is multi-tasking for sure.

Industry, Diligence, and Initiative

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Most people would agree that a child’s natural bent is toward laziness. Who does not want to linger in bed for as long as possible? Who would rather sit in the shade than bend their bodies in half weeding a garden? The answer for most of us is obvious. Laziness is something we have to fight.

Developing a desire to fight that which is a natural tendency is really a battle of self. Therefore, the first place to begin is with yourself. As parents of five children, my husband and I share a strong desire to develop within our children, male and female alike, industry and diligence. We also want them to take initiative and not wait to be told what to do. So we try to model industry, diligence, and initiative in our own lives.

I ask my children to be “productive” each day. That does not mean that one must work from sun up to sun down without taking a break, but that one be involved in some work throughout the day. It could be painting a piece of art, baking cookies, cleaning a horse stall, writing a short story, mowing the yard, etc. At the end of the day, you can feel a sense of accomplishment in something you have done.

Living on a ranch lends itself useful in instilling these character traits in children. There is always something to do. A tree has fallen on a fence, a gate latch breaks, the cows need to be fed hay, the float on the water trough malfunctioned, etc. From mechanic work and welding, to plumbing and construction, there are a variety of skills to be honed by just living on a working ranch.

Most of our grass fed customers who travel to Cross Creek Cattle Company in order to pick up their orders remark at least once “how lucky my kids are to be raised on this ranch.” It is true; however, my husband and I are just as fortunate to live in an environment that cultivates the need for hard work and productivity. This in no way means that city kids cannot find ways to be productive; they absolutely can in a variety of ways. The ranch simply furnishes us a ready environment.

Our ancestors’, the pioneers who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and/or crossed the unsettled plains on their way westward, lives required work for their survival. Even though our lives are not pinned between life and death in such clear cut terms, we want our family to thrive and not just survive. Today, you can survive without working hard. In some ways we are not only fighting our inner selves, but also what have become cultural norms. Success, in many ways, is measured by getting paid the most for doing the least amount possible.

However if you know that working was God’s design from the beginning for mankind, then it changes your perspective (Genesis 2:15). Work requires discipline and denial of self. It makes your body move and sweat. It engages your mind and builds knowledge. It places food on your table and a roof over your head. Work is good, and it is good for your body and soul (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

At Cross Creek Cattle Company, we are hard at work to develop high quality, nutritious grass fed beef. We come from a long line of ranchers in Texas, six generations in fact, but we are also busy training up the next generation by instilling the same characteristics that our ancestors exemplified: industry, diligence, and initiative.

Grass Fed Beef Stock

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

A stomach virus has run through my family for the last two weeks. Five of the seven members of our family have come down with it. Even though I was one of the ones affected with illness, I was able to make a nutritious stock to aid my family’s health.

There is a difference between stock and broth even though most people use the terms interchangeably. A simple distinction is that stock is made predominantly from bones and meat. Broth is made from meat only.

The bones impart minerals of bone, cartilage, and marrow. The addition of a little vinegar helps draw out more calcium, magnesium and potassium from the bones. Any vegetables added, like carrots, onions, celery, give the stock electrolytes, which are important to regain balance in your body.

Gelatin, a product from the bones, aids digestion and helps treat intestinal disorders. To tell how much gelatin your stock has in it, chill the stock. The top of your stock should develop a layer of gel or thicken up substantially. This is a great sign. As soon as you heat it up again, all the gelatin will dissolve.

Making beef stock is not difficult. I like to begin it in the evening and let it simmer all night in the crock pot. Soup bones are a standard cut in our grass fed beef quarters. Most half or whole orders choose to receive soup bones also. You can choose to get them meaty or not. I always choose meaty so that my stock will have a combination of both meat and bone, but the bone is the most important aspect.

Beef Stock

1 package of grass fed soup bones
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 quarts cold, filtered water
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 onions, cut in sections
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
sea salt and pepper

Turn your crock pot on high and add the olive oil to the bottom. Place the meaty bones in one layer. Season to your liking with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with lid. In 45 minutes to one hour, flip the bones to brown on the other side. Cover. After another 45 minutes to one hour, add the water, vinegar, and seasonings. Cover. Allow to cook on low for 12 hours or longer.

I have a huge crock pot that handles this recipe beautifully. It works just as well in a stockpot on the stove, but I would begin it in the morning and keep my eye on the stock all day as it cooks. If undesirable “scum” rises to the top, skim it. This is normal.

Once the stock has cooked, remove the bones. I press out the bone marrow into the liquid mixture. Then I shred or cut the meat in small bites. At this point, I drank several cups a day to keep up my strength through my illness.

The stock can be used as a base for great pinto or red beans. You can add rice or other vegetables to make a soup. There are seemingly limitless possibilities. And, the stock freezes nicely. You can strain it right into freezer containers or freezer bags. Just make sure you label them.

With cold and flu season approaching, it would not be a bad idea to make healthy stock now for when you might need it. Even if you are not ill, the addition of stocks in your diet is a great idea.

Grass Farmers

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Many grass fed ranchers claim to be grass farmers because getting your grass right is half the battle. The grasses in the pastures have really greened up now because of some recent rainfall. As we get deeper into the fall season, the grass will continue to loose its nutrients until it is just filler. At that point, we like to call it standing hay.

Since we are still growing out calves on grass throughout the winter, we choose to plant winter grass. This week my husband and son, Jake, have been busy planting three different types of grasses. We are planting one field in a mixture of rye grass and ball clover. Some in just rye grass. One pasture in oats.

Oats? You might wonder how we can raise grass fed cattle on oats, which is a grain. Oats are only a grain once the plant goes to seed. The oat that gets hulled, rolled, and steamed is the grain that you are familiar with in your breakfast bowl. Our cattle will eat the nutritious plant until late in the winter when it will go to seed. Of course, we won’t let them eat the actual grain.

Other plants that cattle love to eat are milo and corn. You can plant those and allow your cattle to eat them prior to making the grain. It is an option that we have not done.

Making sure that our cattle have grass year round requires time, money, and hard work. We feel sowing winter grass seeds in several pastures is worth it. We have piece of mind that our cattle are getting nutritional benefits from the grasses even in the coldest days of the year. Therefore, they are able to gain flavorful muscle, which in turn makes our customers happy.

Another benefit of raising winter grass is that we have the most beautiful pastures in the area. The bright green of the rye grass and the deep green of the oats contrast sharply against the grayness of winter. It is an aesthetic perk of farming grass.

It doesn’t matter to me if we are grass fed ranchers or grass farmers; it is only a name. The truth is that we are both. Raising grass fed beef is a process that relies on pasture grasses. Without one, you could not do well with the other. This week we are just more focused on the grass farming aspect of our jobs.

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