Thursday, February 27, 2014

Milk with our cookies

...and the recipe for Kathy's Peanut Butter-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

About a year ago, Land O'Lakes asked us if they could take some pictures of our family for a feature they were putting together for the Our Story part of their website. They said they wanted to take the pictures in June, which is, hands down, the prettiest time of year here. We thought it would be neat to be part of their feature, so we agreed.

Then, the plans for the feature changed and Land O'Lakes asked if they could do the photo shoot in March. I almost said no. If June is the prettiest month here, March certainly has the potential to be the ugliest. Who wants pictures of half-melted snow and mud?

As it turned out, winter held on well into April, so we still had plenty of snow for photographing winter scenes.

The photo shoot took place on March 29. Between the photographers, videographers, makeup artist, and Land O'Lakes staff, we had about a dozen people here for the afternoon. As I've learned from Glen and his mother, a fresh batch of cookies is a nice way to welcome guests into your home. So I made a double batch of Kathy's Cookies to share.

Our guests loved the cookies and the cookies even ended up being part of the photo shoot. They were part of my favorite memory from the photo shoot, too:

The crew was setting up our kitchen table to take some photos of our family enjoying the cookies. They set the cookies on the Land O'Lakes tray we got from Glen's parents. They placed four dessert plates on the table. We got the milk out of the fridge. And then one of the crew members asked if we (meaning Glen and I, not just the kids) would normally have milk with our cookies. It took me a second to understand the question and its implications. I didn't say it, but I thought, Doesn't everyone have milk with their cookies? What else would you drink with cookies? But I guess not everyone drinks as much milk as we do, so it is a valid question. What I did say was that, yes, we always have milk with our cookies. So, we poured four glasses of milk and sat down to enjoy the cookies while the photographers snapped away.

I sent a couple packages of cookies home with our guests and promised to share the recipe. Obviously, I'm a little late keeping my promise, but, I guess late is better than never.

Below is the recipe for Kathy's Cookies.We call these peanut butter - oatmeal - chocolate chip goodies Kathy's Cookies, because we got the recipe from Glen's great-aunt Kathy. She brought us a batch of these cookies right after Monika was born and Glen insisted that I call her for the recipe. So the recipe is scribbled on a sheet of scratch paper. Several editions of notes and stains have accumulated on the now-tattered paper, including calculations for different size batches. At first, Glen was the one who baked these cookies. I didn't consider myself a very good cookie baker. But that's changed. These are the cookies that helped me perfect the art of cookie baking. And they're the only cookie recipe I haven't tried to tweak.

Kathy's Cookies – Double Batch
(I always make a double batch of these. Cut the recipe in half if cookies don't disappear like magic tricks at your house.)

2 cups butter (4 sticks), softened
2 cups crunchy peanut butter (16-18 oz jar)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
5 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk chocolate chips (12 oz bag)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugars in large mixing bowl. Blend in vanilla and eggs. In separate bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, baking soda and salt, then mix into butter mixture. Stir chocolate chips in by hand. Let dough rest for anywhere from 30 min (at room temperature) to overnight (in the refrigerator).

Using a #50 (medium) scoop, place cookie dough onto ungreased baking sheets about 1 inch apart. (You can use parchment paper, but these are easily removed from even stainless steel sheets.) Gently smush dough down with your hand or the bottom of a glass.

Bake for 10-14 minutes. I bake these for 14 minutes, rotating pans after 7 minutes, but it really depends upon how long you let the dough rest (more rest = shorter bake time), how much you smush the cookie dough down, how your oven bakes, and how crispy or chewy you want your finished cookies to be. Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on baking sheets before removing.

A double batch will yield 10 dozen cookies.

Serve cookies with a big glass of milk!

Our family's pictures are part of the Winter season in A Year of Simple Goodness, which can be found in the Our Story section of the Land O'Lakes website.

*Other than photo of cookies on pan, all photos taken by Land O'Lakes staff and photographer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why do you read my blog?

I was recently contacted by a gal named Kate Gracey. Kate is a graduate student from Texas Tech University. She's working on a research paper on agricultural blogs and wanted to know if I could help by inviting my readers to participate in a survey. I agreed.

Below is a letter from Kate with the link to the online survey. Please note the survey is voluntary and all responses will be kept confidential. Just so you know, Kate will also share an overview of my readers' responses with me after the surveys are all collected. Of course, I'm always interested in knowing why you read my blog; you can let me know anytime by posting a comment below. ☺

Thanks for helping Kate out!

Dear participant:

We would like to find out more about what factors motivate people to access agricultural blogs. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions, just what you think.

This survey will take about 15 minutes of your time, and we will use the results for a research study. We will not be able to identify you individually. If you would prefer not to answer a question, please leave it blank. Participation is voluntary and you can stop at any time.

The survey can be found here:

If you have any questions about this study, please contact Kate Gracey and/or Dr. Courtney Meyers at (806) 742-2816 or by email at or Thank you for helping us with this research.

Kate Gracey, Graduate Student
Agricultural Communications, Texas Tech University
Courtney Meyers, Assistant Professor
Agricultural Communications, Texas Tech University

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The dog days of winter

There's been a lot of talk – and some complaining – this winter about how cold it's been and how much snow we've had. And for good reason. If next week's forecast holds true and we get another cold snap, the winter of 2013-14 will go down as one of the top 10 coldest winters on record for the St. Cloud, Minn. area.

Ozzie posing like a seal.

For Ozzie, our Australian Shepherd, the cold temperatures and snow have been a treat. Oz spent most of the summer panting in the shade. When the temperature started dropping this fall, Ozzie came to life. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him dive through the snow like a seal while we wait for the bus with Dan and zoom around the yard during playtime.

I won't go so far as to say that the winter has been a treat for us, but, overall, it hasn't been too bad. We followed our plan last spring, so we didn't have any cows or heifers calving between mid-December and the beginning of February. We were able to sell some of our cows to another dairy farm, so we didn't have any switch cows for the winter. And, since our baby calves our housed inside now, we didn't have to deal with cold calves and calf hutches buried in snowdrifts.

We also started mixing TMRs (total mixed rations) for our dry cows and heifers. Prior to this winter, only the milking cows got TMR. The TMRs for the dry cows and heifers have simplified feeding those groups, reduced the amount of wasted feed, and helped ensure that every animal gets the proper balance of nutrients.

But now we've come to the dog days of winter. We have cows calving almost daily (which is a lot for us) and a newborn pen overflowing with baby calves. We can't move the weaned calves out of the barn until it warms up a little and we can scrape the yards. The frozen buildup in the big heifers' yard makes it look like the heifers could walk right over the fences and neckrails if they were so inclined. At least we have enough cows ready to go dry to make room for the fresh cows. But that means more calves to make room for. Pretty soon the yards will start to thaw. I hope.

I hope our septic system will start to thaw out soon, too. The man who came to take a look at steaming open the septic system said that the frost under roadways (or anywhere the snow is packed) is over seven feet deep. Normally, the frost will go down about three feet. We could be pumping out our holding tank for quite awhile.

But, if that's the worst of our challenges this winter, I won't complain.

How has the winter been treating you?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love more, criticize less

I don't normally do commentaries here. I much prefer using this space to tell stories. But this has been troubling my heart for quite some time. And since it's Valentine's Day and we're all thinking about love, it seems like the perfect time to share.

Somehow, it seems, at least to me, that we have become a society focused on criticizing one another.

crit•i•cize (v.) – to indicate the faults of                     
      (someone or something) in a disapproving way

Every day, some person, some organization is criticizing some other person or organization for the foods they choose to eat or the way they raise their children or the way they clean their house or... The list is endless.

Those of us who farm face criticism in every direction we turn. Lots of people who aren't farming – and even some of our fellow farmers – seem to disapprove of the way we take care of our animals or grow our crops. What hurts most about these criticisms is that caring for animals and growing crops aren't just what we do, it's who we are – and 99.9% of us are doing the best we possibly can. So when someone criticizes our farming methods, they're criticizing us personally.

Why is this so? Is criticizing others the vogue way of putting others down to make ourselves feel better? Does criticizing others help us justify our own decisions?

Maybe we should all practice what we preach to our children: "Worry about yourself."

I tell my kids that almost daily when they fall into the trap of being more concerned about what someone else is doing and less concerned about their own behavior.

If you want to raise your children this way, but I choose to raise my children that way, let's just agree to disagree and refrain from criticizing each other's choices.

If you choose to eat only those foods raised or grown a certain way, that's great; that's why there are so many unique farmers using different farming methods. Enjoy your food choices, but please refrain from criticizing those farmers who grow and raise food another way.

love (v.) – to feel a deep attachment to (someone)

Let's make 2♡14 the year we start to love more and criticize less. The year we practice kindness and respect. The year we use social media to connect instead of dissect.

Thanks for listening. I'll go back to telling stories now.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Ralphie suit

Daphne – February 2014

When our first winter on this farm came around, Dan was just turning one. It quickly became clear that he needed a snowsuit for the barn. I knew it needed a hood, hand covers and foot covers. And it needed to be warm. I found exactly what I needed at Once Upon a Child – a well-padded, red and navy blue snowsuit. Dan spent two whole winters in that snowsuit.

Dan and Rosco – March 2008

Unfortunately, our first puppy, Rosco, enjoyed chewing on Dan's hands and feet. Even though Rosco is no longer with us, he left his marks on one of the foot covers and one of the hand covers on the snowsuit.

Dan – March 2008

The snowsuit has often been referred to as the Ralphie suit, in reference to the red snowsuit from A Christmas Story, even though it was Ralphie's younger brother Randy who was stuffed into the suit.

And, I'm sure, if Dan could have told us what he really thought, he would have said he felt just as tortured as Randy in that suit. He hated getting dressed to go the barn. I think, because he knew that putting that snowsuit on meant he would be confined to a stroller or playpen for the next umpteen hours.

Dan – February 2008

Monika apparently got lucky. I couldn't find a single picture of her wearing the Ralphie suit. And I honestly don't remember if she wore it during her first winter in the barn or not. She actually got to wear a girls' snowsuit during her second winter. But her pink and blue barn snowsuit did just as good a job of restraining movement and keeping her little body warm.

Dan & Monika – November 2010

Monika might have avoided the Ralphie suit, but several of my nieces and nephews have donned the snowsuit for a trip out to the barn to meet the cows. We keep enough winter barn clothes around here to outfit a whole posse of children.

My nephew – October 2012

And now Daphne gets to wear the suit. The zipper pull has been replaced with a paper clip. There are still Rosco holes in the hand and foot covers. But it still keeps my baby warm.

The only bad part is that everyone who sees her in the suit thinks she's a boy. Maybe it's time to dig out the pink snowsuit and put the Ralphie suit away.

Daphne – February 2014