Thursday, October 13, 2016

And the crowd roared for the homebred cow [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

There's just something special about homebred cows...

With lights dimmed, spotlights shone on seven exceptional cows as they entered the Coliseum for the presentation of 2016 World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion. Each beautiful cow represented the best of its breed. Notably, six of the seven Grand Champions were bred and owned by their exhibitors.

As the spotlights fell upon the Holstein, my heart tried to burst with pride and excitement. The Grand Champion Holstein was Sheeknoll Durham Arrow, a 6-year-old cow known affectionately as Thomas. Thomas’s owners, the Sheehan family of Minnesota, are friends of mine, and I’ve been following Thomas in the showring for years.

Clearly, the rest of the dairy enthusiasts watching the Supreme Champion ceremony had similar feelings. The announcer was barely a dozen words into Thomas’s introduction when the applause started. Cheers and applause continued until Thomas took her place alongside the Grand Champions from the other six breeds. However, no other Grand Champion garnered the audible recognition that Thomas did.

What was so endearing about this Holstein cow?

Photo by Morgan Kliebenstein. Used with permission.

[Read the rest of this post in the HD Notebook.]

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A skunk and six kittens [Dairy Star Column]

Baby kittens are right up there at the top of the list of the best things about living on a dairy farm.

Skunks are right down there at the bottom of the list of the worst things about living on a dairy farm.

Last weekend, we had both.

We got a preview of what was to come on Friday night when the eau de skunk wafted into the barn during evening milking. I always hate knowing that there’s a skunk around, but not knowing exactly where it is. I’m sure I looked more than a little paranoid as I carried the bottles out to the bull calves in the hutches.

On Saturday night, the smell returned and so did the critter.

I was in the house putting the kids to bed while Glen finished chores, so I missed all of the action. The only sign I had that anything was happening outside came from Ozzy, our Australian Shepherd.

Anytime there’s something amiss outside, Ozzy will slip in through the front door the minute someone opens it. Ozzy is not a house dog by any means, so he is promptly escorted back outside. The kids would love to keep him inside, but his eau de barn is very strong and I’m afraid he’d quickly overheat in his ultra-shaggy coat.

On Saturday night, Ozzy zoomed into the house and I had to drag him back outside by his collar. Then, as soon as I closed the storm door, he rounded and was scratching on the door like he was possessed. Ozzy is a 75-pound dog; I thought he might actually do some damage if he continued. So I let him back in the house. I grabbed the baby gate to quarantine him in the entryway. At least then the whole house wouldn’t smell like hot barn dog.

When Glen got in, Ozzy’s demand for refuge in the house finally made sense.

Glen said he was letting cows out when he had a feeling he should check the machine shed for the skunk. It’s unreal how often this sixth sense of his is right.

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]

Monday, October 3, 2016

A startling experience with stray voltage [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

Outlet damaged by lightning causes problems...

Sometimes heifers bellow for a reason.

One group of heifers wouldn’t stop bellowing. At first we thought they were just being typical heifers . . . the kind that expect a pail of grain every time you walk by the pen. But they’d had their grain for the morning and they had a fresh bale of alfalfa hay.

Maybe their automatic waterer needed cleaning, we thought. So Glen grabbed a scrub brush and went to scrub it out.

Holding onto the steel column next to the waterer with one hand, Glen scrubbed the sides of the water trough. Then his hand dipped into the water as he reached to scrub the bottom and he felt a jolt of electricity.

He didn’t believe he’d actually been shocked, so he put one hand on the steel column and touched the surface of the water again. He felt the tingle of an electric shock again.

The breaker that powers the heating elements in our automatic waterers is still turned off for the warm weather season, so the shock Glen felt had to be from stray voltage. Still in disbelief, Glen went to get his digital multimeter to verify his findings.

The multimeter showed 3.1 volts of electricity flowing between the column and the water. No wonder the heifers wouldn’t be quiet. Bovines are even more sensitive to stray voltage than humans.

We immediately called our electrician.

[Read the rest of this post in the Hoard's Dairyman Notebook.]

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A moment of hope [Dairy Star Column]

"But when everything looks bleak, the bright spots shine brighter."

To say that the past three weeks have tested my mettle would be an understatement.

For the majority of those 21 days, at least one person in our family was unwell. First, Glen hurt his back and spent a considerable amount of time dressing Daphne's Barbies for her while lying on the living room floor.

Then, something I ate left me with a severe case of food poisoning. Following that, each one of our kids battled one back-to-school virus or another. They had more sick days in the first three weeks of school than we had all of last year.

Unwell family members really wear a mom down. More than once I wished I had a do-over for the month of September.

On top of the physical challenges, it seems like every single news story I heard or read layered on mental and emotional anguish.

I didn't sleep for three nights after the details of Jacob Wetterling's kidnapping and murder were reported. I'm still uneasy. I was eight years old when Jacob disappeared. His last school picture - on the back of our milk cartons - joined me for lunch more days than I can count. Like every other Minnesotan, the mystery haunted me. Solving the mystery still seems unreal. And now, as a mom, there's a heightened level of worry for my own children.

An entire city block in our town caught fire last week, destroying historic buildings constructed by the town's founder back in 1887. The fire left families without homes and businesses without a place to do business. This was our town's second major fire in six months. Last March, our church burned at the hands of an arsonist.

Then came the news of the stabbings at the shopping mall in St. Cloud. This was not like hearing about attacks in other places. I shop at that mall several times a year. As the story of the events unfolded, I could picture the scenes exactly. There was no need for imagination.

Intermixed with all this are reports about our presidential candidates. I really don't think I need to say any more about the despair this causes. It's hard not to feel at times like the whole country - and maybe world - is going to hell in a handbasket.

But when everything looks bleak, the bright spots shine brighter.

I think that's why I was overcome with joy when my sister called to say that her water had broken.

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

The rich dark chocolate flavor of Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies pairs with peanut butter cups to make these delicious, adorable, bite-sized treats.
Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

How do you turn classic brownies into delicious, adorable treats? Bake them up in mini muffin pans. Then add miniature peanut butter cups and sprinkles!

I first made these Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites for Christmas. They disappeared off my cookie tray before anything else.

I quickly realized that brownie bites are the perfect treat for lots of occasions, because (1) everyone loves bite-sized treats, (2) the combination of rich chocolate brownies and peanut butter cups is irresistible, (3) they look fancy, but are really easy to make, (4) they’re easily customized for different events and holidays, and (5) they’re sturdy enough to hold up during travel and shipping.

I try to bring treats to school a couple times a year to show teachers and staff a little appreciation for the work they do. Teachers and school staff have the important job of trying to make each student's education a good experience. The teachers and staff in our school do an incredible job of promoting a culture of kindness and respect. Delivering homemade treats to the teachers’ lounge is my way of saying thank you.

gifting brownie bites

A couple weeks ago, I dropped off a box of back-to-school brownie bites. With Daphne starting pre-school this year, all three of my kids are now in school (at least part-time). Dan started fourth grade and Monika started second grade.

I sent a box of brownie bites along for our bus driver, too. Bus drivers play a role in helping students have a good experience at school, as well.

The kids helped me make the brownie bites for their teachers and bus driver. They mixed the batter and unwrapped the peanut butter cups. (Be sure to have extra peanut butter cups on hand if your kids help unwrap them – several will inevitably disappear.) It’s important for kids to know that teachers, school staff, and bus drivers are all appreciated.

peanut butter cup brownie bite – close up

Making Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites start with my signature Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies. These saucepan brownies are simple to make and you probably have all of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry.

Making brownie batter

The brownie batter is baked in miniature muffin pans to make these adorable bite-sized brownies.

scooping brownie batter

A one-tablespoon cookie scoop makes uniform-sized brownie bites.

filling muffin tin

You could eat them just like this...

baked brownie bites

But adding miniature peanut butter cups takes these treats to a whole new level.

adding peanut butter cups to brownie bites

Last, top the brownie bites with nonpareil sprinkles to make them look festive and pretty. Sprinkles make everything seem a little more special.

decorating brownie bites

Hold off on gobbling them up right way. They should cool for a few minutes in the pan before you remove them.

removing brownie bites from pan

An offset plastic palette knife (the kind artists use for painting) is great for removing the brownie bites without damaging the treats or scratching the pan's nonstick coating.

Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes per pan
Makes: 40 brownie bites


½ cup Land O Lakes®Butter (1 stick)
⅔ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

40 miniature peanut butter cup candies (12 ounces), any flavor, unwrapped

Nonpareil sprinkles, for decorating


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray a nonstick mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, wiping excess from top of pan OR if using an aluminum pan, line pan with mini paper baking cups.

In a medium (3-quart) stainless steel saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add ⅔ cup chocolate chips to melted butter, whisking until butter and chips are well combined. Whisk in, one at a time, until completely incorporated, the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, milk, cocoa powder, and flour. After flour is mixed in, whisk vigorously for an extra 30 seconds. Then, using a spoon or sturdy spatula, stir in 1 cup miniature chocolate chips.

Using a 1-tablespoon (#60) scoop, drop leveled scoopfuls of brownie batter into muffin pans. Bake for 10 minutes (dark, nonstick pan) or until brownie bites have risen slightly and tops appear shiny and crackly. (If using a shiny aluminum pan with paper baking cups, bake for 11 minutes.)

Remove brownie bites from oven and immediately press one unwrapped peanut butter cup into the center of each brownie bite. When the chocolate on the tops of the peanut butter cups has melted, sprinkle each brownie bite with nonpareils.

Let brownie bites cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before removing. Finish cooling on baking rack. Once cool, store at room temperature in covered container or freeze for later.

Helpful Hints

• Making the batter in a stainless steel saucepan allows you to level the cookie scoop against the side of the pan without worrying about scratching a non-stick coating.

• Letting the brownie batter sit at room temperature for 15 – 30 minutes after mixing will make scooping the batter easier.

• Check the capacity of your cookie scoops with a standard measuring spoon. (I scoop sugar to measure.) I have one scoop labeled #60 that holds 2 teaspoons; my other #60 scoop holds 1 tablespoon.

• An offset plastic palette knife (like the ones used by artists) is extremely handy for removing the finished brownie bites from the pan.

• Avoid over-sprinkling the nonpareils by placing a sticker or piece of tape over all but one of the openings in the sprinkle jar lid. Then tap the jar lightly to sprinkle the nonpareils.

Decorating Tips
Mix different colored nonpareils to match your event, party, or occasion. Adding white or light colored nonpareils to the mix helps the other colors really pop.

If using a single color nonpareil or a blend without white nonpareils, using white chocolate miniature peanut butter cups will help the colors stand out more.

decorating ideas for brownie bites

Color Schemes
Back-to-School (your school colors)
Halloween (black, orange, and white)
Christmas (red, green, and white)
Valentine’s Day (red, pink, and white)
St. Patrick's Day (green and white)
Easter (pastel colors)
Earth Day (blue, green, and white)
4th of July (red, white, and blue)
Boy Baby Shower or Party (blues and greens)
Girl Baby Shower or Party (pinks and purples)
Any Time! (rainbow mix)

What occasion will you make Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites for?

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative farmer-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own. Land O Lakes and the Indian Maiden brandmark are registered trademarks of Land O’Lakes, Inc.