Archive: September 2014

Summer on the Rafter T

Ask almost any rancher how their summer is going, and all they’ll have time to say is, “Busy.” Moving cows up the mountain, baling hay, packing salt, building fence…the list literally never ends.

Except in the case of my family. I don’t know how we ever got so lucky, but summer is our “slow” season. I say that with some sarcasm, because ranch life is never slow; but it seems to be the time when we have the least to do. Our cows spend their summer out on the desert, and hardly ever have to be moved from one allotment to the next. Although we do raise our own alfalfa and silage corn, we hire local farmers to work, plant and harvest our corn, along with cutting and baling our hay. All we really have to worry about is irrigating everything, and making sure our cows have water, which takes up a good portion of the day.

Since we do have a little bit of free time on our hands, we usually spend time getting a variety of projects done while we can. My father calls this “beautification,” aka, making things look almost-new again. My parents have always taken pride in what they have, and this ranch is no different. We’re constantly spraying weeds, washing buildings, blading the road, raking, or mowing. I know that if ranch life ever fails me, I could easily make it as a landscaper 🙂

Back in June, we gave our ranch a brand new coat of barn red paint. This project is dreaded by all, as it ends up taking 5 full days. But the end result is completely worth it, and we always get compliments on how nice things look.

About a month ago, the guys put in two new water tanks, which we badly needed. One started leaking last winter, but we knew we couldn’t replace it until the weather warmed up, to avoid freezing. Luckily we were able to make a temporary fix that lasted until now!

Everything on the ranch gets re-purposed. These brand new tanks replaced the leaky ones, but the old tanks will end up being turned into horse feeders. Its actually important that they have holes, that way if it rains/snows, the moisture has a place to drain.

Stay tuned in the next week or so, because I’ve got an amazing recipe coming! My Mother-in-Law taught me how to make her famous taco salad—it’s too good not to share!

~ Jessie

Jessie has returned to her roots on her family’s commercial black angus cattle ranch in southern Idaho after time away at college and working on behalf of the state’s cattle producers. She’s passionate about agriculture and the western way of life. When she isn’t doing ranch work or writing, Jessie enjoys baking, golfing and drinking coffee. As a newlywed, she’s also turning a little cabin on the ranch into a home.

Categories: Idaho Cattlewomen, Ranch Life

Sharing Beef


Handing out beef samples at the FitOne Expo.

If you follow us on Facebook, you saw some of us cattlewomen joined the Idaho Beef Council in Boise for the FitOne Expo benefiting St. Lukes last week. We stepped off the ranch and into the city to interact with consumers. It was such a great event and we had fun sharing beef samples with the public. Did you know there are 29 lean cuts of beef that fit into a healthy diet? And lean beef is one of the most flavorful and efficient ways to meet the daily value for essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins.

The recipe shared by the Idaho Beef Council is one many of us have used to cook for our own families. It uses an economical cut of beef like the chuck or shoulder roast, and it’s a slow cooker recipe. That makes it easy so you can fix it and forget it. Start it in the morning before work and come home to a great smelling and tasting dinner.

We had so many compliments on the wonderful flavor and tenderness of the dish. From high school football players to small children, parents, grandparents and people of all ages stopped by to grab a sample. The recipe uses simple ingredients people have in their pantries. In addition, there are four additional variations so you can add some other ingredients to give you different flavors. See the complete recipe below.


An easy beef recipe using an economical cut of meat.

 Four Way Shredded Beef (A Beef Checkoff Recipe)

  • 1 beef Shoulder Roast, Arm Chuck Roast Boneless or Blade Chuck Roast Boneless (2 to 2-1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper


  1. For optional browning, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Brown beef roast on all sides.
  2. Place onion and garlic in 3-1/2 to 5 quart slow cooker; place roast on top. Cover and cook on LOW 9 to 10 hours or on HIGH 5 to 6 hours or until roast is fork-tender.
  3. Remove roast from slow cooker. Skim fat from cooking liquid, if necessary and reserve 1 cup onion mixture. Shred beef with 2 forks. Combine shredded beef and reserved onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Continue as directed in Recipe Variations below, as desired.
  4. Recipe Variations:
    Mexican Shredded Beef: Combine tomato or tomatillo salsa and beef mixture, as desired. Place in large microwave-safe bowl. Cover, vent and microwave until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve in warmed flour or corn tortillas topped with pico de gallo, slice avocados, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and/or chopped white or green onions, as desired.BBQ Shredded Beef: Combine prepared barbecue sauce and beef mixture. Place in large microwave-safe bowl. Cover, vent and microwave until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve on whole wheat rolls topped with creamy horseradish sauce, coleslaw, Cheddar cheese slices, chopped green bell pepper and/or canned French fried onion, as desired.Asian Shredded Beef: Combine prepared hoison or teriyaki sauce and beef mixture. Place in large microwave-safe bowl. Cover, vent and microwave until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve in lettuce or cabbage cups topped with shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, chopped fresh cilantro or mint, sriracha or crushed red pepper flakes and/or chopped peanuts, as desired.

    Indian Shredded Beef: Combine prepared Indian cooking sauce, such as Tikka Masala or Vindaloo. Place in large microwave-safe bowl. Cover, vent and microwave until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve in naan or pita bread topped with toasted chopped pistachios or coconut, raisins, Greek yogurt or mango chutney, chopped fresh mint or cilantro and/or sliced cucumber or green onion, as desired.

Not only do we love eating beef in our own homes, but we enjoy sharing recipes so others can provide nutrient rich beef for their own families. Would love to hear if you try this recipe and how you add other ingredients or spices to make it your own!

Categories: Beef, Recipes

Weaning the calves


Bringing cows off the mountain to wean calves.

September and cooler weather brings changes to our ranch (and many ranches in Idaho). It is the time of the year that we go out to our public Lands grazing range and bring our calves, who were born in February, home to wean from their moms. Our cows and calves spend the summer months out on the range grazing. They are healthy and physically fit as they wander the mountains all summer.

The mornings start early, saddling horses after a warm cup of coffee. We have friends, hired help and range partners that come to ride for the three days it takes to bring our cows and calves to corrals where they can be sorted. Mornings are chilly, but we were fortunate to have days of sunshine.


Building new corrals so that handling, sorting and loading cattle is more efficient.

The riders split up and ride to different areas to bring the cows down off the mountain into our temporary corrals. Riders come back to cow camp for lunch then head out again and ride until late in the day.

On the final day, we gather all the cows and calves in pasture near cow camp, while trucks arrive and the sorting begins.


Riders spend all day on horseback rounding up the cow-calf pairs, and share meals at the cow camp.


Sorting off calves from cows in the corral.


Cows are sent back to the range and calves are sent home to grass or to feedlots.
The calves are sorted by steers (male) and heifers (female). We also have cows/calves from other ranchers, so cattle or sorted out by brand to go to each owner’s ranch.

Our cows get a break from nursing as they are already pregnant with next year’s calf. Our cows will come home and usually find their own way back to the ranch as the day’s are shorter and colder. Once they are home, we will bring them in and do pregnancy checks on them to verify that they are pregnant.

We source verify and are verified natural producers so our calves get EID (electronic identification tags. They are also vaccinated on arrival to the ranch. They are turned out to pasture before they are sold in the fall. We were blessed this year with late summer rain and lots of grass for the cows to eat on the range.

While the cows are at range, there is continued activity at the ranch during summer months. We grow our own feed, alfalfa and oats for the winter months. This year the late summer rains blessed us with lots of grass on the range for the cows to eat, but delayed our cuttiing and baling of hay. It is important to get hay up so that we have regrowth in the fall when the cows and calves do come home.

Weaning time is always excited for Idaho ranchers as we get to see how the calves have grown and how the cows are doing as mommas. We’re always looking at what we can do to change and improve our cattle herds and the beef we produce for our tables and yours.

~ Lyndella

Lyndella and her husband, Stephen, own and operate Challis Creek Cattle. They are first generations ranchers, who began their dream of owning cattle more than 20 years ago after working in other industries. They run their cow-calf operation on both public and private lands, and are committed to improving the land and the animals in their care.

Categories: Beef, Idaho Cattlewomen, Ranch Life

Plum Crazy… About Plum Jelly!

Plum Jelly (1)

Fall means so many things- back to school, crisp mornings, Friday night football games, and some beautiful new colors. At my house it also means its harvest time! We take whatever we can get and either can it or freeze it. We don’t do anything too crazy, but maybe some day I’ll get a little wild!

The craziest we got this year was picking some plums for plum jelly. Actually, a LOT of plums.  We have a beautiful little plum tree on the ranch, but after an unfortunate meeting with Grandpa, it doesn’t produce well… or like at all. A few years ago I got a few and was TICKLED to make plum jelly. Unfortunately my blonde hair got the better of me and I was so distracted that the juice scorched and was ruined! No plum jelly… Ever since then I have been dying to make some.

To my delight, there was a friend of a friend (I’ll spare you the details of the connections…) that has a plum tree and asked my mother-in-law and I to come pick them. She pretty well said to pick them all and then dig up the tree and bring it too! I got the feeling she wasn’t too thrilled to have the plum tree in her yard… So we did. We picked and picked and picked. And I might have even shook that little tree just to make the ones on the top come down. We went home with close to 18 gallons of plums! Needless to say, we stopped by the grocery store to stock up on jelly ingredients!

Have you done jelly before? I hadn’t before this little excursion. I usually stick to the tried and true strawberry freezer jam my family loves. I knew it was simple, but I didn’t realize just how simple. Before I share our jelly recipe there are two things you gotta know about this cook- first that you can find this recipe with your pectin… that’s all I did! And second- I don’t always follow the rules. Yes, sometimes it’s to my detriment, but for the most part it works out great!

Ready to “make” some plum jelly?

Step 1- Pick plums… duh… I don’t recommend doing it in the middle of a thunder storm.  There might be a crack and a flash all at once while your standing on an aluminum ladder under a tree… Probably not the best choice…

Plum Jelly (2)

Step 2- Wash the plums… kinda self-explanatory.

Step 3- This is one of those times that I went my own way. I borrowed all the juicers of the valley (actually just from Grandma and mom-in-law) to do all the work for me. You just dump the plums in and as they heat up from the steam coming from the bottom, they release their juice. Awesome. Another way to do it (if you don’t have a juicer) is to cook the plums with some water and put the cooked fruit in some cheese cloth. And then squeeeeeze the fruit to get the juice out and let it drip for a while to get the last bits. I don’t really have the patience for that…

Step 4- Now that you have your delectable plum juice you can get to work on the jelly. Now, the instructions in your pectin packet will tell you NOT to double the recipe. I’m not giving you permission to break the rules, but just know that I did and it turned out fine, every time. If you are going to double it, get a big pot. Like maybe your canning pot. If not you will boil over and have a sticky mess. Learned that one from experience… Measure 5 1\2 cups of juice, pour into your pot and combine with one package of pectin powder. Bring the juice and pectin to a roaring boil (I know it is really a rolling boil, but doesn’t it sound like it is roaring?) while stirring all the time.

Small side note- you know how the saying goes that a watched pot never boils? How are ever supposed to get to boiling if you have to stir constantly? Ok, back to the jelly…

Step 5- Add 6 ½ cups of sugar to the juice and return to boiling. Still stirring, but maybe with your eyes closed so you don’t watch the pot…. Ok, not funny, I know…. Boil for two minutes and head to your jars to start filling them up… promptly. If you wait long, the jelly will begin to set a little. Scrape off the foam from the top of the jelly and then pour into the jars, leaving ¼ inch head space.

After filling all the jars, wipe the tops, put on hot lids and rings, and place in water boiler canner. Once the water has reached boiling temperatures, process for 5 minutes.

Plum Jelly (3)

And Ta da! You have fresh plum jelly. Delicious, fresh plum jelly. In fact, you might want to go make some fresh bread to enjoy your delightful jelly (and not feel guilty eating the jelly straight from the jar!).

Plum Jelly (4)

Fresh Plum Jelly

5 ½ C. Fresh plum juice

1 Pkg. (1 Âľ oz.) Powdered fruit pectin

6 ½ C. Sugar

Collect 5 ½ cups of plum juice from the plums, approximately 5 pounds. Combine juice and sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Add sugar and return to boil while stirring. Boil for 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and spoon of froth. Pour jelly into prepared sterile jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Clean off rims and adjust lids and rings. Place in hog water bath canner and cover with water. Bring to a boil and process for 5 minutes. Yields 6 pints.


Hi! I’m Allison. I’m a busy wife and mom of two, living life on the ranch in Holbrook, Idaho where our family raises Black Angus cattle. Growing up on a ranch, I always knew that I wanted to live this life and raise my family on the foundation of country living and hard work.  Whenever I can, I gather my kids and my camera to head out to work with my husband. At the end of the day, there is nothing more than spending time with my family and sharing our ranch lifestyle. Come and see more of me at The Idaho Rancher’s Wife!

Categories: Blogging, Idaho Cattlewomen, Ranch Life, Recipes

County Fair Memories

A friend and I were comparing this year’s fair week and its highs and lows. I was posting the kid’s fair pictures when I realized how many years our family has counted the last week of July as “fair week.” Through the tears of record books to stepped on toes, fair week just blended into the ranch’s schedule. . .like calving, branding, turn-out and gathering.

Fair Week 2011 was probably a highlight of all the fairs since we started this in 2000. We celebrated our oldest daughter’s last year, middle daughter’s sixth year and son’s first year. The kids worked together, laughed together and cried together. They continued traditions and started new ones. These pictures tell the story of why we believe in 4-H, FFA and “fair week.”


From Shane’s first year, the “tradition” of sale day is to glitter the steer’s ranch brand.


Shane’s last steer in 2011. There were no tears on this sale day as there were ten years before!


Only a big sister could understand how hard it is to sell that first steer. . .


New memories to add. . .2014.


A fair week our family will never forget.

~ Julie

Julie and her family own a cow-calf, yearling operation and custom feedlot in southwest Idaho. She and her husband were raised on livestock ranches and their industry roots run deep. Their children have been very active and involved in the ranch and feedlot, and are developing their own herds of quality cattle.

Categories: Blogging, Ranch kids, Ranch Life