Friday, April 18, 2014

5 on Friday.

1. It's an AI Train!

We're headed out the door here this morning in just a bit to put CIDR's in a group of cows.  We headed out to this customer's ranch last night and set up the portable alleyway, chute & AI barn and ran out of daylight so we're headed back out there this morning.  Then we'll be breeding cows at the ranch here this weekend.

2. Diet Pepsi is the Breakfast of Champions.

It's been a busy week - so the Diet Pepsi has been flowing!  But we're living the dream, and so thankful that Morgan has been able to stay with us this week to help with the breeding projects that are going right now at the ranch, and at other customer's ranches.  We're looking forward to a busy spring and early summer filled with Genex Chuteside Breeding Projects.

3. I'm a proud aunt!

Our niece & nephew, Jacobi & Jace, are doing awesome things!  Jacobi has been running track, so her mom (Clint's sister) sent me a few pictures and she is quite the track star....just look at those arm muscles!  I'm jealous!

And Jace - or Jacer, or Jace Robert Roy Rex Ralph Stumpff, as we like to call him - got his market goat for fair, and I think they have quite the partnership going on!  It's his first year with a goat (he's shown sheep and cattle in the past) and we know he'll do really well with this new venture!

4. Easter.

We won't get to spend Easter with family since we're breeding cows, but ranch life is kind of like that - holidays come and go, but the cows still have to be fed and work needs to be done.  But even though we'll be at home, the spirit of Easter will not be lost on us and we are so thankful for the sacrifice that was made on the cross.

5.  And the winner is.....

Tess!  Congratulations!  I'll be dropping off your copy of Ann's One Thousand Gifts Devotional early next week....can't wait to start counting with you! 


Happy Friday friends!

I hope weekend is filled with all things good!

He is Risen!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What's in our AI kit.


Breeding cows and heifers the same way, every time, is really one of the keys to a successful breeding project. Consistency means less variables, and that's important for when you review a project to see what could be improved upon or what went well.  If everything was done consistently, then you have a starting point for change.

When we breed cattle, my job is to thaw the bull semen.  I think it surprises some people when they find out that I don't breed.  I could if I needed to in a pinch, but the guys are much more proficient at it than I am.  My job is to thaw and keep track of paperwork and flow.  Records are really important when you're AI'ing, because it's important to know what semen was put in what cow on what date and by what technician.  

Since we're out breeding a large group of heifers today (hooray for vacation days off of work!) I thought I'd tell you about what I keep in my AI kit.

A well stocked AI kit is helpful to have going into the breeding season.  Since we breed in the fall, winter & spring our kit stays stocked year-round.  Right now, if you were to open our kit, you'd find:

CITO Thaw Unit
AI Guns
Paper Towels
Digital Timer
Pens & Sharpies
Syringes & Needles
CITO Cutter
Small Bottle of Lube
Ziploc Bags
70% Alcohol & Pipe Cleaners
Plastic Breeding Gloves & Latex Gloves

I thought I'd touch on just a few preferences I have regarding the above - brands, types, why we use things, etc.

CITO Thaw Units - These units come in both 12 volt and 110 volt models.  We have two of each, and use them according to what power source is available at a project.  If 110 volt power is available, we prefer to use it because we think the power is more consistent, which creates a more consistent water temperature.  Our AI barn has both 110 and 12 volt power, so we can plug either thaw unit into the barn, and when I thaw out of my pickup I have to use a 12 volt. 

If I'm thawing for a more than 2 breeders, I will use two thaw units to help maintain temperature consistency.  The more frequently you drop straws into a thaw unit, the more it has to work to keep the temperature up.  So if I'm thawing three units at once over and over in the same unit, more often than not the unit will drop below ideal temperature.  If I use two thaw units, I can either thaw two straws in one, and a single straw in the other (what I prefer) or thaw three straws at once, and then thaw the next three straws in the other unit the next time to give my first unit a chance to warm back up.  This all goes back to our theory of maintaining consistency throughout the entire project.

*Whatever type of thaw unit you use, make sure that you don't ever allow the water in the unit to freeze.  For example, when you leave the AI kit in your pickup over night in December because you forgot to bring it in after breeding fall heifers in sub-freezing temperatures and the water freezes into a solid block, it's kind of an expensive mistake to make.   Don't ask me how I know this.  ;)

AI Guns - We prefer to use the Continental Plastics All-2-Mate Barb Style guns.  I've loaded a lot of straws of semen over the past few years, and this is by far my favorite AI gun.  The guys like to use them in the cow too, since they're sturdy (like an O-Ring gun) but lightweight (like a Combi-Gun).  They are just a really well made AI gun.  They're also fast to load, hold the sheath securely in place (without fiddling with an O-ring) and load either a 1/4 or 1/2 cc straw.

*If you use the guns above, you'll order the unslit sheaths with the blue inserts.

Thermometers - I use two types of thermometers.  One is the plastic card type thermometer that usually comes with the thaw unit.  These are good for knowing the general water temperature, however I do not rely on this type of thermometer to know my exact water temperature.  I mainly use this to "divide" the thaw unit area into two parts to help keep track when I'm thawing different straws of semen. 
Every year I buy a new, digital thermometer to guage water temperature.  I figure $10 to know exactly how warm your water is to the tenth of a degree, is money well spent.  I buy mine from Wal-Mart, in the kitchen supply aisle.  I don't keep this thermometer in the water the entire time I'm thawing, but I will check the water before I start and then periodically throughout the project to make sure my thaw unit is running correctly.

Digital Timer - I thaw my units of semen for 45 seconds, and use a digital timer to keep track of that.  There's enough going on when we're breeding that if I can take my focus off of one area (counting to myself in my head to 45), then that frees up some mental capacity to focus on other items like keeping records, or making sure the right unit of semen gets into the right cow.  Our friend Mike actually gave me my first timer, and it's been one of best gifts I've ever received.  I had to buy a new one this year, and I bought it from our local Cash & Carry restaurant supply store - a good timer will cost you about $15 and they're worth every penny.

Paper Towels - Costco half sheets are the best paper towel on the market.  Period.  Trust me, we've tried them all.  I use 2 half sheets folded together to dry the straws off after they come out of the water bath, and the guys like to use a single half sheet to wipe the cow before they insert the AI gun.  The first year we AI'ed cows, everyone had a different paper towel preference, but now we all use the same one and it makes stocking the AI barn a lot easier.

CITO Cutter vs. Scissors - Everyone that thaws semen has a personal preference here - and depending on the type of AI gun you use, that can dictate which method of cutting works best.  I prefer to use a CITO cutter, and I don't find any seating issues when we use the barb style AI guns.  I also think a CITO cutter is faster, and when they're cleaned regularly (that's what the alcohol & pipe cleaners are for, along with cleaning the AI guns) I think they're just as sanitary as a pair of scissors.  I also buy a few new CITO cutters every breeding season, and keep them sealed in a Ziploc sack when I'm not using them and I think that helps keep them clean as well.  We do keep a pair of scissors in the AI kit though, just in case.

Ziplocs - This past year I started keeping Ziploc sacks (both sandwich size and one gallon) size in the AI kit.  I use the small ones to keep a few spent straws from each breeding project.  That way if there's ever a question of semen quality, we have some of the straws saved.  I label these bags with a Sharpie.  I use one big Ziploc to store my timer, CITO cutter, pens and small AI book - that way if my thaw unit tips over, the water spilled won't get on these items.

Pens & Sharpies - If you don't have a Sharpie in your AI kit, you should get one.  I bet you'll be amazed by how often you use it.  I always make sure I have one, and have a back up one in my pickup and in my purse.

Gloves - The guys prefer to use latex gloves on both hands, and then put a breeding glove up on their left arm.  Yes, their hands get sweaty, but if a cow craps on them while they're breeding, it's a lot easier to just pull the glove off and put a new one on, versus trying to find somewhere to wash their hands.

Needles & Syringes - Usually when we're giving GnRH shots, we use an automatic syringe, but I keep a small 3cc syringe and clean needles in the AI kit just in case.  We keep bigger boxes of needles & the automatic syringes in a big tote that stays in the breeding barn.

Lube - We buy gallons of AI lube by the case, and keep those in our basement or in the AI barn (there's a special holder for the gallons) but we also keep a small squeeze bottle filled with lube just in case.  It always comes in handy when you're breeding just a handful of cows, and don't want to bring out the lube.  Lube, just like the water in your CITO thaw, shouldn't ever be frozen.  It really changes the consistency.

Tweezers - You'll notice that I don't have tweezers on my list, and that's because I don't use them.  I think I can pull straws faster with my fingers (which means that the canes of semen are exposed for less time) and find that in the instances I did use tweezers (like when my fingers were raw from multiple days of pulling straws) I was more likely to drop a unit.  Now, I just make sure I have bandaids and if my fingers are raw, I just deal with it.  If you use tweezers, and it works for you - that's great.

AI Gun Warmer - This isn't necessarily something we keep inside the AI kit, but it is something that we use every time we breed a cow.  Even if we're just breeding one, we'll still use a gun warmer.  These are kind of spendy, but again it all comes back to consistency - if we can maintain the temperature as consistently as we can from the time the unit of semen is pulled from the tank until it gets inside the cow - all the better. 

And the last - most IMPORTANT - thing to have in your AI Kit is.....

Diet Pepsi!

Lol.  Or is that just me.....?

So that's what is in our AI kit!

Is there anything I'm missing?  If so, please leave your thoughts in the comments - I'd love to hear what you do differently, or a brand that works well for you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Amazing Grace.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.


A {good life} is hard to define, and probably looks different to everyone.

Ten years ago, if you'd have asked me where I would be today, I probably wouldn't have said that I'd be living this blessed little life here in Eastern Oregon.

God's funny like that.

Amazing Grace.

How sweet the sound...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Trying to live life in the slow lane.

Lately I've been finding myself rushing through conversations (to the point where I'm not enunciating and I know better than that), hustling everywhere and just making things work. That's ok for a little while, but not long term.

So I'm going to try to slow down.

I know - all of you that know me are shaking your heads.  Part of me wants to defend "going fast" as being a part of me.  I'm Darcy - I talk fast, I think fast and I act fast.  But sometimes any of those things done fast isn't necessarily best. 

So I'm going to try slowing down.
Because I think I need to try.
I'm going to start counting.

I've had this devotional sitting in my pickup since the beginning of January.  It's totally blank but today I'm going to start using it. 

The first line might be filled with this;
I'm thankful for this life.

Or it might be filled with;
I am thankful for my husband who loves me more each day.

Clint is a very private man, especially when it comes to public displays of affection, but every day he makes sure that I know that I am loved.  We lead a busy, hectic, full life.  But it's one that we're living together, and for each other.  And we know that, and tell each other that.  We're a team, and we're running this race for each other and to make our life better.  And when I think of things I am thankful for, he is at the top of the list.

And whatever that first sentence is, after it's penned I'm going to challenge myself to keep writing more.

999 more, to be specific.  Over the next 264 days.

At the end of 2014, I hope that I have slowed down, stopped rushing and will remember a year, experiences & friendships savored.


I'd love to be able to gift a copy of this book to you too.

Join me in the slow lane?

To be entered to win a copy of Ann's book, simply leave a comment with one thing (or more!) that you are thankful for.  I'll leave comments open for a week, and choose a winner next Friday, April 18th.

***Congratulations to Tess!***

Because rushing through life and all that it gives us just isn't worth it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

5 on Friday.

1. If you need us, we'll be at the White Corrals.

I was at a training for work this week in Redmond, so I haven't been home much to take pictures but I did drive through the heifers and check heats last night when I got home. Clint synchronized a big group of ranch heifers for breeding this weekend, and if they all come into heat like they should I think we'll have our hands full!  I'll try to capture a few shots in between thawing straws.  :)

2. Sweet surprises that make you smile.

My cousin Alicia sent me the cutest notecards in the mail that I had won on her blog!  I love getting "fun" mail, and these are super fun!  Alicia let me know that these notecards are made by a friend of hers (who is also a former Ms. Minnesota - impressive!) and you can check out her Etsy store here.

3. This weather.

Spring is my absolute favorite time of year, weather-wise.  If I could live somewhere where it was 65-72 degrees year round, with cool evenings - I think I would!  The weather this week at home has been gorgeous, and I am so thankful for it!

4. Photo contests.

I love taking pictures.  It's just something that brings me a lot of joy and I love being able to document different seasons in our life.  Last week I shared a picture of the crew at Double M branding spring calves.  You can see it here on NCBA's Facebook page or click here to see the entire gallery of photos.  Feel free to "like" your favorite! 

Speaking of photo contests, the Beef Daily blog is still accepting pictures for their current photo contest that features working dogs.  If you have a picture to share, be sure to email it in to Amanda by next Friday, April 18!   I sent in the one above of Austin, our {Power Dog}, so we'll see if she makes the cut.

5.  I don't want to live through each day, I want to live for each day.

Too often I find myself wishing my way through the day. 

"I wish it was 4:30 and I could be headed home."
"I wish I was done doing chores and house work."
"I wish I could just go to bed."

But I want to count my blessings, not count my days. 

If you're in the same boat, come back tomorrow for a giveaway that just might help you and I do that.


Happy Friday friends! 

I hope we all get to make the most of our weekend!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Terry is 60!

Our good friend Terry turns 60 today!
Happy birthday!
We celebrated his birthday this weekend as a group at Fujiyama's in Tri-Cities and it was SUCH a fun evening! 

Fujiyama's is a Japanese steakhouse, and our server Yippee Kay Yay was h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s! 


Dinner was so good, and we may have had a pretty darn good time....and maybe told a few jokes.

Sesame seeds & answering the door will never have the same meaning again.


And you can't have a birthday celebration without the drums, singing & cake!


Happy birthday Terry!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our weekend.

Hello friends!  Happy Tuesday!

We had a busy weekend, and kind of a busy Monday too. 

I think it's just that time of year.  ;-)

We bred three groups of heifers this weekend - two at the feedlot and one out in Pilot Rock.  I knew Friday was going to be the last time I'd have a chance to run to Costco to stock up on things before the spring breeding season, and let me tell you - I commanded the orange cart like a champion!

Haha.  Or maybe not. 

I'm pretty sure I hit three end caps with my cart, and probably cut off a handful of people as I was turning into an aisle - but no worries, no real damage was done.

And I won't ever see those people again, right?

At least that's what I tell myself.

Either way - I got stocked up on paper towels, Gatorade & Diet Snapple, cases of water and freezer items for quick fix meals.

I also spent a small fortune at Ulta where I picked up self tanner & OPI nail polishes - but those aren't exactly breeding season essentials.

Although they do make for a happy wife, and "Happy wife, happy life", right?!?

The rest of the weekend was spent on the ranch helping Clint and at the feedlot breeding.

The weather here couldn't have been more perfect!

 We also got to go to the Battle of the Bars, which is a fundraiser for the Pendleton Round Up Hall of Fame on Friday night and it was a lot of fun.  A big shout out to the Ledbetter's with their "Lem-dleton" - a delicious blend of Pendleton Whisky, fresh squeezed lemon and Bone Daddy's Margarita mix! 

We also celebrated Terry's 60th birthday on Saturday at Fujiyama's - but that will be a post later this week. 

Hope you all had a great weekend too, and that your week has started off well!

Friday, April 4, 2014

5 on Friday.

This is the perfect picture to represent our marriage - Diet Pepsi for me & semen tanks for Clint - haha!
And don't worry - that tank on the concrete just held extra nitrogen.

Heifers waiting to be bred - see their Estrotech patches?

1. Welcome to our life.

It's that time of year, when semen tanks are delivered daily and outnumber the pairs of boots in our mudroom.  The other night before Bunco, I was taking a shipper back to UPS and one of the very nice drivers leaving work for the day held the door open for me.  As I walked through it carrying the shipper, he asked me "Do you know WHAT THAT IS?"

 I replied, "Yup, it's a LOVE tank!"

Adrienne - you'd be so proud of me.  :)

We're breeding three sets of heifers this weekend & I'm headed to Costco this morning to stock up on groceries for the next couple of months.  Let the games begin!

2. The Smokehouse Salad may just be the best salad ever.

Even though I work in Pendleton, I don't really eat out much in town.  I pack a lunch everyday, and by the time I get home at night, we usually don't want to drive the 1/2 hour back to Pendleton to go out to eat.  But when Clint and I are both in Pendleton, one of our favorite places to go to is Dickey's BBQ.  We usually just go through their drive through, and for a "fast food" restaurant, their BBQ is amazing! 

Last Sunday we were headed to a branding in Pilot Rock, so we picked up lunch at Dickey's.  I ventured out of my norm, and had their Smokehouse Salad and it was Ahhh-Maaazing!  It has all of my favorite things in a salad - they toss Romaine lettuce in dressing so that each piece of lightly coated in ranch, and then sprinkle sharp cheddar cheese on top.  Then they layer a salty, smokey layer of sliced beef brisket and add crispy onion straws on top.  If you have a Dickey's near you - there are only 2 in Oregon, but I think there are more in the Midwest/Texas - you neeeeeeddd to try this salad.  You won't be dissapointed.

PS - If you need more evidence as to how good it was, on our way home from the branding that day we stopped at Dickey's again and each got the exact same thing we'd ordered at lunch, for dinner.  You can't have too much of a good thing.  :)

3. Scentsy's new "Shaka".

I really like to walk into a home and "smell" something good.  Since we live on a ranch, and the first room you walk into is our mud room - which is filled with Muck boots, chore coats, dog beds and their dishes - I put an effort into making our house smell good.  I have two Scentsy burners in our house that were wedding gifts (Thanks Kerri & Cheyenne!) and like to burn the same scent in both burners and that really makes it to that our house smells good when you walk in.  I just ordered a new pack of 3 scents, and fell in love with the new Shaka scent.

It is amazing.  And "manly" - so even though he wouldn't say anything bad, I think Clint doesn't mind it either.  I love it so much that I ordered a Scent Circle for my car.  It's definitely a scent that I'll be ordering more of!

4. Would you want to win $1,000 gift card to Nordstrom?

I know I would!  I love Nordstrom - now granted, I only buy things that are on sale there (because I'm cheap) but they have free shipping & free returns always.  No minimums, it's always free.  And they ship things quickly, and returns are easy.  For people who don't have a lot of time to drive to the city & shop (me), or who like to try on things in their own home (me again) - Nordstrom really makes it easy.  This week, there are a few bloggers who teamed up and are giving away one $1,000 gift card.  How cool would it be to win?  Click here to find out how.

5. Happy Birthday Mel!!!

Today is my mother in law's birthday!  We're sending a lot of love to Nebraska today, and I hope she has an awesome birthday.  She truly deserves it.  Love ya Mel!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Go To Meals – Macaroni & Cheese

It's April, which means things are about to get busy around our house, and I'll probably have some extra mouths to feed with the AI crew that stays with us during the breeding season.  I'm all about a home cooked meal - but it needs to be quick to prepare.  I thought I'd post a few of my "Go To" meals that are easy & quick to make, can feed a crew, and are relatively inexpensive on the budget.


So we love macaroni and cheese at our house.  Because…..well, we love cheese.
I mean who doesn’t LOVE CHEESE?!?
And while I really like a “homemade” macaroni & cheese, I’ve figured out a quicker way to make it.  In the front part of our Safeway’s, next to the deli, they have a case of refrigerated, prepared soups in plastic containers.  I buy a container of soup there usually once a week, and we eat it with a salad for a quick meal at home.  A few weeks ago when I was picking up a container of Clam Chowder for Clint, I saw a new “soup” they had - Macaroni and Cheese. 
Now I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a soup or not because it’s pretty liquidy (let’s pretend that is a word) and there is A LOT of creamy, cheesey goodness in the container.  So what I do to make this a "go to" meal is boil some regular macaroni noodles, add the noodles to the container of Safeway Macaroni & Cheese, mix it all together, top it all with some grated sharp cheddar and call it a day! 
The extra noodles really stretch the meal, and there'll be leftovers for lunch the next day.  (And honestly, probably the next couple of days - this makes a lot.) 

What you need:
1 container of Safeway Signature Cafe brand Macaroni & Cheese – found with their refrigerated soups

16 oz Macaroni Elbows - cooked to package instructions
1-2 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese – I use Tillamook Cheese, it’s the only cheese to use!  Sorry, the cheese snob in me is coming out.  But REALLY – this is the only cheese to use.  Want to make life easier?  Buy the pre-grated Tillamook cheese in the bag – I won’t tell. 
Boil the noodles for the minimum time.  (If the instructions say to cook for 9-11 minutes, I'll cook for 9 so the noodles aren't mushy.)  Drain the cooked noodles and combine with the entire container of Mac & Cheese from Safeway.  Use a plastic spatula to get all of the cheesey goodness out of the container.  :)  Mix in the shredded cheese and serve warm.

Want to make it fancy? 
Add in some grated parmesan too!  Or pour the noodle mixture in a 9x13 pan, sprinkle with cheese & breadcrumbs or panko crumbs and broil for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the crumbs are toasted!
Don’t worry – there’s enough sauce in the “soup” to cover the additional noodles thoroughly.  This also makes plenty for leftovers.

I serve the macaroni & cheese with a pre-made bagged salad or a bag of steamed brocolli and call it a meal.  Total prep time is less than 15 minutes (basically the time it takes to boil your noodles) and couldn’t be easier.


If you have a "Go To" meal you make in your home, would you share?  

Clint is really good about eating whatever I make for dinner, but I think all of us could agree that it's easy to get stuck in a rut so I'm always looking for easy ways to diversify my meal plans!