Friday, July 29, 2011

Farm Bureau goes to the zoo

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Last weekend, my Farm Bureau district had our annual summer picnic at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville. This was the first time I have been do this zoo, even though we only live about 30 minutes away!

It was another crazy hot day (because those are so rare right now), and lots of the animals were hiding. I can’t blame them.

Part of the zoo is climate controlled. It is called Amazonia, and (you guessed it) it’s an Amazon rain forest. Well, sort of. Though it did actually rain on us while we were in there!

The first thing we saw in Amazonia was the black howler monkey. He was in a tizzy about something. I have no idea what he was trying to say, but he sure had something on his mind! (Sort of like Martin in the mornings. And the afternoons. And the evenings…)

Amazonia definitely had the most active animals for the day. We also saw some monkeys with cute faces, right around lunch time.snack monkeyWe saw lots of animals, many that I had not seen before. And I don’t remember the names of most of them. Like that cute-faced monkey. I do remember that this was some sort of a spoon-bill bird. Because that was hard to remember.spoonbill This is a capybara. I remember this one (although I had to look up how to spell it) because I think it looks like the ROUS’s from The Princess Bride. Anyone?capabarraThese guys are pretty big. I would say he is about the size of a Great Dane, but a little more stocky.

Hanging out with the capybaras was a tapir. Tapirs have a common ancestor to horses. I think they look more like pigs than horses. Evolution, you are a strange thing!tapirWe also met some prehensile tailed porcupines. Again, a thing I had never seen before. And a hard name to remember. ;) I must have stood here for 15 minutes, and never did get a picture of the little guy’s face. Must be camera shy. Or sleeping… in a tree…?prehensile tail porcupineThe jaguar was sleeping. I walked by 2 hours later, and he was sleeping in the same position. I don’t know any other cats who do thatjaguarThen we ventured outside to find the animals who were not lucky enough to be in a climate controlled enclosure. And here is where the naming gets fuzzy again.

These are some cow-relatives from Africa with curly horns. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Curly.mrs curlyThere were peacocks and peahens just running loose, willy-nilly around the grounds. Luckily, they mostly avoided the people. I have heard that peacocks can be pretty mean!peacock peahenThe rhinoceros has the best idea. He was just hanging out in his swimming pool.  rhino soakDid you know rhinos have fuzzy ears? I had no idea! I must have skipped that day of vet school…rhino earsAnd did I mention that we were actually there for a meeting? Dr. Bret Marsh, the Indiana state veterinarian came down to talk to our district about what the Board of Animal Health is working on.    dr marshBOAH has four main branches. The original three things they monitor and plan for are animal health, food safety, and disaster preparedness. They do a lot of monitoring of animal disease and animal transport. They have recently been working on emergency planning for the unlikely event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. A new arm of BOAH is animal welfare.

Welfare has always been a part of the arenas of animal health and food safety, but it is taking more of a prominent spot now. BOAH was recently tasked with creating basic guidelines for animal welfare (specifically for livestock and poultry). Indiana is being very proactive by establishing guidelines for basic “standards of care” for our farm animals. 

After lunch and Dr. Marsh’s talk, I had to get back to Princeton to get ready for that night’s performance of “The King and I.” On the way out, I checked on the jaguar again.

She was still 2

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sweet Autumn Pork Chops, recipe #4

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We have lots of pork chops in the freezer, and I am always looking for new ways to cook them. Chops are great on the grill, but sometimes you just want a little more. And here it is!autumnfamilyfriends
The marinade for this is super-simple.marinade ingredientsMix 1/2 cup apple juice (I accidentally bought “punch blend” instead of plain old apple juice. It worked great.) with 1/4 cup maple syrup in a zip-top bag. You’ll need to squeeze a bit to get the syrup to mix with the juice. Put 4 pork chops in the bag, and refrigerate for at least two hours.chop in a bagWhile you are waiting, peel and slice a sweet potato, slice an onion, and core and slice 2 Bosc pears and 1 Golden Delicious apple. Set these aside. (I put them in a big bowl with a cover to keep the apple and pears from getting too brown.)

Once the chops are good and marinaded, mix together the magic spices. Mix 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Take the chops out of the marinade, and give both sides a good sprinkle with the spices, and rub them in good.spice rubHeat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup in a large, oven-safe skillet.
Add the sweet potato, onion, pears, and apple to the skillet. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp cinnamon. (I might have used more cinnamon than that.)

Once again, I found myself wishing for a bigger skillet. And hoping that this would cook down to a more manageable size.giant pile of fruitThe instructions say to saute for 35 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and the mixture is caramelized. I don’t remember much about cooking class, but I was pretty sure that “saute” didn’t include “overfill the skillet and heat for a while.” And I thought that things might not heat too evenly with the skillet so full. So I put a cover on for about 10 minutes. Don’t do that. The sweet potatoes got soft very quickly and started to fall apart. So did the apples. Surprisingly, the pears kept their texture very nicely.

So. “Saute” – uncovered – over medium heat for about 35 minutes, until all the fruits and veggies are soft, and it smells positively delicious.

Then it will look like this:cooked down If things get a little too dry during the cooking, add some more apple juice. Or apple fruit punch blend. Whichever you happen to have on hand.

Add the pork chops to the skillet, and cover (as best as you can) with the fruit/veggie mixture.add chops NOW put on a cover (do not do this earlier, please, I beg of you!) and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until chops are cooked through.

Here’s mine after the oven:after ovenEverything was great! The sweet potato fell apart – next time I will slice them thicker, and not cover the skillet during the first part of cooing. The apple kind of fell apart, too, so a little thicker slices for that, I think.

And did you know? The USDA lowered the internal cooking temperature for pork to 145 degrees (with a 3 minute rest after it comes off the heat)? I didn’t check mine until after 35 minutes was up on the timer, and the internal temp was way higher than that, and the chops were just a teensy bit dry. I would recommend checking the temperature of your chops after about 20 minutes in the oven, and monitor them after that.

This will definitely be on our table again this fall!

But I do not think I will be firing the oven back up to 400 degrees until after this heat wave breaks!!

Special thanks to Gooseberry Patch for providing me with this great cookbook to try and share with you.  If you would like to see other great recipes, check out

Printable recipe card:autumn pork chops card

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pick it back up again

As you may have noticed, I have been a bit absent lately. I didn’t have much to say in June, until the last week where I really rolled some posts out! July has been pretty spotty, to say the least.

What’s going on?

Well, time, for one thing. Our county fair was the first week of July, and John and I were both tied up quite a bit with that. I’m also very involved with our local community theatre, the Gibson County Theatre Company, and I just finished stage managing “The King and I” last weekend. Between those two big events, they pretty ate up all my free time for the last three weeks.

But that’s not all, as much as I would like to say it is.

I’m having some trouble getting “back into the swing of things.”

Have you noticed that? It’s not just with blogging. It’s with eating right, exercising, getting up on time, reading instead of watching TV, cooking at home instead of going out to eat, anything like that. Those are just a few of my biggies.

It seems easy to STOP doing some of these things… piece of cake (pun definitely intended) to STOP getting up 45 minutes early to spend some quality time with Bob, my treadmill. Easy to STOP picking up the book and flipping on the stupid television. (200 channels and still nothing on?) Easy to STOP blogging.

But, gosh, it sure can be hard to START doing some of these things again!

What is it about that? These are things I like to do (reading, blogging), and things I know I need to do for my health (eating right, exercising).

Getting up early? Well, that doesn’t really fall into either category. But I do know that I feel a whole lot better, all day long, if I get up without any (or with only one) snooze, instead of fighting with that stupid thing for an hour.

Okay, so it is pretty easy to get into a routine that involves sleeping in and not getting enough exercise and camping out in front of the television. Why is it so hard to get back out of that habit? Lazy feels good sometimes, but most of the time lazy doesn’t fell good. At all.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought to myself, “Self, there is nothing on television, and you would rather be (blogging, writing, reading, whatever-ing) so get your butt out of the recliner and go do that thing!” And I don’t move.

Seriously! What is the deal with that?

So. Today, July 26. (yes, writing a day ahead of posting) For the next month, I will post no less than three times per week. And for every post I write, I will comment on three other blogs. (Another of the things I have a hard time “picking back up” again.)

Help me out, and hold me accountable, please!

I love all of you, my readers, and I do miss spending time with you! Here is my effort to bring the relationship back to life. ;)

What is something that you have stopped doing, that you want to start again?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Auntie Em, where are you?


We had some rain here last week. Just a little. The official tally was 3.5 inches in 30 minutes. Our rain gauge only picked up 2.5 inches, but a lot of the rain was coming sideways.rain gauge I was home by myself. I called Hubby Doc in the middle of the drama and said I might get blown to Kansas.

He calmly informed me that the wind was blowing the wrong way for me to end up in Kansas.

I not so calmly answered him: “Okay, FINE! I’ll end up in New Jersey,then!”

He assured me I would not be blown to New Jersey.

Though I thought I might float there…

The ditch filled to overflowing, and the lower hay field flooded.july flood ditch Somewhere there is a road in here… It looks like a river…july flood road

The cows even had a swimming pool for a day.july flood pasture

We lost power (just us, not our neighbors). Electricity is pretty essential for the sump pump in the basement. So we got water in the basement. About four inches worth in about three hours.

And after it stopped raining, the water level kept creeping up on the roads and fields. Turns out, when there are 3.5 inches of rain in 30 minutes, there is nowhere for it to go. It collects, and ends up across our driveway. The flooding was so bad near our house that Hubby Doc barely made it home later that evening.

Thankfully, he made it home safe, and with a generator, so we were able to dry out the basement.

The power company was out around 6:30 the next morning, once the flood waters had receded a bit, and we were back in business. Just in time to go to work.

And I was hoping to be able to call in flooded. Ah well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

County fair, check!


Our county fair wrapped up on Saturday. Hubby Doc just loves the fair. He is on the fair board, and takes a week of vacation so he can work at the fair all week.

I do not have the same love for the fair. I didn’t grow up around it, I was never in 4-H, and frankly, most of the time I just don’t get it.

This year, I took the plunge and volunteered to be one of the photographers for the many events at the fair. I was hot and sweaty all week (and tired!), but I got some great photos!

Now, I didn’t get around to all the events (we have a lot going on!), but here’s the highlights of the ones I did get…

This was the second year we had an adult pedal tractor pull. Here is Hubby Doc competing. john pedal tractorI also pulled, and won the girls’ class. But the pictures were… shall we say… unflattering. So I will not post them. Not even if you beg.

Of course, lots and lots of animals. Some goats hanging out waiting their turns…goatsA cow getting all gussied up for her show…cattle show And a horse trying very hard not to mess up his pretty hair.fancy braids

We also had some dog agility classes this year. There was agility for big dogs…big agility 2

And for little dogs…little agility

Next year, I want to start a cat agility class. I will enter Martin.

Or maybe not…

We had some go-kart racing.go karts(Seriously, how did I get that picture? Wow!)

We played volleyball in the mud (and by “we,” I most certainly do not mean “me.”)mud volleyball 1mud volleyball 2And because we didn’t get enough mud on volleyball night, we also wrestled pigs in the mud.hog wrestling And we had a demo derby, with plenty of crash-bang-smoke-fire. Everyone (apparently) loves a good demo derby.demo derbyThe final night of the fair was the Lee Brice concert. I missed that because my good friend Kristi got married the same night at Turkey Run State Park. Wedding… country concert… wedding… country concert. Yep, it wasn’t much of a choice for me. Wedding!weddingAll that fun and excitement, and the fair only got rained out one night!lightening One more Gibson County Fair down… and a whole year until the next one!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Fireworks


I didn’t get quite the fireworks photos I was hoping for with my new camera… I need to play with the settings a little more to get better low-light action shots. But, some neat effects anyway!



DSC_0689  DSC_0683   DSC_0680

Monday, July 4, 2011

Grill it up!


The 4th of July is a pretty big grilling day around here, so I thought I would take this opportunity to show off my grill! Our county fair is going on this weekend, so we’ll be eating fried fair food instead of home grilled food, but I bet lots of you are grilling out today!

Hubby Doc actually bought this grill before we got married. But I commandeered it after we got married and I moved down here. grill 1This grill has been through a lot. The winds get so bad on our hill sometimes that it has been blown over a time or three. And its handle broke off. But Hubby Doc put on a new one for me. (I was getting tired of using my oven mitts to open the grill cover!)handleDoes anyone actually have good luck with the igniter buttons? This one hasn’t worked in a very long time (hence the cobwebs).igniterThe grate and heat shield look a little dusty here, because I just cleaned it with a grill stone. I usually just use a wire brush, but every once in a while I give it a really good scrubbing down with a grill stone.grateThe heat shield has seen some better days. Every time we fire it up, we say that we need to replace it. Then we promptly forget until the next time we are getting ready to cook.heat shieldThis grill also has a burner. I will admit that we have never actually used it. Usually when I’m grilling, I put the entire meal on the grill, veggies and everything. I keep thinking I’m going to try this someday, but haven’t made that happen yet.burnerMy favorite part about the grill is the great view we have while we’re cooking outside.smokeAre you grilling for the 4th of July weekend? What was on your grill?

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