Posted in Raised by a village

Swinging Steak Basket

Friday afternoon, I sat in the Cafe 33 and Steakhouse in Perkins, Oklahoma with my friend Susie. Looking over the menu, I asked, “What are calf fries?”

Susie said, “Testicles. Rocky Mountain Oysters.”

I responded, “huh?”

She said, “Calf testicles. That’s why they call it a ‘swinging steak basket’ it comes with toast and french fries.”

I busted out laughing and the local patrons looked at me like I stepped from a spacecraft. Nicole, the waitress stopped to take our drink order and she confirmed that sure enough, calf fries are indeed sliced bovine testicles served with a special dipping “balls’ sauce”.

I said, “I’ve eaten fish lip stew and fish eyeballs in the Philippines. I’ve snacked on grasshoppers, waterbugs and crickets in Cambodia. I’ve eaten foods that I could not pronounce in South Korea, and I’ve eaten squirrel and rabbit pot pie at home. Why Yes, I’ll take the Swinging Steak Basket with extra ball sauce please.”

Our plates arrived, and Nicole said, “Each May we have the annual Calf Fry Festival.” I nearly choked. Apparently, it’s a big deal. She continued, “we just call it the ‘testicle festival’ and there are lots of bands and food. Some folks say our calf fries have too much breading, but others like it. What do you think?”

I dipped my calf fry into the mystery spicy sauce, and peered at it dubiously. After a bite I replied, “they’re thinner than I imagined and not chewy like I thought.”

Susie grinned and ate her reuben sandwich. I told the waitress, “I castrated 11 goats a few months ago. If I had known there was a market for this delicacy, I wouldn’t have just tossed them on the ground.”

She laughed and as I ate another bite of my swinging steak basket.

I said, “ya know, they don’t taste nutty at all.”

If you ever find yourself in Oklahoma, try the Swinging Steak Basket, or go out on a limb and order the lamb fries. The food at the Cafe 33 is great and the service is quick. They also have cakes, pies and cinnamon rolls for dessert.

Dipping Sauce ingredients:

Ketchup, Mustard and Tabasco.

Posted in Raised by a village

Cows in the Cemetery

“Stop the truck, I know those cows… and that’s my daddy walking them down the road!”

As Jim slowed the truck with our 25 new chickens on the back, he said, “your cows are out.” I said, “this is why we don’t have cows.”

I shook my head as he rolled down the window and the neighbor gave me a thumbs-up indicating everything was under control. We drove home because at this point it only took 3 men to walk five steers across the field with a bucket of feed, and we were blocking traffic.

After unloading the new birds, we headed back to Daddy’s to walk the fence line. We found the break: top strands broken by deer. When the cows discovered it, they simply took a hike.

We delivered a round bale of hay to customer and still made it in time to Bob’s funeral.

While the funeral crowd stood singing an a capella rendition of Victory in Jesus, I looked down and noticed multiple indentations … holstein steer hoof prints. Daddy nudged me and said, “they ate all the four leaf clovers. At least they didn’t fall in the grave.” I coughed to hide my giggle. As the service continued, I began to put the events of the steer escape into a morning timeline.

After the service, Pete the funeral director said that the grave-diggers called him in a panic 2 hours earlier because “there’s a herd of cows up here chewing on the tent ropes.” I told Pete that when you are a rural funeral director, sometimes, that means at some point you get cows in the cemetery.

Pulling a loose strand of hay from my hair, I apologized to Bob’s widow for wearing my boots and jeans. Peg smiled and said, “We put Bob in his bib overalls. You’re fine. Just keep being a blessing.”

Smiling, I said, “I think Bob would’ve liked knowing that the cows escaped up here to save us a seat.”

I am forever grateful to our neighbors for herding and helping daddy.

My uncle’s escaping steers will be heading to the sale this week. Daddy’s rule of thumb with cows has always been that once they figure out how to escape, they’ll do it again in the rain or in the middle of the night. I’d rather not have to go back to the cemetery in the dark to round up a couple of wayward runaway steers.

P.S. The new chickens will start laying eggs by Memorial Day. Let me know if you want on the egg list.

Posted in Raised by a village

Foxy Brown – Part 2

My alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m. Pre-coffee, I dressed and trudged to the barn to check on our goat patient Foxy Brown. Ney the donkey brayed in protest at seeing me so early in the day, while Vera Wang and Kate Spade eyed me quizzically over the goat protein pail. The rest of the herd greeted me with sleepy-eyed quests for food.

I was waiting for the coin toss: I would either be burying a goat at 5:45 or giving her electrolyte paste. Wonders never cease, and prayers are answered. There, in the barn, stood Foxy Brown. Tail still down (often a sign that a goat isn’t feeling well), she spotted me and moved in the other direction. I said, “well, that is progress, you’re running away!”

Leaving her to ponder her next move, I pitched two bales of hay into the feeders and missed one of them. Twenty goats pounced on that fallen bale. I lifted it, muttering, “get off of it ya turd-buckets” and pulled a rib muscle. Once I filled the feeders with hay, I took a square to Foxy Brown. Still a bit wobbly, she looked the opposite direction. I headed to the house, had Jim to slather generic mentholated cream on my back and went to the office.

Later in the day, Daddy checked on the herd and sent me a text, “Count 24. All look good”. It is always a good sign when someone counts the herd and tells you the correct number…unlike me as a child telling Daddy that we had between 14 and 16 calves. He took the average and knew that he only had 15 in that lot; yet I digress.

I returned the text with a photo and asked him to check for Foxy Brown specifically.

Apparently, the goat started talking to Daddy.😁

Jim checked her after work, and found her resting near her mother Sheri. I later went to check and found her hanging out, not letting me near her. She is on the mend: still a bit wobbly, but eating, drinking and staying close to the herd.

Posted in Raised by a village

Foxy Brown – Part 1

Most husbands walk through the door after work expecting to be greeted by the sounds of a spouse, dog(s), or kids. My husband, on occasion has been greeted by the sound of a goat kid, screaming in discomfort. Tonight was that night. I discovered one of our 9 month old female goats, named Foxy Brown standing in the pasture, in shock and bleeding from the neck. Hastily, I lifted her to the wheelbarrow and took her to the house. Although she only weighs about 50 pounds, she’s sturdy enough that I did not want to haul her from the barn to the house if I could avoid it.

At the back door, I hoisted her in my arms and put her on the rug in the back hallway. Her temperature was 2 degrees below normal. I wrapped her in a towel, and gave her a dose of Vitamin B, Vitamins A, E & D and a broad spectrum antibiotic. I cleaned the small square puncture and applied Aluminum Bandage, a spray for animal wounds.

She rested a few hours, then stood, shook her head, peed on my rug (again for the 3rd time), and seemed to want to go outside. After a bit of discussion, Jim recommended putting her back in the barn near the others. I could only imagine her tale if she could talk, “and then I awoke in 73 degree weather in the light … but it wasn’t the sun.”

We’ll see how she is tomorrow.

Life on the farm.

Click to see Part 2

Posted in farmlife

Painting Again

My hairstylist is right about more than just my hair color… Pinterest is the devil.

While she was referring to hair color and styles, I found it to be true for those cute farmhouse motifs and do-it-yourself recommendations. We live in a small farmhouse that is celebrating its 71st or 75th birthday.

Over the past few years, we made a few improvements. Okay, a lot of repairs including windows, siding, and HVAC. A few weeks ago, I removed a board in the kitchen and the paint peeled off the wall in sheets. The decades-old chalky yellow paint screamed to be covered so I painted it “Paris Mint”. In the morning sunlight, it reflected the green grass from the pasture, but at night, the kitchen dialed-up the 1970s decade and demanded their color back. And then, it bubbled and peeled from the wall.

I headed back to the chain building supply store and asked the paint guy for recommendations. The first guy recommended new sheetrock and walls. I responded that it sounded like he actually recommended demolition. He did not respond. Luckily, the second paint-mixologist recommended a heavy-duty cleaner and primer.

Armed with a lighter “Filmy Green” paint, primer and rollers, I spent most of Labor Day weekend priming, painting and moving furniture.

Those DIY shows make it look easy, but that is editing. While it took longer than a 30-minute segment on television, with help from my dad and brother, the kitchen looked great after a layer of primer. They left anf something caught my eye in the hallway. Peeling paint? Surely not.

Four hours later, I sat in the hallway littered with sheets of multicolored decades-old paint. How did I get to this point? I began to question every decision for the past 4 years. The animals still needed to be fed, and I sat surrounded by a crumpled dried paint.

There was no great epiphany, no camera crew… just me and a mound of paint. So, I turned off the audio book, cleaned up the trash, fed the animals and went to a cookout in my old neighborhood. I had paint stains on my arms, legs and the bottoms of my feet. I did not care.

Sunday afternoon, my dad and I finished painting the kitchen and hallway. I came to realize a few things to keep in mind if you ever dream of owning an older home:

1. There are always things to paint. The local store selling paint is glad to have customers like me. Unless you have an unlimited budget, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

2. There are always things to fix. The local hardware store likes for customers like me to visit. Agaim, unless you win the lottery or find a pot of gold, you will need to fix things or pray that someone you know can do it. I am forever thankful for my husband.

3. My house will never look like one on television, nor is it a rambling estate. It does, however sit under a rainbow when the storm clouds roll the right way. I keep looking for the leprechaun.

4. Camera crews are not going to roll through my latest project, but I am grateful for the time with family and encouragement from friends!

I will avoid being a blonde bombshell… except with Halloween props 😀

Posted in Raised by a village

Happy Goat Hour

I skipped happy hour with coworkers… again… because of the goats. My coworkers are great, but factor in an hour commute and a passel of animals, my time is limited on weeknights.

Tonight, as I fed over-ripened cucumbers to the goats, and dropped the evening rations to the feral barn cats, a friend dropped by, and we watered the goats.

Then two stray dogs wandered through the pasture. This time, beagles. Their owner, a nice young man came into the yard just as one of the beagles touched the goats’ electric fence. Yelping, the dog, named Sophie, bolted through the cornfield amid 10-feet tall stalks. Cindy finished watering the goats and I headed into the cornfield in search of J’s wayward dog. No luck. She went through the back woods headed to the next road. I was not up for that much of a hike at dusk.

In this age of cell phones, I pulled out my phone and asked for J’s number and said if Sophie returned, I would call.

As he left, I spotted a new treasure: a new-to-me discarded wire spool, courtesy of the local power company. A childhood friend and classmate works for the local co-op and dropped a newly discarded spindle. This is how we recycle….a wooden spool used to hold power line transforms into a goat step stool. After rolling it into place, the bachelors, Bert and Ernie, began field testing the new addition to the goat tower.


hank you REMC for the fantastic service and the opportunity to recycle. And thanks to new neighbors who help water the caprines.

Posted in Raised by a village

Another Silver Spoon

Tonight, I thought that Steve the goat would become the world’s first caprine beekeeper. Alas, he just pretended to be a pointer and stood by while I dumped a newly discovered swarm into a brood box. Different from the swarm we capped last night, this second swarm consisted of 1000 bees just hanging on a tree limb in the goats’ pasture. Convincing them to go into an empty box involved me moving an empty box, picking up the limb with the bees, and shaking them into the box.

With that success, and having managed to destroy a black widow spider, her 3 sacs of minuscule babies and a wasp attempting to take over an empty honeybee box, it was time for stage two of moving the hive from last night.

Armed with a smoker, a temporary board and the empty brood box, Daddy, Jim and I moved last night’s hive to a new location. Daddy did not even use gloves or a veil. Kelly dislikes getting stung more than I do, so he stood out of the way and graciously took photos. Jim ran the smoker to help keep the bees calm. They were much better than last night.

We added the top, slid the temporary board beneath the supers and strapped-down the lid. Then, we carried it to its new location about 50 feet east and walked away. After we let them settle, I pulled the rag-stopper out of the vent and we left them. Tomorrow, we will put them on the brood box and leave them in their current location until January.

There’s a poem about catching swarms:

A hive in May is worth a stack of hay.

A hive in June is worth a silver spoon.

A hive in July ain’t worth a fly.

At this point, I expect two silver spoons… if we can get them to produce. We will move that 2nd hive soon too.

Hive move stage 2 status: complete.

Posted in Raised by a village

It’s Good for Rheumatism

Daddy’s text this afternoon indicated that he found a possible beehive swarm. In my phone call to him as I left the office he requested a brood box, a hive top and bottom, and instructions to pick him up after dark. Cryptic at least, fully instructed at best.

Jim and I arrived after dark with an empty brood box on the back of the truck, and veils and gloves. Oh sure, some beekeepers go into boxes barehanded, without veils, but to me, that is just asking bee stings to the face.

We discovered a new swarm of honeybees, completely moved into an abandoned pair of supers; the section of a standard hive where bees make honey, not where the queen lays eggs or brood (baby bees). Not bad, a swarm in a box was easier than convincing a swarm to move out of a tree. However, a chain had been laid on the abandoned boxes and the bees were beginning to incorporate the chain into the structure of their new residence.

My job at 9:45 pm: move the tractor chain from the bee abode, and add a temporary cover so they can be moved to a permanent location. Oh, and make sure that 10,000 bees stay calm.

I donned my gloves and veil over my long-sleeved collar shirt. Jim and Daddy provided instructions from a distance, “move the chain slowly” … “just move it quickly and drop it behind the box” … “don’t rile them, the bottom box is full” … “put the top on with the vent down.”

Did I mention it was 9:30 at night, in the dark and that I fought a migraine off and on all day? Truth be told, Jim worked a 12-hour shift, then pulled the box supplies from our inventory, and Daddy had been out working most of the day as well. So we were a bit tired.

Then a bee stung my knee, and the hive activity kicked-up a notch. Slowly moving the chain was not an option. I grabbed what appeared to be the other end of the chain and slung it on the ground. Buzzing amplified round my bonnet and they crawled on my arms and pants. “Now put the cover liner on and leave them until tomorrow .” I ducked away to clear the trailing bees. After a minute or so, I went back to them, put the cover on the new hive and ran.

As I removed my red chicken sloggers to rid my sock of a wayward bee, I asked daddy, “Did Papaw ever get stung?” Daddy replied, “Oh sure. ‘Good for the rheumatism’. At least that’s what Dad used to say.”

I guess that’s better than, “suck it up buttercup.”

Posted in Raised by a village


Between feral dogs attacking daddy’s steers, hawks stealing chickens, and a donkey who lost his mind and injured 3 goats, the past few weeks have been interesting on the farm. With the spring kidding season, we welcomed 14 kids, plus daddy’s pygmy goats bore 10 (Yes, we have goats available). Now, as summer officially begins in a few weeks, we watch for the paragliders who loop low over the fields and buzz the animals from the air. These motorized gliders started out a few years ago high in the sky. Tonight, two of them buzzed the hay field lower than the power lines swooping in and around the terraces. One of them saw me and had to increase speed to raise above the power lines (generally poles are 40 feet tall). Another had blinking flashes, so I am guessing that they were recording video.

Daddy asked if I knew who they were or what they wanted. No, I do not know who they are or where they land and take-off. They are annoying and creepy. Last year, they buzzed the pasture and made the goats run. That infuriated me.

What to do? For the dogs, we are working with animal control to trap the feral dogs. And now, I have to watch for paragliders who circle the farm. They saw me tonight, making a large X symbol with my arms and waving them out of the air. They were low enough for me to see their sunglasses and helmets. If you know anything about the motorized paragliders in western Lincoln County, NC, let me know.