Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's Back.....(frost season on the cranberry marsh)

It's that time of year again where cranberry growing couples across the country (well, at least, Wisconsin) are begrudgingly plugging in the frost alarm.  For those not familiar with this technology, it's basically an alarm clock that sounds when the temperature falls below a certain number, usually around 34 degrees.  Frost season is somewhat like having a baby, a recurring baby year after year.  A baby that needs constant attention, even in the middle of the night, and if you ignore it for even a minute too long, you just might lose a good percentage of your year's income.

So here we are.  The buds are softening and swelling - a sure sign that the winter dormancy phase is coming to an end.  The sun has been shining - mostly.  The daytime temps have been warm - as high as 80 degrees.  And the night temps have been low.  Put it all together and you get FROST SEASON!!

We still monitor the temperature using the "old" method.  Basically a wire runs underground from a low point on the marsh to our bedroom.  That's where the alarm is.

Frost alarm station.  Setting it up for frost season.

Warren sets out the thermometer houses.

Checking the temperature reading for accuracy.

Our kids don't know it any other way.  When there's work to do, they get involved.  Maria keeps the ATV seat warm and watches daddy put out thermometers.

Placing another thermometer.  The ramp makes it easy to check the thermometers at night.  Falling in the cold ditch is to be avoided.

That's a cranberry bud.  Can you tell it's whitening a little in the center?  That means the growing season is near and so is frost watch!
Pressuring up the sprinklers, making sure everything is in working order BEFORE the first night of frost.

Looking at the chickens, just because.

Happy Spring to you all.  May you have uninterrupted sleep and pleasant dreams.....unless you're also a cranberry grower.  Then go to bed early, sleep fast, keep one eye on the alarm, and remember to put fresh batteries in your flashlight.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Turkey Season Setup

My family's week of turkey hunting is quickly coming to an end, but I still want to share some pictures of the setup and then Nick's turkey.

What do I do when we're headed out to the woods to set up turkey blinds--grab the camera of course.  You never know what interesting things await.  Something exciting might happen.

Exciting?  Maria looked cute carrying in the turkey decoy.

Exciting?  Warren and Nick set up a turkey blind.

Exciting?  Maria looked cute again.

Exciting?  Peter and Joe tried starting a fire.

Exciting?  Siblings sat on a log.

Exciting?  The sun fell to the horizon.

Exciting?  More decoys were carried.

Exciting?  Warren stopped to look at something.  Is he stepping around something?  What is it?

Exciting?  Looks like wolf droppings.  Better catch up to the group.

Exciting?  Kids and dad smile in the turkey blind.

Exciting?  The moon rises.

Exciting?  The next morning Nick shot a turkey.  A nice big one--he didn't listen to me.  I always tell them to shoot a little one because it fits better in the oven.

That definitely was a camera worthy outing.  Spring has finally sprung here in Central Wisconsin.  Today started the beginning of our very average spring forecast.  High 50's, low 60's, chance of rain, mostly cloudy, slight peeks of sun.  We'll definitely take it.

I wish all my readers a great spring week.  Planting season is right around the corner.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cranberry Pecan Cowboy Cookies

Hi!!  If you're here from A Country Life YouTube channel, thanks for stopping by.  The recipe for the lower sugar version of this cookie is all the way at the bottom of the post.  (Updated April 2018)

I received Mariani cranberry products to review and giveaway.  After making my favorite Chicken Salad:  Sweet & Crunchy, I made a batch of these super yummy cookies.  How good are they?  Only half of my family likes nuts in cookies and these all went in ONE day!!

Cranberry Pecan Cowboy Cookies
1/2 c. soft butter
1/2 c. shortening or lard
1 c. sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. quick oats
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. dried cranberries (Mariani are very good)
1 c. chopped pecans (not too small)

Mix as usual for cookies.  Cream fats.  Add sugars, beat till light and fluffy.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.  Mix in oatmeal.  Then add dry ingredients, sprinkling the powder, soda, and salt over the flour.  Mix well.  Fold in cranberries and pecans.  **A note about the fats:  Choose the fat based on how you want your cookie to look.  Butter gives delicious flavor and a nice color to cookies.  Shortening will keep the cookies from spreading and will be thicker.  Lard acts more like butter.  The cookies will spread a little more and result in a flatter cookie.  The cookies in the picture were made with butter and shortening.  Bake on light colored cookie sheets at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on pan for a minute.  Remove and place on foil or cooling racks.  Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

**if using dark pans, reduce cooking time by 1-2 minutes

Remember to enter the giveaway for Mariani cranberry products. (giveaway is over)

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Lower Sugar Cranberry Cowboy Cookies

1/2 c. soft butter
1/2 c. shortening or lard
2/3 c. white sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. oatmeal
1 1/4 c. white flour (may add 1/4 c. more if dough is too soft)
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 - 1 c. Honestly Cranberry (unsweetened dried cranberries)
1/2 c. 85% dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Mix as usual for cookies or follow directions above.  Make large balls, place on pan and flatten slightly.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes until just set.  Transfer to foil and allow to cool.  They will be super chewy.

For a video tutorial of this recipe, click here.⬇⬇⬇

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Cooking With Mariani Cranberries....Chicken Salad::Sweet & Crunchy

Hi!  If you're here from YouTube, this is my basic chicken salad recipe.  I rarely make this small of a batch though.  Usually I times this by 4 so we can eat on it for a few days.  Warren and I love this so much we can eat it for lunch and supper 3 days in a row before we're ready for a change.  Enjoy!!😋

We grow cranberries.  We sell cranberries.  We eat cranberries.  

Mariani Packing Company sent me samples of their sweetened dried cranberry products to review.  They also graciously agreed to send a box with these exact items to one lucky reader.  Enter to win at the end of the post.

UPDATED:  The winner of the pictured items (below) is Andrea G.  How cool is it that I know her in real life.  Be sure to send me your address so the products can be shipped out right away.

One of my favorite ways to eat sweetened dried cranberries is in chicken salad.  Chock full of lean chicken, crunchy celery, chewy cranberries, and nutty almonds, chicken salad can be eaten on a bed of lettuce (my way) or on a buttery croissant (Warren's way).  Either way, it's awesome.  Here's my recipe for Chicken Salad:  Sweet and Crunchy.

The good stuff.

Mix it all together, and that's it.  These Mariani cranberries are soft and chewy - very tasty, too.
On a buttery croissant or on a simple bed of lettuce, this chicken salad can't be beat.
Mariani Packing Company also sent along the snack size boxes of cranberries.  I love these snack boxes.  They are perfect for lunch boxes - a great way to add a little fiber and cancer fighting antioxidants.  And there's just something fun about having your own little box of dried fruit.  Homeschooling teens and toddlers alike can enjoy cranberries as a snack.  

The many faces of a 2 year old eating cranberries.

We also sampled their Honey Bar - Cranberry.  It's basically a nut and fruit trail mix held together with honey.  Not so much a winner with the 2 year old, but Amber (a teen) really likes them.  As a mom, I like the list of ingredients:  cranberries, raisins, apricots, peanuts and honey.  You really can't get much simpler than that.

The 10 ounce bag of cranberries is plenty big, so after making the Chicken Salad:  Sweet and Crunchy, I whipped up a batch of Cranberry Pecan Cowboy Cookies.  The cranberry flavor really shines when mixed with oatmeal and pecans.  Stay tuned for a future post with the cookie recipe.

The winner will receive:
10 ounce bag of Mariani dried cranberries
6 pack of Snack size cranberries
3 Honey Bars - Cranberry

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be announced next Saturday.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Birdwatching and Bird-Reading for Kids

Right out our school room window are three bird feeders.  Warren and I like to start each morning with a cup of coffee and watching the birds.  Our enthusiasm has rubbed off on Peter; he's our current bird watcher - always informing us when Mr. Cardinal is near or how many Juncos are ground feeding.  Birds are naturally interesting creatures to watch, especially for youngsters, with their brightly colored feathers and silly antics.  The upside down feeding Nuthatch is quite amusing to watch, as are the flittering Goldfinches.  His interest doesn't stop with backyard birdwatching; he also loves waterfowl like his big brother, Nick.  Here he's memorizing the characteristics of ducks.  I love this series of pictures - there's nothing better than a bird book and a cap full of peanuts.

I pulled a pile of bird books from our shelves, some fiction, some non-fiction, to add to our current reading basket.  Here's a list of our favorites.

Spring is a great time to start learning about birds.  Give it a try!

*clicking on any book will take you to Amazon, if you make a purchase (any purchase), I earn a small commission--thank you
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