Thought for the Day #3

Okay, so I got a little bored raking hay one day last summer and took pictures with my phone of my view from the tractor seat. I added the quote later. Turned out kinda cool I thought.

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Thought For the Day #2

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Thought for the Day #1

I love collecting quotes and poetry that has meaning to me. I also enjoy photography and snapping photos of our lifestyle. I’ve decided to share quotes and poems and put them to photographs I’ve taken. I also try to post these to Pinterest, for anybody who, like me, is a Pinterest fanatic.

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My Annual Lucille Ball Moment in Twine


A couple of ideal-looking baling twine balls. Examples courtesy of my Hubs.

This column was originally published December 26, 2013

Cutting twine on a round bale and gathering it into a wad may seem like a task any idiot can do, but at the start of a new winter cow-feeding season I have all sorts of problems removing twine.

Twine removal is a skill similar to an artist getting back into watercolor painting after a long hiatus—if I don’t use it I lose it. My twine cutting, extracting, and wadding skills apparently get rusty over the summer and fall. For some reason I can’t seem to get my twine together. Until I get back into managing twine with high efficiency, the first few times I feed round bales by myself I end up in a Lucille Ball moment with twine.

I recently carried out the annual tradition on my first solo cow-feeding day for this winter when my husband had a morning appointment in town. I did such an excellent job of honking the horn to call our cows to feed that when I got out of the pickup to cut the twine I had to wade through a sea of black fur to get to the back of the pickup. Cutting the twine took awhile as cows jostled me around worse than an overcrowded rowdy rock concert.

I tussled with the mob in getting the twine strings cut while they mauled the tightly bound hay with their heads to loosen it for a bite. This caused the bale to rock back and forth on the bale grapples while I attempted to cut the twine. Strings were cut at different heights and I couldn’t gather them all easily from one side.

Next, I tugged and pulled and yanked on the strings to get them to come off. Some were frozen to thick layers of hay and I had to follow one hard-pulling string that lead to a cow’s mouth. She and I had a little tug-of-war over the twine and I had to follow her around briefly until I could pull it all out of her mouth.

I also had to back the mob away from strings that ended up on the ground and had to quickly wrap them into a ball after one cow stepped on some knotted twine and got it tangled around her dewclaws—a development that occurred while I was trying to pull twine from the other cow’s mouth. While walking around wrapping loose twine strings as fast as I could before another cow stepped on or ate it, I tangled my own feet in snarled twine not yet part of my badly misshapen twine ball. Out of impatience and aggravation I went to yanking and winding twine hard and fast until my foot jerked like a puppet’s foot on strings, and I nearly face-planted myself in snow.

Once I was confident I’d gotten every twine string away from all mouths and feet and into a twine wad, I hastily headed to the pickup door to proceed with my original task of unrolling the bale. This is when I discovered that I couldn’t open the door or get my hand out of my glove because I’d managed to wrap my gloved hand into a twine club so tight that I couldn’t get my glove or my hand out. By now I was getting mad and spent another five minutes retrieving my hand and glove out of the twine club I’d crafted before I was finally able to get the bale unrolled.

It’s usually after having a Lucille Ball moment like this in which I’m reminded that in order to avoid making things worse I shouldn’t get all wadded up about it.

© Amy Kirk 2013

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A Day for Celebrating Gratitudes


Thanksgiving may be a day set aside once a year for being thankful and celebrating it with family and food, but I try to be thankful regularly by keeping a gratitude journal. This is a gratitude journal I received one year for Christmas from a girlfriend whose name is also Amy.


This is the “instructions” for recording my gratitudes she inscribed on the inside cover.


Here’s five gratitudes I’d written several years ago.


Although I don’t jot down my gratitudes daily, and some days on the ranch make it hard to feel thankful, I still think it’s important to keep negativity and ungratefulness in check and acknowledge what we do (and in some cases don’t) have. I try to be grateful for the little things as much as the big things.

Farms and ranches experience extremely lean years, abundant years, interspersed with circumstances beyond our control that can affect farming and ranching families’ livelihood. We learn to always appreciate what we have because we never know when that could change in a moment and be grateful no matter what our current situation is. Due to the nature of the cattle business (as well as the farming industry), people in agriculture are among the most grateful around the world.

This Thanksgiving I hope you celebrate your gratitudes for the very small things as much as the big things in your life. Be grateful also for the things you don’t have, as we all have things thankfully aren’t a part of our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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A Chilly Day for Comforting Chili on the Kirk Ranch




This past Monday morning was a rude awakening, not just to freezing rain early in the morning that turned to sticky snow but plummeting temperatures.

I had just spent a week at a writer’s retreat in Florida and thankfully, got home late Sunday night before the snow rolled in. The next morning it was “back to reality” for me, (but truthfully I didn’t mind, I was glad to be home) as I helped the Hubs with livestock chores. Since there is plenty of grass yet to graze in this particular pasture, he decided we would feed our cows some hay but only about half of what we normally feed to eliminate any wasted hay. The picture above of me  getting the gate AND snow falling while my husband loaded a bale seemed like an appropriate “back to reality” picture.

I had invested in a pair of super warm Carhartt Arctic Extreme biberalls last year so I was ready for the cold, but anytime we’re doing chores out in bitter cold temperatures, I think about making comfort foods that will warm us up. Chili is always a good idea and is an ideal comfort food on a cold day. Wednesday morning our thermometer read -24 degrees! (Notice the lower number says 54 degrees–that was our inside temperature when I woke up because the pilot light went out sometime during the night. Yikes!)



When I got in the house after we got feed chores done Monday morning I made chili and a pan of cornbread. Here are my recipes.


Kirk Ranch Chili–with some MEAT to it!

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs. hamburger browned and drained
  • 4 tenderized round steak, cubed and flash-cooked (what I mean by this is steak cubes cooked in a cast iron skillet on high in a Tbs of melted butter. Heat the butter until it turns brown–it will smoke up your house though–throw the meat in the pan and cook 30 seconds, then turn them over so they’re still pink inside. They’ll finish cooking while simmering in the crockpot or Dutch oven)
  • Mix the two meats together and set aside
  • In the same large skillet the round steak was cooked in (I prefer cast iron skillet), add the following and simmer 5-10 minutes on medium-low to medium heat:
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz. V-8 juice (or tomato juice)
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 2 diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (if available)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 green pepper and 1/2 onion chopped (I had to use  some that I had dehydrated  which also works)
  • 2 t. Senor Gordon’s Chili Seasoning (its not available everywhere, so your favorite chili seasoning will do) I also add a tablespoon to my meat mixture
  • 1 t. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. basil
  • 1/2 – 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 chocolate bar or small handful milk chocolate chips (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • Simmer all then add to meat mixture and put all in a crockpot on low 4 hours or in Dutch oven on 250 degrees
  • Beans of your choice OPTIONAL I don’t like beans so I omit and let my family add a scoop from a can if they want them.


Honey Cornbread

  • 1 stick butter or margarine softened
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c. honey depending on how sweet you like your cornbread
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 2/3 c. milk
  • 2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and honey. Combine milk and eggs. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with egg mixture. Pour into greased 9x13x2″ pan. Bake 400 degrees for 22-27 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 12-15 servings.

Wherever you’re at, STAY WARM!

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South Dakota Farm and Ranch Life in Poetry


Anytime I discover something that becomes a part of my “favorite things” list, I want to share it with others. I met farmer and cattleman Bruce Roseland of North Central South Dakota at the South Dakota Festival of Books back in September in Sioux Falls.


Bruce writes free verse poetry about everyday things that pertain to rural life on his South Dakota farm, the land, the people, nature, and the wildlife that inhabit it.

I like his poems because I can relate to many of them since I’m a South Dakotan, I’m involved in agriculture, and I have seen or experienced some of what he describes in his poems. Some of them remind me of the way my husband thinks, and others express or describe similar feelings or observations I’ve had about the land here in South Dakota, the wildlife, and our lifestyle.

The following is a poem of his that I really liked because my husband and I feel the same way about any black baldies we have in our herd but it also describes the way I feel about any Herefords and red brockle or bald faced cows or heifer calves that I can talk my husband into keeping.

The Standouts

by Bruce Roseland

My cows pretty much look all the same,

the result of years of buying all black Angus bulls.

but I still have those cows

with individual markings,

throwbacks to years ago of past crossbreeding.

Showing up as a spot of white

on a face or throat, or a curly swirl of hair

that makes one of them stand out

from the crowd.

These I notice, and keeping track

of their life histories

is a bit easier than for all the other black cows,

who are distinguished only by a numbered tag.

I find myself cheering a little when these

uniquely-marked cows, in the fall, are pronounced,

“pregnant” by the vet

because they’ll stay another year

and hopefully drop a live, healthy calf.

And in the spring, I catch myself smiling

a bit as I realized that this isn’t merely a business

of dollars and pounds of beef.

I find myself rooting for the individual.


You can find more of Bruce’s poetry at his website Heart of the Prairie, where many of his poems are put to photography by Susan Melius, who also lives and farms in South Dakota. Bruce has published three books of poetry: The Last Buffalo, which won the 2007 Wrangler Award for “Outstanding Book of Poetry,” A Prairie Prayer, and winner of the 2009 Will Rogers Medallion Award for outstanding western literature. His poetry in Church of the Holy Sunrise is set to beautiful photographs of South Dakota by his neighbor and photographer Susan Melius. His book Song for My Mother is poetry written chronologically about his mother’s last two years in a nursing home.

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What You Can Get Away with on a Farm or Ranch


This column was originally published February 12, 2014

Farm and ranch residents may not have a grocery store or WalMart located only minutes away, but there are some advantages to living out of town including things you can only get away with in the country.

  • It’s universally acceptable in the country if a kid pees outside.
  • Dropping by unexpectedly on farm/ranch families is not received as an unpleasant surprise or annoyance. Country folks enjoy friends, acquaintances, or relatives stopping for a visit.
  • Nobody cares if there’s horse or cow poop in the driveway (unless someone trips or stubs a toe on a frozen cowpie, then there might be some griping).
  • Water from a country well is generally potable and doesn’t cost over $1 to drink 16 oz. of it.
  • In the summertime, the racket that country “neighbors” make is actually pleasant. Birds, crickets, frogs, and coyotes (and at our house, sometimes elk) are soothing to listen to.
  • You can have dogs, several if you want, and most stray cats are welcome, especially if they hunt varmints and vermin.
  • It’s perfectly legal and there’s no risk of getting fined for indecent exposure if he or she is too lazy to get dressed just to go run out to the vehicle for something or get clothes off the clothesline in one’s skivvies or sleepwear (we’re talking warm weather).
  • The company that stays all summer is always welcome back: bluebirds, robins, yellow finches, mud swallows, and blue jays, and all of their other relatives.
  • You  can have a clothesline because there are no ordinances against them on farms and ranches.
  • There are no Jones’ to keep up with.
  • On a farm or ranch, tots can stand on the pickup seat next to their parents to check cows.
  • The only complaints if your dog(s) bark at night will come from you/your spouse.
  • It’s acceptable to have and use the old outhouse in your back yard.
  • Country lawns don’t have to be constantly mowed in order to remain a required height.
  • You can hang the whole works on a clothesline: bras, underwear, pajamas…nobody cares.
  • Dogs don’t have to have a collar, dog tags, or be on a leash in order to run around in the country.
  • You can shoot a gun in your yard and neighbors won’t be alarmed. They may come over to watch you shoot though.
  • In the country there’s enough open space that you don’t have to pick up feces after your animal(s) defecate.
  • If you’re putzing along in the middle of a country road, drivers will not give you the stink eye (disdainful look), honk their horn, or raise their finger at you. Instead they’ll give you a wide berth, wave, smile and nod as they go by.

Country living has lots of advantages until farm and ranch residents get snowed in, experience a major power outage, or suddenly have no water. Getting power restored, well issues resolved, or plows out to the country roads can sometimes take a long time. That’s when country living becomes more of a disadvantage known as “pioneer living.”

© Amy Kirk 2014

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Wrestle Like a Girl–Cowgirl Style


This past weekend we held our branding and after processing the whole day with my husband Art several different times, we determined that this year’s branding was probably  the best we’ve ever had, or at least that we can remember having.

For starters, we had excellent weather.

Myles helping bring in the herd for sorting.


The temperature was not too hot out and for being early May, it wasn’t cold, windy, or threatening to snow or rain for once. We’ve had some real doozies for branding day weather in years past.

Our 14 year-old daughter Reneé really wanted try her hand at wrestling calves this year, which I was really excited about since there aren’t as many of us gals wrestling.

Scott–neighbor and friend running the branding irons. Reneé on the back end of a calf.


In years past she didn’t have the confidence (or enough sand in her butt) and was a bit intimidated by squirrely calves that weighed as much or more than she did. The night before and the morning of our branding, she had lots of questions about technique in hold down a calf.

Reneé and I holding down a calf. France (cutter) and Jim (vaccine guy) both friends and neighbors.


Calves that weigh as much as 150-200, even 300 pounds can really pack a punch when they kick and I’ve seen calf wrestlers get the wind knocked out of them so it’s pretty important that calves are held down tight when getting branded, castrated, vaccinated and eartagged at the same time.  We assign one person for each job necessary, and it usually takes less than 60 seconds to do everything for each calf.

Larry–good friend and neighbor and our vaccine gun guy


We strive to brand, vaccinate, fly tag and castrate (where applicable) as fast as possible so there’s minimal stress on the calves and they’re paired back up with their mother again quickly.

Pat–good friend, neighbor, and our fly tag man


Laura–neighbor and calf wrestler


Branding day for our calves is a lot like a mother taking her kid in to the doctor’s office for his or her immunization shots. The key is to do everything as quickly as possible before the youngster even knows what happened and get him or her back to momma right after. I always appreciated how two nurses would give my kids their shots simultaneously so the ordeal wasnt drawn out. This is the same system we use for our calves. Restraining calves properly is really important for the calves, the wrestlers, and everyone tending to the calf. Sharp knives, needles, and hot irons can be really dangerous for all involved if a calf gets up or gets a hind leg loose and kicks.



Traditionally, we’ve always branded our cattle, but some outfits don’t. We feel branding our calves is even more important than ever these days since cattle rustling seems to be on the rise as a result of the current high cattle market. We aim to have everything branded before turning them out on summer range.

This year I worked my tail off in the kitchen the day before our branding making salads, side dishes; baking cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, desserts, and cooking my roast beef and  BBQ spare ribs for our branding day dinner.  I promised our daughter Reneé that I would wrestle some calves with her, as she felt more comfortable having me for a calf wrestling partner instead of her brother Myles, who always goes after the biggest calves in the bunch to wrestle.



All I had left to do on branding day was heat everything up and cook my gravy and potatoes for mashed potatoes. I am very fortunate to have such wonderful neighbor ladies who were willing to check on things in the kitchen for me while Reneé and I wrestled calves.

This is Dick, our Rocky Mountain Oyster cook. He takes his job very serious. Art designed and welded the special channel on top of our branding stove so we could cook Rocky Mountain Oysters for the crew to eat during branding. Goes great with an ice cold beer. 😉


It was a really fun family day and even though it’s considered ranch work, everyone present had a great time doing the work, visiting and sharing a meal together afterwards.

Typical BS session while waiting for another bunch of calves to be brought in as well as after the work’s all done.


The Boss (Art) and Jim visiting


All photos taken by Martha Studt–thanks Mom!


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Bringing People Together, Sharing a Meal, & Benefitting Ranchers Affected by Atlas



A Senior Project Success:

When our son Myles said he was thinking about putting on a steak feed to benefit the Rancher Relief Fund for his Senior Project (a fairly new requirement for South Dakota high school graduates), I was very proud that he came up with that particular idea all on his own. There was a part of me that considered suggesting a less labor intensive project, knowing that he had no idea what would be involved in order to do something like this, but instead I kept my mouth shut and decided I would support him any way I could.  At Custer High School, Senior Projects have to be community service related. For Myles to come up with a project that would benefit the community and agriculture was something I was even more proud of.

Sr. Project

Getting the word out about Myles’ Senior Project made the front page of our local paper.

Our cattle herd was not affected by the notorious October snowstorm, Atlas, but we knew of others that had been hit by the devastation and I liked the idea of being able to assist our son in raising the bar a notch to help those who took a hit from Atlas. This past Saturday, it all came together when Myles’ steak feed was held in downtown Custer at the VFW. Our whole family plus relatives and family friends volunteered in bringing a community of people together for fellowship, conversation, and an outstanding Dutch oven and open fire steak dinner as a fundraiser for the Rancher Relief Fund.

Fellow ranchers and family friends of ours, Clayton and Rhonda Sander catered the meal.


Behind the scenes: Clayton gets the fire going right in the driveway behind the VFW.



Rhonda and her stepfather preparing ingredients for the beans.


Clayton stirring bacon for the beans 


Sanders run a side business of chuckwagon cooking in the spring and summer months, and Myles arranged to have them prepare the meal for the benefit and with Clayton’s suggestion, Myles set the meal at $15 a plate for RSVP’s and $18 at the door for walk ins. Clayton and Rhonda’s menu is simple and does not change, therefore their meals are cooked exceptionally well. Their menu consists of steak, Dutch oven potatoes with onions and bacon, Dutch oven cowboy beans and bacon, Dutch oven peach cobbler, and a drink (campfire coffee, iced tea, lemonade, or water).


Cooking peaches for peach cobbler. Cowboy coffee, dessert, and bacon gets cooked first, then beans and potatoes, and steaks are done last.

Clayton and Rhonda’s beans are famous around here, and one patron wanted to RSVP just because she loved their beans so much!


A close-up of Sanders’ famous cowboy beans.

The dinner was set for 6-8 pm, which I questioned would be enough time, but I was proven wrong. By 6 pm the VFW’s entire basement was full and other people had to take the upstairs seating. Thanks to the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, we had plenty of brochures and reading material for people to read and/or discuss while waiting, and there was lots of fellowship time for people to get into and enjoy good conversations, which Myles also wanted to promote the steak dinner for. Mealtime and conversations at the table are highly valued aspects of our household as well as many farm and ranch families.


Serving didn’t start until 6:30. Myles stayed up front to be in charge of meeting the people and taking care of the tickets, since he had a specific system for keeping track of everything.


 Myles had assistance from his girlfriend Dani, who also kept him calm when he’d get stressed or worried. LOL. Our family teased Myles a little bit about his extremely organized system, but in reality, it served him well when it got busy.


Proudly, Pringle neighbors and friends were the first of patrons to show for the dinner.

Around 6:15 hot Dutch ovens of beans, potatoes and peach cobbler were brought to the serving line while the steaks were grilled over the open pit outside, fifty steaks at a time. My husband and Bill, a family friend, had to pack all of the Dutch ovens to the food line together, since some weighed as much as 75 pounds, especially the ones containing the beans. While we waited on the steaks, diners were tantalized with the aromas of campfire-cooked food until the first round of steaks finally arrived.


A full dining area of patrons anxiously await the rest of the food to show up for dinner.



Serving began at 6:30. Rhonda served beans and potatoes, Lisa Miller (family friend and Dani’s mom) served steaks, I served peach cobbler in separate bowls that my mom had ready for me with a spoon. My daughter Renee and her friend Leah were in charge of drinks and Art and Bill (family friend and Dani’s dad) brought the Dutch ovens and steaks down to the serving line.


photo by Renee Kirk

By 8 pm we were done serving and it all went fast, but it was an intense hour and a half.  (The adults were ready for a beer by then!) Sander’s streamlined system was slick in getting everyone through the line once so there was less congestion and people backtracking. There was never a lull in waiting for steaks and in total, 186 steak dinners were served.

Below, Rhonda and I visit after the dinner crowd rush and wait for any latecomers, which we had a few, but there was not food much left!


photo by Renee Kirk

The Aftermath:



This pan and another partially filled pan of steaks were all that was left. Myles and Clayton’s estimates were pretty close.


In addition to raising funds with the meal, extra donations were offered and a raffle for a hand-carved walking stick raised additional funds as well. In the end, $3581.00 was raised to donate to the Rancher Relief Fund. Myles and everyone present considered it a huge success, and our whole family is so grateful for the outpouring of support and volunteers who helped serve for  Myles’ Senior Project event.

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