Performance Testing the Faith

The foundation of the seedstock industry in the cattle world lies on performance testing, testing cattle through various measures to identify their true strengths.  Without ever putting the ‘rubber to the road’ per say, we can only speculate.  I think the same can go for our faith.  It’s easy to say we have faith, but until we are tested, we do not know it’s strength.   

This past year we’ve found ourselves in a bit of a performance test that we wouldn’t have chosen to enter, had it been up to us.  In November 2021, Kaleb underwent surgery for testicular cancer.  Since then, monitoring indicated tumor markers had decreased, but were hovering around 9 to 10 (22 prior to surgery).  Then, in August/September 2022, two enlarged lymph nodes were identified in his abdomen and a small nodule on his lung (unknown if they were cancerous or not).  After a consultation in Phoenix, Arizona (with Kaleb flying out for five days the day after Lane was born), chemotherapy began October 10 in Great Falls.  He is now halfway through his treatment days, and we’re hopeful that this will eliminate the need for additional surgery or radiation. 

Reading the side effects of his chemotherapy drugs is probably enough to make anyone question if treatment is worth it.  Hair loss is likely one of the more pleasant consequences of the protocol.  However, with purpose and resolve, he showers, shaves, and puts on his jeans and work boots each morning for his treatments.  He takes it head on with the attitude that, ‘You do what you got to do.” 

As he has been tested through this, my respect for him has grown.  While he has never been a ‘paperwork’ type of guy as he would say, he has dutifully coordinated his appointments, researched and tracked his various medications, and navigated his treatment between multiple doctors.  After a rest day following treatment, he’s typically back working in the shop, fencing, or checking cows before coming home to help with a two-year-old and newborn.  While I know that he doesn’t feel 100%, I so admire that he continues to do what he can, versus sitting at home in slippers and self-pity. 

As I look around our house and see our signs of ‘Grateful, Thankful, Blessed’ or ‘Give Thanks unto the Lord,’ and so forth, I have to ask myself if that is true or simply some Hobby Lobby fall décor.  But I am reminded that in times of struggle, we must focus on what we know to be true, and not our circumstances.  We know that nothing is too big for God, and that our circumstances do not dictate God’s goodness.  While we may never know all His plans and purposes this side of Heaven, we trust that He is in control and will never leave us or forsake.  As He gave the Israelites enough manna for each day in the desert, we can trust that He will give us enough strength and wisdom for each day as well. 

As Kaleb continues his chemotherapy in the coming weeks, we’d appreciate your prayers for his complete healing and strength.  We pray that he’ll stay healthy (no daycare germs from Kaci!) as he does treatment, and that I’ll have the patience and wisdom for solo parenting while he’s gone as well.  We are grateful for our friends and family who have been praying for us and know that the Lord is faithful to answer our prayers. 

And to close with the words of Kaleb, “If you’ve got a lump on your nut, get that crap checked out!  I’ve always said that!”


The blessings after #NotGoodNews

Kari Lewis

Less than a month ago, Kaleb’s doctor visit led to an ultrasound, urology appointment, then cancer surgery.  In these past weeks, we’ve considered how both we and others have responded to our trials.  We’ve experienced the tremendous blessings of friends and family, and despite our circumstances, we’ve certainly known God’s peace.

Early on, we determined that we didn’t need to worry, because there were lots of people worrying for us!  Joking aside, it seems some wear worry like a badge of honor and pride themselves on carrying a burden that they weren’t meant to bear.  Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Worrying about tomorrow accomplishes little, so instead we take this process one day and appointment at a time. 

When we look around at this world, it is easy to become discouraged.  But on a personal level in small-town, rural Montana, we have been met with phone calls, text messages, grocery cards, dinner deliveries and the best home baked cookies Cut Bank has to offer.  Yes, I can cook, but every crock pot and dish dropped by was a tangible display of someone’s love and support for us.  An evening dinner delivery was something for Kaleb to look forward to.  Interestingly, it would also seem to prompt him to eat when he had no appetite, merely out of curiosity of someone else’s cooking!

Each dinner delivery reminded me of Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over… For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”  Those 9 x 13 pans and crock pots of soup illustrated that verse to me, and I trust that each person who blessed us that way will be blessed as well!

Nothing brings healing like the hugs of a Kaci Bear!

Kaleb and I are both task oriented, but this was a reminder that it’s not our work but the relationships that we develop that matter.  It was the 4-H moms who organized dinner deliveries.  It was our friends and family who asked if we needed Kaci watched, cows fed, or fence fixed.  Some of those offers came from Kaleb’s coworkers who likely haven’t gotten much closer to a cow than the burger on their BBQ, but they were absolutely willing to feed our calves or stretch wires if that’s what Kaleb needed.  In the end, it is the people who matter most, not our jobs or ranch. 

I have asked myself how we have had such peace through this?  Certainly, we’ve accepted years ago that Kaleb’s lifestyle and career is riskier than most.  Any day that he climbs a 300-foot wind tower, chases cows up and down the coulees on a 4-wheeler, or literally drives down the highway, he is in a risky situation.  However, I believe our peace comes from something much deeper than a simple Kaleb Lewis risk analysis. 

First and foremost, we know the Prince of Peace and have accepted His plans for us.  Through knowing Christ and having hundreds praying for us, we have truly experienced peace that can only come from God.  Secondly, Dave Ramsey is right.  Delaying short term pleasures to prioritize building an emergency fund (and medical savings account), purchasing life insurance, and having a written will really does bring security in these situations.

We’ve had people say how much they hate to see us go through this and while we certainly appreciate their compassion, the reality is that none of us should expect tomorrow.  I’m always reminded of James 4: 13 – 15, which was preached at the funeral of a high schooler gone too soon which says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” Just because someone is ‘young and healthy’ does not mean that tomorrow is guaranteed, and we need to live each day in this reality.

So, did we dodge the bullet?  Is surgery really all that will be needed?  Time will tell, and this week’s conversation with oncology is the next step to knowing if follow-up treatment will be needed.  Meanwhile, we appreciate the continued prayers and feel free to stop by for coffee, we have plenty of cookies to share! 


Kari Lewis

Engagement, wedding, new house, new baby – #blessed, #soexcitedforthefuture, #blahblahblah.  We’ve become experts at posing the pictures, choosing the right filter, and deleting anything that might be less than flattering.  I typically only pull out my phone when the best-looking calves are standing in the grassiest part of the pasture and I personally have had lots of practice raising the chin and sucking in the tummy for the Christmas card (to little avail).

Christmas, 2020 photo by the very talented and well worth it, Loni Judish!

But what about when the news isn’t all good?  Should you share it?  Do you just tell close family and friends and keep social media for #blessed occasions?  Or do you just tell the town crier and let it spread via the rural grocery store channels?

After a concerning ultrasound and a follow-up with a urologist, Kaleb has surgery scheduled for Tuesday.  The word cancer was used.  It seems an odd diagnosis for a healthy, 30-year-old man who seemingly does the work of two or three average men most days. 

Google says it’s, ‘Fairly rare and very treatable,’ and that with early diagnosis, it can be cured.  Good.  In our task-oriented, analytical brains, that means they’ll remove the lump this coming week, there will be some ‘light duty’ for a couple weeks, and then we’ll return to our normal programming of Kaci, Christmas, and then calving. 

A friend recently asked if I’m ever scared of cows.  I responded that I respect them, and some warrant more respect than others.  And certainly, the term ‘cancer’ deserves respect as well.  We have to admit that we don’t know if treatment will be needed post-surgery.  Whether we are just naïve or whether we are resting in the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), I do not yet know, but I hope it’s the latter.  For the past eight years of our marriage, I have heard Kaleb repeatedly say, “The Lord governs all things,” and we continue to believe that. 

Not only does the Lord govern all things, but we can see Him at work already.  Early detection was a blessing.  Making it to an 8:30 a.m. urology appointment in Great Falls just before a semi went crossways behind us on icy roads was the Lord at work.  Being able to get appointments scheduled prior to Thanksgiving and surgery scheduled shortly thereafter is another blessing.  Just last spring we had our will and estate planning process completed and have heeded Dr. Marsha Goetting’s advice on the Montana Medical Savings account.  While we may be surprised at this turn of events, the Lord is not, and He has been preparing the path for us.    

Any sickness is a reminder that ever since Genesis, man is fallen and in need of saving.  Fortunately, we know that we don’t walk this alone, but that we have the Holy Spirit alongside us.  “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  Romans 8:26 – 27

So, while this may not be #blessed or #soexcitedforthefuture, we share this knowing that the Lord says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Naturally, we ask for prayers of guidance for the medical staff and complete healing.  But we also pray that God would be glorified through this, that our faith would grow, and that we would accomplish His purposes through this.

 On a practical note, if an on-call shift needs covered, a water heater needs hauled out of a basement, or cows needed worked, Kaleb has been the go-to guy.  But let’s give him a couple weeks of Gunsmoke watching, scotcheroo snacking, naps, and prayers, ok? 

Teacher, Mentor, and Legend – TK to me

Dr. Terry Klopfenstein was my graduate advisor, mentor, and friend.

In the weeks to come, there will be articles of the legendary Dr. Terry Klopfenstein’s passing.  They will likely mention his tremendous impact on the cattle feeding industry and his research on using corn byproducts in cattle rations, an incredible win for cattle feeders, ethanol plants, and corn farmers.  The articles will no doubt praise his creativity, research accomplishments, and incredible resume of awards as an animal science professor.  To me, however, his greatest impact came in the lives he invested in, one of which was mine. 

                As a naïve college senior, I had never heard of ‘TK.’  But Dr. Jerry Lipsey insisted I needed to pursue graduate school which led me to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Feedyard Management internship program and subsequently graduate school.  I likely wasn’t the typical student for the UNL Feedyard Internship or Ruminant Nutrition graduate program.  My transcript lacked organic chemistry and I had zero experience with cattle on corn stalks, feeding ethanol byproducts, or feedlots.  But Terry valued work ethic over GRE scores, and I was blessed to earn a spot under his guidance for three years. 

                To some, retirement means golf and vacations.  To Terry, it meant continuing to go to the office, continuing to participate in research, and continuing to invest in students, regardless of what his official university appointment was.  As a 23-year-old grad student, I scolded myself any day that semi-retired, 74-year-old Terry beat me to the office in the morning!  I don’t think Terry ever ‘fully’ retired but was a model of continuing to live each day with purpose. 

                Terry’s accomplishments were miles long but yet he faithfully taught 6th grade Sunday school weekly.  As a TeamMates mentor, he loyally met with his school aged mentee, taking time to leave the office one day per week and invest in a kid’s life.  He modeled servant leadership before that was a term.

                As a feedlot intern, I recall Terry asking our class what the purpose of the University feedlot was.  We quickly and wholeheartedly agreed it was research, given the tremendous impact that research had on the Cornhusker state’s economy and the US cattle feeding industry.  He disagreed.  We guessed maybe the purpose was to feed cattle and produce beef for the consumer.  We were wrong again, and thoroughly at a loss.  Its purpose, he explained, was to train students.  He said the research would always be secondary to the work they did training students, an astonishing concept to us that day.  He consistently exemplified that philosophy though as he made phone calls to line up internships for students, scrawled comments on abstracts, or created opportunities for everyone from undergraduates to PhD students through his extensive industry network.

                I don’t recall him ever telling a student they were wrong.  He simply questioned them long enough that they were able to come to that conclusion on their own and in the process discovered the correct answer.  He taught with discussions, questions, and a twinkle in his eye.

                He was kind and he was patient.  Once, after having submitted an abstract to the regional Animal Science meeting, I realized my statistics were incorrect.  With a pit in my stomach, I shared the news with Terry who remained calm, steady, and helped me fix the issue. 

                TK was frugal before frugal was fashionable.  While many graduate students ate out for lunch and drove nicer vehicles than he did on a fraction of his salary, he modeled frugality with his daily brown bag lunches and used Ford pickup.  With the money he saved by not keeping up with the grad students, he was extremely generous in his giving.   

                His words, “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up,” still ring in my head each time I consider if I should attend a graduation, wedding, or funeral.  He and wife, Nancy, drove the 300 miles to attend my and Kaleb’s Hyannis, NE wedding reception and faithfully sent Christmas cards each year. 

                After the birth of my daughter last year, he penned a note of congratulations and ended it with, “I believe a wife and mother is God’s greatest calling.”  Less than two months ago, we talked on his birthday.  He told me he was proud of me for not only my career, but my family.  This man whose industry accomplishments are tremendous, said he was proud of me.  As for me, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have been a TK grad student and to have been trained by such a kind, generous, and humble man. 

Kari Lewis

Musings of a First Time Dad

Recently my mom had her three-year-old grandson peeling hard boiled eggs for Kaleb and Kacipotato salad.  He soon told her, “Me no like,” to which mom asked how he does like his eggs.  Without missing a beat, Aiden replied, “With bacon!” This led to a discussion on the need to record what kids say.  Because three-month-old Kaci hasn’t given us much to write down yet, I’ve started recording a few of her dad’s sayings.

Kaleb’s first dad quip came on the way to the hospital.  We had been to Northern Rockies in Cut Bank and received word that yes, a baby was on the way and that now would be the time to head to Great Falls for a delivery.  With bags loaded in the car and PB&J sandwiches made, we were on our way!  We had made it about ten miles down the road when Kaleb looked over at me and asked, “Do you want to stop at the Dash Inn on our way?”  I explained we might have to skip the milkshakes and keep driving this time!

As we left the hospital with brand new baby in tow, I asked Kaleb if anything had surprised him throughout the process.  “Well, I thought there would be more of an inspection or something before we left,” Kaleb said.  It was becoming apparent that we were solely responsible for this tiny baby, despite our minimal parenting credentials.

Six days post new baby, I felt fairly accomplished to have made chicken and rice for dinner.  Kaleb came home, looked at it, and said, “This looks really good and all, but when are we going to eat some of those casseroles out of the freezer?”

As we watched our tiny daughter’s body be consumed with hiccups, we pondered if they hurt and how long they’d last.  “Well, if they’re like human hiccups…” Kaleb mused.  I reminded him that we had indeed brought a human home from the hospital!

By day 18 we were at a loss of how to stop the fussing and crying that seemed to happen every evening from this inconsolable newborn.  Finally, Kaleb looked over and said, “Should I get her some pots and pans to play with?”  I explained that while I didn’t have much for answers, I was pretty sure the pots and pans stage come a little late in life than day 18!

Despite our naivety as parents, the Lord has proven faithful, showered us with grace, and allowed us to keep this tiny human alive for nearly three months now!  There is no one I would rather be on this parenting journey with than Kaleb.  When I was overwhelmed after a day of a crying baby, Kaleb would come home, take Kaci, and send me out for a walk saying, “I got this.”  When the dishes are still piled in the sink, Kaleb washes them without complaint.  When I purchased a Taking Cara Babies sleep course, Kaleb faithfully watched it as well rather than scoffing at the concept.  Many, many nights its Kaleb who grills dinner while I feed Kaci or put her to bed.  Kaleb models sacrificial love daily and is a wonderful partner in this endeavor.  Happy Father’s Day, Kaleb!

Dear Class of 2020…

Dear Class of 2020,

Grad pic

Graduation day, May, 2013, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, following graduate school.

While I’m sure you’ve already heard many words of advice in recent days, I hope you have the humility to listen to those words that are shared with you.  While sometimes the advice can get to be a bit much, just remember it is shared with you out of love and support and you can learn something from everyone.  Not all the suggestions will apply to you, but I hope you’ve learned to be teachable and will consider the words shared with you.  In the 14 years since my high school graduation, I’ve had time to reflect and the following is what I share with you.

  • Build your community – In a 2017 survey of nearly 48,000 college students, nearly 65% said in the past year they’d felt, “very lonely.” It is great to be invited into a group or to do something, but you must seek out and create your own community.  Give that bible study group, volleyball team, or chess club a try.  Ask to sit with someone else at breakfast.  Chances are good that person sitting alone scrolling through their phone isn’t as busy as they look, and deep down would appreciate the human interaction.  Introduce yourself, say hello, and you just might make a friend for life.
  • Get to know yourself – Spend time thinking about who you are and learn what motivates and discourages you. Consider what your passions and gifts are, ask those who know you best what patterns they see in your life that maybe you’re not even aware of yet.
  • Avoid debt – The credit card offers are likely already hitting your mailbox, and no, a credit card does not make you, ‘an adult,’ it makes you in debt. Debt will restrict your long-term opportunities and add stress.  Nearly 70% of Americans do not even have $1,000 to cover a basic emergency.  Don’t be fooled by your peer’s new vehicle, shopping spree, or daily coffee habits.  Chances are, that lifestyle is financed.  Save, save, save, and budget for the future.
  • Show up, every day – It is amazing how far you can get in life by simply showing up, day after day after day. Show up, sit in the front of the class, and ask questions.  Every day, on time.
  • Serve others – Find a place to serve and share your talents and skills. Give back to your community.  Maybe it’s mentoring a kid, donating blood, or coaching Little League, but do something!  Consider all those who helped you reach your goals and seek to share that with others.
  • Learn to problem solve – More and more people seem to just want ‘the answer’ or hope for a cookie cutter approach to daily life where someone simply tells them what to do. Don’t settle for this!  Use the brain the good Lord gave you and ask questions, read, study, and learn to problem solve.  The more you learn (listen to podcasts, read books, ask questions!), the more problems you can solve.
  • Surround yourself with people better than you – Find the people who are skilled in their field, who are more motivated than you, and have bigger goals than you. Those are the people to spend your time with.
  • Know what you stand for –What values will you stand firmly on? Where will you refuse to compromise?  Make those advanced decisions now so that you will not waver when the time comes.
  • Put on pants – If you want to be taken seriously, put pants on. Sweatpants hardly radiate motivation.

With graduation in the rearview mirror, your future has a clean slate.  Know that opportunity continually finds those who show up and work hard.  Work ethic, problem solving, and the ability to communicate can likely set you apart from your peers no matter which path you take.  And lastly, may you seek the Lord in all your do, and allow Him to direct your paths.  Matthew 6:33 says to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”  There is truly no better way to live life than seeking Him and allowing the God of the universe to direct your steps, guide your path, and reveal His purpose for your life.

Soar high, class of 2020!Itemized Categories

20 Ways to Use the Whole Cow

Anyone who has ever purchased a half or whole beef carcass has likely been a little perplexed at some of the meat cuts they’ve received back.  Cooking a T-Bone, Rib Steak, or grilling a hamburger is relatively straightforward, but how do you use round steak, stew meat, and all those roasts?!  Even if you don’t purchase your beef by the half or whole, this post contains 20 ideas for using those less expensive cuts of meat.  So, stock up next time your grocer has a sale, here’s some great ways to use those lesser known and valued cuts!

Round Steak

  • Betty Crocker Tex Mex Slow Cooker Round Steak – The slow cooker method is perfect for leaner cuts like the round steak. This recipe makes a large batch so be prepared or perhaps cut the additional ingredients in half for a smaller family.  I added 8 ounces of cream cheese during the last 30 – 45 minutes of cooking for a richer flavor and served over rice.
  • Round Steak Stroganoff – This recipe can easily be made with Cream of Chicken soup (really!) if you don’t have Cream of Mushroom soup on hand. A slow cooker recipe also exists if desired.
  • Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry – This was always our favorite way to use broccoli that came in our Bountiful Baskets. It’s delicious over rice and tasting it you would never guess it comes from a lesser valued cut of beef.

Stew Meat

  • Campbell’s Shortcut Beef Stew – This recipe calls for sirloin steak, but stew meat works just fine. However, I recommend allowing the soup to simmer 20 minutes or longer to ensure the connective tissue in the stew meat has time to tenderize.  I typically use 2 cans of condensed tomato soup (no French Onion soup) and rather than frozen vegetables add chunks of potatoes, onions, and carrots and allow it to boil until the vegetables are tender.  In the final five minutes or so, I like to add frozen peas and to serve, sprinkle parsley on for some color.  The Worcestershire sauce provides some good flavor and a little additional garlic salt and pepper is good as well.

Cubed Steak

Sirloin Steak

  • Grilled Steak Fajitas – This is one of Kaleb’s all-time favorites and is impressive to

    steak fajitas

    Grilled steak fajitas are a favorite of Kaleb’s and his typical birthday meal request.

    serve as well. Spanish rice makes a nice side if desired.

Roast Beef

I typically cook roast beef in the slow cooker (seasoned first with salt and pepper) on low with a small amount of water for 8 hours (4 hours on low, 4 hours on high) and serve with mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots or peas, rolls, and perhaps Apple Pie for the All-American Sunday dinner.  For the roast beef leftovers, here’s a few options:

  • BBQ Beef – Simply slice up the beef and add to a saucepan with your favorite bottled BBQ sauce and heat through for BBQ Beef sandwiches. Chips or potato salad, fruit or carrot sticks, or baked beans on the side makes an easy and complete meal.
  • French Dip – French dip sandwiches are another quick and easy leftover meal.
  • Cowboy Cocktails – My friend Kelsey first introduced me to the Cowboy Cocktail of Big Mouth BBQ at the Montana State Fair food court during our 4-H steer showing days. They can easily be made with layering baked beans in a bowl followed by BBQ beef (or pork) and potato salad or coleslaw on top.  The hot/cold, crunchy/soft, sweet/tangy combination is delicious and a one bowl meal!

Ground Beef

Ground beef or hamburger can easily be stretched to feed multiple mouths with many of these recipes.  When ground beef is on sale, stock up and fry 5 – 10 pounds at a time, drain any grease off, cool, and bag into 1-pound batches in Ziploc bags and freeze.  Then, when short on time you can simply pull a bag of browned ground beef out and still have dinner on the table in short order.  Depending on the recipes you typically use the ground beef for, you may choose to dice up onions with the beef as well.

  • Betty Crocker Meatballs – These are a great staple to have cooked and, in the


    Meatballs can easily be mixed in a mixing bowl, scooped with a cookie scoop, baked, and frozen for multiple meals.

    freezer, and can then be added to spaghetti for spaghetti and meatballs, to rice for sweet and sour meatballs, or to mashed potatoes and gravy.

  • Chili – Everyone has their favorite recipe, or try a few of these out. Cornbread or cinnamon rolls make a great side and leftover chili can be used for a topping on baked potatoes or in tortillas with cheese on top as well.
  • Lasagna – This lasagna recipe is extremely simple and makes a quick and tasty meal with salad and garlic bread.
  • Cheeseburger soup – When providing snacks after church, I occasionally do nachos and then use the leftover nacho cheese in cheeseburger soup in place of the Velveeta cheese the recipe calls for.
  • Taco Pie – This is a quick and easy recipe, and hard to go wrong with Fritos, sour cream, cheese, and beef!
  • Shepherd’s Pie – In terms of shepherd’s pie recipes, this one is fairly easy. I typically add extra ketchup for more sauce.  Double the mashed potatoes and then use the extras the following day for meatballs (from the freezer), mashed potatoes, and gravy.
  • Sloppy Joes – Sloppy Joes are another quick and easy dish that easily becomes a meal with some carrots sticks or celery and fruit. If you plan to make it the same week as the fajitas, you can buy the green peppers in bulk!
  • Taco soup – Another good soup recipe to top with some cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.
  • Cheesy Hamburger Noodle Bake – This is a great alternative to lasagna and can easily be doubled for a 9 x 13 pan or to freeze some. Great with a salad and bread!
  • Runzas – Nebraska’s ‘Runza’ restaurant serves beef and cabbage sandwiches and this recipe does a great job replicating. I use my favorite bread recipe, Whole Wheat Refrigerator Rolls, and have around 24 sandwiches for the freezer for Kaleb’s lunches.  When cabbage was $0.38/lb. this week, it was time to bake some of these for the freezer!

How about you?  What are your favorite ways to use the whole beef carcass or capitalize on those less expensive cuts of beef?  Leave your recipes in the comments!



Chili with a side of cinnamon rolls, apples, and cheese makes a delicious dinner for a cold winter’s day.

“Just Google It!” Or not?

google search engine on macbook pro

Photo by Pixabay on

In my relatively short lifetime, technology has changed by leaps and bounds.  As a 3rd grader, we saved documents to 5 ¼ inch floppy disks which later downsized to 3.5-inch hard disks.  By high school I had learned to email documents to myself ‘just in case’ I lost my flash drive or wanted to work on them from home.  Now, I can save documents to ‘the cloud,’ print wirelessly from my phone, and I essentially carry a small computer/camera/video recorder with me everywhere I go.  Along with these changes, we’ve transitioned to a, ‘Just Google It’ society, which leaves me wondering what we’re missing while we’re Googling.

Once during graduate school my advisor, Dr. Terry Klopfenstein, responded to a question that, “We just don’t know that yet.”  It finally clicked.  We (the Animal Science community, in that case) really did not know the answer to that question.  Until then, I had always felt that if I would just study hard enough, would just read enough books, and would just put forth enough effort, that it would be possible to master the material.  Finally, I realized that not all the answers were in a book or were even obtainable.  Instead, there was still much research to be done in order to continue to discover, “the answers.”

Since then, I’ve wondered how in my education had I developed the notion that all the answers were available, somewhere, somehow?  I realized that I had trained myself to read not necessarily for comprehension but just enough to find ‘the answer.’  I realized that my method of researching a topic often amounted to “Just Googling” until the needed information could be found.  I learned that I need to read for comprehension, so that through understanding a topic there can be questioning, analyzing, and the creation of new information, not just repetition of someone else’s version.

With the touch of a button we can ask Google for facts, figures, and the weather.  But what do we really need from those we work and serve with?  Rarely do we need more facts and figures, but instead we need people who can think critically, and problem solve.  Recently Kaleb sent me to our local Napa to pick up a part.  The parts man explained that while they didn’t have the piece needed, he could pull it out of a different kit and sell it to me for $11 versus $32 for the whole kit with the excess parts.  His problem solving (and saving me money) was refreshing!  We need to encourage people to not just remember information or mindlessly follow a protocol but to instead analyze and evaluate in order to solve problems.

Recently a fellow extension agent and I were discussing the challenges of attracting younger producers to events.  While there’s likely numerous factors at play, I have to think that a generation that has grown up with 24/7 access to nearly unlimited information may not value an educational program like those from other generations.  However, we need to remember that not all answers can be found on the internet.  Most problems in nature, particularly production agriculture, are complex and multi-faceted and much curiosity is needed to tackle these problems.  While its very possible to gain information via YouTube or a Google search, there may be as much information to be gained from visiting with a fellow producer over a coffee break or networking with a speaker.  Similarly, I can listen to numerous podcasts and read multiple books on marriage and parenting, but the wise counsel of a mature and Godly friend who has already walked that road can be even more impactful.  We must not substitute information for conversations and relationships.

The technology available to us today is phenomenal and will only continue to increase.  I certainly wouldn’t trade a Google search for the days of combing encyclopedias and numerous resource books for a quick answer.  However, as we embrace this technology we must continue to read to grow in understanding, train people to problem solve and think critically, and develop relationships with those around us.

A Refreshing Election

This week I had the opportunity to sit in on a local 4-H club’s yearly officer elections.  Each member, from 8 to 18 years old, had the opportunity to participate in the process and cast their vote for the club president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and historian.  After a few minutes of watching the process, I decided our politicians could take a few lessons from our local 4-H youth.

Perhaps one of the most attractive points of the 4-H club election process was the extremely expedited campaign process.  There were no yard signs, TV ads, radio ads, sponsored Facebook ads, billboards, newspaper editorials, or campaign donation requests.  Especially attractive, was that there were no phone calls during dinner from pollsters prior to the election asking 20 leading questions related to the upcoming election.  The entire 4-H officer election process consisted of a nomination and then a speech of one minute or less by each candidate.  The combination of advance preparation and impromptu speaking (by middle schoolers, nonetheless) completed without campaign managers or teleprompters was quite refreshing.

Each candidate’s speech was listened to respectfully by all members.  Most


Each speech was listened to respectfully and met with applause.

members shared their experiences in 4-H or on Student Council, and their desire to become more involved in their club as a reason for running.  There was no booing, no mudslinging of opponents, and no division of who was on what side.  Each candidate’s speech was met with applause by all members.

Perhaps the closest thing to a political promise of the evening was one member’s pledge to use parliamentary procedure to run a quick and efficient meeting!  On the political scene lately though, it seems most political campaigns are a combination of who can promise the most ‘free stuff’.  As I thought about the fact that not a single of the 4-H officer hopefuls had promised anything free to their fellow members, I thought that might be a function that at their age they likely don’t have much for assets to offer.  But then again, politicians aren’t offering their own assets, they are simply offering to redistribute the assets of some taxpayers to other citizens.  I much prefer the promise of quick and efficient meetings over promises of ‘free stuff’ by politicians.

At the end of the night, votes were tallied in a matter of minutes and results announced promptly.  There was no election forecasting done during the process, and no waiting up until the wee hours of the morning checking websites for results.  At the conclusion of the evening, snacks were enjoyed by all, in the company of all.

Regardless of the 4-H club election’s outcome, I’m confident everyone will continue to work together for the coming year.  Yes indeed, there is many a lesson that can be learned from elections of the local 4-H club!

Why I (still) love the county fair

Growing up, the third week of July meant the Marias Fair and the biggest week of the year for me.  Trophies were awarded, friends were made, water fights were had, and it was the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work.  A decade or two later, the fair may not look the same as it did during my era, but I (still) love the county fair.

In an era of easy Amazon shopping and social media competing for kids’ time, the concept of a youth taking the time to produce a completed project is extraordinary.  chinksWhether it’s a pint of strawberry jam canned with grandma, a leather belt tooled by hand, a handcrafted woodworking project, or a beautifully decorated cake, the fact that an 8 to 19-year-old made something, forever excites me.  That quilt, pie, or paCakerts of the swine poster is typically not the first draft either.  Behind each exhibit was likely a mom, dad, older sibling, or leader asking, “Are you sure that’s blue-ribbon quality?”  With the motto, “Make the Best Better,” I love that we are teaching kids in 4-H to self-evaluate if they are producing their best.

To this day, my best friends are still those from 4-H.  Within a few minutes of being at the fair this year, a 4-Her from another county ran up to me and asked if I had seen her Glacier county 4-H buddy yet.  The relationships and friendships built at the fair are second to none, and I love to see kids connect with other kids who have the same interests as them.  Whether it’s pushing a wheelbarrow cleaning pig pens or washing lambs together, every task is more fun with a friend.

From the relationships built at the fair, community begins to develop.  A community of cheerleaders, encouragers, and friends.  One of our incredibly shy 4-Hers illustrated this in that prior to his first swine show at the fair his mom asked him how thought he was going to do.  “I think awesome, because everyone keeps telling me I’m going to do awesome,” he said as a matter of fact.  This continually reminds me that kids rise to the expectation we put in front of them and the importance of being surrounded with positive community.

The county fair also represents the local community.  The lineup of market steers largely represents the local ranches breeding programs.  Many volunteers have now served through two or even three generations of families and continue to serve because they believe in the program.  The livestock sale packs the barn with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and business owners.  Babies are passed from one friend to another and rocked to sleep by the chant of the auctioneer while nervous nine-year olds seek out their livestock buyer for a handshake and hug.  These are the people that make up our community, present and future.

I love to see hard work rewarded, and the county fair consistently does that.  The fair reflects who has put in the work in the months prior, and to see a showman and their

Coalter and kari

Seeing 4-Hers hard work pay off at fair and getting to celebrate their success is a highlight for me.

animal interact seamlessly in the ring is much like a well-orchestrated dance.  As these kids display their projects, their confidence grows tremendously.  Regardless of whether they leave the ring or Exhibit Hall with the purple rosette, no one can take away their confidence from the work they’ve invested.  I hope these kids at the county fair become addicted to working hard and will carry that over to whatever career path they choose.

With most judging being done on a qualitative basis, youth learn to accept and respect the judge’s opinion.  The fair provides an opportunity to learn humility and to lose graciously as well.  There were many times I thought that I should have placed differently, but that only fueled my desire to work harder the following year.

Lastly, I love that with hard work and drive, anyone can succeed at the county fair.  Maybe the kid that struggles to interact with other kids can find their passion in the poultry project.  Maybe the kid that isn’t athletic can find their niche showing livestock or creating quilts.  Maybe the girl who is struggling through the pre-teen years can pour her heart and soul into her horse project.

To me, the county fair is much more than fried food and entertainment.  It is where character is revealed, confidence is built, and work ethic is rewarded. To me, it represents a snapshot of what is still good in rural America and every year I leave encouraged by the incredible youth we (still) have at the county fair.