Recipe – Barley Chicken Meatball Soup

Barley-Chicken Meatball Soup
from Nancy Leis
This is a marvelous soup! The meatballs take a little extra time, but it is well worth it!

1T unsalted butter
2T olive oil
3 leeks chopped, including white and light green portion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
3T tomato paste1/4 C dry white wine
2C pearl barley
8C chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 C Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese
1/4 C plain dried bread crumbs
2T fresh parsley, minced
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, plus more to taste

In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt butter with olive oil. Add leeks and garlic, sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften. Add 2T tomato paste and wine, stirring to combine and cook for 4 minutes. Add barley and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until barley is tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. Spray a baking sheet.

In a bowl, combine ground chicken, cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, and 1T tomato paste. Add 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and stir to combine. The mixture will be very sticky. Form the meatballs, making them 3/4″ in diameter, max. Place on the baking sheet and cook 10-15 minutes.

Add meatballs to soup, and stir in gently. If the soup is too thick, add more broth and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.


Posted in Recipes | Tagged | Leave a comment

Recipe – Best-Ever Banana Bread

Best-Ever Banana Bread
From Liz Schneider

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/4C + 1T buttermilk (if using dried, add with sifted items)
1 3/4 C white or whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1C chopped walnuts, dried pineapple, or dried apricots (optional)

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray 1 loaf pan with cooking spray. Sift together flour, salt baking soda, and dried buttermilk, if using dried. With mixer, blend bananas, eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla and buttermilk. Slowly add flour mixture to banana mixture. Pour into prepared loaf pan or two or three mini pans

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes for a regular loaf, or 45-55 minutes for mini loaves. Test with toothpick for doneness.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

In the spring, I have counted 136
different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.

-Mark Twain

Posted in Thought of the Week | Tagged , | Leave a comment

California Governor Stands Up For Agriculture

In recent articles about California’s dire water situation, Governor Jerry Brown defended his order requiring Californians to cut back on their water use, and sparing those who consume the most water – farmers.

California is in its 4th year of severe drought.  Brown’s orders this week requires towns and cities statewide to draw down water use by 25%, compared with 2013 levels.  While past reductions were voluntary, Brown said he is using his emergency powers to make these cuts mandatory.

Some environmental groups, news outlets and users of social media expressed astonishment last week that Brown’s drought-related water cutbacks mostly spared farmers.  When the host of ABC’s “This Week” public affairs program asked Brown why the order doesn’t extend to California farmers, who consume 80% of the state’s water supply, but make up less than 2% of the state’s economy, Brown responded that farmers aren’t using water frivolously on their lawns or taking long showers.

“They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables for America and for a significant part of the world,” he said.

We must remember that many of the crops grown in California are grown nowhere else in our country.  Examples are the “salad bowl” vegetables, strawberries, nuts and rice, among many other crops.  California agriculture makes sure that we see a good variety of reasonably priced fruits and vegetables when we go to the grocery store.

Besides, Brown responded that California’s farmers have already made drastic cutbacks in water, having already been denied irrigation water from federal surface supplies, forcing them to leave over 400,000 acres of irrigable land unplanted last summer and summers previously.

Of the state’s 25 million acres of farmland, 9 million are irrigated.  This includes all of the 1.1 million acres of vegetables, 98% of the 3.1 million acres of orchards and vineyards, and 90% of the 1.7 million acres of forage crops (hay for livestock).  The state’s 77,900 farms generate crops worth $46 billion each year and employ 207,430 people.*

Without water, those numbers would shrink dramatically.

Additionally, California’s farmers are already voluntarily saving water.  All over the state, they have converted their irrigation systems, by changing to drip or sub-soil drip systems, which puts the water directly onto the plant, or installing refined sprinklers which places the water exactly, and using computers to increase or decrease the amount of water needed in specific areas of their fields.

We appreciate California’s Governor Brown in his stance for California’s farmers, and for stabilizing the food supply for all Americans.

*USDA Economic Research Service

Idaho Press Tribune, April 6, 2015
Capital Press, April 10, 2015

Posted in Farmers, Hot Topics, Water | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Farmer Profile – T & J Farms

This month our featured farming family grows Idaho’s famous potatoes.  I know Dustin from when we attended The College of Idaho together.

Teresa & Jerome are the owners of T&J Farm; they farm with their sons Dustin & Derek.  Teresa and Jerome love to travel to Mexico and also go on road trips in their car to destinations to ride their road bicycles.  Derek and Dustin also like to travel in the winter where Derek has developed a keen interest in scuba diving in Mexico and has become certified, while Dustin likes to stay near the snow and get as much snowboarding in as he can before farming starts back up.

Jerome  grew up on a dairy farm, then went to work for  The Simplot Company.  Over 25 years ago, he went out to farm on his own.  The reward of being in control of his decisions and see the results of his applied knowledge and hard work makes the yearly uncertainty of farming more than worth the risk.  The opportunity to work with his family, and work in the outdoors is also a big reward to this farming family.  Right now the family is in the complicated process of developing a succession plan for Dustin and Derek to continue on with the family’s farming operation in the future.

T&J Farms grows potatoes, corn, wheat and sugar beets on about 2,000 acres in Canyon and Payette Counties in Southwest Idaho.  Potatoes are the backbone of their operation while corn and wheat provides a healthy crop rotation that keeps it all in balance.  Their fields are mostly pivot irrigated, which helps conserve both water and labor.

This is how they grow 'em in Idaho!

This is how we grow ’em in Idaho!

Like most farmers, they own some of the land they farm, and lease the rest.  An interesting point that you may not know: most farmers are not lucky enough to have all their farm fields right next to each other, they may farm multiple fields that might be miles from the each other.



Farmers are excellent at researching and implementing new ways to save on expensive costs like fertilizer and water.  Exciting new technology like GPS tracking for tractors, phone applications for controlling irrigation, and precision planting help T&J Farms to use the only the exact amount of water or fertilizer or pesticide necessary.

A potato field planted with mustard. The mustard will then be plowed into the soil for green fertilizer.

A potato field planted with mustard on T & J Farms. The mustard will then be plowed into the soil for green fertilizer.

The family also rotates their crops each year, meaning that the same crop is not planted on the same field two years in a row.  The different crops, like potatoes and wheat, take different amounts of nutrients from the soil, so rotating crops helps keep the soil healthy and rich and prevents the ground from becoming depleted of vital nutrients.  Recycling of farm waste is also important to T&J Farms, who collect their used engine oil and other used parts and materials for recycling.

The family is also GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) certified, and follows those guidelines for all their bookkeeping and financials.   This is a huge effort, but one that allows the family to see exactly where each and every penny is going.  With an operation like theirs, that’s a lot of pennies to keep track of!

Potatoes for days!

Potatoes for days!

As mentioned above,  technology has come a long way over the years, and has exploded in just the last decade.  Farming has become much more efficient through uses like GPS tracking in tractors to online and handheld device pivot tracking & operating.  There are farming apps for phones that are new to the industry as well, and help farmers track everything from irrigation to soil quality.

It takes a special kind of person to be a farmer, and this farming family is no different.  They take upon themselves huge amounts of risk each year in order to provide the rest of us with safe and abundant food.  The rewards of farming are worth the risk, though!  For Jerome and Teresa, to be in control of their decisions and see the results of many years of hard work and learning keeps them going each year.  Of course, the downtime in the winter months doesn’t hurt, either!  Winter is a much needed break after those long summer days that start long before the sun comes up and ends long after it has gone down.

Up before the sun to get the harvest in!

Up before the sun to get the harvest in

“If it was easy everyone would do it.”  Farming is definitely not easy, but for the 1% of our population that is directly engaged in production agriculture, like Jerome and his family, hard work and high risk is what gives them the opportunity to do a job that they love and that is of infinite importance to the entire world.

Thank you Jerome and Theresa, Dustin and Derek, for growing our food for us!

Beautiful field of potato plants.

A beautiful field of potato plants on T & J Farms



Posted in Farm Families, Farmer Profiles, Farmers | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week


Posted in Thought of the Week, Work | Tagged | Leave a comment

#22 Pinto the BlogDog – Lambs! Lambs! Lamby Lamby Lambs!

Howdy Folks! Pinto the BlogDog here!  Boy howdy has it been busy around my farm lately.  It’s lambing season!    I had waited all year for the little babies to come, and now, after the past few weeks, I’m exhausted!  But happy, oh yes, I am happy, happy, happy!


That’s YoursTruly, peeking under the gate, watching for the little ones.

So, ya knew M’Lady had bought all these pregnant California Red (that’s their breed) ewes.  She named ’em Merlot, Cabernet, Zinfandel and Shiraz!  I was thinkin’, “Wow, M’Lady, you’re really thinkin’ outa the box,” and was all impressed with her comin’ up with those names, but she said, “No, no Pinto, I didn’t think of it myself.  My quilting buddy, Jane (who loves wine) is the one who thought of California Red wines.  Well, I say, nice work, Jane.  Purty smart if’n ya ask Yourstruly.

Anyway,  it was forever, waitin’ and waitin’ for a baby – any baby – to be born.  Then, suddenly!  There they were!  ‘Course, M’Lady knew, she’d been watchin’ over the ewes, and she brought in Merlot for the night, thinkin’ maybe tonight was her night, and sure ‘nuf, when M’Lady ‘n I went out to check at 1:30 am there was a set of TWINS!


FarmGirl drying off a newborn lamb.

Oh, my, my, my!  The darlings, the little angels, the little lambs!  They weighed 10 and 6 lbs., so small, but so sturdy!  They were struggling to stand up and nurse.  We watched, quiet-like, so as not to trouble the mamma.  Oh, they nursed!  It was beauty to see.

Me, I just couldna help mesef.  I snuck into the stall, even though M’Lady had very clearly told me NO!  Well, was I sorry for that!  Merlot, she saw me justa standin’ there quiet-like,  she stamped her hoof hard!  Tellin’ me get away from my babies!  Somehow, I didna get the message, and afore I knew it, she had her head down and was headed toward me, gonna butt me to high heaven!  Once’n I figgered out what was comin’, I turned tail, and s-q-u-e-e-z-e-d under the gate, just in time!  I felt her head hit my tail just as I got outa there!


That’s Zinfandel nuzzling her new baby. He’s just a coupla minutes old and hasn’t stood up yet.

So, this has been goin’ on for 2 weeks.  M’Lady and me, we been birthin’ babies every-other-day.  M’Lady told me this mornin’ that she’s wearin’ Eau d’ Amnio perfume these days.  The process of birthin’ babies is messy and smelly!  But, oh, what you get – those little lambs – and the love from their mammas – is worth every lost minute of sleep, and all the scrubbing the soapy shower can’t get.

Here’s the best part.  Even though I talk about lovin’ the little lambs, the part I can’t resist is the afterbirth!  Talk about a delicacy!  M’Lady rakes up after the mamma has birthed her little ones, and lucky for me, guess what goes into the wheelbarrow along with the dirty straw?  Violia!  Afterbirth!!!  M’Lady doesn’t like me eating it.  She has tried, over the years, to bury it, haul it off, put it in the garbage can.  But, I FIND IT.  I’ll go to the ends of the earth for afterbirth.  (kinda like she is with chocolate!)  

She says, “OK, fine, Pinto, but if you get sick and throw up, don’t come runnin’ to me!”  I say, “M’Lady, this is the same as catching a sturgeon, opening it up and throwing away the eggs!  Caviar!!!  Plus, afterbirth is nutritious!”  “Oh, OK, Pinto, I give up, eat all the afterbirth you like.  Just don’t try to kiss me!”  So, I drag it all the way from the barn to the backyard, where I can savor it, nibble on it, make it last.  Fortunately, Brodi doesn’t like afterbirth, so I get it all!

Hurray! Hurray!  Hurray!


Twins, curled up in their mamma’s feed bin. They’re so cute

So, by now, we have 8 babies; 4 boys and 4 girls, and they are all the darlingist little things you’ve ever seen.  They race around in a pack, jumping, pronging, tumbling around.  And, they’re growing fast!  And, they’re inquisitive and smart!  I just love ’em, and watch ’em all the time, so I’ll keep ya posted on ’em.


Here’re a bunch of the little lambs, soakin’ in the springtime sunshine!

Well, gotta run, ‘n’ stare down Merlot.

Keep your tail waggin’!

Posted in BlogDog, Education, Farmers, For Kids, Livestock Production, Ranchers, Sheep, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Plant vs. Animal (Proteins)

The debate about the health benefits and detriments of plant and animal proteins has long been debated.  The truth is, they’re both important!

Here’s an interesting comparison of how much plant or animal protein you would need in order to get 25 grams of protein, which is about half of what an average, sedentary man or woman needs each day.

Peanut Butter:             Black Beans:         Quinoa:               Edamame:         Beef:

6 tablespoons!             1 3/4 Cups              3 cups                 1 1/2 cups           3 ounces
564 calories                  382 calories           666 calories        284 calories      213 calories
48 grams fat                2 grams fat             30 grams fat       12 grams fat       13 grams fat


Chicken:                 Pork:                      Lamb:

3.5 ounces               3 ounces               3 ounces
128 calories           175 calories            250 calories
3 grams fat            7 grams fat            18 grams fat

While each cut of meat will vary on the number of calories and fat, across the board it takes a lot less meat to get the same amount of protein, when compared to plant proteins.  Animal proteins are also low in calories and generally low in fat.  I’d much rather have a nice pork chop than eat 3 cups of quinoa!

Our bodies are designed to efficiently use both nutrient-dense animal products and fiber-filled plant products. We all hear about how important it is to eat a balanced diet, and that’s completely true. We’re healthiest and feeling our best when we’re eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and dairy products.  Throwing in treats every so often (like daily, right?), also keeps us happy!

So, eat your beans!  And your tender, juicy beef tenderloin steak!

Posted in Education, Farm Products | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

All progress, all success springs from thinking.

-Thomas Edison, Inventor

Posted in Thought of the Week | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Hills Farm – New Farm Video

Here’s a groovy little video for y’all of the first disking on the New Farm.  Hope you like it!

Posted in Ag Production, Agvocacy and Social Media, Farmers, Farmland Preservation, Feeding the World, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment