business, cattle, combine, corn, cows, fall, Family, family time, Farm Wife, Farming, harvest, Holidays, North Dakota, October, prairie, Ranch, soy beans, The Fit Farmer's Wife, The LIfe of the Dakota Farmer's WIfe, tractor

Why I Love Octobers

Octobers are filled with pumpkin spice everything, Halloween candy, and for my fellow farmers, harvest. If you read my blog at all, you’ll probably notice, I love my fall posts. I never used to love fall so much. Let me tell you a story…

Fall to me was like death. I hated fall growing up. All the leaves dying, the brightest green grass turning brown, flowers freezing up and dying, and when the whole planet of North Dakota turns a grayish, brown. I am not quite sure why I didn’t like fall. Maybe because I lost my first grandma in October, when I was 16, then a few months later my paternal grandmother, and another few months, my great grandmother. I’m just not really sure, but now…

I love the autumn season! To me, becoming a farmer’s wife changed me. Autumn is now filled with excitement, primarily because after harvest, my hubby will be in the house more and be home just about when I get home. To me, having someone there when you get home from work, to greet you at the door or help with groceries is the greatest gift. It’s a short lived gift, but still one of the best.

For farmers, harvest means we get our first pay check in close a year. Depending if you have cattle or not, harvest is about the only time farmers are brining in some sort of income, even if it does all go back into their farm operation. About 99% of the time, farmer hardly sees the money they just sweated, worked, and prayed for because it goes directly back into the farm operation. Have you ever filled diesel in a tractor before? Or bought a “new” (used but new to you) piece of equipment before? Do you know how much those guys at John Deere charge for servicing a truck or tractor? You know what I am talking about!

Honestly, fall gets so crazy and busy at times. It’s almost like holding your breath. In the middle of harvest, right before rain is coming, and you have a day and a half left, the combine breaks down. Then, the cows decide that now would be a good time to get out. Sometimes that grass really does look greener on the other side of the fence…

Fall is also just the start of the holiday seasons. The holidays that are spent with family and friends, laughter, and so much love. Here on the prairie, we look so forward to family time because family is SO important. In most cases, we run our businesses with our families and work side by side our parents and grandparents. Family time spent relaxing on the farm are days that are few and far between, but well deserved! Just talking about it, gets me excited to spend time with both sides of our families. By the way, I am hosting Thanksgiving this year… Pray for me!

Now that I am a married farm wife, autumn to me took on a whole new meaning. I am so thankful that I live on the North Dakota prairie where there are 4 seasons in a year. Especially, when the air turns crisp, the leaves are a beautiful golden, orange-red color, the sky is the deepest blue  you’ve ever seen, the harvest is close to done, and our prairie hearts are full. In every way possible.

Beef, Chicken, crockpot, crockpot recipes

My Tips and Recipes for Harvest

Harvest season is soon upon us, which means fast meals, fast part runs, and pretty much fast everything. I love fall and harvest, but not the busy, fast paced part of it. This year on our ranch, will be extremely busy because the way things are going, soy bean and corn harvest will run together. It’s an early harvest this year, which is okay by me. Then, my hubby will be done sooner, cows will be home in a few months, and time will move more slowly.

  
As a farm wife, every spring and fall is a battle to find fast and easy foods that are filling and make great left-overs. I don’t know how you do it at your farm, but with me working in town full time, I don’t bring food out to the fields. I just make sure I cook enough over the weekends so that, in the evenings if and when Taylor comes in and he is hungry, he has something he can warm up. For the most part, he packs a cooler for his entire day, but he does like something hot late at night when he gets home.

  
That’s why crockpot meals are great! I seriously love my crockpot!! I actually have two, but I could have three or four! Maybe that is a little over kill, but you get the point! So today, I am sharing with you some of my favorite crockpot meals, along with a few tips for us farm wives to survive harvest!

  1. Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings:
  • 2 packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can of cheddar cheese soup
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 packages of Pillsbury Biscuits
  • Frozen Veggies like corn, carrots, and peas

Put everything in the crockpot starting with the chicken on bottom. Combine soups with frozen veggies and pour on top of chicken. Top with biscuits. Cook on high for four hours or on low for 6-7 hours.

  

  1. Tip One: Plan Ahead. Make sure to have your freezer well stocked with meals that can be reheated in the crockpot. Make sure to have grocery lists ready for unplanned store trips, when you go to town for a parts run. Keep extra snacks, cookies, crackers, and fruit snacks on hand at all times. Put the snacks and other food items in a specific drawer or cabinet so your farmer has easy access to it and doesn’t have to search the house for his Snack Pack Pudding cups! Plan ahead with other things like cleaning and doing laundry! When you have a spare moment, which is probably not too often, get household things done!
  1. Crockpot BBQ Beef Brisket:
  • 3 lb Beef Brisket

For the Rub:

  • 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ¼ tsp. Celery Seeds
  • 1/8 tsp. Black Pepper

For the Sauce:

  • ½ cup Ketchup
  • ½ cup Chili Sauce
  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ tsp. Dry Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tsp. Liquid Smoke

Put in crockpot and cook 8 hours on low.

  1. Tip Two: Make time for each other. No matter how busy it gets, always make time for family or an occasional date night, even if that means a combine date! Plan a quick family game night on the weekend or even a home movie night. Something quick and easy, just as long as you are able to spend time together. I know harvest gets crazy and busy, and sometimes both at the same time! It’s important to stay connected as a husband and wife and as a family. It helps everyone work together better and everything run more smoothly!

  

  1. Crockpot BBQ Shredded Chicken on a Bun

 

  • 6-8 Skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts
  • Your favorite BBQ Sauce

Place in the crockpot and smother chicken with bbq sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Place chicken in electric mixer bowl and mix on low until chicken is shredded. Place on bun and serve with potatoes and corn.

  1. Tip Three: Be prepared for anything and everything to happen. Always keep first aid kits on hand and plenty of band-aids. This is the time of year when so many of us are on the go and it seems like things happen when we are in a hurry and not fully paying attention. Be prepared, you just never know if a paper-cut or a full on stab wound will be coming through your door!

  

  1. Crockpot Mac’n Cheese

 

  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temp.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Grease the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.

Combine milk, evaporated milk, butter, eggs, and salt in slow cooker and whisk until smooth.

Add the Italian cheese and macaroni and sprinkle with pepper to taste — stir gently to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to low and cook for 1.5-2 hours, until center does not jiggle and pasta is tender.

Place this cheesy goodness in a bowl and eat like you’ve never eaten before.
Have a wonderful and safe harvest!!

  

Amazing Life Together, Blogger, Book, Farm Wife, Life, Love, Love Story, Marriage, Married, North Dakota, Photography, The Fit Farmer's Wife, Travel, Wedding

When the Amazing Life Together Team Came to Visit

Last week, my blogger and fellow farm wife friend, Jenny Rorich told  me she suggested Taylor and I to the Amazing Life Together project, I had no idea what it was or what was going to happen. Jenny and her husband, Mark were going to be gone the dates that the Amazing Life Together Team was going to visit their farm, so she passed them on to us! I had to do some research…

I had never heard of Our Amazing Life Together or the journey their team was on across American to promote “life after the wedding”. The more I looked into it, the more excited I got! Ryan and Liz are professional wedding photographers from Baltimore, Maryland and they made it their mission to travel across the US to challenge, promote, and document marriage after the wedding, because that is the most important part, right?! They are then, publishing their travels, adventures, interviews, and photographs into a book! How AMAZING is that?!

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Throughout the week, Liz and Ryan and I were emailing back and forth. Taylor and I had to fill out an online survey of “our love story”. We really didn’t know what to expect when their team got to our farm. I gave them directions to our little farm out in the middle of no-where, literally.

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Saturday morning at 9:30 AM sharp, a brown RV with Maryland plates showed up in our driveway. Liz and Ryan interviewed us for about 45 minutes and we got to ask them a few questions as well about their journey thus far. Then, we showed them around our farm and they captured our love in photographs! (I can’t wait to see them!)

North Dakota is the 32nd state that they have been to. Hawaii is going to be their last. Liz and Ryan started in January on their amazing journey across America documenting love stories. They pick one or two couples per state to meet, interview, and photograph for their project. It was such an honor to be “suggested” and picked for their project! Of all the wonderful farm couples out there on the North Dakota prairie, they chose us!

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They asked us about how we met, fell in love, our wedding day, and married life now. It was fun to open up and tell our love story and know that it will be soon in paper form for us to always treasure and keep! I can not wait to see our pictures, and snuggle up with my hubby and read our love story with a good cup of coffee!

Liz and Ryan, it was a pleasure to meet you and have you at the Zenker Angus Ranch! We wish you safe travels for the rest of your journey across America. We love what you are doing and your passion for couples after the wedding. You were great to work with, kind, fun, and sweet! We are so honored and happy  you gave us this opportunity and look forward to hopefully seeing you again someday! If you travel across south central North Dakota again, you are always welcome! xo

*All photos are from Liz and Ryan’s Instagram account*

Bacon, Chicken, cooking, Dressing, Garden, Garlic Toast, Kitchen, Left Overs, Meal, Meals, Potatoes, Ranch, recipe, Sunday, Sunday Dinner, Turkey Bacon

Sunday Dinner: Ranch Bacon Chicken Meal with Paleo Options

Yesterday was Sunday, which means a big Sunday dinner meal for my husband. I don’t usually cook a lot during the week nights due to lack of time, energy, and scheduling. Most of the year, my hubby is out harvesting, planting, making hay, stacking bales, or working cows so he usually packs a cooler for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. During the winter months however, I try to cook larger meals on the weekends, so Taylor has plenty of left overs during the week. It works really well for us, and myself. Once in awhile I’ll come home mid-week, to Taylor cooking a meal for us, I know, I have the best husband ever! And sometimes, I will cook a mid-week meal.

Our meal yesterday, was one of our favorites and oh so easy to make for a Sunday dinner or during the week as a mid-week meal. Here is my own recipe for Ranch Bacon Chicken:

You’ll need:

1 package of Tyson raw Chicken Breasts

1 small dressing bottle of Ranch Dressing

12 strips of Jennie-O Turkey Bacon (or any type of bacon, we love the lean and low calories of turkey bacon, and it goes with everything!)

With my meal, I served garden potatoes, fresh from my garden this summer! If you don’t have fresh garden potatoes, grocery store ones work the same! And garlic toast (I needed to use up some bread). I usually make my garlic toast with French loaf or the thick Texas Toast bread, but this time I had regular on hand, which works the same. Just remember to generously butter each side and use garlic powder to avoid extra salt.

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees for the chicken. (You can also put in your garlic toast at this temp on the top rack, it will take longer, but be even and nicely toasted on both sides).

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While your oven is preheating, it is time to prepare and assemble your chicken. First, dump the small bottle of Ranch Dressing into a gallon bag. If you are using a large bottle, squeeze in a generous amount or it, or enough to coat 3 large chicken breasts. Then, insert your chicken into the bag, one at a time.

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After, layout four pieces of bacon flat and horizontally on a flat surface. Lay your chicken on top of the bacon, then wrap the bacon around the chicken so it closes in the back. Flip and place on to the baking dish. (I love my baking dishes by Rachel Ray! My uncle and aunt gave them to us for our wedding gift, and I use them just about every weekend! If your don’t have a set, get them! They work wonders and food never sticks!)

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Repeat this process until all chicken is covered. Place in the oven and tend to your potatoes.

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Boil the potatoes until soft, then turn on low and simmer until chicken is done. I usually turn my chicken up to 500 degrees at this point,  if waiting on the chicken only. It adds a little crispy-ness to the bacon. When the chicken looks cooked and bacon is slightly browned and crispy, take out and assemble your plate! For my garden potatoes, I usually butter them with salt, pepper, and parsley flakes. They are very yummy!

This recipe can also be a great paleo option as well. If you are paleo, do not dip your chicken in the Ranch and just wrap bacon around and cook, serving with lots of fresh veggies, instead of the garden potatoes and garlic toast! This recipe is not only easy, it’s great for left overs, if you have any! Enjoy!

Have a Happy Monday! xo

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Hello!

Welcome to my life on the Dakota Prairie! I am the proud wifey of a Dakota farmer and rancher. We recently celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary a few months ago. We got married in the heat of haying season and the hottest day of the year! Taylor and I met and have know each other since kindergarten however, we didn’t start dating until after our high school graduation. As for myself, I am the farmer’s daughter and now a farmer’s wife, never did I imagine myself stuck in the prairies of North Dakota for the rest of my life (I had big dreams of moving out of state and working and living the city life), but it’s an awfully beautiful thing, and now, I wouldn’t have it any other way! After graduating from our small town high school, I attended college for two years studying architectural drafting and estimating. I worked in our nearest “big town” (about 100 miles away) for a year and a half before we got hitched. I currently work in a closer-to-home “small-big town”, which is still a 55 mile one way drive from the farm. I currently work for a great engineering company.

Now that it is officially fall (Happy October by the way!), I can reflect on the summer months gone by! Summer, it was a busy season. I had my first garden, a quite large one being it was my first! Although, I enjoyed everything about being outdoors and tending after my flowers and vegetables! And I reaped in a plentiful harvest this year including beets, peas, green beans, and carrots to name a few, which are all sitting in my freezer waiting to be devoured in a soup this fall and winter season. (Which I will blog some recipes about later!) I would have had sweet corn, but the raccoons got it all, and thank goodness for generous neighbors for sharing some of their sweet corn with us! Just recently, I have been busy making jams for winter and helping my mother-in-law peel, slice, and freeze fresh picked apples for winter, which has been addicting for me! For those of you who don’t farm, summer is filled with cooler breakfasts, lunches, and dinners most days, so that leaves a little extra time for me to not have to cook in the evenings, so I would tend to my garden and flowers and go on runs after work. Now, after all the hay and straw has been made and brought home, manure has been hauled and spread, we are just starting to harvest soy beans and start thinking about bring our black angus cows back to the ranch. I really miss the days of summers and not having to worry about snowy roads and the long dark-in-the-morning drives to work. Enough about us, here is what to look forward to on this blog…

I plan to post lots of crafts and recipes, along with my journey as a child of the King and a farmer’s wife. It is a crazy, wonderful life that I love to share and talk about! Please feel free to follow me on Instagram (Alecia_Zenker) and Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/aleciabhzenker). The main purpose to this, is to be able to look back years from now, and it will tell the stories of our generation on the farm. It’s more of a public diary that you can follow. Welcome to my life! Let’s begin this journey together!

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