Category Archives: country living

Rural thoughts on raising the minimum wage

Many states have raised the minimum wage today. 18 in fact. Several of them to over $10 an hour.  Read about it here

Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t begrudge anybody a chance to make a decent living. I would have loved to be on the receiving end as a worker and as an employer would have been ecstatic to be able to pay my employees more.

3789566982_320590780eBut I do believe that these states did not really try to take their rural communities into account. In particular isolated rural communities.And if they did, it was only to spare a second to think to themselves ‘they don’t have enough people to matter’..

I’ve lived in several incredibly tiny rural communities in a couple of the states listed. We owned a business in one.  A little town of a hundred  people, 135 miles from the city (700K ppl), and 45 miles to the nearest ‘urban’ center (3500ppl) . Our nearest communities had 27 and 300 people respectively.  Those numbers have not fluctuated all that much in the years since we left.

Many rural businesses cannot sustain a fair sized increase in minimum wage. -Not even if it’s over a number of years.

I know many will say “Oh- What’s a buck or two?” – A couple dollars multiplied by 30 -40 hours a week adds up.  On top of that the employer will now pay a higher unemployment tax, FICA and workmans comp.  – all of which can hinder the ability to pay an employee a higher wage.

Those same dollars can also spell the difference between whether that rural community continues have a hardware store, market, café etc…

Here are some scenarios–  Bobs Hardware is a busy little place servicing several tiny communities. Bob needs help.- he hires Joe to come work and pays him the elevated wage. Joe is happy. For a time. -You see, Bob has to either sell more or cut Joes hours to afford the wage.

Bob can’t really sell any more than he already is because he doesn’t have the same traffic an urban or city business attracts. Bob is 145 miles from people. His customers are the farmers, ranchers and families in his area. And they can only buy so much.  So Bob cuts Joes hours.

Or.… Let’s say Bobs Hardware already has several employees. The minimum wage goes up. Bob has to choose. Does he cut everyone’s hours? Or does he let two go and keep Joe? And if he keeps Joe, is Joe going to up and quit because Bob expects him to work harder for the new wage?  Even if he pays a little more than the ‘new wage’- Joe may eventually build up resentment of having to do more work.

Or… Bobs Hardware employs Joe. The wages go up.  Bob can no longer afford to have even one employee. So Bob, who’s already run his rural business for decades l6939468522_bc879c5f3f_bet’s Joe go. Bob can no longer do all the work himself and cuts his business hours which in turn loses some revenue. Eventually Bob just throws in the towel and closes leaving communities without their only hardware store AND an empty/shuttered building on Main Street.  That in turn leads to lower property values for the entire community. And potentially lost revenue for the gas station, since the local farmer filled fuel on his way home from Bobs Hardware and grabbed a coffee at the cafe. In the meantime, Joe was let go and job opportunities in a town of a couple hundred are slim. Joe has moved to the city for work taking what disposable income he had with him, and quite possibly his kids out of school and money out of the donation plate at church that helped fund local causes or 4-h etc. 

Or… Bob raises his prices significantly in an effort to afford his wage increase and in the process actually loses business. – Many rural folk will save ‘it’ for a trip ‘to town’ when ‘it’ is no longer cost effective to buy locally. At the same time, when those folks go to town they will spend the entire day and do ALL their shopping and stop at the café to boot, bypassing their own community all together.

I have witnesses every one of these scenarios over the years.

**99% of small business owners in rural communities WANT to pay their employees better. They genuinely love their towns and the people within and want them to survive and thrive.

**A huge number of those same employers work tremendous amounts of hours themselves “FOR FREE” so they CAN employ someone from the area. (we did)

**Sometimes in lieu of money they find other creative compensation.  We did.  If we hadn’t we wouldn’t have been  able to be open enough hours to even pay ourselves a meager living.

So while I don’t necessarily think the new wages are bad, I do think they will force some hard decisions in rural communities.

In equal numbers, some businesses will find a way and some will not. Some will close. Some will hang on- for a while, maybe longer. Some will thrive.

Next time we’ll talk about some of the creative ways we’ve seen businesses in tiny communities thrive.

~Katy~

Katy is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting  ~Helping rural communities grow and thrive~

 

 

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Moms bestest, easiest buttermilk biscuits

It’s no secret- we like bread. Any kind of breads- Sourdough, pumpernickel, garlic-y cheesy breads, bruschetta …. and that all around staple- biscuits. IMG_1641

They go so easily with every meal…

But alas- I live a fair distance to the market. So in this recipe you will learn how to make ‘fake’ or substitute buttermilk and a great cheaters trick so you don’t have to cut in the butter…

Super simple ingredients too!

2 1/2 C flour       2 T baking Powder    1 Tsp sugar   8 T butter (yes son,  you can sub margerine)  1 C milk   1 T lemon juice (trust me)  1/2 tsp salt(optional)

mix the milk and lemon juice together and put in the freezer  for about 7-10 min… while it’s chilling, melt the butter and let cool.  In the meantime mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and make an indent (well) in the center.

Here comes some magic!– Add the butter to the chilled milk and watch it make little butter balls/slush. Pour into dry and stir until just mixed. Turn out and roll or pat –gently-(I prefer pat) to about 1 inch-ish. and fold and pat..repeat like 6 times.

Cut with a cutter or glass. *tip* Do NOT twist the cutter/cup it makes the edges ‘crimp’ and your biscuits won’t rise well.

Bake at 425 10 min -they’ll be golden on top- take out and brush with some melted butter.

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Mama used a cookie cutter

Gobble up.  Eat with jam, make biscuits and gravy, dunk in gravy, make sandwiches…..

*Tips for the boy-o-s

Need buttermilk in a jiff??? 1 Tablespoon ( a generous soup spoon will do) lemon juice per cup of milk. Let stand 5 min and use.

No rolling pin? No problem- beer/wine bottles, be creative, just keep an equal pressure when rolling.

 

Yes- you can sub Margarine in most of moms recipes, though it alters the taste and these biscuits won’t be quite as fluffy.

Mama

 

 

 

 

Are we Ranchers or Farmers?

That’s a tough one answer!

I think we’re “Franchers”

We have both cattle and crops. Though we have just crossed over to focusing more on cattle and all  it entails.

 

Depending on who you ask, or where you live.. you are one or the other.

If we lived in Montana … the general consensus is that if you have just one hoofed critter, you ARE a rancher.  However… if you have milk cows, you ARE a farmer. As in ‘dairy farm’.

Many farmers will argue that many ranches are part granger , therefore farms.

Trivia: In Australia  they are called sheep and cattle Stations. img_7317

Cattle Ranch. Dairy Farm. Sheep Ranch. Fish Farm. Buffalo Ranch.  Goat Ranch. Boneless Chicken Ranch. Game (wild) Ranch. Art Farm. Nut Farm. Fruit Farm. Fur Farm. Emu Farm. See a pattern here??

Typically- in ranching- they have always been ranchers. Farmers on the other hand are img_6158more typically ‘diversified’. Especially in the mid west.  We are diverse.. cattle, small grains and mobile yard art (chickens).

Farmers are not romanticized the same way ranchers have been. Cattle drives across the wild prairies and so on evoke our imagination. Plain old practical farming doesn’t seem to be as gripping!

When our Nation was young, having cattle and crops, or a dairy cow or chickens was not only a means to making it, it was also extra money at the end of the year. Butter and extra eggs could be sold.  A great book to read on this is Women of the Northern Plains by Barbara Marchello. And by the way- If you ever get a chance to hear her speak… GO! It is an eye opener to what Farm and Ranch women did ‘back then’img_7227

Our farm has always been known as a farm. For nearly 100 years, the hubby’s family have farmed this land we are on. And while there has always livestock, it was always called ‘farm’. So I guess for now, we will remain farmers.

~Katy~

A road trip, Espresso and truth in advertising…

Once upon a time in a far off land…. Okay, not so far off, but it sure seemed like it!

Cope, Colorado is 130 East of Denver and 75 miles from ‘anywhere else’.  We used to live there.  Mind you, this is out there in the sandhills, with a population of a hundred. If you wanted an espresso, or French press or any other ‘fancy’ coffee~ you were pretty well out ofespresso cup luck.

One day a huge 1/2 page ad popped up in our bitty local paper…. advertising for the small town 45 miles North…

NEW COFFEE SHOP OPENING!!!! WE HAVE ESPRESSO!!!!

Holy smokes!!  In the blink of an eye, I was the horn to my friend Shannon. We were both totally twitterpated!  ESPRESSO… here we come. We made plans…

20140614_125827Shann lived 15 miles South of town and were 15 North of town. I bundled my two kiddos into the van (yes.. the “Down by the river” van)  and headed off to pickup Shann and her three kids.  and off we went, backtracking 65 miles up to Yuma only to find out that the “Espresso” they served was that push-button gas station variety.

Talk about heartbreak!  We weighed the options, told the kids to settle in and we headed for

Sterling… another 50+ miles.. to a place we knew without a doubt had “the Real Deal”  Did I mention ‘Da Van had no AIR and it was the middle of summer??

So… 200+ miles and an entire day later, we had our two dollar drinks and the kids had theirs. (back then they were ‘only’ 2.50!)

Lesson learned…. When you live ‘out there’ call and ask first!

~Katy~

Remember that barn down the road???

Remember that post about the barn down the road from us? ( https://katescountryliving.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/the-end-of-an-era-a-praire-barn/ )

I said I would drum up some before pictures and  have…

2013winterbarnI have to thank Lexi, the owners daughter. She shared them with me.

 

 

From barn dances to boyfriends,IMG_1379

 

And weddings and wakes, these silent sentinels have seen it all.

 

 

 

 

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Sunrise to sunset, always a hub of activity.

 

 

 

Memories in every corner.

 

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I am lucky to be able to share these, and they will be added to a coffee table book I am making for the family.

While the barn may be gone, the memories remain and the tales will be told.

 

~Katy~

 

Mama’s Ukrainian Lokshyna Recipe

What the heck is Lokshyna??IMG_5019

Lokshyna is a Ukrainian “tasteless” egg noodle casserole. And it’s easy to make! (And cheap.)

All you need is:  1 pkg  egg noodles (cooked)                                      2 eggs -beaten

2 Tbs butter                        1/2 C heavy cream

1/2 tsp salt               (Or Sour cream or milk)

*and whatever you want  that sounds tasty.

Traditional Lokshyna  is just the base recipe with a little  cloves and sometimes 1 C cottage cheese thrown in-

WE happen to LOVE it with some cooked diced bacon (and the fat.. or at least some) and sometimes Ham and onions. It is also good with 1/2 C cheese and some spinach.

~In large bowl -Combine the cooked noodles with melted butter. Add in the eggs, salt and sour cream. Mix well. Pour into a greased cake pan.

You can also make this in a bunt pan. Some of the old timers do this and fill the center with ‘stuff’. Usually something like Deviled Ham or some such craziness.

Also if you melt some butter and mix it with bread crumbs and sprinkle on top before baking, it gives the Lokshyna a crunchy top.

Bake 350 for 45 minutes.  *doubles and triples easily*

shchaslyva yizha

(Happy Eating in Ukrainian)

~Katy~

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do a seamtress and a coffee roaster have in common?

Community.

That’s what a seamstress/creative and a world class coffee roaster have in common.

“When people talk, community happens”Becky McCray

IMG_4889

Me and Jo

(And let me tell you…. Jo and I can TALK!!)

We are a community. A community of entrepreneurs. A community of women. A community of small town advocates. A community of creatives . A community of givers and do-ers~It only takes two to be part of a ‘community’

~The funny thing about our “community” is that we don’t even live in the same town. Not even the same part of the state!~

I met Jo Kahlifa , at a local Pride of Dakota event a number of years ago. We instantly became friends and have since done a number of exciting things jointly both personally and with our businesses. ( check out MoJo Roast and read about her and the coffees)

IMG_4902The fact that we are a “community”  was driven home this past week when we attended an OTA conference. (NorthDakOTA,MinnesOTA,SouthDakOTA)  Part of the purpose was to bring together creatives from towns across a tri-state area to help transform where we live into great , re-envisioned communities. Places where people once again gather and talk to each other instead of about each other. Communities where roots are put down and dreams are realized.

Community matters. In so many ways. And Community is not always where you live. Often it is what you do.

~Katy~

 

 

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Mama’s super soft Cinnamon Rolls

IMG_3450Cinnamon rolls remind me of Grandma’s house. They always smell soooooo good!

And they’re soft and gooey too.

Here’s my recipe based off my Grandma Bessie’s  recipe. Pretty much “No Fail!”  This doubles easily, and used for sticky buns, monkey bread, caramel rolls too.

You will need:

Yeast: (Either 1 pkg or  1 tablespoon)         1/2 Cup warm wate

1/2 Cup warm moo. Note: You can scald the milk f you want a sweeter dough.

1/4 Cup sugar                                1/3 Cup melted Butter

1 tsp Kosher salt (regular will do just fine too)      1 Egg- beaten

3- 3 1/2 ish cups flour.    1 Tbs Baking Powder (Optional)

Directions

~Heat oven to 350

~ mix (lightly) Yeast and warm water in small bowl and set aside to “proof”. -about 15 min-ish

~In a large bowl mix  warm milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and beaten egg.

~Add in about 2 cups flour and stir well.

monkey bread2~Add Yeast mixture.

~Add another cup of flour to make a soft dough. If it’s still ‘runny’ add some more flour.

~ turn out and knead a bit. . (I  do it about twenty times)

~put back in bowl and cover to raise until double in size.

~turn out and punch down. Roll into a rectangle about 1/4 +/- inch thick.

~Brush with melted or soft butter and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on it. (I use Brown sugar and lay it on pretty heavy and then sprinkle cinnamon on top)

~Roll up. Cut into rounds and place  Cut side down on greased pan or cookie sheet. (makes 12-16)

~Bake  20- 25 min until golden brown. Remove. Cool. EAT.  (I always start checking at 15 min- every oven is different)

Notes to my kids who don’t cook:  *No rolling pin? Use a wine bottle or mini rollssimilar. *  Simple frosting: about a cup of powdered sugar, mix in 1 tablespoon moo and pour over.  *Add raisins or cranberries for more flavor * Scalded milk makes it more of an Italian Sweet Dough. * Yes-you Can use Margarine. * BakingPowder is NOT same as the Baking Soda you use in the fridge! * Want them to taste like Johnsons Corners rolls??? add Vanilla pudding to the mix. ~ Either a snack pak or 1/2 package dry mix. **if you use the snackpak you will need to add a bit more flour.  ***Monkey Bread~ instead of rolling out, tear into pieces and pile in a bread pan (pie pan, whatever) .  Mix 1 cup brown sugar and 3/4 cup melted butter and pour over top. Bake 350 for about 20 min.  *Make Minis by cutting dough in 1/2 and then rolling out to make baby rolls and use a muffin pan.

~~Other useless information:  Where I grew up there is a huge difference between Sweet rolls, cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls and sticky buns!!!!  ~~ Cinn Rolls are just plain, Sweet has the white or cream cheese frosting, Caramel has the Carmel frosting ON TOP. and sticky buns are bakes with the gooey and nuts in the pan.

~Katy~

 

 

 

 

I am “Country Woman” ~ hear me roar!

Every year Farm and Ranch Guide puts on a Country Woman of the Year contest.

People are supposed to write in why they think their woman should win…. But there are guidelines… Community involvement, Special deeds, Involvement with the daily operations etc.  ~  This implies all manner of things.DSCN5883

Most of the women nominated log long hours in real production in crops and livestock, they are active in church and volunteer for nearly everything, blah- blah- blah. All without a hair out of place. You know the types.

Don’t get me wrong~I am not disparaging them in any way. Many of the nominated women are my neighbors. Some of them have won. I admire these women.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I asked Hubby once WHY he didn’t nominate me. He said because I am none of those things, but am Everything to him. (and that he sucks at writing)

That being said- I AM a Country Woman of the Year… Day in and day out. Year after year.

I don’t need a contest to tell me so. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I can bring home the Bacon…. Fry it up in a pan…….”  Remember that commercial? That about sums it up.

In my little world, I am the one who raises the kids and attends school functions, nurses the bottle babies (Calves and Kitties alike), bakes fresh bread every couple days, Cooks from scratch every meal, minds the garden, cans more goods than a grocery store, gate girl when it’s blizzarding and -30 out, sews and mends, shuffles hubby and vehicles from field to field, watches the markets, tracks the weather, brings him lunch in OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe field, never ever calls him when he’s out with the guys, works from home, goes to church, does the parts running, beer fairy,  handles correspondence and the usual round of maid chores too. I  put a good spin on things when they go awry and make hubby feel better about it.  I  am20140906_173647 constantly championing small business in rural communities, attend Downtowners Conferences on my own dime and time so I can better myself and my community, make a quilt every year to donate for raffle at charity, finds the humor in the dark times, mend broken hearts and bruised egos, teach the kids to dream, keeper of the memories and family stories, teaches others how to bake and sew, butchers chickens with the best of them, run a small business of my own, don’t complain when our plans are cancelled yet again 20141128_101658(1)because ‘We have to go to the field, NOW’, I know that  boots DO go with everything, and more. ~ I know that there are 3 big social functions (4 in a good year!) … Two farm shows and a Pheasants  4ever banquet (you can sub- cattlemans, DU or whatever)  If it’s a good year- a trip the fair gets tossed in. Otherwise my social engagements are solo.

Things I won’t or don’t do? I refuse to ever again “Hold that panel, damnit!” when the BULL is making a break for it nor do I drive his big boy toys.

I am proud to support my Hubby- an American Farmer-  behind the scenes in all these little ways.

~Katy~

A little Italian humor…

~  Today on the radio I listened to an interview between well known Italian chef  Gino D’Acampo and a British talk show host… and of course the moment I got in the house I HAD to Google the live event….

In a nut shell~ The host insults the poor man by saying “If you just add ham….” who quickly replies with

if’a my Grand-a-mutha had wheels, she’d’a be a bike-a”  

Can you Hear the cadence and inflection in your head?? I can.

I laughed and laughed.

Because I am half Italian. and I understand. COMPLETELY.

 

~When we were younger, my brother told my mother that her cooking was “ALMOST as good s Chef-Boy-R-Dee”

My mother went on strike with some gestures and muttering with what we loosely translated to mean  “If we ever wanted another hot meal, we’d damn well better fix it ourselves because we sure the heck-0 weren’t getting it from her.”   (ever)10154406_10200976135483947_550699380467426684_n

I actually have some very funny stories about being Italian… But we’ll save those for a later date! WHY??? Because I will have to run fast when my Mother finds out I put her picture in here! ~

 

~Ehhh Tu~

Katy

 

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