Cooking &Amp;Amp; Cow Camp - Home on the Range Blog at - 226982

Home on the Range

Cooking & Cow Camp 
Mar. 12, 2011 5:17 pm 
Updated: Mar. 17, 2011 4:52 am

First day of Cow Camp starts this year on St Paddy’s Day. About 15 of us will head 2 ½ hours out onto the desert to gather over 1000 head of cattle and bring them back to the main ranch. It takes a week to ten days to do so, as they are spread out over 150,000 acres.


We take a semi truck out which has had the box trailer turned into a makeshift kitchen/eating area. The old stove inside is run off a portable propane tank, and a generator. It will be the only warm and draft free spot at camp. The rest of camp consists of some hundred year old wood shacks where bedrolls are laid out for sleeping and a wooden outhouse. NO shower is available, so thankfully, it stays pretty cold. If it does warm up, there is a horse trough and bathing is done with a 5 gallon bucket.


The day begins before sun-up, as we have to heat up water on the stove to wash the dishes, pots and pans that have been soaking overnight, as no one has the energy to wash them at night. After breakfast is made, the horses are caught up, and we split up and haul out in different directions to find and drive cattle back, which is usually 8-10 hours of riding each day, commencing at or before 6 am. It’s hard country, with lots of sagebrush, greasewood, rocks and deep ravines that are invisible until you come upon them. It’s easy for cows to hide and brush up, so a lot of country has to be covered to get them all moving in the right direction, and of course, we all have to ride alone in order to get the job done…which has its benefits, as there are no restrooms out on the desert range and privacy is a precious commodity under those circumstances.


After arriving back at camp at the end of the day, the horses have to be unsaddled, and put back into the makeshift corral and fed, saddles and bridles piled in another shack out of the snow and rain, whoever has lost a horseshoe has it replaced by some unlucky cowboy.


Anyone with energy left might play a game of cards, or read a book. It’s a good time for a nap too.


Breakfast dishes are then finished, dinner is prepared, gratefully wolfed down, and dishes are set to soak again for the night.


In past years a sweet old feller used to come and cook, but as he is reaching his late 80’s he has decided not to come this year. That means all the cooking falls to yours truly.


It is usually too cold and windy to do any grilling or campfire outside this time of year, so the gas stove top is pretty much the main method of preparation. I found a an electric roaster which will come in real handy, if the generator has enough power to run it.


Feeding 15 guys with so little to work with is a little intimidating to me, hence several posts on the AR, but with a little prayer and planning, I think I will be able to get them back to the ranch without burning too many pounds off them.


Here is my plan, since I too, will be riding, and kinda tired to do much in the way of meals. I am going to be cooking night and day this weekend and putting these in the freezer for heating up, leaving a minimal amount of work to do at camp. Any other suggestions are appreciated. We have only a couple of coolers to put food in, and most stuff has to be made from scratch with what we already have on the ranch. I’m only short about 3 nites. Mornings are always bacon or sausage, eggs and pancakes, and no one makes it back to camp before evening, so lunch is moot.


We are a beef ranch, so doing much in the way of pork or chicken is frowned on. We’ve got hamburger, 2 roasts, a pork roast, and a few ham slices. Veggies are limited.

  Burritos made with Charley's Mexican Meat, Refried Beans without the Refry, all frozen ahead and Spanish Rice

Sandwiches made with Kahlua pork, frozen ahead.

French Dip Sandwiches-made ahead and frozen and french fries

Chili-made ahead and frozen

Chicken and Dumplings

Delicious Ham and Potato Soup


Mar. 12, 2011 5:37 pm
Wow, Girl-you have your work cut out for you. A big pot of beef stew would freeze well. Maybe a pot of ham and beans? What about a pasta type goulash with tomato base and corn added? You could use the hamburger in that. Good luck, and stay warm. Toni
Mar. 12, 2011 7:18 pm
I think the beef stew would work great! I'm worried about too many bean dishes because...well...we all have to sleep in those little shacks and they might not be drafty ENOUGH!
Mar. 12, 2011 7:52 pm
Hey Petey - I too was raised on a cattle ranch - but not as big as yours. We could always go back to the farm house for our meals and then head back out to herd more cattle. Yours is truly a cattle drive - a hard life - and then you're the trail cook too - wow! My prayers will be with you. Here's just a few suggestions for meals - make biscuits and freeze them. Shepherds Pie - a beef, gravy and veggie mixture that is topped with mashed potatoes and freeze it - either as a whole or in squares. Beef Stroganoff - which is usually served over noodles - but can also be served over potatoes. Spaghetti sauce made with ground beef and frozen - again the noodles can be made on the trail - or you can make spaghetti pie which is just the spaghetti meat sauce combined with the noodles mixed in and then frozen. Taco Pie - sautee ground beef with the taco seasoning and add corn, tomatoes, peppers and pour this mixture in a pan. Make a cornbread mixture and pour this over the meat mixture and cook off till cornbread is done. Then you can freeze the whole thing or let it set up - cut into squares and freeze. Beefaroni - sautee ground beef with your favorite seasonings, boil macaroni and drain - add mac to your beef mixture and add shredded cheese to this mixture - top with more shredded cheese - bake off - then freeze. For a dessert treat, you can make brownies and freeze or cookies and freeze. For a veggie night - cook rice and freeze - cook your veggies to al dente then freeze. I wish I lived close by and could go as your trail cook - I would love it - but alas I'm in Florida. I will certainly be rooting for you - keep us posted as to how things go. I love your blogs Petey so keep blogin!
Mar. 13, 2011 6:40 am
Wow Petey! That sounds like a lot of fun, but a lot of work. It probably isn't what you'd call fun, though, since it's just life on the ranch... Beef stew would be great, along with chili. And, yeah - watch how many beans those fellas eat!!
Mar. 13, 2011 9:10 am
luv2cook, great ideas! Thank you so much. I wish you were here to be our trail cook too! LOL
Mar. 13, 2011 9:12 am
Mother Ann, it IS ranch work, but the nature of ranch work is that one almost feels like a liar to call it 'work'. It's a great lifestyle and even the hardest parts are an adventure few people get to experience. I know how blessed we really are!
Mar. 13, 2011 2:27 pm
Wow! Now THIS would be a Reality show I would LOVE to watch!! With the cr@p they do on those shows, this would be simply wonderful!! I think you should send your blog to some TV exec!! :-D
Mar. 13, 2011 3:39 pm
Cat, you have NO idea how grateful I am for AR people and their recipes and advice. The crew here has NO idea how fortunate they are! LOL hmm. your post disappeared...I think my cursor may have gotten out of control again...
Mar. 13, 2011 3:41 pm
Chris K, that is very funny!
Mar. 13, 2011 3:51 pm
You are amazing, petey! Wow! And Chris is right! Talk about a good subject!
Mar. 13, 2011 4:29 pm
sending you a simple base recipe,top it with cornbread or biscuits,add more spices or veggies,it freezes well and is filling. think you have a wonderful life,simple,beauty at its best------
Mar. 13, 2011 7:09 pm
I think you're covered now with recipes that will work. This desk jockey is completely in awe. Stay safe and have fun.
Mar. 13, 2011 7:51 pm
Ah computers hate me! At least you got to read it before it went into cyber space
Mar. 14, 2011 9:35 am
Coming from a horse lover, and wanna-be ranchette ~ I am very envious of your chosen lifestyle. Back to basics, making do with whatever you can get your hands on and gone are the pomp and fluff of city life.... as for what to make and freeze, if the crew likes enchiladas, those you can make stacks of and freeze, then they just need a reheat later (my fav recipe is here on AR - Black Bean & Rice Enchiladas), very filling (sorry about the MORE BEANS) but they realy are good and highly adaptable to what ingredients you have on hand. Good luck with the roundup! Hope you post an 'ending blog'! :o)
Mar. 14, 2011 4:28 pm
Your "head em up and move em out" day is approaching fast. How are the preparations going? I too want a blog after the end of the trail drive - and if possible a short blog before you leave. Just know that there are a bunch of us "AR dudes" who are pullin and prayin for ya. You're not alone Petey - we're with ya!
Mar. 14, 2011 6:05 pm
thanks guys! I'll do my best. Processing starts tomorrow so we gotta get by on what I've got done so far. Thanks for all the tips!
Mar. 14, 2011 6:42 pm
Don't forget your camera Petey - we want lots of pictures with the stories!
Mar. 15, 2011 4:18 pm
Take care out there! I need to start working Twister. Deep sigh! He'd be a good cow pony,has good lines but he was started English by his German owner. Between he and Bane, I should be well exercised :)
Mar. 16, 2011 6:38 pm
Take care Petey - and remind everyone that the first to criticize the cooking becomes the next days cook - and gratefulness is next to the heart of God. So lets all pretend it's November and have a thankful heart!
Mar. 16, 2011 8:19 pm
LOL luv2cook! will do!
Mar. 17, 2011 4:52 am
Happy Trails Petey - see ya back at the ranch. God's speed.
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About Me
Kids are raised, we are ranchhands on a 250,000 acre working cattle ranch 110 miles from the nearest small town, so we raise a lot of our own food, vegetables, fruits, milk,eggs and meat. Love riding and working cattle, but find myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen, and the garden.
My favorite things to cook
Having 2 Jersey cows as well as milk goats, playing with fresh milk is a hobby, making our own butter, yogurt, sour cream, cheeses, soap and all the other great stuff you can do with fresh raw milk.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Homemade from scratch...anything! All traditions are sort of gone by the wayside, as we live so far from family now
My cooking triumphs
Most things from this site, this has been the best thing the internet has had to offer!
My cooking tragedies
A layered Jello dessert...the middle layer never set, so it did the 'ooze-wiggle'...and...well..I liquified a couple of chickens on 2 different occasions, turning them into a black gel. Moral of that story is, don't start cooking then go clean barns!...and there was the time that my kids were helping me make Thanksgiving dinner and SOMEbody (who resembled my youngest son) forgot to put the sugar in the pie!!!
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