Winter Chores & Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

By Shannon Latham

Like most young girls, I played house… but my cats lived in a playhouse and I would dress them up in baby clothes. I would pretend to be a mom and give bottles to my babies, but my “babies” had four legs and wagged their tail as the warm milk hit their tummies.

Growing up, one of my favorite activities was going to the sale barn with my dad to buy bottle lambs. My 10-year, 4-H Sheep Project helped fund my way through college. After graduating from Iowa State University, I lived in Des Moines for a decade. I yearned for wide-open spaces and the smell of fresh-cut hay. I missed the warm feeling that spreads from head to toe when you nurture an animal.

When I became a mother, I wanted my children to experience life’s simple pleasures. I wanted them to experience the joy of sunsets that paint the evening sky with rich hues of purple and magenta. I wanted them to appreciate wildflowers that splash color in a sea of green grass. I wanted the sun to kiss my children’s cheeks and gentle summer breezes to tickle the backs of their neck. I wanted my kids to have a place where their imaginations could run wild, and that’s why I started Enchanted Acres.

Enchanted Acres allows me to combine all of my passions: gardening, cooking, crafting and teaching others about how our food is grown. I also enjoy sharing my love of animals with our farm visitors.

I love sharing my agriculture story with students in the outdoor classroom. When sharing a lesson on pumpkins, students find it interesting to compare weights and measures. Sometimes looks are deceiving! The tallest pumpkin doesn’t necessarily weigh the most, and the smallest pie pumpkin usually contains exponentially more seeds than a carving pumpkin.

This Week’s Workouts

Most of my workouts came from doing chores at Enchanted Acres. I had to clean stalls, bottle-feed two six-week-old goats and shovel a little snow.

Winter months mean extra work because we have to feed our animals, regardless of the weather. It typically takes me an hour to do chores in the winter. Each time temperatures dip below zero, there’s a threat that our water will freeze. It’s critical that livestock has access to fresh water, so we keep an eye on the temperature and the water tanks. We also give our livestock additional straw bedding to help keep them warm in colder temperatures. Sometimes we even bring our baby goats, known as kids, inside a heated shop or porch when they need a little extra tender loving care. Lil’ Romeo, a Nigerian dwarf goat, wasn’t much bigger than a water bottle when he was born last February.

This week I also walked on the treadmill to catch up on shows that I missed while traveling for work. If I don’t exercise in the morning, chances are it’s not going to happen because I’ll get busy with work and kids’ activities. When I’m done doing supper dishes, I’m usually done for the night. Last week I attended two of my son’s basketball games and judged FFA awards one evening. On nights like those, the only thing I feel like doing when I get home is reading a good book.

Staying Motivated to Keep Moving

When I was a senior in high school, I packed on extra pounds by popping a bag of microwavable cheese popcorn as an afternoon snack and eating the entire bag while watching my favorite soap opera. It didn’t take long for my jeans to get uncomfortably snug! That was the defining moment when I realized I needed healthier habits. I stopped popping the popcorn and started riding an exercise bike while I watched my favorite TV show after school.

Snug jeans continue to motivate me! When I get out of my exercise routine, it doesn’t take long before I can feel the difference. I honestly have more energy and a more positive outlook on life when I exercise regularly.

My livestock keeps me moving daily. Depending on the season, I’ll get in an additional 1,000 to 3,000 steps while doing chores. I know that’s not enough to maintain my weight, so I try to exercise two to three times weekly. I’ll let myself indulge in “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Station 19” while walking on the treadmill.

I especially enjoyed a POUND exercise class, which combines cardio and weight training with rhythmic techniques used in Pilates. Now that my travel schedule is erratic, I’m trying Beachbody on Demand®. I shouldn’t have an excuse not to exercise now!

Admittedly, there have been days when I can’t fit in an entire workout. I’m trying to get into the habit of doing something, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk when I’m on a break in between meetings. Something is better than nothing!

Mealtime Mindfulness

As an Iowa farm girl, I grew up eating meat and potatoes. I have to make a conscious effort to eat more greens, and I’ve learned to love salad. It’s a great way to eat a balanced diet with dark greens, a little fresh fruit plus lean protein and a little healthy fat from the dressing.

Meal planning is key. I don’t believe in depriving myself of anything, so I must control my portions.

I do best staying on track when I remember to pack healthy snacks for mid-morning and mid-afternoon. I try to keep a stash of good snacks in my computer bag, my purse and my car. I’ve learned to count out 17 to 20 almonds or break a protein bar in half. I’ve been known to buy hard-boiled eggs at convenience stores. I also stopped drinking sodas and drink more water. I start my day by fueling up with either a protein shake or an omelet. I try to eat a salad for lunch.

My friend Jen Schweigert, who owns SNAP Fitness in Platteville and competes in triathlons, says your body will crave more veggies if you eat more veggies. She encourages her clients to incorporate veggies into their breakfast, but I’m still a work in progress on that one!

Go-to Family Meals

I love to cook once and eat twice! As a working mom of two active teenagers, I quite often put supper in the crockpot before I leave home in the morning.

One of my family’s favorite meals is shredded chicken tacos. Because I raise my own broilers – or meat birds – we always have whole chickens in the freezer.

The beauty of these recipes is that leftovers easily become do-overs, also affectionately known as “round two recipes.” Leftover chicken taco meat works well for chicken enchiladas or chicken enchilada soup!