Thursday, January 1, 2015

B.B.B. (Blessed Beyond Belief)

We spent Christmas in California and got to see most of our family. The scenery between the ranch and Southern CA is incredibly varied.

Nevada sunrise

Nevada daytime

Northern California

 On the trip down, we stopped overnight and stayed with my brother and had dinner with my niece and her family. He told us a story of parking his car at a casino, then not being able to find it when he came back from a trip. After hours of looking, he realized he was at a different casino. I'm glad to know it's genetic and I'm not just weird all by myself.
In California, we attended a family party in honor of my 80 yr old mother in law who is young at heart, had lunch with a sister and Christmas with my oldest son, his family and TheMan's family. I got to make cookies with one of my grandaughters, and watch two of them make a gingerbred house. Kinley said she really likes the taste of the 'glue'.  Strangely enough, one afternoon, the house roof was missing all of its candy on the side Kinley could reach. Abby's painstaking work was all for naught. Each morning Abby would wake me up to tell me what "Chippy" their elf on a shelf had been up to the night before and read me notes from him. She was very sad to hear on Christmas Eve that he was leaving and would not be back until next year. She wrote him a letter and said "You are welcome to visit ANY time".  Not only is she extremely polite, but very hospitable for a 6 year old! It was a really good trip. 

My family who were so incredibly kind to me, while we were down there, have really put themselves out on my behalf.
A few weeks after my leg went so bad on me and I was unable to do much to care for myself, my wrist flared up. I was unable to brush or braid my very long hair and I felt uber-icky so one afternoon I begged TheMan to just cut it off. He obliged me, grabbed a scissor and whacked off close to 13 inches of hair. It left me with a much more comfortable, if not truly ugly, do.  One of my much appreciated gifts was a hair appt to have it repaired so I now am sporting a very short, very comfortable haircut that I can live with and it's no big deal if I can't brush it out much. What a relief! TheMan was somewhat insulted that I didn't fully appreciate his lopsided whack job, but I let him know I did appreciate the effort and there are truly other qualities he possesses that make him valuable.

Kinley, our 3 yr old granddaughter, has not seen us much, as we all live so far apart, so she has always been a bit standoffish. This trip, on her home turf and so soon after their visit here, helped break the ice. She is a puzzle wizard and while doing puzzles on my laptop with me, she continually told me "I like Papa Randy. Do you like Papa Randy? I really, really like Papa Randy…a LOT"   She spent as much time as possible either sitting next to him, or on his lap. I think she might be warming up to him.

 Our DIL  got me an appointment with a surgeon she knows from the hospital she works at. I was amazed as she spoke to him on Friday and we saw him first thing Monday morning. I’ve never gotten in to see any DR that fast, so clearly, he thinks as highly of her as we do. It looks like I will be having surgery, FINALLY, on this leg and will be spending 2 months in California recuperating. About a month will be in rehab at the hospital and the following month, I’ll be at their home. It’s a pretty big deal to open your home to someone, even a relative, (maybe even ESPECIALLY a relative) for such a long time and the fact that I am not able to be much help makes it an even bigger sacrifice on their part. I appreciate them so much and I look forward to having more time to see them and my other son and his family as well. It is a huge gift to me and one that is going to be life changing, considering the problems my leg has been causing and the damage that has resulted. It’s common these days to hear people talk about ‘in-law’ problems, but I find that to be way off the mark. I have both a wonderful mother in law and amazing daughter in laws that I am so very grateful for. Knowing these young women are my sons' treasures is like music to my heart. The boys done good.

This also means I won’t see much of our friend, Afif, this year when he comes to visit. It will be a quick “hi and goodbye”.  We got up early in the morning and 14 hours later were back at the ranch. I’m trying to soak in ‘home’ while I am here, getting in some dog hugs and watching ducks, while I am able, as it is going to be difficult being away for so long, even though I love the people I’ll be with. I’ve just always been a homebody. I’m gonna really miss TheMan as well, as we have never been separated like this before. He’s already missed a lot of work on my behalf so after the surgery, he’ll be headed home to Oregon without me for 2 months. There are a number of old friends, and new friends I've yet to meet in person who might visit and the good news is, I should be back on my feet by April and then I can start on my 2015 bucket list! By the way, thank you to ALL of you who have prayed for me, encouraged me and supported me through this very difficult year. I cannot thank you enough and if I failed to get thank you cards out, it is partially due to being so far from town and so immobile, but you have my deepest gratitude.

 I have a few concerns about the sheep, as no one will be here to lamb them, so if there are any problems, there won't be any help for them. I'll just have to hope and pray that these ewes do as well as last year and don't need any intervention. The dogs will at least be here to protect them all.

This coming year I hope to raise more guinea fowl and some heritage turkeys. I also hope to acquire an English Shepherd puppy that will try to fill the enormous gap in my heart and home left by Cider’s passing. I’ll be training it to do both service dog work for me as well as help me to bring in the sheep/chickens/milk cow when they aren’t being cooperative. Mostly, I will have a constant companion again so it won’t be so lonely here. With luck, Sushimoo might still be in milk or I will have to wait until August again, my ducks will be laying regularly and I can enjoy watching their antics while I garden. I have big plans for when this leg is better.

Even though they are outside working dogs, I missed the Maremmas terribly while I was gone, so that too, will be hard. TheMan brings them inside for a few minutes once every couple of weeks or so, to visit with me. Mr Potamus is very bossy and manages to nudge Bruno out of the way where I cannot reach him. He is offended when I try to pet them both at the same time. Bruno, being the easy going guy he is, goes and plants himself on his favorite corner of the couch and snoozes. Meanwhile, Mr Potamus eases his way across my lap, rubbing his head on my chest and making pitifully content little moaning noises while I rub his ears. He is amazingly light for a dog who weighs 120 lb. Both dogs are able to do this, to somehow slither across my lap, keeping most all their weight on their back legs, so I can get a huge hug in and enjoy burying my face and hands in their thick winter coats.

 After Potamus is satisfied with the attention, he lets TheMan know he is ready to go back to work and tend the sheep. As he heads out the back door, Bruno gets up, stops by my chair and patiently waits for me to put my face down so he can give me a nose touch and receive a hug before he too, heads out the door. He waits patiently, for however long it takes me to comply, which I find really endearing. These guys have a way of letting you know how much they love and are devoted to you, without ever being needy. Sometimes, I wish I was a sheep so I could hang out with them more. 

I am painfully low on soap and won't be able to ship any when I am down south for obvious reasons. I may be able to make the Whipped Tallow and Wax Tarts however, we'll just have to wait and see how things progress. Otherwise the store will be closed for awhile.

Here is hoping you all have a fabulous year coming and are BBB. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Handful of Blessing...

Although this past year has been one of unusual pain and loss, it is good to ponder the blessings that were received, as well.

To begin with, this spring we had an incredibly good lamb crop.

It was really satisfying to watch them play and grow and watch how well the Maremmas took care of them, even snuggling at night and sleeping with Captain Marbles, who had been rejected by his mother.
For awhile, he thought he was a Livestock Guardian Lamb…

My big brother came to visit for the first time ever (along with my awesome niece and her super son) and the wild horses surrounded us, making for a really memorable, and surreal experience.

Then, when spring FINALLY arrived, the flowers came back to  brighten up my life…

We raised a successful crop of meatie chickens and a half dozen replacement layers for the coop...

As well as some ducks, which are not only a lot of fun to watch, but will supply us with some great eggs as well.

My old horse, Mister, is still feeling his oats, which is a blessing. I didn't get to ride much, but I hope and pray next year that will be different and I can wear out both horses on a fairly regular basis...

SushiMoo had her first calf, a heifer, and turned out to be a really good mama as well as a surprisingly sweet milk cow. Another big blessing is that she does not require the copious amounts of feed her mother did, or to either be milked out twice a day or have nurse calves on her to prevent mastitis because of high production. She makes just enough to feed her calf and ourselves, if I was to milk her regularly, but this year, obvioiusly, I could not, so other than a handful of times we milked her for our own use, she has been just hanging out with her friends, being a mama cow. 

But, those couple of milkings did supply us with some delicious raw milk and homemade ice cream.

The Bosch mixer allows me to make a lot more bread at a time, and my new slicer makes slicing it up a breeze...

We had a bumper crop of fruit this year, which allowed me to put up a lot of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, apricot and peach preserves...

and enough peaches to can tons of fruit and peach pie filling...

My youngest son and his family came for their annual visit, in spite of my immobility, which went a long way towards helping me feel better.

Abby promptly came in the house and wrote this on the kitchen chalk board:

The girls picked bouquets for me daily, as I was, and still am, confined to the house. They brightened up every table in the place with these...

and this kind lady, my daughter in law's mom, came for the first, and we hope not the last, time this year. She was kind enough to help out doing all the things I SHOULD have been doing, like cooking and dishes, etc. She made it easier for the little one to get used to us, as she only see us 3 days a year, but knows this Grammy intimately. What a neat lady she is.

and grandbaby #14 has arrived safely...

In spite of the pain, there has been much to be thankful for. We were not promised an easy road in this life, only that it would be worth it…and indeed, it is.

*P.S. Ranch Rustics store will be closed from Dec16-30th, as we are going out of state for  Christmas this year, so if you need to order, please get your order in BEFORE that. Thanks and God bless you all and I pray you have a Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Day2014

Thanksgiving Day. A day we set aside nationally to corporately thank the Lord for His many blessings as a nation. Much like Christmas, and Easter, it has become secularized and means little more to most folk than a day off and time to spend with family. For those of us who are privileged to know the God of the Bible on a personal level, (as it is common to know all ABOUT Him, without knowing Him at all) it is a day for a heart full of gratitude and bellies full of feasting. It was always my favorite day of the year, as I remember my large family gathering around the oak table as a child, with much laughter and the tinkle of the fine crystal Mom so rarely put out.
As an adult, I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner just a couple of weeks before my first son, Matt, was born. I had no idea how to do it, and was 12 hours from my Mother’s help, so I had to just wing it. We had company from Reno and elsewhere, but neither of the wives had ever fixed a turkey and were afraid to try, so I wasn’t too intimidated. The results were satisfactory and over the years our traditions were perfected. Now the kids are in another state and Randyman and I are here alone, in the little stone house on the ranch, every year, every holiday. Sometimes I make a turkey with all the fixin’s but this year, due to my leg problems, we will just roast a chicken in the clay pot. As I reminisce I remember fondly the many Thanksgivings spent alone with my boys. Their dad always wanted the overtime so he would take extra shifts as a deputy Sheriff and the boys and I would play board games, ride horses, and do jigsaw puzzles, then eat ourselves silly on the dinner I would have spent days in the making, that was on the table. Their dad would either show up, or get leftovers. They were good times and I cherish the memories as they grew up much too fast and I still feel as though my arms are now empty. I suppose once a mother has held her child on her lap, the need for that feeling never goes away, no matter how old they are.

One thing that is constant, since we moved here, is that I am sincerely grateful for all the Lord has done in my life. This year has been one of extreme pain and loss, yet, I would walk through it again if it made the difference between walking with Him or going back to life when I did not know Him. He is worth it and I also know He will use my pain and loss, that it will not be wasted.

I am also thankful for all of you out there, my readers, FB friends and online friends I will never meet on this side of heaven. You have encouraged me and lifted me up, when I felt so isolated out here without much human contact. Your comments, letters and offerings have been much appreciated.

I want to also say, I miss a couple of people out there, that used to cheer me with our conversations. L-x, Dx and Danile, I hope you have a fantastic day and continue to shine His light on all of those he sends to rub shoulders with you. I wish there was still a way to chat with you, but I guess all good things must come to an end. God bless you all, and your families and have a wonderful Thanksgiving today and always.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mid November 2014

Another hard day. Everyday brings choices. We try to make the best ones we can, some have been good, some bad, some glorious and some painful. I'm grateful for a man who has a heart not just for me, but for our animals. He's been a gentle rock for us to lean on and I wish I could show him how much he is appreciated. He is the best choice I ever made in my life. He's been more patient and kinder than I could ever ask anyone to be, as he has tended to not just our outdoor critters, but to me, in my infirmity and to my much loved Golden Retriever, Cider.

As many of you know, my dear and faithful Cider was failing. At 14 yr, he suddenly started aging and quickly went downhill. Keeping him with us as long as possible, he finally awoke early one morning whimpering and unable to get up. We made the difficult decision to put him down as we knew he was never going to get better and we did not want him to suffer. He kept his attention on me whenever he was wakeful, as I had given him a strong painkiller that made him drowsy as well as kept him comfortable for the long drive to the vet. As long as he could see me, he was quiet, but when I was not in his line of sight, he cried pitifully. He died with me holding his paw. My heart is so broken I wonder if it will ever mend. He was my best friend aside from TheMan, but unlike TheMan, he was my constant shadow, keeping me company everywhere I went, from the bathroom, to long rides across the ranch. His absence is felt far more deeply than I ever imagined it could and as this has been a difficult year already, with much pain and much loss, I am kind of reeling with it all.

On a happier note, as I have been wheelchair bound for over 2 months after a joint injection gone wrong, TheMan bought me a powerchair so I am no longer trapped in a recliner 24/7. I am able to do a lot more towards taking care of myself and am able to resume making the soy tarts, candles, body butter and with some difficulty, soaps for the online store. I've had to be creative about things, such as spot cleaning carpetsbut I have found that if I can get my sock off, I can spray the rug, use my toes to sort of agitate the carpet fibers, then pick up a rag with self same toes to blot up the spot. Works pretty good. Who knows what other skills I might discover?

The Maremmas' little flock has thinned down considerably, as the 9 lambs all went to sale and SushiMoo and her wild heifer are out with the ranch cattle for the winter, they’ve only the 4 ewes, ram and a handful of old chickens to care for. Coyote activity has been pretty heavy around here, though, so their job hasn’t actually gotten any easier. They’ve done a great job and since putting up the radio fence, they are content to stay within the boundaries we set for them, which makes me feel they are all much safer. I miss seeing them, as they are outside working and I am inside, waiting for surgery. I can occasionally catch a glimpse of my old horse, Mister, through the bathroom window, but it’s always brief.

The ducks are the main entertainment, as they are in the yard and I can sometimes see them through the window, splashing and playing in their water or grubbing for whatever they find in the lawn, even though its been below freezing for a week or more. The poor blind drake, Magoo, has been a pretty good sport as the others seem to find it amusing to ‘ditch’ him and run behind something impassable then quack at him to get him to run into stuff. Kids can be so cruel.
One of them has begun to lay eggs, so I am anxious to try them out.

I’m still awaiting word on when they can do the knee replacement for me as there have been some complications, but I am anxious as it means I will be walking again soon after and can resume my life.

We have a new grandbaby down south and hope to see family soon, but again, all depends on the Dr.‘s decision.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday. Hug your loved ones, both human and non as they are not with us here forever.

Visit the etsy store for Ranch Rustics soaps/candles/body butter. They make great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers, but order early, before inventory runs out! 



Saturday, October 25, 2014


To date I am still in a wheelchair and still unable to go outside, take pictures or basically go anywhere else in the house except where I am parked, because this old house is not handicap friendly. The doors are too narrow for the wheelchair to go through and the chair we have rented cannot make it over the thresholds well or across the grass or even the driveway here, so being outside is not an option. In addition to my leg problem, RA has been attacking my wrists, my right one in particular so even trying to type is very painful. I can't do the most basic of self care so there isn't much to write or share.

We are seeing another surgeon as the last one could not work me into his schedule until next MARCH. I'm hoping for surgery as soon as possible, but they tell me it could still take 6 to 8 weeks. That did little for my sense of peace. It's a long time to be imprisoned in this spot.

So, I will try to make the best of it, and I promise to come back and start writing as soon as I can walk again and there is good news and good stuff to share. Until then, thank you all for your support, your friendship and your prayers.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Best Medicine

I’m a ‘do-something’ kind of person. I don’t like sitting around and I don’t like being non-constructive. I don’t see this as a fault, but it must be, because once again God has stirred up my life and has me stretching my faith and focus back on Him.

I’ve been knocked flat again by this painful disease. I was doing so well, with a renewed hope in life, energy and enough function to do a few things that made my days bright and worth living. Then suddenly, for no reason, my leg blew up overnight. Painfully swollen and abnormally large, I called the rheumy and they set me up for an MRI.

After the tests, it basically came back as 7 PARAGRAPHS of what was wrong with all the soft tissue in my knee, such as missing cartilage, torn cartilage, torn cruciate ligament, and subsequent x rays showed the bone situation not much better. A knee cap that is almost non existent and a joint that is worn, bone on bone. It all has to be replaced. I’ve been living with it for awhile, but with chronic pain and auto immune disease you tend to push away whatever pain isn’t stopping you. It's stopping me now.

I had two end-of-the-year visits that were important to me coming up and wanted to be as mobile as possible. I submitted to an injection in my joint in spite of my phobia and fear, just because it was that important. Unfortunately, I am the one in a million that reacts to that particular injection. Two days later I was in the emergency  hospital, screaming in pain, panicked because there was no relief, while suffering undergoing a live guided effusion, where a large needle was put into my joint to extract what was causing the reaction. I can’t even begin to describe how awful that was.

I had minimal relief, but maximum hope as they had me on morphine and Percocet to try and get the pain under control, pain exacerbated by the additional trauma of the effusion...I actually had several hours of rest and relief before I was informed that due to ACA’s ‘new guidelines’ I was not eligible for hospitalization and was forcibly discharged. Things have not improved much, other than I don’t panic right now. I’m tied to a recliner with my leg up, constant ice packs on it, unable to perform the most menial task in self care. I’ve been told the effects usually only last a couple of days but we are going on 2 weeks now, without noticeable improvement. I cannot visit the sheep, SushiMoo, the chickens, or even go watch the ducks in the yard because I have to have the leg elevated at all times or the pain is excruciating. My only view is a blank TV screen and a small window that looks out on a rock wall. Not too stimulating.

TheMan, as usual, has been amazing. He comes home every 4-6 hours to push me into the bathroom via my new rollie-walker, or bring me pain pills or lemonade. He’s taking care of the animals and lets the Maremma’s in for awhile each night because he knows I need their attention and I can usually relieve a lot of the agonizing loneliness and frustration by returning the shamelessly affectionate Potamus hugs.

He’s had to fix our broken washing machine and do laundry, feed us both and try to keep things picked up because we have very special visitors coming and I am usually darting around planning menus and what fun things there might be with the kids. It’s hard to just let go and trust, and it must be really hard for him to try and do all he does, while working his regular 24/7 job here, while I pine away in the chair unable to assist with anything, anything at all. He sets his alarm at night to wake up and make sure I’ve taken my pain medication, trying to stay ahead of it, hoping we’ll win. I know both from past experience and from knowing the limitlessness of God’s power, that this could all turn around in the blink of an eye. I am holding out hope that is what will happen and I can watch my granddaughters when they first see our ducks, waggling their tails and squawking as they line up for their turn in the ‘pool’. I draw on memories of past visits.

I want to see their faces when the Maremma’s come to greet them as they never seem to forget them from year to year. 

I long to see them giggle and pet on Captain Marbles when his curiosity gets to be too much and to see if SushiMoo can replace our dear Emma in their hearts.

 I feel laughter bubbling up in my chest as I visualize them trying to negotiate the meatie chick’s area while the fat, happy birds mug them, hoping for a handout.

 All this and so much more, but I also am trying to prepare myself to accept not getting better, and not being able to get up. My counterpart, the girls’ other grandma, will be coming too and that will surely ease things, as she is a precious, jolly woman who will help me, if necessary, being my hands and feet. She already plays this role as she lives closeby to them and we are so far away we only get to see them once or twice a year. She has loved them for me, and made my son’s family complete, even though we are absent. I know it is going to be a great time despite my current disability, because she loves to laugh. I am looking forward to my time just being around here as we try to navigate this week together. I want to see my kids and grandkids. I want them to have fun. I want this trip to be memorable because they had such a good time. Even if my role is nothing but observer.

 I am forever grateful for what she brings into their lives, especially because I can’t. Maybe that is what this lesson is about. Can’t. I hate the word and hate the idea of what it represents. But clearly, there are things I can’t do. Many. Hundreds. Thousands even. Nothing is really in my power, so I have to lean on the One who can and ask Him to see to it that the love I have for them will be expressed to them someway, even without my presence. Through life, through opportunity, through others, through Himself.

Pretty much as He has been doing for me, loving me through TheMan, our family, our ranch family and even my online family. During this same period, a Celebration of Life for my Sister in law will be going on down south. She was the only family member with this same disease (well almost the same. I guess being so type "A" I had to add complications to mine) We lost her over Easter. She was pretty much a role model of living this nightmare with courage and grace, with a heart for others that always grew bigger than her own suffering. I regret that I cannot be there for her memorial, but if anyone understands, it would be her. The time withour living family here is not to be taken lightly and every minute we are given to share with them is priceless.

Though right now it feels that everything has been taken, much is given. Let me not forget that, once I am restored…which I hope is very, very soon. 

I will see part of my family in just a couple more days, and that, is going to be the best medicine.

PS  Please pray for a wheelchair for me during this visit. The chances are I will still not be able to stand, but a real wheelchair would at least allow me into the kitchen to help out and to the back deck where I can at least see them all from afar...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Taking the Good with the Bad-Or a Spoonful of Brandy helps the Medicine Go Down...

It's been a tough year and this month was no exception.

Most of the month has been spent with my leg up as my knee has been painfully swollen from an auto-immune attack. Never the less, good things have come.

There has been some bounty from the garden. Lots of blackberries are in the freezer and corn, patty pan, yellow crookneck and zucchini squash has been a staple of my diet lately.

Sushi doesn't make much milk, but she's a good mama and I don't have to worry about putting another calf on her because she neither makes more than her calf can handle, nor does she need copious amounts of feed to sustain herself. What little milk I have gotten from her has been wonderful and much appreciated.

Due to health issues, EmmaLouMoo will be leaving the ranch. I have shed many tears over this, but there is nothing to be done for her. She has been a good friend and served us well, providing us with both diary products and beef for the freezer. I will miss her greatly.

Some sunflowers have come up. I put in a couple of different kinds this year and I like the variety. One has just a fringe of petals and the other looks like a big pom pom. Unfortunately, the wind knocked it over the same night it broke the two largest branches off of my peach tree.

I still am going to get a bumper crop of peaches, however. In spite of thinning fruit all summer, there are more peaches on the tree than I will probably know what to do with, but I plan to put up pie filling, jams, syrup and sliced peaches for the winter. I'm very happy to have them.

The ducklings have grown a LOT and are having a great time running around the back yard. They spend every evening debugging the lawn and it never ceases to amuse me the way they do everything in a little line, talking all the while. It looks as though 3 of the 4 Khaki Campbells which I got for eggs, are hens and the fourth is a drake. He is also blind, so goes by the name of "Magoo". The other four ducks I'm not sure of yet.

Standing in line for the bath tub…

 The meaties have grown enough to come out of the brooder and are also enjoying running around the backyard, playing in the tall bushes and catching bugs. They are energetic and healthy, unlike so many of the CornishX that folks raise in pens or small areas. Ours only get a bit of grow ration for breakfast and dinner and have to fend for themselves the rest of the day. We always process at 8 weeks and most of our broilers are 6 lb in the freezer.

The Breakfast Buffet

It's been great to have the Maremmas back at work. They have been busy trying to re-establish boundaries that the predators dare not cross. For now that covers about 40 acres instead of the couple of miles they used to patrol and control. After the BAD trapper (we also have a good trapper but this guy was NOT) injured Potamus by trapping where he was told absolutely  not to, I've pretty much lost faith in people, period. Between that and the wolves moving this way which put them in peril, I've decided we need to have complete control over where the dogs can go, so for now, the radio fence is allowing them to move from pasture to pasture where they need to be to protect the sheep, calves and our poultry. Once the wolves get to the ranch, greater changes will have to be made, because I won't risk their lives over  a handful of sheep when there is little chance they would survive an encounter.

And more bad news this morning….

It is with a heavy heart we regret to inform you that Sourdough Sam passed away due to neglect during my long bout with knee trouble this past month. 

He has willed his humble abode to his youngest heir, Sammy, who has come out of dry freezer storage and is currently being rehydrated. 

Small giggling bubbles from Sammy this morning, hoping for full blown belly laughs by Mon. RIP Sam. Your memory and all the joy you gave and pounds you donated to my hips via my lips, will live on.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, a purchase from Sam's favorite store, Ranch Rustics would be appreciated.

Have a great weekend, keep smiling, and God bless you!