Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The temperatures have dropped, the green grass is gone and replaced with wheaten stalks. Trees and fences are dressed with ice crystals and our breath hangs in the frost heavy air. The ranch hands are decked out with their silk "wild rags" and thick gloves and jackets, while the animals all have an extra layer of thick hair and hopefully, an extra layer of fat to help them work their way through the long winter ahead.

Having gone to California to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday, it seems winter crept in the backdoor at the ranch. While we were chuckling at unforgettable toddler phrases like "Guess what everybody??? I have to go poop!!!" delivered with gleeful self satisfaction, and causing Randyman to flee to the far end of the house, the temperatures dipped to sub zero with the wind chill bringing it close to minus 20's degree Farenheit. Our ranch family thoughtfully dragged all the goats, sheep, orphan calves and my two Jersey milk cows into the barn under heatlamps. Many animals can withstand the harsh temperatures, but my milk cows are overly thin from feeding calves too long and too well, and the goats...well...they are just sissies.

This of course, means I returned home to a mountain of poop that had to be shoveled out of the barn. If there is one thing cows can do, its produce poop. Lots of it.  After shoveling for a couple of hours, my back was painfully suggesting I go lay down for a bit.  Knowing that there was no way I would be able to keep Dollymoo cow in for the winter, I found an old horse blanket which fit her perfectly. She had no objections to my putting it on her, indeed, she was as tickled as a teen in her first prom dress, so I led her to her pasture and turned her loose with a ration of hay and grain. I returned to get EmmaLou cow, her yearling heifer, and put her out as well. I turned Emma loose and she went bucking and cavorting across the pasture until she saw Dolly. She came to a screeching halt and began running backwards, as much as a cow is able to. She snorted and spooked and kept turning her head back at Dolly like she just couldn't believe what she was seeing. Dolly had sure enough gotten so cold, she'd turned blue all over. At least that was Emma's perception. It took some time before she dared approach her mother in that dark blue frock. Once resigned to the fact it was still Dolly, she attempted to wipe the outfit off of her with her tongue, to no avail.

I brought the sheep and goats back to the house and bedded  down their shelters with straw, and checked on the 'polar bears'. ( the 2 Maremma puppies, now 8 months old and over 100 lb) They are for sure fluffier than when we left, probably because of the cold. The snow doesn't seem to affect them at all.
  I returned to the house for a much needed rest for my back, only to find the bed already occupied.
"Visions of grandeur in his sleep"

Apparently, Cider did not sleep well in California.

So, instead I resumed making soap and reminisced about our family visit, and the loved ones we had to leave behind until next trip.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taking the "Punk" out of Punkin Pie

Food! What a topic to write about. I hope this doesn't cause anyone to lose their appetite. It's that time of year again and as I rock back on my porch and reminisce, it makes me think of the many pumpkin pies I have known, and how they have affected my life. Lets take a little trip down memory lane, shall we?

My earliest clear memory of actually making a pumpkin pie, was at my mother's. She had some of those really nifty, decorative pie plates with the nice picture and the recipe written right on the bottom, as part of the ceramic glaze. You know the ones I am talking about.

Mom happily went about making her picture perfect crust, whistling and humming and being all 'homey' as we were going to do this together. She took extra special care to make the edges especially beautiful, as this was Thanksgiving and therefore it deserved special effort. The next 15 minutes found her fussing back and forth, no longer humming OR whistling...but muttering to herself, and clearly frustrated. I could no longer stand the suspense and asked her what was wrong. She responded,

"I CANNOT find that darn recipe!!!Where ON EARTH did i put it???"

She was not happy with my obvious response and I inherited the pie plate. We had store bought pie that year.

Fast forward and you will see me in my own kitchen, cooking with my two young boys. 

"We are going to have a great time cooking Thanksgiving dinner together this year. What fun! What togetherness! What memories!"
I multi-task around the kitchen handling everything else, as I talk them thru how to make dessert. I am pretty sure it was Cody's job to put the sugar in the pie. His older brother Matt, agrees with me on this. What Cody did instead, is beyond me, but suffice it to say, that neither dogs, nor chickens will eat a pumpkin pie with no sugar...and your family sure as heck won't either!!

A year goes by. Another pumpkin pie sits on the table, center stage. We are pressuring Cody to eat his vegetables. He doesn't like vegetables, so we inform him that yes, indeed, he DOES like vegetables, because pumpkin is in fact, a squash!! Cody stops eating pumpkin pie for several years.

Time flies by, the boys have grown up and moved out on their own, but are coming for dinner. Cody sends me a recipe and asks me to PLEASE make this "2 layer, No-bake Pumpkin Pie" made with cream cheese and jello pudding....it has to be good cuz Bill Cosby is on the ad with it! He is willing to give squash another try, so out of great affection for my son, and concern for his health and well being, I assemble the pie and set it in the fridge overnite.

Dinner goes off without a hitch, and I happily bring out the two pies I have made. My own favorite homemade Dutch Apple, and Cody's choice, Bill Cosby's No-bake Pumpkin Pie.
Cody graciously volunteers to cut and serve, as I go about getting the whipping cream. I hear him proclaim

"MOM! You could make a fortune selling this pie!"

I beam happily, and with my best Betty Crocker-Marie Callendar-Martha Stewart toothy grin, I ask him

"It's that good?"

I step around the corner to see the entire family huddled over the pie plate...as I look on in horror, the uncut portion of the pie oozes forward and fills in the space recently vacated by the piece that Cody just removed.

"No, its not! But you'd never have to make another one, because it grows back!"

And that, boys and girls, is how we began the tradition of having Cheesecake at our holiday table.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Victor

I had somewhat of a rough start this morning. Having a condition that often prevents me from sleeping, I had spent most of the night sitting up in the living room. Once I was finally able to sleep, I returned to the bedroom to find my spot had been taken. I begged and cajoled to no avail, so I crawled to the center of the bed and slept the next 2 hours until morning.

As we all know, chores can become a little more challenging in the winter.
What is interesting in my case is that they are the same chores I had in the summer, although there is a slight difference. I have to hand feed the critters now, as the pasture is kaput.

The engaging personalities of our animals make what should be a relatively simple task, extremely complicated. In other words, they are very greedy.

Dolly, the senior Jersey cow, injured her leg. We aren’t sure what happened but the vet thinks she tore the cartilege in her hock. I suspect fat little EmmaLou had something to do with it, as she likes to motor around bucking and kicking at everyone and everything, in the blush of her youth. I am hoping that calving next summer will encourage her to behave a little more ladylike and suitable for a milk cow.

Dolly and Emma must now be confined to the small pasture by our house, which previously was ruled by the goats and sheep, who have been evicted to the large corral and the big 20 acre pasture, which is known as the “Sheep pasture” but actually is full of 350 of the smallest weaner calves.
There are more pastures on this ranch than I can count. The names of them have persevered throughout generations, and can be confusing. The “Horse pasture” is full of willows and brush, and houses nothing but quail and pheasant. The “Cornfield” is where the horses live. The “Barn Pasture” is a very large pasture below the Cornfield, the “Elk Fields” no longer have elk, and the “Airport Field” would be suicide to land in. I could go on and on, as this is 250,000 acres, but I think I have made my point.
Handfeeding the critters is risky, to say the least. The 2 orphan calves equal me in weight, and tend to push on both sides of me as I fight my way to the bottle hangers to feed them. This is preferable to them sucking off one of my kneecaps, I suppose. The goats and sheep like to play interference, and block my way with their bodies, while stepping on my feet, and successfully knocking any armloads of hay or buckets of grain out of my arms. I have outsmarted them. We have parked our large stock trailer in the corral, and hidden hay in the front of it. I jump in the back and close the door behind me. I then open the middle door to access the hay and I squeeze a little out the slat on the sides. The sheep and goats race around and around the trailer in circles, desperate to the the first at the 'table' and not knowing which side I will squeeze the hay through. It always gives me a chuckle. After they all dive into the handful I tossed them, I run and throw a big flake into the tub behind the trailer and make good my escape.

I collect the calf bottles and head to the house. I then grab the cow buckets off of the back porch and put Dolly and Emma’s grain in them.

This is where it gets tricky.

I have to carry the buckets out to where the 800 lb bale of hay sits. I set them on top of it, and pitchfork some hay thru the pipe panel to where Dolly and Emma wait impatiently. I then must wrestle a leadrope onto Emma’s halter and drag her around the corner to a small feeder. After tying her securely, I then put Dolly’s bucket out for her, and lastly pour Emma’s bit of grain into the feeder. This prevents Emma from stealing her mothers grain, and keeps Dolly from having to move so much on her injured leg.

At some point, I will have to drive the old feed truck for Randyman, as he throws 2400 lb of oat hay off the back for the calves in the pasture. This is always an exciting endeavor, as we never know if I will get stuck in a ditch…kill the battery, or just pop the clutch several times, knocking him off the flatbed. Life on a ranch holds so much excitement and suspense.

One of the calves is, sadly, dying, likely from pneumonia. We have actually had a very good year, as we have only lost 2 out of the 350 that were isolated for extra care. That is out of the 4000 calves that were born on the ranch this year.

The Maremma pups have taken charge of the 350, and do perimeter checks and nose counts daily. They are very fond of the calves, but, as guardian dogs, they would instinctively eat a dead one, (or try their best to do so) in order to avoid the carcass attracting predators. They are all about protection, and predator control. I went to bring them in so the cowboys could dispose of the calf. Guardian dogs historically find anything messing with their charges objectionable, so I wanted to make sure they were not in the way.

I hollered and yelled and searched, and finally spotted them at the bottom of the pasture. I called their names once more, and they headed my way. Being Livestock Guardian Dogs, they are self directed, so of course, were in no big hurry to get to me, so a little horseplay was in order on the trip. After knocking each other over several times, they finally arrived. As I was leading them back to the house, Cletus took a right hand turn and started counting calves again. No amount of coaxing would bring them back my direction. Clearly, he was on a mission.

I saw both pups stop on the other side of a group of calves and peer intently at the ground. Clearly their protective instinct had kicked into high gear. Something dangerous and daring was about to take place. The suspense was building and I was about to scream.
Suddenly, they went into action. Dirt was flying, both dogs were deadly serious and Cletus pounced, all 100 lb of him and came up with a quarter sized gopher in his mouth.

I am not sure a gopher falls into the predator category, but you would not convince Cletus of this. He pranced along, his chest puffed out and the plume of his tail held high, convinced that he was a vicious killer. He glanced across the field of calves, satisfied in the knowledge he had certainly saved them from a gruesome death. He climbed up on a high spot to survey the rest of his kingdom. 

Bruno followed me back to the house, leaving the great, and semi-white hunter to savor his victory.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Processing Food

It’s been a busy week, here at the ranch. Processing is in full swing and the days are COLD and frosty. Everyone is clad in longjohns, silk scarves, gloves and heavy coats. The ground crew is trying to keep warm, but the vet that is here has one arm exposed as he has to preg check all 4000 cows, and you can’t vaccinate or place ear tags with gloves on, so all the guys have slightly blue fingers.

The riders have a better job for about 2% of the time, as we are at least moving around some, pushing cows up the alleyway and into the chutes for a couple of minutes every 15 or so. The waiting period is spent with your back to the wind, aware of how cold your cheeks (all 4) can get.

There are 21 extra people here to help out, as this is a really big job that must be done in time to get the cows out to the desert before the really bad storms hit. That means the boss’ wife has to prepare meals for 28 people 3x a day, as everyone has to stay at the ranch. This far from anywhere, there is nowhere else to stay, so we cleaned up 7 bunkhouses. These are mostly just  small rock cabins with a couple of beds. There is a common bathroom at the “Bullpen”. Our house has its own now, so we are kind of 'uptown'.
As I mentioned before, there is a large “Walk-In” on the ranch, containing several freezers and a walk-in refrigerator. I have also mentioned the boss has 5 kids, including a set of triplets. (yes, 14 yr ago this amazing woman had 5 children under 3 years old, 110 miles from town with no help…and still cooked for branding and processing crews. Feel pampered now?)

The years of feeding crew, cleaning bunkhouses, and various other things has helped her to develop some rather bad habits. I became aware of this as I stayed home today (an ingenious plan, as its warmer inside) to help her.

The walk-in is on the end of the old “cookhouse” which me and Randyman have sort of revamped and made into a home, as with the boss having 5 kids at home to work, the crews are not as big as they used to be, so there is not the need for a cookhouse. They feed 28 people in their small farmhouse, where the table seats 8 people, and somehow it always works. We are just all very polite folks, I think. Hungry, but polite.

It is about, I would guess, a city block uphill to the boss’ house. A long way to carry things, but one feels silly not walking, as you can see it from here. So…the boss’ wife asked me…could you run down to the walk-in and grab the salad you made?

On with the coat and gloves and boots, and off I go. I locate the cabbage salad I had put in to marinate a couple days ago and trek back up to the house. I take off my boots, coat, and gloves, and pour a cup of coffee. Her step-mom and sister in law have both come a distance to help out this week. No sooner do I pour my coffee, than we need sourcream. Back on with the jacket, the boots and the gloves. Then we need cheese. I comply. After several more trips, the chili is done, the cornbread is perfect, the salads are set out, and 2 big pans of dessert sit on the counter. I slog down my cold coffee, and consider how many miles the kids put on daily, going back and forth to the walk-in, and we wait. The boss said they would be in for lunch at noon. It is now 1 pm.

I am sent to the walk-in on yet another errand, this time for a Dr Pepper. I take the 4-wheeler. I run into Randyman on the way to the house and tell him lunch is gonna be at the boss’ house. We head up there and all wait a little longer. We sample the chili. We test the cornbread. We help ourselves to a little salad. Randyman fixes himself a spread and eats so he can get back to work as he is feeding calves today. I know, because I had to help. After several strong boosts he was able to launch my carcass up into the cab of a very large, old, green John Deer tractor so I could pull around a huge feed wagon with an auger in it (a Randy invention) which augers 800 lb bales of hay out the side into the pasture in flakes. But it’s not working right, because this is oat hay and it binds up. So Randyman is in the wagon, trying to push the hay thru whilst I sit up front in the tractor…speeding through the pasture at ½ mph, rolling through ditches, certain the calves won’t move, that I will run over them, that Randyman fell into the auger in back and I can’t see him, and debating whether to stop and check (risking the shame of his rolling his eyes at me), or just keep going until I run thru the fences and out of diesel, as he is not there to tell me where to go. It is an exhausting dilemma, which ended in Randyman climbing up into the cab and driving back with me on his knee. (he has very strong knees.)

The roofing crew, which is here to put a new roof on the 100 yr old, 3-story tall barn, is heading back to civilization until after Thanksgiving. They need a check first. They sample some chili and cornbread waiting for the boss. After all, it is AFTER 1 pm now. We are feeling badly for the crew at the processing chutes. Its cold out and they have been working for 6 hours so far, without a break of any kind. There are cows that were put in the corrals last nite that MUST be processed today, so they don't lack food or water. We bring them in late in the afternoon, the day before, but we don't like to keep them in the corrals longer than is necessary. We can check and  process close to 1000 head a day, but yesterday’s helicopter ride to the emergency room slowed things down a tad.

We begin planning dinner and tomorrows meals. A few more trips to the walk-in and we have assessed what is needed. The clock finally strikes 6 pm, its dark, and here they come. The crew is here for lunch…right on time, as usual.

Randyman and I have come home so I could fix him dinner. Its 8 pm before I get through. There is a knock on the door. It’s the boss. He stopped to say howdy. He’d been sent to the walk-in.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazing Grace

Thanksgiving will be really special this year, and we started early.

They have been processing the cows down at the chutes, and as sometimes happens, one of them flipped herself over and was caught and wedged upside-down. Trying to steady her, one of the triplets reached in thru the panel, while his dad got the big tractor to chain her and pull her out. Not realizing his son was still steadying the chain he pulled the tractor forward. His son was caught under the tire and pinned between the tractor and the metal chute.

Being 110 miles from the nearest small town, a couple of neighbors have wisely qualified as EMT’s and show up in emergency situations such as this. An ambulance was dispatched from town, 2 hours away, and Lifeflight helicopters were called. The helicopter response was that they would not fly in, because the weather yesterday on this side of Oregon was too dangerous to do so. The 911 dispatcher continued to call every helicopter in the state of Oregon until one agreed to risk coming and medivac-ed the 16 year old off of the ranch to a hospital which is 5 hours away by car. The EMTs were fairly certain his pelvis had been broken and warned of possible internal bleeding. He was in tremendous pain.

Work continued on the ranch, but prayers were continually offered up on his behalf. It was 5 hours before we got word. The medical teams were amazed and commented that they have never, ever seen a patient that was run over by a tractor that didn’t, at the very least, have broken bones. The only injuries sustained were deep internal bruising, and he was up and walking on his own. They returned home late last night.

Although there is still an urgency to get the processing done and keep the ranch running on schedule, the experience lent perspective to what is really important, and a glimpse into the way things could have been.

Its comforting to know there is One to thank, for a positive outcome. I think we will be offering our thanks and gratitude for a long time, for the grace in sparing this young man. Sometimes, even tragedy can be used to show us how much we have to be grateful for.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Food-The Real Deal

I guess it is a matter of perspective.  Some people ask us,
“How do you do it? Being so far from “civilization” with no Walmart, no Lowe’s, no fast food?”
Living 5 hours from grocery shopping is, to me, a blessing. I remember living in the city, and swinging thru the local drive-thru for almost inedible fare, and going out on a regular basis for ‘heart-attack-on-a-plate” meals at restaurants because we were either too tired, or too stressed, or too late getting home from work to fix anything else.

I’ve never been suited to the city lifestyle, so it wasn’t a difficult adjustment when we came to work and live at the ranch, here in SE Oregon. There are 4 freezers and a walk-in refrigerator at the end of our house, which hold beef, venison and pork for the ranch crew.  We also have 2 freezers in our quarters, and 2 refrigerators. One small room is all pantry shelves and we buy staples in bulk, as everything is made from scratch. We work 7 days a week here, often long hours, but the stress levels are almost 0. It is a natural rhythm that goes on and there is more hilarity found in the things of life here than one could possibly imagine.

Being a ‘homebody’ who detests long drives, I have compromised with Randyman and we go to town 5 hours away and shop every 3 months, instead of every 6, which would be my choice. The only thing we run out of is lettuce, which cannot be stored more than a couple of weeks. Although, with a Vacuumsaver, Jarsealer and Large Mason jars, even that can be extended.

A small flock provides fresh large eggs with dark yolks that stand at attention and taste infinitely better than commercial eggs, which are usually 3 weeks old or so before they even hit the stores, and besides who couldn’t appreciate the little murmuring sounds of contented hens, and the crowing of a rooster at dawn? It’s music to my ears.

Our little Jersey cows give creamy, amazing milk. Fresh raw milk is much different than commercial pasteurized. I left a gallon in the fridge for 2 months as a science experiment and instead of rotting it just clabbered. Although pasteurization is a necessary evil for commercial milk, clean raw milk tends to become other products, long before rotting. I notice after 1 week of not drinking raw, that my pain levels rise. The natural cortisone in raw milk must provide enough to take the edge off.
Heavy cream skimmed off the top after 24 hours provides us with things like homemade ice cream, sour cream, and homemade butter that is so rich and dark yellow that even with its added food coloring, commercial butter looks pale alongside. Mozzarella, ricotta, feta, cheddars, and other cheeses can be made at home, although hard cheese production has been delayed here until next season. Yogurt is a staple, as it is easily made and is another good use of the extra milk we get, and the remainder is often ‘clabbered’ and made into cottage cheese, or fed to the chickens and pups, who consider it a delicacy. A little milk or cream is always put in the freezer for making homemade soap, which is a luxury I would never give up.

There is incredible satisfaction that comes from going out in the pasture and calling the milk cows in. They are spoiled and Dolly, with her little twisted face bearing a resemblance to Stallone, begs shamefully and EmmaLou, her newly bred heifer, bucks and plays and runs in circles more like a horse than a cow.
Milking time is not to be under appreciated. I’ll sit in the barn with the smell of fresh straw, rubbing her shoulder and leaning my forehead against her flank as she happily munches on her hay and grain while my surge-milker does the hard work for me. Lots of daydreaming, and expressions of thankfulness occur in this setting. As I am active with many other chores on the ranch, I don’t milk daily. We keep 2 orphan calves with her all the time, and they ‘relief’ milk for me, so its only necessary for me to milk her when we need it, or it is convenient. With 4000 head of beef cows on the ranch, there is no shortage of orphans here. I raised 26 of them on a bottle this year, as I only allow my cow to foster 2 at a time.

A milk cow is the most efficient and productive animal on the ranch. She not only provides us with an abundance of dairy products, but she also provides meat thru her calves, and outstanding fertilizer for my garden. She feeds nearly every critter on the place in one way or another, and does it by eating grass…a renewable resource. I am grateful and lucky to have a cow.

The calves provide a lot of entertainment, as well as exasperation.  They clamor for their bottles, often settling for a knee or an elbow while I fight my way thru the mob to the bottle hangers and return to the house covered with calf spit and hickeys.

The boss buys pigs every year at the fair, and has them cut and wrapped. We are fortunate that the butcher does a good job smoking the bacons and hams. Butchering used to be done on the ranch, and all the equipment necessary to doing it is still here, but it’s a specialized skill and time consuming, so we hire it out. Being the one who usually has to cut and wrap our own deer every year, I appreciate it. Randyman wants to raise some of his own pigs, as he is fond of them. I don’t mind, as long as I don’t have to go in with them.

The sheep and goats are social and even affectionate with me, as they are a very small herd and get lots of individual attention. The two Maremma guardian pups were bought for their protection from predators, but have brought a lot of laughter and affection to our summer as well. I now look forward to walking the perimeter of the 20-acre pasture behind our house (the smallest on the 250,000 acre ranch, most being 200-1500 acres in size) while my little “thundering herd” of goats, sheep, orphan calves and pups follow my every move. If there was any laughter stuck in me, it manages to bubble out somewhere along these walks. Nothing is worse than being laughter-constipated. It’s a proven fact, and I highly recommend the treatment. The bible says “laughter is like a medicine” and so it is.

Freezer space is at a premium, so vegetables are mostly canned, and bread is homemade, as is soup and broth. I am not an ‘organic’ or even a health fanatic, although I know we have reaped the benefits from eating real food, and the difference in flavor and quality have made a lifetime advocate out of me.

 There ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tastes Like Chicken

The boss and his wife were gone so I was busy for a couple of days pitching in. There is a construction crew from across the state that has come to put a new roof on the 100 yr old barn along with a few other projects, and like anyone else working here, has to stay on the ranch and be fed, as we are 110 miles from the nearest small town. With the processing of 4000 cows beginning next week, there will be a LOT of people coming to help out as ground crew, vet, and truck drivers will be here, and all need to be housed and fed. So feeding the construction crew for a couple of days, and cleaning some of the cabins fell to me. I am also trying to get soaps made and some kind of order in our own house, so you can tell the inside from the outside. That’s a pretty tall order, for me.

When everyone was late coming back home, I began to worry. Not the cowboys, boss and his wife, nor the ranch kids, made it home by late that evening, so I bugged Randyman into calling. The possibility that ALL 3 truckloads of them had mechanical breakdowns and had no cellphone service were slim…but I knew “I” could manage it, so it was still within the realm of possibility. He called the boss’ wife and she answered, much to my relief. She was driving a backhoe at one of the other ranches, in the dark…and they would be headed home soon. Shortly after, the kids called to tell us, she had told them to let us know they were okay. They had stopped to pick up 3 hogs at the butchers before heading home from school, so all in my Oregon world was well. We were to ride out and move the yearling calves the next morning, early. (riding here is ALWAYS early…)

Before the sun rose, I jumped into my jeans and boots while Randyman made breakfast for the crew. I mentioned how the Maremma pups must have drug home a fresh coyote kill, or another piece of deer carcass the hunters had left by the ranch ‘dump’, as they both looked busy through the window, out by the animal pen.

I made calf bottles and headed out to feed the orphan calves. As I walked toward the pen, Bruno the smaller of the pups at 70 lb, continually bumped me from behind. When he has something he wants to bring to my attention, he jumps up and hits me in the back with both of his front feet. Not hard enough to knock me off balance, but much like slapping someone in the back of the head. Each time I turn to look at him, he sits primly, making eye contact, as if to communicate his thoughts, but being the denser of the two, I never have a clue what he is saying. I neared the pen, when I noted Bruno was getting VERY excited, and Cletus was gleefully tearing into his prize. It was not a chunk of deer, as suspected, but a naked chicken. Feathers were everywhere. Cider, my big, red, critter-loving, frustrated mother of a male-dog, rushed forward with interest to see what had happened, as Cletus began to growl possessively. Dropping the bottles, I jerked Cletus back by the collar, pushed Cider the other way with my foot, and picked up the poor naked, lifeless hen, who had lost her head and apparently jumped the fence onto Cletus’ side…her first and last bad decision.

I picked her up by the legs, determined not to reward bad behavior by letting him have his prize, and marched her to the ‘burn’ barrels out front, where we burn our trash. This of course, took me through the house, past the table where the construction crew was trying to eat breakfast, and out the front door. Not much was said. I returned to feed the calves their bottles and turn the other critters out to graze. I had failed to commend Bruno for his tattling, as I had seen him thru the window, partaking the fruits of the dastardly deed with Cletus earlier that morning, so I was not buying his story of innocence.

Coming back to the house with the empty bottles, I discovered Bruno lying in the garden…with a beak protruding where his mouth should be. I reached in and grabbed the part of the chicken that had been missing and went once more past the breakfasting crew, who watched in puzzled silence as I marched past. So begins another day on the ranch.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Little Break

There was fog in the valley this morning. That is a rare occurrence.

Things are a little crazy right now. I need to have Christmas presents finished and 100 bars of soap wrapped and ready to deliver before Thanksgiving this year. Processing of the cows starts tomorrow, so today is about the only day I have to really get on things. Add to the mix that I am feeding crew right now and had to get some cabins ready for the people that are coming to help.

There just was no way to keep going without a break, so me and the 'boys' went for a walk around the pasture behind the house.

The boys found the "kiddie pool"

There was a very happy cow who serenaded us, as we stopped to rest for a moment.

There was a lot of horseplay going on, as the 'polar bears' practiced their guarding and attack skills...

...poor Cletus. He is always the victim of Bruno's sneak attacks.


...the goats jumped into the 'cereal bowl' in a shocking display of bad manners...

...and of course, Cider made it back with the same toy he left with, an hour earlier.

 We made it back home and it was  'back to the old grind'. But its all worth it, because riding starts again tomorrow.