Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Cold Blast

I got up this morning and climbed into my boots and blue jeans. As I headed out to catch my horse in the cold and drizzly morning, I saw a rainbow that extended from the mountain, to the barn ahead of me. I thought about how truly blessed we are, to live at the end of the rainbow.

I watched their breath rise, as the horses ate their grain, waiting to be saddled. The warm and familiar smells of the barn comforted me, as I pulled my gloves on. We loaded 8 horses in the trailer, and set off for the corner of the ranch, to bring in a pasture full of weanlings to be processed again.

We unloaded and stepped astride, while the boss took the truck and trailer to the corrals, where we would all meet up.

We split up into pairs and spread out across the massive pasture, looking for calves. The grass, and sagebrush was belly deep and more in some places. I spotted a couple of calves to the west of me, and Wimpy and I headed that way to bump them down to the main herd. I spotted a large group of about 60 or so in the sage brush, so we trotted across a couple of irrigation ditches and up above and beyond them to push them down. After awhile, another rider met up with me, and eventually all the calves were together in one group. I looked up and saw it storming on the snow-covered peaks above us, as a cold brisk wind bit at my ears. Pulling my silk scarf up around my face, we fell into an easy gait beside the herd. Coaxing, and pushing and bumping and guiding, we finally brought about 850 head into the corrals.

One calf was badly bloated, his stomach distended on both sides until he looked like a balloon in the cartoon, Shrek. We left him behind and two of the cowboys went back with the horse trailer and picked him up. A sharp knife was plunged behind his ribs to relieve the build up of gas, and you could see his visible relief. A drastic measure, to be sure, as there is always a danger of infection, but without the treatment, death is certain, as the heart and lungs are increasingly compressed. The body is truly an amazing thing, and it is certain that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The fact that living creatures can recover from such drastic insult to their body, is nothing short of miraculous to me, and it happens every day.

The morning went quickly, as we ran calves thru the chute, separating those who might be getting sick, or weak, to bring back and place in the pasture behind our house, where they can be kept under closer supervision.

Two cowboys ran the hydraulic headgate, giving vaccines, and antibiotics when needed, two more worked the chute pushing calves forward and another worked the alley and brought ten at a time to push through the chutes. I worked the corral, bringing 40-50 head at a time to keep the alley full. During the slow moments, I drank in the beauty around me. The valley we live in is large, and is surrounded by mountains. To the west is the 10,000 ft fault block, whose peaks are covered with snow year round. To the south, looms a range only slightly smaller, and to the east are the windswept and barren hills that connect to the Sheephead Range. The cloud formations here are unique, as are our weather patterns. Unlike the rest of Oregon, we get little annual rainfall. Most of our water comes from the snow runoff on the mountains above, and springs below. The water here never leaves the valley.

Heavy dark clouds covered most of the sky and bright shafts of light broke through here and there like windows to heaven. When the sun hit us, we could immediately feel its warmth, but the moments were brief and we relied on our heavy gloves and jackets to keep us warm. Tipping our heads to allow the brims of our hats to keep the worst of the bitter wind off of our faces, the crew kept up the rhythm of the work, with professionalism, competency, and the easy going camaraderie that are characteristic of the American Cowboy.

What a privilege to live among them.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Off Day

We are processing cattle at the ranch again this weekend. I got up at the crack of dawn and got ready, but my pain level was high enough I really didn’t want to ride. The boss said they are not short handed today because the kids all made it home, so here I am.

I left the gap under the gate open last night so the pups could patrol. They spent a good deal of the day patrolling and exploring somewhere on the 250,000 acres, but were back in the corral early, so I decided to trust them to their own instincts. I have heard almost no coyotes this year near our pasture, and haven’t seen a single one, which is a pretty significant thing.  They seem to be doing their job.

When I stepped out on the back porch, I could see them far off, socializing with the calves. I whistled and dropped to my knee with my arms out, which is their specific invitation to come to me. Either they don’t see well, or they are not sure what their responses should be yet, because if I don’t do this, they stand and stare at me stupidly. As soon as I go down to my knee, they come running full steam, ducking under gates and through fences to throw themselves at my feet, paws up, in the most enthusiastic display of submission ever witnessed.

They then proceeded to escort me out to feed the two bottle calves and let the sheep and goats out, with Cider, (my Golden Retriever) busily seeking the perfect cowpie or other item for me to throw. They are very tolerant of Cider, and he is the ONLY other dog allowed in the pastures where they guard. Cider is constantly at my side, so the pups know he is okay, and they submit to his authority still, as an adult dog. I am afraid this may not ALWAYS be the case, so he is not allowed to eat near them or behave in any way that they might feel invades their territorial rights.

As the goats and sheep filed out the gate, the pups happily went with them and disappeared into the tall grass of the large pasture. Cider and I went the other direction and strolled a ways, checking on the condition of various calves as we went. Cider went blasting past me, gleefully wagging his entire body, as he bounded back and forth with a large stick in his mouth. He was making fierce and terrible growling noises that I never heard him make before, all the while, clearly beside himself with joy. It wasn’t too long before the growling made sense. It was not a stick, he had discovered, but one of the puppie’s treasures…an old deer leg they had dragged home from somewhere on the ranch. Cider clearly envisioned himself as a mighty hunter, and was so excited, he couldn’t stop long enough to hand it off for me to throw for him. His fierce growling continued, when suddenly I heard a crashing through the brush. Without warning and with breathtaking speed, the Maremmas charged in, from out of nowhere, to confront the danger. Equally as stunned as myself, Cider spit the deer leg out at my feet and stared wide eyed at the pups. They visibly relaxed when they saw the situation, and I took the deer leg myself and packed it home, to prevent any bickering about ownership. 

It seems me and the critters are in pretty capable hands. They escorted us back to the main gate, then continued their patrol. Last I saw, they were moving from group to group touching noses with the calves, who now respond with nonchalance to their protective presence.

Maybe tomorrow, I too, can go to work.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Whats next?

It got down to well below freezing last nite. The garden is now a thing of the past, which bothers the pups more than me, since they had more fun running through it, than I did watering and weeding it.
All the pasture animals need to be supplemented now, as most of the nutrition has leached out of the grass. The calves will be fed a mixture in huge tractor tires out on the range and the mother cows will be pushed back out to the desert to graze on white sage, until February Cow camp, when we bring them back. I shouldn’t say ‘we’…I mean…”they”, as last year I found it a tad chilly, staying in a trailer that was only 20 degrees F inside.
The outhouse with no door is not a big attraction for me either, in any weather.

The fruit drop, (apples, pears, apricots) is about gone, much to the dismay of Dolly & Emma, the milk cows. They were having a pretty good time waiting under the trees for the stuff to fall. The deer and coyotes didn’t get any this year, because those two worked like vacuum cleaners sucking them up as fast as they came down.

The goats, sheep and the two littlest orphan calves have been pretty good about coming in by themselves at night, from the big pasture where 150 of the 4000 weaned calves are, to get fed behind the chicken coop, where they like to sleep. The Maremma pups tuck them all in at night. I couldn’t find the sheep one evening, so I headed for the pasture gate, and Cletus started barking at me. He is usually really good about coming with me, but this time, he wouldn’t. He kept barking then turned and got himself thru a fence into another corral. Guess who was there? He brought the sheep back in while I wondered how he knew I was about to go looking for them. Awesome dogs.

 He seems to really like his job. Everyday, when I let the sheep and goats back out, Cletus does a head count, then goes thru the pasture counting calves, and each one has to get a ‘nose touch’ whether they want it or not. He’s kinda bossy that way.

Things are winding down. Soon it will be bird hunting season, and Thanksgiving and Christmas, and snow and wind and ice and soup weather. It’ll be a good time for baking breads again, and canning chicken stock…seems like my life is all about food. That’s why I like making the soap…its something I can do in the kitchen that DOESN’T make me FAT.

There have been a lot of improvements on the ranch this year, one of which was putting kitchenettes on the cabins, so the cowboys can cook for themselves. This means I won’t be feeding crew this year. I’ll have to find something else to do with my free time.

 Come January, the goats should ‘freshen’ (have their babies) and we will have dairy products again, although I will miss the heavy cream we get from the Jersey cows. It was nice being able to make our own butter, ice cream, sour cream, mozzarella and other cool and tasty stuff. That will have to wait to resume until next July or so, when they calve, but I should be able to do a few things with the goats milk.

Cider and I went out and did a fence check with the pups.. Of course, this meant me getting mobbed, as the sheep and goats come hurtling after me as soon as they notice I am out there. I try to sneak down the fence line, but my little ‘thundering herd’ spies me and comes a-running. I cringe everytime, expecting one of the sheep to smack into me from behind, which has happened in the past and sent me sprawling. They are very enthusiastic that way. It must be my ‘animal magnetism’…or maybe its because I have the lingering smell of the apple scented soap I made today. I prefer to think it is because they just like me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Black & White

Ranch life is colorful, no doubt. There are so many elements to it that city people never have the privilege to experience, but in spite of its color, the time and rhythm of life seems often suspended.

We still do things the old fashioned way for the most part. Work is still a 24/7 obligation, as cows, and horses have to eat, drink and be doctored, regardless of the time or day. Brandings here are still done the old fashioned way, by gathering a hundred or so pairs at a time, and roping, doctoring and checking calves throughout the summer. It’s a family affair, but neighbors often step in and participate, both because its fun, and through goodwill. Neighbors are still like that out here, even though the nearest are over 20 miles away. A big feed is always put on afterward, a little fellowship, then the work commences again.

Winter brings more serious chores. Food and water sometimes need to be provided, and the herd monitored for sickness or calving problems, even in a blizzard. Calves may need to be pulled, or rescued, fence fixed, pipes repaired.

Family and crew work together for their common benefit. Not out of a sense of duty, it is just a way of life and the right thing to do. Kids are up at 4:30 every morning, and work just like the adults.

The kids here could all pull a truck and trailer full of horses at 11 years old, drive tractor, backhoe, and the youngest daughter, now 15, was operating a huge excavator yesterday. These are the modern concessions.There are no couch potatoes or video game addicts here. Kids learn very quickly that if you say you are ‘bored’, that situation is bound to be corrected.

They possess more maturity than a lot of adults and a strong work ethic. Compassion and consideration are learned young, through working with the stock and each other. The family unit is strong and healthy.

Life holds lots of risk. Injury can come quickly and without warning, to both ranch hand, and livestock. Occasionally there are disagreements, but they are usually resolved quickly, without too much ado. There is a wild element to life, yet it is oddly peaceful and serene at the same time.

Designer clothing, fancy cars, the newest electronics hold no appeal, and no meaning in this setting. A good horse, saddle and rope are more important and satisfying. Most everything goes back into the operation of the ranch, not consumerism. Keeping the animals and the land healthy is top priority, both domestic and indigenous. The land here is shared with deer, antelope, a variety of birds and wild horses. There must be adequate grass and water for all, or the ranch itself will fail. Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land, not because it is stylish, but because they have to be. Their life and the future of their families depend on it.

The houses look pretty much the same as they did 50 or 100 yrs ago. Dogs congregate on the porch. There are no granite counters, no fancy floors. Everything is utilitarian and well worn. A pile of muddy and manure laden boots set by the doorway, along with jackets and hats, while stocking feet make their way to the long, homemade farm table, where an abundance of food is served buffet style.

With the exception of occasions when the kids go down to the hot springs at night, bedtime comes shortly after dark. Coyotes howl, owls hoot and there is an occasional barking of a dog and the lowing of cattle. The life and land settles, and with the breaking of dawn, the rhythm begins again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Creepy All Around! or... Fix Your OWN Dinner!!

Apologies to those who read this on my first blog in 2009. It just seems to be that time of year to remember the scary stuff.

Many, many years ago, too many to confess to, I was driving down the mountain road from the family ranch, into the little town of Tehachapi. As I came around a corner, to my horror, there on the ground in front of me, blocking my lane, was a TARANTULA!!

I may as well clue the reader, here, that nothing with more than 4 legs belongs on my planet. (Butterflies don't count, they hide their legs) I don't even care if it has NO legs, but not more than 4...but... I digress...

I had our 4 WD truck, so I took careful aim, and lined up my driver's side tires to dispatch my dismay, as I looked in the rearview mirror, he was still making his way up the road toward my house at the ranch!!!!! It took a very long time, and countless attempts to achieve my objective. Thankfully, no one came around the blind corner while I was doing so.

You can imagine my horror, when we moved to our new house closer to town and found that we were in a MIGRATIONAL PATH!!! What are these things doing in the mountains, anyway?? I thought they were exiled to the desert along with scorpions and sidewinders...
We discovered this bit of news after returning from an overnight ski trip, to find one crawling up the side of the house towards my bedroom window. THe babysitter made an extra $10 to kill it and dismember it, insuring that it would not revive and continue its trek.

I always said, if one made it inside the house, there would be a FOR SALE sign up that day and the family could find me in a motel. That said, I had to lock down my house for 2 weeks every year in the fall, and avoid working in the yard.

One fine day, I was working colts and had just finished up with a little mare I had in training. I rode down to the barn, turned around in the alleyway, and was about to step down and unsaddle her...when, as luck would have it, I looked up and saw that a rather large tarantula had stepped into the doorway, and had us pinned in the barn!! My first instinct was to gallop back out, but as everyone knows, these suckers can jump, and I just knew it was gonna land on my leg. So there we sat, waiting, waiting, I was unable to dismount, as I wanted to present as large and intimidating a presence as possible. Spurs at the ready, I was prepared to make a run for it as a last resort, should it become aggressive and make  a move in my direction. Instead, it looked me over, then slowly, and impudently, sashayed up to my arena. Yes, sashayed.

I took that opportunity to slam the mare in a stall, saddle and all, and race for my tractor. I had formulated a plan in my head, to run over it with the massive tires, but thankfully, I realized the flaw in said plan before suffering the likely consequences. I looked at the very large, deep tread of the tractor tires, and realized that the odds were very high of picking her up between the grooves (I am relatively certain it was a female, as she was hissing at me... I couldn't actually HEAR her hiss...but i sensed it) and flinging her into my face. I had to resort to plan B.

My only hope now, was to smash her with the loader. I slowly rolled my way up into the arena, positioned the hydraulic bucket over her, while she insolently stopped and looked at me, and I grabbed the lever and SLAM!!!! I let the bucket hit the ground full force! ( I reasoned that if a hydraulic bucket is driven into the ground at full speed, and a husband isn't there to see it, no harm done)

To my horror, she was still standing there, looking at me!!! I had MISSED!!!

It took 45 minutes for the tractor to run out of diesel, and for me to accept that I have NO depth perception. I took the risk and leapt from my seat and raced to the phone to tell Randyman of the danger, knowing he would see the urgency and come to my rescue, but instead, he told me to pick up one of the guys working for him at the time. The guy had no car, so I had to go get him. As I turned the corner on our dirt road, I looked down into the arena and could see the abandoned tractor, and that spider (yes, it was HUGE and I could see it from the road) galloping in my direction with a hideous leer on its face-ish, looking part.
When I got back, she was in hiding (probably delivering a bunch of evil babies). It cost Randyman over $40 in employee compensation looking for her. He should have come himself and allowed me to keep an eye on her. She was never apprehended.

This was not an isolated incident. One time, while video taping a riding lesson, my student nearly ripped a horse's face off, as she stopped short of a tarantula that had made its way into the arena. I (barefooted...can't help it, if I don't need spurs, I don't need shoes...) began pedaling backwards to get out of its reach (the camera was on ZOOM) only to trip over a pole and discover yet ANOTHER ONE!
I don't know who unsaddled the horse that day, or who helped the kid became irrelevant to me, as I was hyperventilating in the house. BTW... I still can't watch that video, the thing looks like King Kong on film.

Another time, one popped up thru a hole in the floor of my feedroom, sending me screaming off into the morning. Hours later, aforementioned employee earned an additional $40 for finding the WRONG spider, in one of my feedsacks. I picked up additional feed and kept it at the house until I was satisfied that the feedroom was once again unoccupied.

The most intriguing incident, was the time Randyman was framing for a roof over some of my large paddocks. The front gate was a wood covered pipe panel, 8' high, that would eventually support the front of the eave. As I was feeding (again, barefoot) another tarantula leaped out from behind the wall to attack me. I don't know how I got up on top of that panel, but it took a tractor bucket to get me down again. And Randyman got to fix his own dinner, because it was no laughing matter.

Randyman's Famous Doghouse Supper

Take one large stainless steel pot.
Cover bottom with a thin layer of oil.
(of the pot, stupid...what would be the point otherwise?)
Place 3 popcorn kernels inside, and place on medium high heat.

When kernels explode out onto floor and counter, quickly dump in another 1/4 cup of kernels and slam on the lid.
Shake a couple of times until popping noises diminish.
Pour into bowl, season to taste and enjoy your own company.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Who's Chicken??

Years ago, while living on the family ranch, there was a very large, very old turkey. We had about 30 laying hens, but this big turkey ran loose all over the ranch.

On more than one occasion he would not allow people out of their vehicles. On a daily basis, my 4-year-old son would exit the house wielding a large stick to fend the turkey off while he gathered the eggs. I was somewhat impressed that he would go, considering they stood eye to eye. My ex husband always thought it was funny, to watch the turkey chasing me and/or the kids around.

When I was still a teenager, I camped out on the downstairs of a ‘house’ (using the term loosely) built on the side of a hill, using lumber taken off the roof of a century old farmhouse, which had a rock and whatever else was handy on the corners to level it up. It shook when you walked thru. There was a rooster that hung around, and, being summer, I was clad in shorts and a bathing suit top, on a particular day. The rooster ‘crowed’ at me, and I good-naturedly crowed back at him. Apparently, I had crowed something highly offensive, because the next thing I knew, that rooster had his spurs hooked into my waist and was beating me with his wings and pecking at me.

The ‘house’ I was sleeping in, had no doors or windows, as nothing was square. I just climbed in a sleeping bag and was grateful to be up off the ground and away from the bugs. Next morning, there was a calf, a lamb, and a few chickens that had joined me…and at the foot of my bag, there was that darned rooster! Although he thought he had me effectively pinned, I managed to suck myself down and roll towards the door, effectively dislodging him and foiling his evil plan for the morning.

The guy and his wife, who lived in the ‘upstairs’ of the house, which consisted of a narrow stairway ending at a claw-leg, cast iron bathtub at the top, which had been placed by throwing a rope thru the upstairs window and me dallying up with my horse to pull it and that’s as far as it got, owned the rooster. Their upstairs chamber was pretty much the same as my downstairs, except they had a bathtub, and I had a doorway. I was working’ for them for the summer, and in turn, I got 3 meals a day of fried zucchini, and some kind of heavy material, that she called bread, but I think she used Portland cement dust for flour. We almost never got any meat. I remember one morning the fellow saying the rooster had done something offensive to him and that night, we had a wholesome dinner of some tough, rubbery chicken for dinner. I don’t know what that bird did, but I bet it had something to do with crowing.

One day, my ex-husband bet me $2 that he could hypnotize a chicken. He had learned it from some nice Oakie folk, who made the worlds best biscuits and gravy, and was gonna prove to me that a chicken had enough concentration to be hypnotized. He told me you just take their beak and draw 2 lines in the ground with it, or some such nonsense. He captured himself a hen, and proceeded to bend over and show me how it worked. Just about that time, a utility crew truck was driving by, just in time to witness that turkey go into action, as he apparently decided that my ex was now looking more his size. He leaped onto his back and started flapping, and pecking, and scratching. I never saw such an angry bird, such highly amused utility technicians, nor such a silly looking man, bent over with a chicken in his hands and a turkey on his back.

Later that day, my son Matt, and I were down around the henhouse, when we saw his dad sneak behind a building with the 12 ga. shotgun. The turkey was clueless-ly poking around the other side of the building, when suddenly, with a large BOOM! The hapless bird was dispatched. I think back in amazement, that this same turkey hunter, who hid behind a building, later made the S.W.A.T. team…but then, I guess that is one of the methods they use, so I suppose he was a natural.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Repeat/Road Crew

My apologies to those who read this before on my blogsite, but due to Randyman's attempt to remove his finger* yesterday, and his trip with the boss today (I did inspection and packed a ton of bandaging material along with his candybars) , I am up at 4 a.m. and remembering why I hate getting up at this hour! ...which brought me to memory lane, and back to this blog. So here it is again! (Ya think I can hold a grudge??)
Breakfast for the Road Crew

We live 110 miles from the nearest small town. There is a county road that goes past the ranch. Its all dirt and gravel, but has to be maintained, so the county has worked out a deal with the boss to set up a rock crusher on the ranch for the summer. Now rather than have a buncha guys drive 2 hours each way to and from work, they also worked out a deal where a road crew stays here from Mon thru Thurs. They have to be fed. This is just one of the many jobs that the boss’ wife takes on. I don’t envy her, as they eat both breakfast and dinner REAL early, and its very inconvenient, with all the work that already has to be done on a ranch, which lasts from sun up to sun down.

I got up at 4 a.m. in the morning. Yes!! I DID say FOUR IN THE MORNING!! feed the road crew that is staying here.
The boss’ wife told me that she and boss would both be gone. So...let me tell you how well that went! I am NOT a morning person.

We had just returned from a stressful 2 day shopping trip that nite, and I was exhausted. (grocery shopping is 5 hours away, and combined with errands, it runs about 20-24 hours a trip. This time we stayed overnight...frivolous, I know.)

I was informed that there were 6 guys who had to be out the door by 5 a.m. She said she had gravy in the fridge, and all I had to do was make biscuits, ham, eggs, tea and coffee. She would leave her sourdough biscuit recipe on the counter.

Sooooo in order to function well enough to find the boss’ house at 4 a.m., I had to start wakin up by 3 a.m. I threw on a sweatshirt and some bluejeans, and rode the 4 wheeler, (quietly of course)up to the house. I took off my shoes, and jacket, found that the boss’ wife had stoked the woodstove before leaving and it was a cool 110 degrees or so, inside the house. I opened the glass french back doors, hoping to find oxygen, and the wind slammed them back against the house. No glass broke, so I left it open, then started chasing the napkins and the recipe around the house where the wind was blowing them...I shut the stinking door...then realized, I had no GLASSES and could not READ the recipe! So back to OUR house to find reading glasses in the dark, and beg Scottie and Cider, our astute watchdogs, to stop barking at me and SHUT UP.

Return to boss’ house.

Read recipe at 4:30ish and note that it says, "shape rolls, and allow to rise til double. Bake 30 minutes"
Talk myself through panic attack.
Drive back to house for biscuit recipe that can actually BE made before tomorrow afternoon.
Lock Zoey, the ankle biting Jack Russell, in boss' back bedroom and tell her to SHUT UP.

Did you know that if you put the water in the coffee machine,  before you go to dump the old grounds and replace them...there will be hot water all over the counter and the freezer when you get back?

Dry off counter and freezer.

Attempt to locate measuring cups and spoons for biscuit recipe.
Drive back to house for measuring cups and spoons.
Tell Coon and Bubba, 2 of the 5 cowdogs,to SHUT UP.

Did you know that the boss’ coffee measure is a totally different size and shape, and I am unable to tell how many are needed to make a cup of coffee in their machine?

Begin putting ingredients for biscuits in bowl, bravely attempting to do math in head, in early morning, to double recipe.

Drive to house for lard and cream of tartar.
Threaten dogs, again.

Make second pot of coffee, with different amount of grounds than first, hoping one of them is right.

Note there is no pastry cutter at boss’ house, REFUSE to drive home a 5th time in the pitch dark at OBSCENE hour when real people should NEVER  be up cooking, or eating!

Cut out biscuits with bottom of glass as there are no biscuit cutters. Note they are the size of frisbees.

Place biscuits in oven at 4:58 noting they take 18 min to bake.

Start making scrambled eggs, as there is no way I can do eggs to order for all these guys without totally screwing them up. I am a pancake girl.

Did you know that the boss’ wife sometimes leaves tinfoil in the oven with stuff that has spilled over on it from baking something else, and that it can fill the entire house with smoke within minutes?

Note that eggs are not cooking, and assume electric stoves don't cook as hot, so turn dial up to high.

Find 6 gallon bowl of gravy in fridge and wonder if there is a FURNITURE DOLLY to move it to the sink so I can pour some in bowl and heat it in microwave.
Note that once electric stove gets hot, eggs burn very quickly and stove does not cool down again for two days.

Reread note from boss’ wife that cryptically says "tea-2 bags"

Pour water in tea pot and plug it in.
Wonder what the heck I am supposed to do with the tea bags.
Tell 'sissy-man, road-crew, tea drinker' to put a bag in his cup. Make note as he puts 2 bags in a carafe and pours hot water in.
Wonder who the heck drinks tea anyway, and recall seeing  boss drink it. Reserve smart-ass comment.

Serve breakfast at 5:30, informing victims there are no guarantees.
Note with pleasure, all survive and take extra biscuits with them. Perhaps to eat, or maybe to run thru rock crusher. Who cares? I’m going back to bed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Real Man

Have no doubt that Randyman is a tough hombre, with many skills.

Its weaning time at the ranch and the 4000 cows and calves tend to be kind of tough on a fence, as they try to get back together again. The cowboys were busy, so Randyman and I took a couple of 4-wheelers and ran the 3 miles down to the processing corrals to check the weaning fence. Scottie came too, as he goes wherever Randyman does. He got tired trying to keep up though, so, as is his habit, he ran in front of the 4-wheeler forcing us to stop, and jumped on the back to hitch a ride. Randyman spent the next couple of hours fixing fence and checking for holes. I didn’t last that long.

Today, Randyman is working on something mechanical. He wandered into the house to show me his finger. He had run it into a ‘chop saw’ that he was cutting pipe with. The wound went clear to the bone. As I gagged a little and cleared my throat, he went and washed it off.

Living 110 miles from the nearest emergency room, and 5 hours from one we would actually GO to if we were dying, I searched around and found the Lidocaine we had around for dehorning goats. I also rounded up the curved needles for stitching leather and suturing. A jar of Nitrofurazone horse medicine, which is anti-bacterial, some vet wrap, Telfa pads and tape, were added to my arsenal.

Upon exiting the bathroom, my ever so brave and handsome knight in shining armor, to the great chagrin of my medical genius, settled for a good bandaging, and headed back to work.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Landings

Its fall and that is the time that all the cattle on the ranch go thru processing, then weaning begins. I missed the processing, but had a good day on the 2nd day of the weaning process, so me and Wimpy rode out with #5 kid and started gathering cattle out of the very large field where they had pushed about 400 pair in the night before.

We got the bunch started on the west side of the irrigation ditch, and crossed over to push the bigger group to the North, towards the corrals. Three other riders met up with us on the other side, and Wimpy and I went back across the ditch and continued with the first group of cows. Things went pretty well, we got them all thru the gates, and headed down thru the ‘trap’. When it came time for them to pass thru another gate, the bulls all turned back and the whole herd started going backwards, with me, #5 and a cowboy all trying to get them turned back around, while boss and another cowboy held fast behind…finally they all started milling the right direction again and we made it to the corrals in good time.

We spent the rest of the morning sorting out the bulls, cows and calves into different corrals, the bulls were loaded on a truck and driven to the other end of the ranch, the cows were pushed out into a big pasture, and the calves were then run thru the chutes and vaccinated, and smaller or sickly calves were separated off to go to a pasture behind our house, while the others stayed in a field next to the cows, to be weaned. All in all, it was a great day.

This morning, we were up and at ‘em again early. I left a sore-footed Wimpy behind and grabbed one of my other horses, Tuco, who was feeling a wee bit fresh. Not to worry, he has never bucked in his life, but he needs riding anyway, as he is very “green”. He’s a tad herdbound and can be a little obnoxious when I ride away from the other horses to do our ‘circle’,but he has always been a pretty good boy, my biggest problem has been in sagebrush, where he often decides to go his own direction and we have some disagreements and near ‘parting of the ways”, but nothing ever too serious.

Our nephew is one of the cowboys here now, so he and I proceeded to ride down and start moving pairs toward the corral again. On the way, we were talking about getting bucked off, and how we land, getting hung in a stirrup, etc. He mentioned he always lands on his head (which he does) and I always land on my left side, which is worrisome, as I have broken those ribs and punctured the same lung twice. But that wasn’t my problem today as Tuco doesn’t buck, and said nephew was riding his really broke horse, ‘Bob’.

We long trotted about a mile and nephew went to push the cows on the West side, while I rode across the ditch and started kicking back the bigger group. Things were NOT going smoothly. His cows came across, two other riders had made it to the far side and the cows were wanting to all go the wrong way. I started back toward the fence where he and Bob were, as he trotted across another drainage ditch to turn some errant ones in the right direction. Tuco, being ‘herd bound’, tried to bolt, so I set him down hard. I saw Bob falter in the ditch, and nephew sailed over the ‘dashboard’ headfirst. I watched from afar, as he got up, remounted and continued. Tuco and I turned back around and went to head off some cows that were trying to head West again when all of a sudden Tuco started bucking…not out of playfulness, or being fresh, but with determination to get rid of me.
I don’t remember much about landing. I know I counted 3 jumps, as I consciously made sure NOT to jab him with a spur, as I pulled his head up…I also remember my foot being caught in the stirrup, and being pulled by the ‘come along’ on my reins before they came loose, and Tuco headed back for the ranch at top speed, minus a stirrup, bit, bridle and rider.

I had slammed down on my left side again, and was pulled about 6 feet before the long end of my mecate (a type of rein) came loose. I popped up to my feet, to reassure everyone I had not broken anything, and not long after, a 4 wheeler came to my rescue. Tuco, in the meantime, covered about a mile and a half of pasture in record time, and the Irrigator had found him and fashioned a halter out of what was left of my mecate and tied him to the fence.

Once we caught up to him, I saw that the left stirrup was gone, and the saddle fender was torn in half, my bridle was not only broken, but the metal ring of the snaffle bit was busted and was now a straight bar. Both pieces of equipment were rendered unusable without expensive repair. 

The good news is, nothing important was broke…apparently, not even my horse.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Country Folk

Farm Folk

Last spring we purchased 2 Nubian Does (goats for those who are not familiar) and were told they “might” be bred. With 150-day gestation, we should have been “goat poor” by August, but the girls were still as slender as runway models, so I went to work looking for a suitable buck, or ‘billygoat’. I don’t know ‘who’ Billy was, but it’s my guess he had less than impressive hygiene”.

Call after call failed to produce the desired ‘y’ chromosome goat. One lady suggested a few more places I could call, and both had large goat operations.

My first call was never returned, but the second number, I caught someone at home. I inquired about purchasing a buck and she said yes, she did have a few for $150. She asked how many does we had, and I told her…two.

Her response was

“well, that’s just silly to buy a buck for just two does.”

I explained we lived 2 hours from town and she said
“well, why don’t you just borrow one, and bring him back when you are done? What do you want? A meat goat, dairy? Oh, you can decide which one you want to take when you get here. We’ll be gone in the morning loading sheep, but we’ll be back by noon…sure, I can hold back a couple of ewes for you.”

We had yet to meet this woman!!
We found their ranch, introduced ourselves at the appointed time and she recommended an Oberhasli buck and had two nice ewes for us to buy. She and her husband loaded them in our trailer and we were on our way.

Upon arriving home, we put the sheep and goats in a stall next to Cletus, who was recovering from his 5-month birthday surprise…a neutering.

The 100-year old barn is divided into 3 sections. The center, which is about 2/3 of the space, contains the tack closets and feed bunks for the horses that are brought in for saddling. The right side of the barn has ‘sheep stalls’ and the left is storage.

Buck goats have an aroma that is powerful beyond description and only pleasant if you are a she-goat in heat. The next morning, Jakes perfume had permeated the entire barn. Cowboys were gagging and retching next door and asking

 “What have you GOT in there? Something DEAD??”

Later that day, Jake, his harem, the sheep and the pups were relocated to the big pasture behind our place, with the milk cows.

I remained ever vigilant, as cougars, bobcats and coyotes previously wiped out 80% of the boss’ 200 lambs in one season, discouraging them from raising any more. That is the reason we got the Maremma pups, to protect them, but they are still just pups, and not ready to take on predators completely yet. In spite of the solid fencing on our side, and the size and scope of the pasture, I always knew where they all were, because we could smell Jake.

No bobcats, coyotes or cougars have showed up this year. Not sure if it was because of the pups, or if they are as disgusted by Jake’s aroma as we are.

After all the romancing had taken place, and we were relatively sure the goats were bred, we drove the 2 ½ hours back to the ladies ranch to return her goat.

I gave her a bar of homemade soap as a small token of our appreciation, and we had a great conversation about soap making. She mentioned they had to leave and haul a ram to Vale. I asked if she knew of anyone with a ram for sale, that I could breed to the two sheep we had purchased from her. Twenty minutes later, there was a beautiful ram in our trailer and she told us
“Be sure to keep him thru at least 2 cycles to make sure they are bred. Sometimes these sheep will fool you. And don’t bend over in front of him, keep your eyes on him, if he tries to ram you, you just take a club to him!! I don’t want him getting mean.”

Our relationship was now an accumulated 45 minutes, if you include the phone call.

As we pulled out, she said
“I’m sure sorry we have to rush off like this, but we have a 4 hour drive to pick up hay and drop off the other ram. Maybe when you bring him back, we can sit and have some coffee and visit!”

I just love country folk!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Workin' Hard

Being on a ranch means hard work. There is no room for slackers.

It is clearly a stressful and challenging life. Even for the animals.