Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Helpers

guarding calves last October
Spring might actually show up one of these days, so I have been trying to turn my attention to the house, in my “spare time”.
Being on a ranch, the closest pavement is about 40 or so miles away, and the dust is pretty much constant here. Lack of humidity causes wood to dry out and crack. Once again, our distance from town necessitated a home remedy for furniture cleaner and conditioner, and once again, the internet came to the rescue.

I had some cheaper cooking oils that have been sitting in the pantry for quite some time now. Mixing a cup of that with ½ cup of bottled lemon juice in a spray bottle proved to be the answer. The lemon juice must have been the cleaning agent, because the rings and spots on our wooden dining table rubbed right off and the oil left it conditioned and beautifully burnished. I spent the rest of the afternoon going over all the wood in the house with very satisfying results.

So that is
1 spray bottle
1 cup cooking oil
½ cup lemon juice

Sounds a lot better than paying $5 a can of Pledge, to me.

The pups had not showed up the other day to help me with the morning feeding as they usually do. I was a little miffed, but assumed it might have been because Cletus had made such a serious 'faux pas' the night before.

The lambs are in a wooden stall with a large hinged wooden gate. The latch is merely a piece of wood that slides into a groove, and doesn’t hold very well. I tied a piece of rope around the gate and post to keep it shut, but didn’t get it very tight. Cletus gets so enthusiastic about seeing and touching the lambs he ran into the barn ahead of me, and with his big old dinner plate sized paws, he opened the gate, setting all 5 lambs loose. This caused me no end of trouble, as I have to separate them to bottle feed, or they steal bottles and jump all over me. After capturing and replacing them, I let them out one at a time to feed them and give the necessary shots, until all 5 were again in the aisleway. There is a gate at the end of the barn that only opens out. Cletus heard something outside, and promptly pushed the gate open to run out…followed by a lamb. The gate slammed shut behind them.

Suddenly, he realized what he had done and stood looking from me to the lamb with a most penitent expression on his face. I told him “Yes, Cletus. YOU did that!”

I let them back in and henceforth; he has waited until I give the okay to leave the barn.

Randyman was first up yesterday morning (as usual).
He said the pups were asleep on their beds when he got up, but when he went into the bathroom; he heard coyotes start to howl to the south of us. When he came back out, the pups were gone. He fed our big critters for me, and headed towards the old milk pasture to feed the horse and cows out there. He said the pups were cutting across the pasture on the way home. It’s south of us.

About 8 a.m. I went to feed the lambs and, as I said, the pups were not around. That evening, Randy related this tale.

“We had to move the calves out of the Lower Cottonwood (about 2 miles away) so I drove the feed truck out there and thru the gate so the calves would follow. All of them came except for 4 calves way down in the lower pasture that couldn’t see us. (the pasture is HUNDREDS of acres) I was trying to decide what to do about them when I saw two white calves bust out of the brush and go running TOWARDS them. They went past the group, then turned around and started walking behind them and all of them came to the gate. Turns out it wasn't two white calves, it was the pups! I was really surprised. They were all so far away, I couldn’t even tell they were dogs. They walked those 4 calves right up through the gate and then left, as quickly as they had showed up. The other thing that is so weird, is that these dogs can run right up to any calf in the herd and the calves don’t run. If I send my dog, Scottie, they all scatter.” (you think these calves might know them?)
There were 350 calves below our house last summer, which the pups adopted. When the calves got moved, the pups were confined to our yard. The next day, the irrigator laughed and said,

“The pups were down in the new field with the calves today, touching their noses”

This seems to be something important to these dogs, to touch noses with everything, including me.
The better part of this winter the pups have been confined to the yard. The calves have been moved a few times since, but clearly they went looking for them as soon as the opportunity presented itself, and took it upon themselves to keep an eye on them.

I figure they must have come straight back home, because they walked me back from the barn when I was done feeding. They checked out the lambs at the barn, then the goats and sheep behind the house. All was well, so they went back to their favored lookout posts.
 So far, they are doing a pretty darn good job.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Wounded Polar Bear

The past couple of days, I thought Cletus was acting funny. He would travel funny when he would first get up and come to see me, but then he would line out. The other evening he laid out in the rain and refused to get up. This isn’t all THAT unusual, but most of the time I can get him interested enough to come and see what I want. I became concerned and vowed to go check him thoroughly after feeding the lambs.

I heated up goats milk, filled the 5 bottles, plus one for the leppy calf and headed to the barn with Bruno. Cletus was not far behind and the two of them came to visit and babysit the lambs and goatlings while I fed. I noticed Cletus was licking at his flank and spotted a couple of nasty cockleburrs there. He wouldn’t let me pull them, so I figured Randyman could hold him for me in the morning, as it looked like he had developed a ‘hotspot’ from licking so much.

We were invited to the boss’ house for dinner. It was sleeting and cold, so I took the truck, but the pups insisted it wasn’t safe for me to go unescorted, so they followed along and laid out in the weather for 2 hours while we ate and visited, then returned to their spot closer to the barn.

The following morning, Randyman conned Cletus into rolling over on his back for a belly scratch while I attempted to cut away the burrs. There was an open wound the size of my fist, which smelled badly. Cletus was very defensive and was whining and snapping a bit, to protect himself. He wasn’t seriously trying to hurt us, just discourage us. I reprimanded him and decided it would be necessary to get him to a vet as he needed antibiotics and I was worried about the smell.
Cletus weighs just a tad over 100 lb and looks remarkably like a polar bear. He has been to the vet twice and was traumatized by the experience both times...possibly because they stuck an instrument down in his ruptured ear drum and then castrated him. He developed a serious case of claustrophobia and we have been unsuccessful in getting him into ANY building other than the barn. Any place with a door and a roof is too overwhelming to him. Putting him in the backseat of a pickup truck isn’t even on the radar.

We hooked up the 4 horse trailer and after about 15 minutes, finally got him loaded. I have loaded bad horses and other large animals with less effort. It took Bruno’s help and encouragement, then we put Bruno back in the yard, with a request for someone on the ranch to let him back out once we were out of sight.

 Driving down the road, with all the noise of the trailer, wind and audiobook, we could still hear Cletus howling in the back. His paws and nose were sticking out the side of the trailer as he tried to squeeze through a 6" space and he was pitiful. We felt so bad for him, I agreed to ride in the trailer with him for a bit.

In case you are wondering, it is COLD and WINDY in the horsetrailer. I shivered and chipped my teeth, while Cletus continued to howl and stand on his hindlegs to see out. After about 15 miles of futile attempts to console him, I flagged Randyman to stop and let me back in the truck to thaw out. The cold doesn’t affect Cletus, he lays out in the snow when it is freezing and below.

Two hours later we were at the vets office. I went in and told them we would have to sedate him to get him in the building. We took  him out of the trailer and no amount of coaxing, cajoling, or plain out muscling on our part could even get him onto the paved parking lot. Our best efforts were spent preventing him from climbing underneath the trailer where he could not be retrieved without backing over him. He was NOT going to go near that building and he was big enough, strong enough, and frightened enough that nothing was going to make him change his mind.

Forty-five minutes later (mind you, it was snowing and windy, so kinda nippy) I managed to get him near a large rock between the far edge of the parking lot and the building, and there we planted ourselves in front of the first parking spot. Randyman  unhooked the trailer and headed for town to run ranch errands.

As I formerly mentioned, Cletus does look like a big polar bear. I don’t think he looks scary and he is normally very social, but I guess as I sat on the rock with my head and hands buried in his heavy coat for warmth, he didn’t look too approachable. Several vehicles came and went, and none of them would pull up into the parking space, but stop in front of it, leaving a ten-foot gap between us and them, and they would go around behind the other vehicles to enter the clinic, instead of past us, to the sidewalk. One truck with two big guys did the same thing, only they got out, grabbed their cowdog that was in the back and stuffed him in the front of their truck before leaving him. Cletus stood nonchalantly watching everything.

The vet finally came out, with her assistant. Cletus wagged his long tail and happily greeted the assistant, but when the vet, with her stethoscope reached out to him, he let out a low rumble and began vibrating. It was easy to see how stressed and determined he was, and it was a unanimous conclusion that he was NOT going to go inside for us. We resorted to my muzzling him and two of us held his head while the vet proceeded to get down ON THE GROUND to look up underneath him and see the wound. Mind you, it was below freezing and snowing. She deduced that he would be okay without immediate treatment other than antibiotics and painkillers. I assumed that since she had been willing to come outside in the cold and lay on the ground, it was true, not just convenient.

After much pleading and cajoling, I managed to get him back in the horsetrailer, not because of any skills of persuasion on my part, but because he wanted to go home. So, $140 later plus $70 to replace the fuel on the trip in, we headed home. He stood and howled the 2 hour trip back as well.

Upon arriving home after dark, we could see Bruno laying in the driving snow, in front of the barn door where the lambs and goatlings are. The boss’ wife came out and said he spent the most of the time we were gone  between our house and the barn and whenever someone would show up, he would race to the barn door to let them know they weren’t likely to get past him. As we idled at the top of the driveway talking to her, he watched us from his post.

Today it’s snowing again, the pups helped me feed the critters this morning and I haven’t seen them since. Injury or no, I guess patrolling must be done. They are faithful as the Pony Express.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hail to the Throne

Well, it snowed again today. It’s beginning to wear on my nerves, and the groundhog gets to enjoy the same status as Al Gore and his own poor predictions.

Meanwhile, life goes on. The goats have to be milked twice a day, the lambs have to be fed and doctored, the chicks in the house have to be watered and fed, the goats, sheep, cows and horses fed, the outside chickens have to be fed, the laundry done, house worked on, and the dogs fed, and of course, Randyman fed.

I burned my hands badly several weeks ago, because I went to hang up a cast iron pan I had just finished drying on the stovetop. I am blessed with a rather short memory, so I forgot it would be hot, as soon as I turned off the flame. My hands blistered up and went through all the stages of a slow healing burn, painful and annoying. Probably even more so because of my poor immune system which keeps me from healing well. I will blame my ding-a-ling incidents on that as well, just because I can. Today, over a month after burning myself, it came to my realization that I have aloe vera plants I have been taking care of since visiting my folks in California last November. The burns had hardened and for some reason were even more painful than when I first got them. I cut a leaf off and rubbed the gel on my hands, and sure enough, it brought instant relief. I will be researching how many ways I can use this amazing plant. Back in the ‘day’ folks knew how to take care of all their needs. Being an ‘educated’, ‘advanced’ and ‘modern’ society, we now have little clue of how to do that. Home remedy is now the exception, not the norm. I hope to learn how to engage in more self sufficiency and less consumerism. Baby step by baby step.

Because of the crummy weather, Randyman decided to take on a little job, and change the bolts on the chainpull toilet. The brass hinge and plates had become green with tarnish, which happens, of course. As I was not informed of his undertaking, I was not able to stop him from using both my KITCHEN SPONGE and scouring pad to try and clean them. Needless to say, when I caught him doing it, I was kinda grossed out.We will now be scrubbing pots with a washcloth.

Once again, the internet came to the rescue and after some researching, we mixed up a brass cleaner that worked with stellar results. Because it was so easy, I am going to share it with you. Actually, there are 2 recipes. One works better for deep tarnish, the other works best as a polish for brass that is not quite so long neglected.

Brass Cleaner:
1 tsp salt
½ cup white vinegar

dissolve the salt in the vinegar and mix in enough flour to make a paste.
Spread paste on brass and leave for 10 minutes, then buff with soft cloth.

Brass Polish:
½ cup flour
½ cup laundry detergent
½ cup salt
½ cup bottled lemon juice
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup hot water

Mix dry ingredients in bowl, then add wet ingredients. Mix well.
Dip cloth in solution, and rub brass. Buff dry with clean soft cloth.
Store remained in tightly closed canning jar.

Shine On!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In The Meanwhile...

Yesterday brought another trip to the doctor in town and of course, we can’t just waste a whole day and all that fuel for just one thing, so we picked up 5 little day-old bummer (orphan) lambs. They look pretty rough, as their mothers were undernourished due to the bad weather destroying the roads and the sheepherder is unable to get enough hay to his 2000 sheep. There were 30 little bummers in the barn where I got these at. I got them from the very nice lady that loaned us Jake the Stinkygoat and Free Wooly the ram. She is the one who is rescuing all the bummers from these 2000 ewes that are lambing out in the mud and snow with no shelter and inadequate feed. The guy who owns all these sheep must be devastated this year.
One of them was already sick, so she had started it on anti-biotics. The anti-biotic she had it on is $100 for a bottle, which is not all that pricey when you have 100 or so orphan lambs to keep going. But since I only need 3 cc’s we bought bottle of different stuff for only $35. It effectively DOUBLED the price of our lambs…which I will not complain about, because we dropped a bundle on extra fencing, lamb nipples, 5 sodas, so we could use the bottles, a soft dog crate to stuff them all into for the ride home, and various other sundry things that go along with having orphan lambs.

Because they are in such sad shape, and not very strong, we had decided to put them in an x-pen in the mudroom to avoid their getting chilled in the barn. It would also prevent me from having to carry 5 bottles up there 4 times a day. Randyman dragged it into the house, we set it up, put a nice blanket down to keep them from chilling on the concrete/linoleum floor and made several trips from the truck to the house carrying the stinky, poopy little lambs inside. No more than 10 minutes went by and the blanket was wringing wet. Implement Plan “B”.

We trotted up to the barn, busted open the fresh bale of straw that Tooney didn’t wait for to have Samby-the-lamby on, and transported the bummers up there. All 5 of them look the same, with the exception of one, and you have to turn him upside-down to see he is different, as he is the only boy. I dove into my yarn stash to locate different colors of string, so I could identify them and keep track of who got their bottle and who did not, as I have only 2 hands. Good thing too, because they all took 2 sips, then walked around, came back for a couple more sips, went exploring…it took a LONG time to get their bottles down them, but my mission was finally accomplished. The most difficult part of the procedure was trying to tell which color the strings were, as they were pastels, and the barn is not very bright. Sometimes I am not either.

The Maremmas came and introduced themselves to their newest charges while I fed, then spent the night in front of the rock wall so they could keep one eye on the barn, and one on the animals behind the house. Occasionally, they would relocate and one dog would remain in front of the barn, and one would come to the back porch, where they normally sleep.

Next morning, I crawled out of bed at 6 a.m. to start making bottles. It takes about 3 quarts of goatsmilk 4x a day to feed these critters right now. I have only been milking 1 goat, 1x a day and getting 3 quarts. My math tells me I am in heap big trouble. The last of the baby goats need to be weaned immediately and I have to start milking both goats 2x a day again, in order to avoid buying milk replacer for these guys.

By 7 a.m. I had the 5 bummers lambs and 1 leppie calf fed. Randyman got up and helped me feed the other two sheep, the goats and the Jersey cows, and I set in to milking my first goat. Afterwards I set about crocheting some thicker collars with brighter colors of yarn that I could see.

Next feeding will be at 11ish then 2 ish, when little ‘lavender collar’ gets her shot, then 6-7ish, when all the animals get fed, milked and supplemented again. No one has a real name yet.

Makes for busy days, but at least it’s warmer than Cowcamp!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just Another Saturday

It’s official. I am grounded and afoot, not going to Cow Camp. I woke up for the 8th day in a row with a throat that’s on fire and a head that echoes. I deferred to my better judgment and chose NOT to go gallivanting across the desert in sub freezing temperatures looking for cows for the next 10 days.

I watched sadly, as they loaded up the cook shack and the new quarters in preparation to head out. The boss offered to haul my horses out in case I feel better in a couple of days, but I declined.
Meanwhile, they will be none the worse off without me, as I sent what I had already made and a more than adequate cook showed up to happily take my place. His charming wife came to the ranch with him, to see him off. She owns a restaurant, so the crew are all in good hands, as I am certain some of that knowledge has rubbed off on her good husband.

Cletus was ‘body guarding’ me as we made our introductions, while Bruno observed from 30 yds away. One of the boys’ 6 week old pup came up and was busy pestering Cletus who was awkwardly trying not to step on the little booger, as he is such a gentle dog, at least until his charges are threatened. The lady enthusiastically commented on how well behaved both Maremmas are, mentioning her own dog would not be nearly so ‘mellow’…

 “…but then, he is only 2”.

 I told her the Maremmas’ 1st birthday was only this week and she was doubly impressed by them. I called to Bruno and he gladly came over and sat by me and allowed her to pet him. It’s so interesting to me how these dogs are neither overtly friendly, nor threatening, to strangers. They are just watchful and aloof, but in no way that makes one uncomfortable or distrustful. I am certain, however, that if someone posed a problem, they would act very differently.

I went in the house and heard a commotion. ALL the ranch dogs came down and mobbed the Maremmas. They fended them off without fighting, but by use of their superior weight and size, then resumed their spots where they continued watching all the activity, totally unruffled by the unprovoked attack on them.
It was a little like watching gnats bugging a water buffalo.

The crew has taken off for camp. The storm moved in this afternoon and I am watching the driving snow, thinking how cold its gonna be again. I could grieve missing another trip, but I think instead, I will revel in the fact that I have a flush potty and a warm bed tonight, while Randyman and I eat homemade steak fajitas and chug down a margarita. The boss said I could haul a horse to camp later in the week if I am feeling better.

Cider went out front to play, while the pups went on patrol. True to his “Sid Sawyer” personality, Cider wandered too close to the barn, where ‘Ike the cow dog’, who loves to bully him, hangs out. One warning bark from Cider and  two white streaks passed the house, heading in Ike’s direction. Cider trotted home, while the 100+ lb pups stood to either side of Ike until he submissively slunk back into the barn. 

This must be what it’s like to have the Secret Service watching your back. Awesome.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Biding Time

The ranch vet showed up 2 days before the day we expected to leave for Cow Camp, so plans were put on hold while 1900 calves were processed and heifers bangs-vaccinated and tagged.

A compromised immune system and a bug bite while taking Randyman in to emergency in Feb. resulted in a systemic infection for me, compounded by a BAD headcold. Nonetheless, I wanted to ride Tuesday and help process.  I saddled and loaded Wimpy in the trailer and alongside our nephew, helped keep the alley and chute filled. It’s a pretty simple job, as all it requires is pushing a big bunch of calves into the alley, then separating off a few at a time and driving them into the ‘sweep tub’ which helps guide them to the chute where they can be doctored.  It was cold and windy and being on horseback, there is nowhere to duck and get out of the wind.

It began to drizzle. We don’t often get heavy rainfall here on the desert, so I didn’t immediately put my new duster on. The rain kept coming and it was getting colder, my jacket was getting heavier. I noticed my partner was soaked. By the time I could wring out my deerskin gloves, I relented and traded my jacket for the duster which kept me dry but  was NOT warm. I made a mental note to find more layers to take to camp.

The next day I was too sick to help, so I stayed in the house armed with Vicks, Sudafed, and Nyquil. It snowed heavily all day and I felt really bad for everyone who was processing out in the blizzardy conditions. Too guilted to remain idle, I made some mozzarella cheese with the extra goatmilk we had and some cookies for  Randyman. The mozzarella came out so great, I decided to make mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers for dinner. It was real gourmet stuff.

Today the snow is melted and mud has taken its place. Still to sick to ride, I moseyed out to visit the critters. Samby the lamby is filling out nicely. His mother seems to still miss Eweness, so I hope we can find a suitable friend for her soon. The pups have been doing a lot of patrolling in the mornings, then spending the rest of the day either by the critters or the house. Apparently they think there are  intruders near the big pond, because they always show up covered in mud.

bad manners at the cafeteria

Bruno and Cletus returning from predator patrol

Cider has been 'kissing up' to Randyman, cuz he's hoping he'll share his cookies. It's shameful.

Last word is, Cow Camp is postponed to Saturday. I’m still waiting on a call from the doc to see if I can go. I am trying to get some last minute stuff done in the event I can.
Meanwhile, I am glad I got some food made ahead and frozen, so if worse comes to worse and I can’t, they have something to eat out there. Life is often about waiting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Headin' Out

Cow Camp is next week. A group of us from the ranch drive 2 ½ hours out onto the desert and spend 1-2 weeks gathering cattle and pushing them back to the main ranch. It’s extremely primitive, and usually darn sure cold.

There is a wooden outhouse with no door and the boss hauls a big container on a semi-truck out, which is our cookhouse. It has an old stove with grill plates welded out of old horse shoes, and a non working oven. Being hours from ANYwhere, electricity is run a short time everyday on a gas generator. A shower is nonexistent, and the ripest and least hearty of us usually drive in the third or 4th nite to wash up, before returning before dawn the next morning.

Breakfast is consumed in the dark morning hours, and horses are saddled up and ready to ride before daylight, regardless of weather or temperature, which is more often than not windy and either snowing or hailing for some part of the day.

Days are brutally long and hard, riding 10-11 hours straight, through sagebrush and rocks. Multi layered clothing is necessary to staying warm, along with gloves, long silk scarves worn to combat both the cold and the dust, and slickers. Often we cross paths with one or both herds of wild horses that frequent the area.

When the day’s riding is complete, everyone meets back at camp, where a game of cards might be played, if anyone has the energy, dinner is prepared and consumed, dishes are washed by heating water on the stove in a pot and we all climb back into our bedrolls, which is the only warm place to be found. It’s a good time, though, and everyone looks forward to it each year. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the whole ordeal is recognized as a rare treasure of an experience few people will ever get to enjoy. Stories, and memories are told and retold year in and year out, sometimes for a lifetime.

As for me, I’d like a door on that darn outhouse.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

There is a saying, that if your fence won't hold water, it won't hold goats. There is a lot of truth to that.

The other morning, the ranch went into a cleaning frenzy. It seems some people from Texas were stopping by for the night along with a ranch relative who hasn't been here for several years. We were given no advance notice. Its been a rough winter here, and between illnesses, injuries, too much snow and too much ice, broken water lines and trying to keep the cows fed, the houses and cabins have been at the bottom of the priority list.  Add to that, a 19 yr old bachelor cowboy who works from sunup to dark, and has to cook, clean and do his own housekeeping and you have a disaster in the making.

Two of the boys were sent to pick up broken limbs and branches in front of the original ranch house, where some of the guests would stay. As I headed down to talk to them, I heard the pups barking wildly, with an anxious tone I had not heard before. I looked over and saw all 4 remaining baby goats in our GARDEN, with the pups trying desperately to alert me, as they were not supposed to BE there. The boys and I headed over, captured them and put them back in the back pen where they belonged. The dogs, clearly upset by the delinquency of the goats, remained out by them the remainder of the morning.

I headed up to the young cowboy's house with the boss' wife and daughter to see what could be done about the lack of domestic skills he practiced (or not) in aforementioned house. Eight hours later, after employing everything but the use of a tractor, we had it sparkling. The ranch relative was going to be staying in the extra room there, so there was added pressure. During the exercise, I headed to our house for a couple of needed cleaning supplies, and caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. The dogs were both back in the forward corral clearly dismayed by what they were witnessing.

Four baby goats were on top of the makeshift cattle panel shelter, bouncing, turning said shelter into a makeshift trampoline, then one by one, using it as a launchpad to jump high in the air and land in the other corral, and freedom. So THIS was how they got out!   For two  days and nights now, the pups have been sleeping in the corral in the rain and snow, in an attempt to maintain some sort of order. It seems that the unseemly behavior of the goats  has triggered the deep ingrained Guardian instincts of the pups and brought it to the forefront. At least one of them has been remaining with the naughty goats at all times, except in the event of what they deemed an emergency.

Cider was playing in the front yard, when one of the cowdogs came down and attacked him. For whatever reason, Cider seems to be the target of every dog on the ranch, with the exception of the Maremmas. The pups showed up and without any unnecessary force, an advancing 230 lb of "polar bears" convinced the instigator to return to the barn and leave Cider alone. They spent the next hour or so as active 'bodyguards' to him, until they were sure he was safe, then returned to the goat pasture. Bruno won't come in the house to visit me anymore. They have adopted a new routine. They patrol at sunup, returning a short time later to keep an eye on things here. Cletus guards the goats, while Bruno keeps an eye on things in the front yard...sometimes they switch places. But for the most part, Bruno has decided their territory and influence should extend to the front of the house from our lawn, to the barn.

As the new folks showed up, he merely laid watchfully observing, as they passed him by, never molesting them, or drawing attention to himself, until a couple of folks drove up and headed to my front door. He introduced himself politely, then set himself between them and the door until I opened it. When I greeted them, he acknowledged my judgment and quietly returned to his post on his own.

He's so professional.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Making Do

I admit, I have one or two idiosyncrasies. One of them is that I absolutely hate buying a commercial product, when I can produce our own cheaper and with higher quality.
This runs the gamut, from our own milk products to soap. I started making our own laundry soap a year ago, as the powder stuff we had been buying made me cough when I used it. Many people make their own laundry soap, using basically the same recipe, with very satisfactory results. You can make a gel, or use it as a dry product, which is my preference. If you have a high efficiency machine, like the boss’ wife, a gel is probably the better choice for you.

She had some of my ‘dry stuff’ up there and decided to try using it to clean her stovetop covers. It worked so well she decided to then use some for washing dishes in the sink. She set a couple of copper bottomed pots in the water and as she started to wash the outside and rinse them, she noticed to her amazement, that all the years of built up black stuff on the copper bottoms was wiping off!

Being very neighborly folk here on the ranch, she raced down to my house to demonstrate this admirable quality in our soap. I stood transfixed as she extracted my copper bottomed pot from the sink, gleaming with a minimum of scrubbing. Granted there are a couple of speckles, but I suspect those will disappear with a more thorough cleaning. But this pot was 30 years old with layers of black tarnish. Years before I had tried some copper cleaner with no success so gave up on the idea of having shiny copper bottomed pans.

About this time, two of her kids came in and with extremely puzzled looks on their faces asked,

 “Why is our mom doing dishes at your house?”

To which I replied,

“She was looking for a job, so I hired her. Maybe if you are lucky, you can hire her to do your laundry.”

Their reply to that was,
“She already does it for free.”

She said,
“Not anymore.”

Doncha just love to mess with teens? 

Laundry soap recipe:

grate 2 cups of soap (such as Zote, Castille or Fels Naptha)
whirl in Food processor with 
1 cup borax
1 cup super washing soda (NOT baking soda)

use 2 TBL per washload


Grate a bar of soap into sauce pan and add 1 qt water. Simmer until melted. Meantime, fill a 5 gal. bucket 1/2 full of hot water. Add 1 cup borax and 1 cup super washing soda. Stir until dissolved.
Add melted soap mixture to bucket and stir well. Fill to top with water, and stir occasionally for next couple of days until gelled.

You can add a few drops of essential oils to either recipe. (such as Lavender, Orange or Tea Tree)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Labor Intensive

We all know that after diligently watching mares due to foal, goats due to kid, and cows due to calve, a frenzied 10 minute shower, or trip to the store will induce rapid and active labor. This holds true with sheep as well.

Pet-ewe-nya (Tooney) has been in the barn, under the camera for a week now. She has had a little bag and got a little haircut, so in the event she DID have a lamb it could find aforementioned bag, and has been the center of countless questions regarding imminent signs of lambing from anyand every source I could ask, email or read. The results were kinda of: it’s a crap shoot, watch her for not wanting to eat, for wanting to be alone, for a darker pink ‘hoo hoo'...and the most reliable sign that she is about to lamb is her having a head at each end.

No changes have occurred. She lies down in the same place everyday, close to the common wall with Free Wooly. She has practiced identical habits for the entire week, day and night, so at least I know what is ‘normal’ for her.
Desperately needing clean straw for her stall, and a complete lack of changes, I headed for town with the boss and his wife. I picked up supplies for the animals, a few replacement chicks, and straw.

Randyman called about 3 in the afternoon to tell me there was a lamb in Tooney’s stall.

 So, I have an extra bale of straw now.

She had just one lamb, a ramlet (I made that up) I'm pretty sure he would be considered a buckling, like a goat. Randyman had found the little guy before noon, already up, dry and sucking. I have little doubt she had him before we were out of the driveway. I asked if he was sure she didn’t have another one coming and we decided, no, not if he is dry and been hanging around this long. She was in no distress and there was no evidence left of her having lambed, so she had already ‘cleaned up the maternity ward’.
He has huge spots, like an Appy horse, we therefore, have been calling him “Appaloo-samb”(of course, the "B" is silent...) He’s kind of scrawny and it was cold, so in the absence of a sibling to cuddle with, I cut the leg off of a an old pair of sweats and put it on him. Sort of a ‘tube top’ for lambs. What can I say? We are trendy. Such great ideas can be found on the internet!