Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weather the Storm

There is a foot of new snow on the ground. The wind is blowing and the chill factor must be close to zero. Most of the animals are hiding in their shelters. Dolly let me put her prom dress back on her, as it is going to be 3 degrees below zero tonight. To my pleasant surprise, she has gained so much weight I had to let the straps out several inches just to get it on. Emma Lou will have to make do; she fares better in the cold than Dolly does. She is heavier and younger, even though she is pregnant, and she eats better. Dolly’s little wry face seems to slow her down.

Tooney is in the barn, in a stall next to Woolly, just in case she lambs. I have NO idea when she is due as I never saw her get bred, but she has a little bag on her already, and I guess for sheep, that is not often far from their time.

The goats are all crammed in their tent shelter keeping warm, Prissy is crying pitifully, but she does that in the summer too. What a drama queen. If she didn’t give such good milk, and over a gallon a day of it, I am not sure I could stand living with her. ‘Stormy’, the one of the two doe triplets, will be going to her new home on Monday, barring any unforeseen events. She is cute, but I have my hands full here and bottle-feeding 2 babies is exponentially easier than bottle-feeding 3. They knocked the coke bottles with nipples out of my freezing cold hands this morning, shattering two of them on the ice. ‘Sonny-wether’ is getting really fat, but I attribute that to the fact that he IS a wether and is already eating hay and grain so well. Neither of the two does is nearly as heavy he is.

The Maremma pups love the storms. They lay out in the snow, their heavy white coats covered in ice chunks and are puzzled as to why I don’t want to pet them barehanded. None of the other animals fare as well as they do, in this terribly cold weather. There must be tremendous insulation, as Bruno will come in the house to literally thaw out, then happily bounce back outside to sleep in the subzero, dark night.

I step outside, clad in longjohns, T-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, long, warm and heavy goretex gloves, wool socks and waterproof hiking boots. I tie a long silk scarf around my neck and face and pull up the hoodie on my sweatshirt. It’s time to feed the animals.

Outside in the bitter cold wind, ice crystals burn as they pelt the still exposed skin around my eyes. I notice my mare, Breezy, is trapped again, in the lane between pastures.  Four of the five leppie calves are also in the alley. I trek out there, through heavy fresh snow to assess the situation and best determine how to release them. Cletus comes with me and plays with the big leppie who is still on the outside. Randyman shows up, limping on his sore leg, and helps by untying the barbed wire that is acting as a barrier between the calves and freedom. Breezy must be jumping the wire fence to get in, but for what reason, escapes me. It is the second time I have found her trapped in the alley and it is clear she is not going through the wire, like the calves have. She is a very capable jumper, as she cleared a 5’ fence on the ice, the first year I had her here. I would have loved owning her years ago, when I was in better health and strong enough to train and show her. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy her until I was already experiencing balance challenges, and other symptoms of my unfortunate condition. Hence, the reason I was dislodged while riding her, the day she began playing and bucking, landing on the rocks and frozen ground, breaking my ribs and puncturing a lung. I love the way she moves, long strided and smooth, effortlessly covering the ground, but my condition causes me trepidation, as I had 3 hospitalizations in 3 years, as a result of damage done from simple accidents. Funny how I could break and train horses for 30 years with only a couple of injuries, and now, I get clobbered riding gentle horses. My body in rebellion, I place an ad for her on the internet, still yearning to ride her. I leave it to the Lord to make that decision for me. She will sell, or someone will work her for me and assure me she will be as safe for me as Wimpy. I am not convinced yet, even though she spent a year being used on a ranch in Nevada by a good cowboy friend. The specter of another surgery haunts me and until she has had several hours under saddle on the very ranch I will ride her on, I continue to admire her from afoot.

Finally, everyone is freed, and hay-fed. I warm up for a few minutes while heating bottles and go out to feed bottle babies and milk the goat. For the first time ever, Priss lets me milk her without tying her legs down. It’s a relief, after 5 weeks of constant fighting. I hope this is going to be a habit.

After straining and cooling the milk, Cider and I get in the pickup truck to drive to the boss’ and let their dogs out of the house. One of the boys made it to the State Wrestling Championship, and the family is gone for the weekend to attend it. After a few minutes, the ice on the windshield is clear and I back thru the driving snow towards the big barn, until I can turn and head up the drive.

The little Jack Rusells practically disappear in the snow while I shiver in the cold, waiting for them to complete their mission. After several minutes of doodling around, I convince them to go back in the house.
Returning home, I inform Randy that I never got dinner made. He nods, understanding, and I head to bed, without eating, seeking a warm soft place to spend the night. Nothing feels better than to sleep because you are really tired. With all its challenges, this life is still a little piece of heaven.

I will wake up tomorrow, storm ended, to blazing sun-on-snow and unwrap the gift of another day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Out Cold

Yesterday I was noticing a couple of the newly transplanted raspberries were already  getting some leaves. The rhubarb is getting ready to unfurl itself and bring some tasty and wonderful stalks for pies and dessert. There is a little green here and there in the pastures around the house and I was feeling pretty darn good, be-bopping around with just a sweatshirt on.
Then a partially sleepless night with stiff and painful joints gave way to blinding brightness this morning with 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground, and more falling.

 Dolly and Emma were holed up in their shelters, begging for breakfast in bed. I did not comply.

 The pups preceded me and lured the goats out of their shelter to head to the milkstand.

If they had known how cold my hands were, they might not have been so anxious! 

I however, will make the best of the situation, and use the milk for hot chocolate.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Barking Orders

Cletus went wild today, barking at…who knows what? I couldn’t see a thing, but he was insistent. It was quite awhile before he gave it up. I looked and looked, but the only out of place thing I could see, was a flock of birds off in the elk field, a mile away.

Tonite, both Cletus AND Bruno were barking. It was an insistent, unending, impossible to ignore sort of thing. I stepped out front and heard a dog up at the top of the ranch barking too. I was so disappointed. Here they were, barking just because someone ELSE was.

I hollered to them through the window, and they both stood up and peered in at me from the dark. Then they went back to barking. So, I called their bluff. I brought Bruno in the house and let him out the front door. I know better than to let BOTH of them out, because they will go “patrolling” for hours at a time, arriving home covered with mud and bearing treasures in the form of whatever bones they came across.

Bruno raced to the corner of the closest building and barked furiously, with Cletus backing him up from the yard. As I watched, Bruno would advance a step, then retreat again…I began to realize, there really WAS something out there…something big enough that Bruno wouldn’t approach it too closely. I had mixed feelings.
I was relieved that he would not be foolish about approaching what might be too much for him on his own, and I was nervous about what exactly it was, that was clearly NOT leaving with 200+ lb of dogs threatening it. All I could think of was COUGAR.

In 2007, a cougar attacked one of the cowdogs right in front of our house. This one was hiding in the shadows. Randyman offered to grab a light and go see. I voted him down, as he is still moving slowly from the muscle tear in his leg. I volunteered myself to go, as I knew if I was in trouble, Bruno’s courage would rise, equal to the task of defending me. Not wanting to sacrifice his life for mine, I praised him and took him by the collar. WE approached the area he had been aiming at, and I flicked on the flashlight.
My first reaction was to gasp, as all I could see initially, was a HUGE area of yellow. I gulped and moved the light up…up…and over to the head of a big yellow, loppy horned cow. She paid us no mind at all, just kept on grazing there.
I had to apologize to both Cletus and Bruno for doubting their word. They are used to cows, as they are all around us, and they often guard the cows and calves…but THIS cow, she wasn’t one of them, and she was NOT where any cow was SUPPOSED TO BE. So, they warned her, and snitched her off…and I thanked and praised them for doing such a fine job.

I am one proud mama. Now when they speak, I listen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some Things I Love About SE Oregon

It snowed again yesterday and Randyman needed to see a doctor, so we headed down the road in 4WD, and I thought about how grateful I was not to have 500,000 other drivers sliding around us on icy roads.

The  normally 2-hour drive into town became a 3 hour drive because of the hazardous conditions. Not only was it snowing heavily and icy, but this is open range and there are often cattle on the main highways. This is not such a great inconvenience, as there are also deer, antelope, gigantic sage hens, badgers, and the occasional porcupine on the road as well. They are much easier traffic to tolerate than the kind we had in California.

As we chugged along down the road, I marveled once again at the ever-changing landscape. What sometimes looks barren and un-inviting, is blanketed in soft white billows and the juniper trees stand out in sharp contrast. Passing the now smooth, white alfalfa fields and irrigation pivots that sparkle with ice crystals reflecting the sun in all the colors of the prism, tantalize the eyes and the imagination. It is a warm and comforting feeling to me, to pass by the large pastures with cattle and horses munching on hay provided to them by their owners, in the early hours of a frosty dawn.

A couple of miles from our destination, we pass a snowplow on its way to clear the already traveled highway. It is only the second vehicle we have seen on our 3-hour trip.

Arriving in town exactly one hour late for our appt., we enter the community medical center and find ourselves in an examining room in less than 10 minutes. It cuts short our conversation with a stranger, who asks which outfit we work for and shares with us the best place on the 10,000 ft Steens Mtn. to view the ranch from above and talks about his love for ranching. The physical therapist we have not seen in 3 years remembers us, and the fact that we live over 2 hours from town.

Minutes later, we are headed to breakfast, to our usual place, one of only 3 choices in town. They already know what we want. We drop the prescriptions off at the druggist and the gal behind the counter says “Glad you are in town! We have some other stuff for you. I was going to mail it, but since you are here, you can just pick it up.” A little conversation is had about the ranch family and how they are doing, soap making, and the best place to buy supplies on the internet. We pick up livestock supplies at the Ranch Store and head back across town.

Not every town has a cemetery on Main St. But here is a small cemetery, with its flowers, headstones and crosses, bearing last names shared by many of the residents we have met. These were the pioneers that built this place, the same kind of folk that built this country. These were tough, determined folk, with strong backs and strong faith. 

sign at the vets office

The buildings in this small town are old and like the homes surrounding it, are in varying stages of disrepair, but contain an inherent character not seen in newer buildings. I love that these buildings were not discarded in favor of something ‘more modern’.
In a culture that finds everything disposable including family at times, it is heartwarming to see timeworn things prevail.
An old mill stands empty, its craftsmanship apparent in its dovetailed corners. A church boasts its founding in 1884, one hundred and twenty seven years ago. There are several churches in this little town, as well as a large, Pro Life billboard on the main drag. It feels good to be somewhere that people are still unafraid to express what they believe in and that they share our convictions as well as our gratitude. Further along the main blvd. is a round pen for training horses, and a big steer with his nose through the fence, watching ‘traffic’. This is across the road from the motel.

note the quail dining on the porch!

An old tractor and antique farm implements welcome travelers to town at the first building we pass on the left. Old trucks, from the 1940’s era are found in various parts of town, many still running. A resident has his backhoe parked on the street in front of his house, and another his stock trailer. Every little old house is different, and all have charm. More than one house has an old wagon in the yard.

The town museum, which advertises its hours as “Open Tues-Sat 10:00 to 4:00” is closed for the afternoon, anyway. There are awesome paintings on the outside, of the Paiute Indians, farmers and ranchers who inhabited the area in years past. The most modern addition to the town are the many bronze statues, clearly created by a local artist with great skill.

Local artist does bronzes all over town. Note the frog in the little guys hand...

Equal rights can be established WITHOUT gender confusion

We head back home, the roads much better now. I think about how much I love to see out across the range, see the small farms and their livestock, the tractors parked by the highway, left by local ranchers and farmers clearing their way to the road. I watch the change from the farmland, to rangeland, to the mesas and the craggy and rugged canyons give way to the serene, vast and beautiful landscape blessing me, every mile of the way home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Day...

Things are a little hectic these days. Randyman is still hurting, although slowly improving.

I have settled into a routine of waking up, jumping into my bluejeans, moving and feeding sheep, feeding milkcows, goats and bottle babies, milking aforementioned goats and then coming in to make breakfast and do dishes.
The pups accompany me into the goat pen to check on the babies every feeding. If I am late, they are sure to let me know.

The ‘kids’ like to jump on them and climb on Cletus’ back. He’s pretty patient with them now, and ever so gentle. He’s starting to grow out of his puppy stage just a bit.

He is practically rabid when he spots something down by the horse pasture, which is a mile from here. We can see it from the back yard, as it’s much lower than we are, and all the pasture grass is eaten down this time of year. There are often deer, horses, cow-dogs and, prior to the pups’ arrival, coyotes or cougars, moving across there. I haven’t seen either of the latter since we got the pups. Except for some large cougar tracks by the pond before the the pups started to patrol there, the predators have pretty much kept their distance this year. Its comforting to hear Cletus bark at night, especially since he does it so seldom. There is always a purpose to his barking, unlike the other dogs on the ranch, who, like most politicians, just like to hear their own voices, and don’t really accomplish much.

I moved the milk stand into the chicken shed and it’s been nice having everything close-by, so I don’t have to make the trek to the barn twice a day, dragging all my milking gear with me, and trying to move goats back and forth. I forgot, however, that the chicken shed leaks like a sieve and we are supposed to have rain and snow all week next week! I guess I will have to tarp everything inside and wear a slicker to milk in.

They have been branding ‘fall calves’ this weekend. Some of them are pretty darn big, really. I haven’t been a part of that, because Randyman isn’t able to do for himself yet, and I have my hands full just feeding critters.

Everyone is ready for spring already, although we will have to tough it out for another 2-3 months of winter first. The pups and their charges are anxious to be out in the pastures again, I am anxious to ride and Cider wants to go swimmin’. He jumped in the ‘mosquito pond’ last time we went to feed the horses, nursecows and leppies. Lucky for him it was above freezing, as he was left outside for several hours afterwards, until most of the mud fell off of him.

Being treated like a “real dog” must have reminded him that he is actually a ‘prince’. He’s been acting like one ever since.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

That Kind of a Day

Randy woke up at 4 am Saturday, screaming with pain. Due to my RA, and previous back surgery with 6 fractures and 2 ruptured discs, he usually feeds hay for me in the mornings in 4 different pastures, to the milk cows, leppy calves, horses, nurse-cows, goats and sheep.

After seeing his pain was not subsiding and agreeing on a plan of action, I proceeded to feed the hay myself, plus I fed the baby goats their bottles, fed the boss’ puppies, asked the ranch crew to feed my animals for us in our absence, as well as cover for Randy feeding the ranch cows, packed a suitcase and drove us the 4 hour trip to the emergency hospital in Boise. As I had been up until nearly midnite, it was difficult to make the drive and stay awake. After 16 years of marriage to the 'he-man", I rarely, if ever drive, so coming into traffic in Boise was a nerve wracking experience.

The tests were inconclusive, no explanation was discovered for his pain, which was still tremendous. He’d spent the day on morphine and now, at 9 pm, he was discharged and I drove us to fill the prescriptions, grab a bucket of chicken and find a room. An hour after falling asleep, I woke up with bites all over one leg, took a long, hot shower, and returned to the bed. I was bitten again. I grabbed the laptop to do some investigation and the ONLY motel in Boise accused of having bedbugs, was the one we were staying in. I quickly exited the bed and slept on top of the one Randy was in. He never got bitten. After a second nearly sleepless night, I grabbed the GPS, found a Costco and spent 1 hour grabbing a few supplies before racing back to get him out of bed before checkout time. I loaded up the truck again, and we started the long, 4-hour trip back home, arriving before dark.

I was told that everyone forgot to feed the baby goats in the morning, so someone had given them each a bottle and a half that afternoon. I asked if the milk-cows and others had been fed, and was told “I don’t know”. Everything seemed pretty hungry, so I went about feeding them a bit more than normal that evening and fell into bed.

I grudgingly got up early the following morning, still tired, to feed again. I had to clean the house, as the boss had asked if I could feed a mechanic that would be coming to the ranch. I got a meal into the crockpot, knowing there was NO way I could find time to make a conventional meal with all the animals I had to feed. After making a doctors appt. for Randy, due to his already running low on painkillers, I washed EVERYTHING that had gone with us in very hot water and into a very hot dryer, hoping if any bugs had hitched a ride with us, it would be their demise. Our nephew, one of the cowboys, was going to come to dinner also. By 8:00 that night, I realized no one was going to show up. Apparently the mechanic had busted a tooth somewhere, and our nephew, with his brutal schedule, had just plumb forgot.

Desperately tired, I woke up extra early in order to get all the animals fed before driving Randy in to the doctor in Burns, 2 hours away. As I started pitching hay to the milk cows, I noticed that Emma Lou was badly bloated. IN a panic, I ran to the barn to catch the cowboys and enlist their help. I explained she was bloated and I needed help to tube her down. Our nephew headed to the barn to grab a tube, me following. As I was explaining that I did NOT know how to do this, and he assured me the other cowboy did, that self same cowboy, who had been swearing at his dog, rocketed up the driveway with the horses in the trailer, leaving me standing in the dust. Our nephew, with an apologetic look on his face, went jogging up the hill after him. It was the last I saw of them.

Realizing Emma’s life depended solely on me, and I had almost NO time to treat her, I chased her around the pasture to get a halter on her. I drug her through several incredibly heavy gates to lock her head in the old stanchion and attempt to pass a tube down her throat, to no avail. Frustrated, angry, betrayed, and in tears now, I headed to the house and quickly mixed a bottle of bloat medicine into a calf tube bottle. After struggling for 20 minutes as she slung me around with her head, I managed to spill about a half pint into her mouth.

I took the truck up behind the big old barn and hooked up the big gooseneck horsetrailer, praying the whole time that I could get it done. Not being able to see the ball in the truck it was normal for me to spend a half hour or more trying to get it lined up. I nailed it the very first time, after lugging out a heavy spare tire. I painfully rolled the trailer down onto the ball in the bed of the truck, climbed into the back to lock the hitch and laid underneath the trailer to get the incredibly heavy jack-stand back up inside, as the spring had broken years earlier. I drove down to the house to get Randy and the dogs, and load EmmaLouMay Cow. I was taking her to the vet in town. When I went to load her, I could see she was noticeably better. The bloat med must have helped. I loaded her up, got Randy, Cider and Scottie-dog in the truck, drove up to the workshop to put more air in the tires, and grab a bale of shavings for Emma Lou to stand in, so the floor didn’t get slippery.

After spending the day in town between the hospital, the vet, and the ranch store, I had Randy call on his cellphone and leave a message for someone at the ranch to feed cows for me. The meds I had given Emma had taken her out of  critical condition and the vet was kind enough to give me lessons on how to pass a stomach tube by myself. I bought a big speculum to use and a more appropriate tube, loaded her up and headed back to the human hospital for more tests on Randy, leaving Emma in the trailer, unhooked, in front of the vet hospital. We received several questioning looks as I piled my purse, and my crochet needles and yarn, sodas, and miscellaneous other stuff I thought we might need, on his lap while I pushed him around in a wheelchair.

After everything was done in town, we went back to the vet clinic so I could hook up the trailer. Randyman had been driving all day, as he felt it was more comfortable for him. He sat in the drivers seat, while I hooked up the trailer, and got underneath it again to raise the heavy jack, as people drove past gawking and his reputation was quickly ruined.

We finally arrived back home two hours after dark…no one had received the message to feed for me.

I put Emma back in the pasture and spent the next 2 hours feeding animals in the dark, at 24 degrees. Prissy, the goat, had decided to stop feeding her buckling, so I got to add him to the list of bottle babies and now milking  twice a day is mandatory.

Tomorrow, I have to figure out how to move two 800-lb bales of hay, along with all the normal stuff.

Someday, I am sleeping in!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

December 2010-Year in Pics

It was extremely cold on the desert, with above average snowfall

November 2010-Year in Pics

The Abster and her well worn Dolly

November brought a trip to California to visit with family....

We've all have a "two binkey day," now and then.
First crochet project
..."What big eyes you have!!"...

snakes and snails and permanent red marker, thats what little boys are made of!

We got to visit my folks in S CA. I have a great family. "Say cheez!"

back at the ranch...
the leaves of fall ALL fell at once!

and Dolly got a prom dress.