Thursday, June 30, 2011

Visit From The Little People

This year we have had baby goats, baby lambs, and the usual baby calves, so, naturally it was time for our first visit this year from the little people.

The little people arrived late at nite after a very long, very, very long drive. About 14 hours and for little people, that is a lifetime. Randyman, or “Papa Randy” as he is often referred to, was promptly attacked in an effort to work out the kinks from the drive. He didn’t go down without a fight.We had lamb kebabs ready at the house and we all ate heartily then put the little people on the shelf and bedded down for the night. You never know what you are going to find around here. I hope I don't run into any little people I put away and forgot about!

The next morning began with some happy singing, a little bit of skipping and a pinch of whining to balance it all out. We made bottles for the leppie calves and all headed out to feed them, then put together the bucket milker and milked EmmaLouMoo Cow. She gave us  2 ½ gallons that morning, of which we promptly drank a gallon and a half. Once the milking equipment was cleaned up and EmmaLou headed back to her buddies in the pasture, the meatie chicks had to be captured and carried out to forage a bit and get some sunshine. The little people did a fine job of pulling that off.

With the milk piling up in the refrigerator, thanks to the generosity of EmmaLou, we had to do something, so we made mozzarella string cheese. That was much enjoyed by the little people who ate enough to short one of our pizzas the next night. Ricotta was also made with the whey left over from the Mozzarella, and we made cheese blintzes for breakfast with that. We also made a big bucket of boule bread to make loaves for dinner and for pizza crust.

We made some soap, played with the Maremma puppies who seem quite pleased to have little people to add to their band of critters to guard and learned to crochet. Necklaces of chain crochet were made in various colors by the largest of the little people, for herself and the other little people. 
Picking strawberries proved to be one of the most difficult chores, as it doesn’t seem possible to get more than one a day back to the house. Strawberry shortcake may be just a dream.

We drove down to watch part of the branding one day to find them very short handed. Papa Randy and myself jumped in to help. The little people's daddy, who is a very big marine, jumped in to help 'mug' the calves. The calves never stood a chance.
We ran out of vaccine so went back for lunch to return and brand the rest of the calves later in the day, this time little people's mom pitched in to help.

Papa Randy found a snake sneaking out of the laundry room, so  he brought it through the house to show the little people, before turning it loose in the garden to kill the gophers who have shown up this year. The little people were surprised at how soft the skin was.

 One of the little people got her dream come true and got to go horsebackriding with #5
 It was not all fun and games tho. There was work to be done.

There was a good deal of interaction with the chickens. Cletus did a fine job of guarding and diligently protecting them.

Bruno volunteered for the job of body-guarding the little people.
All in all it was a wonderful visit. We are still waiting to see one more very, very special little person and our year will have been perfect.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On A Sea of Memories

Many years ago, I took up a hobby that was rather out of character for me.
It was important to do something dramatic in my life. The most dramatic action I could think of would be either skydiving, or scuba diving. Considering both airplanes and the ocean terrify me, I managed to make the decision between the two without much difficulty. I assumed that an equipment failure would make it a lot less painful to ‘fall up’ from the bottom of the ocean, than to ‘fall down’ from the height of an airplane.

That done, my ex-husband (not an ex at that time) and I signed up for S.C.U.B.A. classes. Scuba stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. We passed the necessary tests in a swimming pool, as well as the class work and proceeded to go to Ventura, Calif. with the other 3 couples in the class for our first qualifying dive.

We spent the night on a ‘dive boat’, which was a pretty big boat. We had a great dinner, no drinks, at a seafood restaurant and headed for our bunks. I already knew I would be up pacing the deck all night because:
1.    The ex snored like a chainsaw
2.    I had some reservations about going to sea.

Therefore, when the boat left the dock at 2 a.m. I was topside, watching the shore disappear, trying to evaluate how far and how long I would have to swim after the boat sank. We finally arrived at our dive destination several hours later, off the Channel Islands.

We were instructed to ‘suit up’. Scuba diving in California means wearing a very thick, heavy, and extremely tight wetsuit, complete with hood and gloves, due to the very cold California current. It’s actually warmer in winter. A facemask and snorkel complete the look, while a heavy weight belt, floppy and impossible-to-walk-in, heavy flippers, a sharp knife sheathed on the calf of my leg, a BC, (buoyancy control vest) and tank complete with breathing regulator and depth gauge complete the utilitarian part of the ensemble.

I failed to mention, I had talked a friend and her new husband into taking these classes with us. She was an adventurous, outgoing woman who was sure to enjoy this unique and incredible experience.

She was instructed to enter the water before me and she shot me a look that sent chills down my spine. It said wordlessly
“I am going to KILL YOU for getting me into this!!”

I remember she looked a little like Garfield, the way her eyes got big and buggy and seemed to fill her facemask.

We were next told to stand at the edge of the boat, which was about 15’ above the water, and take a giant step. As I looked down, the black water revealed absolutely nothing about what was down there. I had visions of an enormous mouth with rows of teeth open and eagerly waiting to receive me.
I grabbed hold of my mask, took the giant step before I chickened out, and with last thoughts of my beloved children, splashed into the bone chillingly cold California current. I sank like a rock and happily hit bottom, a mere 30 ft and one atmosphere of pressure below, where for reasons unknown, I felt safer. The people who had stepped in before me were already waiting there in a circle.
I tried hard to determine which one was my friend and parked myself as far away from her as possible.

We all went through our exercises, such as removing and replacing our facemasks, regulators, and other survival skills. These are handy things to become accustomed to, because the worst killer underwater is panic. You do NOT want to panic, not only will you put yourself and your dive buddy in jeopardy, but you will SUCK ALL THE AIR OUT OF YOUR TANKS!! I calmly completed all the tasks and then as a group, we took a little trip through the kelp forests. Because there was a bunch of us, there were very few fish to be seen, but I was awestruck by the seaweed kelp plant, which normally looks like so much trash floating on the ocean surface. The stalks reach all the way down to where they are rooted on the ocean floor and they were dancing and weaving with the current, the light playing through the giant leaves making an ethereal glow through which we silently swam. It was a fabulous experience to which I was quickly addicted.

After the required number of qualifying dives we graduated and were able to dive without the instructor and other students. BTW, diving must always be done with a ‘buddy’. To dive alone would be foolish and suicidal.
Our first unsupervised dive was off Anacapa Island. Because there was no crowd of people, the underwater wildlife was not alarmed or alerted and did not hide, like our previous experiences. We sank together, towards the bottom, which was only about 50’ or so. On the way down, a sudden dark shadow flashed between us. With a limited field of vision caused by our facemasks, which only allow you to look forward, I wasn’t sure if I had really seen it or not, but it quickly returned. A seal had decided to join us, and was terrorizing my husband/dive buddy by kamikaze diving toward his face then turning at the last second, swimming away to repeat his performance. I'm pretty sure the water around us suddenly got a little warmer. It is difficult to laugh underwater with a regulator in your mouth, but it can be done. Ask me how I know.
Once we reached bottom the seal went off to other pursuits and we slowly kicked our way into the current, observing the beauty and strangeness of this other world. I looked toward my partner and was amazed by what I saw. An enormous bat ray, with a span the width of our car was gliding toward us, with amazing gracefulness and beauty. I was so excited, I tried to point at it and get his (ex’s) attention. What I actually managed to do was to knock his regulator out and knock his facemask off, so he didn’t see much, but after getting his mask back on, he did catch a glimpse as it swam away and I think I saw him shudder at the size of it. It had skimmed over his head so close I don’t think I could have slid a credit card between them.

We finished our OpenWater credits and in short time earned our Advanced Diver and finally applied for our Rescue Diver Certification.

Each dive was as rewarding and satisfying as the last and each ‘big step’ into the water was as terrifying to me as the first. There were just a couple of snags in the Rescue Diver training.
1.    We had to do a night dive
2.    It’s very, very DARK in the ocean at night.

One is required to wear a ‘chemlight’ on your tank when night diving. This is one of those dealies that you snap and it’s a fluorescent glow-in-the-dark tube. I REALLY didn’t want to dive in the dark, as it pretty much eliminated any reason I had for diving, mainly to sightsee. It just made me feel like bait.
I clumsily dropped my chemlight overboard and was told I would not be allowed to make the dive. I shrugged and tried to act disappointed, when another student who clearly suffered from an identity crisis thinking he was a Labrador Retriever, threw himself overboard, and returned with my chemlight in his mouth. All I could say was “Uh…Thanks…”
 I don’t think I actually said …‘you big jerk.” out loud, but I might have.
The night dive was every bit as awful as I had imagined it to be….

To be cont…

Monday, June 20, 2011

Looks Like Bull to Me

EmmaLouMae Moo had her first calf tonite. She found a nice little hidey hole in a grove of trees by the spring.

She wasn't due until July 1, and I was hoping she would go late because our milk room is not ready. I have been stressing about the milk room being ready all winter long!

I went to feed a new leppy in the barn and noticed the cows up by the corral fence. I hadn't had a chance to check on Emma and Dolly yet, so I went to check. I didn't see Emma, so I climbed up on the fence so I could see farther. Still no Emma.
I hurried to the house to get Randyman, as I figured she was calving and was afraid she may be in trouble. I can't drive the 4 wheeler by myself, or ride my horse because I tore up my shoulder last nite. Randyman drove and I sat on the front. The pups showed up, and I was pretty sure they knew what was going on. They led us to her. The calf was already dry but couldn't be much more than an hour or two old. Emma had not come out of the bushes to eat or drink because she was being too protective. Cletus and Bruno were very excited and happy to see the new charge, and quietly went and introduced themselves to him, in spite of Emma's protectiveness.

I went and got some molasses water, and Randyman sent #5 to come and help get Emma and the new baby up to the corrals where we can milk her out in the morning. I couldn't have done it without #5. She is the best. She and Cletus brought up the rear, while Bruno and I led the way.

She is a fabulous mama, she has been softly mooing to him for hours and is pleased as punch to let him nurse.

New life is a miracle I never get tired of. I think EmmaLou might make a really great milk cow. Tomorrow will tell us more.

Puddled & Befuddled

It appears that my mental acuity is as consistent as the weather. The sun shone brightly yesterday morning with a mere 10% chance of rain. As I mentioned in my last blog, that changed to 100% as the rain came down in torrents and the pups, who spent the winter sleeping out in the snow by choice, were on the back porch trying to avoid the onslaught.

In the meantime, I decided a cup of coffee sounded like a great idea, so I poured in some cream and sugar and stuffed it in the microwave. When I went to retrieve my cup, there was creamer bubbled up and boiled all over the inside, as I forgot to put the coffee in. Chagrined, I turned to look at the pot only to see that I must have THOUGHT about pouring it, because it was no longer on the stand, but set on the counter. I decided instead to have some yogurt, which I had made the day before. I’d heated, cooled, inoculated and set it in the incubator. After 4 hours I then removed it and put it into the fridge.
Upon removing the lid, I realized I never PLUGGED IN the incubator! So it was just milk.

Giving up on the yogurt and coffee idea, I decided to check on the 25 new chicks, only to find to my horror, that they had developed “pasty butt”. Don’t ask. It’s icky…it just is. I had to catch them one by one and give them ‘sitz baths’ to clean them off, or they could perish from the consequences. There is a problem. The big box I am brooding them in is just tall enough, that I cannot reach inside and catch chicks with my little short legs. Therefore, I grabbed a knife and started sawing a hole in the cardboard so I could reach my hand in and nab the little boogers…of course, I had to saw a hole on every side of the box, as the minute I would go to stick my hand in, they would all run to another corner. A mere 45 minutes later, I had captured 8 of the 25 and became a living bidet to a chicken herd. Humility is just a byproduct of living on a ranch and having stewardship of animals. There is no end to the alarming things you may find yourself doing to promote their welfare.

Day after the storm was beautiful. I finally felt well enough to ride, so I saddled up Wimpy and rode out to check out my bovine maternity ward. Quasimoto wasn’t so anxious to stare me down when I was horseback. Afterwards, me and Wimp just went for a cruise, and found a good level spot free of rocks and gopher holes where I rode in circles awhile, working on re-strenghtening. It felt good to be horseback again after these long months.

I got back and Cider found puddles. It made his day.

I am drying up Prissy goat, as the cows will be freshening very soon, and I am tired of her abuse of me. She looked engorged, so taking pity on her, I decided to milk her just a bit to relieve the pressure. As I didn’t need to save the milk, I didn’t put the hobbles on her…

…I don’t know what exactly happened, but the world suddenly went white and I felt white hot, searing pain tear through my previously repaired shoulder. I returned the ungrateful wretch to the pasture and am just now learning how to fill calf bottles with the use of only one arm.

At my age, in my condition, it has come to the point that just pickin’ lettuce has become extreme sport.
 I just love life livin'on the edge.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Before the Storm

We are located in the high desert of SE Oregon and sit at the foot of a 10,000’ fault block known as the Steens Mtns. Just the term “desert’ brings to mind sand, sagebrush, arid, dry, dusty, hot barren land. But not here. This is rangeland, there is an abundance of water from snow run off and underground springs. There are a diverse variety of native grasses carpeting the pastures surrounding us and the past few years it has been uncharacteristically cold and rainy until mid summer.

Today there was a 10% chance of rain. That changed to 100% chance this afternoon. Before it did, I made a trip down to the end of the ‘Nurse cow pasture’ formally known as the “Sheep pasture” because there used to be sheep there. All the pastures here have names. There is the “Cornfield” which is where the horses stay. There is no corn there. Then there is the “Barnfield” behind that, which is a good couple of miles from the barn. There is also the Elk and East Elk (no, there are no elk here) the Airport (nope) the Beetlefield, Poison and Mosquitoe. There are mosquitoes.

At any rate, I grabbed the 4 wheeler and accompanied by Cider, and the Maremmas, proceeded down the half mile long alley that leads to the horse cavy and bottom of the sheep pasture where Quasimoto and his harem were.

Quasimoto is one of the 200 new Akaushi bulls

Quasi stared at us, no matter where we moved, insisting I could only record what he considers to be his ‘good’ side. I like his caboose, but …well yeah, butt. We stayed on the outside of the fence because he wasn’t a very gracious host.

Miss EmmaLouMae was being coy and trying to hide from us. She is camera shy.

Dolly eyeballed me, then struck her sexiest pose. What a beauty queen she is. She truly takes my breath away with her big cow-eyes, twisted little face and boney hips. Perhaps beauty really IS in the eye of the beholder.

On the way back, the boys played in the creek for a bit, then my bodyguards ran alongside a ways, before forging ahead to make sure it was safe for us to return home, via the barn. 

It’s nice to have someone watching out for you.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Moo-ey Monday

It’s Monday again. I know this because my computer said so. Otherwise, it is just like every other day. We usually do a fairly decent job keeping track of the months though…usually.

EmmaLouMae is looking pretty darn wide and it is now beyond any doubt that DollyMoo is also going to calve very soon. I have to get them into a routine of coming in twice a day so I don’t have to drag my carcass through the 20-acre field to find them and drag them up to the house. There is an Akaushi bull out there right now. These are very rare and very expensive bulls. They were imported from Japan, where they are a Japanese treasure. They are remarkable bulls.   Akaushi meat is superior to other breeds of beef. Unlike most red meat, the meat is actually better for you than turkey or bison, it LOWERS cholesterol! It is high in monounsaturated fat, which once melted, remains liquid at room temperature. So, the Akaushi beefsteak is heavily marbled, exceptionally tender, and heart healthy. It’s a break thru in the beef industry, using cattle that have been cloistered on a Japanese island for over 150 years. The few restaurants that contract for this beef charge $95 for a filet. Amazing.
Anyway, the boss was able to acquire some of these amazing bulls and as I mentioned, one is in the pasture to breed next year's nurse cows. It gives me the willies to have “Quasimoto” giving me the eyeball when I go out to check my little Jerseys. But, I digress.

Randyman went out with the 4-wheeler and a bucket of grain to bring the girls up this morning. He made many attempts to woo them with grain, trying to push them with the 4-wheeler and every other trick he could think of. I surveyed the scenery from our backyard, appreciating how nice it is to live hours away from any town…or any neighbors for that matter. An hour later, there were still 6 cows and a bull at the bottom of the field and Randyman came back…alone. They just aren’t used to Randy’s ‘cookin’.

Meantime, 25 chicks arrived with the mailman today. He brought them all the way in from the post office in town, saving me 4 hours of driving, so I gifted him with some soap. They are VERY noisy. Much noisier than 7 chicks were. My plan was to put them outside in the greenhouse, but the weather has been so cold, I wound up keeping them in the living room again. A big cardboard box will have to serve as their temporary quarters until I can no longer bear having them in here, or the weather stablizes…whichever comes first. Darn.

After spending some time with the pups, I headed back out to see if I could encourage Dolly and Emma to come up into the corrals. They were only halfway down the field by now, so I waded through grass above my waist, and lost track of the pups. I was afraid they left me to go patrol, and I had visions of Quasi-moto (the bull) doing a tap dance on me in the tall grass where I wouldn’t be found until it snowed. I hollered, begged and pleaded, shaking the bucket at two apparently deaf cows who refused to look at me, unlike Quasimoto, who wouldn’t take his eyes off of me. 
Then the pups showed up, working their way in behind Emma. She finally turned my way and saw the bucket, and stood looking at me blankly.  I finally gave up, exasperated. I headed back towards the corrals, only to find Dolly and Emma following me, with the pups bringing up the rear.  I am still not sure how the pups got them to do that. They are not herding dogs, they are livestock guardians. But they are independent thinkers, unlike other dogs, who take their cues from man. These highly intelligent animals never cease to amaze me by the things they do.  No matter. Sweet success. 

Is this not one gorgeous Mama? She has that 'bloom' about her. Due July 17, but will probably go sooner.
And let us not forget the lovely EmmaLou...first time mama! Due July 1st and hope she doesn't go sooner!

I love my cows. I love my dogs. I love Randyman. Life is good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Life After Pizza

Following up on our post about making Mozzarella, I have to make note that we cannot have pizza everyday. It just wouldn’t be right. So, aside from using as a topping on Italian dishes, we need another outlet for our Mozzarella madness.

The first step of this process, is to send your Guard Chicken back outside to keep watch at the door for any intruders.

If you don’t have a Guard Chicken, then just proceed with step 2.

Cut the mozzarella you made up into sticks, like so.

Make some seasoned bread crumbs. . Just take some stale bread or lightly toast some, whirl in the Food Processor and add some seasonings. I like to add a lot of parmesan cheese to the crumbs also. 
I use metal pie tins for this, and always have 3 around. I have no idea where they came from, but they are sure handy for stuff like this.
In a second tin, mix some flour with a little bit of cornstarch, and in the third, beat up a couple of eggs and add a little water.

Place a sheet pan near to set your sticks on, once breaded.

Roll sticks in the flour mix, then the egg mix, then in the crumbs. I pat the crumbs on pretty well. Place on sheet pan and put in the freezer. These keep well and go straight from the freezer to the stove. Even if you are going to make them tonite, freeze them first so the cheese doesn’t melt out of your coating and make a big gloppy mess. I freeze them for a few hours then put them in a ziplock bag, marked with the date.

When you decide to fix some up its easy to grab however many you want.

Heat some oil until it sizzles and add a few sticks at a time. It doesn’t take very long for them to brown, then set them on a plate. Cook the rest. The cheese will continue to melt a bit after you take them out.
You can now blow on them a little, then burn your tongue anyway, because they are really good and you know you can’t wait. If  you weren't in such a big hurry, you could take a picture of them, but you have no self control.
Dip them in a little homemade marinara or other sauce and once again, thank your goat or cow for providing you with such good stuff!