Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Most Wonderful Awful Goat in the World

Any of you who have followed my blog know who Prissy is. She is the goat who gave me triplets then immediately rejected them, leaving me no resort but to milk her twice a day and bottle feed them. Not such a bad thing, except milking her meant bloody knuckles, sky rocketing blood-pressure and the need to go before the throne of the King of Kings apologizing for the things I called one of His creatures. She can buck, kick and lift a metal milking stand up off the ground with her head locked up and both hind legs hobbled and chained to the floor. If she had been my first dairy animal, I would drink tea.

The only thing in her favor is the fact that she was giving a gallon and a half a day. After raising the triplets, I took her down to milking only ONCE a day and was still getting 3 quarts of milk at a time. Then we got the bummer lambs. I got to enjoy this little routine again, twice daily and she went back up to giving me 5 quarts a day. Not bad. Then I weaned the bummer lambs and she had to nurse Moose, the monster calf. Him she didn’t kick and fuss about, which I found highly offensive. Once Moose was doing better, I kicked him out to the pasture and actually milked her for a couple of weeks for my OWN use, then my cows freshened and I kicked her out in the pasture and tried hard to forget the trauma she had caused me.

It has been a month now, and she hasn’t been milked or nursed, but her bag is still abnormally large looking. The other doe, Scarlett, has been nursing her twins a little on and off.

A new couple has been hired on at the ranch, and they have a 10 week old baby who has some sensitivities. His mother told me she was advised to try raising him on goat’s milk as the formula she has to buy is very expensive. I told her we would see if we can get enough milk from the goats and if so, I will teach her how to milk and process the milk for him.

We brought Scarlett in and barely squeezed 4 ounces of milk from her. No matter, its noon and she may have more tonite, as the twins might have already tapped her.
Later, Prissy showed up bellowing and bellyaching because she was out in the pasture alone…with 22 other animals…but no Scarlett, as we separated her. I decided to drag Priss to the milkroom just to see what that big bag was all about.
I got the old battle axe up on the stand and after it stopped going airborne on me…I had a half gallon of milk in my bucket. Looks like the little feller is gonna get his goats milk after all!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Til We Meet Again/A Visitor to Paradise

The last of the visiting little people finally came to see us.
This little people is very special to us and her name is Abby.

When they first arrived, Abby rode into the pasture full of critters on her Daddy’s shoulders. The goats, sheep and calves mobbed them and Abby was saying, with great authority
They can be a little overwhelming, especially if they are ALL bigger than you.

Abby, like some other little people we know, REALLY likes chickens. Her folks drove ALL nite to get here and the first day Abby visited the ‘meaty’ chickens, the little chickens and the laying hens, who are not yet laying.

She met the boss’ wife and fast-talked her into a ride on her lawnmower. Then she met the boss’ daughter and fast-talked her into not only a ride on her shoulders, but on the 4-wheeler as well.

Then she went to see her favorite chickens, the little chickens. Then she went to see the meatie chicks again and I caught her doing a little chicken dance and doing chicken talk. 

Then she went back to see the little chickens. We planted some flowers, played a bit in the waterfall, then she sneaked out to see the little chickens. Later, Papa Randy was going out by the chicken pen, so Abby went with him.

We fed all the bottle calves and the milk cows. Abby was a little squeamish about getting too close to the milk cows to pet them. She agreed to come sit on the milking stool in the corral, as the cows were locked in the stanchion, after all. While I was checking Dolly Moo’s udder, the most unusual thing happened. It suddenly squirted a very long stream of milk in Abby’s direction, landed on her knees and made her laugh. There are a rash of strange occurrences like that here, from time to time.

The boss has hired a new Cowboss who moved in this weekend with TWO little people. The older little person (5 yr) came and made instant friends with Abby. They spent Day #2 walking hand in hand all over the ranch. Unfortunately, my camera was not at hand, but what a sweet picture they made. They went and held new puppies at 5 yr old little persons house. They ate orange pops in the backyard. The pups were in the front yard, trying to get into the back as they felt an urge to be guarding the little kids. I went around and opened the side gate and let the dogs into the back. Upon returning, I found that at the same time, the two little people had cut through the house and left by the front door, so I went back out and let the pups into the front yard. Then the little people went back inside because they wanted to watch a video. The same video they had made us turn on 5 other times then left before it actually started. They were busy and spent the whole day together having a good time. In spite of the 2 year age difference, they made fast friends. The dogs solved THEIR problem by splitting up. One in the front yard and one in the back.

The cowboys brought in two more leppies so I had to go to the barn and get them on a bottle. Abby, Abby’s mom, and Bruno accompanied me. I entered the stall with two VERY large leppie calves and one became distraught and began running around and throwing himself against the gate. Bruno immediately placed himself between Abby and the gate as a buffer, and he quietly remained there until I was done. He then walked slowly, keeping pace with Abby and her mother on the way back to the house. The life of a bodyguard is very demanding that way.

THAT night, when it was time to milk, Abby came out with me and while I was around the corner filling up grain buckets and she thought I couldn’t see her, she dashed over and touched Dolly Moo’s little ‘moptop’ and like a rocket, ran back to her spot, proclaiming loudly


She was very proud of this accomplishment and each day has become bolder, even insisting she gets out of the wagon in the cow corral while I am milking.

Several chicken checks were done throughout the day, with Cletus supervising. Last nite, the owls were out trying to steal my chickens. I could hear the dogs barking from the area outside where the meaties like to sleep. They have been amazingly brilliant at protecting these chicks from predators both high and low. Last week a coon was treed and day and night, they fend off the 3 large owls that are living in the top of the barn next door. This morning when I went out to check the chickens all were present and accounted for.

When I first awoke this morning I noticed the dogs were in the yard already. They don’t normally return from their dawn patrol until about the time I milk and feed calves. I stepped outside and quickly saw why. One of the lambs had somehow gotten through the fence into the yard and they were in attendance of her. I guess they didn’t think it was a serious enough problem to alert me to the situation. That’s probably because THEY aren’t the ones who planted all the strawberries, raspberries and flowers in the yard.

Whenever one or all of the lambs fails to come back to the pasture, at least one of the dogs remains with them as a guardian. Usually it’s Cletus. Even though he is the largest of the two, he is the first to sound the alarm and tends to stand over the animals while Bruno goes out to handle the confrontations.

Abby and I watered the yard and sat on the back porch while her mom took a nap. Cletus came over to ‘count’ her, as he does all of his charges. He did his nose touch to her, received a hug, then went to lay down at our feet. Bruno sat, leaning against Abby while she hugged him furiously. He remained at her side while she played stick with Cider. He occasionally reached out his long leg and tapped her with his foot, without ever dragging a claw across her, That was pretty interesting to me, and I am not quite sure what he was saying, but she thought it was pretty neat.

Randyman got the stanchion finished so we could finally milk Emma in the milk room. It was wonderful! Emma was happy, I was practically giddy, and Abby was tickled because she could easily brush Em without worrying about her toes being stepped on. They seemed to work together well as a team, Emma telling her where the itch was, and Abby going after it with her brush.

It was a great couple of days full of chicken checking, cow milking, sheep shaking, goat chasin’, cheesemaking, popsicle eating, puppy petting goodness, and Abby gets more beautiful and smarter every day. Toot has got a hard act to follow!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Just Another Day in Paradise

It was time for our quarterly trip to the grocery store, so we hooked up the horsetrailer (we buy a LOT of food every 3 months) and went to bed early. Out of bed and on the road before dawn to make the 4 ½ hour trek to town. Sadly, my Ipod went down, so there was no book-tape to listen to therefore music had to suffice.
We got everything done in record time and made it back home before midnite.

Next morning, I went out to check on the milk cows and the leppie calves. All looked to be well, we bottle fed the leppies and checked on chickens. Bruno showed up, but Cletus was A.W.O.L. Assuming he would show up in due time we began unpacking the large coolers that we’d packed all the frozen and cold foods in. This of course, is AFTER I helped Randyman carry them into the house. They were unbelievably heavy. We made several trips in and out of the front door. It wasn’t long before we found out where Cletus was. The lambs had all escaped from the pasture and were running amok on the ranch, which is host to an abundance of coyotes, bobcats and cougars, not to mention over eager cowdogs. Cletus was babysitting. He finally led them all to the front door.

Cider laid on the doormat while our Cletus’ little charges came in to check the purchases and see if there was anything of interest. They never knocked, didn’t call out ‘yoohoo!”, didn’t ask permission. They just barged in. You’d think they were born in a barn.

After $800 worth of groceries (3 months worth) were put away, I decided to go ahead and try my hand at making cheddar cheese with some of the milk that Dolly and Emma had so generously gifted us with. There are several steps to this, as it’s a bit more complicated than mozzarella and ricotta. I will fill you in at a later date. Cheddar is an aged cheese, so mine is currently in the ‘cheese cave’ where it will remain for 2 months. Then I will know if it is any good or not! That’s a long time to wait just to test it. But I will make more in the meantime and take good notes.

We are excitedly getting ready for our next ‘little people’ visit. My son and his family will be here in the morning. They have to drive all nite long, as it’s about 13 hours from their house to ours and they have decided the trip goes easier with a 3 year old if they drive at night while she is sleeping. Funny thing, Randyman does the same thing with me when we go that direction.
Only today, he has to suffer the “are they here, yet?” as opposed to the “are we there, yet?”s. I will be praying for their safety all night, as it is worrisome. My other son has fallen asleep while driving and its just one of those things a mom worries about. I can’t wait to see them!

The boss’ family was out of town at the yearling ranch in Idaho, so I asked if she could maybe pick up some annuals on the way home so I could fill a couple of small pots. She came home with a small truckload of flowers. I’ve been cramming them in every feasible container. We have a great ranch family. I’m crazy about them.

It’s a beautiful warm day outside. I fed leppies then checked the milk cows and their foster calves. All the calves seemed sated, but EmmaLou was still tight-bagged on one side. It appears that the foster calves all like Dolly better, so instead of each cow nursing 2 calves, Dolly is feeding 3 and Emma has just 1. She stood perfectly while I milked her out. What a great cow she is! She isn’t even 2 years old until August this year, but already she has given us a nice freezer calf and is milking like a dream. I do love Jerseys, even if they are a little high maintenance. Dolly, her mother, is perfectly happy fostering calves and feeding her own, Mo. I will only milk her when we are very needy, which will probably not even happen. I am so glad though, that she had a calf this year. She is also a wonderful cow to milk, although a friend reminded me that this was not always the case. A year ago last spring, she had a tendency to mash me into the wall, kick and hold up her milk. It took a long while for her to straighten out and afterwards she was a pleasure to milk. Its therapy, really, and boy, do I need therapy! Recently, I have had to milk out in the hot sun, flies, dust and poop. Luckily I have a milking machine so the milk stays clean, but its not much fun with the biting flies, and having to crawl through the fence a million times to grab the things I need. Randyman is working on building me a new stanchion for my unfinished milkroom and I am so looking forward to that!

I processed Emma’s gallon from this morning and made some ice cream custard to put in the fridge so we can make homemade ice cream tomorrow. I went out in the heat of the day to check on everyone. There was a ‘meatie’ chicken who had escaped and was walking around Cletus and Bruno, who ignored him completely. I was pretty tickled, because as late as last spring, they were pinning and plucking chickens. They finally got the message and have since been very protective of them. All this week, they have been guarding them from owls by night and hawks by day. This as well as keeping an eye on the goats, lambs and calves…and me. They are convinced Ike the cowdog is a danger to me and I cannot leave the house without them  threatening him.  I had to water the boss’ flowers so I jumped on the 4 wheeler, and next thing I knew, my two polar bears were tussling with 3 border collies, while 3 lambs stood by in confusion. They realized the lambs had followed, broke off the argument and headed back to the pasture. I locked the pups up to prevent another altercation. They knew I wasn’t happy about it.

As I was watering, I looked up and where the driveway Y’s…I saw Bruno sitting in the middle of the road, a couple hundred yards away, watching me. I turned my head and looked down the other way, and there was Cletus, on the other road doing the same. They had me covered. I went around the back of the house, and the border collies followed. Before you could say lickety split, my two big white dogs came flying around both corners of the house. They were not about to let me out of their sight. There were no arguments, so I went on about my watering, and the boys followed me home and took a well-earned nap.

They will likely be hard at work again tonite and tomorrow, they will have one more precious charge to watch over for a few days. It’s gonna be great!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blue Monday

Sometimes, even in paradise, you have one of those days. I had to capitulate today to reality, and it sucks. I had a mare that I really liked, she was drop dead gorgeous, moved like a dream, but because of my health issues I cannot ride her. I wound up in the hospital a couple years ago and nearly died just because she was playful and I broke my ribs and punctured a lung. A friend took her for a year and rode her, but I needed someone to get on her again for me once she came home. No one wanted to, so she just hung out for a whole year. I can’t risk getting on her unless I am sure she is not going to be playful anymore. The balance challenges and draining of my strength prevents me from doing at all, what I used to do for a living.

Being 5 hours from anywhere also makes it impossible to sell her. No one wants to drive 5 hours on a ‘maybe’. So I gave her away. I lose everything I invested in her, plus my dreams. Reality sucks. I am no longer the person I used to be, nor the person I want to be. That part of my life is over and yes, I am very sad. It's like letting go of a very important part of myself, that will never be reclaimed.

I locked the calves up last nite so I could milk both cows. I need cream, as my son and his family are coming and I want to make ice cream and a few other delicacies, plus I wanted to start making some hard cheeses. My milk room STILL isn’t up or functional, so once again, I milked outside in the hot sun, dust, flies and poop. The fosters my cows previously wouldn’t feed without being restrained, stood by while the cows sidled up to the fence and let them nurse. Mo and CWilly managed to squeeze through the boards and finish off what there was. Both cows were empty-uddered and neither would let down any milk. I got a few squirts out of Dolly, and for that, I had to spend the time washing out the milker. It is CLEARLY one of those days.

I take the last two gallons of milk left from before we started having to graft on leppie calves and proceed to enter the world of real cheesemaking. This will be my first hard cheese. I’ve never before used the cheese press, or the cheese ‘cave’ which is a little, used wine refrigerator I found on Craigslist. We were able to pick it up at a friends who was kind enough to go and get it and store it for us until we made it to Boise. There are good people in this world.

Reading and re-reading recipes, cheesebooks, internet forums and everything else I can get my hands on, I pour my milk into the pot and begin heating it. I put in the mesophilic culture which might already be too old, so the cheese may well be doomed before I even get started, but there is only one way to find out, and the thing about cheese is, you get better with practice, so no matter how this wheel turns out, it’s a learning curve. Besides, it would not interrupt the flow of my day if it did fail, I just won’t know it for a month.
 I stir in the culture, let it sit for 45 minutes to ripen and stir in the rennet. It sits covered for another 45 minutes to set up, while I brainstorm about how I can do this in quantity in the future, and what size containers I might be able to use...crockpot? roaster? 
Pressing takes awhile, but I do have two sizes of molds, so I can do up to 4 gallons of milk at a time. That’s a 4 lb wheel of cheese, which would actually last us a little while. I’m excited. You can make cheddar, Colby, pepper Jack, Gouda, Romano, Parmesan, and all those other wonderful cheeses at home! I look forward to the day when I can whip out a fresh block of Parmesan, aged for a year, and hand it off to my chef-friend to grate over one of his sensations. Better yet, I will treat him to one of my own.

It will feel good to gift someone some homemade cheese and soap. Something they can’t get just anywhere…gosh…that would go so well with homemade candles…I wonder…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Got Milk? Yeah.

One Mo is a week old now. We have been trying to get both the Jersey cows to accept a leppie or two, to insure they are adequately milked on the days we have to go to town to buy groceries, see doctors, or whatever. As any trip off the ranch takes hours of driving we are usually gone from before dawn, to midnite or so. It makes for a long, hard day.

Emma Lou has not been happy about sharing her bounty with another calf, but has relented somewhat. Dolly has too much milk. I would like to limit her to two calves, Mo and one leppie, but they can’t seem to get the job done. The leppies gorge themselves to the point of real concern and Mo doesn’t nurse very heartily. They all go for the same teat so that is also a problem. Our only solution so far, has been to feed the cows in the headgate, and bring out a calf or two to dine, then selectively choose calves to finish off the job, twice a day. It’s a lot more work than it ought to be.

It will get easier, and it would certainly be easier to just milk them, but this Saturday is the ONLY day in quite some time, we will be free to leave the ranch. We have had a great deal of company lately, and more to come. We are very, very excited about our final ‘little person’ coming to see us, so we MUST go to town and resupply.

That means somebody else (#5 and our nephew) will have to come take care of the cows, leppies, bottle calves, and chickens for the day. That doesn’t SOUND like a very tall order, but seeing as how they normally work 10 hours a day, and there is a branding that day, its going to be pretty tough.
Nonetheless, it has to be done. We will give them quick instructions, pray for the best and I will spend a day of high anxiety waiting to get back and make sure my cows’ bags are in good shape. They have problems already as Emma has a sore, and Dolly has a rather large wound on hers. Babies are going to have to learn to take bottles once we get back, as they need to be healed up before they can take the abuse of calves again.

"I ordered a side salad with this...."

Feeding frenzy

Cow Hooters/Calendar girls

 Moose has graduated from goats.

Since both my angus/jersey heifers were born with testicles, (in otherwords, they were bull calves instead) I am naming this heifer "Hugh Heifer". She is a bottle baby. They tried to graft her on to Nurse Ratched, but the nasty old thing traumatized her so badly, she won't go near a cow now. She just likes me, so she can be another future nurse cow.

A Happy Dolly and Mo. What a beautiful couple.

Hang in there Mo

Sunday, July 10, 2011

All Wet/Sea of Memories II

Night diving is not my forte’. The ocean is dark enough in California with a mere 30’ of visibility underwater on a GOOD day. I like to know what is swimming next to me, or more importantly, behind me, if at all possible. We did carry underwater flashlights, but honestly the only thing it illuminated for me was that I do NOT like night diving!
The only benefit to night diving (as far as I am concerned) is lobster hunting. Lobsters come out at night, as opposed to staying in their little ‘caves’ where they tend to co-habitate with Moray eels. Believe me, you don’t want to reach in after a lobster and come back with one of those attached to your arm. They are like legless pitbulls on steroids.
If any of my friends or family want to dive at night and lobster hunt, I will gladly melt the butter and wait up for them.

Our qualifying night dive was at 80', which is two+ atmospheres of pressure, There were several divers. Because of the darkness, I was kicked in the head several times by big old flippers and I don’t even know WHO kicked me. It wasn’t much fun. The instructor wrote a couple of things on a board for us to respond to and that was pretty much it. I just wanted OUT of the water.

Next we headed to Morro Bay to do a ‘rescue’ scenerio on a ‘beach dive’. There are reasons I don’t like beach diving. Sand in your shorts is one thing, but a wet suit full of it is quite another! We were split up into teams and one half was to go out and float face down, ‘unconscious’ while the other half swam out to rescue them and swim them back, all the while giving mouth to mouth.

My husband was the victim…so they say. (Don’t believe it)  I swam a ways  out to rescue him, got him flipped over onto his back, and struggled to drag him back to shore while respirating him, only to find that my $100 facemask AND my snorkel were now somewhere at the bottom of a muddy and zero visibility Morro Bay. I seriously thought about swimming him back out and leaving him where I found him, because his snarky attitude already told me it wasn’t a good trade.

Somewhere in between all this we took a dive weekend with our friends again. We went out hunting abalone this time. The guys brought their spear guns for fishing, as it was easy to limit-out on sheephead bass, which are an excellent eating fish. I didn’t like diving with spear hunters, mostly because all the fish tend to leave the vicinity. I like to sightsee.

The ‘boys’ went their direction and we went ours. I had my ‘ab’ bar and a sack. I forget how many abalone were the limit. It was 8 or 4, or something like that. We lucked out and dropped right down on a huge bed of abalones. My friend grabbed the bar and started popping abby’s off, right and left, and sticking them in my sack. I think there were 13 of them in there, and it was getting difficult to swim with all the weight. I wondered when she was going to stop, as I was certain we had more than our allotted share. She seemed crazed and I remembered the look she gave me on our qualifying dive and began to suspect she was trying to drown me.  Abalone is a big muscle. They attach themselves to large rocks and just sit there and breath. You have to be quick to get the bar under their ‘foot’ and pop them loose before they clamp down, or there is no getting them off. I grabbed my bar, and with my lightening reflexes, I watched my ab slam down on it. I wrestled and struggled awhile and I finally added the ab bar to my list of scuba equipment that is still, to this day, at the bottom of the sea. When we got back up on the deck, my friend showed her husband the results of our abalone hunting. He ranted and whined, miffed that HE didn’t get to find his own, so... she threw 4 of them back overboard and told him to "go get 'em." I don’t think that was the response he expected.

We had our own equipment, new BC’s and I got a new ‘ladies’ slim-line tank. It’s much narrower than regular tanks, and not quite as heavy. We had another qualifying dive coming up on Wednesday, so Tuesday I got all our stuff out on the bed and got ready to pack it in our dive bags. I put my tank on the vest and went to slip it over my back when “WHAM” a searing pain shot through me like I had been pierced by a bayonet. Things did not improve over the next few minutes and when the family found me laying on the floor, wearing pajamas and a diving vest, it was decided I better make a quick trip to the chiropractor. I had a pretty much open account with him as something was always in the wrong place.

He x-rayed my back and found a badly bulged disc. He put ice on it and clued me that I would be looking at probably at least a couple of weeks of bedrest, with regular appointments for therapy. Insisting I HAD to make this dive, he kept me 8 hours alternative ice and heat, and the next day they threw my tanks and BCvest in the water and I suited up there. The weightlessness of the ocean and the atmospheric pressure of the dive did more towards healing my back than the two weeks of rest ever could. It was a good decision.

When scuba diving, you must log your dives, the depth of your dive and the length of the dive underwater, in case you absorb too much nitrogen in your body and have to make a decompression stop. Otherwise you get the bends which is horribly, terribly, awfully painful, or so I hear. I prefer to err on the side of caution. Yes, I really do. I know you probably don’t believe me, but its true. In spite of all the accidents and injuries I have incurred, I would not have survived if I wasn’t cautious.

Father’s Day rolled around and being the nice family that we were, me and the boys, (I hear my English teacher sister correcting that…the boys and “I”) got their dad a brand new wetsuit. It was sharp looking, and nifty.
Our next dive I had a new regulator and depth gauge. We made our first dive at only about 35 ft. It was beautiful, there were all kinds of neat little silvery fish, an octopus, several ‘sea cucumbers’ which are kind of well…offensive looking. There were a couple of spider-crabs which gave me the willies, and some really nice, large turban shells on the bottom. You know all those cute little shells you find on the beach? Well, at the bottom of the ocean they are NOT little and according to my experience, they are also rarely vacant. I used to collect them for my kids. Once, when getting back on board with my shell, a little tiny octopus came slithering out of it and landed in the palm of my hand. He looked like a little cartoon. I felt bad so I dropped him back in the water. His name was “Squishy” Sadly, a school of sheephead found him. Poor little guy.

Anyway, our second dive that day I was sure, was much deeper. We descended until it was fairly dark, and my ex wanted to take the lead. I always felt a lot more nervous when I was behind, since you don’t have rearview mirrors when you dive and no one would notice if I disappeared. There wasn’t a great deal of trust here. After all, he did know my friend and I believe he could be bought. It became increasingly darker in the kelp forest and I checked my depth gauge…it said 30’. Surprised, as I thought it felt more like 60’,I shrugged to myself and continued on, legs waving rhythmically as we cruised through the water. Out of the kelp it became brilliantly light. Suddenly, my ex did an about-face and kicking furiously, ZOOM! He darted past me and was out of sight.
Panicked now, I could only imagine what he’d seen that elicited that kind of a violent reaction. There are many great whites off the coast of California, since they enacted the harbor seal protection act. There have been various attacks on humans, which are rarely reported. I was certain he’d seen one and left me to be an appetizer. I saw nothing but also turned and began kicking furiously, heading for what seemed the safety of the kelp forest.

I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized, I wasn’t moving. My legs were pumping like pistons but I wasn’t getting ANYWHERE! I visualized one of my fins in the mouth of a leviathon and I resigned myself to my fate, which is probably a good thing, because sometimes apathy makes you think a bit more clearly. I realized that nothing had a hold of me and as I twisted myself around and looked back, I realized the reason I wasn’t going anywhere was because my feet and flippers were OUT OF THE WATER! I looked at my depth gauge again and it still said 30’. I righted myself, only to see a bunch of folks on board the boat already, waving and laughing. Checking my gauge once more, I saw that I had forgotten to reset it to zero, and the tab that reads where the deepest point of my last dive was still at 30’. I also saw that my tank was about empty, because…as I mentioned previously, panicking makes you suck all the oxygen out of your tank.

Swimming back to the boat over the top of the kelp beds wasn’t much fun, but it was a lesson learned. That was also when my new ‘slimline’ tank decided  it didn’t properly fit my BC and came off, attempting to drag my regulator and depth gauge back down to the bottom with it. I got to ‘rescue’ my tank, and swim back with it, while respirating myself, this time.

My partner explained his quick turn around and departure. His new wet suit was too buoyant and he didn’t have enough weight on his belt. As we got shallower, he had to dive deeper because the suit was sucking him toward the surface.

The experience had an impact on my diving. Later that day, they set up a scenerio for our last test before being certified as a Rescue diver. We were to play ‘dive master’ in hypothetical situations and coordinate rescues. This is the scenerio they gave me, and how it played out:

Instructor: “You are dive master, there is a diver 100 yd out who is the victim of a shark attack. All other divers are underwater. How are you going to coordinate the rescue?

Me: “Uh..uhm…we’ll drive the boat over next to him and pick him up.

Instructor: “You can’t do that, you have to swim out and rescue him”

Me: “NO, I don’t. Then there would be TWO people eaten by a Great White and they will still have to drive the boat up next to him. He’s probably already gone because you have been here arguing with me. Now we just have to drive by and gaff him.”

Instructor: “You aren’t going to jump in the water?”

Me: “Nope.”

I failed. I think my ex got some ridiculous, easy scenerio, such as someone throwing up chowder or something. I’m pretty sure it was rigged.

Cont. sometime later, eventually

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just A One Mo Day

It was a warm, warm, very warm day today. DollyMooD looked very warm. Her due date to calve isn’t until the 17th of July, but she typically goes early. I checked on her this morning and there were some major changes from yesterday. Her ‘pins’ are very relaxed and she is looking slab sided.

The pups weren’t home this morning, like usual, so I went out to see if Dolly had already calved. She hadn’t, but they were out there with her anyway. IT’s almost as if they know something is about to take place.

Each morning there is a ‘cow convention’ in the orchard. All the nurse cows, calves, and the bull come up to rest in the shade and cud. Emma’s ‘boys’ love their gramma Dolly. Emma frequently leaves them with her to babysit. Cows are good about that.
They are very neighborly and help each other out. I am not sure if they ever 'borrow a cup of milk' or not, but they are still good neighbors.

She looked decidedly uncomfortable. Then she started doing ‘baby talk’. She laid there with the rest and began to softly moo, as if she was crooning to her not yet born calf. 

Cletus laid a short distance off, under a fallen tree, keeping watch over all of them. After awhile, Dolly got up and parted company with the rest. That was when I was sure this was the day. She headed ALL the way down to the bottom of the big pasture. Alone. By herself.

A few hours later, I decided I had better check on her, and make sure she hadn’t started calving and if she had, that there were no problems. I got on my 4 wheeler and headed the long mile down the horse lane to the bottom of the pasture. I saw Dolly about ¾ of the way down, way out in the deep grass…but only for a second. She suddenly dropped out of sight and I knew this was it. I raced down to the gate in 4th gear, then slowly headed up the inside fence line to the approximate area I had seen her go down.

Pshaw! Calving problems my foot! She spit that little turkey out in record time. She was already back up on her feet by the time I arrived, 4 minutes later, licking her little pile of goo like he was the sweetest thing on earth. I crossed my fingers it was a heifer. I told her I wanted a Jersey/Angus heifer for my birthday. That is a couple days off yet, so I can’t hold it against her for having a bull calf, since it wasn’t on the right day.

I took a few pictures and drove back up to the house to get her some molasses water. As I headed up the horse lane to the barn, I passed the ranch caavy on their way back to the pasture. They had apparently finished their long day's work and I felt like I was goin the wrong way on a One-Way street.

After plying Randyman for a 5 gallon bucket, I filled it up, he carried it to the 4-wheeler for me, and I carefully headed back down to the ‘bovine maternity ward’.

Dolly gratefully slurped down the 5 gallons of sweet energizing water and went to eating grass. Her calf was almost dry and on his feet now, looking for the ‘cafeteria’. She was being very accommodating, by squirting milk all over the ground. She squirted and squirted, and that little squirt kept sucking her front shoulder, her knee, her brisket, and the top of her udder. It apparently didn’t occur to him to look underneath, where his dinner was quickly disappearing into the ground. He headed to the molasses water bucket. I noted he was about the same color. I pushed him back at her, she kept mooing, he kept trying to follow me. He sure did look like that  molasses water. I thought about EmmaLou’s bull calf, which is almost 2 weeks old now and now we had “One Mo”. Mo for molasses, and another bull calf.

Welcome to the ranch, Mo.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Beauty of Butter

One of my favorite cow-gifts is butter. The politically correct “eat engineered food” crowd has viciously slandered butter. The misconception that it is unhealthy (most anything can be unhealthy if not taken in moderation) is false. Real butter is rich in vitamin A, and D, E and K2. Real butter contains iodine, lecithin and selenium, which is an anti-oxidant. It has more selenium per gram than wheat germ, whole wheat, or garlic.

Butter's butyric acid is an anti-carcinogen, and the lauric acid in butter is both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. There are also elements, which protect from gastro intestinal infections. The saturated fat in butter, once vilified, actually has  anti-tumor, anti-cancer properties.

Butter from grass-fed cows contain a great deal of CLA which helps the body build muscle instead of store fat.
Most importantly to MY own situation, raw butter has something called the Wulzen factor. It helps prevent arthritis and ensures the calcium in your body goes to bones not into joints and tissues. Pasteurization destroys this.

Butter actually promotes good health. Medical Research Council found that men eating butter ran only half the risk of developing heart disease as those eating margarine.

Margarine, on the other hand, contains man made trans-fats, (unsafe at any level), free radicals, synthetic vitamins, preservatives, BHT, bleach, artificial flavoring, and other properties that are not conducive to health.

So, here is how I make this incredibly delicious, healthy and delectable delicacy.

After milking my cow, I strain and quickly chill the milk which then goes in the milk fridge. The following day, I skim the heavy cream off the top of my gallon jars. This cream is so wonderfully thick, I have to use a spatula to push it off the spoon!

When I have as much cream as I want, I set it out to ‘ripen’ and come to room temperature.

Then, into the KA. I usually pour about a half gallon of heavy cream in.

Turn the mixer on low, and wait from 3 to 20 minutes, depending on several factors…temperature, stage of lactation, etc. Usually my butter breaks between 5 and 10 minutes. I fill a container with cold water and dump my paddle and butter molds in it to soak.

Once the butter breaks, which is when there will be blobs of butter and the rest of the liquid separates off, I take the bowl to the sink and drain off the buttermilk into a container to use later. I then put some COLD water in the bowl and begin to paddle out the extra buttermilk. If the buttermilk isn’t all squished out of the butter, it will go rancid quickly.

After the water is coming out pretty much clear, I add a little vitamin E oil, and if I am going to salt it, I do it now. I mix it in well, then fill the butter mold. Both help to preserve the butter for a longer time.

I press it out and OOO la la!! I  have a lovely pound of butter! I then wrap and freeze it for later use. The left overs I made into little pats or balls for using with our bread, or pancakes, or whatever. My 1/2 gallon of heavy cream makes me 4 and a 1/2 lb of fresh, homemade butter and the left over buttermilk is great in pancakes or bread.

It really is this beautiful yellow color naturally. But with the flash on, you can't see the nifty stars from my mold...

Which, look like this. :)

Love it.

Thank you EmmaLou and DollyMoo.