Saturday, December 29, 2012

On A Clear Night..(I can see forever!)






I was going to wait to blog again until after we got back from our trip to California to see our families. I changed my mind last nite because it was just so nifty I have to share. So, I will catch you up, dear readers, on some recent events.

Christmas Eve was great. Randyman and I had both the ranch irrigator and our nephew who is the current ranch cowboss, both bachelors, for dinner. It was an awesome experience as we all got to share our thoughts about the Lord. The conversation filled me more completely than the meal ever could have. It was a truly satisfying celebration of Christmas.

It has been snowing frequently and building up pretty well outside. It’s beautiful. It’s also cold and hard to trudge through when one has a condition that flares in both cold and barometric changes. It is what it is, and we must deal with these inconveniences of life the best we can. The good news is I’ve had a couple of “middle of the night” experiences, which are always exciting, and will relay the most recent here.

In preparation for our trip, I have been confining the Maremmas in the small pasture next to the house where the sheep are wintering. I turn the dogs loose at night to patrol and keep predators at bay and Randyman lets them in to visit in the morning...well, not really. They are usually sleeping in the lambing shed or coming home from work when he opens the gate and they happily shoulder their way past him and push the door open to the house where they wake me up with icy bodies and wet noses. COLD wet noses. Once I am fully awake and Cletus’ hug deficiency has been treated, along with my own, I dote on Bruno for a few minutes then put them into the pasture with the sheep. I am the only person they listen to, so Randy is helpless to do anything about it.

They will have to remain in confinement continually for the week we are gone, as no one on the ranch has any control of them if there is a problem. There usually are none, but I feel safer knowing they are okay, out of trouble and safe with the sheep. They are going to hate it, so I am slowly working them into it by putting them there each day.




Last night at about 10:30, Cletus was barking his ‘Timmy’s-in-the-well, something is wrong” bark. But I didn’t hear Bruno, so I figured Cletus was over reacting. I couldn’t remember if I had  left the back gate open or closed. I have finally decided to leave it open so the Polar bears can rest on the porch and defrost before waking me in the morning. I decided to check the gate and make sure everything was okay and to reassure Cletus. He relaxed some when he saw me coming.



The moon had come up big and bright. As it reflected off of the snow, everything was illuminated. I could see clearly all the way across the valley. One of the thoughts that always triggers is, that as the light from the sun is reflected off of the moon onto us, we should be able to reflect the grace of the Savior onto those around us. I pray that someday, He will have conformed me enough to His image that I illuminate the world around me as the moon and snow did this night. I have a long, long way to go. Sometimes both my outlook and my output can be pretty dim.



I opened the gate and instead of coming in the yard, Cletus turned around and looked back at me. He always does this when he wants to show me something. I followed him and worked my way over the crunching, icy snow as he led me through two large corrals and down the  long alley towards the huge pasture next to Mister. I couldn’t get over how easily I could see things. I was able to see the cattle in the miles wide pasture across the valley. It was amazing and hard to believe it was late at night. Cletus continued on alone about half way to the willows, I remained by Mister’s gate. This pasture is large and rugged, with willows, sagebrush, large rocks and what is now a dry stream bed. Much of it is concealed from view. A lone coyote was somewhere south of us yipping and calling. I couldn’t tell how far, but there had been a lone calf in the pasture a couple of nights earlier and I didn’t know if he had made it back thru the fence to his mother or not. I was afraid the coyote may have caught up and was making a meal of him. I wondered where Bruno was, as I had not seen him anywhere before or during our trek out. I didn’t have to wait long as he came roaring past me at top speed and passed Cletus, who caught up with him in short order. 

The yipping of the coyote continued for a couple minutes while the dogs were out of sight. I heard Bruno start his “put down your weapon and back away” bark. The yipping continued, as did the warning bark. After a few minutes of this Cletus came ambling out of the willows. He never looked my way, but instead, half way back from the willows he turned and sat at full attention, staring intently in the direction of the dispute. I wondered about everything I had been watching. These are the conclusions I have drawn.


Cletus tends to be the ‘close in’ protector of the stock. Bruno does the lion's share of the patrolling, sometimes with Cletus at his side, other times not. Tonite, Cletus was clearly concerned with the close proximity of this coyote, who seemed to be calling others to join him. He wouldn’t wander far from the sheep to confront it on his own and risk leaving them unprotected. Bruno must have heard from where ever he was on his nightly rounds and rushed to address the issue, Cletus joining him. When they had been out of my sight for several minutes, I heard Bruno's warning bark begin. A few minutes later, Cletus returned partway. He was close enough to be able to quickly defend the sheep in the event of a breech in their defenses, but also close enough to help Bruno if he needed it. 


As the yipping died off and Bruno’s bark changed to one less combative, Cletus relaxed, rose and turned and walked my way. He greeted me and turned and sat at my feet, watching in the direction of Bruno’s bark. It finally got quiet and I saw Bruno exit the willows. They escorted me home, everything around me bright with the light dancing off of the ice crystals in various colors, which was both surprising and delightful as it was nearly the middle of the night and I never before saw prism like colors at night.

I stepped out of the crisp, cold air into the warmth of our little house, feeling like I had been richly rewarded with an experience few people ever enjoy. I was energized and enchanted by the vision given to me by the overwhelming wonder of Creation. The moon, mountains, the snow, stars, livestock, the wildlife and the heart of these awesome dogs. Their purpose is primarily to protect the sheep from harm, but they are unashamedly demonstrative about their love and devotion for me as well. Somewhat like the guardian angels of the Bible, they protect and defend, as well as impart an amazing message.

 Just as Jesus came and ministered to the populace of first century Israel, walking among men, dispensing endless love and grace, standing firm in His willingness to put His own life between the enemy of our soul and those He came to save, He has shown unequivocally that He includes me in that eternal promise of grace, devotion and protection. Like my Maremmas, all I had to do was call out to Him and as a result of His drawing near, I find myself loving Him, just as I need to reach out and embrace my dogs, burying my face in their deep fur, sharing with them my grief, or my joy as life pours it out. With both the Lord and the dogs, the abundant return I receive is beyond comprehension or my ability to describe it.

This blog that I maintain here isn’t about God. I am neither a Pastor nor a theologian. We don’t even have a church, as we are hours away from the nearest town. I merely write about my own experiences and try to express myself in the only medium available to me, which is here. Part of that experience is my God that you also may, or may not know. One I happily committed my life to, because His love and power is so far reaching He is able to make my simple, insignificant and remote life a sermon to me. His near presence and the lessons of my life help me understand more fully, through my surroundings and the animals He has designed, the amazing depth of His love and commitment to me, even though I have done nothing to merit it. So, although I normally just write about the mundane events of my life, such as being knocked about by sheep or milking or making bread, there are times that are so wonderful and overwhelming that I have to let it overflow onto the page and let it rest here.

I continue my simple life after one of these epiphanies, with a lighter heart. I see everything  more clearly, through the lens He has given me. All things take on the hues and textures of His influence, from the most banal task of cleaning bathrooms or mucking shelters to the ruefully rare but incredible moments spent on horseback, exploring this amazing place He has sent Randyman and I, in his love and wisdom. Thank you for letting me share and I hope each of you will be blessed with a life as fine and exhilarating as this one we’ve been given.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas and the Guardian Pups






I don't normally post two blogs in one week, but this is my last blog for the year and it's one that is close to my heart.

When the “polar bears” first came home with us, it was to protect the two Nubian goats we had, from the many predators that boldly approached our house at all times, in all seasons. They were just small bundles of fur at that time, but absolutely fearless and already dedicated to a job they were born to do.



We put them in a small pen along with the goats, who mercilessly pummeled them, not being used to dogs. When the pups would cautiously approach them, the goats would run, fearfully and when cornered, they would bash and abuse the pups. Thankfully, we had done our research and made a small space in the pen where the pups could escape if the goats became too rough. This happened, again and again, but the pups were not discouraged. Instead, they became more determined. They were always gentle and tender with the livestock, making their approach slowly and even laying down exposing their bellies, inviting the animals to come and see their intentions were not for their harm. The tiny warriors would snarl and yip at my Jersey cow when she came too near ‘their’ goats and nothing, large or small was allowed to threaten the ungrateful and ornery goats.

Once I let them all loose in the pasture, the goats would go about their way, grazing and unaware of the watchful eyes of the puppies who were always vigilant of intruders.



 In time, the goats stopped fighting them and took their presence for granted. We got a couple of sheep shortly after and the pups had to go through the same routine all over again. The pups would flop onto their backs making themselves completely vulnerable and the sheep would ram them and abuse them, it seems, for sport. In spite of the ill treatment, the puppies continued to guard the lives of this ungrateful group. Eventually things all settled down. It was weaning time at the ranch and the boss always puts about 300 or so calves in the field behind our house where the goats and sheep spend the summer. 
Cletus, beside himself with excitement would run from calf to calf, attempting to touch noses with them and indoctrinate them into his care. 


They were so excited to have a large group to take care of. When the calves were moved to another large pasture, far away, the pups would make a daily trek to go find them and check on their welfare. They once traveled as far as 6 miles across the ranch to locate them, so dedicated were they.




The pups are full grown dogs now, weighing in at 100 and 120 lbs. They continue to take care of all the animals in their care, chickens, sheep, goats, cows. They have faced off raccoons, coyotes, other dogs, bobcats, cougars, and porcupines (with less than stellar results from the latter varmint mentioned). 



They continue to shepherd over and guard our animals, regardless of the response of those who are the beneficiaries of their courage. These dogs willingly risk their lives in defense of those who cannot save themselves. The sheep, when danger presents itself, have learned to follow them to safety and remain there behind the hedge of protection the dogs provide around them as they come between the sheep and the intruder.
I’ve even watched the sheep graze and cud, unaffected and more often than not unaware, of the danger the dogs hold at bay.















For me, it is a daily reminder of He who came to protect and save us. Born without knowledge of Him, into a sin-soaked world where men war against one another over power and greed, where madmen slaughter innocents in schools and in the womb, where men strive to deny His very existence, we have run from God, but all the while He loved and loves us still, enough not to give up. We have mocked Him, rebelled against Him, verbally bashed Him, misjudged Him and taken Him for granted. Still, He chose to come on our account and give His life on our behalf to bridge the gap between the sin saturated and the Holy, because we are defenseless and unable to do it ourselves. To those who have learned to follow Him, we are able to remain at peace, even when surrounded by pain, heartache, by tragedy, death and by the storms of life, as we reside behind the hedge of His protection. He is always gladdened by new members to His flock, yet never draws them by fear or force but by invitation and his unconditional love and dedication to them is eternal. 

This Christmas, when you celebrate the babe in the manger, keep your eyes heavenward  and remember why He came, because He was born and gave His life, with you in mind.




Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Honeymoon






For the most part, the romance between EmmaLou and Bennie wasn’t one of those Harlequin Novel types, (which neither Emma nor I read) or even something suited for Hallmark Channel. They spent a couple of weeks in the pasture ignoring one another, tolerating each other over a meal, while Sushi made eyes at Bennie and flirted shamelessly, refusing to leave his side and preferring his company over that of her mother.







Finally, the day came when Emma made up her mind it was time. I caught her batting her eyes at him and showing off her ankles in the morning, so I kept close watch on the little couple to see when she would actually be in ‘standing heat’.



 Later that afternoon, I went out to check on them and there were NO cows in the pasture! The Maremmas had followed and with deep, throaty growls, shot past me and disappeared into the willows in hot pursuit of something. These dogs are such order nerds, that someone being out of place is enough for them to get out of sorts. I hoped that it wasn’t the cows they were after, because they could, hypothetically chase the bull right through the fence and out of Emma’s life. I headed that way and as I passed the shed, I could see EmmaLou peeking out the door, which is uncommon modesty for a cow. At least she made him take her 'somewhere nice'. I suppose the old 'kill shed' could be mistaken as a  bovine honeymoon cabin. I never did see any actual concrete matrimoninal type activity taking place, due to their insistence on privacy, but I assume it occurred that night because the next day, they were back to not speaking again.



I’ve been having problems with small ‘junk birds’ getting into the chicken pen and stealing my expensive feed. I kicked the chickens out so they could forage to avoid wasting money. They promptly went to the self dispensing dog feeder in Bruno and Cletus’ dining room, finding it tipped just enough to where they could see and steal the DOGFOOD. It dawned on me that if chickens could be trained to play the piano OURS could learn to eat out of a self dispensing dog feeder. So we purchased a small one on the last trip to town and it has been working out fabulously, right from the start. We must have MENSA chickens.




I’m sleepy today. The “polar bears” were in with the sheep last night. Around midnight I could hear Cletus barking his high pitched, half baying, hysterical bark which continued for a few minutes...then Bruno joined him. If Bruno is barking, it means things are serious. Cletus, like myself, can be a bit of a drama queen...or prince, as the case may be. Whatever it was they were challenging would just not go away. I was tired and didn’t want to get up, but I also didn’t want them waking Randy up. He gets a little grumpy at things that wake him...he probably wouldn’t be the best neighbor if you owned an LGD in town.

I’ve been sleeping in the chair because of my back lately. Wide awake, I listened a bit longer and the barking became more urgent. The dogs were both locked in the 1 acre pasture with the sheep, which is not far from our bedroom window. Because the object of their concern was clearly not leaving, I figured it was not a coyote, nor a bobcat, most likely not a raccoon, nor a deer. That deduction left me with one other likely thing, so I suspect it was another cougar. 

I finally decided, since the intruder was obviously feeling pretty invincible with the dogs trapped behind a fence, the best way to change its thinking would be to turn them loose. I feel fairly confident doing this, because they prefer to use no more pressure than required to remove a threat. Physical engagement is their very last option. Once that they could confront the intruder with a little more authority, it quickly moved on. Tonight though, I will keep the dogs in. Chances are it won’t come back now that it knows the dogs might be more trouble than its worth to take one of my sheep, but there is also the possibility that if I locked the dogs OUTSIDE of the fence and it is, indeed, a cougar, it might realize it could handily jump the fence and slaughter my sheep, unmolested, while the dogs carry on, unable to stop it. The joys of ranch life! One more LGD would surely be nice, but with only 10 small animals, I think we need to make do with just the two polar bears.



Since I was already awake, I read on my kindle for awhile and had a hard time getting back to sleep. I was just about to nod off, when suddenly a large spider climbed up the back of it where I couldn’t see and popped up on the top of my kindle, right in my face. I screamed in terror, threw the kindle, which caused the light on it to disconnect and plunge me into darkness. Shaking and hyperventilating, I found the light cord hanging from the ceiling, pulled it and to my horror, saw the spider on the floor coming after me, making loud squeaky noises. I saw 2 pair of Randy’s boots...the ones I am always complaining about him leaving in the living room. I grabbed one and set to actively defend myself. I slammed it down on top of the intruder 10 or 20 times. With each slam of the boot it emitted another loud squeak. Finally, it was no longer moving...in fact it was no longer recognizable, at least not to anyone but me. I heard one more squeak. That’s when I realized I was the one making it. I shakily put my kindle back together as best I could and was pleased to see it all still worked. Tearfully, I shook out the blanket I’d been using, just in case he had been a scout and there was an ARMY of them waiting to come for me and satisfied there were no more, climbed back in my chair. Now I had the heebie jeebies and couldn’t sleep. I must have finally dozed off about 5 or 5:30.

I had been dreaming of enormous spiders and around 6:30 I awoke to something cold and heavy landing hard on my chest, pinning me to the chair. I awoke instantly to find Randyman had gone out to feed and decided to let the Maremmas come in for a little visit. My 120 lb.Cletus, happy to see me but finding me tipped back in a recliner, figured the best way to get his ritual hug was to rear up and flop his entire upper body ice and all, across my lap and chest. He even gave me his very affectionate, trademark cold nose to nose touch. As I was working on pulling some oxygen back into my lungs, Bruno came at me from the side. Being much more gentle and deliberate, he just repeatedly goosed me with his cold nose. Then, like the well disciplined fellow he is, he sat and stared me down. I peeled Cletus off of me, bent over and gave Bruno a hug and so began another day.

It wasn't long before I was reminded that I wasn't the only one who'd had a long, hard night.




Sunday, December 9, 2012

Behind Door Number 3




I seem to be able to find excitement in the most unlikely places. I was too tired to fix dinner the other night, so I talked Randyman into “Frito boats” which is just Fritos covered with canned chili, you know, gourmet stuff like you’d find at a Little League game. True to form, the lid would NOT come off the can and multiple attempts with the can opener were no help. I grabbed a spoon and started trying to PRY the lid off and my hand slipped. The tin lid sliced through the flesh on my trigger finger like a hot knife through butter. It cut from the center on top, around almost to the center bottom. Luckily, I don’t think it hit bone and rather than spurting, the blood just flowed freely, so no arteries or anything had been cut. It was time to find out how tough I really am. 

Driving 5 hours to an emergency hospital and spending outrageous amounts of money on fuel and medical bills over a finger was NOT an option.
So, I could choose to visit the cowboss over at the next ranch who has all the equipment to suture wounds on dogs, horses and the like, WITHOUT the benefit of anesthetic, or I could just doctor it myself and beg Randy to wrap it up.

You learn a lot about yourself in situations such as this. I learned that I am a big coward and I opted to douse it with peroxide, seal it with superglue and have Randy wrap it heavily, with a splint, so it cannot bend and break open. It’s doing okay and I am tenaciously learning how to work around not having the use of my right trigger finger which, apparently is the only one that works efficiently with an opposable thumb. The damaged digit does get in the way, but so far I have been fairly successful in most of my undertakings, with a little help.


Luckily I had already made bread and the peach pie was ready to go in the oven. 




Two stalks of celery have already been dehydrated and put in a jar for use in stews, soups and other dishes later in the year...or even next year, although I will be dehydrating a LOT more before then.



Yes, amazingly this is what 2 stalks of celery look like once they are dehydrated.

It got very cold and windy and looked as though it might storm again last night so I fed everyone early. I have to separate EmmaLou and give her extra hay and grain because she is lactating and will lose weight. To do this, the sheep have to be out of sight, preferably out in the big milk pasture, or they steal all her food. They are like 'pasture piranhas'. I had shut the gate to the alley so they couldn't get in, although they usually stay out until their normal feed time so I figured they would be clueless about Emma getting extra rations. Unfortunately, last night they wanted in early. I made them wait while EmmaLou stood next to me eating her goodies on my side of the fence. 



The offended woolies (technically, they are ‘hairies’ but that just doesn’t sound right) stood behind a gate glaring at us with Cletus looking on and loudly voiced their displeasure until I put Em back in her pasture. I had NO idea sheep were so vindictive, but after I let them in and opened the gate to the first corral, they mobbed said gate and knocked me down in the mud on their way over the top of me. Somewhat irritated, I pushed my way past them and opened one of the 3 big doors on the solid panels by the milkroom/feedroom, craftily slipping through without any sheep leaking in. I grabbed a little  grain and put it in their feeder in the next corral over, through a third door, so they wouldn’t knock me down by rushing me while I walked there with it to the feed bucket. I then carefully  let them in and stood behind the solid door where I would, in theory, remain safe and undetected.

 KAH-WHAMMM!!!

 500+ lb of sheep all hit the door at the same time, causing said door to make full body contact with me, at about the speed of light and sandwich me into the fence behind. I broke 3 fingernails below the quick and found myself too breathless to holler at them. After I recovered somewhat, I finished my outside chores and headed to the house to fix dinner.

When Randyman came home, I was relating the hair raising and death defying experience I’d had and he had the nerve to burst out laughing, resulting in no pie for him.

I see little humor in imagining a tombstone left on a working cattle ranch proclaiming the occupant below had been killed in a stampede...of sheep. It could happen.

There has still been no romance between EmmaLouMoo and BennytheBull, but at least they are finally on speaking terms. There has been quite a bit of rain and it has made the pasture they are in very muddy and slippery, so, for fear of one or both of them being injured when and if she finally DOES come into heat, we had to move everyone and I do mean, everyone! Mister is less than favorably impressed with the new accomodations, but found the mini-bar in the adjoining room to be a nice feature.



I headed out to the back pasture and brought Mister in while Randyman risked his life putting the sheep behind the milk shed. We (he) tied panels together and filled the wheelbarrow up with hay and we (he) let the cows out so they would follow him down the alley and out to the pasture Mister HAD been residing in. The footing out there is much safer. Instead of following him, EmmaLou, Sushi and Benny gleefully headed over to the hay stack to see if they could get through the barrier we (he) put up and have themselves a buffet breakfast. We (me) grabbed a bucket of grain and a shepherds hook and headed their way. Emma was the first to realize her error. She obediently followed the wheelbarrow, sampling the contents all the way to the new pasture, while I walked behind the bull with my long hook, without which I am not very courageous. All the while Sushi ran around us in circles, bucking and kicking up her heels. She, unlike her mother, is quite enamored of the bull. She only pays attention to Emma long enough to fill up with milk, then goes back to making ‘big cow eyes’ at Benny. She is going to be a handful as a teenager. I thank the good Lord she’s not human or I would have to lock her up for years on end.  The good news is, she WILL be ready to breed by this time next year, providing she sweetens up and shows promise of making a decent milk cow. 

We got the hungry little trio into Mister’s pasture and hopefully Benny and Em will consummate their relationship and remain there instead of jumping the fence and leaving the country. We shall see.


* There are still some nice soaps on hand for Christmas gifting :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Little of This and a Lot of That




The ranch remuda hasn't had to work too awfully hard lately. The cows are all processed and most are out on the desert permit for the winter. Randyman runs wells every other day which takes several hours. As usual, I am left to my own resources for entertainment.

It’s that time of year and this is my week for canning soup. Canning meals last year was an immense help for the days I wasn’t feeling well enough to fix dinner. Each year seems to get a little tougher, so this year I am hoping to get a lot more prepared in advance. Even though there was just Randyman and myself, I cooked a 16 lb. turkey. With some of the leftovers, I made a Turkey version of Chicken Tortilla Soup and canned 14 quarts of it.  A quart seems to feed two of us just fine. We bought a 20 lb bag of potatoes so I canned 7 quarts of potatoes and 7 quarts of Ham&Potato soup. There are still a few potatoes left over to be used up some other way, maybe steak fries or something. Nothing will have a chance to go bad or go to waste. BroccoliCheese soup was made and frozen, all that needs to be added is the milk & cheese when it's re-heated.

The rest of the left over turkey will be made into Pot Pie and Tettrazini.  Pretty good eats, for a minimum of effort.

Two of the roosters got canned today, which leaves 'Mr T' as the only man of the coop again. I am glad because having the other roosters around was making him mean and I don't like roosters that attack. I'm not ready to put him in the stew pot because he is such a big beautiful thing and should sire the best babies for us. It isn't much fun culling chickens as I have to skin them and clean them myself, then cut them up and part them out and can them. Meatie chickens I freeze whole but the dual purpose or laying chickens get canned as there isn't as much meat and it's so handy to have chicken on hand that is already cooked and shredded for casseroles, enchiladas, soups, salads and sandwiches.The dogs help with the clean up, as they take the heads, backs and innards away for me, so all I have to dispose of is feathers. It's ok to feed raw chicken with bone to dogs, as the bones are soft and they do fine chewing them. It's when the bones have been cooked that they are dangerous because they splinter and can puncture intestines and/or choke on them. Since these weren't meatie chickens, I can them with the bone in, except for the breasts. There isn't a ton of meat on them and trying to debone before canning is a lot of work. After they are canned, it's easy to pull the meat off the bones and use it. I save the backs and feet from the meatie chickens we eat, to use in stock. The feet are cleaned by peeling off the "socks" and it makes amazing broth.

I managed to get the chicken coop cleaned out and bedded for the year. I put deep shavings inside under the roosts. The chickens will pretty much keep it all stirred up and it will make good compost next winter. The old stuff I cleaned out got dumped in the garden and the moisture from winter will do its work and it will be ready to till up and plant next spring. Used straw and hay goes in the outside chicken run where they will have fun scratching and picking through it. This breaks it down so it will compost well too, along with keeping things from getting all muddy, so I can walk in to gather eggs without sinking. In early spring I will clean again and it will all go in the garden.

I took the last of the soaps off the racks and they are ready to sell. One batch is Cracklin' Birch and it smells GREAT and very Christmasy. Kind of a spicey, evergreeny smell. The other is a nice Apple scented soap. Homemade soap makes great stocking stuffers and Christmas gifts, especially in a gift basket with scrubby, bath salts, moisturizer and maybe a candle, wineglass and a bottle of wine. A great way to pamper someone. No, I don't sell gift baskets, I'm just making a suggestion of what would be nifty to have. To check out my soaps, just click the link on the word soap. The page will show what I have in inventory.

I have a good deal of sewing to get done before Christmas but am having problems getting some of the things I need online. In addition to that, I need to make clothes for myself because I have virtually nothing to wear and we are heading down to visit family in January.  Anyway, I've been getting a little uptight about things and feeling a little helpless, so I decided the best thing to do today was go hang out with the sheep and dogs.




I opened the gate and as we all filed out, Cletus took the lead, the sheep walked single file behind him and Bruno brought up the rear. As the sheep picked a spot to start grazing, the dogs headed South and did a quick check thru the willows and the creek bed. Seeing nothing of interest there, they headed back and took up positions quite a ways out in the tall grass, where they could keep an eye on things.




 I never get tired of watching them. They spent a bit of time observing from their different vantage points, then simultaneously walked a little closer to the sheep and sat together...













...it wasn’t long before they relaxed...
















...and then began a little horseplay.





 I honestly don’t know how people can get by with just one LGD. These guys are so attached to each other and play so hard and so often I’m afraid sheep would not fare so well if I had only a lone dog with that much energy. I don't know how I used to get along without them, as their affection for me and attentiveness has brought me immeasurable joy.



It really amazes me what voracious eaters hair sheep are. Even Thing1 and Thing 2 are enthusiastically consuming  grass, weeds, thistle and whatever else they come across. They've gained a LOT of weight since they were born just a couple of weeks ago. I grunt to pick them up anymore. Their little backs are already getting broad.





It was a beautiful day. After a couple of hours I figured I had best get back to the house and get some chores done. Cletus escorted me past Bennie-the-bull and got a drink before heading back out to the pasture to join Bruno in babysitting sheep. 

I returned to the house much less anxious.


Randyman had to  go to Burns and was gone for the day. I had to feed alone, which isn’t all that bad as long as I am mobile. The hardest part is getting the sheep back in their little corral, so I can get into the hay bales unmolested. I still have to go thru the sheep corral twice with buckets of grain for EmmaLou , which rarely goes well for me as they are always quite certain it's really for THEM. Next, I have to get grain to the steers. Actually only one steer is being grained now and finished as we can’t afford to feed out and butcher two, so he has to be separated until he is done eating his grain. This turns out to be the easier job. Moe, the big steer, has figured out how to open and close gates. We found him in with EmmaLouMoo several times before we found out he was actually lifting the gate handle with his mouth and pushing the latch back to open it. We've had to put a lock on it. There is a small alleyway leading to the steer pen, with a swing gate at the end of it. I found that if I go down the alley and pour his grain in a feeder inside there, he will come eat it while I exit the other end and push the gate closed to keep steer #2 out, because Moe can open the gate and let himself back out to eat hay with #2 when he is finished.
So, you ask, do I feel bad that we will be processing him?

Let me highlight a few points.

  1. He was destined for the freezer from the very beginning, this is one of the reasons we breed our cow, to provide both meat and dairy for us.
  2. He has had a really great life for a steer. He’s been well fed all his life, all his needs have been met, he even got to roam the ranch at large all summer with his buddy.
  3. His last moments in this life will be as pain free and anxiety free as is humanly and humanely possible.
  4. He has chased me out of the pen more than once, demanding his grain and does not hold an ounce of concern or affection for me. He is just a big, potentially dangerous, greedy steer.
  5. My family needs the meat.

So, yeah. I really DO feel bad...but I’ll get over it. Probably with a nice steak.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life After Turkey





There is so much beauty living here on the ranch. This was the view last nite while I was feeding one of my horses.

There are things I would rather be doing than cook, but there IS a satisfaction that comes from using my own ingredients that can't be bought. We do have 2 standing freezers and a room dedicated to nothing but pantry, but in the long run, we eat better, healthier and save a lot in the long run. 




Having a freezer full of beef, lamb and chicken, and plenty of canned goods on the shelves is a comforting feeling. Notice the Tattler reusable canning lids. Love that I don't have to throw them away and can use them again and again!
I also have whatever I need on hand, at all times, only needing to grocery shop about every 3 months or so. If I run out of something, which is rare, someone from the ranch is bound to be heading to town in between trips.


The newest addition to the kitchen is my Atlas Pasta Roller. I love this thing. Randy loves this thing. It’s amazingly simple to make homemade pasta. My favorite recipe so far, is 1 cup of semolina and 2 eggs. Mix it up, let it rest, then  roll it between the blades, taking down the thickness a little each time. Put the cutting blades on and roll out your lasagna or fettucini or whatever. We have made fettucini and I was shocked and amazed when Randyman put his stamp of approval on it because he doesn’t often comment on things, even when I beg for his opinion. The hardest thing about making pasta setting it out to dry.




I have been using a broom handle hung between two chairs (when I’m not busy riding it, of course). This isn’t the greatest arrangement, because as you know, we have very tall dogs who might be tempted, but until Randyman builds me a pasta hanger, or I give up and buy one, we will just have to live with that risk. After it has dried for an hour or two, you can throw it in your boiling water for a couple minutes and bingo! You have fresh pasta. I have dried some for a few days and put it in my regular pasta containers to see how long it will keep.

Meanwhile, I still buy most of my pasta at the store and only do this for special occasions. I have to choose the best use of my time and this isn’t always it.

Thanksgiving was great. We are finally recovering. Randyman ate 3/4 of a peach pie by himself, so I think the freezer recipe for the peaches off of my tree is a keeper. We were musing on how much better the chicken we raise tastes compared to commercial chicken and wondering if it was the same with turkey. Looks like we will be finding out next year. I'll be researching and probably raising a couple of broad breasted for Thanksgiving, but also raising some heritage birds that can reproduce in case we really like this. Randyman's idea this time. I didn't argue though.

EmmaLouMoo has a new beau. I am SO happy because I was afraid we wouldn't get her bred this year as it's pretty late. But we have the best boss in the world and he had the boys bring in one of the bulls whom I refer to as "Bennie" as in Benihana. I love Teppanyaki!



Sushi likes him a lot. She had dinner last nite with "Uncle Bennie" while Emma had a 'girls night out' at dinner with Annie.







As we didn't want a repeat of last year when the bulls kept leaving poor EmmaLou in the lurch and jumping the fence in the big milk pasture the trio has to be locked in, so the sheep and dogs had to move. The sheep were NOT happy with me last nite.




But the good news is, Thing1 is walking much better. I was able to take the splints off of one leg and he is traveling fine. Once it strengthens enough, I will take off the other. I used a crocheted wrist warmer to wrap around it for padding and cut a piece of pvc to use as a splint. The PVC is on the back of his leg to prevent it from bending and I used a vet wrap to bind it. Just in case someone else needs to do this, it works very well and is easily removed and replaced again. 



I was prepared to have Randy kill the two extra roosters and the mighty ugly hen until last nite. She laid a green egg, so she gets a stay of execution because I think the kids will be tickled by that when they come to visit next summer. So looks like I will just be canning two alarm clocks. Life is good.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life in the Fast Lane








Earlier this month was another one of those weeks where I didn’t get outside much. It was cold, windy, rainy, snowy...and generally not appealing nor friendly to my condition, so I did what I could inside. 

There is always something to do here, but sometimes those things are set aside to enjoy some of the unusual perks and rare opportunities presented living here on the ranch such as when the balloonists came and we got a free ride in a hot air balloon. It was amazing. Ranch kid #5 and I went in a balloon with a lady pilot. Unfortunately, I have acrophobia and couldn't get off my knees. I did my best taking pictures but a good number of them were from the angle of looking up #5's nose.  She was, however, very patient with me as she has always been.


Then just a short time later, a guy showed up with a cute little Candy Apple Red helicopter. Again, I couldn't resist, I HAD to have a ride in it. Besides, I was about to go into surgery for a total knee replacement and I just figgered, in case I didn't ever wake up again, it would be nice to know what the ranch looked like from up above so I could spot it. That was an amazing experience, especially when the pilot decided to chase a coyote for a ways!



There were a lot of new folk here at the ranch for the week. They were 'camping out'  hoping to set a new landspeed record on the lakebed. This was to be their trial run, but the weather had not been cooperating. When the lake bed is dry, its awesomely flat and smooth and speed records have been set here in the past, but when wet, it is a fearsome mirey muck of a mess. A vehicle can instantly sink. It seemed as though all plans would have to be cancelled, but then as luck would have it, there was enough wind the last night to dry off just what they needed to run the tests, so Randyman and I joined up with everyone else and went to watch.

We drove the 6 miles down to the hotsprings, which is  on the ranch and turned down the new road the boss had put in to access the dry lake bed. We caught up to the group and it was a little nippy with the wind blowing off the icy Steens.








Huddled in our coats and gloves, we gathered around as it was explained to us that our best spot to watch from would be a mile down from the start and a quarter mile over from where the car would run as that is about where he would fire the afterburners. They set cones out to guide the pilot and we used those as our landmarks. They handed out ear plugs and told us to keep our engines running, because if the car loses control at high speed (we are talking excess of 600 mph) we would only have seconds to jump in our trucks and get out of its way. The rocket cars don’t steer or corner well, you see.



We followed one another around until we figured we found the right spot and we all waited a good long while in the cold wind. The ranch cowboys had all taken the day off to watch, so we had a slew of pick up trucks all parked in a row, facing the direction of escape, just in case. I asked if anyone had a rope to tie from my waist to the bumper in the event we DID have to jump in the truck and move quickly. Otherwise I would surely be left behind, because I am slow to climb in. I figured being dragged away would be better than nothing.  No one had any, so I opted to stand in the bed of the truck instead. I wasn't the only one, one of the kids chose to do the same.







The flare went up and the first brake test began. The rocket car sped past us then slowed down and stopped only a mile or two away. The first test was stopping without brakes. We all sped over there and just when we caught up, it took off again. We raced alongside (quite a ways off to the side) and kept up to about 100 mph while I hyperventilated, then boom...it was waaaaay out in front of us. This time it used the brakes to stop. I asked someone how fast he went and they said it only went about 200-250 mph for the tests. I get nervous around 40-45 so it was pretty exciting to me.






The steering wasn’t good, it was pulling to the left, so it was loaded back on the trailer, towed back to the starting point and they worked on it a bit while we all sat back at our appointed spot, waiting to see  helicopter with a camera crew  show up.  They are making a documentary of this. It has been in the works for 13 years so far. The pilot said one of the brakes didn't feel right, as though the liquid (which I assume cools it because 200+mph friction probably gets a little toasty) coolant might have frozen.

Not having spent the week getting to know everyone, the way the rest of the ranch did (both cuz I didn’t feel good and also cuz...well..they are people and you know how that goes for me...) I didn’t learn as much as I might have liked. But I did learn that right behind where the pilot sits is a whole computer network which records all kinds of data while he drives. They analyze all that and make whatever changes or preparations are necessary. From what I understand, the current record is 763 mph. They have to get to top speed, hold it for 1 mile, then turn around and go the other way and do it again within 60 minutes.  I’ve read that challengers hope to hit 1000 mph. I am totally baffled at why anyone would want to go that fast on land. 

I clearly remember back as a kid, blasting down a sidewalk on roller skates and colliding with a giant dogdoo. My skates stopped forward motion instantly but  my face kept going. The concrete was hard and I have never had much appetite for speed since then...or dogdoo either.
But, I digress. There are batteries that run the computer networks and they don’t hold a charge for very long, so as soon as the car stops, they have to plug it in to both recharge and retrieve all the data.


The helicopter finally arrived, the flares went up, we had our earplugs in and were waiting for the big thrill and big noise as the afterburners went on and the car sped past...





it leapt forward...











 then slowed down...








then kinda fizzled.





 As it turns out the steering quit working and one of the brakes literally broke. In spite of it all, the pilot was cool and unruffled.

 I was impressed, because I would probably have left a little weewee trail all the way down the lakebed if it had been me...and that's with NO problems. 

We were really starting to get ‘into’ the spirit of it all,  when we were told it would probably take some months to manufacture a new brake, so the fun for now, was over.


WE kept sneaking behind the afterburner, which was still warm and out of the wind while the camera people and helicopter people interviewed the pilot/owner.





We headed back to the ranch, waiting until they come back for  the next test and for the attempt at the record. The people involved were all really very nice, so maybe next time, I will bravely venture out of the house for more information.

Everyone involved was, of course,  really good at math and computers, electronics and all those kinds of cerebral things. One of the younger guys was enjoying the company of the cowgirls and explained he was not in the market for a brilliant girlfriend who knew all about science and math but just preferred to meet someone who came with no drama. A cowgirl might be just what he needs. 

One of the girls said she felt kind of 'dumb' talking to the guys cuz they knew all kinds of things she had no clue about. A neighbor, trying to encourage her, said 




“Oh, don’t let them make you feel stupid. It’s not rocket science you know...”  

But, actually...it is.

For more info, go to http://www.landspeed.com