Our good friend, the chef, is coming from Nebraska, for his annual ranch visit/hunting trip. He is a lot like a brother and we enjoy him immensely. He often brings friends and since they stay in the cabins, he brings them to our house to feed them and he does most of the cooking. THAT works VERY well for me!
We do, however, have a bit of a competition going. I am determined that he is not able to ask for an ingredient or necessary kitchen gadget that I do not have. He wanted scallions, I had them. He wanted tarragon, I had some. He needed a ricer, I had one...and so on. I am very type A, and spend all year trying to determine what he might request so I can not only have it on hand, but have my own uses for it so nothing goes to waste. One year he asked for saffron, which I did not have. He said "I know, its about $90 an ounce, I don't need it, but I knew you wouldn't have it."
I told him that was cheating, so once again, I won by default.
but THIS year...
rising doctor bills and a trip down South took a toll on our finances and threw off our quarterly shopping. I was nearly OUT of EVERYTHING in my pantry. I pride myself on being extremely well stocked here, able to fix just about any meal we desire with what is on hand. I am considered the ranch grocery store. If you need to borrow it, I probably have it.
As it costs a couple of hundred dollars in fuel per trip, we are not able to go grocery shopping just for the sake of grocery shopping. Dr. appointments, feed-store, home-store and all errands have to coincide. We take our big stock trailer and fill it up.
Our friend said he would arrive on the 4th of January, so I figured my winning record was over. Then we got a phone call, asking us to confirm my January 3rd doctor appointment! I love the way God orchestrates the little things in our lives. He is the author of humor, so its no big surprise when He does something like this. I knew it was going to be tough getting everything put away the next day as I would be tired. As luck would have it, he called and left a day late, won't be here until the 5th. How perfect is that?
I’ve been sick with a cold for over a week. Having a compromised immune system tends to make one susceptible to everything and taking immunosuppressant drugs makes it hard to heal, as your body’s normal response to fight virus or bacteria is very weak. So far, nothing has been very helpful. I have used Nyquil, Dayquil, Sudafed, hot tea with honey, hot tea with honey and vinegar, raw vinegar, honey and onion concoction, which did help SOME, but then I tried the method I had the least amount of faith in, which was rubbing Vicks on the bottoms of my feet and donning socks. THAT worked! I didn’t cough the rest of the night and what little coughing I do this morning is much more productive. Go figure.
Leaving the ranch for a day is always a huge production. We have to get up and leave around 5 a.m. and don't get back home usually until after midnight. I have EmmaLouMoo who needs milking, the goats, the sheep and the calves to fed and watered, the chickens to look after and of course, there are the dogs. Cider and Scottie-the-delinquent usually go with us, but the Maremmas remain behind to guard the livestock and I always worry they will run in front of a ranch truck, or get into mischief while I am away. They rarely do, but I still worry. At any rate, there is a lot to do, and its very difficult to find someone who can and will cover for me when we have to go to town, which makes me even more grateful we tend to only go every 3 months or so.
That said, my new friend, "D" (1/2 of the new couple who are staying on the ranch), offered to do so. It’s really quite an undertaking and a very generous offer, so she came over several mornings to help me milk EmmaLou to learn the routine and how to keep from being cow-crunched, as cows have no earthly idea how wide they are and will ooze through any size opening, even if its only inches wide. If you should have the misfortune to be passing through the opening yourself, you will be smashed like a bug on a windshield and pinned to whatever wall happens to be there. They are not conscious, or maybe they are, of their feet either. They are surprisingly heavy when they crush your metatarsals and your feet will turn a kaleidoscope of colors over the following weeks. Don’t ask how I know.
She did a fabulous job and learned quickly where to be, when, and how to do stuff, from putting the belly milker together, to getting a recalcitrant EmmaLou in and out of her stanchion, to processing the milk and cleaning everything up. Emma tested her to see if she really knew how to do this, the pups looked on to make sure she was pouring the milk properly into the jars and waiting for their portion as anything over 3 gallons goes to them.
In addition to this she fed everyone last night. It was so great to go to town knowing I didn’t have to worry because someone who was interested was taking care of my animal family at home. We got up, Randyman fed the critters and we left at 6 a.m. And returned home around 11 p.m. Only 17 hours, round trip. Not too bad for grocery shopping, doctors appointment, hitting the feed store and a couple of errands thrown in and eating out to boot!
The pups were at the gate wiggling wildly, at seeing us pull up. When I got in the house Cletus was looking through my bedroom window HOWLING at me. I let them in and they were ecstatic to see us. Cletus was especially attentive and anxious, which made me think back to a doberman I used to have. She used to have a similar reaction to my return when she felt something had gone wrong...like the time someone came to borrow my car and she was unable to prevent them. It was about then that Randy found the note on the table.
My friend said all went well and her husband, “B” did the heavy lifting...but apparently Cletus took exception to his presence as he smelled like a coyote, being a trapper. I suspected Cletus was trying to tell me something.
Cletus has been introduced to “B” several times, by me and has been very accepting of him outside of the yard and pastures. This however, was apparently not acceptable to him, as he was bringing "Eau de Coyote" in too close to Cletus’ charges. He knows “D” though, the lady half of the equation and she said he never went beyond being verbal, but let his feelings be known. I am glad he didn’t cause any real problem, as these are REALLY nice people and I like them a lot, but on the other hand, I am a little bit proud that Cletus is thinking and trying to do a good job. Bruno, I think, just knows. He is a wise and pretty well adjusted dog. He takes after Randyman and Cletus tends a bit more towards anxiety and hysteria like myself.
I was truly exhausted this morning, but Randyman invited the polar bears to come in and visit. It’s pretty much routine for them to visit me while I have coffee, before milking and letting the animals out, then they come in a again for a bit, after the animals are fed at night and put away. The rest of the day and night they are ‘on duty’.
The minute I sat down this morning, big ol’ Cletapotamus came and gave me a 30 minute hug. He typically hugs me everyday, by putting his front feet on something near to me so he is slightly taller than I am, then dropping his head to my chest and laying all his weight against me. Try as I might, I can’t resist burying my arms in his thick fur and holding him thus. Normally he only does this for a few moments, then gives me a ‘nose touch’. But this morning was a marathon. I think he was really traumatized by my absence. That's probably not a good thing in a Livestock Guardian. Next summer he will probably have to spend more time separated from me and living with his chickens and sheep.
It’s so good to be loved by something so noble as a dog.
There is still a 6-pack of sheep out back, but the little ewe I have been watching has been rubbing against everything this morning and talking a little bit. I suspect she may lamb this week, but I turned her out in the back pasture where it is a lot cleaner than the pen they sleep in and I came back to the house. Experience has taught me, a watched pot never boils and a watched ewe, never lambs. Again, we shall see.