Monday, July 30, 2012

Goose Chase

It's finally gotten hot here. I can't let Em and Sushi stay in the pasture Em has been living in, because the leppie calves out there keep trying to sneak up and nurse on her. That's what killed DollyMoo, was everyone nursing on her and it threw her into ketosis. The horses have the enormous pasture to the South, but I'm a little worried about mornings when they come in for supplements, that Mister might get  food aggressive around Em, so I need to just keep them separated. The horses tend to stand by the water trough in the dry corral all day anyway, so I decided to kick Em and Sushi out during the day where she can graze and have lots of cool shade and grass to lay in, then fill her up with alfalfa at night when I milk and kick the horses out for the evening. That was the plan at least. You know what they say about making God laugh...just tell him your plans.

Em decided NOT to come in last nite. We went a-hunting, but my leg became so painful I couldn't get past the end of the lane so Randy and the Maremmas scouted around the pasture and came back alone with this information.
"She's not coming, she has already set up housekeeping in the willows."

Yup. She has a nice little clubhouse going out there in the shade that is just dandy. Every mama cow's dream. I figured she'd be in this morning, but nope.

Late this morning I decided to go see if she needed milking. I grabbed my camera and headed to her 'clubhouse'. Once i found her, I stuttered, "Wh...what did you do with Sushi??"

Emma was laying there all alone. I pulled on her halter and told her to take me to Sushi.
She obediently got to her feet, and headed out the backside of her clubhouse, through the willows. For the next 35 minutes, I hiked, crawled and drug myself through heavy brush, willows, down and up embankments, across creeks and over rocks.

 Em would go ahead about 20 ft and stop and see if I was still coming. I followed and followed, tripping, stumbling and crawling until we got to a fenced in corner and she stood looking out over the ranch. At that point, I looked at her bag, which was not overly tight, so clearly Sushi had nursed sometime in the past few hours. The Maremmas had only been in the house for a short time so I determined that Emma was messing with me, because nothing could have nabbed Sushi in the short time the dogs had been absent so I headed back to the house, grumbling and complaining. I finally made it back almost to Emma's clubhouse and a buck deer was sneaking across the pasture. It spotted me and began to speed up, then suddenly jumped to the side. I got suspicious so I headed over to the tall grass where it had deviated course. Sure enough, hiding in the tall grass like a good, obedient little bovine child was Sushi.

I knelt down and petted her and she remained absolutely still. I headed home leaving Emma back in the South 40 somewhere.

I took a painpill, cooled off a bit and headed back out to the pasture with the dogs in tow. Emma was under the apricot tree, munching on whatever she could reach. We headed across the pasture towards Sushi's hiding spot but Em ignored us and headed toward the corrals, hoping for handouts. She found the gate locked.

She finally turned around and headed our way. We were all surrounding Sushi, who had not moved, even with the dogs licking and sniffing her.

Em got within about 10 feet, looked around in the grass and acted as if she'd lost her. She moo'ed and Sushi jumped up and ran to her. She might not be able to remember where she left her baby, but she has her well trained!

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Love Sushi!

It’s been quite a week. Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was bright and sunny and my sister in law and her husband are here to visit the ranch and her son, the cowboss, and of course, us! We all went out to feed leppies, horses and Emmalou moo, and take care of all the critters. I went to check for eggs and one of the old hens BIT ME and drew BLOOD!!! I was so flabbergasted I didn’t even nab her, I just staggered to the house with my finger dripping blood.

I put a band aid on, and grabbed Wimpy. We were going to ride a few miles out on the ranch to where they were branding. I haven’t been riding Wimpy much as of late, because I was enjoying Mister so much, but he is losing some weight, and I needed a good steady ride so I grabbed the Wimp. I commented that he was acting kind of squirrelly and ‘unwimpy-like’ as he was walking right out, very alert, instead of his usual lazy, apathetic self. We finally got to the branding just as they were about finishing up. There was a big bull they needed to doctor so all the ropers and the ground crew were surrounding him, while they tried to get all his legs roped so he could safely be doctored. During this little event, a couple of pairs decided to sneak off, so my sister in law and I turned our horses around to push them back...that’s when it happened.

There was suddenly a great deal of air between the saddle and myself, as Wimpy started humping his back and bucking in place. He was hesitating slightly after a few jumps to shift his weight back so he could rear up a little, then he’d go back to bucking. I cannot tell you how surprised I was, as this horse has NEVER bucked to my knowledge and he is no spring chicken. I had a camera in one hand, unfortunately, because I was taking pictures of the bull roping. Unwilling and not having enough wits about me to throw the camera, I kept trying to pull him around with the rein I had, all the while hollering “QUIT!” I finally got him to stop, and we continued after the cow and calf. I really think it was the fear of walking all the way home that kept me on board as I do not have a secure enough seat to stay in the middle of a horse that is coming apart like that anymore. Fear does funny things. Sometimes it's not all bad.
We turned the pair back, when the calf doubled back in his tracks and Wimpy suddenly remembered his past training with the cowboss I bought him from, who owned him all his life and was quite a hand. He sucked back and rolled back over his hocks, sticking with the calf. It was mere pucker power which kept me aboard, once again. This time I patted him on the neck and we went on about our day.
We had a great dinner. Two of the meaties we processed were prepared in a big claypot with rosemary, thyme, onions and melted butter. They were delicious, and there is still a LOT of meat because they averaged 5 and 6 lb  each in the packages. Awesome.
This morning, my sis-in-law went to gather cows with everyone, Randyman and my bro-in-law went to drive truck and haul cows somewhere, and I stayed home to feed leppies, goats, sheep, chickens and check on EmmaLou, who has been staying close to the corral, coming in to see me twice a day, which is unusual for her when she is not being milked. 
This morning I knew something was up, because she wasn’t there. I fed the leppies and kicked them all out, and went to look for her. She was down on the far side of the octopus tree, and kept looking off to her left. She turned just a smidge and I could see she still had an afterbirth trailing her. She wasn’t alone. I jumped up and down, as best as someone in my condition can, and waddled to the milkroom for some cmpk pills, then to the house to grind them up and add them to some warm molasses water. I filled a 5 gal bucket and took the 4 wheeler, splashing my way down the pasture, through bumps and ditches, with my fingers crossed praying for a heifer.
All the leppies were watching, and hoping to sneak in to steal some of that great milk, and the new calf, still a little wet, turned around and I whooped! It’s a HEIFER!!
I gave Emma her cocktail and told her what a fantastic job she did. The little heifer is not only in very good shape, but she is very smart. She is already on her feet, nursing all 4 teats.  She has both ears, both eyes, 4 legs and all 8 toes! She is a genius, who takes after her grandmother, I can tell. She’s just beautiful, and just what I have been hoping for, since the day I lost Dolly.
Life can be so good.
Meet Sushi!

Her daddy is a bull I call “Mr Miyagi”. She’s going to be just wonderful!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Kinda Day

After feeding all the bottle calves and baby goats, chickens and my old Paint horse, I spent the morning cutting yesterdays soap so I could start it curing. Both are new scents, which I purchased on customer request and they are luscious!

The Wildrose soap really does smell like fresh cut roses and the White Tea and Ginger tempts  me to close my eyes and dream I am on a back porch somewhere, with green lawns and manicured flower beds, smelling the dew and sipping tea with my shortbread cookies. Okay, so I have a great imagination. That’s still what it makes me think of.

I’ve spent so much time trying to catch up and keep up lately, with laundry, with soap, with dinners, with yardwork, I promised myself that today, I would ride and do something for ME. Around about 2:30 I went out and saddled up Mister. I couldn’t get on him because my leg just wouldn’t flex enough to go up that high, but my nephew saw my dilemma and pushed Mister over near a rock so I could step up from there. It’s almost mortifying to be in this kind of shape, but after all, I did break horses for 30 years and used to swing up bareback with no problems at all. It’s just hard to imagine what can happen to a body when it gets an autoimmune disorder. Things just go  haywire. If I say anything weird, then that’s my excuse!
Cider came along and we went to the cattle guard heading for the processing corrals. The gate next to it is pretty hard to open, so I rode down the fence line to the next pasture and decided to get off and open that gate. I stepped down only to find I couldn't budge the wire loop off of the gate and there was NO way I was gonna be able to close it again, if I did get it open, so I capitulated and decided I’d just ride back to the barn again.
Not a bad plan, except I was on flat ground and there was no way for me to get back on. I DID get my foot up into the stirrup this time, but my butt wasn’t goin’ anywhere. I couldn’t get off the ground. I led, Mister followed, pushing me forward with his nose, until I found a big telephone pole lying out in the boneyard. I climbed up on that and stepped astride and we ambled back home. My nephew was still in the barn shoeing horses, and after a little chat I found out he and the ladies were going to do a couple of ‘small jobs’ later in the afternoon, so I pried an invite out of him and went home to wait.

I was happy for the chance to ride along because last time I took MIster out with the crew, things didn't go so smoothly. You see, Mister was born when I was training horses at my place in Tehachapi. He spent most of his life as a 'stall potato' working in an arena setting. He was also my best horse for mounting non ambulatory kids from their wheelchairs when I ran the NARHA center, an equine assisted therapy program for handicapped children and adults. Trail riding and cows were not on his resume. We long trotted what seemed like forever (we are both out of shape) to a pasture far, far away, to rodear. Rodear is when a bunch of cowboys spread out and hold all the cattle in a group while one or two at a time ride into the herd and cut out the ones we need to move. 

Rodear (Row-day-ar)

                                  Waiting on the 'gate man'
#5 Riding through the herd

That day they were cutting out cow calf pairs that had gotten in the wrong field with some other cows. Mister had a few problems, such as balking when I went to run down and turn back an escapee and he became a regular screaming Mimi when I had to ride away from the other horses. He slowly settled down, but today was an opportunity to bring him along a little further.
Quite a bit of time passed and when I looked up at the clock, I realized I would not be able to ride, because we were going to cover a lot of miles and it was getting too close to feeding time for leppies, bottle kids and milking the goat. I didn’t want Randy to be stuck with that alone. I limped up to the barn and told the ladies to let my nephew know I couldn’t go and unsaddled Mister and turned him out. He happily trotted out to the big pasture with Wimpy. 
As I stepped in the back door of the house, my nephew (Logan...I can’t just call him nephew forever, and I don’t think he will mind if I use his name.) was in the kitchen talking to Randy. He assured him that we’d be riding from the North end of the ranch past headquarters, and down towards the South end, so if I wanted to, I could just ride home at that point. Randyman said to go for it and I was really grateful to both Logan for caring enough to work that out, and for Randyman for being such a great guy. Not everyone is lucky enough to have family like ours...and our “ranch’ family is awesome to boot.
I hobbled waaaaaaaaay out into the pasture to collect Mister again, cuz he apparently couldn’t hear me whistle. He usually comes to me from wherever he is. He stuck his head in my halter and back to the milk room we went, to re-saddle. Logan took off to go do what he had to do, and   we put Mister in the trailer with the other horses and drove down to the processing corrals, with the two ladies who were kind enough to let me tag along.

It was a beautiful evening...perfect for riding. The colors were muted, various shades of green and grey, purples and blue of lupines and mountains, blending into pink, purple and grey blue sky with puffy clouds scudding along. All we had to do was find 7 cow-calf pairs and move them from one end, to the other. Things went smoothly. Mister behaved himself much better than the last time I rode with someone. He only sulled up on me once, and did a little hollering when I had to ride out of sight of the other horses, but he calmed right back down and after that he was good as gold. We had one old cow break away and  we were able to run her down and push her back over. He’s a little guy with a lot of heart.

Some of the gates are a little tight and took teamwork to get them closed again. Mister and I 'stupidvised' while the ladies did the heavy work.

We made it back just after dark at around 9:30. I felt refreshed and revitalized. I've really missed riding everyday.

Mister is just plain tired. Randyman had fed all the animals and milked for me. I repeat myself he is a great guy. To top it off, he made hamburgers and we had a late dinner. It was definitely my kind of a day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Return of the Little People

It's so neat to see and smell things through the eyes of the little people. They are still so full of life and joy and inquisitiveness. 

Once again, we were graced with visitors, of the small and innocent persuasion. Following their travels around California and Oregon visiting family, our young friends and their 3 children rolled in about 9:00 Sunday evening. It seems to be the popular time for kids to arrive here this year.
They poured out of their vehicle and hugs were passed all around. I had spent the week moving stuff so they could sleep in their “train bunk beds” again, which is one of the shelves in the extra room. They love it there, but I am afraid this is the last year they will fit, so we’ll have to come up with a new idea for next year.
True to form, the ‘polar bears’ had to see everything that was going on. If there are strange vehicles and people on the ranch, they are busybody enough that they have to stick their noses into everything. In spite of the fact that there are no small children here on the ranch, except for the few days a year we have these visits, the Maremmas were thrilled to have them around. Usually its Bruno that puts himself in charge of children, but this year Cletus was tickled to see them back too. Both Maremmas stuck to the kids like glue and loved having them in their face or hugging on them, laying on them and any number of things that most normal dogs find offensive. 

At one point, they made a 'kid sandwich'. One polar bear in front and one behind, ready to jump into action should anything or anyone upset their charges.

Cider was happy too, as it meant there was someone to throw things for him. He was a little depressed as he doesn’t get as much attention as he used to from this little crew, but he tends to settle for what he can get.
As a bonus, he discovered a small 'spa' in the calf pen. He squeezed himself in, even though he had a little muffin top.

In the morning, I had a great assistant helping make whole wheat waffles.

 We had our fill then they went out to play with the meaties.  The boy child found Papa Randy's boots and decided he could fill them. The big, dorky, waddle bodied chickens submitted to being petted, picked up, and pestered for most of the stay.

 As is always the case with little people, anything to do with critters is a highlight. #1 was the chief egg finder, #2 was expert petter, flower smeller and cook's assistant and #3 in all his boyness had an affinity for both  goats and chickens. It was great as the kids did the hard work filling and feeding bottles each day and night.

Don't you just love little boys???

This has been a bad year for bugs. This old drafty house finds itself host to a number of boxelder bugs, and #2 child was kept busy keeping the bathroom free of them. An army of them had to be flushed down the toilet, yet, they always seem to be replaced.

This ultra feminine little sprite is tougher than she looks. She put on her ‘mean and scary look’ to wrestle with her brother, while her ex marine daddy coached them with possible moves. It was pretty entertaining. 

Calf feeding, goat feeding, horseback-riding, egg collecting and goat milking were on the itinerary. In spite of the short visit, that and more was accomplished, although there is still a list of things we wanted to do, those were the top contenders.

Yes, goats give kisses...

...and hugs.

#1, who is 8 now, desperately wanted to ride a horse. I wasn't feeling real well, as the auto-immune was flaring up again, but she was big enough to fit the youth saddle, so I saddled up Wimpy and turned her loose in the back pasture. She was on cloud 9. It was much the same as a 16 y.o. getting their driver's license...the amazing independence and control that comes from riding a horse all by yourself for the first time. She did really well. Next trip maybe she can go out with the cowboys if they have a short circle to do.

SE Oregon has been plagued with 3 wildfires. We could see this one from the house at night. About 1/4 of the ranch's winter pasture was burned, a neighbor lost about 400 cows and nearly his life when the fire doubled back and surrounded him on horseback. His wife drove through  incredibly hot flames  to rescue him. AS horribly sad as that is, we are so grateful there was no loss of human life. Randyman, and all the ranch crew and most of the ranch kids left with the skidgeons, road graders, and big CATs to fight another fire south east of us. I pray for the ranchers who have lost homes, pastures and livestock  in these fires. Lightening is a powerful force, and when it ignites sagebrush and juniper, a half million acres can burn fairly quickly. Life can change in an instant.

Our company headed back home after only 3 days, because they had been gone from home for several weeks already.

The polar bears are readjusting and are back to guarding just critters again.

and I am listening for the sounds of giggles and laughter, waiting until all the little people return. Maybe someday they can all come together, and stay longer.

*most of the pictures in this post are courtesy of Little People's Mom

Monday, July 2, 2012

Saving Summer

We are finally getting into the swing of summer. The days are mostly warm now and some of my flowers are blooming. The corn, tomatoes, squash, peas, beans and carrots are up and I am looking forward to the harvest already.
Each morning brings pretty much the same, I warm up goat milk for Prissy’s triplets whom she decided not to feed, while Randyman makes the 11 bottles for the leppie calves. With everything in the wagon, we head out to the corrals. I run ahead and like the Pied Piper, lead the meatie chickens to their feeders where they all mob me, as Randyman pulls the bottle wagon safely past. Butterflies drift lazily on the air currents, alighting to caress the flowers that have already opened their petals to the world. The roses, calendula, purple cone flowers, stock and  carnations keep them sated while they wait for marigolds, cosmos, daisies and hollyhocks to open. Birds chatter noisily in the trees as we go about our business and the hummingbirds gorge themselves on the trumpet vine that scampers over the rock wall.
We split the calves up into two groups and give them their bottles. They bump and push one another while they greedily suck down the milk replacer. We try valiantly to keep everyone at their own bottle to make sure they all get their share.
 No one has to be fed by stomach tube, or given shots today so that makes it a bit easier. Wimpy and Mister stare at me over the fence, expectantly, wondering if they will get any treats in addition to their pasture this morning. It ain’t likely. The horse cavvy peeks over the fence to say good morning.

The cowboys bring them up every morning to the corral by the barn to catch and saddle the horses they will use for the day. The horse wrangler drives a 4 wheeler down to the big pasture they live in. Its several hundred acres. He/she rounds them up and follows them a mile up the dirt lane to the barn. After saddling, they will open the gate and the horses not working that day will drift their way back down to the pasture again.
I count laying hens and chicks while we bottle feed, and laugh at the funny looking chickens that came with the meaties. They are very interesting colors and I have NO idea what kind they are. They are having a good life though, running around loose and scavenging bugs and spilt grain from the calves’ trough. The sun warms my back and I listen to the cooing of mourning doves as the goat kids greedily consume their bottles, bumping and pulling as I try my darndest to hold on to them. It’s exponentially harder to feed and hold 3 large coke bottles, than it is to do just two. I struggle to keep them in my hands as I sit on a stump to maintain my balance. The other set of triplets cuddle up to Bruno. They know he will keep watch over them. I watch as one little goat walks all over the dog without him making a single complaint. It is really amazing the way a real LGD will bond with its stock.

 EmmaLou and her cronies are grazing around in the pasture, lazily switching at flies. Soon they will curl up for a siesta under the octopus tree. The lambs are bleating and begging for attention, from the horses’ pasture. They walked under the hotwire last night and decided to stay. The horses don’t seem to mind a bit. There is plenty to go around. We push the calves down the alleyway and out the gate to the back pasture. This is their first time out. Cletus escorts them and finds himself a good spot in the pasture to keep watch over them.

After we are done, the bottle wagon is hauled back to the house and Randyman loosens all the caps so I can wash them. This will be the first of 3 feedings, as the calves also get a noon feeding. It feels like all I do is feed calves and wash bottles all day. I hope we will soon be able to turn them out into the pasture and cut the noon feeding out of our day. I have already pushed the milk goats to once a day milking, at night. It makes it a lot easier to only have to process milk and take the machine all apart to clean just once.
Each morning, I usually wash the bottles, check for email, then make a log or two of soap, as it is hard to keep it in inventory these days. I am thrilled people are loving it so much. The little bit of money I make helps with the care of the animals, as we do have to buy supplemental feed, veterinary meds and the horses need shoes now and again. Every little bit helps.
The rest of the day may be spent canning, cooking, gardening or sewing, or any combination of those.
This week I canned some potatoes before they went bad. Going to the store only every 3 months, we can run out of a lot of things, or worse, have it go bad. I put away what we want to use fresh, then can the rest. These can be quickly heated up as home fries, or mashed potatoes, potato soup or any number of different ways. Tonight I drained a quart and dumped them in the frying pan with some ghee, parsley, salt & pepper and just heated them up until they were browned, to go with our lamb chops. They were buttery and delicious. 
 I made some blueberry sauce and canned that, to use over ice cream and on our wholegrain waffles. 

I also made some homemade Dulce De Leche with goat milk. Now THIS is something to brag about. The boss’ wife asked me 
“So how do you keep yourself from just sitting down and eating all that yourself with a spoon??”. Dulce de Leche is a rich, incredibly flavorful carmelized milk. It’s easily made and if you use real vanilla beans in it, its amazing!

 I have found that if my oils and lye are prepared, I can make soap while my bread is rising, and boil and sterilize jars at the same time.  A little multi tasking gets a whole lot more done. At the end of a couple hours, I have soap in the molds, hot bread on the counter and jars of food cooling. It’s a good feeling. With as much as there is to do here, there isn't any other way. We enjoy our leisure time while we sleep. I think its a whole lot better that way, cuz I always manage to somehow still be behind on my chores.

I made a list of canned goods I want to put up this year. Last January, I canned several different soups and stews and it was the best investment of time I could have made, as there were many, many nights that I was just too exhausted, or in too much pain to fix dinner. Grabbing a jar of something wonderful and homemade and heating it up was better than I can possibly describe. I would much rather do that, than go out for dinner...which of course, is NOT an option for us, but it used to be, when we lived in California. Our 4 or so trips a year to town is more than enough eating out for me. A day spent canning, saves us money, time, and provides us with a much healthier alternative. It will save valuable space in my freezers as well as make for quick and easy meals. Canning is one of the best skills I have learned. Why not give it a try? 
Here are some of the items on my 2012 canning list. 
A lot of the ingredients will come from our garden, but we might find a farmers market on the way around town  next trip for other stuff. Some things I also dehydrate, but I want to compare them so I will can a few as well, this year
Jams & Jellies
Tomato Products
Spaghetti sauce
Pizza sauce
Chicken Tortilla
Clam Chowder
Chicken Stock
Cheesy Chicken Chowder
Potato Soup
Ground beef/meatballs
For tacos
Shredded Mexican Beef-for quick burritos or taco salads
Beef Dip Beef-for quick sandwiches
Chicken-for salads, enchiladas, casseroles, etc.
Green beans
Blueberry, Strawberry & Blackberry sauces and syrups
Pie fillings
Can you think of any other meals, items that might be handy to have canned in one's pantry?
If you don't can now, you might consider it. The benefits are beyond counting.