Monday, May 28, 2012

Triplets All Around

So, the big ranch party has begun and goes through Sunday to celebrate the ranch triplets graduating from High School. Much work has been done to spruce up the ranch and make ready. There are hundreds of hamburger patties made up, a new and improved BBQ to grill them on, campsites have been prepared in the meadow across from our house and all is in readiness. 
My chicks were supposed to arrive on Wednesday with the mail carrier who only comes 3x a week, but they didn’t arrive.
He called me Thursday to let me know they made it to Princeton Post Office which is 80 miles away and “did I want to go pick them up?”
Of course, I had no choice as they are day old chicks in a box without food/water/heat. I drug myself out and drove the nearly 200 mile long trip to get them. There are 52 of them. I’m not sure why, as I only ordered 30 meaties and there are a good many chicks that are NOT what I ordered. Only one had died in transit. I guess the guy threw in all his extras to make up for being almost 2 months late.
I put them in the bathroom with the heater on full blast as the trip home wasn’t very warm. A storm has moved in. Randyman was still working on the big chick brooder. Since we raise our own chickens every year for the table now, we might as well have a permanent facility for them to grow in and feather out. It’s huge and has an enormous top on it, that will eventually be wired to keep the junk birds out of their feed. We got 3 different heat lamps in it, put in their mushy food which they promptly got their feet stuck in, although they loved eating it, replaced it with dry chick feed and they settled in nicely, having found their food and water. I had already fed them some mashed up hard boiled egg on their arrival, which they consumed with gusto.

We awoke to find it was snowing and the electricity was out. That meant the heat lamps for the chicks went out. Randyman got up and got a generator and got the lights in the brooder going again. So far, it looks like we only lost 2, from being crushed when they all huddled together for warmth. Not sure if they will all rally or not.

I had covered all the tomatoes and peppers last night, and they will stay covered today, because it continues to rain hard, then snow. What was sleet is turning to just plain old snow now. 
The bottle calves were all hunched up and shivering. We fed them then shoved them into the goat shed again, where they could get dry and warm. I hoped the goats are not ready to kid yet, as there is no place for them to do it. The pups are out consoling their wet livestock. Annie and Stinky were under the tent trying to stay dry as goats do not like getting wet. They don’t have the heavy coats or wool of other animals. EmmaLou, I am sure hogged the dry spots under the Octopus tree. 

Things warmed up so Randyman put the leppies back out in the pasture. I told him that is good, because my goats are going to be kidding real soon.
We made bottles to feed the leppies that evening and as I passed the gate to the sheep pasture, I noticed all the sheep and goats were in except for Prissy. I went out and around the corner and there she was...with her new triplets.

Priss does not have a good udder, her teats are ‘blown’ and the babies can’t really get ahold of them to nurse. I brought them all in, gave the babies some SeleniumE, got Priss on the stand and milked her into 3 bottles to make sure the kids got colostrum early. I will have to keep stripping her twice a day until they figure out the whole nursing scene and are able to keep her milked down. Meanwhile...I am able to go back into Goat milk soap production.
I have CucumberMelon and Goatmilk Oatmeal&Honey soap on the racks curing,  will make another plain Honeymoo this week, and keep a close eye on Oreo, Freckles and Just Plain Joe.
It’s gonna be quite a week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Little Things

It’s gonna be a challenging week. Everyone is pitching in trying to get the ranch ready for the big party. Hundreds of people are expected to show up. I need to get my house squeaky clean as well, because the ranch patriarch will be here and likes to take a little tour through all of the houses. The Maremmas, being nosey as they are, are gonna want to be out front to supervise the action so I will have to figure out a solution to keep them in the back with the critters.
I am working on getting a soap storage hut painted so I can more easily see what I have in inventory. I am down to just a few different soaps so I have a busy couple of months ahead of me getting soap cured and restocked. I have had a wonderful response online and have actually sold out of NINE different kinds of soap. I really need to get to work, but I am waiting on a delivery of base oils, as I ran out. Please be patient with me! The storage hut will make a huge difference as there has been no place to put the soap once it has cured, except in a small book case. This way, I can easily keep 50 bars of each type in its own little spot and will know immediately what I have on hand.
The real good news is, the goats look like they are bagging up so we will have goatmilk soap again soon. It’s nice stuff, but don’t tell EmmaLouMoo, she is very sensitive about these things.
Three of the 4 psycho chickens have been dispatched. We had to finally institute the ‘three strikes’ rule. They continually broke into the garden to eat my seedlings and hide eggs. I clipped their wings, chased them, hosed them down, threw rocks at them, but nothing deterred them, so today was their last day running around shrieking and wreaking havoc. 

R.I.P. psycho-chicks...Your lives may have been short and unproductive, but your ending will be ‘souper’.
Two of the sensible chickens are broody. Both Buffy and Oprah have been sitting on eggs, in a mindless, motherly trance. I hope they don’t hatch anything with spots, as the mere thought of a half-psycho chicken makes me shudder.
Mr T is the expectant father. He is looking beautiful, with his red comb and wattles. Clearly, free ranging agrees with him.

The ‘meaties’ should be here soon. The hatchery called and said they are shipping, so I have to let our mail guy know. We fixed up a spot in the milk room which isn’t being used right now. Randyman just has to move the camera back to the goat pen and put up heat lamps for the chickens...and make a lid so the wild birds don’t eat all their food. I will be fermenting their food this year, something I read on the livestock boards. One gal did a great job of documenting the 8 weeks of raising her Cornish X and the difference it made in their health, their sanitation and their energy levels. It was pretty dramatic. I already have their feed in a bucket of water, and will put some raw Apple Cider Vinegar in there today. It looks like mush, but I guess if I was a chicken it would look tasty to me.  It’s still a toss up which dog is going to raise them. Both of them like chickens and both are attached to the goats and sheep. Bruno likes chicken duty, mostly because he can lounge around and sleep closer to the house. Cletus loves them because...well, he’s Cletus and he just rolls that way.
I know some people think it’s just terrible to raise your own food. But I say this, these animals are well cared for, have a healthy and enjoyable life and a humane death (which is more than many humans experience), with the purpose of providing healthy food for my family, as opposed to factory farming where animals often live in cramped quarters, poor sanitation, unappreciated and wind up full of all kinds of unpronounceable ingredients, on your grocery aisle. There ya go, contemplate that over your next pink slime burger.
The ten leppie calves are doing well and have fallen into the normal "butt, bump and leave hickies all over the bottle holding victim" routine. We’ve been trying to train them to drink from the bottle box, but they like to steal and stand sideways to block the others and whatever other mischief they can cause. I have resigned myself to living with slobbery knees and slimey hands for the rest of the summer.

The sheep are lookin kinda raggedy as they shed their wool. The pups have been doing a fantastic job guarding. Bruno became very angry the other day at a hawk that was flying over the pasture...the dogs ran after it and it decided to stay higher up on the air currents after that. I have finally figured out a mystery. I could never understand, since everytime Cletus gives one of the cows a nose kiss, and they clobber him, why he would continue to do this, everytime I go to the pasture. Now I know it's because since they hurt him, he is afraid they will hurt me and he is diving in there to protect me by becoming their target. I have been trying to detain him somewhere else until he understands that I am perfectly fine with Emma and the girls. He does look relieved from the other side of the fence.
One of the triplets brought Wimpy in from the big pasture below the Steens where he spent the winter, so I can start riding again.

It doesn't look like he lost much weight out on the winter pasture. In fact, he's fat as a tick.

I am itching to go. I haven’t the strength today, but tomorrow is another day, and with grace and any kind of luck I can ride at least for a short while. Meantime, since Wimpy has always been a little ‘people sour’ having been a hardworking cowhorse for the first several years of his life, I am taking the opportunity of having him alone to sweeten him up. It doesn’t take much, really, a few scratchings and maybe a treat or two, just to help him associate me with something besides carrying my carcass around the ranch. He’s already following me for the first time ever and beginning to take the initiative to come up to me. Baby steps, baby steps.

He was a good boy, so I turned him loose to go down with the rest of the cavvy, a mile or so down the road. They are brought up everymorning by someone on a 4 wheeler to the big corral for saddling. I can snag him then and we'll be good to go. It felt good just to put my hands on him again.

Well, I better get back to the old grind...the pups are begging for a hug.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ups, Downs and Making the Rounds

The barometric pressure has been all over the place again, so it has put a cramp in my style lately. I have to take hundreds of little breaks during the day and often don’t get much accomplished.
The other day was such a day and I had to stay up to 11 at night to get bread made. Next morning Randyman went out and fed the bottle calves for me and fed the rams, for which I was grateful. Mornings are beyond difficult for me...then he said goodbye, headed for work, but turned around after passing the freezers.
“We need a clean up on aisle 10!”
It appears that in my desperation to have milk while EmmaLou is dry, a gallon of it which I had put in to freeze, split open and dripped down behind the freezer, only to be cooked by the motor, or drip through the hoses, running across the floor, stinking to high heaven. After two hours of tipping the freezer back, pulling out all the parts and hoses and scrubbing, gagging, dry heaving and mopping, gagging, wiping, dry heaving and gagging, we got it all put back to rights...and so began the day.
I worked on cleaning the kitchen. Poured a gallon of cream into the churn and made butter, mopped the floor then took a break to go check on the garden. A renegade chicken has been scaling the fence and breaking in, eating my seedlings and hiding eggs under the shrubs. I snuck in the coop last nite and clipped the wings of all 4 Spangled hens, as I wasn’t sure WHICH one it was. Next day she was back. I found 24 eggs hidden under a bush, which I naturally, disposed of. I hollered and threw rocks at her, but she was unphased. I then chased her down and got her in a corner where I used my plastic pitchfork to lift her up and pitch her over the fence where she belonged. Nevertheless, she was in the yard again this morning. 

It appears that she has been playing the innocent, maligning my good name, whispering slander against me in their ears, as all the other chickens have been giving me the "stink eye".

After I chased her out, I went to check on the critters. The 4 bottle leppies were sleeping in the sheep’s tent in the shade. The sheep and goats were lined up alongside the fence in the little bit of shade it provided. I looked for the dogs and did not see them. I called and as I scanned the pasture, I saw something white waving down by the octopus tree. Sure enough, it was Maremma tails wagging. They just assumed since they could see me, that I would see them. LGD's aren't like other dogs that come running up and fawn all over you when you call. They make their own decisions based on what they feel is important at the time. It's a necessary trait for a successful guardian, as they have to make split second decisions on their own. It can make them appear stubborn, willful, or unintelligent, but nothing could be further from the truth.
 I went down there to them and both the Maremmas had been napping with the cows, the wool sheep, and Annie the goatling. We hugged and played awhile, then visited with EmmaLou who is being dried off prior to calving in July.

I headed back up to the house to change water on the garden and continue my cleaning. As I was switching the valves on the hose, Bruno came tearing up from the pasture and scooted under the corral fence in record time, barking an alert. I couldn’t imagine what he thought he saw, so I looked overhead to see if maybe it was a hawk after his chickens. Nope. Turns out, the boss and Randyman were bringing in another leppie calf. Funny that he heard them from way down there in the pasture and I was in the yard with them right behind me, and didn’t even know. He checked the calves over throughly and made his introductions. We gave the calf a bottle and pushed him into the goat shed with another, where it was cool, until he is ready to join the others.

Not too long after that, another leppie came in. So many calves have been leppied this week. Today I got up and we had 8 bottle calves. While we were feeding them, the boss showed up, apologetically, with two more! So, we have an even 10 calves to feed right now. I’ll get a break for about a week because this weekend is the Big Loop Rodeo and everyone is gone, plus the ranch is preparing to throw a big shindig to celebrate the triplets’ graduation from High School. Three hundred and fifty invitations were sent out. It is assumed that if only 1/3 of the people come to the party, which is all weekend, there will probably be around 400 people here, counting spouses and children. No one will be moving cows this week, so no calves will get left behind.

So the ranch is getting ready for the big shindig.

 It is surely going to test my social skills, which are pretty rusty, as I prefer the company of 4 legged friends to that of the 2 legged variety, although I have met some great 2 legged folk. It’s just that I have been alone most of my life and being immersed in a herd of humans is a little daunting to me...but these guys are worth it. They survived their 4 years of public school without losing their honesty, integrity, manners, work ethic, honor or faith. That, my friends, is quite an achievement in this day and age.

photo by Kelly 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Just a Little Bull

My recent days have been spent hoeing and spraying weeds, taking care of critters and making soap and packing and shipping orders. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who visited my handmade soaps page and those who have ordered. I am so pleased and hope you will be too.

The cowboys brought me another orphan calf last week. He was pretty hungry and dehydrated and did pretty good taking a bottle, but next morning he only took 3/4 of his bottle. Same thing that night and he continued going down hill until I had to feed him via stomach tube for several days to keep him alive. The vet was on the ranch helping wean the fall calves and gave me some antibiotics for him and he was back on his feet and taking a bottle again in a couple of days.

They found another leppie calf out there, so I had the two sharing the goat shed, where they could stay out of the sun, as it was warm and calf #2 was pretty seriously dehydrated. So he got electrolytes for his first meal. Next day his skin wasn’t tenting so badly so he got some EmmaLouMoo Juice for breakfast.
Next day was pretty busy and it was a bit cooler out, so I left the door open on the shed so he could go out in the sun if he wanted. A few hours later, I went to check on everyone and he had left the shed. I didn’t see him around the corner, so I figured he must be in Emma’s old tent...but all I found in there was a few chickens. There really wasn’t anywhere else for him to go. He couldn’t possibly have fit under the fence, I ran to the big water trough to make sure he couldn’t have somehow climbed in...nope. He wasn’t there either.
I headed to the little pasture and as I walked by the chicken yard I saw something dark out of the corner of my eye.
I guess he preferred the company of some cute chicks to the ‘bull crap’ he left back in the shed.

We headed to the thriving metropolis of Burns, OR. Only 2 hours from home it was a short, leisurely drive compared to when we go grocery shopping 4 1/2 hr away in Boise. As we puttered along down the 50 miles of dirt road headed for the highway, we passed some of the wild horses that live on the ranch. They had their foals alongside. One big black mare startled me, if I had not seen her colt beside her I would have mistaken her for “Pitch,” my old gelding I was riding when I broke my shoulder because we got stuck in a slough. I'd had to have him eventually put down, because it had crippled him too, struggling to get us out. 

The rest of the drive was uneventful as we listened to an audio book and appreciated the changing scenery, which ran the gamut from sagebrush covered rangeland, to rocky bluffs and finally farms with cattle and lush fields of hay.
We stopped for lunch at one of the 3 establishments there where you can grab a bite in Burns. This one is across from the town cemetery. There was a work crew of convicts cleaning the grounds, wearing...STRIPED PAJAMAS! I honestly thought that was only in cartoons, but nope...they were sure 'nuff wearing 'em. It made me sad, as they were all  young men and I grieved that they had made bad choices that will affect the rest of their life. Too many young people are being lost along the way. It's something to pray about, for sure.

After all our errands were done, we drove out to the home of some of the nicest people in Oregon, and picked up another baby goat. They had about 100 of them there to choose from, but this little black and white Alpine was just so darned cute I had to have her. Randyman named her Annie. He's such a softie.

 It didn’t take long for her to fit in with our little herd. I plan to sell one or both of the big Nubians later this year as they have udder attachments that are just awful and are sure to cause problems down the road.

I don't think Stinky will mind if she's not a Nubian...although he does look a little disappointed.

The dogs have been doing a fabulous job, as usual. The chickens have gotten so confident, they now range all the way out of sight, seeking bugs and grasses to dine on. They are leaving a feeder full of chicken feed so they must be pretty content with what they are foraging. I know its a lot healthier for them, and with the two Maremmas keeping watch over them, they aren’t likely to fall prey to dogs, hawks, coyotes or other predators. It sure is nice not worrying about the critters.
The tomato plants are all in the garden, with a bucket beside each one to cover it in case of frost. I am determined to get a good harvest out of this garden this year. Yessiree.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cruising into Summer

These are exciting days on the ranch. There are more warm days than cold, even though there was a lot of snowfall on the Steens this week. The grass is starting to grow and I was able to put in some of my landscaping, another step towards finishing my ‘dream backyard’.
With 3 different arches made of cattle panels, I planted vines to cover them and even though it won’t be noticeable until next summer, I know I will have years of enjoyment from them, like I did at my old house. There is just something about flowering vines rambling over the top of something that is very settling to my soul. Firecracker Red Penstemon join Purple Coneflowers in the corner of the flower garden and soon I will be planting seeds of Cosmos and Shasta Daisies to keep them all company. The yard does double duty, as I’ve planted Apricot, Apple and Peach trees, Raspberries, Blackberries, Strawberries and Currants. In spite of the new fenced in vegetable garden, I can’t resist tucking a few things like cabbage or squash in with the flowers for handy access and to fill in empty spaces while everything grows and evolves. I love old fashioned flowers like towering Hollyhocks and Sunflowers, along with Cosmos, Calendulas, Foxgloves and others.

The first hummingbirds have already made their appearance at the feeder. Buffy the chicken loves her new, sexy, camo vest so much, that she is raising a family. She’s been setting on eggs for the past couple of days and I am going to have to move her. Everyone has been wanting to lay in her nest box and I really only want Buff Orphington or Australorpe crosses. At least Stickman the ditzy rooster is gone so he won’t be siring any chicks. Mr T, an enormous Australorpe, is the head of the harem.
Tonite we will sneak out and carefully lift Buffy off the nest, move the eggs and stuff her in a small kennel where I can confine her with food, water, and the kids, until they hatch. It’s really kind of exciting. I haven’t had a hen hatch any chicks for several years.
Our dear neighbor has seeded some large bare patches in their lawn where the trees all fell down in the windstorm, and a huge area where there was previously a big weedy burm. For reasons unknown to all of us, Cletus and Bruno have decided that is a great place to go in the early evening and wrestle before going on patrol, leaving huge pawprints and body holes in the damp earth. I’ll put some step in posts and rig it to look like its hot-wired later today, so it is protected. 
Last nite we had stuffed the dogs into EmmaLouMoo's old corral to confine them due to the lawn damage, but after dark their barking became pretty urgent. Something was approaching that shouldn’t have. The sheep and goats were out loose with no one to protect them, so Randyman went and let the dogs out. Cletus immediately rounded up the sheep and goats and escorted them to the corral. He doesn’t do this by pushing, like a herding dog would do...he just walks over, says something to them and they obediently walk alongside him to the corral, and they stay there while he joins Bruno, who was waiting, and sprinted off into the dark of the night, in pursuit of the intruder. How the heck he is able to communicate with a completely different species is a mystery to me. It’s just terribly interesting to watch. As I have said before, LGD’s are not like any other breed of dog in existence.

I am expecting meatie chickens to arrive this week. We have to build something in the milk barn. Randyman said he will get on it right away. I hope he doesn’t forget!
Meanwhile, knowing that we only have about 60 to 80 days before these chickens will need to be processed and knowing Randyman’s proclivity towards putting things off until a decade AFTER the last minute, I asked his permission, jumped on ebay and we are now the proud owners of a brand new WHIZBANG CHICKEN PLUCKER kit! All we need is a small motor and belt to run it.  This will save us $100 in processing fees, and over $200 in fuel. We can eat a LOT of chicken for that kind of savings. It will pay for itself by next spring. Not everyone can appreciate how truly wonderful this is, but I would much rather have this than a diamond necklace.
It’s that time of year again, when I need to get back to making soap. I seem to sell out every Christmas and every spring. I’ll have to see if I can stay on top of things better and have more in inventory so people are not disappointed. It’s such great stuff, just hard to have to store so much in such a tiny house. 
I have started a “Soap page” on its own blog. The link is off to the right on my blogroll, or you can just click on
Everything around here does double duty. The cow gives us milk and fertilizer. The garden gives us eye candy and vegetables. The dogs give us companionship and protection and the soap provides aromatherapy, cleaning and conditioning.
I mean, what better way to end a hot, muggy day working outside than to jump in the tub or shower with a bar of luxury soap that soothes your senses and nourishes your skin? ...except to maybe take a candle and a glass of wine with you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Day

I got daring and put 2 of the tomato seedlings in the ground yesterday. Then last night, I heard the overnight lows are going down to 31 at night. At least it’s only 2 of them. One of them was pretty withered this morning, while the other looked just fine. Go figure.
I put the sheep, goats, Cholula and the calf out in the pasture next to the house. It didn’t take but a couple of days for them to eat it right on down to nubs. I was shocked. This morning I let the sheep and goats back out into the large sheep pasture behind the corrals and Cletus went with them to keep watch. Today I will bring EmmaLou in and put the other cows in the milk pasture where there is more for them to eat. That’s where she will spend most of the summer after she freshens again, since the leppie calves that come in will get the sheep pasture. There should be plenty enough for all the small stock there. I will soon be playing musical pastures.

My old Paint horse may be coming home. I had placed him with a young girl before we came here, because we were very uncertain of our future and I was too attached to him to sell him. Now they are moving to Alaska and he’s coming back. My son wants him, but isn’t sure this is a good time, what with the girls being so little, so I have to find a way to get him HERE. I’m gonna need hay to change him over as he has never, ever been on pasture. I raised this feller and stood him as a stallion for a couple of years. I used to ride him at liberty with no bridle or saddle. Later I used him as one of my therapy horses for the Equine Assisted Therapy program I ran for handicapped kids and adults. I would really like to keep him up close to the house, as I could ride more often then, until I get strong enough to go out and follow cows with everyone else again. I miss that. Here’s hoping I can get him back soon. Summer would be a very good time.
Delivery on my meatie chickens was delayed because of hatching and delivery problems so I am expecting them next week. I would really like to build a brooder to go out in the shed, but I am worried I will need the shed for the goats to kid in. I’m not sure when they are due, because Peebody had such a difficult time getting them bred, I gave up keeping dates.
Chickens in the house isn’t a real terrible thing if it's just a couple, but when you have 30, and they are meaties, which are pretty much just eating, pooping machines, its very unpleasant. Add to that the weird ‘chicken dust’ that they generate and its a living nightmare.
I think this year, we will see if we can find 2 of the big metal boxes out in the bone yard and put them in the milk room. Those are 4x4x2 so they should be adequate for 30 birds until they can go outside to forage a bit. I am going to try fermenting the feed as well, as there is a poster on a couple of the web forums that has had marvelous success with it and her chickens look really healthy, not typical of this breed which often die suddenly and rarely live past their butcher weight which is usually reached at about 8 weeks, due to their rapid growth.
Meantime, back at the ranch, my little Buff hen had all the feathers pulled off of her back by the evil roosters. They haven’t grown back and she was getting a bad sunburn, so I had to buy her this little vest.

 It doesn’t seem to bother her at all, but it scared the bejeebers out of Mr T when he saw her waddling up with her camo vest on. I believe he thought she was about to ‘take him out’. 
Cletus has been so attached to the lambs that Bruno has taken chicken duty. I suppose he will raise the 30 meaties that are coming.

Yesterday a black kitty wandered into the big corral. Rosemary was out there and wanted a closer look. She took a gander then got her ‘crew’ and together they chased the poor little thing all over the corral. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, the cat went into the next corral and got the same disrespectful treatment from the chickens. 

Since my spring wheat never really came up in the chicken corral, I expect them to go through the gate into the big corral where there is more grass to forage in. I put an empty feed trough on its side for them to hide in, in the case of a hawk attack, if Bruno should be off somewhere else. Stinky and Rosemary thought it would be a great place to play hide and seek.
It’s Stinky’s turn to count...

And Rosemary’s turn to hide.

Then it was Stinky's turn to hide...

He's really not very good at this game, but it keeps them off the streets.

Cider wanted me to throw his ball for him. I tossed it in the chicken corral, fully expecting them to scatter as he blasted through the middle of their flock...instead they chased him. 

As neurotic as my animals are, it would not have surprised me if they had taken it from him and brought it back to me.