Sunday, August 25, 2013

In the Company of Company

It’s been a whirlwind of a month. 

I can’t remember a lot of it as we have been very busy, but it was great seeing so much family and friends. Randyman’s sister, niece and her family came up for a surprise visit to see our nephew, the cowboss, who will sadly be leaving for another job somewhere in October. (I think I was the only one surprised by the visit, the guys often forget to tell me stuff, but at least it’s always a GOOD surprise!) We also have a new guy, who is an exchange student from Okinawa and speaks english very well...probably better than I do, but with an accent. He’s fun and laughs a lot. The boss was gone so we had him for meals the first few days to welcome him to the ranch. That put 8 at our little 6 person table for a few days.
It was great to see everyone and I hope the kids all come back to visit again, even though their uncle will no longer be here.

They are putting in several large ‘pivots’ here at the ranch. These are 1/2 mile long irrigation systems that will pivot around the center, watering a square (actually a round) mile. Lots of fence needs to be removed and ditches filled. It will change a lot about the landscape of the ranch and will be a big improvement for feeding and irrigating,  I think. Randyman put out a distress call, and we have some great friends who we also consider family, that answered. They all arrived the day after his sister left. They stayed for 2 weeks helping us all out and the second week a friend of mine arrived for her scheduled visit. That kept 8 at the dinner table.

Of the 8, three were my little people. The little people had a great time. They played at the pond, hugged on the polar bears, played with Thomas, who allowed them to pet his little bumply head. One of them made the observation "It looks kinda like his brain is on the OUTSIDE of his head..."

they helped  process the last 7 meatie chickens, which became a source of great hilarity as well as a biology lesson. The oldest little people person can now identify a chicken's heart, gizzard, lungs, liver, intestines and crop.

Chicken calisthenics

Grabbing the tendon to do the 'chicken wave" 

They climbed with Annie in the Octopus tree where they also found 'sheep hair', a dead hawk (most likely caught by the Maremmas who take offense at predatory raptors attacking their flock) and underwent construction of what we were told but were afraid to investigate, was an outdoor potty.

 They rode Wimpy and Mister, pushed the leppies, Sushi and EmmaLouMoo  to the top of my pasture for a little experience in moving cows...

...helped move portable fencing, made fettucini noodles...

... we also made homemade ice cream, flaming banana crepes with dark rum, leg of lamb and lots of other good stuff. Oldest little people person learned to sew a little and made a skirt for school, collected eggs and cleaned out the lambing shed, while their Daddy worked like a machine taking out over a mile of barbed wire and hog wire fencing, etc. A combat experienced US Marine, he also shared his warrior's perspective on Bible passages that was really awesome to hear and gave us a greater understanding of some OT passages that described the massive armies of their time in the mornings while evenings we all spent watching Duck Dynasty reruns, laughing and being grateful that finally there is a show the whole family can enjoy together.
Their Mom worked on my house, organizing things I didn’t even think could be organized and helping out with every possible thing. They were all like little ants, each day carrying out their missions. It was great to see them and I hope next visit they can just rest and enjoy the ranch, although a little of that was done too.

They brought a new family member with them, a little Rottweiler puppy named Achilles. Cute as a bug, he’d play out front with the kittens and dogs then flop down on the ugly, old, turquoise linoleum floor that graces this house, seeking to cool off. He’d flatten out like a rug. One day the guinea fowl ventured into the front yard. That was their BIG mistake. Achillies took out after them, anxious to play with a living squeaky toy, but the Maremmas saw him through the fence. That was HIS big mistake. My big white polar bear-looking dogs are pretty flexible, but they do hold a grudge. From that point on, Achilles was on their hit list. It made for some interesting times, as the polar bears are used to coming inside if its very hot, but so was Achilles. There was a lot of dancing around going on, pushing dogs in and out in a hurry every time they nearly crossed paths. I’m not sure how future visits are going to turn out, I guess I hope it’s when the Polar Bears are content to just stay outside.

Meantime, a friend from long ago, that I haven’t seen for many years, came by bus to visit. It began as a visit for her to just get away from the heat and bustle of the city she lives in. We went horseback riding, took the 4 wheelers up to the weir...

...fed leppies and handled the sheep, calves etc. She enjoyed the little people and their family as much as we did, in fact they were giving her very big hugs when they left. She has helped process meat birds in the past (well...actually she helped process one turkey but it counts). She likes riding, loves dogs, likes fresh fruits and veggies so the garden is a plus. All in all it seems a perfect fit, so I took her back to the bus station a week later with plans for Randyman and I to drive down with the trailer to pick up all her worldly goods as she is moving in to help us out, as it is getting more and more difficult for me to do regular things.  

It's great the way things work out sometimes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Things have been quiet on the ranch lately. The trainer who does his “ranch schools” here is done for the year and the boss’ kids are ready to return to college. We are down to one hired cowboy and Randyman, plus a pair of brothers, one who is manning the hot springs and the other assisting Randyman. A crew has come to put in giant pivots which will water a square mile of pasture each, which should be pretty exciting. This year was pretty droughty and all the snow is gone off the mountain. I believe this is the first time I have ever seen it all melt before the new snow comes. All in all, there hasn’t been too much activity around the houses here. This weekend the ranch family has been at the Idaho ranch working cows for a few days so it’s even quieter than usual.

Our nephew, the cowboss has his nephew which would be our...great nephew? He’s been here for a week helping bring strays down off of the mountain. I haven’t seen much of anyone but the good news is, I have been feeling great! I had 5 days in a row with NO Ra pain at all. I have been struggling with pretty nasty sciatic pain from my back and down one hip to my knee, but the REALLY good news is, horseback riding helps it. I got old Mister out one day and padoopeedooped around the pasture a bit and felt pretty good. When I got off, there was no pain and I was not limping. I did a few chores that night however, and it all came back. A day or so later, I got Wimpy and went for a three hour ride. It was so awesome to be out again after all this time. The grass is still green and more than belly deep where I was riding. The colors and textures of the limey green grasses, the grey blue sagebrush, purple lupine and some kind of yellow daisie like flowers was breathtaking. The sky was clear blue and the mountain looked awesome, in all its craggy splendor. It just felt so wonderful and in my head I could remember past rides, moving calves or gathering with the kids and whoever the current cowboss would have been at the time. Good times, always. Maybe not so far away to do again.

Meanwhile I do what I can. Yesterday I grabbed up Mister only to find him with a snotty nose and cough. Hopefully it is just a cold virus. He has a very low grade temp so antibiotics aren't called for at this time. I am hoping against hope he is well by next week. I took care of him and caught up Wimpy and we went for a short cruise to the bottom of the pasture to get a closer look at one of the new pivots going on the ranch. It will water a square mile of grass...well, technically it will water a round mile of grass. On the way back up I looked to the North and saw blue skies, whereas to the South, it was squalling over the lakebed. The storm was going to hit us pretty soon. EmmaLou, SushiMoo and their cohorts were huddled up by the octopus tree having an afternoon siesta.

I was reminded however, of how I truly wish that when a wife buys a gate to make it easy for her to get her horses in and out of a pasture, that her dear husband didn’t repurpose it somewhere ELSE and leave a crummy chunk of cattle panel with very sharp edges on it, in its place. Luckily, as they say, it’s a long way from my heart. I am more horrified over how hairy and swollen my hand looks than anything else. Gak!

No harm no foul. As long as I can ride, it works.

Meanwhile, we are getting ready to wean the leppies and are kind of shifting things around. I’ve been weaning the 3 lambs as well, so they are in electric netting which has to be moved every couple of days to keep them in feed.

They eat down some of the thistle which has been trying to take over the pasture. There is a huge difference in 48 hours, with 3 little lambs and 2 small goats in a 1600 sq ft. pen, as you can see.

 They are like pasture piranhas. We wanted to lock the sheep in the big corral to take down some of the weeds so I had to call them in.

I couldn’t see them and they weren’t responding to my voice. There was a cow not far away in the tall weeds. Bruno suddenly charged her and ran her back aways. I hollered at him because we don’t want the dogs chasing the boss’ cows. It does no good to call an LGD when he’s doing something like that anyway, they won’t listen. When he’d gotten her to jump back about 20 feet or so, he was satisfied and headed back my direction. He cleared the brush and stopped, looking back over his shoulder. Moments later, the sheep appeared, walking single file and I shook my head and marveled as he led them past me to the corral. He had clearly understood what I was wanting as his behavior was so deliberate.

This morning I let the sheep out and again, there was a cow close by. Bru ran past the sheep and placed himself between them and the cow. One ewe went to pass him and head that direction and he gently nudged her and changed her course. He stood until he was satisfied all the sheep were heading where he wanted them to, then he sat and made direct eye contact with me. It was as if to let me know he understood I didn’t want him chasing the cow off, so he used a new tactic. These dogs are just scary smart! 

It truly saddens me when people dump these dogs or abuse them because they think they aren't working out. Usually it is a case of owner stupidity and not  being willing to learn how these dogs think and react. They are NOT like other dogs and often dog handling experience is a deficit not an asset unless your experience is with bonafide LGD breeds. (Pyrenees, Maremma, Akbash, Anatolian, etc.) They are extremely deliberate in their behaviors and almost never do something without good reason. I've learned from experience, I am often wrong about them more than right, when I criticize something they have done. I've had to eat crow more than once.

Speaking of which, we invited the nephews for dinner. Randyman wanted fried chicken so I grabbed the meatie roosters I had parted out and decided to cook it all up. It would be nice to have leftovers for lunch. I fried it all up in two batches, 8 drumsticks, 8 thighs, wings, the works. I made some corn bread to go with it, and mashed potatoes and gravy made with home canned chicken broth, milled some pastry flour and made some whole wheat brownies with it. It all came together perfectly and the boys dug in. One of the brothers from the hot springs showed up and hadn’t eaten so we invited him in as well. By the end of the evening all that was left was a couple inches of the original 9x13 pan of brownies. So much for leftovers! But they went to a good cause and I love to think the bachelors enjoyed something besides ramen noodles or beanie weanies for a change. I think we will need more chickens next year, for sure.