Saturday, October 26, 2013

Winding up October

October is nearly behind us. There are still a few flowers hanging on, such as the honeysuckle on my archway and the calendulas. No terribly heavy freezes have occurred yet, so it’s not yet time to worm my horses. I had my infusion this week, which normally causes me no discomfort, however, I went in not feeling my best and came out the same. The next morning however, I woke up feeling rough, then soon after found myself  with a full-on migraine and felt as though I was freezing half to death. Twenty-four hours in THAT crucible, then followed another day of just a normal headache. Which makes these days much more appreciated and more fabulous altogether, as I know how bad it COULD be! God bless those poor souls who live with migraines on a regular basis. I could not.

I feel pretty much as close to a normal person now as I ever will, so I’m back to making bucket lists and plans. A few days ago, I had to bring the cows up into the corral as the boss was putting some cull cows out in the pasture until they ship them. I grabbed up Mister and we cruised on down to the bottom of the field. He wanted to rush and was feeling a little snorty so I was hoping we didn’t have to head anyone off or he might get to bucking. The little handful of cows were fresh and froggy so it was best not to hurry. Things went pretty smoothly, only one cow was acting badly and we were able to get around it and head it back the right direction and in through the gate. It was a good little jaunt for my old horse.Today I captured Wimpy and turned him and Mister out to the milk pasture with Emma and Sushi and moved the sheep and Maremmas into the small pasture where Mister had been living.

The dogs are not happy about it, but with a recent parvo outbreak on the ranch as well as the amount of traffic and trappers here at the moment, I feel safer with them being locked in, rather than doing their regular patrolling. I will still have to let them out a couple of nights a week, to keep everything at bay but on those particular nights, I am a bit tied up in knots until they are back home again.

It is a very quiet time for me right now, with no garden to tend and no leppies to feed, for which I am grateful. The new ranch family is taking over charge of the leppie calves which were just getting to be too big a responsibility for me in my condition. The grandkids may still have a bottle calf to feed as I plan to take Em’s next baby and put it on a bottle right away, to avoid the problems I had with Sushi.
I wish Sushi was bred, but will have to wait until spring to borrow another bull from the boss. It’s just too late in the year and we can’t afford to hay feed anything. Better to wait another  year and pray Em’s milk will be ok.

Randyman requested Chicken Divan for dinner. It’s great not having to boil and peel a chicken, as I canned quite a few of the meaties, mostly legs, from which a lot tends to be wasted. The breasts I wrap and freeze for more delectable meals and the legs I can to use for casseroles so all I have to do is grab a jar of already cooked and shredded wholesome homegrown chicken and some broccoli out of the freezer, and make a sauce and some rice. It will go together quickly and I love quick and easy meals whenever possible. Next week will be his birthday so I’ll be making a cake. I’m thinking Boston Cream Pie, but a lot can happen between now and then.

Last night Mister and Wimpy showed up begging for handouts. Sushi soon materialized with the same greedy expectations, but EmmaLouMoo was no where to be found. It is a bit unusual for her not to be around Sushi  and I could not find her when I walked way out to the Milk Pasture and called for her. I saddled up Mister again and after a short and quick little prayer, that he would behave himself and I would find her quickly and in good health, we headed down the alley and into the big back pasture. This one is huge with lots of hiding places in the willows, across the large rock creek, or any of the several secluded spots on the other side. Wimpy stayed behind in the corral, munching hay, which irritated Mister no end. I also had a bosal on him, which isn’t the best choice as he has a large calcium deposit on his lower jaw from a previous injury that interferes with the action of a bosal or strap from a curb bit, so I usually have to employ a snaffle on him, but I’d left it at the house. After a couple of small disagreements between Mister and myself, we went along our way, and quickly found Emma in the lower alleyway, looking fit and content. As it all turned out, it probably took me longer to saddle Mister, than to ride him. Much as I would have loved to ride longer, I had dinner to make still and it was pretty clear that I’d had a positive answer to our little prayer. You just can’t argue with that.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Horsin' Around

My health is so much better than it was earlier this past year. The constant and intense pain I was living with is very much at bay, so the newest treatment is definitely successful for now. I’m still having a few issues from the cold virus that seized us but I am slowly recovering.

We went riding yesterday. Cider so desperately wanted to come with us. He used to go everywhere with me but his advanced age and the graying of his eyes and muzzle in addition to his recent stroke and weakness made me a little reluctant to think about it. However, seeing the disappointment in his eyes when I shut the gate on him, I considered how unappealing my life was before I started being able to participate in the things I love again. Knowing that like me, he’d rather live a shortened life of quality than a longer life of disappointment, I opened the gate and he bounced past me in great joy and anticipation.

 As neither Chery nor I can mount from the ground (at least not yet) it takes quite a bit of effort to dismount, open and close a barbed wire gate and find a spot to remount. We managed however and were able to chart a path with LOTS  of open gates as they are still working on putting in pivots on the ranch and the trucks are in and out. We moseyed along for about 3 hours, Cider covering at least twice as much ground as we did on horseback. He ran through willows, rolled in creeks, followed bird trails and had an incredible time.

 As always, I appreciated the vista and the vastness of thousands of acres of the ranch as I gazed off at the silhouettes of the mountains in the distance.

We rode under groves of giant trees who have put their fall colors on display. The sheer enormity of them is overwhelming and the thought of what they have seen in their life intrigues me. Indian, cavalryman, cattleman and cowboy, they have seen it all. How I wish they could tell me their stories.

Cider did a great job of keeping track of us and staying close enough not to get lost. Once back, he did collapse next to my horse and I had to work hard to convince him to go into the shed where he couldn’t be stepped on, as he is no faster at getting up than I am and it could be a disaster in waiting. In spite of his initial exhaustion and soreness, he recovered quickly and even has wanted us to throw things for him last nite and this morning. Like me, he has been revitalized by the activity and I think his life has been lengthened by the trip, rather than shortened.

He had fun rolling and splashing in any and every body of water he could find.

And of  course, his trip would not have been complete without a souvenier to bring back, as you can see in the photo above. Of all the millions of sticks that must be on this ranch, I'm pretty sure the one in his mouth is irreplaceable, having just the perfect amount of age and seasoning on it, as well as perfect aerodynamics for throwing. It was well worth carrying miles and miles back to the house.

The other night about 2 a.m. I awoke and could hear the Maremmas barking far away. Then I THOUGHT I heard commotion in the chicken coop, which I had forgotten to close. I was worried that a coon or something had gotten in while the dogs were busy keeping the coyotes and a cougar (that was less than a mile from the corral) at bay. I jumped into some shoes and quietly snuck out to the coop in the moonlight. I could see the dogs way down at the bottom of the pasture. I went inside the coop and quickly flashed a light long enough to see if anything was in there. All the hens were roosting and everyone seemed fine. I turned around to leave only to hear a deep throated growl and see both big dogs charging my way. As they were coming through the last gate they recognized me and met me with bouncy bodies and wagging tails. I was totally shocked they had heard me and how FAST they arrived! No predators would have stood a chance in my coop.I have no idea what I had heard. 

Chery, our ‘roomie’ was riding the 4 wheeler home from the corrals the other night when she spotted a mountain lion. There are a lot of them on the ranch so it was of no surprise, but he is pretty close to the house. It just means the dogs will have to work harder to protect the stock, if said cougar should consider lamb for his menu.

This morning, Potamus came home 4 hours later than usual. One leg had evidence of a great deal of blood having run down it, but not his. He’d licked most of it off but it could still be seen. I considered that perhaps he’d found a carcass and had been disposing of it, but there is none of the telltale smell on breath or body and no blood anywhere else on him. I’ve no idea what he tangled with or why he was gone so late, but other than being exhausted and sore, he is none the worse for wear. I don’t imagine we could make the same statement about whatever creature tangled with him. 

The bucket list for today is cleaning the chicken pen and stripping out Emma's shelter. The horses get a day off, but God willing, we'll be back at it tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Life Goes On

There is frost on the lawn this morning and a chill in the air. I step out to feed the animals. The sheep move out single-file, with the Maremmas leading the way, checking for hazards. I open the gate and watch EmmaLou and Sushi run across the back pasture bucking and playing happily, while the Maremmas race back and forth between them in a game of LGD tag. Tails are wagging furiously with joy and exuberance and I laugh at their antics.

Mister nickers at me, waiting impatiently for his morning hay. He’s alone again as Wimpy is out with the cavvy so I don’t have to hand feed him. Mister would be there too, but for his advanced age and the fact that he doesn’t get along well in a herd situation. He had his tail chewed off and was marked up pretty badly from kicks and bites when just a couple of horses were turned into the pasture with him, so it will have to be a solitary life for him, this winter again.

The veggies droop with frostbite, the last flowers hold out bravely in their fight to survive, but they too will lose the battle soon. Still I appreciate their cheerful colors and their tenacity. 

My youngest son and his family stayed another week. They bagged 2 deer and cut one up for our freezer which was a greatly appreciated gift as we forgot, once again, to put in for tags. Abby and her little sister get along famously so things went smoothly, even if Kinley wasn't too keen on me, not really knowing us as we live so far away and our time together is so short.

Abby picked the last of the flowers to put on the table for me.

They helped to cheer me up when the inevitable time came.

My little people are all gone and with them, the sounds of laughter and giggles.
While they were here, Thomas' heart began to fail him, as is the fate of turkeys of his ilk. He was a hybrid bird, who gained weight so rapidly that his legs and heart couldn't sustain him. HIs color got bad, his legs began to swell and his breathing became labored so we took the cue and humanely destroyed him. Being as how I had a relationship with him, I could not look on when the deed was initially done. My youngest son picked him up (which he was quite used to as I used to carry him under my arm so it didn't scare him at all for someone to do so). Randyman helped to turn him upside-down and he did like chickens or turkeys tend to do and sort of became dazed/dizzy/catatonic. My friend and daughter in law looked on as they dispatched him and were amazed at how 'humane' it was. They both said he never seemed fearful or in pain. I've done a lot of chickens so I know this to be true. It's just hard to dispatch an old friend, even when it is the kindest thing to do for them.

 R.I. P. Thomas. As one reader on AR hilariously stated, "In this case, it stands for "Roast In Pan".

 I know he doesn't mind. He had a great life and he's out of pain now. For those of you who think it's easy or cruel of us to raise our own meat, allow me to say, it's never easy to kill anything, but this is the purpose for which he existed and his journey through life was sweet, his death untraumatic and painless as possible, and my family is provided with healthy meat, free of all the nasties that come with commercially raised critters and we are satisfied knowing they were well cared for and loved and lived in healthy, happy, sanitary conditions.

He was too big for the enormous tub we bought to scald him in, and too big for the plucker. It dawned on me that the people I had interviewed about these things had 'heritage turkeys' which are much smaller. We finally got the job done and got him processed and put him in a large sink of ice water to chill. He didn't fit so I put a wet cloth over his breast to keep him hydrated. He weighed 46 lb. dressed out. I parted him out a couple of days later and was amazed. I got 5 1/2 qts of dark meat to can off of his legs. The thighs weighed almost 4 lb each. 

This is one thigh, which took up the entire cutting board.
A half breast was 10 lb. 

This is an 18" cutting board. Enormous, I tell you!

 I cut the breast meat into  (4) 5 lb roasts and sent one back to California with Cody and his family. They subsequently smoked it and sent us a pic. He said it was the best turkey they ever had.

The kids' other 'grammy' told me she talked to Abby by phone and was told "I rode Mister and we killed Thomas!"
I asked if she could top THAT for Camp Granma!

 It seems unnaturally quiet now, but I suppose it is best as all three of us are down with a virus. Chills, coughing, runny noses and ears that hurt. Last year it hung on for almost 3 months due to my suppressed immune system. I hope that won’t be the case this time although there is no reason to hope otherwise.

Meanwhile, I wash my hands  a LOT so I can continue canning food for the winter. I’m still getting around so this is the time. Beef dip for sandwiches and pulled pork went on the shelves this morning and 6 quarts of chili are in the canner as I write. There were 7, but Randyman got a taste and begged a jar for lunch so it was pulled back out. It was surely tasty stuff, with a little green onion, cheese and sour cream on top. I had some leftover cornbread with it and it made me a happy camper, even if I am sick.

Lamb stew, burrito meat and meatballs are still on the list for this week and I have to keep soaping for Christmas orders. There is actually quite a lot of soap on the shelves but many are ‘summer scents’ such as Fiesta, Lemongrass, and florals. There are a couple of new fragrances I will be soaping (Vanilla Bean, Jasmine and Caramel Custard) to see how they sell. 

Plans for next year’s garden are already in the works. The basil is in the greenhouse along with the rosemary as I use a LOT of both in my cooking and neither do well in this cold climate. I will have to try yet another variety of tomato to use for canning. Having extra hands here will help to gather the calendula petals for use in both soap and healing oils. One of my little people had perpetually chapped cheeks and nothing helped. Her mommy tried a little of my infused Calendula Oil and the results were nothing short of dramatic. In 1 day, her cheeks were normal, so all my petals went south with them, as she is one of my VIP ‘customers’, of course.

Big plans for the future. For now, I will settle back with a bowl of lamb stew and dumplings, hug on Potamus and relive the precious moments God gave me with my family as I await their eventual return.