Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Milkin' It

I woke up and the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, the temperature was pleasing and the barometer was holding steady. The pain in my body had eased to a point I could almost forget it was there. I set about cleaning the kitchen, feeding the sourdough, putting some jerky on to dry and putting a couple of roasts in the crock pot with seasonings to be canned up later for burrito meat or taco salads.

I grabbed the last bucket of oils I had pre measured for soapmaking, along with a jar of lye solution. The resulting soap was poured into log molds and set in the back room, insulated with towels to begin its cure. It will first ‘gel’, becoming very hot and translucent, then the insulation will be removed allowing it to cool slowly and to prevent overheating and cracking. The next day or so, it will be removed from the mold and cut into bars to begin its second state of curing. I still have a long way to go to catch up on my inventory.

I headed outside to check the surviving turkey poults, my little “birdbrains”. Unzipping the door to the green house I stepped inside to check the seedlings. There were a few that needed to be moved up to larger peat pots so I did that, then filled the birdbrains’ water jug. They were hiding in their little sleeping quarters, but curiosity got the best of them. Making little peeping sounds they stepped out and investigated me. I went back outside deciding that today was as good a day as any to start tilling the veggie garden. I knew this would come at great cost to me, but it has to be done and it was supposed to be nice all weekend. That is one of the things about having Ra and its related companions, when I CAN do something, I need to get it done because there is no telling when I might have a good day again.

I grabbed the heavy electric cord and plugged in my little tiller. I have a tiny electric one because I am not strong enough to start a gas tiller engine and it’s small enough for me to handle as Randyman doesn’t have the time to help me with the yard. It is not without its problems. It is so small that it bounces and tends to beat me to death and also makes a very narrow swath. This is a good thing for weeding between rows, but not such a good thing for getting  a large garden ready to plant. As I drag it into position, I notice the bird brains are following me. I turn it on and both birdbrains stop. Instead of running, they squat and watch. I start a row that will pass them within inches. Instead of leaving, they both lay down in the sun, necks outstretched and take a nap, the roar of the little engine drowning out any other sounds.

When I have done all I could manage, I walk to the house for a hose and both birdbrains jump up and run after me. I squat down and pet Ted, the larger one. He seems to enjoy it. I drag the hose around the yard, watering my little fruit trees and the perennial plants that survived an unusually hard winter. I notice the parsley and thyme are actually thriving and the strawberries are springing back to life. I groan as I take in all the bare dirt around me, wishing I had the money, strength and time to get my landscaping up to a standard that is satisfying to me. It is a high priority on my list that has, for obvious physical reasons, not been accomplished. There are many times I miss my old yard...my house...my kids and not in that order...

The weather is clouding up suddenly and unexpectedly and I can feel the results of that. So much for a long, constructive weekend. Sunday I am down all day.

Monday, we jump up and head to town. I have been pushing EmmaLouMoo’s milking back to 8 p.m., as I still have no relief milker and we have to try and make it back in time to milk  her.

We leave at dawn and 2 hours later Randy blasts right past our normal doughnut stop, to my dismay, as I had been slavering thinking about the fresh maple bars we would finally get to eat...then he blasted right on past the big truck stop, where I could get a cup of coffee. We got into town just in time to pick up a special delivery of wheat berries and other things at a drop point. Afterwards  we picked up 5 little guinea fowl at the hatchery. Hopefully they will grow up to be well behaved and eat lots of ticks and bugs. They sure are noisy little campers! A few more stops and we finally get to eat dinner before the long drive home.

Discussed treatment options with the doctor and thankfully received an injection that really helps with the pain and inflammation. It was a short trip, as we left home at 6 a.m. And got back by 10:30 p.m., only 2 1/2 hours past Emma’s regular milking time. She wasn’t very happy with us, but the Maremmas were beside themselves. As I sat on my stool next to Emma, I suddenly found two very large, heavy, white, hairy legs ending in enormous polar bear sized paws around my neck while someone licked my ear. Cletus could not contain himself. I extricated myself from his hug and gave him a big squeeze. When we got back to the house he climbed up on the couch next to me and growled and grumbled at anyone who threatened to come near me. It’s nice to be loved.

Pain has come and gone according to the barometer. I seem to keep rallying every time high pressure comes back in, which is unusual, but exceedingly welcome. We had picked up 40# of potatoes in town so I canned a bunch in chunks and about 8 quarts of ham and potato soup which is our favorite. I also canned 8 qts of apple pie filling and have a boatload of apples left so while the peels and cores from the pie filling are turning into vinegar, I need to find time to make and can some applesauce.

My niece and her family are coming to visit for the first time and I am very excited! I think they will have a lot of fun here. It is incentive to get the house straightened up more as it tends to fall into chaos when I don’t feel well, which this year, was most of the time. I’ve been doing pretty good, with the exception of a few mental lapses, such as forgetting I DID put bread in the oven. Four hours later, it made a remarkably durable toy for Cider to fetch and run around the yard with, once it cooled.

The grass is beginning to come on nicely so it was time to rotate the animals around. Emma was kicked out into the old milk pasture, below Mister, so nothing can nurse on her. Sushi and Chuck were released out into the lower pasture with the sheep and a couple of calves the boss kicked out in there. 

That night I slept in the chair, again, because of the issues with my hips and back. Randy let the “polar bears” in and I woke up to Potamus hugging me with his head. He had managed to slither about 80 of his 120 pound body up onto my lap, only his hind legs reaching the ground. He moaned in ecstasy as I hugged him back and rubbed his ears. It took about ten minutes for him to get his quota of huggin’s before he was willling to get down and let me up. Then it was Bruno and Cider's turn. They are not so needy. 

 I spent a good day with the critters, working on the house and yard. When I went out that evening to bring the sheep into their corral, I noticed Sushi was up at the top with everyone else...but something wasn’t right.
I walked out closer and found Sushi on her knees, trying to nurse....


Yup. She was desperately searching his bag for a spigot, determined to find one.  She has been watching the lambs nurse and I guess she figured that since he wasn’t spoken for, she’d just belly up to the bar.

I guess it’s time to tell her about the birds, the bees and the sheep, after I get her into a 12 step program for milk addicts.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Winter, Spring, Winter...

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks. New ranch hand moved in with an intractable dog. The little turkeys were outside the greenhouse enjoying some sunshine on their first day out in the world, running from place to place, enthusiastically exploring while the Maremma’s stood guard. The new dog, a large lab/pitbull cross decided to force his way into our yard. The Maremmas frantically charged the gate and were trying to dissuade him. As the altercation ramped up, Mr Peepers and his lady friend, ever curious, ran to see what all the fuss was about, and were crushed to death in the melee.
R.I.P., Mr Peepers. I will miss your antics.

The survivors miss him too. I'm pretty sure even my seedlings miss him.

In an attempt to make nice with the new neighbors, I offered a chain to secure said dog while his master was not with him, ie: when she is at our place visiting or playing with the critters, where he under no circumstances, is to be allowed. He broke his collar. She locked him in the house. He chewed up their stuff. Clearly this is not going to be an easy or happy situation. The back side of my garden is shielded from the chickens with 9 ga. kennel panels. I talked to Randy and asked if he would please take them down and put the kennel back together to contain their dog when it is necessary. We will have to go to the trouble and expense of putting up a different, more permanent fence back there. These people won’t be able to afford a kennel that would hold this dog so it’s up to me to make sure things go smoothly as possible. I’m hoping that this is going to be the least of our problems.

SushiMoo is slowly sweetening up. Greed is a virtue in an animal, a vice in man. You can train a greedy animal to do just about anything and Sushi is no exception. I can finally get her to come to me as I sit down with a bucket in my lap and she will happily eat grain as I work on petting her and doctoring her warty patches. I’m really glad for that, as she is the milk cow I had been hoping for...most likely low maintenance, decent amount of milk and cream and beefy calves.  The best of both worlds. I am looking forward to her getting bred this fall. It should also give me some real milk to feed some of the leppy calves, at least the ones who aren’t thriving. Real milk makes such a huge difference. In the past I have taken the weakest, poorest looking calves and grafted them onto Emma’s mama and in weeks, they were the most robust of the group. I still miss Dolly.

EmmaLouMoo is improving as well. I was concerned because even after a second trip to the vet, her milk was not straining as well as I would like to see. She had also cut her production in half again, giving me only a gallon to a gallon and a half per milking. Bear in mind, I had a goat that gave me 2, so this was pretty disappointing, especially in the light that she is not pregnant. Last nite she gave slightly over 2 gallons and it strained very well except for a couple of little goobers which may just be milk fat. That is actually a good thing. I will keep praying and watching over her to make sure all continues to go well and hope the boss will be able to loan us a bull in the spring, before he turns them out to cover all the ranch cows. 

I am slowly getting soap re-stocked for spring sales. I’ll be trying to put a batch together today as well as can up some burrito meat I made in the crock pot for future meals. Monday we head to town for medical stuff, livestock feed and to replenish supplies. We need to buy chicken feed as I have 55 meatie chickens coming on May 6. Much needs to be done to get ready, even though I ordered them months ago. Time flies when you’re having fun.

I went out to visit the critters yesterday. Bruno was kicking back where he could easily see the critters all down at the bottom of the pasture. I sat with him for a few minutes and he was in perfect bliss. 

 He even did some impressions of "Flipper".

Mr Potamus was nowhere to be found.

Now, normally, Mr Potamus watches over them by day while Bruno sleeps off a long night of patrolling. Potamus also usually stays close to the stock while Bruno runs security checks. Only if he is needed or all is clear do they travel together. It is unusual not to see Potamus during the day. I began to wonder if he was okay. No blood was on Bruno, so I assumed there had been no confrontation with anything large. I called several times, but he didn't show.

I headed out front and called some more. No Potamus. I got on the 4 wheeler and headed down towards the horse pasture. Bruno saw me and came through the fence, preceeding me all the way down the lane and across a couple of pastures. Still no sign of the Potamus. I came back and checked the front yard again. Nope. I headed up to ask Randyman if he had seen him all day. He wasn't sure. He said he thought he saw him sleeping by the gate, but that is where I found Bruno. so I figure it was the wrong dog. I headed out into the sagebrush where they often seem to alert to things and saw Bruno had returned to his spot overlooking the sheep. He ran over once again, through 2 fences to join me. I asked if HE knew where Potamus was. He turned and headed off through the sagebrush. Now, when I ask Potamus himself where something is, he always takes me directly to it. Weird, but true. So I assumed Bruno would too. There are places a 4 wheeler just won't follow a dog through heavy and overgrown sagebrush, so after an hour or so of getting stuck, backing up, going around and trying to follow we found ourselves down at the cattleguard. I could have taken the road and been there in a couple of minutes. I pffftted at Bruno and left him behind on my way home. Potamus was happily sitting out front, with blood across his muzzle. They had obviously found another coyote kill and he had been cleaning up. I should know better than to worry about them, what with their size, no collars and all. I'm just glad he was ok. Bruno pulled up, his tongue hanging out about 3 feet from the long run. These dogs are built for sprinting and fighting, not for long distance running. It showed. They went back to the pasture where fat happy sheep were grazing alongside EmmaLou.

I went to fix dinner.

Here’s hoping spring makes it to all of us soon and we can all revel in the glory of sunshine and flowers soon.