Sunday, October 16, 2016


The rain has been falling heavy for about 3 days. We are approaching 10 inches of rain and the forecast calls for another day of rain.  Wow! It feels like the season changed while we weren't looking.  It does that sometimes.  When I was a kid I was always ready for the next season, be it a school year or a sports season or a graduation. I knew it was time to say goodbye to one season and hello to the next.  I struggle with season changes now.  I've become more inflexible.  'I'm not done yet, darn it!' 

I sometimes find myself in mourning over a season that's gone.  Grief is important, it's part of the process of letting go of a season that's past, so that one can enjoy what's next, but it's still not easy. 

A big "season" change we've been mourning is the loss of our daughter-in-law Jo.   She left our son, Eric, in the spring.  It's been hard.  Of course especially hard for Eric. They are getting divorced, papers are signed.  We've also lost some friends and connections we had. More grief and growth.  One season has changed and I'm not quite sure about the next one yet.  I often say I don't know about the future, but I do know who holds it in His hand.  

This fall, we had our first logging season with Mark as the logger.  We wanted to log more than we did but received our permit later than we had hoped  and the rains came.  Our contract is good for a year though, so come summer we can be back at it.  

We turned this season into a family affair.  

Eric was our timber faller.   While he's cut a lot of trees for firewood it was his first time to fall for timber production. He did really well.  He is in good shape from being very health conscious and everyday he worked incredibly hard at falling trees that could kill him. His job was the most dangerous.  We are so thankful that he took his job seriously and stayed safe and strong.  He also helped Mark in the job of skidding logs out of the forest using a bull dozer. 

Our oldest son, Zac, was the official landing guy who cut off limbs left on the log.  He too, is very healthy and fit and was often running in heavy boots from log to log and then to the skidder.  When things on the landing slowed down he would skid logs from the forest too.  

This family logging event marked another change of seasons in that we no longer think of them as boys, but as very capable men. I guess they graduated in our minds.   Finally.  Why did it take us so long?  In the past the family dynamics could get a bit messy.  Tempers have flared.  This time everybody was helpful, respectful and worked hard at keeping the peace and getting things done.  We are really proud of our sons and look forward to working with them again. 

We also got help from a neighbor who owns an 'excabator' as Zac's son calls it.  
Zane loved the excavator. We would just park and watch it work.  Thanks Steve for your help and for Zane's entertainment. 

During the logging season I got to spend a lot of time  at our home with my daughter-in-law Teeny and the kiddos.  She's a terrific and patient mom as she put up with this spoiling Grammy for 2 weeks as well as being isolated on the ranch.  

 I'm really liking the Grammy season.  I think it might be the best one of all. 


Sunday, October 2, 2016


I'm heading to the barn in the middle of the night to check on our sow Rosy who was leaking milk at supper time; a sure sign that piglets are soon to be delivered.  It's 4:30 am and my third time making the walk in the dark.  Although I remembered the flashlight before, I know the way and aim for the light colored earth that signifies the road to the barn.  I step smack dab in the middle of a cow pie.   Ha.  I didn't think about those.   Rain begins to fall upon my head.  Nice.   This is our first rain of fall, a welcome treat.  The earth starts to waft it's sweet, musky aroma.    It no longer seems like an inconvenience to check on her.  It's a blessing.

There are no piglets yet and Rosy is still piling straw on her nest.  She is gathering it up from her whole pen, mouthful by mouthful.  She periodically pauses to pant.  I head back to bed.  It looks like piglets won't be here until dawn as a sow will lay down and kind of go into a trance before they start popping out.

At 7 am she has one piglet and she's agitated and thrashing about.  So much for the trance. She squishes the piglet for a second and I decide to pick it up and keep it in a box with a heat lamp until she calms down.  In the past we've let her farrow on her own, but it hasn't worked out to well.  Rosy is notorious for squishing her young, especially in labor.  She is a big sow and too fat, which is my fault.  I think I've been feeding her too much. 

It's 2:39 pm now and she's had nine piglets.  It's been a long labor.  I smell like blood and pig poop.  I've had only protein bars and coffee.   We think she's done, as quite a lot of placenta came out in the last 2.5 hours, but we are unsure if all of both placentas came out.  Sows can deliver one placenta then have a piglet from the other horn before they deliver the second placenta.  Or so I've read. Her contractions were very weak with the placenta delivery and we gave her an injection of oxytocin to make sure she passed it all.  Usually it's easy to see both placentas.  She's settling down now so we think she is finally done. 

 We had to work to keep her from squishing the piglets during her labor.   We would scoop them up when she got agitated with a contraction and put them in their box. (We see why she squished them during previous deliveries.) When  she settled down we'd place them back on the nipples.  They all look good, even the ninth one who Mark named Gasper. He came out short on oxygen because his umbilical cord disconnected before he was delivered. He got some shaking, rubbing and even some mouth to mouth resuscitation and after about an hour he finally latched on to a nipple.  We didn't think the little bugger was going to make it. 

Daisy, our young sow, delivered her first litter of 10 piglets a little over two weeks ago.  Textbook perfect delivery and she is a fantastic mom.  She has not squished a single piglet. Here she is sleeping in the barn, because it's still sprinkling outside.  She and her piglets are free roamers now, no longer in the nursery pen, but they are still staying pretty close to home. 

It's common for sows uncrated to accidentally roll over on their teeny, tiny newborns. Crating is a common practice in swine husbandry, but it doesn't allow a sow to make a nest or be able to turn around.  We've never used one as it seems unnatural. Daisy is super careful, but unfortunately Rosy isn't, so I'm on barn duty for the rest of the day.  As the piglets get stronger it will be safer for them.  She hasn't had any noticeable contractions for a while, so I think nine piglets is it.  I just hope she still has nine in the morning. I kinda doubt it, but we'll see. 

I guess I will go back to reading my book and listening to a light rain fall on this old barn roof.  Bliss , albeit tired bliss. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Golden Days

The hills are golden and the days warm.  The cows lay in the shade during the heat of day, fat and content.  It's a sweet time of the year made especially sweet by a 10 day visit of two of our grandsons.  

Grayson is five and Graham three.  This was their first visit to the ranch without their parents.  I expected home sickness, but there was none.   Even though they come from the big city of Las Vegas they took to rural living like a duck to water.  Naturally.  Perhaps little boys are made for long rural summer days.  These two sure are anyways.  

We had three rules:

1.  No socks, because it takes grandma too long to pick out the stickers. 

2. Stay in the yard unless you ask to leave. 

3.  Tell the truth.  If you tell the truth you won't get in trouble.  

They did pretty well.  It took a little while for number three to sink in, but by the end they were real truth tellers and they learned a lot of life lessons on the ranch too.  

Here's a few:

Don't sit down and feed roosters because they might spur you.  

Cats purr, but they also have claws.

If you climb up make sure you can climb down.  

Watch your speed when running downhill.  


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Dark Side of Ranching

June was a long month too. Like May, only not as fun.   I think it's just over.  Wait.  It's July.  Half way through July. Where did the days go?

Lots of ranch work with the animals, that's where.  I'm usually upbeat on this blog, but for transparency, I ain't going to lie- June  is my least favorite month.  Well part of July too, obviously.  We gather all the cattle and sort out the 7 to 9 month olds.  Some of these we sell at the local auction.  Others we save for our grass fed beef program.  This year we saved some heifers as replacements for some of our elderly cows.     These animals we wean and there is lots of mooing for a few days.  It's pathetic and breaks my heart a bit. I keep them fed and watered.   We also pen up the animals to be slaughtered this year.  That's hard too.  We feed them hay for a few weeks to let them loaf around and make their meat more tender.  

Here they are waiting for hay. 

Here they are eating hay.  This might have been their last meal. 

I'm not really cut out for ranching.  I'm too sensitive.  That's why June/July is hard.  I like taking care of the animals just not the other part.  The hay bales seem to keep getting heavier too.  I pulled a muscle in my derrière rolling those bales. 

 But it's done now.  No need to worry about June /July anymore either because next year we won't be gathering until later as our cows are mostly bred short.  Which means most won't calve until February. 

While getting them preg checked I got stung by wasps and my lip swelled up humongously.  Mark said get a photo, get a photo, but I ignored him because we were short handed and slow and our hired specialist, also named Mark, was running short on time.  This day was unhappy for me too as I resorted to prodding a cow with a hot shot.  I'm ashamed about that.  I did it. We rarely use it.  Basically never, as we just kind of wait on the cows to move into the chute.  We have shakers that rattle.  Only this day it was too slow and Mark, not my Mark, had to leave so I dug out the hot shot and moved things along.  Yea, I don't like June/July. 

It's over now though.  We even hauled in a load of hogs yesterday to be slaughtered.  I should say harvested, that sounds nicer doesn't it.  Our hogs always get praised at the "harvest" house.  They look great and move well.  Apparently most hogs don't move well and they have a hard time getting them to move into the building.  Ours though are fit as a fiddle as they free range.  Most hogs here, I'm told, are in pens.  At least the ones who go to the "harvest" house. 

I feel bad admitting it, but I'm glad the hogs are gone.  They were 250 pounds of obnoxiousness.  Very pushy and noisy and every night they come back to our barn and I feed them.  They eat like pigs.  You should hear the cacophony of noise they can make.  It makes a person think they could eat you.  But it's just what hogs do.  

This is a flower.  Flowers aren't pushy.