Monday, April 6, 2015


It snowed a bit on top of the ranch last night.  Easter seems to always bring a chill to these hills as this has happened many times in the past.  Easter snow shouldn't be so, but it is, so I just better accept it.  Acceptance is something that has been hard for me to, um, accept.  I am a stubborn woman.   Growing up I learned to make things happen.  I wasn't too coordinated, so I worked extra hard and made the sports teams.  Tenacious, they said.  Headstrong, my mom said.  When we got married, Mark said, "You aren't going to wear the pants in this house."  Later, he accepted that we could both wear the pants and have a good time doing it.  Me, I accepted that he would accept it.

This ranch's seasons, storms, and its animals  don't seem to give a hoot about my schedule.  Right now, we've got a tentative two week backpacking trip planned for the end of the month.  I really want to go.  I crave backpacking like an alcoholic craves booze, but I know we might not get to go because some pregnant pigs aren't following my 'plan'.   I saw them get bred 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days ago and, darnit,  that means they should have had piglets last night. 

This hog farmer is a new hat for me to wear.  Cattle I know, but hogs not so much.   I've been researching online for photos of pigs vulvas and teats before birth.  I know, TMI, but I have been trying to figure out how close my gilts are to giving birth.  I think they are close, then I think they aren't.  Apparently swine have a window of 24 hours to 5 days in which they can get pregnant.  It just depends on the female. I'm hoping mine have a long window because  I want them to give birth this week, as it will still allow us to go hiking at the end of the month.  There is a very real possibility though that they will give birth in 3 weeks as I could be off by one whole heat cycle.  It is possible that they didn't get pregnant when I saw them in the act.  Three weeks later I was off babysitting grandkids, so there could have been more heing and sheing going on and I would have missed the whole darn thing. 

So yeah, I'm trying to learn acceptance, but obviously, not doing to well at it.   I can't make those pigs have babies, I can't stop the snow from falling, I can't make it rain or make the sun to shine. Heck, I can't even make the grass to grow.  I'm just mortal.  I do have faith though that it will all work out.  The sun will come up tomorrow, the pigs will have piglets some time in the future and even if we don't get to hike at the end of the month, we will probably get to hike in the future.  Lord willing and the creek don't rise, that is.

Wild Rose and Sweet Pea

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Where does time go?  2015 seems to be flying by like a jet.

February had us vaccinating all the cows and calves.  Here is our work crew.  The finger in the photo belongs to our chief cow whisperer and photographer Cindy.

Everyone has a job to do.  Mark, my honey, moves the cattle into the sweep and then into the narrow alley that puts the cows in a line up to the chute. He is the one who has the most direct contact with the cows and is in the most danger of getting kicked or ran over.

Alongside the alleyway is Cindy, where she whispers to the cattle and gives them nibbles of grass and a squirt of wormer down  their backs (but not the animals that will be eaten this year) and takes photos.  She multi-tasks.  She is talented like that.  Unfortunately, I could find no photos of her.  I guess she's not into selfies,  but she's kind, cute, blond and is married to this sweet guy.

Troy is our son's  buddy, who has also become our friend.

Troy and Eric work the cattle chute.  The cattle walk through the alley, past Cindy, and into the chute.  Troy closes the chute's door behind them and then  Eric works the lever that catches their heads.  Troy then quickly pulls the lever that makes the chute squeeze up onto the animal's sides.  The squeezing keeps the animal from moving around and also seems to calm them down.  Sort of like Cindy's whispering did while they were in the alley.  After they are caught Troy lifts the calves tails to find out if they are male or female, so we can prepare. 

Next,  Eric uses the bolus gun, that isn't really a gun at all, and  gives the animals their pills.

 The bolus gun is a long empty tube that you place big vitamin/mineral pills in.  Once the long barrel is in their mouth and down their throat you pull a trigger and the big pills slide down into their stomach.   We give our animals selenium and a magnesium/copper boluses.

I  hand Eric the loaded tagging tool ( sort of like a piercing gun)  and the calves get earrings.  This year females' have red tags in the right ear and males' white tags in the left ear.   It makes it easier for us to identify them from a distance. 

Jo, our DIL,  is always ready with the sharp needles and loaded syringes and gives  vaccination injections to all the cattle and also a tetanus shot to all of the little bulls that are going to become steers.  Which gets us to our next step.

Eric and Troy put on a special rubber band around the little bulls' testicles.  This cuts off the circulation and eventually the testicles fall off and they will then be steers.  The calves, not Eric and Troy. 

My job is quality control and letting the animals that have been handled back out into the holding pen. I don't do much.   I keep a book and write everything down and make sure everything gets done.  Jo helps me with this too.

We give a big thanks to our cattle crew.  You guys are all the best and we appreciate you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hope of Spring

The weather has been warm and sunny.  Nice and warm days for starting seeds, pulling weeds and mowing the lawn.  The garden calls loudly during these pretend spring days of February.  I have to always remind myself that we tend to get snows in March and that I shouldn't plant too much in the garden.  But dreams of growing things and aesthetically pleasing outdoor designs still fill my head.  Of course, my dreams for the garden never are completely fulfilled because it's hard work and the elements don't always work in my favor.  But I love the dreaming all the same.  That bud of hope that bursts in my heart is still beautiful even if it never does get to open all the way.