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.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016


I've been down helping my oldest with his wee ones while his wife was in Italy on a trip with the company she works for. An amazing trip I might add.  Right now the train whistle blows as I roll into another small Central Valley town on my way home in Northern California. 

I have a lot of time on my hands to think as my body gently rocks side to side. I think especially about marriage.   It is June, after all, the most popular month for weddings.  Today also marks  the marriage anniversary of my deceased parents and Mark's very much alive parents.    Woohoo!  Congrats are certainly in order as they are celebrating 60 years of marriage. This is a great accomplishment. 

I found this photo in my phone. I love these two old oaks.  I regularly pass them on my evening hike at home. 

They always remind me of what it takes to have a good marriage.  They stand side by side with branches touching each other and reaching out.  They connect, but they don't lean heavily on each other.  If one were to fall the other would still stand.  Lonelier, but capable.  

I've also heard types of marriages described by letters of the alphabet:

An 'A' marriage is the type Mark and I had in the beginning.  Perhaps all love starts this way.  You are deeply connected and lean heavily on each other.  Your identity is tied up in the other.   You are not just intertwined, you are enmeshed. If one falls the other does too.  It's not healthy in the long term.  A marriage needs two individuals standing on their own two feet to be healthy and long lasting.  You need space as well as time together.  You need to know yourself before you can know someone else. 

A 'H' marriage is two individuals side by side but doing their own thing on parallel paths.  Busy parents with careers sometimes fall into this style of relating.  You are more like roommates than married lovers. 

The best marriages look a lot like the letter 'M'.  Each part can stand on their own but the connection they share makes the sum of their parts better. They have space between them and a rooted connection.  If one falls the other has enough balance to help pick the other up. 

Mark and I have grown our 'A' into a'M'.  It hasn't been easy, but it is good.  It is worthwhile.  It is real.  It is fun. We are both happier for it and stronger as a unit and as individuals.  

Mark and I have been married since I was 18 and him 21 and many times old friends, usually divorced, tell us how they envy our relationship.  "It must be wonderful being married to your soulmate", or "You two have it so easy".  Rubbish, I say.  Marriage is not a Cinderella story.  Get that out of your head or your marriage will be destined for failure. 

Marriage is committed love.  Period.  We chose each other, over and over again.  It is not fate.  

Don't get me wrong.  Marriage is good, soaringly good even, but  be prepared.  There are dangers to it ahead.  

We think of it as a wild adventure and everyday full of new territory to cross because each day we are slightly different people. (That's why the sex doesn't get old!).  The first thing to throw out of your pack is expectations.  They will weigh you down and make the journey less fun.  Carry along a lot of humor and love.  The Corinthians kind of love.   Keep your compass of commitment handy so you don't lose your way.   If one stumbles off course, and we have a few  times, help each other out. ( AKA: kick em in the butt by speaking truth).  The  trail is sometimes smooth and other times rocky.  Help each other along.  Have each other's back. We've had to ford a few rushing rivers too and thought we would drown, but instead learned to just float through the roughest water.  

We've  been over 35 years on this trail and we are both stronger now.  I plan on continuing on this path until death do we part and Mark says he does too. We've got this. 

Happy Trails!

Pearl Buck wrote, "Nothing in life is as good as the marriage of true minds between man and woman.  As good?  It is life itself."

Sunday, June 5, 2016

May Madness

Time is flying!  Flying like a 747 it seems. I haven't posted in ages and thought it might be fun to just look through my phone's photos and memories to see what last month held.

A wedding in Carmel, with two of our daughters and two of our grandsons, begins the month and you must always remember we live hours from anywhere.  It's a 7 hour drive to get to Carmel. 

While we were away friends lost this little 14 year old dog at the ranch.  She was missing for over a week when Eric spotted her hiding in some ferns. She had 50 something ticks, but was otherwise okay.  She had us all quite worried and we feared the worst.  Dogs are tough.  Old dogs are tougher.

The hens really started laying this month. Green grass and longer days and they were some very productive birds.

Speaking of birds, some of our homegrown chicken was barbecued because there it is in my photo feed.  We always eat well on all of our homegrown  meat and garden produce.  Speaking of which:

Lots and lots of strawberries.  We have so many that I've been able to freeze a few.

Patched up the corrals because we needed to bring in the cattle to vaccinate.
Here some are.  They know the sound of our truck (which we feed out of) and my screeching voice and we get pretty lucky at having them stream out of the woods and across the prairies and to the corrals.
Here are the guys after we were done working with the cattle.  They look good.  This year spring vaccination went really smooth and quick.  We worked together like a well oiled machine. 

Had a lovely rainbow along the way. 

And our tulip tree bloomed.

Cleaned the basement and sold things on eBay for the first time.  Got jipped on eBay for the first time.  Lol

Another wedding 7 hours away in the Sierra foothills.

Attended our grandson Zane's 3rd birthday dressed up.

Our new names are Grammy and Poppa Potato Head.  Zane loves Toy Story! 

Sold our last batch of piglets.

Got lots of donkey love.

Rode Horses.

Mark did lots of mechanic work.  The axle fell off of our cattle trailer.  He also worked on the skidder and bulldozer and generator and, and, and.  Plus he worked for a neighbor driving a dump truck and other heavy equipment almost 5 days every week.  Mark is a busy man.

And in the evening as the sun sets he takes a break and soaks in our wood fired hot tub.  Drinking some fine sparkling water.  The good life.

We had an couple hours at the beach on a trip to pick up a new gilt and our old boar who both did not want to load so it didn't get done until June.  New story.

Dead whale on the beach.  In case you couldn't tell. Tiger sharks killed it at sea the experts think.

We also swam at the falls for the first time of the year.  I say swam, I didn't really swim. It was cold!  I floated on a mattress.  Mark did swim and our grand dog Spice hardly ever quit swimming.  She has a passion for water and sticks and watermelon apparently as we had one chilling and she retrieved it after about 20 minutes of trying!

It's pretty easy for us most days.

There you have May at a glance as seen through my photo stream.   So much to live, so little time.