Thursday, January 31, 2008

Charlie the Wonder Horse

Our ranch is currently the home of 9 equines. This post is about Charlie. Also known as Chuck, he is a 26 year old, graying bay, Arab gelding. He lives with us because we needed a mature, steady mount suitable for children and first-time trail riders. ( And because his prior owner needed a younger horse suitable for Yee-Hawing and popping wheelies and racing romantically down the beach.) We traded, and all sides have enjoyed the deal. As an added benefit, Tj found a willing recipient for her affectionate care... and we seldom are bothered with surplus carrots or leftover equine senior.
Until recently, that is; my sister gave us a yearling mule at Christmas, and the resultant fuss at the middle barn ( a clever name for the barn in the middle of the ranch!) drew the attention of our other free ranging horses and eventually Charlie just had to explore too! Giving up a life of leisure at our house, complete with daily petting, a huge dry barn to sleep in, the previously mentioned treats, and just plain hangin' out with us, he chose to sleep on the mud and quarrel with the herd for his lunch.

Nonsense! This calls for compassionate intervention! Yesterday afternoon the decision was made to separate Chuck from his gang/herd. We slogged cross-country through the snow, crossed a raging creek on a log, and sprung Charlie from the evil influences of those non-needy pals of his. Light was fading, and the longer but flatter road beckoned. We walked home, Tj glowing with purpose and compassion, Charlie meekly acquiescing to our plan. Reaching home, he received his treats and brushing and all was right with the world. ( cue the violins)

(shift to a minor key) This morning Tj discovered Charlie had disappeared! No note, no call, no thanks for everything. Just gone. While hauling some big bales to the cattle still in the snow, I noticed that all the outside horses were out foraging. (good honest behavior). But no Charlie! By mid-afternoon Tammie felt the need for another animal rescue. I declined. I DID keep my cell phone handy in case Charlie really needed me. Tj drove to the middle barn to confirm that he wasn't there, then back-tracked on the path of our hike... Eureka! A cold, wet, shivering and frantic Charlie. He had somehow forded the large creek (probably NOT on the log) yet couldn't make himself cross the last little tributary. She tried for some time to coax him and encourage him and embolden him.... by now she was as cold and frantic as the horse, so she left some hay to draw Charlie across the dreadful 6" deep, 4' wide ditch, and returned to the warmth of our wood stove. Once again warm and dry, she gathered a halter and lead-rope and resumed rescue mode. I went along for the entertainment. Yup, he was still there, looking pitiful and ashamed. Even with the halter, his fear trumped the normal gentleman inside, and he wouldn't budge. We took turns standing in the 6" water while the other pulled. Nuttin. Next, I shoved and Tj pulled. We were all lucky when, upon slipping in, he scrambled forward, and out of the creek!

At this point, I MAY have made a comment about the unlikelihood of a quad behaving in such an unpredictable manner. (not good timing!) Charlie the Wonder Horse beat us to the barn, where he waited politely for the other horses to eat their second helpings before contentedly munching his hay.

Snow memorial

While the rains came in the night and washed the snow away, I awoke with a strong and lasting (at least in the short term)memory of the snow. I fell yesterday! Now I feel and wear the memory of it. It happened first thing in the morning. I was in my bathrobe and slippers. I was venturing forth into the white wonder to clear off our satellite dish so that I could go online. Yeah! Down all 12 steps from our porch to the yard. That first step was a d oozy. Thank God that they were covered in snow. But still!!! Check out this picture from the pioneer woman for a visual of how I must have looked. Check out the bug eyes. Yep, I'm sure that was me.

This is Tj, by the way. I would hate for you to think that Mark was capable of such clumsiness!

Monday, January 28, 2008


We awoke to this on Monday. Ahhh. So quiet. So beautiful and so very different for these pacific northwest woods. We were very exhilarated and renewed. Emotionally changed, like the landscape out our window. I had visions of hungry cattle being so thankful when I fed them on the snow covered hills and of sledding down our steep prairies and then finishing off the day around the fire with an cafe americano with steamed milk. Ahhhh! Yes, this would be quite the day after we finished the one small task that I had committed to the previous evening. And actually, I was, at the time quite excited about this task as well. The task of collecting my baby, my sweet little pet pig Pink.

Well, she was a baby and she was sweet originally when I found her on June 16, 2007. I was gathering up the cattle to sort out the calves to take to auction and I spied a little movement in the weeds. Looking closer I saw an itty bitty tottering pig. It could barely walk and all of its little ribs showed through it's thinly stretched hide. Ok, I'll admit it. I was afraid. I have heard tales of pig mamas eating people like me who try to steal their babies. So, I paused in my instinctual habit of picking up or petting almost every animal that crosses my path. I paused and looked furtively around to see if I could hear or see a big fat sow waiting till her little precious lured an unsuspecting pet lover in to be eatin and mauled! Then Mark drove up, got out of his truck, picked the little piglet up, walked back to the truck and deposited it in the backseat. "There,that is done" he said, "now let's finish sorting these cattle". So we did. Later we went home and taught the 1 lb and 8 in. long oinker how to drink milk out of a dish and I got out my now grown children's receiving blankets and rocked my new little baby to sleep and then tucked her into bed in our kitchen.

We named her Pink because the very tip of her snout was pink. The name reminded my hubby of those sweat pants that are emblazoned across the butt with the word PINK. So her nose became my babie's trademark name. She was precious. She quickly adapted to life in the house and learned how to use a litter box and sleep through the night. It reminded me of a speeded up version of raising our own brood. Speeded up being the operative word. Quickly this pig grew, and grew and her poo, while she was quite tidy in depositing it in the correct receptacle, still stunk badly. I still remember the time I walked into our house and gagged. Gagged and realized that the pig would have to go outside. So then she was a porch pig and then later (after she ruined my flower and vegetable garden) a pig relegated to outside our yard's fence. Here is a picture of her shortly after she became a porch pig.

Isn't she cute? I still considered her my little darling this snowy morning (although others may call her the devil) and I was excited that we had finally tracked her down and were going to retrieve her. We had recieved a call the previous evening that she was across the creek, cozy in a neighbor's shed. We had recieved other calls since returning home from our jaunt south. Calls of a wild, black pig that boldly came onto people's porches and kept folks holed up inside until they realized she wasn't so wild! But everytime we called the people back they would go outside and discover the pig was gone, like a bandit in the night. Finally, due to all the snow, no doubt, and the tortilla's the nice lady fed her, our pig stayed put. So, we put on our snowy weather gear, scraped the snow and ice off the truck, unfroze the trailer's hitch, drove down, down the snow covered road and under a tree we had cut through the previous evening and then across the bridge and up the other side. Here is a picture of going under the tree.
After about an hour of driving, although as the crow flies it is only a few miles, we arrive at Pink's location. "Pink, Pinki, my baby!" I cry as I dash up the woman's driveway, fully expecting my darlin to grunt melodically and run into my outstretched arms. But she didn't. She pretty much ignored me. I shook the can of food I had brought and then she ambled over stiffly. Very stiffly and slowly, apparently, all this wanderlust had caused her little feet to get quite tender. I scratched her in all her favorite spots and then began walking and coaxing her toward the trailer. Slowly and circuitusly, because my pet was just not cooperating. At all! My voice got more whiney and more plaintive by the moment and the nice lady and my husband looked away at my groveling to get my baby to do as I say. The darn pig even nipped at me. All of a sudden she was no longer such a darlin, but a rebellious teen in need of some, some, ...well I better not say what she was in need of. At this time, my hubby stepped in again, like the original day I found her, and put a rope around her neck and hauled her big butt into the trailer. With her squealin and belly achin all the way. I should have gotten a picture, but we were too busy discussing the turn of events. We thanked the nice lady and drove away and then the real discussion began.

To eat, or not to eat? That was the question of the day ( appologies to the bard) For now though, Pink is residing in our barn eating corn and we think, well, I hope, she will stay due to the snow. I keep remembering though, a friend's offhand comment late last summer when Pink first began some of her less than desirous behavior, "I bet even Adolph Hitler's mother loved him".

the real story

Hello! This is Johanna, and I am a guest writer on Mark and Tammie's blog. I am here to write what really happened January 15, 2008.

The first post about this day it mentioned the mud but I don't think it really painted a clear picture of what it was real like. Imagine the mud that children play with, in all its thick,wonderful stickiness. Now, this mud was not only sticky and gross and brown but it was also very deep. So deep that it ofter would steal your boot right off of your foot and you would never see it again. (Tammie's boot was a victim of this horrible occurrence) Sometimes it was possible to rescue the boots, but this usually meant that you had a fallen in as well. In some spots the mud was almost spilling over the tops of the boots. This mud was no ordinary mud.

Not only was the mud a problem but also the big Watusi's . These are cows with very big, long, pointy horns. They were in the pen with the rest of the cows we were trying to herd into the chute. Before I was even allowed to go into the pen with the cows I was told that the Watusi and her baby (yes there was two and baby is an understatement) were very mean and would probably try and gore me at any chance they got. So Beware!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was also told that if they came at me to turn and run as fast as I could. So running away from Watusi's PLUS really thick mud equals a very exciting and eventful day.
And thats not even the beginning. there was a whole other part of the day putting cows through the chute and checking ears. That was almost as exciting as running away from savage Watusi's! but not quite.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January, 2005

Tonight, I was digging around in the cedar chest looking for some writing I did a long time ago. It is a children's story about my little BLM Donkey, Burrita . Here is a picture of her head. Isn't she a noble animal? Anyway, I have always wanted to try to polish the story up to try and get it published and since tomorrow we are headed south, so that Mark can retake his Licensed Timber Operator Class that he let expire and I can sit in a motel room and veg, I thought it an appropriate time to do a rewrite, or at least take another look. Maybe, I will laugh and laugh and think why did I ever think this worthy of some child's time and thought. We will see. But in the process of looking I read through a lot of my old journals and I thought I would share a brief entry from January, 2005.

This afternoon I sat gazing quietly out of the big picture window and observed a small hawk fall suddenly from the sky and then swiftly glide through some fir and oak trees. A very fleeting incident indeed, but memorable due to the grace of the moment and the sunlight that glinted off of the bird's feathers. Soon after this the wind began to blow and more clouds came tumbling into our drainage, blocking the sun and now the rain is steadily falling, falling, falling.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to Mom and Me!

Today is my birthday and also my mom's! Yep, I was born on her birthday 45 years ago, she was 32, and she always told everyone that I was an accident; albeit a good accident I hope! This photo was taken a while back from the top of our ranch on Canoe Mountain and it is of my daughter, my mom and myself. What a view. That rounded mountain right behind our head we call Hansen Dome. When our ranch was first purchased 30 some odd years ago that hill was devoid of trees, so it was named in honor of a bald guy who loved the ranch. Walt Hansen was his name and he loved to hunt and ride horses and help build stuff and he was known for turning a good prank or two as well! I am glad that we have that hill to stand as a memorial to him.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Island Living

Here on the ranch, there is a lot of time for idle thought. Lately, I have been driving around in my little orange Kubota 4x4 checking and feeding the cattle and I keep finding my mind wander to that well known quote from John Donne of, "No man is an island", because I often think that actually the reverse is true. Ten miles off the pavement and disconnected from the electric company and cable tv, I often feel like I am an island! I entered this world alone and I will exit singular as well, as we all will, so in that respect perhaps it is more correct to say, all men are an island! Or as some other famous person said, "just ships passing in the night". But to stick with the island analogy, each one of us will have many unique treasures that will wash up on our shores and cast off from our island of self we will send out treasures as well. Treasures to love and enjoy and some that will have to be disposed of in the dump! It is our own personal, individual choice what to do with these treasures. This I find empowering and exhilarating, as well as a bit terrifying. What to chose and what not; what to send and what to keep? Ultimately, this gift of choice I see coming from the hand of God and is a big part of what it means to be human. What do you think?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

American Dental Association

My daughter read our blog and said she thought it funny that Ada is named after the American Dental Association or perhaps, she suggested, I just can't spell. She says the correct spelling is Aida. What do you think? I think you can spell a name anyway you want and besides I told her, Ada has excellent teeth.

ADA's Story

Meet ADA. She is a cow that wandered here from somewhere else a long time ago. It seems like she has always been here, but we are told that she was cownapped. Apparently, some of the ranch's wayward and wild cattle wandered across the creek, under the fence and through the woods to a neighbor's house where ADA (formerly known as Nadine) lived as a milk cow. The wandering and wild cattle, the story goes, broke her out and escorted her back through the woods, under the fence and across the creek to live as a calfsitter all the rest of her days. As you can see, she also does duty as an Ericsitter.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the right job for the man

We spent an interesting day helping our neighbors sort cattle for a vet inspection. They've had these animals for months since purchasing them out of state, but the paperwork just never suited our county protocol, so today they would each receive an ear exam. I don't know if you've ever tried to get a cow to let you look inside her ears, but I bet you can guess the typical response. And this inspection required a REALLY close look...tiny tattoos to prove that they had received the proper vaccinations. Also involved was matching 9-digit number -and-letter metal ear I.D. tags with existing records. Now the good part! The facilities! The holding pen has been holding weanling calves for a while... and we got 23" of rain in the last two weeks... so every creature was coated with, uh, mud. And instead of a professional (and safe) squeeze chute, we used a crowding alley packed with 5 to 8 animals at a time. The cows were free to swing their heads or hide them underneath the mass of beef. All this to get to the reason for this post. Our vet Megan is a young, attractive woman who always appears to have just come from her college class. She took a slow look at our first batch of manure-crusted, snot-slinging, wild-eyed patients, the rickety enclosure, and stated her doubts that this was going to be worth the ranchers cost of her time. Then she climbed on the pipe jail wall and proceeded to deftly avoid concussion and broken bones while wrestling with her checklist and very reluctant participants. When she finished this first group she seemed more surprised than hopeful, but we re-loaded the pen and she gamely returned to her perch. (About that perch...when a cow took offense and moved away from her prying hands, the whole contraption moved like an accordion, threatening to drop Megan among muddy, churning and nervous animals in a pen with no excess room.) As the afternoon wore on, our chic vet could be glimpsed occasionally grinning! At the end of the project everyone was cold and covered with crust and congratulating ourselves to have cheated injury again when I told Megan that we figured this had to be a new low in her career. She surprised us by stating that (despite the discomfort,danger, and downright ridiculousness of the job, )she actually preferred this afternoon to many things in a normal day! THIS IS HOW YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN THE BEST JOB FOR YOU!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Year-New Life

Today, while driving home from church, my husband and I came upon a mama goat and her three newborn kids laying in the middle of the county road . The third kid was still wrapped in its sack and couldn't breathe. The mama seemed a bit distracted and so my husband jumped out of the car and opened up the sack for the little tyke. After a few soundless gasps it got its lungs full of air and started letting out some loud crying, demanding that its mama pay a little attention to him... or her. At this point we drove on up the road marveling at the wonder of new life.
It is very easy to start getting in a rut and lose that capacity to see new beginnings. I love the New Year celebration because it can be an impetus to open our eyes to the possibilities that surround us. Sometimes, when I am feeling in a rut, or these north coast rains keep falling (23" since Jan 1!), I contemplate that a new month is just around the corner, then I think about how a new week will be here soon and then I realize a new day will dawn tomorrow and finally I realize that each breath I take is one that I have not yet tasted. I breathe deep, fill my lungs, and let out a cry of wonder at new life.