Friday, May 30, 2008

Harvesting Animals

Recently a blogger friend commented that she wondered how I could harvest my animals seeing how I was such a 'softie'. It is a very good question and something I have certainly wrestled with. My love and empathy for animals has at times felt at odds with our way of life and my love of meat. Ultimately, harvesting our animals is not something that I find particularly enjoyable. But since I find that my body seems to run a bit better on a diet with some meat I am glad that I can at least make sure that the animals that I harvest have a wonderful life.

Everyone who eats beef eats an animal that walked around and breathed air. I don't think everyone likes to think about it, but just because the meat comes shrink wrapped in a package doesn't change that fact. I wish everyone could look the animal in the eye that gives them sustenance. Or at least think about it. We would all eat less meat and we certainly wouldn't waste as much. I know this is true for me anyway. It feels sacrilegious to waste it. I value the animal's life more, not less. It really is kind of sacred.

In Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" she quotes Kahlil Gibran:
"When you kill a beast, say to him in your heart: By the same power that slays you, I too am slain, and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivers you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand. Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More news from the sheep fold...

Some people would think that my husband and I have untraditional roles. Every morning he gets up around 6:30 and makes the coffee. Around 7:00, he usually brings me a cup in bed. We usually each then read something to spiritual nourish us. Then, Mark begins breakfast and I tend to the animals. It is a labor of love for me and for him.

First, I feed the steers that we're grain finishing for some customers. Then I visually check all 6 equines and give them a little grass hay and grain so they will always come to the barn in the morning. The 4 barn cats each get petted and one handful of cat food and the chickens get watered, fed and turned out for the day. Since Saturday, I now also carry some grain and hay to the sheep who are snug and apparently happy in their sheep pen. Well, all but Lacey, who is having some kind of identity crisis. She runs frantically over to me and tries to climb out, bleating the whole while. It kind of breaks my heart, but I really believe that it is best that she becomes socialized. She will eventually be more content and happy, I just have to be patient and let her struggle a little. It is similar to raising children. When you see your kids in a difficult spot, you often just want to step in and fix it, but that wouldn't be best for them in the long run, would it?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

News From the Sheep Fold

A week ago a friend gave us a couple racks of lamb and told me how to cook it. Yum. It turned out wonderful. A few days later, Gil, of the roadwork crew, calls and says that he has found a real deal on some sheep and would we like some. You have to understand that Gil always finds these kinds of deals. He will buy something for a buck that is worth a hundred and then turn and sell it for a grand. Well, maybe that is exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture. So, when Gil says 'deal' my ears prick up and I agree to take 2 lambs. One to keep as a friend for Lacey and one to someday, maybe, if I don't get too attached, eat.

Today the lambs arrived and there are six! SIX! Apparently Eric also got called and he ordered 2 and then Pete from the ranch below ordered 2 as well. I suppose eventually we will have only 4. After six, four sounds like an only. What am I saying? I don't have a book on sheep, how will they survive? This is an inside joke in our family, because I am the book lady. I have lots of books on raising cattle, horses, donkeys, cowdogs, mules, chickens, etc. And I am always saying, " the book says.....", to which the men in this household roll their eyes. But I am feeling very vulnerable without a book on raising sheep with a whole flock sitting out in our dog kennel.Yes, our dog kennel. I didn't know where else to put them when they arrived. I didn't think it a good idea to let them all loose on the whole ranch. They might run off and they wouldn't last a week with all the wild critters out there wanting to eat them. I had originally envisioned a couple little sheep arriving that Lacey the lamb would warmly welcome and show them where she lives. And teach them how to sleep right along our fence close to the dogs to be safe at night. But she took one look at this group and ran into the fence trying to get away. She bloodied her nose even. I don't think she WANTED company! She doesn't even seem to know she's a sheep. And I was also told these sheep are deathly afraid of dogs. So, if I let them go they are going to run away and into big trouble. I needed a plan and quick.

Eric the Bold just arrived and took over. Key the dun da da daaa music, or something kingly. Wasn't that a margarine commercial? Whew. He and his dad got some old wood from the barn and some nails and a fence post driver and announced that soon we will have a sheep fold nestled along our back fence so that we can lock them up at night. So now I just think I need to get them used to this place by giving them food and water and smiling at them I think. Although, that might be a sign of aggression in sheep, I don't know, maybe I should curl my lip, or wave ...or... I give up. I really need a book.

This one is sad I think. It keeps crying. It must miss it's mommy. But it looks big enough to be a mommy. I just don't know.This one is a darlin'. Why are little things just so darn cute? I think this one is a keeper. It is little enough I should be able to really gentle it and make it think it is a dog or something and then Lacey might like it. But it needs a name. Any suggestions? Can sheep be trained to ride? Of course, just for children. I am way too big.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Supervisor Charlie

" I'm not quite sure what he is doing in here, but I better supervise to make sure it gets done right." -Charlie

"He only got in the way a couple times, but he didn't dig any."- Mark

Day done. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shifting Sand

I sit surrounded by mounds of tissue. A bug of some sort has decided to make its home in me and for the duration I feel a little like a bystander in my own body. How quick things change.

A couple days ago our porch thermometer was bumping 98 degrees and I took this picture while wading and swimming in a nearby river. It felt like summer was here.

Today we awoke to high winds and 39 degrees. And a broken table. No, even though Smokey the dog looks guilty, he didn't do it. It was presumably the wind. Now, late in the day our thermometer reads 58 degrees. Whew, a heat wave. If there is one constant in life it is that things don't stay the same.

Now I know that the weather and my cold don't compare, but while I sit sniffling, I listen to the radio. The truly tragic stories coming out of China and Myanmar really really bring home the reality that the material things in life are like shifting sand; here today and maybe gone tomorrow. But the immaterial things, like faith, hope and love live on. It makes me want to grab hold of the REAL in life and let go of the other stuff.

Shelley wrote:
Life may change, but it may fly not; Hope my vanish, but can die not; Truth be veiled, but still it burneth; Love repulsed, - but it returneth.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Horse Crazy

I remember that barefoot summer day that a teenager invited me aboard her horse for a short bareback ride. I sat in front of her mesmerized as she taught me how to use the reins, my voice and legs to communicate with the soft yet strong animal beneath me. I still remember the girl's name, Loretta, although that one ride was the only time we connected. I doubt if she realized what a huge and life transforming impact her kindness that day did to this snotty nosed brat.

After that experience began the daily question of, "Can I have a horse?" My father hated to tell me no, so my dad's usual answer was always 'ole Mr. Will C. But 'will see' gave hope and so every night I said my prayers and asked God to give me a horse. Not the most humble of prayers I realize now!

A year or so later, a friend of my dad's came by selling tickets for a raffle the local rodeo was having. So I asked my dad," if you win would you buy me a horse?" I still remember his slow smile as he sat at the kitchen table with his friend sharing ice cold mugs of beer. "Sure honey, if I win I will get you a horse. But if I don't I want you to stop asking me." I agreed to his terms and my nightly prayers increased in fervor. And don't you know, he won!

The next week, the paper had an ad for a horse in the exact amount of his winnings, so he went and got it for me. And that was the beginning of my horse craziness. I sometimes think I need one of those shirts that say, "just one horse away from being the crazy horse lady!"

I love all the equines we have on the ranch. They might not be fancy but they're family. Here is Burrita the donkey, aka mama, her little man Macho, aka Racing Stripes, who always runs up to your vehicle and begs for treats. Most of time this is what you will see. Then there is the newcomer,young Ms. Rylee who our farrier says is sweetest mule he ever met. Tono, is a boarder and belongs to our friend Casey. He is a real cuddler and he always calls out to me when I start down to the barn; he is the kind of horse who wants to eat out of your back pocket. Stormy is probably the best trained horse we have. She can spin, side pass and back fairly quickly, do flying lead changes, chase down a cow and is still safe for most kids to ride. You just don't want to let her get in a revved up mode. Lately Casey's cousin Ricki has been riding her regularly and they are becoming quite a team. Eric's horse, Shy-Anne, lives up to her name as she is a sensitive and responsive girl. She is also very athletic on these hills. I can never forget old Charlie. Our 26 year old Arabian who is still going strong and has found a new friend, Kris, to add to his long list of admirers. Honestly, Charlie even gets fan mail! And finally there is my personal mount Mustang Buddy Boo. He can be misunderstood, and he is suspicious of strangers, but for me he's the best. My buddy.

Horses turned out to be a good thing for me. My horse kept me busy while other kids were often getting into trouble. My horse listened to my tears of adolescence and seemed to know just when to nuzzle me or offer an encouraging nicker. He taught me responsibility and how to have wholesome adrenaline charged fun! Today, I tend to ride a bit slower than I did in my youth and I have found that an easy ride along a trail is more my speed. I also really like sharing the love that horses can give with others. There is just something about an animal so big, powerful and strong responding to the needs and requests of someone so much weaker that always gives my heart a stir. Kind of makes me think of God bowing down to answer my prayer so long ago and still today.

wiser guy

Okay, I've learned my lesson. NOTHING OF NOTE happened here today. And, if it should happen tomorrow, you won't hear about it from me. mark

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mr. C.'s Day Off

Had a good day here on the ranch, thought I'd share a bit with you even though I don't have pictures. Beautiful, sunny day. Had guests. One, Brian was new to the ranch, the two young ladies were returning. We doubled up on quads and went to the falls. First cast I hooked a 6" trout that fought valiantly, leaping out of the water! As it swam for the bottom of the pool it was attacked by a much larger fish, which then leapt out of the water with my little guy in it's hooked jaws! Since the large trout wasn't actually hooked it kept having the sensation that the little fish was a GREAT escape artist... I would pull hard enough to snatch the "bait" fish out of it's mouth, and it would return time and again to recapture it's prey! Eventually the larger fish grabbed the hook AND the fish and then the fight was really on! All of us were incredulous and laughing so hard that no one really cared when it shook the lure and dove for the bottom.

For the next few minutes every one who took a turn fishing caught and released trout...then Brian hooked a VLT (very large trout) at least as large as the first of the day, and we decided to give this fish a new name. We called it dinner.

Later in our quad-tour of the ranch, Tammie and I rounded a curve to surprise a bear cub in the road (Or, to be surprised by a bear cub in the road, both are accurate). The cub, being young and reckless, decided to race. For quite a ways. Very exciting seeing a bear of any age up close and at speed!

A few turns later, still beaming about the bear encounter, we crossed paths with a grey squirrel. Commonplace, you'd say. Yeah, but this graceful fellow made a running jump for a low branch overhanging a steep slope and undershot slightly. The squirrel hit the bottom of the branch hard, vaulted to the topside and launched for the next tree in one motion... missing huge! My last glimpse as we passed was grey squirrel imitating Rocky the flying squirrel off a rather large precipice. I hope he landed it.

Back at the main house, Tammie and I had started preparing dinner when Eric strolled casually into the kitchen with a good-sized rattlesnake hanging from his hand! Said it was being stalked by our daughter's cat in the driveway when he rode in. Pretty full day. When the rest of our gang made it back home, we shared the highlights and then Eric, Brian and I set out to fix a fence before dinner. The fence didn't get fixed... Eric managed to "bite" himself with the rattlesnake while cutting off the head to make a hatband! We found less strenuous chores to occupy our time while we waited to see how much venom he had gotten.

One of the ladies, April, took photos of some of the events of the day... perhaps she will post her version later.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Our Cattle

Our cattle have free range of our sunny Southern Humboldt ranch. They eat the native prairie grasses and sweet clover and drink from spring fed ponds and troughs. They also have access to salt and mineral licks. They seem to enjoy it and we enjoy them.
At this time we have 55 Angus-cross  cows and 3 purebred Angus bulls.
Our cattle are humanely and tenderly raised and come when we call their names. They all receive a yearly vaccination and minerals, but we use no hormones or antibiotics.

We harvest mid July and begin taking orders in March.   We sell them whole or by the side or split quarter. (A split quarter has cuts from the front and back half of the animal).   We sell these by the hanging weight. These go quickly so order early as we have a limited supply.

We also have various cuts available to sell  and will meet you in Miranda for delivery. Cuts currently available are listed in the side bar.  Ground beef and steaks are also available at Chautauqua Market. You can also sample our beef by buying a burger at The Avenue Cafe.

2014 Pricing:

*$3.00 per lb. on the hanging weight:
 whole, sides or split quarters; cut to your specifications

Hanging weight is usually around 550 lb. for one whole animal, 275 for half , 140 for split quarter. Actual packaged meat will be approximately, 400 lbs. for whole, 200 lbs. for half and 100 lbs for split quarter. There is a loss of weight due to the bone loss in the packaged product. The bones and all organ meat can be saved for you if you so desire. Just let us know. 

Approximate price to us:
Whole- $1650
Half- $825
Split Quarter- $420
Approximate cost to butcher:
Whole- $385
Half- $193
Split Quarter-$98
Approximate Total Cost to You:
Whole- $2035
Side- $1018
Split Quarter-$518

This is only a little over $5.00  a pound for all cuts of beef,  including steaks.  Grass-fed burger in the market alone often goes for over $7.00 dollars a pound.  While these prices might seem steep they are actually one of, if not  the best deal in the area.  

(These are estimates only.  Individual weights and prices may vary.)

For a better understanding of the health benefits of grass fed beef go to
If you would like more information on understanding butchering, cuts of beef, and hanging weight click here.

mistake game

In honor of the fun we have been having with Galloping Grace's word game, we've invented a game of our own. We are going to add an obvious mistake, (not that we ever make them, you know). Your job is to find it. In yesterday's post there is a mistake, it is a very obvious spelling mistake. Can you find it?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One May Day

,Our day was HOT! Did you notice the boldness of the word hot. Now underline it and add a few exclamation points. Two days ago it was in the 60's and today it was pushing 100. The horses were sweating standing in the shade. The poor wild and woolly sheep didn't move from underneath the old oaks down by the pond. We really need to shear them, even if they don't belong to us. I didn't see many cows. They were apparently hiding out too. This heat doesn't bode well for our grasslands. While they are as of yet still green, they are very short due to the lack of rain they've received. Only about 59 inches. Our average is closer to 85 or 90 inches.

Mark and I went around today and made sure all of the troughs were working on the ranch. Most of the year the cows have plenty of water running in creeks and brooks and the like, but when things begin to dry up, we have to make sure that the troughs are full. Did I mention it was HOT and I quit sweating, which was not good and I now have a splitting headache. Mark has one too. We should have stayed in the shade with the horses and cows. They are so much smarter. But no, we were out de-silting spring boxes and blowing air out of the water pipes to make sure that the cows will be refreshed.

Luckily our water system is simple, so even I can be of help. Here on the ranch the water just bubbles up out of the ground in some spots. To develop one of these springs you just improve the spot where the water comes out. That's basically it. You can stick a bucket in, or just make a nice earthen damn, or you put a wooden box in that doesn't have any bottom. Poor box. No bottom. The most important part though, I have had this drilled in my head, is to dig into 'blue clay' so that it seals up nicely. Then you just stick a black pipe into your little holding pond- be it bucket, box or little damn- and lay the pipe down to the trough. Walla. Developed spring. I am sure there are fancier ways to do it, but this seems to work here. We are fortunate that these springs usually run all year.

These are our summer wheels. See my handy shovel.
Mark recently got a new toy and is pretending it 's an important part of ranching.
Here is one of the troughs we walked down too. Note the steepness of the hill. Coming back up was when I stopped sweating.
So I sat down . For quite a while. Pretending to film an important video; that didn't load. But don't worry it wasn't any good, you aren't missing anything. Now these flowers were sweet. They are about an inch across and grow in mass amounts in all of the boggy areas.
Their scent followed us everywhere we went. I rode along with my nose in the air smelling, like some dog in the back of a truck. The scent reminded me of gardenia's perhaps or some other strong floral, with a tropical twist. I kept dreaming of an ice cold drink, sandy beach, crystal clear blue water and a trade breeze swaying the palms.

Now if you would like to read an exceptionally well written post ,check this out. It is from a blog called Italian Trivia. We just discovered this blog a month or so ago and have been enjoying it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Sooo... back in 2003 the Humboldt Redwoods State Park had a little lightning-caused fire. After three weeks of pressuring CDF to not actively fight the fire and to "allow it to burn the undergrowth in a 4000 acre area", the administrators had to say "oops, the fire is now on private land and should be aggressively fought." The top of our ranch was used as a backfire to protect the many homes in Salmon Creek and beyond.

Now for the good part... we have lots of very dead, very dry trees to make into firewood! No need to feel bad about killing a tree to heat your house... they're already dead, and going to release their stored carbon anyway. Nearly carbon-neutral, I'd say.
Two aerial views of the burned area and a shot from ground-level taken shortly after the fire.

This is the burn today. Grass, wildflowers, shrubs, and young trees. We re-planted the worst areas with the help of some great local tree planters. ( Over 70,000 seedlings in two years)
And lots of potential firewood trees!

Our favorite tool! A grapple- skidder.

We do cut custom lengths, but our standard length is 16 to 18 inches.

The young men find splitting by hand faster than the hydraulic splitter pictured below. It's a guy thing!

The work of shade tree splitters.

Our ranch has a very generous exercise program. We prefer to skip the step of stacking. With these dead trees we can deliver it ready to burn as it is split.

We stack some so that we can deliver when the ground is too wet to work.

We currently sell our madrone firewood for $300.00 a cord delivered and our hardwood mix for $250.00 a cord delivered. Our free delivery area is along the 101 corridor from Garberville to Eureka and in our little community of Salmon Creek. Outside this area other fees might apply. If you're in a foreign land like New Mexico, don't bother! ;-)

We are sold out for 2008, check back in spring of 2009!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Update

My daughter sent me this cool, personalized, Mother's Day e-card and I thought I would link it here to always remember it by. You might enjoy it too, or use the site to create something special for someone you love.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day!

Lilacs and rhododendrons from the garden:

Who ran to help me when I fell, And would some pretty story tell, Or kiss the place to make it well? My mother.
-Anne Taylor

Friday, May 9, 2008

Central California

This blog is supposed to be primarily about the ranch, but in some ways it is about us because everything we post shines a little light on who we are. In light of this, we decided to share our recent journey to our old stomping grounds with you and especially for Dylan, a dear friend whom we also consider as part of our family. Click on this link to learn more about Dylan and see where he is now. I can assure you it is not Central California. Happy Birthday Dyl! We love you.

Our first stop on our journey was Yosemite Valley because the beauty and the hiking in that area is dear to us and it is where we were married.

Here is the chapel where we said "I do". That is Half Dome in the background and a dogwood spray in full bloom in the foreground.

The dogwoods were blooming everywhere. Their exoticness seemed in direct contrast to the granite walls looming all around us.
This is Yosemite Falls and the Merced River .
These are called the Royal Arches and that is, I think (help me out Dylan), North Dome behind them.
I have never experienced Bridalveil Falls quite like this. It was invigorating and we got wet. Our oldest son, Zac, lives a few hours from Yosemite, so our next stop was his place. We spent some time with him and his girlfriend, Cristina. We traveled a few hours to the central coast and spent a little time on a sailing boat. The water sparkled like diamonds and the air was moist and mild. The sea lions sang a hearty sailing song as we traveled by. Then we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is an amazing place. If you want to take the time to read and listen you can learn a lot. We, on the other hand, were more into just enjoying the play of light on the scales of the sardines as they raced around , or the uniqueness of each species displayed. We spent most of our time just gazing in wonderment.
They entertain the children and childlike with a diver who waves and feeds the fish. Our next stop was our family farm.We visited with our families. I also escorted my mom to get a medical test, and I am thankful they did not find anything seriously wrong.

The area where we once lived could not be more different from this ranch. It is very flat there. And dry. And hot. And the sky is not clear blue but rather a dingy blue-gray.

In this photo you see the undeveloped land on the left and the cultivated land on the right. Note the flatness.

While Central California still holds many dear memories and loved ones, I felt my heart quicken as each mile passed on the journey north yesterday. We were heading home to the place where God has planted us to bloom. It fills us with joy to live here and we like sharing it with you too.