Monday, September 29, 2008

"you driving, or me?"

Smokey and Cait are both mixed-breed herding dogs. Smokey is about five now. He found me about 4 years ago when he was an abandoned, flea bitten, attention starved stray. I often joke I should re-name him Shadow because he follows me everywhere. He is the most loyal and faithful dog ever. He is not though, very good at herding cattle because he is just too laid back and unaggressive. So Mark decided that we needed a new dog and he picked out Cait last March. She is part McNab, part Border Collie and part unknown. Daddy was a traveling man! Here's a photo of when she first arrived at our house. Sweet, small and sleepy!
But she isn't any of those things anymore. She has been renamed Crazy Cait or Clowning Cait! She most reminds us of Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh series. She still is sweetish, but she is HYPER. She barely even stops to eat and she is tall and gangly and very thin. Eric the Bold calls her the Weasel, because she is always slinking around with her long thin nose horizontal to the ground. Slinking around looking for something to herd. Anything that moves is a possibility. Water is one of her favorites. But we have also found all the chickens herded into the cattle chute and she once even herded up 3 mice, and the horses... well, the horses hate her. They see her coming and their ears shoot back and they watch her warily. She constantly works to move them here, then there, then here again. Rylee, the mule, says "NO MORE" and now she chases Cait helter skelter around the barnyard. But still Cait does not lose heart, she only runs away to come back and try again, nipping at her heels and grabbing her tail. "Cait, Come", Cait, Stop", Cait NOOOO", is my new song.

We haven't used her with the cattle much yet. Occasionally, I will help her move a cow from point A to point B, just for fun. But really, I wonder, why do we even need her to herd the cows, since all I have to do is holler and they all come running?!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brandon's B-Day!

If you follow our blog you probably remember Brandon, Mikey and Emma, our great nephews and niece who visit our ranch every year. Brandon is the oldest and he is a great helper. Here he is fueling the Kubota, picking blackberries, being a giant gerbil while setting up our hay ring, and last but not least, Brandon and his family always bring a big Costco bag of carrots and a lot of love for the donkeys,and Charlie. Charlie is Brandon's favorite equine on the ranch.

Smile Brandon cause it is your birthday! We hope you have a very, very, very happy day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Trials of Buddy

This week we took Mustang Buddy Boo to the vet. Buddy has been having intermittent lameness in his right front for about 10 weeks and about 8 weeks ago developed a quarter crack. Good news is that the vet agreed with our farrier and Mrs. Mom and her hubby (who did an online consult) that the bar shoe that was recently applied looks like it is stabilizing the crack and no signs of soreness or lameness in the foot could be found at this time.

Well, just as we finished the consultation I asked Buddy to smile for the four men who were standing around him (the vet, Eric the Bold, my hubby, and Roy, our farrier). Which he promptly did. Then I said,"Now Buddy, don't forget to say thank you," giving Buddy the cue for another, I thought, cute trick. Buddy quickly complied again. I felt so proud and promptly gave Buddy all kinds of oohs and ahhs, and said "what a good boy." Then the vet drolly chimed in, "Buddy, it must be hard having a woman for an owner." A split second of complete silence ensued. I think, no one knew quite how I was going to take that comment. Then Buddy quickly nodded his head as if to agree and followed up with his big, warm, goofy, grin. We all laughed!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy 14th Birthday Anna!

This is Anna. If you follow our blog you might remember Anna and her sister's post about the horse ride and the bear. Anna is being home schooled this year so one of her classes is a work experience/ag class with us. She is always willing to do anything we ask and she is a good quad rider and horse rider. She is a fine young lady. In this photo below you can see that she is also learning how to be a top notch ranch hand. Yep, I am teaching her well. You gotta always stop and enjoy the view! Redneck living at it's finest.

Have a great day Anna! With love, from all of us at the ranch.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canning Tomato Sauce

The first caveat: I am no pro at canning, but it is one of those things my grandma taught me and I like the idea of keeping the tradition alive. Second caveat: get the bible of canning. It is simple and easy to use and if you follow it carefully it will keep your family from getting sick. Although tomatoes are probably one of the safest foods to can because they are full of acid and acidic foods equals safety. Low acidic vegetables, like green beans are much more dangerous and all directions must be fastidiously followed. You can be a little more sloppy with tomatoes, which is good, 'cause sometimes I can be pretty sloppy!

1. Wash your tomatoes. For tomato sauce I use all the variety my garden has to offer.I discovered something peculiar while washing the tomatoes. See the above tomatoes. They floated. See the pear and cherry ones below... they sank. What is with this? Any guesses?

2. Put tomatoes through a food mill/sauce maker. You just slice the larger tomatoes in half and throw the little ones in whole and turn the handle and out pops the sauce in one spot and the seeds and peel in another. Soooo easy. Of course, sometimes I also make stewed tomatoes, which entails peeling all the tomatoes. UGH. I tend to make a lot of sauce. It comes in handy for sauces, soups and stews. And it is easy. Did I mention it is easy?
3. Cook it down. It may take a pot or two, or three, depending on how many tomatoes you have. I had two pots full. You cook it over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is the thickness you want. I usually shrink the volume by half. So what was a full pot is now half a pot. It takes quite a few hours and you can wander around doing other chores. Or reading a book and drinking a latte.

4. Fill clean jars with hot water and place new lids in hot water as well.5. Fill jars with sauce (after dumping out hot water,of course!) add1 tablespoon lemon juice to each pint and 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each quart. This just assure the acidity of your sauce. No botulism for me! But did I mention I am sloppy? See my mess.

6. Clean off top of jar with rag and then place the hot lid on top and secure with band.
7. Place in hot water bath or pressure cooker. I did both. For the hot water bath you put jars in a large pot, completely covering jars with water and let them boil for 35 minutes. You should always follow your own pressure cooker's instructions. For mine, you add 4 quarts water and cook at 6 pounds pressure for 20 minutes.

I took all of the peels and seeds out to my chickens. I thought this picture showed clearly how cocky Mr. Red Rooster is. What is it about roosters? Well, at least it leaves all the good stuff for the hens. They didn't waste any time chowing down.
Oscar, one of the barn cats, was very interested in the slop bucket until he saw what was in it. Poor kitty. Better luck tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

First Day of Fall

I hear the leaves rustling in the wind with a sound reminiscent of a singing brook and I see their color changing and I am reminded once again that autumn has come. I love the changing of the seasons because they help me remember to try to grasp each moment before it fades away.

Yesterday evening's horse ride is one moment that has crystallized in my mind. The air was crisp, I had my polar fleece jacket zipped all the way up like a turtleneck sweater and I was riding on Stormy all alone, but not lonely. As we went up the driveway we passed 'ole free roaming Charlie horse, who is just a little shy of 30 years of age. He lifted his head sleepily, slowly turning it to look us square in the eye and seemed to raise his gray 'eye brows' as if in asking a question. I smiled at him and said, "Hi Chuck", as we continued on our journey.

A while later, as I heard what sounded like a thundering herd of pigs coming behind me, I swiveled in the saddle and was surprised to see Charlie at a full gallop. I didn't seem to notice the gray in his hair or his bony rump. All I saw was the strength and beauty of an Arabian racing for the sheer fun of it. His neck was arched while his head was extended with nostrils flaring. His black mane and tail blew in the wind. It was poetry in motion. He raced passed us, tossing his head toward me and I noticed a joyful gleam in his eye. Could this truly be Charlie? He is our stay at home lazy and slow old man who usually likes to go no further than the orchard to steal a ripe pear or apple. I was stunned and laughed aloud.

Having shared that pure moment of joy with Charlie changed my little ride to check on calves. I was transported into a grand adventure. My sense of smell was heightened. The earth's smell reached out and brought my mind to a deep silence and I could almost taste the quiet sense of the land's potential. My ears then heard the song of birds and the rustle of dry leaves and grasses. I paused and listened to the music which was all around me. And the chill wind no longer bothered me, but reminded me that I was alive. Alive! Yes, Charlie's joy helped make me feel more alive and I wonder if all joy shared does that.

Enjoy Fall!

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Rain

The thunder roared, the lightening flashed and the rain came down. Wouldn't you just know that we had 6 tons of hay to quickly get into the barn as well as rushing to get our summer bed in and out of the rain. But oh, how wonderful it is to hear the rain fall down to quench the thirst of this land. Our hearts are full.

"He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and oil. He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied." -from the Bible, Deuteronomy 11:14,15

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Mark!

Today is his birthday and he is the greatest! At least I think so. One thing I really appreciate about Mark is how he is always trying to look out for others, not himself. Happy Birthday Honey. I love you.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Disaster that ends well. A GOOD DAY!

We had a little more excitement than usual last week.

Our oldest son, Zac came up for a short visit, for one. This re-energized the firewood crew, and changed the dynamics in the cabin. (Eric and Tate were pretty tired of their routine; select a dead tree, fall it, drag it to a shady spot, cut it up, split the rounds into small pieces, load the wood in the trailer.)
The infusion of new energy made for more fun, a little masculine competion, and more production. My part of the process (tow the full trailer to someone's house, push a button, tow the empty trailer back to the shady spot) was taking nearly my full time. On Monday, I had snuck away to the front of the ranch where a road needed my attention and about 20 loads of rock. Happily making progress on the road work, I was a little annoyed to see that all three of the men in the firewood line were in the truck bringing a loaded trailer to me for delivery.
Then I noticed the look on their faces. And that Tate was holding a remnant of his shirt to his face. And that everybody had blood on their clothes.
A piece of firewood had split explosively, a portion striking Tate's eyebrow with enough force to knock him back. (He wants me to be clear here that it wasn't able to knock him down, he kept his feet!) Time for a trip to the hospital... it's about an hour away, and since the trailer was full and we're just sensible like that, we delivered the wood on the way. Believe it or not, Tate was not the top priority in the hospital's triage. He got a room alright, so he would quit bleeding on their floor, but it took four more hours to get his wound stitched. Five stitches on the inside, and a dozen to re-align his eyebrow. The E.R. physician offered to refer Tate to a plastic surgeon since he was formerly "such a handsome guy", but Tate had had enough waiting. "Get 'er done!"
While his antibiotic prescription was being filled we had a mexican food dinner and then drove home, picking up the trailer along the way. I think we even stopped to get the mail. Sensible.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Cue the music in a minor key... Eric and Zac had found their existence slightly mundane without Tate, and probably were aware of all the attention he would be demanding tommorow, so they staged an accident with the skidder. My heart sank when I noticed the tracks starting at the front of the ranch. The large track-loader I had been using on the road rocking had been driven several miles back toward the firewood area. I was actually hoping that the skidder had suffered a breakdown, and the loader was just filling in at the landing, hoding the logs in the air for easier cutting. Upon reaching the cabin, in the dark, and finding no-one home, and noticing that even the old d-6 was missing, I had a pretty good idea that our luck at keeping the "shiny side down" had run out. Since there were no emergency vehicles on scene, and the brothers hadn't gone to seek medical attention, and I hadn't been called, I guessed that it was something that they figured they could handle on their own... and seeing them coming down the hill riding double on the quad was a good relief.
Eric, operating the skidder, had found himself on a slope that he couldn't back up, and it gradually steepened into a vertical face but ended on a flat landing where he was piling logs. The face was just small enough to look possible, and just big enough to make the skidder stand on it's dozer blade, pirouette to the left, and roll sideways down the hill. Eric wasn't wearing his seatbelt, so he describes the ride as it was, a life-or-death struggle to stay inside the cage and avoid being crushed by the machine. At one point he even recalls hating the guy who decided that men's ballcaps should have a metal button on top. (At the point that the skidder was momentarily on it's top he was somwhere else in the cage, and landed on his head, hard). The machine came to a rest on it's side without crushing Eric, and the only damage was a few minor cracks which we will weld this winter, and a blown tire and crumpled wheel.
Upon reflection, There was so much mercy, and grace extended to us that day that I cannot view it as anything but a GOOD DAY!
Tate took the close call to his eye all in stride. He also placed a courtesy call to his mom, right AFTER sending her a picture taken BEFORE the stiches. He even went back to work the next day. Cowboys are tough!
This was taken the next day... notice the addition of protective headgear for the splitter operator! And Tate has seemed to prefer to split by hand lately...
This is the skidder, back in action, shiny side down,(the bottom stays REALLY shiny driving over brush and stumps and slash all day) AND the seatbelts are going to stay shiny from constant use now too!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I've often wondered about this blogging. Why do we do it? What is it's purpose? Where are the lines between self aggrandizement, voyeurism, and a healthy connection with a broader community? Sometimes, it all seems rather blurred, like this photo that I didn't even realize I had taken.
Today, I was reassured somewhat while reading holy experience, (Ann covers this topic much more eloquently than I). By sharing our stories, our troubles, our lives, we all benefit. And personally, I know that just by taking the time to write I find that my life feels more balanced, more supported. Connected. And it is. I begin to realize that I see my day from a much broader perspective, yours. And somehow too, perhaps even God's.

Frederick Buechner wrote in "Telling Secrets" (I lifted this from holy experience too):

"Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity... that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally."

I like this quote too. I photographed it along the Oregon Trail.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thank You Boyscouts!

The boyscouts once again came out to the ranch for a weekend campout. They hiked and swam at the falls and did other boy scout things too, I presume. But this time around I also wrangled them into stacking 4 cords of wood! Thank you very, very much. Your help is appreciated.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Neverending Summer

Labor Day dawned cold and chilly. The poison oak and some of the maples had begun to turn color and the breeze carried with it the brittle sound of dry leaves. Where had summer gone? I moped around for a few days lamenting the fact that I didn't ride as much as I wanted, I didn't swim as much as I had wanted, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't. One of my blogger friends even had a post listing all of the things she didn't get to do this summer and I totally understood. Somehow I felt that I just hadn't gotten my monies worth of summer.

It is funny how weather oriented I can be. Recently it was again quite warm. It again felt like summer and I had friends out and we had a nice horse ride,

even stopping to tie up the horses so we could go for a swim.It felt like summer. The time spread about before us uninterrupted with work or bad weather. It was lovely. I was revisting summer or perhaps at least becoming reaquainted. But of course, summer never really went anywhere.

I then realized my idea of summer is just a state of mind. And what comes to my mind is childhood summers where time seemed to stretch out endlessly like the grains of sand on the beach; no big worries, and no tests. Even the clothes of summer were unencumbered. And I am beginning to now realize that if I take the time, moment by moment, to open my eyes and my heart with gratitude I find that feeling of timelessness settle upon me again.

"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others"-Cicero

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." - Anais Nin

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Motorcycle Road Trip

Join us on a little pictorial journey of our recent motorcycle and move our friend to Montana road trip.

Riding to Bend, Oregon the first day. We're not actually on the wrong side of the road... Tj shot this looking back toward California.

The Gorge of the Rogue River was a great (and cool) stop on a very hot day.
On the second day of the ride we lingered over a barbecue lunch at a proudly re-opened saloon and rib joint in Vale, Oregon. This town is in a very green, lush corridor along the Malheur River in otherwise very arid country, as the mural accurately depicts. Going east, we were almost in Idaho. Coming west, the pioneers on the Oregon trail must have taken comfort in the abundant water, but kept going, looking for fortunes in the goldfields, or flatter, more fertile soils, or simply, further west.

One of many rivers we followed in Idaho, probably the Payette.

One of countless barns. Tj LOVES barns.

From the Sawtoothsto the Bittteroots to the actual Rockies, the rock is different than I'm used to. Older-looking, and crumbling in long talus slopes to the banks of clear-flowing rivers or to the points on the slopes where trees and other vegetation could gain a toe-hold.

The sky was as fresh as the landscape.

Stanley, Idaho with the craggy Sawtooth Mountains in the background, was a post-card come to life. Click here for a live web cam shot of this beautiful area.

From Stanley, the Salmon River flowed north into ominous, nearly Lunar hills. The historical markers and storyboards along the route told of many Nez Perce and U.S. cavalry battles. I consider myself patriotic, but in this matter, I think Custer and others lived up to the worst meaning of cavalier.

Ahhh, MONTANA! I have long yearned to see this part of our country, and was not disappointed. (Though I must admit that Tj was disturbed by the development along the road. Especially in the Missoula area.) The Bitterroot valley, Flathead River, Flathead lake, are gorgeous! Farms and wetlands mingle in the valley floors, gently rising to the timber, and then to the rugged slopes and peaks and glaciers above. The valleys are narrow enough that the peaks and ridges do not seem distant, but close, and familiar. And even the valley floor is high enough that the sky seems near, and yes, BIG!
Going-to-the-sun road in Glacier National Park is under reconstruction. This, and a cold rain convinced us to leave the motorcycles in camp and ride in the back of our friends truck for the tour.
Our view, over the edge of the precipice, was spectacular. It was also, because of the clouds, a bit like learning all about the elephant from only one of the blind guys.

I was THERE, and can't grasp from the photos the immense beauty and scale.

Did I mention that the mountains look different... and don't even get me started on the grizzlies!

The day after visiting Glacier we got some sad news from home and jumped on a jet for the return trip. So for us...and you...this is the end of the journey.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Photo Review of August

Each month we post some photos that we think capture something of the previous month. We then ask our readers to pick their favorite photo. Here is the selection for August.

Going Fishing

Man in the Woods

Glorious Sunset

Redneck Highway

Butt Heads

Flame Grapes