Sunday, December 28, 2014

Week 51

Christmas!     Our immediate family gets together for Thanksgiving, so for Christmas they all spend it with their in-laws.  Usually we go to Mark's family for Christmas Eve, but this year other plans within his family were made and we were left without any plans. My sister called and insisted we spend Christmas with her and her family.  Last year was our first Christmas without our parents and it was hard on both of us.  Sharing it together this year was new and fun.  It wasn't the same as before and that was good.  Growing up my sis and I didn't really have much in common and as the baby in the family, I was considered the interloper, or 'the golden child' as she now lovingly calls me.    Then, it wasn't so lovingly.  Ha-ha.    I was always jealous of her beauty and brains and she was jealous of my charm.  I guess.    Now, we get along well and are surprisingly alike in speech and mannerisms.  It makes her grand daughters' laugh.  They think it is funny to have a grandma clone.  We really don't look much alike though, we just act a bit alike.   

Here we are trying out her granddaughters' new skates, in the house.    It's a good thing we didn't break a hip.  Good times.

I must have been a good girl because Santa gifted  me a new camera.  He must know me well because he got me a nice point and shoot.  I've been debating on getting a DSLR, but I probably wouldn't carry it around much, and I'm so used to wearing my little Canon on my hip.  Santa, I mean Mark, says I look like a photography gun fighter.  Here I shot  a calf.  Click, Click.  This camera can really zoom as I was standing very far away. 
I like this camera.   Here I shot our little dog Shadow.

Carnivorous cows were chasing us down this morning.  Gotta shoot them. 

Of course, they aren't really carnivorous cows, but we had one young visitor ask us if they were when they surrounded our vehicle, and the alliteration and imagery just stuck.  Now they are lovingly known as carnivorous cows when they swarm and swarm they did today. 

I'm really loving my new camera.  As you can tell.  It is a Canon Power Shot SX700HS.  I really look forward  to reading the camera's manual and learning  all the things it can do.  I'm so excited and grateful to have it.  My old Canon Elph just wasn't taking good shots anymore.  Poor dear will have to be retired.  But not this fella.  He still looks in pretty good shape to me. 
I  secretly shot these photos of Mark.  I wonder how long before he asks me to remove them.  Ha-ha.  Here's another.
The power of zoom, zoom, zoom. He was actually watching Eric load a muzzle loader pistol.   I'm really looking forward to capturing moments in 2015.  Thank you Santa Mark. 
We hope your Christmas was merry and bright and filled with love, beauty and peace.  God bless you and may you bless Him too. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Week 50

One of our favorite holiday treats is English Toffee.  Every year we make numerous batches to give out to family and friends.  It's pretty good, if we do say so ourselves and as your special treat from us we are going to share our not so secret recipe. 

English Toffee:

1 pound of butter
2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
12 ounce bag of milk or dark chocolate chips (or some of both)
1 cup diced almonds
Large skillet
Wooden spoon
Cookie sheet

Melt butter in large skillet over medium high heat, stir with wooden spoon.
We use this enormous cast iron skillet we found in the basement, but we have tried a regular skillet and it works too, just not as well. 

Add the 2 cups sugar continuing to stir until the mixture is blonde.  
When the sugar and butter combine it turns to a thick foam.   Keep stirring until it gets slightly golden blond.
this is the blond color and with just added nuts

Add the 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds and continue to stir until it is toffee colored and you see some little puffs of smoke that escape all at once. 
In candy making terms this is the hard crack stage. 

sometimes there is a bit of oil separation and that is okay


Pour onto cookie sheet and it will spread out, so a little work with the spoon helps it go in the correct direction.

Let it set for a couple moments to cool down slightly and then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and after a moment you will be able to spread the chocolate smooth.  Voila'

Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top.

Let cool and break into pieces. 
If we are in a hurry, we pop the cookie sheet with the candy into the freezer for a bit. 


Merry Christmas!

Week 49

Last week was time to release the bulls.....

Sounds a bit like the running of the bulls in Spain, but alas, it is a much tamer event.  At least we think so. We did have some cows running for cover in the trees with a look of terror in their eyes, but regardless it was time.    Releasing the bulls now will have our first calves born mid-September.  We only have 2 bulls this year and instead of just opening the bull pen gate, we like to place them in their respective areas.  Since Lee,  knows us and knows the allure of a bucket of grain shaken (not stirred) he would get a trip in the trailer to the front of the ranch, while the new guy, Justin,  would get the back.. 

The bull pen's muddy and they,  the bulls, hang out by the manger, so to load Lee properly from the chute would require him (and us) to wade across all this mud.  It's been raining a tad bit. 

We didn't think he would like that, and we like a happy bull, mustn't have a mad one, so we tried something different.  Mark backed up to the gate by the manger,  Slipping and sliding towards me, I might add.  I am his chief backer upper assistant with my snazzy hand motions and occasionally squeals of STOP!  As was this case.
Lee stood by the manger watching all the commotion with a puzzled look on his face.  We opened the gate and got our trap all ready.  Next came the bucket of grain and sweet words of encouragement to the 2000 pound confused animal.  Dumping a bit in the back of the trailer, we put the rest way in the front where we wanted him to go.  If this was Mr. Johnson,  the gentle giant from last year, he would be loaded before I could get out the little front/escape door.  Not Lee.  He's only been with us one season.   He came to the back of the trailer, ate the bit of grain there, then stepped in and then promptly stepped out.  Nope.  Not getting in that trailer.  We waited, sort of patiently,  while Lee got his courage back. 

Then just like that he loaded up and walked to the front of the trailer like a champ.  Door closes and he looks okay with it.  Maybe he will be my next gentle giant. 
He sure liked the next part. Oh yea.  They smell good. 
Now to get Justin in the trailer would require a chute as he doesn't know our ways yet.  So, since the cows do know us, we brought them to him.  These few got in front of our truck in their zest to go the barn and get a hand out of hay. 
We opened the bull pen gate and, um, well, you can't tell from this photo, but Justin got a bit too excited and this is when some of the cows ran for cover leaving a few calves around wondering what just happened.  

This week they have all calmed down a bit and the new guy, Justin, seems to have been wooing the ladies a bit more appropriately as he always  seems to have groupies with him now.  Lee, in the front of the ranch, has always been popular with ladies.  He has his moooves down. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Week 48

Before the storm

I'm days late on my  blog update.  Days late!  I'm just limping along finishing my goal of a weekly blog post.  It was a stupid 2014 goal, but I'm a bull dog and once I grab hold, I finish.   Once I make up my mind to do something, little else matters.  I  find a way to do it, even if I do it poorly.  "Mind Over Matter",  as an old friend used to say,  "Make up your mind and it don't matter".  
Right now, we are in the middle of a huge storm, not as huge as the weather guys predicted, but still pretty big.  I love sitting in my nice, warm, house looking out of the humungous windows at the rain and wind, while  perusing old photos and thoughts. 
 I've got lots of  photos; many unclear or photos of nothing important.  My phone said it was too full to take anymore, and my laptop a mess of unorganized shots too.  I  want to make my grandsons a photo book of their Thanksgiving visit.  I need to do some bookkeeping.  I'm days behind on the blog.    Did you catch those words,  'want', 'need"?  That means I might not do it.  If I had written 'will', then it would be a different story.  Words matter.  Intent matters.   How we think directly affects how we act.  You should see my journals.  I write stuff out and then cross off such words as 'want' and 'need' and write in' will' or 'can', but only when I really make up my mind.  Sometimes I leave my words noncommittal, but I try to be conscious about such things.  To not choose is to choose after all.
We were gone from the ranch most of last week.  We headed south to visit our son  who couldn't make it up for Thanksgiving.  His family is doing well.   They say raising three under 16 months is the hardest thing they have ever done, but they are surviving one feeding to the next.  The  twins are close to 12 pounds now and as identical as ever.   It is amazing how identical they look, and if it wasn't for the small birthmark on Liam's neck even their parents would get them mixed up. Zane, the 18 month old, is a little upset that his world has been turned upside down and gets frustrated that he doesn't have the words to tell them, but he is obviously  smitten with his two wee brothers.  He hasn't really figured out that they are responsible for the changes. 
I caught a nasty bug while we were  there and I still haven't recovered.  My voice sounds like a cross between Kermit the Frog and a long term smoker.  Mark says it is grating and I pretend it's sexy.  Going up the two stairs in our house tires my legs.  It is hard to believe that 10 days ago I could jog (slowly) the 6 miles from our house to the bull barn.  Oh well.  I WILL get better and be back exercising soon. Until then I will do stuff from the easy chair, next to our woodstove, looking out onto our beautiful world. 
Liam and Maddox



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Week 47

Better late than never.

Thanksgiving weekend on the ranch.  While we were sad our oldest son and family weren't able to come up to the ranch,  due to the 2 month old twins,  the rest of our kids and grandkids made it and we had a wonderful time. 

 Last year little G could only lay on the couch and chortle, this year we were  grateful to see him walking all over the place, although he wasn't too happy about those down hill slopes.  His face was often green. 
 Big G was thankful to feed all the animals. First morning he was up before dawn hurrying us out of bed to go feed.   He especially enjoyed the little calf Cole.
Big G caught his first fish with his hero, Uncle Eric.  The fish was thankful it was catch and release. 
We all contribute dishes to our Thanksgiving feast by always have  the tradition of wild turkey provided by Eric and Jo.  We are all thankful they know how to cook a wild bird to perfection.   

 Thankful for a nice hot tub on a rainy evening and a happy grandson.  The little guy really likes to swim.  He goes under and then wiggles to the side and comes up laughing. 

 Grateful for rainy skies,  green hills and wonderful views.

 Thankful the big horse is a gentle giant. 
 Grateful to have such sweet cows. 
And this Grammie is really thankful that one little guy really loves animals.  Every one of which got greeted with a wave and a cheery 'hi' and 'bye". 
We hope you had a very lovely Thanksgiving as well. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 46

It makes sense that our cows, chickens, pigs, and horses are friendly.   It's even understandable that the wild pigs are beginning to hang around, since they discovered the organic pig feed.  What I can't understand though, is the semi-tame wild turkeys.  
 They should know better.   It is the wrong time of year to be out strutting their stuff in the sunshine.  But strut they do.   They even do a lot of gobble/gobbling.   For educational purposes, I have added a tutorial on the art of turkey calling.   It is easier than one would think.

We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week 45

No dog attacks this week and Lee,the bull, is fine.  Here he is pretending to be a water buffalo or maybe he is just trying to clear the culvert in his pen.  
Meet Justin, Lee's new buddy.   The boys are getting along well and in about a month they will head out for their job.   Right now, all they have to do is eat, sleep and get pumped up for the ladies. 
These cuties came for a visit and helped feed little Cole.   
All the motherless calves are doing well.   Kia, whose mom died from the dogs, is already very gentle,  and adjusting well to her new digs.   Sassy is, well, fat and sassy.   Her mother is still alive, but not well.
She got acorn poisoning back in September and then lost an eye (no idea how) and then got mastitis and lost the function of one of her teats.  Yea, Life isn't treating her too well. Her digestive system has not recovered and will not recover so everything goes right through her.  She can't gain weight and looks terrible. She is an excellent calfsitter though and all three get a little extra milk from her, so we're keeping her around the barn for a bit longer.   She's also teaching the 2 heifer calves how to be a good mama, which is a plus.   

It is hard for me to get rid of cows.  I don't make the most fiscal decisions sometimes in regards to our herd.  I think of myself a bit as their mother, which is ridiculous.   This week I spent a number of days out checking on my 'babies' making sure they were all okay and trying to head off any dog attacks.   They are all currently fine and accounted for and that's very good. 
These peppers aren't so good.  They are too darn hot!!!   I'm in the process of roasting, drying and then grinding them to spice things up a bit.  Not that things need spicing up too much.   I like it all calm on the western front.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Week 44

Jo and Eric came out this weekend and helped us bury this cow.  Lakia was her name.  She was a cow that hung around our house.  She knew her name, she came when called. She was a leader and a very protective mother, she would often chase away visitor's dogs.  She knew how to use her horns to her advantage, but it didn't work out for her this week.

It was mid morning and Mark was heading back to the house after delivering some firewood and beef.  He saw a couple juvenile pups playing on the grassy hillside.  He slowed down and whistled out the window and then a whole bunch of dogs started flowing up over the hill,  driving a bit further  he saw Lakia laying head down. He grabbed his rifle and shot two of the dogs that had headed back to the cow.   He counted at least 8 dogs.   Lakia's ears and tail were chewed off and she was covered in bite marks that were oozing blood.   Approximately 15 feet above where she lay the ground was churned up in a circle and you could see where she had slid down the slope.  It was a grisly  scene.   A cow and 2 dogs senselessly dead because pet owners didn't keep track of their dogs. 

Mark didn't see collars on any of the dogs so we assumed they were dogs that had gone feral.  A fluke.  We were concerned the half dozen that got away might come back so we let the cow and dead dogs lay where they were.  If the wild dogs were hungry they would have something to eat and if not it might act as a deterrent.  We were also hoping they would come back and we could shoot them.  They never did come back.

Yesterday our bull , Lee, was attacked by 6 pit bull type dogs. Many of these dogs had collars.  A whole different pack than the one before.  Mark caught these dogs in action and he tried to shoot them, but only was able to wound one.   They all got away.   Lee's ears and tail were chewed on,  just like the cow's had been.  The bull was in a corral so he had protected his hind quarter a bit by backing into a corner of the pen.  He has only a few bites, unlike poor Lakia. 

Eric and Jo  tried tracking the second group of dogs, but couldn't find them.  I've taken to wearing a pistol and Mark continues to keep his rifle close.  We feel a bit helpless.  We wish we could find these dog's owners and shake some sense into them.  Keep your dogs home!

We live in an area that has an outlaw culture.  Many  grow marijuana and keep guard type dogs for protection. The outdoor growing season is over and I wonder if some  just let their dogs loose now as they aren't needed.   Also, this time of year, many people come to this area for jobs trimming the marijuana and perhaps they don't keep track of their dogs.  I don't know.  I just know we seem to see more dogs during the fall and early winter. I've tried to catch them and was successful with a few and their owners were notified and picked up their dogs.  Today Eric told me he has killed dogs on the property.  Seeing the death they leave in their wake, I now say, 'Thank you Eric'.   I too will shoot now,  and I love animals.

That's the whole point.  Animals die when dog's run free. We now have a fresh grave with 2 dogs and one cow.    It's not that only bad dogs or unloving  dogs, or dogs trained to kill do damage. All dogs loose will form a pack and chase, circle up and  kill.  Even my little 10 lb. dog running in a pack would try to take down game.  She might not be very successful, but I know she would try.  Take a pack of big dogs and even a 1000 pound cow is fair game.   Bears are fair game,  wild pigs are fair game, deer are fair game, etc., etc. etc.  I've even been told children are fair game and I know  I haven't felt safe going on my jogs and walks around the ranch.  A pack of 100 pound dogs is a scary thing. 

We've been trying to get the word out that we have a dog problem. We are hoping that some folks just don't realize what their dogs can do.  We are hoping education can stop this problem and until then we are keeping our windows open so we can hear the 'yip, yip, yip' of a pack of dogs on their prey. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 43

A few shots from the phone recording the peacefulness of our week.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Week 42

Beautiful morning with fog swirls playing with the hillsides.  I have my dog at my feet and a pen in hand.  Life is sweet.  Water drips from the large, star shaped, tulip tree leaves outside my window.  They make the leaves jump like a startled cat.  There is only a slight yellow tinge to their green announcing that autumn is here.  The recent, and thank God, continuing rains have turned the prairies green.  The grazing animals are happy to have fresh food.  While I missed the peak of our summer garden's bounty, friends and family made good use of it.  Now,  the almost bare tomato vines drop some red, split fruit onto the ground and the peppers, left hanging on the vines, are bright red and ready to be dried or frozen.  My hands itch to dig and pull and put the garden in order.  My nails have been clean far too long.  Perhaps I still have time to add a few chard and other winter hardy plants to our  little garden space.  Household jobs also beckon at me from this day of rest.  Our home got a bit neglected during my month away. Mark had more than enough to do with a day job and a ranch full of animals to tend to and  I'm excited to get back at it.  I love being a 'domestic engineer', and 'ranch hand'. 

I miss my little grandsons.  They are all doing well, by the way.  I miss too the conveniences of city life:  people to smile and chat with, shopping just a moment away and morning jogs on flat, sun lit roads and trails.   But all of that pales in comparison to the reality of this place, this time and the people and animals that live here.  Especially Mark.    I'm happy, happy, happy to be home.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 40

It was already dark, but he had to go down to the barn and feed the bottle fed calves.   

The little buggers were counting on him as Tj was still down helping with the grandsons.   Identical Twins!   How cool is that.   Her job sounded a lot more fun than his:  Up at dawn,  feed the calves and other barn animals.  Throw something together to eat for breakfast and lunch, drive down the road to work and drive a bulldozer or haul gravel all day.   By 5 he's back home to drive around and feed the cows and their newborn calves.   The grass was growing, but it wasn't enough quite yet.   Good thing more rain is in the forecast.  After an hour or two he heads back to the house to feed himself and  the 2 little calves again.   Now, that the days were getting shorter, it was in the dark.  

Turning on the barn light two startled eyes and a set of brilliant white tusks surprise him.   A wild boar is inside eating the domestic pig's feed.   Quickly he starts lifting and closing the portable panel.  He'll catch the darn thief and deal with him later.  Just as he goes to hook the chain the 400 lb beast barrels into the panel and he jumps away as the boar runs out into the night.   

The heritage hogs got called in and put away as it isn't in the plans to cross with a wild Russian boar nor to feed expensive organic feed to him.   Hunters have been called and soon they will have a freezer full of pork and a trophy for their wall.  Hopefully....

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Week 39

Having new grands from our first born son had us digging out the baby book.   We found this photo taken of us as we left the hospital 33 years ago.   Teenagers!
Looking at this photo I feel such compassion for my teenage self.   I expected too much from her and emotionally and physically I struggled.  There is only so much a mom can and should do and I didn't understand the limits back then.  I'm glad I can now come alongside my kids when they have babies and give them a little help.  

Btw:  the twins are now home and doing great.  

The hollow tree babies are doing well too and beginning to eat solid food with their mama.  Our DIL has found homes for 3 of the kittens.  Thank you Jo!   We still have 2 adorable ones left and their dam is a great hunter and cuddler.  Any takers?
Another week of warmth split and stacked.   It's hard to imagine cold weather though when the thermostat says 98 degrees!!!  

Which is quite unfortunate as the recent rains brought up some green.  We are worried that this heat wave is going to kill it.  Just like last year.  Oh well.   You can't control the weather.   
And you can't control these beasts too much either.  We are just glad they do their foraging outside the yard.  Apparently they have manners.