Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October Hallelujahs

 Buckeye Tree and Oaks
It's surprisingly hot for a late October day.  Sweat is beading up on my temple and, while the trees are golden, I hear my grandsons' laughter drift across the thick air and it feels like summer.  It is hard to imagine that only a few days ago I sat wrapped up in a blanket in front of the black cast-iron wood stove reading while outside the rain fell.  Two inches of rain!   Soon these hills will be blanketed, once again, in green velvet.  Hallelujah.

Diamonds of water after the rains

I almost didn't believe the earth would reawaken this year  when the rains just didn't come and our skies were thick with smoke.  A dark time.  Nearby Santa Rosa had a devastating wildfire and many people and thousands of homes were lost.   I couldn't shake the thought that the smoke I was breathing was the smoke of this immense loss.   But the rains did come and the skies are clear and the renewal is beginning. We people are resourceful and inspiring. Things may look dim, but we rise again. Hallelujah. 

Smoke from Santa Rosa Fire

We've been enjoying having our son and daughter in law living here on the ranch.  They came in the summer to help with the logging, but are staying on a bit more to save money and to help us out.  There are so many things to fix and do on the ranch.  Our son has also returned to college, online, to finish his degree.  Mark and I moved into the bunkhouse, so they could have more room for their 3 young sons to run around in.  We like the bunkhouse.  There is something about being in a small, run down space that lets you let your standards down. Mark stores his mountain bike in the living room and I let the dishes pile up in the sink.  Our grandsons are the biggest joy for us, though.  It is nice to see them everyday and hear their laughter and wipe away their tears.  Zane, the oldest of the three, has begun going to our little community school.  He is in the Pre K and Kindergarten class and I often join him.  I once taught preschool, so it is a real blessing for me to be around a group of  littles again.  Hallelujah.

Boys helping Papa in the rock pit

The cows are calving. I can never get used to this fall calving thing, it seems to work here, but it seems counter intuitive.  One big plus though is the cattle are  all hungry for hay, so it makes it easier to find them and tag their calves.  The calves are cute,  with their big dark eyes and long eyelashes, but sometimes the mamas are ferocious and they bellow at us and slobber all over us while we take care of their newborns.   I am often afraid and my knees wobble and my hands shake as I apply the band to the little bulls' testicles. Mark seems fearless though and holds the calf tight and I somehow manage to get the job done.   Hallelujah.

New Calf

Sassy had her first calf this year.  She is one of my bottle fed babies. (Her story is here).  She has never forgotten me and I pet her all over and lay on her back.  Now that we are in the bunkhouse she walks right up to our door or peers in our windows mooing for a handout.  Cheeky cow.  Of course I oblige.    She hid her newborn below our barn and would come up to our house and hangout.  At first I thought she was a bad mama and had deserted her calf, but then  could tell she had been suckled from.  One evening I watched her close and seeing her take off in a determined manner I followed.  She has an adorable little fellow, and she is an excellent mother.  Hallelujah.


And so the story goes.  Seasons come and seasons go.  New life is born.  Never forget that.  New life is born and if you  look for it you will see that the good will always rise to the top.   Just like cream.

Horses and Sunset

Friday, September 22, 2017


Yesterday afternoon we delivered some firewood to a friend we haven't seen in a while and he reminded me that we have a blog.  A blog that has obviously been forgotten in a whirlwind of days. 

Summer slipped by.  Now it is fall.  Does time always move faster with the passing of years?

Our summer days were filled with friends, family and work.  Here is a 4 minute slideshow to remember it by.  Happy Fall everyone. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wild Flowers

I've always loved wildflowers.  Their bright shining faces herald the end of winter and the promise of spring.   They represent to me the joy and constant renewal of life.  They seem to add a breath of hope to a world that too often seems to breathe despair.   

One of my bucket list items has been to catalog all of the wildflowers on the ranch. I've  been busy this spring wandering around taking photos of the lovelies with my phone.  There are a multitude of them!  I was already on a first name basis with a few varieties,  but there are a lot more of our flowery guests that I did not know at all.  I've found myself buried in a wildflower book or online trying to correctly identify them.    I haven't finished.   The summer varieties are still popping up and I  currently I have a backlog on my phone's gallery waiting to be named.

When I say named, I mean this quite literally, as I've taken to saying, 'Good day Woodland Madia' or 'Hello Buttercup'.   It helps me remember them and I like to think of them as my new friends.  I realize this project will probably take me many years to complete so I've started a wildflower page on this blog that I will continue to organize and add to.  

If you are on a computer you will see it listed along the top under the banner.  If you are reading this on a phone you will open the home link on the upper left hand side and scroll down and click on the wildflower page.  

If you see that I've wrongly identified a flower and this is very likely, please let me know.  Thanks so much and may you too get acquainted with many new 'friends'.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gorgeous Spring

The grass is technocolor green and flowers are beginning to pop.  It's a gorgeous time on the ranch and yet I lay in bed feeling overwhelmed by tasks to be done.

Yesterday I rode around the ranch with a county extension rangeland consultant giving her a brief overview of the ranch.  All I could seem to see were things to be done as I just talked and talked.  I tend to do this when I'm feeling a bit uncomfortable.  The winter has been a long one and the 120 inches of precipitation hard on the land and infrastructure.   Every year we also seem to fall a little bit more behind on fixing things.   (Or rather 'restoring' them as Mark likes to say).


We've been gone quite a bit this winter as well. Christmas in Vegas with family.  Then a hike in Arizona in late February and early March.  Followed by hanging out with our youngest son while he recuperated from a serious auto accident.  Then a week babysitting our oldest son's three wee ones while him and his wife got their first getaway together in almost 4 years. 

All my attempts at getting a photo of the three wee ones turned out a bit like this.  It was like herding cats!


I think it is  time to stay home and enjoy this gorgeous place and try not to get overwhelmed by all the tasks to do.  

One thing I noticed yesterday, driving around, is that the cattle look healthy and happy and the hogs do too.  When we are home we try to check on the cattle once a week and give them a bite or two of hay and we normally supplement the hogs with organic grain.  We ran out of hay for the cattle and grain for the hogs a month ago and we are kind of low on funds too so we didn't get anymore feed.  The animals are all doing fine though.  The hogs are growing a bit slower, but they look great. The cattle were all laying around chewing their cuds by mid day, a sign of contentment.  I think we've made it through winter and the grass is beginning to grow.   Hurray! 

Maybe I should just roll out of bed and ignore the pile of dirty laundry and dishes and bills to pay and forget about broken spring boxes and leaking roofs and bulls that need to be moved. Maybe I should roll out of bed and go find some flowers just waiting to be discovered, but after my coffee, of course.  


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Them Roads Need a Rockin

Ranch life has its seasons and I'm not just talking winter, spring, summer, fall.  I'm talking about things we do year after year like clockwork.  Sometimes, our journal entries sound like a repeat from the year before and the year before and the year before that too.   I thought I would look back through the annals of time and actually re-post a journal entry similar to what we are up to now.  Road Work!

We have miles and miles of dirt road that has to be maintained.  We are very grateful that we have our own rock pit and large 'boy toys' to get the work done.  We are especially thankful that we have our neighbor, Gil, who is an amazing operator and fixes all of our mistakes and the weather's damage.    Who looks absolutely the same today as he did then.  He is the most vital and strong and sharp 87 year old that I think we have ever met.  We love ya Gil!

Without further adieu:

Boy Toys, circa 2008 Written by Mark:

For the past few days our two neighbors and I have been rockin' the roads. (we're cool, but there's no music involved) Gil , rancher to the west, Pete, rancher to the east, and I have become the three amigos road team. Our area receives an average of 8 feet of rain per year... since we need to use the roads in any weather we try to keep the surface covered in rock (gravel). Our ranch has the best source of gravel and we provide the loader, Pete has a small dozer with a 6-way blade and he provides the snacks, Gil and I both have dump trucks and he provides the road grader. (Gil is also the only member of our team who really knows road work, He actually built most of the roads we are now using.)
Here's some photos from today; I'm sorry there aren't any pics of Pete and his dozer in operation but while we were working on his ranch, we drivers had our hands full avoiding Kris, (the lady of the ranch) who was eagerly searching the fresh road covering for arrow-heads and other artifacts!

My Ride!

This is Gil and his Grader. note the all-day coffee

The Load-out (with apologies to Jackson Browne)

Pete and I have a great time, the roads are improved, and Gil gets entertained watching us make him look magic!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.

living room bed and the quilt Mrs. Butler made
It's our anniversary today and for  36 years this old quilt has kept us warm and made a picnic special.   It was prayerfully made as wedding gift  by Mrs. Butler.

 The Butler's were Pentecostal hog farmers that lived across the road from my husband's family home.  Prayers and Pigs is what first comes to mind about the Butler's.  They've since passed on into eternity but the quilt lives on, as do the good memories and kindnesses of them.  

We've had a lot of rain.  Last week we had 14 inches in just a couple days. This  wreaks havoc on the miles and miles of dirt road on the ranch.  When it's raining the wildest you will find Mark out with shovel in hand keeping the ditches flowing and the culverts clear.
Mark and his shovel
Trees also fall in such wild and wet weather and block the roads and dam up water.  The cattle need feeding too.

hungry cows and oak tree down
One 87 year old neighbor, Gil, is always the first to offer us a hand.   After this last storm he changed one of our culverts and cleared that oak tree from the road with his backhoe.  He also cleaned up roadside ditches as he drove along.  Gil is a good neighbor and, like the Butler's,  leaves behind a lasting, positive  legacy.
I wonder if we will? I hope so. 

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury wrote,
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there."

manzanita's are starting to bloom
Some questions we sometimes ask ourselves:

What's our legacy going to be? 
What's important to pass on to the next generation?    
What value can we add to each other, our family, our community, our country, our world?
And... Who is our neighbor?


Late January at the front of the ranch

Happy Valentine's Day! 
Charity - LOVE- is the greatest legacy. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Looking Forward

It silently snowed in the night. Everything  looks  different.  

Life's like that too as things often change without your awareness. 

It's still snowing.  Yesterday I photographed this little flower in our yard.  She's buried now.  


I'm feeling a bit buried too. I've been sick with congestion, cough and overall malaise.  For days I've not gotten out of my pajamas.  Dishes are piled high in the kitchen, and dirty clothes on the floor. My lungs really struggle with these kinds of chest colds and I try to just drink plenty of fluids and rest. I also use my inhalers as often as allowed.  

It's a good time to plan.  

Mark and I are discussing the direction we want to pursue going forward.   I've been feeling underwhelmed by the sameness of my days and overwhelmed by the multitude of tasks on the ranch.  MULTITUDE!  Many of which are very difficult for me to do. Ranching ain't easy and I'm a small, aging  woman.  I'm often covered in bumps and bruises.  Yes.  I know I'm whining.  It feels good to wine and dine.  For Mark's part he doesn't like having the hogs around all year and wants to make sure we get more logging done this year to pay the bills. Time for some adjustments.  

Just talking brings a wave of relief.  It's important to talk and share in a relationship and in a business. Things change and you can get broadsided if you aren't careful.  Be careful!

A guiding principle for us in 2017 is the question, "Does it add value?"  And the motto, "Less stuff, more experiences"


Mark is taking this to heart and has decided to go skiing on the ranch.  That's a first!  He apparently doesn't care about his skis much. 

We also decided we will continue with our retail sales of beef and pork  because it does bring value to our neighbors' lives and a bit to our pocketbook, but we are going to faze out the breeding of hogs.   We know quite a few locals who breed hogs so we plan to buy piglets once a year and raise them up on the ranch.    In this way we can time it for when the ground is dry and less damaged by their rooting.  Also, not having sows will make it easier for us to go on trips.  

We love backpacking and visiting our family, especially our grandsons, and always have difficulty finding someone to take care of the place. 

I hear the kubota driving up the short hill behind our house.  Let's go watch Mark's maiden ski.  

Have an intentional 2017!  

"How will we use these glorious days left to us for the best purpose?"