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Farm Fresh Blog
Saturday, December 29 2012
Despite the rain and snow this week, Texas is still in the grip of a drought. Now I can gripe about how I don't dare bother to spend money drilling for water at the moment, or I can be happy that I can explore the ranch along the dry creek bed.
So much of the wild interior of the ranch can only be explored on foot or by horseback. Now that most of the creek is dry, we can walk along the creek bed that meanders throughout much of the property. The only water left in the creek is that which pools up from underground springs beneath the creekbed.
I love these rocks. The rocks on this creek were what sold this ranch to me. There is something primitive in these rocks that speaks to my soul. I'd like to hear the stories these rocks could tell.
Trace makes such a wonderful model.
He is much like the rocks himself: beautiful, yet hard & primitive.
He pauses to patiently pose for me, before racing off down the creek to discover more new places that have been here forever. . .
Thursday, December 27 2012
We just returned from the ranch in north Texas and it was a white Christmas! I didn't plan on it, (obviously not, or I wouldn't have dragged two horses across Texas to freeze their butts off in 20 degree snow!) but it was a nice, forced time of quiet solitude.
Watering horses on Christmas Eve:
Watering the horses on Christmas Day:
(Yes Sue, that IS the hat you sent Robby! He LIVED in that hat this week!)
The ranch is secluded and wild even when the weather is good, but when the weather turns icy, this southern girl is a little hesitant to brave the roadways. Thus, even though we had planned to spend Christmas with friends less than thirty minutes down the road, the snow was coming down so fast, I chickened out. I didn't want to leave 4 dogs and 2 horses and then find ourselves stuck away from the ranch. So we spent Christmas day playing in the snow with the dogs. These photos were taken immediately after the snow started falling.
Trace wasn't sure he liked snow at first.
Then he discovered running in the snowflakes and really got into it.
A veteran of snowstorms (one!) Lily showed everyone how it was done.
But the biggest fan of the snow was the D-Man!
Dillon thought snow was the greatest Christmas gift ever! And even though the storm really messed up our plans for fun and fellowship with good friends, the pure delight in every fiber of his being made up for it. Dillon was joy personified.
He was so wild that long after the other dogs and I had retired to the warmth of the pickup, Dillon and Daddy were still walking the trail ahead of us because D-Man was so wild that no one else wanted to be in the truck with him.
"Just a little longer! Can we stay out and play just a little longer?"
Friday, December 14 2012
Harry Houdini was actually a goat. For all you younger people, google him. Houdini was a man noted for his ability to escape the most elaborate restraints. See? He was a goat.
My dairy goats are pretty good about not going walk-about.
They are angels.
But Oscar? Not so much.
Oscar has been getting out since he came to live with us as a baby.
(Read: Oscar's Big Adventure)
For the longest time I worried about him, but now I figure if he gets too far away from Briar and gets eaten, then that's Darwinism at work, folks. Life on a farm can be cruel.
Lately I've noticed that Houdini has an apprentice - Chuck.
Remember Chuck? Stuck like Chuck? Remember: Chuck
Yeah, for some reason I kept her. She has managed to not get sold or butchered yet. Her personality amuses me. Read: Job Security Chuck is Roanie's lamb from this year.
Lately each day on my morning dog walk, this is what I see:
See those white dots?
(I apologize in advance for the grainy photos, but it was the best an iPhone could do at that distance.)
That's Oscar and Houdini's Apprentice: Chuck!
They sneak out of their pen every morning and graze in the rye grass.
"Ut oh! Busted!"
So off they run to slither through the fence,
and back into the sheep pen, where they blend in with everyone else and stare at me innocently. It took me a while to figure out how they were getting out. See this?
Yes, it appears to be a normal cattle panel. Closer inspection will reveal that some of the welds have broken thus allowing the determined Houdini (and his apprentice) to wriggle their fat asses through the fence.
Oh! And HOW you might ask, did the welds on the cattle panel get broken?
"Huh? Who me?"
Yes, Montoya stands on the cattle panels to mooch sheep hay, thus smashing, crunching, warping, and breaking my sheep fencing. Grrrrr. . .
And so for now, I'm dealing with two escape artists. The most amusing part of their escapes is the fact that as soon as they get the slightest hint they've been discovered, they race back to the safety of the pen and squeeze back inside - generally much fatter than they were when they exited because their tummies are full. This has resulted in several episodes of slapstick comedy.
Granted, this would cease to be amusing if the rest of the flock figured out this little escape door. I could replace the panel, but then Oscar would just find another escape hatch. Thus far, since the flock isn't gifted with big thinkers, it hasn't become a problem. And since Other Half just had hernia surgery, I am juggling more important things. I will just have to delegate this problem:
"I'm on it, Mom!"
Wednesday, December 12 2012
From time to time, the Merry-Go-Round of Life stops for a moment. It's up to us whether or not we appreciate this chance to catch our breath, or simply trudge on, oblivious to the opportunity.
Other Half is recovering from a hernia surgery. He is now out of commission for the next 6 weeks. All of his responsibilities fall on little ole me. Christmas is bearing down on us. I have to go back to work tomorrow. The car battery is dead. My truck is attached to the gooseneck horse trailer. (pain in the butt to unattach!) The dually is too big to park in my office parking garage. I have to pay bills, cook a turkey, buy a new car battery, install said battery, give Husband his meds, feed animals, not burn turkey, clean house, shop online for Christmas presents, mail goat milk soap orders, make one last batch of soap, and so on and so on . . . It blurs.
This morning I was up at the crack of dawn. The sun was peaking over the horizon and frost blanketed the pasture.
After giving him his meds, get Other Half safely settled back in bed with Blue Heeler (Florence Nightingale) Each morning we have a 'changing of the guard' as Cowboy and Ranger change places. Ranger rushes inside to a warm bed and Cowboy rushes outside to greet the day (and chase morning commuters down our fence line.)
With responsibilities whispering in my ear, I bundled up and headed to the barn . . .
The voices in my head argue with each other as they jockey for my attention. What needs to be done first? What can be put on the back burner? I hustle through my morning chores, barely noticing the chilled, grateful faces that greet me.
Joe kicks at Lily as she bites him in the back of the leg while he eats. Lily is a bitch. I love her, but she lives to dominate livestock. I evict her from the pasture, and trudge on along with Ice and Briar in tow. There is a fresh canine turd on the frozen ground outside the barn. Hmmm . . . smaller than Briar, about the size of a Border Collie, but it isn't one of my dogs. Perhaps a coyote is visiting. This is the second time I've found a fresh turd just outside the goat fence. Someone is trolling for trouble. Briar puts her nose to the ground and follows it across the pasture. I go back to feeding animals.
The sun is crawling across the frost as Ice and I haul hay. We finish feeding and walk out into the pasture to check the water tank. The tank is full, the goldfish are fine. I see Briar on patrol and call her. She changes her path to head in our direction. As she scoots under the barbed wire fence, she grins and gallops my way.
She roars past me, and becomes a furry snow monster chasing her tail.
Around and round she spins, her face splits into a giant smile, her eyes gleaming with delight. There are no voices at war with each other in Briar's head. She is living in the moment, and it's a beautiful day to be alive.
I take a moment to watch her. Ice and I stand in the cold and stare as Briar's circles grow wider and wider, and then tighter and tighter as she closes in on her tail. She collapses in a giant white heap. She lays there for a moment with her sides heaving plumes of frosty breath in the cold air.
I wish for my camera. This moment is too precious to waste. Instead I must satisfy myself with the snapshots I take in my head. And as I watched that silly dog, the voices in my head stopped too. Briar pulled me back into the moment, and reminded me to step off the Mad Carousel of Life and appreciate living.
Monday, December 10 2012
The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree. And just as drama follows her father, Daughter is no stranger to her own brand of escapades. As we discussed earlier, Daughter moved her family out to the country and is experiencing the joys of raising her young children with nature. As you will recall, I almost peed in my pants when I read her Facebook post about the hawk in the garage. (Read: Farm Kids)
And it continues. I received this text last night:
"Any idea what this is?"
Since nothing else was there, I asked: "What is?"
As soon as I asked, this picture came through:
That looked all too familiar. "Looks like a copperhead from here."
Since the picture was tiny, and we
Yep, looked like a baby copperhead to us. And then this text came through:
"It is a snake I caught in the garage."
"Yikes!! That's definitely what it is!!"
As her father and I examined the photograph, something caught my attention. See that reflection? THAT is what's caused when a flash of light bounces against glass and reflects back at the camera. Rut ro! Knowing the interests of a budding naturalist in the family . . .
I was quick to text back,
"Tell me it's not in an aquarium in your house now!"
"Hehe. Maybe :) it won't be for long..."
And remember this: Just when you think your life needs some excitement, try being the mother of this child . . .
. . . in a place where copperheads crawl in your garage in the middle of December.
Saturday, December 08 2012
Susan asked how Joe did in the parade.
Well, let's start with The Bath. You see, the problem with beautiful black and white horses is that they like rolling in dust in dry weather, and rolling in mud in wet weather. At no point do they actually like water baths (except of course, if you are trail riding through a stream, then they will stop, drop, and roll with the best of them) But I digress . . .
Suffice it to say, Homeboy needed a bath. In December. With no hot water. And although I waited until late in the day when it was warm (high 70s) it was still cold water because, well, it's December. Joe was less than thrilled with the arrangement. He has a thick winter coat and it took forever to rinse him, thus exceeding ALL of his patience and mine. We finally gave up on his lower legs and decided to borrow baby powder from Dear Draft Horse Friends (Doug & Debbie) who were carrying Santa in the parade.
Prior to Santa's arrival
So I loaded up Joe and headed toward the parade. Keep in mind, that at this point I have not bothered to introduce Joe to the concept of wearing Christmas lights. I merely have a grocery sack of lights that I purchased at the last minute that Other Half kindly inserted batteries into the night before. I had yet to plan out how I was going to put the lights on Joe.
You really should plan this stuff out, but I live much like Scarlett O'Hara: "I'll think about that tomorrow."
Well, tomorrow was here, and I still didn't have a plan. Whatever. Jesus loves me and so does Joe. (well, Joe likes me. And he's a patient horse, so it's practically the same thing.) I unloaded Joe amid all the hustle and bustle of everyone else unloading and outfitting their
Joe had lights around his breast collar and on this garland. I opted against lights around his butt and feet, not because Joe objected, but for once in my life, I remembered my physics:
For Every Action There Is An Equal And Opposite Reaction.
Joe is a calm horse. Then again, I doubt he's ever had a strand of Christmas lights slide under his tail and give him a 'wedgie.' I don't know for sure, I'm just guessin'. And as I watched people put all manner of things on their horses, I decided that I had enough things to worry about from items on OTHER horses. Joe and I would just keep it simple. We were clean, and that's doing good in December.
We had a chance
Yes, that is a real Bethlehem scene on a flatbed trailer - complete with a real donkey and real goats. It was awesome! (But I made mental note to keep Joe away from that float, lest donkeys and goats become airborne in the middle of the parade.)
Dear Friend Mindy owns Frodo, Joe's BFF (Best Friend Forever). Joe and Frodo are buddies. Frodo arrived shortly before the parade began. We hastily flung the rest of Joe's colored lights on Frodo.
Like me, Mindy hadn't bothered to introduce Frodo to lights prior to the parade. Like Joe, Frodo took it in stride. Other Half arrived minutes before we mounted up. He objected to Joe's 'minimalist' look. Other Half wanted Joe decorated like a Griswald Christmas.
No problem. He can ride him. Nevermind.
The sun went down. Santa arrived. And we all lined up. Christmas carols blared from sound systems all around us. The street sweeper roared to life and followed right behind the horses. As you can imagine, horses were freaking. Frodo, who is scared of motorcycles was less than amused by the decorated ATV mule that followed us closely. Since so many other horses were freaking out, even though Frodo resembled a fractious Thoroughbred being led to the starting gate by his solid pony (Joe), we didn't particularly stand out.
The streets were lined with
I loaded Joe into the trailer and Calm Mr. Joe went batshit crazy at the thought of being separated from his BFF Frodo. He began bucking and sitting back in the trailer. I gawked at him in disbelief for a moment before Mindy rocked me back to reality by asking,
"Want me to just load Frodo up beside him and you can drive him home?"
Does that sound like we're enabling? Ahhhh . . .yeah. Did we do it?
Yessirree Bob! As soon as Frodo stepped up into the trailer, Joe calmed right down. And so, the two best friends drove to Frodo's house while Mindy drove behind us. Other Half drove his police truck behind Mindy and lighted up the highway so we could unload safely. Joe was happy. Frodo was happy. Mindy and I were happy. Life was good.
Overall it was a wonderful night filled with friends and fellowship, and who could ask for anything more?
Monday, December 03 2012
With the holiday season ramping up things are getting even more chaotic around here. I rode Joe in a Parade Of Lights Christmas parade on Saturday night. That was supposed to be the blog for today, but, understandably, it got bumped.
Yesterday was a special kind of circus because I had to get Other Half off to work, finish up soap orders, load soap into truck, cook a dish for a party, feed the dogs, feed the horses, feed the sheep and move them to the yard, and get dressed for the party, pick up Dear Friend Mindy, drive to party, and then, well, party with The Girls!
And I accomplished all this . . . life was good, until this morning.
Here's how it all began to unravel:
Other Half calls me on his way home from work to see when I'm coming home. I'm still partying and so he stops and gets a burger on his way home. He lets Patrol Dog/Psycho Dog/Oli out to play in the dark for about 5 minutes. Brings Dillon, Lily, and Cowboy into the house. Turns Trace/Troll/Psycho Border Collie and Ranger/Blue Heeler into yard.
I return home around 8 pm and we watch television for a while and then go to bed. Wake up at 6:30 am. An idea pops into my head. I forgot to remind Other Half that the sheep and goats were in the yard. Oh...Sh*t!
Turn to Other Half and say, "You DID get the sheep in last night. Right?"
We both spring out of bed. (Levitate is a much better verb here.) I run outside in my pajamas. Thankfully my neighbors are ranchers who are used to this behavior. I swing open the door and race outside into the fog . . .
. . . and total silence.
. . . nothing . . .
Nothing. Just empty fog. I start to walk around the yard. No sheep. No goats. No dogs. Nothing.
A figure races out of the fog. Ranger bounces into focus. No Trace.
A little red figure emerges from the fog. He nods at me and races off. Okay. At least I have a direction of travel now. I head off after him. Plunk Ranger in kennel. Mentally prepare myself for the carnage. This is, after all, the unpleasant part of raising farm animals.
And so it was that I round the corner, and standing there in the middle of assorted tractor implements is a band of scared sleepy sheep and three disgusted goats. And standing tall with the sheep was one Big White Dog.
Trace is circling the band like a satellite. He is a red moon orbiting a fluffy confused planet (and three disgusted goats).
I call the little bastard. He ignores me. I roar at him. He flicks an ear but continues his orbit. He has waited all night long for me to arrive so he can work sheep and refuses to be cheated. The sheep are very happy to see me. I wade into their grateful midst. They crowd around me and tell me all about their horrific night with The Psycho With Googly Eyes. Trace continues his maddening orbit. I order him to down, which he does. (Miracle of miracles! Then again, he had probably been doing this for 12 hours already.)
I walk over to him to scoop him up and note that he has lost his collar. The sheep unwisely decide to make a break for it. He is on them like a duck on a June bug. Briar grabs him by the tail and football tackles him. The sheep run back to me. Briar trots along with them. Other Half joins us and we check them out. They are fine. All of them. Ever single sheep and goat is safe. Wonders never cease.
The whole band of us begin our walk to the barn. All is good until they see The Promised Land (i.e. The Opened Gate)
They make a break for it. Trace breaks his down. Briar football tackles him again, and the sheep slide through the gate and run like Spotted Apes back to their pen. There is a sonic boom as they broke the speed of sound.
Other Half and I have the same
And then it hits me. I'm mad at Trace for not calling off sheep, but I have completely overlooked the fact that a Psychotic Malinois/Proven Sheep Murderer was completely unattended with the flock for at least 5 minutes.
(translation: If Other Half tells you they were unattended for 5 minutes, it really means at least 15 to 30 minutes.)
There is only one reason why I didn't find bloody bodies all over the yard:
Briar has an intense dislike of Oli. (No, duh! Wonder why?)
Oli wakes up in the morning and says, "What small hooved mammal can I kill today?" She is a velociraptor on paws.
She is a gentle mountain of a dog, slow to anger, but force to be reckoned with when pushed too far.
"Wise choice, Bee-otch!"