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Farm Fresh Blog
Thursday, November 28 2013
If you don't like the direction our world is going, change it. Change it through our children. Change it for our children.
The older I get and the more I see of this world, the more important I believe it is to understand that our future as a society lies in the hands of our children. If you want the world to be a kinder and gentler place, you can make it that way, one child at a time.
I'd love to take credit for this idea, but I got in church. I simply twisted it to include The Blessing Box and make it fit my family. Grandbaby #1 is 4 years old. She is beginning to understand the concept of giving and blessings. I took the idea of charity giving from the church and paired it with a tradition that can be passed down - The Blessing Box!
The box started out as a Whitman's sampler chocolate box from Walgreen's. (Hey! Don't judge people short on time and money!) Anyway, I painted the box purple. Then I began a hunt for glue so I could stick on some sparklies that I've probably had stuffed in a craft box for 5 years (unopened!) I didn't have glue, so I stuck the sparklies in large globs of paint. (again, short on time and money!)
I found a butterfly stamp and a world stamp, and some brown ink. Then I used an old bell, some old lace, and part of a horseshoe Christmas ornament. None of this cost money. I just wanted to make the box interesting to a 4 year old. It sparkled. It tinkled. And it was tied shut. What's not to love for a 4 year old?
She was pretty eager to get into that box. First the ribbon came off.
Then she pried it open.
Inside she found . . .
A feather (found at the ranch!)
Two bags of gold dollars (The bank still gives those out, but they are usually only used by toll booth commuters.) I included a bag for her and a bag for her little brother. (Just in case he was interested enough in her Blessing Box want to be included.)
The most important thing in the Blessing Box was this:
She is an old Christmas ornament that I've probably had over 20 years. I got it from my mother. She's quite heavy. On her robe is a quote from Mother Teresa.
"We can do no great things - only small things with great love."
In the bottom of the box is an envelope.
It already had a horse on it.
Inside the envelope I put two $5 bills.
Now here's the important part of the Blessing Box - she has to give away the $5 bills to someone else who needs them.
A 4 year old must think about the world around her and decide who needs that money the most. From an early age, she can learn the joy of giving, of being a blessing to others, of looking at the world around her and saying to herself, "Where can I help?"
The coins she can keep. In fact, she was most interested in the box itself, and the angel, and the feather, in that order. The money and coins were nice, but the box - well, it was a BLESSING BOX! That sucker had a lot more power than a humble chocolate box and some purple paint.
Lest you think she didn't get the message, I'll share this. We pointed at the cash and asked her, "What do you do with this?"
She looked at us like she was giving a tutorial and said,
"You give that to someone who NEEDS it!"
So today as we all give thanks for the blessings we've received, I urge you to put down that second helping of turkey, and look around for ways you can spread God's blessings. Become the Blessing Box.
Note: In our family we've decided that every year at Thanksgiving, we'll give her another Blessing Box. The same angel ornament will be in each box, along with money that she is to give to someone else.
Thursday, November 21 2013
When I'm in the city, I'm always on the look-out for 2-legged predators. When I'm at the ranch, I'm often casually scanning the darkness around me for lions, and tigers, and bears, but I almost fell over when I saw this:
Do you see it?
Try some available light photography and he'll stand out.
I was most relieved that the large creature staring at me in the dark turned out to be Bully. For some reason he was drawn to us that night. He just stood there in the dark, watching us.
We just assumed the girls had left him. They often wander all over the ranch and Bully pretty much confines himself to the west side which is much tamer. So we talked with Bully and he stood there, staring at the fire and watching us grill steaks. (sadly ironic, wasn't it?) Bully stared into the flames like he was contemplating the great mysteries of this world. I just assumed that he came to hang out with us because he was lonely.
And then Trace pointed out something on the other side of the fire.
Clearly Bully was not alone.
The cattle at the ranch are doing just fine with bountiful grazing and lots of space to roam, but clearly they are missing something. Us. Either that, or they are bored and we are the most interesting thing going on in 133 acres. Most of these cows were former show cattle and so they are a bit more social toward humans. As Other Half pointed out, they have always associated us with food and safety. Now they are free to roam, free to eat, and free to do whatever they want, but they clearly still want some contact with us. This greeted me every morning when I woke up.
They became so pesky that we often had to have the dogs send them packing.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder why? Why does a cow even care about splitting logs, stacking wood, and building fires?
And what does Bully think of when he stares into the flames?
Wednesday, November 20 2013
We're back from the ranch in North Texas and still trying to catch up on things here on the farm. While downloading photos I found one I thought you'd like. Blue Heeler is getting a little
You won't see it in the Olympics, but this is Ranger's favorite way to ski -
Tuesday, November 12 2013
Oh. My. Gosh! I forgot to tell you!
Remember Henry? Our little rescue puppy?
Read: When God Smiles At You
I forgot to tell you that Henry found a forever home! Henry now lives in Mid-Town with his new best friend, Awesome. Yes, the couple that adopted Henry have another little dog named Awesome. Henry went from being a ghetto dog to a Yuppy Puppy!
Tuesday, November 12 2013
I have a love/hate relationship with this dog.
He is troll in every sense of the word. Trace is food aggressive, dog aggressive, and is so rough on sheep and goats that he has been banned from working them.
Trace was bred to be a cow dog, he was purchased as a cow dog, but since he's such a hard-headed SOB, we've been hesitant to actually put him on cattle since we've got some ole momma cows that won't hesitate to stomp a dog. We needed to start him on calves, and we needed to get his attention. Trace is a very obedient dog - unless livestock is running away from him. Then he blows you off. (which means he's really NOT an obedient dog!)
Anyway, since we have neither the time nor the money to drive back and forth to a professional trainer, and Other Half flat-out refuses to send Troll Boy to Boot Camp, we took the advice of some BC friends of ours and pulled out the e-collar. I've never been a big fan of electronic collars, since timing must be flawless, but Other Half insisted on training the dog himself, and he needed to be able to "reach out and touch" Trace at a distance when the dog was blowing him off.
So yesterday, armed with his e-collar, Other Half and Trace marched out to play with five unsuspecting calves. I urged him to start small - put them in the round pen. Baby steps. Other Half is not big on baby steps. He's more a 'jump in the deep end' kind of person. (I have no idea how his dogs have survived so many years.) I like to start small and build a foundation first. Other Half just wants to stride out there and let genetics and his relationship with the dog take over. I expected a train wreck. Wonder of wonders, they did just fine. Trace figured out that he couldn't run through the electricity and got zapped a couple of times but that was it.
They moved cows into the roping arena, and then into a pen. I was impressed. (Shocked actually!)
I was so shocked that I didn't get any pictures. So today while Other Half was in court, I took the little red monster out there myself. He calmly rounded up the calves, moved them into a pen, gently pushed them through the chute, and then took them out to pasture. I zapped him once. Overall he did a great job. He has so much more talent than Lily and Cowboy but has never been able to use it on the cattle because of his attitude. He took his own sweet time, but he is FINALLY getting useful with cattle.
Watching him work the calves made me realize that not only are we training the dog, we're training the calves. In less than a week, I forsee Trace being able to calmly gather this little group and load them into a cattle trailer. They are learning about pens, chutes, headgates, and dogs, with no fear. That makes things a lot easier on us and on the animals.
And really, isn't that what handling livestock is all about?
Saturday, November 09 2013
How many 4 year old girls do you know that can skin a raccoon? (Or 4 year old boys for that matter!)
This was a recent conversation reported by her mother:
Wonderwoman: "Hey Mom, I'm pretending this tortilla is scraps of deer flesh."
Her mother reports that this conversation was inspired after young Wonderwoman and her father trapped and shot a raccoon that had been wreaking havoc on the farm. They skinned it and were trying to tan the hide but a couple of hours after they salted the hide, something from the woods stole the whole thing!
So okay, our young Wonderwoman needs a little help skinning a raccoon, but this kid is a little Daniel Boone in the making, and the credit goes to her parents for allowing her to think outside the box. Her mother's pet peeve is gender role expectations of little girls. (the Disney Princess syndrome)
She recently posted an adverstisement for children's Halloween costumes on Facebook which showed (I kid you not!) little girls dressed as fairies and princesses and little boys dressed as . . . drum roll please . . .
. . . an astronaut, a fireman, and a police officer!
If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.
I was quite interested to read the comments posted below her rant. One mother said she goes out of her way to make sure her children have female doctors in their lives. That act alone spoke volumes to me. On one level I'm happy these young mothers consider this kind of socialization so important. And I'm happy there are female astronauts, police officers and firefighters as role models for young girls. There is one little thing that bothers me, however. Why, 50 years after I was born, is it still such a problem that mothers feel the need to socialize their children against it? Argh! I can recall my own mother ranting about that kind of thing when I was a child! Have we made no progress in 50 years?
I have a dear friend in her 60's. Her parents sent her to college, but only allowed her to choose one of two careers. She could be a secretary, or she could be a teacher. That was it. She had two options, nothing more. This vibrant, creative young woman was locked in a cage. She chose teaching. And although she was a brilliant teacher who influenced countless young lives over her career, to this day, she yearns for something more. She never wanted to teach. She wanted something different, but society wouldn't allow it.
I was blessed with a mother who argued to allow her daughter to play with trucks and her son to play with dolls.
Today her son is a surgeon who takes a positive hands-on approach to raising his three beautiful daughters, and her daughter is a police officer who plays Twister over dead men for a living. Our cultural expectations are slowly changing.
Today society allows more choices for our girls because of women like this:
Other Half & Daughter
But this shift in expectations also means a reverse in discrimination. Years ago women were not supposed to leave the home. Society wanted them to stay home and raise the children. Now the same society that puts out ads for little boys as astronauts, firemen, and policemen, looks down on women who stay home to raise their children. If that's not a societal personality disorder I don't know what is.
Thankfully more and more women are casting off roles society forces upon them and following their own paths.
Although I'd love to take credit for creating this young woman, I cannot. I married her father when she was an adult, so I give all credit to her wonderfully talented and creative mother and her father who encouraged her to ride, rope, shoot, hunt, and do anything a man can do.
Now she's raising her own daughter to think outside whatever box society tries to lock her in. And if this child wants to eat deer flesh and skin raccoons, what advertisement agency is gonna stop her?
Wednesday, November 06 2013
We all make compromises in life. Ideally, in every relationship there is a give and take. For instance, I happen to like my does. I see them frequently bouncing through the forest and they make me smile. Other Half and Son see food on the hoof. While I don't want any of my does killed, the Grandma Doe is definitely off limits. The boys think she needs to go. I belief that if she has lasted this long, we should leave her alone. She deserves that much.
So the boys went hunting last weekend. Son wanted a big buck or a turkey. Other Half wanted the spike buck. I just wanted them to shoot some hogs.
After sitting in the blinds for hours at various times, both boys reported that our ranch hosted a large number of does. Even on the phone, I knew which direction this conversation was going so I wasn't too surprised when I got this text:
"Five does out of eight do u want some doe meat"
(Note: there is no punctuation in a deer blind and you must decipher code. It should read: Five does eating. Three more just walked up. Do you want some doe meat?)
I didn't get his text immediately, but heard the follow-up dinging on my phone and decided that I needed to quit doing dishes and get to the charging cell phone. This was his follow-up message:
"Do I have the green for the kill shot"
Damn. I felt like Michael Douglas in "An American President" when he had to approve the order for an air strike that would kill some poor janitor. Damn.
So I sent back.
Then I followed up quickly with this:
"But not Grandma!"
There was a silence. I fretted. Damn.
Then a ding. "she down"
He quickly followed: "Not grand ma"
Somehow that made it better. We needed the meat. Yes, the does probably need to be thinned out, but something about that old doe tugged at my heart, so I was glad it wasn't Grandma.
The downed doe was big and she will feed us for a long time. I'll tan the hide. The dogs will enjoy the feet as chew toys. Nothing will be wasted and she didn't suffer. Killing your food is definitely more emotionally taxing than going to the grocery store, but I have always felt a lot better about eating meat that I know lived a happy life.
Now it's time to start earnestly hunting Porky Pig because I'm ready to swear off commercial pork entirely. Although I cannot stomach the way hogs are treated by the meat industry, I have absolutely no problem pulling the trigger on Arnold the wild hog.
"Look out, Arnold! I see pork tamales in your future!"
Sunday, November 03 2013
I just finished reading Joel Salatin's book, "Folks, This Ain't Normal" and I feel compelled to climb to the rooftops and shout across the land, "READ THIS BOOK!"
Salatin describes himself as an environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. The New York Times calls him, the "high priest of the pasture." I first saw him in the movie, "Food Inc." but to truly apprectiate Joel Salatin, read his books.
The first chapter of this one had me hooked. It's called "Children, Chores, Humilty, and Health."
He talks about sitting in the airports watching young people:
"When I sit in airports and watch these testosterone-exuding boys with their shriveled shoulders and E.T.-looking fingers passing the time on their laptops, I realize that this is normal for them. This isn't happening because they are sitting in an airport trying to while away the time. This is actually how many, if not most, of their hours are spent - recreation, entertainment, and playing around."
Salatin then spends the rest of the chapter explaining the chores young people used to do. He explains these things in such detail that not only do I feel like I'm reading a Foxfire book, but I also realize how far our culture has strayed.
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, because I'm sitting here typing this on a computer instead of going outside to address the calves that are screaming at me through the window, our nation is becoming a culture of watchers and not doers. Most of us would be completely helpless without our current state of technology, our electricity, our computers, our smart phones, and our video games. (don't get me started on video games!) We outsource everything in our lives now. This not only promotes lazy bodies, but lazy minds as well.
Instead of advancing us as a culture, it is enslaving us, and we happily march forward toward the sterile, flashing colored lights, and away from the dirt, blood, or anything resembling physical labor.
I bounce between these worlds - the glitz and glow of a metropolitan city where your every physical need can be met with little effort, is balanced on the other side by a ranch so remote that cell phone service is spotty and we only get one television station. (and that was for one weekend. Since then, no signal whatsoever.)
At one house we have cable television with hundreds of channels. We probably watch only four of those. At the other house, we must listen to the radio. This radio becomes our "way back" machine. We enjoy old classic radio programs and I marvel at how these shows are so much more clever than the stuff churned out on television today. They also allow us to multi-task, not zone out like a vegetable in front of a flashing box. Now we can argue that it's Sirius Satellite Radio and that's certainly technology, but the point is that I'm not against technology. Heck, I don't want to live in a age without antibiotics either, I simply believe that better, stronger, faster, isn't always best for us. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park, "Just because we can, doesn't mean we should."
For all our modern conveniences, most of us have no more free time than our ancestors did. In fact, we spend most of our lives working to afford those conveniences. We gamble that we'll be healthy enough, or even alive, to enjoy our retirement. Our culture is in a losing race to earn enough money to retire so that we can enjoy actually living.
With each generation, we are losing the skills necessary for survival without our fancy techonolgy and our ability to get cheap goods from overseas. This bothers me. As a child, I can remember my grandmother making beautiful quilts, yet I can barely sew buttons back on. My mother is a mean seamstress though. When I wanted curtains for my cabin, I toyed with the idea of buying the burlap and sewing them myself, but then realized, DUH! I don't sew! I don't know how. Fortunately, Mom came to the rescue and gave me some curtains SHE HAD MADE! One day I'll have her show me how to sew my own curtains. (Maybe I should order the burlap now!) My mother used to preserve food from the garden in Mason jars. She canned all sorts of things. I never learn this skill and now I deeply regret it. Fortunately, my mother is still alive to teach me these things, but how many other skills are dying out with each generation?
How much knowledge is being lost because it is cheaper, easier, or faster, to get it somewhere else?
Perhaps we should do something about that.
Saturday, November 02 2013
"Real ranchers don't eat quiche."
Or maybe that's real men .... oh well, same thing.
Actually, they might eat quiche. That may be a line they do cross. Mine won't, but then again, he's not very adventurous at the table. He's a meat and potatos guy. I, on the other hand, happen to eat quiche - and like it.
Then again, I'm not a 'real' rancher. I'm a bit too sentimental for that.
For instance, my recent proclamation that Grandma Deer would not be shot because it's a sin against the elderly, is a good example. And may I point out that Other Half called me from the deer blind this morning to tell me that he had let my does walk away instead of shooting one. I'm sure it is because I have become fond of my does and see them more as 'distant pets that can be eaten in an emergency' rather than game.
In fact, I object to the very word "game" in reference to hunting critters. It is not a game. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against hunting at all, I just don't think it's a fun game. When I was a child, we were poor - really poor. There was no such thing as game hunting and hunting seasons. It was called "pot hunting" because unless it was a rattlesnake, you didn't shoot anything you didn't plan on eating.
(Although I do recall my stepfather shooting a tomcat that kept beating up our cats. It was my early introduction to the concept of "shoot, shovel, shut up," but I digress.)
Although I had a vague notion of hunting 'seasons,' I fully understood the concept that "Daddy shot a deer and we need to shut up about it. I knew the term "firelighting" before the affluent children did. I understood it was against the law, but I also understood that sometimes "daddies have to do things that are against the law to put food on the table."
Then I grew up and discovered grocery stores. Although more convenient, I never thought for an instant that it was 'better' than nature's grocery store. Which brings us to the ranch.
Real ranchers can't afford to be sentimental. While Other Half has a crusty exterior, he's a softy about a lot of things. But when it comes to ranching, he tends to share that 'matter of fact' notion that what's good for the wallet rules. I, however, can be very sentimental about my animals and my land. I can afford to be, I play Twister over dead men. That gives me a certain amount of flexibility. (No pun intended. Okay, maybe a little pun intended...)
Anyway, the latest crisis on the farm is Bully. (again)
Bully is an old bull. He was older when we got him, and he's served us well. Bully produces a consistent calf crop each year. Despite the fact that he's bred to cows that look totally different, Bully stamps a calf crop that I have trouble telling apart. They have low birth rate and gain weight quickly. And EVERY cow gets pregnant. He is not aggressive, easy to handle, and stays inside fences.
We moved the tame former show cows and Bully up to the ranch in North Texas. Bully was having problems maintaining his weight down here. His age was showing. We had hoped that up there with all that grass, he would gain weight. He isn't. He is losing weight.
He is also not keeping up with the girls as they migrate around the ranch. He gets lost. Bully pretty much confines himself to the west side of the property. He's safe there. He has two big meadows, forest, and two ponds. The only real danger to something his size is getting caught in a flash flood of the creek.
I wonder about his vision though. As you recall, several years ago he had a month-long brush with blindness. He recovered but I don't know that he re-gained full vision. It was enough to get around here, but here the fence borders are pretty straightforward. Up there, he might as well be a wild cow with no fences.
So here is the dilemma. Other Half wants to sell Bully for slaughter before he dies of old age.
"Get some money out of him. And he won't suffer. If he goes down there, the coyotes will eat him."
From my line of thinking, here are the flaws in that perfect ranching logic:
We don't need to get any more money out of him. He has given us a great deal of money already.
Sending him to slaughter to keep him from suffering is laughable. He will be confused and frightened. And if he has a vision problem it will only be worse.
I argued that we owed Bully better than that. Other Half cocked his head, much like the RCA puppy staring at a phonograph. This was a novel concept for him.
Bring Bully home and let him stay with the bull calves here. If we decide to put him down later, we can take him to the butcher ourselves and grind the meat into hamburger. Our butcher will handle things humanely and he won't be frightened.
I can handle the idea of eating Bully. What I can't handle is the idea of using him up, discarding him to make a buck, and sending him into a situation where he will be frightened before he is executed. That doesn't seem right.
Yes, that kind of logic is lost on most people. People with empty wallets cannot afford to be sentimental. And yes, I have been preaching that we need to start living now on the paycheck we'll receive when we're retired. But if we discard Bully for the quick cash, I fear that though my wallet will be fuller, my moral bank account won't.