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Farm Fresh Blog
Monday, 31 October 2011
As I was taking my morning walk, this thought sprang to mind:
The one thing about moving the sheep & goats from the old farm to the cow ranch is this . . .
. . a whole new set of garbage men to hate Briar.
I'm just sayin'.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
We are at war. The mosquitoes have made us prisoners in our own home. There isn't much I can do for the livestock, but all 8 dogs are living in the house. (Yes, Briar too!)
This has been going on for a week. A cold front due to come in this afternoon is promising some relief but it can't come fast enough for those of us who must guard against Flying Monkey Mosquitoes each time we open the door.
I don't even like to turn the dogs out until the sun is up good and, like vampires and zombies, the skeeters subside a bit. (That's relative though. We're talking having 400 mosquito attacks as opposed to the 4000 attacks at dusk.)
So once the sun was high in the overcast sky, I let the dogs out this morning. A few minutes later I heard this godawful barking. Through my office window I watched the mosquito fogger truck slow-rolling down the road. In his wake were 5 barking dogs. (Briar, Ice, Cowboy, Trace, and Lily)
I rushed to the door to save them from gassing themselves. They reluctantly abandoned their assault. (he had passed the corner of their fence anyway - sector 12 was clear)
As I hustled them back in the house and cautioned them on the dangers of chasing fogger trucks and Briar said,
"I didn't inhale . . . "
"May I have some Cheetos and pizza?"
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Someone forgot to warn Willie that his mouth shouldn't write a check that his ass can't cash.
I'm not a big fan of cattle. I'm more into goats and sheep. Cows are big. Cows are stupid. Anything that big, and that stupid . . . is dangerous. For instance, let's examine Willie and Paisley.
(Pity buy on Other Half's part)
Last winter I left a cattle auction to give the dog a potty break. A few minutes later, Other Half called to inform me that he had purchased Willie because "he felt sorry for him." Willie serves absolutely no purpose on this ranch. He has managed to avoid being sold with all the calves and all the cows that were "cut from the team" because of the drought. The fact that Willie has made the cut, not once, but four separate times, is a mystery beyond my scope. That is between Willie and Other Half. Fortunately Willie is pretty sweet and causes no trouble.
Enter Paisley. (I don't name these heifers, the Ag kids do. I just call 'em what the kids called 'em.)
Paisley is what you get when two people go to the County Fair Commercial Heifer sale and agree beforehand not to purchase ANY MORE COWS! When a little Red Angus bred to a notable bull comes across the block, those two people who agreed not to purchase ANY MORE COWS come home with a Paisley.
Paisley is a sweet little cow, but sista ain't takin' no flack from dweebs.
Willie walked up to Paisley and she informed him that pipsqueaks need to "git!" Willie, the pip-squeak, took exception to that . . . and thus began Willie's check cashing experience.
She pushed poor Willie all over the yard.
Back . . .
and . . .
. . . forth
Willie had a tiger by the tail and couldn't let her go.
And as you can see,
Willie doesn't have any ass to back up what he says.
But Willie does have something Paisley doesn't have. Willie has horns. We were a little concerned that someone would slip, and Paisley would get gored.
Fortunately for Paisley, (and Willie) Willie doesn't really use those horns for weapons. The scuffle went on so long that even the spectators grew bored and went back to grazing.
Believe it or not, Paisley gave up first. I'm not sure who was more surprised, us or Willie.
"Some girls just cain't take a joke!"
Friday, 21 October 2011
"I'm just reportin' the facts."
"It has come to my attention . . .
. . . that a member of this family . . .
. . . one of God's Chosen People - a Border Collie,
has been seen
with a Flat-head, an N-BC, a Non- Border Collie, someone who is clearly NOT one of God's Chosen People.
"This behavior has become an all too frequent occurrence, and in my opinion, should stop immediately."
"I'm just sayin'. This could lead to all manner of things."
Thursday, 20 October 2011
I had already made two batches of soap at the vacant house we are trying to sell. (no disturbs me and the house smells great for realtors!) He had never watched me make soap, but was noticing that his empty cardboard cowboy hat boxes were quickly being filled with curing bars. Last Sunday I took him to Wal Mart with me as I stocked up on soaping supplies. Because I'd been wanting to try the loofah soap, I grabbed a couple of overpriced loofah sponges for the day I ever got around to making the molds.
I hadn't planned on using them for this batch of soap, but as I started making soap, I soon realized that he was puttering in the barn. He came back into the house, grabbed a loofah, wet it, crammed it into his tube, measured it, and proceeded to cut two pvc molds. I didn't bother him. He was clearly a man on a mission.
Other Half's Loofah soap:
Loofah soap is a fantastic scrubber soap for beside the kitchen sink! I LOVE it! Clearly this will be a regular addition to our soapmaking.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
This is not an uncommon sight around here.
It appears that the Big White Dog can take all manner of abuse
and really enjoys the company of a certain little chocolate monster.
It goes without saying that the little monster enjoys the company of his couch/punching bag/guardian. Perhaps he should talk to George the Chicken.
Read: "I will name him George"
(disclaimer: They are not left alone. He is tiny and she is gigantic.)
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
When's the last time you went through your junk closet? Don't lie to me! I know you have one! All sane people have one. If you don't, then your life is waaaay too organized and you probably don't read this blog anyway because the sheer unorganized, wackiness of bouncing between barn flies at home and maggots at work would drive you nuts. (but I digress . . .)
It was packed on a shelf, behind old riding boots that I can't wear anymore. One would have thought that like the board game Jumanji, I would have heard drums, but instead, I heard a heart beat. I'm not sure if it was mine, or his . . . but as soon as I saw it, I scaled over pieces of old dog crates, wrapping paper, and Christmas ornaments to reach it.
A moment before I cracked the rusty seal, I started to cry. I knew what was in that can . . . and I thought I'd lost it. The lid groaned as I popped it open. And there it was . . . there he was.
And I stood there and sobbed. I cried and I cried and I cried. Poor Ranger the Blue Heeler rushed into the room to save me from whatever evil had sprung forth from the closet. But as I sat in the floor sobbing, I hugged Ranger and assured him that these were Happy Tears. (a concept completely beyond Ranger's scope)
In 2002 I lost my Soul Dog. I was in district court when I got the call. He was down and couldn't get up, but he held on until I got home. We put him in the back of my 4Runner and I climbed in with him. He was barely conscious, but he laid his great head on my chest, and as my tears soaked through my shirt, I swear that I felt it . . . I felt him . . . soaking into, slipping into, my soul.
And I was okay with that. I missed him horribly. I still do. He wasn't a perfect dog, but he was my Soul Dog. For years when I brushed him, I saved the hair. SOME DAY I was going to get that hair to someone who could spin it into yarn and make a scarf for me so that I could wear my Soul Dog. I saved his hair for years. Then I bought his littermate, and I saved her hair too. Over time, and tervs, the stashes of hair became a bother. I'm not sure when, over the 12 years, I stopped keeping the hair, but I did. I even started throwing hair away. Then I lost him, and by that time, I couldn't find my stashes of his hair.
I mourned that dog like no other, and still do. He didn't just touch my soul, he became a part of my soul. And that's why I found myself sitting on the office floor, holding a rusty tin of dog hair, and sobbing.
I am determined now that Some Day has arrived. The dog and the hair have stood the test of time. God gave me a special gift in that dog. Now it's time to pull that lost tin of hair out of the closet and spin it into yarn. I know that several of you deal with wool sheep. Can anyone point me in the direction of someone who can spin Belgian Tervuren hair? There's a lot of it; it's clean; and it's precious, so very, very precious.
I posted this adventure last fall, and several readers graciously offered to spin my treasure into yarn, but as so often happens, life overwhelmed me again, so I packed the hair away and waited "until life slowed down."
Unfortunately my life never slows down. So my treasure sat in the closet, waiting.
And then a most wonderful angel, Sue in Wyoming, wrote to tell me that she was finally being forced to slow down from a lifetime of sheep ranching.
"Send me your Soul Dog hair," she said.
It was perfect, for although Sue and I have never met in person, like that dog, she has touched my soul. She just "gets" it. Sue looks at the world through a lifetime of living on the land that has developed a deep respect for life and nature. And she knows there are more "things between Heaven and Earth" than most people realize. Each time I receive an email or note from Sue, I burst into tears as I read her words, for they are so beautiful.
So I packaged up my Soul Dog hair and sent it to Sue, trusting that she understood how valuable it was. And she did.
She spun the hair into yarn and is currently knitting a sweater, but yesterday this arrived in the mail.
My head will be warm this winter!
She included a package of sage, and the most beautiful guardian angel card that read:
"Whatever you do,
Each time I wear this I will remember my Soul Dog, and the angel who brought us back together.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
(minus the Border Collie) =
Goat milk soap!
Last week I made my first batch of goat milk soap. This is clearly addictive. I made my second batch this weekend. I will make my third batch NEXT weekend.
(so many fragrances, so little time . . . )
It really isn't that hard.
First you mix up the lye and water. This is the dangerous part, so there are no pictures of that.
Then you mix up your oils (lard, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, whatever oils you want) Still no pictures because I can't take my attention away when working around lye.
Then you blend the lye-water with your oil mixture. When the oils completely coat the lye-water, blend in your goat's milk. Blend, blend, blend until the mixture begins to trace. This means that when you lift your stick blender out of the substance, and droplets fall back into the substance, they will sit on the surface for a moment before they sink back into the substance. (clear? clear as mud?) I'll have someone take pictures next time.
Anyway, when you hit trace, that's when you stir in the fragrance. Ahhhhh. . . the fragrance . . .
After you stir in the fragrance, you dump the mixture into the mold.
I'm not happy with my choice of molds, but it's the best I've got for the time being. The soap mixture will heat up A LOT because of the lye. Put it in a safe place so kids, dogs, cats, and realtors don't get into it. I'm using my oven at the old house because no one is living there now.
Since realtors are showing this house, I put a note on the oven.
Do not disturb! I leave mine uncovered in an oven until the next day.
Let the soap cure overnight and cut it the next day. (some recipes call for a much longer cure time.)
My cutting methods are less than stellar. Clearly I'm a "work-in-progress." I'll get better with practice! (and I forsee a LOT of practice in my future!)
Aahhhh. . . the smell!
I got some really weird patterns on the top of the soap as it cured. I'll have to research this and find out what's going on there.
Let the soap cure for a few weeks before you use it. The longer it cures, the harder it gets.
So there you have it!
From the goat to the tub!
Learning to make soap is an adventure! I cannot begin to tell you how wonderfully satisfying it is. Goat's milk produces a most creamy soap that spoils you for anything else!
And a special "Thank You!" goes out to Karen Buckley and Gil Loe at Rose Cottage Dog Hotel in Greenwood, Louisiana, (www.rosecottagedoghotel.com) for helping out my husband who just had some tire trouble in Lousiana.
He had to get off the highway fast, saw your place with a large horse trailer and took a chance that he could find help there. Bless you!
What are the odds that a man with a Malinois patrol dog would happen to stumble upon people who had Malinois dogs and did bite work? He called me up raving about your son's Malinois. Bless you again for helping him get back on the road. Since he told me that you liked goat milk soap, as soon as this next batch of soap cures, I'll pop a gift basket in the mail!
Thank you again!
Saturday, 08 October 2011
Recently I was at the District Attorney's office in a meeting with a prosecutor. She shared with me that her husband was returning to town from London and could take care of her child if our meeting ran over. I hastened to assure her that his return was much more important than our meeting and we could simply have it another time.
At this point she said something that immediately moved us from strangers to Soul Sisters.
"Oh no! He jetted to London and left me with a full time job and a three year old child, HE can just deal with a three year old baby by himself until I get home!"
And with those words, we became friends. As shameful as it is, I know EXACTLY how she feels. We love our kids, (and our dogs, sheep, goats, cattle, and horses . . .) but when the husband leaves and we have full responsibility of EVERYTHING, women do tend to resent it. (At least me . . . and a certain prosecutor)
It goes like this:
Other Half informs me that he is headed out of town to serve an arrest warrant . . . and he "might" have to stay overnight. CODE: "I will be gone overnight, leaving you with a full time job and more animals than Noah, but I'd rather be four hours away when I confirm this."
Fortunately I understand the code and am not too surprised when he is four hours away before he confirms that yes, he won't make it home tonight. That's okay. I am Woman. Hear me ROAR! Whatever . . .
By the time I get home from work "I AM WOMAN" is tired, and she still has to feed the horses, feed the cows, milk the goats, feed the sheep, and feed the dogs, and do all this while swatting mosquitoes who swarm like flying monkeys threatening to carry off small dogs.
And this is where women have a shift in logic - every little bump in the routine becomes HIS fault . . .
Come home from work. The Flying Monkey Mosquitoes swoop in as I open the main gate. Grrr . . . This must be His fault. Yes, mosquitoes blown in from the marsh must certainly be his fault. Greet happy dogs and head to barn. Open feed bin. Stuart Little the mouse races across the sea of oats. He attempts to shimmey his fat little butt through a crack in the boards. Failing, Stuart dives and begins feverishly digging down through the oats. His little butt is sticking up but he doesn't know this. Stuart is an ostrich in the sand - a mouse, with his ass sicking out of the oats. I could just pick him up by the tail and kill him, but he amuses me, so I scoop around him.
Shovel oats at Husband's Horse who is as long as the Queen Mary ship and has an ass about that broad. On way out of stall, horse rotates around his bucket, planting his big-ass foot squarely on the top of MY foot, effectively pinning me in place. He then proceeds to spin his big-ass-ass around, without removing his big-ass-foot from the top of my foot Thus . . . Big-Ass knocks me down. I land in dirty shavings and horse shit - in my uniform. There is hay and horse shit in the barrel of my gun. Oh! THIS is definitely some man's fault. LOGIC: It is his horse.
Feed the other horses. Cows are bellowing. Stalk back to feed room for cow feed. Grab an open bag. Large fat mouse races out of bag - Stuart Little's cousin. This time I am not nearly as amused. Consider shooting little bastard as he darts across floor. Gun still has horse shit on it. sigh . . . Decide to blame Husband for mouse problem too. LOGIC: They are his cows.
Stalk through the dark toward cattle who are tossing feeders like tinker toys. Heavy metal feeders crash against pipe gates to remind me that they are hungry. Blame this on Husband too.
Refuse to walk into pen and straighten feeders against fence. It is dark. They are big. They are smashing each other. I would simply be collateral damage. After experience with horse, am feeling a bit vulnerable. Laying on the ground in horse poop is a bit different from laying on the ground amid dozens of impatient cow hooves. (Would then need Blue Heeler to rescue me.) Opt to throw feed over fence and hope it hits feeder. If not, too bad for cows - they shouldn't play bumper cars with their feeders. Blame Other Half for this too. LOGIC: They are his cows.
Settle down to milk goat. Ahhhhh peace . . . But wait! Freakin' Flyin' Monkey Mosquitoes attempt to take me and goat back to Oz. Goat is not amused. Miserable milking for both of us. Wonder how I can blame this on him too, since he is most certainly clean and not swatting bugs at this moment. Failing in that leap of logic, go inside and strain milk.
Feed dogs and get ready for bed. Shower and crawl in nice cool bed. Border Collie settles in beside me. Other Half calls. Will serve warrant first thing in the morning. He is laying in a clean hotel bed with the air conditioner blowing at 59 degrees. Patrol Dog is curled up in the bed with him. Icicles are on her nose.
Exchange details of our days. His day did not involve rodents, mosquitoes, or falling in horse poop. On the other hand, he is in a strange bed, in a strange town, and he keeps getting lost trying to find the police station. The dog beside me sighs with contentment. I think on it for a second and decide that perhaps Other Half did get the short end of the stick. Despite the time spent staring at the other side across the fence, despite the rodents, the mosquitoes, and the hungry animals, a hotel is still a hotel, and Home is still home. And Dorothy was right, there's no place like home.
Friday, 07 October 2011
On this farm there is a hierarchy of power. Let us examine this further. Take for instance, the power struggle over the willow branch. Yes, a willow tree branch.
Our dogs are like children who receive an expensive birthday present and proceed to play with the box it came in.
A stick off the ground is better than any toy from the feed store. (and lasts longer)
But herein comes the power struggle. Top Hand, the most useful dog on the ranch, has the willow branch.
She loses it to largest dog on the ranch.
Who promptly loses it . . .
. . . to smallest dog on the ranch.
"There is something so grossly unfair about all this."
Tuesday, 04 October 2011
Having a ranch is not about having room for eight dogs to run.
(Obligatory puppy picture!)
It's not about having sheep, goats, and cattle for the Border Collies.
Farming and ranching is about this:
Well, it's not really about yogurt. It's about food! If you have a farm then you can raise your own food! Food that didn't travel across the ocean can land in your bowl! Food that wasn't abused can fill your plate. Food that was loved and never lived in fear can be yours if you just care to take a little bit more trouble than running to Kroger's.
I should run for president!
If I'm elected, I promise that every family will have a dairy goat and three chickens! And no one in this nation will ever go hungry again!
Okay, she's right. I'm not organized enough to be president, and they would frown on goats and dogs running around the White House. So scratch that. (But I still think it's a good idea.)
Dairy goats and chickens will fit into most suburban back yards. Sadly, Homeowner's Associations would strike them down. Daughter lives in one of those wretched fancy places. She tried to keep three little hens in the Pretty-People Neighborhood. These were quiet hens in a very clean pen. A neighbor peeked over the fence, saw the little hens, raised a stink, and she was forced to give them to us. So sad . . .
Our nation has become so dependent upon grocery stores that even having a couple of chickens is against the law in many places. Our Founding Fathers are probably rolling in their graves.
(Gratuitous puppy pictures)
Now back to our regularly scheduled program! Where were we? OH! Yogurt!
If you are blessed with access to a dairy goat or cow, yogurt is ridiculously easy to make. Even "I" can make yogurt. It's THAT easy!
I highly recommend one of these bad-boys:
I just followed the directions. (roughly) It said heat a quart of milk to 180 degrees, then let it cool down to 108 degrees. That sounds simple doesn't it. (not really)
Using a glass pot, I heated the milk to 180 degrees and removed it from the heat. The temperature promptly continued to climb toward 200 degrees. (oh crap!)
So I plopped it in some cool water in the sink and put ice in the water. This brought it down to 108 degrees. (whew!)
Then I dissolved the 5 gram packet of starter mix (provided in the kit) with some lukewarm milk. From now on I can just keep some yogurt and use that as a starter. Mix the starter milk with the rest of the milk. Pour it all in the yogotherm (glorified styrofoam ice bucket) and put it on top of the refriegerator.
It says it only takes 4 1/2 hours. Wrong. I put it in at 4:30 pm. I checked it at 10:30 pm. It was still thick milk. Figuring I got it too hot and killed the starter, it was destined for dog food, so I set it out on the kitchen counter for the night.
By 8:00 am I was ready to pour it out for the dogs, but wait! Much to my surprise, I had nice thick yogurt! (from goat's milk!)
So there ya go! Even "I" can make yogurt, so I know YOU can!
Monday, 03 October 2011
After an extensive search through every pet supply store around here, I went to Bass Pro Shop to buy Dillon a camouflage puppy collar. Finding a suitable collar wasn't too hard. After all, in Bass Pro Shop, your choices are camouflage or neon orange. That's it.
I was in a hurry, (What's new?) so I grabbed the collar and ran to the checkout. Now here's where it gets a bit strange. . .
I'm standing in the checkout line at a major hunting/fishing manly-man guy store when I just happen to read the warning label on the puppy collar.
Am I the only one who was dumbfounded by this?
I'm just askin'. . .
Saturday, 01 October 2011
I was at a law enforcement K9 seminar once when they got to talking about how dogs are tools in your tool box and like a well-stocked tool box, each dog should have its unique skills. Someone mentioned using a Trailing Bloodhound as a Cadaver Dog and someone else said something I shall never forgot.
"That's like using your finest wood chisel to open a paint can."
Like a Leatherman tool, a multi-tasking dog is great, but if you have real work to be done, it's nice to have a dog that can excel at the job it was bred to do. That said, Other Half and I are blessed with two well-paying jobs and so when a dog isn't stellar, we don't trash the dog. We work around their limitations.
Here are the dogs in our tool box:
Ranger the Blue Heeler:
Cow Dog. Good for dangerous jobs because he is least likely to be killed by a cow. Not useful for anything that requires "thinking outside the box."
Lily the Border Collie:
Top Hand. Most useful stockdog. Good on cattle, sheep, & goats. Excellent for jobs that require finesse. Not good for distance work because she always "checks back" with handler.
Trace the Border Collie puppy:
Very green but has more raw talent than Top Hand Border Collie. Better at distance work now, but lacks finesse because he gets excited and forgets to listen. Is not used on cattle at all yet.
Cowboy the Rescue Border Collie:
Picked up as a rescue. Does a decent job on cattle but has no distance work or finesse whatsoever. Fortunately for him, despite the fact that he isn't a great working dog, he has excellent "suck-up" skills and Other Half loves him dearly, thus he has a Forever Home.
Briar the Livestock Guardian Dog:
Her only job is to guard the sheep & goats. Bonus is that she guards the farmyard.
Oli the Belgian Malinois:
No, she's not an ugly German Shepherd. She is a $6000 police dog who has always looked like an SPCA commercial. She is a currently working Narcotics and Patrol Dog. She has no other job and cannot be trusted around any hooved livestock.
Ice the Black Belgian Tervuren:
Yes, she is a Terv. She was born a black dog in a litter of brown dogs. Ice had a career as a Narcotics Dog but was too spacey to be consistent so she was re-homed with me because one of her littermates was my working Cadaver Dog (he was not spacey!) Ice has absolutely no job in our family, but we love her and are her Forever Home.
Dillon the Labrador puppy:
Bred to be a hunting dog, Dillon is the only "recreation" dog. It would have been really nice if one of the other dogs had the ability to hunt dove, ducks, and geese, but alas, not one of the herding dogs has any interest in being an accessory to murder. (I'm just sayin' . . . )
And this, Friends & Neighbors, is why the boys don't take me hunting with them.