Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bank Full

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Water, water everywhere. It's been raining on and off the last week or so but last night, the sky opened up and it just dumped on the ranch. We woke up the next morning to find a little water in the ponds. OK I lied, the ponds were so full they were spilling over. We had waterfalls roaring over the rimrock, racing through the canyons, we have water in the sod waterway which is something Nathan remembers only in childhood, ponds that I didn't even know existed are full and there are little springs seeping out of the ground all over the place.

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We've had water in the lower pond just about all year with our unseasonably wet year but this was the fullest Nathan or I have seen the pond. So full that it ran over along the side of the berm and down the canyon.

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Closer inspection of the dam itself showed that the water was finding other ways to escape via some rodent tunnels. On the pond side of the dam the only indication is this small hole with a swirl of water and a sucking sound.

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But one the other side of the dam it is pretty apparent that that's not the constructed outfall spilling all that water.

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Here Nathan and my uncle Mike survey the damage. My aunt Kate and Mike were out for the weekend in hope of catching a good view of the Geminid meteor shower. I think we can guess how well that turned out though Kate did catch a few meteors through the clouds.

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As for the dam, not too much we can do right now; it doesn't appear to be very structurally compromised at this point but we will have to watch and see. Come summer time we've got one more project on the never-ending list.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ranch guests: Ian and Lauren part two

Our ever delightful friends Ian and Lauren took a detour on their annual winter trek to visit Ian's folks to spend some time out at the ranch. They both have high stress jobs complete with long hours and a two hour commute in California traffic. We like to think they enjoy the slower pace of ranch life.

Even though it dipped into the single digits and snowed, they are always enthusiastic about chores and visiting all the animals.

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The three little pigs were a bit confused about the snow and skeptical to leave their hog house but came out for a visit anyway.

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Some warm breakfast cereal and pets are usually a good enticement.

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Chipping ice on the water bucket

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After feeding the pigs it was time to check on the cattle and make sure they had water. They had water but they had also let themselves out of the pasture by plowing through a low spot in the fence. Time for an impromptu rodeo and fence repair. The dog lives for impromptu rodeos and will start to make this weird high pitch whine-yelp when she sees stray cows until you tell her it is OK to go get them. She happily obliges!

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Here Lauren faces off with Butterfly. Don't let her small stature fool you; Lauren has a serious knack for showing the cattle who is boss. One wave of those red mittens and Butterfly turned right around and headed back through the fence.

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Lauren showed off her power over the cattle again later when we opened a gate to move a calf back in with the herd. The cows know an open gate means it is time to go through said gate but Lauren put the kabash on that notion and single-handedly kept the entire herd away from the gate with a few flicks of her mittens. She's maxed her "Moving cattle" skill, we will have to get her in the sorting pen next time.

Ian and Lauren may think that they are for a relaxing time filled with the nostalgia for a simpler time. Really though they are ranch hands in training, they just don't know it. Come see us again soon you guys. Lauren's got some cows to sort :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not forgotten

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Dear blog (and delightful blog readers),
I have not forgotten about you and have actually missed you very much. I am so sorry I have neglected you. If it makes you feel better, my email is very neglected too - I have about a two to three week backlog there as well, I still have to tell D I found her socks and Jarom that I will bring his hat. For the blog I have great photos to share of our friends Ian and Lauren and their recent ranch visit as well as more snow photos from when temps dipped into the single digits last week.

I will return to regular posts soon, but it might be a week or so, so hang in there. Perhaps you could try your hand at the Guessing Game post or read through the archives (can you believe the blog is almost a year old?) to tide you over. I will be back soon.

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guessing game - past their prime

Who (aside from Jarom or Rachel) can tell me what these are?

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Update: Lori is super close with her guess in the comment section.

Does anyone want to elaborate on:
1) What these are?
2) What is their purpose?
3) Why do we have a big pile of them?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

When taking pictures of cattle...

Keep in mind that:

1) They are very interested in why you are laying on the ground
2) They move very fast when their interest is engaged
3) If you are not fast enough to leave the pen, you may end up with some cow slobber in your hair

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Snow

It snowed yesterday.

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A maple samara (or "helicopter" depending on what side of the technical jargon line you follow) pinned to the skylight window under a light blanket of snow.

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It didn't stick around for long, just enough to give everything a good dusting and remind me to put another log on the fire.

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We've been blessed by mild weather and a few rainstorms this fall, but not too many crisp days to prepare us for winter.


I'm ready now. More snow please.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Digging taters

On a recent visit we solicited our unsuspecting (but always supportive) guests Jarom and Rachel for a morning of labor out in the potato patches. We started up on the flat where there is a narrow strip next to the alfalfa where the irrigation just barely waters the soil. No special treatment for these spuds, we just tossed them in the ground and walked away. Miracles that they are, they still produced a bounty of potatoes even under such neglectful circumstances.

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Jarom unearths the first tubers from their hard packed clay refuge.

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The crew scrabbling about looking for taters.

Hauling in some of the bounty to the truck.



Once we had harvested all the potatoes up on the flat we returned to the house for easier digging for slightly less neglected plants. Save the best for last right? After only a handful of plants, Jarom and Rachel have a half full tub of big Russets and after a whole morning of lower back strain and dirty jeans we have enough potatoes to keep us in the starch for a long, long while.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sunrise salutations


The other day Rachel and I rolled out of bed, bundled up and headed out extra early for a sunrise walk around the canyon rim. We spotted a few deer here and there but not much wildlife overall and since the sky was mostly clear, there weren't many clouds to create a really fantastic color splash. But it was still a memorable experience. We could see tons of stars and other than cattle calling their own morning greetings to each other, it was pure silence. The mornings are just so calm and peaceful, it is impossible to start your own day without feeling calm and collected as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy birthday whales!

The happiest trash you ever did see

Another example of how outside reality creeps into our isolated world out here on the ranch. A big round of Happy Birthday Whales for this smiling beacon we spotted fluttering in the wind, spreading cheer to the wild things that inhabit one of the many isolated canyons on the ranch. More jeer than cheer from me though as I deflate the syrupy happiness with a quick jab of my pocketknife and stuff the mylar mess into my pocket.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cool things I see when my camera is at home - Part 3

A slight twist on the leaving your camera at home theme, today I wanted to talk about cool things I miss even when I have my camera with me.

We went out to check on the cows and bring some more mineral salt for them. On the way home, the 4-wheeler ran out of gas but luckily there was still some fuel in the reserve tank so we got to take the scenic view home and experience our own little safari.

We saw a couple mule deer. They must know that hunting season opens soon; they bounded down the hill at top speed.

We saw this curious coyote. Only because he was so curious about us did I stand a chance at a photo:

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We flushed a few small groups of chukars (an introduced and now naturalized gamebird). They were way too fast for a photo.

We also flushed a single Hungarian partridge. It was gone before I even thought to take a photo.

And since it was the day before deer season opens, we saw a large herd of deer way across Forman canyon.

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But when I get the camera home and look at the photos on the computer, these weren't deer.

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Why it is a herd of Barbary sheep and judging by how many heads are turned this way, I've no doubt that they saw us too. This is how close most people get when they encounter the auodads; spotted from across the canyon. But this brings my lifetime Barbary sheep sightings to two in as many days. Pretty good.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cool things I see when my camera is at home - Part 2

How frustrating to always see cool stuff and not have a camera on your person.

The other day while Nathan and I were up feeding pigs, I glanced to the west and saw a head bobbing along the horizon. In a few moments he came into view - silouetted in full profile against the morning sky. It was a ram.

Neither Nathan nor myself have ever seen these elusive Barbary sheep, also known as aoudad, (though they are really caprids, a type of goat-antelope) that live along the canyon edges - Jake and Steve saw them on a hike, Lloyd and Allison see them on evening scooter rides, Jerry has tracked them through the snow - but they have always been on that list of things I have never seen.

The ram was beautiful; he had smooth arched horns and a tawny colored coat that was shaggy at the throat and belly. He we very calm and walked right over the ridge towards us. He knew that we were watching him and he would turn his head to look at us. He even let us follow him until we came over a ridge and spooked him; then he bolted up the hill.

Barbary sheep are not native to Oregon. They can be found at an exotic game ranch nearby. Even though they are introduced species and we do see the impact of the Barbary's near the canyon edges, I couldn't help but be amazed at the beauty and confidence of this ram. What a wonderful experience to get to see him up close and personal instead of up on a cliff wall far in the distance.

Some day I will have my camera with me and have a nice photo of my own, but until then at least you will know what he looked like:

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cool things I see when my camera is at home

It is almost a guarantee that if I leave my camera at home or if the batteries are dead, I will see something cool that I want to remember or share.

Nathan came in the other day with the coolest looking caterpillar (I'm a bug nerd, deal with it). It was huge (maybe about the size of my pinkie) and slate grey in color. It had two orange "false eyes" and when you gave it a gentle poke it would pull it's head inside the body which would stretch out the orange eyes. Then as it held on to the branch or finger with the lower legs the head would waggle around. What a cool bug!

I go get my camera - just a few quick changes to the white balance and shutter speed and CLICK. The lens retracted back into the body and a red light let's me know that the batteries are dead. I put the batteries on the charger and the cool caterpillar in an old terrarium so I can take pictures tomorrow.

I go to check on my photographic muse the next day and he is hanging upside down and his head has fallen off.

He decided this was just the perfect spot to pupate and spun a little hammock and went to reorganizing his internal parts. Not only do I have no photos of my totally awesome caterpillar friend, now I have to wait until spring until we can hang out again. Bah! I hate it when nature does not abide by my arbitrary schedule.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Curly tails and snuffle noses

We picked up some new weaner pigs the other day. Whenever we introduce new pigs we like to have them separated from the main herd just so everyone can safely get acquainted across the fence. These groups are all full blood sisters out of the same boar and sow from a neighboring ranch (the big pigs are the spring litter and little pigs the fall litter) and are half Berkshire, quarter Hampshire and quarter Large Black.

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Nathan and Jarom building the temporary nursery pen inside the larger pig pasture.

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These little gals are quite squirmy and they make the most unbelievable squeal when you pick them up. The safest way to carry piglets this size (for pig and person) is to hold it upside down hanging on to opposite legs. They are calmer this way are only upside down for a few quick steps from the truck to their pens.

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The big pigs are very interested in this new pens of weaner pigs and there is lots of grunting, squealing and nose touching. Pigs are very social animals and once they get their differences worked out they would much rather to live as one big family group. For the first few nights after we brought the new pigs home, the big pigs slept in a pile of straw next to the pen instead of inside their pig house.

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Little pigs enjoy some fresh cut clover and tasty squash.

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We don't want the big pigs feeling neglected now do we?

CSA member submitted recipes: Hawaiian Chicken

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Our delightful friend and Meat CSA member, Rachel sent along this yummy recipe for how she cooked up some of the pastured poultry from her share. Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing Rachel!

Hawaiian Chicken
Courtesy: Rachel Mills


- 2 chicken legs or 4 boneless thighs (skin removed)
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup water
- pineapple chunks, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place legs/thighs in square glass baking dish. Slice onion to desired thickness and add to baking dish.

2. In a medium saucepan add soy sauce, garlic, sugar, mustard, ginger, butter and water. Bring to a boil, immediately pour over chicken. Bake for one hour or until cooked through, periodically basting chicken with sauce. Pineapple chunks may be added to the dish for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. Serve chicken over rice and vegetables.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Ranch recipes: grass finished sesame beef

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Out at the ranch, you get used to not being able to hop in the car and go out for dinner. There is no such thing as picking up Chinese or pizza to save time on dinner prep since the closest restaurants are are least 45 minutes away. But sometimes I really crave good Chinese - not the greasy, deep fried stuff with gloppy sauce but healthy, flavorful meals with unique flavors. Here's a very simple recipe that hits the spot.

Grass finished sesame beef

- 1 pound grass finished beef sliced thin or into strips (I used sirloin steaks but you could use economy cuts like round or cube steaks, just add a little meat tenderizer to the marinade)
- 3Tbsp soy sauce
- 2Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil (for cooking)
- 2 cups chopped stir fry vegetables (I'm a fan of onions, thin sliced carrots, broccoli pieces and green beans)
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds

Directions
1. In a glass bowl (or zipper bag) combine beef strips, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, brown sugar and ground pepper. Mix thoroughly, cover and refrigerate at least and hour (or overnight or while you are at work).

2. Quickly stir fry vegetables in sesame oil over medium high heat until they are mostly cooked but still al dente. Remove vegetable to a platter and cover. Return pan to stove, add beef and marinade and cook slowly over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in vegetables and cook another five minutes or until beef is cooked through and vegetables are done. Season to taste, top with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles.

Cheers!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weddings and anniversaries

A bit off topic from my normal "life on the ranch" theme today.

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My little brother got married last week. It was a very sweet ceremony. They really made it their own; you could see their personality in all the little details. It started to pour just as the ceremony started (a new rainfall record for the day!). All of the guests were under a tent but the wedding party was not covered. Didn't matter though, those two just beamed through the whole thing.

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I was having issues getting enough light for the camera to make non-blurry photos. Ironically enough, my best shot of him is one of those "Ahh it is my wedding day, I am so stressed out" moments. He doesn't read the blog anyways so I am sure he won't mind me sharing.

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But just so it doesn't seem like I am picking on him. Here's one of my finer moments from my wedding:

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Looks like I am about ready to club the photographer.

Aww. Little bro is all grown up now. Now those two can help diffuse the "when are you going to have kids?" nagging Nathan and I get all the time. Here's me and my man of honor on my special day:

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Speaking of special day, today is Nathan and my anniversary. Five years. I'm not sure if you asked me on my wedding day where I would be in five years, if I would have imagined the life I have today. Since that day we've graduated college, moved several times for several jobs and finally decided to follow our hearts out to the ranch. Nowadays, I can't imagine my life being anything different.

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Here's to many more. Cheers!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ranch recipes: Beep noodles

I will admit it. Mac and cheese is hands down my favorite comfort food. Not the orange stuff in the box (though I did put in my time with the blue box growing up) but real, homemade cheesy goodness. Though I cannot foresee ever tiring of such a delicious treat, sometimes it is nice to mix things up. Hence the following recipe for what we call "Beep Noodles" aka Cheesy Beet Pasta.

OK a word about beets or "beeps" if the very word sends shivers to your soul. These root vegetables related to spinach and chard don't have many friends in the food world. I think many people have had bad experiences with beets (especially pickled beets) including Nathan but beets are a great vegetable. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals (including fiber, folate which is important in pregnancy and contain compounds that may be helpful in preventing certain types of cancer like colon and stomach cancer) and because they are naturally sweet it means they they don't taste too vegetable-y making them a great vegetable for kids and finicky eaters.

This recipe starts with a basic mac and cheese recipe: cook pasta toss with butter, milk, cheese and spices but the addition of boiled or steamed beets at the end results in an amazing presentation that even kids are excited about eating.


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Ok, are you ready to give beets a try? Even you, oh friend of ours that doesn't eat vegetables? It is really good I promise. Don't worry, if you can't get up the courage yourself I will make it for your November visit. Nom!


Beep Noodles
Remember to season to taste, measurements are approximate

- 2 medium beets, tops removed, peeled and chopped small (they stain FYI, wear gloves unless you want purple fingernails)
- Macaroni or some kind of swirly/squiggily pasta
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 c milk
- 1-1.5 cups shredded cheese (cheddar is good, smoked or sharp or a creamy Jack)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3/4 tsp mustard powder (or 1-2 Tbsp prepared dijon)
- 2 cloves garlic
- chopped basil or parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Steam or boil beets until tender (10-15 minutes). If you are boiling the beets, adding a little lemon juice or white vinegar (1-2 Tbsp) to the water will prevent the beets from bleeding. Once fork tender, drain beets, mash roughly with a fork and set aside.

2. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and return to pot on stove. Turn burner to low and add butter, milk and cheese. Stir constantly until cheese begins to melt and sauce thickens, clinging to the noodles. Add salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and beets. Stir to combine, season to taste and serve. Beep noodles make a beautiful side dish  or you could add cubed chicken or sausage for a casserole type meal. Cheers!