Saturday, February 26, 2011

Drift

It's been a snowy February for us. We are entering our third week with snow on the ground which presents some hazards and impediments to the work day. The biggest issue right now is the wind drifting the snow over the road.

When you have a fallow field covered in very powdery snow, the wind can move all the snow on the field surprisingly quickly and before you know it the roads are too deep to drive through. To make things more difficult, the wind keeps changing so the snow drifts in from multiple directions. I haven't been around the ranch long by comparison, but I've never seen the snow drift like this before though I had heard stories about being snowed-in. I talked with the neighbor the other day and she said the snow was drifting in places she had never seen before in her whole life so maybe I am not too far off-base in my "this is crazy weather" observations.

Lloyd and Nathan have been faithfully plowing the roads with the little Oliver and the chained-up road grader.  If the wind is not bad overnight we can make it to the haysheds to feed but between there and the pavement is travel-at-your own risk. Good thing we went to town a few days ago to stock up on supplies.

IMG_5613
Nathan got an early start on road clearing last week with the Oliver before the next storm system dumped yet more snow on us.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Oh Snow

IMG_5536

Overnight forecast said gusty winds, 60% chance rain, 20% chance of snow showers. The power started flickering off and on at 5 am and went out completely by 5:30. That happens sometimes when it is windy but when I stumbled out of bed to find six inches of snow on the ground it was quite unexpected. Since I'm sick with a cold, Nathan took care of the chores, bundled me up next to the fire and made me pancakes on the wood stove. He's a keeper that one.

IMG_5533


IMG_5529



How quickly the weather changes. Just the other day it was blue sky and sunshine while the boys worked on replacing the truck bed.


Within an hour of this photo, the clothesline crumpled under the weight of the snow. Nathan got it all patched up again though later in the afternoon.

Lloyd had the foresight yesterday to haul out round bales to the assorted groups of cattle so the heifers on the hill had a meal in their bellies and a soft hay pile for rest. I asked Nathan last night to herd Pa-pa the peacock into the chicken coop because it was supposed to be so windy overnight and he's taken to roosting in the trees. Glad he went inside, it would have been a chilly night.

Brr! Yet another reminder that it is still very much wintertime, no matter that I have seedlings started in the sunroom and chicks to show up next week. I'll just have to adapt.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winter repairs and maintenance

Winter is the time of year when the fields are put to rest, the cows are brought in to feed and the shorter days put us to bed sooner. For these reasons, winter is also the time of year where we spend time repairing and maintaining equipment. That way everything is up and ready to go by spring time.

The latest project has been on the list for years, something we've talked about many times but just never got started on it. It always amazes me when we start on a project like this, a big one that has caused much stress over time, and it takes relatively little time to complete the task and move on to the next.

Simple in theory we wanted to take off the bed from one of our Ford F250 pickups and replace it with a flatbed that was purchased many years ago for this project. Having a flatbed pickup around would be immensely helpful for a variety of tasks including hauling round bales and with the sides put on, hauling manure. This heavy duty bed also has a hydraulic lift on it too for easy dumping. Now if only we had done this project a few weeks ago when we hauled home the coop for Frieda and her chicken friends...

IMG_5245

It took a couple days to get the old bed off, the new bed off the prior frame, lots of measuring and many intricacies involving the cutting torch and the welder but the extreme pickup makeover is now complete and Lloyd and Nathan seem really happy about getting it done. Sometimes it is more work stressing about starting a project than it is to actually get started.

IMG_5526
Frieda makes herself useful as a turkey mechanic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ranch miscellany

Sorry posting has been sparse. The last few weeks have been very busy around the ranch and after working on taxes the last few days until I was about cross-eyed, I haven't had much "umph" to stare at the computer some more and come up with a cohesive, thoughtful post. So while my brain takes some time to recover and I head to Portland for our monthly CSA drop, here's a rather un-cohesive, scatterbrained, amalgamation of images I've taken over the last few weeks:


IMG_5322
Feeding yearling heifers at the Little Hay Shed


IMG_5280
Frieda the stately turkey


IMG_5412
Trying to take photos of the sunset as we bumped our way down the driveway


IMG_5443
Normally such lapses in judgment result in images like this one. Don't stare too long, it makes me dizzy in just a glance but I can't stop looking!


IMG_5347
Nathan and Jake coming up with a strategy to round up the brood cows


IMG_5318
Dipping fuel tanks

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ranch recipes: Honey Dijon Chicken

I like chicken but we don't really eat much of it out here at the ranch. Most of what we produce goes into our CSA member shares but once in a while the chicken plucker plays a little rough and breaks a leg. These parts are no so pretty and can't be packed in the shares - though I am sure CSA member Rick would take as many broken chicken legs as I could "wing" at him (he's a bit of a chicken fanatic) but then I would have no janky chicken parts for myself and I am just selfish like that. Sorry Rick!

After a long day of assorted, exhausting farm chores, this Honey Dijon Chicken was so yummy I forgot to take a photo to entice you to prepare it for yourself. You will just have to trust me on this one, OK? It is good. Here's the cast of characters:

Chicken: I used two, skin-on chicken legs with extra character - one where the "knee" between the thigh and drumstick as messed up so the drumstick stuck straight out like it was goose-stepping and one where the drumstick was essentially stick-less. If you can't find chicken with so much character, a half chicken, legs or assorted parts would work too.

Butter: I said it was tasty, not necessarily low-cal. I used 5 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. Maybe it was 6. I was eye-balling it.

Honey: We recently received some honey from Steve that he got on his trip to Baja this winter. It is supposedly some rare honey collected from bat caves in Mexico. Good news is that the honey tasted of neither bats nor caves but of the smokey mesquite trees the bees worked to make the smokey bat cave honey. If you can't find a dark, rich mesquite honey, a lighter honey would do the trick but I thought the smokey-ness was a good addition. Maybe a drop of liquid smoke to compensate? Anyway, I used about a third of a cup of honey.

Mustard: Any type of dijon mustard should work. All I had on hand was some off-brand dijon and it seemed to do the trick. I used about a 1/4 cup.

Curry powder: Just enough for for some nice background flavors without being too overwhelming curry-y. I used about 2 teaspoons.

For those of you that prefer ingredient lists set apart from rambly paragraphs, here's what we've got:

Honey Dijon Chicken

- 2 chicken legs
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 2 tsp curry powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in a 9x9 baking dish.
2. In a small bowl or saucepan, melt butter and honey together. Add dijon and curry powder. Pour sauce over chicken.
3. Cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes while basting with sauce every 10-15 minutes. Chicken is done when golden brown and juices run clear. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

For added deliciousness, once the chicken was removed from the pan, Nathan poured the sauce into a saucepan and whisked on the stove with a little flour and milk to make a honey dijon gravy. We poured the gravy over home fries - it sounds weird I know, the whole pouring gravy over french fries thing, but as resident Canada expert, Adam, has confirmed: not only do Canadians eat gravy on fries (called poutine), it is actually tasty. And I can confirm that this honey dijon gravy was tasty too, fries or not. It would also make an interesting twist poured over mashed potatoes. 

So there you have it, a satisfying chicken dish with relatively few ingredients and mild, kid-friendly flavors, well that is unless they dislike the taste of bats...

Cheers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My friend Freda; The turkey dog

Recently some friends, Josh and Natascha, had to move and would be unable to take their 30 chickens and one turkey so we offered a home at the ranch for their fluffy friends. There are lots of interesting personalities in the bunch but the stand out is Frieda, the Bourbon Red turkey. I've had little experience with turkeys and we were considering raising them so I had no idea what to expect. What a joy she is to have around though!

She is just as attentive (and needy) as a good farm dog - making pips and squeaks and squaks when a car or new person shows up. She sounds the alarm whenever anyone heads near the beer fridge in the cellar. She will follow you around all day and is disgruntled when you go inside without her. Then she will sit on the porch and peer in through the window at you while making sad turkey noises. But perhaps her most endearing quality is that like any companion dog, she's quite the lap-turkey. She loves to invite herself onto your lap, curl up and be petted until she falls asleep. Some days she is the perfect distraction to remind me to slow down and enjoy some quality time with the animals that fill my days.

IMG_5405
A shares a  moment with Frieda the lap-turkey.