Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the paddy

It's summer time which means we are irrigating our hay crops to make forage for the cattle herd this winter. After being irrigated for 12 hours, the fields can be pretty marshy in some spots. Normally one wears special over boots nicknamed "Irrigators" to keep shoes and pant cuffs dry but Nathan had already taken off his work boots and slipped into sandals for the evening and so come time to move irrigation he just slurked and slopped across the field to the wheeline. There were a few moments there when he was stooped over and the sun was hitting the grass just so that both Lloyd and I (of course watching from a safe, dry distance) commented that it looked like something straight out of Vietnam. We all laughed at Nathan's "Paddy Feet" - covered in three inches of sticky mud. I wasn't fast enough to get a photo of that but I did manage to snap a shot of him rinsing off at the valve opener.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CSA member submitted recipes: Fakey Beef Wellington

I am constantly on the lookout for new and interesting ways to use ground beef. For one, I have several hundred pounds of it in the freezers at any given time so we eat a lot of the stuff. Each beef we harvest yields between 125 and 175 pounds of ground beef (depending on how the meat cuts are broken down) so our CSA members see quite a bit of hamburger in their shares (averaging 2.5 pounds of ground per 10lbs per month). Our grass finished ground beef is nice and lean so the rich, meaty flavor is not masked by a higher fat content. 

Nevertheless, even though the ground beef has such a wonderful flavor, after too many meals of the same old hamburgers, tacos and spaghetti, it is easy to become bored of the stuff.

When our friends Ian and Lauren visited this spring, Lauren brought recipes for her "ground beef greatest hits" - meals that push beyond the standard ground beef fare. The following recipe is not only easy and delicious but also inspiring to step outside of the normal, go-to ground beef recipes once in a while. 


Lauren's Individual "Fakey" Beef Wellington
adapted from AllRecipes.com

Makes four individual servings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent rolls

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel seed and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute more. Meanwhile, beat the egg in a bowl, then mix in the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, and salt. Add the cooked vegetable mixture, and stir until combined.
  3. Separate the crescent roll dough into two squares. Divide the meat mixture among the crescent roll squares, then seal the dough around the meat. Place seam-side-down onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry has turned golden-brown, and the center of the pastries registers 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) on a kitchen thermometer, about 30 minutes. Slice and serve.  

The fennel and the beef go so well together and by using the refrigerated crescent roll dough, the meal came together quick and easy. Puff pastry or philo dough would work well too and can be found in the refrigerated section of the market if you aren't keen the rolling and folding and chilling and rolling and folding and chilling involved in making puff pastry at home. So spice up your weeknight menu or invite some friends over for an economical, yet elegant meal. Thanks so much Lauren for sharing!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recipe challenge!

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What do the following meals have in common?

-         Cheesy hamburger slumguillion
-         Creamy balsamic chicken with fennel and tarragon (pictured)
-         Whole wheat spaghetti with mini turkey meatballs

It may not look like it but all three of these meals are one-pan wonders, on the table in 30 minutes and follow the same recipe. Last month when I shared the slumguillion recipe I commented on how infinitely adaptable it was, making it the perfect weeknight meal. The basic recipe is as follows:

-         1/2 to 1 lb meat (or meat substitute or veggies)
-         3 cups liquid (water, milk, beer, wine, stock, tomato sauce and so forth)
-         2 to 2.5 cups pasta (rice or other grains would work too but I am a pasta gal. Break spaghetti into 3 pieces and stir frequently to avoid clumping)
-         Chopped veggies (optional)
-         1-2 Tablespoons corn starch (if a thick sauce is preferred)
-         Herbs, spices and seasonings (1-2 TBSP total)
-         Cheese as a topping (optional)

Cook meat/veggies. Add liquid, pasta, seasonings and cornstarch. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook covered for 12-15 minutes, stirring frequently, or until pasta is done. Turn off heat, add cheese if desired and let stand 3-5 minutes for cheese to melt and sauce to thicken.



Which brings me to our recipe challenge for the week; it’s a Slumguillion Shindig!

The challenge: Create, cook and share a recipe that follows the slumgullion formula. Down-home, country cooking or high-end, white linens, a mingle of ethnic flavors or a menagerie of refrigerator refugees - it doesn’t matter which road you take, get inspired and spend some time in the kitchen for some creative cooking.

The rules: One recipe per person. Please send your recipe (ingredient list and cooking steps, maybe a photo too if you have the chance but that is not required) to ranchsteady AT gmail DOT com by Wednesday July 6th Sunday, July 10th (deadline extended) at 8:00 PM Pacific time. Once all recipes are received, we’ll vote on a winner and post the recipes on the blog.

Happy cooking!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Antelope Antelope

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In my years at the ranch I have seen the pronghorn antelope many times but when I have my camera on me they are really, really far away and come out as blurry shapes. "It's an antelope! See these squiggles here are the horns...." When my camera is at home, I always see quiet, un-flighty critters - laying in the road, lazily chewing their cud, not a care in the world.

When I headed into town the other day there was a small group of antelope hanging out on the neighbor's near the road. Of course I had left my camera at home. It never fails! But then I remembered that I had my camera in my bag (I was supposed to take photos of the CSA drop a while back, and must have forgot I had the camera then too since I took a total of zero photos). There it was, hidden beneath an eclectic mix of  gloves, rags, granola bars, ear plugs, pocket knives and baling twine (a country gal has different purse inhabitants than city folk).

The camera must have been hidden so well that the antelope didn't notice its presence and let me happily snap away from my car. There were four head in this group: two does, a fawn and a buck.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

The fancy dance

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PaPa the Peacock was giving quite the show for himself in the plate glass window. I managed to take one photo through the scrungy glass before he recognized the intrusion and abruptly ended the performance. Luckily, one shot was all I needed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dogs

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I received several comments yesterday about our stance on no dogs at the ranch. By no means did I intend for this policy to offend or exclude guests of the ranch. Nathan and I have since discussed this issue and do believe that a revised policy is in order.

I meant no offense to dog owners and 99% of the time there is not an issue but there will come a day when something big happens. The vast majority of our guests have very well behaved and closely supervised dogs. What I worry about is those moments when the pup slips out of sight and gets into trouble - finding and eating poison, getting caught in a trap, cornering a rattlesnake or taking off after an animal only to get lost. The ranch can be a dangerous place for city dogs.

On the other hand, pets have the potential to be a liability out here. I have seen dogs of all levels of manners and training chase after chickens, kill wildlife and terrorize my pets. It is my job as a good animal steward to protect my stock from danger. What happens when someone's dog gets into one of the chicken pens? A whole pen of chickens has a market value of over $1,000. Do I strain the friendship, recoup my losses and hope our CSA members understand? (The members own the chickens not us). Or do I strain the business and the livelihood of our families? I can't help not thinking about these things, it is part of running a business - being able to pencil out and mitigate against potential liabilities. It is nothing personal against pets or their owners.

Now that all of my cards are on the table and hopefully folks understand my perspective, here is what Nathan and I came up with for a revised dog policy:

- Supervised pets are welcome at the ranch. We know many dogs have just as much fun as their owners here at the ranch and go home just exhausted from all the fun and adventures.

- Pets are permitted off-leash in the backyard only when actively supervised. In the front yard, barnyard or around the long house pets must be leashed. This is where the chickens range and where the majority of chicken chasing occurs. If you want to take the dog for a walk, once out of the main canyon where the house is located, dogs can roam free.

- Scoop the poop! Please don't just fling it over the bank or into the garden, we are happy to show you where to put such "deposits".

- Our pets are outside pets. Please do not let Zoe or the cat inside the house, they know they are not welcome. We do ask that guest pets stay off the furniture and beds (especially the ones with antique quilts).

- Pets must be actively supervised at all times - inside or outside. Messes happen but please clean them up. We had one poor couple with a dog that was sick many, many times throughout the night and they dutifully cleaned every spot so well I couldn't even tell where she was sick when they departed.

- Most importantly - we still love you and your pets so please don't let this policy scare you away. I will do everything I can to keep pets away from areas with known dangers and if dog owners keep a close watch on their pets at all times then everyone, Fido included, should have a great time at the ranch. Cheers!

Ever-changing plans

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One of the interesting aspects of farming and ranching is how you can start the day with a clear plan and agenda and before 9am when the rest of the world is making their way to the office, the plan has changed so dramatically. that you drop any thoughts of the prior plans and take off in a totally new direction.

If the cows get out, everyone drops what they were doing, hops on four wheelers and we spend the rest of the day rounding up the stock and then fixing fence or moving them to a new paddock.

Nathan called the other morning from town (where we farm a few acres at his Nana's property). Of course he was getting ready to rake hay and was missing the PTO (power take off) shaft. With no PTO shaft there is no raking of the hay since the PTO is the link that transfers power from the tractor to the implement being towed. Of course we use the same shaft here at the ranch on the hay elevator. And that is exactly where I found it when Nathan called. Sitting on the hay elevator up in the boneyard. I loaded up the greasy part and drove it into town. Looking back, I can't even recall what I had originally planned for the day. Funny how that works.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calling all cooks: recipe challenge

Anyone up for a cooking challenge? I'll outline the category and the rules next Monday then folks will have a week to create, cook and tweak their recipe and send it in (the recipe of course, not the cooked dish. Though feel free to send that my way too, I never turn down free food!). This challenge will be budget friendly and very flexible ingredient-wise and should be a great way to stir up some fun in the kitchen.

If you are interested in participating, let me know in the comments. I'm excited!

Booked

The ranch is a special place and we entertain guests year round here but the summer season is always very popular. About every third guest makes some comment how we should open a Bed and Breakfast here at the ranch. Nathan and I just look at each other quizzically, "We already run one; it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner".

The summer solstice was only yesterday but we are already booked through the first weekend of October. Of course some guests have more flexible schedules and could come out for a visit during the week but we work full time here farming and ranching plus we farm in Madras, plus we both have part time jobs off the ranch, plus the errands, doctor's appointments and trips to town. We learned our limits early on and try to schedule visits only for the weekends.

When we first moved to the ranch I was asked a lot if I was lonely out here. I've never been lonely here. I enjoy entertaining and get to see my friends and family more now than I ever have in my life. A nice full calendar gives me something to look forward to for the weekends. Whether is is fresh faces tentatively bumping down the gravel road for the first time or old friends, the ranch is a special place and I love to share it with others.

We do fill up fast out here. If you were pondering a summer trip, consider one in the fall or book early next spring for a summer visit.

For those that will be making the trip to visit us this summer, here are a few tips for your next visit.

- Let me know if you will be showing up Friday night or Saturday morning and what time you plan to arrive. This way I can better plan meals and know when to start looking for you if you don't show up. If plans change, just give us a call.

- Stop midway on your trip to the ranch and fill your gas tank. While you may make it here on one tank, you may not make it to a service station on your way home. Fill 'er up! 

- Please let me know about any dietary restrictions or idiosyncrasies before your arrival. I am more than happy to accommodate special diets like vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, lactose free, sugar-free and so on but I have to know in advance since I can't just dash down to the store to pick something else up.

- Consider bringing along some snacks, beverages or other yummies. Especially in the summer months, it can be a long time between meals especially out in the field. A light afternoon snack to share of fruits, vegetables, nuts, pita and hummus or chips and salsa works well.

- Come prepared. It is summer time in the desert and we have no A/C. It is hot and sunny. Don't forget to dress for the weather - hats, good shoes, sunscreen, water bottle. Don't forget the camera (and batteries)!

- Children must be supervised at all times. I cannot emphasize this enough. 

- Please leave pets at home. The ranch is a dangerous place for dogs and dogs can be a danger to the ranch as well. Please leave your dog at home. This policy has since been revised, please see here for more information.

- There is no cell phone service at the ranch, you must hike or drive to get service. We do have wifi at the house. In general it is a good idea to leave the number for the ranch with friends/family as a contact number.

- Smoking is only permitted on the back deck. We live in a desert where the entire summer landscape is parched and dry and there is no fire department. For this reason we also do not allow camp fires.

- Relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. The ranch is such a lovely place, we are glad you are here to share it with us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CSA member submitted recipes: Slow Cooker Short Rib Ragu

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Meat CSA member Rachel sent along the recipe for this yummy meat sauce she made with ranch-raised grass fed beef and served it over homemade pasta. Sounds good to me. What time is dinner Rachel?

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 large carrot, diced small
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs oregano or rosemary

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. In batches, cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer ribs to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet, and add onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup juice from tomatoes, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon.
  2. Transfer vegetables and liquid to slow cooker and add tomatoes, breaking them up as you go. Add herb sprigs; season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high until meat is fork-tender, 6 hours.
  3. With a slotted spoon, remove herb sprigs and transfer meat to a cutting board. With a ladle or large spoon, skim fat from cooking liquid (you'll remove about 1 1/4 cups). With two forks, shred meat and return to cooking liquid. Serve immediately, or let cool in liquid and reheat over medium before serving.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nana's Knittings

Well my great nana wasn't much of a knitter in her later years but she did do a lot of crocheting (but that isn't as catchy of a title now is it?), especially potholders. She was a hotpad-making machine and I can't remember a family household growing up that did not have one of her signature sets of potholders. I am pretty sure everyone who knew Nana for any extended period of time was gifted a set of these crocheted goodies. Though sometimes I think she just made them with whatever color yarn she had on hand and passed them on to the next person in the queue. Even though they almost never matched the kitchen decor, they are still displayed prominently in family kitchens. My set is a green/teal variegated color. I know Teresa's are bright purple ombre and Lloyd has a set in muted browns. What colors do other family members have in their kitchens?

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When Nana passed last summer I was gifted the remains of her yarn supply - two huge plastic totes full of a mismash of half skeins in every color under the rainbow. There was not enough of most colors to keep up the potholder parade but I definitely wanted to use the yarn to crochet something in Nana's memory. I ended up throwing caution and color theory to the wind and spent the winter months dutifully crocheting an afghan.

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I ended up with just enough yarn to make a queen sized afghan though I had no idea how big it would be when I started. I would have kept going on beyond California King if that was what I had available. It is a good heavy weight afghan and even with the crazy assortment of colors, it is impossible to not smile when you see it.

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For those that are interested in the pattern it is a modified Catherine's Wheel. It is a bit of a "yarn hog" for an afghan pattern but looks great in alternating colors.

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I still have a few ends to weave in (by far my least favorite part) but Nana's afghan is here to keep me and my house guests warm and toasty just like one of her nice big hugs. Of course I have no bedroom where such a eclectic collection of colors would match the color scheme but the same rationale of the potholders applies: it was designed and made out of love and memory and for that reason it goes anywhere.

053009 Great Nana
Miss you Nana.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pretty Poppies

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Of all the lovely flowers out here at the ranch, the poppies are one I look forward to each year. There are a few patches around the garden, one between the long house and the bunk house and the biggest patch in the barnyard. Of course in the late spring we tend to bring the cattle around the house to eat down the vegetation and lessen potential fire fuels but invariably the gate to the barnyard gets left open and the cows munch and stomp through the poppy bed. They were kind enough to leave a few for us to enjoy this year.

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I love poppies as a cut flower too. They don't last very long inside but that is what makes them such a special treat. They are so bright and cheerful and as long as I blow the pollen off the flowers before they come inside, they don't make a huge mess. There is a trick to keeping poppies as a cut flower though. If you cut them and plunk them in the vase they will wilt within a matter of hours. So how do you keep poppies from wilting? The secret is to dip the cut stems in boiling water for just a few seconds and the pretty poppies will stay perfectly perky as planned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cooking grass fed beef

With our first pickup of the new CSA season last week, I thought I would spend today writing up a reminder post for our new members about how to cook perfect grass fed beef (remember, low and slow is the way to go!). Yet lo and behold, our Meat CSA member Lindsey has just started a delightful new cooking blog called "Olive Oil and Tomatoes" and one of her first posts is about how to cook grass fed beef. She hits every nail on the head and provides a few good tips of her own plus a tasty recipe for shredded beef and burrito bowls. I already knew she was a great cook but I'll be tuning in for an inside look of all the wonderful meals she makes with the grass fed beef, pastured pork, pastured poultry and free range eggs she finds in her Meat CSA share each month.

Check out her blog at oliveoilandtomatoes.blogspot.com

And not a drop to drink

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Woke up the other night at 2am for a glass of water and the pipes just groaned and gurgled. Blast! I had left the water on in the garden and the cistern had run dry. That usually happens a few times in the early summer when we are still getting used to the routine of keeping the garden green but I usually have a house full of guests that anticipate certain amenities like running water and morning coffee. My savior of an early morning shower, Nathan, was sweet enough to stagger out to the garden and turn the hoses off and the pump on. Ah country life! I am hoping this is the only time this summer that running the cistern dry is blatantly my fault but we shall see.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A day in the life

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My only regret was the chapstick.

The paint on the new crates is still the slightest bit tacky and even though small amounts of the rusty red paint transferred to my once-white leather gloves we don’t have much time to sit around waiting for paint to dry. We load up the birds into the crates and pack them away in the Trooper. They pant in the late afternoon heat, unaccustomed to such close quarters but should cool down once we start moving and the breeze fills the vehicle.

I dash inside for a last minute pee break and to fill my water bottle. Content that I have thoroughly reviewed my mental checklist before we go, I slam the front door and head towards my waiting chariot. The Trooper rattles off a constant smoker’s cough the way only a diesel can. As I walk across the front lawn I take a quick sip of water, then pull my Carmex from my pocket and slather a thick coating on my parched lips, split from sunburn.

“Ready to go?” Nathan asks.

“Yup!”

We are getting ready to take our broilers to market. This has been a difficult step for me, relinquishing control. I would much prefer to process the birds myself but with the expansion of our CSA and the increased meat demand, we have agreed to try a processor several hours away to cut down on the labor of doing it ourselves. Whether I do the deed myself or someone else does, I know that the birds have had happy, healthy lives right up to the end and that is what is most important to me in this day of industrialized agriculture.

As I hop into the vehicle I notice there is already a distinct aroma brewing inside – the lingering smell of lacquer mingling with chicken poo. I was prepared for the smell. It’s not like it is a new smell, just a bit more up-close and personal than I am used to in my daily routine.

When we told folks that we were going to take to Trooper to haul the birds, most of them had a hearty chuckled and asked knowingly, “but what about the smell?” as if they were letting us in on some previously overlooked, immensely important tidbit. The rest simply replied with a quiet, “Oh...” and a sly smile – they were going to let us learn that life lesson on our own.

We don’t pass out from the smell. It just smelled like chickens. I don’t see what was the big deal, we just opened the windows.

It was when we picked up speed and started bumping down the driveway that we were confronted with an actual “previously overlooked, immensely important tidbit”. Feathers.

With the windows rolled down, an air current formed inside the vehicle. One that would sweep by the chicken crates picking up feathers and chicken dander (and I don’t want to think about what else) and then whirl it to the front seat and sprinkle it all over us. My sunglasses were a dream as they held back most of the feathered onslaught destined for my already watery, allergy eyes. For a while, a small vortex formed between me and the windshield with a single white feather dancing in the breeze. Just about the time I would flinch as it careened towards my face, it would drop down towards my lap and be picked up by the current again.

Where the sunglasses were the ultimate savior, I realized instantly that the chapstick was definitely a poor decision. I tried to wipe it off on the inside of my shirt but my lips were still tacky enough to encourage adherence of “chicken sprinkles”. I sucked in my lips as if mimicking an old grannie wondering where she placed her dentures.

As we reach the “T” in the road I glance down at my black pants, littered with drifts of dander usually only reserved for pre-job interview nightmares. For some reason, it is this image that causes the thought to pop into my head, “I think I am at a critical turning point in my life. This is one of those moments where your reaction defines who you are, what your life is going to be like”.

I glance nervously towards Nathan. He is absently twirling his beard between his fingers and bobbing his head ever so slightly. Must be humming along to a song in his head, the radio does not work well and could not be heard above the road noise anyway. A single downy feather is lodged in his sideburn.

At first I am not sure how I feel about the awkward timing of this mental breakthrough. One expects these things to occur at cosmic events like watching a shooting star, an amazing sunset, the sheer awe of the power of the natural world.

I query myself on my response this turning point.

Am I aghast at being subjected to this uncivilized injustice?
Do I want to be let off? It is still close enough to the house that I could walk home.
Am I mad that we didn’t do things my way and process the birds at home?
Have I closed off and retreated into my head?
Am I sullen about what my life has become?
Am I embarrassed to be such a country bumpkin?
Am I resentful about all the difficult, yet unseen things we do for our customers? We won’t even get to eat these chickens after all this.

With a blank stare, I look out my window at all the juniper and sage racing by the window. “Remember that story about Nana and Papa taking chickens to town?” I ask Nathan.

“Yeah, they took them in grain sacks in the back of the station wagon and the birds jumped and flopped around the whole way.”

With a big smile I turn to him and say, “well one day when we have kids and grandkids of our own, we will have a story that tops that tale”.

With a huge grin and a hearty laugh he takes my hand into his own and we continue our journey bumping along the gravel road.




Monday, June 6, 2011

In a rut

I've been in a bit of rut when it comes to updating the blog. My days are filled with the same tasks and chores. Ranch life is so seasonally repetitive, sometimes it is hard to find something to write about that is interesting, inspiring or educational. What was I doing this time last year? Writing about pigs, chickens, garden work, wildflowers, moving cattle, ranch visitors.

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I could write about the lovely Indian paintbrush that was in bloom last week. Or the one white lupine in a sea of purple. Or how the poppies in the yard just started to bloom and how much I love their intense orange color and crepe petals. Or about how the lilacs are in full swing and about how that delicate floral scent is so welcome. Or maybe I write about how we finally took out the dead side of the apple tree and now there is so much light in the flower bed.

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I could write about how much the pigs have grown in the last month or so. Or how they still manage to escape their pen. Or how I need to improvise a wallow for them so they can cool off in the summer heat. About how they splash water from their trough and wallow around in the mud, making themselves and the whole pen smell like anaerobic decay. I could write about how fussy I am about the pig pen looking and smelling nice for when we have guests. About how unrealistic that is and that a pig pen smells like a pig pen not a rose garden.

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I could write about my frustrations with planting the garden. How the soil crusts over and the seeds can't poke through the dirt. Or how I can never get the rows to run properly downhill when we flood irrigate. Or how there is already a pocket gopher hole in the very middle of both potato rows even though the garden has just been planted.

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I could write about how we moved the cattle around the house to mow down the grass and eliminate potential fire fuels. Or about how Nathan went to all the work to dig one of the cattle guards that silted in with all the winter storms and the cattle just jump over it anyway. I could write about chasing the escapees out of the alfalfa and running them back through the gate into the pasture only to have the rest of the contained herd barrel out the gate once it was opened. I could write about our two late season calves. I could write about the cow we ran through the chute yesterday and about how when she shed her winter coat on her bag, some hairs wrapped around one of her teats. How relieved she must have been when we cut it off and how I hope she doesn't lose that tit. Or I could write about the bulls headbutting each other until they crashed through the fence on the way home from the York place. Or how we still haven't had a chance to fix up the fence. I could write about moving the herd and leaving False M behind and yet she always knows exactly where we went and shows up a few hours later at her own arthritic pace.

I could write about the abundance of wildlife we have seen at the ranch the spring. About the chukar that moved into the rim rock around the house. Or the Hungarian partridge that I saw in the pig pasture cleaning up leftover grain. I could write about several wild turkey sightings including a hen near the old apple tree. She must have a nest nearby. We've seen plenty of deer and elk, barbary sheep even stories of an antelope napping in the road. I could write about the return of the cliff swallows this week and how they are busily building their mud-jug nests.

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I could write about our flock of chickens. The creative places they stash their eggs. Our ongoing war with egg eating hens. About how this winter the dog learned to filch eggs from the nests and bury them for later. How unpleasant it is to find one of these buried treasures with a hoe in the garden. I could write about how Freda the turkey has a sinus infection and how I scrambled around to find some medicine, any medicine that would help her. About how worried I was that she would die. I could write about Pa-Pa the peacock and how he strutted, shimmied and fanned his tail for every hen that walked by yesterday and how he also dances for quail and a yellow feed bucket and for nobody in particular. About how much I love his calls and even though he roosts on Lloyd's porch and poops everywhere, I think Lloyd enjoys him too. About how the chickens and turkey have taken to dusting in the flower bed in front of his sunroom window. About how I don't think he cares for that much. I could write about our new techniques for raising pastured poultry this year or about the hoop house we built with the help of several weekend's worth of ranch guests.



If only I could find something to write about...