Monday, January 30, 2012

My favorite photos 2011

Our friend Freda joined us last winter. As anyone who has met her will tell you, she is a very memorable character that loves attention and is more than willing to sit on your lap as long as there are pets involved.

We didn't have the snowiest winter but we did get a few good storms. This one in particular drifted over the roads and required daily plowing if we wanted to be able to leave the ranch.

This is Susan. She was one of our first calves of the year, born on the coldest day of the year. It was a hard labor for her momma, Muzzy and she required some help to get the calf out. Unfortunately because Muzzy was in labor for so long, Susan's legs had started to freeze and she wasn't able to get up to nurse. After watching for twenty minutes with no progress and the calf's ears beginning to freeze solid, Lloyd and Nathan loaded Susan up in the Jeep and hauled her down to the house. We spent the next hour in Lloyd's sunroom (with a cozy fire in the woodstove) trying to warm her up. We used a blow-drier and toweled her dry and brushed her coat to fluff up all the hair to insulate better. After a warm bottle she loaded back in the Jeep and was deposited on a pile of straw out of the wind and next to momma. We left her and hoped for the best. The next morning we peeked in the pen and Susan was not only up and about (though a mite wobbly), she had nursed on her own and the pair seemed well bonded even after the temporary separation.

Susan and Muzzy rejoined the herd and other than her permanently crinkled ears from the frost damage, Susan did just fine and was an excellent big sister to all the little calves to come later in the season.

This is another memorable calving story. When Margaret had her calf last year the little heifer was bright-eyed, perky and up wobbling around in no time. Usually we like to see calves standing by 20-30 minutes after birth and nursing within the hour. "Razzie" as we named the calf has a good grasp on the first part but wasn't comprehending the part about nursing. We decided to give it some time and would check on the pair in the morning. Still no progress.

You can test to see if the sucking reflex is working by putting a finger in the calf's mouth. Razzie had the reflex but no desire to find the udder. By late afternoon on day two I gave the calf a bottle of warm water which she took greedily. When Nathan went out to do checks on the remaining heifers to calve at midnight, Razzie had still not nursed. Bless Margaret's patient demeanor because she let him try to get Razzie to nurse for over an hour - he would spray milk in the calf's face, bring her to the teat, foce the teat in her mouth, put his hand over her nostrils to force her to swallow (an old stockman's trick) and all Razzie would do is look uninterested and spit the teat out.

Day three - since the calf would take the bottle eagerly we ended up mixing a few bottles of milk replacer throughout the day since her energy levels were starting to wane. By evening time we decided to run Margaret through the chute and milk her out (after all, mother's milk is always best and poor Margaret was so engorged you could tell it was uncomfortable for her too). I can remember resting my head on her warm side as I milked Margaret while Razzie bumbled and bounced around. We tried to get her to latch again but no use. We gave Razzie a bottle with half the milk and put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow.

Day four - same old stuff. We try to get the calf to nurse, she's uncooperative. We give in and give her a bottle and she is happy as a lark. We are quickly approaching a point where if the calf doesn't learn to nurse then we will have a bottle baby on our hands. While cute, bottle-feeding a calf several times a day adds more work to the daily chore list and Margaret would make a far better mother than I ever would for this calf. When I come out to check the pair in the afternoon Margaret is laying down, her huge udder pointing skyward while Razzie is nosing around - licking the panels, sucking on a length of chain, chewing on mom's ear. As she bumbles around she finds one of the skyward teats and I'll be damned if she doesn't think that she has discovered some lost wonder as she starts nursing vigorously. I roll my eyes and make my way back to the house - my job here is done.

Every time I take a picture like this, I am reminded that we live in an absolutely beautiful place. I could not imagine living anywhere else in the world. Yet what continues to astound me is that our friends and family find the ranch to be a special place too and go out of their way to come visit us out here in the middle of nowhere.

I really love this photo. Ian probably has no idea how much this little piggy will squirm and wiggle and kick and scream once he gets a hold of it but he is so absolutely committed to the experience (and seems genuinely excited about it) that he never flinches.

We had a big bunch of teenagers give us a hand for branding this year. I love this shot of all the kids and calves sizing up each other though the fence.

This is a photo about bull balls. There are probably few folks in the world that could find a magical beauty in a shot with such subject matter but I sure do. I passed my camera off to one of the kids during branding and from perched high atop the fence came this photo. I love the perspective. I love the antique box and instruction manual in the foreground for "The Elastrator". I love the seamless teamwork: from the tension in the arms of Jake (in the red shirt) to the perfect outline of the "gems" cupped in hand so there is no doubt about what is happening next. If photography is about capturing a moment, I think this image qualifies.

This is The Bread. It is not the best composition or lighting for food photography but for me it represents sharing the recipe with others on the blog and the overwhelming response it received. You don't have to have the latest gadgets or be a great cook to create quality food.

Ahh Indian paintbrush. You are one of the most beautiful wildflowers here at the ranch and it took me over four years to find not just one plant, but a whole field in bloom.

I laugh when I see this photo. In farming, some lessons leave a lasting impression.

Papa the Peacock showing off in the plate-glass window. I was able to take one photo through the dirty glass before he noticed me and dropped his display completely. Luckily, one photo was all I need.

Glorious poppies reaching for the sun. Even now I can't wait to see their showy displays again this summer.


A lesson in flexibility: no matter how well planned out the day may be, there will always be bumps in the road (or lurches in the truck).

The essence of a summer ride on the ATV. I can almost feel the warm sun on my skin and breeze in my hair.

Poor, pitiful calf covered in flies. I am sure she was relieved when we gave the entire herd a good spraying.

Another one of those staggering landscape beauty shots featuring friends we adore. Hi Ian and Dara! Look close, they are two of the "ants" in the upper left.

Fire 047
The fire. Well the first and closest fire of the season. I can still remember seeing that sinuous plume off on the horizon after a dry lightning storm and that dread that hits you - How big is the fire? How close? How fast is it moving? Is this just a burning juniper or something that needs more attention?

I remember the first evening when well after dark, Lloyd and Nathan staggered in to the house. Not only did they reek of smoke, they were smoke. Just blood-shot, irritated eyes peering out of tired ash-colored faces.

The next day they were called up again to come help with the fire (which had jumped the line and changed direction in the night of course). By the end of day two, when I knew that the ranch was not likely to be affected and BLM and Forest Service crews had arrived to assist the weary local ranchers, I began selfishly worrying that our first trip away from the ranch since moving here four years ago was in danger of being cancelled.

Fire 029
Halfway through day three of fire-fighting, Nathan came home mid-day, showered and we hopped in the truck and drove to California.

Our California adventure centered around the wonderful wedding of our good friends Ian and Lauren.

What a wonderful reminder that no matter how much time passes between visits, true friendships never fade.
Back to the grind and baling sweet alfalfa.

West Coast Summer 2011-9

One of Ian's photos from his visit. This ladder is a hundred years old and recently repainted with the random can of vintage paint Lloyd picked up at a junk sale. I'd walked by it for weeks without taking a moment to pause and appreciate the simple beauty.

My first experience with prescribed field burns. The intensity of the heat on your face is truly unforgettable.

A fire casualty.

The most motley turkey you ever did see.

The ash tree on the patio and the fantastic flame colors of fall.

A bucket of grapes and one of the final bounties we glean from the garden each year.

Our first snow - always eagerly anticipated.

And finally the crystals of frost on the windshield. So crisp, clean and fresh - the perfect start for a new year.

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