Missing the Ranch and Keeping My Spirits Up

It’s really weird to have not been at the ranch the entire month of November, especially since that’s usually a great month to be there (good weather, frisky pets, lots of time for walking). It didn’t help at all that I spent a good bit of time wandering around the area on Google Maps trying to figure out where those two people drowned. I think I got it located a bit further away from our property than I’d feared, but still adjacent. It makes me so sad.

In happier news, my one orchid that didn’t succumb to some evil scale has rewarded us with many blossoms.

I listened to a news report that said the victims had fallen out of their boat and got caught up in pond weeds. That’s exactly what I had feared. Even if you can swim, that stuff can get you. One guy had a young family and one was just 22, so young. They’re having a football game to raise money for their families. Traion Smith was just an amazing athlete in high school, and a nice young man. The news report showed the former Cameron coach breaking into tears at the thought of losing him. Life sure has its twists and turns.

Anyway, I ended up looking at what great quality the Google Maps images of our property are. I really liked how you could see each cow and all the cattle paths in the bottom pasture next to our house.

All the cows are at upper right, and you can see where they walk. The image can even get closer in! That’s Walker’s Creek and one of the streams that meets up with it.

I was disappointed that I could not see Apache or Fiona, nor the chickens. I guess the photo was taken just before we got the chicken house. So, you’re spared those images.

Sunset looking out by neighbor Ruth’s house. I love how the oak leaves are shining.

While I do miss the ranch (and its occupants, including my poor lonely quarantined husband!), I’m enjoying some time in Austin. We got to take a walk with our neighbor, Ruth, who regaled us with tales of trying to buy groceries at the H-E-B (we went a bit later ’cause I had to fill my prescription, and it wasn’t so bad). She went to the Randall’s store full of “old people” and it wasn’t crowded. That store is always full of old people! And, if you don’t live in Texas, we realize H-E-B is a weird name, but since it’s named after Mr. Butts, you can understand the choice.

Roses in my flower arrangement. They help me feel better.

And since I’m in Austin, we can have my son’s little family unit to eat out on the deck, to minimize germs and all, like we keep being told to do. It will be very small, but good.

Giant mum about to explode. This arrangement had such great autumn colors.

We will get through these challenging times. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I feel like all this practice of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness that’s come out of the pandemic, the election, and the personal issues of those around me will benefit me the rest of my life.

I don’t know what this flower is, but I love the way only part of it is in focus.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the flowers I got at the store and our sunset. I saw no sunsets in Utah, because the mountains were to the west. That’s okay, mountains are pretty, too. Share what’s keeping you happy and in the moment, if you want to!

Lakota, the Circle of Life, and Being Startled

I’m guessing that today you’ll be wanting to find out how our boarder horse, Lakota the elderly fancy palomino, came out after his rough time yesterday. Last we heard, he’d been sweating and heaving, and Spice was standing over him like she was guarding his life. Sara is happy to report that after he stood up and made a big poop, he walked off, normally. She did keep checking through the night.

This morning, to our great relief, he was standing under a tree with Spice, and they both had been sleeping. It was probably a rough night for them, too. They both kept yawning and yawning, and were very loving and affectionate. Poor guys.

He just let me hug and hug, and he hugged back.

Sara had a couple of ideas about what had happened. Her current theory (and it’s just a theory) is that he ate some of the nightshade (Silverleaf Nightshade Solanum elaeagnifolium) that had been mown in the pasture (because she is allergic to it). Apparently, horses and cattle don’t eat it when it is alive, but for some reason think it’s tasty when it’s cut and dried. I hope that’s all it was.

It does have pretty flowers.

Thanks to me looking up alternative veterinarians, Sara was able to get in touch with Dr. Brimlee, who works with Milam Touch of Love, and while he couldn’t come last night, we are scheduling him to come soon (Apache’s teeth need to be looked at, too). In any case, we were both really relieved to find two horses standing under the trees this morning!

Spice was a good friend and nurse last night.

After this, my morning went downhill and my anxiety went uphill, but that’s the way the circle of life goes, I guess. As I approached our gate, I saw lots and lots of black birds in the pasture. What, a crow convention? As I got closer, I realized it was vultures. I also saw this.

Brown cow guarding two calves.

I drove overo where the feasting birds were, and found one of the three calves was no longer with us, and hadn’t been for a day or two. That certainly startled me. I don’t know what happened, and I probably won’t, but it was sad and a bit of a shock to see him laying there. Circle of life strikes again.

On the other hand, the chickens are all still here! Haven’t lost one in weeks! And Hedley seems to have given up on being broody, but hasn’t started laying again. I hope she does. She doesn’t seem sick or anything. They all got quite a treat out of a bunch of tomatoes Kathleen donated to them.

Hey, this is good! Thanks! Hedley is the one by the water trough, looking perky.

Even Buttercup and Butternut ate a tomato, which is a first. Maybe they’ll start branching out and eating more than just their feed and only their feed soon. I do enjoy them, and they cheered me up.

THEN I went to drive to the office. There was a giant wasp in the car, the black kind with red wings (sorry, no ID). I usually don’t worry about them, but two of my friends have had bad wasp reactions in the last week, and it started buzzing my head. As I tried to shew it away, I ran off the road. Luckily, I just drove through a lot of long grass, and probably made County Road 140 passersby curious. I am just not having a calm day so far! I’m still shaky. On the other hand, I did find some pretty groundcherries in the overgrown office lawn. These are clammy groundcherries (Physalis heterophylla).

The blossoms face downward, so you often don’t spot them.

So, I will go do my other Saturday writing tasks and breathe deeply. Has anything startled you today?

Enter Here for Surprises and Adventures

Hmm, the adventures thing may be exaggerated a bit, but I did get a new gate to go from our part of the property to the rest of the ranch. In addition, Chris smoothed all the dirt that had been disturbed when running the water line, and did a bit of grading, too. The chicken house area looks marvelous.

It’s all smooth now. At the rate the Bermuda grass grows, it will be covered in a week to ten days. Notice the feathers on the ground, which I mentioned in my previous post. It’s your fault, Bruce.

The highlight of the day was seeing this big gate that swings open mightily and allows me to easily head to see the horses. We had the gate already, so it didn’t cost anything. It’s very sturdy on the hinge side, since Chris drilled a big ole bolt through the roof support pillar. The other side is only temporary. The fencing project is not done, but at lease those of us who have to go into that pasture can do it easily (thus, Jim could drive the riding mower over the the horses to mow this morning).

I can now go from here to there without crawling under a fence or climbing over a fence and nearly knocking it over.

The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.

That man cracks me up. And there’s Alfred before I pulled those clumps of hair out.

Surprises and Adventures

I’ve used the new gate to go visit the horses twice already. Last night, I went to join Sara to feed them, and I got quite a surprise. In the field where the 18 cows should be, there were just three cows, each with a little white baby.

Who the heck are they?

These are not the 18s. First, they were afraid of me. Second, their ear tags were in the left ear, not the right. Um, where were my friendly cow buddies? Where was 18-1, bravest calf ever?

As I walked up to the barn, the Vrazels were driving by. They warned me of another surprise, a large cow and her newborn calf were in the pens. I said, hey, um, where are the 18s? Tyler laughed and laughed. “They’re in Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma? Yep, they sold them all and trucked them off when I was at work one day. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Cattle ranching. Not for the sentimental. I am sure they got a HUGE payday out of those young cows, all of whom were due to calve in November. But still. Sniff.

On I went, and sure enough, there was a very large red Angus cow with a very small and shiny black Angus calf. I blurted out, “Hi, Sprinkles,” and Sara asked if I had to name everything. I guess I do. In any case, Sprinkles is cute as can be, and seems to have recovered from being sick and needing to be penned up. Mama, on the other hand, was mostly pissed off.

Sprinkles and I would like to leave, now.

She mooed and snorted and ran around until we left.

This morning, I came back to do some horse fun, around 9 am. It was NOT hot outside! But, dew drenched my shoes, since I wore the wrong ones. Sprinkles and Mama were still there. Between Sara’s dogs and Lakota having the utter gall to stand quietly tied to the gate, she was in a huff.

Lakota just stood there and ignored her. A real quarter horse! We proceeded head off down the race, to see how Apache would do. Sara rode Lakota, who plodded along like a livery stable horse and was generally uninterested in anything. I led Apache (hope to get riding permission soon). Here’s where it became and adventure, the good kind.

We walked all the way down the race, the place where he was refusing to ride earlier, and the place where he has been all nervous and pushy when we walked for the past month or two. Today, Apache walked beside me, not in front of me and not behind me. He stayed about two feet away from me. He did stop to get a mouthful of grass, but started right back up, every time. He did not crowd into me. He did not try to turn around. He did not rush ahead, or refuse to move forward.

He completely ignored all the “scary” parts of the path where there are big ruts. The scary tree got a nod. When all of the 19 heifers came thundering over to check us out and walk along with us, he and Lakota both looked at them, then kept going. The giant bull didn’t phase them. DAMN!

Sara and Lakota, with Fiona-bomb.

We then went on out to the big pasture where it floods (the bottom). We all walked and looked at stuff. Sara’s dogs came along, and no horse paid the least bit of attention. Even Fiona didn’t dawdle and pitch a fit. She followed right behind us cheerfully. Every time we went through a gate, everyone was fine. Even when Jim drove by on the lawn mower, they just stopped and looked for a minute.

WHO WERE THESE ANIMALS AND WHERE DID MY JUMPY HORSE GO?

I have no clue. Sara and I tried to figure out what was different. Well, we had Lakota instead of Spice…but Apache likes Spice. It was morning, not afternoon. He wasn’t starving. That’s all we could come up with. My attitude is the same (I am pretty calm even when he’s jumpy, to try to keep him calm).

We’re just in a good mood. What can we say?

I’m just going to have to accept that we had a wonderful morning, got lots of exercise, and ALL enjoyed ourselves (even Lakota, I think). I look forward to more of this kind of adventure and these kinds of surprises (but I do hope Sprinkles and his Mama go back to the pasture soon; she didn’t enjoy Sara and me pulling up some grass burs right next to the pen, either).

I hope you have some bright spots in your weekend!

A Fitting Tribute for a Fine Cow

You may remember that I wrote about how the Queen of the Wild Type Ranch herd, R45, had started going downhill, so she had to be harvested. She had led a long life for a cow, giving birth to fine calves and leading her herdmates for a decade and a half.

I was a great cow. I enjoyed my long and pleasant life.

I mentioned at the end of the article that her beef was not going to be sold, but rather donated. Yesterday, the Cameron Herald had a front page article about where the beef was going, to the local food pantry, all 400 pounds of it. Half will be handed out now, and the other half at Thanksgiving time.

If I were a cow, I’d be honored to know that I contributed nutritious meals for hungry people. She lived a good life and and had an honorable passing. Her memory will live on, which is quite something, for a cow.

Thanks to Sara and Ralph for coming up with this idea, and for inviting other local ranchers to consider doing the same.

Fancy Watering Hole

Today is one of those meeting-filled and task-filled days that left me with no blogging time but lunch. So, I just have a few minutes to fill you in on a major improvement for out Hermits’ Rest livestock.

I already shared that the chickens’ water now is officially hooked up, and both pens can use the same water trough. Butternut and Buttercup especially like it when the water overflows.

Happy chickens and guinea enjoying water overflow. You can see one of the Butters sticking her head through the fence to drink. Mission accomplished there!

Yesterday, Chris brought up a bunch of very sturdy (and FREE) metal poles to use to anchor gates in our new fencing. Note the splatters. That’s all the rain we got, while Cameron got a quarter inch. Boo.

Big ole sturdy pipes, with rain droplets.

Along with the poles came something to dig the holes for the poles, a big auger.

Big ole auger, AKA post hole digger.

But, what’s made all the animals happy is the other thing he brought: a big water trough and one of those handy cut-off attachments that keeps the water level full at all times. Fiona is jealous (the one where she is leaks). Vlassic spent a lot of time thinking about whether to jump in there or not.

That looks pretty darned deep!

I foresee some happy cattle, and hopefully at some point horses and donkeys enjoying this new improvement. We’re a fancy ranch now!

Now It’s Chicken Heaven

Today Chris and his dad did a lot of work on a new water line for the chicken coop and new barn area. That required digging a trench.

Chickens like freshly dug dirt, a lot. Not only is it fun to explore, it has new and exciting bugs in it.

Carlton wanted to help. the blue stuff is the future water line.

Every time I checked on them today, they were all excitedly climbing around.

One good thing about the water being cut off is that I had to fill the chicken water in the garage. That gave me a chance to scrub the water dishes. I think they liked it.

Like the chickens, Rip and the new heifers also explored their new territory a lot. The other bull calves ate and ate. Eventually the new gals figured out where the cubes are and came up to the pen, but it was too dark for a photo. But I got portraits.

Everything is back in working order at the chicken coop. I even got the distressed fake rooster upright and out of the way.

Fake Rooster is guardian of the Wellsummer girls.

I wish everyone had a pet, wild animal, or other natural phenomenon to watch and enjoy. It sure makes these uneasy times easier to bear.

The beautiful Sapphire.

Great Day to Be a Calf – Not So Great to Be a Pullet

Yep, I got back to the ranch yesterday, just in time for some fun and news. Upon my arrival, I saw this:

There is a new fence in the front pasture, formerly known as a field. Apparently Chris came back to town and spent all Thursday night erecting this. The flags are very helpful, since it’s otherwise invisible. Why the rush to erect the fence?

Just cows

Kathleen brought back two of her cows from the farm in Yorktown to hang out here and join the three little bull calves. One of them is pregnant; I believe the brown one. They are daughters of her lovely bull, Johnny. They don’t have names, because they are just cows, and not pets (got it). The brown one is not real friendly, which is fine with me; I’ve never made it a habit of petting adult cattle unless someone says it’s okay (in other words, the only ones I have ever petted were Kathleen’s former bottle calves).

Now, what’s this?

To top off the excitement, Kathleen let the little guys out of their small pen. Their reactions were true to their personalities. Rip went crazy with glee. He ran and ran, jumped in the air, and made circles around the rock pile.

Rip flies around the rocks.

He’s still got a cough, poor guy, but that only held him up a little. He then proceeded to climb up the rock pile and try every kind of grass there was.

This is SO MUCH FUN.

Meanwhile, the other two discovered taller grass than was in their pen, and started munching away. I think they will be delicious and Rip will be a scrawny little dude forever. In any case, it was the best day of their lives. Everyone enjoyed scratching their heads on the trailer, too.

MMM, this is great, long as that dog stays on his side of the trailer.
One happy calf.

After they all settled down, the new heifers came to investigate the calves, lick on them, and start to “herd up,” as they say. Chris is working on getting the ladies more tame, by enticing them with cattle cubes (also beloved of dogs). I know the little ones feel better with some older bovines to hang out with.

I look forward to watching all of Kathleen’s herd grow. I know she and Chris are both a lot happier with some cattle to work with up here.

As for the Chickens

Today was freedom day for the two Blue Star pullets. They are a month older than the Welsummers and HUGE. They were starting to bully the smaller pullets, especially Buttercup, who hurt her foot, so we decided to let them out. Of course, that didn’t go as planned, and instead of them leaving when I opened the door, most of the other chickens came into their pen. Oops.

I quickly got rid of the roosters, so no one else would get smooshed to death, but it took Chris’s help to get Star and Sapphire out, while keeping the other two in.

We are officially hiding.

The first thing Star and Sapphire did was go check out the feed in the other coop. That meant they were prime rooster targets, which did not thrill Sapphire one bit.

Why did you put us in here with THIS brute? (Hate to tell them, but the OTHER one is the brute.)

They went outside and tried their darnedest to get back into their other pen, but I am sure once they realize how many bugs there are out in the grass, they will be fine. They are already bigger than Hedley, so they can hold their own.

Speaking of the other hens, I think, but cannot confirm it, that all five of the adult hens are finally laying. I found three eggs this morning, and they were all solid brown. The absence of a white or ombre egg means Hedley and Fancy Pants had not laid yet. Well, that took a while. And big ole Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, is now making very large eggs. What a gal!

OMG! That giant rooster is DEAD! It’s the apocalypse! Run!

Being with the animals helps me a lot. I’m so happy to have them all. I’m still a bit shaky around people and having trouble communicating, but maybe by tomorrow I will be relaxed!

Remember, beloved readers, it’s okay to acknowledge your rough times and trouble dealing with things. It helps remind everyone we aren’t alone in having challenges these days. I can be having anxiety struggles and worry about world events (fires, floods, fighting) and still enjoy what’s good in my life and be thankful for kind friends and patient family.

Queen of the Herd: A Tribute

Today marks a rite of passage for the grass-fed beef business of my friends and neighbors, Sara and Ralph of Wild Type Ranch. We have said farewell to the foundation mama cow of their herd, and many others, our wide and beefy queen, R45.

Outstanding in her field. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

I’ve known R45 since I first started coming to the ranch, so she is my oldest cow friend. It turns out she’s had a lot of adventures, for a Red Angus cow, and she’s been a wonderful leader of the herd since Sara and Ralph got her as a yearling.

We’ve always called her R45, even though all the other Wild Type cattle had cool names. Was I surprised to find out that she had a name: French Queen. Well, I think I prefer R45 to “Queenie,” so perhaps it’s for the best that they didn’t look to hard to find her name.

Wow, she made it to be 15 years old! That’s not typical.

They bought her at the second auction they attended, when they were first starting their breeding program, so you know she was selected for her good genetics. She ended up being one of the first cows bred on Wild Type Ranch, too. And she didn’t let them down. She threw mostly bull calves, though no one can remember whether the one that slipped the fence and got killed by coyotes (or something) was a bull or a heifer.

Sara and I gave her some extra loving last night.

Sarah sent me these calves that she can remember, most of which went on to become bulls used for breeding:

  • Hobart (2010)
  • Pyrmont (2011)
  • Neptune (2013)
  • Zen (2015)
  • Dooku (2016)
  • Randy (2017)

Hobart and Pyrmont were used to develop the Wild Type brand’s features, which are to be very tender grass-fed beef. After they fathered a bunch of heifers, they were sold to other grass-fed beef operations, so they got to spread those good R45 genes around. (You don’t want bulls breeding to their daughters too much; inbreeding is bad.)

All of R45’s boys were beautiful fellows. I especially liked Randy, because I got to name him. He was very interested in the duties of a bull from when he was a tiny calf, hence, Randy. He’s still off siring attractive Angus beef.

Here’s where I imagine she ends up, misty, cattle-filled, endless green pasture.

Now, Queen R45 (I had actually called her the Queen of the herd before I saw her papers!) was a big cow. Her sons and grandsons tended to be compact, but she was built like a 1950s Buick, large, deep, and wide. Very wide. She always looked pregnant.

R45 and her friends. Note her size. Photo by Sara Faivre.

Sara tells a story of one time, when she was pregnant, R45 laid down in the bank of one of the ponds (tanks) at the front of the pasture. The bank was so steep, and she was so large that she couldn’t right herself, and vultures started going after her. Luckily Sara and Ralph got her hoisted back up before she lost an eye! She went on to continue to produce calves for years.

She had nose freckles.

R45’s size almost got her sent to the processing plant way before her time. One year it took her a while to breed, and they thought she was done. Sara checked her to see if she was with calf, but thought her big ole cervix was an un-pregnant uterus. She was scheduled for harvest, but a couple of weeks before that was due, out popped a healthy calf. Whew! I remember being all sad at that time, because I always liked her.

She had very hairy ears, and a lot of notches, from adventures. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

For the last couple of years, R45 hasn’t been able to bear calves, but they kept her in the herd to honor her years of devoted service. She remained the leader of the herd, and was still seen caring for calves and calming down the younger cows.

For the past few months, though, R45 has been showing signs of her age, and is, as they say in cattle talk, “losing condition.” It’s a sign that she’s having trouble digesting food, sort of like how our old horse, Pardner, did. He ended up so skinny. Rather than let R45 deteriorate, Ralph and Sara decided it would be kinder to harvest her while she’s still feeling pretty good and not suffering.

Thank you for all you did for Wild Type ranch, and for all the entertainment your cute calves gave me. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

That’s called good stewardship of your livestock, and I appreciate it, even if I’m sad to see the old girl go. She got to do lots more than the average cow, and lived 14 years in our combined ranches’ beautiful pastures, with good health care and good cow friends.

And Sara wanted me to point out that R45’s harvest will be donated to local food banks to feed the hungry. She continues to serve a higher purpose. I salute you, French Queen R45. Graze in peace.

What’s Cuter Than a Tiny New Calf?

Two Tiny New Calves!

Yep, Chris didn’t get to go look at farm equipment yesterday, so he did the next best thing and headed over to the Sale Barn. There were more inexpensive young cows to be had!

Where are we? What happened? Where’s Mama?

He saw lots of good ones, but stayed within his budget and returned with two new friends for Rip.

One is pretty big and muscular. It makes you wonder what the rest of his herd looks like if he’s a reject. He’s older than Rip and the other one, so we wonder if he’ll take milk from a bottle.

I’m big and pretty.

The other one is small and skinny, like Rip, and a very dark brown. When he laid down, he looked just like a turd, so I’m calling him Poop Nugget. I’ll let Kathleen name the other one, because I know there are more characters in that television show. She may well rename Nugget. I don’t have naming rights to their calves!

I’m a fuzzy little nugget.

I’m sure Rip will be happier with friends, and also when he gets over his mild pneumonia. He’s on antibiotics. He doesn’t like shots. Who does? Just ask Vlassic!

Those other guys don’t know what they’re missing. Mmm. Milk.

Speaking of dogs, Vlassic and Gracie seemed to think the calves were invaders, and kept chasing them. They ignore Rip. They also ignore the birds, who wander around with no worries.

We don’t like these strange calves.

Chris and Kathleen tried their best to get the new babies to drink from a bottle, but they weren’t interested yet. Maybe they’ll be hungry and less confused today.

Rip says he will drink it if Nugget won’t.

There was lots of mooing last night. Let’s hope they settle in and grow big and strong. They have an expanded pen to roam in and lots of cattle cubes. Our ranch family will do our best to give them good lives.

Our motley herd. Chris is in the Cameron cow biz.

Sure, I Relax

It was nice to get home from work and think about what’s eternal.

One thing is learning. I’m loving the book I’m reading, perhaps too much. The person who wrote How to Be an Antiracist has managed to clarify all sorts of muddy questions and gut feelings I have about race, class, and political systems. Perhaps this is not the most relaxing book ever, but it makes so much sense that my brain feels tidier or something. More on this when I’m done!

The other eternal thing is life going on about its cycles. I’m surrounded by birth, death, old age, and metamorphosis every day. The new calf, Nicole’s son who will arrive in a month, the lady in Cameron who died in the fire and had cooked all those burgers, Lee and me, a butterfly. I treasure all of it!

Now to stop writing so much and share photos of what relaxes me.

Tomorrow will be Rip’s week-a-versary.
He liked head rubs.
Gulf fritillary.
Happy to enjoy our golden years (ha ha) at the Hermits’ Rest.