Ranch Updates!

*The photo above is the Arkansas River in Southern Colorado. The leaves are just starting to change and it s GORGEOUS!!!

Hey there!  The ranch is in change right now. It’s kind of a nice lull before the cows literally come home. We will have some 3-year old cows soon who will become part of the ranch. But until then, here’s a few updates.

  • The chicken perp is still on the run. Our guess is that it either moved on or is hiding out somewhere. We keep setting a live trap and all we catch are the cats. There’s 7 cats and I’m pretty sure we’ve caught all but 2 at some point. One of our calicos, a female, might be in heat; either that or she’s just *extremely* friendly. She loves to rub on me, the other cats, the dogs; she tried a chicken and the alpacas but that didn’t work out so well. They just weren’t into her. The chickens, meanwhile, have accepted their new digs in the old horse trailer. It’s much more enclosed and they can still free range during the day, so it’s a win-win. Plus, with winter on the way it will be easier to keep them cozy. I need to paint that trailer but can’t decide on a color. Turquoise to match the ranch or purple because why not? I thought about doing a mural but I can’t draw so maybe not. I’d end up with stick figures and a smiley face sun. I’ll do a before and after post once I can decide on a color or a theme. Heck, it might just be white again. Don’t hold your breath.
  • THE WEATHER: I love Fall!!! The temps don’t go above 85, the lows mean I can finally get heavy blankets out and (premature, I know) have the gas fireplace on, we cuddle more for reading time, and the mosquitoes are dying. If I didn’t welt up every time I was bitten by a mosquito, I wouldn’t detest those flying vampires. But I do swell up and I can’t stand it. From what I understand, though, the mosquitoes will leave but the Yellowjackets will appear soon. Not looking forward to that but that’s why we love the Guineas. They love bugs! Let’s hope they love those jackets. I also found a great recipe for Pumpkin Spice Lattes that includes real pumpkin. Make sure to cook the pumpkin and spices – that’s what really brings out the amazing flavor! The only downside is that we got the hailstorm of the century! Seriously, golf ball and larger sized hail at our house. It was so bad at my mother-in-law’s that she now needs a new roof! Meanwhile, in town they got pebbles and a sprinkle. Gotta love New Mexico weather! Seriously, if you wait 15 minutes, the weather WILL change.
  • The alpacas are eating out of my hand!!!! That’s a huge step in the awesomely right direction. We are still a long way off from them wanting to be petted like the ones you probably saw during Alpaca Farm Days, but at least they like me now. It’s kinda fun to look out the window and see this goofy looking camelid grazing out there. The biggest perk is that they are the best walking lawnmowers around. I found out that the manure they make is apparently amazing. No need to wait for it to decompose. We might make a garden next Spring, so I’ll try it out and let you know the results. Right now, the ‘Paca Poop (I think I’ll trademark that) is covering bare spots in the pasture.
  •  I’m running again. A great friend of mine once said that if anyone ever wants me to do something crazy the best time to convince me to do it is when I’m sick. Apparently my stubborn ways are softened and I’ll agree to craziness. I believe it: that’s how she got me to sign up for a sprint triathlon. So I assume that I’m getting sick because I’m now in training for a half marathon. Ya see, The Biggest Loser Race Series (BLRS) has come to Las Cruces 2 of the last  3 years. I’ve run both times plus another half that was actually 15 miles.  I’m more of a turtle’s pace kinda runner. I will take in the scenery, listen to an audiobook, and just enjoy the moment. In other words, I’m slow. Gimme some gum, my iPod, an inhaler, and I’m good to go. So I’m training to run my 3rd BLRS half marathon in January. I feel like I can’t break the streak at this point. At least now I don’t have much of an excuse. I’m teaching 2 classes in town and both are great for cross-training and stretching.
  • While I’m at it, I also decided that my P90X class needed to be more inclusive. So now, it’s at the local Armory building. Plus, Armory soldiers can take the class for free AND I’m making a donation of admission to the Family Readiness Group: it’s a fund set aside for families whose soldier gets deployed. This community has been so amazingly welcoming to our family that I figure it’s time to do something good for the community. It’s a small gesture but it means the world to someone out there. And besides, I’m sick of seeing all the bad news out there. I’ll be going the positive route. What positive things are you doing? 😀

 

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V is for Victory, of course!

Y’all. I got to visit the Victory Ranch. Ok, great, Andrea. You went somewhere and probably already told me about it on Facebook. But wait! Lemme tell ya about this little gem of a place. I bet you can’t guess what’s there. Here’s a hint: not chickens. No friends, the Victory Ranch is not a chicken place. It’s about alpacas! Lots of alpacas. 200 alpacas, a few horses, and big dogs. Did I geek out? Of course.

You know how some people are put in your path at the right time? Well, that’s how I feel about Carol Weisner. She’s the owner of Victory Ranch and, with her two amazing staff members (alpaca wranglers? alpranglers? wranglepacas?) run the 1,000 acre ranch providing tours to the public every Friday through Monday.  Not only that, Carol invited my family to the ranch on their day off. I’m not that popular but I’d like to think it helped. Just kidding, it didn’t.

Let me start from the beginning…

Remember when I got those alpacas and had no idea what to do with them besides what the books said? Well, I realized I needed in-person help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it. I found Victory Ranch online and sent a quick email. Boy, am I glad she answered! After a few quick conversations on the phone, it was settled. We could come down on a Tuesday and check out what alpacas “should” look like. See, my boys are cute and cuddly but they need their nails trimmed, their teeth ground down, and next spring will be in dire need of a shearing.

So Carol invited us with open arms and we took the invite with open minds! Within an hour, I made 3 new friends, my daughter fell in love with Rosie the Great Pyrenees, and I got some amazingly soft socks and gloves. I also learned stuff, too. Like how alpaca fiber (it’s not wool, it’s fiber) doesn’t contain lanolin; that lanolin can be an irritant for people with sensitive skin. No worries with alpaca fiber because they don’t have lanolin! It’s not itchy.  And it’s warm. Sooooooo warm. I saw what raw fiber looks like, what finished products look and feel like, what alpacas look like after a shearing. I saw healthy nails, ground teeth, happy alpacas look like! We got to feed some and halter one. They’re just freaking cool.

And then there’s the shop. O to the M to the G. So many beautiful things to touch and buy! I ended up with some dryer balls. Ya know how everyone is going the green route? Well, out here we still don’t have recycling but I at least don’t have to use dryer sheets or fabric softener. So far, so good. Not good. Fantastic. It’s one less thing I have to spend money on and dryer balls can last for at least a year or more. Plus, no chemicals, no worries you’ll run out. And they reduce energy consumption. Go get some.

I’m gonna plug the hell out of this place because it’s that amazing. When Carol and her husband opened up this farm 25 years ago, it was because they wanted to live out their dreams. While her husband has since passed, she continues to dream big. You can’t help but respect and love her for that. Seriously, if you aren’t near the Mora/Las Vegas, New Mexico area, you need to find an alpaca farm close by and check it out. Alpaca Farm Days are coming up and a lot of places will be open next weekend for the event. It’s a cool little day trip, you’re around cute fluffiness, so why not? Plus, you might make new friends along the way.

Something else to consider: buy something while you’re there. Supporting these small farms and small ranchers (like us!) means you support a local business and a family investment. You know I’m all about helping out my friends. A lot of small places like this only survive when you, the visitor, bust out your wallet. They don’t have big name supporters or sponsors. There isn’t a government subsidy that will bail them out if things get tough (and they are!). They have you. If you can, get something for yourself and a gift for a friend. Sure, it might be a little out of your budget but it might mean they get to dream big another day.

Here’s another plug for ya. Just down the road from Victory Ranch is the Salman Raspberry Farm. It’s recently been sold but things will hopefully stay the same. You can pick your own raspberries or buy some prepackaged in the store. Have a quick lunch at the cafe and enjoy the scenery. It’s really gorgeous and I have to admit, I’ve never been back there but always wondered where that road next to the big red barn on I-25 would take me. Turns out, it took me to a happy place.

Here’s a list of links you should check out:

Victory Ranch Facebook Page – like and follow their page. If you are thinking about adding alpacas to your place, they have some for sale!

Shop the Victory Ranch store online here!!! PS – there’s a gorgeous orange coat in the far back of the shop. My birthday is December 27. Just sayin’….

Salman Raspberry Ranch – I got a wildflower seed mix that I can’t wait to sow!

Revenge: best served with eggs

Well, it happened. I didn’t want it to happen, I tried my best to avoid it, but it happened.

I lost a decent companion, one of those on the ranch that ensured I woke up every morning with purpose. I felt this coming but thought that I might have a moment or two before it happened. After all, doesn’t time move slower out in the country?

Today, my friends, I lost a friend. OK, not a friend at all, but still: I lost my rooster. To a predator. We aren’t sure what kind yet but I have a feeling it’s a raccoon. Ya see, predators have tell tale signs of attack. Without getting too detailed, and if you really wanna know here’s the link, the bite marks on the neck and chest and location of the crime scene fit the bill.

So what’s a girl to do to get rid of unwanted animals? Lemme be honest: I can’t love them all. I will definitely give preference to cuddly things that don’t attack my daughter, like to be loved, and offer some kind of mutual benefit. The cats, as lazy as they are, deter snakes and have tremendously helped our mouse problem. As do the Guinea hens. The dogs alert us to situations; Nacho barked last night and we thought he was just being crazy. He actually did his job and we didn’t listen. He also loves to remind us that my Amazon Prime order has come by UPS but I get excited, too. The chickens give eggs and eat bugs. The alpacas…well, those are still to be determined but they’re soft and pretty good at eating dandelion leaves and weeds.

Speaking of the alpacas, I am proud to report that after 12 days of hanging out with us, I was finally “allowed” to touch the alpha male. I still can’t get over their names, though. Anyway, the guys were laying down, or cushing, and relaxing from the late summer sunshine in the shade. I sat down next to him and slowly moved closer over a 5 minute period. The dogs weren’t much help, though. They saw a human at eye level and decided that meant I needed to pet them. They kinda ruined our bonding moment but hey, it was 5 minutes with my alpacas!!!

Back to the criminal. I cleaned up the remains of the body this morning as soon as I saw it then fumed and vented as we headed out of town to run other errands that needed to be done ASAP. Once back home, I cleaned out the coop, added some hardware cloth. It’s like a thick but flexible wire mesh – FYI chicken wire is NOT predator proof. It’s like putting string over a lion cage and saying it’s safe. It’s not.

Then I had that light bulb moment.

When I built the coop with the Guineas in mind I made a separate section just for the Guineas. I figured that IF they stuck around they would want a safe place to roost from the adult chickens, somewhere they could go to escape harassment while also acclimating to their new environment. They’re from Minnesota; we’re in New Mexico. Instead of just putting up more wire everywhere and not sleeping I decided to put them in the smaller Guinea coop. It’s seriously Fort Clucks in there. Metal grate for a door, metal roof and metal walls on two sides, hardware cloth and a shelf we turned on its side for nesting boxes. My girls hated it, but they’re safe tonight and that’s what matters to me.

We have a plan for the perp and I refuse to elaborate on it. If you’ve met a chicken lover before, they can probably tell you what will happen. If you haven’t…well, go find one and buy yourself a dozen of the freshest, most amazing eggs. Cook them up your favorite way. There is nothing like fresh eggs. When you’ve got something that wonderful at home, you tend to protect it. So now I’m down to 7 hens, no rooster, and 12 Guineas. And 7 cats. And 2 dogs. And 2 alpacas. Where the hell is my partridge in a pear tree? I don’t even like pears that much but I’d probably adopt it if I thought it would benefit me and I could save it from becoming pear tree paper.

If we catch this chicken thief, I’ll report it on my Facebook page. Did you know I have a Facebook page? I’m all techy and stuff. Follow the daily crazy here. Sorry, no pictures in this post. We already buried Hank. His name was Hank. Well, it was Hannah, but then he became a teenager and tried to have relations with the girls. So there’s that. Fly to the Cracked Corn, Hank.

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Ranch Life is Busy!

PS – The image above is Lacey. Girlfriend can ride, y’all!!!

Seriously, I’ve been busy. Ya see, when we go all out we go ALL. OUT.

So where do I start? Well, we’ve had the greenest August in a long time. That’s great for replenishing the pasture, the cattle have more than enough to graze, great for fire threats, terrible for mosquitoes and weeds. Our old mower needed replacement about 3 years ago but my father-in-law kept fixing it just enough to keep it going. However, it’s on its last leg for real this time…so we got a new one! It’s literally the first time in my life that I’ve owned a new vehicle. Corona (the new dog) is growing like a weed and Nacho is finally good with sleeping in the dog house. Taco is a gang leader and brings all the other cats to the house to play and catch moths at night. The chickens are still laying and the rooster is making a very nice mature crow. Granted it happens at 6am, 10am, 3pm, and a few evening squawks, I’m just proud of him for trying!

For the past month, really since August 20, we’ve packed up and gone camping on 3 separate occasions. We actually just got home Monday from our latest adventure. And every trip was amazing!!! Friends, food, laughs, mountain air, cool breezes, lots of s’mores…the good stuff that makes up a summer. I think we’re taking a break from camping at least until October, when we get to head to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta!  Not only do I LOVE the balloon fiesta, it’s also baby girl’s birthday party. All the more reason to celebrate!

Then there’s the family visits. Our extended family is a tad bit complicated but whose isn’t? We had an antelope hunter who got here and shot his antelope within 3 hours of driving up to the ranch. We had one of my favorite people here the next day who just happens to love pie – she got apple, pumpkin, and a berry cobbler because I love her. Then we had our family of 6 come out for the holiday weekend and the kids had a blast. I still miss the big city but there’s nothing like coming “out to the country” to reset your soul. I like to think of it as all the kids going home for Thanksgiving, but without the drama.

Oh, and did I mention the fitness classes are going well? So well, I’m moving to a new building in town to accommodate knee tuck jumps and burpees. Oh yes, the exercises people love to hate! More on that next week. It’s gonna be a good one.

Then there’s the new residents of the ranch. Ok…before I delve into this one, let me just say that it’s about a 2 week interval of adding animals to the ranch. Started with my dog Nacho and 3 chickens. Wait 2 weeks, add 5 more chickens. Wait 2 weeks, add Taco the cat. 2 weeks, add more cats. A few days and the keets came. I think we got in 3 weeks before the arrival of Corona. The ironic part is that we have yet to add our own cattle but that’s coming together, too. Alright, buckle down, grab a drink (alcohol or otherwise) and get ready for this newest addition. I’ll wait.

So, it all started months ago when I thought I should learn everything there was about ranching. Remember Ranchucation 101? Yeah, didn’t think I’d use half those books but I’ve used every single one. Just in case you’ve forgotten what books I mean, there’s a picture here.

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Ranchucation 101, anyone?

I figured the ones on the right would pretty much be put into use immediately. And they have been indispensable! The Guinea Hen guide that is on my Kindle helped me raise 12 Guinea hens and they’re still alive and thriving. I already had cats and dogs in Las Cruces, so that didn’t need much of an explanation. But The Camelid Companion and Alpaca Keeping? A few months ago, that was just a nice dream. How funny would it be to pull up to a cattle ranch and see these furry creatures hanging out? Ha. Ha. Ha. I had decided that, in the middle of doing something or other, I just HAD to check out a Facebook page I rarely visit. There they were…2 alpacas who needed a home because the owner was moving and animals weren’t allowed. Shut the front door. What I like most about alpacas is that they are tad bit nicer than llamas and not as tall. I’m short, I like to stay close to the ground. They’re short, too, so obviously we need each other.

I talked it over with my husband because (a) they’re alpacas, (b) I don’t know how to load the trailer yet, and (c) they’re alpacas. I seriously expected him to laugh and say no. But he didn’t. He said yes. I mean, really, he was kind of excited in his I’m-not-excited way to have alpacas. Two days later, we hitched up the trailer and, after about 45 minutes of trying to get them out of the pen, I got alpacas. I own alpacas. I have two freaking alpacas and my poor husband only shakes his head but he can’t help but smile because they’re kinda funny looking. He did take all the dirt roads to miss going through town or the highway, though. Heaven forbid someone see this nice trailer with alpacas in it….

I have alpacas. There, I said it. And they’re crazy soft. And actually kinda crazy. They don’t trust me yet, but it’s been about 11 days. At least they now let me go in the pens with them and ate hay out of my hands yesterday. It’s slow but it’s progress!!! They fit right in with this crazy lifestyle and I love them.

As with anything in life, the learning continues. In the process of understanding shearing, teeth, nails, behavior, training, and studying like I’ve got a final exam in Med School, I’ve met some of the most amazing people. Did you know there’s an Alpaca Breeders Association for almost every state? Did you know that there’s even a national registry that tracks DNA samples of alpacas and llamas? Did you know that you can spell llama with only one L? Mind. Blown. There’s even an Alpaca Farm Days where you can get your alpaca fix. You bet your wool I’ll be there.

Now you know where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to and why you haven’t seen mi vida loca for two weeks. I am learning about how to care for alpacas and train them to trust me so that I can care for them. They’re in rough shape and need a day at the spa. Luckily, I’m not alone in the alpaca world of New Mexico. There’s a few people with alpaca farms (seriously!) I’ve reached out to that are more than helpful. I never thought I’d have alpacas. Or chickens. Or cats. Or more than one dog. But here I am, going full force country. And I love it!!! Did I mention my mother-in-law wants to buy the horse?  I don’t have an Equine Keeping book yet, but there’s always time to learn!!!

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My first “new” new vehicle.
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Guineas and Grass!
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Too cute!
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Woman. I’m an Alpaca.