The hard part

Today, I’m focusing on a more serious topic. The above photo is from KXAN.com, documenting the Panhandle wildfire. That area is only 2-3hrs away from us. In short, it’s scary.

There are some tough things to remember when it comes to ranching: not every calf or cow will make it, there isn’t always enough grass or feed to go around and cattle needs to be sold (for example, the drought of 2012), not every season affords a life of ease.

Sadly, this past week, Mother Nature reminded us of her power to control our fate.

If you haven’t heard (we didn’t even know until late Wednesday) there was a massive fire in the Texas Panhandle and surrounding areas. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/us/wildfires-texas-deaths/

Ranchers literally lost everything: grass, buildings, and – most important – their cattle. When you only get one paycheck a year, the blow comes even harder. I saw some sad and disturbing pictures of cattle who tried to save themselves by sitting in their own stock tanks of water, hair burned away, udders singed meaning calves had no access to milk, others who looked as if they were trying to get away only to turn back and realize their calves were lost in the blaze. They went back in for their little ones and never came out.

Cowboys and cowgirls were out there, not trying to pack their own belongings and head to safety, but trying to gather their cattle and herd them away from danger. Not everyone made it back. Meanwhile, firefighters who also ranch lost their own herds while trying to save the land and cattle of others.

This is a dark, dark time for ranchers. It’s the one thing you never want to see or experience. So much land scorched. So many people taken away too early. So many hard decisions made time and again.

We do love our life out here on the ranch but it’s not just a fun hobby to pass the time. Ask any rancher worth the manure on their boots why she does it and you’ll realize that we consider ourselves stewards of the land. We obsess, we struggle, we grieve, we try to find ways to keep things going because we value what we’ve been given. And when decades of toil, an entire livelihood, is taken away…

The most redeeming part of this sad time is our community. I thought I knew how to be a good neighbor but now I realize that you’ll never see another group come together like ag people.

So many times the heart of a smaller town is bigger than the population. In Clayton, people donated barbed wire to help keep surviving cattle penned in safe areas. Hay and feed from surrounding feed mills, even the truck and flatbed to haul the hay were donated; cases and gallons of water, food, clothes of every size donated, medical supplies for veterinary care. All given without question and with open hearts. Why? Because we can. Because we should. Small town living seems to come with people whose hearts are bigger than the sky above them. I’m proud to see the outpouring of help and be counted amongst them.

If you can help out, here are a few articles I found listing donation sites. If you can’t donate in the form of tangible goods or cash, even a prayer for those still out there containing this fire and ongoing prayers for those who will rebuild (and they will rebuild) is appreciated.

Amarillo: http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2017-03-08/more-5000-cattle-displaced-fires-die-down

Kansas: https://www.kfb.org/Article/Kansas-wildfire-relief

Oklahoma: http://kfor.com/2017/03/09/northwestern-oklahoma-wildfires-donation-links/

Colorado: http://kdvr.com/2017/03/07/northeast-colorado-wildfire-at-50-percent-containment-with-more-wind-expected/

American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation

(ARC is also providing assistance to those affected in the Florida wildfire. Naples, FL isn’t too far from Sarasota Opera, where I was privileged to sing a few years ago.)

There aren’t any pretty or funny pictures this time. A quick Google search for Panhandle wildfire will give you enough to see. I’ll be back soon with another update on ranch life. For now, I’ll be praying for our neighbors.

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What Wind?

So the standing joke on the ranch is that newcomers, out-of-towners, basically anyone who doesn’t live in this area comes in and says “Gosh, it’s windy outside! I can’t believe it! 50 mph gusts? All week???!!! How do you do it?”

To which we say, “What wind?”

Yeah, windy days from now until sometime in the summer are the norm. But even the locals disagree on just HOW windy it gets. From what I gather, it’s a little crazier than normal. And a lot less snow, which worries a lot of us. Since we don’t irrigate our ranches (we have wells and earthen dams but you don’t really water yuccas on purpose), we depend on snowfall and rain. Luckily this summer was pretty wet but the winter, which usually affords us a good 5-10″ of snowfall hasn’t happened regularly. Instead, we had a 75 degree day yesterday on the ranch. Except for the wind breeze, it’s perfect springtime beer and wine drinking weather.  A little breezy but seriously gorgeous. And the trees are blooming. And I’m getting Spring Fever. All I want to do is go outside and plant things and dig in dirt. But here’s the ironic twist to all that. I can’t because it’s too damn windy breezy.

All this Spring Fever, however, has kept me from blogging. So let’s fix it! Because right now it’s ridiculously windy breezy.

Let’s start with fun stuff.

CHICKENS.  I have more chicks! There’s such a thing as chicken math. The rule of chicken math is that you never count your chickens, hatched or not. You just don’t. Instead, you guesstimate how many you have. I now have 15 plus a guinea; more on that later. Then you subtract any retired cluckers: that brings me down to 12. Roosters? 11 chickens. Any chicks or pullets who aren’t in laying mode yet? 4. So really I only have 4 chickens. And I get 5 eggs a day. Confused yet? Good! Because that’s the point of chicken math. If you don’t know how many you have, how is it an addiction? According to a few teachers I know it makes as much sense as common core math.

CATTLE. The ladies are doing great and the guys are happy to do their job! We lost one calf in late December and we are pretty sure they made boyfriend and girlfriend one starry night. They’re starting to get their maternal instincts in because one time Nacho tried to bark at them and they tried to trample him. I love my dogs but sometimes they need to know who’s boss. Around here, it’s the actual profit makers.

ALPACAS. I literally rarely ever see them. They’ve got 640 acres to roam and avoid the cattle, so they’re basically just feral alpacas. Still love them, though.

HORSES AND PONY. They’re still here, fat as ever, because they eat cake with the cows. Not human cake because I don’t share but giant pellet of feed made for livestock. Anyway, they love it and hang out with the cows because they get a little extra feed that way. Penelope is seriously gangster, by the way. She’ll run her little short legs up and get in the way of the cows when she think I’ve got food. She’s a hot mess.

HUMANS. We are great! We’ve had a ton of adventures lately, like checking out Great Wolf Lodge (LOVED IT and met some great staff members in the salon during our manicures. Oh, and the water park is the perfect size and the lifeguards aren’t sitting around – they’re working! OH, and how can I forget the bar? Yeah, full bar. You’re welcome.) Plus, I defeated the Dragon in MagiQuest. You walk around the hotel with a plastic wand; it’s basically a scavenger hunt but with 10 year old kids trying to help you find the dragon’s lair. I looked crazy until I beat it. Then they worshipped my awesomeness. I celebrated with a margarita.

We also went skiing. OK. Let me stop here. See, I don’t ski or swim well. Yes, I’ve been to the slopes and swam a sprint triathlon but I don’t ski or swim. I do it when provoked. It’s like people who say they only run when being chased. I only swim or ski when being chased. So, in good Red Lips fashion, we hit the slopes with our dear friends in Angel Fire. I still don’t get the point of going fast downhill on ice but I do have to say I had fun. The little one and I went to ski school. She got her first taste of snow (literally – poor thing fell on her face) and I ruled that bunny slope. I do have to say that the instructor made it a great day. Years ago (and possibly around the time I developed a distaste for skiing) my husband tried to teach me. “You just go” he said. “Pizza pie and french fry”. “Just fall, you’ll be ok.” Seriously, that was the lesson. After falling about 3 or 4 (or 25 I don’t remember) times I decided my day was best spent at the bar. But a new teacher, a better idea of what to do, and I was commanding the slopes for about 10 minutes before I was just tired. I’ve never slept so soundly.

I’m still “The Lips Lady” and love matching every lady to their perfect lip color! I mean, seriously, Clayton, NM has some gorgeous lips walking around. If you need help finding yours, contact me! Not only that, I’m LOVING the wine selections at viaOneHope. I still can’t pick a super duper favorite because then I crack open another one and it’s this crazy love connection. Wine is my Spirit Animal.

Oh, and special thanks to Kalyn G. who named Bert and Ernie AND also hooked me up with Girl Scout Cookies. Y’all. I wasn’t joking. Feel free to send me cool stuff.