Quote

Lady Mixx-a-Lot; a calorie-laden love story

The photo above is my lemon creation. Covered in homemade lemon curd. By the hammer of Thor, that thing was good. Now let me tell ya how that sugar-laden dream came to fruition.

I always thought I was a cook. Give me a steak and some veggies and I’ll make a dinner out of this world. Spaghetti? No prob. Spaghetti Squash? Bring it on. But I never thought of myself as a baker. I just could never follow the recipes and always ended up with cookies that were either greasy and flat or thick like a brownie. Cakes that always fell in the middle and just tasted…off.

But when we moved to the ranch, there was this sense of purpose in my kitchen. I needed to learn to bake, not just because it was a skill I longed to master, but we were also out of bread and I had planned to make a pot roast. You need homemade bread for roast. That’s a law, isn’t it? Besides, there’s no way I’m driving 25 miles just for some bread.

I busted out the Betty Crocker Wedding Cookbook we got (obviously) for our wedding and found the perfect recipe. It was made for bread machines and I just happened to have one gathering dust! With my daughter dutifully pouring ingredients after I measured, we whipped it up, stuck it in the bread machine, and waited. And waited. Until an hour later when the top of the bread machine was lifted up because the bread had risen to more than double! Whoops! So we punched it down, put it in a bowl with a plastic bag on top, and let it rise again. Then it hit the oven and came out…..perfect. The best bread I ever had! Well that just set off a whirlwind of activity. PS – the bread machine is for sale.

I needed to bake more. I needed to get this right. I NEED TO BAKE THINGS. The A.W. Thompson Memorial Library has a nice selection of cookbooks (you can follow the librarians here on Facebook). I borrowed 1 or 2 every other week. I’d pick a recipe and go with it. But my hand mixer, also from our wedding, wasn’t cutting it. I needed a stand mixer. A real mixer. The kind that lives on the counter because it’s too heavy to move elsewhere.

And that’s when I met Lady Mixx-a-Lot.

She’s a KitchenAid stand mixer. A workhorse for a community member, she was being sold to make room for a newer model. If you’ve ever priced these mixers you know that they are an investment. Lucky me, I got one used and for a lot less than the store!!!

Lady Mixx-a-Lot and I have baked up some amazing things. Cheesecakes, pumpkin cakes, breads, tortilla mix, buttercream frosting, fresh whipped cream; you name it, we’ve done it. When we made Marble Brownies for branding (which was amazing by the way), when I wanted to try Dana’s Famous Beer Bread, when I didn’t know what Honey Cake was, Lady Mixx-a-Lot showed me. We even made a Lemon Bundt Cake that was out of this world! The only downside? My poor husband *has* to eat it. I know, it’s terrible. Made from scratch awesomeness. Every week. Feel bad for his waistline.

When I finally decide what to make for the County Fair, you better believe Lady Mixx-a-Lot is going to whip it, whip it good.

Now, as for that branding I was telling you about. It was a gorgeous, cool June morning when everyone showed up, horses saddled, raring to go to work. The cowboys and cowgirls went out on their horses to gather up the cattle. Within 20 minutes, everyone was in the pens and the work was done. The brands, the vaccinations, the “surgeries” for the bull calves, were all done within 2 hours. My job was to hold the insecticide tags; think of them as earrings with a natural insect repellant on them. Keeps the biting flies away! It wasn’t a glamorous job and I didn’t do much but considering I’m still baby-ing my wrist from wrestling that heifer and I was scheduled to show off my wines later that day, it was a great experience to see just how this “branding day thing”  works.

I can’t wait to actually participate next year! Mind you, this wasn’t just men out there; there were women, teenagers, even our little cowpokes got in on the branding. This is how you start and maintain a legacy of ranchers. Everyone helps, everyone works, everyone is thankful.

After branding I headed into town for the opening of Riley Girls Boutique. Y’all. This shop is amazing! I seriously walk in every time and say “Take my money”. Ok, I don’t but I can’t walk out of there without something cute and comfortable and wonderful! If you ever happen to stop in Clayton, you need to check out this store and grab something beautiful and unique. My job at the opening was to show off those tasty wines with a cause, viaOneHope wines. If you haven’t ordered, get on it! They just released sweet wines for you summertime drinkers. They go amazing with some frozen fruit, sangria, or just a sunny day at the pool. And if there’s a cause you want to support, let’s set up a party and donate 10% of proceeds to your nonprofit!

Here’s a random jumble of pictures for you. I didn’t get this posted in time but I hope you had a safe and wonderful 4th of July! We went to the rodeo, entered the turtle race (the turtle and a few friends were released on our pasture), enjoyed the fireworks, and stayed at the best RV Park in Clayton, NM.  Y’all need to get here. I’ll even bake something for you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Image

Whatchamacallit? (A Cow Chips guide to cattle identification)

Earlier this week we moved our bulls, Bert and Ernie, to the pasture where the cows and calves are currently residing. It’s a fairly straightforward idea: let the bulls mooch on the land, eat all the grass they want, get bigger and bulkier and, when the time is right, invite them over to meet the ladies. Easy right?

Before I tell ya what happened, I should take a moment to let you in on a little secret.

Not all cows are cows. 

Andrea, you just confused the heck out of me. There’s different names for different life stages of cattle when you’re talking about age and gender. It’s why people in this area look funny at city folk when they point out “that really big cow” that’s actually a rodeo bull. I’ll do my best to explain as simply as possible. Let me warn you, this does not cover it all! There’s so much more I’m learning and I won’t present all the facts of ranching life. It’s a simple guide to help the city folk my dear friends who are unfamiliar with cattle identification.

First, we have the calf. A newborn baby. Super cute, playful, tends to like to find a way into our fenced 2 1/2 acres because the grass looks greener. I had one in my living room during the blizzard. They stay with their moms (cows) until they’re weaned and ready to be sold to a buyer and raised as heifers or beef cattle.

pneumoniasummer
Photo via cattlenetwork.com   

Next, we have bulls or steers on the male side. (I’m going to keep this as vague as possible because children might read this and I’d hate to steal away that awkward birds and bees talk from ya.) Basically, until this calf undergoes “surgery” it’s a bull. After surgery, it’s a steer. Just read between the lines if you can. Or Google it. The general difference is that a bull will be kept back with a few other bull buddies to become sires. They get to have girlfriends when the time is right. If they went through surgery, they are called a steer and don’t get to have girlfriends. They roam in herds and put on weight to be sold at a later date for beef. Steers also tend to like to find openings in fences and hang out on the county road. We do what we can to control their escape with cowboys and fencing but they’re some sneaky critters. More often than not, if you happen to find a herd of cattle out on the road (or a state highway like I did last weekend – eek!), they’re steers.

kcf-bennett-absolute
This is the sire of our current bulls! PS – That’s NOT a belly button. Photo: PowerlineGenetics.com

 

On the female side we have the heifers and the cows. There’s more to it than this but if you’re city folk  just interested in the general terms, that’s all you need to know. Heifers are female cattle who are of age to become pregnant for the first time but have yet to have their first calf. A heifer is also what charged me after that blizzard. I still resent her for that, may she rest in cow peace. Once the heifer has its first calf, it’s automatically considered a cow. A cow can happily live for years on a ranch, producing calves that can be sold to either become beef or mothers on their own.

9176-dam-of-lot-9
A Manzano Angus Cow, very similar to our ladies! Photo: ManzanoAngus.com

HOWEVER….

You can’t just let the bulls and the heifers meet up all the time like a perpetual Saturday night at the club. The females need time with their calves and the bulls can interfere or injure calf and cow because they act like teenagers who just discovered the scrambled channels on cable TV. The rancher doesn’t want to have a 4 month calving period. We like it to be short and sweet, 60 days, where we can expect our calves to be born. That gives us time to plan on being home and prepare for any emergencies that might arise. So, we let the graze the land on a separate pasture while cows and calves grow and recuperate and basically moo to their heart’s delight in another pasture.

When we first got the cows in November, it was easy moving them from pasture to pasture. The hubby got in the feed truck, honked, and off we went! They were all still pregnant so we took it at a nice, steady fast walk to move them 2 miles. We were done in all of 30 minutes.

The bulls, though. Ugh.

No one told me how slow these guys are. If you’re wondering what I was doing (I know you are), well…I was on the 4-wheeler behind these slow pokes pushing them forward at a speedy 2mph whilst singing every operatic aria I knew as loudly as possible with a Country Twang. Seriously, it didn’t sound pretty, there was no technique involved besides yelling in tune in French, Italian, and English. I’m pretty sure the only reason the bulls kept moving forward is because they were trying to get away from the yelling opera singer behind them. Take a moment to let that picture sink in. Oh, and I was totally wearing my cowboy hat. Crazed lunatic.

They were just fine, ambling along, until they caught a whiff of our neighbor’s steers in the air about halfway to the home pasture. They were pawing at the ground, rubbing themselves on all the dirt and fence posts, trying to maintain their dominance by leaving their scent on everthing. I mean, really. What a ridiculous show! I am so glad I’m not single because, even in the human world, that was quite the show of hormones. I just rolled my eyes and sang louder. Anyway, an hour later we finally got them to the pasture with the cows. There was a moment of “Wait, who are you?” “Um, hi, my name is 1437” “Hey, good lookin'”.

The bulls wasted no time and have made some girlfriends now and all is right with the world. We are branding and “having surgery” this weekend. It’s the rancher’s job to feed all the helpers and I’m trying my best not to overdo the spread. Don’t be surprised if you see food pop up on my Facebook page. I’m in a cooking mood and finally have a giant group to test out some awesome recipes. More on that later!

(Cover photo from Living the Country Life. Great link here to learn about common cattle breeds.)

Image

Letter to the Editor (Mother Nature)

Dear Mother Nature,

Girlfriend. Sweetie. Honey.

What the hell are you thinking? Get it together.

 

Sincerely,

Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips

 

 

Lemme back up a minute and fill you in. The above eloquently worded letter is what I’d like to say to Mother Nature; the unedited version is full of many more bad words. If you look out any window in our house, you’ll get a taste of what happens when Mother Nature feels like playing a sick, twisted joke on us. This was from lunchtime. Notice the white stuff giving way to the muddy stuff. That’s about to freeze up.

April 29.jpg

Snow! Not only did she start April with the best April Fool’s Day joke EVER with snow, but now Mother Nature is ending April with round 2 of her fury. Don’t get me wrong, ranchers and farmers are grateful for the moisture: we need it. But with high winds? And right after I *just* planted my rosebushes??? That’s just mean.

Meanwhile, we are eating our emotions, checking Wunderground for the millionth time, staring out the window to make sure there isn’t a stray cow, and look like this:

IMG_6425

(This is fictional character Soraya Montenegro. The character is crazy and kind of a big deal. Click here to learn more about her.)

The one thing I’ve learned about living out on the ranch is you don’t mess with Mother Nature. The prairie fire in the panhandle and disastrous weather like The Dust Bowl and the drought that only ended about 5 years ago prove that, as much as we love this land, we don’t take the good days for granted. I guess with that in mind I should be thankful that this moisture will definitely keep things green around here for the foreseeable future but I think my cows would disagree.

Did I mention how we are in the middle of calving??? Yeah, the ladies are having their calves! We’re doing pretty well on the calf count. I try not to jinx myself with an absolute number. This cold weather, though, makes things a little more difficult for the mothers and their calves. They need to clean and nurse their babies to ensure a successful delivery. But when the biting cold slows everyone down that gets a little more difficult. So, in our jobs as stewards and caretakers, we are obsessing over the ladies and their babies. We were out at about 5:30am checking and counting and leading them to the windbreak in the corner of the ranch. There were some hurdles but it seems like they’ll be OK. I guess we will find out tomorrow when the snow melts and we can count yet again.

One cool thing I did today, besides bake the biggest loaf of bread to ever grace my belly was to warm up a calf in the middle of the entryway. Little thing was shivering, born only yesterday, not able to walk but still alert. So, a 90lb calf was in the house while I dried it off with a beach towel and rubbed it with a blanket that the dogs sleep on. Meanwhile, Corona the (somewhat annoying) Heeler/Collie mix sat with the calf, making sure it was OK. Turns out, she’s a great cattle dog and we need to train her!

Naturally, I sent a text to my rancher friends and asked “Is this normal? Have I gone off the deep end?” Turns out, totally normal! One friend even had a Christmas delivery; they brought it in, dried it off, and named it Christmas. Now I know I should never name the calves but, gosh doggit, I saved this one’s life. It’s name is April. Not sure if it’s male or female but April is the name that will stick. Luckily, mom was able to be found and they are happily reunited. Here’s Corona, April the Calf, and Jackson in the background (not pictured but probably sniffing something in another room, Nacho).

SONY DSC

I mean, honestly. We literally had a GREAT Easter. Awesome food, Oma (German for Grandma) and our Princess Cowgirl went to a fantastic service, I even made my first run at the cake I want to present for the County Fair. And lots of good bubbly! I think the temperature that day was 78F. SEVENTY EIGHT DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. I had plants out. This is what it looked like:

 

Then today happened. And it’s still happening! I’m literally watching snow fall sideways right now. 40+mph sustained winds and 29.7 degrees and dropping. WHATEVER.

The only good thing about this storm is that I finally experienced this blizzard that everyone warned me about. I’ve been hearing about how bad the weather gets, now I’ve experienced it for myself. Great. Now if this could happen when I don’t have calves on the ground that would be great.

So, yeah, Mother Nature. Quit messin’ around and get your seasons in check.

Great

 

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.

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.

 

January Recap – already?

That made me laugh. No bull!

January’s over. I mean, really. What happened there? That was quick! We got a few snowy days and next thing I know, it’s 10 days from Valentine’s Day! But don’t you worry. I got my Lips and my Sips stocked up just in case we got a whopper of a storm (we haven’t yet but I hear March is the worst time for blizzards). PS – The Edna Valley Pinot. Glitter makes everything better right? Well, we used it to celebrate my mom’s retirement. Happy Retirement, Mom! She’s also got a “Celebrate” Gift Box of Brut Champagne waiting for her. I mean, if I’m gonna gift wine, it better be the good stuff. And if you’re gonna get some for Valentine’s Day, order here by February 6 to get it in time.

Anyway, here’s a recap of my #ranchlife.

Well, I forgot to post this cute pic of me and my adorable husband at New Year’s Eve in Clayton. I couldn’t help but just look at this pic and think “Oh my goodness, he’s a cutie!” Channeling my inner Beyonce, I liked it so I put a ring on it. And by the way, we’ve been married 11 years now. How awesome is that? (And you know I have to bring it up…that lip color is on FIRE! I had it on about 5:30pm and didn’t take it off until well after midnight; if you can see the clock behind us, it’s 12:07am at the time of this pic.)

Earlier this week, we voted. Our school system is replacing two members on the school board and it’s a pretty close race from those I’ve talked with; I love that there are so many parents and teachers involved in their kid’s educational well being. Seeing how I’ll be one of those parents soon enough, I appreciate all the candidates and cast my vote for the people I think will do the best job representing our school’s needs.

Ok, now to the really crazy news. We have new tenants on the ranch. Well, one was here but it’s just recently that we realized that it was male. Lemme explain:

When we replaced the hens from the Summer Sadness that happened in their old coop, I let the salesperson at Tractor Supply pick out the chicks. They have this magical time of the year for Crazy Cluck Lovers like me who want chicks for cuteness, bug control, and a sustainable food source. It’s called Chick Days and it’s more important to me than Girl Scout Cookies. Just kidding, I love those dang cookies and need someone to ship them to me ASAP. I was almost going to go in and just separate the little fluffy butts I wanted but it seemed rude so I said, sure, go ahead and grab a few. We ended up with 4 hens, 1 Cornish Cross (which you read earlier is now in freezer camp), and 1 ROOSTER.

Y’all. I have my crowing, crooning fool singing the song of his people again! He’s not very loud yet having only started crowing last week but I love having a rooster around! Oh! And one of the younger hens has started producing eggs. And possibly Laura, who doesn’t realize she’s retired, is also occasionally dropping breakfast bombs again. So not only do I get 2-3 eggs a day but I’ve also got a rooster to name! In pure Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips style, I asked my awesome friends on Facebook to help name this little guy. He’s a barred rock and has the air of the cool guy on the football team that doesn’t go to parties, he IS the party. The winner was – hands down – Chris S.’s suggestion of Cluck Norris. Thanks, Chris!

Now, the other tenants we gotta talk about. We had to go to a sale and bid on them after looking and watching them for a few hours near a ranch in the even smaller town of Logan, NM. We were supposed to “just look”. That’s always a bad idea because “just looking” shouldn’t include hooking up the trailer and bringing the checkbook. But yet….there we were. Just looking with a trailer and a checkbook and a bidding number. These guys have papers and genetic lineage that should give us a great calving season in the fall. Please welcome our two new Powerline Genetics Bulls! Yes, ladies, and gentlemen, I have finally realized the dream of having bulls. I was ready to call them Sprinkles and Twinkles but decided that since they aren’t rodeo bulls, I should save those names just in case I need them in the future. However, our friend Kalyn G., who literally is cooler than ice on a hot summer’s day suggested Bert and Ernie. It stuck. Thanks, Kalyn!

What the Shetland?*

*Original cover photo (above) by Hivewire3d.com. Go check them out, it’s pretty cool.

 

Alright, I’m not taking the blame for this. In fact, this was never on my radar but a certain little girl got the birthday present so many of us dreamed of because her Oma (German nickname for Grandma) bought it.

My child has a Shetland pony. Let that sink in. I’ll wait.

Again, I do not take any fault for this horse. Not my fault at all. Remember that.

But she’s really cute and I kinda love her and we take care of her and she loves it when I brush her and scratch behind her ears just so. Gosh doggit, I really like her.

Well, she’s not my fault but I’ll keep her because I can ride her. She’s also closer to the ground and that’s comforting to someone like me who has a slight fear of heights and being bucked off a horse and onto a yucca.

To be clear, this pony looks like the ones you see at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and other places where you pay for them to ride gently in circles for 5 minutes. Here’s a very uplifting description of ponies. They’re sweet, funny, goofy, and pretty much the coolest short thing I’ve seen in a while. However, this pony has a mind of her own. She tried to stomp on the cats and thought it would be fun to bite one of the dogs. When she met the other two horses, she decided to be their new alpha after the pecking order biting and chasing was over. (That lasted that all of 10 minutes and everyone is fine, by the way.) I think the gelding is taking this kinda hard. He used to be the alpha then this little horse that can barely be seen over the winter grass decided to take over. He accepts her as part of the herd, as does the mare who, when you see them together looks like a mother/daughter combo, but he’s still stingy and mean when it comes to the feed. I can’t blame him – I mean, now he’s got two women who tell him what to do.

I have noticed both bigger horses get a little more jealous when I do scratch her. These two NEVER let us near them unless there’s food involved. Now, all of a sudden, the pony comes up for scratches and they’re trying to push each other out of the way for some cuddles. Ridiculous. But, since I’m trying to gain their trust so that I can actually ride one some day, I scratch and sweet talk and tell them all how much I love them. Meanwhile, they’re sniffing me for food.

Anyways, we have a pony. And a cute little pony saddle. Her name is Penelope, she’s 8 years old, and needs a bath. Oh and here’s some more awesome news: MY CHILD CAN COLOR IN THE LINES. Seriously, this is big news for parents. It’s on the same level as when they start to crawl or walk or poop and wipe by themselves. Huge news, my friends.

Now this has nothing to do with ranching but I figure you’ve been inundated with phone calls, flyers, and canvassers urging you to vote for their candidate. I’m sure you’ve been told to vote more times than you can remember and you probably are either voicing your opinion on the candidates or you’re hanging back to see if it will be Aunt Myra or Uncle Jasper who throws the turkey leg on Thanksgiving at your lovable-yet-dimwitted Cousin James for whatever he said about the other candidate. It’s ok to chuckle if it happened in 2012.

Whatever happens, please make sure not just to vote but to know WHAT you’re voting for! Even if you can’t or won’t vote for the next President of the United States, there are still a lot of local offices and bonds and such that need your input. Visit your local County Clerk’s office and be an informed voter. Remember, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. FOR FOUR YEARS. That’s an awful long time to hang onto regret. Just in case you’re wondering, we voted already. I’m not particularly fond of any politician on the ballot for “the big one” but I did vote for those people (and those bonds) that I think will serve our communities the best. Even then, I have a feeling our Thanksgiving will have LOTS of wine. And maybe a few extra turkey legs, just in case.

 

 

 

Image

Where did October go?

Dang, that was quick. I mean, I thought I’d only be gone for a week. I just looked back at my last blog post…it’s been almost a full month! Wow. Well, I guess I better get to updating y’all on what’s going on at the ranch.

We moved the cattle! I actually got to see this. The cows and calves get separated but they’re all going home. Before you get mad at me for telling you that moms and babies have to be separated, lemme tell ya why. They have to be for the safety of the calves…you don’t want one cow to get spooked and accidentally hurt a calf. Speaking of calves, we had a birth here on the ranch! Too bad we weren’t there to see it – we were at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF) having way too much fun! We had the pleasure of taking care of these cattle all summer, now we will wait a few weeks and get our own herd. In the spring, I hope to have lots of pictures of our calves – they should be arrive mid-March. Of course, we decided to jump in to ranching when cattle prices are so low some people are struggling to pay the bills. So what’s my point? Eat some damn beef. Go local if you can. Or contact me and let’s make a deal. Not sayin’, just sayin’. I love the life we’re building out here and that we’ve literally become stewards of the land and the animals who live here – now help me and families just like mine continue this amazing tradition.

*Gets off her soapbox and continues with the blog*

Speaking of the AIBF, it was our daughter’s birthday. It was a pirate birthday and she was our pirate princess. Our tradition for the past few years is to camp out there (well, the lot we stay at has all the super nice coaches – it’s more glamping on a paved parking lot). We get there, set up camp, have a birthday party, invite all of our Albuquerque area friends, and everyone gets to stay and watch the fireworks and glow. It’s amazing! Balloon Fiesta is something we look forward to every year because we know we’ll have a great time, it’s easy to plan, and there’s nothing like seeing balloons hanging in the air at 8:30am. They’re like jeweled decorations on a tree except the tree is the beautiful New Mexico sky and I’m holding a breakfast burrito in my hand instead of a gift. We also took a detour to McCall’s Pumpkin Patch. Folks, you need to get to your local pumpkin patch – that was fun! Piggy races, a castle with princess tea time, a maize maze, and of course the coveted pumpkin picking. Oh and punkin’ chunkin’. Here’s the site for the World Championship of Punkin’ Chunkin’. Yes.

A bittersweet moment was remembering my father-in-law. One year ago he passed; I still expect to see him coming through the door. So much has changed in the past year but I think he’d be proud of what we’ve accomplished in that time. Actually, I think he’d be extremely impressed. My husband and I are definitely go-getter kind of people, so getting into a business on a wish and a dream sounds exactly like something we would do if you asked our close friends. One of our cousins came up to the ranch and had the sweet idea of reprinting photos of the family and sending them off on biodegradable balloons. It was a beautiful gesture and one I’ll never forget.

The alpacas are mad at me. Well, they’re mad at my husband but weren’t too pleased that we had to cut their nails. You’d think they’d be down for a manicure. Unfortunately, they hate being roped and I’m not really sure when they were haltered last. The halters we bought, even though they were listed as XL, were still too small. Which got me to thinking…are these alpaca/llama hybrids? They’re definitely big guys. Is that even possible? No matter, they’re still goofy and the best lawnmowers. PS – I’ve got lots of alpaca poop (aka beans!) if you want some.

The Harvest Moon! That amazingly gorgeous red sphere just peeked over the horizon. Wow. But ya know what? I got a bone to pick with the weather. I thought it was supposed to be cool now. Mother Nature is messing with us big time. The highs this and next week are in the high 80’s to low 90’s. I mean, seriously. Get it together! I almost switched out my wardrobe for sweaters and forgot and I’m STILL fine in t-shirts. I need my sweaters and alpaca mittens and wood-burning stove right now. Not shorts and tank tops. I need to retire summer for a bit.

Which reminds me, I have to postpone my dreams of another half marathon. I did something weird to my ankle on the last run and it’s been funky running ever since. Not broken or sprained, just twisted enough that if I run it hurts. The last time I ignored pain I ended up with a stress fracture, so I’ll just stick with a smaller distance and give myself more time to train. Extra time can’t hurt: along with this crazy heat, it’s also been ridiculously windy! I hate running in wind. And heat. Don’t mind the cold, unless it’s raining. Ok, I just love to hate running. But at least I have my indoor cycling!

Oh, my cycle playlist! So I made this for a dear friend of mine who inspired me to teach my kind of crazy and came to a lot of my cycle classes in Las Cruces. I would joke with her not to throw her water bottle at me but half the time she was too exhausted to do it. Or she was thirsty and didn’t want to waste her bottle on me. Anyway, I made a playlist for her and thought I’d share it with the world. You can listen to my version of crazy via Spotify by clicking here. Be warned, it’s angry, there’s techno, and most people who ever rode with me can hear me yelling and dancing in the aisles. It’s just how I roll. (Get it? How I roll? Because it’s on a bicycle???)

The damn chickens. OK. I gotta vent here (I did it again! Vent? Get it??!) The chicken perp is now a Guinea perp. I lost 10 of my 12 Guinea keets in ONE NIGHT. The other 2 are extremely quiet now and I can’t blame them. They lost all their siblings a month ago and we locked them out of their old coop. I refuse to let them be easy prey until we figure out what happened and how to stop it. Instead of being super smart and hanging with the chickens *inside* the re-purposed horse trailer, they prefer to roost *on top* of the trailer. I guess that works as long as an owl doesn’t spot a giant white or polka dot bird. At least they might have a chance of escape. As it is, Guinea fowl are only barely domesticated and usually roost in the trees of Africa with hyenas and lions and such so I guess they’ll be OK in New Mexico – at least, I hope. Andrea, you ask, why don’t you find some place safer for them and train them to go there? Lemme tell ya, we tried. We did let them roost for a bit inside the shop but, well, they poop a lot. They like to poop on things you’ll need the next day, like your toolbox. Or your indoor cycle. Or the 4-wheeler. It’s fun cleaning up bird poop, as I’m sure you can imagine. Really, they just kinda quit going inside and decided instead that the open air was more their style. As for the chickens, they’re doing better. Laura got her voice back, Rosa’s neck feathers are growing back, and 2 are going through their molting period. They all kinda look ugly and emaciated but I promise they’re well fed and spoiled rotten. I did somehow convince the hubby to let me get some chicks. They’re cute and fluffy and skittish and live safely in the workshop. If all works out, I could be getting 5-7 eggs a day – in six months or so. Oh joy!!!

Phew. That was a lot. It doesn’t include our trip to the Clayton Arts Festival, that time I drove to Las Vegas, NM to pick up my mom’s dog for his staycation, or the few days we spent cleaning out rat’s nests in the hunting camper. Seriously, those things happened ad ended up on the floor of my editing room. What have you been up to? Talk with me, walk with me, let’s hang out sometime!

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? 😀

 

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.