Live from C-Town!

That photo is a first place winner. Literally!!! I took it and it won at the fair. But lemme back up a moment.

Wow, what a summer! The last time you heard from this Cow Chip, we were celebrating the 4th of July and Lady Mixx-a-Lot was in full swing. Well, I’m proud to announce that the Lady has earned some vacay from my smatterings of batter, doughs, and buttercream and we did TONS more after the 4th. So here’s a breakdown of what’s been going on for the past two-ish months.

We traveled to Albuquerque so I could earn my Concealed Carry License. That’s right, folks, Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips is legally allowed to carry a firearm! Now, don’t get all crazy and start sending me links on how guns kill. I have the license but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am always packin’. I am a firm believer in education and learned quite a few things to help elevate my awareness in gun safety. If you’re local to Albuquerque, check out this online/in-person class.

A week later we were camping! 6 days on the open road with my favorite co-pilots was so much fun. We checked out the San Isabel National Forest near Trinidad, CO (gorgeous site at Purgatoire campground and we even saw a bear!!!), stayed at the Rio Chama RV Park which sits next to the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad; if you haven’t checked out this historic railroad, you need to get there. It’s beautiful and the scenery is AMAZING. Next we spent a day at the new Angel Fire RV Resort. All I can say is the jacuzzi is wonderful, the laundry facility is a welcome sight, and the elk who travel every day nearby just make you love nature. Lastly, we spent two days with dear friends in Red River at the Roadrunner RV Park. Y’all, this is THE place to stay when you travel to Red River for the summer. Gorgeous sites, the river runs right through the park so you can get in a little trout fishing, and the owners and staff are on-site and so extremely friendly. But reserve early because they sell out quickly and often!!!

The following weekend we decided to squeeze in “one last trip” to Morphy Lake, a primitive but gorgeous little gem of a lake operated by the New Mexico State Park system. Ranger Pat even talked with us about bears and the importance of keeping our trash and food secure. The only downside is that small campers and tents are best for this place. We have a truck camper (it fits on the back of the truck) but it’s tall – we lost a satellite and vent cap on our way out. NATURALLY we had to go to the big city for replacements. And also “one more last trip” of the summer.

Here’s something y’all don’t know about me. I love this band called 311. Maybe you’ve heard of them? They’re kind of a big deal and been around for about 27 years. They celebrated the occasion with a summer tour and a new album I’m currently loving called Mosaic. Maybe you haven’t but you should totally check them out because they make my life happy. Now, Andrea, what kind of music do they play? Well, it’s a mix of rock, rap, reggae, and whatever else they decide to add. Basically, it’s my happy place and the concert in Albuquerque was FANTASTIC. It’s so good to see musicians just…be musicians! No crazy fireworks and choreography that’s been rehearsed. Just amazing music and about 1,000 people who love 311 just as much as this girl. I haven’t had that much fun in a while! My poor husband was like you, a little clueless, but he’s game for good music and staying at fancy places. I think he’s become a lifetime fan after that one concert.

Did I mention I entered the Union County Fair? Yes, friends, the country-zation of Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips is complete. Lady Mixx-a-Lot helped concoct the tastiest cake (Devil’s Food cake with a Mocha Buttercream Filling and Frosting with a Dark Chocolate Raspberry Ganache on top, thankyouverymuch), my happy little camera got some great pictures from our camping trip and my mom gave me the best tutorial on flower arrangements. And they each won a first place for their category! Not only that, I got 3rd in the Photography Class. So honored, so humbled, so excited for next year! Seriously, go to your local fair and enjoy and participate and CHEER those kids in the ring. The dedication they have to those animals is unreal.

Lastly, I decided to do something I didn’t think I could do…I became a DJ for our local radio station. Because why not? Ya know how some people say to do one thing every day that scares them? Well, I did. And I got the job. And now I’m on klmx.us streaming every Monday through Friday from 7am to 10am MST. Yep, I just threw that out there!

*Oh, sidenote: remember how much we loved Taco the Cat and thought what a great guy he was? So cuddly and sweet and a total gentleman? Turns out Taco is female and just had 5 kittens. So, there’s that, too. We’ve also gotten about 7-8 inches of moisture in the past 2 weeks. Our norm is 14″ FOR THE YEAR. There’s some pretty cool photos I took yesterday of the creek running and valleys completely filled with rain. YAY FOR MONSOONS!!!

The highs have literally been no more than 86F this summer. For a girl who loves the cool, fall air, I’m in heaven right now.

Here’s some pics of what we’ve been up to, including some of the photos I entered in the County Fair. Have an awesome day! We’ve got a big celebration coming up and my baby is going to Kindergarten. I still haven’t decided: box of Kleenex or mimosas? It could go either way.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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!

I got the Fit Bug!

I don’t have bugs, calm down. Well, Corona had fleas and ticks but I think we’ve got that handled. I can’t stand bugs that bite. Plus, gross. A good bath, spraying the house just in case, a flea and tick collar, and ***gag alert*** me sitting there picking the darn things off of her and she’s a happy little thing! Poor Nacho isn’t taking this too well, though. He had to get a bath and collar, too. The worst part for him is not only does he have this cute fluff ball following him EVERYWHERE, now he has to sleep outside in the dog house. Oh the horror!!! But seriously, we aren’t in the city and they have a giant Igloo house to share. Unfortunately, Nacho is a city dog. He doesn’t understand this “sleeping outside” thing. So he rebels by sleeping on one of the chairs. Never mind that the new dog house is cozy and warm and his old blanket and bed are in there. Oh no. Can’t do it if “that other dog” is in there. Mind you, she’s all of 10 pounds but my dog is stubborn. I don’t know where he gets that from.

So back to the title of this blog post: I got the Fit Bug! Ya see, when we moved 4 months ago (dang, it’s already that long?!) I loved my job as a fitness instructor. I was teaching an average of 6 classes a week and enjoyed every single one. Even the one time I had to teach at 5:45am, I walked out with a smile on my face. Not so much walk in with a smile because I don’t smile before coffee, but definitely walked out to a gorgeous New Mexico sunrise and a lot of sweat and I knew I was done for the day. It’s like that t-shirt says: I workout before my brain knows what’s happening.

I quit the waking up early thing long ago but I still love to get in a good workout. Plus, I miss teaching. There’s something so amazing about seeing people transform and change in front of your eyes. One day they walk in and you stop and stare and can’t stop complimenting them on their hard work. You know they did the work, you can’t help but be proud! Instead of whining about how I wasn’t teaching, how I wasn’t motivating anyone, I decided to take a note from my class participants of yore and contacted the local gym owner, John. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go but guess what? I have classes!!!! I’m motivating and coaching and loving every minute of it. If you’re around Clayton, NM sometime, come to our PiYo Live classes on Wednesdays or try out the P90X Live class on Mondays at the Clayton Health Club. That’s right: shameless plug. Come to class!

Now, I have to say that just about everything is right in my world at this point except the cardio. P90X has cardio and, depending on how hard you go or how hot the classroom is, PiYo can make your heart beat like a drum at Carnaval.

Enter my newest beauty, my Sunny indoor bike! I think I might have to start posting my playlists somewhere because this is what makes me smile big. I LOVE indoor cycling! I know what you’re saying: Andrea. Seriously? Why bike indoors when you can bike outside? It’s not like you don’t have miles of road. That’s what my hubby said anyway. But here’s the thing. I got started in all this fitness stuff by dancing. Zumba, specifically. While I don’t teach Zumba anymore, I do love to workout to a rhythm (I’m an opera singer, remember? Musicians like rhythm and tempo).

So using an indoor bike means 2 things. 1. I can get my workout on to music 2. I don’t have to risk a flat/snake encounter/getting lost/falling down and having to limp back home. Don’t get me wrong, I am working towards going outside and maybe even a duathlon because I hate swimming and the local pool is shut down indefinitely, but until I can do it without music, I’m using my bike.

Ah, what the heck…follow me on Spotify and I’ll post some playlists and profiles every now and then on this blog. You’ve been warned.:)

A week (or two or three) in Pictures

If you’re an avid reader – and who isn’t? – of my blog, you might have noticed that in the previous post I mentioned something about camping. Then I didn’t show you pictures! Well, I was so excited about the rain from the past couple of weeks that I kinda forgot. Sorry about that. I did have to bust out the mower again and that’s always fun. I get to jam out and sing my terrible efforts in Spanish and French and whatever whilst trying to dance in my seat and not hit anything. We have 2 1/2 fenced acres, it could happen.

In an effort to keep the rabid fans from beating down the cattle guard, I will make this post mostly pictures from the past few weeks. Camping with our family friends, the Montaños, near Vado lake, driving through small towns like Folsom and getting lost trying to find Folsom Falls (we found the falls – it’s now closed to the public), overlooking Johnson Mesa on the way to Raton, the big lake at Sugarite Canyon plus our camper at the small pond at Cimarron Canyon. We even took a daytrip to Red River and I took a photo of the precise moment I realized I might have a fear of heights. We also added another animal to the zoo AKA the ranch AKA home.  I’ve got a whole Mexican Fiesta of Food happening…Nacho the dog, Taco the cat, and now we finish it off with a Corona. That’s right. Corona the border/heeler puppy. She’s sweet and cute and loves her belly to be rubbed. She tried to herd the chickens this morning, though – we’re working on that.

Anywho, enjoy all the pictures of Northern New Mexico and our adventures! If you ask, I might be able to tell you which is which but don’t hold me to it. I just smile, snap, and ride shotgun.

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Weather Obsessions

Lemme tell ya, when your livelihood is truly connected to Mother Earth, it’s easy to obsess over the weather.

Go into town and everyone wants to know just how much rain you got last week or last night. How your grass is growing. We compare, we talk, we worry. There are days the clouds look ominous. We close all the windows and prepare for the power to go out. And it misses us. Meanwhile, just across the road, lightning and thunder and no power and buckets and buckets of rain fall down. The National Weather Service and Wunderground are the sites you go to most. Seriously, I visit them more than Facebook!

Weather is an important part of life out here. So, much to our surprise, we went camping with family friends and came back to 1.3 inches of rain. We left hoping a bolt of lightning wouldn’t hit and burn everything to a crisp. We came back and it was cooler, greener.  Even the sunflowers are starting to sprout up along the roads. Then, that next day, we had another .2 of rain (2 tenths or 2/10″ if you need some direction on measurements). I busted out my rainboots and we splashed in puddles and stood in awe of a double rainbow. That’s a big deal!

Wait. Rain in July and August? Why is that news? In New Mexico, we get these really neat weather patterns from mid-June through August called “monsoons”. These are days where the ground temperature is so hot and the upper atmosphere is so cool, they basically clash and make rain. That’s a reeeeealllly general idea but here’s a better explanation. The afternoons are hard to plan around because you’ll never know if it’s going to rain or just stay cloudy. But this monsoonal moisture is what we look forward to on the ranch and the Southwest. It means that the cattle will have green grass. That our underground wells and aquifers might get a little relief from our pumping. That I don’t have to wash my car. Sunflowers pop up out of nowhere, birds come back around looking for bugs. The frogs are croaking loud in the earthen dams and random creeks. It also means bugs reappear, too, but when you’re in a drought, it’s a welcome sign that things are alive.

There is such a thing as having too much rain but beggars can’t be choosers and I’d have to get someone from the Extension Office to explain it.

One of my favorite Cowboy Poets (well, the only one I can actually name) is Baxter Black. His articles are printed all over the place and he even has some books and CD’s out! One of his poems, I just happened to see in this month’s Progressive Cattleman is titled Feast or Famine. Instead of pictures today, I leave you with Mr. Black reading his poem. I think it explains exactly how we feel about rain on the ranch. Enjoy!

 

Mooovin’ On Over

Well how exciting is this? I finally got to do my first official “ranching” job. I helped move cattle! This is where I earn my stripes and put that Ranchucation 101 post to work.

It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. As long as I have my green horse AKA the 4-wheeler, I’m good! Ya see, there’s a pasture between our house pasture – where the cattle have been hanging out – and their new pasture. That part in between houses some yearlings that aren’t ours. If it were on a graph, it would look like this: Our Cows —–Someone Else’s Cows —– Our Cows.  But before we moved them, the hubby and I had to clean up their accommodations. Again.

Remember that whole fixing fence post? It was one of the first posts and when I truly felt like a rancher in the making. Well, we did it again. Except this time, it was in 100 degree heat and I wore my rubber rain boots due to high grass and possible snakes. The lesson there is to fix the damn fence quickly. And wear sunscreen. And bring extra water and snacks. Because wow. That was hot!

Speaking of water, did I mention we had to muck out the stock tanks?

Ya see, there’s the right way to do things and then the “WTH????” way to do things. On this occasion, we went with the latter option. Usually, cleaning out a stock tank is done when the water is drained and basically all the algae and water bugs are gone and/or dead. You get in with a shovel, clean it out really well, and move on. But then there’s our way. Why not wait until it’s full of water, then realize it’s dirty, so you clean it out with your rubber boots and try not to puke in the process when you rake out rotting algae and black slime? So much more fun. If you’re a rancher, you’re probably giggling to yourself and wondering what were we thinking? Well, we weren’t thinking and you’re welcome for the laugh. Rookie mistake but still, it was fun to work outside and literally get dirty.

So the water is clean (at least as far as I could get the rake out in the middle of the stock tank) and the fence is fixed (most of it anyway; the damn thing still has the original wood posts!) and it’s time to move some cattle.

With the help of two real cowboys – they ride horses and know what they’re doing and stuff – my husband got the cattle walking from our house about a mile away, past the other rancher’s pasture, to their new digs. I was in charge of keeping that other group of cattle away from ours. I got to “push” them a bit away from the main road. The last thing you want are someone else’s cattle mixing with your own. It’s like having 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of salt: they taste very different but both go well with a margarita.     Never mind.

Anyway, I led the other cattle out of the way and then followed behind our cattle. I was soooo proud of myself! I kept the other cattle away, we got our cattle on the right pasture, and no snakes. Or broken fence. The cowboys didn’t even laugh when I was taking pictures and told them about my blog. They were wearing glasses and cowboy hats but I know deep down they were impressed.

So how does a girl follow up with a proud ranching moment? She goes to the big city of Albuquerque for a weekend getaway with her mom and daughter to Starbucks and Target. That’s right. I’m still a city girl at heart.

 

It’s a Jungle Out There.

 

The keets are here!!!! These little feathered cuties are crazy adorable. I mean, how do you not love a little baby anything? As with everything else on the ranch, there’s a reason we have them and it’s not all pretty.

Guineafowl (called keets when they are babies) are apparently terrible mothers. They’ll abandon their young, are very skittish, and can go wild. They also have a terrible habit of sounding a VERY LOUD alarm whenever a predator, the chickens, cows, horses, UPS truck, etc. come up. They like to roost in trees and pretty much do what they want. They’re basically that bratty kid you knew in elementary school that was convinced they would never get in trouble because their parents would protect them. Just kidding – sort of.

Anyway, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I’ll always know when my delivery is here. PS – If you’re the UPS delivery person reading this, thanks! You’ve been delivering so many damn packages to our house we actually talked about leaving an ice cold glass of sweet iced tea and cookies for you. Only you know our obsession with Amazon Prime.

Guineas are also great at bullying snakes. Apparently, they’ll circle a snake or other small predator and herd them out of reach of their eggs. Or just peck them to death. They only breed in the spring so I might have a clutch or two of babies next year. Or I won’t. No big deal. They also like to eat insects of all kinds and are ravenous hunters of fleas and ticks. We don’t have fleas or ticks but this summer we were inundated with June bugs. June bugs are also the flying version of grubs. I hate grubs with a passion. They’ll eat up your grass in just one season and you’re left with a patch of brown circles. Really, I don’t like bugs much at all. Flies, flying ants, June bugs, moths, mosquitoes, grasshoppers – they’re all pesky problems out here. Which is why we are going the au natural route and including Guineas on the ranch. If all works out well, next spring will be glorious and the bugs will be kept to a bare minimum.

So here’s the funny part. We also have mice and rats. I’m not talking New York City size rats – that’s a whole species on its own. But I do mean the kind that are bigger than mice. There’s one right now under the cattle guard leading to the house. Grosses me out. I thought it was a dirty baby bunny when I walked across the cattle guard then realized nope – that is not the kind of cute furball I was expecting. Now, guineas, for all the good they do, don’t take care of rats and mice as well as they do snakes. But cats do. Without further delay, I’d like to introduce you to our cats. Plural. There’s 10 of these things in total. 7 kittens, 2 moms, and one Taco. We got Taco just before the 4th of July. We guess at this point, he’s about 10 weeks old. He was the only one left of a litter that was still with the owner and he was sooooooo sweet! I couldn’t leave him out on the ranch alone. So we made him the patio cat. He pretty much just lays around and waits for someone to pet him or feed him, but gosh he’s a sweetie. Totally useless in the snake department. There was a racer near the car and he just stepped over it to walk towards me. Meanwhile, I’m freaking out while our daughter and the dog run inside. The cat, no big deal. Just walks over it and towards me like “Girl, calm down. It’s just a snake.” Ridiculous. Anyway, he’s taken a liking to messing with our dog, Nacho. Nacho’s been around for almost 3 years and has learned how to leave the cats, the chickens, and sometimes the frogs, alone. Yes, my animals are named after Mexican food. Don’t judge.

Which leaves the other cats. I call them the Chila-kitties, named after Chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-kee-lehz). Again, don’t judge. You name yours after operas, conductors, train stations, and characters from your favorite TV shows; I go for food. Everyone’s happy. These furry critters were given to us on the 4th of July and are, to say the least, not friendly. The moms still growl at us and the dog but we feed their babies and them, so they can’t hate us too much. Right? Our hope is that they eventually migrate to the wood pile where my mother-in-law shot that rattler and where we know there’s an influx (or infestation) of rabbits. So far, everyone is getting along. The horses are nicer, the cows are eating grass, Nacho knows he can’t play with the squeaky toys (keets), the keets know they shouldn’t leave their current home, the chickens lay eggs and eat bugs, the cats know they could take the dog but prefer to “play” with the mice. If they can all get along, there’s hope for humanity.

For your viewing pleasure, here are pictures from the ranch/zoo. There are 2 pictures of the keets so that you can see how much they’ve grown in 2 weeks! They’re bigger and cute and still skittish but they’re getting the idea that I’m the one who feeds them, so they at least only stampede to the other side of their brooding box for a minute before they’re back out.

 

Last Week’s Recap

***Hi all. I had to take last week off. It just didn’t feel right to brag on our 4th while so much was, and still is, in turmoil. We will all move on but let’s not forget. Instead, let’s honor those who are gone by being better human beings. We don’t have to agree on everything but let’s at least look past our personal judgments and opinions and just be a little more compassionate. It’s not a solution to everything, but it’s a damn good start.***

The 4th of July: the time when Clayton’s population swells to 3,000+. That’s huge for this town and perfect to me! It’s always been one of my favorite times to visit because I know the town welcomes everyone. Up until this year, our family traveled from Las Cruces or Albuquerque to hang out on the ranch. It was a good 2 or 3 day respite from the trappings of city life. I used to call it the place where I could reset my soul. We’d have fireworks and back porch sittin’ and really just do a lot of nothing, unless my father-in-law had a “Honey Do” list for us. Then it was moving rock and building things and helping to weld something together. Whatever it was, we were always happy to do it because it was getting our hands dirty – something we didn’t do enough of in the city.

This year was different. I mentioned to Clay how strange it was that it was Friday before the 4th, and we were already here. That it was July 5, and we were still here. It was odd how we didn’t have a Honey Do list or that we weren’t trying to get as filthy in the outdoors as quickly as possible. I didn’t feel the need to rush anything this year, to stay on the ranch because I didn’t want to move, I didn’t need to disconnect from city life. In some ways, I’ve already disconnected so the 4th wasn’t respite, it was just another good weekend full of friends, family, and celebration.

Instead of staying on the ranch this year, my mom came into town and we partied together! OK, not like rockstar party and dancing on the table (because the Eklund didn’t host a beer garden and we aren’t cool enough to know anyone at the VFW – yet), but we really did enjoy ourselves. It was more like adult partying where you actually remember what you did and what you said and no one makes an offering to the porcelain gods. I think I prefer this kind of partying anyway.

First up was the Street Dance. This is an annual event where one block of Main Street is shut down right in front of the Eklund Hotel. We dance, we talk, we hang out with people we haven’t seen all year! People come home and get the town gossip and a few selfies. If you can believe it, I had my phone and I didn’t take a single picture. Swear, I was there. We left just about the time the rain and thunder cleared everyone out.

The next day was all about Trinidad, Colorado. Yes, again: don’t judge. We wanted my mom to check it out and we were in need of a Walmart trip for some pool chemical stuff. Seriously, we both thought we could just fill up the pool, throw in a bit of bleach, and swim. Total novices in the upkeep of pools and now I know why people make a living off of being cabana boys. Sheesh. Anyway, we drove through downtown Raton, ate at Bella Luna Pizzeria again, and hit up the local Wally World. It’s still one of the cleanest Wally Worlds I’ve entered and, if you’re a regular visitor, you know that means a lot. Back home to relax and enjoy.

Monday was the big parade. It’s a hometown parade where the rodeo queen and her court ride horses, the kids ride their bikes, and everyone is getting candy. Except this is Clayton, so we know the people who are in the floats and the people in the floats know the people on the side of the street. The first responders are driving their vehicles with sirens blasting, the high school teams are representing Clayton with pride, even a group of low riders! We’re New Mexico, that’s how we roll. No pun intended. Anyway, we got to hang out with some friends in their covered porch. They happen to live right on the parade route, so we had shade and friends and lots and lots and lots of candy. The best part? My mom said she hadn’t been to a parade like that since she was a kid. She loved it and that always makes me happy!

We aren’t done with Monday yet. We still had the rodeo. I seriously debated wearing my cowgirl hat but, with my luck, someone would say something all rodeo-like and I’d stand there and blurt out something about my damn chickens. Or that I want 2 rodeo bulls so that I can name them Sprinkles and Twinkles. So instead, I actually combed my hair (I think) and wore my favorite UNM Lobos cap and we headed out to get our rodeo on. Again, fun. The best part was the fireworks show afterward. This year, it was synced to music and was extremely well done. Thanks go out to the Clayton Fire Rescue for the fireworks and Union County Youth Supporters for a great rodeo! Your efforts are unmatched!!!

Back to planet Earth Tuesday morning. But the fun’s not over! Wait until the next blog post when I introduce you to the keets. The Guineas (and a few other furry surprises) are here!!!

Parades=Candy=Happy

4th of July in Small Town, USA

 

 

 

 

 

Tired Cowgirls

 

 

 

Rodeo Queens