Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips Guide to Exercise: Summer 2018 Edition.

Hi! First, I’m here but been crazy busy since I opened up Hi-Lo Studio. It’s a great kinda crazy! And a very sore one. 🙂

Second, I just couldn’t leave you hangin’ by a thread. So I’m putting this post out there to help you, friendly city friend, learn how to workout with the RLNCC Method.

Step 1: Buy unnecessarily cute ducklings and chicks. Have a beautiful idea of raising these sweet featherballs together with your older hens who will help them search for worms. You now also have pigs, so obviously all you need is a talented spider and you’ve got Charlotte’s Web.

Step 2: Raise cute ducklings with sweet chicks who will replace the hens you lost to the damn pigs.

2a: Separate ducklings from chicks. They’re large and fat and crush your chicks.

Step 3: Buy a kiddie pool.

Step 4: After 2 months, decide the pool isn’t enough water.

Step 5: Convince yourself that the 85 gallon rubber stock tank that you normally use for brooding should be repurposed.

Step 5: Convince the hubby this needs to happen. When he says “Sure, good luck,” get determination to do this alone because he ain’t helping.

Step 6: Dig a giant hole.

Step 7: Check if your rubber tank fits. It doesn’t. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 for a good hour.

Step 8: It fits! Congratulate your sweaty self on a job well done and get that bad boy full of water.

Step 9: Catch the ducks. They never imprinted and therefore hate you, so have fun earning yourself an extra 15 minutes of cardio while your husband laughs his a$$ off watching you try to catch a fat duck with a broken net.

Step 10: Put them in, allow them to feel the beauty of deep, clear well water for once, only to watch them jump out and run back to the algae ridden kiddie pool as soon as you walk away.

Step 11: The most important step. Revel in the fact that you spent 2 hours digging a hole in dry, compacted soil; you literally sweat out 2.5 pounds and those dang entitled ducks didn’t even bother to use their damn pool.

Step 12: Drink a beer. o

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The Busy Season!

Wow, what a whirlwind of activity here on the ranch! I’m going to name October as our Busy Season for good reason.

First, it’s our daughter’s birthday and she turned the big 0-5. So of course we went to Balloon Fiesta. I wrote about how much fun that is here. Then we had Halloween which was a storm of candy and trick-or-treating and, in small town America, also visiting with people that haven’t seen my husband in years but are still happy to give hugs and warm welcomes. I love this town.

Then, I started a new class in town called BodyBurn. It’s basically a 6-week session of classes that allows me to use all the certifications and what not that I accumulated as a fitness instructor. I love it because by the time we get used to one workout, it’s time to change! And you know I love change.

We also visited my mom a time or two in Albuquerque. She just bought the cutest house EVER and, lucky for her, my husband is the ultimate fix-it guy. New doors, new lights, he even know how to program the garage door opener. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…he’s kind of amazing. I helped, of course, but when you need something done like, say, a door put in and then a doggie door installed in the new door, my man is THE MAN.

Oh, here’s the big news. WE GOT OUR CATTLE!!! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the K/F Ranch is really a ranch. We have Manzano Angus cattle, all pregnant, all sweet as can be, all happily eating grass and drinking water and just being happy in the sunshine. They look like smaller versions of a big Angus and are great for our arid Southwest ranches. From what I understand, it’s a little impolite to talk about how many cattle and how many acres you own but I’m happy to say that it’s just enough for us to start making a true living with and it’s big enough that we can responsibly maintain grassland without overgrazing.

***If you have a weak stomach, please pass the rest of this paragraph. We did have to do branding, vaccinations, and “preg-checking” (a cow’s version of an ultrasound – no jelly involved but lots of poop). I did feel a little unnerved with the branding because, hey, it’s a hot iron, but it didn’t last long and I am pretty sure I tried to console each cow as they made their way into the chute. I also made sure to console them again when they got onto their new pasture. Call me crazy but I know I hated being poked and prodded when I was pregnant. And hungry and emotional. I may have told them they’re beautiful and perfect and gave them a bag of cake feed, our equivalent of chocolate. Number 1402 (you never name your cows) is my favorite. She let me touch her and that’s huge!!! All in all, the cows are very friendly and this breed will apparently make great mothers to their calves. I’ll let you know how all that goes in our next busy season, March and April.***

Here’s an update on the rest of the zoo, I mean, ranch animals. Don’t lie, you’ve been wondering how they’re doing.

Penelope and her Pony Power. She’s doing great and loves being out on pasture. Now that she’s got open country to roam all day, she’s lost a little weight. I didn’t realize just how heavy she was until we tried to put a saddle on her. My mother-in-law got the saddle fixed up (yes, we fix things up) so now we can really ride her! Speaking of horses, I rode Kristoff. He’s the gelding horse that I adore because: 1. He gets me. and 2. He’s short – less distance to the ground. Elsa, the mare, has sort of decided that Penelope is her baby. When you see all 3 out on pasture, she really does look like a baby horse. It’s kinda cute, kinda weird because Penelope is 8 and Elsa isn’t much older. Maybe they’re more like BFF horses. Back to riding Kristoff. It’s not that I’m afraid of riding horses, it’s just that I didn’t grow up accustomed to it. However, I’ve got lots of people near and far that are happy to help me so that I can be a proper rancher with a proper horse. Apparently, the pony could technically help us gather cattle but I’ve been asked not to do it even if my soul says I should. So I’ll ride Kristoff. Or the Green Horse (the 4-wheeler; let’s be honest, I need to learn a lot before I start trying to gather cattle on a horse).

The chickens are doing great in their new coop. I need to finish painting it but it’s either too windy or we’re too busy doing other ranching chores that it hasn’t been all done yet! The chicks…oh, the chicks. So we have the cutest little chicks in what I call the nesting pen. It’s basically a giant rubber water tank that they live in until it’s time to move into the big girls coop. We bought all these chicks at the exact same time. One was a little bigger than the others but we figured it was maybe a week or two older than the rest, max. Turns out it’s probably a full month older AND it’s giant. Like ridiculously huge. And heavy! From what I can tell (which isn’t much), it’s a White Leghorn and possibly a rooster. Either that or it’s a meat bird, the kind of bird that’s meant more for the dinner table than egg production. But this is also the nicest chicken. I can pet, hold, move, feed out of my hand, and there’s no problem. The others scatter away and do their little chirp alarm. I’m calling him/her Baby Lou, in honor of the Leghorn that was taken by that dang predator we never caught – her name was Mama Lou. Rest Easy, Mama Lou.

The Guineas are doing, well, too. I’m still not sure if they are both female or one of each but they LOVE to eat yellow jackets. That alone is a good reason to have them around because they’re still out there. Speaking of those stingers, it’s currently 76 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now. This is a problem for me because it’s NOVEMBER. C’mon, Fall. Get it together and get cold already. I keep thinking “Oh boy, it’s time to bust out the Carhartt jacket and snow bib!” Then I go outside and get a sun tan. Ridiculous.

The alpacas are a whole ‘nother story. Without going into gory detail, we were finishing the nail trimming on White Corn (aka Dubya) and he kicked at the wrong time. My husband was the unfortunate recipient of scissors into the side of his cheek. One ER visit and tetanus shot later, we finished that damn nail. A few days after that incident, we decided that it was time for the boys to go out on pasture. We’ve been holding off because we didn’t want to send them out with bad nails and long teeth. After all, long teeth can inhibit their ability to eat and bad nails inhibit their ability to run if necessary. So, we used a metal grinder to cut those bad boys down. They weren’t happy about it but now they’re grazing and pooping outside of our fenced area just fine. I really think they prefer to be out there anyway. It should be fun trying to catch them when it’s shearing time. Poor guys have been carrying about 3 years worth of fiber growth on them. But that’s another story for another day.

Unless you haven’t been paying attention, there was also a Presidential election. Our county is decidedly Republican, our state is Democrat. I’m just happy to live in a world where both can exist. Things might not be perfect and half of my friends are extremely unhappy while the other half is watching to see just what change will happen in the next 4 years. Then there’s a tiny bit on both sides that is just living life to the fullest. Folks, no matter what the outcome did to your psyche, be kind, be honest, and love thy neighbor.

Since we’re on the path of neighborly love, let me tell you about our neighbors in Texline, Texas. It’s a small town with big heart. And great shopping! First, there’s the Top of Texas Country Store and I am in love!!! It’s owned by a lovely lady who is quite possibly one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. This is the kind of store you walk into and walk out with all kinds of goodies to eat, bake with, and go back because you can’t wait to see a smile. Then we headed across the street to Gracie Wonderful’s Café. The food is great, the prices are even better, and the décor is whimsical. You need to stop in and try the Panini. Then it was to the Texline Co-Op (a division of Dalhart Consumers Fuel Association). I won’t lie, I was seriously expecting the kind of co-op with organic fruits and veggies. UM…..no. This is more feed and farm supplies. Whoops! All that being said, again we found friendly folks happy to help.

We also got to partake in Clayton’s first Wine and Cheese night. I hope this becomes a seasonal or annual event because I had a blast!!! All kinds of good wines that I would never buy but want to try, Santa Fe beer varieties, the beautiful assortment of meats and cheeses, even dessert! The night was only better because we got to hang out with our friends and visit the local VFW post. Not too long ago, it was the local watering hold, the Country Tavern (CT for short) and all the local ranchers were invited to put their brand on the wall. We found our brand hiding behind a picture!!! It’s been about 20-some-odd years since it was put up there and I’m still excited to see that brand proudly displayed.

What’s the point in all this friendliness? I think it either has something to do with the Super Super Moon or maybe Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Or maybe people are just nice. Whatever it is, I think it’s fantastic.

Now I love my holidays so I’m going to challenge you, dear reader, on a Thanks-off. Every day until my birthday, December 27, make it a point to say Thank You to at least 3 people. Don’t have 3 people around? Fine, make it 1 person and 2 animals. No one around and all the animals ignore you like my alpacas? Fine. Say Thank You to the air, the sun, your Creator, yourself. Call Customer Service and talk with them and say Thank You when they transfer you. Thank your boots off!!! Need some accountability? Post your Daily Dose of Thanks on the FB page or if you’re on Instagram, tag me at #redlipsncowchips. Or just tell your neighbor what you’re doing and spread the joy.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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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? 😀

 

V is for Victory, of course!

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

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

Let me start from the beginning…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenge: best served with eggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I had that light bulb moment.

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

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

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

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Ranch Life is Busy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ranchucation 101, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.