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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.
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Ranchucation 101

Months before we moved here, I decided that it might be a good idea to learn more about ranching besides what I knew: nothing. After all, something is better than nothing, right? Little did I know that it takes more than a pair of Wranglers, some fancy boots, and the perfect drawl to be a real rancher…just kidding, I realize it takes more than that. 🙂

In a nutshell, I’m an overachiever. It’s not enough for me to just read a book and learn something. I need to get certified and KNOW my subject. Maybe that explains the plethora of fitness certifications I raked up within a 1 1/2 year career as a fitness instructor in Las Cruces. I think I ended up with 9 before we left for the ranch. Or my years in high school Junior ROTC when I competed so much in air rifle that I was the ’98 Ladies State Champ and contributed to a huge table of trophies and medals our company won in our first year. Some of those medals are currently in our 20 foot container in a box somewhere. Or the current obsession with learning all things animal and ranch related. Seriously, there’s A TON to learn.

So where does a city girl begin? Well, I became a frequent shopper of Feed and Supply stores. Tractor Supply, Horse ‘n Hound, Mercantile stores – went there, browsed, took notes on what this was and what that did and bought books to research more. I watched videos on YouTube. Cattlemen to Cattlemen is one we stalked as well as the library of BEEF Magazine. The University of Nebraska has a pretty neat podcast here that interviews professionals in all types of agricultural sectors. There are magazines for the discerning farmer, horseperson, or rancher, including: Farm Journal, Western Horseman, and, my personal favorite, New Mexico Stockman. This is a big shock for many of you that my favorite site is BackYard Chickens. My username is Cow Chips; let’s connect!

Here’s a rundown of the books I’m currently perusing for more information:

Storey’s Guides to: Raising Beef Cattle, Raising Chickens, and Raising Pigs . All different authors, still great guides.

Guineafowl: The Complete Owners Guide by Adrian Marks

Modern Livestock and Poultry Production by Flanders and Gillespie. This is actually a textbook and my father-in-law had an older version he referenced often. It’s interesting to see how much things have (and haven’t) changed when comparing the older to newer version.

Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies by Scott and Nikki Royer. No joke. This book exists and it’s on my Kindle!

How Not to Go Broke Ranching by Walt Davis. It’s funny and perfect for greenhorns like me who have no clue about ranch life.

Not that I’m going to have them any time soon, but in the future I might decide to raise alpacas and sell their gorgeous, warm fleece. So our friend from Minnesota, Joanie, sent me a few books to read.

Alpaca Keeping by Harry Fields and The Camelid Companion by Marty McGee Bennett

Let me not leave out the webinar I’m currently attending – Generation Next – organized by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension nor forget that I am Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Certified. Freakin’ rockstar of ranching over here.

But here’s the thing: just like music and fitness, everything I’ve read, learned, studied, means nothing until I’ve had to apply it in real life. There’s no certification or degree earned when you fix a leak in the pen or lead a stray cow home in a blizzard or bottle feed a calf whose momma can’t or won’t nurse. Those are all things learned “on the job”. The resources above and the willingness of seasoned ranchers, family, and friends have combined to make our dinnertime talk so much more productive. We’ve been extremely blessed to have people so open and honest and willing to help us! Let’s be honest, though, I get to read maybe 5 pages before something else happens or I realize the laundry isn’t folded or we need to start dinner and then I get sidetracked. However, when it’s blah and cold and windy and snowing outside, I am going to have some time to sit by the roaring fire and pick up a book. At least I have a nice selection!

 

By the way, I receive no compensation for referring these links. They’ve just been helpful to me. Besides, the next time you ask yourself “What the hell is she talking about?” there’s a good chance I got the info from one of these resources.