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Earth to Red Lips, Come in!!!

No pictures today. Not because I’m a slacker but because I haven’t been taking very many! Ya see, there’s a point where every gorgeous sunset just can’t be contained in a photo. It’s something you have to see. Of course, as I’m writing this we have a freeze warning in effect and possible snow flurries. Gotta love October!

But that doesn’t mean I’ve slowed down…au contraire, mon frere!

In fact, things have gotten awesomely crazy around here! There’s the fact that I am now a radio host for a weekly morning show in town. You can now hear me and manager/super cool guy JJ on KLMX 97.5FM The Bear (click here to stream it!) and we JUST got up the AM side, 1450AM Country Crossroads; some lightning storms did some pretty good damage to really important parts but it’s all fixed and all working now. The AM is not streaming yet but JJ’s working with the radio station owner to update our song library and get that going, too! We are live on the air every weekday morning from 7a-10a MST.

Yes, yes I just plugged my own radio show. But, hey, how many radio DJ’s do you know? (Ok, someone out there is going to say something crazy like they know 45 DJ’s but still…)

The second thing keeping me going is my fitness class. This is a big reveal. Ya see, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my classes and the members that come to class every week. I had to take some time off because of that silly heifer that twisted my wrist (I call it HeiferGate) and the summer time was just hard for people to commit; family time, camping time, summertime….so I took some time off. Good for them, good for me.

Well, I’m back. Better than ever. And now I’m working towards operating MY OWN FITNESS STUDIO. That’s right!!! Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips is getting her own space in town! Lemme tell ya, it’s been a whirlwind of activity. At the beginning of September I was just talking to a friend about how great it would be to have all our local instructors under one roof, how our downtown area needs more businesses operating, how great it would be to have a place where everyone could come workout together. The next day I was looking at my friend’s building that happens to be on the main street of town and a few days after that I was cleaning and renovating the building. One month later and just about everything is done with a few details left to figure out!!! I’m truly blessed to have other local instructors coming into this venture with open minds and hearts and seriously amazing landlords who are excited as I am to make something vibrant happen for our community!

The funny thing is that I’ve never dry heaved so much in my life. The excitement, the stress, the Oh-my-goodness-is-this-really-happening-what-if-they-don’t-come thoughts in my head…I worry about it for a minute and then I say “But what if they do come?”.

If you build it…

So with all that in your mind, it’s my great honor and deepest pleasure to welcome you to Hi-Lo Studio, Clayton’s premier group fitness experience! We are located at 110 Main St in Clayton, New Mexico, and offer all kinds of great classes. Check out our Facebook page for more information.  

So how’d you come up with it? What’s with the name? And why the little person for a logo?

Once upon a time, there was a young man who bought a ranch in our little slice of paradise. He painted the scenery and then wrote a few books about this area, which he nicknamed the Hi Lo Country. One of those books was turned into a movie called The Hi Lo Country and  you can watch the trailer here.  The ranch owner’s name was Max Evans and you can find his books that inspired this (and other movies) here. When I realized just how important Mr. Evans was to capturing the unique spirit of our land, I knew I had a name. The logo comes from this sculpture piece my mom found years ago. That sculpture is now in the front window display, happily reaching up and inviting everyone in for a great workout! The turquoise echoes our ranch color. Plus, I’m pretty sure turquoise is our unofficial State color (red and yellow are the official ones but, let’s be honest; we love our turquoise).

Um, Andrea? I don’t live anywhere near you.

I know! But you might be traveling through town one day and decide to stop in for a workout and a hug; you never know! Tomorrow we’re supposed to move the cattle back down to the home pasture but it’s cold but not heavy jacket cold. More like “warm sweater but not too warm and wear layers” cold. Next week we hit up our favorite event with our favorite kid for her 6th birthday: BALLOON FIESTA!!! You’ll hear from me for sure very soon.

 

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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.)

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Letter to the Editor (Mother Nature)

Dear Mother Nature,

Girlfriend. Sweetie. Honey.

What the hell are you thinking? Get it together.

 

Sincerely,

Red Lips ‘n Cow Chips

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Great

 

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New Year!

Yes, we did it! The sun set on 2016 and we have a whole ‘nother 365 days on this gorgeous planet. The cover picture is a typical New Mexico sunset, by the way. Dirty window, but gorgeous sunset.

I think we actually spent the ENTIRE month of December at home. That hasn’t happened since we moved! Today we’re expecting somewhere around 5-8 inches of snow and we are all impatiently waiting for it. The kid wants to build a snowman, the husband wants to feed the ladies some hay and break ice so he can put his jammies back on, I just got in a good workout and now I’m blogging by a fire so I’m good…it’s the anticipation that makes it all somewhat unbearable! I guess we could get up and clean the house. Maybe tomorrow.

Here are your random updates on the zoo/ranch.

Our Christmas was awesome; not only did we get to watch our little one make her town debut in the Christmas Musical at a local church, she also got a visit from Santa and a new mountain bike! The grandparents (and, of course, the parents) showered her with love and gifts and we just had good one. Apparently, I’m a crazy chicken lady given the gifts I received. And I’m ok with that!

And did I tell you about Christmas Eve dinner? One word: tapas.

Andrea, you’re speaking crazy words again. What’s a tapas? You shouldn’t say words like that in front of a child.

Tapas (pronounced Top-ahs) are, according to Google dictionary, small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar. You better believe we had drinks: mostly from my friend’s One Hope collection I raved about in a previous post! Think of it as ordering a bunch of appetizers and sharing them with everyone. We spoiled ourselves with pear, fontina, and caramelized onion flatbread pizza, some kind of spinach mini quiche, pigs in a blanket (totally not a Spanish dish but it’s required at our table), and I made a lavender goat cheese with local honey served with bread. Yeah, I make cheese. Too bad we don’t have a milking cow! Then again, if we did I’d be outside in 6 degree F weather cursing myself for having to milk a cow in the snow.

Right after Christmas is my birthday and it was great! Then we got to celebrate our anniversary on New Year’s Eve. Yes, we are one of those couples that got married on New Year’s Eve, but the way we see it we ALWAYS have a party to attend. And we’ll never forget it! Win win. January 1 didn’t see us slowing down at all. We drove the cattle down from the other pasture to our home pasture. It’s all of *maybe* 3 miles away but I requested that we  take it slow and not make the ladies go faster than they needed to move. If you’ve ever been pregnant or ate too much and had a food baby belly, you understand the need to walk slowly and pace yourself. Anyways, the girls are here and hang out regularly with the horses. The alpacas? They kinda look at them like “What the hay are you?” Meanwhile the alpacas (who grew up in the middle of corn country) look at them like “What is that sound you keep making? Is that a tractor? What ARE those things?” Everyone’s a little confused.

In an effort to get out on a gorgeous day, we decided to make the roof a little prettier on the chicken coop. We went on an adventure to find some scrap sheet metal. In the meantime, we found elk poop (yay for elk!!!) and stopped by the old Model A Ford that was abandoned some time during the Dust Bowl. There’s some gorgeous spots in my “backyard”. The chickens were happy that their previous haphazard tarp was gone. Well, I assume they were because I got TWO EGGS yesterday!!! That’s the most I’ve gotten since this summer!!! (Edit: I’m back down to 1 a day but still, that’s a record for me!) The younger chicks (approximately 5 months now) are super cute and not cuddly at all but they like to peck the dogs and bully the cats. There are some days they deserve it, not gonna lie.

Seriously, that’s about it. I did just watch a herd of about 100 antelope pass by. Every other day, I’m yelling at them “Get off my grass!” and they just look at me. It doesn’t help that my two not-so vicious dogs just watch them pass by like it’s a parade. Sure, they’ll chase the alpacas; the antelope? Not a chance. These dogs have their priorities mixed up.

Here’s some pics from the past week or so. This GORGEOUS quilt was made by our amazing family friend, Joanie, whose daughter just spoke about farm stress on Red River Farm Network. It’s 3 parts and it gives quite the insight on how just about everyone needs to talk about stress factors in their daily lives! Find parts 1, 2, and 3 by clicking on the numbers. They’re quick and easy to listen to – or check out the site. There’s SO MUCH more to agriculture than you’d think! By the way, the cows on the road are my new rush hour traffic and that cow painting is now at my mother-in-law’s house. Black baldies (the type of cow featured) are her favorite.

 

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The Cow Chips Guide to Exercise: Winter Edition 2016

Ok, two weeks in and December did not disappoint! Remember in the last post how I basically threatened December to not screw up its weather? Well, today we woke up to howling winds which led way to blowing snow and freezing fog and snow drifts! Yay!

Andrea, you are crazy. Well, yes I am and thank you for noticing. I LOVE cold weather. Well, I love it as long as I don’t have to work in it. Which brings me to the title of this blog post. Ya see, I learned that the Cow Chips Winter Workout is just as ridiculous in the summer as the winter. So let’s get a good taste of what you get to do to burn off some holiday calories!

  1. Do you love the sound of ocean waves? Maybe you just adore the open water. You know what else likes water? Cows. Burn out your shoulders, biceps, and core with a session of Breaking Ice!
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Woman with pitchfork. And LipSense.
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Just broke this…it’s already slushy!

Let me clear: breaking ice is right now my most despised chore. You start with a pick ax around a 20 foot stock tank and “chop chop chop”; you hack out pieces of ice. Then not only do you have to break the ice, you get to rev up your cardio and biceps with a pitchfork and haul out the 3 inch blocks of solid ice and heave them onto the ground. Go fast, though, so you don’t drench your gloves and have icicles for fingers. Also, make sure to use the strength in your core so you don’t pull a muscle in your back! Just breathe deep, heave, haw, and build that amazing strength with every stupid load of ice! SUPER FUN.

You’re not done, don’t be fooled. As soon as you break all that ice and haul it out, no sooner than you turn around does it start to get slushy and ice over! More into intervals than one long ice breaking event? Maybe you’re built for speed rather than endurance: no worries! Ice breaking is a fun sport that must be completed before breakfast, at lunch, and again before dinner. Talk about interval training!

Andrea, this sounds silly. Why don’t you get a heater for that? Well, that’s my husband’s project next year. Install a damn outlet for a heater so we aren’t breaking ice in single digit temperatures.

2. Hey, Andrea, I remember one time when I was a kid that all the water froze up in the house. How do you deal with that? OH! Lemme tell ya what happens. You and your gorgeous manfolk get to hang out in 40 degree temps (that day was balmy compared to the next workout – keep reading) and work on a well pump.

Wait. What?

Ya see, a few days before the pump went kaput, there were some freezing temps at night but the days saw somewhere around mid-30’s. We figured since the well pump was covered, all would be fine. Well, as ranchers tend to obsess over the state of their cattle, we went to check on their water and make sure the stock tank hadn’t frozen over. It wasn’t too bad so I got in some light ice breaking time. But then we realized the pipe that brings water was frozen solid. And nothing was happening when we turned on the pump. Whoops! So, a day of insulating and we hoped it was enough. It wasn’t. The next day, we ripped off all the insulation and got to practice our static Olympic lifting. Hubby lifted the entire pipe (the one that goes in the ground) while I learned how to use grip vices. Only 200lbs of pulling up – gotta use those legs! Then we lifted the thing and cobbled something and put things back together and then put on more insulation and THEN we prayed a lot. It worked! The stress and worry of hoping we hadn’t blown out the pump motor is an exercise in itself. Your heart beats rapidly when something like that happens. Replacing things like that, especially with cattle depending on the water and a wife being cold, gets EXPENSIVE. It’s like needing to pee but you’re stuck in traffic and your house is a mile away but you’re not sure if you’ll make it to your exit but you breath deep and think of ANYTHING besides waterfalls. But you live next to Niagara Falls. Yep. That kind of heart pounding fun is just GREAT for burning a few calories!

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Fixing the Well Pump. Please work…
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Water!!! And ice. Of course.

3. What’s a Cow Chips girl going to do for fun? Well, exercise needs to be fun at some point otherwise you won’t do it. May I present stock tank ice skating? Yes, seriously. This is the stock tank on the other part of land we raise cattle on and it is solid ice at least 6″ thick. Now, I do love cold weather but I ain’t crazy. So I let my husband demonstrate how we ice skate in the desert.

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Ice Skating, Cow Chips Style

4. Walking is great for you! Walk the Cow Chips way and you’ll never want to go for a stroll in the city. Now, there are some varmints that, as long as you both respect each other’s boundaries, you can live in peace and harmony. It’s very nice! However, there are some varmints that just…it’s not even about me or them. They ruin the land, eating everything they can see and leave behind holes that are literally dangerous to animals and humans. Fall in one and you’re looking at a good sprain or maybe broken ankle. Not cool. So, we ranchers have to sometimes gain control of these things. I love seeing wide, open country, not dust and patches of missing grassland. So, yes, we baited for crowd control. Then we had to check our bait to make sure anything that ate the bait was destroyed properly. How does one do that? With a nice, long walk up and down the side of a hill checking every hole and making sure nothing goes unnoticed! THERE’S ONLY ABOUT 300 HOLES. Add that all up and you’ve just done at least 3-4 miles of walking. Just imagine it, no picture needed.

5. Still not enough burn for you? How about next time you’re here you help us stack some hay? It’s only 65 lbs a bale and we ONLY have 270 of them. C’mon, it’ll be fun! Don’t forget, you need wood to burn in the stove! Build a stack as tall as her (about 4 feet) and you’re sure to need tickets for the gun show! And if you need a full body shakedown, go outside and just stand there. Did you know shivering burns calories, too? If you’re lucky enough to be my daughter you don’t shiver much because your mom (me) dresses you up in every warm thing you’ve got so you basically sweat in the snow. You’re welcome, little one.

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Move it over…there. Sure.
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I hauled ALL of that. You’re welcome.
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Gotta Stay Warm!!!

Every great workout includes a good warm up (reading my blog – thank you!) and cool down (some quality time by the fire re-reading my blog because the brain needs exercise, too). Enjoy all the pictures below from our family to yours. Have a wonderful Christmas! Along with the great “workout” ideas above, we also decorated outside, put up the tree, made a ridiculous Gingerbread Farm House, made some Christmas spice to boil on the stove, and just enjoyed our time together. Oh, and Santa and Mrs. Claus made an early debut with wine. It’s all AMAZING and you can get it here via my amazing friend Becky. Plus, a portion of profits from every bottle goes to a great cause! My current fave is the Cabernet Sauvignon but I can’t wait to break into that Rosé! Seriously, I’m already planning my next order. Oh, and I finally made the most perfect soft pink color just for me with my LipSense collection. Even Red Lips needs a change of lip color. You can order your perfect, all day color (I wear it almost every day – the cows appreciate it and my daughter loves that it doesn’t smudge on her cheeks when I get my kisses!) by clicking on this link here. Not sure which color is right for you? Join my FB page and message me: I am happy to help everyone in the world have gorgeous all day lip color! Y’all have an amazing Christmas and a beautiful New Year!

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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!

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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.