Time for Dinner

  When I was a child, dinner was at 6 pm, on the dot. We were all expected to be there. I cannot remember a time when we didn’t all sit down together as a family for dinner. To my recollection, dinner time wasn’t even interrupted for after school jobs. It seems like we had dinner together every night. 

As a mother, I continued that rule in my own home. We were all expected to be together for a family meal. We are together, and we cleaned the kitchen together afterward. Again, I do not remember my children missing meals for activities outside the home. While I am sure there were exceptions, we ate dinner as a family and that was that. 

Now, it’s just the two of us (for the most part). The girls are married and out of the house. Our youngest is still at home, but his busy work schedule keeps him away much of the time. Similarly, our busy work schedules–especially the demands of the ranch–have made fixing a meal seem like a luxury. I almost always cook on the weekends; The kids come home for meals on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, however, we usually eat the leftovers from the weekends. When we do eat a midweek meal, it is quite a treat. 

Tonight was one of those treat nights. While the rancher did the evening chores, I made yogurt. As the milk was warming, I found the opportunity to make a quick meal of sausage stuffed zucchini boats. Because midweek meals have become such a treat, it was especially tasty–tasty enough that there aren’t any pictures to mark the occasion. You’ll just have to take my word for it this time. 

The Best Times

The best times are when we can work along side of each other. We used to work together quite a bit. In the early days, we fixed fencIMG_1001e. We’d stretch and wire and stretch some more. It actually felt a bit like sewing to me. I taught him to “take a stitch” in the wire in order to tighten it up on a wood post.

When we moved out to the current ranch, we walked the fence line or walked the pasture. For awhile, we managed to sneak in some walks up and down the road–a couple of miles here and a couple of miles there. It was time spent together. Walking together is always one of the best times.

We’d clean the barn. I’d sweep. He’d put things away and blow the fine dust out with the air compressor. It didn’t matter that the dust would be back the very next day. It felt good to clean. We had a sense of accomplishment. It even felt like the sun shined a little brighter afterward.

When we are together, he makes me laugh. He teases me and pokes fun at me. I laugh. He laughs at himself and that makes me laugh all the harder. When I picture us laughing together, we’re usually traveling somewhere in the pickup. I like to travel with him. Most of the time, we take short trips to eastern Colorado for one reason or another. Sometimes, he takes me on “vacation” to Kansas or Nebraska or Iowa–always to pick up or drop off livestock. We never really go on vacation, even though I might like to go. I keep thinking that someday we really will take a road trip. For now, I’ll settle for day trips as long as we can travel together.

Modmarket

I’m sitting at the Modmarket in Greenwood Village waiting for time to pass. I have an appointment at 2 pm. Modmarket is a farm fresh eatery. They claim to prepare from scratch using simple, whole ingredients. The interior and decor is not unlike Chipotle, which makes it a little noisy. Actually, it’s bustling; it’s quite noisy.

I’m excited to be here. My mind is churning. We can sell them eggs. We can sell them pork. We can sell them chicken. I love that our societal landscape is changing. That there is enough demand for fresh quality food to support restaurants like these. Not only are places like these integral to our success, but I wholeheartedly believe in the movement.

My meal is ready. I’m having a steakhouse salad. It’s good. I’m not disappointed. I’m sure I’ll come back, and I’ll bring a few friends and family with me.

Sunrise

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There’s something about a sunrise that sets the tone for a happy day. While I am usually awake by about 6:45, I am not one to hop right out of bed. On this particular Monday morning, I had just awakened when the rancher came to me and asked for help. I somewhat reluctantly slipped out of bed and pulled on my clothes. I didn’t really want to go out into the cool morning air, but for him I would.

That attitude left me almost as soon as I stepped out of the door. The air was cool, but it made the morning all the more beautiful. The air was crisp. The morning sun was shining. The world was a beautiful place. I was instantly happy. I strolled down the lane toward the pasture. After looking for an easy place to climb fence, I decided to enter via the pig pens. The pigs greeted me as I climbed into their yard. I scratched them behind the ears and moved on. The rancher met me in the pasture and told me to climb on the back of the 4-wheeler, which I did. We drove around the north pasture. I talked to the cows as we rode by. Again, I marveled at the beauty of the earth and my good fortune to be out early in the morning with my sweetheart. The simple act of getting up and out this morning made me happy–a condition that lasted through the entire day.

Overworked

We awoke this morning to a chill in the air. It was late (still before 7 am). We had overslept. While the rancher did chores, I rolled over and snoozed a little longer. The cool air made getting out of bed an unsavory prospect. When the rancher came in, he asked me if I planned to stay in bed all day. I said that I might. We were all tired. My son had worked 27 days straight. Who knew how many days it had been since the rancher took a day off. For me, it wasn’t nearly as long, but I don’t do well working non-stop. We decided that resting was the priority for the day.

Resting is nearly all we accomplished today. We have to do chores. Animals won’t wait to be fed. Of course there was laundry to do as well. Still, the extra rest was nice.

Mmmmm Green Chile is Number One!

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Top Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the End of Summer.

10. Returning to school. I have been playing school for as long as I can remember. I love school. As a child I tired of summer vacation. Now, I am a teacher and I still tire of summer vacation. School is the place to be for me.

9. New clothes. Fall wardrobes are making their way into the stores right now. I’m always excited for new clothes to go with the new school year!

8. Sewing (quilting). Once school is back in session, it is time to get back to sewing and quilting. Christmas is just around the corner and my gift list is long. I love having an evening or two to myself to sew.

7. Warm days and cool nights. What better way to sleep than snuggled under the covers while your open window invites in the chilly morning?

6. The return of football. Need I say more?

5. Harvest. The garden is in full bloom. Zucchini, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers are all ripening and we are starting to see our first pumpkins and other winter squashes.

4. Grilling. With an abundance of garden fresh vegetables, warm temperatures, and yummy meats, August is the best time to grill at the ranch.

3. Evening walks. By the time late August rolls around, the evenings are cool enough for a walk with my sweetheart.

2. Homemade bread. My number 2 favorite food (cookies are number 3) is bread. I love that I can make bread again after a sweltering summer without it.

1. Green chile. August marks the time of chile harvest–a time to which I look forward all summer. Green chile is quite possibly the perfect food. It is my favorite food, hands down. Yes, it is better than chocolate. I love, love, love the smell of it roasting. I can eat it on anything. I love green chile and I have 5 bushel sitting, roasted in my fridge waiting to be peeled. Yay!

 

Harry’s Urban Farmer’s Market

Every Saturday morning, the rancher’s wife rolls reluctantly out of bed at 5 am (5:30 if she hits the snooze button a few times). She has to be on the road by 6:30 am to make the Saturday delivery rounds and get set up at the market by 10 am. She doesn’t exactly look forward to Saturday mornings, but once she is in the pickup and on her way, a feeling of nostalgia comes over her. Quiet mornings are the best. She can be alone with her thoughts, reminiscing about times past, while enjoying the morning sun and the country countdown on the radio.

Although the mornings have begun to cool a bit, it is usually plenty warm by the time she pulls into the farmer’s market. She is greeted by the hustle and bustle of the vendors setting up tents and putting out product. She loves the farmer’s market. The vendors have become a family. They greet each other and visit and encourage as the day goes by.

She’s thrown her whole heart into the market. She wants it to be successful. It is a small market; it is in it’s first year. Despite it’s size, it is a good market. The market is home to quality vendors that share a vision similar to her own. All of the vendors feature Colorado made products. The produce is exclusively Colorado grown and of course the products from the ranch are grown not just in Colorado, but very close to the Denver metro area. She’s happy to be here–happy to be a part of something good and worthwhile.

It Happened Like This…

It all started when I headed out to put the animals away. 

It was a typical Friday night. I was alone. The rancher was working and my son was out with friends. The rain had finally stopped mid-afternoon after dumping another 1.8 inches on us. 

It was wet and chilly. I wandered from house to house, checking on animals and shutting them in for the night. As I made my way to the front chicken house, I knew that my ducks had not come in for the evening. I called them. No response. I looked down toward the pasture where they usually sat. No, there weren’t any ducks there. I moved toward the gate that sat between the hog breeding pen and the farrowing house. I was preparing to look for my ducks in the pasture when I heard an unmistakable sound–the grunt of newborn piglets. This was not a good sign! 

I hurried over to the breeding pen. Sure enough, our best sow was laying on her side in the driest spot she could find birthing pigs. The piglets, less than a pound each,  were falling into the mud, searching for mama. I jumped in the pen and counted piglets as I pulled them from the mud and gently tossed them out of the pen onto some straw. One…2….3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…11. Eleven piglets.

Time was of the essence. I needed to get them warm and dry. I needed to get mom out of the pen and into the farrowing house with her babies. It is a two room farrowing house and both rooms were full. To move the new mom in, I had to move one out. I’m not the best livestock hand and being by myself was daunting at best. 

I opened the farrowing house. The sow came out and laid in the mud. She was hot. Whew! One task down. As soon as I put the new babies in the house the started squealing. The sow popped up out of the mud and climbed back into the house. I was back to square one. 

I scurried up to the house and called the rancher. “She farrowed,” I said. “I put all of her babies in the farrowing house, but I don’t know how to get the one sow out and the momma in. My phone is dead. I don’t have help and I don’t know what to do.” He told me to get the sow out of the house and get a heat lamp hooked up. He would do his best to get home quickly. 

I looked down at my shirt. I was covered in blood and sh**, and muck. I could hardly stand the smell. I stripped my shirt off and pulled on a clean shirt. I hurried back to the corrals. She’d had another pig. I picked it up and put it in th house. I opened the gate to the breeding pen in the hopes that I could get momma to follow me. I’m not sure how I did it, but over the next few minutes I managed to move the first sow out and back into the breeding pen. I tried to coax momma out, but I quickly gave up when she snapped at me. 

I glanced around. How could I get her to move? What else could I do while I waited for the rancher? Oh! I needed to get the heat lamp set up. I retrieved a heat lamp from the barn. As I walked back toward the pigs, I once again heard the grunting of a little piglet. By this time it was full on dark. I had very little light. We never have what we need on hand–flashlights, extension cords, pliers, heat lamps–never. I climbed into the pen and felt around where I could hear the baby. Finally my hand touched the cold, muddy body. I had to get him to warmth! 

After rescuing the final piglet, I crawled into the house to hook up the lamp. There was already a lamp hooked up. “Hmmm,” I thought, “Perhaps he only meant we needed a new bulb. I struggled to unscrew the bulb. I was instantly met with a face full of dirt and who knows what else. I closed my eyes (which mattered not since I was working in the dark) and continued to fumble with the bulb. I replaced the bulb. Still no light. I scooted myself out from under the ledge where I’d been working. I unplugged the current lamp and plugged in the lamp I’d brought down. Still no light. I was frustrated. I crawled out of the house. Soon after, the rancher turned in the drive. 

Once the rancher arrived on scene, the story was over. We had to change out an extension cord to get the heat lamp working. The new mom didn’t want to leave the breeding pen. Eventually, we had everything taken care of and were ready to call it a night. As I took a shower before bed, I realized that, between the morning rain and the evening piglet delivery, I had worn and thoroughly soiled three outfits. What a day! 

A New Perspective

FullSizeRender-8Yes, it is true. I had a terrible couple of days. Ever since we acquired the cows, we have struggled and struggled to sort through our life. I think we might finally be getting the hang of it. Then again, maybe not. With our commitments already stretched so thin, every little thing that goes awry feels monumental.

After a stressful day on Thursday, I woke up thinking Friday would be better. Then, I slammed my finger in the barn door, dropped half a dozen eggs on the floor, and could not get the tire pumped up on my two-wheel dolly. The rancher called and I broke down crying. His response: “Half a dozen eggs is not a big deal. I’m more concerned about your finger. Are you okay? Are you sure you didn’t break it?” These words comforted me although I continued to cry for a few more minutes. Then, I saw the picture of Jersey with his head in the bucket. I laughed and tried my best to move on.

It wasn’t until Sunday when I finally wrapped my head around a new perspective. Yes, yes, we have had this talk before. I’ve blogged about it many times. The fact is, that we have many trials. If I don’t write about them, I’m not telling the truth. I’m not being real. I often think that this whole thing is too hard. I don’t want to keep doing it. But when I see a field full of young pullets or leaves budding on my trees or bees buzzing around the hive; when I successfully make a new milk recipe or gain a new customer, then I am ready to face another day and I remember that there is joy in this whole endeavor.

Sunday, we had a fabulous lesson in church. It spoke to my heart and I had trouble holding back the tears. I realized then, that while I may not see the big picture, there is a big picture. My job is to enjoy the journey. I grabbed on to my new perspective and took it with me Sunday afternoon. I reminded myself of it today. Today, I remembered that I have a fabulous relationship with my husband. We laugh and joke and hold hands when we walk. The hard parts probably don’t matter much in the big picture, but the laughter and the hand-holding–I know they matter.

Need a Laugh?

It never happens. We have a plan. We’re running on a tight schedule, but it never happens. We shouldn’t even make plans. Seriously!

I had every intention of coming home, quickly doing my part of the chores, and washing eggs to catch up for going to bed the night before. Here’s what really happened:

“I need you help,” the rancher hollered. “I’m on my way,” she said as she sauntered down the drive in no big hurry, “Why what’s wrong?”

“We had pigs. We need to move her.”

They were running so far behind these days. They counted on Saturdays to do most of the work and lately, all of their days not just Saturdays, had been filled with rain. Everything was saturated and the days and nights were still cool. They needed to get the piglets into the warmth and protection of some well-built shelter.

First, they moved one sow out so they could use her shelter. Then, they stepped into the pen to gather up the 5 little piglets from the mud and the muck.

The rancher said, “she should just follow us out.”

She did, and it seemed as if it would be an easy transition. They should have known. Nothing was ever easy at the ranch. She ran down one way and then another. They chased her, tried to block her, redirected her, and started all over again.

The rancher and his wife loved each other. They laughed together, kissed, hugged, and generally enjoyed each other’s company, but when times grew tense, there was much in the way of yelling and cursing. Often, it was directed at each other.

And so they were. Two people stood in the field trying to outrun a sow with a mind of her own in the piles of mud and soft earth. No matter how hard they tried, they could not get her to turn at just the right time. She ran circles around them. The rancher told the sow that soon, she would tire and he would win. She didn’t listen. The rancher yelled at his wife for not being a better ranch hand. She let an expletive fly.

Eventually, the sow was tired. The rancher was tired. Still, she would not go. As a last resort, he grabbed her by the tail and walked-pushed her over to the farrowing house. She wouldn’t go in. He pushed and pulled and shoved; she was in. Just as suddenly, she was out again and the rancher was yelling at his wife (he softened his words with a “honey” at the end of them).

This time, she grabbed the sow’s tail. She tugged and pulled, trying to make the sow do what she wanted. Her boots were stuck in the mud and muck. Suddenly, she lost her balance. She couldn’t step back to balance herself. Her boots were glued to the earth. And that’s how she came to have her backend sprawled in 6 inches of mud and all oh so much more! The rancher, in all his sympathy, said, “Oh great!” She pulled herself up and kept working. She felt like–never mind. Anyway, she finished her chores in her wet muddy clothes because that’s what she had to do.

At least it was good for a laugh and she had a priceless butt picture to go with it!