Coping with Life

DSC_0471Who knows how long it’s been since I’ve posted. I’ve lost track. This is our routine since we’ve inherited the cows: Up at 5 and 6 am (I sneak in the extra hour of sleep), two hours of chores with our son’s help, get ready for work, get home at 4:30 to 5 pm, 2+ hours of chores, wash eggs, wash milk equipment, maybe eat dinner, clean up the kitchen, and hope to get to bed by 10 pm. I usually make up for that extra hour of sleep by staying up later at night.

On top of the daily routine, we have laundry, housecleaning (primarily taken care of by our son), deliveries 5 days a week, milk recipes to make, errands to run, and our regular jobs to fit in as well. I’m not complaining, not exactly, but this year has been filled with stress. It seems like we have bounced from one major family event to another since my grandfather passed away in January.

I was hoping to catch a break after my daughter’s wedding, but no such luck. I went in for some dental work over spring break and had complications. I ended up with a sick tooth and no time to have a root canal. While I was babying the tooth, I came down with a terrible cold and subsequent sinus infection. Finally, several weeks after the dental work, I had a root canal. Two days later, I had to go back to the endodontist for pain and he prescribed prednisone as well as a pain-killer. I had a bad reaction to the prednisone and now, I am having terrible withdrawal symptoms from the prednisone. I feel and have been feeling awful!

What’s my point? No, not sympathy or my own personal pity party. I just feel like I have to justify my absence to my friends and family. I don’t think I’ve been to church in 6 weeks! And I so miss it! I need to feed my spirit every week.

School is out in a week. I hope that a little less stress, no more meds, fresh air and sunshine will help me get back into a better routine. Until then, know that we are here, surviving and praying for drier weather!

 

Hands of a Farmer

DSC_0018We’ve been featured. I don’t remember the ins and outs of stumbling upon this blog, but as soon as I found it I knew I wanted to tell our story. We took a picture of our hands, and I wrote the piece and sent it off. We waited and waited. Nothing happened.

As it turns out, the authors of the blog are just normal people (like the rest of us). Their lives turned busy, and as a result, they had little opportunity to blog. They took a break. Luckily, they decided to resurrect the blog on Easter Sunday. Then, they contacted us and asked if they could still run our story.

As I read my story this morning, I was struck by how much had changed and how much had stayed the same. This life is still the hardest and most rewarding life I know. We still deal with death and hardship and weather and frustrations and doubts and loss and discouragement. We still throw up our hands in dismay and threaten to quit.

Some things are different, however. We’re in it for the long haul now (as if we weren’t before). We have two sets of turkeys and are planning to add two more trios. We have several hundred chickens running around, a flock of ducks, and a noisy goose. We’ve expanded our pig operation and are holding steady with our sheep. We’ve worked out issues with feed and watering and houses. That’s about where we are at this point–seasoned, but having new experiences all of the time.

The biggest change and addition for us has been adding in the dairy cows. It keeps us so busy! We’re up before 5 and rarely in from chores at night before 7. We milk and feed and water and collect eggs and wash and put away and start all over again. I run errands and deliver product and try my hardest to keep up with the book work. I have little time to blog, I’ve given up on TV, and I rarely play games or read or sew.

We’re exhausted and happy and crazy and very much in love. We love our life and are thankful for the opportunities that come our way. We give thanks every day for our many blessings and for each other. We go to bed knowing that tomorrow is another day and the wee hours of the morning are not that far away. Sometimes we smile. Sometimes we grit our teeth. But, we nearly always just breathe a sigh of relief as we lay our head on our pillow and drift off to sleep.

Please disregard the errors in the linked piece and just appreciate it for what it is.

Milking, One Week Later

IMG_1452We’ve survived the first week of milking. Maybe we learned some things over the past week. It’s hard to say. We’ve certainly had a few mishaps. Twice, the rancher could not get the pump on the milker to work. Twice, we’ve overslept.

Friday, I spent the entire day out running around, delivering milk. The rancher went and came and went again all in the time that I was gone. I asked him what was left to do of the evening chores and his reply was, “Nothing except milk the cows by hand.” I laughed, “Yeah, not me.” He was kidding. I knew he was.

Today, I bought him a wagon to carry the milking supplies up and back from the house. The belly-milker is heavy enough when it’s empty and much heavier with 5 gallons of milk in it.

Most nights, we don’t make it to bed before 10 pm. That may not sound late to some, but the rancher is an early to bed early to rise kind of guy. At this point, we’ve somewhat worked it out. I stay up late working and he gets up early to work. Thankfully, the days are getting longer.

Oh, and one last thing…the cows think my phone is a treat. I need to remember to bring them a treat. When I was a girl, we used to feed the cows in the neighboring pasture figs. Oh how they loved figs! I wish I had figs or apricots now.

 

Holy Cow, We’re Milking!

Suzie Q

Suzie Q

 

I’m not really sure when dairying entered the rancher’s vocabulary. It wasn’t there from the beginning, but it’s been there long enough to become a regular part of his vocabulary. Just as long, has been my adamant “No! We are not buying, renting, borrowing, or in any other form having a dairy.”

 

As with most things in our life, the rancher can outlast me. He can wear me down. Quite simply, he is more stubborn than I. My adamant “No!” eventually turned to, “Well, I’m not milking. If you want to do it, you do it yourself.”

While my second sentiment remained intact, I did, in fact, ask around to find out who if any would be interested in raw milk cow shares. That was almost all the go ahead the rancher needed. Soon, he was taking Saturday mornings to help milk at another raw milk dairy. He was also actively searching for a Jersey cow. His search finally led him to our own neighborhood.

Dani

Dani

Less than seven miles from us, a raw milk dairy was looking to sell out. They had sold their land and were planning to retire to the far reaches of Colorado. We met with them on a Wednesday night–still believing that at best we would walk away with a cow and a belly milker.

As we climbed into our car to drive home, we both sat in silence for a moment. “I think I’m a little sick to my stomach,” I said. The rancher agreed. He was a little knocked off of his feet as well. We were no longer in search of a–one–uno–single cow. We were now the owners of a cow…and her six sisters!

We’ve spent the last few days scrambling. We needed a cow shares contract. We needed the correct facilities. We needed to know exactly what we were getting into. We researched and constructed and restructured. Sunday, we brought home the first of our herd–4 cows–Betsy, Connie, Dani, and Suzie Q. The other three cows and the bull remain at their previous home for now. They’ll be coming over soon enough.

Betsy

Betsy

After the first night, the rancher said, “I quit. We can’t do this. It’s too much.” I should have jumped on the opportunity and helped him quickly load the cows up to return them. Instead, I reminded him that it was the first night after a very long day. He could not expect smooth sailing from the first moment. I suggested he give a few days before deciding to quit (What was I thinking?).

Milking was easier on Monday and even easier on Tuesday. I guess we’re in it for the long haul. And yes, I have been down to help. I haven’t actually milked–a machine does that–but I’ve helped. Even if I’m not milking, I have more chores to do, more laundry to do, more dishes and equipment to clean. I really, really think we are crazy!

 

About Chickens

I love cats. They’re independent and a little snobbish while being warm, fuzzy, and loving. I like cats better than dogs. They don’t lick or demand attention. Yes, that comes at a cost. Dogs are loyal. Cats are fickle. 

Lately, I’ve been noticing the similarities between cats and chickens. It may be hard to believe, but chickens are like cats. First of all, chickens purr. They really do. It’s not exactly a purr–perhaps it’s a hum–but in my book, they purr. They are also independent. When I’m not looking, the chickens want to perch on my back or shoulder, but as soon as I give them attention, away they go. That is exactly like a cat! The thing that finally convinced me of the similarity was watching the chickens squeeze into tight places. When they find the perfect place, that’s it. Nothing else will do. Some days, I will walk into one of the chicken coops to see as many as three hens packed into the same nesting box–not because there isn’t an empty box available, but because this is the box. Our buckets are popular hiding places for the hens. It’s just the right depth for egg laying. Yesterday, I watched as a hen crammed herself into a waterer to lay an egg; she looked just like a cat in a shoebox. And so you see, chickens really are like cats. 

A Lasting Legacy

IMG_1370The Rancher loves his grandfather. His grandfather is without a doubt the Rancher’s hero. Rarely does a day go by in which the Rancher has not talked about his grandfather.

Hans was a farmer. He was the son of a farmer. He quit school at the 8th grade to run the farm full-time. His dad had become ill. He raised five children on the farm–a son and four daughters. The Rancher’s mother was Hans and Martha’s oldest. About life on the farm, she says they didn’t have much, but they had enough.

The Rancher loved spending his summers on the farm. He talks of walking beans, cutting thistles, and jumping into piles of corn. The Rancher insists that he contracted chicken pox from the chicken coop. The chickens gave him chicken pox.

The Rancher told his grandfather repeatedly that he wanted to farm. His grandfather, knowing how hard farming really is, tried to discourage him, and yet, here we are.

It seems that farming skipped a generation. The Rancher’s mother left the farm for a life in the city. Still, the farm will always be in her blood. She loves hearing about the farm–trials and tribulations and little moments of triumph.

Today is her birthday. As we were out in the bitter cold and wind this morning, I wondered what the weather had been like on that early March day when she was born. Was it like today? Was cold? Was it wet? Were the chickens tired of being cooped up–longing to go out but  refusing to venture into the cold?

Cold. Snow. Wind. It was a blustery day. Lucky for her, she is enjoying her birthday in a more temperate climate. She has retired to the southwest. Happy Birthday Mom, Grandma, Great-grandma. The wind is whipping around outside. We’re forecast for 3-6 inches of snow. And we are wishing we could share it all with you–chores, unloading feed, everything. It’s always an adventure at the Ranch.

Stepping Outside in the Early Morning

DSC_0471I stepped outside in the frosty, frozen morn.

I heard not a sound.

The stillness of the world surprised me.

No animals making a ruckus.

No pigs squealing.

No geese honking.

No turkeys gobbling

No ducks quacking.

No sheep bleating.

No roosters crowing.

No hens cackling.

Nothing.

Not a sound.

I worried for a moment.

Had a fox, coyote, or other predator found its way to my flock?

Although it was odd for the chickens to be so quiet, I wasn’t worried about them.

They were locked snuggly and safely away in their houses,

but the goose. The goose greeted me with his annoying, insistent squawking every morning.

Always.

Without fail.

Were they dead? Had they frozen during the night? Their shelter was less than the other birds.

My heart beat faster.

I panicked.

I moved up the hill, trudging through the deep, wet snow.

My head said that everything was okay.

Still, my stomach churned in fear.

One step, then another.

I drew closer and closer to the house.

Finally, they saw me approach and the world was again alive with their chatter.

They hadn’t been eaten.

They hadn’t been frozen.

They were just cold.

Staying warm was more important than food or water.

Thus, they had remained hunkered down until the very last minute.

The Evening Walk

They walked. He a bit ahead, because of his longer stride, and she a bit behind. They talked now and then. Not about anything in particular. He told her, “This is the way I like it. Just you and me. I like it when we can do things together.”
They walked on. He mentioned the things they could see from the road. He thought their place looked idyllic as they stood upon the ridge and looked down. She said, “I’d like it better if the roof was back on the hay shed.” He scowled and growled at the back of his throat. “We will get it done,” he said, “at some point.”
As they continued their walk, they talked about the neighboring properties. They talked about their children. They talked about their families. She made an observation, “You don’t talk much to anybody. You don’t talk to my mom and dad. You don’t talk to your mom and dad. There’s no discriminating.” She chuckled. “It’s the way I was raised,” he said, “Children should be seen, not heard.”
She thought for a moment. Yes, he was mostly silent, most of the time, but it didn’t mean he didn’t like people or didn’t enjoy their company. She realized that he was an observer. Observing is what he did best. He would tell you if something important was on his mind. The rest of the time, he just expected you to know. He loved you. He accepted you. He respected you. He just didn’t need to say it.
She guessed she could live with that. He was a good man. He was a good husband. A good father. A good steward. She could live with that. Silent he may be, but his company was enough. He was perfect just the way he was.

(null)

Ready for Spring

IMG_1350_2There is nothing quite as nice as watching the animals bask in the sun on a warm winter’s day. Well, maybe there is: watching the animals bask in the sun for several warm winter days. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday brought lots of sunshine and in turn, many happy animals. The chickens couldn’t wait to get outdoors each morning. The sheep and hogs enjoyed sunning themselves. And Saturday brought a new set of piglets.

All of the sunshine and warmth ended today as the latest cold front moved in. Snow by morning they say. One glimmer of impending spring: the cold front came first as rain showers. We can’t wait. Planting, cleaning, building, fixing–all is waiting for us. We just have to make it past our snowiest month (March) first.

 

Happiness at the Ranch

IMG_1307_2Happiness is…

the pasture blanketed in early morning fog.

doing chores on a warm winter’s evening as the sun sits low in the western sky.

the hustle and bustle of animals in the wee morning hours as they get ready for another day.

the sound of piglets squealing and chicks peeping.

the sound of the toms gobbling (chortling) and the hens whistling in response.

the beauty of a strutting turkey.

the sound of ducks playing in water.

the rhythmic sound of the sheep eating grass.

Happiness is a warm bed on a cool night. The satisfaction of putting in a full day’s work. Spending the evening with your honey.

Happiness lives at the ranch.