Tuesday, May 19, 2015

News From The Ranch

My neck is in a kink and my mind circles around thinking of all the things that have been done and are yet to  be done.  It is always that way on the ranch.

It has been a beautiful spring. 

We have been blessed with a sprinkle or two and it has kept things green although there are some spots very short and already browning.  Signs of our California drought.

The calves and cows are getting fat on the green clover and grass.  Here is a picture of Perse, one of the cows I bottle fed as a calf.  Look at that belly.

The piglets are traveling all over the place with their mamas and papa, nibbling as they go.  They've discovered that they like mud.

And Fridays, when we bring home the 'slops' from our local store.

We castrated the males on Sunday and it was surprisingly quick and easy and virtually blood free. This was our first pig castration and I had to watch a few youtube videos before tackling the task. We band our cattle, but pigs can't be banded and they become too aggressive and their meat can have a bad taste if you don't castrate.  Mark held them and I did the surgery.  It took about 30 minutes for us to do 8.  Not any record, but pretty darn good for our first time.  They really only squealed when we caught them.  I had earplugs in my pocket but didn't need to use them because once they were caught and held firmly they settled right down. 


We recently had visits from both the older students and younger students from our local community school.
The donkeys are always a big hit.  They are such sweet creatures and seem to really enjoy greeting our guests.

 The older kids spent most of their time on the ranch at the falls.  They had no problem diving into its icy waters.

The kids and parents hiked from our house down to the falls, but we gave them a ride back up.  Here is the group I drove up.

A week later the younger students  visited the ranch for a tour.  The piglets were a hit and Shadow made a special friend.

The children  also got to brush a horse and go for a short ride. I was kind of busy, so I forgot to get photos, but there were lots of smiles. They also helped feed some cows.   My favorite thing they did though, was catch all of my young chickens and help me move them from the brooder pen into their outside pen.  Those kids caught all of the chickens quickly and what would have taken me hours took only about 15 minutes!  The 6 week old birds seemed real happy to be outside. 

We also took a hike through an area of forest that burned and was replanted.  Kids that had attended this school 11 years ago had actually planted a few of the trees in 2004, so we made sure to revisit that area.  I think these students enjoyed  climbing on these oak trees the most.

Thanks Salmon Creek Community School for you visit and for your parting gifts.  You guys are great and welcome anytime.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

To Whom it May Concern

Dear Little Ginger Colored Piglets,
You didn't come when I thought you would.   All my laid out plans were for naught as we have now lost our 'window' of opportunity for a long hike.    Oh well.  At least you are cute.  It was exciting being a midwife too.  I could tell Sweet Pea appreciated me being there and calmed down when I rubbed her tummy.  I even had to pull one of you little buggers out.  It isn't easy giving birth, so you better appreciate your mamas.    It's amazing how you pop out all slimy and clumsy and immediately start trying to find a nipple, stumbling and falling all over the place.  You really looked drunk, but of course dragging an umbilical cord around didn't help.  I'm  amazed at how long your lifeline was.  Some of them were 18 inches long.  The book said not to cut it and  it did slowly dry up and fall off, but for an hour or so it followed you in your wobbly travels. I wasn't expecting that. 

Little Piggies,  I promise to take good care of all fifteen of you.  Some of you already have new homes to go to in a couple months and some of you will live your whole life here, running around these hills and playing in our ponds. Be thankful that your weren't born in some big industrial hog farm where you would live on metal and never see the light of day surrounded by 1000's of you all caged up without any room to even move around and act like pigs.   Here, I will always treat you well and you will freely roam these Southern Humboldt hills without cages and at the end of your allotted time I will thank you for the meat you will provide. 

Monday, April 6, 2015


It snowed a bit on top of the ranch last night.  Easter seems to always bring a chill to these hills as this has happened many times in the past.  Easter snow shouldn't be so, but it is, so I just better accept it.  Acceptance is something that has been hard for me to, um, accept.  I am a stubborn woman.   Growing up I learned to make things happen.  I wasn't too coordinated, so I worked extra hard and made the sports teams.  Tenacious, they said.  Headstrong, my mom said.  When we got married, Mark said, "You aren't going to wear the pants in this house."  Later, he accepted that we could both wear the pants and have a good time doing it.  Me, I accepted that he would accept it.

This ranch's seasons, storms, and its animals  don't seem to give a hoot about my schedule.  Right now, we've got a tentative two week backpacking trip planned for the end of the month.  I really want to go.  I crave backpacking like an alcoholic craves booze, but I know we might not get to go because some pregnant pigs aren't following my 'plan'.   I saw them get bred 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days ago and, darnit,  that means they should have had piglets last night. 

This hog farmer is a new hat for me to wear.  Cattle I know, but hogs not so much.   I've been researching online for photos of pigs vulvas and teats before birth.  I know, TMI, but I have been trying to figure out how close my gilts are to giving birth.  I think they are close, then I think they aren't.  Apparently swine have a window of 24 hours to 5 days in which they can get pregnant.  It just depends on the female. I'm hoping mine have a long window because  I want them to give birth this week, as it will still allow us to go hiking at the end of the month.  There is a very real possibility though that they will give birth in 3 weeks as I could be off by one whole heat cycle.  It is possible that they didn't get pregnant when I saw them in the act.  Three weeks later I was off babysitting grandkids, so there could have been more heing and sheing going on and I would have missed the whole darn thing. 

So yeah, I'm trying to learn acceptance, but obviously, not doing to well at it.   I can't make those pigs have babies, I can't stop the snow from falling, I can't make it rain or make the sun to shine. Heck, I can't even make the grass to grow.  I'm just mortal.  I do have faith though that it will all work out.  The sun will come up tomorrow, the pigs will have piglets some time in the future and even if we don't get to hike at the end of the month, we will probably get to hike in the future.  Lord willing and the creek don't rise, that is.

Wild Rose and Sweet Pea