Saturday, January 16, 2016

Of Trains and Rainbows

It's been a week of rainbows, which means a week of rain.   Rain is good.  In the next 36 hours though we are expected to get a river of rain; 8 to 10 inches.  This might not be good.  

After our recent adventure back east with storm Goliath greeting us in Chicago, we think a good rain here is just a sprinkle. It put our rain in another perspective as they really know how to open up the fire hose in the Midwest. 

We were out walking on Michigan Avenue in a light rain. We had not checked the weather forcast but we had our umbrellas and rain gear on. It seemed like all of a sudden the wind started blowing, gusting this way and that way, my umbrella went inside out and the rain  seemed to be coming from every direction. I'm not exaggerating.  It was intense. We laughed at first and walked a half of a block more while others were dashing inside.  Then we decided we better get a cab as my rain gear was failing.  In the amount of time it took us to hail a cab I got completely wet.   Mark's rain gear did a bit better. 

Before the heaven's let loose.

A bit on our time in Chicago:

After an overnight 18 hour train journey from New York City we were dropped off in downtown Chicago a little before 10 am (our train was early!).   Out west, the downtowns are usually run down areas and not a safe place to be.  It seemed to be different in the cities we visited back east.  We just got off the train and walked a few blocks to our hotel, which here was about 8 blocks from the famous Michigan Avenue. We were in the heart of tourist country and right before Christmas.  I became a bit overwhelmed by the amount of panhandlers on the street.  It was intense.  They stand and shake large plastic cups or try to sell you stuff like papers and candy bars.  Then we got wet and the winds howled so we went back to our hotel dried off and went to the movies.    This was our first day in Chicago.  

The second day was Christmas Eve and we donned silly hats and wished all the "sidewalk greeters" a very Merry Christmas before they asked for a hand out.  It seemed to improve everyone's attitude.  Especially mine.  
Christmas Eve in Chicago

The second day it did not rain and we walked about 8.5 miles along the Riverwalk and Lakeshore trail.  


Lakeshore Trail

Interesting cultural observation:  I got a few unfriendly stares early in the day because it was cold and I had my black infinity scarf looped over my head and after about the third stare we realized it looked like a hijab.  

We also busted open the wallet this day and went up the Hancock Building for a great view of the city and Lake.  

Hancock Building

View from the top of John Hancock Building

We did not go up what was formerly called the Sears tower (Willis now), because of the cost and the super long lines.  We don't do lines well. Especially when we didn't have much time to explore Chicago.  Just two days and one night. 

We did find the time though to eat a Chicago style deep dish pizza and a hot dog at Portillo's.  We've got our priorities straight and we now have the extra pounds to show it. 
Chicago is a beautiful city and it was very clean in the loop/tourist area  we were in.  It did have the most panhandlers of any city we visited on our train journey across America.
In case you are wondering...
Our trip:
Flew to Washington DC from Sacramento, 4 days exploring DC
3 hour train ride to New York City, 2 days exploring NYC 
18 hour train ride (overnight) to Chicago,  2 days exploring the windy city
7.5 hour train ride (evening) to Kansas City, 3 days with family
23 hour train and bus ride to Denver, via New Mexico, one night spent in Denver
15 hour train ride to Salt Lake City (daytime) 3 days spent in SLC.
I will be posting more about our trip as time allows.  Stay tuned. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Happy New Year

Is it another year already?   It is such a cliche, but it does seem like time goes by faster as you age.  2015 was a good year, a tad dry, but it sure ended wet enough.  2016 dawned wet as well.   El NiƱo seems to be delivering.  We haven't had any of the flooding or mudslide problems of SoCal, just a few leaks in our roof.

Right before Christmas we had some of our hogs butchered and they are really tasty.   This is great news as these hogs were the first ones from our breeding program.   A Tamworth/ Red Wattle hog raised free to roam in the woods and supplemented with organic grain is apparently a winning combination.  

Right after the butchering Mark and I flew to Washington DC on some airline miles and then proceeded to make our way west on Amtrak.  It was an amazing train tour of our nation with stops in iconic cities along the way as well as surprising our daughter on Christmas at her inlaws in the Midwest.  Thanks again Don and Shawna for making our Christmas special.  

I'm planning to blog about our trip sometime soon, but I will say now that there are nice people everywhere ( even New Yorkers!) and we live in a great nation that doesn't seem to be as divided as the news makes it out to be.  There is also a lot of open land still out there where your cell phones don't work.  

We hope that 2016 is a good year and we are trying to map out some goals to help make it so, but one never really knows what the future brings.  

Happy New Year!  

Monday, November 23, 2015

You can't always save them

But you gotta try!

I love the animal husbandry part of ranching.  As a kid I wanted to be a vet, and I can remember doctoring up all the little animals that I would find stranded;  mice, and baby birds of all types.  My most memorable Christmas gift was an incubator and I enjoyed hatching out chicken eggs and then gentling those too.  One of my darkest animal memories is when  I ordered sea horses from the back of a magazine and they didn't come with any directions and the food they sent with them just floated on the top and I slowly watched those poor little creatures die.  Today, with the internet I could have gotten all the information I would have needed. 

I use the internet a lot for my animal husbandry questions.  I even recently blasted off a question and five bucks to get an online vet to help me out.    Perse, (a bottle fed cow who is still a pet) brought her 2 month old calf into the corrals and kept it right by the cattle handling facilities. Something was wrong and she wanted us to help her. When the calf got up and moved its right front  leg dragged uselessly along. We carefully walked the calf into the chute and examined the leg and neither one of us could find a break.  I thought the elbow felt loose. Maybe.  The calf's respirations weren't very elevated and it didn't even seem to be in pain.  I couldn't figure it out, so  I asked the online vet and she came back with nerve damage from some kind of injury and that we needed to go to a veterinarian  and get some steroids to help bring down the inflammation in the nerve.   Our local vet agreed and now, about 10 days later, the little fellow is back out with the herd using that front leg again.  Albeit with a lot of 3 legged hops as well.  We were warned that it could take months before it completely heals and it might not even completely heal.  Knowing though, that the calf has no pain, really eases our minds.

Perse and calf

I haven't had to assist in any calving yet, as we try to pick bulls that sire smaller birthrate calves.  So far, knock on wood, it seems to be working and even the smallest heifers have calved unassisted.  I did have to help when our sow Sweet Pea had her first batch of piglets.  Our local vet didn't want to drive out when the she stalled in her labor, so she talked me through it on the phone.  It was so exciting and as I have  skinny hands and arms  it was easy for me and for Sweet Pea.  She successfully farrowed and raised her first batch up well. 

Contented piglets
Sweet Pea just delivered again and this time she didn't have any problems at all.  It went textbook perfect.   I just checked on her every 30 to 45 minutes to make sure.   She ended up having 13 adorable piglets.  The last one was tiny and it apparently didn't move from the back end up to the teats  after being delivered and  the placenta was  on top of it when I came down on my 30 minute interval check.   I rushed it inside and dried it and warmed it up with a heat lamp.  It just didn't have any energy all night and Mark and I kept getting up and checking on it.  Mark actually slept with it quite a bit.  He was quite smitten with the little thing.  He called her Fancy. 

Fancy soon after birth

We used an eye dropper to get a little replacement milk in and in the morning she was more feisty, so every hour I took her out to her mama and let her nurse  to get  colostrum.  With a dozen brothers and sisters little Fancy didn't have enough gumption to fight for the milk, so I had to help her out by keeping the others away from her nipple.  We tried just leaving her with the litter a few times, but she always got cold and lost in the shuffle.  For days I walked her back and forth to the sow and held her up to her mama's teats.  Sometimes she would seem to nurse well, other times not.  On day 4 she began drinking out of a little saucer and I was relieved as carrying her back and forth to the barn all day was a bit of a chore.  Then the seizures started.  That was the beginning of the end really and by the 5th morning she was dead.

Mark and I mourned the loss.  Who wouldn't.    We gave it all we had, but she still died.  It hit me hard and I couldn't really figure  out why as, with a lifetime of doctoring little critters, I've lost quite a few.  This was not a new experience.  Talking to Mark about it  I said,  "We tried so hard and she still died," and  I then started sobbing.  I then realized it wasn't the piglet I was talking about,  but my mother.

 My mom died from complications of Alzheimer disease.  Mark and I had tried caring for her in her home and eventually placed her in a care facility as it was just too hard taking care of her.  I still had guilt.  I still wished I could have saved her.  This little runt of a piglet helped me find that guilt and finally release it.  Thank you Fancy.  Thank you God.  Sometimes there is just nothing you can do, but do your best, and then let it go.    

Friday, October 16, 2015

Seeing Hope

I'm not much of a gardner, and it never seems to really pencil out financially, but   I love it because it adds an extra dash of hope to my days.  

Let me explain:

Today, while planting seeds I realized that  I didn't really see the seed, but instead pictured the plant it would become.

Perhaps I should start doing the same with people.   

Hope, it is a powerful thing.