Birthday Baby Calf

The shit my Dad has been giving me lately, about not having kids, is reaching rather remarkable proportions. Why, you ask. Because our new neighbors have one of the cutest little boys, ever. Wyatt is 3, soon to be 4. His Parents, Megan and Jared, moved next door to our summer ranch in the mountains and I just got to meet them this spring.
I was already a fan of these neighbors before I even met them because they wanted pigs. They had some of my heritage pork last summer and knew they need to raise their own. This just tickled me because, as you all know, promoting heritage pork is one of my pet projects. The first time I met them in real life was when I delivered 5 pigs to their house. Since then our pig plans have grown, but that’s for another post.

Wyatt and his pigs.

Wyatt and his pigs.

They’ve been a huge help around the ranch, we tend to get really excited about that. My Dad and I both have really enjoyed getting to know them, and hanging out with Wyatt, which has lead to my Dad’s grandpa fever. I’ll even admit, Wyatt is starting to even make me think about dating again (DO NOT TELL MY DAD I SAID THAT!).
As I mentioned before, Wyatt has a birthday coming up, so it was decided that he needed something special. Something that he could grow with, teach him stuff and maybe eventually make some money from (you know, for school). Obviously, the answer was a little heifer bottle calf.

Yes, I know I put the ear tag in backwards. But since Wyatt doesn't have a brand yet, this will help in case she gets lost.

Yes, I know I put the ear tag in backwards. But since Wyatt doesn’t have a brand yet, this will help in case she gets lost.

We always end up with a few bottle babies every year, some we sell to neighbors that need to graft a calf and sometimes I keep them to sell as a beef. We started looking for just the right calf for Wyatt, one that would make a good cow in a few years. She also needed to have a nice attitude. We had a poor old cow die during birth, it does happen once in a while. The little heifer that was born, that now had no mama, was sweet and calm, perfect for the birthday boy. Wyatt named his calf, Sally.

I'm going to warn you all: do not let me around your kids. I am a horrible influence. By the time I'm done there will be pigs and calves everywhere and college will be paid for.

I’m going to warn you all: do not let me around your kids. I am a horrible influence. By the time I’m done there will be pigs and calves everywhere and college will be paid for.

It’s important to my family that we expose kids to production agriculture. We know we live a unique existence and we want to share that with people that have an interest in what we do. We’re also being terribly selfish because in just a few short years, Wyatt is going to be amazing help on the ranch!

Wyatt getting  a little help from his Mom the first time he fed Sally. It almost made me cry, it was so cute.

Wyatt getting a little help from his Mom the first time he fed Sally. It almost made me cry, it was so cute.

Wyatt is going to feed this baby all summer. When we move down to the valley she is going to come down with the rest of the cows and enjoy a mild winter with lots of grass. Next year when it’s time for Sally to have a bullfriend, we’ll make sure that happens so Wyatt can expand his herd.

Look at this little cowboy! As soon as he learns to read, I've going to give him some Dr. Grandin books and this kid will be unstoppable.

Look at this little cowboy! As soon as he learns to read, I’ve going to give him some Dr. Grandin books and this kid will be unstoppable.

We’re excited to watch Wyatt and Sally grow up together. We can already see it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship and hopefully a long line of black angus cows and delicious meat!

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Throwback Thursday: The Brown Home

It has been a few months since I have posted a Throwback blog. It’s time for a good one.

When my Grandfather died, and the rest of the family was fighting, I quietly slipped away with all the pictures I could find (and the cast iron cookware). I ended up with a rather big box of family and ranch photos. Before I donate them to my local University, I’m scanning them into my computer for safe keeping. As I do this I try and learn the story of the photo if I can. It’s my ultimate goal to write a book or two about this family – we have such a rich history, I think it’d be great.

For today’s Throwback post, I selected a very interesting picture indeed. This photo is one of the very oldest I have of the Brown side. It shows the first few years of my family’s time in the Plumas/Lassen area. It was taken in Coppervale, a now abandoned town in Lassen County.  It would be around 1880.  My Great, Great, Grandparents, Samuel A. and Mary Priscilla (fun fact: my pet pig Silly is named after Mary), came from Washington County, Tennessee. According to records they spent time in both Lassen County and Glenn County, California. I’m assuming they were the family inventors of summering in the Sierra Nevada’s and wintering in the Sacramento Valley – our family STILL does this.

I don’t know if this is true or not because no names are written on this picture, but according to my research the three children in the picture look to be about the same ages as Albert, Clara, and Birdy, Samuel and Mary’s three eldest children. They would go on to have one more son, Samuel F.,who would become my Great Grandfather.  This side of the family tends to get very confusing because they all named their children after each other. In fact, if I was born a boy, I would have been named Samuel as well.

The Brown’s ultimately ended up in Indian Valley, which is in Plumas County. However before we explore that ranch, I still have several more photos from this time that I need to research. Stay tuned!

The Brown Home at Coppervale Lassen Co

The Brown Home at Coppervale Lassen Co


The Brown Home at Coppervale, Lassen Co

The Brown Home at Coppervale, Lassen Co

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Wordless Wednesday: Newborn Moo

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Wordless Wednesday: 2015 Hay Season

Hay in Indian Valley

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The Montana Cowboy

Social media makes a small world even smaller. This past January my friend Jesse Bussard, recommended I become friends on facebook with this guy named Steel. Steel was coming to Chico State, from Montana, for a semester exchange. We became facebook friends and made plans to meet for a beer and a tour of Chico when he got here.
We met up at the world famous, Sierra Nevada Brewery for a beer and a beer cheese pretzel. I figured I’d have a beer with this guy, introduce him to some Chico people and that would pretty much be it. He would find his niche in Chico and my life would be no different. I was wrong.

A Montana cowboy meets a California cowgirl.

A Montana cowboy meets a California cowgirl.

We met, had our beer, and started talking about what it was like to grown up on a ranch. It was a good time, we had a lot in common. We both had similar childhoods, we had interests in politics and agriculture. He mentioned that he was looking for stuff to do while he was in town, preferably ranch type stuff. That got my attention. We are always looking for part-time help on the ranch – but it’s impossible finding someone with the needed skill sets. Ranch kids have a tendency to either work on their own ranches or not want to be ranch kids anymore.

I had a ball showing Steel around my area of California. Jesse also joined us for a couple days!

I had a ball showing Steel around my area of California. Jesse also joined us for a couple days!

Steel started coming on out to the ranch pretty regularly. He worked hard. I tried my best to keep up with him while we were working, but I’d have to give it up after a few hours. My prideful pride wouldn’t let me admit that I couldn’t keep up, luckily I was able to say I had to take a break so I could start cooking dinner (I’m pretty sure no one knew, so shhhh). Steel would work all day, doing gnarly ranch jobs like building fence, taking down old barns, and teaching me to weld, for only dinner and beers.
I, in turn encouraged him to start a blog. Agriculture needs all the advocates we can get and I knew Steel would have an unique and educated voice that we so desperately need. I also gave him some cooking pointers and seasoned a cast iron pan, so when he went home he could do more than grill. I also tried to educate him on the finer points of Californian Mexican Food, because Taco Bell does not count. At all. Not even a little.

Steel experienced the whole package from pigs to lots and lots of fence building.

Steel experienced the whole package from pigs to lots and lots of fence building.

Then, as they do, something bad happened and I thought the light had left my life forever. All I wanted to do was lay on my couch watching Gilmore Girls, crying and eating burritos (I did for a week too!). Steel, in no uncertain terms, told me to knock that off. He came over and picked me up and took my on a little day trip to the snow, giving me a pep talk and a chance to get out of my head and see the big picture. It was just what I needed.

I almost got him killed a couple times, no big deal.

I almost got him killed a couple times, no big deal.

Then he made me a ranch hot-tub out of a watering trough and barrel. It’s really hard to be sad when you have an awesome hot tub in your yard.

Ranch hot tubs are the best hot tubs!

Ranch hot tubs are the best hot tubs!

Despite my best effort to introduce him to a lovely Chico State student here so he’d stay, I had no luck and he went back home to Montana. It was wonderful getting to know Steel and I am a better person for getting to know him. However I am now looking forward to delivering a Boo puppy and some pork to him this fall, when I go visit my Montana friends!
Keep an eye on this guy, friends. He’s a wonderful human that is going to do some great things.

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Wordless Wednesday: Felfies in Fields 

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Puerquitos or Piggy Cookies

Being from California we are blessed with an abundance of Mexican food, Mexican restaurants and bakeries. In my humble opinion, this is the best food ever. If you’ve never been lucky enough to go to a Mexican bakery, first, I’m sorry, put it on your bucket list and do it, second, it’s glorious. So good.

Imagine how excited I was when a friend of mine sent me a recipe for these Mexican cookies. She said they were a favorite of hers and they were shaped like pigs. This friend has excellent taste in food, so I knew I had to try them, plus pigs. I have to say, I was super sad that I’d never seen these before, so I found my trusty pig cookie cutter and went to work….

The brown cone is called piloncillo. I've seen it at Mexican stores, but never knew what to do with it. Now I do and it's awesome!!!

The brown cone is called piloncillo. I’ve seen it at Mexican stores, but never knew what to do with it. Now I do and it’s awesome!!!

Puerquitos or Piggy Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups firmly packed grated piloncillo
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 pound  butter
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Ranch honey
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Brown Ranch eggs, beaten, at room temperature
  • 1 Brown Ranch egg, beaten, for glaze
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
Saucepan of syrup, it smelled like heaven would.

Saucepan of syrup, it smelled like heaven would.

In a saucepan, mix the piloncillo, water, and cinnamon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the liquid thickens to a light syrup. Remove from the heat and remove the cinnamon stick. Add the butter and honey and stir until they are mixed well.

My dry ingredient made into a well.

My dry ingredient made into a well.

In a big bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine the dry ingredients with your syrup. Mix until well combined. Add the 2 eggs and stir until thoroughly mixed. This dough is going to stick like crazy, be prepared.

My ball of dough ready for an overnight stay in my fridge.

My ball of dough ready for an overnight stay in my fridge.

Place dough in plastic wrap, covered tightly, in your fridge until chilled or overnight.

I love this part.

I love this part.

Preheat your oven to 375. On a floured surface, using half of your dough, roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut your cookies out, recycle your scrap and roll out again. If you dough gets sticky, place it in the freezer for a few minutes.

If you don't have one already get yourself a Silpat. It's a game changer.

If you don’t have one already get yourself a Silpat. It’s a game changer.

Wash the top of your cookies with the last egg. Bake for 7-9 minutes.

 

Notice I made some of my pigs into red wattles?

Notice I made some of my pigs into red wattles?

When the cookies are cool dust with powdered sugar.

It's a powder sugar wattle!!!!!

It’s a powder sugar wattle!!!!!

These cookies are unique! The have a slightly cinnamon, slight ginger taste. But the texture is what gets me. It’s soft and cake like, so amazing with tea! And maybe a whisper of nutella. I think they will be my signature cookie for a while! Please try them and tell me what you think!

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Wordless Wednesday: Boots’n’Blonde

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Wordless Wednesday: Boo’s View

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Death on the Range

This is the time of the year where we load up our cattle onto cattle trucks and ship them to our summer ranch. We do this for many reasons, you can go here, to get more information about why.

The trucks loading our cattle.

The trucks loading our cattle.

Needless to say, shipping the cattle and moving all of our tools to the other ranch is a stressful time, even though we do it twice a year. Due to the major drought we are facing in California, this year feels especially scary. It feels like we are being forced by mother nature to do everything sooner. It has not helped with the stress levels that we were experiencing.

However Saturday we finished shipping most of the cows. That means the hardest part was over. Everything had gone well. No animals or people got hurt. No one got yelled at too badly. We got cattle trucks when we wanted them. Only two were cows missing, a good shipping season by anyone’s standards.

Sunday was a day to enjoy some calmness and relax. I had a pretty nice little day planned in order to celebrate being done. I had brunch with my girlfriend. Worked in my garden. Did some writing and I was hoping to catch 60 Minutes, and call it a day.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

The hardest place to get to on the ranch. There is a creek with one, very treacherous crossing.

I almost had my calm day, I made it to the writing part. Then as it so often does in production agriculture, my personal plans had to change. Since we were missing two cows, I took off on my trusty Polaris to look for them. I successfully found one! But I unfortunately came across a cow that had an accident. She couldn’t get her legs under her, she couldn’t walk – somehow she broke her back (maybe she tripped on a rock, maybe she got in a cow fight, we’ll never know). She happened to do it at the worst possible place on the ranch, there was no way we could reach her to help or to slaughter, it was hard enough reaching her on my ATV. I had no other option but to euthanize her and walk away.

I'm sorry cow.

I’m sorry cow.

It was a hard thing to do. Even if we have a worst case scenario like this, we can usually salvage something so the cow’s death is not a waste. As long as an animal is healthy and we observe any withdrawal times for vaccinations, an animal that had an accident can be slaughtered for our personal consumption. Old cows make great hamburger, hot dogs, snack sticks and jerky and I am always glad to have that stuff in my freezer.

If the animal had recently been given a vaccination, we can donate the carcass to our local animal sanctuary to be used as feed so at least there is some use. To just leave a cow in a field for scavengers is a difficult, difficult thing, just a total waste. In a few months, after the bones are clean, and the coyotes, scavenger birds have had their fill, I’ll go back and pick up the bones so there will be no mess.

This is the bad part about my life. Death happens here and not always in a meaningful way. As a cattlewoman the best thing I can do is be compassionate, ease pain and suffering as quickly and as best as I can and take solace in that. But it never, ever get easier.

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