Monthly Archives: June 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Field of Mustard

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Field Trip: UC Davis Organic Student Farm

Have I mentioned how much I love social media? It’s opened so many doors for me, especially within the last year. For example, a month or so ago I was buying everything and anything at OSH’s spring plant sale. My obsession with my garden had hit a new high, I could not be stopped. When the plant buying frenzy finally ceased, I had some herbs that, well, I didn’t know what they were or what to do with them. To Twitter I went!

I have found between twitter and pinterest almost all of my problems and questions can be solved. Like I said, it’s amazing. I follow around 1,500 people on twitter. All kinds of people – from vegans environmentalists to loggers in Canada to meat scientists to plant science PhD’s. I learn a lot and get exposed to some points of views that I normally wouldn’t. It definitely gets me out of my comfort zone – a good thing!

The plant in front is borage! Dr. Ronald told me to plant it next to a tomato plant for pest control.

I asked my twitter followers who knew about a herb called borage. I’d purchased 3 or 4 of them, because they were 99 cents at the OSH sale! But I had no clue how or where to plant them. I totally scored when Dr. Pamela Ronald tweeted me back! Yeah, you should go ahead a check her out, go here and here. Yeah, she is badass. Guess what? She invited me down to meet her and her husband and see the UC Davis Student Organic Farm!!!! To an ag nerd like me, this was very exciting.

Dr. Ronald also told me the flowers of borage are edible! Perfect for summer salads. Yum!

As I’ve been trying to explain to some of my facebook friends that accuse me of being “pro chemy” or “in Monsanto’s pocket” – agriculture isn’t like that for me. I am a supporter of agriculture – organic, natural or conventional. I want to use the best practices on my ranch that has been in my family for 6 generations. I want that ranch there for another 6! I’m trying to have a dialogue with as many people as I can, to learn as much as I can.

My next field trip will be in July. I’m going to Monsanto’s test plot in Woodland. I’m excited to contrast the organic farm and Mosanto’s test plots – I’m willing to bet they are not that different.

artichokes!

The was about half of the farm…..it was really cool.

Daniel went with me. He got dandelion greens to take home!

I met Dr. Ronald!

This strawberry had catfacing from insects.

If you plant alyssum with your berries it is a natural pest control! I learned something!

I loved the cabbages! They are neat.

Fennel!

I would like to thank Dr. Ronald for taking time out of her very busy schedule to visit with us and teach us about the organic farm. It was wonderful to learn more about a different type of agriculture. Thank you!

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Beef Bulls

“John Patterson from the NCBA, quoting Dave Daly, U of California, Chico. Dave was asked by a reporter why cattle producers castrate bull calves. Someone else had given her the whole tenderness, marbling, dark cutter answer and she wasn’t happy. Dave told her,” we castrate bull calves so they don’t have sex with their mothers, or their sisters.” She then approved of the procedure.”

I was lucky enough to have taken a class from Dr. Daley when I attended Chico State. Actually it was Advanced Beef Production; I took it for fun, because well, I like to learn. I was really nice to learn from someone other than my Dad. I’m not sure how much Dr. Daley enjoyed having me in his class though; I was that annoying girl in the back that raised my hand every 5 minutes with a question that usually started with “My Dad always did it this way, why do you do that way?” But that is a story for another blog post….

I got a lot from the class. For example, that is where I was introduced to Dr. Grandin‘s books for the first time. We all know how that changed my life. I also got to tour Harris Ranch – which was incredible because we were selling our commercial beef to them so I got to see the whole process from farm to fork!

Dr. Daley was really great at teaching us how to talk to our consumers. He tried to teach us to talk about cattle in a way our consumer can identify with, just like he did above with the reporter. Dr. Daley’s beef production class has served me very well because often I see things like this on my friend’s social media and you all know I cannot keep my mouth shut:

This is not a joke. I promise. I don’t know this for sure, but something tells me the “ancients” knew enough not to let animals have sex with their moms and sisters. 

When I was on vacation last month I was lucky enough to be on the Ranch when our neighbor’s bull got in with our bulls. A major bull fight ensued and the highway patrol called us because our bull was on the freeway. That is always one of the most terrifying phone calls to get. My Mom and I took action, she gathered fence fixing tools and I grabbed my rifle and went down to see what was going on.

There is always a chance we are too late. That the bull was wounded in the bull fight or had already been hit by a car. That is why I bring my rifle, if the bull has a broken leg, neck or what-have-you, I don’t want him to suffer. Also if the bull is in a fear frenzy and I think a person is going to be killed, I will choose the people over the bull.

In this case I was able to get the bull back into the field with the help of the neighbor and a very nice highway patrolman. Everything was ok. It was, however, the most exciting day of my vacation! Stopping traffic on a major highway as I chased a bull around – people in cars were taking pictures of me! I’m sure it was an unusual sight.

My Mom, the fence fixer.

The neighbor helped too! The hole was fixed in no time!

These guys are big and strong. Despite what cartoons depict they are generally not violent (dairy bulls are a different breed though, I was always told Jersey Bulls are actually mean). In fact, my experience has been cows that have new babies tend to be more likely to come after you. But when these bulls smell a cow in heat or a new bull, fights do break out – and sometimes there is just nothing you can do to stop them. Some of the worst accidents on the Ranch have involved bull fights.

Big bull

These bulls generally weight almost a ton when they are full grown. They are solid muscle. They are strong. There is no fence in the world that could totally enclose them when they start going at it. For a while when we would move them or introduce a new bull to the herd we would use squirt guns filled with apple cider vinegar to hose them off with – the vinegar would make them all smell the same so they were less likely to have a fight – it worked pretty well too!

‘Sup?

Ahhhh to be a beef bull – they only work 90 days out of the year. The rest of the time they just hang out with their buddies. (Every ranch has a different amount of time they leave their bulls in for, some for as little as 30 days, some ranchers never take their bulls out – it just depends on what works for you.)

Their dust bath. They made this because they love dust baths and because they can.

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Bottle Babies: Making a Bottle

Our cattle start calving (or giving birth) in June. This is usually a very busy time on the Ranch, in addition to the babies being born, we are also making hay, selling and shipping our commercial cattle and taking care of the day-to-day ranch chores. It is anything but “the simple life”.

Inevitably we always end up with a bottle calf or two. This happens for a couple reasons. The first being sometimes you have twins! Our beef cows generally are not equipped to raise two calves, so one twin becomes a bottle baby. The second reason is sometimes you lose a cow in birth, but you can save the calf. And finally the third reason is sometimes your neighbors will have extra calves but no extra time, so they will sell you their bottle babies.

We like to have an extra bottle calf on the ranch. Why you ask? Well, it takes around 6 years for a beef cow to be profitable on a ranch. That means you have to keep that cow healthy, happy and producing a calf, ever year, so you can continue to ranch. If you aren’t able to keep your cattle happy and healthy – they will not breed back and you will not have a product (calves) to sell. If you don’t have a product to sell, you won’t make money. If you do not make money, you will go out of business. This is a fact I think we can all agree on.

Say you have a nice young cow that for some reason or another (maybe she ate a poisonous plant), lost her calf. Instead of culling (or selling) that cow because she isn’t producing, you “graft” a bottle calf onto that cow. That calf gets a new Mom that loves it, and the cow gets a baby to love and raise and the cattleperson gets to keep a nice, young, healthy cow and a calf to sell next year! Everyone wins!

So far this summer, we’ve had 3 bottle babies. It’s been the summer of twins! We’ve already grafted one calf on to a cow, but we still have two bottle babies on the Home Ranch that my Mom and I (mainly my Mom), are taking care of right now. I thought it would be a fun little blog post to show my readers how we bottle feed our babies! Enjoy!

This is the calf formula we use. The calves are given colostrum from a local dairy for the first 24 hours of their life (healthy babies are VERY important).

It looks a lot like other types of instant milk….

This is what a calf bottle looks like. You fill it halfway with warm water and then….

You add the milk replacer…..

Just like this… add more warm water and shake!

Then you put the nipple on – this was so hard for me as a little kid! I hated it.

A made bottle. Each calf gets 3 of these a day.

Mick says “oh this is so so so good!”

Enjoying a drink of water after dinner.

Hoot is keeping Jagger clean. Hoot loves her babies!

Having a little play time after dinner.

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Book Family Farm Pastured Pork

Remember the guest post that Brian Drake did a couple weeks ago? Well I am pleased to annouce they have pork available!!!

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Wordless Wednesday: Wide Open Spaces

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Rancho Ojo de Agua; Bolsitas

A couple months ago, a woman I follow on twitter, @SusanaCanseco, sent me an e-mail about feed bags or “Bolsas” her family makes. Well, I checked out the link – http://www.elojodeagua.com/more-about-our-recycled-feed-sack-bags/ – and let me tell you, I loved them. Her family upcycles all of their ranch’s feed sacks! Genius! This makes me happy on levels, obvisiously recycling is good, but these bags also make me think about the animals that Susana’s family cared for. I get the warm and fuzzies when I think about ranchers caring for their animals, I can’t help it.

So Susanna made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – she wanted to send one of her bolsitas bags to me to use, if I would write about my experience with it. It was like Christmas! I love doing this sorta stuff!!!! I scampered back over to her website to look at bags! To be honest, I loved them all, look at this one!!! Horses!!! And this one, it is a purse!!!!

I was pretty excited when my bag got here.

After much agonizing about what bag I wanted, I called in my Mom for a second opinion. Turns out, this was a bad idea, more on why later.

Jack was excited too. I had to pack him around in the bag for a few minutes before he would LET me take him out. He still tries to sleep in this bag.

My bag lives on my woodstove during the rare time I don’t use it. My Mom saw this and stole it from me!

She started sending me pictures of her using it!!!! She said since she helped pick it out, she got to use it too.

Yoga bag!

Want to hear a funny story? This is my Mom at the bank, right before she had the teller snap this picture, she asked the teller to please put money in it. Not realizing the teller would think my Mom was trying to rob the bank!!! Ha ha ha ha ha!!! She gave it back to me after that!

These bags are tough!!!! We’ve used it for everything and it is still like new!!! There was a lot of hamburger in there!

I used it for my weekly shopping! It always gets lots of compliments too!

Honest opinion? I love this bag. It is very well made (it has pockets!!!!), it’s cute, and it’s recycled.

If you like to support crafty, creative people that make a product that really does rock, I highly recommend that you check out Susana’s page http://www.elojodeagua.com/bolsitas and buy one of her bags. I plan on buying a few for Christmas gifts! My friends will love them!

Even better, if you are in Texas go check out their beef and hunting http://www.elojodeagua.com/!!!

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Wordless Wednesday: My Mom is a Badass

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Wordless Wednesday; Blooming Olives

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