Monthly Archives: October 2012

Adult 4-H: The First Week

We’ve been pig owners for a whole week now. It’s been glorious. I heart pigs. I missed having pigs! It has been an adjustment, for sure! I’ve had to wake up before daylight in order to feed them, take a shower, put on office appropriate-non pig smelling clothes, make-up and still get to work on time. On the plus side, I’ve been so paranoid about getting this done on time, I’ve been early to work all week, score!

Some updates. Char (the runt) is at Kristen’s house because he needed some TLC. He held his own, but the red wattle/tamworths out grew him. He is spending a few days with Kristen and then he will come home to his own little pen until he can run with the big boys. I’ve asked Kristen to write a blog post about being the hospital pen, so look forward to that. I believe Mahina is working on a post too, exciting!

This is why the red wattle are called red WATTLES (the wattles).

Kristen’s sister, Rachel, came over to meet the pigs. She said it was the first time she touched a pig (guess who is doing adult 4-H next time?!?!), she won for quote of the day. Rachel please don’t kill me for sharing this, but it was super awesome:

“It honked at me!!!” – Rachel (meaning it grunted at her)

The pigs are eating very well!

Right now they are eating about 1.5 pounds of this morning and night. And pretty much eating and growing more and more every day. YAY!

This is what their food looks like. They like to stand in it.

Like all kids, they eat, then nap;

Our little sausage links!

Kristen and her sister came over and fed them Oreos (we tried gummi’s, cake, marshmallows, white bread, and fruit with no luck), effectively ‘breaking’ the pigs. They now realize we are the bringers of food and attention and they dig it.

This piggy likes the filling. He’ll put his lips around the cookie, then expects you to drag it out of his mouth (notice the frosting lips).

His brother just liked the cookie part. It was perfect.

We want the pigs to be tame enough to like us, but not be pets. We want low stress, happy pigs when we move them and work with them, but not pigs that we get really attached to, it’s a fine line.

Just call her the pig whisperer.

After a week of living here we figured the pigs were ready to use their whole pen. The pen is about 3/4 of an acre, about half of which was scraped because the weeds were just too much to deal with for such little piggies. Mahina and I moved pig panels so they now have access to this whole area. Of course the first place they wanted to go was…

…into the weeds! Totally scared me! I was looking for foxtails in their ears and eyes, but they seemed to be ok!

It was the best day of their lives – so much rooting going on! I spent my morning picking pecans for them and hiding them in the dirt (it was better than therapy!), anyway the pigs think they have died and gone to heaven rooting up rocks and looking for pecans.

Pigs rooting and looking for nuts.

They will get another few weeks in this pen before we start making portable pens around oaks trees and pecan trees so they can graze and root during the days. We are waiting for them to gain a little more weight and for the weather to change a whisper more, so the nuts drop. I also need to borrow my Dad’s truck and horse trailer to get the panels, unless, you know, he wants to do that for me (hint). In addition to the pasture and nuts they will continue to get their pig grower feed.

Oh, this pork is going to be glorious.


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Wordless Wednesday: Table Mountain




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Adult 4-H: What We’ve Learned in Two Days

Now that we’ve been pig owners for a few days, I thought I would share what we have learned so far:

Proper pig handling is essential for not only your pig’s health, but your own.

Hoot LOVES pigs.

Jack does not love pigs, but realized that a little too late to his liking.

The runt (Char) is really cute.

Learning how to drink from the water nipple took a hot second…..

But they are quick studies.

The runt will always take care of himself.

Our pigs are rooting for us! (But really, these guys love to root, and it’s super fun to watch their pure piggy joy)

Naps are essential on rainy days.


Filed under Ag, agriculture, Humor, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Adult 4-H: PIGS

It was a big day. We got our pigs today. Plus one. The original plan for adult 4-H was to get 3 pigs. One for each of us. Then I had a few friends ask if they could just avoid all the work, have me raise the pig for them so they could just buy a pig when its ready to slaughter. Ok, so then, I planned on buying four pigs, one for me and one for lazy friends (KIDDING, you guys) and Mahina and Kristen’s pigs. I figured I might be able to make a few bucks to invest into buying some more pig panels or a, *cough* *cough* sow. But somehow by the time we came home today, we had five pigs!

Our piglets.

Mahina and Kristen met me bright and early, here on the Ranch. We borrowed my Mom’s truck, put a foam bed-liner and pine shavings in the back, opened the windows in the camper shell, and duct taped all the lighting wires up and off we went. After much searching the internets for heritage pig producers in Northern California we found Jamie at High Mountain Hogs. She is located out of Mad River, California, which is about a three and half hour (and a very curvy) drive from the Ranch.

Our truck ready, pigs, our piglet’s Mom, our piglets ready to come home.

My social media friend Amy Sipes is the person who first brought red wattles to my attention. She has a slaughterhouse in Kentucky and has taught me much about, well, meat and meat safety (thanks Amy!). Last year she kept posting these RED pork chops on her Facebook page. Like most of you, I am used to store pork, and while store pork is great, I missed having really wonderful, succulent, amazing homegrown pork. I haven’t raised our own pork since my 4-H days, which, let’s just say was at least over 10 years ago. I saw these beautiful pork chops Amy kept posting, and I found myself having major pork envy. If you know me in real life, once I get an idea in my head, I’m like a dog with a bone, good luck getting me to give it up (you’ll lose a finger!). My mission in life became getting red wattles, and today it happened.

Hog heaven! Guardian dogs and pig cats. I liked it there.

We got on the road bright and early. Of course, a Starbuck’s and gas stop was made and maayyybeeee a short stop at Lucero when we got to Corning.

This is hands down my favorite olive oil and vinegar place in the world. It’s so good. I make excuses to stop here, I can’t help it! Plus I had to get something for my Mom because we used her truck. I can fit 2 bags of shaving and 3 bags of hog chow in my Corolla, but I think 5 piglets and 3 girls would have been pushing it.

After that though, we made excellent time. The drive itself was a lot of fun, we saw a lot of agriculture and animals on our way there, including several does and fawns and a roadrunner!

High Mountain Hogs – started because Jamie missed having super good pork too.

We followed Jamie up to her hog barns and met all kinds of pigs! From red wattles to landraces to berkshires, we met sows, boars, piglets, guardian dogs and pig cats. It was glorious. I was in hog heaven (see what I did there?). Jamie was wonderfully patient as we pelted her with hundreds of hog related questions. We ended up buying red wattle/tamworth cross pigs. Since we are not breeding these pigs, we thought it was a great idea to use hybrid vigor to make some great pork. Red wattles are known for red meat and tamworths are know as the “bacon pig” – can you imagine a better melding of genetics? I can’t.

Hog farmer Kristen with Yum Yum.

Jamie caught our barrows (castrated male pig), and taught us the correct way to handle them. And then she gave us a runt! We couldn’t help it you guys, he was super cute! The runt she gave us was from a different breed of pig, a hereford. We’re pretty excited to have a taste test of pork when we are done – hereford vs. red wattle/tamworth vs berkshire (our friends raise them) vs store pork. Yeah, that’s going to be a bbq you want to be invited to.

Hog farmer Mahina with Pork Chop.

Unfortunately we had to leave High Mountain Hogs way before we wanted to because we were chasing daylight. We still had to get home, get the pigs situated, and fine tune our hog pen! The piglets were great passengers, despite my very best efforts of driving slowly and pulling over for rests, we had some car sickness from the little guys (and me!). When we got home it was a race to get the pigs in their new pen, set up the water system (Char was too small to use it), and clean the pig poo and puke out of my Mom’s new truck.

Pig house!

While we were gone, my Mom added sides to the pig’s house, which was a really good thing, because Char is soooooo little he could have slipped right out.

Me with Char and Hoot lurking. My Boss’s kids are naming my two pigs.

We safely unloaded our piglets into their new home. We had piglet chow and apples ready for them, they were pretty excited about that. Hoot dog supervised with intensity unmatched, we’re sure Hoot is ready to step up and be the piglet’s new guardian dog. It got dark and we had to let the pigs go to bed. I just did an 10:00 PM welfare check and the piglets had half their pen rooted up, but were happily asleep. I have my alarm set for daylight for another welfare check and Mahina and Kristen plan on being here tomorrow too. Adult 4-H has officially begun.

Hoot with her new friends.


Filed under Ag, agriculture, Field Trip, food, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Craft Project! Hair Ties!

I got a twistband in my Birchbox last month. I loved it. Since I almost have waste long blonde hair, I am constantly searching for ways to keep my hair out of my face without destroying it. Twistband is my answer. Of course, I’m not the only one who has realized how awesome these hair-ties are. I see girls wearing them everywhere!

My homemade twistband!

Like all things I love, twistbands are kinda expensive. I bought 5 for $10 at my local clothing store and have seen them for much more. All twistbands are is elastic ribbon tied in a knot. I figured, I could make those!

Go to Michael’s (the jewelry section) and buy Blue Moon elastic band. Or be like me and have a worker do it! This guy was fun!

You will need your elastic band (it was $2.99!!!), scissors, a lighter and a ruler.

A simple trip to my friendly neighborhood Michael’s store and guess who has all the twistbands she wants? THIS GIRL! And now everyone in my office and at the coffee place I go every morning.

Cute your elastic into 8 inch pieces (7 might work better for some people, I have a lot of hair). Then, use the lighter to carefully scorch the end.

All you do in tie the elastic in a simple knot.

Just be careful to avoid twists in the elastic.

And pull tight to set the knot.

I made big ones to use as hair-bands! My lovely file clerk Meagan got my first one. Also thank you for the photo assistance! The one downside to living alone is no picture help.

If you want to make a hair-band instead of hair-ties just measure out about 19.5 inches of your elastic and tie the same way. I LOVE the hair-bands, they are awesome.

See wasn’t that super easy? It’s almost embarrassing  how cheap and easy these are to make. And you could even add beads, or paint or feathers or what-have-you, go wild!

So many! So fun! So easy!


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Wordless Wednesday: The Survivor


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Adult 4-H: Pig Pen Fix-Up Day

I had a rough week. Leo’s passing hit me a little harder than I had anticipated it would. My online persona/blog got attacked and ripped apart by the very people I am trying to share my life and culture with. And then to top that all off my asparagus patch and some of my cactus cuttings got destroyed while I was at work. I’m defeated.

This one had a great memory.

The plant deaths were the final straw for my week, my Friday evening was spent sobbing and drinking wine because I just couldn’t do anything else. My plants are my happy. My cactus cuttings all have little back stories and memories that go with them. You see, whenever I take a road-trip or have a little adventure I take a cutting from a wild road cactus (there is a surprising amount of cacti in Northern California) or abandon homes. I plant that cutting behind my house and everyday I look out my bathroom window I see a garden of happy memories that the deer don’t destroy, a drought won’t kill and I can get fruit from. I know it is silly, but they are important to me, and it was heartbreaking to see my happy memories chopped up.

My Mom hired a guy to mow stickers and clear the pig pen of brush, looks good, huh? I don’t know why he mowed around my house though.

So Friday night I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit my blog, quit my plants, quit adult 4-H, quit talking about ag, and move to town. My passion had been shaken deeply. I know I can’t control death, I know I can’t control how some people perceive me or what I do, but generally I feel like its possible for me to have some control over my few cactus plants. I guess I needed another reminder that I have no control.

Adult 4-H crew and our pig pen. This sign was hiding in the pig pen, I’m framing it, and putting it in my office.

I spent Saturday away from the ranch. I went to champagne brunch, did some shopping and pretended like I was an urban person. It felt good. I needed it. And I still wanted to quit. It was nice not to care. I thought about taking up a new hobby that would be harder to destroy than plants and less controversial than agriculture. Maybe learn another chord on the guitar, or learn to paint or draw or something. The only reason I didn’t flat out say “fuck it” was because I had two very excited friends and I already paid my deposit on the pigs. I didn’t want my friends to feel how I felt.

Mahina and Kristen pounding a post (they are badass).

I came home and cooked bacon. I mean if cooking bacon doesn’t make me happy, what could? I had an adult 4-H meeting planned the next day and really needed to figure out what I wanted to do before we fixed up the pig pen. Making bacon salad had no improvement on my mood, so I went to bed still ready to quit and dreading the next day.

Ryan was in charge of cutting the wood.

My friend Kristen and her husband Ryan were the first to arrive this morning. I immediately felt better. I could see how excited they were to be here, to do manual labor, in the dirt and sun. Mahina and Daniel came next and they had beer! More betterness. After a few minutes of visiting with the girls, I felt a lot better. Their excitement was contagious.

We learned how to make cattle panels fit in the back of a truck.

After talking to them for a while I realized something pretty obvious, this is a huge deal. I forget that. I am slightly jaded because this is my normal, but my normal isn’t normal. I take my lifestyle for granted so often. Adult 4-H is a great reminder of how lucky I am.

Seriously though, she is badass (she is gloveless!).

I’m really excited about our pig project. I’m excited to work with people that were not raised in agriculture because after one day of working with them I can tell they are going to teach me more than I thought possible. I find myself falling into the pattern of “this is how we’ve always done it” with this pig project. It makes me want to slap myself, especially when I‘ve been yelling at my industry to stop doing that. I’m a big, ole, fat, hypocrite. Today was an excellent reminder that I have an opportunity to think outside the “this is how we’ve always done it” box. I have an incredible luxury raising some heritage pork, with some innovative and fun women.

We ran out of beer, *cough* early. He was way too happy about finding this after a day in the hot sun.

I’ve started braiding Leo’s tail into necklaces and bracelets. I’ve always wanted to learn how to braid horsehair so it seems appropriate that Leo’s last gift to me, is forcing me to learn this art. For some reason it makes me feel better to make something from him to remember him by. I think he would like to know we’re still thinking about him, plus when I wash his hair to braid, it still smells like him, and that makes me happy, because his scent brings back a flood of good memories.

The first Leo necklace. I think I’ll add some Joe tail to the next one since they were BFF.

I was able to save a few cuttings from the “great mow of October 2012”. Hopefully I’ll stop being so hurt about it and start watering my yard and trees again. It’s just really hard when I deal with bad soil,  heat, cold, turkeys, deer, dogs and cats, only to be foiled by man, when I make no secret how important my plants are to me.

Nopales cuttings I was able to save. 🙁


Filed under Ag, agriculture, food, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Our Neighbor’s 50 Pound Cabbage


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Leo Horse

My first memory of Leo is my Dad telling me he found a new horse. My Great Aunties used to raise all of our own horses on this ranch. Of course, as a small child I didn’t realize how amazing that was. I just knew their were lots and lots and lots of pretty horses for me to play with and look at. My Dad promised me that soon, he was going to take me to meet this new baby horse that was to be his.

Leo as a two year old – learning how to be a horse.

When I was a little girl all ranch work was done on horseback. This was back in the early 1980’s, we didn’t have polaris and 4-wheelers like we do now. If you wanted to check on your cattle, you had to saddle up and take off at a high trot come back, get lunch, get a new horse, and take off at a high trot*. Everyday (it’s not as romantic as it sounds, trust me, there really is something to be said for a 4-wheeler). But that was why we had a lot of horses. Plus every time my Dad would get a horse good and broke, the Aunties would sell it. It was a point of contention for my Dad.

My buddy

When Leo was born, my Dad decided he liked him. My Dad kept an eye on the colt as he grew up, and would occasionally go feed him an extra flake of hay, just to say hi. As yearlings, all of our colts were put in this field called the Century Plant Field. They were put there to ‘make them into horses’. This field has rocks, cows, wild animals, mud, streams, hills, basically a great place to learn how to be a worldly horse. And that is where I met Leo for the first time.

He was a pretty big horse.

It was a grey winter day, and I remember I got to spend the day with my Dad for some reason. As a treat, my Dad took me out to meet Leo. As we drove the hay truck out into the field, Dad told me to stay in the truck until he opened a bale of hay because Leo didn’t know me yet and I would scare him. I remember thinking that was absolutely ridiculous because every horse that I had ever met in my short life just loved me! I was the official ear scratcher and treat giver on the ranch.

Even the bottle calves had the crap scared out of them by Leo.

My Dad parked the hay truck and the colts came trotting over. I couldn’t stand it and popped out of the cab and into the back of the truck with my Dad, causing a lot of snorting and shying away of the colts. My Dad was right, they didn’t like me. But he opened up the hay bale and started tossing flakes out and they came back over again. Leo even allowed my Dad to scratch his ears and rub his neck.

It was a big deal for me to ride Leo when I was little. I mean Leo was MY DAD’S HORSE and very powerful and fast. This is Leo telling me I’m not doing it right – he was really good at that.

Since my Dad knew he was going to keep Leo, Leo got sent to an actual horse trainer, instead of being started here. The trainer fell in love with him too. She even entered him in a few horse shows before she would give him back, and he did really well. Once Leo got trained and people were normal to him, he turned into a big love-bug.

As Leo got older he was perfect for evening rides with my friends.

Leo and I became good friends as well. He liked to be loved on and given treats and that was totally my thing! I found out that if you sat on the top of the fence (which I wasn’t supposed to do), he would come over and put his head in my lap for pets! To a five year old, that is pretty much zen.

I taught ex-boyfriends who wanted to be cowboys how to ride on him

Leo was my Dad’s horse for the first 10 year’s of his life, they roped, they cut, Leo was the ultimate cow horse. Indeed if a cow or calf started falling behind Leo had no problem reaching over and biting that cow. Even out in a field, if a cow got too close to Leo, he would bite or kick. Leo took his cow-horse job very seriously.

He was great for photo sessions! Thanks!

My Dad has slowly become the bionic man (ranching is tough work, kids), and riding is no longer comfortable for him, so Leo slowly become a guest horse. He was the type of horse you could let a greenhorn ride and they would generally be ok. Leo’s only vice was if he knew you would let him get away with something, he would. But once you became friends with Leo he would be your pal and take good care of you.

Or a quick ride….

Leo had some accidents during his lifetime, his hoof almost got cut off when he got stuck in some wire. He had pigeon fever really bad,  he gained a lot of weight really fast in the spring, always causing us to panic. And an accident involving a nail and his chest – some ugly stuff. But he made it through and soldiered on for 30 years.

Daniel and Leo spent a lot of time together this spring. Leo loved the attention.

Leo died today. My Mom came and got me this morning because Leo was in distress and couldn’t get up. He went very quickly after we both said goodbye. He seemed to have waited until we were all able to acknowledge he was going. We had a scare with him last winter. That’s why we knew we needed to get Joe a friend, so Sue got adopted. We knew Leo didn’t feel good yesterday. But it really seemed as if this morning he wanted to be with us as he went. What a honor, but that was the type of horse he was. He thought of his people and his pasture friend before himself.

Leo is the last of a golden era on this ranch and for this family. As I look through pictures of this family dating all the way back to the 1800’s our horses have always been very prominent and proud. Leo is the last horse from that era that was bred, born and died here. Thank you Leo. Thank you.

I gave Leo lots of extra treats this summer. Including a bunch of peaches, he loved peaches!

We were very lucky to have Leo in our lives for the past 30 years. I have so many wonderful memories of him and my family. Right now it feels a bit like we have lost a family member. Thank you Leo, you will be missed very much.

*So my Dad says.


Filed under Ag, Beef, History, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: Please Vote This Year


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October 3, 2012 · 2:22 pm