Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Silver Dollar Fair Jr. Livestock Auction v Meg

About two years ago, I had a Boss that sent me to our local fair’s junior livestock auction to buy a hog. Not just any hog, a special hog. The young lady, Lilly, whose hog my Boss wanted to purchase, had done a superb job at raising this hog, writing buyers letters, and even gave a presentation to my Boss about pigs (of course I provided my Boss with supplemental hog questions to throw at her, but she was not thrown, she knew her stuff).
Being trusted to buy this important hog for the office was a huge deal to me! I was determined to do the best job I could! Nothing was going to prevent me from my responsibility. Nothing.
The night before I had gone to one of Daniel’s shows at a local venue, I was excited about going to the auction the next day and told a couple of my NEW friends about it. I had met these friends through Daniel, and since he was close friends (and band mates) with their husbands I was eager to have them like me and get to know me. I thought inviting them to see part of my world would be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
The next morning my two girlfriends met me at Daniel’s house and us girls carpooled to the fair, it was going to be a great day filled with free food (buyers get snacks!), cotton candy and farm babies! We arrived early, staked our claim to good seats in the auctioneer’s eye-line. I had practiced my steely auctioneer gaze and head nod. We had our buy’s guide; we knew our lot number, and I had coached the girls about giving dirty looks to people bidding against us (come on, 3 pretty girls giving dirty looks? Scary!), we were ready.
We watched the auction and chatted, as our lot number came closer and closer. I spent years working and showing at that fair, so it felt like being back in the saddle again. It was like a reunion of sorts – former 4-H and FFA leaders, members and buyers were everywhere, I had spent the majority of my youth with these people. It was glorious. Until.
Our lot number came up. I was expecting a petite 11 year old girl with a pig, in the ring was a large, male, teenager, with a goat. Not the right 4-H member, not the right species, but the Auctioneer said it was our lot number. I was shocked. One of my friends asked what happened. I didn’t know! I was confused and scared. I was convinced I was going to be fired for failing to do the ONE thing my Boss told me to do. I wanted to cry and puke at the same time.
We sat in the bleachers for a few more minutes as I frantically texted my Boss that SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED. My Boss gave me the phone number for Lilly’s Dad, so I was able to call him and meet up with him to decide what we were going to do.
By this time we had realized what happened. The ring hands got ahead of the auctioneer and had pushed poor Lilly through the ring before her time – basically they skipped her. It wasn’t her fault at all, she was where she needed to be, at the right time. Being the polite 4-H member that she is, she just did what the adults told her to do.
I went to the livestock office and calmly explained what had happened (reminder, I had shown at that fair for a good 9 years and worked at that fair for 5, I was no stranger there). The livestock office manager (who trained me) tried to blame Lilly. I assured her that it was not Lilly’s fault, and again tried to calmly explain what had just happened in the sale ring not 10 minutes before. I even had a picture of Lilly in the sale ring, proving that, indeed, Lilly was where she needed to be. Again, Lilly was blamed. I was told that Lilly would have to wait all day and re-sell at the end of the auction (when there are no buyers left and the prices suck). Nope, I wasn’t going to let that happen. It wasn’t her fault. What kind of example are we setting if the adults won’t even accept responsibility for their errors?
Let’s be frank for a moment. We all know that life is not fair. We all know that whether it is 4-H, high school football, after-school soccer, or room-mothers, there are favorites. There are last names that ‘mean’ more than others. There are people willing to do shady things to make sure their kid wins, or is “the best”. This is a fact of life, and it is no different in the land of agriculture. I have always hated this, I was never that kid with the last name, and my Parents weren’t shady, I hated the unnecessary injustice that tainted positive things for kids. As an adult I do my best not to be a part of this cycle and try and “fix it” if I can.
When Lilly was blamed and punished for something that wasn’t her fault, after I had evidence that proved she had done nothing wrong, and had vouched for her, I absolutely lost my shit (it needs to be noted that Lilly was calm and polite during this whole thing, I think that made it worse for me, she is just so sweet!). Sometimes adults forget that 4-H is about the kids, not about our power trip.
My two girlfriends had never seen a Megan-meltdown before. They had only seen happy, bouncy, giggly Megan (and sometimes the sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan). I scared them. With huge eyes, they politely as possible basically said, ‘omg you are nuts and we are scared, we’ll be at the farm babies exhibit’. By this time I was in phase III, bring it on, I will win, white hot fury. I was so mad I had stopped cussing. That is serious.
I had spoken to every buyer, 4-H leader, auctioneer, runner, member that would listen to my story. I had Lilly’s Parents and Grandma trying to reason with the livestock manager. I left a voicemail with the auctioneer that had skipped Lilly’s hog (he is like a brother to me). Finally I called the fair manager (we were pretty close friends in college and I had worked for him at other fairs), and told him to get over to the livestock office now, he tried to explain that he was busy running the fair, but I wasn’t having that. I was one step away from launching an all out personal war complete with signage and revolting FFA members. I have never had to work so hard to buy a 4-H animal in my life!
Before I made it Office Depot for poster board, I saw the man I knew could fix everything. My former teacher, boss and mentor, Mr. Doug Flesher.
Mr. Flesher is that person that has been involved with 4-H longer than anyone can remember. He’s lead generations of 4-H kids, watched generations of us grow up and go into production agriculture, he’s taught more of us to drive heavy equipment than I can count. In short, he is the most amazing, supportive, positive force in our local ag community and I can only hope to make him proud. I knew if Mr. Flesher got involved he would fix ‘this situation’.
Once Mr. Flesher heard what had happened, he sent me to the corner to calm down, while he spoke with the Powers That Be. The Powers That Be, at that point, realized they had a problem. They said someone else had already bought the hog (I knew that was bullsh*t because we watched the auction, no one even BID on her hog) and I was just told it was Lilly’s fault (PROTIP: get your story straight before you start explaining to me). When the auction runner spoke to the supposed buyer he said no, he bought a goat, not a pig. It was all I could do to not say, “I F’ING TOLD YOU SO”, but I did have a very sassy look on my face.

I did my job! I had to raise hell, but I bought her pig!

I did my job! I had to raise hell, but I bought her pig!

Mr. Flesher and I walked over to the bankers table that financed the sale and arranged it so I could buy the hog. Lilly got a great price, a wrong was righted but I was convinced that A) my friends weren’t my friends anymore because they saw the angry Megan and B) I was going to get fired because I threw such a public hissy fit and my Boss was going to hear about it.

I tentatively searched for my friends in the Farm Baby barn, I was embarrassed they had to witness what they witnessed. But at that point they didn’t care, they found puppies! One friend decided she was going to take one home and gave her husband the best choice ever – a puppy, a baby or a goat. She got the puppy.

Scout the puppy, when she was still a puppy.

Scout the puppy, when she was still a puppy.

After all the excitement I had to go home and have a nap. Actually, let’s be honest. I was convinced my Boss was going to call me into his office on Monday morning and fire my butt, so I was sad, quiet, panic attacky Megan for the rest of the weekend.
Monday rolled around and I sheepishly slunk into the office and quietly put Lilly’s thank you card and picture on his desk. Before I could quietly slink out again my Boss caught me. In tears, I had to explain what happened again. Then, to my surprise he said ‘well, my buddy said I did a good job hiring you’ – I wasn’t fired! My flair for the dramatic had actually been beneficial! FINALLY!
Two years later I am still employed at the same office, the two friends I was sure were going to break up with me? Oh you mean adult 4-H member Kristen, and next year’s adult 4-H member Lesley? Yeah, we are still friends.

See we are all still friends! Plus some!

See we are all still friends! Plus some!

The actual 4-H member Lilly? Yeah, she is raising a steer this year and I get to help her! The puppy? Well Scout is getting ready to be a big sister to Megan Jr. So you see, despite my anxiety, things worked out! Yeah I was deeply sadden by some of the adult’s behavior in the situation, but I fixed it, and until these adults move on, I will support 4-H in other ways, like being a guest leader or support person.

Lilly is now a cool beef kid. The beef barn is way better than the pig barn at the fair!

Lilly is now a cool beef kid. The beef barn is way better than the pig barn at the fair!

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Wordless Wednesday: Prom 1999 – The Princess and the Pig

Princess and the Pig

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Adult 4-H: Congratulations Kellers!

That’s right! Kristen and Ryan will be having their first baby this spring! Baby Keller (or Megan Jr., as I have been calling her), is a ranch hand in training. Already, she’s moved cattle and pigs, she’s ridden the 4 wheeler and Polaris, she has cooked pig food, and she has nurtured a sick pig back to health (I mean her Mom has, but Megan Jr. was there). She is destined for agricultural greatness. It’s decided.

Since I am 31 and have never changed a diaper and refuse to hold babies until they are potty trained, this is going to be my Adult 4-H. I’m so excited to learn more about babies and pregnancy (right now I compare everything to a cow giving birth, I’m sure my friends hate me when I make those comparisons out loud). Megan Jr. and the Kellers are going to teach me so much and they don’t even know it yet! YAY!

The Kellers are going to be the best parents ever. I'm so excited and lucky to be apart of this time! Congrats guys!

The Kellers are going to be the best parents ever. I’m so excited and lucky to be apart of this time! Congrats guys!

Obviously, Megan Jr. will be needing a pony, I mean when she is born, so keep your eyes peeled for “the best pony ever” (I know they don’t exist so….) or “the best old gelding ever”. We’re getting a new ranch hand people! Rejoice!

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Adult 4-H: BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: It Was Just a Matter of Time

Since most of the adult 4-H members are married or in long term relationships, I think we all knew this was coming. One of us is pregnant with the next generation of 4-H members! Can you guess which one?

We knew in the beginning, when adult 4-H started, that by the end of it, there would be four members instead of three.

We knew in the beginning, when adult 4-H started, that by the end of it, there would be four members instead of three.

This picture is from this weekend, at least 4 months since the picture above. Does it give you a clue?

This picture is from this weekend, at least 4 months since the picture above. Does it give you a clue?

We are all pretty excited to meet the little nugget. Until she is done gestating though, she is enjoying a lot of in utero ranch time and Brown Ranch grassfinished beef. We are doing our best to make sure she is primed for a ranch kid life!

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Changing of the Salts

Due to some technology fail in my office, I had the amazing opportunity to work from home for a couple days this week. It made me giggle because I was out in the middle of a field sending office related e-mails, I bet my great grandparents never planned on that happening, lol.

My Dad asked me to move salt today. I always make sure to bring a rifle with me, in case something bad happens or I see a coyote. We have a bad problem with coyotes eating our calves.

My Dad asked me to move salt today. I always make sure to bring a rifle with me, in case something bad happens or I see a coyote. We have a bad problem with coyotes eating our calves.


My Dad told me he had a job for me to do today. He wanted me to change the salt our cattle have access to, from block salt to bagged salt. We change from block salt to bag salt in the winter because this bag salt offers more trace minerals than the block salt. Our ranch in the valley is deficient in copper and selenium. This deficiency can make our cattle work a little harder than we like, so we supplement them to make sure they are in the best health possible.
This is the bag salt we use - see all the awesome minerals in it? It equals happy cows!

This is the bag salt we use – see all the awesome minerals in it? It equals happy cows!


I had to stop and pick up trash someone threw from the road. This is the bane of cattle rancher's existence, please don't litter!

I had to stop and pick up trash someone threw from the road. This is the bane of cattle rancher’s existence, please don’t litter!


My Parents have been really great about getting me more involved with the Ranch lately. Since I started going to therapy for my anxiety, I’ve been getting to the root of it and a major part of my anxiety is, surprise! the Ranch. I have watched my Parents struggle to keep this ranch in production, they’ve had to battle estates, family, bad feed years, bad weather years, neighbors, the government, attorneys and our own naivety. My whole life, so it’s no wonder I am so attached to this place. We’ve worked hard for it.
My crew for the job, Hoot, Ranchie and Jinx.

My crew for the job, Hoot, Ranchie and Jinx.

Until this point, all of my life experiences and education has been to benefit this Ranch. My Ag degree, jobs off the farm, jobs on other farms, law school, friends, clubs, have all be cultivated to give me as many tools as I can have to help ensure the success of the Ranch. Now that I am an adult and I’ve started articulating this to my Parents, they have opened up. They are letting me do things by myself, or with my crew. Not only have I been working with the animals more, I’ve been involving myself with the business side of the Ranch. I’ve been putting my off the farm experience to good work. And the whole family is starting to feel better. It’s glorious when we all work together.

The view of Ranch headquarters from the field.

The view of Ranch headquarters from the field.


I had to first go to the "Adobe" field to get the tire that was made into a salt trough.  Ranchie helped.

I had to first go to the “Adobe” field to get the tire that was made into a salt trough. Ranchie helped.


We then drove to the "Gob 80" field, where the cattle are, to exchange their block salt for bag salt.

We then drove to the “Gob 80” field, where the cattle are, to exchange their block salt for bag salt.


This is what the bagged salt look like.

This is what the bagged salt look like.


The cows were hiding from me - can you see them through the trees?

The cows were hiding from me – can you see them through the trees?


I wanted to get some pictures of the cattle for you, but they were being shy. They had crossed the creek and went into another field. I was tempted to try and cross that creek and get you some pictures, but there is a lot of water in that creek right now. I’ve been doing so well with not breaking anything, or getting anything stuck, I just didn’t want to chance it. One of the most embarrassing things is having to walk back to the house and get someone to pull you out.
It’s one of the most gratifying moments of my life when I am able to tell my Parents, that I did what they told me to do, without problems. And that is what I did today.

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Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Leftovers

20130108-182417.jpg

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The Poo Table

An actual picture from the cattle drive between the two ranches.

An actual picture from the cattle drive between the two ranches.


For as long as I can research, and for as long as family lore goes back, our family has always wintered cattle in the Sacramento valley (Butte County) and summered cattle in Plumas and Lassen counties. It’s just how it’s always been.

The cattle trucks we use now.

The cattle trucks we use now.

Now we use large semi trucks to take our cattle back and forth every spring and fall, the trip takes about a hour and a half. But before we had cattle trucks, the family had to move cattle on horseback, twice a year. The trip took at least a week. A week of following cattle everyday on horseback, a week of chuck wagon cooking, a week of no baths, no indoor plumbing. It’s like my nightmare (I am a huge fan of plumbing, huge!).

Great Aunt Byrdie and Harry on the way home from the mountains circa 1930ish

This a picture of my family on the way home from the mountains circa 1930ish

My great uncle and the chuck wagon to his left.

My great uncle and the chuck wagon to his left.

Last spring my Dad found the “port a potty” used by 3 generations before me on these week-long cattle drives. This port a potty could be placed between two rocks or stumps, and it would give you a nice seat to do your business. When you moved on the next day, you simply grabbed your port a potty seat, stuck it in the chuck wagon, covered your business hole and moved on. Ingenious actually.

This was the poo board before. Notice it is damaged - rot and termites.

This was the poo board before. Notice it is damaged – rot and termites.

When my parents showed me this board I said, “that’s mine now” and scurried it off to a friend’s house. This friend just happened to be a skilled furniture maker. I traded him old barn wood from the collapsed barn of last year, for him to turn the poop board into a coffee table for me. And boy howdy did he do a good job!!!! My friend, Jordan brought the finished table over yesterday. It is gorgeous.

Perfection.

Perfection.

If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m slightly obsessed with learning more about this side of the family. I’ve spend countless hours researching, looking through pictures, talking to family members, so something like this table means so much to me. Plus it’s quirky and fun.

Jordan went to great lengths to keep the poo board as authentic as possible. Instead of replacing the damaged board he painstakingly refinished them. Wow.

Jordan went to great lengths to keep the poo board as authentic as possible. Instead of replacing the damaged board he painstakingly refinished them. Wow.

Jordan used old fence posts from the ranch as legs.

Jordan used old fence posts from the ranch as legs.

Now that I got the poo table refinished I think I’m going to move on to the outhouse door my Dad found in this year’s collapsed barn. Ideas anyone?

The door to the outhouse at was at the ranch.

The door to the outhouse that was at the ranch.

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Brian Scott: I Occupy Our Food Suppy Everyday

This is hands down one of my favorite blog posts done on the topic of GMO’s and Farmers. There is so much information that is given to us as “fact” by people that have never bought seed or farmed commercially. I love that Brian is so trasparent and so willing to share his thoughts with us! Thank you Brian!

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What I Did Over My Christmas Break by Meg Brown

I feel like I am in elementary school again, writing an essay about my break. Its fun, I’m going to go with it. Thanks to Christmas and the New Year, I got some time off from my office job. Of course I spent my days off on the Ranch, “working”. It was glorious.

Kristen and Ryan mounted their horse, and moved cows for the first time - they are excellent help.

Kristen and Ryan mounted their horse, and moved cows for the first time – they are excellent help.

Two major events happened, the first is I got to move cows without my Dad. THAT NEVER HAPPENS. I was told to get a crew and move a herd of cows two fields over. I called Kristen and her husband, Ryan, and Shannon and Olive to come help. The cows knew what to do and were excited to have a new field to eat. I didn’t take any pictures of this happening because I was trying really hard to pay attention and not screw up (I didn’t!), but next time I will, I promise.

We all remember Olive right? She is my future 4-H member/cowhand in training.

We all remember Olive right? She is my future 4-H member/cowhand in training.

The second big thing was our barn fell down. Well I guess I should say, the rest of the barn fell down (part of it collapsed last year). Due to the nasty storms we had, our old metal barn collapsed. According to legend, this barn was old when we bought this Ranch in the 1940’s. It’s been hanging on by a thread for years, but needless to say, it was sad when the old thing finally died. I have lots and lots of memories of our old barns, they are where I played a lot as a child.

Dead barn.

Dead barn.

Another amazing thing happened when the barn collapsed. As I was helping my Dad tear down the barn, and try to start the clean-up process, I offered to get a crew of my friends together for a clean-up day. Normally my Parents say, thanks, but no thanks, when it comes to my buddies helping with projects like this, not this time. Dad said, ok, go ahead, get a crew.

My crew at work!

My crew at work!

My barn crew kicked butt! Brian Drake, Rene and her friend Forrest, Daniel and my Dad’s friend Mike all came over and spent their New Year’s Day working hard! My Mom cooked a ham and made a pecan pie for us for lunch. We got so much done!

My Dad had so much fun with my friends, he made me start driving the backhoe to the lumber pile so he could hang out and visit!

My Dad had so much fun with my friends, he made me start driving the backhoe to the lumber pile so he could hang out and visit!

My treasures from the barn. Old pipe. I'm turning it into planters for my yarden.

My treasures from the barn. Old pipe. I’m turning it into planter for my yarden.


My old cowdog Nikki spent all my vacation with me. She is too old to jump up onto the backhoe, so I picked her up and put her in the seat with me. She was so happy to be with me! It kinda made me cry.

My old cowdog Nikki spent all my vacation with me. She is too old to jump up onto the backhoe, so I picked her up and put her in the seat with me. She was so happy to be with me! It kinda made me cry.

We got about half the barn cleaned up in one day. It felt good.

We got about half the barn cleaned up in one day. It felt good.

I had a wonderful vacation. Working on the ranch really makes me appreciate my office job and working my office job really makes me appreciate the ranch. It was great to introduce my Dad to some of my friends – and have him really enjoy them. But most of all I really like having my friends out – often they get to experience something they’ve never done before, like move a herd of cattle or drive a tractor, and to me that experience is priceless.

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