Tag Archives: Ranch Life
It’s my birthday. But on the Ranch, birthdays are just another day. The cows don’t stop eating, the water doesn’t change itself and the bulls need to be turned out.
It’s ok, because the older I get, I find myself caring less and less about the dreaded annual event (except the cake part, I like that part). Anyway, when my Dad asked if I could work cattle on my birthday, I was actually kind of excited about it. I figured, ‘hey, maybe I’ll get another promotion or something! It’s my birthday!’
The day started out early. I was supposed to spend the night on the summer ranch last night, but I managed to be so busy during that day, by the time I was done with all my chores it was going to be dark when I finally arrived in the mountains. And since I am the only child, my Parents tend to mitigate any extra risk they can, driving up the curvy, mountain highway in the dark is considered risky and frowned upon, hence I got to wake up in my own bed on my birthday!!!!
This ended up being a great thing because Daniel was able to come with me this morning. After I trotted over to the big house to wake my Mom and and get my cowdogs (I also got awesome presents! I love presents!!), Daniel brought me a Starbucks. All the way from town. It was glorious. I had Mom presents (plus my Mom is super crafty, so part of it was homemade with love and thought), and Starbucks, I cried. I swear, I cried tears of joy.
Daniel and I woke up before dawn (he had to wake up earlier to get coffee and drive out to the Ranch), drove a hour and half (with Starbucks!), and went to work. Did I mention it was freezing up there? It’s amazing how different the climate in California can be.
This was the first time poor Daniel had ever worked cattle with my Dad and I. I think it was the first time he ever worked cattle. Oh, did I mention he is a recent law school graduate? And just took the bar? I think this proves my theory that the stress of law school will prepare you for anything. He was a natural.
We have a wonderful corral that Dr. Temple Grandin influenced heavily. It’s so much easier to work with the cattle now, and we need 3 people (sometimes 2!) instead of a big crew, thus lessening cattle stress even more. However, I made a mistake. Since the paradigm shifted and Daniel was now the one important not to get hurt (he is house counsel, can’t break him!), I got demoted from my normal job. Demoted on my birthday. Sigh.
We finished up with no cow, dog or person getting hurt. Then in the best birthday move ever – my Parents gave me a couple cows to sell.
After working all day, and working hard! I would post pictures of my bruises, but trust me, you don’t wanna see that. We drove the hour and a half home to the Valley and Daniel took me to my favorite Mexican restaurant for a margarita and dinner. I got so much love on my social media. It was a good day. Thanks friends (also I am exhausted and feel old, lol).
It’s been a while since I’ve done a pig update. It’s time. The pigs are over 200 pounds a piece now. They are growing like weeds! We have about a month left before “the appointment”.
They spend a lot of time eating, rooting and foraging. I sometimes let them out to find acorns and eat grass. They loved it!
Wattle hog (what I named the pig that has the wattles) found one of the dog’s bones and took off. He refused to go back into his pen and he refused to give me his bone. I think I know where the term “pig headed” came from.
Since I’ve been literally cooking their food, I can use kitchen waste, garden waste and that kinda stuff. I keep my eyes open for pumpkins, old bread, fruit, etc. As I was coming home from getting apples at my favorite apple farm, I spied a sign and two big pallets of FREE bread.
For some reason these pigs insist on using their bedroom as their bathroom. In all my experience with animals, I have never seen this. All my other pigs would either go outside their bedroom or have a corner of their room dedicated as the bathroom area. Even the horse have a particular corner of their pasture they do their business in. Their lack of hygiene means we have to clean their room often. And it is a nasty, bad, gross, job.
Granted, I did smell like a billy goat/hog after I cleaned their bedroom, but luckily, I have a secret weapon to combat pig stank.
Since we are about a month away from slaughtering these guys, I’ve been increasing the amount of almonds they are getting in their food. The extra protein has been making them gain like no one’s business, and hopefully, the nutty flavor with influence the flavor of the meat. I know in Spain they are famous for their nut finished pork. I’m so excited to see if this works!
Since it is February in Northern California and we have been having beautiful, sunny, upper 60′s days, the pigs have made themselves a mud hole.
After a nice mud bath they like to lay in the sun, they really like it when you brush them while they lay in the sun.
I figure we have about a month left with these guys. I’ve really enjoyed having pigs on the Ranch again. I’ve learned a lot over these past few months, and have really enjoyed my Dad’s involvement and guidance. I can’t wait to taste this pork! But I am going to admit right now, I am going to miss these guys! Especially Wattle Hog. We’ve become friends (I KNOW better), but I couldn’t help it. He’s such a character! Look forward to one more Pig Post and then another slaughter post (I wonder if the pork council is going to say something to me?).
Growing up on a ranch there are cardinal rules you learn never to break. I think most ranch kids learn these rules through osmosis in the womb, they are that important. On our Ranch the big three are:
1) Always close the gate behind you.
2) Never leave string or wire where the animals can get into it.
3) Don’t wear your cowpoo covered work boots into Mom’s house (EVAR).
Obviously we have these rules for a reason. If you leave a gate open you run the risk of letting cattle out, or getting them mixed up, or if a storm or gust of wind comes up, your gate can be blown right off its hinges. Better to close the gate than create a lot of extra work for yourself.
String and wire is a broad category – basically this means clean up after yourself, no duh, right? Well you would be surprised-
This past fall we had a several intense winter storms hit us rather dramatically. Ranches flooded, cattlepeople were scrambling to move to the valley away from the snow in the mountains. A desperate fellow Butte County Cattlemen, moved some of his cattle into one of our “holding pastures”. This pasture is small, with no solid source of water so it’s a holding pen, for when we ship out, or get ready to “work” the cattle. It’s not meant to winter cattle, or even have cattle in it for more than a few days. But desperate times.
This cattlemen (out of respect of my industry, I won’t name names, unless this happens again) figured out there was not enough food for his cattle in our holding pen. You see, his cattle kept breaking out of the pen, looking for an extra mouthful of grass. Every evening when I would get home from work his cattle were out in our driveway (Disclaimer: I was less than pleased seeing this everyday, it sucked! But I digress…)
Anyway he finally started bringing supplemental feed, big round bales of cut corn stalks. His cattle were a lot happier, but he broke the cardinal rule – pick up your strings. I spent two of my precious days off picking up strings and I am not happy about it. However I am getting a blog about out of it, so there is the silver lining.
Why is it bad to leave strings and wire where your cattle or animals can eat it, you ask? Great question! Let’s say you have a happy little cow eating grass this spring, she doesn’t realize she ate some of that string, pretty soon, she starts looking bad, losing weight, then she DIES! Cows can’t digest plastic or metal. At least with metal pieces you can put a magnet down the cow’s throat and sometimes save them (I’ll blog about that if we ever have to do it again).
It was a huge disappointment picking up string. The cattlemen who had their cattle here should know better and leaving trash on someone elses ranch is incredibly bad form, especially when they are doing you a major favor.