Working Hard

Bess and Josie have learned that fun is to be had if an ATV is involved, and feeding the cows is their time to catch up on their morning nap. First, we all have a good howl (no, really) while Brad honks the horn for the cows to come in, and then it’s time for a nap.

It’s hard work being a cow puppy in training.

Home

Even after a few short days, a homebody is already pining for home. It has been delightful to settle back in after a rather quick six-day trip to Illinois, realizing just how much I had to miss in the short time I was gone. So many relatively unnoticed things become vitally beautiful and important when they are suddenly absent.

Like waking up next to my best friend. Like the daily morning rhythm of coffee, breakfast, and chores. Like reading my Bible in my chair by the window. Like trudging down to the barn to release the chaos of the puppies, and trudging down again at night to put them to bed.

I missed the wonderful pandemonium of pups yipping and cats purring and chickens squawking and horses nickering. I missed the sight of the pups clamoring around Brad’s legs as he walked to the barn, or wading through them myself on my way to the chicken coop, or up to the house, or anywhere the puppies happened to be. I missed my chores throughout the day, the various times of checking in with my critters. Coffee with the in-laws after a quick hour or morning of working cows. Our walks in the evening. Cooking supper in my own home.

I missed the mud and the smell of horses, the spicy breath of the puppies, the sharp little teeth and dark, sparkling eyes. Polly on my shoulder and Betsy on my head. Gathering eggs and doing nightly chicken chores. I missed feeding my sourdough starter. Isn’t that silly? And sweeping my kitchen. Doing our dishes and hanging our laundry up to dry. Homemade bread and jam, and homegrown beef. My wonderful family.

Evening cuddles on the couch watching a movie and devouring a bowl of popcorn. Having my pillows stolen and the endless teasing.

Home is a place of belonging. Of safety. Of shelter and protection. Of growth and growing, of work and working. Of life and love and laughter, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold.

Home. What a wonderful place to be.

The Winter, It Will Pass

We’re only a calendar month into winter but already we’re enjoying hints of the coming spring. The first hint is that Runnings has their seed display up! There has been moisture in the air, bluebird skies, and the excitement of springtime approaching! It has been a whirlwind of sourdough baking and chickens, puppies and our first two calves, housework and laundry and getting ready to visit my sister in Illinois.

Calving has officially started for us with the excitement (and puzzlement) of our first two calves of the year, beautiful full-term babies in spite of being born a solid month sooner than expected. That’s called a bull with initiative. The first calf showed up on Sunday, and the second one was found Monday. Both pairs are safely settled into the nursery pen on our end of the ranch. What a beautiful sight! Gorgeous, lanky-legged, satin-sleek calves tripping along daintily behind their protective mamas.

Puppies are (literally) underfoot during most of chores and throughout the day, finding everything absolutely fascinating. They watch attentively while chickens get fed, torment the cats, and come running in a black and white wave when they’re called. It takes about ten times longer just to walk up the hill to the house, with half a dozen puppies chasing my feet and scheming to trip me. All our females are spoken for and we are looking for homes for our two boy pups, Max and Teddy. We’re excited to see how they all turn out. They are so smart, it’s a little scary!

The chickens are already going gangbusters (for a flock the size of mine), with fourteen eggs today and a dozen yesterday. They have come through their first cold snaps beautifully with only a couple mild incidents of frostbite on a couple larger-combed hens, have been healthy overall, and I’m excited to embark on my second year of chicken keeping. I have learned so much this year, dealing with coccidiosis in my chicks, bumblefoot in a few hens, a few unfortunate dog attacks and resulting chicken first aid, and dealing with a crossbeak chicken who, after today’s beak work, is able to eat again!I’m very thankful for the customers I have and am looking forward to being able to provide eggs for more people this year! It was satisfying to know that my family always had eggs, even when the stores didn’t! And they’re better eggs anyway.

I hauled a bunch of loose hay up from the stackyard this week to give the chickens something to scratch in when they’re locked up and to help with mud when we get snow. The run looks better and the chickens love it. I’m excited to work on making chicken farming more sustainable this year and to try growing some fodder crops specifically for feeding my flock.

So we are off to a running start this year, excited for calving, excited to get planning my garden, excited to grow my flock, excited for what this year will hold. Spring really is just around the corner. The winter, it will pass.

Blue-Eyed Banshees

A tragic incident on Friday bereft me of my favorite hen, and has rendered Pearl unfit for and relieved of chicken duty. My very kind husband never once laughed at my copious tears for poor Amelia who got her little head ripped clean off and the next day he brought home three cats. Three beautiful, white critters, with toffee-colored point markings and the bluest eyes. And they are wild as little banshees. Considering that, and they fact that they will never lay blue eggs, I’m not sure it quite replaces my poor beheaded chicken, but I’m willing to be open minded.

They were born to a neighbor’s barn cat and haven’t really ever been handled. As long as I keep both my eyes and all my digits, the two girls will be mine, and the male, provided he’ll let me shape and mold his disagreeable disposition, will be sent up north to my mother-in-law who lost one of her mousers (supposedly a mouser; I’ve only ever seen them snoozing) about a month ago.

Amelia (in honor of the deceased chicken, may we always fondly remember the dead) and Madeline are capable of the most withering looks of disdain, with their slightly crossed and very blue eyes, and such scornful looks they don’t hesitate to cast in my general direction if I offend them. As long as I mind my manners and don’t talk too loud, they’ll deign to emerge from their little corners and frisk about at a royal distance. Occasionally one might sneak closer, but stop far enough away to remind me of proper etiquette and the fact that they don’t appreciate having been cat-napped.

I rather have my doubts that they understand yet that all parties on this ranch will eventually be expected to fulfill certain obligations, but I’ll let these blue-eyed banshees bask in the warmth of their deity and their self righteous indignation for a little longer.

Meet Cinders

Okay, there’s another cat in the family…Actually, there are three, since Kashka had another litter of kittens back in April and somehow we ended up keeping all three. I have to say, it has been a delight. And Anna further delighted me by gifting me one of that litter. Ember was the first, a year and a half ago, and then this little adorable devil kitten was gifted to me just a few weeks ago or so. I almost refused her, but she snagged my affections pretty hard.
IMG_2903eOf all the cats we have had, this one thrives on physical affection the most. We’ve never had a cat that would cuddle (and I mean cuddle) and submit to being held for a half hour or more at a time. I love it. She is terribly affectionate, purrs like a motorboat when I so much as look at her, attacks me while I sleep (one of her not so nice characteristics), and literally has climbed our walls. She’s hilarious.

I’m not generally an advocate for cat collars, unless, of course, they’re town cats and tend to be “about town” cats. However, we now have three black cats (Kashka isn’t very creative with the colors of kittens she has), and two of them are virtually identical, except one is a boy and Cinders is a girl. It is a little awkward to have to “check” each time I want to identify one from the other. Thence, the collar. Makes it a lot easier.

As a teenager, I would occasionally joke about one day being the crazy cat lady (I’ve always loved cats), always attaching it to a hypothetical future day when I was “old and single”, old at that time being 30. I never really thought it would happen since I was allergic to cats at that time, and I really didn’t think I’d still be single that far in the future. It was just something funny I’d say to get a reaction or something, when I was 16 or so and 30 seemed a loooong ways away. Well, I’m no longer allergic (to our cats, at any rate), and I’m “pushing 30”, as a dear relative reminded me more than a year ago. So I think I can say I’ve reached the status of crazy cat lady, especially when I wake up in the morning with two cats in my twin sized bed with me. It makes me smile.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: God was so good to bless us with animals. So much was wrecked after Adam and Eve and their sin destroyed the purity and perfection of Creation. But God in His goodness has left so much beauty and joy and delight to cause us to wonder and marvel and praise Him. Little tastes of Eden.

 

Strange Neighbor

We’ve had our share of rattlesnake encounters over the past few years, including three that our dad has killed up by my grandma’s house. So sorry, to anyone who might be offended by that. But Dad can’t hear the rattle, so it really is a matter of safety, and our uncle’s dog got bitten by one two years ago, so we’re inclined to have a little animosity towards the critters. But I digress. When I got home last night and saw one of the kittens headed towards something darkly colored and mottled and narrow lying in the grass, I had a little panic moment. I kind of love our cats. But when it didn’t strike them (and when I got more than a quarter-second impression and reaction), I inspected the critter closer and found this ugly cute salamander.
2018-09-08_10-18-212018-09-08_10-18-04He was a large variety (the shoe is for scale), and wasn’t too happy the kittens were inspecting him. We’ve never really encountered these out here at our place, since there isn’t ever really any permanent moist-ness, but there he was. I scooped him into a box and deposited him a ways away, since I read that salamanders, including the western tiger salamander (this guy) are toxic to a certain extent and figured I’d get him out of the cats’ reach. I’d be more than happy for some input from anyone who knows more than the internet on this matter, especially since my experience is that the internet tends to exaggerate. For instance, I read that aloe is poisonous to cats, but I have a friend who had an aloe plant, until her cat ate it. The cat was fine.

Anyway, what a strange neighbor.