Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chicken Fiasco

I had to buy eggs today. It's the first time in like five years because we always had our own chickens. Even when we were poor-starving-college-students we had a few hens that provided "golden" eggs. Moving to the ranch only meant more eggs for us because when you have 18 hens and three families the eggs get shared around fast. 

But it seems that every fall we have some sort of chicken drama. It was this time a year ago that the calves found their way into the chicken coop and scattered those crazy chickens all over the ranch yard. We spent all day gathering up those darn critters to try and keep them from the drooling dog that stalked them from the shed to the shop to the tractor...  This year, though, we couldn't save them from such an end. 

Yep, you heard right. The chickens are gone, dead, no longer laying eggs!  Fortunately for the dog, he wasn't the one to get them (I'm pretty sure he would be done for too!) and it wasn't because the calves crashed down the door. The intruder was much more stealthy- coming in the night and nabbing a few at a time. After the first couple nights of losing a few hens we guessed there was a weasel or racoon that had tunneled into the coop and moved the hens. 

But it didn't stop that ninja critter. 

We tried to get one step ahead of the hunter to save the few chickens we had left- the four remaining chickens. We put them in the horse trailer and left them there for days. The Ranch Boss set traps hoping to nab the intruder and let us feel safe to put the chickies back. But we never caught him. For weeks we didn't catch him. By this point we figured he had gotten frustrated and moved on. 

So we put the chickens back. They were happy and we were happy to have the few eggs they were laying. The kids and I were stalwart in doing the nightly egg gather and chicken lock up, always careful make sure there was no way a chicken could escape or a creeper to get in. 

But one morning we heard the bad news- the last of the chickens had been attacked and killed. We felt defeated. We lost all 18 chickens. And all this boiled down to one conclusion- no more fresh eggs. 

To appease your curiosity, we did find what got the chickens.  There was a mink that had escaped the mink farm in town and trekked down to our chicken coop. 

Now we know that we need to beef up our chicken coop to prevent any unwelcome visitors for getting their dinner. And until next spring when the next batch of chickens comes in we will buy eggs, coloring eggs as The Rancher's Sidekick calls them (apparently white store eggs have only one purpose!). 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Deer Hunt up Quaken Asp

Our quiet little valley has suddenly come alive this last week.  Our quaint little roads have become a bustling highway for hunters.  The deer hunting season is open and everyone has come to try and pull a big one out of our mountains.  We see hunters of all kinds- on horse back, hauling ATVs, old ones. young ones, smart ones, and ... ones that think that they are too cool for orange.  If you don't wear orange, you deserve to be shot.  Ok, I didn't say that, but really, why would you NOT be smart and wear something so the other hunter wouldn't shoot at you?!

Opening morning The Rancher and I decided to join the hunting crowd and head up to our private property in the heart of those mountains.  I guess we went up for two reasons- 1, to see if we couldn't find something big and 2, to keep everyone else off of our property.  And I guess a fun morning date is a good third reason for going! 

We get a lot of mixed reactions when we post "No Hunting" on our private property.  With so many hunters coming in (we can usually count about 15- 20 opening morning!) we try to give the deer a little bit of refuge on our property.  Over the last ten years when the hunt opened up from a draw, the area has really picked through and it seems that only the young bucks are all that's left.  So we post our few acres and hope that people will respect our wishes and just move on.  There is enough land and game around that it isn't worth their fight.  At least that is what I am going to believe that they are saying, as we haven't had a problem yet. 

On our hunt this year, we didn't see much at all.  Day one there was one little two point that popped up with a few doe... and that was it.  We sat for a while and watched them before moving on... kinda fun.  On day two we saw the same little buck, but this time in distress- he was being chased by a coyote!  Poor bugger to have two different kind of hunters after him that day! 

Even though we didn't see much game, it has still been a fun deer hunt.  I definitely deserve the award for the most "shots" taken, although mine are fired from my trusty Nikon instead of The Rancher's rifle.  The morning sunrises were beautliful, the fall leaves were colorful, and the company was great!

Can you find the little deer hiding in this photo?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Checking Out the Calf Crop

Every time we look out towards the fields we see the beautiful green speckled with the black of the calves.  Its a beautiful sight...  Actually, the contrast of the beautiful green with the black really is pretty.  But there is a different beauty.  The beauty of a year's hard work.  The beauty of the rain that has blessed this valley with the feed we desperately need.  The beauty of the healthy calves eating and energetically running through the field. Truly, a beautiful sight.

Throughout the week, we will take several trips through the calves- checking the feed, the mineral and salt, and the overall health.  Its a little routine, but at the same time its a fun little drive we take as a family.  We spend a good part of the time yelling at the dogs to not chase the calves (who invites the dogs anyway?).  That usually follows with them trying to jump on the 4 wheeler, where there is NO room for any extras.  Just picture the Beverly Hillbillies... Now that the calves are really beginning to settle in, they have become quite curious.  They'll follow us around or chase the dogs, but as soon as we make a sudden move they take off to the other end of the pasture, just to turn back around.  Any typical curious child, right? 

These calves have really taken to the mineral and salt that we have been putting out.  We are doing everything we can to supplement their feed so that we can get them all the nutrients they need for healthy growing.  That means that on a lot of our family drives through the calves we are also loaded down with bags and bags of mineral.  How is the picture you are creating in your mind?  No, no one has fallen off...yet...  But do go so far as to imagine that dumping the mineral in the troughs is a highlight for the kids because it is SUPER fun to play in!

This is the time of year we take a little pride in the hard work we have put throughout the year to raise this calf crop.  A little drive through the calves has such a sweet smell of satisfaction!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Vaccinating in the Rain

We gathered... we sorted... we weaned... we hauled... and then we vaccinated.  Not all ranchers do it, but we do.  Its like with kids- not everyone has to, not everyone chooses to but we think its well worth it.  There are two times a year that we have all of the calves gathered up that we can give them their vaccinations- branding and weaning.

In the few years that we have been back to the ranch this is one of those areas that I have really jumped in to help.  Maybe that was because the first year we weaned I was big and pregnant and that was about all I could do.  But there is the nerdy medical side of me (the one that likes to think that I can be part of the at-home-vet crew) that likes to give shots... I don't know why I've settled myself in here, but I did...

Having the new chute was so nice.  So so SO nice!  It was fast, it had an awesome neck bar so I could give shots without my hand potentially getting hurt, and even better we didn't hurt any calves like we have in the past with the old chute.  Thanks Moly Mfg. for the Silencer!

One of our vaccinating days we had to wait for a break in the rain.  Lucky enough we got a few good hours of dry work in before the rain stared again.  But the rain didn't dampen any spirits.  Especially any of our little helpers.  These kids of mine love to come and help and don't mind being hours at the chute with bawling calves.  In fact, they each find a hot shot or a stick and find a place to poke the calves as we go through. 

It was a great few days vaccinating, but its great that its over.  They've had their booster shots and now its time for them to grow, grow, grow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Integrity in the Middle of Nowhere

I realized something new this fall.  Outside from all of the awesomeness that comes with the riding and gathering on such beautiful fall days there is an incredible bond between the ranching men in this valley.  On one particular morning it was evident what kind of men we are privileged to work with.
All of our cows are run with other ranches, several ranches which means that there is plenty of man power when it is time to work them.  But one large bunch (all the bunches are large when you run nearly 800 cows!) we have only runs with one other ranch.  Most years we have plenty of extra help but this year we felt pretty lucky to not have a disaster with as few guys as we had.  Kids grow up and go to school and others really grow up and go on missions.  Some get other jobs.  Before we know it we are spread far and thin between, but still getting the job done.
When we got to the corrals where we were sorting I noticed that there were a lot more trucks and trailers and cowboys than what we had left.  Cool.  Some help.  But really, I was sure that they were only there to get their few calves that end up in our group.  Strays happen because that saying of the grass being greener on the other side is really true!  So we sort out the strays.  And no one really leaves.  We start weaning the big group of cows and everyone jumps in.  Even as a big storm came in and soaked everyone that didn't bring a rain coat (me... plus a few others) they all stuck around. 
After a while I decided that their time and effort was really a demonstration of their character.  They work until the work is done.  They help their neighbor simply because they know they need help.  They don't expect to be paid and would never hold it over our head.  And because of their willingness to help we turn around and help them whenever we can.  When they say they are coming we know it will happen because these men stay true to their word.
What incredible character, right?  I aspire to keep that kind of legacy alive in the ranch we run, in the family I raise and in the person I strive to become.