Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Almost Did It Again!

So, I almost did it again.  I almost slacked off another month without posting.  Ya know, life on the ole ranch is just so boring.  I'm such a liar.

I scheduled this season's first Chicken Pluckin' Party for the 11th.  I conned Friend Avril into taking part and begged and pleaded with Friend Gerri to show up.  Gerri has full knowledge of the days events and the worst part is she knows exactly how Shelly and I bicker when it comes to harvesting the birds.  She still shows up.  What an extraordinary person she is.  The only thing I have to report about the pluckin' is that it was a complete nightmare.  We initially set up at the old barn near the coops.  The day before it was sunny and warm with just the right amount of breeze.  The morning of the harvest it was gray, overcast and wet.  So we frantically moved to the big barn where we would be inside out of the weather.  The Boss Lady was working dogs out front and asked that we block the blood from her one and only attendee to herding that day.  The only other person that was working dogs that day showed up with 5 ducks for us to process.  I don't do ducks.  I don't do ducks because I LOVE ducks.  I was called Duck in my youth, starting in grade school and it ended up sticking through much of college.  I'm not sure why it started.  It's not a stretch to go from Dawn to Dawnold and then add the duck to it.  I also swam a lot, so maybe it was a combination of things.  At any rate, I've always loved ducks.  I'm not a fan of birds.  The flapping feathers really freak me out.  I like to watch ducks fly only because I think they look really uncomfortable in the air and then of course smooth and awesome on the water.  My first tattoo is of a duck.  The tattoo itself sucks, it's blurry (I got in the water just hours after getting it) but I know what it is and refuse to have it fixed or tattooed over. 

I've field dressed a duck but never processed one like we would process our chickens.  The ducks were the least of our problems though.  I had arranged to have a family from Colorado Springs bring their 16 Cornish Rock birds down for us to process.  The family showed up with nice big wonderful birds, right on time.  We zipped through the 16 with no problem.  The family paid us $5 per head for our trouble and zipped back to the city.  About 2.7 minutes after they left the plucker decided it was time for a break.  We had belt problems, finger problems, just a lot of problems.  I only manged to get 30 of my birds done that day before we called it quits.  We decided to replace the belt and a few other things and try it again in a few days.  We still had five ducks running around that hated each other.  Shelly stalled the ducks in two groups in hopes of suppressing the violence.  As I was leaving the barn the nice lady that brought the ducks instructed me to order her 10 or 15 more!  I miss out on so much communication sometimes.  Apparently the Boss Lady told her that I'd be happy to get more ducks for her.  The dogs use the ducks to practice herding and now since she was going to eat these five she would need more, naturally.  I just nodded and smiled.

 Avril sucked it up and came over again on the 15th when we tried to again to finish the pluckin'.  We did about 30 more chickens and quit again.  This time I need to replace the fingers and get a smaller belt.  I really don't know what went wrong as I tend to stay away from the scalding water and the plucker and concentrate on getting the innards-->Out!  The remaining birds from the first batch are living with the birds from the second batch.  If they don't keel over from being too big for their hearts and lungs and are still able to stand when we harvest the second go round, they will meet their maker then.  Nightmare I tell you!

Other happenings around the ranch included the birth of Chloe's babies.  Chloe came to us from a friend in Guffey who couldn't keep her contained.  She jumps fences. She doesn't go under them or break them, she just jumps right over.  For the most part she's a really good goat.  Most days when we'd do chores she'd jump the fence and tag along.  She'd follow the truck around the ranch getting a mouthful of whatever we might have.  If she didn't like who she was pastured with she'd just jump out and find another pasture.  She's been in with the sheep, the donkeys, the llamas and cows too.  About 2 months ago I stuck her in the barn with the goats that are in milk.  The Boss Lady was out working dogs and Chloe was in the way so I stuck her in a stall.  When I went to let her out later in the afternoon I noticed that her udder had gotten larger so I made the assumption that she was pregnant.  She continued to jumps fences but not at the same frequency.  One day she jumped into the run with the milking does and stayed.  Her udder continued to get larger.  One morning I checked on her on my way to work and she was displaying the stereo typical signs of a goat in labor.  I called Shelly once I arrived at work.  Whenever a goat kids and Shelly is home alone, it's almost certain that those babies will end up in the house being bottle fed.  Shelly decided she was a little freaked out and called Friend Avril (who we seem to be sticking into every situation we can find), and she came and birthed those babies while Shelly did chores at the other ranch. 
 I've no idea who the daddy is but I'm leaning toward Ole as the little boy has wattles.  Avril did a fine job.  She and Geri have been such a bright light in our life lately.  We've been invited to dinner on multiple occasions and they aren't shy about sharing hugs.  Good things! 
Avril said she invites us to dinner so that she can watch Shelly wolf down a burger.  It is rather amusing.  I guess I'm over the thrill of it. 
The kiddo's school also held their Spring Program this last month.  Instead of having a little sing and dance the middle school displayed their talents via a "Who Done It" much like the game of Clue.  A scenario was presented and participants could get clues from the students.  In addition to giving clues the murder of the town's mayor, Monster the Cat the students also shared information about organs and organ systems.  This year in school they studied biology.  Jolene and her friend Molly displayed a calf heart.  Jolene picked the name Sara Bellum for her character's name which I thought was very clever.  In addition to the program the 8th grade students also presented their projects.  Each year the 8th graders must complete a project that they spend the entire school year working on.  It had many components including a student initiated project, a visual art, community service, a life skill and the student's biography.  Jolene was selected as a team member for her friend Kayla.   I thoroughly enjoyed all of the 8th graders presentations.  Jolene wanted to wear her usual attire of a shorts and a hoodie sweatshirt but I played the Mom Card and vetoed her wardrobe choice.  She was still able to go in style, according to her, with a TIE!  What am I doing?

Shelly also had a birthday this month.  We didn't do anything spectacular for it.  We did spend time with Avril and Geri drinking beer on their back porch and then jetted to dinner at the Bull Moose Restaurant and Bar in Guffey.  Shelly wolfed down a burger much to Avril's delight.  Shelly's not much of a drinker.  Obviously more than I am, a six pack of near beer will last me a good year.  I usually cook with it before I drink it.  At any rate, between happy hour on the back porch and dinner Shelly had consumed 7 beers.  Way over her normal rate of alcohol intake.  She was giggly and a little too touchy-feelly on the way home. Once we got home she promptly washed her face, brushed her teeth and passed out in bed.  Several hours later she was thanking the Goddess for indoor plumbing.  She was up several times through the night and even called Boss Lady the next morning and begged off dog chores.  Staying close to the toilet was all she did the next day.  I didn't mind.  She works hard and deserves a day off once in awhile.  I just wish it could have been a different kind of day off.  Not one where I had to do her chores but one where we could have wasted time together.  It all came back to haunt her though.  The next day I had to artificially inseminate a handful of cows including Brownie Cow.  Our Vet, Dr. Hill got a cushy job far away.  Before she left she had lined up Neighbor Brenda's cows, my cow and three others for AI-ing.  Since we'd all prepped our bovines and didn't want to waste the work already done I was elected to impregnate the beasts.  What luck I have!  So I spent the next two days with my left hand in a shoulder length glove and Shelly had to play assistant and keep the prepared straws of semen warm in her armpit.  It is really unfortunate that I did not get any pictures.  Twice Shelly was able to squirt semen extender in my face.

So that about warps up this month.  The chickens and I are really looking forward to the summer season.  I'm not sure why, things never seem to slow down. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I'm horrible.  I didn't write a single blog for the month of April.  I could lie and tell you April was boring month with nothing to blog about.  That I was able to catch up on daytime TV, that the ranch ran on schedule with nothing to report.  I could tell you that we didn't have any babies born and that the chickens regularly popped out eggs. 

Well here's the truth:

About six months ago Randy Ram the handsome Mini Cheviot Sheep broke into the group of sheep that Boss Lady uses train dogs.  Handsome Randy stayed in the pasture with the working group for four or five days without being noticed.  I don't know how he did this.  I think he may have been using a secret knock and a creaky stairway to get in with the girls each night and then would return to his house on the hill by morning light.  However he slipped under the radar is a mystery.  Okay that's a lie too.  We saw him repeatedly pounding his hard head against what he thought was a weak point in the fence.  After several days of the human kind shrugging off his migraine induced behavior, the ovine made a breakthrough.   The result of Randy's persistence came five months later in the form of 11 mixed breed lambs all with Randy's head.  So I've spend the last month feeding bummer lambs.  About a month before his progeny showed up we sold Randy and his harem to a couple in Rocky Ford.  I do miss him but now I have a whole mess of little Randys to gawk at.
Gerri's kiddo Taylor came and snuggled a few of the bummers one afternoon.  

 Gerri and Taylor also took home PorkChop Goat so Taylor could ready him for fair this summer.  Since I hadn't communicated efficiently with Gerri about when to band his jewels, he went home intact.  Gerri had a short time to humanely separate PorkChop from his boys.  On the day of weigh in, she texted me the picture above.   Crazy Blonde!

 Cinderella one of the Nigerian Dwarf Goats kidded as well.  Her pregnancy and subsequent delivery were a well thought out and executed plan.  She did throw me off and bit and popped the babies out two days before I had calculated.  She was getting quite large and rotund and the ramp up to the condo was becoming seemingly longer and longer.  So I set up a crate for her in the basement for nights and opened up the labor and delivery pen in front of the house.  I scooted Cindy and her sister Aurora into the pen one sunny afternoon and Aurora promptly jumped out.  So poor Cindy was alone in her pre-delivery.  As evening came, I bedded her crate with straw, provided her with hay and a couple bites of chow.  Cindy is full of personality.  She is too good for human touches, stomps at the dogs and stargazes regularly.  She is the obvious leader of the tribe of Nigerians.  She did give Aurora specific instructions about ruling her realm in her absence.  She was lead into the house with ease but voiced her distaste with the crate very loudly, even while eating the chow.  She stomped at each dog as they passed by en route to their own crates.  The dogs are no longer concerned or care the least bit about a new animal in the house.  It's all old news now.  When the dogs were tucked in, Shelly and flopped ourselves down for a good 40 winks as well.  Cindy continued to vocalize her disgust with the accommodations for 20 or 30 minutes more and then all was quiet.  So quiet that I overslept until Tara Dog sounded the "let me out I have to PEE" alarm.  As I headed down the stairs in a robe and fuzzy socks, Tara Dog is still shouting.  I'm hurling insults at her as I go.  I round the corner and find Cindy has kidded two beautiful creatures.  

Both kids are cleaned and nursing and poor Cindy's crate is a mess.  Tara Dog continues to scream so I scoot her out the door and then do some screaming of my own in an attempt to get Shelly out of bed to help me.  I have no idea when she popped those babies out.  My guess is it happened in the 20-30 minutes of vocal outbursts before I went to bed.  When I left her she showed no signs of labor and her vocalizations weren't of the urgent nature.  Knowing Cindy it happened after midnight and rather than wake a human who may coo at her and love and pet her during delivery, she chose to do it silently during the night with only the dogs looking on.  Maybe she's a Scientology goat as I know they like to have their babies in silence.  Maybe aliens abducted me sometime in the night.   Whatever happened, we have two healthy baby girls and very good mama tending to them.  Neighbor Susanne put her name on a doeling months ago.  We opted to give her the darker one as we already have two dark colored Nigerians.  So based on color alone we chose to keep the lighter colored one.  Shallow I know.  Susanne has named her new kid, Patchouli and after much family discussion we named our new addition, Betty.  My grandmother was Betty Jean, the youngest of 11 and called Babe by her siblings.  Somewhere in the middle of tossing names around an image of her baking cookies flashed in my mind, so Betty was chosen.  Mama and babies continue to do fine.  Jolene has decided that Patchouli had a unique hair-do for a goat.  

 We've had other additions too.  Along with Flower the lamb you read about in the last blog, I acquired a La Mancha kid from my friend Nicole at Sunflower Valley Dairy.  She has been named PITA which stands for "Pain in the A**."  She is living up to her name just fine.  PITA and Flower are now rooming with Cindy and her kids.

 The chickens are loving the sunny days.  We had a bit of a snow the other day and the day after was like Mardi Gras.  A whole bunch of chicks running amok showing off their breasts and bugging out.  I guess that last sentence could be taken the wrong way.  There were a lot of bugs and worms on the surface and the birds were indulging.  
 Russell Crow continues to run after anything that he feels might harm his flock.  I've caught him chasing the truck several times.  Such a beautiful guy.
 Our old windmill has finally come down.  When I moved to the ranch 7 years ago it was still standing tall and intact.  It would creak and squeak in the wind.  One day the creaking and squeaking stopped.  We found that part of it had fallen off but the main structure was still standing.  After the last snow all of it toppled over.  Makes me sad but at the same time I'm accepting it as a sign.  It's time to start new projects, to see through new ideas. 
All in all it's pretty much the same around here.  We are harvesting our first batch of broiler chickens tomorrow.  I promise to be better at getting posts up sooner.

Here's to happiness!  Cheers!