We have a new visitor on the ranch and one that is not so welcome here in our part of the woods. Although it is fun to look out the back window and see a fox frolicking in your backyard, it is also quite unnerving knowing that he or she is probably trying to figure out a way to devour your entire flock of hens.
It is also quite unnerving to see a fox and have that stupid song "The Fox" (What Does The Fox Say?) immediately come to mind. If you haven't heard it, do not, I repeat, do not google it and watch it on YouTube. It is not worth your time and you will never be able to view foxes the same after you hear the song. I guarantee you, you will hear that song in the back of your head everything you see a fox. Don't do it my friends, I am warning you.
I have seen this guy on two separate occasions now. Once trotting down our driveway one morning and then again on Thanksgiving morning right in our backyard. I took these pictures from my kitchen window. He wasn't very concerned about his surroundings or my movement in the window which concerns me. Most animals I see in the backyard immediately see me in the window because it is a large window and run away. This guy was wandering around, sniffing here and there, went under the shed, and rubbed his face in a little pile of snow.
I was wondering if he was washing his face after devouring one of my chickens for Thanksgiving dinner but after I snapped his picture, Chris went outside to make sure the chickens were still safe in the coup. They hadn't been let out yet. We haven't lost many of our chickens to predators since we do secure them at night in the coup.
I haven't seen him since and I can't say that I am sad. Like I said, although they are fun to see, I'd really rather not see them on my property, at least not so close to my chickens.
Don't anyone faint, but I am actually going to (at least try to) start blogging again!
Why you may ask?
Simply because I miss it and because of my passion for local food and wanting to share it with like minded people AND because funny stuff happens in my life. I like to share these stories to give others a chuckle every now and again.
So here goes...
First I have to catch some of you up on an exciting local foods cooperative that has opened in Mitchell. If you are not familiar with Hometown Harvest, here is the website. If you live in the area and haven't been there... what are you waiting for?
I made it last night so let me try to recall the recipe. I rarely cook with a recipe book because I hate to be told what to do and don't like to follow rules. I am a meal makin' renegade!
Let's see... how should I do this? Do you want the instructions first or should I do it more in a recipe fashion?
Let's try to do the recipe fashion.
What you need:
1/2 stick butter (PS, I rarely measure so you won't need measuring cups!)
3 cloves garlic
1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed)
4oz pkg Shiitake Mushrooms (sliced)
4 cups or so of Chicken Stock (homemade or organic)
1 or so cup of white wine (not necessarily necessary, but I think it adds nice flavor and is nice to sip on while you are making the soup!)
1/2 to 1 cup sour cream (told you I don't measure, I just spooned some in)
1/2 to 1 cup cream cheese (again, just spoon some in)
I think that's it.
In your favorite soup pot (please tell me you have one, if not, get one! I love my Lodge Dutch Oven 6 Quart Porcelain Enamel, google it) melt the butter, add the onion chopped and saute until translucent. Add minced garlic cloves and saute for a few more minutes. Add sliced mushrooms. Should smell heavenly at this point. Saute some more, probably 3 or 4 minutes. Who knows how long, maybe you can take a couple of sips of wine, and then it'll be done!
Okay, time to get serious. Sorry.
Add the squash and saute a little longer, probably 3 or 4 sips...
Now add the chicken broth and wine. Put the lid on and simmer until squash is softened and can be mashed easily. Probably 20 minutes depending on how big your "cubes" are. When the squash is cooked, puree everything in a blender (I use my mother's avocado green blender from the late 70's, works like a charm!). DO NOT put too much in the blender at one time or the heat from the soup will cause the lid to sky-rocket off like a skyrocket in flight and you will have puree all over the ceiling! This should be done in "batches".
Pour the puree back in the pot. Add the sour cream and the cream cheese (which you should cube so it will melt faster). Season with pepper and curry powder. Heat to serving temperature.
We toasted some jalapeno cheddar bread, buttered it and ate it with the soup. It was delicious!!!
Okay, want to try it?! Well, you can get all the ingredients (except the wine, which you really don't even need) for the soup at Hometown Harvest. Well and the Jalapeno Cheddar Bread, which can be picked up at the Scottsbluff Winter Farmers' Market at Mamma Jane's Artisan Breads.
And just to highlight the LOCAL PRODUCTS used, here is a recap:
* The star of the show, Butternut Squash from Wind Harvest Farms, Henry, NE
* The co-star, the Shiitake Mushrooms from Hazel Dell Mushrooms, Ft. Collins, CO
* The supporting cast, Garlic from Mitchell Valley Farms, Mitchell, NE
* Chicken Broth made from pastured poultry that we raised. We don't have any for sale, BUT you can purchase pastured poultry from Lazy W Diamond Ranch (Banner County, NE) at Hometown Harvest
* AND last but not least, the special guest star, Jalapeno Cheddar Bread from Mamma Jane's Artisan Breads, Huntley, WY
Last night was a restless night due to one cow who mooed the whole entire night...
Dan the Man and I settled down in our warm, soft, comfy bed complete with freshly laundered flannel sheets and four warming modules (aka the cats). The quietness at the end of the day started to envelop the house. The silence of the country night was lulling us into a much needed relaxing slumber. I was drifting in and out of slumberland, but I keep hearing something...
What was that?
"Danny... Did you hear that?"
"I thought I heard a cow mooing."
"I didn't hear anything."
Five minutes later...
"Danny. There is a cow mooing outside."
"Hmmm? I don't hear anything."
Again... five or so minutes later...
"Danny, there IS a cow mooing out there."
"Well, are you going to go see what is going on?"
"No, it's cold outside and I don't think anything is wrong."
This mooing went on ALL night long. Just as I was beginning to fall asleep... there it was... Moooo!
Now, if you have cattle, you know that cows generally bed-down at night and don't usually moo in the middle of the night. If the cows are mooing in the middle of the night, you generally need to get up to see what the commotion is all about. You also know that cows have certain moos for certain circumstances. Let me name a few for you:
There is the "Are you coming for feed us?" moo. This one is usually loud and all the cows participate in this one.
Then there is the mooing that takes place when you are sorting the cattle. Once again all the cows participate in this one and it can get so deafening loud, that you can not talk to someone standing five feet from you.
Of course, we mustn't forget the weaning moo. This one is usually an individual moo that each cow does on her own accord as she feels necessary to let us know that her bag is full and how much longer will it be before her utters dry up? Being a mother who breast fed, I can feel her temporary pain and also rejoice with her as she is now liberated again from the never ending sucking and head-butting machine known as her calf.
There is the unmistakable moo, which is actually more like a beller or roar of a mother cow charging something that might be endangering her calf. That one sends chills down your spine and I have only heard it a few times but will never forget it!
Oh yes, and then there is the moo of the crazy cow that is trying to ram you into a corral pole or plow you into the ground. This one too is very frightening, trust me!
This particular moo that kept waking me up ALL. NIGHT. LONG. was neither a distressed moo or one that was trying to alert her master (Dan the Man) of trouble. It was just an annoying moo that seemed to go on all night long, non-stop.
I think I told Danny at least three or four times that the cow was still mooing in case he was not aware of it. He just grunted, rolled over and took the covers with him to his side of the bed each time. I finally got the hint that he was not going to get out of bed to investigate. He finally told me that it was probably Sweetheart. That her calf had probably gotten out of the corral and Sweetheart was calling him and telling him that he had better get back in the corral where he belonged.
I remember waking up around 5:20 just before my alarm was about to go off. In the quietness of the frosty morning I lay in bed thinking of my day ahead. The mooing had left my memory temporarily. As I became more conscience and awake, the memory of the night's never ending mooing came back to me. Oh yes, I wondered to myself if that cow ever stopped mooing.
Guess not. I nudged Danny a little and told him that the cow was still mooing.
I got up and went about my morning routine. Danny soon got up and took his shower. After his shower he usually eats, but this morning he decided that he would go straight out to do the chores before he ate breakfast and see what was wrong.
I was a little anxious for him to return from chores to ask him what was the deal with the cow.
As he had predicted, it was Sweetheart. Her calf had crawled into the feedbunk just on the outside of the corral. The little stinker had burrowed down into the leftover hay still in the feedbunk just inches away from his mother. I guess Sweetheart did not like the fact that he was on the wrong side of the corral.
I think it is somewhat amazing that Dan the Man knows his herd so well that he knew what the mooing was all about. I think he might know his cow herd better than he know his own children!
Here is a picture of Sweetheart and her little guy. Awwww, isn't he so sweet? The little turd had BETTER stay in the corral tonight.
Sorry you missed our Super Bowl party. I know you missed it, because only 2 people came.
If you don't know what I am talking about, go back a post and you will see the invitation.
I am happy to report that all the cattle have made it back home to the Open A Bar 2 Ranch without incident.
Thank you to Dan the CSA Man and Danielle for helping us sort the cattle in Gering.
We left bright and early this morning with the trailer and headed for Gering where the cows have been pasturing since November. Dan and Danielle were already there waiting for us.
We only had one escapee, a calf, who we easily wrangled back into the corral.
Dan was the only one to get peeped on.
No one got kicked or stepped on or pooped on for that matter.
Danny fell in the corn field while we were wrangling the escapee.
We finished driving the final load into the yard at about 4:45 p.m., 7 loads down and 298 miles later. We need a bigger trailer! Duh!
Landmarks we grew accustomed to seeing...
... the cute white horse at the corner of C.R. 19 and Robidoux Road. When we first started driving past his pasture, he would whinnie and run a little, like he wanted to be a part of the action. It was as if he was offering his cattle working services. "Hey you guys! If you need a horse to help herd those cows, I can do it for you. I really can! Please, please, please let me help!"
... the three goats who could jump back and forth with ease out of their corral.
... the longhorn herd that is pasturing in corn stocks. I love longhorn cattle, each one is so unique with it's coloring. We started calling the herd bull Mr. Big Guy. His horns were really long. I bet his horn span was at least six feet wide. How do you haul those things in a trailer???
... the two naughty dogs who would chase us as we drove past their house on the corner of Robidoux Road and Rifle Sight Pass Road.
... the countless tumbleweeds... every where!
... the bull on the top of Rifle Sight Pass who we named the Kung Fu Panda Bull because he looked just like a panda with white crew socks on! Funny guy! Wish I had a picture of him.
... oh and the poor little smooshed bunny on the road that Danny would make sure that he did not run over again.
As we continued driving back and forth past these landmarks...
... the cute little horse soon grew tired of us and hardly paid any attention to us when we passed his house.
... the goats settled down for a warm afternoon nap in their corral.
... the naughty dogs went from chasing clear into the road, to stopping at the ditch before the road, to not even getting up but just looking, to not even rising their heads to look, but just barely raising an eyelid!
... the longhorns traversed the whole corn field.
... the Kung Fu Panda Bull grazed all over his pasture along with his little donkey friend.
... and the cute baby bunny... well, it never changed. Just laid in the road, trip after trip.
On the very last trip however, the little white horse was standing right by the road and gave us a head nod as we passed, one of the goats was laying on top of a car and the naughty dogs actually chased us coming clear up onto the road!
Too bad I didn't have a camera to take pictures of all of these, but I am sure you can form your own images.
We are grateful to be home and even more grateful for the safe homecoming of the cattle. We're resting on the couch and watching the Super Bowl and enjoying the commercials! Especially the one... GOD MADE A FARMER! Amen!
PS, if you missed the commercial... you must see it. I am sure you can google it!
This is a story of our friend Dan, aka Dan the CSA Man. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. If you don't know what that is, just google it. But like I said, this is a story about Dan, not the CSA, and Dan's dog Jesse.
A couple of weeks ago, Dan called me on Friday night explaining that he would probably not be at the winter farmer's market on Saturday. He and his girlfriend, Danelle, had been hiking on Friday with Jesse in Carter Canyon. Jesse was hiking along like most normal dogs do, running a head of Dan and Danelle and then coming back to where she could see her people and then running a head again. Towards the end of the day the wind started to pickup and the next thing that Dan and Danelle knew, Jesse was missing. They called and called for her, but the wind was just too strong and they figure Jesse could not hear them. (Have ever tried to yell at someone in the wind in hopes that they could hear you? It is a lost cause, especially if the wind is blowing towards you and they are in front of you.)
The daylight quickly faded and Dan and Danelle had no choice but to hike back to the truck without Jesse. They figured they would head out at daylight and backtrack where all they had been with hopes of finding Jesse.
When they returned home, Dan called me to tell me that he porplably would not make it to the farmer's market since he and Danelle would be heading out at daylight to try to find Jesse. I told him how sorry I was that Jesse was missing and wished them luck in finding her. And being the mother that I am, I told him all the other things he should do to report a missing dog, although I am sure that he already knew.
After we hung up, I told my man Dan the situation. We both felt awful for Dan and Danelle. We're animal lovers and there aren't too many situations sadder than a lost pet.
From here on out, to make the story less confusing, I will refer to Dan the CSA Man simply as Dan and my man Dan as Danny.
The next morning Danny, my man, took off to take care of the cattle and I stayed behind to go to the farmer's market. Around 10:30 in the morning I get a text from Danny that said "You'll never guess what I found this morning!" After I read it, a picture text comes from Danny of a new born calf and this message "Sweetheart had her calf!" "Wow!!!" I thought! We were under the impression that Sweetheart was open since she did not calve when the rest of the cows had thier babies in May and June. She must have gotten bred really late!
Then I got the most shocking text from Danny which said... "AND I have Dan's dog in the cab with me!"
I had to read that last text again. How could he possibly have Dan the CSA Man's dog in the pickup truck with him? They lost Jesse in Carter Canyon, which is at least 15 miles from where the cows are located.
I promptly called Danny on the phone and asked him where he was and what in the world was he talking about. The conversation went something like this...
ME: What do you mean you have Dan's dog in the truck with you AND I can't believe Sweetheart had a calf!
DANNY: When I got here, I saw a dog laying down in the corral and was wondering where she had come from. Then I thought that she MIGHT be Dan's dog, but highly doubted it.
So Danny stopped the truck and called to the dog. The dog wasn't wanting to come to Danny so he decided to call Dan and ask him what Jesse looked like. Dan described his dog to Danny. It was definitely the same dog. The cell connection was a little spotty since Dan was still hiking in Carter Canyon so Danny told him to call when he had better cell service. Before they lost connection, Danny asked Dan what the dog's name was and Dan told him Jesse.
After they lost service, Danny called to Jesse and she came to him, but was still a little timid. Danny opened the door of the truck and asked Jesse if she wanted to get in and she jumped right in with him. Jesse rode around with Danny as he checked on the cows and worked on the fence. Dan called again when he had better service and Danny told him the good news that he had Jesse in the truck with him and that she was safe and sound! Dan and Danelle had split up while they were looking for Jesse so it took them a little while to meet up with Danny and Jesse.
Danny said Jesse just rode around with him tending the cattle and fences in a quite manner.
As soon as Dan's truck was in sight, Jesse spotted it from inside the cab and grew more and more excited as it approached. She went from quietly sitting in the passenger's seat to standing and wildly waggin her tail! When Dan got to where Danny was, Danny let Jesse out of the truck. She started to run towards Dan but then cowarded a little as she got closer. I am certain she thought she was in a little trouble. Dan told her it was okay and got down on his knee and Jesse ran to him and covered him with doggie kisses. It was probably hard to tell who was happier to see one another, Jesse or Dan!!!
We figure Jesse found her way to that set of corrals because Dan has been helping Danny work over there putting up fence and other jobs so Dan and Jesse had been there a few times together and just recently before this incident working on the corrals. Jesse probably had to of trekked least 15 miles cross country to get to the corrals. I am certain once she got there, she decided to stay put because she recoginzed the place and the smells.
It was especially a blessing that Dan had even called us Friday night and told us that Jesse was missing or Danny would not have even given Jesse a second thought when he saw her. He would have just figured it was some local farm dog out running about.
We're still amazed at Jesse's trek and are still talking about it!
Dan and Jesse Saturday night!
Jesse Resting on Sunday!
Oh, and of course we should include a picture of Sweetheart's calf!
Come join us for a good time on Super Bowl Sunday!
The day will start bright and early at 6:00 am. Meet here at the Open A Bar 2 Ranch at 6:30 am. Warm clothing and shoes that can get cow poop on them are a must. We'll get round up with the truck and stock trailer and mosey on over to Gering, where the cows are presently located.
Breath taking views will be had as the sun rises in the east and casts it's glow on the south side of Scottsbluff National Monument with Dome Rock close enough to touch.
We'll begin by setting up gates in order to herd the cattle (38 cows, 29 calves and 1 bull) into the corral. After the cattle are in the corral, we will then begin the sorting. We must sort the calves from the cows into separate pens.
Once the sorting has taken place, the calves will be loaded onto the trailer 15 at a time. As soon as one load is ready, they will then be hauled from Gering to the Open A Bar 2 Ranch, 20 miles or so from their present location. During this 30 minutes drive, you will get to travel some of the most scenic back roads in Scottsbluff County, including Rifle Site Pass. You will also have a chance to assess any bruises you might have gotten from being kicked by a calf. If you are wondering what smells, it will probably be you.
When we reach our destination of Open A Bar 2 Ranch, the cattle's home, the calves will be unloaded into the corral. The calves will be detained in the corral until they can be reunited with their mothers.
After a quick bathroom break, we will load back into the truck and head back over to Gering. By this time, it'll be so loud at the corral we'll have a hard time hearing each other, so you'll learn cowboys sign language as we load the calves up. You'll be amazed at how loud mother cows can bellor when they are calling for their calves. We'll then take the second load of calves to the Open A Bar 2 Ranch. As with the first load, you will again get to experience some of Scottsbluff's most scenic back roads on the way back home.
Calves will be unloaded just like before and if you are lucky, there might be another bathroom break but don't count on it. Daylight's a burning...
Breakfast of Wal-Mark cinnamon rolls will be served on the drive back to Gering.
At this time, with all the calves safely at home, it's time to load the cattle, 6-7 at a time. That will be a total of 6 loads of cows. Once again, we will take the scenic, dusty, back roads. By the time we have taken 4 or 5 loads, you will know every tumble weed on the route.
If all goes well, meaning we don't have trouble getting the cattle into the corral, onto the trailer, no flat tires, or any other catastrophic events, we should be done by 5 p.m.
You will smell like cattle poop, look like a dirty, dusty old rag, and you'll feel like death warmed over. If you get kicked by a cow or calf during this adventure, you might just even feel like you've been run over by a bus.
We will then collapse on the couch and watch the super bowl while resting our eyes and licking our wounds. Dinner will be "hunt and gather" and "you're on your own."
I grew up in a small Western Nebraska town, Mitchell. My stepfather was a piano tuner and my mother was a legal secretary. I feel like I grew up under normal circumstances, what ever normal is!
I have lived several places and have held many different occupations from my first job, working at a doggie grooming salon, to fast food joints, waitressing at a country club to family diners, ski lift operator, administrative assistant, restaurant manager, piano tuner, bank teller, para for SPED kids in junior high school, construction worker, to my husband's hired hand.
My husband and I married in 1996 and have four boys. Nick who is currently stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, serving our country in the United States Airforce, Colton who is currently attending South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Chris who lives in Kearney and works for Charter Communications and finally Skyler who is a senior at Morrill High School. We own and operate our own family run business, Open A Bar 2 Ranch, LLC which is an all natural beef operation and a pastured poultry operation.