Water, water and more water.

We live in a flood plain and I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday- I knew we’d go through some flooding. But, being an experiential person, I had no idea what to expect till it actually happened.

I’ll admit, it was a little scary. But we had done some prepping beforehand, so I felt ready. As ready as I could be for the unexpected.

Living up here, I check the weather obsessively. Down in SoCal, I NEVER checked the weather. In fact, it’s an exercise in futility to check the weather. It’s going to be 70 degrees. Every day. Unless it’s winter. Then it will be 60 degrees. The end. But up here, there are seasons. And “weather events”. And such events change by the hour.

A pretty big rain storm was expected to hit us…Ok, I could deal with that. I lived in Juneau, Alaska for a while and it basically rained 24 freaking 7. But then I read the forecast discussion on NOAA. It stated: “It’s going to be like a firehose is aimed at the Sierras.” I swiftly put aside my cockiness and immediately started thinking of how we must prepare.

Just so you know the lay of the land, we have 10 acres of pasture and a house that sits on a creek. And when I say on a creek I mean on a creek. See?

Creek meet house, house meet creek. (that's our dog Ella under there)

Creek meet house, house meet creek. (that’s our dog Ella under there)

Now, it’s actually a good thing that we are on a creek. That doesn’t seem quite right, but let me explain. It’s kind of a double edged sword. A creek is the natural drainage for a flood plain. It’s where the water wants to go (which kinda sucks)  and where the water will sure to be carried away (which is awesome). Moving water is a good thing. Water that just builds and builds because it has nowhere to go is a bad thing.

For the rest of the pasture, it’s a whole different story. Water builds up and drains slowly. (Mainly due to culvert pipes that aren’t big enough, but that’s a whole ‘nother story involving CalTrans that you’d probably rather poke yourself in the eye with a blunt kebob skewer than listen to.)

Basically, all you need to know is 1. Having the house on the creek is probably why in the 154 years this house has stood, it has never flooded. Even when it wasn’t even on a foundation, like it is today 2. We have a barn/garage and a larged penned area with 2 shelters for the goats and chickens that gets massively flooded.

So after reading about the metaphoric firehose pointed at my town, I immediately knew we had to sandbag the shit out of the garage and figure where the hell the animals will go.

I went to the fire station and got some sandbags. (and introduced myself to the Fire Chief, who is a key person to know when the shit is about to go down) Then I went to CalTrans with a shovel and filled the sandbags. I moved a bunch of old sandbags along the garage doors and added the new ones. I went to the feed store to pick up more grain and wood shavings for a make-shift pen my husband and I would build in the garage when he got home. I got buckets filled with fresh water and moved some stuff off the floor and onto pallets.

I then decided to dig out the drainage channel in our pasture, near the aforementioned culvert, in order to ensure the water flows into the culvert pipe. Now, we do have a tractor. Does it work? Negative. If it did work, could I operate it? Negative. So I got my shovel and went out in the crazy wind and dug it out as best I could.  Since I was on a roll with all the manual labor, I decided to dig a moat around the chicken pen so the water would flow away from the foundation and provide a safe, dry place for the goats and chickens to weather the storm. Or so I thought…

(Can I just skip ahead and tell you something? All that ditch digging? Yeah, it was for nothing. When you have a lake in your yard, a moat is cute, but totally useless.)

We had 3 storms forecasted- each one stronger than the other. By the end of the first storm, my husband had come home and we knew the measly amount of sandbags wasn’t gonna do diddly-squat. So, off we went to fill up more. By the end of the 2nd storm, we knew that wasn’t going to be enough and our ridiculously awesome friends came over and helped fill up 30 bags more. They taped plastic sheets to the bottom of the doors and threw the sandbags on top. As a tried and true perfectionist, when my husband sets out to ensure that no water is going to get into the garage, you bet your sweet bippy no water is getting into the garage.

The big storm hit us. The wind howled and the rain kept on coming down. The already saturated ground puddled up quickly and the creek rose. And rose. And rose. We nervously watched as it spilled over the banks, lapped at the deck and then the waters flowing throughout the entire property joined together as one big happy flooding family. How quaint.

But before Lake Tahoe appeared in our pasture, we decided it was time to get the goats and chickens into the garage and make-shift pen we set up for them. Thinking it was only deep puddles at the time, we stepped out to find the goats standing in 8 inches of water with the chickens standing on their backs in an attempt to not drown (for such a stupid animal, my chickens are rather smart, don’t you think? Maybe I just have genius chickens from all that free-ranging goodness).

Goats HATE water. And I knew that just behind the desperate and pathetic look in their eyes, they HATED me for letting the water touch not only their hooves, but HALF their bodies. If they could swiftly kick me in the ass at that point, I bet they would have. Yes, I’m terrible, I’m awful and I should have gone out there sooner, etc. But let me tell you people, it went from puddles to flood in 2.5 seconds. Needless to say, we got the goats and chickens in the barn and they did look quite relived to be safe, warm and dry.

In the midst of all the soggy madness, I managed to save a mouse. A little dark grey mouse was desperately treading water and looked at me with pleading black beady eyes, as if to say “SAVE ME!!!” Which I promptly did. I placed it in the chicken coop, on top of some dry wood shavings in the chicken’s nesting box to warm up. I checked after the waters had receded and it had apparently survived, only a little indentation was left where it burrowed in to get warm and dry. Big Ass Karma Points for me! (Though when I told people in town my mouse-saving story and they looked at me like I was a complete jack-ass and a bleeding heart liberal. Who the hell saves a mouse, when it and all its offspring are just going to infest your house eventually?)

So, this is what the creek and property looked like at the peak of the storm:

stream_flood

That is not a person in the stream, that’s a statue. My neighbor told me I should buy him scuba gear.

front_flood_2

The tide is high but I’m holding on….

And this is how our goat pen, side yard, and barn area looked like when the clouds broke and the storm was passing:

front_flood

Lakefront property!

I learned many things from this experience…but here are a few that stood out to me:

1. Water kinda sucks. Give me a couple feet of snow, but a couple feet of water? Kiss my grits.

2. That said, I better suck it up, because this “rain event” is just a little taste, an amuse bouche, if you will, of what goes down in spring when the snow melts.

3. We are blessed to be living in a small town with people that really, really help. People who will stop by and let you know that they expect you to call if you need them. People who will drive by and keep checking on you throughout a storm. People who drive 15 miles to help fill 30+ sandbags on a Saturday morning. People who drive 30 miles to help move crap out of your garage up to higher ground. People who will wade through shit-filled water in the rain and howling wind to help get 5 unhappy goats and 6 hysterical chickens into your barn. People who have been there, done that and will reassure you that you don’t have to build an arc. People who are more than willing to drive their ginormous cattle rig over just to put 5 goats and 6 chickens in it if the barn floods. People who will tell you to stop worrying and have a beer…but if you need anything just holler.

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Busy

Food for thought.

I’ve been busy. I work for a non-profit and it’s fundraise-the-shit-out-of-the-end-of-the-year time. And as the email and direct mail fundraiser, I’m slammed. That means I’ve been writing…A TON. And it makes very little room in my brain for blog writing. I am limited to making short and slightly witty comments on Facebook. That’s all I can handle. It’s rather sad. Next thing you know I’ll be on Twitter because I’ll only be able to come up with 140 characters of interesting things to say. That will be my demise, people. My demise.

Anyhoo, here’s a little re-cap of what’s been going down on the ranch…

Fall was short-lived. I heard folks around here talk about how it’s basically summer and winter in the Sierras. I could not bring myself to accept that, as I love Fall. I love the vibrantly colored leaves, the chill in the air, but more than anything I love the food. Around October, I fall back in love with my oven. Pot roast, soups, stews…Though, I do wait till it’s the very last day to break it off with my grill. I’ll grill in 45 degree weather, just to say goodbye. And then it’s off to the warm arms of my oven.

The Fall leaves were so lovely- our aspens twinkled in yellow hues, our cottonwoods glowed and the pastures wore a lovely shade of gold.

Then BOOM. One snow storm came and went and the landscape changed. I think every leaf on our huge, 100 year old cottonwood trees dropped in a single day. Winter was here.

Still, I relished in those 2+weeks of Fall.  I come from the land of No Fall. So I’ll take Any Fall At All. (Did you see that? I’m totally channelling Dr.Suess.)

Winter is here. It’s cold. Even the cobwebs freeze.

photo

And let me tell you, when you hear the phrase “a storm is blowing in”, know that that very phrase originated in the Sierra Valley. There is no fury like a Sierra Valley wind. I’m talking blow your kids away type winds. I’m talking your house is shaking, creaking and the double pane vinyl windows are bending type winds. I’m saying if my chickens weren’t low to the ground, they’d be flying by my window and down the road type winds. These are some crazy ass winds. Case in point:

This was our trampoline.

This was our trampoline.

Once the storm arrives, we’ll have that husssshhhh of the snow falling. That insulating hush where the world slows down, you feel like you are encased in a feather pillow and your eyes can’t help but watch the flakes of snow drift down in front of you.

How I love the snow.

snow

We also adopted 3 more goats. A family was moving and they needed to rehome their 4-H goats. She had them on Craig’s list, but apparantly everyone who contacted her wanted to eat them. So, she was looking for a home that would not make birria out of the goats. We assured her we wanted pasture mowers not goat stew and adopted them into our ever-growing ranch family. To be perfectly honest, I can see why people wanted to eat them. They are freaking huge. They’re not ordinary goats, they’re pot-belly pig goats.

I told my kids they could each name a goat. Sophie, my practical and thoughtful child, kept the name the goat was given, Rosie. Cooper, my nostalgic boy, named his “Rock and Roll Bob” after a fish that was “re-homed” to the ocean before we moved here. Mason named his “Cow” in honor of his enduring love of all things bovine.

Every morning I walk out to the pasture to behold all the goats, faces pressed against the wire fence, hollering for hay. It makes me laugh, without fail. Seriously, how could this not make you chuckle?

Our goat, Cow.

Our goat, Cow.

So, I’ve been busy.  Sure, my professional work life is busy, but being busy for a non-profit is a good, rewarding kind of busy.  In my non-professional work life, it’s now a different kind of busy. It’s being busy because I’m working with my hands, getting mucky and muddy, sweating not because I’m on a treadmill at the gym, but because I’m digging a ditch kind of busy. It’s homesteading busy, I suppose. That kind of busy I don’t mind glorifying. I think it’s what I’m meant to be busy with and it’s the kind of busy I like. It’s being busy with a purpose.

I’ve got a few more stories to tell about the goings-ons around here…new post to come….

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Food Projects

I haven’t posted much, mainly because I’ve been busy…kids, work, life, yada, yada, yada. Here’s a recap of all my recent food projects that keep me up at midnight, poring over a vat of boiling water, because late at night is my only available time to geek out on food preservation…

My first foray into the wild microbial world of funky fermentation began with yogurt. It was stupidly easy, delicious, thick, creamy and rich…

But nothing compares to the supreme fermented funkiness of sauerkraut. I made two different batches- one with red cabbage and one with Napa. I enjoyed them both, but found the Napa cabbage so alluring, I want to take it a step further and make Kimchi. Kraut is serious stuff. I gorged on it and unwittingly went into detox mode (in the form of a rash)…I consulted my good friend who is wise in the ways of fermentation and she told me that is was very normal. She advised me to start with a little bit at a time and work my way up to more…I’ll write more later about my new found love for fermentation- it’s honestly fascinating and ridiculously good for you. Horrrrrayyy Microbes!!!

Early Stages of Sauerkraut.

The kids attended a summer school program and they helped plant and nurture a bountiful garden. They brought home pounds of zucchini and with their zucchini-phobia, I knew I had to can it. So I canned a zesty zucchini relish- red bell peppers, onions, garlic, fresh nutmeg and fresh horseradish, vinegar and a dash of cayenne. How good would it be on a hot dog? Yum.

Zucchini Relish

Our friend who runs a small farm in our town, generously dropped by with a TON of apples, pears and plums. So thankful for good friends who share their bounty and give me canning projects to obsess over…

Apples, Plums and Pears (courtesy of Smithneck Farms)

This is my Tart Plum Jam with Cardamom and Vanilla. I’m not confident about it. It sounds damn good, but I think it may be too tart and I added too much cardamom….And I think I put the vanilla in too late, thus not burning off the alcohol in the extract…So perhaps I should call it Drunken Tart Plum Jam with Too Much Cardamom.  Live and learn, live and learn.

Tart Plum Jam with Cardamom and Vanilla.

Then the pears…I could have poured myself a tall glass of the liquid that the pears were in…

Brandied Spiced Pears

Apples! How I love me some apples. I made a standard apple butter that seriously tastes like apple pie in a jar.  Then I made a variation on the apple butter…Brown Butter and Sage Apple Butter….Two sticks of butter and snipped fresh sage….Now I’ve always believed two things: 1. Bacon makes everything better. 2. Butter makes everything even better. Now I’ll add in: Sage makes apple butter better. (try saying that three times).

I got a second pear delivery from my friend and made vanilla honey pear butter (the big jar in the middle).

Butters

I’m a sucker for chutneys. Spicy, sweet, sour. I add extra garlic because like bacon and butter, garlic makes everything better too. Here’s my Pear Cranberry Chutney. I’m going to bust this one out on Thanksgiving with the turkey, that’s for damn sure.

Pear Cranberry Chutney

Jam making can be hit or miss. My friend dropped by green plums and I figured I would just make a jam with the mountain of whole vanilla beans I have on hand. With canning, you do have to consider appearances, just as you would consider plating when you present a dish. Obtusely, I assumed the jam would be the hue of a green jewel- like a lovely tourmaline…Needless to say it looks like a fuzzy green sweater I purchased at thrift store when I was 15 during my punk-rock/grunge phase.  And that’s not a good thing when describing jam. So, in the spirit of humility, I present my Puce Plum Jam:

Puce Plum Jam. Ug.

I have some more plums from my neighbor. But I’m done with these vexing plum jams. I think I’m going to make a Chinese Plum Sauce and call it a day.

Next foodie project I shall embark on:

Cheese.

I’ll start with some basic mozzarella and see where that takes me.

And that reminds me…Number 5: everything is better with cheese.

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Ranch Images

Fall is in the air and in the leaves…

Sunset over Sierraville.

Clouds after a storm.

Cooper meet Cow, Cow meet Cooper.

Slightly Curious Goats.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Sierraville Jr. Rodeo. (I need lessons from one of these kids.)

Sierra County Country Fair.

Old Fashion Marionette Show.

My chicks are starting to lay tiny eggs. (Large egg on left is from one of my older hens)

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Fear and Loathing on the Ranch.

This is a photo of someone else’s Boer goat. I don’t have a recent photo of our goats because 1. my goats are running (really fast) to get away from me and 2. I’m too busy chasing them to get a photo.

My goats hate me.

Since the Great Goat Escape of August 2012, the goats have been absolutely terrified of us. The moment they see us, they run to a corner of the fenced off area they reside in and huddle together. They stare at us with suspicion and fear in their weird goat eyes.

Getting them into their shelter at night has been a feat of magnificent proportions. We have collars and ropes attached to the goats, but catching them remains absolutely ridiculous. I’m amazed we have actually succeeded on a few occasions. First we try luring them with grain. It has proven to be utterly fruitless, but we still try. Then we try to corral them into a corner and they promptly find an opening and run between us as we dive for the ropes that swiftly trail after them. We chase them all over the fenced area till they finally run behind the chicken house. We usually capture them in the foot wide space between the back of the chicken house and the fence, trembling with fear. We pull the stubborn girls out, carry them by their legs, the sisters screaming all the way. It’s really quite traumatic for everyone.

I went on a forum for goats (backyardherds.com) and my fellow goat owners gave me some advice: keep them in their shelter for a day or so and go in there with grain and treats. Sit with them. They’ll learn to associate you with food and you’ll be BFF’s in no time.

So I did this. I went in the shelter multiple times and sat in the straw, holding a bowl of grain for them to eat.

All I can say is that is was very awkward.

I never really imagined that my future held sitting in a goat shelter, trying to get two goats to like me. But sit, I did. They huddled in a corner, shaking with fear. They would put their heads into the corner and refuse to even look at me. I think they presumed that if they did not look, then the current nightmare they were experiencing would simply go away. (Had I just experienced actual goat denial?) I talked to them, I sang to them, I put the bowl of feed right next to them and then I looked away, pretending to be interested in the view from the cramped shelter. I stifled about a million sneezes from the straw, so I wouldn’t startle them.

One of the sisters must have said to herself “To hell with this, I’m gonna get me some grub” and ate some of the grain, while the other sister just contracted in fear in the corner. I attempted to not move a muscle while she was eating, but I had to scratch my nose (the straw makes me crazy allergic) and she freaked and hid her head between her sister’s hind legs.

After they calmed down a bit, I made a poor tactical decision. I decided to pet them. I made soothing noises and stroked them softly. They froze. They huddled and shrunk deeper into the corner. They averted their eyes. I felt like a man in a cramped, seedy, smelly bar making unwanted advances on a woman who obviously wanted nothing to do with him. I seriously felt like I was violating them by merely petting them, so I stopped.  It was humiliating for all of us and again…awkward.

I left the shelter- rejected, dejected and frustrated.

This morning, I let them out. They needed to eat some of the pasture and my goat romancing obviously wasn’t working….

To put this in context, the primary reason for all my overtures is so I can get them into their shelter at night. We have TONS of coyotes (not to mention bears, mountain lions and bobcats that would find a tasty treat in our little goats). Just a few nights ago, our acreage was surrounded by the yipping coyotes- some in our pasture, some in the pasture across the street. Chilling to say the least.

Every night is a crap shoot as to getting them in the shelter. We now know it’s counter-productive to chase them- they just become more fearful of us and more distrustful. But if left to their own devices, they will sleep in the fenced-in area where they are at risk of being eaten.

I thought, maybe, by the grace of God, they’d go into their shelter tonight. (They went the night before on their own volition much to my surprise!)  Alas, I snuck out there in the dark, moving like a stealth ninja and nimbly closing the gate on the shelter, only to find the shelter empty. I took my flashlight and located two shining (and scared shitless) goat eyes staring at me in the corner of their pasture. How apropos that they LOVE to sleep next to the VERY spot they escaped from (which is now repaired and impenetrable).  Apparently, they are still holding out hope that they can get the hell away from me. So tonight, I left our barn lights on and I’ll have the shotgun close at hand in case a predator decides to come for a midnight snack.

At this point, we can no longer chase them. We’ll just keep on offering them grain as a treat and hope they’ll go into the shelter at night.  Or we’re going to have to put up electric fencing around the perimeter of the fencing to keep the predators out. Or perhaps we are taking goat protection much too seriously and just say “what happens,happens”.

Or we make birria.

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Goats Gone Wild.

Meet our two new girls. They are Boer goats, meat goats, but we don’t intend to eat them, just have them mow our pasture. They are young, sisters and just weaned from their mama. They were kindly delivered to us by the goat breeder, as the mini-van is not an ideal transport for goats. They arrived last Friday and what a Friday that was.

They were absolutely terrified and skittish when they were introduced into the large fenced-in area that our chickens free-range in. I had their shelter all ready for them: straw laid down, mineral lick available and water buckets filled.

The goats huddled together in the grass and I had to leave to pick up my husband from the airport. We returned and we all headed out to the barn. The kids rode their bikes, my husband target practiced with his hunting bow and I researched on my phone as to why our power went out. The power went out a half an hour before, due to a fire burning north of us, taking down some key power lines in its path. No big deal, it was still light out and we had candles and flashlights.

I was walking toward the house to get some water and heard my husband call “THEY’RE OUT!!!!!”

All I could say was “OH SHIT.”

I turned around and saw our two goats hauling goat tail across our 10 acres of pasture and right through the barbed wire to another 10 acres of pasture.

We quickly decided to pack the 3 kids in the van and I’d drive to the road that runs by our pasture and try to head them off, while my husband would run through our pasture and together we’d try to corner them. Yeah right.

I parked and jumped a locked gate and then crawled under an electric fence, all the while shaking a bucket of chicken feed, as if I could lure them. Yeah right, again. They just looked at me like I was off my rocker and took off running deeper and deeper into the pasture.

Back I went again, army crawling under the electric fence, over the locked gate and I drove up a little way, thinking I could get ahead of them. I ran to the back of the old Sierraville school and called my husband on the cell phone. I could see him acres away… heading my way…SO FAR AWAY. I also saw the horses in our pasture running alongside him, bumping him excitedly and he’s running with a bright orange bucket (of feed) and a broom? He looked like a maniac from afar. But nothing compared to the ridiculous sight I was- a panting, sweaty, woman running through pastures in FLIP FLOPS. Smart.

I see them run into a ditch surrounded by thick wild rose shrubs. I also see a guy at the Forest Service building and as I run toward the ditch I holler at him to help me corner them in the ditch. He jumps through barbed wire and gets on one side of them and I barrel through the rose bushes, in my super-appropriate-for-ranch-life flip flops. He gets them to walk toward me and I slowly get closer and they freeze staring at me. Here’s my best chance. Then I realize: WHAT THE HELL DO I HAVE TO GET THEM? I have no rope. I have nothing. But, I also have no choice. I must try. I leap forward and attempt to grab one by the hind legs and fall face first into the rose bushes. They, of course, gracefully leap away, unscathed, heading the way they came- through acres and acres of pasture that I JUST RAN ACROSS. The forest service guy yells, “GOOD LUCK!”. I nod as I’m running, agreeing with him. I’m gonna need it.

I meet up with my husband and we watch the goats run into a yard behind some stacked hay bales. I whisper to him to go one way around the hay bales and I’ll go the other, as if to ambush them. As if I’m channeling General MacArthur or something.

Yeah, so, that didn’t work.

The sisters took one look at us and ran like hell. But this time one went BACK into the pasture and the other decided to go ONTO THE HIGHWAY. I chased the goat that went into the highway, traffic was stopped and the goat trotted along, screaming for her sister. Of course everyone in town was out watering their lawns, getting a front row seat to the escaped goat spectacle. Awesome. Way to make an impression.

The goat ran across the highway and into a yard, through the yard, through many kinds of fences (barbed wire and such) and back toward a creek. Another guy filling up his car at the Country Store (presumably a kind tourist who was bequeathed with one hell of a story to tell when he got back home) saw my predicament and asked if I needed help. I breathlessly yelled “Yes!!!”. The man who owned the property the goat was running around in brandished a rope and I knew I had found my goat savior. He locked up part of his yard, so we could drive the goat into it. It was all a blur at this point, I was about to have a heart attack from all the running and the fact it was still 90 degrees out at 7pm. Somehow, the man I shall call The Goat Wrangler, roped the goat and we carried her by her legs to his horse trailer and locked her up. She was screaming all the way…if you’ve never heard a goat scream, you’re missing out, it’s the most ridiculous sound you’ve ever heard.

All the while, my husband was trying to get the other goat, but responsibly remembered that we essentially abandoned our three children in our running mini-van. So he said to hell with the goat and went to check on the kids….had a cop drove by while we were engaged in goat chasing, I’m sure we’d be arrested upon our return for being negligent and shitty parents. Sigh.

Meanwhile, The Goat Wrangler generously agreed to help my husband get the other goat while I drove the kids back to the house. Of course the power was out, so they hung out watching TV in van. I went into the goat enclosure to see how in the hell the goats got out and found a hole in the fencing that I hadn’t caught when I did a fencing check before they arrived. I jammed a feed bowl over it, so at least we could get the goats back in the enclosure and not have them escape again till we could fix the fencing.

While my husband and The Goat Wrangler were out in our neighbor’s pasture and I had the kids go in the house, told them to eat anything they want, play with toys and don’t hurt each other or themselves. I also told my 6 year old to watch the other two. Not one of my best parenting moments, but I had to do what I had to do. I went out there to help. I heard the goat screaming in the creek area and followed the creek a bit till I saw them.

Then we all heard coyotes. Yipping. Like after a kill.

Shit.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. Call me terrible, call me inhumane, call me heartless…I was slightly relieved. You try chasing goats all over God’s Green Earth in FLIP FLOPS and 90 degree heat for over 3 hours.  I mean, this was a DAUNTING task. This was an IMPOSSIBLE task. To capture two wily, intelligent and fast creatures that are absolutely terrified of you, have absolutely no bond with you, will never return to your pasture because it’s not home to them and are probably looking for their mother anywhere and everywhere they can…couple that with two people that have NEVER owned goats before, can’t rope something that isn’t moving, much less something that moves really fast and generally have no freaking idea what they are doing….really what are the chances? We should have gave up hours before, if we were smart.

But…we aren’t smart. And I loved those stupid goats the moment I saw them. And we had The Goat Wrangler on our side.

The goat ended up stuck in the muddy water of the creek. In the middle of a massive entanglement of willows, so tired and so over it, it just gave up. With the gruff instruction of The Goat Wrangler, my husband jumped into the mass of willows, into the mud and water and grabbed the goat and pulled her out. He came out of the creek with her, tripped onto a rock and gashed his shin. Bleeding profusely, while the goat used her last bit of energy to scream and struggle, he held onto that damn goat. It was stunningly heroic, in a ridiculous goat-saving sort of way.

We carried her by her legs back to our house, through 10 acres of pasture. We put her in the chicken pen (which was a converted sheep shelter and very large) and she screamed and threw herself onto the fencing for about ten minutes.

It still wasn’t over. I had to go back and get the other goat.

The Goat Wrangler and I drove back and I brought a large dog carrier with me to put her in. Somehow we shoved the pissed off and scared goat into the carrier and The Goat Wrangler gave me some wise advice:

1. Fix the damn fence.

2. Get collars.

3. Get rope.

4. Tie the rope to collars and then you’ll have something to grab onto.

I thanked him profusely. Over and over again. He didn’t say much, just shook his head and said “You’re welcome” and went inside his house. In his head I bet he was thinking “You fish-out-of-water-dumb-ass-city-kids. You better get collars and a rope, cause I’m never doing that shit again.” If that is what he was thinking, I’ll never know, but I wholeheartedly agree. (I dropped off some homemade jam and pickles with a gushing thank you note the next day.)

I went back to the house and we (for once!) thought of a plan before we did anything. We came up with a plan to put the dry goat in the shelter and then hold down the wet goat, dry her off (she was shivering and goats HATE to be wet) and then bring her to the shelter. That plan (for once!) went smoothly.

Needless to say, our goat girls spent the next day locked in their shelter. I think everyone involved was relieved about that- they got to recover from their escapades and my husband was able to fix the gate and the hole in the fence. We somehow got collars on them and attached 10 feet of loose rope so we could grab them and eventually train them to let us lead them. I even bought two ropes for roping livestock and practiced a bit.

I don’t even want to go into how stupidly hard it was to get them back into the shelter that night, and the night after…but now they seem to be getting used to things around here. They are eating and drinking, which is a good sign. They still run from me when I try to get them into the shelter, or pretty much anytime they see me, but I’m working on them. I’m seeing more curiosity than fear in their goat eyes (have you SEEN goat eyes??? Now that’s some weird shit right there.)

We still have yet to name them. My kids came up with Rhubarb and Huckleberry, which I quite like.

Although Crazy-Ass-Goats have been their names for the past 3 days….quite fitting.

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Ranch Sights

Baby birds in our apple tree.

Rainbow during a crazy storm.

A frog I caught in our kitchen and released back into the wild.

A batch of pickled watermelon rind going into the canner.

A huge rainbow trout my husband caught in our creek.

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Puttin’ Up

Canning serves a few purposes for me.

1. I love cooking. I read cookbooks like a lonely woman reading romance novels. I’m a self-proclaimed “foodie”. Jams, chutneys, sauces, pickles and other can-able recipes are super easy and I can geek out on the endless flavor combinations.

2. I like participating in an age-old, frugal and industrious tradition. I feel like, in some way, I’m honoring and connecting with the women who lived in this house before me. I’m pretty sure they canned too.

3. I’m preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Just kidding.

Well, maybe….

I do think it’s smart and necessary to be prepared. Because shit does hit the fan. I’m not a big believer in a sudden fiery apocalyptic end of the world. But, I do believe in natural and unnatural disasters. And I do see how fragile, susceptible and inter-connected we all are. (Hell, I live in a flood plain!) A blizzard could knock out power.  Drought could knock out crops. Earthquakes could knock out Los Angeles and the major roads that bring food to our grocery stores. And whether or not global warming is due to human activity- I don’t really give a flying fig- it’s getting warmer and things are a changin’. As humans, we have to adapt. And adapting is easier when you are prepared.

I also believe the farther we are away from the source of things in our lives- the source of our food, the source of our water, the source of everything we have and use to live life, the more dependent and vulnerable we are. Especially when it comes to food- the more we know how food is grown, harvested and ways in which we can preserve it, the more self-relient we truly are. Come hell or high water (the latter is quite possible), my aim is to be prepared.

I readily admit, most of what I have canned so far is rather unnecessary- 15 jars of blueberry basil jam won’t save my family when we are in a bad spot- I’ve been just taking what I can get from the farmer’s market and preserving it mainly so I can simply learn how to can.

Here are a few of my canning projects as of late:

Rhubarb Chutney, Pickled Watermelon Rind and Blueberry Basil Jam

Standard Pickles.

So, yes, learning to can and canning is a way for me to prepare, like those kooky doomsday preppers. I’m puttin’ up for when shit hits the fan.

Or, perhaps more importantly, when I want a freakin’ peach in the middle of February.

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Slow Down

People drive really fast by our house. The posted speed is 35 MPH, but some drivers think that 35 actually means 95 or that speed limits just doesn’t apply to them.

Not only is it stupid dangerous, tons of animals are killed on the roads around here. My dogs are not the brightest of creatures and Lucky has been found on the road by a few people- including a Highway Patrol officer. I do my very best to ensure that they stay in the yard, but the little buggers will escape once in a while and I’d rather not see them as roadkill anytime soon. More than anything, I’d like to let my kids play in the front yard without the danger of some speeding asshat careening into my yard.

I’m thinking of putting up a sign on the road to get people to slow down. After searching around on google images, I found these gems:

 

 

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Rogue Cows

Today was a good day.

Anytime I say those words, I fondly think of Ice Cube…Today I didn’t even have to use my A.K…. 
I got to say it was a good day….Perhaps I should alter that to say Today I didn’t even have to use my rifle to shoot a mountain lion…but that doesn’t quite work and I digress…

My 4 year old and 6 year old were at their summer-camp-school-daycare-deal so I can actually get work done. My littlest was home with me in a chipper and jovial mood. He didn’t hit me with a toy because he wanted to see what I’d do or throw a major tantrum over a banana, so that’s good. He was all about the books- mainly ones with animals so he could name the ones he knows and loves- chickens (to which he follows up with “EGG!”), sheep (which he calls “baaaaa”), dog, cats, cows (unconditionally followed with a “moooo!” and a jaunt to the window to point them out across the street, or in the pasture behind our house, or really anywhere from any window there is bound to be a cow in sight).

Speaking of cows! There was a major traffic jam in front of the house today. Not from a 2 car motorist accident, not from too many people coming home from work at the same time, not from a live grenade on the side of the freeway (yes, that happened on the 5 when we lived in Orange County). No, it was due to 4 rogue cows.

The cows congregate in the stream that runs by our house and that stream flows further down through their ranch land across the street- to drink, to bathe, to gossip by the water cooler, etc. They apparently found the pasture greener on the other side of the fence and made a run (a trot?) for it. Then, wouldn’t you know, we have 4 cows cruising down the highway stopping traffic and giving the tourists (and newbie country girls like myself) something to talk about. I called up the ranch owner and let him know that he had a couple wandering cows and he said he’d be right there.

In the meantime, traffic was backing up and J (the man whose horses are in our pasture) happened to drive by. He’s a Man Who Knows What To Do type guy, so he herded the cows up the highway and grabbed a tool from his truck to unhook the barbed wire and get the cows back into the pasture. Then, a Man Who Doesn’t Know What to Do But Thinks He Does, got out of his car and was “shooing” the cows and basically cornering them. J, The Man Who Knows What To Do, hollered at him to stop. He didn’t and the cows went apeshit. They panicked and jumped through the barbed wire.  The first cow got caught up in the wire, screamed (how else to explain the sound?) and struggled. It was terrible. Thankfully, the cow broke free and ran into the pasture. The other 3 cows followed the leader and charged through the barbed wire, but somehow made it through unscathed.

J got back in his truck and without an under-his-breath mutter of “That dumb-ass should have stayed in his goddamn truck” (which is what I would have said had I been him), drove away and politely thanked me, for doing basically nothing but standing there (which was the best course of action now that I think about it).

One can laugh at what goes for drama and excitement in my podunk town, but I’d take a couple havoc-wrecking cows over a drive-by any day, thank you very much.

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