Tag Archives: country life

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.


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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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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Ranch Sights

A tiny bird’s nest in our apple tree.

Note to self: Don’t drink the water in the creek that runs by our house. Apparently, it’s a bovine bathhouse.

It’s hay season around here. So much so that my neighbor referred to herself as a “Hay Widow”.

Golden Fields of Hay.

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I recently participated in an age old tradition- canning. It’s been my foodie dream for quite a while to “put up” some seasonal fruits and veggies. I could never bring myself to doing it down south. It just didn’t feel very authentic, I guess…or perhaps I needed to set the scene by actually living in the country. Silly, I know.

Canning, like baking, is a precise art. Alas, I suck at baking (and having to be gluten-free, I have no patience for mixing 9000 different flours and unlocking the secrets of xantham gum). I’m more of a throw a little of this and a little of that into the mix- more of a cook than a baker. But, I think with anything, the more you do it, the more knowledge you have about where you can take some artistic license. I’ll get there, but for now, I’ll stick to the recipe- don’t want to give anyone a jar full of botulism and what not….

Our friend dropped by some lovely rhubarb from his garden and I had some organic strawberries on hand, so I took my first great leap into canning with an easy strawberry-rhubarb jam.

Basically, you clean your canning jars and stick them in the water-bath canner and let the water simmer while you make the jam, jelly, sauce, chutney or whatever. Then you take the piping hot jars and put in your concoction, screw a warmed lid on it and boil it in the canning pot for the specified amount of time. Carefully, pull the jars out and let them cool overnight. The lids will make a quirky little pop while cooling and everything sets overnight.

I had been reading up on canning for quite some time and it made me nervous. What is foam? How do I skim it? Will the heat kill the flavor of the recipe? More importantly, will the heat kill the bacteria that seeks to kill me? In the end, the actual process was pretty easy and straightforward (and safe). The jam came out good- it set properly, but is FREAKING sweet…but the right amount of sugar is necessary for the pectin to do it’s thing. I prefer more complex, sweet and savory flavors, so I bought a brand of pectin that allows for less sugar. With the remainder of the rhubarb, I’ll try doing straight rhubarb jam and adding some herbs (mint, thyme?). Or perhaps I’ll make a chutney- a chutney is a always a lovely balance of sweet, savory and a hint of sour.

In my inherent geeky foodie-ness, I dug through my Flavor Bible and came up with some interesting flavor combinations to try once I get my canning foundations down…






Sounds good, no?

Let’s just say I’m bringing sexy back to canning.

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Fireworks and Parades

4th of July was a pretty mellow day for us.

We attended an early 4th of July celebration in a Portola last Saturday…lake swimming at the Mill Pond, beer, BBQ, country karaoke, civil war reenactment (what a peculiar and interesting sight it was to see civil war soldiers mingling amongst the 4th of July revelers) and fireworks.

When we lived in the ‘burbs of Orange County we attended a 4th of July celebration in Ladera Ranch, where we lived for a year. While it was fun, it was completely over the top. They had a enormous, corporate-sponsored stage (large enough to hold a bloody Rolling Stones concert), 3 or 4 live bands, a professional MC and the fireworks display…whoa nelly…it was HUGE and intricately choreographed. All bells and whistles included. It rivaled Disneyland’s nightly fireworks. While impressive, I much preferred Portola’s Mill Pond fireworks experience-on a lake surrounded by trees, hearing music from a modest PA that played a scratchy John Sousa Phillips march and John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” with belly full of beer and BBQ.

It’s hard to describe the difference…but it seems to lie in intention. The Ladera Ranch 4th was all about putting on a impressive show. Like driving a fancy car to impress strangers (a rampant hobby in Ladera). It was a “keeping up with the Joneses” type experience. Up here, there’s no aim to impress, only an aim to have a damn good time.

Alright, enough of my petty comparisons…

On the morning of the 4th, I took the kids to a parade in another nearby town called Loyalton. It was idyllic- a genuine, small, hometown parade.  It lasted all but 10 minutes and everyone knew everyone in the parade and attending the parade. Our neighbors drove their logging truck and the kids looked like they saw movie stars- (“WE KNOW THEM!!!!”) The parade participants passed out American flags (one bearing “Made In China” which was met with great disdain by the rancher next to me and I internally noted the irony) and threw candy from the firetrucks, tractors, old cars and wagons. The kids dashed about picking up the loot. (“We never got candy at a parade before Mom! AWESOME!!!”) As  a bonus, since the parade route was short, the parade circled back through and we got to hoot and holler all over again. It was pretty awesome.

Just like so many things around here, this 4th of July parade was genuine and heart-felt.

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