The Elusive, Orange, Azalea

David gave me an orange azalea, probably 15 or more years ago, when we lived across the road on Foreman Creek Rd.

There, it only bloomed once.

When we moved to our current location in 2016, this azalea was one of the few plants we moved with us.

It had never bloomed here … until this year!

Speaking of plants that don’t bloom, a friend in Texas gave us something called a psuedobombax ellipticum (Dr. Suess Tree; Shaving Brush Tree). We still lived in Austin then, so that was 25 years ago. It never bloomed. Yesterday, we uprooted it and sent it back to our friend in Texas. Since he’d given us that plant, his home and all belongings, plants, etc. burned and he lost everything. It took some time for him to emotionally recover from that total loss, but recovered he has and so sending the bombax back to him after all these years is bound to make it bloom, right?

Knowing Our Beef

We know a lot of people don’t have the opportunity and facility we do to grow their own beef. And until this past year, we hadn’t attempted to do it. Here at home, we just didn’t eat beef because we didn’t raise it and we haven’t purchased beef from a store in 20 years (with just a couple exceptions).

But this year will be different. We raised a little calf into a steer, and on Friday, we sent him to the butcher.

A hard part about eating an animal when you know the animal is … well … knowing the animal. With this, there are three main choices: 1) don’t eat meat, 2) eat meat already packaged or prepared, animal unknown, or 3) raise and care for the animals we eat that help sustain our own lives. We live this last choice, daily.

We got Junior! as a week-old calf last year to help consume some of Lucy’s extra milk. We fed that milk to Junior! through a bottle. And then, every day for the past year, we (or guests) have fed, walked and petted Junior!

Sometimes we wanted to change his name to “Menace” or “Asshole”. But all-in-all, Junior! was a very sweet, playful, boy with boundary issues. Once he got as big as Lucy, he wanted to dominate her (ride her) or take her milk (she would let him). We couldn’t allow that behavior, so we had to work a little harder to take him to his own pasture morning and night, and to keep him in his own stall space each night.

There were times over the past few months where Junior! just didn’t want to go be by himself in his pasture. We had to resort to all sorts of tricks to get him to move. Sometimes we’d bait him with the tractor (I’d drive backwards while he’d head-butt the bucket all the way into his own pasture). Sometimes we tried hay, special tree branches, or vegetable tops from the garden. In the end, we resorted to the milk bottle. He came to us chasing a bottle, and his time here drew to a close chasing that same bottle. It was mostly David’s job to get him to pasture in the morning (except when it took both of us).

Over time, leading him back at night was a little dangerous or a little frustrating. Dangerous because at any moment he could decide to bolt and go thundering and bucking in all directions. Frustrating because other times, he would just stand there and not go anywhere until he decided to move again. It was mostly my job to get Junior! back to his stall at night (except for a while after my shoulder surgery). Mostly I could lead him with the rope, walking close by him, talking to him and petting him, and occasionally carrying a stick and yelling “NO!”. Our last walk was very easy. I spoke with Junior!, explained again why he was with us, and thanked him. I do not know if those big, dark eyes in that stubborn, hard, head understood, but at some level, all things are connected.

We do not have the equipment, facility, or skill here to properly process a 700 lb animal. So we hired a mobile butcher who came to our ranch. He was a very competent young man with a tall, refrigerated truck, a hydraulic boom-lift, and a winch. He left us with internal organs and the hide … these we will process ourselves. He drove off with four quarters of beef ready to age at the meat locker for a couple of weeks before final processing and packaging.

Both our families raised beef steers for food when David and I were in high school. With my family, the animals went away while we were at school. David and his dad took their’s to a local meat locker. This time, we were right there with the process.

One thing that surprised us was the color of the fat. There was a lot of it, and it was yellow-orange, not white. Turns out that is a hallmark of grass-fed beef. And that coloration comes from the chlorophyl, nutrients and chemicals in the grass, which imparts high concentrations of omega-fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins A (and vitamin A precursors like beta carotene) and E. These things are in much higher concentrations with grass-fed beef than beef from commercial grain-fed feedlots. We also know that Junior! did not consume any antibiotics or manufactured hormones.

Junior! will now, literally, become a part of us. My hope is that we honor his life and our connection to him by living our own lives well.

From Gray Skies to Blooms and Full Hearts

When Joni got to the ranch to WWOOF in early March, skies were gray and there was a lot of rain. In the two months that Joni’s been here, she was very actively involved in nearly every aspect of what we do: birthing goats, milking cow and goats, making cheese, cleaning and planting gardens, weeding, cleaning stalls, potting and transplanting seedlings, cleaning and trimming goat hooves, eradicating invasive pasture weeds, working on wood and metal projects, animal care, and more. Today Joni left for a short visit with friends in Tahoe, and then on to another WWOOFing experience in Northern California. Joni left with blue skies, blooms and smiles. Our hearts are full.

Some images from this morning:

Morning Kid Play

… while we have the young Anatolian on a leash … these little, bouncy, running, things are still too exciting for an eighteen-month old “puppy” to be off-leash with them. (Zaman, the old dog, is happy to let me do the training on this one — you can see his appreciation in his eyes)!

These rascals keep playing on the banks of the aqueduct behind the house, filling it with rocks and dirt!

And only vaguely related, one of David’s homemade pizzas with feta cheese from those mama goats. WWOOFer Joni assisted.

Suddenly, Rain Stopped = Garden Time!

Time to get crackin’ on the 2023 garden. Thanks to the help of our WWOOFers, Joni and Yuri, we were able to weed and dismantle the 2022 garden and get it ready for 2023!

The orchard is wanting to be productive this year, too. We are hoping no hard, late freezes like last year.

Capra Aegagrus Hircus

… in other words: Goat!

Hope you aren’t tired of goat videos, yet. They are just getting started!

Also, we are about to open up the seven acres of burn-scar for the goats to clean up. That was the most gnarly fencing job I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I can begin to convey how challenging that was. We can barely walk upslope without carrying anything. The goats will love it! Unfortunately, Lucy would try it and we’ll have to keep her out of there.

The Count: 10 New Kids

… kidding 2023 is finished, with first-timer Boon the last to deliver (quickly and easily) a couple nights ago.

The kids and their names:

  • GG’s kids: Otis and Izzy
  • Rose’s kids: Petey, Paul and Mary
  • Star’s kid: Mousse
  • Daisy’s kids: Luke and Leia
  • Boon’s kids: a buckling and doeling not yet named

Below: Boon’s doeling, Boon’s buckling, Daisy with Leia and Luke, and ‘princess’ Leia herself.

Boon’s doeling
Boon’s buckling
Daisy’s Leia and Luke


Kids 2023 Update

Last night (or really, this morning) was a long one.

Daisy, our matriarch Angora/Alpine cross, wonderful milk producer, was 8 days late yesterday. The vet said that if she stops eating or can’t get up, we’d need to induce labor. There are significant risks doing that, so last-resort option.

Soooo ….

Daisy stopped eating at noon yesterday and her condition deteriorated. So, we injected 5ml dexamethasone around 5:00 p.m., checked her a few times until bedtime, and tried to figure out how we could get an emergency C-section if needed (no way), and went to bed sad.

Around 1:30 a.m., we checked the webcam we had on Daisy and… there was a kid (a doeling)! We rushed out and Daisy was attempting to push out another, but Daisy was tired, gave up and the kid went back in. We started giving Daisy electrolytes (liquid nutrition). She drank almost 3 gallons of electrolytes, and finally, around 3:00 a.m., she started to push again and with some assistance, we got the little buckling out this time. We hung around until 4:00 a.m. to see if any more would come, but it seemed Daisy was ready to move on to expelling afterbirth, so we finally went to bed … only to get up and milk Lucy at 6:00.

All is well with Daisy and her two kids. We are so relieved. We have one more doe past-due four days, but she’s okay so far.

We haven’t kept up with our videos and pictures. Below is a video of Star’s little buckling. Star is a first-time mom and it’s taking her a while to get the hang of this. We are supplementing her kid’s milk with a bottle, for now. He’s a beautiful chocolate/mousse/dark rocky road mix of colors and spots.

Here’s a picture of Daisy’s two kids about 12 hours after delivery:

And here’s a video of GG’s Otis and Izzy playing with Rose’s triplets. They are quite the troupe! Izzy is probably the prettiest little kid we’ve ever had.

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