Adventures with Heather

Our friend, Heather, was here when Belle was born.

I think if calves could have godmothers, Heather is Belle’s!

But Heather is also a kindred spirit that thrives here at the ranch and so we all feel more joy when she visits and throws herself into ranch life with gusto.

This visit included the journey over Grizzly Summit to find the 2021 Christmas tree. With Heather’s help, we broke one of our newer tree harvest rules (thou shalt not attempt to carry a heavy tree up the mountain). There was a lot of huffing and puffing, but the three of us managed to get the tree uphill and loaded. It was good that there was no snow. But it is bad that there is no snow.

Here are some photos Heather shared with us from this trip:

  • two men and a women smiling by a Christmas tree loaded into a pickup
  • two men by a Christmas tree
  • A Christmas tree leaning against the side of a house
  • three turkeys with vivid wattles of red and blue and luminescent feathers
  • A Jersey milk cow and calf at dusk waiting to come into their stalls

Photo credits: hks

Literally Made of this Place

It hit me yesterday … David and I are literally, physically, made of this place.

This soil.

This water.

This sun.

So much of what we eat grows here that we are pretty much made of this place.

We are like the trees growing here, physical manifestations of life from this spot on the earth. (It seems like we work a lot harder than trees, but that just may be my inability to understand what the trees are doing).

It feels like we are merged with the life force here. At some level of course we are all merged with the life force on this planet, in this universe, with each other. But all that starts getting a little abstract if it is not felt, and I think one has to start with the proximate things to feel.

We have taken some time to relax a little during this holiday season. Here’s a random video I took of Belle in the pasture. She’s three months old now. She is a delight!

Belle. Three Months

Turkey Time All Over the U.S. — and Here on the Ranch

I’ll start this post with a link to an article with photos about turkeys, including fresh, grass-fed, all-natural turkeys (like ours) and about the frozen Butterballs — their availability and prices this year: Here’s the link:

We harvested six of twelve today. The toms weighed in the low 30s and the hens right around 20 lbs. The article above mentioned all-natural, grass-fed birds going for $5.99 / lb, so ours are a bargain at $3.50 / lb.

The six which remain will continue to be herded out to pasture each day until the Christmas/New Year holiday. These birds had a great spirit this year and we know they will be key to a few, wonderful and nourishing family/friend celebrations, including ours.

We are thankful.

Oh, and for humor, check this out: an-animal-chewed-the-turkey-i-left-out-to-thaw-can-i-still-cook-it

New Well and Belle

This week, the well pump and solar panels were installed for our new, emergency well, and a bittersweet development — Belle looks to be destined for new home around New Year.

Here are some photos of both:

  • a well head and pressure tank on bare soil
  • a solar panel array
  • a 90-day old miniature Jersey calf
  • a face shot of a miniature Jersey calf
  • A calf nose sniffing the camera

The Acers are Back

I’m so happy to have the Japanese maples (Acers) back this Fall in full color!

Meanwhile, as the leaves go brilliant around us, we are pedal-to-the-metal as always with projects, chores, and food production. Just a few of those things include: 1) making cheese every three days (including mozzarella, cheddar, feta), 2) wiring and plumbing the shop, 3) rebuilding the creek pump (new structure out of metal and raising pump above flood level), 4) trimming trees and making brush piles to burn.

Both of us are frequently saying things like: it takes so much time … (fill in the blank) … to make food from scratch … to build structures and plumb or electrify them, etc.

But when we stop and think about it … we are incredibly productive and self-reliant. We rarely have to hire out a project, we have a lot of materials on-site so have minimal trips to hardware stores, and the shopping list has continued to dwindle. Every few months we will get 10 lbs of coffee, 50 lbs of flour, a few pounds of rice, pasta and sugar. Every couple weeks some avocados, mushrooms, sandwich bread, and tortilla chips. Our biggest monthly shopping bill is for animal food! We are pretty much rolling in food otherwise … grown and produced right here!

Anyway, back to the Fall colors … we do stop to admire them, to breath them in … and then we resume full-speed ahead!

Ten More Gallons of Apple Cider

Today we had ten, five-gallon buckets full of apples and made ten more gallons of cider.

It took only two hours with the resurrected apple crusher! (which we used for pomegranates not long ago).

This was an amazing apple year. We lost track of how many bushels of apples we’ve had, but we still have one tree full and a bunch of pears!

Rich Local History Comes Alive to Help Us Make Pomegranate Juice!

The apple crusher was missing a leg and the wooden pulley was no longer usable. We had no idea if the motor still worked, if the old v-belt would hold together, or if I could rebuild the wooden pulley. But, for those of you who know me … this was a challenge I couldn’t resist.

If you remember our post last year about some equipment gifted to us by our neighbor (the antique apple crusher and cider press), this post will be especially fun for you.

I spent about five hours rebuilding the wooden pulley, oiling and greasing the device, and cleaning the crusher shredder.

It was built for apples … but we figured it could do pomegranates too.

Mind you, this thing hadn’t been used in at least forty years …

It sprung to life like a champ! And in less than 15 minutes, we had all those pomegranates we just picked shredded and ready for juicing!

Note: Once again, I waxed nostalgic for good old made-in-America . That motor is a 1/2 hp GE motor … I have no idea how old it is … but it’s a beast!

Okay, so before I go any further, want to guess how many gallons of juice came from this year’s pomegranate harvest? Hold that thought ….

Unfortunately, the giant cider press needs more work than we had time for … we had to get this year’s crop juiced … so that antique press will have to wait for another day to be resurrected. We used our tiny (by comparison) little press and it took 8 pressings (we had to fill it, press and empty eight times).

Okay, here’s this magic old device in action:

Antique apple crusher eats pomegranates

Okay, now that you’ve seen it in action, and saw how many pomegranates we picked before the flood, now’s time for the big reveal! Ready? How many gallons of juice?

One of three large containers of crushed pomegranates


Yes, thirteen gallons of fresh pomegranate juice. We are freezing some, drinking some, and fermenting some into hard ‘pomenade’. Of course we are. 😎

Prepping the for Flood

We haven’t posted anything recently because we’ve been busy preparing for flood … moving things out of the barn or up higher, barricading the greenhouse, removing the creek pump, cleaning gutters, checking aqueducts, etc.

After 8″ of rain in 48 hours, with 6″ of it in 24 hours, happy to report the barn and greenhouse still look like this:

Creekside barn and greenhouse prepped for flood

This was the first flooding rain we’ve had since the fire damaged the surrounding watershed. We were preparing and anticipating much worse, but so relieved we over-prepared! There’s still a long rainy season ahead — if it is going to be like this, we’ll probably remain prepped even though we have over-crowded garages and other outbuilding.

The animals were grumpy, and the rain made things very messy for them, but today sun shines and they are out munching on grass and drying out.

This is how our rebuilt aqueduct fared (not quite as well)

I’m Not Clairvoyant … BUT

I see a lot of pomegranate juice in our future!

  • a tractor with a box full of pomegranates on the back
  • a bunch of light-pink pomegranates on a tree
  • a box full of pomegranates
  • a tree of pomegranate fruit
  • a pink pomegrante on a tree with yellow and green leaves

The trees were a gift to us from Mom and Dad Lusk in 2004 or 2005. They chose several varieties for us from Mendon’s Nursery (The nursery was lost in the Camp Fire).

Last year, we carried buckets of water to the trees after the Bear Fire so we could keep them alive. There was a pool in the creek about 250′ from the trees and we dropped buckets into the pool from our wooden bridge like dipping into a well. Even though it was some work, it was kind of fun, too. These trees are normally watered from our aqueduct — the one that burned last year and we rebuilt this year.

Happy to report our emergency watering last year worked, the aqueduct consistently delivered water this year, and the trees were the more abundant this year than ever before. (A warm, dry spring also contributed to successful bloom and fruit set).

Now … the dilemma.

How do we get the juice out of all those?

We usually cut them in half and wack them on the back with a wooden spoon until all the seeds fall out. Then we juice the seeds in a conical hand juicer. That approach won’t work with so many. We have tried using our wine press on quartered pomegranates, but they really don’t press well with those hard, tough skins. I’m afraid that if we attempt to use the chipper we use for the apple cider apples, we’ll look like a Halloween scene … or maybe ‘Fargo’ without the snow.


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