Me and Scout

Me and Scout

05 October 2012

Almost Winter

So much for posting a lot during the summer.

A lot has happened since the last time.  Ol' Belle was bit by a government issue rattlesnake and died.  Not long after that, Grandmother's dog fell to the same fate.  She has since gotten another dog, a golden labrador.  Nice dog, but it is still learning how to stay at the house in the morning when I leave for work.

I'm still subbing, and liking it less and less.  I have a couple of ideas on how to make more money with the ranch next year, but it always takes time.  I have started working with Silver.  He's plenty gentle after feeding him and Mama Horse last winter, which is good.  I've never started a horse from scratch and I am taking my time and making it as trauma-less as possible.  He is really making it easy on me.  I put a blanket and surcingle on him every time I work him (try to do this daily, but don't always).  I pick up his feet a little bit, throw the saddle pad on several times, brush him sometimes, and then start longeing him.  I'm training him now to change directions by just switching hands with the lead rope.  He's picking it up pretty quickly.

I put the McClellan on him not long ago.  I didn't tie the stirrups down short enough and after a couple of steps at the trot those stirrups gigged him in the side and as gentle as he is, he can sure jump.  Other than that, he has never gotten out of sorts or fussed too much.  I look forward to when I can ride him.  I'll try to do better to keep everyone posted.

14 May 2012

Almost Summer

Not much has happened since the last posting, but I don't want y'all to forget about me and I certainly don't want to forget about you.  I am pretty sure that the young heifer is actually a really young cow and that she had a calf.  We saw them both again on Saturday and even though we didn't see him actually drink, we saw a lot of nuzzling and parental type behavior.  Fine!  There were only a certain number of cows we palpated last year that registered as pregnant, so any of those that we didn't get to that have calves are gravy.  We have eight on the ground now.  It is getting increasingly tricky to match them up.  They also have a tendency to keep changing colors.  Not a lot, but a brown calf may go to light red or black.  So, I would like to start tagging them as soon as possible.  Some of them are almost big enough, but I think I will wait a bit longer.  I hate to tag in the middle of the summer, but if we get an early start it won't be too traumatic.

Anna and I fixed some holes in the Mineral Box Field fence, but we have more work to do on that.  It's slow going.  Fencing is tedious.  Over the years, the trees have grown up around the fences and you can't even get to the fence in places.  I dream of the day when you can drive down all of our fences in a tractor and follow along with a gasoline trimmer or posion and keep the vegetation down.  We are a long way from that.  It will take rebuilding fence in another place or bulldozing, but until then, I intend to just clear a good path to wherever I need to get the gator for a fence repair job.

I am also developing a philosophy on mowing.  There are a lot of pastures that need extra attention.  They need chainsaw work on some trees that have grown up in the middle and on the edges.  However, it is important to not lose what we did along those lines last year.  Anna made lots of progress wiggling around behind barns and between thickets, especially up close to the house.  I want to make sure that we just mow over those areas once, so it doesn't get grown up again.  Keeping the pastures mowed is a full time job.  When I think about it at school, it pains me that I'm not working on it.  Of course, summer is coming.

Speaking of summer, I am pleased that although we have had some hot days, we have also had some cool days.  It's almost June and it is not sweltering yet.  We had about an inch of rain a couple of days ago.  We are already going into the summer in better shape than last year.  There are some dire predictions about another drought, but because of some late rains and cooler weather, I don't think it will be as bad.  The only real issue is that we don't have a surplus of hay like we did last year.  Dad is cutting some of his jobs on halves and thirds, I think.  That will help.  If we get extra we can always sell and make some good money.

Alas, I have given up the idea of working with Sarge.  A local girl is coming out to pick him up and ride him for a couple of weeks to smooth him out.  Hopefully, this will take the edge off enough for me to get him up to speed the rest of the way.  I really need to get some training on horse training.  We have some good potential out there and I would like to figure out how to break them without breaking myself.  I know there are trainers out there that "whisper" to horses, but I also know that most of what they work with is handled from a very young age.  Our horses are just not like that.

All in all, things are going well.  God is continuing to take care of our needs and I know that He will do so during the income-poor summer.  So, your support in prayers and visiting the blog here are greatly appreciated.

01 May 2012

Sneaky Cows

The calves are really coming now.  Some of them from unexpected corners.  Anna and I were driving out to look at cows one day and we saw one of the heifers that we just let out standing off by herself.  I thought it was a little strange and then I noticed that she seemed to have a full bag.  Weird.  We drove on to the other cows.  She managed to catch up with us.  This time she had a tiny little calf in tow.  Now it's more than weird.  This cow is supposed to be just over a year old, which means that it was bred at about three months.  Okay.  I maay have made a mistake in matching up cows and calves last year.  I'm still trying to perfect the system.  So, now I have to go into the database and correct the birthday.  It is possible that I pegged her to the right mama cow, but she was one of last year's calves still nursing.  Or, I could have just guessed.  I will not be doing that this year.  The bottom line is that we are still working out the kinks in the system.

That was the mistake.  Now I will tell you where we did good; or at least better.  Since a couple of weeks after we turned the heifers out, we have been missing heifer number 59.  We've been wondering about it.  Saturday, Dad and Linda and I were driving through town and some other pastures to get to our hay field.  One of our neighbors has a herd of black angus-type cows and they are all tagged with similar tags.  I started to mention to Dad (almost in jest) that if he sees a tag number 59 it's ours.  Right about that time, we both saw a fresh Bar Z brand on one of them.  Her head was behind a tree, but I told Dad the number before seeing it.  I think he was impressed by that.  So, we have a fence issue somewhere, but we did find our missing cow.  It also is an argument in favor of continuing to brand our cows.  With the whole world going to identical cows it is probably a good idea.

Also on Saturday, Dad brought the bull down.  We are moving the breeding season up a couple of months.  Last year the extreme heat kind of put the damper on the amorous spirit I guess.  This is why we had kind of a poor calf crop.  So, we are bumping it up a bit.  The calves will be born in the middle of winter, but winters are so mild here that it shouldn't make that much of a difference.  We'll probably palpate in September or October of this year and wean around the same time next year.  I think it's a better schedule for marketing and production, but we'll see.

23 April 2012

Crow Ranch Work Camp and Bucking Horse Ride

It's been an interesting couple of weeks here at the Crow Ranch.  We have had our second Crow Ranch Work Camp.  This time, we had three young gentlemen, former students from my Leadership Development Corps days.  They are now 9th and 10th graders.  A great bunch of guys they are.  I am pleased to note that there are kids out there that work hard, are respectful, sensible, and well, clean. 

The night they arrived, we got settled in, Anna went to go buy groceries and we watched the movie "Signs".  It may be kind of a tradition now, as we did this last time.  The next morning, we started off with a devotional based on the movie.  I had done a similar thing back when I was the Discipleship Coordinator at Clear Lake Baptist.  That day we repaired the tank lot fence.  Good hard work.  I will have to remember to include rubber boots on the list for next time.  Those poor boys got muddy.    Not that they cared.  In fact, I think they probably enjoyed it.  We went to bed early as the vet was coming the next day at 7 for that day's job.

The second day was our big job.  We still had the heifers in the pens at the time and they all needed branding, a brucellosis vaccination, and some of them needed to be dehorned.  The vet had a busy day planned, so we had to be working by 7:30 to 8:00 and be done by 9:00.  We decided that we could not make the vet wait while we branded and that we would do the vaccinations and dehorning first.  Then, after he was gone, we would run them through again and brand them.  We had a lot of help.  In addition to Alex, Jarrod, and Daniel, we also had Dad and Melissa.  A good crew.  Melissa scribed, I drove the cows down the chute, Daniel worked the blocking gate.  Anna tended fire.  Alex and Jarrod worked the chute.  Once again, the boys impressed me.  They were quick on their feet, focused on the job at hand.  I'm also proud to say that they had a good time.  Work of this nature hones the reflexes, works the muscles, and builds confidence.  It's the kind of thing that young men need.

After we ran them through the first time, the vet left and we just did it again.  All in all, we worked about 19 head twice.  That afternoon, the boys, Anna, and Melissa took a break.  Dad and I decided to mess with Sarge.  I had been working with him a little, but not much.  We got him saddled without too much issue.  We snubbed him up to Scout and I even got on a couple of times without issue.  I guess it was just going a little too well.  Dad was on Scout and I reached down to slip my off side foot into its stirrup.  That spooked Sarge enough that he pulled back, although instead of reaching the end of the lead and having it give a little it just stopped.  Now, the reason you snub a horse up to a mature horse when you are doing this is to make sure that the young horse can't buck or shy, or move around too much.  Scout is not the best horse for this.  When Sarge hit the end of his lead, Scout started bucking.  This made it scary for Sarge.  So, now Dad and I riding two bucking horses tied together.  If you want father-son bonding this will do it, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Dad held the lead in place till I could get off (which didn't take long).  Then we had more problems.  Parents don't listen sometimes.  I told him to let go an get off, but he wouldn't do it.  In fact, he couldn't.  The lead wrapped so tight that it wouldn't come off the horn.  I started trying to undo the lead from Sarge's halter.  It finally came loose and Dad dismounted/rolled off before Scout bucked him into the big pecan tree.  No one was really hurt.  Dad kind of cut his finger trying to get the lead loose, but nothing serious.  Right after that, I got a call from Anna, "What is going on out there?"  She and Melissa had been watching the whole thing so that took some explanation.  Scout and Sarge calmed down pretty quickly, so we did the rest without Scout.  Just Dad on the ground.  I got up and down a couple of more times and walked around the yard.  No problems.  Since then, I have worked with him some more, but really need a second person to hold the lead while I saddle him and get on.  What I have been doing is leading him up to a couple of cinder blocks and stepping up on them.  He is definitely getting better.  One of my goals in life is to be as spry as Dad when I'm in my sixties.  He won't let himself get old.  I will do the same.

That night, we had our devotional by the fire.  We talked about moral actions and Christian behavior for young men.  How they should look and act differently than the rest of the world.  How the Bible paints a different picture of manhood than the world.
 The next day, we had our last devotional, then just drove around the place looking around.  We ended with moving a pile of brush over to the burn box, then we chillaxed until parents arrived.

How I would love to do this more often.  How I would love to make this a regular thing and it expand it.  I would love to have a horse for each of them to ride.  Praise God that He promised us that if we are faithful over little, we will be ruler over much.  I intend to have them back in the summer.  They get a lot of work done and they get great experiences and I hope they get some discipleship as well.  Daniel also cleans my guns!  I was a little hesitant at first, but his parents are cops.  When his mom showed up to take them home, she told me that he cleans their guns all the time and that he does a good job.  Definitely will have them back.  We are also going to have Nathan's kids here for awhile during the summer too.

22 March 2012

Adventure Pups!

23 March 2012, Thursday, 1209, Liberty Middle School Library
We had a very traumatic occurrence the other day.  Our pups...okay, they are really dogs, but they are much smaller than what I normally call out.  Daisy and Honey were discovered almost exactly a year ago out in the Old Field.  We tried to find homes for them, but no one was interested, so we ended up keeping them.  They have been a real source of pleasure and comfort during some challenging times.  Tuesday, they presented their own challenge.  Around one o'clock, they managed to get out in to the front yard.  Of course, the front yard is the ranch and also the neighboring leases; and the highway.  We looked, and we came inside.  We looked again, and we came inside.  It got dark, we came inside.  I finally decided to walk down the road again calling them.  It started to rain.  This got really upsetting.  I couldn't imagine them out there in the flooding woods by themselves.  I pleaded to God to return them.  I paced back and forth up the road fretting for them.  Finally, I just decided.  I'm going to keep looking until I find them.  From then on, I felt much better.  I walked back to the house and comforted Anna.  She had printed out some bulletins just in case they went out to the road and someone found them.  We drove to town and posted the signs, then headed back.  Borrowed Grandmother's 4-wheeler and started looking.  It was 9 o'clock by now.  We went into the neighbor's deer lease.  Anna shined the flashlight into the woods and I navigated the flooded roads.  Every few dozen yards, we would stop and holler for them and listen.  Finally, on the way out of the neighbor's lease, we paused, hollered, and heard a little yipping.  Right ahead of us, coming out of the woods was Honey.  Wet and miserable.  We snatched her up, and Anna greeted her tearfully.  I am still almost emotionless.  Ever since deciding to keep looking, I was on mission.  It's good to have a mission.
So, we decided to go ahead and take Honey back before looking for Daisy.  Daisy would be the challenge.  She is a beagle and when she gets a scent, the rest of the world absolutely disappears.  Nevertheless, our mission was not yet over.  This time, we went to our little tract of land that is adjacent to where we found Honey.  I figured they wouldn't be too far from each other.  On one of our stops, I heard a rustling from behind, turned, and saw an armadillo.  If Daisy's around she might be on that scent.  We waited a bit longer, and sure enough, there she was.  After about ten hours, it was finally over.
God came through for us on this one.  Why He allowed them to get lost in the first place, I don't know.  Perhaps He wanted to demonstrate how He feels about us when we go off the reservation.  Or perhaps it was a lesson in not giving up.  Something interesting occurs to me when I compare the incident to finding them last year.  For those who remeber, Anna, Melissa (her sister) and I were driving in the Old Field in the truck when we saw 5 puppies.  Two of them came to us, but three ran off into the woods.  We looked for a while to find them, but after a couple of hours, we decided to let it go.  This year it was different.  These were our dogs now.  For ten hours, we worried, we agonized, we got cold and wet and we would have done it even longer.  When we found them, I was ready to go all night.  These dogs are cute, they are friendly, and they are fun, but they also still pee on the carpet, chew things up and offer no help in getting work done.  We searched for them because they were our dogs.  Not because they are cute, but because they are ours.  They are not just Daisy and Honey, they are Daisy Crow and Honey Crow.  They are family.  That is their value.
It is a picture of my value.  I can teach.  I can lead.  I can ride a horse.  I pay too much attention to my emotions.  I'm lazy sometimes.  I can't run.  None of these qualities good or bad has anything to do with how long the Father will look for me when I'm lost in the woods.  The same goes for you too.

28 February 2012

Spring is springing.

28 February 2012, Tuesday, 1251, Liberty Middle School Library
Okay, three weeks is not so good, but it's better than 6 months.
Finally got some more calves in the pens.  I was putting out hay the day after my last blog.  I opened up the gates to the calf patch to put down some hay and the cows followed me.  When I saw that I had at least four calves, I shut the gate on them.  We had a total of six new calves, but alas, the next day, the dogs started chasing them and two of them jumped out.  Still, we will have had most of our calves weaned.  The others might get sold depending on how they act.  We do not want to raise another crop of crazy cows.  Well, at least not as crazy as they are now.
Yesterday, I made a bunch of trips to the hay field and brought back the rest of the hay.  It felt good to finish something.  I will put out hay three more times.  Dad and I decided to start stretching the hay.  I will put out hay for the calves and the cows every Monday, with the 13th being the last day.  That will give us one odd roll, so I will put it out in the middle of this week to help them adjust.  I went back and forth from the hay field 5 times yesterday and the cows had no interest in me whatsoever.  They are getting their sustenance from the grass, as it should be.  So, the big question about having enough hay for the winter has been answered.  Praise God for a mild winter!  Sorry to all you people complaining about the skiing.
I will be glad to not have to feed the calves every day.  I am thinking about replacing that chore with riding Sarge.  Or at least messing with him.  Sarge is the horse that jerked out from underneath me last year and twisted my knee.  It will be a good experience.  I'm 41 and need to start learning low impact horse training.  This will force me to do it.
Our next big projects will be to review all the border fences before the summer and to mow the pastures before the tractor is needed up north for Dad's hay operations.  With me putting out hay every couple of days, the cows hardly need fences at all.  When the hay stops and they start hunting grass in the summer is when they become an issue.  I am thinking about how to track the quality and repairs done on our fences using power point and excel.  Cowboy geek.  That's me.
Rebel is going to the chiropractor on Friday.  I'll let y'all know how it goes.

08 February 2012

Knock, Knock, Anybody There?

08 February 2012, Wednesday, 0942, Liberty Middle School Library
I offer no excuses.  I look shamefully down at my feet and ask your forgiveness.  On the remote chance that you have been wondering why I have not written anything in the last six months, I can only say that it has been a little rough.
I accepted a long term sub job teaching Ag at a local school district.  This lasted for a semester, until they can bring the new guy on board.  You would think that I could handle something like that, but it was surprisingly hard.  Having an agricultural economics degree does little to prepare you to teach a high schooler how to be in FFA, or to show a heifer, or to design a floral arrangement.  The whole experience also demonstrated how far removed I am from the "country" culture.  Students in this 1A rural school just did not get me.  I don't have a pronounced accent.  I sometimes drive a Camry to work.  I don't dip, curse, wear cammo, hunt, or go mudding (on purpose).  I think education is a good thing.  I was not a man's man to those kids.  Never mind that I served my country overseas (wearing cammo), work crazy wild cows, and ride horses.  It was a discouraging experience.  The best I can say is that the outlook these students had was provincial.  It did educate me on some of the things to watch for when we rear kids of our own.  It also taught me the importance of point of view.  Back in Clear Lake, I was the redneck.  Here, I'm a citified dandy.  Very strange.
The ranch did not get my full attention during this time.  Rebel is still unridable.  I think I am going to take him to a horse chiroprator.  I'm that desperate.  Only a handful of cows were pregnant when we tested them in December.  That was a blow.  It was so hot during breeding season that the bulls didn't do their work for us.  That's hot.  The good thing is that we have a really good crop of heifers.  We are feeding most of them and gentling them down.  The balance of them are still in the pasture; which is a story in and of itself.  They will make a good crop of cows and we will continue to sell cows that don't perform.  Many of the ones we have are past the time to be culled.  We are putting our stock in the new ones.
The most frustrating problem we are having is penning cows.  Many of them are nice and gentle, but some of them just take off to the woods at the first attempt to move them.  Other cows and calves follow them.  If we had more than one working horse and some good dogs, we could do it.  We've tried trapping them, but the cows in question won't even go in a trap.  I think tomorrow I will try putting out hay in the calf patch.  I need to get some water to the calves in the pens to do this.  If this doesn't work, then I will have to ask for some local help.
Other questions we have to answer are what we are going to do with this year's crop.  We might be forced to sell heifers and beef calves in order to generate the necessary income for the year.  We will certainly be selling more of the cows.
I'm not complaining.  God has his purposes that are beyond what we can see.  I think one of them is to teach us to learn to trust Him.  Things keep breaking, we keep trying to do things and failing, but the lesson is to not complain.  We are trying to commit it to God, understanding that the ranch, cows, horses, et al belong to Him.  He is demonstrating that it is His.  Maybe when we can say, "Well, we didn't get them penned again, but that's okay.  We'll try again later," without all the emotion and hand-wringing, we will be there, or at least closer.
In case you didn't notice I genericized the title of the blog.  "Green Acres...Without the Money" was memorable and funny, but ultimately not the right thing to confess.  I'm no "word of faith' guy, but the Bible does say that there is power in the tongue, so I'm changing the title.  If you have suggestions I'll take them.  I've got some ideas, but haven't gotten them worked out yet.
Hopefully, I will be back again soon.  Thanks for your support and prayers.