Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hot Girls on the Ranch

What exactly were you expecting out of that title?
A major heat wave has settled over the entire western half of the US, and the Bee Girls deal with the heat the only way they know how - get out of the bee box and fan their butts off!

Darling Little Auroara Arrives

Poor Shelly.  Timing is everything.  Last year, she was so excited to be part of her first calving, but it ended quite badly.  This year, it was Ruffie who was due to calve on Friday, the last day Shelly was to be here, so she was sure that she'd get to take part in a good, easy, successful calving, because after all, it was Ruffie, an old hand at popping out calves with zero effort.  Been there, done that 6 times already; this was number 7.  And so we watched her.  And watched her.  There is a saying that a watched cow never calves, and Ruffie was no exception.  By around 10 this morning, Shelly had to hit the road to Davis, California to pick up her son and head back home to Encinitas, near San Diego.  Ruffie was her usual self, hangin' out in the heat, swatting flies.  About 30 minutes later, we headed out to get a few errands done ourselves.  We got back around 1 in the afternoon, and I went out to check on Ruffie.  As I walked towards the gate to the maternity pasture, I saw the sheep pop out of the barn one by one, all 5 of them.  Except I only have 4 sheep in that pasture, and one of them was a tad larger than the rest and jet black as well as a bit wobbly.  I called Dale to come try out the new weigh sling from Premier, I chased the little bugger around mom a bit before I finally caught hold of her, verified a little heifer and iodined her navel.  Dale came out with the puttputt and we weighed her at a perfect 74# and sent her back to mom, who was, as usual, hanging over our shoulders as we did our thing with her little girl.  Since then, she's discovered that there is a thing called 'shade' that during a major heat wave, is a good thing to seek out, and that mom has an unending supply of milk for her enjoyment.
I had been waiting for a little girl sired by Roar that I could name after our former OSU vet, Dr. Aurora Villaroel, who did so much for us for so many years while she was with OSU.  She left us last year, and I couldn't think of a more fitting tribute than to name a fine heifer calf after her.  Trust me - she would appreciate it!
Just about an hour old

About 4 hours old, dried and full

Shearing Miss Kayla

It was time for Kayla's first ever shearing.  Kayla is a Navajo-Churro heritage breed ewe lamb, from Mickey Clayton of Dot Ranch Navajo-Churros in Scio (  She was born last December, and since Shelly, the lucky recipient of the fleece, was here, no reason not to do the job.  Thus, a quick call to Dusty McCord, local shearing guy, and Tuesday afternoon he arrived and sheared our tubby little ewe, much to Shelly's delight.  On Friday, we went out to Mickey's with the fleece for her to evaluate, and if this wasn't a family blog, I'd quote her exact words, but let's just say, she was quite pleased, as was Shelly and Mickey's helper Michelle.  They flayed it out on a skirting table and played a bit with it, decided it didn't even need to be carded and could be spun just as is.  Which is what Shelly intends to do when she returns to Encinitas in a few days.  And since N-C is traditionally used in weavings, it's just serendipity that Shelly owns not one but two looms.  Much of the fleece, because it's from a lamb, is suitable for next to skin wear, which is reserved for only the finest wools.  Her fleece won't always be that fine, but the colour was incredible and will stay that way, and her fleece will make very fine, durable outwear as well as rugs and the like.
Kayla was a perfect lady for Dusty, which is super nice for a first timer.  He didn't have to fight her in the least, which made his job fast and efficient, with minimal second cuts (something handspinners don't like to see in their fleeces) and nary a nick to Kayla.  It was also great that her first shearing was such a good experience for her, low stress and no injury.  When he finished, he plopped her back on her feet, and she walked away calmly.  Just what I wanted to see

Kayla walks away, much smaller than she was when she started

I'm pretty sure that's Shelly's happy face there

Reunion Time!

Last weekend we had our annual reunion for all of the Morgan River clan.  It's always hard for folks to make it, as our dogs range from local to the ranch here in Oregon, all the way to Germany and all over the USA.  But we can usually count on all the local pups to make it and they did.  A great time was had by everyone, especially the dogs.  We did instinct testing, ate ourselves silly, and talked up a storm.  In the week since, two more pups from Hoke and Cricket earned their CGC (AKC Canine Good Citizen) awards, Stella and Sawyer from the 2012 litter!  I think we set a new record for CGC's earned by litter mates, with Riley (2010) and Rowyn, Stella and Sawyer from the 2012 litter now officially CGC's.  Way to go everyone!
Anna (Riley and Stella) posted most of the pix from the reunion on the dogblog, for everyone to enjoy.  I will be moving almost all the dogs posts from here to there from now on, so bookmark that one if you are more into the dogs than the ranch and garden stuff.
Top row - Stella (2012), Sawyer (12), Sybil (10), Donna Oakes with her red bi Jan (10), Tazz (10) and Rowyn (12) wondering why no one else is looking at the sheep RIGHT THERE.  Lying down in front, proud poppa Hoke and momma Cricket

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hay On Wheels

The race was on.  Ed finished cutting as I was raking, which led right into baling, because it was Sunday and the weather guessers were calling for rain on Monday night thru Wednesday.  So we worked our butts off, trading tractors and implements as needed.  The balewagon stood by, ready to start scooping up bales, and Dale salted the barn in readiness for the first loads going in.  It was quite a ballet, albeit a slow motion one.  And of course, it didn't go perfectly; when you're working with rough ground and old equipment, along with a novice equipment operator (me) who can kinda sorta almost remember how things worked from the past two years of running the baler and rake for two days each year, it's a given that things will go wrong or break.  I personally broke last year's record of 2 shear pins on the baler flywheel within the first 100 yards by breaking 3 shear pins without moving an inch.  That necessitated a lightning fast run into the Corvallis New Holland dealer for two more bags of shear pins to insure that we WOULD make it thru the rest of the hay.  And Dale was quick to notice smoke coming out from a bale on the balewagon in time to prevent a catastrophe.  He pulled the smouldering bale off the wagon and doused it before it caught the entire barn on fire.  And first thing Monday morning Ed and I had to fix the old IH that was the beast pulling the baler when rust and paint flakes from inside the gas tank gummed up the fuel lines and injectors the evening before.  Otherwise, it was just going around and around and around in rectangles, watching the odd snake go thru the baler and hoping it would mummify before that bale got fed.  I hate that we bale snakes, because we need them to keep the vole and mouse population down to a dull roar, but not much can be done to prevent it.
By Monday night, the little puffy clouds fluttering overhead all day were starting to look serious about making some moisture, and Romella came over to get the first 37 bales of the 5 tonne she bought from us.  Our basic measuring stick of how much we would sell hinged on two things - we needed a minimum of 25 tonne ourselves, and anything that ended up outside the barn was going to another home.  We got over 1000 bales off the 12 acres we hayed for a total of about 35 tonne.  Not bad for non-irrigated, native bentgrass and rye on crappy soil!  Especially as just a month before cutting, I was going to just give it to the cows, as I suspect we would not have gotten even the 10 tonne we got off it last year at that point.  Between the timely rain and Frank's fertilizing, we scored our second largest harvest behind 2010's record 44 tonne off the original 10 acres of hay pasture.
The promised rain held off until Tuesday morning, then gifted us with a much needed .20", but since Romella had cleared the outside of the barn, we had no worries about hay getting wet.  She with her two helpers, son Chuck and his gal pal Karen, made two more massive loads to round out the 5 tonne she needed for her sheep, Dale made some more strategic propping of the sagging hay, and we were DONE.
We couldn't do this without our wonderful friend Ed and his time and equipment.  We insist on paying him, altho he assures us, he'd just as soon not take any money for his efforts.  He's always there for us when we need him, and our entire tiny community out here in Bellfountain is full of more people just like Ed.  Who else would come over at midnight on a cold, rainy winter's night to help pull a calf?  Frank and Sharon, of course.  Who would drop his dinner and rush over with milk replacer and help tube a newborn calf, even knowing as he did it that it wasn't going to make it?  Bruce, of course.  And who can we go to for a backhoe to bury a dead calf?  Don, and if he couldn't do it himself, the keys are always there for us.  And so many others around here, just like Ed, Sharon, Frank, Bruce and Don, willing to help out any time, day or night, in a crisis.  We truly are blessed to live where we do with the people in our lives.
And the cows, well, they won't go hungry this winter, altho I'm sure if you were to ask them, they'd say otherwise.  That's why we don't ask them

The first bales hit the ground Sunday morning early

The view from the beastly baler


Onboard the baler, chasing the balewagon and Ed

The first loads in the barn.  Because the balewagon is old, it doesn't stack tightly, thus the need for a perfectly level floor as well as dozens of 2X4's in different lengths to prop it up

The following is a sequence showing how the balewagon works its magic

The very last load headed for the barn Monday afternoon

The hay pasture, cleared of all but Ed's service truck, late Monday afternoon

And, what's a hay season without a hay fall?  Not as bad as last year's, thankfully.  The old Gangsta Girls cluck in disapproval

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The View from the Rake

Just for Shelly, to show her what she's missing.  What else she's missing is the bouncing around like a wayward roof in a hurricane, and I think that may be an accurate description of what it feels like.  The old Ford has even less suspension in the seat and tires than Big Orange, and the hay pasture may LOOK nice and smooth and level, but it's not.  Not even a little bit.
The hay looks great this year, a HUGE relief.  Thick and lots of it, and it's about all that little Ford and the old rake can do to make nice windrows out of it

Friday, June 7, 2013

The First Cut is the Greenest

WARNING:  Artsy pictures ahead

And so it has begun.  Yesterday, Ed arrived at midday with the beastly machine to begin the task of putting up this year's hay crop.  He is the supreme multitasker; he was cutting our pasture while son Jesse was raking another one up in Hell's Canyon so that Ed could go from ours to that one to start baling.  Then back to the shop to replace the seal on one of the balewagon's wheels so today he could go pick up the bales in Hell's Canyon at the three pastures he was doing there.  Didn't make it back here this afternoon to finish cutting, but he'll be along tomorrow to finish cutting and start raking.  Won't take long; our normal average this time of year is 71 degrees, and we've been 10 degrees above that all week - picture perfect haying weather.  If nothing major breaks, I would expect we'd be done by Monday.  However, with me riding herd on the cantankerous baler theres no guarantee that nothing major will break.  The baleful baler and I have an understanding - it behaves and I won't take a 42" crescent to it and start whaling away at vital parts.  I fully expect to better my record last year of 2 shear pin replacements within the first 100 yards

The first artsy picture.  It was just kind of a cool shot, with all the lines on the ground and in the sky

The first cut is the greenest....sorry, I couldn't help myself
Ed makes the corner to complete the first circuit, the hardest one next to the fence

Grass-eye's view.  Pretty thick

Just kind of a nice view from above

This morning, with Ed's progress duly noted and the beastly machine still sleeping.  There truly is no finer fragrance than that of fresh cut hay on a cool, late spring morning
One byproduct of hay cutting is that small creatures are displaced and sometimes dismembered, including one very large gopher snake, sadly enough.  Cricket had a line on something moving about under the hay but she didn't find it

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Mouse in the House

Many, actually.  And I HATE them in the bedroom, at night, when I'm trying to sleep.  Most of you know the sound - scritch scritch scritch gnaw gnaw.  It's enough to make you pick up a shotgun and start shooting holes in the walls.  Or, you could just borrow Hoke.  This is Dale's closet (we have two walk ins in the master), where we had a problem several times.  Thus, Dale had cut a hole where we could drop in a hunk of mouse poison so that at least they'd die quickly instead of lingering for days, scritching and gnawing all night long in a desperate attempt to escape.  We had duct taped the hole closed but hadn't repaired it yet.  It was just a small round hole until a few days ago.  Hoke must have heard the mouse doing his/her thing and decided to take matters in his own jaws.  He substansially enlarged the hole, as you can clearly see, but the mouse escaped.  Cricket found it - she walked over to Hoke's bed next to Dale's side of the bed and stood there, listening intently, cocking her head from side to side.  I reached over her and lifted the bed and the chase was on.  She finally cornered the mouse in my closet, grabbed it and headed for the door.  I yelled 'good girl, Cricket!!', she turned around to look at me, wiggled like mad - and dropped the damn thing.  Off it went where Hoke again cornered it, this time in the den behind the couch.  He finally got it to make another run for it, and it escaped once again into the kitchen and finally the pantry, where it probably expired of both poison and being partly chewed on, along with a large dose of fright.

The kinda not funny side of this was that I initially couldn't find the block of poison that was in the hole.  Since Hoke was the only dog in the house when he chewed open the hole, I just knew he'd eaten it.  So, first I tried the old salt down the back of the throat trick to try and get him to vomit.  When that didn't work, it was the 3 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide (mixed 1:1 with plain water) straight out of the UC Davis vet book of first aid for dogs down the throat.  That worked just dandy, but no poison block showed up.  So back to the hole I went and finally did find it, intact, in the hole.  Lucky boy, that Hoke

Bee Youtiful

'Complicata' is a major bee magnet.  Yesterday I saw probably 5 different species of pollenators on it and managed to capture 2

Probably one of our Bee Girls

Mutant 'Mundi'

Rosa gallica 'Versicolour', a gallica rose that dates to before 1581, has the common name 'Rosa Mundi', or 'Fair Rosamund', named for a certain eccentric English king's mistress.  It originated as a striped and splashed sport of 'Rosa gallica officinalis' known as the Apothocary's Rose, dating to before 1310 and long used medically by naturopaths.  Apothocary is a brilliant magenta pink, and both it and 'Mundi' are beyond fragrant, super tough and on their own roots, will form an inpenetrable hedge that gives great protection to small birds and other critters.

A sport is a spontaneous mutation by unknown causes.  It is not the same as the raggedly red rose that came up when your hybrid rose died off; that is 'Dr. Huey', long used as rootstock for grafted modern roses due to the inability to kill the darn thing.  Makes dandy rootstock for delicate hybrid roses and once those prima donnas croak, 'Dr. Huey' heaves a great sigh of relief and starts spreading like a madman.  Sometimes, he doesn't even wait for the grafted rose to die.  I have seen several quite spectacular specimens of both 'Dr. Huey' and the hybrid grafted onto him growing around here.

One thing that a sport can do is revert back to the parent.  A most famous selection of sports are all the 'Peace' rose sports.  There are quite a few, many better than the parent, and one of them is a fave of mine, 'Chicago Peace'.  The one I grew back in Poway reverted one branch back to the original 'Peace'.  'Mundi' is perhaps the second most famous sport known to revert back to its parent, 'Officinalis'.  Mine waited almost 5 years to revert, but this year, it did.  The only difference was, not only did it revert back to 'Officinalis', but it also threw a new sport of its own!  That's not an uncommon occurance, but it's pretty cool when it happens

'Officinalis', parent on the left (solid pink), 'Mundi' on the right (striped)

The new sport, a much smaller, lighter striped flower