Oh What a Beautiful Morning

Certain days you just wake up and are glad to be alive. It was that kind of morning today. Bright and clear, a little cool, not windy, just right. Spring is definitely in the air around here. The trees are budding, birds are chirping, it’s just as pleasant as it can possibly be. It’s a perfect day for a walk with the dogs. And things have dried up enough where we can just roam around the ranch.

Here we are crossing the little creek that runs through Pig Canyon. This little trail leads us to a spot where an Angus cow of ours died a few years ago. She had been dead quite a while before we ever found her down here. Not sure how she died, but we never tried to move her either.

This jawbone and a bunch of rib bones are all that is left. One good thing about lots of wild animals around is if an animal does die, it is consumed pretty quickly. We have one part of the ranch that we call the graveyard. It is at the far northern corner of the property. Evidently it has been the designated graveyard for many years. If an animal dies we just haul it out there with the tractor. Since there is a prevailing southerly breeze and since it’s about 2 miles away from the house, we never notice the bad smell. Plus being in such a remote spot, all the varmints like coyotes and vultures and pigs can feel uninhibited as they consume the carcass. So it’s really a pretty efficient system when you think about it. Those bones are cleaned off pretty quickly. I guess all of this sounds a bit grotesque, and it certainly seemed so to us at first, but now it seems only natural. Now that I think about it, the title to this post was something about a beautiful morning. Well, it was, notwithstanding all of this talk of rotting carcasses and vultures.
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The Hay Stack

If you can manage to turn off the TV and somehow keep it off, boys will find something to do. It’s just in their nature. I’m always advocating that boys need to be off playing. They don’t really even need that many toys to play with. Just a stick to use as a sword or rifle and they are ready to go. In our case, they usually make their way out to the hay barn and build forts. Now that’s the life.

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We Are Lucky in Goats (again!)

Well, it is definitely goat season around the Johnson Ranch. It seems like everyday, new babies are being born. We have about 6 mama goats but they were all pregnant and all due about the same time. About 5 months ago we purchased a 100% S. African Boer Buck and brought him home. He got right down to business and here we are with a bunch of new goat babies. This buck has proven to be quite the color thrower. And he makes twins too. These last two babies have got to be the cutest so far. Here’s a little girl that was born yesterday:

This is the first goat we’ve had that was all brown. What a cute goat it is. Notice the two white socks on the front feet. This one will bring some money, or would but I doubt I could convince Diane and Rebecca to sell them. Brittney and Red, two of our Australian Shepherds are looking them over quite carefully. They’re not sure what to do about these little goats who are definitely not where they’re supposed to be. These dogs are used to rounding everyone up and chasing them back to their pens, but with us standing there, they seem a little confused. Every time they nuzzle up close we call them off so they’re just trying to be patient and wait for some action later.

Here’s the other twin. This is a male and he looks almost exactly like his father.

If all of these goats survive, we’ll have quite the nice herd pretty soon. This new buck has really made things exciting around here with all this added color. Here’s an updated picture of a real cute goat that was born on Sunday.

This is a female. Notice all of the color. In fact it’s got two brown colors, light and some darker spots. Kind of unusual.
Well, we just have one more mama goat that has yet to give birth this time around. And she looks so big that we think it might be triplets. We’ll see about that.

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More Goats!

Well, the other pygmy goat had twins also! We’ve got goats all over the place now. It happened last night. I’ll spare you the very early pictures. Kind of messy and not too pleasant. But that mama pygmy got the kids cleaned up real quick. And they are up and walking very shortly after being born. It’s always amazing to me how quickly they can walk and run. It’s interesting that they were designed that way by the Creator. It seems to me that human babies could have been designed to walk right away also if He wanted it that way. Obviously, He didn’t. Human babies are designed to be totally dependent on their mother for a good long while. Probably the idea behind this is to create a bond between mother and child that is unbreakable. Everything is for a reason.

We checked on the mama and two kids this morning to see how they were doing. They’re doing great. Here’s a picture.

With our 2 year old in the picture, you can get a perspective on just how little these goats are.

I’m not sure how they’ll look at maturity, but this combination of Boer goat with pygmy goat has produced some awfully cute little ones.

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The Morning Walk

The dogs wait every morning to see what I’m wearing when I emerge from the house. If it looks like walking clothes, they get excited. Sometimes we walk around parts of the ranch and have a look at what everyones up to out there. But if it’s too muddy we keep to the county roads on the perimeter of the property.

Nothing like a country road for a place to ponder on life and what it all means. Occasionally we see other animals out there. Occasionally, a neighbor will drive by. Today the dogs chased a skunk. When will they figure that out?

It’s not a hot day at all, but they do get hot I guess from all this running around. They always look for any puddle of any size and plop down in it for a drink and some refreshment. Doesn’t look too inviting.

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Another Saturday, Another Day of Work

We were up at the crack of dawn (well, maybe slightly post crack) and out the door before we burned too much daylight. There’s no shortage of things to do around here so no reason to get bored watching cartoons or something silly like that. For the first Saturday in a number of weeks there’s no other conflicting events scheduled so we can all work together. Of course there’s not much a 2 year old or 4 or 6 year old are going to get done but we bring them along. It’s been raining a lot lately so it’s nothing but mud around here right now. This time of year we feed hay constantly. We like to keep fresh hay in front of the animals constantly, they can eat it free choice. Once they stop eating it, then we know we’re done feeding hay. Pretty tricky, eh? We couldn’t feed hay very efficiently without our tractor.

It’s a Kubota 8200 we bought from Zimmerer Kubota several years ago. It’s been indispensable to us.

With the front hay spear we carry one round bale and the back spear carries another bale. That’s about 3000lbs of hay at at time. By the way, if you’re in the market for farm equipment or even a lawn tractor, I highly recommend you pay a visit to Len Zimmerer. He’s been great to deal with over the years.

We fed about 15,000 lbs of hay today. That should last a few days before we do it again. Luckily we still have lots of hay left. Good things we had the little boys along to help.

I don’t think we’ll be feeding hay much longer. As soon as it warms up, there will be lots more grass and they won’t want hay any more. As it is, we have lots of green grass right now, but it’s not growing fast enough for them.

Noah was with us too. He was keeping an eye on Brittney, one of Australian Shepherds, making sure she was comfortable. She looks like she’s enjoying the attention.

It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t work on some fence during the day. We were warned that we’d spend all of our time working on fence if we ever got a ranch. And that warning has not come true, but not because we don’t need to spend all of our time on fences, simply because we don’t. But some times there are critical needs that you just have to attend to.
Cattle are pretty good about respecting fence. If they feel the barbed wire poking them they tend to leave it alone. Hogs (yes we have wild 0r feral hogs here and lots of them) just run right thru them full speed. If the fences are aging and rusty, like ours in some places, they just bust them right down it’s something to see.
But our main mission today is to round up two or three steers that we’ll be taking to the processor. We put the hay in a strategic spot that allows us to trap them in a catch pen, then we’ll move them out of there in to some smaller sorting pens and choose who looks the best. It’s always muddy when we do this it seems.
In this picture you see mostly Hereford mama cows and their calves and some Black Angus bulls. There’s some heifers in the group too. (Heifer is a female that has not had any calves yet). We really only need one Steer that somehow got himself mixed into this group. But we had to move the whole group to make it easier to catch him. We’ll let this group go back where they were, except for one bull that seems to be limping on one knee and we’ll have a look at him more closely. That guy in the background is yours truly, chief manure hauler and dirty work do-er.
After letting those animals leave we bring up the other group of steers we’ve been keeping separate in their own group for over a year. From this group, we’ll take a few that are ready. Diane makes the determination who goes next to the processor. We bring them all into the working area to be weighed.
There’s 3 that seem to be ready. We keep them and let the rest go back. Now for a few days we’ll try to keep them quietly penned up with plenty of water and green grass before we take them to the processor.
With the work it’s time to relax.

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Does Organic Mean The Cow Eats (or even sees) Grass?

I’m a believer in most of the concepts behind organics but only to the extent that something labeled “certified organic” means it is actually better for you than something that is nonorganic. Of course, anytime there are specific rules put in place that define what “organic” is, then what you get is companies that figure out how to maneuver around those rules. That is apparently what has taken place with some organic dairies. Most people who shop for organic milk expect that milk comes from cows that graze on grass and are not confined all day. Well, technically, dairy cows can be fed grain in confinement and qualify under what you might call a “loophole” in the law. According to this article in the Chicago Tribune, now congress is acting maybe to pass more rules . As you know, it’s only a matter of time before, people who care to, will figure out how to get around these latest rules too. The key probably is to know your producer. Be able to visit their place and see how your food is raised. Don’t put too much trust in a specific label.

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The Circle of Life

Diane surveys the scene yesterday morning (she’s going to love this picture). It was a nice day to be on an early morning walk. There’s babies being born everywhere. It’s a little out of pattern for us that we’re not having a baby ourselves this year since our youngest is now over 2 years old (but I digress!). But evidence of the circle of life is all around. It’s wonderful seeing new life emerge in the spring.

These are a couple of recently born Hereford calves. We have all registered Hereford mama cows and a few registered Hereford Bulls. That combination makes these cute Hereford calves. We also have 5 registered Black Angus bulls. Cross those bulls with these Hereford mama cows and you get what we call Black Baldies. Like what you see below.

Goats are being born right now too. Baby goats are cute and fun to watch since they’re so energetic and fun loving.

This new baby goat is only a few days old and is already climbing all around the rocks while the nanny looks on. In the background, here come the miniature donkeys for a look. This little goat is nearly 100% South African Boer Goat. Here’s Noah holding it.

There are certainly anxious moments. We had a pygmy goat that got pregnant by a male boer goat and that could have been disastrous. We kept a close eye on here since she seemed to be getting so big. We took her to the vet early on and he said she should be ok. Well, when it came down to it, Diane just couldn’t see how that little goat was going to deliver this new kid goat that she could tell upon examination with a latex glove (yes, you read that right) was simply too big to make it. So she hauled the mama goat to the vet who performed a Cesarean section and delivered not one goat but two! And they survived and so did the mama. And here’s a picture of them just arrived back at the ranch from the vet.

And goats are notorious for not surviving anything. It seems like the least little thing will get a goat sick and the next thing you know it’s dead. So for these two twins to survive and for the mama goat to survive the operation, we’re amazed. Maybe these pygmy goats are stronger than boer goats?

This is the mama pygmy goat and here two twins.

Ranch life has its sweet moments as we witness life reborn. But there are some bitter days also. We had a beautiful foal born about 3 weeks ago of a Thoroughbred and sired by a well known Quarterhorse and it was coal black and leggy and a beautiful mover, everything you look for.

Well, notice the past tense. It was in the stall with it’s mother and a cat jumped up into the window startling the mother who then stepped on her baby and broke the baby’s leg. To make a long sad story short, the baby had to be put down. You take every precaution and then something like this happens.

Life moves on.

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Feeding Hay

The grass is greening up around here but not fast enough. We’ve had a week or so of relatively cold weather and the cows are really enjoying lots of good hay right now. The kids don’t enjoy this job the most, but it must be done and they get the satisfaction of seeing how appreciative the cows are. This is Russell unwrapping a nice fresh bale of hay a couple of days ago.

Noah came along to supervise from high atop the tractor.

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Planting Trees

We had resolved earlier in the year to plant some fruit trees this year. We ordered them from a nursery in Atlanta, GA. They were shipped here all wrapped up very tightly with some gelatinous substance coating the roots and on the appointed Saturday, we got the extended family together and planted them. Now we just hope they take root in this rocky soil. We added some potting soil to mix so as not to try to defy nature by casting our seeds on stony ground.

Aunt Jamie and nephew Jordan planting one of ten new peach trees. We also planted 10 pecan trees, 10 pear trees and 10 apple trees. All of these are supposedly going to bear fruit this year. Some of the family are skeptical that these twigs that we planted will produce this year, we shall see. Thankfully the trees are guaranteed by the nursery for a year. That day it rained all day and was about 55 degrees. But we got it all done.

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