Food-The Real Thing - Home on the Range Blog at - 204144

Home on the Range

Food-The Real Thing 
Nov. 7, 2010 11:42 am 
Updated: Nov. 8, 2010 6:12 pm


I guess it is a matter of perspective.  Some people ask us,

“How do you do it? Being so far from “civilization” with no Walmart, no Lowe’s, no fast food?”

Living 5 hours from grocery shopping is, to me, a blessing. I remember living in the city, and swinging thru the local drive-thru for almost inedible fare, and going out on a regular basis for ‘heart-attack-on-a-plate” meals at restaurants because we were either too tired, or too stressed, or too late getting home from work to fix anything else.

I’ve never been suited to the city lifestyle, so it wasn’t a difficult adjustment when we came to work and live at the ranch, here in SE Oregon. There are 4 freezers and a walk-in refrigerator at the end of our house, which hold beef, venison and pork for the ranch crew.  We also have 2 freezers in our quarters, and 2 refrigerators. One small room is all pantry shelves and we buy staples in bulk, as everything is made from scratch. We work 7 days a week here, often long hours, but the stress levels are almost 0. It is a natural rhythm that goes on and there is more hilarity found in the things of life here than one could possibly imagine.

Being a ‘homebody’ who detests long drives, I have compromised with Randyman and we go to town 5 hours away and shop every 3 months, instead of every 6, which would be my choice. The only thing we run out of is lettuce, which cannot be stored more than a couple of weeks. Although, with a Vacuumsaver, Jarsealer and Large Mason jars, even that can be extended.

A small flock provides fresh large eggs with dark yolks that stand at attention and taste infinitely better than commercial eggs, which are usually 3 weeks old or so before they even hit the stores, and besides who couldn’t appreciate the little murmuring sounds of contented hens, and the crowing of a rooster at dawn? It’s music to my ears.

Our little Jersey cows give creamy, amazing milk. Fresh raw milk is much different than commercial pasteurized. I left a gallon in the fridge for 2 months as a science experiment and instead of rotting it just clabbered. Although pasteurization is a necessary evil for commercial milk, clean raw milk tends to become other products, long before rotting. I notice after 1 week of not drinking raw, that my pain levels rise. The natural cortisone in raw milk must provide enough to take the edge off.

Heavy cream skimmed off the top after 24 hours provides us with things like homemade ice cream, sour cream, and homemade butter that is so rich and dark yellow that even with its added food coloring, commercial butter looks pale alongside. Mozzarella, ricotta, feta, cheddars, and other cheeses can be made at home, although hard cheese production has been delayed here until next season. Yogurt is a staple, as it is easily made and is another good use of the extra milk we get, and the remainder is often ‘clabbered’ and made into cottage cheese, or fed to the chickens and pups, who consider it a delicacy. A little milk or cream is always put in the freezer for making homemade soap, which is a luxury I would never give up.

There is incredible satisfaction that comes from going out in the pasture and calling the milk cows in. They are spoiled and Dolly, with her little twisted face bearing a resemblance to Stallone, begs shamefully and EmmaLou, her newly bred heifer, bucks and plays and runs in circles more like a horse than a cow.

Milking time is not to be under appreciated. I’ll sit in the barn with the smell of fresh straw, rubbing her shoulder and leaning my forehead against her flank as she happily munches on her hay and grain while my surge-milker does the hard work for me. Lots of daydreaming, and expressions of thankfulness occur in this setting. As I am active with many other chores on the ranch, I don’t milk daily. We keep 2 orphan calves with her all the time, and they ‘relief’ milk for me, so its only necessary for me to milk her when we need it, or it is convenient. With 4000 head of beef cows on the ranch, there is no shortage of orphans here. I raised 26 of them on a bottle this year, as I only allow my cow to foster 2 at a time.

A milk cow is the most efficient and productive animal on the ranch. She not only provides us with an abundance of dairy products, but she also provides meat thru her calves, and outstanding fertilizer for my garden. She feeds nearly every critter on the place in one way or another, and does it by eating grass…a renewable resource. I am grateful and lucky to have a cow.

The calves provide a lot of entertainment, as well as exasperation.  They clamor for their bottles, often settling for a knee or an elbow while I fight my way thru the mob to the bottle hangers and return to the house covered with calf spit and hickeys.

The boss buys pigs every year at the fair, and has them cut and wrapped. We are fortunate that the butcher does a good job smoking the bacons and hams. Butchering used to be done on the ranch, and all the equipment necessary to doing it is still here, but it’s a specialized skill and time consuming, so we hire it out. Being the one who usually has to cut and wrap our own deer every year, I appreciate it. Randyman wants to raise some of his own pigs, as he is fond of them. I don’t mind, as long as I don’t have to go in with them.

The sheep and goats are social and even affectionate with me, as they are a very small herd and get lots of individual attention. The two Maremma guardian pups were bought for their protection from predators, but have brought a lot of laughter and affection to our summer as well. I now look forward to walking the perimeter of the 20-acre pasture behind our house (the smallest on the 250,000 acre ranch, most being 200-1500 acres in size) while my little “thundering herd” of goats, sheep, orphan calves and pups follow my every move. If there was any laughter stuck in me, it manages to bubble out somewhere along these walks. Nothing is worse than being laughter-constipated. It’s a proven fact, and I highly recommend the treatment. The bible says “laughter is like a medicine” and so it is.

Freezer space is at a premium, so vegetables are mostly canned, and bread is homemade, as is soup and broth. I am not an ‘organic’ or even a health fanatic, although I know we have reaped the benefits from eating real food, and the difference in flavor and quality have made a lifetime advocate out of me.

 There ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby!


Nov. 7, 2010 12:01 pm
Thank you for your blog. I found it interesting to say the least. I do not know if I would be able to do what you do everyday but there is a part of me who would love to try.
Nov. 7, 2010 12:08 pm
wow - great blog petey! sounds like a wonderful, but challenging life....i am envious...i bet it is so worth it. :-)
Nov. 7, 2010 12:18 pm
It sure is nice not having to drive home in traffic, and being able to cover 400 sq miles and still be 'home' is kinda cool! LOL
Nov. 7, 2010 1:41 pm
For a few days each week for a couple of years, I was able to participate in the lifestyle you portray. I always wondered how "the lady" was always able to feed "the hands" because I never saw her go anywhere. The meals were always top notch. And, (this is big!) if "the lady" felt you hadn't eaten enough the she was right in front of your face wanting to know why. The work was tough and demanding but the food was always an expression of appreciation.
Nov. 7, 2010 3:25 pm
you are an inspiration and a glimpse into a world that so very few ever get to experience. I sincerely hope you are looking into publishing your stories. Loved this blog, like I love all that you write about.
Mel K 
Nov. 7, 2010 3:43 pm
So much fun reading this!You have written it in a manner that brings it to life for those who have never had the experiences that you write about.
Nov. 7, 2010 4:57 pm
Thank you guys so much. Avon, I wouldn't know the first thing about how to go about publishing things or making it all flow. Mostly I just kinda let my brain spill out when there are too many thoughts to fit there! LOL
Nov. 7, 2010 5:14 pm
That was a wonderful blog Petey! Thanks for sharing!
Nov. 7, 2010 5:16 pm
This is a great blog, Petey!! Ricky husband still doesn't believe me when I tell him just how far y'all live from everything we all take for granted.....on a side note, I sure am gonna miss the ranch here when we leave. Still uncertain as to when that will be but ALL the cattle have been sold, so there is no more ranch, really. The boss lady is quitting the cattle business and leasing out her land.
Nov. 7, 2010 5:18 pm
Can we come stay with you??????
Nov. 7, 2010 6:15 pm
Oh what a bummer, cowgirl
Nov. 7, 2010 8:05 pm
Petey, you are living the LIFE you want to lead. You are old enough to know what you want and where you want to live. If you wanted to live on Pluto, Your Man would make sure you did! Who cares if people can not understand why you live in the boonies. That is your Right! You are HAPPY and at Peace with the way you live. We should all be That happy! I just have one little problem, do you eat the baby cows? Veal? Can't you let them grow up first? I'm sorry, I am such a wuss. Makes me want to cry. I know, grow up! Hard to believe I just turned 45! LOL Wonderful blog:) Thanks for sharing!
Nov. 8, 2010 3:21 am
Petey - you are so lucky to be living this life! I'd so love to be there, too! I know what you mean about how people must think you're crazy to live in the boonies. We live rural, on a dead-end country road, no other houses. My friends and co-workers think I'm nuts. It's all perspective - my grocery store is only 10 minutes away, as is "civilization". They'd go nuts about where you live. Awesome, thanks for sharing!
Nov. 8, 2010 4:01 am
Patty-no, we don't eat the veal. The calves get sold as long yearlings. Please don't ask me about the lambs.
Nov. 8, 2010 7:11 am
Petey, what a fantastic story of the life you have. I've been to the area where you live and I love it's rugged beauty. It is very obvious you life. And, while I love everything about you and your life, I'm a bonafide City Gal who only fantasizes occasionally about ranch life and all that goes with it. Great and wonderful read.
Nov. 8, 2010 9:53 am
if Hallmark cards could capture the love of a heifer hickey they could make a larger fortune-that says love right there. I personally will take a fence full of pigs over goats, both equally hard to corral but I prefer pigs:) Your life is what you made it and I know you enjoy it-long hard days and all. My oldest DS got his first deer of the season-did not feel like butchering it, I was very tired, but meat in the freezer is better than fed to the dogs because it hung too long
Nov. 8, 2010 10:21 am
Absolutely love your blogs, and when I got to the end and saw your little goat, I just smiled! Thanks!
Nov. 8, 2010 10:56 am
Petey,as always, when I see you have posted a blog, I rush to read it! Love the way you live and the way you share it with us who are not so lucky! I was raised on a farm though not so far from everything as you are. I loved the pigs, cows, sheep, goats and everything about them. My husband and I raised some pigs, goats and calves too. I was especially fond of the goats. They followed me around like puppy dogs. I milked them and we did not buy milk from the store for the longest time. "from scratch" food is always the very best!!!
Nov. 8, 2010 1:14 pm
Love, LOVE your blogs! I feel like I'm right there with you and your love and appreciation for the life you live is obvious. Always wanted to live the farm life but have not been so blessed. Keep your blogs coming and I will continue to live vicariously though them!
Nov. 8, 2010 1:22 pm
Thank you for this wonderful blog!
Nov. 8, 2010 2:01 pm
Thank you so much for sharing glimpses into your life. I'm a NYer but had an uncle who raised goats and sheep and I was involved with show horse farms for too many years to count. Your life is far more immersed in rural living than I can wrap my head around. I would love to live that way, but I would have to find somewhere warm to do it. OK, I'm a total wuss. And I want that goat!! What an adorable face.
Nov. 8, 2010 2:30 pm
your comments are much appreciated! Thank you for the encouragement!
Nov. 8, 2010 2:45 pm
Petey, the pictures of your animals make me laugh out loud on the inside and outside! I just love to see them!
sandra lee 
Nov. 8, 2010 2:46 pm
Your life sounds wonderful!!!!
Nov. 8, 2010 2:57 pm
My moms family were dairy farmers and lived deep in the country. I loved going there as a child, riding the tractors, pulling dinner from the garden with my Aunt Laura and rooting thru her HUGE pantry as well as the cold room. She had many freezers to store meat and some of the make ahead meals. The best times were during harvest season and the food prep never stopped. I wanted so badly to live there and often wonder how that life would be today.... thanks for giving me a glimpse to what might have been..... I am envious.... :) Lets not make any mention of the outhouse tho -OK?
Nov. 8, 2010 4:55 pm
Nov. 8, 2010 6:12 pm
Having been both a country and a city girl, I loved the glimpse into your real food lifestyle. I miss feeding the calves, running from the bull, slopping the hogs, picking cotton, and vegetables, wild blacberries(watch out for the rattlers), hunting and fishing with my dad and the uncles. I would love to just buy some land and a nice big cabin in the mountains somewhere and run away with the hubby and some animals! Thanks Petey! And boy, don't I know it's hard work you do. *just a note, Tupperware lettuce keepers are wonderful, they keep lettuce forever!
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About Me
Kids are raised, we are ranchhands on a 250,000 acre working cattle ranch 110 miles from the nearest small town, so we raise a lot of our own food, vegetables, fruits, milk,eggs and meat. Love riding and working cattle, but find myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen, and the garden.
My favorite things to cook
Having 2 Jersey cows as well as milk goats, playing with fresh milk is a hobby, making our own butter, yogurt, sour cream, cheeses, soap and all the other great stuff you can do with fresh raw milk.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Homemade from scratch...anything! All traditions are sort of gone by the wayside, as we live so far from family now
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Most things from this site, this has been the best thing the internet has had to offer!
My cooking tragedies
A layered Jello dessert...the middle layer never set, so it did the 'ooze-wiggle'...and...well..I liquified a couple of chickens on 2 different occasions, turning them into a black gel. Moral of that story is, don't start cooking then go clean barns!...and there was the time that my kids were helping me make Thanksgiving dinner and SOMEbody (who resembled my youngest son) forgot to put the sugar in the pie!!!
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