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Home on the Range

Jul. 7, 2013 11:24 am 
Updated: Jul. 17, 2013 2:28 pm

Record heat. Thomas the turkey squats in the shade panting, his wings held away from his body and his feathers poofed forward to allow airflow. SushiMoo hides in the shade of Emma’s tent with the laying hens and guineas and the sheep and EmmaLou are nowhere to be found. They have likely found a suitable spot somewhere in the big pasture, where there is still cool water running thru the ditches and tall wet grass that will help to cool them.

The ‘polar bears’ come in the house where it’s cool. They work hard all night and deserve a comfortable place to sleep and regroup before heading out again tonight. I have to just assume the sheep will be safe from predators in this oppressive heat. Nothing seems to want to move much.

We use the hose to water down all the shady spots around the chicken pen so they can be a little bit cooler. The garden has been getting soaked heavily at night to try and cope with the high temperatures, but still wilts. It has an unquenchable thirst so I use what strength I have to fill a wheelbarrow with straw from Sushi's tent and carefully spread it as a mulch to keep the soil cooler and the moisture in. It’s gonna be  rough week on everything. The snow on the Steens is almost gone and it’s barely July. It normally lasts all year. At least, along with the heat, come the blooms of summer. Sunflower, cosmos, petunia, marigold, hollyhock and zinnias. The roses are so heavy the canes bow nearly to the ground from the weight of them. A yellow trumpet vine scampers over the wall, it's blooms inviting the rare hummingbird to partake of its presence. Honeysuckle hugs the archway into the garden with gorgeous salmoney-red blooms beckoning to me. The weeds have been making a stand as well. They have been winning the battles this year, but I have yet to give up on the war.

It is nearly time to process the meatie chickens. They are getting heavy and won’t live much longer on their own. I worry about the heat affecting them, but so far they seem to be content under the raspberry bushes where it remains wet most of the day from the nighttime watering. They are still running around and happy though so I will give them a bit longer. The day will come when they aren’t so enthusiastic with life and then it will be time to process them.

We headed to town for my doctor visit and ran a couple errands. The last trip we dropped off "Upchuck" the steer at the butcher. While I am being treated, Randy drove to pick him up. It was 110 degrees! He purchased some dry ice and packed over 600 lb of frozen beef into the coolers. We got home at midnight and the Maremmas are so happy they can’t stand it. We were gone only 18 hours and they acted as if they were sure they’d never see us again. We do this every few months. It’s nice to be loved. I pack away the meat and hand off the dog bones to the boys, who run out back and happily gnaw away while babysitting the sheep.

A thunderstorm moves in late at night and there is a loud thump at the door. I sleepily get up to open it and Cletapotamus charges into the house. Thunder is not his thing. Neither are gunshots. Poor guy, there is a lot of both on this ranch. He settles in and we go back to sleep, regrouping for tomorrow. There is much to do. Boredom is not a word that is employed here. I have house cleaning, cooking, baking, soapmaking, sewing, gardening, and the animals to take care of. There is no time or space for boredom. 

Today I picked two quarts each of strawberries and raspberries. Pavlova for dessert. Steaks on the grill, corn on the cob heating up. It’s a meal fit for a king and Upchuck clearly is serving his purpose well. It’s comforting to know our animals live happy lives and when the end comes, it is as quick, painless and humane as possible, instead of suffering lingering illness and agony, or worse, attack by predators. Living in chronic pain myself, I can appreciate both their end and their purpose. People often question how we can eat meat we raised ourselves. If they could see how their own food lived and died they’d understand. They wouldn’t support commercially raised meat or methods anymore. It's almost enough to make you lose your appetite.

I take a round out of the cheesecave. It is a very sharp cheddar. A bit on the dry side but I think it will be excellent melted in a dish such as homemade mac and cheese or a sauce. The flavor is good. Finally, the hard cheeses are starting to turn out well...just in time for the cow to go dry. At least next summer I can produce what we need again, God willing that I should still be functional.

Good days are hit and miss. There is much I want to do. I have lots of special visitors coming this summer and hope to make everything ready and welcome, easier said than done these days. With no milking to do, it leaves more time, but not more resources. Nonetheless, I trust it will get done in time, even if just. I raise a cup and toast my newest list. Accomplishment is sweet on the tongue. Grace and good days are ahead, may we all cherish them.
Jul. 7, 2013 12:51 pm
Wonderful as always petey. I could almost see the colors of the flowers, and taste your supper. Your right no time for boredom here either, always something to do. Have a great day and enjoy your Birthday.
Jul. 7, 2013 12:53 pm
I so enjoy reading about your life Petey! You seem to know how to reach for the good all around you in spite of the relentless pain that accompanies you daily. Yesterday, we put a fresh bail of straw in the chicken yard and wet it down. My hens went nuts! The quickly scrated themselves little coved nesting spots and spent most of the day just fluffing and dusting. It has cooled down here in the valley, but this week it will ramp back up again. Hoping you enjoy your "special visitors!"
Jul. 7, 2013 1:25 pm
Stay cool, when the heat gets oppressive it's so hard on both man and beast. Growing up on the farm we keep the misters and fans running for both the cattle and pigs. If the heat got too long we would even shear the sheep to help cool them off. The chickens we would turn them outside to let them find shade where ever they could. And the dairy barn was a miserable place to be when milking time came around in the evenings. When the heat and humidity really got bad we would bring them in to the barn in smaller groups so they cows would not get so overheated, but it was miserable on us humans. Us kids couldn't wait until we were done with all the chores so we could run down to the river and jump in to cool off ourselves.
Jul. 7, 2013 1:32 pm
Manella is right, you always paint a perfect picture with your words. I love reading your adventures both good and bad. Somehow your random thoughts gather together to amuse and inspire us. The heat is horrible hear too. We did get about 3 minutes of rain today. Not enough to do much good for the garden but enough to cool the house just a little. I will take what we can get. I love that you always keep going the best you can to get the job done. Thanks for sharing as always Petey.
Jul. 7, 2013 1:51 pm
Bless you guys! Our heat is not as bad as elsewhere but we are spoiled with good weather most summers and the animals weren't prepared for it. It went from quite cold to really hot with no transition. Those are great tips Elaine, thanks!
Jul. 7, 2013 2:02 pm
You folks out west have been weathering some hot dry heat. We, in the southeast, are being rained upon! This year, we have come close to setting all time records for a cool start in July. My rosemary is doing well. All the mint is now in starter pots because it just refuses to grow. I'm hoping that by babying it, it might come around. Even if you don't have the time or energy to get ready for your visitors, I'm sure you will be a very welcoming hostess!
Jul. 7, 2013 3:00 pm
You must've felt like you were being microwaved in that heat. Glad to hear you're still fighting the fight with your weeds. Insistent, aren't they? Hug those dogs for me. Take good care of you Petey? Thanks for the great blog.
Jul. 7, 2013 3:57 pm
Thank you for another great blog.. it always seems to brighten my day. A visual blog without pictures, you are truly talented in your writing.
Jul. 8, 2013 7:08 am
Good morning, Petey, Happy to see a blog from you this morning. There's no mention of disabilitating pain, so I'm hoping this is a period of lesser discomfort. Certainly the fact you were picking strawberries, leads me to believe that. Missed your go along pics, you do such a great job with them. I've sent your site along to a friend, who if she could, I think would choose to be your next door neighbor - as would many of us. Stay well.
Jul. 8, 2013 7:51 am
Petey, I check every day for entries on here--I just love to read your writing! It reminds me of one of my favorite authors--Elizabeth Berg--have you ever read any of her books (like you have TIME to read?!) Thank you for this enjoyable break in the day! Hope it cools off real soon.
Jul. 8, 2013 8:45 am
Thanks guys, you are great. No real debilitating pain this week, sweetcook, though a good bit of weakness. We'll take what we can get though, right? There are worse things. suezoo, I have not heard of elizabeth berg, i will have to look her up! Thanks and all of you have a great week!
Jul. 9, 2013 12:17 pm
Our Sophie dog was a basket case last week with the thunder and the fireworks. Glad your pain has lessened.
Jul. 10, 2013 7:40 am
Petey take care of yourself just as you do for your animals.
Jul. 10, 2013 9:22 am
I don't miss having the noise of fireworks here. My Maremmas wouldn't deal well with it at all! Hope sophie is doin better, midwestchef @coloradocookie, thank you, I shall!
Jul. 17, 2013 2:28 pm
Hi petey. I have been off here for about a month. I have missed your post. It is July 17 now and we have had rain all week and temps not out of the 80s. So rare for this is part of Texas in July. We are embracing it because we know that next week will bring back 100 plus temps more than likely.I don't have any time for boredom either. Brought my husband home after being in the hospital and rehab for 4 months at the end of June. We have had one short stay back at the hospital for aspiration pneumonia since then. I also have the two great grandchildren that live with me ages 4 and 12. Then most of the summer I also have a 3rd she is 11.My husband is high maintenance and so are the children.I retired on June 18th, but have not slowed down long enough to realize it as yet. Maybe when school starts and all 3 of the children will be at school all day I can slow down a little bit. I am glad you are having some good days as far as the pain goes.
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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. forpeteysake.blogspot.com http://throughthedarkestvalleys.blogspot.com/
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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.
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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!
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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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