Bouncing bounding beautiful Bella. Our little Jersey calf is thriving and, almost  two weeks old, every moment of every day is an adventure. Bran the Border Collie has a new partner in crime as collie and calf play catch and chase between the sprouting raspberry canes and through the still sleeping grape vines. In the turkey pen, Tom the turkey is still unsure of the curious calf as she places her dewy black muzzle up against the wire. His snood turning from placid pink to furious red and brilliant blue, he loudly warns Bella that he is ready to defend his harem should the calf venture any closer. Tux the big black rooster angrily scratches the ground, his collar feathers fluffed up and his beady little eyes fixed on the inquisitive Bella who calmly appears not to comprehend that his angry warning signs had already gone from green through amber and were now firmly on “ no closer” red.  Easily guzzling ten quarts of creamy frothy milk a day, half a gallon in less than two minutes, it is difficult to recall our earlier anxieties when we weren’t sure the shivering little bundle of skin and bone was going to survive.

I had a few moments with Misty moo her lovely gentle mom yesterday as Greg was milking her. In between the pulsating surge of the milking machine, Misty put her beautiful face up against mine, her big brown eyes so close….her big wet nose against my cheek. It would have been a perfect moment… BUT have you ever felt the bristles on a cows nose ?!!!

Little Shrimp the orphan lamb is still a little shrimp. Each day the tiny lamb goes out into the pasture with her larger siblings and each evening we have to catch her to give her a bottle. Shrimp may be tiny but that little lady manages to give us a whole lot of trouble.

Smoky and Bacon the two little piglets are loving life on the ranch. To be a little more precise, I think it would be a little (lot) more honest to say…those little ladies are loving their food ! Progress has been made in persuading them that we aren’t going to eat them ( yet !) and I have managed ( at serious risk of losing my fingers at least…or my whole hand at worst !) to hand feed those voracious little piglets. Kevin and Greg were building muscles on Friday, busily building the new pig residence which will be grandly known as “Pigville”. Kevin is having the weekend for some well earned rest and relaxation after his week on the ranch and we thank him for all his support through a very busy week.

Jaden our young grandson returned to the city on Thursday after a three day visit to the Ranch. It is always fun to have the grandchildren and we look forward to more visits…soon.

Got to get this entry posted. Take care, keep safe, M
 
 
So, Greg claims that he relented, capitulated under pressure from the (various) girl teams, resigned himself to our two new ranch residents…but I knew that, once Misty Moo’s milky bar opened, common sense would prevail. Misty Moo is SUCH a happy contented cow, and happy contented cows produce rich creamy frothy milk in abundance, little Smokey and her little brown sister Bacon ( sad, but I have a deep suspicion that Greg is trying to ensure that I will always remember that our two little piggies remain on the freezer invoice )  are more than happy to suck up the surplus. On Monday the two plump (oh no,..not me too !)  little piglets were selected from the litter and with an inordinate amount of squealing and squirming, handed to WWOOFER Kevin and young Grandson Jaden. Happily, although neither little plump balls with funny snouts and not too curly tails pooped on the boys,Smokey and Bacon were clearly not impressed at the prospect of leaving home. With Kevin and Jaden in attendance they have quickly settled into their luxurious new accommodation in a little piggy heartbeat. Clearly, leaving home hasn’t affected their appetites and they are happily and very noisily slurping up everything put in front of them. Something tells me that they aren’t going to be cute for too long !

Our chickens have become escape artists. Over the past weeks I have observed some curious activity in the chicken pen, our feathered friends have become excavators and are industriously digging their way to freedom (or China !). Sadly, freedom around here typically translates into Coyote snack or eagle lunch and escapees are strongly discouraged. We have reinforced the pen, we have put down logs and bricks, we have blocked up holes and barricaded escape routes but still they broke out. Kevin was introduced to the fine art of chicken catching before he had even woke up on Monday morning….he was very quickly wide awake !! Thanks Kevin.  I had the opportunity to say “told you so” ….and after Greg had to round up yet another intrepid White Leghorn, the boy team were set on a mission to return the chicken enclosure to something akin to San Quentin !   The “ladies” were clearly unimpressed at the re modelling and we will hopefully have no further breakouts.

Grandson Jaden, spending his Spring Break here on the ranch has been busily employed feeding Shrimp the orphan lamb, Bella the adorable Jersey calf and the two little piglets. In the morning our hard working young grandson uncomplainingly joins Kevin our very hard working WWOOFER in the sheep and cow pens, and happily helped his granddad and Kevin in the garden before the rain returned late yesterday afternoon.

Having three hard working men around the ranch sent me to the kitchen…nothing keeps a smile on the faces of the boy team like an overflowing cookie tin !

Time to go, the cuckoo clock has spoken ! Take care, keep safe, M
 
 
I’m possibly going to destroy Greg’s self esteem and shatter his ego….you have NEVER been kissed ‘till a tiny Jersey calf turns her deep brown eyes to look at you and gently rub her dewy wet nose coated in bubbly milk froth across your face. Ahhhhh bliss. Sorry Greg ! Little Bella’s first hours were anxious, we feared for the tiny struggling life and fought all day to restore warmth into her crumpled body. Somehow her long slender legs had got twisted which prevented her standing and her weakness suppressed her natural instinct to suck. Misty Moo had left the shelter of her warm dry barn to give birth to Bella out in the icy field and her little calf was frozen to the bone. It was a tough day but watching Bella at play in the barnyard under the warmth of the Spring sunshine it is difficult to remember just how weak she had been just a short week ago. Bella TERRORIZES the other farm residents, Tiger and Shy keep a careful distance from the bouncing bounding gambolling calf. Tiger the ginger tabby cat did make an effort to introduce himself, tail up straight and on stiff legs he was clearly not too sure about the newest ranch member and was ready to beat a very hasty retreat if necessary. It was !! Bella bounced and landed on the spot the startled cat had just vacated. Shy his ginger and white sibling had remained a safe distance from the stranger and both he and Tiger quickly melted into the relative safety of the barn shadows until Bella was safely removed. As the sun set and all the horses were safely back from the pastures Bella prowled the barn, she investigated the tractor with eyes wide, she checked out my roses, chewed on my raspberries and bounded up the hay pile. Out in the orchard she bounced in the tall Spring grass and nibbled on the dandelions. Momentarily exhausted she flopped down to observe the garden activities in my strawberry bed before resuming her adventure. Busily combing Lady, the big Shire Mare’s long thick tail we suddenly had an unscheduled visitor to the stall, Bella the curious little Jersey calf wandered through the open door. Undaunted by the size of the occupant of the stall Bella confidently introduced herself to the less than confident mare and proceeded to walk under Lady’s tummy. All a little too much, too fast for Lady and little Bella was quickly evicted to a safer environment where she would hopefully be unable to cause chaos and mayhem under horses hooves. Hopefully !!!

Today we pick up our new venture, two little piglets…..I feel more fun and games on the horizon !!

Time to go, it’s going to be a lovely Spring day, take care, keep safe, M
 
 
Not quite sure if I’m ecstatic or miserable !!! This morning there was only one dewy wet nose to wish me good morning, ( no, not Greg’s ) only one set of little feet tapping across the kitchen floor (again, not Greg’s) and no little and large breakfast bottles topped by big rubber teats sitting on the breakfast bar….um…certainly not Greg’s ! My kitchen floor is no longer littered with shreds of Alf alpha and stray straw and I don’t have to negotiate the king size dog house that was bed for little shrimp after lights out. Shrimp the tiny lamb that took occupation of my kitchen would have preferred the king sized plush Costco dog bed but I think that sharing his people AND his bed with the mini despot was getting old for Bran the Border Collie. Yesterday as I wiped the sleep from my eyes…four sets of eyes were watching…and waiting. Bran wasn’t going to forfeit his breakfast dog biscuit treat and he sure wasn’t going to share it. Little shrimp in her baggy diaper was ready and Bella the Jersey calf warm and snug in her garage pen was expectantly drooling. Yes…I said four sets of eyes, Greg, supplemented by a strong coffee, with eggs waiting to be washed and taxes still to be done, surrounded by bottles diapers and animals was waiting for some relief in the farm breakfast service. So, the fact that I can sit at my laptop without a lamb in a diaper perched on my knee and no shards of straw stuck between my toes is goodness. The fact that beautiful Bella the Jersey calf is well enough to take her rightful place in a stall in the barn is a miracle and the fact that Greg and I can have all this goodness and share it is a blessing…..but it is SO good to have my kitchen back !!!

We were fortunate over the past week to have young Kevin, our current WWOOFER volunteer assisting with the ranch activities and have to thank him for hours sitting with the lifeless newborn calf, for his kindness and compassion when things didn’t go as planned and his fortitude and sense of humour when Shrimp designated his leg as a potty. Kevin has been there to help with the poop scooping, cut wood, build the beginning structures for the pig pen, fix and erect fencing, nurse our new borns, assist with milking Misty Moo our beautiful Jersey cow and generally been a great right hand man for Greg all around our busy ranch.

Yesterday Bella took her first walk in the grass, she sneezed as she inhaled a dandelion, she bucked and gamboled in the Spring sunshine and she investigated everything with her beautiful brown eyes. Bella introduced herself to Charm the golden palomino, she made herself known to the two barn cats who, it has to be said were less than impressed by the new attention grabber. It was after all dinner time !

Life is good, we know just how lucky we are as we look around the ranch, the grass is green, the leaves are just peeping through and blossom decks the branches. Time to go, another busy day ahead of us. Take care, keep safe, M
 
 
It's a good morning. Bella is alert and gaining strength. Yesterday was not the case to begin with. Bella was born at 0630 just at daybreak. Of course it was cold and frosty. When else to drop a calf out in the field. As our custom in rearing our calves, Greg swooped her up and off to the brood pen with a warm light. Alas, that was not enough to break the cold she experience in the pool of fluid she was dropped in by mom Misty as Bella made her entrance into the cold weather leaving the warm secure tummy of her mom. She suffered a moderate case of hypothermia and was needing quick attention. Instead of the usual heat lamp in the brood pen. It was off to the barn kitchen with a HOT fire in the stove. We were cooking and Bella was shivering. Her internal systems were beginning to shut down. More warmth in the form of hair dryer heat pumped under the blanket and many dry towels to clean her off. We started feeding little amounts of precious colostrum we were able draw from Misty. As time and effort progressed, the shivering subsided and body temperature was almost up to normal. We helped her get up and take more milk from the bottle. Each hour showed more progress. All our experience in dealing with a hypothermic animal was being tried as well as phone calls to other farm friends and veterinarians. Well as you can see Bella has pulled through the night and is much stronger. Yeahhh!! such a lovely calf. Today has started off as a much brighter day. Makes all the effort worth it. Thanks Kevin and all our friends. 
Quick note on Shrimp, the orphan lamb. Still coming up to the house at night and being just a terror for Bran. Both were curious about Bella, the new addition to the house kitchen extension of the barn. Nightmare!!  Oh well, the floor is being replaced with tile anyway. Is there a diaper (nappy) big enough for Bella??? Nooo...
Well its daylight and time to start today's adventure. What is new down at the barns? We'll let you know later. Take care, stay safe. G (M will be back when there is f
 
 
NO !!! nothing !! not even a sign….Misty Moo is still just Misty Moo, very fat, very affectionate and very pregnant. Constant cow butt surveys haven’t induced her, Misty just enjoys the attention and the back pocket goodies “oh..you want to check my butt again….honey/apple horse treat please”. A variety of worst case scenario…and even worse case scenario situations plaguing my tortured mind were intensified during a conversation in the rain yesterday ( yes, it is still raining…a LOT !!). Heidi a nurse checking on our nursery status ( that isn’t !) happened to mention MERCONIUM and that about sent me over the proverbial edge. Maybe today …..?

Poor Molly the blonde ewe didn’t make it, making little Shrimp an official orphan. Little Shrimp may be shrimp size but that little lady has a set of lungs and a baaaaa that could be responsible for the Californian earthquakes. Last night as the sun set and the rain continued to fall the tiny lamb’s new life began. Shrimp’s new home is a dog house and lamb and dog house were loaded into the truck bed with a bedraggled wet Bran the Border Collie. My newly half remodelled kitchen has again become an extension of the sheep barn and my sleep is interrupted by a bawling hungry lamb. Shrimp has designated the clearly bewildered dog her new mom and with no where to escape, Bran wanders the kitchen followed by a little lamb in a baggy newborn’s diaper. When it all gets a little too much, Bran retires to his king size Costco dog bed, nose into the corner determined to ignore the bothersome Shrimp but clearly the lamb hasn’t yet discovered body language and promptly bounces into his man space. It shouldn’t happen to a dog !

Kevin is taking a well earned day off, all week he has seen the best and the worst of life on the ranch, he has had sunshine ( a little) and rain ( a lot !!) he has seen birth and death and he has lived a life that only a rancher can experience. Thank you Kevin, sleep well, you deserve it !
Enjoy the photos !!
Take care, keep safe, M
 
 
Misty Moo is still holding out ! Clearly our very pregnant and now several days overdue Jersey cow is in no hurry to become a mom. It seems that most of our days are being spent peering anxiously at her nether regions. We are quickly becoming world experts at the topography of a cows butt…. watching and waiting for even one slight indication that the calf is on it’s way. Misty welcomes the company, she enthusiastically accepts all treats, happily accepts our visits and quizzically watches our all too frequent scrutinizing of the swollen area under her tail. Her udder is engorged….we are SO ready !! We have taken advice from those that know…apparently our little cup cake just needs a little more time in the oven. At this rate, cup cake is going to burn! ! Greg has a dentist appointment today I guess Sod’s law says that if Junior is going to arrive any time soon….it will certainly…positively… categorically be when Greg has his mouth full of dental putty !

Molly the Soay ewe without a milky bar appears to have responded to Greg and Kevin’s diligent ministrations or maybe she overheard the rather unsavoury discussion concerning her value as Sunday dinner. Sadly…or fortunately for the blonde ewe, Molly has barely enough covering to make a miniscule shepherds pie and even more fortunately, little Shrimp her lamb takes comfort from her inadequate mom. Kevin became a REAL farmer whilst bottle feeding the tiny lamb….Shrimp pooped on his leg. I guess they say you aren’t a rider till you have fallen off a horse, every farmer is bound at some time to feel the smelly, sticky warmth of excrement. Kevin now ensures that Shrimp’s butt is well padded with a well placed towel !

The rain has been falling …again. During some breaks in the heavy dark cloud cover Greg and Kevin have been erecting a fence. During the rain storms the boy team have been busily transforming a log into lumber and Kevin has been introduced to Greg’s arsenal of boy’s toys. Misty has been much on our minds but life on the ranch must continue.

Time to go, take care keep safe and dry, M
 
 
I hardly know where to begin….Spring has sprung, the leaves are “leafing” ( editors prerogative….?) and the buds are budding. The grass is growing as we watch and Mr. And Mrs. Canada Goose have returned to the ranch to do what they clearly do best.  MJ Fox 13 meteorologist  enthused about the rising temperatures…today was the warmest day of the year….but tomorrow and the rest of the week are  going to be consistently wet adding inches of rainfall to our already record monthly total. Future Pacific NW residents will undoubtedly evolve with fins and gills !

The warm Spring sunshine brought out a very unfamiliar desire to work in the garden ( am I ill ??) and, having relocated the various gardening tools that I had apparently unsuccessfully tried to lose last Fall,  I meandered through the thriving weed garden that had typically survived the ravages of Doris the matriarch Black Tail doe and her extended ….( and extended some more) relatives whilst my corn, lettuce, grapes raspberries etc….provided their breakfast / evening / night time smorgasbord. My raised strawberry beds weren't merely in distress, the decimated plants were needing life support and I was the one for the job. (sadly !!)

It may have been noticed that no mention has been made of Misty Moo our lovely VERY pregnant Jersey cow….that’s because our lovely pregnant Jersey cow is still just that, VERY VERY pregnant and overdue. Curious readers may wonder how we can be so certain, my response is definitive (and not very romantic ). Misty Moo didn’t wander off into the pasture with a handsome Jersey bull, Wayne the man arrived at 12.30pm. with a semen straw and the deed was done the calendar doesn't lie and yesterday was THE day. Greg and I spent the night sleepwalking through the barn waiting for the patter of tiny hooves which never came. Greg has just done the 5am check and the signs are there that a mini Misty is on her way ( just a LITTLE excited !!!)

We would like to introduce Baby Doll and Momma Bear our new arrivals on the ranch ( The woolly lady with the black face with a white spot is as yet nameless and awaiting inspiration) . Looking more like a bunch of Sasquatch than sheep they were introduced to our horrified Katahdin ladies and their  startled lambs. Bernie the new yearling ram weighing about 160 Lbs joined Rodney the ram in the celibate man cave. It has to be mentioned, Rodney the ageing ram was less than impressed by the young upstart and courageously ( stupidly !) promptly challenged his existence. Happily the new comers have settled in to life at the ranch and by evening feed time, three big woolly butts were munching alongside their much smaller barn friends. Collecting the ewes and ram wasn’t without event ( is anything ever ?). Greg, WWOOFER Kevin and I were instrumental in getting them into the stock trailer which they clearly were determined not to do. Whilst Kevin pushed and Greg pulled one by one they were “persuaded” . Sadly (for me) the third big woolly ewe, with me stubbornly (stupidly) hanging on, elected to fly through the air like a cannon ball. Even more sadly for me…I didn’t fly….I HURT !

Kevin our young volunteer has become poppa to a tiny Soay lamb. Mom, Molly the blonde ewe is sadly willing but with a milky bar that never opened little “Shrimp” was struggling to survive and clearly human intervention is becoming inevitable. There is a very good chance that my farm kitchen will once again become an extension of the sheep barn….so much for my kitchen remodeling !All around the barn and pastures young Kevin is becoming familiar with the life of a farmer. Early mornings, late meals, inclement weather, birth and death are all an integral part of our life and our newest WWOOFER volunteer is happy to be part of it all. Thank you for your willingness to learn and your Enthusiasm to partake of any and all the ranch activities.

Time to go, take care, keep safe.  M
 
 
Sadly Daniel and Alicia returned to reality...city life and school yesterday. We had a lovely week with our young niece and nephew from Albuquerque and look forward to their next visit (s) ( I have a VERY strong suspicion that they will be back ) Thanks for all your help, you will be missed.

Whilst Alicia and Daniel were preparing to leave, our most recent WWOOFER volunteer arrived at the ranch. We are happy to welcome Kevin who will be here for perhaps our busiest season and is (thankfully) anxious and eager to learn and (even more thankfully) happy to get down and dirty ! Kevin's stay here will coincide with the imminent birth of our long awaited Jersey calf which will mean milking and bottle feeding will be added to our busy daily schedule. In the ranch vegetable gardens the soil needs turning, seeds need sowing and weeds need pulling. In the orchards, Spring has almost sprung.... the blossom is ready to pop, the leaves are starting to show and busy bees are already hard at work. Spring means work in the garden, work in the orchards and work in the fields, Lunch will be later...dinner will be still later and bed will be heaven !  

Kevin had a busy first day, having hit the ground running, he learnt to drive the old green tractor and...having mastered the art of working the creaking bucket was soon out in Lulu's Field helping Greg move fallen trees. Working in tandem the tractors carried the logs back to the ranch ready for milling. By default ( the original jockey took fright as she realized just how BIG lumpy Lady is !!) Kevin got to ride. Fortunately our novice WWOOFER and non rider had little or no time to get anxious and before he had time to say "no" he was astride the big Shire mare and heading out of the barnyard on the end of a reassuring leadline. Kevin's first ride was a success, Lady had no tantrums, the sun shone and Kevin was smiling as he trotted unaided back through the ranch gates. Well done Kevin !    

   Molly the old Soay ewe didn't look long for this world, we had long ago decided that the ageing sheep wasn't going to lamb this year and her future was dim but Molly had a surprise for the ranch team as the sun set last night ( yes....dinner was in the stove and we were late ! AGAIN). Molly the blonde soay had a little mini Molly at her feet and she was busily cleaning it up ready for her introduction to the sheep family.

Time to post this entry...the cuckoo clock has spoken. Take care, keep safe, M
 
 
The weather has over the past few days been less than perfect, the clouds have been heavy and grey the rain almost consistent but around the ranch the sun has been shining in the smiles of our newest house guests!  Alicia and Daniel our nephew and niece from sunny New Mexico are with us until Friday and are clearly determined to fit a lifetime of experiences into their short seven day visit. Together the siblings have validated that a brother and sister really can work and play together and still remain friends......not that we really work around here ...? Cow poop, sheep poop and off with the creaking wheelbarrow to all the pooopy delights of Rodney's cave before getting down to the real fun stuff. Daniel has demonstrated that he can move as fast as streak lightening.....in the chicken pen and in the cookie tin. I believe I have baked cookies for some of the most voracious cookie monsters in the USA but Daniel is unequaled in his cookie munching capacity. In the chicken pen, the young White Leghorn pullets were being relocated, our crazy little road runners have graduated from the nursery to the big girl's pen but those girls were not going to be evicted without giving the Sikora team a workout.....and they did!  Typically, Mother Nature didn't co operate with the relocation party, muddy puddles and slimy chicken poop weren't the ideal conditions for a chicken roundup but, with an over excited Bran the Border Collie supervising the operation all the indignant white pullets were introduced to Tux the rooster and his aged harem. Tux apparently thinks all his Christmas's have come at once, the older ladies were less than impressed by the new arrivals with the top heavy bright red combs but peace has once again descended on the chicken roost after a few minor squabbles and a considerable amount of squawking and feather flying. Alicia and Daniel have, with Uncle Greg been repairing fencing in the lower pasture....in the rain and  constructing a calf pen for Misty's long awaited and eagerly anticipated calf in the barn. Both have been here before and friendship's have been re kindled with Lady, Quest and palomino Charm, Misty has made two new friends and Daisy Mae has more back scratchers. Chance and Alice always available to accept a carrot morsel have had to compete with the cute and cuddly lamb brat pack for attention and Bran is enjoying two more subjects to share his home and ranch with.
Time constraints as usual have curtailed my brain dump but I don't want to close this entry without welcoming our new GREAT nephew born in Holland to Nadine and Coen, a grandson for sister Trish. Congratulations and best wishes to the new little family. A visit from son Matt and our grandsons Brennon and Cameron must also be mentioned....it was great to see both boys astride Lady the big Shire and heading off up the trail with proud granddad Greg. It has been a fun week. Time to go...Take care, keep safe and dry, M