Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pony Fun

Those of you who've seen my Facebook photos this past week know I've spent it with my 6-year-old niece, Vivi and my sweet pony, Peanut. It's been a week I've dreamt of since before children actually. I kind of wanted to skip the whole parenthood thing and go straight to being a grandmother. Yes, my mom did explain how things work but still, one can fantasize a bit.

Vivi, being a bit older than my grandchildren allowed me to jump-start the dream, bless her dear heart. She's animal mad, fearless in a really good way, a great sport and doesn't mind getting dirty. And she really wanted to learn about horses.

So, as part of her repatriation to America (she's spent all her previous years in Asia where my brother worked for Nike) and to give her the chance to really get acquainted with Peanut, I invited her to the ranch for Cowgirl Camp.

We started off with a shopping expedition to our favorite Redmond store, Big R. It's the go-to store for local ranchers if you want clothes, hardware, camping stuff, animal food or ammo. We got clothes...

New threads and giggling at Uncle Goddy 

First morning in the new boots and jeans, heading down to the ranch

Leading Peanut down to the grooming area. Not many 6yr olds can manage to get a hungry pony past green grass. Vivi did.

All ready for the first lesson

By the second lesson, this is how the pair of them looked. Pretty nice!

We did horsey stuff in the morning and other activities, such as eating ice cream and doing crafts, in the afternoon.

The catchphrase for the week was, "Cowgirl Up," and you know, I didn't have to say it very much at all. There were a few times when she got tired or hot or cold or flibbety when she heard it, and I even had it said to me one time.

Cowgirling up with the manure rake

After a couple of days of lessons in the arena, Vivi was ready to hit the trail, so we explored the forest behind the ranch. The ever faithful Trail Max went along, happy to be allowed to blaze the path ahead of us.

Counting tree rings

Max and Murphy did their part, tolerant dogs that they are. Sweet giggles erupted from the bedroom in the morning when Murphy would jump up on the bed to wake Vivi. Max gave a little growl when he needed time to himself and Vivi respected that. I was quite impressed with that. I think this kid has a future with animals.

I've always suspected that for me, the best years with the grandkids (and Vivi) would be post-baby/toddler. It was the same with our boys - I managed to get them out of nappies,  and kept them fed, hydrated and clean(ish). People would tell me, "These baby years will go by so fast and you can never get them back," and I would silently cheer.  I couldn't wait to get to the fun part, such as flying kites, treasure hunts and hikes.

This week with Vivi, the fun part was watching her create with Duplo,

playing Dog-Opoly in the evening,

laughing at her crazy antics in the chair we named Pepper Ann,

and of course, times with Peanut.

See you at camp next year, Vivi!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Beefy Things

We're getting to the beef processing time of year. Its when we select and weigh the beeves that are finished and ready for the next phase.

Cultural side note...apparently "beeve" is the accepted term for a grass finished steer or heifer here in the US, according to The Stockman Grass Farmer publication. (I'm happy about that because a dear friend and customer wanted to call them beeves before we realized it was ok.) In New Zealand we refered to this class of livestock as "cattle beasts" or "the beasties." We're getting better at calling them beeves, and it does have sort of an of-the-land ring to it.

Anyway, after weighing, the customer is invoiced and then about a week later the processing begins. Don't worry, I won't show photos of that, mainly because I get faint at the sight of blood and so any photos would be of the sky as I'm lying on the ground recovering.

Every year at calving I wonder how these personable little creatures...

 can possibly grow up to be somewhat personality-neutral, beef producing converters of sunlight and chlorophyll...

 But they do as they head into their second summer.  After those winter coats are shed, the muscle definition (read steaks, roasts and burgers) really shows up. The endearing calf curiosity that had them racing around in groups during the previous summer is replaced by the cycle of head-down-and-eat-then-chew-cud-then-stand up-and-begin-all-over-again.

These are cattle with a purpose for their lives. They aren't named or fawned over but we sure do admire their ability to provide. It's a privilege to work in tandem with the natural cycles of life. And when someone asks, to be able to say, "Beef, it's what's for dinner®."

Here's what happens on weighing day...

The cattle come into the yards where we have the scales set up.

Guess which of these tools I use when working with the beeves (hint: it doesn't have any white on it.)

Here's the weigh platform. It's very accurate. Personally, when testing scales by standing on them I prefer them to weigh light.

The read-out. Bless the person who perfected electronic, battery operated scales.

#18, weighing in at 1238 pounds.

Oops. Forgot to shut the gate.