Weekend Accomplishments

I’ve just returned from a Quilting Weekend.  By popular demand I won’t go into detail about the fabrics, colors,  techniques, projects, new quilting friends, the wonderful menu or the meager amount of sleep I had.  Suffice to say I learned a lot, accomplished quite a bit and had a great time.  Lucky for you nephew Nick, no quilt pictures.  When I arrived back at the ranch, I found that Rick had made a lot of progress on the shed we (he) is building for the cattle.  

When last I saw it, our future cattle shed was a base of 4 x 6’s laying out in the field . . .

with walls framed on the ground and partially sheeted which Grizzly enjoyed sitting on.

Dodging rain showers and with the help of a neighbor and our friend John the builder, the base is squared and bolted together and the walls are standing and braced.

Nick the bull was very curious about the goings on in his pasture and came to investigate the possibility of the new structure as a scratching post.  I know he is young yet, but Nick is by far the most mellow bull I have been aquainted with.  He and the dogs are working on their relationship and he loves apple and oat treats.  Dusty the heifer is still a bit more wary, but she is getting more comfortable with us.  T Bone seems to know what is in store for him because he is the most aloof of the three.  I guess I can’t blame him.

The Battle of Marblemount

The civil war re-enactors were camped out here in our little town this weekend.  They come up every year to re-enact a battle of “The War Between the States.”  We knew what it was when we heard all the gunfire this year – last year we were thinking about calling 9-1-1 because it sounded like we were under attack.  The Yankees are all lined up before the first shot is fired.  


On the other side the rebels were very enthusiastic.

The participants camp out in tents in a field in the center of town.  The white canvas tents are very authentic reproductions of the ones used in the civil war era – no plastic or neoprene.  On Saturday night it rained hard for a couple of hours and I was wondering how waterproof those tents were.

They all used up lots of ammo – or blanks or whatever they shoot in those kind of guns.  The rebels had a cannon that was very loud; my ears were still ringing an hour later. 

As in any war, there were casualties.  As I watched the re-enactors laying there, I couldn’t help but think about the real life men and women who are even now fighting for our freedom and those who won’t get back up when the bugle sounds.


There were lots of tourists out to see the sights.  The pass above us over the Cascades opened this week so Hwy 20 is no longer a dead-end – at least for the summer.

Cattle at the Ranch

It is official, we finally have cattle on American Alps Ranch! 

 We made the “cattle drive” (very good Larry) with no trouble.  Picked up the rental trailer in Mount Vernon, drove down to Yelm and Lazy G Lowlines.  Glenn and Nancy loaded the three amigos – Dusty, Nick and T Bone, in the trailer with no trouble and we were back on the road heading north.  Rick and I both have vivid memories of livestock loading adventures with our 4-H animals for the fair, we were very happy that none of those escapades were repeated.  I particularly remember being in the back of a pickup driving down Ming Avenue (very busy street in Bakersfield) desperately hanging on to a lamb by it’s hind feet as it had already cleared the tailgate with it’s front feet and was trying to jump out into traffic.  I wonder if they still transport animals to the fair like that?  Anyway, back to the cattle. 

We arrived back at the ranch and backed up to our newly installed gate and opened the trailer door.  T Bone led the way and Nick and Dusty followed him right out. 

That was good too – it is sometimes as difficult to get the animals out of the trailer as it is to get them in.   The dogs were quite surprised to see big, new creatures invading their territory.  Grizzly in particular wanted to bark and chase them.   We put the dogs in the shed for a while to let the cattle have some quiet time to adjust.  Then we brought the dogs out on their leashes to make sure they didn’t chase the cattle.


Before too long though we convinced Grizzly and Molly that the critters were to be left alone.  The cattle really didn’t seem too concerned. 

They are: Dusty on the right with the lavender ear tag.  She is a bred heifer scheduled to deliver her first calf in early May.  Nick the young bull is in the middle with the yellow ear tag .  On the left with the orange ear tag is T Bone the steer who is destined to be. . . T Bone and Ribeye and New York, and hamburger. 

They enjoyed some local hay, and Nick checked out the scenery.   No, nephew Nick, we didn’t name him after you.  He was born on Christmas Day so his name is Nicholas of course. 


They explored their new surroundings and checked out our fence.   

They really settled in very nicely.  Grizzly kept watching them, but didn’t chase or bark.  Nick seemed as curious  about the dog as the dog was about him.


So the cattle have arrived safe and sound.  Now we just have to get a shelter built, and fence the lower pasture and . . .

The Last Post

Hooray!  At long last we have completed the fencing on our first pasture and none too soon as we are off to pick up our cattle tomorrow.  That is the good news!  The bad news is the pasture is a really small little area and we need to get to work fencing in the lower pasture which is much larger.  However, like Scarlett O’Hara – I’ll think about that another day.  Now we are celebrating this fencing being complete.  I was so excited about cementing in the last gate post I decided to decorate it with pebbles and rocks.  My version of pebble tech 🙂


I don’t believe the pebbles add to the structural integrity of the post but doesn’t it look nice?  The dogs have had a bit of an adjustment to the new fence.  They are used to roaming around wherever they want with nothing to get in their way, so this is very different for them. 

They are still really just big, playful puppies, so they soon worked out a way to use the fence as a game. 


Hopefully our new fence will keep the cattle inside – we will see.  We have been gathering our supplies for the cattle – some hay, a little sweetened grain for treats, a salt block, hopefully everything we need.  We are off tomorrow morning to pick up the trailer and then driving on down about three hours to pick up the cattle.  The route takes us right through downtown Seattle; we are hopeful you won’t hear about cattle on the loose there!   If all goes well, we should have them back here in the early evening before dark.  We will keep you posted – wish us luck!.

Lessons From a Barbed Wire Fence

Like most things in life I suppose, you take for granted that which you have seen but never actually done yourself.  I have seen, as I’m sure you have, many barbed wire fences marching across pastures.  I never really gave much thought to the effort and skill it took to get that fence standing there.  Since we bought cattle, Rick thought we needed fences to keep them inside.  I personally was an advocate of staking out the cattle on a picket like Laura did in the Little House on the Prairie books.  Rick convinced me that this method was impractical and I’m sure he was right.  But I still don’t like  building fences.  However, having now actively participated in creating one of those fences, I can tell you it is more complicated and difficult than you think.  While I am not an authority or expert on fencing (nor do I wish to be, by the way), I have learned a few things.

Lessons I Have Learned:

1.  Wear old, already ratty (preferably with holes) work clothes.

2.  Wear really good leather gloves.

3.  If you disregard #1 above,  the clothes you do wear will become your old, ratty, work clothes with holes.

4.  If you are over 40 and installing the fence, take at least half of an Aleve before you start work.

5.  If you have lots of fence to install, buy the big bottle of Aleve from Costco – you will need it.

6.  When installing fence posts and encountering rocks, it is sometimes easier to adjust the location of the post than the rocks.

7.  Start with the bottom wire first.

8.  Get and wear a tool belt of some kind.  No matter how dorky it looks you will have your tools with you rather than at the other end of the fence you just installed and have to walk all the way around.  I personally prefer the suspender kind of tool vest so my pants don’t fall down; however if you wear the standard type of belt that pulls your pants down you can entertain your fellow fence installers.  Fencing is hard work and they need a laugh.

9.  Rolls of barbed are a lot heavier than they look.  Spend the extra $10 and get the handle to carry it with; it cannot be “easily carried by one person” as the handle says but with two people you can both still walk the next day.

10.  If – no actually it is when you tear a hole in your waterproof rain pants on the barbed wire, duct tape seals it up pretty well.  Not much of a fashion statement, but fashion and barbed wire fencing are not really compatible anyway.

11.  If you have a choice, install the spa first and the fence second.  You will need to use the spa after working on the fence.

And finally, if you must install a barbed wire fence, it is best to do it in a beautiful, scenic location.  And we certainly do have that.

Hens, Eggs and Adventures

Our little flock of hens has been enjoying the mild winter and warmer spring weather.  We have the orchard fenced so they can “free range” to get all the fresh air and scratching they need but still be safe behind the fence.  We put up chicken wire around the daffodils or they would be enjoying those too.

We have been surprised at how much they love any kind of greens.  I always thought chickens only ate corn and scratched around, but greens are their favorite.  Grass, lettuce, spinach, bok choy, parsley, peas –  they eat it all.  We take the old produce from the local food bank and the girls love it.

We have fifteen hens and get about a dozen eggs a day.  They have kept up this average throughout the winter since we have a light on in the coop a few hours a day.  Every now and then we get an odd egg.  This one was tiny and looked like a little bird egg.

Though we only have two breeds of chickens, Austrolorps and Barred Rocks, we get eggs of a variety of colors and sizes.

The girls usually don’t seem to mind the rainy weather, we get a lot of that around here.  But these two took shelter under the bench to wait out the storm.  The Austrolorps are not as bold or brave as the Barred Rocks.

All of the chickens except one are very content to stay in the orchard.  It seems there is always one in every crowd who doesn’t conform and for us it is this Barred Rock.

We’ve named her Amelia because she likes to fly out into dangerous places.  Depending on your perspective she is either a bold adventurer exploring uncharted territory or a dumb cluck who’s going to get eaten by some critter since she is outside the fence.  Molly and Grizzly have been surprisingly tolerant of her aberrant behavior.

They know she is not supposed to be out wandering around but – so far – they have resisted the temptation to teach her a permanent lesson.

Amelia spends her nights safely closed up in the coop with the other hens.  In the morning, when Rick lets them out she is up and over the fence in no time.  She usually stays within sight of the other girls for a while, then goes off on her explorations.

Yesterday she made it all the way to the front yard where Grizzly was completely enamored with his fresh ham bone.

Amelia quite enjoyed annoying Grizzly and kept trying to peck at his bone.  Every time she got too close he moved away from her and went back to chewing on his bone.

After she pestered him for a while she wandered off to the back yard, but it was pretty funny to watch Grizzly protect his bone from a chicken.  Amelia flies back over the fence into the orchard with the other hens when it is convenient for her, but most evenings she prefers to wait on the shed porch to be let back in through the gate.

I don’t know how long we can expect Amelia to survive her adventures, but so far she seems none the worse for it and she is entertaining to watch.