The Professionals

In spite of the snow and rain we have had a fencing crew here working for the past couple of weeks.  The construction guys here work through the weather that would shut everything down in Bakersfield.

The professional fencers have professional equipment which makes the job a lot easier than Rick and I and our meager hand tools.

Even with their equipment, they complained a lot about our rocks and how hard it was to dig the post holes.  I was thrilled to hear it!  Not that I want the fence guys to have difficulties you understand, but if the professionals had a hard time I feel vindicated – it was as hard a job as I remember.

The barbed wire fencing runs across the part of the front where the cattle are most likely to get on the road.

They also added fencing around the gate at the driveway so the bovines are contained behind the fence should they escape the pasture.  Which has happened – hopefully not again, but you never know.

There is a nice new gate along with the fence on the side road of the property – the other area for the cattle to get out to the road.  This might help with the trespassers too, wouldn’t that be nice?

Along the back property line there is now a firebreak between us and the Lion’s Club property and a fence.  Hopefully the cattle won’t be able to head north either.

Of course, on the last day of the project after the fence crew had worked through snow and rain and sleet, it was a beautiful dry day.  They did a good job and our little ranch and cattle are more secure.  And my very favorite part of the whole project?  I didn’t have to dig a single fence post hole!

The Rains Came Down

After the big snow came the rain.  It rained, and rained and rained.  And rained – you get the idea.  It rained so much that our rain gauge (which holds five and a half inches) overflowed twice.  Our ground is pretty rocky and drains well so we didn’t have any flooding issues.  Marjorie’s pasture is another matter.  We call this “Lake Marjorie.”

Luckily there are dry islands, including the one our cattle are on.  They are just visible on the far right in the back, and we – actually Rick, I was sick then, needed to get in to feed them.

Of course he could have parked in Marjorie’s driveway and walked in, but what would be the challenge in that?  So across the flooded field he drove.

I was not there to witness this trip, but I hear it was a very wild ride and a watery, muddy mess and from the looks of his truck I think that is an understatement.

Rick also want me to mention that of course he made it.

Back in the Saddle

Can’t you just hear that old cowboy song . . . I’m back in the saddle again.  Well anyway, we don’t have a saddle – or a horse – so that is really a euphemism for both of us finally getting over the nasty germ we picked up after Christmas.  It has been a long few weeks with neither of us feeling well at all.  As I’m sure you all know, life doesn’t stop just because you are not feeling great, so lots has been going on and I will try to get you caught up.

We had snow soon after we arrived back; enough on the ground to keep the cattle from being able to graze at all.  At this same time there was not a lot of sunshine to keep our solar-powered electric fence fully charged, and the cattle – one in particular – decided to explore outside the fence.

Was it the cattle we brought from the range in Montana who yearned to return to the freedom of the wide open spaces they remember?  No.  It was sweet little Daisy, born in our own pasture last May. Our very first calf.

 Sweet little Daisy has turned into a heifer with attitude.  I don’t know what the bovine term for a teenager is, but that is what she reminds me of.

It took us longer than it should to figure out how she kept getting out, and in the meantime she made the most of her opportunity.  She treated Marjorie’s yard as her own personal playground and helped herself to all the shrubs.  Bamboo was her favorite.

Luckily we had hay in the trailer and my SUV made it through the snow with no problem, so I was able to keep the little herd fed while Rick was sick.

And when Daisy got out – again – she went back into her pasture pretty easily with fresh hay as an enticement.

Of course, this was pretty much rewarding her bad behavior and it turns out that doesn’t work long term with cattle any better than with children.  So, Daisy earned herself a trip to the penitentiary.  Actually just a trip home to our barbed wire enclosed pasture.  She didn’t much appreciate it, and did her best to escape there too, but the barbed wire is pretty sturdy so she finally gave up.  At least she gave up trying to escape.  She still shows us her discontent vocally very often.  I believe the correct term for this would be “bellering”  because that is exactly what she sounds like.  And for such a small heifer she is quite loud.  Poor Mildred and Dolly – the other two heifers from Montana – are probably wondering what they did to deserve having to put up with Daisy.

When Rick felt just a little better, we got the trailer hooked up and maneuvered through the snowy slush as we moved all three of the young heifers back to our house.  Then we took the trailer still half-filled with hay back to Marjorie’s pasture.

The cattle weren’t the only ones who had issues in the snow.  The chickens didn’t care much for it either.

They don’t like to get their feet in the cold stuff so they stay perched on rocks in the orchard as much as possible.

Two of the dumb clucks stayed out there even after dark.  They wouldn’t walk in the snow to get back to the safety and warmth of the chicken coop.  I ended up having to carry them in.  I seriously contemplated leaving them out there to freeze or be critter bait, but then I remembered all the eggs they lay and decided to be generous.  I certainly do understand now why someone who is cowardly is called a “chicken.”  Brave, resourceful creatures they are not.

Did You Ever Wonder . . .

Why everything looks better covered in snow?  Everyday, ordinary objects seem to take on a pristine beauty when covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

I wonder what it is about some frozen ice crystals that changes the look of things?

What is it about a fresh coating of powdery snow that renders even a saggy orchard fence (which we are for sure going to get finished this next spring) an object of beauty?

I understand why objects that were attractive and appealing before look even better with a coat of fresh powder.

But a slash pile – really not such a beautiful sight.  Covered in snow though it takes on a whole new look.

Almost artistic looking.

A phenomenon I don’t understand . . . but I do appreciate!

Die Hards

I have a confession.  I am not much of a “brave the elements” outdoor person, not much at all.  I most enjoy a snowy day when watching it out the window while I read a good book by the cozy fire.  So you can imagine my amazement at the sight I found on the river on a recent snow day.  We got about eight inches of snow overnight and the snowplow was out trying to clear the roads.

The roadway on the  bridge was cleared of most of the snow.

As I looked down on the cold, snowy river I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Could that really be fisherman down there in the icy cold water?  Maybe their boat capsized?

No they have left their boat which seems to be all in one piece and upright, and they are standing in the icy cold water with a rain/snow mix falling and they are fishing!  And I bet they think this is fun.  There is not a fish in the sea – or river as they case may be – worth standing in icy water and blowing snow in my humble opinion.  At the risk of being accused of gender stereotypes, I must point out that I have never seen a woman do this.  There may be one somewhere, but I have never seen it here.  It is always the guys.    Unbelievable!  I am going back to my hot tea now by the fire.

Pick Up Sticks

As nephew Nick has so clearly illustrated (see his comment under previous post), there is a whole generation of people who have no concept of the classic game of pick up sticks.  This makes me wonder if they have ever heard of Lincoln Logs, Etch a Sketch, Light Bright and other memories of games from my youth.  Probably not.

So, for Nick and the rest of you youngsters, here is a primer on the classic game of pick up sticks.  However, before you can appreciate the game, you must understand the era.  It was played at a time when there were only three channels on TV, which was free by the way.  The TV itself was probably black and white – and you had to physically get up and go across the room to change the channel.  Remote controls were far in the future.

Sometimes the TV signal was a little fuzzy and then you had to go outside to adjust the antenna which was attached to the side of the house and stuck up over the roof – every house had one.  Someone watching the picture inside the house would holler at you to stop when you got the antenna just right and the picture cleared up.

No internet, cell phones, VCR’s, video games or PDA’s in existence, and only big corporations had computers which took up a whole room.  Children actually played games with other children – real live ones not virtual.  This was also a time when cash registers had buttons and the people operating them were required to total up an order with a pad and pencil using math skills and prices they had memorized.

These same humans then took payment in cash and counted back the change without the machine telling them how much.  Amazing but true.  It was a time when the good guys were good and the bad guys weren’t and you could easily tell the difference.

A time when your mother’s station wagon had fins but no seat belts and car seats had not been invented.  I clearly recall driving home from the hospital after my younger brother was born.  My grandmother held the new baby carefully in her arms as she sat in the front seat of the station wagon with no seatbelt.  Imagine doing that today!

A time when the rotary phone was mounted on the wall and the whole family shared one line – sometimes the whole neighborhood if you had a party line.  There was no caller ID, call waiting or answering machine and colors like this lovely avocado green – which was very fashionable by the way – cost extra.

Milk came in glass bottles then and tasted so much better than what we get now in the plastic stuff.

You put the empty bottles out on the porch the night before and the Larson’s milkman delivered more the next morning in time for your cereal before school.

Microwave ovens were not in use yet, and people actually cooked whole meals on the stove or in the oven.  If you went out to grab a burger, there were only two fast food places in town and someone had to get out of the car and walk inside to order, no drive-thru.  And, when I worked at McDonald’s in 1976 a cheeseburger cost 38 cents.

Coffee cost 50 cents and all you had to know when you ordered was “cream, sugar or black.”

Below is the definition of pick up sticks from Wikipedia.  Back then you used an encyclopedia which was an actual book (usually many volumes) – this required that you knew the alphabet in order to look something up.

Now that you have a feeling for the era, perhaps you will appreciate the game.

Pick Up Sticks:
Pick-up sticks (or pick-a-stick) is a game of physical and mental skill. A bundle of ‘sticks,’ approximately 6-8 inches long, are held in a loose bunch (see the picture) and released on a table top, falling in random disarray.

Each player, in turn, must remove a stick from the pile without disturbing the remaining ones. One root of the name “pick-up sticks” may be the line of a children’s nursery rhyme, “…five, six, pick-up sticks!”

As I write my blog on my computer using my satellite internet connection to instantly convey digital pictures and information to my friends and family scattered across the country I wonder, was that a better time?  Simpler definitely . . . better?  I’ll let you be the judge.  Those are some of my childhood memories, what do you remember?