And The Winner Is . . .

Before I announce the winner of the Family Pumpkin Carving Contest, I think we should cover an important point.  Who was the judge?

Mary Lou, shown here with Russell and Stanley the poodle, was the official judge for this contest.  Mother, mother – in- law, grandmother or grandmother – in- law to most of the contestants.

Judging is a subjective exercise – and each judge has his or her own criteria for making their decisions.  Judges are not supposed to be influenced by their own personal involvement with the contestants.  In this case though, I don’t think it hurt that one of the teams was made up of two of the judge’s recently married grandchildren and their respective newlywed spouses.  Just sayin.

As you may have guessed by now, the winning team was “The Newlyweds” made up of Amanda & Doug and Megan & Brandon – all married this summer.  The Grand Prize was a box of Dewar’s Chews which Megan is holding.  And the prize winning pumpkin?

The Flower Pumpkin!  Really?? The Flower Pumpkin???

Whoever heard of a pumpkin carved with a flower??  I believe the Newlywed team used blatent manipulation of the judge’s interest in flowers to win the contest.

Actually I know they did, because their team was right next to ours and I heard them saying “What does Grandma like?” when planning their pumpkin design.   They were going to try and add a hummingbird (another of Grandma’s interests) but decided it might be pretty difficult to carve into a pumpkin.  So, there you have it folks – The Flower Pumpkin.  And the moral of this story is . . . always know who your audience is, and it pays to know what the judge likes.

Pumpkin Carving

While we are in California we have enjoyed the opportunity to see family and friends.  The other evening the family was at Rod & Margaret’s house for dinner and had a pumpkin carving contest. 

We were divided into teams of four and had 30 minutes to design and carve our pumpkin. Much discussion and strategic planning went into the design and implementation of the various pumpkin carving themes.  There were also attempts at intimidation and boasts of “superior technique.”

Some teams chose the traditional Jack O’Lantern look while others opted for an “Appeal to the Judge” approach.

The teams were selected based on age.  This is the “Young Dating Team” obviously not the team I was on.

I must confess it has been a long time since I actually carved a pumpkin. It is just as gloppy and messy as I remember, but it was also fun.

 This is the pumpkin of the “Young Newlyweds” team – also not my team.  Notice the carefully designed sketch of the flower.

With the 30 minute time limit, you had to work fast and it wasn’t long until the designs started to take shape.

The completed pumpkins were displayed for judging.  Here is #1

Pumpkin #2

Pumpkin #3

Pumpkin #4

Before I announce the judge’s decision, which of the four is your favorite?

Winner to be announced in a couple of days.

The Journey So Far

Well folks, it’s been a long journey but at last we have our Grass Fed Beef website up and running – an exciting day at the ranch! The seeds of this adventure were sown long ago.  You can read more about Where It All Began here.  A little boy, a heifer named Georgeanna  . . . and we ended up here.

When we ditched our desk jobs and moved to “the middle of nowhere” as our daughter says, a little over three years ago we knew we had a challenge ahead of us.  No matter how much research and planning you do it seems the reality of a situation is different than you thought.  I don’t know if we fully realized what a long, hard process it would be to build a cattle ranch from scratch. But it has also been an incredible adventure and we are so thankful to have this opportunity. You don’t always have the chance to do what you want in a place that you love.  We have sometimes  – actually often – had sore backs, scrapes and bruises and we now have a whole new appreciation for the job of building fences, but we wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

You don’t make a successful transformation like this alone, and we have had a lot of help.  We have met some incredible people who have been so generous in sharing their expertise with us, and they have also become our friends.

Some of those people are cattlemen with years, and years of experience and immense knowledge of cattle and the beef cattle industry and they have been very welcoming to us new folks and our never-ending questions.  David and Karen from Muddy Creek Ranch  have probably forgotten more about cattle than most people will ever know.  We’ve spent days following them around their ranch and learned so much it made my head hurt.

We have also had the good fortune to work with our excellent web designer Julie Webb.  I must confess when we had the brilliant idea to offer our grass fed beef on a website I had absolutely no idea what building one entailed. It has been months in the making with interruptions for college graduation and two weddings, but together we have persevered.   A patient professional has been very generous in teaching and explaining things to us website rookies.  If you are in need of a website you need Julie.

Doesn’t our logo look great?  And you would be even more impressed if you saw the pitiful drawing of an idea I gave our graphic designer to work with.  We met Elena (and her husband Chris) Johnson of Anise Graphics  at a hotel breakfast bar in California where we had all taken refuge from a snowstorm at Christmas.  You never know where you will find a talented professional.

This website and grass fed beef sales is a huge milestone for us and our ranch, but we have so much more planned!  We are continuing to expand our herd – we have a trip to Montana to pick up new heifers planned for early November –  and really look forward to having all our own home-grown calves.  We would like to have a place for visitors here at the ranch and maybe offer tours on a sunny summer weekend. We’d love to offer tastings and education about the benefits of grass fed beef.  So many exciting possibilities! And of course, more fencing.

American Alps Ranch

So, if you’ve got a minute, we invite you to click on the link above and take a look around the new website and let us know what you think – we’d love to hear from you.


It has been a busy summer here.  In addition to the usual ranch happenings we have had our daughter’s college graduation in Texas, our nephew’s wedding in California and our daughter’s wedding in Texas.

In between those events some of our friends have come here for a visit.  I meant to blog about this at the time but in the midst of all the wedding preparations never got it done.  So, we now rewind to July and then farther back than that.

Our friends Karla and Larry, former owners of AAR, were here in July.  Their motor home is bigger than our house.  It is always nice to see them and they are the perfect guests.  Here Karla is watering our newly planted grass.  (And it is doing really well Karla, survived the hot spell and is spreading and filling in.)

Larry the electrical engineer wired a new light for us in our very messy shop.

I am happy to report we spent a rainy afternoon last week cleaning the shop and it looks much better now – honest.

Karla also cooks for us and the meals are delicious.  The shrimp were wonderful and salmon is my favorite.

While Larry and Karla were here we had a chance to return something to them that one of their friends lost in 1994.

For the rest of this story we must rewind further.  Last winter you may recall that we had some logging and clearing done to make way for new pastures.

Our dogs, Molly and Grizzly, thought it was great fun to dig around in the newly uncovered dirt.

Molly is the dog who loves to chew things.  One day I found her chewing on something that didn’t look like her usual stick, and it turned out to be a golf ball.  Where would she have found a golf ball?  Then I was walking in a newly cleared area and I found something peeking out of the dirt.  Can you see it?

Here it is closer.

Another golf ball!  Where did these things comes from?  And we found another.  How did three golf balls turn up here?

Then I remembered something Karla and Larry had told us.  Back in the 90’s they had a great group of friends who used to come up to AAR and spend weekends.  They helped Karla and Larry build the gazebo and had some great times here.  When they first had the land cleared, one of their friends had hit some golf balls out back.  Karla sent me some pictures.

Their friend Pat teeing up in 1994.

Here is what the area Pat hit into in 1994 looks like today.

It is now the east fence line of our new pasture.  So the golf balls Pat hit in 1994 showed up again in our newly cleared area in 2011 – seventeen years later.  All the balls we found were off to the left a bit.  I can never remember, is that a hook or a slice?

Karla and Larry were going to see their friend Pat soon after they left us, so we gave them the golf ball Molly found.

It was a little chewed up, Molly had “autographed” it for him.  It will be interesting to see if we find any more golf balls as we work up that ground next spring to prepare it for planting.