Look what a CSA member made – yummy

I have been asking folks how make something yummy to send me a photo and/or a recipe to share.  Jeana came through with this tasty looking (and I assume tasty tasting) Moroccan dish made from our pasture raised chicken.

This what she had to say about the dish, “Enjoying the Barbarosa Ranchers “thighs” in a Moroccan dish that was recommended by one of our favorite wineries. Served with wild rice and a wonderful bottle of Zinfandel from Amador County. Buon Appetite!!!”

If we are nice, we might get Jeana to share the recipe for this.


You thought sharks had feeding frenzies?

Here is a quick little video showing our pigs in the middle of the morning feeding frenzy. They certainly love their organic hog feed and whole grains. You will also see a surprising appearance by an extra large pig that goes “moo.” You will just have to watch to find out who it is.

Creek Watch: Day 5 – The aftermath

This little video is essentially a shot of the storm aftermath. The creek went up quick and down quick. Luckily, this time there wasn’t much damage or erosion. But you can see how the creek has changed by the sediment deposits and some scouring along the creek bank.

Creek Watch: Day 3

Ok, so this is the most dramatic video so far. It has rain over 3″ since last video and we are over 7″ total since Sunday and the creek is ripping along now. It is still only in the 85% full range, which full enough for me. Anything beyond this stage and we start to see real erosion damage. We are getting a break in the rain for the next 3-4 days so hopefully that give the creek time to recede before the next big storms hit.

Creek Watch: Day 2

24 hours later, 2″ more of rain, and another video of the creek. Watch the rise and fall of our creek.

Video of the Creek

That’s right-video. I have figured out how to take my Droid movies and upload them to Youtube and then embed them here on my blog. Gotta love technology and a rainstorm to give you time to figure it all out.

Yesterday I wrote about prepping for the storm, so today I thought I would show you what the creek looks like during a storm. This is just day 1 of the storm, so it isn’t raging just yet, but when it does I will post another video.

Singing and Dancing in the Rain

Ok, so maybe I am doing that in a metaphorical sense, not physical. There is no way that I could compare with Gene Kelly in either movement or musicality.  But in spirit, I am just as joyous as he was at that moment. This mildly wet fall and dry winter have been a weight on my mind. There is nothing I can do about the rain and worrying is counterproductive, so I try to adopt a laissez-faire attitude, a “what will be will be” outlook, but so much of what we do at the ranch depends on rain; rain for the range so we have forage, rain for our aquifer so that all life may have something to drink next summer, and rain to fill our reservoir for summer pasture. And without rain, there is nothing, nothing that we can do, no wells to pump out of, no hidden bank account to buy in feed. So try as I might not to worry, as the months go on without a commensurate increase in rain totals, I fret. But no more! The heavens above have opened up and are dumping water, the life blood of ranching, upon us. Joy, o joy. It is wet and windy out there, and that is just fine by me.

This is not an unexpected turn of events. The weathermen have been talking about this storm for days now. I have heard reports comparing it to ’97 and its floods and another said that this storm is going to dump 16″ of rain over the next 14 days. If even half of these predictions are true, then this is going to be a major storm. Luckily, for us modern folks, we have warning about these major storms and can prepare for them. If we had been living 50 years ago, the last few days would have convinced us that there was never going to be a rainstorm ever again. It was sunny and warm with not a hint of a major storm coming.

When big storms are in the offing or even if we have normal winter weather, we have a number of tasks that we need to do to get ready. The last few years of low low rain fall have gotten us out of the habitat, but we had enough warning to get all of the hatches battened down in time. Tasks that we hustled to get done before the weather hit were:

  • Refresh waterbars on the ranch roads: We have miles of dirt roads on the ranch to get around and where the truck tires wear away the grass is a prime spot for erosion to start, especially on the hilly portions. In order to stop erosion and preserve our roads in driving condition, we put in water bars. So every fall I grab a shovel, and walk our roads, all 6 miles of them and place water bars where necessary. I haven’t counted how many I put in because the number would depress me (maybe on the order of 50), but I enjoy smooth roads and clear runoff so the effort is worth it.  Plus as a bonus to finding the link above about waterbars, I also found a link to a permanent water bar that won’t impede traffic. So maybe next year, I won’t have to slog my way around the ranch, shovel in hand.
  • Moved sheep to HQ side of creek: When it rains like this, we won’t be able to get across Red Bank for a couple of weeks, which is much too long to leave the sheep untended and guard dogs unfed. Normally, moving the sheep across the creek is no big deal, maybe a 1/2 hour of time total. But this time it was a little more complicated. Last September, the rams got out. At the time, I thought “oh they only had time to breed a handful of ewes.”  Well, I say that about 20% of my ewes have lambs at foot right now, with more coming. So much for a handful. Storms tend to bring pregnancies to term, so I had about 15 ewes with super young lambs that could barely walk to get across the creek. It isn’t that hard to do, but it requires patience. In the field, moving towards the creek, you must move the ewe gently enough that she can coax her lambs along.  Once the creek, you have to select a crossing that is as narrow as possible. The ewe will hop right across but that lamb, whose walk is still uncoordinated, can’t even begin to leap. And this is where the tricky part comes in, you, the shepherd, have to grab the lamb and get it across the creek to the ewe. Sounds simple, but several factors work against you. One, sheep don’t look up – when you pick up the lamb, after knee height she doesn’t know you have her lamb. She is liable to run back to where she last had it, leaving you with a lamb and no mama. Solution, hold the lamb about shin height. Two – twins, catching two little lambs is tough to do. You can one across easy enough, but the second is hard to catch and/or the ewe comes back across the creek with the first lamb and you have to start all over again. Solution, move quickly and surely. Grab them both if you can. Three – you better hope that there are no other sheep close by as the cries of the lamb causes mass confusion and consternation among the whole flock. Trying to mother up a ewe and lamb when there are 10 ewes and 20 lambs around isn’t easy for you or the new mama. Solution – mostly just luck. Well, I got it all done so now I can watch the flock and feed the guard dogs.
  • Firewood: All of this year’s firewood trees (we only use downed trees) are on the wrong side of the creek. Due to the mostly warm winter and an old broken down chainsaw, we hadn’t stocked up on wood. But the old saw finally gave up the ghost and we bought a new one. Oh, the joy of a new saw with a sharp blade. Cutting wood is like cutting butter with a hot knife.  So multiple truckloads of firewood later, and we should be good for the storm, but still not done for the winter.
  • Refresh drain ditches in fields: We have one field by the house that is just barely higher than the lower part of the compound. If we don’t have a diversion ditch, some of our outbuildings get flooded. But that threat is only realized during high flow events, which this one appears to be. So we had to get the ol’ Ford 9N running after sitting for several months and plow in the diversion. After a new battery, siphoning some gas from a town car, and it started right up.  So far the ditch is working like a champ.
  • Take up water gaps: Red Bank Creek in the summer is about 6″ deep but during a winter rain storm can be 6′ deep. You can’t leave anything in the creek and expect in to be there after the storm. So we  try to pull fences and water pipes out of the creek before the high flows. This year, we got there ahead of the storm, some years we don’t.
  • Flipping boats over at lake: Part of what Big Bluff Ranch (which is my families ranch and where Barbarosa Ranchers rents its pasture from) is to rent out our lake for fishing in the more temperate months. But if you leave the boats right side up, they fill with rain and its a bear of a job to bail them out. So we flip them over. We hadn’t had to do that yet this year, so again we got there ahead of the storm.

All in all, we prepped more for this storm that any I can remember in recent years. So far it seems like our prep hasn’t scared away the rain. So let it rain all it wants, we are ready for it.