Updates from the ranch

In case you haven’t noticed, there has been a lot of silence on this blog since June. I had aspirations on making sure that updating this blog was going to be number 1 or 2 on my list of things to do, but the summer has made it pretty clear that the blog ranks below taking care of animals, selling meat, and sleeping. As you can imagine, a lot of things have changed over the last couple months of silence. Over the next week or so, I am going to catch you up on the doings and goings on.

Look forward to learning about:

  • How the turkeys are faring
  • Our new poultry processing facility
  • Millions and billions of pigs (well, it is only 40, but they are getting big!)
  • How our online/delivery partner The Foragers is growing.

But to get us started off on the recap, I decided to start with the goats. If you remember from my last video about the goats, they are from a nearby goat dairy. I got them at about 8 weeks of age and now they are about 20 weeks. You can see how fast they have been growing over the summer.

Open Ranch Weekend – You wish you had been here

Hay bale tour about to start

Here everyone is - all loaded up and ready for the adventure. You can see me up at the front of trailer, waving my arms (my constant pose for the weekend). It may look I am giving safety instructions about how to exit the trailer safely in the event of an emergency, but actually I am saying something profound - I am sure of it.

Over the weekend, we welcomed 40 folks out to the ranch for a weekend of fun and food.  It was a blast – you wish you had been here. One thing I am learning is that most folks who buy our meat are folks that I enjoy spending time with. I always knew this to be true with folks I meet at farmer’s markets, but those interactions are on neutral ground and only last minutes. This weekend, we had folks here at the ranch for days, and I realized that at the end of the weekend I liked them more than when they first showed up. No smelly fish here.

What did we do that was so fun? Well, not much but a lot. The whole idea of the weekend was to invite folks up to experience the ranch like we do. I didn’t have any major events planned or rigid schedules to adhere to. The only thing that I knew we were going to do was eat, check out the animals and take a quick little tour up to the lake.  Having such a low key schedule was the key to our successful weekend.

Upon arrival, I greeted folks and said, “ok here you are, that’s where the tents go, here is where the food goes, now go explore and don’t burn the ranch down.” And off they went. We had an expedition of boys exploring the creek, we had folks checking out the chicks in the brooder, visiting the field coops, and saying howdy the pigs. It was a bit like a covey of quail scattering, but like the quail, I knew that they would all coalesce once I fired up the hay bale ride.

Once the truck was fired up and people started to hear the rumor of “ranch tour,” they quickly came and got on the trailer. Since people had trickled in over a couple of hours, this was the first time everyone was gathered in one place and it was surprising how many folks actually showed up for this.  Off we went in the trailer, me a little tense hauling 35 folks on a strange trailer driving a borrowed truck and the folks excited by the adventure. It all went well, although the creek crossing was a little, how shall we say, narrow? Apart from a few paint scratches, we arrived at a piece of range land that I have always found fascinating.

I won’t  recreate the lecture now, but I used that piece of ground to highlight 4 important aspects of range management:

  1. The difference between annuals and perennials range plants
    1. Simply put: annuals mostly bad, perennials almost entirely good.
  2. How the timing of the “second bite” can have massive effects on the balance between annuals and perennials
    1. Simply put again: Make sure the plant looks like it hasn’t been grazed before you graze it again.
  3. How we use fencing to manage our grazing in such a manner to encourage native perennials
    1. Since we no longer have predators to move grazing animals around, we need fences
  4. Finally, how all of these management practices and philosophies are creating a vibrant and healthy range land.

After this “lecture,” which consisted of much arm waving and more passion than fact, we loaded back up and headed home for the BBQ.  I had set this up as a potluck BBQ. We provided the meat and everyone else provided the sides. Well, with so many people coming, we had food coming out of our ears. It was awesome. I can’t even begin to list the buffet that we had lined out. But I can say that by the time people had start to talk again (ever notice that when the food is good, no one talks?), there wasn’t much left.  Special thanks to my uncle, Mike, who came up from Oakland to run the grill for us. He masterfully managed to cook 12 spatchcocked chickens on three different charcoal grills at the same time. Truly impressive, but no pictures to prove it.

After dinner, it was bedtime. Not for humans, although I was quite prepared to crash, but rather for all our animals. Folks came with me as I did all of the evening chores. We feed the chicks in the brooder, we moved the field coop of older chickens, and finally feed the pigs. The pigs were a big hit. They have great personalities and it is fun to watch a hog pig out on dinner. I must send a shout out to Dimitri, who managed to test my electric fence for me. I have been way too chicken to touch it and find out how much it hurts. But Dima, with great fortitude (and let’s be honest here, ignorance), backed into the fence and went for a bit of a ride. After a couple of minutes of Russian curses, he informed me that the fence works just fine. Thanks, Dima – now I know.

Everyone hit the hay after that -an afternoon of listening to me will mellow out anyone. Actually, folks sent up tents on our lawn. Seeing 8 tents on our lawn is not my usual morning view. The next morning, people milled around in a very relaxed ranch-state of mind. I could tell that people really didn’t want to head back to city life. But that’s ok, they, and you, can come up anytime.

The best quote of the weekend was said by Lauren:  “We were  in a rush to get here (to the ranch), figuring that we were holding up the weekend’s schedule, but once I got here I realized that this was just a weekend at a friend’s house with a whole bunch of friends I didn’t know I had.”

That for me encapsulates everything we are doing here and everything we want to continue doing.

Ranchers geeky skills shown to be pseudo

April 12th 2010 – RED BLUFF CA

Tyler Dawley, CTO of Barbarosa Ranchers, had a little egg thrown on his face recently. He failed to correctly configure his email campaign to send out the RSS feed from his blog.  His intentions were sound; to provide his email subscribers with more timely and relevant information. Unfortunately, his vision outreached both his geeky skills as well as his patience. Rather than using the “configuring-testing-reconfiguring” method of skilled geeks, he utilized the “configure-figure it is close enough” methodology of pseudo geeks. This poor choice of methodologies lead to an unfortunate number of blank emails being sent out.

Mr Dawley said “I am prostrate with grief over this grievous error. I thought I was on top of the technology, but obviously this technology got the better of me.”

As a huge proponent of the joys of technology and how the cutting edge of technology can interface with the age-old industry of agriculture,  Mr Dawley hopes that his loyal customers will stay to tuned to his newsletter, (especially as he has fixed the error (or so he really really hopes)) and continue to enjoy his remarks about the ranch and life in general.

Do livestock and native flowers mix well?

Yes, they do.  Most of California’s native flowers evolved with grazing animals and they rely on animals to till, fertilize, and weed their seedbeds. With the introduction of non-native annuals and the reduction of grazing animals, our native flowers start to decrease in numbers. Confusing cause and effect, many people feel that livestock hurt the flower population. Here at the ranch, we show that the opposite is true. Grazing livestock help increase the flower population.

One of the rarer flowers around is the Adobe Lily (fritllaria pluriflora). Well, rare other places than on our ranch. Watch the video to see how many Adobe lily’s we grow.

A present that only a rancher would like

I will admit it, I am a bit of a grouchy when it comes to birthdays. I just don’t see the point in them, so you have lived 365 days, so what? The sun still comes up and the stuff still needs to get done. But every now and then, the whole celebrate one’s natal day thing turns out OK. This year was one such year. Yesterday, I got some Muckboots and that was just about as good as a present one can get. I immediately put them to good use (see below).

Nothing like feeding pigs in mud to test out a new pair of muck boots. These passed with flying colors.

I spy a … starts with B

So here I am, peacefully and productively processing my email this morning, and when I glanced out the window, guess what I saw? The picture tells all.

Bull on Lawn

Yep, that is one of our bulls. I guess he decided that he would help us out by mowing some of the lawn for us. Either that or he is on a hunt for the pig feed. I will foil any and all of his plots by returning him to the pasture where he belongs, the jerk.

Photo documentary of a sunny day

Yesterday, I posted this on Twitter, via @barbarosaranchers, “Just put on shorts for the first time in 2010. Going to go out and play aka work in the sun. see ya” I decided to take my Droid along, not because I love having a fancy-dancy smart phone near me at all times but because it has a decent camera and it is easier to carry that my other digital camera. I took pictures of various tasks all day yesterday. It was a glorious day and I hope the pictures share some of that glory with you.

Ahh, morning sun. Bodes well for the day

Red Alert! Sheep on the wrong side of the fence.

Sheep gathered by Mini and Oakley in the back, and lead by Buddy, the guard dog

Leading sheep down ranch road towards home.

Back on the path of righteousness. My dad was working on the weak part of the fence.

That was only two miles, Mini still has enough gas to outrun the truck. She is the black spot at the base of the oak tree.

Why the ranch is called "Big Bluff."

Heralding spring, the manzanita blooms

Just pure spring glory, even if it is Feb and we are going into another rain cycle.