Sunday, February 27, 2011

I can't and Mutton Mondays intro.

Today was supposed to be a day of banding, but I couldn't do it. It's my first I can't on the ranch and I feel like I've let myself down.

What is banding? Banding is a method used to dock (remove the tail of a lamb) and castrate a lamb. A band like the one pictured below is placed on the tail to dock a sheep and just above the lambs scrotum to castrate.
Photo from

J looked at me for help after he caught the first lamb and my eyes filled with tears. I couldn't do it. I know it's only painful for a little while and I know it needs to be done to maintain the health of the lamb, but I just couldn't do it. Most people tend to think cute, little, helpless and fluffy when they think of lambs and well, that is what made it through what I thought was the thick skin of this rancher's wife.

This led me to thinking. There are a lot of things that ranching entails, things that the average person may not know about. While there are the ever so important Ag issues there are terms you may have never heard, practices you didn't know existed, products that may be useful to you, struggles of being in the ranching industry you may not know about and the list goes on and on.

I am learning so much and I want to share with you a little more about the ranching life, more than just my experiences, I want you to know and understand more about ranching therefore Mutton Mondays is introduced! I will post tidbits of ranch life information whether it be facts about sheep, the latest news in agriculture, information on our practices - like banding and so much more. I'm quite excited to get the word out about agriculture as it is a vital part of our society. work up the courage to get back out there and help J band some tails.

If you have specific questions or comments please feel free to contact me by clicking on the Contact Me tab at the top! I'm no ranching expert (yet), but I will do my very best to answer any questions you might have. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Rancher's Wife

Waking up at 6:00 am on a Saturday.
A three hour car ride to the winter range.
Falling into sagebrush.
Lassoing and loading 20 pregnant sheep.
Three stomach feedings. 
Our first set of triplets. Seven babies total born today - our most yet!
Bottle feedings. 
Assisting with a birth.
I'm exhausted. Good night.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oh sh*! the sheep!

On my days off I like to pretend I know what I am doing and help J with the chores. This entails letting the Ewes and their babies out of the barn, letting the puppies out, feeding the Ewes, horses, and the rams.

Saturday I woke up way too early, dragged myself out of bed, put my muddy jeans on (because we don't wash our "work" clothes daily, or weekly for that matter) a jacket, some gloves and headed out.

To my surprise I was greeted by 3 rams. Um, excuse me but you boys are supposed to be penned up way out in the back. J told me not to worry - they must have found a hole in the fence and meandered up closer to the house. I start walking out to the back where the rams are supposed to be and I was starting to get worried. Each morning the rams meet J at the fence because they know they are going to be fed - they weren't there.

I yelled to J, who was still back near the house letting the Ewes out of their pen and giving them water, "I don't see them." Still, he wasn't worried. I keep walking, hoping they are still bedded down from the night before and nothing. I look back at the house and out on the road I see a large slow moving cloud. "Oh, sh*! the sheep are out on the road!"

J dropped the bucket of water, "Oh crap, they are!" At this point I'm frantic and running in circles not sure of what to do. "I'll run to the other side of the ranch and catch them on that end." J said, "I'm going to get the 4 wheeler. It's okay, you don't need to panic." Umm, okay.

So, I take off running for my life. Not really, but it felt like it. The whole time I'm thinking - wow, I need to do more cardio at the gym. Anyway, I get out on the road and J is already there on the 4 wheeler. So much for beating him to the rams and blocking them off.

The rams turned right around and found their way back to the house and up the driveway. It's as if they knew they had been bad. I've heard from fellow ranchers that right when you think you got it down something happens just to keep you on your toes - I'm starting to believe this is true!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Babies are here!

Houston, we are having babies!

We haven't lost any lambs since this post - thank goodness. We have about 11 lambs on the ground and four mama's still expecting! This is good practice for real lambing season in May when we expect to have hundreds!

Here is a picture of one of the lambs - isn't she beautiful?!

Oh and there are baby goats too! Can't forget the (very loud) baby goats.

Moving Camp

A few weeks ago I helped J move camp. Isn't as easy as it sounds especially when you actually help rather than watch which is what I've been known to do in the past.

We lease Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land for our winter range. The winters are milder there and we can move to different areas on our permit land every week or so to ensure new feed. Our herders are from Peru and are really good at what they do. They stay with the sheep in the sheep camp. They will doctor the sheep when needed, keep them in the right area so that our sheep don't mix with neighboring sheep bunches.

This morning we had to get out there before the sun comes out. If we wait until the snow melts everything is muddy and it's harder to move camp.

Our herder and sheep are already gone. They start to graze over to the new area early in the morning. We hook up the camp (using a ridiculously scary piece of equipment called a Farm Jack), load up all the wood, and anything else that is lying around and head on over to the new spot. Hooking and packing up camp takes about a good hour and a half.

We head over to the new camp which is about a 5 mile drive (but feels like 10 miles since we have to go about 10 miles per hour). We unload and I plow snow out of our way. We use the ridiculously scary piece of equipment again and I find myself closing my eyes. If it breaks and the sheep camp hitch falls to the ground and topples on J I sure as heck don't want to see it happen.

Right as we were taking the last salt block out of the bed of the truck we hear a bell. The sheep are here! We walk over and soon see the dogs Embre, Wito, Skip and Chili and here comes our herder.

We chit chat for a while and give the pups a treat. J and our herder talk about the next camp and when they will move. They have to take into consideration how much feed (or lack thereof) is here at this camp - that will determine how long the sheep can graze this area.

I can say the sheep are lookin healthy, our herder is in good spirits and the 4 dogs are happy! Things are good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

it's a lovely day.

Seven years ago I was living my life - working, living on my own I thought I had it all. Then I met my husband.

That is when I started loving my life and everything about it. I learned what it meant to love with all my heart and to give for the sake of giving.

Since I met J things just keep getting better. Through my husband I have met some awesome people and created everlasting friendships. 

I've also learned how to keep my long distance relationships alive because even though I don't see you everyday I love you with all of my heart and soul.
How lucky are we to live this life surrounded by friendship and love?! Valentine's Day is yes, a Hallmark holiday, but also a day to celebrate love. Today and everyday I am celebrating the love that makes me complete, the love that makes my life so wonderful and beautiful and real. THIS is what life is about - not the car you drive, the house you live in or how much you have in the bank. It's about the stuff you can't REALLY see...the things that fill your heart with joy.

Today I thank my husband, my family and my friends. Thank you for all the love and support you continually show us. You make my heart whole. Each and every one of you.

*it's nearly impossible to post pictures of everyone that I hold close to my heart - but that is a fabulous problem to have. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

tell me something I don't know.

In honor of Valentine's Day I thought I would tell you a bit about my husband since you don't know too much about him.

J is a lover, a steadfast friend, a peace keeper and a damn hard worker. He loves me (that says lots!), he loves his family and is one of the most loyal people you will know.

He's pretty awesome and here are a few reasons why...

Not only does he put up with me on a daily basis he owns two businesses that are running quite successfully.
He sets goals and conquers them even if it takes a few attempts to get it right.
He is patient. Oh, so.very.patient.
He cooks dinner when I am not up to it.
He makes my breakfast every morning.
He starts my car in the morning and in these freezing cold temps - that is love.
He sees the good and beauty in everyone and everything.
His cup is always half full.
He gives 110% into everything he does.

People tell me I'm a lucky girl, but I already knew thaat. :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

death happens.

The last few nights have been cold. I mean REALLY cold.
It got even colder than -11.

Unfortunately, ranches don't close due to the weather. Ranchers and farmers keep on working. The only thing that changes is how many layers of clothes they put on! The few Ewes that are on the ranch are pregnant. They aren't supposed to be pregnant but one anxious ram got in their pen and well, the rest is pretty obvious. They were brought back from the winter range (where most of our sheep are right now because the winters are milder there) to be watched in case they have trouble birthing. J checks on these Ewes every three hours throughout the night.
The dogs anxiously wait outside the barn door for the new additions.

Monday afternoon we had our first lamb! It was a girl. She is healthy and mama is doing good.

We had our first set of twins yesterday at about 1pm, both boys. She did well for her first year lambing, delivered both of them on her own and licked them clean just like she is supposed to.

One of the boys was considerably smaller than the other, wouldn't suck, and was very weak. J began bottle feeding him, but he would take that either.

J moved on to syringe feeding and that seemed to work. Throughout the night (every three hours to be exact) we went out and fed the twin via syringe. His last feeding at 3am was a good one, he was looking strong.

This morning we got up to feed again and sadly the little guy didn't make it. I've known death was bound to happen on the ranch it's quite obvious that it comes with the territory. Pop told me that from the very beginning, many times.  I knew I would have to deal with it eventually.

I will say that knowing it is bound to happen doesn't help when it actually does happens.

So there they first tears shed on the ranch. RIP little guy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The FarmWife Project - My first entry.

A few weeks ago I talked about The FarmWife Project and as promised here is my first entry! If you've been around here for a while this story will sound familiar. This was one of my first experiences on the ranch, no not the one where I got lost in the mountains, but when I trailed sheep down the highway. Oh, what a life!

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I heart Ewe.

In honor of Lamb Lovers Month I thought I would dedicate a blog post to lamb in the kitchen. Who knows maybe I'll get good at cooking lamb and make this a more regular thing. I wouldn't hold your breath.

Now don't be fooled, I wouldn't call myself a 'cook', but I have learned a few things about cooking lamb. Before I tried lamb I thought it to be a little frightening, but lamb really doesn't get the credit it deserves. Aside from tasting great lamb is quite nutritious.

I've heard two main reasons why people don't eat lamb. One reason is because lambs are just 'too cute to eat' or they simply don't know how to cook it.  In response to the first statement - it's no different than eating any other type of meat. Really, it isn't. In response to the second statement - I hope this post will encourage you to give it a go and try a recipe. It's really not rocket science.

My first lamb experience was at our town's festival. It was a few years back when J and I were just dating and I wanted to well, um, impress the in-laws so I went for it. It was a fellow sheep-rancher's lamb and it was a lambjita burrito. It was delicious! I assure you with a little knowledge you can have a great lamb experience too! 

First of all when you buy lamb I recommend buying American, all-natural, grass-fed, (if possible) pesticide-free, free range lamb. It's out there, trust me and I know this because our lamb and most Colorado lamb is all of these things. It'd be even better if you buy Colorado lamb since it is recognized for it's quality around the world.

Secondly, it's important to know that lamb needs to be cooked at a certain length of time and temperature dependent upon the cut of lamb you are cooking. A lamb cooking time guide I highly trust, use and recommend is on the American Lamb Board website, Lamb 101.

My first extravagant lamb recipe (and when I say extravagant I mean I used more than salt and pepper to flavor) was the Balsamic-Honey Glazed Lamb Chops posted by the American Lamb Board. If I can do it then you can do it ten times better! Trust me. 
So there are just a couple tips that I hope might encourage you to try a (Colorado) lamb recipe. Lamb is for lovers so eat up and be sure to tell me about it!