Tuesday, January 31, 2012


We brought Smokey home to the ranch over two years ago, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never been bored a single day since. From day one, he’s captivated us with his irresistible cute-and-cuddliness, his unshakable self-confidence, and his irrepressible high spirits.

Smokey’s mission statement is simple: fun at all costs. Even if winter mouse hunting chills him to the bone; even if chasing birds may leave him perched precariously atop barns or trees; even if stalking spiders on the wall or ceiling knocks down valances or pictures; even if banging cupboard doors, knocking objects off counters, or racing around the house at midnight wakes up tired family; even if ambushing goats triggers them to butt him; even if hooking sleeping dogs with a claw makes them snap at him; even if assaulting people causes them to shout and beat him off with the nearest pillow—no matter! When merriment is the goal, the resulting mayhem is not a consideration. We don’t mind; we haven’t been this entertained since The Carol Burnett Show went off the air.

In contrast, I work too much and play too little. I’m not opposed to amusement, it’s just that there are things to do, goals to meet, projects to be accomplished—and so little time. Maybe I’ve always been like this because I remember Pete, my grandpa, quoting this proverb to me on several occasions when I was young: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Ah, well, perhaps I should have paid more attention; I fear I’ve become something of a fuddy-duddy. But wait! If one factors in the mischievous cat, playful goats, and crazy-faced heifers (not to mention my wisecracking Hubby), then surely I’m balanced out!

On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence. PSALM 100:1

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Crime in the Country

“Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.” –Hamlin Garland

I myself have sought relief from life’s stresses on many a trail, so I can relate to Mr. Garland in that respect. But if this gentleman had decided to permanently escape the dog-eat-dog city life and move to the country, he likely would have changed his mind about the coyote wails.

To country folk, the howls of a coyote family bring about as much pleasure as the wailing of ambulance or police sirens do to city dwellers. We country-ites who have (or live next to) small dogs, cats, chickens, goats, and lambs have little affection for our neighborhood Wile E. Coyote because the latter savors the taste of the former. (For the literary purposes of this post, younger readers who grew up deprived of Looney Tunes may need to Google Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.)

My neighbor, Susie, just lost a passel of her beautiful chickens to an unknown predator--it could have been Wile E. or a fox, coon, or free-roaming dog. Chickens can also be haute cuisine for our hawks, eagles, and mink, but the evidence suggested otherwise.

I was the first to come upon the carnage. I’ll spare you the gory details, but believe me, it was a sad and ugly sight that made me forget my New Year’s resolution to eliminate cuss words from my vocabulary. Perhaps I’ll suggest to Susie that she raise roadrunners instead of chickens.

“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance….” JOHN 10:10 (AMP)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Turdus migratorius

Decades ago—I won’t say how many—when my twin and I were born, our parents dubbed us Jennifer and Robin, respectively. I’m not sure why our folks named us what they did, but I’m thankful they didn’t adhere to the then-common practice of giving twins names that rhymed. We could have been Jennifer and Hennifer, or Jenny and Henny for short. So, under the circumstances, I’m very grateful to be Robin, even though my namesakes aren’t exactly the celebrities of the bird kingdom.

Robins aren’t as intelligent as jays, as colorful as goldfinches, as stately as doves, as articulate as meadowlarks, as beautiful as bluebirds, or even as cute as the humble house sparrow. Furthermore, robins are renowned for hopping around the yard like they’re on pogo sticks, yanking up worms (ick) and snatching up moths (shudder). Even their Latin name, Turdus migratorius, is totally lacking in sophistication. Maybe that’s why, eons ago when I was young, I didn’t really mind when my best friend’s dad always called me Bluebird.

Nevertheless, Hubby and I truly enjoy our robins. The winter robins hang out in the Russian olive trees, providing us with much-needed color and lively company besides. The olives keep them plump despite the frigid temperatures. In a few months, after the winter robins have headed north, our spring-early summer robins will return. The latter, a less-hardy but much noisier bunch, will entertain us as they bustle about their family-building business and whistle their happy tunes. The robin’s song, as transcribed by birders into English, sounds like, “Cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”

Regretfully, I sing more like a rusty gate than a robin, but it’s my heartfelt hope that my blog will spread a bit of cheer in this sometimes-dreary world!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crazy Faces

Thankfully, the snowstorm stayed in the Beartooths, so we had dry roads on which to haul the new heifers safely home. We’re keeping the Crazy-Faces in the corral until they settle in and make our acquaintance. They were pretty skittish until I fed them some oats; just like with a horse, the fastest way to a cow’s heart is through her stomach. The funny patterns on these heifers' faces make our straight Angus cows look terribly dignified, even stodgy. We're having fun trying to find names that fit each of the 13 comical faces! (I will post them as we go.)

I used to picture Father God sitting on the throne with His arms crossed and brows furrowed, somber and humorless. I offer the following photos as evidence to the contrary!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Heifer Shopping

When Hubby and I first bought this place, the irrigated ground had been planted in weedy, over-irrigated row crops, and the only improvements were run-down fences and a half-burned pumphouse. Consequently, we only brought the horses and a few pet Black Angus cows with us. The cropland is now in alfalfa and perennial grasses, the weeds are under control, and cross-fences for pasture rotation are in place. We also added the basic amenities: corrals, a barn, and a house. It’s time to rebuild our cow herd.

Since our old cows only blessed us with one heifer in three entire calf crops, and most of the old dears have gone on to cow heaven, we’ve been heifer shopping. Cattle prices have been sky high, due to high demand and short supply, so heifer acquisition is daunting to those of us who are, by nature and necessity, fiscally conservative! Naturally, we want a lot of bang for our buck: healthy, long-lived, fertile cows that live a long time, calve easily, take good care of their calves, and, most importantly, are gentle.

We like Black Angus cows for their winter hardiness, good milk production, dark skin pigmentation (their udders and eyes don’t sunburn), and superior carcass quality (aka great taste).  However, it’s not uncommon for a Black Angus mama to have grizzly-like over-protective tendencies after giving birth. For that matter, Angus bulls aren’t exactly known for their manners and decorum either. Hereford cows are great mothers but are much more gentle. When purebred Angus are crossed with purebred Herefords, nature quotes Chef Emeril Lagasse and exclaims, “Let’s kick it up a notch!” The heterozygous benefits of first-generation (F1), Angus-Hereford crossed females are proven: as a rule, they have increased longevity, higher fertility, greater health and feed efficiency, easier births, and good dispositions. They’re called “black baldies”, since the black body gene from the Angus is dominant over the red Hereford, but the white-faced gene of the Hereford is dominant over the black-faced Angus.

Long story short, we found a group of cute, healthy, well-bred, F1 black baldy heifers near Cody. Weather permitting, we’ll bring them home tomorrow—to live happily ever after!

“For every animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”                                                            PSALM 50:10

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Secret Ingredient

Hubby baked homemade bread the other day, a version of Challah that he and Zach have perfected using Wheat Montana’s Prairie Gold whole wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and sunflower seeds. The bread is so scrumptious that it elevates morning toast or grilled cheese sandwiches to a gourmet plane. Although it’s definitely healthier and tastier than its store-bought counterpart, it has a few drawbacks: one, we eat too much of it; two, we quickly become spoiled and disdainful of the more convenient store-bought bread.

Hubby and I were both raised to value home-baked, homemade, and home-grown foods over store-bought or restaurant-cooked. (Don’t tell Mom, but Jen and I did manage to bum some Ding-Dongs from the neighbor kids.) Hubby makes my mouth water with tales of the soups and desserts which his mom made from milk and cream from the family Holsteins. Dad’s biscuits, Mimi’s fried chicken and strawberry pies, Papa’s divinity, Grandma’s blackberry cobbler (from hand-picked berries, of course) and angel food cake with 7-minute frosting, and every one of Mom’s Italian and Mexican entrees are the stuff of legend, and, incidentally, can’t be accurately reproduced because our family is recipe-free.

Everyone knows that the texture and flavor of fresh garden-grown vegetables far surpass those from the produce aisle, even though a well-tended garden necessitates a number of sunburns, blisters, and backaches (hence the popularity of farmer’s markets). And many people are fortunate to have eaten the eggs from free-range, affectionately cared-for chickens. Our neighbor Susie’s cheerful chickens—God bless them--provide us with the most flavorful omelettes, quiches, and scrambled eggs that we’ve ever had. Similarly, beef that comes from our happy forage-fed Angus steers--which have never known the stress of hunger, sickness, parasites, confinement, or rough handling—is at least twice as savory as any we’ve purchased elsewhere.

Science and even common sense can only partially explain why home-raised and home-cooked foods taste better than those grown and cooked by large companies, but I think I can. What do our steaks and green beans, Susie’s chicken eggs, Hubby’s bread, Dad’s biscuits, Mom’s John Mosetti, Mimi’s pecan pralines, Grandma’s chicken spaghetti, Jenny’s sour cream-apple pie, Zach’s whole wheat pizza crust, and my own rather famous home-grown-Yukon-gold-potato-with-hand-picked-wild-asparagus soup have in common? It’s simple: love.

“Love never fails.” 1 CORINTHIANS 13:8

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Get Tebow?

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who don’t “get” Tim Tebow and those who do—henceforth referred to as the don’t-getters and the getters.

When the don’t-getters see the young Denver Broncos quarterback visiting with little kids before the game or giving a hand up to a fallen opponent, they roll their eyes. The getters look at each other and wink.

When the don’t-getters hear about Tim Tebow donating millions to build a children’s hospital in the Philippines or making a commercial about why he’s glad his mom didn’t abort him as the doctors had advised, they make wisecracks about him or tell him to “tone it down.” The getters forward the news stories to each other.

When the don’t-getters watch Tebow bow his knee in prayer on the football field, they squirm uncomfortably in their chairs and reach for another chip. The getters, particularly if they’re Broncos fans, join him in prayer.

Tebow’s standard reply to any reporter’s questions, “First of all, I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” makes the don’t-getters nauseus. The getters high-five one another and say, “Amen!”

Both kinds of people are written about in the Bible, in 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 4 speaks about the don’t getters:

“They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.”

The getters show up in verses 5, 6, and 13:

“Our Message is not about ourselves, we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful….We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life….We say what we believe.”

Get Tebow? If you’ve got Jesus--if His light has driven the darkness from your mind, if His love has healed your aching heart, if His grace has obliterated your shame, if He’s given you hope and purpose—then you do.

Monday, January 9, 2012


First there were those eventful mountain treks and expeditions, then there was the Jeep rollover, and now there’s India. I don’t know the name of son Zach’s guardian angel. He’s certainly one brave, big, strong, tough, and agile dude, so I call him Rambo-el.

I don’t know if angels have hair, but if so, then Rambo-el’s got a few gray ones popping up here and there.

I don’t know if angel wings have feathers, but if so, Rambo-el’s missing a few, and there’s some unaccounted-for white ones floating around Jamnagar and Mumbai.

I don’t know if angels qualify for hazardous duty pay, but if so, then Rambo-el’s retirement account is looking better and better.

I don’t know if angel armies award medals for courage and noble deeds, but if so, I gratefully nominate Rambo-el for the next Purple Halo.

For details of Zach’s and Rambo-el’s harrowing adventures, click on the “Passage to India” link.

“I’m sending my Angel ahead of you to guard you in your travels, to lead you to the place that I’ve prepared.”  EXODUS 23:20

Friday, January 6, 2012

High and Dry

Leave someone high and dry is an American expression with a negative connotation; it means to leave someone stuck in a bad situation. However, if that someone is a goat, then high and dry is the very best place to be! Just ask Blueberry and Meels, my Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats.

The goaties are convinced that they will dissolve if they get wet. A few drops of rain or flakes of snow send them scurrying for cover—if the barn door is shut, they bleat, blat and caterwaul until someone saves their lives and gets them indoors. They also go to great lengths to avoid damp ground.

By and large, Blueberry and Meels prefer dried, crunchy leaves and branches to green ones and dried fruit or shriveled garden vegetables to fresh ones. Recently they gobbled up some stale old cornflakes I tossed in their bucket, but took two weeks to decide that rolled oats were edible.

The goaties’ motto is Aim higher! They adore the steep little hills and old wooden table in their pasture, upon which they perch and chew their cud or play queen-of-the-hill. Given the opportunity, they jump up onto anything they can: vehicles, the ATV, tool chests, table saws—and they don’t care what they knock over in the process. Their favorite napping spot in the barn is atop the straw bales.

In an attempt to understand my goaties’ peculiar ways, I did a bit of research. Apparently, domestic goats are descendants of wild goats that roamed the high, dry mountains of Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Their agility and suction-cupped hooves helped them scramble and leap to the safety of rocks and cliffs; if any predator did manage to follow them up there, the goats used their horns and strength to butt the offending party and send it tumbling downhill.

This explains a lot, except for one confusing little detail: Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats hail from Nigeria, most of which is neither high nor dry, but rainforest. Huh?

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” PSALM 40:2

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Walk or a Safari

Walking around the ranch or down a country road is one of my greatest delights. I’m always escorted by our dog Bodie and usually accompanied by Hubby and/or the goaties. Walking isn’t just a discipline of exercise; on the contrary, it’s a gift to myself: the gift of wide-open spaces, sunshine, serenity, and get-up-and-go.

This year, I’m especially grateful for my walks because last winter I was on crutches with a painful knee injury. If I wear light knee supports and use my trekking poles, I can now whiz down the road as fast as I used to—what a joy! But since slips, trips, and stumbles can aggravate the old injury, I’ve developed the habit of studying the ground instead of looking up and around me.

Hubby, on the other hand, never misses nature’s version of Good Morning America: the new snowfall making the mountains jump into the sky, the mule deer bucks hiding in the greasewood, the harriers and red-tail hawks patrolling the fields for mice, the bald eagle regally surveying her kingdom from her throne in the old cottonwood. Hubby sees what I don’t (until he points it out to me) because he looks for it.

If you’re a walker and are ever in our neck of the woods—er, desert—you’re welcome to join me. If you’re a walker and nature photographer, you might want to wait for Hubby!

“What, what would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?” PSALM 27:13
                                                                         Snow dunes. (By Zach Lentsch)