Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas from el Rancho Asno Blanco

As we near the end of our first year in operation at el Rancho, I feel blessed.

The animals are a constant reminder that simple things have value. The donkeys are always happy to see us, braying a capella  in that mournful longears voice. The sound lets me know my presence is both valuable and wanted. The goats remind me that staying together and working together is both safer and more enjoyable-- it can keep the wolf from the door!

The new kids remind me that when you need to bounce, bounce!
And sometimes you just need a nap.

Some things have been really challenging, like realizing that I can no longer work straight through without a break for several hours, and that sometimes I just need to sit and rest my feet. Bending over to tie ground-level wire  is a no-no, so I bought extra pairs of jeans because the seat of the pair I'm wearing is probably wet and/or dirty. I got a new warshing machine, so that's not a problem at all! I also sit on the ground to trim goat feet, but more importantly I sort the goats so that I can do the ones with the hardest hooves first, before my hand strength gives out. Work smarter, not harder. (I do try to heed my husband's advice!)

Being at el Rancho, 10 - 20 miles from a store, also brings out the Girl Scout in me. Be prepared!  Thus, the back of the car has my 'vet box' containing all types of med, syringes, needles, and tools for the goats and donkeys, as well as ibuprofen for me. There are halters, ropes and head ties, random tools, feed and treats. Extra t-shirts, towels and trash bags. Plus stuff that usually resides in a car! Recently the back seat has held bags of wood shavings for the baby goat house, a few sacks of goat feed, and Christmas presents!

And gloves, lots of gloves. I almost always have on gloves at el Rancho. If my hands don't hurt and I'm doing little things, I wear thin leather gloves (do the goats care that they are kid gloves?). I also have some thick cowhide gloves, Isotoner nylon stretchy gloves, cotton gloves, and Mechanix gloves with knuckle guards. A bad enough rap or twist on the fingers can find that hand out of commission for a day or two, so I am careful.

At the end of the day, some of which are long, it's all worth it. My animals are healthy and content, the family is closer to making the big move to el Rancho, and I am still able to get out in the fresh air and work. Now is a great time to remember those you love and tell them so.

And for heaven's sake, don't forget to hug the donkeys!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe?

Our Facebook followers know that things are hoppin' at el Rancho,. some good, some bad.

On Saturday the 8th, we arrived at el Rancho thinking we might have kids. Sadly, we found Red, a young doe bought at Navasota Auction, dead. No apparent trauma, illness or injuries. She was the loudest goat, always looking for attention. On Friday, she had been particularly clingy and, looking back, unloud. We did not do a necropsy, but sent Red to Valhalla on a pyre of yaupon and mesquite. Best I can figure is she ate something, ate too much of something, or just died. With the sale of Stupid, we were now at 16 goats.

On Sunday, the Dans began building a large shelter for the critters, one tall enough for the donkeys. While they drilled and bolted and nailed, I took the goats to the round pen and trimmed feet. It sure is a long row when many of them had feet that had never been trimmed, so I am doing them in stages. In the afternoon, I made a supply run to Bryan and when I returned, the rain was fierce. We left for the house, driving 25 mph most of the way.

On Monday, Danny and I finished roofing the shelter. I noticed Big Momma was aloof and showing some signs of kidding. I went to work for the afternoon and returned closer to dark. I found Big Momma deep in the brush with one kid! They looked fine, so I left her alone for a while. When I returned with towels and feedsacks, a second kid was born and I helped get the goo off his face. It was really getting cold and the ground was saturated from four inches of rain on Sunday. Finally, kid number three slid out and Big Momma and I worked to get them dried off. I finally had to leave and go home, but Big Momma seemed like she was doing a good job.

Tuesday morning about 4:30, I went to check on the kids (it's 30 miles to el rancho). On the way, I spotted Jupiter in the sky, near a sickle moon. When I found the little family in the brush, I noticed that the big buckling had a circle and sickle on his shoulders and back, and, well, he got a name-- Jupiter. The doeling was noticeably smaller and had weak back legs, apparently not uncommon in a multi-birth. She didn't have a strong sucking reflex. I went to work for a while and came back, to find Danny trying to get the doeling to take some colostrum from a bottle. She didn't like the nipples either one of us had, so I tube fed her about 60 ml of warm colostrum and this seemed to perk her right up. We moved the mom and kids to the round pen and prepared the dog house for the kids to lay in .

Magic Goat Hut and goat babies in dog house
On Wednesday morning, I again made the early morning jaunt and found all three kids doing well. Doeling was still shaky on the back legs, but I helped her get up and nurse a couple of times and was thankful I did not have to tube her. I also gave each kid a shot of CD antitoxin and one of Bovi-Sera since I did not know Big Momma's vaccination status and we didn't get hers complete until the 8th. Danny checked later in the day and I also went out at lunch. I weighed the kids by putting them in a cloth grocery sack and a hanging scale. Jupiter came in at 7#, 1 oz; buckling #2 weighed 6#, 2 oz.; and the little doeling barely hit 5# even.

Thursday and Friday, things were much warmer and the kids were starting to hop around. On Saturday after work, Dan built two Magic Goat huts. Each took two sheets of plywood and four 2x4s. They have a slightly sloped roof and about 16 square feet of floor space. Last night we put one in the round pen for Big Momma and one in the Middle Pasture for the goats.

Apparently someone there was miffed and kicked out part of the wall in the larger goat/donkey shelter. Hmmmm. Wonder who?

We ended the week on a high note. The kids each gained two pounds! In five and a half days!

Good Momma.

All the adult goats got their final pneumonia vaccine booster shot today as well.

Fancy got a new toy.

Billy BA's latest love, Fea

And Billy BA is making sure there will be many more baby goats this spring.

Nineteen goats and counting.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Adios, Stupid

On Tuesday, Danny took ole Stupid to the Caldwell Livestock Commission, and on Wednesday some lucky bidder paid $45 and took him home. So, I lost $11 on Stupid (if you consider that I paid $300 for the six pygmies/Nigerians). And I am ecstatic. He was an irritant.

The pygmies were the initial set of goats I bought and Stupid was odd from the beginning. He always seemed to be sniffing and shoving and bothering the other goats and the people. When we arrived at the farm, he would run up, asking for attention and being a PITA. The donkeys never cared for him either.

As the herd grew, Stupid became more isolated and ignored and a bigger PITA every day. When I vaccinated last weekend, I had Stupid removed from the round pen and was amazed by the serenity. This firmed my resolve to get rid of Stupid.

On Tuesday, I went to the farm after work to help Danny put everyone back in the middle pasture. I noted that all the animals seemed happy. 

Today, I got off work early and hopped out to the ranch to check on Big Momma (no kids YET!). I found everyone in the middle of the woods, munching on yaupon and crunching up brown oak leaves. Everyone was happy to see me, including does who had never willingly let me touch them. The brown pygmy ran up to me for pets! 

The does were enjoying climbing all over the stumps that Dan dug up, playing King of the Mountain, a popular goat game. 

Fiona had a look but decided to keep it safe and stay on the ground.

And love is in the air. Billy BA is getting along quite well with the three new does I bought from the VanderMartins, so we will have babies next May for sure!


Sunday, December 2, 2012


Electric cross fencing
Well we are at a spot where we can take a little breather.

We finished perimeter and cross fencing on the 4041 piece. Dan estimates over 1.1 miles of fence, six gates, one solar charger, 10,000 feet of barbed wire. With the cross fencing up, we can manage the livestock and better control vegetation and worms.

We have utilities: water (clean and cold!), electric, and now AT&T 4G service! Plus a fiberglas septic tank and some field lines.

We have livestock: three donkeys and 18 goats. Yep, we have three more. Fred and Gwen, at Rancho Volsas Basias (Guaranteed to have four legs and a tail or double your money back) near Buffalo, sold me three large does, two are 50% registered Boer. Danny and I picked them up on Saturday while Dan put a rebuilt starter in Old Blue and he fired right up!
(Blue is back on staff!).

The three latest additions to the herd

The new gals are open, so Billy has work to do. Hopefully they will be bred by January. None of the pregnant goats have had babies.

We bought some pipe goat panels and have used the 'round pen' a lot. On our first round of vaccinations, we got all the animals in there and worked them in the big pen.

We haven't had time to build or plan a permanent working area, but the Dans came through with improvising a darn good plan.  They disconnected two panels and spread them apart about three feet. Then, they drove in pipes used for  chain linking and hung a three foot gate. Then they took three panels to make a room  off the little gate. Genuis!

We have a working pen! This created an offshoot 'room' where I could put a goat, lock them in, and take care of them.  Our only real problem is Stupid, one of the most ignorant animals I've ever owned. He's a polled pygmy buck whose ambition in life is to irritate all people and animals as much as possible. He is not long for this herd and we think he finally figured out we don't like him. Anyway, we herded the goats to the round pen and then escorted the donks out. We also escorted Stupid out. What a difference! The goats were all instantly calm, munching on hay, snoozing and ruminating. Very pastoral! In my little room I had a box with vaccines, wormer, ropes, and hoof trimmers. (Did you know a Texmati plastic box makes a great sharps container?).  This confirmed a unanimous decision to take Stupid to Navasota Auction next week. The donks did enjoy chasing him when he got annoying with them...

Danny helped me work the animals. First, we opened the little gate and amazingly, a doe just walked right in! I put a rope halter on her and tied her to the rail, gave her shots, wormer and trimmed her feet. Almost too good to be true! (I don't have a goat stand yet, but Dan said he'll build one later!). We turned her back into the round pen and starting working them one after another. The pygmy does were harder to catch, but overall things went great. Danny was a big help, holding horns and helping drive them in the little room. All of these goats were in dire need of hoof trimming. I didn't get all of them trimmed today, but will chip away at it this month. Plus, some needed a little trimming, followed soon by more because they were too overgrown to trim completely today.

Oh, and we are official. We ear tagged 'Baby' with our official Texas scrapies tag. We are herd #TX 25843
Baby gets tag number one!

So, it's intermezzo, which only means we slow down a bit. Up next is building Danny's house, selling our Brazos County house, and fencing the 4057 property.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Water, electricity, and MORE GOATS!

 When we bought the 14 acres next door, we knew there was an old well there, but the seller did not make any guarantees on it. The cost of drilling a well is really steep, so we hoped we would end up with a well that worked... The well house is long gone, but they had put cattle panels around the wellhead to keep out livestock and deer. The yaupon, however, had completely covered the area. After we closed on the land, Dan began cleaning up the area and found that the pressure tank looked fine, but we still had no electricity. He also found part of an old septic system with field lines.  In order to test the pump, we needed electricity, thus necessitating the services of an electrician. Doesn't sound too hard, right? Wrong!

I think Danny called two or three electricians who siad they would call him back and never did. You'd think there was no recession going on. I finally did phone-a-friend on and "Dubi" came through with a great referral in Atlas Electric in Bryan.

I spoke with the owner and described what we needed and then an electrician worked with Danny on setting up a time. On Friday, he met with the electrician and we got a 200 amp box, two GFI weather resistant convenience outlets, and, more importantly, power to the well!  Danny called Bluebonnet Electric and the lineman came right out and connected power to our box. That afternoon,the Dans went out and started it up and the pump started pumping and the water started flowing! We needed about three dollars worth of plumbing parts and we were in business. Today, we ran the water into a gully for about an hour. The water is clear and cool and very tempting!  However, knowing that the well has been open a while, we are going to have the water tested before we taste any of its goodness. Having water and electricity places us much closer to Danny building his house! We also won't have to haul water for the livestock! Amazing how handy first-world utilities are!

Speaking of livestock, I've been scouring the Brazos Valley looking for does. I visited one place in Grimes County where the woman said she had 30 goats and needed to sell a couple to relieve overcrowding. Well, it was pretty crowded all right: eight cows, one bull, 30 goats of various breeds, ages, and sizes, seven turkeys, at least 50 ducks, two Great Pyranees guardian dogs, 12 guineas, three kittens, a llama, innumerable chickens, and a miniature weiner dog. Oh, yeah, and a macaw. All in one enclosure. Wow.  One Boer doe had two kids, just a few days old, and they were being trampled by large dairy goats. The woman remarked that one was limping. Well, duh! Needless to say, I let her know the next day that I didn't think they would fit into my herd.

At an impasse, I blindly contacted a guy with a $1000 buck for sale on Craigslist, asking for advice on where to buy does. He not only emailed me back, he gave me some leads on commercial breeders in Burleson County. I called one man who said he did not sell fewer than ten at $250 each because it wasn't worth his time. He suggested I go to Navasota  Livestock Auction.

Of course! I don't know why I didn't think of that sooner.  The auction is open most Saturdays and is well-attended. I went yesterday just for a little reconnaissance. I saw lots of goats, including goats that looked like they might fit into my herd. I hadn't planned to buy goats, but I did!  They sold at least 35 goats on Saturday, and I got five of them. The auction starts with goats (lucky for me!) and the first two out of the shoot were two white dairy goats from the Grimes County place I visited on Thursday! I saw the woman sitting down front. The next goat out was a very pregnant Boer with a nice udder and I was the high bidder for her. The woman turned around and glared. Guess she was mad I didn't spend money on her goats! I ended up with five does: the pregnant traditional one, a white spotted LaMancha cross (can't miss those ears! Oh, they ARE missing..), a pregnant Boer cross, a red Boer cross, and a traditional Boer doeling.  We picked them up on Sunday and left them in the trailer for a while, so they calm down from the highway ride. When I opened the door, they jumped right out, eager to eat and greet.
Jumping out at Asno Blanco

So now, time to plan the nursery. The new Boer looks ready to pop and should kid within the week. The agouti pygmies (I call them the Oreos) are both pregnant and are anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks out. I am pretty sure that the two young does I bought with Billy (Doll and Belle) were exposed in October. As for the others, only time will tell.

Finally, I contacted the State Veterinarian's Office and was issued a herd number for the Scrapies Eradication program. They will be sending me All-Flex eartags with my herd number and individual numbers. As soon as they arrive, I can start tagging the herd. My big question involves the LaManchas--- do I tag their ears?

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Oreo and ??

We have a herd! Last week we picked up six goats and this week we picked up four more. I still need about four or five more meat does, but we are definitely in the goat business.

The first six were bought for cheap off Craigslist and are pygmy/Nigerian dwarf goats. One polled black buck, a brown nanny, two black agouti does, a white La Mancha wether, and a tan wether.  I found them in Navasota, about a zillion miles down a narrow gravel road. The owner was selling them. He had a good perimeter fence, but was surprised that the goats were eating the wooden posts holding up the porch on his fake log cabin house. Duh. When we drove up, Dan noticed a horse standing on the front porch. We got a little closer and discovered there were two horses on the porch (the sorrel was camouflaged against the faux logs). I had to move the palomino to ring the doorbell, but they weren't home. 

Brown doe, Whitey, Stupid and wether
Went around back and saw that one doe had jumped out of the three foot high pen he built. The palomino tried to help me corral her, but we ended up waiting for the guy to come home and help us shove them all in the trailer. Don't think this guy knew much about livestock. The wife said the horses get on the porch and ring the doorbell, which is kinda funny, but odd.  This was a weeknight and by the time we got to the farm, it was very dark. We pulled in, opened the trailer and had to drag them out. The donkeys were not well-pleased. At all. No-sirree-Bob. We left the trailer at the farm with the door open to give the goats a place to hang out. 

Things settled down a bit after a few days. This week, we picked up a boer buck, two boer-type does, and a huge white wether from a woman in Wellborn. I visited her one day and liked the two-year old buck. She also had the two does. I made an offer to buy the buck on the condition she sell me the does, too. I could tell she was attached to Belle and Doll, but she had decided to go with dairy goats instead of meat goats. The next day, she let me know that she would part with them. We rolled up to her mansion and loaded the girls in the trailer, thinking it would be easier to load the buck if the girls were on board. Dan backed the trailer to the gate in the buck pen and we got his large self loaded. At that point, the seller turns to me and says, "You need to take Billy (he's the wether). He's too rowdy for the dairy does and he'll be lonely." Uh, okay. So we loaded him, too. 

Doll and Belle
This time, we got to the farm and it wasn't quite dark. The donkeys and goats were hanging out together in the picnic area like old friends. We opened the trailer and got the buck out. The two does are like teenage girls at a party who don't know anyone, all skittish and noisy. We stayed a while to make sure the two bucks would not kill one another.

Oreo and Billy Bad
Today, I got out to the farm and saw the donkeys near the fence when I drove up. I rolled down the window and told them to meet me at the picnic area. They never showed, so I went looking for them. Found them guarding the goats! Convinced them to come with me and the entire herd followed me to the round pen. Gave the donks their boosters first and turned them out. I coerced the goats into the pen and shut the gate. For the first time ever, Molly McButter (momma donkey) started making donkey sounds! The donks were distraught, so I let them in the pen with the goats. Then we gave the first six goats their initial 8-way vaccine (the boers were already vaccinated). So thankful for the help from the Dans in catching and holding critters. I realize that I really need a goat stand/headpiece to use to do this work. Most need a hoof trim, so that's on my list of things to get.

Oh, the names? Well, they are acquiring names.

Stupid-- what both Dans said when the little black buck walked up to the boer buck with an attitude.
Stupid and Billy Bad
Quisling- the large white wether-- D3 noticed he's always looking out for himself. 
Billy Bad A$$- the Boer buck. 
Belle and Doll- the yearling Boer does came with these names and answer to them.
Whitey- the other white wether. Likes to lock horns with Quisling
Oreo- original name of one of the pygmy does. She a black agouti with a white middle.
So the three without names are the brown Nigerian/pygmy doe (she is the head doe in this herd), the tan wether, and the other black agouti doe.

I have applied for a Scrapies herd number and plan to tag all of them, especially the kids, who will NOT have names... 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Goat Camp Part II (or, Brooke the Cook)

The biggest surprise at Goat Camp was the cooking, but it also brought us together. Early Saturday afternoon. Tim and Kale (who's 6 1/2 months pregnant, more later) helped Sasha and me load our many bags from HQ to our sleeping quarters. Later on, Brooke (who is Tim's mom) showed up and invited us to the kitchen and asked if we knew how to cook because we would be cooking for camp. Do what? Brooke sighs. Didn't Suzanne tell you that you would be cooking? Nope. Well, someone start chopping onions.

And so we started our cooking odyssey. We sat in the farm kitchen at an eight foot table, slicing chopping, sauteing, stirring and cracking. When you cook as a group, a rhythm develops. While doing prep, conversation flows and we were no different, running the gamut from where ya from, to what's your sign, how goat-y are you, and what do you do. Brooke was an Arizonan who had lived in Okinawa, Sasha was from Ohio, but had lived in Austin a few years before returning to her roots, and me, well, just your basic Texas woman.

While Sasha and I chopped veg and meat, Brooke cooked rice and did a little stir fry for dinner. She gave us some info on OCR and Suzanne. We sous chefs also learned we would be in charge of breakfast as she would not arrive at the ranch until after finishing her bus route. Oh, boy. Waking up that early had not been part of my plans. But I was grateful Sasha was the other sous chef as we plotted how early we needed to get up to cook migas for 60, have it ready and at the classroom by 7:30. Early.

Rayne and Tim
Tim and Kale asked if we'd like to 'ride pastures,' so Sasha and I hopped in the back of the Kawasaki Mule and off we went. Each evening, someone rides pastures to check the perimeter fence, look at the goats to spot any sick or injured, and get a general sense of putting the ranch to bed. On a 250+ acre ranch, it takes a while to transit through all of the pastures, opening and shutting gates, but it was exhilarating, out on the Texas plains, with the gentle sound of goats bedding down, stars in the sky and plenty of fresh air. Tim and Kale are newlyweds, with a baby on the way. They have lived in the ranch house for under three months, but have known Suzanne for quite a while as momma Brooke has worked for her off and on in the past few years.

And so our days were bookended with cooking. Up at 5:30 or so, then class with some morning cooking and then serving of lunch, then class, the cooking at night til 9 or 10. Brooke and Bonnie were there from about 8:30 to 2:30 each day (between their school bus driving duties), and then Brooke would return after finishing the afternoon bus drop off.

We did not have a set menu, just tons of ingredients, plus Brooke brought us more stuff from the store nearly every 20 mile trip from Brady. Input from the sous chefs was always appreciated, and we found ways to use and repurpose everything that was left over or over-bought.

Monday breakfast: migas, banana bread (some with nuts, cranberries and other yummys)
Monday Lunch: chili with pork, black beans, and corn, romaine salad with Sasha's homemade ranch and Italian dressings, Sasha's green chile and cheddar corn bread, angel food cake, fruit.
Tuesday breakfast: Breakfast bread pudding with leeks and fontina cheese, banana bread
Tuesday Lunch: Shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches, Brooke's coleslaw, and pinto beans (Brooke thinks that Texans eat beans with everything). First sighting of pico de gallo.
Wednesday breakfast Oatmeal cooked all night, with various toppings, fruit, and egg and cheese sandwiches (cheddar or mozzarella, white or whole wheat)
Wednesday lunch: King Ranch Chicken (prepared by moi), corn, banana pudding. More pico.
Thursday breakfast:   Breakfast tacos, with grilled peppers and onions, bacon, cheese
Thursday lunch:  Beef and chicken fajitas, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos, all the standard fajita toppings, MORE PICO. Peach cobbler and Peach Crisp for dessert.
Friday breakfast:  French Toast Casserole,white and whole wheat bread mixed together. One pan was plain and one was topped with a pecan/walnut caramel sauce. Biscuits, homemade syrups (peach, plum or apple). Syrups were made with leftover snack fruit or cobbler. Delish.
Friday lunch:  Grilled chicken and veg kabobs, with calabazos, onion, tomato, bell pepper, pineapple. Served with Japanese rice. Topped off with super brownies and even more banana pudding. Oh. Pico.

Yes, pico was consumed in mass quantities. We made about a gallon each time and they emptied the bowl. That's choppin' a lot of tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and cilantro. Bonnie was our jalapeno expert and remembered to wear gloves (important safety tip). One night, Tom came down and helped chop, too.

From the first day, campers kept asking if we had a cookbook they could buy and they all assumed we had known one another for years. In fact, they were shocked when we said we had met just a day or two before. Guess that's what shared work and creativity does to a group of strangers-- makes them a team of friends. And that cookbook? Well, it's in the works.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Goat Camp, Part I (or, the Adventure Begins)

I spent last week at Goat Camp, an annual educational event held at Onion Creek Ranch (OCR) near Brady, Texas. I stumbled onto Goat Camp last summer when I was browsing for goat information. A week-long opportunity to hear from experts of all types on breeding, feeding, kidding, and selling. The price for the conference was reasonable, but I would also have to stay in a Holiday Inn Express for five days, plus take a week of vacation from work. Pretty pricey.

But wait!  I re-read the course description and noticed the last paragraph: 
  • The GoatCamp™ Intern Program is now accepting applications for a limited number of Interns; interns receive free tuition in exchange for helping with the work at GoatCamp™. If you are interested please send your resume to We'd like to know a little bit about your experience with goats (or lack thereof) and why you'd like to become an Intern.
Well, why not?  I sent a lengthy email, along with my resume. Within a few hourss accepted! In addition to not paying tuition for the course, I would also receive food and housing. I could afford that!

An adventure! I left home on October 20 and drove the 250 miles west, arriving at the ranch about noon.  I joined my fellow interns in the classroom and Suzanne Gasparotto, ranch owner,gave us a briefing on (most) of our duties for the week, the first of which was to clean and set up the classroom. 

The Great Grasshopper Invasion of 2012 had descended on OCR. A couple of dozen 8-foot folding tables were stacked on their sides in a corner of the room and covered in grasshoppers, and the room was filled with the stench. I looked at my fellow interns: two tall, retired gentlemen with silver hair, a woman in a very cool powered wheelchair, and a 30-something woman with dreadlocks and tattoos. 

Tom was a long-time Goat Camper, having attended/interned at least 7 or 8 times. He knew the ropes and got us organized and we dispatched the dead arthropods in short order. I made my first mistake then, letting Suzanne know that I was familiar with technology of many types. Thus, I was also tasked with setting up the sound system and wireless mics, replacing the toner in her printers, and changing the batteries in her indoor/outdoor thermometer. Oy.

Suzanne took hippie girl and me to the original ranch house, a two-toned green rectangular building, much like thousands across the plains. The young couple who work on the ranch lived in the house, but it had a small attached apartment and a bed in the living room. Our home away from home for the week. Sasha took the living room, leaving me the apartment at the end of the building. My quarters had a bathroom and a mini-kitchen, which Sasha would also use. A very odd configuration but we'd find out more as the days went by.

Did I mention the ranch is beautiful? 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

33-1/3 rpm

What a week. On Thursday, we finally signed the paperwork for an additional 14 acres which is adjacent to El Rancho. So we have more than 33-1/3 acres now.. Lots of room! Where it's marked "Approximately 14.12 acres" is the area we are calling Danny's Wedge.  This is where the well is located, as well as a derelict trailer house-- talk about creepy! He got busy clearing things up right after closing. He's got some great ideas for a homesite, garden, and septic.

On Friday, the guys did some work out at the ranch, but went to Houston to (hopefully) buy a grapple! Dan picked up a part at WCTractor which will convert his front end loader into a skid steer quick attach. A big grapple is like teeth on the front of the tractor. It should reach into the brush and drag it out! This will be useful at the ranch and at the current house in South Brazos. They drove off to Houston with the big trailer in tow. I called the seller and got directions, found a nearby bank where they could get money if they bought it, and off they went to East Mt. Houston and Loop 610 in Houston. Smooooth sailing.

Well, whatever grapple the man was selling (he had a few) was not what Dan was looking for. Too wide for one thing. So, they got back in the truck to come home. On Friday afternoon in H-Town traffic. Things went from bad to worse when Dan had a tire go flat. It took quite a ways to get off the freeway and quite a ways to find a place to pull over and change the tire (with the trailer still attached). Joy.

Yesterday,  I took Dan's truck into Discount Tire in Bryan and got him a new tire, a rotation, and damage certificates for all four. Took 30 minutes! Love this store, it's so much roomier than the College Station one. Then a quick oil change and full gas tank (ok, some kolache from Slovacek's) and I was out to the rancho.

Uh, oh. My sweet donkeys were not so sweet to the Dans or the neighbor dogs, George and Kopper. Now, I had seen George charge the donkeys on Friday, but thought we had smoothed that out. Now everyone knows tht dogs are better than people and make the best friends. The donkeys have been put on notice that there will be no chasing and terrorizing of dogs. I spent a good bit of the afternoon socializing the canines and equines and believe I had some success.
 The donks kept wanting to get closer to the dogs and the dogs just wanted out of there. George followed me around the fence line as I checked for missed wire ties or loose wires. I don't know if he was protecting me, or was sticking with me as the chief dog, but it was nice to have a friend along. I haven't had a dog in over four years and having George hang out is nice. Kopper is a rabbit chasing fool, baying at the top of his lungs, warning his potential prey. George will often hear him and go out to see what's up, but I'm not real worried about the rabbits and squirrels at the ranch!

Today, the Dans finished putting up all wire, both goat and barbed, on the original 19+ acres. Danny thinks they should have driven in a 'golden staple', but we didn't have one. Ah, well, a celebratory event nonetheless. About that time, my good friend Kristi (who just happens to be an equine vet tech), came for a visit from Fort Worth with her husband, Jack, who is one of Dan's best friends, too. Kristi and I were determined to vaccinate the donks for all manner of things, including West Nile I picked up vaccs at Coop and Tractor Supply). Simple, right?

Well, the first sign that things were going south was when Fiona, my sweetheart, got all stupid and got away. They ended up getting all wild-eyed and pissy and what should have taken 45 minutes, tops, ended up taking all afternoon. The three guys sat around the trucks, talking. Kristi and I had a donkey rodeo, with bucking and twisting going on, and even a clown (me) who fell on her ass at one point.  I ignored the calls of "Hey! I missed it! Could you do that again?"

Amazingly, Molly went first and really acted well. Food is an amazing tool! At that point, the others trotted off and our real work began. Next, we caught Fancy, my big brown adolescent. Kristi schooled her and let her know in no uncertain terms that Kristi was, in fact, in charge. Pretty sure the term "Whoa!" was learned today. No ifs, ands or buts. Done. Whew, the only one left was darling Fiona, who had unfortunately decided that we were going to murder her. This brought out the latent bucking bronco in her. Kristi let her rodeo in a circle, moving her ever closer to a tree. Once they arrived at an oak, she promptly snubbed her up close. Fiona realized she could unwind herself, but Kristi stopped that with a rope reversal. Shots done. Yep, Fiona and Fancy will be tired and sore tomorrow.

Well, they need to have their second round of shots in 3 to 4 weeks. Think I'll get four panels and build a quick working pen, like Kristi suggested. Would come in handy for lots of uses with donkeys and goats and could be moved to different spots around the ranch.
Karen and Fiona

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Halters and Feet

Fancy and Dan
The girls were in a spirited mood today. I guess all that rain has them frisky! We got over three inches in Brazos County, so El Rancho might have gotten more. This is the heaviest rain we've had for a while, so we went out to see how things look. As we drove onto the land, we noticed the lack of donkey prints!!! Hmmmm. So, we set off to track them.

When we passed pipeline road, I saw something move just outside my vision range, so I turned that way and went to the water trough in that clearing. No hoofprints! The ground was soft, so there should be prints! Finally, when I was almost back to PR 4041, we found a track and followed them back to the truck! hahaha on us. Funny donkeys.

After messing around with us, they all took a good roll in the sand. ....

Dan took his new tool trailer up to the cattle guards and installed the four foot walk gate. I kept the donkeys occupied while he was working. We actually did get some work in. First, I pulled out a lead rope and showed it to the donks and the let me drag it all over their bodies, including faces and ears. Good to go! We wandered around a bit, then I brought out a red halter. Fancy, being an attention hog, wanted to eat it, but didn't complain or move away when I put it on her. All three wore the halter for a few minutes without complaint. I need to find some proper donkey halters as the small horse halter is not proportioned correctly-- too big in the nosepiece area. I had tried a yearling size and it was too small to go around their throats. All three seemed okay with this turn of events. I was also able to lift a front foot on each donkey, at my request, without having them tied or haltered.
 I figured we'd had enough lessons for the day, so we took a walkabout, sampling all manner of plants, both living and dead. Then, something spooked Fancy and they began running and kicking. They ran through the brush, through the woods, down the creek, through the picnic area, and repeat. My thundering herd of donks are quite speedy! I was quite entertained watching them kick up their heels and kick each other while at a full gallop.

That Fancy. She's definitely a camera hog, too.  She's just a rambunctious teenager, but she's starting to grow on me. She looks like a big teddy bear with those silver-rimmed eyes, but she's always testing to see if I will let her nip me (I won't).  I caught myself calling her Brownie more than once today, so she might become a Fancy Brownie.

Next Saturday is vaccination time, so hopefully the work in gaining their trust will be rewarded!

Who's lookin'?