Category Archives: Ranch life

Damage to gate by bull

Ok, somebody has got to go away. Reno has slowly destroyed one of our gates. It needed replacing, so maybe I should thank him for ripping it out for me, but I would have like to have done it on my schedule, not his. Dratted bull!

Our neighbors have some Longhorn cattle and a bull, so Reno thinks he should be with them and our little herd. Needless to say, the neighbors aren’t too crazy about that, but no matter how the fence between is fixed, Reno goes through it like it doesn’t exist.

So, hopefully, he is going home. We really just don’t have a place to keep him right now

Here’s a few snapshots of the now defunct gate…

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Thoughts of spring a comin’!

Clouds over the West Elk Range

Clouds over the West Elk Range

The temperatures are warming up after our frigid December and early January days. Right now, I’m looking out my window at partly cloudy skies, with most of the clouds hanging around the mountains. We woke up to snow on the ground yesterday and today, but both have quickly melted off. I’m hoping that more snow fell up in the West Elks from these two little storms, as that is where we get our water from for irrigation during the summer.





Another fellow came out to look at Junior and Lucinda. (The other guy changed his mind on taking Junior home with him.) So while the equines were locked up in the paddock, I took the opportunity to take some snapshots. They’re all a bit muddy from lounging around the wet fields, but they’ve come through winter really well this year. If we can get that much graze off of  5 acres or so that we had fenced off and watered, then the rest of the field should produce really well once we can seed it and irrigate it.

With the sun shining and the weather warming up, I’m thinking ahead to what we should plant in the garden this year. Chris is going to help me put it in. We’re going to do raised beds, see how that goes. I’d like to raise some unique and different things to take to the farmer’s markets in the area, start making this place earn it’s keep a bit more! I think once we can get moving in the right direction, this will turn out to be a very lucrative ranch/farm, just going to take a bit of work. No, actually, a lot of work. But it’ll be worth it in the long run.

We’re also going to start purchasing pipe so that we can water areas that are difficult to get to with flood irrigation. Could be gated pipe, or more likely something we can use to run sprinklers as we would have more control of how much water is used and where it lands. Half or better of our pasture/field doesn’t grow much simply because it’s difficult to get water to. With the new irrigation project done, we’ve got piped water that is under pressure, so we should be able to move it up hill without too much work. Our pasture should look really good this summer! Let’s just hope for more moisture in the mountains, as well as down here in the lower valleys, so that it will be a decent water year.

We have some other things in the works, so it should be a great summer this year! I’m looking forward to warmer weather and lots of new adventures!

All is quiet on Singing Bull Ranch

CJS Twila - Dexter cow

CJS Twila – Dexter cow

Fall and winter have been pretty quiet here on the ranch. We’ve sold all of our cows, but still have two of our bulls, Elliott and Reno. Chris bought me a Dexter cow with a Jersey cross steer for Christmas that is suppose to be a milk cow. We haven’t tried to milk her yet, as it’s just been too cold. We also don’t have a stanchion or chute, so we’ll have to figure something out later. She was bred again by Reno last summer, so we should be getting another Jersey/Dexter calf from her. Hoping it’s a heifer!

One of our mules has gone on to Utah, and Junior has found a new home close by here. We still need to sell Lucinda, as we just don’t have the time for them anymore. Chris wants to keep Otis, as he is a good riding mule. I’d kinda like to sell off all of the mules, because they can and will kill the calves or other small livestock that we may have. Chris saw them toss around a full sized goat that we had a few years back. She survived, but she sure was hurting there for a bit. And they did a real number on one of our newborn calves. I believe he had neurological issues for awhile after that. Poor thing walked funny, with his head down, and if he got too tired, he would fall down and his legs would twitch. I thought we were going to loose him, but after separating him and his mom from the rest of the herd and putting them in a stall with a run, he recovered fully and grew into a nice little steer.

Rainin' on our snow.

Rainin’ on our snow.

We’ve had some decent snow and a bit of rain so far this winter, so we’re hopeful that the water year won’t be quite so bad as last year. I’ve heard we’re only at about 80%, but I haven’t checked it yet. We’re not into our ‘wet’ season yet, so hopefully we’ll get more snow up in the mountains over the next little while. I know it’s been dang cold here lately, rarely getting above the low 20’s for most of December. We were actually getting rain at the end of January. That just created a lot of mud as it melted the snow quickly. Two mornings we had sheet ice on the roads as it was just barely raining, and right at 32 degrees. Chris said he could only go 10 mph on the roads it was so slick.

With luck, we’ll have some good pasture this year. We’ve been lucky in that Chris had fenced off some of the pasture last summer and used some sprinklers to irrigate it. That’s where the horses have been all winter, and there’s still a bit of graze out there. It’ll be tight, and we may have to buy some hay, but we haven’t fed them at all this year. If things go well, and we can lay some gated pipe and sow some seed, we could get the pasture looking really good this coming summer. Maybe to the point where we won’t have to feed much hay to the livestock. Time will tell, but I believe it’s an obtainable goal.

This summer we’re planning on putting in a garden. I am going to purchase some meat birds, probably  experiment with both the Cornish X and the Freedom Ranger and see which do best in our situation. I’m also planning on purchasing some Basque Hens, and maybe some Buckeyes. The Basque because everything I’ve read say what a wonderfully friendly chicken they are, as well as a dual purpose bird and excellent forager, and the Buckeye because they are a Heritage breed and my dad is from Ohio, as are they. We’re also talking about maybe buying another Dexter milk cow or two. I would like to have a small herd of purebred Dexters, using Elliott’s bloodlines, to provide new, dual purpose blood to this area.

Although we need the cold, and the wet, I’m looking forward to spring and summer. I think it will shape up to be a wonderful year,with lush pastures and an abundant garden. I think it’s time to go look through the seed catalogs!

Late summer update

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. Mostly this is because I get in the house pretty late at night now, and don’t have the energy to write up something. We’ve been busy, although not accomplishing as much as we’d like. The drought didn’t hit as hard as everyone thought it would, but it’s still dry around here, and we’ve lost part of our hay crop as well as pasture because of it. So, we have decided to sell off most of our livestock. We’re down to three pairs and a steer. The cows that are left are our two Belties and our red cow. Seems kinda empty without the rest of them here, but we can’t afford to feed them this winter, so it’s better if we sell them now. We still have our bulls, but hope to have them sold off too.

Annie, red dun mare

Annie, red dun mare

We’re also debating on selling off some of our mules. The horses will stay, as two of them are our original horses, although we haven’t really decided on the little dun mare that we got from our neighbors last year when they moved. I’ve brought her in to the paddock so that I can start working her. She’s a bit odd, as sometimes she’s reasonably friendly, but other times she’s crotchety and doesn’t really want me petting or scratching her. I’ve had her follow me, then walk away. I’ve had her walk up to me and want affection, then pin back her ears. So I’m in the bare beginnings of figuring her out. Maybe she’s PMSing? I need to start working her. Then maybe she’ll become a bit more consistent with me.

Wimpy and her heifer calf

Wimpy and her heifer calf

We’ve had a few calves, although MayMay and Ellsie both slipped (aborted) theirs, so they went to the sale barn. Wimpy, our red cow, had a little red calf this month. (You can click on the picture to see it bigger, and actually see the calf.) Elliott, our new red Dexter bull, is the sire.  I think it’s a heifer calf. Olive Oyl, our black and white Beltie, also had a heifer calf earlier this summer.  The bulls did their usual flirting with the neighbors cows, so the one is in a stall, and the other one is being leased out. Always a challenge when you have bulls around.

We have decided that we really need to focus on fixing the fencing and pasture here. Most of the fencing close to the houses is falling down, as it’s woven fence and is attached to t-posts. There is no way of holding it up, so the cows easily jump it, even with an electric braided wire running on the top. ( I never knew that a heavy, 1200 lb. cow could clear a three or four foot fence with ease!)  The horses and mules don’t bother with it much, but the whole thing needs replaced. The actual gate into the paddock is attached to a post that is falling over, which makes it a challenge to open and close. The paddock itself is made up of hog panel, which the bulls and cows have managed to bend and twist like you wouldn’t believe, so it all needs replaced. It’s too difficult to try and build it while we have the livestock, so we need to sell them or relocate them.

On the bright side, the pasture is looking good where we can get water to it. It is growing very well and thick. We currently have a large area fenced off so that we can grow it for grazing on this winter. We’ve had very hot weather, and a very early and long summer, but we’ve been blessed with some rain showers and cooler temperatures off and on enough to help grow some of the pastures. They had predicted that the irrigation water would be gone by late June, or middle of July, but here it is the end of August, and we’ve still got a bit of irrigation water to work with. We’ve been wondering about the weather, as it has been getting fairly chilly at night, and we’ve noticed here and there the colors on the leaves are already changing. Might be in for a long, cold winter. Ugh. Not looking forward to that.

Two new calves

Kauai and her new little bull calf

Kauai and her new little bull calf

When we called “Uncle” David last Sunday as we boarded the cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, he told us that one of our cows had calved earlier that morning. Of course! She had to wait until we were gone before she would have her little calf. Maybe she feels guilty, as he doesn’t have a belt at all, just some white hairs on his belly. And he’s black. Our Belted Galloway, Kauai, is the mom, Elliott, our new red Dexter bull, is the dad. I was hoping that maybe they would have  a dun calf, as he has been proven to throw dun, but it’s not to be. Sigh…black is sooo boring!!

Olive Oyl and her new calf

Olive Oyl and her new calf

Today, as I was going to the other house to do laundry, I looked over at the paddock where the pregnant cows are and thought I saw a bit of white that didn’t belong to anything that we own. I had told Chris last night that both Olive Oyl and Little May where showing signs of being close to calving, so I was hoping that the little bit of white that I was seeing wasn’t a figment of my imagination. So I went back to the house to get my camera just in case, and walked out to the paddock to check the cows. Laying in front of Olive Oyl was a little black belted calf. Too cute! I’m glad we got another belted calf, although at the sale barn, they don’t know what to call them! LOL Looks like she hadn’t had him too long before I saw him, although he was dry. I think it’s a bull calf, but we’ll know for sure next weekend when we take the calves down to Robert Tracy’s place to brand. (Hopefully it will be a freeze brand as I really strongly dislike the hot iron!) He was still a bit unsure on his feet, but he looks healthy, and he was up and nursing while I watched them. I love little calves!

When Chris and David came over to check him out, Tucker was laying beside me. The little belted calf came over to check me out, and suddenly, Olive Oyl put her head down and charged the fence. Chris thought she was after me, but I didn’t move, as I knew she was after Tucker. Poor Tucker let out a sharp bark and jumped away from the fence. He was pretty shaken up by that! We figured they were getting a little too nervous with the three of us and the dogs hanging around, so we went back to the chores.

This year is not starting out very well for water. March, April and May were much hotter than normal, with temperatures easily in the upper 70’s and lower 80’s much of the time. Usually these months are cold and damp, with a lot of mud to deal with. The mountains are almost devoid of snow, which is very unusual. It looks and feels more like July than the middle of May. Pastures are already suffering, the grass just didn’t grow this spring, as it was too hot with no moisture. This is putting us in a position where we may be forced to sell of most of the mules and cows, as we don’t have any graze to speak of. I hate to sell the few cows we have left. I don’t mind selling a few of the mules, but I don’t want Junior to go. He’s the only mule that will literally run to greet you. I would really like to work with him, as he’s such a sweetheart. I don’t know how he’ll be to train, but I think if a person were to make the training fun, he would quickly be looking for what will happen next with a very good attitude.

Close-up of Tippy, four month old Dexter cross steer calf

Close-up of Tippy, four month old Dexter cross steer calf

On a happier note, here’s a picture of one of the little twin calves that were born back in February. This is Tippy, the little steer calf. He got really curious about me and the camera when I was taking pictures of Olive Oyl’s calf. I could have reached out and touched him he was so close!

For other news happening at Singing Bull Ranch, check out EmmaLee is the proud mom of 3 little boys. Very handsome little boys I might add! (Nope, I’m not prejudice! LOL)

Rat Terrier puppies, new goslings and irrigating

Some new happenings have occurred over the passed week here at Singing Bull Ranch. EmmaLee had a litter of three male pups last Sunday, our goose hatched out 5 of the 9 eggs she was laying on, and irrigation season has started.

Guero, pups and Em

Guero, the puppies and Em

I had bred Em to our vet’s little Rat Terrier in February, as he has a waiting list of people asking for pups from him, and I’m thinking of spaying Em as she turned 4 years old last fall. Last Sunday morning the poor girl looked miserable, so I stayed home and hung out with her so I could keep an eye on her. Around 3:00 pm, she started labor and about 20 minutes later she delivered the first little guy, butt first. I got a bit worried for a minute when I realized that the head hadn’t come out yet, but she got him out just fine and quickly started taking care of him. The second guy, a robust puppy, followed quickly on his brother’s heels and was born about 20 minutes later. The last little guy was born around 5:00 pm. The first and the last pups are solid chocolate with white and tan markings, kinda hard to tell them apart except for a white spot on top of their head. The big boy looks like his momma. He weighed in at 8 oz., his two siblings about an ounce less. Funny how just an ounce can make a puppy look huge compared to his siblings.

Em and her boys

EmmaLee and her three pups.

It amazes me how the mom’s instincts quickly tells her what to do when she delivers a baby. EmmaLee knew what to expect with the second and third pup, and settled right in. Nursing was a bit strange to her, and she still accidentally steps on a pup every now and than, but they are growing steadily, and appear very healthy. We don’t hear much from them, as they’re either sleeping or eating, so they must be getting plenty of nourishment, and are warm. The rest of the critters were kinda curious at first, but Em disapproved of them getting too close to her new kids, so they ignore them now. Tucker really wanted to check them out, and Em let him close to the box, but she had a funny look in her eye, so I told Tucker he’d have to wait and play big brother to them when they’re a bit older.

Goose and goslings

Goose, gander and goslings in chicken courtyard

Also this week, I noticed one gosling hanging out by the goose’s nest, then a few days later, she had 5 little goslings chirping at her feet. Mom and Dad are quite attentive. Yesterday they just took them out in the courtyard where the water comes in, but today they had them out in the field. Unfortunately, they also are teaching them to be unfriendly to people, so I need to separate them and raise them by hand, as we need to sell them. I hated doing it, but I don’t know if they will be meat birds or someone’s pet/weed eater/decorative lawn bird, so I’d prefer them not to think attacking people is the right thing to do.

Chris and I started irrigating for our neighboring rancher this week too. Chris does the ranch property, which is around 1,000 acres, at a guess. I know it’s roughly a mile long from one boundary to the other, so 1,000 is a good guess. I’m irrigating the pasture he’s leasing from the elderly lady to the south, which is around 400 acres. This year might be a short irrigation season, as there is very little snow in the mountains, and we’re already up in the 80’s. While it’s nice not to be freezing, wet and muddy, it is way too hot for April and looks and feels more like late summer. The pastures should be green and the grass tall, but not even the weeds are growing like they normally do. We’re hoping that we will get some moisture within the next month or two, otherwise, it is going to be a long, hot summer.

Fence Work

Pasture fence

Pasture fence

Yesterday I took apart more fencing. This time it was a fence out beside the paddock area. It was a bit of a challenge, as most of the fence posts were not really in the ground that deep, so as I worked on pulling out the fencing staples, I had to hold onto the fence post with one hand while I pried out the staple with the other. You can see how some of the fence posts are not straight up and down and look a bit wobbly. Fun stuff!

End of the fence post

End of the fence post

You can tell in this photo that whoever put it in, didn’t spend much time making sure that it would be a solid fence. It should be in pass the frost line, not just a few inches in the ground. I’m surprised it stayed up at all. All of the fence posts are like that around here, so the entire fence needs to be replaced. The cows, mules and horses get to rubbing on them, and the posts just about fall over. That doesn’t keep the critters in very well. The fence also has been walked over by critters, so is only half the height it should be along the back of the modular home. That is one of the first sections we plan on replacing.

We went in for lunch, planning on working on the fence by our house, but we decided since it is Easter, we’d relax a bit and enjoy the day. Here’s a short video that Chris took while we were pulling out the fence posts.

Reno in the paddock

Reno in the paddock

Friday I moved our three bulls in. The rancher to the north of us now has part of his herd on the pasture that borders our fenceline. Knowing how bulls are, we decided it was safer to have them in a stronger enclosure than risk them walking through the fence and romancing the neighbor’s cows. That doesn’t make for good neighbors. We plan on putting the horses and mules on the front little pasture with a large round bale and allow the cows out in the main field. I was hoping to do that this weekend, but it didn’t get done. Hopefully in the next few days we can switch them out.

Here’s some more pictures I took while pulling down the fence. Tucker is shown here guarding me from Elliott, our Dexter bull. I  was waiting on Chris for a minute and decided to get a picture of Elliott, who is now in the paddock. Tucker had been hunting with EmmaLee and Sage in the neighbor’s field. I squatted down to get a picture at eye-level with the bull, and the next thing I know, Tucker was right between us. I hadn’t said a thing, but Tucker had been watching out for me, even though I thought he was off playing in the tall grass next door. He still amazes me sometimes!

Cows and horses and mules

Bally and Wink

Bally and Wink

Now that March is over, we have only had the twin calves born here so far. Two of the cows out in the main pasture have slipped (aborted) their calves, for unknown reasons. We took the other four cows to have them preg-tested, and they are all pregnant. Time will tell. We both would like to see a few more calves on the ground.

The other day, luckily my day off, we saw the horses and mules run passed our front window. I went out to catch them up as Chris left for work. Since several of them needed their feet worked on, I decided to bring a few of them in and trim feet. Junior, our youngest mule, needs to be worked with and trained, so I pulled him in too. It was a rather enjoyable morning, the sun was shining, sky clear, and the day pleasantly warm. I groomed Junior, dug out the surcingle, and started with just laying it over his back, letting it flop a bit on his other side and down his rump. After about 10 minutes, I told him he was  good boy and put him in  one of the empty stalls. I groomed Otis and put him in a stall beside Junior. Next was Delta. Her front feet aren’t the best, so I trimmed down the heels a bit and then ran a curry comb over her to help her shed off her winter coat. After that, I gave her some sweetfeed as a treat.

Clemmie was tied up at the end, waiting patiently. She was a bit perplexed when I didn’t feed her any sweetfeed, but she knows not to be a pest about it. I dug out the shedding blade and really worked her over with it. With a bit of difficulty, I trimmed her feet. They seem to be as hard as a rock, but they are also a little flexible. My hands aren’t strong enough to trim her hoof with the nippers as well as I’d like, so I usually end up taking the rasp to them and rasping them down. After that, I scratched her in her favorite spots, and just gave her some one-on-one attention. Both of us needed it. I feel more at peace with myself and the world when I’m able to work with horses, and I really miss working with my mare. Before I turned her back out, I gave her some carrots and sweetfeed, which I know she appreciated. Now that the weather is warming up, I plan on bringing her in more, if for nothing else, just to love on.

I had planned on bringing in the unnamed mare, and switch her out with Otis, but Chris and I decided to leave both the mules in the paddock for now so they get used to not being with the herd. When we turned them out yesterday morning in the paddock, they were pretty upset that they hadn’t been turned out to the pasture. By today, they were starting to settle down. In a few more days, we’ll start putting them in their stalls at night, then turning them back out during the day, then start working with them. Otis needs a bit of a tune up, and Junior needs to be trained on the basics of packing as well as riding. So maybe this week I’ll bring the mare in and put her in the stall beside the mules.

Tucker – English Shepherd – Chicken class #1

I must apologize to my readers, as I had honestly thought that I had posted how I was going to work on training my English Shepherd, Tucker, how to guard the chickens. But after I had posted Chicken class #2, I realized that I hadn’t posted anything yet. So, I’ll take a minute now to explain the reasoning behind the Chicken classes.

Tucker face 2-13-2011

Tucker at about 14 weeks old 2-13-11

I bought Tucker a little over a year ago, mostly as a guard to my little flock of chickens, ducks and geese, and for a bit of herding the cows when needed. While he seems to have the herding down pretty well, and took great care of a little bull calf that didn’t have a mamma last year, he didn’t seem to get the idea that he was supposed to be watching over my poultry. Now to be fair to him, I had no clue how to train him. He watched over the little calf with no guidance from me, and I’ve read how this wonderful breed seems to naturally want to take care of all the critters on the place, that it didn’t really occur to me that I had to figure out a way to train him. Looking back, it’s like a “well, duh!” moment, but he’s such a great dog, I just assumed he’d just kinda fall into it all by himself.

All was well actually with the chickens until the fall of 2011. My husband had bought a little heeler pup in September to replace the one that died earlier, and both dogs had the run of the place. I came home from work and found a small bunch of feathers from one of my Aracuana/Leghorn crosses, but no bird. Never did find her. Than my Khaki Campbell drake disappeared. Then over the next day or two, I came home to some headless chickens. Needless to say, I kinda got a bit freaked, as I couldn’t figure out what was happening to the birds. I’m still not sure, but I reinforced the chickens courtyard and locked them up. The dogs were sent to doggie prison, a large kennel by the house.

Tucker watching the chickens

Tucker watching the chickens

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out how to train Tucker that the birds were his responsibility. A few suggestions had been to take him with me when I feed, collect eggs, etc. Well, I have been since I got him, and although he sniffed at the birds, and was curious, he didn’t seem overly impressed with them. I don’t really spend much time with my birds, although I would talk to them mostly at night, and when the Aracauna/Leghorns were younger, I’d pick them up and pet them and talk with them. But none of my birds are specifically pets, so time is not spent on them much. My son was the chicken whisperer. I didn’t seem to inherit that gene!

Then I got to thinking. Tucker probably doesn’t relate to the birds  because he doesn’t see me doing much with them, and because we don’t spend time with them. Other four footed animals are easier to relate to for a dog. Poultry, I have discovered, not so much. So on the mornings that I can, I have been taking him into the courtyard when I let them out of the coop, and we just hang out with the birds. I can see him paying more attention to them each time I take him in. Here’s the link to the video I took of his first time: Tucker and Chicken class #1.

Hence the Chicken Class for Tucker. I’m hoping that by spring, when I want to let the chickens out to range on the pasture, Tucker will be ready and willing to watch over them and keep them safe.

Tucker and chicken class – #2

Tucker checking out the chickens at the pond

Tucker checking out the chickens at the pond

Tucker seems to be getting the hang of the chicken thing. Here’s a video I took on his fourth day in with the poultry: Tucker: Lesson 2 with chickens.

He’s curious about the chickens that go on the other side of the wall to get a drink from the little pond in their coop, and seems to think they should all be together. I like the way that he’s watching them, and is going up and sniffing them and checking them out. He’s also very low key the whole time. He’s thinking about it, and perhaps what Mom wants him to do.

Tucker at my feet

Tucker at my feet

One thing he does that I have to work with is that when I’m in the coop with him, he comes and sits/leans on my feet and legs. He still watches the birds while there, but I would like him to stay off of me, and focus a bit more on the chickens. I need to start putting myself out of the picture so to speak, and not always be in the coop with him, so he starts understanding that I want him to watch over the birds for me. I’ll stay close by so I can watch him and run interference if necessary until I feel he has the idea firmly in his mind.

When the weather gets a bit better, I’ll be letting them loose in the pasture, and will continue to work with him then. I’m looking forward to them being outside and able to free range again.

Tucker checking out the chickens

Tucker checking out the chickens