(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday: Fort Worth Stockyards



































Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Friends, Horses, Ranching, Wordless Wednesday | Leave a comment

I Call It “Eco-Rustic.” With Actual Rust.

Finally found a new use for my branding iron. I wanted to get it out from underfoot but wasn’t ready to banish it to the shed or recyclers.

That’ll work.

Categories: frugality, Humor, Life, Ranching | 4 Comments

Exit The Mighty Herd

After giving the matter a lot of hard thought, I finally decided that without access to the Trinity pasture I don’t really belong in the cow business. I mean, I could probably make it work one way or another if I put a ton of effort into it, but…it just isn’t important enough to me to put a ton of effort into. Plus I would be dependent upon the resources and goodwill of others for the foreseeable future, and frankly that makes me a little twitchy.

So Saturday a bunch of us got together and rounded them up.

For some reason three of the cows were BEYOND RESISTANT, and we spent a ridiculous amount of time getting them into the corral with the rest. They turned actively mean as the morning progressed, charging at riders and generally creating as much trouble as they could for us. We ended up having to rope those three and drag them in, while they did their best to take down every horse within reach. I have no idea what caused the change in attitude; they were never aggressive before. Possibly there has been more harassment going on here than I’ve been aware of.

Once we finally got them all penned up, we had another hassle getting them loaded them into Doc’s stock trailer. Some of the cows loaded right up and watched the brouhaha from the relative peace and quiet of the trailer…


…while others fought us for every inch of ground.


Once the the herd was finally loaded up, we put the horses in the other trailer and took them to Doc’s place, then hauled the cows out to Garner Ranch.

Garner Ranch is a big historical cattle spread up in Garner Valley, the kind of operation people don’t even build anymore. It has the sort of facilities us small-time ranchers can only dream of. The Mighty Herd was going there to be ear-tagged, vaccinated, wormed, tested for brucelosis, for that youngest calf to be castrated and for two of the cows to be preg-checked. The quickest way to accomplish all this was to run them assembly-line style through the squeeze chute at Garner Ranch.

When we got there we had to wait our turn for the alley: a rodeo bull supplier guy was using it to train a few troublesome bulls to enter chutes. They all had cool rodeo bull names like City Lights and Mr. Moody.


He ran them through the chute over and over for a while before finally shunting them into a side corral. We unloaded The Mighty Herd into a different corral and then took a lunch break. Doc’s wife Anita had brought a wonderful spread of goodies for us, and we all kicked back in a shady spot and gave it the attention it deserved.

While we were eating I grinned over at Doc. “I’m totally going to blog about how you were late getting to Trinity this morning because you got distracted and filled up your diesel truck with regular gasoline and then had to go trade it for a truck that would still run.”

He winced. “Fine, but if you blog about that then you have to include the part where that black cow charged your horse and you shrieked like a girl.”

I laughed. “Fair enough.”

“AND the part when Veronica had that heifer on her rope and she let it charge right over the top of me.”

“I seriously thought you were dead for a second there.”

Good times.

After lunch we started running the Herd through the alley.



One at a time they were locked into the squeeze chute and processed. When Doc poured a dose of vile-looking purple deworming liquid along the spine of the first one I yelped, “Dude! These are ORGANIC cows!”

“Not anymore,” he chuckled.


I had to leave in the middle of all this because I was John’s ride home and he had to be back by 3:00. But the Herd all made it safely back to Doc’s place that afternoon, and that’s where they’ll be for the next week or two. Doc brought Mahogany home Sunday afternoon.

All of the local folks who want to buy calves can come and pick out the ones they want while they’re in Doc’s arena, and then the rest will be sold together and moved to a pasture on the Res. Right now beef is going for about 88ยข a pound on the hoof, which should add up to a nice chunk of cash for the twelve of them.

In all honesty, I’m not too terribly sad to see them go. It would have been nice to fence that second pasture and enlarge the herd to a more lucrative size, but without that additional space it never would have been more than a very modestly profitable hobby. And I would have relied so heavily on the help of others that I never would have felt completely comfortable about it. AND, since I’m friends with the new owners of The Mighty Herd, I’ll still be able to keep track of how they’re doing and buy half a steer now and then to keep my freezer full of grass-fed beef. All things considered, it’s been a pretty painless transition for me so far. (I won’t be able to completely relax until all the cows and calves are in their new homes and the money is in my savings account, but that’s just me.)

I feel like all of the strands tying me to my old life are being snipped one by one, and I’m being freed up for whatever’s waiting in my new life. There are still a few strands left to snip, but I’m content to be patient and leave those in God’s hands.

Farewell, Mighty Herd! May all your pastures be green, all your water be sweet, and all your bulls be Prince Charmings. I’ll miss you guys.

Categories: Animals, Friends, Horses, Life, Ranching | 1 Comment

On A Dime

This past week has been very…um…I’m searching for an adequate adjective here. Eventful? Taxing? Mind-blowing?

Let’s just say challenging.

So after Wednesday’s bit of vandalism at Trinity, the owners understandably decided that they didn’t want to deal with the liabilities of this little range war anymore, and they said that The Mighty Herd would have to go. This was a rough blow, because my friend the Doc and I had just been about to start fencing off the second, much greener pasture there on the same property and gradually expand the empire from six mother cows to about thirty. This would have been my first big step in achieving financial independence. Alas, now it is not to be. But if it was Steve’s plan to keep harassing my cows until I got discouraged and sold out so that he could move back in, it has backfired on him, because now nobody gets to keep any cows there.

I called the Doc and he said he might be able to help a little, and to just sit tight for now. Within a few days folks were coming out of the woodwork saying that they’d heard I had beef calves to sell and that they’d like to buy one. I also got a potential offer from someone who has a relative who has hayfields in Aguanga that have just been harvested and who would most likely let my cows come and graze the stubble for as long as it lasted. A temporary solution, but a good temporary solution. The next time I spoke to Doc he said he had a buyer who would immediately take every cow that I wanted to sell, if I wanted to sell any, so that I wouldn’t have to haul them to the auction. I do love that man. (In an appropriately platonic manner of course, since Doc is happily married to a sweet and lovely wife.)


Saturday afternoon while the kids and I were getting everything packed up for their trip to camp, a strange truck pulled into the driveway and a skittish-looking fellow stepped out, holding a sheaf of papers. I instantly knew that I was being served with Something-Or-Other by Steve in response to The Blizzard Incident. I stepped outside to have a look and the poor guy started babbling a bunch of soothing platitudes. I smiled reassuringly at him and assured him that I wasn’t upset or anything and took the papers. The top of the stack was a request for a restraining order, but that part already had DENIED scrawled across it. So I dug deeper into the stack and found…that Steve was filing for physical custody of Luke and Elizabeth.

I stopped smiling.

The server guy literally backpedalled away from me with a look on his face that I might have found funny if my brain hadn’t just seized up.

“That’s just not going to happen,” I said quietly to myself after a moment.

With one hand on the door of his truck, the server guy said I should fight it. As if there were any question.

We exchanged a few more words that I don’t really remember because my head was in a whole other place by then — although I do remember him thanking me quite sincerely for my courtesy, so I must have been nice — and then he drove off and I came back in the house and read every word of the stack of papers.

Steve was requesting physical custody of the kids from Thursdays at 4pm through Sundays at noon, every other week. He was also requesting overnight visits on the Thursdays of my week. Thursdays are their Youth Group meetings, of course. He’s trying to do to them what he did to me all those years: isolate them from social interaction with anyone outside of his own bottom-feeding social class.

The court had denied the restraining order but approved the custody request, and there was a hearing date set for July 22 so that Steve and I could hash it out in court. If I wanted to contest the matter I had to file a response no later than July 20.

This had been filed way back on the 9th, but they had waited to serve me the papers until the last legal minute. I had to get my response filed first thing Monday morning. I typed up a response and emailed it to my friend Jenny, who printed it out for me (my printer’s out of ink) and brought it to church the next day.

Church was…kind of an effort for me that day. Up till then I’d been walking around in a sort of suspended state of combined disbelief and shock, but actually telling the Pastor about it out loud made it suddenly real and sharp-edged and twisty. I cried a few tears and he reassured me that this was God at work and that when all the dust settled things would be better than ever for the kids and I. And then the service started and I had to sing with the worship team and I was really afraid that I might throw up all over my mike and I was really glad that Susan was gone this week and we had a guest worship leader that sings so loud and strong that no backup is really needed so I could just whimper along and it wouldn’t matter a bit. But the songs themselves were very comforting, and by the end my voice and my spirit had revived quite a lot. There is true power in that music, I think.

After the service I talked to Doc, and practical soul that he is, he sat me down and gave me a wonderfully long list of reasons why it would make no sense for a court to give Steve that custody schedule. Right now Luke and Elizabeth have a full, rich social life and a place in the church community and Steve has nothing to offer them but isolation and video games and late nights at Casa Gamino. And he works on Thursdays, Fridays and sometimes Saturdays, so they’d be stuck in some sort of child care situation during the day. And if he couldn’t even get through one night without drinking, how is he going to get through four days at a time? AND, the kids don’t WANT to go live with him every other week. The list went on and on. The sharp twisty thing in my stomach softened into something dull and manageable and my brain chugged back into something pretty close to normal function.

My friend the Doc is a treasure beyond price.

That afternoon I drove the kids up to Camp Wynola in beautiful Julian. We signed them in and found their cabins and they picked out their bunks and we unpacked their stuff and I put a few dollars into a spending account for them so they can buy juice and snacks at the camp store and then it was time for me to go.

And suddenly it seemed absolutely ridiculous to even think about abandoning my little boy there for a whole week.

I didn’t worry about Elizabeth, I knew she’d enjoy the break from home. And the camp itself looked wonderful and safe and fun. But…my boy! My snuggly Luke! What would he do without me?

I gave him one last hug and watched him skip happily back to his cabin with a careless smile on his little face.

And then I reminded myself that he’s going to be nine years old next month and if he can’t spend a week away from home by now then I have done a poor job of raising him.

Then I went back to the camp office and let the staff know that my friend Michelle would be bringing Luke and Elizabeth home on Friday along with her kids. Because part of the divorce process in California is that both parents have to attend a Parent Orientation Program to help them properly guide their children though the divorce process and Steve and I have to go to ours on Friday and won’t THAT be fun!!

After I got home I sat down and completely rewrote my response to the custody thing, this time bringing all of Doc’s advice to bear on the matter. Then I emailed it to myself. First thing Monday morning I drove to Temecula, went to the library, checked my email on the web, and printed out copies of the rewritten version.

Oh. I missed a part of my story.

Okay, baaack up to earlier in the week. I had found a website that carefully detailed the entire divorce process step by step and form by form, and I realized that I had Made An Error. I did not know that the divorce could not move forward until a Proof Of Service Of Summons form had been filed. And here’s the thing. Steve and I had still been on civil terms a month ago, so I had served him the divorce papers myself. Well. It turns out that that’s a no-no. Someone ELSE who is over 18 and NOT ME has to give him the papers and fill out the Proof of Service Of Summons form. Gaaaahhhhh.

So on Sunday Jenny had served the divorce papers to Steve all over again, and filled out the form, and I took that with me on Monday to get filed along with the other thing.

And this post is going to have to be written in many parts, because that was JUST THE VERY BEGINNING of what is shaping up to be one of the craziest weeks of my entire life.

But here’s a nicer note to part on: a post from the Camp Wynola blog!

Categories: Cats, Christianity, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, Love, Ranching | 4 Comments

Cows and Gizmos

A while back, before school got out for the summer, I promised Luke and Elizabeth that we’d go back to The Imagination Workshop sometime during summer vacation. “Sometime before you go to camp,” I promised them. We’d gone once before, almost exactly a year ago, and we’d loved it.

A few days ago Luke reminded me that they were leaving for camp on the 19th, and we hadn’t gone to the Workshop yet. D’oh! So I decided we could squeeze that in amongst the errands I needed to run in Temec yesterday.

We were about 30 minutes into our commute down the hill when I got a call from the caretaker at Trinity: the Mighty Herd was loose and wandering down a paved road. Groan! I did a U-turn and headed back to help catch them.

It was baffling, because I had JUST walked the entire fenceline the previous afternoon, so I knew the pasture was sound. How in the world had the cows pushed their way out?

After the caretaker and I had gotten them back inside I hiked back down the fence again, looking for clues, and discovered that the cows hadn’t pushed their way out at all.



All five strands of wire had been cut. There were quad tracks leading up to the break in the fence, and leading away again in a in a slightly different direction. Quad, not truck, so this wasn’t a theft attempt. Just a case of malicious mischief.

I had a little roll of baling wire and my fencing pliers in the car already (because I’m all MacGyvery that way) (and also it’s been way too long since I’ve cleaned out my car), so I showed the caretaker what I’d found, patched up the fence, and continued on down to Temecula.

First stop: my haircut. I do love a shiny new haircut.

And then the Imagination Workshop, and it was just as cool as we remembered!




Elizabeth and The Impossible Triangle. A different camera angle reveals the secret:


Behold Infinity (and my new haircut) in the Kaleidoscope Room!


Luke is so completely in his element in this place. The gadgets, the gizmos, the whangdoodles!!


Elizabeth is mostly just inspired to get in touch with her inner goofball.


Anyway, we had a ball and I’m glad I made time for it, even if it was about 10pm by the time we’d finished all our errands and made it home.

I can’t believe summer vacation is halfway over already. Where does it GO? Clearly there is some sort of warp in the time-space continuum at work here.

I’m sure Luke will get it all figured out someday, and invent a device to counteract the effect.

Categories: Family, kids, Life, Love, Ranching | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.