Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Holidays. . . in the rear view mirror






Tom and I receive such wonderful Christmas letters from his family, while my family, now that the kids are grown, strains to put up a Christmas ornament! It is wonderful getting the up-dates of our far-away relatives and staying current on how fast all the children are growing!

Highlights of our year: two weeks in Europe visiting the Lefebers and seeing sights, thankful that my sister could join us; a new sting-proof bee suit for me so I won't have to worry about re-queening as often; goat babies and so far six months of delicious goat milk; our new road and the almost completion of our new 7kW solar system. Visiting with Luce and Phoebe several times during the year was wonderful and of course our house sale in San Antonio and our move to the country was a big change. On a sad note, my mother also passed away this year after a year of meeting tremendous hardship with unflagging good spirits.

What we're looking forward to in 2010 is Tom's new schedule of working only on Monday and Tuesday of each week and spending the rest of the week together at the ranch.

I'll post more about our new solar system once it is complete.

Happy 2010 everyone!

Our new road after an inch of rain last night - no 4WD needed!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bees, Goats & Green Grass

Finally checked on my honey bees yesterday after months of neglect. Good news -- they've been doing just fine on their own. Have some more honey on them, which I'll leave for the bees, and both hives appear strong. One hive was very passive and calm, while the other hive was very loud and had lots of bees in the air, although none flew at me aggressively. Thanks to my new bee suit, not one sting.

I made some beeswax candles a couple of weeks ago. I've had a time finding real beeswax candles to buy. Last month when I finally found some, I was assured they were wax candles but once I opened them I knew they were not. I finally called the wholesaler who read me the description from their order book: ". . . and contains 100% bees wax . . ." I knew then what the problem was. I could tell by their scent they contained mainly paraffin and very little, if any bees wax. But of course the drop or two of beeswax they did have in them was 100%! So, now that I've finally gotten set up to make my own, my bees and their production are even more precious to me. And I waxed one of my hard goat cheeses with the bee wax as well. Can't wait until that one finishes ripening!

The goats are doing well; I really enjoy listening to Bubba sweet talk the Girly Goats!


Finally I am using the goat-milk soap I made last month. I am pleased with my first attempt and will be soon be making some Bubba Gruff Baaaaaad Boy Soap.

With all the good rain we've had the cows and calves are looking good. Mostly I've been enjoying the animals, riding my bicycle for errands into town and seeing this place all green again after months of devastating drought.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good Golly Girlie Goat Soap



Well, my first attempt at soap making. I'll know for sure in about a month whether or not I have real soap, but so far so good! This soap is made from fresh goat milk, thanks to the abundance of milk from my two Nigerian Dwarf Goats, Ginger and Spice. I look forward to using this as facial soap as there are no scents or ingredients other than milk, coconut oil and olive oil, and of course lye, which is no longer chemically lye due to the transformation between lye and oil (fat). No lye, no soap, as they say.

I am looking forward to creating my first batch of Bubba Gruff Baaaad Boy Soap, which will be a manly concoction, much like Bubba Gruff, with rosemary and mint. Meanwhile I am hoping that Ariel or some talented person will help me with labels for our new soap.

Now I might buy some more molds and get back to work. Or go have a snack of my delicious goat milk cheese, both hard cheese and soft, or maybe some goat yogurt with maple syrup. Love my little goatees!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

LT Beef Delivery Changes?


Yesterday Tom and I sold a processed beef to five individuals. Three came to my house in San Antonio to pick up their beef and we delivered to two customers. Our house is being sold now and Tom & I will be moving to the ranch in January. One thing we have not resolved is how our LT Beef business would continue operating in San Antonio without a home as our home base.

I hope I have an answer: The Pearl Farmer's Market that is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. I am seeking information about having a booth monthly where we can arrange customer pick up of our beef and maybe even sell some of our pasture-raised eggs. And this could be the final motivation to get me making some goat-milk soap products, also to sell.

So, thank you to our new and returning customers and we will keep you posted on future developments.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Mom

My mother passed away July 29, 2009, after having been bed-ridden for a year as the result of a stroke in 2006 or so. This picture is from 2008, right before she went into the nursing home. I spent the last three days of my mom's life, along with my sisters and her husband, at her side.

I won't go into the all the profound thoughts about the mysteries of life and death this event has evoked in me. I will say that I am grateful for the kindness and compassion shown to me by friends, family, the LT Beef customers I was working with at the time of her death, and even strangers. This is still a tender time for me and my family, but I hope and intend that one outcome be my increased compassion for others who are suffering from any cause.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Local Beef?


About seven years ago I answered an ad in the local Cuero paper about free kittens. When I called, the cat owner told me he and his family would be out of town that day but come by and pick out a cat. He gave me directions and I drove to a beautiful ranch property, pipe fence galore, big in-ground swimming pool, and a bunch of friendly dogs. I picked out our cat now known as Mousemaster and have always appreciated this man's trust in strangers and the obvious good care he took of the livestock and pets in his charge.

This family recently opened a restaurant and meat market about twelve miles from us. Tom and I made it over for lunch today and the atmosphere was pleasant and the food the usual fare in small towns, all off the Benny ? truck that supplies all the ready to heat and serve food products. I thought that maybe their steaks would be good since they had found a market to sell their own beef.

That is not to be the case, however, as when we visited the meat market next door we were told that all the meat came from IBP . Which means my somewhat-distant neighbor sells his beef at a local auction, the animals are probably shipped hundreds of miles to a feed lot, and then on to IBP. So I guess its possible that some of the beef in the case is off his own ranch, but highly improbable. Like the man running the meat market told us, there are just no local processors around anymore, and even though one is rumored to have re-opened 50 miles away, getting organized to get it set up to sell their own local beef will take some doing.

Don't I know that!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Snake Wrangling 101

This morning, before coffee, I saw the wren nest that had been in a cubby on my porch on the ground, empty of its two young, still unfeathered, inhabitants.  My two cats, waiting to be fed, were my first suspects as to the cause of the loss.  Then I saw a snake wrapped around my hats, beneath the cubby.  No more mystery of the nestlings' fate; however, the parent wrens were quite noisy and dive bombing at me, as if I was the cause of the tragedy in their lives.

Not to miss an opportunity for excitement, I video taped my part in the matter (after milking the goats and feeding the chickens, of course.)

This is a five-minute video but does have an interesting ending!



Will have a post soon on my new goat management practices and its harmonic convergence with all things organic.  Check back soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black Bull Exercise Program


Ariel is spending a week with me at the ranch while Joseph is doing a short summer semester at A & M Corpus Christi.  After completing morning chores (milking the goats, releasing the chickens, feeding the dogs, etc.) we were enjoying a cup of coffee and looking at some photos from our trip to Europe last month.

My next-door neighbor, an 83-year-old widow, called me to let me know our bull was in her pasture.  This neighbor, similar to all our other older neighbors, can be hell on cattle.  She takes no mercy on them, chasing them into the pens, letting them know in no uncertain terms that they will behave while under her command.  While all this is well and good, I have this pre-conceived notion that little old ladies (80ish) should not be climbing fences to dodge charging bulls.  So, when Trula told me she would pen my bull for me, Ariel and I got up, hooked the trailer to the truck and headed over.

She indeed did have the bull penned and Ariel and I were able to load him within a matter of minutes.  Trula let me in the chute with him to load him, so maybe she is slowing down a bit.  Anyway, Poindexter III is back home now.  
 
This is a good example of enforced exercise and lifestyle choice.  No doubt I would have been content to enjoy my coffee and browse the computer, do a little gardening later in the morning and do my goat work after I was "well rested."  But I got an extra hour of exercise today, which included fence climbing and being generally active, exercise that I would not have gotten had I had my old desk job or even had my 3-day-a-week gym membership.

If I can keep at this, maybe one day I'll be an 80-ish little old lady capable of putting these bulls in their proper place.

Friday, June 12, 2009

So you wanna be organic?


This morning, right before the temperature hit 90 degrees, I spent an hour organically dealing with sand burrs. Also known as "goat heads" to cyclists, who are familiar with these burrs from changing the flat tires caused by them, and as "stickers" to children growing up in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.

A pasture full of sand burs, or even just a few plants at each and every gate, with the burrs ready to latch on to dog or cow or person, then hitchhike a ride to a new pasture, is more than a nuisance. Their presence is annoying enough to make a person want to go into mosquito hobby farming just to enjoy the relative pleasure of mosquitoes.

So how does one organically deal with sand burrs? With a hoe or similar instrument, thick gloves and a sincere, if impractical, belief that one can make a difference pulling them out plant by plant. And then burning them. No chance taken on composting these babies and hoping they won't reproduce a year later.

There are two chemicals I know of that are formulated to kill these plants -- one is a pre-emergent (usually these plants don't let me know where they'll be coming up so you have to spray a whole pasture) and a new one just being advertised this spring that will kill them after they have sprouted and grown horns. I haven't bothered looking into the "side effects" of these chemicals and reading the hazards associated with using them. I am easily resisting all temptation to look to this "cure."

Before WW II and the heavy use of chemicals in agriculture, I would guess that sand burrs were taken care of the "organic" way. But those farmers, and earlier, slaves, didn't have air conditioning and digital media calling them hither from the scorching and windy fields. And many of those folks actually tried to make a living or at least feed their family from the direct work of their back. Me, I'm an aging boomer who has chosen a laborious lifestyle to maintain health, and who believes that in the end Nature has the best ideas for the continuation of life on this planet. Maybe not solely for human life, but for life in general.

But I must say that I hope others join me in this organic move to rid this place of sand burrs. Sand burrs must be cruel to the mouths of cows, calves and goats. And I know they can put the toughest dog out of action when buried deep in a paw. To the younger kids and the aging hippies, and to intelligent life forms everywhere,  to anyone who believes strongly and fervently in all things organic and sustainable, or if you just really dislike being pricked, please make sure you never pass a sand burr again without putting an end to its existence!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cattle Work - more than you want to know?




While Tom and I were gone we had two bull calves born; one to a heifer and one to an older cow.  The calf of the older cow, No. 6, appeared to have an umbilical hernia so that needed to be checked, plus they could get their little steer-making procedure.

Before we went on vacation we had tried a new "steer-making" procedure on one of the bull calves, using an emasculator, aka Burdizzo, an instrument purchased from Premier Supply for use in making wethers of our buck goats.  We tried it on a young steer calf and today, three weeks later, examined the results.  The procedure appears to have worked and testicle growth was stopped.  The procedure was much less stressful on the calf and on the operators (Tom and me) and because it is bloodless, less chance of infection.

Fortunately, the bull calf who appeared to have a hernia did not and was released, as a steer, to his mother.  So we now have two new steer calves.

In addition, we had some 600 lb. calves that needed to be weaned and one smaller calf who was still on the heifer/young cow.  So we have six calves in the pen now for weaning.

It is my opinion that people, me included, who choose to eat and enjoy the benefits of meat, should also be aware of the actual cost of the meat to the animal and to the environment.  I don't believe the bulk meat in the typical grocery store covers the actual cost of the work required by the initial rancher and encourages less humane treatment of the animals and of the environment, especially feed lots.  The large meat packers and the large Agri-businesses make the most profit from the animals.

I do concern myself with the concept of "Do no harm" and feel that my partaking of meat does cause harm (of course, just existing as a human does "harm" to some resources of  this planet.)  However, I am doing my best to cause less harm when I choose to enjoy the nutritional and flavor benefits of beef.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Great to be back home!

Tom and I have returned from our vacation and we were welcomed back by healthy, well-tended cows, goats, dogs, cats and chickens and a clean house!

Also, some full honey frames which Torrin helped me finish extracting while I was recovering from jet lag.  I'll finish bottling the honey today and will have at least enough to bake my bread for the next year.

The grass is still green and growing, there's hay that needs to be cut and overall what looked like a dismal, drought-filled year has turned into the abundance that only nature can provide.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Country Mile

Joe and I are finishing up at the ranch today, were giving everything a good cleaning and organizing so it will be nice and fresh when Lauren arrives. Joe will be out here for one more day before he begins his summer term at A&M Corpus Christi. 
Yesterday, we took the doelings to the vet for thier debudding. So far there's been no problems, and they are acting compeletly normal. 
While we were here Joe also pulled a super off the hives, that had about 50 pounds of honey on it. He replaced that super, and added another to a hive which didn't have one.
I wanted to be really eloquent in this post, to honor the amazing week we had. But I'll just leave that to the band Camera Obscura.
see you soon!
~Ariel

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Update

hey this is Ariel.
Joe and I took over at the ranch on sunday. Our friend Torrin from Austin met us out here. Torrin has been working on an organic farm in Buda, he just recently relocated to San Antonio, and is going to be helping us at the ranch.
The first thing I did on sunday night was open up Lauren's excellent cookbook Roasting by Barbara Kafka. I have had Lauren's roast chicken in the past and I was really excited to try it myself. We used Lauren's rooster. Joe, Torrin and I all chased it around the yard and finally got it. When we roasted the chicken I threw in some zucchini and onion from the garden. It was one of the best meals I'd have all week.
Were all now looking forward to eating the rooster from our flock out in the front pasture. We made plans to fatten it up beforehand.
Early Tuesday morning Joe and I had to leave, so I could work in the restaurant Tuesday and Wednesday. Torrin stayed behind to look after the animals.
While we were gone Nathan, co-owner of the pasture chickens, and Heidi came up for the day. They had an LT beef chuck stew, and Heidi got to see the ranch for the first time.
Wednesday night Joe and I headed back out to the ranch with our friend Jon.  When we arrived we decided to visit the cows in the pasture, one was acting strangely and separating itself from the herd. shortly after it calfed! 
Now it's Thursday morning. Jon, Torrin, and I started off the day with an omelet courtesy of the chickens. Then me and Jon cleaned out the dairy barn and threw fresh hay down for the goats. Then I gave Greta, Shadow, and Joe and I's dog Savannah a good brushing.
It's been a relaxing week of feeding Princess, watching the doelings and Bubba Gruff climb trees like crazy and eating good food. 
Lauren if your reading this: hope your having a great time!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wow, its Friday already?!

The week has flown by! We've had so much fun! Its mostly been all of us being lazy and lying around and/or eating! We've still had tremendous troubles keeping the goats out of the chicken feed! They are sneaky creatures! Unfortunately, I think Spice has gained some weight, unless she's just bigger than Ginger. So, the "snacks" we provide to motivate feeding Princess have become smaller! On a good note, a little one raisin bribe after the feeding is done seems to be working! Tonight while on the milkstand Spice let Princess feed a few minutes without getting fussy! We're making progress.
Wednesday was fish day. We went to the DeWitt coop and picked up the fishies! There was a really long line, but fortunately it was in the shade and we got to meet some really interesting people! But 2 hours later, we were stocking the tank with bass, blue gill, and minnows! Josh went back to check on them later in the afternoon and saw a snake where we deposited them (they didn't all make it), so the snake was cleaning up the leftovers.
We had a great Friday! Josh made a brisket (yes, its LT Beef) and we LOVED it, one of the best briskets we've ever had. It was our first smoking (we usually rely on the parents to cook it!) and it turned out great. While out in the yard today we saw a snake. The goats and chickens in the vicinity all leaped about 3 feet in the air! Josh went to inspect, very carefully, and it stayed very still. Using the LT Beef encyclopedia collection, we were able to identify it as a Texas rat snake. Once content with its surroundings (and we were content it wasn't any real threat), the snake climbed the tree! Yes, climbed! It was amazing to watch. One potentially unfortunate thing is that the tree he climbed is one we think might house a family of whistling ducks. Hopefully they moved out, or weren't eggs unattended!
The weather has warmed up again (back to the 90's), so we weren't as active outdoors today. Although I did plant a lemon tree and the goats and I ran around a bit in the front pastures near the chickens. Speaking of, Joseph has at least one rooster and he's a cutie. This morning he attempted to crow--it was quite a cacophony, but a cute effort nonetheless. We are also staying busy spoiling the mutts--Shadow loves a good brushing and Greta loves to chase her rope toy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Worming the Kids, etc.

Today was a good day, eventful, but good. After a good morning of fun, Bubba's horn buds bled (he was recently disbudded). Josh and I cleaned him up and treated him with antiseptic and we're keeping an eye on them. We think they must be itchy because he keeps scratching them. If he bleeds again, I'll call the vet and see about getting a cone!
The big event of the day was worming the kids. I started out with one yummy treat ball of delight, but none of the kids even looked at it. I made them all taste it and, nope, nothing. I was however, followed everywhere by Ginger the hungry goat! Since the treat balls didn't work, I went to work on the drenching. Mixed up just enough water to put the mixture in the syringe. Worked good, except for when the herbs clogged the syringe! This was only after I had spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out how to put the nozzle on the drencher...no luck I think a piece is missing. Poor Princess had to endure so much as my guinea pig! So I decided to milk the goats and bottle feed this mixture to the babes.
Milking went OK--Spice was a little low on goods, or was more difficult to milk, so I went on to Ginger. She had a lot of milk, so I borrowed some for all the babes. I was able to find a glass bottle in the house which fit the nipple, and mixed the herbs with the milk. I tried out poor Princess again, but she just wouldn't have it. So I worked on Bubba and Rainbow, who were very reluctant, but it went down with great ease. Later on in the day I retried Princess--still very reluctant, but I think I managed to get a good part of it down. I was wearing some of it too...and did I mention Ginger loves the stuff! She found great interest in my clothes and all of the babies mouths. Despite the wrestling, the kids are wormed!
This morning I rinsed out the pasture chickens' water, so early afternoon Josh and I went to check to make sure it was filling properly, when we noticed that the new bull calf was on the wrong side of the fence--in the North windmill pasture, while mommy was in the South! Fortunately it was by the gate and after a good 30 minutes of scheming we got him through the gate back to his herd. The big bull didn't appreciate Josh's presence one bit!
Greta was in her predator state today and Ginger was in her gluttonous state, so it was basically a day of babysitting. "Greta don't get too excited, Ginger don't eat the chicken feed, Greta calm down, Ginger don't eat the catfood, good girl Greta, Ginger don't eat Greta's food!" All in a day's work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rain and Cool Weather!

Saturday was the first day Josh and I watched the ranch. It rained most of the day (yay), so we all stayed indoors enjoying the cool weather (low 70s!).
Nothing too eventful, except Greta attacked Shadow, causing his neck to bleed a bit. Also, one of Joesph's chickens escaped their pasture sometime after the rain, but was easily returned. Everything is fine now!

Today, Sunday, the weather is absolutely beautiful! We (all of us: the goats, chickens, dogs, and humans) are really enjoying it!

It is so peaceful out here and we are really catching up on some much needed relaxing!








Friday, May 15, 2009

Calves, Goats and Buen Viaje

Tom and I will be visiting Tony & Yvonne for a week in Amsterdam.  Tony was an exchange student at Tom's high school and Tom spent a summer in The Netherlands with Tony's family after high school.  Natalie and Josh will be running things for a week and then Joseph and Ariel will take over.

I disbudded Bubba Gruff; the doelings will be disbudded by the vet next week.  I have mainly been getting ready for this trip but have made a couple of quick videos.

Here are two new calves; one from a heifer and one from a 3-year-old:


video

And of course I can't resist another goat video:

video

I may blog some from Europe and Natalie & Josh, Ariel & Joseph are welcome to post ranch updates.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fun with the Goat Kids!

The Goat Kids are a week old now and finally being allowed out to roam.  Natalie and Josh from San Antonio came to visit this weekend.   Natalie has experience with goats and she encouraged me to let the kids play outside.  Here are the results of her advice!

video

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bubba Gruff & other goat news




We had two doelings born Saturday, May 2, and a buckling born Monday, May 4.  The doelings were born without problem while the buckling needed some human help to come into this world.  His dam, Ginger, is smaller than Spice yet the buckling, Bubba Gruff, was about the size of the two doelings combined.


I slept  in the bunk house next to the goats Sunday night but now the initial anxiety and excitement over the first kidding are over.  I was hoping for a buck from each doe so I could keep them and use them for later breedings and freshenings.  The two doelings are for sale and would make good family dairy goats.  All these goats are from excellent dairy lines but I don't want to go into the breeding business so I am not registering the animals or selling them for top dollar.  I want my two does, Ginger and Spice, for our family dairy needs and they need to have babies every year or so only to keep them in milk.

We will see about getting Bubba Gruff a companion as I would like to keep two high quality bucklings.  All the babies are now "kidding around," with their hops and climbs and reverse directions.  Very cute to watch.

C'mon Bubba, we're waiting!
And waiting!
Finally Bubba arrived, after much inconvenience to his mother, Ginger but he was worth waiting for!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Brush Mott & Circus dog

Heifer's New Calf

About noon I saw No 16 hiding out in the only brush mott we have in
this pasture. Figured she'd calved and was hiding it, as all new
mamas want to do. When I checked there was no calf, so she waited and
went & "hid"by the only big oak in this pasture.

She moved around some more and finally I see her water break. I am
out in my truck now to make sure the calf is presenting properly, but
since I've been followed by 2 goats & 2 dogs, I can't get too close as
she'll be more upset. Usually these mamas can tolerate a truck, but
not someone on foot or a circus like I've got.

So, I'm back to my binoculars. I'll give her another 15 minutes
before I go confine the dogs & goats. If she doesn't progress quickly
I'll have to tie her to the truck and try to help.

Eventually, at 5 p.m. No. 16 ended up at the vets to have her calf pulled.  I figured the calf would be dead by then, but a live heifer was delivered.  We brought the calf and mamma home and kept them in the pens overnight, where the mom and baby bonded.  The calf is up and around and both mom and baby are doing well, headed out to the pasture.

Fortunately, my sister Lynn arrived in time to see the last of the rodeo.  Mamma cow got pretty out of sorts near the end and didn't go willingly to the pens or the vet.  But, in the end we had a good outcome.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fence damage - See previous blog

Big Tree - Lots of work

This is one of our century oaks damaged in the storm on April 27.
Seeing a tree so profoundly damaged is quite painful to me. There is
no doubt in my mind that it was here when Native Americans were taking
care of this land.

This image also represents about 20+ hours of hard labor to come.
This tree fell on our fence and will have to be removed, largely by
hand and chain saw. It is lying across an interior fence, not a fence
we share with a neighbor, so at least we can take our time in clearing
it.

Needless to say, no monetary bonuses are paid for this extra work.   I prefer to think of my bonus as paid in advance -- the years of inspiration, awe and pleasure I got from experiencing life with this tree.  However, this may also be an example of the exceedingly hard work sometimes demanded by country living, and why some folks head for the city at first chance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moving Chickens to Fresh Pasture

Joseph and his business partner Nathan, are raising some pullets.
They should have eggs for sale in a few months. These chickens are
allowed to roam on pasture within a protective electric net fence.
They get fresh pasture every few days.

Beef Available

Beef  Cuts Available!

Early April 2009 ago we had a side of beef processed for a new customer.  The customer was unable to complete the purchase and Joseph has some steaks and about 15 pounds of ground beef in one pound packages.  We will be glad to consume this beef ourselves, but if anyone wants information about purchasing individual cuts, please 

Much of our beef continues to go to The Cove restaurant.  If you need a grass-fed burger, The Cove is the place to go, over near San Antonio Community College.

We will have some beef available this summer for purchase as a side or a quarter.

New Blog for our website

LT Beef has been in operation for about two years now.  Our website has directed a lot of traffic to us and my only regret has been that it is static -- I do not have the know-how and software to update it as I would like.

I am hoping this blog will keep anyone visiting the site up to date on where we stand regarding beef availability and our progress in general with ranching and providing a healthy alternative to conventionally raised beef.

I may digress as well, not unusual for me, to other things I am pursuing ranch-wise and livestock-wise.  For instance, I am curious about "organic brush control."  I don't think huisach and mesquite are easy to control, organically or otherwise.  We have a minimum use of herbicide, Remedy and Diesel, used one plant at a time, to try and manage the brush.  Joseph, my son, would like to get organic status for our place and this is about the only thing that would keep us from being organic.  

We don't use other herbicides and we don't use non-organic fertilizer on our pastures and hay.  But that dang huisache and mesquite!  So, I am looking into goats -- all we are saying, is give goats a chance!