“Chickens on the Road” represents my life growing up and living on a Sandhill’s ranch. “Pancreas in the Ditch” is my daily struggle with Type 1 Diabetes, over 30 years now. Life on a ranch is hard, rewarding, and difficult. Life with diabetes is mainly hard and difficult. I married my rancher, Newt, and have a young daughter ReeRee. We raise Angus and crossbred cows on a semi-arid grassland ranch. Wife, mother, ranch bookkeeper, and an off-the-farm job…whew! Torpedo, Buster, and Porkchop (dogs) and several horses round out the household. I hope you enjoy my posts and updates.
Rooster and hens
Rooster and hens
My rooster crows as the two hens look on. The dogs destroyed the chickens when ReeRee was born. Newt's mom had to vacuum up the millions of feathers on the grass with the lawn mower before we got home from the hospital.
My Dad driving Angus Herd
All the cows are home! The 150 mile trip from cornstalks to the home range is complete. The winter was mild this year and the cows did well. They are fat and sassy. Usually heifers are thinner. (They have to grow themselves and a baby. Cows just have to grow a baby.) The cattle eat the “trash” or “leftovers” of the corn field. The combine picks, or removes, the ears of corn in late fall, leaving the stalk, leaves, and husks behind in the field. But a few ears of corn are missed or fall to the ground. Grazing cornstalks is a win-win. The farmer receives payment for grazing his field after the crop is removed, and the cattlemen’s cost to winter the cows is far less. It’s like someone paying you to buy your scraps off the table. Imagine a cornfield like a buffet. Some tasty items go quickly, others go slowly. Like lima beans on a buffet - the last to go. ewww. Veterans of the cornfield will scour the field for downed ears. (Too many ears are bad for the cows and can actually kill them.) After the ears are gone, the cows will eat the husks, or leaves that surround the ear of corn. After the husks, the leaves. After the leaves, the stalk. But the stalk has little nutritional value and the cows will actually starve if all they have to eat is stalks. The rule of thumb is to move the cows if there is no corn in their poop. It means the cows have eaten all the corn and working their way to poorer quality feed. The cows made the long trip safe and sound. Jimbo, Newt’s dad, is one finger short. The tip of his finger was crushed in the gate loading cows. Jimbo showed me pictures and it wasn’t pretty. I won’t be posting those. Newt’s brother drove the truck the next day for his dad. His two-year old son fell out when they opened the door and knocked out three of his bottom teeth. Yes, the cattle were safe and sound. The humans didn’t fair so well.
March has blown in…and just kept blowing. The wind shoved dirt into our windows, blown sand out of the blowout, down the road, and into piles in my driveway. The warm weather melted all the previous snow. It was becoming dry again. My tulips are starting to bud and my lawn is just starting to green. I was going to have to water. And I dread gardening. Some people brag about their “green thumbs”. I should have inherited at least one from my mother, or both grandmothers, but I didn’t. I have a “RoundUp Ready Thumb”- it doesn’t discriminate and kills everything green in its path. So I was relieved when the rain started pattering down last night. The rain was welcomed, as the native range, and my lawn, both needed it.
At My Great Grandparents Ranch
Hauled some heifers (young females cows) we bought from Mom and Dad’s legendary cow bloodlines. Have to spend the salebarn check on new Annieding stock for 2 reasons: 1) we need the cow numbers, 2) Uncle Sam’s capital gains tax is a killer, so we must buy stock this year. Newt made 6 trips this weekend- over 500 miles/day. Ree-Ree and I stayed at the grandparents for a couple days. Newt forgot to shut the sidegate on the trailer, so Ree-Ree chased her first cows. Those heifers filed off the trailer real nice and straight into the shelterbelt (rows of trees planted to break the prairie winds). Cows always know where the hardest place to corral them is.
Ranch Update: Newt sold some bred cows at the salebarn near cornstalks. The…cows…were…the…last…to…sell….. It’s like standing in line for 6 hours on Black Friday, only to find you are the last in line. Newt’s bum was flat for sitting that long, but this has been a good year for prices (cattle and all their input costs!!) Been a busy week, so tweaked this recipe to be fast and easy. Ree-Ree even ate some “cow meat”, not off her plate, but our plates. ********************************** Messy Deliciousness 1/2 lb hamburger. ¼ c chopped onion. ¼ tsp dried chili pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot). Brown together until meat is no longer pink. Add to hamburger mixture and heat until bubbly:2 cans beans (kidney- drained, pork and beans- not drained) 1/3 cup ketchup, ¼ c brown sugar, 2 TBS Worchester sauce. Good and fast.
Nearly a foot of wet snow. The ranch needed it: to settle the dust, lower the wildfire danger, and start building up moisture for the grass's roots. Cows are still at cornstalks. Heifers should start calving in a couple weeks. Newt's dogs killed my cat, Frankenkitty. I have ignored their wagging tags- they will get the cold shoulder for a while.