Monday, August 31, 2009

Mountain lion

We had the most amazing experience yesterday. One of our campers told Tom that he had found a mountain lion kill. Knowing that this is practically unheard of, we headed off on a hike to find it. Mountain lions are very elusive animals and are very rarely seen in the wild, neither Tom or I have ever seen one. It is said that for every 24 hours you are in the woods, a mountain lion has seen you for at least one hour of that time. With as much time as we spend in the forest, we have been watched plenty, but never lucky enough to see a cougar, let alone get a chance to study it's kill.
Mountain Lions are solitary animals that are ambush hunters. They have a very wide home range, and it is uncommon for cats to share territories. Males never share their territory with another male, they will even kill offspring if it doesn't move out of it's home turf. Lions mostly feed on deer, but are known to even eat insects and rodents for the ever needed protein. An elk is a very impressive kill for a single mountain lion.
When we arrived on scene I was absolutely amazed at the size of the elk, he was the second largest elk I have seen, beaten only by one that I packed out during hunting season 2 years ago. He had a perfectly symmetrical rack, each side having six points! The mountain lion had made a bed near by, and from the scat (remember, I'm a poop expert-ha!) piles, we gathered that it had been a mama and cub that had worked together to hunt this magnificent animal. The elk was very old, which is how they were able to take him, we could tell by his teeth. It was so cool how the lions had tried to bury him with all sorts of grass and sticks, but there was no hiding that big boy.
Now, this is where the mom in me comes in. This is not something you should try at home. We were in clear and present danger to be near a mountain lions next few days of meals. We were very prepared with two armed guards and approached the scene very carefully. It wasn't until we spotted the turkey vultures that we knew we could get closer. The vultures would not have been there if the lion was. While a couple of people checked things out, the others watched for signs of the big cat, and then we switched; always making sure at least two people were watching for the cats return. We took our photos and exited stage left for nature to continue its oh so cool and wondrous ways of working.
PS If you are interested in seeing the pics, let me know.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Royal Ranch Royalty

I have decided to introduce you to one of our critters each Sunday . I will call it Royal Ranch Royalty, as that's how they are all treated. I have very few animals that come here that do not have some kind of story, whether it be good or bad. Rescuing animals has been the hardest job that I have ever done. My family has seen a lot of heartbreak when it comes to not being able to save them all, but the rewards are enormous as you will see in this weekly series.

Today, I would like to introduce you to Shade, or as I call him "Little Buddy". Shade is a character in my children's book, Cuddly Cat, and is our resident nurse. He takes his job oh so seriously and is fantastic at it! I always know when one of the critters is not quite right as Shade will let me know. He will go out of his way to stay with whatever animal it is that is sick, even if that means a little danger under very big feet.

When my beloved Marilyn Monroe (our first Great Pyrenees) got sick and died, Shade was with us the entire time. Last year when a llama was injured during a pack trip, Shade stayed with him. After all, he did go to nursing school; he was a blood donor in vet clinics for many years before he arrived at The Royal Ranch. He is also wonderful because he gets along with everybody, when the house cats spit and slap at him, he just calmly walks away with a "what's your problem, man?" look on his face.

Shade has long black hair and intelligent green/yellow eyes that are very observant. He has a way of communicating with me that is downright uncanny. Along with his very insistent meowing, we have created a bond that needs no words, literally! People laugh when I tell them that such a spectacular cat is a barn cat, but he would have it no other way. He was strictly an outdoor cat before he lived here, but now he is too busy keeping an eye on the ranch to even want to come inside. Shade and his girlfriend (spayed and neutered, of course) live in their very own garage underneath our renters house.
It puts a smile on my face at least twice a day when I walk by that garage on my way to do chores. Before I even come around the corner, Shade pops out of his kitty door with a large "Meow", his girl close on his tail. He sneaks through the llama fence to help do the chores, and especially enjoys feeding the chickens (I'm not sure if the chickens enjoy it though!). He calmly waits for me to finish so that we can have our "Cuddly Cat" time, which is how I got this picture. It's hard to take a good pic of something that is always wrapped around me. I feel very blessed to have such a wonderful cat in my life!!
Have a miracle of a Day!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Following" The Royal Ranch

I feel very blessed about the great feedback I get from this blog. I started it as a way to build my business, and help get my children's book published, but it has turned into much more than that. It has been a wonderful way to stay in touch with the people I love, but rarely get to visit with. My blog has also been a form of therapy and reward, it is visible proof of what I am accomplishing and how I am able to touch my readers.
I had to laugh at myself and my very American ways when I got this note from my German exchange sister Irina:
Judy, the first day I read in your blog was when you posted the German rooster’s language. I was so touched! How fun and how sweet of you! I LOVE reading about your daily life and am amazed about the eco-awareness and the many advices you can give!You will understand that I had to smile about the idea of using the extra spinning cycle of your washer before using the dryer to save energy. You probably know that we don’t have a dryer but use mother air to dry clothes (your Mom loved the clothes rack we have). We sometimes use the extra spinning cycle so they dry faster. When it was really sunny and dry out the other day I “scolded” Matthias for wasting energy for the extra spinning; we have this running gag of threatening the other one with building a nuclear plant just for his/her energy needs… I also fully understand that the mass of dirty clothes of a 5 person household is a different story from what we have!! – I am also amazed that you make scheisse into gold!

I was so excited to hear that Irina had been reading my blog, I think my Dad had something to do with that!! It was so rewarding to know that Irina was keeping up with the family and learning about things we do, but it sure is funny that my "being green" is rather extravagant to her!
This blog has also been a great source of self confidence, I never realized how my writing can tell a side to the story that no one had heard, but everyone can appreciate; or that everyone has heard but I can shed a different light on. It has enabled us all to look at things from a different angle, maybe one we had not thought of before. But I think one of the best rewards is being able to show people who I am, in a way I choose-Ha!
So...with that said, I would love to ask for you to "Follow" my blog, and tell your friends, as well. You see, the more followers I get, the higher I will get in the search engines. That means that all of this wonderful information is available for more people to read. We wouldn't want to deprive them of that would we? LOL!
Seriously though, if you like what you read, click on become a Follower, you can also get my spectacular stories sent right to your e-mail box if you subscribe!
Have a miracle of a day!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Summer of Injuries

Good Morning. This has been a summer of multiple injuries here at the Royal Ranch. It started with Nathan breaking his collarbone. Then before the three months of healing was up, he broke his foot on a trampoline (against our better judgement, of course). Thomas had a pretty bad bicycling accident and then broke his ankle a couple of weeks ago. I, too, have been very injury prone this summer. I have had so many cuts, mostly on my feet, that I lost count after 7. My worst injury was when I really sliced my hand.

Anyway, when Thomas had his accident he came home and was missing a total of 5 finger tips, we teased him that if he wanted to commit a crime, now was the time to do it-ha! They were some of the deepest abrasions I could imagine. I was out of triple antibiotic ointment, and "running to the store" isn't exactly an option for us, so I used some cream that my friend Tiffany had given me. I was quite shocked at how quickly those finger tips healed, but thought "you know how kids heal".

It wasn't long after that I sliced my hand on a broken glass, probably could've used a stitch or two, but I didn't think Tom could sew straight enough (LOL); again I tried the Calendula Chamomile Healing Salve. Knowing that my skin would not heal like a kids, I figured it was a good test to see if it was the cream that made a difference. Boy, did it ever; the cut healed in a couple of weeks. The great thing was that it kept is moisturized, not greasy, especially at first when I had to have it bandaged.

Tiffany has a great shop on Etsy (as does Naked~Nure) with a lot of really cool hand made, all natural products. I met her through the middle school, she is our science teacher, and she really knows her stuff when it comes to "brewing" together beneficial ingredients. I also use all of her cleaning supplies, we strive to keep the B&B as eco-friendly as possible, so I use it a lot up there. This is what her explanation for her amazing cream is and why it's healing properties are so great:

For minor abrasions and irritations of the skin (cuts, scrapes, rashes, bumps, bruises, blemishes, blisters, and just about anything else that ails you), nothing beats the skin-soothing and healing powers of calendula-infused olive oil and chamomile essential oil. This healing salve is made from top-quality ingredients, including a time-consuming infusion of real calendula blossoms steeped in pure olive oil, made by yours truly. I did not skimp on the chamomile essential oil either - you will be amazed at how apparent the scent of chamomile is in this balm.
I would highly recommend any and all of Tiffany's products!
Have a miracle of a day!
Hi, me again! Just wanted to make sure that you read Tiffany's comment below; 20%, not too shabby!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Making Lemonade from Lemons, a Look at Epilepsy

I would not be a very good author if I didn't face a few of my own fears and slay some of my own dragons. Today is going to be one of my most difficult blogs to write, but it is one that I feel needs to be written. You see, the day before I turned 30 I was diagnosed with epilepsy.

A few weeks before, my son had an emergency appendectomy, it was very scary for me and the hospital was a very crazy place to be when I was so stressed. We hadn't gotten any sleep and dealing with other family's stress (Thomas had shared a room with a split family) as well ,made it even worse. Tom and I had decided to divide and conquer, he had the younger two kids while I stayed at the hospital with our oldest. Isabella was still nursing at the time, so that added stress as well.

The day we left the hospital changed our lives forever. As we headed home, I started to feel a little funny, but didn't think too much of it. I was talking on the phone with my Mom and feeling a bit disoriented, but assumed it was due to our crazy hospital stay. Looking back on it, Tom said I had started to say off the wall stuff, like saying I loved things that he knew I didn't. Of all places, we were going through a KFC drive through when I had a Grand Mahl seizure (yes, I was still on the phone with my poor Mom, so she could hear it all). Obviously, Tom had no idea what was going on and just started screaming for someone to call 911. The actions of perfect strangers that day brings tears to my eyes even as I write this 9 years later. One of the wonderful people even drove our car back to the hospital so that Tom could stay with me.

I was told that I immediately needed to start seizure meds, something which Tom and I were adamantly against. It wasn't until my third opinion, that we finally found a doctor that agreed to not put me on medication. Along with the grand mahl that I had just had, with his background info, etc., it was determined that I had had a few petit mahl seizures throughout my life, which meant that I had a predisposition for seizures. That is what epilepsy is.

I couldn't drive for six months, which was really difficult having kids and living seven miles from the nearest highway. My friends and neighbors were wonderful and helped me with the mid-day pre school pick up and taking me to the store. When I was able to return to driving, it was one of the scariest days of my life. What if it happened again and I killed someone? The thought was terrifying to me, I didn't like to have the kids in the car, to say the least.

It was about a year later when I suffered my second grand mahl seizure, and then eleven hours later, a third. For a second time I was rushed to the hospital, this time they started me on meds before I was even back to myself. Having not really recovered in between the two seizures, meant that my brain had been malfunctioning the whole eleven hours, and this was very serious. There was no getting out of the brain changing meds anymore.

Along with not driving again for six months, I was told that if I didn't stay on the medication, I would not be eligible for a driver's license. The medication and the recovery from these two seizures changed the way my brain functions. I am now very uncomfortable with crowds, they cause too many "vibes" that my brain can't handle. I have what I call bad brain days, where I just can't seem to get it together, this is very hard on my family. But, I think the hardest thing for me, was accepting the fact that I had this life changing disorder.

This is the part where the keyboard goes quiet, I have a rather difficult time talking about it-just ask poor Tom! On my bad days I tend to be cranky because I really don't want to feel that way, let alone have the time for it. Those are the days that I get all of my physical work done, it seems to be great therapy, and I don't mean to sound like too much of a hippie, but working outside tends to "ground" my brain; no kidding.

We have adjusted in other ways as well. Some minor, like using my crock pot a lot when I know I might not be too together by evening. Some major, like not driving when I don't feel"right", and being careful where we travel. This all sounds so serious, but it really isn't anymore, we have changed with the times. I am careful and aware, but I no longer have the panic.

Epilepsy can affect people in all different sorts of ways. Some peoples' seizures are simply the brain having a hiccup, and it appears as if the person has just "checked out" for a few minutes, or as we all know, it could be much worse than I have; uncontrollable with medicine. For me, it was the stigma of having any disorder, especially with it being one that made others so uncomfortable. Knowing that people looked at me differently really bothered me. It felt to me like a very large weakness.

No, this is not a boo-hoo story. I am writing this as a form of encouragement and sharing. You see, we took this as gumption to really get our ranch based businesses up and running as we knew I was no longer capable of working in the "real world". My "seizure disorder" (which is what I call it, makes me feel better-ha!) has brought wonderful friends even closer and showed me the strengths within all of them. I know for sure it has made my family much closer and more understanding of other peoples' "baggage". We all feel absolutely blessed that our situation is not much worse, as we know it could be.

Now I need to work on not being so hard on myself. On the days that I am clear, I tend to work myself into the ground, trying to prove that I don't have any weaknesses. I'm sure this does not help me in the long run, probably even a little destructive. My point being, that we all have things to deal with, it's how you deal with them that really counts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

50% Off Sale of Naked~Nure

Good morning! I need to keep it short this morning as I am preparing my websites (a day late) for my big 50% off sale. The Royal Ranch feels so strongly about getting the word out on our great, green new product, Naked~Nure, we have decided to have an end of season blow out sale! We are in hopes that people will use our product to"put their garden's to rest with the very best"! One thing to keep in mind, is that Naked~Nure can also be used indoors, it is actually a year round product!!!

Large outdoor bags, made of burlap for a five gallon bucket are now just $11
Indoor use, with six individual "tea bags" are now just $6

Check out our great products on our Naked~Nure website!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Being a Good Neighbor

If you follow my blog, you will remember Tia, my Great Pyrenees with the bad haircut. Valentia, Spanish for bravery, is anything but brave. She was a gift to me from two of my most respected Pyr mentors (see, I told you they come in handy!) when I lost my beloved Marilyn Monroe, my very first guardian dog. She is a wonderful dog, but I have pansied her like I was worried I would (I have always rescued adult Pyrs and she was just a tiny baby!), then she had an accident that she lost five teeth from, so she lives in our backyard instead of with the herd of llamas, sheep and chickens. I have used her as a warning system so to speak, I can tell by her bark if there is danger.

A week or so ago, my renters accidentally left some trash out and a bear came to visit, like they are so apt to do. Tia was quite upset about such a large predator being in her yard, anywhere near her "family". Well, the bear has passed through a couple of times since then, but luckily he has not gotten any more food (did you know that if a bear gets fed once, it can take up to 30 times of not getting food before he'll quit coming?), but Tia has been very anxious about it. If you are not familiar with Great Pyrenees, they are big, white, very furry teddy bears that in my experience do not like being indoors. Between her being a wonderful danger alarm and the fact that I couldn't get her to come in, we have been suffering from some sleepless nights due to her barking.

Last night after we had all gone to bed, we heard a very insistent horn honking at the renter's house. They are kids, you know under 25, so we figured it was one of their friends and went back to bed. Just a couple of minutes later our kids were down in our room, my daughter crying and the boys pretty worked up, yelling that someone was fighting up at the renters and were at our house now. Tom went to see what was wrong while I gave the kids instructions, hopefully we are all somewhat prepared for emergencies. The kids did exactly as they were told, and I headed out to see how Tom was. By this time he was back in the house, shouting that the guy had threatened him about the dog barking. The man and woman had first gone up the hill to our rental to say he was going to shoot the dog, where they told him he was trespassing, and then came down here to physically threaten Tom. As you all know by now, Tom is an old school biker and needless to say this didn't go over well!!!

While Tom got in his truck to quickly get their license plate number, I called the cops. In a small town, having been here as long as we have, inevitably, the reporting officer is an acquaintance of ours. He too, was not too happy about the way that these people handled a barking dog incident. Of course Tom and the renter filled out reports and the cop headed off to have a little chat with them. They had driven over here drunk and mad from quite a ways away, didn't make him very happy.

You know, I hadn't even thought about her barking traveling across the valley. All of our immediate neighbors love our little ranch, and understand Tia's integral part of it, so they put up with her. If anyone had said one thing, we would have made her come in at night (which is what we obviously did), this was such shocking behavior. Although the dog is irritating, sometimes being a good neighbor means communicating before you get drunk and mad! LOL!!!

Have a neighborly day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mountain Calendar Contest

Good afternoon, I am a little late today as I am preparing some of my pictures for a calendar contest. The calendar benefits Mt. Evans Hospice (a cause I support as much as I can, Hospice care is amazing!) and is open to professional and regular photographers like me. I am hoping that this doesn't mean that the regular folks like myself will not have as good of a chance, but not all photographers live and work in such beautiful country.

Entrants are allowed five entries of pictures that have been taken in our wonderful mountain community in the last three years. The first prize, Best of Show, will receive $150, but more importantly a win really gets your name "out there", and while trying to build a reputable business, this is very important.

I have taken all of these pictures on our Royal Llama Adventures (except for the hummingbird, he is my resident "top bird" here at the ranch) and feel blessed to have seen such amazing scenery. I would be very excited if any of these were chosen so that we can share our love of the area! What do you think of my entries?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In God we Trust

Good Sunday Morning! I recently got an e-mail from our wonderful friend and neighbor, Judy, about something that is rather concerning to me. It seems to me that in the Good Old USA we've got a small group of people, no matter what the issue is, that we could never please. Currently there is a movement to remove "In God We Trust" from our national currency (which really isn't worth too much right now except for it's historical value, but that's a different story!), and to remove the word "God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

If you follow my blog, you will know that Francis Scott Key wrote "In God Is Our Trust" in his original poem written the day of the infamous battle at Fort McHenry. This statement is one of historical value for our country, and in my opinion, should absolutely not be removed from anything!

It is reported that 86% of Americans are Christian, that leaves only 14% that are not. We know that not all of those 14% are joining this fight to alter history, this must be a very small fraction of Americans that want to make a very large change.

It was suggested to add "In God We Trust" to all correspondence. Write it on the outside of envelopes when mailed, or add it to your e-signature like I have done. It is time to take a stand and keep our history alive, it is a wonderful way to build patriotism!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Green from the "Bottom" Up!

Green from the "bottom" up. What exactly does that mean? Well, it is a play on words; our business is manure, so the "bottom" is quite involved in our work. We also consider all of our products very eco-friendly, so we have worked to be green from the "bottom" up! Today I would like to give you all a quick lesson on our llama manure and how this product came to be, I also plan on giving you some interesting ideas.
Manure is a very valuable resource that should not be left "behind" (I just "crack" myself up!!!). Not only is it a fantastic fertilizer, but it is a wonderful soil conditioner. Besides being extraordinarily high in the N-P-K nutrients commonly known, it leeches calcium, magnesium and sulfur into the soils. These nutrients are great for soil fertility and quality. Manure also increases water retention by adding organic material which helps reduce compaction of soil. If your soil has extreme pH levels, try manure, it is a great all natural way of creating balance.
Now, let's take a look at various manures and their N-P-K levels:
  • Bat Guano 6.0 9.0 3.0
  • Llama 1.8 .5 1.6
  • Chicken(dry) 1.6 1.8 2.0
  • Sheep .7 .3 .4
  • Horse .6 .3 .5
  • Cow .6 .4 .5
  • Rabbit 2.4 1.4 .6
So, unless you plan on climbing into bat caves (or paying big bucks), chicken, rabbit and llama manure are the highest in nutrients that a consumer can find. Any manure that is in a pellet form has additional benefits though. It is usually lower in organic matter which will help not burn your plants, but the pellet itself acts as an aeration tool. Many manures need to be dried for at least six months, preferably at 150* or more so they will not burn the roots of plants and do not pass along any weed seeds that the manure may contain.
Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K) levels are usually much higher in commercial fertilizers, but they do not have the added benefits of water retention, soil conditioning and aeration. Many of them also use harsh chemicals that if not used properly can be harmful to the user or the plants. The size of the warning labels on the commercial products have warned me off entirely!
We have used our llama manure since the day that the llamas first arrived almost a decade ago. Up until this season, we used the pellets as soil conditioners and they slowly leeched their nutrients into the very rocky ground, with exceptional results. I have a perennial garden that stands 3-4 feet tall right now, and that is at 9,000 feet in elevation! Earlier in the season I had some plants that I wanted to give a good strong start, so I decided to use a burlap bag that I had from rice and make myself some tea. No, I didn't drink it, but my plants sure drank it up! This got us thinking, we could make llama manure tea bags and share this wonderful by-product of our majestic creatures.
The first idea was similar to my rice bag. It needed to be longer and skinnier to fit properly in my five gallon bucket, we then added a handle for ease of taking it out of the brewed tea. Our next prototype was for smaller watering containers that are used inside. We came up with heat seal, compostable, oversize tea bags that we fill with our precious llama manure. To make sure that there is no packaging, we went back to the good old days of flour sacks, etc. and made any packaging reusable. The indoor tea bags come in a hand sewn fabric bag that also has a handle on it like the burlap bags. Both bags are meant to be rinsed out and reused for tool or bulb storage.
The next step was to come up with a name and logo. This was not very difficult for us as Tom is known to go Naked every now and again and our poo is such great Naked (all natural, no chemicals, etc.) manure, Naked~Nure only made sense. We have gotten hundreds of comments on our hysterical logo, Naked Johnny. I met Naked Johnny (aka Tom) on our tenth wedding anniversary when we climbed Mt. Rosalie. Tom insisted that we hike the last 500 feet or so, naked, needless to say we have some great pictures from that day-Ha! This is the hike that got our llama business started, so it was only appropriate that eight years later when we came up with a new llama idea, that I use the pic of Tom hiking that day many moons ago for our logo. Instead of a walking stick and backpack, Naked Johnny now sports a hat and a shovel of manure!
Tom and I are dedicated to this product and know that it has huge benefits to our customers and good old Mother Earth. We have committed ourselves to never using new materials, unless absolutely needed for quality control, like the burlap. I get all of my material from recycled fabric, the denim is from jeans that are no longer usable and our tags are made of 100% recycled paper. We even ship in reused boxes, this not only helps our overhead, but is very eco-friendly. The manure uses nutrients in the tea, but because of it's pelleted form, then has a second life as a soil amendment. The smaller tea bags can be thrown into the compost pile and will make nutrient rich "gardener's gold".
Yes, this is a shameless plug for my business, but as I mentioned we are very proud of this product and want to take gardening to a "greener" place. I plan on diversifying our little gardening business at some point. I would like to add sheep and rabbit (both of which I am already collecting!) manure maybe, and am collecting seeds for the 2010 growing season. I guess since I'm already plugging, I'll tell you that we are about to run a 50% off sale, to help you prepare your soil for next year and put your gardens to rest, at their very best!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our National Anthem

My Dad recently sent me an e-mail about our National Anthem that was so moving I have thought of it multiple times since then. I remember the story of the anthem from when I was in school, but this version of the story really brought it home. This version tells the story of Francis Scott Key and his experiences that fateful morning in more detail. I listened to it with tears rolling down my face and then had each member of my family (yes, including the teenagers!) listen to it, and they too were moved.
The story really makes me think about what our country has gone through for our freedom. The flag represents all we stand for and have fought for with our mens' lives. Whether we are Republican, Democrat or somewhere in between (I'll give you one guess as to which I am NOT), the battles are the same. The soldiers who have won our wars are really the same as one another, they are willing to risk their lives for the freedom of our people who want to continue to live in the same way as we currently do.
In these very troubling times, it has been a very pleasant reminder of what this great country stands for. I thought that it was appropriate to share this with all of you for you to share with your families. I did learn something new, and that is there are three more verses in our beautiful song that are rarely sang. Many of these verses were written the day of the original story, whereas the first verse was written while Mr. Key was still unsure of the outcome of the battle at Fort McHenry. I will include the poem that Francis Scott Key wrote in it's entirety:
—Francis Scott Key, 1814

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Have a Miracle of a Day!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recycling in a Remote Community

As you all know by now, we live in a rather remote mountain community. There are no recycling services in our little town, which makes no sense to me, as I consider this the most beautiful place in the world and think it is most definitely worth protecting! Also, my parents travel in a converted bus many months of the year and have a hard time finding recycling facilities. So... today's blog is some ideas on how to recycle, even when recycling services are unavailable.
There are many organized groups, like the Shriner's, that have public drop off locations around the city. These are dumpster sized bins that are one stream recycling. One stream means that there is no need to separate your goods. I found this site in our great Denver community by simply googling recycling sites in Colorado.

Now, for me, this means a long trip into the city in my big diesel truck, not too green. So I make sure to combine a lot of trips and keep my recycling until I have a full truck load. This has not been too difficult to do since I take all of the recycling from our three schools. Which brings up the next point, check with your local schools, many have recycling programs that will allow you to bring your stuff in. When I started the recycling programs through the schools I was only taking a bag or so per week, by the end of last year I had a truckload each week. Once we let it be known that teachers and staff could bring their recyclables in, they were so very happy to not have to take care of it themselves! Also, most schools can earn money from cell phones and some other small electronics, even if you don't have kids, it's a great way to recycle and donate to the schools.

Another big concern of mine is to not have recyclables bring in the animals. When recycling, rinse everything out very well, this will help avoid the little (or in our case, BIG) critters coming for a free meal. I do not use recycling bins, as it seems a little silly to buy something new when I can use one of the containers that I am recycling to hold more recyclables. For instance, when I buy milk at Costco, I keep the box for under my desk, it is the perfect size for junk mail, unused copies, bill envelopes and even the "stickies" I use to communicate with my husband (I'm not too with it at 3:30 am). This also makes it easy for drop off, I am able to just toss the whole thing into the dumpster.

Plastics are the worst as far as taking up space. Rinse well and crush, this method has almost doubled the space I need for these containers. I also put containers inside containers; like the ones that strawberries come in, this stacking method is another way of making your recycling space that much more efficient. Most grocery stores will recycle your plastics, so we take a bag or box each time we go to the store. I keep the aluminum cans and steel cans separate as those we get paid for, but at different levels, so to reap the full benefit, we keep those in different containers.

Since we began recycling, we have reduced our trash by at least 80%! We used to take a bag out per day, now we take it out once a week. My point is that recycling can be done anywhere with a little bit of research, and don't forget to use what you have, whether it be your own boxes as recycling containers, or a local school that will accept your goods, use it!

Lastly, I would like to suggest if your school does not have a program-start one!!!! This has been a wonderful way for me to stay in touch with my kids, meet new people and business contacts, and has made my kids feel very proud that their Mom is making a big difference in their community.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Big Yellow Bus

For me, today is the hardest day of summer, it is the day I sent my kids back to school. With their clean shiny faces and their crisp new clothes my children headed off to a world of their own. A world full of friends and laughter, good education and all sorts of after school activities. I think that the tragedy that happened to our quiet little community almost three years ago now, has changed us all and how we as parents feel about sending our kids to school. We now know that our children aren't wrapped in a cocoon of safety anymore.
I will never forget the blank stares of the kids that arrived by bus, packed to standing room only, at the elementary school after the horrific shooting at Platte Canyon High School. Or the feel of the crowd in Bailey as us parents waited for news of our children, whether it be our own, or the girl next door. In a small community, they are ALL our children. It is a day that is burned into all of our memories as one of the saddest, but in our strong little community we have tried to turn a horrendous experience into one of love and sharing. We have a great group of small town kids, and they have taken their memories and pain and turned them into wonderful ideas. We now have "Kindness Day", where the kids do community service instead of going to school that day. A non-profit organization was started and has helped many local charities. But, most importantly, it has given our kids the ability to accept one another just the way they are.
I must say that since that terrible day I have considered home schooling my kids about a million times. I have always been a big supporter of public education and understand that this incident was very uncommon, but that doesn't mean I don't want to wrap my children in my cocoon. Can we keep our children in a safety net all the time? I have come to the conclusion that we can't. We teach them everything we can and at some point in time, we have to learn to let go.
Even the settlers of our 13 original colonies built schools that still sit in their original locations. The Amish even send their kids to school, and have also seen tragedy. Knowing that the wonderful staff and teachers at our schools will take care of our kids, no matter what, makes me feel better about who my children are working with, and learning from.
So with a broken heart and a fake smile on my face I take them to the big yellow bus, knowing I have made the right decision for us. The huge smiles on their faces tells me a lot. The excitement in their eyes when they see a friend they haven't seen for awhile heals my heart just a touch. It is the wave goodbye that brings the tears.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Llamas & Chickens & Sheep, Oh My!

Good Morning! I wanted to give you an update on the happenings here at The Royal Ranch. Paco and Esther the sheep are doing quite well. Esther is now running the place and all of the boys, llama and sheep, stay out of her way! Marcel has once again amazed me and has really been kind to the sheep, he even gets a little upset when Esther is bawling for her breakfast or dinner!
The chickens are doing great! I was finally able to locate some pullets (a young hen that is not laying yet) and bought 6 Rhode Island Reds that were 9 weeks old; very small and very cute. A couple of days later my neighbor found me 3 hens that will start laying soon. These are the bigger and pretty ones you see in the pics. The hens with the feathers on their feet are called Cochins, they are great layers and are also used as exhibition animals. The other buff colored hen is an Orpington and should make beautiful chicks with my rooster who is a Silkie/Orpington cross.
I hadn't planned on breeding chickens, but with all of the trouble I had finding them, and the price I had to pay, about $8/chicken, I am seriously considering it. Incubators are relatively inexpensive and I do have the space. There are not a lot of reputable chicken farmers out there, and I just might become one of them. Demand is very high for chickens right now as many city and town ordinances are changing to allow backyard chickens. I think it is a wonderful way of becoming that much closer to being self sufficient-you ought to try it!
The plastic bin that you see the babies crawling around in is the container I keep in my kitchen for their scraps. I guess they really wanted those scraps!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Good Morning! My sister, Kelly, has asked me to do a blog on composting. I would like to make one thing clear, this is my first year to compost so I am by no means an expert, but I will share my experiences, ideas and research.
Composting is an ideal hobby to take up for many reasons; the first being that you will have organic material to add to your garden or houseplants. Compost adds invaluable nutrients to your soil, helps air circulate through the soil and down to the roots and also helps with water retention. Even if you're not a huge gardener, try composting, it uses up kitchen scraps and even some trash and your friends and neighbors would love a gift of "gardeners gold". Between all of the recycling that we do, and now throwing almost all of our kitchen scraps into my composting bin we hardly ever have to take out the trash.
One thing that I would really like to cover is to be really careful not to feed the wildlife with your compost. At the Royal Ranch this has been my biggest concern, as we all know, feeding wildlife is an absolute death sentence for those critters. They do not learn to hunt and gather on their own and larger animals (bear, mountain lion, coyote and fox) can become dangerous if they have learned they have a somewhat regular food source in your peaceful little yard. So far, I have avoided this by making sure any scraps are buried well under a "stinky" (like manure) layer each time I turn my compost, and it has worked very well.
Compost bins are available in all shapes and sizes, or can be made from scratch. If you have more money than time, I would use a tumbling type compost bin because the compost will be ready much sooner. If you are like me and have more time than money, make one from scratch; your compost will take longer, but I was able to make mine out of completely recycled materials, didn't cost me a dime. I took three pallets from Tom's shop that were going to be wasted and simply (I did it this time, really) nailed them into the shape of an open sided square. If possible, try to find pallets that have one solid side and put the solid side in, if not, no big deal it will just be a little messier. Build or place your bin in a well drained area, compost that is too wet gets very stinky. Try to put it directly on the ground as this will attract beneficial worms and organisms. If I had to do my composting off the ground, I would buy some worms to place in there after a couple of weeks.
Composting is very much like making a layered cake. You want to make sure that you have layers of each brown and green materials. Brown materials include things like:
  • raked leaves
  • hay or straw
  • tea bags
  • coffee grounds
  • paper and cardboard
  • small wood trimmings or pieces
  • eggshells
  • sawdust

Green materials are:

  • grass clippings
  • fruit and vegetable peelings
  • fresh manure
  • green plant cuttings
  • weeds and deadheads from your containers

To start your pile, clear the vegetation from the ground, if possible turn the soil down about six inches. Start with a layer of larger sticks to make sure the air can circulate underneath your compost, and then add a layer of brown ingredients. A green layer next, it is ideal to make your layers about 4 inches if possible. Continue adding layers until there is just enough room in your bin or pile or whatever, to stir the contents every couple of weeks. I have the original bin that I made, but I also have piles that I will work in different stages, the goal being that I will have compost all the time.

I do not get overly technical with mine, but there are all sorts of things that you can do to have great compost quicker. There are compost activators that can be used and all sorts of equipment that can help tell you when to turn your compost. For me, the best tip for fast compost is to cut all of your ingredients into small pieces, the smaller the piece the faster the breakdown. If you have large clippings that you would like to use, put them in a bucket and run the weed whacker through it a couple of times (don't forget your eye protection with this one!). Coffee grounds, good potting soil and even dog food also work as pretty good activators, try sprinkling them in between layers.

Things to never add to your compost pile:

  • meat or bones
  • treated wood (will leak chemicals into your compost)
  • very hardy weeds that will take too long to die off
  • fatty foods
  • whole eggs
  • dairy products

The tricky part for me has been the moisture level; if the pile is too wet it gets stinky and slimy (I hear) and it breaks down too slowly if it is dry (this is my problem). When adding layers, sprinkle them with water. It has also helped me to make sure the ingredients that go in are moist. Keep your compost covered (I use a heavy duty tarp that is stapled onto the pallets at the back) to help control moisture level and keep the heat in. I do want to mention that compost can get very hot and has even caused a few fires. When your pile is hot (a thermometer will read about 140*) it is time to turn it. Continue turning the pile every two weeks, breaking up any clumps for better air circulation and adding moisture if necessary.

Composting is very scientific, and I won't go into all of that, but the bottom line is that the finished product is a balance of carbon (brown materials) and nitrogen (green materials). You will know if you have a good balance by the length of time it takes for things to break down. Too much brown/carbon will break down too slowly, and too much green/nitrogen will get slimy. I keep a lot of things separate until I have enough to add a proper "layer to my cake". Keep a composting bin in the kitchen, it can be a fancy store bought one, or like me just use an old butter container or ice cream bucket. This way you can watch your pile and see which color (brown or green) you need more of, and can add it when you build up enough. I keep my scraps for about a week, then do my weekly clean of the corrals. I add the kitchen scraps and manure as my green layer and find enough brown material (for me this is old hay, pine needles, etc.) so that it is about equal.

Compost can be used on your houseplants, mixed in to make a beautiful new planting area, as a soil amendment and conditioner, and can be placed around the bottom of trees for added nutrients and growth. It is a great way to use up stuff that may end up in the trash, and is a lot of fun to watch progress. Good compost can take up to a year to complete, depending on the size of the materials you put in and how wet the pile is, so patience is a virtue! Good luck and great gardening!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

18 Years of Wedded Bliss

Last night we celebrated our 18th anniversary, and boy did we do it in style! A winery, Aspen Peak Cellars, has opened up in Conifer, which is only a 20 minute drive for us, very close in mountain terms. It was a close call on time, we took the kids to Water World with the cousins yesterday. We still had chores and the campground rounds to do when we got home, but we had been looking forward to it for a few weeks. It wasn't too difficult to get ready in a short amount of time; we were pretty excited!
I have to give you a little bit of background here. Tom drinks Michelob Light only, and I am not much of a drinker at all. We know absolutely nothing about wine, but heard the food was great and took it as the perfect opportunity to learn something new. Their dinner was all inclusive, at a great price, and we were able to keep our business local, all of which helped make our decision that much easier. As we are driving there in our dressed up duds, we start joking about how funny it would be if they put us at one big table, and shared the bottle of wine with everyone, etc. Tom is a very social guy, but I must say that I am not too big on groups, especially when I'm learning something new. So it was a really funny scenario that we had envisioned. I said if that happened, I'd just suddenly get a migraine-Ha!
The setting is a spectacular historical home with a beautiful view. Tom and I are both local history buffs, so just that was a real treat. As usual we were the last to arrive, and they sweep us into the back room where two chairs are awaiting us at a table for six. The very gracious owner explained that they were pouring our Champagne-okay-that helps migraines right? Tom and I were dying to start laughing-it was the exact scenario we had joked about on the way there. Not only did the two other couples know a ton about wine, but they even knew the owners!
The dinner was a four course gourmet meal, each course served with a different Aspen Peak Cellar wine, made right here in our little mountain community. We had things like pate, scallops (cooked in wine of course), and lobster purses with bison steak being the main course; of course the grilled pear with almond ice cream for dessert went over very well with my very sweet tooth. The company was great, as a matter of fact one of the other couples was celebrating 42 years of wedded bliss. Nobody cared that we were absolute newbies to the world of wine and the owner came around with each course/wine and explained how it was made, the types of grapes that were used, and how their wine differed from the commercial wines. I didn't leave with any wine, as we were quite anxious to talk about our hysterical "romantic anniversary dinner". I gotta tell you though, they have definitely turned me into a "wino", the wines were wonderful. By the way, anyone know a good way to get rid of a wine headache? Ha!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reusable Coffee Filters

Good Morning! I want to share one idea that I think is a great "green" idea, it may be a no brainer, but....This morning as I was making Tom's coffee (I get my caffeine from Coke, yes I know it's bad) and was appreciative of our reusable coffee filter. It is a metal and plastic basket that fits inside a coffee maker to replace paper filters. We have had ours for at least three years and have even been able to use it in a different coffee pot (I have a tendency to break the glass carafe) and it only cost me $4.99 (I checked and the price is still the same).
These are great because I just dump the grounds into my compost bin, rinse and return to the pot for the next day. If you don't compost, sprinkle the grounds around the base of your plants. If you have a fisherman/woman in the house, place your grounds under a damp rock and you will have a beautiful collection of worms!
These filters have really saved us a lot of time and money, it is very nice not having to try and separate those sheets when my eyes are not yet functioning! Now, you can use those filters for crafts; isn't that what they're great for?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Made with American Pride in Bailey, CO

Well, I'm baaack!!! I am up and running again and am going to restart with a bang. If a person can't cover a somewhat controversial subject on a blog, then I think we're in even more trouble than I worried.
All of our (The Royal Ranch, that is) products include the phrase "Made with American Pride in Bailey, CO" and this has come from a long, strong commitment to better our good old USA by working in and buying American. Tom is an old school biker and has run a machine shop for over 22 years, so the made in America thing comes quite easily to him. I, on the other hand, am only a biker by marriage and it took a little more time to sink in. We very strongly believe that a lot of the economy problems that we are facing today as a country, is a direct result of consumers not buying from and supporting American made companies.
I really can't believe that our country invented the automobile and now our American made auto makers can't compete with those made over seas! And what about our small town farmers? They can no longer compete with the prices of imported goods. Then there are the small town stores, your local pharmacy or neighborhood gift shop can no longer afford to stay in business. Shop at Walmart, it's cheaper, I hear. I have not stepped into a Walmart in years and have absolutely no plan to. Cheaper is is cheaper does!
I do understand the concepts of import and export, but our country has forgotten to protect its most valuable resource, its workers and being in the lead when it comes to technology. I often hear the excuse that the new Toyota that so and so bought is made in America and therefore supporting our workers. This really angers me, if the foreign company can make it in the US, why can't we do it; better, faster and stronger? Toyota is still a foreign company, it is Japanese owned and the Japanese only will see the profits from these cars. How about the fact that we are paying to import children's toys full of lead from China? Lead in children can lead to cognitive problems for these same children that may not be noticeable for years. It seems to me that other countries have way too much control of our future, are they purposely trying to make our kids dumb? The dumb thing is that they don't even have to try; just to save a few bucks we are eagerly doing it to our own children!
I understand that it is sometimes difficult to find things made in the USA, but I have found a couple of good sites that you can go to and search for whatever product you are looking for.,, and are a great start to find companies that actually support our own economy. I think that if we as consumers make a stand and say that saving our country is much more important than saving a couple of cents, we will make huge strides towards being the leader of the world, again!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Over Coffee: Neogreene Laptop Sleeve from GreenSmart: Review and Giveaway

Good Morning! I bet you thought I was lost! Well in a way I am, my computer is down and it has me at an absolute loss. I have always been one of those people that said I would never fully depend on technology, we all know it's not fool proof.
Which has me wondering why I can't function without the laptop I purchased for my business four months ago. I have of course all of my e-mail, a lot of my pics, but worse yet, I have the calendar for the B&B on it! I am blessed in the fact that this is just an adapter problem and that the company is standing behind their product. It will take a minimum of 3 days to get the part though. I was able to retrieve what I needed before the battery went totally out, but it really got me thinking.
Although technology is a wonderful thing, I think we should all keep a few things in mind and be prepared "just in case".
1. Always know how to work your web mail. Many of us have redirected our e-mail through our websites, which means that we don't often use the passwords of our original e-mail company.
2. Keep photos stored in at least two locations. Copy them onto a CD or use a group like Snapfish.
3. In light of this, I am sill going to use a good old fashioned planner with at least the guests names and dates, and phone numbers for The Royal Roost. If worse comes to worse, I could always still get a hold of them for the rest of the info.
4. If you are in business for yourself, it is imperative to have access to an alternative computer to retrieve e-mails and incoming orders!
As I mentioned this is just a power cord issue, but I also found out that I have a small screen crack that will slowly grow larger until the screen, or most of it, is black. These points bring up the fact that I bought this laptop for business and of course gave into the kids' pleas to use it. The kids' games make my computer get very hot and also cause the cord to get hot, heat is what the "experts" say fried my cord. They told me that the adaptors should never be placed on carpet, preferably a hardwood surface. I also think I will go back to sticking to my guns and have a business only computer.
Protecting our computers from this sort of wear and tear is the simplest way to help your computer perform better and live longer. For instance, my screen scratch was probably caused by a slight blow to the top of my laptop and if the cord had been better cared for I wouldn't be in this predicament! So, I thought it was really ironic when I read my friends blog entry for yesterday, and it was about a company that makes great protective sleeves for our computers out of recycled plastic bottles! Now this is right up my alley! She has done a review of one of the sleeves and is sponsoring a giveaway for one of the cool bags at her blog, Over Coffee: Neogreene Laptop Sleeve from GreenSmart: Review and Giveaway.
It is really amazing to me that they can take the plastic bottles and turn them into fabric! See, technology can be amazing!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Teaching kids to bargain and barter

I'll never forget the day when my 16 year old son was buying a case for his phone at one of the kiosks in the mall and I heard him quietly say "Will you take $10 for it?", I was floored! Thomas has always been a little embarassed by my bartering, bargaining and coupon shopping. Like all teenagers he is impatient and doesn't want to take the time to deal with these things. He got the $15 case for $12, and it was a very proud moment for me (and for him!). This came up again as Nathan needed a case and he too, got $3 off just the other day. The guy was so impressed he gave us a coupon for $4 off for each future purchase we make!

Tom and I have always believed in the barter system, as a matter of fact it is the monetary system that this great country was founded on. You'd be shocked at how many people are interested in bartering. We use nights at The Royal Roost, Tom's welding services and even trade pet care with some of the neighbors. With as many animals as we have, we only get one night to their two nights, but at least we have that option. We are now able to even trade Naked~Nure for all sorts of things.

As the boys pointed out you can even bargain with the people in the kiosks. I try to bargain wherever I think is appropriate, pretty much anywhere except the grocery store. Obviously this has rubbed off on my kids and now that they have to pay for some things themselves, it came quite naturally to them. It is so important to lead by example, so go forth and get yourself a screamin' deal!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Price is Right...The Recovery

Good Morning! Well, this sure was a neat experience, but I have really needed some recovery time!!! I got up at 2:30 to be to Central City by 5 (it would've worked if it weren't for that pesky police officer!) with hopes of being toward the front of the line. Two and a half hours later, the second person in line showed up-HA! I knew I was a huge fan, but now I think I might be a little nutty, okay, I know I'm a little nutty!
The other nuts in line were so wonderful! It isn't all that often that this mountain hillbilly gets out, especially to something this big. I think the most special part is that we were all there for one reason, and we all knew we had something in common, our love of the 38 year old game show! I even made a few business connections!
The tryouts were scheduled to start at noon, with the local news station to show up at 10:00. With my being first, I was able to sit at the bar and work on my computer until about 10 when the crowd really started filling in and getting very excited. I was interviewed by two of the local newscasters (again, a real big deal for me) and they loved my name!
The group was very mixed, more men than I thought, lots of older ladies, but mostly just crazy fans like me. You can't imagine some of the reasons people want to be on TV. Some were bringing sisters that had deadly breast cancer (along with the rest of her family), one gal was doing it in memory of her beloved sister that had died of Lupus, which she herself suffers from terribly. The gentleman behind me had not missed an episode in 38 years! All of this made me feel a little less deserving of my spot on contestant's row, but none of them had stood in line for 2.5 hours by themselves!
It wasn't until right before they started that I found out I would have 30 seconds in front of the camera to state why I wanted to be on The Price is Right. Needless to say, this was very nerve wracking as I had to do it in front of all of the other hopefuls as well. Being first didn't seem so great right then. I got a cool TPIR t-shirt for being first (I don't think it's worth $155, the cost of my speeding ticket, but to me it is priceless) and a sticker with my 001 on it and was shuffled towards the cameras. I warmed up pretty quickly and am hoping my name alone gets me a trip to LA!
I don't even know when I'll find out, but I'll let you know when I do. Be sending positive pricing thoughts my way!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Price is Right-HOPEFULLY!!!

Good Morning All!!! You wouldn't believe where I am writing this from! I am at the Fortune Valley Casino waiting in line to audition for The Price is Right!!! I am a very faithful viewer and this would be a dream come true for me. I have watched for as long as I can remember either with my Mom or my Grandma (who has passed on, so this is a little emotional, she would have been so happy).
The Price is Right is holding auditions for the first time in 38 years in various cities around the country. Three people will get chosen from each state; they will be flown to LA to be on the show with one of them guaranteed to be a contestant. We are thinking with a name like Judy Judy they should for sure pick me.
The hysterical thing is that I was so worried about getting up here in time, that I got a speeding ticket on the way here! In my own defense, I am driving Tom's truck (which I very rarely do) and his dashboard lights don't work! I don't think that explains why I was doing 40 in a 25, but at least the cop was pretty nice and wished me luck today. After all that nonsense I get here to be first in line and there is still no one here- I think the casino employees think I'm a nut!
The auditions are from noon to 3:00- so wish me luck!!!
Today's picture is of an old mine here in Central City, CO.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Maiden Name is Shepherd...

Once upon a time, long, long ago, before I was "Judy Judy", I was Judy Shepherd. I grew up here in the mountains, but never had any sheep to shepherd! The time has come! The Royal Ranch is the proud home of a pair of breeding sheep and I plan to enjoy every minute of my shepherding duties. We have never had any kind of babies (other than human, of course) at our ranch, and it's very important to me to share this part of ranching with my kids. I strongly believe in spaying and neutering and you really have to have a large set up to breed llamas. So...after quite a bit of research, I have chosen to go back to my ancestry.
If you follow my blog on a regular basis (you really should!), then you know that we just added a rooster to our little piece of paradise, with hens on the way. Well, that's just not enough change and work for one weekend! On Sunday we got the call from the gal down the road where we got our sheep, and she said they were ready to go! I wasn't prepared for such short notice, but the family sure got excited. Poor Tom was over finally having a beer with the neighbor after I had been cracking the whip over the chicken coop. The kids ran over to get him while I got crates (which we never used, but needed in case of emergency) into the back of the truck. Tom came home, with a dirty look on his face I must say, and quietly hooked up my trailer for me.
Luckily their old home is just about five miles down the road, and for up here, that is right in our neighborhood. We got them loaded without a hitch. Paco, our ram was not too happy about being locked up and was ramming the pen that they were holding him in-made me a little nervous! I had never heard this though, that if you set a sheep up on his hind end, they freeze like a cat does when you hold their necks. The female, Esther, is a little older and a little wiser and with a little prompting loaded right up in the trailer. Paco took quite a little bit more prompting.
We got back to the ranch and really wanted to take a few minutes to plan how we would introduce them to the llamas, where they would stay in the meantime, etc. Our llama pen is about 1 acre and it is divided into three parts. We decided that the sheep could have one part, and everyone else (llamas and chickens) could have the rest. We put the llamas in the top pen until we could get the new arrivals settled. The actual unloading went very well, much better than it often does!
The sheep nervously started to explore and before we knew it they were in the middle pen, they had squeezed past one of the interior fences! Okay, we figure, they can just have that pen. Tom starts fixing where they got through, so they wouldn't get back out and suddenly I look up and the sheep had gone through the other side of the interior pen and were in with the llamas! The llamas were scared for their lives, as were the sheep. Chaos is breaking loose in the top pen and Tom is still fencing! I start screaming like a banshee to try to get the llamas to stop chasing the sheep and the sheep are bawling and the llamas screaming their danger call! Llamas are wonderful guard animals and will go after anything smaller than them, that they perceive as danger, and punch at it with their front legs, the poor sheep were able to run just that much faster, though. I was finally able to get in between the sparring groups long enough to put the llamas down in the bottom pen, seeing as how the sheep didn't want to be there.
Tom and I spend more time fixing fences and trying to settle everyone down, and head home to immediately turn into vegetables! It was a long night of worry, that Paco and Esther hadn't been eaten by something with no llamas to protect them. Before daylight I called to them, and sure enough they answered. It wasn't until daylight that I saw all ten llamas in the bottom corner of the pen. Gee, that's odd! Paco and Esther had slipped back through and were in the pen with the llamas. I realized that those sheep were going to go (within the pen) wherever they wanted too! I opened up all of the gates, and as of last evening the sheep and my hard working llamas were eating together! Animals never cease to amaze me!
The top picture is of Marcel, part of Two Eagles, Paco and Esther our new arrivals, and Thunder Boy, who, by the way, was one of the ones attacking the sheep the first day! The pic on the left is Thunder Boy, Apache and Two Eagles with their new found charges; and the one on the right is Apache with Esther and Paco.
Have a miracle of a day!

Monday, August 3, 2009

100% Recycled Chicken Coop!

As I sit here typing this I am hearing "Cockle-doodle-doo!" for the first time in almost 20 years and I couldn't be happier! Did you know in Germany their roosters say Ceekle-dee-dee (or something like that)? My German exchange sister taught us that many years ago, and I laugh whenever I think of it. I have always wondered how roosters know the proper language, but I guess they do somehow-Ha!
Tom and I have taken our recycling and repurposing to the extreme with this chicken coop. I know that not everyone has an old ranch with a few old junk piles dying to be repurposed, but everyone has friends that have some junk that they need to get rid of. Some of our lumber came from a neighbor, who was happy to get rid of some of his "trash".
Our tack shed for the llamas is an old six seater outhouse that was used in a different location for a conservation camp. It is very well built (Aah, the good old days!) and has really withstood the test of time and animals! We started our hen house by using recycled plywood and built a box attached to the side of the old outhouse and put a lid with hinges on it. This will make it easy to keep clean and allow for extra hours of sunshine for the chickens in the cold winter months. The roof of the house will work by a pulley system that Tom has laying around, but we ran out of steam, so a strong board to hold it open will work for this week. We then used old shelves taken out of a laundry room and turned them into nests by cutting them to size and simply screwing them together (simple for Tom anyway).
The yard is built with 2x4's and 2x6's that we already had (and borrowed from our great neighbor, Dan) and the posts are all 4x4's, again recycled. Tom is great at posts; he digs the hole and then wedges rocks in to keep the post upright and then buries it. His posts have also stood the test of time!!! We had chicken wire on hand because we had to wrap the pine trees in the llama pen so they would not kill them. The top of our tack shed was a great way to attach the wire and bring it down to the posts and then lower, to the ground. We left a couple of feet of chicken wire that we then buried, the number one defense against predators. We even went so far as to use the wire that held the chicken wire bundle together to "tie" all of the large pieces of chicken wire together every 8 inches or so, number two defense against predators, especially the flying ones!
While Tom built the door, I painted the hen house; red and white of course, to match the ranch house. The door is a frame of 2x4's with cross braces and chicken wire. We used a jigsaw to cut the door of the hen house out after I painted it so it would match the rest when we put a hinge on it to lock the chickens in at night.
As usual, we had the poor chicken before his house was done because he just had to find a new place to live! Working under pressure really gets a lot accomplished though. After a long day in a large dog crate, PW (Phillip William) was released into his new estate.
The pictures show the progression of our work, and the arrival of our rooster; we are hoping to get his girlfriends this week. That is Tom hard at work, and also my kids Nathan and Isabella (the blonde) with her friend Danielle. I'm wondering how Two Eagles worked his way into this photo shoot!!!