Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Flu Came Flying Through

Dear Readers,
Please excuse my absence as I have been very busy taking care of my family that has been sick with the flu. Although I love them dearly, they act quite queerly, and give me no time to rest, least of all time to do the things I love best!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Royal Ranch's Breakfast Bread/Muffins

This is the bread/muffins that I make for the Royal Roost. Depending on how many guests are coming, and for how many days they are staying determines whether I will send a loaf of bread or muffins. Our B&B is a little different, as we try to keep things very private for our guests. Since it is not located here on the ranch, I leave the breakfasts up at the cabin upon check in so that guests can just reheat and eat whenever the hunger strikes them. I have already given you the recipe to my breakfast burritos, a favorite of our guests, and now I would like to share my bread recipe. It is one that I created myself as a breakfast dessert. Don't all meals deserve a little dessert?

For three loaves or 36 muffins you will need:

4 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2tsp. baking powder


2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1-2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

fruit (1 can; save the juice, or frozen, or fresh diced, I have tried a lot of flavors, but the kids' fav is peach! I think the guests like pineapple best.)

chocolate, about 2 cups (whatever is cheap, diced if large pieces, I buy choc chips when on sale)

1 cup milk (add this at the end for consistency only if you don't have juice from fruit)

I will start this recipe out with an apology, because I am not one to cook much with recipes, but this one is worth tweaking a bit in your own kitchen to your own tastes. Mix the dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl cream together sugars with butter and add vanilla to taste. Add eggs, one at a time until well blended and slowly start adding dry mixture. Add the fruit and chocolate, this is where your sixth "baking sense" comes in, if it is still pretty thick, add some milk a little at a time until it is the consistency that you like. Spoon into three greased bread pans or muffin tins and sprinkle with a cinnamon/sugar/brown sugar mix. The breads should take about 40-45 minutes and the muffins 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. These freeze beautifully and are a great gift for neighbors and friends who are needing a pick-em-up too!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Royal Ranch Royalty

You know when Sunday rolls around and you think it is still Friday, you're weeks are a little hectic! I really didn't mean to delay on my weekly introduction to one of the animals here at the Royal Ranch. This week Thunderboy has really earned the honor as he has worked very hard this hunting season without one complaint. He really enjoys his hikes, which makes our hikes all that much more enjoyable!

Thunderboy is not exactly a rescue, more of a precious gift is what I would consider him. My very dear friend and mentor, Bobra Goldsmith gave him to me. Bobra is the lead gal when it comes to llamas and I was fortunate enough to meet her years ago when I was first researching llamas. She gives classes, has a llama equipment line that she has produced herself, and back in the day, she used to breed Champions. I started out with taking her llama training course, which was really funny because everyone else at the class brought their own llamas to train and I was aiming to train myself. Bobra, of course, was kind enough to loan me a llama to "play" with for the day!

Anyway, we became friends and stayed in touch over the years, so when she was boarding a packing llama that had sort of been abandoned, she knew where to send it! That was the great news, he was in wonderful condition when we got him, because of her wise care, I didn't have to bring him back to health. He was ready to go to work, and happily so! I think he's in just about every picture that includes llamas in this blog, because he just keeps going and going and going and going....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tragedy at Platte Canyon High School

Emily's Ride 2006. This is what our parking lot looked like.

This is looking West.
This is looking East.

I can't believe it has been three years tomorrow since our strong little community was taken hostage by an armed gunman. I say our community because it was not only those six beautiful girls, but their families, their friends, and the rest of us as well.

It is still very difficult to talk about, my hands are shaking and I have a very large lump in my throat, but to share some of the things that have come from this tragedy are very important as well. So, I will start at the beginning. I was at my mom's that day, when my husband called and said that the high school and middle school (which are one building separated by a common cafeteria called the Canyon Room, also used for meetings, it is the large glass portion you saw in the news clips) were locked down due to a bomb threat or something. My mom lives about 30 minutes from downtown Bailey, and I made it in about half that time. I was not the only one, there were MANY cars speeding on the highway that day. Luckily I was one of the first 50 or so cars into downtown Bailey, so did not have far to go to get to where they were giving parents information. It was not long before we learned that our middle school kids were safe, thank God.

I'll never forget standing there with this pit in my stomach as one emergency vehicle after another would pass by, then the bomb tanker, then an FBI truck, it just kept getting scarier. I will also never forget the fact that even our bus drivers put themselves in danger to line up on the "Bailey back road" to wait for clearance to rush in to get any and all kids that they could. The panic in the crowd of parents was physically palpable, it was almost more than one person could handle, I guess that's why we all needed to be together at that time. Many of us had been friends since those kids had been in diapers together, so we drew strength from one another.

For those of us parents that were blessed enough to have our children cleared, we were told to go to the elementary school to pick up our kids. We all raced up Crow Hill, both with dread in our hearts and lead in our feet, praying that our kids would be on that bus, and wondering whose kids weren't. A car couldn't even fit on the road, people had just stopped where they were, and just started running to try and find their kids. Thankfully for me, I put it in four, and got off the road, and just blindly ran.
I've mentioned before the blank looks on the kids faces, but there really are no words to describe the looks that those kids had. There were literally over a hundred kids on each bus, and the crowd just started screaming and cheering when we saw the buses coming, I have never been more emotional in my life, not even the day they were born. Parents were running next to the buses pounding on them, begging to make sure that their son or daughter was on there. People were yelling into their cell phones "I see him/her!" The scene was utter chaos, and to the school districts' credit, they kept pretty good control.

This is a story of tragedy and triumph. The tragedy is a story that could be told again and again, and it deserves to be. But the triumph is almost, if not more amazing. To be honest, those next few days are a little blurry, but I think it was just two days later when a bike club pulled together a ride. I decided to take the kids down to the end of the road to check it out. I've got to tell you, that was almost as emotional as the day that it was in remembrance of. To see thousands and thousands of big, bad burly bikers all dressed in pink (Emily's favorite color) roaring by on their nasty Harley's was almost more than our broken hearts could handle! The loud, proud bikes literally went on for miles, there were still bikes leaving Columbine High School, by the time the first ones were arriving at our high school over an hour later, it was simply awe inspiring. As the tears poured down my cheeks (as they are right now) I just kept hugging my kids and telling them how much people loved and supported them. It was a sight we will all never forget. Emily's Mom, Ellen Keyes, was on the lead bike driven by our wonderful Sheriff, Fred Wegener, followed by all of our local Park County bikers, my emotional husband being one of them.
It was a very proud time for all of us, the fourth annual Emily Ride is today and this year a 5k run will be added. It was created in conjunction with the I Luv U Guys Foundation (based on Emily's last text message) that is working on school safety and provides some local scholarships. Yesterday was kindness day at the high school; the kids prepared for the ride, by folding the handkerchiefs for the bikers, or some worked on a house for Habitat for Humanity. Yes, this tragedy changed our lives forever, but we are blessed to say, that we live in a community that took the best from the worst and we are looking forward from here. WE love you guys, Bailey!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preparing for Old Man Winter

Good Morning! This morning I woke up to the sounds of the crackling fire, my very favorite! Although it means winter is on it's way, I love to sit by a warm fire, even if it is just for a short time before the sun comes up. Tom knows that Isabella and I sit in front of our wood stove for our morning chat, and that we miss it terribly when he doesn't start one, so as soon as the temperature drops in the fall, I wake up to the smells and sounds of a soul warming fire.

With the first days of fall came the first snow storms. Monday (the last day of summer, mind you) we got over six inches of snow here at the ranch. We were supposed to get 6-12 inches overnight on Tuesday, but it didn't happen, just an inch or so. The kids were really disappointed, they were hoping for the earliest snow day ever!

With this reminder that freezing temps are not in the all too distant future, I need to make a list of the things I must do to prepare the Royal Ranch to have a "greener" winter. I want to share some ideas and tips that I use here, on a small ranch at a very high altitude, but many things that we do, even people in urban areas can adjust to their own needs.

  • Check and replace timers. This is one of my favorite green tips, timers. I use timers on our favorite lamp, various small animal waterers, and I will use it on the chickens "day light", but the big difference has been on the large llama water trough. I have found that if the water heater is on for only 4-6 hours during the coldest times of the night (midnight to 4 or so), the water will not freeze. The savings are huge. Be careful to always get the right kind of timer, for example, get one especially made for outdoors if that is what you are using it for.
  • Shop for textiles at Goodwill. In an old house, you'd be amazed at the odd places that drafts come through. I take old towels, tablecloths, blankets and sheets that I find at low prices and staple them up at the backs of cupboards, in the barn for the barn cats, in the garage windows (where no one can see them), and in the attic.
  • Get the sewing machine out. Every winter I pick an area that really needs attention and sew for that room. Again, I will take textiles that I have purchased second hand and turn them into curtains. Actually my favorite curtains are family treasures, like old tablecloths that had stains on them that can be repurposed into a new usable family treasure! This doesn't work with every one's style though, so look for good sales on fleece, it makes great warm window coverings in just a few quick hems and comes in amazing pattern choices.
  • Firewood, firewood, firewood!
  • Check with other ranchers to see if they have old water troughs that I can turn into feeders. We add feet, drill holes in the bottom for drainage, and presto changeo, we have a new llama feeder from someone else's trash!
  • Scour garage sales for winter supplies like plug in watering dishes, textiles and timers. These things cost pennies on the dollar at private sales and are very easily found.
  • Bring in any plants from outside that I will be able to winter over in the house. It might be a little late, since the snow snuck up on me, but I will get my geraniums and maybe some violas, don't make the same mistake!

Well, I wish you luck with your winter preparations, but the best advice I can give you is to be well prepared. It is coming whether we are ready and prepared or not!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Tricks for an Old Dog

Yes, I know I am not "an Old Dog" (I'll be 39 in November, BTW), but it has been a really long time since I went to school. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am taking a class in stained glass, and I'm a little nervous.

It all started last year when I decided I wanted to make over my front door. By now you know that I do not buy anything new, I just give it a make over! So anyway, I decided that to learn how to do leaded glass, I would do some simple projects as Christmas gifts for my family. Well, here it is almost time to be thinking of Christmas gifts again, and I still hadn't finished last years! Stained glass is definitely an acquired skill and I had gotten frustrated and put it away, just for a little bit. A new innovative product, two websites and a new blog later, I'm back on track, but this time, thanks to gift certificates from my wonderful hubby and parents, I'm taking a class to learn the proper techniques.

I didn't get off to that smooth of a start though. When I called they said that since I knew how to cut glass to go ahead and start in the Intermediate class. I showed up exactly when they told me to, chose my pattern and started picking out glass. That was when the instructor told me I needed to blow the pattern up, so I jump in my truck and head over to Kinko's. All to find out that the pattern was still too small, a second trip to Kinko's. The class was half over by the time I had purchased enough glass for the second time!

I finally got the nerve up to ask if he wouldn't mind putting me in the Beginning class, and a wave of relief washed across his face! I really almost had to laugh, I could tell he didn't want to hurt my feelings, but I am absolutely not Intermediate! So, I'll try again today, with homework in hand, all glass at a ready, and hope I can be teachers pet after that first impression!

Have a miracle of a day!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Homecoming, Small Town USA

This weekend was homecoming in our quaint little town. It was kicked off Saturday morning with a parade, a massive community garage sale all day, and the football game in the afternoon. Of course, the teens were all smiles, excited for the big dance.

My son, Nathan, is in the Platte Canyon High School Marching Band (which is a big deal for an eight grader!) and this was his first year to march in the parade. I was a little disappointed about the attendance of the parade, but will do something about that! The football game was almost a shut out (they got 6 points, right before the buzzer!), and the boys did great, even with a lightening delay.

For the first time in a long time, I put mascara on. Knowing that we'd run into every person in town is half the fun of it! The Sheriff calls the game and the ambulances and fire trucks blare their enthusiasm of each touch down. The stands were packed with families huddling under blankies during the cold spells. The booster club had sold out of burgers by half time, great money coming into our schools, even the old folks grabbed a hot chocolate on such a crisp fall day.

I must say, the half time show was best, we have a superb marching band. Our young, enthusiastic band teacher has pulled together his marching band from nothing, and our little band has become quite impressive. Nathan plays quad toms and he too, is quite good. The kids stay excited about band because the band teacher picks great music and demands a tolerant learning environment. Even though it is early in the year, the kiddos did a great job!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Royal Ranch Royalty

Good Sunday morning all.

Well, today is the day I introduce you all to one of my critters here at the Royal Ranch. I wanted to share a story that was published in the Mile High Great Pyrenees Club newsletter many years ago. Marilyn is my beloved Pyr that I lost almost a year ago now due to esophageal cancer. My friend and mentor Jean, knew how much we loved our Marilyn Monroe and asked me to write this:

Marilyn Monroe Goes Country

I had been waiting for the call from Jean Pero for what seemed like forever, when it finally came. A match had been made and Marilyn was on her way! My family and I could barely wait. Aside from myself and my husband, we have two growing energetic redheaded boys, and a four year old blond beauty. We had many house pets, cats, dogs, a turtle, all that we loved dearly, but this was the summer that I had waited my whole life for! The llamas had started coming a few weeks earlier and I hoped that Marilyn was going to love her new home in the mountains.

The plan was to take Marilyn Monroe, the most beautiful city Pyr, who had never been around other animals let alone livestock, and slowly train her to guard my llamas from the predators in our mountainous area. I knew that this was quite a challenge and would take some time, but I really wanted a rescue dog instead of buying a puppy. I was in the process of building my llama packing business, and felt that Marilyn was going to be an integral part of it.

My first red flag was when the guy got out of his Dodge Diesel with a large horse rope wrapped multiple times around his wrist and the other end attached to the most beautiful dog I had ever seen. The funny thing is, the red flag was to hurry up and get rid of the guy! She had the saddest eyes, it appeared as if she were pleading with me. He told us many times to not let her go as she would definitely run away, didn’t like kids much, and that she preferred to be outside. He promptly asked for some Tums and took off. The kids and I took Marilyn Monroe into her new home, and tried to get her settled. Marilyn is anything but settled indoors.

Within about three hours of her arrival, to my horror the kids accidentally let Marilyn out the front door without the Horse Rope on. She was moving very slowly so I decided just to follow her and see what happened. It was like the dog was on a mission. She went to our property line and she walked the entire thing, it was as if she knew her territory. There was absolutely no running away, Marilyn Monroe was home and she was checking out her new terrain. She immediately chose a spot between the house and the llama pen where she could keep an eye on her humans and her llamas. It was amazing, she was not aggressive with any of the house animals, loved the llamas and kids, remember, this is a dog that had never been around any of these things.

There were a couple of concerns with our wonderful Marilyn. The first being that she was terrified of my husband and the second was that she HATED being indoors. I’ll go back to the husband thing later. Anyway, not long after Marilyn got here she started chasing Dodge Diesel pick-up trucks (you do recall that was the get away vehicle) unless we had her very securely put away, and she was very hard to secure. I had even tried to put her in the house one time when I left and she had jumped out a second story window that she had pushed open. She would have nothing to do with a crate, and of course I knew that the long process of training her to live with my llamas was not complete.

She couldn't have been here more than a week, when despite her dislike of the indoors, she was not leaving the side of my son who had a pretty high fever. You know how Moms are we worry to worry. It wasn’t until I woke up in my chair at 2:00 in the morning and realized that Marilyn had not woken me up to go out, that I got myself in a panic. She had been laying by his side for more than 18 hours, and had not been freaking out to go outside like normal. I took him to the doctor first thing in the morning and he had a very serious infection that they were able to treat with antibiotics, I could not believe that Marilyn had known how sick he was.

We were at a loss as to how to keep Marilyn safe, she hated the pick-ups! My only option was to put her in with the llamas. Well, she showed me, she took to her job like a pro. There was absolutely no training needed by me, it was simply her instinct to guard the llamas. Her dedication has continued to amaze us. This past summer one of our beloved rescue llamas passed away and Marilyn guarded him until we were able to get him buried. We were unable to get a tractor in until morning so I covered T- bone right away and Marilyn kept uncovering his face, it was as if she hoped he’d breathe again. I’ll never forget it, the loss of the llama was tragic enough, but I was so concerned that a bear was going to come for the body and Marilyn would fight for it. Throughout the night I would check on them, she would take a quick potty break, but only when I came up to keep an eye on her llama for her. She just lay by him, all night long and into the morning.

Back to my poor husband, he tried so hard with Marilyn, and she was still terrified of him a year later. I had stayed in touch with Jean Pero over the year and she had been a fantastic mentor and Pyr expert. I had absolutely fallen in love with the breed, and she felt another Pyr might help Marilyn like Tom better, so I decided to look for another working dog. Sure enough another city dog came along and I thought I’d try again since this guy was so young, only 1 year old. He wasn’t near as smart or as intuitive as Marilyn, but we fell in love with Samson right away! He has been fantastic for Tom, too. He too, had a sad story and was raised in a tiny yard and had never had any room to exercise. To move to a ranch in the mountains was great for him, and my adventurous husband loved to take him along. Jean was right, as soon as Marilyn saw how Samson adored Tom she slowly started building a trusting relationship with him.

We still do not get Marilyn inside as much as we would like, but at least when she does come in she enjoys herself and is a little more relaxed, then wants to get right back to her herd. She was the one who handled all of Samson’s llama training, keeping him in line when he got over excited about the llama antics. To see pictures of Marilyn and Samson and their herd please visit our website at they are very proud to be hard working dogs! Both of them are parts of our family and an important part of our business and have been a wonderful life changing experience!

Marilyn's life changed many of those around her, but her death was an experience that I will never forget. At the time, my vet was a good friend of mine, so when we had to put Marilyn down she had brought her 14 month old daughter with her. My kids were inside the house with her and my friend and I were dealing with Marilyn. As soon as she gave the shot, the baby started crying so her mommy brought her out. I was sitting next to Marilyn just bawling my eyes out when I looked up and saw the baby waving into the sky, she very quietly said "Bye, bye doggy." Needless to say her mommy and I were absolutely shocked, this dog could even touch our souls after she was gone! Marilyn is buried above my garden where I can see her out my kitchen window. I don't think there has been an animal that has come across my path that I feel more blessed to have known.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Black Hoody

As you all know by now, I am a home body, BIG TIME! For those of us that are blessed enough to work at home, it really becomes a way of life. We no longer have to commute, or eat crappy lunches, but best of all we don't have to dress to impress.

A year ago I bought my husband a hooded black sweatshirt at Goodwill. Well, for a man that is 6'3" there are not many hoodies that are long enough in the arm, so I inherited the sweatshirt. As soon as I put it on, I knew it was my favorite. To say the least this hoody takes a beating, it does all of my chores with me and is a daily wear in the winter, as we are keeping our house cooler now-a-days. Like this picture, often times I have it tied around my waist, waiting for the next big chill. But, that's okay, no one ever sees it anyway.

Well yesterday I had a stained glass class that I was going to. As I was getting ready to walk out the door I was at a total loss. I was so disappointed that I couldn't wear my Raggedy Anne hoody and didn't know what to wear without it. Actually, I even thought of wearing the old thing!

Now, I know I'm not alone in this, we all have an article of clothing that just feels right. Mine feels like home and family and critters, and it even smells like the mountains that I live and work in (probably because I never take it off to wash it-ha!). So, today I am headed off to pick up an elk camp and will happily be wearing my black hoody! Wear your "black hoody" with pride, it represents who we are, as hard working, happy, individual, home loving Americans!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Kroger Company

Good morning! The other day when I went to the grocery store I was so excited. I thought I'd ask for some of the old produce to feed the chickens and rabbits, boy was my bubble burst! I was told that due to a lawsuit (again?) Kroger had made a rule to not give their produce away. I was told that I could have lettuce cuttings, but nothing else. Don't get me wrong, the big box of what looks to me like fresh lettuce came in very handy; as a matter of fact I used it on our tacos the other night!

Anyone who shops in any produce section in all of America has seen the hardworking produce guys painstakingly pick through the fruits and veggies for the very best looking stuff and you see the other stuff (again, still looks pretty good to me) being wheeled behind the big swinging doors. So, what happens to that stuff? My idea of feeding it to animals seemed to be a great compromise. There are many leftover boxes and containers that could be filled with the produce, stamped with "not meant for human consumption" and sold at a discount.

I went to the Kroger website and found that the company is really pretty earth friendly. They have a sustainability report that shows how the huge company is working towards being greener. On the report it talks about some of the stores donating to homeless shelters, etc. While I am very proud of the fact that they do this, does that mean our homeless are getting what I would consider chicken feed?

Like I said, if Kroger was to sell at a minimal cost what they consider to be trash it would help out tremendously; containers and unwanted food would both get recycled, seems pretty simple to me! If you get a chance, tell your produce manager (or send them a quick note, like I did) that you'd love to see them quit wasting this great natural resource.
PS I forgot to mention that my first ever guest post is on one of my favorite blogs. Check it out at Over Coffee The Green Edition-Thanks for the opportunity Lena!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Teens Go Green

Good Morning! I am so excited to tell you about this great website that I came across. Swaptree is a website that is built to help people trade all sorts of media, at no cost. Well, actually it costs under $3 for postage, but the service is free.

How it works is really quite amazing. We went onto the site, made an account in no time flat, and just filled in the items (games, movies and DVDs) that we already own, but would like to trade. Up pops a ton of items that we were eligible to trade for. They are even able to do three way trades, which opens it up for many more eligible items. A person can make a wish list too, items that you are hoping to trade for, and they will try and find it for you.

Before I did this review, I waited to make sure it was going to work the way they say it will, and to my surprise, it went better than expected. The kids had all sorts of games that they had already played through, so they were ecstatic at the chance to get new games for free (to a teen $3 is nothing-ha!). I've got to be honest, in this day and age I was really concerned about getting ripped off. The only gauge to go by is the rankings of other people who have made trades with that specific person. But, for such a great green idea, it was worth a shot.

Swaptree allows you to print a shipping label and pay for it out of your account at the end of each month. So, there is no chance of getting addresses wrong or whatever. Within four days of mailing out our first item, we started to receive the trades the kids had made. All items have been exactly as described and the children were happy as can be.

It's funny, my oldest son, Thomas, calls me a tree hugger and thinks that a lot of the things I do are a little far fetched, but ALL of my kids love this service! They have been so busy making trades that I have not had time to make any for myself, but I am planning on trading some Cd's and some workout videos that I no longer use. When I told Thomas that this is the ultimate form of recycling, I got a "Yeah mom, I know, but this is really cool recycling!", don't they just kill you?
Have a miracle of a day!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Royal Ranch's View on Hunting

I realized that not very many people are gun toting hillbillies like we are here at The Royal Ranch. As a matter of fact, it might seem odd to some people that we spend our lives rescuing animals and sharing our love of this wonderful country and the animals that live within it, and at the same time support hunting. In my opinion hunting helps maintain the enjoyable life we are blessed to live.

Hunting brings huge money into any economy that will allow it. Hunters spend A LOT of money, with their tags, their equipment and guides, lodging, food, alcohol and daily necessities like a coffee in the morning at Loaf-N-Jug, they are constantly pumping money into our economy. Hunting season for The Royal Ranch alone brings in quite a bit of revenue, and we are very inexpensive compared to most hunting outfitters.

It is also very difficult for me, being in such a rural area, but with no farms nearby, to get meat that has no junk (antibiotics, hormones, etc.) in it, unless I want to pay a premium price. Game meat is a very healthy alternative to those of us that are meat eaters. It is much lower in fat than most red meats, and if cooked and cared for properly does not have a strong "gamey" taste. I know many families that are surviving on game meat due to this insufferable economy.

Hunting helps control herd population as well, which to me is one of the main reasons to support hunting. In areas where hunting is not allowed, elk and deer herd populations reach unhealthy numbers now that humans have removed most of their natural predators. Too much inbreeding leads to inferior animals, thus the decline of genetic make-up in some of our most wondrous creatures. Over crowding can contribute to Chronic Wasting Disease and is very hard on the terrain in which the elk or deer herd lives in. This negative effect trickles all the way down to innocent fish in the creeks and even insect population; many of which are essential to a healthy ecosystem.

I am by no means trying to sway your (or anyone else's for that matter) opinion in one way or another. I am simply defending my stand on hunting and explaining how such a huge animal lover is also a supporter of legal hunting. For now, it is the best, and in my opinion, the only way of helping Mother Nature with her very difficult job!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hiking the Rocky Mountains

Tom, Jasper, Thunderboy, Hunter and Marcel
in the snow!

More Snow!

Judy and Jasper on Friday

Tom and Judy

Me and my bad self!

Looking toward Mt. Evans

Thunderboy and Jasper nibbling.


This is very close to the area where the sheep
hang out.
One proud rescue llama!

Does he ever get enough of taking pics
of himself?

Royal Mountain
(Yes, named after Charlie Royal, the homesteader of our ranch)

Thank goodness for my hard working boys!

Yes, I realize I am over twelve hours late with this highly anticipated post-Ha! It has taken me some time to recover (and get the house back in order after a couple of days of a teenager being in charge!) from all of our crazy adventures this weekend. It began on Friday with a great hike on our favorite trail. We were dropping off an elk hunting camp, which was a scheduled pack. The next morning, Saturday, I got an e-mail from the wife of the sheep hunter we had dropped off on the previous Monday. He had filled his tag, with a HUGE Bighorn sheep and needed us to pick it up for him. Now, the trail that the sheep are up is much harder, steeper and rockier than all of the other trails we do, but there was a job to be done, even if it was our second long hike in two days.
If you've ever heard the saying "If you don't like the weather in Colorado wait a day...", that is because the weather can change very quickly in our magnificent state. We had the two extremes on our hikes, literally hours apart. Our hike on Friday was the best hike we have had in quite some time, the weather was spectacular and the llamas did a great job. We arrived at the top in good time, well before our hunters, so we had time to sit and enjoy the view. Directly ahead of us (the direction of most of these pics) is the backside of Mt. Rosalie and beyond it is Mt. Evans. The views are breathtaking, it seems as if you could see for miles. The llamas love the high altitude tundra and were content just to munch while Tom and I took pics and enjoyed the sounds of the forest. The elk were in a valley below us and were bugling, it was like a symphony back and forth across the picturesque canyon!
As you can see in these pictures, the weather on Saturday was not quite as fantastic. Yes that is snow falling that you see. Great big fat flakes that soak through your clothes in no time flat. At lower elevations it was raining, so I wasn't sure which was the least of the two evils. We arrived up at the sheep hunting camp in great time, it's a little easier getting the llamas up the mountain when their packs are empty. Anyway, we arrive at camp, which at first glance did not look at all packed up, and the fellas are celebrating their successful hunt with Wild Turkey and cigars. They were so happy to see us, it made the trip up worth the work. It took us an hour or so to get the camp torn down, listen to the exciting hunting story, and pack up the llamas.
Llamas are great pack animals, but the trip down the hill loaded can be as hard on the animals as a trip up. They carry their weight in their chests and backs, so it evenly distributes the weight on all four legs, but going downhill, fully loaded puts a lot of pressure on the front legs. We have modified our llama packs so that all of them now have what is called a crupper, a strap that holds the pack back that fits under the tail. It is very important for the packs to ride securely to get both panniers the same weight, which is very difficult to do in the snow, on the side of the hill, tripping over the happiest hunters I have seen in a long time. To draw his tag through the DOW took him seventeen years, to them it was the trip of a lifetime.
The thing that we love most about llama trekking is the fact that we are so gentle on the trail, we practically leave no trace. Llamas have padded feet instead of hooves, so they tread very lightly on good old Mother Earth. They are also browsers, meaning that they just eat a little bit of this or that, not pulling anything by the roots or taking too much of one plant or shrub. As a matter of fact, "nibbling" is their favorite thing to do. When we take breaks along the trail, you can watch a llama sample at least three or four varieties of vegetation.
As you can imagine, I was very happy to head back down the trail. Like I mentioned, it is a very rocky trail, and when wet, downright scary, so we knew we had to take it slow. This was just dandy with the llamas! It's funny, we were wondering if the packing was getting to be a little too much for us, and in two days we had the most fantastic experiences that it made us realize that this is what we are meant to be doing. The great hike on Friday was just the reward our tired souls had needed, and the hunter's appreciation was beyond flattering. To realize that we were a big part of a story that they would tell their grandkids put a grin on our soaking wet faces!
PS: the pictures are not in order as you could probably tell by now, the first three are of our very wet hike on Saturday. All of the others are from the fabulous hike on Friday, I thought it better to leave you with such beautiful images!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Royal Ranch Royalty

Good Morning! It is Sunday morning and time to meet one of Royal Ranch's Royalty. We have had an amazing weekend, so I really debated about not doing my weekly post on one of my infamous critters. This way I can keep my promise to my readers, and give my tired brain time to gather up all of the great memories to put into a story for you all tomorrow! It is hunting season here in Colorado, and as usual Tom and I can't see straight-how very lucky we feel! We hiked almost twenty miles in the last two days, and I'm excited to share our adventures with you.

For many years hunting season and Marcel were very well acquainted. Marcel is one of our first llamas, and absolutely one of the favorites. He is the leader of the entire herd, but he is the most gentle leader I have ever seen. Marcel is very rarely in any physical battles, but tends to get his point across without needing to fight. Whenever a new animal comes in, Marcel is the first to accept and love them. He has been so wonderful with the sheep for example. While the other llamas were either deathly afraid of, or wanted to kill the sheep initially, Marcel politely showed them who was boss, and allowed them to eat with him.

This last year, we tragically lost a llama, Carbondale, due to a leg injury during hunting season. It was a very scary thing to say the least, so I had decided that I was not going to take any risks with Marcel and retire him. As we all know, retirement plans change in times like these, so Marcel got to do our hike with us yesterday. Although the hike up is much easier, as the packs are empty, it is very difficult for the llamas to come down the trail full. The packs tend to slide forward, even with a crupper (a device like you see here on Marcel's neck, but it wraps under the tail to hold the weight back) on the pack. Llamas carry their weight with their chest and sides, so going down puts a lot of weight on the front legs and they tire quite easily. Marcel is a very dedicated worker, but is getting on in years (16 years old) and deserves to retire. He has been on every single one of our pack trips until this season!
Marcel is one of my rescues, but luckily does not have a sad story. We got him and his buddy Jasper off of an organic vegetable farm (kind of ironic he's gone full circle; pooping for a living, and then doing what llamas do best, packing for a living, and back to pooping for a living for Naked~Nure. The people that had him before, did not work with them at all, so when he got here he was very wild and difficult to halter. Llamas are very easy to train, so after learning he could trust us, he settled right into the role of lead packer.
As a matter of fact, my children's story Llucky Llama, is told from Marcel's viewpoint of living and loving at the Royal Ranch. He is also the llama that is on our sign and logo. Marcel is one proud animal, and we are so proud to share his life!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Dedication to our Service Men and Women

Good Morning! I would like to dedicate today's post to all of the wonderful service men and women who are fighting for, and have already fought for this wonderful country. I really can't believe it has been eight years today since that horrific tragedy changed our country, and possibly the world forever.

I was watching the news that morning, before the first crash, I'll never forget it!! They were talking with a gal on scene when the second building was hit. We then slowly heard about the plane going down and the Pentagon. I stood there in absolute disbelief, with my hands over my face, I just prayed and prayed.

So many of our proud citizens were lost that day. To me it seems that even beyond the scope of the actual death toll, many families were torn apart as well, as one of the parents headed off to war. Tom and I have always had the utmost respect for the guys and gals who put their lives on the line for the good of our country, no matter what the price.

So, this is me taking my hat off to all of you, you have made our country what it is today!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fraudulent E-mails

Good Morning! I had a pretty good scare yesterday. I got an e-mail from the IRS that said I had under reported sales tax income and needed to go to a link to check on my status. As you know, the IRS scares any and all American businesses. My first instinct was to click on the link, just to make sure, and then get out if it was fishy. They had a sales tax number and everything. Luckily our accountant had told us last year that the IRS will never contact us through e-mail.

I did some quick checking by going to the IRS' website, and my accountant was right. IRS never uses e-mail. The scariest thing is that if I had clicked on the link, "they" would have been able to infect my computer, it is not always fishing for more personal information. Now, I am a pretty savvy Internet user and know a lot of the warning signs for fraudulent e-mails, but this one was very tempting to check out since it was from such a scary source, and they had so much info on me. It took me maybe two minutes to research this a little, so take the extra two minutes if your gut is telling you something isn't right.

There have been many times that we sell things on Craigslist, ultimate recycling, right? But, I don't think that there has been one time that we don't get an interested, and fraudulent, response within a day or so of posting the ad. With these responses it has usually been pretty easy to tell that it wasn't a person really interested in my sale item. The language in the response just doesn't have very good English, or not enough interest in the actual item. We had a horse on there once, and a guy responded that the condition of my item was acceptable and he would have his people handle all of the packaging and shipping. I don't know about you, but I don't like to package animals!!!

The following are some real danger signs:

  • anyone asking for money up front

  • unusual or not good use of the English language

  • any file with .exe needs to be checked out, not saying they're all bad, but...

  • any e-mail asking for personal information

  • e-mails that come from a source "threatening action" (ie: closure, disruption of service or need of verification), related to one of your accounts

The problem with links is that they can be masked, and what looks like the link to a real website, as mine did, can easily be re-routed. In my research for this post I found and interesting piece of information on Microsoft's scam information page. The following is an excerpt from that page:

Phishing links that you are urged to click in e-mail messages, on Web sites, or even in instant messages may contain all or part of a real company’s name and are usually masked, meaning that the link you see does not take you to that address but somewhere different, usually an illegitimate Web site.
Notice in the following example that resting (but not clicking) the mouse pointer on the link reveals the real Web address, as shown in the box with the yellow background. The string of cryptic numbers looks nothing like the company's Web address, which is a suspicious sign.

I wasn't able to "copy" the example, but I didn't know that resting over the link was a good idea, you learn something new everyday! Like I said, I really did not think I would ever fall prey to such scams, but I was within one click with this one!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Royal Llama Adventures, LLC

Tom and Judy



Thunderboy and Judy

Jasper, Snickers, Judy, Pepper & Thunderboy

Well, we made it!!! Yesterday was our first drop camp of the season. On a scale of 1-10 I would put this one at a 7. We did have a few issues, but we did our job and that is always a great feeling.

You see, when we started our llama business we had planned on mostly doing day trips with the city folks and other visitors, but the hunting aspect has really taken off. Llamas are very calm pack animals so they can carry many sensitive things that other pack animals can't be trusted with, like cameras, rifles and scopes. Unlike most pack animals llamas are very calm, even when it comes to sticky situations like fitting themselves and their very full packs into small, tight spaces. They are not easily startled and are not usually afraid of too many things, like the unexpected deer running across our path; that would send a horse into a full gallop, with or without his rider.
We were to meet our hunter at 8 am, so it was a little later than we normally like, as the mountain is a very dangerous place to be once the storms roll in. There have been a few pack trips that I have literally run to get back to the cover of the forest. Now, I know that doesn't sound right, trees being a big target for lightning, but anything is safer than being out in the open above timberline. Up there, rocks are the attractant, leaving a human as the tallest thing for miles around, and being a wonderful "ground" for the lightening to spread it's dangerous tentacles. Thankfully yesterday's hunter listened to us and camped at timberline.
In general, when we work with hunters, we will take them to their camp, and then I will go and get their animal (if they are lucky and skilled enough to fill their tag) during the week. This means that quite a few of our pack trips I do on my own (as Tom will be at work), with llama cohorts of course. To pick them up out of the woods, we can usually wait until it is convenient for us to pull their camps. If it is a busy season, this works out wonderfully because I try not to make my boys work two days in a row. Needless to say I need a break in between as well!

This specific hunter is going for Rocky Mtn. Big Horn Sheep. To get this tag is a once in a lifetime chance, it took our hunter 13 years to draw. One of our sheep hunters last year had waited 17 years! So these guys are very excited and really enjoy the fact that their camp was delivered by llamas, and that they were able to bring things that they would have to leave behind if they carried it themselves.
Like I said, this wasn't one of our longest hikes as we talked them into staying in the trees, just below timberline. They will have much more shelter and are not far at all from a water source. The round trip was about 9 miles, you have to remember that timberline, in general, is at about 11,500 to 11,700 feet of elevation. It might not seem all that far when you consider we start at 9,000 feet, but a pack string can not "bush whack", so we stick to the winding trails. This is the first year in a long time that we didn't open with snow on the ground at the top of the mountain, that in itself was a prayer answered! We are usually trudging through 4-6 inches of snow for the last few miles if our hikes, so this was a real treat. We even made it home before the t-storms hit.
Our troubles began when Hunter (the llama), just stopped, no going forward, no going back. I could not get him to move for the life of me. I tell the kids all the time "use your brain not your brawn", but failed to take my own advice. I just drug that llama for as long as I possibly could, and then I'm embarrassed to say, I threw a baby fit! By the time Tom had come back to check on me, I threw my arms up in the air and gave a primal scream! Obviously Tom took those llamas and I just walked away, to get the llamas further up the trail. It wasn't long before he caught up with us and I had cooled down enough to ask how he had solved Hunter's problem. Hunter hadn't wanted to be in the middle, once Tom put him at the end of the pack string he was fine! I wish I could say the same, my baby fit really took a lot out of me-ha! Why hadn't I used my brain like that!?!
Now Hunter is happily moving along at the end of his string, and Snickers decides to lay down, he was "awful tired". So, we gave him as many breaks as he demanded and slowly made our way up the mountain. This is a somewhat new pack team to us, so there was definitely some training involved. Llamas are also pretty trusting animals, and since they are comfortable with us, they did not resist this new experience too much. We took Hunter and Jasper, our experienced packers, Snickers, Pepper and Thunderboy are the newer ones to the team. All three of them have packed before, but not too much with us. It was a little bit of a sad day, because I had retired my lead llama Marcel. He is getting too old to pack, but doesn't realize his age (like many of us). He was pacing the fence as we pulled out, like "Hey, you forgot me!"
The trail that we were on is a very rocky one, it heads up Mt. Rosalie, directly behind the ranch. It is one that we have hiked quite a bit, but never tire of its beauty. The pine forests tower above and the bristle cone pines are twisted from the strong winds. The bark is blown off of the dead trees, so they are buffed to a spectacular shine. Every now and then we got a peak of the top of the mountain that we were climbing, very majestic.
It's the trip down the mountain that we really enjoy. The llamas are unloaded, we have done our job well, and we can finally relax a little. It is also when we have a chance to take pictures. As you can see, the llamas packs re much lighter and smaller than you might think, but they still look a little cranky! I had to giggle when Tom was taking that first picture of us, he says "Damn, I'm photogenic!"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Royal Ranch Royalty

Well, it is Sunday and I promised you an introduction to one of The Royal Ranch's crazy critters every Sunday until we run out, which is going to take a LONG time. I will normally switch it up a bit, last week I introduced you to Shade, my loving nurse cat. So I was going to start today off with a different type of animal, llama, dog, rabbit, turtle, whatever. But, I made a promise to my daughter that her cat Scratch would be the next Royalty. Promises are what got me into this kitty in the first place, to me a promise is to be kept and the kids know it!!!

Last summer, a friend/neighbor broke her foot and we took over her chores. I've got to tell you it was one of the hardest set of "chores" I have ever done. Our friend had only been to our place, to buy hay and what not, so upon arrival at her place I have never been so shocked. There were a minimum of 30 cats, a horse, two ducks and at least six dogs. It goes without saying what the grounds were like,so one of our first tasks was to clean out the shed that is attached to her house that the cats had taken over. We donned our masks, and thank goodness for Park County clean-up days, because we took three truckloads in and didn't spend a penny! But, I digress....

Isabella is my mini-me, we have called her that since she was born, she looks like me, but even worse, she acts like me-Ha! My little partner does everything with me and our friends chores were no different. As you can imagine, the two or three litters of kittens was absolutely enthralling to a nine year old animal lover. I think it was our second morning there, that Bella said she really wanted one of those kittens. Knowing that these kittens and generations above them were WILD barn cats and she could not catch them, I jokingly told her that if she caught one she could keep it. Of course, she made sure to get the promise out of me! I also hadn't figured on how hard the girl would work in the next few weeks, patiently sitting at the food bowl, letting the cats know they could trust her.

One day as I was feeding the horse I hear "Mommy, Mommy I caught one!" I turned around and here is my beautiful little girl with this screaming, hissing and spitting kitten in her hands. As all good parents do I broke her heart and started saying "No Way" over and over again, partially because I was in shock that the little duffer had caught one. She knows my weak spot, and through her tears, she says "but Mommy, you promised!?!" and I had, so off we head to The Royal Ranch with one really mad kitten.

Needless to say, I was not prepared for a new animal, let alone a wild one, to come into the house. You know, figuring out where to keep it until the other pets mellowed out after the initial invasion, kitten food, those sorts of minor necessities. Bella is of course declaring that he (luckily I am good at sexing young kittens) was going to live in her room, and she would do all of the care taking. His name was very obviously, said my little cat whisperer, Scratch.

So, I get Bell and her new po'd kitten safely tucked away in her room, while I madly dash around the house looking for a spare litter box and something to feed the little guy. The other animals in the house had seen us come in and needed quite a bit of "attention" at the time, so it was not quite an hour when I checked back in with Isabella and Scratch. I could not believe my eyes, they were quietly loving on one another in her bed!!! The smile on that girls face brought the tears, it was my turn to cry this time! By the way, this picture was taken the night of his arrival!

Although Tom is a big cat fan, we were both a little concerned about his reaction. I don't think I had ever mentioned the "deal" I had made with his little girl, because I didn't think it would happen. Tom arrived home after a long day at his shop, and calmly said "that's the one I was thinking about trying to catch"! Well, I guess I was outvoted, Scratch was now a permanent fixture here at The Royal Ranch.

Now, since I have given you such a wonderful story, I will jump on my bandwagon for just a moment. Spaying and neutering animals is extraordinarily important. Although the den of cats at our friends house was healthy, that is not typically the case when breeding is left to nature with domesticated animals. I found a group that would come to the farm and fix all of the cats. In one day, we trapped, operated on and gave shots to 22 cats! This was done by donation only (poor people only got $50 from me for Scratch after all of that hard work!) and it is what the group does on a daily basis. I've got to tell you, the people were very extreme when it came to cats, but to help all of those cats was really worth it. Once they realized that I knew each cat, and who's kitten was whose (I had even been able to tell them which were boys or girls by the look of them), they took my bossiness a little more seriously. The point is, is that there are all sorts of resources to get your animals spayed or neutered, no matter what your income is or is not. (If you have a hard time with this, let me know, I have contacts nationwide.)

Back to an absolutely adorable Scratch; he is the smallest cat we've ever had, people keep asking us if we have a new kitten. We can still tell he is a barn cat though, because he is much more leery of any imagined (and sometimes real) danger than some of our other cats, but he has settled in quite nicely. He learned how to take baths by watching the other cats and is now a neat freak; we have to let him smell our hands before we are allowed to touch him! The bond between my daughter and her angel is so adorable that it tugs at my heart strings.

PS I will not be posting tomorrow, so don't miss me too much, we have our first drop camp of the hunting season.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Credit Card Companies- What's Up With That?

I must be a little goofy this morning, because I gave myself the biggest chuckle. As my business grows, my business needs are changing drastically. One of those needs is a credit card machine. Now-a-days, a company like myself, that does most of its business online, may not need an actual machine to process credit cards. There are all sorts of accounts to wade through, internet merchant, retail merchant and even just a phone merchant. The following is on a statement attached to every single one of these accounts:

Rates and fees may change without notice.

I think I'm going to start writing that on all of my bills; Payments and due dates may change without notice. I mean I just busted out laughing (yes, in my office all by myself!) when I pictured doing this. Really, can you imagine if we did this, treated them the way they legally have a right to treat us as consumers? It is a shame that it takes a person hours to dig through a bunch of mumbo jumbo to figure out how, not if, they are going to get ripped off!

Just an FYI, Costco seems to have the best prices for business services that I have come across. But, be careful of the different types of accounts, the advertised price is only for people who have a retail location and will be manually running the cards through. The prices get higher with online and phone services. Also, rewards credit cards are processed at a higher rate. You know, Rates and fees may change without notice LOL!!!

As I said, picturing this rebellious act was hysterical to me, so the next time you run along a statement that is this ridiculous, just turn it around-you'll feel much better after a good giggle!
Have a Miracle of a day!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Did You Miss Me?

Good Morning! So sorry about yesterday, I know my regular readers notice when I don't post for a day. The reason I was unable to do so was because we finally got our new barn delivered!!! You see, it has been a long time coming. We ordered this building about six weeks ago and really got the run around for quite some time, lost purchase order, cancelled delivery dates, you know, all the fun stuff.

We finally demanded $ off, that seemed to get them moving (we did save $100, though), they were scheduled for 7 yesterday morning. As you can imagine early morning is a little crazy around The Royal Ranch as I am getting kids off to school at two different times, and of course the plethora of animals are all demanding their breakfasts.

I've got to tell you, as exited as I was to finally get it here, I was disappointed that the installers could not speak any English (they must not have been able to tell time either, they got here at 10). That's not entirely true, because they got the point across that if I paid them cash, they'd be able to do a few upgrades that would have cost me a fortune to go through the company. You know me, I love to save a buck, so this was all fine and dandy. But, the more I got to thinking about how so many people are suffering from lack of work, that these guys should at least know how to communicate in a business fashion. I have a real problem with "Americans" refusing to learn, and use our language. Especially if they are taking jobs from other well spoken Americans.

So, sad to say, I would definitely not recommend Coast to Coast Carports, but I got a great deal on a beautiful new hay barn, even if it was a rather large pain in the butt!!! Now all I need is the hay to fill it. For now, Tom is enjoying it, we've got our old beater plow truck and my trailer parked in it.

Have a miracle of a day!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cat Free Zone

The other day I went to make my bed and found this! Yes, that's right, 4 cats sleeping in my Cat Free Zone!
I am a very firm believer in trying to set limits; I limit my caffeine, I limit my sugar, I even place all sorts of limits on my kids. So, the cats should be no different. Many years ago, when the cats started outnumbering the humans, I declared my bedroom a cat free zone. I think this makes the cats want in even more, because if the door is left open for a millisecond, this is what happens.
I am not exactly allergic to cats, but them sleeping on my pillows bothers me. I deal with animals all day long, I don't necessarily have to sleep with them and their dander (Gigi, a dog I inherited from my grandma, GG, is excused from this rule of course)! It seems perfectly acceptable to me, but Tom loves having a kitty to sleep with and the kitties love it right back!
No, we don't purposely try and get matching cats, they tend to find us!
Have a miracle of a day, and don't forget to stick to the limits you impose upon yourself and others-Ha!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Practicing Yoga

Good Morning! I just finished my Yoga workout and decided that it is the subject I want to cover today. I can hear those groans, "not another hippie idea from Judy"!!! But, really, Yoga is a very important part of my life. It relieves stress, helps on my bad brain days and keeps me very toned in the process.

There is a program, called Namaste Yoga on Fit TV that I do. It is great because it is only one half hour long (22 minutes if you FF through the commercials!) and it has been very beneficial to me. My family teases me that I have the "big guns". Yoga has helped me get the cut in my upper arm to show my bicep, and my legs are also toned enormously through this program. I am also very flexible for an old gal!
I think there is a stigma attached to Yoga, that it is not a very hard workout or that practicing yoga is an "oddball practice". To be honest, I thought so too. In a past lifetime (you know BC, before children) I was an ACE certified personal trainer, too bad I found out after I went to all of that trouble that I didn't like working out in front of people-Ha! Anyway, it was a very strict certification process, so I did learn a lot. It wasn't until recently that I had to give Yoga a try because traditional workouts were just too hard on my joints. I can't tell you how much I instantly enjoyed this very challenging workout.
Another great aspect is that anyone (over weight, over bored or over aged-ha!) can do Yoga. Until one builds their strength, all postures can be modified to the level which the Yogi is at, the stretches just aren't quite as deep and the strengthening is done for a shorter time. I also believe that it has strengthened my immunity system-a big plus in today's world!!
The following is from the Namaste Yoga website at Fit TV:
The word "yoga," from the Sanskrit word yuj, means "to yoke or bind," and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a "yogi," a female practitioner, a "yogini." Today, most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.
I do it in the morning, since I have them recorded I can do it early, before the kids get up. It is a great way to get you moving and then you have the rest of the day to enjoy without feeling guilty!
Have a miracle of a day!