Archive for September, 2014

THE ROUND-UP or why you don’t want to raise cattle.

September 26, 2014

Previously I’ve discussed our venture into cattle raising, but since yesterday was COW DAY, it bears repeating. Since late May we’ve been feeding three Angus animals for beef.

If you are shaking your head now and wondering why perfectly sane folks would venture into the cattle raising business, I’ll shed some light on that. Sorry but I am not enamoured with supermarket beef. Most folks have never smelled a feed lot, if you have you’d know why I don’t feel feed lot beef is a great thing.

We raise grass-fed beef. That means they wander the pasture all summer munching green grass and being fed a bit of sweet feed and cow cake in the evenings and mornings. That feed isn’t enough to “fatten them up”, but it is enough to keep me happy about their well being as I can visually check them twice a day. This summer due to my pacemaker surgery, my daughter kindly took over cow duty—making sure they had feed and water.

So the big day arrived. Lured into the corral with their daily ration of goodies. With a little work we get two animals into the trailer and headed for town. That’s where success ends. Unfortunately the rest of the story I didn’t observe first hand, as I had to attend my grandson’s 1st grade field day.

The rest of the story begins when they arrive back with the trailer to get animal number three. He is not going! He is declining the invitation, thank you very much. He charges my daughter nearly running over her. Then he takes on my son ramming him through the corral fence, shattering a two by six board. Then he continues to ram another section of the corral until it breaks and he runs free.

Right now he’s roaming free, but the clock is ticking.

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MOVING INDOORS

September 12, 2014

My tomato plants moved in yesterday. There was a chance of snow late yesterday afternoon or in the night so the plants migrated to my kitchen. We’ve had a great tomato year this year with enough lovely red and orange (the heirlooms) to keep us satisfied for the last two months. My philosophy is that next week, it could be in the high eighty’s, this is Colorado after all, and those marble-sized green balls could grow up and gift us with more fruit before it becomes serious winter in November.

I’ve often wondered if the 1870’s pioneer woman threw her hands in the air at Colorado’s early fall squall and gave up on her garden and it’s produce. Lack of windows in a sod house or wooden shack may have been a factor in giving up in despair and declaring the weather had won. The plain’s dweller has learned that you don’t give up until the ground is frozen and there’s at least three inches of snow covering the plants, then you wrap each individual tomato in newspaper and put it in a paper sack to mature when it is ready. (Check them weekly and yes, it works.)

Living here is not for the faint of heart, someone once said—and they were correct. I can live with the tomatoes and herbs on towels in the kitchen for a few days until the weather warms and we have Indian Summer for the next two months. It is a small sacrifice for the enjoyment, which comes with fresh homegrown produce. It is also what I consider to be the life on the plains. Kudos to those early pioneers they were not only hardy stock, they didn’t give up easily.

UNDERGROUND PRESERVATION

September 5, 2014

We’ll continue on with one more installment of preserving for winter pioneer style this time. Most folks are remotely aware of the term “root cellar”, but we will go one step further and talk about the highly useful and very dangerous root cellar.

When the pioneer family was finally able to start a garden, which in areas with rich loam soil seems like a no-brainer, gardens provided families with a bounty of fresh vegetables and some fruits. However in the realities of the pioneer west, we’ve discussed the hard clay packed soil which confronted early residents. Even when summers were blessed with adequate rain, the soil developed a hard crust over the top of the clay.

Vegetables like carrots, potatoes, turnips, and parsnips frequently looked like pencils instead of the fat, lush specimens found in today’s grocery store. But a carrot is a carrot and pioneers saved what they grew–Enter the root cellar.

Initially digging a root cellar meant chopping through that dried clay soil. I’ve seen shovels bend and break in this process. Once a sufficient hole was dug somewhere in the vicinity of four feet wide, four feet deep, and perhaps six feet long. Some sort of wooden structure was added as the occasional rain caused that clay to turn into slime which moved with frightening quickness as the walls collapsed. Once the structure was deemed safe, the pioneers dug their root crops and stored them in the root cellar. Usually straw, hay, or even grass was packed around the vegetables to slow the decaying process. In this manner, vegetables could be stored for winter and the occasional bushel of apples from a flourishing tree could be added to the winter stores.

Root cellars were a boon to pioneers and more than one family has been saved by hiding in the root cellar during a summer storm with tornadoes. So preservation became a dual scenario.