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This Week's Adventures at KSR - Lots of Ps

Updated: May 14, 2023

Today, I’m offering a glimpse into “A Week at the Ranch”; just the normal comings and goings, adventures and misadventures of ranch life. I would be lying if I said this blog post isn’t inspired by Brittany, standing on my front porch, moaning, “why? Why is it always something?”. Welp, my dear, welcome to the ranch. She says this as she is standing over one of the pups, with an eye so swollen it’s closed. More on that later...


For now, read about our life on the ranch this week in May, 2023:


As we’ve settled into ranch life, as much as one can settle into this life, and I’m bringing you on the journey from where it began, I’m also going to give you a glimpse into the daily life of Kindred Spirit Ranch. While it may look like sunsets, baby animals, and campfires, there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes. This life isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain breed to not only live it but enjoy it. In some ways, this life has calloused us, and you may see that come through. But please don’t mistake that for being unfeeling. Calloused simply means some wounds have been reopened and healed over so many times, that the hurt is just not the same, though the feeling is. Healing is quicker, but the wound is still there.


We start this week in new territory. I am healing from hip surgery and learning my boundaries, and I’m back to working a job full-time from the ranch. My last day physically at the chamber was the previous Wednesday, the day before my surgery, so I will no longer be leaving the ranch three days per week. This also means Brittany and I will share workspace in the farmhouse during the day. Thankfully, the girls set up my office downstairs in my bedroom, accommodating my hip recovery.


Party Planning


I am starting the week with a continued focus on the upcoming chamber festival: securing insurance, confirming vendors, working with the trash and porta-potty folks, and praying I don’t miss anything. It’s been a bit like putting together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of a solid color and no edge pieces. It is weighing heavy on me, especially knowing that I will not be on site due to hip surgery. No pressure, just the 150th anniversary of the town, 2-day festival, big name headliner, me flat on my back. What could possibly go wrong? (Plenty, apparently).


Poultry Palace


Months ago, we invested in the Cadillacs of chicken coops. This thing is SWEET. It was a custom-order coop, with two sides – one for meat birds and one for layers. While we’ve had the layers since before Brandie and I had cabins to live in (that story will be coming up later in the blog), we ordered our first set of meat birds this winter: 25 Fry Pan from Cackle Hatchery. They hatch on 3/22 and we receive them on 3/24.



As is typical of our champagne-taste-on-a-beer-budget, we don’t want any little ‘ol chicken run. We want a HUGE chicken run off our Cadillac coop. Our chickens can’t free-range, so we need a run big enough that they think they are free-ranging. See, our dogs love the chickens. And not in the sweet, sheep-dog-on-the-hill-I’m-gonna-take-care-of-you way… nope. The nom, nom, nom way. This started with Riley, and while none of the current pack has ever killed a chicken, we see enough of their kill patterns to opt against trying it out.


Cadence and I often dream about our perfect ranch, with all of our animals happily free-ranging together: chickens, goats, dogs, cows, horses, and donkeys….. but that dream was definitely shattered with a couple of horrific and unpredicted skirmishes. One that almost cost us La Feu, our wethered goat. But those are other stories for other blogs. Back to what I was talking about… the chickens.


We originally turned the cute little outbuilding (previously the Filip’s butchering shop) into a chicken coop. A little red paint, some nests, and some 2x4s as roosting bars, and voila! We had built a run on the back of the first coop that wasn’t horrible, but we want an even bigger run now - a Cadillac coop needs a Cadillac run.


So as the new coop gets delivered, we add a massive two-section run off the back. This type of thing is expensive! And our money ran out long ago, so while we have the Cadillac coop, we have more of the old Chevy on blocks for the run. The structure is good (thanks to Francisco and his guys putting it up for us!), but we ran out of hardware cloth, so the center is simply some siding panels nailed in place, which brings me to the excitement for this week.


The meat birds have been growing rapidly (that’s kinda the point), and Brittany and I are sad to see them confined to their half of the coop – we wanted them to experience the beautiful Texas air. The problem is, that there is no human door to their side of the run, just an open space. Given the current condition of my post-surgery hip, I cannot build and install a door, and Brandie has been out straight between her job and her fix-it business. I have the genius idea to take the door I built for the interior of the old chicken coop and have Brandie use that for a door, versus taking the time to build a new one. It was a little thing, but it made me happy to replace the hastily screwed piece of siding and random bits of hardware cloth replaced with an actual door! Thank you, Brandie! The meat birds are officially using their chicken run!


Produce and Pickles


Over the next few days, as Brandie is fighting with floor sanders at her renovation project, back on the ranch, we are swimming in summer squash from our garden. Brandie and I had dreamt about a garden before we signed the papers. She has quite the green thumb, having built a flourishing patio garden in Virginia, and I am a desperate wannabe – having actually been successful at growing massive cucumbers and sweet watermelons in my subdivision garden in hotter-than-hell Arizona.


For me, the garden links me inextricably to my dad. Ever the outdoorsman, he had the touch, the green thumb. I have fond memories of him plucking incredibly perfect cherry tomatoes off the plant and popping them in his mouth on my summer visits to Maine. God, I love that man and miss him so much. I treasure the dreams I have when he visits the ranch….


No matter how old we get, and even when our parents have passed, I believe there is an innate need and want to make them proud. “Check out my garden, Dad.” He would love what we’ve built here.


We invested in ten raised beds this winter, and while the garden was a bit rushed (and a bit traumatic – story to come at a later time), it has quickly become one of my favorite projects on the ranch. It is so lush that I can see it from the porch of the farmhouse, despite its placement at the front of our property. We have massive stocks of zucchini, summer squash, climbing cucumbers, tomatoes, multiple varieties of peppers, herbs, potatoes, watermelon, and onions. A bit of a hodge podge with little forethought, but a production haven, especially with all the rain, warm days, and cool nights.



As Brandie and I had envisioned way back when in our garden dreams, this week was spent harvesting the veggies and trying our hand at pickling. We tried two different batches of pickled summer squash. One was an overwhelming winner (anyone interested in the recipe? happy to share!), and one was an overwhelming loser. We also pickle cucumbers with two different recipes, one that has to sit for a month (we’ll check back in on that) and one that is sitting overnight (stay tuned…).




Pain


We live a lot, love a lot, and lose a lot on the ranch. It seems so cold to say we have gotten used to it, but in a self-protective way, we have had to learn to compartmentalize, handle the situation, and do what we need to do. Again, having animals is not all rainbows and butterflies. This has been shown to us over and over again. I have cried more tears for animals in the last 24 months than in the rest of my 53 years.


On Wednesday, we lose one of our baby goats, Moon Ray. Goats are hard. They go down fast. While we are hands-on and purposely have a small herd, things still happen. This represents the first loss of a baby goat. I know something is wrong when I do not see him out with the herd. He is down, in the barn, and I know he is dying. I have him with me in the farmhouse for his last breaths, telling him he is loved and comforting him. Our sweet boy.






Animal disposal is something very real on the ranch – again, read above. We’ve lost quite a few. What the heck do you do with them after? Brittany suggests we know enough now to put together the Ultimate Handbook on Dead Animal Disposal: if they are this type/size, do this. If they are this type/size, do that. Small, dog-killed wild animals typically get wrapped in a bag and tossed in the trash can. And the can is promptly moved out to the road. Bigger pets are cremated at the vets. Livestock? The best option is a big, very hot fire here on the ranch. And so it is. The first time for one of my precious goats; a fire is built and carefully stoked to ensure it is burning hot. (Yes, there is a horrible story…may or may not be shared in the future… about a not-hot-enough-funeral-pyre. I’ll let your imagination run with that one…)


Getting the fire where it needs to be is not necessarily an easy feat, given all the rain, but it eventually gets there. I say a little prayer, give him a final kiss, and stay with him until I am certain he is sufficiently ashes to ashes, dust to dust.


Why don’t we bury our beloved animals? Back to our dogs. They love dead things. There is nothing worse than being revisited by something we believe has been laid to rest. And trust me, this happens a lot. (Gagging as I type this - thinking of the 2nd visit from a dead chicken just this past week). More than you would think possible. There is no hole deep enough to cover the stench of death.


These things, while gross, and maybe I could spare the details, are part of the fabric of this new life. It would be a disservice to only speak about the fun or cool or awesome things. If you want to understand this life, you must know the dirty, sad, and incredibly gross parts. This brings me to….



Pocket Gophers


Ah, the unbeloved, horrible, little asshole creatures known as pocket gophers. Now, if you know me at all, I LOVE LOVE LOVE all animals. All of them. Until an unfortunate encounter with a pocket gopher which put them squarely on my shit list. (Maybe a future blog post to recount the story…) They are my nemesis. Cue the infamous scene from Caddy Shack.


And my current beef with them? They have burrowed under my pitiful-attempt-at-a-lawn around my farmhouse. And when they burrow and peek their heads up, the dogs see it as an invitation to the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse (dog-and-pocket gopher). The nasty little creatures pop up through a pile of freshly dug pile of dirt, and the dogs go on a digging mission to capture them. I have holes all over my lawn, small ones from the pocket gophers, big ones from the dogs. And there’s the whole bad hip thing, recovering from surgery. Holes in my lawn are no bueno. Plus, it looks like crap.


So, last week, I invested in this little solar-powered ultrasonic beeping thing that is supposed to scare them away.


But who knew that all we needed was a massive soaking rain? We get hit hard and heavy on Friday night and awaken Saturday to pocket gopher purgatory. The little suckers are drowning in their flooded tunnels and rising to the surface. The dogs are thrilled! So thrilled they bring in all of the cool, water-soaked, sometimes headless, finds. Brit, the most sensitive/least calloused of the three of us, gets so practiced in pocket gopher removal that she doesn’t even blink an eye on throwing on her boots and disposing of the newest, gooey, gutsy treasure. (Ok, maybe she blinked when I wrapped one up in a plastic bag that was still alive and moved on its way to the trash can).


While Brit’s on disposal duty (see Handbook on Dead Animal Disposal), I am thrilled that we’ve cleared out at least half a dozen of the shitheads. I clap with glee every time I see the pups with a new one. Headless and gut-strewn, or not.


Post-Op


On Friday, before the rain and pocket gophers, I have my post-op appointment in Houston with the fabulous (yes, he is truly my hero) Dr. Adickes. He’s pleased with my progress and reviewed the surgery pictures with me. My labrum was shredded, and some other gnarly things are confirmed to be unhealable. Without the surgery, I would have continued to deteriorate, probably ending up in a cycle of pain clinics. Not my jam. With a tenuous family history with narcotics, I have toughed it out for eighteen months with limited medication. So grateful he pushed me to get the scope done and get it fixed. Bed to couch to walker to crutches to a single crutch…. I’m on the journey, and my pain is less than anticipated. And truly much less than what I've been living with.

As I’m trying to tend to the medical and personal stuff, my phone is blowing up with calls, texts, and emails about the festival that kicks off that night. I can’t even begin to keep up. Last-minute changes, the anticipation of the big thunderstorms, confusion on details, and some other very not-so-nice stuff. I literally want to crawl in a hole, suck my thumb, and perhaps drink an entire bottle of Chardonnay. Suffice it to say this really picks up on Saturday morning with the storm raging through. Texts, tears, being yelled at, and by mid-day I am thrilled to see the sun emerging and things back on track for the festival.


Painting


The calls and texts start to slow down, and I do my best to stop worrying and funnel my energy into painting with Brit. Painting has become very therapeutic, and we both need it. A loosey-goosey soft landscape is exactly what we need to immerse ourselves in. An adult beverage, and some fun snacks, and I finally relax. We love Keep it Colourful with Jesse Robertson, and her sweet demeanor is more healing than an hour with a psychotherapist. We happily indulge…




Pup


And so I end the blog, a retelling of our past week, back where I started. The final event of the week was Jolene and a closed-up eye. Last week, Dolly tangled with a copperhead and lost. The beautiful tall wildflowers harbor all kinds of slithery friends, so we are not surprised if Jolene also got bit. But we do not see any evidence of a bite. Whatever it is, though, it’s likely venomous as she is so sleepy, you would think she had been drugged. This is a dog’s normal immune response – slowing down all systems to prevent the spread of venom. We carry her inside, put her on the dog bed, pop a Benadryl on her mouth, and by morning, she is recovered!



 

Another week over....

The fact that I did not think I had much to write about this week underscores the fact that life on Kindred Spirit Ranch is always unpredictable! As Brittany declared, “There’s always something.”


In the next blog post, I'll resume our journey to the ranch with Day Two of ranch ownership!


Questions or comments? Be sure to respond below!


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