Stone and I are home alone this morning on the ranch. My mom is in Arizona visiting her sister and the guys (Shane & my dad) are hauling hay. So, we are the feeding crew today!
Back before I had Stone I was outside all the time....I wasn't much of a domesticated gal back then. Don't get me wrong....I loved to cook, but I wasn't passionate about it like I am now. After I had Stone, I was pretty much housebound for quite a few years. I'm not trying to make it sound like I was isolated....I wasn't.....I was where I needed to be....keeping the home fire burning. :) I didn't quite know how to take the first year in stride, but eventually as Stone grew older and was able to do more I developed a true love of my kitchen and the things I could create there. I like to do a lot of things in there that involve my son. I like to think that I am preparing him to be self-sufficient later in life.....he is good help and he loves to "cook". :)
Anyway, Stone is 5.....so I've had 5 years of not being out doing chores all day every day like I used to. I still water the horses, feed the chickens, tend to our dogs and barn cats....that kind of stuff, but as far as going out feeding and chopping water....it doesn't happen as often as it used to.....and us being on our own doing it is almost unheard of.
I certainly wasn't apprehensive about doing it.....I was raised a ranch girl so these kinds of things don't daunt me.....except for when it comes to my folks' white Dodge hydra bed pickup.
Insert some scary music.....maybe the Jaws theme is appropriate here! :)
The problem is that it pops out of first gear all the time (my folks have tried to have it fixed, but I think it's past that). So, when carrying a 1,000 lb+ bale, it's hard to start out in anything but first gear! The seat doesn't move closer to the petals and the seat also squishes down so short people like me can barely see over the dash. I'm sure I am quite a sight driving it! However, many cuss words and a sore hand later.....I had it mastered. We grabbed the bale we needed and headed off to feed my folks' heifers. It really went much smoother than I anticipated! *Why not sell the pickup or get rid of it.....well, it's paid for....and if you are a rancher you know the value of inching by when you can!*
We feed cake (cylinder compressed feed that looks kind of like a vegetative hotdog if you will), hay, and lick tubs (plastic tubs full of a hard-almost-like molasses/syrup kind of stuff full of protein, fat, and vitamins/minerals) to our cattle.
Here are some heifers bellied up to one of the lick tubs:
We started our day off by feeding our heifers with our caking pickup. Feeding this way is so convenient and easy (the feeder dumps out however much feed you set it to dump out - from 2-8 lbs. mostly). The most important thing to know is how many pounds you need to feed to each critter. Counting (to figure out how many "dumps" to put out) is critical as overfeeding can lead to all sorts of bad problems. Stone is a great help with counting.....plus, it helps him to learn math and to see how useful it is in every day life (we'll save the algebra discussion for future years)! Here is my co-pilot for the day:
Every good rancher needs a good cow dog....or three! That's what we have.....3 great girls who are part of our family. Meet Sky, Tee, and Remi......they make our lives complete!
Once we finished feeding our heifers and breaking open the pit (our water supply for the heifers), it was time to feed my folks' heifers with the hydra bed. My job with it was to unroll one bale of hay for the heifers. They heard me coming and boy, were they eager!
In case you are wondering, here is what a bale of hay looks like:
Hay bales can be all different kinds (grass, alfalfa, oat, etc.). These are crested wheat grass bales. Bales like these can weigh anywhere from 1,000 - 1,400 lbs. They are made by cutting down grass or whatever the hay bales will consist of with a swather. Then they are baled up with a baler (pretty easy to understand, right?!) Hay bales are relatively easy to feed, but there is something that is vitally important when feeding like this: REMOVE ALL THE STRING!
The string is what keeps the bale's shape and keeps it from falling apart....it is called Baler Twine......and it can absolutely ruin a critter's stomach (it can even cause death if ingested so it's vital to ensure that it is all removed). Removing it can sometimes be a task. First, you much cut all the strings with a knife or something sharp:
Then you have to pull the strings (this can prove to be rather difficult if the bale is frozen or if the strings get wound up - as pictured).
I had a tangle problem so I had to cut the string much more than normal. As I walked around the side of the bale to remove the strings I saw a heifer with some of it in her mouth as she tried to gulp down some hay. Here is what it looked like when I pulled it out of her mouth:
She had already swallowed it by the time I pulled it out. Ick, huh?! How do you think that would have looked in her stomach if I wouldn't have caught it? I continued to cut the string and pull it until it was all off the bale. I did a second inspection to make sure and then I coiled it up and wrapped it. There's a lot of string on just a single bale! We have a lot of this around the ranch.....we try to reuse it as much as we can. I had to chuckle over some website out there with ideas on what to do with it. This site is pretty helpful: Top Ten Things to Do with Baler Twine.
Knowing that the string was all removed, I jumped into the Dodge and fed the bale. It's common for a bale to fall off the hydra bed arms when it gets towards the last 1/4 of the bale. Sure enough....it happened to me today....the girls jumped on it!
No problem.....I simply jumped out of the pickup, walked back there and proceeded to unroll the bale by hand.....by kicking it along as it unrolled.
When I got to just the core, I left it for this lucky heifer....who looked like she just got a corner piece of some fresh baked brownies! :)
Back to the Dodge I went.....I drove around to survey my work.....everyone looks happy so my job here is done for today!
Stone and I headed off to feed the bulls some cake. Once that was completed, we had done our chores for the day. Time for us to think about lunch......what sounded good? 4B's Cream of Tomato Soup....that's what!
This soup always makes me think of my Grandma June (or Gram, to me). We used to eat this frequently at the local 4B's Restaurant in Miles City, Montana (where my Grandma lived later in life and where I consider kind of "back home"). If you've never tried this soup.....believe me, you are going to want to make it....it's the best tomato soup I have eaten.....EVER!!! Here is the recipe:
4B’s Cream of Tomato Soup
Mix first 6 ingredients & simmer for 1 hour. (I melt the butter first then add the onion. I let them cook for just a minute or two and then add the tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, and baking soda.)
Heat cream in a double broiler & add to hot tomato mixture.( actually don't do the double broiler thing....I temper the cream by adding about a cup of the hot tomato mixture. I stir it and then I add it all to the remaining tomato mixture.)
Enjoy! Make ½ gallon.
As you can see.....my recipe card has been used a bit!
This recipe has been around for as long as I can remember. Do make this soup if you haven't been lucky enough to taste it yet....you will be glad you did! Super easy and super good! ~Cheyenne