“Come on Eve those dogs are taking up too much of your time, so no time left to write your blog of the various goings on at the ranch, such as missing cows!!! …”
…..so read an e-mail from a good friend the other day, producing in me two thoughts – first one was “oops, look … it’s actually almost halfway through the month” and the other one, a feeling of laziness…
But … what is new. Firstly, it’s an unholy hot spring this year! The temperatures are already around 100 here, 107 in Tucson the other day when I was slogging through its streets grumbling, and God only knows what in Phoenix, that mecca of refugees from cooler places. I bet this time of the year they are yearning for Minnesota or North Dakota, or wherever they came from! There is one new aspect of this heat wave, though – I no longer have to worry about what it’s doing to the guests of the ranch.The pups are growing by leaps and bounds, and I mean that literally!! They have a real dog heaven outside my doors – you may remember I talked about making the front yard into a nice flower garden – well, behind it, on the north side, is a fenced off large wire pen with a roof to provide shade, a couple of old horse blankets to provide comfort, and, outside is – wait for it – a real genuine doggy swimming pool, where the residents of this happy land can go and soak their paws – or bellies – according to the temperature. And they soak them often, to judge by the wet state of their coats. Luckily their breed makes those coats short and glossy, not like Tuffy, who, if she gets into the water tank, is wet for a week! There they spend their days – the run opens onto the back part of the house where they can come in by the bedroom sliding glass door, a maneuver which, sadly for them, has been strictly forbidden. They regard the bedroom as a sort of super doggy playground, and on entry forage to see what they can chew up, tear up, mangle. Consequently their presence in the bedroom is strictly limited, except at night, when they sleep in a sort of wire corral which I have installed in there, on some more horse blankets. However, there is a doggy door, put there some years back for the benefit of Tuffy, and dog Zena of blessed memory. This little door was discovered by Buster only this morning, when, quietly sitting and watching the dire news on television, I saw him suddenly appear at my side with a look of “How did I do that!! but look, there’s Mom, all comfortable … need to fix that!” I hustled him out of there and then had to secure the doggy door – the solid part is now shut, inconveniencing Tuffy, but making sure that my house remains liveable. At the end of the day I let them into the TV room to play, while Tuffy and I watch television. This is no simple exercise – it necessitates, first of all, blocking off the adjoining office door so they can’t get in there (I can just see what fun could be had with the office stationery, envelopes, trash basket full of paper, whoopee!!). Blocking it off is somewhat complicated because the cooler is in the office, and blows cool air into the TV room, so I can’t close the door. Consequently, it has to be barricaded as if to block invading troops – a wooden stool and a piece of wood propped against it is working for the time being. Then on the other end is the door leading from the corridor into the dining room, kitchen, living room and other desirable places, full of fun stuff to destroy, tear up and possibly pee on. So – that door has to be barricaded also, and, as I don’t want to shut it, I have to wedge another piece of wood against it, so it is, more or less, puppy proof. So – all these precautions taken, I let them in through the bedroom door, and it’s a bit like being invaded by a troop of wild Indians. Not content to sit and watch the news – and for this I really can’t blame them, seeing what garbage that is! – they tear into the room with destruction in their hearts. First, there is always the Battle of the Pups – which involves jumping up on the sofa, on me, then off it, then on it, off it, on it, rolling around the ground with bared teeth and ferocious growling … then there is the ever pleasant destruction of Tuffy’s dog pillow – and I must say, I am amazed at the way the manufacturers make dog pillows! I mean, these things are truly indestructible! Repeated tearing, ripping, shredding seems to have no effect on these articles, making me at least happy that they were worth the money! After about an hour or so of this, the combatants tire and flop off to sleep, almost always so tangled up with each other that you would never believe that moments before they appeared to be veritable mutual killing machines. And of course, always, everything of value has to be put out of puppy reach – the other day they were having a high time chewing and fighting over something, something quite small and crunchy. When I got to the rescue, I found this to be my reading glasses – now nicely scratched and twisted.
Some time ago Danny and I attended a meeting at the local feed store where a lecture was being given by a representative of one of the feed manufacturing companies, to acquaint ranchers with new developments in feeds and supplements. There we learned of a great new product – actually we had been told of it already by Danny’s nephew, Kevin, who is running a ranch across the valley – and it immediately caught my attention. Every summer we have a problem with flies, and particularly horn flies, which infest the cattle during the hot months. It’s really depressing to see the cows flinging their heads, swishing their tails, running under trees in an effort to rid themselves of these horrible biting pests. The flies take up residence on a cow and never leave it throughout their life cycle – they are on her night and day, biting, blood sucking, leaving her temporarily only to lay their eggs in her manure. So, every summer, we have to gather the herd and spray them for flies. This means, first of all, picking a day when we’re pretty sure it won’t rain, as the stuff has to stay on the cows for several hours in order to soak into the hide. Unfortunately, it seems that it is, inevitably, the sure way to make it rain – you start off on a cloudless, beautiful day, and by the time you get the cattle into the corral and begin to spray, it clouds up, a little shower comes, then it clears, then it clouds up – as if Mother Nature was on the side of the flies! And, after all that effort and money – as the stuff is pretty expensive!! – it only lasts some 40 days or so, and then you either have to do it again, or you hope that the rains have come and more or less helped the fly situation. And I’m not sure that the rains help, anyway.
So – this new method consists of mineral salts which the cows need and, mixed in with them is something that doesn’t affect the cow at all, but which, when it passes out of her into the pile of manure, kills the fly larvae! How neat is that! And consequently, a much reduced fly population, no need to spray, and happier cows – and you know that all that misery and effort is costing quite a bit in loss of weight and condition of the cattle.
So now every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we load up the Polaris with sacks of the mineral – it has a lovely name, too – Wind and Rain. I mean! Anything with the word Rain is most attractive to us here in the desert! And we set off on a tour of the water tanks where the salt feeders are set. It takes about an hour each time – pull up to the tank, find the feeder, check to see how much salt it needs, open a bag and dump it in. Also, we have installed hay creep feeders at the tanks, designed so that smallish calves can enter and eat hay to supplement their diet, but the cows, much to their chagrin, can’t get in – so these, also, have to be replenished. It makes a nice trip around the ranch, three times a week, enlivened by a further activity, and that is collecting the garbage that people pitch out of their vehicles. Amazing – you would think that if they can pack a beer can into their car, they could pack the empty one out, yes?? But no … I guess that would be against the rules of being a sloppy, untidy, littering bum – so they pitch it out the window, where a cow can eat it and die …. Or we can pick it up and clean the country up after them. We return home every time with an emptied salt bag filled with trash, and hate in our hearts…well, mine anyway.
And, talking about a war on flies, here’s another story. For about 8 years now we have scattered around in the horse manure little bags of newly hatched predator wasps. These wasps are tiny, so tiny you can hardly see them, but they parasitize the fly eggs and destroy them. It’s a program that you have to stick with over several years in order to see the true results, but I must say that we have certainly seen a great decrease in flies over the past couple of summers. In the past, in order to keep down the fly population, we had to resort to spraying expensive fly killer stuff, and to putting around the corrals nasty bags of fly attractant into which the flies crawled, to die there and rot, and emit a dreadful smell, so that I used to say to Danny, everywhere else in the world the summer means the smell of lilac and roses, and here it’s the stink of dead flies. Now, however, these are no more – for the last two years we haven’t had to resort to this horrible method of fly control, leaving it all up to the little wasps. The catch is – and there is always a catch! – that, while on the program you can’t spray, as the spray would kill the wasps, so for several years you have to have the strength of mind to live with the flies and hope for better days. I could never convince the wranglers at Grapevine of this – they would spray, behind my back, and so the expensive fly control never worked there.
My friend Debbie, who used to work at Grapevine, but who has now lived in Phoenix for several years, came to visit last weekend and we had a wonderful time. We are actually planning a trip to the east, to visit my niece in Vermont and then my sister in New York City. Debbie has never been that far east, and I certainly wouldn’t make the trip on my own – I’m much too lazy for that, and I like being on the ranch too much. But I haven’t seen my sister since our mother died 8 years ago, and my niece, Carrie, bought a house in Montpelier which I really want to see, so I actually made the decision to try and inveigle Debbie to come join me. It didn’t need much persuasion – she will be between careers right then and she likes to travel – so, just after round up, in October, we will set forth, to fly to Vermont first and hopefully see the end of the leaves turning and falling – then we plan to take the train (9 hours, would you believe) to New York City – wonderful views en route, they tell me, through some lovely country – and then we will spend about a week or so there. I haven’t been to New York since before 9/11 but I love the opera and the Metropolitan Museum where I generally get stuck in the medieval section, especially the part where they have several life size statues of knights on horseback, with the various battle axes and such on display in glass cases. There is also a life size bust of King Henry VIII when a young man – so interesting to see. He was so handsome, and full of good intentions, and yet turned into such a monster. I guess it proves that old saying about “power corrupts….” One could literally spend weeks in the Museum and still not see it all. Then there is the nearby Frick Museum, originally the home of rich Mr. Frick, who was, I believe, a railroad magnate. Now it houses a fantastic display of rococo art. And then there is the Cloisters, a place which was a real cloister someplace in Europe, but which some rich American had taken apart stone by stone to be rebuilt in New York – a fantastic place of medieval art and music …. my favorite time in history. So- I guess for all that I can tear myself away from cows and horses….. not to say doggies!
And, before I end this, here’s a bit of news – it rained!!! A huge thunderstorm blew up yesterday afternoon and dumped 30/100 inch of rain on us. That may not seem like a lot to some of you, but here it’s considered measurable rain. All the dust washed off the leaves, the air cleared, and this morning already you can see the grass beginning to grow – no kidding ! It takes so little to make us happy, here on the high desert! A little downer in all this happiness is that the ferocious high winds which accompanied the storm tore down one corner of my shade sheet, but I guess I can live with that!
So – here it is – not much news, and late, but I will do better next month as far as the time goes – can’t be sure of the news. You will just have to consider as true the old saying that no news is good news!