Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Branding and other interesting things....

It was a really beautiful day yesterday and so we saddled up and brought in the cows and calves to brand them.  The weather is supposed to get extremely windy and cold and even snow by mid week so Hubs felt it was important to get this job done.  I know it seems like I talk about the weather all the time, but weather is very important when your livelihood depends upon it. 

We branded 85 head, vaccinated them, tattooed their ears for identification, and took blood samples for their DNA identification.  We use a calf chute/table so it is much easier to get all these things done with each calf.   We also think it is much easier on the calves to go through the chute rather than being roped and thrown as is the traditional way to brand.  We have approximately 300 more head of calves to brand in the coming month or so, but the calf chute allows us to brand small bunches of calves at a time which takes much less man/woman power to do.

One of my jobs is to help gather up the cow-calf pairs, and as you know, I always choose old, faithful Pete to take me out.   He's just my caliber of horse:  trustworthy, gentle, cow-smart, steady.  I can't say that I'm an expert rider even though Hubs and I have been ranching for 28 years together, but an extra rider is always a bonus to keeping cattle moving in the right direction.  Baby calves have a tendency to bolt out of the bunch and so there can never be enough riders to keep them rounded up.  We had four riders -- Hubs, me, and two sons.  We didn't have too many troubles.   I tell the guys that they ought not count on me to go chasing those stray calves, and they don't.  I just don't want to get hurt at my age.

I also keep track of the record book during branding.  I click up the ID number on the tattoo-er and hubby presses it into the calf's ear and rubs it with green tattoo ink so it sinks into the holes.  The tattoo number will be readable when we need a positive ID.  I've never been to a tattoo parlor so I don't know how they do it, but this is the cowboy-way of tattooing.  I also help with the DNA cards.  I write the calf's mother's number on each card.  Then Hubs or son draws the blood from the ear and fill in the microscope-sized circle with blood.  We'll send in these cards to a laboratory and they will tell us the sire of the calf.  We need this information when we sell bulls and to keep registered heifers.

 After the branding was done, we took the cows and calves to Dick's House Pasture.  It's a cozy little place down in a dell where Dick& Tiny once had their house and corrals.  It is out of the wind, for the most part, and full of lush grass.  It'll be the perfect spot for them to graze and rest before they are moved to another pasture.  Today we have 60 mph gusts of wind with more cold and wind predicted, and I'm glad they are all settled in that spot for the next few days.  By the way, I spied the first bluebells while riding home on Pete.  They are hard to see because ours are the low-growing, prairie variety.

Hot Pepper Spray for Insects...
On another note, I have come up with a recipe to keep away insects and small animals away from your houseplants and outdoor garden plants.  It as of this writing, untested at my own home, but I am going to give it a try.  My daughter, G, who used to work at a flower shop said that they often would spray houseplants with a type of hot pepper spray.   I went online and found many recipes for such a thing and also noticed that it supposedly works to keep nibbling rabbits and bugs off the garden shrubbery so I'm definitely going to try it out there.  So if you're interested in that recipe, you'll find one here.  I didn't happen to have any hot peppers on hand, but I did have a big bottle of crushed red pepper in the spice cupboard that I use regularly.  I thought I could probably make something similar so here's what I did.  I mixed 4 teaspoons of crushed red pepper with 2 cups of boiling water.  I let it sit over night and then strained off the pepper and poured the peppery water in a pint jar.  Before I bottled it, I tasted it to make sure it was good and hot.  It wasn't overly hot for my taste buds, but I hope that it's hot enough to bug taste buds and to bunnies and moles.  We'll see.  If it's not, I can always make a stronger batch with another teaspoon or more of red pepper.   To use, all you do is spray it on your plants and reapply when you water or when it rains.  I'm really hopeful it works.  I'd rather use a natural pest control in my veggie gardens rather than chemicals.

Strider Running Bike...
My brother recently bought his 2 1/2 -year-old son this very cool Strider.  It's a bike with no peddles.  You have to see how it works to appreciate it.  I'm thinking this will make a smart 2nd birthday gift for our Hazel Peach!  Check out the clip below.

We'll never catch up with HP when she starts riding this!


  1. Can you believe it? Snow in May! We're supposed to have a cold weekend too -- darn it!

    That bike is AWESOME! What a cool invention. Just think how much easier it makes learning how to ride a bike. Wow!

  2. I love the bike! I want some for my kiddos! Pepper spray = SMART!
    I like Old Pete because he's so nice to you.

  3. Hi Jody-
    Thanks so much for taking the time to show your seasonal activities there on the ranch.

    The kids and I (11 and 7) read your entries about the birth of your bummer calf and all that's involved in the branding process. Very interesting to kids who only really know about these things from Bonanza episodes and (heaven help me) Hank the Cowdog books.

    The kids wonder how the BW calf is doing. Still bottle feeding or were you able to graft him onto another mother?

    Happy Spring-
    Angie in WA

  4. I look forward to seeing some pictures of HP on her Strider. That looks pretty cool and just perfect for more rugged terrain (not a lot of cement).

    I like the pepper spray idea, too, and will give that a try. Mike sprinkled crushed red pepper where we buried Anna's hamster. Something tried to dig it up but hasn't bothered it since he peppered it.

  5. That was really interesting Jody, reading about the branding. Modern technology seems to help you in many ways; what did you all doing about knowing the sire in the "old days ;)"
    When did you change to a shute for branding?

    I remember making up a red pepper spray for my veggie garden in South Africa. The biggest battle I have here in England is the slugs and snails! I don't want to put down pelletes because of the dog so I generally fight a loosing battle each year:(



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