Friday, December 4, 2015

Herding Dogs

Bouncing Bouvier'
In Memory of the best Bouv ever, our Oliver.

 Bouvier Breeder, Mariko Saum  delivering our new puppy.  I'm so happy and excited to have another Bouvier.  I just love them.  This has become my favorite breed, thanks to Mariko.  Most of her dogs are trained to herd, since the Bouvier is a herding dog.  They love to jump, not necessarily over things, but up and down bouncing.

I guess this isn't too bad.  Now, I need to figure out how to slip the lead.

He arrived with two of his litter mates that are going to be delivered to their new homes, too.

 Mariko and her friend are on their way to a dog show in Vancouver, WA today.  So, this is one of the full grown show Bouviers in the truck.  Their great big nose is always so cute.

Looks like the dogs are gonna do the driving on this trip- all in the front.

What a cutie.  He has leather pieces in his ears to keep them straight up.  Eventually, they will just fall out.  The ears aren't just clipped for show, but to keep them from getting fungus and ear infections.  Herding dogs normally live with the herd to protect them, so are in all types of weather.

 No, let me out.  I must run and see everything.  We'll keep him in the kitchen till the little guy is house broken.  At night he'll sleep in his crate with a pad, just to be sure we don't have any accidents.

Our little guy is already all worn out from his big travel day, then Robert took him for a walk around the property where he will love patrolling.

The tail is docked for their safety, so as not to get foxtails caught in them and cause an infection under the skin.  When out herding, they get into all sorts of things, especially brush weeds.

Teaching my new boy to eat his veggies.  He loves them, as you can see.

These dogs are great for security.  They patrol all day non-stop.  When Oliver got older, he would still patrol all day and then drop when he ot inside.  He was amazing.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Our "Well Criated" Life

Perfectly Timed

People come into our lives where we spend many hours getting to know them, enjoying their company, plus sharing joys and sorrows.  My friend Nola of NGG Alpacas is one of those people.  She has made a huge impression in my life with her adventurous and positive spirit.  Then, they move away or other life events happen.  Iv'e learned that there are seasons in friendships, times when people are there to guide you, help you or you are there for them.  It is our privilege to capture and cherish those moments.  There presence in our lives is "perfectly timed" to share ourselves with them.

This is to say I love you all.  Our animals give us much love and comfort, even after they're gone.  Memories of those past linger on.

Terry will always be one of my favorite people.  She taught me a lot, in fact she is the one that shared the idea of people entering our lives for a season.  Although, this dear friend has moved away, I will always cherish the moments we spent.  Terry and I talked and laughed as we transported alpacas across the U.S. and all over Canada.  Great times.

One of my more recent friends is Gladys who has taught me to can and has shown me such a beautiful way of living through her amazing hospitality.  Everyone has something to share.

John has taught my daughter, Sarah leather working and made all of our wooden alpaca earring racks. Another church find.  It has been a wonderful resource for friends and helpers.

Some of your people are family who seem bigger than life, but have frailties, even major problems they create for themselves.  We never know what our choices will bring until it's too late.  But, if we pay attention, listen to that still small voice (I think it's a big voice called God) that tells us when something isn't right, the voice that says, "are you sure this is the right thing to do?", then we can avoid much of the self inflicted pain.  My brother, James Bond who became a paranoid schizophrenic (too much cocaine) died too soon in a state hospital.

Our son Chris with his wife Mary are always doing something crazy and having a ball. They are in the process of fixing up a home with their five little ones and Chris creates some of the most beautiful sculptures and paintings you would ever want to see.  I don't think he could have found a more supportive wife.  They are pretty wonderful.

Karen is such a treasure and inspiration in my life.  I wrote a blog about her and the opening of her new shop at 70 years of age.  She is full of surprises, always ready to learn new things, plus she is extremely loving and creative.  She is truly a blessing and is my first true distributor for our alpaca products.   If you're ever in Port Orchard, make sure you stop by Karen's Craft Studio on Bay Street.

This is another great friend with a loving and giving personality.  Cyndi is now fighting  her way into the Real Estate business, through wholesaling properties.  She didn't know anything about it, but is determined to learn.  She is tenacious and great spirited, the kind of person anyone would love to know.  I can always count on her for so many things as she has great integrity.  Whoever has the opportunity to do business with her, will be blessed by her presence.

Jim is another sweetheart of a person that goes to our church.  He is always willing to help out at the ranch with Robert's many building/repairing tasks.  It's amazing how many great friends have been sent to us through our relationship with Faith Assembly of Lacey, soon to be True Grace Church.  We experience what God is really like by these people.  That's why we know we are loved.

Many of my good friends, like Jetta have been found through Freedom Session, a program through our church that teaches people how to work through past pain, so as not to reflect it in how we live today.  It teaches us who we are and why we react to things the way we do.  Thus, this allows us to stop reacting and to become free from those past hurts.  Jetta spends time with us at the ranch and always brings her beautiful and very amazing granddaughter.  She is such a joy in our lives and such a funny little person.  

Oh yes, I cannot forget Dee as she has taken it upon herself to be my Guardian Angel.  She is always checking on me and taking me to lunch or coffee.  Sometimes she just drops by and brings dinner.  Always so many smiles and fun.  She is an absolutely precious friend.

And then, there is Karl or KC, as he now calls himself.  What a grand character he is with his wonderful stories about his careers and adventures.  There is never anything dull about him.  I'm not quite sure what he hasn't done, from explosives engineer to computer geek.  He keeps us on our toes with his quick witted brain.  He has been a fabulous mentor to our daughter Sarah.

Annie has been in another blog about our volunteering time at schools to promote fiber arts.  She is always here to show me the way, as a long time fiber artist herself, she is an absolutely wonderful mentor.   I love her patience.  We met in Freedom Session and found many interests to be similar.  She also got me involved in ARACNE, a spinners and weavers guild.

Talk about fun and always trying something new is my friend Angie.  Even her name is spunky.  Here she is with a brace on her leg after a surgery, while giving her friend pointers on how to throw a javelin into some of our hay bales.  It's crazy some of the things we are able to get into here at the "Well".

This sweet and gentle lady is Jennifer, my sponsor from Freedom Session.  Only she knows my deepest, darkest secrets, even things that I swore I would take to the grave.  Jennifer is a Nutritional Therapist by trade and is teaching me how to make fermented cabbage in this pic.  Iv'e already eaten it all since this photo and am definitely a fan.  Now, I just need a 6 gallon crock  to make more.

My dearest friend Sandra is the one I have known the longest.  We met when I was 20 years old working for Dr. Winsor, a renowned cardiologist on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A.  Sandra is truly one of the most impressive people I have ever had the privilege to know.  She will never abandon a friend or give up on them, no matter what.  Her nature is like God, with unconditional love, although she claims not to know him.  I think, she is definitely one of his.

This is Jocelyn and her sisters Tabitha and Teghan who helped us make alpaca earrings.  They also took care of our alpacas one summer while living next door with their father.  Jocelyn and Tabitha were celebrating their graduation from highschool and planning their trip to Hawaii.  They're delightful young women who give me confidence that there is hope for the future generations.

A get together of many acquaintances and friends from church.  We all share a common interest in feeding the poor in our neighborhood.  All of them work in the food bank at church.  Not only do we donate time, but money and food from our homes and gardens.  This is what a community does for it's citizens.  We don't need a government to tell us what is right or to force us by laws.  We are driven by a higher source, God.

Monica, our oldest daughter spent some time in Niger during her Peace Corps mission.  She is a quiet force full of love, generosity and true selflessness.  She is always such a pleasure to be with, but we don't get much time to see her as she is also living in another state.  As a college professor, she loves to teach and to learn.  This is a person who will always make the world a better place just by her love.

My sweet brother Greg, a very gentle and troubled soul.  His addiction was alcohol, like our father, only he didn't escape it.  His heart was broken at quite a young age and never seemed to get over the pain, although he tried many times.  I learned that there really isn't anything you can do, but show your love.  At times, that's enough.  He went through many alcohol rehab programs, but nothing seemed to work.  He was extremely talented and could make anything out of things found, even trash.  One of his creations, the leather belt with cut and polished black walnut shells.

And here they are, my wonderful husband Robert and soon to be son-in-law Brian (Sarah's fiancee).  Brian had just finished the lead role in a play at his college.  Sarah was doing a build in Bali, so unable to attend.  Brian is quite a talented actor, we think.  Plays are always fun to attend, especially when you know the star of the show.  It's like getting away to another world.

Our son Jason and his fabulous family.  Wow, how does Jen deal with all that testosterone?  It takes one heck of a woman, I'm sure.  Thank goodness she has a great hubby.  We don't get to see them enough.  Since they live in another state, it's difficult for us to get away and for them to travel with all those boys is a major challenge in many ways.

Oh, the love of my life, sweet Sarah, my daughter.  She is head strong and willful just like her mother and always a joy to be with, so full of life and passion to learn and help others.  She has become a Build Leader for Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that builds homes for people all around the world.  Sarah's passion is housing for those who cannot afford it.  She has the desire to help the less fortunate to continue their way of life/culture in their own communities, but to have clean water to drink, proper waste facilities and a way to sustain themselves.  Of course, I think she's amazing.

Peggy and Art.  Meet my oldest sister and her hubby.  Another beautiful couple who seem to be magnets for wonderful people.  They give and give and give, always doing for others.  I have never seen a woman with so many friends as my sister Peggy.  She keeps in touch with so many people that it baffles me.  I really don't know how she does it.  Oh, to learn to be so organized. Her life seems to be one big social event.  Her timing is impeccable, of course.

I must say, my Golden Retriever, Honey was a joy, but there was something so special about Oliver, our Bouvier.  Even Honey couldn't bare to live without him.  She died on the same day only one week later.  I am always astounded at how attached we can get to animals.  They win our hearts and can't really spend that much time with us.  Their seasons with us are short, so we must treasure that time even more.  Their love is true, loyal and unconditional.

Kaya is a special little lady whose sole purpose is to let Robert know that he is loved.  She claimed him as soon as Brian and Sarah brought her home.

Our son Phillip with his wife Wendy, a couple that has shared heartache and many difficult challenges.  But, they always come out on top, sticking together no matter what life throws at them.  I have great admiration and respect for these two.  Phillip is quite the philosopher and has a very matter of fact way of seeing things, refreshing.  It's a pleasure to sit and talk with him.  These seasons are also few, since they live in Utah.

My other long time friends, Lynne and Scarlett.  We still keep in touch, although not much; FB, email and the occasional telephone call.  Distance has taken it's toll on our close friendships.  One of those seasonal things, I guess.  We seemed to have come together in a time of support for Sandra and her husband Tedd, who was extremely ill.  Now, we live in different states and different worlds.  Scarlett and I hitchhiked across the United States together, plus wandered all over Europe for many months. She was my fun, crazy and wildchild friend during a season of total self-indulgence.

My perfect parents, who weren't very perfect.  Their time together was rather brief, although they managed to have five children.  At the later part of their lives they actually managed to be friends, at least.  In fact, my mother and my step-mother became quite close.  They both lived with Robert and I for awhile.  Now, that was a weird season of life.  Although, it was more weird to explain it to people than to actually live it.

Now, this is my wonderful niece, Cecily.  We have the honor of her presence during the summer, when she has a break from school and Oklahoma.  She is so funny and helpful.  It is her passion to help buck hay (and the bales weigh about 75 pounds each) and  to help muck up after the alpacas.  She loves to help us garden and do all those things around the ranch that are necessities of our everyday life.  She is truly a one of a kind treasure.

Brother Gerald, the oldest male who somehow avoided the addictive personality gene, praise God.  We almost lost him last year to a heart attack, but open heart surgery saved him.  He is very fortunate to have his son Mike, who made sure he got excellent care and made sure he got to the hospital in the first place.  Otherwise, our season with him would have ended.  Talk about stubborn and willful, oh my.  He's always going to fix himself with some natural method or concoction.  Sometimes, people can be too smart for their own good.

Last but not least, for now are my cousins and my sister Diane.  My gorgeous and sweet sister has always tried to look out for me, even though I never let her.  I remember when I was going to get married (husband number 1) at the age of 18,she tried to bribe me with a trip to Europe, a new car or a college education if I wouldn't get married.  Mind you, this is before I knew I had a brain so I said, "no".  What a mistake.  If only we could go back in these seasons of life and have "do overs".  Although, would I be where I am today with this husband and my great family?  These are things we ponder and none of it really matters, because this is where we are and feeling profoundly content and happy at this point is "perfectly timed".

My life is sweet and full, I am doing what I love at the ranch and through our church.  "My cup runneth over".

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Canning for Survival

The Revival

I've noticed that there are many young people who are interested in learning how to live off the land.  They are trying to eat healthier, less expensively and slow the pace of their lives down, similar in many ways to their great grandparents lifestyle.  In today's fast paced society, with an overload of communication, a bombardment of the mind and senses vying for every minute of your day, it is time to stop.  It is time to participate in the joy of real living.

Taking a walk without your smartphone, listening to nature, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city to capture the beauty that exists all around will refresh anyone.  Being silent is an ominous thing that brings immense pleasure, once you give it a try.

Go outside, find an alpaca ranch or any type of farm online, call them and go for a visit.  See how they live, drink in the peace and joy of a simpler life, a simpler time.

Then, start something new outside.  If you don't have enough land to start a garden, join a community garden to dig in the earth and get back to nature.  Feel your inner child.  Play in the mud.  It is very therapeutic, especially with friends, children and other loved ones.

Then, watch the things you've planted grow.   It's quite an amazing process, to create something from nothing, to let your imagination manifest itself on the land.  

A garden keeps on giving if it's nurtured, just like people who are loved and guided well.  Then, low and behold the fruits of your labors are realized.  You have created an abundance of delicious, fresh and succulent foods.  Another adventure awaits;  the art of storing and preserving your well earned edibles has been passed down since time began.  

If you seek, you will find an expert who will be happy to share his or her wealth of knowledge and experience in food preservation.  Then, you can enjoy these wonders until the following year when the production starts all over, again.  All you need to do is, be willing to help them with their own harvest.  Gladys is my wonderful teacher.  Here she is in her canning kitchen.

We cut the green tops off the beets, then outside with a hose and powerful spray nozzle Gladys washed the beets to get all the dirt off before cooking.  Great idea, instead of doing this dirty job in the kitchen.  You only get these simple little tips from a veteran canner.

Next, snip off the stringy stuff and some of the tip.  Snip pretty close to the beet to take off the greens.  The greens are wonderful steamed along with their stalks (just a little salt and pepper).

Once snipped and rinsed, put them in a large pot, cover with water and cook till fork tender.

Simmering beets.

While the beets are simmering, sterilized the pint jars in the dishwasher.

Cover the jar lids with water and bring them to a boil.  This will soften the rubber around the edges.  After the water has come to a boil, turn off the burner and let them sit.

Combine the ingredients for pickled beets and bring to a boil, if these are the type you are making.  The recipe is in the Ball Canning Book or you can find one you like online.  Just look for pickled beet recipes.  This one includes apple cider vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks and pickling spices.

Carefully, cut and put the beet pieces in the sterile jars, leaving about 1/2 inch to the top.  After you pour the pickling juice over the beets, move a knife down the sides of the jar to release any air bubbles.  The liquid level will go down a bit, so you will need to add a little more fluid.  Remember, leave about 1/2 an inch to the top.

Clean the tops of the jars and put the lids on.  Screw the tops on tightly.  They are now ready to be put in the water bath.  Just cover them with water in a canning pot, bring them to a boil and let them remain covered for 25 minutes.  If you are using quart jars, the time is different.  For the non-acidic foods (non pickled), they must be canned in a pressure cooker or boiled for 3 hours.  Always, keep the water bath well over the tops of the jars.  See Ball canning books for times and preparation.

Now, for the green beans.  Choose beans that are juicy when you snap them open.  If the beans inside are large and not very juicy, do not can them (tough and not so good).  Cut them into 1 inch pieces.

Place the green beans in a large colander.  Rinse them thoroughly.

Use a jar funnel to keep the beans directed into the jars.  This also helps keep the top of the jars clean.  

Gladys always uses this type of salt for canning.

Put one teaspoon of salt in each jar of green beans.

Boil water in a kettle, then pour it into the jar with the beans.  Leave one inch at the top and remember to use the knife trick to release air bubbles.  Then, fill as needed, clean around tops, put on sterile lids, tighten and place in pressure cooker.

Please be sure to read your pressure cooker instructions carefully to do your canning.  Our recipe called for ten pounds of pressure for 20 minutes.  Yours may be different depending on the size of the cooker, the number of jars, etc.  Always handle pressure cooking with the greatest of care and safety.

Pressure cookers are tricky things.  Be safe.

Our tomatoes ready for the boiling water.  These do not require pressure cooking, as they are very acidic.  So, we just put a teaspoon of salt, covered with boiling water, put the lids on, then covered with a water bath in a regular canning pot.  Since these are quart jars, I think it was 35 minutes of boiling to preserve.

One more thing about canning, you want to listen for and see that all the lids pop.  As they cool they make a popping sound and the tops suck downward.  If this doesn't happen, they are not properly preserved.  So, after they are completely cooled put the ones that didn't pop in the refrigerator and eat them first.  Here are my beautiful canned tomatoes.  Great for all sorts of recipes.

Gladys taking the beets out of the pressure cooker.  Now, we just wait to hear the popping of all those jars.  What a sweet sound - food through the winter, healthier eating money saved.  One more tip:  Always heat home canned food to boiling before you eat it.  Just an extra precaution.

This is the book Gladys has used all her canning life.  They have new editions of the same book, so pick one up at your local garden store or online.  Happy preserving your fruits, vegetables and a very special way of life.