Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The drought, The hay, The Rooney 2.0

In the midst of this historic drought we were lucky to come across some awfully nice hay last week. .......

I'm sorry, I needed a moment to re-read that last sentence and ponder the fact that my life now is all tied up in hay quality and the weather. This time last year, there was no land. There was no hay. There was definitely no Rooney 2.0.

That's all changed now. We leave for a short vacation tomorrow and, in addition to making sure someone can come by to water the garden, feed the cat, check on the chickens and care for the dogs, we now have the land and the livestock to consider. Sheesh.

In preparation for our trip, we evaluated the hay status (pathetic) and geared up for an evening of hay collection (miserable). Our hay connection, Larry, has been busy trucking in round bales from across the state, and we luckily snagged the last three bales left from his recent pick-up. But this was no ordinary cow hay. This was the lobster of hay, the, well, the cream of the crop. And as we drove past the animals with the sweet smelling bales, their little eyes opened wide and all five trotted alongside the trailer, grabbing mouthfuls along the way.

As usual, our smallest cow has now devoted himself completely to eating more than the others. This is also how he treated the new grass growth this spring; running from clump to clump and eating more than his share, blades of grass falling from his overstuffed mouth. The result of this recent gluttony is evident in the increasingly lopsided size and shape of Rooney 2.0's belly. After four days on the land, the hay bale has a Rooney sized hole straight through the middle and the little cow looks miserably heavy and full (with an ever-present bundle of hay being chewed).

He looks ridiculous; lopsided, round, but still nimble on his four stick legs.

Can you tell a cow that enough is enough? Can you explain that the drought has caused hay prices to sky-rocket and negotiate a meal plan in which only a certain amount of the stuff is eaten daily? Probably....no. Instead, we just have to find the humor in Rooney's gigantic stomach and ask Larry for less appetizing hay in the future.

Your Weekly Boo: Wanna be Startin' Something

If you were wondering, the title of today's post is more than just a tribute to MJ. It also basically sums up Boo's behavior of late. I don't know enough about donkeys to determine if this is a typical response to puberty. All I know is that Boo has become, without question, a complete jerk.

Although I appreciate that he's learned to really get in there and mix it up with the cows, I'm pretty sure it will only result in his total alienation. For example, recently we caught him chasing behind an oblivious Seamus, until he was able to catch the cow's tail in his mouth and start pulling backwards. This ended badly for Boo. While this is the only direct donkey-on-cow attack I've witnessed, the aftermath of his bad behavior is pretty obvious. Now, anytime Boo sidles up to a cow, he receives a forceful head butt in the side or bottom. A normal response would be to forlornly walk away. No sir. Not Boo. Instead he kicks up the hind legs, snorts and prances in circles around the (much) larger livestock who clearly don't want him around. Very sassy. Very annoying.

And don't get me started about the strained relationship between the baby donkey and Chula. She was grumpy enough before Boo copped all the attitude. But now?

Let's just say that Chula will benefit the most the day the vet arrives to snip Boo and, hopefully, turn him back into a sweet baby donkey. Until then, Boo will be busy looking for new visitors to the land who can be harassed, nipped at, bitten, snorted on, and generally treated badly.

Is this how human children respond to the confusion of growing up? If that's the case then, Mom, Dad - I'm very, very sorry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wild Hog 'n Beans

No, no, I'm not going to share clever family recipes. Instead, it's time for another round of "meet-the-neighbors" in which we make ourselves stand out like sore thumbs, act awkward, and become thoroughly embarrassed. It's an art we've perfected.

See, Dwayne turned a year older and we were invited out to celebrate. Given his devotion to us as a neighbor and our genuine appreciation for the guy, along with the promise that we'd meet some new "neighbors," we gladly accepted the invitation. Also - free bbq. This is basically always incentive. In any situation.

We drove up to the given address which turned out to be a sprawling, gorgeous ranch even closer to the city than our place. Along the road sat an aging old farm house with vast porches amidst a cluster of live oak. Next to the house several trucks were lined up with varying types of bumper stickers - everywhere from the playboy bunny logo up to Honk 4 Jesus (this, actually, was on the same truck). Our shiny Honda Element seemed a bit out of place which caused an unrational, adolescent anxiety to take over and we broke into the bottles of beer brought for Dwayne for an instant jolt of courage. Dwayne met us as we climbed onto the wide porch and began ticking off the names of people we had to meet including the owner of the ranch where we stood. He also noted the ranch's 15 minutes of fame since it served as the backdrop for "Jake's hangin' scene in Lonesome Dove," he proudly proclaimed (If you know and love this miniseries you will probably gasp with excitement for no good reason, like I did).

While we stood with Dwayne, a series of gregarious individuals came by to offer birthday wishes, all of whom were introduced to us. Few of whom I remember. The scent of roasting meat, the beer, and Dwayne's constant stream of conversation overwhelmed me until a woman snapped me out of my stupor. This was the woman who had bravely saved our cow weeks ago, and she pushed a lovely gift bag into Dwayne's hands. He opened the bag to reveal a set of bright red, fuzzy handcuffs with a scantily clad woman pictured on the packaging. We all had a good laugh as Dwayne exclaimed that it was just what he wanted for his birthday. She and I then exchanged hellos and she talked to me about the vacation bible school her children were dutifully attending. Vacation bible school and fuzzy handcuffs? Why not?

Jer and I were directed into the house for a look around (photos of Robert Urich and Robert Duvall hugging the ranch owner were tacked to the wall which elicited another squeal. I can't explain myself). We found the kitchen and helped ourselves to heaping plates of the bbq without realizing that dinner had not yet been served (oops). This embarrassment required more beer, and we bravely moved back onto the porch for covert people watching.

It's important to note here that there is nothing at all peculiar about this group of "neighbors." Rather, I'm just repeatedly struck by how much their ranching lifestyle sets them apart from people I interact with on a daily basis - yet all of these people live within a 20 miles radius of one another. How can we seem so different and yet lead lives so geographically connected?
But I guess the point is that the division between city and country here is distinct - as I'm sure it is everywhere. In the country, there are few pretenses and no room for anonymity. This is a refreshing change - for now - at least.

I was pondering these thoughts while munching on the most delicious beans I have ever tasted when a man we'd met previously (through Dwayne) strode up beside Jer. "Well hey you all! Did you see Dee-you-wayne's handcuffs? That boy......" and he trailed off when he noticed what was stuck to my fork. "Girl - you like dem beans I made?" I enthusiastically replied that yes yes I loved the beans and quickly requested the recipe. "The recipe? Well...(scratching head)...I cain't give you anything exact but you got to kill yourself a medium sized wild hog, smoke its shoulder and toss it in with some water, beans, and onion." (At this point I was forcing myself to chew the shred of tough meat I just noticed in my mouth. Now identified as wild hog. Spiky haired, stinking, tusked, wild hog) "OH!" he shouted, "and some salt. Cain't have your beans without some salt - adds that special flavor!" I choked down the bite and forced a weak smile, "Oh, haha! Salt! The secret ingredient!" Of course, I was thinking that the secret ingredient was actually the hog. And wished that it had remained a secret. He patted my back and sauntered off towards an industrial sized smoker, opened the top, and revealed yet another hog on a spit. Turns out he killed himself two wild hogs. We decided not to stick around for a sampling of the smoking meat and said our goodbyes.

In the end we met five new neighbors (the closest residing ten miles from our land), received three offers to drink beer, and ate our first plate of hog 'n beans. All in all - an excellent Thursday evening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your (less than) Weekly Boo: Unavailable

Boo wised up. I'm pretty sure he can sense that I've been busy talking to vets about his impending alteration and, frankly, he's just not that interested.
He doesn't want to be photographed, doesn't want to be petted, and would rather not be bothered. He's basically just annoyed in general. Is it teenage angst or does he actually know what I have planned for him?
Either way, Boo is currently unavailable.

Hot Tamale

It is hot here. Hot enough that a step outdoors feels like walking into a wall so thick with humidity you have to push it aside to get around. Hot, hot. August hot without the relief of a dry breeze. So hot that a 6 a.m. jog requires ice packs and life support.

Which is why I found my weekend reading particularly entertaining. I spent Friday through Sunday next to a pool looking at, if we're being honest, old issues of Martha Stewart Living to get some architectural/decorating ideas for the future barndo (I was too lazy to actually leave the pool area and purchase better magazines. Do not judge me.). As luck would have it, the majority of these issues were published during the summers of years past and I ended up reading about truly helpful tips to survive the "warm summer months." For example, did you know that a canape sandwich and individual strawberry tartlette eaten under a weeping willow tree, in a meadow, in August, is rather refreshing? I bet you also weren't aware of the importance of toting around a nifty light sweater for those "unexpectedly brisk July evenings." Hmph. Snort. Oh Martha.

Not that I'm bitter about these impossible temperatures. I knew summer was coming, I just wasn't prepared for how unappealing working at the land would become. Our last significant weekend spent out there was to camp in a new spot and while it was nice enough, it was just. too. hot. We did manage to make another nighttime trip down to the pond. With a full moon and heat lightening in the background, the whole spot took on an eery, ethereal feeling, enhanced by Lu's growling at and pacing around a clump of trees by the water.

More unexplained noises that upset the dogs? No thank you. Two strikes against nighttime pond visits.

Instead of long weekends spent cutting trees and burning brush, we've been honing some other hobbies that might come in handy when the land's cleared and liveable. In fact, we've managed to squeeze some veggies and flowers out of the garden (Note: watering is actually pretty important).
Jeremy also has picked up a new relaxing hobby, involving tubes and bottles and chemistry and...well...it doesn't sound relaxing at all. He's making wine. The goal, apparently, is to perfect this art with a wine kit and then immediately plant a vineyard at the land in order to grow mountains of grapes and make top notch wine. I am almost certain that this is entirely possible.

I am not, NOT, complaining, mind you. I love it here. I love Texas and the sweltering heat, the mind-numbing humidity, constant layer of sweat, and the magnificent mosquitoes. In fact, I love it so much that I'm going to make tiny sandwhiches and tartlettes and eat them in a dusty hayfield underneath a cactus. Martha, you're an inspiration. Happy summer!