Saturday, July 18, 2009

A day at the beach

There are some perks to living in the central valley of California. The days it hits above 105 are not part of the perks. While I love the heat, once it surpasses 105, it gets to be a bit much. Thankfully we get a few weeks a year of this kind of weather. The year it was 110+ for 2 weeks was a bit out of control.

The good thing about living where we live are the boundless options! This week alone I have been above 7000' in the redwood trees near Mamoth Lakes and I have been to the ocean, both within a two hours drive. I dont know which I prefer more. Yesterday we took a day trip to the beach. We hit the aquarium, Bubba Gumps, which has awesome food and spent several hours at the beach. It was literally 40 degrees cooler at the coast. I realized that drastically when we got home got out of the car in wearing my light sweatshirt and thought I was going to die.
My son could live on the beach. He just spends hours digging like a dog, running into the ocean, screaming, splashing and behaving with wild abandon. He even made a friend! This fella was just 10 feet off shore and really took an interest in Dylan. Probably wondering what this wild animal on shore was all about. Whats wrong with that crazy human? We all wonder it from time to time. I have no answers for you mister sea lion.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One of the perks

One of the little perks I have had my entire life are the lakes at our ranch. These lakes are full of life and bring beauty to the ranch and a watering hole to the cows.

In addition to serving a purpose as watering holes, they are our fishing holes. I remember back when my husband and I started dating. He took me fishing to a local lake one day and we spent the entire day out there fishing and caught one fish. He was so thrilled about catching one fish and I was impatient and curious why on earth he would be excited about catching ONE fish?!
You see all of my life, I have been able to fish in our lakes on the ranch where the lakes at alive with bass, blue gill and crappie. I took my boyfriend to the ranch with us one day and dropped him off at a lake while we gathered cattle. When I came back a few hours later he was smiling ear to ear having caught dozens of fish, not to mention the monster of the lake, a 10 pound large mouth bass. He proposed the next day (not really, but I think he thought about it). Most all of the fishing done at the ranch is catch and release, we fish for the fun of fishing.
The best perk of the lakes at the ranch though is sharing it with the kids. Not just my kids, who have developed a love of fishing, but all of our friends and families kiddos. Typically they catch their first fish at our ranch. The little ones fish off the shore and catch a prized blue gill or crappie all by themselves!
It is definitely one of the little things I appreciate most in my life. I love sharing this ranch and its lakes with our friends and family. We spend Easter every year there and the kids spend the day fishing and climbing rocks and hunting for dormant snakes (not really, not on purpose anyhow).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

How does your garden grow?

Look at these gorgeous bell peppers? They are almost ready to be sliced up and put in a salad. Or stuffed with meatloaf. Or chopped up and put in my marinated artichoke rice salad. Or cut into chunks and kabob'd with beef and onions. So many options.
The garden is beginning to really take off. We picked our first zucchini tonight. There are plenty of bell peppers almost ready. We began the garden in the garage in early March. We built raised beds for most of the plant and built mounds for the ones that really spread out like the squash and zucchinis.
This is an Early Girl tomato plant. Boy is she right on time. While the rest of the tomatoes are just starting to have little bitty tomatoes, these puppies are almost baseball size and I am just waiting for them to turn red.

Nothing beats a ripe tomato. When you slice them and they are darker red inside, it is officially summer and I realize how awful the imported from South America, picked when they were lime green tomatoes I have been eating since fall really are.

These are Fresno Red Chili peppers. I'm not a fan of hot, but aren't these beauties. Not sure what I will do with them, but I am sure there will be a use.

Here are the green beans working their way up the trellis. Behind them are more tomatoes, most of these are cherry tomatoes and they are huge, but just beginning to sprout hundreds of tiny tomatoes. In just a few weeks we will be picking bushels each day trying to figure out what to do with all our bounty!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cows are funny creatures

Cows are such funny creatures. Believe it or not, they are pretty friendly, curious and simple animals. If you give them food regularly, they will come and be beggars. If they are raised seeing people regularly, they won't be skittish or weirded out when people are near. Every time I go to the ranch to check cows I give them a bale of hay. They hear the rumble of the diesel and they start heading my way, mooooing the whole time. The calves learn from their mamas who come running when they hay truck arrives. The first few times they are very curious as to who these weird creatures are, but they go off what mama does and before long they are up in your business.

When it comes time to gather cows to brand, vaccinate, doctor or sort them, instead of doing it the ol' cowboy way with dogs and ropes and lots of hassle and HAW, we simply honk the horn, show them the hay and follow behind the herd on a quad or horse. We toss out small bits of hay and they follow like pros right into the corral. <knock on wood, this is how it usually happens>

Of course, occasionally, there is the crazy cow who heads for the hills! She is the one who never trusted people, whether it was a bad experience in the corrals or her own crazy mother, these few cows keep it interesting. It is these moments where we get to become tough cowboys chasing a crazy cow over the rocks, through the brush and into the hills.

For the most part though, they like us and love the food we
bring them.

"sucking hind tit"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ally at the Fair!

Ally survived her first county fair. She was a bit tired and wondered if she would ever get to sleep in again, but she had a great experience. We hauled in her steer, Curly and her heifer, Roadrunner on Tuesday and hauled home Sunday. We were up before 6 each morning to do chores here and then head to the fair by 7 to feed, water and muck stalls.
Curly decided in the last week to charge Ally with his head! Not me, just anyone under 5 feet tall. He is a big pet and pain in the butt all in one. One morning we turned him out in the show ring to let him run and buck and he decided to snot and chase Ally up a fence. A mothers heart can not take that!

Ultimately he got his wits about him and was perfect in the ring with her... which is a good thing since he outweighs her by 1173 pounds. He snores with his head up when you scratch his belly with a show stick. He also burps a lot. I guess its all the corn and grain.

Wednesday was the beef show which lasted most of the day. She showed Curly in the middle weight steer class, he weighed in at 1253lbs. He was 2nd in his class to the steer who would end up being the Supreme Champion steer and Ally did a great job showing him. You wouldn't know this was her very first show. She even went back in for Champion 4H steer (and didn't win).

Mid day she had showmanship where she placed 3rd in novice and moved up to intermediate. By then both she and Curly were tired and cranky, but they hung in there are did well.

Crazy witch, Roadrunner spooked at some kids while I was holding her and she took me down. It was shortly after that I gave up on her and took her back to her stall. I didn't want any kid getting hurt. As it was she kicked one of our 4H clubs kids and left a softball sized bruise. I don't have anything nice to say about her right now. I am very much looking forward to branding her and sending her up to the ranch this week to be a cow. Never again will I spend some much time trying to gentle and halter break a cow who just has a mean streak and a bad attitude!!

I can not conclude this fair blog without including the crazy boys. They have a Barnyard Scramble where they turn loose lots of farm critters; chickens, ducks, baby goats, bunnies, etc. and then they let loose hundreds of kids who get to keep one animal they catch. For your PETA folks, they get to trade the critter in for ride tickets if they don't want it or cant properly care for it. Dylan and his friend Austin got chickens! Oh boy. Thankfully grandma really wanted chickens.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Black & White

I got Adobe Photoshop CS4 for my birthday and have been playing (learning) how the heck to use this program, which is way smarter than I am. Did I already mention that?

Here is a picture I took of my son, Dylan. Surprisingly, it is a great picture of my cute kid. While he is always cute, he tends to take horrible pictures because he contorts his face in weird ways. My only good pictures of him are when I catch him off guard, even then, its rare. So when we were playing at the ranch and he game me a little smirk, it was a miracle that I captured it so clearly. Here is the original straight from the camera photo. Its pretty good I think... but its a good one to play with because it has some shadows, some very sharp lines and a blurry background. I think its called bokeh, but I am a dummy when it comes to photography terms. I just point and shoot.
The first thing I did here was play with The Pioneer Woman's sets, which she graciously shared with her followers. These are basically shortcuts which allow a dumb chick like me to click a button and do 15 steps instead of my trying to figure out which 15 steps would work best to brighten, darken, sharpen, sepia, or whatever other thing I wanted to do to a picture. These shortcuts are really helping me get my feet wet with this program instead of never opening the program because it intimidates me.

I used the PW B/W Beauty action and adjusted the opacity of the light on the layer. Then I clicked off the button on gradient map 1, which turned the photo back to color. I also did a quick edge burn and lowered the opacity on it to 40%. The I used her 'Bring On the Eyes" action which allows you to lighten and brighten the eyes. I love this action for many different photos!

This photo is the same as the above edited photo except I left the Gradient Map 1 clicked. I don't know what it all means, but by clicking and playing with it, I can toggle on and off different actions and see vast differences in seconds helping me decide which looks better. Someday maybe I will know what the heck I am doing!

b&w: original: