Sunday, June 30, 2013

Unspeakably tragic

Nineteen firefighters have been killed in an Arizona wildfire.

Our prayers are with their families.

Tangible investments

Don and I were watching our six calves gamboling around the pasture yesterday, and we started talking about their futures. Some we'll sell, some we'll butcher, some we'll keep and breed... but ALL will contribute in some way to our family's welfare. It's no wonder we call the cattle our tangible investments.

Food prices are skyrocketing and the value of money is decreasing, but people will always need milk and meat. That's why we consider our cattle tangible investments.

But not everyone can raise cattle. Or goats. Or even a garden. Not everyone has the room, the means, or the ability. Nonetheless, faced with the uncertainty of our economy, I believe tangible investments to be smart.

So what are your tangible investments? What do you think is useful to own, do, or know in the face of our nation's future, even if you don't live on a farm? What kind of investments can act as an alternative to, say, stocks and bonds, or even a savings account?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ruby's calf

Last Sunday while I was away at my Utah concealed carry class, at long last our herd matron Ruby had her calf.

If you remember, I had tucked Ruby into the barn/corral for a couple of days while some nasty weather rolled through. However once the weather passed, and since she showed no signs of calving, I released her. Naturally the baby was born when I wasn't home (though Don and the girls were).

Ruby is a calm and experienced mother (this is her seventh or eighth calf) and I have no concerns about her having the calf in the pasture. Unless we're expecting bad weather, that is.

It's a healthy little heifer and our first black calf of the year. We're calling her Alice.

Look at the size of that udder! Cows always bag up enormously around birthing time.

Alice in Wonderland?

This brings the calf tally for the year up to six so far: five heifers and a bull calf. Jet is due with her calf within the next few weeks, and Matilda is due in September.

Monday, when Alice was just a day old, all the other calves started running around, having a great time.

Little Alice clearly wanted to join in the fun, but at 24 hours old, her legs were still a bit too wobbly. So she kept giving these little hippity-hop half-leaps to show her enthusiasm. Very cute.

Meanwhile we had a bit more weather roll through, a storm cell big enough that we unplugged computers, just to be safe.

Soon the rain moved in.

In twos and threes, the animals all moved toward the shelter of the barn.

Soon everyone was cozied up under the roof.

Everyone, that is, except Ruby and Alice.

Ruby led the way into the barn.

But wait! Someone got left behind! "Mama...?"

Ruby quickly noticed her calf's absence and went searching.

Within a few seconds, they were both under shelter.

In the next few days, the weather in Idaho is making a huge shift. Rather than cool and rainy, we're heading into hot and dry. By Monday, rumor has it, we're heading for 99F.

Ug. I hate hot weather. Thankfully we have the barn to offer some nice shade for the critters.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Qualifying for my Utah concealed carry permit

Last Sunday I attended an eight-hour class to qualify for my Utah concealed carry permit. And oh my, it was fabulous.

I left very early (6:15 am). It was foggy.

The reason I left so early (the class started at 8 am) was because Sunday was the Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d'Alene (swimming, biking, running). I knew the highway was used for a portion of the biking part. Sure enough, the northbound direction was completely blocked off...

...requiring a careful threading at slower speeds through endless miles of traffic cones in the southbound lanes. Kinda freaky, but everything was clearly marked.

The class was held at a facility called Center Target Sports in Post Falls, ID.

Inside the building is this prominent sign.

The course was taught by Ed Santos, the founder of Center Target Sports. He has astoundingly solid credentials, listed here.

The class came with a 25-page packet containing a detailed course outline, as well as a CD containing additional information, laws, etc. There is no excuse for ignorance once this class is over.

The part that had me the most nervous was the proficiency test. Not because I doubted my shooting accuracy (I'm actually quite good), but because I had to drill a target the size of a pie-pan at seven yards with 20 shots in 2.5 minutes. No biggee, EXCEPT loading the magazines in Don's .380 is devilishly hard. I had two magazines which held six rounds each; which mean both magazines had to be full-reloaded twice, plus reloading another two rounds a third time. All in 2.5 minutes. Not good.

Here's the shooting range. Each student stood in a little open-backed booth and shot into the open range at targets in their own lane.

My equipment. (I was already wearing the ear protection.)

So what happened? Well, I discovered a fascinating little detail: I couldn't see the gun sights.

You see, I'm terribly nearsighted, so I wear either glasses or contact lenses. However my near (close up) vision is extraordinary. I like to call it X-ray vision. If anyone ever needs a microscopic splinter removed, they come to me because I can see it clearly.

However when I wear contact lenses (as I usually do when I travel into the city), then my focus changes. I can see far things clearly, but I desperately need reading glasses, go figure.

So when it came time for the proficiency test, I was at a double disadvantage: I wasn't wearing my reading glasses and so I couldn't see the gun sights; plus I had to load the devilishly difficult magazines on Don's .380. I was literally shooting blind, and I ended up hitting the target only 12 out of the required 20.

How humiliating.

But Mr. Santos, the instructor, quietly handed me a store-owned .22 with an easily-loaded magazine that held 12 rounds, as well as a bag of .22's. I was the only student who had to re-take the proficiency test.

This time I put on my reading glasses under my protective goggles, so I could see the gun sights. Everyone was watching me, since no one else was shooting (they'd all passed their proficiency without a problem). When the timer started, I nailed -- NAILED -- 19 of the 20 rounds into a diameter about four inches across (the 20th round was still within the pie-pan sized target, but not clustered with the others). I did this in under a minute, including popping out the magazine, re-loading it with eight additional rounds, and re-inserting it. Amazing what you can do when you can SEE. And LOAD.

Phew. Glad that was over. The instructor had us all sign and date the targets, which are then kept on file in the facility as proof that we qualified.

The proficiency portion occurred early in the day, so we all trooped back to the classroom for the rest of the course.

I learned a great deal about when deadly force should be used (hint: it's NOT to shoot pickpockets who are running AWAY). Situations under which deadly force is justified include:

- The immediate or otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to the innocent.
- The ability of the perpetrator to kill cripple. "Ability" can take various forms, such as the perpetrator having a weapon, a disparity of force (such as armed against the unarmed); able-bodied against the disabled; male against female; physical size and strength.
- Opportunity (the perpetrator is capable of employing that power).
- Jeopardy (the person is acting in such a manner that a reasonable and prudent person believes they intend to kill or cripple).

The instructor also touched on the best place to shoot to take someone down. Not a fun topic, but a necessary one.

We were also told that having our firearm on our person is one of the safest places it can be. While carrying, our firearm is accessible when we need it (because, after all, no one KNOWS when they'll need their firearm) and not likely to be stolen or taken off a nightstand by a child.

During the course of the day, we peppered the instructor with endless "What if?" questions. He also gave us many many anecdotes (some verbal, some on video clips) of various situations when firearms were used properly, and when they weren't.

The thoroughness of this course was underscored by Mr. Santos' promise: We can all repeat the same course, whenever we want to, for free (as a refresher); and should the need ever arise where we need his testimony in court, he will provide that testimony for free.

Later in the day, Peggy Santos (Ed's wife and co-founder of the facility) fingerprinted everyone and walked us through the paperwork. Each of us left fully qualified and ready to send off for our Utah concealed carry permit.

I can't recommend this course highly enough. I know there are some places where people can get quickie Utah CC classes, but I wouldn't trust those. I wanted the longer course for two reasons: (1) to demonstrate that my commitment to safely carry concealed is high; and (2) to learn the legal ins and outs of responsibly carrying concealed.

Center Target Sports offers dozens of classes. I plan to enroll with our girls in some of the courses on not being a victim, self-defense, and other useful subjects for young women to know.

Great class. Glad I took it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fast food, country style

There's a new and cool blog called Thoughts From Frank and Fern about a couple who is homesteading in Oklahoma.

This afternoon I saw a spiffy post called Fern's Fast Food, in which Fern made a quickie meal of scrambled eggs (mixed with meat and cheese) and toast for dinner. Ten minutes from beginning to end.

Or was it?

What goes into scrambled eggs? What goes into toast?

Fern points out that toast must start as wheat. Eggs must start as baby chicks. Meat starts out as baby goats. Cheese starts with milk, which must be extracted from an animal that has been bred...

...and so on and so forth.

We take our own "fast food" for granted. When I reach into the freezer for a steak, I forget that we had to breed the cow, raise the steer for two years, and have the steer butchered. Ditto with milk, cheese, butter, eggs, wheat, vegetables, fruit, and other staples we produce on our homestead.

Walk with Frank and Fern through their fast food and learn to appreciate how good food gets here!

Double dipping

Maybe it's because we had so many calves born so close together, or maybe it's because we had turned our corral into a close-knit nursery for a few weeks, but it seemed to me that there was a lot of milk-sharing among the cows and the calves. While obviously each cow tended to nurse her own offspring the most, the babies weren't above sneaking a drink from whatever udder was available.

Here Dusty (whose mother is Sparky) is sneaking a drink from Lily (whose calf is Leto).

Here Rosy (whose mother is Victoria) sneaks a drink from Sparky (whose calf is Dusty).

And on and on it went.

So on Saturday, I was amused to step outside and see little Chester (whose mom is Raven) sneaking a drink from Polly, along with Polly's calf Petunia. A little double dipping!

Polly just stood patiently and chewed her cud while the youngsters took advantage of her tolerance.

From the cheeky expression on Chester's face, he seems to know exactly how sly he's being...

...before diving in for more.

We call Matilda our Universal Donor because of her willingness to nurse any calf. Now it seems Polly has the same penchant. I wonder if that's a Jersey trait? Either way, Polly's continued transition from carefree heifer to mature and patient milk cow is going beautifully.