On a Ranch Working Cattle


Today Martina, my exchange student from Milano, Italy, and I went with my students of the Wildorado Cattle Company to work cattle on a ranch west of Amarillo.   When I posted this on Facebook, a city friend asked what does working cattle mean.  These were calves of various sizes, both male and female, all Angus.

First, a person on horseback heels a calf (ropes it by its hind feet) and drags it to the branding area.  Then, depending on the size of the calf, a few persons flank it (hold it down) while a person gives it shots, e.g. vaccines, vitamins, another brands it with a hot iron, and someone else ear tags it.  If it is a male, its testicles are cut off. Having raised cattle, this was not new to me.  However, for a girl from Milano, it was the definitive Texas ranching experience.

I think we worked over a hundred calves during the morning which started at a chilly 47 with a strong West Texas wind.  Later, in the afternoon it warmed up about 30 degrees.  The wind just now finally quit; it is 8:54.  Here are a couple of photos of the day’s activities.

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Three people from the National Angus Association headquartered in St. Joesph, Missouri, were there making a documentary.  Although currently I live in the country in the Panhandle of Texas, I grew up on a farm about 30 miles from St. Joesph.  Small world.

 

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Saturday at the Wildorado Cattle Company Bull Sale


Yes, no kidding, I took my Italian exchange student to something so typical of where I live, a livestock auction.  However, this was not just any livestock auction.  With the guidance and support of the Ag Teacher, the students at Wildorado ISD, where I teach, have created their own cattle company.  They did the advertising, contacted potential buyers and consignors, marketed, everything.  Top bulls from various ranches and producers were in the sale.  A few brought over 4000 dollars and many brought over 3000.  Mostly these were top of the line registered bulls. Several were bred and raised by the students themselves. The freshmen and sophomores spent most of the week washing (no kidding) and moving bulls to Amarillo Livestock Auction where the sale was held.

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Although there were two other breeds of bulls in the sale, The Wildorado Cattle Company raises purebred Angus cattle.  The students have learned to AI, doctor, maintain records, and every thing it takes to maintain a superior quality cattle herd.  I was especially impressed with several students the night before the sale at the pre-sale dinner.  The students introduced the speakers and top consignors, introduced the Cattle Company program, waited on tables.  Kudos to all my students who worked so hard to make this sale such a big success.

Black Raspberries


Mom filled the white bowl with black raspberries.

I pour Bossie’s white milk over them,

watched it form a pattern,

flowing around the raspberries–

a design in deep purple and white.

I thought it almost too beautiful to eat.

I was seven.

Now I rarely find black raspberries.  Red ones won’t do.  They lack intensity, the beauty.  Every year we went to Hunt’s Orchard north of Amazonia, Missouri, to buy black raspberries, took them home, sorted to discard the imperfect ones, then threw them way behind the garden next to the timber–huge trees, oak and hickory.  Eventually, these imperfections transformed into thriving black raspberry bushes.  We had our own patch, created from the discarded, the imperfect.

Mom fed us fresh raspberries for a few days.  The rest she used to create her famous pies, froze a freezer full.  Baked, they transformed a winter kitchen into the warmth and sweetness of my mother’s family devotion.

I bake pies, many kinds of pies.  I have never made a black raspberry pie.

 

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Note:  this will be published in an upcoming publication by the Story Circle Network.  In July my daughter, grandson, and I went to Hunt’s Orchard–yes, it still exists.  I asked about black raspberries.  We were too late; the season was over.  The timber behind the garden area was to the right in this photo.  The person who bought the land years later bulldozed down all the big trees.

Missouri Roadtrip—the Missouri River Bottom


My mother grew up in Fortesque, Missouri, a once thriving town which now contains 32 inhabitants. Mom’s dad owned a farm right on the Missouri River near the Rulo, Nebraska bridge. Then eventually, it was my grandmother’s and then belonged to Mom and her two siblings. We went to visit and found the river really high.

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For years we crossed the Rulo, Nebraska, bridge and came to a restaurant at this site to eat catfish, carp, and all the trimmings.  A few years ago a really large flood destroyed it. This is the new building but obviously it is closed because of high water.

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Back on the Missouri side looking across the soybean fields.  Strange sight to see irrigation proceeding at the same time the river is high.  The Corp of Engineers is releasing  water upstream where the river is really high. The bluffs in the distance are across the river in Kansas.

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Several times in my life I have seen water at least 15 feet deep from bluff to bluff.  A few years back I knew people who lived inside a big levee and for nearly three months had to go to and from their house in a boat.  Needless to say, that year no one raised a crop of anything.

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Without levees, the river would be over all the fields now.

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I walked down the main levee and took this photo under the Rulo, Nebraska, bridge.

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While in the river bottom we decided to take the loop drive through the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge.  The last time I was here five years ago, there was more water and fewer lilies.  The smell of their blooms permeated the air.

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Apparently, this is bull frog heaven because they were certainly actively croaking. In October and November approximately 400,000 geese and ducks migrate through here.

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At the north end of the drive through the refugee this beautiful sight occurs.

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The tunnel between the trees continues for several miles.

Later when we drove back to St. Joseph, we drove down to the nature center and the river’s edge there.

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No swimming in the Missouri River.  They warn people every year, but alas, people still try and drown.  The river moves fast and the undertow will pull even strong swimmers under.

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I was not happy out here.  Ema, my daughter, insisted.  If a person fell in, there is no hope.  She, however, keep bouncing around and playing on it.

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Even though I grew up in this area, I am always amazed at just how green and wet it is there even when they have a dry spell like now.  Plus the humidity–not like here in the Panhandle of Texas–it does not cool off that much at night in Missouri.

 

 

 

 

Missouri Roadtrip-the Home Place


6CC097FA-6B1F-4C37-8170-6026A42B8C30This is he house where I grew up north of Fillmore, Missouri.  My dad lived here in this house from 10 year old to 90. He died in the month after his 90th birthday.  The house stands on the land my great grandfather established after he arrived from Switzerland in the mid 1800s.

3A97C88F-30A5-4A32-99E3-5E4D8E1172F5This is the only building left at the site of my grandparents original house and barns.  It is an old carriage house.  In this photo my daughter and grandson are taking a look.  One of the original stained glass transome windows from the house hangs in my own house. My grandparents were Lilliebelle Werth and Pleasant Lightle.

 

D44A6726-4FF1-4FB0-9F89-47F7E7C98391When I was a child, this was once a chicken house but mostly the farrowing house for our registered Hampshire hogs.  Later I learned that when first built during Prohibition, Dad held dances here which the sheriff checked to make sure there was no alcohol.

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This is corn and soybean country. The view reaches across the land from the back of the home place.  We met the young couple who own the house now. They keep everything spic and span just like my parents did.  I am grateful.

 

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Antioch Christian Church where we attended church when I was a child.  My mom’s fruit pies were famous here.

Argentinian Adventure–Cafayate in the Calchaqui Valley


One of the highest wine growing regions in the world exists in northern Argentina in the Calchaqui Valley.  This lovely hotel where we spent the night reminded me of New Mexico.

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The hotel garden.

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The ceiling above the walkway.

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The walkway from the garden to the front of the hotel.  Spanish colonial architecture and design seem much the same everywhere.

Cafayate is small and lovely.  Like every other city, it too has a square with a church on one side. We went there instead of Mendoza, the city most people in the US associate with Argentinian wine, because Hugo, Gaston’s dad, prefers the wine from there over that from Mendoza.

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The church on the square in Cafayate.

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Many trees were in bloom there.  Gaston’s mom and I collected some seeds from this one and I have two plants growing in pots at my house.

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More colonial architecture.

Although most of this valley is filled with vineyards from one mountain range to the other, I did see fields as well.

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Behind the hotel where we parked the truck, the guy was raising fighting cocks.  I never had the chance to take of photo of them.

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After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we needed to the oldest winery in the valley.

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–The Road to Wine Country


Late on a Monday morning, Gaston’s parents and I headed toward Cafayate, a relatively small town at the edge of the sierra which grows some of the best wine grapes in the world.  It is a long drive through incredibly varied landscapes.

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One of the first towns we drive through is Jesus Maria.  As in many Argentianian cities, trees line many streets.  Here acequias provide water for the trees.

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Except where cleared for farming–giant soybean and corn fields, much of the land through which we drove looks like this.

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Taken as we sped along, this photo show soybeans in the distance.  Since it seemed relatively dry here, I asked if they were irrigated.  Gaston’s father told me no, that they had developed a type of soybeans that require much less water.

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When I first saw this out my window, I thought maybe water, but no, this was the beginning of miles and miles of salt.

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Another photo taken looking through my window.

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And then we speed into the cloud forest. I was astonished my whole time here.  I had to idea there was such a thing in Argentina.

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We climbed higher and higher and stopped at a visitor’s area where displays explained the flora and fauna which live here.

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This area is a subtropical jungle.

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Often we drove through clouds or along the side of rushing mountain rivers. And then as suddenly as we arrived in these mountains, we were on the other side where it was dry.  The selva–jungle–stopped almost as suddenly as it began.  One side of the mountains lush and green with ocelots, all sorts of other wildlife, and on the other semi-arid country, equally beautiful but so astonishingly different only a few miles away.

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Memorial Day–Memories


While I was growing up, my mom grew peonies by the side of the vegetable garden.  Red, pink, white, huge spectacular blooms that always arrived around this time of year just in time for Memorial Day.  We would pick many, put them in mason jars and take them to my father’s and her family’s cemetery plots.  She has created a metal apparatus to hold them so the wind would not blow them over.  We took water to fill the jars.  We did this every Memorial Day always.

No one lives close any more.  There is no one left to take flowers there.

My mother’s family members are buried in the Mound City, Missouri Cemetery.

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My mother’s parents’ gravestone.  She was Nellie Narcissus Kaiser before she married rather late for back then–in her late twenties.  I never knew my grandfather.  He was so much older than she that even though he lived to be 80, he died long before I was born. My great-grandfather Kaiser was born in Switzerland and brought here as a child.

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The gravestone of my mother’s grandmother.  I know she lived with my grandmother and grandfather a lot of the time from family photos, but I also know that she died in San Diego.  No one ever told me how she got there or why.

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The gravestone of Aunt Julia, Mother’s sister.  She never married, loved fancy antiques and china.  I frequently use some of what she left me.  She came to see me rather often and we visited antique stores when she visited.  To say she was an independent woman is an understatement.

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My parents’ gravestone is on the right and Dad’s parents’ on the left–in the cemetery in Fillmore, Missouri.  My grandfather, Pleasant Lightle, had walked from Illinois to Missouri as a child according to family stories.  My parents met dancing. I always smile when I see the peonies planted at their graves.

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This is the gravestone of my great-grandfather, Dad’s mother’s father, who came to the US from Switzerland when he was 18.  According to my dad, he did not want to be conscripted into the Swiss army because at that time Swiss soldiers were being hired out as mercenaries.  His mother stood on the roof of their house waving until she could see him no longer.  They never saw each other again.  I grew up on the land he homesteaded in Andrew County, Missouri.  Andrew County is filled with descendants of immigrants who came from Switzerland.

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The old carriage house near the house where Dad spent the first ten years or so of his 90 years.  It is all that is left standing.

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The house where Dad lived the last 80 years of his life and where I grew up.

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When I was a child, the building in the foreground was used at various times as a farrowing house, once for Rhode Island Red chickens, and to store various farm supplies.  When I went to visit Dad after Mom died and we were at the cemetery on Memorial Day, a man came up to Dad and asked if he was Doyle Lightle.  They started chatting and I learned that when Dad first built it during Prohibition times, he held dances there.  The sheriff would send deputies to watch and make sure no one was drinking.  I had lived there and visited there for decades and had never heard this story.

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I took this photo standing on the levee next to the Missouri River looking toward the Rulo, Nebraska bridge.  This is the land my mother’s family owned.  On some Sundays as a treat, we would cross the bridge to a restaurant on the Nebraska side.  It was famous for its fried catfish and carp.

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This is country with lots of water and trees.  This picture was taken near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  Several times in my life, I have seen flooding from the bluffs on the Missouri side all the way to the bluffs on the Kansas and Nebraska side of the river.  When I was a child, my uncle and aunt lived on the river farm until a flood reached half way up the second story of their house.  They gave up and moved to town.

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When I was a child, there were trees like this in lots of places on Mom’s family’s farm.  About this time of year we would hunt for morels and often pick a bushel basket full.  Mom dipped them in egg and cornmeal, then fried them.  We practically lived on them for week or two.  I was shocked as an adult to go into a fancy market and discover that dried morels were 95 dollars a pound.

 

 

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–La Finca


After sitting in the airport in Iguazu for four hours because the plane was delayed over and over, we finally arrived in Cordoba around midnight and rushed to La Finca, the family place out in the country, for dinner.  Yes, dinner.  Gaston’s family, including his 92 year old grandfather, uncles, cousins, aunts, everyone had actually stayed up and waited to meet us.  I could hardly believe it.

I know Argentinians are the biggest consumers of beef in the world.  We did not have beef; we had leg of lamb grilled over the special grill his father and uncles had built–a separate house just for grilling and eating.  It was a warm night and we ate outside. It is a family ritual for everyone to congregate on weekends, but especially Sunday afternoons at La Finca to eat and socialize.  Gaston and I went there both Saturday and Sunday.

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It was the end of summer (Southern Hemisphere in March).  The crop in the distance beyond the trees is potatoes.  Gaston’s grandfather, who is 92 now,  bought this land, planted the trees, created this peaceful get away in the country.  Gaston’s uncle and aunt now live there with their college age children.

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The building in the background houses the grill–chimney on the left–and the dining area I mentioned earlier.  We ate inside once around the table that must sit at least twenty.  The rest of the time they hauled the tables outside and we ate under the trees.

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Gaston’s grandfather and I standing before the trees he planted decades ago.

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The same trees upclose.  Yes, those are very sharp protuberances sticking out all over the tree.  You see these trees in cities too, but there they have cut off all the sharp pieces so people cannot get hurt on them.  I could just imagine what would happen if a person pushed another person against one of these.

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The drive from the main road to La Finca.  Sunday afternoon Gaston’s mom and I strolled up and down this drive while Gaston with his dad and uncle and a cousin installed a drip line to water the bushes on each side.  Like here, they are suffering a drought.  They did not want years of work to die.

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The original house where Gaston’s uncle and his family live is on the left.  I loved it here and felt very privileged to spend a weekend with the family doing whatever they do on weekends.  On Saturday, the men all went to help someone move while I sat with Gaston’s aunt, her friend, some cousins.  We chit chatted, drank mate, took naps, ate pear tart and other desserts, and whiled away an afternoon.

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Occasionally the peace was disturbed by the raucous chatter of parakeets.  The huge nest in this tree is shared by many parakeets.  They do not build individual nests.  When they get going, they are really loud.

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Just as in New Mexico in the US, water comes through acequias.  The drive goes over this little bridge in the foreground.

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Near this acequia the family grows lemon trees, vegetables, flowers, and other delectables for family use.

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It was so lovely and peaceful here, I did not want to leave.

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Gaston’s aunt and mother love succulents and flowers.  This is only a tiny portion of the plant collection growing everywhere around Gaston’s aunt and uncle’s house. His aunt is very proud of her plant collection. Many of her plants were familiar.  Some even have the same names in English and Spanish probably due to their Latin origins.

 

 

Like Tequila, Love Bats


Tequila is made from a specific species of agave plants that grow in certain areas of Mexico and Southwestern United States.  Did you know:  no bats, no tequila?

The Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) remains crucial for tequila production because they pollinate tall, column-like cactuses and the blue agave from which tequila is made.  No bats, no agave, no tequila.

Every year these bats migrate from Central and Northern Mexico into the southern areas of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and they are endangered.  These bats have been listed as an endangered species since 1988 in the US and since 1991 in Mexico.  Researchers at New Mexico State in Las Cruces are part of a conservation network working with Mexican counterparts to save these bats.  And tequila.