Oprah’s Ralph Lauren Interview Was … Odd!

I really do like Oprah, and I appreciate soft, feature news as much as anyone. But I found Oprah’s interview aired today with Ralph Lauren on his RRL Ranch outside of Telluride, CO, to be a bit corny.

The ranch landscape is incredibly gorgeous, but how many ranch owners can afford miles and miles of peeled log teak fence?

Lauren has several large hand-painted teepees on his ranch, which are also amazingly beautiful and create an incredible scene against the sharp mountain backdrop. But inside these teepees are fully furnished and better decorated than my home, so how authentic can they really be? The Indians certainly didn’t live like that when they lived in teepees, and, sadly, even today many on the reservations still don’t live in anything nearly that nice.

I also found it odd that Oprah was so awe struck over a working cattle ranch. Oprah has spoken out against beef consumption on more than one occasion during the past 25 seasons of her television show.

And here’s the most absurd part of the actual interview. Oprah’s hardest hitting question to Ralph Lauren was, “Where did the idea for the polo shirt come from?”

Lauren didn’t really answer it other than to say that the polo shirt is a representation of the brand.

Hilarious! Yet I’ll bet this Oprah episode, being one of her last on network television, had more viewers than any hard news program of the day. That’s both odd and sad.

Cow is to Heifer as Ewe is to What?

I did a little research online as I was writing my post about getting the ewes bred. From that time spent surfing, I’ve discovered that there is no special name given to a ewe who has either never had a lamb or who is expecting or has just had her first lamb — at least no name that’s widely known and used.

I thought there might be a special term for these young, inexperienced ewes, because in cattle, these are called “heifers” while the more experience mamas are simply called “cows.”

My father- and brother-in-law often refer to the “heifers” or “first-calf heifers,” and these cows are handled differently when they are bred. At our ranch the heifers are generally artificially inseminated with the bull’s “seed” rather than allowed to be bred naturally by the pasture bulls.

The AI-ing is done to increase the likelihood that the heifers will be successfully bred, to shorten the calving season (they all calve closer together when they are all bred on the same day), and to control by exactly which bull they are bred. It’s generally not a good idea to use a bull that has a history of throwing larger birth weights on a heifer. Heifers must also be more closely watched when they are calving as they are at an increased risk of having trouble during delivery.

But enough about cattle. The things is, other than the AI-ing things, first-lamb ewes have many of the same potential issues as heifers. So I wonder why do cattle have a special designation for this situation and sheep don’t?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch …

So my health has been an interesting situation. One that has kept me distracted since the end of May. I do believe I’m finally on the mend, and I hope to go home from the hospital tomorrow.

In the mean time, many things have happened in our country life. It was time to let the heifers and their calves into the pasture to eat the grass surrounding our home. Unfortunately, we had taken out the barbed wire fence to plant our trees, and we certainly didn’t want the cows trampling the little seedling trees.

We were undecided on what type of permanent fence we wanted to install, and time was critical, so we purchased and installed an electric fence. The heifers and calves were very curious about the fence and I think every one of them must have tested it out at least once. Each instance resulted in a startled critter jumping quickly away and sometimes bellering.  These “tests” would have made some great video – if I had had the energy to capture it. But it probably would have also drawn negative comments from more animal rights activists, so perhaps it’s just as well that I only have memories of the incidents.

A few times the cow or calf jumped the wrong way and went through the fence. They usually made their way back through the fence, but I think we had to help at least one critter out of the enclosed area. Thankfully, these animals seemed to learn fast as after about a week the fence malfunctioned for a couple of days while we were out of town, and yet all of the cows stayed away.

Besides the electric fence, Handsome Hubby planted the grass seed between our newly planted shelterbelt and our home. He and Sports Girl also planted a garden.

A couple of days later it started to rain. And rain. Even though the mud was a real pain to contend with, the moisture should certainly help all of our new vegetation to prosper. We can already see stalks of grass starting to sprout. Now if the temperatures would just warm up a bit.

The cows were moved on to the next pasture almost quicker than they were moved in, and now they are awaiting their ride to the woods in a semi-trailer. Handsome Hubby’s family has a few different permits from the U.S. Forest Service, and they summer the majority of their cattle in the Black Hills National Forest from mid-June until early October. The arrangement isn’t the most convenient, but it provides an additional source of grass while the family farms for next year’s feed.

We’re still using the electric fence to allow our flock of sheep to graze on a little grass while not worrying about them wandering away. At least now I don’t have to disable the fence and open a gate every time I come and go from home. That’s an inconvenience I really dread, but I try to be a good sport about it. I know how valuable that grass is for feeding those cows. And thankfully, I only have to do it a few weeks out of the year.

Barbara Walters Sympathizes With Escaped Cow

Barbara Walters announced on The View yesterday that she was getting closer to becoming a vegetarian. This after the top news story of Wednesday in New York City was a cow escaping from a slaughterhouse and roaming Queens.

The cow was ultimately captured, and sent to the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control facility. There she was named Molly, and the plan was to send her to a farm. Read more about the escaped cow story here.

“I am more and more becoming a vegetarian,” Barbara Walters said in the opening Hot Topics segment of the May 7th episode of The View. “This broke my heart.”

She goes further in her discussion of cows. “When you really start to think of them, you know, as having feelings and stuff, I find it very hard …”

Then in typical The View fashion, another of the ladies cut her off in mid sentence. It’s just as well in this case. Does Walters really think cows have feelings? It’s scary when people start assigning human characteristics to animals.

Walters falls just short of offering this cow a safe haven at her home. “If I had a big back yard, I would have Molly the cow,” she said.

Does she have any idea how awful it would be to keep a cow in her yard? It could never be big enough to serve as a permanent residence for a cow. There would be no grass left, and there would be cow pies/piles of manure and hoof prints everywhere. I have a small flock of sheep roam around my yard from time to time, and they leave their own, albeit smaller, mark on the landscape.

But a couple of the other ladies from The View were more reasonable about Molly and eating meat or beef in general. Sherri Shepherd said she had bacon and eggs for breakfast even after reading the morning’s front-page news. Whoopi Goldberg went the furthest to polarize Walter’s comments.

“If I had a big back yard, I’d be having a barbecue with Molly,” Goldberg said. And she even clarified that she wasn’t talking about inviting the cow as a guest.

Sounds tasty to me.

My First Trip to the Ranch

This is the scene from the car window these days as we drive through the pasture to get to the in-laws house.

This is the scene from the car window these days as we drive through the pasture to get to the in-laws house.

Handsome Hubby and I became engaged while we were attending South Dakota’s land grant institution East River. I had never met his parents, so the first long weekend we had, we took the long trip across the state to his home and family ranch.

East River is predominantly farm country, and I was about to visit a ranch. At the time, I don’t think I considered the differences to be much more than subtleties. But after nearly 18 years of marriage to a rancher’s son, I have certainly come to understand that there are almost as many differences as similarities between farmers and ranchers. I noticed one difference right away on that first trip.

As we edged closer to the ranch as an engaged couple, it seemed as though Handsome Fiancé was somehow trying to prepare me for the visit. “This is a ranch,” he said. “It’s nothing fancy and there are cattle around.”

After a few statements like that, I said something like, “Well, it’s not like you keep the cattle in your front yard, is it?!”

As it turns out, the answer to that question depends on exactly what you consider the front yard.

It was spring – calving season – and we turned into the driveway of the ranch, crossed a cattle guard, and proceeded to make our way through a herd of cows and baby calves. About a quarter mile later we crossed another cattle guard, leaving the pasture, and made our way towards the house.

I sat speechless. Technically, I suppose, the pasture wasn’t exactly the front yard, but I had sure never driven through someone’s pasture on the way to their house. East River you drive up to the house first and the barn and cattle (if there are any) are generally behind the house.

I’ve gotten used to the concept now. In fact, for a few weeks at certain times of the year our visitors must drive through a herd of cattle before reaching our house, as well. I’m sure some of them think it’s strange. But now I just wish that we had a second cattle guard at our place – because that sure would save on having to get out and open the gate!

Meet Calf “Red 100”

meetcalfred100Sports Girls shot this photo for me as we were leaving my in-laws place yesterday morning. It seems they are using red tags on the calves again this year. (See my previous post entitled, “How to Tell One Cow From Another.”)

Handsome Hubby’s family calves in February, so this little calf is probably about 2 months old.

February is a bit early for calving in South Dakota, but our family was sure thankful to be done calving by the time all the winter storms hit later in March. My father-in-law said all he had time for during those blizzards was to feed. He wouldn’t have had time or been able to get around well enough to check and sort cows who were about to calve.

The calves learned to stick close to their mothers during these storms, and thankfully it was never really that cold. So all faired well.

They were busy branding, castrating, vaccinating, etc. But I think they are about done, and I didn’t get any pictures of any of that (probably for the best). Maybe next year.

Speaking of next year, it’s almost time to start the cycle over again. The bulls get let out into the cow pasture May 1.

How to Tell One Cow From Another

In my previous post I mention “Purple 44.” This is the method Handsome Hubby’s family uses to identify beef cattle.

Each year a different colored ear tag is used for that year’s crop, and each calf is labeled with the same number as his or her mother. So if Purple 44 had had a calf, it may have had a blue or yellow ear tag, but it would have also had the number 44 on it.

I wish I had understood this about 10 years ago. On one rare occasion, I was on horseback up in the woods helping check the cattle. For some reason and I honestly can’t remember what it was (although it probably had something to do with pairing up a cow and a calf), we were looking for the cow “Red 39.” I’m unsure of the exact number of the cow, and it’s really not relevant, but the color was definitely red.

At the time the cattle herd was mostly black, but there were some red ones intermingled. I checked every red cow I came across, but none had the number we were looking for on its ear tag. Actually, no one found the cow, and we gave up after much searching.

It wasn’t until after the horses were loaded into the trailer and we were seated in the cab of the pickup headed down the hill that somehow I came to realize we were looking for the cow with the red ear tag; the cow itself wasn’t necessarily red. In fact, odds were that she was black.

I hoped that I hadn’t been the one to miss the cow on our search that day. But now that the years have passed, I can laugh at my ignorance of ranch ways.

We Ate Purple 44 Tonight

I made a nice pot roast from the crock pot for supper tonight — complete with carrots, celery, onions and seasonings. As we were enjoying the savory meat, I informed everyone that we were eating Purple 44. In other words, we were eating the cow with the purple ear tag emblazed with the number 44.

We had looked this cow in the eye – more than once – but no one was upset about eating her. In fact, Sports Girl thought it was great.

Purple 44 actually spent most of last summer in the corrals just over the hill from our house. She ended up not calving or else she lost her calf last spring, and so she was being fattened to be butchered along with two steers Sports Girl has selected to “finish” and show in the county fair for 4-H. Handsome Hubby and Sports Girl provided the cow and two steers with thousands of pounds of corn and alfalfa hay – one five-gallon bucket and pitch-fork full at a time.

Unfortunately the steers never did get halter broke and weren’t tame enough to show. Handsome Hubby and Sports Girl attempted to get close to the steers, but Purple 44 actually seemed to interfere with the process. She must have been the “alpha cow” in the herd, if there is such a thing with beef cattle.

As the week of the fair eminently loomed, Sports Girl’s aunt came to help try to halter the steers one day. All the activity that ensued resulted in the ornery cow bashing through the panels that surrounded her pen and running off into the next field.

Purple 44 was missing for quite some time. In the fall a neighbor found her amongst their herd; the family brand on her left hip showed to whom she belonged. After this she was kept in a corral at the home ranch to be finished again, and then she was taken to the meat shop in February. We picked half of her up in three boxes a few weeks ago and now she’s in our freezer.

She doesn’t provide the most tender meat, and it is strange to know which critter we are actually eating. But at least no one’s too upset to stomach the meat.

The steers ended up in someone else’s freezer. We had spent too much money buying feed for them, and we needed to recoup some of our expenses. Besides, their meat was much too tender; we simply couldn’t enjoy such a guilty pleasure. I keep telling myself that a smart business owner never keeps his best products for himself.

So now I’ll be spending the next six months trying to tenderize the wild cow meat, and we can think of her ornery behavior every time we eat beef!