The sprayee.

The sprayee.

When we went out to put new bedding in the sheep pen yesterday, the stud horse ambled over in his usual amiable fashion. His plan, of course, was to entice his small minions into scratching his ears. The plan, however, was foiled by the fact that he’d apparently been a little bit too nosy. At some point in the previous evening, he’d irritated a skunk.

A horse leads with his nose, which is why they are so often bitten in the face by rattlesnakes. In this case, he must have nosed Pepe Le Pew, who promptly emptied his anal glands. Not to put to fine a point on it, the stallion reeked. I’m a little surprised that at his age — almost 28 — he doesn’t have sense enough to avoid a skunk. The sulfurous odor is so rank you can smell it a quarter-mile away. Skunk spray is a volatile mixture of alcohol and sulfur. Sprayed in the eyes, it burns, and the sprayee will cough and even vomit. Sox was past that point by this morning, although his eyes still looked a little watery.

Had he been a dog, I would have mixed up some deodorizer, but he’s just too big. And it’s not as though he’ll be sleeping in the living room. But it did occur to me that many people might not know there is a better remedy than the old standby almost everyone reaches for — tomato juice. Acids such as tomato and vinegar can help neutralize the sulfur, but your animal will still basically be skunk-scented, with an overlay of tomato juice. The following recipe is more effective (although you’d have to at least quadruple the ingredients for a horse). Be sure to use this mixture immediately after it is created, as it is unstable.

  • 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap or dish detergent
  • Mix these together and shampoo the spray victim thoroughly.
  • Let sit for five minutes and rinse with tap water afterward.
  • Repeat if necessary.
  • You can follow with a vinegar rinse (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water) to remove any lingering odor.

Sox, however, will just have to air out.

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Book Excerpt – So You Want to be A Ranch Wife


Yes, you might have guessed it — we’ve been working on a book. Since I’m in one of those the-hurrier-I-go-the-behinder-I-get stages, I thought I would cheat and put up the introduction instead of writing an actual post. Hope you enjoy it! – Bee

How We Got Here

If you’ve ever rigged a temporary pen for baby turkeys out of a cardboard box, covered it with your oven baking racks and weighted it down with a few bricks to keep the cats out… you might be a ranch wife.

I was eight when I convinced my father that we needed a horse. At eleven, I was walking a two-mile round trip at six o’clock every morning to feed the horses we kept across the river, then going home to eat breakfast and head to school. My parents bought a ranch when I was 12, but by then we had already had several years of working weekends and summer vacations at the ranch Dad’s partner owned. We didn’t actually move to the ranch until I was seventeen (in fact, we moved on my 17th birthday, something no one in the family remembered until about eight that evening when my personal chronological light bulb went on; I never did get to celebrate that birthday).

Cloud cover moving down the mountain.

Cloud cover moving down the mountain.

I continued to live in town until I was in my late twenties – through circumstance, not choice – sublimating my ranch-wife tendencies through gardening and spending my weekends on horseback or doing ranch chores at my parents’ place. Not until I was thirty-two did I actually have a place of my own in the country. Our primary ranching activity, outside of the gardening which is as natural in my family as breathing, was raising Quarter Horses, although we also had chickens, geese, ducks and — for a few years — pigs. Since my husband spent much time working out of town (and three years at the South Pole), I was usually the person in charge when the well pump went out or the mares needed to be bred or the raccoons got into the chickens.

Autumn gold.

Autumn gold.

My husband grew up in Idaho and had never lived in a town. His father used to catch wild horses in the Owyhee desert, break and sell them. His mother grew up on a ranch. By the time he was 10 years old he had an irrigating shovel in his hand and knew how to use it. He grew up poor in the money sense, so he learned early how to make it, fix it or grow it. They kept a milk cow, grew most of their food and food for their animals, and added to the family larder by fishing and hunting. He’s an expert shot with rifle, shotgun or pistol, can weld all sorts of metal, fell trees, rope a steer or shoe a horse. He is one of the most all-around competent men I have ever met – as long as you keep him out of a city, where he becomes agitated and swears a lot. He spent his teens working for the Forest Service, his twenties running heavy equipment, logging and cowboying. He doesn’t have a college degree, but he has so many salable skills he has never once been out of a job.

We now live on 185 acres of what was an original homestead in the foothills of far northern California, with our daughter and her family. (Said daughter, by the way, frequently declaimed during her teenage years that she was NEVER going to be living on a ranch when she grew up. Now I can make snide comments about how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – she usually sticks her tongue out at me and we laugh.) The ranch had been neglected for over fifty years, which meant basically starting over. We built fences, started gardens, resurrected the irrigation system, cleared blackberries and are still working on regenerating the fruit trees. We now have pigs and chickens and beef cows and a milk cow and sheep; our goal is to be completely self-sufficient as far as food goes.

It’s been an interesting journey and I hope you enjoy reading about our life as much as I’ve enjoyed living it.

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Falling Back


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Tonight is the night we tinker with our bodies’ circadian rhythm, spend a lot of money paying people to go around changing clocks instead of doing other and more productive work, and even decrease our IQs. Daylight savings time is rather like cutting a chunk off a blanket and sewing it to the other end to make the blanket “longer.” What was that again? I think I missed something.

Although Ben Franklin is credited with this bright idea, most people don’t realize that Franklin proposed the concept jokingly, presenting it as a thrifty idea in order to save candles in a whimsical letter full of satire and parody. In our sleep-deprived society, we’d be much better off just going to bed. It’s an indication of how far out of synch we are with the natural world. Can you imagine a cow proposing DST?

Since I don’t live by the clock, I notice that my body naturally adapts itself to the changing level of light. In the summer, I wake about the same time the sky gets light, and sleep a little less – about seven to seven-and-a-half hours. In winter, I’m more likely to sleep a little later. Mind you, I’m not the sort to sleep in no matter what the season, as I’m often awake by 4:30 or 5:00. Of course, I go to bed relatively early as well, unlike Franklin, who preferred to play chess until well past midnight.

Those who do live by the clock are more prone to automobile accidents and lost productivity in the spring, when they spring forward. Their brains don’t work as well, either. Must be why someone is always late to work the Monday after the time change. Meanwhile, the natural world goes along, unheeding of the clock.

Well, Ben, I’d say the joke’s on us…


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