Signs of Spring At the Ranch Pen

signs of spring on oklahoma wind farm

Southwest Oklahoma isn’t exactly paradise weather-wise most of the year, but we often get some warm, windless days in February. Our hopes rise like optimistic kites. Then the cold wind starts blowing again and drives our kites nose first into the ground. The weather’s nice while it lasts, though. Also, the bugs are still mostly dead except for giant greenish flies that rumble around like C-5 military transport planes. My late mother-in-law used to call the flies–what I believe must be the Latin term–themoldbroodflies.

At any rate, armed with beautiful, bug-free weather one day last week, the two nieces, JA and TL, and two grandkids, Blondie and Git’R’Done moseyed out to enjoy a long walk with the ranch dogs. Nellie and Trace are dumb and disobedient have “chase cattle” in their DNA so we kept them on leashes because of the tempting cattle to chase in the 320 acre pasture across the road. Nellie is extremely hyper and drags on her leash so much she chokes herself, so our idyllic stroll was somewhat disrupted by her occasional fits of choking, gasping, and wheezing.

The niece TL and Nellie

Trace on the other hand, is a good boy who doesn’t choke himself although he does have an embarrassing habit of sniffing people where they wish he wouldn’t.

Blondie and Trace

Blondie and Trace with Git’R’Done looking on

The cattle in the picture below are what we call stocker calves. Cattle from many places in the USA are shipped to stock winter wheat pastures in Oklahoma and Texas, thus the name “stockers”. The calves start out in the late fall at 400-500 pounds and by the time they are pulled off the wheat pastures in spring they weigh 800-900 pounds. They are then usually shipped to feed yards to be “finished” which means fattened to butcher size. I think that’s around 1200 pounds, but I’d have to check to make sure. After that, delicious Oklahoma-grazed beef is shipped to fill bellies around the world.

stockers on wheat pasture

Steers on wheat pasture

The cattle in that pasture are steers. For those who don’t know, that means castrated males, identifiable by the…er…appendage hanging from the belly. This appendage is always included in artistic drawings of cattle by the grandsons at the Ranch Pen. Some ranchers stock heifers–young females with smooth bellies, which are kind of uninteresting artistically. It all depends on the rancher’s financial and practical considerations as to whether he or she decides to pasture steers or heifers. (Gramps and I run both because we raise our own.) Steers are more expensive than heifers because males are more efficient at feed conversion and more muscular than females so they produce more meat. Heifers, however, are the future cowherd of the USA, so many of them are saved for breeding purposes.

The following pictures are just for pretty–wheat planted in the neighbor’s cotton stalks from last season.

Winter wheat in last season's cotton stalks

Winter wheat in last season’s cotton stalks. Picture by JA

oklahoma winter wheat in cotton stalks

Last season’s cotton stalks. Picture by JA

I’ve also been cleaning out the flower and vegetable pots around the place in preparation for spring. The pot below grew a ton of basil from volunteer seed last year. Gramps nor I have a drop of Italian blood in our bodies as far as I know, although we do like pizza. With basil growing wild in other pots and spots, I desperately tried to figure out what to do with it all and hit upon making pesto. A far cry from traditional southern fare like beans and taters, pesto has always sounded suspiciously Italian and scary. It wasn’t, though! The pesto was so delicious we’re hoping for another bumper crop this season.

Hopes of basil pesto live in that potI hope you enjoyed the glimpse of spring at the Ranch Pen and as always, thanks for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy another Geoff Moore song, Your Way Out, off his latest really good album The Next Thing.