Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's A Dog's Life

This Affenpinscher picture most resembles a slide in
college we used to learn dog breeds.  My friends said
the dog resembled my hair in the morning so we used
that hint to identify the slide!

The recent news that Banana Joe, an Affenpinscher, won the 2013  Westminster Kennel Club  Dog Show led me to thinking about dogs and the relationships we have with them. 

I have owned many dogs in my life.  When I was a child I would pester my parents until they would hopefully cave and let me have a puppy.  I didn’t know then that my job was to be the pack leader, not a buddy.  A few years ago I started watching Cesar Milan and realized there was much more to owning a dog than just feeding and petting them.

Over the past 31 years we have had several dogs.  I learned early on that living by a highway led to higher death loss for pets.  My first dog on the farm was found by me shortly after getting hit on the highway.  She had been missing for a few days. On my way to work at a vet clinic after four days of searching for her I saw something lying on the side of the road.  It was raining and the shoulder was muddy but something told me to pull over.  Sure enough it was my dog.  She was still alive so I picked her up, put her in my car and sped to town.  I called the vets as soon as I arrived and told them there was an emergency and to get to the clinic asap.  As I waited for the vet I just stroked the hair of my dog and cried because I knew her struggle to breathe was not a good sign.  When the vet arrived he confirmed it didn’t look good and within a few minutes she was gone.  That was the first of a few dogs that would meet their demise from the highway.  Although it was hard for me to lose a dog, it was much harder to watch the kids lose a pet.

After a few years without a dog our youngest child, Kim, started asking for one.  I said the only way we could have a dog was if it could live in the house to which Kim heartily agreed.  Now we had to work on Steve.  The four older children had lived by the “no dogs in the house” rule.  Would Steve cave for the youngest child?  Kim and I started doing our research to find the best house dog.

Kim and Zoe taking a nap.

We knew someone that had a Bichon Frise so we read more about the breed and learned that they don’t shed and they make great house pets.  That became our breed of choice so Kim went to work to win Steve over.   First, Kim put up signs all over the house of Bichon puppies.  My favorite picture was on our bathroom mirror where she put a Bichon with dots leading to a dream cloud of our family.  It took about a month and Steve gave us the go ahead to start looking for a Bichon puppy.

When we brought Zoe home she was to be Kim’s dog.  It didn’t take long to realize that this little pup was going to spend more time with me than anyone else.  I took her to the feedlot office with me during the day, which allowed her to go on walks and trips to town in the pickup.  Zoe quickly claimed a chair by a big window that allows her to see everyone who comes and goes at the feedlot.  If anyone sits in “her” chair she will sit and stare at them  as if that might make them want to move!

Zoe and I walking along Pen 6.
Many people ask me how we keep her so white on a farm.  Zoe has had her share of  baths because she is a wanna-be cattle dog.   She knows that the cattle won’t bother her as long as there is a wire fence between them.  When I walk pens in the morning she likes to walk along the bunk line and keep track of me.   
One of Zoe's favorite things to do is to pop her head up
to see where I am in the pen of cattle.

I am still working on my pack leader skills.  I don’t know why but I seem to have the most difficulty in mastering that skill.  Everyone else seems to be able to ignore her little pleas for food from the table or her nuzzles for little puffs of popcorn.  I do know that I enjoy her as a companion animal.  She is not my child nor is she an animal I am raising to eat.  My emotions might lead me to treat her like a child but my head reminds me that God gave us pets to get a glimpse of the unconditional love He has for us.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cow Pie Recipe

Many blogs have recipes on them.  I would like to share with you the recipe for cow pie.

A cow pie is a combination of ingredients according to available feedstuffs and the needs of the recipient.  I will share with you two of our recipes. 

The first recipe is designed for growing bodies.  The ingredients are measured in pounds according to a percentage.  The recipe is called a ration when feeding livestock.  Our growing ration utilizes an ethanol by-product, wet distillers grain, called Synergy.  The ration also includes corn silage, a supplement and ground alfalfa hay.  The percentages of each ingredient can be seen in this picture.

The second recipe will be for the finishing steer.  This steer has had time to grow his frame so that now he can put on more muscle.  This phase often lasts around 180 days in a feedlot.  In this recipe we include the wet distillers grain.  The ground hay in this ration is usually made from crop residue like soybean straw and corn stalks instead of alfalfa.  Hay is a term that often refers to the roughage used.    Corn and a supplement to balance needed vitamins/minerals are the other two ingredients.  Here is the percentage picture of a finishing ration.

Once the ration has been formulated it is loaded into a feed truck with a mixer that blends it all together just like our kitchen mixers do with cookie dough. 

The ration is distributed to the pen using a scale on the feed truck  for precise and timely distribution.  The feed is digested throughout an amazing system God put into the beef animal allowing the making of a cow pie.

Here we have a cow pie!
Side view!
Now, what to do with the cow pie?  We use them for fertilizer on our crops.  I learned as a child the value of cow manure.  When I was growing up we had a neighbor that would get a few pickup loads of manure on his garden every fall.  His garden in the summer always looked like it should be on a magazine cover. 

The pioneers used cow pies for fuel. Trees were scarce so they used dry grass and manure to make heat for baking and keeping warm.    We are expecting a winter storm today so perhaps I should save a few of these just in case the lights go out and Steve still wants supper tonight!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Five Golden Rings

The Ruskamp children in 1995
Kim, Jeff, Emily, Scott and Ginger

My five golden rings will all be home this weekend.   You might be wondering if I am referring to gold bands arriving in little UPS boxes.  No, I am not referring to the five golden rings from   “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  My five golden rings are our five children:  Ginger, Scott, Emily, Jeff and Kim.

This weekend all five children will be home because our son, Jeff, is home for a week from Lima, Peru.  This is like Christmas in February for me.  Of course I can’t forget to mention we have a diamond on one of those gold rings with a little ruby to boot! 

Ginger and I in the spring of 1984.
Our oldest daughter, Ginger, is married to Casey and they have a little girl, Ella that just turned one.  Ginger was quite the responsible oldest child.  When Steve and I first learned we were expecting a baby we were excited and nervous.  Would I be a good mom?  How will I know what she needs when she cries?  That first pregnancy had some complications for me but in the end we had ourselves a beautiful baby girl with big blue eyes ready to take on the world right from the start.  Ginger didn’t nap much as a baby and her energetic spirit was useful later on when caring for her siblings while I would do farm chores.  Ginger loved to play school and that talent is used every day as she is a high school English teacher.

Ginger, Casey and Ella

Ginger holding Scott a few
days after he came home.
Scott also loves to read.  Here he is sitting in the stereo
unit reading.  Notice the long phone cord and record
player with dual cassette deck!
      Scott was born on a very cold December evening.  The doctor had a diesel engine that gelled up for him on the way to the hospital delaying delivery a little while.   I remember well the nighttime feedings with just the Christmas tree lights on.   Scott showed a preference for boy toys very early as he would line up toy cars in rows around the coffee table, make tractor noises and building all sorts of machinery from Lego’s and Tinker Toys.  It amazed me how he could just look at something Steve had for equipment and make a replica from memory.  Scott, too, spent many hours caring for siblings and time working in the feedlot when he was older.   Working with cattle and farming was not what Scott found fulfilling and he chose to become a computer engineer.  Scott also chose to live in sunny Santa Barbara, CA where he doesn’t have to worry about scooping snow!

Ginger, Scott and Emily in 1987.
Emily holding her
little doll!
Emily is the middle child that for awhile liked to be so silly that I made up a song about Emily the little clown.  Emily had a very soft heart from the start that didn’t appreciate getting picked on by her older brother.  Steve would tell me that he was the same way with his sisters so I shouldn’t worry about it.  While Emily has a soft heart she also has deep passion to stand up for what she believes in.  Emily was the first of the family to spend significant time away from home when she moved to Chimbote, Peru for two years as a missionary.  Emily is currently living at home until she leaves in the fall for grad school.  We are enjoying her company and local schools are utilizing her as a substitute teacher especially with her knowledge of Spanish.

Emily snuggles with Jeff.
When Jeff was born he just seemed to have a slight grin on his face the moment he came home.   Jeff was always an easygoing, happy-go-lucky child.  He is the one that never complained.  “Ball” was his first word and he still enjoys many sport s including baseball and basketball.   When Jeff went to college he started getting more involved with FOCUS and we saw a side of Jeff we didn’t know before.  He could walk up to anyone and have a serious discussion about faith.   Jeff is currently discerning a religious vocation.  After graduating from college Jeff packed up for Lima, Peru where the formation occurs for the Sodalit community he is considering. 

Kim is the only one not sleeping as
everyone else appears wiped out.
Jeff feeds Kim some toast on the
front porch of our old house with
a cat trying to get a bite too.
Then we have Kim.  My little Chimmers.  Yes, the baby of the family is certainly treated differently and I will be the first to admit it.  Kim was born four years after Jeff and I honestly wasn’t sure I would be able to get back into the groove of changing diapers.   It didn’t take long to fall in love with this little girl!   Kim was the one that drew me pictures every day of horses, of me, or of us together.  They started out as stick figures and gradually gained more detail as Kim gained more skills.  Kim didn’t get all of the family suppers that her older siblings had.  Kim was hauled to many high school activities and spent many hours on bleachers doing her homework.  We do have plenty of family video with Kim as a child compared to the other kids. I don’t know if it was because I tried harder to get plenty of tape or if the quality of recorders was just much easier to use.  I do know that she had the most hugs and rocker time because she had six people to do that instead of one or two.   Kim also cares deeply for others and when a friend hurts, she hurts.  Her journey to college last fall was tough on this mom but we have the advantage of technology to keep us close.

My five golden rings have blessed me in countless ways. I would have never guessed how many changes a mom goes through from taking care of babies to letting them go out into the world.   I loved reading them books in the rocking chair, teaching them math while driving the pickup when we watered trees, cheering them on in their activities,  crying for them when they experienced trials and smiling when things went well for them .  The privilege of being a mom is priceless-certainly more than any gold ring.