HoneyBear Ranch

  (Broken Bow, Oklahoma)
Retiring to the good life
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An Unlikely Pair

I've always been told that cows and horses can't be friends.  I'm here to tell you that just isn't true!

We were given a Paint filly at the tender age of 4 months. We named her Maggie Mae. Her mother died during the horrible heat and drought of last summer.  When we brought her to HoneyBear Ranch, she was scared, confused and not very happy with humans.  We kept her isolated for a time in a corral up near our old barn.  She could see and hear other animals, but she was alone.  Her plantive calling for her mother and pasture mates tore at our hearts.  After a couple of days she settled down.  She stopped pacing and began eating the feed and hay we gave her.  She seemed to be adjusting - until I looked into her eyes.  The grief was obvious.  There was no life in them.  We tried putting a Barbado Sheep in with her, but they didn't like each other at all.

Eventually we let her into a small pasture and then into a several acre pasture.  But she was still by herself.  I'd go out in the pasture with her a couple times a day and she'd reward me by running up to me, kicking up her hooves and inviting me to play.  When I wasn't able to do what she did, she'd walk away,  Her body language told me how much I'd disappointed her.

One morning we couldn't find her.  We didn't think she could get out of the pasture, but she wasn't anywhere to be found.  After several minutes of frantic searching and calling, we found her.  She'd forced her way into the pasture with our cows.  We realized then how lonely Maggie was and that she desperately needed a friend.

The cows weren't very friendly to her and ran Maggie off the feed and hay.  Then the solution hit us.  We have a little cow - a dwarf, really - that we'd isolated because the herd wouldn't let her eat.  Why not put Sassy in with Maggie? 

At first it didn't look like it was going to work.  Maggie loved Sassy, but Sassy wasn't so sure about Maggie.  Maggie ran poor Sassy all over the pasture, trying to get her to kick up her hooves and run with her.  The best Sassy could do was a slow trot. 

Sassy tried to get away from Maggie by escaping into the main herd's pature.  She quickly learned that she wasn't going to get anything to eat. My husband Phil rescued her, Maggie met Sassy at the gate with an appoving whinny, and the two have been fast friends ever since. 

It's wonderful to see them trot across the pasture together.  When Sassy lies down to chew her cud, Maggie lies down and takes a nap beside her.  When we put hay at the end of the trailer for them to share, Maggie pushes Sassy into the trailer and they eat nose to nose.  When they get the urge to try out each others food, they look at each other and switch feed dishes.  Its as if they have some non-verbal way of communicating. 

Maggie still tries to get Sassy to kick up her hooves and race across the pasture.  Sassy has taken to running a little, but she'll never match Maggie's speed.  They both seem content and Maggie has life in her eyes again.


Learning Patience

Learning Patience

 One of the many things gardening has taught me is patience. Planting seeds, watching them sprout, transplanting them to the garden, waiting for the plants to produce their bounty - it all takes time. The harvest can’t be rushed, no matter how badly I want to taste that first ripe tomato!

We live in an instant gratification, I want it now society that has forgotten that the best in life often comes by waiting patiently. The fast food movement is a good example. I’m not talking about McDonalds or Wendy’s or Sonic. I’m talking about the movement that brought fruits and vegetables into our grocery stores in the dead of winter, shipped from thousands of miles away to satisfy our need to have the best of summer even when there’s snow on the ground. The problem is most of what gets sold as “fresh” has been in transit for days and is way past its prime by the time it gets on the grocery store shelves. Many things have to be picked green in order to survive the trip. Did you know that a whole new variety of tomato has been developed just for grocery stores? It stays green for months and only turns red when it’s gassed. That’s why those grocery store tomatoes are hard as gourds. They only look ripe. They’re really green tomatoes gassed to look red.

From the phone calls we get at The Garden Market, I can tell that there are folks out there who have forgotten that fresh, off-the-farm vegetables have a season. If you plant tomatoes, green beans, squash, melons and cucumbers before the last frost, the plants will die. If you plant eggplant and peppers before the ground warms up and the weather gets hot, they won’t produce. Sometimes even seasoned gardeners get in a hurry, lured by those early warm spring days into thinking that the danger of frost is past. Then along comes that late frost that catches them and they have to start over. I have to admit, though, it is hard to resist the tomato plants sold early at big box stores and the local feed store!

There is a “new” movement that seems to be catching hold as people become more concerned about their health and about what’s really in their food. It’s called the “Slow Food Movement.” But it really isn’t new. It’s a return to buying what’s grown locally when it’s in season. It’s a return to waiting patiently for that first fully ripe tomato that drips juice and seeds off your chin as you bite into it fresh from the garden. It’s the crisp snap of green beans just picked off the vine. It’s visiting your local farmer and seeing where and how the food is raised. It’s knowing that what you’re eating has been raised with love and care – and knowing that chemical fertilizers and herbicides haven’t touched the soil or the plants or the produce that’s offered for sale.

I am encouraged by the news that there will be a garden at the White House again. I’m encouraged that children have been invited to help plant, tend and harvest the garden and that they’ll get to prepare what they’ve grown. What wonderful life lessons they will learn while digging in the dirt along side the First Lady, the President, and their children! While they’re digging in the dirt they will be getting fresh air and exercise, not watching TV or playing video games. And hopefully, along the way, they’ll learn to wait patiently for the good things in life as they watch that first tomato turn red on the vine.

Sandy Harris

The Garden Market @ HoneyBear Ranch Broken Bow, OK



If Pigs could dance...

Those who believe pigs don't have feelings have never met Velma. 
Last Friday she began to show all the signs that it was time for her babies to be born.  She removed all the grass Phil had put in the stall for her and began pulling weeds to make her nest.  She was very neat about it.  She'd pull them with her snout, shake of the dirt and slowly waddle into the barn to carefully arrange her birthing bed.  This went on all day and was still going on at 10 pm when Phil checked on her before bed. 
The next morning Phil couldn't find her.  She wasn't in the stall and the tomatoes he'd left for her hadn't been touched.  Harley, our Lab, kept looking out into the north pasture by the barn, so Phil went in search of Velma.  He found her - and 9 squirming, nursing babies - tucked into a hollow she'd made in the weeds.  We're not sure why she decided to have them outside.  Maybe she got tired, maybe the barn was too hot, maybe the urge to deliver caught her out there. 
After the Market closed that day, storm clouds began to brew on the horizon.  Phil and I decided we'd better get Velma and her babies into the barn before the bottom dropped out of the sky.  When we went into the pasture, Phil found that she had moved her babies to a spot a little higher on the hill.  Then we discovered why.  She'd had 12 babies, but 3 had either been born dead or died shortly after birth.  This is not unusual in pigs, especially with big litters.  By now the lightening was getting close, so Phil began gathering up living babies and putting them in a bucket.  Velma was very patient and before long he had all but one in the bucket.  Off to the barn he went with Velma trotting along behind.  I thought I'd be helpful and gather up the last baby.  Big mistake.  Baby squealed, Mom reacted, and before I knew what happened, Velma was headed straight at me, letting me know that she was very angry.  I put the baby down just as she rammed me in the gut.  She didn't hurt me - she could have - but I took it as a warning and moved away.
As the storm built and got closer, we tried everything to get Velma into the barn.  I picked up one of the babies, thinking that when it squealed, she'd head for the barn.  Instead, she'd go to the place where she'd had them.  Phil got the lone baby into the bucket and safely into the barn, but Velma insisted on going back to the birthing area.  Thinking maybe she didn't want to leave the dead babies, he got a hoe and began covering them up.  Velma helped with her bulldozer snout.  When they were covered, her tail and her head drooped and she turned her face into the weeds.  We realized then that she thought all her babies were dead. 
Phil got the feed bucket and slowly got Velma to follow it toward the barn.  When they were just a little ways off, one of the babies squealed.  Phil said that if a pig can dance, Velma did!  Her tail curled up, her eyes lit up and she and 9 cute little babies had a glorious reunion!  Then the rains came.  I am pleased to report that the nine little ones are doing very well and that Velma is being a wonderful mother again.  This is her second litter. 
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