Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Proof I've had a productive time to update blog!

So yep, it's been a good & productive summer overall. Except, of course, for the whole awful "heat" issue that seems to accompany every summer, turning what would otherwise be an enjoyable time of year into sweaty, sticky misery. I'm learning to take the good with the bad....despite feeling like a suffocating Butterball turkey from June-August, summer is admittedly the best time of year to be productive. (That's one a-them there "lessons from the farm" I'd have to say...."making hay while the sun shines"...and that sort of thing).

There have been a lot of "firsts" this year. First time raising poultry (chickens and quail). First garden & flowerbed. First time home-canning veggies. First set of hunting dogs (Pointers) started & sold on my own. First of "my" started pups sold at the kennel. First "real" hunting dog purchased for myself with the proceeds from the sale of the Pointers and the started pup. With the progress I've made this year, next year promises to bring even more "firsts" plus I'll be able to build on the work I've done & things I've learned this year.

Here's a rundown of the summer's highlights:
Chickens: Easier than I thought it would be; and more fun than I'd hoped it would be! Three roosters, 20+ hens, and four female ducks have made it to maturity. 3 accidental deaths, one mysterious disappearing duck....but otherwise, all the other birds are thriving. The roosters are quite vocal and good at announcing the presence of anything "unusual"....and the pen is far enough away from the house that I can truly enjoy the crowing as a pleasant "ambient farm noise" addition.

The hens & ducks began laying eggs in early August, just in time for my mom's first wonderful visit to our humble home! She enjoyed collecting eggs and I enjoyed sharing the experience with her. Our refrigerator is now OVERFLOWING with eggs even with Fred eating plenty and us keeping our favorite dog-training neighbors in constant supply. Our so-called "Easter Egger" chickens are defective, laying brown eggs instead of blue ones. I knew blue eggs weren't a guarantee since EE's are "mutt" chickens, but I'd hoped for at least one or two hens with the blue egg gene. Oh well, all the eggs taste the same anyhow.

Quail: First hard lesson learned- QUAIL AREN'T CHICKENS. They're wild (Bobwhite) flighted birds that'll escape all but the most secure enclosure. Don't be lazy, don't skimp, don't assume an enclosure is "good enough" without going over it with a fine-toothed comb. QUAIL-PROOF YOUR QUAIL HOUSE, THEN PROOF IT AGAIN. I lost 15 quail (at $5.50 a bird!) because I was lazy and failed to Think Things Through Thoroughly.

Once I got past that bump-in-the-road, however, I've had no major problems. I even managed to raise a batch of hatchlings to maturity with a 60% survival rate (60 out of 100); which is about average according to some breeders I've talked to. Even accounting for feed costs, raising the hatchlings ended up being cheaper overall than buying mature birds from breeders. The hatchling success & cost savings has even sparked an interest from the trainer I work for; it sounds like we'll have a joint-effort at raising a huge batch of hatchlings next year?

Gardening: An excellent exercise in patience...something I've truly appreciated since patience has never been one of my strong points. Lots of initial hard work; interim maintenance (weeding & fertilizing) not so difficult, overall a satisfying reward in the end!

Lettuce was a waste of time- it bolted & went to seed in the heat before I even got a 2nd bowl to eat. My watermelons grew nicely but have all been attacked by a mysterious garden pest- golf-ball sized holes gnawed in one side and the melon eaten hollow, always before they're ripe! Has to be some kind of critter with "teeth"...there are definite teeth marks....Rabbit? Squirrel? Who knows, but I think a fence is in order next year. My tomatoes were ALMOST a failure, but have finally produced some scraggly-looking fruits that are finally ripening, not even a month before the first usual frost date. Next year I'll spring for the more expensive, "older" plants like my neighbor did....they'll have gotten 3-4 pickings off of their plants by the end of the season!

Peppers, zucchini and cucumber were a big success- but then, they're easy to grow in this region. I especially liked the organic "lemon cucumbers" I tried. They're weird looking but DELICIOUS. Definitely a repeat for next year. My purple cabbage has put forth a good effort, but it's nearing the end of the season and the heads aren't even close to the size you'd buy in the grocery store. Not sure if I'll bother with it again; we'll see. Corn and pumpkin seeds were planted, but never took hold- the resident "13 Lined Ground Squirrels" ate all the seeds. Again, a fence & some good "critter repellent" are in order next year to keep them at bay. Same critter ate most of my sunflower seeds; fortunately ONE giant sunflower made it through and is currently towering a good 7 feet over my propane tank with a full head of seeds. Most will be eaten; about 1/4 will be dried for planting next spring.

As far as my "FLOWER GARDEN"....well, there was a bit of a learning curve for this Florida girl to TRULY understand the difference between an "annual" and a "perennial". In Florida, virtually EVERYTHING is a "perennial" (with a few exceptions, mostly plants that need coddling if it freezes, or whatever). The concept of "re-planting" something every year was foreign to me. And when I moved to SD, the fact that people here ACTUALLY BOTHER TO PLANT ANNUALS AND RE-PLANT THEM YEARLY was so mind-boggling, that it took a month or two to REALLY sink in! I hit this year's first nursery sale with the assumption that most flowers sold in this area would be "region appropriate" perennials since I couldn't IMAGINE anyone wanting to re-plant a whole flowerbed every year. I eagerly snapped up a bunch of shade-friendly Impatiens- a popular landscape plant in Florida....and it wasn't until I'd spent HOURS digging a bunch of tiny holes for tiny plants that I realized THEY WOULD ALL DIE in about 8 months. Frustrating- and insane that people ACTUALLY do re-plant yearly up here! Later in the summer I planted a couple of Hostas, one of the few shade-friendly perennials for this area- I think that'll be my focus next year, lining the front of the house with more Hostas.

Perennials are DEFINITELY the way to go- I don't mind re-planting a veggie garden, obviously, but flowers are basically useless & they ought to be able to handle themselves, dammit!

Dog training: In late Spring I got two young Pointers from a breeder in Texas with the intent to start them on birds & re-sell them before hunting season. Knew the genetic potential was there, but for various reasons I won't go into here, they just hadn't had the TIME put into them that they needed- and in all reality, at around 1 year of age they were past the "prime" puppyhood stage to introduce birds & field work. Got a heck of a cheap deal on the dogs for this reason, figured "worst case scenario" if they didn't work out I'd find them a pet home & chalk it up to "learning experience". But fortunately the outcome was as good as I could have hoped for!

Took about 3-4 months to get them from overwhelmed, timid dogs who didn't point.....into eager-hunting started dogs with steady points, acclimated to gunfire & started on retrieve. Didn't take long to find a local buyer who was looking for started dogs & was more than satisfied with their apparent ability. Made a good profit on the whole endeavor even accounting for feed costs & vetting. Officially the first two dogs I've trained & sold that were 100% "MY OWN"....though obviously I'd never have been able to do ANY of it if not for the help of my mentor. Easily the highlight of the year as far as my progress as a trainer is concerned.

Furthermore, at the kennel, this year has presented me with a wide variety of valuable learning experiences with a wide variety of dogs- different breeds, different ages, different problems, etc. The client dogs that have come in for training this year have run the gamut from an overdriven, undersocialized, hard-headed Drahthaar to a mellow, soft-tempered Doodle-mix adolescent pup, and everything in between. The resident pups we started last year are all now around 12-16 months of age; all of them with their own individual quirks, strengths and weaknesses. If nothing else these pups have taught me to be very patient, and judge each dog on its individual merits, rather than making comparisons. Some pups "turn on" early, others mature late and end up outshining the early-maturing pup you thought surely would be the best of the bunch. And even with adult dogs, I'm finding it's important NOT to make "snap" judgements based on a first impression- but rather to give the dog TIME to show what he's capable of. Many dogs will suprise you if you give them a chance.

I'm normally at the kennel 7 days a week, give or take an occasional day with other plans or bad weather. And while there is another trainer employed who is primarily responsible for working with the client dogs, I've been given plenty of hands-on time with them to "supplement" the work being done. Nobody's sending me out unsupervised with guns and E-collars yet, but the fact that I've been allowed to do basic obedience & field work with client dogs shows that they trust me not to screw up the simple stuff, at the very least LOL.

Speaking of dogs, there is a NEW RESIDENT here at the Cattledog Manifesto Headquarters. "Ellie" is a 14 month old started Brittany. Excellent bloodlines, works extremely well in the field, has been hunted with before. The opportunity to buy her was too good to pass up. Ellie hasn't even been here a full month, but she is fitting in well, even with Chloe, Ms. I-Want-To-Beat-Up-Everything-On-Four-Legs. I think Ellie deserves her own blog post though, when I have time (and when I've gotten some better photos of her!) More details to come, stay tuned (and be patient, the busy season hasn't even hit yet!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Story of a Four-Legged Bath Towel...The Basenji's War on Wetness.

It's a rainy, dreary day, and I've had plenty of time to sit & observe a phenomenon that has been a daily occurrence in our house ever since the day I brought puppy Jibini home, some 9 years ago.

Since the beginning, Jibini has assigned himself a very important role in our house- that of the Four Legged Bath Towel.

Like many Basenjis, he dislikes baths or swimming, hates going out in the rain, and has an obsession with making wet things dry again.

When one of us takes a shower, Jibini responds like the proverbial Pavlov's dog whenever he hears the shower turn off and the "sccchhheeenk!" of the shower curtain being pulled back. No matter where he is in the house, or what he's doing at the time, he will drop everything and RUN to the bathroom. There, he will stand politely, head slightly bowed as if to maintain dignity, until the human wraps him/herself in a towel & steps out of the tub. Then he will solemnly and dutifully proceed to lick our legs dry, from the knees down, until we finally bend down with the towel and finish the job ourselves.

Tana isn't quite as dutiful about it- I think she learned the behavior from Jibini; she will occasionally follow him to the bathroom and "help"....but she is far more likely to choose to remain in her comfortable sleeping spot instead of rushing to the bathroom for towel duty. I can't help but wonder if Jibini approves of her shirking her patriotic duty as a Basenji.

Jibini's "duty to absorb wetness" extends to the other dogs, as well. As much as he tries to treat Tana like a bratty kid sister...if she is unfortunate enough to be dragged outside on a leash in the rain to potty, he will hover over her protectively and lick her coat dry while shooting frosty glares in my direction. Same with Chloe, despite the fact that they have had a rocky relationship from the beginning, he does the same for her.

Not long ago, Chloe got a bath after being struck a "glancing blow" by a skunk. Jibini hovered protectively around the tub, clearly upset by the injustice being dealt to Chloe.

Oh, the humanity.

As soon as I took her out of the tub, toweled her off & let her loose in the house, Jibini and Tana both trotted after her, where they proceeded to give her a full detail with fluff-dry.

"You are damp; this is unacceptable, allow me to remedy this for you."

Today is no different- I just got home from the store & took everybody out to potty, in the rain, much to the dismay of the Basenjis. Once Jibini was satisfied that everybody was warm and dry to his standards, he curled up on the other couch where he has been giving me cold stares for about an hour. No amount of coaxing will bring him to the couch next to me- which is where he almost always curls when I'm home. No, he's upset with me...refusing to speak to me, but I'd be willing to bet if I hopped in the shower, all would be forgiven as soon as I stepped out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Raising Chickens- What I've Learned So Far.

First lesson I learned? Baby chickens STINK.

I learned this the hard way, by starting off with them in a brooding box, inside my house....and I place full blame upon the Internet. (suprise, suprise)

Apparently, America is full of people who are successfully raising baby chickens inside their own homes. Google anything related to "raising baby chickens" and you'll find a lot of detailed & descriptive setups for brooding boxes. The vast majority of the brooder setups I found, folks were keeping them in their homes- in guest rooms, offices, and in one case I found...a DINING ROOM. I can reach no other conclusion but to think these people were also born without the sense of smell.

Brooding baby chicks in my guest room worked for ONE NIGHT. ONE. I woke up after that first night, to find the entire house reeking of baby chicken.

It also didn't help that I'd decided to be nice & give my recently-skunked dog, Chloe, a chance to re-gain bed priveleges. She'd had the peroxide/baking soda bath....the odor was almost gone, except on her head. Of course, when I woke up in the morning, the first thing I smelled was baby chicken. So I rolled over, only to find Chloe's head on the pillow next to me. Not thinking, I buried my head under the covers with Chloe, and got a nose full of skunky dog head.

By that point, I was awake, nauseated, and bound & determined to get those baby chickens OUT OF MY HOUSE, come hell or high water. I checked the Internet to make sure it was alright to brood baby chicks in a garage....not sure why I was willing to trust the Internet after it had already failed to warn me about the fragrance of baby poultry, but I did. It was oddly difficult to find much information on the subject since it seemed like everybody was just hunky-dory turning their homes into chicken coops, but I finally found enough to convince me that it WAS alright, by reading several threads on the forums (excellent source for info, by the way!)

Fortunately, the property I rent has an old commercial pheasant breeding facility behind it, complete with 2 brooding houses. I'd already obtained the landlord's permission to use a brooding house for my chickens, but I hadn't gotten around to getting a place cleaned and set up for them. I'd hoped to brood them in a warm box for a while and then move them to the house once they started getting pinfeathers but weren't ready to be totally off the lamp yet. But, there is ALSO a garage beside my house that used to be the hatchery. I had to go to town & buy a chain to hang the heat lamp from the ceiling, but it took all of 45 minutes to set up that brooder in the old hatchery.

So, for about a month, my chickens resided in the old hatchery and did just fine. When they got older, and I decided to buy some ducks to go with them, I had to buy a bigger tank, and just put the big chicks in the big tank, and put the ducks in the 40 gallon. THEN I learned ducks grow a LOT faster than chicks!! The ducks quickly outgrew the 40 gallon tank (and they are 10 times messier than chicks; I think they shit as frequently as they breathe- yet I have also found people who raise DUCKLINGS in their houses!) so about 4 days ago I moved EVERYBODY over to the brooding house. Set up a heat lamp in one corner, 2 waterers, 3 feeders, and a pallet so those who wish to perch, may do so. They've stunk up the brooding house but that's what it's for!

A rundown of my flock: 15 "assorted pullets" from Tractor Supply (mostly red sex links, with 3 white Leghorns I believe). 8 straight run "Easter Eggers" from Bomgaar's (The ones that lay greenish/blue eggs....I bought 10, two died). 4 straight run Black Australorps from Tractor Supply, though one looks like an EE in disguise. One bantam Cochin (I think that's what he is...his feather feet made him an impulse purchase) and one Mystery Chick, yellow with gray dappled wings, that I bought so my bantam wouldn't be lonely on the ride home. Plus the ducks- 4 Rouens (or Mallards, time will tell- but as big as they're growing I'm betting Rouen) and two Cayugas.

That makes 29 chickens and 6 ducks. If all goes well, I'll have plenty of eggs and at least a couple of chicken dinners later this year :).

Next year....I am very seriously contemplating geese & turkeys. Though I am not sure I can eat a turkey, after seeing vivid photographs of turkey wattles. They look like diseased, warty, old man testicles. I just don't think I can eat an animal with an inflamed scrotum hanging off its face:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chickens, ducks, tiny sprouted tomato plants, and other things that elicit high-pitched squeaky noises from me.

I've been remiss in updating this blog, horribly so.

Not much has gone on, really, up until now. This winter was a bucket full of "fail" what with the worst blizzard & highest total snowfall level since the 1960's. I was snowed in 3 times (would have been 4, but I escaped the last major storm when I visited family in Florida at the end of Feb). I got pretty down in the dumps around the end of January, too.

I've only lived here for 3 winters, but experiencing this kind of winter so soon after moving here is like someone moving to New Orleans the year before hurricane Katrina struck. Most middle-aged people haven't ever seen a bad storm, then all of a sudden....WHAM!! Maybe that's a bad comparison- seeing as how in our snow hell, nobody died, houses are still standing, and we didn't even have to loot local stores while wallowing around in fetid water....BUT you get the point. I may have entered SD in the middle of some 30-year cycle which will dump record setting snows on us for a few years. Then it'll taper off, and in 30 years I'll be one of those old, wrinkly people telling stories of 15-foot snowdrifts (no joke!) that we had back in the good old days, before South Dakotans were sissified by mild winters.

Here's Chloe atop one of the smaller drifts that piled up in the front yard by the shelterbelt. This drift was about a foot taller than me (I'm about 5'5)

Here's the back door; the entire backyard was covered in about 2-3 feet of snow from Christmas until mid-March, except for a little corridor that ran alongside the garage, which is generally where the dogs pottied since they didn't like sinking up to their genitals in the snow. I had a lot of poop scooping to do when it all finally melted.

So....ANYWAY....the topic of the day is my very first attempt at raising CHICKENS!!! And ducks, and later this spring, quail. There is a huge 2 acre pen behind my house, complete with brooding houses & growout pens, that used to be a pheasant breeding facility. There's sufficient room to raise poultry at a commercial I've got more than I need for my hobby chickens, ducks & quail (next year may bring geese & turkeys!)

Brooding house. The whole thing isn't that much smaller than my OWN house, lol...

Right now I have a total of 23 chicks and 6 ducklings....I lost 2 chicks the other day. 15 are random pullets from Tractor Supply; all I was told is they are "assorted sex-links". I have mostly red ones, and 3 or 4 white ones. Sex link chickens are dual-purpose hybrids; gender can be determined at birth based on the color of the chick. The remaining 8 chickens are "Easter Eggers"....the ones that lay blue-greenish eggs! The store only had "straight run" EE's, which means I likely have some roosters; time will tell. As soon as the feed store gets the next shipment, I plan to buy 2 more EE's to replace the ones that died, and since they had Australorps and Orpingtons last time, I may buy a couple of each and bring the grand total to 30.

My ducks are harder to guess....I am thinking (hoping) 4 of them are Mallards or Rouens (a heavy domestic breed with Mallard colors). Two of them are adorable all-black ducks, even with black feet & bills, and I've been told they may be Cayugas, which grow up to have a lovely iridescent blackish-green plumage in the sunlight.

They will all be free-range, with nightly quarters in the secure grow out pen by the brooding house; if most of them survive I should have plenty of chicken & duck eggs to eat & share with neighbors. Plus extra roosters to, well....provide a nice dinner :) Pics!

I must say, even in the short time I've had these guys, I've learned more about chickens than I ever thought there was to know. More updates as time goes on!

Quail come in June; I'm ordering about 60 day-old chicks; those that make it will aid in dog training and provide us with a little more "egg variety"...I am eager to find out what quail eggs taste like. Maybe if I'm lucky I can incubate/hatch some too. The dogs I'll be training will be here next week sometime (two young Pointers). Also next week, we're tilling up a garden patch- I've already got some tomato plants sprouted which makes me feel quite accomplished, as I've never managed to grow much of anything except strawberries, in a pot, which miraculously haven't died yet. We'll see if I can grow anything in the garden or not!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Geezer Basenji drives us down memory lane (don't worry, he is a professional CDL driver)...

Last weekend I mentioned to my mom that Jibini would be turning 9 this year. Having known him since he was a puppy, she couldn't believe he was already 9. There are times when it seems like only yesterday I had a wriggling, 9 pound mischevous ball of curly-tailed terror wreaking havoc on my home. And there are days when I look back on the past 9 years- how far Jibini and I have come, and how many transitions we have been through together, and it seems like an eternity. Yes, we're taking a sappy, long-winded trip down Memory Lane, you have been warned.

I look at Jibini's face today, beginning to show a bit of grey in the muzzle, and it's hard to believe I was 19 when I first brought him home. My age was a fact I tended to downplay when among "dog people"- it seemed few people would take me seriously at 19, believing all college-age kids were flighty morons who'd dump a dog after the novelty wore off. I knew myself better than that, and thankfully I was able to find someone willing to trust me with a puppy. It was love at first sight the day I met him. And after reading all the Basenji horror stories, it came as a suprise when my apartment didn't spontaneously combust when Jibini crossed the threshold. In fact, overall he was a "mild" puppy, compared to some of the stories I've heard. Beginner's luck?

While I was smitten with Jibini from the start, it seems the rest of my family & friends took some time to discover Jibini's good points. If I recall, my mom was a bit baffled by the Basenji's odd manner- having been used to a butt-wagging, slobbery, fawning Boxer for the previous decade or so. Whereas Jibini was aloof but affectionate in his own way....and as a puppy, he was kind of a jackass. I don't think my mom really fell in love with Jibini until he began to mature- but I do remember coming home from the road with him one day and my mom was just raving about how "sweet and cuddly" Jibini had become. Of course, I had him 24/7 and I knew he had always been sweet and cuddly- it just took some maturity before Jibini could be sweet and cuddly for a larger percentage of the day.

Jibini was about 2 years old when I first started driving a truck. For about 2 years, it was just me and him. Together, we managed to travel through all of the lower 48 states, leading to Jibini's claim to fame- the Basenji with the most "territory" claimed for his own. Yes, he's peed in all the lower 48 states (and I believe he's pooped in 47; somehow we missed Vermont). Life on the road can be lonely, but Jibini kept me entertained. He adapted to the truckin' lifestyle quickly, and came to love meeting new people & exploring new places every single day.

My career in trucking was not always a basket of roses, and Jibini was there with me when I hit some hard times. When the day was long, miserable and I was questioning the point of it all, I had a warm furry body to cuddle with under the covers and somehow I felt that things would be all right, somehow.

Jibini helped me realize what a "catch" Fred was when we started seeing each other. I'd long since realized how invaluable Jibini was as a "date gauge". He would absolutely let me know if a guy I was dating was not worth my time...he told me who the jerks were. He left little doubt in some cases; doing things like getting up on the back of the couch, straddling the guy's head so that Jibini's nutsack rested prominently on the guy's forehead (this was before we had him neutered) or repeatedly jumping into the guy's lap and aiming his paws for a tender spot in the anatomy. Without fail, any guy who did not pass the Jibini test would show his true colors very shortly. Fred was the first guy who passed the Jibini test with flying colors- in fact, after Fred spent some time with us, I began to wonder if Jibini was a traitor, he became so attached to Fred. And sure enough- the one guy who met with Jibini's wholehearted approval is the one guy who ended up being the right one :).

Two years ago we adopted Tana, and part of me felt guilty for taking away Jibini's spoiled-rotten "king of the castle" status. I figured since Jibini was raised with another dog (Sweetie the Boxer) that he might enjoy having another Basenji around. He didn't warm up to Tana as quickly as I'd hoped, but gradually he developed a grudging acceptance of her, treating her as if she was a pesky "little sister". When nobody's watching, he will allow her to snuggle with him, and will lick her dry whenever she goes out in the rain.

And then came Chloe....her added presence in the "pack order" took several weeks to iron itself out. If Jibini was grudgingly accepting of Tana, he wanted nothing to do with Chloe for the first month. Today, he will occasionally clean her ears or lick her dry when she is wet...hey, it's progress. He has adapted to the idea that he isn't the "only dog"....but I still make sure to spend "one on one" time with him to remind him that he is still Number One, my main man. He and I have been together for half a million miles, and our time together is something I will always cherish. 9 years ago I never would have imagined- in a MILLION years- that I'd be living in South Dakota of all places, apprenticing to be a dog trainer, living out in farm country and shopping for a shotgun. Somehow, Jibini has seen me from 19 year old suburban college kid with no clue as to who I was- to the person I am today- and I will never forget that :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Rancher who won Powerball buys more land to ranch- now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!!

This guy is awesome. I remember hearing about this a few months back- a SD resident hit the Powerball, after buying his ticket in....wait for it....Winner, SD.

Turns out he's a 23 year old rancher. And what does a 23 year old rancher do with the $88.5 million dollar lump-sum he just won?

He buys a bigger ranch, right here in SD. This guy just oozes awesome. How cool is that- to be 23 years old, and knowing that you're already doing what you want to do in life. So much so, that winning a fortune doesn't alter your path- it just broadens it significantly. Most people would dream of totally changing their lifestyle, quitting their job, buying a bunch of meaningless stuff, etc. Yet this guy is coming pretty close to what I'd be doing if I won. I am thrilled to see somebody like this guy win the Powerball. If anybody deserves it, he does.

Here's the news story, from the Yankton Press & Dakotan:

S.D. Rancher Uses Lottery Winnings To Buy More Land To Ranch On

Associated Press Writer
Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 12:07 AM CDT
PIERRE — Neal Wanless, a young South Dakota rancher who won a $232.1 million Powerball prize four months ago, apparently is pursuing his dream of riding his horse and tending cattle on a spread a bit bigger than his 320-acre family ranch.

Wanless, who took the prize in an $88.5 million lump sum after taxes, has bought more than 23 square miles of western South Dakota for roughly $9.9 million, according to three deeds recorded in Butte County.

When Wanless claimed his lottery winnings June 5, he said he wanted to continue doing what he had been doing on the family ranch 11 miles east of Mission in impoverished Todd County in south-central South Dakota.

A written statement from the South Dakota Lottery said Wanless, who is single, had dreamed of having a little larger ranch.

While riding his horse, Eleanor, the 23-year-old rancher told the horse, “It’d be nice if we could go for a longer ride than usual on a bigger ranch of our own,” according to the June statement.

After Wanless won the Powerball prize from the May 27 drawing, he declined to answer questions but said he would talk later. His lawyer, Bill Van Camp of Pierre, said Wanless has not responded to several interview requests from the media.

Two days before Wanless claimed his lottery winnings, Van Camp filed articles of organization with the secretary of state’s office to set up NW Ranches LLC for Wanless.

Deeds recorded in Butte County on July 15, July 30 and Sept. 1 show that NW Ranches bought nearly 15,000 acres, or about 23.4 square miles.

Nearly all the land is in southeastern Butte County east of Vale, with a small portion across the line in Meade County, according to Butte County Register of Deeds Paula Walker.

Transfer fees totaled $9,872 in Butte County. At a fee of 50 cents for each $500 in sale price, that indicates the land was purchased for nearly $9.9 million, Walker said.

Deeds are recorded as a public notice that a sale has taken place and as a safeguard in case something happens to the original deed.

Heather Collins, deputy equalization director in Butte County, said the Wanless purchases include soil types that indicate a mix of grassland and cropland. The price paid falls in a fairly typical range for the county, she said.

“It’s not out of the ordinary,” Collins said.

Greg Smeenk, a Rapid City real estate broker who handles ranch sales, said he was not involved in the Wanless sales but that word of the sales has spread among people in the real estate business. Smeenk said he is pleased Wanless apparently will continue ranching.

“More power to him,” Smeenk said. “I’m glad to see somebody like that win it. He’s doing what he wants to do. It’s a good thing.”

Wanless’ family previously bought and sold scrap metal to make it through tough economic times in Todd County, an area of rolling green pastures, grazing cattle, fields of crops — and some of the deepest poverty in the nation.

The jackpot was one of the biggest undivided jackpots in U.S. lottery history. Wanless bought $15 worth of tickets to the 30-state drawing at a convenience store in Winner during a trip to buy livestock feed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Okay, I totally "get" the zucchini jokes, now

Q: Why do people in small, peaceful towns still lock their car doors?
A: So nobody sneaks a zucchini into the car.

Okay, I get it. For anybody who plants it in their garden, the stuff is typically quite bountiful. Even a couple of plants will produce more zucchini than a normal family can consume. So it's given away to friends and neighbors- some who are appreciative (me) and some who have their own gardens and their own zucchini overload problems.

Even one big zucchini can go a long, long way. I was given one that was nearly as long as my arm & about as big around as a 2 liter soda bottle. We ended up making 6 loaves of zucchini bread with it- and we still had a piece of zucchini left.

I'm not a big vegetable eater, and much to the suprise of several people, I'd never eaten zucchini bread before. I was hesitant to make any- I only baked it because of Fred's assurance that he liked it, and he would "eat the hell out of it" if I made some. I wasn't sure if I'd eat any. I couldn't get my mind around the fact that it was bread made with a green vegetable. Then somebody likened it to carrot cake, and that made it a little easier to accept. I grabbed a few recipies off the Internet- including one for *chocolate chip* zucchini bread...and set to baking.

And whaddya know, I've broadened my horizons! It's not a big deal to most people, but for anybody who knows ME, it's a big deal! The very fact that I eagerly wolf down this bread with little greenish veggie ribbons streaked throughout it, is a step in the right direction. There are about 7 vegetables I'll actually I said, I am not a big veggie eater. But I wish I was- it'd make eating healthy SO much easier. So, I'm trying. Chocolate chip zucchini bread may not sound like I'm trying TOO hard, but it's something.

Now the idea of eating zucchini itself, sauteed with a little salt & olive oil, isn't quite as stomach-clenching as before. I can actually fathom the thought of eating helps, of course, that it doesn't have a heavy vegetable flavor, like its evil and disgusting cousin, broccoli. Here's to broadening my horizons, one vegetable-disguised-as-dessert at a time....

(paging dr. freud?)