Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Forty Below Skies

A 'forty below sky' is a well known term in this country.  When skies clear like this, everyone checks their wood pile, gets the fans going and hopes the pipes are not frozen by morning.  This photo doesn't do the "forty below sky' justice really, but I think you can almost feel the cold coming in as the sun goes down.  We get the most brilliant blue skies (not a single cloud) and the evening colors are stunning in their pinks and blues.  
(And no, thankfully, we have not reached -40 yet....mostly around -25.  Which is enough, thank you.)  

Despite the cold nights (it's been warming up beautifully during the day), we are all fine and certainly settling in to the winter routine (i.e. feeding cows).  Sadly, we are still missing a few cows from the fall weaning and have been searching for them at every opportunity.  I have a bad feeling that some of the many wolves around have been fattening themselves for the winter on prime beef.  It could be that they have gone through a beaver dam somewhere (although unlikely to loose that many), and of course we may yet find them.  But it's not looking good.  

So I'll share a few more photos with you tonight before I get back to baking birthday cake.  Amazing that at this time, New Years Eve, 10 years ago, we were just beginning our frantic preparations for an emergency trip down the Bella Coola "Hill" (in a snowstorm of course) when Jackson decided to enter the world 3 weeks early.  He has certainly grown in to the sweetest and most honest hearted young man you could ever have the pleasure to be around.  And not just handsome, but handy too!  

Jackson cutting a water hole.  

 Ice skating on Nimpo Lake 

My two top helpers, checking bulls with me.  Jackson is getting awesome behind the snowmobile on his skis and Benjamin is gaining almost too much confidence on the Elan!  More and more now I hear "Let's go FASTER mom, FASTER!

Santa brought the boys good helmets with googles, which makes me feel much better.

Wishing you all the best for a healthy and happy 2016!
See ya next year.....  


Monday, 28 December 2015

Smoked Christmas

Seasons Greetings!

Of course it has been a very busy time here, both with ranch life in general and Christmas in general.  

It's been a great one though, with heaps of Aussies (old friends and new), lots of family and local friends.  Always great to have the fresh perspective to help remember what an amazing country we live in.  Christmas day was beautiful, although cooled off drastically by late evening.  

In respect for all the Australians we had enjoying the 'white Christmas', I even attempted meat pies for the first time.  Granny Lil came through with the best pastry recipe and a good old mish mash of burger, onions, garlic and various cupboards spices seemed to all come together.  Least that's what they told me.  

And the smoker has truly been though the test.  I have to say that I am really not impressed with having it all so technical (read "finicky") but my goodness, it has turned out some amazing deliciousness.

Smoked eggs, a variety of cheeses and a few ribs on the bottom.
Yes, I said smoked eggs.  
This batch was pickled for a few days, smoked (about an hour and a half) and then put back in to the brine.  Amazing....
I think I'm just going to smoke cheese in general, not as a treat.  Makes a plain old sandwich or cracker.....gourmet!  

Christmas hams!  With a maple and dijon mustard rub overnight and then smoked for 5 hours....oh so good!  And even more amazing the next day.  

Yay, Santa came!  

 Moving Horses.  

 Down the road to Four Mile.  

 Russell Fence near Four Mile.  

Waiting for their turn.  

Cheers all!  


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Time to Feed

We've been watching the cattle closely and snarling at the weatherman at every mention of snow or cold all Fall, as per normal.  Because in Anahim Lake for some reason, the predicted "-12C" almost never fails to hit "-20C" and the "skiff of snow" doesn't stop for several inches at least.  
The 'misfits' inhaling their grain.  

It just depends on your perspective....when you are an avid snowmobiler, holding your breath until you can go sledding, any hint of snow is reason for hope and joy.  When you are a rancher and horse herd owner, looking at feeding up to 20 round bales of hay PER DAY, too much early snow and cold is as dreaded as a dose of the plague.  When those big beautiful flakes start falling in November,  I get that cold 'hair standing up on the back of your neck' feeling and it doesn't go away until the sun shines again!   

Trailing  for the feed grounds of home on a cold grey day.  

But really, we've had an excellent fall and the cattle have done well.  Now, in mid-December, the snow is starting to pile up a bit, and it's time to bring the cows in, but we are comfortably within our 'hay budget'.  We are actually having a tough time finding the last stragglers as they are quite happy still 'out' and have no interest in coming home yet.

Cows 'out rustling'.  

They are quite funny actually, when they get used to rustling, and are not thinking about tractors and feeding.  Although we have the majority in, with our 'eyes in the sky" (I'll mention again how awesome having pilots for brothers is!) we have found several small groups.  Yesterday, Eli and I headed up with a tractor and bale of hay to where we knew there were three cows in an area.  Unfortunately for me, it had gotten too late to ride my horse back home when gathering another area the day before....so I was on foot.  Gawk!   

Young cattle on feed at Three Circle Ranch.  

 Anyhow, the dogs and I found fresh tracks and followed them in to where the cows were quite happily munching on the snow buried grass.  They had just discovered a newly accessible area (due to a creek freezing over), and were pretty proud darn of themselves.  And not hungry or particularly interested in coming home.   I was talking to Eli on the radio, so he had the tractor positioned to where the cattle would come out of the brush and I could hear him calling them.  The cows wandered this way and that, not trying to get away from me, just doing their cow thing.  I finally got them turned in exactly the correct position to have their line of sight direct to the waiting bale of hay.  And finally, after going back and forth, back and forth, through the brush (as usual I'm over-dressed as I am allergic to being cold, and now nearing a cardiac arrest due to overheating), one of them finally locked eyes on the bale of hay, only 30 feet away (with the tractor still running and Eli still calling).  And all of a sudden the LIGHT comes ON, and you can fully hear the pure delight as the enlightened cow says "Waz ZAT???" then........... HEY, there's HAY!!" Then they all giggle and chuckle their way down to the ranch, happily following the tractor and fully confident that a winter of "full serve" grub is before them.  And I'm here to tell you, after they get that first bite of hay, they don't forget again what, in their opinion, a tractor is for.  Until next fall that is.....

Cheers all, until next time.  

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Recipes that must be shared

So you kinda know that I've been experimenting with different cures and meat smoking.  What you need to know are a couple recipes that work!

These are from a good friend who is an amazing cook.  She also cooks 'by feel and luck', so getting a recipe out of her is not that easy.  She once told me that she didn't even own a measuring cup until her daughter had to do some cooking for a homeschooling class and had to use specific measurements......  
But these recipes WORK, and are an amazing base.  I made them pretty close to what is written here the first time and then make a few tweaks for the second go.  (Garlic makes everything better, I say!) 


Bacon Brine

1 gallon of water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
3/4 cup pickling salt (if fine grind, 1 cup if coarse)
1 tsp 'Tender Quick' (or follow package amount for whatever brand Cure you are using)

Boil water, add everything else, mix well, let cool.  Mom used this for 17 1/2 lbs of meat about 1 1/2 " thick.  Left the meat in the brine about a week, and then cold smoked.  If your cuts are thinner, don't leave it in as long.  If thicker, inject the brine into it about 1/2 way through and along the whole length.  
Cold smoke for a couple of hours.  

*My notes.....this is AWESOME!  I used a bit less honey and a bit less salt my second time, but was scrumptious both ways!  I look forward to trying to this on pork, but my experience so far is with beef.  Also, I did not run out to buy a special syringe for brining.  I happen to have them on hand, but you could go to a feed store and purchase a 20mL syringe and a 1 1/2 inch, 16 gauge needle.  

Corned Beef

1 quart water
1/3 cup pickling salt (if coarse, add 2 tbsp)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
2 whole peppercorns
2 whole allspice (optional)
1 tsp cure (or follow package instructions)

If you don't have these individual spices, use a tbsp of pickling spice, and add peppercorns.  
Boil water, add everything, mix well, let cool.  This is a small batch and only covered one good sized piece of meat.
Soak for up to 2 weeks, turning every couple of days.  Last time we made it, we soaked it for 3 days, hot smoked it for an hour and then stuck it in the oven for a couple of hours.  Traditionally it is not smoked, only cured, but we like smoke.  And we like it to be precooked as it makes a hand quick "oh shoot, there's nothing to eat" thing.  
If you want to smoke it but not cook it, then you will want to cold smoke for a couple of hours.  But smoking is not necessary, just delicious.  

*My notes:  I did not have the individual spices, so I used the pre-made pickling spice (but picked out the nutmeg) and then added coarse pepper (because I had no peppercorns either).  
I'm not a huge salt fan, so after the brining ( I did it for about 6 days, because that is what worked out), I soaked the meat in a cold bath for a few hours before smoking.  I've done a couple of big batches (more than 40 pounds total) and this is a huge hit!  (I times this recipe by 4 and made it twice for each batch.  Make enough brine that the meat it totally covered...you'll probably have to use something to hold it down into the brine...I used dinner plates)
I injected the brine in to all of the pieces of meat that I used (most were quite thick, 3 inches plus.)
There are lots of opinions about using 'cure' or just salt.  I've done it both ways....I'll let you do your own research and form your own opinion there.  

And now, my 2 experiences with the Bradley smoker..... (I've only had it working for 2 days).
I used a beef roast, but I'm sure this would be delicious with wild game as well.... it was originally for barbecued steaks, so I used much less oil for my roast......

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soya sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

(I used like 3 times the amount of garlic, but we like garlic.)  The recipe says to marinade for at least 2 hours but for once I was organized enough to have it soaking overnight.  Well worth it.  The recipe does not mention smoking (I dried it well and then put it on for two hours with Mesquite before baking in my oven), but oh my goodness, it was amazing.  And the GRAVY............  

We went to a Christmas party last night, so I thought I'd try another experiment....smoked meatballs appetizers.  I didn't really follow a recipe, but everyone knows how to make meatballs, right?  Plus I added some heat....

As I made the balls, I inserted a small square of cheese in to each one.  I don't think it is totally necessary, but I also rolled them in bread crumbs before hot smoking them.  They were delicious, but I felt they were a bit dried out (but amazing with Thai sauce).  Learning how to actually 'cook' with the smoker is going to be tricky (especially in cold weather) so I think I'm better off to do my smoking in the Bradley and my cooking in my oven until I get things sorted.   

Do I have photos?  Of course not!  I was cooking, not cowgirling!
I try harder next time.........

Trust me, try these.  They work.     

All photos credit to Lisa H.  

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Cattlemens Meeting

As the secretary to the local Cattlemens Association, the last few days before the semi-annual meeting is a flurry of activity and last minute organization for me.  (I work best under pressure, apparently.....)  I really enjoy these meetings, even though they are very busy for me.  We have such a great group of individuals out here, and we certainly don't take time to get together as much as we should.  In fact, this happens twice a year, spring and fall.   
The meeting went well anyhow; new information was shared, old information was renewed and generally the ranchers were happy.  There was certainly some discussion regarding the recent past logging and the upcoming logging activity for the area.  No one here is even slightly apposed to logging (it's all dead anyhow, Pine Beetles had their way years ago), but the management is still of utmost importance  There is no question in anyone's mind of the problems and potential problems.  One of the biggest and most immediate concerns is access.   Access creates all sorts of well proven issues, including cattle drift (they love to wander down dusty roads, where ever they may lead), hunting and poaching potential (if you can get there in a minivan, why not?!) and most certainly has a huge impact visually.  Who wants to pay good money for a 'wilderness trail ride' and ride through a fresh clearcut with big machines working all around?  No thanks.  The logging companies we are working with seem open to discussion and we will be sure to keep informed and very involved as they head for our backyard.

Our concerns regarding predator problems is not a new one either and the growing wolf population is still a hot topic.  Even aside from the damage they do to the cattle herds, the lack of moose and caribou in this area, compared to not so many years ago, is an appalling fact that cannot be ignored.  I remember as a kid that we would have 50 or 60 moose in our stackyards in the morning, until we figured out how to build them 'moose proof'.  Even when we bought Three Circle, we had 16-22 all winter (until we got our proper stack yard built.)  Now we put out hay bales FOR the moose, to help keep them off the roads, and safer from the wolves for the winter.  Usually it is the mom's with babies that take up residence, which is perfect.  There are many factors affecting the populations of course, such as the logging creating too much access, cow moose being taken (rather than bulls) and the natural habitat being destroyed or significantly altered.  It is easy to point fingers all over the place, but one must also remember a simple fact.  Wolves eat a lot.  And when you have the numbers we have now, it is a problem, whomever or whatever you want to blame for it.  

Well, I will keep the peace and not go too much farther with that one.  
But I will show you a couple of photos of a bull that came in by himself this fall.  He belongs to the people we bought Five Mile off of.  We knew there was a good possibility of there still being three bulls on the range somewhere.  This one was seen a few times earlier this fall with a buddy (another big bull) and it would be unusual for them to split apart after hanging out so long together.  I have a bad feeling that his buddy is in wolf turd form these days.  Cause this guy is certainly lucky to still have a heart beat.  

     Pretty well healed now.  Ouch.  Ouch.  Ouch.  

This is one of our calves we doctored.  I've cut this pocket of infection out that you can see, but she was  deeply scarred up and down both hind legs and on her head as well.  Momma cow must have come to the rescue.    

Alright, not to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth, I'll post some of Kris's awesome photos from the summer!  
Take care all...

Photo credits for the last three to Kris A.  

Friday, 4 December 2015

Gone and back again

The Hatch family snuck away!  We told as few of people as possible, got some homework for the kids and left the ranch as the sun set.....
People come to places like Anahim Lake to 'get away', and we head for the bright lights instead.   Hotels (with pools of course!), restaurants, and shopping!

We were away for five nights and I have to say, I'm really, really delighted to be home.  I don't mean to whine, but hotel beds are not as comfy as mine, eating out is over-rated and EXPENSIVE and shopping is fun but darn hard on the bank account!
Don't get me wrong, we had a wonderful time and I'm pretty excited to say that most of my Christmas shopping is done (earliest ever).  The boys absolutely love the swimming and being catered to more than usual.  Lazer tag, movies, eating out and arcades are amazing for 6 and 9 year old country boys!  We got to visit with some wonderful long time friends and see some new country too.....great trip.  

I'm also totally excited that I got my Christmas present early this year....a really nice Bradley smoker........  YUM!  Busy looking up recipes and anticipating our next meals....  I'm really looking forward to making our own lunch meats (summer sausage etc).    
Trips like these are necessary, and we should do them more often.  It is great to get a break away from home, and makes us appreciate our home and lifestyle 
even more.

One of the last good decent shots I got with my old camera....at my father in law's place in Mexico.  

So, funny story.  I've had a good camera with an amazing lens for quite some time.  However, it stopped working properly quite some time ago (like, years ago).  I've tried all sorts of different setting and asked many people, but kinda figured it was a fairly major problem.   Although I quite appreciate my little camera and my phone camera, I've really missed have a 'good one' lately, so thought I would finally bring it to a shop to see if someone could fix it.  So I brought it on our little holiday.  Now, I don't know if it was the -20 I left it in by accident, or the kids stomping on it (also by accident of course), but all of a sudden on our trip I hear "click, click, click, click, click, click, HEY IT'S MY TURN, click, click click".  

Yep, the camera is working fine?!?!???

Mum and I and the boys moved the first and second calvers in to the ranch today, to start feeding, and I took a few shots.  I most certainly need some practicing (and some lessons), but the camera worked all day.  How strange is that?


Not enough snow for the snowmobile, but good fun with the sleigh behind the quad anyhow!  

 Happily heading for the ranch and the hay bales!  

My turn!  


So I'm pretty excited to be home, have a good working camera (holding my breath on that one) and new adventures in cooking and smoking with Bradley....

I'll keep you posted.  

As Always,