Standing guard

These two oxen belong to my husband’s Uncle Stuart and Aunt Emily Rowe of Innisfail Ranch in Dixon, Calif. Each one of these big boys weighs more than a ton–they are huge! Oxen, which are castrated adult male cattle, are typically bigger than bulls. They were traditionally used as draft animals for plowing fields and hauling heavy loads. These two have an easier life, standing guard over the red-and-white Milking Shorthorn dairy cows in the adjacent corrals. Watch out for those horns!

Evacuated Animals

Today there were a lot of volunteers at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, Calif., helping take care of the animals that were evacuated during the wildfires, including these three donkeys. At right is Skip, the man who owns these donkeys; he and his wife live in Capell Valley, Napa County, and had to evacuate last week. Heather, the lady in the middle, flew down from St. Helens, Oregon to help out at the animal-evacuation center. I was at home this morning and I turned on KCRA Channel 3 News and learned that volunteers were needed at the fairgrounds, including people who have experience with large animals. Heeding the call of duty, I grabbed all the horse halters and lead ropes that we have, took the kids to school and drove about 40 miles to the fairgrounds. When I arrived, I was one of several dozen volunteers who cleaned stalls and walked the horses around so they could get some exercise. In addition to equines, there were cows, pigs, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits and chickens. Several companies and individuals donated animal feed and shavings for the stalls; other people generously brought food and drinks for the volunteers. There were veterinarians treating animals that had been injured, a construction company working on the animal shelters, and waste-management personnel keeping the livestock facility clean. It was an amazing experience to see so many people helping out those in need.

Smoke-filled sky

The nearest wildfire is about 10 miles from our ranch, by the way the crow flies. It has been very smoky here–this tractor looks like its surrounded by fog, but it’s smoke from the Atlas fire in neighboring Napa and Solano counties. It’s very windy outside and there are visible plumes of smoke west of Winters.  Calfire helicopters and air tankers are flying over our property on their way to fight the wildfires. There are 22 wildfires burning throughout California right now. We appreciate our family and friends who have been checking in with us to see if we’re OK. Fortunately, we don’t have any beef cattle or sheep grazing on our foothill rangeland right now. We’re just praying for the people who have been directly impacted by the fires, such as our neighbor’s cousin, whose home in Sonoma County was destroyed, and the 8,000-plus firefighters and other first responders who are putting their lives on the line to protect us.