Friday, April 18, 2014

Breaking in New Horses

Every cowboy has a good string of horses and this spring we have been working on ours.  We have two new mares that we have been working with.  Both of them have been pretty labor intensive but with time we have seen some great progress.

The sorrel (red) horse with a white blaze is Loca.  She is a baby from The Rancher's mare when he was growing up.  If you know Spanish, you know that Loca means crazy.  She's named that for a reason! For a couple of years now, The Rancher has been trying to work with her.  She's about to turn 6 (or maybe 7... I'm not quite sure) and for that many years she has been a wild thing.  Too wild to really do anything with.  We haven't really even been able to get a halter on her, let alone try anything with a saddle.

One day The Rancher was working with her and he had a rope around her neck.  She went to being crazy (like she doe)s and got the rope caught on the fence.  She hit the slack and it tightened up around her neck.  Being crazy already, she started working against the rope and before long it was tight enough that she passed out.  When she tipped over, the rope broke free and loosened up around her neck.  Slowly she got up and walked to The Rancher.  It was like she was a completely new horse! And ever since that day, she has been a gem to work with.

The Rancher has been a little weary of her, knowing how she used to be a little crazy.  But every time he has worked with her its like she has done it hundreds of times.  Now all we need is to get a little experience on her and she is good to go!

Our other new horse is Sugar.  We bought her from a family that had a few horses and other animals, but they really didn't have the time to work with her.  When we called to tell them we were on our way (it was a few hours to get there) they said, "Are you good with horses?  I don't think that she has ever been loaded in a trailer...". Oh boy that was a great start!

Don't worry, she practically loaded herself!  The next day we saddled her up to see what kind of skills she had.  After only a few minutes The Rancher said, "Well... she has no manners, no steering, and no gas." I guess that left only room for progress!   And boy have we made some progress-  we can actually get into a good lope and move left and right.  Its still rough, but with time she is going to be a great little pony!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Idaho Rancher's Wife- 1 Year Old!

Do you know what today is?  It the 1st birthday of The Idaho Rancher's Wife!  This really is kind of a big deal for me.  At first this idea of a blog was almost a joke.  As a rancher's wife I get to do some crazy things it seems and I needed SOMEWHERE to tell these stories.  And then it just took off from there. 

There has been a lot of learning in this last year.  I have learned that I LOVE writing (at least blog writing).  I love, love, LOVE photography.  If you look back over the last year you can see how my picture taking skills are growing.  Hooray!  But mostly over the last year I have learned how much I love sharing our life on the ranch.  There are so many that don't have a connection to the Ag world, and I can be that connection.  I love it!

So I have gathered together a dozen of my favorite posts over the last year.  Some are my favorites because of the cool pictures that turned out.  A few are favorites because of the time that was spent with my family on the ranch.  Some are my favorites because they are your favorites.  Then there are the ones that I learned a lot from- the ranching part and the story telling part.  And then there are just the down right funny or awesome ranch experiences everyone needs to hear!

I'll admit there are days that I think that I can't do this.  You would be surprised how much time this takes- not that I'm complaining, I love every bit of it.  But I want it all to be awesome for you!  To that end I have been doing a lot of learning on how to blog, photography, writing, graphic design... so much! 

I have to thank those that help along the way!  My dear friend Mandy, from Mandy's Recipe Box has done so much, especially to encourage me through the tough stuff.  My cousin, Lindsay Hart with Hart to Hart Photography, has helped me so much with the graphic design, even when she was moving and 8 months pregnant.  And then there are a few blogs that are my go to for learning how to be awesome at blogging Something Swanky, Living Well, Spending Less, and Kevin & Amanda.

So here is to another year (or ten)!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Herd of (cute) Baldy Calves

Our herd consists of mostly black cows.  That's not really as surprise since we run black angus cows.  But every once in a while I wish we could have a red one or a nice gray.  Just to change things up a little, ya know?  Its really not likely to happen unless we strait out buy one.  Its just not in our gene pool.

Something that we do have thought, are some darn cute baldy face calves!  So we can't have a little extra color in the herd, but at least we get a little white face here and there.  Not to long ago we bred our heifers to some hereford bulls (they are red with a white face).  It seemed like we didn't get a single baldy calf out of those batch of babies.  Maybe the genes just needed to flow down a few generations before they started to show because these days we have a nice little herd of baldy faced calves.

We weren't cross breeding just for the looks, if you can believe that.  There is something awesome that happens when you cross breed. Heterosis.   Instead of getting what you would think is an average performance of both breeds, you end up getting increased performance.  The strengths of both breeds come out!

And in this case we get an extra bit of awesome in the cute calves.  I'm not sure why, but don't you think they have an extra bit of cuteness to them?  (Should we count how many times I said "cute" in this post?!)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

5 Lessons in Cowboy Jargon

If there was one word to describe April it would be branding.  Every weekend (and a couple of days in between) we spend out on the range branding.  We have our cows out with other ranches, so naturally we have more than just our herd to brand.   I mean it’s not too neighborly to not help our rancher friends!  With so many cowboys around, it’s easy to get lost in the cowboy jargon.  Usually I would say to just smile and nod your head but out here you can’t always fake it!  So here are a 5 words and phrases from the Cowboy Jargon Dictionary (… there is no such thing… I totally just made that up…). 

1. A cowboy’s outfit: No this isn’t in reference to his clothing choice of the day.  A cowboy does have some... different clothing choices but that’s because they choose function over fashion.  But when one cowboy compliments another cowboy’s outfit, he’s talking about his truck and trailer.  Can you imagine cowboys sitting around talking about clothes?  Me either, but it doesn’t take ANY stretch of imagination to see them talking trucks.  Isn’t that written in their DNA?

2.  The green broke horse:  Let’s just start by saying there is nothing “broken” on a green broke horse.  It isn’t “broken” like it doesn’t work.  And it’s not really green, unless it was just rolling in the manure…  A green broke horse is a horse in training.  This means it is inexperienced, or more like unexperienced.  Usually these are young horses with high energy and are a little ignorant to what they are doing.  Just think of your favorite T-ball team- a lot of energy but most of it is spent playing in the dirt.  Eventually they come around to learn the game and pull their weight.  And if they don’t, we trade them off the roster.

3.  Heading… or heeling… you choose!: Most often you hear these words together in reference to falling in love.  You know- head over heels?  But I’m not talking about that, although a branding would be a great place to pick up a cowboy!  When you are talking heading and healing with cowboys they are talking about roping.  There’s two ends on a calf to rope- the head (hence “heading”) or the back feet or heels (yep you got it, “heeling”).   I guess you could rope the front feet, but you really don’t have much control even though they are caught. 

4.  Roping a dogie:  (doh-gee) Don’t get caught thinking we are talking about The Rancher’s dog.  We are referring to the bovine species, not canine.  Put simply, a dogie is a calf without a momma.  I’m not sure how dogie ever got to be part of the Cowboy Jargon Dictionary, other than some cowboy long, LONG ago just started calling his motherless calves dogie.  These calves can make branding a little tricky when you have several ranches worth of cattle together.  Without knowing who the momma cow belongs to, we can only guess who the calf goes with.  Nobody wants to be the guy that put the wrong brand on the wrong calf!

5. “Drag ‘em to the fire”: Those are your instructions once you’ve caught your calf.  The cowboys drag the calf to the fire, where we have the branding irons set up, hot and ready to leave their mark.  A real fire in the middle of a corral with calves, cowboys, and horses sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.  It is if you’re not careful!  But how else do we get branding irons hot?  There are electric irons put there, but there aren’t a lot of electrical outlets amongst the sage brush!   But don’t imagine a big bon fire or even an open fire on the ground.  Back in the day they would dig a hole in the ground and light up the fire.  These days we have a not-so-fancy branding box with a burner (like the burner on a gas stove) to keep the irons hot.  Still plenty hot (I recommend watching your step) but not as likely to reach out a burn a cowboy!

I’d say the last bit of cowboy jargon you need to know is the call to “rustle up some grub,” but I’m pretty sure that you know what that means!  Now that you have some awesome cowboy vocab, you will be ready to get to work and definitely earn your dinner!

Friday, April 11, 2014

DIY Spring Rope Wreath

I have a sad story... I have a new camera that I love but that I am having to learn a few things about.  I used it to take pictures while I made my wreath and then somehow lost them.  I was so sad, but I was able to take new ones of the finished project!
Now that spring is beginning to bloom out here on the ranch I’ve been thinking it’s time to pull out the spring d├ęcor.  I just need to add a few spring touches to liven things up (or remind me that it’s really spring on those days it doesn’t look like it…). 

The sad thing is, I don’t have a lot.  Oh wait don’t have any… I don’t even have a festive spring wreath or I should say I didn’t because I made one! 

I’ve been wanting to make a wreath for a while and now that I NEEDED one, it meant game on.  And on top of that, I’ve really been wanting to make a rope wreath.  You see, the cowboys have a BIG stack of old ropes sitting in the shop.  Just sitting, begging to be put to use (maybe not for a wreath, but hey…).  Not to mention all of the ropes in the tack room that are beginning to pile up.  You could see how a girl might want to sneak one and get a little creative, right?!

So I did!

I had a few little bunches of spring flowers and some fun spring ribbon that was just enough to make it work!  Out came the glue gun and LOTS of glue sticks and I went to crafting.  Yep, that’s all it took- a rope, flowers, ribbon, glue gun and glue.

It didn’t take long and it turned out super cute… so cute I know you want to make one too!

I will tell you the first thing to do if you grabbed an old, used rope is to shake it or beat it or vacuum it because it has probably gathered some good dust over the miles it’s been.  A little grit could be fun and since mine was going outside, I didn’t try too hard to get rid of it.

With the dust gone enough that you can work without being in your own little dust cloud, grab some twist ties.  You can eve take one off the bread because these are just to help you set your coils.  I found that it was a lot easier to get gluing and make progress if everything was being held together.  Sadly, I only have two hands which isn’t enough to hold in multiple places and glue.  That’s why we have twist ties- or if you are a little boy they work awesome to tether tractors and trailers together…

So get your coils together and glue.  I actually flipped mine over to make sure that if there would be any glue showing it would be on the backside. 

Once your coils are all glued, it’s time to get a little creative with the flowers and such.  I put mine close to the hondue and up the side.  They just kind of happened… there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to how they went.  I added a little raffia too, just give it a little kick.   Then for a finishing touch, I added a little bow.  I have a confession to make- I’m not very good at making bows… So mine don’t get fancy, but they’ll do!
Now that you have this AWESOME spring rope wreath, go hang it somewhere.  Preferably where everyone will see it and love your craftiness.    Or just somewhere that needs a little eye appeal.  I’m pretty sure that it will look awesome anywhere!  And don’t forget to show me!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Planting a Seed or Two

When we were in college, The Rancher worked for an operation that did just as much (or more) farm work as it did ranch work.  The Rancher was always a pretty decent farmer, but after working for the Millers, he turned into a dang good farmer.  And every spring that farmer comes out of him when there is a little farm work to do!  Maybe these days I should call him The Farmer...

We don't do a lot of "farm" work to put up the acres and acres of hay or grain.  We do it mostly when we rotate our crops.  In the fall we will dig up a section of alfalfa that needs replanted or the grain that was alfalfa the year before (does it sound like I'm talking in circles? like crop circles... haha!).  Ok... we dig up the alfalfa, plant grain, harvest the grain, dig up the grain, and plant new alfalfa.  Phew...

Anyway, we dig, or plow, up in the fall so it is ready for planting in the spring. 

Now that it is spring, they have pulled out farming equipment, starting with the roller harrow.  The roller harrow is used to break up the clumps and make the ground ready for the seed.  It also has a drag behind it to get rid of any weeds or such that we don't want left in.  Once the harrowing is done, we are pretty well ready to plant.

Just a few weeks ago we picked up the seed (one of those things we had to catch up on...).  The nice sunny weather was a good indicator that is was finally time to plant, but when The Rancher hooked up to the drill (the planter) I knew it was the day.  The day to plant a seed or two!

Planting is one of those ranch things we do with a little faith and little prayer.  We want to plant as early as possible to get a good start to the crops.  If we have to replant again in the spring we lose valuable growing time.  We won't really know if everything went right with the planting for a few weeks when we finally see the green sprouting through.  Doing this every year we have a good idea when we are planting how it will turn out, but there is still those few days that we might wonder.

We took the chance to have a family tractor drive this week while we were planting (and while grandpa was leveling the other, other field...).  I really should have taken a picture of us in there.  You will just have to picture for a minute- The Rancher is driving and I am in the "instructor's" seat (because I really am the boss, right?!).  The dog is crammed in the corner and our kids are moving from side to side (and under dad's legs) playing with their tractors.  Of course there is an awesome pile of dirt and dust on the floor to play in, not to mention the seed that The Rancher's Sidekick grabbed from the drill.  It's likely that if someone spilled some water in there, something would start sprouting!

I'm sure we are a silly, squishy, filthy looking bunch, but I don't know if you could find a happier bunch!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

10 Reasons Why I Choose to Raise my Family on the Ranch

Growing up on a ranch, I knew that it was the way I wanted to raise my family.  It helps to shape grow a person in so many.  The opportunities for life lessons are never ending.  And, I know I always say this, but the space is pretty amazing. 

No it’s not the only good way to raise a family- there are so many good people that weren’t raised that way.  But this is how I chose to raise my family.  Here’s why…

1.  Everyday we work- we have to.  The cows need feeding, which most often requires us moving them to different pastures.  Fences, building, and equipment need upkeep and they won’t fix themselves.  Bummer…  But my kids know how important work is.  Already my kids are learning to help and work, to do the best we can and to finish a job we start.  More importantly my kids learn to work because they get to go out to work with their dad.  Every day they have the best example they need to see a man working.

2. All around us we see the circle of life.  Every year there is new life that brings excitement and hope.  But not all new life lasts.  Death is a hard thing that we face.  Cows, calves, horses, dogs… It’s hard, but it’s a part of life.  We celebrate life and learn to move on after death.

3. I don’t know if there is a more natural way to talk about the birds and the bees than actually having first hand on the ranch.  All sorts of question come up about why do we keep the bulls away from the cows, where do those babies come from, or what is that cow doing.  Yes my kids see it happening and yes we talk about it.  But that is because it is so easy on the ranch.

4. What better playground do they need than a big ol’ ranch?!  There are fences to climb up, tires to go through, chickens to chase, calves to rope and dirt to dig.  Really the list could go on and on… Because there is so much for kids to do on a ranch- no two days are the same and there are no dull days!

5. With so much around them, ranch kids learn to be creative.  A stick isn’t just a stick! It can build a fence, it can be sword, a gun or a cane.  When my little boy watches what’s happening out on the ranch he gets creative and recreates it with his own little equipment.  I never would have thought marbles would be poop for the manure spreader!  Instead of just building towers from blocks, we make stacks of bales!  Imagination is always at work out here.

6.  As kids grow on the ranch, they are given their own responsibilities.  It my be feeding the family dog or collecting the eggs or even feeding their own 4h animals.  But they know it is their job.  Yes we will help, but it is their responsibility to make sure it is done.  They are responsible for closing the gate when they go through, keeping gas in the 4wheeler and putting their tack away.  With responsibility also comes accountability.  And then consequences.  Some are good- feeding up your steer makes for a food day at the fair.  But not locking the gate means the cows get out.  Responsibility, accountability, and consequences- all lessons learned on the ranch.

7. We would like to think that days on the ranch are always happy and cheery, but they’re not.  Yes we have awesome days of success.  There is that day when you catch your first calf and you feel like you could rope the moon!  But then there are days when you get bucked of, lose a glove, and tear your favorite pair of jeans.  Frustration and disappointment are just as much a part of ranch life.  But with it we learn how to deal with it. 

8.  I love opportunities we have to work together as a family.  We pull out the horses and go to the arena.  We all gather to the garden to gather in our harvest.  We all squeeze in the tractor to feed the cows.  Family is important to me and I won’t let anything, not even the ranch work, get in the way.  Instead, we just make ranch time family time!

9.  Life on the ranch does so much to help with learning in school.  Ranch kids learn everything from learning counting and colors to map reading and geography.  There are science lessons as the crops grow with water and sun, and grow more with a little fertilizer.  The learning never stops- math, science, geography, history, reading… do it all, daily!

10.  My kids have learned where their food comes from and the cost for it.  We don’t grow everything we eat (so thankful for grocery stores!) but my ranch kids know that milk comes from a cow, not made in the back of the store.  And more importantly they know the cost of their food.  Not necessarily in money, but certainly in the time and effort it takes to have.

Yep, the ranch is the place for me to raise my kids.  A place to learn, live, and love while every day is an adventure.  Especially when it is the day you need to teach the 12 year old how to drive the stick shift feed truck…