Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Musing and Frosty Pictures

Mondays are for musings.  You look back over the weekend or figure out what's happening ahead in the week.  You plan. You schedule.  Sometimes you give yourself a pep talk.  But it all happens on Mondays. 

So here I am musing.

We went to Montana to visit my parents over the weekend.  It was refreshing and exhausting all at the same time.  My mom works for a small k-8 school and they had their ski day, so we trekked up there late Thursday night to join in the fun.  We had the whole spectrum of weather that day- icy rain, sleet, massive flakes, blue sky and fog.  There was a point we decided to bite the bullet and invest in some goggles for everyone and that was the turning point of the day.  Its amazing how much more fun skiing is when you can see and your eyes aren't being pelted with ice!   

There were high school boys and girls basketball games going on while we were there so we spent Saturday night cheering on the Drummond Trojans.  It may have been the third game I have gone to watch since graduating 11 years ago.  It was like I never left but at the same time I felt so old.  There were kids playing ball that weren't even in kindergarten when I was in high school!.  I only knew 2 of the kids on the boys team.  Yikes... I am getting old...  But at the same time, I still call my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Verlanic and my science teacher Mr. Schindler so I guess I don't feel all too old.

Remember how I married a cowboy that doesn't talk?  That made for a super long drive home.  It really was the fastest we have ever made the drive (we didn't speed, just didn't have to stop 12 times for the kids...) but it seemed so long.  He seriously said only a handful of words.  Anybody want to come hang out with me so I can have someone to talk to?

And to make the drive last even longer, my kids are to the stage that they ask the dreaded question- "are we there yet?"/"how long until we are there?!"/"how much longer?"  And I think that they eat more when we are in the car than the entire week before.  I can never pack enough treats.  I'm afraid its only going to get worse when my son becomes a teenager... Yikes!  

Its Valentines this week... Yay... Actually, for the first time in a long time I will actually get to see my valentine.  Really I should only say I SHOULD get to see my valentine.  We might sneak in a kiss or two between taking care of the kids and cows, but who needs February 14 to say I love you when there are 364 other days, right? I'm sure a batch of his favorite cookie dough and an early bed time will make for just the V-day he wants!   

So I posted last week about how we were buried to our eye balls with snow.  And then just like that the snow shut off and the sun came out and everything has started to melt!  Its not gone or even close to being gone by ANY means, but there is significantly less.  Its like Mother Nature is trying to discredit me.  I say its crazy and snowy and she brings out the sunshine.  If I said it was a beautiful-blue-sky-kinda-day, I'm sure we would get socked in with the fog for days...  So I'm going to post the last of my snowy pictures and hope that the temps stay up.  The heifer hill is slowly drying out to calve on so its helping The Rancher, right?

Speaking of calving... We had 1.  Soon enough we will be swamped with babies and I am so excited! Last year I was too busy swooning over my own new babe that I didn't soak in the babies outside as much so this year I will have to make up for it.  But the fact that we are calving does mean my baby is almost a year old and I just can't believe it.  I'm crying inside.  It just happens too fast!

Have I mused enough for you?  There is still plenty going on up here, but I will stop for your sakes.  I'll just muse to myself...

Happy Monday!
The RW 










Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Our Snow-Pocalypse

Hello from the land of snow!

Can you finally see us out here?  The snow is finally settling!  If you add up the total inches accumulated, we have had like 71" of snow.  Is that not insane?!  That is over 5 feet of snow!  But don't imagine that all fluffy 71" are still standing like they just fell.  Some of that snow was way heavy and packed everything down with it.  We had a week of warmer weather that helped melt things down a little too.  And we actually had a couple of inches of rain that dropped the level down even more. 

We have been praying for the moisture for so long and we feel so blessed to finally have it.  But in the dry spell that we have been having the last few years, we might have forgotten the not so awesome side of so much moisture. 

Now, I want you to know I AM NOT COMPLAINING!  Just simply explaining the challenges of having so much snow.  Because there are challenges, friends.  Besides the obvious road closures keeping us from going ANYWHERE, school snow days, and hours spent cleaning off my roof so it won't fall in (I might have been stuck up there for a while...), the biggest challenge has been keeping the cows on the up and up.

I've told you before that we winter our cows down in Locomotive (some come home for the fall and until mid-February, but then they end up back down there...).  Its a great place to have them for the winter because, generally, there is no snow.  Or just a little bit of snow.  That makes it better for calving, less sickness, and not having to feed them everyday.  But when you have so much snow their bellies are dragging through the snow, they certainly can't get to the feed underneath it.

So this winter, with the snow-pocalypse and all, we are having more work than ever!

When the storms first started coming through, we pushed the cows as far south as we could where the the storms had been less severe and there was more feed available.  Ironically, it always happened to be on a Sunday that the guys from the association wanted to move them.  You might not think that would be any worse than any other day of the week, but wrestling 3 kids alone in church is rough, friends.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, come visit next Sunday...

Back to the cows...

So even after getting the cows south, enough storms came that NOT feeding them wasn't an option anymore.  So then they had to bring them back up to where we could get to them with hay.  And that was a lot of work.

First they had to find all the cows.  And if you know cows, once a storm hits they just start moving- moving to find shelter or feed or whatever... But they just start moving and when there are hundreds and hundreds of acres for them to go, it takes a while to finally find them all.  The Rancher didn't complain too much at this.  I mean, when you HAVE to go snowmobiling all day for your work, it can't be all bad, right? 

But after finding the cows, they had to get them up to the feed yard.  That was definitely a challenge...  Of course the cows were going to struggle moving through the snow and would fight you nearly every step of the way.  I probably wouldn't want to move my big pregnant self through so much snow for miles either.  So the guys pulled out all the graters and tractors and ... (I don't even know what all equipment they had!) and they plowed a path to trail the cows back. 

And now to have 1,100 cows are rounded up together, it takes a lot of hay and a lot of time to get them all fed.  I'm pretty sure right now, all the guys do is push snow and feed cows.  Feed cows here at home, drive to Locomotive, feed cows there, and if there is any time before dark, they push snow.  Seriously, it is all they do. 

And it is exhausting.

I think it wouldn't be near so bad if we were all healthy, but we are not.  Sickness has gone through the ranch, not to mention other issues (like being run over by a cow and lacerating your liver...).   So while we are trying to heal and get healthy, we are using all our energy to keep the cows on the up and up. 

I'm honestly a little worried about the guys.  This is the time of year things are slow and they get to recuperate before calving and then branding and then turnout and then summer... But I don't think anyone is feeling rested after these last few weeks!  It could be a long few months ahead of us.

But we are still SO thankful for the snow! 

Now we just pray for the energy to withstand it all... Did you know there is more snow in the forecast?  Yay... (I might be crying inside....) !!

Thinking happy and warm thoughts,
 The Rancher's Wife...

I tried taking pictures of the horses in my back yard, but there was so much snow my camera couldn't focus!

Taking hay down to the cows and unloading without a tractor...


Its snowy and beautiful even if its so much work!





The upside of so much snow!



Saturday, February 4, 2017

Oh ya... We sold the calves!

Seasons on the ranch go by so fast.  One minute we are calving and trying to keep babies warm and alive and then before you know it, we are selling them.  And then you sell them, and you forget to put it on your blog to say "HAPPY DAY!".  It may not seem like a big day, but those few hours on that frosty November morning are what we work for all year long.

So I am taking the opportunity now to celebrate selling and shipping calves.  Hooray!  It was such a s muddy, messy day because it had been raining and raining.  The downside to the rain and subsequent mud- sloshing and sliding around it poop and goop up to your eyeballs!  The upside- probably a few extra wet and dirty pounds on the calves!

Shipping cows isn't all that hard, but sort of time consuming.  When you have hundreds of calve to weigh, you can see how that will take some time.  Let me walk you how that day goes...

First, it starts before that day.  A week or so before, we sort the steers from the heifers and pull out any of the sick, lame, or small calves (hopefully not too many of these!).  Up to this point we just keep them together to feed them.  While we are sorting the heifers, we pull off the ones that we want to keep for replacements somewhere around 100 depending on the year.

So on shipping morning, we start with the steers. We bring the herd into the corral and move them back to the scales.  We weigh them 10 at a time to get an average weight.  Can you imagine if we had to weigh them one by one?  We would be there all day.  After we weigh all the steers we look at the herd average and see what that compares to what we contracted them at.  Obviously, we want to hit the weight we contracted at because too light means a smaller check.  Too big usually isn't a problem. 

After the steers are done, we do the same with all the heifers.

Once everything is weighed, counted to the number we contracted at (we have more calves than what we contract...), and the broker is happy with what we have, we load them up.  It takes someone with a masters degree in math to figure out the loading.  Not really, but it does take some time to figure out how many calves at what weight can fit in each section depending on which truck they are loading.  Glad that's not my job.  Once all five (or sometimes six!) trucks are loaded they head out.

And then we stand there and listen to the silence. 
And then heave a sigh of relief for having the calves gone.
And then shout HOORAY!
And then we check the mail...

Then we go back to work because the job is never done.  Every year we have the same day of shipping calves with the same guys, the same routine, and then same cinnamon rolls.  And its a great day.  The day we work all year for and the day that lets us keep working for the next year.

Happy (belated) Sale Day, friends!


















Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Feeding Frosty Cows

Did you read the title and let your eyes roll back because its another post about feeding cows?  It is that time of year, ya know...  But don't worry.  I knew you would be tired of the same (awesome) ramblings of feeding hungry cows with my crazy crew.

So I did a little something different.  For your benefit and mine.

Since I had The Rancher corner, I though I would take the opportunity to do a little Q&A with him.  Its good for you because its something new for you to read.  And you get to know him a little better, and everyone wants to know The Rancher a little better.  The upside for me, is that I have an intentional conversation with an adult.  Being the CEO of this ranch house full of little people can be lacking with adult conversation.  Oh, that's starting to show?  Oops!

So for the next few hours, in between me jumping out of the tractor to open and close gates and cut the wrap off of the bales, and juggling the baby and big sister, I asked him some stimulating questions.

Here goes...

About that Super Bowl...
Me:  So what do you think about the Super Bowl coming up?  It's this Sunday, right?(I'm super up to date with what's happening in the world right now...HA!)

Him:  Well... (long pause)... Since I'm so into football... It should be good.  But you know me... I'm really just in it for the commercials and food.  And the commercials haven't been that good lately, so I'm really just there for the food.

Me:  Right... So what food should we have?

Him:  I dunno.  Something good.  (This is the conversation we have every day when I ask him what he wants for dinner.  He's so much help...)

"We feed cows..."
Me:  So tell me about feeding cows.

Him:  We feed cows.

Me: ... Yes... I know that.  How much?  How much have you already fed this year?  How long will this feed last?

Him:  Well, we have fed at least that stack... We figure that we have enough hay to feed 20 bales of hay for 40 days.

Me: Oh... That's not enough, is it?

Him:  Nope.  Having to feed cows in Locomotive has thrown a wrench in things this year.

Me:  So we feed 5 bales to the cows on the pivot pasture, 6 to the cows at the feed yard, 1 to the bulls, and 1 to the horses, old cows, and whatever is in the corral by the barn... and 5 to Locomotive.  So... I guess we need to buy more hay...

Him:  Yep...

Ranch faves
Me: So, what is your favorite thing to do on the ranch?

Him:  I dunno...(its his favorite phrase...)

Me:  Well, what is your least favorite thing to do?

Him:  Feed cows.

Me: Oh. (Hmmm, do you not like it because that is like all you are doing right now?)  So what is your next least favorite thing to do?

Him:  Fix fence.

Me:  Oh. (That one actually surprised me... I thought he liked it more.)  And then what is your next least favorite thing?

Him:  Changing water.

Me:  What's the next?

Him:  Checking water.

Me:  You don't like the things that you have to do over and over again, do you?  You wouldn't make a good mom.  That's kinda all I do.   So what's your next least favorite thing?

Him:  I dunno... I guess I like all the rest just fine.  But it all depends on the day.

Me:  Yes, moving cows when the sun is shining and the cows are moving good is a way better day than a blizzard when you are working cows through the chute.

Him: (Nod... Silence... conversation... OVER)

Baby driver
Me:  He (the baby) is in his favorite place- at the steering wheel.  That makes you the coolest dad for letting him be there.

Him:  Yep... (he's big on words...)

Me:  Aren't you glad we have him?

Him:  Yep.  I guess we will keep him.

Me: Are you ready for the next one?

Him: (silence... stink eye...)  NOPE. (silence... conversation over...)

You can see that riding with The Rancher is GREAT conversation.  To his credit, he is sick (currently fevering and sleeping on the couch) and since talking when he is feeling great gives limited conversation, I really should expect less when he is feeling crappy.  But even sick, he's still great, don't ya think?!

Until next time, Friends!









Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Priorities

Preg checking.  It isn't glamorous, it isn't picturesque but it certainly is exciting and entertaining.  Not the actual preg checking itself... that is somewhat boring and redundant.  We make the day entertaining and exciting any way we can, which most often includes some kind of razzing about somebody everybody.

On this fine fall day, we were working the cattle we run on the forest ground.  It is a considerably smaller herd of cows than the group we do out to Black Pine.  Don't get me wrong, with three different ranches pooling cows together, there was still a lot to do, but we were able to slow things down a bit.

And slowing things down for a bit was kinda nice. I'm sure that the guy that got put on the fence a few times didn't think it was a take-it-easy kind of preg checking day. Or the guy that was doing the preg checking...  There's nothing nice or easy going IN the OUT end of a cow! 

Every rancher will tell that there is more work to be done than there are hours of the day.  Even if the cows are settled and the haying is done and the water looks good, there is fence that could use fixing and equipment could do with servicing.  There comes a point that you have to decide just how hard you want to push yourself.  You could work a neck break pace and get a lot of work done, but that leads straight to burnout and once you hit burnout you hate your job.  And where this is more than a job, its a lifestyle, we can't afford to reach the burnout stage.

So what do you do to avoid burnout?  I don't know that we have totally found the answer to this question.  Unfortunately there are those days and weeks that you have no choice but to push hard.  But even though we don't have the complete solution, I will tell you that there is one thing we always keep in mind and that is our priorities.

There are a lot of things that are important to our family and our ranch.  Obviously, as far as the ranch goes, the cows have gotta be happy.  Its hard to swallow that hundreds of other girls get my cowboy's attention over me, until you take into consideration that they are cows.  Then its all good.  Beyond the ranch, our priorities are God, family, and community because without God we are nothing, with out family none of it is worth it, and its all so much better with good friends and neighbors.

Our priorities have to be family priorities with a common goal because on the long days where my husband is nearly non existent and I am being both mom and dad, it can get overwhelming.  If I didn't have the ranch's success as one of my priorities I'm pretty positive in would be a real cranky wife being put second.  And knowing The Rancher's priorities include taking care of his family helps me to know that he is doing everything he can to make it back home as fast as he can.

So on this day of preg checking, we certainly had getting the work done as our top priority.  But enjoying our time working together with our family and friends was a close second.  And because it was, it was a fun day even if it was spent at the back end of a cow.