Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weaning Anxiety

Oh weaning... A time that we love and hate. I should say I and not speak for the others. I love the days out riding, sorting and working the cattle through the chute. It's awesome to see the growth that they've had over the summer and the satisfaction to see your hard work paying off.

But there is a flip side. Weaning is stressful on calves. It can be super stressful. Ideally you don't change terrain or feed too much. You try to not work them too hard or even haul them long distances if you can manage. But when your calves are NOT at the home ranch you bite the bullet and do all those things. The hard thing is stressed calves can turn into sick calves. Sick calves don't eat so well. Sick calves can become super sick calves. And super sick calves can die. What we don't want... 

Whatever we are doing, whether it's sorting, moving, vaccinating or feeding, we take care to keep these calves running healthy. We only have to make it 45 days (give or take) and in that time we pack on the pounds and keep all healthy so we can turn a good profit. These calves are our payday... Now dont think I'm talking about getting rich off these babies. What I'm really talking about is earning enough to keep doing what we love. 

So for the next month or so, there is a little more tension, a little more anxiety, and a lot more prayers that our efforts everyday haven't been in vain and that we can continue this cowboy living. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

First Wean at 13

Seriously, who names corrals or pastures 13?  Forever The Rancher would say, "We're going down to 13..." and it was supposed to mean something to me.  But now I know.  13- the corrals and fields nestled behind the reservoir, only 14 glorious minutes away instead of the agonizing hours it seems to take to Black Pine (don't worry, I  know you don't know where that is...).  And 13 is where we began the crazy fall work this year.

Nearly a week ago, on a hazy cool morning, we saddled up and headed out to gather in the cows on the Forest Service ground.  These cows have been difficult all summer long, so it was awesome to get the buggers done and out of the way first.  Of course they were spread out on the very edges of the field.  And of course they had to turn and chase the dogs every chance they could.  And of course the only time they hurried along was when they were headed in the WRONG direction.  But we were ready for them and brought lots of help, and in reality, we didn't have all that far to go to.

After our quick 45 minute gather began the real fun of sorting off the cows from the calves.  These cowboys work cows so different than I ever did growing up.  I was always taught the approach of less is more- quieter, calmer, less guys... Maybe some of that was just because we didn't have so many cows or man power.  Still, very different.  With these Curlew Cowboys we start sorting from both ends, each grabbing a bunch and sorting off calves out one gate and cows out the other, sometimes pushing against each other.  I went on the end where we pushed the cows out and kept calves in.  I have to admit that the first few minutes were stressful for me.  It was chaos.  Pure chaos.  There was no organization, no plan, just get 'em and go.  Fortunately my anxiety simmered down and I jumped into the chaotic, sorting groove.  Before long we were done... mostly.

A few calves had managed to slip the gate man that needed sorting back out.  And a few bulls needed bringing out.  And some of the neighbor cows needed pulling out too.  So not really done, but that gave me the perfect opportunity to take a few pictures.  I have to admit that I didn't take any when the good sorting was going on, but that was simply because I was too busy doing my other job...

With the sorting done, all that was left was to wait our turn to get all the calves loaded and head home.  And in the meantime while I was waiting, I enjoyed my moments of bliss on the back of the horse with my camera, conversation my new sis-in-law, and a little kid free time.  I was almost sad when we loaded up the third and final semi-full of calves.  But alas, all good things must come to an end.  Until the next time we wean- oh wait, that's tomorrow!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Hometown Buck-a-Rama

If I had known all of the crazy things that September would bring I don't know that I would have believed it.  My calendar at the end of the month looks nothing like what I had in mind at the beginning of the month.  But that's ok... In the midst of all the craziness I had some awesome family time, a fun trip to Montana with my sister (she lives in New York... like, the polar opposite of my world.  Crazy that two sisters that are best friends could live completely different lives... LOVE IT!!) and a chance to go back to my roots.

The weekend that I was home to Montana just happened to be the weekend that the American Legion was holding an event to raise money for the fair grounds. Funny that until now I hadn't realized who was responsible for the fairgrounds there.  Where is the fair board, you ask?  There isn't one.  Our county doesn't actually hold a county fair.  Instead they team up with a couple neighboring counties to put on a Tri-County fair in Deer Lodge.  Looky there... Learned something new, didn't ya!

So no fair board, no money from the county, and therefore in need of some creative fundraising.

The highlight of the day was a rough stock buck-out featuring the bulls of a local rough stock contractors, Rod and Bonnie Conat and Steven Graveley.  They may not be PBR material just yet but that very well may be where they are heading.  Some of these bulls were young and inexperienced, but they certainly have potential.  But that doesn't mean that there weren't any old seasoned bulls that knew how to put on a show.  I was thoroughly entertained!

I did have one small complaint, and you will see it here in a minute.  They had hauled in a bunch of panels to make a much smaller ring to buck in.  Smart, right?  They won't have to chase bulls all day to move on to the next one.  But they forgot to think of the lady sitting in the stands with two tired kids crawling on her lap while she tried to take pictures.  So that means that in between you and the action will be some panels and what not.  Just pretend its not there...

Regardless of how the panels may or may not have ruined the ambiance of the pictures, it was still a fun day for a rodeo!   

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throw Back Thursday: Cattle Drive From May

Remember that terrible cattle drive?  That one where there were more cows out in the fields than on the road... I wish I didn't... That adventurous day was day one of two of our cattle drive.  I know what you are thinking (ok maybe you're not thinking this...) that if day was so bad, day two must have been horendous and that is why I have to do a little "throw back Thursday" to catch you up on it.  

Nope, on all accounts.  Day two went as smooth as... it was GREAT!  Granted, we did have a good road to follow, fences on all sides, lots of cowboys, and a shorter drive.  But hey, it was good!  We will take it any way that we can!  

And lets say we learned a little from day one. The Rancher just started the day with a motor bike.  We called up The Buckaroo who brought along his sweetheart and a bull whip.  Both highly useful, just one more so than the other (just to be clear, his girl really is quite the cowgirl!)  And I opted to not try a photo shoot on the run.  I went with the 4 wheeler, kids and camera- its a lot less pressure!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oneida County Steer Show

Tonight we are hitting up the Easter Idaho State Fair, a big highlight of our fall.  I'm not sure why we love fairs so much- maybe its the food, or the free entertainment, or that we can wear our cowboy duds and totally fit in.  Whatever it is, we can't get enough and hit up as many of the local fairs as we possibly can!  In fact, it will be our 4th fair in just about as many weeks! 

I big believer in fairs... obviously as now I am on our country fair board.  I really feel like it has a lot to give it the community and especially its youth.  The time, effort, sacrifice, and responsibility it takes for kids to commit and then follow through on all of their projects is huge.  Parents and leaders put in a lot of time to help teach skills to the up and coming generation of ranchers, gardeners, sewers, bakers, photographers, canners, and hopefully leaders.  Yep, I'm sounding a little stuffy and frumpy... but when you take away the rides and rodeos, what you have left is kids learning and showing what they can do.  I love it!

Every year I look forward to the steer show.  I was big into showing (can you imagine me NOT going big in anything I do?!).  I loved taking the time to wash, clip and fit  my steer.  The show ring meant game time and I wanted to win.  And sometimes I did.  Now that I don't get to (their really frown upon a grown woman commandeering the steer show!), I like to jump in and help give a few of my tips and tricks to the next group of showman.  Who knows if they even want to hear what I have to say, but at least I feel like I get to keep my foot in the ring one way! 

But really, these kids don't need me.  They (hopefully!) have been working and preparing all summer for this day, and as you can see, one way or another, they nailed it!