I did it again. I made another calendar. Last year I didn't really know what I was doing and this year.... I mostly do... I'm jumping in again and just praying for the best. I actually like trying to do some bits of graphic design and making a calendar that I would like to hang on my wall allows me to dabble in it a teensy bit. And this last year I have loved to see some of my favorite photos on a calendar hanging on my wall.
So with out further ado, I am announcing my 2015 calendar!
If you are interested in a calendar, please email me or comment on this post. The calendar will be $25.00, which already includes shipping.
For having a population of about 90, there are so many terrific people in this little valley. In the few years that we have been living here I have made some incredible friends. Over the last few struggling years its been humbling to watch our ranching and farming friends plead and pray for help and to see them celebrate in their triumphs and stand tall in their trials.
This little family has to be at the top of our best friends. He was best friends with The Rancher as they grew up, she and I hit it off instantly and we have kids the exact same age that already love each other. She asked me to take a few family pictures and we found the perfect day on the morning of the first snow of the season. Now when I say she wanted me to take a few, she really meant it. "I just need a family one, one of each kid... and I guess just the two of us!" That's just what we said. I snagged a few others and then talked them into taking a few fun ones "sledding" that I think turned out so fun!
I'm a work in progress, ready and eager to learn how to take AWESOME pictures, and I'm grateful for those willing to jump in and let me capture their story!
Calling it fall pasture now sounds wrong that it is currently covered with a sheet of white snow, but since the calendar still calls this time of year fall we will go with it. Fall pasture. That's where we headed a week ago. The Rancher asked me one of my favorite questions- do you wanna ride? Um... YES!
It really was a fabulous day and a fabulous day for a ride. Unfortunately... there was one part of that day that wasn't so fabulous- I didn't bring my camera! I was so busy getting kids together and getting out before the cowboys left me that it slipped my mind. But in some ways it made for a different kind of ride.
I always enjoy being out for a ride and I love capturing the scenes of the day. But as I've been riding and photographing at the same time, I realized that as much as I take in with my camera I don't personally it take in. I look around seeing my next photo or noticing some exciting action and then I take the picture instead of internalizing what's happening. And that is exactly what I did this ride.
We gathered in the forest cattle, the same bunch we had brought in twice already. This time it was to sort off all of our remaining cows to head over a couple of hills to the fall pasture. Luckily they pretty well sorted themselves... a few of them were a little hot and if too many were that feisty it might have made for a bad day... When they take on the horse in front of them rather than running through the gate, you can see that there was plenty of fun that day. Once we got all of our cows out The Rancher, Cowboy E and I started moving them down the road.
It was uneventful. The cows moved slow because they were busy eating all along the way. The air was chilly but the sun beating down was warm and comfortable. We commented about how good and fat the cows looked. And we called for the dog keep the cows moving (NEVER move cows without a good cow dog... he's worth his weight in gold!). It was nice to have a moment to connect to what we were doing and take it all in. The creak in my saddle, the cow's hooves on the gravel, and the dog running were the only things to really take my attention.
This little uneventful ride helped me realize how beautiful of a life we live, in its simplicity and in its intensity. We have times of the year that we fall into bed exhausted only to wake up early again the next morning. Then there are the days that The Rancher gets done early enough to saddle up the horse for the kids to ride. In all of it we get to live a life where we work as a family to raise beef to help feed the world. We work hard, play hard, and have beauties all around. On this ride to fall pasture I didn't capture the day with my camera, but I certainly captured it with my heart. If only I could help you to see the imprint it has left on this rancher's wife.
The first week in November is always a big week for us. Over that week most, if not all, ranchers in the valley sell and ship their calves. We calved out these babies, grown them over the summer, and then put the weight on them since weaning. I've said it over and over-this is the day we work for. Sale day is the day that makes every other day possible. And when its over we can finally relax (its only for like a day until we start thinking about the next year!).
We have had amazing growth over the last two months and it really showed on sale day. They were chubby, so chubby that we weighed in heavy! Seriously, fantastic! When we contract our calves, we contract less than what we have (mostly to hedge our bets because occasionally we contract before the calves are even born!). When we weigh heavy and have more calves than in the contract, that means there are more we can keep and sell on the side. Its like having two paydays! We do keep back anywhere from 90-115 heifer calves to keep for replacement heifers the next year.
The morning of sale day we bring the calves, already sorted into steers and heifers. We weigh all the calves, getting an average weight. Based on that weight, our broker will pick out any calves that he won't be taking and then we reweigh those (to make sure we have the MOST accurate weight down). After the work of sorting and moving and weighing and reweighing its time to load the trucks. Once those trucks are full, they drive off into the sunset and we all live happily after. Ok, not really... It was noon so more like driving into the sun.... And its not all sunshine and roses, but having another year behind us is as sweet and satisfying as any fairy tale ending!
I just got done spending a few days helping The Rancher fence. Mostly by accident. Like, my kids took off trekking down the busy road to find their dad and I followed after in my sweats. And of course once I got there I got put to work. And boy was it work, actually more of a workout. I tease The Rancher from time to time that he had better get doing some exercises before he has to move his buckle down a notch. But in reality, his daily living is enough of a workout that he doesn't need to exercise.
Well, I take that back. As an exervise science major I believe that everyone needs to exercise, everyday. But hanging out with a rancher provides enough core building, heart racing, strength training exercises that you won't have to hit the gym at the end of the day.
For example, take the job of tamping- using a narrow, 15 pound bar to pound and pack the dirt around a fence post. And since nothing done on the ranch is slow, you do it fast, as fast as you can. You squeeze your core tight as it will go to stabilize your shoulders as they slowly begin to burn from lifting the bar over and over again.
Moving hand lines. In the days when I was a pipe mover I always considered it to be my morning exercise routine. Squatting with an extra 50+ pounds stretching out 15 feet off each side is a great for a little balance work, especially while the water is still running up and down the pipe.
Roping... oh boy roping... I've learned this last year what a great workout this is. Keeping your elbow, swinging at just the right rhythm and then still having the strength to throw is so much harder than what it looks. In fact, I have yet to even remotely come close to figuring this out... But I have gotten sore, super sore.
And then there are all of the sledge hammers. Big, little, tall, short- they all have one thing in common. They are all heavy. So heavy that you don't slam them down as much as swing them up and then just let them fall on whatever it is you are hitting. While they are doing whatever damage you need, they are building some beautiful core, shoulder, and even back muscles.
I really could keep going on... ranching is a physical job. So much so that even with my intense morning workouts, I still get sore after a long day with The Rancher. If ever you were looking for a change in your exercise routine, come spend the day with a rancher!
I married a cowboy, a roping cowboy. And I'm down with that. Actually, I love that. Its what I wanted. But its definitely the type of cowboys (they were more ranchers than cowboy if you get down to it) I grew up with. The rancher's from my roots were more cattlemen than horsemen. My dad, however, did a lot of riding. He had this mare that was his partner in crime for years. She did her best work when she was cutting a cow. Once she knew what she was bringing in she was locked on. She had an incredible drive and hustle... so intense.
I fell in love with cutting watching and riding this mare. I learned a lot from her- mostly to hunker down in my saddle and lean back to free up her front to move fast and easy. But really, just to hold on...
The boys around here do a lot of roping, and although I love watching them roping and I am highly impressed by their skill, I get really excited to watch them cut. (I get even more excited when I get to do it!) After preg checking all of the cows, they have a pen full of buggers that are being sent home and need to be sorted according to each rancher. This is one of the highlights of the day for me. Those cows are tired and ornery and put up a good, GOOD fight. And that means that the horses put on a good show! I love to watch them put all their weight on their back legs and spin their front around to follow a cow and then launch forward in a totally new direction. Its so smooth and explosive all at the same time. Then there are the times that they have to take off to cut off some cow and have to make a quick, hard stop at an instant. Its pure athleticism. Can you see how I love it?!
Unfortunately, I was busy cleaning up during the majority of the sorting. These darn boys still need to learn how to work around my schedule... But I did catch the tail end of cutting cowboys.