Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Midnight Bust

I was looking back over the posts from last year.  Sort of reminiscing about what was happening this time last year and then just kept scrolling.  As I was going through, I realized that there are some stories that I never shared.  These are the stories that are worth telling.  You know that because they are the stories that I can still remember after so much time having past... 

I live by the theory of better late than never (you know that already for all of the times I've taken you back!).  Looking back this was a crazy, comical night but at the time it was frustrating, nerve racking and ...  I guess any issue that begins after dark at the end of a long day is doomed to be a hair puller

We had just gotten out of the shower (I say we because we everyone had to go through my shower that night... Why do we have 2 bathroom when we only use mom's?) when I heard the 4 wheeler buzzing around.  People usually don't go for a moonlight ride so I knew something was up.  The Rancher slipped into something more fitting for the ranch then his jammies while I put the babies to bed.  Finally when I made it out to see what was happening (because The Rancher had been gone long enough for me to know that it was bad news- whatever it was) I learned that the most recent batch of weaned calves had escaped the corral and were heading in all sorts of directions.  They went up the highway, down the highway, to the shop, to the haystack and to the alfalfa... awesome... 

The Rancher and Rancher Sr. were buzzing around bringing in what calves they could find.  You see, finding black calves in the dark of a moonless night is tough to do.  You hear them before you ever see them and unless you have GREAT hearing you just might think you are getting around them but really you are heading straight out them.  When I first showed up I just waited for orders from the cowboys.  It was a long wait... So long I gave up waiting for their instruction and took it upon myself to guard the gate.  It didn't take long for me to see that as many calves got brought in would wander out.  Not very productive... 

So I guarded the gate.  And it seemed to work.  The boys would whoop and holler and bring the calves and I would keep them from escaping.  Every so often there would be a handful that made their way to the gate and I was able to get them in (so proud of myself!  Earning so many rancher's wife stripes!).  But the handfuls started getting bigger and more frequent and I began to realize that the blasted calves were hopping the fence and walking back to the gate.  I had been putting the same calves in over and over!  GREAT...  Rancher Sr. came in and as soon as I could I explained that we weren't keeping them in... Making no progress.  So we got what calves we had and pushed them in the corral.  Finally safe.  Locked in.  j

We did this dance of getting the calves in the back pen, running to open the small man gate to the corral, pushing the calves to the gate avoiding the holes in the fence, and trying not to pee my pants every time they scare me as they come around the hay stack. 

Eventually the calves stopped coming and we figured we could call it a night.  All was left to do was lock the gates up good and PRAY that nothing spent the night in the alfalfa to bloat or on the road to get hit.  Come morning we found we were blessed to keep the calves in for the remainder of the night and the couple of strays that spent the night roaming didn't die. 

Looking back on this Thursday night I remember what an exciting eventful fall night we shared when the calves had their midnight jail break.  You could almost say we had a romantic night with the only lights of the starry sky (and the few flashlights and 4 wheeler headlights) but I'm sure that's not how The Rancher looks back on it.  A little anxiety and a lot of relief.  Maybe he won't want to relive this Throwback Thursday memory!


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Working Til the Cows Come Home

Winter.  It has so many mixed emotions that come with it.  So many different emotions.  So many opposing emotions.  And when you have them all mixing in one house, it can get a little crazy.  Take my house, for example...

I love winter.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we got married in January, so I just have so many lovely memories in the midst of a blizzard.  Or it could be because I genuinally love winter activities- skiing, sledding, tubing, making snowmen... Yep, love it all.  I did grow up in Montana where it was likely that winter would begin before Halloween and end just as school was getting out, so winter was just a part of life- a BIG part of life.  I just might love winter, though, because life slows down when there are blizzards and snowy roads and heaven forbid, you think you better stay home!  Yep, I even love the dramatics that come with it.

My love and enthusiasm is shared by my kids, who PRAY for snow, sometimes even in the summer.  Its not likely to happen, but with the faith of these kids anything could happen.  The Ranch Princess has to take the snow in small doses, only as long as her bare hands can handle the cold because she REFUSES to keep gloves on.  But she still loves it.  And then there's The Rancher's Sidekick.  He thinks that just a skiff is enough to stop EVERYTHING and play.  He hangs on to every last bit of snow like its going out of style (actually, I guess its going even faster than that!) and we sled down the hill hitting as many patches of slush left.  Yes, we love winter and snow and all things cold...

But then there is The Rancher.  All of the sudden, he has grown old and decided, quite logically, that we can do without winter.  Winter and snow and all things cold aren't that great for business.  I can understand that crazy blizzards are terrible to calve in and hard winters are hard on momma cows, but really... a little snow is cool right?  But there is another reason The Rancher doesn't want winter and snow.  Its mostly, like 87.9%, because that means we have to feed cows.  Part of it is just because we want the hay to last as long as it can.  I get it, that's how I feel about cooking dinner.  If I don't do it, the groceries last longer, I'm so sure...  But in reality, he hates doing the same thing day after day.  Every morning he spends hours feeding all the cows and has to turn around and do the same thing day after day.  I've said it before, The Rancher would make a terrible house wife.

So The Rancher prays for winter and snow to evade us as long as possible to put off that dreaded day of feeding cows.  But eventually, the day comes.  Even without the snow to hurry it along, the day comes that the cows have just gone through all of the grass and the cows must come home.  The Rancher must have struck a good deal with the weather maker/grass grower because the last of the cows only came home a few weeks ago.  Those fat cows managed to stay a whole extra month longer than last year.  But home they did come and of course we helped (because we are the best help around!) and of course I took pictures and of course I'm gonna share them with you.

We could call this a sunset cattle drive.  When you start moving cows at 3:30 in the after noon at the beginning of January and have several miles to go, its likely that you won't make it until the sun has set.  Especially if you have slow cows.  I guess they figured everything is supposed to run slower in January, like molasses... In the cowboys defense, this was the second group of cows they were moving for the day.  They figured that if the horses were loaded they might as well get a days work out of them.  So from the desert to the home ranch they moved cows, squished through the mud, and tightened up their cinches, working til the sun set and til the cows came home.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Buckarette

Hello again...

I'm just going to jump in and pretend that it hasn't been forever since I have been here...

In fact, lets just pretend its August.  Yep, on this chilly January night I want you to pretend that its a blistering hot (I don't know that it ever gets THAT hot here, but for dramatic effect- it works nicely) summer day.  Say like August 2nd in fact.

Why August 2nd?

Because something awesome happened August 1st- I got a new sister in law!  I love all my sisters, in laws and outlaws.  Everyone of them brings their own awesome-ness to the table.  In our Eliason family, EVERY girl is celebrated.  For so long there was only The Cattlewoman, raising 5 cowboys without any female to stand strong with.  Even the dogs were all boys!  I guess if you wanted to get picky, there have been thousands of female cows go through, but they don't count... don't count AT ALL.

As the first of the married-in-daughters, I told everyone that it was my right and privilege to approve their choices for wives before the question was even popped.  Unfortunately, they didn't take me seriously and never asked if I was cool with their choices... But lucky for them they picked well.  So well, I don't know that I could have done any better.  The Cowpoke knew that any girl from Montana would fit in just right (history has proven that!) and now The Buckaroo has found himself a fine cowgirl of his own.  She isn't from Montana (but she does LOVE it) and that's ok because she more than makes up for it with her sweet cowgirl skills, mad basketball skills, and awesome baking skills.

I'll let The Buckaroo tell you how he wooed her so fast... that's an exciting story of its own... The only thing I'll divulge is that she was the perfect girl in his eyes- she could rope, rodeo, cook, and looked HOT.  But really, what else is there?!

I'd like to (finally...) introduce you to The Buckarette!  This girl was raised on the back of a horse and taught that she was the one that would get the work done.  Sound familiar?  Oh, ya.. like the rest of us.  There have been some great moments getting to know her over the last year.  Like when she came to the ranch for the first time for branding and out roped all of the boys.  Or when all she had for church shoes were her work boots and she didn't even bat an eye.  Or when she, repeatedly, made the blind steer walk into the barn (not like IN the barn like.. "bam!" INTO the barn).  Or when she nearly out shot all the boys when we pulled out the clay pigeons.

Yep, she's a girl after my own heart and I'm excited to share her story with ours too.  Of course you have already seen her here on The Blog, but she has officially been given a name- The Buckarette!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Fun of Preg Checking Buffalo

When I talk about our couple of days working buffalo, I usually only mention that we were preg checking them.  But it was really more than that.  At the ranch they only work the buffalo once a year.  Can you blame them?  I mean really, who wants the stress and working buffalo more than that?
With the whole herd gathered, everything goes through the chute.  We wean off all of the calves and sort the bulls from the heifers.  That means that they each get a tail lift... In some ways it can be kinda tricky trying to sex them.  So much hair...  And as it got darker the differences sure became hard to spot!  But there is an easy, unreliable way to ID gender- their horns.  Interestingly enough, the horns on the bulls grow wider... Random, I know.
And then we obviously preg the cows, cull the opens.  Its so interesting to see this herd and the range in ages and size.  We have young calves to old cows that have been in the herd for years.  But what they all have no matter what their age is, they are all so crazy.  Over and over they would have a problem with the cows tipping over backwards.  See, in their craziness, they try to jump out.  And they could if it was just a cow ally (buts its not anymore).  With the ally being tall enough and strong enough, they can't jump over.  But it doesn't keep them from trying, over and over again. And eventually, their top heavy head gets the best of them and they just topple over backwards.   It really is comical to see because its as if once they get up to the top, it all goes in slow motion while they try to NOT tip over.  They fling their hooves and wiggle their head.  But its inevitable... They tip over on their backs and CAN'T get up.  "I've fallen and I can't get up..." (name that show?!).
Once they have tipped over the crew is gathered because it takes ALL of the men to get the upside down buffalo right side up.  After this happening so many times, they have got their system down.  They throw a rope around its head and pull, rolling it up.  It seems simple, but buffalo are heavy.  Super heavy!  Seriously, it takes 9 guys to do this!  And sometimes one has to get a little brave to jump down in the ally with the buffalo to get the rope on.  Exciting right?
They did get to pull over a good handful of buffalo, but fortunately nothing really happened.  Hardly anything to get your blood pumping.  We had one little incident where a calf managed to back out of the chute, right by me.  It was like preg checking cows all over again.  But that meant I new just what to do- grab the baby and run!  I had been recording numbers and standing right next to the chute when the little bugger psyched out the gate man and was able to back out.  We danced around the table, trying to keep something between us and the calf and at the first chance we jumped up on the cat walk.  The guys were prepared for something like this and pulled out some panels to herd the little buffalo back in.  And it did just saunter in and we went back to work, shortly acting as if it had never happened.
Preg checking was, once again, exciting this year!  Not enough to cause any really harm, but still enough to know your heart can be good and fast.