Friday, February 27, 2015

Loving the Open Range

I'm a Montana girl.  The small ranching town I grew up in was just a little valley, cross crossed with streams and rivers. Something very VERY different from where we are ranching now.  Everything was green. All the time. That may be exaggeration, but really I remember that there was so much green-ness. So many meadows, so many hay fields. There were little groves of trees everywhere.  Really so much green!  And then there were the skies.  I love the fresh and blue open skies. The clear mornings that renew each morning with a new sunrise. The sunsets were made with cord that illustrated that God truly is an artist. And the clarity of the nighttime sky allowed you to see even the most distant stars.  Whenever I go home I just drink it all in.  

Here we have a few trees. Unless you count the sage brush, which some if them are big enough you could consider them to be trees. Actually, I love the safe brush. The smells that come from when you move cows through them or when it's raining.  

It's this lifestyle that let's me have those open skies, the green-ness, and the fresh air. 

It's amazing to me how we can be all a part of the same industry but do it so differently. We can raise cattle in this errid, dry dessert just as well as my family did in the fertile river plains. Just very differently. Very differently. 

Sometimes the differences get me a little homesick for the way we did things. You may take the girl out of Montana, but you can never take Montana out of the girl. So the days when we go out on the wide open range it satisfies the little Montana girl inside of me. Like last week when we dropped the cows off to Locomotive. It was that time of year to haul the cows down south. The kids and I hopped on the semi with The Rancher for a day out. We were only there for the few minutes to unload but they were wonderful moments. 

Although some of the open range is a little bland, the skies can be amazing. You can see for miles with the beautiful blue mountains in the back grounds and the dazzling blue colors.  The open skies and fresh air take me back to my big sky country.  I guess where ever you are, you find little bits of home. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mother Nature's Desert Treasures

The desert of Locomotive is a place of itself. It doesn't seem to follow any of Mother Nature's rules. It has it's own freak storms, crazy winds and weird weather. 

Today is the day we get to haul some of the cows to Locomotive to spend the next few month and I'm reminded again of some of the strange and cool things Mother Nature has put out there

Like some of the intense rock work out there. There are places where the wind gets whipping so hard it has carved around and through the rocks. Of courses that been over hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of years. There's a small cliff (it can hardly be called a cliff... But for lack of abetter term... Meh...) that has a sorts if Who-Ville look to it. It has silly windows and what could look like odd doors. Splash a little paint on it and you would have jumped into Sr. Seuss' world!

This year we have had an incredible amount of juniper berries. Like loads and buckets and smatterings of berries. Why?  The old timers were telling us that it meant we would have a record snowfall and the trees were preparing for it. I don't know if that was right, since we have had like no snow, but maybe it was all the moisture last fall. Either way it's cool to see so many berries. 

One of my favorite oddities to check our is the wildfire aftermath. 50 Years ago (I'm totally guessing here) there were some crazy fires burning through these ceder hills. The fire must have burned hot and fast because it looks like they started  up on fire , burned out and just fell apart. I love the natural, abstract art Mother Nature made from it. 

We may be running on the desert- the dry barren desert.  But every once in a while we find our own little treasures, provided by Mother Nature herself. It's the desert's own kind of unique beauty. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Feeding as a Family

Feeding- the pass time of winter.  If there is one thing you can guarantee we will be doing this time of year it is putting the hay out.  The tedious redundancy gets to The Rancher.  He just feels like it eats up his time, doing the same thing over and over.  Hmmm... He wouldn't make a good house wife (I'm pretty sure I have said that one before).  Having to cook and clean up after people over and over...  I'd love it if feeding only took two hours of my whole day.

Despite the fact that feed isn't The Rancher's favorite ranch chore, it may be one of mine.  Lately Rancher Sr. has been gone on the weekends quite a bit while he supports Cowboy E in his last season of wrestling.  That means that The Rancher either gets to feed on his own or I jump into help.  I LOVE any opportunity to prove to my cowboy that he needs me, so of course I head out to help him. Really its more than that- I love to get out on the ranch, love to drive through the cows to see how they are doing, and I love the photography moments I get.  But more than that I love being able to take the kids out with us and work together as a family.

Living and working on the ranch is so much more than a job to us.  There is no separation between home life and work.  Sometimes that has its problems, but there are way more blessings that come that makes it worth it. The best take home of all this for this ranch momma is the memories we are making every day.  I love looking into the tractor seeing The Ranch Princess jabbering to her daddy.  I see her getting excited at the cows, the horses, and the few baby calves.  I can just hear her saying, at the top of her lungs, "Look daddy!  COWS!!" (actually its more like wook daddy, tows... so cute!)  While we drive between fields The Rancher's Sidekick has picked up battling thumbs in an intense game of thumb war.  I'm pretty sure that he is cheating more and more each time, so maybe we should stop with that one...  He pals around with me on the 4 wheeler as we cut bale strings, begging to drive.  Even stomping the mice as they come out of the bales has become a fun memory!

Sure life on the ranch can be redudant.  Every year has the same seasons of calves, seasons of changing sprinklers, seasons of moving cows and seasons of working cows.  But the best part about life on the ranch is that we get to do it as a family and spice up the redudant moments by making memories.  We feed cows and enrich our souls.  That's what we did today!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Muddy Morning on the Ranch

Are you tired of hearing about the weather? Everything we do goes back to the weather.  Too hot, too cold, too windy … Always something.  Not that I’m complaining, it’s just interesting what Mother Nature throws out there for us.
What’s our current weather issue?  If you can believe it, it’s the mud.  We are having splendidly warm temperatures and beautiful blue skies.  It’s so warm the ground isn’t really freezing.  Good or bad?  I dunno it just means that we sink down, down, down…  Deep down.  The warm weather in iteself isn’t too bad.  But the warm temps means that instead of getting snow we get rain.  Its been fabulous to have the rain.  We have loved the moisture… it’s the after math of the wonderful rain that is causing the problems. The ground has become so saturated (awesome!) that the rain doesn’t soak right in.  The puddles are lasting longer, the mud is soupier, and its actually running down the sides of the road.
Because I am the awesome wife that I am, I help feed cows whenever Rancher Sr. is gone (which has been more lately with Cowboy E’s crazy wrestling schedule).  With what has become the typical division of labor, I’m the one that gets to be out in the mud.  I open the gates, I cut the strings, I get to hang off the tractor and flipped in the mud.  Needless to say, I’m the one that goes home a complete mess.  What I do because I rock (just kidding)…
But really its ok, I’m over it.  We can handle the mud, the heaping stinking piles of poopy mud and the endless supply of mud following us where ever we go.  We can handle it because having the mud means that we do have rain and we do have warm weather.  Although its tough to deal with nows, we feel so blessed and watched over.  The rain is what we have been praying for for so long and its inspiring to see it finally come.  What better way to start the new year than to be in a muddy mess, blessed with rain?!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Counting Our Blessings, One Fat Cow at a Time

Our Monday morning drive to check water- oh how I love it. When else do I get to sit and ride with kids constrained (I mean buckled, of course) and just take pictures. I hate those days when something comes up and we don't get to go. Like all January...

Finally I got my turn to trip around Locomotive with my main man and small peeps. I came to a few conclusions- Locomotive is prettier with snow, we don't have a lot of feed, and our cows are fat. Somehow the last two parts of that don't seem to go together but it's what's happening down south. The few, but saving fall rains have done the good we needed to give our cows the nourishment for the winter. It may be dry and we still need rain, lots of rain, but we are counting our blessings. We have fat, healthy, pregnant cows- a wonderful beginning to our new year!

Not Letting the Drought Win

There are few things ranchers depend on for their industry- cows/calves to sell, buyers to buy, and feed to fatten them up.  The first two are in pretty constant supply, feed on the other hand... Well that's a little subjective...

There is always feed out there, but good quality feed at a good price can be hard to come by.  Why?  One word... DROUGHT.

The last few years we (and by "we" I collectively mean all or most ranchers) have been needing rain in a bad way.  Without rain grass, grain, alfalfa, hay, whatever won't grow.  Pretty cut and dry (hehe, dry... that's what we are right now!).

The other day we had our turn to check water in Locomotive on our BLM association ground and we took a turn through our private ground to check the feed.  Our private land in Locomotive is where we take our cows to calve out every winter, the turnout day coming up in just a few weeks.  But the sad truth is that its going to be a very different year for Locomotive.

Throughout the summer and fall we have been keeping an eye on our feed down south, hoping and praying the rain and sun to get to work to make grass that we need to winter the cows.  As the time has gotten closer and closer to moving cows out there we have realized we don't have NEAR enough feed to winter all the cows there and keep the ground healthy.

Last year it was rough.  With years of drought, we finally grazed it down to its limit.  And we hate getting to that point.  We consider ourselves stewards of the land.  We care for it, trying to keep it flourishing in something more than tumble weed.  But without the rains and the tough soil we have struggled the last few years.  You can see in the pictures that the normal greenish brown is yellowish brown or even more greyish brown.  

So what's a ranching family to do in a situation like this?  We could just take the cows down and not care.  But we care.  We want this land to sustain itself and our cows.  We need this land to sustain itself and our cows.  So we are keeping most of the cows home this winter.  We will take down the number of cows we think will make it on the range and keep the rest here.  That means The (poor) Rancher will have LOTS of cows to feed at home... bummer.  And we might have some tougher weather for our cows to calve in...  And we might have a little more sickness go through the calves since they won't be spread out across the range.  But we are hoping that we can help the land to renew itself and be fruitful in the coming years.   This year will mean we get to put in a little more work, but protecting our land, something we CAN'T do without, is worth any effort.

So with a little less cows, a little more rain, maybe a few grass seeds, and a lot of faith we are trying to care for the land and not let this drought win.