Sunday, January 24, 2016

My New Wish- Cows vs. Snowmobiles

One of my favorite things about where we ranch is that we get all four seasons.  Granted, I do wish we had more trees to make the season changes more dramatic, but still... the differences are still there.  I love the fresh green-ness of spring and when it rolls into summer and its fresh wild flowers.  Fall always has breathtaking oranges, reds, and yellows and winter has its peaceful snow, giving everything a new start.

And with the changes of the seasons throughout the year, I get to capture something new.  For a long time now I have been itching for some good winter photos.  Last year we had only one storm roll through, and if you remember, my picture mostly consisted of us feeding in the mud.  Yes, I guess we can call it a different season, but it wasn't all that picturesque.  So you can see how I was itching for a good storm to come in and give me a fresh new scene.  You can also see just how excited I was when the snow to finally came!  And not only did I have the snow to shoot, but there was so much snow it meant we could pull out the snowmobiles- something I haven't EVER put on the blog!

Ok, snowmobiles are ordinary and nothing that special, but it was a fun new opportunity to get creative.  Especially when I heard the boys saying that they were heading up in the hills on the sleds to find a few cows.  Generally, once the cold sets in and the snow starts to fly, the cows in mountain ranges wander down to the ranch and within a couple of days the herd is home.  Except when they don't all come down.  Then we get to see where they have hulled up...

I quickly volunteered myself to help in the work that day!  I was having fun just picturing the cowboys moving cows, not on horses or 4 wheelers or motorbikes but on snowmobiles!  I mean cows have been around FOREVER and to have such a modern means for getting the work done (for real... what contrast!!) just had me eating up the opportunity!

In some ways it was everything I expected- breathtaking sights as we looked over the mountains and valleys of our land.  I LOVED taking it all in.  But the scenes I was hoping to see never came because we never found the cows!  We rode all over looking for cows and didn't see even a trace of them.  We found where a herd of deer had bedded down and we ran across a moose, but no cows.  I was a little worried... until we later learned that they had come down a different way then what we had been expecting and checking.  Glad they were all ok but I have to admit I was slightly disappointed...

But even if I didn't get the cow vs. snowmobile photos like I had wanted, we had a great time as a family and I did capture new memories that are in reality, way more important.  You see, if I want to go it usually means that the kids get to go to, which isn't a bad thing at all.  It just makes for a little more work and a little more worrying for this momma.  What if they get bored and just want to go home?  What if they get cold and miserable so far from home?  What if...

As usual my worrying was all for nothing because my kids LOVED it!  The Ranch Princess loved it so much she fell asleep (I promise, her falling asleep is a compliment! Oh, and ps- it is so hard to drive a snowmobile while holding a sleeping baby... And to take pictures...  Just saying...).  The Rancher's Sidekick kept asking to go faster and FASTER and want even BIGGER jumps.  And even when dad had to leave us for a minute, they loved just playing in the snow.  The only moment that was that was less than fun was when The Ranch Princess and I tipped over.  A sleeping baby and a big pregnant belly trying to make a turn just didn't happen...  Don't worry, it all happened very slowly and softly so nothing was hurt but my pride.

Maybe with the way this winter is shaping up I will get another chance for my ranch snowmobile pictures (maybe I can even convince them to try a little roping for a fun photo shoot!).  And even if it doesn't I think we can be satisfied with the fun new memories we made anyway!

But I'm still crossing my fingers!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Shipping Calves... But Wait! Where are the Calves? Where are the Trucks?

Shipping day started off pretty typical, just what every rancher hopes for.  Regardless that it was a chilly morning to be out, our good neighbors were out to help get the calves in and start weighing in.  There calves were rounded up without a hitch and the scales were treating us pretty good.  And to be honest, we were a little nervous on how the calves would weigh up, especially the heifers.  They had been pretty well on track or maybe even a little heavy, but as life would have it, things got crazy just days before shipping.

We had stayed up too late partying (and helping The Rancher's Sidekick get his pumpkin ready for school the next day...) with The Cowpoke and The Montana girl just a few days before Halloween.  They finally decided to call it a night and as they headed home, they didn't make it far before they flipped a quick U-ee.  As surprised as we were to see them back, we were even more surprised when they told us we had calves running down the road into Holbrook! 

We quick jumped in the truck and headed down the road to stop the calves while The Cowpoke rounded up Rancher Sr. for more help.  Saying that they were running down the road was no exaggeration but it didn't take too long to get them stopped and turned around.  But instead of heading for home, they penned themselves in our neighbors corrals... and we decided to just shut the gate on them and call it a win for the night.

With it being so dark and having black calves, we figured we had pretty close to all the calves in, but thought we would drive up and down the road to double check and we happily found nothing.  The Cowpoke headed out again, saying he would look for any more strays but he was sure this was his final goodbye for the night.  But..  just as we were pulling back in, we get a call from the cowboy that was supposed to be heading home.  He had run into at lease 45 more calves just getting to Holbrook!  We took off down the road getting to an available field just before the calves did and got all but a few back in.  But those few blew right past us and it was my unfortunate opportunity to take off down the road after them.  And when I say take off down the road, I mean run down the road.  My chubby baby belly and I bounced down the road and, with a little skill and a lot of luck, managed to push the calves through the fence (not the method I was aiming for, but the outcome was spot on!).  I'm really glad it was dark and nobody was around to see my little jaunt because I am sure it was less than pretty...

After getting the last group in, we did an even more extensive search to make sure that calves hadn't wandered any farther and again came up empty.  The Cowpoke even managed to make it home without seeing any, so we settled in and finally went to bed, two hours later than our already late bedtime.  But that still wasn't the end of it...  That next morning The Cattlewoman ran into about 30 calves on her way into work.  We aren't sure where they spent the night, but they managed to hide out pretty good!  But in our defense, it is stinking hard to look for black calves on a black night..  Just saying!

So you can see how we were a little nervous on how things would turn up on the scale!  You will be happy to know that everything turned out fine and we made weight (even a little over!).

The calves were weighed and we sighed our annual collective sigh of relief that we had made it another year, the calves were sold and headed out.  That was until we heard that only half of the trucks had made it!  After searching for lost semis (because people struggle to find us out in the middle of nowhere... although you would think it would be easy with so few people around...) and many phone calls we found the culprit of the snafu-ee.  It seemed that only half of the semis had been dispatched and that they weren't coming!  Murphy's Law, right?

Things did turn out all right, don't you worry.  We sent off the loaded semis that we did have and had another group show up early EARLY the next morning (they threw a kink in the bus driver's route but she got over it).  Life is never dull around here, even when we think we have things are ready and under control.  Lucky for us we have learned to work through the hiccups that come our way and we find the humor where ever we can.  But still, lets hope next year goes a little more smoothly!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Finally Moved in!

I hope you have ear plugs in because I have something loud to tell you.. WE HAVE MOVED INTO OUR NEW HOUSE!  I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to be in.  It has been a LONG summer of building.  And really it has been an even longer year of tearing the old house down to get ready to build.  But it has all been worth it.

There has been so many ups and downs in this process and lessons learned.  Like, do you know how many banks think it is ridiculous to build this far out in the country?  I mean, how do we ever plan to sell it?!  The idea that we are building on our ranch, where we work and live, was such a hard concept to grasp.  I also learned that living out in the middle of nowhere makes it hard for contractors to want to come out.  But with the promise of a home cooked meal and a place to sleep we were able to get the workers to come.   And let me tell you, when they give you a date, whether its when a project will be completed, when they will start something, or the day you get to moved in, whatever date it is, add on about half as much time and that is your realistic time frame.  

 The Rancher has turned into a fine electrician,  plumber, negotiator, excavator, framer, and all around handyman.  I could probably hire out as a great painter, with a twist of high wire acrobatics if you are lucky.  And if anyone wants any advice in picking paint, flooring, cabinetry or anything else that has color, I would love to help you…. But its pretty stressful so you are on your own!

As we were building there were a few musts that we had to have.  I wanted a real laundry room for the mountains of dirty clothes we accumulate from ranch fun.  And it had to be separate from the mud room because a laundry-room-mudroom combo means just exchanging dirt rather than actually getting rid of the dirt.  I needed to have a bathroom close to the back door so The Rancher wouldn't track mud and dirt and poop through my new house (because I already know that the boots aren't coming off…).  The Rancher wanted a garage, one big enough to TWO trucks in and his 4 wheeler and his tools and still have room to work in.  So pretty much our garage is as big as our house… Ok, not really.  His final must have for the garage was that the roof couldn't slope so that the snow didn't dump off in front of the garage doors, something we are already so thankful we planned for!

After all being said and done (even though we aren't all done…) it has been such a great experience.  Everyone needs to build their own home at least once in their lives.  And when I say build I really mean build.  Being the ones to string wires, put in flooring and cabinets, to paint the walls and hang garage doors has helped us to appreciate our home so much more.  When we began building I told The Rancher that this house was to be a house of perfection- everything absolutely perfect.  But I've learned that it is more a house of forgiveness- mistakes have been made, some that can be fixed and some that we cover up and some that we just live with.  But imperfections and all, it is ours. 

I promise there will be more details and photos to share later, but that will need to come as we get everything finished and after it is decorated all fancy and after I do some cleaning (its amazing that even though it is a new home it is a lived in home and is messy already!) But here is a few shots of my LOVELY kitchen, the kids play room, the mud room, and our bedroom.  Now don't judge that things aren't finished and that there are things hiding under my bed... just look past it all!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Weaning... and Pregnant

Looking back at weaning a few (four!) months ago, I don’t recall it being overly eventful.  I mean, there wasn’t any disasters or mix ups.  Nobody was injured and all calves were accounted for.  That all being said, it could be that time has softened any of those bad memories and they have slipped away.  We can just say that it was a good, uneventful weaning.  Well, relatively speaking…

Ok let’s just get it out there that so long as the cowboys are having a good day, nobody else’s suffering really matters.  So while I don’t recall any issues with the weaning itself, I do specifically recall it being a little rough on this pregnant rancher’s wife, but again, that doesn’t really matter... 

The first weekend of weaning I wasn’t even planning on really helping out.  They figured there were plenty of guys so I planned on just playing photographer.  That morning as they got ready to roll out they realized there wasn’t enough cowboys and The Rancher came in asking for me to ride.  I had just barely rolled out of bed when he asked me how I was feeling and lucky enough for him it seemed like it would be a day that I wouldn’t be kneeling in front of the toilet (hooray!).  So I went.  And it was fun.  And it was so painful!

Have you ever rode a horse with a cantaloupe bouncing around your insides?  It didn’t matter how fast we went, something was being smashed or jostled or bumped.  And let’s not forget how a bouncing tummy can turn sick in what seems like an instant.  It was like being sea sick from the inside out!  

I survived that day, but I decided I was done riding for a while.  So when we had our next weekend of weaning I stayed on the sidelines, which finally gave me a chance to take some photos.  It seemed like forever since the last time my camera had been out on the range.  It felt good to use my trigger finger again!  Now before you worry about me just sitting around NOT being helpful, remember that this girl can’t sit still long.  As soon as they had enough calves sorted, the kids and I jumped in the truck and hauled calves home.  See?!  Very, very helpful…

With two weekends of weaning under our belt, we had just one more major day to spend out on the range.  That one last day was maybe the longest of them all! The Rancher asked me to help ride because once again they were low on numbers.  By that point my morning sickness was less of an issue, but my growing belly was still something to be dealt with.  Being the good wife that I am, I helped, of course.  I sorta hoped that my sacrifice to come and help would earn me a little doting and sympathy but I should have known better…  There is no room for weakness in the cowboy world, even for the pregnant ranch wife…  

So now here we are, four months down the road from weaning and I am finally getting things posted.  I live be the saying, “Better late than never!”  And maybe that’s not so bad of a thing if it means that I remember it being relatively uneventful (because my suffering doesn’t matter, so long as the work gets done!).


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Revisiting 2015

Our New Year's Eve was pretty uneventful.  We had an early dinner, watched a movie and just relaxed at home, which in reality was the best way to end our crazy, stressful, busy 2015.  With the new year well under way, I've finally taken a minute to look back over the last year and realize that it was a HUGE year for us.  And before you contest my observation (because I didn't blog hardly anything that eventful and if it didn't happen on the blog, it didn't really happen, right?!), I'm gonna list it all out for you!

Lets just start at the top, shall we?

We started the first of last year with a bang, literally, as we began demolishing the old ranch house to build our new home.  When the walls came crashing down we knew we had committed ourselves to this adventure!  Although it was oddly satisfying to take a sledge hammer to the old house, it did get tiresome and the work seemed long but after 3 months we got it down!

In January we realized that there was nowhere near enough feed to calve out all of cows in Locomotive so we kept back an additional 250 cows at the ranch.  Luckily we had an easy winter that helped things go more smoothly, but calving was a lot more intense.  And because there was such little feed in Locomotive, we ended up hauling a lot of hay down south, putting a lot of extra miles on the feed truck.

When we weren't busy on the ranch or demo-ing the old house, we were busy studying to be EMRs (aka first responders).  The Rancher and I took a class to test and certify to run on the ambulance in our little valley.  The long weeks and late nights of studying took me back to my college days and I was so glad when we tested and PASSED the beginning of May.  Don't worry, if you get hurt out here in Holbrook and need assistance, you have a ready, willing, and terrified crew to put you back together!

The spring was its normal craziness of branding, turning out, and praying for rain.  Luckily, we were blessed on all fronts with a successful branding season, fast turnouts and a lot of rain!

The busyness of spring only got busier with summer as we were full swing into building a house, haying, hauling heifers to rodeos and ropings, and summer fun.  I worked on my bucket list and scratched off hiking Mount Timpanogous with my siblings (it might have been a few days before I could walk normal...).  Being the cool people that we are (and humble, I promise...)  we volunteered in our community at every chance we could!  A few highlights included our 4th of July where we cooked breakfast with Farm Bureau as the Young Farmer and Rancher's chairman, had a fire truck in the parade to represent the Holbrook/Stone fire crew, cooked dinner with the Search and Rescue and put on a fire work show with the Malad fire department.  I planned and took (with help!) the 12-18 year old girls on a week long camp trip (that had its own ups and downs with beautiful sunny mornings and snowy afternoons!).  And we ended the summer with a week long of fair fun where I helped organize rodeos, a hypnotist show, vendor booths, and horse races all while doubling as EMS after a huge meth cookhouse was found (don't worry, it hadn't been running in years, but still scary to have in our little valley!).  And if that doesn't sound like a crazy summer, lets add in a little morning sickness!  Let me just tell you that one of the highlights for our summer was NOT our garden...  I don't know that I have ever neglected it so bad as this summer.

As the summer came to a close, we hit a new milestone when we sent The Rancher's Sidekick to school for Kindergarten!  I didn't cry, but the house certainly felt empty without him.  While we was at school, The Ranch Princess and I spent a lot of quality time at the new house painting... and painting... and painting...  Don't ask me to come paint anything... I'm all painted out...

Even though we were solely focused on getting the house done in the fall, we took time to go on school field trips to the zoo and pumpkin walk and our annual family fishing trip.  Of course we had calves to wean, cows to preg check and fall pasture to be moved to.  And before we knew it, the calves were sold (so glad that we contracted in the spring!!)  We also learned that my dad's cancer had returned but we are hopeful with a quick catch and aggressive treatment he will beat it again!  With appropriate timing, we gratefully moved into our new home the day before Thanksgiving.  In fact, we moved our crap in and then jumped in the truck to head to Montana for Thanksgiving all in the same day!

We closed the year out by watching The Rancher's Sidekick first Christmas program, Christmas shopping, The Rancher breaking a few ribs, a week long trip to Tijuana and strep throat.  We were delighted to stay home for Christmas to celebrate the season and enjoy our new house!

Yep, looking back we had a crazy year, but I don't think that I would have changed anything about it.  OK, I could have done without camping in snow in July or the morning sickness or The Rancher breaking a few ribs (I mean, did you have to do it right when we were finishing moving in?!) but we learned and lived and laughed so much!  I love and appreciate my family more this year than ever and truly look forward to the coming year.  In some regards I'm a little afraid, because I have learned that times can be tough.  But I have also learned that together we can get through it all!