Wednesday, April 27, 2016

An Ordinarily Unordinary Day of Branding

Some days I get really worried that what I have to share on here will be old news.  I will have already shared it, blogged it, posted it, or photographed it.  And then you will be bored of me and kick me out...  When ranching can be so routine I fear that you will get tired of the same stuff happening year after year.

But then I go on an ordinary branding day and it turns into an unordinary (I know I made that word up...  Its ok, I already know I'm crazy...) day.

Its the little things that add color to a dusty dull branding day.  Things like hearing about your neighbor's horse dumping him on his head just as he headed out and needing to be chased down to finally get to the cows (the horse got chased down, not the cowboy, although that would be a good story too).  Unfortunately I didn't get to see it, but when a story gets passed around and around all day, you know it must have been a good one.  Some day I will develop a sense of when these things are going to happen because I KNOW that would make for some exciting pictures.

Its the little things like how the girls did better at holding the calves that the boys.  OK, it was a tie, they both did good but I love seeing a little girl power out on the range.  And I really love when they are proud of themselves for rockin' it out there.  Remember, it wasn't very long ago that girls were told to let the men handle the ranching.  I loved it when one of the guys told me that his daughter is the hardest working boy he's got and that is why he leaves his three other boys at home.

Its the little things like being so proud of myself for eating all of my lunch.  Usually that isn't a feat, but this day it was.  And it wasn't because the cooking was bad.  The branding fire is always down wind (Can you imagine if it was the other way?  We would be eating our bellies full of dirt!) and the tantalizing smell of lunch reached us LONG before the dinner bell was rung!  Knowing that our wonderful range cook has WIDE variety of entries, I told The Rancher that we weren't going to talk about what we were eating until I was done.  Like how sometimes husbands do, he didn't listen and shared to me that we were eating buffalo tongue!  What?!  It wasn't really on my bucket list but now I can officially say that I have eaten a buffalo tongue.  And it wasn't too bad.  I had to remind myself that the tongue is just another muscle and then I was fine.  But I'm pretty sure I won't be picking one up from the market and fixing it for dinner.

Or its the little things like counting how many fellows can keep on roping and branding and such with as much beer is flowing without anybody getting hurt.  We work with a good crew, a REALLY good crew, but it still surprises me how they can work and drink at the same time.  I'm crazy enough that I don't need any of that stuff to make the day exciting... but they always bring a little extra zing to the day.

Before I could find any more unordinary things to spice up the day, the cows decided to be a little unordinary themselves and tromp the fence down and call it quits.  But maybe cows getting out is pretty ordinary... Its happened before.  It will probably happen again.  Here's to an ordinarily unordinary day!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Newest Cowboy Around

You might be thinking that I forgot to tell you I had a baby.  Or you might just be thinking that I am still pregnant (Please don't be thinking that...  I have nightmares of that!) .  And that's my fault...

I didn't forget to tell you.  If we are Facebook pals its old news, but if we aren't...  We had our baby!  Yahoo!

For as badly as it could have been, things went pretty darn smooth.  I was terrified that I would go into labor while The Rancher would be in the middle of roping a cow to pull her calf down in Locomotive and not answering his phone all while he was the only cowboy around to get the ranch work done and it would be hours before I could tell him it was time to take the hour and a half drive to the hospital and I would end up having a baby on the side of the road (and he would say "lets pull out the chains!".  You see, that whole week before baby was born, Rancher Sr. was on the other side of the world (Bulgaria!) picking Cowboy Pete up from his church mission.  It was kind of a big deal.  But it left The Rancher to keep everything running.  So you can see how I had a little bit of anxiety...

But I didn't go into labor!

There were a few close calls but being the obedient son that he was, our baby listened to his papa and waited until there was help around to take care of the cows.  Because of a previous c-section (yes, The Rancher calls me a zipper cow...), my doctor chooses to induce me to monitor my entire labor in case something crazy happens like I rupture and bleed out and die.  We would like to prevent that...  So we got to be to the hospital at 5 am, bright eyed and bushy tailed.   Actually, since we went to bed about midnight at woke up at 3:30 I was less than.  All I can say is thank goodness for epidurals that makes it so a tired momma can actually sleep while in labor so she can actually have some energy to push out the tiny human being inside of her.

In fact after a good nap, it was time for baby to come.  And it all happened so fast that The Rancher almost missed it.  Not really, but while the doctors and nurses were prepping everything for delivery, I didn't really have a chance to wake him up to say it was show time.  Good thing everyone was noisy and he realized something was going on.  It wasn't long before our beautiful, tiny cowboy was born.  When I say tiny, I really mean tiny.  He was all of 5 pounds, 13 ounces, and 19 inches long!  The Rancher is priding himself in being a low birth weight bull.

On a sunny morning, I got brave and decided to try out a few newborn photos of our baby.  For my limited experience (and by limited I mean NONE) I was pleased with what we ended up with.  But I must admit that western/cowboy/ranchy photos are much more my wheelhouse than newborn portraits!

Now I need a little help!  Everyone on the blog has a nickname, because that's cool.  Its time to come up with a new one for the newest member of the herd.  Any ideas?  Leave your favorites in the comments below or comment on Facebook or Instagram!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Making Some Free Money

When your livelihood is like 85.762% dependent on something OUTSIDE your control, you tend to stress out a bit... or a lot.  Ranching in totally that livelihood that we can really get our stress level up on.  Sure, the day to day stuff is fun and tease The Rancher that his work is really play.  I mean, what is a rancher if not a little boy that grew up to have big toys to play in the dirt and lots of horses to ride on?  But when you look at the big picture, whether or not you can make it to the next year is a pretty sobering thought.  And that is only intensified by the fact that there is so much outside our control, mainly the weather.

Yes... I'm talking about the weather again.


It seems that all the stars and all the planets have to be perfectly aligned to get the weather we need and this just might be the year!  Looking back to last year we were over the top stressed with what was going on.  We had only one good snow storm, so we didn't have NEAR the with moisture that we needed.  Then the rains never really came.  And when they did come it was too late to get the grass going in our spring fields.  I can remember quite vividly last year The Rancher and Rancher Sr. trying to figure what to do with all the cows because looking through the summer there just wasn't going to be enough feed.  They went through all of the questions "Do we buy a bunch of hay to feed out in the fall?"  "Do we sell some of the cows?"  "Do we keep some cows home and feed all summer to make the range feed last longer?"  Stressfu...  Very stressful...

So what do you do when depend on the weather for your livelihood and its not cooperating?  Not much but hope and pray for a better year the next year.

Because sometimes that next year rolls around and you get dumped on with snow.  And then the rains come at just the right time.  And not only do they come, but they fall by the inches!  Ranchers are God fearing people naturally because when there is nothing more to do, they turn it over to God and things tend somehow work out.

We may have had to postpone our branding and we may have had to wait a bit to plant, but its all worth it when we have the rain coming like we do right now.  The Rancher says that when it rains like this we are "making free money!"  The rain comes and makes that grass grow like its magic.  With the grass taking off like it is we have great feed for our nursing mommas.  These healthy mommas then can nurse big, healthy calves.  And then those calves grow like weeds throughout the summer and weigh in heavy.  Heavy calves help us make a few more dollars so we can make it another year.  And all of that because of some well placed rain showers!

You cam see already how things are changing.  What used to be beautiful golden grass has now turned to luscious green grass.  Sure it has a ways to go, but I have NEVER seen Locomotive  green like this.  With a start to a year like this, we aim to "make some free money" to keep living the life we love! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Be Still My Momma-of-a-Little-Cowboy Heart

We could not have asked for a better first day of branding than what we had!  It was a beautiful sunshiny day with just enough breeze to blow the smoke away.  Even better, there was hardly any dust because of the snow and rain that came through the couple of days before.  I can handle a hot day or a cold day.  Heck, I can handle a rainy day but I really don't like the dust (and yet I live on a dusty, windy ranch in southern Idaho.... I know...).  From years in the passed, you know that the dust can really make or break a good day of branding.  And this day was destined to be a good day!

The first branding of the year is always a gamble of sorts.  Being a momma and rancher's wife means that I never know how I might spend my day.  It could be all hands on deck and I'm a full member of the crew getting the work done.  It could be that no one needs me and I get to put my feet up.  Or it could be spent entertaining bored and spent kids...

I knew that The Rancher's Sidekick was going to be fine.  He was already stoked that it was branding season and ticked off that his dad had left him to drive up later with me (mom is always second best... bummer...).  There wasn't going to be any problem helping that boy have a good day.  I was a little unsure about The Ranch Princess because last year she wasn't too into it.  The smells and the noises were just too much for her two year old self.  But thankfully this year she was all over those issues and into the fun.  She was adamant that she had to wear her cowgirl hat and a cowgirl shirt and her cowgirl boots and bring her cowgirl rope (something I could totally handle and make me best mom of the day!).  The real gamble of the day was the baby.  I had no idea how he planned to handle the day and I prepared myself that I might get to hang out in the truck all day.  But to my luck, and somewhat astonishment, baby slept all day!  He ate just before we headed out, slept till lunch, ate again and slept as we finished up.  Yahoo!  That meant I was able to help the guys and keep them in line (haha!  I don't know that anyone wants that job!) and best of all-  snap some photos!

With the dust being at a minimum that day, I was able to get some fun pictures.  I shoot photos all day long and then at the end of the day I have HUNDREDS to choose from to share with you.  Sometimes I feel like they may be getting a little redundant but there is enough differences in them that I have to share ALL may favorites.  I have been trying and learning new composition and photoshopping (is that a word?!) tips so you will have to tell me what you think...

At the end of the day The Rancher's Sidekick came up to me, somewhat disappointed.  It only took a second to learn that he was upset that his dad hadn't helped him catch a calf yet.  Our little cowboy wanted in on all the action, including roping a calf to be branded.  The Rancher was quick to fix that problem and took him around to find a calf or two.  When we call it quits, a lot of the calves are just laying around, making themselves any easy target for an little cowboy still learning to rope.  He managed to snag a few and seemed pretty satisfied.  The Rancher figured he had better go finish with the clean up and left his sidekick to go along by himself.  I think he kinda assumed that he had roped enough calves and with dad gone, The Rancher's Sidekick would be done.

But he wasn't.

He kept looking through all those calves to find himself another one to catch.  But going at it alone meant that he didn't have dad's eye for a small one or a somewhat lazy one that would hold still.  Instead, he managed to find a big, sturdy calf with a lot of zing in him.  I was taking pictures when I saw the rope go over his head, tighten up and the calf take off.  And that moment when I saw rope go on, my momma heart started racing.  I could see rope burns and hurt fingers and a little boy with a mouth full of dirt from being drug around.  I yelled out to him and just then, the slack went tight and things got real.

Now let me interject, that I'm not really one of those crazy paranoid moms.  I know that life happens and kids get hurt.  I'm ok with them learning lessons the hard way, just so long as they aren't too hard.  And that's all good because I'm  married to a cowboy that likes to play a little rough and tough with his kids.  But that doesn't mean that there aren't those moments when I somewhat go crazy inside.

So back to my story...  So I see that my little cowboy has a calf more than twice his size on the end of his rope running for momma cow.  As any good little cowboy would, that boy dug in his heels, leaned back and hung on the rope.  It slowed the calf a little but being the heavier and faster of the two, the calf just kept moving.  It was at this point my momma instincts took over and pictures were totally forgotten.  I ran to the rope, getting there just a step or two before the cowboys got to it, and after dancing with the calf for a minute, managed to get the rope off.  I looked at The Rancher's Sidekick who was wide eyed with terror and excitement.  It took a few minutes for everything to sink in and then it was a flood of emotions- "I caught a big one!" "Mom, why did you let him go?!" "My hand hurts!"  "That was a little scary" "That was so COOL!"  "Let's do that again!" "My hand hurts!"  "I'm never doing that again..."  "Next time I need my gloves..."  "My hand hurts!" ... "My hand really hurts!"

I laughed inside and maybe cried a little too.  My momma-of-a-little-cowboy heart just about couldn't handle what had just happened.  The Rancher appropriately came over and talked to his sidekick and helped smooth over everything, calling him tough and saying how he was impressed how well he hung on.  Seconds later, our little cowboy was off to find something else to do (which wasn't roping a BIG calf) and that was that.

It was only a couple of minutes, but its those kind of "couple of minutes" that sometimes makes it tough to be a momma of little cowboys.  You want them out there learning at their dad's side.  You want them to love the life and you love it when its all they want.  I've learned as I send them off with dad, to send them off with a prayer.  And to close one eye if I decide to watch!  I'm afraid of what this momma-of-little-cowboys heart has yet to make it through...

Click "read more" for LOADS of more photos... like 80 ish...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Support a Rancher, Eat a Vegan

Anybody seen that bumper sticker before?  Ok, I know its not really nice to say but its a little funny.  Just a titch...  And I don't really mean it.  If people want to go down that road, its up to them.  And it leaves more tasty beef for me.  But what really frustrates me is when they those people go beyond making a personal choice and decide to go head hunting farmers and ranchers.  That's when I kinda want to eat a vegan...

If you couldn't tell, this is going to be a little different from what you would say is my “normal” blog post.  Usually I have stories and pictures from what’s happening from our neck of the woods buttoday I have a treat for you.  About a year ago, The Rancher stumbled upon a Facebook page called Greeley Cow Savers.  They say that the "purpose of this page is to bring awareness to the abuse and exploitation of farm animals" and "bearing witness to their suffering and vegan education."  What?!

Ya… weird.  We looked and a little closer and with our perusing I was nearly crying from laughing so hard at their incompetence and completely infuriated at their lies.  Something we feel like all the time, right?  To be honest I don’t know if the page is a joke or not, but I’m inclined to believe that it is legit and that these people are so confused as to what is really happening with farming and ranching.  But even if it is a joke, followers are believing what they are saying.

Some of their content was really so hilarious.  They posted a video of some of their members at a feedlot trying to “free” the animals there.  The poor guy trying to make such a valiant effort to save the poor cows couldn’t even figure out how to get the blasted gate open! It must have been his first rodeo… Once he got the gate open, he tells the cattle to run and be free only to be answered with blank stares and cud chewing.  He was so disappointed.  Darn ranches probably brainwashed those cows!

Another post that really had us rolling was about the cruel calving practices ranchers use.  Things like how cruel it is for ranchers to NOT provide clean linens for the momma cows as they birth.  We are so cruel we force the mothers lick clean their babies because we won’t do it ourselves.  In fact, we are so cruel that not only do we make them lick their calves off, but we make them eat the afterbirth! And then we are cruel to not take the calves from the tired mothers to allow them to rest after their long, intense deliveries. 

I could keep going on some of their ridiculous delusions on ranching because really, they had a lot.  But there is a problem here that makes me so frustrated I could scream.  The problem is that people actually believe these totally skewed misconceptions and that farmers and ranchers are cruel.  And the even bigger problem is that more and more are believing, following and supporting these people.

Sadly my frustration leads to feelings of inadequacy because I don’t know that there is much I can really do about it.  There will always be people against farming and ranching that will always poke holes in our industry.  But maybe today I can put a plug in one of those holes and feel a little better about myself by writing this post.  And I write this to two different audiences.
To my fellow farmers and ranchers… I have two things to say to you.  First, please do care for your animals.  I’m not telling you to so anything crazy like pull out the linens as your cows calve.  Let’s be real here and still remember that they are animals with animal instincts that we shouldn’t take away or humanize.  But as we give them purpose in life, let’s help them fulfill their purpose honorably. Second, if you aren’t telling your ranching story, someone else will and you might not like what they are saying about you.  You don’t have to get all fancy and spend all your time doing it, but take time to be open and real about what you do.
To my friends that aren’t a part of the Ag industry… Thank you for being here! So many people have become disconnected from where their food comes from.  Yes we buy milk from the store, but that milk still comes from cows.  Cows that have farmers and ranchers that care for them.  I want you to know that we really, truly care about our animals.  We have their best interest in mind as we work every day.  Yes we try to be efficient with our time, money, and equipment but that doesn’t mean we care any less.  We take time to study the best nutrition for our animals and the best techniques to care for them.  I hate to admit it, but there are people in our industry that have given us a bad name, but you need to know that the few bad choices some people have made doesn’t portray an accurate picture how our industry as a whole is.  Farmers and ranchers are the hardest working, selfless, toughest and most tender people I know.

The next time you run across someone trying to poke holes in our industry, please think of this ranching family that works day and night to raise beef to feed families around the world.  Remember that while we are working, we take our responsibility to care for our animals and our land seriously.  We believe so strongly in what we do, that this is so much more than a job or a career.  Ranching is our life!
Here are a few screenshots of their Facebook page...

Actually those chains are to assist the cow while birthing. And yes, a dairy calf is take from its mother, but not to be killed!

I'm not sure what they think this silencer chute really is but in reality it is a chute designed to keep cows and us as safe as possible while we work them. 

Yep that is yucky. But I'm guessing it's from a LONG day of hauling cows. And unfortunately cows poop. But before any self respecting rancher would put cows in there, they would clean it out. We do at the end of every day we haul and have never had a cow complain. 

(Ps if you really want to get down to it, this isn't a trailer for hauling just calves AND they rarely lay down. If they are young enough that they would, the truckers lay out sawdust...)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

An Oldie, but a Goodie- Tagging Calves

In some ways our ranching life can be pretty predictable.  You can always know that in the summer we are haying and moving cows, the fall we are weaning and preg checking, April is branding and November we shipping calves.  We might not know what we are doing tomorrow but I can tell you what will be going down six months from now.  So it’s no surprise for me to put up a post about getting out and tagging with The Rancher.

Even though we do this every year, the fun and excitement never goes away!  We all love to see to the cute new babies, especially the little, little ones.  The kids like to get out and help dad tag as they can use it as an opportunity to practice their roping skills.  I have to hand it to them, it’s a pretty good idea to go for the brand new babies because they are slow enough and have no idea what’s coming that the kids catch one every once in a while!  I really get a kick out of the older calves giving The Rancher a run for his money as he chases them down to get them tagged.  He just blames his slow-ness on my great cooking.  And sometimes I chuckle when there is a testy momma that makes the boys run for the 4wheeler (I only chuckle after I know they are ok… I promise… ).  Ya know, it’s those little things that make it fun for us.

Unfortunately, having a baby mid-calving season means that I haven’t been out to help as much as I would like.  Being sidelined to recoup from giving birth has kept me in more than I would like (because I am a girl that doesn’t like to be kept in!) but a little tagging or checking cows here and there certainly helps with the cabin fever.  The camera has made the outing even less thin I, but we still have a few fun shots!