Monday, February 27, 2017

A Good Winter Day Sorting Cows

Last week sorted cows in Locomotive.  Scratch that... It was actually like SEVERAL weeks ago that we sorted.  In fact, its been long enough ago that we sorted, that the snow has melted and we have mixed the cows back up.  I had a twinge of hurt when they mixed up the cows again.  Because I feel that we just did the work of getting them unmixed up... Oh the work we do...

That day of sorting had a lot of emotions running through it.  There were those overwhelming feelings of just being totally exhausted from the added work with dealing with the snow.  There was the tension of not knowing how the day was going to go, if it was going to go at all.  Then there was the final relief and thankfulness of finally getting the work done. 

You can imagine we slept well that night.

I'll admit, I had my own doubts about how the day was going to go down.  They had never had to sort all those cows there.  They never had so much snow to work the cows in.  I was afraid for the worst- cows not cooperating, horses slipping on the ice, and cowboys coming home hurt and discouraged.

That is always my fear.  Because I have seen it.

When I was a little girl, I saw the hard days that my dad had.  There was the day that he couldn't take his own boots off because of the 4wheeler accident.  There were the days that he came in exhausted from no sleep trying to keep calves alive in the cold.  There were the days he couldn't keep the equipment running to get the hay done before the storms rolled through.

But there is one day that comes to mind above all the rest as being hard for my ranching dad.

It had been a long winter.  The calving was over and breeding season was in full swing.  Doing the spring work in the still winter conditions was getting long and tiresome.  Eventually there was a break and the thaw finally came.  It only took a few days for things to change.  The frost thawed, the ground dried and suddenly it was hard again.

He was bringing in a heifer to AI.  He saddled up his horse and headed out as he did every time.  Now let me tell you a little about his horse.  She had a long, long ugly nose.  And that was about the only bad thing about her.  Ok, not really... everyone horse has her issues.  But this girl was good.  She could cut a cow as good as any other.  Once she knew what cow she was bringing in, you just let her do the work.  She could drop her back end and change directions in a second.  If you didn't hang on she would move right out from under you (and I know that from personal experience!).  She loved the work and worked hard.

 The heifer my dad and his partner were bringing in was a little feisty.  No surprise and really, no big deal.  And for my dad, it was even a little fun.  Like most cowboys, he enjoyed the rush of the ride.  But then the heifer cut back and Whitney, his horse, went to spin.  And then she went down.

In those couple of days that the weather changed, my dad was busy.  Are you surprised?  He is a rancher, they are always busy.  Busy enough that he hadn't had a chance to take of the cleats on his horse.

When she turned back, those cleats dug into the ground, and she spun, but her leg didn't.  And it broke.

My dad knew instantly that it was bad.  So bad.  He was right.

He called the vet and he was able to come in and help Whitney.  They were able to set and cast the broken leg.  But she would never chase a cow again.  It was devastating.  

My dad says that every cowboy gets one good horse and one good dog.  She was his.

Ya know, despite the great days we have on the ranch and in this life, there are some really hard days.  We take risks.  We work in sometimes dangerous conditions.  We work with animals that can do a lot of damage.  And when those bad days come we just have to take it in stride.

My dad couldn't put his partner down that day.  He just couldn't lose her.  She meant to much for him.  So he decided to turn her into a brood mare.  Now her babies are on the ranch, doing the same work their momma did. 

Thankfully, our day sorting on the range had a good ending.  A great ending.  The work went well and the cowboys came home safe.  Not everyday turns out so well and we are grateful for the good days.  Its the good days that keep us going when we have those hard days.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Musing and Frosty Pictures

Mondays are for musings.  You look back over the weekend or figure out what's happening ahead in the week.  You plan. You schedule.  Sometimes you give yourself a pep talk.  But it all happens on Mondays. 

So here I am musing.

We went to Montana to visit my parents over the weekend.  It was refreshing and exhausting all at the same time.  My mom works for a small k-8 school and they had their ski day, so we trekked up there late Thursday night to join in the fun.  We had the whole spectrum of weather that day- icy rain, sleet, massive flakes, blue sky and fog.  There was a point we decided to bite the bullet and invest in some goggles for everyone and that was the turning point of the day.  Its amazing how much more fun skiing is when you can see and your eyes aren't being pelted with ice!   

There were high school boys and girls basketball games going on while we were there so we spent Saturday night cheering on the Drummond Trojans.  It may have been the third game I have gone to watch since graduating 11 years ago.  It was like I never left but at the same time I felt so old.  There were kids playing ball that weren't even in kindergarten when I was in high school!.  I only knew 2 of the kids on the boys team.  Yikes... I am getting old...  But at the same time, I still call my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Verlanic and my science teacher Mr. Schindler so I guess I don't feel all too old.

Remember how I married a cowboy that doesn't talk?  That made for a super long drive home.  It really was the fastest we have ever made the drive (we didn't speed, just didn't have to stop 12 times for the kids...) but it seemed so long.  He seriously said only a handful of words.  Anybody want to come hang out with me so I can have someone to talk to?

And to make the drive last even longer, my kids are to the stage that they ask the dreaded question- "are we there yet?"/"how long until we are there?!"/"how much longer?"  And I think that they eat more when we are in the car than the entire week before.  I can never pack enough treats.  I'm afraid its only going to get worse when my son becomes a teenager... Yikes!  

Its Valentines this week... Yay... Actually, for the first time in a long time I will actually get to see my valentine.  Really I should only say I SHOULD get to see my valentine.  We might sneak in a kiss or two between taking care of the kids and cows, but who needs February 14 to say I love you when there are 364 other days, right? I'm sure a batch of his favorite cookie dough and an early bed time will make for just the V-day he wants!   

So I posted last week about how we were buried to our eye balls with snow.  And then just like that the snow shut off and the sun came out and everything has started to melt!  Its not gone or even close to being gone by ANY means, but there is significantly less.  Its like Mother Nature is trying to discredit me.  I say its crazy and snowy and she brings out the sunshine.  If I said it was a beautiful-blue-sky-kinda-day, I'm sure we would get socked in with the fog for days...  So I'm going to post the last of my snowy pictures and hope that the temps stay up.  The heifer hill is slowly drying out to calve on so its helping The Rancher, right?

Speaking of calving... We had 1.  Soon enough we will be swamped with babies and I am so excited! Last year I was too busy swooning over my own new babe that I didn't soak in the babies outside as much so this year I will have to make up for it.  But the fact that we are calving does mean my baby is almost a year old and I just can't believe it.  I'm crying inside.  It just happens too fast!

Have I mused enough for you?  There is still plenty going on up here, but I will stop for your sakes.  I'll just muse to myself...

Happy Monday!
The RW 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Our Snow-Pocalypse

Hello from the land of snow!

Can you finally see us out here?  The snow is finally settling!  If you add up the total inches accumulated, we have had like 71" of snow.  Is that not insane?!  That is over 5 feet of snow!  But don't imagine that all fluffy 71" are still standing like they just fell.  Some of that snow was way heavy and packed everything down with it.  We had a week of warmer weather that helped melt things down a little too.  And we actually had a couple of inches of rain that dropped the level down even more. 

We have been praying for the moisture for so long and we feel so blessed to finally have it.  But in the dry spell that we have been having the last few years, we might have forgotten the not so awesome side of so much moisture. 

Now, I want you to know I AM NOT COMPLAINING!  Just simply explaining the challenges of having so much snow.  Because there are challenges, friends.  Besides the obvious road closures keeping us from going ANYWHERE, school snow days, and hours spent cleaning off my roof so it won't fall in (I might have been stuck up there for a while...), the biggest challenge has been keeping the cows on the up and up.

I've told you before that we winter our cows down in Locomotive (some come home for the fall and until mid-February, but then they end up back down there...).  Its a great place to have them for the winter because, generally, there is no snow.  Or just a little bit of snow.  That makes it better for calving, less sickness, and not having to feed them everyday.  But when you have so much snow their bellies are dragging through the snow, they certainly can't get to the feed underneath it.

So this winter, with the snow-pocalypse and all, we are having more work than ever!

When the storms first started coming through, we pushed the cows as far south as we could where the the storms had been less severe and there was more feed available.  Ironically, it always happened to be on a Sunday that the guys from the association wanted to move them.  You might not think that would be any worse than any other day of the week, but wrestling 3 kids alone in church is rough, friends.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, come visit next Sunday...

Back to the cows...

So even after getting the cows south, enough storms came that NOT feeding them wasn't an option anymore.  So then they had to bring them back up to where we could get to them with hay.  And that was a lot of work.

First they had to find all the cows.  And if you know cows, once a storm hits they just start moving- moving to find shelter or feed or whatever... But they just start moving and when there are hundreds and hundreds of acres for them to go, it takes a while to finally find them all.  The Rancher didn't complain too much at this.  I mean, when you HAVE to go snowmobiling all day for your work, it can't be all bad, right? 

But after finding the cows, they had to get them up to the feed yard.  That was definitely a challenge...  Of course the cows were going to struggle moving through the snow and would fight you nearly every step of the way.  I probably wouldn't want to move my big pregnant self through so much snow for miles either.  So the guys pulled out all the graters and tractors and ... (I don't even know what all equipment they had!) and they plowed a path to trail the cows back. 

And now to have 1,100 cows are rounded up together, it takes a lot of hay and a lot of time to get them all fed.  I'm pretty sure right now, all the guys do is push snow and feed cows.  Feed cows here at home, drive to Locomotive, feed cows there, and if there is any time before dark, they push snow.  Seriously, it is all they do. 

And it is exhausting.

I think it wouldn't be near so bad if we were all healthy, but we are not.  Sickness has gone through the ranch, not to mention other issues (like being run over by a cow and lacerating your liver...).   So while we are trying to heal and get healthy, we are using all our energy to keep the cows on the up and up. 

I'm honestly a little worried about the guys.  This is the time of year things are slow and they get to recuperate before calving and then branding and then turnout and then summer... But I don't think anyone is feeling rested after these last few weeks!  It could be a long few months ahead of us.

But we are still SO thankful for the snow! 

Now we just pray for the energy to withstand it all... Did you know there is more snow in the forecast?  Yay... (I might be crying inside....) !!

Thinking happy and warm thoughts,
 The Rancher's Wife...

I tried taking pictures of the horses in my back yard, but there was so much snow my camera couldn't focus!

Taking hay down to the cows and unloading without a tractor...

Its snowy and beautiful even if its so much work!

The upside of so much snow!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Oh ya... We sold the calves!

Seasons on the ranch go by so fast.  One minute we are calving and trying to keep babies warm and alive and then before you know it, we are selling them.  And then you sell them, and you forget to put it on your blog to say "HAPPY DAY!".  It may not seem like a big day, but those few hours on that frosty November morning are what we work for all year long.

So I am taking the opportunity now to celebrate selling and shipping calves.  Hooray!  It was such a s muddy, messy day because it had been raining and raining.  The downside to the rain and subsequent mud- sloshing and sliding around it poop and goop up to your eyeballs!  The upside- probably a few extra wet and dirty pounds on the calves!

Shipping cows isn't all that hard, but sort of time consuming.  When you have hundreds of calve to weigh, you can see how that will take some time.  Let me walk you how that day goes...

First, it starts before that day.  A week or so before, we sort the steers from the heifers and pull out any of the sick, lame, or small calves (hopefully not too many of these!).  Up to this point we just keep them together to feed them.  While we are sorting the heifers, we pull off the ones that we want to keep for replacements somewhere around 100 depending on the year.

So on shipping morning, we start with the steers. We bring the herd into the corral and move them back to the scales.  We weigh them 10 at a time to get an average weight.  Can you imagine if we had to weigh them one by one?  We would be there all day.  After we weigh all the steers we look at the herd average and see what that compares to what we contracted them at.  Obviously, we want to hit the weight we contracted at because too light means a smaller check.  Too big usually isn't a problem. 

After the steers are done, we do the same with all the heifers.

Once everything is weighed, counted to the number we contracted at (we have more calves than what we contract...), and the broker is happy with what we have, we load them up.  It takes someone with a masters degree in math to figure out the loading.  Not really, but it does take some time to figure out how many calves at what weight can fit in each section depending on which truck they are loading.  Glad that's not my job.  Once all five (or sometimes six!) trucks are loaded they head out.

And then we stand there and listen to the silence. 
And then heave a sigh of relief for having the calves gone.
And then shout HOORAY!
And then we check the mail...

Then we go back to work because the job is never done.  Every year we have the same day of shipping calves with the same guys, the same routine, and then same cinnamon rolls.  And its a great day.  The day we work all year for and the day that lets us keep working for the next year.

Happy (belated) Sale Day, friends!