Friday, March 31, 2017

Its All About a Bunch of Bull

Bull sale season is coming to a close.  It ends just as fast as it comes.  I kind of have a love hate relationship with Bull Sale season.  I love it when I get a chance to go, but I hate it when I get left behind.  And unfortunately, with all of my other OTHER responsibilities, it happens more than I'd like.  But I usually try to send a child or two if that's the case (hahaha... hehehe...).  My mother-in-law and I were having a great conversation the other night, talking about all the pros and woes of being a rancher's wife during Bull Sale Season.  I'm sure that we aren't the only ones that have noticed the ups and downs that come Bull Sale Season.  In fact, I'm sure that we have it easy compared the wives of the ranchers PUTTING ON the sale.

I've actually had the pleasure of both sides of the sale- the selling and the buying.  Growing up I loved the prep work of a sale.  Trimming everything, photographing them all, sprucing up the sale barn, staying home from school on sale day...  Yep, it was a kids dream.  But I'm sure as the wife to a rancher, my mom didn't think it was quite so awesome.  When I imagine her at that time of the year, one word comes to mind- STRESSED!

Even though I am on the buying side of the bull sale now, I still love it.  There is such an energy at a cattle auction!  The combination of the noisy crowd, the feisty bulls, the auctioneer's ramble, and the anticipation of when to put in your bid gives the air a little extra zing.  You can't help but love it, right?!

While the debate of whether Bull Sale Season is an actual thing is still being decided, I have unofficially dubbed March, plus or minus a few weeks, as such.  If you were to come look at our bull-sale-calendar, you might mistake it for a bingo card for as many days as have been scribbled on.  In fact you might even think we were going for Black Out!  And while there may be so many to go to, you can be sure that every one will be different and every one will be good.

The obvious upside to having so many days out to a bull sale is that I get a free pass on fixing lunch for those days.  While we can always expect the sale to be great, we KNOW the meal will be even greater!  In fact, it may be so good and we come home so full, that I might not even have to make dinner (actually that's never happened, but every time I'm hopeful!).  Is it bad to admit that I have even asked for a recipe or two after watching my family down their lunch?  I figure its a great compliment!

Once you get to the sale and have a chance to look around, you realize that ranchers can actually dress up and they are a pretty darn good looking crowd.  You spend so much time seeing them in shirts torn up from the barbed wire or pants covered in what looks like tractor oil and grease (and maybe even something else you can't even recognize!), or boots smeared in mud and manure and stinking even worse than they look, that you forget how good looking a rancher can be.  And I think they will take any chance to get out of their grubby clothes too!  Maybe that's why we hit up so many sales....  Hmmm....

I've decided that there is an art to bidding.  You don't want to jump in too soon, because that just might take the price right out of your budget.  But you don't want to get in the action too late because then you might be out altogether before you even got in.  Unless you can manage the sneak attack and steal the show with a last second bid.  Then there is the whole other ballgame of bidding online.  That one really makes me nervous... What if the connection goes out all of the sudden or what if it takes a second longer to register the bid or what if .... something else could go wrong, I'm sure! 
Whatever way you bid, you gotta have a game plan!

Usually we go to a sale with a budget in mind and a number of how many bulls we need to buy.  I always figure that once we spend the money or we get all the bulls we need, we will head home.  But the truth of the matter is, a bull sale is a rancher's social hour.  Believe it or not, ranchers to like to gab!  They all hurry up to buy their bulls and then hustle over to the cookie table to chat away the rest of the sale.

At the heart of every bull sale is their bull magazine. You can ALWAYS know it is Bull Sale Season by the stack of magazines on the desk.  I wonder if the mail man gets tired of filling the mail box up with them?  We've seen a few ranches that REALLY want you to come, so they send 2 or 3 magazines to be sure you get a good look at what they've got.  It makes things easier for The Rancher when there are more, though.  He can leave one on the kitchen table to read while he eats, one on the night stand to have his final look before he goes to sleep, and one in the bathroom where he does his best thinking.  For some ranches, they send out the whole sale lineup.  They figure then you can come to the sale knowing exactly what you want to go home with.  For other ranches it is more like a ranch-and-family-year book.  They try pulling at your heart strings a bit with those sweet smiling grandbabies.  Then there are the ranches that just send their own type of save-the-date card and figure its gonna save them a lot of work if you just grab the magazine as you walk through the bulls. 

But without those magazines, a rancher would be lost keeping everyone and everything straight.  Besides the fancy names and photos, they are full of the info any rancher needs to get a good buy.  Its those EPDs.  If anyone ever thought that rancher wasn't an educated guy, he should try his hand at EPDs...  I'm slowing starting to gather what scores are good birth weights, weaning weights, milking and futures.  I have no idea how they figured them, but I believe them.

Well,  Bull Sale Season... its been real, its been fun, and no we are done.  Its just a little more than a month away until the real fun starts and we see just how good of a buy we made!  Until next year... (Maybe the season will be official then and we can have an opening day celebration!)

PS-  I think the life of a bull is rough... Seriously, who else has a job of pleasure that only has to work a few months of the year and then is literally put out to pasture for the rest of the year?!  And to have pasture like we did last spring...  Yum...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Favorite Winter Weather Gear

If you had to have super-hot weather or super cold weather, which would you choose?  I go for the cold.  My theory (along with probably thousands of others!) is that you can always add layers in the cold but in the hot, eventually, you can’t take anymore off.  Thankfully, I don’t have to choose one of the other and I get to have both the hot and the cold.  And I’m even more thankful I get mostly warm….

I’d say that I can (usually) handle whatever kind of cold comes our way if I have enough of the right kind of layers.  It probably isn’t gear for Antarctic kind of cold, but since I’m not going there any time soon (or ever), I think I’m set.  I’m that kind of girl that so long as I’m not freezing, I can do whatever needs to be done.  So we pull out our cold weather gear and get to work.

So without any further interruptions, distractions, or whatever else, here is, from one rancher’s wife to another (or anyone else that is interested to know), my top 5 things that helped us survive the cold of winter.

1.  Our Muck Boots… These boots are a serious staple at our house, year round.  But they are an absolute necessity during the winter.  Let me give you the highlights of this boot: water tight, insulated, great tread, and NO LACES!  I love these boots for myself but I really love these for the kids because they can put them on and tucked into their snow pants without momma’s help. And they are great for those long weeks when the snow is melting and we are sloshing through the mud.

2.  A good wool hat WITH ear flaps…  When I was a kid, I always laughed about the look of a wool cap.  All I ever saw was Elmer Fudd.  But with my cute Stormy Kromer hat, function has totally met fashion.  And although looking good out on the ranch for those cows that are really into that is top priority, more importantly, I now have an awesome hat for a super warm noggin to make it through the cold winter days!  The Rancher isn’t so concerned about looking good as he heads out (because looking good comes so naturally to him) but he totally agrees with me that a wool cap is the way to make it through the winter. His only stipulation is that it has to have some good long flaps to pull down over his ears.

3.  Our Carhartt… everything!  We wear so much Carhartt because it is good stuff.  We have coats, jackets, and even wool socks!  They definitely win first place.  A blue ribbon. A gold star.  But seriously, they do an amazing job for keeping the cold at bay.  Then they last all season long, and the next and the next!  I have been wearing some of my favorite winter weather pieces for years! (Not that I have had the same pair of socks on for years, just that I have been using them for years.  You know what I mean, right?)  I’m all about a product that can do its job well, not once, but for a good, long haul.

4.  Good ol’ long johns…  The old time cowboys had it right when they wore their long underwear all winter long. They are like a snugly winter coat. It’s that all our critters need, so it sounds like a good plan to me!  I don’t have a favorite brand.  I’m simple like that.  They just need to fit in my jeans and keep me moving!

5.  Insulated leather gloves… Every year we pull out the insulated leather gloves I am always amazed at how well they can keep ya warm.  When winter hits I’m ready to put on the heavy-duty, snowman building, all-day-sledding, hill-climbing-snowmobiling, sort of gloves.  Then The Rancher grabs his trusty insulated leather gloves and I know we are already good to go.  Now if only they make them for teeny tiny hands…

There are lots of other winter favorites like our wild rags, vests, snow pants and many more cluttering my mudroom.  But when it really comes down to it, this handful was our everyday-go-to winter gear and so long as we had them, we were good to go.  What helped you make it through the winter? Anything that isn’t found in the mud room?   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring-time Babies

Is it spring at your house yet?  We are nearly there out here on the ranch.  I couldn't be more delighted!  There is such an energy with spring.  Its full of potential!  Everything is just so fresh and new.  New crops, new flowers, new leaves, new grass, new weeds (for a minute they can be pretty!)... And of course new babies! 

Ya know, I figured out why we have new babies in the spring.  I'm sure its Mother Nature's way of giving us a little something cute while the pretty-ness isn't in full swing.  We are right in the kind of ugly spot between winter and spring.  The snow has melted, but all we can really see is the gray-ish brown and brown-ish gray of the fields and hills.  The creeks have that muddy murky look to it still and even the sage-brush is looking a little more dull. 

The green is coming, you can see it struggling to pop through the bland vista.  But it still needs a good shot of warm sun and spring rain to really get going!

That's why I thinking the cute babies come to distract us from the ugly in between season.  Because really, who can't smile at a cute baby?!  Ok, I recognize that it isn't the real reason babies come when they do, but its an added bonus for sure!

In ranching there are a lot of different calving seasons and its all dependent on what that rancher expects from his calves.  In Montana where I grew up, there were a lot of ranchers that switched over to summer calving because it was so much easier calving in the non-sub-zero temps.  I don't blame them for not wanting to go check calves during those long and cold Montana nights.  There are seed stock ranches that push their calving as early as they possibly can, to give their bulls just a little more time to grow and mature before they head out to the pasture to breed. 

At our ranch, we take the late winter, early spring approach.  Early enough that they sell well in the fall and we don't have to keep and feed them all winter long, but late enough we miss most of the cold and snow of winter.  Of course, crazy things happen and sometimes winter drags right on through winter, but for the most part, this plan has worked well for us!

I couldn't let this calving season slip by without taking the camera out and capturing the cuteness and sharing it with you!  I almost caught one baby as it was just being born, but that momma was camera shy and kept running away (I don't blame her!).  Even without those play-by-play shots of birthing, there was still so much see and love with those new calves.

I love the little kisses and licks from mommas.  I love the tired sleepy calves nestled in the straw soaking up the sun.  I love watching the calves running and jumping with their tails up high.  I just love all the babies!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Learning Problem Solving One Stuck 4Wheeler at a Time

The Rancher's Sidekick loves to drive the 4 wheeler.  All the time.  Typical boy, right?  I tell him we need to go check heifers, he starts the 4wheeler.  I tell him we need to help dad move cows, he volunteers to drive. We say lets of load up in the feed truck and he asks to drive the 100 feet from the house to the shed where it is parked.

To be totally honest, its our own fault.  Mostly The Rancher's, but I am the supporting wife so I will take my share of the blame.  For quite a while, we had been letting the boy drive out in the field while we were moving pipe or "help" us drive around the ranch.  But it didn't take too long for him to start asking to drive on his own.

Is anyone surprised?


This kid has known how to start the 4wheeler since he was 3 so I guess it was inevitable, right?  I thought we had done pretty good to distract him from wanting to go hot-rodding on his own, but once he realized he could actually reach the handle bars and turn the thing, he decided it was time to be a man and drive solo.

So we let him.

There were two important rules.  First, he had to stay in low gear and second, he could just drive around the ranch yard where we could keep an eye on him.  That was good enough for him! Being a big 4wheeler driver was all he could have dreamed it to be.

That was last summer.  Fast forward to now with a few more months of experience and new adventures in driving through the snow and mud and puddles and he decided to go at it again.

It has been a beautiful few weeks lately and what boy could resist cruising around.  One afternoon, he decided to buzz around the ranch while we finished tagging and doing chores.  No big deal. Until all the sudden the bruummm-brruummm of the 4wheeler was silent.  I looked around and there was the 4wheeler, driverless and stuck in the snow.  Seconds later, The Rancher's Sidekick came waltzing back to his chariot carrying a shovel.  After finishing the barn chores we walked out to him to see just what was going on.

When we reached him, he started a very detailed and animated story of how he was sure he could have made it through the snow and that it was all ok until, bam! it wasn't (I'm not sure what the bam! was other than just his dramatics with the story!).  So he decided to go and get a shovel to dig himself out with.

Proud momma moment RIGHT HERE!  I was so pumped that instead of just leaving the 4wheeler for someone to find or even coming to find us to tell us it was stuck, he knew it was his responsibility to get it out.  So he figured out a solution and went to it.  I almost thought I could hear the heavenly choir as I had the parenting-for-the-win moment but not quite.  We left him to dig himself out as we headed back up the heifer hill to do a last check before heading in.

Our last check wasn't a very fast check (heifer caught on her back as she finished pushing her baby out which was promptly mothered by some other cow... The struggle is real, friends...).  By the time we made it back to The Rancher's Sidekick the 4wheeler was still stuck but there was a lot more story to tell.

After shoveling for quite a while, he was looking for a better way to get rid of the snow.  To his credit, he really did bury the thing so it was going to take a lot of work to dig it out.  So his Plan B was to use the hose to "wash away the snow" (I'm assuming he meant melt it but whatever...).  But the hydrant by the shop was frozen so that didn't work.  Plan C was to start a fire to melt away the now.

Did you just get nervous?  When he mentioned fire, my eyebrows shot straight up and my eyes doubled in size.  But I calmly asked how he planned to do that.  "Oh, I just started that heater thing (the diesel heater) in the shop and tried to start that square bale string (baling twine rather than the net wrap we use on the round bales) on fire.  But it didn't ever really burn, it just melted.  But it gets HOT!  I burned my finger!  I wanted to use the torch but I didn't know how to do that..."

Wow... At this point it was my only thought.  I was super impressed at his problem solving and critical thinking.  School for the win!  But I was also terrified at his independence and his own confidence in his abilities.  Don't get me wrong, I was still super proud of how he was figuring it all out, but maybe he was doing just a little too good for a six year old.  Like, maybe he needs a little less shop time with his dad.  Hallelujah that he couldn't figure out the torch for a fire!

Ultimately he had decided to go back to the shovel because that was the only way he had been making any progress before.  Lucky for him, his dad had a better idea to get him out- the tractor.  That little boy grinned ear to ear as The Rancher chained the 4wheeler to the tractor and gave him instructions on driving it out.

I still laugh every time I think about this story.  I hope its recorded in heaven for me to watch on repeat when I get there because it is a winner!  That story right there, is a clear illustration of my son.  He loves the ranch and wants to do everything his dad does.  Maybe there are some things he still needs to learn to do and not to do, but he isn't going to let anything slow him down.  If there is a problem, he is determined to find a solution.  It might take several plans and a little burn on the finger, but he will get to it!

And I couldn't be anymore proud of that.

That is what the ranch life is really about.  Yes we raise cattle, but more importantly we raise kids and the ranch is a tool to teach them all of the lessons they need to make it through this life.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekends at Locomotive

One of my weekend highlights is always heading down to Locomotive.  There is something about the wide open and empty range that soothes my soul.  And maybe its just because I love getting away from the house work and cleaning, but I'm pretty sure its more than that.

Working down to Locomotive isn't anything crazy exciting.  We all pile in the gator and drive around checking the water and cows.  We tag a few calves here and there and we make sure every baby has a mama.  Until the snow melted, we took some time to dump a little hay around.  Every once in a while we find a baby that has been abandoned, usually they were a twin, and we bring them home to the ranch with us.  After we give everything a good once over, we load up and head home.

See?  Nothing crazy.  But I love it!

I love it when my kids get to spend time with their dad.  What better way to learn how to be a rancher than to see their hero do it.  They ak question, jump in to help, and soak it all in.  Its a chance that they have to disconnect from the world that is happening around them.  Even as little as they are, they can still get sucked into the tv and computer and what not.  But when they are out on the range, they are in a whole different world of their own making.  In seconds they can find adventure.

I love it that we can go somewhere and its almost like time stops.  The rush and hustle of life just disappears.  That is something precious when you are a mom that lives by a never ending to-do list that keeps you hopping from job to the next.  Somehow, the list doesn't matter out there.

I love it because we can just be ourselves.  There is no judging that I didn't put makeup on that day.  In fact, if I did, it would only get covered with the layers of dust so no one would see it anyway!  The cows don't care what clothes you wear.  They don't care how rambunctious and rowdy the kids are.  We can just rock it how we like to!

Everyone needs a place like Locomotive.  Somewhere that they feel safe and at peace and totally confident.  Somewhere that provides a little perspective when we get so consumed with what keeps us going from day to day.  Somewhere that when we go home, we feel a little stronger and ready to take life on again.  

In this crazy world, that can be hard to find.

Where is your "Locomotive"?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Battling the Winter Blues One Blessing at a Time

I love winter.  I really do.  I think I've told you that... lots of times.  You are probably tired of me talking about it. 

But its been sorta hard.

I love it, but its hard.

With so much snow all at once, that meant there were days and days of dealing with it.  Pushing snow in the stack yard to get to the hay, pushing snow in the field to feed the hay, pushing snow around the ranch just to get around... and then pushing snow for our neighbors that really couldn't handle it without a tractor. 

God bless that rancher of mine and his tough, sweet heart because he spent nearly a whole day plowing snow for everyone in the valley just because he could when there were so many other things that needed to get done!  He's good man.

Back to the snow...  You get my point that there has been lot of work because of the snow.  Aside for the physical fatigue of dealing with it, I feel like we have been emotionally fatigued as well.  Maybe its just me, but I feel drained.  Super drained. 

I think I have the winter blues...

And I don't like it.

I'm a happy person.  I'm the glass half full kind of girl.

So to battle my bit of winter blues, I'm going to count my blessings.  Ready?

Actually, I have to tell you something else first...  When I came home from my first year of college I thought I had died.  I was happy to be home and happy to be back working on the ranch, but in some ways my life was over.  None of my friends were around, our little town of 300 people had nothing going on and I was sure that I wasn't going to survive the summer.  Dramatics of a 19 year old girl, I'm sure...  So I decided that the only thing I could change was my attitude.  And I decided that the best way to change my attitude was to be thankful.  From then on, everyday I was determined to find one thing to be thankful for and I was going to write it down and make a collage out of it.

It worked, friends.  By the end of the summer, I had this huge piece of paper with so many things that I was thankful for and it was beautiful and inspiring.  And I was happy.

So when I'm starting to feel down, I try to be thankful.  Because when I'm feeling down, epecially about myself, I start making a different list.  Something like an I-suck list... You know, the ones of "I can't keep up with the laundry" and "the house is always a mess and I can't keep up with it" and "I'm so behind on this project" and "I just burnt the 12th piece of toast this morning"... Those kind of lists can happen without us even knowing it and they can really beat us up. 

So here goes!

1.  Messes... Yep.  It means that my kids have been busy playing and growing and being creative.  And that is a mom-win.

2.  Snuggles, especially from my older babies that are not babies anymore.

3.  Propane.  We ran out last week so I couldn't have a hot shower before bed.  Now it is full again and I'm thankful!

4.  Snow... rain... MOISTURE!  Our livelihood depends on it and although it makes life hard sometimes, we need it.

5.  Cows.  They make me laugh.  They are cute.  They are tasty. 

6.  My bed.  My warm, snuggly bed.  Its like a magic reset button.

7.  Exercising.  Its almost as magical as my bed for a good reset, but it takes a lot more work.  But really, exercising keeps my body strong and healthy so I can enjoy so much more of life!

8.  My home.  Its still not finished.  I have tape over the stairs that has been there for 18 months.  But it is mine and I LOVE it.

9.  Snow clothes.  We couldn't have made it the last few months without them.  They have kept us warm and dry and saved my washer a lot of dirty clothes!

10.  Hot chocolate.  This is almost its own food group at my house.  My kids drink it every morning.  And I almost love it as much as them.

11.  MY CAMERA!  I love photography and the different perspective it has helped me look at life.  Especially when I have had to stay on the sidelines- something I don't do well!

12.  My kids.  Of course!  They are messy and crazy and busy, but they are also sweet and helpful and kind.  I watch them and in so many ways I wish I was more like them. 

13.  School.  I know that everyone has there own opinions about school for their kids but I am so thankful for the little school I get to send my son to.  He has learned so much that I couldn't have taught him from home.  No, its not perfect.  There are issues.  But when I see his growth, I'm so thankful that I can send my little boy to school.

14.  The gator... Silly, I know, but its the best way our family of 5 plus 5 dogs can get around the ranch together.  And it is a much smoother ride than any 4 wheeler.

15.  Soup.  Nothing is better than a warm bowl of soup at the end of the day.  Or in the middle of the day.  I think I could even handle soup to start the day.

16.  Me.  I am thankful for me.  My determination, my endurance, my emotional side...  (it keeps things in perspective, right?), my body and how it can nurture my family.  I'm hard on myself a lot, but that's because I have high expectations of myself.

17.  Me bed.  Oh... I already said that... Still thankful! Do-over...  My boots!  I have worn the tread off of my favorite boots.  There are holes and cracks but they are my favorites.  They have walked a lot of miles and gotten a lot of work done.

18.  Music.  I turn on tunes everyday.  And all sorts of kinds.  It has a way to drive and inspire me. 

19.  Books.  I don't have a lot of time to read these days.  But it is an escape to adventure and excitement without ever having to pack my bags or leave my cozy bed.

20.  My husband... My good, hard working, giving husband.  He does so much for so many.  And he loves me for being me.  That right there is something so worth being thankful for.

21.  Home made bread... it goes great with soup (haha).  The smell of bread baking in the oven in the smell of comfort and home. 

22. God.  I'm a religious person.  I believe in a higher power and that without it, I don't know where I'd be today.  He inspires me, He comforts me, He guides me and He loves me.

23.  Good friends.  Everyone needs a support system and I am so thankful for mine.  Especially when you live so far from civilization, each other is all you have.  And having friends that have farming/ranching husbands is an added blessing because they get it.  They know what I'm going through.

24.  Technology.  Its actually a curse and a blessing.  But today I'm going call it a blessing.  It helps me pursue my passions.  It helps me stay connected with old friends and far away family. 

25.  Winter.... Yes, I'm so thankful for winter.  It is beautiful.  There is a sort of renewal and cleansing that comes from the snow and cold. 

I could go on.  There are a lot of things to be thankful for!  We take for granted so many of the luxuries we have and taking the time to remember them is good for the soul.  What are you thankful for today?