Friday, March 2, 2012
Lately I've been having some deep thoughts from my shallow mind. I love living here in Montana, it's a dream come true for me. The Youngun is doing great and is starting Karate. She has entered back into public school after a year and a half of un-schooling (yup that's what I said) and has straight A's. The Man is thriving in his training as a ranch hand and I very much enjoy helping out in whatever capacity they need me. I trust in my Heavenly Father fully and completely and know that if He should decide to send us somewhere else, we'll go willingly and faithfully.
But...........did you sense a but coming here??
I miss Champ. I miss horses. I miss critters of my own, but oh how I ache for horses. Every day as I'm driving back the 14 miles from taking Pied and The Youngun to the bus, I gaze at the mountains, coulees, hills, and valleys and I hurt to ride them with an equine pal. There is a herd of Quarter Horses along the road to the school bus and I ache to play with them. I want to groom them, and talk to them, and work with them. There are bays, and sorrels, and chestnuts, grullas, and buckskins. There is one dapple grey mare with black points that I'd bring home in a second. It's a herd of mostly broodmares and colts with a few geldings tossed in and I'm in love with them all. I've tried to fall as in love with the cows, and they are very nice, but they fall far short of a horse.
Now you may be thinking that the point of this post was that life isn't perfect, but such is not the case. As heavy as my heart sometimes gets without an equine pal, my entire being knows we are exactly where God wants us to be. Life isn't always perfect from our perspective, but in God's divine plan it is exactly, perfectly what it should be.
Till next time............God Bless........
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Calves are a poppin out ever'whar so if you've got time, lets see how we calve heifers here at the ranch, shall we?
Ok, now if you remember last post we were sorting heifers. Well after having a couple surprise babies born in the corral, it was decided to........
OPEN THE SHED........
Which means the water got turned on in the calving shed, and everything was scrubbed, cleaned, and sanitized. All the water lines were checked, and the heaters were checked and after everything was gung ho, hunky dory it was time to begin hauling heifers from Herry Ford's house to the calving shed, which is down the crick from us, southwest of the house.
The calvin' shed is a long building with stalls down either side and a concrete floor. The white wall you see at the side there is where the bedroom for the night time calvin' help is located as well as the Pullin' Room.
After the heifers are hauled to the calving shed they are put in the corral on the southwest side of the shed. I call them the Ladies in Waiting and here are some of them.....
Please excuse these pictures as I didn't take time to edit them, they are just gonna be straight out of the camera!
Now, where was I? Oh yes.....so those are the ladies in waiting. They stay out there until Elmer Fudd (he's the kid hired for the month of calving) sees feet sticking out the rear partition. Once he sees some feet hanging out, he goes out and slowly brings the heifer into the calving shed, where she goes to the pulling room. Now for some reason our employers here at the ranch pull every single calf (from the 2 year old heifers that is). I guess some study was done and it was determined that the longer a heifer is in labor, the less her chances of getting bred back.......I really don't know and to tell you the truth, I don't agree with it. I say only pull if you MUST, but such is life when you are the hired help and not the boss.........ANYWHO, there I go digressing again.
So, she goes to the pulling room where the calf is pulled. Then the calf is weighed and put into a stall full of nice clean straw with the cow. Then they are pretty much left alone to bond and figure out life. Once the calf is dried off and has sucked, the cow is fed 5#'s of cake and some good alfalfa hay. A couple hours later, they are kicked outside to the corral on the north side of the calving shed to await being hauled "Up Country".
These ladies and babies are waiting to be hauled, and that's what Mouse and I do every morning....
Sometimes it's just way to exhausting for the babies to wait for us.......
After I take The Youngun and Pied to the bus in the mornings, I come back home and Mouse picks me up in her pickup. Then we head for the calving shed, picking up the gooseneck trailer on the way. When we get to the shed, we go in the corral with the new mommas and babies and make sure mommas know which baby is which. We usually have to wake the babies up because they are snuggled up in the straw in the calf sheds, and sometimes they just don't want to leave that warm nest. I'll get them up and they'll go lay right back down. They really are like kids, and the funniest thing is when they just go limp and collapse back to the ground because they are...just....so...tired!!
Just so you know, in case you might decide this is a good way to identify your own children, that green tag 6 in the calf's ear is called his calf tag. It matches his momma's tag number of 6. That way in a few days when Mouse goes to check on them, if the #6 cow seems to have misplaced her baby she can find him real quick. 2 year old heifers' calves are the only ones who get those tags cuz they tend to lose their kids more often. The purple 29 tag means this is the 29th calf out of our purple tag bull 9105. Are you lost yet? It's ok, it doesn't matter at all.........
Anywho, now that all the mommas know which baby is which, we are ready to corral them in the alley so we can load them in the trailer.
First to go in are the mommas.......then we shut the divider gate and load up them babies!
And then we are off to haul them to the F field where they get put in a small corral for a few minutes to acclimate.
They like this because they get cake!
Today we had to haul two loads, so they stayed in their mini corral until we were done hauling the second group up and then we opened the gates and let them out into the big wide world!
This is the first group we hauled down, taken from the area where we corralled the second group....
Then we feed them some alfalfa and they are on their own. Mouse checks on them morning and night until the youngest calf in the bunch is 2 weeks old. Then they'll only get checked once a day. She builds a bunch of 50 pairs, then moves that little herd on up the crick, and starts building another bunch of 50 until all the heifers have calved.
Things go well for the most part, but when you run around 670 head of breeding cattle you are going to run into problems and losses. We had a 95lb bull calf that was upside down and backwards. The nighttime calving man got him out, but broke his hip in the process. Dr. Katie came out and put a splint on it, but he got pneumonia and we lost him. We've had a couple other losses due to calves being born dead, and right now we've got a heifer that's laboring and not progressing at all so Mouse is on the phone with the vet as we speak. It's all part of the ranching game, and they are good managers with a death loss of less than 5% every year. This year we are having some really big calves, with one of 108#'s being born today and backwards as well.
It can be heartbreaking when you lose them and Mouse takes it very hard, but it's all worth it when you have a little man like this steal your heart...
He is the curliest calf I've ever seen!
Till next time.............God Bless!
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Thursday after we got feeding done, we went over to help Herry Ford and Mouse sort heifers.
Since around December the little heifers (meaning 2011's) and the bred heifers (meaning those born in 2010) have been hanging out over by Herry Ford and Meadowlark's house. One of the first things The Man did after we moved here was to help sort out the little bulls, the little heifers, and the bred heifers. The bred heifers got some shots, then the little bulls got moved over by "Grandma's house" (that's a part of the ranch, but grandma is long gone), while all the heifers got turned out together.
Since calving is fast approaching, it was time for the bred heifers to be sorted and separated from the little heifers. The little heifers got weighed, while the expectant ladies got their second set of shots to prepare their calves for a healthy appearance.
When Pk, The Man, and I arrived, Herry Ford and Mouse were bringing them up to the corral...
If you click the picture to look at it bigger you can see an orange dot in the middle of the herd......that is Mouse's melon (head). She's on the 4wheeler, bringing them in....you can't see Herry Ford, but he's back there too....
Once they are all in the big corral the sorting begins........Mouse is chief sorter. Herry Ford calls her the computer because she truly knows every cow on the place. She can look at most of them and tell you who they are out of, even without them being ear tagged! Mouse is sorting bred heifers from little heifers, while Herry Ford runs the gates.....
After the little heifers are sorted out, I sprang into action. Herry Ford runs them in groups up on the scale and I go in the scale house and weigh them. After I get the weight, Herry Ford lets them off the scale and counts them. We write that down, and when we are done, we tally up the total weight, and total number weighed and get an average. These little ladies averaged 631#'s. We are done with them now, so Herry Ford herded them all back out to pasture........
Now you see The Man and PK sorting bred heifers. They don't really have to be sorted, just penned in groups of 9.....
The corrall is divided up into four basic sections. The big corral where the herd hangs out, then there is a smaller pen, an even smaller pen, and then the chute pen. In the picture below you can see the big corral, and the smaller holding pen. What they do is this........run a bunch into the bigger holding pen, then sort 9 out into the smaller holding pen, and 9 out into the chute pen.....
The chute gets opened up and 9 cows make their way in......of course at times they are a bit resistive to this procedure and must be poked, prodded, and cajoled into the chute. Once those 9 are in the chute, Mouse and Herry Ford get started stickin' cows!
Friday, February 3, 2012
Would you like to ride in the hay truck with me today? It isn't scary, I promise! It's fun and we get to drive and everything! What's that? You aren't really into riding in hay trucks? Well you'd better get clickin' cuz we are ready to go..........HA! Too late, we already took off!
Ahem.....THIS is the hay truck.
Actually, around here it is known as the WHITE hay truck, not to be corn-fuzed with the RED hay truck, but I digress......
In the mornings, PK (Mouse's hubby) and I get in this handy little machine while The Man and Herry Ford (Mouse's dad) go cake the heifers. (Caking the heifers will be another blog post on another day, but I will tell you that it doesn't involve chocolate, layers, and lots of frosting, much to my dismay.....)
K.......so PK and I get in the hay truck and drive down to the stack yards to get a load of hay. When The Man and Herry Ford are done caking, The Man gets in with us. Am I rambling? Of course I am, you know I can't blog without takin' about 6 or 8 laps 'round the trailer park.........now where was I?
Oh yes, we need to load hay!
There are three hydraulic levers inside the truck that control all those fancy tools.......PK runs them, cuz I don't want to crush or otherwise maim anybody. Once he gets the bed up, the top thingy raised, and those little arm-y claw-y things out, he starts backing up to the stack......
When he gets backed up far enough...... what's that? Oh, how does he know he's there you ask? Why he rams into the stack of course. When I almost fly into the windshield, he knows he's backed up far enough.
Anywho, when he's backed up far enough, he moves all those handy leevers and closes the top thingy, and squeezes the beejeezus out of the side of the bales with those claw arms.
Then he proceeds to lower the bed back down.
Now, do you see that very tippy top bale and the bales under it? Sometimes, things don't work out like they do in pictures, and those back 4 bales like to tip out and threaten to plunge to their doom.
When it looks like that is gonna happen, The Man must "ride them down". Before PK starts lowering the bed back down, The Man climbs up to the top of the stack, and facing toward the front of the truck, he clings there to the top thingy like a Capuchin monkey, using his body to hold the bales in place...........yeah, that's the kind of fun we have on the ranch, AND you don't even have to buy a ticket!!
This time, however, the bales aren't feeling suicidal and no such acrobatics are needed.
We are ready to go feed! (Also, I must point out, because I'm a compulsive confessor, that in these pictures we are headed to feed the three year old cows, not the heifers as I was blabbing about earlier.)
Now we drive over to the area where the 3 year old ladies live.....They are happy to see us and are coming out of the crick bottom where they've been hanging out......
At times, they resist this coming out of the crick bottom, and we must cruise around honking the horn, and screaming HEY MOMMAS, COME MOMMAS, at the top of our lungs, but they will eventually mosey on over to see if we've brought them anything they are interested in eating.....
When PK and The Man have fed all the hay, I carefully push the clutch in and stop the truck, trying once again not to jolt them off. Then I scootch over to the middle, PK swings from the truck bed to the drivers seat, The Man does the same on the other side, they toss their neatly tied bale strings in the floorboard and we head back to the stack yards to get more hay and continue feeding.
How many bales a day do we feed? Well up until a couple days ago we were feeding right at 500 bales. There are 83 bales in a stack. The first group to be fed in the mornings are the little bulls. Then we go feed the heifers and the bred heifers, then the big bulls, then the old cows (meaning ages 4-10), then the three year olds are last. We start around 7AM and usually finish up right around noon. As the weather changes, the feeding amounts change. The type of hay we are feeding right now is just native grass. As soon as the heifers begin calving they will get alfalfa to help them produce plenty of milk for those new babies!
I really do enjoy driving the hay truck. I get to see the ranch, see the cow critters, and most of all I get to be with The Man for half of his work day!
Thanks for riding along! Next time we'll sort heifers for vaccinations ok?
Till then..........God Bless.............
Friday, January 27, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Do you know what a Fat Fobe is? "Fat Fobe" is a goodwife invented word to describe folks who are anti chunky monkeys. I'm sure if you think about it, you've known a few in your life and maybe you might even be one. If somebody said to them, "You can gain 50 lbs or lose your left leg, what do you choose?", they'd have the meat saw out hacking through bone before you could say....fat folks have more fun! My mom is a Fat Fobe and so is Mouse....
Now does this mean my mom doesn't love me? Of course not. She loves me fully and accepts me as I am. As a matter of fact, when I was younger and bemoaning the fact that my sister was 100 lbs dripping soaking wet and strutting around in her size 0 jeans, when I was wailing about how ugly I was, my mom was the person who grabbed me by the chin, looked me right in the eye, and said, "Your sister might be littler than you, but she is NOT prettier than you." Oh how I love my Mama!! But she is a total Fat Fobe. In her mind there is no more terrible fate for HER than gaining weight.
Pretty much as soon as we moved here I discovered Mouse's Fat Fobia. She doesn't direct it at me, but she doesn't hide it either. When she describes someone the first words out of her mouth are fat or skinny. It's how she defines people. I'm sure we all have a way of describing folks, either by height, weight, race, or something else, seldom ever do most folks lead with personality traits. In her mind fat people are lazy, or sit around and eat all day long. If they didn't, they wouldn't be fat!
Mouse has a daughter that here I'll call Pied. Pied is 5 and in kindergarten. Until calving begins in March, Mouse takes the girls to the bus in the mornings, and then Mouse and I both ride together to pick them up. Mouse and I are becoming fast friends and we have LOTS in common. We have the same sense of humor and can talk critters for hours. We truly like each other, and Pied is sweet with a touch of fire and attitude. Well, a lot of attitude. As a matter of fact, I'm terrified for her teen years..........they might just not live through them!!
K........so yesterday Mouse took the girls to the bus as usual. When she got home she called me to see if I wanted to go put out mineral and check cows with her. I of course did, so she stopped by the house, picked Ellie and me up and we were off. As we were driving around the ranch she was talking to me about Pied's attitude and how she didn't know what to do about it. She was noticeably upset. She said Pied has been so disrespectful and called her fat this morning. Mouse isn't fat, not even a little bit. She's tall and fit with strong legs and arms and a totally flat torso. The body of a woman who's worked outdoors all her life. I mentioned how rude some kids can be to their parents and we talked about different ways to handle it. Then, Mouse's hands flew up to her face and she said, "I'm so sorry, so sorry, but this morning Pied said...."
I knew what was coming. Lets face it, I've been a fluffy nugget my whole life and I've heard it all at some point or 'nother. As they were driving past Mouse's folks place on the way to the bus, Mouse made a comment about the sheep being fat, at which point Pied said........"They are even fatter than "The Youngun's" mom!!" I laughed, because Pied is only 5 and we all know that kids say what they see. Pied loves me, and she didn't mean it in a nasty way, she just made a statement. Mouse flew all over her, told her to never, ever say such things about someone and Pied cried the rest of the way to the bus.
I reassured Mouse that it was ok, I've been heavy my whole life and Pied didn't mean it. Mouse was all over apologetic and we discussed teaching children tact and that was pretty much it. I'm very thankful that Mouse and I have become good enough friends for her to tell me (because I knew The Youngun would as soon as she got home.) We finished putting out mineral, driving through cows, chasing elk off the big hill, and checking water and she dropped me off at the house, where The Man was just getting home for lunch.
As I was telling The Man about my morning, I told him that Mouse's Fat Fobia was coming back to bite her in the butt. I told him the situation and how it didn't really bother me. As I said, when you've been heavy your whole life you've heard it all. It's much easier to take from a 5 year old than from a teenager or adult who should know better! I've been mooed at, called a fat cow, ridiculed for my weight throughout most of my high school years. I'm pretty much over it. Of course it still stings a bit, but that's not the point of my story.
The point of my story is this.....children are a mirror reflection of their parents. Pied is simply describing things in the way her mom does, and in illustration of my point.........When we picked the girls up at the bus that afternoon, Pied had her snow pants on. Now Pied is a teeny tiny little thing and her puffy snow pants were around her itty bitty torso so when she got in the truck and took her coat off, she looked like Olive Oyl wearing the Michelin Man's pants. Mouse said to her, "Those pants make your butt look huge! Your butt looks like Grandma W's! Of course hopefully your butt won't ever get as big as Grandma W's." Now......where do you think Pied got the idea to compare the fluffiness of the sheep to the fluffiness of moi??
When The Youngun and I got home we talked about what happened. She said she wanted me to know, but didn't want to hurt my feelings. I reassured her, telling her that I learned a very long time ago not to base my self worth on an exterior image, and certainly not on the image other folks have of me. As my grandma used to tell me, God made me and God doesn't make junk! He has a purpose for me and He loves me, every square inch of me, and yes even when the square inches of me are better measured in feet!
I started thinking that perhaps one of my purposes here is to break through Mouse's Fat Fobia. I will guarantee you that I can work side by side with her and not quit until she does. I'm a big girl, yes, but I'm strong, and relatively fit, and healthy. I can run a chainsaw, carry sacks of feed and mineral, and work as hard or harder than anybody without stopping. I'm not lazy, and I don't sit and stuff my face all day long. Do I like my groceries? Hecks to the yeah I do, but I don't have a feed bag strapped to my face all day long. I have an amazing marriage, a healthy sex life (ooh la la) and a beautiful daughter who respects and loves me. If I were ever to be disfigured in some way, I'd be able to go on, because my self worth comes from the inside. My identity comes from who I am, not what I look like. Let the gray hairs and wrinkles come, because no matter my weight, or what my outer package looks like, I'm God's daughter and He loves me.
Till next time............God Bless......
Monday, January 23, 2012
Life on the ranch mainly consists of two things...........
What are those two things?
Why fixin' fence and feedin' cows a course! Naturally different things crop up during different seasons, such as calving, haying, branding, and whatnot, but the day to day, every day tasks are feedin' and fencin'!
Yesterday after The Man got done feedin' cows he and I went to cut a load of wood and on the way we stopped to fix two places where the antelope/elk/deer had broken the fence.
The first thing we had to do was dig the strand of barb wire out of the crusty snow......The man did one end and I did the other.
When the wire breaks you have a left side and a right side. On the right side of the broken wire, I made a loop.......
Then we took the new barb wire and stuck it through that loop that I just made......
And tied it back on itself. So now we have the right side of broken barb wire looped together with the new barb wire which is still attached to the roll......
Then you attach the fence stretcher to the tail of the new wire on the right side, and the tail of the broken wire on the left side, and crank that sucker till the wire is tight enough to sing opera. The fence stretcher holds everything nice and snug while you get it all attached together.
Next you cut the new wire off the roll, leaving a long enough tail to loop it back on itself like we did the right side in the beginning. Remember?
Then you take the broken wire on the left side, and loop it with the loop on the new wire, thereby fastening the whole mess neatly together.
Now you can take the fence stretcher loose, very carefully. You want to be for sure and certain that everything is tied together, or else it will go zingin back apart cutting you to ribbons when you take that stretcher off!
Then you have to put the stay back on. Yup, just like a corset stay, this little gizmo makes sure everything stays where it belongs. It keeps the barb wires equidistant and snug.
And now we are done! We can move on to the next area of broken fence!
Now, a few weeks ago Anonymous had a question about bears getting in the cows. I talked to Mouse about it and she says bears aren't a predator issue with the cows. We do have bears here but they are snoozing right now. It seems that our side of the mountain is where Yellowstone likes to drop their "problem" bears so we do have a few Grizzlies and a lot of Black Bear.
I said they weren't an issue with the cows, however, Mouse's mom does run a flock of sheep and they have had a few troubles over the years with bears in the sheep. Right now there is a wolf pack that is preying on sheep in our area. We've been spared any losses, but our neighbors haven't been so fortunate.
The dumpster also is favorite prey of the black bears as evidenced by their wittle paw prints on the side, as well as the chokecherry and raspberry bushes behind Mouse's house.....I hope to get pictures this spring when they wake up!
Well that's all for now.........till next time..........God Bless.........