Category Archives: Ranch Stories

January Snowstorm

snow covered log barn

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,

but look what they can do when they stick together!”

The snow started last night and kept right on falling all through today. It is still snowing, even though night has fallen and all the children are tucked in bed. I think we have over a foot of snow, not counting the drifts. Of course, there were drifts and several inches already here – but now the lowest spots are still over a foot deep! drifted snow

Today I spent 6 hours decluttering, sorting, and organizing my house. When I was finished, I bundled up and went outside with my camera. It was my reward for a hard job well-done. I walked down past the barns and corrals, down to the horse pasture. I walked through the ditch, and the snow was up to my waist! I snapped some photos of the horses for my online gallery. It was fun to get some fresh air and some good pictures. I really enjoy  taking time to indulge my creative side! :) paint horse in snow

horse muzzle

I opened my online gallery this week, and to celebrate, I am offering 15% off when you use the code WELCOME. The sale only goes till January 7, though, so hurry over and check it out!

You can buy prints or ready-to-hang wall art, like canvases. Or you can buy digital downloads that you may print yourself.
Check it out here—>  ~Kay Schrock Photography~

red barn door in snow

While these storms rage – for there have been several – my husband feeds the cows and works in the shop. But me and the children, we stay warm and cozy beside the fire inside our little house. When the children are finished with their schoolwork, they get out books to read and games to play. Sometimes they play Chess or Candyland. Sometimes they draw pictures or write stories. Sometimes they watch Netflix shows like “CHOPPED” or “Dick Van Dyke”. We drink hot tea and eat thick slices of homemade bread, slathered in butter and crabapple jelly. It is all quite cozy and satisfactory.

Hot coals in a wood stove

A good bed of coals in our stove.

Horse herd in snow

I hope wherever you live, wherever you call home, is as cozy and sweet as it can be. May your winter be warmer than ours, but if not, may your stove be warm and your hearts full of love.

horses in snow

“So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!”
― John Greenleaf Whittier

Feeding the cows and Peace on earth.

Red Angus

A few days ago, I rode with my man while he finished feeding the cows. He loads round bales onto the bale-buster, then drives out to the pasture and spreads it out so the cows can eat it. It was a cold day – single digits. And there was a strong wind. I’d guess 30-40 mph with much higher gusts on the high areas. That heated tractor cab is wonderful! :)

tractor feeding hay

The bale-buster is a contraption that holds a round bale, then iron teeth on the bottom rotate, digging into the bale, and the hay spits out an opening in the bottom. When the bale is gone, Cliff raises the arms that are holding the extra bale, and it flips up and drops into the bale-buster. It throws a lot of dust when it is chomping up a hay bale, and the wind blew it over everything.

Cows eating hay

tractoraspens in snow

After we fed the cows, we took a bale to the horses. A soft evening light was settling over the landscape, making me forget my cold fingers. I snapped a few more pictures, between opening gates for my man.

By the way – ranch wives joke about having to open gates for their men, but truly? I don’t mind. Any time spent together is great! :)

paint horse and ponieshorses

Now it is nearly Christmas. The wind is howling outside as I type, there’s a fresh couple inches of snow on the ground. The gifts are wrapped and the cookies are made. Strains of holiday music fill the air.

It is not picture perfect, because we are a real family, we traipse snow in on our boots and the hearth around the wood stove is perpetually ash-sprinkled and messy. There are toys and cups sitting around my living room, because I was too tired to pick them up last night.

But the love of Jesus is here. Our love of each other grows stronger and purer each year. Our love for God is increasing, and we are working on our “peace on earth, goodwill to men”.

Dear ranch mama, don’t be discouraged if your house is not as holiday-ready as your neighbor’s. Don’t allow Satan to steal YOUR peace, this week. Reduce expectations, keep it simple, and love on your family. Take a few minutes here and there to slip away and pray. Of course you can pray ‘mentally’, but there is something about locking the bedroom door for two minutes and taking your attitude and trials to God in prayer. :)

running horses

May your home honor God and bless others this season. Starting with your own family.

 

What I’m reading right now.

For the past several years, I have had precious little time to read; between foster babies and normal mom stuff. But lately, I have committed to reading more books – not just magazines and blog posts. It is hard for me to find time to sit down and read a whole book. So much easier to pick up my phone and read a blog, or pick up a how-to book from my coffee table, and flip through it. But I am getting back into writing, and to be good at writing, you need to read, and read lots! So today, I thought I would share with you what books I am reading right now.

I read one of Miller’s other books several years ago and enjoyed it immensely, so when I saw his name on this book, I snagged it used from Amazon. It is even better than the first one I read! I am only halfway through it, but it’s great!

This book is starting out great! I love historical fiction, especially Biblical fiction. But it has to be done right, you know? Not cheesy. The Thoene’s always deliver! They are amazing authors, and I love everything they write. This book has me hooked, and I’m sure I will be buying the rest of the series!

This one I started over a year ago! (gasp) But I was so busy caring for my foster baby, homeschooling, and being a mom, that I never finished it. But I want to finish it soon!

So there is what I am reading! Yes, I have that weird habit of reading several books at once! But I do finish them, eventually. :) It is perfect reading weather right now – snowing and blowing outside, and a cozy fire inside. I am working on some Christmas cinch orders, too. It’s the time of year for indoor projects.

Snowsnowsnow cabin I hope your holiday season is blessed and happy. Try to sneak some reading in! :) And stay warm.

Here’s a little about me…

Hey friends! I have been getting some requests from my followers to share more of my personal life. So I made a couple short videos to help you get to know me better. :)

Here’s a short introductory video:

 

And here is a Q & A video, answering some questions that my Instagram followers asked. Please feel free to shoot me a message and ask any question you like! I love all comments and emails! :)

 

NOTE: The lens I use are the Canon 70-300mm, 50 mm, and 18-55mm.


Also – why did I say ‘post office town‘??!! I can’t talk on camera, apparently. Whatever.

 

 

Fall Works and Fellowship.

fall-worksThe past few weeks have been busy with shipping calves and preg-testing the cows. We were blessed with warm, lovely weather. November is not normally this beautiful in Wyoming, so we are thankful for every sunny, warm day!

I cooked for the crew when they were working here, then went over to the boss’ place and helped with lunch when the crew was over there. Well, the boss’ wife did most of the cooking – I mostly just talked. 😀 It’s good to get together with other ranch wives, though.

shipping

shipping

shipping

This week we drove to our neighbors’ Bible study on Wednesday evening. Everyone brought a pot of soup or a salad, and we shared God’s Word over home-cooked food.

There is something special about fellowshipping over food. Sharing stories and doing life together. Laughing and eating and praying together. We read of Jesus often sharing stories and teaching around meals. He knew that eating together is a great way to be informal and relaxed.

We don’t sit down to eat with our enemies. We eat with our friends. We relax and start to open up to each other when we are seated around a table. We love Thanksgiving and Easter and Christmas in part because of the warm friendship and family times we have around good food.

shipping

shippingshipping

We drove over to our friends’ house and brought food, but they had to be willing to open their home, so we could all join in. Someone had to send that invite, make the calls, prepare food, sweep the floor, tidy the bathroom, you know — get ready for guests. No, it wasn’t fancy, (thank goodness!) it was a homey and inviting place, there was a stack of paper plates and a table loaded with help-yourself food, but the fellowship was heart-warmng. There was no stiffness or awkwardness, just simple food and warm smiles and genuine hospitality.

shipping

But someone had to open their home. We wait and wait for someone else to invite us, to organize something, to fill that need in our lives. We need to open our homes. To stop waiting for someone else to initiate and just be a friend. Invite someone over for lunch. Don’t worry if you aren’t a ‘hostess type’. Just do it. Everyone needs friends and fellowship, someone to do life with. Someone to listen and understand and say: “me too”.  Just text a few friends and say “hey, want to come over tomorrow night for tacos?” Don’t stress over ‘hostessing’, just invite friends into  your life. Open up your heart and your home, and be real.

What would happen if we all started reaching out on a regular basis? It doesn’t have to be a bible study – it can be supper. Or lunch. Or tea. Whatever you do – do that. Stop waiting on the others, and start being a blessing to those in your area.

shipping

Shipping Calves again.

red cow

We have been blessed with great weather for shipping and pregging. This morning I told myself to get with it and get outside, for once! It’s real easy to just say: “Oh, maybe next time”, but today I put on my big girl boots and bundled up to get some photos! :)
It wasn’t even that cold.
Which was nice.

They cowboys met in our yard, (yard being the general term for the parking area in and around the shop & barns) Once they were all there, they gathered around the cowboss to get instructions for the morning. Then they headed out by twos and threes, for various corners of the pasture. They got to the fenceline, then turned around and started pushing (moving) cows and calves together and towards the corrals. Some places call it a ’roundup’, I guess, in this area we call it a ‘gather’. We gather cows and ‘push’ them to the corrals. Obviously, we do not physically push them – it’s a term for herding. shipping 2016shipping 2016 ranchlife-213 ranchlife-223

I took the silhouette photo from my front porch, no joke.

cowboy sillouette

shipping 2016

Here they come – down the hill!shipping 2016

Once they get in the corrals, it’s sorting and weighing. Then loading them onto waiting semi-trucks. Sorting and moving calves down an alley is a great place to get photos – but I’m always afraid I’ll b in the way! :) So I try to stay pretty low profile. I get really nervous if I feel I am going to be a nuisance.

shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016shipping 2016

There’s my man!! :) He’s my favorite. He is currenty soaking his foot in Epsom salts, because he got stepped on so hard today, that he is limping. :( I wonder if that is what people think of, when they get starry-eyed about ranching? :) I doubt it. But still, cowboyin’ is a great life, if you’re tough enough to cowboy up! 😀

Ride The Brand, my friends.

Snow on the Aspens

We had our first snow last weekend. It started with a few clouds hanging low over the mountain,  and some rain by our house. But when we woke up the next morning, the hills were covered with a white blanket of snow, studded with gold aspens.

Elk Mountain

snow on aspens snow on aspens snow on aspens

aspens in snow aspens in snow aspens in snow

 

It was a lovely drive, and I hope you enjoyed the pictures! :)

I hate snakes.

SnakesFrom an early age, I have hated snakes. Hundreds of generations of women have hated snakes. Men, too, usually aren’t too fond of them, but women in particular seem to hold a special distaste for the slithery creatures. I know – there are people who say they like snakes – but I am convinced they are just trying to prove something. Yes, some snakes have pretty colors, but when a person says they enjoy holding a serpent, I don’t really trust that person! 😀 Ever since God cursed the serpent in the Garden of Eden, I have no pity or sympathy for them. I waste no energy worrying about them. And if I need a mouse-eater, I’ll get a cat.

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “This is your punishment: You are singled out from among all the domestic and wild animals of the whole earth—to be cursed. You shall grovel in the dust as long as you live, crawling along on your belly. 15 From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers. You will strike his heel, but he will crush your head.” Genesis 3:14-15

One time when I was about 13, I was mowing our grass. Not with a nice riding mower like I have now, but with an old pushmower. You know, the kind that spit stuff at your legs and make sweat roll off your forehead like a sauna.

Anyways, so I was pushing that mower ’round and ’round, daydreaming and getting frustrated at the mower by turn. As I made a turn under a tree, the mower made a weird thumping as it mowed over something that wasn’t grass… a snake! Ew! I jumped backwards and then slowly came closer to peer at it’s mangled body. Thankfully, it was dead. But oh! so gross! I shuddered as I got a stick and gingerly picked up what was left of the snake, and carried it over to the edge of the yard, and tossed it into the weeds. I went back to mowing – watching carefully for more snakes.

Whack! Something hit me on the back of my bare leg! I screeched and jumped wildly as I envisioned the snake’s mate exacting vengeance on me for the death of her companion. When I jumped, I also let go of the safety handle on the mower, whereupon it immediately shut off. In the ensuing silence, I heard cackling. I looked over toward the house, and saw my older sister peering around the corner of the house, covering her mouth with her hand as she giggled at my antics.

I was not amused. Heart still racing and adrenaline coursing, I yelled at her:
“You are so mean! Why did you do that?! You scared me like crazy – I thought it was a snake!”
She just laughed harder. I yelled some more, then in disgust went back to mowing. Of course, she had no idea that I had just mowed over a snake. That was the ironic part! 😀 She apologized later, although to this day I am not sure quite how repentant she is! Haha! It was pretty funny! After my ruffled feelings calmed down, I could see the irony and humor, too. We’ve laughed about it ever since.

Another time, I was about 20 years old, we were newly married, and there was a snake in our yard. My husband was trying to kill it, but of course it was hiding in the most difficult places. I was trying to help him chase it out of the rock fire ring so we could kill it. I reached down to move some rocks, and accidentally put my hand on the snake!! Again, screaming and leaping back! I was overcome with embarrassment of screaming in front of my new husband, plus the nerves from having actually TOUCHED A SNAKE!, and I went crying into the house. Oh dear me. How sensitive I was! But I did calm my self and returned to help him finish the snake off.

One time, I looked out my kitchen window and saw a huge snake hanging off the hummingbird feeder that I had right by my window. I was about 8 months pregnant, but that didn’t stop me from racing out there and grabbing a hoe and chopping it’s ugly head off! I was so mad at it! The nerve!!!

I recently found a small garter snake in my house, after the wind blew the door open during the night. Talk about HORRIBLE! I didn’t trust to get into bed without checking under my pillow and blanket for weeks! Why?? Why must we have snakes? I would kill every one of them today if possible.

Anyways. There is no moral to this story, other than to say that if you ever tease me with a snake, or scare me with one, we may not be friends, ok?! 😉 And no, I do not and will not eat rattlesnake, thank you very much! If you eat rattlesnake you are just weird.

Have a happy and snake-free Thursday!

Balky and Barn-sour.

 

 

My son with the first kids' horse we owned.

My son with the first kids’ horse we owned.

The summer heat wrapped thickly around me, causing sweat to run in little rivulets down my back. I heaved the saddle up on my horse, tightened the cinch, and checked to make sure nothing was twisted or pinching. It was an old saddle, dark with age, and the skirts were curling under. I didn’t care, I had a horse and a saddle to go with it – little things like a poor quality saddle and cheap farm-store headstall meant nothing to me. I eased the bit into Sonny’s mouth, and swung up.

We were leaving Illinois for the summer – going away for work – and our friends said they would keep my horse for me. We didn’t have a horse-trailer, and my dad didn’t want to go to the bother of borrowing or renting one. He said it would be easier if I would just ride the horse over, and Mom would come pick me up.

Easier for him, anyways.

I started off briskly. Sonny always started off briskly. He jumped smartly over the deep ditch by our yard, and I liked the little thrill of jumping. He walked up the first hill quickly, head up, ears pricked. I watched the birds darting, and daydreamed about being a true horsewoman who worked with horses all day – riding, maybe racing…

But the further we went, the slower Sonny walked. He was nearing 30 years of age, which is ‘old-folks’-home’-age in human years. He still got around good, not much arthritis or other problems, but in the manner common to old folk, he was increasingly stubborn and balky. He didn’t care much about making you happy – he just wanted to be left alone to eat his grass and switch at flies, without having some kid pile on and make him walk in the 100-degree heat for miles. horse sticking out tongue

The first mile was good. The second was slower, but ok. By the third mile, I was pulling his head back around every few steps. He wanted to go home. He knew every step he took was another step he’d have to retrace, and he wasn’t keen on having to walk back all that way. This is what we call “barn sour”. They just want to go back to the barn.

We passed a little country church, white boards shining in the sultry afternoon heat, surrounded by big oak trees and patches of deep orange daylilies. We rode past a house with two yappy dogs that came darting out, barking their silly heads off. They stopped a few yards away – unsure what to do with this beast. Sonny kept plodding, uncaring of their desperate barking.

Sonny finally stopped trying to turn back, and resorted to plodding. Now, you have never experienced plodding, till you have ridden a 30-year-old horse who is on a forced march. Head down, feet dragging, steps slowing imperceptibly till he was nearly at a standstill. I’d kick him in the ribs, and he’d pick up his feet and walk for five steps. Then he’d slow down. And down. And almost stop.

Repeat.

8 miles.

8 miles of southern Illinois summer heat and humidity, sweat pouring off me, bugs and flies annoying me and my horse.

My family was not a ranch family. Not even a farm family, really, although we had a varied menagerie over the years. My dad was a logger, mainly, with a lot of travel and seasonal work thrown in. He grew up farming with horses, and grew to dislike them immensely. Said he’d looked the backside of a team too long. But he loved me, so he told my Amish cousin to find me a horse. Well, one day my cousin showed up at my door with this old nag.

Sonny was a gelding whose entire life purpose had been to give kids rides at a big tourist park. He was trained to walk nose-to-tail with other horses, and completely ignore the kids who were bouncing, yelling, and kicking on his back. He was good at that. As long as we had him, we could put little kids on his back – as many as would fit – and set him loose with a halter and lead rope. He’d wander around the yard a bit, then go stand with his nose to a tree, as if tied there. No amount of them kicking and yelling would make him go. He was great at babysitting!

But for me, an awkward 14-year-old kid who was dreaming of Derby races and barrel racing, he was far and away too slow. I had no boots, no hat, no jeans. Just a long flowing dress, tennis shoes and a Mennonite head-covering. I didn’t know tennis shoes could be dangerous, I didn’t know flowing things can spook a horse, I didn’t realize just how odd I looked.

But it really didn’t matter. I was riding through farm-ground, down dusty country roads where only the occasional house broke up the fields of corn and soybeans. The heat rose in shimmery waves from the ground, day lilies lined the road in many places. Delicate Queen Anne’s Lace nodded in the sun, and honeysuckle vines tumbled thickly over sagging fences, filling the air with sweetness.

I would have enjoyed the ride more, had I not been kicking and coaxing Sonny the entire time. The last few miles were almost torture. Turtle-speed, we finally made it to the friend’s house. I was starting to feel sorry for Sonny, but when he saw a barn and other livestock, he came alive. Suddenly he was full of vim and vigor! I was cross with him. All that long, slow ride, and here he was; nearly trotting to the barn!
I had been sad to leave my horse behind for the summer, but after that frustrating ride, I was just glad to climb in the van with Mom and go home.

As a parent now, I look back at these kinds of things and realize why me and my siblings  are pretty independent. This was before cell phones were a thing. I was 14, and my dad sent me off through lonely country roads on an 8 mile ride. I was expected to find my way, even though I wasn’t totally familiar with that route. I was given basic directions and sent off. I had no water bottle or snacks. I simply climbed on my horse and rode away. Mom was waiting when I got there. (she went the faster route by the main road.) If dad or mom were worried about me, they sure never showed it. (I really don’t think they were worried.) Therefore, I wasn’t worried. If something happened, I was expected to figure it out.

We pass our fears and concern along to our kids. We are worried, so they are worried. They are more able than we think. Give your kid a bit of rope, mama! Don’t hover. Let them try new things and experience a little freedom! They might surprise you! 😀

horse