Branding season is upon us, and it is great! Warmer weather, lots of friends, and of course, roping – if you’re into that sort of thing. 😉
We went to our first branding on May 6, and had a great time. There was quite a crowd to help out, and we got to catch up with lots of friends. Some I hadn’t seen since last year.
The older kids rode along and Jenni even roped a couple calves. I kept the two little ones with me, and we came later, helped with the food, and played with friends.
I did enlist my teens to check on the sleeping toddler while i snuck in the pen and grabbed a few closer photos. It is hard for me to get in there and get the shots I want – I am always afraid I will be in the way, ha!
I have been so stinkin’ busy with the spring rush, that I just haven’t taken much time to write. I have been working in my garden and taking care of kiddos… I will write a garden update in a few days or weeks, haha!
I can. And I’ll tell you why: we haven’t seen the ground by our house since November! 😀 We live in a place that takes winter very seriously. We have drifts upon drifts, and if the temperature reaches 25* it is a warm day!
My view on my way to workout!
I got stuck twice, so far – in ONE DAY! Yuck. I hate getting stuck, but even more so when someone other than my husband has to pull me out. (both times!) But there is no way you are digging out in these rock hard drifts. When you get stuck, you get stuck!
The view from my kitchen window!
I have been driving the 4 miles to my neighbor’s place to exercise each day. Well, Monday – Saturday as long as I am at home and the roads are 4WD-passable! I have missed some days in January. My oldest daughter started going with me, so that is nice.
…when you walk ‘down’ to the porch that is 3 steps off the ground!
We are blessed to have a small woodstove in our living room. I try to keep it blazing at all times. But in the afternoon, I go in my bedroom to write and forget all about the fire. Somehow the kids don’t think of putting wood on, either! Sometimes I sit right beside the stove to write, because it is so toasty and warm, and I still let it go out! This is what happens when I write.
Last week my husband went to Billings, Montana. He was attending the Ranching For Profit school. It is a full week, and covers topics such as grazing techniques, employee relationships, profit margins, etc. This outfit we’re on sent him there, as they do for all new hires. People who implement those principles seem to really like the results.
While he was gone, I took the kids and drove to Colorado to visit some friends. I visited my Romanian friend, and she served me some of her homemade tomato preserves. I think she said it has tomatoes, peppers, and… squash? I forget the third ingredient. Anyways. It is not sweet, just a mild-flavored vegetable spread. She served it on toast. She also served a sweet homemade bread that was yummy. The swirl was ground up walnuts, cardamom, and rum. I asked her 3 times what it was called, but I already forget. (I’m so bad at forgetting foreign words!)
I have been buzzing my son’s hair since he was 2 years old. But recently he asked me to cut it more… well, stylish. And I tried. But it was sad. And I appreciate a good haircut, so I started taking him to the hair salon. They call it a ‘gentleman’s cut’, and it looks amazing. Totally worth the money!
I could be prejudiced, won’t deny that.
Meanwhile, my baby is growing up (insists she’ll be 35 soon, “just like you, mom!”) 😀 but she still loves cuddles and hugs.
I went to a friend’s store while I was in CO, and loaded up on fruits & veggies. I LOVE veggies!
Then I undo the good of the veggies with my mug cakes! They flopped, by the way. But I plopped some cool whip on top and hey! still yummy!
So let me tell you a story about living on a ranch…
Our lane is pretty narrow, and the cows like to stand on it, for some unfathomable reason. Well, one night I was driving home from town, and it was dark. I honked the horn at the cows, and drove slowly through them. Some went off the lane into the field. But there is a ditch between lane & field, and they do not like to cross it. Understandably, because hey – I wouldn’t enjoy wallowing in snow up to my belly either! But still. Get off the road you crazy cows! Anyways, so they all moved to the side of the lane, and I drove slowly past. As I passed the last cow, she decided too late to switch directions. She swung her hindquarters around and her hip bone caught the back corner of my Suburban and left a big ole dent! I looked in the rearview, and she went scampering off, the bugger. I mean, it’s not like my rig is that precious; it has major hail damage, 230,000 miles, and the 4WD no longer works. But still. Get off the road, you ornery cow!
Hard to get a pic with a cell phone after dark.
Well, that’s about it for my January ramblings. Hope you’re staying warm and cozy!
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!
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.
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!
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.
May your home honor God and bless others this season. Starting with your own family.
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.
I took the silhouette photo from my front porch, no joke.
Here they come – down the hill!
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.
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! 😀
Last week was the TA branding. For many of the buckaroo guys in this area, it is the highlight of the year. They have lots of calves to rope, and they head & heel them. There were people from as far as Texas and Nebraska and Colorado, this year.
Cliff surprised me by setting up a babysitter and hotel so I could go with him! It was my first time to the TA, but hopefully not the last. I’m sorry to say I did not react very well when Cliff told me that he was taking me along. I immediately said: “I don’t want to go!” He looked at me like: ‘what is wrong with you?’.
“You will be riding and I will be sitting in the dust”, I explained.
“No, you’ll be riding with me – I’m taking a horse for you.”
“But you will ride over a hill, and that’s the last I’ll see of you! Then I’ll have to figure it out alone with strange people I don’t now!” I was verging on panic. My heart was racing just thinking about it. I’m not the most rational when I am faced with the terrifying thought of being left alone to look like a dunce in front of talented people, I admit.
“No, you just ride with me. Go wherever I go,” he said calmly.
It sounded nice – kind of like Ruth loving her mother-in-law; I’ll go where you go, and stay where you stay, and all that. I relaxed a little. Maybe it would be ok. Surely he wouldn’t leave me stranded in a strange country.
We started out about 5 pm, then stopped at a neighbor’s to pick up his horse, so he wouldn’t have to drag a trailer over there, too. We headed up through the tight little valley road between Chugwater and Bosler. The sun was beaming its golden evening rays over the grassy hills, the road was nearly empty of vehicles, and the occasional homestead nestled among the willows and cottonwoods like a child curled up in a cozy blanket.
But the tranquility was not to last. About halfway through the valley, our truck lost power. We pulled over on the grass at a wide spot in the road, and shut it off. Cliff looked under the hood and couldn’t find anything wrong. We let it set a few minutes, then started it up again. Yep. Ran ok, so we continued. But the peace was gone. When you have a trailer full of horses on a winding narrow road, and it’s nearly dark and no phone service – well, it bids fair to be a long night.
After a few more minutes of driving, we repeated the scene. Lost power, stopped, sat, re-started. At this point we knew we weren’t going to make it another 2.5 hours that night without help. We turned south to Laramie instead of north to Bosler. We found an auto parts store, and had the guy read the codes with his code-reader. Then we called our buddy (whose horse we were hauling) since he was just behind us, and he came and hooked onto the trailer. Cliff replaced the fuel filter right there in the parking lot. (Shout-out to handy men who know how to fix their own trucks!) While the men tinkered and fixed and talked; I sat in the truck and read a book. I was glad I had tossed in a book as an afterthought – I had an entire 2 hours to read uninterrupted! (Yes, I am a mom, why do you ask?! 😉
Anyways, they finished just as the sun was setting and a massive thunderstorm was rolling in, obscuring the remaining light behind giant brooding clouds. We fueled up and grabbed a burger before continuing on. Our friend Tim followed us, to be sure we made it ok. Just after we started out again, the heavens opened, and it poured buckets of rain! Lightening lit up the sky, turning the low clouds a soft pink.
Cell phone lightning
We made it to the ranch about 11:30 pm, instead of the 8 o’clock we had planned. The rain had slowed to a drizzle, and we unloaded the horses in the dark. By the time we got to the motel, it was midnight, and we had to get up at 3:45 to make it back to the ranch and saddle up by 5:30…
The landscape was wide open, as it always is in Wyoming, morning sun streaming over the clean prairie, birds swooping and jackrabbits sitting quite still – pretending to not exist as we drove past. I soaked in every piece of it, from the tiny wildflowers to the high, long plateaus in the distance. We were driving over an hour through Wyoming’s back country, over knotty dirt roads and winding two-tracks.
As we rounded a final corner, the old ranch homestead came into view, nestled beside a stand of aspens, and surrounded by tall, lush grass, dotted with black cows. There were cattle panels set up to make a branding trap, and trucks with their trailers were lining up just beyond the trap. The guy in charge of parking stopped us to tell us where to park, but he didn’t realize we were in a very mushy spot in the grass. We got stuck. And the 4×4 wouldn’t kick in. Of course. So we jumped the horses out (to make the trailer lighter), and still we were stuck. They had to pull us out.
Soon we were mounted, got instructions, and we were off. Mind you; I had knots in my stomach the size of baseballs. I hadn’t ridden since last September, and this was a horse I hadn’t ridden before, and I was in a group of more than 50 of the best horsemen in this area!
I started off about the middle of the pack, and my horse was fresh, as expected. As we picked up to a trot, my hat flew off. Of course. Cliff picked it up for me, and I literally wadded it up and stuck it inside my jacket. I knew the wind would blow it off again.
Then I began to feel like I was falling. I wasn’t, not really, but it sure felt like it! Here I was, in the middle of a pile – I mean a pile! – of great riders, and I am hanging on to the saddle horn! These guys swing into the saddle and trot off as smooth and easy as riding in a car. They re-coil their rope, check the horizon for cows and the best place to cross the creek, and they never mind their horse.
Then here I am, kerflopping along like a schoolgirl on a draft horse, hanging on with both hands and panicky yelling over to Cliff; “I can’t do it! Something isn’t right! I’m gonna fall OFF!” I truly thought I was gonna fall off my horse right in the middle of all those cowboys. If I had – I hope I would’ve been run over and please be knocked unconscious, because – oh the shame! My horse was happy to be going, and she wouldn’t slow down for me, I was scared to stop her completely, for fear we’d get run over, and also, I was worried I’d get left behind and I didn’t dare go on alone, my first time to the ranch, and all. But I didn’t fall off. I finally realized what was wrong – my stirrups were much too long, and trust me; too-long stirrups are the worst. After we got out of the pack and everyone pulled up a bit to go separate directions, we stopped and Cliff adjusted them for me. Whew. Much better!
I managed to drop back to the back of the crowd, so as to avoid being watched. I was having a hard time choking down my slice of humble pie. It was better from there out.
Till we hit the creek. The first few crossings were ok, the paint horse jumped over easily. But then we came to a wider spot, and at this particular spot, everyone was waiting till we all crossed. I came up almost last, but they were sitting there watching. Of course now my horse decides she doesn’t like to jump creeks She gingerly stepped around by the edge, until I finally poked her a little with my stirrups. She instantly LEAPED across, nearly leaving me behind! I hung on – I didn’t fall off! But it wasn’t pretty. I sure hope those guys got a little chuckle out of it, because I was sure not feeling amused. I was rather grumpy with the whole proceeding at this point. Wondering why on earth I even tried to ride… a new place, a new horse, a crowd of 50 strangers – I only knew 3 of them – what was I thinking?!
The cowboss told me and Cliff to stay at a certain spot to guard the creek crossing. OK, he asked Cliff to watch it; I just ‘helped’ because I wasn’t leaving his side for anything! So we’re sitting there, waiting for the cows to cross the creek. After they get across pretty good, Cliff tells me: “Just stay here, I am gonna go check something.”
And there he went, trotting up over the hill.
That was the last I saw of him.
I sat there till the last of the cows crossed, then trailed slowly behind the cowboys as they pushed the cows up the hill toward the branding trap. I couldn’t see Cliff anywhere. I kept brushing my bangs out of my eyes, (stupid hat!) searching for him among the spread-out crew. But men look amazingly alike when they are all wearing the same type of clothes, wearing the same type of hats, and riding brown horses! The Paint horse had figured out by now that I wasn’t Cliff, and she decided she didn’t want to do anything. So I went from hanging on for dear life, to kicking her in the ribs to even walk. She was just moseying along, taking her sweet time and disdaining my gentle guidance.
I saw a few guys glance back at me, straggling along there in the back, like: “What is she doing back there?” So I trotted up closer, and pretended to act like I knew what I was doing, by riding the flank. Finally I did see Cliff, but he was busy pushing the slow calves, so I didn’t bother him; just kept meandering along the flank.
When we had pushed all 700 cows and their babies into the branding pen, Cliff helped hold them, while I actually did something useful for the first time all morning; I ran after a few calves that squirted off. I was hanging back to stay out of the way, but ended up being in the perfect spot to run after the calves. Thankfully, my horse is pretty cowy, and she liked to run after the calves, so I basically just pointed her in the general direction and she’d dash after and turn it back. I just had to hold on.
Well, eventually they had them all calmed in the pen, and held with a solid line of cowboys. At that point I tied my horse to the trailer, and dug out my camera. The rest of the day was spent taking photos and talking to a friend that was also there with her husband and family. It was such gorgeous weather, the breeze kept the hot sun bearable, and it wasn’t very dusty.
Ranch mommas unite!
I enjoyed myself – after those first crazy minutes running in the crowd. The thought that kept running through my head that day was: “just another chance to humble yourself, Kay. You’re really not that great of a horsewoman, are you? Just humble yourself and ask for help. Stop being so proud.”
I talk to myself a lot.
I also told myself: “Well, it’s your own fault for not crawling on a horse in the past 8 months. Get out there and start riding!”
Sure, I had a foster baby the past 6 months, but still. Now I don’t.
Now I need to ride.
Still madly in love with this man after 15 years!
Tell me; have you ever made a fool out of yourself? Really? I’d love to hear about it! 😀
We went to help our friends brand calves yesterday. Cliff loaded up the horses and older kids and left by 5:30 am. I woke the little ones and fed & dressed them and followed in the suburban by 6 am. (We can’t all fit in the truck, so I had to drive separate.) It was a gorgeous morning, sun rising through a bit of clouds and into a clear sky.
By the time I reached the ranch, the cowboys were almost done gathering the cattle. The lane runs through the pasture, so I was surrounded by cowhands at one point. It always feels a bit like I’m living in a western movie set, when I see cowboys riding down the hills on either side of me. Never gets old.
Looking for strays.
The wind wasn’t too bad, thankfully, so the baby didn’t have to gasp for breath. 😉 Babies just don’t appreciate this Wyoming wind much. I strapped him in the stroller, and assigned an older kid to keep track of Reata while I ducked around horses and cowboys to take as many pictures as I could. I knelt in some questionable damp stuff with my new jeans – yuck. And I was awash in branding smoke most of the time, but I did get a couple of nice ones, in between feeding and changing the baby, and getting him to sleep.
My 3 older kids.
Brandings are a favorite time of year for most ranchers. We reconnect with friends and neighbors – some we haven’t seen since last year’s branding! We share jokes and tips and stories of the past year. We gather for a huge feast afterwards, always a highlight! Yesterday they served prime rib, which is a very delicious cut of meat. Most of the time if a fellow ranch wife comes to a branding, she will bring a dish to add to the table… a pie or salad or some rolls. It is not required, but always appreciated.
Dragging to the fire.
Cliff and Jenni wrestled calves a while.
And remember, calves hide (skin) is ‘way thicker than yours, so branding them is not nearly as painful as it would be for you. 😉 And besides that, it is required by law.
Spring! Ah, what a lovely season! I won’t say it is my favorite, anymore, because on the high prairies of Wyoming – spring is still quite chilly most days. But I surely do love the idea of spring! All the new babies in the meadows – skipping and dashing around their mamas, the fresh, thin mist of green springing up in the hay meadows, the flocks of blackbirds filling the air with their chattering… oh yes, spring is indeed a wonderful time of year!
After 2 months of night shift, my man has finally returned to a normal day schedule. I am so happy about that! Night shift was actually less work for him, so in that way it was good, but I really didn’t enjoy being on an opposite schedule from him. Especially since I homeschool 3 kids and have 2 little ones here too. It definitely took some creativeness to keep everyone reasonably quiet, but it was good experience for me. I can now sympathize much more with others in that situation.
Reading with her cousin.
We had a real warm spell a few weeks ago, and I took advantage of it by getting in some walks. My foster baby is 4 months old, and HATES the wind in his face, so I was tickled to find a secondhand stroller with a wind-guard! Helps a ton to keep him happy and warm.
He is such a good baby. Of course he has his moments, like the carseat! He isn’t a big fan of that. And he decided to disown his pacifier, which does NOT make me happy! I love when I can stick a paci in their mouth on a car ride, or at church, or to go to sleep. But nope. No amount of coaxing will make hm take it anymore.
Last week the snow and colder temps returned, along with another round of cold virus in the house. But God is still good and on the throne, so I have no complaints!
I have been trying to get back into a better rhythm of Bible study again, now that I’m settling into life with a baby. I find that keeping a Bible laying beside my chair is the best way for me. I used to think: “Oh, I have the Bible app on my phone, I’ll just use that.”
But the fact is – the Bible app is the slowest app to load. I mean, who wants to wait 2 minutes for the app to load, when Instagram loads in .5 seconds?! Seriously, folks, this is what happens. But I won’t accept that. I must get in my reading daily, or I don’t grow. I don’t thrive. I start going backwards immediately. The Word of God is powerful. We say that – but do we believe it? It really is powerful!!! It gives me direction, instruction, courage, and strength for daily life.
So, that recliner where I sit all the time to feed the baby – that is ‘my’ chair. I have an older Bible laying within arms’ reach. I chose an older Bible, because I don’t want to worry if it gets coffee spilled on it, or if my toddler decides to scribble in it. I keep my precious Christmas-gift-from-my-husband Bible elsewhere. I pick it up and read a verse or two or a couple chapters when I have a few minutes. It’s amazing how much you can get read in a day if you make it a priority! I bet you have ‘your’ chair somewhere too. Maybe you can find a Bible that you can lay within arms’ reach and start feeding on God’s Word daily. It will change your life, if you let it. If you are afraid of kids or pets messing up your nice Bibles, then you can go to the Dollar Tree and get one for $1.00. I bet you can manage that. 😉 and then no worries. Just read it. Use it. Mark in it. But read it.
Pulling a calf to the warm barn, with mama following.
February is a month of love. Valentine’s Day, candy, hearts, and roses. But on the ranch, February is much different. It means long nights of checking heifers, pulling calves, wading through thawing snow, and bottle-feeding bum calves.
It is also the middle of the long Wyoming winter – blizzards and high winds and ice. We have been having crazy high winds the past few days, 75+ mph. It blows over semi-trucks, and blows shingles off houses and blows over anything not weighed down. If the windmill blades aren’t locked down, they will blow right off!
We have been dealing with some sickness, (not too bad) and it got the baby. One day he was feeling so poorly, that I took him for a drive – just to lull him to sleep. I don’t remember ever doing that before – taking a baby for a drive to make it sleep. But by baby #7, you tend to relax on some things. 😉 Plus, with Cliff sleeping during the day, I couldn’t have him screaming in the house. Anyways, he did go to sleep, and I moseyed around the ranch, stopping to snap a few pictures from the window.
The snow has mostly melted, for the first time since Thanksgiving. We had giant snow piles along the lane for months. But I don’t relax too much, because March – May are normally our snowiest months! I expect several more big storms before we see real spring.
I am busy with our foster baby – he is a good baby, but still… babies require a lot of time. I almost forget how often they like to eat! 😀 He’s getting chubsy and smiley and oh! so fun. We are all falling in love with him.
Note: I can’t say much about him, due to confidentiality laws. But I’ll address the most asked questions — No, I can’t tell you why he is in foster care, No, we are not planning to adopt (we always work to reunify kids with their families), and No, we have no idea how long we will have him.
So that is why my blogging suffers, right now. I’m busy making bottles, changing diapers, and rocking a cute little boy.
Today it is really warm outside, and the first calm day for a long time. So the kids ran outside as soon as they finished morning chores – determined to not waste this lovely day! I was happy to see them go. The older ones promised to watch their littlest sister carefully – which made me glad. Teens are the coolest! (lots of tractors/trucks/horses/bulls make the ranch yard not terribly safe for a tiny human)
Yesterday we had a recertification meeting with the foster care co-ordinator. I was nervous, (which was unnecessary,) but as always, she was calm and helpful. I hear so many horror stories of caseworkers and foster care workers, but I guess we are just really blessed. Ours are the best! I mean sure, some are more strict than others, and some are naturally more cheerful, or whatever, but I haven’t had a bad experience with any, so far. Really kind and helpful.
Ok, I’m starting to ramble. I better go throw a load of laundry in the washer.
I hope your day is pleasant and you find a bit of nature to relax in.
Calving season is upon us again. And my husband is on night duty – 7 day a week. I am so thankful we have a large house, so he can get some sleep during the day! I mean, we have 5 kids, and they are not quiet!
Meanwhile, I am trying my best to stay on top of schooling 3 kids, caring for a baby, and keep a 3 year out of trouble! Whew! I’ll just tell ya right here; I am not doing it. I am not ‘staying on top’! I am sliding into a hole. I can’t keep up with everything. But that’s ok. I am doing my best, and what work doesn’t get done today will still be there tomorrow. 😉 I am very much sticking to the basics. School is obviously a top priority, and meals and laundry. Cleaning gets done in fits and starts. My kids help a ton, and ya know – when you have a 2 month old baby, it’s ok to just do the basics, right?!
The sunrises gleaming golden and peach on the snow makes for beautiful mornings! I never get tired of the view from my window…
I walked down to the calving barn this week, to see the new babies. They were mostly sleeping, but I got a few shots. This lil guy had a rough start and was staying in the barn to get warm and healthy. This cutie was just soaking up the sunshine! I need to go down more… those babies are so cute. How’s your calving season going? Do you sleep alone during calving, too?