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Posts Tagged ‘calves’

Would you look at that?

I got busy with ranch life and totally ignored my blog for a month but when I finally checked in the first thing I noticed was that it has topped over 10,000 views.  Is that exciting or what?  I guess I better get busy and write some more stuff!

We have been busier than heck back here at the ranch so I’m dragging butt.  We have gathered cattle, sorted cattle, worked cattle, doctored cattle, preg checked cows, weaned calves, shipped yearlings and calves ( 2 very full trucks of them) and finally sold cattle. 

Life has pretty much revolved around cattle for the last two months and I have literally been ‘candy coated’ with manure for a very large share of that time.  Hubby has had something scheduled for every weekend and evening for so long I wasn’t sure which way I was going.  But the yearlings and the calves have been sold now so it’s a relief to be down to just the bred cows and the bulls for the winter. 

Even though there wasn’t much rain and we barely saw a green blade of grass all summer the yearlings and calves did very well.  We were lucky that there was grass left over from last summer that they were able to graze.  And even luckier that we didn’t lose any of it to the many fires that were going all summer long.  We figured our yearlings gained an average of 1.9 lbs. every day.  They looked pretty fat and sassy when we gathered them up for the trip home. 

I have to admit most of the yearlings we get are the wildest and dumbest critters you could ever meet up with but this batch was great.  They may have spoiled us but I’m betting next years herd will bring us bouncing back to reality in short time.

With no new growth this summer the pastures are looking pretty bare.  Normally, we would graze till the snow piles up but this year we will probably have to start feeding before that happens.

Everybody I talk to is praying for snow.  After a long summer full of drought and fires it’s been nice to see the ground white a couple of times already and we’ve even had to scrape a little mud off your boots once or twice.  I like mud.

After gathering this fall we are still short one bull off of the Forest Service permit.  Hubby has spent quite a few days on the mountain looking for him and has had no luck so far even though some of the hunters we’ve talked to have seen one.  He’s either a very elusive little bugger and has moved in with another herd or els he has died somewhere back in the woods.  In that case we might never find him.

It has been another wild summer so I’m thankful for a little break.  I did manage to squeeze in a couple of community education classes in my free time.  All of them were in Rapid City this year so I ended up driving like hell after work to get there in time and then getting home around midnight.  It made for some long days but the classes were great and well worth it.  I usually try to sign up for a few every year just to try out something I’ve never done before and this year was no exception – beekeeping,  scuba diving and pistols.  I’ll have to tell you about that weird combination next time.

And one final thought for today – My prayers go out to the crew and families of the HMS Bounty which sank off the coast of North Caroline early Monday morning.  I got to tour this beautiful old ship last March when it was in port at Old San Juan Puerto Rico.  She was built in the 60’s for the movie ‘Mutiany on the Bounty’ starring Marlin Brando.  They followed the plans of the original Bounty when they built her but she was enlarged by 1/3 scale to accommodate the large movie cameras used at the time.  Originally, they planned to blow her up for the final scene of the movie but it seems Mr. Brando fell in love with the ship and threatened to walk off the set unless they changed their plans.  So they blew up a model instead and the ship was saved.  Over the years it has gone from used to neglected to restored to sold and then used for movies again and was currently up for sale for 4.6 million.  For the last few years she had traveled to various events and even was used as a summer camp for kids on occasion.  If I had got to go to summer camp like that I would never have come home!

 

After I saw her she was scheduled to leave port to work her way along the east coast and arrive in time for several events all along the coast before turning back mid summer so she would arrive back to Puerto Rico where she would remain through the winter.  It sounded like a wonderful way to spend the summer.  When I jokingly asked about any job openings they might have the young man giving me the tour was pretty quick to inform me that they were looking for a new cook as the last one had just gotten a job on another ship.  He appeared almost desperate enough to eat my cooking and even told me how to get an application.  I made sure to mention my new job opportunity to Hubby when I talked to him on the phone.  He wasn’t exactly thrilled by it but it was very tempting to me.  I have always been facinated by the tall ships.

The last report I’ve heard was that 14 of the 16 crew members were safely rescued shortly after she sank.  Unfortunately one crew member was found dead and they are still searching for the last member of the crew – the captain.  Since they were all well prepared for emergencies and the waters average 70 to 80 degrees there is still hope that he will be found alive.  I hope so.

She was a beautiful ship and I am glad I got a chance to see her.

 

 

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We branded last weekend and it was good.  Of course it took me almost a week to find my camera again so that’s what took me so long to add this post.  It was in the pocket of an old coat along with a dozen nasty old ear tags.  I imagine some women find nice things like pretty gloves, scarves and even cash in their coat pockets – not me.  I have grubby ear tags and used surgical gloves for handling fly tags.  Oh well, that’s a small price to pay to get to see these little guys every spring.

This little guy was born just in time to get branded.  Can you see how excited he is?  Just look at that face, he has got to be a bull calf.

Everyone showed up for the fun and games.  Here’s Hubby with Dani & Dalton’s new puppy – Cleo.  She’s a cutie.  Everyone loves to help with branding.  Dalton & Dani came from up by Belle Fourche, Morgan came with 2 of his friends – Matt and Derek, and our neighbors John and Ellen stopped by too.  It’s a lot of fun!!!

Of course, this side of the family wasn’t near as impressed as the rest of us. 

But it was a day for puppies.  Along with Cleo we also had Turbo who is Matt’s puppy.  Cleo is a full blood Blue Heeler and Turbo (bless his cute little puppy heart) is a Heeler/Corgi cross.  There’s just something about those short-legged dogs.  I love them! 

That’s it – I’m going to have to steal one of these puppies.

That’s Dani (our favorite daughter-in-law) on Hubby’s new horse Smokey and Morgan (my baby) running the gate.  We were sorting off the cows so we could push the new yearlings in first.

Every time we work cattle we seem to draw an audience.  The older dogs – Casey and Steve watched at the gate, ready to jump in and help if someone needed them.  It may not look like it but both those dogs can squirt under that gate in a flash if they have to.  Although Steve doesn’t have to duck quite as far as Casey.

After the yearlings we did break for lunch – Honey glazed ham, baked potatoes, Grandma’s famous baked bean recipe, deviled eggs, Ramen noodle salad, tossed salad (lettuce and spinach from my garden), fresh pineapple (not from my garden), home-made bread, pickles and lots of desserts – carmel rolls, cheesecake, chocolate pie, Ellen’s banana cake and chocolate chip cookies.  Yum – Yum!

Then it was back to work.  That’s Dalton looking like he doesn’t want to get too close to that cow along with our neighbor John who ran the squeeze chute.  We gave the cows a shot to help the calves that are nursing stay healthy, and a dose of stuff on their backs to help control flies and parasites and basically just said “Hi.  How are you?”

Then we worked the calves.

The boys have developed a routine over the years.  Dalton worked at the head giving implants and checking for horns, while Morgan did the cutting (castrating).  Matt had to leave early but Derek helped push in calves and hold them down.  Derek’s a big kid and a football player.  This training serves him well when it comes to working cattle.  Those calves didn’t stand a chance.  John kept the branding irons hot while Dani, Ellen and I took care of ear tags, shots and record keeping.

I love watching our boys brand.  I remember all those years when they were too little to help and were forced to watch it all from the bed of the pickup.  I bet they would tell you this is much more fun.

Once we’re done with the calves we turn them out to go find their Mama’s who usually are right there bawling for their babies.  Can’t you just imagine what he’s telling his mother?  “Mom, where are you?  I don’t ever want to go back there again.  Mom, are all humans weird?  You’ll never believe what they did to me.  Mom, why do I have earrings?”

The last thing we did was to brand the new horse.  This is something that we don’t do very often.  Most horses are branded when they are young (and easier to handle).  First  Derek and Hubby tied him to the corral.  Smokey should have known something was going on then.

And when they covered his head with the black coat he should have ‘run like the wind’.  But he’s a good horse and he took it like a man.  At least until the red-hot brand touched his hide.  Then he let us know he wasn’t pleased.  You can’t blame him – I would have been pretty ticked off too.

To show his displeasure with the whole thing he did his best to tear the corral apart and managed to break a couple of the old logs before it was over.   Thank goodness the iron was hot and Hubby only had to use it once.  I have to admit the new brand on his shoulder really shows up on that grey horse.

But a few soothing words, a couple pats on the back and a nice bucket of oats helped make it all better.  Although the next time you try to throw a black coat over his head I’m betting it won’t work quite so well.

Another successful branding day.

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Have you missed me?  I admit it – I have really missed my little blog for the last few weeks.  But tomorrow morning we will leave for the big city of Denver where fly off to the tropics early Tuesday morning.  I can’t wait.

I think I am finally ready to go.  The taxes are done, the bills are paid, the fridge is filled so Hubby won’t starve, my time in the tanning booth has started to show, and as of this morning the first batch of calves is branded, tagged, castrated and vaccinated.

Morgan, Dalton and Dani were all here to help.  It was a great day!  And I was sooooo happy to see everybody before I left – vacations are fun but family is everything!

For 2 months now I have been thinking and stockpiling everything I thought I would need to pack for the trip but then one day (mostly due to lack of sleep) I started thinking about all the things I wouldn’t need to take to the island and since that list was much more interesting I decided to share it here.

What I will not pack for the Island:

1.  I will not take the pickup.  There really shouldn’t be any need for a 4-wheel drive, 3/4 ton pickup with a set of tire chains under the back seat.  I really hope we will not need the ice scraper/snow sweeper, extra insulated gloves, socks, stocking caps, coveralls or scarves in the front seat or the tow ropes, jumper cables, diesel fuel additive, winter survival kit, extra food, water bottles, blankets, snow boots, scoop shovel or heat packs that ride around in the back seat all winter long.

2.  I will not take a parka, winter coat, fur coat (even if it is the ‘nice beaver’ as my sister says) or my Carhart coveralls.  I will sprint to the airport terminal in a raging blizzard if I have to, rather than carry a coat with me to the island.

3.  We shouldn’t need the heat gun to thaw out any water pipes or any heat tape to wrap around them to keep the water running.  I bet they rarely have that problem in Puerto Rico.
 
4.  I won’t pack the Nipco heater, heat lamps or electric dog dish – the calves, chicks and our dog and cats will probably need these here while I am gone.
 
5.  I don’t care how much she begs – Fat Alice will have to stay home!
 
 
 
She’s the big yellow one and is one of my favorite anniversary gifts (Dan is so damn romantic sometimes!!!).  Fat Alice will just have to stay home to feed the cattle and scoop the snow.  Sorry Alice.
 
6.  We shouldn’t need any hay bales either because I’m betting no one on the island of Puerto Rico has ever had to stack them around the foundation of their house to keep things from freezing.  For that matter, I bet no one has ever shrink-wrapped their windows with double-sided sticky tape, sheets of plastic and a hair dryer to stop the wind from blowing through and freezing the gold-fish in the bowl on the kitchen counter.  Don’t laugh – I know a guy in Custer who came home one evening to find that the furnace had died while he was at work.  He said it looked like the guppies in the aquarium were swimming in jello.
 
7.  I’m pretty sure I can leave our electric socks with their battery packs at home – the really nice ones that my sister gave all the girls working at the flower shop for Valentines’ Day one year?  We shouldn’t need these on the beach.  In fact I don’t believe the salt water would be good for them.
 
8.  I don’t think we’ll have to take any de-icer salt or kitty litter either.  If you don’t carry kitty litter in your car every winter and know how to use it you obviously haven’t lived in South Dakota long enough.
 
9.  We shouldn’t have to worry about wind chills, white-outs, snowflakes as big as horse turds or snow drifts for a few days.  And I would bet real money that there isn’t a single snow plow/sander truck on the entire island to watch out for.  I passed 5 snow plows, 3 road graders with v-plows, 2 Bobcat loaders and 27 pickups with blades just on the way home from work one night a couple of weeks ago.
 
10.  We shouldn’t need to take any electric blankets, down comforters, wool blankets, heated mattress pads or quilts – in fact, I wonder if there are even any quilters or quilt shops on the island.
 
11.  All those sexy (?) flannel nighties that reach from your chin to your toes with long sleeves and enough fabric to build a small circus tent can stay at home too along with the sheep-skin lined bedroom slippers, sweat pants and sweat shirts I often sleep in. 
 
 
12.  We shouldn’t need to take any snow packs, ice cleats, moon boots, rubbers, or 4 buckle overshoes unless of course you would like to wear them while snorkeling or wading in the tidal pools – the rubbers and overshoes might actually work pretty well for this but I’m still not going to pack them.
 
13.  And last but not least I absolutely, positively refuse to pack any wool socks, wool underwear, wool lined pants, wool vests, wool hats, wool gloves or even a wool sweater – I don’t care if it does have a sailboat knitted into the front of it!  The wool stays home!
 
 
 I’ll see you when I get home (if not before). 

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When I downloaded the photos for the last post I found the photos I had taken on Sale Day and thought you’d like to see them. 

Sale Day is the day we sell our calves, yearlings and sometimes cows or bulls.  It can come on any day of the year and sometimes we have several Sale Days.  When you are a rancher, Sale Day is also one of the best days of the year.  I took the day off of work – which is easy to do when you have a boss that does the exact same thing.  My boss and I even coordinate our schedules so we both get to see our calves sell.  After all, when you’re a ranch wife, Sale Day is the social event of the season!

Around here Sale Day always starts early – ‘O-dark-thirty’.

I told you it was dark.  We were up and going by 4:00 am.  Do you see all those little white dots?  Those are the eyes of the cows reflected in the headlights. 

It’s sad to see the girls like this.  They are all bunched up in the corner waiting for their calves to come back.  They are good mamas.  The cows usually hang out here for a day or so and then they seem to forget what they’re waiting for and get on with the business of being a cow. 

The first stop on Sale Day was the corrals where we had one more cow to load in the trailer.  Now don’t feel bad for that old girl.  She got a private ride to the sale barn because she was a wild thing, full of piss & vinegar and she had done everything she could not to get on the truck with the other cattle.  She has been a challenge since the day we brought her home to the ranch and my hubby decided it was time to send ‘Alice’  packing before she ended up hurting someone. 

We had left her in the corrals over night with another cow – one that was a lot calmer, who we will call ‘Bess’.  It seemed to work.  Bess doesn’t get stirred up about anything, not even when a pickup and trailer back up to the corral at ‘O-dark’thirty’.  Bess just stood there, chewing her cud and checking out the lights and sounds. I imagine life could be rather boring for a cow as Bess really seemed to enjoy the activity.   ‘Alice’, on the other hand, eyed everything with a healthy dose of suspicion but since her girlfriend, Bess wasn’t concerned Alice decided it must be OK.  We opened the door on the trailer and flipped the lights on inside and Hubby directed the two old girls to the gate.  Bess took one look around and stepped right into the trailer, followed closely by Alice who was starting to snort and blow snot.  But, since nothing scary happened (and there was nothing to eat inside) Bess turned around and calmly walked out, letting me shut the door in Alices’ face. 

Here’s the trailer all lit up with a rather pissed-off Alice inside.  Check out the Moooood lighting inside.  Ha!  Ranch humor.

Alice was locked and loaded – literally.  It was much easier than the day before when we had tried to do the same thing .  That day Alice went through the fence (twice), ripped off the gate, took off at top speed across the pasture and then, when Hubby (and the horse he was riding) politely asked her to return, she put down her head and charged them (several times).  Now you can see why Hubby was determined that Alice make it to her date at the sale barn.

And speaking of the sale barn – here we are:

Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange 

Belle Fourche is pronounced ‘Bell Fooch’ and it’s the name of a town, a river and just about everything else in that country.  It is a French name and means ‘Beautiful Fork’ because of the fork in the river there.  I guess if you have nice flatware you could have a whole set of belle fourches.  HA!  Give me a break – it’s early.

Anyway, here’s a few of our calves.  The guy in the green shirt is the auctioneer doing his job trying to get the buyers to bid.  When they bring in the first batch of calves the auctioneer always stops to say a few words – he names the ranch where the cattle are from, asks if the rancher is there and then asks a few questions or makes a comment or two on how nice the calves look.  Then he kicks it into high gear and starts asking for bids.

From this photo it doesn’t look like there were many buyers around – see all the empty seats, but they were there and prices were high and our calves were looking good.  That is a good combination for us.  The bigger ones almost always bring less money per pound but they also have more pounds.  Our prices ranged from $1.02 per pound to $1.58 a pound.  These prices were towards the high-end for that day although there were some calves that brought $1.87 per pound.  We had yearlings that weighed over 800 pounds and calves that weighted between 400 – 600 pounds each.  Last year we were lucky to get over a dollar a pound for anything but prices have improved lately and from everything we’ve heard people believe they will stay up.

It’s always nerve-racking sitting there waiting but this year things came together and it was a good day.

Here’s a few more calves.  Check out that rather large boot on the railing – that’s our baby, Morgan.  He got the day off too so he could go.  I told you Sale Day is a big event.

And more calves.  It goes on like this until all the calves and yearlings we brought had sold.  Suddenly, it’s done and we sit and watch the next ranchers calves come in.  Our calves ended up going to 5 different places, some went to other ranches as replacement heifers and some went to feed lots to be finished – fattened up before ending up in a butcher shop.  That’s the cattle business.

We picked up our pay check and then headed 20 miles out-of-town to visit our son Dalton and his wife Dani at the ranch where they work.  It was a great day but very long. 

On another subject, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may remember a post I did last January titled Sun Spots.  I have always had a thing about sun spots or ‘orbs’ showing up in my photos and I watch for them.  When I tried to lighten up the photos for this post I was surprised to find this:

I know these aren’t sun spots because the sun wasn’t even close to coming up yet.  I supposed they could be snow crystals in the air but it wasn’t snowing and look at the ground – there wasn’t any snow to blow around.  I rmember it was a very still morning but if you look at the photo you can see that there is frost on the hood of the pickup.  So who knows?  The spot that really got me was the bright spot right beside one cows face.  It even showed up before I had lightened the shot.

 

This photo only shows a few spots even though it was taken right after the previous one and this photo only has one:

I’m not sure why we get these orbs in some photos but I will keep watching for them.  Well, I better get busy.  There’s still a lot to do before Christmas!

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Random Ramblings

It has been crazy here!

Mostly because the calves sold really well and that means that for a change – we had money left over after we paid the bills!!!  That is just about unheard of for this operation.  Ha!  So there I was with money to burn…  What terribly extravagant thing do you think I ran out and bought?

Flooring!!!

I know – I’m a wild woman.

We have lived in this house for over 5 years and have never finished the flooring in the dining room, living room and our bedroom.  We did have the subflooring down so it wasn’t like we were jumping from one floor joist to the next but frankly it wasn’t very pretty and worst of all it was full of splinters.  It is time for a change!  So since we sold calves I have spent every evening and every weekend on my hands and knees praying to the great laminate flooring god in the sky and thank goodness it is coming together.  I will post a couple of photos once it is finished and the furniture is all back in place.  But for right now it looks like a tornado spun through our house. 

And I suppose I should be finishing it up and cleaning up the mess.  Right?  Well I would be if I didn’t have a fun-filled weekend ahead of me.  I will be at the Passionate Quilters Retreat quilting my ever-loving-heart out.

A couple of times every year the local quilters get together for a long weekend of sewing and visiting at one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth – Outlaw Ranch – a Bible camp near Custer, SD.  I went there as a kid, I took my boys there for Karate Camp and now I’m back as an old lady.  The best thing about the retreat is that we get to sew for 4 days on whatever we want to work on (I have about a dozen unfinished projects loaded into the back seat of my pickup).  And we don’t have stop sewing because somebody can’t find something or is hungry.  A wonderful lady cooks the most fantastic meals for us – I think I love her.  So what am I waiting for?  I am off – hitting the road and leaving my unfinished floor and all the dust it has generated behind. 

Wa  Hoooooooooo!!!!!

 

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Saturday was the day.  The weather was beautiful, the neighbors, friends & family showed up and the signs were right with the universe – so we branded.  This was actually the 3rd branding of the season but this is the one I love – it’s when we brand the new babies and we get to see just how good they are doing. 

First we gathered the calves and cows.

We keep them in the small pasture near the house so we can keep a close eye on them as they are being born and it makes it easy to push them into the horse pasture and finally the corrals.

Here’s our boys bringing up the rear with the last cow and calf. 

Once we get them into the corral we sort the cows off of the calves and the bawling begins.  First we run the cows through the big chute where they got a couple of shots and some pour on insecticides to help control the bugs that annoy.  Then the moms are all right there and waiting when the babies get done.

And talk about babies here’s one really cute baby and her two big brothers.  A couple of the neighbors showed up to help.  This is Amy’s kids in their ‘ranch kid play pen’.  I tell you – we have nothing but the best for our kids – that’s probably a $40,000 Dodge play pen.   All the comforts of home and lots of good fresh air and sunshine.

Wade – Morgan’s truck-driving buddy showed up to help too.

“Where’s the clutch on this thing?”

John – the cowboy poet and all around nice guy showed up too and he brought his wife Ellen who is just the sweetest lady you ever want to meet.  She’s a tiny little thing but she don’t back down when it comes to calves that probably out weigh her by 50+ pounds.

I think she was even having fun.

And who’s this yahoo with the lime green gloves and the strange pair of pliers?

Yes, it’s me.  Looks like I’m ready to tackle a sink full of dirty dishes but actually I had the job of putting in the fly tags.  These are ear tags that will help keep the flies away from the calves.  The thing to remember with fly tags is you do not want to handle them without rubber gloves – it will make you sicker than a dog but on the bright side you would probably never need to worry about flies bothering you again.

Since I was trying to stay out-of-the-way most of the time this is the view I had of the calves on the calf table.

Nice…  hum, calf.

I did move out of my little corner by the table once in awhile and did get some better shots.

Dalton did the branding.

And Morgan did the cutting (castrating).  What can I say – some people just have the knack for it and Morgan is good.

And this little guy was watching our backs.  If any calf, cow or cowboy strayed close enough he was ready.  Just give him a couple more years and he’ll be right out there with the rest of them just like Dally who really, really wanted to help.

And here’s Dani on her favorite horse Taz.  What a great team.

When it comes to branding or just about any big job Grandma Winter’s advice rings true.

“Many hands make the work load light.”

What a great day!

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Spring is definately here and at this ranch that means it’s time to buy yearlings.

 

Yearlings are last years calves.  We buy them in the spring, fatten them up all summer and sell them in the fall once they have put on a bunch of weight.

Years ago we kept our calves through the winter and then sold them as yearlings but after several years of drought when we were not able to cut and bale the hay we normally would, we ended up having to buy hay.  Buying hay at $80 – $100 per ton is expensive so we had to adapt our operation.  Now we sell the calves in the fall and buy yearlings in the spring and it has worked pretty well.

The trick is to buy them skinny & cheap and sell them fat & expensive.  It’s the best way to sell the grass in our pastures.

Usually we get several loads of yearlings and they are always black or black (with) white-faces but this year we seem to be ending up with an odd assortment of colors and sizes.

Of course we have black Angus and black white-faced but we also have one that appears to have blood lines going back to a Holstein which is a dairy breed and even a couple that are Longhorn cross.

I’m thinking this will be an interesting summer.

Amongst this mixture we also have heifers (females who haven’t had a calf yet), steers (males that have been castrated) and even a few bulls (that after this weekend are now steers).  Sorry guys.

This is our propane branding stove.  It was built by Hubby and it works well to heat the irons.  It has even been used to brew a mean pot of cowboy coffee on occasion – and I do mean ‘MEAN’.  It is often said that a horseshoe has to be able to stand upright in the dark, murky brew before it can be considered cowboy coffee but I think it also has to be strong enough to dissolve the horseshoe – at least that’s how strong Hubby makes it.

We have at least 3 brandings every spring.  One for the yearlings and any cows and bulls we purchase that year, another for the new calves born that year and  usually one more small branding in early summer for any late calves that happen to show up ‘after the party’.

We have had branding days that were huge parties with lots of people and mountains of food but the ones I like best are the ones where just our family can handle it – maybe with the help of one or two neighbors who happen to show up and decide to stick around.  Saturday was one of those days.

We hadn’t planned on branding.  Silly me – I had mapped out a whole weekend full of stuff I needed to get done.  I was even planning on making it to a garden club meeting.  It’s been so long since I’ve been to one of those that I’m sure half the members have decided I must have left the country or passed on to the great garden in the sky.  Yep, I had stuff stacked on the kitchen table ready to go and a list a mile long of what I needed to do but at 10:30 Friday night our son, Dalton and his wife, Dani called.  They were headed our way and would be home in about an hour – that’s when the wheels in Hubby’s mind started spinning.  Morgan, our youngest son was already planning on being at the ranch Saturday and any rancher knows that when you have that much help show up you automatically start to think about what you can get done.  For us, it was an easy choice.  Last week we had hauled home the first two loads of yearlings.  They were in the corrals just waiting for a day dry enough to brand.

It didn’t matter that it has rained for 2 weeks straight or that the mud in the corrals is roughly deep enough to bury a sports car to its hood ornament in or that none of the kids knew we were going to put them to work.  No, what really mattered was whether or not the rain would stop long enough to let the yearlings hides dry out so we could get a good clear brand on them. 

Now I know some people are upset by the thought of branding livestock but since the beginning of ranching it has always been the best way to prove who owns what.  Don’t think that the days of cattle rustling are over – far from it.  I talk to people every day who have lost cattle to sticky fingered individuals and without a brand it’s very hard to identify an individual cow, calf or even bulls.  One couple I know came up short 12 pairs (cow and calf) on their summer pasture last year.  That adds up to over $25,000.00 worth of livestock missing and this is something you can’t buy insurance for.  Their cattle were branded but in eastern South Dakota the sale barns do not inspect brands so more than likely that’s where they ended up going.  Branding doesn’t stop all rustling but at least it slows down some of it.   Since the easiest thing to steal are slick calves (ones that aren’t branded) you might as well just hang a sign around their neck that says ‘Take me – I’m yours’. 

It’s sad but true.  So we brand.

As luck would have it, Saturday morning we woke up to a short lapse in the rain so we drug out the branding irons and got to work.

Morgan ran the hydraulic chute and branded.  He’s good at running the chute – he misses very few if any and that helps save a lot of time and cussing as you have to gather up the ones that manage to ‘squirt’ through the chute.  It ususally takes several tries to run them back into the corral and through the chute a second time.  Morgan’s also pretty quick with an iron – the hotter the iron the faster you can get the job done.

Dani grew up on horseback but not around cattle so she’s still kind of new to branding but this time she was in charge of changing out all the old ear tags and replacing them with new ones.  I think this is only the 2nd or 3rd branding Dani has ever been to but she’s not afraid to try something new.  Each yearling received a nice orange tag with a number in the left ear and a treated ‘fly’ tag in the right ear.  These fly tags will help keep the insects off of them through the summer.  Tagging can be a ‘snotty’ job but Dani is great about jumping right in and getting to work.

Dalton, Dan, our neighbor Paul and I usually end up doing whatever else needs to be done – pushing cattle into the chute, vaccinating, applying pour-on treatments for pests, keeping written records, taking photos, running for supplies and in this case de-horning the Longhorn cross steers.

And even Dally – Morgan’s new pup helped out by running cattle in and then staying out of the way while we worked.  She’s not even 6 months old but she’s smart and learning quick.

Having big crews to help is fun but personally I’ve missed out on a lot on those branding days because my job was always inside – cooking the meal.  I’m actually a pretty good cook but I’ll freely admit that the kitchen is not where I want to be.  Times have changed and I’ve gotten smarter.  Now I prepare everything in advance and as far as I’m concerned, crock pots and slow roasters are a gals best friends.  I’m proud to say I have mastered the art of cooking on auto-pilot and I would trade my stove in a heartbeat for the sight of my saddle on a good horse and the smell of burnt hair in my face.

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What a great evening Wednesday night!!!  It was 43 degrees outside with very little wind so of course (since it’s April) I was gardening.  I was gardening in my winter coat and stocking hat but I was still gardening.  I have always figured if you can stand to be outside for more than half an hour without your coveralls then it must be time to start gardening.  That’s South Dakota for you.

The first thing I did was spray some weeds.  Tell me, how is it possible that the snow has just finally disappeared and there are already a bumper crop of weeds?  It’s just not fair.  I never spray chemicals in my vegetable garden but anything that rears its ugly head through the gravel of the Wedding Garden is fair game.   Guess what we have coming up in there – oats, lots and lots of oats.  Of course it’s because we threw oats instead of rice at the newlyweds so it’s my own fault.

 

Ahhh – memories…

After taking out my frustrations with a spray bottle of herbicide I spent the rest of the evening planting onion sets and cleaning up inside the little greenhouse, turning over the soil and getting it ready to plant.  I worked until it was too dark to see.  Thank goodness turning over soil is not difficult work and since it was pitch black when I decided to head to the house I was also thankful for the solar lawn light I happened to have close by.  I’m sure I looked like the Statue of Liberty coming across the garden to the house holding the light by the ground spike over my head.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of…  sickly plants…”

It’s true – I’m a very patriotic gardener.  It was a touching moment but when I stepped into the kitchen I forgot all about that because I saw something on the corner of the kitchen table that I thought you might like to see – Hubbys record book. 

If you live with a rancher or farmer you already know what a record book is.  Every rancher keeps one.  Most men will choose a new one every year, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace it is a ritual worthy of much thought and planning.  Most record books are small notebooks that can fit into a shirt pocket – like the proverbial ‘little black book’  but for ranchers and farmers they can be any color – except pink – I have never seen a pink one.   And because all ranchers and farmers are cheap, almost all record books come with advertising on their imitation leather covers.  You might see ads from a feed store, seed company, the power company or even the neighbors annual bull sale.  Those are my favorites.

 Ranchers and farmers write down everything into these small books – weather conditions, cattle health records, the phone number of a guy with hay for sale and I’m betting there are deep, dark secrets in there too.  I have never really checked out this theory but I’m pretty sure it’s true.  In my line of work I have had access to many ranchers record books and I have been watched like a hawk from the moment I got their book into my grubby little hands until I have carefully handed it back.  I guess it would be like me handing over my journal – it would make me nervous too. 

I have seen grown men literally tear a house apart looking for their misplaced book and if the absolute worst should happen and the book goes through the washing machine you might as well pour yourself a stiff drink and start thumbing through the yellow pages for a good divorce lawyer.  It happened to me once.  I was horrified to open the washing machine and pull out the soggy, mangled pages of Hubbys record book.  There was no hope of salvaging it.  The only thing that saved our marriage was that it was in January and he hadn’t had much time to write important stuff in it yet.  It was a close call.

Most men I know carry these small books with them where ever they go but occasionally, they have been known to forget their book and then what do you do?  You make do with whatever you happen to have on hand. 

Hence, Hubby’s logbook.

 

I know – it looks like an ordinary pair of dirty old leather gloves, but look closer.

Those are ear tag numbers from calves – it’s a regular register of new babies.  Remember #53 the mini bull with attitude?

Yep – There he is.

I only count 16 tag numbers on these gloves but I know there are many more calves than that out in the field so I guess Hubby must have remembered his record book most of the time but everyone has had a few of those days when you leave home without the things you need.  On those days – you must adapt.  At times, you even have to be a little creative and believe me ranchers are very, very good at this.  If you don’t believe me just check out this fence repair job. 

 

You can’t see it very well from this photo but that old wooden fence post is totally rotted off at the bottom.  The only thing holding it up is the steel fence post – well, that and the fact that the wind generally blows from the west most times.  It is a modern marvel of engineering that has been standing like this for at least 4 years (that I know of)  and with the way things go around here it’s probably going to out last the rest of the fence. 

I have seen artwork in galleries with $30,000 price tags that aren’t as fascinating to me as this simple fence post.  I’m not sure why that is – perhaps it reminds me of the ancient conflict of mankind, depicted by the use of both old and new medias that makes me think of the old rancher, weathered and knarled, reluctantly turning over the reins of ownership to the next generation.  Or perhaps it’s the symbol of strength portrayed by the single metal fence post that supports not only the weight of the old wooden post but also the fence lines running in two different directions.  Steadfast and without complaint, it holds everything together – supporting the weight of the world on its rigid frame. 

It could be…

But more than likely it reminds me to send a prayer toward heaven for the strength – like that fence post – to hold things together for just one more day.

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I love living on a ranch.  Sure, there are tough times when the wind howls and the snow blows for days and you think winter will never end.  But then suddenly, one day it does and the snow melts and the landscape is covered with a thick layer of mud that will suck your vehicle into the ditch faster than you can say “Holy mud-suckers, Batman!” 

But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere els – especially in the spring when you have pastures full of these adorable, sweet, precious babies running around.  Just check out that face – doesn’t he look like a little, mini bull?

 “Howdy.  My name is 53.  I’m named after my momma even though I look more like my good-for-nothin old man.  I like to drink milk and run wild in the pasture with the other claves.  We play hard every night and then sleep all day – curled up like a field full of fuzzy black rocks.  I am suspicious of everything and everybody that shows up and if you get too close I will kick you in the knee caps till you fall to the ground in agony.  Since Dad left us for greener pastures, I’m the man of the family and I won’t let you mess with Mom no matter what you think.  So just get back into your pickup and leave before I bust a cap on you.”

“OK – you think I’m kidding just because I have this ‘cow-lick’ on the top of my nose?  I’m serious – you better just git.”

 

All right, already. I’m going.  Geese!  What a lot of attitude for such a little calf.

Who’s our next baby?

“Yo, Dude…  My name is 45.  Mom and I like to bust down muddy roads, flinging mud and generally causing mayhem.  Sometimes if we just stand here and refuse to move we can force the red pickup to try to drive around us.  Most of the time it gets sucked into the ditch by all this bitchin’ mud and then I learn lots of new sentence-enhancing words from the ranch lady.  You should see the mud fly then!  Hoo-eee!  I love mud!  Mom’s been doing this for years and she never gets tired of it.  It’s totally radical, dude.”

 

And then we have this sweet little lady.

“Greetings.  My name is 23 – even though you can’t read my ear tag because that demented cowboy put it in upside down.  Can you believe it?  Now I look like an idiot just because he got a little flustered when Mother chased him around the 4 wheeled transportation device 3 times and threatened to stomp him into the ground.  Mother means well but she can be a little over zealous at times.  She did get close enough once to blow snot all over his backside so when he finally jumped on the small 4 wheeled vehicle he nearly slid off the other side of the plastic seat – it was very humorous!!!”

“The ranch lady likes to take lots of pictures of me – of course she never steps out of her pickup unless Mother is a looooooong way from us.  The ranch lady is nice but I have to admit she is a little strange.  She calls me her ‘wittle-bitty-milky-chocolate-baby-cow’. ” 

“She appears to have a speech impediment.”

Now, I’m no Doctor Freud but I think she must be suffering from a postpartum psychosis caused by the separation anxiety of the natural growth patterns and subsequent abandonment of her own offspring.  I would really like to get her under hypnosis and delve into her inner psyche  but Mom always says the same thing:   “Don’t waste your time.  Every rancher I ever met was flipping nuts!”   

“I would tend to agree.”

 

And then there’s this little guy.

“Mom!  Have you seen my Mom?  I just woke up and she was gone.  MOM!!!”

 

I love spring!

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It has begun.

We’ve had our first calf of the year…

and we’ve lost our first calf of the year. 

Not a good start to the calving season but it happens.

Now we can only hope that the weather will warm up and the snow will stop falling before any more are born.  Such is life on a ranch. 

But enough of that.  Since I am sooooooo sick of snow and ice  and dirty, frozen pickups –

I’ve been dreaming of the beach.

So, I looked through some old photos and found several of my family at the beach. 

You can always spot a cowboy at the beach – see what I mean?

This is a shot of my boys at Center Lake July 4th, 2007.  They look like they’re really having fun don’t they?  Well, at least Morgan kicked off his shoes.  Usually the only time a cowboy will take off his boots is when a pretty lady wants to walk barefoot on the beach…

But even then they will usually keep their hat, belt buckle and blue jeans on.

Here’s another one. 

Yes, that’s Morgan – the Redneck Lifeguard on his homebuilt Redneck Floatation Device which he built for the 4th of July celebration of 2005.  I think he had as much fun building it as he did floating around the lake.

All you need is the intertube from a tractor tire, a salvaged piece of plywood, a lawn chair and a couple bungee cords and wha-lah – you too can cruise the lake in style and comfort.

Morgan and his cousin Russell look like future canidates for the Redneck Yacht Club.

And then there’s another cousin – Josh.

AKA –  the Center Lake Super-Soaker Sniper. 

 “Go ahead, make my day.”

It doesn’t matter what type of gun it is, rednecks and cowboys love them – just like boats. 

 

Here’s Dalton cruising Lake Superior.

And don’t think fun at the beach is just for kids.  Here’s one of my favorite photos of my folks.

Wheeeeee!!!!!!!

There’s just nothing like a fast boat on a hot day –  is there?

And here’s the boys, their cousins and Grandpa checking out the cedar strip canoe and speed boat they built in Grandpa’s shop.

Have you ever seen the beautiful, sleek race boat called Miss Budweiser?  Well, this ain’t it!  But this is their version – they named her Miss Butt-Wiper and she’s fast enough for Stockade Lake.

Cowboys and rednecks are fun at the beach but nobody does the beach and boating like the girlfriends!

 Maybe it’s time for another girlfriend getaway!!!   I’ll call Captain Frank!

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