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Posts Tagged ‘cattle’

I bet you think we never have problems with traffic jams around here. 

Just for a minute, consider the odds of it happening where I live.  In a big city like New York you probably would see more cars in one day then we actually have in the whole state of South Dakota.  But believe it or not traffic can get a little messed up here too.

I admit it is a rare occasion when traffic slows to a crawl and rarer yet when it comes to a complete stand-still but I am here to tell you it did come to a screeching halt last week as I came home from work.  I ran into one of the worst traffic jams I have ever seen in all my years. 

Oh the horror…

I came flying around a corner to find that the road completely blocked, gravel and snow flying, babies bawling and the horns!  I don’t even want to think about the horns!!!  And to make matters worse the roads were snow packed and slippery.  We were all having trouble on the ice.  Slipping and sliding.  Skidding and swerving.  Trying not to run into each other.  It wasn’t pretty, obscene jesters, foul language, tempers flared. 

To tell the truth I was afraid to step out of my pickup. 

And talk about spectators – it felt like all eyes were glued on me – as if I was the one to blame for this mess! 

But it wasn’t my fault – No Siree!

I swerved to the side of the road and slid to a stop well short of the carnage.  Then quickly snapped photos with my phone – you know – for insurance purposes (just in case the need arose) and also to prove that we do run into our share of  inconsiderate road hogs even way out here in the West.

Just see for yourself…

West_Custer-20130204-00446

OK (I roll my eyes) so their not technically road ‘hogs’ but just look at those crazed, glassy-eyed stares.  especially those two on the left – gang members if I ever saw them – complete with tattoos, brands and body piercings.

Tell me, is that the crazed look of road rage?

West_Custer-20130204-00449

 OK – so it’s hard to tell with cows…

Especially when they’re the neighbors cows…

I don’t really know them that well and yes, I admit it – those babies are just about as cute as they can be!  So maybe they’re not quite as bad as they seemed at first.

Maybe they just want to look in the back of the pickup for something to eat.

West_Custer-20130204-00448

Well, they can’t be all bad – at least they weren’t speeding.

OK – I’ll go get some sleep now – I’m not sure but I think I might need it.

Have a great weekend – I’ll be curling with my Sister (Wonder Woman) and The Amazing Wanda – two women who are so good they could probably curl competitively. 

Yes, I know – sleep…

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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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SING WITH ME!!! 

(To the tune of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead from the Wizard of Oz)

Ding Dong the Cows are Out!

Which Old Cows?

The Wicked Cows!

Ding Dong the Wicked Cows are Outtttt! 

(to Pasture – that is)

Yes, it’s true, the cattle are all where they are supposed to be so life is good and the living is easy.

Yeah, right…

That means it must be time to work in the garden…  OK,  but I’m taking a break first.  Tonight I will tat because it is over 100 degrees outside and I ain’t going out there!

I have been going a little stir-crazy lately, our internet dish has been out of alignment – again!!!  For the last month!!!  So we haven’t had internet except on my cell phone and that just isn’t the same.  Sorry for whining – I will quit now because as of tonight we are back up and running so let me show you some of what’s been going  on here.

 

We have moved most of the yearlings to a new set of pastures we’re leasing this year.  The new pastures are about 52 miles from home and they look a little brown in the photos because we’re way behind on rain this year.  But believe it or not, these pastures are quite a bit better than most of the ones in Weston County.  It has already been a tough  year and when you throw in a few  wildfires  (the biggest one burned up almost 62,000 acres) it is not pretty.  Pastures with any grass are hard to find and hay to buy is almost nonexistent.  Hay that was selling last year for $65.00 – $85.00 / ton is going for $125.00 to $285.00 per ton this year so that means cattle are going to the sale barn in record numbers.  It’s a scary time for a lot of ranchers but, if we don’t get a fire we should be OK for a while. 

Here’s sunrise at the solar water tank in one of the new pastures.

Pretty, isn’t it?  The red tinge to the sunrise was from all the smoke in the air.  We were there at O-Dark-Thirty to move yearlings from one pasture to the next.  We have to rotate them to a fresh pasture every month as the owner of the property is trying to encourage the sage grouse to raise their babies there. 

Steve and I were on the 4 wheeler bouncing through the sage brush and trying desperately not to start a fire.

 Other than that we have fought fire east of our place, worked in the garden, been to the Farmer’s Market and generally tried to stay cool.  And I have been tatting.

It is true I am a tatter & I have been on a major tatting kick lately.  Don’t know why – maybe because it’s just too damn hot to do anything else when you don’t have air conditioning!  So I’ve been tatting snowflakes, bookmarks, fall leaves, lace edging for a hankie and even a couple of doilies.  So basically my house is in tatters, my clothes are in tatters and the gardens are even a little tattered after the last batch of hail but what the heck!  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff – even in 100+ heat!  I’ll try to take some photos of all the tatting I’ve been doing for the next post. 

Until then, Stay Cool!!!

 

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I try to be organized.  I really do.  But for some unknown reason things never seem to work out the way I plan.  Take today for instance.

Every day I start a list.  I figure if I write it down – it will get done.  (I know, it’s a flawed theory but its the best I have right now).   I’m sure that if I could just finish 2 or 3 things after work every night sooner or later I would start to see progress.  So every day I write down the three most important things that need to be done.  I try to be smart about it.  I never put down big jobs like clean the garden shed, weed the entire veggie garden and finish the livingroom floor.  The jobs must be simple ones that I can actually accomplish.  Here’s today’s list:

1.  Bake a pound cake for the company that’s coming tomorrow.

2.  Water in the greenhouse.

3.  Weed around the hoop house.

That doesn’t sound so bad does it?  It’s not like I’m asking for the moon, right? I should be able to finish these items without even breaking a sweat especially since I have roughly 4 hours from the time I get home until it’s too dark outside to see. 

 It should have worked…  but it didn’t.

4:30 pm – The office closed – I ran for the door.  First stop – I needed to water at the Community Garden.  Our building is in charge of one plot where we are raising veggies for the Local Food Pantry.   I drove across town, watered and pulled a few weeds then headed for the pickup while I called Morgan, my baby, who has been sick again with tonsil problems and full-blown strep throat.  Since I had to stop at the grocery store for milk anyway I thought I’d see if there was anything he needed.  He didn’t need much just milk, hot dogs and Ramen noodles (the breakfast of Champions).  So I hurried into the grocery store, grabbed a small basket and zipped through in record time.  I was feeling good!!!  I was on track and I still had plenty of time.

I dropped off Morgan’s items at his house and headed for home – radio blaring and the windows rolled down.  Life was good.  Just like Wonder Woman I felt like I could do it all.

 And then I turned down the driveway…

 and saw the road blocked by a huge mass of black cows…

all congregated at the cattle guard (gate)…

and bawling at Hubby who was in the Ford pickup on the other side of the fence.  He was tearing across the field and kicking up dust as he tried to chase off a few cattle who had managed to get through the fence and were in the process of tearing apart the newly made hay bales. 

I took a deep breath. 

OK, I am Wonder Woman.  I can handle this and still get everything done.

I parked my pickup, jumped out and went to grab the broom in the back.  Just ask any ranch wife what is the best stick to drive cattle and 99.5% will tell you it’s a broom.  They are light weight and for some reason they look impressive to wild bovine.  Personally, I think it’s because of the wide bristle end.  If you didn’t know any better you would swear that thing would hurt when it hit you.  Anyway, I reached for my trusty broom but horrors of horrors it was gone!  Nothing in the back except a long-handled shovel and the spare tire.  Then I remembered – I had left the broom in Nadine (the world’s cutest camper). 

Rats!  No broom – but never fear – I am Wonder Woman!  I can drive cattle with my bare hands.

I took off around the herd of cattle, climbed the fence and jumped in the Ford with Hubby.  We roared across the field chasing the escaped cattle.  But cattle are evil and they love to split off and run circles, ducking and dodging like a welter-weight boxer, moving so quickly that the pickup couldn’t keep up.  Hubby stopped long enough for me to get out and start walking then together we drove them on toward the gate.  

Things were going well…  at least for a while but one nasty old cow in the bunch had obviously seen this strategy before.  She looked at me with one eyebrow cocked and at that moment I could read her mind.  “This ain’t my first rodeo, Honey!”  She flipped her tail high in the air and took off cross-country out of the field and across the pasture just like Richard Petty headed for the checkered flag.

But I didn’t give up for I am Wonder Woman!

I kicked it into high gear, running across the pasture, watching for snakes and cactus and jumping large prairie dog holes that would break a leg.  You should have seen me!  I didn’t know I could still run.  It felt good.  I wasn’t just jogging – I was running flat-out.  I was on a mission and 1500 pounds of ground round was no match for me.  I caught her and turned her and her gang of idiot yearlings.  It was impressive.  We got them through the fence and on their way to greener pastures.  And even after stopping to fix the fence I knew there was still enough time to finish the items on my list. 

 I am Wonder Woman!

I got to the house, put the groceries away, cleaned the kitchen like a crazy woman and mixed up a pound cake.  With the pound cake in the oven I had time to spare so I grabbed a boxed cake mix and whipped up a batch of cupcakes just for good measure.  I set the timer then the dogs and I ran to the hoop house.  I lowered the sides and started pulling weeds but it was growing dark so fast that I decided it was more important to water in the greenhouse instead.  I shut the door and ran for the hose then watered till it got too dark to see. 

OK – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  I am still Wonder Woman but I’m pretty sure the timer has gone off and the cupcakes are done so I whistled for the dogs and ran for the kitchen door.  The dogs beat me to the step and just as Dally jumped to the landing I heard a familiar buzz by the corner of the step –

Rattlesnake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I shoved the dogs inside and slammed the door behind them then ran to the pickup and grabbed the long-handled shovel.  Very carefully, I tried to find the pissed off snake in the plants by the step.  It was a little nerve-racking but he was buzzing like crazy so I could almost pin point where he was.  He struck at the shovel, I pinned him but it wasn’t a good catch so I tried again and he struck at me again.  I caught him again but couldn’t cut him in half.  We went round and round but I knew Hubby is on his way – I could hear the pickup coming back from checking cows so I decided to just hold him down and wait for the Calvary to arrive.  It was a good idea but instead of stopping Hubby drove right past our house and headed to the chicken coop by the barn to shut up the chickens. 

I took another deep breath.  It’s OK – I am still Wonder Woman but I’m pretty sure I never saw her with a pissed off snake at the end of a shovel while the oven timer buzzed on the other side of the door and two demented dogs watched through the glass door.  Ten minutes later my hands were numb from clutching the shovel and the snake was really mad.  I could smell the aroma of burnt cupcakes and pound cake when Hubby finally pulled into the driveway.  Of course, he parked on the other side of the house and then let the truck run so he could listen to the end of the weather report!  I yelled at him but he couldn’t hear me.  I screamed at him but he still didn’t hear.  Finally, he shut off the truck and stepped out where he could hear me yelling at the top of my lungs.  Five minutes later the 4 foot long rattlesnake had lost his head and Hubby handed me the rattles as a prize – 11 rattles and a button – the biggest one we’ve seen this year. 

Hubby also brought the news that the cattle have gotten through the fence again and are back in the field we just chased them out of.   Auhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I glared at him before turning to see what was left of the burnt offerings in the oven then took a few well-deserved moments to beat my head against the wall.

As for my list – I did water in the greenhouse but I have not weeded around the hoop house.  The cupcakes and pound cake are a little dark but I guess they will do and thankfully no one got bit by the snake.  It’s now midnight.  I’m tired, dirty and the kitchen’s a mess and I’m pretty sure I’m further behind now then I was when I left the office at 4:30. 

It’s too hard to be Wonder Woman.  I wasn’t cut out for this.  I have decided to turn in my crown, tall boots and lariat.  I will trade them in on something I could really use like a super loud voice that carries for miles and is one that Hubby could always hear no matter where he is.  That would certainly be something I could use.  So from now on I will aspire to be a woman with the voice of a super hero…  like the gal who won the International Hog Calling Contest a couple of years ago.  She’s my new hero. 

Sorry Wonder Woman.

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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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Friday night I came home to a problem – no running water in the house.  This is bad.  Water is something we’ve gotten rather used to.  I guess, technically, we still have water.  It’s falling from the sky so we’re not quite as bad off as some and I guess I can always wash my face in the bird bath – I don’t think the birds would mind too much – as long as I fill the feeder while I’m out there.

But thank goodness I didn’t have to upset the birds.  Hubby discovered what the problem was – a leak in the pressure tank that had sprayed water all over the electrical stuff down in the well pit.  Since water and electricity are not very friendly to each other the breakers had tripped (like they are supposed to) and shut everything down. 

So early Saturday morning we made some calls and found a new pressure tank at the hardware store 16 miles away and I made a quick trip to town and brought home a shiny new red pressure tank.  Just like our last ‘date night’ (remember the ball joint on the Ford pickup) Hubby and I got to spend some quality time together fixing the plumbing. 

Pretty darn romantic isn’t it? 

 

Here’s my man in the pit – yes, it’s a hole in the ground and in the summer you might find salamanders down there sometimes but luckily no snakes so far.  

After a quick switch-er-oo life is good once again and we have water.

And the girls are just as pleased as we are – look at them. 

 

They came running as soon as we pulled up to the well pit – which just happens to be beside one of the stock tanks – where the girls hang around and visit. 

 

“Gertie – don’t be such an old ‘water buffalo’.  It’s my turn!”

Cattle are actually very curious creatures.  They were bunched up pretty close – checking out the pickups, the well pit, and especially the stock tank because the water was getting low there too.  You see, when we don’t have water in the house – they don’t have water in the tank. 

They don’t like it either.

 

“I need a drink – a tall, cold one.”

Everybody on the place starts to get a little antsy when that happens.

 

“Move aside Missy – I’m next.”

But even more amazing than running water – check out what I saw in the tank as I was checking for running water.

 

That’s a Koi (goldfish) in the stock tank.  If I remember right – 3 summers ago I had a small tank set up in the garden because I love goldfish and every garden should have some – right?  Well things went good all summer but when it started to turn cold in the fall I had to drain the tank or it would freeze solid and split out.  I have owned several aquariums over the years but that fall the only ones we had both had small leaks so I filled them with plants instead. 

So what where we going to do with the Koi fish?   That was the question.  Hubby came up with a great idea, he suggested we throw them into one of the stock tanks.  These tanks are not heated in the winter but they are built from huge old tires off of heavy equipment and if you build them right – the water rarely freezes.  First, you lay down the big tire, cut a hole (for the cattle and horses and wildlife to drink from) on the top edge of one side, fill the center hole on the bottom of the tire with bentonite (a mineral that is heavy and gets really slimy when wet and will pretty much seal off the water from escaping into the ground.  Then you set up a float system so the water shuts off automatically when the tank is full (like in the back of a toilet), cover the center hole on the top of the tire with lumber and bury as much of the tank with dirt as you can while leaving the spot open for the cattle to drink.  Pretty simple. 

I wasn’t sure if the fish would survive but at least they would have a chance so we set them free in their new stock tank and pretty much forgot about them.  The next spring I asked Hubby if he had ever seen the fish through the winter and he just shook his head and we figured they were gone.  If the cold hadn’t got them probably a snake or something else had.  So we pretty much wrote them off – at least until Saturday morning when this little guy swam right out and said hello.  He’s gotten a lot bigger then when we put him in and he’s kind of pretty thing.  I think we’ll name him Spot.  I’m not sure if the second one is still in there but we just might have to figure out a way to catch them.  Maybe it’s time for another tank in the garden. 

 I still love goldfish!!!

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Most people think that cattle don’t have a sense of humor and if you’ve ever had one try to run you down and stomp you into the ground you would probably tend to agree with them.  But I know for a fact that cattle like a good laugh as well as we do and believe it or not, I have photographic proof.

Late yesterday afternoon I was sitting at the computer when I happened to look out the window. 

This is what I saw.

I saw cows.

Well, of course I saw cows – but look at these cows.  What has made them stop in their tracks with their heads up, ears forward?  Something has totally caught their attention.  What could it be?  What would make a bunch of cattle stop to gaze in wonder like this – totally enthralled to the point that all eyes were glued to the spectacle before them?

Perhaps it’s the first calf of the season, a new baby born in the beginnings of the next big storm? 

No…  It’s not a baby.

Perhaps there’s a coyote or wolf stalking the herd and the cattle are frozen in fear?

No…  It’s not danger.

Perhaps it’s Hubby with a hay bale and they are waiting to see where he will drop it so they can pounce like a flock of vultures on fresh road kill?

No…  It’s not vultures on road kill.

This is what they were watching.

It’s Hubby in the pickup, but why would they stop and stare?  They’ve seen this pickup hundreds of times.

  They stopped to stare because there are things you can’t see from these photos.

Things like a roaring engine and tires spinning, and mud being flung out behind him because this is spring at the ranch and there is mud under that beautiful white snow that (just for a moment) he forgot was there. 

The cows saw and heard all that – they had a front row seat and although you can’t see it, they are laughing their heads off!  You can’t see that because cows are very good at hiding their laughter but believe me if it wasn’t wet and muddy they would be rolling on the ground unable to control themselves. 

(No, not really but it’s fun to imagine!)

What do you suppose is going through their minds?

“Ha!  Look at that crazy rancher trying to drive across the pasture.”

“What a nut – my feet are sunk 6″ in the mud and he’s out here with the pickup.”

“What was he thinking?”

“Ha, Ha, Ha!  He wasn’t”

“He’s gonna get stuck!!!”

“No way, the snow’s not that deep.”

“Yeh, but it’s the mud underneath that’s gonna get him.”

“Ha, Ha, Ha!”

“No way – he’s got 4-wheel drive.”

“Yeh, just watch, you can really bury a truck deep with 4-wheel drive.” 

“Ha, Ha, Ha!”

“He’ll have to get the loader to pull that one out!”

“Give her Hell, Ranch Boy!!!”

“I bet you a ton of alfalfa cake he’s stuck.”

“Ha, Ha, Ha!”

“As soon as he stops, I’ll race you to the truck!”

“I want to hear what he says!”

“I want to see his face!”

“I want to see what’s in that barrel in the back.”

“He’s got a barrel in the back?!!!”

“Yep, I bet it’s full of cake… or maybe even corn.”

“Corn…”

“No way – we haven’t had corn since we snuck into her garden last year and ate it off the stalks!”

“Dang, that was good.  I’d sure like some more.”

“And maybe some more of those fancy French green beans too.”

“Green Beans…”

“I bet they keep all that stuff in the barrel.”

“Really???”

“Steady girls, he’s still moving.”

“Give it up, Ranch Boy!”

“Come on Mud!!!”

“Darn, he’s back on the road.”

 

“No corn???”

 

“No green beans???”

 

“No way!”

 

“I really, really hate 4-wheel drive.”

 

 

 

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This Worthy and Wierd Quote is a little nasty but  it was so funny that I had to include it here.

I would guess that our boys were about 13 and 16 years old at the time it happened.  We were still living near Custer but were spending that particular day helping Grandpa S. get some things done around the ranch. 

Grandpa was known to everyone as ‘Bud’.  He had been born a cowboy and had lived his whole life at the ranch.  Bud was mostly a quiet man but he could get fired up on occasion when stuff broke down, the price of cigarettes went up or the football games he loved to watch didn’t turn out as he had hoped.  Basically, he was a tough old rancher with skin like tanned leather and a vocabulary that sometimes bordered on the – shall we say – spicy side of life?

This particular day had been a long, hot one filled with broken down equipment, skinned up knuckles and busy grandkids.  We had finally had all the ‘fun’ we could stand so had stopped for a cold drink at the kitchen table.  Grandpa was in the middle of telling a story – about what or who I can’t remember but our youngest son had obviously come in at the middle of the story because he didn’t know what or who it was about either.  Unfortunately, he was trying to figure out what Grandpa was talking about just as Grandpa was trying to finish his story.  My baby (actually a teenager) kept asking,

“Who?  Who are you talking about?  Who? Who?”

Grandpa had reached his last nerve and answered back,

“You don’t shit through feathers!”

It was one of those rare moments in time when the world and everything on it stopped mid-step and you pause with creased brow trying to process the words you think you just heard before asking, “What did you say?”

Grandpa was frazzled and our son was speechless (but secretly thrilled to quickly file these words of wisdom – complete with a 4-letter ‘sentence enhancer’ away for future use). 

The rest of us were practically worthless as we laughed till tears streamed from our eyes.  Everybody laughed about that one – even Grandpa and our boy.

I can’t blame HBO for teaching my children to cuss like sailors.  They were born ranch kids and since most ranchers have a colorful language you’re bound to pick up a few choice words that always seem to pop out at the most inopportune times.

(I’m still really, really sorry about that one time, Pastor Dave)

When our boys were little and throughly fascinated with those 4-letter words I finally had to make a deal with them – they could cuss but only when we were working cattle.  I figured this was OK since it seems to be the only language cattle understand. 

Now, you might think I’m a terrible mother but I must admit this arrangement worked out pretty well.  The boys actually watched their language at school and public places but on horseback, in a corral full of wild-eyed cattle they could blister the paint off the side of the barn. 

I always had to laugh when the neighbors would come to help work cattle – seeing the shocked looks on their faces, the boys were always quick to explain…

 “But Mom says that’s the only language cattle understand.”

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We had a great weekend!!!

I went curling with my sister and this time my Hubby, my Dad and my nephew went with us. 

I know what your thinking – isn’t it sweet that those guys all wanted to come and watch us curl because we’ve obviously gotten so good at curling that the men in our lives are sooooo proud of us and they just know that someday we will be chosen to represent the United States of America on the Olympic Curling team and they wanted and even begged to go with us just so they could show us the love and support we need to help us in our quest for Olympic gold. 

Yeah, right…

That would have been cool but really they just wanted to ride with us so we could drop them off at the Black Hills Stock Show.

Thanks a lot guys for crushing our gold metal curling dreams.

 

Oh well, I really can’t blame them because I wanted to go to the Stock Show too.

If you’ve never been to a Stock Show what are you waiting for?  Make plans now to go to the next one you can. 

Stock shows are full of all kinds of interesting stuff like lots and lots of cute cowboys in tight Wrangler jeans and bunches of beautiful cowgirls all dolled up in fantastic western wear that is ‘all about the bling’ right now.  I’m sorry to say I’m not one of them.  I’m one of the tough old ranchers wives who bought a new pair of jeans (Wrangler cowboy cut) for the occasion and threw on the stretched-out turtle neck shirt (because it’s damn cold outside) and the wool vest (half price last spring at the feed store) and forgot to put on any makeup (Makeup?  Do I actually own any makeup?) or even earrings.  I did tie on a silk scarf to spiff up the outfit a bit but frankly I’m lucky most days if I get my hair combed.  I’ve always been about 15 years behind when it comes to fashion but it’s still fun to check out all the clothes at the venders booths.   And, Boy-Howdy, did they have venders!

Even if you don’t buy a single thing there is so much to see.

For one thing, there’s really big Tonka toys inside the building.

Here’s my sister, our Dad and a brand new loader.  There wasn’t even a tray under it to catch leaking oil – I was so impressed!  And did you know that if you ask really nice and say ‘Please’ the guys in charge of the booth will let you climb up into the cab and pretend you are really serious about buying it?  Ha!  That thing cost more than our house.   But then, as soon as they realize you don’t have any money and they give up and go talk to someone else you can bounce in the seat and make engine noises with your mouth and spit all over the inside of the windshield.  Not that I would do such a thing.  I’m much too dignified and refined to do such a thing.  I’ve really grown up a lot since last year – haven’t I?  The truth is my knees were still killing me from curling last weekend.  I didn’t think I could even climb up in there.

After we checked out the big equipment we went to see the cattle – every Stock Show has them – or else it wouldn’t really be a ‘Stock’ Show, would it?

There were lots of cattle

Just look how pretty and well-behaved they are.  Not a cow pie or speck of manure anywhere.  It takes many hours of work and dedication to train your cattle to do this stuff and look this way.

Our cows don’t look like this. 

Our cows leave cow pies everywhere they go and usually they have lots and lots of manure smeared all over them.  I’m pretty sure that if you tied one of our cows to that pretty little fence and tried to comb and blow dry her she would freak out!  You would probably get stomped into the ground or at the very least she would blow snot all over you before ripping out the fence and dragging it and all the other cows tied to it on a wild-west tour of the entire stock show.  We just don’t have diva cows – ours all blow snot. 

It’s a cow thing. 

Besides, if we brought one of our cows I’m afraid they wouldn’t place very well in the BBP (Bovine Beauty Pagent).

Yikes!!!

She’s a nice mellow momma cow but Damn Girlfriend! – that’s a face only a rancher could love.

Don’t worry honey, we love ya!

But talk about divas – check out these boots.

Boots like this will make you want to sing.  My sister did.

“The stars at night are big and bright… X  X  X  X  X,  deep in the heart of Texas!!!”

Go ahead, you can sing along.  No body will hear you.

Yes, people were looking at us strangely and keeping their children far, far away from us and the guys were pretending they didn’t know who we were but we did have fun.  I can’t wait for next year!

 

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Have you ever wondered what goes on in a cows’ mind?

I have.  I actually think about this a lot. 

I guess I need a life.

Maybe you only think about these things when you live among cattle for a while.  Frankly, when you see some of the things they do it’s kind of scary.  For instance, before we started work on remodeling our house my husband came up with the great idea of putting up a Christmas star on the end of the old house.  It was pretty cool because he made it go from the very peak of the house (about 20 feet off the ground) to the ground and from the front of  the house to the back.  This was a big and impressive star.  He put it on a timer and lit it up for the Christmas season.  It was beautiful!  You could see it from the highway roughly 4 miles away.  Our family was in awe, the neighbors were speechless and our friends were truly impressed… 

as were the cows. 

The cows were fascinated with it.  They hung out around the house gazing in wonder at the tiny white lights that lit up the star-studded night.  And in a warped kind of way seeing them standing there in such reverence reminded me of the wise men who had followed a star so many, many years ago.  It was enough to bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat.

All was right in the universe and the world was at peace until the day we realized some of the lights weren’t working any more.  Suddenly our big and beautiful symbol of the Christmas story didn’t have a leg to stand on, so to speak.  On closer inspection we found that the cattle had been eating the strings of Christmas lights right off the house, sucking them down like electrified strings of spaghetti.

This created a slew of questions in my mind.

Why would a cow do this? 

What kind of twisted mind would even think to try this?

Couldn’t you get electrified munching on Christmas lights? 

What form of nutritional value do you suppose there is in Christmas lights? 

And the most worrisome question of all – at least for me was if you eat glass light bulbs what happens when they come out the other end?

I worried about this one a lot.  I even had bad dreams about this but it didn’t seem to worry the girls at all. 

For the next couple of years Hubby would replace the mangled strings of lights and the star would shine brightly once again – at least for a while.  The cows would be drawn to it like women to chocolate and that would be the end of the display for another year.  Hubby even tried putting up metal panels to temporarily fence off the lights but the girls would eventually get in and the lower lights would be gone.

Hubby has since given up on the star not because the cows have won the battle and he has given up in defeat but because we have built on to that end of the house and I won’t let him drill holes in the new siding.  But he still has a thing about MEGA BIG Christmas decorations.  Here’s a photo of the Christmas tree he built from scrap metal and cable. 

The tree is about 40 feet tall.  Look at the bottom right hand corner of the photo and you can compare it to the backhoe parked off to the side. 

No – it’s not trick photography – that’s really how big it is.

There are over 2000 feet of rope lights on this tree and when he plugs it in the electric company’s meter on the side of the house spins faster than a Bell helicopters’ blades but I’ve got to admit it’s even more impressive than the star was.

The cows think so too.  Did you notice the bottom strings of lights?

Yes  it’s true – rope lights are just as tasty as the little twinkle lights.

Cows… what are you gonna do with ’em? 

You can’t read their minds and they aren’t talking so I guess the whole Christmas light thing will be one of the great mysteries of the world.

But there is something fascinating about a mysterious woman…

no matter what species she is.

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