Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Temporarily Indisposed...


Yes, it has been forever and a day since I've got around to posting anything on the ol' blog, but for once I have an excuse other than it's summer and I don't feel like doing anything that resembles work. We've been having internet issues since the end of May, due mainly to the fact that we're too cheap to pay for our own internet connection so we mooch off my parents via high-powered router. This has worked well for the past six plus years. Then we made a fatal error in judgement.

We put siding on our house.

First off, it's necessary to understand that we live in the bunkhouse. When we moved in, it was 400 square feet, half of which was originally my granddad's chicken coop with a kitchen and bathroom built on. Then we dragged an old wooden granary over and tacked it on one end for a living room. Then we built a lean to off the south side for a porch and a bedroom, so the child didn't have to sleep on a mattress on the living room floor. The porch alone was a three year process. With all the expanding and tacking on there wasn't much sense putting on siding, plus it costs money that could be spent doing something fun, but eventually the particle board started sloughing off wood chips like dandruff and my mom got tired of looking at it out of her bedroom window, so she offered to pay for the installation if we would just please do something about our little wooden shack. So we went from this (which makes it look a lot better than it was in real life):

To this:

Ain't it purty? Dale and Richard Bird did a beautiful job. Just one problem. That high quality Masonite siding does a bang up job of not only blocking the cold wind, but also our WiFi signal. We've tried antennas. We've tried moving around to different parts of the house. The signal will pop up for a few minutes then disappear for no apparent reason, except that it's most likely to work when the temperature is below fifty degrees, which actually happens quite frequently in the summer up here on the border but only before 8 a.m.

In the meantime, in order to blog or Facebook or anything that requires a decent signal for more than five minutes I have to haul my computer over to my mother's. Or out to the tipi, which does not have Masonite siding. Under normal circumstances we would bite the bullet and get our own hookup, but as it happens our local co-op is in the process of installing fiber optic cable to replace our glorified dial-up, after which we will be able to do crazy things like stream video. Excuse me while I put my head between my knees to avoid hyperventilating. Unfortunately, there is no estimated date of completion, so for now, I'm sort of in internet detention. 

This is not all bad news. Thanks to lack of Twitter, Facebook and staring at dresses on ModCloth and eShakti, I finally finished the preliminary draft of Book Two of next year's Texas Rodeo series. Now all I have to do is figure out what Book Three is going to be about and I'm golden.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Adding Some Color


So today we're talking a little roping and a little cowology, and that place where the two meet. First, the roping. The last couple of years we lived in South Dakota, Greg and I did quite a bit of team roping. Then we moved to Oregon and there were plenty of tie down and breakaway roping jackpots to keep us busy, plus we didn't have space for both steers and calves on our two acre plot, so the team roping mostly went by the wayside.

Since we moved home to the ranch we've been trying to get back to it, but for one reason or another we never seemed to have the time. Now I've shed the town job and I have t

wo horses--Bailey and Vegas--who really aren't suited to anything but heading steers. And Greg finally got the heeling horse he's been looking for in Hollywood.

Now's where we get into the cowology. We keep a small herd of Longhorn cows specifically for the purpose of raising roping cattle. But since no one was team roping and the Longhorn bull was a tad difficult to have around, for several years we just bred the Longhorns to our Angus bulls. And because Angus bulls are polled--like most commercial breeds these days--and polled (aka, without horns) is a dominant trait, we had a whole string of Longhorn calves minus the horns.

Last summer Greg decided to change that and took five of our cows down to my cousin's place to breed to his Corriente bull. The result has added a whole lot of color to our herd:

You can also see why Corriente/Longhorn cattle are favored for roping. They're lighter and more agile so less prone to injury, and stay that way until they're three or four years old. Compare the two calves about to the one below, that's out of an Angus bull. Notice how much beefier he is? Also the reason Corriente/Longhorn cattle aren't favored for beef production. Basically, they're too skinny, and it costs too much to fatten them up. Which is too bad, because they never have trouble calving and have a natural resistance to most of the common diseases that make cattle sick. 

But dang, they sure are pretty.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dogie Daycare


Out in the pasture today, I ran across this bunch, the only cattle in sight. Note the ratio of calves to cows:

Unless you've spent time on a ranch with large pastures, you may not realize that even cows need to get away from their kids once in a while. So they hire babysitters. No, really. Nearly any sunny afternoon you can ride through our pasture and find a bunch of calves being watched over by two or three cows while the rest of go off and graze or have a drink with the girls.

I've never checked, but I assume they take turns keeping an eye on the brats. Or possibly, like some humans, the same poor souls get stuck with playground duty every day. I do know one thing. The missing mamas are always within earshot, and will come on the run with one bark from Max the Cowdog.



Friday, May 01, 2015

Now you can laugh at me in person!


Time to start hounding all the Cut Bank area folks to come and hang out next week. Yes, they're turning me loose on the unsuspecting public again. Robbed of my delete key, it is entirely possible I will say something totally humiliating either for me or my family. In other words, pretty much like every time I speak in public.

Laugh at me or laugh with me, either way, we'll have a good time.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Rock Soup, Duct Tape and Pineapple Pork Chops


It's that time of year--checking fences to see what the wind and the snow have knocked loose or down before turning the yearlings out to pasture.

In the meantime, the latest edition of my mini-mag, Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul, is hot off the press. And this month it's creeping closer to being a real e-zine, with stories, a recipe and of course, book news. Check it out here:  Rock Soup

And if you'd like to get the next edition directly in your inbox, subscribe here


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Montana Cliche


I felt like a complete Montana cliche when I went out for my walk yesterday morning, all mountains majesty, big blue skies and eagles circling overhead.

Due to the increasing demands on my writing time, I'm looking to simplify a little, so in the future the stories you used to find here on my blog will be going out in something I call Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul. I'll post a link to every issue here on blog, or you can hop over to my website to subscribe.

There will be new issue coming out later this week, with the latest fumblings and bumblings from here on the ranch, plus big news on the book front. For now, you can check out the inaugural issue, which features a free, only available here short story: Rock Soup for the Cowboy Soul.

Monday, March 09, 2015

You're Invited!


Hey, everybody within driving distance of the Cut Bank, Browning, Del Bonita and surrounding area--I'm throwing myself a belated book release party on March 14th at the former Croff-Wren School, aka Address USA. Come to hear about my new book, come to hear a few of my stories and share some of your own, or just come for the dessert buffet. It's an old-fashioned community gathering and we want to see your smiling face and find out how the winter's been treating you.