Friday, May 19, 2017

Happy Spring!

We have, with the exception of a few stragglers, survived another year of calving. Another winter. And in nine days, another school year. We are literally emerging into the light, as we approach the longest days of the year when we have around eighteen hours of daylight.

You may feel free to assume that we don't work from dawn 'til dusk, although some days I have to practically hit my husband with a stick to make him stop at a decent time. Spring is fickle--like every other season--with a bitter wind, snow and rain on Wednesday.

But today...well, today was the kind of day that makes all those other kind worth the suffering. Blue skies, white mountains, fat shiny calves, good horses, awesome cowdogs and almost NO wind.

I have also survived another new book, the fourth in the Texas Rodeo series, which was turned into my editor next week. I am an brain break for a few days, but the beginning of next week I'll be back with a chance to win an advanced copy of my August 1st release, Tougher in Texas, which early reviewers are saying is the best in the series so far. 


Friday, April 14, 2017

I Can Do It....


It's calving time. Actually, it's been calving time since the middle of February--first the pampered registered princesses, then the first calf heifers--so we've been watching this scene replayed over and over for two months--and this year it's on Cow Cam! We now have a remote-controlled infrared camera mounted in the rafters of our indoor arena/maternity ward. At 2 a.m. we could just stagger out of bed and into the porch to check the cows.

Now we've hit April, the weather has warmed up and the older, commercial herd is calving out in the pasture, where there are fewer germs to share but also so much space that doing night checks isn't feasible. I shove the husband and kid out the door at 6:30 every morning to make the twelve mile trip to the school bus, then I go drive around and check to see what happened overnight. It's sort of like hunting for Easter eggs, poking through the brush patches to see what I can find.


Unfortunately, calves aren't the only thing that's due. The fourth book in my Texas Rodeo series, Fearless in Texas, is supposed to land on my editor's desk by the end of the month and I am not exactly on schedule, so when I'm not wrangling or playing midwife I've been feverishly trying to pry words out of my brain, and reminding myself that I have, in fact, done this before. 

And trying not to be that guy who was recently arrested for taking his laptop out on the front lawn and shooting it. Five times. 


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Cow Tech

A writer friend sent me an ad from the USPS, showing a rancher out in the field checking the status of his package on his mobile phone. She was highly amused at the idea. And then I had to go and burst her bubble because, yep, we walk around with a phone stuck to us like everyone else. Comes in pretty damn handy when you're a couple miles from the house and bury the tractor in a deep and steep dry wash you couldn't see because of the snow. And if that package happens to be the replacement whatchamajig for the hay baler that has us at a standstill, you can bet your boots we'll be checking to see when it's gonna get here.

Beyond communication and "Um, need a little help here", there are literally hundreds of applications for cell phones on farms and ranches. Computerized irrigation systems send alerts to a farmer's phone, letting him know if there are malfunctions, or if water levels need to be increased or decreased in particular parts of a field. We have an app that lets us enter data on newborn calves out in the field and creates a spreadsheet that tracks cow performance from year to year. And of course there are the podcasts and audiobooks that keep me from losing my sanity somewhere around load #127 of round bales.

But nothing since the invention of pickup trucks has revolutionized the rodeo industry like the cell phone. No more standing in a phone booth outside the cafe in Lavina, Montana, dialing and dialing and re-dialing, trying to get through on the always-busy line to the rodeo entry office. And now when they put you up in Thursday evening's performance when you're already scheduled to be at a rodeo 500 miles away, you can actually track down the people who are on the program for Friday night to try to find someone who'll trade you places. Plus, when you're at the Pendleton Roundup and you can't locate your traveling partner, instead of hiking all over the rodeo grounds to run him down, you just fire off a text that says, "Put down the drink, get out of the Let er Buck room and meet me at the rig in half an hour or I'm leaving without you."


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Tiny Home on the Range

Since it's Throwback Thurday, I would just like all of you to know that we are SO far ahead of the curve on this whole tiny home craze. When we moved back to Montana we took up residence in the bunkhouse. Two adults, a toddler, a full grown Border collie in approximately 450 square feet. We survived the first six months with our minds and our marriage mostly intact, mostly because we arrived in the spring and spent a lot of time outside. But there was no way we were going through the winter with the kid sleeping on a futon in the kitchen.
The answer to our fervent prayers was a wooden granary built by my grandfather and mostly unused. Come fall, we shoveled out a pile of fertilizer from one side, a pile of old barley from the other (funny, you never see THAT on the home improvement shows) jacked the granary up onto a pair of telephone poles for runners and dragged it half a mile across the hayfield to set it on the concrete pad we'd poured for a floor.
We learned many things in this process. First, it was easier than you'd think to saw the old floor off and bolt the building to the concrete. Second, these old granaries are lined on the inside with plywood to resist the outward pressure of tons of wheat or barley. And my grandfather was a real over-achiever when it came to nailing on siding and roofing. Which was probably why the building was in such great shape, but we weren't feeling as thankful as we might have while we pulled out those ten thousand nails. Especially when the dust, grain chaff and mouse turds began raining down on our heads.
Also, because like most things the process took a bit longer than expected, I learned that when the temperature is hovering around zero, you don't hold that extra new nail in your mouth. Think tongues and flagpoles. Ouch.
But we finally got it stripped, insulated (six-inch walls in cold, windy country are AWESOME), wrapped in moisture/wind barrier and sided in particle board, at which point we could hack a couple of holes through into the old part of the bunkhouse and triple our square footage. We also added an attic so I could unload the last of our worldly possessions from the tack room of the horse trailer.
After a couple of years of the kid sleeping on a mattress in the living room, we added a wing with another bedroom and a porch, a quick three-year project. And last summer we decided to put on real siding (mostly because my mother was tired of looking at the peeling, faded particle board and offered to pay Dale and Richard Bird to come out and do the work.)
One of these days, I might even get around to doing something with those plywood interior walls.

**Note that the tractor is larger than the original bunkhouse.

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Not that I'm procrastinating or anything....

...but this damn book is not cooperating, AND I got a pretty cool shot of Hollywood with the Super Moon rising in the background, but the resolution wasn't great so I decided to run it through this awesome app called Prisma ( ) that applies all kinds of artsy effects. And you can adjust the intensity of the effect, all the way from just giving it a paint stroke look in the first example to totally abstract in the third. And since there are about twenty different effects to choose from....yeah, I could basically do this all day. 

But I will suck it up and get back to the writing of words. In the meantime, you can decide which version you like the best. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Write It and They Shall Pass

Once again, my real life is mirroring something I made up. In the early chapters of Reckless in Texas, there's a scene where Violet's son, Beni, has a couple of the adults helping him test out some new cereal. This actually did happen with my son before I wrote the book. He's still miffed that Max the Cowdog didn't magically learn to play fetch when he ate his Reeses Puffs. Dang false advertising.
The rest of it I made up. It goes like this:
Beni reached into his box, fished out a few chocolate
puffs, and handed one to each of his companions. “Ready?”
They nodded gravely.
“Okay, go.”
All three popped the cereal into their mouths and
chewed. Beni scrunched his eyes shut as if waiting
for a firecracker to explode. After a few seconds, he
opened one eye to peek at Cole, who shook his head.
Beni opened the other eye to check with Joe, who did
the same.
Beni heaved a mournful sigh. “It’s not working.”
Violet looked at her mother, who shrugged.
Pushing open the screen door, Violet went out onto
the deck. “Why the sad face, little man?”
“There’s something wrong with this cereal.” Beni
scowled at the box. “On TV, they said amazing things
will happen if you eat it.”
Violet had to work to keep an appropriately solemn
expression. “What kind of amazing things?”
“I don’t know, but we’ve been eating and eating it—”
“And not one single monkey has flown out of my
ass,” Joe drawled.
Cole made a noise that sounded like a chocolate puff
going down the wrong pipe.
Beni giggled. “You said a bad word.”
“Oh sh—I mean, shoot. I didn’t mean—”
Violet strangled another laugh and gave Beni a stern
look. “Sometimes big people say those words. Doesn’t
mean you can.”
“But, Mommy—”
“No.” She turned to Cole before Beni could drag
her into a debate about exactly which words were offlimits,
requiring him to say all of them. “You still want
to gather those two-year-old bulls?”
Back to the present. Night before last I was working away at the computer when my son strolled up and said, "So, Mom, other than shit, damn and F#%&, what words can't I say?"
I scraped up my jaw and demanded, "Where did you hear those words?"
"You and Daddy."
And this, my friends, is why taking your kids along when you work cows is not always a good idea.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The First Step is a Doozy


You know what they say, the first step is a doozy.
This calf was about five minutes old when the video starts. I cut out all the parts where he stopped to catch his breath between attempts, the original video was fifteen minutes long. He was born breech, which means he was head down, and if you're not Johnny-on-the-Spot to assist the cow by pulling the calf out, they'll usually drown. Even when you are they tend to have fluid in their lungs, so seeing this one get right up and at 'em was fantastic.
I know the birth of a living creature is supposed to be an incredible sight to behold. Personally, I think it's mostly slimy. But this part never fails to amaze me. And to come back an hour later and see him trying to buck...that's downright miraculous.