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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

My True North

This was my first online Olympics. The first during which I was hooked into a social network (in my case, Twitter) that stretches from Ireland to Australia, Ontario to Florida, Boston to southern California. I have been utterly amazed to realize that not all Americans cheer for the Canadians by default.

In a post a while back I chronicled a trip to Canada, and mentioned that southern Alberta is much more populated than most parts of Montana. There are small towns everywhere, and a good percentage of them host a rodeo at some time during the year. We could, and did, hit nearly every competition on the Chinook Rodeo Association circuit without traveling more than three hours from home. By comparison, there were only two rodeos in Montana within a hundred miles. Most were five to eight hours of highway time.

Many of our best friends growing up were Canadians. Our first boyfriends. The people our parents still keep in touch with, even though our rodeoing has tapered to a near standstill. We went to so many Canadian rodeos, my little brother called O' Canada the "bareback riders get ready song".

Toss in the fact that both my younger brother and sister were born in Cardston, Alberta, a healthy collection of relatives on the north side of the border, and the view of the Hudson Bay Divide out my north-facing window and you might understand why I cheered nearly as hard for the Canadian bobsledders and skiers and skaters as I did for the boys and girls in stars and stripes. It's like competing against your best buddy next door. Sure, you want to win, but it's almost as good if he does.

So congratulations to Canada. It wasn't easy, it wasn't always pretty, but in the end, it was a great Olympics. And yes, in terms of gold medals, you are #1.

And now, from the looks of that picture, it's time to wrestle the kid down and give him a haircut.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Difference of a Few Feet

People reading my posts and looking at my pictures have a tendency to assume that all of Montana--or at least the northern tier--is a snow bound tundra. This is not actually the case. The average snowfall changes dramatically when you leave our ranch and head downhill, which is every direction but west. Driving home from work last night (It was still daylight! Yay!) I took a few pictures to show what happens as you make the gradual climb, a gain of about eight hundred feet in altitude.

This is just outside of town, looking east. Notice there's almost no snow in the road ditches.

Halfway home you pass what was once a prehistoric island, back in the glacial lake days at the end of the last ice age. You can still find small mussel shells on the slopes of Chalk Butte and in the nearby clump of badlands, and the area has yielded some interesting fossils. Only ten miles down the road from the first picture and already there is a lot more snow.

Six miles from home, looking south across the valley formed by the south fork of the Milk River. Between here and our ranch you cross a large plateau that stretches north and south for a fair distance.

Dropping off the west side of the plateau, into the basin at the foot of the Rockies. Notice the amount of snow in the ditches? It isn't uncommon for us to get several inches of snow, while back up the road where the last photo was taken they barely get a dusting. As annoying as the snow can be, we get our payback in grass and water come summer.

All together, I traveled about forty-five miles as the crow flies between the first picture and the last. What a difference a few feet makes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wet Behind the Ears

This is my first attempt at adding a video to the blog, so you may have to bear with me. It's a little dark, and a little long, and there's some annoying shaky parts where I was walking around. It was taken about half and hour after the first calf was born. The second calf was about twice as old. Amazing little buggers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Last weekend my mother and I took what passes for a vacation around here. We loaded up my son and drove over to visit my sister in Spokane. Since my brain is still toast from the trip and trying to catch up on work when I got back, I'm going to settle for posting a few random pictures rather than trying to write something coherent.

First pit stop is always at East Glacier, Montana for Pepsi and snacks.

My sister's back yard. I guess there's a reason people want to move to Spokane.

I took a side trip to Pullman, WA and Washington State University. Being an athletic trainer, it was pretty much mandatory that I wander around and take pictures of the facilities.

The women's basketball team was playing Stanford, the number two team in the nation. One of Stanford's best players is a Montana girl, but since her parents went to that OTHER college, we'll just leave it at that.

On the way home, I risked life and limb to stop along the highway and snap this shot of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Luckily, that wasn't our only ray of sunshine. Our first baby of the year was born on Monday morning. So here we go again.

Friday, February 19, 2010

We're Baa-aack!

My mini vacation from the blog is over...almost. Blame the Olympics. I keep getting sucked into watching people  fling themselves down mountains at insanely high rates of speed. Oh, ow! It has got to hurt to crash like that wearing nothing but Spandex.

I did, however, manage to eek out a post over at my alternative blog. Check it out, and I will be back tomorrow with photos of the first of this year's calf crop. Yep, we're off and running. In the meantime, you can read about why the Pacific Northwest  Drives Me Crazy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm Outta Here

Yep, I'm headed west, across the mountains into the No Snow Zone, otherwise known as Spokane. Figures, the year the Olympics are in Vancouver the Pacific Northwest would have a nice, open winter.

While I'm gone the blog will be on vacation, too. By the time I get back, we'll be on the verge of calving season, so I should have plenty of story fodder. Until then, I thought I'd share a couple of the very first blog posts I wrote, for those of you who haven't been around since the very shaky beginning.

I guess I've never actually mentioned here that I also write a column that appears every other week in four local newspapers. Being a generally lazy person, many of those columns (okay, yeah, most) are lifted from this blog, though often there's some serious whittling to keep it under my 1000 word limit. Since the newspapers are also available online, I thought I'd share the link so those of you in far off places can catch up on our local sports and politics.

Plus my column, off course:   Montana Musings

The second oldie but goodie is still one of my family's favorites, probably because even after almost twenty years we all still miss my grandmother and her house, known affectionately as Hoyt's Hotel.

Unlike the eastern half of the U.S., the weather here at the ranch is supposed to be sunny and warm for the next few days. Here's hoping the snow will disappear while I'm gone and when I get back, my road doesn't still look like this:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Pretty, isn't it? Unless you happen to work for the rural electric cooperative.

Tonight I got home, changed clothes, and turned on the oven to make dinner. Before it could even preheat the power went out. Luckily, it only stayed off for fifteen minutes, as compared to the three and four hour stretches we experienced over the weekend. The culprit? Frost. Or more accurately, freezing fog which created heavy layers of frost on everything, including the power lines.

Even the fence wires and posts are loaded with ice.

*Sigh* It is now three hours after I typed those last words, all of which were spent trying to entertain a four year old boy by candlelight. I'd best wrap this up while I still have juice. If you don't see much action around the blog for the next few days, assume that I am literally in the dark.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Bah, Humbug

Driving home from work this week, I heard a radio ad pushing flat screen televisions for Valentine's Day. I changed the channel. I refuse to be badgered into spending hundreds of dollars observing a fake holiday. In fact, I refuse to be badgered into spending much of anything. Why the lousy attitude? Pop over to Everybody Needs a Little Romance to see why I say Please Don't Bring Me Flowers.