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

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Now Take a Short Intermission....

...for Little Guy Wrestling, which is sucking the last of the life out of this sports mom. It's a real challenge to keep your son involved in stuff like this when you've got an hour drive home after practices and games. When I was this age we had a little country school out here in our community so it wasn't an issue, and when we reached high school all of us cousins stayed at my Grandma's house in town (for more on that and one of my favorite posts ever see Hoyt's Hotel). If you were in sports and playing on the weekends you might go two or three weeks without getting home to the ranch. With no house in town these days, Logan and I just have to suck it up and drive.

The end result is a complete lack of wit or wisdom this week, so I'll settle for sharing some pictures. First is the obligatory shot of the mountains at sunrise with an awesome streak of light across the base through a break in the clouds.

And honestly, you all just wish you were this cool, right? 

Plus I made my biweekly trek over west to check on the mares who are supposed to be having colts this spring. Yes, I realize there are such things as ultrasounds and pregnancy checks, but they require money and a trip to the nearest vet which is also an hour away so we're just waiting to see what pops out. 

This is Sweetgrass, definitely baby belly:

This is Ember, maybe baby belly:

And this is Target, definitely just fat belly because one Paint pony is more than enough for any rancher, just ask my husband:

I do have videos of baby calves. Someday I may have a free evening to edit and upload them. Until then just count your lucky stars that they don't let mothers in the wrestling room so you don't have to watch hours of the kid in action. 


Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Ranch Wife's Swimsuit Diet

So Monday was the big day, first calf of the year! Of course it was born on the only night in twenty that we've had snow and the cow managed to dump him in a badger hole so he couldn't get up, and he got chilled. Then they warmed him up and turned him loose and she kicked him off because she's an idiot. I know this because we have tangled before, which reminded me of the post I did back two years ago when we last butted heads. Hers is the calf I was trying to rope and feed.  Since I'm not actually here today but in Spokane visiting my little sister for President's Day weekend, here's a replay of that post. Enrollments for the 2012 session open Monday, I'll be looking for your check in the mail. 

The Ranch Wife's Swimsuit Diet
I am happy to say I’ve managed to drop a few pounds and inches just in time for bathing suit season, otherwise known around here as that one weekend in July when the temperature is high and the wind is not. I figured if I share my secret, I could be like everybody else and get my very own reality show. It goes something like this:
Day One: Arrive at the ranch at six p.m., at the same time as a cold front packing record wind and snow. You won’t need to worry about loading up on too many calories at supper, the power will go out when your pork chop is only half cooked. Begin exercise program by trotting up the hill to encourage three stray cows and calves to take shelter in the front yard. Then jog across the adjacent hayfield when the cows take off running in the wrong direction. Finish by strolling twice around the indoor arena to check the cows that haven’t calved yet.
Day Two: Breakfast of cold cereal and warm milk (still no electricity). Exercise for the day will consist of pacing from window to window, fretting endlessly, debating whether the visibility has improved from zero to three yards in front of your face, and hauling bales of hay through waist deep drifts to the three yard cows. Power is still out, so dinner is your choice of peanut butter on white bread or graham crackers with cream cheese frosting.
Day Three: Wake up call at 5 a.m. The blizzard has now ended. The power outage has not. Breakfast: lukewarm juice made from melted snow, since the water pump requires electricity.
Time to get serious about fitness. Begin upper body workout by shoveling out the doors to the calving barn and horse barn. Incorporate agility by dodging ice falling from the eaves. Finish by shoveling a three foot wide trail through a five foot deep snow drift so the bulls can get to their hay feeder.
Lunch: toasted cheese sandwiches and canned soup because the power is now on but nobody has time to cook real food.
Afternoon workout will focus on the lower body. Begin by locating a dozen strays three miles from home. Warm-up consists of floundering around the neighbor’s hay yard, attempting to shove a calf through the fence. Calorie consumption may be increased through the use of creative swear words at high volumes. When all critters are finally lined out on the road home, realize the calves will not go unless you chase them on foot in your Wellingtons.
As you reach your destination, a helpful crew from the rural electric co-op will pass through and provide an additional opportunity for fitness improvement by advising that they saw two of your calves way over that-a-way. These calves will contribute to your weight loss goals by placing themselves in the middle of a field of wheat stubble not traversable by horse or tractor. Walk two more miles, but this time through knee deep snow. Should you begin to tire extra motivation will be supplied by the coyote trailing along behind hoping you keel over from a coronary.
Phase three of today’s workout is designed to improve coordination, balance and problem solving skills. Begin by saddling a horse. Place a rope over the saddle horn. Tuck a quart bottle of milk under one arm. Ride half a mile to the east pasture and locate an orphaned calf. Realize you cannot rope the calf while riding the horse and carrying the milk bottle.
Get off the horse and attempt to capture the calf by a back leg. Realize the calf is slightly faster than your horse is willing to be led. Leave the horse ground tied. Watch him run back to the barn without you. Chase the calf fifty yards uphill through snowdrifts, attempting to keep the milk bottle tucked under your arm while swinging the rope. Stop twice to hyperventilate. When finally captured, the calf will refuse to suck on the bottle. Wrestle with him for ten minutes, then give up and walk home.
Dinner: Are you kidding me? Who has enough energy to lift a fork?
Days Four and Five: Repeat Day Two, with the addition of sloshing through six to twelve inches of mud as the snow begins to melt.
Day Six through Eight: Return to office job where everything will have piled up in your absence, necessitating that you work through lunch and coffee breaks, thereby enhancing your weight loss.
On the evening of Day Eight, the next blizzard will arrive. Go back to day one and repeat all steps.
For best results, be sure to forget to purchase any form of sugary carbonated beverages before heading out to the ranch, thereby maximizing the odds that you will lose both pounds and your sanity by the time the roads are cleared and you can get back to town.
As luck would have it, there’s snow in the forecast for this weekend. Registration is now open for participants in the next workout session. Who wants to sign up?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Space Relations


Yesterday we ventured up to Lethbridge to eat our weight in barbecued ribs and wash it down with ice cream in honor of Greg's birthday, which was actually today but after an hour of chores out in the bitter east wind he decided maybe yesterday was a good day to go to town.

We managed to make all of our scheduled stops at various points around Lethbridge without taking a single wrong turn. No small feat given it's a city of 84,000 otherwise mild-mannered Albertans who all drive like their wife is in labor. Give us another five or ten years, we'll have that place figured out.

Back in my school days we underwent a battery of aptitude tests to determine our inherent talents and guide our career choices. I scored especially well on a section called 'spatial orientation', the ability to envision your position relative to the world around you in both two and three dimensions. In other words, I have a pretty good sense of direction.

With this skill and a decent map I have managed to navigate Dallas, Houston, Denver, Minneapolis, Spokane and Seattle with minimal unplanned detours. Even the winding bridges and tunnels of Portland gave me only occasional difficulty. There is, in fact, just one city that has consistently defeated me.

Fossil, Oregon.

Really? You haven't heard of it? I'm shocked. We're talking big city, here. Ten blocks square. Sort of.

See, that's the problem with Fossil. Nothing is straight. It's down in central Oregon, in the maze of dry coulees just east of the Cascade Range. Driving there is like rolling down a tunnel that folds back on itself time and again, so by the time you arrive you're barely able to tell up from down let alone east from west. As a result, despite my best efforts to convince it otherwise, my brain insists the sun rises in the west in Fossil.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we never arrived in Fossil in the daylight. Our rodeo schedule always worked out so that we roped in Homedale, Idaho the evening before, arriving in Fossil at around three o'clock in the morning, bleary-eyed, too tired to persuade my brain that no, really, the rodeo grounds are on the left side of Main Street even if that seems completely backwards.

So every time I would turn right. And every time we'd end up on some unpaved dead end back street, trying to turn around in the driveway of a single wide mobile home while their pit bull chewed the lug nuts off our horse trailer.

I may be slow, but I am not completely incapable of learning. The last time we went to Fossil I was ready. No matter what my brain tried to tell me, I would turn LEFT. We arrived earlier than usual, a few minutes before two in the morning. Went straight down Main Street, dead set on turning LEFT.

Then Greg said, "But aren't those the arena lights over there?"

I looked where he was pointing. Yep, there they were, four big overhead lights, blazing bright. But wait. They were on the RIGHT. Hadn't we learned that was wrong? Except this was Fossil, for crying out loud. Population four hundred and seventy-one. How many facilities would have that kind of wattage?

So I turned right, climbing three blocks up a narrow side street, veering around a pair of women helping each other stagger home from the bar. Nothing looked familiar, but the bank of lights was just ahead so I kept going, which is how we happened to emerge onto the brightly lit field at the exact moment the LifeFlight helicopter popped over the hill and began to descend…right on top of us.

Horses don't like helicopters much. They proceeded to try to dismantle the trailer, prompting one of the drunk ladies to climb onto the fender to soothe them. By the time we scraped her up, dusted her off and sent them on their wobbly way the helicopter had taken flight again.

We pulled onto the field and turned around under the curious gaze of the ground ambulance crew, drove back the way we came and across to the rodeo grounds, located as always on the left side of Main Street. Six months later, we moved to Montana and I never had a chance to redeem myself. The score remains, Fossil-6, Me-0.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Special Edition


I'm popping out of my regular weekend blogging schedule to share a couple of photos. This week we've been in one of those lucky phases where the full moon is setting as the sunrise is lighting up the Rockies, making for some spectacular morning commutes.

It occurs to me that we are a little odd around here. How many places do you know where they face West to watch the sunrise?

And as long as I'm here, I might as well point out that I added another short story under the Pages tab. This is my version of a Valentine, although it's not quite as flowery as I'd intended when I started out. Check out Secondhand Cowboy.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Worth Ponderin'


Certain activities lend themselves to pondering, by nature of not requiring a lot of intense brain activity. A good example of this is barn cleaning. Not much strain on the ol' gray matter when you're scoopin' poop, which leaves your mind to wander. Yesterday as I shoveled and hauled recycled hay it occurred to me that there are some questions a person really needs to ask ahead of time, before you've crossed into 'no return' territory.

Things like, "By the way, are you married?"

Or, "So I can get into Canada with just this birth certificate, but I need a passport to come home?"

And last but certainly not least pertinent to yesterday's chores, "Honey, how do you put the tractor in four wheel drive?"

Though I will admit, sliding backwards down the frozen river that doubles as our driveway added a certain adrenaline boost that is normally missing from the whole barn cleaning experience. As an illustration of exactly how icy the road is, Logan and I did a little driveway luge for your viewing pleasure.

Those of you who are regular visitors may have noticed the barn isn't the only thing that got cleaned up around here. The ol' blog underwent a remodel, too, new coat of paint, awesome custom header, a few new knick knacks scattered around. The first is up there at the top right. I added an additional page, where I've posted a short story I wrote many moons ago. I'll be adding more when the mood strikes, so keep an eye out.

I've also added what turned into my favorite widget as soon as a reader was kind enough to smack me upside the head and explain how it works. Scroll down the right hand menu and you'll see an option that says "Follow by Email". I use this to keep up with all my favorite bloggers. Enter your email in the box, complete a couple of verification steps and BAM! All future posts complete with pictures will appear in your inbox, like a weekly letter from up here on the home place, even including a link you can click if you want to post a comment. Cool, huh?

We've been fighting a family-wide case of the galloping crud this week, so that's about all I've got for wit and wisdom. I'll leave you with a photo, instead. This is a horned owl, they take up residence in the big spruce trees in our back yard from time to time, or in the rafters of the indoor arena if you leave the doors open. The biggest one currently hanging around has a wing span of about five feet and they're very territorial, won't hesitate to swoop at your head if you annoy them.

Owls are a big in the folklore of almost every Native American tribe. The Blackfeet believe they are the ghosts of medicine men and to kill them is bad luck. The Sioux, on the other hand, wore caps of owl feathers to signify bravery. And the Apache consider the owl the most feared of all creatures, the spirits of the dead, an ill omen.

When they look at me like this, I can believe it.