Calving

A new baby with Momma, off by themselves. Cattle often move away from the herd to calve.

We are in the middle of calving season. It’s a little earlier than we have done in the past, but when we moved, the calving date was already set. Fortunately, it was not January!

If you follow me, you know that we prefer spring-time calving because it follows nature’s natural rhythm, plus we live in Montana: January and February are brutal months to be calving. The weather is traumatic for their health, you have to watch them constantly so they don’t freeze–even so, they often lose ears, tails, etc to frostbite. It is not good for the cattle, the owners, or the pocketbook.

I understand that some also farm and have to calve earlier to get ready for farming or to make grazing permits work. Some claim calving earlier guarantees bigger calves–not so. That’s a possibility, but the hazards to their health and ours–(night checks at 20 below zero–yuck!) actually delay gain. We’ve had similar weight calves when calving in April to those who calve months earlier simply because it is easier on the animal.

Anyway, I digress…I have received questions about calving from people outside of the agriculture circle. Their biggest concern boils down to one thing: Are we kind to cattle?

A fair question!

Of course!

We believe cattle ought to live healthy lives that follow their natural cycles. We will not beat them or mistreat them. It is unfortunate that people ask this question because it means that somewhere it has been projected that this is the norm. *Sigh*

We’ve warmed calves in the barn because it was too cold outside after they were born. (We had calves in February from a handful of cattle. Again, not our choice, but it renewed our opinions about spring calving.) We have brought them in the truck to the barn, wrapped in old coats or blankets.

Goofy faces! No one got peed on and this calf is back with Momma in the field.

Yes, cattle are a business. Yes, we have to manage them in a way that is financially responsible. AND-we will try to nurture them in the best way possible.

Calving is a reminder of renewal. The life cycle continues and we get to watch it unfold in the fields.

Happy Spring Everyone!

THE ELK IN OUR HERD

This fall, we had an elk calf join our herd. We think her momma got hit on the highway and the ranch’s cows were the closest family.

The first time the crew moved the herd with our new “calf”, the calf took off in wild zig zag patterns ahead of the cows and the cows tried to follow her…it was a little crazy.

One of these things is not like the other…

When we sold the calves, the elk calf stayed with the cows.

When we processed the cows, we thought the elk calf was going to go into the corrals, but she changed her mind.

The next time we moved the cows, there she was… and she walked right through the gate!

The elk stayed with the herd for a couple months. I took this picture driving home not long ago… the elk has grown so much!

I’m not sure where she is now. We moved the cows out of this pasture and the elk herd came back by, so I imagine she hopped in with her kind. I kind of miss her, but I think she’s probably doing fine.

So, dear friends, you never know what you might see out in your field. But I hope 2022 brings a lot of goodness. Happy New Year!

* I know there is a concern over brucellosis with elk and cattle, so please be aware that we bled the cows to check for this. No brucellosis!

Transition

I haven’t written for awhile. I miss journaling about life outdoors, even if it has only been a of couple weeks since my last tidbit. However, we find ourselves in transition again…or still, rather. As I’ve written before, we left Montana two years ago because we leased our ground there and we had an opportunity to move to Idaho and buy a place. My husband also got a job in Idaho that allowed him to be more involved in the cattle industry. The past two years have not gone anything like we imagined, but I wouldn’t change them.
Things didn’t work out in Idaho for us to buy a place and today we find ourselves packing boxes to move to Montana. It isn’t the same place we used to live, but who would’ve thought? Doors opened for my hubby to have almost the same job and we signed papers on a little place of our own.
I can’t believe the blessing of having some land of our own. We’ve always dreamed about it. We’ve had cattle on leased land for years and years. We are quite excited to have a place of our own. It needs TLC, so we will be busy, but we are blessed.
My blog may slow down a bit until we move in and get settled…(In winter…in Montana… 🙂 ) My heart is still here though!

view from our MT house

My new view!

 

 

Taking Care

Don’t you love those days when things flow? You hit the lights right, work gets done on time, and there aren’t “surprises”?

Yesterday wasn’t one of them. 🙂

It seemed one thing after the other popped up as a surprise and needed attention right away. A family member’s health is failing and I can’t fix it. Simple life details had piled up and then we discovered an out break of pink eye in our calves. The calves were  gathered up so we could run them through the chute to vaccinate them and treat the active cases. It is just a small bunch of about forty calves, so it shouldn’t take too long, right? (Insert raucous laughter.)

A couple slipped through the head catch–which I didn’t close in time. A needle got stuck in the shot gun and no one could loosen it and I didn’t have pliers handy (we forgot to grab them before starting because we haven’t needed them in awhile…usually they twist right off). It was hot and the critters didn’t want to be run through the chute…and even though I talked nice to them (the guys can laugh at me, it’s ok) they had plans to go somewhere else. Needless to say, it wasn’t as quick as it ought to have been and I left a little before it was over to get the smell off me before hosting a baby shower that night.

It wasn’t a bad day, just not a smooth day. I’m not sure why I’m surprised when things don’t go smoothly because life just happens. Sometimes things just need taking care of…right away. When my kids are sick, then we take them to the doctor or change plans to let them rest. The same is true of cattle. Cows are living creatures and if they have needs, then we stop to protect their health.

Thankful today for the people and resources that allow us all–people and animals– to take care.

A dusty day in the corrals
A dusty day in the corrals

Fill ‘Er Up

stocker calves out to pasture

We leased some pasture recently that we are filling with stocker calves. It’s a stepping stone to reach a bigger goal and another beginning. How many times I’ve started something, never thinking that I’d start it again. Yet it seems in life that there are many starts and stops! On the same token, I’ve started many things with a preconceived notion of what it would look like, only to see life paint a different picture.

While specific situtions are important, perhaps the bigger issue at hand is identity.
There are always going to be things we do simply because they must be done. However, at the core of our being we were created for purpose. I’ve watched people spin their wheels and endure frustrating situations because they do go after their calling. In fact, I’ve done it! I’ve rationalized with myself: If I just do this job, the pay will be worth it… but often I denied my heart permission to thump with excitement. Granted, we have to pay the bills, but I think there are many creative solutions in life that would push us closer to that which makes us feel alive. For us, we purchased stocker calves. It isn’t the large scale ranch we dream of, nor is it as big as the one we had when we changed location, but it is a step towards our bigger goal. Our desire is to steward land and cattle. We are happy to put our toes back in the water while we pencil out ideas for the future.
Land, cattle, and the desire to build for future generations excites our hearts. What excites yours? What makes you feel purposeful?

Homeward Bound


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I’ve been shy to blog about all the details of our transition, but we aren’t the only ones to experience this phase in life, so I feel I must unravel a bit of my heartstrings.

Many of you know, that we ran cattle in Montana for years before deciding to transition to a new state. We didn’t change location because we weren’t making money or didn’t like it…quite the contrary. Yet we felt a shift that is hard to describe…an internal feeling that change was coming. We had the option to embrace the change and try something new or continue in our path. When we looked at what we were doing, we enjoyed it, things were going fairly well, but no matter how many angles we looked from, we couldn’t see any way to grow bigger. Looking at our new option, it appeared that several opportunities existed for growth. So we did something that hurt, but seemed like the best option…we sold our place in Montana and all our cows. We uprooted. Why? Because sometimes it is necessary to let go of a smaller dream in order to grab hold of a bigger one.

Today is very different than we imagined when we left… We do not yet own the place of our bigger dreams. In fact, things went so different than anticipated; we doubted everything we’ve ever done! We’ve been through calving season without cows to calve and the ache there is indescribable. We thought for sure by now all the pieces would have come together. The place we had our eyes on had an offer before our place in Montana sold… Sure, we could piece something together, but our big dreams keep us from settling for another small dream.

In the meantime, we keep dreaming. It’s a little like labor…after awhile, you hit a point where the baby hasn’t been born yet, but you are ready to be done. You don’t think anything is really happening but pain. You wonder if you’ll make it…Then something happens and life enters…and it is more beautiful than you imagined. Until then, things are hard and messy, but completely necessary to the unfolding of the process. So during our transition, we are trying to focus on the good things happening and the fact that yes, life will emerge.

There are tough moments; things hard to understand right now. Yet our passion for the cattle industry and our desire to live life on the range doesn’t change. It may not yet look like we imagined, but we pray and trust that good plans will fall into open hands.

 

 

What Do I Do With This?

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Every rancher we know has a plan–that outlined picture of what the future holds. Some people have it typed and saved on a hard drive, others pencil it out on paper–or scribble it on a napkin– and yet others sketch their plans in their mind map. Whatever the case, we are all aware of what we’d like the future to look like. If we are really honest, we often have two plans–the practical plan and the whoa, I’m dreaming big baby! plan. Usually we file the first and tuck away the second in our underwear drawer so no one will see our outlandish thoughts.

Recently, something happened in our own place that defied both plans and made us stop and think: “What do we do with this?” It isn’t on the plan–not even the wild plan. It feels like it’ll really make things better or spiral us toward the polar opposite. Will it be like the time I lost my rope or saved a calf?

However, we know that the circumstances in our lives are meant to call to the surface something greater. Our reaction to it can either push us closer to the Someone who designed us or push us deeper into our limited perception of what we alone see. It is often hard in the moment to react the way we wish we would have reacted when we look back at it in the future–unless we look back at past occurrences and practice saying what we wish we’d have said then. In other words, we go back and practice saying the thoughts and ideas that will propel us into the future we picture. This is the snipett that I’m learning to do at least: go back and process past errors, covering them with goodness, and being thankful for the piece they’ve set in my life.

For me, trying to do this outside of the arms of God would push me into personal tunnel vision, but I’ve found that Big Hands create Big Things, especially in the area of covering past mistakes. I can’t do it alone. I’ve tried. What a mess!

Yet even the messes can be cleaned up and be made new in God’s hands. Some of my biggest foibles, He turned into beauty.

So the reality sits: We are not sure what to do next. We are learning though, that this is okay. Not part of the plan? Not a problem. Sometimes the best thing we can say is “I don’t know…yet.” Waiting is tough, but it is often better than rushing to our own aid. Do something!, say our pesky thoughts. However, waiting and choosing peace before pushing forward is worth it. Plus, it gives us time to process whether this thing we are unsure of will ultimately be a beautiful piece of our underwear drawer plan…or not. Either way, it’s fine because we can always redream the wild plan. We’ve done it before. 🙂

Dreaming is good because we consider the possibilities and look forward to the future. So how about we all dream big and pull that “whoa, I’m dreaming big baby!” plan back out and let a little Light be shed on it…especially in the midst of unknowns.

Cowboy Daddy

 

cows, Billy B-Day, Katie B-Day 090This post is also a published article, but it was so much fun to write, I had to share.

Cowboy Daddy

Perhaps it’s the bawl of a new calf. Or it could be that overprotective mother cow. (Her calf’s ID is not a tag, but a crisp new rope.) Maybe its heifers that always seem to calve at night….But when calving season hits, so do memories of impending parenthood. For it was roughly eight years ago when my husband and I found out it wasn’t just the cows who were going to experience the miracle of birth.

“Are you sure?” The brim of my husband’s hat dropped with his jaw.

“I had a blood test.”

“That sure huh?” He began wringing his hands.

We were pretty young. I was told my chances of having children were slim to none. We were shocked, yet truly overjoyed by our blessing.

With the news of our pregnancy coming on the eve of calving season, my cowboy found himself in “baby mode.” He quickly whipped out his cattle gestation calendar and reported to me my due date. (What do you mean there’s a gestation difference?) He flailed his arms and spouted phrases like, just before weaning time, not during haying season, and maybe during a storm or full moon. He quipped that he would know just what to do because he’d helped many animals in my condition. It never occurred to him that I might not like being compared to a cow. I gently reminded him I was not some heifer. That’s when he put away his weight expectancy chart.

Pregnancy does funny things to a woman. Those hay slivers that I continually brushed out of our bed began to irritate me. Anything but hamburgers made me gag. And cow manure on clothing—a fact of life—was not allowed within fifty feet of the house. “Don’t even think about kissing me until you’ve hosed off and stripped in the yard,” I found myself hollering.

It goes without saying that pregnancy changes a woman, but it also changes a man. It certainly changes the size of his wallet. All of the things that are needed for a child add up: the four door pickup, the tractor with the enclosed, air conditioned cab, and the tack.

With tack catalogues strewn across the kitchen table, my hubby could hardly contain his excitement. “What kind of kid’s saddle should I get?”

“Well, the baby’s the size of a bean right now, so I’d go with something small. Let’s not get carried away.”

Yet what first time parents don’t get carried away? At our initial doctor’s appointment my husband came with spurs on and his head cocked like a rooster. An early ultrasound was included, so my cowboy told me what to expect because he’d done ultrasounds for preg checking.

As the doctor performed the ultrasound, he asked, “Are you feeling okay?”

My husband replied, “I’m a little tired.”

Intuition told me the doctor was thoroughly impressed with my man, especially when the ultrasound procedure also included a complimentary bovine narrative. My cowboy actually went in to a mini-lecture on the similarities of my reproductive system and a cow’s. Maybe we could’ve saved money at Trans-Ova, the local cattle embryonic center.

Once my belly began to bulge, so did my man’s ego. Why read baby books when he’d seen a million bovine births? It wouldn’t be that different…would it?

One “difference” came when the baby began kicking. My husband put his hand on my belly expecting to feel a small tap and was blown away when the baby actually moved his hand with a forceful little blow. This was the first time I heard him scream like a little girl.

The second scream occurred in Lamaze class. It was not the videos that made him holler. No, it was another forceful blow—this time by another expectant mother who didn’t tolerate bovine comparisons very well. Needless to say, we didn’t make any lifelong friends there. The calf-pulling conversation didn’t help.

When labor did begin, I was in denial. It was early. My husband convinced me to go to the hospital because I was “walking around like a cow with my tail up.” I promised to go, if he promised not to say that in the delivery room. When we arrived at the hospital and labor was confirmed, my husband obliged, and explained he knew what was happening because he had “seen it in his field.”

When our daughter arrived, cowboy instincts let loose and he nearly fainted. The man can castrate a steer, pull a calf, and inspect afterbirth….but a human umbilical cord made him woozy! All of his jitters passed away though when our beautiful girl was placed in his arms.

Pride has been taken to a whole new level from this time forward. Stories of tagging, penning, and roping will always make a cowboy beam, but a child is like all of these tales and then some. Put some cowboy daddies together and they can talk!

“Why just last week my six-year-old daughter drove the truck while I forked off hay.”

“Oh yah, well my five-year-old won first prize at the mutton busting.”

“That’s nothing. My two-year-old roped a steer on his first try, blindfolded.”

Even with their stories though, cowboys do make great fathers. They help their kids learn about life via the ranch. They teach them to make hay forts. They encourage them to open gates. The only thing that continues to puzzle me is this: How can a cowboy be immune to the stench of manure, stick his hands in the tightest of places, but changing a diaper induces tears or vomiting?