Sunday, December 22, 2013


It looks like a Christmas card around here.

We’ve been moving cows around. The main herd is within ten minutes of the house. They’re grazing stockpiled feed saved since July. Seems nice not having to haul hay to them over the kids’ Christmas break, though that seems like a waste of young, strong backs. The calves, however, are on full feed. Seems like there’s always chores on a ranch at Christmas time.  

Someone in a card we received called this the “season of reflection.” I like that. We’re giving thanks for a year that’s closing, reviewing our blessings and thinking about those around us who could use a hand. We’ve hunkered down, living in close quarters, keeping the fire going.

Merry Christmas!   

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bah Humbug?

We’ve been in a deep freeze for the last couple of weeks since the cattle got home. Mark, Jesse and Gary have been busy chopping ice in the river and various water troughs to make sure the cattle get a good drink. Animals can take extreme weather if they have plenty to drink and eat. Still, I feel bad for them when we’re snuggled in bed at night.

I finally clued in and got the flannel sheets and down comforter off the top shelf to make up our bed. Mark waxed eloquent over the results when he climbed in last night.

We’ve been enjoying winter vegetables - sweet potatoes from the store, and red potatoes and squash from the garden. I figured out to turn squash over and put the cut side down while baking - lovely and moist.   

I can be a Scrooge this time of year. I love the decorations and the music, but the gift giving and high expectations put on mothers can be mind-numbing.

Every year I gather cedar boughs from Gary and Anita’s windbreak to make a wreath for the front door. It is a bittersweet task. The windbreak was planted when Mark and I were dating and I always marvel that the trees are so big. It brings the passage of time front and center.

I had found the pruners and dressed warmly. I got in the pickup to drive to the trees and on the radio comes Eartha Kitt, singing Santa Baby, about sables and convertibles (love that one). Then Nat King Cole’s, The Christmas Song. And finally old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, with The Christmas Waltz.

It’s that time of year when the world falls in love
Ev'ry song you hear, seems to say, “Merry Christmas,
May your New Year dreams come true."  

Those old 50’s/60’s tunes can melt the heart of any naysayer.  

So, I put up the nativity in the little cardboard shed, picked out a lodge pole pine at Stop ‘n Shop for $28 (what a bargain!) and am dancing to holiday albums at breakfast. Even Mark is puzzled.  

23 years old

heifer calves looking good

nature's quite a hand at creating beauty

this morning at one above zero

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Meals on Wheels

When I was a kid the best part of any day handling cattle was when the lunch wagon arrived. Mom was a great, from scratch, cook. Chili on cold days with homemade bread and butter. Fried spuds over the campfire - one cast iron skillet with onions for the adults, and one without for the kids. Homemade bread sticks from Aunt Gwen, perfect for carrying on a horse. Freshly fried melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts. And always cake and campfire coffee at day’s end while waiting for the herd to mother up.  

But wait a minute . . . the arrival of the lunch wagon is still the best part of the day while handling cattle. Thank goodness Anita is a stay-at-home grandma and brings us sustenance on a regular basis. She always brings along a few border collies to trade off herding cows, but manages to tuck in a cooler or two of goodies and hot thermoses to save the day.

Working cattle at “Lorin’s corral” last week was no exception. The wind was howling so we took refuge in her horse trailer complete with manure spattered walls. We joked about the ambience; Gary said he had strung the trailer with lights for a festive feel, but the extension cord wouldn’t reach. Hot taco soup to adorn with chips, sour cream, cheese, and chopped onions, along with Basque bread for dipping really hit the spot. And no matter where we are, Anita brings chairs and a small table to cover with a checkered cloth.   

At mealtimes like these we can joke and tease and forget for a few minutes that a few hundred cows still need processed and dark comes early this time of year.

            Mark turned his ankle in a stirrup and tore a tendon. He's been wearing a boot for two months.
 Duct tape keeps the mess of ranching out. Red Green would approve.  (photo by Anita)

Getting the cows home:

Anna on Mater with Clyde up for a pet

heading home for the holidays

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Anna's Break

I’ve had a tough time coming up with a blog post. I was going to write something profound about this season of gratitude. But every start I made sounded trite and rehearsed and lame. I kept rolling it over in my mind. Thanksgiving came and went. Finally in desperation, I asked Anna if she had any good photos from her week at home. Maybe I would be inspired. She thumbed through her i-phone images and emailed me a few. What fun they are - so original, so different from the scenes I record.

She was really ready for a break from school. She likes her sorority, has plenty of friends and does fine in her classes. But she’s not convinced her major is right for her and with all the questions swirling in her mind, home sounded awfully good. We talked two times a day as vacation loomed.

She stuck pretty close to home this week. She helped Mark fence and tend cattle, cowboyed with Seth, went on a date with a hometown boy, and made us an evergreen Christmas centerpiece. She and I had a fun day shopping together. I helped her buy a classy pair of leather boots, all the rage for today’s trendy women. I tried some on, but couldn't make myself be quite that trendy for the money. 

We had a lovely holiday at Aunt Mona’s with family ranging in age from 7 to 94. It was warm enough for games on the lawn and family photos in the garden.  Word games (yes, the girls beat the boys) and 4 kinds of dessert rounded out the day.

I hate to see the kids go back to college tomorrow. Seems like they leave way more than they come. How does that work? 

Seth on Jane, moving steers

Sly and Jane, good hands

a "selfey?"