Sunday, April 27, 2014


We cousins met to salvage what we could from our Uncle Doug’s homestead. It’s being sold off and it was our last chance to repurpose some of the items left behind. He’s been gone for a year and a half; it was time, but it pains us because his 2 acres are so magical, so wild and reckless. The new owner will change it for sure. They’ll trim the trees, clean up the flowerbeds, make it respectable. Dang. I love it the way it is.

Doug was good at breaking rules and his rule-breaking in the garden meant the unexpected around every pathway. A clothesline sagging between spruce trees. A climbing row of sweet peas against an abandoned shed. Pansies in a dilapidated cement-mixing wheel barrow. And daffodils . . . everywhere, in random displays.    

Mark helped me retrieve a few treasures from the house. He fancied the old black rotary phone on the wall. The long spiral cord is thick, the receiver feels heavy in your hand. Unlike the modern smartphone, there's no question where you talk and where you listen. Hmmm, an analogy to contemporary life? Mark got out his pocketknife and cut the two gray cords which brought the world to the kitchen of my uncle’s house. What a modern treasure the phone was when first installed! Mark says it will look good hanging in the scale house, waiting for a phone call from God, I guess.

All of us nieces have taken a bit of Doug home with us. I have his rickety ladder placed against a tall cottonwood, its one loose rung at a haphazard angle (no climbing, it’s just for looks). Now I’ve added three baby cedars and some blue flax to my xeriscaping out the back door, a few lava rocks to guard the cedars and a solid wooden door that leans against the garage wall for some unknown future use. 
We also found this, written on a faded card tacked in a doorway: “life’s heaviest burden is having nothing to carry.” Mark took it down and put it in his vest pocket. On a day with a million things weighing on his mind, it seems fitting. 

quakie grove with daffodils - perfect

faded chinese lanterns, still beautiful

the "little white house," where my folks lived for a time

I wish I could take the greenhouse home!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blame it on Spring

I’ve had a terrible time getting to my blog. It’s therapy for me, but spring happens with a vengeance when you live on a ranch and writing hasn’t risen to the top of my priority list.

The canals are up and running, which is always welcome. I wish we were diverting that lovely water to our property, but alas the ditches aren’t ready and we’re still tending cows most of the day.

Mark and I sorted yearlings two days in a row, sizing by weight and shaping up groups to be sold locally or those going to grass for selling later. We selected our replacement heifers, carefully considering traits that make them good candidates for the cow herd. How has their Mom performed? Are they of agreeable temperament? Is their body confirmation (how they’re put together) indicative of a sound, thrifty, feminine cow?   

We branded one day with a crew of 15. The cattle receive two vaccination shots and a nasal spray, are castrated if a bull calf, and receive a hot iron brand, proof of ownership in Idaho. Anita set us all down for a hearty stew at noon time and the weather was perfect. We’re set to process another bunch tomorrow.

I’m still taking time to walk to headquarters in the morning. It’s the best part of the day. The little shed where I put Kate for a few hours has been partially emptied so the other two dogs can go along now as well.

We spent one evening burning tumbleweeds in the canal in front of our house, as the water was set to come in overnight. The smell of smoke from weed or branding fires is familiar, almost reassuring, and puts a stamp on this time of transition between seasons.

We’ve got a good crew on the payroll, but even so the work load looks daunting. I can see the weariness in Mark’s eyes, try as he does to quiet my concerns. But we’ll be fine; we’re healthy and headed in the same direction. The only thing to do is put one foot in front of the other and do as Gary likes to say, “bow your neck and pull together.”  

starting the day