Saturday, October 25, 2014

October's Mixed Bag

The wind is kicking up. Dang it. I hate it when it blows this time of year and sends all the colorful leaves to the ground. Last year the cottonwoods were a dull brown, this year they're brilliant golden. Does anybody know why that is? The severity of frost I suppose.

We moved the cows on Wednesday, and on the way out of the field saw that we had left a few - actually quite a few in a far off pasture. Mark and Jesse went back up today to fetch them and doctor a couple of cows that have foot rot.

Callie is home until the end of the year trying out her new yoga certification with mindbodydancer. She is teaching dance and yoga in our closest city of Idaho Falls. Oh, what fun it is to take class from her! And afterwards we wander around the old downtown trying out coffee houses for lunch. 

She worked three days on a blog post to send to her yoga community in New York City. She struggled to explain the differences in how rural Idahoans relate to one another as opposed to how residents of the big city boroughs do. She loves and appreciates both communities, but knows that here in small town America we truly see each other, and that everyone needs to be seen.

It’s quiet today and I’m deep into year-end bookwork. Cattle prices are sky high, so figuring out how to make timely investments into the ranch now is imperative. We save on taxes plus enjoy improvements which will get us through the inevitable lean years ahead.

Halloween was always a fun time of year when we were raising our kids. I still have several boxes of costume paraphernalia that I’m saving for grandkids someday. I envision my kids loading up the car to go rummage through Gramma’s treasure box before the big night. Anna was always a princess, Seth something more heinous, and Callie something different every year. She's conjuring up a scarecrow costume to attend an early Halloween party tonight. She already knew what she wanted to be and then saw a straw hat lying in the median on the way home from town!

I dug out the witch I made back when the kids were tiny. It’s on black poster paper mounted on a big orange moon. It’s torn in a couple of places and the back is plastered with old masking tape but it still makes late October feel like late October.

as sinister as ever

go away wind

pretty excited about their new field

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Chores

Fall is quiet once the calves are weaned. We separated the cows from the calves and trucked the youngsters home to green stockpiled feed. After a few days of missing mom, they’re lounging around in the sunshine. They seem content with their new-found independence but glad to be in good company.  

We gave them their protective shots this week and a dose of liquid parasiticide. Each calf is weighed and the pounds recorded next to their Mom’s unique numbered I.D. What a pleasure it is to watch their healthy, stout bodies go across the scale.

We vaccinated the cows as well and trailed them clear up to our highest elevation pasture. They’ll spend a few glorious weeks on cured-off native grasses, the best of fall feed. Mark and I spent one day with them and I can’t wait to get back up, so beautiful.  

Every day is a bonus now. Any time it could turn off cold and wintery so we’re busily checking off items on Mark’s to-do list that have been put off until now. The ridge at Brush Creek needs a new fence, the cabin needs more oil, and the horse corral needs repaired. And that’s just for starters.  

The irrigation water has lost its summer time frenzy so Mark can afford a few more minutes in bed each morning. The remaining streams are lazy and crystal clear with a few yellow leaves drifting by. I stood along the canal that runs along the west side of our property and watched the horses gather up fallen leaves under the cottonwoods. It’s always fun to watch animals eat and it’s surprising what they sometimes consume.

If you get the chance, or rather make the chance, take a few minutes to sit under a tree and listen for a falling leaf. It makes the most delicate of rustles, well worth the wait.    

Sly, Mark's mount for the day

my walking route along Kimball Road

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Before the Wreck

When things go wrong working cattle, the late, great, Bud Williams, always told us to take responsibility for it. It’s not the cows’ fault. “Were they doing it before you got there?” he would ask. Well no, they weren’t.

We call them wrecks – those days when the herd falls apart. They come infrequently, once every few years. Apparently we all need reminded that it can happen. One can get complacent.

I know one thing for sure; it’s harder on the womenfolk. Just ask Anita. Men take it in stride, just another day on the ranch. But for she and I the wrecks live on in our mind. We’ve been on the drag too many times when the weight of the herd gets heavier and heavier. More little heads looking back longingly for where they think Mom is. Second by second attention is required and it’s exhausting, even on those days when it doesn’t fall apart precisely because we’ve done everything in our power to prevent it.

It happened again on the first day of fall cattle work. It was a beautiful morning and I was sure Anita was getting some great photos as we let the herd out the gate into the lane heading down to Brush Creek. Poetic really, but in going through the gate and then confined to a narrow lane, lots of moms and kids got separated. When that happens they don’t trail well but keep looking around for each other. And it was just too many pairs traveling at once. We know this.

We got in the trees without enough forward momentum. Our crew was split and I couldn’t get Mark on the radio to send reinforcements, and they started running back in droves. By that time I was on foot, as my horse who had galloped into a badger hole earlier, had quit me. Not fun.  

But in the end the crew managed to gather up the ones that had run back and trailed them on down to the weaning pasture just as dusk descended.  

Someone said there was a beautiful sunset as we headed home. I honestly didn’t see it. We'd had one too many wrecks and I was too discouraged to notice.    

the gather - so far so good

looks peaceful right?

regrouping the renegades
 Gary, Anna and Callie
(and Martha)