Situation

Over the past twenty-plus years raising cattle and handling animals, my husband and I have developed a code word of sorts when things have, or will, or might – go horribly wrong. We call it a situation and both of us better be paying attention.

One most memorable adventure was probably the advent of this code word about 12 years ago. It was during calving season. It was a dark and stormy night. We had a heifer calving too long and subsequently needed our help. We needed to get her into the barn into the headgate where we could all be safe. But she went rogue on us as soon as she entered the supposedly secure environment of the barn.

Of course she did! She was a heifer! First calving experience, first time inside the barn and two humans poking and prodding her already stressed-out-self. By rogue, I mean she charged us both within seconds! Headed me up the steep stairs of the barn loft and my nimble hubby onto the top rung of the pen panel.

As she continued to roar, push and beller, we looked at each other from across the barn on our respective precarious perches with her between us in the throes of mid-calf distress and trauma and hubby could only gasp….

“What a situation”

We chuckle about it now and even did so then (nervously so). It was the type of predicament we honestly couldn’t see ourselves getting out of at the time. I can’t seem to recall how we were able to get her secured…we must have simply tuckered her out eventually and managed to pull her calf successfully. What I do recall vividly though is the incredulous look on my hubby’s face and the sound of his subdued voice as he declared our situation from the top of that pen.

From that day on whatever we define a “situation” has definitely got our respect, attention and wariness.

Feed et al

Busy day for me today hosting the feed delivery guy, the fencing crew , the fencing supply guy and even hubby dropped by in between loads for a bite to eat and to drop off our cheque from the calves we sold.

These are pellets…a specially formulated feed ration that we are told will put two pounds a day on our young heifer replacement calves. Now that they are “off” their mother’s milk source we want to continue a quality nutrition program for them towards their lives as mommas themselves or as good candidates for the feedlot.

We have a fancy red creep feeder for the gals to eventually figure out and start creeping in and feeding on these pellets. For now they kind of just look at me and it….but they’ll figure it out on their own and soon we’ll be filling ‘er up again.

That’s what it’s all about it … Feeding, fencing, watering, feeding again and getting that precious cheque once or twice a year.

Weaning Day

My least favorite day of the year. We weaned the calves today…the racous, noisy, stress-filled day when we separate the young un’s from their mommas. To clarify, after helping hubby roundup our herd this morning I sort of got the day “off” from corral duty thanks to my wonderful step-children and “they” weaned the calves. The three of them showed up in full force to help us today…just like the good old days.

So I was quite happy to give up my position and prepare them a warm ranch-worker-meal complete with ranch-style-potatoes…just like the good old days when they were younger and around the ranch more often.

The male (steer) calves were loaded up and taken to the auction market by hubby before sunset and behind him remains myself and 200 bawling mother cows milling about the pen where the heifer calves now reside after being pulled from their moms. Of course those heifer calves are bawling too and looking for escape holes to get back to mom. It’s a very noisy place right now.

But, quite predictably, the bawling will stop within three days. Every single year and probably every single ranch experiences this predictable behavior. But for now it sounds like this….turn up your volume!

I Took A Trip

I took myself on a trip this spring. I came away from this trip with the life-altering realization that I had made my life unnecessarily complicated and busy. My journey took me to a special world amongst some of the most amazing creatures on earth…grizzly bears. Just seven other guests, two crew members and I boarded two float planes from Prince Rupert into the exquisitely serene and incredibly beautiful Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary…a land where grizzly bears are fiercely protected and where they can never, and I do mean never, be hunted… it’s the law!

I struggle to find the words to describe the experience of viewing and floating amongst these gracious creatures. I say gracious because they allow us to enter their environment and click away with our cameras yet they carry on in tranquility. They must feel that they are indeed protected and that we observant and excited humans are no threat to them. They continue to eat and roam and swim and simply carry on with their peaceful lives as they accomodate us mere mortals.

We all realized, at the end of our time in the Khutzeymateen, that we were privileged to share this time with these beautiful bears and with each other. It’s a really special thing that goes on when you live only on the water (either the sailboat/ketch or Zodiac raft) with 9 strangers and depart four days later as dear friends. Friends that share a common desire to view, photograph and learn about the grizzly bear and respect their precious and beautiful environment.

Returning home I knew I had to make some changes. To slow it down…for heaven’s sake, after all, I’m retired! That meant letting go of some things, completing other things to finality, focusing on what’s really important (Faith-Family-Farm) and allow myself to breathe. It takes a get-away to wake up and figure things out. And it has taken until around now…5 months since Khutzeymateen…to write these thoughts and share them in my blog.

The Winter Vigil

It begins today…first day after a crazy busy challenging-weather type of weekend of rounding-up, sorting, loading and trailering ALL our pasturing critters home.

Subsequently my vigil of watching over them and waterers and heaters and fencelines and gates(of course), officially begins today. With hubby away trucking during the week I find myself with the luxury of being in control of the chore schedule. Nothing finer than being the “one in charge”.

Sure, it’s all fine when every thing is working and every one is behaving. Here’s to smooth days ahead…and if not so smooth, then here’s to some stories and tales to tell!!

Troublemakers

I have enough going on around the ranch that I don’t need fence crawlers to be occupying my time. Thought if I gave these young calves a bit of a chase back to their proper field it might discourage their delinquent behaviour.

This video was a few days ago and I haven’t had any mischief such as this since! And yes, looks like I have a bit of fencing repair on my plate now.

The Ranch Gate

Much of my day is spent out in the great outdoors fulfilling my ever so important role as gatekeeper…or go-for runner, or….open the gates…or close the gates….or stand by the gate…or watch the gate….or watch out! Gate!

This brought me to pondering. You know, there is alot of psychology (or rather – drama) that centers around the ranch gate.
Many a heart and spirit has been broken at those gates. Mostly mine as I hate being yelled at. But dear hubby told me long ago that ” what happens in the corral – stays in the corral.”

A day’s plans can be altered in a split second if you miss latching the gate by some innocent oversight or you can’t run to the open gate fast enough that you’re supposed to be “watching” and a rogue animal gets through it or the entire blinking herd heads for it.

I contemplate these things now as we are in the process of bringing our herd home from their respective pastures over the next few weekends. The herd that will be my sole responsibility for most of the winter as my hubby continues to truck up and down the Alberta highways. As long as I know the status of every ranch gate – whether it be open or closed for it’s intended purpose – then I know we’re all going to get along just fine.