Windchill Wonders and Worries

This is a story of joy and panic.

Joy – because our second grandchild was born two days ago, in the morning (while a -43C windchill was raging outside) and then, shortly after we got the news we had a serious farm crisis and we didn’t even get to celebrate the joy until we tended to our crisis.

I have to back up a few days to explain what led to this panic/crisis. We have been in a near-crippling deep freeze for the last week to ten days. Temperatures ranging from -25 to -35 complete with windchills sending the real temperature to almost -50….with no relief! The winds rarely let up and the sun just has minimal power to lend any warmth to any living being.

I continue to be amazed how our animals keep on keepin’ on in these conditions but they do.

Crowding at the only working waterer

It’s the equipment that starts to give up. Two of our three cattle waterers decided enough was enough and they froze up. And then the real panic, our electric space heater in the pump house quit and when we opened up the box of our backup heater….we find it’s the wrong kind….it has no cord to plug in!

If the pump house has no heat all the water lines that run to the corral AND to the house freeze solid and the whole system shuts down. In these conditions – a nightmare to even hope to repair.

We just wanted to enjoy the news of our new granddaughter – instead we’re scrambling to replace a simple heat source that we thought we had backup for but….

So off I tear to the nearest city (an hour away) to find some units and get myself back ASAP. Meanwhile, hubby and son Tyler remain behind to jimmy-rig a cord into the backup unit we found. Thank goodness we have our very own instrumentation technician in the family and thankful he was available this crucial day.

I wasn’t taking any chances, once I found them and loaded up with 2 of each.

By the time I got home things had settled down, the pump house was still warm, the water-lines had been preserved and peace had returned to the farm-site.

Our back up supply of heaters is going to be beefed up considerably now after this scare. When you don’t have a hardware store just minutes from your doorstep, out here in the country, you have to be more prepared. Still learning these hard lessons after all these years of farming/ranching!

Time now to catch our breath and get ready to meet our new precious sweet grandchild.

It Starts Here

After last week’s post, it occurred to me that between myself and my husband and others like us in the cow-calf and cattle-hauling industry….well, we’re at the base – the foundation (as opposed to “the bottom”] of the food cycle. The cycle that brings your food from farm to plate.

We raise cattle and keep them fed on grass and fresh water. We watch over the good will and nutrition of our breeding herd so they in turn bring forth healthy, thriving calves which later a cattle-hauler like my trucker-hubby loads up and takes on to a feed-lot….. so the cycle can go on and on.

I feel very privileged and honored to be a steward of this lifestyle…even on these cold, wintery challenging days. To be responsible for the well-being of these precious animals that in turn contribute to providing one of the most efficient and high-quality proteins around.

And so we tend to pamper our herd. Pampering – means keeping the feeders full, refreshing the straw bedding after a snowfall, vaccinating against disease and maintaining a watchful eye over all for any changes in behavior or signs of discomfort. I guess, in the end this isn’t necessarily “pampering”….just good management and we take a wee bit of pride in being part of the process to bring healthy and nutritious food to your plate.

A big cozy straw bed sheltered by trees and a wall of bales for sleeping comfort.

Weaning

You know…for years…we have weaned our calves on a busy weekend when the husby is home just long enough to get the deed done with whatever help we can muster up on said weekend. Then, he hops into the big old Kenworth and drives out of the yard leaving me and the dogs with a yard full of bawling, stressed out cows and calves trying their best to get back to each other through gates, and fence lines and corrals.

This year I was not worried about weaning day at all because husby was going to be home for the WHOLE day and not only that – the days thereafter!! He would finally see what chaos he leaves us with when he heads back on the road….back to the off-farm job.

So I took the time to take this little video of the calm and quiet of the last day our cows and calves would be together. I was planning this post in such a way that my video capture the following day would be loud and chaotic and full of bawling and howling moms and babes.

Well, the joke is on me…..guess these gals were good and ready to say goodbye to the children. Peace and harmony prevails on our ranch today already. The expected bawling usually goes for exactly three days straight…but all they can give up is what you hear on this peaceful little video.

When It Rains

There are numerous high-value assets here on the ranch. During my years working and living this amazing life I believe I have identified our top three – but their order of importance varies over the seasons. They are:

– a live healthy calf,

– a reliable, functioning tractor,

– a good solid three day rain.

As of last night, we are about to experience the latter and we are sure happy about that. (My regrets to the grain farmer at this time)

I also tend to unnecessarily stress a bit about those calves after a long rainy and windy night…that they’ll likely get separated from moms in the weather drama and when I hear the early morning bawling in the field it just reinforces my state.

Calves know best to lay low until momma comes a lookin’ for them.

But I have to remind myself yet again that the bawling is the seeking out for each other and a momma will always sniff out her babe. Peace and harmony soon returns if I just leave things alone.

It’s now a day to watch that rain gauge fill and listen to the grass grow…it’s a happy ranching day!!

Meet Me In The Shop

It took twenty years. Twenty years of plugging in our tractor in the dilapidated, unheated, un-insulated sixty year old shop and hoping the breaker didn’t trip overnight and we’d have to pull out the ether to cold-start Old Faithful and tackle a day’s chores in challenging weather that faces us most days.

Twenty years of holding our breath that the roof wouldn’t fall in on us at any time.

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But yes, twenty years it took us before we finally bit the bullet and built a beautiful new HEATED shop which houses all our vehicles and farm implements.

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and especially the work horse…hubby’s Kenworth.

We love it. We love it so much we chill out here for a little beverage spell and hash out our respective days….me and my chore duty…hubby’s adventures on the Alberta highways. I always look forward to the text from hubby on his way home…” meet me at the shop”…

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My Day For Chores

 

The husby (rancher/trucker) got called to haul today so I get to run the corral routine my way for a wee while.

My dog Patty is always ready to assist and her “sister” Ruby is overly anxious to do so …younger, rambunctious and very assertive, so she requires a little more control. But between the two of them, they sure make chore life alot easier!

Now I know I’m not supposed to be proudful but I have impressed myself a smidge by my feed pellet rig-up. Before, the arrangement was to fill the chop pail and drag it towards me through the resistant ground under the bin and then haul to the trough. I felt there had to be a much easier and lower-back-friendly way to drag those old pails. Lo and behold – there is!! What better use for a couple spare plywood planks than this??

Let’s just say…I’m happy and back-healthy … instead of puffed-up proud.

Fancy Fella

When this guy was born back on May 10, 2018, he sure caught my eye. Such a showy fella with his perfectly goggled right eye, his four shiny white socks and white-tipped-tail.

He got a name right away – Fabian – and I decided I would keep my eye on him as long as he was with us from the yard to the pasture and beyond. Because they don’t stay with us long, I rarely name the steer calves, but how could I not?

He grew up big and strong and so I know he ended up in the heavier group of steer calves that we sent to market. I watched that sale on my computer that night and although I noted who the buyer was it remains a mystery what feedlot he was taken to.

When I get caught up with my new set of winter chores and the farm books for year end, it is my intention to do the background work and research and find out where my big handsome Fabian is living, feeding and growing now. Wish me good luck!

My Chore Team

Here’s a couple of characters I sure couldn’t do without around here. Patty and Ruby….my chore team….and my cheer team too.

We keep each other company throughout the entire day. Ruby holds her post in the tractor at my feet.

And my dear Patty follows me everywhere else except the tractor. This rancher gal never needs to feel lonely with these two around.

Here is an example of them assisting me with returning our bulls back to their own pen after being out for watering. I have all my penned animals on a somewhat rigid schedule so I can keep up with the myriad of indoor activities on a farm gal’s plate…like bill paying, book keeping, meal planning and preparation, baking and sewing. (Notice that house-cleaning doesn’t always make-the-cut….hah-hah).

Needless to say, Team Patty-Ruby are invaluable to me and the entire operation on this ponderosa.

Making New Friends

Every year, post-weaning, I end up with a pen full of young heifer calves. These are the gals that didn’t go to market a couple weeks ago along with their brothers, the steers.

In this pen will be a few select girls that we keep to stay with us to grow up quiet and healthy and become momma cows amongst the rest of the herd.

The quiet part starts with me. Part of my daily tasks are to walk amongst them numerous times a day and get them used to me (and the dogs) and carry on quiet conversation and just general strolling around. The ones that already come up to me get added to my ongoing list of “Flicka Rancher Keepers” that I keep available in my smart phone tucked away in the pocket of my coveralls…always handy actually for snapping these pics and videos and posting to the blog on-the-fly.

I fear that list will probably end up including all of them because I can tell already they want to be friends.

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.