Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010 far

My day, so far, has consisted of:

Getting up later than planned after staying out later than planned last night

Making my lunch while eating breakfast

Leaving my lunch, which should be refrigerated, on my counter

Driving the guys jeep to work because he is working on my truck today

Driving the jeep sounds easy, it might be too, if your legs are long enough to reach the peddles. Mine aren't and it's a manual

Arriving at work before 8:00 for the first time all week, but without my lunch

Realizing I also forgot my personal computer, which I need so I can order my mom's business cards. She has asked me to do this approximately 92790977234765 times, oops

Actually getting ahold of the person I called for an interview

Writing the article after the interview

Writing the previous post on here and having it show up as wingdings, hopefully you can see it. Please let me know if you can't since it had several photos and a healthy does of my sarcastic humor :)

Driving the jeep to Murdochs

And eating lunch at Arbys. No point in being healthy after all good attempts fail!

Finding out my option to change font color on here has gone mysteriously missing

Hope everyone's day is going well!

Welcome to the shop

Welcome to the shop, definitely not my domain. I prefer the corral. Being covered in mud, manure, slobber and any other animal-related mess is fine with me. Grease, on the other hand, is a problem. The stuff gets in your hair and on your hands and stays for DAYS. Not that I haven't had to help with various projects over the years (I know what it does to hair and hands first hand). I can change a flat, change my oil and fix various other common vehicle-related ailments. But it's not something I do for fun.

My dad and brother love being in the shop designing, building, fixing or their personal favorite-modifying- anything. As I have mentioned in previous posts they do design, build, fix and modify all sorts of things and are very good at it.

This is the latest project. You can see the two of them under it in the above photo. All I know for sure is it's a Ford and that they were fixing the clutch and brakes that particular day. I'm guessing that when they're done it will probably still look bad, but run great.

See, I am a journalist and did my research to determine the make. The year is somewhat in question though.

I did just remember what this particular trucks new purpose in life is! It is to be the new solar panel hauling truck. We use solar power to pump water for our cattle and sheep and by making our solar panels portable we can use them more effectively.

This is one of the making the old new and finding a new purpose for something that is otherwise unusable projects. We pretty much specialize in those at my house.

Now these are what had me excited as a photographer. It was a great lighting situation and looked pretty cool as I was taking the pictures.

So I just kept taking them, despite a couple glares from my brother when I used the flash or asked him to move. He just doesn't understand art (well, maybe art is a stretch) sometimes....

This is my brother holding the light for my dad, who is sitting up with his head up in the clouds so to speak. They are trying to get everything lined up and the clutch back on, it appeared to be a very tedious process and they were at it forever. The entire episode was highlighted with several muffled explicits and grunts. I've decided that if I ever frame a shop-related picture it will have to be named either "Oh Shit" or "Well, Shit," since those are easily the most common expressions used.

Right in front of my brother's hand is a jack holding up some vital piece of undoubtedly heavy...something. Both of them were very concerned about whatever it was slipping off the jack, which is why I suspect it was heavy.

This one is my favorite.

Now if they can just get the cactus out from behind the seat where a pack-rat had his very extensive collection of the stuff stored...

Perhaps a full tour of the shop is in line. I took several more photos and may work on that for the future.

I actually really enjoy spending time out there when I'm not getting greasy. It's where you can find my dad and brother on almost every winter day. We've spent many evenings in the beat up chairs in photo one discussing life...and the latest project they're designing, building, fixing and for sure modifying :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Time for a Closeup

While home I took pictures, of course. A few hundred to be more precise. There are more to come. Beyond my dogs antics I snapped several close-ups, here are a few.
Number 86 is one of the newly purchased bulls. He has a massive Ribeye area that I'm excited about.
I have really enjoyed backgrounding our calves this year. They make great photo subjects too!
Here's my usual, newspaper taught, levels, curves, done version...
And here it is with a little PW photo actions incorporated. Yes, I am addicted too!
Of course I had to snap the dogs, Emmie wasn't overly impressed and wrinkled her nose and set her ears back at me. At least I don't think her nose is off to the side like that...
Pearl prefers to just stare in a stand-off-ish manner when she doesn't want her picture taken, or whenever anything isn't just as she would like it to be. It's part of her, ah...charm, we'll say.
I just liked this one
There's always someone who will do anything to get out of being in the picture!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dogs and bulls and mud, oh my!

Emmie, Pearl and I went home this weekend to shear, then we got 2 1/2" of rain and that was the end of that. But, the new bulls I bought a couple months ago had been delivered, so I had to get some pictures of them, of course.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and bright. The bulls are safely locked in the corral this time of year. Well, kind of safely locked in. The calves tore out the entire side of the pen in the above picture last fall and we have the new posts set but the continuous fence isn't up. But anyway, part of having them under lock and key is feeding them.

Since I was taking pictures anyway I was given the task of moving the bulls out of the pen so dad could put the hay bale in their feeder. I used my dogs because they were already a mess and they really love the opportunity to chase anything. (That's not mud they're covered in either, and after a really good bath both still smell faintly of manure)

After getting everyone moved I started happily snapping away. Well, Pearl was obviously not happy with this guy's pose and being the tough little gal she is, she just decided to move him.

She literally has no fear.

This is my favorite!

And where, you may ask, was Emmie during this little show? She was wisely standing on the other side of the fence, thinking, "Pearl, you're gonna get stuck, I wouldn't do that if I were you."

Yep, Pearl got stuck, look at her face..."Heather, seriously, put down the camera and help me."

"I mean it, put the *#%@ camera down, this is no time to be taking pictures, help me!"

Have no fear, she survived without a scratch and was back at the harassment a couple minutes later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

40 ag-related Earth Day practices

Happy Earth Day! It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this year and I've read some wonderful stuff earth and agriculture today. One that stood out was 40 things ag does that are great for the earth. Thought I would make own attempt from a beef producers standpoint. So here are 40 things ranchers where I'm from do that are beneficial to the earth every day!

1. Utilize grass, which is indigestible to humans, and feed it to livestock to create a safe, wholesome product that helps feed the world. 85% of U.S. land is unsuitable for crop production, and ranchers use this land to raise livestock and help feed the world.

There, that should cover it :)

Just kidding, I can think of more

2. Recycle. Everything from old rubber tires being used for tanks to saving absolutely everything and finding another use for it. Ranchers have been doing that for decades. You just try to throw away a plastic sac, container, old pair of jeans etc.. that my grandmother has laid her eyes on.

3. Preserve open space. This is very important to the survival of countless plant and animal species.

4. Protect and manage water resources. Ranchers implement progressive, thoughtful water management on their operations that not only benefits their livestock but many plant and wildlife species too.

5. Pick up after themselves. Man I don't like rolling old, rusty barbwire, but keeping the land clean is important.

6. Utilize pesticides and herbicides in a safe, practical manner to control plant and animal species that have a negative impact on the land, livestock, wildlife and people they come into contact with.

7. Poison prairie dogs. I hate prairie dogs with a passion. They compact soil, spread disease, prevent grass from growing and just destroy range land in general. Their holes provide homes for snakes and spiders and are a potential hazard to livestock who can break a leg in them. I really hate prairie dogs.

8. Manage for other problem rodents and predators to protect livestock and vulnerable forms of wildlife.

9. Utilize wind power. Wind mills have been around for a long time and are still used extensively in the west to secure water.

10. Utilize solar power. A growing number of producers are utilizing solar power for a variety of purposes including water, electric fences and power.

11. Implement grazing systems that maximize efficiency. This requires less feed and encourages the growth of higher quality plants.

12. Feed by-products. One example are distillers grains, which are the leftovers after alcohol production. Feedlots and ranchers feed this grain product to cattle, it would otherwise be useless waste.

13. Feed all sorts of stuff that would otherwise be waste. Last year I met a guy whose family raised and sold watermelons commercially. Cool huh? Well, when they were done harvesting a field they would turn cattle in to eat any melons deemed unfit for sale for any variety of reasons. He said cows quickly learn to smash the melon with their head or foot to get at the good part.

14. Use eco-friendly vehicles. Did you know that making an electric car takes more energy than you will ever save by driving it? Ranchers use horses a lot, and the only gas they need comes in the form of grass and maybe a few oats.

15. Ranchers help feed the world and the entire U.S. cattle herd accounts for less than 3% of carbon emissions.

16. Taking an environmentalist stance, as can be seen over at Belle of the Blog and doing all the things that are deemed environmentally friendly by the general public, because that's what best for the land and everything on it.

17. Loving our animals, and our land. Ranchers really do. If they didn't they would find something easier to do that wasn't a 24-7 commitment.

18. Put up hay. Haying preserves grass for winter months and also prevents that grass from going to waste in some cases.

19. Buy in bulk. I recently read that buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging included and also increases efficiency in transporting items as there is less wasted space taken up by the packaging. Go check out a ranch wife's pantry, come back when you're full. It will be stocked and you know she bought as much in bulk as she could in case there was a storm, big crew, busy month, and because she can't just run to the store. I grew up an hour from a grocery store.

20. Fix everything. Again, it's a long way to the parts store too, especially if your truck, baler, swather, or tractor is broke. Fixing things on the ranch saves fuel costs and teaches job skills to a lot of ranch kids.

21.Give to others. If something is no longer useful on one operation, it is often passed on to another outfit that has a purpose for it. We got our sheep loading alley from a sheep producer who upgraded his. Since we only use it twice a year it works for us.

22. Share. My family and two other ranchers bought a calf branding table together and rotate it between everyone. There's no point in each outfit having one because it's a piece of equipment that is only used a few days a year and it's easy to schedule around each other.

23. Borrow. Much like sharing everyone lends their equipment to each other and thus prevents everyone from owning something that is only used occasionally. Everyone uses my family's flatbed, Clydes portable unloading chute, Dixon's big stock trailer and so on.

24. Help each other. Being neighborly saves time and money. It prevents us from having to hire someone who would have to drive long distances to help. It also helps get big jobs done, such as building corrals, picking up a big mess after a flood, putting out a fire and so on.

25. Leave a small footprint. Relative to most homeowners, ranchers put improvements on a very small percentage of their land and work hard to keep the rest in grass production. Roads are few and far between and land is taken care of because the operations livelihood is staked on growing grass.

26. Manage livestock numbers. Preventing overpopulation of the land keeps it in the ideal condition. Keeping livestock numbers at a rate the land can adequately handle ensures the rancher will have grass in the future. It also reduces erosion and often prevents invasive plants from moving in.

27. Managing wildlife numbers. Hunting and other forms of wildlife management reduce the likelihood of a disease outbreak. Wildlife like to eat specific types of grasses and managing numbers ensures there is enough feed for the population, thus reducing starvation. It also limits erosion and invasive plant growth as wildlife can overgraze an area too, and often to a far greater extent than livestock since most producers can't move them from pasture to pasture.

28. Create useful products from everything. One example is wool. There are certain parts of the fleece that are useful because they are urine and manure stained or too coarse. My mom uses these parts to insulate baby trees and keep moisture on them.

29. Making the old new. Many ranchers rebuild engines and entire vehicles and continue using them long after the general public would consider them junk. My dad and brother turned an old one and half ton Ford into a front-end loader we use to feed hay, move heavy objects, load wool bales and just about anything else you can think of. The only tricky thing is there isn't a steering wheel, just hydraulic levers. They also turned the frame around so the steering is backwards and to hit first you go over (right) and down instead of over (left) and up.

30. Find a new use for something. This might tie in with the previous one. But there are instances where ranchers take something and find a completely new use for it, thus extending it's life and eliminating the need to buy something new, drive to town and pick it up, drive home, find out it doesn't fit/work/look right/?/, drive back, get another one....

31. Teach. This is a big one. Ranchers teach their children to care for and preserve the land for future generations. They welcome school groups and anyone else onto their operation to show how it really works and why. It's important to learn about something from a reliable, honest, knowledgeable source and ranchers can do that on a variety of topics including land, water, forestry, livestock, wildlife and anything else mentioned on this list.

32. Get involved. Agriculture is under constant pressure to change from people who have no comprehension of how it works. To show how things really are and why they're done the way they are ranchers are getting involved and that's important, because ranchers do save, protect and preserve more land, water and wildlife than anyone else in my opinion.

33. Produce All Natural. It's a choice and I've touched on this topic before. But some rancher somewhere produces all-natural pretty much anything you can think of. My family produces all-natural wool and we do it an environmentally friendly way. When you choose all natural consider this, it takes 2-3 times more energy to produce an all natural steer than it does to produce one utilizing modern methods. This is because he is around for a longer period of time, eats more feed and requires more care, water and everything else you can think of. It's not a wrong choice, but it's not always the most environmentally friendly choice either.

34. Car pool. Gosh I don't know how many times I have been crammed in a single cab pickup with 4-5 other people for a long drive (we're talking several hours) We also had a horse for everyone in the trailer, now that's carpooling. I was so impressed when we got our first extended cab pickup, it was amazing!

35. Eating right. Ranchers eat their own product. It doesn't get much more "locally grown" than that. Beyond that several garden and most that do take any extra produce to church or school or the post office and "share" it with everyone else in the community.

36. Never stop learning. The more you know the better you are. That goes for land management, raising crops and anything else associated with agriculture. Farmers and ranchers know what's new and what works and what doesn't and they are constantly looking for and learning new ways to do something better and more efficiently.

37. Increase efficiency. For example the U.S. had 37 million fewer head of cattle in 2008 than in 1975, but still produced the same pounds of beef. This is due to improved management as a result of increased knowledge and the constant desire to be better.

38. Flexibility. You have to be flexible to manage land and other resources in the best way possible and most ranchers work hard to continually improve their management system, thus improving their range conditions.

39. Utilize modern technology. There are certainly environmental benefits to be found through using modern technology in some instances. Farmers can improve application practices through using GPS systems in their machinery. Beef producers use Electronic ID tags to increase consumer confidence and to provide traceback and age and source information on animals.

40. Do these things every day. It's one thing to celebrate earth day on April 22, but all of these things I've listed are done on ranches across the country on a daily basis. Every day is earth day in agriculture!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ice cold Pepsi

I had a Pepsi in place of my usual tea or coffee this morning. I was running late, and it was sitting there in my fridge because every time people come to my house they seem to leave pop behind. I rarely, if ever, drink the stuff unless it's in a mixed drink. I also don't drink beer, so most of the pop was donated by nice people who know I will not be having a cold beer with them, so they support my whiskey habit and bring coke, pepsi, 7-up or other caffeinated beverages for me. I have enough pop to keep me going for months, easily.
There is one exception to my, "rarely, if ever" pop drinking. That would be branding day. After a day of tasting disinfectant (I cut calves, and will explain this and other branding tasks in the near future) and standing in the sun there is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than a Pepsi or mt. dew pulled from the depths of an icy cooler. My aunt is the best and keeps them right at that stage where there's almost a little slush in them.
It's amazing, and just washes all the grime, dirt, blood (yes, there's blood) and smoke taste right out of your mouth. Ah.. It's even better if the disinfectant used was lysol. If you've ever cut calves and had this concoction on your hands or in your mouth all day you know what I mean!
As I was sipping on my cool Pepsi this morning it brought all those memories back. Next week is the first branding of the season for my family and I can't wait to ditch the office for a day of working outside with my family!
My disclaimer on this post is that I am only referring to hot, sunny branding days and not the cold, wet, miserable ones. On those days the only beverages consumed are the hot variety out of a thermos!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Horse Edition Preview

Last week was busy! Trip to Laramie Wednesday for a sage grouse meeting (you will hear my opinion on that at some point). Another trip Friday for interviews and photos for our upcoming horse edition. Saturday included more interviews in Casper and Sunday I went to church, walked the dogs, cleaned my truck and watched "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past." Today I am glad to be at my desk (well, as happy as I can be at a desk), half asleep, but content to not be driving anywhere.

So, what was I taking pictures of? Here is a brief preview, to see more you will simply have to get your hands on a copy of the upcoming Roundup Horse Edition.

Is he not the cutest little thing?! He was quite the poser and a little ham all day.

This one was much more laid back than the previous colt. But still a cutie and fun to photograph.

A yearling filly that is Peptoboonsmal (sp?) bred. She has the most beautiful head on her. All these horses belong to a family being feature in the horse edition.

To get these pictures I was fortunate enough to drive to one of my favorite parts of the state. To get there you take the D Road north out of Moorcroft and just keep going for 60 or so miles on a dirt road. This is heaven in my world and it was a gorgeous day and I didn't want to leave. Naturally, I had to stop and grab a few cow photos on my way home to delay leaving the wonderful, quiet paradise (plus the 6:00pm light was wonderful!)

There are wide-open spaces, thousands of head of black cattle scattered on big, rolling hills, with the Missouri Buttes and Devils Tower as a backdrop to the south and east.

Grass, cows, dirt roads, sunshine and only a slight breeze, ahh...

It was great, I'm ready to go back now :) Forget what I said about being happy sitting today, I was lying, mainly to myself, in an attempt to make sitting inside easier.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My little sister

Meet my sister, Holly.
I have been wanting to do a blog on Holly for a while, but I had to get the ok from her rep (aka mom).

Holly is 10 years younger than I am, was born premature, and has down syndrome. Basically, Holly's differences are more visible than most peoples. She got thrown right in the family mix at our house from day one and has been treated as "normally" as possible (with the exception of some serious youngest child spoiling, which I, as the oldest, feel inclined to point out)

As a result of that mindset she exceeded her doctors expectations time and again. At first they didn't expect her to live, but she did. At 8 years old she could speak better than they predicted she would be able to as an adult. We aren't lazy and she doesn't get to be either. She can read, write and dialogue entire songs and movies by heart.

She loves spaghetti for breakfast (that makes me turn green), popcorn, watching movies over and over, going with anyone to anything, her cows, Tobey Keith, Carey Underwood, Taylor Swift..., yellow cars, telling stories, swimming, pink dresses (or pink anything else) and high heels.

Holly is amazing and a blessing to countless people. Our family has been exposed to so many wonderful people, projects and events because of her. She was and still is a miracle, and truly affects the lives of everyone who takes the time to know her.

The most important thing I've learned from her is to never give up and appreciate everything. The fact that I can easily pronounce words (most days) is something I sometimes take for granted. When I get frustrated over something I often stop and remind myself that I have those frustration because of things I am able to do, and also remind myself to be thankful for that ability.

Not that she's simple, far from it. But the traits I notice first in her aren't her great speaking ability or athleticism. It's the more important things, like faith, compassion, determination and happiness that come to mind. Her biggest loves in life are God and family.

She is the best sister and I try to be more like her.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pouring calves

This post has been in the works for a while. Over Easter weekend we poured our calves for parasites. This is much like worming your dog, only at a larger scale. To take you through the process I managed to get quite a few photos.
First we gathered. Obviously it's very hard... They love the feed pickup and will happily chase it anywhere in hopes of some cake. I am on a 4-wheeler to keep any stragglers from getting away.

After getting the calves into the corral my parents tried to read the directions on the box without their glasses...hehe...and we got everything set up, the cattle sorted and put in the alley way

My job is to bring the calves down the alley, into what is called the, "tub" ( you can see it down there)and up a narrower alley to the chute, where they will be caught individually and poured.

Here we come, my mom was taking pictures too

Yep, that's me, and yep, it was cold. This is how I dress at home in the winter. It might be part of the reason I love shopping and looking nice when I'm in public...sounds like a good excuse anyway :)

Here is the smaller alley leading to the chute, which is run by hydraulics, hence the pickup my mom is standing by and the hydraulic lines.

In addition to pouring we also weighed one bunch individually because we were getting ready to sell them. Our scales were set in front of the chute and as you can see they would hop right in. My mom in the previous picture is reading a weight and getting ready to record it.

My sister, Holly (who will have a post devoted to her soon) was in charge of letting the calves out of the chute. Here she is demonstrating because I couldn't get a photo while in the tub.
Here is the second bunch we didn't weigh, so the scales aren't sitting in front of the chute.

After everyone had been run through and poured we fed.

You may have noticed a few tales with duck tape wrapped around them. This is how we identify our replacement heifers (those we're keeping for breeding) from the cull heifers (those we are selling). It's not something very many people I know of use, but paint sticks and snow just don't mix very well and this works great and as you can see is highly visible.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Road Awards

I drive a lot, and have found some drives to be better, rougher, longer, shorter and worse than others. Lately the majority of my driving has been within the state, and certain drives just deserve special recognition.

Longest Drive: Casper to Shoshoni, hands down. Feels like 5 hours to me every time I make that trip. Runner up for me is Wheatland to Cheyenne, that part seems to take forever. I often wonder if it has something to do with the signs every 10 miles showing your progress. And by the time I reach Chugwater I feel like I should be there.

Worst construction: Lusk? Cheyenne during Frontier Days every year? Highway 85? It's bad in a lot of places.

Prettiest Drive: Spearfish Canyon. Not exactly in Wyoming, but close enough. Anywhere in the northeast corner. Or from Buffalo over the mountain.

Worst winter road conditions: I-80 from Laramie to Cheyenne

Worst wind: Wheatland, especially from Wheatland to Sybille canyon

Scariest drivers: Riverton or Gillette

Best drivers: Cheyenne, you may disagree

Best road: Lingle to Lusk, you can really cruise

Best cut across: They're not even on the map I have, but there's a great one from Gillette down to Midwest and another that takes you from Lance Creek to Gillette/Moorcroft.

Worst, "Oh please don't let me slide off the road right here!!" spot: Dropping into Lander or going down the canyon into Thermopolis.

Hardest town to get around in: Casper!!

Easiest town to get around in: Cheyenne

Best Wildlife: The little back roads out of Buffalo and Sheridan

Worst parking: Laramie! It also gets narrowest main street

Most convenient through town route with a horse trailer: Douglas

Town you DON'T want to speed through: Guernsey, Lingle

Best place to speed: Hartville to Manville (they're not on the map either)

Best pull-up roadside coffee hut :) Either the little red hut one in Laramie or the one at Mule Creek Junction. I don't like the one in Upton, but my dad does. I think this is because I base my opinion on coffee flavor, while he bases his on how good looking the workers are...

Feel free to add your opinions, I'm sure I missed some

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A sampling

Neighbors Cow

South of Lusk

Cow in front of our house water well

Replacement heifer waiting to be poured to keep bugs off her

Bringing calves in to be poured

I went home for Easter, and took about 500 photos. More to come, including baby calf pictures.
Happy late Easter to everyone, praise the Lord that he sent his son to die for our sins!