Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day, one day late. This is my dad and he is the best. Hope all of you feel the same way about yours!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Meet my "little" brother Kyle. He arrived two and a half years after I did and completely blew my only child/grandchild (on one side) theory out the window. He was worth it though. We are the best of pals and can count the number of fights we had as kids on one hand. My sister and I can't count the number of fights/arguments we've had on all our hands and feet...
From the time I was 14 on we drove to school together in a 1998 Dodge Neon. Spending two hours a day (30,000 miles a year) together in the bright blue confinement of that car was either going to result in us becoming best friends or the ultimate demise of the weaker sibling-we went the friend route.

Kyle is what you would call mechanical. By that I mean he took his first watch apart at 4 and had the thing strewn across our bedroom. He put the entire thing back together and made it work. From there he graduated to legos and built any and everything with them. Today he is more into building engines from scratch, taking apart and putting together parts of machinery I do not know the name of, machining parts, welding grill guards, designing parts and tools and other such fascinating things I enjoy hearing about but have no desire to try.

He comes by it honestly though...and has his degree in machining with several ag business classes on his transcript from Sheridan College
Among other things Kyle is one of my favorite photo subjects. The above picture almost single-handedly got me my first two wedding photographer jobs. He wasn't that into it at first and would scowl at me or turn away, but I'm pretty sure this photo also single-handedly got him more than two phone numbers. He's been wonderful to work with ever since.

Here we are in the Bighorns last winter. I am always telling my mother if she was going to give her legs to one of her children it should have been one of her daughters!
Kyle and I have been working together since we were toddlers. We fence, ride, brand, sort pairs and do just about everything else on our ranch together and have often been left in charge for most of the summer as our parents run their other businesses. He has plucked me out of a frozen stock tank in sub-zero temperatures and I have witnessed and provided assistance during his many horse-related incidents.
He has an acute affinity for my dachshund, old westerns, guns and any mechanical project. He takes being bossed by me fairly well and tends to fall for girls I personally believe are not a good fit...I'm just saying.
He does not like my toy aussie, Houston TX, sheep, being cold or messy vehicles.
He's much more mellow than I am (usually) and has been known to throw his arm around me and say something along the lines of, "let's go dear...would you like another drink...hi honey!" when I'm visiting with a good-looking guy just because he finds it humorous. While he is a great driver, his habit of going 9-0 on the gravel road and about 55 on the highway will drive you nuts. Just watching him ride his motorcycle will turn you white. He usually packs the heavier items when we're fencing, just picked up my new grill for me and is an all-around great guy.

June grass

This year has been wonderfully and unusually wet. That means grass, and grass makes people in agriculture happy. Some people are getting a little tired of all the rain and it has certainly set spring work back-but nobody dares curse the moisture because for the last 10 years we've been in a very severe drought and we know the rain will stop. I personally love it!

It's also funny and irritating to hear people in Casper curse the rain, then curse the humidity that follows it. Now it's sunny and the wind is howling in typical Casper style, and they're cursing that too. There's just no pleasing some people. I have to resist the urge to walk up and shush them for daring to curse getting 3+ inches of rain over a 2 week period in June.

Here's how the grass situation has looked for the last 4 years where I'm from. It will help explain the whole, "rain is a good thing" mentality.

Taken June 8, 2007. This is a meadow and it's already dusty and the grass is turning. It's also pretty short. We are heading out to rebuild fence in this picture and the temp. was already in the high 90's in the first week of June.

Taken June 16, 2007. Note how short the grass is and that its already turning brown. This was a bad year for growing grass and this was as good as it was that year. It was hot and there wasn't any rain to speak of. Where I'm from we receive of 6-10 inches annual precipitation, so we are never anything more than semi-arid. But 2007 was an extreme case of heat and lack of moisture.

Taken June 1, 2008. Greener than 2007, but not very tall. It didn't get much taller than this all year either. These heifers had just arrived home from the feedlot, where they were grown over the winter, partially because the drought resulted in us having to reduce our carrying capacity (number of head we run).

Taken June 17, 2009. We grew some grass last year, but the grasshoppers ate most of it. You can see there are some short spots and the cheatgrass is already turning a purplish brown color. We had a cold, wet spring-but the combined July heat and ravenous grasshoppers took care of most of it.

Taken May 28, 2010. This calf in this photo is in almost the exact location of the tractor in the June 8, 2007 photo (It's just looking the opposite direction). While this was taken a couple weeks earlier, the grass is already significantly taller and I'm told it looks even better today.

This is in almost the exact location of the heifer in the June 1, 2008 photo.

There's grass everywhere, and while I haven't been home in a few weeks I'm told it's still green, tall and growing. There is also a record-breaking grasshopper hatch this year, but we and almost everyone else in the county is signed up to spray them and hopefully minimize their impact.

This is a good example of why agriculturalists spend so much time discussing, watching and worrying about the weather. It impacts us significantly every year. 2007 was hard, frustrating and depressing for many.

My uncle said it best when branding this year when he noted how fat and happy our cows were, and how most of them had never been fat before in their life. It's a good year to raise livestock in eastern Wyoming!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A beautiful place

Just a little photo for your enjoyment. This is one of my favorite places in the world-for obvious reasons.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A sneak peek ~Mr. and Mrs. Nelson~

You may or may not know I take wedding photos. My first summer wedding was last weekend. A college roommate and friend got married (they started dating when she and I lived together) It was a beautiful wedding held on the second floor of a historic building in Sheridan, complete with a wall of windows and padded benches down one wall. Photos were taken at a historic mansion and I was like a kid in a candy store.

We managed to dodge the two other wedding parties on scene (one for pictures and the other was holding their entire wedding/reception at the mansion) and got some great pictures. I've just started editing, and she would probably be embarrassed to see them all over the internet so I'm only sharing a couple (for now at least). A much larger selection will be available on my photography facebook page at the request of a bridesmaid.

I've only edited 20 photos of about 700 so far, which is why they are all in front of this old building and just of the bride or bride and groom.

My favorite things about the wedding include:
Her dress- and I apologize for only including a close up where I've blown out the dress. It was gorgeous!
Her desire to make pictures, fast and simple. We were done in and hour and a half and everyone cooperated and was great to work with!
Just seeing so many of the people again! There were several I hadn't seen in over a year. And in true style, the first thing the bride said was ,"Now Heather just tell me if I get a little b***** and I'll back off." as she laughs and climbs out of a little Honda car with her dress in her arms and proceeds to walk/skip down the sidewalk, still carrying yards of dress in her arms asking me how I've been and if I've hidden the groom (she wanted a quiet moment alone when he first saw her). I assured her she was anything but.
The laid back attitude- After pictures a bunch of us drank and visited at a groomsman's house prior to the ceremony.
The location- Sheridan is beautiful, the building where the ceremony is held was beautiful...a couple the groomsmen are pretty fun to look at also :) (just trying to give you some perspective)
The ceremony- Not too long, not too short, great scripture, serious but not stiffly so-very fitting of the couple.
The colors-Bright blue and dark brown. The groomsmen wore white shirts, bright blue vests and ties and suits that had very subtle stripes in two darker shades of brown (loved them!) Bridesmaids were in bright blue, knee length dresses.
The dance, and the other dance a friend and I crashed later....where there were more old friends, dancing and drinking into the wee hours of the morning.
Yay to wedding season!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wordless Wednesday X4

Being wordless is a difficult thing for me. Please enjoy it while it lasts.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Branding photos, group 1

Here are a few of the photos I particularly like from the first branding while I was home. More will be added in due time.This little gem would be mine. All my cows sport a beautiful pink ear tag (I am working on an ear tag blog-in my head-that will be on here sometime in the future) that can be easily distinguished at long distances against my mostly black cows. My dad picked this color for me because it's very different from his green.

Why do we brand cattle? To determine ownership, prevent theft and protect both the animal and the owner. Brands are the best and only permanent form of owner identification in place. Producers have no way of knowing who an unbranded animal belongs to, what health program its been on, where it came from or what its been exposed to. If an animal that doesn't belong shows up and is sporting a brand and you know who that brand belongs to, you are likely to know additional, helpful information regarding that animal. It will also make it much easier to return that person's property.

Yes it does cause the animal discomfort, but it is not an excruciating, unbearable pain. Cattle have much thicker hides than humans and brands are applied in a way that only burns the top layers of the hide. I would compare it to getting a tattoo or the burns some people get. It heals fast and has no negative long-term effects if done properly.

In Wyoming a brand includes the shape or design of the brand (some names can be quite difficult to interpret into the proper symbol or shape), the location on cattle, sheep and/or horses and an earmark if there is one. For example, my dad's brand is the TH and is located on the right rib on cattle. It is not a sheep brand and I don't know if it is registered for horses. His also includes an earmark, which is a little notch out of the tip of each ear. In the above photo my brother is applying his brand ( The lazy E cross) to the rib of a calf. He uses his fingers to mark where the ribs end to ensure it is placed properly.
Earmarks are simply another way of identifying an individual in addition to a brand.

Calves are separated from their mothers prior to starting the branding and re-joined with them as soon as everyone has been branded. This makes everything run smoother and is simply more efficient. My uncle would call this guy a "nice baby."

We use horses and my uncle's family brings their motorized vehicles to help gather. The calves in the background are done. They are allowed into a grass lot so they don't have to be bunched up in a dirt corral.
We use what is called a calf table. Don't worry, I'm sure there will be a step-by-step blog explaining everything we do while branding and the reasons behind choosing to use a calf table. Some walk out of the table, most jog or run, and a few take into account I am waiting with my camera expectantly and give me a great show of athleticism. (You can also see the earmark on this one)

There is smoke. This is my dad, who refers to himself as the "certified" bar holder. More on that in the explanation blog.

"Oh, is that you dear?"

Here she comes. Just like people, cattle have different attitudes. This one just has a lot of attitude.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day weekend

I took time off work to extend the Memorial Day weekend to help my family with spring work. There was a list of things to get done while I was home. It read like this:

1. Brand cows' calves
2. Brand three-year-olds' calves
3. Help my uncle gather and brand
4. Put CIDRs in heifers
5. Sort a load of pairs

Getting everything on the list accomplished really wasn't expected, but we were hopeful. With all the rain and other things that just come up it's rare everything falls into place. But...we got it all done. It went like this:

Thursday, May 27th: after 9:00pm- My mom calls and says we are branding the following day. I am drinking with friends (not a good idea the night before the hottest day of the year and my first full day outside in months)

Friday, May 28th: early- I leave Casper just before 7:00 am to be in Lusk to pick up our electric branding irons that my mom forgot earlier in the week. Proceed to home to brand the cows' calves. Am very concerned upon arrival to find a few cows in the corral, one cow in the lot bawling and no people. This can only mean one thing: a big wreck. I saddle my horse at record breaking speed and am jogging out of the lot when the cows come around the hill. Come to find out the calf table needed extensive repairs when it was picked up early that morning and everything was just running very very late. We brand and everything goes great.

Saturday, May 29th: Gather and brand the three-year-olds' calves in the morning since we were all set up from the day before. Put CIDRs in the heifers after lunch.

Sunday, May 30th: Head north to my uncle's place. Arrive around 10:00am to help trail cows they gathered that morning to a holding lot in preparation for branding Monday. Spend entire day attempting to get everything paired up. The cows were awful this year. Check out my uncles "wildlife refuge" while waiting and visit. Finally give up after 5:00pm and have at least 3 calves and 1 cow going back. Stay at my grandma's house, which is always a treat!

Monday, May 31st: 4:00 am-Alarm goes off. Eat breakfast and head out to brand. Find all the calves have gone back to the bunch (pretty much unheard-of) Gather, sort and brand. Do 296 calves in 5 1/2 hours. Eat, drive home and go to bed. Holly gets sick.

Tuesday, June 1st: Not very early- Sort 40 pair into another pasture so they can be hauled to a grazing association for the summer Wednesday morning. Head to Lusk for a g-form meeting and drive back to Casper. Cook a good dinner and collapse on couch, where I am now.

It was wonderful. I got past the "My butt is sooo sore" stage, deepened my tan exponentially on my face and arms, saw the family and participated in several of my favorite tasks. Weather was beautiful too!

There will be more photos, I took several. This one will likely make another appearance as well. Right now it is just straight out of the camera and there are a few things I want to try with it.