Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Working through it

It's been a challenging couple of weeks for my family.
First their house water broke. Which, to understand this you need to know that we have hauled all of the water we used for over a year, on two separate occasions. We also put in the pipeline that supplies water to our house. Water issues, especially those involving our house, cause anxiety levels to spike on our operation. You don't truly appreciate water until you've hauled every drop you use.
Then, yesterday, our calves water broke. Now, while not having water for our personal consumption causes anxiety, our cattle not having water is much, much worse. My mom was home alone, and she handled it well and got it fixed, but it stressed her out.
There has also been an over-abundance of mud this winter, with several inches to over a foot present on the back roads I live on in the past few weeks. This makes feeding take twice as much time some days, and made it impossible to haul water.
Some mornings this mud will be covered in a thin layer of extremely slick ice, which has resulted in the semi's and hay trailers my dad and brother drive sliding off the road and/or getting stuck on more than one occasion. It's also set their schedule way back, and they're behind by a couple weeks now.
This means they won't be caught up until well into calving season. While we calve our cows out on the range, we do bring our heifers in, and watch them. My mother's single request during calving season is to not be left alone with the heifers. While we have very few problems, she doesn't want to be solely responsible if there is an issue. We work very hard to accommodate this - she doesn't make many special requests, and it's looking like this year that will require a little strategic planning.
My mom called last night to vent a little. The first thing she said was, "I'm not complaining, I just had a bad day. I know those are what make you appreciate the good days so much."
Complaining won't get you far where I'm from, and isn't tolerated, and she knows that. But we all also understand the frustrations that come with weather-related setbacks, the stress that comes with having water problems, the feeling you have after a day of everything you touch breaking, and knowing you won't be caught up for weeks.
We're gearing up as a family to deal with these scheduling setbacks, potentially bad weather extending into calving season, and other ranch-related issues.
My role in all of this is to sit in Casper all week, doing my job and worrying (as useless as that is) about not being able to help. I'll probably be home every weekend for the next couple months, minus one in mid-March when I dedicated my time to building ads for the newspaper, which won't happen again. I'll also likely miss a couple Fridays or Mondays to help out as much as possible.
One benefit to me being town all week and home most weekends is I can bring home extra eartags, medicine, salt or anything else needed without them having to make a special trip to town, the closest being an hour (one way) from the ranch.
There are stories like this one happening on farms and ranches all over the country. The weather this winter is making things more difficult than normal in many areas of the country. Things break, and must be fixed. Regardless of any setbacks, we are still working to ensure our animals are taken care of first, and we are doing it together as a family. This is another commonality in agriculture - resilient families working together to care and provide for their animals regardless of things going smoothly, or not.
I called my parents this morning to work out some scheduling things, and they were laughing and my dad was joking (kind of) that since my mom wanted to get away for the day he was going to send her to Chadron to get a 4-wheeler fixed. It's another day and they're ready to go again.

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