Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Our thoughts and prayers are with all the folks affected by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. As I write this I am watching the news, which includes considerable coverage of the storm's extensive impact. It clearly devastated millions of people, and the news also interviewed many of them. I found it interesting that every single person on the news tonight said, "I need," or "We need," and asked for something from their neighbors, countrymen or government. Not one person said thank you to the National Guard, cleanup crews, or individuals handing out supplies during the news segment. It was much the same last night. One man was at a loss that his two homes were both affected. No said how they were going to rebuild, but rather how with enough help they would rebuild. I realize this doesn't represent the entire population, but it seems to be the general response of most towns, neigborhoods and people the media has come across.
I couldn't help but think back to this summer, and the weather related disasters that occured closer to home, including the over one million acres burned by wildfires in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. These fires consumed homes, generational businesses, livelihoods, livestock, and took numerous people's lives. These people also dealt without power and other modern conveniences, for weeks in some cases, in the middle of a record breaking hot summer As with the hurricane, they will take years to recover from.
One surprisingly common response to my posts by people who live in eastern, more urban areas of our country was that mother nature was taking back what was rightfully hers, and what had been mismanaged for too long by people like my family. To say it politely, such disrespectful and uninformed comments were frustrating, irritating, and hurtful. I can't help but wonder if those people feel mother nature did the same thing in their backyard, but find it doubtful they would respond the same way about their own home, possessions, businesses, animals and family members.
I also interviewed a lot of people affected by the western fires, and every single one of them began by giving heartfelt thanks to God, followed by thanking friends, neighbors, firemen, strangers and anyone else that had helped and aided in putting the fires out and rebuilding afterward. Each one also stated that they would rebuild, and help those around them rebuild. No one asked for anything but prayers.
I find the contrast in our country concerning, and very noticable in light of the multiple weather related incidents that have affected various parts of the U.S. in the last year. We are all keeping the east coast in our prayers out here in the west. But, we're also well aware of the implications of their response in comparison to our own. This isn't a difference that is going away anytime soon either, and that is also very concerning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My first attempt at chores

 A couple weeks ago, I offered to do my boyfriend's chores for him because he had to get up really early to unload a load of hay for one of his neighbors, that my father was hauling. Clear as mud?
Anyway, key point here is that I said I could handle the chores, and expected it to be easy, seeing as how I had helped numerous times by this point.
I watered everyone, then began gathering up buckets, keeping mind I had been to the chiropractor the previous afternoon, and was supposed to avoid any heavy lifting, jarring activity, etc... for at least one day. No problem, he had a wheelbarrow right next to his barn, and it would be no problem to wheel the buckets of grain around instead of pack them on this particular morning. Problem solved.

I approached this grain bin, positioned my bucket just so, and tried to open the sliding door, which is on an angle. It didn't budge. I wiggled and maneuvered and used my single-cup-of-coffee fueled brain to try to figure this farming related contraption out, knowing it had to slide up. Then I got a little irritated and gave it a big yank down to jar it loose. The door came open, all the way open, and jammed that way since I had not yanked it straight down.
I went from no grain to a flood of grain in a snap, and was desperately trying to now get the door to close with much more vigorous wiggling and yanking, to no avail. The first bucket filled and began to run over. I stopped to switch buckets, then went back to trying to close it, knowing my hand was not large enough to stem the flow. With the second bucket near the overflowing stage, I finally got the door to shut.
I sat there in the dirt, stunned, realizing I had ground grain in places it would definitely stay all day. Then I glanced up. There stood his two horses, clearly amped for amateur day at the ranch, practically licking their lips in anticipation of me failing at getting that door shut.
I glared at them, crawled out from under the grain bind and loaded a bucket in the wheelbarrow. I located a shovel nearby, and returned to find one horse, his name is Garfield, in a carefully executed yoga position, on one and a half hooves, two-thirds of the way under the grain bin, licking the grain that had overflowed. After getting him out of there I scooped up the excess, thinking no one had to know about my rough start and obvious lack of experience with grain bins.
I wheeled my load over the below pens, where the gilts and boars are housed.

I grabbed a bucket, balanced it on the fence, stepped over, and fell. And fell and fell and fell across half the pen. I landed with a thump, the knee torn out of my jeans and a nice rug burn on my knee. The bucket of the grain flew through the air, and ironically landed in one the of feed tubs in the pen. The hogs all managed to avoid my crash landing in their pen, and carefully eased around me on their way to breakfast.
More than a little irked at this point, I gathered myself back up, and headed back to the fence. There, just inside the pen, was one of those compacted high spots I had gotten wet while watering earlier, and which was very slick.
I finished chores and my second cup of coffee just in time for my boyfriend to arrive back home. I had to tell him what had happened, partially because I could see the humor, and partially because I looked like I had lost a fight with a mud-covered corn cob. A couple days later I had to go back to the chiropractor to get everything straightened out a second time. I am in hopes my second attempt goes much better, funny as the first one is in retrospect.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Feeding Pigs + a Giveaway!

My boyfriend, who recently said I could put him on my blog, happens to be the largest hog producer in western South Dakota. Now, you may be thinking that it probably doesn't take much to acquire that title in that part of the state, and you would be correct. But, he does markets several hundred hogs a year, and uses them as a means of diversifying his operation. He describes them as an FFA project gone mad.
They are not in a confined, super disinfected building, but are instead housed in an open-faced shed that provide shade and protection from the wind, with pens that run out into the sunshine. When sows get close to farrowing, they are put inside a specially designed building, into a farrowing crate, where they remain until their piglets are weaned. Then they return to the open faced shed pens until they farrow again.
I love them, in a "I do not deal with them on a daily basis, nor am I responsible for their continual care, feeding, or upkeep of their facilities" kind of way. He thought I was crazy for taking such a liking to them, then he met a few of my friends, who REALLY like hogs, and I'm sure he now wonders what is up with these Wyoming girls and their interest in loud, smelly pigs.

One thing about his operation is he has to feed his breeding sows every single day. Pigs mean chores, and lots of them. He, has calculated numerous rations based on what he grows on his farm/ranch, and what is most affordable and available to buy each year. We're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 possible rations he has figured out, stowed in a 3-ring binder one of his tractors.
Every week or so he grinds another batch of feed for the breeding sows, adding various grains, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals to ensure their dietary and health needs are met. He puts the ground mixture into the above grain bins, which are miserable to operate alone (more on that later). Each morning he fills a specific number of buckets for each pen and farrowing crate, and each night he returns to feed the sows in farrowing crates a second time. 

His sows and boars are nice to be around. I know this because I cannot toss the grain 6 feet across the pen, and must climb over the fence and wade through the masses to deliver the feed to the various pans in each pen. He also currently waters each pen twice a day with a garden hose, as this setup is relatively new and the automatic waterers are not set up yet.

Here's what greats him most mornings. It's an eccentric crowd, but nevertheless happy to see him coming with his bucket of grain.
Now for the giveaway part! Enter your best caption for the above photo of the pigs and horse for a chance to win a photo cutting board or 11x14 Double H Photography print of your choice! My boyfriend and/or father, neither of whom spend a lot of time on the Internet, will be the judges. I will anonymously read them each entry, and they will select a winner. You must be a follower of my blog, and can enter in the comments section of this post. If you like my Double H Photography Facebook page, you can also enter there for a second chance to win. The contest will close at midnight on Nov. 1, and I'll get a winner selected as soon as possible after that date.
Good luck, can't wait to read what you come up with!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting Bigger

I have had a lot of new people commenting on posts, liking my Double H Photography Facebook page, and emailing me about topics they saw on Facebook or here. Thank you to everyone! I really appreciate it, and truly enjoy hearing from people.
To celebrate and help say thank, I'm planning a giveaway when my blog reaches 80 followers, or my Facebook pages reaches 250 likes. Not sure what the prize will be, and there may be multiple choices.
So, share the word, like the Facebook page if you're a blog follower, and stay tuned on how to win!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Going to the doctor

You know when that day comes and you need to go to the doctor for your annual, or bi-annual, or 10-year checkup...

You get up early, gather up everyone that is going, and make every effort to beat the rush.

But, despite your best efforts, it seems like everyone has decided that this is the day for annual checkups, and it's like a stampede has converged on the doctor's office.

 You finally get in, are given a number,

 and get settled in the waiting room, where there is at least one crying kid.

 The nurse is unimpressed with something that day, and does nothing to calm your nerves, which are fried by the crying kid(s), uncaring mothers of said kid(s), long wait and general ambiance of the doctors office.

The doctor finally shows up, naturally a half hour to hour later than your appointment was scheduled for, and drags in all his equipment from the previous patient.

 You have to hop onto/into the uncomfortable patient table,

 And the doctor performs "unintrusive, minor" poking and prodding to ensure you're in good health.

 You get updated on any of your shots if you need them,

 and discuss any other medications you're taking.

 You leave exhausted, wondering how in the world you managed to pick such a busy day...again,

Then go home and eat comfort food to console yourself until next year.

Ya, my uncle's cows completely understand this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Farmers and Ranchers: There is a difference

In the last year or two I have noticed the word "farmer" being used more and more as a general term for the face of agriculture From the media covering agriculturalists collectively as farmers, to being asked by other people in our industry if I'm a cattle farmer, I've seen this trend grow and gain popularity across the country.
It's not that I dislike being called a farmer, or feel they're somehow lesser than ranchers, not at all. It's that they have a different job description from mine. Equally important and similar in that both farmers and ranchers raise food, but still very different in what foods they raise and how they produce those foods.
Farmers raised crops, and hog, dairy and poultry producers are also frequently called farmers. They use a lot of machinery that I have never driven, can't tell you the name of, or what specific purpose it has. They are soil and fertilizer experts, seed variety gurus and plant growing geniuses. They maximize their land potential through the crops they grow, and are often located on the most productive lands in the country.
Ranchers raise cattle or sheep. We use horses and/or 4-wheelers, and a farmer would laugh hysterically at our "machinery." We manage our land to do its best job producing native grass species, and are often doing this on lands unsuitable for farming due to lack of topsoil, moisture, or rough topography. We maximize our lands potential through the pounds we put on our livestock. We are fence fixers, cattle genetic researchers, and we put our water in a tank instead of on the ground.
Farms are also smaller on average than ranches, but that doesn't mean their production is less or the workload is lighter. Farmers have to spend a lot more time per acre on their land to plant, grow and harvest a crop. In comparison, ranchers spend their time gathering, moving and working their livestock, and implementing fences and watering systems, in a fashion that maintains or improves the native condition of their land. Farmers divide their operation up by fields or paddocks, ranchers by pastures.
Again, both very important, but not the same.
Sure, there are those who overlap, and do both. But, for the most part in my part of the world people fall more into one category or the other. There are also those foods that require contributions from both farmers and ranchers before they make it to your plate, and those that come straight from a farm or ranch, through processing, and into the human food chain.
It bothers me that these two very important careers are being lumped together in an attempt to make our industry more understandable. I think it's critically important to inform people accurately, and when people within ag can't tell me what the difference between a farmer and rancher is, it worries me that the general public, who knows little about our industry, will also miss the important contributions both groups make to their dinner tables.
Thank a farmer for your dairy, fruits and vegetables, and thank a rancher for your , lamb and steak!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Weaning and shipping

This is our super-busy week of weaning and shipping from our grazing association, located 200 miles north of our ranch. Each year my family and my uncle's family spends several phone conversations nailing down a schedule to get both his and our calves weaned, then two bunches of cows shipped home a few weeks later. As plans are made they are also inevitably changed based on weather, truck and brand inspector availability and all the other things that can come up with little notice. So far, just this morning, we've switched plans for our weaning tomorrow at least once because they got rain at the association, which means we probably won't be able to get trucks to the set of corrals closet to our cows. It's just part of ranching, and this year everyone is beyond happy to work around rain or snow.
One of the things I love about our operation is that it's based on family, and this week really highlights that. We come out of the woodwork of our individual busy schedules and make it all happen every spring and fall, and we do it together. There is no way it would go so smooth without the great help we have in each other. It's a lot of fun, and that's due to the combination of us loving our work and being able to do it together. We're very blessed to live this life, and weeks like this one give us all a chance to get together and remember that.

P.S. I am linking up with Rural Thursdays over at A Rural Journal" target="_blank">"/>>

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fall in South Dakota

I spent last weekend in South Dakota, and boy was it pretty! Here's a glimpse into what I saw while covering the miles.

P.S. I'm linking up at Fresh From the Farm's Fun Photo Friday. Check out her great blog!