Friday, January 24, 2014

Looking at the big picture

I just sold a picture, of a cow, for more than I ever have sold a picture for before. For some reason, when I saw the price, contingent on how large the photo runs of course, what came to my mind first was my mom asking an 8-or-so-year-old me why I thought I needed to take so many pictures of cows. I had to chuckle at how life turns out.
She was likely looking through the latest order she had picked up from the local drug store, and was gazing upon four of those paper envelope's worth of pictures, 95 percent of them being of cows, all of which I had made sure to get duplicates of. We do all remember what ordering pictures was like in the 1990's, right?
Even back then I would almost always have my camera and extra roll of film on me, and would happily crawl up fences, lay in dusty corrals and get soaking wet while snapping away at cattle, other ranch animals and anything else I found interesting. The sheer volume of cow photos I turned out resulted in a lot of good natured teasing from my family, and the occasional exasperated question similar to the one above from my mom, usually when she got home from picking up photos.

I took them out of my joy for cattle, which hasn't lessoned over the years, and I needed duplicates because I might frame one, and need the second for my 4-H record book, or just to have.
As I grew up, this photographing of cows only intensified. I would proudly show off my latest angle, and be told it looked just like the last 10 I had also proudly showed. There is no tougher critic than a member of my family, which I'm grateful for because they made me strive to come up with something new, different, better.
Over time, the frequency with which I was told my latest image looked just like the last 10 diminished, and more of my photos were given the stamp of family approval. However even today, you can see boredom begin creeping in if I show more than three similar photos in a row.

I also learned with time that no two people look at picture the same way, and that within a single image you will find people who love it and people who dislike it.
After aging out of 4-H, I decided to try entering photos in the county and state fairs. They did surprisingly well. A friend who saw them recommended I apply for a job at the University of Wyoming as a freelance photographer. I did, they hired me, the next year I was the paper's photo editor, then a professor's daughter asked me to photograph her wedding.
I continued entering photos in fairs, and received a "Best of Show" award at the Wyoming State Fair my second year. As my mom congratulated me on the award, she noted how funny life is that I had worked within the 4-H program for 11 years, and never won such a big ribbon at the state fair.
Following college there was more freelance work for an increasing number of publications, both mainstream and agriculture based. Then, I was hired as the assistance editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, which introduced me to editorial writing in addition to photography.

A year and a half later  I left the paper, returned to my family's ranch and began my freelance career in earnest, broadening the list of publication's I wrote and took pictures for, and basically working like a madwoman because I was living my dream. Tucked away in the far reaches of rural Wyoming, surrounded by cattle and enough Internet service to send out an article most days, I was thrilled.

Then I fell in love, got married and moved to western South Dakota this summer. While I planned to just continue on with business as usual for the first few months, God had other plans. In the midst of the craziness that has surrounded us since our July wedding, I have been blessed with increased and new business within both my writing and photography careers.
Then this morning I sold a picture for more than I ever have before. And all this hit me, and I had to call and tell my mom, who was beyond excited for me. I also had to remind her of all those years ago, when she asked me about taking so many cow pictures. She just chuckled and asked me if I wanted them all back.

In moments like this I'm very grateful that God works in mysterious ways, and for my parents. My mom and dad probably wondered why in the world their daughter had such an insatiable urge to both be in the cattle business and document every day of it with photographs, but they were supportive.
As a result, twenty years after she asked, I am finally able to give my mom an answer as to why I need so many cow pictures, and pay her back for all those rolls of film!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Christmas in the Country gift exchange

 Way back in the December I participated in a country blogger gift exchange, which was so much fun! I finally sat myself down this morning and checked out some of the other lady's goodies over at This Uncharted Rhoade, who was one of the gals behind this nationwide exchanging of gifts between agriculture bloggers.

My gift came from Janice Person, who blogs here. I knew my gift had arrived when a USPS box emblazoned with a cheery "Merry Christmas!" arrived in my mailbox one day.

Inside was a very carefully wrapped gift that was comprised of more breakable items than not. First, I found out Janice is a cotton lover (really, who isn't). She included this great mouse pad that pays homage to one of her favorite aspects of agriculture.

 This adorable little decorative plate was picked up on her travels to Tiberias, and features the tree of life. Right now it is hanging out on my desk, waiting for its perfect spot and use in my home.

She rounded out the gift with a set of these coasters that you can insert your own photo in! My mother-in-law also received some these recently, and hers look great filled with her favorite images. I can't wait to pick and choose from among my own photo collection and get these completed and ready to use.

A huge thank you to Janice for taking the time to compile and send me such a great gift!

On the other end, I drew Miss Brandi, who blogs at Lipstick and Tractors to send a gift to. The link will take you to her post on my gift, which I had a great time shopping for! This was a wonderful experience, and something I can't wait to be a part of again in 2014. Be sure to follow This Uncharted Rhoade to make sure you get in on all the fun next Christmas.

I was also very pleasantly surprised to receive a thank you card from the creator's of this gift exchange for my participation. It certainly made my day to have someone take the time to do that! Thank you again : )

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hawaii, pinkeye and mini-dachshunds

 Here's a little photographic update of what we've been keeping busy with in 2014.

We rang in the new year in Kauai, Hawaii, and celebrated my brother's wedding on 1-4-14! The trip was my husband's first time on an airplane, to the ocean, and vacation in general aside from our honeymoon. We enjoyed ourselves but were also happy to get back to our operation after a week in the sun.

We arrived home to more pinkeye in our calves. This has been our never-ending health issue of the year. We have been treating pinkeye since JULY, and are sick of it!
 It's been cold off an on so far this year. One day while the tank was frozen, save a little hole, the butcher hogs realized they could jump up, balance themselves, and sip away. It was hilarious, and a big distraction while we were sorting replacement heifers.

Keeping more replacement heifers than usual has been another highlight of the year thus far. Following our sort, we enjoyed an evening stroll through our future mama cows, telling each other the merits and faults of this one or that, pointing out favorites, razzing one another about individuals we didn't particularly care for, and just enjoying our lifestyle and the hard work that resulted in this nice set of calves. It is such a blessing to me that my husband and I both love good cattle, and can enjoy all aspects of raising them together.

 We've been feeding our cows for a while now. They are getting a 30 percent cake, which is a protein supplement that helps cows utilize the available nutrients in winter grass in addition to providing additional nutrients needed to complete her nutritional needs. Making sure the "cake hogs," as my husband calls them, or "cake munchers," as I call them, get their daily extra treat fed to them by hand is always a critical part of feeding.

 The well pump in our yard well slowly faded to the point where, if you turned on hydrant, it would run water for about 5 minutes then stop altogether. With hundreds of animals relying on this water source for the winter, we were naturally alarmed and quickly rooted out the problem. In case anyone is wondering, my husbands next well house will be more accommodating to his height. That was all he talked about the entire time he was crammed in this tiny hole, attempting to unscrew pieces of pvc pipe.

 As you may have noticed, we have doubled the canine department around here with a mini-dachshund named Maggie. She and my husbands English shepherd, Molly, get along great. They play almost non-stop when there is a break in the action. The rest of their days are spent herding butcher hogs that get out, barking at visitors, eating unmentionables, and in Maggie's case, observing chores from the nearest straw pile.

We also Bangs vaccinated our replacement heifers a few days ago, which went very well. All our ladies we are keeping for cows are now sporting the appropriate hardware in their right ear.

Selling our light steers also occurred on Friday. To get to the livestock auction, we drive through Badlands National Park, and were fortunate enough to see some Bighorn sheep on this trip. My mother-in-law is pretty good at roadside photo stops, if I do say so myself!
It was also great to receive an exceptional price for our cattle yet again, which has us both perusing the bull sale catalogs with a slightly higher budget in mind...
Hope everyone else's 2014 is off to a great start!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Instead of a traditional Christmas letter, I wrote a poem to send to family and friends recapping our 2013. As we begin a new year, this highlights why my husband and I are more than excited to bid adieu to everything that was thrown at us in the past 12 months, and start fresh.




In 2013 we saw great lows and soaring highs

Pinnacled with our start as husband and wife

Never did a boring moment arise

But rather challenges and blessings as we began our new life


Our wedding was beautiful and quite the fun affair

Our honeymoon took us from Flaming Gorge to the Yellowstone air

We cruised through Montana, took in the scenery and crops

Then headed back home, refreshed but wrung out as a mop


Wedded bliss awaited, we believed and had planned

But arrived to our cattle looking far less than grand

Pinkeye was the culprit, running rampant throughout

We went right to work doctoring, thankful it wasn’t a drought


Thus went the summer, and well into fall
Until winter storm Atlas dead-centered us all

We dug and dug for days on end

Worried sick about our cattle, up round the bend


Finally we arrived, to see for ourselves, who was alive and who had met their demise

We rode and we counted the dead and alive, often swiping a tear from our eye

We found out right quick that both our favorite cows were lost in the squall

But remained thankful to God for not taking them all


We didn’t give up, and began picking up the pieces

With assistance from our families and neighbors, whose help was ceaseless

Heather wrote and was interviewed by multiple news stations

While Charles planted wheat and fixed fence, working around weather limitations


Winter brought record-breaking cold

And frankly the year was getting rather old

The hydrants froze up, seemingly everything broke

The ranch way of life began feeling more like a joke


But the sun came out, the air warmed once more

Plus our steers brought more than ever before

The tractor started, the sows started farrowing

And our banker was willing to work with our borrowing


We are thankful and blessed in many ways

But especially for living in this special place

For our families and animals we love beyond reason

And for whom we have a whole new appreciation of this Christmas season.