Friday, May 31, 2013

Marital Baggage

 As I type this my most valuable possessions are rolling down a highway to their new South Dakota home. Part of getting married is always the combining of two people's things/stuff/treasures/junk, and mine will be no different. I will bring more furniture than will probably fit in my fiancée's house, a car, a big screen TV, lots of kitchen stuff, enough clothes to fill every available closet - probably twice and dreams of things like a beautiful lawn with flower hedges.
But, what is a little different when two ranchers get married is that there could also be the combining of livestock, which is the case with us.

These two are rolling down the highway right now. Adding cows when getting marriage is a little different than adding a hairbrush and lip gloss to the bathroom vanity. Cows eat grass, cows take up space, cows cost money to run, and it's not like you can just add and subtract numbers on a whim. No, there is a lot of management that goes into running cows, and to be profitable most ranchers are usually running as many as they can with their available resources. So, just adding more cows isn't necessarily an easy thing.
But, I am marrying a wonderful man, who just so happens to be a rancher, meaning that he has the ability to make room for cows more so than most people, and he did make room for mine. Not only that, but he offered to let them come now instead of this fall because it was really dry over here earlier this spring when we were making plans.
To prepare for the move, I applied for my Wyoming brand in South Dakota, and am very thankful to have gotten in on the second try. It was given to my dad, who used it before me, and in addition to meaning I won't have to re-brand my cows, also has a lot of sentimental value to me. It also means I won't have to keep track of two brands as my cattle move back and forth between South Dakota and Wyoming in the future.
My family and I also sorted my pairs out from the rest of the cows and put a bull with them earlier than we turn bulls out to get them closer to being on schedule with calving season at their new home.
Then today he carved time out of his busy schedule to come get them when "Delivery Plan A" didn't work out last week. He has it all worked out on the pasture/bull/summer management side for when they arrive, and is also making sure that over time we we will get everyone the right shots as they convert from our vaccination program to his, which are different.

I'm sure there will be more adjustments and management alterations that will have to be made going forward as we work them into the mix. But, I'm also sure they will all work out. I am very grateful to have a wonderful family, and to be marrying an equally wonderful man that all help enable me to do what I love, which has always included owning cattle. As my fiancée has told me many times since we've met, he had no idea a blonde girl could care as much about a little bunch of cows as I do mine. Fortunately, he considers that a good thing.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A run through the run down

 It's that time of year around here, where gathering, branding, breeding, sorting, shipping, weather related delays (hopefully), and numerous other tasks converge into a few hectic weeks known as spring work, spring ranch work, the spring rush, that time of year etc...
What I was unaware of, until about two weeks ago, was that this seasonal workload conveniently hits at my fiances about three weeks before it hits here, and dwindles down just in time for ours to kick into high gear. After about 10 days of firsthand experience at his house, I'm back home with a much more thorough understanding of how the timeline goes around his place, and with dark bags under my eyes as we get into the heart of our spring work.
Here is how it has gone. I have lots of photos I was, and still am, hoping to share in multiple detailed posts. But, I also realize that time will pass, there is also a wedding being planned in the midst of all this, and if I don't share a little about these tasks going on right now, I may not get around to sharing anything.

May 6 - Helped clean the drill and also "helped" plant Barley for the first time since I was old enough to walk.

May 8 - A fellow Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher State Committee member and myself drove to Sheridan to read last year's Ag Books for Kids and lead a coordinating activity on seeds as a part of the 1st grade's plant and soil section. I was so thrilled when they called and asked about having me back! What a wonderful compliment to the Ag Books program, and all the work our committee has been putting into making it great in our state!

Throughout all of this my fiancee was AI'ing his heifers to Connealy Irish, which was largely selected because of me. He has been teasing me that I will have to deal with the result of my first management decision for as long as the resulting cows are around, so about 10 years.

May 9 - My future SIL tilled up half the front yard and the some other areas for our grass and tree planting projects, part of which is coming up below.
May 10 - We put CIDR's in my fiancee's cows, which are used to help synchronize them. Those are the CIDRs above.

 May 11 - AI'id early in the morning, then went to two rope and drag brandings.

 May 13 - Planted between 1,000 and 1,500 trees (I have yet to hear the official number). This was very cool, and one topic I am hoping to cover more in depth! These trees will hopefully grow up into a natural windbreak and help keep all the snow from blowing in the corrals and yard, provide more moisture in the field they border and help protect the livestock in blizzards.

I headed back to Wyoming on May 14, and on the 15th we hung this new gate at the end of our alley, cleaned up and prepared for branding, and got a few more odd jobs done before the rain started!

 May 16 - My dad, brother and I gathered our three-year-old pairs and kicked them into a pasture closer to the house. I managed to get this picture of my favorite calf of the bunch : )

 May 17 - Our first branding of the year. Photo courtesy of Double H's mom.

May 19 - We headed north for my uncle's first branding, and finished in a drizzle that turned to a nice rain that lasted all afternoon and evening up there. It hit here the next day, and between the rain and the wind I stayed in and worked on wedding stuff.

Yesterday my brother and I spent the day horseback, sorting and tagging our calves, getting the bulls gathered and put behind an electric fence to assure they avoid sexual temptation for three more weeks. All but one, who was put in with my cows to help them get on their future South Dakota schedule, which includes calving earlier than we do.

Today I took a trip to town to be a part of our local Ag expo, hosted by our county Cattlewomens. This is my second year doing a booth, and my topic this year was explaining the differences between beef and dairy cattle. We looked at different breeds, I brought items from the grocery store that came from each type that we looked at and talked about, and the students decorated a cow cookie as one of the breeds and then told me what breed and type of cow it was.
Tomorrow we're branding again and Saturday morning is my uncle's second branding, followed by a wedding Saturday night.
Wedding plans have also continued throughout all this, and headway has been made! Invitations are out, I finally found someone to do our cake, started on decorations, worked out more specifics on the reception and various other tasks.
Somewhere along the line an article or two has also miraculously appeared, and a few have been skipped. I really appreciate my self employed status this time of year, and the wonderful, understanding people I do work for that are also ranch folks and therefore understand why the schedule is so erratic for these few weeks.
While I love this time of year, I'm also always happy to see the last cows turned out to summer grass, and know that the rush is over and we can settle into the summer months before we hit the fall rush, and do it all again in reverse.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Climbing on the ol' soapbox this evening...
Is it just me, or do things seem to be unraveling a little (lot) in our nation's Capital? The evening news just finished its segment on the IRS scandal, and I cannot believe the man in charge still has his job?! But, Congress has finally found a topic they can agree on - that targeting any politically minded group because of their viewpoints is wrong. Everyone is scrambling - either to cover up whatever the rest is, or to dig it up. The only good thing I can see is that the diggers are bringing more and more information to light, and people are responding.
That was followed by "highlights" of Michelle Obama's graduation speech at one of the oldest African American colleges in the country, where she literally said only one in five African American students had gotten a college degree. Had gotten?! Seriously, I know I'm a grammar hound, but the lady was addressing college graduates.
And, as if that wasn't enough, it just disgusts me that anything a white, straight, job holding person says that could be misconstrued in any way as racism/intolerance is considered such, and yet our  first lady can give a commencement address entirely focused on a single race and she is not considered racist. She can negate rappers and the way children are being raised, but is not considered intolerant. Give me a break.
The remaining portion of the news was primarily focused on the devastating weather that's already gone through much of the country, and that is expected the remainder of the week. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected and impacted by them.
It's always so refreshing to watch the evening news...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A good dog

Man did the spring rush hit in South Dakota while I was there. This resulted in an extended stay to help with three brandings, AIing heifers, getting the drill ready and planting barley, putting CIDR's in cows, hauling heifers to pasture, planting around 1,500 trees, planting half a yard, saving a pig from death, a wedding dress fitting, cake testing, and an eight-hour round trip to Sheridan for an Ag Books for Kids presentation. Whew!
While it was fun, exhausting and a good experience for my fiancee and I, a dampener was put on the trip when my parent's called to tell me my two little dogs, Miss Weenie and Emmie Lou, had been missing for three days. When you live way out in the country, dogs missing for two days might still be out and about, but three days is kind of the turning point. Now, five days later they still haven't returned home, and reality is setting in that they most likely won't. Coyotes, a tunnel falling in on them, a badger, a stranger on the road? Who knows, but they are gone, most likely for good.
While both will be missed terribly, there are dogs and then there are special dogs that you get in a lifetime. While Miss Weenie was a good dog, Emmie was one of those special few.
I got her in Cheyenne six years ago this month, and she was the cutest puppy you ever saw. She threw up in my pickup six times on the drive home, and that was just the beginning of what would be a lifetime of sensitive stomach issues. She also made frequent trips to the vet, and had to be put under anesthesia three times, never for spaying, and also threw up after coming out of anesthesia each time. Then there was the time she ate mouse poison, and I had to give her hydrogen peroxide in a syringe until she threw up...
Stomach issues aside, she was a sweetie, and made it through four moves with me, from college to across the county and back to Wyoming. From city to country to city and finally back to country again, she was there for all the major and minor life events in the past six years. We racked up over 100,000 miles of windshield time together, and she could handle a 14 hour drive like a pro.
She aimed to please, loved kids when she was younger, chased balls and sheep, and would sometimes sleep flat on her back, all fours in the air, snoring. She was an attention hog, food lover and incapable of sitting still 90 percent of the time.
Since returning here, her life centered around feeding with me every day in the winter, riding the 4-wheeler whenever allowed, eating gross things, holding down the pickup cab whenever we were doing cattle work, keeping the cats in line, getting ear mites regularly, somehow knowing and silently appearing at the dinner table every night when my dad was finished with his meal so she could follow him to the porch for her morsel, sneaking a chance to sleep on the couch, begging out belly rubs, and all sorts of other little dog activities.
Now, as I plan another major move in a couple months, the thought of her not continuing the role of cherished constant companion is a very sad one.

Monday, May 6, 2013

South Dakota branding

 Yesterday was my first time participating in my fiancee's branding, which is of the rope and drag variety. One major area of contention/discussion/disagreement/opinions is the branding method of choice a ranch uses. There are rope and draggers, those that head and heel, those that use nordforks (boo!), and table branders. My family is of the table branding variety (yay!). My fiancee, and most of the people in his area, rope and drag.
There are advantages and disadvantages to all methods I suppose. While I am still not completely sold on the rope and drag method, it was fun! I was given the job of cutter, my preferred branding job, and that particular task is easier when the calves are on the ground versus in a table.
I also had my camera, and between bull calves, while they were sorting out cows, and at the beginning of each bunch I was able to grab a few shots.
Here's a few highlights from the day.

My future brother-in-law, getting things started.

"Make it Pretty."

Bringing in bunch two. One great idea my fiancee had was setting up right at the gate between the two pastures his cows were in. So, when bunch one was done, we simply opened the panels in a different spot and brought in bunch two. Worked great!

Sorting out the cows.

Slowin' down the calves.

The three year olds were a little excited at moments.

My future sister-in-law roping.

A good chunk of our excellent crew, including Molly the dog.

And perhaps my favorite photo of the day - my fiancee and father, branding together : )  I am so blessed to have them both in my life!