I’m a Montana girl. The small ranching town I grew up in was just a little valley, cross crossed with streams and rivers. Something very VERY different from where we are ranching now. Everything was green. All the time. That may be exaggeration, but really I remember that there was so much green-ness. So many meadows, so many hay fields. There were little groves of trees everywhere. Really so much green! And then there were the skies. I love the fresh and blue open skies. The clear mornings that renew each morning with a new sunrise. The sunsets were made with cord that illustrated that God truly is an artist. And the clarity of the nighttime sky allowed you to see even the most distant stars. Whenever I go home I just drink it all in.
Archives for February 2015
Feeding- the pass time of winter. If there is one thing you can guarantee we will be doing this time of year it is putting the hay out. The tedious redundancy gets to The Rancher. He just feels like it eats up his time, doing the same thing over and over. Hmmm… He wouldn’t make a good house wife (I’m pretty sure I have said that one before). Having to cook and clean up after people over and over… I’d love it if feeding only took two hours of my whole day.
Despite the fact that feed isn’t The Rancher’s favorite ranch chore, it may be one of mine. Lately Rancher Sr. has been gone on the weekends quite a bit while he supports Cowboy E in his last season of wrestling. That means that The Rancher either gets to feed on his own or I jump into help. I LOVE any opportunity to prove to my cowboy that he needs me, so of course I head out to help him. Really its more than that- I love to get out on the ranch, love to drive through the cows to see how they are doing, and I love the photography moments I get. But more than that I love being able to take the kids out with us and work together as a family.
Living and working on the ranch is so much more than a job to us. There is no separation between home life and work. Sometimes that has its problems, but there are way more blessings that come that makes it worth it. The best take home of all this for this ranch momma is the memories we are making every day. I love looking into the tractor seeing The Ranch Princess jabbering to her daddy. I see her getting excited at the cows, the horses, and the few baby calves. I can just hear her saying, at the top of her lungs, “Look daddy! COWS!!” (actually its more like wook daddy, tows… so cute!) While we drive between fields The Rancher’s Sidekick has picked up battling thumbs in an intense game of thumb war. I’m pretty sure that he is cheating more and more each time, so maybe we should stop with that one… He pals around with me on the 4 wheeler as we cut bale strings, begging to drive. Even stomping the mice as they come out of the bales has become a fun memory!
Sure life on the ranch can be redudant. Every year has the same seasons of calves, seasons of changing sprinklers, seasons of moving cows and seasons of working cows. But the best part about life on the ranch is that we get to do it as a family and spice up the redudant moments by making memories. We feed cows and enrich our souls. That’s what we did today!
Our Monday morning drive to check water- oh how I love it. When else do I get to sit and ride with kids constrained (I mean buckled, of course) and just take pictures. I hate those days when something comes up and we don’t get to go. Like all January…
There are few things ranchers depend on for their industry- cows/calves to sell, buyers to buy, and feed to fatten them up. The first two are in pretty constant supply, feed on the other hand… Well that’s a little subjective…
There is always feed out there, but good quality feed at a good price can be hard to come by. Why? One word… DROUGHT.
The last few years we (and by “we” I collectively mean all or most ranchers) have been needing rain in a bad way. Without rain grass, grain, alfalfa, hay, whatever won’t grow. Pretty cut and dry (hehe, dry… that’s what we are right now!).
The other day we had our turn to check water in Locomotive on our BLM association ground and we took a turn through our private ground to check the feed. Our private land in Locomotive is where we take our cows to calve out every winter, the turnout day coming up in just a few weeks. But the sad truth is that its going to be a very different year for Locomotive.
Throughout the summer and fall we have been keeping an eye on our feed down south, hoping and praying the rain and sun to get to work to make grass that we need to winter the cows. As the time has gotten closer and closer to moving cows out there we have realized we don’t have NEAR enough feed to winter all the cows there and keep the ground healthy.
Last year it was rough. With years of drought, we finally grazed it down to its limit. And we hate getting to that point. We consider ourselves stewards of the land. We care for it, trying to keep it flourishing in something more than tumble weed. But without the rains and the tough soil we have struggled the last few years. You can see in the pictures that the normal greenish brown is yellowish brown or even more greyish brown.
So what’s a ranching family to do in a situation like this? We could just take the cows down and not care. But we care. We want this land to sustain itself and our cows. We need this land to sustain itself and our cows. So we are keeping most of the cows home this winter. We will take down the number of cows we think will make it on the range and keep the rest here. That means The (poor) Rancher will have LOTS of cows to feed at home… bummer. And we might have some tougher weather for our cows to calve in… And we might have a little more sickness go through the calves since they won’t be spread out across the range. But we are hoping that we can help the land to renew itself and be fruitful in the coming years. This year will mean we get to put in a little more work, but protecting our land, something we CAN’T do without, is worth any effort.
So with a little less cows, a little more rain, maybe a few grass seeds, and a lot of faith we are trying to care for the land and not let this drought win.