If you had to have super-hot weather or super cold weather, which would you choose? I go for the cold. My theory (along with probably thousands of others!) is that you can always add layers in the cold but in the hot, eventually, you can’t take anymore off. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose one of the other and I get to have both the hot and the cold. And I’m even more thankful I get mostly warm….
Is it spring at your house yet? We are nearly there out here on the ranch. I couldn’t be more delighted! There is such an energy with spring. Its full of potential! Everything is just so fresh and new. New crops, new flowers, new leaves, new grass, new weeds (for a minute they can be pretty!)… And of course new babies!
Ya know, I figured out why we have new babies in the spring. I’m sure its Mother Nature’s way of giving us a little something cute while the pretty-ness isn’t in full swing. We are right in the kind of ugly spot between winter and spring. The snow has melted, but all we can really see is the gray-ish brown and brown-ish gray of the fields and hills. The creeks have that muddy murky look to it still and even the sage-brush is looking a little more dull.
The green is coming, you can see it struggling to pop through the bland vista. But it still needs a good shot of warm sun and spring rain to really get going!
That’s why I thinking the cute babies come to distract us from the ugly in between season. Because really, who can’t smile at a cute baby?! Ok, I recognize that it isn’t the real reason babies come when they do, but its an added bonus for sure!
In ranching there are a lot of different calving seasons and its all dependent on what that rancher expects from his calves. In Montana where I grew up, there were a lot of ranchers that switched over to summer calving because it was so much easier calving in the non-sub-zero temps. I don’t blame them for not wanting to go check calves during those long and cold Montana nights. There are seed stock ranches that push their calving as early as they possibly can, to give their bulls just a little more time to grow and mature before they head out to the pasture to breed.
At our ranch, we take the late winter, early spring approach. Early enough that they sell well in the fall and we don’t have to keep and feed them all winter long, but late enough we miss most of the cold and snow of winter. Of course, crazy things happen and sometimes winter drags right on through winter, but for the most part, this plan has worked well for us!
I couldn’t let this calving season slip by without taking the camera out and capturing the cuteness and sharing it with you! I almost caught one baby as it was just being born, but that momma was camera shy and kept running away (I don’t blame her!). Even without those play-by-play shots of birthing, there was still so much see and love with those new calves.
I love the little kisses and licks from mommas. I love the tired sleepy calves nestled in the straw soaking up the sun. I love watching the calves running and jumping with their tails up high. I just love all the babies!
The Rancher’s Sidekick loves to drive the 4 wheeler. All the time. Typical boy, right? I tell him we need to go check heifers, he starts the 4wheeler. I tell him we need to help dad move cows, he volunteers to drive. We say lets of load up in the feed truck and he asks to drive the 100 feet from the house to the shed where it is parked.
To be totally honest, its our own fault. Mostly The Rancher’s, but I am the supporting wife so I will take my share of the blame. For quite a while, we had been letting the boy drive out in the field while we were moving pipe or “help” us drive around the ranch. But it didn’t take too long for him to start asking to drive on his own.
Is anyone surprised?
This kid has known how to start the 4wheeler since he was 3 so I guess it was inevitable, right? I thought we had done pretty good to distract him from wanting to go hot-rodding on his own, but once he realized he could actually reach the handle bars and turn the thing, he decided it was time to be a man and drive solo.
So we let him.
There were two important rules. First, he had to stay in low gear and second, he could just drive around the ranch yard where we could keep an eye on him. That was good enough for him! Being a big 4wheeler driver was all he could have dreamed it to be.
That was last summer. Fast forward to now with a few more months of experience and new adventures in driving through the snow and mud and puddles and he decided to go at it again.
It has been a beautiful few weeks lately and what boy could resist cruising around. One afternoon, he decided to buzz around the ranch while we finished tagging and doing chores. No big deal. Until all the sudden the bruummm-brruummm of the 4wheeler was silent. I looked around and there was the 4wheeler, driverless and stuck in the snow. Seconds later, The Rancher’s Sidekick came waltzing back to his chariot carrying a shovel. After finishing the barn chores we walked out to him to see just what was going on.
When we reached him, he started a very detailed and animated story of how he was sure he could have made it through the snow and that it was all ok until, bam! it wasn’t (I’m not sure what the bam! was other than just his dramatics with the story!). So he decided to go and get a shovel to dig himself out with.
Proud momma moment RIGHT HERE! I was so pumped that instead of just leaving the 4wheeler for someone to find or even coming to find us to tell us it was stuck, he knew it was his responsibility to get it out. So he figured out a solution and went to it. I almost thought I could hear the heavenly choir as I had the parenting-for-the-win moment but not quite. We left him to dig himself out as we headed back up the heifer hill to do a last check before heading in.
Our last check wasn’t a very fast check (heifer caught on her back as she finished pushing her baby out which was promptly mothered by some other cow… The struggle is real, friends…). By the time we made it back to The Rancher’s Sidekick the 4wheeler was still stuck but there was a lot more story to tell.
After shoveling for quite a while, he was looking for a better way to get rid of the snow. To his credit, he really did bury the thing so it was going to take a lot of work to dig it out. So his Plan B was to use the hose to “wash away the snow” (I’m assuming he meant melt it but whatever…). But the hydrant by the shop was frozen so that didn’t work. Plan C was to start a fire to melt away the now.
Did you just get nervous? When he mentioned fire, my eyebrows shot straight up and my eyes doubled in size. But I calmly asked how he planned to do that. “Oh, I just started that heater thing (the diesel heater) in the shop and tried to start that square bale string (baling twine rather than the net wrap we use on the round bales) on fire. But it didn’t ever really burn, it just melted. But it gets HOT! I burned my finger! I wanted to use the torch but I didn’t know how to do that…”
Wow… At this point it was my only thought. I was super impressed at his problem solving and critical thinking. School for the win! But I was also terrified at his independence and his own confidence in his abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I was still super proud of how he was figuring it all out, but maybe he was doing just a little too good for a six year old. Like, maybe he needs a little less shop time with his dad. Hallelujah that he couldn’t figure out the torch for a fire!
Ultimately he had decided to go back to the shovel because that was the only way he had been making any progress before. Lucky for him, his dad had a better idea to get him out- the tractor. That little boy grinned ear to ear as The Rancher chained the 4wheeler to the tractor and gave him instructions on driving it out.
I still laugh every time I think about this story. I hope its recorded in heaven for me to watch on repeat when I get there because it is a winner! That story right there, is a clear illustration of my son. He loves the ranch and wants to do everything his dad does. Maybe there are some things he still needs to learn to do and not to do, but he isn’t going to let anything slow him down. If there is a problem, he is determined to find a solution. It might take several plans and a little burn on the finger, but he will get to it!
And I couldn’t be anymore proud of that.
That is what the ranch life is really about. Yes we raise cattle, but more importantly we raise kids and the ranch is a tool to teach them all of the lessons they need to make it through this life.
One of my weekend highlights is always heading down to Locomotive. There is something about the wide open and empty range that soothes my soul. And maybe its just because I love getting away from the house work and cleaning, but I’m pretty sure its more than that.
Working down to Locomotive isn’t anything crazy exciting. We all pile in the gator and drive around checking the water and cows. We tag a few calves here and there and we make sure every baby has a mama. Until the snow melted, we took some time to dump a little hay around. Every once in a while we find a baby that has been abandoned, usually they were a twin, and we bring them home to the ranch with us. After we give everything a good once over, we load up and head home.
See? Nothing crazy. But I love it!
I love it when my kids get to spend time with their dad. What better way to learn how to be a rancher than to see their hero do it. They ak question, jump in to help, and soak it all in. Its a chance that they have to disconnect from the world that is happening around them. Even as little as they are, they can still get sucked into the tv and computer and what not. But when they are out on the range, they are in a whole different world of their own making. In seconds they can find adventure.
I love it that we can go somewhere and its almost like time stops. The rush and hustle of life just disappears. That is something precious when you are a mom that lives by a never ending to-do list that keeps you hopping from job to the next. Somehow, the list doesn’t matter out there.
I love it because we can just be ourselves. There is no judging that I didn’t put makeup on that day. In fact, if I did, it would only get covered with the layers of dust so no one would see it anyway! The cows don’t care what clothes you wear. They don’t care how rambunctious and rowdy the kids are. We can just rock it how we like to!
Everyone needs a place like Locomotive. Somewhere that they feel safe and at peace and totally confident. Somewhere that provides a little perspective when we get so consumed with what keeps us going from day to day. Somewhere that when we go home, we feel a little stronger and ready to take life on again.
In this crazy world, that can be hard to find.
Where is your “Locomotive”?
I love winter. I really do. I think I’ve told you that… lots of times. You are probably tired of me talking about it.
But its been sorta hard.
I love it, but its hard.
With so much snow all at once, that meant there were days and days of dealing with it. Pushing snow in the stack yard to get to the hay, pushing snow in the field to feed the hay, pushing snow around the ranch just to get around… and then pushing snow for our neighbors that really couldn’t handle it without a tractor.
God bless that rancher of mine and his tough, sweet heart because he spent nearly a whole day plowing snow for everyone in the valley just because he could when there were so many other things that needed to get done! He’s good man.
Back to the snow… You get my point that there has been lot of work because of the snow. Aside for the physical fatigue of dealing with it, I feel like we have been emotionally fatigued as well. Maybe its just me, but I feel drained. Super drained.
I think I have the winter blues…
And I don’t like it.
I’m a happy person. I’m the glass half full kind of girl.
So to battle my bit of winter blues, I’m going to count my blessings. Ready?
Actually, I have to tell you something else first… When I came home from my first year of college I thought I had died. I was happy to be home and happy to be back working on the ranch, but in some ways my life was over. None of my friends were around, our little town of 300 people had nothing going on and I was sure that I wasn’t going to survive the summer. Dramatics of a 19 year old girl, I’m sure… So I decided that the only thing I could change was my attitude. And I decided that the best way to change my attitude was to be thankful. From then on, everyday I was determined to find one thing to be thankful for and I was going to write it down and make a collage out of it.
It worked, friends. By the end of the summer, I had this huge piece of paper with so many things that I was thankful for and it was beautiful and inspiring. And I was happy.
So when I’m starting to feel down, I try to be thankful. Because when I’m feeling down, epecially about myself, I start making a different list. Something like an I-suck list… You know, the ones of “I can’t keep up with the laundry” and “the house is always a mess and I can’t keep up with it” and “I’m so behind on this project” and “I just burnt the 12th piece of toast this morning”… Those kind of lists can happen without us even knowing it and they can really beat us up.
So here goes!
1. Messes… Yep. It means that my kids have been busy playing and growing and being creative. And that is a mom-win.
2. Snuggles, especially from my older babies that are not babies anymore.
3. Propane. We ran out last week so I couldn’t have a hot shower before bed. Now it is full again and I’m thankful!
4. Snow… rain… MOISTURE! Our livelihood depends on it and although it makes life hard sometimes, we need it.
5. Cows. They make me laugh. They are cute. They are tasty.
6. My bed. My warm, snuggly bed. Its like a magic reset button.
7. Exercising. Its almost as magical as my bed for a good reset, but it takes a lot more work. But really, exercising keeps my body strong and healthy so I can enjoy so much more of life!
8. My home. Its still not finished. I have tape over the stairs that has been there for 18 months. But it is mine and I LOVE it.
9. Snow clothes. We couldn’t have made it the last few months without them. They have kept us warm and dry and saved my washer a lot of dirty clothes!
10. Hot chocolate. This is almost its own food group at my house. My kids drink it every morning. And I almost love it as much as them.
11. MY CAMERA! I love photography and the different perspective it has helped me look at life. Especially when I have had to stay on the sidelines- something I don’t do well!
12. My kids. Of course! They are messy and crazy and busy, but they are also sweet and helpful and kind. I watch them and in so many ways I wish I was more like them.
13. School. I know that everyone has there own opinions about school for their kids but I am so thankful for the little school I get to send my son to. He has learned so much that I couldn’t have taught him from home. No, its not perfect. There are issues. But when I see his growth, I’m so thankful that I can send my little boy to school.
14. The gator… Silly, I know, but its the best way our family of 5 plus 5 dogs can get around the ranch together. And it is a much smoother ride than any 4 wheeler.
15. Soup. Nothing is better than a warm bowl of soup at the end of the day. Or in the middle of the day. I think I could even handle soup to start the day.
16. Me. I am thankful for me. My determination, my endurance, my emotional side… (it keeps things in perspective, right?), my body and how it can nurture my family. I’m hard on myself a lot, but that’s because I have high expectations of myself.
17. Me bed. Oh… I already said that… Still thankful! Do-over… My boots! I have worn the tread off of my favorite boots. There are holes and cracks but they are my favorites. They have walked a lot of miles and gotten a lot of work done.
18. Music. I turn on tunes everyday. And all sorts of kinds. It has a way to drive and inspire me.
19. Books. I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. But it is an escape to adventure and excitement without ever having to pack my bags or leave my cozy bed.
20. My husband… My good, hard working, giving husband. He does so much for so many. And he loves me for being me. That right there is something so worth being thankful for.
21. Home made bread… it goes great with soup (haha). The smell of bread baking in the oven in the smell of comfort and home.
22. God. I’m a religious person. I believe in a higher power and that without it, I don’t know where I’d be today. He inspires me, He comforts me, He guides me and He loves me.
23. Good friends. Everyone needs a support system and I am so thankful for mine. Especially when you live so far from civilization, each other is all you have. And having friends that have farming/ranching husbands is an added blessing because they get it. They know what I’m going through.
24. Technology. Its actually a curse and a blessing. But today I’m going call it a blessing. It helps me pursue my passions. It helps me stay connected with old friends and far away family.
25. Winter…. Yes, I’m so thankful for winter. It is beautiful. There is a sort of renewal and cleansing that comes from the snow and cold.
I could go on. There are a lot of things to be thankful for! We take for granted so many of the luxuries we have and taking the time to remember them is good for the soul. What are you thankful for today?