May 1, 2012 § 10 Comments
While talking with a non-rancher/agriculture pal the other day: I noticed their eyes begin to glaze over, a bit of drool coming out of their mouth, and when I started speaking English again–they snapped out of it.
Made me realize that a lot of things get talked about on the ranch that normal people know nothing about. I figured it was time for a bit of a beginning course on some of the more used words, phrases, and their meanings.
By no means is this a comprehensive list–nor does it apply to all ranches. I have found in speaking with agriculture people–we all seem to have our own words for different things, and some words have multiple meanings.
Also, alphabetizing things makes my head hurt. If you’re that organized–you probably don’t have: cows, kids, horses, or pets. Or: know the alphabet.
So, if you’d like to know what I mean when I say: “Take yer outfit across the coulee, past the thermo-sink, up past the Green-T, and unload yer canner”… Read on!
April 19, 2012 § 7 Comments
The very talented Alisa Valdes, recently blogged about 20 Things she has Never Heard a Cowboy Say.
It got me thinking about calving, and the 20 things you will never hear a calfboy say.
Admittedly, a calfboy is a bit different than a cowboy.
Real cowboys are ridin’, ropin’, rodeoin’ sons of guns–where the less known calfboys are taggin’, checkin’, and no sleepin’ sons of bi–. Well, you know.
20. That cow doesn’t look that mad.
19. I don’t need gloves.
18. Yeah, it won’t get through that fence.
17. I’m pretty wide-awake right now.
16. I have the weekend off.
15. Afterbirth is icky.
14. I feel pretty clean.
13. Sweet! Another bottle calf!
12. Just put it in the cart. She’ll follow you.
11. Man, I just enjoy a good blizzard!
10. I gotta take off early–I’m getting a manicure.
9. Waterproof boots are overrated.
8. You look hot in those coveralls, Honey.
7. This mild, sunny day could quit anytime.
6. My house has never looked so good!
5. We have enough hay.
4. Wish our barn was smaller.
3. <Pssssst!> Are you awake over there?
2. I don’t really feel like a shower.
1. With all these calves, I wish beef prices would go down.
There ya have it. Thanks a lot to Alisa Valdes for the idea! Check her blog out at Learning To Submit.
April 14, 2012 § 6 Comments
For the uninitiated: We tag our calves. We do this for a few reasons. As we move them out of calving pastures into Spring and Summer pastures we like to know that the calf is paired with its mother, and anyone who has herded
cats calves knows that this is important. We tag them with their mother’s tag number, and left ear for heifer calves, right ear for steer calves. This helps in the sorting alleys as we vaccinate, brand, and ultimately ship our calves.
As with any new hobby, it is important to regard your equipment for optimum performance.
Read on to learn more about the fascinating hobby of tagging calves! « Read the rest of this entry »
April 9, 2012 § 6 Comments
It’s been one of those “calving days”. Loosely translated: 72 hours or so of exchanging calves in and out of the warming tubs, barn, pickups, Scout’s kennel: pretty much anywhere that is relatively dry and warm.
A good three day or so stretch that is currently testing everyone’s patience, resolve, and tempers.
More than a few sharp comments have been made. A couple of minor, very minor wrecks had the potential to develop into full on “oh sonofab#%^h!” wrecks.
We’re all tired. We’re all edgy…and we’re all just trying to do the best we can.
In the end, that is all you can do really. Do right by each other, do right by your creatures. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 18, 2012 § 9 Comments
Part of the reason I started this blog was a way to tell me and my families’ agriculture story. It’s important. A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from. A lot of people have a problem with how their food is raised. I get that. I don’t want to eat anything that has been: abused, tortured, mistreated, starved, or otherwise not ethically treated. I don’t want your family to eat anything like that either.
I don’t want to get into all that now–cause I’m not in the mood. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m dirty. I’m writing today because I want to continue to tell my story.
I’m emotionally drained.
Last night I helped a heifer calve a beautiful new little boy. He’s a cruiser. A trucker. A huge little bull calf that I am going to be dang proud to watch grow up, and will certainly remember him come shipping time. Momma did a great job, and I’m proud of my role in it. I’m not very experienced calving heifers. I’m green. I’m about as wet behind the ears at it as my calf was coming out.
I was physically tired, my hands ached, I was covered in manure, afterbirth, blood, sweat, urine–but my little bull calf made it. He was out, breathing, and trying to stand. Momma was understandably very tired after a trying birthing process, and was a little shaky. I left her in the maternity pen while I scratched up the boy, and got him at least holding his head up. I ran up to the house to mix a hit of colostrum for him in case Momma wasn’t able to stay up once I let her out.
Adrenaline was keeping me going when I got out a couple bales of straw for bedding, filled a water trough, put out some fresh, nice alfalfa hay for Momma–and got “Lucky” (He was born on St. Patrick’s Day) settled in his pen in the barn. He was doing his best to stand up, and I got a quarter of his bottle in him. He learned to suck. Win.
I chased Momma down the barn and into Lucky’s pen where she took a much deserved drink, and hit her hay. Lucky was standing on his own by now and really working at trying get a bite to eat. He nosed at her neck. He nosed at her ribs. He nosed at about every spot on her before he found her udder–and then…started back at the neck. It was agonizing. I was squatted down, being quiet outside his pen with Sugar the barn-cat meowing and rubbing on my legs like she’d never been pet before. I comforted myself by scratching her neck, and was silently cheering for Lucky in my head to find where he needed to be.
Lucky found a teat and started to nurse. I literally felt a weight off of my shoulders when I saw that. I knew the rest of the bottle I had mixed him up would not be needed. Lucky was going to be ok.
I ran back up to the house and cleaned my hands, my OB straps, and my bucket where I had mixed up Lucky’s first hit of the stuff he needed to be alive.
I was shaking. I was proud. I was relieved.
This morning, I went to feed the herd of heifers and noticed #001 standing off by herself, tail twisted off to the side, and working on calving. I figured it best to leave her alone.
I spun out the heifers’ bale, and went back to check on her. She was lying down. She was still struggling. I knew I had to get her in and help her.
I set up the barn, just as I had a few hours prior for Lucky and his Momma, and trotted back out to check on #001. Nothing. Just a hoof and a little nose.
I felt prepared, I had my prod, my OB strap, and my gates, maternity pen, and help on the way. It was just a matter of getting her up and in the barn and things would turn out fine–except she couldn’t get up. I was too slow. I was too late.
I tried to help her. I got the straps on the calf and my come-along on a fence post.
It’s amazing how animals know things. My cowdogs Scout and Molly sat a respectful distance away, quietly watching me work. They knew something was wrong.
My friend Paul ran the come-along and I worked the tissues off the calf. We got him out, and he was dead. Momma was working at it until the end. She was exhausted and wouldn’t get up.
I had failed her.
I had to drag a dead calf to his Momma’s head so that she could begin the next step of her natural birthing cycle–and quit pushing. After all that work. After all those months…I had to drag a dead calf to her face.
I wanted her to get up. I wanted her to stand so I knew she’d be ok. She couldn’t. She was too tired.
I squatted next to her face and her dead calf–and pet her face. I scratched her ears. I cleaned the dirt and grime off her and pulled little balls of mud off her eyelashes.
I had failed her–and I had to tell her that. I left her dead calf near her nose so she could begin to heal.
Next time someone says I’m just in it for the money–let them read this. Yes it pays my bills. Yes it provides me with the luxuries that I enjoy. But it comes with a price.
Trying to communicate to a beautiful creature that I had failed her is that price.
March 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Well it’s here. The time of year that makes shipping all the more worth it: calving season. The sleep deprivation, the absolute necessity for anything caffeinated, frayed nerves, frayed (and smelly) clothes, and the most basic of wishes: some dang sleep.
It’s the time of year where my house will stay a (bigger) mess, and the little things I enjoy doing take a backseat to some very necessary animal time. It’s a good deal I do most of my socializing with animals, or these next few weeks would be a real drag.
I promised myself I was going to get out a post regarding calving, and since I know what is coming: here it is. Cowdog blogging will quickly morph into cowdog slogging so I can see my writing/attentiveness/ability to stay awake at the keyboard taking a dive.
There is something pretty awesome about watching a helpless calf being born–figuring you’ll tag it a bit later–and in two hours not being able to catch the little cruiser without bulldogging it off the four-wheeler, and a lot of times having the little sucker get away anyway. Ah well. We’ll catch them when we start moving pairs out.
The Father-In-Law had one such nemesis last calving season. She was a little heifer that the above scenario fit perfectly. She’d stay nested in the grass, and as soon as she heard him out checking, off like a shot she’d go. He’d had her by the tail a couple of times–but she’d manage to get away and continue her perfect run as the untagged calf. Pretty sure she made it until branding before getting a new earring–and it was a lot of fun reminding him of that.
I’d be remiss to not mention some of my tagging mishaps. My little steer T-1 was my darling all spring. Until…we found out HE was SHE. Whoops. No worries–maybe T-1 could be a replacement. Uh…she has horns. That shot that in the foot. T-1 went down the road…
Of course nothing spells trouble like a calf that seems nice and docile, only to begin bellering like you just unloaded a pack of Scouts around it. Most of the time Mama comes at a pretty good clip, and if you’re really quick, tired, or overly dumb you might be able to get that tag in–otherwise you’d best get on the other side of your rig.
Yes…calving. Something I look forward too with equal parts dread, and excitement. I can’t lie though. The day that last calf drops…I’ll be taking a huge nap.
March 4, 2012 § 2 Comments
We’re not the most exciting travelers around–but we do manage to get out and about once in awhile. Fortunately for us–while I’m stationed at the ranch preparing for spring calving, Carrie was asked by her employer to attend an event that promoted girls getting involved in science. What that meant in the background was that I was able to slip away for the weekend to go to Billings and meet up with her. Which is nice, cause I like being around my wife. (Her being 5 hours away finishing a Graduate degree is gonna pay off sometime. For real).
It was really good to take a couple mornings off from the feed routine–but both my Mother-in-Law and wife were teasing me about my desire to boogy back to the ranch. They seem to think my Father-in-Law is infecting my brain with an over active imagination regarding the wrecks that happen when I’m not on the ranch attendance roll. Fortunately, (or do I want it to be unfortunate…I can’t tell) nothing was amiss when I arrived back on Ranch territory. Everything went according to plan, creatures were fed and cared for–and ultimately I was not missed. Blech.
That being said: I think it’s important for ranch families to get off site once in awhile and take a step back. For me, it allows me to try and relax and not have the constant: I could be tinkering on that, or fixing this, or checking on them. While of course it’s always in the back of my mind, not being able to respond immediately–or gaze out my window forlornly at that sagging gate I just haven’t had time for–makes for a nice relaxing weekend.
Our hotel was nice, clean, and close to things we like to do. Eat, and drink beer primarily. We went to Jake’s where I ate an amazing sirloin steak. It was my first steak in probably a couple years that didn’t come from home. I have to hand it to you ranchers: You produce a dang fine sirloin. It was delicious. The servers were friendly, and attentive. The beer and wine list selection were good, and prices reasonable. If you find yourself in Billings, Montana you could do worse than stopping at Jake’s for a great steak.
Angry Hank’s Microbrewery was within walking distance of our hotel–which was fortunate because after a couple pints of their Czech Pilsner–it’s a good deal the pickup was parked. The atmosphere was really cool. Their brewing tanks and machinery were in sight, and their brewery is located in an old-timey gas station/mechanic garage. The beer making equipment seemed right being out in the open. The place was packed, but it felt like a bunch of old friends standing around in the shop having some good beer. Service was great, and having to walk around outside to the restroom reminded me of so many road trips with Mom and Dad.
Of course I bugged my wife in between hands of pinochle regarding what is going on at the ranch–but she’s come to expect that by now. I think she has the kind of filter Scout uses. Things that do not need to be immediately responded to go into the filter, where she can decide if it is worth remembering, or commenting on. If not–it gets cleaned in the filter, and comes off as something else. This is an ability that I would like to acquire. Mostly, I just get accused of zoning out and missing something. (Which may or may not be true, I will never tell).
Also, since she spent minimal time making fun of my mustache, I have decided to keep it. Granted, it looks like a small reddish-brown mouse died on my face–it keeps my upper lip warm, traps beer foam, and gives me an additional prop for my “cowboy” look. These are all good things. My goal is to get it long enough I can use mustache wax and make a curly-cue thing or something. I have to accomplish this before Carrie cuts it off when I am sleeping. It’s good to have goals.
I am more than glad to be back with my creatures, and look forward to more shenanigans with Scout. As we’ve got the new cow horse Pete, and two new bulls in the corral there is plenty of opportunities for Heeler Evil.
But dang. Those brews and steak were a nice break to recharge the batteries.
Seeing you was cool too, Honey.
February 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I have to share what has become almost a regular joke around here–and that’s a phrase something like: “Boy, we just Earled that up”. Or “Looks like Earl was working on that project”.
My “cosmopolitan bride’s” grandpa was named Earl, and the Earl we refer to has nothing to do with him. In fact, the Earl of the cartoons I’m talking about was probably about as far away from Grandpa Earl as could possibly be–which makes cartoon Earl even more funny to me.
Earl is a rancher. He’s constantly accompanied by his dog, and a smart-alecky Magpie who appears in every cartoon. The Earl series is written by Wally Badgett, also known as MC TinStar and was featured in some of the smaller newspapers around Eastern Montana.
The in-laws have a collection of all the Earl books, and I’ve read through them a few times. At family gatherings everyone will grab a “Book of Earl” and we’ll share our favorites. Anyone who has ever spent anytime on a ranch, working with animals, or has a humorous bone in their body can have a laugh at Earl’s trials and tribulations.
Earl is always riding a horse named: Spooky, Glue-Bound, or Bucker. His cows are always also named something that indicates Earl’s hapless efforts at making a go on the prairie.
Aside from the comic books, Earl’s creator produces a calendar that I was able to snag from Cousin Paul since the veterinary clinic he works for gives out Earl calendars to their customers. (I feel pretty, lucky–Earl calendars are a HOT commodity).
The calendars are hilarious as each day–Earl has written what has happened that day. They go from “Took Winter Shower Today” to “Two Black Eyes. Neighbor Didn’t Believe I was ‘borrowing’ Feed”. My morning coffee comes with finding out what Earl is up to–and sometimes what Earl is doing mirrors what I’m trying to accomplish.
A simple cartoon, for a simple lifestyle. And–at least I’m doing it a bit better than Earl. (Most days).
Check out Earl here. Buy a book or two, and see what “Cowboyin’ With Earl” is like.
December 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
Huh. Well–I have to say I was very happy to get some response from the inaugural Scout post. Through messages, texts, and emails the response was really great! Thanks! It seems that some of you really do bask in the chaos that is Canis Diablo: Scout.
It also just goes to show that there is still the never-ending human trait of watching a train wreck. You know decency, manners, and your own mental well being says to look away–but you can’t because it’s so fascinating.
Scout is back where he belongs–at the ranch. At least here he cant e/affect (Damn, my dictionary is in Missoula…) the public adversely since there isn’t a public. Well, sort of. After checking cows this morning we drove into town to fetch the basics of bachelor life: Frozen pizzas, Polish sausage, and apple juice. We ought to survive until Sunday anyway.
Scout managed to bark at every moving vehicle, and still attacks the windshield wipers. Or rather attempts to attack them–smashing his face against the glass, barking, and wiping his slimy little nose all over the place. Using windshield wipers with Scout in the truck is the equivalent of detonating a drool grenade.
It’s fairly windy today–so that keeps his activity down somewhat. There are less birds to violate his personal space–which consists of roughly 1 square mile. Unwary birds who have the audacity to perch on a branch anywhere within this mile are barked at, and chased. The flock of Hungarian partridge that landed in the tall grass outside the pasture learned the hard way. I heard the high pitched “bird bark” and looked out the door in time to see Scout at a dead sprint running toward them, as they innocently pecked at seeds and were merely grateful for a place to get out of the wind.
40lbs. of sprinting, barking Blue fury later–they relocated.
I’m happy? to report that over Thanksgiving there wasn’t much to write about. Scout handled himself fairly decently, and did little to no damage to Grandma and Grandpa’s garage. He didn’t kill anything, didn’t chew up the sheetrock, or eat our car. I think about the worst thing he managed was an Excito-Pee when Carrie went out to take them for a walk.
Scout’s non-apocalyptic behavior was probably due to a 12 year old cousin, with an attention span marginally larger than Scout’s keeping him occupied. With the lure of a creek, and a willing stick fetcher–Skyler kept the mutt busy retrieving.
We are revisiting certain “Golden Rules” at the Ranch. Kitties are the Father-in-Law’s close personal buddies. Chasing them is forbidden, and if Scout were to ever catch one I would make sure and kill him before my own death. Funeral costs would be nil as we would both be buried at an undisclosed location in Eastern Montana.
I still can’t figure out the deal with the horses. We’ve had Scout with us on a few rides, and if you’re on a horse–he doesn’t even consider nipping, or “herding” them. Feeding the horses is a different story. Scout can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact that the horses want to come to me–so they can have their pellets. They do not need help. They do not need herding.
We had this down at one point–but are now back to Kitties and Horses 101. Fortunately, my latest trick of slapping his rear end with my hat invokes some deep sense of regret and fear in Scout. So–doffing your cap at him corrects the behavior for about 11 seconds.
Scout and I are supposed to be working partners. So far this relationship has meant double the work for me–as in: doing the work I need to get done and working to prevent him from killing/destroying anything. Since my line of work is primarily with cattle, the idea being an Australian Cattle Dog would help in this field. If this is what you thought: you would be wrong. So far, our greatest success is not chasing the replacement heifer calves around when feeding.
Quickly: for the un-ranch initiated: Calves on feed is sort of like walking into a kindergarten class wearing a cookie suit. There is no such thing as personal space, social constraint, or manners. It is literally like being attacked by sugar starved 5 year olds.
We have 45 calves that get their feed every morning. The second and I really mean the second those calves hear the Ranger coming near the corral, it is game on. Running, bucking, bellering, pushing, shoving–they are ready.
Scout’s current task is: No killing, and no chasing. We have part one down pretty good–and part two has gone well two days in a row. What I’d really like for him to learn is to hold the calves outside the gate while I fill the feed bunks. So far, 0-2. He can’t quite get it in his head that by simply standing in the gate, the calves won’t walk past him. The need to follow me is too great.
Now, asking a 1 year old dog to maintain his composure and confidence in the face of 45 starving kindergartners may be a bit much to ask–but it’s his damn job.
I suppose it’s my job to help wrap his head around it.
Perhaps I’ll put a bird in the gate…