I’m Baaaaaack!

Did you miss me??? I apologize for not posting yesterday, but I really was “out of pocket”!  I left Saturday morning, drove 2 hours, met up with the guys at a bull sale for a brief update, they’d picked out the bull they wanted, but the sale hadn’t started yet.  I then drove another hour to my daughter’s house and attended a jewelry party.
It was fun and I finally met some of her new friends.  Then I drove another hour to my mom’s house where I spent Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday morning.  We had a wonderful visit… for her living only 4 hours away, I don’t seem to be able to make it down very often.  Such is ranch life.  While I was busy on my Casper trip, I did think of you.  I thought, what is the “ranch slant” on a trip to the “big city”? You don’t need pics of traffic or houses or stores or people or anything else along those lines.
I think what amazes most people is that it is 4 hours to a large city (in Wyoming relative size) with traffic and houses and stores and people! There are two malls in Wyoming.  One is in Casper.  There’s Sam’s Club and Walmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond and Applebee’s and Outback and lots of movie theaters and Casper College and the Events Center and … compared to Ten Sleep (where we have a school, two bars, one gas station, a bank, a couple of stores, one motel and 300 people) it is a BIG place!
The first day of travel is on a gorgeous highway…traveled by many people headed to Yellowstone National Park.  There’s Ten Sleep Canyon…
There’s Powder River Pass, elevation 9666′.
And though I keep my eyes open for deer, elk, and moose, I *really* always want to see this herd of yaks on the Buffalo side of the mountain.  No buffalo… just yaks.
I then run into the interstate… and the only thing interesting on it was a possible drunk driver that I called into the Highway Patrol… and they caught him… ha!
Now most people would prefer to travel the highways… but on my return trip, I prefer to go this way… we call it the “back way”.  It isn’t kept plowed open in the winter… and it is just a gravel road but it actually takes off an hour if you go this way… Now you tell me… would you prefer this scenery or all the traffic and drunk drivers on the interstate???
Oh well. You start out with the Lost Cabin Natural Gas processing plant… it isn’t pretty, but T. Boone would be proud.
And like a lot of natural gas wells it comes with an extra bonus…gas that’ll kill you if you get a whiff.  Look closely at this sign… what I always wonder: if the boss of the guy that misspelled poison was upset, or if he even noticed…  That’s the last of civilization.
I feel myself relax.  “Nothing here but hills and sagebrush and a vast expanse of sky.”
Cottonwood Pass.  The easy natural way to enter the Big Horn Basin from the south.  Elevation, I don’t know… it isn’t posted on a scenic overlook like Powder River Pass!
Coming into Washakie County.  Traffic doesn’t seem to be a problem today.
A shadowed picture of Mahogany Canyon… spectacular, but not even close to fitting into one frame!
I’m back on red dirt.  Home is only 15 miles away.  I only met the school bus from when I left Lost Cabin until I arrived home. One and a half hours of easy driving, great scenery, and no drunk drivers!

OOPE 2 Fave

After my hands unfroze and we arrived back at our barn yesterday… I snapped this.  My father-in-law is feeding the horses some hay. I’ve just turned Tart loose out the main door.  It is a nice old barn…and would be lots nicer if someone would rechink all those holes.  It just doesn’t seem to be high on the list-of-things-we-gotta-do.

OOPE 2

Yesterday I started the Out Of Pocket Experience where you come along on a working day with me… and I take photos as I slave away with the camera winking out of my pocket.  No focus, no framing, nothing artistic in evidence.  I don’t have time for that, I’m WORKING!  Today we finished up the work we started yesterday, sorting our replacement heifers out of the main bunch.  We have 60 head that needed new eartags and age branded.  When calves are born we give them the same number on their eartag as their moms’.  These heifers still have that same number, but now, as full fledged members of the herd they get their own new number.  Each number will begin with a 7, meaning they were born in 2007.  Here’s a side view of an eartag.

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The old one gets cut out and replaced by one of these…
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The small numbers above pertain to their daddies… we keep good track of where everyone came from!  From here on out, if 716 does anything… we record it… same with the other 59!  We also tattoo this number in their left ear.  Yup, just like fancy race horses and elite pooches… our girls get a number too.  It goes like this…
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Step one: clean out any cow ear wax, dirt, goo, more goo, etc. with a paper towel.
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Step two: apply green tattoo ink with icky toothbrush.  Step Three: apply tattoo-er… uh… what do you call it?  Uh.  I think we actually call it a tattoo-er!  Blush.  I can’t think of any other word.  Sometimes my brain just leaves.  Here’s a picture of it, though.
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There’s the box of old discarded eartags… there’s 755’s new tag… and the tattoo-er with 755 dialed in.  Look close and think backward… it does say 755.  It actually pokes little holes that form the numbers.  What?  You think this is “Miami Ink” or something?  Give me a break.  Oh, and then there is the age brand.  We give them a “7” on their left hip, just to help identify them out on the range.
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The irons get hot in a cedar fire.
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Vernon applies the brand.
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Some stand there and take it…some beller like they are dying.  This young lady is clearly a drama queen!  I can share her pain… because I look at this.
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My hands are never pretty… you can’t see the cow snot and cow slobber and cow poo that I’ve wiped off… I’ve often thought about a manicure… never had one… probably wouldn’t ever waste the money.  They don’t have much to work with anyway.  But I have always been jealous of women with clean styled fingernails.  Not long ones.  Just pretty ones.  sigh.  Back to work!
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We moved the heifers about 3 miles to another pasture.  I want you to know that although it looks mighty pleasant in this photo… the wind was blowing and my ugly hands were freezing!  BRRRRRR that wind was COLD!

Halfway there… and my hands were so cold, I turned off my camera and put my gloves on!  Thanks for coming along on OOPE2… I think I’ll continue this on working days.  Stay tuned tomorrow for my fave photo I took today… see ya!  Gonna go sit by the fire and warm up again!

Out of Pocket

You ever heard the term, “She is out of pocket.”?  Basically it means someone is unavailable, out of touch, gone, removed.  That was me today… at least in one sense.  We worked our heifers, so I had to cancel Lucas’ reading session at school.  Waaah.  Oh, well. On the other hand, we got to ride and work cows, so that was GOOD!
(I took Dally along with Lucas and Boomer and she did lots of things right, moving cows into the herd, gathering stragglers, watching, having enthusiasm…the BIG problem was she did it all without my permission and about 150 yards up ahead of me and at full speed.  We DEFINITELY need to work on that!  Lucas barely got any work, because he was a good boy and stayed back with me. )
But back to being out of pocket.  I love riding and working cattle and the thing that has frustrated me for years is that I am busy and unable to photograph the work.  Take my word for it, nothing will tick your husband off faster than you messing with your camera and letting a cow get away or some such major faux pas!  You better have your eye on the prize cause some cow’s gonna be sneaky or cranky or blind and you’re gonna have to be sneakier or crankier or have 20/20.  Trying a different setting on your camera while the herd runs over the hill is just NOT A GOOD THING.
So I tried my own version of “out of pocket”.  I was unavailable as a good photographer, balancing light and action and framing and apertures and speed, so I let my camera do it all on its own while simply sticking out of my pocket.  Wore my Carhartt with the big pockets, crammed in my little camera with its lens  pointing outward like a telescopic eyeball and I would turn and click the shutter with my left hand.  Some actually turned out kinda cool.  I only took one photo of the inside of my pocket!  Most are tilted, no surprise there!  but it all added to the drama of some of them.  Here are the results.
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 The goal for the day is simple.  We have 140 or so yearling heifers in the corral.  We are going to keep 60 for our replacement heifers, meaning we probably sold about 60 old or “open” (non-pregnant) cows throughout the year, these sweet young things will replace them.  First we sort some out of the big pen…
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 We put some in this pen, some in that pen, shuffle them back out and around, and though it sounds confusing we actually do know (sometimes) what we are doing!
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 Though those first two photos look normal, this one is definitely taken out of my pocket!  Here comes a heifer…we read her eartag number and decide… keep or sell?
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 Now lest you think we just call this decision off in a light hearted manner…YOU’RE WRONG!  See Johnny’s clipboard?  He’s studied their weights, their genetics, their temperament, their due date, their looks.  And he has it all right there.  This is D Day.  If they haven’t performed up to standards, they aren’t gonna be A – A cows!  (That’s our brand)
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 There’s Bob.  Ready and willing to help out at a moment’s notice.  He is much “quieter” than my dogs…often cows will touch noses with him and he’ll actually lick their noses.  My dogs would have eaten the cows when they got within 6′.  Sometimes I wish they’d learn from Bob.
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 When we have them sorted the way we think they should go, we do a walk through.  Sometimes paperwork still picks a punier looking heifer than it should.  To be honest, none of these heifers were PUNY!  The emphasis should be on the -er not the puni-.  Can you see the little dew drops on her nose?  Dew drops absorb scents and when a cow drags her tongue across her nose it actually increases her sense of smell.  Pretty spiffy sniffy, eh?
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 We did some more lookin’ and some more figgerin’… sorted three outta there into here… and finally we were done.
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 Put that last bunch outta there into here…
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 Aaaahhh!  Looks who’s waiting to go to work?  Good dogs…
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 We’re just taking them up that hill behind the bunkhouse.  Please notice the sod roof on the bunkhouse…not many sod roofs around any more!  Lucas is doing well and not pressuring.  <grin>
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 That’s about it, folks… We turn and head for the barn to unsaddle…
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 Please note: Tart and I aren’t REALLY twice the size of Major and Vernon.  The sun was doing freaky things, coz I AM NOT like my shadow here!
So ends today’s Out Of Pocket Experience.  I kind of enjoyed it.  I took photos, admittedly not fantastic ones, but I documented the day.  Tomorrow we have to retag and age brand the heifers, so it just might turn out to be another OOPE tomorrow.  Let me know if you like OOPE, and before I go… Here’s my fave photo of the day…
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Old Girl – One Last Time, Honest!

I know my tipi has been the focus lately and though it isn’t a part of REGULAR RANCHLIFE, hey, this blog is about MY RANCHLIFE, and most people don’t know about tipis, so I consider this an educational opportunity!  I really hate losing those “teachable moments”, so bear with me.  I did shrink the photos, so I could cram a bunch in here… but I want you to know I’m only using about *half* of the photos I took.
Though I believe she can be a gorgeous tipi, see this sunset photo from the other day, I don’t like leaving her out in the cold and snow.  It rots her canvas.  Rotting canvas makes for an ugly canvas. Consider her winter retirement a facial for the Old Girl.  Smile.
Tipi 101:  Tipis are a model of simplicity.  Three things hold a tipi together.  Sticks, rope, and stakes.  Here are my lacing pins… they used to be blue to match the top…next spring they’ll get a new coat of paint!
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That sewn on patch means she was made by Blue Star Tipis… My liner was made by Reese Tipis, who have an excellent website by the way!  Each company is a little different.  You’ll be amazed once you start investigating how different details are presented in different tipis.  Sioux style, Crow style, stakes or pebbles, doors, liners, ozans, smoke flaps, sewing techniques, canvas treatments and weights, decor and decorations all make for a confusing touch of reality when you start investigating  tipis.  I’ll let you do that on your own, your teachable moment there is an outreach class!
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The lacing pins are pulled.  You can almost hear her sigh with relief!  Her corset has been undone!  Her stakes are pulled out of the ground, and she can start coming down.
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Rolled back halfway nice and neat.
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Her cover is now folded along her lift pole, which raises the cover in place.  It’ll have to stay there for a bit since I have to release her liner and the string I use to hold it up, it is wrapped around the lift pole as well as all the other poles.
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This makes me feel like her undies are showing!  We’re back at the front door, see it?  Well, that’s because this liner overlaps and keeps all the nasty wind from swirling in.  It also confuses dogs who try to sneak in at night to sleep with you, and get caught between the liner and the tipi.  Now that’s funny!  They circle trying to get to you, but can’t find the *%#%^ door!  I just laugh.  I’m mean sometimes.  The liner also lays on the ground, which the tipi doesn’t.  There it blocks more wind, snow, rain, blowing dirt, blowing bits of grass, leaves, bugs, etc.  The liner gets quite dirty, so I’ll brush it off good before storing it for winter.
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OK, there’s the door.
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Open even more.
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The liner is down on my bed.  The cover is still in place on the lift pole.  During the next steps Vernon drove by and I put him to work.  Look, it is his trusty steed carrying away my tipi and liner to the house.  Boy, the ancestors are jealous!
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Now recall just a bit ago when I said tipis were held together with sticks, stakes, and rope?  The sticks (lacing pins) and stakes have been pulled.  Now comes the rope.
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That is what has kept the lodgepoles together for these months… four sacred turns of sisal rope staked down in the center of the tipi.
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While we’re here, notice my broken poles.  I used to have long delicious lodgepoles giving the Old Girl the desired hourglass figure you want in your tipi.  (I’m NOT saying anything about my lost hourglass figure…I’m just not gonna go there…)   High winds knocked my poles over last year and busted a bunch of them off…  while still usable, they need to be replaced!  The rope is gone, the poles have sighed their corsetless sigh.  We’re down to this.
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Nekkid poles.  (gasp!)  “Remove them from my sight”, she dramatically declared.
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Nekkid tripod.  “EeeK!”  OK, enough of that…  This is it, folks, the simple simple simple base of any tipi (well, Crow tipis have 4, but then it isn’t a tripod is it? but whatever…)  This is really the only time I need help with my tipi.. the raising or lowering of the tripod.  That’s why I like my 14′ tipi.  Bigger ones would need more help.  I know someone with a 23′ tipi – it’s like an Amish barn raising!
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She’s gone!  All that is left in her place is a crop circle and Elsa!
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There she’ll stay… leaning against a tree and in a few plastic tubs in my basement…waiting for the warmth of the sun to return, and the buffalo grass to grow, the creek will gurgle, welcoming her back, next spring.