My evening shift at 10 pm has often turned into expeditions lasting until midnight or 1 am.  This morning it was EXTREMELY  difficult to pull myself out of bed!  After my short walk, I turn on the unstable light for the calving shed… half of the time, it turns itself back off as I walk away… and I walk through the heifers that remain.  We have blasted through 33 out of our 58 replacement heifers in a week!  I try to walk through the little pens without disturbing them, but heifers are so packed in there, it is virtually impossible.  If I see signs of calving: a kinked tail, a water bubble from the amniotic sack, or, my favorite, hooves!, then the next step is to bed a small pen down.  We use straw for bedding.  It is buried at the end of the shed, and I drag a bale down the alley and into the pen.  It is a struggle to pull the twine off the bale.  I told Vernon he has raised prettier straw in years past.  These bales aren’t light and fluffy, each flake has to be pulled apart.  Then comes the hard part, the heifer doesn’t usually want to go into the pen, and it takes force, guile, and varying amounts of patience to capture her.  She is left alone to calm down and get on with business.  We will check her every hour or so to make sure she is progressing on her own.  If she doesn’t, we will help her along by pulling the calf.  We attach a chain, much like a dog’s choke chain collar to the hooves of the calf and pull as she pushes.  Sometimes they stand. Sometimes they are lying down.  And with steady pressure the calf continues to appear.  Soon a calf lies there, shaking its head and blowing fluid out of its nose!  Mom should stand and start cleaning it off rapidly…steam rises from the warm calf.  After feeding and watering the mom, I can go to bed.  and Yawn. again.


If nothing else, people are impressed by nights in Wyoming.  The view of the stars is impressive, and that is magnified in the winter.  The stars seem even brighter and the moon … magnificent!  Last week gave us the lunar eclipse and I just had to go play with my camera.  Above is the fully eclipsed moon next to a boxelder tree which I “painted” with a spotlight.  The tree has never dropped all its “helicopter” seeds and was an easy tree to capture with a long exposure.  Flash would not light up the tree, but add a powerful spotlight, and, voila! a “painted” tree and color coordinated moon.

A Quiet Moment

Quiet is part of our lives here.  Anymore, that is what I notice when I go to towns.  I went to New Orleans a few months back.  The only quiet time was sleeping.  I visit in Casper or shop in Worland, and even in these small towns, I am relaxed when I leave and silence can envelope me.  More than anything, I think this has been the change that living in the country has melded into me.  Oh sure, I’ve got the radio on, or the tv, and I DO talk to my husband and my dogs… but to stop and listen and close your eyes for just a minute breathes life into my soul.  I recognize the types of birds and the level of creek water and the distance of coyote song and which dog is by my side and if the wind will soon arrive and if a calf just zapped themselves on the electric fence and the soft low “maah” of momma cows and their newborns.  I need that kind of silence, never total, but full of life.  It speaks to me like wind through wires.  Shhhhhh.  Did you hear that?  Can you?

Calving Season

It has arrived.  Our first babies have hit the ground.  What follows will be restless nights and multiple trips to the calving shed.  We have a pretty good setup here for calving.  To the east side of my yard sits the heifer lot, where this year, 58 heifers will have their first babies.  If I go out my side gate, it (in city terms) is about a block long hike to our calving shed.  During the day, the heifers are in the lot, but every day at 5:00 we will push them into the corral and sort off those we think are close to calving.  This in itself is a gamble, but close examination of the size and tightness of her bag and whether or not she is “springing” or the muscles are relaxing around her hiney can give a good indication.  The rest are turned back outside.  We check them every 2-4 hours.  During the day, I can easily walk among them in a few minutes.  At night I do the 10 pm check, Vernon does the 2 am, and Johnny drives over from his house at 5 am.  We will do this every day until they have all calved.  Our first two were cute little girls who arrived without help.  Unfortunately today we had horrible luck.  Calves present themselves front feet first, their heads laying on their legs.  Vernon had one this afternoon with a leg back.  That entails penning the heifer in a squeeze chute to hold her and reaching in to reposition the calf.  The calf was born dead.  Rotten luck.  More rotten luck followed as another heifer seemed to be taking too long to present, so Vernon stuck her into the chute and pulled out a little bitty calf.  Dead.  Because of its size, Vernon reached in again and sure enough, felt the other twin and pulled it as well.  Dead.  We were 0 for 3 today.  There’s nothing quite so sad as seeing the little warm bodies laying steaming on the ground.  You’ve failed.  But that is part of calving season.