Questions and Answers – July Edition

Let’s get right to it!


What the heck is a chugwater?  Sally


Sally, all those red bluffs you see here in Wyoming are called chugwaters!  They belong to the Chugwater Formation… aka, the “Red Beds”.  Hard sandstone buttes… with a glorious red color courtesy of the rusty iron in the soil.  The formation is so named because of Chugwater, Wyoming.  In turn, Chugwater received its name from the buffalo jump outside of town.   When the buffalo fell off the cliffs, they evidently made a “chug” sound when they hit the dirt!  Since the river flowed nearby, the name expanded to include it as well.  Chugwater.


I missed the part as to why you are fixing up the Mills place? Have seen some photos that you have shown of all the creative work & wonder who is going to live there?  Judy


ME!  Well, Vernon and I get to live there eventually.  We bought the Mills place a few years ago… and it’s been a slow process fixing it up.  The kitchen was boxed in, full of avocado green metal cabinets.  The bathroom needed help.  Painting is necessary for every room.  We only work on it when there’s nothing else to do… wintertime mainly.  If I’d get myself in gear, I could get a lot done on the bathroom…

Hi ! – Thought I would leave a question, why did you start blogging? did the urge to share the photography prompt it? Your photos are great – thanks so much for sharing! Kathy

Gee, thanks for the compliment, Kathy.  It started with my website… selling my English Shepherd dogs.  Since they are a rare breed, and even more rare in Wyoming, I knew I’d have to get the word out.  People emailed me.  Asked me questions.  Not just about dogs, either!  Since I get a free blog with my website, why not?  Throw in there that I’m friends with Shreve over at Daily Coyote and am, I pitifully admit, somewhat jealous of The Pioneer Woman website/blog as well.  I have gorgeous canines… and fairly good photography… and I live and work on a ranch… so, how could I miss?  I thought I might actually make some extra play money here too!  Ha!  That hasn’t worked out as I found out I have to pay to upgrade my blog to put advertising on here.  So I have to pay money to make money.  I’m cheap.  Found out Shreve and PW have the right karma in spades… I’ll just plug along here and entertain my small audience and myself!  I enjoy it, basically because of the photos.  I’ve tried to journal by hand before and was uninspired… throwing my photos in there gives me a basis to write on.

Every once in awhile you mention the farm work – as opposed to ranch work – that Vernon, Daniel and Brandon are doing. What crops do you raise? Are they irrigated? What is your irrigation system? KrisH

Kris, mainly it’s hay… alfalfa and grass.  We do rotate some grain in the fields… usually just barley and oats.  They aren’t sold for cash, we just grind them up and feed it to our yearlings in the winter.  Yes, we HAVE to irrigate.  Fourteen inches of rain annually makes it necessary.  99% of our fields are flood irrigated.  I’ll have to take some photos to help explain that more clearly, but we put the dam in the creek, pull out a “head” of water through our headgate and send it down the ditch.  Each field has smaller ditches where mini dams are placed backing up the water which then overflows the ditch and “floods” the field.  Dams are moved after the area is well watered.  I don’t help too much with irrigating, my allergies saved me from this chore!  Vernon and the kids are experts, though!  We do have one field at the Mills Place that uses a roll line.  It is the devil.  I’ll just have to do an irrigating entry or two!

I’m a relatively new reader, so you may have answered this somewhere else, if so, could you direct me there? But what I want to know is if you grew up on a ranch? Reason that I ask is seems to me there’s a whole lot more to being a rancher’s wife, than what I have being a “suburban” wife. (DH would die of laughter to hear me call myself that.)Bottom line, if you didn’t grow up on a ranch, how would you learn all of that or even know that you wanted to take it on? Linda

Linda, Good Question!  I did NOT grow up on a ranch.  I do NOT have an Ag degree.  Basically, love and ignorance got me here!  Ha!  I grew up with parents that did everything at our house, the yardwork, the gardens, the carpentry, the auto repair, the handyman.  I was expected to help and taught HOW to help.  We camped.  We hunted and fished.  We stocked our freezer with homegrown veggies and wild game.  My dad taught me to notice EVERYTHING.  What is that plant?  What does it do/how does it taste/what other uses does it have?  What is that animal?  How does that machine work?  What’s the history of that town?  I grew up watching and learning.  I really hoped I’d grow up to be a Living History Ranger at some cool place like The Battle of the Little Big Horn, or Yellowstone.  Or a museum person at a Natural History museum.  Turned out archeology was a booming job market when the oil boom was rolling… and I grabbed my degree there.  Then I fell in love.  I had just spent three summers of my life working with Girl Scouts at their National Center in Ten Sleep… taking them riding and on a 6 day pack trip on G. S. property and into the National Forest.  Now I had met a rancher… horses, ranchlife, and an outdoor lifestyle.  I never really had a clue how much I DIDN’T know.  I just applied my upbringing to life on a ranch.  If I approach a cow this way, she does that.  Push this lever and turn that, and I’m driving a tractor.  What’s over that hill?  Where does that fence go?  How does that fence stretcher work?  I just watched and learned.  If I had known how much I would have to learn, I might have thought about things a little more!  I had confidence and love and the will to learn and the knowledge that I knew very little!  Guess it worked for me.

Great job on selling the steers, missed the heifers. Question is: what do you do with you culled cows? How do you decide to cull them? Age, teeth, open? Ginny

We only sold the steers online… so you didn’t miss the heifers at all!  Culled cows are sold throughout the year, though most of them go after we preg test on Labor Day weekend.  Most of them are open (not pregnant), and if they are broken mouthed (losing teeth) they go down the road.  As long as they have good teeth they can stay… so we do have a few that are 10 years old… but we don’t hang onto them for much longer than that.  They usually go to Riverton to the sale barn there.

Well, that wraps up another month’s Q & A session… thanks so much for your interest… and I hope I answered them completely!

I’ll leave you with a chugwater portrait.  This one is one of my favorites… from the right angle (not this one, though!) I can see a chief’s profile…


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