Questions and Answers – May 2011 Edition part two

Angie wrote:
I am so curious about the Mills place. I’ve read some archives but really want to know why is it called the Mills place and how long have you been working on it?

Angie, we bought it from the Mills family about six years ago.  We’ve only been working on the house these past two years.

Beverly wrote:
What is the process you use of determining how a pup will fit with the different families or type of home that apply for one.

I spend a lot of time with the pups, exposing them to new situations and experiences… for the most part, if there’s some shy pups, they’ll be the companion dogs where the one on one situation will give them confidence.  The aggressive pups will go to forceful people with livestock.  The middle of the pack pups do well just about anywhere, with milder people and kids.  Of course, I take into consideration more than that… but that’s usually how I start.

ginny wrote:
Question: Like you we are a centennial 5 generation ranch. Over the years The fathers of the family split up the sections for each of the children. We are really small. Thanks grandparents. How did you remain over the years? With previous siblings and now your kids how or who gets to keep this cherished enterprise?

Of the twin boys that started this place (their dad settled on another place 10 miles north) only one had kids.  Out of those four boys, two weren’t interested, and they split the ranch between the remaining two.  That was my father-in-law and Uncle George.  Vernon was the only son.  Between my two boys, they both want to work it, and heaven knows there’s enough work!  They will have to figure out how to make it work, dividing jobs or whatever… that’ll be for them to decide.  The girls historically weren’t given part of the ranch… but Vernon’s sister has a few acres, and Toria just wants to come and decompress and help when she can…

nancy wrote:
do you get rattle snakes on your ranch and how do you keep the dogs from getting bitten.

Oh, yes, we get rattlesnakes and bull snakes.  We’ve only had one dog get bitten, poor ol’ Custer’s nose swelled up like a football!  My dogs don’t notice them very often, and are easily called off when they do.

Weekend Cowgirl wrote:
Armadillos are digging up my yard and I can literally fall in hole! What in the world are nightcrawler dens??? Never heard of them.

Nightcrawlers are just huge worms… great for fishing, not great for smooth lawns.  As they burrow, and eat, they make big casts from their digestions and it makes hard bumps on the top of the ground… Now these are very fertile, but they make your ground all lumpy and hard and not lush or thick.  They are fist sized and uncomfortable to walk on!

Krystal wrote:
I already submitted my question in a comment on an earlier post (about whether you keep bulls separate or run them with the cow herd all the time).

Krystal, I hadn’t forgotten!  We keep the bulls separate for most of the year.  We will put the first ones in after we AI over Memorial Day as cover bulls, catching what heifers didn’t take with the AI.  A couple weeks later we’ll put the rest of the bulls in with the cows. They’ll play for a couple of months, then they’ll get pulled out and put in the Bull Pasture.

Alice wrote:
My questions is do ranchers ever ranch-sit for each other if there would be an instance where everyone on that ranch would be going away? If not, does it bother you that your whole family can’t ever get away?

Well, kinda.  That’s the nice thing about generational/different families on the ranch, they can cover for each other if necessary.  Most people are in that kind of situation where the parents or children can handle it for a day or two.  We generally don’t do it for other places.  Vacations here are few and far between… a flying trip somewhere for a day or maybe an overnight is about all we can get now.  We’ve taken the kids to Disneyland for a week, gone to Vegas for National Finals Rodeo, gone on a cruise, and I’ve gone plenty of places by myself… it’s just the way it is.

Judy wrote:
The part about ranch life I find interesting, as described by you and the Pioneer Woman, is the differences in how you describe the work and the way it is done. I get a sense that your WY ranch is more like ranching has been for hundreds of years and their OK ranch is more of a big production. Is that an accurate understanding? 

What about ranch life gives you the most joy?

Judy, LOL!  My first reaction?  It’s because they’re a big production and RICH!  I think Pioneer Woman, without realizing it, does ranching a disservice in the respect that now a bazillion readers think that ALL ranchers are like her.  Believe me, 90% of us are NOT like her, in that we’re not flying everywhere, living in or building a Lodge, or staying in the house.  If the women ranchers I know don’t have a town job, most of them are out working alongside their husband, riding, driving tractor, calving, etc.  Our wages, if we get one, are pitiful.  There’s no way we could give away cameras, pots and pans, and anthropologie gift certificates.  Much less have a favorite fingernail polish.  She *has* done a great deal for the ag community though, so many people are disconnected that her descriptive words and photography do bring light to a topic virtually unknown in America these days.

GD wrote:
Ok….the first time you ever made a “jacket”, were you able to handle it in stride or did it make you cry (and does it still)? How did you get through it?

When I was first married, we got some bum lambs to feed.  If you’ve ever had bum lambs, you know you can look at them and they keel over.  That was hard.  I’d bawl.  Same with some scoury calves I’d doctored.  I’d bawl.  But then came magic.  A calf dies, but another calf lives when you jacket them and stick them on the momma.  *That’s* what I focused on.  You can’t save every animal… you just can’t, and you have to face that… but, wow, looking at the jacketed calf running and playing just days afterwards… THAT’S GREAT!

Grace wrote:
I was wondering: how do you direct your dogs when they’re working the cattle? How do they know where to take them?

Good question!  Cows are creatures of habit… THEY (most of the time) know where they’re going.  The older ones have done it 7, 8, 9 years.  Yes, sometimes they get distracted by green grass or an open gate, but they generally know where they’re going.  Our dogs are driving dogs which means their job is to get behind cattle and drive them forward away from me.  The front of the herd is just walking along maybe .5 mile to 2 miles ahead (with a cowboy along to make the turns and open the gates) and the ones at the back are the only ones we push. My dogs NEVER gather, which means bringing the animals to you, though there are many times I wish they would, but I’ve never taught them to do that because we do it so rarely.  The dogs learn where we are going too and that helps.

Sandy wrote:
question #2: our red dirt is actually clay. what is your red dirt made up of?

The red dirt around here comes from the Chugwater Formation, which is sandstone.  The oxidation of the iron in the soil causes the red color.  It’s rust, in other words.  So our red dirt sucks up lots of water and yours holds lots of water!
Now, for what you’ve been waiting for… The winner of the Wyoming Wildflower mug is Donna Gunn!  Congrats!  Send me your snail mail address and your mug will be on its way next week!
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