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.

The old one gets cut out and replaced by one of these…
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…
Step one: clean out any cow ear wax, dirt, goo, more goo, etc. with a paper towel.
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.
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.
The irons get hot in a cedar fire.
Vernon applies the brand.
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.
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!
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.
 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…
 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!
 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?
 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)
 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.
 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?
 We did some more lookin’ and some more figgerin’… sorted three outta there into here… and finally we were done.
 Put that last bunch outta there into here…
 Aaaahhh!  Looks who’s waiting to go to work?  Good dogs…
 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>
 That’s about it, folks… We turn and head for the barn to unsaddle…
 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…

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!
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!
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.
Rolled back halfway nice and neat.
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.
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.
OK, there’s the door.
Open even more.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Nekkid poles.  (gasp!)  “Remove them from my sight”, she dramatically declared.
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!
She’s gone!  All that is left in her place is a crop circle and Elsa!
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.


Up at our new place… we call it the Mills place… is this sight.  Roy Mills, patriarch of RM Ranch, saddled his horse to go check his cows, leaving his spurs behind on the gate post.  Hours later his wife noticed the riderless horse standing next to his master.  It was assumed he’d had a heart attack.  Decades later his spurs still embellish a newer gatepost… and if we ever have to replace the gatepost, we’ll put his spurs back where they belong.  I promise.

Old Girl – Overs

I wanted to share how my love affair with tipis began.  That’s me, the little blondie playing in front of a tipi that my mom and dad made.  Yup.  They made it.  Daddy went to a powwow somewhere outside of Durango, Colorado.  He was so impressed with all the tipis, he came home and drew it out on paper.  Mom sewed it.  Pretty amazing.  The top is painted sky blue and there’s a buffalo to the right of the door.  It was just a great playhouse. Tell you the truth… I was 5 years old and actually, gulp, kissed a boy in there!  Only once – and for a split second – but I remember that!
Today, I own this Old Girl.  A friend actually gave her to me!  I’ve spent plenty of time out here.  She sits out in the back of what we call the orchard, not too far from my house, but enough you can feel all alone.  You approach her from the back, notice my outdoor fire pit and woodpile.  Sometimes you just have to have a fire.  Or is that just me?  Does anyone else do this???  Is it my Choctaw blood or my Girl Scout blood or am I just bloody crazy?
I should be ashamed to show her this way.  One of her smoke flap poles has fallen down… she has wrinkles…and her canvas is beginning to rip on the smoke flaps.  Poor girl.
Did you notice?  She has a sky blue top and a buffalo to the right of the door.  If my kids ever own a tipi, it better have a sky blue top and a buffalo to the right of the door.  My buffalo, well, it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.  I was going for a primitive x Catlin type look. and failed. sigh.  Please don’t look at her wrinkles, it makes her look really really bad.  Tipis are supposed to be tight as a drum.  She just looks limp.
We’ve just peeked in the front door and here it is.  She’s only a 14′ tipi.  Small. And I’ve got just enough room on the backside for my queen sized blow up bed.  You didn’t think I slept on the ground out here, did you???  Ha ha.  You get your good sleeping bag out here with the buffalo robe on top and it is WARM and COZY and RELAXING.  So come on over, snuggle down, and look up.
Cool, huh?  Those are some colorful nylon feathers hanging there… and you can see the top of the liner ends just where the blue starts.  Most people don’t know tipis have liners, but a tipi without one is smokier, colder, and not a private place!  Liners force air up from outside which helps carry your smoke out the top.  Liners are like another layer of insulation.  Liners prevent your shadow from falling on the outside of your tipi like a shadow play.  Some things your neighbors just don’t need to see!
Yes, I do have fires in here.  It is close quarters and a small tipi, both of which call for small fires.  Believe me, you don’t want a large fire in here anyway, it is amazing how quickly it warms up the space.  And I have a chair in there.  Actually I have two, just in case I have a visitor, but I keep it folded up because I RARELY have visitors.  Wanna come visit?
Did I mention I have pyromaniac-al tendencies?  I think I did, just the other day!
So to me, this is great stuff.  Give me this place, a cold beverage (or hot depending on the temperature outside!), a good book, a dog to pet, and I’m a happy girl.
This Old Girl has shared some good times with me.  But it is time to let her rest through the winter so I can repair her and get her ready for spring.  See you in the spring!