As I sat down to write this earlier… my youngest son called.  It was after 11 pm. He had run off the road was the jist of his sporadic cell phone call.  “Come pull me out.  Bring a flashlight.” I understood that much and went and woke up Vernon.  Daniel was in the shower and rinsed quickly to come along.  Toria was already in her pajamas and in bed, but came out to hold vigil on the couch until we returned.  Bundled up, we trudged out to the pickup and drove down the road.  I assumed he had headed for the Mills Place where he spends the night alone.  He wasn’t there along the three mile stretch.  We returned and headed north this time, which made sense.  That’s the only place to get cell service.  I hadn’t heard the specifics of his call so I sent us on a wild goose chase.  There he was.  North of our turnoff just half a mile.  He had slid off while turning around after finishing a call to his girlfriend.  He apologized for the inconvenience.  But he was OK.  His Dakota was OK.  The sky was dark and full of blazing stars.  It was warm.  It took 5 minutes to pull him out.  He headed for his bed and we returned to ours.  A minor event.  But a Christmas blessing nonetheless.

We thank You for our health.  We thank You for all the blessings You continue to bestow upon this family.  We thank You for all the gifts we’ve received from You.  I received one tonight.
I hope you enjoy your blessings as well.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Feeding Hay 201

For years we have fed on two different ranches… ours and the one we lease from a neighbor.  It helps keep cows/newborn calves separate, just in case someone gets ill and wants to spread it… plus it is easier on the fields and creek to spread the cattle out.  I’ve shared many pics of us feeding and graining and chopping ice and calving, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never sent out photos of how Johnny feeds.

 While it takes two of us to feed on this place, Johnny has always fed by himself with this cool contraption on our leased ranch.
It is called… get this… a bale feeder!
Vernon has pulled it out of the shed and is unhitching the bale feeder from the tractor.  The large bales in the haystack behind will be loaded onto the feeder with the deadly looking grapple hook on the front of the tractor.  This is a large hay stack… each bale measuring 4’x4’x8′ or so.  Each stack contains either first cutting hay, or second cutting, even third cutting if we managed to get some!  Each has its various qualities of protein content.  What I know is, the first cutting of hay, the stuff we cut in June… it is full of obnoxious grass pollen that makes me wheeze when I breathe and makes my lungs sound like Rice Krispies cereal.  We also prefer square bales to round… the thinking there is that round bales aren’t packed as tightly as square and so moisture (rain/snow/dew) can soak in and rot the hay.  Although the outsides are tan, the insides of the bale will still be green.
Once loaded, you pull the baling twine off of each bale… the bales are shoved to the front where they are chopped into pieces and spit out onto the ground.  This negates having to have a person back on the trailer pitching the hay off.
Kinda spiffy engineering.  Smart people those farmers… engineered themselves right out of a job… That’s why in the old days this ranch could support 3 families with occasional extra help… but now it is a one family job with all this mechanization making life easier!

Gathering Calves OOPE

Today it almost reached 40 degrees!  A 70 degree improvement over the other morning.  Gotta love Wyoming.  Since the weather was nice, we decided we’d better kick more calves up to the feed ground before the weather dropped off or snowed more.  Off to the fields went Brandon, Vernon, and I.
My partner for the day was Dally.  This was gonna be too much for Lucas and I just thought I’d see how she’d do without Elsa, her mom.  This is an unusual position for Dally to be in… she has always been by some other dog’s side… being backup.  Today was all hers.  Boomer was even in the pickup with Daniel miles away!
Now yesterday I said I’d give you more OOPE photos… and I am.  But these are OOPEs from today, and trust me, they are better than yesterday’s!
First Brandon and I took the four wheeler to the bottom field about a mile and a half trip… bottom meaning the one farthest downstream… they aren’t stacked like pancakes or Nepalese rice fields!  I dropped Brandon off to cross the ice and walk those calves back up the other side of the creek.  I am sore from yesterday, so I took the four wheeler and dog and turned around and went back upstream.  Now realize this… Dally had just run a good mile and a half in snow.  She was smart enough to stay in our ruts for the most part!  I’d like to do that every time I worked her!  It takes some of her edge off!
See the tongue hanging out?  That’s good for this pup, she usually has WAY too much energy to work cattle quietly!
Doesn’t she look pitiful?  Well, actually she’s just resting and eating snow… as you can see the creek is frozen… tough to get a drink there today.  Plus I’m waiting for some of the calves to go through a gate, so we wait here instead of pressuring them close to the gate.
Watch her work!  That’s her in the bottom left corner… she’s up too far, she should be farther to the left.  She’s learning though!
I actually managed to send her.  Without guidance from other dogs and a little exhaustion thrown into the mix, I was having troubles getting her to go any distance away… I think she’s regaining some energy here though because she gets easier and easier to send… IF she can see cattle.  She hasn’t learned to trust me if I can see something!
We hit the steep edge of a draw here… hoping some might go on down… Nope, they wouldn’t!  Our goal is about a half mile to the left of this shot… but we had to take them up about another 3/4 of a mile and then over the bridge and back down… Stupid calves!
Dally is pushing them well at this point… but she sees some down in the field below us and is watching them… they are too far away for us to mess with now!
Stupid calves don’t know which way to go, so they are wandering everywhere! I prefer horses over four wheelers… at least I could cut them off or turn them easier, but in this hilly country, I am overly cautious.
Tired girl and boy!!! Brandon has hiked miles… good thing he is young and in shape… I would have died by now if I’d tried that!!
The following are the best shots of the day…
Shhhhhshhhhshhhhshhhh!  or is it more like swswwswwswswswswsw!  or just ssssssss!
Whatever it is, it’s the sound you make to send your dog up to get ’em.  It worked!
She was putting on the brakes…  I think she was surprised they went every direction!
MY FAVORITE.  Look at her face.  Tell me she doesn’t have the instinct and drive to do this.  Tell me she wasn’t born to do this.  Tell me this breed doesn’t have the grit to move cattle.  Tell me that she’s not gonna make a COWDOG!  Go ahead, just try to tell me!!!  By the end of the day, I could hear her teeth clacking together… she is a split second from actually getting hold, but it’ll come… it’ll come!

Winter Solstice – OOPE

FINALLY!  The shortest day of the year has arrived! It is easy to understand why this day was/is celebrated… I feel like throwing a party myself!  The amount of darkness really does make a difference in our lives here… and since Vernon swears he runs on solar power, the idea of longer and brighter days thrills him as well.  Often in winter Vernon will fall asleep by 6 or 7 pm where in the summer he is just leaving to do his “evening shift” of irrigating or haying.

This morning was -30 degrees.  Had I known that before I got out of bed, I  might have tried to stay underneath the down blanket and buffalo robe that are on my bed.  I sleep next to the drafty window, so I love my extra blankets!  I had an idea it was cold… the frost was halfway up my window.  You know that spray stuff they sell to make your windows look frosty?  My bedroom window does it for real.  I should put Vernon over there since he seems to have a built in heater!  I freeze, he’s hot.  But that would mean he would be climbing over me to get out of bed at 5 am… I prefer the cold to being woke up *that* early!
We decided it was time to start feeding the calves we have scattered throughout our fields.  We attempted to gather just the far side of the creek in what we call our school section. We hiked instead of cowboying ahorseback and we didn’t even try to start the four wheeler due to the frigid temperature.  I prepared for COLD and this time overdressed and was soon sweating while walking through the snow.  I took OOPE photos along the way.  Many are long distance OOPE shots.  I will explain those tomorrow… but thought I’d share just a couple today.
We tempted the calves with the hay trailer hoping they’d move easily in that direction.  It did help and soon we met up with the trailer and Daniel and I hopped aboard.  Johnny drove the tractor, Vernon, Brandon, and his girlfriend went back to the pickup.  I’m still overweight and even more out of shape since I haven’t hardly done anything physical since the
<ahref=”” target=”_blank”>beginning of October.  So here’s Daniel, ready to work, while I huff and puff up to the trailer.


I’m coming.  I’m coming.  Yeah, you pitch, I’ll take pictures.  Whew, it’s hot!
My, what great technique you have, my dear.
Look, Daniel, they love it!
We “lead” them down to the lower fields with a trail of scattered hay.
Daniel pitches off the remaining hay while the sun’s weak rays skim along the rimrock.
By morning they’ll find all the hay.  We’ll spend more time gathering the rest, but today was a good start.  The days will get longer and the calves will be happy with hay in their bellies.  They’ll celebrate the Winter Solstice and not even know it!