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.
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?
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.
My Guys hard at work in the morning.
A few days ago in the midst of an afternoon walk, I stopped. The hillsides were covered in snow, the road I had walked on was ice. But a different sound was literally underlying the countryside. It took a minute to distinguish it. An unseen river was melting underneath my feet. The snow was melting and running hidden downhill. The ice I stood on was softening on the bottom and pooling, the pool then leaking into rivulets and the rivulets joining to create a mini brook racing down each draw. Today, I walked again. This time the snow and ice had begun to disappear and the open areas of dirt proudly chanted the musical notes of running water. It was everywhere. My boots had leaked. My jeans were absorbing moisture at a rapid rate. Each footfall either slipped in mud, splashed in water, or sank in softened snow. Though mornings greet me with frozen ground and frosty air, afternoons celebrate themselves with warm air, sunshine, and galloping water. The ice has begun its losing battle for control of the creek. Ice chunks have started to sink from the few open spots. The creek seems happy to have sunlight in its depths again. This rocky mountain springwater is rushing off with grains of red dirt embedded in its midst; transporting soil and redepositing it some other lucky place. Dare I say it?? The first signs of Spring are here!