Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Cows, Steers and Heifers

It's that time of the year when our lives are full of fall works.  We've helped a few friends bring home cows from pasture, and I've been so thankful that the weather was nice each time!  It makes for a fun day, outside and on horseback, enjoying all that fall has to offer.

We've also been helping haul cows home from pasture, and since we've had so much moisture this year, that made for a very, VERY muddy job!  Each time we backed up the trailer, we had to have the tractor pull us out.  It made a big job even bigger, but we got it done, thankfully. 

4H has also started, and that means that the Girls needed to go and pick out their steers.  We spent several hours on the weekend looking through a friends' herd for the Girls to pick out their steers. 

After walking through the herd, looking at steers, writing down numbers and then narrowing down their choices, the Girls finally each picked one out. 

It's one of my most favorite parts of 4H.... We'll go pick up the steers in a week and then we'll have our club weigh-in, and then the real work begins.  We always try and get them halter broke right away, when they're at their lightest weight.  Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can continue to do that this year. 

We are still hauling hay, and next week we'll be weaning our calves and shipping them. 

Fall always feels busy, and we're trying to get all the stuff done that we need to before the snow is here to stay.  Thankfully, we've had some nice warm days, so the majority of  that white stuff that we had a few weeks ago has melted.  But we know that the countdown is one, and any day, the snow will be here to stay!

Monday, October 17, 2016

4 Months

It's been 4 months.  4 short months since we've had snow on the ground.  As some of you may remember, we had snow on the May Long Weekend, and then we just had a good dump of snow on Thanksgiving weekend.  4 short months since we've seen that white stuff!

We had a house full of company for Thanksgiving, and I knew that they were forecasting snow, but I didn't really believe that it would happen, especially since our Thanksgiving weekend was early in October.  Alas, I was wrong, and the weather forecasters were right.  We got almost 5" of snow on that weekend.  It was cold and wet and miserable!

  The Girls were excited to get outside and make snowmen....which they did.... The worst part was that as they rolled the ball for the snowman, green grass turned up again.  Such a bizarre scene - leaves on the trees, snow on the ground, and patches of green grass everywhere.


Thankfully, I had harvested my garden the day before the weather turned, so my root veggies, along with my pumpkins which overtook the world (or my garden!) were all safe.  Phew! 

Being the optimist that I am, I thought the snow would disappear pretty quickly.  I was, however, wrong.  Boo for me!  We received another 2" of snow this week. 

My optimism is starting to wane that the snow will melt.... however, I took a look at the forecast this week, and it's supposed to warm up, so here's hoping the green grass will show itself again before winter sets in... for good. 

We did get to do a couple of other really fun things this fall... and have a few more to come.  We helped friends round up cows on their lease land about an hour and a half north of here.

 It was a cool start to the day, but by the afternoon it had warmed up considerably.

 I suppose cool is relative - heck, I'm thankful there wasn't snow on the ground!

The other really fun thing we were involved in is City Slickers, which is a program put on by the Stony Plain Multicultural Heritage Centre, funded by Ag for Life.  The whole idea of the program is to continue to show urban children how food is produced, since the average Canadian is 2 generations removed from a farm.  The Girls were involved in this program 2 years ago as presenters, and this year they were asked to be presenters again.  We talked about what they wanted to present about, and they decided that each of them would choose a tool that we used on our ranch, and share it with the kids.  The subjects they choose to present on were branding, roping, what we used our horses/dogs for on our ranch, and how to care for our horses.  The Girls all did a spectacular job on their presentations, and the years of 4H public speaking sure got put to good use! 

They each wrote their own portion of the presentation, and then they used props to illustrate.  We brought along 3 horses and Hannah's stock dog, as well as a dummy roping head, ropes, saddles, branding irons and various brushes for the horses.  I believe there were 900 kids, grade 3-4, that went through the program this year, so it was a full, exhausting day. 

I was sure proud of our Girls, and how they used their knowledge about our lifestyle and shared it with other kids.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Getting Into the Groove

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year, and I tend to try and spend as much time outside as I can.  I am constantly saying to the girls, "This might be your last chance to get outside to ______ before the snow flies..."  And they get sick of it, but really, in Alberta, one never knows when the snow will come. 

We're had an extremely wet fall, and the mosquitoes are very bad - worse than they've been in the last 2 years, I'd say, so I am looking forward to a good, hard frost to kill those bad boys off!

We've got started on school, and it's nice to get into the routine of the year.  When we get our new school books every year, it's like Christmas!  Everyone excitedly opens the boxes, and then they scatter, each with a new book (or 6!) to read.

I love that our schooling takes place around the kitchen table.  It feels cozy (and sometimes cramped!), but it's great for me, because I can also get work done in the kitchen while the girls whittle away at their school work.

We've had a few fires this year, and after a late night, all the girls fell asleep on the lawn by the fire.... that is, until the dogs came along....

We've gotten out for numerous rides on horse....

....and on quads.  Both are so enjoyable!

My pumpkins are taking over my garden...

....and I can't stop taking pictures of the leaves changing on the trees

The other day, we joined our neighbors to get out on quads to some of their pasture land.  After a climb up a little hill, the view was outstanding.  You could see for miles and miles, and the leaves were all changing to delicious shades of red, yellow and orange.  Pictures don't begin to do it justice!

There's also an old barn that we poked around....

I love how the wood has weathered so differently from one side of the barn to the other.

Happy Fall, y'all!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fall is Here

Last summer it was hot and dry.  This summer was cool and rainy.  Like, really rainy.  There were a couple of days that we received over 4" of rain.  So fields are green and wet, and the grass has done lots of growing.  The nights are cooling off, and I even turned on my furnace today.  The leaves are changing, there was a frost warning the other night, and I am looking forward to winding down on outside work and turning our attention inside.  But before that happens, I get to enjoy my most favorite season.... fall. 

It hasn't felt like we've really had a stellar summer - way too few days at the river, and not enough lazy afternoons, but it is what it is.  I've finally ordered all of my curriculum, and we'll start school next week.  Or perhaps the week after.... depending on the weather.  And my mental state. 

Every year, I have what I like to call, "The Fall Freakout".  I suppose I'm thankful of the fact that I'm consistent, and every year it happens.  I feel overwhelmed with getting back into the routine of things, and getting everyone back into "school" mode....wondering if we're doing enough school, if we've made the right choice for our family in homeschooling... The weight of responsibility is sometimes overwhelming.  Our girls are in grades 11, 9, 6 and 4 this year, and I realize that for our oldest, we have only 2 more years of her here with us, and that is terrifying to me.  I hope that we are doing well by her, and preparing her for her adult life. 

Fall in Alberta is a short lived season, and I find myself getting giddy at the thought of the long days of winter approaching.  Each fall feels like a race against the clock, to get done everything that needs to happen before the snow flies.  We have wood to cut, pens to clean out, cows to move, the garden to clean out, lawn furniture to put away, calves to choose for 4H, and the never ending other projects that need to be complete before it gets seriously cold.  I'm hoping we're still a couple of weeks away from frost, and if we're lucky, 2 months until snow.... But one never knows in Alberta.  And that's the fun of it.

Here's the good news: 

1.  It's the long weekend.  The weather is supposed to be crummy, but that's ok, because we're working on a pumphouse, so it won't feel so bad to be working all weekend when the weather is crummy. 

2.  My house is decorated for fall.  My most favorite time to decorate.  And I bought new fall pillows last winter that I totally forgot about until I pulled out my fall d├ęcor.  It was like Christmas...in fall.

3.  I bought mums the other day at Costco.  They were beautiful.... until the dog ate them.

4.  Flank steaks are marinating for dinner.  

5.  Art is coming home early (to work on the pumphouse... but that's ok!  He'll still be home early!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Never Ending Job

We've been planning, since last summer, to do a major fencing project this spring.  We wanted to fence both sides of the creek which runs through our property, and although some of it was fenced, there was lots that needed to be repaired or replaced.  Since the creek bed is an environmentally sensitive area, we also want to limit when and how much time the cows have to graze it, and limit their access when it's most vulnerable - in the spring. 

The majority of our free time these days has been spent doing the preparation for the fencing project, and it feels like the work is never ending!  We had to mark out where we want the fence to go, clear a 10 ft. wide swath through the bush, take out all the old fencing nails and posts, and wind up the wire.  Oy.  In addition, we had to repair a bunch of fencing on another grazing quarter in order to be able to move the cows to that pasture so that we could pull out the old fencing around the creek.

Thankfully, the weather has been a bit cooler, although lots of rain has definitely increased the mosquito population around these parts.   During the day, I had my fencing crew help me come and pull the nails.  Those little fingers worked well, and the Girls actually quite enjoyed that job!

I love the look of concentration on their faces!

Art (a.k.a. Mr. Patient) took lots of time to teach the girls how to repair broken or loose wires, and they caught on quickly to that as well.

I don't think we've been in before 10 pm any night this week, and a couple of the girls even fell asleep in the ranger as we drove home, but everyone felt quite proud of the job that we have done.

Monday, June 27, 2016


I know I said that after 4H was over, it was going to be free and easy around these parts, but somehow, that has failed to happen!  The random going-ons that have prohibited that from happening have been all good, such as....

Kittens!  We found 2 litters of kittens in the hay shed.  Fortunately, there were only 2 in each litter, so it is quite a bit easier to get rid of 4 rather than the 8 we had last summer!

Parades!  We always try and make the Farmer Day's Parade in Stony Plain.  It's been fun, over the years, to watch the kids, as they get bigger and bigger.  We weren't going to go this year, but the Girls begged us... "It's tradition!" they said.  And so we went.

Branding!  We branded our own herd in the last few weeks.  It was awfully exciting... (I loved it!)

Calves!  Ellie Mae has been asking fairly regularly to work with her 4H steer for next year, so it's not so hard to halter break in the fall.  Well, she finally got her wish!

Bulls!  We turned the bull out with the cows, and my girls have been vigilantly watching to make sure he does his job....

Hair!  We have some crazy hair going on around here.  Hannah curled Molly's hair....with straws! 

More calves! 

Riding the ponies!  It's a good time.  Always. 

The last calf.  Finally born at the end of June.  Hooray!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Beautiful Beasts

We recently had our 4H Show and Sale, and let me tell you, it was a good, long, exhausting day! 

I should start off this little ditty by telling you what happened the night BEFORE the sale.... The day before the sale, the Girls were outside, washing their steers, getting them gussied up for their big day.  They bathed them, touched up a few spots with clippers, hung out with them.... It was a great day!  Since we've had so much rain over the past few weeks (which we are SO thankful for!), we decided to put those beautiful beasts in a different, dry pen so all of the girls' work of getting them clean, wouldn't be in vain.  We moved them and got them settled in, and headed in for an early night.  The Girls were all in bed, and Art and I were also laying in bed, almost asleep, when I heard the dogs start barking like crazy.  I looked out my bedroom window, and I see a steer walking by.... in the PASTURE.  Ummmm, what?!  We jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, and headed out to catch a steer.  We get to the pen where those beautiful beasts were supposed to be, and there was only one steer instead of three.  After a quick assessment, we see that those beautiful beasts had broken through 3 fence boards and gotten out.  Ahhh!!  Thankfully, they hadn't wandered far.  While Art quickly mended the fence, I kept an eye on those beautiful beasts, and we eventually got them back in their newly renovated pen.  Just before dark.  Once we headed inside, we were no longer tired...rather, we were sweaty and hot....and extremely thankful!  I can't imagine what would've happened, and the panic that would've ensued in the morning, when the girls went out to catch their steers to load them up and they weren't there!  Oy.  It would've been disastrous!

After a shorter than anticipated night, we loaded up those beautiful beasts in the morning and headed to town.  I'd like to think that these bad boys had been given a taste of freedom, and therefore were less than thrilled when we got to town, and they realized that they had to walk around a show ring all day.  Let's go with that theory....because we had a few unimpressed steers on our hands.  Molly's steer especially, was a wee bit wild in the ring, which made her very frustrated, especially since he's been the quietest this whole year.  Oh well.  It is what it is.  The good news is that all three of these beautiful beasts got sold that night, so the Girls got to come home with a cheque instead of a steer.  Although they were sad to see their buddies go, Molly especially was ready to hand hers over to be sent to the butcher!

After we got home from our never ending day, after everyone had showered and gone to bed, and I lay, wide awake in bed due to the excessive amounts of caffeine I had consumed earlier in the day, I was able to reflect back over the day and really think about it.  And here are some things that I realized I am so thankful for the lessons these beautiful beasts have taught us.

1.  It takes a whole lotta work to raise an animal.  It's true.  My girls were out there every day, twice a day, feeding their steers and checking on them.  Rain or shine, blizzard or heat wave, those beasts were cared for by girls who loved them.  They halter broke them, groomed them, figured out what made them tick.... A whole lotta work.

2.  Farming is uncertain business.  We bought these steers last fall, when the market was at it's peak.  And the market has fallen substantially since then.  So these boys really needed to pack on the pounds in order to bring home a paycheck.  Not to mention the state of our economy right now, and these are fairly uncertain times for a whole lotta people.  The input costs are still there, but at the end of the day, you get what you get, when you take a critter to the market.  Honestly, I'm just glad the girls didn't lose money this year!

3. 4H kids are awesome.  And so are the parents who raise them.  My Molly came out of the ring and burst into tears, because she was so upset at how her steer had (not) preformed.  He was being a butthead.  In real life.   Instantly, she was surrounded by her fellow 4H-ers, comforting her and encouraging her.  And then, I watched as many of the parents took her aside and spoke to her as well, telling her that it was ok....they knew she'd worked really hard on her project and he just was being a pooper.  It made me cry, seeing their compassion for her.  And in no time, she was smiling again, and joking around.  They helped her get him ready for her next class, and some of the older members helped her lead him and give him a "chat" about acceptable behavior.  Ironically, he was pretty darn good by the time the sale rolled around, and she got a pretty penny for her steer. 

4.  Losing graciously is a really good lesson to learn.  Maybe even more important to learn in life than winning graciously?  Last year, our kids did really, really well in the show and sale.  This year?  Not so much.  But that's ok.  Because they are not going to win at everything in life.  Hopefully they won't lose at everything either.... But it was really, really great to see the Girls genuinely happy for their friends who did win.  They were excited for them, and cheering them on along the way.  And that is a big, fat win in my books.

5.  Helping others is important.  Even if you don't know them.  Due to how 4H is structured, parents are not allowed to help their kids during this 4H show.  The leaders are allowed to help, minimally, but what is encouraged the most is that kids help each other.  Regardless of age, club, which project they are involved in.... And I think it's great.  You get less of parents interfering in things, and more of kids, figuring things out.  And the comradery that this facilitates is priceless!

I could go on and on, and have a few more lessons in which I can see these beautiful beasts definitely had a big factor in us learning, but I will sum it all up with this.  4H has been a great experience for our family.  And I'm so, so thankful for our club. 

 I'm also thankful that it's summer... And there will (hopefully) not be any more blizzards.... for at least a few months!