Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Calving

The first week of March, when our snow was almost gone, we got a huge storm with -30C temperatures and about a foot of snow.  It was a bit of a blow, although completely acceptable for this time of year in Alberta.  We were crossing our fingers that our cows would cross their legs and not drop any babies until after the temperature had warmed up and some of the snow had melted, because friends, it.  was.  miserable..


Thankfully, the cows co-operated, and we had about a third of our herd have their calves in the nice, warm, muddy pasture.  It's always exciting to go and check cows during calving season, because you never know what you're going to find when you get to them.  Usually The Girls come with me, and it's almost as exciting as Christmas morning.  You scan the herd, piles of straw....looking for a mama who is licking a new baby, or seeing a new, fresh calf up and running about, trying to figure out how these things called legs work. 



This mama kept leaving her baby all over the place - under trees, in puddles.... the coyotes kept trying to get closer and closer, so we brought them in a small maternity pen close to the house in order to keep the baby safe until her mama remembered that she needs to keep a close eye on her baby.


This mama and baby are so quiet, and she loved it when the girls would come and hang out in the fresh straw.  The baby would come and lay her head on the girls' lap, just enjoying the attention.



Good thing her mama was nice and quiet - we had plenty of opportunities to pet this little lady.


This handsome guy surprised us being red.  We expected to have only black calves out certain cows....and as you can see, he is certainly NOT black.  But he's my favorite.  He's a big lug of a guy, and he reminds me of our giant dog, George.


We still have some cows to calve, but are expecting a bit of a break for a couple weeks until our next set of cows start calving. 

I'm telling you, it's the most wonderful time of the year!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Homeschooling and 4H


 January marks the start of a more intense couple of month of 4H involvement for us.  We started off the year with our Awards Banquet, and Hannah, Abby and Molly all won awards.  This year, for the awards, we put what they won on the back of a hoodie, and all the kids seemed to like that.  The Girls worked hard last year, and they can be proud of themselves!





This is the first year that Ellie Mae is in 4H, and she has waited many, many years for this, so to say she is excited may be a tad bit understated.  During our busier season of 4H, one of the things the Girls have to do is sell raffle tickets to raise money for our achievement day in May.  I took the girls to the auction market the other day, and they sold a whole lotta tickets in a short amount of time, which was great!





The beginning of February starts off with public speaking in 4H for us, so the Girls spent a whole lotta time preparing their speeches.  The all did really well, with Abby winning in her age category, after a speak off.  Molly competed against Ellie Mae in their age category, and Molly came in 2nd and Ellie Mae came in 3rd, and Hannah would've won in her age category except that she ended up with time faults, so she came in 3rd.  They all worked really hard, and we are super proud of them.  It's been so great to watch their progress and confidence increase over the years in public speaking, so much so that Hannah volunteered to emcee our district public speaking event which her sister will compete in.  I would've never thought I'd see the day that would happen!  Hooray for 4H!

We haven't started calving just yet, but some friends of ours have.  We've been over there a few times to walk through the calves, and it makes me extra excited for our calving season to start, in just over a month from now.  You must check out this sweet, silver calf!


The other day, we were at their place and they had to pull a calf.  This was a first for us to be up close and personal in helping/watching a calf be pulled.  We haven't had to pull any of our own calves....yet, so it was a great learning opportunity for all of us!  In my mind, it was the perfect homeschooling day!

First, we had to bring the cow into the barn, which she wasn't thrilled about!  But we got her in and got her checked out, and sure enough, she needed some extra help getting this calf out.


After some pushing on her part and pulling on ours, she had a big (huge, really) healthy bull calf.  We figured he was about 120 lbs.!  After he was born, our friends showed the girls how to make sure he was breathing, and recovering as quickly as possible.


Then, the Girls got a lesson in how the placenta works inside of a calf.  This was laying outside, from another cow that had just calved, and the Girls were fairly fascinated to see how everything works.  Things like this always make me amazed at how God has created us!


Our last task of the day was to bring in a twin who's mother decided she wasn't interested in mothering it (she took the other twin instead), and give it a bag of colostrum.  Did you know that calves aren't born with any immunity, so it's imperative that they receive colostrum from their mamas within 6 hrs. of being born.  After that, their intestines start closing up and they aren't able to receive those good antibodies after that time.  Fascinating. 


Anyhow, after this twin got loved on by our girls, and got some warm milk in him, the next day she got a new mama - a jersey cow that our friends had bought at the market.  Hooray for happy endings!



Friday, January 27, 2017

Outdoor Winter Activities

Since I talked about some indoor activities on my last post, I thought I'd share some pictures of our favorite OUTDOOR winter activities on this post. 

Firstly, winter in Alberta means feeding cattle.  This year, we started bale grazing for the cold winter months, so we placed bales in the pasture, cut all the strings, and have electric fence to limit how and when the cows get them.  It's working great so far!



We have really, really great neighbors here.  And our great neighbors have been toys tools.  Just before Christmas, they came over and lifted Art up in their picker truck so that he could put snow stop on the shop roof.  This chore also involved rides for the kids.  Naturally.



We spend lots of time going on walks out in the pastures....


....sometimes to check cows....


.....to exercise the dogs (and ourselves!)...


....or to enjoy a sunset!


We spend some time spreading straw for the livestock, so they stay warm and dry(ish).


....and rush outside to catch a picture of the sunrise!


We have spent many hours combing the woods, doing some shed hunting.  For those that don't know, this means looking meticulously under every tree and branch for antlers that have been shed by moose, deer or elk.  The great thing about shed hunting is that it's extremely beautiful in the isolated bush that we walk.



Sometimes we take the dogs, sometimes family who is visiting gets roped into coming....


....and The Girls always want to go!


Lastly, and perhaps the most favorite winter activity of them all is skating.  Art and The Girls have been working faithfully on getting our skating rink up and running, and the Girls enjoy it every day they can, along with friends and neighbors.


So there you have it.  Winter activities around our ranch.  Always beautiful, always fun, and we (mostly) stay warm!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Indoor Winter Activities

The great thing about winter is that it gives us a chance to relax, and instead of working outside all the time, with short days and long nights, we spend the majority of our time inside.  It feels good to start a fire and hunker down inside, while the cold wind and snow blows outside. 

One of our favorite inside winter activities include Lego (lots and lots of Lego!!).  The Girls have collected much Lego over the years, and they also have Art's from when he was a child, so their imaginations run wild with Lego!  Thankfully, I've only stepped on a few pieces this year!


Every year, around Christmas, we pull out a puzzle.  We do a new puzzle every year, and it usually stays out until it's complete.  Not all of us are puzzlers, so those that aren't can often be found curled up the couch, reading a book, while the others puzzle.  It's just nice to be in the same room, hanging out together.


We also enjoy baking.  Lots and lots of baking!  Truth be told, this happens all year round at this home, but it's fun to work on special baking projects, especially around Christmas!


This year, I taught The Girls to embroider.  I sat down to embroider a few flour sack tea towels as gifts, and a couple of the Girls asked me to teach them.  I was surprised at how quickly they caught on - the little girls especially.  They enjoyed embroidering some tea towels, and especially loved giving them away to friends.  I thought they did a fantastic job, and I'm always a little sad to see the towels go, after spending a few hours working on them.  An extra fun thing was that when my parents came out after Christmas, my Mom also got in on the embroidering bug, and her and I spent time visiting and embroidering together.  After my Mom went home, she was talking to my Grandma, who is 97 yrs. old, about flour sacks, and this is what she had to say: 

Flour sacks were precious as they were used for many things like aprons, boys boxer shorts underwear.  They were always in short supply.  Curtains were made from flour sacks and cut them with a scalloped edge, then crocheted around the edges.  They were the prettiest curtains and really make the old rundown house more beautiful and homey.  Nothing was ever wasted so even the thread from the flour sack was used to crochet around edges.   Women crocheted around edges of almost everything like tea towels, tablecloths, pillowcases, and aprons.  Anything to make it look pretty and some items were embroidered like the aprons.  My Grandma said she did a lot of embroidery even before 10 years old.

I'm fairly certain my Grandma could out-embroider me any day of the week, even when she was 10 yrs. old!  I really didn't learn, as a child, to embroider, so this is my attempt to try, and also to teach my Girls.  I think embroidery is such a lost art (as is baking such things as pies and bread!), but I'm thrilled to pass it on.  Here's a fact about me: every time I go to a thrift store, I look for hand made items such as embroidered table cloths, linens and aprons.  I just can't help myself from buying them, knowing how many hours went into making them.  And to buy them for a dollar or two.... it seems like they're grossly undervalued!



Of course, many hours are also spent reading, playing games, doing crafts and watching the occasional movie....

The great thing about living in the Prairies during our long winters is time spent together!





Friday, December 2, 2016

The Nature of Things

The older I get, the more I get to know about myself....some good, some bad.  The thing that I have realized about myself over the last several years is how I really do love to be outside.  (Remind me of this post when it's -30C and the wind is howling!)

As I look through the pictures that I take, or the times when I feel most like "me" is when I'm outside, or working on a project with my family.  It's always a bonus if both are involved!

When I'm outside, I'm always amazed at the world that God has created, and how I know so little about the world.  I marvel at the details and intricacy of His creation.  I feel connected to God, aware of my surroundings, and oh, so grateful that I get to live my life here. 

I thought I'd share some of those images with you....



 
















And now, as I remind myself of my love for nature, and I'm curled up under a blanket, I feel inspired to get outside, and take a quick walk before the darkness falls.  Enjoy your weekend



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.