On The Ranch

The Pitfalls of Looking Ahead

Happy Monday! We’re recovering from a fantastic weekend over here–we kicked off our festive weekend early and went to Denver Zoo’s Zoolights on Friday and it was so. great. So far, it’s been an annual tradition, and we’ll definitely keep it up. This year was especially magical because we tried our best to avoid the enormous crowds we encountered last year, and by either accident or design, it worked. I bought tickets in advance, we arrived an hour early so that we could get a parking space close to the entrance and so we could go in right when they opened, and enjoyed almost two hours of walking around an entirely non-busy zoo. We had hot drinks, a baby who couldn’t even talk he was so busy looking at everything, lovely not-too-cold-but-frosty-enough weather, and gosh it was perfect!

The rest of the weekend included wrapping gifts to White Christmas during a gloriously long naptime, a solo store run involving Starbucks, and a family frozen yogurt outing (there’s a frozen yogurt place less than fifteen miles away and I’m SO glad we discovered it!!! It’s one of those a la carte deals where you do our own toppings and all the pregnant ladies put your hands up) and watching the final rounds of the NFR. We haven’t turned off the tree in three days and we even got a little snow yesterday morning before it warmed up to a balmy 40 degrees. *contented sigh*

Bert also helped me work on my office space downstairs (I’ll show y’all what I have going when there’s more going, haha), and I was updating my 2017 calendar with appointments and commitments we already  know about, like the millions of doctor’s appointments in the third trimester. In doing so, I realized the heifers are due to calve in about six weeks. Which means we’ll have calves in a month, maybe less.


Calving takes me by surprise every year, I’ll admit it. I think because I willfully ignore its approach because, eight calving seasons in, I know what we’re in for. Baby calves are the best, but they are a lot of work. Additionally, because we have so many cows and also AI most of our cattle, we’re very busy until June.

Oh and we’re having a baby human in March. There’s also that. Gosh we’re out of our minds. In a good way.

But one thing that you can’t deny is that baby calves are suuuuper cute. Photographic evidence below (in various states of filtered–excuse past me, some of these pictures are quite old)! I won’t post too many, as I don’t want to burn you out before this year’s crop, but come on. Baby calves. Just “awwwwwwww” with me, k?


dsc_0068This is Bill. He was one of our special cases and lived at the barn for quite awhile. See the notch in the tag? It indicates that he’s been treated for sickness.

dsc_0085At birth, each calf will get a tag. On this one, S053 is the sire (dad) number, the 2327A is the dam (mama) number, and 2035C is the calf’s permanent ID number.

stellaThis is Stella. She had a broken leg. Hence the cast.

dscf0170This is Heart! She had her first calf this year, and now lives on one of the other divisions.

dscf1312rosieThis is Rosie, a dwarf calf that we had in Montana. She was itty-bitty (less than 20 pounds when she was born, the normal is between 60 and 90) and came to live with us in our dog kennel since she was bottle-fed. She’d follow me down to the barn every morning and gosh was it cute.


herfiesThis cow didn’t like me taking pictures of her. Like at all.

These two babes were best friends–even when they were out of the pens, they were always together. Or, maybe it was one of those situations where your mom is friends with someone so you have to be friends with their kid. Either way, it’s pretty cute.

I hope your Monday is filled with plenty of holiday cheer, or at least doesn’t suck. Less than two weeks until Christmas, we’re pretty excited round these here parts!

Celebrate · Fun

Friday Five: Gift Wrapping

I love wrapping gifts, just like I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. Basically, paper goods are one of my love languages. I get everything ordered/bought, and once it’s arrived I put it all away in the guest room (or in a sneakier locale if it’s for Bert, as he isn’t as easily fooled as a toddler, bless him). I set aside an evening or two to wrap in the light of a Christmas movie and the tree, or, in this year’s case, in the light of a Christmas movie and, well, regular lights, since the tree is upstairs, Wacey sleeps upstairs, and for whatever reason the sound of paper always wakes him up. In years past, I’ve wrapped everything and then put the non-Santa/Christmas morning/super obvious gifts under the tree, but again, toddler. So I wrapped a bunch of empty boxes and they’ll be placeholders for the next, oh, ten years or so.

Also in years past, I’ve really put a lot of thought into wrapping gifts, and did a sort of theme each year. This year I’m going pretty basic as the boys could care less how their gifts are wrapped, but I do love gorgeous wrapping paper and am happy to lust at beautiful and festive wrapping from afar. I love things that are simple, colorful, and not too fussy, but are a little more than paper and box.Or a bag. I’m kind of against gift bags for stuff that gets left under the tree for a long time, because it makes it waaaaay too easy to peek, and I’m all about the element of surprise.

Not because I ever peeked at my own gifts inside gift bags, of course.

Although, for those oddly-shaped, don’t-fit-in-a-box gifts, give me allll the gift bags.

Letter tags: I think this would be so great for older young kids to help them figure out whose gifts are whose (provided everyone’s name begins with a different initial!) Plus, glitter and baking twine are two of my spirit animals. I might go so far as to try this for some gifts this year. I know, I know, slow your roll, Martha Stewart.

PS–can you imagine what Martha Stewart’s gift-wrapping is like? In my mind, it’s so lovely.


Buffalo Plaid and Kraft Paper: I kraft paper and buffalo plaid is pretty and festive and rustic, even without the evergreen topper. I also love mixing patterns, so throwing in another pattern would work here too! You could use any plaid with this, too, if buffalo isn’t your style.


Sharpie Labels: Again with the kraft paper, I know, but it’s vintage-y and simple, comes in giant rolls, and is thicker than regular paper so you never have to worry about sharp corners poking through. It makes a great neutral canvas (yes I just used “neutral canvas” to refer to gift wrapping), and the red ribbon is simple, easy, but also elegant. I like the idea of writing the name of the recipient directly on the paper–it eliminates the whole gift tag step, and is informal and fun. You could also do this with a chalk pen!


Jingle Bells: Isn’t this the cutest bow alternative?? It adds just a little something extra, to quote Elle Woods, and bonus points it you color-coordinate it to your outfit. You could go gold, silver, or colorful depending on your decor, and vary your sizes if you’re really looking to win at the wrapping game. I think this would be exciting for little kids, too–Wacey LOVES bells, and if nothing else it might buy you a little time on Christmas morning.

Actually, I’ll take my own advice here, as I have several too-large-to-choke-on bells in my Christmas stash. Of course, the ultimate toddler packaging would involve some lights, too, and something that buckles or zip. Basically, a light-up backpack with a bell tied on. Do it.


Mixed Patterns and Plaids: How fun does this look?? My mother-in-law gifted me with some beautiful wrapping paper for my birthday, and I mentioned that it was almost too pretty to just be ripped apart on Christmas morning. My father-in-law said “Why don’t you use it for the fake presents under the tree so they stay wrapped?” and basically, he’s a genius. Like I said above, I’m not putting actual gifts under the tree until the Johnston household is a toddler-free zone (soooooo in the next decade ha) and I love this idea with the different plaids and patterns, it fits our whimsical (okay, juvenile)-yet-traditional vibe to a T. Plus, it won’t seem so futile to make things pretty if I keep bringing them out year after year! I still haven’t found the perfect plaid paper (okay, I haven’t looked, but when we went to get wrapping paper Wacey spent the entire time using his roll as a stick and getting pretend cows up like he does in the barn, so we weren’t exactly in perusal mode)


Now, if wrapping gifts isn’t your bag (see what I did there?), or can’t be because you have a house full of tiny destructive tornadoes, I feel you, because sometimes I just want to put everything in trash bags and hand it over. They do make mint-scented trash bags (to repel varmints), so that’s pretty festive, right? I remember asking my mom if I could help wrap presents and her being like “YES! In fact, you can do it all by yourself!” Now I see what you did there, crafty lady.

On The Ranch

Bovines, It’s Cold Outside


Y’all. It’s real cold. I know, it’s winter so it’s to be expected, but the first cold snap of the year is always the hardest, especially when it’s a true, honest-to-goodness-way-below-zero cold snap. Plus, we’re all tender-skinned from it being 70 in November so this one is especially shocking. This is one of those days that I don’t mind that I don’t work outside with Bert as much as I used to–zero degrees is a little bit cold for the outdoor wear that currently fits over my alarmingly large and fast-growing belly!

The girls, of course, don’t get the luxury of sitting by a woodstove wearing Christmas jammies. They do, however, have the luxury of a thick coat that fits no matter how pregnant they are! All of our cows are bred to handle cold weather, so they grow a hefty and surprisingly furry coat in the winter. If it’s very cold, they’ll all bunch up together and take turns with who has to be on the outside, just like penguins, but you’d be surprised at how cold and snowy it has to be before they do that! After all, cows live where it gets much colder than it does here.


When it gets really cold, cows eat more to keep warm, so we feed them extra–some to eat, and some to lay on so they don’t have to lay right on the snow. We also try to feed them really nice hay when it’s cold, too. Not all the hay will get put up perfectly, some might get rained on or put up a little wet because we can’t control the weather in the summer. It’s still totally fine for them to eat, and they gobble it right up, but we like to spoil them a just a little bit with some really tasty, green stuff. Here the girls are snarfing a really nice bale of alfalfa/grass mix.


dsc_1364When it’s cold and snowy and windy and awful outside, remember all the farmers and ranchers who are taking care of their animals in that weather–feeding animals, breaking water, checking on everyone, dealing with frozen pipes and equipment that won’t start, and freezing their hineys off in the bargain.

(…and bemoan the complete lack of  warm, ranch-friendly maternity wear.)