On The Ranch

Fall Colors

Parkview fall.jpg
aspens 2

aspens
bert seven rand fall
fall 2
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have a big ole post written about antibiotics that I wanted to publish yesterday, but I wanted to be super thorough so I’m waiting until I speak to a vet about several things. In the meantime, here are pictures of fall to make you glad.

These were all taken in Rand years ago, since cactus doesn’t exactly have fall colors. I miss Fall in Rand, buuuuuuut I don’t miss feeding cows for nine months or dealing with sixty below and several feet of snow on the regular.

Family · On The Ranch

Is a Detour a Detour When It’s Actually a Plan?

horses 2
horses 3

horses 4

Whenever I’m shopping for clothes, I have several considerations:

  1. Is it machine washable? I have kids.
  2. Is it comfortable? I have kids.
  3. If for work: will it withstand cows, mud, muck, but also my kids?
  4. If for not work: will it withstand detours on the way to town? I have a cowboy.

Before I dated Bert, I had just dated boys from town. Where they would pick you up at your house, you’d get in the car, drive to your destination, get out of the car, and go inside. You’d spend a hopefully pleasant evening, maybe take a little stroll out to ice cream after dinner, and then you’d be delivered back to your door.

Cowboys are a little different. They will pick you up, but you’re never quite sure in what, and you’ll get in, but you’re never quite sure how easy that’s going to be, and you’ll drive, but you’ll probably have a pit stop or twelve on the way, and you’ll end up at home eventually, but it might be a little later than you planned because things can get western in a hurry, and I don’t mean that in a euphemistic, trying-to-be-polite-for-Grandma way, I mean that in a flat-tire, dirt-road, steer-caught-in-a-roll-of-wire, rodeo’s-in-town kind of way.

Thus, I learned early on to wear things that wouldn’t be ruined if we were driving a nasty ranch truck, or ended up at the pens or in the middle of the pasture (I now own almost no flats for this reason), and that could be worn easily getting in and out of a truck or a tractor without flashing the entire state or getting something hung up. Also to make reservations an hour later than you think they ought to be, or forgo those sorts of establishments altogether.

If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard “Oh, I just want to check on/drive past/go look at the horses/cows/water/fence. It won’t take long. Don’t worry, you won’t have to get out.” I would have enough nickels to buy this amazing Johnny Was beauty I saw at a boutique last week, and a coat to wear over it when I have to get out in the rain to open 47 gates on the way to check cows on the way to dinner.

Case in point: over the weekend, we decided to go into town for dinner. We all got in the pickup, and then it was “Oh, I want to check on the horses on the way.” Uh huh. Of course you do.

 

Family · On The Ranch

Salt and Mineral and Desolation (hey, hipsters, get your album titles here)

chollasalt and mineralchasing truck edit
dust cloud edit
heifers
hereford bull
ranch rocks 2
ranch rocks
salt block drinker
selfie

It’s Monday! I’m proud I know what day of the week it is, and what day it is (never forget) because lately I’ve been in a time warp of gray paint, funny sleep schedules, and dusty pickup adventures with these boys of mine. Not having a schedule is doing a number on my brain.

Because I’m a nosy Nelson (but is it really nosy if you live here?), and because the ranch is (literally) 62 square miles, we gathered up the boys yesterday morning and went on a little ranch tour while putting out salt and mineral for the cattle.

(Salt blocks and tubs of mineral supplement the animals’ diet to make sure they’re getting, well, all their salt and minerals. They’re sort of like the bovine equivalent of a Flintstones vitamin to account for various deficiencies in the natural environment.)

We saw the bulls, the heifers, some of the older cows, and a whole lotta cactus. In these pictures, we’re on the side of the ranch that’s not gotten much rain this year, so that’s why it looks a little crispy. Also, we haven’t escaped the haze that’s fallen over the Western United states (Lord, send some rain up to those fires, please sir).

Loading the boys up and driving around is one of our favorite things to do. Often, we’ll bring some bottled “fancy” soda and a bag of chips along and make it a little date. Wacey gets a big kick out of sitting next to Buster in the back seat, and Buster gets a big kick out of Wacey so it’s a win-win-win-win.

Things I learned while driving around yesterday:

  1. There’s a lot of rocks. I knew this before, but golly, they weren’t kidding when they made this place and decided it would be rockier than all seven movies (yes, seven, I Googled it so it must be true) in the Rocky franchise
  2. In this part of the world, a water tank is something in which to store water in, and a drinker is what the cattle actually drink out of, which we (used to) call water tanks. So tank=storage, drinker=what we used to call a tank.
  3. I will never, ever get tired of watching cows chase a pickup because they think there’s cake. I had to do some pretty fancy finagling to get a gate shut before the girls got through because they’d crawl on the back of that flatbed if they could.
  4. Bring more beverages. It’s hot and dusty and it takes, like, three hours to put out eight blocks of salt. Also chapstick.
  5. Buster can sleep through anything in a truck. Like, we could be in a monster truck crawling over boulders and not a single hoot could be given by that fat ole baby.
  6. We live in the middle of nowhere. My parents called it desolate. They were right, but without all the sad/heebie-jeebie connotations of desolate. I prefer “remote,” “real, real ranchy” (although we live within 50 miles of a decent-sized town so we’re not super ranchy), or “secluded.”
  7. I laugh on a very regular basis about how I grew up in town, was in a sorority in college, thought I was going to be a lawyer, and now live in a little house on a ranch in a desert in New Mexico. Like, who would thunk? Also, who woulda thunk that I (mostly) love it? I mean, God, obviously, but who else? No one, y’all. No one.
  8. I love having an excuses to wear my big ole hat. The bigger the hat, the bigger the hair, the bigger the inseam on my high-waisted jeans, those closer to God, as far as I’m concerned.
  9. We have a little canyon on the ranch called the Arroyo del Macho and that’s pretty cool.

In summary: putting out salt and mineral is fun, I like my family, and everything is cooler if it has a name in a foreign language.

Happy Monday! Love, Me. PS try these cookies. Unless you’re participating in a fitness challenge in which one of the categories is to limit sugar. Then wait till next month. Trust me here. Trust fall into my open arms, which are beefy because Buster, and trust me.

 

 

On The Ranch

Shoulder-Length Gloves and Gallon Jug Lube Day

barnsbuster diaper change
buster sleepin 3

buster sleeping 1
buster sleeping 2
dr kari
penning
wace

Yesterday we preg checked our first group of cows for the year. These are the heifers who will have their first calves this coming January. I won’t lie to you, it was sort of a hard day for me. It was our last day on this ranch, and we won’t get to see these calves born next year. I’m going to miss this place and this crew with my whole heart. It was great, though, to see how good the cows looked, and to end on a high note.

Preg check (or palpation) is something that happens on the majority of ranches, whether commercial or registered. On many non-registered ranches, it will be the only time all year the cows will be in the chute! The purpose is to see which cows are pregnant (bred) and which ones are not (open). In order for a ranch to stay afloat financially, cows should have and wean a calf every year, otherwise you will be spending money to take care of cows who aren’t making you any of that money back since the sale of calves are the bred and butter for most ranches. Most ranches will ship their open cows and their culls (cattle that are being got rid of for one reason or another) soon after–if not immediately after–preg.

“Being got rid of” is a travesty of a phrase, but I kind of like it. Sort of like most people think it’s weird that I like plain BBQ, aka plain meat, but I kind of like it.

There are different ways to go about pregging cattle–some ranches hire a vet to come out and just call bred or open, some ranches (like this one) have a vet come out and ultrasound to give us an idea of due dates (and sometimes a heads-up about sexes of calves or twins, or physical problems with a cow like an infection or goofy ovary or narrow pelvis that might present difficulties later), and some ranches have a cowboy or employee on staff who knows how to palpate cows. All involve shoulder-length gloves, lots of lube, and the requisite plastic clothing or strong stomach.

(Our vet has the coolest deal where she wears goggles that show the ultrasound rather than having to lug along a big screen and it’s seriously the coolest. She’s an entirely mobile, self-contained unit!)

We had 260 heifers to check yesterday, and the boys did great! Buster spent his time being held by/sleeping on various people and surfaces, and Wacey alternated between helping me and his daddy in the barn, and playing in a pile of dirt with his tractors, and terrorizing the guys with flags and (defunct) hot shots. There was a touch-and-go moment where he quite literally got stuck in a mud puddle and almost got his boots squelched off but we all came out unscathed and only a little more worse for wear!

This fall feels so strange because it’s the first time in seven years that we will not be pregging and weaning calves for months. The new ranch we’re going to will preg all the cows at once, ship the calves at the same time, and be done with it. I’ll explain more as we go on, but I imagine it feels a lot like a newly-retired accountant who only has to prepare their personal taxes. Strange, but not bad, but maybe a little empty? Or maybe the word is less hectic? Either way, #newbeginnings, and #slowfall. You know, like the Slow Food Movement? Ours will be the Slow Fall Movement.

That’s not to say, of course, that we’ll be idle. There will still be cattle to gather, calves to ship, cows to preg, opens and culls to ship, projects to do, and water to chase, but it will be a lot less of an exhausting marathon and more like Forrest Gump’s jog. He looked like he was having a lot more fun than most marathon participants I’ve seen, anyway.

Anywho. Happy Tuesday, and I’m here to tell you that the original, Bieber-less version of Despacito is really the better one.

 

Celebrate · On The Ranch

Miss’ First Mother’s Day

Miss and Little 1
far away
Miss and Little 4
steve
Miss and Little 5
Miss and Little 3
ninja
Miss and Little 2

Guess who got to celebrate her first Mother’s Day yesterday? Our mare, Miss! Her little baby girl was born late last week and I am one proud horse grandma! She’s beautiful. I’m sorry for the poor quality pictures, I took these with my phone but will get out with my big camera this week.

So far, it looks like everything is great–babe’s walking and running around, and Miss is a wonderful mother. It’s so fun to see her be so attentive to her baby. The other horses are a tiny bit jealous of all the attention we’re paying to Miss and Little, though, I think, because Steve was a major camera hog.

We haven’t named her yet, but she looks just like her mama! Welcome to the family, Little Miss!

On The Ranch

Why We Brand Calves

DSC_0675

DSC_0671

DSC_0688

DSC_0667

DSC_0649

DSC_0690

DSC_0701

DSC_0708

DSC_0683

DSC_0658

DSC_0652

DSC_0713

DSC_0648

DSC_0693

It’s Monday (or it was, when I wrote this. The fact that I’m posting it on a Wednesday is a testament to how Monday it was). Usually Mondays aren’t so bad considering I basically work from home but man, today I’m dragging. Friday we branded calves, Saturday we went to a neighbor’s branding, and Sunday I spent most of the day baby showering one of my best friends, and then Bert and I took the boys to Mexican afterwards. It was a lovely, full weekend, but there’s a TON of laundry, a pile of dishes in the sink, grit on the floor, and my motivation to take care of any of it is nil.

But life is short, so I’m deciding I don’t care.

Now, speaking of branding…

Branding is one of the oldest traditions as far as raising cattle goes, and the spring branding season is a time for ranches to invite family, friends, and neighbors over to brand calves and have a meal. Some ranches have one big branding over an entire day or weekend, some (like us) have a few smaller brandings, and some ranches–particularly the large southwestern ones with thousands of  cattle spread out over hundreds of thousands of acres–will have weeks of branding each spring.

It struck me the other day that I’ve talked an awful lot about going to brand calves, or what the boys do while we’re branding calves, or the glory of Starbucks before branding calves, but I’ve never actually talked about why we brand calves.

Spoiler: it’s not just so I can take thousands of pictures of my studmuffin husband roping calves or my hilarious two-year-old running amok in his cowboy hat. Or so we have an excuse to get together for a fun day with neighbors, although that aspect of it makes it look a lot less like work.

The long and short of it is identification. Also, in some states (like ours) it’s the law. In the days before ear tags and the like, a brand was the only way to distinguish your cattle from your neighbor’s, and in the event that they got mixed or an animal got loose, a brand ensured that you knew which cattle went where. We still brand cattle today for the same reasons because while ear tags can get lost fairly easily, brands are permanent. Other forms of permanent ID (freeze brands, tattoos) are more for individual identification than owner identification.

Branding is often accompanied by vaccinations, and treatment of any sick animals since the calves are already roped. The cowboys know how to rope and handle the calves to minimize stress on the animals, and they hop right up and go back to their mothers once their turn is over.

Thus, even though cowboys are no longer trailing cattle thousands of miles from Texas to Montana, brands are still the most effective, long-lasting way to prove ownership and differentiate your cattle from your neighbors’. Cattle still get mixed, or are run together on grazing cooperatives. Branding is a great time to see to the health of the calves, too, and it’s a great time to spend with neighbors in the sunshine.

If you have any questions about branding at all, please comment here or email me!

On The Ranch · Personal

It’s Spring and it’s Springing

barn

Usually on Sunday afternoons when Bert is home, I can sneak out during the boys’ nap to go on a walk by myself. I love walking with the boys, but it’s nice to go alone without a stroller, snacks, and having to stop every so often to distribute or collect said snacks or adjust a sock or have an existential conversation about the crick or airplanes or the cows.

This past Sunday we were all pleasantly surprised that the blizzard that looked like it would continue into the afternoon quit in the morning, and the snow started melting in a fast fast hurry, hallelujah! So I threw on my muck boots, gathered up Gaucho, and put on a podcast (the Pica episode of Sawbones) and went a-walkin’.

selfie

Gaucho

road

We strolled past the neighbor’s little crew of Mini Herefords and said hello. They crack me up, they’re so funny and small!

mini herefords

While jaunting around in muck boots isn’t the most ideal of situations, the muck boots are necessary for the several reasons, the most important of which is that they enable me to actually jaunt (rather jauntily, if you want to know), the next important of which is that the slush and mud is six inches deep in some spots and soggy running shoes are a real buzzkill, particularly when learning about the widespread occurrence of pica throughout the centuries proving that it’s a medical thing, not a cultural thing.

In other news, don’t eat too much clay. You could die. A little is okay though, as long as it isn’t toxic.

slush

We continued on to say hi to the girls, who obligingly stood still before running away in pretend fear of the fearsome canine that is my right-hand man, whose full name is in fact Gauchito Burrito Lorenzo Sergio Eduardo Juanston.

And if you pick up on the Gauchito-Burrito Three Caballeros reference, then we are already best friends

girls

cows panorama

cuchara

April showers might bring May flowers, but you know what else they bring? Mud, and spontaneous crick action, and flooded everything. However, we’re not complaining in the slightest!

creek

Happy Tuesday! I hope wherever you are that spring is springing, and maybe it’s a little warmer than here, and also maybe it’s sunny and maybe you’re going to Starbucks or having a smoothie or playing with glitter or confetti or horses or something.