Chase Season 2022 – Day 2 –

Day 2 of this cow chase season had us moving our bred heifers from the McFarlane pasture in the Glen Ewen River Valley to home, a distance of about 14 miles. We had 60 animals to move and 26 riders. A bit of an extreme ratio, however, at one point, when crossing some railroad tracks, everyone was utilized.

Thanks to several riders there are lots of pictures to share.

The day began very differently due to fog that had settled over the entire area. Those traveling to the ranch needed extra time to get here. Russ thought a risen sun would lift some fog, so instead of a 5:30 departure it was 6:30. Instead of me sending breakfast sandwiches to the truck those who were on site came in for coffee and breakfast. It was quiet but fun.

Gina captured this image. This was a very busy porch for that time of day.
Russ enjoyed the breakfast party and was the first to whip out a camera.
Russ got this picture, me in my “office.”
Patrick was the first to send pictures back from the trail. I was stunned by the incredible color, beauty and depth with the fog still in the background.
Patrick grabbed this moment with Emet and Kenzie working part of the herd.
Patrick got this shot of Jim and his grand-daughter Cassie.
Sharon took this picture of her grand-daughter Teanna. Is it just me or does this picture have an epic feel?
The herd out of the pasture and on the trail, from Sharon’s perspective.
Sharon cares about these teenagers as if they were her own. I wasn’t surprised to get this picture from her
Tenley sent me this picture. That is Kenzie White in front of her. We don’t have competitions like this one much but Russ phoned me to tell me that Kenzie was Cowgirl of the Day. She had impressed the heck out of him. When a problem developed she went to long lengths to see it fixed. Russ was beyond impressed.
This is perhaps the most memorable part of this day. Laurie’s grandson Lennox rode with him on the Bar MW trail for the first time. A very special development.
Russ sent me both these pictures of the Connelly and Elliott duo.
Sharon must have sensed this was pretty special too because she grabbed this image from a very fun perspective.
Sharon shared this picture from the truck.
Russ took a video of the hi-way crossing, I grabbed this still shot from it, there is an RCMP member on foot behind. We really appreciate when they help to ensure safety at times like this.
Sharon took a picture of my cowpoke kids.
Gina took this cool picture of Tenley doing one of her riding tricks. The heifers had arrived at their pasture and Gina and Tenley got to hang back, visit (and do tricks😮) as they rode the mile home.
The neighbors have beautiful Belgian horses. They were very interested in the herd.
However Sharon noted they soon needed to run away from the action.
Gina shared this pic of Moo. Our 6 year old Ox is a big help moving the heifers. At times like this I call him “Uncle Moo.”
Gina grabbed a beautiful shot of the valley.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was working on a late lunch. Pizza. This is a terrifying menu to prep for 30 people. To make it do-able I had worked on getting shells made and in the freezer in the days before. This sight makes me feel proud of my effort.
Jill grabbed this picture partway thru prep.
And…..the reward! A satisfied group of diners!
Everyone had left by 3:30pm. Gina and Coffee cuddling were so cute from my perspective.
A total gift this weekend. Blueberry tarts made by Linda Powell’s sister Debbie, using wild blueberries picked by David’s pal. Shared with us and so very delicious. This contribution made dessert much easier to provide!

Cow Chase ’22 – Day 1 – Pictures of the Day

A big ranching Day here. We moved 140 cow calf pairs about 18 miles, from their summer to autumn pasture. We had 19 riders and the support team. It was a seamless work day, nice when that happens.

I invited the riders to send me their pic of the day. I got several in some cases. I am posting them all with minimal captions. The alarm went off at 4:25am so the pillow is looking very inviting!

Thanks to a great crew of cowboys and cowgirls!

Russell’s pic of the day of Liz Griffin, sporting a hoodie we got her. We were happy to have her back to record a few of our 2022 moments.
Liz’s picture of the day of Russell, this was a sneak peek she posted.
Gina’s pic of the day.
Shared by Sharon.
A Sharon Hubbard pic of Gina.
Sharon’s pic of David
Russell’s pic of Sharon, she has this jacket, identical to our family ones, because we can’t do these days without her. She drives the truck and trailer all the way.
Russell’s pic of David
Russell’s pic of Laurie and our friend Maja, a Norwegian agricultural worker in our area.
Sharon’s pic of Teanna
Sharon’s pic of a great smile on Pat.
Pat, Sharon and Morgan
Rhett and Morgan
Sharon’s picture…is there a rider or not?
Sharon’s capture of a moment to get things adjusted. 3 of the 5 dogs on the trail are seen here.
Sharon at the wheel.
Teanna’s pic of the day. She and Patrick.
Gina’s pic of Jenn and Patrick.
Jill’s pic of her Dad during lunch.
Jill’s record of a little visitor we didn’t disturb.
Maja’s pic of the overall lunch scene.
My pic of Sharon getting out of the wind.
My pic of Russ holding the last bite of the dessert he determined was the best of the day. Their was a semi final round after his first try of everything. This was a new recipe for me, Faye Simpson’s Cornflake Cookies. Num.
I took this action shot of Morgan and Gina.
My pic of Morgan’s height serving him well.
My pic of some of my lunchtime customers getting a break.
Jill sent this pic from the truck she was driving as she helped get vehicles moved from the start of the move to the pasture where they were headed.
My pic at days end….All done and back at the house for supper.
Jill sent me this pic of the action in the basement after supper. There was lots of noise.
Jen grabbed this bonus picture yesterday while Gina was pressure washing the horse trailer in prep for today.

A Love Story

When I was 6 my family loaded up our tent trailer, station wagon, our stuff and my beloved Nanny and we hit the trail. Taking advantage of my Dad’s holiday from being a school principal we headed east.  That meant time with family in Montreal enroute to the Maritimes.  Our destination was Springhill where my Nanny had her childhood, our accommodation was 11 km away where we parked our trailer beside a small white house with a big yard at Mapleton, Nova Scotia.   I remember very little about that holiday, but I remember meeting Logan.  He was my Nanny’s cousin, he was 73, and he taught me how to pick beans.  I really liked him. 

9 years later I would take my first plane ride. Part of our family flew to Halifax where my Dad had a conference.   Nanny came with us again. After Dad’s conference we headed to Mapleton where we visited Logan and his family once more.

My Nanny and I in front, my sister Jan beside me, visiting with the Nova Scotia family. My mouth was still swollen from jaw re-alignment surgery I had a couple months before.
The visit included lots of music. Logan was very talented as you can see here.
Bertha serves a family favorite, Maple Cream, made from sap harvested in the family sugar woods.

Logan’s wife Bertha was so kind to us.  I loved how I felt while there.  They entertained the family from around the district and some connections were forged. 

Seven years later I took French immersion on the south shore of Nova Scotia.  I lived in a dorm there for five weeks.  I tried poutine for the first time, it was presented as a must try Acadian dish.  I was hooked ….but back to the story.

I could not leave Nova Scotia without visiting Logan and Bertha.  I don’t remember how I got from Point de l’Eglise on the south shore to Mapleton but I do remember how sad I was when it was time to leave.  There was no Disney level excitement happening, it was better than that.  I felt so safe, so cherished, so relaxed, so cared for, so…..at home.  The difference was that at this home I had a Grandpa type guy in my life,  that was a novelty for me.  I loved that.  I loved Logan and I loved Bertha for who she was and how she welcomed me in their world.  During this visit I would make a memorable connection with Norene, their daughter, 8 years older than me. 

The next summer I was back.  I was on tour with Up With People and our cast was in Maine.  I couldn’t bear that I was so close to Bertha and Logan but couldn’t see them.  I asked for special permission to leave the cast for a few days, I rented a car and headed to Mapleton.  It was another special time.  I needed it.  My brother had been given a brain cancer diagnosis and died in the year since I had last visited.  Up With People was amazing but hard hard work.  Logan and Bertha were sanctuary. 

My 1991 visit, standing with Logan and his sister Beulah.

It would be seven years before I saw them again.  An airline strike in ’98 had the airlines scrambling to redeem their reputation and offering great deals on flights.  My Mom and I were caring for my Dad at home, his dementia was advancing.   We got a respite bed in a nursing home for him, I took a week off of my final year of seminary, we recruited my Mom’s sister and the three of us headed back to Mapleton.  Logan was 97 by then, starting to falter, but we sat together in his pipe smoking porch and talked.  Bertha wove her magic and we had another great visit, more time seeing the sights and visiting with the extended family.  

in 1998 – my Mom at the piano, Logan beside her, Cecil in the front. We loved being able to join in the music.

Then I graduated, got ordained, moved to Gainsborough, met Russell, got married, had three kids, and started to become a rancher.  There was no time or money for airplane trips.  That was okay.  The kids were fun and we made lots of trips back to Saskatoon. It was how it needed to be.

Last Wednesday Russ and I boarded a 5am flight in Winnipeg after a brief sleep in the airport parking lot and a 3am check-in.  At 1:15pm we landed in Halifax.  I am embarrassed when I think about the words that flew through my head as the wheels touched down.  I said to myself, “I’m home.”  It’s embarrassing because it makes no sense really, but for what it’s worth those were the spontaneous words that touchdown brought out of me.

We are on the plane home now, suspended somewhere between Toronto and Winnipeg. We had a wonderful but busy week.

Sadly, Logan and Bertha are both gone now.  We got to visit their grave and drove by their beautiful home where their grandson now lives.

We drove to the Northumberland shore where Russ met cousin Norene (Logan and Bertha’s daughter) for the first time and we both met her husband Brian at their cottage.  We walked the beach, talked, picked sea glass and savored the ocean. 

Thru the day Norene and I got to talk about many things, including Bertha’s time of dying, it was good for me. 

Time together in their gorgeous cottage.

We drove to Parrsboro where we met my Nanny’s cousin’s daughter in law Carol for lunch.  Russ and I had spent time with her and her husband Cecil in Saskatoon 21 years ago.

2001 – My sister Jan and I beside Cecil, Russ and my Mom beside Carol.
21 years later, Carol explaining a little bit about the tides at Parrsboro
I think Russ felt very cherished by Carol.

Thanks to Facebook Carol and I have been in close touch for years, she calls me dearie in her comments and I savor that.  Carol organized extra visits for us so we met family we had never met before and got tours of the most amazing farm and the sugar woods.  It wasn’t Logan and Bertha’s old sugar woods but it was close by. 

Gary, one of our extended family (Nanny’s cousins boy), is an expert in berry farming and consults closely with Millen Farms, his niece’s family business. He toured us around their amazing operation which includes pork, chicken, beef, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, turnips, corn. They supply much of the berries found in the east coast Costco stores. We had such an interesting morning.
A field full of strawberry plants, one of many.
Russ got to work for a minute in the sugar woods, taking the tap out of this tree and binding it up.
Harold teaching us about tapping locations.
The sugar woods were stunningly beautiful.
I took this selfie in the sugar woods. When I looked at it, I felt like I looked at peace. I felt that way.

A very wow moment was when I sat down directly across from Gloria, meeting her for the first time I saw a clear and striking resemblance to my Nanny.  Gloria is my Nanny’s cousin’s daughter, genetics are really something.  

Carol, Gloria and I

We had four days in Nova Scotia that didn’t arise from my family connections.  They hold other stories that will wait to be told.

I titled this blog “A Love Story” because I feel like somehow it captures the powerful reality of attachment to a place, the reality of family ties and shared family stories and the mysterious way that some people just put down roots in your heart and they can’t be removed, not that you would want them to be.

In a way page 1 of this particular love story happened in 1913, when Nanny first breathed the Springhill air.  It got more interesting for me in 1974 when my feet first settled on Nova Scotia soil and I started to forge my own plot line.  What a treat to review it all today, 35,000 feet in the air, and realize anew how blessed I am.  Paul writes in the Christian Scriptures that love never ends.  I believe him.

Addendum: As I polish this up and add pictures, five days after writing it, I am very aware of the turmoil in Nova Scotia right now. Hurricane Fiona has wreaked havoc, especially around the area where we visited the big farm. Over the last few days our hearts have been so tenderized by the concern we feel for our people there and what they are going through. Love never ends and it keeps our hearts on edge and maybe thats the way its supposed to be.

Circle Time

“Kathy you are in ‘Circle Time’, you might not know it, but that’s a big deal.”

These are the words that Russell spoke as we sat atop our horses in the driveway of Evangeline Trail Rides near Stanley in the province of Nova Scotia.  We were about to head out on an evening ride.  But first there was a pause, after the busyness of saddling up.  A chance to look at each other’s faces and introductions made for those who had just joined in the day.  There was a check in about my stirrups and a last word of instruction where needed.

And we were off….

An evening ride thru the changing landscape of fall in Nova Scotia, making our way past a tidal river and thru the woods….how gorgeous.

After a while we pulled up in an opening and gathered into a circle again.  We lingered longer this time.  Stories were shared, my stirrups got lengthened, we experienced something together. It was different than the procession of horses we had been when we were heading down the trail. 

I was intrigued.

We rode some more.  We went thru an opening in the woods and found ourselves at the edge of the Stanley airport field.  We circled up again. Crystal posed a question.  Crystal.  You haven’t met her yet.  She and her partner Ron own and operate Evangeline Trail Rides. 

Crystal and Ron

Crystal who has always been from Nova Scotia met Russell in 1987 thru family events.  Their paths crossed again in 1990 and then many years passed.  Facebook brought them back onto each other’s radar.   When we planned a trip to Nova Scotia there was certainly going to be a visit with Crystal.  Her big and tender heart was brimming over with a welcome to experience her world.

What is her world? Well…….Crystal is a genius.  She has taken her love of horses and found a way to make a life from it by having strangers come and pay to ride, “Evangeline Trail Rides” is the family business in addition to some ranching.  The work at Evangeline is shared by a faithful group of horse lovers who come help with trail rides and horse care and earn themselves a place in the barn family. 

All of that might just sound like a business model but when you are smack dab in the middle of it and privy to the background stories it is abundantly clear there is so much more going on.  

That “so much more” is something I get excited about.
I used to kinda scoff at the words I am about to tell you, but not anymore.  
What Crystal and Ron look to be nurturing, as clearly as I can see, is community and empowerment.  These are big words, vague words, what do I mean when I say them?

Community… having a place where you belong.  Where people know your name, some of your stories, some of your needs, you have people you share memories with.  The fact that a community exists at Crystal and Ron’s is irrefutable.   As we sat around their kitchen and living room before and after the ride Russell and I were wholeheartedly welcomed into the community.  We weren’t exactly strangers….

In 2019 Crystal started scheming to take a group of her barn friends and travel west to our ranch for a fall cattle move. Flights and hotels for nine women were booked. It was to be an October 2020 adventure. The plan meant that many became Facebook friends with us to get acquainted before the big trip. Then the reality of Covid hit. The trip was canceled but these new facebook friends remained. We have regularly seen their names and gained a small sense of familiarity with them. Spending actual time together now, matching faces and voices to names was fun. There was alot of getting acquainted happening.

I got to meet Crystal’s Dad “Pappie” who Russ had spent some days with in 1990.

At this kitchen party, once it was certain that there was enough space for the telling, we heard the broken toilet story. It was epic in its own right but told with such vivid skill we were able to laugh away all the stress of April 2022 I think.  Russell adds, “what good is a story without actions?” In quiet moments of conversation we were told about jobs and family members, and we found people and places we had in common.  Suddenly the world seemed smaller and more caring.  We shared stories about Covid and getting through it.  We learned, again, that we were not alone.  In short, we experienced the community that Crystal and Ron have been nurturing and tending.

And the other word….

Empowerment, isn’t that the word to use when people are welcomed to push their limits, to learn and learn more, to face physical and social challenges and come out stronger?  For example Crystal invites her teenage barn women to serve as trail guides helping tourists over 3x their age to handle their horses.  Wow. 

These girls in grade 8 and grade 12 do not hesitate to do what needs to be done in the barn or on the trail.

Does a family gain strength and momentum when they are all welcomed to the barn life and over and over again they practice together all the equine, social and emotional challenges before them?  I think so.  It was clear to see when observing the busyness in the barn, as all aspects of horse use and care were handled, that everyone on the team has been given chances to grow their confidence.  Does this matter?  100% YES.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes!

Look at Liz’s great smile. She took many of the pictures in this blog. Her great gram and my Nanny were born in the same year in Springhill. We pondered if we might be related.

I don’t know how Crystal and Ron arrived at this model for how they would run their business.   However, it honestly strikes me as brilliant.  It’s got to be tricky.  Most things that involve creatures that breathe, like humans and horses, are a bit complicated at least some of the time.  But the rewards…..

I think the wisdom that underscores all of this is useful to everyone.   There are things that are accomplished when humans meet in circles.  Isn’t this part of the appeal of campfires?  Isn’t circle time action a huge part of what makes meals at a table such a powerful practice for humans?

When I asked about “circle time” after we were all done, my questions were research for this blog.  The way Russ spoke of it at the start of the ride I felt like I was being allowed into a secret society.  But the experience…. stopping in a clearing and doing the moves to get our horses into a circle had a powerful intentionality to it. There is a time for moving forward and there is a time for circling up.  When these moves were followed up by Crystal’s invitations for stories and conversation I just knew there was more happening.  When I asked a rider about it I was told,  “it’s the foundation.”

What I take from that….. its that seeing each other,  literally seeing each other’s faces and focusing on what we share is powerful.   Its a foundation that allows a business to grow and thrive, humans to feel safe and included, and moments of rest for all.

As I write this I am on a plane, descending into Toronto, we haven’t seen our kids for days and days.  It’s time for the Bar MW version of circle time.  There will be alot of stories to share.  I hope Busterkat will sit in his high chair and Morgan will light a candle.  I hope it will feel cozy.  Cow chase season is right around the corner and soon that table will be stretched out to the max, ready to share circle time with the characters in our world.  I am pretty sure Russ and I will be thinking of Crystal as we savor the stories and moments and tackle the work.

Not Random

Wednesday September 6 – I am sitting in the Smitty’s at Grasswoods Esso in Saskatoon, I only have a few minutes more to write because in 10 minutes friends are arriving to meet me, Russ will be pulling in shortly after.

That single sentence holds two really big stories for us.

The first is that the friends we are meeting we have never actually spent time with in person before.   We will recognize each other through pictures seen on Facebook.  

The second is that Russ and I spent the night at my sisters only a few minutes from here.  At 5am the alarm went off, Russ got himself going and made it to a farm near Vanscoy by 6:30am.  He went to make a purchase of a colt before the owner needed to get to work. 

My sister dropped me off here at Smittys on her way to work.

Am I nervous about this visit?  No, not really, my work as a minister doing pastoral work has prepared me well for sitting at tables with people I don’t know.

The main connection has been between Russell and Margaret.  I have occasionally ……

Here they come.   I can see them coming across the parking lot.

Later on……

The visit is done, Russ and I are zipping down the Yellowhead highway on our way to Shoal Lake, Manitoba.  We have a donkey to buy.  But back to the first stories.

At Easter in 2020 my Mom sent a group text expressing her easter wishes to her kids and grandkids.  After that arrived a follow-up message appeared, from a strange number.  The gist of that was ”I don’t think I was supposed to get this text.”  Something fairly unexplainable had happened.  My Mom had inserted an extra phone number in her group text, but it wasn’t a number from her directory.  The person who received the message had never heard of our family.   How did my Mom do that?  It seems like it was more than pushing one or two accidental buttons. 

Almost five days later……my vehicle is in getting an oil change and I am at the Flying M Diner in Carnduff eating toast and eggs and drinking coffee.   I absolutely love moments like this.  Back to the story……A few members of the family answered this random text, posing questions and trying to figure out how this had happened.  No obvious connection was ever established.    Russ was one of the family who texted back and forth with this stranger.  He still has the same phone he did then, so as we traveled down the road last Wednesday, talking over how it is that we had become friends with these strangers, we could scroll back in his phone and find the original interactions.  It was comical.  It was like Russ couldn’t decide what he wanted.  He told her “have a good life” twice, sounds like a “I’m done” message to me, but then he would send our stranger a picture of new calves that had been born.   They connected over the shared interest in agriculture and by the time a couple days had passed they were facebook friends.  Russ entered the number in his phone and going on the information he had early on titled her contact information “Random Margaret.” 

A glimpse of the first words exchanged.

2020 would unfold as it did.  Margaret and Russell discovered more than ranching and church in common, they found they both love jokes and soon the quips were flying back and forth.  Margaret kept Russell supplied with multiple sources of laughter a day. 

A screenshot from a joke that Margaret sent me.

Soon I became her facebook friend too and became somewhat familiar with the rhythms of her days and the special people in her life.  Margaret read my blog and would send messages at times to speak of what it stirred in her.  We were all definitely developing a solid relationship. 

When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer in summer of 2020 things got emotionally tricky for Russell and I.  Margaret reached out to Russell in a way that said, “I see you.”  When I went to Saskatoon to help care for my Mom she knew how much Russell struggled and how much stress it was for me.  She offered to take me out for coffee, for a break.  I didn’t take her up on that but I knew she was there.  I had several support persons in Saskatoon, but all of us were so emotionally tied into the difficulty of what was being faced.  Having Margaret offer her care, totally objective to the situation, had the effect of feeling like there was a first aid kid available that was just for me should I need it. 

The friendship has carried on for over two years now, through facebook and messenger.  Russ stopped calling our friend “Random Margaret” sometime in that first year.  When his phone dings with a Messenger message he now might say, “I betcha that’s ‘Not Random Margaret’”.   Often he is right.  It is mysterious that as the presence of my Mom in our lives waned another tall and energetic senior lady was in the wings, she helps to keep Russ encouraged and feeling seen. 

Late last Tuesday as we made our way to Saskatoon we were discussing how our impromptu colt pickup trip was going to unfold.   Realizing that we had a bit of time in the morning once our first pickup was done I said to Russ, “do we have time to meet Margaret for breakfast?”  With it being a work day it was a perfect morning to meet our retired friend.  We made the invitation and it all got set up.   It was pretty fun to finally put voices and mannerisms to what we already knew.    Margaret’s husband was part of our time.  I appreciated meeting him more than I realized I would.  I have few elder men in my life, it has always been that way.  The elders I have I treasure, but I just don’t get to see them often at all.   So there was already a spot in my heart for the man I was starting to get to know. 

After breakfast we parted ways and it was later that Margaret send a message, “we forgot to get a picture!”  It feels good to live in the moment and forget about pictures sometimes, but afterwards, a souvenir is nice.    I guess we just lived in the moment. 

The impact of the internet is so far reaching and I tend to think that the drawbacks outnumber the benefits.  However, there are definite mysterious ways that it weaves magic, allowing people to connect, share themselves, and feel encouraged.  Our story with not random Margaret and Larry is one of those things we place in the column titled “benefits of the internet.”  As I wrap this story up, for now, I doubt myself.  Is this that unusual or noteworthy?  I mean people use the internet to meet new people pretty often, it is something most of us have the power to do, is it worthy of a blog post?  I write about it because it’s a way of upholding how valuable the net of human relationship is in our lives.  One thing Russell has taught me is that we never need to be done weaving new threads into the net.  The random strangers that make their way into our days can be sources of blessing and remind us that we are not alone.  The random becomes part of a sturdy net that helps to catch us and at the same time these threads create a beautiful tapestry that keeps life super interesting.  We are blessed.

The sun setting on the end of the day that started with breakfast with Margaret and Larry. We were almost home with our colts Skywalker and Elton John.

May I Introduce You….

The stories coming from the Bar MW Ranch may take on an added dimension over the next few years because of what Russ and I did yesterday.  

Backing up for a second…….you might have read in a previous blog about a grass fire at our Carievale field over the weekend.  Within a day the knife broke on our haybine.  It was felt that perhaps we were pushing our luck and maybe it would be okay to call it quits, the 2022 haying season was over at that point.  There was only a bit left.   Sometimes you just have enough of enough. 

That freed Russ up to do something that he has been scheming to do for much of the summer, a road trip that felt epic to us, in order to pick up a horse and a donkey.  We left the ranch Tuesday afternoon, were in Saskatoon by early evening, had time with one of my sisters and her family and then slept.  Russ was up at 5 in order to get to a ranch about 30 minutes out of Saskatoon by 6:30am.  That is where our Andalusian colt was waiting for him.  The owner wanted to go for a ride with Russ and get the details settled before she went to work, hence the early start.   The horse is actually a stud colt, a year old as of today. 

This is the selfie Russ sent to the family from Dana’s place.

After riding a grown Andalusian horse……

and having a great visit with Dana the owner, Russ was thrilled like he thought he would be, and made the colt purchase. 

Russ caught up with me afterwards, we spent a couple hours in Saskatoon, (the subject of a different blog post, currently under production) then we hit the road headed for Shoal Lake, Manitoba.  That is where we were to find our donkey colt.  Slow drivers and construction on the Yellowhead highway combined with a couple stops in Yorkton meant we were quite late getting to Shoal Lake area.  So the rancher with the donkey to sell loaded two donkeys up, so we could choose one, and brought them with him to the rink in Shoal Lake so he could get to his duties there.  When we found Dan and looked into his trailer it only took Russ one look at the two donkeys, he knew exactly which one he wanted and sealed the deal. 

We then backed our trailer up to Dan’s to make the transfer. 

Russ and Dan held hands in order to create a hoist to get the back legs of the donkey off the ground and the front part moving forward towards our trailer.  Russ is funny in the way he tells of this, he calls it the slowest wheelbarrow race in the world, with a total stranger.   A bit of a visit, use of the rink bathroom and we were off, heading home to the ranch with the supper of champions in our possession……bottled water and Hawkins Cheezies. 

We left Shoal Lake with our load like this, hoping they might become friends.
We stopped to see how our passengers were doing.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I peeked in the trailer and found this sight. How did these two end up in the same compartment? We wonder if Dan made a change in the setup before we left the rink but when we didn’t realize. Weird and fun. They were buds already it seemed.

Now…..what is stirring?  What is the thinking behind these purchases?

The Andalusian……..its a breed known for its beauty and smooth ride.  Russ has never owned one but feels like he would really enjoy the smoothness of it as he continues to reckon with a body that holds aches and pains.  We are not in the habit of spending a lot of money on horses.  We turn basic or spoiled or cheap horses into good ones through love and lots of hours.  This is different.  Russ had to talk me into it because I am cheap.  In the end we were able to give ourselves permission for this splurge by selling one of our older horses that isn’t doing well with cow herd work, its more of a kids horse and putting that together with some money from my Mom.  So we say our Andalusian is a gift from Georgie.  The colt has a beautiful disposition.  I am not a horse person but I loved it from the moment I first set eyes on it.  There is something about it. 

The donkey colt is because we enjoy having mules in our herd but the two we have, Dick and Jane, are getting old.  We decided that we would try to breed some more for ourselves.  Morgan is an avid shopper on Kijiji and he found a few different donkey options. One of them led to a story with surprising twists and turns but ultimately a dead end.  Then this donkey quite close to home, relatively speaking, came up as an option.  We are thrilled with the work Morgan did to find this colt.  Now maybe I should back up a bit.  If you are not used to the terms you might be confused.  We will use our new donkey to breed a mare (a female horse), the resulting animal will be a mule when its born.   

Morgan is getting to be a great horse trainer, this has given Russ courage to get breeding some animals for ourselves, we may even keep our Andalusian stud intact and make more colts with him.  Who knows.  So many unpredictable things can happen. 

Friendly time in the pen this morning after getting back from town.

At the end of our first full day home with our new family members there are a couple things to report:

-Morgan was able to halter the donkey after school today and set a saddle on its back. He was able to lead it around pretty well. Russ felt this was a great thing, Morgan thinks it had some training already put into it and isn’t taking much credit.

-Our donkey gave a morning wake up bray at 5am. Honestly, I didn’t hear it, but Ron did and said it wasn’t too bad, didn’t go on too long. Later in the day we had those donkey calls ringing through the yard at a couple points. There is a new kind of music in the Bar MW yard.

On that “note”………..may I introduce you to our new friends.

“Elton John”
“Skywalker”

Its bedtime and I am exhausted so the stories of these names are going to have to wait. I am just going to conclude by saying I really really like our new boys.

The Tenderlands – Where there is sparks…..

Its Saturday night.  It has been a good day and a hard day.  Our whole family was in the saddle today as we participated in the Hubbard’s annual trail ride.  That was very good and deserves a whole blog post.  Towards the end of the ride Russ got a call from our man Ron, he was cutting the last of the hay and his cutting knife hit a rock, threw a spark and started a grass fire.  It all turned out better than anyone could have hoped for, no people or machinery were hurt, the neighbors’ cows were not affected.    We have lots to be thankful for.

After Russ got the initial call a series of conversations happened, most extremely brief,  some in person and some over the phone.  It all resulted in the Carievale and Gainsborough volunteer fire departments being dispatched, the nearest truck being hijacked, me jumping off the mule I was riding, and jumping in with Russ and one of the volunteer firemen who was on the trail with us.  We sped south about 30km to the pasture where the fire was. 

We arrived to find the fire departments on site and the fire completely under control.   

They continued to do what they train so well for and the fire was out before too long.  Little smoking hotspots were evident.  Our trail friend Gord had a steel broom he pulled out to start dealing with those.  I asked if he had a second one, he did, so I got to do something, which was a relief. 

I have titled this blog in “the tenderlands” series because of the way this event reminded me of how vulnerable we are.  It is humbling and heartwarming to need so much help and to get it. 

At this point in the late afternoon the temperature was 30 degrees celsius, the firefighter pictured here is in full protective gear. Thank you for being there.

As I stood on the prairie with the steel broom Gord had given me I had two main things I was pondering.  The news of the fire was scary but as I did my bit with my broom I realized I was handling my stress about it by playing the “it could have been worse” game.   I was relieved that the bad news we were reckoning with on this day was not about one of my family, one of my friends, or one of my friends’ kids being injured on the trail.  That is one of my biggest worries.  This fire was hard and upsetting but if I had to choose between being in an ambulance or holding a broom on a smoking prairie, I would choose that broom any day.  Ideally a day holds no big suffering, most of our days are like that.  But we are human and if you will excuse my language, shit goes south sometimes.   This particular storm of it could have been much more serious, much more.  We were given a reminder of how fragile the balance is and how vulnerable we are, but in the end were given a very easy pill to swallow. 

I also found myself thinking about the idea of “stewardship.”  It’s the idea that we are responsible to care for the people and resources that have been entrusted to us.  I am not sure I can put into words what my head is thinking, but bear with me.  The image of a woman with a broom is rather iconic in my mind.  It’s a big part of the tending work that I have done in all the homes I have lived in.  I like sweeping, its rewarding.  Standing on the prairie with a broom in my hand just gave me this very strong sense that I was doing the best I could in that particular moment to care for the land that I have been entrusted with.   It felt like an act of love.  I have a strong sense of love for our animals, but I have not had that feeling arise greatly regarding the land.  Maybe it was because in a very small sense, that land needed me.  I don’t know.  I just know that standing on the prairie with a broom in my hand was stirring and made me think in a new way about caring for our land. 

An aerial shot taken by a drone owned by one of the firemen and sent to us.

That’s all I got.  I am really weary.  It was important to write this tonight, to grab the heart action that was a part of this unexpected part of our day.  While my heart is the realm of the tenderlands, the lands we very literally tend are tender too.  It was a hard day for our Carievale field today.  Thanks to many committed people much harm was prevented. 

Chit Chat Over Coffee

There is a little tiny joke in this picture. Can you see it?

Its 9:36am on September 1st.  I am writing to you live from the Chopper K Auction Mart.  Russ, Gina, Jill and I are here to watch our grassers sell.  These are calves we kept many extra months to grow up a bit.  We got here early after dropping Morgan off for his first day of grade 10. 

The sale hasn’t started yet, so we have been privy to the auction mart waking up and people getting in position for the work before them.  I just learned that it’s the first sale since June, so we are really witnessing the very beginning of a new season.  I have always enjoyed “good morning” type chit chat so its good to be here.  Gina reports that the action at this point reminds her of behind the scenes when the curtain is about to open in shows she has been in.  That is kind’ve fun to think about. 

The four of us free to hang out while others buzz about. The auction mart dog “Tina” came and wedged in between Russ and I. She is quite dear.

There have been a few things to check in about.

Gina is home!  Our girl who completed her musical theatre diploma in May and then extra training in stage combat since, finished up her lease in Victoria and moved home for a bit before carrying on to Toronto.  She has shown a lot of bravery this summer, going to big cities to study and learning subway systems and new people.  It has been awesome to see.  The big deal this week is that she loaded her car and drove home, boarding a ferry at 5:30am and driving til 10:30 that night, she spent some hours sleeping in her car in Strathmore, Alberta before heading on and getting home by 3:30pm the next day.  She really enjoyed the mountain driving.  What a monkey though, she wanted to surprise me so she didn’t give me accurate info about her location. So….she got home and I wasn’t there. I had been called to town and decided to have tea with Grandma Shirley while I was there, I thought I had time.  So, when I wandered into the house with my arms full of groceries, there she was sitting at our kitchen counter sipping a cold drink and video taping my reaction. Honestly. She hid her car behind the barn and had way too much fun catching me off guard! It was my joy to soon see all my kids sitting down for supper.

Yesterday we unloaded her car and I have to say it was impressive how much she had stashed in it!

How the car looked in the driveway the first night. Russ was impressed that Gina packed alot of stuff and kept her sight lines all around.
Gina’s pal Ernie spent the last two years in Victoria and accompanied her in the front seat on the way home. He told me not to tell Gina but he is glad to be back on the prairies.
All of this was in that little car!

Backtracking a bit…..My friend Deb and her girls visited over the weekend.  We enjoyed the visits, the storytelling, the wisdom shared, the laughs, there were some great hours spent together. 

A fun idea was hatched during our last breakfast, that idea is a cookbook.  We are both good cooks and we have been friends for 45 years.  I have a vivid memory of walking down the street together when we were about 11, talking about what we thought about becoming women.  We have talked about almost every dimension of womanhood that has unfolded since then.  It seems like maybe we could make some fun title out of that and create something, even if its a cookbook just for our kids.  It was fun to dream about it at the table and brainstorm what recipes would need to be included.  It was the cinnamon buns we were eating that …..

Oh……

Our calves are coming into the ring to sell.  Time to close the laptop.

Here are our observers. Jill with calculator in hand, this is her job for us every sale.

Here is a minute of what that kind of action looks like.

9 hours later…..

Well the selling phase of the day was good but certainly anxiety producing.  The prices we received are quite improved over recent years and that is well timed.  The drought and storms of recent memory have been so hard.  Cattle prices have not kept pace with expenses. We are thankful for this morning.

Our John Deere tractor is in the hospital.  It has been a hard reality to work around, slowing our progress with baling, but just one of those things.  A significant problem started last Friday making it not driveable.  Russ called our family at Fast Trucking and there was a truck in the yard within half an hour to pick up the tractor and take it to Oxbow.   We are extremely blessed.

Loading the tractor with its problems was very nerve wracking for Russ.

Further problems have arisen, so the tractor is still in Oxbow, Russ is getting familiar with the staff at the John Deere hospital and things are going well between them. 

About baling………we have all the bales we need for feed and are so close to being done we can just about say we are done.   This is a relief.   We will now begin baling some straw (likely once the tractor is out of the hospital) but that is less of a stressful thing, usually.  It is such a relief to head into winter feeling only minimally concerned about feed and water.  We know that a year like this is a total blessing.

To make a morning like the one we had today happen there are many steps. First we have to get the animals in from pasture and ready to load onto transport. I was able to take a good video of the grassers coming into the yard yesterday morning.  Our friends Jackie and Marisol joined Russ, Gina and Morgan to move them down the road and also helped with getting them sorted and prepped to load.  Here is the video, they move in quickly and it makes for an action packed minute.

Last Friday night we joined a crowd in Oxbow to see the province wide touring group Saskatchewan Express.  It was a really entertaining production and we had a special interest in it.  One of Gina’s friends from college was a performer.  Liz was the understudy that portrayed Shrek to Gina’s Fiona in all the performances we saw.  We hosted her for supper while we were in Victoria.  It was pretty nice to have a familiar face on the stage in Oxbow.  She was excellent.  There are some people in our small communities who work really hard to make our life together warmer, more interesting, and more connected.   Concerts like this one are a result of their efforts, it is a very good thing.

Maybe that’s enough of a check in.  I hope this finds you well and ready to face what this new season holds.

Oh wait….the joke……

Some of the people in this house love cats. We have cat mugs. I picked one by chance tonight, to hold my decaf coffee. Then I took a picture of the mug to use as a lead image for this blog. But wouldn’t you know it, right beside those cats was a mouse. A computer mouse. My fairly stressed brain was quite amused by the cat and mouse story going on on my desk. You got the joke right off the top didn’t you? I probably didn’t even need to explain. Sweet dreams!

The Fruit of your REST

There is a phrase we use in Canada and probably in lots of other places too, it is “the fruit of your labor.”  When I use that phrase I mean the good stuff or the benefits that come from work done.  Lately I have found myself thinking about the opposite, that is, the benefits of taking rest time. 

In June I took advantage of a seat sale and got to go to Toronto where I stayed in an Anglican convent and did lots of resting.  I also spent time with friends and family.  Those were great days.  When I came home I found myself with a word in my head.  This word bears no connection that I can see to the things I experienced in Toronto, but nonetheless it was there.  The word was “decisive.”  I found myself with a readiness to deal with a longstanding problem.    I had a strategy emerge for it.  This all seems so weird.  This was not what I was expecting to receive from my “retreat” days. 

Rest time often brings with it a change of perspective.

The problem I had was that I have lived with a sense of urgency for far too long.  When that happens, like so many of you know, you deal with what is urgent, and push to the side what is important but not urgent.  In my life, what that meant, was that I had opened and paid all our bills as the months and years have gone by, but all mail that did not have that kind of urgency was not opened.    Things that did not have an obvious place to be put away got piled in and around my desk.  I counted.  I had almost 250 unopened pieces of mail, bank and credit card statements mostly, having been paid on line and monitored online, the mail itself had no urgency.  I also had at least 140 miscellaneous things piled on and near my desk.  It was all weighing me down.  How could I accept an invitation from Russell to ride along on a journey to pastures  or elsewhere when all that chaos was hanging over my head?  I decided I had to tell Russell what the numbers were and share what was burdening me.  Then I had to deal with it.  I am learning that a big work day set aside for a major overhaul rarely can actually come to pass.  This had to be a longhaul overhaul.   I made a chart.  I identified the problems I had before me and committed to open five pieces of mail a day and put away five of those miscellaneous things.  I added other things to the chart that would help me prevent further chaos, like opening three current pieces of mail each day.  I am now almost 3 months into this process and I am over the moon about the difference this is making at my desk but also in my head and heart. 

My desk usually looks something like this now.

Two weeks ago I took a few days off and after going to a Regina appointment kept driving north for a visit with my people in Saskatoon.   I stayed with my cousin but each morning we got up and going and went to my sister’s for coffee.  It was great.

In one of these visits talk turned to the fact that each of them wear activity trackers.   My eyes were opened to the benefits of wearing something that could track many health details and activity level.  I came home knowing I needed to research that for myself.  Russ and I each got one.  Is it life in the 50s plus age zone that makes you take health stuff more seriously?  Not sure, but the first days with the trackers have been very interesting and this tracker is going to be helpful, I can tell.   Sitting down for these visits because I chose to step away from the ranch for a bit allowed something new and helpful to enter my radar.

We have had some hard and frustrating days lately. Russ sent me this screenshot on one of the worst days last week. We are both finding it interesting and validating to have what we are going through spelled out like this.

What feels controversial about how rest happens around here relates to Russ.  Basically he has got to a point where he is claiming time to rest and rejuvenate because he enjoys it so much.  He is bucking the training that has been part of his culture since day one.  That training would say that as long as the sun is up, you are either at work or at a doctors appointment or something super important with your kids.  Time taken away from the ranch implies perhaps laziness, perhaps lack of dedication, perhaps lack of concern for the welfare of the farm/ranch.   Time taken away brings with it guilt.  I have no idea how it has happened that Russ has found the way clear to resist that culture and its guilt and claim the time we need.  I can tell you it has made a difference. 

We recently went to Minot for two nights.  Russ said, “Kathy, that greenfeed is not going to be dry enough to bale until at least Wednesday, lets go to Minot.”  I said, “Russ, we were just there last month.  Are you sure you can get away?”  My inner dialogue was dancing between guilt that I might have five nights away within two weeks, guilt at our abandonment of our ranch and delight at the thought of being away with Russ.   I did research that led us to an air bnb in downtown Minot.  It was great.  It was so cozy and comfortable.   What came of that rest?  Hard to know at this point.  I don’t have a new guiding word in my head, or a new health insight but am I a bit more resilient because of quiet hours on a beautiful deck on a warm summer night sitting beside my honey? 

We went to a movie in Minot and took the chance to pose a bit goofy with posters there.
Resting….I am blogging, Russ behind on the couch reading….just can see a head and foot.

Russ is very clear about something.  He believes that rest time experienced together is good for our marriage.  He thinks of these stolen hours and sometimes days as sequels to the honeymoon.  About this I know I am very lucky.   I also know that our marriage didn’t feel like this when Russ worked all day every day while I raised little kids.  The easing up of childcare duties, time to refresh that we have been claiming over the last five years and a commitment to really try and see each other has breathed life into the bond between us. 

In 2017 our friends invited us to go to Vegas with them. Our first trip without the kids. It felt like a cold drink of water and we awoke to the value of this kind of time.

The rest we claim would not feel nearly as wonderful if it was not the counter balance to lots of work, shaping most of our days.  There has to be a balance.  That’s the thing we are learning, and sometimes allowed to glimpse clear evidence of….there has to be a balance.   A balance between work and play, between effort and rest, between push and retreat. 

Let It Go Elsa!

On Friday night I sat in the Strand theatre in Melita, Manitoba with a bit of nervous anticipation.   Our girl Jill would soon be on stage with the cast of Frozen for a production they pulled together in 9 days at a theatre camp.   I was so proud of Jill before the curtain even rose.  Having just graduated from high school she was surely the oldest member of the cast, that didn’t hold her back.  She heard about the opportunity and knew immediately she wanted to sign up.   She is in a bit of limbo in her life, not sure what the next steps need to be, but she knows she loves musical theatre.  She hoped for the part of Elsa, one of two female leads, she got it.  She spent her days working on her part and riding the waves that come when sharing a project with children of many ages. 

Once the curtain rose there was much to take in.  The lead characters Anna and Elsa were played by three pairs of actresses, to relay the passing of time.  The little ones were so cute and showed much promise as performers.   Many familiar faces were part of the cast and that made it extra interesting.  The staging of a musical with little time or budget involves a lot of dedication and creativity, it was very interesting to see how it all came together.   The point where Jill and Amelia came on as the adult Anna and Elsa was notable.  Both these girls attended the first ever theatre camp back in 2016, they both love it, they were both strong performers who carried their lines and the emotion within their parts very well.  As an audience I think it was clear we could relax with the understanding, “they got this.”  That is a big deal.

Our friend Sue-lynn had front row seats and got this picture from that vantage point. Thanks for sharing Sue-lynn!

Jill basically blew me away.  I have not had the chance to see her perform like this for so very long.  Three years?  The combination of her maturity, experience, inner spirit and ability meant she took to the stage with confidence and was very effective.  I was so proud of her, she claimed her space as a performer.  What do I mean when I say this?   Its like the performer says within themselves, “I am here, with all that I am, I have a story to tell, I am letting you see something within me, I am dramatic, I may not be what you are expecting, but I am here and I am not leaving till I have given every last drop to get my message across.”  I know from experience that this is not easy to do but it makes the difference between an average and an excellent performance.  One of Jill’s fans was embarrassed by the tears that fell when taking in what Jill had to offer.  I wasn’t surprised.  They seeped from my eyes too.

I asked Jill if I could share the videos I took of her solos.  She was not so comfortable with that.  So you will have to trust me that her singing was lovely. 

Beyond the chance to learn and perform, as a parent I find myself with hopes that my kids make friends in activities like this.   It was therefore quite fun to drive home with Jill after the first performance and hear stories, not about the show, but the people in the show, the kids interacted with Jill in fun ways and it was heartwarming to hear how that all unfolded.   Jill didn’t come home with a new best friend but she was enfolded in a little community and that matters. 

Our friends and family were supportive of Jill, there were a lot of good feelings that flowed from seeing familiar faces and hearing words of support and affirmation.  The long distance family lent their support from afar through the family chat.   There are so many things that have made life challenging over the last couple years but without a doubt the chance to see faces and feel hugs and stand close for pictures makes a person think, “we are going to make it!”

Here are a selection of pictures we grabbed to remember the moments and the love.

This picture betrays Grandma Shirley’s usually sunny spirit. I am including it because I am wearing my Mom’s shirt. I wore one of her shirts to every one of Gina’s Shrek shows, to symbolize her presence in our lives in some way. I wore it to this 2nd show of Jill’s. Mom spent many hours in the theatre at Melita watching all the kids in these drama performances. Behind Shirley and I is a friend from Oxbow, Donna was able to sneak in the performance during time she was already in Melita, thanks to Facebook she knew about it. It was so nice to see her.

We are thankful to Brittany Walker and the Antler River Recreation Department for creating opportunities that have meant alot to our family, especially Gina and Jill. We are really proud of them both, its Jill’s time to shine!