Growing

Some fun pictures from this week got me thinking about growth. I think the bottom line is that we are surrounded by growth and we watch with keen eyes for signs of growth. This morning Russ and I were checking the calving cows. At one point he looked over at an area we fenced off last year. Some new trees were coming in after randomly seeding themselves there and Russ wanted to protect them from the cows. This morning he said with alot of excitement, “Look at those new trees!! Just look!” Growth is exciting. My thoughts about growth have a dark underside though. Growth is hard. In some cases growth requires letting go of what was and embracing what is to come, often unknown. That is certainly the case raising teenagers. It is not easy. Many times during this year Morgan and I have had the “who is the tallest?” competition. At first I won, but not anymore, we notice the feeling that he has grown just overnight it seems. While I love seeing the man he is becoming it requires letting go of the boy who has been so much fun to raise.

So what are the pictures that got all this going?

While Dr. Marcel and Megan were with us testing the bulls we had the chance for this photo op. This is not a bull. This is “Moo”, our ox, our boy with a long story and a job to do, but its not to be a bull. He winters with the bulls and so he came through the chute with them for his needles. Moo is a tiny bit of a legend at our place hence the priority of taking the chance for a photo op.
Looking at Moo this week I was reminded of this picture from 2015. That is Moo as a baby and that is Morgan, he was starting the process of making Moo into a 4H steer. This picture is what got me thinking about the reality and the miracle of growth. It is also what got me thinking about the fact that I miss my little kids and the times we had. The stage we are at now is interesting, more interesting than I can bear some days, being with humans who are at such a dynamic stage of growth is literally exciting but it is also expensive in several senses. I worry more, I spend more and I think I have more of a sense of grief within me, born of the fact that life is changing so fast and we are being challenged to keep our hands open to what flows in and what flows out, we hold firmly only to love.
This ox of ours now weighs over 2000 pounds yet he has not forgotten his story among us. He is calm, this picture was taken in the same moment that he gave Russ a bit of a kiss. Moo was never able to take milk from his Mom, she died within hours of giving birth. After that we brought bottles to Moo and a colt whose mother died the same day (that was not a good day on the Bayliss ranch). Those bottles were a thrice daily event all summer and fall long. That colt is now our saddle horse named Cinder. Moo and Cinder had an undeniable interspecies friendship after spending their baby days together.
Jill and Moo a few years ago. The friendship is real and so is the growth.
A completely unrelated picture to the topic at hand. The thing is, these barn cats are so cute and frequently cuddle like this. I am not sure about this, but I think its true, most animals need friends in order to grow and thrive.
A photo that is about new life, so much growth to happen yet in this calf, Russ came across Mr. Howell and her new calf, just seconds old, yesterday morning. He sent me this picture. His commentary that went with it was, “we are in the life business, it just never gets old!”

Reckoning with the dark side of growth, the letting go, the grief, the unknowns of the future, had me thinking about one more thing. That one thing is what our nation is being called to do in the wake of the news coming from the residential school site at Kamloops. We are being called to grow. We might long for a time when things were more straightforward in the storyline we thought we knew about Canada and its aboriginal peoples. We have new information though, or maybe its not new at all, but suddenly what was fuzzy, has been brought into sharp focus and we have vivid evidence of things we do not want to consider and cannot fathom. What we do not want to consider, we must consider, letting that affect our hearts and minds, our understanding, our words and our actions. The way I see it we are being called to grow in compassion which stands in contrast to taking a place of judgment. We might ask, “whats it like to be you?” instead of “whats wrong with you?!?!” We are called to grow in the number and depth of our personal and community acts of solidarity, which right off the top of my head means refusing to repeat or encourage race based humor, humor which relies on stereotypes, which comes at the expense of a whole group of people and amounts to slander. Growth is essential to life, without our hay crop growing we cannot feed our cows. Without our knowledge and understanding growing we risk becoming stagnant and dried up, like a dugout not being fed by underground streams or incoming rains. Growth brings good things, Russ and I cannot lose sight of that as we parent this family of ours through all these stages we are working through. Growth brings good things, can we citizens trust that? Can we trust that as we face with so many mixed feelings the truths we are discovering?

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada. I have said nothing in this post about God or about our Church. Leaving God out of conversations about growth and about residential schools is like leaving the flour out of a batch of bread. I wonder if you can forgive me this omission. I am not sure what I am ready to say and I know for sure that this blog is already long enough and serious enough.

Swim boys swim!

You might know that I took a break from documenting ranch life to get some paper work done. In the meantime I was doing a postcard series. I am going to keep that up until I am caught up on my yard work. However today there is a chance to tell you about our day, it is an unusual but essential day. The days work began yesterday when Russell and Morgan and friends brought the bulls home from their winter pasture. I was able to document that effort only because I ran into them on my way to town.

Maybe this will never happen to you, like if you live in Toronto, but this is what it looks like when you come across a herd of bulls while heading out to do errands.
Our bull named “Friday” was hesitant to join the group. So as I got further down the road I came across David and Jim trailing this loner.
Kent was one of the cowboys on duty yesterday.
Russell took this picturesque shot of Morgan and his horse getting a drink in the creek.
Russell’s horse Cinder.
Jim on the road with the bulls, photo courtesy of Russell.

Once the bulls got home they didn’t settle down too well. I am not clear what the issue was but something made them ornery and they deconstructed part of a sucker rod fence. Ron has since fixed it up just like new. I was not sure if it would be a noisy night, would the bulls bugle a bit, only feet from our bedroom window? They did settle down, Knightwing the dog settled down and we all slept well. Whew. The job for today was to get each bull into the chute, get a semen sample and test it for its quality. I have stretched my skill set alot since becoming a rancher’s wife, but thankfully this is not something I have been invited to learn to do. The vets were on duty!

A delay at the start meant there was time for a break for most of the crew before things began. If you have been to our ranch in the last year you might recognize this couch. It sat on our lawn for the winter, and we loved it there, absolutely confirming, beyond a doubt, that we are hillbillies. We just moved it into the poleshed. Breaktime just got comfier.
Our man Ron, his job today was to keep the bulls moving forward toward the chute.
Here is our vet tech Megan hard at work.
This gives a good glimpse of the overall set-up. A bull caught in the chute with Jill running the hydraulics. Megan has just delivered a sample into the inside of the mobile vet unit, where Marcel does on the spot analysis and assigns a score.
Russ gave the bulls their vitamins and after confirming that they passed their tests with Marcel they also got two vaccines. If they had not passed their test they would soon be on their way to the Auction Mart and be heading into the food chain. If an animal has been given these vaccines they may not enter the food chain for a prescribed number of days.
Marcel in position in his vet unit where his microscope allows him to look at several factors such as movement, vitality and shape of the sperm. He also assesses the diameter of the bull’s scrotum and all these factors together lead to a score for each bull. We tested 30 bulls, as a result two will not be used in this coming breeding year, the rest are pretty high scores. The two faulty ones are named “Love” and “Forever”. Seems a bad set of names to take out of the herd! Forever is Russell’s 2nd favourite bull of all time, so he is sad. The best score this year went to our bull named “Family Jewels”. We just bought him. We now try and name our bulls with a connection to the breeder. The head woman at L7 ranch is Crystal. That is like a jewel, hence the name “Family Jewels.”
Marcel invited me to take a picture of the slide in his microscope. This sample was good. I am not sure exactly what I am seeing but its cool and the truth is, this is an essential part of the circle of life and the food chain getting started!
A glitch in the day……..the hydraulic chute busted a bit. Marcel is a jack of all trades, he had a darn good look at the problem, I think he really wanted to fix it, but we needed a welder. Luckily one of our neighbours is a great welder and was not far away. Thanks Connor!
After many days of working at the corral without Jill due to quarantine, it was great to have her back! She totally took the slack off me, I really didn’t need to be there. Jill is standing with our bull named “Cheeseball”. Could be the daddy of those cute red calves jumping around our pastures!
I felt that Maddie and Cheeseball were having a bit of a face-off in this picture!

It was a funny day. Delays were not ideal but everyone seemed to flex and the job got done safely and that is the biggest thing. We had lunch while the welding fix was cooling down. I had been able to prep a meal of ham and scalloped potatoes, luckily the potatoes were cooked even though we ate early. Jill made a dessert for Marcel, one of his faves according to Russ, so we ate well today and it was kind’ve fun to have a “Sunday dinner” in the middle of a ranchy raunchy day!

If you got this far you will have figured out why I titled this post “Swim Boys Swim!”…….we are looking for strong little swimmers in those samples, prepping for 2022.

Day 10 – Postcards from the Heart

Oct 7, 2020

There has been a hard pill for me to swallow today, that I made a med error that may have caused all this unbalancing + nausea. The late dose of “Dex” as the Cancer Clinic has been calling it. Who knows? In my role as caregiver I feel like Jill in this picture, focused, watching, assessing and interpreting. She is watching her Dad and I work and is ready to open her gate to let heifer calves through and into the pen she is in. The steer calves are let into a different pen, the cows another. She is watching to see what animal is coming down the alley and listening for any verbal clues/instructions. Things sometime pile up and mistakes get made, by all of us. This is life. Mistakes evoke reflection on the idea of “forgiveness”. I think you have modelled what Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer, that Forgiveness is a way of life. Thank-you.

Kathy

This postcard uses an image from December 4, 2019, when Liz Griffin Photography was with us to capture the process of weaning our calves from their Moms and getting them ready to market. I notice I did not address this note to Mom, just jumped right in, I have recreated it here exactly as I initially wrote it.

This post is the 10th of 22 in a series of blogs arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Day 1.”

Day 9 – Postcards from the Heart

Mom,

I really like this picture. I like the focus on my face. What I mean is, I am focused. I LOVE feeling focused. Its one thing I especially appreciate about ranch jobs, many of them have big things at stake which automatically creates focus, and of course, sometimes stress, lots of it.

Living with you in the role of support giver has had an inborn focus to it. The entire sister crew has been focused on enhancing your sense of comfort and safety. For a while I have been the closest hands and feet of that effort. It has been good for me to be allowed this focus. A bit of a balm for my frazzled soul.

Thank you for graciously welcoming me.

This picture was taken on December 4, 2019 while we were weaning our calves and getting ready to market them. This was Liz Griffin’s 2nd time out at the ranch documenting one of our work days.

This post is the 9th part of a 22 blog series called “Postcards from the Heart”, this series arises from circumstances detailed in the post called “Postcards from the Heart – Day 1.”

Day 8 – Postcards from the Heart

Dear Mom,

-There are many things I like about this picture, the enjoyment of Russ that I see in my face, the rustic home-y-ness of the cottage, the presence of our favourite wine and food – chips + dip! There is a glowing light in the midst.

-I have enjoyed very much the time that you and I have spent at the table. Our conversations have been both deep and light, our prayers have been important, but I can’t really put more words to that then just those.

-What is the glowing light in our midst that casts such a sense of safety + charm? I believe it is your ever present sense of gratitude + blessedness. It has shed light on the Kyle family table for as long as I can remember. I want to always remember this.

Liz Griffin took this picture on June 20, 2020 at the tail end of a day of working cows, kayaking and wife carrying (as seen in previous postcards).

This postcard is the 8th in a series of 22 blogs called “Postcards from the Heart”, this series arrises from circumstances detailed in the post called “Postcards from the Heart – Day 1”.

Day 7 – Postcards from the Heart

October 4, 2020

“Dick” the mule, you first met him around this time in 1999. Dad was pulled by “Dick” and I am so glad we have a picture of that wagon ride. He is special to me, a tangible connection to Dad at our ranch. The reason I am featuring him in these shared pictures is that the connection to you and Dick, in our minds is laugher. That little moment at our wedding. Yeah for laughter. I admire how readily you appreciate humour, even when things are hard. I don’t hesitate to let the jokes flow, you are not easily moved to judge if a joke isn’t right timing or a bit off point. You care about what really matters and are easy to laugh with about stuff less urgent, like light switches and cupboard doors. I treasure our laughs.

Kathy

The moment of wedding laughter referred to in this card happened during Mom’s speech at our wedding reception where she welcomed Russell to the family. She made reference to the wagon ride she enjoyed on the day she had met Russell and his Dick. She said it so innocently but of course it landed with some shock for some, lots of giggles, and a story we referred to again and again over the years.

This post is the 7th of 22 blogs in a series of postcard images arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called Postcards from the Heart – Day 1.

This picture was taken December 4, 2020 by Liz Griffin Photography. Gina rode Dick to round up the cow herd in preparation for weaning and trucking calves to the Auction Mart.

Day 6 – Postcards from the Heart

Mon. Oct. 5, 2020

Mom,

I love this picture. It is artistic and shows Jill’s capability. Somehow this image means alot to me at this time, as the health care system shapes our experiences so much.

I know that Jill could go almost any direction in life. I think her choices almost overwhelm her. However I think the common theme will be related to this image. Here she is poised to inject a vitamin dose into a cow. She has drawn it up, into the syringe.

What has she drawn up into herself because of your life, your legacy, that she will in turn inject into the world around her? 1)Generosity 2)Kindness. 3)Creativity 4)Hospitality

+more~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Thank-you!

This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on January 1st, 2020. We were putting our whole cow herd through the chute to replace any tags that had come out, give a dose of vitamin A & D and a dose of ivomec, a liquid we apply down a cow’s back which helps prevent parasites. It was a big day. The next day they were being walked five miles by a crew on horseback, to a field of standing corn where they spent the month of January.

This postcard is the 6th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”

Day 5 – Postcards from the Heart

September 29, 2020

Mom

When I look at this picture it reminds me of the line in the 23rd Psalm, he “leadeth me beside the still waters.”

This situation does not seem to give us the luxury of enjoying water from outside of it. You are in the deep end, treading water to stay afloat, your loved ones take turns jumping in with you. The love + compassion of God, known in Jesus, are maybe like our life preservers, which will help us all go the distance. Food for thought.

Love,

Kathy

By the time I wrote this photo card I was staying with my Mom, helping her recover from surgery which had revealed her cancer was much worse than initially thought. I wrote the card, put it in an addressed envelope and then when I went down to get her mail I slid it in with the other mail. Mom was playful in her soul, so she received this with a glint in her eye, noting that I was being tricky. As the days went by and more and more of these pictures were created she caught on that I was reusing the same envelope after swiping it from her recycling. Once she was onto my tactics she would hand me the emptied envelope with that glint in her eye and say, “I think you might want this.” It was a fun part of our days.

This photo was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on June 20, 2020 before Liz took the wife carrying pictures featured yesterday. It is a very beautiful picture which might not display on a small screen in a way that reveals this.

This postcard is the 5th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1”.

Postcards from the Heart – Day 4

Dear Mom,

This is a fun but quirky photo. It was taken by Liz the day that we were supposed to be at the big race in South Dakota.

The thing I find myself thinking about looking at this image is the truth that when you have a large load to carry you have to do it strategically, large loads can be born by everyday, average people.

What is the key piece of strategy for you and I and all as we move through these days? How can we bear this load? We have talked about tears, about love, about prayer. These are key I think.

Love,

K

This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography on June 20, 2020, the day Russell and I were to have taken part in a wife carrying competition in Frederick, South Dakota. Covid changed our plans. Instead we worked with a group of cows and calves that day and got Liz to photograph that plus document us doing our own race in the pasture. We won the race, admittedly the competitors were absent! Liz got some astoundingly beautiful photos that day.

I was in Saskatoon with Mom when she opened this piece of mail. As she drew the picture out of the envelope she said something like this, “oh I have not liked this wife carrying stuff you are doing, it feels so brutish, a man should not be able to carry you off like that.” My feelings were not hurt, although hearing your Mother’s displeasure is never an easy thing. I had not thought about this experience through the lens that Mom was using, she had a point. To me it had always been about fun and exercise (for Russ) and as the one being carried it was totally an exercise in trust. As she read the writing on the back of the picture she softened. I believe this was the day she said, “I love how your brain works.”

This postcard is the 4th part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”

Postcards from the Heart – Day 3

Dear Mom,

I love seeing and hearing the enjoyment you get from all your grandchildren. You have always seen them through eyes of love and been able to overlook their struggles, to see the beautiful people they are. As a Mom that has been a gift to me.

Thank you,

Love,

Kathy

This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography as part of Gina’s graduation formals in July 2020.

If you have been following this series so far this is the 3rd family type pic in a row. I promise it will get ranchy soon!

This postcard is the 3rd part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”