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Author Archives: kathyseeking
I grew up in the city, had some adventures and education and through some pretty cool turns of events ended up on a ranch near a small town with my husband, three children and many animals. I am a minister by training but currently my life revolves around our ranch and the people here. I feel comfortable talking about my inner world, my observations about the world, and what I find meaningful. I am not so comfortable revealing how the details of life get out of hand. For example, I ponder "How does my kitchen get this messy?" and "Can I post this picture where I look like this?" I have areas where I do image management but my goal with my blog is to be as real as possible, with the hope that it connects to others and maybe we can all feel less alone in our struggles and challenges and our everyday joys.
This Christmas had more than the usual amount of gifts that are memorable in some extra way. Gifts that bring extra smiles or memories for one reason or another. I thought blogging about them might be fun. What follows is the first of them, hopefully time will allow me to record more very soon.
Late last week Russ and I spent a few hours delivering some of the Bar MW crew gifts we have ready. It was fun. It was with some surprise that we arrived at the Gilliland’s and found this remarkable pair of natural beauties waiting to be gifted to us.
They were created for us by Jackie and the kids, and meant to symbolize Russ and I, I think.
I enjoy noting how the star Garland has a curly hair effect on the female and how epic that fur is as a topper.
The Russell figure has a buckle of sorts and some of the essential cowboy swag, the hat and kerchief.
In the first 24 hours at home there was some kind of showdown between the figures and we think Coffee dog. There were bark shavings all over the ground at one point, we had not heard a skirmish but Coffee looked guilty. Two episodes of that and then it stopped. We regained hope that the figures would make it to Christmas 2022.
Christmas eve, with everything in place, they stood guard on either side of the tree. In the morning all was well, except the Kathy figure had lost her nose. We think Coffe knows something about that.
I am sitting here wondering just what it is about these wacky characters that makes them feel so special.
Is it that we have so much affection for and enjoyment of these friends and this gift says “we feel the same about you.”
Is it that a gift like this says, “We see you. You are a cowboy and that makes a difference to us. You are a pair and that matters.” Feeling seen is such a profound gift.
Is it that the gift is creative and unique and playful, and we value this stuff alot. Maybe. That makes sense.
Gifts are one of the things that inspired so much excitement in me when I was a child. The reality of receiving gifts felt wondrous. As an adult that has changed. Without sounding cliche the joy is found in the giving. This gift reminded me of the joy of childhood when we were surprised. Surprised by what we received and reminded that what matters to us is seen by others. I think that is why the birth we celebrate at Christmas is so consequential. It was such a surprise to receive God in human form and everything about the unfolding story that followed said, “I see you, I get it.”
Life is full and rich and hard. I suspect that many can relate and many others might think, “Kathy you have no idea what hard is,”…..they would be right.
I am having trouble getting much written this week. However, I have a picture I just don’t want to lose in the shuffle.
Jill took this picture at the airport on Saturday night.
Those arms had been poised in position for a while.
These are part of a series, Jill started snapping just before Gina appeared at the top of the stairs. I love Jill’s instinct to capture an unfolding story. To me, this moment is poetic and deeply truthful.
It is the fruit of deep love and missing. It is Russell’s deep love for his girl.
I think one of the things I like about these pictures is that there are no identifying faces. It could be anyone.
That catches me. It could literally be anyone. Because every human on earth is deserving of this love, this enthusiasm, this welcome.
These images put me in mind of the enthusiasm of the father in the prodigal son story in the Bible. That father went against the culture of his day because of his love for his son. He was a civilized rich man, it was abnormal for him to run, but he saw his son in the distance and he seemed unable to hold himself back. He ran to greet and welcome him.
The hymn “O Holy Night” has a line, “til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.” I have been thinking about that so much. I am thankful. I am thankful that the arrival of the Christ child is about worth, about welcome, about arms closed to no one. That sits well within me. Except it’s hard hard hard to follow in his way.
Gina is blessed to be welcomed home with sincere and loving exuberance. I told her I want to make a poster for her using this picture. Life throws curveballs, I want her to never forget that she has a place of love and welcome. But the truth is, I believe, we all do. Our truth is our deep worth, our belonging. The fact that we are beloved. Noise and pain try to drown that out but ultimately they can’t.
Til he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. ❤ Merry Christmas ❤
Sunday morning we were up pretty early in order to be ready for the 9am appointment we had with our veterinarian. I hated to have a full day of work booked on a Sunday, I wanted to be at church, however we had a few details come together dictating that this was our best day to tackle the job at hand. The biggest detail was Dr. Marcel was available but also we had a great weather forecast. So there we were. It meant Russ, Morgan, Laurie and Dawson being saddled up by 7:15. They left the barn just before 7:30 after waiting for the sky to lighten enough to do their job. The job of rounding up the herd out of the pasture just north of the barn and getting them into the corral was really successful, the guys were done by shortly after 8 and able to come in and have a cup of coffee. I was working through a list I had made in order to be ready for the day. By 9:30am we were rolling, Dr. Marcel geared up in an outfit that protected his clean clothes underneath, with a set of high tech goggles over his eyes that were connected to an ultrasound wand. We were “preg checking,” thats ranch talk for having a veteranarian assess each cow to see if they are bred. Its an internal exam, aided by the ultrasound wand, the outcome of these assessments helps us to make some decisions. We had over 400 cows to check yesterday, so we knew it was going to be a long day.
If you had to guess how long this procedure would take what would you guess? It is amazing how fast it can go really. Dr. Marcel’s part can literally be done in as little as five seconds per cow, when he isn’t clear on what he is seeing an internal exam using a gloved arm is neccesary. That makes it a bit more time consuming. Still our rate yesterday was about 80 cows per hour. Thats slow by rancher standards. There are some ranches that can accomplish twice as much in an hour. That is hard to imagine. We have a pretty good system. Ron, Morgan and Laurie kept bringing cows up from the corral system and getting them into what we call “the tub”, that leads directly to the alley and that leads directly to “the chute”. Dawson and I ran the alley. Dawson keeping the animals moving up and me applying a product called “Boss”. It prevents lice. We used to apply the now famous “Ivormec” but for the last couple years have found it to be losing effectiveness. Once a cow advances out of the alley and into the chute it is secured there using hydraulic controls that Jillian runs. She is calm as a cucumber doing that job. I am not. I make mistakes and swear and its not pretty. Not Jill. Once the cow is into the chute, Marcel can do his job, meanwhile Russ administers a dose of Vitamin A&D using a needle and Jill scans the Radio Frequency ID tag it has in its ear and gets the cow’s weight registered to the computer. (There is a scale imbedded in the floor of the squeeze chute). When all that is done she tucks her scanning wand under her armpit and uses the hydraulics to let the cow out. If the cow is bred its straightforward, an open cow goes to a different pen and that takes more effort and time.
There are two moments of conversation that happened yesterday that for me illumine some of the inside drama of this day. Before we started yesterday we had a few minutes of standing about while Marcel was getting suited up. Laurie was near me and I guess there was something I just needed to get out in the open, so I started a conversation by asking him a question. “Laurie, what’s your stress level like right now?” He shared that it was very low. He was kind enough to return the question. I shared that I was pretty stressed, that I always worry about injuries and that of course I am worried about the results of this day of work. What I mean by that is, “What will Marcel find?” Its a case by case accumulation of information that tells an extremely important story. Five years ago we checked a herd of 101 heifers, female calves we had kept back for breeding stock and we expected to be bred for the first time. A few of them might have been expected to be open, but 51 were open. Something had gone wrong. The memory of that experience, of Dr. Trevor doing his exam and his voice calling out “open” over and over again has definitely imprinted on Russell and I. The stress of that time was compounded by the fact that I found my mother in law the next morning, not breathing, despite CPR she passed away. So………..”preg checking” is a loaded event at the ranch. It was clear that as I named my worry Laurie acknowledged he held that worry too, but from a much different perspective than Russell and I did. It was good to get that out in the open. Maybe I opened this conversation with Laurie instead of Russell because I could sense Russ was already carrying much stress. He later told me that his worry was at an elevated level this year. The drought conditions mean that the feed situation for the cows is different, they are eating baled crops along with their usual hay, they are not as fat as usual and Russ worried that feed changes would have an impact.
It was with a heaviness of heart that we received the results of the very first cow Marcel checked. She was open. The mind goes a bit nuts. But the second was good, I calculated to myself, “okay we have a 50% rate of conception”, the third was good, “okay Kathy, 1 in 3 this is getting better”, the fourth was good, “this is a positive trend”, and so it went. I think Marcel got to at least 20 cows before he had another open one. There was a trend to be seen, it was our older cows that were mostly coming up open, that is to be expected. It appeared that so far everything in our breeding year is normal. The level of relief this created in Russell and I, and I think everybody was palpable. Like a wave coming over us. Exuberance was able to rise up, and despite a somewhat serious feeling at the chute I really enjoyed being a goofball when the times called for it. I didn’t get to see every tag as the cows passed by my station but when I did and it was a cow I am connected to I knew to be watching for the result. So when Kathy went in, I was listening carefully for Marcel’s words. It was what we hoped for, after those five seconds he so quickly could determine she had a calf and called out “good”, I sang out “Kathy’s having a baby, Kathy’s having a baby!”, and I did that when Linda went through and Liz and Tanya and a few others that I was especially excited about. I took note of Mary, she had twins for us this year, the ones you might remember me chatting about on the blog. We named them Jesus and Bob. Bob was bottle fed for a long time and then adopted on to a cow named Freckles. Jesus stayed with Mary and did very well. Jesus has not yet been marketed so is in the corral with our other heifer calves. Russell has enjoyed telling me of the walks he has through the heifers when he sets his eyes clearly on Mary’s child, he comes back and tells me, “I saw Jesus today.” We believe that God has a sense of humor and this use of names is within the bounds of respect. Anyways, good news, Mary the cow is with calf. There are a few other cows that I was wondering more closely about, hope, mercy and love are all with child, I am especially glad about hope this year. Justice, unfortunately, is open.
The second bit of conversation I referred to at the start was once again with Laurie. At one point early on, when he had come forward to the area of my station, I had the chance to follow up our earlier conversation. I turned my back on the chute and said, “Laurie, its looks like wer’e gonna have some babies!” He didn’t hear me at first. I got to say it again. “It looks like wer’e going to have some babies!” A warm smile came over him, that smile he has that tells you he cares. It was nice to see and he said, “yep looks that way.” That seemed perfect. The chance to vent some of my stress and then check in about it again when we had a good news story to consider was helpful to me. I suspect its a matter of getting the message and living the truth that we are not alone.
So in this crazy year that is full of heart stopping developments and news that causes alarms and so much hard stuff generally, we are thankful for the things that go right. For us, this year, at this point, its our preg checking story. We are starting to feel bold, starting to hope, hope is always a good thing.
I don’t have very good pictures of this day, I took a few, Jill took a few and I have given more glimpses of the crew through a couple of Liz Griffin photographs from earlier in the year.
It was a pretty exciting day around here yesterday. Well not really, but somehow there was a sense of arrival in the air. Just as Ron, Russ and I were finishing up lunch, which if I may brag, included some pretty delicious biscuits, the doorbell rang. Our friend Wes had pulled in the yard, the dogs didn’t make a peep, so we were surprised by that bell. Wes had come to deliver the three bulls we purchased on Sunday afternoon. Lunch was cut short a bit as Russ and Ron scrambled out the door to see to the delivery. Russ had a pen ready for them and they got there without a hitch. The pen for the new bulls is directly across from my kitchen window, so as I puttered at a few things in the afternoon I could check up on those bulls and I did. At one point I could only see two of the bulls, I was not too worried figuring the third was out of sight just behind the hay bale. When I told Russ about it later he said, “yep, there is no way you are missing one bull, you either have all of them or none of them.” That got me thinking, “yes, right, if one guts a fence and escapes the other two are not going to be eyeing the hole in the fence and saying to themselves, ‘we better not.’ They are going to go. So, its nothing major or new but it was a bit of a reality check for me. Kindv’e like the reality check I needed at the bull sale, the reminder to keep my hands from waving in the air.
There really was a little bit of a feeling of arrival in the air. These big guys are so essential to our success, they are the Daddys of the herd and so in a sense, in hoping for the best with these guys we are affirming that this is day 1 of what we hope is a long story. This morning we did some brain storming about names. We try and link our bulls names to the ranch we bought them from. For instance, we buy a lot of bulls from McMillen Ranching, so we try and have names for them that start with Mc. We have a bull named McFlurry for example. We bought these bulls from Wes, so we decided we needed to give them names starting with W. Their tags have not been made yet but the list in front of me includes Wendell, Warren and Wonka (as in Willy Wonka but we can’t use that because Morgan has a cow named Willie, named after Willie Nelson). We need about 28 bulls to keep our herd bred, we now have that many but will need to buy a couple more for spares. In the spring they will all get semen tested to ensure they are sound for the breeding season.
Speaking of offspring, genetics and the like……our kids each have brought us interesting things to sort out and marvel at lately. They are all at such dynamic stages of growth.
Gina has kept in close touch this week, there is alot going on in her world. She has shared video clips from class work they have been doing and it really is something to see her in her element. She has stage presence, I can’t explain what I see or sense but those words will have to do, she has stage presence. What was a bit exceptional about our call today was the main topic of conversation, her mentorship. As a 2nd year student she has to create a piece of performance art, others at the school audition to perform that piece under her direction. The theme of Gina’s is stage combat. Yes thats right. This peace loving family has churned out a girl who likes nothing better than to perfect the art of well done combat on stage. She has a faculty advisor, a specialist in the art of stage combat and as it turns out the founder of the school. She is thrilled to be working with Jacque and told me with great delight, “I need 3 swords for the number I have created, but Jacque got 4 out of storage yesterday, so now I have four swords hanging in my locker waiting to be polished and used. I am a bit worried about sitting around the school polishing swords, that seems a bit out there.” The conversation and what she described amused me greatly. This is not something I could have predicted. I am thinking this is some of her Kyle genetics unfolding but I don’t know enough to say for sure.
Jillian is bouncing back after a bad cold. She is resilient in so many ways but these days with all their weirdness have not been easy on her. One thing I love about Jill is that no matter how much she might not be on top of the world, she always always always has a space in her heart for our creatures. In the mornings when I go to make sure she is up sometimes she is just emerging from sleep, and out of that place of slumber she is always grateful and eager to welcome whatever four legged creature comes with me. Last week Jill stayed home while we went to a football party, she made supper and set the table for herself, Coffee dog and Buster. That marked the beginning of Coffee’s training to have a spot at the table and mind her manners. She is doing quite well. This is not Kyle genetics unfolding in Jill, at least as I know them, it is definitely her Bayliss side and it is lovely.
This morning was a bit tough at our house. Frustration levels were high as time was short and contact lenses were fuzzy and it meant for some frazzled moments before everyone was out the door. As I stood in the porch holding Morgan’s lunch kit and coffee to go, I was waiting to bid him good-bye. I watched him pull on those big size 12 cowboy boots, pull on his hoodie with his last name boldly printed across the back, put on his necktube and his jacket and top the outfit with his cowboy hat. As he got close to being all ready, despite the frazzled feelings in him and between us he said, “thanks Mom.” I think I said, “you bet.” I was standing there marveling at his growing up self. I passed him his lunch kit and his coffee and he said it again, a bit brighter in his tone, “thanks Mom” and then “have a good day Mom, love you.” I could see how he was making the shift from “feeling private and trying to get my act together Morgan”, to “ready to be out in the world Morgan”. It seemed an act of resolve to be kind, positive and grateful. My heart was stirred. I wandered to the back of the house to say to Russ, “I can’t even imagine what my Dad would think of that boy. He would be gaga for him.” Russ was nowhere to be seen. Amid the hullabaloo of the contact lenses he had slipped out and said goodbye, but I didn’t hear him. So I just pondered these things in my own heart. The height that Morgan has acquired is pretty clearly my Dad’s genetics being seen in this cowboy. It is a delight for me. An affirmation that “yes, my Dad lived.” Pretty much everything else about Morgan seems to be a direct result of Russell’s genetics and leading. They have been mistaken for each other in recent times. But more than the physical stuff is the character and skill set. And then there is the coffee. Morgan has taken his cue from his Dad and likes coffee, likes it instant and likes it triple strength. Apparently today he didn’t get much coffee enjoyed on the way to school and then left his coffee in the car when they got there. He had a caffeine withdrawal headache all day. Jill chided him later, “why didn’t you come and get me, I would have given you the keys so you could go get it. ” It seems Morgan has not discovered and therefore been drawn by the joy of iced coffee, yet.
Genetics are fascinating. As ranchers they are a matter of business and strategy. As parents I feel like it starts with “I wonder” type statements, “I wonder what would come from you and I creating children.” It becomes statements of “I wonder if I will ever sleep a whole night again” and “I wonder if I can afford everything this child needs.” At the same time, “I wonder how I ever lived without you” and “I wonder if I could love you more” type things are in our heads and on days like today, “I stand in wonder at you.” Yesterday cousin Lynn told us, “just wait for the grandchildren, that is fun!” We live in the moment but wonder about that day.
Its shortly after 6am, I have been awake since 5:15am, thats the fourth day in a row of that nonsense. Day 1 was so that I could be ready to lead worship and get there on time, day 2 was because I forgot to turn off my alarm from day 1 and I couldn’t go back to sleep, day 3 was because our dog Maddie started barking for no apparent reason, today it was Coffee dog, same time, same thing, random barks starting at 5:15. I went to bed earlier last night to try and compensate for how foggy headed I felt and I am glad because I am ready for a bit of writing this morning instead of desperately trying to get more sleep.
I thought maybe I would write about a few things that have been happening.
On Friday night Russell and I drove to pick up Morgan from a friends’ place. We had never been in their home before but were welcomed in for a drink. They had a couple friends over already. The six of us, and Morgan and his friend and dogs and other kids moving in and out sat in their kitchen and had a really good visit. Do you know what didn’t happen? Cellphone activity. You would never know cell phones existed except for a story that got told about forgetting one and me getting a text I needed to check and answer right at the very end of the visit. It was so cool to experience that. It felt old fashioned and right and good.
I spent my weekend with my head deeply immersed in thoughts and stories I was exposed to as a result of preparations for the sermon on Sunday morning. I listened to a priest on youtube, his name Father Gregory Boyle, he has overseen a very effective gang rehab ministry in Los Angeles from its very beginning. He knows alot of stuff about life. While I tuned in to hear about compassion I have taken away new wisdom about how important it is that we are all connected to each other and about what needs to be in my head as I am doing my lifework. It has been a gift.
Monday morning when the alarm went off at 5:15, I grabbed my phone to turn it off quickly (with some exasperation at myself), and then noticed I had a Messenger bubble notification on my screen. I tried to go back to sleep but wasn’t successful. I checked that notification. Well then for sure I didn’t go back to sleep. Late the night before someone had sent me a video, I presume they thought I needed to watch it, seeing the title stirred feelings of anger and stirred up my brain. It was called, “why are people choosing to live in cages?” I lay there wondering if I should respond to it, I thought to myself “I should watch it” but then thought, “why?” With all of Father Boyle’s wisdom about relationship on my brain I think I was sensitized to what was going on in me as this link landed in my world. What I needed was a message to go along with the link, I needed the person to say, “Hey Kathy, I sense you have some pretty clear convictions about all this Covid stuff. Listen, I saw this video today, it made me think of you. It had a good illustration I wanted you to hear. I would be curious what you think?” If that message had landed with the link then we would be in the land of relationship. I might have then answered back, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me and taking the time to connect about this stuff. I honestly don’t know if I will watch it. I am tired and I don’t have much of a brain for conflict right now. Its Christmas, I got this grief thing going on in a different way than last year, I have lots of projects in front of me. Mostly, the title throws me off, honestly, the reality of a cage just doesn’t connect. I see what is being asked of us Canadians is because something very big is at stake. I was asked the other day, “where did you get your mask? I love it!” My answer, “Newfoundland.” I was in Newfoundland this fall. So, yeah, I am not feeling pulled by this title. I really thank you for thinking of me.”
I think I would attach this picture, just for a visual about why the illustration of a cage has nowhere to land in me.
Without any attempt at human connection going with the delivery of this link it was kind of disorienting. I don’t know this person well at all, what does she want of me? She started this, let her create a little context for me, I have enough miscellaneous stuff floating around for my brain to manage. So that is something I have been working on getting my head around these days.
We decorated for Christmas about 10 days ago. Grandma Shirley came over and we had a day of getting at the work of pulling out the boxes, rearranging the furniture, setting up and hanging and discovering again all our old favorites. We ate copious amounts of treats, except ju jubes which got overlooked in our preparations. It almost didn’t feel like Christmas without jujubes and our favorite Christmas CD which we somehow misplaced. Christmas will come even if we don’t have the Veggietales Christmas Album on. I guess. I love the end result. As the days get dark so fast and it has turned really cold, the lights and the gentleness mean that much more.
Yesterday Russ picked up a large amount of product from the Vet Clinic as we prepare to work with our herd to delouse and deworm them. I believe the bulls are first up and that is scheduled for this weekend. I have been shopping for the gates that Russell needs, our local Peavey Mart didn’t end up having them. So, thats just a few sentences about what is percolating at the ranch. The days are more predictable, generally speaking, and I value that.
Sometimes being a ranch wife in the winter means its possible to stay put and days unfold within familiar walls and routines. I like that. Today was not one of those days. I would like to record and share the details of this different day, I enjoyed it too.
This 24 hours started last night around 10:30pm when I realized that I had missed the chance to visit with my friend Deb on her birthday. I had been working on writing a sermon and ordering gifts and I was like a dog with a bone with those things, I had neglected my friendship with Deb. Now here is a weird detail of our recent friendship. Deb brought a watermelon when she came for a visit in August. We had been having a really hard summer before her arrival and things got much better after her visit, so I decided that her watermelon, which never did get cut up, was in fact a lucky watermelon and I never could bring myself to throw it out even after its freshness had passed. It changed location eventually, and when it did it gained a costume, a tiger suit. Anyways it was holding strong as of yesterday, hanging out on our porch table. Well, I decided that yesterday night it was time to take it out to the dumpster and incorporate that action into Deb’s birthday celebration. I recorded a voice memo while standing beside the dumpster, sang Happy Birthday to Deb in the blowing blizzardy snow fall, recording the sound of the watermelon going into the dumpster and told Deb, and later Russell, “new year, new memories.” So, regular readers will have heard of the watermelon saga before, and this is the last chapter, it finally went out. I know all of this makes me incredibly weird, I prefer to think of it as quirky but honestly this stupid stuff is what makes life fun.
After a short night our entire family was up early and on the road to North Portal where I led a 9am worship service. The snow that had fallen overnight made that a hard trip but Russ drove our dually truck and we got there safely. This little town is about 85km to the west and south of us, it is right on the border with the United States. A very memorable embarrassing moment happened there for me that I cannot provide details on but will be part of our family lore for the entire rest of my life. So that was spicy.
The service went well, I was a bit flustered and had printed my sermon notes with way too small and crowded a print. I had to really concentrate to speak with my head up and keep my place in the sermon. There was great hospitality, Morgan just loved it that when he arrived he could grab a cup of coffee that had been brewing. It turned out there were people already there, they had made tracks in different snow than we did. As we pulled out of town afterwards it was rather a thrill to be so close to the customs buildings at the border. It has been so long since we have gone through customs. We made the drive from North Portal to Estevan in decent time, the roads were already alot better after snowplows had been down them. Russ dropped me at the church and then took the kids to the mall. We didn’t think it would be fair to ask them to do church twice in one day, the exact same service. Russ whipped back and slipped in a bit late. He was thrilled to be welcomed aloud and by name by several in the congregation. I had mentioned he would be slipping in late and why. I offered a sermon probing the connection between righteousness and compassion. I really enjoyed the preparation of it.
A trip to the mall followed where we met the kids at Peavey Mart. I think one of the cardinal rules of being a rancher is you never waste a trip to the big city by only doing one thing. We are in the market for a couple more gate panels so Peavey Mart was a must. Russell has been working on an ambitious re-organizing of our handling system within the pole shed. He really enjoys tinkering with our set-ups and scheming to make jobs go more efficiently and safely.
Thinking we had a little more time than we actually did we went for lunch at Russell’s favorite place in Estevan and then hit the road. We had a bull sale to get to.
The bull sale was held only about 12 miles south of our place so I dropped the boys off late to the sale, then took Jill home, changed my clothes, grabbed a farm cheque, grabbed some beer for the next thing we were heading to and I returned to the bull sale. By the time I got there Russ had bought 3 bulls and we had our quota. I got to watch the rest of the sale unfold. It was incredible how technology was used to make that sale work seamlessly in the midst of a very snowy winter Saskatchewan day. It was nice to see people I knew, including the owner of all the bulls. When we caught each others eyes during the sale we exchanged warm waves and smiles, I had already enjoyed these moments with a couple other people, but this is when Russell said to me, “Kathy, you have to stop waving at people, we are going to buy something we don’t want!” Sometimes I feel like deep down I am always going to be a city girl.
Once we paid our bill we headed out because we had a football party to get to. We joined our cousins the Connellys to watch the western final of the Canadian Football League. Our team was playing. We were late for the game but given that we are not huge football fanatics we probably got to see enough. We really enjoyed the relaxed time and the visiting, the only thing that could have made it better is if our team had won. It was very close. Dawson made a crusty cheezy baked dip that was hard to stay away from. All the snacks were good. The food at football parties is definitely a large part of the fun. We came home a couple hours ago and I decided that I would either write about all this or go to bed early. The writing won out. Tomorrow is slated to be a stay in my own four walls kind of day and i think I am going to enjoy that! Isn’t life something though? Every once in a while you get alot to digest, as if it were a six course dinner!
Our family was in Regina today, minus Gina of course. She is in heavy duty rehearsals for a show in Victoria. We were there because Morgan so badly wanted to attend Agribition. It was the only day we could make work. For those readers outside of Saskatchewan, Agribition is an annual event where all aspects of prairie agriculture are on display, rodeos and stock competitions occur and merchants get to show their products.
We have attended Agribition a few times over the last number of years. When Morgan started talking about going this year it just wasn’t something I wanted to do. After some deliberating and negotiating we made a plan, then when Morgan’s volleyball team advanced to provincials we revised the plan. It was on short notice that we all headed into Regina. As it turned out I would actually be spared Agribition this year because Jill needed to finalize her shopping for her grad dress. I regret that I am not wired for things like Agribition, it would make me a better ranch wife, but being honest, I just don’t like it. With diverse needs being met everyone had some interesting moments.
First off, Jill had a gift shopping spree coming to her and that was fun. We were at a store that inspired me to try on a few things. One item was a dress that when I held it up and asked Jill for her opinion she said, “it looks like Laura Ingall’s dress for going into the jungle.” That was a zippy and fun reply but fairly non committal. I figured I better try it on. Partly that was because a friend of mine recently told me that my grade 8 grad dress looked like it was from LIttle House on the Prairie. I wondered how far I could push this Laura Ingalls look in my life.
I sent Russell a picture from the fitting room. Lets just say he was not in favor. At this point I can’t help but think something that makes me sound like my Nanny. She used to work at the Bay in Saskatoon, when she retired and still shopped there she always noticed something that could have been done better, the racks being too close together was her most frequent concern. Anyways, I looked at this dress and thought, “in my day this dress would never be put out for sale with all these wrinkles, don’t they have a steamer?” It might have looked a little more appealing minus the wrinkles. Anyways, Russell was relieved to hear I had not bought it.
At the next store we went to we had exceptionally friendly and eager help but it came in an unexpected way. I had a salesgirl ask us if we were in town for Agribition. That started a fun few minutes of conversation which included her swearing, alot, like in those few minutes the f word was used repeatedly, the sh word used and then right at the end she had a sentence that had both these words and the g d swear. My brain was processing the content of what she was saying, talking about agribition and black Friday in the same week, but it was also spinning as I asked myself, “did she really say that?”, “what if I was someone who was offended by this, how would this unfold?”, “why am I not offended by this?”, “how can she use such usually harsh words with so much smiling, they sound kinda nice”…… It was one of those moments that made me happy, being in the city, encountering people that are unique and kind, finding the unexpectedness of it funny.
Russ left Morgan at Agribition and joined Jill and I for the grad dress shopping. It was great. We had a very skilled and kind helper at NWL, Jill was having so much fun and had great options. She made a decision. We got it ordered. People who do their job so well and bring such a lovely human dynamic into it really make a difference in the world.
Russ and Morgan had themselves a good day. Morgan bought himself a new rope and got to hang out with one of his friends who was showing cattle. They talked with lots of different people. Russell reported that he heard a few people whining about the masks, he commented that its alot better than last years Agribition (it was cancelled) and that ended the whining. On the way home Russ said to me, “I enjoyed agribition, but I missed you, there was stuff I would like to have shown you and talked about, like the manure spreader of my dreams, you should have seen it.” So much romance in that statement. Actually there is. Its wonderful to be valued and wanted but its comical (at least to me) when romance and manure merge in the same phrase.
Our trip home is not quite complete, we should pull in the yard in about 10 minutes, the trip home has been hard, sortv’e. Jill is, by necessity, part of an online group where people feel incredibly free to say things that are very hate filled. She has processed some of that with us. It is troubling. It leads me to feel more convinced than ever that we have to keep putting love and light and love and light and love and light into the world. I am thankful for my faith. In it there is instruction, reminder, inspiration and fuel to keep tackling the worlds troubles with love and a way to confess and start again when we don’t rise to the challenge.
My posts can get a bit serious, I am inclined that way. However I do really value what is humorous, or light, or zany, or inconsequential. So I thought I would write about five things that are not serious at all. Ready for that?
One – I have a deep love for baskets. Wicker would be my favorite but plastic that looks like wicker is good too. I have them all over our house. I have spent time and money searching out just the right size of basket for a spot in our house. I have been quite successful. The part of me that longs for order and control in a crazy unpredictable life takes ridiculous pleasure in labelling my baskets, labelling lots of things actually.
Two – When I was in seminary, a very serious and analytical place that prepared me to become a minister, I was one of the founding members of a club that was totally frivolous, not serious, not consequential at all. We were the curly hair club. There were two of us that needed each others support and inspiration for dealing with the reality of naturally curly hair. While others roamed the halls pondering liberation theology, eschatology, Biblical languages and much more, we were pondering curl shape and definition, the impact of weather and what were the best products to use. We felt rebellious.
Three – I love gravy. I have been fortunate to receive teaching on how to make good gravy from a master, my mother in law. My first clue about my love of gravy was that I took to drinking KFC gravy as a teenager. I feel that I was on the cutting edge of Canadian cuisine because I ate poutine before almost all my friends and family. I attended a french course in Nova Scotia 31 years ago and there tasted this unique Acadian dish “poutine.” I loved it from the start. I think that gravy and I are meant to be together forever.
Four – I was so relieved when Gina was born and she was a girl. I was scared of boys. I only had one brother and he was 6 years older than me. I didn’t know alot about boys and especially country boys. When Jill was born I was thrilled, for several reasons but partly because I didn’t have to face my fears just yet. Deciding to have a third child was a decision. By the point of delivering that baby I was open to boy or girl, I don’t know what had shifted. Somehow I wasn’t afraid anymore. Morgan has been a gift. I didn’t need to be afraid. Okay I have this written and I think it suddenly is not so lighthearted. Shute. I can’t help myself, I swing serious. A lighthearted ending………..Morgan was the most unusual looking baby, Russell and I looked at each other and agreed, “he s kind’ve an ugly looking fella isn’t he?” Within months he was as beautiful as any baby could be.
Five – When I was in my early 20s I discovered Payless Shoes in the U.S.A. Every time I made a trip there I would scout out their size 11 section (non existant in Canada) and select flats in whatever colors I loved. As a result I had the most beautiful colored shoes and I would match my shoes to my dresses and outfits. I felt so swanky. I have become so boring, now nothing makes me happier than my brown or black knee high dress boots.
One more – because I haven’t mentioned the ranch and this is a ranch blog. I really love making cow tags. The chance to make them nice and neat and put cool and meaningful names on them just tickles my fancy.
I wrote this first part of this blog almost six days ago, on Tuesday morning.
I am wading through my first morning home after many days away, reckoning with how weird I feel, both physically and emotionally. Last Wednesday I drove the 550km that took me to Saskatoon where I got welcomed by my sister Linda and her husband Stu and we hunkered in for some days. Linda has a gift for hospitality and I was treated like a queen. My sister Jan flew in from Vancouver and stayed with my sister Margie and her family. Together the four of us, with help from my cousin Jodi tackled boxes and boxes of my Mom’s photo albums and some boxes of miscellaneous photos. I feel like what we did in wading through a lifetime of memories in their fullness is pretty rare, not something people get to do more than once in their lifetime if at all. From this rare point of view I want to report back on some of it.
The two things that I can’t stop thinking about are humor and love. Humor because it bubbled up often and allowed us to be real about what we were dealing with and yet not wallow in self pity or sadness. That meant for example that when Ella Fitzgerald came up on the playlist crooning about heaven, Janet, in split second creative humor, neatly revised the lyrics to address our situation. It meant my tears about reviewing pictures of our last happy party when my Dad was still a little bit well turned to laughter, as Linda looked over my shoulder and said, “and we weren’t even that happy.” It was true, dementia was taking its toll on all of us. There was something about the vantage point we had, more than 20 years later, that had us all laughing at her comment and pretty hard. We reviewed albums and albums from the 1980s which made it so inevitable that one of us would say something about hair, it was Margie, who with her very deep and sincere faith intact said “Why did no-one tell me that my hair was so god-awful?” It all just struck us so funny. Most of the things we laughed at are not typical knee-slappers, they might not strike you as funny, but it’s the mystery of humor, how it illumines our lives and helps us cope.
I got that far with writing then stopped. Now I am back at it, Sunday night. I have just spent much of the last hour looking at some of the pictures gleaned from our work bee. A word about process seems appropriate here. We set up in Linda’s living room, it was an invasion of sorts. Four big tables set up, the dining room table turned into a laptop and scanner station, for four days Linda’s space was pretty much turned upside down. Margie, Linda and I peeled pictures out of albums and sorted the content of the boxes, Janet received our sorted piles and using a high speed scanner we had purchased she did the painstaking work of scanning and catalogueing these pictures. Thru the wonders of modern tech we now all have access to all the pictures we handled. Can you even guess the number that Jan scanned? It was 6,700 on the nose (thats a prairie expression which means “exactly.”) Our discard pile was almost as big as our keep pile, so we looked at alot of pictures over the days.
Sitting here tonight I wonder about what makes humor possible. Definitely our stage in our healing work was part of what made us light hearted enough to laugh more than we cried. Perhaps it was the way that we had to keep a loose grip on reality because it was always changing. One minute being drawn back to 1981 and then 1939 and then 2002, all found in a combined box of pictures. Do you have one or some of these? I didn’t know my Mom had so many. I saw pictures I never saw before. Reality is a little more loose under those conditions and that loose-ness maybe encouraged humor. Maybe too it was about something kind’ve major. A kind’ve major truth, a truth that bubbled to the surface for me as we were preparing to start and discussing process. There was some anxiety rising to the surface…..what if we mishandle this and lose out on something special? We agreed we would look through the discard piles before they were garbaged in order to assure each other that we had all we wanted. It hit me then, this kind’ve major truth, I said, “girls, we have survived being orphans for a whole year now, we have lived without these photos and without our Mom and Dad for a whole year and we made it. What this represents now is the icing on the cake. We know we can make it, so everything here is bonus.” Its true. With that as our underlying truth it seemed like it was easy to live with a sense of gratitude for every one of the thousand moments our hearts smiled to see a familiar face, place, and item. With those smiles on our hearts the humor was more able to flow. In the end we never reassessed our throw aways we just let them all go.
I mentioned at the start that love and humor were on my mind. Perhaps the biggest reason that humor could flow is that each of us came to our time knowing we were loved and we are loved. Our parents loved us well, that is our most profound blessing in life. We all have taken into our hearts the faith our parents started in us, that tells us that we are beloved children of God. We all have established our own families, we have spouses, children and pets that welcome us home. That is major.
I have a few pictures to share with you. I am not going to make them orderly or chronological. It will give you a glimpse of how our minds were spinning thru these days together.
We are celebrating with Russell today. He had a big job on his hands and its done. In July we contracted with a farm family in the Alameda area. They had a winter crop that was very compromised by last winters unusual conditions, crop insurance was writing it off, would we like to come bale it? The answer was yes. The offer was an answer to prayer. I don’t like bossing God around with my prayers but I do think I am invited to be deeply real with God about what I want and need. So I had been praying like this, “God, I want to feed and water these cows.” The feed part of it, thanks to two grain farm families and drought relief support from the provincial government has been addressed for now. The water part…..well it remains to be seen how that will all pan out. We move forward. Anyways…………today Russell hauled the last of the bales home. We baled 687 bales in early August and they sat until three weeks ago when Russ began bringing them home. Under normal road conditions it was about a 50 minute trip to get to the field. He could bring home 18 at a time. Needless to say he has spent a lot of time on the road! I have made a few of those trips with him, to keep him company and have some pal time. Today Jill and I both went, we stopped for brunch in Oxbow, had a coffee with Foster, paid him for the bales and then went and loaded the last load. Jill then drove the tractor home and I took the victorious last run with Russ.
There are a few threads of this story that could be teased out a little bit. How do you bring home 18 bales at one time when each bale weighs about 1245lbs? With a flat deck trailer. We have always had one of these however ours only held 12 bales. After we made the bale deal with the Warriners Russell did serious pondering about the logistics of getting these bales home. We began to talk about a bigger flat deck. A friend of ours scouted out a used one in Estevan, it would be $8000 to bring home. Jill and I had to be in the city so we got designated as the shoppers for this trailer. I have to tell you, this ticked me off. We were so devastated by the drought conditions, we didn’t know how we were going to manage everything, we didn’t yet have word of the support from the government and I was being asked to get used to the idea of spending another 8000 bucks for the privilege of continuing to ranch. It was with some relief that I had a good look at the trailer and decided it was too rusty for my liking.
Whew, 8000 bucks saved, except, we still had that hay to get home. I am an intensely practical person. As much as having to shell out more dollars was disturbing me it was also disturbing me to think about the time and gas wasted making one third more trips over that 60 km span. So…….I percolated as I sometimes do. Russ gently needled me to do some shopping online. Before I knew it I was making phone calls and learning the specs of flat deck trailers. Here is where the sadness of my year of being an orphan gets transformed a tiny bit (I know orphan talk is dramatic and truly inaccurate, but I am giving myself permission to be this way.) Being an orphan sucks, but my Mom’s estate was dispersed and I had some money to work with. My Mom loved Russell and found her way clear to celebrate and support the work that we do. My Mom was also a very practical person. I came to terms with the possibility that it would make my Mom happy to be able to step in and do something so concrete to lower our stress and increase our efficiency. So, Mom provided us with a 34 foot flat deck trailer. In a million years I can’t imagine that she would have predicted part of her legacy on this earth would be a flat deck trailer, but there it is. So that’s one part of the living through a drought story.
I am thinking about another dimension to this. To give credit where it is due. I feel like we have a good news story to tell. That crop we baled was one that when assessed by Crop Insurance was considered borderline. It could have been written off but it was also just about good enough to be considered worth harvesting. However, the adjuster was encouraged to make his decision about the crop through the lens of this drought and the ranchers in need. Given that direction from his boss the adjuster wrote it off and gave Foster the go ahead to find a rancher who needed it and then sell it. Receiving the phone call where the offer was made was a game changer. The shift in morale was unmistakable and Russ is not ashamed that he needed to wipe away tears more than once. The hard thing is that all this crop we bought to bale, from two different families, is extra cost. More expense than we already have, and we already have enough. It was therefore rather stunning to learn that all cattle farmers would be given a per cow benefit through government crop insurance to help them make it through the year. One hundred dollars per cow doesn’t sound like much but it does add up and paid a part of our extra feed bill this year. All of this reminds me of my blog name, about being seen. Maybe I am too easily soothed but it means alot to me that our role feeding the world, the vulnerability we face and the sustainability we hope to secure are all things that seem to be seen and honored. I am feeling really thankful for this. So is Russ. Its another thing that brings tears.
So that was today on the ranch. A huge job checked off the to do list, a big bill paid, good coffee and wow Foster makes amazing biscuits.