Love Me Tender

We have been having some big days here, our calf numbers are rising by 10+ calves per day and its pretty exciting.  We had a set of twins early this morning and the Mom, who is known as “no tag” abandoned one of the calves (she has that terrible name because her tag came out sometime during the year,it will be replaced when we do our spring work with the cows and calves).  Russ brought her to the barn and I added her to my morning caseload.  I have some pictures here describing how that unfolded. 

Russ also texted from his early morning check that our Heifer named “Tender” calved.  That is one of my favorite names we have on the place.  It is part of a much bigger story, one that could fill a book perhaps.  The start of that story goes back a few years now when we acquired all 11 seasons of MASH on DVD and were watching it a lot.  In one episode Hot Lips and Pierce are assigned to go to a remote location and provide medical care, they are gone for a couple days. While they are away things get dangerous and as I recall they are holed up in a small space overnight.  All the everything that led up to these days rises to the surface, the shared work, the loneliness, the stress, the danger, the friendship, and as they have this set apart time they share a very tender kiss.  I was absolutely struck by it.  I realized watching it, in a way that I had never realized before, just how much I am moved by tenderness.  I think it is about, for me, what my blog address says, it takes some tenderness to see one another as we really are and to let ourselves be seen.  It is in being truly seen that I feel safer than I did before.  I knew I had to talk to Russell about this revelation I had about tenderness.  But that’s hard.  For some of us its so hard to say what we need.  Its hard to craft these conversations so that the information is shared without hurting the feelings of the other, without giving the message that they are faulty.  I really think it was about me stopping a bad habit I have. I work pretty hard to keep everyone happy and ignore what I need. I also needed to trust Russell with this insider info about me.  I think of the conversations that followed as being the beginning of removing some bricks that were In the wall that existed between us.  They were not long and life changing conversations.  They were a beginning of dealing with some of my various crappy relationship habits.  There is nothing like marriage to reveal what you really aren’t very good at that you thought you were.  The wall was affected, a bit more light got through and over, a bit more shared air was available and some unrelated circumstances around us changed making life itself easier.  Then a challenge came our way that had us both dealing with our issues and I give credit to Russell for taking the risk to be vulnerable with me, to trust me, to let me in.  What followed was some damn hard work but as that work unfolded we also gained traction as a couple who are truly present to each other.  In the summer of 2020 as we were becoming firmly rooted in a better way of being a couple together and coming up on our 20th wedding anniversary we had the job to do of getting tags made for our 1st calf heifers.  Russell has become a real fan of having theme names for cows that all come into the herd at the same time.  Last year we opted not to sell 62 of our heifer calves, we bred them last summer and switched their calf tags to cow tags.  What would the theme for these heifers be?  To mark the place we had come to in our marriage and what we had learned we decided to make tags using 62 words that relate to having a healthy relationship.  This was a really fun list of names to brainstorm and create tags for.  “Tender” who calved this morning, is, of course, part of this group.   So that is a part of the origin story of the first calf heifers of 2021, my favorite cow “tender” (who is actually really grouchy today) and perhaps way more information than you asked for, but I don’t mind talking about/sharing the stuff that is about real life in real time.  I have read this over with Russell and received his approval of what I offered as well.  

Here are the 1st calf heifers that have given us calves so far…..Relish, Listen, Hot Tub, Share, Enchant, Favour, Approve, Zeal, and Support. Yearn is calving right now. In an episode of real drama, we had a pre-teen pregnancy when “Feel” found herself pregnant and birthed last fall.  I’m not remembering where she found herself in contact with a bull, but her little body successfully carried that calf to term and birthed it all on her own.  She has this year off. 

A few pics…….

Coffee helped Russ bring this beautiful abandoned twin calf home from the pasture.
The calf we have since named Clipper. She was my joy today(read between the lines… .it was not my best day). At first she didn’t want to take a bottle. Russ told me to nudge her sucking instinct by giving her my finger. She remained unconvinced at 9am, at that point she was about 3 hours old.
To help her circulation and muscle tone I did lots of work on her, when I saw the residue on my hands I was a bit perplexed. That’s amniotic fluid I am pretty sure.
I decided early on in life that there is no need to avoid getting dirty as long as warm water and soap is not far away. Look Ma! Clean hands again 😊.
By 11am when I went back Clipper decided that bottle is a good thing.
Russ worked his butt off today and pulled Yearn’s calf just as the sun was setting. Coming in to get a bottle for M.J. he took this picture of our house.
We got new stools at our counter. They have no arms. It seems that makes it easier for a pet to get a spot at the counter. This site tonight tickled my fancy……oh Coffee dog! A very late supper for Russ.

A Gratitude Round-up

Night has fallen on another day at the Bar MW Ranch. I had hoped to tackle a bit of a big topic in my writing today but I fear at this point in the day I don’t have the brain power to make it work.

As the day winds down we have so much to be grateful for, little stuff and big stuff.

-The cows are doing really well with calving. We had seventeen calves on Sunday, none have required much intervention from us or a visit from the vet. That is a relief after the beginning of last week.

-I got the chance to buy 18 eggs fresh off our friends’ farm today and we ate feta cheese, greek chicken and my favourite broccoli at supper, there was flavour abounding, I am thankful for access to food that feels so good to eat.

-I made my Mom’s famous “Christmas Morning Wife Saver” casserole for lunch. I feared the smell of it cooking would throw me right off, my sister suggested maybe it would be a balm for my soul. I liked that reframe. In fact, the act of making it was a balm for my soul and the smell of it both sharp to my senses and comforting. Ron our hired man really liked both the wife saver and Mom’s fudge which I served us for dessert. I am thankful for the memories and the excuse this birthday week offered to honour my Mom.

-We picked up our Hyundai from Powell Autobody, they replaced my windshield and did a beautiful job washing it up and shining the interior a bit. I felt totally spoiled. We also dropped our Expedition off for servicing in Alida, hoping to deal with a noisy backend. To round the day off we went to Carlyle where we picked up our repaired dually. We resisted going through the Dairy Queen drive thru this time. It was a vehicle day and lots of time on the road, we are home safe and sound and I always feel grateful for that.

-Our cow “Peta” had twins today. By the end of the day she made clear that it would be best for us to take one of her babies and just leave her one. For the time being we have an extra baby in the barn and Jill and I will be delivering bottles for the foreseeable future. That is a job that feels like an extra thing until you get to the barn and experience that new life and the human-animal relationship. I am thankful for this life I have. I didn’t know that animals could possibly mean as much to me as they do.

-Russell had his Covid vaccine yesterday evening. One step closer to where we want things to be for us and others. I am thankful that my sweet man has stayed so strong despite all the obstacles he faced in 2020 and never had to reckon with Covid despite a close call.

There is more, some of it kind’ve personal. Thats maybe enough for tonight.

Thats what I see after this day on the Bar MW Ranch.

I am missing Gina. As I looked at her grad pictures tonight this one jumped out at me for the clear image it gave of her boots. I might call this picture “Gina’s boots in their natural habitat.” (A Liz Griffin Photography Image)
Gina sent this picture last week. Her boots in their new habitat. Actually, she doesn’t wear them to school much but this day was performing a number in class from “Annie Get Your Gun “
The evening light is illumining so many individual bits of the prairie. Maybe that is a bit like gratitude, it illumines the many pieces of our days that seem so unremarkable at first glance.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Day 7 Whats In a Name?

In blog posts for the next little while the reality of names and naming is going to be coming up again and again.  Calving season brings that to reality.  It doesn’t neccesarily have to be this way.  Many people get through their work as ranchers using numbered tags and everything goes well.  Many people go their whole lives without naming their bathroom and that also seems to work out just fine.  Here at the Bar MW Ranch we seem to have a thing for names.  Russell would say that it is partly because of his numerous head injuries, which he thinks have affected his ability to remember numbers well, making the use of cow names easier when wanting to make clear which cow needs attention of some kind or has become grouchy and needs to be watched out for extra carefully.  Lately our cow names have gone beyond common human names.  Some unexpected words will be part of the story as more gets shared about the cows and their babies.   

Now about that bathroom.  There has been an important shift in the Kyle-Bayliss household in the last few days.  For more than 7 years, since we moved into our house, our bathroom has had a name.  It was titled after the first visitor who really made use of the bathroom.   In those early days in our house we really made use of the bathroom name, Gina: “Mom, where is the mop?”  ……Me: “it’s in Barb’s Bathroom”, everyone knew what I meant.  In recent years Barb hasn’t been coming around and I would say we have really reverted to calling it “The Company Bathroom”.  But then along came Diane, the rabbit Morgan brought home.  After Diane’s passing happened, after she had taken up residence in the company bathroom for almost 3 days, Russell brought an idea to the family.  It wasn’t a motion or a suggestion really, it was more a matter of him making a switch that he hoped the rest of us would follow along with.  He started calling that bathroom “The Diane Mellencamp Memorial Bathroom”.    Morgan feels it should just be the “The Diane the Rabbit Memorial Bathroom.”   Russell feels the Mellencamp part of the name is important because it reminds us of the origin of her name.  John Cougar Mellencamp recorded the song “Jack and Diane” in the 80s.  Morgan says he knows this song because he is not a fan of current pop music.  When he determined the rabbit was female (mostly a huge guess) he figured he could bring some sense of her species (JACK rabbit) into her name by calling her Diane.  Would you agree this naming business is getting a bit silly?  I am totally open to the name change for our bathroom but I am a bit skeptical that over the years the name will hold up.  Picture it with me if you will…..Jillian home from University in 5 years, “Mom where do we keep the extra shampoo?”, me, “oh honey its still in the same place, check the closet in the Diane Mellencamp Memorial Bathroom.”  It might hold.  During the day today I did a bit of research about names and their significance.  I learned that the expression “Whats in a name?” came from the Shakespeare play “Romeo and Juliet”, I learned that names are very important for giving us identity and belonging.  I learned some other stuff too, but this is getting long.

And on another note, about names, yesterday I invited some ideas for the name for Kathy’s calf.  There were some really good ideas but my cousin Lisa was the most persuasive in presenting her thoughts and so the calf of Kathy the cow, 2021, will hereby be known as Lisa.  That makes me very happy too.  

I am including this picture today as it is quite beautiful, Liz Griffin took it last summer, it has a nice close up of a cow who Russ says was acting like a diva today. Its a good shot of her name tag and her baby.

Day 6 – What about Diane? and…..a birth announcement.

As I start writing this its Saturday morning. If you read the blog a few days ago you will know that Morgan and Russell brought a rabbit home that they found hurt at the hay feeder. They named it Diane. We have spent the last few days caring for Diane as best as we could. The intention when they brought her home was just to give her a more comfortable death which they felt would happen within minutes or hours. We spent the last couple days giving her water, lettuce and cabbage and pondering if maybe she might get better. However, I saw signs of a head injury and with that as the scenario I was prepared for the event this morning when Morgan found her lifeless.

It was a very easy caregiving experience in a sense, there was nothing gross about it and Diane was very quiet. However it caused some hard questions to stir in me and some interesting things to get discussed. I pondered if we had in fact done Diane any favours, we kept her from a cold and possibly harsh end but certainly we had extended her time of suffering. Did she have a head ache? Just how scared was she by this unfamiliar setting? Could she feel that we intended no harm? With all of that stirring it was actually a relief when she passed.

There were some positive things that came out of the experience for sure. Morgan was very enthused by having her in the house and the work of taking care of her. He checked her often. That had me thinking of something I have never thought of before for Morgan, I asked him, “Morg, do you think you would ever want to be a vet?” He said he wasn’t sure. He didn’t say No. He has such a tender and caring heart and loves animals so much, seeing him so attentively watching over Diane it suddenly seemed like a possible fit.

The other piece of the story relates to my blog address a bit (“”). At one point Morgan said to me, “Mom, you think Diane has a head injury, so do you think I could cuddle her?” I think what was going on inside him was a thought that if her injury kept her from typical rabbit motion than he could actually hold her without struggle and it would be a terrific cuddle. I said, “No Morg…. you know that phrase I have talked about, “you see me I see you”, well in this case we have to see Diane, see seems stressed by us, I don’t feel that a cuddle with you would make her feel safe. I don’t know Morg. What is going to make her feel safe?” I am absolutely uncertain of whether that was the right call to make or not. I think touch could be comforting, but that comes from my point of view, life as a wild rabbit is not shaped by touch, I think.

The next day Morgan asked me, “how is Diane feeling?” and a moment later after seeing how Jill had herself set up to sit outside and study and had brought Diane out to be in the fresh air and out in the sun he said, “does Diane like it outside?” I find it amusing and sweet how it seemed he thought I would have the inside track on the answer to these questions. I was encouraged though. It seemed he was anxious to see about the situation through Diane’s eyes. Jill had perceived that familiar sights, sounds and smells might help Diane, I think that was a pretty good guess. Maybe when it comes to really seeing the ones around us and the needs they hold it comes down to some guessing, but luckily we do have the possibility to put our questions into words and check out what we are really seeing when we see one another. How those conversations go is another topic altogether, but in this case, I was encouraged by what I heard as we reckoned with our Diane and her needs.

We had had a great day of calving yesterday, many calves were born and all went smoothly. One of the fun ones to discover was the cow who was named after me. So without further ado……let me introduce Kathy and her baby. We have named cows Gina, Jillian and Morgan, so can I invite you to offer a name for this calf. It won’t get a personalized tag, its just that as we interact with the cows and calves over the next 9 months, as we see Kathy with her calf we can say hi to her calf, by name, and think of you. There is a chance we might keep this calf as a replacement heifer, if its a girl, but otherwise it moves on next December.

I hope your weekend is going well.

Here she is, Kathy the cow, with her mini me.

Day 5 and All is Well!

Russ and I had a funny experience yesterday that I think will go down in our family lore. We had a remarkably easier day with the cattle which was good because our new truck was booked for a repair and we needed to get it to Carlyle, about 50 minutes from here. We headed up in two vehicles and dropped it off and then decided a visit to the Dairy Queen drive thru was in order before heading back to the ranch. As we pulled up to the payment window I totally forgot about my mask, again. The lady at the window was a bit off which is when I, within a millisecond of asking myself “what’s wrong?”, realized that I was without my mask. I quickly grabbed it off the signal light lever and in something straight out of “that will never happen in a million years” managed to not apply it to my face but turn it into a slingshot, that I lost grip of. In .5 seconds I went from being the person not wearing a mask, to being the person who shoots masks at fast food servers. It landed right on the hand of the attendant as she extended the payment machine out to us. I felt like a complete and total jerk. I was unbelievably flustered. The attendant went from being “off” to being “offended” to being “angry” and then she softened, as I apologized all over myself. I was so embarrassed. Russ came to this situation as a guy who has been completely absorbed with a tricky situation for days, he had been living within an uphill battle and his brain was shaped by this. Therefore his reaction to this situation was to burst out into that Russell laugh that somehow sounds like a large animal, maybe a hyena, gasping for air. His laughter was well received by the server and the one who brought our Blizzards and everything seemed forgiven. In the midst of the worst of it I said to the attendant, “I am so sorry, it was the wind,” but when we pulled into the lot to enjoy our ice cream I pointed out to Russ that the flags in Carlyle were sitting absolutely still. It wasn’t the wind. He laughed again. Lying in bed last night he said, “can I just laugh about that mask thing one more time?” Then he explained to me that it was such a relief to not be the one getting themselves in hot water, but to watch me, who usually is so composed, make such a huge gaff in such incredibly tricky times, and feel so flustered. I get it. I love seeing Russell get flustered for the exact same reason. Maybe it really really reminds us of how human we are. I looked up the definition of flustered afterwards and looked for any interesting quotes about it, there were none to see. The definition said “to feel irritated or confused.” That is not how I see it at all. Flustered, defined by Kathy Kyle, “how one feels when understandable things happen by surprise and responding appropriately feels almost impossible for the human involved.” It was my most embarrassing moment for a long long time.

A couple things happened yesterday that heightened my appreciation for technology. One is that we got to watch Gina perform in a “Festival of New Works” at her school. In a normal year I would have likely travelled to Victoria and been in the audience, with that not being possible a good quality version was available for us to watch on our computer at home. The four us huddled there and watched Gina open the whole show as she emerged on stage in a raincoat and umbrella tapping away to “Singing in the Rain”. It was part of a song medley created by a 2nd year student, she was using it to explore how tap might be more fully integrated into modern musical theatre, so the number ended with a segment from Hamilton the Musical. It was cool. I took a pic of the screen. Thats Gina with the red hair. We really enjoyed it but as the proud Mama I could have watched Gina tap a lot more than this!

The other thing that happened yesterday is that Russell noticed that our cow “Antonio” was looking good. That cow was named after a friend of mine who lives in Mexico City. Recently Russ and Antonio became Facebook friends so Russ took a picture of the cow and sent it to Antonio. There was dialogue back and forth that happened right away. That made me so happy. With the help of technology two humans were allowed to connect from the heart of the 2nd largest city in the world to a snowy pasture almost exactly 40 hours drive directly north. Celebrating the good stuff friends!

Day 4….Was that a roller coaster? No. What was it?

Part way through the day yesterday I found myself thinking that a title for a blog about the day would include the idea of a rollercoaster. Later on I realized that just wasn’t accurate. A roller coaster goes up and down several times. That wasn’t the shape of the day. It was something else, but what? As I pondered that I had that very familiar verse of Scripture rise to my mind, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”…..and for a while yesterday that was how it felt. We started off in wide open places, and without warning came upon that valley, it was pretty rotten in there, for me at least (grief triggers, etc.), and then I/we found ourselves being lifted out of the valley. The possibility of returning to the valley meant a roller coaster was in the making as the day wound down. I find myself pondering the verses I read first thing in the morning, a Christmas text, “he will be Emmanuel which means God with us” and noting how that echoed with Psalm 23, “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” I don’t have the time or mental power to untangle exactly how “God with me” shaped this day but I made it through a painful valley, I was not alone, I am thankful for the people and gestures and currents of grace that proved to be the elevator out of the valley. I took lots of pictures yesterday, it was that kind of day, but none of the valley, so have no fear about seeing something hard, I will just tell you about it.

After my own routine and my blogging was complete I had a call from Russ, he had two calves that were doing quite well they just needed a warm up. “Get the dog room ready!”
A little while later Morgan checked on them. He called to me, “Mom! One is standing! Mom! Two are standing!” I could only envision that two calves moving about in this small room was going to be trouble, especially with a plugged in heater in the mix. So I rushed in and together we enjoyed these quiet and beautiful calves. Morgan called Russ to tell him the calves were ready for pick up. Russ said he had six straw bales he was dealing with and then he would be right in. Morgan suggested we let them out into the rest of the house. I thought he was crazy. But we did keep the door open and let Coffee dog have a chance to see what was happening in her bedroom.
Coffee dog was super impressed with her new friends.
When it was clear to me that the calves were not steady enough to be galloping around the house we let them do what they felt led to do. This is Begonia’s calf, she ventured out into the porch. Jill zoomed up from her desk when I sent her a text “two calves are standing, its fun in the dog room.” It was in these moments she said “I absolutely love this!” We were in a wide open meadow of space at this point in the day.
Begonia Jr. is so cute and a little more adventurous than her room-mate whose Mom is “Cop Car”. Someday soon I can say more about the weird names we have for our cows.
Jill was very on duty in reining in Coffee’s love for interaction. I thought that Coffee was telling herself, “Wow, the quality of the toys in this house has really gone up!”
21 seconds of sight and sound featuring Coffee.
Russ and I thought we might be able to walk the calves all the way back to the barn but in the end this was a hard go. We put them in the back of the white jeep and drove them over.
Cop Car and her baby getting themselves established.
Begonia and her adventurous little one did very well right off the hop.
While out and about Russ took me to see the established pairs he had in the pole shed. Here is the calf that looked so pitiful in yesterdays pictures. Russ calls her “Navajo Rug” after the Ian Tyson song he had me play for her while she was warming up. That is her Mom Katie watching Russ with some guardedness.
About 20 minutes after the two calves were gone Russ called and said, “is the nursery still open?” He had a fairly needy calf to bring in. The snow had stopped but the wetness and chill all around were still causing us troubles. In came the calf of “Support.” She sure didn’t look great and I was not feeling great about things, but, wow did that calf respond. It didn’t take much of a rub down, just time. I put my finger in to test her sucking instinct after a while, Russ thought she should have a bit of a bottle if she would suck, she definitely was up for it. I made her 1/3 of a bottle to give her a bit of something and she appreciated it. When Russ lifted her to take her back to her Mom he said, “Kathy, your’e a miracle worker!”
Meanwhile, like sometime in the morning, Marcel the vet made his second trip to the ranch for the day. In the first trip Russ was looking for Marcel’s help to diagnose what he was seeing in “Gloria”, in this second trip our heifer whose name is Like was in calving distress and Russ couldn’t even find the calves head when he reached in. Apparently Marcel has a special tool to get a head that eludes the rancher and with it he, Morgan and Russ were able to “pull” the calf. It was a very hard pull and Like and the calf both needed recovery time.
Russ didn’t make it in for lunch and didn’t want a lunch to go. He is really good at fasting and with the reality of all the places his hands go in a day, he would rather fast. I had the chance to give him a cup of coffee part way through the afternoon. We have a philosophy at this ranch, that a word of encouragement or a compliment is never misguided, never a waste, never a bad idea. I could hardly wait for Russ to see the top of his cup. He was touched.

It was after this that things went south. The calf that had been pulled in the morning was not doing well. There is a disheartening reality to this. Russ intentionally left the heifer and calf to lie and rest after the pull. He understands this is needed given all that they have each been through. The trouble is that things got super challenging for Russ after this. He was not able to get back to those animals as quickly as he should have. Everyone else was under experienced or busy or both for the assessment and retrieval that needed to happen. Its kind’ve complicated. Fast forward to late afternoon, Russell brings me Like’s calf, it is not doing well and there is a sign that another cow stepped on it. He headed out to get to other things. I was left alone with this beautiful but struggling calf. I rubbed it and rubbed it, trying to dry it and to get its circulation improving. I was assessing what I was seeing and hoping for the best, leaning over that calf and pouring every caregiving instinct I have into it, and it died, right in front of me. I couldn’t give up, partly because a bit of spontaneous movement would give me fresh hope. You know where this is going right? Flashback and emotion. Damnit. I couldn’t save my Mom and I couldn’t save this calf. It was overwhelming. It was the deepest and darkest part of the valley. I called Russell, washed my face, changed my pants and called Grandma Shirley. Despite being late I was coming for tea. This is where the elevator out of the valley started this time around. Russ was so sorry to have put me through that. Sympathy helps. I got to Grandma Shirley’s, who is in our Covid bubble, and she said to me, “dear, at Christmas I put four shortbread cookies away in the freezer knowing there would be a day that I would need them, I think today is the day.” Her delicious tea and those beautiful cookies and just getting off the #*#* ranch were a bit of ointment on my wounds. While there I got an odd picture from Russell and Morgan. Shirley and I thought Morgan was holding a baby deer on his lap in the jeep. That wasn’t it. It was a second time in the day that animals elevated our experience and brought wonder.

Russell and Morgan had found this rabbit injured at one of the hay feeders. They decided to bring it home and see what could be done for it. Russ said, “even if it dies its better than it dying cold in the mud with predators all around.” They decided to name it Diane, after the rock song “Jack and Diane”, we call almost every bunny we see on the road Jack, it is time to have a Diane.
We had a fiesta of leftovers for supper and then Jill served us this beautiful cake she made in honour of her Nana. The colours were chosen based on the blue and coral we so often saw Mom choose for her clothing.
The hope for my blog is to be real, like as real as I can bear to be. So welcome to my horrendously messy kitchen and my very weird hair. I am not up to snuff these days. I wanted to use this picture though because our credit union ag rep gave me this t shirt when Mom was sick. The credit union was established in 1937, that is when my Mom was born. Weird fact…..a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have and use in her lifetime. So that means that the egg that became me was established in 1937 too. Cool.
Another low carb part of the week. Can you hear my eyes rolling? Delicious.

As we went to bed there was the possibility that Diane the rabbit was going to die in the night. Russ said, “she is either going to wake us up at 3am lunging out of her box (by that point located in “the company bathroom”) or die.” The valley of the shadow of death lingered near once more.

Thats all for this day. I think that is the end of this storm too and future posts won’t be such a long read. I hope.

Day 3 and I’m excited about Yorkshires!

Hello from the Bar MW Ranch where after three days of snow I think the sun might just shine today. We are thankful for it all. Yesterday was another busy day of Russ, Ron and Morgan working hard to keep calves alive. I called Ron around 8:30 to tell him we had no water and ask him to check the well house for troubles. He told me he was trying to save a calf but he would get right to it. I updated Russ with the situation. Russ got to the well house before Ron did and reported back that “some idiot had unplugged the heater…….and that idiot was me.” We had water again in short order, after a line thawed. Shortly after this my house guest for the morning arrived, the calf Ron was saving, a big beautiful red calf, her Mom is “Katie.” Russ carried it in and asked me to please play some specific music for this calf. So I cued up Ian Tyson “The Navajo Rug” song, thanks to YouTube, and the calf got to hear Ian singing about its Mom “Katie.” Here is Katie Jr. at the point she was handed off to me. Our little dog room heats up fast and makes a great warm up spot. Coffee our puppy is doing absolutely wonderfully with sharing her corner of the house.

Russ reported in while checking the cows “Buttercup” was not doing so well, seemed to be in distress. Morgan was still his helper at this point and was the one to get her lined up to get in the trailer and come home. Russ did an internal assessment and thought we needed the vet. Marcel came in a flash. I got a call from Morgan, “come to the pole shed! We are having twins!” By the time I got there Marcel had pulled the 2nd calf and Buttercup was at this stage. She is licking them off, getting them drier and and that motion is working on their circulation in the process.

Jill and I both came to see the action and here was a little catch up moment. Wolf quickly found Jill and got to be part of the post birth meeting.
Saddle horses are the saviours of many of our days.

Back at the house I needed to help this calf get dry. It is absolutely amazing how long they hold moisture in their legs. I rubbed and rubbed and just could not get them dry. The room was hot as hades. Anyways….Gina called, she was walking to school, so I put her on speakerphone and she got to hear the calf moo a little bit and we did an interprovincial session with this calf.

And by this moment it was definitely perking up.

Perhaps the most stressful moment of my day happened when Russ called and asked me to check the heifers. These are cows that are pregnant with their first calf and we keep them in a separate pasture because they need closer supervision. Russ was so busy he did not have time to check them and didn’t know when he would get to. By this time Jill and Morgan were in class and Ron was busy. It needed to be me. However I had a list I wanted to do too, including getting a shower. I told Russ I was too busy. He understood. I felt tremendously guilty. The biggest things on my list were the food prep needed for our lunch, a menu to celebrate my Mom on her birthday. I needed to let go of my firm grip on how that would unfold and flex. I did it. I agreed to check the heifers. Here is why…….it was self care in a way. I realized that if I didn’t I would ruin the rest of the morning worrying about how the heifers were doing, worrying that a cow and/or calf could be suffering. I knew how I wanted to feel. I wanted to be rolling out cinnamon buns and feeling peace in my heart. So, in order to make that happen, I had to hit the road and go do the check. I found that all was well, most of the heifers were enjoying hay at the feeders and it was an easy and pleasant job. I returned to the house, had a quick shower and got down to business on thick cut bacon and cinnamon buns, Georgie specialities. It seemed like a good shift within me to do something not because I should, but because of how I knew I wanted to feel.

Heifers at the feeders. The red one standing alone is named “Tender”. There are at least two big stories that go with this and maybe they will get told somewhere down the line.

Unfortunately my afternoon was hard. Just sad. I could not avoid that sense of loss, I was missing my Mom, really mindful of her. I almost let go of my plan to honour my Mom by making Yorkshire pudding to go with supper. I wondered if I really needed a challenge when I was punk. I thought I should at least do a search on the internet for info. I found a great post with tips to make successful Yorkshires. I got started. I did it. They turned out! They maybe needed a little more salt, the recipe called for a generous pinch, I wasn’t generous enough I do believe. These were best with butter not gravy and I ate 3. I am trying to eat low carb as much as I can, but this was not the time! Here is the website where I got the help I needed “”.

The guys got in early and we ate supper at a good time. We put the mashed potatoes in this awesome serving dish that was my Mom’s.

That was April 13th, we got through it, we saved some lives and we lost one. A calf was born with its sack on its head that it never burst through and no-one could get to it in time. One of Buttercups twins is getting adopted onto “Flirt” the Mama of the calf we lost. We do a lot of thinking about Moms and their kids in calving season and this day we all talked about my Mom a lot. We all miss her so much. I couldn’t help but think she would be flattered by our many efforts to comfort ourselves and the delight we took in using her recipes, dishes, tablecloths, runners, serviettes……its all a connection.

Day 2 and its April 13th

Its 6:29am and I have two guys at the counter, managing their own coffee and breakfast needs, here I sit. There is more snow falling and Russ says what has accumulated so far is more than we had all winter. He continues to be overjoyed. The kids start online school today. This has become neccesary now, after Covid variants combined with Easter holiday travel and rapidly rising cases numbers have led to more concern than we have known yet in the pandemic. Morg got up to do the morning check with Russ so that he could be back and ready to “go to school” at his appointed time. We shall see how this goes.

A little follow up from yesterday……..

Despite our best efforts, the efforts of all of us, one of our morning house calf guests lived and one died. It was the biggest and noisiest one that died and Russ figures that it was stepped on by a cow before he got it in. That was disheartening. If I can figure out how to post a video that Jill originally posted on our family chat I will do that. I like it. Its a glimpse of Rev. Kyle in her leggings and her Dad’s old shirt doing her best to bottle feed a calf that is not too interested. The other calf, Fifi Jr., responded really quickly to the heat and a few sips from a bottle and was trying to stand in short order. That was fun to see, she was quickly returned to her Mom and from what I hear Fifi was glad to have her back and all is well. Our heifer whose name is “Enjoy” is not taking too well to the calf we are adopting on to her. “Claire” had twins a few days ago and was doing fine with them but when Enjoy lost her calf we thought we would relieve Claire of her double milking duties and give Enjoy that chance to bring her mothering skills a go. (Heifers are first time Moms, they need extra supervision at first and most do well eventually.) Our calving season is slow to start, we only had one other calf yesterday and that was Penny, she birthed a beautiful big calf but seemed a bit disoriented by the weather, by mid day she had walked that calf way far from the herd and shelter. Morgan walked her back, on foot, (which Russ remarked was quite brave of him given that Morg has a healthy amount of fear of cows).

And its April 13th…….84 years ago today a brave and kindhearted 23 year old woman gave birth to her first child. It was 1937 and that baby was my Mom. This is our first April 13th since Mom’s death in October. Its hard to know what to do to mark a day like this. Last night my sisters and I shared our plans as we went back and forth on our Sister chat. The common thread through all of our plans was food. Another dimension was flowers and a plan to share some flowers with some of Mom’s special people. Food, flowers and sharing, Mom would be pleased I think. My Mom savoured creating and sharing food, receiving flowers and being generous. With a presence as huge as my Mom’s was in our lives I found myself compelled to plan something more than a single day or a single food item. For this year anyways it just didn’t seem enough. So we are having a whole week of celebrating Georgie here at the ranch. Yesterday I made the cake that bonded her and Russell forever, oatmeal cake with brown sugar icing. Today Jill is making one of her amazing Jill cakes to honour her Nana and I am going to try my hand at Yorkshire pudding tonight, along with a roast of beef. Later this week I do believe bran muffins and Christmas morning wife saver will be on the menu. A chocolate cake with brown sugar icing will figure in there too. To do this week right a batch of fudge needs to be included somewhere. Grief is such a sneaky bear and I have danced with it way too much for my liking over the last months. Somehow having a positive focus of creating food and getting to share it with the crew here helps me to hope, maybe naively, that this week can unfold without a flood of struggle. We shall see.

Until tomorrow, that is the update from the Bar MW Ranch.

My Mom as an infant, in the arms of her great granny. Her Mom and Grandma are in the back. Mom is in the presence of the women who faced down the work and the joy of birthing. As a result of these women she and I and many others in our clan had life.
My Mom as a young girl, with that effervescent smile that so many have been blessed to know.
Mom serving her famous chocolate cake with brown sugar icing on the trail in 2019.
Getting icing onto yesterdays Georgie inspired cake.
Russ heading out the door with Fifi Jr., she is feeling better and ready to see her Mom. The ears on this calf remind me of a mule!
Jill and I working to nourish/warm from the inside a cold calf.

Day 1

I have resisted having a blog for a long time, fearing the pressure to create content regularly. Suddenly, however, it feels like freedom not pressure. Interesting how that goes. I have spent several days setting up the page with not too much to show for it. It is definitely a learning curve. There are some in our circle that like to keep up with events on the ranch so this is a chance for me to record and share the events of life.

As I write today we are dealing with the opposing realities of stormy weather. On the one hand we have been desperate for moisture. We had very little snow over the winter and an extremely dry fall so we have been staring at dry and browning ground for what seems like weeks after a short winter. There were tears in the head ranchers eyes several times yesterday. The moisture found in the snow and rain that has fallen over the last day and a forecast for more is giving some hope that we might have adequate water for the cows and hopefully a hay crop. On the other hand, cold and wet weather as calving gets underway means trouble. It has taken me an hour to get this far in this post due to the needs of the ranch. It started with a phone call from Russ, “I need you to get Morgan up, tell him to start the white truck and saddle the horses, and, if I don’t call you back in 2 minutes its because I am under the jeep” (where he would be hiding from a mad Mama cow.) He called me back in 5 by which time I was getting dressed, preparing to go see what I could do, and telling God how much I wanted my husband to be okay. Follow up phone calls and action ensued. Jill was needed too. As I sit now here is the status report…..I have two calves in the dog room in the house here. One of them is quite vocal. Morgan and Jill both had hearty breakfasts thanks to leftovers. Hoping to ensure that a sleep teenage boy did not go back to sleep when he was needed I lingered nearby in the laundry room and got the first load of laundry done. That means that all the sheets/blankets that our puppy “Coffee” peed on last night, right at bedtime, are in the process of getting clean. Morgan did well and got to breakfast in good time. While he ate I unloaded the dishwasher, got that job off the list. Then I cleared the supper table from last night. It was late and we were tired and distracted after supper last night, so we didn’t make that the priority. Paid for it this morning. Russ came in with two wet and cold calves just as I was getting the dog room floor swept and a mat down. We brought a heater in and now hopefully the calves of Coby and Fifi will warm up and be okay. Jill is out at the barn dealing with a different calf, a twin that we are adopting onto a Mom that lost her calf. Russell and Morgan are out on horseback rounding up Coby and Fifi and bringing them home to the barn where they will be reunited with their babies, hopefully warmed up and ready to suck. At this point, now 8:52 am, Russ also had word that Penny has calved and her calf is doing fine, up and moving around with her. Thankfully not every morning is like this, but this is calving season and this is how it will be for a bit, especially in cold wet weather. We are very grateful for the wet part of that.

Morgan and Buster having breakfast.
Getting some layers on hoping to keep warm.
“Coffee” our 5 month old puppy likes to be right in the action. She was almost first out the door.
The two guests we had arrive in the house this morning.

Let me Introduce Me and Us

I am Kathy, and officially I am the writer of this blog. However, a lot of the action and the stories recorded here revolve around our ranch and my family. This introduction page will include a wee bit of info about all the characters you are likely to encounter regularly on the blog.

Kathy – I was born in Saskatoon, Sk., a city of around 200,000 people (when I was growing up.) Now I live on our ranch, near the town of Carnduff, with 1200 people. For the most part I love rural life, I kind’ve think I was wired for this. When I was growing up I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. However I can assure you I was not walking the sidewalks of Wiggins Ave. dreaming about horses, cows, calves, dogs, hay, hats, chaps and boots and all the beauty and mess of these things! But here I am. The path to get here started with being a house painter (a pretty bad one, God bless my brother who hired me), then a nurses aide, a student of home economics, a singer/traveller, a volunteer co-ordinator, a theology student, more nurses aide, more theology, chaplaincy work in a nursing home, more theology school and finally receiving the title Rev. Kyle and getting sent to serve two little towns just east of here with a combined population of 650 people. I met Russell Bayliss the first week I was here. It was not love at first sight but things unfolded in such a way that here we are, finding our way as a team of parents, ranchers and lovers. And with that, let me introduce Russell.

Russell – this guy is a really good friend to many people, but especially me. He just seems to get a lot of important things about what humans need. Russell is the head guy at our ranch. That translates to a lot of responsibility and hard work. I think you will enjoy getting to know him through the blog posts, seeing his various skills and his wisdom rise to the surface.

This is Russell and I in the summer of 2020. We are perched on the back of our “cowboy cottage”, a mobile cottage that Russell and the kids made, with a little help from friends, it is intended as a resting place for humans in the calving pasture, but it has served many purposes beyond that.

Gina – Russ and I were married only 9 months when I realized I was pregnant. We are so blessed this happened easily as I was already 34 by the time Gina was born. Gina taught me how to be a Mom and in the process illumined both strengths and weaknesses I didn’t realize I had. With a quiet external demeanour this kid has always been full of zest and passion and as her family we had the good fortune to be a part of this unfolding. She has taken her passion and moved to Victoria in the last year. She is studying musical theatre and really enjoying it. Her passion for music and performance goes hand in hand with great cowgirl skills, abilities to get up close and personal with the animals on the ranch and a keen mind for social justice.

Gina helping to bring a herd of cow calf pairs down the road in June 2020.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)
Gina during her graduation pictures casual photo shoot.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Jillian – It seems there isn’t much that Jill can’t do when she puts her mind to it. As a grade 11 student she is very busy with her schooling. Amid the stress and time required for that she adds humour, amazing baking, lots of music and very genuine caring into the atmosphere of our home. Jill is skilled, that has helped her easily learn musical instruments but also become one who very effectively runs hydraulic gate controls, the cow computer database/scale, tools for giving our animals immunizations, tags, castration and more. I love observing Jill’s affection for our animals. She is not too interested in riding horses but enjoys them and has endless concern and care for our dogs, cats and the cow herd, especially as the calves arrive.

Jill working in the corral with us, running a gate as we sorted cows and calves.
(A Liz Griffin Photography image).
Jill and I on her birthday, in the city, away from the ranch world.

Morgan – Morgan is our youngest and a young man who brings a lot of zest and spice to the ranch and to our lives. He really really enjoys his Dad and the two of them are pretty inseparable when Morgan is not at school. He has been a tremendous help with the ranch. He makes us very proud because of the kindness and concern for others that he puts into most of his days. He has taken to the cowboy life very easily and has a great sense of humour, its quite the combination. Morgan has endless amounts of affection for our pets, they are lucky to have him.

Morgan, at the age of 12, leading the herd as we brought a combined herd of cows home from several different summer pastures. (A Liz Griffin Photography image)
After a big June 2020 morning of trailing cows home to put them through the chute we took a break for lunch, that is when Liz Griffin captured this picture of Morgan with our dog Maddie.
(A Liz Griffin Photography image).

Ron – Ron gets various titles “our hired man”, “lead hand”, “top hand”, the bottom line is that he is here every day working hard and applying various skills to keep our operation running as smoothly as possible. Ron has been with our ranch for most of 15 years and has watched our kids grow up. Russell’s Grandpa and Ron’s Dad were brothers so we count Ron as family for double sure.

Ron on a work day in the corral, he quite expertly runs gates as we sort the animals.
(A Liz Griffin Photography image).

Ron (on foot) has done some necessary task in this moment to see a group of cowboys and cowgirls get headed down the road to move part of our herd.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Buster – As the eldest member of our pet family Buster has a certain authority in our home. The dogs try to taunt him but they just don’t get very far. Buster is beloved by all and spreads his affection around while keeping a certain cat aloofness. Russell, despite having the dogs total loyalty, calls himself a cat person, so Buster is never far from his mind. Buster came to us a very long time ago, (Jill was a baby), as a stray he wandered into our yard, somehow he wangled his way in for permanent residency. He has been an almost perfect house cat.

(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Bingo – This dog and I have a bond, forged through Bingo’s love of a scrap of table food and my status as boss of the kitchen. When clean up starts and she can hear the cutlery start to jangle she zips to the kitchen and sits staring at me, ensuring I know I can count on her for all manner of dish clean up support. As a cattle dog she is known for her loyalty to Russell and her determination to be working, even if it isn’t always in the right direction, or, even if she is burning energy needlessly with her infamous Bingo “run circles around the action” behaviour. Despite these things she has earned her place on the team because of her total devotion to Russ. Many a time an aggressive cow has had to deal with Bingo first, keeping Russell from a close call many times. I know we are not supposed to have favourites but Bingo is a dog that I adore. She was born in our house in the fall of 2014.

(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Maddie – generally known as a gentle dog Maddie has many sides to her. She works hard as a cattle dog and has smarts that help her be in the right place at the right time, however she doesn’t seem as persistent as other dogs we have had. She delights us with her rather dainty walk paired with a ferocious protective instinct that seems to unfold more as she ages. She is Bingo’s full sister and we get lots of sibling issues at times. Maddie is definitely our pretty dog, she really is gorgeous. She would rather sleep on the hard floor at my side of the bed then 8 feet away where a softer resting place is set up for her. I don’t really understand that, maybe it is her protective instinct.

(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Knightwing – A few years ago Russell decided we needed a guard dog. I was uneasy with this, I didn’t grow up with dogs and I was kinda fond of our very people oriented dogs we already had. I feared Knightwing would be hard to handle. I was wrong. She is a great yard dog. Russell notes that she keeps all the Sasquatch away, we have not seen even one since Knightwing came to us. She wants to be a part of our lives and she wants very much to keep our yard safe. This means we interact with her a lot and we hear a lot of barking at night as she responds to night life near the yard, mostly coyotes. This is not ideal but I do appreciate how hard she works. Although intended to be a guard dog she has bonded with the pack and if there is work being done with the cows she is often found in the middle of the action. Sometimes she herds cows quite well, sometimes. One of my favourite things about Knightwing is how her gentle giant spirit has been received by others. Our elder friend from Carnduff just loves Knightwing and the feeling is mutual.

(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)
Knightwing gets an extra picture at Morgan’s request. He calls this her “Cabelas Picture”, maybe it looks like it is from a catalogue? (A Liz Griffin Photography Image)

Wolf – We have 5 barn cats, most who live very hidden lives, they are a bit wild and we respect that, they eat mice and we appreciate that. However, one cat, “Wolf” is unlike any barn cat we have ever had. I am certain that you will meet him on the blog because he just wants to be in the middle of the action as much as is possible. We received Wolf as a kitten. We feel lucky to have him.

This picture is typical Wolf, on this day he had been in the middle of the corral as we temporarily sorted cows from calves in preparation to give immunizations and tags and things. He was in danger of getting hurt or halting the movement of the cows so Russ picked him up and set him up on this pole as a perch. There Wolf stayed, surveying the unfolding action around him.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)