Day 20 – Calving Season 2022 – Fear

Its 6:30am on Friday morning, I feel like apologizing. If I am to say what I am really thinking this is going to be a downer.

We have another bad storm predicted, this one looks worse than last weeks, as the forecast goes. I ran into a friend yesterday at Regina Costco, he had been studying the forecast/radar and his take on things was bad. Worse than Environment Canada’s. Who will be right? Only time will tell. I left Costco and in the three hour drive home I could not shake my stress. So many thoughts.

Its weird the thoughts you have. This will be our third storm in 11 days, the second one being “only” 6 iches of snow. They remain a blessed source of moisture but such a struggle to get it. I have caught myself having jinx thoughts. I got a ring in Victoria last month, when we got home I took off the ring I have been wearing on my right hand since I was ordained, my great grandmas wedding band, and I put on this pretty ring from the gift shop at the Royal BC Museum. I caught myself thinking this week, “ever since I put this ring on the weather has been crappy, this is my fault.” Clearly there is so much wrong with this thinking, starting with the fact that I quite simply don’t have that much power. That jinxy thinking reflects a desire to make order out of the circumstances, everything within me is struggling to explain why we are dealing with a triple pile up of storms. We talk about epic blizzards of the past, they are isolated once every three or four year events, not twice in 11 days. For us this one has potential to be much more impacting because our calving has really picked up speed, we had 20 calves yesterday. One came in the house and Jill helped it out as I was doing the doctor routine in Regina with one of my people. I cannot fathom what tomorrow might bring. Also, how do you keep all the calves well that are already born and established. Mercy.

All of this is really hard for me as a Christian. I don’t have the time and energy to go into all that is stirring in my head, there is alot of wrestling going on. What I do believe firmly is that God is at work to give us strength, help us within and bolster us with a sense of “you are not alone, I am with you.'” What I don’t believe is that if I pray hard enough God will decide to change the weather. Cue the fight with God I had after my 28 year old brother died of cancer. Yeah, this crap runs so deep, this dance with suffering and how I hold it. Through all this I will attempt to live the truth I have been moving towards, God longs for us to be whole, and it happens despite crappy circumstances, not because God makes life easy for me (although as lives go, mine has been pretty golden……cue the well of unending gratitude that I grew up in Saskatoon in the 70s and 80s in a family where there was tons of great wisdom.)

So……I am going to bed tonight beside one of the heroes of the world. A guy who will face down danger, cold, frustration and fear. I have the power to affect the amount of fuel in his tank. How do I max out that potential? I am going to feed one of the more resilient teen men I know, what can I offer that 15 year old to keep him going strong amid the cold, wet, dangerous and frustrating conditions? I will be cooking, vacuuming and/or mopping and /or laundering hourly because of the spring mess on the dogs and the debris on calves. We can only hope the power stays on again, as it did last time. Jill is on the team without a doubt. How can I max out our teamwork effort amid all that life holds? How do I stay strong amid my fear? I am afraid of loss of life, of suffering, I am afraid of the chaos some of the hours ahead will hold. Feck.

So, yeah, just a light Friday morning check in.

In the two days since I published a blog a few things have happened that created some cool pictures or good updates.

My patient of a few days ago, “Little Kiss” is alive and getting stronger. Thankful!

The little calf “Kiev” is doing well. We continue to hold the city Kiev and Ukraine close in our hearts.

Two of our “Up With People” cows calved, Antonio and Amy. Russ is in contact with Antonio despite him being originally my friend. That meant that almost as soon as Antonio was born there were pictures zinging their way to Mexico. Its a small world after all and my heart is smiling.

The calves that Russ, Ron and Morg got sheltered in our “silver shed” during blizzard number one, with more added, made their way down the road to their spring pasture on Wednesday. This might have been premature it now seems. Anyways, Jill and I were on hand to ensure they made the turn at the low level crossing road. Russ called me before they left the yard and he said, “well this roving klusterfuck is about to get going”, he was not expecting good things. It went very well.
Here they are after the turn, heading south, a small cowchase. An oilfield guy was in the right place at the right time to help get them turned in at the gate. Russ was sure to tell me about that. In this group is Mo and her calf “Scott”, you might remember them as the calf that Russ wrestled onto his shoulders with my help and a few swears during blizzard #1.
Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen? Jill and I went to the pasture to pick up a calf that Morgan was standing guard over, it had been abandoned by its mother too long. We wonder if it was a twin.
Russ adopted this calf onto one of Morgan’s cows, “Willie” in honor of Willie Nelson. So this little one is Steve Earle. At first I thought Russ was naming it Steve Earkel, an endearing nerd from 80s TV, but no its Steve Earle, a musician. I would like either name.

Thats it for today. The routine of the day must begin. Please pray for our strength, for the instincts of the cows to remain vivid, despite the crazy making wind predicted, for grace to flow however it can. Thank you for everything.

Day 18 – Calving Season 2022 – Ode to the Helpers

Its almost 7:30am on Day 18 of calving.  I never blogged yesterday, in part because I went out with a friend last night and once home it was bedtime.  Russell and I have decided we need to get to bed earlier, we are both exhausted.  It is me that keeps us up late, we always go to bed together, so If I’m up puttering, just doing “one last thing” or putting the finishing touches on a blog, it means late nights sometimes.  The morning alarm then feels very hard to respond to for Russ, meanwhile I can sleep later.  SO, I am here now catching up on yesterday a bit and I have committed to Russ to quit my late night to do list.

It was a hard day.

It was a good day in lots of ways, we had nine calves born by 9am.  Our good news calf “Kiev” from day 16 was doing well.  Here is a video that Russell sent me of Kiev and her Mom leaving the little barn and moving into the pole shed with other established pairs.  This was heartwarming to see.

But it was a hard day.

It was so cold and windy which meant very harsh conditions for calves.  It was likely inevitable that I would have a calf come into the house.  That started early on, after Russell’s first check, he didn’t think the calf needed too much, mostly a warm up.  It turned out I had about three hours with it.  Despite my best efforts I did not make a lot of progress.  The calf was the son of “Kiss”, we named it “little Kiss”.  I made progress but it was hindered by little Kiss’s unwillingness to take anything from a bottle.  So he was warm and dry after lots of work but lacked vitality.  I made the judgment call to have him return to his mother.  Before he left Jill gave him a needle, an intra muscular injection of vitamins, not the exact formula recommended to us on Facebook after Day 16 blog but what we had on hand.  Morgan came and got him and did the fireman carry back to the barn, taking Kiev’s old spot.  When I checked him just before lunch he was not doing that well, Kiss was standing over him and looking at me with an expression that I thought meant, “help me.”   I called Russ.  He came in at lunch and said he didn’t think little Kiss was going to make it but he couldn’t do anything to assist at that point because when he tried to go in the pen Kiss wanted to kill him.  So.  I guess Kiss was not in the seeking help mindset I had guessed earlier.  The optimistic city girl strikes again.   Later conversation with Russ had me sitting at my desk, trying to work but feeling just horrible.  In those short hours I had bonded with little Kiss.

I made an adorable video of us together, one that made me proud of who I have become, and now the calf was suffering and probably dead.   Little kiss didn’t die, but was not thriving as we went to bed last night.  Russ had left the gates open so that Kiss could maybe leave and go into the shed but she did not leave and little Kiss persevered.  This morning I got a picture of the two of them, little kiss is still not looking just right, but she was not dead at daybreak.  I don’t know what to think.  I wish I had given her a little more of my time and patience, I should have got miracle worker Jill on the case earlier, I don’t know.

It was a hard day because the calves are coming very steady now and a little bit of a circus effect builds up.  Russ’s head is spinning, remembering who has calved and watching for good bonding, trying to figure out what he is seeing when he spots a calf on its own, the snow makes everything harder because the chance for everybody to be spread out is not there in the same way.  Keeping the cows crowded together heightens the chance of disease and parental confusion, occasionally after a bad snow storm Russ has four cows claiming the same calf, and abandoning their own and all “fighty”.   Its just a tricky circus and it looks like it will be for a few days more.  Russ is tired.

It was a hard day because we are starting to glimpse a pattern.  Its our 2nd calf heifers who seem to be having the calves that are not thriving, or who are not thriving as Moms.  Russell’s theory is that the hard winter we just got through took a toll on these girls who were not as big or fat as our more established cow herd.  They struggled more.  We hate that. 

So, a day that is a litany of hard things is a good day to celebrate the helpers.  They bolster us a great deal.  The week we have put in was boosted by friendship, by random acts of generosity and by solidarity.   Shortly after the blizzard day we had times when two different local cowboys came to ride with Russell and Morgan, to assess the herd and move it in for the night.  Strictly speaking it was not necessary, but it was nice, someone to listen to Russell and Morgan’s stories, to share a joke with, to share the scope of what we are doing.  So these cowboys, Laurie, a cousin who works in the oilfield and David, our friend who runs an autobody shop in town, had the instinct to draw near and see and do what we were seeing and doing.  It meant a lot.  With no pictures from their time this week I pulled some old ones to put some visual to their presence with us.

David and Laurie working with us on a December day in 2020. (A Liz Griffin Photography image.)
Laurie at the start of our longest cowchase that we must do – October 2, 2021 (A Liz Griffin Photography image.)
David hard at work – December 2020 (A Liz Griffin Photography image.)

Last year a manager with Athena Oilfield told Russ they could help us out if we needed it.  “Be sure to ask” was the message Russ got, so when Russ saw a snowblower clearing one of their lease roads near to our working chute at the calving pasture he made the call.  The end result is that we had some professional snow clearing equipment on the job clearing a spot where Russ had already spent two hours cleaning out.  Blowing snow meant Russ was already almost getting stuck again.  After the job was done Russ could bring the truck into the loading chute at the pasture and had enough space to get turned around as well.   What a gift to us.

Russ took this picture from the skidsteer, its not great but you can see that green blower on the back of the bigger tractor on the left.

We had some offers of help that we didn’t need to call on but it is sure nice to know that people are ready to help.    

A fellow we are only barely acquainted with called to offer Russ an extra trailer and diesel generator he had, wondered if we might need them to warm calves.  It would not have been easy to get to us with these items but he was willing to try.

A neighbor who lives about 5 miles away called Russ during the blizzard to offer his help.  He doesn’t have cattle anymore.  I could not imagine how he was even going to get here, but he was willing to leave his people and try.  That is solidarity. 

Neighbors who live further, and have cows, but are at a different point with calving called to offer to come over and help, again, how would they even get here?  Hard times bring out people’s courage and stamina like nothing else.

Numerous people checked in with Russell and I during the days, sharing strength with us by their concern for us.

So day 17 was a hard day but a good day to ponder what blessings we have known, the kind of blessings that severely soften the blow of the hard days we can’t escape.  Our United Church creed starts off “we are not alone, we live in God’s world.” I have that in my head as I ponder all that I shared today.

And here is a latebreaking update……just about to hit the Publish button and I got this 13 second video from Russell.

After this another video came through, but it was pretty fuzzy, Russ had to tell me, it was a video of little kiss actually taking milk from its Mom. Thats the magic! I am feeling soothed by this development, and thankful.

Day 16 – Calving Season 2022 – Krakow, Kiev and Caring

The day started when my phone rang and Russ was on the line asking me to get the heater going in the dog room, he had a cold calf to bring in, it was about 7:15am. 

The calf did not act predictably at all, for instance it clenched its jaw shut and would not even suck a finger placed in its mouth. We could not figure out what we were seeing, but wondered if its Mom had stepped on it. 

Russ took this video early on in the morning.

In the video when Russ suggests we name the calf Kiev my brain was in a scrambly state.  I thought it was not a good thing to name a dying calf after a city fighting for its existence.  Not for the calf’s sake, but for the city’s sake.  Not that what happens on our ranch is going to effect the balance in Ukraine, but I just feel like we should be careful about such things.  Russ was not feeling exactly optimistic about the calf, he was as confused as I was every time he dropped in, but he saw no reason not to name it Kiev, based on the fact that its mother is “Krakow”, (capital of Poland), so we were keeping with an Eastern European theme. Russ has Kiev on the brain it seems.

I gave our calf the first part of my morning but then needed to get paying attention to other things, among them that I was expecting to feed 13 people Easter lunch.   Jill came upstairs and took over for me.  That girl was a trooper. 

She sat in the dog room with the calf for a long time, despite the stifling heat we were blasting in there.  She did the moment by moment watching and assessing and fought the good fight to get some colostrum into that calf.   

For the longest time it made no difference.  Her breathing was labored and she seemed to be in pain.  And then, things got better, the breathing relaxed, she started trying to stand up (not easy on linoleum).  What happened?  We don’t know.    Morgan and Russ came in and it was decided it was time for Krakow to take over. Morgan put her on his shoulders and carried her out to the barn and set her in a pen.  He sent this picture of her standing waiting for the arrival of her Mom, who Russ had in the back of the trailer at this point.

 I say, “who Russ had in the back of the trailer” rather nonchalantly, that would have been a bit of a feat, in this video he is dealing with Krakow at the point where he was taking her calf from her.  He starts the video with the  statement, “this is a game we like to play called, ‘Don’t get killed.’”

Once Jill’s patient was discharged to the barn she came into the kitchen and as she held up her hands for this picture she said “healed with the power of friendship!” 

Although I was in the middle of assessing how to do a huge batch of scalloped potatoes my brain just about exploded.  This was some of the most profound stuff that had stirred my spirit in a while.  I do believe it is entirely possible that Jill reinforced that calf’s will to live by her constant presence, by her solidarity in suffering, by her friendship.  I had said to her, “Jill you don’t need to stay in here, it’s so hot.”  She replied, “its okay, its not that bad.”  I can’t help but think that calf benefited from her constant presence and left here with a future.  It had not looked likely for a long while.

In retrospect, I think the calf had a gas or bowel issue, it moved its legs like a gassy baby does, it pooped in the dog room, none of our other in house calves have done that, it pooped during its departure, smearing my door frame with it.  I had to suspend lunch preparations for a clean up because we couldn’t close the door without making the mess worse.  It was a morning of bouncing from one thing to the next.  The end result was I washed my hands a lot and lunch was a bit late but pretty darn tasty.   We were celebrating Easter and the sun was brilliantly shining. 

We had two noteable births in the last day, our cow named Gina had her calf and our cow named Ray birthed. Also in the last 24 hours we have lost two calves, both due to the cold and snow. We were not in the right space and time to avoid these losses. Considering how bad the last week has been, weather wise, we are feeling fortunate so far.

I have such a longing for Kiev the calf to survive and thrive.  Her apparent resilience and her responsiveness to Jill’s solidarity remind of the real life Kiev. The story of the entire Ukraine is an amazing one.   Jill was not comfortable, she was marked by the struggle (that was some nasty stuff on her hands), she wasn’t happy while she was doing it, not really, but the power of all that was good and right in the room had a chance to speak and there was healing and a future that came from it.  I pray this same story can unfold for Kiev and Ukraine, for all, anywhere, who are weighed down by forces of death, despair and hatred.   I pray for love to flow.

Day 15 Calving Season 2022 – Happy Easter 🦋

Happy Easter to you. It’s a different kind of Easter for us due to weather. Things are going well despite the 6″ of predicted snow we are currently receiving. These are unusual days that’s for sure.

In 2020 when Covid was a new reality and I was still actively ministering we hosted a sunrise service at the calving pasture and cowboy cottage. Using Facebook we shared that with the congregations and with our Facebook friends. This picture was taken at that time.

I am a bit sentimental about that day and that experience. It was really special. It was on my mind as this Easter has rolled around. So this morning I headed out to check the heifers with Russell and then went to the calving pasture with him for his first check of the day.

When we walked through the heifers we found that “Grill” had her baby overnight. I gave her some space and have a pretty fuzzy picture as a result.

In going for the check with Russ I think I just wanted to see what it was going to feel like out there. I decided to make a video of our tour through the cows. It is about 12 minutes, I divided it into 3 sections. It is not exciting but like yesterday’s video it is an experience of nature. If you like cows, or you like Russell, or you are a bit curious about ranch stuff we invite you to take an early morning Easter walk with us.

Video #1
Video # 2
Video #3

I think what I noticed at the calving yard was a feeling of joy busting through. Maybe because of Russell’s bond with the cows, my own sense of friendship with the cows and the names that mean alot to us, the people they remind us of. It was cold and snowy but friendship transformed the walk.

When we got back the snow started falling heavier. We had a cow calf mystery to deal with, involving “Maui”, and regular chores to do. It all conspired to make us decide we were not going to Church. Yet another aspect of a different kind of Easter.

Here are a bunch of silly photos that gave us joy today. Our animals are really there for us.

Buster
Coffee
Bingo
Jill and Coffee
When it’s phone time, Coffee dog has her distraction too.
My workshop.
Not sure what to say about those ears!
Maddie
Bingo….the master of side-eye.

We Saskatchewan folks and many everywhere are pretty weary, so many circumstances have been hard for almost everyone for a long time. We need the truth of Easter. The joy that busts through clouds. The life that defeats death and despair. The love that heals hatred and division. The power that banishes fear. I am so very thankful to God for the promise and the delivery of all that. May we all have a blessed Easter.🌤💒🌷🦋🕊

Day 14 of Calving 2022 – Peace

The morning sun on the cows in the calving yard when Russ did his first check of the day.

What a difference a few days can make. Today it was sunny, very unseasonably cold but quite still. Birds were singing. It felt good. Russ invited me out to the calving pasture to stand on the porch of the cowboy cottage and photograph the day end round up, when the cows that had been spread across a quarter section were moved into the calving yard for the night. I decided to video tape it and I decided to share it because if you like or are curious about cows, if you like nature sights and sounds, if you like the feeling of getting a job done, if you like cowboy action you might just enjoy this. It is an almost seven minute video, so be aware of that as you click on it. Its slow paced and peaceful with only one dog on duty for a reason, they were working to keep back the cow calf pairs from the last couple of days. Its best to keep the calves out of the more crowded calving yard. its best for everyone if the Mama cows don’t get stirred up by a high intensity chase.

We had a few births today and all went well. Stephanie, Fritter (a first calf heifer), Pray (a 2nd calf heifer who starred in a blog last year called “Praying Games”), Cuddle (a 2nd calf heifer), Osprey and Vietnam all calved today. Maui looked like she was going to calve soon when Morgan last saw her. So things are perking along.

Our dishwasher broke the day before the blizzard, its almost 8 years old so I don’t think I am going to try and get it repaired. I spent a good chunk of time today researching dishwashers, I was like a dog with a bone. I felt driven by this notion that the perfect combination of price point, features and availability was going to be discovered. Alas, I get the feeling that when it comes to appliances there are no sure things What I am learning is that we were fortunate to get 7.5 trouble free years out of this one.

As we head to bed tonight we are expecting a visit from the Easter Bunny and will rise to the Easter morning victory of life over death. That translates for me into the challenge to be a follower of Jesus and join him in living the truth that love has the power to conquer fear and hate. I find its a great way to live. Our ability to get to church to celebrate all of this will be determined by just how much snow falls overnight. We are predicted to get another 6″ by lunch time tomorrow. It could make travel and working with calves tricky. We will see what tomorrow holds.

In the meantime, here is a dose of cowboy magic!

Day 13 – Calving Season 2022 “Hungary” is a Hero

Things have settled down with the end of the blizzard. However as cold temperatures linger and we work with the snow that fell we are mighty grateful that calving has not kicked into high gear. One day last year we had 25 calves in one day. Those stats during a week like this one would just about kill us perhaps.

Russ made it one of his first jobs of today to get my vehicle dug out so I could make it to the Good Friday service in Oxbow where I helped with the music.

We have had a story develop with an unusual twist. Yesterday Russell and Morgan were working at the calving pasture when they thought they heard a calf bawling. Did they? They became as still as they could and listened hard….yes, they did hear that and it was near enough to be one of ours. The hunt began. The calf was located in the trees, by itself, hungry, cold, licked off. It had been abandoned it seemed. Russ phoned me to tell me the news and ask me to prepare the dog room for the arrival of a cold calf. Further phone calls had the two of us going back and forth on the best plan….. the bottom line, this calf was big, too big for Russ to want to carry it up the stairs and into the house, after riding around in the back of the truck it was warming up well, it maybe didn’t need the house. In the end I made a bottle for it and Jill went out and fed it in the truck. Russ took a video. If you ever wondered how a lively calf handles the back seat of a truck here is a glimpse.

After the calf mostly guzzled this dose of colostrum Russ then took it to the pen where he had a cow he thought was calving. He had brought her home to shelter given this strong suspicion he had. Was this in fact the calf’s Mom? Had he missed some key moments and read the signs wrong? I wondered if she maybe was in the midst of having twins. There was much confusion. Once the calf was placed in with the cow named “Hungary” a good connection was made, Hungary was not thrilled with feeding this calf but the calf sought her out and Hungary let that calf suck. Russ was stumped about what the whole story was.

This morning Russ came in to bring me a cup of tea and said I have good news and bad news. As I tried to open my eyes I was thinking, “oh no….bad news…..oh jeez….what?” The bad news was that Knightwing our guard dog had come in the house and threw up on the kitchen floor. Russ assured me it was just disgusting and he could not deal with it and he was so sorry. It turned out to be no big deal of a clean up for me, which meant the bad news was nothing to ruffle a feather over. Hallelujah. That is a word I should not be thinking on Good Friday, but I have heard way too much bad news in recent years and I am always ever so grateful when it is not a big deal. The good news was that Hungary had birthed herself a calf overnight. She was continuing to care for the abandoned calf and take care of her own. What a trooper. But heres the thing, Hungary has quite a back story with our ranch. Russ wondered if I could search his Facebook profile for stories of Hungary, I knew how to do that. In a few seconds I had the stories he was thinking of in front of me. Here are the screen shots of what we looked at.

This is so ridiculous and not admirable but Russell remembers feeling so frustrated by how things were going at the chute this particular day. It was at a time when he had seen these pet shaming posts on Facebook which were very ridiculous in his mind, admittedly it is a mind that can stir up a lot of goofy stuff, so for him to be pushed to the point where he thinks silly is stupid but then he actually imitates it tells you how frustrated he was, he was desperate to create some fun in a hard work day.

The story became a good news one the following year and Russ and Jill followed up on Facebook……

The thumbnail pictures seen here are below.
We still had the same box in the shed so Jill posed with the old sign and then……
The good news on the reverse side of the same box.
Hungary’s baby in the foreground.

Two years later its another happy chapter in Hungary’s story with us……

And here she is mothering two, one her own and one a mystery baby. What a comeback story! I can only imagine the sign that Jill and Russ will come up with for this year when she comes through the chute for her vitamins and vaccines.

So that is the developing good news story about Hungary!

In other news………last night Morgan and Russ stripped down to their base layer at supper time, getting rid of the outer layers helps the heat get to them more quickly. It was with a good deal of enjoyment they discovered they were “twinning” and this photo was taken.

Good night from the Bar MW Ranch!

Day 12 Part 2 of Calving Season 2022

We are all exhausted.  Wednesday was a big deal in so many ways and we have these colds that seem to get better and then get worse when we are stressed, its like they are playing a game with us.  Yesterday was the worst of the storm I have cause to believe and we made it through without losing a cow or a calf or power. That is a statement that comes with much gratitude.  You wonder how the cows can stand having their bodies caked with snow like that, but they do.  We had six calves born yesterday and they all survived.  That was helped in large part by the persistence of our hired man Ron who rose to the challenge of scouring the calving yard when Russ was busy with other calves.  The snow had accumulated to the point where a poor fence and the snow together meant cows went where they were not meant to, two of them snuck in and calved in a treed area which was tough for Russell to safely navigate should the Mama’s get mad.   In the end, calves were retrieved and brought back to the barn with their Mamas and no one got hurt. 

Other news flowing from yesterday was that Russell especially felt super supported by our broader circle.  There were many ways this happened, funny memes sent to him, earnest texts of concern and phone calls to check in and offer help.  Humor when mistakes were made, like Russell clicking on the wrong pictures when he was sending a message and sending pictures of ear lobes in my family to friends who earnestly tried to figure out what ear lobes had to do with ranching in a blizzard, (it was my Mom’s heavenly 85th birthday and various family members wore her jewellery and submitted pictures to the family chat in her honor.) That heart level support means so much to Russ.

The other big deal is that my cousin’s media connections meant that I was called by CBC radio and asked if I would speak on their lunch hour call in show.  I said sure.  One thing led to another.  They asked for videos and by the end of the day besides being on the noon show Morgan was featured on the CBC Saskatchewan web page, I was on the national radio news and the national TV news by night time.  This was distracting, fun, flattering and startling.  As Russ and I were snuggled in last night I was decompressing, asking, “how many thousands of people saw my face today?  Weird, on a day when you are expecting total isolation!”

I have many captioned pictures and some video to share. Its maybe going to feel like a lot. Sorry. I just couldn’t leave things out, because of course to me, they are my people and the animals I respect so much for so many reasons. (To see the videos click on the arrow in the centre of the preview picture.)

Russ called me to come help get him backed up to the corral and into position to safely unload cows and calves he was bringing home from the pasture. These calves were mostly a few days old but their Moms were not using shelter like they could and the calves were suffering. In this moment my job was to make sure the cows didn’t turn back on Russ and get aggressive for messing with their babies. They didn’t.
Russ and Ron got the cows and calves moved through the first pen while I closed the gate. Morg had been taking one of the calves to the house for me to work on. He caught up here.
They were getting the group moved up and into this shelter, the calves took some urging.
Safely inside.
10:34am – these guys are a great crew.
I am taller than Russ but here was standing on snow that elevated the difference.
On my way back to the house from the corral job my phone rang. It was a Regina number. I answered. It was CBC radio, wondering if they could talk with me during their noon call in show. I agreed, and as we chatted and more background info was being shared I was on speakerphone taking off my layers and dealing with what was going on in the house which was Coffee dog thinking she should lick off the calf Morgan had just deposited for me to deal with. So I’m talking to this important CBC person and saying “excuse me I just need to deal with something, “Coffee stop licking, heel Coffee!” Russ and I had already decided that we didn’t want dog scent on the calves for fear that the Moms would reject them. Unfortunately that made it into the news broadcast nationally, but in the wrong context, we are not generally worried about Mom’s rejecting after a brief period of separation.
This girl was wet and dirty and needed a good dose of TLC.
CBC asked me to send in video coverage of what we were seeing. This is one video I sent them, it has been seen by thousands on the CBC page and I feel a bit bad that it is misleading. It was not that white out. Somehow the camera, on normal setting, really amplified the effect of the white of the snow. It was bad visibility no doubt, but not this bad.
The scene at lunch. Men dealing with various issues of recharge.
This video comes with a language warning. Russ and I both swear. It features our cow Mo and her baby. If you don’t see the arrow to click just double click anywhere on the picture.
Morgan asked if we could call this calf “Scott” in honor of our premier who is Scott Moe, Morgan is a Scott Moe fan and Scott is now the official name of this calf. The cow is named Mo after a friend of mine from Up With People. We worked closely together in my year on the road. Mo went on to become a Jewish Rabbi in New York City and I am a United Church minister. Having the cows named like this helps our sense of connection to the world near and far from us.
This is Frankie and her calf. Frankie calved in the blizzard while wee were having our lunch. She got her calf licked off and up and sucking on her own and needed no further help except this shelter in our barn. We are super impressed with Frankie.
Loyal dogs.
Russ brought the horses home from the pasture for a rest and a better place to get warm then the back of the trailer.
Much respect for these veterans of blizzard life.
My niece asked me to video a little bit about Jill checking the heifers. I am glad to share a little bit about heifer life and Jill on the job with them.
They broke out and into the storage part of the shed. How weird to see our summer stuff as their hang out zone in a blizzard. They are longing for summer too!
Jill with the heifers at their feed. Earlier in the afternoon she had done alot of baking for us. With fear of a power outage we were glad to have muffins, squares and ginger cookies tucked away. Ron loves ginger cookies, I asked Jill to make them for him, he is going above and beyond.
This is our heifer named “Flour”. All of this years bred heifers’ are named after kitchen words. This heifer looks caked in flour. This picture highlights what is the worst part of this storm and that is suffering. I don’t think she is suffering too hard, she chose to be out there for a while, but all the animals, people and especially the newborn calves that simply have to persist amid what is harsh and at times life threateningly dangerous is just hard to think about or experience alongside. When we can pull our heads away from our own worries we sure find ourselves talking about our friends and neighbors in the same boat we are in. Suffering happens in many ways.
This is the back part of our working area in the pole shed. That must have been some mighty odd wind to sweep snow this far into the building. It instantly made me think of Narnia.
A little comedy at the end of the day.

This is the address for the news clip I was featured on last night. I don’t know how to make it into a link. However if you want to view it paste and copy it into a browser and you will see it…..I think.

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2022834243706/

Now that is it and that is enough!

Day 12 Calving Season 2022 – 16 hours into this blizzard

Its Wednesday morning, we are about sixteen hours into the active weather that we are reckoning with and we got through our first night. Yesterday was a good day, very unusual and heartwarming. The pictures I have here are meant to tell the tale of life to this point.

Just a goofy one to start off. I guess Russ is saving his warm boots for when things get really bad, but he pulled up to me on his horse when I saw him late in the afternoon yesterday and said, “do you think we should start a ‘go fund me’ so I can get new boots? I thought “maybe no!” to that question.
Our day started off very normally in some ways, getting to the chores of the day, Russ suggested we eat brunch in town while there to get vet supplies for the days ahead. We lingered long at the restaurant when friends came in for their lunch and joined us. It was nice to live some very normal moments. A box waiting for me at the post office included the children’s book Russ is holding. I had just read it to him while we drove home, we both loved it, it was funny and creative. Plan to hear it read to you at a fall cow chase supper if you are part of the crew.
While at the restaurant we sat with a notebook and brainstormed every item we could need at the cottage. When our friends joined us they added a couple items to the list. It was pretty comprehensive. My main worry was water, because I needed containers for the house and cottage. Once home I stumbled on this container that I have never used on the trail and was tempted to give away. I forgot I had it. I was so proud of myself for the wash station I could create. This is wash water on tap, with face cloths and hand towels on the rungs and wash pails under neath the stool. The stool came from my home in Saskatoon, I think of it as my Dad’s stool, he spent much time perched on it chatting with Mom in the kitchen in later years. I use it for music gigs. It comforts me to have this used for another great purpose.
Firewood in place in the cowboy cottage.
The cottage as I left it, prepped for use. What would they call this on MASH?
This was taken at 5:30 yesterday. As I came out of the cottage Russ and Morgan were arriving to round up the herd and tuck them into the calving yard, a corner of the calving pasture that has shelter on three sides and is right beside the cowboy cottage.
Morgan getting his tack in place and while the horse was antsy, Morgan was calm as a cucumber. He is not upset about his days in grade 9 being cut short by the school closure announced earlier this day.
After supper Morgan and I whipped back to the cottage because I had forgotten to take Russell’s changes of clothes with me earlier. The snow had started two hours earlier but had not yet accumulated to much at this point.
I awoke at 7:05 today when Russ phoned. He had checked the heifers in the shed here and no calves had been born overnight. He told me he had a chat with them, they are to hold on til next Wednesday when it is finally seasonally warm. Lets see if they listen. Heifers are new Mom’s, they can have trouble with birthing as its their first time. We have 57, three have calved, we have many to go. Russ was with the rest of the herd and found this calf, it had been licked off, maybe by its Mom but then abandoned and it was cold and wet. So as I sit here and write, I have done a few minutes sitting with my hands over its tail and ears hoping to
Morg came in this morning to get his chaps.
The view here an hour and a half ago. The drifts in front of the cars have accumulated quite a bit since then. The wind is clearing the roads so far so we have been able to travel back and forth to the pasture so far today.

Russ called a few minutes ago. He has two more calves to bring me so I am signing off. However, the heartwarming part of yesterday was all the messages of concern, promises of prayer and offers of help we received. It helped us feel so much less isolated. From Victoria to Halifax and Saskatoon to Florida, we have faces and loving hearts to consider as we take each step through these days. God bless us all.

Day 9 of Calving Season 2022

As I sit to write tonight it is with a bit of disappointment that six days have passed since I last was here. I wanted to be more regular. It has been a full week and a good week. We have had a really slow start to our calving season, and right now that is maybe okay. We have eleven calves so far. Our first one to need the in house obstretics unit happened today.

The big story tonight is that we are gearing up for a blizzard that is possibly going to be quite epic. We are told to expect extended power outages, a massive accumulation of snow, horrible winds, school and road closures and no sunshine for four full days. We are likely to have as many as 30 calves born in this time, I am guessing.

It is hard to get my head around this. It was a beautiful night tonight, a bit cool but rather still and peaceful. Its hard to believe that such conditions, which are sure to be among the most trying we have seen, are just around the corner.

We are trying to prepare. Things are to begin after lunch tomorrow (Tuesday). This is the kind of event that our cowboy cottage was created for. It is in place in the calving pasture. I am not sure how it will end up being needed but it can house humans overnight, provide them a place to change clothes and get fed. It can be a place to warm up calves and hopefully save several. In my mind I see Russ and Morgan staying there for a couple days and Jill, Ron and I keeping things steady on the homefront and calving out the heifers that will be here in the poleshed. I have no idea if that is how it will go or not. I sound braver than I am. I am not equipped to calve out cows, but necessity is the mother of invention, and with Ron’s experience perhaps we can teamwork our way through all of this.

Here are a few pictures from today.

Morgan carrying in today’s calf in need of help. This is the daughter of our heifer cow named “Raisin”. She was a very little peanut, not much bigger than our dogs. Her Mama’s instincts didn’t kick in right away.
Jill hanging out with our wee girl.
Her back legs were not working great, they had not been licked off properly so the stimulation of that had not happened. Jill and I rubbed them down alot to get her to this point and still she could not coordinate those legs.
She is looking better and Jill carried her back to the shed and to her Mama. Raisin was not interested in her at all, I was disheartened. I called Russ for advice. He told me, “set her in the centre of the pen and leave, let her circle her and decide for herself that is hers.” I was thoroughly unconvinced that was a good idea. It seemed negligent. However…….
An hour after Jill and I delivered her to the shed I got this text from Russ as I was helping to M.C. the music festival event in town. In the attached picture Raisin and her calf appear to be tight. I appreciated the update alot, but mostly I was glad to get that encouragement and affirmation.
Russ and Morgan went over to the cottage and checked out its readiness. This is the wood stove that is going to be a saving grace.
They got the calving herd locked up in a sheltered area which allows close monitoring and some protection. They can be seen through the north window in the cowboy cottage.
Morgan chopped extra wood in readiness.

I hope that I can keep checking in each day as this unfolds.

Please pray for us. We will need strength and courage and wits. We will need to keep ourselves safe and of course as many of our bovine friends as we possibly can.

Day 3 of Calving 2022

Two days ago I reported on the blog that we had our first calf of the season. That wee one is still our only calf. Russ went all day without seeing it yesterday but came home in the evening feeling easy. He said the Mama, our cow named “Even” (the Norwegian form of Evan, named after a friend of mine in my Up With People cast) had her calf stashed somewhere. “How do you know its not dead?” I asked. “I can tell by how she is acting, everything is fine.” This morning he came in while the kids were having breakfast and reported that he had seen Even’s calf and it was doing very well and is oh so cute, so small it can practically walk under its Mom’s stomach. I felt impressed with Russ’s accurate read of the situation yesterday.

This morning when Russ went to put the dogs out he found it had rained. A sound of jubilation came from the porch. In fact, it has turned into a rainy, at times snowy kind of day. I had hoped to sit at my desk this morning but when Russ cited the weather as a good reason to go to town for breakfast, I agreed. We got a couple of crucial errands done and had some very good visiting with a friend we ran into at the restaurant. We have travelled wide in the last month and never have found a breakfast better than the one we enjoy at the Flying M Diner. We checked the cows on the way home and found no new calves, though some pretty full looking girls were grazing. We sure love seeing our cows looking content, they have put in such a winter, I made sure to tell then how impressed I was with them when I saw them today.

Here are a few pictures of how things look on Day 3.

Muddy….it’s a sight for sore eyes.
Coffee dog takes cows checking seriously.
Our cow Jodi is looking well.
Here is our cow named “Cowabunga” at a spot in the pasture that collects water at times. Russell calls it Lake Katherine. Today Russell told me this cow loves it when people shout her name out loud.🤣
The cows are just hanging out today. That’s Kathy with bedding in her mouth.
The Cowboy cottage in its official spot for calving season.
Yesterday it was moved from the yard to the pasture.

When we got back from town we got down to doing some inventory and getting a list ready for our order from the vet clinic. We were assessing what we need for tags, vaccines, vitamins, rings, and ralgro. Russ is struggling with his glasses prescription at this point so asked me to read the expiry date on a bottle of vaccine. It was June 2022. “That is this year right?” was Russell’s response when I informed him of the date. I looked at him funny. Trying to normalize his fuzziness about this a bit I said, “Covid makes time all wonky doesn’t it?” He said, “nah, I have never been good with dates. I still write 1988 on cheques sometimes!” Oh Russell……you keep us giggling. Russell would like to report in that on day 3 of calving he has just had a haircut, he is clean shaven and as rested as he will be for a while. There is sure to be some changes to this status as the season unfolds, but for now he headed out the door for afternoon work feeling pretty fine in clean laundry.

Today we are thankful for every drop of moisture we have received, for good coffee and for friendship.