A Different Kind of Remembrance Day

I had my Covid vaccine first injection on Thursday.  I was asked to sit for fifteen minutes after the needle to ensure no big reaction.  I was also asked to come for the vaccine holding nothing but my health card, so I didn’t have my phone with me.  I have to say I loved that fifteen minutes and was sad when it was over.  I loved being with other people in a setting where nothing was needed of me and my thoughts could wander freely, but, I wasn’t alone. Maybe it was in those quiet moments that something hatched that I haven’t been able to shake.  

Going from the metaphor of hatching to that of seeding…. earlier in the day seeds of doubt had been planted in my mind about this vaccine, because of things I read on facebook.   They were seeds only but they joined seeds planted by various conversations over the last while.  I am a people pleaser which creates a lot of stress at times.  So it was that I found myself pondering….. if I was to have resisted this vaccine that would put me on board with some people in my world, but what would it cost me?  Its funny, my thoughts didn’t go to the future, my thoughts went to the past.  This startled me in a way, it was unexpected, but it was serious, my guts were hot inside of me, so I knew I had stumbled on something.  You see, I am a privileged person, I have never been let down by the medical system, I know that mistakes get made and people walk away dissapointed from the way their health needs are met, at times, but that has not been my experience in our Canadian setting where health care is a universal right, funded by taxation.   For most of the last day I have used almost every free moment my brain had to think over all that I have seen, that my family has seen and the ways that our moments of deepest vulnerability have been responded to by the health care system in Canada.  

I thought about 1983 for sure.  That’s when I was 15 years old and I needed my jaw operated on to correct my bite, I was slowly grinding down my teeth.  I remember the moment before the anaesthetic put me out, a gas had been administered and it made me loopy, it caused me to think that my doctor had green hair, I remember thinking to myself “oh no, my doctor has green hair, I hope he can do this.”  In fact Dr. Lanigan became a legend in my early story, he walked with me through a process where I started to claim my inner strength. (Five weeks with your jaw wired shut is no cake walk.)  In that pre-surgery moment though I had to let go.  I had to trust him, no matter what color his hair was.  I’d like to think that I based that trust on everything that grounds the medical system, like the Hippocratic oath which is a pledge to do no harm.  But lets face it, at age 15 I trusted Dr. Lanigan because my Mom and Dad seemed to.  This was a time when they were called to do a lot of trusting.  Within a matter of months three big things had our family making heavy use of Canadian healthcare.  My older brother was diagnosed with brain cancer for the first time, I had this situation with my jaw to fix and my younger sister was diagnosed with Scoliosis and fitted with a brace.  I don’t remember much about life at home in that time, but I can only imagine the stress my parents were under and how important it was to them to feel comfortable with the care their children were being given.  How did they decide that they could let my brother be submitted to the harsh reality of radiation therapy, how did they just know that they could trust the working of that burdensome brace my sister endured, how did they come to peace with the pain and struggle they witnessed me live with, for the sake of some promised end goal?  I think the truth is, they just had to.  They did.

1990 rolled around and a second bout of brain cancer took my brother’s life.   While he was battling through some treatment options people in the health community in Saskatoon were thinking through how to better serve people who are dying.  A Palliative Care Unit was opened and Bob spent his last week there, among the first patients to ever use it.   We had cared for him at home as long as we could.  When we couldn’t we opened our hands, it was with profound thanks that we could entrust these people to take everything they knew about end of life care and love my brother into his death. 

Only a couple years later my Dad started the very early stages of a journey with dementia.  I find myself thinking about a time in that where Dad still lived at home, I did too, I was studying theology and Mom and I were primary caregivers.   Every weekday morning a taxi would come pick him up and take him to an adult day centre for people with dementia.  How did we do that?   How did we come to know that he would be okay there, that people would understand his limits, that he would be kept safe, that he would be treated with the dignity he deserved?  We didn’t know for sure.  But we had to trust.  Our trust was well placed.  He always came home content, with an aura of pride, he too had been away for the day and had a life beyond his family.  The principles of practice that informed how that place ran meant contentment for Dad and peace for us.   We were so profoundly needful of them.  In the later stages when Dad was in long term care things were much more complicated in terms of what he needed.  He lived in a place that was not always perfect. The sheer amount of human contact and care combined with what we all know, that no human is perfect, meant that it wasn’t always ideal. However, the standards of care were high and always seeking to do and be better and these standards were like a magnet that drew everything towards a more human, more dignified, and dynamic living environment.  How many times did I give my Dad a kiss on the cheek and walk away with so much hope and need within me? Hope that he be seen for who he really was and treated with kindness.   You don’t live those experiences as family members without being changed.  Maybe a spiritual muscle is getting conditioned, a muscle that is about hoping and letting go, loving and letting go, trusting and letting go.

All this would come into play over and over again.  When we checked ourselves into hospital to deliver a baby two weeks overdue, I was a 34 year old first time Mom, hopeful and trusting in the skill of my doctor.  When I watched the orderly wheel my 7 year old son to surgery for a complicated wrist fracture.  When we participated in many different stages of the health care needs of my mother in law and father in law.  When I watched ambulance attendants inch/shift/lift my 12 year old son onto a stretcher when he was in excruciating pain from a broken leg.  When I checked my husband into day surgery for knee repair years ago, and then recently dropped him off under the cloud of Covid life for lots and lots of tests and doctor visits for recent injury.  When I myself had surgery last March that resulted in a probable cancer diagnosis, a diagnosis reversed after closer examination of the tissues.  When I left my Mom at the Cancer Clinic for her first and only dose of chemotherapy.  When my sister and I checked her into the Palliative Care Unit, into the room right beside what had been my brothers.  All of that. How many diagnositic machines, interventions, lab and xray technicians, doctors, EMTs, anaesthesiologists, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and specialists of one kind or another have I put my trust in?

Why would I become suspicious and act from a place of distrust now?  What has changed?  

I can’t think of a single thing.

Well actually I can. I know that money has corrupted medical research in some cases. I am not naive. How that has played out in this case only time will tell, however the scientific evidence is in telling me that once again medical research has given me an option for addressing my area of vulnerability.

The scientific method that informed the process of developing tools, interventions, programs and education processes that I have relied on is the same method that informed the vaccine development.  That method has made a huge difference in my life.  Maybe that’s why when I think about all this together, it feels like my guts are heating up.  I have felt so vulnerable, I have been so cared for, I must not forget that, in fact I feel I must honor that.

As I sat putting in my 15 minutes at the vaccine clinic, things were hatching, things that were long and took a lot of words, if you got this far, thanks for sticking it out with me.   

(To illumine that I am not going on guts alone I can tell you that I have done some research, not very much, the fact is I am not very interested in science, I do understand the principles of the scientific method.  I have been listening to ZDogg MD, I find him on Youtube, as best as I can tell he can be trusted.  He explains things and hosts guests that can explain their info in a way that I can mostly understand. He has made clear just how extraordinarily safe and effective the vaccines are and he has a rebuttal for every critique levelled at them.)

Here is a link to a really interesting and read-able article introducing us to the long term research and the woman herself who laid the groundwork for the Covid 19 vaccine.

A case study in vulnerability that unfolded on the ranch yesterday…..Russ called asking me “can you mother a calf?” He meant it. The mother was a 1st calf heifer and she had a hard go. She couldn’t care for her calf and it was so cold at 6am when she calved. This was part way through, that’s an odd sock on my hand.
This is how she looked when she was brought in. Her sac stuck to her in places. She was suffering. I had lots of time to think about vulnerability and trust as I worked on her. I called her “Sweetcheeks” in passing and the name stuck.
Mostly dry, head up, perky, trying to stand, having welcomed some colostrum in a bottle, and getting welcomed to the family by Coffee dog. Better moments for sure.
Here is Russ bringing the Mom in after she had some time to recover. This is our heifer named “Epic.”
Russ carrying the calf to the barn to meet up with its Mom. Coffee is still enamored.

Liz and Lisa

Yesterday I had the chance to tell you about how it came to be that we have heifers with names like Listen and Support. Today seems to be the day to tell you about how our herd of cows came to be so international.

What do I mean? Well we have a cow named “A”, that’s in honour of a woman from Thailand whose full name is Apiradee. We have “Fredy” in honour of a man from Switzerland. We have “Klaus” in honour of a man from Germany. We have “Louise” in honour of a woman from Denmark. We have “Antonio” in honour of a man from Mexico. We have “Tara” in honour of a woman from Colorado, “Liz” in honour of a woman from Maine, “Lisa” in honour of a woman from Sweden, “Sharon” in honour of a woman from Manitoba and about 40 more names that all arise from real people I know that live in so many different places. “Ernest” from the U.S A. really made us feel amused when we saw that he used a picture of the cow Ernest, with the the clearly visible, as his facebook profile picture!

You might think it weird that female cows get male names. I did too at first. But somehow the bond of friendship just rises above the particulars. Maybe its because of the source of all of these names. All of the people I referred to were a family of sorts, back in 1991, we were all part of a cast of young adults travelling the world and singing, there were more than 100 of us. We were part of “Up With People.” We came from different backgrounds, different religions, different politics. We had a purpose to build bridges of understanding. It was a really cool experience. I lived with 66 host families in 7 countries in one year.

A couple years ago we had a lot of cows whose tags had fallen out through the year and I needed to make them new tags. I put out a request on Facebook for ideas. Liz from Maine said, “how about these tags are all people from our cast?” We needed a lot, like 40 or so, her idea worked. I selected names that were easy to put on a tag, “A” and “Mo” made it for sure, I selected names that reminded me of shared experiences, so “Antonio” made it, even though his name was darn tricky to fit on that tag. Some of the names on the tags could represent many different people in our lives. Names like Lisa and Liz are common and invite us to think about a few special people in our world. Thats why todays post is about Up With People, because as the day wound down both Liz and Lisa had calves, at the same time. Although there is absolutely zero concrete connection to my friends, those names elicit feelings and memories that equal connection. As long as I am not overwhelmed by other stuff I really get excited when I see the Up With People cows and my family have learned their names and are sure to report back when they calve. It has built a lot of connection. So when Russell sent me texts with pictures today I was just so happy to see those calves and know that those cows had that shared experience. Its nothing. It is not connection to reality. But it touches me. Maybe I am weird. The Liz and Lisa connection goes deeper though. Besides representing my travel friends, I have a cousin named Lisa. Her Dad and my Mom were first cousins. Her Mom was named Liz, she lost her Mom quite recently too. It gave me a lot of joy to be able to send her texts and pictures saying “look what just happened!” It just seemed meaningful that Lisa and Liz calved at the same time. The Liz connection is bigger than that though, in a big way. We have had a photographer named Liz documenting the work of ranching for the last year or so. We are completely blessed by her talent and what she has captured of our lives. I have said it before and I will say it here, her photographs have illumined the meaning in the work we do. So our photographer friend Liz also got a text today, because that name Liz will always remind us with such a sense of gratitude what she has captured for us. I also think it is Queen Elizabeth’s birthday. So that is a nice connection to this birth story too.

Here are some pictures relevant to this day and to the story above.

Thats me holding the microphone, in the midst of our Up With People stage show in 1991, I am not sure where we were performing at this point.
Liz Griffin captured this beautiful picture of Ursula and her baby last summer. Ursula is named after a friend from Germany.
One of a few pictures I took of the UWP tags in production. Maren made a really great impression on Russell when they met at a wedding we all attended, I am sure that is why she got the extra heart, to make Russell smile.
The words heard at our lunch table today…..”now I have seen everything.” For a random reason the highchair (my Dads old one, used only for antique type decor really)was at the table. Jill popped Buster in, put a few nibbles on the tray, Buster handled it like a pro.
The cow “Liz” with her baby.
Here is Lisa with her fresh calf.

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 (“Iseeyouyouseeme.ca”). 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 “kitchensanctuary.com”.

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.