Chit Chat Over Coffee

There is a little tiny joke in this picture. Can you see it?

Its 9:36am on September 1st.  I am writing to you live from the Chopper K Auction Mart.  Russ, Gina, Jill and I are here to watch our grassers sell.  These are calves we kept many extra months to grow up a bit.  We got here early after dropping Morgan off for his first day of grade 10. 

The sale hasn’t started yet, so we have been privy to the auction mart waking up and people getting in position for the work before them.  I just learned that it’s the first sale since June, so we are really witnessing the very beginning of a new season.  I have always enjoyed “good morning” type chit chat so its good to be here.  Gina reports that the action at this point reminds her of behind the scenes when the curtain is about to open in shows she has been in.  That is kind’ve fun to think about. 

The four of us free to hang out while others buzz about. The auction mart dog “Tina” came and wedged in between Russ and I. She is quite dear.

There have been a few things to check in about.

Gina is home!  Our girl who completed her musical theatre diploma in May and then extra training in stage combat since, finished up her lease in Victoria and moved home for a bit before carrying on to Toronto.  She has shown a lot of bravery this summer, going to big cities to study and learning subway systems and new people.  It has been awesome to see.  The big deal this week is that she loaded her car and drove home, boarding a ferry at 5:30am and driving til 10:30 that night, she spent some hours sleeping in her car in Strathmore, Alberta before heading on and getting home by 3:30pm the next day.  She really enjoyed the mountain driving.  What a monkey though, she wanted to surprise me so she didn’t give me accurate info about her location. So….she got home and I wasn’t there. I had been called to town and decided to have tea with Grandma Shirley while I was there, I thought I had time.  So, when I wandered into the house with my arms full of groceries, there she was sitting at our kitchen counter sipping a cold drink and video taping my reaction. Honestly. She hid her car behind the barn and had way too much fun catching me off guard! It was my joy to soon see all my kids sitting down for supper.

Yesterday we unloaded her car and I have to say it was impressive how much she had stashed in it!

How the car looked in the driveway the first night. Russ was impressed that Gina packed alot of stuff and kept her sight lines all around.
Gina’s pal Ernie spent the last two years in Victoria and accompanied her in the front seat on the way home. He told me not to tell Gina but he is glad to be back on the prairies.
All of this was in that little car!

Backtracking a bit…..My friend Deb and her girls visited over the weekend.  We enjoyed the visits, the storytelling, the wisdom shared, the laughs, there were some great hours spent together. 

A fun idea was hatched during our last breakfast, that idea is a cookbook.  We are both good cooks and we have been friends for 45 years.  I have a vivid memory of walking down the street together when we were about 11, talking about what we thought about becoming women.  We have talked about almost every dimension of womanhood that has unfolded since then.  It seems like maybe we could make some fun title out of that and create something, even if its a cookbook just for our kids.  It was fun to dream about it at the table and brainstorm what recipes would need to be included.  It was the cinnamon buns we were eating that …..


Our calves are coming into the ring to sell.  Time to close the laptop.

Here are our observers. Jill with calculator in hand, this is her job for us every sale.

Here is a minute of what that kind of action looks like.

9 hours later…..

Well the selling phase of the day was good but certainly anxiety producing.  The prices we received are quite improved over recent years and that is well timed.  The drought and storms of recent memory have been so hard.  Cattle prices have not kept pace with expenses. We are thankful for this morning.

Our John Deere tractor is in the hospital.  It has been a hard reality to work around, slowing our progress with baling, but just one of those things.  A significant problem started last Friday making it not driveable.  Russ called our family at Fast Trucking and there was a truck in the yard within half an hour to pick up the tractor and take it to Oxbow.   We are extremely blessed.

Loading the tractor with its problems was very nerve wracking for Russ.

Further problems have arisen, so the tractor is still in Oxbow, Russ is getting familiar with the staff at the John Deere hospital and things are going well between them. 

About baling………we have all the bales we need for feed and are so close to being done we can just about say we are done.   This is a relief.   We will now begin baling some straw (likely once the tractor is out of the hospital) but that is less of a stressful thing, usually.  It is such a relief to head into winter feeling only minimally concerned about feed and water.  We know that a year like this is a total blessing.

To make a morning like the one we had today happen there are many steps. First we have to get the animals in from pasture and ready to load onto transport. I was able to take a good video of the grassers coming into the yard yesterday morning.  Our friends Jackie and Marisol joined Russ, Gina and Morgan to move them down the road and also helped with getting them sorted and prepped to load.  Here is the video, they move in quickly and it makes for an action packed minute.

Last Friday night we joined a crowd in Oxbow to see the province wide touring group Saskatchewan Express.  It was a really entertaining production and we had a special interest in it.  One of Gina’s friends from college was a performer.  Liz was the understudy that portrayed Shrek to Gina’s Fiona in all the performances we saw.  We hosted her for supper while we were in Victoria.  It was pretty nice to have a familiar face on the stage in Oxbow.  She was excellent.  There are some people in our small communities who work really hard to make our life together warmer, more interesting, and more connected.   Concerts like this one are a result of their efforts, it is a very good thing.

Maybe that’s enough of a check in.  I hope this finds you well and ready to face what this new season holds.

Oh wait….the joke……

Some of the people in this house love cats. We have cat mugs. I picked one by chance tonight, to hold my decaf coffee. Then I took a picture of the mug to use as a lead image for this blog. But wouldn’t you know it, right beside those cats was a mouse. A computer mouse. My fairly stressed brain was quite amused by the cat and mouse story going on on my desk. You got the joke right off the top didn’t you? I probably didn’t even need to explain. Sweet dreams!

Stormy Ranching

It was a big day at our ranch today, not as big as yesterday though.  Our annual crop of steers was auctioned off at Chopper K this morning.   This is a couple weeks early but we understand the market is looking risky by December so we dove in and got it done.  That meant we had to get all our cows home late Tuesday, then yesterday we brought them into the corral. 

Russell, Morgan and his friend bringing up the rear and heading straight into the wind on Tuesday’s after school ride.
The mane and tail whip in the wind like a flag while Russ perseveres, they were almost home and done at this point.
Laurie’s cheeks are red for a reason.

Wednesday morning, after getting started in the dark to bring the herd from all over the home half we separated the Moms from the babies and also separated the steers from the heifers.   

Cousin Dawson at his gate, a new group had been pushed up into the sorting area by Morgan and Laurie.

The steers got on a truck right away and headed to the Auction Mart.  They sold well today, not as high as previous years, but we were relieved that the market had not tanked given how stormy the whole world feels right now.  

The work Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning was certainly made harder by the extreme wind that had all of Saskatchewan in its grip.   Where we are located our snowfall was almost non-existent compared to a few hours away from here.  That likely is what made it possible to even be out working as the wind gusts approached 100km/hr at times.  There was something that made this work easier though too. We have these amazing family members and a brave friend who came when asked, got on their horse and got those cows where we needed them to be. That anyone would voluntarily endure that wind is almost beyond my ability to comprehend. We are blessed by these relationships. Wednesday morning as we sorted the herd I had a really active job and actually worked up enough sweat that I shed a layer by mid morning, Morgan on the other hand, on horse back the entire morning, looks to have windburn on an eye lid, his contact lenses don’t offer the same protection as his old spectacles did. 

Three layers on my legs, two pairs of socks, and six layers on top….I sweat a bit as I trotted up and down the alley pushing the calves to their gates.
As the boss of the steer gate Jill did more standing around than me as she stayed ready to open her gate and let her fellas in. It seemed smart to transplant my extra warm stuff onto her. Here she is tucked into the pole shed getting wind relief.

We went to the auction mart this morning and watched the calves sell. 

Some of our calves going through the ring.

Its so weird to have something so consequential unfolding before one’s eyes.  Just how will things balance out?   The moment by moment bidding is determining that and most of the time its hard to understand what the auctioneer is even saying, but I’m getting better at it.  We have goals for the cattle we bring to market, it seems we are reaching those goals.  Two of the buyers advised Russell today, after ours sold, “don’t change anything about your program, those are beautiful calves.”  I’ll tell you, after the journey we travel with those creatures, first setting our eyes on them when they are so little and vulnerable, saving some of them by bringing them in our house and warming and drying them. After working so closely with them in our chute to give them tags, immunizations and more, getting them trucked to pasture for summer, walking them home in the fall, dancing with them in the corral as we get them all separated and market ready and then seeing them enter the ring, well……..its like they are your kids in a small way, and we are proud of them and we are thankful for them. 

Ranching is stormy right now. We are in for a tough spell of holding tight and hoping and praying for what we really need. All around us the world seems stormy. We are thankful for good days. We are thankful for today.

One last thing……I have been absent from my blog for so long.  I can’t really explain why.  I have missed a whole season of ranching and of being Kathy.  I think I am trying to figure out how to do this.  How to share what is on my mind and heart, how to share the goings on of a ranch, and while sharing keep reasonable privacy.  I also get affected by the way that my stuff is received, I want to post things that people like, which is understandable, it’s the way the world turns, but maybe I let it shape me and even silence me too much.  I feel like I am at a new stage with this.  Maybe a little more ready to let the ranch do the talking and not worry about posting only the best content or things that amount to alot. We shall see. However, I wanted to acknowledge that I have been missing in action.