Day 29 – Calving Season 2022 – Looking Back

Its Sunday morning and I’m hoping to get this all put together before Church. Russ and Morgan are out doing the morning check of the herd. We can’t help but compare how it is this morning to last Sunday when the storm had wreaked the worst of its havoc and we were breathlessly trying to figure out how bad things were. This morning there is some wind, the sky is cloudless, the birds are singing. Russ called to tell me, “do you know that things are just Ducky in the calving pasture?” I was a bit dense at the time, hardly awake, so I didn’t catch on that he was telling me that our cow named “Ducky” had calved. He is not yet done the morning check so this number could grow but in the last 48 hours we have had 52 calves (including a set of twins). Special cows that calved this weekend include Morgan, Tanya, Marion, Fudge and Cowabunga). We are deeply grateful that this is not how it was last weekend. This is as intense as it will get for us.

Earlier in the week, in a quiet few hours at the cottage, while keeping the home fires burning there I got started on this post. It is a glimpse of some of what we saw and experienced calving during a storm and power outage. The pictures span from Saturday until Tuesday and are different than the immediate storm update posts that were offered Saturday and Sunday. There is another couple of stories to tell yet. But this is plenty long.

    There has been so much calf action, bottles fed, rubs done, mercy, I have no idea who this calf was now.  However it was a quick warm up while the crew ate lunch on Saturday, Jill gave it a bit of milk or colostrum and then it was back to the barn to its Mama.  Jill carried it, we giggled a lot because it felt like a bit of a circus as it would start to slip and I did what I could to make it right.
    Saturday –   I took Coffee dog for a walk about 6pm.  When the stakes are high with the work getting done Coffee gets left behind because she is just not a good listener yet.  So….a walk was in order.  This was the view of our place, from the west, it doesn’t look that bad does it?   Within the hour 7 power poles snapped in half 4 miles south of us.  Not a quick fix.
When Coffee and I came across Ron outside he told us he was just going fencing.  This struck us both funny, its not a typical blizzard job.  The building snow in the calving yard was damaging fence and making it possible for cows to get over it. 
Having endured a morning of heavy rain and getting soaked through, then an afternoon with sleet that turned to snow, having done everything they could, including plug in the truck in the hope the power would return by morning, these guys were calling it a day.
Russ stopped me and asked me to take a picture of this new jeep sticker, he brushed the snow away.  A little mid blizzard humor.  Russ is a fan of Sasquatch stuff.
     Saturday night we set up and played a new game while eating cheese ball, crackers and chips for supper.  I had pizza dough rolled out and bun dough ready to shape when the power went out.  Clearly I was way too optimistic.  Russell was so cold and so tired, this game was an act of love, Morgan could hardly wait to try out the game he found in the easter egg hunt.  It was meant for Christmas but was in a box in the office that Morgan peeked into.  Shute. 
The snow on our bathroom window when we went to bed Saturday night. How is a person supposed to sleep picturing this coating your animals and they were wet to start off with?
     When Russ and I got up Sunday morning we wondered how we would handle the sheer number of calves likely to need a warm up in the cottage.  We were picturing six or more calves strewn about.  In the end there was only one in that day.  It took a long time to gather its strength and needed a lot of encouragement, however, when it came time for a bottle it happily gulped back the milk I made so I made more.  Russ thinks it has fluid on its lungs, back with its Mom it has not thrived, despite the meds he gave it, he has decided to leave things to their course.  Now four days later, at the time of posting this the calf, whom we called “Cottage”, is doing alright.
Last summer we added an outhouse to our cowboy cottage set-up.  I was non-committal about the importance of this.  Let me say how thankful I am for it and Russell, “you were dead right!”  Next on the list….a big generator for the ranch.
Just as I was getting in the truck on Monday morning to go to the pasture and get the fire going in the cottage Russ asked me to come help him, we had a heifer calving and its calf was big, it needed to be pulled.  Russ did not expect to find the calf alive but as its head emerged indeed it was breathing.  As Russ started to work on the calf the Mom prolapsed.  After a swear Russell’s first words to me were “call Marcel” and then he pushed that prolapse in as much as he could and using his arm kept the prolapse mostly within the cow.  He remained that way until Marcel got there, which was as fast as he could, but it took a bit of course.  The strain caused numbness and pain for Russ that lingered through the day.  He is very tough.
   When Marcel took over Russ went to the house to take off his goopy clothes.  By this point Morgan was on the scene and he became Marcel’s assistant.  The heifer named “Éclair” had got up just a minute before Marcel walked in and we used the rope I had placed on her like a halter to get her snubbed up to the side wall.  She settled down there and was not willing to move again.  In this less than ideal set-up Marcel persevered and got the surgery done that kept the heifer alive.  He needed Morgan to position himself in a certain spot and with enough force to keep the heifer positioned well enough for the procedure.  When it was done I overheard Marcel speaking to Morgan with all the coaching instinct that lives within him.  He is Morgan’s volleyball coach, his instinct to be a coach is something I love experiencing.  I have seen it many many times.  Here I overheard him praising Morgan for the way he handled his job.  He gave quite particular feedback and it warmed my heart.
Ron and I were in charge of anchoring the rope that snubbed the heifer to the wall.  I stepped away for a minute and got the chance to grab a picture of Ron poised to tighten that rope at the least movement.
Russ – back with dry and clean clothes on, after all he had been through with this cow I caught him petting it, it touched me.
   This is my sister and brother in law.  Over the course of the storm they sent me three pictures of them doing their weekend with one of our Bar MW mugs in hand.  It was such a vivid sign that they were thinking of us and holding us close.  I learned something from this which I will say more about another day maybe.  In the meantime I was very pleased with myself when I texted back a play on words, their last name is Sollid, and I said, “thanks for the Sollid-arity!”  I meant it. 
Just a nice moment.  This calf needed a bottle when Russ was not able to locate its mother.  The mothering up process was definitely impacted by the storm. 
As a result of a really cold night the 2nd night of outage we had a water line freeze to the cows watering bowls and it was not possible to get it thawed.  So we ran hose and put a trough in and Jill spent hours yesterday afternoon supervising the filling of the trough.  From that point she got many pictures. 
Something very beautiful happened that Jill documented for our family.  We have a heifer (a female cow who has never had a calf, yet) that we named Georgie.  That is my Mom’s name.  The previous cows we had named Georgie died.  We love having a cow named Georgie in the herd so we assigned a heifer the name.  While Jill was doing her water job yesterday Georgie began to calf.  Jill caught the whole thing on video which I will share when data service is stronger.  It is fascinating I think.  The beauty here is that the birth went well, Georgie proved to be a great Mom and her calf is a little mini me.  They are just gorgeous together.
One of our cowgirls and her daughter delivered hot casseroles to us for supper Monday night.  This was really appreciated.  The message that came with it touched our hearts so much.  There was a big one for us and a little one I could drop over at Ron’s house.  We all needed that warm food. They brought with them food from one of their relatives, who doesn’t know us, but once cattle ranched, and in sympathy sent us what we needed for a lunch we could reheat on the wood stove the next day. Great biscuits were part of that. How generous and kind.
Grandma Shirley hosted us for tea, cookies, device charging and showers late on Monday.  It felt so good.
I snuck over to Shirley’s in the late afternoon to get things started charging and have my first cup of tea and shower.  Russ and Morgan went in after supper.  Therefore here I am at supper already feeling fresh and flowy. 
Steaming coffee is a wonderful sight. We had filled our thermoses with boiling water at Shirley’s the night before and didn’t need to wait for the stove to heat water.
   On Tuesday morning Russ and I were alone in the cowboy cottage for the first time since the storm started.  It was noticeable to me, and I think Russ always notices, the subtle goodness that comes from a moment of rest, shared together.
If selfies required titles I think I would title this one, “thankful for a pause.”

If you made it this far, good job, it has not been an easy read perhaps.  I have one more thing to share, a set of pictures which is just for fun really, but at the same time it is kind’ve interesting.  There are 8 pictures of total porch chaos as the crew gets ready to head out for Saturday afternoon.  At this point clothes soaked by rain had been almost dried in the dryer, rain had turned to sleet and the nastiest of the weather was approaching.  There were serious layers being pulled on, physical and mental preparations being made for what was ahead I do believe.  Four minutes pass during these 8 pictures while all that happens is people getting dressed and dogs getting excited. 

This is the picture that cracks me up the most….three layers of action, dogs in foreground, crew in the mid and Jill feeding a calf in the back.

Day 22 – Part 2- Calving Season 2022

We have been able to charge our phones enough that I am glad to do an update on this day.

What started off as so scary turned out really quite well. Our herd is doing okay, the shelter in the calving yard worked well enough that the incredibly gusty wind was not able to create the devastation it could of whenn combined with the snow. So….our work was not overwhelming. The sun came out this afternoon changing the day entirely. Our house is currently 73 degrees due to the power of the sun. We are not shivering, 26 hours into this power outage. The wind has finally settled. Jill persevered with emptying the sump hole until the generator got switched from watering the cows and horses to running sewer and septic pumps. We avoided basement disaster so far with that. Things feel ENTIRELY different at 8:30pm than they did at 5:30am. We are all so profoundly grateful. It kindv’e feels Iike a miracle.

Here are a few pictures from our day….

Laurie worked at Russell’s side all day. About 5pm I restoked the fire and got ready to make possibly 3 bottles for calves whose Mama’s had abandoned them or got disoriented or something. After these two were done their last round I needed to make no bottles! Not magic but persistence and cowboy bossiness.
What a different view from the porch of the cowboy cottage at days end.
This was the morning scene.
David got busy making us supper after helping in the morning. This felt like such a loving act. A pretty great generator at his place meant he and Linda had their extended family and us fed. This warm and DELICIOUS food was so needed. Wow!

Day 22 Part 1 – Calving 2022 – Ummmm wow

A quick update. Power went out about 6pm last night. It was a tough night with the wind blowing so hard. I had long stretches of laying and wondering and worrying. It was very hard to keep myself calm. This morning we arose to a view that had Russ cussing immediately. We jumped into gear. I have been transplanted to the cowboy cottage where I have the fire going. Jill is home handling the sump pump hole which is filling as a result of the big rain that started yesterday off. We have some drainage issues to deal with. Jill s on hand to help Morgan with the heifers. Ron is busy doing all the various things he is so good at. Russ and Laurie are here dealing with the big herd. Last night had very few losses. Honestly I was expecting disaster. David is coming out soon and will be helping Ron with some feed and bedding hauling.

I wrote that last paragraph a few hours ago. I have been hosting humans for warm-ups and coffee and only a single calf. He is not doing very well. Russ is going to bring him 4 cc of Nuflor, maybe a touch of pneumonia. I think. We have had many moments that I have tried to grab pictures of. Until we have power restored, which sounds like a long way off yet, poles are broken in many places, I need to stay off my phone as much as possible.

Here are a few pictures of my day so far.

I came to the pasture first. Russ and Laurie were dealing with heifer issues at home. My job was to get the fire going. I was relieved to see the cows looking good. This moment is a “when the doctor is on the horizon” relief moment. Laurie pulling the trailer, Russ behind in the jeep.
Laurie getting the trailer backed up to the loading chute. There were 2 calves in it. Last night they got separated/lost from their Moms. We couldn’t figure it out. They came home and got bottles and shelter.
Russ and Laurie urging the calves towards the herd of Mama’s. I believe they have now both been claimed.
I discovered we had one mug at the cottage. Laurie drank from a cookie container.
Laurie posed for this picture, I told him he is a bigger rock star than Elton John. Amazing support.
David brought thermoses of coffee and Morgan brought cups from home. I was in business.
David got to bond with my calf while in the midst of his delivery of bales job. He cared for us amid the needs of his own family. Much appreciated….
My cold calf upon arrival.
Not perking up really……
Over and out from the cowboy cottage.

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.