I am giving myself 25 minutes to create this blog. What gets done gets done and then I hit publish.
Here at the ranch we are doing what we always do at this point in May and thats put herds of cows and calves through the working chute. This allows us to give vitamins, vaccines, tag the calves, replace lost tags on the cows and castrate the bull calves. Its a big chunk of work and it takes a crew. I should be out there but I am not because Dawson was able to come today and do my job. That is a lifesaver today in particular, I have a funeral to conduct tomorrow, a graduation to attend later today and tags to make. Not to mention feeding this crew. You might think, “why are you writing a blog?” I just have to. I have the fever to. But there is a time limit set.
Okay….maybe I have the fever because last night a friend we had not seen in a long time came for tea. As she stepped in the door she said, “I came because I just want to encourage you.” How interesting we humans are, how quickly old tapes and things rise to the surface, because you know what rose up in me when I heard that? I caught myself thinking, “oh great, someone is here to tell me what I need to do better at.” That wasn’t at all what our friend was here to share. However, I have had impacting experiences being told things that start with the words, “I just want to encourage you…….”, followed by some message to do things differently, worry less, have more faith, exercise more, …..some message that essentially said, “you are not enough.” But that is not what I heard last night, last night I heard, “your blog makes a difference, I want to encourage you to keep it up” and there was a bit more than that. But you get the drift. So, fuelled up I am here to share about this day.
There is so much stirring within.
I am proud of our crew. We had Morgan’s friend Griff with us yesterday and we got 80 pairs handled at the chute. I was not needed hands on, we had such great help, so I was able to cook and make tags and do the essentials in the house.
I am proud of Gina. More about that in the pictures.
I am sad. The details of this past week have stirred grief.
I am angry. I am angry at Covid. Tomorrow I do the first funeral I have had to do for a person who died of Covid. Two of my sisters were diagnosed with it this week. I saw them last weekend. So we have been wearing masks and testing daily. I believe I missed it this time.
I am hyper. I made the best pot of coffee this morning. It was nuclear fuel in my body. Russ just called me to tell me a story from the chute. We had a cow that needed to be chased down, details elude me. Anyways, the story was a bit epic, a should to shoulder race which Russ won and with great delight he told me, “when I looked at her tag Kathy, you know who she was?!? Streak! Kathy, I outran the streak!!!” I was suitably impressed! We agreed that coffee had weaved magic in us.
Some pictures to share!
Calving is perking along, a pretty normal set of days and events are the reality right now. This is good timing. I hope your weekend is going the way you need it to. Blessings to you.
A very vivid moment within last months epic storm and power outage happened on Tuesday afternoon. That would be about 70 hours into the 94 hour outage. Here is the context………..things were looking up, things felt under control. I checked in with a neighbor who had just had power restored and as a result was going to head over there for coffee. Then I got real with myself, as much as I longed for what was sure to be a good visit with her, I needed sleep. My exhaustion was profound.
The day before I had gone to Oxbow for two urgent purchases that had me on edge. I needed garden hose, our water line to one cow watering bowl had frozen in the cold and powerless night, we needed to run a hose to a trough to get water to some of our herd. I was anxious about what I would do if there was none available. I also absolutely had to get fuel in our slip tank. Our on site fuel tanks were not usable with out power to pump them. We needed fuel to run our tractors to feed our cows. I have never used a bulk fuel station before and the possible complications of that had me on edge. So as I headed to Oxbow I found myself pondering what I really needed and turning that into a prayer. That meant I was asking God to help me not lose my dignity. There are times when shame and overwhelm have led me to public tears that make no sense to anyone else, I really hate that. So I simply asked God to help me keep my dignity. As it turned out, there was hose in stock and when I got to the bulk fuel station there was Dwayne, a new friend who had joined us on the trail last fall. He helped me. My prayer was answered. Whew. Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon…. Thinking ahead to the evening plan, to be in town attending a Volleyball fundraiser with Morgan, I could not imagine how I would do it in the state I was in. I was setting myself up to lose my dignity. So I cancelled the coffee date and cuddled up in the sun on the bed in the cottage for a nap. I was about fifteen minutes into that nap when Russ called. He had a calf for me and it was going to need alot of work. He and Morgan had found it mired in the mud at the edge of the new dugout, only its nose and mouth sticking out. It was a feat to suck it out of that mud.
Russ gave me the advice I needed to get this calf going the right direction and I set to work. He hoped I would clean its nose and mouth really well and its naval very very well. He was worried about umbilical infection. It was overwhelming. I had a limited supply of rags, 2/3 roll of paper towel, dwindling water supplies and energy only from the bottom of my tank. Russ says he felt bad asking me to take this on, he knew how tired I was. The thing is he and Morg were more tired than I, they had been wrestling with the mud, the calf, getting up the dugout slope with the energy they had left four days into the marathon and they still had more to check.
The moment I want to speak of was the point when it all just became too much and the thing that pushed me over the edge was that I needed help. I assumed I couldn’t ask Russ because he was already fully occupied. I must have known that Jill and Morgan were busy too. The details of the work and my brain are all kind’ve muddy right now but I hovered over that calf and the needs of the moment just became too much. I needed water. I needed to figure out how to get the supper picked up that Russell’s sister Tammy had prepared for us. I needed more paper towel. There was a war going on inside my head, I knew that helpers were near that would be glad to help, but I wouldn’t let myself ask for various reasons. Like the road between our places was blocked with water and they would have to drive the long way around. Like how could I ask a town person to bounce over a 1/2 mile of pasture to get to me after getting their car dirty on the gravel road? Who was home? These complications, compounded by my weariness and compounded by a very uncomfortable feeling of being a “have-not” when it seemed everyone else around us already had their power returned, meant tears rolled down my face and dripped on the calf. I still had a slight sense of humor and I remember thinking, “great, I am making my muddy calf even muddier.” In the end it all worked out. Russell’s afternoon had eased up after rescuing the calf from the mud, he brought me wash water and paper towel and went to town to pick up our supper which was absolutely delicious. Everyone gathered at the cottage to eat and Jill took Morgan to the volleyball event. I lingered at the cottage, did dishes at the pace of a snail and slipped home just as darkness settled in. The sun had warmed the house through the day making bedtime a comforting moment of grace. The take away I have from the hard moments is that I know more vividly then I ever did before that it is so hard for me to ask for help.
A couple days later I was having a good visit with another friend. She told me about one of her storm experiences where she should have asked for help but wouldn’t let herself. Her insistence on bearing her troubles on her own had a level of danger to it. Significant risk was a part of it. I think it is her story that made me think, there is a blog post in the making here.
Why is it so hard for some of us to ask for help?
I suggested to my friend that maybe she didn’t ask for help because she hadn’t really let herself believe how much other people love her and would want to help, even though it was not going to be easy.
Maybe another thing is that to admit we have need is to put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. In some ways, to intentionally make oneself vulnerable is a bizarre choice to make, doesn’t vulnerability lead to hard things? One of the people I have learned from is Brene Brown, she says that to choose to be vulnerable is an act of courage and leads to authentic living. Its not straightforward or easy, that is for sure, we have to risk entrusting our need to someone we hope will not take advantage of it. However, there are many, many good people in the world with whom it is good to be as real and honest about our situations as we can be.
Maybe another thing about asking for help is the uncomfortable feeling that we are then indebted to others. Its hard if you think you really have nothing to offer in return, no way to “pay back” the favor.
Russ heard this blog and challenged me, “okay, so you have this new awareness, what are you going to do about it?” I am going to try Russ. I am going to try and do better about inviting people in to my place of need and quit being so darn proud. I am going to try.
If we had to do what we do all alone, we would perish. Our ranch would fail. We would fight more battles than we already do, among our animals, with each other, with our property. We are good at many things, masters of a few, I make bread and buns I am very proud of. When Russell rides a horse I say he is like “poetry in motion”, he wears his heart on his sleeve like none other. Morgan is a witty and courageous cowboy. Jillian has hands on animal and equipment skills, many skills. Ron is capable of so many kinds of repairs, although its fence repair at the top of his list these days. These are things we excel at. And we also struggle. There is so much we can’t do. We are so needful of others. I really suck at yardwork and paperwork. Russell is not naturally handy. Morgan has not had the chance to get past the beginner stage on lots of maintenance skills. Jill has her mind on things other than the ranch. Gina is more and more shifting away from the ranch which means we are one skilled person short. We do what we do well and behind the scenes there is also a bit of chaos, things left undone, ragged edges, things needing fixing and we look at all this and feel embarassment, feel overwhelm, wonder how to tackle what needs done and then make calls and texts inviting help. Its so humbling and at the same time kindv’e exciting and rewarding. The people coming together moments create good feelings. This past weekend was a vivid case of our need creating many, many memorable moments.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch there were arrivals happening. Calves just kept being born but more importantly family from Saskatoon and Regina arrived to help Russ on the ranch, not because Jill and I were gone, but its just how things lined up. It was our Regina cousin Jen who supplied me with most of the pictures in this post.
Russell’s sister Tammy knew that Jill and I were away and called to offer to make supper for Morgan and Russ. When she learned that there were six to feed she didn’t hesitate to generously provide a hot and nourishing meal. This charged up the crew for the night ahead which was an important project.
For most of the weekend Russ and I were surrounded by others and didn’t have time to text anything other than the bare essentials. I have screenshots here of our texting. Cows who have freshly calved and talk of rain. Thats basically it.
I am fiercely independent and have a real challenge to delegate and ask for help. I don’t like to bother people. It feels terrible to be needy. ( A whole blog post about this is almost ready for the Tenderlands series.) But the bottom line……
We have an interesting set of birth announcements to share tonight. It was quite a day and the way some details came together has us smiling.
It was exciting for Russ to check the heifers this morning and learn that “Jill” had her calf early on, she was very successful.
Yesterday morning the check of the cows revealed that “Morgan” had calved and all was well. Later this morning Russ reported that “CCPA” had calved. Thats a cow we named in honor of Gina’s school. That cow and calf seem to be doing well. By mid afternoon the big news of the day was in…..Kathy had calved and birthed twins! How odd that so many of our cows named after immediate family all did their work in such a short time.
All of this follows on the heels of the birth video that Jill captured last week, Georgie our heifer birthing her first calf. Georgie was my Mom’s name.
Another birth story from today is that our cow named “Flash” calved this morning and gave us twins. Two sets of twins in one day is quite something for us. The funny thing is that yesterday Jill spotted a child’s “Flash” superhero tshirt at the church clothing sale. She bought it for Coffee dog to wear. She has the same shirt. So this morning Coffee was running around the ranch in her Flash t shirt and Flash the cow gave us twins. A fun part of the day.
To top it all off, this morning Russ discovered that our cow “Sunflower” had a calf coming backwards. I had to be in town early on and could offer no assistance. Morg and Jill were in school. Ron was elsewhere. Russ was on his own. He got that cow to the working chute in the calving pasture and was able to deliver what was a huge calf, safely. It is very difficult to pull a backwards facing calf. Russ is currently describing the series of events that allowed this safe delivery to happen. It was epic and I am too tired to describe every step for you. How about I just brag for a second? My husband is one heck of a cattle man.
Lots of our cows named after my friends calved also in the last few days, it really has been a time for smiling at the birth announcement texts that come. Tanya, Sharon, Beth, Ali, Sandy, Peter, Marion, Trisha, Diane and Kristen have all given us calves in these days.
After so much struggle in the posts of last week, and much of my work time in the last 24 hours spent paying bills (not my interest or comfort zone) it is great to have these births to smile about!
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.
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.
Things are not getting easier as quickly as we had hoped. We still do not have power (94 hours and counting). We are among the last in our area. It has been such a crazy time.
It has been humbling and at times heartwrenching living these days. It feels like there are a million stories to tell, most of them with happy endings.
One of the main challenges for me is sleep deprivation. That makes me fuzzy headed. I have caught alot of balls these days but I have dropped alot too. Just can’t hold everything there is to think and feel.
I have a more complete blog with some sense of the days partially done if you are interested. I just lost my will to create for a bit. Until then, just know we are keeping our act together, with lots of help and isolated showers of tears.
The power just came on. So much relief. Now what do I do first?
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.
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.
At 9:28 am we have received a fair bit of rain but the wind is not outrageous and temperatures are hovering at 1 degree celsius. We expect rain to become snow this afternoon. I am not in the mood for a super serious post despite the fact that these are serious days we are living. I feel like with the rain falling it feels more like a good day for a book or a cup of coffee with a friend. That is my privilege as the person not responsible for outdoor life today. So come on in for a coffee. Here is what I might tell you……
Russell told me a joke this morning as he was getting dressed. He asked me, “where do superheroes go for their holidays?” The punchline: Capetown. I have to admit that I was only half listening while he started his joke, I think I was on my phone (insert sheepish emoji) so I had to get him to repeat it. When I truly heard it I was greatly amused but didn’t laugh. That is witty. This is where Russell did a classic Russell move, he decided that my laughter was not nearly what the joke warranted and he coached me to really laugh out loud. Which of course by this point was just fake laughter but it was fun to have moments of lightness. Anyways, here is the thing, with all that the ag industry is going through right now, especially, very vividly, the ones that are seeing babies of many kinds born, we have to pull out our hero instincts and so I would like to propose that when things lighten up a bit we have a party in Capetown for all us producers who need to deal with our capes, they are getting pretty muddy.
Another fun thing from this morning is that Russ notified me that there was a pair of socks running loose in the house. When I asked for clarity I learned that Russ had taken a pair of yellow polka dot socks from his drawer but before he put them on he misplaced them. He advised me to keep an eye out for them. Later when I was tidying in the kitchen I found them. I took a picture and sent it to him.
I like Russell’s sense of humor. It helps him survive hard days.
Our friend David has helped us survive some weird days. On Monday when Russ was backing up to the loading chute in the calving pasture his back window made a popping sound and then began the process of shattering. There was no impact that caused this. It is a complete mystery. I took this picture yesterday morning through the shattered window as Russ and Morg were pulling away in the old white truck, leaving the new one so that Jill and I could drop it off at Powell Autobody for a new window. While there Jill and I had trouble with the Hyundai, David kept it, got his guys to have a look at it, and sent us home in his truck. Then last night he and Linda came for a coffee and dropped off our truck and the Hyundai, and picked up David’s truck. We were totally spoiled.
Yesterday on the blog I spoke of my battle with jinxy thoughts. I pondered if the new ring I had been wearing was causing all this bad weather. A ridiculous thought. However, I did decide to put my great grandma’s wedding band back on. Not because I am sinking into jinxy thinking, but because it is actually super meaningful to me. My Great Gram wore it through WW1 and WW2, she wore it through many hard and happy events in the family, so I am going to wear it, a reminder that the women in our family are used to dealing with tough things.
One of the serious moments of the morning came when Russ said, “as best as I can tell from reading the forecast, we are in for about 48 hours of hell.”
As Russell’s morning check proceeded and I wasn’t getting a call to prep the warm up room for a calf I decided to pull out the frozen tart shells that have been hanging loose in my freezer for quite some time and make butter tarts. If you were here for coffee I would offer you one or more.
Yesterday was a good experience for me. After the morning blog which was pretty raw I found myself feeling very supported. There were tangible things like texts, messenger messages and facebook comments. There were less tangible things, like a general sense of lightness, optimism and focus that helped immensely. I see that as the power of prayer. We are thankful for all the ways that kindness and grace flow into our lives, thanks for your part in that.
Grace flowed this morning that is for sure. Our cousin Laurie was on hand very early to help with whatever needed to be done. That is the main reason that my phone never rang. It allowed Morgan to sleep in and then have a leisurely breakfast. He is going to need the fortification I think. When Russ did phone the baking was done, he said, “I’m coming in the yard and backing up to the barn I’ve got 4 cows and 4 cold calves I’m unloading, and I’ve got Anders, she is calving, if you want some pictures of unloading cold calves come on out. If you come out, can you bring me a coffee? 4 scoops.” (Russ drinks very strong instant coffee.) I was quite thrilled to be able to say to him something that I hardly ever say, let alone at 8:35am, “I have just baked a double batch of butter tarts, should I bring some out?” He said, “yes, fuck, bring two each!” The unloading process turned out to be a bit of a trial. I was no help except to hold the trailer door open and alert the guys when one of the cows was starting to come back in on them into the trailer.
Morgan isn’t so dry now. He just came up beside my office window, then tied his horse on Marlene’s old clothesline pole. He came in looking for a coffee. With thermos cup in hand he strode back out. I am not sure what his agenda includes, he is in charge of the heifers while Laurie and Russ and Ron are getting some feed and bedding issues taken care of.
Its Saturday morning, are you getting a chance to rest or do the circumstances where you are have you hopping? What book will you read today? Do you like butter tarts? All these questions are top of my mind as I think about having a coffee with you. Maybe someday! But until then, mercy we have some challenges ahead.
Its 6:30am on Friday morning, I feel like apologizing. If I am to say what I am really thinking this is going to be a downer.
We have another bad storm predicted, this one looks worse than last weeks, as the forecast goes. I ran into a friend yesterday at Regina Costco, he had been studying the forecast/radar and his take on things was bad. Worse than Environment Canada’s. Who will be right? Only time will tell. I left Costco and in the three hour drive home I could not shake my stress. So many thoughts.
Its weird the thoughts you have. This will be our third storm in 11 days, the second one being “only” 6 iches of snow. They remain a blessed source of moisture but such a struggle to get it. I have caught myself having jinx thoughts. I got a ring in Victoria last month, when we got home I took off the ring I have been wearing on my right hand since I was ordained, my great grandmas wedding band, and I put on this pretty ring from the gift shop at the Royal BC Museum. I caught myself thinking this week, “ever since I put this ring on the weather has been crappy, this is my fault.” Clearly there is so much wrong with this thinking, starting with the fact that I quite simply don’t have that much power. That jinxy thinking reflects a desire to make order out of the circumstances, everything within me is struggling to explain why we are dealing with a triple pile up of storms. We talk about epic blizzards of the past, they are isolated once every three or four year events, not twice in 11 days. For us this one has potential to be much more impacting because our calving has really picked up speed, we had 20 calves yesterday. One came in the house and Jill helped it out as I was doing the doctor routine in Regina with one of my people. I cannot fathom what tomorrow might bring. Also, how do you keep all the calves well that are already born and established. Mercy.
All of this is really hard for me as a Christian. I don’t have the time and energy to go into all that is stirring in my head, there is alot of wrestling going on. What I do believe firmly is that God is at work to give us strength, help us within and bolster us with a sense of “you are not alone, I am with you.'” What I don’t believe is that if I pray hard enough God will decide to change the weather. Cue the fight with God I had after my 28 year old brother died of cancer. Yeah, this crap runs so deep, this dance with suffering and how I hold it. Through all this I will attempt to live the truth I have been moving towards, God longs for us to be whole, and it happens despite crappy circumstances, not because God makes life easy for me (although as lives go, mine has been pretty golden……cue the well of unending gratitude that I grew up in Saskatoon in the 70s and 80s in a family where there was tons of great wisdom.)
So……I am going to bed tonight beside one of the heroes of the world. A guy who will face down danger, cold, frustration and fear. I have the power to affect the amount of fuel in his tank. How do I max out that potential? I am going to feed one of the more resilient teen men I know, what can I offer that 15 year old to keep him going strong amid the cold, wet, dangerous and frustrating conditions? I will be cooking, vacuuming and/or mopping and /or laundering hourly because of the spring mess on the dogs and the debris on calves. We can only hope the power stays on again, as it did last time. Jill is on the team without a doubt. How can I max out our teamwork effort amid all that life holds? How do I stay strong amid my fear? I am afraid of loss of life, of suffering, I am afraid of the chaos some of the hours ahead will hold. Feck.
So, yeah, just a light Friday morning check in.
In the two days since I published a blog a few things have happened that created some cool pictures or good updates.
My patient of a few days ago, “Little Kiss” is alive and getting stronger. Thankful!
The little calf “Kiev” is doing well. We continue to hold the city Kiev and Ukraine close in our hearts.
Two of our “Up With People” cows calved, Antonio and Amy. Russ is in contact with Antonio despite him being originally my friend. That meant that almost as soon as Antonio was born there were pictures zinging their way to Mexico. Its a small world after all and my heart is smiling.
Thats it for today. The routine of the day must begin. Please pray for our strength, for the instincts of the cows to remain vivid, despite the crazy making wind predicted, for grace to flow however it can. Thank you for everything.