The Week We Have Known

Its been a week since I was free to do any blogging. It has been an unusually intense week, we took many pictures over the days and invite you to glimpse a week in the life of a prairie ranch family in spring 2021.

Every day these two bond more and more, Coffee dog gives us all a lot of joy.
Jill ate her evening meals with us this week, her quarantine period was hard for all of us, we missed her, when she joined us for supper we moved Buster’s chair over to Jill’s table so she could have company.
Jill is sitting at my Nanny’s dining room table, Buster is sitting in my Dad’s old highchair, the table still has plant pot rings from my Nanny’s love of plants. I wonder what she would think of the leggy seedlings I have going here. That is not a dog accident behind Jill although it sure looks like one. Its a paper from a box of chocolates one of my sisters sent for Mother’s Day.
We had twins this week, lots of twins, four sets in two days. Russ likes to bring them home so we can keep a close eye on them and how they are bonding. Here is the action on Tuesday, unloading one of the twins.
Things can get pretty tight in the womb, especially with twins, leaving joints without proper opportunity to strengthen. One of the twins needed us to splint her back ankles, here we are using duct tape over odd socks to create a quick and gentle “cast.”
Morgan carries the splinted calf to meet up with its Mom in the back of the shed.
Wednesday we put 65 cow calf pairs through the chute (vitamins, vaccines, tags, etc.) afterwards there was tons of regular work to do. I got the job of checking the cow herd for calving developments and troubles. I immediately found “Iron Man” with her brand new twins, the fourth set of the two days.
Thursday morning we got going early and thru the day got 60 more cow calf pairs through the chute. This moment is the very end of sorting the cows from the calves. Often the cows advance easily to their gate and we encourage that, we keep calves back then big groups of calves go to their gate, as you see here. Thats Ron, Russ and Morgan walking them down. Morgan was home to help us for three days. We really needed his help, hopefully he can catch up okay.
I thought this was a fun picture of Bingo quenching her thirst at one of the cow watering bowls.
Mostly I am including this picture because it is super cute of Russell. He is posing with this cow because she is named after his favourite kind of beer.
Mozza Stick got a replacement tag and hammed it up for the camera. Thats a radio frequency ID tag in her left ear, the number on it is linked to our ranch, no matter where she eventually goes in the food chain, that tag links her to our ranch, keeping us accountable to how we treat our animals and how healthy they are as they enter the food chain. It encourages us to feel proud of our animals.
One of the last big jobs of the day for Russ and Morgan, joined by Laurie after work, was to bring the cow calf pairs home that we would run through the chute the next day.
I was helping to turn them into the yard.
Our abundance of twins this season has meant we have extra calves to help keep alive. Here is Layne being bottle fed by Jill. We have two calves we are bottle feeding right now. The other is Bob. His Mom named Mary had twins whom we called Jesus and Bob, after a folk song about the brothers. Mary has Jesus but we have Bob. Bottle feeding is a hard job to do at the end of a long day, its not hard, but its just one more thing. We are glad Jill could do this. Its fortunate to have twins but its often a lot of work.
Late Thursday afternoon I had the job of checking the cow herd again. A pressing issue was finding Iron Man and her calves. After an hour I couldn’t find them and the grocery store was closing soon I thought. So I left the herd and landed in at the grocery store at 5:58, only to find out that they close at 7 (not 6) on Thursdays. Whew. I had a leisurely stroll around the store and found delicious ice cream on sale, milk, cream and a few other things. I headed back to the pasture. Are you with me on this, are you thinking, “Kathy didn’t really think that ice cream purchase through did she?” I prowled the area where Iron Man was most likely to be and eventually found her with only one calf. (Thats Iron Man and her one calf walking away from me right at the centre of the picture.) Well crumb. I called Russ, he sent me searching for the other one, I quite quickly found her. I called Russ again, I needed advice. I rose to the challenge he gave me and became the abductor. I caught the calf by the tail and wrestled her into the back of my Expedition. I was not sure how the trip back to Iron Man was going to go. You know, that calf surprised me, she just hunkered down right behind my seat and sat tight. I pulled up beside her Mom and helped her out and there was a reunion. I then went home with my soft ice cream. This morning my sister Margie named the twins, Ebony and Ivory. (The Ice cream survived🥴🍦🌞)
This was right after I had pulled the calf who would be named “Ivory” from the seat behind me and dropped her onto the ground, a reunion picture.
I could feel how glorious the evening sun was, I snapped this selfie to see how it looked, the sun looks good, I look tired.
Friday morning I was enlisted to help move 50 cow calf pairs from the pen they had spent the night in, into position to be sorted and readied to go through the chute. This truck push job was new for me, it was pretty easy. That pen is one Russ just built in the last year.
Jill finished quarantine and got to go to school Friday. When she got home she joined us at the chute for the last bit of work. We had handled a lot of animals without her, she picked up a tagger and got right down to work. How did we handle the work without her and Gina both? New skills were learned. Morgan became very good at giving needles this week (what he is doing here) and he learned to brand and is doing very well with that. I on the other hand, learned Jill’s job of castrating steer calves. Thats an interesting challenge. The atmosphere instantly became brighter when Jill arrived with her competence and willingness. Extra hands equal encouragement.
After feeding bottles to the baby calves I needed to change my clothes. It was about 7, “why not just put on a nightgown?” I thought. Then a phone call came, “can you run to the catch pen at the calving pasture and grab the calf pullers?” We had a heifer on the home quarter that needed help to calve. Russ grabbed this picture when I made the delivery. This is not Kathy Kyle at her best, but its my life.
The next morning that huge calf Russ had pulled was doing really well, its Mom, named “Endear” was doing well also.
Funny how some weeks seem to have themes………making another delivery in whatever I was wearing. This picture was this morning, in my robe, Russ called, he was administering some antibiotic to a calve with a bit of pneumonia and his syringe broke in the vehicle thanks to some dog action. He needed a fresh needle and syringe. The pic file says this was 9:30am, church started at 10. We were late, but we were all there. If you are against antibiotics in animals this anecdote might bother you. The way I see it, we give it this treatment and save its life. Were we attempting to produce antibiotic free beef we would see animals like this suffering needlessly and dying. This antibiotic will do its work and not linger in the animal. There are hundreds of days before this animal will become part of the food chain.
One more theme, animals getting their water. Here is Buster at the lunch table today.

This was a hard week. We are all exhausted. On Wednesday I calculated at the end of that one day that between five of us we had worked 63 hours, I was not including our lunch break, but did include a fifteen minute coffee in the afternoon. Why bother telling of that? I think it comes back to the title theme of this blog, about being seen. Its a hope that when I give that figure people will understand that us agriculture people truly do work hard for our living, that we love our animals and we are busting our butts trying to manage all the variables that equal quality of life for them. As I sit here tonight I can picture all the pairs we put through the chute this week, they are doing their thing, many of them already at their summer pastures, enjoying endless hours of prairie sunshine, hanging out as Mama and baby cows together. It seems okay.

In the midst of all this we have lots of great moments, Russ is fun and makes us laugh. Morgan is growing and changing and adding skills every day. We have had time with our cousins Laurie and Dawson who we appreciate so much. I made some food that I am proud of. We have had hard times, its not roses and sunshine around here all the time. We are worried sick about the lack of moisture, one of our dugouts went dry this week. We are getting impatient with each other. Russell and I had some hard words and I gave myself a time out at one point this week. Things don’t feel too carefree when work is front and centre from sun up til sun down. You start to miss feeling a bit carefree. But then the grace sweeps in. The warm things that start to thaw the ice between a man and a woman. The wisdom found in an awesome YouTube video (more Maya Angelou for me, listened to while checking cows) reminds of everything deeper and wider than the present moment. Cousins arrive and remind you that you are not alone. That softened ice cream tastes delicious and makes you feel brilliant for finding it. The beauty surrounding us, sights and sounds, touches your heart. My people come up against the dangers of big animals and stay safe, again and again. I am reminded that God has given me a purpose for my life. You find a way to give permission to yourself to be just human and struggling. The grace sweeps in and in a slower moment gratitude bubbles up.

And that is the week we have known. Is it too early to go to bed?

Praying Games

We had a few more of the first calf heifers give birth today.  This time it was Pray, Cuddle and Value.   This post arises from the cow named Pray and how she shaped my day today.  

First a bit about the name.  Although I am a minister and Russell is a bible school graduate, we don’t prioritize time to pray together.  We never have.  We have tried at times, but it hasn’t stuck.   Still we put the word “pray” in our list of words that reflect strength for our marriage. The bigger story is that prayer is a part of our life.  On any given day either we do it silently and individually and/or we struggle with it and we talk about that struggle (more me than Russell) and we do it, out loud, gathered together, regularly and with heart, at the meal table.   This seems to work for us.  The truth is I am a minister and I have struggled for my whole adult faith life with prayer.  Too many unanswered prayers is the crux of the problem for me and too much injustice for some in this world.  This could get super serious and some day maybe it will be good to talk about all this, but for today, just know that we have a Heifer named Pray because we know that prayer is about relationship with God and we know we need that to carry out our lives and our marriage with wholehearted strength and purpose.

So what happened today?  Pray had her calf at the far corner of the heifer pasture, in short grass with no bedding near. Russ found her licking off her calf. However by the time his heifer check was done it seemed as though Pray had abandoned her calf.  What the heck?!?!?  Surprisingly despite a cold early morning and neglect it was not too bad off. Russ got some hay from a nearby feeder, loaded it onto the hood of the jeep and took it over and made a bit of wind shelter/bedding with a good clump of it.  Then his morning had challenges and he never got back to check the status of the calf and its relationship with its Mom.  He called at 11:30, would I go and have a tour of the heifers and see what was up?  Yes.  I found that calf right where he told me he had first seen it.  Pray was nowhere in sight.

  As I checked the rest of the herd I kept a special eye out for Pray.  I found her mingling in the midst of a whole group who were grazing and hanging out like teenagers at recess.   She looked unconcerned.  I said to her, with a sense of double entendre “Pray I expected more of you.”  Unsurprisingly this rebuke did not phase her one bit.  

After my tour I called Russ and reported in.  He asked if I would make a bottle and return to the calf he would dub “little prayer”.  I was a bit ticked by this, lunch would be late and I would get nothing else done for the morning, but of course I wasn’t going to say no.  When I returned with the bottle I was fortunate to be able to get milk into her, with only a little resistance. 

 I had never fed a calf a bottle on the open range before, so I could chalk that up as a first.  Ideally Pray would have caught wind that I was meddling with her baby and come stampeding over with motherly love flooding her, but nothing like that happened.  What did happen is that after only about 1/8th of a bottle Little Prayer responded to the nourishment and worked at getting up.   I witnessed her first faltering steps.  

Once up she got tooling around.  Her instincts were amazing.  She nuzzled up to our Expedition as if it was her Mama.  She nuzzled into me, I was sitting on the ground on my knees and my armpit seemed to her like something she should know about.  From that vantage point I got more of that bottle into her.  It was fun.  Still no Pray in sight.  I went home and lunch was served only 15 minutes late.  

After lunch I was totally enjoying watching a youtube video about how to start seedling plants when Russ called.  He needed my help.  He was trying to sort out the issue with Pray.  I won’t try and explain all the stages of this because honestly I am not totally clear on everything myself.  What I do know best I understand after the fact, the initial hurried phone calls did little for me. When Russ called me he was on foot, playing a game with cow and calf which was a combination of tag and follow the leader. He was trying to get them together. I came along just about the time Pray had a change of heart and decided she owned that calf. She did not have a gentle touch. She bellered and danced around that calf and pushed at it, I feared she would hurt it. Russ sat in the jeep with me as this unfolded. I saw raw power in that Mama and it scared me. Pray definitely seemed to be scaring Little Prayer too.  Meanwhile, the calf had maybe bonded with Russell and I.  In Russell’s words, “I put her to bed for the first time and you fed her for the first time, she feels best with us.”  It seemed to be the case.

Russ was using his shepherd hook here, to snag the calf before she hid herself within this group, he marked her back with a cattle marker.

  In the dance around the pasture that took place over about 45 minutes, the calf went through the fence to the neighboring pasture 4 times working to escape its overwrought Mother.  As Russ went through too, working to get it back in the proper pasture he said, “if that cow comes for me you drive through the fence and get me.”  “Like…. drive throououough the fence Russell?”  Yes, right through it was the prescription for salvation.    That was the first of four times this happened at three difference fence lines and by the fourth I was definitely overwrought too.  It was only in the post game analysis that I really understood that for the most part the calf was the one that Russ was trying to disappear from, it just wanted Russ.  The cow seemed to mean no harm to him.  But I didn’t know that so my stress levels were just crazy by the time I got the phone call with these words, “turn around and go hide behind that hill!”   As I got in place the last I saw of Russ he was running through this rounded and somewhat deep large indent in the prairie, with dirt hills on the north side. I was hiding in the jeep behind those hills, Russ appeared, jumped in with me and said “back up, just back up”.  He knew the game of tag and follow the leader had become hide and seek with the calf, I didn’t.  When we stopped the jeep and watched from a distance there was a bit of hope in the air.  I wasn’t doing so well though.  I let myself acknowledge that I have post traumatic shock after the year of so many things going wrong and quite simply if Russ got hurt I would be wrecked.  So after Russ said, “back up, just back up” and we had come to a stop, I said, “Russ, I am not doing so good,” not entirely holding back my tears.    Russ offered to take me back to my truck, I could go home.  I didn’t want to abandon him though.  Mercifully that was when it seemed like we could let these two figure it out.  We had drawn them out to the centre of the pasture, away from fence lines, maybe with some time for the brain to make some connections both of them would realize that they need each other.  

I found it ironic that all this happened with our cow named Pray, because in the midst of all these shenanigans my best possibility for help was God.  The thing is after seeing some of the big problems in my life not fixed by prayer I come to moments like this so confused, so needful but so confused.  What I am working from right now is that prayer is about relationship with God, investing myself in my friendship with God, letting God in and drawing the strength that my friend has to share with me, its not about telling God what to do, but sharing myself.  So observing the action at the third fence line, watching the dance with baited breath, I just repeated over and over again what I wanted, letting my friend know what my end goal was, what the need of my heart was, but trying not to be bossy about how it would happen.  I want my husband to be safe.  I want my animals to be safe.  After repeating that several times I got a bit practical.  If this circus was going to end it would be because that cow settled into her maternal identity and allowed her calf to feel safe.  So I told God how I wanted that for her.  This point in my prayer/conversation is about the time I got the call to go hide behind the hill.  And then it seemed, that at least for then, things were moving in the right direction.  I was so thankful.  Sitting here now, its 5:45pm and I have no idea what has happened since.  Perhaps no news is good news. 

I didn’t mean for this to be so long.  Thanks for sticking it out with me.  Lets hope the rest of the heifers offer a slightly more straight forward experience.  You probably don’t want to read this kind of a exposé arising from the names of some of the heifers yet to calve🙄😬😉.

The Dog Days of Spring

My larger goal with my blog is to keep things very real.  I can’t imagine what benefit there would be to projecting this message, “we sure have our sh*t together.” We don’t.  Today that means nothing dark to report thankfully, just life.  

Our dogs are a huge and constant source of joy, having said that they cost me. Last night around 2:30am I was wakened by our outside dog, she was defending our yard from coyotes (I think), her barks were quite ferocious and Coffee responded from the dog room and joined in.  That’s a lot.  I was awake.  I could not go back to sleep for three hours. Now I am so whooped I am almost useless, so why not write a blog about it eh?  Its 6:50pm, I think the guys will be working for another hour but I am tired so I am unusually hungry.  I am generally trying to eat low carb but I just polished off a large bowl of leftover perogies.  Its one of those days.   Back to the dogs…….I was just rounding the counter when I started to trip over a noisy thing on the floor but ended up just kicking it.  I thought it was a dogbone.  No, not that pretty.  Coffee had brought in a donkey hoof trimming from the ferrier’s recent visit.  A couple friends with donkeys brought them over to meet with the ferrier. We had souvenirs. True confession here……..I have a regular appointment with a cleaning woman.  Every second Tuesday she is here.  I’ll be honest, I feel guilty about this.  It’s a serious indulgence especially now that I am not working outside the home.  It needs to be in place until I dig myself out from the pileup that happened when I was committed to too much.  Maybe I will always give myself this treat.  For one thing, it frees me up to have company without worrying about the state of the house, at least not as much as I used to.  (I am operating under the belief that the day will return when once again our house holds regular company).   Anyways, today was Joanna’s day to be here and two hours after her departure I have a horse hoof on my kitchen floor.  If I used hashtags this would be the spot to place a #ranchwifelife.  

This donkey hoof is not as gross as it looks.

As I write this Coffee is playing with the water dish.  Its quite large and holds a lot of water and it can create a flood when she gets going, and I should be disciplining her, but here I sit.  And this is the spot for a hashtag including these words…. if I ignore it will it go away?    I always try hard to have the house clutter free before Joanna gets here, I can achieve that in places, but never in the 3 years I have had Tiki Cleaning coming here have I ever been truly ready in the whole house.  Todays victory was slim, the kitchen was almost perfect by the time she got to it (better than it has looked in weeks and now even better after her handiwork).  

The scene where, believe it or not, clutter has been reduced.

Back to the dogs…….this morning Coffee had another set of puppy vaccinations.  She rolled into the vet clinic like a beast on fire.  She was so excited by the bird in the lobby and being out and hearing other dogs and she made her presence known.  As I was holding her for the early part of the exam I quietly urged her, “okay Coffee, now show these women your best self, you can do it Coffee!” Then I explained to Coffee that they were used to our old dog Foxy, a sweet and quiet Chihuahua, she needed to be like Foxy. There is nothing like negative comparisons to guide behaviour…..not my best moment, but really I was just trying to be funny. I was kind’ve embarrassed by her huge presence, her 15 kg was coming off as 50.   The trip home was a bit outrageous.  I had groceries in the back and Coffee was super reactive to vehicles we crossed paths with.  Its like she thought she would chase them off so she would throw herself at the back window each time one went by.  I thought she was going to give herself brain damage.  After the third time it happened with no sign of it abating I roared.  When I have mentioned my grouch factor before many people have said to me, “YOU….grouchy?  I can’t imagine it.”   I wish you could have been there.  You would have believed it.  She was driving me nuts and I was sleep deprived after all!  Despite making myself hoarse after shouting her name only a few times, nothing changed.  I pulled over onto the highway shoulder, got her on my lap and held on for dear life.  She was perfect the whole rest of the way home, best pals, only damage was the wet mark on my pants from her slobbering on me.  Earlier in the ride I had resigned myself to the thought that I had likely ruined 6 dollars worth of bread by letting Coffee near the groceries in the state she was in.  It turned out the bread was perfect.  It was the tortilla chips that died, I see a taco salad in our future.

In other news it has been a record setting day on the ranch.  According to the names Russell is sending my way we have had 22 calves today and glory be, none of them needed me.  There are some noteable ones for sure.  We started the day relieved that Canada had safely calved and birthed herself almost a mini me.  She is red and white so she earned her nametag.  Later in the day another special red and white cow gave us a calf. Here she is…..

This is Mrs. Claus, she had just birthed her own mini me.

 The heifers were really busy today too, emotion, fidelity and lust all calved.  (Story behind these weird names in the blog post called “Love Me Tender”).   One of the later ones today is “Abba.”  

“ABBA” with her new calf. We love the music of ABBA at our house.

The sun is shining, the wind is low, the air is warm, it’s been an especially beautiful prairie spring day.  A great day to have 22 calves.  Now I am going to leave this and go work on supper.  I am hoping for a super inspired finishing thought.  Maybe it will happen.  Maybe it won’t.

As I finish I am not super comfortable with this post.  I am not really used to being so scattered and off the cuff, and maybe, like having a cleaning lady, feel a little guilty.  Guilty for highlighting a bunch of passing details in a light hearted way.  Life around us is serious, am I being irresponsible to turn my back on all the deep need in the world?  Maybe its okay to appear to ignore the hard stuff for a bit.  Maybe a day where the sun is shining and the air is still and the dogs are acting crazy and a cow named lust is calving, maybe that’s a good day to embrace that line in the 23rd Psalm I talked about a couple days ago…“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”  We are allowed to take a break and rest and let others help us and maybe try something different, something light and fun.  Maybe despite being sleep deprived we can find ourselves saying, through all the craziness, “he restores my soul.”  May that be so.

Deb Diagnoses a Dilemma

I thought I would share the story of how this blog came to be. A couple years ago a friend of mine (Deb) said “Kathy I think there’s a Blog in you dying to come out.” She might have been right at the time, I think she was, but there was no way I wanted to think about starting something at that point, I had a lot going on. Fast forward to this set of months we have been living. Its been hard and the writing and sharing I have usually done on Facebook just didn’t seem a good fit for me anymore. At the same time, maybe as part of my healing from grief and burnout, I started to have some dreams. They were slightly odd but they were helpful and I started to feel better. Then almost a month ago I had a dream about my grade 3 teacher. She was a good teacher and I had liked her very much. I was really pleased when at some point in the 1990s I came across her while she was doing some volunteer work in Saskatoon, she was retired, healthy and she remembered me. Now its 2021, and when I woke up from that dream that included her I thought to myself, “I need to see if she is still alive.” I picked up my phone and I put in her name. I was thankful not to have an obituary come up. Instead what came was a link to a blog. It was her nieces blog, the story I was directed to included a picture and a little bit about her, it was quite recent. I looked around at the blog and enjoyed it and I thought to myself “I need to ask this woman about blogging!” I found her email on her page and I sent her a message. I included the top two questions that I had. I also was able to get the address for her aunt and get a letter ready to send her, she is 98 years old now. It was awesome to receive Marylou’s reply. She said that one of the top benefits of blogging for her was the way it allowed her to connect with people from a variety of places. That gave me goosebumps. I decided to go for it, started getting set up and then did the launch a couple weeks ago. It has been a good experience for sure and different from Facebook which I seemed to need. As I think about what has unfolded I can’t help but think about the fact that my grade 3 teacher, who likely was among the first to work with me on things like sentence structure, has indirectly given me something at this late stage in the game. She is 98 and I am 52 and still her legacy, the impression she made on me, something, was stirring in me to make me dream about her. That led to contact with MaryLou and the courage/the push to consider doing this thing which i am really enjoying. I think that’s really neat. I wonder what it was about our connection that prompted that dream that night. Maybe the truth is, our teachers are never really done with us.

My school photo from the year I was in grade 3. The day this picture was taken I’m sure I spent hours with Miss Schmidt.
This strikes me as especially true after the experiences with Miss Schmidt.
Switching back to ranch life….A different kind of couple picture I caught yesterday.
I was on duty to check the heifers a couple times today. There were more births among them today, one of them is pictured here. A few days ago I wrote about the tag theme for this group, they are all words that are part of a strong relationship, the heifers birthing today were “Romance” and “Warm.”
“Cuddle” is holding on, but looking pretty rounded. 16 calves were born today, no big troubles, “Canada” is looking like she is ready to birth….maybe by tomorrow. She had trouble last year so we are watching especially closely.

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 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.