A Love Story

When I was 6 my family loaded up our tent trailer, station wagon, our stuff and my beloved Nanny and we hit the trail. Taking advantage of my Dad’s holiday from being a school principal we headed east.  That meant time with family in Montreal enroute to the Maritimes.  Our destination was Springhill where my Nanny had her childhood, our accommodation was 11 km away where we parked our trailer beside a small white house with a big yard at Mapleton, Nova Scotia.   I remember very little about that holiday, but I remember meeting Logan.  He was my Nanny’s cousin, he was 73, and he taught me how to pick beans.  I really liked him. 

9 years later I would take my first plane ride. Part of our family flew to Halifax where my Dad had a conference.   Nanny came with us again. After Dad’s conference we headed to Mapleton where we visited Logan and his family once more.

My Nanny and I in front, my sister Jan beside me, visiting with the Nova Scotia family. My mouth was still swollen from jaw re-alignment surgery I had a couple months before.
The visit included lots of music. Logan was very talented as you can see here.
Bertha serves a family favorite, Maple Cream, made from sap harvested in the family sugar woods.

Logan’s wife Bertha was so kind to us.  I loved how I felt while there.  They entertained the family from around the district and some connections were forged. 

Seven years later I took French immersion on the south shore of Nova Scotia.  I lived in a dorm there for five weeks.  I tried poutine for the first time, it was presented as a must try Acadian dish.  I was hooked ….but back to the story.

I could not leave Nova Scotia without visiting Logan and Bertha.  I don’t remember how I got from Point de l’Eglise on the south shore to Mapleton but I do remember how sad I was when it was time to leave.  There was no Disney level excitement happening, it was better than that.  I felt so safe, so cherished, so relaxed, so cared for, so…..at home.  The difference was that at this home I had a Grandpa type guy in my life,  that was a novelty for me.  I loved that.  I loved Logan and I loved Bertha for who she was and how she welcomed me in their world.  During this visit I would make a memorable connection with Norene, their daughter, 8 years older than me. 

The next summer I was back.  I was on tour with Up With People and our cast was in Maine.  I couldn’t bear that I was so close to Bertha and Logan but couldn’t see them.  I asked for special permission to leave the cast for a few days, I rented a car and headed to Mapleton.  It was another special time.  I needed it.  My brother had been given a brain cancer diagnosis and died in the year since I had last visited.  Up With People was amazing but hard hard work.  Logan and Bertha were sanctuary. 

My 1991 visit, standing with Logan and his sister Beulah.

It would be seven years before I saw them again.  An airline strike in ’98 had the airlines scrambling to redeem their reputation and offering great deals on flights.  My Mom and I were caring for my Dad at home, his dementia was advancing.   We got a respite bed in a nursing home for him, I took a week off of my final year of seminary, we recruited my Mom’s sister and the three of us headed back to Mapleton.  Logan was 97 by then, starting to falter, but we sat together in his pipe smoking porch and talked.  Bertha wove her magic and we had another great visit, more time seeing the sights and visiting with the extended family.  

in 1998 – my Mom at the piano, Logan beside her, Cecil in the front. We loved being able to join in the music.

Then I graduated, got ordained, moved to Gainsborough, met Russell, got married, had three kids, and started to become a rancher.  There was no time or money for airplane trips.  That was okay.  The kids were fun and we made lots of trips back to Saskatoon. It was how it needed to be.

Last Wednesday Russ and I boarded a 5am flight in Winnipeg after a brief sleep in the airport parking lot and a 3am check-in.  At 1:15pm we landed in Halifax.  I am embarrassed when I think about the words that flew through my head as the wheels touched down.  I said to myself, “I’m home.”  It’s embarrassing because it makes no sense really, but for what it’s worth those were the spontaneous words that touchdown brought out of me.

We are on the plane home now, suspended somewhere between Toronto and Winnipeg. We had a wonderful but busy week.

Sadly, Logan and Bertha are both gone now.  We got to visit their grave and drove by their beautiful home where their grandson now lives.

We drove to the Northumberland shore where Russ met cousin Norene (Logan and Bertha’s daughter) for the first time and we both met her husband Brian at their cottage.  We walked the beach, talked, picked sea glass and savored the ocean. 

Thru the day Norene and I got to talk about many things, including Bertha’s time of dying, it was good for me. 

Time together in their gorgeous cottage.

We drove to Parrsboro where we met my Nanny’s cousin’s daughter in law Carol for lunch.  Russ and I had spent time with her and her husband Cecil in Saskatoon 21 years ago.

2001 – My sister Jan and I beside Cecil, Russ and my Mom beside Carol.
21 years later, Carol explaining a little bit about the tides at Parrsboro
I think Russ felt very cherished by Carol.

Thanks to Facebook Carol and I have been in close touch for years, she calls me dearie in her comments and I savor that.  Carol organized extra visits for us so we met family we had never met before and got tours of the most amazing farm and the sugar woods.  It wasn’t Logan and Bertha’s old sugar woods but it was close by. 

Gary, one of our extended family (Nanny’s cousins boy), is an expert in berry farming and consults closely with Millen Farms, his niece’s family business. He toured us around their amazing operation which includes pork, chicken, beef, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb, turnips, corn. They supply much of the berries found in the east coast Costco stores. We had such an interesting morning.
A field full of strawberry plants, one of many.
Russ got to work for a minute in the sugar woods, taking the tap out of this tree and binding it up.
Harold teaching us about tapping locations.
The sugar woods were stunningly beautiful.
I took this selfie in the sugar woods. When I looked at it, I felt like I looked at peace. I felt that way.

A very wow moment was when I sat down directly across from Gloria, meeting her for the first time I saw a clear and striking resemblance to my Nanny.  Gloria is my Nanny’s cousin’s daughter, genetics are really something.  

Carol, Gloria and I

We had four days in Nova Scotia that didn’t arise from my family connections.  They hold other stories that will wait to be told.

I titled this blog “A Love Story” because I feel like somehow it captures the powerful reality of attachment to a place, the reality of family ties and shared family stories and the mysterious way that some people just put down roots in your heart and they can’t be removed, not that you would want them to be.

In a way page 1 of this particular love story happened in 1913, when Nanny first breathed the Springhill air.  It got more interesting for me in 1974 when my feet first settled on Nova Scotia soil and I started to forge my own plot line.  What a treat to review it all today, 35,000 feet in the air, and realize anew how blessed I am.  Paul writes in the Christian Scriptures that love never ends.  I believe him.

Addendum: As I polish this up and add pictures, five days after writing it, I am very aware of the turmoil in Nova Scotia right now. Hurricane Fiona has wreaked havoc, especially around the area where we visited the big farm. Over the last few days our hearts have been so tenderized by the concern we feel for our people there and what they are going through. Love never ends and it keeps our hearts on edge and maybe thats the way its supposed to be.

Sunday morning Coffee

Good morning,

Come on in and have a seat, its been a whirlwind around here so if we sit at the table I will have to shake the crumbs off the tablecloth and if we sit at the counter there will be some clearing to be done before I can relax. But come on in. There is lots to tell you, but before I start, how are you?

Exciting news around here is that we got wifi hooked up this week. The Bayliss ranch is on the information superhighway at long last and it feels good. Russell loves not waiting for facebook comments to load, I love youtube videos loading with out lagging, I think the kids are enjoying some streaming shows. The best though………the day it was installed Gina phoned from Montreal. She was checking in and as has happened so much lately, our cell phone signal faltered and the inevitable started, “Mom, I didn’t catch that…..Mom, I can’t hear you…..Mom?” Then we clued in, we have wifi we could have a Messenger Video call!!!! It worked, we chatted while seeing each other’s faces and expressions, I worked in the kitchen the whole time, Gina got a glimpse of home and then Russ came in and he finished the call. It made me miss her more to see her face but at the same time, the seamless call was so very enjoyable and heartwarming. Thanks to all the facebook comments on my post a couple weeks ago that led to us learning that DMS would be able to serve us.

I had a really interesting week but it was hard too. I got to be a minister again, the dates and events kind’ve piled up on each other and it meant I was in get ready and then lead mode many times. It was practically a bit frazzling and emotionally there was a drain too, as always there were rewards.

I was asked to conduct the wedding of my singing partner’s sister which happened last Saturday. It occurred on the side of a lake in Manitoba and required special permission and arrangements with church and government in Manitoba. I am only licensed to preside in Saskatchewan. Official processes like that make me nervous, but you take the steps and do it. Now that its over its easy to discern some beautiful gifts of the whole experience. The church people in Manitoba were super easy to work with and did the hard stuff with government, the local church at Killarney was kind. That went smooth as silk, no need to be nervous. Working with the bride and groom was a total treat. There was so little anxiety about details it meant we were focused on the heart of the matter. As an added bonus Caley was one of those people with an over the top sense of humor and I basked in her presence, she brings out the goof in me. Humor like hers is a serious gift to experience. Russ and I were enfolded in the family there like we were their own. For a variety of reasons we have not had time with our families lately. It felt wonderful to be so welcomed, but more than that, to be enfolded. You don’t expect that when you say yes to doing a wedding. The way Bill and Caley had everything set up I didn’t just conduct a wedding but Russ and I had a summer experience. We slept in an air bnb beside the lake, we danced under the night sky, we went on a boat ride and enjoyed an amazing meal. Our hay situation was delayed due to a breakdown so the 24 hours that Russ stole away didn’t even cause any guilt. It was a lovely break.

By the time I got home I had 24 hours to prepare a funeral for a beautiful 101 year old woman. That created focus and pressure of course, but it was a heartwarming experience too. The highlight of that, besides dwelling with such a rich story as 101 years of love and kindness, was the teamwork. I love teamwork but I am terrible at initiating it. The accompanist, funeral director and UCW crew and I have alot of history. The work had a definite feel of “we like each other and together we got this.”

I had a couple of days off before the next funeral. Our minister was on her summer holiday and I had agreed to fill in for these. That one felt scary at times during the preparation. That funeral had been scheduled for a while and the planning meeting was 8 days before the service. With so much happening inbetween the vividness of what I had learned at the meeting was not top of mind like it usually is, so I procrastinated and felt dull. At times like that I can only find the courage I need through prayer. I feel that my prayers were answered, when I woke up on Thursday morning I had a sermon theme present itself and I had time to write it up. The woman we remembered on Thursday had a remarkable life. Her courage was crucial to her success. I had this phrase come to me in preparation, “its like she knew that what she had within her was greater than the challenge that was before her.” The sermon probed what was in her. It ended up being one of those sermons that I need for myself and I have found myself thinking back to the points within it for my own benefit.

The experience of being in front of others was not over. Russ and I joined Erin’s family for a second weekend in a row when Erin, Russ and I ventured to Kenton, Manitoba yesterday to sing at Erin’s cousin’s wedding. I should clarify, Erin and I sang, Russ shared his muscles and himself. Erin has an impressive amount of sound gear that Russell really hefted for us, Erin and I are both dealing with lifting limits. It has not been a good week for getting hay cut so it was another day when Russ was free to roam without guilt.

Its always fun to sing, Erin and I have a good harmony thing, but added to that was the goodness of being welcomed by strangers and getting to meet kind and interesting people and seeing Erin’s family again so soon. We discovered something at the wedding. There was the most amazing display of donuts, under a caption “Holy Matrimony”….it took me a while to get the connection between the sign and the donuts. The wedded couple apparently love donuts and puns. Well. People. The donuts were to die for and were made in Souris, Manitoba. Russell and I are considering a roadtrip there today just to buy some. Wait, Russ is in the hayfield again now and its Sunday, but seriously, I have never in my life eaten an apple fritter like I was gifted with last night. Just this week I learned that a friend from my Up With People cast has lived in Brandon for years and I didn’t know it. Now I find out about these donuts in Souris. I will be in Brandon, via Souris, before long, count on it!

Well, my goodness, this is long enough it seems. However, a quick check in about the ranch. Its a pretty darn good summer here so far. The only serious stress we have been reckoning with is equipment breakdown. That is hard for a variety of reasons. We are pleased with our yield, and more than that feel grateful beyond measure for the rebound we are seeing from last year. Jill and I have been making some miles as we have each driven to Redvers and Oxbow for parts several times this week. Jill has also been in charge of tending to a wound on a horse, a daily flushing treatment is her job, as well as checking the last of the calving cows, we have just one left, when William calves we are done! Morgan is not getting much of a break, he is hard at it raking hay and training horses. He is doing well. Gina is part way through her intermediate level certification in stage combat in Montreal. She is doing well.

One of the parts trips I made this week I asked Grandma Shirley if she wanted to hop in. Off to Redvers we went and got a visit in and a look at the crops. It was fun. Grandma Shirley is incredibly special to me, I was therefore excited to see her making her way to the funeral on Monday. I parked, hopped out and hurried to catch up with her. I was so moved by the sight of her being her that I grabbed this picture. I showed it to her a few days later and just called her to ask her permission to use it here. I don’t think she really gets the idea of a blog but did agree to me sharing it. The picture is a good conclusion to the blog and its threads of upholding older women, celebrating life and love and being embraced by family, even when they aren’t your own. Grandma Shirley adopted us and we her and we are thankful.

Day 40 – Calving Season 2022 – Boy do we need each other!

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.

The setting for the weekend was that Jill and I were away in Victoria to see our girl Gina in Shrek the Musical.

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.

After getting cows checked with the Saskatoon visitors, get calves up to suck and grab cookies for supper there was a mad rush to get to Carnduff to share in Gina’s debut with Shrek via the livestream, gathered in Laurie’s basement in Carnduff where the wi-fi is strong and Dawson could be the tech guru that got everything set. There was a big crew gathered at the Tiki Bar/Pool room/TV area, and it was a darn sad deal when the livestream didn’t transmit. That same performance will be streamed again this coming weekend so I will watch it with them and it best work.
The next morning my brother in law Gary worked as lead and a crew, including Morgan and my nephew Seth replaced some siding on Ron’s house. The storm damage has been a problem for months now, and my weakness with following up on paperwork outside my comfort zone was part of the problem. In the end, we realized the effect on our premium of making an insurance claim made it not worth it. We would get it done outside of insurance coverage. We were blessed to be able to have Gary’s expertise and Seth’s woodworking skills on the job. Its all fixed!!!
Meanwhile, cousin Jen and Emerson were down from Regina for the weekend. Jen is capable in so many ways, on horseback they helped Russ and Morgan with calving checks and getting cow calf pairs sorted out and into their spring pasture. (Russ was also especially grateful for Jen’s skill wiht drying dishes. With our dishwasher out of commission and six mouths to feed Russ spearheaded alot of dishpit time.)
Russ had quite a group working with him. I have to commend my nephew Seth who is not a horse lover by nature but rises to the challenge at the ranch. I am not a horseback riding natural, I appreciate that its kindve a big deal to climb into that saddle. (
With the siding on Ron’s house fixed the guys moved onto the next challenge. The ferocous wind in one of our April storms blew three 16 foot sections of wind block fencing down. With great team effort they got it reassembled and back in place.
Meanwhile back in Victoria, there was a different kind of team work happening. We were “team Gina”, 9 of her family gathered to attend the 2nd evening performance, we were from Vancouver, Nanaimo, Saskatoon and Carnduff. Thanks to my sister Jan we had a team toque, we had so much fun and Gina wowed her aunties and cousins. This picture was grabbed after the show. Forty eight hours later Gina is still struggling to get the green tinge from her skin.

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.

The day was long for the home crew. The cowboy cottage was in for repairs. We have special guests arriving soon and our leaking chimney is not conducive to good sleep. We needed Gary yet again. Meanwhile, it was evening and Laurie and Dawson were free to come out. It was a great roof repair crew. I think there are 4 different stories at once in this picture. Gary is face down working on the roof, there is beer drinking, bareback horse riding and Emerson is on the move.
The view on the roof. Thats Russ who now feels really good about the leak proof status of the ceiling.
By the time the evening was over we had a friend in using our shop for a tire repair and he and his daughter joined the shenanigans. Jen had made a late night batch of bannock and it looks like Russ was telling an amusing story in this picture. With minutes to go before midnight they sang Happy Birthday to Gary, it was almost his day.
Our favorite breakfast restaurant recharged the crew the next morning. Fed like kings yet again by the wonderful people there.

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.

Can you figure out what Russell’s last text translates to?
My sisters and I got to be together on the eve of Mother’s Day. A special memory.

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……

It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a big circle to keep our ranch afloat.

We need each other.

You must be…..

My Dad was a memorable character in Saskatoon.  He was 6’6″, a school teacher and administrator, he had a beautiful bass singing voice and a heart for underdogs.  He acted in summer musicals.  He served on alot of boards and committees.  He was well known.  I was proud to be his daughter but as a young adult making my way in life I reckoned with living within the shadow of his identity.  

A backstage photo from his appearance as “Bill Sykes” in the musical “Oliver.”
I am not sure which school this was, I would guess Estey School, but Dad is in the centre, the principal.
Dad had a big presence and an ease in public speaking.
Dad was very naturally affectionate which increased his impact even more.

I was reminded of living within his shadow after I posted a video on Facebook last weekend. It was of my daughter Jillian singing “O Canada” for the opening of two big hockey games.  She did a really nice job and I was proud of her. 

Jill giving it her all, with that microphone her clear voice brought warmth and solemn dignity to us all.
It was a provincial play-off game, the flags in combination with the anthem created a grounding moment.

The responses to the posted video were overwhelming to her and I.  She received plentiful and beautiful affirmation.  The most common refrain was “you sound so much like your Mom!”

The feedback is a wonderful thing and especially for a young woman on the verge of launching into the world.  She is blessed by such supportive people.  However, I found myself saying to her, “oh I’m sorry Jill.”

That’s a curious reply isn’t it?  Weird.  Out of place. 

Here is the background.  At exactly this time of year in 1994 the winter Olympics were happening.  Some of you will remember the figure skater named Nancy Kerrigan.  Events of those Olympics have given her name long lasting recognition in addition to the fact that she represented the U.S. as one of their top skaters. 

Back to Saskatoon…..

In winter 1994 I was 25 years old and in my first year at Seminary.  I was shopping at the Safeway (in Cumberland Square….if you want to picture this vividly and you are a Saskatonian).  I was wearing a full length navy blue wool coat, quite a sleek look, and my hair was pulled back, also quite a sleek look.  I was shopping for bananas when out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman moving towards me and settling in right beside me.  She had moved with purpose.   I was curious but didn’t need to be for long, she began to speak, “you must be….”  In my head I finished the sentence for her “You must be….Wayne Kyle’s daughter.”   But that is not what she said, instead I heard, “you must be Nancy Kerrigan’s sister!”  I assured her I was not, but I am sure I remember her saying “really!?!” 

That was one of the weird, random and hilarious moments of my life.  I wonder if that lady had considered the likelihood of a U.S. figure skater’s family member hanging out in Saskatoon during the Olympics or whether she had just turned off her tv and whipped in for some groceries with Nancy Kerrigan’s face fresh in her mind.

Nancy Kerrigan. An image I found in a google search.
A picture of me right around the same time.

Whether we even look much alike or not I took from that moment a realization.  The way I finished that ladies sentence for her allowed me to see clearly that I was used to being known for who I was related to not for who I was, and I was 25 years old.

That is why I said sorry to Jill. I know what work it is to carve out your own identity, and moreso when your parents are well known. Between Russell’s history here and generous personality and my ministry and music, in this small area we have become known. I think as humans we delight in finding the connections between people, the similarities in look, mannerism or talent that move through the generations. Is it reassurance that things we value live on? It has seemed delightful for people to make the connection between my voice and Jill’s, so Jill will work out her own unique presence with this as a part of the background. It’s something to reckon with. I think maybe thats why my unthinking response was, “I’m sorry.”

How do any of us establish an identity that arises from our own unique selves and experiences?  It strikes me that it starts to emerge and grow as we throw ourselves into the life that we seek and the opportunities we are able to embrace.    Decision by decision, effort by effort, success by success (hopefully) we become known for that unique presence we bring to the world. 

Perhaps that whole process has been turned on its head by social media, giving people a chance to be recognized far and wide for the public persona we choose to put forward.  But do our ventures with social media allow us to feel truly seen and known? 

Back to the Carnduff rink….

Jill was asked to sing again this past Sunday, she said yes, so for the 3rd time in 8 days she put herself out there (for a game that our Red Devils went on to win 10-1, taking the series!)  Perhaps there is a shortage of willing singers that has created this set of openings for Jill.  However her willingness and strong voice are giving her opportunity, the building blocks of her own identity.  It won’t be easy separating herself around here from the connection of being “Russell and Kathy’s daughter.”   But on the other hand it honestly feels like only a matter of time before we are known somewhere else in the world as “Jill’s parents”.

Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe we are strongest when our identity is a mixture of what we can do and who we belong to, and it seems amazing when those strands of belonging come from our past and extend into the future as we become a part of new generations.

Today in the background I am always Wayne and Georgie’s daughter. However, as I stand at the fruit counter at the Co-op, making my choices, it is very likely my status as Russell Bayliss’s wife that will cause someone to draw close to me out of the blue, but instead of telling me I look like an Oympian I will hear, “how are those cows doing?” I will sit in an audience soon, perhaps with tears in my eyes, absorbed with being “Gina Bayliss’s Mom”, she is thriving at theater school. I will fluff a skirt and scramble to oversee a graduation celebratory meal as my beautiful anthem singer graduates in a few months. I am watching in awe as I see in my son, Morgan Kyle Rain Bayliss, the genetic threads of two family trees come together and I know my miraculous body has allowed this opportunity. I live all this within the shelter and the challenge of knowing life as a follower of Jesus Christ. That opportunity ties all the pieces together for me, I have one job, to love and be loved.

Still Here

It has been a long time since I wrote anything on the blog. I have no way of explaining that except maybe I am a little more private than I thought I was.

Without a doubt life has been ticking along here at the ranch. Our crew and our cows have persevered through some devastatingly cold conditions. Having called them devastating conditions it seems important to affirm that in fact we had no losses from the cold, except that our cows had trouble keeping weight on. We believed that we were giving them good quality feed but still they were dropping pounds. We tested for worms. That wasn’t the problem. It was just the cold and as soon as the weather shifted upwards the cows started to bounce back. There is a significant amount of stress that goes with this. One of the worries is whether feed supplies will hold out. We budgeted our bale supply for a typical winter but this winter has required more food than average due to the cold. When its cold the cows eat more to keep their inner furnace producing heat.

We got into something new this week, in response to this worry about feed lasting through the winter. We got the chance to do a little alchemy. That is a word I connect to the Muppets. When the kids were little we had a VHS tape of the Muppets recreating classic fairytales. It was really memorable when Gonzo did his thing as Rumpelstiltskin and turned straw into gold to rescue Miss Piggy, for a fee. I really loved that VHS tape back when being Gina and Jill’s Mom gave me permission to be a kid again. Anyways, the alchemy we were a part of was turning straw bales into nourishing food. If you have not had time on a farm you might not know that straw is usually used for bedding and hay is used for food. Straw is the stalks that grain grows on and hay may be comprised of a variety of grasses. Straw has bulk and roughage but not much nutrition. However, we had the chance to have a man come with a fancy machine and inject a nutritious mixture into 100 straw bales. The mixture was mostly molasses and offers 14% protein content, making them edible and somewhat nourishing. We have started introducing these bales into our feed rotation. At this point they are not a favorite item on the menu but are getting eaten and allowing the feed to last just a little longer. Surprisingly this process was not that expensive, as farm expenses go. There are years when having feed for cows is like possessing gold, this year with our severe drought its one of them, so making straw viable as a food source is a little like the fairytale alchemy I remember.

Russ had the bales all set out ready for the injection. They lined the driveway north making quite a tidy road.
The injection paddle with nozzles to deliver the solution.
Some of the molasses mix spilled on the snow. Russ tried it. He decided it was kindv’e salty and he was glad he didn’t have to live on it. It definitely wasn’t the maple syrup on snow we know about.

Another way we have extended our feed supply is by purchasing grain pellets for the cows. We were able to find a source for these, which was not straightforward. The place that was reccomended to us flat out refused to talk to us because we are not already customers. We did get lined up with a good option though and the price was better than we thought it might be. A load cost us $12,500 and Monday a 2nd load is being delivered. Those kinds of figures amaze me. How does a ranch sustain these kinds of extra costs? Well……part of it is strategic decision making. Like this……..We usually buy oats for our calves and get them ready for market by supplementing their feed this way. This year the price per bushel of oats has about tripled. We made a strategic decision not to feed them oats, to do some leftover grain and some barley for supplemental feed and see how they would fare on that with hay. They were not as bulked up as usual but did okay. The term that goes with this is that it didn’t “pencil out” to feed them 9$/bushel oats. So perhaps we saved a bit there. The true saving grace when having extra feed expenses is that our provincial government offered ranchers drought relief. There is lots of talk about how terrible government is. I don’t negate anyone’s position, there is a reason for everything everyone says. However our experience is that in this terribly scary and hard time of maintaining a herd of cows we have felt seen by our government. Our work creating food feels valued and our need to have sustainability affirmed. There is support that will make it possible to carry on. We are incredibly grateful.

Russ took this picture of that first load of grain pellets being delivered.
We use a trip feeder to dispense the pellets. Small piles get dropped, Russ makes a big loop with the truck and trip feeder and everyone gets access to a pile.
The cows love it and move in quick.
Just a picturesque shot of our girls.

One other big part of this season of ranch life is snow. Wow we have had snow and our entire province seems to have been blanketed with it. It has meant so much extra work but it has also translated to hope. The extra work comes from managing the snow, moving it to create paths to get feed to animals and keep yards clear. Then moving it again when the wind rearranges it. We seem to have had lots of wind. The hope comes from the knowledge that this spring there should be some run-off, we begin to envision dugouts with some water in them. This is so major. We need the hope as much as we need the water.

Russ has created lots of piles like this as he has worked to keep the yard clear and fully usable.
Russ has a secret weapon. It is his snow bucket. After the tremendous snow of 16-17 he commissioned a welder to create this 10 foot wide bucket. It makes him more efficient.
Nothing exciting here but gives a feel for the snow and dog action of Russell’s days.
Bingo oversees movement through the snow road that she and Russ created to get feed to the main herd. I say it like this because Russ rarely spends time in the skidsteer without Bingo, she insists on it, she witnessed most every bucket of this snow being moved.
A good old fashioned shovel is still our best option when getting close to the house. This day Jill was the boss of it.

The deep snow and deep cold have made life hard on the nature that surrounds us. We have found ourselves hosting some species that are having a hard time getting by. Prairie Chickens, partridges and pheasants are birds that have been taking food and shelter with us. Deer are everywhere. The picture below is typical lately, I counted 35 deer in this picture, Russ says there are 160 within a mile of home, all grazing where any food source remains accessible. The coyotes have been bedding down with the cows, using their bedding and eating their manure as a food source. It seems there are many species including our own that are doing their best to survive in trying times.

When the air is deadly cold, the worries real and big and we are surrounded by snow and tricky roads what sustains us? What sustains you?

I answer my question with the word love. I think about it, in one way or another, all the time. My experiences with it help me live these days. Here are some pictures.

Some of my extended family recently visited. The result was playtime. I am thankful for that.
Our dogs are basically like having more kids and we love them almost as much.
In late January the market was better than we thought it would be and we got to market our heifer calves. I was super thankful for that. Those are our girls in the auction pen.
Gina is busy and challenged and getting to indulge her interest in stage combat this term. She is currently getting through a week with Covid. I am proud of her resilience, she has stayed up amid total isolation and feeling tough. Our chats with her keep our world bigger than the ranch and we love hearing what is perking in her days. She is really growing.
I love being part of this family team.
Family team means many things…..like giving dogs that roll in stinky stuff on melty days a bath, all hands on deck!
Friendship is helping us get through the hard stuff. Miles was over to help with the heifers. We had just made hats to celebrate our ranches working closely together for five years. Our hats have both ranch brands on them.
Morgan keeps the joy bubbling in this house when times are hard. He is really enjoying being on the basketball team at school. That’s him with arms raised.
Appointments in Regina and Estevan this week meant visits with family that warmed my whole heart and a trip to Costco. Russ is very proud of my ability to load a Costco cart so well that the staff have to get us an extra one to get us past the checkout. It happened again this week. The good news….Bingo has a new bed, and as we speak there are chocolate covered Almonds heading to Victoria for Gina.
A completely unnecessary picture, illustrates nothing, but I couldn’t leave it out. Oh Coffee dog…..you are beautiful.

That’s our check in. We are still here!

Saskatoon

Ranch life in the summer is pretty steady hardworking, its just not easy to carve time away from the push and pull of it. It seems that as the years go by getting away is getting harder to do. Having said that last week we stole some time.

It started with a message received Sunday evening………

My sister sent me the text I have included above. She is good to include us in things like this invitation, even when we are so far away and usually quite busy. This captured my imagination. Could we do something rather impetuous and head north? My Vancouver sister was heading back west the day after this party, could we fit in a few hugs and a bit of visiting with her before she left?

The decision was made that the kids and I would go. As we made our final preparations it was like Russ got infected with the memory of being with our Saskatoon family. He decided that if the crop he was working on baling was still too wet, he was coming. As it turned out, his early Thursday morning trek to test the moisture got interrupted by a call that we had cows out. That meant some frustration and a delayed start as we waited for he and Morgan to get the cows back in and then send word about the state of the crop. By this point Russ was so hungry to join us he seemed ready to hunt for the signs of moisture that would shut him down. He did find that it needed more curing time, so off we went just 2.5 hours late and in two vehicles. Russ would return first thing the next morning.

Looking at the invitation I realized this was my parents anniversary, and thinking twice, I realized it would have been their 60th. I thought this was the reason for the get together. It was not the primary motive but while gathered we remembered them.

This is a pretty darn special picture. The four sisters together. On display is Mom and Dad’s wedding album, a cake Jill made, one Jan ordered and plates for serving from my Mom’s good dishes.

Jan was surprised to order a simple cake for the remembering and then find the decorator had created this beautiful tribute. I simply love it.
This is the only picture I have of Russ during his big getaway. It is not a good picture but it is proof that he was there.
The next morning Russ was gone back but the kids and I got a bit more time with Jan and her dog Belle before they headed off and with Linda during a break in her work day. I am so glad that we came. It seems a bit ridiculous to do all that driving for such short visits, but then again, it isn’t.

The kids and I had a full day Friday and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was food, conversation and fun shared with friends and family. Saturday’s pre-departure coffee and breakfast allowed maybe a bit of grief to be healed. We trekked home, back to what life holds here.

We did it. We stole some time and made some memories. No regrets.

We stayed with my sister Margie and her family at their acreage. As I brushed my teeth after the potluck, getting ready for bed, I couldn’t help but be distracted by this sign in their bathroom. It struck me that it contains what feels like a recipe. The first line says what is being created (to be happy), what follows are the ingredients. I got thinking that I would like to do a blog series with stories and ponderings about these things. Maybe I will.

Come for Coffee – If you have time!

Its Saturday morning and I have a bit of time, Saturday morning feels like a time to sit with a cup of coffee in hand for just a bit longer, in my ideal world anyways!

When life is shaped mostly by the rhythms of rural life (versus Covid rhythm) we often have people at our table that we talk to about our cows. Here is what that might sound like if you were hunkered down with a beverage, even if was just hot water, right Donna?

Our spring work is coming along and it is good to get jobs checked off. We are down to about 34 cows left to calve and most others are at their summer pastures. The most notable thing to report about the ranch is that we had a big rain last week, the kind of rain that gives us hope. Prior to that Russ described the conditions as drier than he has ever seen. Now we have hope that dugouts will maybe water cows through the summer, that hay just might grow and that pastures will hold. We shall see. Hope is a powerful thing and that rain delivered it. Calving season has been unusually successful, we have lost very few calves and had lots of twins so most Moms have a baby. Its been quite astounding. It has also meant that our bottle fed calf named “Bob” still has not got his own Mama. We are all getting quite close to our friend through our sharing of bottle duties. I would enjoy showing you this picture if you were here. A glimpse of barn life!

Sandy, you are so curious about Gina. If you were here we might forego the coffee in favor of a bottle of beer! And while here you could ask Gina in person how she has been. She is home for the summer! This was the sight last week when we picked her up from the Regina airport. She landed in a lightening storm, it was with huge relief we saw her plane taxiing up the runway! I have goosebumps writing this.

I recently had a birthday! With Gina’s plane landing late we stayed in Regina overnight and I woke up on my birthday in a hotel with all my kids near. Russ got the day rolling with the celebrating by scheming with the hotel staff to get candles and create this birthday breakfast muffin. I wish that Tara, who lives in Denver, could come for coffee, she has always impressed me with her committment to celebrating birthdays and remembering special days. I think she would be proud of Russell when the stories of this day got told.

I love the silhouettes here and especially how the hats figure into that.
I have 53 years under my belt. I am happy to turn the page on a new year.

My sister Margie has a real goofy side and knows about my enjoyment of Costco, she shares it. I would love having her for coffee and telling her about these silly moments. Maybe anyone who knows Russell can easily imagine them. Our time in Regina was short but a trip to Costco was top priority. We had not been in months and certain items are so great to have. With rain strongly in the forecast we bought a box of industrial garbage bags and bagged everything, including Gina’s luggage. The family work bee to get everything ready in the midst of very heavy winds, get the truck loaded and the carts returned was fun (we were still in the prone to giggle stage of our time away together, the prone to quarrel could have just as easily been at play as we tackled this wrap job which at times was frustrating.) The fun took some typical turns under Russell’s leadership.

And thats a wrap……literally.
We had an extra garbage bag out of the box so Russ and Morg decided to try cart sailing. It went pretty well.
The last big effort of our Regina adventure was the cart race back to the cart barn. I believe that Jill and Russ beat Gina and Morgan by a hair.

We zoomed back to Carnduff and dropped the kids at the rink where all three got their vaccinations. Russ and I went home, checked the cows, put the groceries away and met back up with the kids at Grandma Shirley’s house where she hosted a Chinese Food and Carrot Cake birthday supper. If there is coffee in heaven, and I hope there is, my Mom was possibly spilling hers, out of the sheer thrill she would feel in this vaccine development, also knowing someone was making her girl a great carrot cake.

One of the best gifts of the day…..to go to bed with my kids on their way to being protected from this illness.
Grandma Shirley’s love was a great gift on my birthday.

I am longing for one of those conversations where we dig around in our hearts and talk it out. My cousin and I did the phone version last week, but there is something about the in person version that is best. If you like the dig around in the heart kinds of conversation maybe we would consider the topic I started with Jodi last week. I have been struggling with a sense of doom. I think the dry conditions were a big part of that, but also this is perhaps part of the mental health toll of the pandemic and the hardship, injuries and losses that piled up over the year. I am a woman of faith so to admit that I have a sense of doom feels like a sign of weak faith. I don’t know about that. I just want to be honest. Naming it out loud is maybe part of the process of wrestling with it.

These figurines of my Mom’s remind me of good friendship. They cheered me on in the barn last week.

I really wish I could have my Grandma Kyle come for a cup of tea. She has really been on my mind. Russell has picked me some wild roses from the pastures a couple of times this week. Their scent is so vivid and it is has been a welcome addition to our house where dog related odors have been a bit much this week. The smell of roses reminds me of my Grandma Kyle because she loved all things rose and I quickly am reminded of being back in her home when I smell that rose scent, it was the soap in her bathroom I think. As I worked at my kitchen counter this week, thinking about her, I had something I don’t want to forget come to my mind. It was that to combat my sense of doom I need to broaden my perspective, my Grandma could be a part of that. She lost her first child in infancy, parented her next four children through infancy into teen years while WW2 waged on and then bore her sixth child in the last year of the war. I want to ask her….. What was that like? How did a sense of doom figure into her life? What came about for her after the worst had passed? From my perspective it looked like she lived a long and good life shaped by music, a growing family, much pride in her people and a strong sense of connection to her community and her faith. She had so much to look forward to even as war was waged. Thinking about her inspires me to think that there is much goodness yet to be known and lived and if she could walk through the shadows to get there I can too. Another part of the perspective I seek is my faith. I was reading my Bible that same day I was thinking about my Grandma. One of my favorite chapters invited me to consider Jesus, who endured so much opposition. It made the connection that in considering his experience of opposition, the hearer might not grow weary and not lose heart. What struck me about that was the word “consider”, in other words stop, or at least slow down, and be thoughtful, thought-filled, about those beyond you in space and time, there is more to the story Kathy, and Jesus is part of that, don’t lose heart.

I want to have someone for coffee, I don’t know who, who might talk with me about how weird life is. That on the one hand, in the inner spaces of our days we struggle with things like doom, like anxiety, like confusion and then we put on our outside faces and we go out into the world and we put forth our strong selves, and both things are true. I would tell my coffee partner about how Erin and I had the chance to sing at the farmers market in Oxbow this week. Our first gig since each of us had loss, big loss. We made mistakes, we laughed it off, we enjoyed the time to be with the community and to the outside eye noone would guess that this was a milestone of sorts. We managed to sing one of our really painful songs because Erin is brave. There is one I can’t do yet. We debuted a medley of Bee Gees songs that Erin created and brought a Beatles tune out for the 2nd time, its getting more solid. Its all alot of fun.

I stole a screenshot from the livestream that the Oxbow Arts & Cultural Committee posted of the event.

Gina has been home for a full week now and settled in really well. It has been great to have her home and I admire how she has made the transition from adult living her own big life in a city far away to ranch life under her parents roof. Yesterday we hauled our hot tub west of Estevan for repair (a mistake I made in the cold of January caused inner core damage). It was a road trip for Gina, Russ and I and included a few stops in Estevan. Once we got the tub dropped off it was really fun. Shopping cart antics were again in play, I think its about reclaiming a few minutes of childhood. Russell’s favorite part was when a man looked at our cart which Gina was sitting in and asked him, “what shelf do you find those on?” Russell loves to play and was glad to have someone playing along with their game. He had the chance to quickly reply including these words “my girl is home from university!” It was a good moment. I think this would be the time to have Aunt Karen over for coffee. I think she gets that as much as Russ is a big kid who can play hard, he is wired to be a Dad and bears the weight of the world on his shoulders, and this moment shows how he is keeping it all in balance. She frequently conveys her pride in Russ, she would like to have been there for these moments I think, but a re-telling over coffee would bring some laughs.

I would like to have you over for coffee Arlie, or anyone else who is wondering why I was absent from my blog for so long even when I had a plan for easy posting. After we got a cup of something poured and a bit of chit chat I would have to tell you that I confused myself but I just didn’t feel like blogging. My postcard project, as much as I enjoy it, takes me back to very tender days and I think thats why I just can’t post those as easily as I thought I could. I will get back to that. I have become obsessed with getting life better under control at home. I really mean at my desk. My yard needs lots of love yet. Adding to that my brain was not feeling creative at all, I just didn’t have content bubbling up. Really, I think this is life, things ebb and flow, circumstances shift, our emotions get unruly, we can become rather guarded. And then we wake up one morning, the sun is shining, there seems to be a bit of time, a cup of coffee is calling and you say to yourself, “I think I will go do some blogging.” Being a human is not dull.

Growing

Some fun pictures from this week got me thinking about growth. I think the bottom line is that we are surrounded by growth and we watch with keen eyes for signs of growth. This morning Russ and I were checking the calving cows. At one point he looked over at an area we fenced off last year. Some new trees were coming in after randomly seeding themselves there and Russ wanted to protect them from the cows. This morning he said with alot of excitement, “Look at those new trees!! Just look!” Growth is exciting. My thoughts about growth have a dark underside though. Growth is hard. In some cases growth requires letting go of what was and embracing what is to come, often unknown. That is certainly the case raising teenagers. It is not easy. Many times during this year Morgan and I have had the “who is the tallest?” competition. At first I won, but not anymore, we notice the feeling that he has grown just overnight it seems. While I love seeing the man he is becoming it requires letting go of the boy who has been so much fun to raise.

So what are the pictures that got all this going?

While Dr. Marcel and Megan were with us testing the bulls we had the chance for this photo op. This is not a bull. This is “Moo”, our ox, our boy with a long story and a job to do, but its not to be a bull. He winters with the bulls and so he came through the chute with them for his needles. Moo is a tiny bit of a legend at our place hence the priority of taking the chance for a photo op.
Looking at Moo this week I was reminded of this picture from 2015. That is Moo as a baby and that is Morgan, he was starting the process of making Moo into a 4H steer. This picture is what got me thinking about the reality and the miracle of growth. It is also what got me thinking about the fact that I miss my little kids and the times we had. The stage we are at now is interesting, more interesting than I can bear some days, being with humans who are at such a dynamic stage of growth is literally exciting but it is also expensive in several senses. I worry more, I spend more and I think I have more of a sense of grief within me, born of the fact that life is changing so fast and we are being challenged to keep our hands open to what flows in and what flows out, we hold firmly only to love.
This ox of ours now weighs over 2000 pounds yet he has not forgotten his story among us. He is calm, this picture was taken in the same moment that he gave Russ a bit of a kiss. Moo was never able to take milk from his Mom, she died within hours of giving birth. After that we brought bottles to Moo and a colt whose mother died the same day (that was not a good day on the Bayliss ranch). Those bottles were a thrice daily event all summer and fall long. That colt is now our saddle horse named Cinder. Moo and Cinder had an undeniable interspecies friendship after spending their baby days together.
Jill and Moo a few years ago. The friendship is real and so is the growth.
A completely unrelated picture to the topic at hand. The thing is, these barn cats are so cute and frequently cuddle like this. I am not sure about this, but I think its true, most animals need friends in order to grow and thrive.
A photo that is about new life, so much growth to happen yet in this calf, Russ came across Mr. Howell and her new calf, just seconds old, yesterday morning. He sent me this picture. His commentary that went with it was, “we are in the life business, it just never gets old!”

Reckoning with the dark side of growth, the letting go, the grief, the unknowns of the future, had me thinking about one more thing. That one thing is what our nation is being called to do in the wake of the news coming from the residential school site at Kamloops. We are being called to grow. We might long for a time when things were more straightforward in the storyline we thought we knew about Canada and its aboriginal peoples. We have new information though, or maybe its not new at all, but suddenly what was fuzzy, has been brought into sharp focus and we have vivid evidence of things we do not want to consider and cannot fathom. What we do not want to consider, we must consider, letting that affect our hearts and minds, our understanding, our words and our actions. The way I see it we are being called to grow in compassion which stands in contrast to taking a place of judgment. We might ask, “whats it like to be you?” instead of “whats wrong with you?!?!” We are called to grow in the number and depth of our personal and community acts of solidarity, which right off the top of my head means refusing to repeat or encourage race based humor, humor which relies on stereotypes, which comes at the expense of a whole group of people and amounts to slander. Growth is essential to life, without our hay crop growing we cannot feed our cows. Without our knowledge and understanding growing we risk becoming stagnant and dried up, like a dugout not being fed by underground streams or incoming rains. Growth brings good things, Russ and I cannot lose sight of that as we parent this family of ours through all these stages we are working through. Growth brings good things, can we citizens trust that? Can we trust that as we face with so many mixed feelings the truths we are discovering?

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada. I have said nothing in this post about God or about our Church. Leaving God out of conversations about growth and about residential schools is like leaving the flour out of a batch of bread. I wonder if you can forgive me this omission. I am not sure what I am ready to say and I know for sure that this blog is already long enough and serious enough.

Postcards from the Heart – Day 3

Dear Mom,

I love seeing and hearing the enjoyment you get from all your grandchildren. You have always seen them through eyes of love and been able to overlook their struggles, to see the beautiful people they are. As a Mom that has been a gift to me.

Thank you,

Love,

Kathy

This picture was taken by Liz Griffin Photography as part of Gina’s graduation formals in July 2020.

If you have been following this series so far this is the 3rd family type pic in a row. I promise it will get ranchy soon!

This postcard is the 3rd part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”

Postcards from the Heart – Day 2

Sept 11, 2020

Hi Mom,

Jill, Morgan and I are off to school in 5 minutes. I thought I would slip this in the mail while in town.

Gina is missed in our a.m. routine, things are noticeably less busy. One less breakfast + lunch in the works, also no Gina energy.

This is one of our family pix. Remember our family pix at 2614? Shag carpet, corduroy suits. I wouldn’t have dreamed then that my family pic would one day include a horse and two cowboy hats!

Sending our love today.

K and crew

This picture was taken in July 2020 as part of Gina’s graduation photo shoot by Liz Griffin Photography

This “postcard” is the 2nd part of a 22 blog series arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called “Postcards from the Heart – Part 1.”