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.”

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?

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.