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.