November 20 2021 Ranch News

We are celebrating with Russell today.  He had a big job on his hands and its done.  In July we contracted with a farm family in the Alameda area.  They had a winter crop that was very compromised by last winters unusual conditions, crop insurance was writing it off, would we like to come bale it?  The answer was yes.  The offer was an answer to prayer.  I don’t like bossing God around with my prayers but I do think I am invited to be deeply real with God about what I want and need.  So I had been praying like this, “God, I want to feed and water these cows.”  The feed part of it, thanks to two grain farm families and drought relief support from the provincial government has been addressed for now.  The water part…..well it remains to be seen how that will all pan out.   We move forward.  Anyways…………today Russell hauled the last of the bales home.  We baled 687 bales in early August and they sat until three weeks ago when Russ began bringing them home.   Under normal road conditions it was about a 50 minute trip to get to the field.  He could bring home 18 at a time.  Needless to say he has spent a lot of time on the road!  I have made a few of those trips with him, to keep him company and have some pal time.  Today Jill and I both went, we stopped for brunch in Oxbow, had a coffee with Foster, paid him for the bales and then went and loaded the last load.  Jill then drove the tractor home and I took the victorious last run with Russ.

Russ driving the last load of bales home.
Jill hopping out of the tractor after arriving home, greeted by our pup “Coffee.”

There are a few threads of this story that could be teased out a little bit.  How do you bring home 18 bales at one time when each bale weighs about 1245lbs?  With a flat deck trailer.  We have always had one of these however ours only held 12 bales.  After we made the bale deal with the Warriners Russell did serious pondering about the logistics of getting these bales home.  We began to talk about a bigger flat deck.  A friend of ours scouted out a used one in Estevan, it would be $8000 to bring home.   Jill and I had to be in the city so we got designated as the shoppers for this trailer.  I have to tell you, this ticked me off.  We were so devastated by the drought conditions, we didn’t know how we were going to manage everything, we didn’t yet have word of the support from the government and I was being asked to get used to the idea of spending another 8000 bucks for the privilege of continuing to ranch.  It was with some relief that I had a good look at the trailer and decided it was too rusty for my liking. 

Jill grabbed this picture of me doing that shopping back in the summer.

Whew, 8000 bucks saved, except, we still had that hay to get home.    I am an intensely practical person.  As much as having to shell out more dollars was disturbing me it was also disturbing me to think about the time and gas wasted making one third more trips over that 60 km span.  So…….I percolated as I sometimes do.  Russ gently needled me to do some shopping online.  Before I knew it I was making phone calls and learning the specs of flat deck trailers.   Here is where the sadness of my year of being an orphan gets transformed a tiny bit (I know orphan talk is dramatic and truly inaccurate, but I am giving myself permission to be this way.)  Being an orphan sucks, but my Mom’s estate was dispersed and I had some money to work with.  My Mom loved Russell and found her way clear to celebrate and support the work that we do.   My Mom was also a very practical person.   I came to terms with the possibility that it would make my Mom happy to be able to step in and do something so concrete to lower our stress and increase our efficiency.    So, Mom provided us with a 34 foot flat deck trailer.  In a million years I can’t imagine that she would have predicted part of her legacy on this earth would be a flat deck trailer, but there it is.   So that’s one part of the living through a drought story. 

Home with our new trailer and I got a free hat out of the deal. Russ says these hats and bonus things we get with big purchases are some of the most expensive clothing we have.

I am thinking about another dimension to this.   To give credit where it is due.  I feel like we have a good news story to tell.   That crop we baled was one that when assessed by Crop Insurance was considered borderline. It could have been written off but it was also just about good enough to be considered worth harvesting.  However, the adjuster was encouraged to make his decision about the crop through the lens of this drought and the ranchers in need.  Given that direction from his boss the adjuster wrote it off and gave Foster the go ahead to find a rancher who needed it and then sell it. Receiving the phone call where the offer was made was a game changer. The shift in morale was unmistakable and Russ is not ashamed that he needed to wipe away tears more than once. The hard thing is that all this crop we bought to bale, from two different families, is extra cost. More expense than we already have, and we already have enough. It was therefore rather stunning to learn that all cattle farmers would be given a per cow benefit through government crop insurance to help them make it through the year. One hundred dollars per cow doesn’t sound like much but it does add up and paid a part of our extra feed bill this year. All of this reminds me of my blog name, about being seen. Maybe I am too easily soothed but it means alot to me that our role feeding the world, the vulnerability we face and the sustainability we hope to secure are all things that seem to be seen and honored. I am feeling really thankful for this. So is Russ. Its another thing that brings tears.

So that was today on the ranch. A huge job checked off the to do list, a big bill paid, good coffee and wow Foster makes amazing biscuits.