Hello Thursday

We are in our Expedition enroute from Regina. We have been gifted with a beautiful sunset.

We left Gina at the Regina Airport at about 2:30, did some shopping and started home. It has been a beautiful winter day for us to travel.

I am thankful for that as the reality of saying goodbye to Gina has been painful. She is moving to Toronto, looking for opportunity for more training, for connections, and just the possibility to be in the right place at the right time.

Our hearts are kinda hurting. We got so used to having her around again, we had three months with her home. They were good days.

She is off again, with very little arranged. Her plane will land in 10 minutes. She will go to bed tonight in the home of people who house international students, they had space for Gina. My friend Tanya made this contact for Gina. Tanya’s house is across the street. She is one of the warmest people I know. With these details in place we feel good about this next stage for Gina. I have other friends and family in the area. As hard and scary as this day is, Gina will not be alone.

I often think about the saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It is relationships that make me feel safe and whole, that is where I experience wealth. This exact hour, as my girl breathes in the night air in Toronto for the first time, but kind people wait to say hello, I feel rich. I feel tender. I feel thankful.

Our last supper. Gina won’t be home for Christmas.
Gina really shone as a crew member on the trail this fall.
Our last view of that hat for a while.

We JUST got a message on the family chat. Gina has landed. She saw the CN tower from the plane. My heart feels weird.🥴💗

When Kindness Meets Humor

Preamble: The start of this post was written a month ago, on the plane enroute from our vacation, it was finished this week.

We have a pretty special thing going on. A friendship that came out of the blue. Sitting on this plane, a blanket of puffy, shiny white clouds below me, I have pondered “what is this that has happened?” Here are the words I put on it. This story is called “When Humor Meets Kindness and They Bring All Their Friends.”

I have talked about the Fentons on the blog before, after they spent a week with us in May. I don’t want to repeat too much, so here are the essential story pieces.

Russell’s friend Crystal in Nova Scotia talked about Russ at her riding barn. Carvell and his family were regular riders at the barn and based on what he heard Crystal saying Carvell sent a facebook friend request to Russell.

Carvell had questions about horse bits which he sent to Russ. Russ enjoyed answering. Carvell has a great appetite to learn and Russ loves teaching.

Messages went back and forth alot for two years before our families met in May.

It was early May when Russ and I booked plane tickets to Halifax for this fall trip we are just finishing. We agreed that although the Fentons live in Halifax we wouldn’t tell them of our plans in case they arrived at our place later that month and we didn’t like them.

I am not sure how long it took us to decide we could tell them of our plans but it was less than a day. We were enjoying them.

October 18th – I didn’t get a chance to get back to this until now. Its almost a month later. I have thought about it alot. In my mind I think I have whittled this down to the essence of what I am trying to say. It is to ponder this question, “what is the recipe for strong friendship?” Friendship seems so important to our lives, most of us can’t live well without at least one good friend. I feel like in observing Russell and Carvell develop a friendship I have observed a case study in many things that make a friendship good. Here is the list I have:

-they both value kindness above many other things

-they both practice living with humor

-they are both unafraid to ask questions, they can tolerate appearing to not know stuff.

-they each want to listen, even if they interrupt, they can find their way to listening again.

-they have interests in common

-they have a lot of interest in each others lives and each others families.

-they each have an enthusiastic approach to life.

-they each have spouses and kids that support the friendship

-they are both honest

-they both choose to be positive

As I write all this it strikes me that it takes energy to live like this. How does that energy come to a person and get renewed? As a case study I can say from what I know about Russell that this kind of friendship capability does not come from getting lots of sleep, but perhaps it comes from excessive caffeine and Copenhagen. Certainly Russell is wired to want friendship but it still takes energy and openess.

As I ponder the impact of the list I made above I find myself wondering what happens when two people meet and just one thing on the list is clear. Perhaps a tentative connection begins. Perhaps as time and opportunity reveal more a friendship grows, and starts putting down roots too. I’m saying perhaps because I am no expert on this, I have no TED talk in my backpocket, I am just going on what I observe. What I am observing is that the more boxes on this list that can be checked the more safe I feel in a friendship. By the age we are, having taken some knocks and had a few painful reality checks about the way life goes, well, that safety really matters more and more.

Getting back to our holiday time with the Fentons, we enjoy them all so much that we snuck in visits as much as we could, we had so much fun. Here are the pictures that make us smile and perhaps illumine a bit of what I have described above.

After a 5am departure from Winnipeg we were settled into our air bnb by mid afternoon. We were forty minutes from the Fentons. Why not invite them for supper? I was the princess who had a nap while Russell cooked bacon and eggs.
The next day we joined the action at Evangeline Trail Rides, the place where Carvell first heard of Russell in 2020. We got to trail-ride together.
We had a day set aside to tour with the Fentons. Here is Russell and I with Izzy in the back, with Carvell and Lynette in the front.
Russell and Carvell at lunch on the Halifax harbor. They were a bit of an attraction all on their own, these two men in hats, they were stopped and asked how they kept their hats on. A policeman stopped Russell to ask him if he had any sisters. Random strangers shouted out, “I like your hat.” People wanted to talk about the TV show Yellowstone.
At a very cool display at the Halifax Citadel. This showed the key pieces of machinery and strategy used as the D-day landing at Normandy proceeded.
Atop the Halifax Citadel.
We explored Peggy’s Cove at sunset. It was stunningly beautiful.
I knew that if Liz Griffin was with us, and I was wishing she was, she would grab a silhouette picture under these conditions. Izzy stood in and did a good picture for us. We did a “Walk Like an Egyptian” moment.
We also re-enacted the iconic scene from the Titanic movie. I am singing “near far, wherever you are……” at this fairly unattractive moment.
Russ and Carvell did their own version. I simply love this picture.
This is my favorite version of our goofy pictures. Lynette is glowing. Her sincere kindness and loving heart are bursting through.
The pals that brought us all together.
We stopped at the monument to honor those who died when SwissAir #111 crashed in the waters here in 1998. It was a sobering place to visit.
We returned to the Fentons for some amazing homemade pizza. Lynette is a great cook.
Izzy and Russ are a close pair of pals now too. Right from the start she has seemed to get Russell’s quirky sense of humor. I enjoy Carvell’s photobombing of this shot.
The written part of this post has mostly been about Russell and Carvell but clearly their friendship has enfolded their families and impacts us all. Our kids talk with lots of affection about the Fentons, even Gina who has never met them. The bottom line for me is that when I am with them, I feel seen. It matters so much to me. We were blessed with solid friendships before we met the Fentons, friendship is and has been a huge part of our life. Our friends take very good care of us. In the midst of that I am amazed at how our hearts can expand to fit more. When kindness and humor meet and they knock on your front door, you answer and life is good.

Day 4 – Cowchase Season – 2022

It is 5:08am on Monday. I forgot to turn my alarm off, so…..I am awake blogging now, Russ is watching Netflix. I am feeling a little stupid but it does give some moments to do this. I just asked Russ, “how would you describe yesterday?” He replied, “it was a good day….it was a great day.” There were challenges and mishaps, but overall we have much to be thankful for.

Jen sent this picture early on, the first glimpse I had of the work. Russ says they were just bringing the cows into McNeil’s yard for sorting. That is Griff, Morgan, a rider we aren’t sure of from behind and Jen’s dog Paisley.
More of the crew moving in to get the job done. This is all the pictures I have of the early work. Jen said her hands were too cold to take her gloves off during the actual sorting. It was busy and cold (-7).
Jen, Kenzie, Jordanna and Tenley in the McNeil yard.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I came into the house after getting buns from the garage freezer. Buster was sitting on my desk. That has never happened. Buster doesn’t usually get included on cowchase posts, this was his chance.
The frazzled cook has hair half up and half down.
One of the last lunch prep jobs was making the gravy to go with beef on a bun.
Jill has become the master packer of the van. This lineup meant many trips.
The scene inside our big chuckwagon. We figure it’s our sixth season rolling down the road in this creation David Powell gifted us with.
Jill and I came from the east and caught a glimpse of the herd coming up to Alameda. We were excited and drove past our lunch spot to see them. We were getting a glimpse of the action and seeing if we were needed on the highway. The herd had been slow moving and we got in a wee bit of heck at the end of this video, for looking like we were going to stop the herd at a crucial moment. 🥴🤦‍♀️
Jill took this picture. Peyton had to come back for seconds, our dog Knightwing had stolen part of her lunch. She was extremely cute telling us her story.
This looked like a fun moment to capture but I ended up getting involved and it didn’t go well. Gina ended her day in an aircast, one we own from a previous injury of hers. Gina was riding bareback because her horse had developed a cinch sore. Mounting up was tricky. Despite hurting her foot/ankle in the process she worked all afternoon, she didn’t want to miss out and it was clear to her that her Dad was relying on her. Indeed, Russ and Morg had to leave the herd for about an hour to try and rope a calf that left our herd and joined another in a pasture along the way. He returned to find Gina with a survey stick in her hand working the herd back and forth, back and forth. She was 100% focused on the cows. Long before lunch she had been nominated for cowgirl of the day, Jen witnessed Gina helping to sort the three herds from each other in a way that was admirable. After riding bareback most of the day and enduring pain all afternoon she definitely earned the nomination.
Jill took this picture of Russ at lunch.
Gina took this picture of Russ shortly after lunch as they headed over the dam.
Patrick took this picture. The dam is a mile and a quarter long and has a low guard wire. Russ reports this was the first year he can remember that no calves got over that cable.
Pat got this one too, his daughter Emory joined us on the trail, that’s her in the foreground.
Becca shared this picture from her vantage point, where she was guarding an approach. I don’t often see head on views of the herd and hardly ever on the dam.
Russ got this picture of the newest rider on the Bar MW trail, this is Jessie Henderson.
This picture of Russell’s features Dwayne who spent his birthday riding with us. I totally forgot about his special day at lunch.
Patrick and Emet, a picture of Russell’s. During lunch Russ was appreciating finding Emet at the right place at the right time, guarding the herd, without being asked.
At the front of our herd is our ox “Moo.” He leads the herd on many chases and Russ says after six years he knows all the routes. Russ says the old west trail bosses would have a steer who knew the way, they used them year after year. Moo is a calming influence and a good leader. He is fraternal twins with Jen’s horse Cinder.
Dwayne shared this very pretty picture of the herd on the move.
Tenley shared this momentous picture of the cows going into the pasture.
It wasn’t clear that we would have supper together but a couple delays along the trail meant the crew not getting back to the yard until right before supper. Jill and I learned this at 4pm and swung into gear. We served an easy meal and it was fun.
Some of the supper scene.
Maddie’s position at days end is something most of us involved could relate to I think.

Chase Season Day 3 Part 1 & 2 -2022

The Bar MW crew was on the trail in full force today. The work today actually started yesterday.

We have 110 cow calf pairs that spent the summer at the public pasture near Hirsch. The Bar MW cows shared various pastures with cows from the McNeil and Cowan ranches from May until now. Yesterday we worked together to get all these cows rounded up out of a 1600 acre area. We took them into a smaller holding pasture our friends Chad and Crystal Ross let us use overnight.

Yesterday was bright and not too windy. Gina got this cool shadow picture.
Jen got this good picture of Gina.

After yesterdays prep work at and from the public pasture, which took about 3.5 hours, it was quick to get the cows on the road this morning. A few factors in our favor meant a fast chase. Before 12 noon the cows were in McNeil’s pasture, the crew was in the McNeil’s yard and lunch was just about there.

It was a cloudy day but started with a warm glow of a beautiful sunrise. Jen took this selfie.
The crew left the yard at 6:05am which meant they were in the saddle already by the time the sun cracked the horizon. Jen caught this moment, sunrise glowing on Cinder’s head.
Gina sent me this picture early this morning.
The cows are in the distance, the crew is gathering, Jen grabbed this moment of mustering.
Tenley’s perspective during the mustering. Russ says at this moment Gina had advanced ahead to the herd. Her job was to sing to the cows, wake the cows up and tell the calves to get ready for their day and have a bit of a suck.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I started a 6x batch of chili. This veg base got split into 3 crockpots and then beans, onions and cooked ground beef added.
A little ways along the trail, they were able to cut cross country and Patrick caught this cool panoramic shot.
Russell took this 20 second video early on. It gives a sense of the cows and a bit of Russell’s levity.
Sharon had this view which grabs alot of action.
When riders are new to the trail it is hard to do the whole distance. Sharon got a chance to visit with our newest rider, Brooklyn, when it was her turn for a truck break.
With the crew done early we ready had to hustle at the house. Jill was my saving grace.
Packing lists and sturdy baskets are essential.
While Jill and I got lunch set up in McNeils shop some pictures got taken. This one features alot of our teen riders and a couple who are just a bit older than that.
I got summoned from the food table for “the old guys” picture.
Some of our lunch time customers. On the left side of this picture is Griffin Currie. Part way through the morning I got a text from Tenley simply saying “I nominate Griffin for cowboy of the day.” Later she told me, Griffin was the guy who headed into a swamp to make sure cows trying to get a drink got out without having trouble. I was told he had to be decisive, effective and patient and he was all that. Tenley said she and her horse could not have done it. Gina said she was warned away from it, a possibility of sinking being real. Griffin just did it.
Jen grabbed this pic of my dog customers.
Gary was thrilled by the dessert options. Due to some generous cooks four different kitchens were represented and Gary sampled them with delight.
Back at the house after lunch I sat down with coffee and a puffed wheat cake, made by Olivia, who at the age of 10 appears to have mastered a fine puffed wheat cake, many of us know, this is not easy to do.

Tomorrow morning starts with sorting cows, separating McNeil’s and Cowan’s cows from ours. It takes lots of help and co-operation, good horses and good management, and there are three ranch chiefs on hand! Then the Bar MW cows will walk another 11 miles or so to their autumn pasture. We are hopeful for sunnier skies and lighter winds. We will see what the day holds. Today held safety and good friend times. We are thankful for that.

Chase Season 2022 – Day 2 –

Day 2 of this cow chase season had us moving our bred heifers from the McFarlane pasture in the Glen Ewen River Valley to home, a distance of about 14 miles. We had 60 animals to move and 26 riders. A bit of an extreme ratio, however, at one point, when crossing some railroad tracks, everyone was utilized.

Thanks to several riders there are lots of pictures to share.

The day began very differently due to fog that had settled over the entire area. Those traveling to the ranch needed extra time to get here. Russ thought a risen sun would lift some fog, so instead of a 5:30 departure it was 6:30. Instead of me sending breakfast sandwiches to the truck those who were on site came in for coffee and breakfast. It was quiet but fun.

Gina captured this image. This was a very busy porch for that time of day.
Russ enjoyed the breakfast party and was the first to whip out a camera.
Russ got this picture, me in my “office.”
Patrick was the first to send pictures back from the trail. I was stunned by the incredible color, beauty and depth with the fog still in the background.
Patrick grabbed this moment with Emet and Kenzie working part of the herd.
Patrick got this shot of Jim and his grand-daughter Cassie.
Sharon took this picture of her grand-daughter Teanna. Is it just me or does this picture have an epic feel?
The herd out of the pasture and on the trail, from Sharon’s perspective.
Sharon cares about these teenagers as if they were her own. I wasn’t surprised to get this picture from her
Tenley sent me this picture. That is Kenzie White in front of her. We don’t have competitions like this one much but Russ phoned me to tell me that Kenzie was Cowgirl of the Day. She had impressed the heck out of him. When a problem developed she went to long lengths to see it fixed. Russ was beyond impressed.
This is perhaps the most memorable part of this day. Laurie’s grandson Lennox rode with him on the Bar MW trail for the first time. A very special development.
Russ sent me both these pictures of the Connelly and Elliott duo.
Sharon must have sensed this was pretty special too because she grabbed this image from a very fun perspective.
Sharon shared this picture from the truck.
Russ took a video of the hi-way crossing, I grabbed this still shot from it, there is an RCMP member on foot behind. We really appreciate when they help to ensure safety at times like this.
Sharon took a picture of my cowpoke kids.
Gina took this cool picture of Tenley doing one of her riding tricks. The heifers had arrived at their pasture and Gina and Tenley got to hang back, visit (and do tricks😮) as they rode the mile home.
The neighbors have beautiful Belgian horses. They were very interested in the herd.
However Sharon noted they soon needed to run away from the action.
Gina shared this pic of Moo. Our 6 year old Ox is a big help moving the heifers. At times like this I call him “Uncle Moo.”
Gina grabbed a beautiful shot of the valley.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was working on a late lunch. Pizza. This is a terrifying menu to prep for 30 people. To make it do-able I had worked on getting shells made and in the freezer in the days before. This sight makes me feel proud of my effort.
Jill grabbed this picture partway thru prep.
And…..the reward! A satisfied group of diners!
Everyone had left by 3:30pm. Gina and Coffee cuddling were so cute from my perspective.
A total gift this weekend. Blueberry tarts made by Linda Powell’s sister Debbie, using wild blueberries picked by David’s pal. Shared with us and so very delicious. This contribution made dessert much easier to provide!

Cow Chase ’22 – Day 1 – Pictures of the Day

A big ranching Day here. We moved 140 cow calf pairs about 18 miles, from their summer to autumn pasture. We had 19 riders and the support team. It was a seamless work day, nice when that happens.

I invited the riders to send me their pic of the day. I got several in some cases. I am posting them all with minimal captions. The alarm went off at 4:25am so the pillow is looking very inviting!

Thanks to a great crew of cowboys and cowgirls!

Russell’s pic of the day of Liz Griffin, sporting a hoodie we got her. We were happy to have her back to record a few of our 2022 moments.
Liz’s picture of the day of Russell, this was a sneak peek she posted.
Gina’s pic of the day.
Shared by Sharon.
A Sharon Hubbard pic of Gina.
Sharon’s pic of David
Russell’s pic of Sharon, she has this jacket, identical to our family ones, because we can’t do these days without her. She drives the truck and trailer all the way.
Russell’s pic of David
Russell’s pic of Laurie and our friend Maja, a Norwegian agricultural worker in our area.
Sharon’s pic of Teanna
Sharon’s pic of a great smile on Pat.
Pat, Sharon and Morgan
Rhett and Morgan
Sharon’s picture…is there a rider or not?
Sharon’s capture of a moment to get things adjusted. 3 of the 5 dogs on the trail are seen here.
Sharon at the wheel.
Teanna’s pic of the day. She and Patrick.
Gina’s pic of Jenn and Patrick.
Jill’s pic of her Dad during lunch.
Jill’s record of a little visitor we didn’t disturb.
Maja’s pic of the overall lunch scene.
My pic of Sharon getting out of the wind.
My pic of Russ holding the last bite of the dessert he determined was the best of the day. Their was a semi final round after his first try of everything. This was a new recipe for me, Faye Simpson’s Cornflake Cookies. Num.
I took this action shot of Morgan and Gina.
My pic of Morgan’s height serving him well.
My pic of some of my lunchtime customers getting a break.
Jill sent this pic from the truck she was driving as she helped get vehicles moved from the start of the move to the pasture where they were headed.
My pic at days end….All done and back at the house for supper.
Jill sent me this pic of the action in the basement after supper. There was lots of noise.
Jen grabbed this bonus picture yesterday while Gina was pressure washing the horse trailer in prep for today.

Not Random

Wednesday September 6 – I am sitting in the Smitty’s at Grasswoods Esso in Saskatoon, I only have a few minutes more to write because in 10 minutes friends are arriving to meet me, Russ will be pulling in shortly after.

That single sentence holds two really big stories for us.

The first is that the friends we are meeting we have never actually spent time with in person before.   We will recognize each other through pictures seen on Facebook.  

The second is that Russ and I spent the night at my sisters only a few minutes from here.  At 5am the alarm went off, Russ got himself going and made it to a farm near Vanscoy by 6:30am.  He went to make a purchase of a colt before the owner needed to get to work. 

My sister dropped me off here at Smittys on her way to work.

Am I nervous about this visit?  No, not really, my work as a minister doing pastoral work has prepared me well for sitting at tables with people I don’t know.

The main connection has been between Russell and Margaret.  I have occasionally ……

Here they come.   I can see them coming across the parking lot.

Later on……

The visit is done, Russ and I are zipping down the Yellowhead highway on our way to Shoal Lake, Manitoba.  We have a donkey to buy.  But back to the first stories.

At Easter in 2020 my Mom sent a group text expressing her easter wishes to her kids and grandkids.  After that arrived a follow-up message appeared, from a strange number.  The gist of that was ”I don’t think I was supposed to get this text.”  Something fairly unexplainable had happened.  My Mom had inserted an extra phone number in her group text, but it wasn’t a number from her directory.  The person who received the message had never heard of our family.   How did my Mom do that?  It seems like it was more than pushing one or two accidental buttons. 

Almost five days later……my vehicle is in getting an oil change and I am at the Flying M Diner in Carnduff eating toast and eggs and drinking coffee.   I absolutely love moments like this.  Back to the story……A few members of the family answered this random text, posing questions and trying to figure out how this had happened.  No obvious connection was ever established.    Russ was one of the family who texted back and forth with this stranger.  He still has the same phone he did then, so as we traveled down the road last Wednesday, talking over how it is that we had become friends with these strangers, we could scroll back in his phone and find the original interactions.  It was comical.  It was like Russ couldn’t decide what he wanted.  He told her “have a good life” twice, sounds like a “I’m done” message to me, but then he would send our stranger a picture of new calves that had been born.   They connected over the shared interest in agriculture and by the time a couple days had passed they were facebook friends.  Russ entered the number in his phone and going on the information he had early on titled her contact information “Random Margaret.” 

A glimpse of the first words exchanged.

2020 would unfold as it did.  Margaret and Russell discovered more than ranching and church in common, they found they both love jokes and soon the quips were flying back and forth.  Margaret kept Russell supplied with multiple sources of laughter a day. 

A screenshot from a joke that Margaret sent me.

Soon I became her facebook friend too and became somewhat familiar with the rhythms of her days and the special people in her life.  Margaret read my blog and would send messages at times to speak of what it stirred in her.  We were all definitely developing a solid relationship. 

When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer in summer of 2020 things got emotionally tricky for Russell and I.  Margaret reached out to Russell in a way that said, “I see you.”  When I went to Saskatoon to help care for my Mom she knew how much Russell struggled and how much stress it was for me.  She offered to take me out for coffee, for a break.  I didn’t take her up on that but I knew she was there.  I had several support persons in Saskatoon, but all of us were so emotionally tied into the difficulty of what was being faced.  Having Margaret offer her care, totally objective to the situation, had the effect of feeling like there was a first aid kid available that was just for me should I need it. 

The friendship has carried on for over two years now, through facebook and messenger.  Russ stopped calling our friend “Random Margaret” sometime in that first year.  When his phone dings with a Messenger message he now might say, “I betcha that’s ‘Not Random Margaret’”.   Often he is right.  It is mysterious that as the presence of my Mom in our lives waned another tall and energetic senior lady was in the wings, she helps to keep Russ encouraged and feeling seen. 

Late last Tuesday as we made our way to Saskatoon we were discussing how our impromptu colt pickup trip was going to unfold.   Realizing that we had a bit of time in the morning once our first pickup was done I said to Russ, “do we have time to meet Margaret for breakfast?”  With it being a work day it was a perfect morning to meet our retired friend.  We made the invitation and it all got set up.   It was pretty fun to finally put voices and mannerisms to what we already knew.    Margaret’s husband was part of our time.  I appreciated meeting him more than I realized I would.  I have few elder men in my life, it has always been that way.  The elders I have I treasure, but I just don’t get to see them often at all.   So there was already a spot in my heart for the man I was starting to get to know. 

After breakfast we parted ways and it was later that Margaret send a message, “we forgot to get a picture!”  It feels good to live in the moment and forget about pictures sometimes, but afterwards, a souvenir is nice.    I guess we just lived in the moment. 

The impact of the internet is so far reaching and I tend to think that the drawbacks outnumber the benefits.  However, there are definite mysterious ways that it weaves magic, allowing people to connect, share themselves, and feel encouraged.  Our story with not random Margaret and Larry is one of those things we place in the column titled “benefits of the internet.”  As I wrap this story up, for now, I doubt myself.  Is this that unusual or noteworthy?  I mean people use the internet to meet new people pretty often, it is something most of us have the power to do, is it worthy of a blog post?  I write about it because it’s a way of upholding how valuable the net of human relationship is in our lives.  One thing Russell has taught me is that we never need to be done weaving new threads into the net.  The random strangers that make their way into our days can be sources of blessing and remind us that we are not alone.  The random becomes part of a sturdy net that helps to catch us and at the same time these threads create a beautiful tapestry that keeps life super interesting.  We are blessed.

The sun setting on the end of the day that started with breakfast with Margaret and Larry. We were almost home with our colts Skywalker and Elton John.

Let It Go Elsa!

On Friday night I sat in the Strand theatre in Melita, Manitoba with a bit of nervous anticipation.   Our girl Jill would soon be on stage with the cast of Frozen for a production they pulled together in 9 days at a theatre camp.   I was so proud of Jill before the curtain even rose.  Having just graduated from high school she was surely the oldest member of the cast, that didn’t hold her back.  She heard about the opportunity and knew immediately she wanted to sign up.   She is in a bit of limbo in her life, not sure what the next steps need to be, but she knows she loves musical theatre.  She hoped for the part of Elsa, one of two female leads, she got it.  She spent her days working on her part and riding the waves that come when sharing a project with children of many ages. 

Once the curtain rose there was much to take in.  The lead characters Anna and Elsa were played by three pairs of actresses, to relay the passing of time.  The little ones were so cute and showed much promise as performers.   Many familiar faces were part of the cast and that made it extra interesting.  The staging of a musical with little time or budget involves a lot of dedication and creativity, it was very interesting to see how it all came together.   The point where Jill and Amelia came on as the adult Anna and Elsa was notable.  Both these girls attended the first ever theatre camp back in 2016, they both love it, they were both strong performers who carried their lines and the emotion within their parts very well.  As an audience I think it was clear we could relax with the understanding, “they got this.”  That is a big deal.

Our friend Sue-lynn had front row seats and got this picture from that vantage point. Thanks for sharing Sue-lynn!

Jill basically blew me away.  I have not had the chance to see her perform like this for so very long.  Three years?  The combination of her maturity, experience, inner spirit and ability meant she took to the stage with confidence and was very effective.  I was so proud of her, she claimed her space as a performer.  What do I mean when I say this?   Its like the performer says within themselves, “I am here, with all that I am, I have a story to tell, I am letting you see something within me, I am dramatic, I may not be what you are expecting, but I am here and I am not leaving till I have given every last drop to get my message across.”  I know from experience that this is not easy to do but it makes the difference between an average and an excellent performance.  One of Jill’s fans was embarrassed by the tears that fell when taking in what Jill had to offer.  I wasn’t surprised.  They seeped from my eyes too.

I asked Jill if I could share the videos I took of her solos.  She was not so comfortable with that.  So you will have to trust me that her singing was lovely. 

Beyond the chance to learn and perform, as a parent I find myself with hopes that my kids make friends in activities like this.   It was therefore quite fun to drive home with Jill after the first performance and hear stories, not about the show, but the people in the show, the kids interacted with Jill in fun ways and it was heartwarming to hear how that all unfolded.   Jill didn’t come home with a new best friend but she was enfolded in a little community and that matters. 

Our friends and family were supportive of Jill, there were a lot of good feelings that flowed from seeing familiar faces and hearing words of support and affirmation.  The long distance family lent their support from afar through the family chat.   There are so many things that have made life challenging over the last couple years but without a doubt the chance to see faces and feel hugs and stand close for pictures makes a person think, “we are going to make it!”

Here are a selection of pictures we grabbed to remember the moments and the love.

This picture betrays Grandma Shirley’s usually sunny spirit. I am including it because I am wearing my Mom’s shirt. I wore one of her shirts to every one of Gina’s Shrek shows, to symbolize her presence in our lives in some way. I wore it to this 2nd show of Jill’s. Mom spent many hours in the theatre at Melita watching all the kids in these drama performances. Behind Shirley and I is a friend from Oxbow, Donna was able to sneak in the performance during time she was already in Melita, thanks to Facebook she knew about it. It was so nice to see her.

We are thankful to Brittany Walker and the Antler River Recreation Department for creating opportunities that have meant alot to our family, especially Gina and Jill. We are really proud of them both, its Jill’s time to shine!

Sunday Morning Cinnamon

Hospitality is a super important part of our life.  Sometimes I think I am a fraud as a ranch wife, I couldn’t saddle a horse if my life depended on it, like I can’t quite get my head around all those straps and bits that are part of the bridle and bit part.  To be fair, I haven’t actually tried to get my head around, but I watch from a distance and don’t know what I am seeing.  The fact that I have no sense of urgency to learn this is definitely a part of the feeling I have that I am an imposter.   But there is more to the story, of course, I mean we have been married for almost 22 years so clearly I am a ranch wife.  I guess Russ and I have our own recipe for a ranch marriage, a big part of that is hospitality.  With Russell’s big and warm personality he attracts people who want to experience ranching.  When all is said and done, we gather at our table.  That’s where I fit in.  I serve up food and drink and hopefully an atmosphere of welcome.   I get to utilize all the tricks and traditions that my Mom and my mother in law imparted to me, I work alongside my kids and with the willing hands of friends many days we pull off some minor miracles.   At some point I slide into my spot at the table and soak up the reality of all the different people gathered with us.  I don’t know if I am just in a good mood or what, but today, after the morning we had, I do feel like one of the luckier women in the world. 

This morning the alarm went off at 4:50am.  We needed to be out of bed so that Russ could get going and get to the barn before Laurie got there.  That is Russell’s personal challenge to himself.  I was getting up extra early so that I could tidy.  Our house was showing some neglect.  We had a new friend joining us and for some dumb reason, at the age of 54, I am still trying so hard to make good impressions.   The cowboy crew was heading down to our river pasture to move a herd of cows from one pasture to another.  Last year when we did this work we had Liz Griffin on hand and she grabbed these beautiful pictures.

We had a great crew this morning, everything went smoothly, we are always grateful for that. Here is a video Russ took of the crew getting the herd from one pasture into the gate at the next.

Patrick in red in the foreground, both of his sons tucked into the back of the picture.
Beautiful morning sun. We got the job done before it got too hot.

The team was back for breakfast right when Russell hoped they would be, about 9:40am.   That is when I got to meet the newest rider at the Bar MW Ranch.  Our new local doctor Mehdi Shadmani connected with Russell recently and this led to Russ knowing that we needed to invite Mehdi out to ride with us.    I have never hosted one of our local doctors before!  Mehdi did great in the saddle and Russ said he made a fine cowboy. He was gracious about giving me permission to post about his visit on the blog.

Medhi in front, Morgan, David and Laurie behind.

 At breakfast having a new guy there gave us a chance to tell and to hear some of the good ol stories that always make us laugh, with David at the table the ice cream tattoo and the cinnamon bun story both got told.  We never tire of them. 

David on the trail this morning.

There are two things I personally want to highlight after the morning. 

I was gifted this morning.  David’s wife Linda joined us, she had already had breakfast but shared a coffee and the conversation.  She arrived before the cowboys which gave her a chance to offer a gift to me.  It was one of those, “I saw this and it made me think of you” gifts. 

If you read a recent blog of mine about Ava’s gift, you will know I love these kinds of gifts.  Linda said she was in our local thrift shop and found this dove stained glass.  She said that one of her worries was that I had been the one that donated it to the thrift shop.  I wasn’t!  Maybe the person who did is reading this.  Anyways, she showed it to David and said, “who do you think I bought this for?”  He said, “Kathy.”  I love being known.  Linda and I found an initial spot for it and got it hung up.  Then I got back to cutting up fruit.  Thank you Linda!

Sometimes I stand in awe about the fact that so much has changed in my life.  One of my truths as a young woman was that I was surrounded by women.  I was blessed by grandmas, aunts, sisters and of course my Mom, who frequently sat at our table.  My Dad and my brother were the only men for the longest time.   Cancer and dementia took them from us early.   Linda’s husband Stu joined us, but for so very long the women greatly outnumbered the men. 

Thats me in the suspenders, the picture includes my Nanny, my great Gram, my great Aunt Doris and my sisters Janet and Margie.

My life has changed.  This morning found me surrounded by kind men and greatly outnumbered. I have noted this exact thing several times over the years on facebook, but it seems I am just not done.  Jill, Linda and I were a minority.  I found this to be an impacting part of my morning.

I do a lot of thinking about what makes life good.  For me time at the table is a huge part of the recipe.  There we experience good flavors, like cinnamon.  We experience stories, they make us feel alive and connected.  We are invited to know worlds beyond our own.  Hopefully, safe space is created to simply be human.  It has been a while since I had to extend our table out to its maximum length, today we did, it was a good morning!

Day 56 – Calving Season 2022 – On Location

If you will indulge me I am going to play pretend for a moment or two.  I am in this moment an on location reporter.  “This is Kathy Kyle coming to you from the Cow Dog Lounge at the Bar MW Ranch.”

Laurie had this sign made for us and showed up with it this week. We mounted it with baler twine (a ranchers 2nd best friend after duct tape). The name Laurie came up with is perfect, our dog Knightwing frequently naps in her spot on the couch as in this picture.

While I lounge on a sectional couch in the pole shed our team is right beside me putting a small herd through the chute. 

It is raining outside, it is comfortable (only one layer of clothing is about perfect), the smell of a branding iron lingers in the air.   The fact that I am blogging is a result of the fact that once again our team has been added to by friends.  Carvell is doing my job and I am here with my laptop, close enough to feel connected to the action but free to do one of the things I love, write.

Carvell is in the spot where I often stand, he is ensuring the calf is secured and stays in place while receiving its various treatments. At home Carvell works in the computer programming field, there is no denying that this man has become a cowboy too.

It has been many days since I felt free to linger on the blog.  Here is a quick check-in about how things are going.  The summary word is “well.”  Calving has not been very dramatic since our big blizzards.  Most cows are doing what they are supposed to do.  Russ has been able to manage things so that the troubles that do arise get worked out.  With seven sets of twins born we have been able to offset some of the inevitable losses that happen.   While April was absolutely abuzz with the births happening amid whatever weather was being dished up, it seems May has been consumed by practical jobs that need to happen.    By the end of today we will have about 70% of our cow calf pairs through the chute (tagged, immunized, castrated, branded, etc.) and at their summer pastures.  That is a super big deal.  We had the vet team here yesterday to semen test our bulls.   Our bulls came through winter okay, one failed his test (our bull named Cheeseball), a few need retesting, but overall, we are set for the breeding season.  Two days of the last week have seen parts of our ranch team helping different neighbors with their spring work.  That is important to us.  But the really big deal in our hearts right now is that our ranch family grew in number and depth this week. 

Last Saturday we had a family from Halifax, Nova Scotia pull into our driveway.  They had spent their day getting to the Regina airport and then to the ranch.  We had never laid eyes on each other before.  However, due to the wonder of Facebook and Messenger and this blog, we all had a darn good sense of each other.  So it was that our family looked forward to their visit, despite the fact that strictly speaking we were entertaining strangers. 

We feel very lucky.  Everything we sensed through our social media interactions is true.   Carvell, Lynette and their daughter Izzy were very easily folded into the work and the rhythms of our daily life and have brought much joy our way not to mention an incredible amount of help with getting our spring work done. 

At one point this week Russell offered to share from his Hawaiian shirt collection, something he loves and he got from our friend David Powell. Symbolic of how fun loving our friends are, they accepted Russell’s invitation/challenge and went to the neighbors looking like this!
This is Lynette. When she is at home she is a manager with Workmans Comp, a few years ago she joined her family for riding lessons. She is now a fully capable ranch cowgirl, and that has meant being adventurous with many different jobs. Her job today is tame, she is filling taggers and needles. A nice contrast to Thursday morning when she wowed me as she headed out to help move our herd of bulls down the road.
This is Izzy, she is a grade 8 student at home and the one who urged her parents into learning to ride. I got this picture of her as the computer girl this morning while we were working with the cows. It seems there is no job Izzy isn’t willing to try, she also had incredible stamina, she did early checks with Russ every day.
A fun picture of Jill from the day.
Morgan branding a calf. This is a hard part of our spring work that I often try to say as little about as I can. Here is the deal. We would never impose a brand on our calves if there wasn’t a real risk of theft of our calves. It has happened before. I see this as a vivid example of how sin creates suffering. We take comfort from the fact that the calves are reunited with their Moms right after they are done, the Mom’s feed them and we know this helps the calves begin to settle and heal.
Our man Ron working with the dogs to move the calves into the tub and alleyway.

For me personally a visit like we have had has many dimensions.  Part of it is struggle, only because when people dwell among you for a stretch they get to see you, really see you.  The first few days of the visit seemed chaotic on the ranch.  I was embarrassed at what we were asking our company to go through.  Then we realized they were very tough and definitely up for the challenge.  I felt embarassed by how much I do for my kids that they can do for themselves. Lynette assured me she saw what was at play. I settled down and the feeling of needing to hide a few things passed.

The other thing is that I have found with more hands on deck with ranch work I have been freed to focus on things that I need to do and want to do well as we shared our days.  So, I have been baking a lot, taking good care of my kitchen, getting caught up on laundry and paperwork.  For me, one of the ultimate gifts I can be given in life is being uninterrupted.  Whether that is when I am speaking or getting things done.  Ranch life does not lend itself to being uninterrupted.  Interruption is the name of the game.  I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this impacts my spirit both for good and not.  The freedom to focus in my kitchen was a gift that came from hosting visitors with such a desire to learn, see and work and make sure I felt appreciated for the food I created.

Another great thing about this time shared with new friends is that we have been spreading the goodness around.   Laurie and Dawson were with us a couple times this week and therefore got to meet the Fentons.  It made me very happy. This feeling of happiness made me realize we are really proud of all the people we are sharing our days with and its great to introduce them to one another.  This happened again when the Fentons helped us help our neighbors.  This just means more and more layers of connection and knowing.  When we see these neighbors in the days ahead we might find ourselves talking about how those Fentons are doing and we will all care about who we are talking about.  Another layer of making connections arose from the fact that Morgan has been training a Gilliland family horse. They came riding with us on Wednesday to use the horse and see Morgan’s progress. They met the Fentons. Earlier that day Russ and I had attended the funeral of an amazing woman who is part of our ranch family.  We have rented her pasture for the entirety of Russell’s life.  To honor her we spent the evening of her funeral day riding her beautiful river pasture and we gave thanks for her life as we prayed before enjoying a tailgate picnic supper.   The world feels more stable and secure when the ties that bind us weave in multiple layers. 

That rainbow in the background felt meaningful as we enjoyed Donna’s pasture.
This ride for Donna was a big deal. I was on a horse, but it was actually a mule, for the first time in more than two years.
Jill was one of the riders as well. She too has been avoiding the saddle. We both had a really good ride. Jill even took part in the race.
The race.

I think there are about five calves left to go through the chute, its getting quiet here in the pole shed, the team seems to be doing well and keeping their spirits up.   I don’t know if its just me, but I know I am avoiding the thought that we have to say good-bye tomorrow.  Carvell, Lynette and Izzy feel like family and its hard to think that four and almost five provinces are going to soon separate us.   I am always aware of my losses.  Its just a big part of my story.  I do well to remember that all the hard good-byes can be softened by the truth that there are many wonderful people in the world and it’s a gift when they come your way. We have been blessed.