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