Day 20 – Calving Season 2022 – Fear

Its 6:30am on Friday morning, I feel like apologizing. If I am to say what I am really thinking this is going to be a downer.

We have another bad storm predicted, this one looks worse than last weeks, as the forecast goes. I ran into a friend yesterday at Regina Costco, he had been studying the forecast/radar and his take on things was bad. Worse than Environment Canada’s. Who will be right? Only time will tell. I left Costco and in the three hour drive home I could not shake my stress. So many thoughts.

Its weird the thoughts you have. This will be our third storm in 11 days, the second one being “only” 6 iches of snow. They remain a blessed source of moisture but such a struggle to get it. I have caught myself having jinx thoughts. I got a ring in Victoria last month, when we got home I took off the ring I have been wearing on my right hand since I was ordained, my great grandmas wedding band, and I put on this pretty ring from the gift shop at the Royal BC Museum. I caught myself thinking this week, “ever since I put this ring on the weather has been crappy, this is my fault.” Clearly there is so much wrong with this thinking, starting with the fact that I quite simply don’t have that much power. That jinxy thinking reflects a desire to make order out of the circumstances, everything within me is struggling to explain why we are dealing with a triple pile up of storms. We talk about epic blizzards of the past, they are isolated once every three or four year events, not twice in 11 days. For us this one has potential to be much more impacting because our calving has really picked up speed, we had 20 calves yesterday. One came in the house and Jill helped it out as I was doing the doctor routine in Regina with one of my people. I cannot fathom what tomorrow might bring. Also, how do you keep all the calves well that are already born and established. Mercy.

All of this is really hard for me as a Christian. I don’t have the time and energy to go into all that is stirring in my head, there is alot of wrestling going on. What I do believe firmly is that God is at work to give us strength, help us within and bolster us with a sense of “you are not alone, I am with you.'” What I don’t believe is that if I pray hard enough God will decide to change the weather. Cue the fight with God I had after my 28 year old brother died of cancer. Yeah, this crap runs so deep, this dance with suffering and how I hold it. Through all this I will attempt to live the truth I have been moving towards, God longs for us to be whole, and it happens despite crappy circumstances, not because God makes life easy for me (although as lives go, mine has been pretty golden……cue the well of unending gratitude that I grew up in Saskatoon in the 70s and 80s in a family where there was tons of great wisdom.)

So……I am going to bed tonight beside one of the heroes of the world. A guy who will face down danger, cold, frustration and fear. I have the power to affect the amount of fuel in his tank. How do I max out that potential? I am going to feed one of the more resilient teen men I know, what can I offer that 15 year old to keep him going strong amid the cold, wet, dangerous and frustrating conditions? I will be cooking, vacuuming and/or mopping and /or laundering hourly because of the spring mess on the dogs and the debris on calves. We can only hope the power stays on again, as it did last time. Jill is on the team without a doubt. How can I max out our teamwork effort amid all that life holds? How do I stay strong amid my fear? I am afraid of loss of life, of suffering, I am afraid of the chaos some of the hours ahead will hold. Feck.

So, yeah, just a light Friday morning check in.

In the two days since I published a blog a few things have happened that created some cool pictures or good updates.

My patient of a few days ago, “Little Kiss” is alive and getting stronger. Thankful!

The little calf “Kiev” is doing well. We continue to hold the city Kiev and Ukraine close in our hearts.

Two of our “Up With People” cows calved, Antonio and Amy. Russ is in contact with Antonio despite him being originally my friend. That meant that almost as soon as Antonio was born there were pictures zinging their way to Mexico. Its a small world after all and my heart is smiling.

The calves that Russ, Ron and Morg got sheltered in our “silver shed” during blizzard number one, with more added, made their way down the road to their spring pasture on Wednesday. This might have been premature it now seems. Anyways, Jill and I were on hand to ensure they made the turn at the low level crossing road. Russ called me before they left the yard and he said, “well this roving klusterfuck is about to get going”, he was not expecting good things. It went very well.
Here they are after the turn, heading south, a small cowchase. An oilfield guy was in the right place at the right time to help get them turned in at the gate. Russ was sure to tell me about that. In this group is Mo and her calf “Scott”, you might remember them as the calf that Russ wrestled onto his shoulders with my help and a few swears during blizzard #1.
Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen? Jill and I went to the pasture to pick up a calf that Morgan was standing guard over, it had been abandoned by its mother too long. We wonder if it was a twin.
Russ adopted this calf onto one of Morgan’s cows, “Willie” in honor of Willie Nelson. So this little one is Steve Earle. At first I thought Russ was naming it Steve Earkel, an endearing nerd from 80s TV, but no its Steve Earle, a musician. I would like either name.

Thats it for today. The routine of the day must begin. Please pray for our strength, for the instincts of the cows to remain vivid, despite the crazy making wind predicted, for grace to flow however it can. Thank you for everything.

The Cavalry arrived….again and again.

This post is to share what happened at the ranch on Monday. I have made “the cavalry” the theme because it was a day where several things went wrong and four times help arrived. It is unbelievable how much my feelings shift when we go from a place of struggling to cope with a moment or circumstance to tackling it together with someone who has the power to help.

The first part of our day involved the vet Marcel coming to do a c-section. He gave me permission to take pictures of his work and to use them in the blog. So this is a warning that about 15 of the pictures in this post are of this surgical process to get a too large calf removed from a cow. I had never seen it done before and wasn’t sure I wanted to stay and watch. I kind’ve made myself and I am glad I did. It was really interesting.

Russ had hoped to be on his horse by 8 and bringing a small herd of cows and calves home to put through the chute. But his morning check identified a couple problems. This cow is Owl, after Russ decided she needed help he went to get his horse. In the meantime she took off and played hide and seek with Russ. When she was finally into the holding area Morgan and Russell’s efforts to pull the calf were not working, they called me to come with “the puller” a more high intensity device. Russ was just getting that going when I took this picture. A foot has emerged but that’s it.
It was my job to call the vet for help to pull the calf. We were blessed by the fact that he was just finishing an in clinic surgery, we would not wait long for him. The arrival of Marcel’s mobile unit definitely was a moment that felt cavalry like to me..
Marcel quickly determined that this calf was very large and a pull would not be possible. He got set up to do a c-section. The first step was to shave the surgical area.
The area was very thoroughly scrubbed clean, three or four times it seemed.
Marcel administered a solution to freeze the area.
The incision is begun here.
Once the opening was created Marcel was able to investigate the positioning of the calf. It was not ideal, more to the other side, he had to flip it/reposition it to make it possible to extract it.
It was incredible to watch Marcel’s confident movements.
The beginning of the emergence of the calf.
More of the calf emerging, its sac sure looks mighty to me.
Morgan was recruited to help position the chains.
Two feet through the opening and through the sack.
Placing the chains.
Morgan got to play an important part in delivering this baby.
Russell had the job of removing the sac. Marcel saw signs through the last stage of his work that the calf was not alive. He was correct. It was not breathing. Just a bit too long without oxygen. This made Russ feel frustrated with Owl for the time spent playing hide and seek earlier.
One of Marcel’s gifts is teaching. I have seen it many many times. Today was no different. Here, if I remember correctly, Marcel took the chance to show us the cow’s uterus. It will shrink considerably.
He also showed us some of the intestines. I have forgotten some of the interesting information he gave us about these.
This is the cows ovary. We discussed in this moment the reality that cows and humans share, that the egg that would go on to become a fertilized embryo, our beginning, that egg was present in our mothers when they were born.
Jill was out checking cows and dropped in to watch the later part of the procedure.
Marcel began the stitching up process which involved interior and exterior stitches, very strategically and quickly done.
Isn’t that amazing? Marcel arrived at 11:00, just before 12 the procedure was done.
Meanwhile……..back to the rest of the day…..Jill was checking heifers and found Agape and her new calf had been separated by a fence…the calf rolled under it likely. Jill faced her fear of that mother and got things made right. She found this vantage point once the calf was back with its Mom quite fun.

Things were made complicated at this point in the day by an equipment problem that emerged. It was not urgent exactly but Russ called his cousin at Fast Trucking for a consult. By the end of the day Fast Trucking had been out twice, to assess and then deal with the issue we had. With their expertise what we thought was a big deal turned out to be not too big at all. That was episode two of the Cavalry arrival in our day.

After a late lunch and urgent stuff getting done Morgan and Russ went and got the 40 pairs from the heifer pair pasture. I got recruited to guard the top of the low level crossing road, to keep those girls heading west and not turn south. This is when one of our neighbours appeared on his way to town. He stopped, helped me with my job then proceeded on. It was almost 4pm at this point.
On his way back from town Tate was going by just as we were working the herd through the yard to get to the corral gate. He helped us keep the herd going in the right direction, not a small feat. We decided Tate’s arrival was the third time the cavalry arrived on this day. As we were finishing up this part Russ told me that Laurie had found out we were way off track with our day and he was coming out after work to help us out. I think my heart skipped a beat. I knew that Russ, Morgan and I could get this job done, but just how much energy to persevere would this require? Indeed the cavalry was on the horizon, for the fourth time in one day.
Just after we got the cows and calves separated Ron got home from fencing, Laurie arrived, he brought Dawson, and suddenly our skeleton crew of 3, envisioning a whole night ahead of finishing working with this little herd, doubled in size. We were back to being a well oiled machine and zipped through it all in time to have pizza in the garage at about 7:30.
Meanwhile, Jill was trying to get her school work done and check the herds. She definitely had her hands full. She sent us pictures throughout the day. This was a fun one.

It is now Wednesday morning and I am about to hit the publish button on this post that I have poked away at as time has permitted over the last 24 hours. As I sit here pondering this day we lived I cannot help but notice there are some seriously deep threads that could be looked at much more closely. One of those threads is about the instinct to help another, it is just so major. I see this as holy, as something God has put in the human heart. So when we are helped by another I see it as a sign, God is at work. To be in so much need and to have help come, even when it is help like Marcel’s which will have a bill attached to it, its still an experience of being provided for and deep gratitude seems the only fitting response (and paying the bill of course….lol). When the help comes as a gift, such as Laurie and Dawson’s hours and Tate’s moments with us, it just feels like love. God knows we all need that. One other deeper thread to notice is just how much suffering has resulted in the last year because we have not been free to be each others calvary arrival. There are so many that have had to struggle through all manner of difficult things with a bare minimum of help because of the need to distance. I hope the experiences of this pandemic can remind us just how very much we mean to one another and guide us in good directions going forward.

Just a little something fun to finish up with.