Day 3 of Calving 2022

Two days ago I reported on the blog that we had our first calf of the season. That wee one is still our only calf. Russ went all day without seeing it yesterday but came home in the evening feeling easy. He said the Mama, our cow named “Even” (the Norwegian form of Evan, named after a friend of mine in my Up With People cast) had her calf stashed somewhere. “How do you know its not dead?” I asked. “I can tell by how she is acting, everything is fine.” This morning he came in while the kids were having breakfast and reported that he had seen Even’s calf and it was doing very well and is oh so cute, so small it can practically walk under its Mom’s stomach. I felt impressed with Russ’s accurate read of the situation yesterday.

This morning when Russ went to put the dogs out he found it had rained. A sound of jubilation came from the porch. In fact, it has turned into a rainy, at times snowy kind of day. I had hoped to sit at my desk this morning but when Russ cited the weather as a good reason to go to town for breakfast, I agreed. We got a couple of crucial errands done and had some very good visiting with a friend we ran into at the restaurant. We have travelled wide in the last month and never have found a breakfast better than the one we enjoy at the Flying M Diner. We checked the cows on the way home and found no new calves, though some pretty full looking girls were grazing. We sure love seeing our cows looking content, they have put in such a winter, I made sure to tell then how impressed I was with them when I saw them today.

Here are a few pictures of how things look on Day 3.

Muddy….it’s a sight for sore eyes.
Coffee dog takes cows checking seriously.
Our cow Jodi is looking well.
Here is our cow named “Cowabunga” at a spot in the pasture that collects water at times. Russell calls it Lake Katherine. Today Russell told me this cow loves it when people shout her name out loud.🤣
The cows are just hanging out today. That’s Kathy with bedding in her mouth.
The Cowboy cottage in its official spot for calving season.
Yesterday it was moved from the yard to the pasture.

When we got back from town we got down to doing some inventory and getting a list ready for our order from the vet clinic. We were assessing what we need for tags, vaccines, vitamins, rings, and ralgro. Russ is struggling with his glasses prescription at this point so asked me to read the expiry date on a bottle of vaccine. It was June 2022. “That is this year right?” was Russell’s response when I informed him of the date. I looked at him funny. Trying to normalize his fuzziness about this a bit I said, “Covid makes time all wonky doesn’t it?” He said, “nah, I have never been good with dates. I still write 1988 on cheques sometimes!” Oh Russell……you keep us giggling. Russell would like to report in that on day 3 of calving he has just had a haircut, he is clean shaven and as rested as he will be for a while. There is sure to be some changes to this status as the season unfolds, but for now he headed out the door for afternoon work feeling pretty fine in clean laundry.

Today we are thankful for every drop of moisture we have received, for good coffee and for friendship.

Superstition

One of my favorite children’s books called “Something from Nothing” uses the repeating phrase “its time to throw it out.”  I am reminded of that as I consider the green fruit on my counter.  However I’m having such a hard time throwing it out.  Through that still good looking watermelon I am being forced to confess to myself that I have a problem and its called superstition.  I am not okay with this, but its real. 

The watermelon came to our home the long weekend in August when my friend Deb visited from Saskatoon.  Laden with treats and supplies she blew in with the summer wind, that watermelon in her hands.  Morgan and I are the only people at our place that really like watermelon, so, I was waiting for the right time to cut it up, until there were a few more watermelon lovers around.  The dumb thing is I didn’t put it in the fridge.  Well, the right time to cut it never came and there it sat.  I didn’t have the resolve to throw it out when 10 days had gone by and its fresh time had passed.  And it sat.  I noticed it was a great place to kill flies, it attracted some and was a firm backdrop for the swatter to do its work.  It was earning its keep.  By the end of August I was ready to say that overall our crew was doing better. We had been able to figure out our feed crisis, there had been some rain, we had some fun.  I couldn’t help but think that it seemed that ever since that watermelon arrived in our life everything felt better.  So I looked at that watermelon and thought, “can I throw it out?”  And my immediate reaction was “no, not going to do that.”  With a few things coming up that I am nervous about I really and truly am having a hard time throwing out that watermelon. That is the dumbest thing I ever heard.  But its not the only thing I am superstitious about.  I have had pedicures on my feet about four times in the last 15 years.  The first and fourth times were followed by events that were extremely hard.  So…………although I have a gift certificate to get a pedicure, I am waiting until I have a window where I can risk whatever may follow.   

These thoughts and actions, or lack of actions, do not line up with what is at my core.  I believe in God.  I believe that no matter what life throws at me, God is with me.  I don’t believe that there is a force for chaos that can be held at bay by the presence of a watermelon or turning down pretty toe nails.  I think that what all this reveals is that I am feeling pretty vulnerable.   I am so incredibly thankful for the events that go right, where hope is allowed to flicker and shine.  I don’t want those moments where things are right and where hope is brewing to come to an end, so, I am turning to the concrete things that are in my power to hold the ship steady.  I mistakenly think that is the presence of a large green mass on my counter, (that is likely rotting on the inside.)   That leads to a good concrete question, what is within my power for holding the ship steady?  For keeping good momentum going?   

My life experience tells me that not much can control the cirumstances so that trouble never comes, but somehow the negative impact of troubling times is reduced by a couple things and these I should stay focused on. One is gratitude and the other is love. There is a part of the Bible that I have found both inspiring and challenging, it advises, “give thanks in all circumstances.” The older I get the more I agree with that. The other thing in the Bible is “love your neighbor”. If I keep showing up and loving as best as I can I will likely have much more influence on my life experiences than I will by making that watermelon on my counter a priority decor item.

Four more sentences that go another level deeper with all this. When Russ and I talked about this post he challenged me, “How important is it to be freed from trouble?” His point, that alot of good things come from hard things and hard times. We appreciate the good times better because of the hard times. I think he is absolutely right, but, still a bit shell shocked from the challenges of the last months and years I will not be looking for any trouble anytime soon. However somehow I have to muster the wisdom and maturity to throw out my watermelon. Maybe tomorrow. Until then I commit to showing up, loving my neighbor and saying thank-you.

Day 8 – Postcards from the Heart

Dear Mom,

-There are many things I like about this picture, the enjoyment of Russ that I see in my face, the rustic home-y-ness of the cottage, the presence of our favourite wine and food – chips + dip! There is a glowing light in the midst.

-I have enjoyed very much the time that you and I have spent at the table. Our conversations have been both deep and light, our prayers have been important, but I can’t really put more words to that then just those.

-What is the glowing light in our midst that casts such a sense of safety + charm? I believe it is your ever present sense of gratitude + blessedness. It has shed light on the Kyle family table for as long as I can remember. I want to always remember this.

Liz Griffin took this picture on June 20, 2020 at the tail end of a day of working cows, kayaking and wife carrying (as seen in previous postcards).

This postcard is the 8th in a series of 22 blogs called “Postcards from the Heart”, this series arrises from circumstances detailed in the post called “Postcards from the Heart – Day 1”.

The Week We Have Known

Its been a week since I was free to do any blogging. It has been an unusually intense week, we took many pictures over the days and invite you to glimpse a week in the life of a prairie ranch family in spring 2021.

Every day these two bond more and more, Coffee dog gives us all a lot of joy.
Jill ate her evening meals with us this week, her quarantine period was hard for all of us, we missed her, when she joined us for supper we moved Buster’s chair over to Jill’s table so she could have company.
Jill is sitting at my Nanny’s dining room table, Buster is sitting in my Dad’s old highchair, the table still has plant pot rings from my Nanny’s love of plants. I wonder what she would think of the leggy seedlings I have going here. That is not a dog accident behind Jill although it sure looks like one. Its a paper from a box of chocolates one of my sisters sent for Mother’s Day.
We had twins this week, lots of twins, four sets in two days. Russ likes to bring them home so we can keep a close eye on them and how they are bonding. Here is the action on Tuesday, unloading one of the twins.
Things can get pretty tight in the womb, especially with twins, leaving joints without proper opportunity to strengthen. One of the twins needed us to splint her back ankles, here we are using duct tape over odd socks to create a quick and gentle “cast.”
Morgan carries the splinted calf to meet up with its Mom in the back of the shed.
Wednesday we put 65 cow calf pairs through the chute (vitamins, vaccines, tags, etc.) afterwards there was tons of regular work to do. I got the job of checking the cow herd for calving developments and troubles. I immediately found “Iron Man” with her brand new twins, the fourth set of the two days.
Thursday morning we got going early and thru the day got 60 more cow calf pairs through the chute. This moment is the very end of sorting the cows from the calves. Often the cows advance easily to their gate and we encourage that, we keep calves back then big groups of calves go to their gate, as you see here. Thats Ron, Russ and Morgan walking them down. Morgan was home to help us for three days. We really needed his help, hopefully he can catch up okay.
I thought this was a fun picture of Bingo quenching her thirst at one of the cow watering bowls.
Mostly I am including this picture because it is super cute of Russell. He is posing with this cow because she is named after his favourite kind of beer.
Mozza Stick got a replacement tag and hammed it up for the camera. Thats a radio frequency ID tag in her left ear, the number on it is linked to our ranch, no matter where she eventually goes in the food chain, that tag links her to our ranch, keeping us accountable to how we treat our animals and how healthy they are as they enter the food chain. It encourages us to feel proud of our animals.
One of the last big jobs of the day for Russ and Morgan, joined by Laurie after work, was to bring the cow calf pairs home that we would run through the chute the next day.
I was helping to turn them into the yard.
Our abundance of twins this season has meant we have extra calves to help keep alive. Here is Layne being bottle fed by Jill. We have two calves we are bottle feeding right now. The other is Bob. His Mom named Mary had twins whom we called Jesus and Bob, after a folk song about the brothers. Mary has Jesus but we have Bob. Bottle feeding is a hard job to do at the end of a long day, its not hard, but its just one more thing. We are glad Jill could do this. Its fortunate to have twins but its often a lot of work.
Late Thursday afternoon I had the job of checking the cow herd again. A pressing issue was finding Iron Man and her calves. After an hour I couldn’t find them and the grocery store was closing soon I thought. So I left the herd and landed in at the grocery store at 5:58, only to find out that they close at 7 (not 6) on Thursdays. Whew. I had a leisurely stroll around the store and found delicious ice cream on sale, milk, cream and a few other things. I headed back to the pasture. Are you with me on this, are you thinking, “Kathy didn’t really think that ice cream purchase through did she?” I prowled the area where Iron Man was most likely to be and eventually found her with only one calf. (Thats Iron Man and her one calf walking away from me right at the centre of the picture.) Well crumb. I called Russ, he sent me searching for the other one, I quite quickly found her. I called Russ again, I needed advice. I rose to the challenge he gave me and became the abductor. I caught the calf by the tail and wrestled her into the back of my Expedition. I was not sure how the trip back to Iron Man was going to go. You know, that calf surprised me, she just hunkered down right behind my seat and sat tight. I pulled up beside her Mom and helped her out and there was a reunion. I then went home with my soft ice cream. This morning my sister Margie named the twins, Ebony and Ivory. (The Ice cream survived🥴🍦🌞)
This was right after I had pulled the calf who would be named “Ivory” from the seat behind me and dropped her onto the ground, a reunion picture.
I could feel how glorious the evening sun was, I snapped this selfie to see how it looked, the sun looks good, I look tired.
Friday morning I was enlisted to help move 50 cow calf pairs from the pen they had spent the night in, into position to be sorted and readied to go through the chute. This truck push job was new for me, it was pretty easy. That pen is one Russ just built in the last year.
Jill finished quarantine and got to go to school Friday. When she got home she joined us at the chute for the last bit of work. We had handled a lot of animals without her, she picked up a tagger and got right down to work. How did we handle the work without her and Gina both? New skills were learned. Morgan became very good at giving needles this week (what he is doing here) and he learned to brand and is doing very well with that. I on the other hand, learned Jill’s job of castrating steer calves. Thats an interesting challenge. The atmosphere instantly became brighter when Jill arrived with her competence and willingness. Extra hands equal encouragement.
After feeding bottles to the baby calves I needed to change my clothes. It was about 7, “why not just put on a nightgown?” I thought. Then a phone call came, “can you run to the catch pen at the calving pasture and grab the calf pullers?” We had a heifer on the home quarter that needed help to calve. Russ grabbed this picture when I made the delivery. This is not Kathy Kyle at her best, but its my life.
The next morning that huge calf Russ had pulled was doing really well, its Mom, named “Endear” was doing well also.
Funny how some weeks seem to have themes………making another delivery in whatever I was wearing. This picture was this morning, in my robe, Russ called, he was administering some antibiotic to a calve with a bit of pneumonia and his syringe broke in the vehicle thanks to some dog action. He needed a fresh needle and syringe. The pic file says this was 9:30am, church started at 10. We were late, but we were all there. If you are against antibiotics in animals this anecdote might bother you. The way I see it, we give it this treatment and save its life. Were we attempting to produce antibiotic free beef we would see animals like this suffering needlessly and dying. This antibiotic will do its work and not linger in the animal. There are hundreds of days before this animal will become part of the food chain.
One more theme, animals getting their water. Here is Buster at the lunch table today.

This was a hard week. We are all exhausted. On Wednesday I calculated at the end of that one day that between five of us we had worked 63 hours, I was not including our lunch break, but did include a fifteen minute coffee in the afternoon. Why bother telling of that? I think it comes back to the title theme of this blog, about being seen. Its a hope that when I give that figure people will understand that us agriculture people truly do work hard for our living, that we love our animals and we are busting our butts trying to manage all the variables that equal quality of life for them. As I sit here tonight I can picture all the pairs we put through the chute this week, they are doing their thing, many of them already at their summer pastures, enjoying endless hours of prairie sunshine, hanging out as Mama and baby cows together. It seems okay.

In the midst of all this we have lots of great moments, Russ is fun and makes us laugh. Morgan is growing and changing and adding skills every day. We have had time with our cousins Laurie and Dawson who we appreciate so much. I made some food that I am proud of. We have had hard times, its not roses and sunshine around here all the time. We are worried sick about the lack of moisture, one of our dugouts went dry this week. We are getting impatient with each other. Russell and I had some hard words and I gave myself a time out at one point this week. Things don’t feel too carefree when work is front and centre from sun up til sun down. You start to miss feeling a bit carefree. But then the grace sweeps in. The warm things that start to thaw the ice between a man and a woman. The wisdom found in an awesome YouTube video (more Maya Angelou for me, listened to while checking cows) reminds of everything deeper and wider than the present moment. Cousins arrive and remind you that you are not alone. That softened ice cream tastes delicious and makes you feel brilliant for finding it. The beauty surrounding us, sights and sounds, touches your heart. My people come up against the dangers of big animals and stay safe, again and again. I am reminded that God has given me a purpose for my life. You find a way to give permission to yourself to be just human and struggling. The grace sweeps in and in a slower moment gratitude bubbles up.

And that is the week we have known. Is it too early to go to bed?

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.

A Gratitude Round-up

Night has fallen on another day at the Bar MW Ranch. I had hoped to tackle a bit of a big topic in my writing today but I fear at this point in the day I don’t have the brain power to make it work.

As the day winds down we have so much to be grateful for, little stuff and big stuff.

-The cows are doing really well with calving. We had seventeen calves on Sunday, none have required much intervention from us or a visit from the vet. That is a relief after the beginning of last week.

-I got the chance to buy 18 eggs fresh off our friends’ farm today and we ate feta cheese, greek chicken and my favourite broccoli at supper, there was flavour abounding, I am thankful for access to food that feels so good to eat.

-I made my Mom’s famous “Christmas Morning Wife Saver” casserole for lunch. I feared the smell of it cooking would throw me right off, my sister suggested maybe it would be a balm for my soul. I liked that reframe. In fact, the act of making it was a balm for my soul and the smell of it both sharp to my senses and comforting. Ron our hired man really liked both the wife saver and Mom’s fudge which I served us for dessert. I am thankful for the memories and the excuse this birthday week offered to honour my Mom.

-We picked up our Hyundai from Powell Autobody, they replaced my windshield and did a beautiful job washing it up and shining the interior a bit. I felt totally spoiled. We also dropped our Expedition off for servicing in Alida, hoping to deal with a noisy backend. To round the day off we went to Carlyle where we picked up our repaired dually. We resisted going through the Dairy Queen drive thru this time. It was a vehicle day and lots of time on the road, we are home safe and sound and I always feel grateful for that.

-Our cow “Peta” had twins today. By the end of the day she made clear that it would be best for us to take one of her babies and just leave her one. For the time being we have an extra baby in the barn and Jill and I will be delivering bottles for the foreseeable future. That is a job that feels like an extra thing until you get to the barn and experience that new life and the human-animal relationship. I am thankful for this life I have. I didn’t know that animals could possibly mean as much to me as they do.

-Russell had his Covid vaccine yesterday evening. One step closer to where we want things to be for us and others. I am thankful that my sweet man has stayed so strong despite all the obstacles he faced in 2020 and never had to reckon with Covid despite a close call.

There is more, some of it kind’ve personal. Thats maybe enough for tonight.

Thats what I see after this day on the Bar MW Ranch.

I am missing Gina. As I looked at her grad pictures tonight this one jumped out at me for the clear image it gave of her boots. I might call this picture “Gina’s boots in their natural habitat.” (A Liz Griffin Photography Image)
Gina sent this picture last week. Her boots in their new habitat. Actually, she doesn’t wear them to school much but this day was performing a number in class from “Annie Get Your Gun “
The evening light is illumining so many individual bits of the prairie. Maybe that is a bit like gratitude, it illumines the many pieces of our days that seem so unremarkable at first glance.
(A Liz Griffin Photography Image)