Adventure

Russ and I are home from a trip.  It’s a trip that we began planning two years ago, thinking ahead to our 20th anniversary.  However, the cruise we planned for fall 2020 was cancelled, and so was the one we then booked for fall 2021.   At the point where the 2nd cruise was cancelled we decided to fly to St. John’s Newfoundland for a week. 

On September 13th we were pretty elated to be in a plane and successfully soaring towards our holiday.  After all the changes to our plans, and then changes to our changes as a result of Hurricane Larry, it felt amazing to be on our way. 

A picture we took after arriving at the St. John’s Airport. After all the changes to our plans we could hardly believe we were really there.

When we landed in St. John’s we had already submitted a travel form that included an attached record of our vaccinations.  So when we got to the airport exit and took our turn going through the screening desk, they were able to pull up our form and see that we were clear to exit and start our holiday.  Bottom line…..we complied with their expectation and were deemed acceptable.   Honestly, I know there is so many hard thoughts and feelings around how all this is or isn’t handled, but my reality was that we were finally starting our adventure, and I felt gratitude for what had made that possible. In my head many times was the thought “isn’t it amazing that in the midst of a very contagious variant of a pandemic illness we are on the move.” 

After we arrived Monday night we got unpacked at the Air Bnb we had booked and then walked the few blocks that would take us to George Street.  We found ourselves at a pub called O’Reilly’s where we began our tasting of Newfoundland beer and goodies.  We had nachos with moose meat on them and Newfoundland poutine.   When we first approached the bouncer at the door he drew us close and looked us in the eye and said, “wer’e all vaccinated eh loves, all double vaccinated?”  Yes we were.  “Well then loves you just take your masks off, we’re all good here, we all gots the vaccine.”  And there we sat, in the heart of St. John’s Newfoundland, enjoying local everything, including live Newfie music and getting called “love” by tough looking strangers!

Part of the local delight was Newfie beer. We enjoyed pubs and breweries, we went to the Yellow Belly Brewery patio twice and bought beer to take home too. We had fun with this sampler we ordered and as a result decided that we definitely had a favorite Newfie beer, made at this very spot.
Our favorite was called “Stay Where Your’e At”, usually bottled as “Come From Away”, in honor of Covid it was renamed temporarily.

Something about our holiday that we really enjoyed was the chance to make new friends.  We didn’t come home with new buddies, but we connected on a human to human level with people we had never met before, from cultures we were not familiar with.  There was an old man on the corner of our street who flagged us down to talk.  He was anxious to tell us a bit about himself, he was intrigued to hear about our ranch.  He told us he is 81 years old and he has lived in the same house for 81 years, he was born there, it was his “mudders” and she gave it to him.  He asked us to wait a minute and keep watch of his dog while he went into his house. He came back with lapel pins for us that say “St. John’s”.  It was only a few random minutes but our sense of neighborhood was enriched. 

Russ in our neighborhood.
Our neighborhood..me standing in front of our place. It looks tiny but it had three decks off the other side and all we could ever need.

We enjoyed a lunch on the balcony of the Quidi Vidi brewery until rain forced us inside.  There we shared a table with two travellers from the Washington, D.C. area.  We learned they were friends who had worked together and retired from national security.   As we talked about the work they did and what we did a very interesting thought to ponder came up, something I think we will include in the book we are writing.   Their joyful energy was fun, a treat to experience. 

At the Quidi Vidi brewery enjoying the shelter and the visiting. Wish we could package that rain and bring it home.
Russ surveying the little fishing village known as “The Quidi Vidi Gut.”

We had an incredibly charismatic boat steward on a small ocean trip we took with Iceberg Quest. His name was “Glen”, his energy and charisma made our day, we should have known we were up for a blast when he ushered us on the boat wearing a pirate hat and never took it off.  During the trip he learned I was a minister.  The last thing he said to me as we disembarked was “pray for me.”  I have not taken that lightly, although maybe he was just kidding, us ministers hear that often enough.

On the boat ride we got “screeched in” and became honorary Newfoundlanders.

If you want to know more about the screeching in tradition I have an invitation for you. Search up the musical “Come From Away” on whatever streaming platform you have. Youtube music worked for me. If you have time listen to the whole thing. You get the story of 9-11, from the angle of what happened in Gander Newfoundland that very scary day 20 years ago. It is so heartwarming of a story and so much Newfie culture comes through. If you don’t have time for the whole musical just search up “Screech In”, that song explores the tradition.

The effects of Hurricane Larry had subsided and the ocean was calm. Glen, Nate and Barry our crew were able to take us to the far side of Cape Spear. This is the most eastern point of North America. We think that is a very cool fact

We encountered more than a few people asking for money.  I stood very close to one as he looked me straight in the eye to ask for what he needed.  I could not believe the beauty of his eyes.  I have seen few people in my life with more beautiful eyes.  I asked him for his name, I just wanted to call him by his name, it was weird what was going on inside of me. I wasn’t poking for info it just seemed important to me that as we put some money in his hands I could use his name, maybe hoping to somehow give the message, “I see your humanity.”  I think about him alot still.

By late in the holiday Russ needed another book to read, we tackled a long walk to find Chapters.  Enroute we came across the building which houses the Saturday farmers market.  It was Sunday and a multicultural market was on.  I felt like we had struck gold.  We had seen few people of color and I had been wondering about the immigrant community.  We landed in and found friendly friendly people, eager to share their cultural wares with us.  I brought three aprons.  We mingled with the folks there, (masks on after a new level of precaution was enacted the day before).   I promised the woman who had stayed up all night sewing aprons to sell at the market, that I would take a picture of me wearing her apron while serving trail food to our cowboys and I would send it to her.  That pleased her.  It is a GORGEOUS apron.  

Here I am standing with the creator of my very colorful apron.

Our taxi ride back to the airport included conversation about driving back to our ranch from the Regina airport.  We have a ranch, we have cows.  That information was literally exciting to our driver.  He had experience with cows in his home country, he loved something about them.  By the time we parted from him I had given him my blog address and our names.  He laughed heartily at himself when he realized that he had forgotten to collect our money, he was so distracted by the talk of cows.  

It was so much fun and interesting to randomly make these connections.

Like many people on a holiday I experienced relief from all the duties that shape my usual everyday life.  As wonderful as that is it creates a huge void.  Left with tons of time to shape as we wanted a very important variable was at play and it made me realize again that I married the right person.  Someone who knows me, with all my quirks, and what he knows about me he likes and he relates to.  So, everyday we ambled through activities that mean a lot to both of us and we chit chatted and joked and interacted with the people and events we encountered with a deep comfort.  As the days went by I noticed how much I often opened my mouth and spoke, joked and quipped without thinking twice, no need to guard or censor myself.  I don’t think this is totally unusual for me or anything, but somehow it hit me, I was feeling particularly free to be myself.  One of the things we talked about, maybe as we made a marathon uphill walk to the top of Signal Hill, (something Russell would like credit for, and he deserves it…..because I coaxed he and I both into alot of walking/hiking that day)….anyways…..what I asked him was “Russell, all over facebook people are talking about their freedoms being taken away.  Have you ever experienced your freedom being taken away?”  He thought about it and said “No.”  I said, “me neither, so I am kind’ve confused.  What are these people talking about?”   I am thankful that Russell has never said, “Kathy, your’e too analytical.”   I heard that enough in my life before Russell.  So, he welcomes my wandering thoughts and efforts to figure things out maybe because he is analytical too. Perhaps this enjoyment/acceptance of each other is how we made it through our almost 21 years, because there were some points it seemed iffy. Marking that accomplishment we did something really corny and maybe a bit excessive. We hired a photographer and we packed our original wedding clothes and we had a session at Cape Spear, the most eastern point of the continent. I hope to do a blog telling some of that story but for now here is one image from our gallery, me and the guy I get to be most totally myself with.

This video is one Russ made for the kids but it captures a part of our hiking adventure and more importantly gives a real feel for part of the Terry Fox story, which is being marked this week in Carnduff.

Another thing that happened for me on this holiday was that I was reminded about who I am.  We took the city bus several times to get where we were going.  In those moments I was reminded that I am a city girl.  The rhythm and process of that bus skirting through the city streets was something I had written down deep within me.  It was as familiar as horseback is for Russell.  In contrast to that, the first bus ride we had, Russell asked me with some concern, “how do we tell the driver when we want to get off?”  With some shock I asked him, “you don’t know?  Well you just pull on the bell chord up here on the wall.”  Our different backgrounds were starkly clear.  Having said that, I could count on one hand the number of hours I have spent on a school bus, Russ has given years of his life to that experience with several stories to tell because of it.   One of the more surprising things I learned about myself was how much I love to be active.  It was very practical to be walking, rental cars were unavailable, buses took time, almost everywhere we wanted to go we were within 4km and it was walkable.  I loved it.  I never expected to be able to say that.   I have put some time to trying to figure out why I resist exercise at home but I was more and more thirsty for it as the days went by in St. John’s.  I think part of the reason is the walking was so practical and it felt so good (mostly).

We had mostly extraordinary weather, this sun drenched evening photo illumines one of our last restaurant meals, we shared an order of fish and chips and we shared a moose burger. They were both really good, washed down with some YYT ale. They were sold out of “Stay Where Your’e At”, but I don’t think it was our fault.

As our holiday was unfolding I found myself a bit obsessed in my thoughts with the topic of freedom. Perhaps because we were doing what seemed unthinkable only months ago. I was noticing all the different ways I was experiencing freedom besides being able to go 4000km from home, ….freedom to be myself, freedom to be in contact with different people, freedom to learn more about myself and the freedom to do that without worry of causing harm. All these freedoms mean alot and I find myself wondering if the current laser focus on freedom as people define it, is causing us to forget to see, nurture and take ownership for all the different ways that freedom does or does not touch our lives.  I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but I sure had some good things unfold, I had a good break and so did my best pal.

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?

Love Me Tender

We have been having some big days here, our calf numbers are rising by 10+ calves per day and its pretty exciting.  We had a set of twins early this morning and the Mom, who is known as “no tag” abandoned one of the calves (she has that terrible name because her tag came out sometime during the year,it will be replaced when we do our spring work with the cows and calves).  Russ brought her to the barn and I added her to my morning caseload.  I have some pictures here describing how that unfolded. 

Russ also texted from his early morning check that our Heifer named “Tender” calved.  That is one of my favorite names we have on the place.  It is part of a much bigger story, one that could fill a book perhaps.  The start of that story goes back a few years now when we acquired all 11 seasons of MASH on DVD and were watching it a lot.  In one episode Hot Lips and Pierce are assigned to go to a remote location and provide medical care, they are gone for a couple days. While they are away things get dangerous and as I recall they are holed up in a small space overnight.  All the everything that led up to these days rises to the surface, the shared work, the loneliness, the stress, the danger, the friendship, and as they have this set apart time they share a very tender kiss.  I was absolutely struck by it.  I realized watching it, in a way that I had never realized before, just how much I am moved by tenderness.  I think it is about, for me, what my blog address says, it takes some tenderness to see one another as we really are and to let ourselves be seen.  It is in being truly seen that I feel safer than I did before.  I knew I had to talk to Russell about this revelation I had about tenderness.  But that’s hard.  For some of us its so hard to say what we need.  Its hard to craft these conversations so that the information is shared without hurting the feelings of the other, without giving the message that they are faulty.  I really think it was about me stopping a bad habit I have. I work pretty hard to keep everyone happy and ignore what I need. I also needed to trust Russell with this insider info about me.  I think of the conversations that followed as being the beginning of removing some bricks that were In the wall that existed between us.  They were not long and life changing conversations.  They were a beginning of dealing with some of my various crappy relationship habits.  There is nothing like marriage to reveal what you really aren’t very good at that you thought you were.  The wall was affected, a bit more light got through and over, a bit more shared air was available and some unrelated circumstances around us changed making life itself easier.  Then a challenge came our way that had us both dealing with our issues and I give credit to Russell for taking the risk to be vulnerable with me, to trust me, to let me in.  What followed was some damn hard work but as that work unfolded we also gained traction as a couple who are truly present to each other.  In the summer of 2020 as we were becoming firmly rooted in a better way of being a couple together and coming up on our 20th wedding anniversary we had the job to do of getting tags made for our 1st calf heifers.  Russell has become a real fan of having theme names for cows that all come into the herd at the same time.  Last year we opted not to sell 62 of our heifer calves, we bred them last summer and switched their calf tags to cow tags.  What would the theme for these heifers be?  To mark the place we had come to in our marriage and what we had learned we decided to make tags using 62 words that relate to having a healthy relationship.  This was a really fun list of names to brainstorm and create tags for.  “Tender” who calved this morning, is, of course, part of this group.   So that is a part of the origin story of the first calf heifers of 2021, my favorite cow “tender” (who is actually really grouchy today) and perhaps way more information than you asked for, but I don’t mind talking about/sharing the stuff that is about real life in real time.  I have read this over with Russell and received his approval of what I offered as well.  

Here are the 1st calf heifers that have given us calves so far…..Relish, Listen, Hot Tub, Share, Enchant, Favour, Approve, Zeal, and Support. Yearn is calving right now. In an episode of real drama, we had a pre-teen pregnancy when “Feel” found herself pregnant and birthed last fall.  I’m not remembering where she found herself in contact with a bull, but her little body successfully carried that calf to term and birthed it all on her own.  She has this year off. 

A few pics…….

Coffee helped Russ bring this beautiful abandoned twin calf home from the pasture.
The calf we have since named Clipper. She was my joy today(read between the lines… .it was not my best day). At first she didn’t want to take a bottle. Russ told me to nudge her sucking instinct by giving her my finger. She remained unconvinced at 9am, at that point she was about 3 hours old.
To help her circulation and muscle tone I did lots of work on her, when I saw the residue on my hands I was a bit perplexed. That’s amniotic fluid I am pretty sure.
I decided early on in life that there is no need to avoid getting dirty as long as warm water and soap is not far away. Look Ma! Clean hands again 😊.
By 11am when I went back Clipper decided that bottle is a good thing.
Russ worked his butt off today and pulled Yearn’s calf just as the sun was setting. Coming in to get a bottle for M.J. he took this picture of our house.
We got new stools at our counter. They have no arms. It seems that makes it easier for a pet to get a spot at the counter. This site tonight tickled my fancy……oh Coffee dog! A very late supper for Russ.