Entering winter

This past autumn presented me with several challenges. A brief retreat within was necessary in order to recoup and renew my spirits. Now that we are entering winter, I feel refreshed by the cold, crisp air, and am eager to again share stories from Coulee Creek Ranch.

There have been many changes around here as we settled into our new cabin and the responsibilities of the season. We held our first branding last month, and with the help of several good, experienced friends, the day went smoothly. There were just a couple of “oops” moments that we recovered from easily, and which provided for some good laughs later over chili and cornbread. It was a remarkably warm day for November, with temperatures in the 50s under a bright sun. Alas, we were so busy that no one remembered to take photos!


After branding, we moved the cows down to a pasture at the northeast corner of the property. We had a brief cold snap with night temperatures hovering down around zero degrees. On frigid mornings like these, we have to break ice on Coulee Creek to provide the cows with access to drinking water. This meant that the beaver pond was also beginning to freeze over, tempting me with its smooth, glassy surface! I started dreaming and scheming about our annual ice-skating party.

Bart at the first annual Coulee Creek Classic in 2013

The last week has been balmy and barely below freezing at night – turning the ice quickly back to liquid water. So despite the short days, it hardly feels like winter. Snow that fell in two separate storms around Thanksgiving has already melted away down here on the ranch. A new storm this week left a light dusting of snow on the shady side of slopes. And as a distant reminder of winter, a white blanket still cloaks the Snowy Mountains, which grace our horizon to the north.



Feeding the herd has become a daily morning chore. Bart and I usually go out to feed the cows together – with Doc along for the ride. IMG_4686

We take turns chucking flakes of hay from square bales off the truck. Small square bales take a bit more work, yet we can be very precise about how much we feed each day.


The cows are learning the routine, and usually start to head down from the far corner of the pasture when they see the truck pull up.


Just a week away from the winter solstice, the sun rises late enough that we have been lucky to witness many colorful sunrises while we feed. On the flip side, it is close to dark by 4:30, making it harder to get outside chores accomplished. It is the time for snuggling close in by the fire in the evenings and enjoying some well-deserved down time. Our new cabin has been a blessing in that respect – it is light, comfortable, and more spacious than our old bunkhouse in town.


Perhaps the best part is the cabin’s location – you can’t beat the view out the window and our neighbors – owls, deer, eagles, coyotes, antelope, and countless species of birds that provide us with a chorus of songs. At night, the stars illuminate the dark sky, and as I step outdoors to marvel at them, everything falls into perspective. Challenges and changes melt away into acceptance of this moment just as it is. The solace of nature envelops me here at home in the coulee.


Published by Heather Bilden

I live in Montana with my husband Bart. I enjoy working in the garden, taking care of the animals, and exploring the prairie with my dogs, my binoculars, and a reverence for the natural world.

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