April in Photos

IMG_5056During calving season, Buddy and Whiskey sometimes get shut out of the corrals. Most mornings, they come in to take a nap in the sunshine and generally be part of the barnyard crowd. But with twins on our hands, we needed the extra space for the cow to be with her heifer calves. It was during a three AM check that I discovered the twins. Both were already on the ground, heads up and breathing well. But, being a novice at this whole business, I didn’t know if there was something we needed to do – so I woke Bart to tell him we had twins. He asked if they were standing yet, and if the cow was cleaning them. He then assured me it was okay, we could wait until dawn to check on them again. But after about 10 minutes lying in the dark, I heard his clear, alert voice ask, “how am I supposed to go back to sleep now?” By the next morning, the cow was licking one calf clean while the other suckled. A truly impressive and dedicated mother.

We are so grateful to our first branding crew – several newbies (including myself), but with plenty of determination and desire to learn, we had a smooth, easy morning of branding.

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Thanks to Mary Peters for capturing the crew on film – more photos from the morning are on her website Photography by Mary PetersIMG_5072

I am the pied piper of chickens. They follow me wherever I go, sometimes so eager for kitchen scraps that they swarm me and literally get underfoot. Their egg output is impressive for 3-year olds; We still get about a half dozen a day. In the nine months that we’ve lived out in the coulee they have learned to follow the horses and cows – pecking through their paddies for insects and seeds. Its great to have a clean-up crew around!

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We’ve spent over a week fencing along the highway – a pasture we are leasing from the neighbor in order to have a separate space for our heifers and a bull this spring. We’ve worked feverishly to get the pasture in working order. This little dip in the landscape had to be totally re-wired with new posts installed. It took about a half day of up and down, up and down to finish the job. Doc, the project boss, had to remain in the truck because of our proximity to the highway. He alternated between wistfully looking out the window and napping on the shovel handle.

At least the views while fencing provided some relief! To our northwest, the low, slumped profile of the Snowy Mountains.

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And more distant, directly to the west, the ragged white crests of the Crazy Mountains.

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Plenty of wildlife viewing too…

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The hot days have brought out the snakes. In one day we saw garter snakes, bull snakes, racers, and rattlers. Bart even saw a rattler and a racer peeking out of a hole, side-by-side, where earlier he had seen a garter. A communal hibernaculum, perhaps? The photo above is of a bull snake, the friendly relative of the prairie rattlesnake. Apparently, where there are bull snakes, there are no rattlesnakes. We welcome the presence of the bulls!

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We woke during the night on Thursday to fierce northern winds. I scrambled downstairs to shut the windows, which were left open in order to cool the cabin following a sunny, dry, and very hot day. The next morning we awoke to the acrid smell and dense smoke of wildfire. We couldn’t even see the familiar outline of the Snowy Mountains while fencing. To the north close to a half million acres in Alberta is engulfed in flames and over 80,000 people have been evacuated; a strange occurrence for early May. With a drought and temperatures already in the 80’s, it feels more like August here on the northern prairie. Gratefully, today brought ample rain, clearing the air of smoke and providing much needed moisture to us and our neighbors to the north.

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The first evening primrose of spring! It is impressive; such a large and delicate flower emerging from the rocky soil. Most of our prairie wildflowers are a fraction of the primrose’s size, beautiful and colorful in their own diminutive way. There are splashes of purple, blue, yellow, and pink everywhere lately. Today’s heavy rains will surely bring more color to the prairie. Thankfully, the forecast calls for even more tonight and tomorrow.

My First Parade

Lavina School celebrated its 100-year anniversary this past weekend, complete with a parade through town on Saturday morning. Our friends, Ken and Daphne Kuhlmann, pulled their beautiful old wagon in the parade with their horses, Kit and Cash. They invited me and Bart to be outriders for their wagon. Since I’ve gotten to ride regularly over the past year, I’ve become much more comfortable on horses, and felt ready for my first parade. Luckily, it was a small scale, short parade unlike the bigger affairs that Bart has ridden in down in Billings.IMG_4251 Bart and I rode into town from the Coulee, just shy of three miles, in order to calm the horses down so they’d be ready for the noise and commotion of the parade. Bart is riding Whiskey these days and I am on Buddy. Last fall, I rode Whiskey because he was considered the horse least likely to buck. Turns out he is also very smart, and picked up quickly on my inexperience around horses. He pushed my boundaries a few times because he thought he had the upper hand. Several times now I’ve been put on horses deemed the least likely to buck. Usually it turns out they have some other quirk that makes them an interesting ride – such as being a gaited horse or just being downright stubborn. I switched over to Buddy this spring, and it’s made a big difference in my riding. He is a lovable, albeit slow, horse who takes good care of me. IMG_4259 We lined up for the parade on Railroad Avenue with Ken, Daphne, and a few other riders on Saturday morning. Railroad Avenue is adjacent to the old railroad right-of-way. This branch of the railroad was abandoned long ago when they decided not to continue with the electrified route over the mountains. Turns out this wasn’t the best decision the railroad could’ve made at the time… but that is a story for another day. IMG_4276 IMG_4264 IMG_4291 While we waited amidst the assorted floats, Bart rode up and down capturing some photos.

Here you can see that Ken and Daphne ride in style!

My friend Annie gave me this beautiful shirt, perfect for a parade. IMG_4295 We traveled down Main St. from north to south while the sheriff held up traffic at both ends. It is a unique, historic downtown. At the far end of the photo on the right is the old bank building, and then the Slayton Mercantile with the green awning. This is where the dance and lamb barbeque took place on Friday night. I am usually not a fan of lamb, but Friday night’s marinated lamb kabobs changed my opinion. They were so incredibly tender and tasty that I actually went back for seconds! Just out of the photo on my right is the Adam’s Hotel, once a fashionable destination along the railroad line between Milwaukee and the West Coast. Later in the afternoon we toured the hotel, which has been partially restored. I can only imagine how luxurious it was to stay there on the long train ride west.

I am pleased to say the horses behaved well and the parade went off without a hitch. We stopped by the neighbor’s house on the way home and I led the kids around on Buddy’s back. He really is a gentle, sweet horse. IMG_4303 IMG_4296