A Moment on Coulee Creek

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Ice crystals on Coulee Creek

While caught up in daily chores, listening to the endless chatter of my mind, I am stopped in my tracks. I wake from the trance of “getting things done” and become acutely aware of the moment. Usually it is nature that provides the reason to pause, admire, and be inspired. I live in close proximity to the natural world – the small inconveniences of poor cell service, inconsistent internet, and a grocery store over 45 miles away all become insignificant in comparison to the wonder of nature.

Earlier this morning, Bart and I walked to the cliff edge to look down on Coulee Creek. Seemingly from out of nowhere a golden eagle floated beneath us, soaring west toward the horizon. Moments later, a second eagle appeared, gliding effortlessly away from the sandstone cliffs a hundred feet above the earth.

Later, while taking Doc on his daily duck-hunting hike, I came upon a coyote. The coyote stood partly hidden behind sagebrush, stoic and alert. Doc’s soft curves and floppy ears appeared cartoonish in comparison to the sharp lines of the coyote’s muzzle and ears. When Doc caught scent of the coyote, he followed the trail towards the sagebrush. Doc, with nose to the ground, was oblivious to the wild dog that he was rapidly approaching. Doc came within twenty feet, before the coyote took off in a flash, retreating to a small knoll only fifty feet away. The coyote’s sudden movement finally got Doc’s attention. Doc stopped and watched the coyote, apparently mystified by this creature that he had surely smelled before and never came so close to touching. Doc hesitated, unsure of his next move. I called him back to me, and he seemed all too eager to get away from the mystery animal that was now barking in alarm at us. Its yips echoed in waves off the cliffs behind me. I stood frozen in place as the sound washed over me.

After a moment or two, the chill of five-degree air began to penetrate my jacket and gloves. Time to move on. Doc trotted on down the frozen creek, in pursuit of his usual pal, the duck. I followed Doc toward our cabin in the coulee. I was eager to get to my destination, and my mind began chattering with plans again. I would feed the horses, then stoke the fire and finish turning last summer’s tomatoes into spaghetti sauce. But before I could get too far ahead of myself, I lifted my head toward the cliff where earlier we had seen the eagle, and which now resonated with the call of the coyote. All around me were tangible reminders that where I was right now in this moment was the only place in this world to be.

 

Feeding the old fashioned way

Why not take the team out to feed the cows when it is 1 degree above zero? At least the air is still, even if clouds are completely blocking the sun and a gentle mist of snow is falling from above. We’ve only fed with the team once, and that was before we had the new harnesses, refurbished by a generous man from the Montana Draft Horse and Mule Association. The team has been away; we are borrowing them after all, and their owner requested their presence for a few days. The wagon was gone too, for holiday rides with Santa, and only came back to the ranch yesterday. With everything finally back in one place, we can’t not feed with the team this morning. It is positive one degree after all, not negative.

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On go the layers: long johns, canvas pants, and wool pants on the bottom with two long john tops, a sweater, down vest, wool shirt and canvas work coat on top. Then a unique neck/head tube from my friend Pippi, a silk scarf and an alpaca wool hat made in Bozeman to top it all off. We are ready to roll!

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I give the dogs a boost onto the loaded hay wagon and grab the reins while Bart hitches up the horses. It is a quiet, smooth, and beautiful ride down the county road.

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When the cows see us approaching, they run and a few even buck with excitement. Maverick whines and quivers, eager to work the cows. Doc quivers too, but his shakes are from the cold. This twelve-year-old bird dog is not too impressed with the whole affair. I pile some loose hay in a corner of the wagon to make a bed for him out of the wind. Then I climb on top of the hay, eager to move a bit and pitch bales to get my blood moving.

 

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Bart moves the team a little way at a time so I can spread the hay out. I break the small squares roughly into thirds and toss them left, right, back. Move forward. Left, right, back again. I am toasty warm, and slow my pace to avoid getting sweaty, a sure way to get chilled to the bone in this cold. Bart’s beard has become iced over, creating a frosty face mask.

 

We circle the wagon around and stop by the creek to open the ice for the cows. On the way home, we walk the horses, careful not to let them get too sweaty and chilled either. The drive back seems to take five times as long as the way out, with the chill setting into my toes and fingers. I move my limbs vigorously back and forth to shake blood out to the extremities. The snowflakes become fatter as they drift down, beginning to coat Doc’s back as he lays curled in his hay bed. It was a beautiful and thrilling journey, and I am glad to return home to the warmth of the cabin, where I put on a pot of tea immediately. What a great way to start the day!

 

Better Late Than Never

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July 2016 – Toadlet. I am not sure if this is correct scientific nomenclature for the wee toads I’ve been seeing, but I certainly like the ring of it. It perfectly fits the thumb-sized creatures that are spitting images of fully grown palm-sized adults. For a week now, whenever I’ve detected movement in the grass out of the corner of my eye it has turned out to be a toadlet, hopping nonchalantly through dry grass and dirt. I want to put them all in my garden to help keep the leaf-hopper population at bay. They would be right at home with the bull snake, another welcome garden denizen that keeps the pocket gopher population in check. On Friday, I found the bull snake ensnarled in the bird netting that covers our strawberry patch. At first I thought he was dead, but as I cut loose the netting from his body, it began writhing and he even gave me his rendition of rattlesnake tail wagging, though his head was so tied up that he couldn’t make the vocalization to make it sound like rattles. I cut his head free last, and cautiously placed him in the shade to recover from the trauma.

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November 2016 – The garden was hit or miss this summer- the cucumbers refused to flourish, but three types of peppers made up for that shortcoming. Root vegetables also did well despite the heat. Luckily, my mom arrived in August to help trim and store an abundance of onions, and to can pickled beets and cucumbers img_5334

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We had many visitors this summer – Pippi and her kids returned for a third year of ranch camp, and helped me pick a 5 gallons of choke cherries. We cleaned and stemmed them together, and then I cooked them down to make syrup. We got just 2 pints of syrup from all those berries! Another Teton Science School grad, Katie, visited us later in August just in time to celebrate Bart’s birthday and our one year anniversary of life in the cabin at Coulee Creek. The only downside to a simple life off the grid? We’ve chosen not to have internet at home, which makes my blog posts few and far between! So here is to summer, now long past, but whose memories will always last!

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An Unusual Sunday

Three quarters of an inch had fallen by the time we checked the rain gauge at seven AM on July 10th. Over the next four hours bursts of heavy rain followed by steady slow showers brought the total for the day up to one and three quarters of an inch. Unbelievable for July on the prairie of central Montana! After weeks of continual work (gardening, fencing, tending to the cows, chickens, and much more), I thoroughly enjoyed lounging on the couch while reading a book and listening to the rain cleanse the world outdoors.

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Muddy pools of water now dot the brown landscape, dry and parched from the last few weeks of intense heat. In the afternoon, the sun peeks out for a few hours and we take the horses up to the CRP pasture to check on the cows. We find the herd in the southwest corner, farthest from the creek where the grass hasn’t been grazed as heavily. Huge puddles on the side of the road allow them to linger there eating and drinking all afternoon. My horse rides well. He is recovering from a sprained tendon that I’ve been treating with ice and leg wraps since we moved the bulls to pasture with the cows in May. I am relieved at his smooth gait and apparent lack of pain. We take it easy, walking leisurely across the wide rolling plain. That evening when we head to town for dinner, I am surprised at how quickly the puddles on the driveway have disappeared. The thirsty ground absorbed the rain in a hurry!

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The next morning we wake to the sound of more rain on the roof, another tenth of an inch has fallen overnight. The air is cool, mid 50s, and moist. I feel like I am back in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, which can be damp and chilly even in the summer. I emerge from our cabin wearing pants, a sweater and down vest. It’s as though I’ve landed in a different world than where I stood just four days ago, sweltering in shorts and a tank top. The garden is vibrant green and thick with mud. Last week I replanted the cover crop in the fallow portion, having determined that the mammoth red clover just wasn’t getting ahead of the weeds. Now the ryegrass will get a jumpstart on life following the storm. The rain wraps the world in cool, comforting moisture as it soothes my mind and body. I’ve been cranky from the incessant dry heat of late. One storm like this every week or two would do the earth and me a world of good!

An Evening on the Porch

Abundant rain has fallen in May and June. We received close to an inch in one storm Wednesday evening, the very day we cut the first dryland sainfoin field. On the bright side, it was also just a couple of days after we seeded a new field, which greedily sucked up the moisture. The hay will dry in time.

IMG_3058 Across the coulee from the cabin the yuccas are in bloom. Over two-dozen stalks of cream-colored blossoms tower above punishing, sharp leaves. I saw the first sego lily of the year today (above). Each spring the wildflowers return like long lost friends. I recognize their colors, curves, and petal counts. Yet often their names elude my memory’s grasp. Penstemmon and pea, larkspur and lily, bluebells and buttercups. I reacquaint myself with them, if only for a few short weeks each year. New beauties surrounded us up in the Snowy Mountains while moving cows on Monday; Shooting stars, yellowbells, and my favorite (if I dare to pick one), the whispy pink prairie smoke (below).

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Above me a nighthawk forages for insects, calling out repeatedly in a nasally buzz. Then silence as it makes a nosedive toward the earth, its fall punctuated by the “hooov” of its wings as it levels out at the bottom of the dive. A fascinating act to watch! There have been several yellow-headed blackbirds in the barnyard this year, mixed in with the usual red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds. Now the urgent cry of the killdeer as it wings its way north toward the beaver pond.

Ack! A mosquito on my arm! Perhaps only the second or third I’ve seen this year. June has been unseasonably, unbearably hot; in the nineties every day for the past week. It’s nine at night, the sun is just now setting, and it’s still in the mid-80s! My-oh-my, what hot misery might August bring?

And now for the fun part: Introducing our new puppy, Maverick. He sure sleeps in some interesting poses. My favorite is when he curled on on Bart’s pants. Just making sure the boss doesn’t get dressed and out the door without him!

 

 

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.

The Skunk

 

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It was February 12th, and sheets of rain pounded on the cabin walls as an unusually warm storm descended on us from the north. Out in the calving lot, the cows didn’t seem to mind as they munched on the day’s delivery of fresh hay. They were brought in earlier than anticipated after a calf was stillborn two weeks ahead of schedule. This was an unfortunate and rough start to calving season. We began the search for a replacement calf to graft onto the cow in order to increase the odds of her future reproductive success. It was early to be looking for extra calves. Phone calls and internet searches left us with one unlikely lead – the Mountain View Hutterite Colony in Broadview. As luck would have it, they had a few newborn Holstein bulls to sell since male milk cows aren’t too useful.

The next day, we headed to the Colony, a collection of immaculately clean and orderly buildings, surrounded by large productive gardens. There was a young boy hanging around the barn, wearing the traditional slacks, suspenders, and long-sleeved shirts of the Hutterites. He corralled the dogs in a Germanic language incomprehensible to me. The man with whom we did business, probably in his twenties or thirties, was dressed in a manner similar to the boy. No other people were in sight on this bright, warm afternoon. The man brought us into the barn to a series of pens, each only roughly 3×3 feet large and containing a young calf. He stood our calf up, who at just over 24 hours old was more limb than substance. He looked healthy enough, so Bart guided him out to the yard, and loaded him into the cab of the pickup.

Poor Doc reluctantly shared the back seat with the calf, who towered over him and occasionally trampled him. On the ride home, the calf tried to suck on everything – the walls of the cab, the seat belt, and Bart’s back – guided by his instinct to look for milk. Finally, the calf decided to relieve himself on the carpet, and Doc was thus relieved to move to the bed of the truck for the rest of the ride in order to avoid sitting in the cow paddy. It was a rather comical and stinky 25-minute ride home.

Back in the coulee, Bart took on the unpleasant task of skinning the stillborn calf so that we could “jacket” the new calf with the dead baby’s hide. Meanwhile, I fed the hungry calf a bottle to quiet him down. He stumbled around uncoordinated, not sure what or where to suck. With some persistence, I got the nipple in his mouth and he drained the bottle in no time. Bart then carefully tied the red hide onto the calf’s body with twine, and put him in the barn with the cow, hoping she would recognize the smell and take the baby as her own.

The first few hours with his new mom were a bit strained for the calf. She head-butted him once into the fence, and then ignored him. That evening, we put her in the head stall and fed her hay so that he could suckle. She put up a minor fuss and kicked him once unenthusiastically, mostly occupied with eating. We left them together in the barn for the night, hoping that time would work its magic. And truly it did. The next morning, the cow was vigorously protecting the calf, who appeared sated as he jumped around the barn all “nimbly bimbly”, as Bart reported to me while I cooked breakfast. I went out to get photos later in the morning, and with aggressive wagging of her head she let me know that I wasn’t allowed near her calf. They make a funny pair, the red Angus cow with a black and white spotted Holstein calf. I am grateful that she has accepted him as her own. We have affectionately named him the Skunk. He is growing tall and strong – in the afternoons he romps around with the other calves on the hillside. As I watch the calves frolicking in the sunshine, the lack of sleep that is inherent in calving season melts away into joy at the arrival of new life.

Marching into spring

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Calving is now in full swing, with one or two new additions to the herd each day. It seems the old Hereford bull did pretty well for himself before he injured his foot and had to be pulled from pasture with the cows. A majority of the calves bear his markings – either patches of white on the face or full white-faced baldy calves. One little heifer calf has the face of a jack-o-lantern with eyes, nose and mouth of white lighting up her otherwise red coat. The mixing of Hereford genes into the Angus herd gives the calves hybrid vigor, thus avoiding the pitfalls of inbreeding. They sure are cute little creatures. It is amusing to watch them– those that are a few days old are romping around with their anxious mothers following them at full trot, occasionally bellowing as if to say “get back here!”

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The placement of our cabin allows us to see about half of the calving yard right out the kitchen window. With binoculars, I have watched two cows give birth at the far end of the lot. After their babies arrive in the world, the cows begin vigorously licking them dry, and urging them to get up. The calves shake their heads occasionally, their wet ears dangling down heavily against their necks. Shortly after birth, they begin to try to stand up. It takes several attempts before they are successful. Up goes the back end, and then plop back down. Again, up goes the back, and this time the front legs make it part way up before collapsing, and the calf tumbles onto its head. After a brief rest, the calf tries again. A few more tumbles, and he manages to stay up on all fours, wobbling unsteadily for a few moments. Sometimes the vigor of a cow’s licking pushes the calf right back down. But with each attempt, the calf gets stronger. He is determined to find his mothers’ teats so he can nurse. Usually within a half hour, calves are up, mostly dry, and sucking their first meal contentedly.

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It is simply amazing to watch nature take its course. The cows’ instincts for maternal behavior allow the process to unfold gracefully. Everybody seems to know what to do on cue. It is rare that we have to intervene and lend a helping hand. So far the births have gone smoothly. We keep a close eye on the herd, checking them every three hours. Bart and I have gotten into a good rhythm that allows us to maximize continuous sleep. I check the cows at nine PM and midnight, and Bart goes out at three and six AM. Under the darkness of the new moon, I absorb the stillness of night while I walk through the herd, looking for signs of cows in labor. We couldn’t have asked for easier weather for calving. The days are mild, fifty and even sixty degrees, with nights hovering right around freezing. It is a blessing for birthing, but surely odd weather for February. All across the countryside, there are patches of green grass. I am a lover of all four seasons; it just doesn’t feel right to skip over winter. At least we had one solid month of cold and snow. Brisk cross-country ski journeys allowed me to cherish cozy nights at home with cocoa by the fire. But since late January, it has been mild enough to go out without a coat and hat during the day. This year is simply abnormal. The Snowy Mountains loom on the northern horizon, still blanketed in white. At least there is some moisture in the mountains to keep our rivers running this spring.
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Winter wanderings

On Wednesday, I drove over five hours northwest from my home up to Browning, Montana. My work in education requires occasional travel, and this week took me to the edge of Glacier National Park, just south of the Canadian border. When I moved to Montana in 2000, I lived on the other side of Glacier Park in the Swan Valley. My roommates and I frequently visited Glacier, which quickly became one of my favorite places to go hiking. Long, lush valleys surrounded by high peaks were the reward for a short and scenic drive north under towering pine trees. It was that summer living at Swan Lake that I first fell in love with Montana. Everything here was larger than my imagination could fathom. Something about the place felt both authentic and wild, an alluring combination.

Sixteen years later, when I arrived in Browning for an education seminar, the hotel clerk asked me if I wanted a view of the mountains or a view of the parking lot. Seriously, do you even need to ask this question? Out my window in the fading light of evening lies a stunning vista. High lofty peaks blanketed in snow line the horizon. Swirling eddies of white meander down the slopes under peaks capped by towering clouds. Yet down from those majestic mountains comes a relentless whipping wind. The last two nights I’ve woken up nearly hourly to the noisy rattle of my windows. Tonight is off to a rollicking start. With gusts up to 60 mph predicted, I don’t see much peaceful sleep in my future. The east side parking lot view is looking a bit rosier now that I’ve tried the view to the windy west…

While staying here, miles from home, I’ve missed my morning routines. Usually, I enjoy a mug of hot tea while sitting by the freshly stoked fire in the dark hours before dawn. When day breaks, I pull on my muck boots, down jacket, hat and gloves, ready to venture outdoors. Doc stretches, shakes and joins me in greeting the world. The fresh air and mountain views make my morning complete. IMG_4779

My first task is to open up the chicken coop and bring the girls fresh water. Usually a couple of the red chickens are up and feeding or wandering around the coop. Most of the girls are still on the roost, clucking softly and waking to the day. After the chickens are released to the wider world, I grab a big flake of hay for the horses. They have become used to our routine, and usually wait eagerly for me by the back fence. Buddy gets a bit pushy, trying to get the first bites of hay before Whiskey runs him off. I make sure to create two equalish piles, more than a horse-length’s apart, so that they both can feed on the sweet grass hay. The scent of it is lovely; in the crisp winter air it fills my nostrils with the warm richness of summer.

For the month of December and into January we were blessed with a blanket of snow that made cross country ski adventures a daily reality. Doc jumps at the opportunity to ski or hike with me, and most days he seems unsettled until we have put a few miles under our belts.

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On these cross-country journeys my path crosses with those of mice, rabbits, fox, and coyotes. Magnificent views and the discovery of secret animal worlds reward my efforts to get out in the wind and cold.

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The sun is at its lowest point in the sky, yet we have only had to use the generator 2 – 3 times to bring our batteries back to full charge. On the fall equinox, we tilted the panels up to a 60 degree angle to maximize solar input. They continue to crank out the energy and the batteries usually reach “float” stage (ie full) by mid-afternoon on sunny days.  Our cabin has proven to be more than adequately insulated. When our wood burning stove really gets going, we have to open the windows and bring in the cool night air so that we can sleep.

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The heifer calves don’t mind winter on their thick straw “nest”. They have become friendly enough with us that 4 – 5 of the 8 will eat cow cake right out of our hand. One particularly bold heifer will even put her head into the shed when we are getting the cake out. Someday, she may become a milk cow for us. The one thing we must buy consistently and can’t make independently (yet) is cheese. Little #009 may change all of that if she agrees to a milking now and then!

Life is about to get really interesting as the time for calving approaches. In preparation, we bought a new love seat with dual reclining chairs. Between three-hour shifts checking the cows, we will be able to nap in the comfort of the love seat. For tonight, I can only hope that the raging winds will somehow lull me to sleep under my sweet mountain view.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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