Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Perfection, well almost

Yesterday seemed like one of those days when so little was accomplished. Today was the kind of day where it seemed I was able to get 3 days of work done in one day. The day did not start out real great and I should relate a bit of bad news. The cow and calf that I was trying to graft together looks like it may be a no go. This cow does pretty well as long as I am standing and watching her closely but the moment I leave she keeps fighting off the calf. I had put hobbles (kind of like rear leg handcuffs) on her last week and that kept her from kicking the calf. I was hoping this would break her stubbornness and she would decide the calf sucking her was ok. First thing this morning I noticed she had one leg free of the hobbles. As I fed her I watched closely and she seemed ok. I walked back to the pickup and was just about to open the door when I heard a WHACK.

I saw the calf staggering a bit from the kick to his jaw and it was all I could do to keep from a kneejerk reaction. I climbed in the pen and nudged the calf back towards the cow. She watched me closely and was eating and doing fine for a few minutes. As I started to walk away she then turned and gave the calf a hard butt with her head. Now I know this cow had some hard luck in losing her calf (blog post Mother Nature can make mistakes on March 4th.) but that is not a reasonable excuse to act this way towards her surrogate calf. I explained to her that Thursday and the weekly auction is fast approaching. If she is not mothered up to the calf by then she will be loaded in the trailer and on her way to becoming a Whopper, BigMac, or Jumbo Jack. I hate to make this decision but the cow is 12 years old, has been an average producer and I have no patience or time for her crap especially in a good butcher cow market. I will have to sell the calf though and he will bring decent money but I still would rather see them both together until weaning time. Such is life sometimes.

The rest of the day was as close to perfect as could be. Dakota and Sam are both on spring break which gives me two employees for the week! Really I do not overwork my kids but some manual labor and a work ethic is not a bad thing for any teenager. My parents always expected us to help out when we were kids and today I am very thankful they did. Both of my parents worked very hard to raise us, raise cattle and raise the standard of living for our family. No matter what path your kids take in life a good work ethic and appreciation for others that work hard will take them far in life. Anyway off the soapbox.

Sam had to go to work at her part time job at Home Depot as well as being a full time college student. Dakota was stuck with Dad and Festus today. We headed to Basin City and tore down and loaded up the portable Powder River panels. Let me tell you these panels are heavy mother frickers for an adult and my 13 year old daughter handled her end of each one like a seasoned professional panel mover. It seems it was just yesterday that she was in sleeper pajamas looking up at me with her arms outstretched saying, “Hold me daddy, hold me.” She also helped me unload and reset the panels up when we got back home. Thank you very much Gus your help is always appreciated.

I spent the rest of the day doing some fencing and rolling up some hotwire fence from the last corn circle. I also did some fence line and ditch weed burning which went well and nothing burned up that was not supposed to which the Franklin County Fire district 1 and my insurance agent are happy about. I sure hope the rest of the week goes as well as today did.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Reed canary grass aka Phalaris arundinacea.

Today’s picture is a video I took today. There are certain calves that really have some cocky attitudes. They will run right up to you and act as if they have not a care in the world, but if you get close enough they will hightail away kicking, bucking and having fun in general. I waited and waited to capture these 3 bull calves in the perfect moment. These are the moments that make this life so wonderful.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Today was not a great day. It really was not a bad day I just did not get much accomplished. The wind howled all day but at least there was some rain over the last 24 hours. I went out and drove tractor shredding ryegrass last night until 2 a.m. so I was dragging butt a bit today anyway. The tractor I am using is my brother in laws and is really nice. Great stereo, good climate control and I like the way the controls are set up. The downside is this tractor has a cupholder and plenty of room on the floor of the cab for a small cooler. I am sure the guy who invented the idea of putting a cupholder in a tractor had good intentions. As I dealt with this last night it made me think of some inventions that are good and some not so good.

Even a great inventor like Thomas Edison had some failures. Mr. Edison had 1093 different patents and apparently often worked day and night on an idea until he had it perfected. A really obscure thing that few people know is Mrs. Edison invented the battery operated personal massage device after many nights of Thomas not coming to bed. One of his failed inventions was furniture built of concrete. Apparently he did not feel the need to ever move or had lots of muscular friends with heavy duty pickups.

When I travel I often ask people what they do for a living as an opening to conversation. I worry that someday I will meet a guy that says, “Oh I am a wealthy retired inventor.” Then I will ask him what he invented and he will say, “I invented the three string hay baler.” At that point the retired inventor will be getting his ass pummeled by a cowman that thinks a 120 pound plus hay bale is about the worst idea ever. Sometimes an idea is good but executed poorly. As an example I will cite pie. Now pie is a really good thing and I am grateful to whoever had the idea. What I don’t understand is why pie pans are so damn shallow? Is the really any reason a pie could not be as thick as an Angel food cake? Now there is an idea combining cake and pie, what would be wrong with a 3 layer pie? No need to mix the strawberry and rhubarb anymore just stack them up. Hell, just add a third layer of vanilla icecream with crust in the middle.

Maybe it is not really the guy who invented the cupholders fault. After all it probably wasn’t him who decided that aluminum cans for both soda pop and beer should be the same size. I like the invention of large coffee mugs with a tiny circular base that fits it a cupholder for a vehicle. This way you get most of the coffee drank before you put the massive mug with the small base on something like a table, pickup hood or three string haybale where it will invariably spill for lack of balance.

Sometimes one invention will spur another. Everyone always hails the invention of the wheel but I am not impressed. If you do not have 4 wheels with tires and a good spare and a decent pickup to put them on what good would a wheel be? As I thought about the invention of one thing spawning the invention of another I pondered a deeper thought as I bounced the tractor across the pasture. Which do you think came first; exotic dancers, tattoos, Chinese characters or clear plastic high heels? I obviously need some sleep.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Cinnamon teal aka Anas cyanoptera.

Today’s picture is cow 5906g feeding her calf some lunch in the tricale field.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Count me in

I should have never admitted to missing blog posts due to being busy. I should have just claimed I was away for 3 to 6 weeks while I filled out my Census form. I am not a fan of the Federal Government on a good day and this Census bullshit is not helping my attitude. As far as I am concerned the Federal Government is really only good at one thing. That one thing is fooking up anything and everything they become involved in. It seems to not matter who or what party is in power they do a stellar job of failing. The one thing this Census is doing for me is giving me much amusement and if it was not for the fact that my and your money was being pissed away it would really be humorous.

This started back in January when I saw some lady running back to her vehicle because Festus was running towards her to “greet” her. I called off the dog and approached her window. She rolled it down far enough that she could hear me yet kept it closed enough that a gnat could not get in with her. When she caught her breath she explained she was with the Census and asked if I would prefer to talk in English or Spanish. Just for the wondrous thrill and because I had 15 years in an apple orchard I chose Spanish for the conversation. The lady also kinda reminded me of General Santa Anna but she was more portly and had a fuller moustache which affected my choosing Espanol. Anyway, she told me she needed to take a GPS (aka GPS in Spanish for those that are not bilingual) reading and wanted to confirm the address. I did confirm the address (Si) but I told her that she really should get out of her rig and travel to the mailbox for an accurate reading being this was important and all. After she had waddled to the mailbox and took the reading she explained that I would be receiving a Census form in February or March and that it would be in both English and Spanish for my convenience. “Muy bein” I thought to myself as my tax dollar employee left for her next GPS reading.

Since that time I have noticed the signs around the area looking for workers with the clever tagline “A job that counts” Hijole chingada . The next thing to happen was I received a letter dated March 8, 2010. It said Dear Resident (not to be confused with resident alien) in about a week you will receive a 2010 Census form, please fill it out and mail promptly. Then it explained that it was important so the community could receive their “fair share” of government funds for programs YOU and YOUR NEIGHBORS NEED. How about the government leaves our money alone and let us decide what the hell we need. Pinches cabrones.

The next letter came dated March 15, 2010 with the actual Census form. It explained that you should fill it out and mail back TODAY. This time it said the amount of government money your neighborhood receives DEPENDS on these answers. This money is used for services for children and the elderly, roads and other local NEEDS (I am assuming this means bi lingual school programs). Oh puke me now with a pitchfork you worthless bastards. The nice thing was both letters were in both English and Spanish which made it mas facil de compreder. Jesus Cristo.

So I open the actual Census and read the first line and my head almost pops off my body. It says to return it TODAY but it also says it needs to count everyone on APRIL 1, 2010. Now I have some well honed psychic powers but not enough that I trust them for something that is so important and related to my NEEDS. After finding me a red pen because the form calls for a blue or black pen. I thought azul was red is my answer if they put me in Federal prison over this. Then it says to count every person including babies who live and sleep here MOST of the time. Already it is confusing because I hardly sleep most of the time anywhere. Then it says do NOT count anyone living away at college or in the armed forces. Well hell, what if Dakota decides to go to Yale or join the Coast Guard between now and April 1. Will it effect how much the Feds provide for me needs?

Next it says do not count anyone in a nursing home, jail, prison, detention facility, etc., on April 1, 2010. Ok Christine is getting right up there in age but I doubt she will be in a nursing home next week but who really knows. I doubt I will be in jail but depending on how the Final Four turns out I could be in a mental care facility; does that count as a detention facility? What if the FBI reads this post and hauls me and my red pen away by April 1st? I think I will wait just to be on the safe side.

Now the latest letter dated March 22, 2010. It reads Dear Resident (oh boy) A few days ago you should have received a “request” to participate in the 2010 Census. A request? Are you freaking kidding me? It said it was required by law, now it is just a request. It continued saying it was important to respond. If you have already responded (for the crystal ball owners) please accept our sincere thanks. Then in bold, if you have NOT responded do so soon as possible.

I really do not know what I am going to do; there is a number to call if you need help and a different number for Spanish and yet another for TDD people. What if I need TDD in Spanish? Did some expert think of that? I am glad to see that staff are available for help todos los dias, entre las 8:00 a.m. y 9:00 p.m, 7 dias a la semana. I think it is best if I just wait for Santa Anna’s fat sister with the nice moustache to come back and help me with this form. Festus is in total agreement.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is The beaver aka Castor Canadensis.

Today’s picture is cows and calves enjoying the sunshine. The owner enjoys seeing cows on green feed that no longer need to be fed hay!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How far to Prosser?

I know that some of you are thinking I should change the name of the blog to the weekly cowman at this point. I do finally seem to have my computer working correctly but in all honesty it was more the week of work that kept me away from here. This week has turned out to be a week full of industry service time but for the rest of March and most of April I am going to have to concentrate on things here on the ranch. I feel that if a person is involved in any industry and feels it is important then they should spend some time working for the betterment of that industry. Today’s post is about the things I did this week for what I hope helps the beef business continue to not only survive but thrive here in this great country.

It started last Saturday with our annual steer weigh in and tagging day at the fairgrounds in Kennewick. I have volunteered as a co Beef superintendent at the Benton Franklin County Fair since Dakota began showing. My Dad held the same post for many years and it is a fun way to contribute and help youth in the community that are interested in the beef business. We weighed in and tagged 101 steers total last Saturday and will weigh more this Saturday in Connell. We decided to share tags and weights with the Columbia Basin Junior Livestock show in Connell which has their fair 3 weeks after our Benton Franklin County fair. We keep gaining kids which is exciting and amazing given the time and expense commitment that goes with growing and showing a steer. I think the glory of showing a steer compared to the shame of showing a lowly hog, lamb or goat and my continuing outspoken opinion on this has helped us gain kids *snicker*. Really there are some great kids in the other barns and being able to help with something that I feel made a positive contribution to my own life as a kid is a task with many rewards. One volunteer summed it up best, “this is an investment in good kids.”

Monday morning was spent doing a few things around here and some time chatting with my Mom. Then some more volunteer time was on tap. I traveled to Prosser to help set up panels for the bull sale that The Washington Cattlemen’s Association (WCA) sponsors. I was just a small part of many great people who contribute time, sweat and money to make the sale a reality and success. Tuesday morning I did early checks and feeding before heading to Kennewick once again. There is a two day “farm fair” and many agricultural groups have booths set up there. I helped with out WCA booth and talked to 5th grade students about what we do in our industry in rotating 6 minute time slots. Each generation seems to get more disconnected from the farm or ranch. This is a great way to educate these kids about where their food comes from. Tuesday after noon I continued up the freeway back to Prosser for our WCA March board of directors meeting. Once again spending a day with so many passionate, hardworking and intelligent fellow cowboys and cowgirls left me in awe. I made it home to finish feeding and calf checking in the last slivers of daylight.

Yesterday after doing some morning chores I was off to Prosser once again. This time it was mostly for me as I attended the bull sale and made my final bull purchase of this spring. We had a great sale and for the most part prices were strong. The best thing for me was I waited patiently for the bull I really wanted and was able to purchase him for right at my $2500 top end price limit I had set. I will get some pictures of all the new bulls (4) as spring progresses. Each bull gets a personalized name and I will share those as they are given. The four new bulls will replace High Head, Jupiter, Budweiser and Retard who were sold last fall. Wednesday night I spent about 4 hours after dark shredding ryegrass which got me to this morning.

This morning I did a quick check and then a bit of sorting at the corrals. I still had a few miscellaneous yearling calves around and decided to get them sold while the market is strong. Dakota was home today because of conference week so she accompanied me to the auction in Toppenish. I hope she someday cherishes days at the auction with her dad. I certainly have great memories of going to cattle auctions with my Dad and grandfather as a kid. I doubt I would know half the swear words I do today without that life experience.

On the way home today we stopped in Prosser at the bull test station and picked up the bull I purchased yesterday. I would have bet a million dollars I would never travel from Connell to Prosser four times in four consecutive days but that’s what the week was. When we got home we unloaded the bull at the corrals and Dakota and I just spent some time comparing him to bulls of past years and watching him explore his new home. I have high hopes for this bull. He not only has the body type I like and a pedigree I love he walks with his head held high and already acts like a seasoned veteran. I would say he almost has a swagger to his movements. I am thinking we might name him Tiger Woods or Jesse James!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Foxtail barely aka Hordeum jubatum.

Today’s picture is once again of some Sandhill cranes and was taken from the tractor seat. They are everywhere this time of year.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Computer on lockdown

This is the post I was writing Friday night about 11:30 p.m. when my computer froze up and would not move. Luckily it autosaved and was still here when I got this thing running again tonight. I tried to put in inserts where it was needed to fit the time that it was written as opposed to posted.

Back in January when I started this blog it seemed to be so easy. Once a day seemed like it would be just a blip in the total time space spectrum. Now that it is the second half of March I am wondering if I can find the time to post weekly much less daily. There is so much excitement and anticipation about a new year yet there is also so much work and stress. Yesterday (Thursday) besides the base feeding, checking and tagging that consumes about 3 and a half hours each day I also spent some “office time”.

Office time is not as bad as spending time doing mechanical work but damn close. In this industry I think most would welcome a day of talking with attorneys, gathering information and crunching numbers just to have a break from the physical labor aspects. I will admit that compared to many tasks office time can be somewhat enjoyable. The reality is that after a day of legal questions and number crunching with my brother-in-law yesterday (Thursday thanks Dave by the way) I was as exhausted last night as if I had pulled calves all day.

I guess it is just part of life to be busy, stressed and tired at certain times of the year. Lately when ever I feel overwhelmed and too busy I think about how accountants and tax attorneys must feel at this time of year. The frustrating thing is that you feel like you were a mover and a shaker all day but when you boil it down it seems like you completed so little in relation to the time spent.

I was out the door by 6a.m. today (Friday) and I made a circle around the perimeter of the place just to make sure there were no major issues. Everything seemed to be fine so I drove across the home place and checked the yearling replacement heifers and the babysitter cows. It is so nice to see animals grazing and not needing to be fed hay even if some of them acted like they needed some hay. I then fed the fair steers, a calf we are going to eat and I let the graft pair out into a larger pen. I then went up the road to a neighbor to get some eartags for tomorrows steer weigh in day in Kennewick for our fair in August.

The neighbor and I did spend about an hour discussing the cattle business and looking at some bulls he is selling at auction tomorrow. I then headed back to the house and did some paperwork and made some business calls. The next thing I knew it was 12p.m. and I felt I had accomplished so little that I headed back out the door. I went to the corrals, loaded up 2 of another neighbors heifers, went to his place and loaded up “Homer” the missing show steer.

I then spent about two hours on the tractor shredding Russian ryegrass in the home pasture. I came back to fuel the tractor and then left to feed the fall calvers, special needs cows and also checked the main group. I fueled the tractor, headed back out about 5 p.m. and just came in at 11 p.m. to post this blog, take a shower and get some sleep. When I break down the day and what was accomplished I feel like it should be no later than 11 a.m.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the American crow aka Corvus brachyrhynchos.

Today’s picture is calf number 0228y. This heifer calf is the tamest and most curious calf I have seen in a long time. She will come right up to you and she acts like she wants to get in the pickup and go for a ride.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wang Heriberto Mansoor-Anderson cattle transport

After spending too much of March in serious mode I decided today would be a good day to post something light hearted. Today was a mostly good day and everything went as planned. The sun was out once again and it was beautiful. The other day I saw something that my twisted mind just could not ignore. That is the subject of today’s post.

Last week when I went to the auction and after I had unloaded cattle I decided I needed to go get some fuel. Toppenish is a town that sits on an Indian reservation. On the west side of the main highway there is a convenience store that usually has the cheapest diesel in the area. It also has great prices on tobacco products but I am sure they collect the full tax from “non tribal” members like myself. Wink wink. When I got to the store I was disappointed to see that it was closed for renovations. I found a place to turn around and then waited to enter the road because of an approaching semi truck. I am not big on the color yellow but this was a nice 379 longhood Peterbilt and the yellow looked ok thanks to some bright purple striping and writing on the door. Like many owner operators this gentleman had his name in large letters on the side.

Sterling Alvarez Trucking” really caught my eye and set my mind in motion. Over the last week I have used that experience to pass time whenever my mind gets bored. Now I don’t know about you but seeing an Alvarez surname connected to a first name like Sterling was odd and amusing to me. I am almost disappointed I have not seen a truck door that reads “Delbert ‘Bubba’ Rodriguez” flying down the highway. Once you get started with this game it is kind of fun and something that should always be a challenge. This game can also be fun when worked in reverse. When was the last time you saw a potato truck with Porfirio Johnson painted on the side?

It is really too bad that taxi drivers do not paint their names on the side of their cars. Maybe you could get a ride from the airport to your hotel with Habib Smith-Jones. If I was running late for a flight and saw Abdul Rashid Earnhardt on the side of a taxi cab it would calm me down immediately. What would really make my day is to see a taxi cab with Coy Boutros Boutros Ghali at the wheel. Maybe somewhere there is a Chevy Monte Carlo cab that has been lowered with Javier Bin Laden Taxi service written on the door.

I doubt there is one anywhere but do you think just maybe there is some guy named Mohammed Ginsburg in the world? If there is do you think there is much chance he has a pork store with his name on a sign? That makes me go back to the potato trucks and try and picture Rashid Ronald Rodriquez in fancy lettering. I for one would really be happy to see a Nascar driver named Biff Bloody Knife Chan tearing around Talladega in a car sponsored by Ortega but maybe that’s just me.

As you can see this can occupy your mind for great amounts of time. I have not even got started with female names and I have been at this almost a week now. I hope this levity is helpful to each of you as it has been for me. Email me some of your own and I will share some of the best ones (in my opinion) here.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is creeping red fescue aka Festuca rubra.

Today’s picture is of some Sandhill cranes taking flight from the home pasture today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2000

What a beautiful day in the Columbia Basin today. Bright sunshine, warm temperatures and little wind. It just does not get any better here in the middle of the month of March.Today I am going to reflect on March 16th, 2000. I see yesterdays post was aftermidnight so technically I did not miss a day I just have two posts for today.March 16th, 2000 was a much different day than I experienced today. It was much cooler and rainy as well. My Dad had called me that morning to tell me that my paternal grandmother was not doing well. Luella Mae (Sally) Olberding had been in bad health for some time and it tore at the heart of every one of us family members. Dad told me that things did not look good and that she very likely would not make it through the day. I quickly tied up some loose ends at the orchard and headed north to go see Grandma Sally that day.

I had previously purchased some bred cows and heifers that fall in Oregon. These cows were just getting into calving mode in mid March of that year. I was renting some pasture adjacent to the home ranch which is about 10 miles south of Othello. Grandma Sally was in a nursing facility in Othello so my plan was to check the cows and then travel on to see my grandmother. These cows were mostly Angus and Simmental cross cows that supposedly had been bred to a Black Angus bull. The few calves that had been born were mostly all black in color with a rare gray or chocolate colored calf. There were three first calf heifers in the group and as I arrived I noticed one of them off by herself in the corner of the field.

She seemed to be just getting started calving with nothing more than a water bag showing. I knew my parents were in town holding vigil over Grandma Sally along with most of my aunts and uncles. I decided that I had some time and making sure the heifer calved successfully was a priority. I drove around the other cows, went to my parents, got some coffee and came back to check the heifer about 30 minutes later. It was not terribly cold but the rain was coming down pretty hard that day. When I got back to the heifer I could see there was a problem. The calf was not breech but it only had one front leg out and the heifer was struggling to push. I could not get the other leg turned so I put an OB chain on the one leg and gave a steady but slow pull. The calf was almost average in size but had huge front shoulders. It came out and I quickly did all I could to make sure the calf would breathe and live. It seemed I was not gaining ground but as the heifer turned cow rose, turned and licked the calf it seemed to spring to life. I left her to attend and walked to my pickup cold, wet and very happy.

I had not been in the pickup for more than a minute and I was watching the calf and was really happy when my cell phone rang. It was my uncle Allen telling me that Grandma Sally’s suffering was over and she was gone. I told him I would be there soon and I left the field and headed to Othello. All I felt at first was guilt, my grandmother had died while I was pulling a calf. My desire for helping nature and adding to my financial gain or limiting my financial loss had kept me from being at my Grandmas side at her passing. As I drove into town I felt absolutely terrible about not getting there sooner. Soon after arriving and seeing my Grandmother sleeping peacefully I left the room and the family and went outside. I know this is getting long but for me this was a defining moment.

As I looked to the cloudy and rain filled sky I tried to tell my Grandma how sorry I was. This woman was an amazing woman and I will tell you all about her on Friday’s post. I have something for tomorrow already. As I looked to the sky and apologized to her it was like she came right to me and spoke to me. Grandma Sally was the best cattlewoman I have ever known. She knew each and every cow, she knew each and every calf, she could tell you what color calf a cow had in 1971 or what sex of calf a cow had in 1982. She had an uncanny ability to tell which cow was the next to calve. As I grew up I was in total awe of this woman and her knowledge of cattle. These days I see so much of her in my Daughter Dakota and that makes me very happy.

As she came to me in spirit that day she was just as soothing and gentle as she had been to all of us grandchildren over the years. In her soft voice she told me that she was glad I had taken the time to help the heifer and save the calf. She told me she understood and to not be so hard on myself. I tell you in all honesty as I felt her understanding words, the rain stopped and to the east I saw one of the most gorgeous rainbows I have ever witnessed. Losing her was difficult but that spring and the rest of calving season had a magical quality about it. I cannot end this post without one other bit of information.

That calf I saved that day, the one from a mostly Black Angus mother (Dam) and supposedly from a Black Angus Bull (Sire) and the only calf that was not either purely black or chocolate in color from those particular cows that year. The calf was as white as fresh Christmas morning snow.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the long tailed weasel aka Mustela frenata.

Today’s picture is calf number 0705w who was tagged incorrectly trying to eat grass straw. He makes me look forward to spring branding so that tag can be fixed!

Zoning out

Today is the kind of day that is enjoyable while it is happening, yet frustrating when reflected upon. I was amazed at how much more time was free today because two groups of cows are no longer being fed hay. I should have used that time in a better manner but I think the stress and physical outlay of last week finally caught up with me. I spent a large part of today discussing life with my sister Angie. I have three younger sisters and Angie is the oldest of them. I enjoyed our time today Ange and my guilt about not getting more work done will fade eventually. Thanks for your time today and thanks for always being solid.

There was really nothing too exciting happened today. I was glad to see one of six cows I bought this past December finally calved. I was mostly excited because she had a black hided calf. Whenever you buy bred cows they are almost always represented as being bred to a black bull but sometimes the calf color will manifest the truth. I often call this situation the “little white lie about a black bull syndrome”. It is more important that the calf be healthy and of good quality but a uniform set of black hided calves is the most sought after at this time. Not saying this is right or wrong to you Red Angus, Charolais or other hide colored breeders, I am just sayin.

Since I had nothing exciting today I decided to post something I ran through my mind today. I have said that I will think or do just about anything rather than be bored. I laugh when people say things like don’t you sometimes just like to “zone out” or sit back and “relax”. I guess this is because some people do not realize you can zone out while driving a tractor or relax while working on a 400 pound summer grass heifer budget. I am not big on paper work but if spending some time crunching numbers can relieve some anxiety and add some security I am all for it. The down side is sometimes the numbers do not look so great. In that case you feel uncomfortable and anxious but in reality you were that way naturally anyway.

I am sure that as rare as it is to run cattle and make money that when it happens you live off it for so long both monetarily and mentally. I have spent some time in different agriculture sectors and saw the great as well as the disaster that can happen. I have watched a semi truck leave an apple orchard carrying $30,000 worth of fruit on a single load. I watched a July hailstorm turn $4.5 million worth of fruit into $0 in the space of 10 minutes back in 1998. I have personally sold potatoes for $200 a ton; I have also given away potatoes and also paid for the trucks to get them out of storage back in 1992. I have sold 500 pound calves in the fall of 1996 for .68 cents per pound. I have sold 500 pound calves in the spring of 2005 for 1.29.

I guess the point I am trying to convey is people in agriculture are resilient people. The people who enter agriculture hoping or planning to get wealthy rarely last long. The people who are willing to trade a way of life for financial riches are usually the type of people and operations that have staying power. My family has always been the latter; we know the risk going in. We know that the great years mean we upgrade our operations a bit and have a few extras. We know that in the bad years you just survive at a base level hoping and trusting in better days ahead. I guess I am lucky in my view of the world. If my family can eat, cover base necessities, pay the bills and survive that is not perfect but it is acceptable. In the good years you do all those and maybe buy the wife some new jewelry and yourself a new pickup.

Many cannot understand why anyone would be willing to live this way especially with the hours and sacrifice. Let me tell you if you have ever watched the sunrise on a frosty spring morning over a group of cow calf pairs, ever seen a group of young calves run down a hill with their tails in the air in the sunshine or watched your child be handed a belt buckle for a champion steer you have seen a little glimpse of what I imagine heaven is like. If that is not enjoyable and allows you to zone out and relax I do not know what would.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the blue wing teal aka Anas discors.

Today’s picture is of a yearling heifer number 9063y that decided to have a seat in the chute Sunday after getting her vaccinations.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Working Sunday

Sorry I missed a post for Saturday. After the emotional toll of Friday I decided a 24 hour hiatus from the computer was in order. Friday actually turned out great and now all the cows are back home. My friends Scott and Loren helped gather and haul on Friday and keeping busy most of the day kept my mind from straying too far. By the time I finished hauling and checked and fed everything I ended up not drinking too much and actually went to bed pretty early. It was a very productive and good week but a stressful and tiring one as well. I have much to do this week too but it won’t be at near the frantic pace of last week thankfully.

Today my friend Scott and his wife and girls came up and helped us work the yearling heifers and a few fall calving cows I recently bought. I grew up without any brothers but from sixth grade forward Scott has been very much like one to me. His wife Rose and my wife Chris are friends too and we always enjoy their company. Their daughter Kyra is 6 weeks older than Dakota and has been friends for life. They also have a younger daughter Shelby, who I teasingly call “Fishstick” because of an early life incident who is a great kid too. Thanks again to the Courneya family for spending part of the day with us and helping. The morning started with Shelby giving me a “sign” at her Dads insistence. I about ran off the road from laughing.

Each heifer today received two injections of two vaccines, a mineral/vitamin injection, and an injection for internal and external parasites. They also were given a spray of intranasal vaccine. They will be worked once again in a few weeks and then turned out with bulls to be bred for the first time. If things go correctly the majority of the heifers will be raising their first calf a year from now and then be called cows. Things went pretty smoothly today except for one small heifer that fell in love with Scott. This is not a replacement heifer but one that injured one eye early in life. She will be fed out and will be a locker beef next fall. She is pretty small but she was on the fight with Scott today. Maybe she knew that he lets his children show pigs at the fair. Everyone is a bit suspicious of “pig barn people”.

We also put halters on three of the four show steers of Dakotas for the first time today. The other steer is at the neighbors and I am going to return two of his calves this week and bring “Homer” back home and halter him. The steers actually did not fight the halters much which is a good early sign. I took a picture of Dakota standing next to one of them holding the halter today but the picture did not turn out. I will have to get another one to show the differences between now and a picture of her with her first steer 5 years ago. Noticing things like that make me smile but also really make me feel old. Luckily Chris is just a bit older than I and someday I will get to revel in her Social Security check. That seems a fair trade for the years of abuse I have suffered being referred to as her “boy toy”!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Kentucky bluegrass aka Poa pratensis.

Today’s picture is of Scott climbing the gate to escape the kisses of a heifer calf today. His kids wanted to make sure this made the blog!

Friday, March 12, 2010

I miss you Dad

Today is the second anniversary of Dad leaving this world to take his new job as a cow boss on the big ranch in the sky. I got up early hoping to watch the sunrise with him but it is cloudy so it really was not very exciting. I am encouraged because we are within 16 minutes of having equal day and night as of today. Today I have a few friends helping me gather the rest of the cows in Basin City. Once they are home I plan on spending the rest of the day on the ranch walking, talking and probably sharing a drink with Dad.

I really did not know what I was going to post about Dad today and as I sit here the pain is already evident. Back in January on the 19th I had a blog post “Edgar Allen NO”. I talked about how bad I was at writing poetry and how amazing Dad was at it. Whenever a family event was coming Dad was working on some prose. I remember watching him build fence and mumbling to himself as he put together his poems. You knew he had hit upon something when he would smile and snicker under his breath.

As I worked on Dads eulogy for his celebration of life I fretted about what to say. It was important to me to not miss anything that encompassed Dads life. I also knew I needed to put together a poem to honor him. For those that were at his services this will be a repeat but I did add one new verse at the end. This is one poem that I was satisfied with and felt it really captured who Dad was and what was important to him. I hope that this gives you an idea of who he was for those who did not know him. I hope it gives comfort to those who did know him in that Dads life was simple but fulfilling to him. I worked on the last verse yesterday on the way home from the auction. I call this poem “Cowboy when I die”.

Property taxes, regulations and the Endangered Species Act

Kicked shins, smashed fingers and ribs that sometimes crack

Expensive grain, moldy hay and pastures short and dry

But this seems a fair trade, to be a cowboy when I die.

Crashed markets, mad cow and ice storms

Environmentalists, vegetarians and government forms

Sometimes wanting to quit, short on money, nothing left but “try”

That’s not so much to face, to be a cowboy when I die.

First calf heifers, breech births and oversize teats

Broken gates, a loader that won’t start and frostbitten feet

Late trucks, rocky ground and persistent horn flies

None of that will bother me, if I can be a cowboy when I die.

Shipping fever, footrot and scours

Worn out boots, low pay and ridiculous hours

Diphtheria, prolapses and pinkeye

I will shrug it all off to be a cowboy when I die

No more sit downs, laughs or tears

No more fishing trips, cattle auctions or cold beers

You left us too soon and I keep asking God Why?

I guess he needed a rough and tough cowboy, to tend his herd up in the sky.

I sold some calves today and the grass market was strong

But the trip just is not the same without you riding along.

On the way home I thought about you and for awhile I cried

But I take comfort that my Dad was a cowboy when he died.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Northern Shrike aka Lanius excubitor.

Today’s picture is Dad with Dakota and a steer named Piglet at the Adams County fair.