Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It ain't the years son it's the miles

Today was a wonderful day here in the Columbia Basin. Highs were in the 70’s, a bit of a breeze and lots of sunshine. The kind of day that just makes you breathe a bit deeper and appreciate life just a bit more than maybe you normally would. This was really a good thing as the rest of the community and I spend the week remembering and missing our friend Chet. Saturday there was a wonderful gathering in his memory and it was great to see so many old friends and neighbors. Tonight there was another remembrance at the fire hall where Chet was Chief. I mentioned in my last blog post about trucking with Chet. Tonight it made me think about just how many miles a person can travel in any given week when you live out here in the boondocks.

I often chuckle when talking to people from urban areas when they talk about driving from place to place. Right here in the local area we have the “Tri Cities”. Pasco, Kennewick and Richland Washington are dissected by the Columbia and Yakima rivers but are otherwise connected. The Snake River also joins the other two nearby creating bridges to most anywhere here in the local area. What causes me to be amused is how outsiders from large cities and some local people define just what a “long ways” is. I hear people say things like, “Oh that is clear over in Richland.” Or things like, “So you went all the way over the bridge to Pasco?” In the Tri Cities you can be just about anywhere if you put 5 miles on your vehicle so I find their idea of a long drive absurd.

Where we now live I almost feel we are practically in the middle of Los Angeles and it is not just because of the racial makeup of the local population. The fact that I can drive a modest 11 miles and walk through a door where some person in their mid 120’s says, “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” is extraordinary to me. Driving just is not a big deal to me when I consider how far or how long it takes to get somewhere. One year the Connell fall festival committee had T shirts with the saying “Connell, 30 miles from water, 3 feet from HELL.” I admit they fudged that a bit as we are at most 28 1/2 miles from water.

Let me give you and example of my week as far as mileage and what I would consider normal for the most part. Saturday morning I drove 114 miles to Spokane to watch Dakota play her first game in “Hoopfest”. My bride and Dakota had made the trip Friday evening in a different vehicle I might add. After watching the game I headed south for home, another 114 miles. I did a few quick things and then took a “short” (20 mile) trip to the Bauermeister farm for Chets memorial. I of course eventually drove home. That’s 268 miles for those keeping track at home and the black Dodge looked at me like I was a weak traveler. Sunday I took it easy and only put 33 miles on the brown Ford with a trip to south Othello (Bob’s corner) and running around the ranch. We did run into Othello Sunday evening again which is 22 miles round trip. Christine had also driven home from Spokane (another 114 miles) that is 437 and the week has barely begun.

Monday was really great because I stayed in proximity to the ranch and only put 26 miles on an odometer. Chris had gone to Connell and back from work which adds another 30 miles. 493 miles for those keeping track. Tuesday I had a trip into Connell (15miles) and then another 36 miles to Pasco to the FSA office to fill out my yearly acreage report. I then had 42 miles home. Chris had another 30 miles round trip to work and back. 616 is my count at this point but I am drinking whiskey. This is why many people in this area give directions in a different way. “How far is it to Walla Walla? Someone will ask. “It is about 2 beers south and one beer east” would be the appropriate answer.

That brings us to today Wednesday June 30th 2010. This is 2 years now since we spent our first night in this cozy but frustrating home here on the ranch. Christine made her morning commute to Connell (15miles) and also went to Burbank to meet and drop off Samantha’s car at the mechanics which is another 40 miles and then 45 miles back home. I went to Othello and back for a toilet water supply hose adding another 22 miles. The family then took two vehicles to Basin City tonight and came home and Samantha went back to Pasco. 60 miles in round numbers which puts the week close to 800.

Tomorrow I am going to Toppenish with some calves which will add 180 more round trip miles while Chris will put on 30 miles going to work in Connell and back. A total of over 1000 miles and we just got through Thursday. Kind of makes that 5 mile trip across the bridge to Richland look pretty menial from the perspective of someone who lives out in the country.

Today’s real environmentalist species is the mosquito aka Culiseta longiareolata which is very prevalent this time of year.

Today’s picture is the black Dodge racking up miles even without a driver as hay is fed in the spring of 2008.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Memories of Chester

For those of you in the local community you probably already know just what I am going to talk about in today’s blog. Those of you that are from distant areas are going to get my perspective on one of best people I have ever known. Chet Bauermeister a local man and fire chief lost his life in an accident while fighting a brush fire yesterday. I had known Chet all my life and for a few months back in the day I spent quite a lot of time working with him. The memories from those days were heavy on my mind today.

Chet was basically larger than life. Tall, broad, thick, strong and loveable would all be apt descriptions of Chet. The thing I will most remember about Chet is how he was always willing to help anyone at anytime day or night. Chet was a husband and father and loved his family very much. Chet came from a family that has been an asset to the community for many years. Chet will also be remembered as one of the original “Lind combine demolition derby” drivers. In this youtube clip Chet is in the purple combine from the early part of the video.

Chet was a senior in high school when I was in 8th grade. Chet was a farm kid, a football player and had a 4x4 Datsun (later Nissan) king cab pickup. For an 8th grade farm and ranch kid Chet was about as close to a future goal you could strive for. Chet also had a knack for driving big semi trucks and could fix most anything that went wrong with them. My youngest close contact with Chet is a story that I have not told many people.

My freshman year of high school I attended FFA (Future Farmers of America) state convention in Pullman. The last night of the program Chet and a neighbor and future world champion auctioneer (C.D. “Butch” Booker) attended the last session of the convention as well. Being that I was an upstanding student and being that Chet and Butch were also upstanding Future Farmers my advisor allowed me to leave the convention that night because we “needed” to get home to change irrigation water early in the morning (heh heh). To make a long story short Mr. Booker had a Camaro and spun his tires when we left a girls dormitory which attracted the attention of a local police officer. Being that we had been partaking of some beer there was a few issues and Cartha Dewayne was banned from driving the rest of the night, but we luckily were mostly run out of town. Chet drove us to Connell that night and we all slept in a hotel room within 15 miles of home because we were all supposed to be in Pullman!

The other memory of Chet is from our trucking days. Chet and I were on the same run out of Canada in the early 90’s. We were hauling cull “juicer” apples from the Okanogan valley apple warehouses down to the Yakima valley juice plants. Both Chet and I were sure we were individually the best highway pounders in the world and when we ran together we thought we were invincible. One morning we were to load at a warehouse in Penticton, British Columbia. We arrived a bit groggy from a late night at the local “Cabaret” (aka strip club) that was called “Tiffanys”. We had loaded here before and we pulled around to the back of the warehouse to load our apples. The fruit was already stacked in bins but there were no forklift drivers to be seen.

Chet and I went to the office and asked how long it would be to get loaded. The boss man was not very friendly and told us it would be at least 30 minutes. We went back to our trucks and drank Gatorade and solved the world’s problems. After an hour or so we made our way back to the office and explained that we needed to get loaded as soon as possible. The boss man yelled at us saying, “Unless you boys know someone who can run a forklift and a bin dumper you will wait until I decide it is time for you to get loaded.” And then he slammed the door in our face. Chet looked at me with his trademark grin and I gave him the eyebrow twitch and we all but held hands and skipped back to the apple bins. We had the same plan without even discussing it.

Chet ran the bin dumper while I ran the forklift and un-stacked full bins and restacked empty bins until both of our trucks were loaded for the trip south. When we pulled onto the scales at the office the warehouse boss man was livid that we had loaded ourselves. He did weigh our trucks and made out our paper work however and said, “I ought to make you boys unload that fruit and wait until my guys can load you!” Then vintage Chet kicked in when he said to the man, “unless you know someone who can drive and unload these trucks I would just give us the paperwork and STFU.” Hammer down buddy, hammer down! I will miss you big man.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the European starling aka Sturnas vulgaris.

Today’s picture is tonight’s sunset over they corrals and hay barn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chairman of the "bored"

I suppose a day and its level of excellence is in the eyes of the beholder. Today was one of those days that were productive in many ways but the tangible portions are tough to find. I do not really have any specific focus to this post other than to relate my day and how it played out from MY perspective. If this sounds boring to you maybe you should leave this blog and Google “World cup soccer”. Apparently there is some sport where they kick a ball and try to get it into a net but not before kicking it back and forth for a minimum of 89 minutes and 32 seconds. *Sigh* I Googled this “world cup soccer” last night but it did not impress me much. Apparently a high scoring game is 3 to 2. Now when a sport can have a final score lower than the pitch count on an individual batter in an individual at bat in a single inning in a baseball game I would guess it would probably not interest me.

So I awoke early today and did some minimal irrigation before heading to Ellensburg for our monthly (WCA) Washington Cattlemen’s Meeting. Just before I left today our Executive Vice President called to inform me that our President would not be present today and that I was chairman of the board for the day. I was as excited as a cowdog that was about to get a bath. I want to thank the WCA board and our guests for their participation and focus all the way through a long day. We covered a lot of ground and although the debate was lively at times I felt we made good use of the day discussing many issues. Those of you that read this blog that are not familiar with the cattle business would be amazed at just how intelligent and thoughtful a bunch of lowly cowboys and cowgirls can be when forced to discuss industry issues even when some of those issues seem boring and unimportant. Thanks again to all of you and President Dick we all hope you get to feeling better soon! On the way home I really felt proud to be part of such a small and select group.

I also noticed a few things on the way home today that spawned some random cowman thoughts. Would it be wrong for a candidate for Grant county coroner (or any county for that matter) to have a campaign slogan “Johnson is the dead right choice for coroner”? The next thing that perplexed me was a discussion on National Public radio related to war. How it is possible that in “the land of the free” an 18 year old soldier could ostensibly fire a rocket propelled grenade or a cruise missile as a military member but the same individual could not purchase a handgun in many states back home? That led me to another thought related to age and what is allowed in this country. In most places a 15 year old can purchase birth control but they cannot rent an adult movie. Apparently having sex at 15 is ok but don’t you dare watch some other people have sex? Then do not even think about having a cigarette (or other tobacco product) after fornication if you are “underage”. I am so glad that there are reasonable laws in this country to provide more rainbows and smiles.

I got home late tonight and I want to thank Dakota (my daughter) and Christine (my wife) for helping with the late hour irrigation change tonight. We also had an issue with Dakotas fair steers that we worked together to solve. Dakota has 4 steers for 3 potential fairs this year. One of them named “Robbie” had gotten his halter too tight around his muzzle and needed some assistance to rectify the issue. We did that this evening as a family and I commend Dakota for noticing the halter was too tight and Chris for helping to solve the problem. Just for reference Dakotas other steers this year are named “Toby”, “Homer” and “Teddy”. You will have to ask her where she got these names and why.

This is one of those posts that I am feeling that it is not anything that people would care to read. From the same perspective I am glad that I now have more posts in June than I had in May. I was about to change the title of this blog to “The bi-weekly Cowman”. I am also going to give a shout out to the chefs that are going to enjoy the next two days exploring the cattle business with the Washington State Beef commission. Thank you to the beef commission for providing the venue and education.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Long haired June beetle aka Polyphylla crinita.

Today’s picture is heifer calf number 0200w. This pretty girl will likely be a replacement heifer. Her mother has been a great producer and also produced one of Dakotas show steers back in 2007 named “Sir Loin”.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not just a Father, a Dad

I posted earlier knowing full well that it was Fathers day but I just had not taken the time to really reflect on the day so I did not mention my Dad or anything related to Fathers day. This afternoon we traveled to the Tricities and met with Amanda and Sam to have dinner for Fathers day. Since we have been back home I have had some time to really think about Dad and all he was to me so I have a second post today.

My Dad and I were close. The fact that we were only 20 years apart in age made it like Dad was almost like an older brother that I could have fun times with but also was old enough to confide in and look to for guidance. Dad took me with him often and at a very young age. He pretty much was open to letting me try anything that I felt I was old enough to attempt. I would drive tractor pulling a pipe trailer while he would load or unload pipes off the back. I am not sure exactly how old I was when I learned to drive tractor with a disk or harrow on the back but I know I was still in elementary school. I remember the first time he let me pregnancy check a cow. He convinced me that it was tradition to palpate your first cow without a glove covering your arm and I could tell he was proud when I did so without hesitation.

Dad was there for so many things in my young life. Over the years Dad was a Little league baseball coach and a Webelos scout leader. He was there for everything from congratulating me for winning Grand Champion market steer to physically explaining to me what happens when a teenage boy calls his mother a bad word. He taught me how to use your forearms and leg strength to flatten a middle line backer and the occasional undernourished free safety. He taught me how to hunt and fish and how you cleaned your kill or catch and did not waste game. How to change the motor oil in a machine, how to change a tire and how to use a foil gum wrapper as a fuse in a pinch were other things that were learned.

Those are all tangible things that Dad taught me over the years and for that I am very grateful. I will say though that the best thing he taught me was how to love and embrace life and everything in life especially your family. One clear memory of just how much Dad loved me came when I was about 12 years old. I was driving an old John Deere 620 “Johnny popper” with a fork on the front loader and forks on the back 3 point lift. I was hauling round bales to the edge of the field and then stacking them. This field is on some pretty steep ground with a large canal (about 15 feet deep) at the bottom. The tractor had a hand clutch and the brakes were a bit shaky. On one trip I came down the hill a bit too fast because of over confidence and cockiness. As my right leg stomped the brakes my left hand pulled back on the hand clutch with all my might. I held on until the last moment and bailed off over the fender and to the ground as the tractor plunged over the canal bank and into the deep water. Pop, pop, pop, glug, pop, glug, glug as she disappeared into the water.

Once I stopped shaking and the pee quit running down my leg I started walking up the hill to where Dad was combining wheat in another field. I was so afraid to tell him what happened. I just knew he was going to explode once he understood the tractor was completely submerged under water. I think I had a few tears in my eyes when he climbed off the combine. I told him what had happened and waited for the resulting mushroom cloud of anger and cursing. Instead he just wrapped his arms around me and asked me if I was ok and apologized for allowing me to drive the tractor on the hill so close to the canal. Ever since I have been a father I try to remember the importance of that moment and give my kids that same sense of security he made me feel that afternoon.

Dad also taught me to embrace your life no matter your social or economic standing at any present time. I do not know if he taught me this along with loving the cow business or because you have to be secure in your life standing or it would be tough to love the cow business. I do know that I am so glad he taught me how to love the cattle business. Everyday that I drive or ride through the cows I think about him and miss him. Working outside, being able have freedom and living close to nature, especially water, sunshine, grass and cows and having a good time doing it was ingrained at every chance he got. He left this earth way too soon but he left a big impression on me and so many others that live on today. Happy Fathers day Dad. I miss ya partner.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Marestail aka Conyza Canadensis.

Today’s picture is my Dad with Dakota at the Adams county fair.

Hellooooo, is that you St. Peter?

So to continue on about my trip to the north part of the state last Wednesday. Jack (WCA Executive Vice President) does a great job of exceeding the speed limit and the same time participates in the conversation without taking his eyes away from the road for more than a few minutes at a time. At one juncture we had to decide either to take the Keller ferry route or the Grand Coulee dam route. Luckily we chose the dam route because we later learned the ferry is closed for repairs which would have added a long detour to our route. We arrived in Malo Washington which is kinda like a bedroom community for the massive cities of Republic and Curlew.

The tour started at the Malo Grange hall which had many luxury amenities such as both indoor and outdoor bathroom facilities. There were many cattlemen and women and some community members as well as many people that work for various government agencies. I was happy and impressed as the meeting started with the Pledge of Allegiance. There were some opening remarks, introductions and discussion and then we boarded 3 school buses to start our tour. It was raining pretty steadily that day and would continue to rain most of the day. Our first stop was the Malo community corrals just north of town. These corrals have been used for many years by cattlemen in the area to hold and ship calves to market and sometimes as a place where auctions were held. Users of these corrals must be a Ferry county cattlemen’s member, a Washington Cattlemen’s member and also pay a small per head fee for use of the corrals. It was great to see that there are still places where a community can work together for the betterment of everyone and (sit down for this) WITHOUT government mandate!

We then reloaded the busses to head up Tonasket creek to view a solar powered well stock watering project. This is when the fun began. I was in the first bus and we were about half way up the mountain to where we were going when we hit a rock, bounced sideways and spun out. We walked the rest of the way to the well and eventually our mode of transport made it to us with some towing and tire chains. At this point I was very amused that only a bunch of cowboys would try to take some school buses to somewhere that probably should not be traveled to in a jeep. At this stop we also learned about the county and states efforts to use an insect that consumes a noxious weed and has helped to improve the range in the area.

We next proceeded to another part of the Strandberg ranch where the focus was about native and non-native grass species as well as the importance of United States forest service grazing permits to cattlemen in the area. When government agencies own 85% of a county it makes sense that the local private landowners and the government agencies work together for their mutual benefit. It seems as if this is becoming more difficult all the time which seems to be 90% caused by governments over regulation and inflexibility in being able to manage those lands. The buses negotiated the narrow roads fairly well and I was glad that we usually had fairly level ground on both sides of us as we bounced along in the rain. We eventually made it back to the grange where we had an excellent BBQ beef lunch.

After lunch we once again loaded the busses to travel up the South fork of St. Peters creek and to Mt. Leola. I know now that it is called St .Peters creek because if you travel the road in a school bus on a rainy day there is an excellent chance you may meet St. Peter. Holy crap, narrow switch back roads, tight turns, greasy mud and depending what part of the switchback you are on sheer cliffs that look to extend for miles. I have been on roller coasters that offered less tense moments than this trip up the mountain. I knew we were in serious trouble when the government people were shaking in fear and the cattlemen were all scribbling out directions on the back of snuff cans about who got their cows if we did not make it through this ride. With the help of St .Peter we did eventually make it to the top where we had a long discussion about range monitoring, wildfires, wilderness issues and the reintroduction of wolves and how each affects our industry. The discussion went extra long because I really do not think anyone wanted to get back on the buses and it also gave the bus drivers more time to swig some whiskey.

There was no assigned seating on the buses and I noticed that our bus had about as much tread on the tires as a stockcar on a Monday morning. I kind of hung back and when my original bus was full hurriedly boarded the bus with the best tire tread. What I had not taken into consideration was this bus was driven by a woman so I still felt my chance of meeting St. Peter or worse was fairly high on the trip back off the mountain. Then our driver decided to be first bus in line going down the narrow road. I was thinking that it would be best to be last so that when the first two buses plummeted off the cliffs we would at least know where to slow down and proceed with caution. I will admit that our lady driver did a spectacular job of keeping any of us from meeting our ends and got us safely back to the grange hall. Thanks to all who helped put together a great tour and an informative day.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Big head clover aka Trifolium macrocephalum.

Today’s picture is an example of how you build a runaway truck ramp in Northeastern Washington! Some lady was nice enough to stop while I was taking this picture to explain that it was not finished or operational yet! Too funny.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Meeting Marie Laveaux

What a great day it was here in the Columbia Basin. The day warmed into the low 80’s and was mostly sunny. I am happy because I have accomplished a good amount of work the last two days. I always hope that I have good days after being away for a day. I spin a terrible guilt level in my mind whenever I take a day away like I did Wednesday. I know I really should not do that but I always do. I think much of it stems from the fact that I watched my Dad feel guilty if he did not work from sun up until sundown. It seemed the only exception for him was if it was family time. I know that a man has to take time for family, for their industry and even for themselves sometimes but it still can be difficult.

Wednesday was a fun day with a lot of information. I will give you a timeline of how the day went and a few of the highlights. As you know I was here at 3 minutes short of midnight on Tuesday. I needed to meet fellow Washington Cattlemen’s members at 5:15 a.m. and the rendezvous point was a bit over an hour from home. I crawled into bed at 1 a.m. and pretty much just waited for the alarm to go off at 3:30a.m. I know this sounds odd but I think I actually sleep better and wake more refreshed when I do that semi-conscious sleep where you are sleeping but kinda not sleeping. The alarm buzzed on time and even though I heard it I just laid there waiting for Chris to say, “Sweetie, its 3:30.” It is actually 3:31 or 3:29 because I have this paranoia about an alarm being set on: 00,:15,:30 or :45. It is always a bad day if you actually wake at any of those minute settings, just so you know. Somehow knowing the alarm woke her makes it easier for me to get up and out of bed.

I got on the road and was actually kinda excited because I had $103 dollars in my pocket. The 3 was from some money I saved in junior high and the $100 bill was from the scrap metal boys. I took the back roads into Othello since I was carrying so much cash. When I pulled into the Shell station I had a thought that unnerved me. I needed a can of Copenhagen, a 20 ounce extra caffeine coffee with two Splendas and a pack of Orbit gum. (Chewing Orbit gum makes me feel as much like an astronaut as drinking Tang did in grade school.) I wondered if the store could break a massive $100 bill as I waited in line. The line was long as many “undocumented workers” waited in line to buy $4.27 worth of gas to make it to whatever respective orchard they worked in. The clerk was a no nonsense 50ish woman that had a terrible sense of humor which added to my amusement and helped to wake me up.

“What pump?” she would ask the slightly bilingual man at the front of the line. He replied, “O’er there, da red car.” Then she bellowed like a Brahma cow being preg checked and screamed, “I did not ask what color your car was, I said what pump!” The man held up 3 fingers which I hoped diffused the situation. (Actually it was 2.84 fingers as the man had been in some type of industrial incident but let’s not split hairs.) Anyway the Ogre behind the counter was not done yet. “What grade gas do you want?” she roared. The poor man held out his arms like he was trying to catch the planet Jupiter and said, “Reeeeegooolar?” Which just inflamed Marie Laveaux (if you do not know Ms. Laveaux just search for her song on YouTube.) Anyway, Marie turned on the pump for “plus” and then glared at the next customer which was another Hispanic man that had an afro like Lionel Ritchie. Mr. Richieolverez had a few items which totaled $10.12 and pulled out a $100 bill to pay for it. Ms. Laveaux was further enraged by this. “What makes you think we would have change for a $100 bill at 4a.m.!” she screamed.

Yeah, what kind of idiot would hope to break a $100 bill at 4a.m. I thought to myself and quickly added up in my head the price of a large coffee and a Tillamook pepperoni stick knowing that a new can of Copenhagen was out of the question with $3 to spend. Marie seemed to perk up when I got to the front of the line in my straw hat, belt buckle, Wranglers and long sleeved 20X shirt. She kinda smiled a smile that reminded me of our nation’s southern border (lots of gaps) and said in a pleasant voice, “anything else?” I answered, “No” and she took my 3 one dollar bills and said with a picket fence smile, “Have a nice day!” I just could not help myself and answered with my slight own smile, “Gracias perra.”

I then headed for Moses Lake and onto the meeting place at exit 151 on Interstate 90. Jack and Neil were patiently waiting for me and I was only about 1 gas purchase late. I will continue about the rest of the day tomorrow.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Virginia rails aka Rallus limicola.

Today’s picture is of a mushroom I found yesterday in the horse pasture. I placed my monthly allowance next to it to give you some perspective.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The beauty of June

I can’t help but love the month of June. I know what you all are thinking right now, two posts on the same day! Well maybe, if I get this one typed out before midnight. I really did not know yesterdays post was today until I got online tonight. Maybe I will have a better posting history in June than I had in May. Back to where I started I really like the month of June for many reasons. Several of those reasons manifested themselves today.

One nice thing about June is the wonderful long days of sunlight. You can get out of bed after the sunrises and still get in a good days work without feeling guilty for starting your day too late or be looked upon as a banker or cattle order buyer. If you do happen to get up early you will see some of the greatest sunrises any particular year has to offer as well as hearing the “noisy” quiet of cows grazing, birds chirping, impact sprinklers rotating and the drone of some bastard and his crop duster overhead. Just kidding, I know those flyboys provide a valuable service in that they keep America well fed and crop pests well dead.

I like June because the mornings are usually crisp (this morning it was 47 degrees) cool enough for changing irrigation water without sweating like Rosie O’Donnell trying to make herself look feminine and sexy, yet warm enough that you do not need to wear a buffalo hide to survive. June days are usually fairly light in the wind department which is nice. Even the hottest days in June here in the Columbia basin are usually below the level of wishing you could do your work in nothing but your Tony Lama’s and Stetson. That also adds to the general pleasantness because I know many neighbors that I would not like to see in nothing more than boots and a hat and I am sure the feeling is mutual.

I like June because the cows are turned out and their daily nutritional needs are pretty much satisfied without human intervention. The cows have shiny coats, are milking well and the calves are growing like weeds. You may even get to see a particular bull with a particular cow and that gives you something to look forward to next March. The grass is usually still pretty green in June and in a cowman’s eyes there is nothing that is more inspiring than growing green grass and calves and cows eating it.

June is a good month for crops. Most years the first cutting hay is up and in the bale and the second cutting is growing rapidly. This year is a bit of an exception. The wheat stands tall and the waving green grain looks like a supermodel in her prime. My corn is starting to look much better than the spindly yellow crop that it once was. That is what I love about corn, if your corn is looking sickly it is amazing what a bit of warmer weather and fertilizer will do for its appearance. The look of corn responds to warm weather and fertilizer like a middle aged woman responds to a tan, a sundress and high heels. It is the same product as it was a month ago but it damn sure looks much better!

June is also likeable from a financial standpoint. There is not much of an income stream but the bills seem to abate a bit as well. June is nice on a family operation because the kids finally get out of school. This means they can put their formal education on hold for a few months and finally have a chance to actually learn. For me it also means I have a new employee to help around the place.

Tomorrow I am off on a range tour with the Cattlemen’s association. I am going to see how fellow land managers do their job in the southern suburbs of Canada aka north eastern Washington State. See you tomorrow night or early Thursday morning maybe.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the American Robin aka Turdus migratorius.

Today’s picture is of two heifer calves and one steer calf enjoying the green grass and nice weather on a June evening.

a junky lesson in life

If I could put together a string of days as productive as today was I would take a full day vacation and not even feel guilty. Maybe the key to having a good productive day is not having a plan. Last Monday I had a plan, I had a list, I had goals and I ended up spending most of the day spinning my wheels. Today I had no plan for the simple fact that I had so much that needed to be done a plan was not needed. I had not made a list because I did not have enough paper and I made no goals because I did not want to strive for anything more spectacular once I awoke this morning and knew I had not died in my sleep. Wasn’t one accomplishment enough?

As it was I did get many things completed today. The morning irrigation went well with no major issues. I had friends who started scrapping some of the broken, outdated, unused farm equipment museum pieces that my father and grandfather had acquired over the years. It looks to be a slow and thankless task but I am encouraged by how much they accomplished today and how much the scrap was worth. I could almost hear my ancestors cussing as I walked around with a can of spray paint painting the letters “ok” on any items that I deemed unusable in my lifetime. Don’t worry guys I am saving the entire decent pipe, angle, channel and other iron that could possibly be of use in my lifetime.

I did however decide that the 11 (yes really) International Harvester forage choppers had no chance of revival by my hands. I can just hear my Grandpa Paul now, “you might be sorry someday if you need one of those corn choppers!” The chances of that are about like winning the lottery which nulls the whole idea. If I win the lottery I am damn sure not going to chop corn with a pull type two row corn chopper that was already worn out when it arrived on this ranch sometime in 1971 through about 1987. I sometimes still wake up at night shaking my head after having a nightmare that Grandpa had filled the silage truck just a bit too full and sent little pieces of silage corn down over the cab, into the window and down my fragile teenage back. I only had to endure that from time to time, my poor mother was the designated silage truck driver in the field for 3 weeks every September back in the day.

The corn choppers are actually fairly recent arrivals compared to many items at the corrals. The 1948 F6 Ford truck that brought my grandparents belongings to the Columbia basin is part of the old equipment parked and piled there. I almost feel bad parting with some of the stuff. So many memories and stories of days gone by live in those old relics. I do need to get the place cleaned up though, the scrap price is decent, and I keep telling myself the money brought in will be used towards many needed upgrades and fixes around the place.

As I sorted through the junk pile today I remembered a story that is funny to me today but was not so funny back when I was 15 or 16 years old. One summer I had gotten the fever for extra cash. I would ask Dad or Grandpa about a certain old equipment item or parts of items that I could sell for scrap. For the most part they agreed to my longings except for one time when Grandpa would not let me cut and scrap an old model 57 International Harvester wire baler. We had been putting up round bales with newer machines for many years and I was not too happy that he would not allow me to scrap the old small square baler. His excuse was that the baler had better than scrap value in certain parts of the world and that one day someone would come by and want to buy the old machine. I asked him how much he thought it was worth and he said at least $300.

He was correct as later that summer a gentleman did stop by the corrals to inquire about the baler. I was there working with show steers and trying to be a big man I told the guy I would like $350 for the baler. He readily agreed to the price but I said we should go down to my Grandpas house to confirm that it was ok to sell it for that price. I proudly told my Grandfather that I had offered the baler to this man at $350 and he had accepted my offer. Grandpa seemed to be pleased with my sale but as was his custom he visited with the man about where he was from, what he farmed etc. Grandpa seemed to really like this man and as the conversation wore on he told the man, “Why don’t you just take that baler and do not worry about paying for it.” I quickly said goodbye and left on my motorcycle to sulk and be angry because I felt totally betrayed. I was none too happy with my Grandpa over the next few days. About 4 days later he told me he had something for me. He said I had done a good job of selling the baler but he just did not have the heart to charge the man for it. He did however have for me a $50 savings bond for my efforts at selling the baler. That was the way my Grandpa taught me much about life and what was really important in this world.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Tumble mustard aka Sisymbrium altissimum.

Today’s picture is of a Pheasant trekking through the pasture on a beautiful June evening.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Can an ant have an aunt?

Today was one of those days that are more common in the Columbia Basin in March than June. Those days where if you cannot find your sunglasses they are probably in your rain slicker or parka. We received close to another third of an inch of rain last night. Now I know in some parts of the country, anything less than an inch of rain you call “partly cloudy” but here in the eastern Washington desert that is a good rain. Especially when you get that rain in the month of June.

The rain not only washed many acres of hay that was cut the last few days it also really flattened much of the Timothy hay crop in this area. I am sure that most hay growers have stopped drinking alcohol at this point and moved on to heroin. I have not ever tried heroin myself but in the movies it looks like it solves lots of problems. Well wait, I should not say I have never tried heroin. I did take a girl dressed in a Wonder Woman costume home from a college costume party once but that is a different kind of heroine.

I spent most of the day restarting irrigation pumps and irrigation systems. We had some electrical outages last night so all the pumps were off. You would think that a hand line could go a few hours without a cow knocking it over or breaking off a few sprinkler risers but that is rarely the case. I also gathered half the yearling heifers and brought them to the home pasture. The pasture they were on was a bit overstocked and the home place needs to be grazed more vigorously . They should be bred by this time so I am not too concerned with them being turned out with the mature bulls that have a bit lower calving ease traits. Even my “growth” bulls are pretty moderate in birth weight so if the odd one gets bred it should still be fine.

I also gathered up a few more fall cows to sell. Two of these cows are old and I planned to sell them after weaning their calves. Two of them are not that old but I was not sure if I was going to sell them back in April when I pregnancy checked them. Since I was not sure I gave them an injectable product that controls both internal and some external parasites. This particular product has a 49 day withdrawl period so I could not sell them a few weeks ago when I sold the other fall calving culls. I really hate to part with these two cows but my brain tells me it is time for them to go.

I bought these cows as cow calf pairs in December of 2006 at a pretty reasonable price. They had come out of a snow bank and although they had decent young calves they were in very thin condition. Dad and I had rented some unharvested standing seed corn that year which fattened them up nicely and saved their calves from turning out small. These two particular cows were cows that I had the most long term hope for. The problem is although they “look” like the prototype to a perfect cow they are not. They both raise below average calves compared to their contemporaries. Both of these cows are naturally very fat and seem to stay that way year-round. They will sell tomorrow for more money than I paid for them with a calf on them in 2006 so it is time to cash in. Besides June 15th and the quarterly tax bill is here. Ugh.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the small black ant aka Lasius niger as best I can find.

Today’s picture is a video of these ants I watched today. I picked up a pipe and was amazed at how they worked to take their eggs and larvae into the ground to save them. Hey, I thought it was pretty cool.