Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beef counts and time flies

WCA pres Larry Oberding + co getting ready to feed more folks... on Twitpic

I have no idea where the time goes and why I seem to struggle with getting regular posts to this blog. Lately some of the problem has been related to me feeling like my posts have been boring and without the merits of being something people will actually read. I appreciate all those who come here on a regular basis and offer encouragement and I apologize for disappointing when there is no new blog post and also when there is a new post but it is boring to read. The main issue though is just life, so many things to do each and everyday and sometimes I do actually sleep. Since my last post here on December 8th I will give you an idea of all of the things that have happened since that time.

On Friday December 10th Christine and I traveled to Spokane. We were attending a Second Harvest/ Beef Counts food giveaway for the needy. Beefcounts is a venture that Washington and Idaho’s ranchers in conjunction with AgriBeef Company started back in October to help get wholesome beef into the hands of those who need some help with food in the area. Donations of beef, animals and money with a 50% match by AgriBeef have resulted in $75,000 worth of beef being distributed to people in need. I had my reservations about this project but spending the day helping people really was a great experience. The individuals and families in line that day were a cross section of any urban area in the USA. As difficult as ranching can be one thing we rarely lack is food including high quality, nutritious beef for our families. To help someone else and to talk with these people about our life especially during the holiday season was very rewarding. Thanks to everyone who has donated and helped with this wonderful program. You do not have to be a rancher to participate and all donations are matched with a 50% donation from AgriBeef. The website is

We lost most of our snow that week and just when it cleared off we got about another 4 inches this past Sunday night. On Sunday December 12th we had a great family day of working cattle. It was just Dakota, Chris, Festus and myself and was a long but productive day. The corrals were deep and shitty from all the melted snow but we all made it through the day. Christine said she felt it was “the filthiest she had ever been in her life” I might challenge that notion just based on the term “filthy” but I would be in a heap of trouble. Other than a slight delay with the neighborhood scales weighing calves we had a good day. We sorted calves from cows, then sorted heifers from steers, then loaded, hauled and weighed them. We also chose replacement heifers and show steers for the coming year. The ladies in my life (human not bovine) have really become indispensible hands at cattle working time. Thank you ladies for all that hard work and thank you for reminding me to take my pill so I did not yell at anybody (grin, wink wink).

Wednesday December 15th I met our WCA executive Jack Fields and we traveled to Walla Walla for their annual business meeting of their cattlemen’s association. Thank you to them for great steaks, great hospitality, great drinks and for driving “GPS” Jack crazy with your fooked up street naming system! I got home late that night, slept a few hours, fed cows in the dark and then headed back to Pasco to meet another cattleman for another meeting. Sam and I drove to Toppenish and a group of us traveled in a van together to Portland Oregon to meet with the US Forest Service to discuss grazing leases and other issues. Meeting with officials from the federal government is like that high maintenance girlfriend you had in college. You know you got screwed but you wonder if it was really worth the time and effort. Anyway I digress; it was a decent meeting and spending the day with fellow ranchers and even one sheepherder from across the state made for a fun day.

This past Saturday Dakota was spending the weekend with friends so I planned a romantic Saturday with Chris. The first thing we faced was about 2 inches of new snow along with massive flakes falling early that morning. I had the spring calving cows corralled up from the Sunday previous to get the “bawl” out of any that had not naturally weaned their kid. I had to give them a few days because they were being moved to a circle of corn stalks that was within sight and hearing distance of their calves. Calves will often get over losing momma fairly quickly but many cows will practically walk through fire to get back with their kids no matter their advanced age. With the snow and slick roads we had to take a bit of a detour because of a steep hill but when the day ended all the cows were in their new circle of corn stalks and all the coming first calf heifers were moved as well.

You can call Dr Phil if you want but I promise you a day of walking in foot deep muck while sorting, loading and hauling cows in the snow with your bride will do positive things for your relationship. (Yes I was medicated properly) There is nothing you can do with your clothes on and feel more in love at the end of the day with your wife than work cows. My military brat, urban raised wife runs a sorting gate, shuts stock trailer doors and occasionally cusses as well as any buckaroo I have ever worked with. I love you babe and I hope the fancy takeout dinner at the Pizza Factory Saturday night left no doubt about that love. We even splurged on Coors Light instead of Keystone!

Sunday we had a nice early Christmas gathering with family as my sister Shiann and nephew Chase are here from New Mexico. If you are an Olberding there is something you can count on doing many of your Sundays including visiting cousins, food, practical jokes, food, board games, food, beer, kids, food, sports, food, banter, food, you get the idea. I am lucky to be part of such a close and fun family. I was also able to see my oldest two daughters Amanda and Samantha. With their advancing maturity and busy lives is sometimes difficult to see them but seeing them become productive adults makes me smile lots. Yesterday Dakota and I spent the day together building hotwire fence. One of the advantages to being a ranch kid while on Christmas vacation from school.

Today I traveled to Ellensburg for our December Washington Cattlemen’s Executive meeting. A great day spent with friends discussing many issues affecting us in the beef industry. As WCA President I started a new program where each attendee receives a raffle ticket for attending the meeting. Dick Yoder, one of our second Vice presidents that traveled over the pass from Whatcom County was this month’s winner of a $100 bill. Congrats Dick and thank you to all of you that do so much to support the best industry in the world! I am always inspired and proud to be a cowman when spending the day with these great ladies and gentlemen.

With that you can possibly see why I don’t get here to post as often as promised. A busy but life full of things to do is the only life for me.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is barnyard grass aka Echinochloa crus-galli.

Today’s picture is me moving beef at the Beefcounts food distribution in Spokane. The picture can be seen in full size by clicking on it, as can all pictures on this blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shower naps

I have mentioned here before that I spent a portion of my younger years driving semi truck. The last few days I have had some reminders why I do not do that for a living any longer as well as a few things I miss about those days on the road. I double fed cows Saturday morning and headed north to Omak which is about 150 miles from home. I was traveling there to attend the Okanogan Cattlemen’s Association annual membership meeting and banquet. Thank you to them for the hospitality and fun times.

The roads were good and I wasted little time speeding up highway 17 and 97. I am very familiar with this road as it was the primary route of my apple hauling days. So many things are the same and even more are different than they were in the later 80’s and early 90’s on this road. One reason I enjoy this road is for the diversity of the landscape. Much of this road would really make people wonder why Washington is called “The Evergreen state” and not the rocky, brown state! I actually love this landscape, dry range for miles with basalt rocks of all types of patterns and depths.

One of the first things I noticed was how every little town along the way has both grown in some ways as well as shrunk in other ways. In Soap Lake the old Lake Motel is still there but has become apartments and the amount of peeled paint and garbage has increased. This was as nice of place where you could get a room for $79.99 per week if you agreed to 5 weeknights back in the day. It was certainly nothing fancy but compared to the piece of plywood between the seats of a 1973 Kenworth the beds were very nice. The best thing about the motel was you could fall asleep in the shower and never run out of hot water. More than once I wrinkled up my butt skin pretty well after taking a nap as the water poured down. I can see the headline now “Truck driver drowns in bathtub at local resort”

The road is much better than it used to be but there is no longer a thriving business at the Dry Falls café. There was a time when Doris would make the best chicken fried steak and eggs and only charge you $3.99 and her husband Herb always made sure your diesel tanks were full and your windshield was clean as well. This particular spot was the first one where I saw diesel for over $1.00 a gallon. Those were the days. As I climbed the hill and started across the flats between Dry Falls and Bridgeport it was almost as if time has stood still. Wheat ranches and a few cattle operations look the same but many of them have some newer equipment. The areas propensity to be foggy has not changed.

As I turned on highway 97 I noticed the state weigh station. More than once Jack the WSDOT man at that time and I argued in the little building. He was mostly fair but did once write me a ticket for an “unsecured load” because so much juice was dripping from my load of juice apples. I suppose it was fair because I would sometimes meet his daughter in Brewster for a drink and other things back then. I got lucky when some concerned motorist flashed their headlights warning me of a WSP with a radar gun hidden in the trees near what I call Lone Pine south of Monse Washington. There is a wide spot in the road there and many times I took a quick snooze under that lone pine tree. Okanogan and Omak are pretty much the same but they now have a WalMart and a Pizza Hut that does not do any deliveries! What the heck do they expect me to eat for breakfast in a motel room if they won’t deliver a pizza at 1 am on an early Sunday morning? I would recommend the Omak Inn for travelers needing an overnight there. Nice rooms and great prices with a nice continental breakfast if you can’t get a pizza delivered.

On the way home Sunday morning the sun was shining and I really enjoyed taking in the scenery. I was also glad that I would not be passing across the same road in 24 hours. I put on about 350 miles today picking up steers and delivering them to WSU for the Cougar Cattle Feeders for their annual feeding program. I made sure I had fuel and did not run out on the way home this time!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Northern Flicker aka Colaptes auratus.

Today’s pictures are some Hereford cows near Leahy Junction and a Hereford bull foraging through a dry creek bottom.I also was able to finally get the corn combining video to load.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bring it home for the east

Ever have one of those days where you set your expectations low and then have it turn out wonderful? Too often it seems to work the other way; high expectations and the final result was disappointing. I needed to travel to the WCA office in Ellensburg today (90 miles) to a meeting discussing animal disease traceability and how to fund the program. The meeting included representatives from all segments of the cattle industry and the dairy industry. There were also representatives from our Washington Dept. of Agriculture (WSDA) including our state veterinarian.

I had to start the morning in the dark so that I could get cows fed before I left. Everything went great and I had forgotten my bride had taken the day off from work so she helped me get the feeding done in a timely manner. I was also happy to see that the roads looked mostly good and my trip as well as her and Dakota traveling to Tacoma for Connells state football championship game would be safe. I was on the road on time and the day was starting to look up. I was still apprehensive that today’s meeting might be unproductive but I tried to keep an open mind.

As Dwight Yoakum twanged through the cassette deck I made my way through Othello and Royal City. As I neared the elevation drop into Vantage and the Columbia River crossing I saw something along the road that really made me happy. In this area there are two schools Royal City and Wahluke that are in the same league as Connell. I am guessing this was the work of some Royal kids but that is just a guess. They have long been a football rival but share the same agriculturally based population as Connell. There on the side of a stack of hay, painted on the tarp was this;

Despite the rivalry of the past someone in the Royal area supported the Connell boys and their quest for a second consecutive state 1A football championship. They knew the Connell boys and their bus would travel this route and would see the support. I think that the rural roots of the people from these areas contribute to a shared passion. Eastern Washington is mostly rural while much of Western Washington is urban. To see that a local rivalry could be put aside in the interest of “beating the city kids” from the Westside really made my day. Thank you to whoever painted the sign and good luck to the Eastern Washington Connell Eagles tomorrow in their game. Bring it home for the Eastside young men! Here is a music video that I think sums up the rural community experience.

When I got to the WCA office I got another pleasant surprise. I had thought the meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. but it was only 10 to 12. This meant I would have a much easier time getting back home to feed in the daylight. The next happy dance was provided from the meeting itself. Excellent input, good discussion and progress was made today as well as a plan for a path forward. Great job to all the ladies and gentlemen that made today’s meeting so productive! Once again agricultural people did not fail at amazing me with their time, passion, hard work and genuine caring for the industry.

As I traveled home today I was really in a great mood. Two more things would make a good day even better. As I crossed the river on my way home I had an AAA behind me. AAA is for “a$$hole in an Acura” and this idiot really took the cake. Right on my bumper but yet unable to find the testicular fortitude to pass me while we were still on the freeway. When we got onto the two lane highway 26 his tailgating persisted. I knew in a few miles there was a hill with a passing lane so I made no effort to pull over and let him by. When he did finally pass I noticed a pretty lady in the passenger side and mostly ignored the drivers stare. When the lady looked over I did a mock kiss with a wink which seemed to really not be appreciated by the AAA. For some reason he gave me something that looked like the Number one sign as I laughed like a hyena at a pile of wildebeest guts. He took off at a high rate of speed and disappeared around a bend. When I rounded the bend I got the high point of my day. There ahead sat the AAA parked on the shoulder with a Washington State Patrol vehicle behind him with his lights flashing. I was barely able to resist the urge to honk as I drove past. Heh heh.

I made it home and as I turned on Scootenay road I had yet one more rejoice moment. The combine was running and rapidly eating away at the last of the standing corn. It had been idled for days because of snow and cold. This will really help with cow grazing logistics next week. I have a video of 16 rows of corn being gobbled by a massive John Deere combine while unloading corn into a bank out wagon. Sorry for the darkness but I had to feed cows first. I am having some issues loading the video but will try and add it to my next post. Tomorrow I am planning on feeding mid day and then heading to Okanogan for their annual county cattlemen’s meeting and banquet. We will see if anyone else thinks I am the number one driver on the highway!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Eastern kingbird aka Tyrannus tyrannus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stupid, stupid,stupid

I like a good story; I also really love telling a good story. If I can find someone who has a yarn about something I am usually apt to listen, if for no other reason it is because I have a story I am always willing to trade. Part of the reason for this is my genetics. I can’t think of an elder male (and a few females) on either side of my pedigree certificate that did not enjoy hearing or telling a good story. The main reason stories are so good is because they often are about real life. I find humans and their interaction with nature and the world in general the most amusing thing ever. Humans are a great source of wonderful stories. I really do not know why but somehow my life has a natural tendency to lend itself to a good story. It is not that my life is any more interesting than the next guy it is just that somehow shit happens to me both positive and negative with many twists in the course of a normal day.

This story starts last Saturday after Connells football playoff win. Actually that is not true, the story starts months ago. Christine’s vehicle is a 2005 Chevy Blazer. It has been a decent rig but like most Chevy’s it has its share of little issues. When winter approaches and the temperatures lower some of the gauges go crazy. I was on a city street the other day and according to the speedometer I was doing 93. It is not that 93 on a city street has never happened for me but not since the 1980’s. One other gauge that is having fits is the fuel gauge. Last week after the game Dakota and I stopped for gas and I ran inside the store for some snacks for the trip home. When I came out the pump was stopped and I assumed the tank was full and away we went. I did happen to grab a receipt from the pump as an afterthought and put it in my wallet. The gauge read empty all the way home but I paid no attention because I knew it had to be full.

Sunday Chris made one trip to Othello and back. Monday morning came and she drove to work with my assurance that the tank was full. She made it to work without any problem. Monday afternoon I switched vehicles with her because I had to drive to Colfax for the Whitman County Cattlemen’s annual banquet. The Palouse Empire fairgrounds are about 90 miles away from Connell. I left Connell with the gas gauge reading empty but no worries. The roads were better than expected and I was early for the meeting. I want to thank Whitman County for their hospitality, great meal and fun auction. I bought a souvenir picture of a black white faced cow with the heading of “I am an indirect vegetarian; I eat animals that only eat plants, Whitman County Banquet 2010”.

I left the banquet headed home and hoping that the winter storm predicted for that night would not hit before I was safe and sound back home. I was traveling down highway 26 at 124 mph (really about 60) somewhere between Lacrosse and Hooper Washington (no mans land) when the engine quit running. As I coasted to a stop I had a good idea what the problem was. I was hitting my forehead saying “stupid, stupid, stupid”. I found a turnout and pulled to the side of the road and turned on my hazards. I tried to restart the car and it did and then quickly died again. I was OUT of gas and full of grrrrrrrrrr. My cell had no service in this area and I was fooked royally. I did have extra coats, a blanket and coveralls because I like to be prepared for winter driving, double grrrrrrr. I really had no idea how long I might be stuck but I was content to let things fall as they may. Luckily a nice couple with cell service stopped about 30 minute’s later and offered help. I dialed my friend and immediate past President of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, Dick Coon. Dick was home and I told him of my plight and that I was close to his home and could use assistance. Dick graciously brought me some gas and his lovely wife Paula sent along a hot cup of coffee as well. Thank you so much to both of you. I was once again on my way and I decided to top off my tank at a credit card lock gas pump in Washtucna. As the gas pumped I decided to look at the receipt in my wallet from Saturday. I had only received 4 gallons of gas when the pump had shutoff for whatever reason with the tank obviously less than full! Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Today we actually had a little melt and my brother in law sent two semi loads of hay. Funny how much nicer feeder hay looks when you have lots of snow and little amounts of hay stored!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is quackgrass aka Elymus repens.

Today’s picture is another of Mother Natures masterpieces this morning, and the second one is some sideways ice-cycles as they slowly slid off the roof of the hay barn.Remember all pics can be enlarged by clicking on them and yes I know, my comments are not working. This is also a second post for today's date.

Tweet, tweet

So with that last boring ass post I left a teaser. Saying I had done something new the other night that I had never done before. I so knew it would bring ya all back! When you are a person that feels boredom is not only a sin but the worst of all sins you can really gather some guilt when you feel you are contributing to boredom. Usually though my worries about this blog and the amount of boredom it adds to the world are unfounded. Probably the most non politically correct post I have ever posted here is the January 28th post “fly, fly away” It discussed religion and my eccentric views on the subject as related to the environment of an airport. As unbelievable as it seems that old post is the MOST viewed post of any on this blog. From my stat tracker it is not just popular in the US, but Israel, India, and the Middle East as well…go figure!

That is the true joy of the internet and the World Wide Web. You put it out there and some other freak from some other corner of the earth will connect with you and you can never predict where it will come from. I love the internet; it is so antithesis to the cowman experience in so many ways yet at the same time it can be so cowboyesque if you really think about it. Charging forward, living life on the edge, being in anticipation of the great unknown, these are parts of the internet that I feel appeal to my cowman sense of adventure. Now I am not recommending Googling “goat prolapse” in unsafe mode on Google images. Ha, I might as well put up a sign saying “dry paint”, enjoy your view on Google.

I have decided that as much time that I spend online for business, pleasure and WCA activity I should broaden my horizons. I remember how wild I thought I was back in 2005 when I signed up for my first Yahoo account. The day I entered my first voice chat room and spouted political views is now just a distant memory but challenging those who disagree with me in a political sense still appeals to me today. I find that the general public worldwide is wound pretty tight and it makes me chuckle to loosen things up from time to time and pissing off a liberal that does not know any better really makes me smile.

So, I have email (many accounts, some used for only a few hours) I have chatted and since January even a blog! There are a few things I had not yet attempted online and I have decided it is time to do those. The MySpace craze has seemed to come and go and it does not seem like I missed much. I actually did have a MySpace account but it was as a 26 year old pharmaceutical saleslady. You would be amazed at how cute and open minded I was as “Chrissy Jo” and popular…you have no idea! I even had a picture so I HAD to be real, right? This was my little way of checking up on kids on myspace. LOL, anyway, I decided that I should try two things online that I had yet to attempt. Those two things are Facebook and Twitter. I have yet to make a Facebook account but am planning to soon. I did open a Twitter account this week.

I often have short random thoughts that I find fascinating in my day. Now, nobody else may find these thoughts fascinating but Twitter will offer a great way to save these thoughts online when they happen. I also feel it will be a good compliment to this blog as I post some daily happenings when they happen instead of a day or two later. I only had one “follower” on Twitter but I guess if you do not visit her adult website within 2 days she quits following you. I now have 4 followers and hopefully I don’t do anything to drive them away! I also have added a few new bloggers to my list. Someday I will get someone technically savvy to show me how to list them on the blog page. Now if you want to see them I think you have to go to my profile. Anyway, there are some really great “agvocates” out there in the cyber world. I will post an update about my last few days later tonight in another blog post. My twitter account is Larry Olberding Jr.@ TheDailyCowman if you get bored.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Arrowleaf balsamroot aka Balsamorhiza sagittata.

Today’s pictures are of my ChrissyJo profile picture, and also something I found that made me laugh as I bounced around the internet.