Sunday, January 29, 2012

From Hannah Montana to cowgirl tough

It has been a very busy few days and a very busy weekend. Like many people I have to work twice as hard for a week preceding and at least a week after a vacation. I am really looking forward to the coming week and spending some time with my family, friends and other cattle industry members in Nashville Tennessee at the Cattle Industry Convention. I have spent the week getting new fence built so cows can be on fresh corn stalks and getting the feed and water situation set so my being away does not put too much undue burden on my neighbors and friends covering for me while we are away. I am looking forward to this week and am planning to attend my first and second "tweetups" to meet some of my Twitter friends in person. 

The main focus of tonight's post is my youngest daughter Dakota as she turned 15 today. Like any ranch kid although it was her birthday that did not mean there were not chores and other ranch work to be completed. Dakota put in a pretty full day helping her mother and I and I always appreciate her help. I could rave on and on about how much she means to me and how special she is but it is her ability to really be a cowgirl that makes me smile the most. Not only does she really know the cow herd and their history, she does an amazing job of giving input and good advice. Dad may not be here in a physical sense but I see him channeling through her whenever we spend time working together. Sometimes her smart and smartbutt comments and sly grin makes me swear he is telling her just what to say. Like her grandpa and paternal great grandmother she has a special sense about the cows and her presence makes me a better cattleman. This is hard to imagine that a kid that once aspired to be Hannah Montana has become such a great steward of mother cows. Sorry Gus I just had to post this picture! She is also very well rounded and gets great grades, is athletic, is active in 4H and FFA and not only has she had some good success in the show ring with market steers, she also is quite competitive at livestock judging. Here she is getting ready to blast a softball which seems like yesterday but it was years ago. 

 I have really enjoyed watching her grow up but I hate the fact that I have to get older as she does. I cant believe that this picture of her kissing her first show steer (blue roan named Smurf) happened in the fall of 2006. Wow how time flies by and how fast kids grow!

Tonight we traveled to the TriCities and met her sisters and future brother-in-law for dinner. Even though she is quite the cowgirl she just has to choose Red Robin and order their clucks and fries as her Dad sarcastically thanks her for supporting the beef industry. These are the moments where I can't help but think her grandpa has a hand in things just to watch me be annoyed. I just find it believe that these next two pictures are only separated by 3 years. 

On the positive side the older she gets the more practice she has had with a firearm and the more time she has been educated about the danger of teenage boys. I am not overbearing on this issue I just try and make her aware that not all boys are as shy as her Dad was when he was a teen. *Big grin*

I love you Gus and am very proud to be your Dad. You are the reason for today's cowman You Tube music selection by Kevin Fowler as he sings "Daddies and daughters." Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Griselda and I are Hell on wheels

Hey so here I am, two nights in a row. Actually after remembering about something I was going to post last night I looked forward to getting a post up tonight. I needed to get some pictures today to really do the post justice though but here we go.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of owning Griselda my 2005 Dodge Cummins pickup. If you would like to go back and see what a great experience that purchase was and how she looked before it got "Cowmanized" go to this link Cheryl, the nice lady who sold me this gem and also follows this blog may not want to read any more of this post, but I DID warn her what would happen once Griselda met the ranch. LOL

I feel that a pickup, especially a ranch pickup is to be used for work not just as some deliver me to the city form of transportation. I do take care of basic maintenance like oil changes, filters and whatnot but that is about as much babying I am going to give a pickup. I would wash her more often but I cant help the fact that it hardly ever rains here in eastern Washington thus providing a "natural" and "organic" bath. Plus I am a cheap bastard and who has time for washing vehicles anyway? 

So one year later Griselda is not quite as "pretty" as she once was but I am sure she is very happy. She even got the chance to transport a newborn calf in her cab this past week and the calf did not even shit during the ride, that will surely change but you don't want to scare a pickup off too quickly. The first damage to her exterior was because I was not paying good attention while backing up with the stocktrailer. The "Call before you dig" sign in front of our old house took her dent virginity. The next thing to happen was her rear bumper did not seem to be as aerodynamic as I liked so I "tweaked" it just a bit, the sad thing is I dont even really know how or when this happened but I suspect an old Poplar tree stump in the horse pasture is the culprit. Luckily no bumper stickers were harmed by this modification. You may also notice a slight piece of the tail light is missing as well but nobody seems to know how that happened.

Now we move on to incident number 3. I wont go into detail here but somebody chose to try and steal some scrap iron from my corrals last 4th of July. The only details I will give is I highly doubt they will be back and now if they need some scrap they can sell the rearend of their pickup bed and both rear fenders. Well, the bastards would not stop and I did not have my cell phone to call the law so I solved the problem. I will also say that if they were Nascar fans they now know that I learned how to "bump draft" from the master Dale Earnhardt Sr. Sadly, I am sure they had less value in scrap metal than my damages but to be so unamerican and to steal something on the 4th of July REALLY pissed me off! The damages were well worth the laughs and release of anger I was able to experience that night as the sky was filled with fireworks.The Iron Bull bumper did do one hell of a job though and besides a few scrapes to the rhino liner covering it is just like kind of new.

I would like to say that is it but there is one more teensy tiny thing that happened. Somebody leaned a spare stock trailer tire against the bed and then went over a bump where the overhang of the gooseneck pushed the tire into the bedrail. Soon this will be forgotten as now that Griselda has proven herself over a year she will soon be sporting a new flatbed. I see how jealous she gets of my 98 Dodge when we go feed cows. 

I am sure at this point if saleslady Cheryl is still reading she is cringing. Don't worry, Griselda is doing everything I want and need a pickup to do. For an example just today I was talking on my cell phone, tracking a coyote out the window, loading a rifle and keeping my coffee from spilling when I somehow lost track of where Griselda was tracking and ended up ass deep in a snow drift. A little shift of the transfer case, a bit of an engine rev, a quick prayer and a small amount of cussing and Griselda jumped free from the snowdrift monster and thanked me for her new tires. In no time we were back to building fence and feeling bad for Prius owners.

One year has been quite an adventure for her and I am sure she has found her calling. She finds new ways to please me almost daily. I mean who could resist a girl that keeps cold beer for you at the end of a day? 

Duct tape on the license plate, a 6 gun in the dash, Thunder in the hood, heaven from a still, lighting from a jar, brother I am hell on wheels" Brantley Gilbert sings today's Cowman You Tube music selection and dedicated to Griselda who really does enjoy life these days. Remember all pictures can be viewed in full size by clicking on them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hypothermia and electric blankets

Ok so here I am, at that point that the creative juices have slowed, the apathy is wanting to take a hold and the excuses not to post are easy. I just cannot let that happen, I have started to see many more views and a few more followers, thank you by the way! So I have to buckle down and get something posted. On the plus side I have already posted 8 posts in 2012 when I pathetically only mustered 30 in ALL of 2011.

So I do not have anything extra inspiring tonight, I dont have a bunch of pictures, so what in the h e double hockey sticks should I post about? LOL, just as I posted the last sentence I REMEMBERED what I WAS going to blog about tonight, but it certainly requires pictures so maybe tomorrow.

What have the last few days been filled with? Checking cows, building fence, chopping ice and preparing and worrying about what the weather will be like when I am away to Nashville next week for the National Cattlemens Beef Association convention. Speaking of "worry" i saw a great quote on the subject the other day, "worry is just a down payment on something that is unlikely to happen." I thought that was pretty good.

I also saw something that once again solidified my opinion that government is always the best answer. *cough sarcasm cough* The US Government via the Center for Disease Control has an ONLINE resource for "What to do when the electricity goes out." Just when I thought about opening my electric freezer to take out a frozen pizza to cook in my electric oven and enjoy while watching my electric television as the electricity was off the government saved me because I used my non electric computer to see what to do. I am just sayin! I especially loved this little nugget of information; Causes of hypothermia, cold temperatures! Well paint me educated for shits sake! No wonder I could not stomach watching the "State of the Union" this evening, that and the fact that my electric television still has no satellite or other connection. The BEST decision I have made over the last 4 years!

Luckily we have not had any power failures lately and last night I participated in a long discussion on a conference call about Animal Disease Traceability in Washington State. Tonight on Twitter I enjoyed a nice #agchat about water conservation issues with people not only across this nation but around the world. Part of the problem is I am just beat tired, my most "favorited" and "retweeted"  post on Twitter so far was last night when I posted, "U know it is heifer calving season when you wake up with your head on the keyboard and drool running out of your mouth at 8 p.m." 

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Red Tailed Hawk aka Buteo jamaicensis.

Today's picture is the ice pile at the water tanks which should be melting tonight as we are getting some "Chinook winds"

Today's musical selection from YouTube are the "Sons of Bill" singing "Broken Bottles" with the awesome lyrics of "Hank Williams may have been a lovesick drinker but being a lovesick drunk don't make you Hank." 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mother Nature could use a Midol

Have you ever been so cold that you just plain did not care any longer and continued on with what you were doing in some sort of mental rebellion against Mother Nature? I am pretty sure that happened at least 3 times today. Tonight I have enjoyed a long hot shower and dry clothes for over 2 hours now and still feel like I have ice in my marrow. We have had a pretty easy winter so far, the last couple of days we have played catch up really well. 

Working with Mother Nature is often inspiring and so beautiful and breathtaking. She does have her days though when she proves to be a real biotch and she was needing her Midol today let me tell ya! I wont say it was terribly cold but I was surprised this morning by 3 cats sleeping in the outside refrigerator that told me to hurry up and shut the door because I was letting all the heat OUT. I really would have not been that concerned but based on standard gestation tables the first calf heifers were supposed to start calving tomorrow. Just in time for the "Snowmageddon" one decided to calve Tuesday of this week. The heifer calved on her own and everything was fine Tuesday afternoon when I returned home from my monthly Washington Cattlemens Executive meeting. Here is 0914 with her first child that day as she went from heifer to cow.

Tuesday had been a bit different in many parts of the state as you can see by our mascot fat steer at the WCA office. Luckily at home we did not have a drop of snow. Yesterday that all changed, the temperature dropped, the snow and ice started flying and the days spent just doing the basic care of the cattle like feeding and watering became all that I could get accomplished in the daylight hours. Well that and a bit of fence fixing as one unlucky gentleman had decided to jack knife his truck off highway 17 and into my fence early yesterday morning. I was glad that school was cancelled because that meant Dakota would be home to help keep me sane through the day. The new mother was taking good care of her calf and even though the cows looked a bit annoyed with the weather they had plenty to eat and luckily water flow was not an issue anywhere. 

I debated last evening if I should bring the calf in for the night but decided against it. The calf had gotten its colostrum (first milk with many antibodies) and his mother was doing a pretty good job of keeping track of him and keeping him fed and cleared of snow. I really hate to take calves away from their mothers especially first time moms unless it really warrants doing. I must have looked outside 10 times during the night and debated if I had made a wise decision. As much as I hated yesterdays weather I do want to mention it was my middle daughter Samantha's 21st birthday. We love ya Sam and look forward to seeing you enjoy your first (yeah right) drink in Nashville in a few weeks.

Early this morning Christine was home for a delayed work schedule and she went with me to check on the calf. The snow was really flying and it took us awhile to find the calf but he was quite alert and seemed to have good energy so we gave him a short pickup ride to momma and watched as he nursed.As the calf rode across my lap he decided it would be a good time to pee and one pair of jeans didn't last too long today. If a calf will keep nursing regularly they can stand some pretty cold temps and weather. I was soaked, cold and a bit wondering just why I do this for a living but I was glad the calf was doing well.

The weather continued to be nasty today and this afternoon I decided the calf should come in tonight and Mother Nature and I were having a bit of a standoff. I decided to try and get the calf in the corral and maybe get his mom to follow me inside as well. It took a bit of coaxing and a damn long walk carrying a calf in wind driven snow but Dakota did a great sneak move and shut the gate behind the cow just in time. Dragging a stock trailer up an icy hill proved to be a bit of an adventure for Dakota and I. Despite her claims of being on the edge of death it had more to do with my internal body temperature being 27.8 F than with the cliff next to the road we had to traverse. The good news is the calf and his mother are now at the home corrals in the barn where they are much more protected from the wind and snow.

The rest of today was spent chopping ice, a LOT of damn ice and feeding the fall calving cows and calves and bulls. They were just as miserable as the rest of the cows but they do have some natural wind barriers and some nice trees they can huddle in during the day. As I took these pictures of the fall cows today I was frozen to the bone. I was also smiling at Mother Nature and marveling in how even in her fury she could show such spectacular moments of beauty like a new calf suckling a first time mother. I also realized that we really do need the moisture and in the end I am still really lucky to have the opportunity to enjoy the life I do. I posted a "tweet" to twitter today with the above picture that I feel really summed up this wonderful life I am able to lead, "it is not just a JOB, it has to be a PASSION on days like today #ranchlife #cowboyup #whydaddydrinks"  That brings me to today's cowman YouTube music selection. Montgomery Gentry sings "Lucky Man'. All pictures can be viewed in full size by clicking on them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The danger of being a Dad and kid labor

Here I am again and using this new blogger interface that has some features I like but I am still not quite used to it. I do enjoy being able to post pictures throughout the blog so for now I am staying with it. 

I am going to focus tonight about being a dad and the joys of being a dad along with some of the struggles. I would submit to you that being a dad is the best thing in life but also probably one of the most difficult. I enjoyed a day with my youngest Dakota today as she was home for the Martin Luther King holiday. I really enjoy these days as we get a chance to not only work together but we also get a chance to actually talk and learn from each other. Having a kid that shares your passion for the cattle business and Mother Nature really makes a day like today special. The Department of Labor is currently considering rules related to kids working in agriculture. Their concern is in my opinion a solution looking for a problem. Are there dangers present on a farm or ranch? Certainly, the danger that a kid might not sit home all day playing the Wii or chatting online with the masses about what some celebrity wore to the Golden Globes or worse chat with some online predator.

Life is a balance, keeping your child locked up from the realities of the real world wont prepare them very well for functioning in the real world. At the same time, teaching them things like personal responsibility, a work ethic, how to deal with problems, and that Hollywood is NOT the center of the universe are all excellent ideas. I guess because of my own upbringing I have always felt that if I can even eek out a basic living in agriculture it was far superior to having lots of money and not having the ability to spend time both working and playing with my kids. I think what the urban public fails to remember as far as kids working in agriculture it comes down to 2 simple things.

First, as a parent I would never knowingly expose my kids or the child of anyone else to something that was really dangerous. I know for many of you in the cities allowing your kids to work around large animals is something you view as a huge danger. Dangerous as compared to riding in an automobile? dangerous as to attending a school? dangerous as compared to living in a city? Many people don't think of things from a realistic risk standpoint. I would be willing to bet that far more people die in car accidents from driving to purchase a lottery ticket than people who actually win the lottery. Due diligence is needed but as a nation we tend to get caught up in the drama of headlines and forget reality in many instances in my opinion. Does my child look like she is in imminent danger as this vicious Brahma cross heifer (she has her own blog post in the future) named either Annabelle or Margie (depending if you ask Dakota or Samantha) as she eats Triticale hay? What about those replacement heifers and fair steers in the background, they could be plotting a huge stampede conspiracy to attack and eat the guy holding the camera. I am lucky I am even here to post this!

The second argument that really makes my blood boil is the idea that somehow kids in agriculture are just being used for cheap labor and denied a chance to actually learn something. I am going to give you just a few examples of the education that Dakota was able to experience today. We discussed the protein level of different hay and protein supplements and the cost relative to what a pregnant cow needs and did the related math as to which was the most cost effective. As we chopped ice from water tanks we discussed what state or country the outline of some of the pieces of ice most resembled. This led to a larger discussion about state capitals and other geographical and political discussions. As we fed the fall calving cows we discussed gestation length and if a cow was bred today when she would be expected to have a calf. Here are a few of our fall calves that were born in August and September as they follow the pickup looking for hay. As you can see there is one calf with a white hide and this allowed us a discussion about skin color, MLK and the civil rights movement and the opportunities in this country.

We also discussed her upcoming semester finals, grades and future. Part of this discussion was about her family past and how life progresses. We seldom are able to discuss these things without connecting the history of the ranch and those that ran it before we did. This is not to say my kids do not enjoy other activities in life that can contribute to their growth and understanding of the world. Yesterday Dakota spent the day playing in a volleyball tournament. There are great lessons here as well, such as striving for excellence, working as a team, and the joys of success as well as the reality that you are not always going to "win". I know from my standpoint I learned something yesterday as a dad. I do not fret finances, feed resources, etc while I spend time watching her play sports. How could you think of those things as you wait for #8 prepare to slap an awesome serve just over the net? 

I am a very lucky man, all three of my girls have been great kids and they all enjoy the great looks and other female attributes of their mother while at the same time having all the views of a realist that was put into them by some guy lucky enough to be part of their lives.I just found out last week that I am going to be a father in law sometime next winter. I am excited about this news and at the same time nervous, apprehensive and protective thoughts run through my mind like whole corn runs through a 5 weight calf fresh off grass. I want to wish Amanda and Kenneth all the luck and good blessings in the world. I am not sure how in the hell I got to be old enough to be a father in law but I am sure this cow on the fence never thought she would do anything but eat grass, raise calves and live forever here on Coyan Road USA. 

 I know a few things I have learned over my years of being a dad.I would not trade any amount of money in the world for  the joy of being a part of three young ladies lives and the opportunity to teach then how to work, how to love and respect mother nature and how to remember that worry is often just a down payment on something that will never happen.Things have a way of working out in the end, like a son in law that is a hay grower; ).

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Snowy Owl aka Bubo scandicus which Dakota and I were able to witness today. To which she initially said, "Oh boy dad, you can cross it off your geeky bird list". After a little glimpse through the binoculars and some discussion about the rarity she admitted it was "pretty cool". I know, I am a cool dad with a Twitter account, email and a blog and that leads into today's YouTube music selection by Rodney Atkins.Enjoy boys and remember, this crazy old man was once a young boy and you know from the Department of Labor just how dangerous it can be working around a farm or ranch. Remember all pictures can be viewed full size by clicking on them. Tomorrow is a long day and I am already looking forward to sharing a post about my day!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Give me a large piece of pie

Ok, so I am loading tonights post on my new laptop because I decided to "try" the new blogger dashboard and in doing so I cannot make it work on my desktop, nor at this time can I seem to get it to revert to the "old" but RELIABLE way I used to post. This new dashboard supposedly has some new features that will be really cool if they work but if I sit here and type this out and can't get this posted tonight I will be quite peeved!

I started the day with much anticipation and again had a solid plan for the day. I wont dwell too much on the first issue because having an electrical fencer stolen or any item stolen deserves its own blog post and because I would just once again get myself all pissed off writing about it at this time. The main parts of today's plan was to deliver some heifers to the livestock auction and then travel on to a meeting with representatives of other agriculture groups. The heifers got delivered, in fact they got delivered about 1 1/2 hours AFTER the meeting started and the meeting was another hour away in travel distance, obviously I did not make the meeting. The sound of rushing air related to the picture above had something to do with that.

I did eventually get on the road with the heifers and did what I usually do when I deliver some cattle to the auction. I run the math through my head for the 100,000th time and make sure I did not miss any variables and then I do the "what ifs" and start to second guess myself. I am getting better at not fretting these things but I still do to some degree. I also chart a weight and price level that I expect. I am pretty good about weight guesses but on price I am usually too pessimistic. I have tried to solve this pessimism/cynicism by giving myself 3 options on price. 
1. My bottom line price, I would hate to haul something back home but there is a limit to what level I will accept on the bottom side. Lately with a good cattle market this has not been in play for awhile.
2. My realistic expectation of price given the weight, sex, condition of cattle, market prices etc. I watch markets pretty closely so I am usually pretty good at this number.
3. My "pie in the sky" price, which is based in reality but also somewhat of a dream price.

I am sure that the gentleman that delivered this cow to the auction today does the same thing in his mind. He obviously is very conscious about not having too much money tied up in equipment and makes sure he hauls a full load.  Like all pictures on this blog be sure and click on them to enjoy them in full size.

The auction barn itself is always a great 
place to spend time. So many friends and such great jokes and catching up.

I was hoping things went well when it came my time to sell because these were pretty nice heifers and I also have plenty of bills to pay. It seems with a ranch there is always something such as new tires for pickups. I did that this past week and although my friend Ron who is a cattlemen and also happens to own a tire shop gave me a great deal, tires are still expensive. Here are the new treads and an old one that had "bubbled" that let my tight butt know it was time to buy tires.  

So my heifers entered the ring, my price levels as explained above were $138 bottom line, $145 realistic and $150 pie in the sky, these prices are per hundred pounds which is also called "hundred weight" or cwt. The heifers were only 2 pounds lighter than my guess, but they brought $166.50! Sha shing! Now I have to reevaluate the heifers I still have at home for replacements but today's sale just made my day. I don't feel near as guilty about buying this laptop as I did just yesterday. 

On my way home tonight I snapped a picture of a beautiful ending to a great day. This sunset picture was taken near the Cold Creek area of Washington highway 24 looking southwest. I was planning on posting a rock song tonight to reflect my excellent mood but here is instead a country song by artist Troy Olsen that is a tribute to Hank Williams Sr. who was a master of "twang". This may be a country song, but it ROCKS it my opinion and you cannot deny the classic roots and super twang factor! Just listen to the song from 1:30 to about 2:30, talk about a little piece of heaven.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Excellent Weekend

I just enjoyed what I would consider one of my greatest weekends ever. I know some would expect that I have some news about some fun extravagant weekend getaway and how I found a great new wine bar and all my NFL playoff teams won. If this is what you are looking for or expecting you might want to quit wasting your time reading now and wait for the blog entitled “Beyonce is pregnant with my baby and I don’t care because 5 weight calves are $3 a cwt”.

What I loved about this weekend is I never traveled more than 20 miles from home and yet I enjoyed it so much. Yesterday my two older daughters that have left the nest (Amanda and Samantha) came to visit and Amanda brought along her friend Kenneth. They delivered an awesome new computer desk (my Christmas present) that is big enough that I can place my keyboard and monitor on it and still have enough room for my new laptop on the side. The cows that I moved to cornstalks on Friday were all very happy and still within the confines of their hot wire fence.

Since I had some extra help around we spent the morning sorting off some more spring calving cows to be moved to the cornstalks and got them moved. We then spent some family time watching a movie as a family as we waited for one of our favorite local eating and drinking establishments to open. We enjoyed a nice early dinner and conversation and got home just in time to have enough daylight to do chores. It is such a joy to see your kids make their way in the world but we miss them lots and are glad that they are close and will come to visit and help work cows now and again. I love you two and thank you for the new desk. I can’t wait for our trip to Nashville in a few weeks.

Today I got up earlier than I needed to and was hoping to see a nice sunrise. Sadly we had low clouds and some fog and there was no sunrise to be seen but I could see the cows on cornstalks from my back porch and Dad and I had a little conversation about how great that was. I took my morning driving tour of cows on stalks and everything was great. Fences were hot, water was flowing and the cows looked very contented. Later, Christine, Dakota and I gathered the fall calving pairs and worked the calves that had not yet been worked. Vaccinations, banding the non castrated bull calves, branding and giving ear tags to the many that had not been tagged at birth. Things went so well that Dakota was able to make her afternoon club volleyball practice. Again I will give a bit of advice to you young men out there. If you can find a lady that will work all week in town to help contribute financially to your cow hobby and then spend the bulk of the weekend helping you work cows, grab her and hold on tight. I love you baby and thank you for ALL you do to let me chase my dreams! To top off the weekend she made a trip back to Othello to pick up the cell phone of someone (me) that left it at the pizza parlor. Sometimes the only thing special about me is how lucky I am to be married to this lovely lady. Today's Youtube cowman music selection is for her courtesy of the Bellamy Brothers.

As I wrap this up I have a little story about today’s pictures. The first is just todays early morning sun trying to break through the fog as cows graze cornstalks but the other two are related to tonight’s trip to get pizza. To make it in the cattle business you must be willing to use anything you can to lower your costs of production, especially those things, ideas etc. that will not impact the price you can charge for your product. I am constantly on the lookout for these things and often see other people in other business ventures doing the same. Tonight we decided to get pizza from one of our local pizza joints that we like in Othello called The Pizza Factory. They were just opening for the evening so I went inside and ordered, waited and enjoyed the end of the Broncos/ Steelers game while my wife and daughter went to Wal Mart for a few items. I noticed the pizza boxes were plain brown and it almost looked as if the guy put them in the box upside down. As I opened the box to check I realized it was just another businessman that had found a way to save money by using the assets of someone that had not succeeded. Remember that all pictures on this blog can be seen in "full size" by clicking on them. I was duly impressed at his sense, but why in the hell did he not see my cell phone on the table next to the 3 empty beers!?

Today’s real environmental species found on the ranch is the Barrows Goldeneye aka Bucephala islandica.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Avoiding Train Wrecks

I was supposed to be here tonight telling you about the great day of hauling cattle to cornstalks I enjoyed. Alas, that did not happen today but not completely because it could not have happened. It did not happen because as I have grown older I have more ability to see potential "train wrecks" than I did as a younger man. Not a literal train wreck, but a train wreck in cowman speak is basically when everything goes to Hades in a hand basket and for a brief time you wish to never own a bovine again in your lifetime.

Some train wrecks just happen like the time we had 600 yearlings to ship back in the spring of 1997. As I have explained before yearlings are like teenagers on meth without parental supervision at an amusement park, they just tend to cause trouble. We had a successful gather that morning into portable corrals and I was thinking all danger had passed for the day. As we put the first group into the crowd pen to go up the loading chute everything went fine. As the first few calves lumbered across the top deck of the aluminum Merritt semi trailer the sudden noise caused those still in the crowd pen to bolt and they knocked over the Powder River Panels. This was not the end of the world because they were still in the main corral but one heifer had gotten her neck between the panel openings and was somehow upside down on the panels that now lay on the ground. I quickly grabbed a flailing back leg to spin her around so she could free herself. She made about 3 swift kicks and I deftly dodged each one. On the fourth kick she slammed a hoof into my forehead and split a gash about four inches long and pretty deep. There were about 47 seconds there that are still not real clear to me today. As with any head wound I was spewing an inordinate amount of type A positive blood into the sand of the Columbia Basin. The heifer got free and was fine by the way, I however needed a bit of stitching.

My uncle took me to the local hospital in record time and they got me in right away. The female doctor got me cleaned up and stitched up fairly quickly. Then she said it was time for a scan of my head and a talk with a plastic surgeon about how they could fix the resulting scar once I had healed. I explained to the nice lady that my head was fine, we had yearlings to load and I, and only I knew exactly which ones needed to be shipped. I also explained to her that my days as a model for Gentleman's Quarterly (GQ) were long over and all I really needed was a Codeine prescription and a ride back to the corrals. I think she only let me leave because she knew I was going to anyway. We eventually got everything done that morning.

This morning I finished the fence fairly quickly and was going to haul some cows but then I remembered about some of my rules about moving cattle to new pastures especially those that only have a single electrical wire to keep them contained. Here are a few of those rules which sometimes are broken but are a good guide and what took up most of my day.
Before turning out cattle against a hot wire fence

1. Have the fence HOT, even cattle that know a hot wire can sense if a wire is electrified, and have much more respect if it is carrying a charge.

2. Have the water source running and ready to go, especially if the animals have experienced much of a trip to get there, some will want a drink.

3. I almost always set up some type of portable small corral to unload into. This allows cows a stopping point as they come down the unloading ramp or out of a trailer to STOP and settle down for a few minutes. If the field or pasture already has cattle in it this is not as important. Being a herd animal they will usually join the group already in place.

4. Have another mode of transportation on hand if at all possible. A horse, an ATV, another pickup or something. This way if the cows happen to escape the fenced area you have something other than a pickup with a stock trailer connected to it or a semi truck and trailer as your only means of travel besides walking. It is not easy to round up cattle with an old Kenworth pulling a 48 foot trailer.

5. Stay and WATCH the first group as they explore their new area for awhile before leaving for another load. The cattle will usually fairly quickly find the borders of the field and will go to eating.

6. Try and have the cattle not be overly hungry, some hunger is good as they will want to eat and not travel but especially on cornstalks or lush feed a cow with somewhat of a full gut will not gorge herself on the first errant pile of corn she happens to come across and sicken herself.

7. If possible get the cattle to the new digs with an hour or more of daylight left. Roundups by headlight, spotlight and moonlight rarely work very well or are very fun.

8. NEVER turn out cows against a single hot wire that have not been weaned from their calf for a few days minimum, a week or more is better. Especially if they can hear those calves, I promise you, somebody will attempt to head back home to her calf that first night and she will likely take many of her friends with her.

I did not have all these things ready today and by the time I did and finished an afternoon conference call it was too close to dark and I knew the cows would be very hungry. I am ready to go for tomorrow though and look forward to an enjoyable day hopefully devoid of any train wrecks.

Today's picture is of some happy cows on cornstalks that did not result in a train wreck.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Little bluestem aka Schizachyrium scoparium.

Today's You Tube Cowman music selection is Justin Haigh singing "Waylon" I am a huge fan of Waylon Jennings and this song is an awesome tribute. Justin uses many of Waylon's songs to make this happen, "being crazy kept him sane" at 1:10 mark, you just cant find great lyrics like that anywhere. This is why I continually search for new music. That twang at the 30 second mark and the great guitar, drums and fiddle from 1:50 to 2:15 is real country at its best in my opinion!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Caution, Cowman at play

Many regular bloggers have a thing called “wordless Wednesdays”. Tonight I am not going to use that but I certainly am planning on it in the future as a way to make a blog post without typing something out. Today was just a bit too perfect to be a “wordless” day.

Besides everyday chores I spent most of today building hot wire fence. This “job” is something I very much enjoy doing although it is something that is hard to get motivated for. It really is enjoyable once you get going because of many reasons. The work goes fairly quickly and has very tangible results from a visual standpoint, much unlike paper or office work. There is a positive result from a health standpoint because there is lots of walking involved along with the exercise of pounding in corner posts. Today it was in the mid 40’s with lots of sunshine and for me and my demons that is a huge part of having a good day. All those things are great but the best parts are the quiet solitude and time to think, well besides talking to myself and my conversations with Festus about how the world really ought to be.

Festus and I both had a moment of “oh crap” today. There was one area where I had to ease Griselda (the pickup) down a steep grade in some really tall mustard/cheatgrass as I unwound wire. I was being careful so I did not drop into a huge hole but we did fine and made it to the bottom. As I started to walk back up the hill putting in posts Festus was about 10 yards away and was growling under the tall weed growth. I suspected he had found a pheasant so I walked towards his growling to “flush” said bird. Now when you flush a pheasant or a covey of quail by accident it can startle you so I kind of mentally braced myself for the explosion from the overgrowth. We got an explosion alright, as a mule deer doe exploded about 5 yards in front of us. Festus looked at me as if saying “that is no damn cow but please say ‘sick em’, I on the other hand just let the pee trickle down my leg and tried to quit shaking as the doe made a rapid escape.

I did not quite get the entire fence done but about an hour in the morning means I will be hauling cows to cornstalks tomorrow. I am about 3 weeks later than I wanted to be but these look like really good corn stalks with lots of grain underneath. Here in the Columbia Basin it is an excellent way to feed cows in the winter and is much more cost effective than feeding hay and it also is much preferable when the cows do their own foraging. Not only is hay expensive it does not just feed itself and the first two pictures today show just how big of a savings that can be. When $98 only fills your tank part way you know fuel is expensive. The other two pics today are of some new plastic fence posts I am trying, that worked excellent BTW, and the field of corn that cows will be grazing by this time tomorrow! Remember ALL pictures on this blog can be viewed in full size by clicking on them, hopefully I will have my commenting issue solved SOON!

Just to make my day complete I also did a load of laundry and washed some dishes much to my brides delight and tonight we had a WCA/NCBA conference call discussing the World Trade Organizations ruling on Country of Origin labeling. I am tired but excited tonight, I am so glad that what I do for a living does not actually require me to “work” and I get to spend my days “playing cowman”.

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Northern Harrier aka Circus cyaneus.

Today's YouTube video is from JJ Lawhorn. I thought of this today as Festus and I sat on the tailgate and wired corner insulators. Lyrics are not perfect but not bad.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Plans in hot water

One thing I have learned over and over since I have been ranching fulltime, never, ever plan your day. If you do plan your day, make sure changes to your plan won’t cause you too much heartache. Today was certainly one of those days and I am going to tell you the story of two hot water heaters in today’s blog post. For the first part of the story a bit of history is needed.

When Dad passed away suddenly and without any expectation in 2008 it meant very sudden changes for my family. It did not take long before I could see that I could not both continue to run the apple orchard and the ranch especially from 30 miles away. This meant we had to move into the house my Grandfather built in the early 1950’s and had been vacant for close to four years since his passing in 2004. There had been some plumbing that had broken the previous winter that ran through the attic and there were sheetrock ceiling parts all over the floor of the hallway and the only bathroom in the home. I hired a contractor to fix the pipes and the damaged ceiling. They completed the job and I cautiously turned on the master water valve. Things looked good that morning with no leaks so I went about my ranch duties of the day, I checked back that evening and things were still good so I went home confident. I returned the next morning to find the new ceiling on the floor and water everywhere as the plumbing had failed in a different section. Long story short we got things fixed, it stayed good for weeks and we installed some new carpet and linoleum in the old home and moved in that June.

The first night in the home I was awoken at 2 a.m. by my middle daughter Samantha, she said there was water all over in the hallway. I was livid thinking the plumbing had failed yet again. That was not the case, the pressure relief valve on the water heater had completely blown out of the top of the water heater and water was spraying everywhere. Luckily it had barely reached any carpet and the linoleum survived and I replaced the water heater with relative ease the next day especially considering I hate doing home improvement projects and know just enough about plumbing, electricity and gynecology to be dangerous.

This past summer we moved down the road to the home I came home from the hospital to after I was born and where I spent my first 18 years of life. This house is about the same age but since my Mom had lived here it was in much better condition. Since moving here things have been mostly good but the appliance demons have really had a heyday. We have replaced one refrigerator and a washing machine in the 6 months we have lived here.

Today I had a plan of fencing a cornfield with the help of Christine and Dakota. That plan quickly fell apart as Christine said for some reason the hot water was only lukewarm. Oh no problem I thought as I quickly found a tripped electrical breaker. I flipped the switch and an early Fourth of July fireworks show spewed from the hot water heater. Resigned to my fate for the day I took several deep breaths. Replacing this water heater would be a cinch considering my past experience. It was bad from the start because shutting off the water flow meant my claustrophobic ass had to crawl under the house into the crawlspace to shut off the water flow. I was doing pretty well until my knee crunched the skull of some long passed feline under the dark, wet, slimy confines of the crawlspace. After a 60 mile round trip to purchase a new water heater, 6 or 7 trips back under the house to open and close the water valve because of leaks I am planning a LONG hot shower tonight. By the way, not a single fence post was put in the ground today nor any wire strung but the beer I am drinking tonight tastes especially excellent. Hey on the bright side I could have been born 200 years ago and spent the day chopping wood for a stove to heat some water for a bath. Luckily I really did not have any plans today anyway!

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Gray Rabbit brush aka Chrysothamnus nauseosus.

Today’s pictures are out with the old, in with the new, maybe tomorrow I can post some pictures of fence.

Today's YouTube video is Shooter Jennings, yes the son of my favorite Waylon Jennings, sings 4th of July as I was reminded this morning as sparks flew from my water heater!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

See ya 2011, I am still feelin lucky

Hello 2012, goodbye to you 2011. In many ways I am glad to see 2011 be over. I hate to start with the bad but I want to get it out, put it behind me and focus on the good for 2011. The toughest part of 2011 was the number of cattle I lost for various reasons. I think I can honestly say I lost more animals in 2011 than the previous ten years combined. I know for an absolute fact that I lost more mature cows in 2011 than EVER in my lifetime. Admittedly some were just terrible luck as two cows slid off a canal bank and drowned and I only remember ever losing 1 cow on this place to that in my life. I lost two cows to uterine prolapses and I had not lost a cow to that in over 5 years. I went through a terrible spell of sick calves last spring and although I was able to save many I still lost way more than I usually do on average. Some were my own fault like the 3 big fall calves I lost last spring right before marketing time because I failed to get a trailer door closed properly. That one will haunt me for a long, long time. $2500 or so just *poof* because of a mental error.

Just to finish off 2011 for good measure I had another issue on the last day of the year. We worked all the spring calvers, replacement heifers and calves still here from the 2011 spring calf crop.It was a good day in the beautiful sunshine with no wind and a temperature in the mid 40's. Things went well with the Courneya family helping out and we finished well ahead of schedule. The cows received two semiannual vaccinations as well as an internal/ external parasite injection. Before we left the corrals for a late lunch I went walking through the cows to turn on a water faucet. As I walked I noticed a beautiful 3 year old cow that was pregnant with her second calf standing over a premature calf that she had passed. Most likely this was a result of a bump or push from another cow in the working process or getting bumped "just right" as she made her way through the working facilities. It seems like every bit of bad luck that I have dodged with the cows over the last several years all presented themselves in 2011. Ok, enough, on to 2012 and the good parts of 2011.

It says in my blog header that I am "the luckiest man in the world" most days I actually truly believe that. Sometimes I just flat fail to realize how lucky I am. The cattle market has been tremendous over the last year and at first glance I hated that I lost so many animals in a year when they were worth so much. As my wise brother in law stated I was actually "lucky" that it happened this year because the high prices offset the financial losses of the lost cattle. I also was able to get another center pivot put up this past year that will make the land more productive and overall it was a pretty good grass year. The calves I did raise to weaning and beyond were certainly the best I have ever raised. The first calf heifers I had this past year also did a great job without a single calving difficulty. I am starting to feel lucky again.

Speaking of lucky, I was lucky in the parts of life that really matter. My family enjoyed a profitable year, everyone was blessed with good health and we enjoyed some really great fairs and fun times as the year went by. I have a great family, extended family and many wonderful friends and made many more over 2011. Luckiest of all was I was once again able to spend my days with Mother Nature doing what I have wanted to do since I was old enough to have an opinion. Raise cows and crops to help feed my family and others all around the world. I am approaching 2012 with an open mind. I want to keep my head up, stay positive and enjoy life, just a tic more mania and a bit less depressive please. I am working on a long list of things to do for 2012 not because I am setting myself up for disappointment, but because if I make a long list and only accomplish a small percentage it will still be a long list of accomplishments. Here are 5 things on that list as we head into this New Year.

1.Spend at least 1 hour a day on ranch improvements, fixing fence, maintaining equipment, rebuilding and building things etc. Not a specific hour each day, but an average of an hour a day as the weeks pass. Things over and above what HAS to be done.

2. Take a bit more time off that is not directly related to the ranch, my service to the Washington Cattlemen's Association as President, or the computer. Family focused time off.

3. Manage my finances better, as the finances of the cattle business have improved, I have gotten somewhat lazy and need to focus on that aspect better.

4. Continue to talk to Dad daily in the way I do even though he is not physically here. Especially on those days that the going is a bit rough mentally.

5. I have a blog and Twitter. Facebook, You Tube account and participating in Twitter agchat on Tuesdays evenings, here comes the luckiest man in the world.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Yellow Breasted Chat aka Icteria virens.

Today's picture is daughter Dakota and her friend Miss Shelby and my awesome cow dog Festus helping to water cows on New Years Day. What was that about more time off again?

I am also posting a YouTube video with lyrics that plays in my mind so often as I make my way through my days and as I miss Dad. Enjoy Tim McGraw.