Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Special Delivery

I can remember when I was younger that going to the barn with Dad while he checked heifers and occasionally pulled a calf was one of the funnest things to do. First he'd get the rope around the cow's neck and tie her loosely to one of the railroad ties holding up the pens. Then, he'd grab the chains that had been rinsed in disinfectant and hot water from the displaced coffee urn. Then he'd fish around inside the heifer's pelvis to fasten the chains around the baby calf's front hocks. Then he'd place the hook on the chains, wait for the cow to contract, and then give a tug. Yellow hooves, wet legs and knees would slip out. Another little tug, and I could see the nose and mouth, tongue long and curved. If all went well, usually one more tug would free the calf. If not, the calf puller with a pulley all rigged up would be fastened to the chains. A ratchet would slowly turn the pulley, and working with the heifer's contraction, a bit more slack, and a bit more slack would be gathered in. Eventually a low moo from the cow could be heard, and the calf would land with a thump on the straw-covered barn floor. Occasionally a piece of straw would be used to poke through the slime to get the nostrils clear, so the baby could breathe. Then, we'd hustle out of the pen, gathering up all our tools.

Usually, I'd hide behind a big round pole in the barn watching the mama sniff at her baby, while dad cleaned all of his gear. The little heifer would breathe so hard that dirt and straw would fly up and stick to the new, wet calf. Eventually the cow would go to work with her coarse tongue, licking off the mucous and fluid, which in turn stimulated the baby calf to think about his first meal. Watching the baby calf stand on wobbly legs and try to find its mother's udder is really pretty funny. Instinctively they know what to do, but sometimes they get lost in the details and look under the neck or front leg of the cow instead of in the back end. But they're tenacious little buggers and eventually find their way to breakfast.

Last weekend while Scott was gone, I was promoted to Chief Heifer Checker. We had 3 little heifers decide it was time to calve, and we had 3 successful deliveries. Luckily, none of them calved in the middle of the night. I figured that it takes me 12 minutes to dress, get my coat on, walk to the corral, check all the heifers, walk back, get undressed, and get back to bed. Not too bad, really. Then comes the task of trying to go back to sleep...

I did learn something though: be sure to close the gates behind you as you take the heifer and her calf down to the barn. You see, I went out to turn the girls in to their dinner (a refreshing main course of alfalfa hay and seasoned with an assortment of wild grasses) and discovered a freshly licked calf right in the middle of the gate. So after situating the rest of the ladies, I headed to the barn to put hay in the new heifers stall and grab the sled so I could drag the calf back to the barn. I trotted down the alley, back to the heifer and her new calf. I bent over and grabbed the still-slimy calf and placed him gently in the sled. The heifer mooed at me, and then sniffed her calf to make sure all was well.

We started the trek back to the barn, me pulling the sled with the calf, and the mama, with her head lowered, following. I only had to stop once to put the wobbly calf back into the sled before making it to the barn safely. Mama was pretty suspicious once we got into the barn. I opened the gate to a pen and helped the calf out of the sled, turning around just in time to see Mama bolt out of the barn. I ran to the door to watch Mama run as fast as she could back to the place where she last had her calf. AAAargggghhh!

To make a long story short, I finally convinced the heifer to return to the barn via another route, through another set of gates, which I made darned sure I closed behind me each time we passed one. I still had to talk pretty hard to get her into the pen without escaping. I usually get chilled enough that I have a hard time warming up when I get back into the house, but not this time. I was breathing hard and working up a sweat. Who knew that calving could be such a good aerobic work-out? (Although "Sweating with the Heifers" may be a little tough to market as an exercise video....")

We've had a week's hiatus from any calves, which has turned out pretty good since we now have 6 inches of snow on the ground and it was below zero this morning. I am looking forward to warmer weather and trips on the four wheeler and to the pasture to check on and tag the 3 year old's calves. Tomorrow will be the 1st of March... thank goodness our below zero days are numbered!!

The Weekend Wreck

This past weekend, Scott decided to fly to Colorado to watch Haley in her play and hang out with both Haley and Adam for a couple of days. Conveniently, there's now a semi-direct flight from Miles City to Denver with either a stop in Gillette or Scottsbluff, Nebraska. So, we dropped Scott off at the airport and went to watch my sister's team at the district basketball team. After a fun-filled game with well over 50 turnovers between the two teams, we went and ate a nice dinner with my mom and dad to celebrate Dad's birthday. We finished eating about 6 or so and stopped to get gas before leaving town.

The sun was just setting as we drove down the backside of Airport Hill and toward Sunday Creek. The Suburban has such a nice suspension system, that before I knew it, I was cruising along at about 78 miles/hour. The car in front of me started to slow down about 12 miles out of town, so I followed suit. Benjamin was asking me where Daddy was, so I was explaining that Daddy had just landed in Denver and that it was a wobbly flight. About that time, I looked down to turn the heater off, noticed I was going about 65, and when I looked back up, there was a mama deer and her yearling crossing the road.


Yep. I did it. I hit a deer with the new Suburban and knocked out the grille, bumper, and a fog light and who knows what all underneath. I stopped to check on it, but nothing was leaking from the radiator, or the engine, so we proceeded to drive the rest of the 25 miles home, following Mom and Dad at a speed of about 60. No more deer, no more wrecks.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You asked for a a tattoo....


Some Thoughts About Wallpaper (2nd edition)

I was so excited when we got to set up our new home, some 8 years ago now. It truly is a treat to live in a place where no one else has ever lived. No weird hair in the drains, or between the carpet and baseboards, no one else's toothpaste ever spit down the bathroom sinks: you get the picture.

And truthfully, I had never seen so much bright, bright white. Everything was contractor primer white. And since it was the first home I had ever owned, I needed to put my mark on it. And mark it I did.... I painted, and papered, and papered and painted. There wasn't a room in the house that didn't have some color in it, and at the very least a wallpaper border. A cute clothesline with blue and yellow in the bathroom, baskets and flowers in the kitchen, John Deere tractors in the office, roses in the bedroom. Not sure why I had such a love affair with wallpaper borders, but man did I. Eight years later, I have been doing a rash of redecorating. It started with a remodel of the kitchen. My new counter top and cabinets did not go with the beautiful navy blue I had in the original kitchen. Down came the wallpaper border and away went the ragged blue-jean effect. Then I noticed the wallpaper in the entry way was looking awfully shabby. Between kids and dogs, I'm not sure who caused most of the damage (pretty sure it was the kids). So down came the clothes lines-with-freshly-laundered-country-attire border w/plaid bottom, away went the dark pink paint.

Now, I'm on to the master bedroom/bathroom. You see, my bedspread had gotten all worn out--what do you expect from a $50 Target ensemble? Eight years had had it--rips, cuts, pills. It was time to go. So I found an ensemble (complete with window treatments, sheets, and all manner and shape of pillows) on sale at Macy' And, of course, it doesn't quite go with the rose color-wash that adorns my bedroom walls. You know what's next. The bathroom colors don't really coordinate either, so down came the flowers in the bathroom. Who knew that wallpaper and steamy bathrooms don't get along so well?

This really is my anti-wallpaper manifesto. I putting it here in black and white (okay green and yellow): NO MORE WALLPAPER, EVEN BORDERS, IN MY HOUSE!

I really think that they should put that in first-time home-owners manuals too. I had no idea that it was that hard to take down. You can strip the outer layer usually, no problem. Then it takes all matter of spray gel--I tried Zip (it's blue) and I tried some pink stuff(it was environmentally friendly): I tried diluted bleach; I tried plain old water which actually worked best. Then, once you get the wall paper itself down you have to scrub off all the glue, which when you use the border bond-er, is no small task. Did I mention that under some of the wall paper it was good old flat paint? Now I have to re-prime some of the walls, before I can repaint. I had no idea it was that messy either! Water on the floor, glue dripping on the floor, wall paper that comes off in pieces the size of dimes. I had no idea that the border paste you can buy is extra durable so it will bond with the actual wallpaper; it's not designed to be put on the wall itself! I think if you are extremely wealthy, and can afford hired help to do all your decorating, knock yourself out, because usually the professional decorator also has professional un-installers as well as installers.
But if you are one of those DIY junkies (which I pretty much am), be smart. Wallpaper is NOT your friend.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine’s Day 2009

I know, I know. Two posts in just over 24 hours. I just had to share a couple of pictures. First here's a picture of the Valentine's Cake I made for Scott. It's a Red Velvet layer cake with Cream Cheese icing. I started doing this for Scott for Valentine's before we got married and I think I've made one every year since we have been married, with the exception of maybe one. This year I fancied it up a little just for fun since I was feeling a bit out done. You see, typically Scott remembers Valentine's Day, but it's either on the morning of that day or at some point during the day since I'm busy huffing around and acting more than a little annoyed that he apparently didn't remember. In Scott's defense, this particular "holiday" falls right in the middle of the first cycle of calving heifers, so most of the time, he doesn't even get to town. But this year, not only did he remember, he even bought cards for all four of the kids, AND his parents. And I got more than just a card: see picture #2.

I think it helped that Scott and I had a long talk about those days that women think are important: birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentines Day. It's not that we necessarily expect fireworks for gifts like diamonds, vacations, or the like (although we'd certainly take them!!!). We just expect that our other half thinks about us and makes the effort to do something special. The fact that Scott was planning ahead—he got everything for Valentine's day on Monday the 9th—made it even that much more special. We had planned to go out for dinner somewhere in Miles City, but decided to stay home since Alli was finally feeling better, and Ben was not feeling so great. We had porterhouses grilled outside with baked potatoes, green bean casserole, toast, and cake with ice cream. And I'm pretty sure they were better steaks than anywhere in town. Plus, we didn't have to drive 80 miles to do it.

So I just wanted to take a little time to brag on my hubby for the kind of Valentine's Day I always wished I could have. Love you honey!

Friday, February 13, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

For any of you that spend any time at all on "Facebook" you know about the countless lists and surveys they send out. That's why I usually just hit IGNORE... same as I do with the other applications. The whole thing can be kind of cumbersome, and definitely a time sucker. But my friend Mary, the Facebook Dropout, did think the list titled "25 Random Things About Me" was interesting. She challenged me to come up with the 25 things or so, and then post them on my blog. The thing is, I can come up with all kinds of things about myself, but I kind of wear my heart on my sleeve, so I'm not so sure that any of my list is really that big of a secret. I mean, people who know me, know me. I've definitely been known to "over share" and that acronym "TMI"--I'm pretty sure I've seen that flashing in the eyes of people that I'm talking to (as well as my husband--he's actually cringed before). I'm trying to get better about that, but I also think that sharing is how you make friends. I mean, if you come across like you're perfect all the time, no-one wants to be your friend, because they think you could never relate to them! And how can other people want to talk to you if you never say anything?

So this is in part for my friend Mary--and partly good brain exercise... Here goes:

1. I rarely do anything without listening to music (mostly Christian praise/worship and classic rock).

2. I hoard all matter of magazines with recipes, yet I usually cook the same things on a two week rotation.

3. I think I could live on potatoes, if I had to.

4. Cinnamon rolls are a close 2nd.

5. I really hate the wind but I'm trying to make peace with it.

6. I like to paint (walls, not art).

7. I am a huge procrastinator.

8. I love flowers and beautiful yards, but hate to weed.

9. I love to dance (two step, jitterbug).

10. I never drank coffee until I got married.

11. I've seriously considered getting a degree in school psychology.

12. I think I'd be a great administrative assistant for some big-time CEO.

13. Spring is my favorite time of the year.

14. I love to see all the fresh new black baby calves playing in the green grass and warm sunshine.

15. I love to bake fancy cakes.

16. I enjoy road trips with my husband.

17. I love to stay in hotels.

18. I was the high school mascot for boys basketball when I was a senior (free trip to all 3 tournaments!).

19. I was on the student senate in college for three years. I was also an RA for 1.25 years.

20. I used to play spring ball with the women's bball team at EMC when they were short bodies.

21. Someday I'd love to drive a Corvette convertible.

22. I love my kids more every day.

23. I enjoy working with the cattle and operating machinery.

24. Taking a drive around the ranch alone with my husband is my idea of a romantic date.

25. I love singing praise and worship music in a corporate setting.

That's not as easy as it looks. I'm sure I'll still be thinking about all the random things about me after I post this. Maybe I'll update my post if I come up with some other things. Right now I'm off to bake my hubby a red velvet heart cake for Valentine's Day. Happy Heart Day!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


As I write this post, our house is in the process of doing a little grieving. Last week, Scott had to take our family dog Wally to the veterinarian to be put to sleep. Wally, who has been a part of our family since 1995, would have turned 14 this spring. When Scott and I got married in 2001, Wally was like the rest of the family and welcomed me with open arms. In fact, Wally became my constant companion the minute I walked out the door.

It didn't matter if I was pulling weeds in the garden, sitting on the deck in a chair reading a book, or walking out to the highway, Wally was right beside me. When it was really hot and I was working in the garden, Wally would hang out under the shade of the lilac trees in a place where he could see what I was doing, but in a much cooler place. When I walked out to the road, we'd start out stride for stride, but typically, he'd make it to the top of the hill and then sit down for a break and wait for me to return and he'd plod along behind me the rest of the way to the house. The first couple of years, he'd even chase down a scent on a path through the barrow pit and eventually meet up with me further up the road. As he got older, he'd stop and wait for me closer and closer to the house. He would get so excited for our walks that if he heard me opening the door early in the mornings he'd start jumping and barking, loud enough I was afraid he'd wake up the kids. Occasionally I'd come out to grab something from the pick-up or car and when he realized there was no walk in store, he'd give me a sorrowful look and lay down on the deck.

Another thing about Wally that I always appreciated was his "warning" about approaching people. I could always hear his tail thumping loudly on the deck whenever anybody was on their way to the house, be they friend or foe. He especially loved it when Grandpa and Grandma G came by as that always meant a chicken strip was on it's way as well. Gus and Uncle Don loved to spoil both Wally and Buddy with a hot dog on their morning visits over to the bunkhouses. Wally's love for garbage was something that got old, and fast. If we were gone or busy for a few days, and Wally didn't get his full measure of food for the day, eventually he ended up tipping over the burn barrel and rifling through the refuse with his nose. We didn't even have to look outside at the cans, because his blackened nose was enough evidence to convict him on the spot.

The last few years, Wally began to physically break down, even though his kind eyes maintained their youthful twinkle. His hearing got worse and worse until he eventually didn't even hear it when I banged dishes around so he'd come and eat. His eyesight got worse too, and the cataracts became visible. His fur started to fall out, but the worst part was how hard it was for him to get around. Wally was a pretty big dog and his back hips just couldn't take the full weight of his body, so it got harder and harder for him to get up. As much as we dreaded it, the morning Scott had to lift him up so he could go outside, we knew it was time.

It's strange to drive up and not have him run out to greet our approaching Suburban. It seems strangely quiet to hear only Buddy's barking at night chasing deer and critters out of the yard. It's going to be especially lonely when it's warm enough to do my daily walks to the highway and back without Wally.

Thanks Wally, for your companionship and loyalty. We sure will miss you!