Monday, March 30, 2009

A View From My Room

March entered somewhat like a lamb, if I recall, so it figures that it would leave like a lion. The lion was roaring yesterday! As we read the weather forecasts, starting on Saturday morning and into Saturday afternoon, it was beginning to sound as if the storm was going to hit us this time. So Scott gathered the troops, Liam—our weekend hired hand, and Zane—who sometimes comes with Liam and works for free!?!, along with Benjamin and they began to do some pre-storm preparations. The guys fed and hayed everything while Scott took the truck to Langs Fork Inc. to get a load of straw from the Pluhars. Wayland got him loaded, aired up his tires?!? and sent him on his way. Then Liam and Zane started moving calf shelters around to places that were out of the wind as much as possible and spread straw near the shelters for the mama cows to bed down on.

And then we decided we'd see.

Sunday morning dawned cloudy and overcast and the forecast sounded worse than it did the night before. We called Ryan, our regular hired hand, and in 45 minutes he arrived with 2 gallons of milk, light bulbs and a bag of chocolate chips (I mean you gotta have cookies in a blizzard right?). His only request from me was a cup of coffee; since he left in such a hurry he didn't have a chance to get his normal daily allotment. Scott and Ryan worked until about 1 p.m., moving the 3-4 year old cows into a trap with a nice deep creek, and the older cows into a larger trap with an even deeper creek. It took a while to get all the pairs matched up and even longer to make them stay put after moving them, but finally everyone was pretty well settled. Ryan hooked the 104 amp generator up to the fueled tractor and brought it to the house and got it ready so that all we had to do was throw the switch if the power went out. We figured we were as prepared for the storm as we could be. It started drizzling around noon, and by 3:00 the snow was really falling and the wind was blowing everything sideways.

Scott came in around 5:30 and took a rest, had a cup of tea, and then decided he better go check on the cow who had decided that a blizzard was the optimum time for her offspring's birth. About 15 minutes later, the phone rang. I had an inkling it was Scott and sure enough, he had driven off into a hole in the bottom of the creek and needed some help. I put the oven on timed bake so the scalloped potatoes wouldn't burn, gave the kids each a snack and a sippy cup, rented Tinkerbelle from Dish Network , and got all my warm clothes on: coveralls, coat, gator, hat (by the way, Karen, I've worn that thing an awful lot this winter, Thanks!!), Jackie O sunglasses, and my mittens. I grabbed my phone and my camera and headed out to save the day. As I walked toward the shop in the driving snow, I could hear the wind howling, but I could also hear some of the newly arrived birds chirping away in the shop. It was a really strange contrast! I grabbed the chain out of the tractor and about then, Scott hollered and waved from across the yard. He didn't think I could find him, so he just walked to the house to show me where to find the stranded pick-up.

By the time we got to the creek, we already had about 5 inches of snow and the wind was blowing so hard, it was pretty easy to see why Scott hadn't noticed the hole. I grabbed the camera and took some pictures of the calves in the shelter and on the side of the hill and the cows who were wearing shawls of snow. After several tries, Scott succeeded in pulling the pick-up out backwards, while I kept the wheel straight and tried to give some extra oomph by stepping on the gas while in reverse. I'm sure it would have been pretty comical to watch. Scott was pretty frustrated after fighting the weather and the cattle all day, but he looked at me and said, "I'd fight this any day over the people and traffic in New York City."

Damage control today found that everything had stayed pretty well intact over the night. We figure we received about 6-8 inches of snow, but the wind quit around 11 p.m. and the temperature stayed just under 30 degrees, which made things a little more bearable. We couldn't help but think of our neighbors 100 miles to the south and east of us who were suffering through their 2nd spring storm of the week. Even though it was a busy 24 hours, we were thankful this morning: for the safety of the calves and cows, that the power stayed on, and for the moisture that we received. Soon all this moisture will dry up, the air and ground will warm up, and the green grass, leaves, and wildflowers will start to reveal themselves. Winter will be here for just a bit longer; Spring will come soon. I promise!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

CUPS: Time for a Refill

After a few weeks of craziness, the members of CUPS declared its regularly scheduled meeting was actually an emergency meeting. Anne had some pork business in Dallas (bbqed ribs possibly?), Mary had a date with an oral surgeon, and me, well, let's just say that I had no real good reason to miss, but I was busy. We also had a rash of illness in all five of the off-spring and one husband, and a visit from some Texas Travel Mugs that either forced us to cancel or change the regularly scheduled location.

But today we were back and we were back with a vengeance. Anne once again played the "Hostess with the Mostess", I baked peaches and cream muffins (minus the cream cheese filling which would have forced me out of bed before 4:30--I mean, I love you girls, but not that much!!) and Mary, well, let's just say that we decided to take a day off from arts and crafts. Instead, we had a visitor! A real, live visitor--okay she came via the phone line, but never-the-less, we had the addition of a 4th CUP for the day. Former Jordan-ite and fellow stay-at-home mom, Amber Erlenbusch graced us with the presence of her voice for a good 10-15 minute visit. Amber is a faithful blog-tourist and we feel like we "virtually" know her. And I've gotta say, she must be some kind of mommy, because I never heard a peep the whole time from her flock of off-spring, aged 4, 2, and 2 months.

And lest I forget, we had another first-timer, in the flesh, a partner for Cupcakes #1 and #2, Cupcake #3 Angus. We're not real sure how Angus feels about hanging around with all those women, but he appears to be enjoying his "cocoa boboo" (his words, not mine) and a muffin! He and Allison enjoyed playing near each other, but did an excellent job of sharing Gwennie's fun plastic blocks.

We looked through cookbooks and a fun Rachel Ray magazine, googled "crystalized sugar" for my baked goodies, and just enjoyed some time together. It's hard to explain to people who aren't or haven't been stay at home moms, because it's a really unique place in life. We have all chosen to be home with our kids and Anne and Mary work part-time in "real" jobs on top of that! I help out as much as I am able with the ranch work as well as doing much of our book work, so "free" time is really pretty hard to find. It's something we all three look forward to each week, and feel pretty sad when we have to miss a session. We have developed deeper friendships, cultivated some new interests and stolen a few recipes in the process. We welcome CUPS from other cupboards to join us if they want, via whatever means possible. Have your coffe mug ready.
Thanks ladies, for a little time out of the "daily grind"!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Great Dental Caper

Late last week, my good friend Mary, The Farmer's Wife, called to say she had figured out the source of her headaches: the pesky tooth that had gotten a serious infection while she was pregnant with Angus was acting up again. Two years after a "temporary" filling had been placed, it decided to pop out, and along with it, cause some serious pain. So she was off to the dentist in MC to find out about a solution.

And it was a solution that came with a price: a trip to an oral surgeon in Billings. And then she needed a big favor--the nerve!! She needed someone to drive her as she was going to be put under during the procedure. And on top of that, the driver needed to be able to go up a day early, do some shopping, eat some dinner, and stay in a hotel. I couldn't believe she even had the nerve to ask! Of all things! I checked my always-too-full schedule, and was able to move some things around, reschedule a few other events, and arrange for child-care. I reluctantly agreed. I mean what are friends for but to help out in another's time of need... even if it came as a sacrifice to oneself!

On Wednesday morning, I quickly did some laundry, and picked up the house, engaging the help of my cleaning staff: Haley did bathrooms, Adam and Benjamin picked up toys, Adam cleaned a window, and Ben vacuumed while Allison shouted orders as head of housekeeping. Then I put together a casserole to feed the family, some supper in the crock pot, and dashed into the bathroom for a shower. Haphazardly, I threw a change of clothes into a bag; (truthfully I packed more like a man than a woman) forgetting my contact case, my glasses, and truth be told a change of underwear. I did remember my bag of pedicure equipment though--go figure...

Mary arrived at 12:20, ten minutes ahead of schedule and we were off. I must mention that she forced me to deviate from my tight schedule and take a detour at Kafe' Utza for a cup of mediocre coffee, and a so-so pastry. Upon our arrival in Billings, she insisted we go shopping. What's a girl to do? And those of you who know me well, know I'm a bit of a people-pleaser so I was forced to acquiesce. So it was off to Target, and the mall for a stop at Eddie Bauer, and Victoria's Secret, and Dillard's, and a run through Herberger's housewares department. It was all so blase'! By then, we'd had enough of grown-up shopping and took a tour through Toys R Us, to find a few things for the children.

All of the shopping had created quite an appetite, so again Mary asked too much of me by suggesting we go to that little dive on Montana Avenue, The Rex. Let's just agree that The Farmer's Wife has a little more of that bossy teacher thing than I do even. So again, against my will, I went along with her, knowing all the while I would suffer. And suffer we did. Through crab won tons (bleck!), house salad (I could hardly choke it down, save for the chunk of french bread), and the main course: tough, overcooked fillet (like a hockey puck!) and then a baked potato (how plain can it get?). I struggled through an "appletini" and then it was off to a endure a night in the hotel: hot tubbing, a foot masque and new toenail polish, and we capped it off with an absolutely AWFUL bottle of wine:a Moscato d'Asti that had been on the shelf for a special occasion (I wouldn't remotely suggest you try it, unless you're in for a ROUGH time!)

The next morning we squeezed a little more shopping into the schedule before Mary's scheduled time at the dental spa (that's their words, not mine!). She SAID it was for an extraction and implant, but while I was in the waiting room, I discovered it had all been a big sham! That place wasn't just a place for dental work: it was much more than that. They did cosmetic procedures. Like lip and forehead injections to smooth out wrinkles and make lips fuller. Laser procedures to remove superficial veins and blemishes. Sore tooth my foot! So I dropped her off for her "dental work", and proceeded to suffer through a trip to Costco (not even a bit of exaggeration there)and drove to the patient pick-up area to whisk away the patient. (They even had a separate exit for patients to leave--and a garage if someone wanted EXTRA secrecy). An ice pack for swelling and three prescriptions later, and we were FINALLY on our way home.

I did have one moment of sweet revenge. I stopped at the Pickle Barrel and had a Bobcat on white. Mary looked at me longingly, her mouth stuffed with gauze and her numb cheek drooping as she smelled the wonderful spices that were wafting out of the sandwich. I felt a little bit bad, but for crying out loud, after all the sacrifices I had made for HER, didn't she owe me a little bit of pleasure on the trip?

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World (It's March!!!)

One of the things I love about the family that I married into is their interest in sports. Growing up a Wiederrick, being a sports fan is part of the genetic code. I remember my dad watching hockey on CBC when we were little, and I also remember my older sister Terri sneaking out of the bedroom on Monday nights and laying in the hallway around the corner from the living room so she could listen to the Monday night game instead of having to go to bed. She used to give me quizzes on the professional football and baseball teams and their mascots. She even sported an UGLY Green Bay Packers jogging suit for PE when she was in 5th grade. Not sure why she liked the Packers, because I think wearing something that ugly would definitely make me decide to like a team with better colors!! We also used to play a lot of basketball out on the hoop at the garage. Dad would help us work on our shooting form and tell us we needed to shoot 100 freethrows a day. And to work on our left hand. And to work on our lay-ups. And to shoot at the top of our jump, providing we had any vertical at all.... We would play 1 on 1, 2 on 2, and by the time Cindi and Frank got old enough, sometimes 3 on 3. A "no-blood, no-foul" game against the neighbor boys Steve, Kevin and Mark was a guarantee after a long day of wrestling calves at branding.

I was a little bit of a late bloomer when it came to being a sports fan. I was usually stuck somewhere reading a book and someone would roust me outside to play basketball. I played 3 out of 4 years in high school and was by no-means the go-to girl. I played and had some success, but I really got interested when I went away to college. In college I played intramurals (on as many teams as I could possibly play on), even refereed some,and occasionally worked out with the EMC women's team where my sister played, that I really started to pay attention. I got to be more and more competitive,and more and more interested which eventually paid off. Apparently there aren't many English teachers who are interested in coaching, so it made me a little more marketable. I coached basketball for 11 years, starting as an 8th grade coach in Broadus, moving to Freshman coach in both Broadus and Shepherd, then became the Sophomore coach in Miles City, and then finished as the JV coach.

When Scott and I were dating, we spent a couple of weekends checking heifers and watching the NCAA tourney in the Mouse House at the ranch, and continue to watch it now that we're married and have a house full of kids. We helped Gus with his March Madness pool and eventually put the competition on the CBS sportsline bracket manager to make it easier for more people to be involved from far away places (like North Carolina!). My whole family--brother and fiance', sister, sister and 2 kids, mom and dad--enters our bracket contest. It's really fun to get our kids involved too. Haley and Adam look forward to picking their brackets every year, and even Benjamin is getting into the action this year. He picked Oklahoma two weeks ago, and stuck with them! Terri's kids are pretty excited about it too. Every year we all get geared up in February and watch lots of college basketball, thinking it will give us a leg-up in the pool. But really it is pretty much luck and there's not a whole lot of skill involved. We're pretty happy for whoever wins, but Scott said this morning all he mostly cares about is making sure he beats my sister Terri, even if he's 2nd to last and she's dead last.

I just have one parting thought: GO DUKE!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Over the Creek and Through the Hills...

to Grandparents house we go....

Yesterday after church, we took the kids for a drive over west to Gus and Karen's house. The sun was shining and the weather was warm, so we had a great time watching the water from the melting snow run down the barrow pits. We also saw baby calves scattered throughout sagebrush pastures.

When we got there, we had to watch the final minutes of the Big 10 Championship game featuring Purdue and Ohio State game. Adam was a little disappointed, as he has decided that the Buckeyes are now his team. We all jumped in the pick-up and took a drive over the hill to Grandpa's newly developed spring and what will hopefully be his trout pond. Ben almost got stuck in quicksand, but despite that brief "emergency" we all enjoyed the hike and the fresh air.

Then Gus and Scott, along with Haley and Adam watched the unveiling of the March Madness bracket while Karen cooked chicken strips (which are according to Adam, better than you can get in a restaurant even). Gus also gave Scott and I a tour of the new calving barn and we looked at the lonely two heifers that are yet to calve. We had a great dinner complete with Karen's better-than-any-restaurant chicken strips, steak, yummy cheesy potatoes O'Brien, Caesar salad, and garlic bread; followed up with apple pie and 'cookies and cream' ice cream (not so sure about that flavor combination, but hey it worked). I even got to have a glass of wine from the bottle that's been chilling in my fridge for the last month. I always hesitate to open a whole bottle by myself since I don't usually drink more than one glass at a time, and I hate to waste a good thing. Gus, Karen and Scott were kind enough to share it with me. We had a great visit while the kids were hanging out watching "The Fox and the Hound".

Despite the tired and crabby kids I have today, it was a great Sunday afternoon!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Girl Scout Cookies

You Are Peanut Butter Sandwiches / Do-si-dos
You are easy going and naturally happy. You don't need a lot to make you smile.
You genuinely care about people and are a great friend. You're always doing your best to make the world a better place.

Even though there isn't an immature bone in your body, you still are like a big kid sometimes.
Why make life complicated when the best parts are actually quite simple? You enjoy the small joys of life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I'm going to sound a bit like a "farmer" here. By that I mean "we" (meaning farmers) have the reputation for complaining about the weather. It never makes us happy. It never does what we want, when we want it to. (Sounds a little like life right?)

"It's too dry, we could sure use some moisture."
"We're harvesting, we don't need any rain right now."
"These open winters sure make it easy on the cows."
"We could sure use some snow to get some runoff."
"This darn snow. I can't get the hay to the cows."
You get the picture. And I hate to complain, because we really did need some runoff for the bone dry reservoirs around here.
But I'm going to. I HATE MUD!

And here are a few reasons:

Boots after coming in from the car.

And these are the front steps to our house :

Because this is how the driveway looks

And this is the way to the barn.

So is it any wonder really, that at this moment, mud is not on my list of favorite things?

But like I said, I'm a country girl at heart and when my yard is greening up, the lilacs don their purple crowns, and the winter wheat pokes its green head out of the long sleep of winter, I'll be thanking God for all this mud.

Do me a favor: The next time I start whining about the hot, dry, dusty world we live in, point me back to this post to remind me to be thankful for all things. As it says in Zechariah 10: Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.

Thank you Lord, for all this spring moisture! (Even the mud.)