Saturday, October 31, 2009

Playing in Leaves

In our part of the world, trees are kind of like calm days: few and far between. For some reason, the country north of the Yellowstone River is pretty sparsely populated with both people and trees. When we decided where to place our new house, my husband and father-in-law decided that the area where the most trees are located was the best spot. And I have to say, that 11 out of 12 months of the year I agree. But when it comes time to rake all the leaves off of our beautiful trees, I think I would trade yards with any body else who lives in our neighborhood! This year because of all the fall moisture, our trees stayed green and then the cold frost is what encouraged the leaves to turn brown and fall. this morning, we decided we should do some work on the leaf lawn the trees created. I think the kids and I hauled about 14 wheel barrows full over to the compost pile, and then the wind picked up, so we decided we'd wait for the rest of them to fall before we finished the job. I did get some great pictures of the kids in the pile though! Looks like there will be plenty of leaves to work on another day.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

They're Outta Here

Every year, after the winter wheat is in the ground and the weather starts to cool off, the time comes to ship the calves. We usually contract the sale sometime in the summer, and it's usually anyone's guess whether June, July, August, or September will be the top of the market or the bottom. Most people in the general population don't understand the commodities markets that determine the prices for things like beef, wheat, and corn. But unfortunately, a rancher doesn't get to put his top dollar on his cattle and wait for the buyer to come to him. Many times, a rancher will have built a relationship with a buyer over a period of time and can usually count on the buyer to find a good price, but occasionally the buyer can't find any interested feeders and the rancher has to resort to other means to market his product.
We contracted our cattle in July, preconditioned and sex-sorted in September, so all that was left was to gather and trail the steers and their moms to the house, and then gather and trail the heifers and their moms to the "on-deck" pasture.

Last Saturday, we bundled up all the kids (after quite a few protests and insistence that pants and underarmour with a long-sleeved shirt was plenty warm enough in 20 degree weather) and headed up to the pasture on 4-wheelers, in the ranger, and in the feed pick-up. It was a COLD ride up there for everyone but Mom and Alli, who got to be in the pick-up with the heater. Once we arrived, the kids jumped in the pick-up to warm up, so I got on Haley's four-wheeler and helped with some of the gathering. Let me just say that riding a 4-wheeler in the snow is pretty fun, and man can a person spin a cookie with ease!! I think Adam was a little surprised when he arrived and saw me doing a 360 degree turn, just for fun. We got about 3/4 of the herd gathered with little effort as they were all clustered together in the bottom of the creek to ward of the cold wind, so the kids and I trailed them to the next pasture while Scott and Alex scoured the corners for the remaining cows. Once the kids were just trailing along the cows, they warmed up and seemed to enjoy the day.

Morning came pretty early on Shipping Day, Monday. We were up at 4:45 in time to get some coffee brewing, the cinnamon rolls into the oven and the kitchen ready for Karen to make her famous biscuits and gravy (at least famous in Scott's eyes). We added some eggs and juice and had a great-tasting hearty breakfast after the crew arrived between 6 and 6:30. They were out gathering by a little after 7 and had the cows sorted from the calves and everything weighed and loaded by 10:30.  The calves were all settled in the cattle pods for a trip out to a feeder in a town near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Talk about a long road trip!

Everyone enjoyed coffee and cinnamon rolls before they jumped back on the four-wheelers to gather and trail the heifer calves to the house to sort and wean. We were completely finished by 2 p.m. and finished the day with lasagna, salad, garlic bread, and peach pie. All in all a good day. The calves weighed up pretty well, the crew worked together seamlessly and we didn't have any major wrecks. Now we just have to wait another day or two for the cows to stop their complaining (although, I can see why they get a little irritated since their calves have just been weaned and their bags are getting pretty tight!) Nothing like the soothing sound of a couple hundred cows to lull a person to sleep.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adventures in Babysitting

Last week, our family had the dubious honor of "watching" our friends little girl, the recently-turned-one, Baby Gwennie (that's what the kids at our house call her anyway). Anne had a doctor appointment in Miles City, and Eric had work to do since he was going to be taking over child care duties later in the week, so Anne called to see if we were free. It worked pretty well, since Anne lives about hour from here, and we live about 45 minutes from MC, so leaving Gwen here where Anne could drop her off and pick her up en route, made it a little shorter day for both the sitters and the sittee.

Ben and Alli were both pretty excited about the fact that they got to "help" watch Baby Gwennie. They were so excited in fact, that they ferreted through their closets (under Ben's direction) to find the "baby" toys, you know, the ones they were just way too big to play with. Ben found a couple of tractors and some blocks; Alli found some rings and a pig that never quite made it into Gwennie's hands and didn't find it's way back to the toy box either, remaining in a place of honor on the living room window sill.

Gwen came right in and was pretty excited to see all the different toys all over the floor in the living room. She was so interested in the big kids that she didn't even fuss when it was time for her mom to leave. You know, sometimes there are jobs and sometimes there are JOBS, but having Baby Gwennie here didn't really qualify in either category. The only time she even fussed was when I laid her down for a nap, and she finished her bottle and realized she was in a strange place. She didn't seem too tired, so I got her up and she played with Benjamin while Alli was napping. she finally starting rubbing her ear about an hour before I expected Anne's return, so I laid her back down and after emptying her bottle all over her hair and clothing, she slept for about 45 minutes. When she woke up, we changed her duds, entertained her with the kittens, and she was a smiling, happy kid when Mommy arrived.

I don't remember either of my kids being quite that amiable and easy to get along with. I can guarantee they're not that way now! Thanks Anne and Eric, for entrusting your girl to us for an afternoon. We'd love to have her back again for a visit sometime (and I guess you guys can come too....)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Running into Fall

I've been in the process of putting this post up for about a week, but for some reason, I couldn't get any pictures to upload. I did a little fiddling and finally adjusted some of my settings and made things work again.

We have been pretty busy, running around being spectators at Haley and Adam's activities. Haley is playing volleyball at the junior high and Adam has been playing little guy football.

Haley's team has been fun to watch over the course of the past 6 weeks because they have been improving a little every game. The first game, honestly, was kind of painful to watch as they could barely get a serve over the net. But now, they are serving with quite a lot of confidence. Haley's serve has improved to the point she has to step about 8 feet back from the court boundary, just so the serve will stay in bounds. She's awfully strong, and as long as she gets her toss up, her serve is pretty tough to return. She's also been getting some confidence playing at the net, spiking and blocking.

Adam was drafted by and plays for the Steelers in the Little Guy League. They had a tough couple of games to begin with, but the last two games have shown quite a lot of improvement, and won last week. Adam plays on the line and is finding he especially likes playing defense where he gets to try to get the opposing quarterback on the ground.

Haley finishes up today with her final game in Hysham, and Adam plays one game tonight and finishes up next weekend with a game on Friday night and one on Saturday.
Having two kids in activities in Miles City and one in kindergarten in Cohagen has definitely made our schedule a little busier, but it's been a lot of fun!