May 6, 2012


I learned a few lessons this weekend. Let me share them with you.

Friday evening we loaded potatoes in northeast Idaho. We were last in a line of about 20 trucks when we pulled in and it was about 5 hours before they got to us.
They were supposed to stop loading at 6:00pm. By 8:00, when they finally got to us, it had gotten windy and stormy. There was lightening and thunder, rain splatters on the windshield, and it was getting dark fast. There were 3 more trucks behind us, and thankfully they had committed to finishing loading all of us.

Malcolm drove us over the gravel short cut to US20, and then I took over around 10:00pm or so. Up through Yellowstone country and then east across Montana. Malcolm took back over 40 miles east of Billings around 4:00am, and I went to  bed.

An hour later, he woke me up. We were almost to Miles City and he had been thinking how silly it was to go deliver in Grand Forks that afternoon and then sit there till Monday morning when we could go home. And was that ok with me? If we just went home?    (as if he needed to ask)

After that, sleep was a lost cause. I maneuvered through the entire day on 1 hour of sleep. The cup of coffee while visiting around the in-laws kitchen table helped.

We had arrived just in time for bottle feeding. I'd made friends with these little ones while we were home the previous 2 weeks, but apparently a week's absence is just long enough to become a stranger. At least the twins weren't shy.
 Of course their excitement wasn't about my return. It was more over the arrival of breakfast.
 This little red one is so cute. I have a thing for red calves. Unfortunately he's a bull.
 In fact, out of the 6, only one is a heifer, and that's one of the twins. So no bottle babies will be staying on this year, unless another one joins the group. But hopefully everyone else will stay in the pasture.

After feeding, we headed inside where I flipped through my quilting fabric and patterns. Just looking because it's fun to look. Then I went next door and helped my mother-in-law get lunch started. A friend had come over to help work on the basement remodeling, and so she was going to fix lunch for all of us. Which was a lifesaver for me, since I had no groceries really that went together, part of the cause for my inability to return to sleep that morning. My mind wouldn't focus on sleep, but instead kept returning to the issue of what I was going to feed us that day. As it turned out, lunch was D.E.L.I.C.O.U.S! And even better with the fun conversations and visiting going on around the table.

Lunch well on it's way to being ready, I noticed the rain had stopped for the moment, and decided to slip out the door and go see the horses. No trip home is complete until I've been out to visit and check on everyone.  After 5 months in the corral, they were finally out on grass.....and no where to be seen.
 The pastures are rather vast (or rather it seems so to me having grown up where farms were 20-30 acres), and so you have to go looking for the horses, something I don't mind at all. I always enjoy excursions into nature. I'd ride around out there all day long exploring if I could. And really, I could if I'd let myself, but I'd be missed by Malcolm and the girls.

I got distracted several times along the way. First I noticed that the spring wildflowers are finally making an appearance.
 And then I stopped to watch a lone antelope who was watching me. He got tired of watching before I did, and headed off in the other direction.

 I continued on my way, looking off into the horizon for white spots that would indicate the presence of painted ponies. Still didn't see them anywhere, but I did spot this pair of hawks acting strange.
 And then I saw the reason why. They had a nest nearby and I was under surveillance.
 I was tempted to climb up and see what was in it, but I was on a mission and worried the rain was going to catch back up with me.

Ah HA! There they are! In the very back corner, of course!
 That is a scene I so enjoy! So I parked on the side of the hill and just soaked it in, while everyone kept an eye on me to see what I was up to. After a moment I quickly realized something wasn't quite right. But before I could go investigate, I had to get the initial visiting over with.

My boy had finally stopped eating long enough to notice I was there, and he was making fast tracks up the hill to come see me.
 Ignoring Sky just sets you up for a lot of harassment. He doesn't understand not being the center of attention. So you just have to love on him before anyone else. And then he only makes a slight nuisance of himself. He will be your constant shadow and sticking his nose into everything you do, regardless of how much you love on him, or push him away.

 His gray is really starting to show this year and he's put on a lot of size this past winter. I'm hoping to have him at a trainer by the end of the summer. Maybe we can have our first ride together in the fall!

 Greetings taken care of....with everyone because by the time Sky was done, the others had congregated around us....I finally got on to the problem I'd spotted from the hillside. And here she is....
....Miss Problem, in the neighbors pasture.
 And not too terribly upset over it or too interested in coming back home.
 She grew a lot this winter too, especially her main and tail! She is now 10 months old and still very much the princess of the pasture. Maybe she was expanding her territory, and felt a need to be princess of the neighbors pasture too.

It wasn't hard to find how she'd managed her little migration. And here is where Ranch Lesson #1 was learned.

*Never Ever Ever go visiting with the horses without a halter and lead rope, just in case.

Gemma is compliant enough that I'm pretty sure I could have led her over the lowest spot or at least to the gate down the way. But she was convinced the grass truly is greener on the other side of the fence, her new side, and wasn't interested in being led with my arm around her neck like she usually is willing to go along with.
 Halter and lead, don't leave home without it!

Why does it look like she's trying to convince big brother to join her in her new kingdom?
 I had no choice but to head back home for help and just hoped that the other 6 wouldn't take it in their minds to defect to the neighbors country. As I drove away they were lined up at the low spot in the fence gazing across at Gemma who was contentedly grazing on her new found "better" grass.

Almost home, I had to stop and open a gate to pass through, and this is where Ranch Lesson #2 kicked in.

As I was struggling with the gate, the four wheeler sputtered and died. *sigh*
Turned the key and nothing. The screen didn't even light up. No sputter, no whir, no click...nothing. (I'll fill you in on what the actual lesson was here in a moment)

So I hiked home, probably about a mile, in muck boots, which really aren't designed for long distance walking. They are a bit bulky and heavy. However, when I had to walk across the stream I was very thankful for the muck boots as I still had dry feet when I got to other side.

I was about 1/4 mile from the house when the pickup pulled out and headed towards me. Finally, I'd been spotted.

My poor husband, my knight in shining armor. By the time he'd changed shoes and we'd collected a chain and halter, the rain had started to drizzle lightly and the wind had picked up a little.


I left the camera at home and so there are no more illustrations for the rest of the story. Wish I'd taken one back out. Our first stop, riding double on the other four-wheeler, was the horses. They'd moved down the fence line and were closer in to the buildings, and conveniently standing near a gate!

Malcolm stopped back from them, and I walked in, and climbed across the fence to get Gemma, who had followed them on her "greener grass" side. My horses may not have a lot of skills or knowledge, but they are all very good about letting you walk right up to them and put a halter on them, something I'm eternally grateful for. It was no big issue to halter Gemma and lead her to the gate, where Malcolm was, by this time, waiting for us. The only difficulty was that the gate was standing in a large area of ankle deep mud and Gemma (nor I) really wanted to go in it. But we convinced her to come on across. At some point between my leaving for help and returning, she had tried to cross the fence, resulting in 4-5 fresh ugly red slashes across her chest.

 I know in the prim and proper world, horses are never, ever fenced with barbed wire. But in the realistic world we live in, our horses share pasture with cattle, and so it's all fenced in barbed wire. And yes, it results in the occasional cuts and scrapes. I'm sure some will take issue with me over this, and I don't necessarily like it either. But, like I said, our world is realistic, not perfect, and so am I.

Gemma's cuts were ugly, but not terribly deep. They'll heal and she shouldn't have scars. If I were home, I'd probably get something to put on it just in case, but I'm not and she'll be fine. She's not the first to get cut, and it probably won't be her last cuts either.

Horses happily reunited, we headed on to the next project, but before we got there, I showed Malcolm  the hawk nest. Might as well make the trip enjoyable if we're out there anyway. He wanted to hike up to it, so we did. It was a short climb. There were 4 speckled eggs, a little larger than chicken eggs. Again, no camera, and I'm disgusted with myself over it. But when we return for branding in about three weeks, I bet there will be chicks. We're planning a return trip to see them.

And then back to work. We drove to the back corner where I got my next ranch lesson, something I'd been asking him to show me just a few days prior as we were riding along in the truck one day. There are a number of blogging ranch women whom I read and they all go out and fix fence by themselves. If they can do it, then so can I, or at least this was what I was explaining to Malcolm, if someone (ahem....HIM) would just show me! So, presented with the perfect and necessary moment, Malcolm showed me how to patch together a broken fence. I'm not very strong, but it didn't look to hard, and I figure I can at least patch them together until some serious fixing can be done, should the need arise.

Back to Ranch Lesson #2

On to our final mission, and as he was pulling up to the dead four wheeler I'd abandoned at the gate, he'd already asked me some question concerning what I was doing when it died. And then he asked me if I had flipped the engine power switch.

The what?

Lesson #2: All four wheelers have a "cut engine power" switch on the handle bar that is bright red and hard to miss, and apparently is really easy to accidentally hit, at least it is if you are me.

Sure enough, it was in the off position. Flip the switch and the silly thing starts right up without even a sputter.

Oops! That was a little embarrassing!

But thankfully a very easy fix, and he had to come out in the rain anyway, to fix the fence and help me get Gemma back home. I told him he was my Knight in Shining Armor (or rather muddy jeans). He told me that I was his little airhead (in a loving way, not ugly).

Afterwards, we returned to the house to join in a dinner already in progress. It was very good! Then we relaxed at home a little while. Later we went out for some target shooting, but it had gotten really windy and cold. So he went back to the house, and I went to the barn with my mother-in-law to feed the bottle calves one more time. We watched a little TV and went to bed. I was ready for some sleep. It was a really nice day, despite of, or perhaps because of the mishaps. I wouldn't have been outside for nearly that long, or gotten to spend that time with Malcolm if things had gone otherwise. And really, my walk to the house after the breakdown was very pleasant. You see and hear so much more when your walking and not on a four wheeler!

So from hence forth, I'll not leave the house without a halter and lead (if I'm heading to horse country), my camera, fencing pliers, and Malcolm!  Ok, well I might leave Malcolm behind. I can always go fetch him if the need arises, so he doesn't need to come every time!

We pulled out this morning to finish the trip to Grand Forks, ND.
The clouds have cleared and it's been a lovely day. We arrived in Grand Forks about an hour ago and it's in the mid-70's over here. Just a lovely Spring day! We'll unload and drive 120 east and north tonight so we'll be ready to reload in the morning. We're taking another load of seed potatoes back to the town in Idaho where we picked this current load up.


ACountryCowgirl said...

Isn't it amazing all the fun things you learn:) usually the hardway:) I have had many adventures like that myself. but yes we always kept fence stretchers, fencing pliers(to fix fence and to cut someone out that my be caught), halter and lead, bailing twine(it is like duct tape) and I always kept some vet wrap in my tool box in case I found someone tangled in a fence and bleeding profusely(had that experience-turned out fine but stopping bleeding is a good thing)
Loving getting to read more about your ranch adventures:)

Michaele said...

Wow. You can really pack a lot into a day when it isn't spent sleeping. lol You really got me appreciating that I raise goats and not horses. It is normally a bad thing when de-horning doesn't work, but it sure comes in handy when you need to get a goat to go somewhere he doesn't want to. Hope the cuts heal quickly and you get some deserved sleep. Good to hear from you - as always.

Muffy's Marks said...

I can understand why you love going home, what a beautiful ranch. Those 'kill' switches on ATV's can be a stinker. Usually my friends hit mine and laugh when I finally figure it out. Happy trails next week.

small farm girl said...

You have learned some very important lessons. Lol. Your horses are looking really good too! Maybe your little one has learned her lesson too. Yea, I know, never mind. Lol

Meagan said...

Sounds like you learned three good lessons, and had fun doing it!! :-) I am ALWAYS glad when you get to go home and get to blog about it!!! Glad you had a great time. Every time I read about you being home I want to come out there!!!! :-) One way we'll be able to save enough to fly us out there!!

Dreaming said...

I loved your lessons learned. I've been caught without a halter... should know that lesson, but I don't. But at least my pasture is small!

Shirley said...

Glad you got a quick trip home, or Gemma might have been in big trouble.One more lesson- always carry a pocket knife- you never know when yo;'ll need it, and how many different things you can use it for.