It’s somewhere between 11 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit this sunny Central Montana morning. And that is a heatwave compared to earlier this morning where it stood at a whopping two degrees! I will certainly take the Weather Channel’s word for it while I stay indoors snuggled up to my sweet baby girl, contemplating what to cook for the guys when they come in for lunch. Although it is bitterly cold we are in post-blizzard mode, my husband and little son are out assessing the damage, checking for newborn calves, and feeding hay to some hungry mama cows. The wind the other night raged for hours. Visibility was so poor that our Sunday evening company had to stay in the spare room on bunk beds overnight.
On the upside, I live in the most beautifully balanced wide open space I could ask for. Twelve miles from town (with a population of 6,000 there were more people at the Carrie Underwood concert in the Billings Metra last week than live in our town) and only one mile off the highway, we live on a gorgeous cattle ranch of about 2500 acres, with an additional 3500 acre mountain ranch where we summer pasture. In the winter the fields are golden along a royal blue mountainous horizon capped with crisp white. A vision.
Days like today are a photograph from my living room window, overlooking a pasture of black Angus mama cows and their skipping, bucking, happy baby calves. In a short while my husband and our hired man will bring the tractor out and leave a line of chopped green hay for the hungry cows to bury their cold noses in, rooting for the good flaky bits that fall to the bottom. Like the delicious morsels of oat clusters in Honey Bunches of Oats! Even cattle know what they like!
Since about January we have been in the thick of calving season. Which, in a nutshell, involves sorting cows (according to when they are going to have their babies) into heifers, heavies and lates. The lates are usually good out in the field to graze until they get close to delivery (heavy) when we will move them into the calving pasture outside the barn where we can easily keep an eye on them. Checking every couple hours for mama cows in labor. Most can instinctually have their baby on their own, lick him clean and mother up to him. But sometimes they can have a troublesome labor and delivery and may need to be brought into the barn and assisted. I won’t get too gory on ya just yet but having babies is a messy business. Sometimes a cow will have her baby just fine but if the baby is sick, cold, or not latching on to nurse we bring the pair into the barn and placed in a jug (a smaller penned off area) to keep a close eye and give mom and baby time to figure things out. The heifers, are first time mamas. They need extra TLC as this is their first bought of pregnancy and motherhood. More often than not, they will need a helping hand. This is only one phase of the ranch. Like seasons, we will go through several stages of production this year just like last year, and just like the years to follow.
Some of the big events on the ranch following calving (which is a marathon event in comparison to the other big ranch events) include branding which is coming up in April, then trucking all the cattle to the upper ranch in June for summer pasture to graze and fatten up all summer long, also giving us a chance to grow alfalfa, cut, rake and bale it up for winter feed before we bring the cattle back in the fall. Then we wean the calves, now huge from grazing all summer, and ship them off. The most anticipating part of the year, to see what our hard work and sacrifice has brought to fruition, in form of what our calves sell for at auction in the fall.
In a nutshell, that’s the ranch for ya. Bare bones. I will get into the meaty part (no pun intended) as we blog along our happy way. My goals for this blog are to expand not only on the tough, long days as a rancher, but from my stand point as a rancher’s wife. Mostly this will be comically amusing because I grew up in the mountain valley of Souuth-Western Montana where there is agriculture yes but a lot more hippies and summer-homers. Much different from central Montana ranch life where your neighbors are 4-5 miles as the crow flies…close enough that my little Freddie and neighbor Lane could ride horses back and forth from Wild Wild West Ranch to Deschemaeker Ranch. This is a new, evolving process for me. Along with motherhood and all the goodness that comes with it. I will share ranch stories, mom stories, music stories, trucking stories, auction stories and gospel stories. Because despite all else my life is made of, the first and foremost entity in my life is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as a member of his church, my responsibility and desire is to live his gospel in and out every day of my life. Regardless of where I live. But I will say, Christ’s love and our Father in Heaven’s love is abounding. I truly feel his presence here on the ranch and I am blessed with lots of family and loved ones to share that with here at home. And my purpose is to share and teach it to any that read this blog.