Photo Roundup | April 16 – May 13

The last few weeks of pictures (okay, month) got away from me! Spring work is going strong and we have just been busy! A good sort of busy. A lot of what we’ve been doing hasn’t been super conducive to carrying a camera around either, so maybe the photo crop has been a little slim week-to-week.

The end of April wrapped up with getting our pairs worked, which is fun work especially if the weather is beautiful, which it was. The calves look great. Between that project, and getting ready for our branding, and helping neighbors with theirs, and gardening projects, and the random sorts of projects that crop up when dealing with livestock, we haven’t had a lot of downtime. The chicks down in the brooder kindergarten in the barn are getting huge, not really chicks anymore and soon ready to join the big girls in the coop. The big girls are laying eggs like crazy. Last week, we finished my greenhouse (I’ll write more about that later!), and I got tomatoes, peppers, greens, and herbs going in it. They have already grown a lot, and seeds have germinated so much quicker than I expected. I’m optimistic about this gardening year!

This past month went by with a lot of “lasts.” The last heifers calved. The last cows calved. The last pairs were worked out of the calving pasture into the branding pasture. The last square bale was fed. The last frosty morning came and went (so far, knock on wood). The last panel was gathered up from around the calving shed and moved to the branding pasture. The last piano lessons were taught for the semester.

We also had lots of firsts. The first rainstorm. (And the next, and the next!) The first pasqueflowers, and then the first of the rest of the wildflowers, and the obligatory wildflower hunting. The first brandings. The first days working calves. The first nights with the windows thrown open. The first true gardening days. My first assignment as a contributing writer for Down Country Roads, a local magazine.

These firsts and lasts are the end of one season and the beginning of another, as calving season and summer are bridged by the excitement of the branding season, the camaraderie of working with family and neighbors, the fresh and early mornings and the warm middays, seeing the sun rise earlier and earlier and watching the sun set later and later. And with all the moisture we have had, we are actually excited for summer! The daily rhythm is punctuated by plenty to keep things interesting, plenty of the things that add spice and savor and sweetness and a little bit of chaos.

It’s a beautiful life. It really is.

Ranch Wife Musings | The Best Rain

It slowly, sweetly rained for the better part of 36 hours, filling every bucket and pan and tub that was out in the yard, making the corral blessedly muddy and every little slope a running stream. Each and every step was a splash and splatter of water and mud and the pups endlessly tracked into the kitchen, and further into the house if I wasn’t quick enough. It was the best rain. The kind that comes when we need it most. The best.

The longer the winter, the sweeter the spring. The harder the work, the better the rest. The hotter the day, the greater the refreshment of the evening coolness. The longer the loneliness, the sweeter “I love you.”

The greater the need, the greater the relief when the need is met.

So rain, any rain when it is needed desperately, is the best rain. And the longer it comes, the better it gets. I love to see it streaming down the windowpanes, a sight we haven’t seen in so long, running in rivulets down the driveway and making ruts and mud and such a mess, such a wonderful, beautiful mess! It came slow enough that the thirsty ground was able to drink it almost all up, and any that is left will put water in our dams.

I see relief in the landscape, the animals, the trees and grasses and other plants. The calves looked happier, playing in the rain rather than choking on dust. Cheerful little ducks bounce around in the puddles along our driveway. Cows are glad not to be walking a mile to get to water, and the dogs are just always happy. In a matter of 24 hours, the grass was greener, taller, thicker, and it seems that the alfalfa began to spring up in that short time as well. The fruit trees and the perennial garden look better and better, and the ponderosas are rich and dark, with none of the sickly, yellowish cast they had in the later part of the winter. I can’t wait to see what everything looks like in a week, after we get a little heat and sun on the watered ground!

The rain tapered off yesterday, but we have still had periods of mist and light showers, and the dampness is refreshing and glorious. An answer to so many prayers.

Yes, indeed. It was the best rain.

Oh, Josie

There is sure an extra dose of sass in this fluffy little black-and-white body.

Over the last couple of weeks, calving has come to an end and the pre-branding work, which included long days gathering cows and sorting pairs and tagging and vaccinating, occupied much of our time. The pups would accompany us, but would find themselves locked in the aluminum trailer while we were riding out to gather or working in the corrals, to keep them out of the way and prevent any “self-deployment,” as we call their tendency to, well, self-deploy. Sometimes they apparently think the cows just need a little wake-up, or maybe even need to be shuffled to the next hill. So we lock them up and have the delightful pleasure of listening to the two pups howling inside that tin-can of a trailer. I imagine the echo is pretty inspirational.

One of those mornings, we were horseback in the corral about 100 yards from the trailer, and I caught a glimpse of a little black dog on the back of the flatbed pickup. At first I figured it was Dave’s pup, Cooper, who hadn’t been locked up and likes to sit on top of the pickup cab, but it didn’t take long to see that it was in fact my pup, Josie. She had somehow managed to climb out one of the trailer windows and then jump up onto the flatbed, both of which were rather impressive feats. She then rummaged around in the coffee break bag and stole an apple and put teeth marks in the other. She was happy as a clam and didn’t show a bit of remorse. Her conscience was not pricked. I had introduced her to apples, and she apparently likes them well enough to self-deploy on them as well.

A couple days later, she gave us quite a good scare while we were working pairs. When we took coffee break, which generally happens at an appropriate lull which generally happens around 10am, Josie climbed out of the trailer looking rather lethargic, kind of slinking around and trembling. It was abnormal enough I started looking all over her for possible snake fang marks, or wondering if she had managed to get herself kicked or stepped on by one of the horses. I didn’t find anything, but she kind of moaned when I pressed her little belly and, even more abnormally, she showed no interest when I was eating an apple or a beef stick. She loves to share, but not that time. At one point she was curled up in my lap, with her head bobbing and eyes closing, still shaking and shivering. It was bizarre. Brad said later he almost had me take the ATV back to the house and get her to the vet. Anyway, a couple hours later she was just fine, right as rain. All I can figure is that the dramatic little thing got her feelings hurt when she ended up locked in the trailer by herself for what must have been a tortuous hour. Horror of horrors. It was quite the convincing performance. She got a lot of mileage out of that. Thank goodness I didn’t take her to the vet. That would have been embarrassing.

Oh, Josie. I really don’t know what I’d do without her.

Ranch Wife Musings | Soaking it In

After a busy day yesterday getting ready for the small branding today, we went to bed with every expectation that our work day would happen, as poorly as previously-anticipated weather has panned out over the last few weeks. The 30-cup coffee pot and food for coffee break were prepped for the neighbors who were to come help us this morning, chores were done ahead of time to make getting out of the yard easier, and we were awake before 5am a little disappointed that the rain gauge didn’t have any measurable rain in it.

We got the coffee made and snacks gathered up and the clouds got lower and the rain began to fall slowly. After some deliberation, the work day was called off, which was hard to do without any measurable rain, but you can’t get any wetter than wet, and a wet hide on a calf makes the brand blotch. After an extra cup of coffee and readjusting to an entirely unplanned day, we headed out to do chores, expecting the sky to clear and the rain to stop. But the rain has continued to fall, and last I checked there were two tenths of an inch in the gauge. There was only a tenth 45 minutes ago. It’s measurable. And we’re thankful.

The smell of rain and the music on the roof sure lifts the spirits! It is amazing how much happier everything looks with a little bit of gentle rain, slow rain. The grass is already greener, the perennials in my garden seem even more lush, the pups are enjoying being wet and filthy, the horses are feeling fresh and frisky, and I guess the only unhappy critters are my roosters. They get kicked out of the coop first thing in the morning and they’d rather stand outside the run crowing and getting soaked than taking their pick of the many shelter options and staying dry.

Even as I’m writing this, the rain has picked up again and the clouds are low in the trees behind the house. The windowpanes are streaming and the rain is falling straight and heavy. So I will soak up this slow, rainy day. There aren’t many slow days this time of year, and the bit of rain makes it extra sweet.

Listening to the Storm Roll In

It didn’t take long for all the wonderful moisture we got with those last few snow storms to be just a memory. The muddy ruts all too quickly turned cement-hard, and every trail is dusty and dry. All the corrals are dirty, especially with a little wind, and we have been praying – hard – for the moisture we so desperately need. Moisture totals are low and the drought has not broken. Dams that had water a week ago are now dry. The grass is promising, but without moisture it will head out and mature, and basically stop growing, even if we get later rain. It becomes rather disheartening, seeing the green spring up so eagerly but to see storm after predicted storm disappear off the radar, or split and go around us, or dissipate in a little scattering of raindrops.

But we pray and watch the weather and pray some more, and encourage each other with the fact that God is in control. How often it is that I remind my own weary heart that God is a loving God Who knows what we need and will provide, even if it isn’t ultimately the way or the thing we think we need! So it goes with the weather.

Over the last hectic week or so, as we have wrapped up calving season and all the craziness of branding season has begun, we have hoped and prayed and anticipated, as the meteorologists began talking about some significant rainfall this week. Little storms popped up here and there, with un-measureable amounts of rain, but what seemed to be a “priming of the pump,” as some would say. We have had some hot, muggy days, some strange, foggy ones, and the atmosphere all day today seemed restless, with a heavy morning sky that cleared to a too-blue afternoon sky with summer-warm temps and looming clouds. We are supposed to brand a small bunch of calves tomorrow, and at this point don’t know if that will happen. I can’t tell you how thrilled we’d be to have to cancel due to rain!

The night was quiet when we went to bed, but about an hour ago the thunder began, and a little lightning flickered in the south. Then it intensified, and the thunder was constant. I finally got up to throw sheets over my perennial garden in case of hail, and the air was warm and sweet with the smell of distant rain.

So now I’m sitting here by the window, the only one in the house awake, listening to the sound of thunder and drops of rain on the roof, as an occasional gust of wind squeaks a gate or wakes up my wind chime. What wonderful music, listening to the storm roll in.

Growth and Dreams and Change and Sameness

I knew I was getting close to (or had passed) my eight year anniversary writing this little blog, and I’ve been wanting to write a little something to that effect, and in gratitude for the people who read my blog. Some of you have been following along for years, and that means a lot to me. So to satisfy my curiosity I went back in my archives and, what do you know, eight years ago today I published my first post!

As I look back at some of my early blog content, a lot of things bounce around inside my head. One, what in the world was I doing with that camera? There are a few good pictures, mostly by accident. But more importantly I’m reminded of the excitement and difficulty of moving to South Dakota, of moving into an 800 square foot cabin with my parents and two of my three sisters, of sharing a bedroom with siblings as an adult, of starting over as an adult, beginning a new life in a new place and of learning to trust God with all the outcomes.

I look back and see so much change. I see struggles and losses and failures and dreams that were made and broken. I see so much growth – personal, emotional, relational, and spiritual. Yet I see at the same time I see so much sameness, heart longings that made no sense at the time, common threads woven through my entire life that speak to God’s love and His authorship of even our hopes and dreams.

I see seeds of desires that God has satisfied, one way or another, in His own time. I look at the beauty I was trying to capture with my camera, the things that tugged at my heart strings, and it amazes me to think that I am so wonderfully immersed in those things my heart was just starting to love. I look back at my early attempts at gardening, my love of the beauty of the Hills and the beauty of the agricultural lifestyle, and I see seeds for where God finally planted me. And then I look back further. When I was 10 or so, I had a memory book that had questions and space for written answers. One of the questions was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered, “I want to live in South Dakota and have horses.” Little did my 10-year-old self know that it would take 15 years to get to South Dakota, but that I would in fact get here! And little did I know in 2015 when I was working for the rancher who runs cows on my family’s place, and falling in love with the work and the outdoors and the dirt and the sweat and the smell of horses and cows, that eight years later I would be the wife of a rancher and a neighbor to the rancher I had worked for. Funny how life works. Correction, funny how God works. Sometimes those heart longings that make no sense are God’s way of foreshadowing the work He’s doing.

I look back on my early blogging and see an at times very lonely 20-something single gal, with desires that could only be satisfied by God in His own timing, doing her best to thrive where she was, growing in her trust of God, knowing that God is a loving God Who knows our needs and even cares about our heart desires, clinging to some of those hopes and dreams that honestly seemed hopeless, dreams of marriage and a little home in the Hills and a garden and maybe a couple of chickens.

I see the winding road, yet not so winding, that it took to get here. I see the little side roads I took, that filled life with spice and adventure and highlighted what was truly important to my heart, and made the “Yes” I gave to my rancher the most obvious decision of my life.

It’s like a garden. The first year you plant perennials, some do well, some don’t. Some die off over winter, others come back pretty hardily. There is growth in those first few years, and then they just take off and there is no stopping them. That’s the impression I have of my life, looking back on the 8 years since starting this blog, and the 8 years, 1 month, and 21 days since moving here. I see seeds planted that were slow to take off. Some did well but were pruned out eventually. Other just died off, and that’s fine. Others were slow to get started and have just exploded.

Life has overflowed. I came here with my books and my family and a college degree, and that was about it. I had no friends here, no community, a jumbled mess of recently-rediscovered dreams and disappointed hopes, and I hoped I would find somewhere I belonged. God has given me so much. He has brought struggle and loneliness and has allowed pain, and has been faithful through it. He has given me a life I love with a husband I adore, work to do with a new family that feels like blood family in a community that warms my heart and brings so much meaning to life. He has brought into my life all the spice and savor and sweetness I had dreamed of, and then more.

So I’m just sitting here thanking God for eight years in South Dakota, and eight years of this blog, and for those of you who read this blog and let me know when it touches your hearts. I’m thankful for growth. I’m thankful for change and sameness. I’m thankful for dreams and answers to prayer. I’m just thankful.