Lammers Branding 2023 | Old Ways and Good Neighbors

This time of the year is a highlight for many, and for good reason. After a long and often lonely winter, after the discouragements that can come after months of cold and dark and solitude, after dealing with the extremes of life and death during calving, branding season is a bright spot, a relief, a respite. Even a rough calving season can be followed by the best of branding seasons, and this has been a good one.

Some parts of the state and the country have modernized how they accomplish ranching tasks throughout the year, in ways that minimize the need for outside help. Even after my short time as a part of this community, I can understand the thought behind that, or how it might be necessary in some situations. Sometimes for whatever reason a whole community steps back from trading help and goes to a more independent model, so you don’t really have a choice but to follow suit. I get it. But what a loss!

Thankfully the majority of ranches in this community along Spring Creek, Battle Creek, and the Foothills, still participate in trading help, preserving a way of life that goes beyond the profession, preserving a way of life that necessitates the forming and maintaining of neighborly relationships, relationships that only serve to strengthen a community. Branding season is perhaps when this shines the most, and everyone not only reaps the benefits of having good neighbors, but of being a good neighbor.

Branding season is when you really see the importance of people stepping up and stepping in, sometimes last minute because life happens. Of communities working together and coming together in a way that has been lost from the culture at large but is still alive and well in the agricultural community.

It is a time when skills are taught, learned, honed, or re-learned. And no one ever qualifies out of all four of those categories. There is always something you can teach someone else, learn from someone else, do better at, or re-learn. Information is exchanged and even the most seasoned can glean from the hard-earned wisdom of others.

I’m thankful for those old ways. Old ways of learning skills and trading knowledge, of sharing work and life and fellowship. Thankful for neighbors and friends – old to my husband and his family, new to me. Thankful for this way of life.

Lindblom Branding 2023 | Family and Community

What a great day we had on Saturday! A beautiful early morning gather, great help, perfect weather, not a smitch of dust, no (serious) injuries, healthy calves, and a hearty meal afterwards. I didn’t have a lot of time to take pictures, but managed to snag a few.

It sure is neat to see so many different people give of their time to help out and make things go smoothly. Some of these relationships go back generations. I have been told that the way our community functions is pretty unique, and I have witnessed and experienced myself how giving and gracious people are, helping without strings attached. There is the understanding that everyone does pitch in to help with this branding or that branding or that day of working cows, but people aren’t keeping records to see who showed up and who didn’t. It is pretty amazing. We have some great neighbors and friends! The line of pickups and trailers parked outside the branding corrals speaks volumes. I sure feel blessed to be a part of this family and this community!

Perli Gates Branding 2023 | Just Good

Another branding in the books! It was a good day at the Perli Gates, branding calves and working cows, and after the rain we had this weekend with the multiple postponed brandings, it is good to see neighbors and get some of the spring work going and done!

Some people say the word “good” and to them it means “good, but not great.” I say the word “good,” and to me it means just what it says. Not as a comparison but as a statement of fact.

And it really doesn’t get much better.

Good neighbors.

Good horses.

Good dogs.

Good work to do.

Good fellowship over coffee and again over supper.

There is so much to be thankful for when you can work alongside husband and family, work alongside neighbors who all look out for one another and get the work finished without any injuries, and then give thanks to God for a good day over a hearty meal at the end of it all. The branding rounds will continue the rest of this week and we’ll see many of the same neighbors as everyone pitches and gives of their time to get the work done.

The grass has greened up intensely over the last few days as the temps have warmed, and the views of Harney Peak and the Hills were gorgeous on the way home. We polished the day off with a few rounds of stick chasing, and finding the first lilac blooms.

It was a good day. Just plain good.

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.

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.