Mud. Animal antics. Homemade bread. Baskets and baskets of eggs. More mud! Feeding cows. Puppy mischief. Live calves. A good save. More mud. New chicks. It was a good week.
Tag Archives: South Dakota rancher
Ranch Wife Musings | Hard to Stop Smiling
Calving season by turns is a season of contrasts, of deflating defeat and ecstatic elation. In spite of best efforts, everything goes wrong. Then, in spite of the worst efforts, everything goes amazingly right. In spite of best circumstances, everything goes wrong. In spite of worst circumstances, everything goes right. Sometimes it seems you just can’t win.
Last week was pretty hard on the psyche, as my father-in-law would say. We lost calves daily, in situations that seemed so avoidable but really were just the frustrating way nature works, sometimes with us, sometimes against us. Cold and snow and frigid overnight temperatures were definitely fighting against us.
However, things started turning around over the weekend as temps began to warm, and we were excited Sunday morning to find a cow have not twins but triplets, a pretty rare occurrence. All were alive and full term. One had a birth defect, sadly, and nature took care of it pretty quickly, but the other two were lively little things. We snagged one from the cow to give to a different cow who lost a calf, so that was a win, since cows without calves aren’t kept around, and since most of the time twins can’t be raised by the same cow it was actually two wins.
Then yesterday, a tiny heifer started calving and wasn’t progressing. The calf was malpresented, with its head twisted to the side so it was basically being born upside down, which is not how things are supposed to work. We honestly weren’t overly optimistic – The heifer was tiny, and we had lost a cow and calf last week to a similar malpresentation. After a surprisingly successful pull, the calf was born without injury to the cow, but by all appearances the calf was dead. It’s tongue was horribly engorged, it wasn’t breathing, and its eyes had a deathly glassy look to them, with very little eye reflex. Efforts seemed fruitless, but after twenty or thirty minutes of viciously rubbing and drying the calf, encouraging airflow in the lungs, poking its nose, and eventually moving it roughly around (i.e. kicking it) to mimic mama’s rough licking and prodding, the calf was sitting up right, sneezing and shaking his ears. That’s a win. He wasn’t out of the woods, but what a neat save.
This morning, Brad woke me up to tell me the calf was standing. It took a little prodding, but the calf did it! That’s another win. Throughout the day, he’s been pretty spunky, is up and down and walking and appears to be nursing. Wins all around. He has some sort of umbilical defect which we’ll keep an eye on, so again not out of the woods, but again, what a neat save!
When you’re contending with cows and nature, you’re bound to lose a few rounds in spite of everything, and then win a few rounds, also in spite of everything.
This little guy makes it hard to stop smiling.
Ranch Wife Musings | Why the Little Things Matter
Ranching isn’t for the faint of heart. The best of the beauty of life can be tangled up with gut-wrenching sadness. The beauty of a maternal cow with a healthy calf and the light in her eyes can quickly be marred by the heartrending sight of a mother cow refusing to leave the side of her dead calf, or the lost look in the eyes of a mama who finally walked away. A successful save can happen one minute and a tragic outcome can happen the next. But, frankly, truly living life with your eyes and heart wide open isn’t for the faint of heart, regardless of occupation. Ranching is just one manifestation of that.
Because sometimes things do go wrong, sometimes tragically and horribly wrong. Calves die in the cold. We have a year, or three, of hardly any moisture. Freak accidents happen, leaving everyone bewildered and shaken. You are up for hours in the middle of the night with a cow, only to lose her calf and maybe even her. Faithful dogs die. Other loved animals die. Friends die. Hearts break. We suffer sickness or injury. Relationships aren’t what they should be. Vehicles break down and financial hardships threaten one’s sense of security. I could list off any number of tragic circumstances, big or small, that everyone can relate to, to a certain extent.
But it makes me think. Why is it so easy to list off the bad stuff? Why are we so slow to see all the goodness in life? Is it really because there is so much bad? Or is it rather, as I suspect, that what we see has an awful lot to do with what we are looking for?
We are really good, to a sad and destructive fault, at waiting for moments of big triumph or of obvious good to celebrate. Frankly, that sets us up for never celebrating at all! We go about our day oblivious to, sometimes willfully, the beauty and the joy and the blessings that really, really do outweigh the bad, fixating instead, like a cat toying with a mouse, on every little thing (or big thing) that goes wrong and drowning in the frustration and the heartache. Because there is frustration and heartache.
But what about the twenty cows that calved without incident, providentially missing the worst of storms and cold?
Or the baby calf on the warmer that was a successful save?
Or the calf we found before it could get chilled down, the calf that is now happily dried off and nursing in the calving shed?
What about the tiny blessings of animals to love and be loved by?
Or the bigger blessings of family, or friends, or spouse?
What about the blessing of working alongside family members?
What about the community we live and work in, faithful friends and neighbors?
What about the few inches of snow and the gift of moisture?
We should be reveling in gratitude from the moment we wake up! Giving thanks for another sunrise. Giving thanks for a new day. We should be giving thanks over the simple and exquisite pleasure of a cup of coffee, whether it starts the day or warms cold hands halfway through the morning.
Yet all too often our daily habit is to sit and stare fixedly at every little thing that goes wrong, until that’s all we see, and then sink down in devastation at those bigger trials that God had the audacity to allow! (As our minds think, imagining that God owes us anything at all!)
Oftentimes God’s blessings are intertwined with reminders that we still do live in a world of hardship, and that we don’t call our own shots. We aren’t masters of our own destiny. We don’t decide our fate. Those are lies of the devil. Instead, and so much better, we rest in the hands of a God who loves us! Rather than kicking against the trouble He does allow, we are much better to sit back and give thanks for the good that He lavishes instead, for “every good and perfect gift” that He gives. And He has liberally rained little blessings in our lives to remind us of how kind He is.
So I want to train my heart and mind to see and appreciate and, yes, to rejoice in those little things. Things that maybe only mean anything to me.
Like the warmth of a kitten purring on my shoulder. Or irresistible puppy snuggles. The aroma of fresh bread, and the tart-sweet of plum butter from this summer.
Because it doesn’t start with being more thankful for the big things. That really takes no effort. It starts in our gratitude for and joy in the littlest things. And that takes time. And effort. And sometimes sacrifice. We have to slow down long enough to see them.
Things like the first handful of tomato seedlings that have sprouted.
The beautiful calves that have been born.
Baskets of eggs.
Flurries of activity at the bird feeder.
Like enough clothing to go for a winter walk.
Like the winsome eyes of a border collie pup.
Like the pleasure of sharing a home-cooked meal.
Like the comfort of a hug. Like groceries in my fridge. Like propane to heat the house.
Like good mama cows with the best of the instincts God gives to His creatures.
Like a hand to hold.
Because sometimes life is hard. Because sometimes, without a heart tuned to see the littlest joys and littlest pleasures and littlest graces, we’d be overwhelmed by “what ifs” and “whys” and pain and sadness. Because there is plenty of that sort of thing. But there is also plenty of joy. And that’s why I write about it. To remind myself, and hopefully to share that joy with other people as well.
Life isn’t made up of big events. It is made up of millions of small ones, good and bad. We can choose to focus on the good, or we can blind ourselves to the good by focusing on the bad, like throwing dirt in our eyes. We’re not pretending the bad doesn’t exist, anymore than we pretend there isn’t dirt. We’re just keeping it out of our eyes.
And those joys, those blessings, those graces, multiply and overflow and crowd out the discontent, the frustration or anger, because gratitude to God creates more gratitude to God. Joy in life begets more joy in life. A heart tuned to God’s goodness and His gifts will see His goodness and gifts where other people might not.
That’s why the little things matter.
Weekly Photo Roundup | Feb. 26-Mar. 4
Life is a beautiful adventure.
Josie Stole My Little Heart
So I haven’t written much about Josie, and I really don’t know why. She was our first puppy clever enough to figure out how to escape the enclosure in the house, and got stepped on by Elvis and scared me half to death when the pups were older and sleeping in the barn. She limped out of hiding, crying pitifully and holding her little stepped-on leg up, and came straight to me to be held. Bess got to experience her first day on the job and got her own blog post, but apparently Josie just got lumped in with Bess and has been kind of overlooked.
Josie at this point has had many first days on the job! These pups are so intelligent and showing promise of being cowy, and it has already been a treat to watch their instincts start to come out. Bess goes nuts when she hears Brad yelling at cows and barrels down the hill to find him. Josie is a little more subdued, but this morning when we were gathering cows from the calving lot into the corrals, Josie took a leap off the fourwheeler and ran to help get the cows rounded up. She managed to not get stepped on.
From the get-go, I guess I thought Bess would be my dog and Josie would be Brad’s, but somehow things got turned upside down and this little dog stole my little heart. And oh my goodness, is she a faithful little companion! She has been my lap-warmer during my morning devotions or when I’m writing, she’s my chicken chores buddy, and revels in our walks. She likes riding in the tractor, she doesn’t have her ATV legs yet, and she is fast. Very fast. She can also be extremely slow and has this irritating and adorable habit of plunking her little butt down and tilting her head to the side when she hears her name and is pretending she doesn’t remember it. Naptime is sacred as is her bedtime, and before bed potty breaks are met with dramatic resistance and suddenly forgetting how to walk. She likes cheese and hotdogs, and doesn’t like spinach. She follows me around the kitchen and preemptively “downs” when she thinks I might give her something. She thinks she has me figured out.
As far as her name is concerned, when I name a critter it is usually just because the name somehow fits. And then it sticks, and that’s that. And given Brad’s track record of names like “Yellow Cat” and “Grey Cat,” I don’t take any chances. But Josie’s dad’s name is Joe, and her grandpa was Jonas, so Josie seemed appropriate.
Welcome to the crew, Josie girl!
After the Storm
Oh, these winter days after a storm. We woke up to a world transformed under the clearest of clear skies. The wind, worn out overnight, gave way to a peaceful calm, but not until leaving those whimsical reminders of its presence, strangely and wildly sculpted drifts of snow and ice, sparkling wickedly in the unmasked winter sunlight. The sky is so blue it looks ages away, yet somehow seems I could reach up and touch it. Not a cloud to be spied. The snow a blinding sheen. Trees laden with icy burdens on every branch, which occasionally slip from their shoulders and disappear in a shimmering cloud.
Our footprints from yesterday were blown away and filled in. Our slash piles have reduced to smoldering heaps of ash. Animals came through the storm unscathed. No calves arrived, which is a blessing in this cold.
I love these days, when 10 degrees feels just right. The relief is apparent, watching the animals move around more comfortably, from the pups to the chickens to the larger livestock. The misery everyone slogged through yesterday has melted away as the temps have crept a little further above zero. Without the biting wind or the stinging snow, it feels oddly springlike.
I love these days, these storms that are gone almost as soon as they arrive, bringing some moisture to the parched earth, reminding us that it still is winter but that springtime isn’t too far off.
I love these days.