Ranch Wife Musings | These are Good Days

These green days are good days.

These days are for earlier mornings up-and-at-’em, for before-sunrise coffee with my man, starting the day the right way.

These days are for chores in the early light and heading down the driveway with horses loaded on the trailer to help neighbors for a half a day, or however long it takes.

These days are for building and deepening relationships…between spouses, among family, and within the broader community.

These days are for all the growing things, from the calves in the pasture to the flowers in the garden to the wildflowers in the field.

These days are for hours in the saddle. Hours in the dirt. For some bumps and bruises and getting covered in dust and the smoke from the branding iron.

These days are for hard work, good work, wholesome work.

These days are for the sweetness of the fresh air, for the warmth of the sunlight, for the freedom of the open sky.

These days are for crawling into bed wonderfully tired, with muscles you forgot about a little sore and waking up maybe a little more sore.

These days are good days.

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.

Tucked In

What a beautiful morning to wake to! We have gotten a solid 13 inches of wet snow here, based off my measurements on the back deck, and could be getting about a half inch an hour for the next 12 hours. The trees are cloaked and lovely.

We’re thankful for all the storm prep we did the last few days and are anticipating a worsening of conditions as the winds pick up, which they already are. Snow is falling a little heavier than it was at sunrise. Brad and Dave are out feeding everything before it gets much worse, and we already know of live calves that were born in this storm, which is very encouraging. Cattle are safely bedded in sheltered locations and yesterday’s tucking in appears to have been a success. We are very thankful!

Other than feeding and other normal chores, we’re set up well to hopefully be able to just keep food and water in front of animals and then more or less stay tucked in ourselves to ride out this blizzard as it worsens over the next few hours.

The pups are already intensely stir-crazy at 8am, busy disemboweling their toys and turning the living room into a jungle gym. They’ve gotten a stern talking to already which resulted in approximately three and a half minutes of quiet. The cozy ambiance is rather disrupted by the sound of bodies hitting the floor, snapping teeth, trampling of feet, and the occasional puppy or puppy toy flying through the air. This could be a long day.

Tucking In

The snowstorm last week was just a practice run for what the meteorologists have been predicting for this week, starting today. According to current predictions, we could be looking at 12-24 inches of snow and 60 mph wind gusts, warranting an official blizzard warning for the next 48 hours.

Over the last two days, which were beautiful and springlike, we’ve gotten set up for this snowstorm and put the finishing touches on everything today. It is comforting to see the hayfield emptied, all the mamas and babies pushed up into the trees where they can find better shelter to weather this blizzard. The calving shed is likewise empty, except for one cow we put in there this morning and the calf she just had. Brad and Dave spent the late morning and early afternoon tucking the big north bunch of cows into a timbered and sheltered ravine while I made a last minute egg delivery.

Everything was uneasy early this afternoon. The atmosphere was unsettled and everything felt it. Critters have their way of knowing when a storm is coming. Heifers came barreling down the hill to the stock tank for a quick drink of water before disappearing back into the trees, not moseying in and dilly-dallying as is their habit on a nice day. Horses were pretty talkative, and everything was on edge.

The snow held off long enough I started wondering if they’d missed the forecast altogether, but around 1pm the flurries started. Visibility has gradually worsened as the snowfall has gotten more persistent, and we’re probably at about a quarter mile visibility right now. The snow is starting to accumulate and a calm has descended. Cows have tucked themselves up in the trees with their calves, chickens are tucked in their coop, and all the other little animals are settling in to ride out the storm.

And it is a wonderfully wet snow! People are of course complaining about the snow, but this is South Dakota after all and we are in the middle of a drought. Spring snowstorms can be devastating, but so can the absence of spring snow. God knows our needs and we are trusting in His provision, praying for safety, and thankful for the much-needed moisture.

Chicks down in the barn are toasty warm, the cats have plenty of food and places to shelter, and the chickens have been spoiled with fresh bedding in the nesting boxes and their food hopper is moved back inside to make things a little easier. We have batteries in our flashlights, oil in our lantern, candles, water to drink, fuel for the generator and tractor, and chains on the tires. And a crockpot of chili. We’re sitting pretty good and getting all tucked in.

Ranch Wife Musings | Mud

It is everywhere! Mud, absolutely everywhere, on everything, tracked into the house and well beyond the mud room, caked on boots, worked into the denim of jeans and crumbling from the legs of the pants. I’m scrubbing it from the floor, washing away those telltale paw prints from one of the pups who busted through the mud room gate or got overzealous when we headed inside.

I’m sweeping up piles and piles of it, combing it from puppy fur, and washing it from my face, from that one cow who turned suddenly and splashed me – twice – in the corrals, flinging it on me head to toe. And that’s special mud, corral mud. It flings up from the tires of the four wheeler, snow and mud spraying up and all over everyone. Coveralls are stiff with it. Floorboards are caked with it. It’s everywhere. Eventually you just have to accept it.

And it’s glorious.

Mud is a promise.

A promise that springtime is coming, the thaw really is happening. Winter is coming to an end.

A promise of moisture. Life-giving. Sustaining.

It’s hope.

Hope for a good year.

Hope for grass, for healthy livestock.

It is an answer to prayer.

Oh, how we have prayed for relief to this parched land. How we’ve prayed for water to fill the dams. For respite from the drought. Without water, there is no mud. And there is mud. Plenty of it. So there is water.

It’s a reminder.

God’s answers to prayers don’t always come all nice and tidy and recognizable. In fact, usually they don’t. Sometimes they’re mud-caked and messy. Sometimes answers to prayer come paired with reminders of our own fickleness, wanting something but grudgingly trying to tell God that the manner of gifting was wrong. “Sure, that’s what I prayed for, but what I meant was….”

So I’m thankful for the mud. For warmth and thaw. For wet and running water trickling down all the trails, pooling in the most inconvenient places. I’m thankful for springtime. For life. For mud-covered blessings.