Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Monday, 15 April 2019

On the Front Page



I haven't left the ranch for weeks, literally.  Calving came on hard and fast this year (yay!) and there was time for nothing else.  More on that later.  Then came a meeting notice (via Facebook) regarding caribou management in BC and I happened to need to renew my drivers license.  The calving had slowed so in to Williams Lake I zipped (a mere 3.5 hour drive......) A quick (and always expensive) run around afternoon and then the meeting started at 5:30.  It was an interesting meeting, informative and frustrating, and the topic has certainly has generated some heated conversations all through BC.  
A couple days later, I'm on the front page of the local newspaper and mum and I were both quoted.  Yuck, no where I want to be.    
This is the resulting letter.   


I recently attended the Caribou Recovery meeting in Williams Lake (along with several hundred other people), but have found myself quoted and on the front page of the Tribune.  I’m generally a low profile kind of person and public speaking is not my forte.  I’d prefer to tell my own story however, rather than be quoted without the context maybe being clear.  
       
I first want to comment about the poor prior notice of both the meeting and intentions of the meeting.  Having two businesses that we run out of the Itcha Ilgatchuz Park (guide outfitting and trail riding), having range tenure in the immediate area, being a director of the Anahim Lake Community Association, member of the Anahim Lake Round Table and secretary of the Anahim Lake Cattlemens, one might think that a notice of meeting might have made it my way.  But no, I found out on Facebook.  Along with the frantically “shared” announcement of the meeting were many comments, mainly the general public panicking about what kind of new restrictions and closures were going to be announced and what that would mean for both recreation and industry.  People were (and are) spooked and angry, and rightfully so.   

Needless to say the cliché talk at the meeting of “collaboration with local government and stakeholders” was not well received and there was more than one horse type snort in the crowd.  Perhaps the meeting was better announced on government websites…..oh but never mind….our own Caribou Chilcotin Park Supervisor didn’t know about the meeting until the Friday before.  Clearly there needs to be some more work on the whole “collaboration and transparency” piece. 
I also want to clearly point out the wealth of knowledge available from people who have or currently are living on the land.  (And not everyone has Facebook.)  I realize the information is ‘anecdotal’, but it is very relevant.  The history that has been passed down and been lived is interesting and important, especially since any official studies and statistics from this area (and much of Canada) are relatively recent.  This cannot be stressed enough.  Local knowledge should be sought out, not brushed by or ignored all together.   
      
What I write now is in regard to my own experiences in the Itcha Ilgatchuz Park region as a third generation rancher, mountain trail riding guide/packer and big game guide outfitter.  I cannot speak of other places where the herds are threatened and I would hope the government will look at each area individually, and LISTEN to the residents, rather than blanket us all with new policy.          

When I was a kid growing up out here, there were 120 plus students in the school.  There were many small holdings in the area, just big enough to support a family.  Most everyone, including First Nations people, had a few cows, plenty of horses to get around and make hay with, trapped through the winter and often guided in the fall.  People lived off the land because there was no choice, and made do with what they had (which often wasn’t much).  Everyone ate moose meat and caribou.  And there were plenty of them.  It was usual to see 40 to 60 moose and that was just in our main hay yard, not even the neighbors.  In the mountains, we got so used to seeing hundreds of caribou as we rode through, we’d hardly bother to stop.  What there wasn’t lots of, was wolves.  A wolf control program was in place.  And to a trapper or hunter, wolf pelts were prized and was worth good money.  There were still wolves around but they were shy and rarely made a presence.       

So now our human population is way down, with less than 40 kids in the school.  Although we have our share of ‘feral horses’, the numbers are actually down from the working herds that once were common.  Very few people live ‘out in the bush’.  Bigger ranches have taken over the smaller holdings, but the actual cattle numbers are similar.  There is next to no trapping done anymore and of course the guiding outfitting is essentially gone too.  Caribou hunting has recently been shut down all together (although even the experts agree that harvesting the mature bulls per regulated guidelines makes zero impact to the larger herd).  Moose are becoming a rarity and many people having given up hunting all together.  We have fewer snowmobilers than ever before and these days we can ride endlessly in the Itcha Ilgatchuz Park and area and not see another human or horse track.  Increased human presence is not one of the local challenges. 

What we have seen is a steady increase in wolf sign, remains of wolf kills and literally wolves everywhere, including in my back yard.  At the meeting, someone made some very interesting comments about humans hunting wolves throughout history and thereby helping to control numbers.  He is correct.  As human pressure on them has decreased, so their numbers have increased, and quickly. They are a very efficient and effective killer, and are thriving in this new world where they are king.  The same can be said for the grizzly bear, but we are not going there this time.
 
So in the near past, with the wolves under control via a program and human pressure, the moose and caribou flourished.  With no control program, easier access and little human pressure, the wolves have thrived and moose and caribou numbers have dropped accordingly and alarmingly.  I’m sorry folks, but it’s hard not to understand that math.  I’m well aware that there are other underlying issues, some we may not even know about yet.  But the basic facts ring loud and true.
  
Now don’t get me wrong in this, trust me, I’m the original bleeding heart, often to the disgust of my family.  Who else do you know that nurses coyotes back to health, or relocates baby beavers?  But even I can figure out that the cold hard reality means reducing wolf numbers and regulating predators in general.

Because what other “changes, restrictions or closures” can be done out here, with already a smaller population and much less individual human activity on the land for both recreation and living?  Certainly there is local impact from the pine beetle epidemic and fires. Certainly, logging and subsequent lack of road closures have made big changes in many areas, increasing access where there was once none.  Thoughtful land use planning is essential for multiple reasons.  However, there is still plenty of excellent habitat and protected areas here, and our numbers continue to drop. 

Controlling the wolf population DOES make a difference for the caribou and moose populations.  This has been proven by both history and science.  While I realize and appreciate that it is unpopular and may not be the ideal single long term plan, it is what needs to be followed up on first, while we still have something to protect.      
  
And that is the point I was trying to get across with my bumbling and mumbling at the meeting. :)  
Terra Hatch      

So there you have it.  My opinion, for what it is worth.  

On the homefront, we are looking at the tail end (no pun intended...) of our calving season.  Overall (knock on wood), it has been a good one.  Cows and calves are healthy and happy and we have had good luck in general.  I'll get back to you with a story or two in the near future.  

The best to you all,
Punky  


Monday, 25 February 2019

Another Cycle

Sometimes when I'm thinking about writing, I feel like I could just re-post from my first year of blogging.  I was pretty dedicated for one thing, and really, the seasons just keep going around.  This time in 2015, I was writing about sorting cows for calving, vaccinating and retagging the first time mommas.  And you'll never guess....but we are in the midst of it all again.  The biggest difference is that we are on "D" names now, instead of "Z" names.  

At the grain troughs.

But not to start off on a sour note!  All is well as can be.  Mother Nature could certainly do her part and turn up the thermostat (!) but overall we are in good shape.  The cows are in excellent health, strong and sassy.  The feed has held out well and proven to be of excellent quality (hence a strong and sassy cow herd).  We are nearly plowed out around the ranch, barns are prepped and we've got good help lined up.  The first and second calvers are sorted and processed and ready to go.  Tomorrow we will move the main herd up to Six Mile and start sorting them.  Not a quick or easy job there.  We will pull off the ones we feel are closest to calving, and keep them at the ranch site.  The others will be taken back out to the feed grounds.  This process happens at least once a week during our calving season.  It's time consuming but well worth it as, for the most part, we are able to have all calves born in a clean dry area, with access to help from us if necessary.  


For now, I'm consciously enjoying each full night of sleep in my own bed.  That will all very soon come crashing to a halt as these last few days will be the calm before the storm.  


This is our first wee fella, born much earlier than expected.  Luckily mum spotted his momma starting to calve when she was feeding.  We snuck her in to the hay yard and waited until she finished the birth and had a few short minutes to clean him off.  The wind was howling and it was about -15.  I took him back to the house, got him good and warm and fed him some colostrum.  Once relatively dry, I snuggled him in the blanket as shown and we rode the snowmobile back down the meadow to his mother.  He was super happy to look for some breakfast, but quickly started to freeze up again (temperature was dropping fast), so I wrapped him up and took him back in to the house for the night.  The cats were utterly disgusted, especially when he got free of his makeshift pen and walked into the kitchen while we were making breakfast.


All right folks, speaking of my bed....it's time.  Never know when the next full nights sleep will happen.  

Cheers and stay warm!
Punky  

Saturday, 9 February 2019

There and back again

Well, the Hatch family has safely returned home.  And home sweet home, it is.  (Despite the fact that it was -31 last time I checked and still dropping.....)

I won't go in to all of the details as I do have to get some sleep tonight, but I will touch on a few major points.  

We went to Disneyland.  That was cool for the kids for sure.  Not positive it was ever on my bucket list, but it is now surely off.  Perhaps the best part is that it was raining buckets both of the full days we were there.  Some may consider that bad luck.....we considered it PERFECT.  Because there were virtually no line ups at all and we did all our favorite rides at least twice.  We went with Eli's sister and family, and that was also a huge part of the success of the time spend.  They have gone several times and know all the 'in's and out's', best rides, places to eat etc.  All in all, it was good fun.  

Then off to much more my style of holiday.  We had rented an airbnb home about 3 hours from Los Angeles.  Oh, should I get in to a traffic report about that city?  Ugh, no....let's not.  

Anyhow, the home we stayed in had plenty of room for everyone (9 for a couple of nights) and we enjoyed cooking for ourselves.  The area is absolutely fantastic and literally impossible to describe.  I'm pretty sure that only had we landed on the moon, would it have been more opposite from our home.  We spend several days in the Joshua Tree Park and I would highly recommend it.  The rock formations are incredibly cool and fun to hike around in.  The climate wasn't super warm (they were having a 'cold spell'), but it was pleasant enough.  As an added bonus, the rains really got the desert blooming.  Perfect all around.  

Anyhow, for tonight, I'll just add a few photos.  



These photos are all from the Joshua Tree Park.  Such an incredible place.

The desert began to bloom.....

A truly incredible place, The Painted Canyon

The Ladder Canyon Hike.  You literally used ladders to crawl up through the rocks and walk along through narrow paths cut and carved through the centuries by water.
Probably the most unique place I've ever visited.



Exploring the Lava Tubes of Pisgah Crater.

We were fortunate to have our good friend Cheryl join us for part of our trip.  Do you see a smiling face underneath her?  

Wild.

Another hike in the Joshua Tree Park.

The famous Skull Rock.

Love this photo!  I had to turn it black and white as it was zoomed in and not clear, but the effect is great.  

Heading back in to Los Angeles.  LOOK at all the freeways we were navigating.  When I say 'we', I mean "Eli....."
Thankfully the car rental guy took pity on us and gave us a vehicle with a navigation system. 

Visited a huge beach not that far from our hotel.  Plenty of people there, but only two Chilcotin boys actually out playing in the waves!!  
The air was warm, but the water was dang cold.

So our story turns here a bit.  To shorten it up, we managed to get Ben's eye specialist appointment changed to somewhat coincide with the end of our trip.  So he and I skipped the last plane and stayed near Vancouver, mostly visiting friends we've met through trail riding.  To shorten another long story, the 2nd specialist we saw decided to do the necessary surgery as soon as possible.  Great because it meant 'two birds with one stone', but not so cool as we were both starting to really chomp at the bit to get home.  But all good.  Some more lovely visits to family/friends I wouldn't normally get to visit and I think I'm finally getting the Skytrain, Bus and Ferry system figured out.  
(Sorry to those I didn't touch base with...your turn to get dropped in on next time.....!)


View from Saturna Island


I have to say, the people of Vancouver and area were all great, from the bus drivers to the waitresses to the RCMP (one member bought Ben a donut and wished him the best of luck for his surgery), to the nurses etc.  Not a cranky face to be found and everyone was super helpful.  And of course the Childrens Hospital was amazing, as always.  And very humbling.  Feeling whiny about a quick day surgery or not being home when you thought you should, gets put in to perspective pretty quick when you are there and seeing what other families are going through.    
Ben was a champion through the surgery, had an excellent follow up appointment and very nearly a MONTH after leaving the ranch, we happily arrived home again, jiggidy jig.  

It's been an amazing adventure, but I'm quite certain we are now right back where we belong.  

Moving horses to 'greener pastures'.
Not gonna lie, it was a chilly ride but I was still grinning from ear to ear (under my scarf!) to be looking between equine ears again.

All the best,
Punky  









Thursday, 3 January 2019

Scenes of Winter

Thought I'd share some winter photos with you guys.  Perhaps there is a story somewhere in here too.  I never quite know how these posts are going to turn out until I sign off again...... 

Bringing a few strays home.  They haven't been in a hurry for the hay pile this year with so little snow and such good feed still available.  As long as a cow can easily get her nose through the snow (not too deep or crusty) and there is lots of feed, they are quite happy.  Our swamp areas freeze over and the grass that was a foot or three high lies down under the weight of the snow.  The snow and the pushed over grasses protect and insulate and there is usually still plenty of green feed underneath.  It is certainly drier this year, but with such a mild winter, the cows have done awesome.  Nice to see them have such a good break.  Hysterical to see the old bags bucking and galloping like a bunch of yearlings.  

     It's days like the above photos shows that I'm very appreciate of the "tent" I got for Christmas last year.  It is pretty heavy for constant use, and ungainly to do anything but ride in, but my "Kix 'n Bux" rain slicker is a lifesaver, in the winter in particular, and doubly so when riding in snow covered timber.  It is built specifically for riding and covers your entire saddle front to back.  It is tough as heck (even I can't wreck it) and is as water proof at the end of the day as at the beginning.  
     I sent up a silent but heartfelt 'thanks' to the designer this spring.....  It had been pouring rain and I was riding through a nasty, muddy, brushy piece of range (to save another mile to get around it....totally worth it in theory...)  Neither my horse nor I saw the massive hole that we suddenly dropped into, hard and fast enough that I'm sure Smooses nose hit the ground.  And that's a long way up to start with.  She lunged forward to get out of it, and dropped right in to another one.  She hesitated for a moment (on her knees) and I frantically assured her we were all good and would she, oh pretty please sweetheart, stay stopped long enough for me to get all the way off because me getting half off and her taking another lunge would catapult me who knows how far, so if she was going to do another lunge, please let me know so I can stay aboard, good girl you're ok, please don't make me walk back, or fling me forward and then lunge on top of me, whoa sweetheart, it's okay, stay down another moment, let me help you, just wait for me.....  
     In the midst of all this reassuring and mumbling, I was attempting to toss myself off the side and land upright without the use of my stirrups and with my large rain jacket not making me any more nimble.  (I had kicked my feet out of my stirrups with the second lunge because it is safer to get flung free then hung up.  Or get trapped with a leg underneath if she landed on her side.)  So as I go over the side of my mare, guess what.......yep, totally hung up on my saddle horn by my jacket.        Here is an absolute disaster about to happen.....makes my skin crawl to think of it.  Hung up on a saddle horn while the horse lunges, hopefully doesn't fall on you and probably eventually starts bucking or bolts......  geez louise.  But now (or shortly after) is when I gave my thanks to the designer.  
     There are no zippers.  What goes over the saddle horn when you are riding is closed with snaps and velcro, which comes apart easily with a little pressure.  To be honest, I hadn't even thought about that feature up until then, but I was sure thankful to see all those snaps pop apart and set me free.  And my darling Schmoose stayed nice and still until I was in a safe spot and then she heaved up and we walked right on through as calm as you please.  
     Next time I'll ride around. 
     

Bringing cows home from the bottom end of the hay meadow at Five Mile.  My kind of selfie....  

Ready for their hay bales.

The dogs and I on a hike, checking on the water situation.  All good.  

Moving the young stock up from Three Circle to Five Mile.  I know all this moving around seems confusing, but honestly, we don't cattle drive for the fun of it.  :)  The cows were in excellent feed in one of our hay meadows at Three Circle all fall.  When the snow got a bit deep for them and the feed started to get short, we moved them up to Five Mile to feed until calving season.  Although there is plenty of hay at Three Circle, that hay will sit until our calving season gets going.  The mommas with their new babies are taken down there to fresh pastures and feed grounds and the hay will disappear quickly enough then!  With our properties being so spread out, planning ahead for cattle feed (particularly pastures and hay) is super important.   

Heading back from feeding.  


The "misfits' pen.  This little gang are kept separate for the winter.  While they are all healthy, they were pulled from the main replacement calf herd because of one reason or another.  Mostly just too small/young to do well with the bigger group.  You can see a cow we brought in as well, whom I think has a sprained toe.  They are grained and offered the best hay and plenty of room and shelter.  By spring, they will be together with all the others and plenty strong to wrestle at the grain troughs.   

Trailing back from the water hole. 


Boys are delighted to be back at their favorite winter sports....skiing and sledding behind the snowmachine.  It's pretty fun to watch actually, I quite enjoy taking them.  In this photo it is so windy that they are being blown backwards......

Jackson turned 13 on January 1st (13!!) and once again Amy outdid herself with his cake!  She is a true food artist.


View of Five Mile tonight, after our latest dump of snow.  Winter is here.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and all the very best for a 
Healthy 2019!

Cheers,
Punky   

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Another Year

The girls and I heading out to check on some cows.  It was pretty cold that morning so I opted to just ride Tinker bareback.  She has the perfect shape for it (round) but you sure have to plan ahead if you get off....no jumping up with all the winter clothing on!


Heading out exploring the back of beyond at the end of November.  And just the lightest dusting of snow on it now.  


One of my winter projects.  This is my new bedroom floor, shown with just half of it stained an awesome grey that let all the red color through.  Love it.  This is just "good one side" plywood, cut into planks, glued and nailed down.  Not meant to be perfect (and isn't....) but I love it.  It's sure hard to get a good photo of the finished product, especially since the amount of light makes the colors change dramatically, but you get the general idea. 



I mentioned a while back that we had a drone, given to us by my brother in law.  It's been a fun and useful toy and Jackson generally sits in the drivers seat.  
Over the fall, Jackson took quite a bit of video with it, and along with videos I've collected over the years, we put together a bit of a show.  It started out being a school project, but to be honest, it became more my work than his.  Not that Jackson wasn't involved, but cutting and pasting and making the music all work together takes hours.  Unlike most kids his age, Jackson does not love the computer.  Which is personally think is not a bad thing.  
I was quite hesitant to post it out, and I'm not really even sure why.  I was careful not to put any faces in the video (although if you are familiar with our operation, you might recognize one rider.)  I feel it portrays ranching in an unrealistically romantic way, and I probably do that enough on the blog already.  This is what I wrote to Jacksons teacher after she asked if she could show it to the 7th grade kids she teaches in the city.  

Mention to your class that the video makes the life of ranching seem very romantic and carefree.  But to remember that these are many of the best moments.  I don't think to take video (nor would I) when we are dealing with a cow killed by bears, or a calf chewed up by wolves.  I don't video when a rancher has a dead calf in his lap that he has spend all night trying to save the life of, or the incredibly helpless feeling when a new sickness arrives at the ranch.  I don't take video when it is time to put a horse down that has broken a leg or when the rain won't stop and the pens are up to your knees in mud and we can't get on the fields to put up hay.  Ect....  I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but these are truths and not to be forgotten! :) 
     
I guess I also feel that someone should be narrating through the process of what we are doing, particularly with the shots with the drone.  
The music comes from a trail rider friend of ours.  Her partner (who sadly passed away a few years ago) wrote a lot about the Cariboo Chilcotin area and his songs ring so very true.  He has several CD's, and they are all good.    As one writer correctly says "His music embodies the authentic and sincere spirit of this land; uncensored and from the heart." (500daysinthewild. com)

There is plenty of interesting footage that should be recorded throughout the year.  I'd like to get more of us sorting for example (different animals move very differently).  It would be much easier for the uninitiated to follow when we sort calves from cows for example, rather than just separating heifers and steers as you see.  Calving of course, but also the haying process, from standing green grass to stacked round bales.  Anyhow, another project for the spare time!    

Alright, with all that build up, I hope you still enjoy it.  In theory, you should be able to just click on the purple link you see below, entitled "Another Year".    


Moving cows down off the end of the hay meadow for fresh feed.  They are happy.  (Yes, I can tell.....haha)

Eli and Kelsey have been busy putting up some much needed and appreciated fence around the ranch.  Winter projects like this are so much nicer when you don't have to tromp through snow!  

The best to you all!  
Punky 


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Some favorite photos from the summer

Hey all!
Well, not much new to report on the ranch.  The fall has been nice, but oddly warm and wet.  The horses have all had their shoes pulled and are happily out on fall pasture.  The foals (just two of them this year) have been weaned and are living with their dad now, close to the ranch.  The calves have long quit missing their mommas as well and have settled in to their routines.  My kids are super annoyed that the creek isn't frozen enough to skate on yet, but the cows are happy, so all is well.  The kids have plenty of time to skate yet....  We are also fair in to homeschooling again, trying to hit it as hard as possible while the going is good.  (Which is right up to when calving season hits!)  

It seems I've been spending more than my fair time on the computer trying to get caught up with all the bits and pieces that get shoved back over the busier seasons.  I usually can find plenty of other things to do, but my preferred outside jobs are getting a bit scarce, so not much excuse to not sit in my desk seat.  Yuck.      

I did come across an email that one of my trail riding friends had sent me, so being easily distracted, I went through her photos and am going to post a few favorites.  And then of course I had to go through my own summer ones, so I'll have to share a couple of them as well.  


Love this one of Cody and Jackson.  

Jackson trying to get some speed built up for Magalie.

Bit of smoke, but still beautiful.

Wrangler in training.

Plenty of goats to watch over lunch time.

Meeting of the minds.  Tally appears to be napping.

All Above Photo Credits to Lisa H.  :)  

Pipe Organ Mountain 

Checking on the picket horses at sunrise.

Tough day at the office.

Pan Valley

All the best,
Punky