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.

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  



  

Friday, 2 November 2018

Another Cycle Through





It's been a good fall.  September was pretty nasty, as many Canadians will testify to, but October has been beautiful.  Our fall round up went very well overall and many lovely miles were enjoyed looking for the ever elusive last few bovines.  We are still missing a handful, and several of them are probably dead, but a few more will straggle in with the next snow storm.  The wolves appear to have been less aggressive than in the past (but we still doctored our share, found several with healed wounds and of course there are the cows and calves that we will never see again.)  


My brother in law gave us his older drone, and we had some fun with it late this fall.  It is actually super handy to check all those little nasty spots where cows tend to get hung up and can't get home.  We never did find any cows with it, but might have!  The flying range is not too far, and of course I'm super nervous about losing it, but so far so good.  I just get Jackson to take off and land it....I take over when it's time to find those certain areas.  Jackson also took some videos that we are working to compile and if it turns out okay, I'll post it for you to see.  Unfortunately the videos of us sorting cattle and loading trucks are jumpy and glitchy, but we will see what we can pull together.  I've just discovered how to pull a photo from the videos, so I'll add a couple.  

Moving the some of the herd from Five Mile to Six Mile for sorting and shipping.  

 We sorting steers from heifers in this photo.  The main alleyway is being worked from both ends.  Cows had already been sorted off of their calves earlier in the morning and are now in the top left corner.  

 Loading steers in to the big trucks.  
  
Our calves sold fairly well.  A person always hopes for better prices, but after ranching though the BSE period, we are happy with what we got!  It's always a stress to sell through the yards, and honestly one of my least favorite parts of ranching.  There is so much going on and everything is so incredibly busy, with so much on the line.  Markets change incredibly quickly and having to book our trucks months earlier, means we take what we get.  Selling via the video sale helps a lot, in my opinion.  At least not all our eggs are in one basket.  Next year we may consider forward contracting, where we will sell them to the 'highest bidder' as early as July or August (but still deliver in October.)    

In the Sale Ring 

We raced home to round up again (they hadn't gone far from the ranch as they are just getting over missing their calves.)  We pregnancy checked everyone (or rather, our vet did) and overall did really well.  The combined ranches did well.....but the Hatch herd seemed to take most of the hit, despite having lower percentage of the animals.  Ah, it's how the cookie crumbles, right?  All good.  Many of the cows that were open (without calf) or late were quite old anyhow, and in general the herd caught up well after last years painfully long and drawn out season.  

Brady posing in front of our gentle group of heifer calves.  These are the 'top end' that we will choose our replacements from.  

Despite being meant to be a tough rancher, I do feel a bit bad for our old girls that have to go.  I even coaxed one of our good friends into taking one of my old favorite cows for "one more year".  She is actually one of the first calves from the cow Eli and I got for our wedding!  "Tea" is pregnant and will calve early but is getting hip shot and just wouldn't be able to handle another winter with the main herd.  But 'babied' at Ken's she will do just fine.  I promised I would buy the calf back in the fall (fingers crossed for another heifer, we've kept every one out of that line). 

So out the cows go again.  They are split into a couple of different herds and moved back to the hay meadows where they will stay until a bit of snow forces them into longer grass (they prefer browsing in the stubble for as long as possible, getting any new shoots).  As always, we have plenty of fall forage, however, it is sure more 'burnt out' than usual this year, so the feed value may not be as good as it could be.  Anyhow, the cows are over missing their babies and loving the great weather.  Sure nice to see them in such great shape and feeling so good.  I don't care who you are, or how gruff a face you generally put on.....watching a cow run and buck and kick, just for the fun of it, is hysterically funny and you can't help but grin and shake your head.  I'm grinning now just thinking about it.  It just looks totally goofy and out of place, and sure shows how good they are feeling.  Nice.  
   

The sad part about this whole scene is that it also signals the end of our riding season, or darn close to it.  And I don't like that one bit!  Of course we will move them to better forage over the fall, or to different meadows to feed out hay over the winter, but that hardly counts compared to our long days in the saddle from May to October.  Dang.  But.....something to look forward to for next year already I guess.  

"Keep an eye on her, Zip!"
This is what bored cow dogs do in the off season.  

Now back at the ranch, we are settling in to fall projects and homeschooling again.  We are also planning a trip this year, and it looks like Disneyland is top of the list!  I can't say I'm super excited about it, but the kids sure are!  Beings as we are down there anyhow (and won't manage to stay in a city for more than a few days, I'm sure) we are thinking of renting a vehicle and doing some touring of California.....  does anyone have recommendations?  I truly would appreciate any tips.  

All the best!
Punky    

My spooky Halloween guys!