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, 29 February 2016

And so it begins....

Well, it is official.  Calving season is upon us.  We have about 20 on the ground now, and from the looks of the pens, we could get another 2o in the next day or so.  But bring it on, I say!  Weather is great and if we are going to be busy, we might as well be busy!  

So far everything has gone quite well, although we did have a bit of a morning adventure the other day.  I had just headed out to move the yearling horses and spied, down in the pasture, four cow legs in the air.  Never ever a good sign.  Sure she was dead, I nevertheless dropped everything and climbed the fence.  Part way to her, I noticed a foot move and started hollering like mad back to the barn.  Luckily, Eli heard me and came running down with a halter and a rope.  The term "on her back" basically means just that.  For whatever reason, the cow has tipped over past the point of where she can get up again.  An example would be when they lay down with a hole or indentation behind them, and just get over balanced.  They bloat up very quickly when it happens, and don't live long.  
When I got to this particular cow (a first calver), it was obvious she had been on her back for some time (she had beat her head against the ground trying to get up, giving herself quite a nasty 'black eye') but once we had a halter on her, pulling and pushing, she was able to sit up, and then stand, on very shaky legs.  But we were not done yet.  The two feet sticking out of her rear end clearly indicated a baby was on the way.  I kinda think she was calving because of the stress of being tipped over, but maybe not.  In any case, the calf was still alive, but swelling quickly and desperately needing to get on the outside of his shaky momma.  We sent Jackson running for the chains ("GET THE CHAINS....just ask Grandma for the bucket!") and very quietly managed to sneak the confused mother-to-be in to the maternity pen in the barn.  We got the chains set and began to pull, but the natural lubrication of the process was gone and it didn't go easily.  We got the baby out (still alive!) and were able to clear the lungs and get it breathing, but the back half still stuck stubbornly in the mother and refused to budge.  It is terrifying to me at this point that the calf could live so long under such terrible stress, and then we might actually kill it getting it out the rest of the way.  Long story short, the momma eventually went down to the ground, and as she dropped, and we pulled, the baby popped past the hips and we had her out!  And what a go getter she was, right from the start!  The most amazing part is that the new momma accepted her baby, right from the time she got back up on her own shaky legs again.  We were fully anticipating that she would relate the baby to all the pain and stress she had gone through, and even stayed close to make sure she didn't take out her anger and frustration on it.  It happens, trust me.  But nope, the mothering instinct took right over and she is now the proud momma of a healthy heifer calf.  Hurray, success!!  (Jackson and Ben went back to the house and announced to Grandma that the calf was alive but it was really stretched!")  

I've had a question recently about why we move our stock around so much.  Thinking back to other posts, I guess it does seem like we move them quite often.  But there is a good reason.  Food.  In the spring and summer, we are always riding to keep a good eye on the cattle, and this is for two reasons.  One, to make sure the cows are well grouped so the bulls can do their job (and hopefully the bulls are healthy and sound) and also to make sure they are in the best feed possible.  This is important so we don't overgraze any particular area, and keep our herd in as good of condition as possible.  Our range is huge (tens of thousands of acres), but don't mistake this country to be similar to what most are familiar with.  This isn't beautiful rolling prairies by any stretch of the imagination.  Most of our country is covered in trees, where no grass grows, or wet boggy swamp, completely inaccessible until frozen in the fall.  The actual percentage of good grazing ground is not really that big (which is why we need so much range land) and often in smaller pockets with plenty of distance between.    They will move themselves of course, but tend to scatter, and/or concentrate on their very favorite areas if left completely alone.  
Miss Kitty pregnant?  I say yes.  

In the winter time, we move our cattle to where the hay is.  Mostly this is for convenience.  It is much simpler to move 300 cows than it is to move 1000 bales of hay.  It is also nice to not be too concentrated in any area.  

I've mentioned before that we almost always have our cattle separated by age, so this makes for more moving and more work.

I've recently found a website that I can get government maps from, which is pretty cool.  I haven't had time to search around much yet, but will eventually come up with some maps to show the combined ranches and ranges.  

When I talk about 'moving' to my parents place (Six Mile), it surely seems strange.  Our ranch sites are only about 20 minutes apart (by vehicle) but we move up here because it is an "all hands on deck" operation at this time of year.  We run our cattle with mum and dad's completely (we have never actually had them separated out) and it is just easier to just camp out for a few weeks.  They have better calving facilities (pens and barns) than we do  and also there is more hay put up here than at our home place.  We will start hauling cows and calves to Three Circle (our home) soon though.  This gets them out of the concentrated area, on to clean ground and out of the way.            

Every ranch has a different way of doing things, this just works for us and our situation, climate and environment.  

On that note, I'm late for my bedtime and my check is coming up too quickly already.  

Cheers all, until next time.  

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Updated Website

Greetings all!  The Six Mile Ranch photo gallery has been updated with the 2015 photos!  
You can check it out here Six Mile Ranch 2015 Photo Gallery

Many thanks to all the riders that have allowed me to use their photographs.  

Jeffrey from JN Web Design , does an excellent job, is very patient with my ignorance and endless questions, and I highly recommend him if you need help with a website.  He is currently working on the updated version of our Lehman Creek Outfitting 2015 Gallery, so I'll be able to announce the completion of that soon as well.  

We have been doing some cleaning and organizing in preparation for the Hatch family move to Six Mile for the calving season and I came across a couple old albums.  

  This is old Rusty, packing me and my big brother around for a joy ride.  We are sitting on a sheep skin held on by a metal frame and cinched up tight.  McGee rode him many many miles this way.  My memory of this horse is of him being in the front yard, and McGee and I feeding him grain to get his head down.  When he did, McGee tossed me up on his neck as far as he could, with the thought of course, that when Rusty lifted his head, I could climb right on aboard.  With no halter, bridle or saddle of course, but that was hardly worth considering.  Especially since the plan did not go as planned (as so often happens) and when the old fella lifted his head I flew off the other side and landed on my head instead.  Off to the nursing station we go......  

Another story I recall is one being told of McGee riding this old boy over the mountains to the Blackwater.  A jaunt of about 40 miles.  I'm not sure his age at the time...but very young.  Young enough that he called his horse "Rustus" instead of Rusty.  So to get that far in a day, one has to make some miles, so to speak.  An early start and lots of trotting.  McGee did very well (he was quite used to riding) but by the end of the day mum recalls hearing him say "Oh Rustus, quit bouncing, my BONES hurt!"  

Early Morning at Three Circle 
No, I didn't beat Dealer, or even tell him to lie down.  I'd stopped to take this photo and this position is his usual when he is trying to figure out my next move.  Notice how nonchalant Bree looks in comparison!  

Back on the ranch, we have had calf #2 and expect to get ramped up soon.  We will all probably move up to Six Mile by the beginning of the week.  The weather continues to be amazing so far.  But kinda funny, we did reach -18 a couple of nights ago and there were several phone calls the next morning along the lines of "SO, you guys started calving, eh?!"  (We hadn't!!)  

 Lookin' like a whole lot of cows to calve out!  About a far as the eye can see..... 

As long as it goes as easily as this wee one, all will be well.  (Yes, momma has short ears.  That comes from being born on a cold night in the Chilcotin!)  

We are getting the Internet put in up at Six Mile, so I will be able to stay a bit more current this year with the blog.  We will see how it goes with the Internet there, but it is planned to be only for the short term.  And it could be very very short term the first time someone is scrolling through facebook when there are chores to be done!  Mum is already dreading it.  

Cheers all!

Monday, 22 February 2016

And around we go again

Was just over a year ago that I started on this blog adventure....  Perhaps I could even be done writing now....there are always new stories of course, but basically the cycle repeats over and over.

Calving season, turn out and range riding season, trail riding season, haying season, hunting season, round up and shipping season and then a few quieter winter months (this year I could call it 'fencing season').

Waiting their turn.

We spend the last week or so moving cattle back to the main ranch at Six Mile and 'processing' them.  By that term I mean that we sort and organize and put them through the chute system.  The first calvers get their new eartags which are "A's" this year.  So we have Ana, Amy, Adell, Astro, etc.....and Anus.  Gawk...male humor...not mine.  The jokes ran wild and will continue to.  Comic relief I guess, but poor little cow, sure hope she can't read.  Or at least none of her friends can.    

(If you are curious about our tagging system, you can click here for the explanation I wrote last spring.  Hopefully it works....)   

Anyhow, all of the cows get a vaccination shot, which will help prevent scours (diarrhea) within the calf herd.  We carefully write down the numbers of all the cows, replace any tags, note any problems or potential problems (feet needing to be trimmed etc). 

Paul and Dad rolling out feed before letting the cows in to eat. 

Although the cows are sorted (with the first and second calvers being fed separately) all the time, the entire herd is sorted again for those that appear to be calving earliest.   They remain sorted by age as the young cows simply need more care, and have a higher potential for calving difficulties.      

 Those not deemed 'close' are fed (and checked very carefully every day) up on the hay meadow.    Yes, it is a lot of work.  But our calving pens, compared to our herd, is pretty small and it's best to keep the congestion to a minimum.  We sort everything at least once a week, if not more, all season long.    

Another day I'll explain how we 'sort' and how we come to the best guess of which cows are 'close'.... (trust me, we are not always right!) 

Our newest helper Marina (riding Sorbay) and Bree on the feed grounds at Five Mile.  

So finally the cows are moved, processed and sorted, pens are cleaned, barns are prepared and we are pretty much ready to go.  Any day now........  (Technically we should start the beginning of March, but they are really terrible about reading the calendar.)  In fact, as the temperature drops tonight, Eli is going to head up for the first night check.  

Oh, I guess I did not mention that we ALL move to Six Mile for about 6 weeks during the calving season.  That big house gets pretty small when the Hatch family moves in! 

Okay, enough for now....best enjoy these last few nights of solid sleep.  :)   


Photo credit to Leslie N.  


Monday, 15 February 2016

A Sad Day

Anahim Lake is a very small town. It is a long, long way from Walmart, or even a Tim Horton's (320 kms in fact). A neighbor can be quoted as saying "we live so far in the bush, we come out to go hunting". Our resources are extremely limited and the options for being entertained are certainly very small......the opportunities to entertain ones self.....those are endless. But those new here, who haven't gotten their feet under them, or those not suited for this type of life, really struggle. There are many that say they would stay (or come back) if there was more opportunity for work out here. One friend that came to us from overseas (through a help exchange program) told me a few years after she left that she wished she'd never been here. I was a bit confused as I had thought she quite enjoyed her time spent with us. She went on to explain that if she had never been here, she would not miss it so much.

There is really something special about this area, and people have often commented on it to me. I've often wondered exactly what it is......the openness, the freedom, the mountains, the quiet? What is it that keeps a piece of certain hearts here, and binds them together? It is not even those from the same age groups or with even similar interests. And it is not reflection on the actual time spent in the area. I just don't know. What I do know is when a group of "Anahim Laker's" get together.....you know you are in for a fun time and you might want to pack a lunch.

Sadly, we recently lost yet another young member of our community (although he hasn't actually lived here for many years) and it has been heartbreaking all around. (Why do we say "LOST"....we didn't loose him! We know right where he is......!)

Amy wrote this on her facebook page just before the funeral. (She drove for nearly 12 hours with three very young boys to get there!) She gave me permission to use this, and I think she sums it up very well.

I feel so fortunate to be raised in a small town( very very small)! I wouldn't change it for the world! It makes the saying....."it takes a village to raise a child" so true! But when you lose a member of the "village" it's like losing a member of your family... I love my family...and I can't wait to see you all but the "whole family" is getting together to say goodbye to one of us!

It was an excellent gathering, if such an event can be considered so. I know his young boys will always remember the endless procession of vehicles (many loaded with quads, snowmachines or bikes) on their way to the hall. Don't get me wrong, Derek had many friends and certainly not all from Anahim Lake. But it did strike me how those of us from the West Chilcotin almost unconsciously sought each other out. I saw people there that I literally had not seen in 10 years or more....but as true Anahim Lakers....hugs and tears, laughter and back pounding frustration was shared all around. Arms linked, tears leaked and heads bowed as we filed in to say goodbye to another friend gone too soon, and give our condolences to his wife and sons.

Reminds a person to appreciate each moment and to take nothing for granted.

Well, not really wanting to leave on such a sad note, I'll continue with 'back at the ranch' briefly. Calving season is RIGHT around the corner. I will expect our first baby in the next week or so. We are all very busy getting animals moved around and in their proper places, pens plowed, supplies ordered and chores finished. We have some 'flatlander' friends over from Saskatchewan and they've been enjoying the mountains (with dad) for the past couple days. Hopefully the weather clears a bit and gives them some sunshine.

Our newest help Marina arrived today as well. Paul has arrived back from his tour of the States and we expect Magalie around the middle of March. Another great calving crew......

I'll keep you posted.....

Cheers all,


Friday, 12 February 2016

Beyond the Chilcotin

Greetings all!  

Wow, it's been a while since the last post...time moves too quickly.

So fun!  

Lots has been going on, but most recently the Hatch family snuck away again!  :)  Although the weather is warm and rainy, we managed a few hours at a ski hill, got to visit some of our favorite family members and supported Costco.  The not so good news (although all is well that ends well), is that part of our trip entitled taking Dad in to the Emergency Room in Williams Lake.  He ended up having his appendix out and sure felt better for it.  He was also delighted and amazed (we all were) at how simple the surgery was.  Although we won't mention it to the doctor....he feels fully well enough to continue with the upcoming snow machine trip this weekend.  

Chilcotin Sunrise!  
Photo Credit to Willow S.  

Recently I picked up a book written by a friend of ours.  Diana Phillips is an amazing woman and a great friend to everyone that knows her.  She grew up in the Blackwater country, across the mountains from us, and an easy life it was not!  Her memory as she tells her story, and her ability to make you feel part of it, is truly marvelous and inspirational.  Diana has often come on trail rides with us, comes over the mountain snow machining occasionally and is a very willing participant on the 'horse buying' trips that mum and I occasionally get in to.   

This following is a short except from her book "Beyond the Chilcotin".  This particular one stuck out for me as I just read another account of Jane Lehman from Five Mile Ranch.  She was everything from Doctor to Veterinarian in this area and was well known for her wild rides to where ever she was needed. 

     We were at Three Circle Ranch one time when Ken cut his thumb really badly.  No one knew if it was broken or needed stitches, so someone was sent to fetch Jane.  She arrived shortly afterwards, galloping into the yard on a black horse that was covered with white lather and blowing hard.  she pulled him to a stop with such a hard rein he slid on his hindquarters to stop.  Leaping from her saddle with her doctor's bag in her hand, she asked in a booming voice, "Where is the little bugger?"  In the meantime, Ken had his hand wrapped up and has gone back to play.  He heard her arrive, leapt to his feet, fled into the house, up the stairs and hid under Mickey's bed.  Mom and Mickey had to drag him out, kicking and crying.  Jane felt he didn't need stitches, thank god, so she put a splint on his thumb and bandaged it.  As soon as she rode away, Ken tore off the bandage and splint.  He likely has a crooked finger to this day.  
     When I got older I lost my fear of Jane and learned to love her. She was a very abrupt and fairly loud woman.  I think every kid in Anahim Lake was terrified of her except for her own kids.  It was just her nature to be abrupt and she spoke with authority.  If you were her junior, you'd especially mind her.  But she had  a heart of gold.  Many meals I ate at her table with her encouraging me to eat more - she had a very hearty appetite of her own.  She was also an excellent horsewoman.  I went riding one day with her when she was in her sixties and we were going to visit some neighbors.  She was breaking in a new horse, a tall, long legged black gelding.  Shortly after leaving the corral, the horse came unglued and bogged his head.  Jane leaned back, toes pointed ahead and she rode this horse until he quit bucking, all the time yelling, "whoa, Junior, whoa!"  
     She was the only registered nurse in the area for many years and she served the community faithfully.  she received her training at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and then returned to Anahim Lake and worked for the Department of Indian Affairs, riding saddle horse as far as Ulkatcho Village, which was about fifty miles away.  She tended the Indians and would take patients to Bella Coola (a hundred miles through the mountains).  She was very modest and refused to be honoured for her work.  After her death in 1983, she was awarded the Red Cross Florence Nightingale Medal.  

Brings a whole 'nother meaning to being 'on call'......

Cheers all, until next time.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Packing in the Mountains

So I promised to talk a bit about the food we take on the trailrides.  It is nice to look through the summer photos now, as the thermometer drops and the snow piles up.  Well, I'm exaggerating a bit, it's actually been a beautiful winter.  Not too much cold or snow really.  Yet....but calving season is around the corner and you KNOW that is going to be -30.  Bit of a town joke really.  
Anyhow, I've been asked a couple of times about the food we take to the mountains and the organization of it all.  

As I've mentioned in the past, mum really does have the process down to a science.  I'm used to her expertise, but it still impresses me.  A lot of thought (and experience) has gone into knowing what to bring, and the menu depends on the trip.  For example, we have to be very careful about what is served on the trips into the Ilgatchuz Mountains.  Remember, we have only what is packed on the back of the pack horses when we leave the ranch for 11 days.  Weight and bulk is certainly a consideration, but also you have to consider what will 'keep' as hot weather makes keeping fresh food cool very difficult.
In the Itcha Mountains, we often fly supplies in to Itcha Lake on the longer trips.  On the 16 day rides, we have a 'fly in' to the Pan Phillips Fishing Resort during the wonderful 'hot showers and chairs with backs' break before heading back through the next mountain range.    
So here is a few example of the food we take.  (Better than I eat at home most of the time......I'm telling you, this is not a weight loss outfit!)

Breakfast.  Yum.  
Photo Credit to Chris Harris
Breakfasts...... hash browns, eggs, homemade sausage, bacon, pancakes, omelets, blueberry whole wheat pancakes, bannock and the every popular "left overs".  Obviously not all at once.....

Lunches are generally sandwiches, pita or wraps, filled with sandwich meats (turkey, ham, roast, salami, cheese, pickles, home canned meat.....), plus fruit and homemade cookies.

Dinners could be: 
Baked Salmon 
Pork Chops
Lemon Chicken 
Sweet and Sour Meat Balls
Chicken Pilaf
Leg of Lamb
Baked Beans
Beef Roast
Beef Stew
To go with the meat dish is always a pasta, potato or rice, as well as a salad or vegetable.  
Desserts are homemade and delicious (lemon cheesecake bars, rocky road, .  Oh, and the appetizers....there are many but my absolute favorite is the roasted whole cloves of garlic with cream cheese on crackers.  
Oh geez, I'm getting hungry now..... 

And there is no doubt.....good food over a campfire after a day in the saddle, just tastes better.  It really does.  

The one thing I'm sure of is that no one has ever left our ranch complaining about being hungry.  

The menu is planned and food is all organized in the pack boxes as to what will be eaten first, such as fresh vegetables and meats that tend to thaw quicker than others.   For example, a good solid frozen roast will stay cold much longer than salmon...

Utensils and plates in the bag.  You can see the side of the kitchen box...

The kitchen box.  Full of all the bit and pieces you may need, from salt and pepper to band aids.    This unit closes up and slips inside the pack box.  Wonderful invention.  
All of the pots and pans fit inside each other and just perfectly slip in to the boxes.  Mosquito repellent and any other 'non-food' items are kept in a separate box.  Shoeing gear and 'fix it' bits and pieces must be carried.  Dad has also designed an ingenious packboard for the chain saw, which goes on top of a good box horse and is readily accessible for any wind fall.  (You can see it on the top of mum's lead packhorse in the first photo.)  He also designed the grate that you see in the 'breakfast cooking' photo by Chris Harris.  It actually folds up and fits on top of a set of boxes.  The rods all come apart and go on the top of another horse.    
You are getting the idea of why I am so appreciative of mum's expertise when it came to organizing for our hunting camps.  She knows how much butter to pack, how much coffee is drank on average,  just how much syrup you really need....and doesn't forget the toilet paper.  

Another night I'll tell you a bit more about the packing process.  And maybe next year I'll photograph a 'step by step'......

All the best,

Photo Credit to Oliva B.