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.

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Piling Up

Well, if Mother Nature was as kind to us this summer, as she has been this winter, we would be in better shape.  But, we will take what we can get.  
Certainly there is plenty of feed around, even more than usual.  Unlike many ranchers, those in the Anahim Lake area almost never struggle to find fall/early winter feed.  The one thing we have is lots of ground.  And when the swamps freeze over, the cattle can access what they could not earlier in the year.  In a perfect world, we get a bit of early snow, which will actually protect the grass, and when they pull it out, much of it is quite green.  As long as the weather is not too cold (they burn a lot of energy rustling and staying warm) or the snow too deep or crusty, they are fine.  Horses will dig down through snow for their feed, cows (in general) do not.  Due to the earlier wet, then lack of snow, the fall feed quality wasn't ideal this year, but there was plenty of it.  And the best part, was that it was very close to home (the flooded hay meadows.....).  We provided them with salt and mineral lick tubs too, which I'm not convinced are worth the money (the licks....salt is always important).  They are so dang expensive, and once the cattle get on to them, they just about inhale them......  Cold and snow have always been the deciding factors in choosing  the date to feed, not lack of nutrition.  They do get a loose mineral once we start feeding.  Anyhow we kept a very close eye on them, and moved them many times, but it was a nice break to not have to feed them as early as some years.   

Happily rustling the bottom end of the Five Mile hay meadow.  This should have all been put in to round bales, but was under water all summer.  No problem and good feed once the ground froze!

Moving to new rustling grounds.  The snow looks quite deep here, but there is actually only about 5 inches ...it is being held up on the bent over grasses underneath.  Riding a snowmobile at this point is risky and slow....the rocks are just covered enough that you can't see them.... but they are there! 

New Years Day, ice fishing at Eliguk Lake.  
Jen and Aron run a great place here and if you are looking for a true wilderness adventure, drop them a line. (www.eliguklakelodgeoutfitters.com)

Doesn't get better than this...  a very happy four year old navigating her snowmobile impressively well!

Look close, do you see them?

Happy cows, in for feed.

It took us a while to get all the groups together.  Although we kept a close eye on them, we did let them wander between the ranches.  The more spread out they are, the better.  Until you want them back in to a pile, that is. 

 At the end of re-rounding the cows up to feed, we were still missing 17 head.  We knew they couldn't be "too" far away, but spend several days looking in every hidey hole we could think of.  At the point of the photo, I was following one of Eli's snowmobile tracks down a not so pretty 'trail'.  At this point, I had to stop the machine to hand drag the front end one way and the back end another, to get around some fallen trees.  I saw Zip dog looking around to the side and this was the sight I saw when I looked around the tree.  No zoom.  Oh, hello momma moose!  She actually took a few too many steps for comfort towards me before she got our full scent and turned with her baby to trot off.  I was starting to scout potential climbing trees.....  A mad momma moose is nothing to take for granted!  I sure like seeing them around. 

Eli did end up finding the wayward moo's, not far away from the ranch house.  Happy as can be, rustling in the deep timber and brush.

And yes, I do take my dogs on the snowmobile.  With the design of our old one, Zip rides standing up in front of me with her front leg over the handle bars.  She leans right forwards in to the wind and it makes me laugh so hard.  She looks like Rose on the Titanic, and proud as punch of it!  Brady is very good at laying sideways on the seat and pushing against me as she rides behind.  On Eli's newer machine, I have a "Brady Box" on the back, which she really loves!  Zip still rides in front of me of course....she is never quite happy unless she is leading the way. 
They always run when I'm not travelling very fast and the trail is good.  They get pretty keen to hitch hike though!

Part of Jackson's 14th birthday cake, by the Food Artist Amy of course!
How did my little fella get so old....and he is already considerably taller than me.  Not much of a feat in itself really, since nearly everyone I know is taller than me....but still!

January now, and lots of fluffy snow to play in!

We always have the younger cows separated from the older, main herd.  They get the choice rustling areas, and best feed in general.  Being young and growing themselves, they need the little extra love.
Here we are bringing them to Five Mile.  They are still kept separate, but doesn't take nearly so long to feed if they are all at least on the same ranch!  And yes, there are a couple blacks in the red ribbon.  :)

Cheers all!

Saturday 14 December 2019

Scenes of Winter

Newly weaned young'uns learning to eat grain with Daddy Red.  Out of five babies, four are roans.  They are from a light pink color to a dark brown/black.  Beautiful....we have a pretty flashy string these days!

This was a beautiful day on Anahim Lake, skating with friends.  Kappan Mountain is on the left and the Little Rainbows on the far right.

Jackson and his trust dog Rawsy, helping move cows to the bottom end of the Five Mile meadow.  Cold but beautiful.

Yep, that's the boss on a horse.  Feast your eyes people, its a rare occasion (unless he is guiding a hunt).  
There were a couple of bulls spotted in a meadow a couple hours ride from home.  I had tried to get them earlier in the fall, but the ground was frozen just enough to make the iced up mud horrible on horse legs and beyond the first sighting (I was walking my horse and spotted them from 100 yards away), I never saw them again.  The second time I went after them, I came upon a few strays first....3 pair and an orphaned calf.  I have no idea where they had been, but I'm pretty sure they were stuck in some nasty little swamp until the ground froze enough that they could get out to where I found them.  They were healthy enough, but certainly no one was packing any extra meat on their bones.  I tried very hard and carefully to get them to cross a frozen creek (that I had ridden my horse across) and head for home.  But oh no!  Despite the excellent entrance, and solid ice with a good skiff of snow for traction, they were convinced it was much too dangerous and would not go.  At one point I finally had them all quietly tippy toeing across, proud as you like.  Then my lead cow stopped to sniff at my horse track about 3/4 of the way across (it's not far, I could easily throw a rock across it!), slipped a foot just the slightest bit and that was it.  Fully justified in their worry now, they all whipped around and panicked their way BACK to the wrong side of the creek.  Sigh.  Seriously.  I got them re-rounded and standing in place again, all stubbornly staring across the creek and then left them to keeping looking for my wayward bulls.  I eventually came upon them in a good spot and they acted calm enough that I was feeling pretty confident we were just going to walk on out of there, as we should.  The best laid plans, right?  The terrain in that area is tough, the trees are either so close together that you can hardly push through, or there is so much windfall you end up spending huge amount of time going around it, or trying too.  Anyhow, they got a bit goofy and quick, which is not necessarily a problem if they are heading in the right direction.  Which they were not.  They ended up splitting up, forcing me to follow just one around in huge circles, trying to find the other.... It eventually got dark enough I was just hoping I'd get them to where the cows were.  But even that was not to be, much to my annoyance.   I can tell you that was a long cold ride home in the dark for the fun of it.   We even walked the whole way as I wanted Schmoose to dry out (from the snow and sweating) as much as possible.  It was -14C when I got home, so I even dug out a horse blanket because of course her outer coat was still wet.  I'm sure the other horses made fun of her for it, but I'm equally sure she appreciated it!  Brought back memories of her stable days!  Haha.....how far she has come.  
Anyhow....the next day, Eli ended up pushing and cutting his way through the huge amount of windfall along an old road to where the cows still stubbornly waited.  They were sure happy to see the bale of hay and salt he brought them!  A couple of days later, Eli, mum and myself all suited up and headed out again.  This time we took the cows with us up to the bulls and very quietly held them until the bulls were happy to be part of the 'herd'.  And then everyone walked back home (and across the frozen creek which had a bit more snow by then) as easy as you please.  Eli has already warned me that he will not forget how he had to come help me 'cowgirl', since I couldn't get it done myself, and how easy it all went with his expertise along. (insert eye roll here...)

Five Mile sunsets are hard to beat.

Moving some of the younger cows to new feed.  I don't set out with intentions to ride in the dark, but the dang days are so short!!  Everything is looking really good.  There is plenty of feed for them and the mineral tubs we put out ensure they are getting everything they need.  As long as the weather stays as it is (not terribly cold and not too much snow), they will be quite happy.  Which is a good feeling considering how much hay we've already had to buy this year!

The Christmas Parade in our little town.  Lots of fun, and well attended!

Mr and Mrs Claus, some helpful elves and Gingy!  Oh, and the Grinch, who may have been the cause of a few pretty spooked kids, but nothing a candy cane couldn't fix!  

The gingerbread contest.  Ours (on the right) was based on our hunting cabin.  Seemed like a good idea to do it all from scratch...but next time I think we will start a few days prior!

Every old horse dreams of having a little girl of their very own, right?

Dreams coming true, times two!
A pretty awesome pairing for our retired friend Tiffany and our favorite four year old! 

Merriest of the Christmas Season to you all!

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Fall Riding and Shipping Out

Yeah, it's been a wet ones.  Wettest anyone can remember.  But you know all that, I've complained before.  Thought I'd share a few photos tonight of our fall round up.  It has gone very well actually, which is a real blessing.  With this much water around, if we had gotten a wack of cold weather, we would have been in trouble.  The cows won't travel and the horses can't.  As it was, Eli and I did more hiking than either of us would prefer, simply because taking a horse wasn't an option, as it usually is.  And no doubt we ask more of our horses than most.  They spend more time than they would prefer breaking through ice and slugging through frozen mud.  Incredible animals, again, I'm grateful. 
In any case, the weather temperature is decent enough, though it still hasn't stopped raining.  Our driveway......ugh, let's talk about something else.....

Ah, but the calves look outstanding, and I think even better than usual.

A month has passed since I started this post.....

Well, it still hasn't stopped raining, but I'm done talking about that.  Pretty redundant.  

Instead I'll find some photos for you, and maybe there is a story in there somewhere too.  Although it is likely a wet one.  

Nice photo of Kelsey doing a good job riding a young horse on the range.

Bringing a few more stragglers in.  We were sure lucky with the weather for gathering this fall.  It stayed warm, for the most part.  It's so incredibly wet that even a little ice is a huge problem for the stock to travel.  Nothing wants to move, and rightfully so....

That's a large number of moo's right there.

This last photo was taken as we were doing the final gather from the hay meadow to bring them down to start sorting in the corral system for shipping.  This means separating all the calves and cows, separating the steers from the heifers, separating the replacements from the heifers to be sold, separating anything that won't go because of lameness etc, sorting, sorting sorting. I can't begin to explain what a huge morning/day that is, but I do know that I dread it.   As we need to do so much in such a small time period, we try and be as organized as possible, and anticipate any problems, fixing  any broken rails, prepping paperwork ahead of time etc.  Knock on wood, generally everything goes very well.  But it is still super stressful and so many decisions need to be made too quickly.  So much potential for disaster...and when your whole years paycheck is bawling in the pens, as well as the potential for coming years, you best be making sound decisions.  And quick, since those trucks are not cheap and get paid by the hour.
With the mud this year, it was extra difficult.  We had some exceptionally good help and sure appreciated the expertise they brought.    
I have to mention that on several occasions, I also appreciated the amount of time and effort we put in to having easy handling stock.  When you are nearly knee deep in cement like mud, there is simply no possibility of "quickly getting out of the way".  You can't hardly get around at all, having to consciously move each leg to just get across the alley.  If you did move fast, it would be one single move, leaving your boot behind (or just flopping to the ground with your feet still in place), and then you'd be stuck again.  It was truly unbelievable, utterly exhausting and honestly, pretty darn dangerous.  Having cattle that are quiet but responsive and that respect your space made that day even possible.  I was sure glad when all the animals were loaded and out without incident to them or us.  To be sure, we all slept soundly that night, with no one feeling the need to head to the gym.   

On a more positive note (besides that we got through shipping without anyone getting hurt) is that I found my radio after loosing it in that mud in the alley way.  Can you imagine?  It had about a hundred cows run over it and several hundred calves before I happened to notice just the antenna sticking up....  I realized I'd lost it earlier and stopped the whole operation to look, but no luck.  When I did find it, my delighted amazement turned to sorrow when it appeared to be working but I couldn't hear what was being said, even at full volume.  Then I realized the speaker was chock full of mud, cleaned it out and...haha! All good!  Icom's are tough, I'm hear to tell ya.

Our calves were very well received at the sale yard and sold well for the most part (although I wouldn't be a rancher if I didn't wish prices were a tad bit better....like they were the week before.....)  The weights were near a record high for us.   

Fall riding.  Usually my favorite time of year.  
Ah, who am I kidding.....my favorite time of year is the view between these ears.

Alright, just another goofy meme but I nearly blew coffee through my nose when I saw it.  This.....my kids.  They laughed nearly as hard, and agreed with me.

Forced to sell.  These girls are on their final trip from Five Mile to Six Mile to be loaded on the big trucks.  Selling them will allow us to buy enough hay (along with what we were able to get up) for the rest of them.

Country girls in the big city.  

I missed the best photo when all the cows were looking up at the auctioneers as though a grain bucket was being shaken.  So strange and funny, this never happens.  Almost like they were saying "make sure you tell potential buyers about...."
Was sure sad to see them go, but I know the majority went to good local ranchers who will benefit from having them.  We've already gotten several compliments on how quiet they are.  I have to mention....there MAY be one or two in there that are not so quiet.  "Bye-bye Cleo.....I won't miss you!!"

Cheers all,

Sunday 13 October 2019

A couple of video links for you

So as I mentioned in the last post, we got our nice warm rains in June and then early July brought massive flooding.  About the time the irrigation was all coming off, Mother Nature turned on the tap and did a much better job of soaking us than we ever could on purpose.  The amount of water was staggering, and slightly terrifying.  With every puddle, pond, creek, spring and swamp filled to the max, even a little rainfall over the summer would put us back in to flood mode.  (And there was plenty of rain!)    
We thought 2016 was bad....this year we are not even able to drive a tractor on to more than 50% of our hay land, let alone create a bale.  
I'll show you a video.....  

What does this all mean?  Buying hay and selling cows.  Not really the position one wants to be in when building up a ranch.  But it is what it is.....

Boys being boys 

Ah, but it's  not all bad and we have much to be thankful for!  Here is another video link to our calves for the season.  I make this video every year and it is shown in the auction ring while two loads of our steers are sold.  They won't actually be delivered until later in October, when we will sell the heifers and the rest.  So sadly, we will also be forced to sell the majority of what we would normally keep as replacements.  
But they look amazing, don't they?!  

The big upside to the summer was another great season of trail riding with wonderful guests, repeats and new.  Overall, we were quite lucky with the weather in the mountains, although a person didn't want to get too far separated from their raincoat.

We did have a really crazy trip down in to Pan Valley the one day.  The weather that morning started out good enough, we didn't even put our rain coats on until about an hour in to the ride.  But as we got to the top of Pan Pass, the thunder crashed and boomed and lightning flashed.  Like seriously....it could not have picked a worst time.  Things got worse before they got better, the britchen on a young horse broke (a piece of equipment that drops over the horses hind end to keep the packs/saddle from going to far forward), and things were about as exciting as you could dread, headed down a narrow shale trail in a thundering rain storm.  Everyone held it together, the britchen got a temporary fix with my knotted bandana and we started off again.  It's a steep rocky trail to get down and not a lot of fun at the best of times.  I would prefer to walk my horse down, as the guests do, but that's pretty much impossible when you are leading three packhorses.  Usually I'm riding a colt too, which brings a whole new level of fun.  Haha.  This time I was riding a seasoned champion, Vicky, who is normally used for packing.  I was really happy to have her solid body under me, especially with my dogs both in a near panic and trying to climb up in the saddle with me with all the thunder slamming around us as we skidded down the trail.  Anyhow, I started this story out just to mention how incredibly beautiful the ride was, even during the storm.  The rain brought out all the most vivid colors, and the sun shone though to bounce the craziest light off the rocks.  I really regret not digging out my camera at the time, but I knew that in reality, I really didn't want to take on one more challenge at the moment.  Unfortunately, I think everyone else was thinking about the same, so opportunity lost.  (But everyone arrived safely and smiling at the bottom (as the rain stopped!) so it was a win overall.    

All for now, 

Tuesday 10 September 2019


Such a great calving season for 2019.  Felt like we'd finally caught up after the nasty rains of the 2016 season, which caused us no end of grief.  Finally the cows are on a good cycle again (we had a huge percentage of our herd calve out in just too weeks!  Lucky the weather cooperated!!)  Dry ground (for Anahim Lake!), good help, minimal sickness and healthy momma's producing plenty of milk.   
We sure appreciated the difference in calving out all our own cattle, as compared to the year before when we had bought heifers.  Good attitudes, lots of maternal instinct, and healthy, correctly sized calves.   No complaints!  

Pocket and her wee filly, just born that morning.  Nothing sweeter.  

Going through photos to do a blog catch up, and I couldn't resist posting this one.  This is the decorating on a CAKE....everything edible and delicious.  By Amy of course, the Food Artist.  

After quite a dry spring, the rains finally came.  A series of massive downpours really flooded us in early July.  And the rains kept on a coming....  in fact, they are still coming.  That's not meant to be a lake in the distance....that's our hay meadow.  

Beautiful hay crop on the way at Four Mile.

The one thing I have to say....we do get the most amazing sunsets here!

Photo from our colt starting clinic in early June.  This is Howie, a real nice little two year old.  He came with us to the mountains for a couple of trips this year and was a rock star.  

Zip keeps a close eye, as usual.  As much as I love and appreciate her, she is a true example of how border collies always need a job and/or to be super active.  She never, ever, quits.  

Pocket's baby is growing up, plus another new addition.

Kelsey supporting the newly started four year old "Hudson" after getting him to climb aboard a rock.  

Taking cows to summer range up the side of the hay meadow.  Now, if the damn rain would stop and let things dry out.......

Rodeo Time!  Photo credit to Steven Dubas
We had another incredibly busy but very successful rodeo this year.  All of us organizers felt better about it (we learned some lessons last year!) and it was a good weekend all around.  Might even do it again next year.... 

Well, this was a wreck.  As you can see, some sick and sad heifers.  They have been eating (we think) a shore buttercup, which has caused contact dermatitis (blistering their noses, tongues, throats) and causing photo sensitization in some.  Crazy they were eating it at all, with tons of lush green grass around.  The offending buttercup is a low growing plant....they almost had to search it out.  But did.  We've never seen anything like this before, nor had anyone we knew.  They were pulled from the pasture and offered the barns and plenty of timber for shade.  They all came around eventually but it remains to be seen how the preg check will go.  

Summer Range

Cheers all!  

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,