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.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Mothering Up

We had an amazing down pour of rain (and some hail) over the weekend, and it has sure made a beautiful difference to our range.  You can really hear the grass growing!  
We've all been riding quite a bit lately, keeping cattle moving on the range and making sure the bulls are available to do their job.  
Mum would not be kept off a horse any longer, but we did convince her to ride Rea.  Jackson said it would be okay.  She has a couple of excellent horses she usually rides, but neither have the steadiness and absolute level head of this mare.    
She went longer than she probably should have but overall it was a great day.  I think the biggest challenge is getting on and off one handed, but Rea is eternally patient and very well 'stump broke'.  (Meaning she will stand and wait for you to find something good and high to climb on to before climbing aboard.)    

Laura and I rode out early to have a look around.  Was amazingly foggy and the only thing we came across was horses (not ours).

Luckily it cleared and was a beautiful day.  Here Bree is going around to bring the herd closer together.  (She is doing amazing for such a young dog!)  Mum's dog Tuk is backing her up.  

We've reached our destination.  Wonder why it's called Rock Meadow?  
Mum on Rea and Olivia on Tinker.  

After any kind of move with the cattle, we also spend the extra time to "mother them up".  This literally means keeping them contained until all the mothers and babies find each other, however long that may be.  When they reach new grass  like this, the cows are excited about eating and seeking out their favorite spots.  The babies are more likely to be tired and just prefer to have a nap.  Cows and calves have the unique ability to navigate back to the last place that they nursed.  This allows cows to go off for the day to feed, and calves to do their calf thing, and then in the evening, everyone finds each other.  Often there are groups of calves left with a few 'babysitter cows' for the day.  Its a great trait and generally works well.  (Although it is a real pain when you are trying to round up and you can't find them to pair them up properly until evening!)    
But it also means if you don't mother them up when you get to a new place, the calves will all run back to the last place that they nursed (or try to) and the momma's will eventually follow back to that same spot and find them.  Kinda defeats the purpose of moving them.  Or even worse,  if you have taken the herd through fences, you really have a problem.  Usually the determined calf will find a way to squeak through to get back to that special place, but the cow can't.  And, if you don't get this straightened out, the baby will wean off and that is pretty much disastrous at this age.  The predators also appreciate finding lost calves and that doesn't end well either.  Unless you are the wolf with the full belly of course.
  So, in short, we just spend the time holding them together and keeping them contained until all the babies have had a good nurse.  Then "that" is the place they will return to, or wait for momma from.  It is usually pretty obvious when a calf has not found his momma ('mothering up' starts out very loud), and then the silence is deafening when everyone is paired and content.    

"Mothering up" at our Lille Lake property.  Very easy here as we just put them into one of the big pens until everyone is quiet and happy. 

Until next time, ride easy.  :)  

Saturday 23 May 2015

Flip of a Coin

I found Grandma's book to share the cow story with you as it has always been one of my favorites.  And as always, when I pick it up, I read it from front to back and shake my head in admiration at the stamina and resilience of the people who came before me.  

Fall view of the Five Mile Ranch hay meadow

We were just over at our neighbors beautiful 5 Mile Ranch to help out with their branding.  The corral we used to brand in has the most amazing soil and everyone agreed that it would make the perfect garden patch.  I'm sure if you tossed a handful of seeds at it, you could walk away and then harvest at will.  This brought on a discussion of the age of the ranch and that got me thinking about Grandma's book again.  
The Three Circle Ranch (that Eli and I own) was once owned by my grandparents.  The cabin that our help sleeps in was the school house.  

The cabin where my mum and Uncle Fred (the youngest) went to school.  It's had an addition on one end and a wood shed added since.   

The original homestead is about a mile from where we live now and we still refer to it as "The Old Home Place".  We had to tear down the last tiny cabin there last year for fear that it was going to fall on a horse or cow.  There are still a few posts standing to mark the corral system.  It is a breathtakingly beautiful spot, and where we chose to get married.

Winter view from the "Old Home Place", looking back at the Rainbow Mountains.   

There are several meadows around, named as to their distance from the Old Home Place.  There is Two Mile Meadow (owned by my parents), Three Mile Meadow (owned by Tommy Holtes daughter Wendy), Four Mile Meadow (which was Lesters last ranch and where I was raised), and Five Mile.
When he first came in to the country, Lester had a partner in the ownership of this large piece of Chilcotin real estate and I'll let Grandma Mickey tell you how they divided it up.  

     In 1922 Lester decided to go to Canada.  His father outfitted him with six head of horses and he started for the border with his friend, Dave Whiteman.  At this time, Lester's uncle, Dave Dorsey lived at Coalmont, BC where he was in charge of the animals that worked in the mine.  They stayed with Dave Dorsey for two weeks and then picked up a job driving bulls from Ashcroft to the Chilco Ranch.  From there they rode to the Kleena Kleene Valley.  Dave Whiteman stayed at Kleena Kleene, but Lester rode back to Tatla Lake to work for Bob Graham.  
     One winter he trapped in Nemiah Valley with Guichon.  Then he trapped at Bridge River with Bert Williamson.  He worked on a survey with Davidson and back packed to Toby Inlet.  Later that fall, he packed horses on the Bella Coola Trail for the Hudson Bay Company.  He took horses to Kimsquit on a boat and brought them back through Elgatcho and Long Lake on a triangulation survey.  That fall he packed again for the Hudson Bay Company.  Then, in partnership with Austin Hallows, they bought the Three Circle Ranch from Shilling.  Here he stayed with Austin for four years before they dissolved the partnership in 1933.  
     Lester and Austin divided the cattle evenly between them but the division of the ranch was not so easy.  They sold part of the ranch to Adolph Schilling and decided to flip a coin for the rest.  Lester lost and Austin became the owner of Five Mile Ranch.  Then Lester went to Cless Pocket and put up hay with Andy Christensen for the cattle he had left.

They flipped a coin.  They really did.  

This was previous to Mickey and Lester getting married (in 1934), and they eventually bought Three Circle Ranch back in the late 40's.   She states in her book that "By 1952 the Three Circle Ranch was running smoothly.  We had built a log house and most of the corrals and pastures had gates.  Thirteen miles of fence stretched over and around the area.  Some of the land had been improved and ditched.  Range was plentiful.  We were beginning to realize the dream of the ranch we had planned nearly twenty years before." 

I was just riding by some old, old fence yesterday when we moved cows and marveling again that all the rails had been cut with an ax.  I hope you can see it in the following photo.  Sheer determination and brute strength built these fences!   

The best to you all,

Monday 18 May 2015

A taste of Grandmas Dorsey's life.....

My grandmother Mickey Dorsey's life was really amazing.  She started out almost a 'city girl', became a teacher and in her travels fell in love with Lester Dorsey "a true frontiersman, tall and lithe in the saddle".   She moved to Anahim Lake and the challenges she faced (by today's standards) boggle the mind.  Certainly she is not the only pioneer woman to have these kinds of 'adventures', but luckily she left us with a book to enjoy (never published) and this is an excerpt from that.  She writes very simply and "matter of fact" because that is how life was back then.  No complaints, just do it.  You need milk?  Milk a cow.  No one to help?  Do it yourself.  Don't know how?  Figure it out.   
But I'll let her tell her own story.....    

After haying was over the fall roundup took place.  Again the men went to the flats to gather the beef for the annual beef drive to Williams Lake.  I packed a grub box for them for the three days they expected to be gone.  I had only enough milk to last the baby three days, and Lester promised to bring some from the trading post when he returned.  The third day passed and the milk was finished.  A few of the range cows had drifted back on the meadow.  At daylight I saddled my horses and drove the few head into the corral to see what I could do about the situation.  I  had to learn to milk a cow.  I managed to separate the cow from the other two and the calves.  Then, turning my horse back in the pasture and barricading the corral to be sure the cow couldn't escape I went back to the cabin and the baby.  The baby lay fretting in his basket.  I knew he was hungry, and I fed him some cereal, but it was a bottle of milk he wanted, and there would be no milk until morning even if I was successful with this unfriendly looking cow.  I had heard of rice and barley water for babies so I boiled some rice, and put some of the strained water into his bottle with a teaspoon of sugar.  He decided he wasn't quite that hungry so I bathed him, put him to bed with his untouched bottle and settled myself for the night.
     Several times during the night the baby awakened me with his fretful cries, but each time he refused the rice water, and each time I could hear the cow in the corral bawling for her calf.  At daylight I arose and cooked some cereal for the baby but he still refused the rice water.  I bundled him up and took him with me to the corral in his basket.  I left him in his basket at a safe distance from the corral propped against a stump.  A rope lay over a low branch of a tree near the corral.  I picked it up, shook it out, and crawled through the bars.  The cow ran as I threw the rope.  I missed and before I had time to recoil the rope she charged at me with her head close to the ground.  Never have I climbed a fence so quickly.  I won that race but the cow only circled the corral and snorted.  I knew the cow was not gentle but I had not expected so much trouble.  I sat as quietly as I could on the top rail of the corral and pondered my situation.  I would have to travel 16 miles and ford a river carrying the baby if I could not milk that cow.  Where was my pioneer spirit?  This cow had been milked before so Lester had confirmed.  If others could milk her so must I.  The cow was still walking around the corral, and as she passed me I dropped the rope over her neck.  At the same moment she leaped into the air and down I came to the ground with the rope still in my hand.  By the time I had regained my feet the cow was at my heels, but fear helped me to the top of the fence that second time and I still had the rope in my hand.  I dropped down on the other side of the corral and as the cow snorted and bellowed at me I tied the rope to the top log of the corral.  The cow backed up.  The rope tightened on her neck and she was strangling for air.  I was terrified, suppose I had killed her?  I tried in vain to loosen the rope.  Her eyes bugged out and I was sure she was gasping her last.  As she fell to the ground the top log of the corral came crashing down.  I loosened the rope on her neck and tied it to a lower fence log.  Her breathing quieted and her eyes closed.  She stood up and I was able to shorten the rope.  By this time the baby was bawling nearly as persistently as the calf.
     I had seen men tie the hind legs together to keep a cow from kicking so I tried my hand at that.  The cow could kick the ropes off as quickly as I could put them on.  The baby howled louder.  I had to get that milk.  With the next hitch I had better luck and the legs stayed tied together.  I picked up the bucket and approached the cow.  She shook her head and bawled and I knew we were in for more trouble.  I squeezed, I pulled, I rested, I bawled.  I repeated this performance many times, still no milk.  Both the cow and the calf were very disturbed by this time so I opened the bars and let him in.  As he sucked I tried again and again, and a small stream of milk trickled into the bucket.  I was overjoyed and put every effort into milking.  The cow strained at the ropes but they held.  I squeezed and pulled, the milk covered the bottom of the bucket.  The calf was a much better milker than I but I was sure I had three cups of milk.  I took the bucket of milk out of the corral and deposited it in a safe place.  Then I took the ropes off the cow while she was still interested in her calf.  I left the cow and calf together for a while and I walked proudly to the cabin with the baby and my scant supply of milk.  
     When I reached the cabin I put Dave on the bed with another bottle of rice water while I went to strain the milk and prepare another bottle for him.  I filled two bottles with the precious milk.  In the meantime Dave had decided to accept the rice water, had finished the bottle and had fallen asleep.  Now was my chance to separate the cow and calf so I could milk again in the evening.  I knew the cow must have water so after several attempts I managed to let the cow out through the bars and the calf was imprisoned in the corral.  Four days went by without any sign of the men.  In the meantime I milked twice a day and each time the milk supply increased.  As the cow became accustomed to me we got along much better.  On the fifth day the men came home.  I went down to the corral to meet them.  The top log was still on the ground, and the tracks in the corral showed that we had a few struggles.  Lester looked the situation over before he spoke.
     "Looks as if you might have had a little trouble with the cow.  It's a good thing you got acquainted with her before we leave on the beef drive.  We leave tomorrow but you won't be too lonely.  There's people across the river haying now.  They are so near you can holler at them.  You have the boat to go across if you want.  We'll be back in a month."   
This is just one of Grandma Mickey's stories.  Some of the others will make you laugh out loud, shudder in terror or just shake you head in plain amazement.  The baby she mentions is the first born, my Uncle Dave.  And does he have some stories to tell!  
And wait until I get mum to agree to let me tell some of the stories of her childhood.....  I'm working on it.  

Cheers all,

Saturday 16 May 2015

Happy Dance!

Two days ago we rode to the Four Mile property with the intention of moving the yearlings back up to the main ranch.  Four Mile is also where the foaling mares are being kept.  As we rode across the pasture, Eagle Eyed Nikky says "hey, I think that big mare has foaled."  With my amazing eye sight and no glasses, I could almost tell there were horses in the pen.  Seemed very strange that 'Miss Kitty" had foaled as we had just checked and would have guessed her to be last.  And guessed correctly.  As it happens, "Pretty Girl" had foaled and Miss Kitty had decided that was easier than having one of her own, and had stolen it!  Cranky old bag!  
The hour old stud colt was extremely confused (and hungry) and his first time momma was very worried and confused but not allowed any where near him.  
In the end, we got everyone where they should be, putting momma and baby in to a small stall and kicking the old mare right out of the pen.  We rode for the day and then came back to a very contented momma and baby.  And oh, he's SO CUTE!  He will be a red roan, with some nice white stripe markings on his head and four flashy white socks.  
Nikky supporting the mare while the wee peanut finds breakfast.  

Sooo  CUTE!!!  

In other news, we really are back in the saddle!  Happy dance, happy dance!  We've spend the past few days moving cattle and then sorting, sorting, sorting.  We've sorted the drys out (cows without babies), anything with any problems (lame calf etc) and then started sorting for the different ranges.  This is done mostly by the age of the cow (remember those ear tags with the letter indicating the year!)  Once again I'm a bit busy to take photos, but Laura took a few snaps the other day when the kids were helping.  

Big Blue Skies....

Olivia and another young local friend Cody helped with the sorting yesterday.  Reminded me of a song that I sang for them ...."pushing horns ain't easy like the movies said it was......"  Sorting is FUN, but not easy.  It is really hard to be in the correct position all the time and to anticipate what the cow is going to do. Add a horse, some speed and adrenaline and occasionally all heck breaks loose!   It is difficult to apply just enough pressure, but not too much and of course that situation is changing every second.  It is almost an art to really "watch" a cow and only experience will get you there.  So much easier to feel like a cowboy when you are wandering along behind a herd minding their business and just putting one foot in front of the other.   They both did amazing though and were a huge help.  Between Nikky on her Fireball mare, me on Riley and those two, the cows didn't have a chance.  Although her wrist continues to heal well, poor mum is still grounded so had to watch the gate instead of riding.  (For the first time since she was five, I'm sure.)

  Still shoeing as the sun goes down.  Gak!  Almost caught up......

Well, on that note I'd better get back at it.  Hope you are all having as much fun as we are!  Sunshine and horses.....life is wonderful.
Cheers all,

Wednesday 13 May 2015

So dang cute!!

Yep, you guessed it.  The first foal has been born and he is so darn cute, it near brings a tear to your eye.  (They all are.....)  
He was born about a week ago to my little brown mare Bun.  And she is sure a proud first time momma!  

The other two mares are also getting close and I expect this wee man will have some play mates within a couple of weeks. 

Quiet snooze while momma stands guard.  

In other news, I've been a bit of a taxi driver and the old minivan has put some miles on.  Friday morning I took two of our local students to a Youth Camp for the weekend (about a 5 hour drive), and it was truly amazing.  Lots of theater improv, rhythm, arts and crafts, icebreaker games, beat boxing, singing, drumming etc etc.  There were 5 very qualified facilitators and it was a joy to watch them break these 'high risk' youth out of their shells and guide them towards a more confident future.  Fun and inspiring!  If anyone is looking for a personal growth and confidence building youth camp, based on creativity, I would highly recommend looking on this website.  www.pyeglobal.org  This camp was actually the third part of my own training and I'm quite looking forward to practicing a bit.  Trail riders beware! You may find yourself learning the names of your group through a rhythm game, or suddenly in the middle of "Bat and Moth", or the focus of a "Bugalo" song!  Ha. 
So we made the drive home Sunday night and Monday we sorted and moved horses around.  No photos there as I was too busy hanging on!  lol  Going bareback always seems like a good idea until I have to head flat out across the pasture, through rocks, holes, brush and trees, to turn the obstinate herd wanting to go the wrong way!  Stinkers!  I'm always very careful to hand pick my mount on these occasions as even the gentlest horse tends to get a bit frisky in that kind of situation.  Sweet Tiffany came through for me again though as I managed to stay on and she managed to keep us upright so all was well.  

Curious yearlings.

Jackson had a dentist appointment that I couldn't change so in we went again Monday night for his Tuesday morning date.  That's a 3 1/2 hour drive, by the way, to see the dentist for a half hour.  And then 3 1/2 hours back of course.  

The rest of the crew has been working on fence maintenance mostly, getting ready for animals to be out on range.  Getting meadows irrigated is also a huge priority, especially this year with the already dry conditions.  Mum's wrist continues to heal well, although she still has to be very careful and keep it elevated as much as possible.  She is really looking forward to riding 'just a little' in the very near future.  Jackson has given permission for her to use his horse Rea until her arm is better.  :)  I really should dedicate a post to that mare as she is truly one of a kind.  Another night..... 
        It was pretty hot this afternoon so we stopped at Pyper Lake for a break.  Beautiful.   

And now we will truly begin with the riding.  We are going to start shifting cows around tomorrow and then begin sorting properly for the different ranges and pastures Thursday.  I'm not quite as caught up with the shoeing as I would like, but I'm getting there.  There are enough shod to get us started anyhow.

The heifers are beginning to turn their noses up at the hay bales and browse for grass.  Still snowy Ilgatchuz Mountains in the background.  

Take care all!


Thursday 7 May 2015

May 7th Already?

Ah my friends, keeping this writing saga going is harder than I thought!  :)  I'm just amazed how quickly time is flying and committing to write here every few days is one more way of proving that!  

Yep, it's spring in Anahim Lake.  Green grass, blue skies, sunshine and snowflakes!  

So mum got some great news today.  Apparently the doctor told her she was 'healing up like a kid", which is pretty awesome!  They are not even going to cast it and already want her to start doing exercises with it.  I am sure to my core that we are not going to keep her off a horse much longer, but thinking that we may kick Jackson off of her old horse Rea so she will still be as safe as possible.  Jackson is plenty good enough of a rider to take on a different horse, and with mum on Rea, she will still be able to do as much as ever, as far as cutting and sorting.  
I have finally had a bit of time to work with the colt that actually broke her wrist, and although his name is still "Crow Bait", he has come a long way!

Our run of 'not so good' luck has continued as we lost another calf yesterday.  We are working on grafting a replacement (from one of the Play Pen Gang with Black Velvet and Evie....they now only have 4 babies between them), but I'm not sure if it is going to work out or not.  Some good news is that on the night check at Six Mile, Olivia came across a cow that had gotten on her back as she tried to get comfortable calving.  Cows live for a very short time if they can't get righted, and once they are over that tipping point, they don't seem to try very hard.  Luckily, the night check was at exactly the right time, she got the help she needed, had her calf and all is well!    

Milk Mustache!   

With a whole bunch of riding on the near horizon, I've been trying to peck away at getting some of our ranch horses shod.  Unfortunately, my new guy Kenny is extremely lame and I'm near positive that it is due to an abscess working it's way out.  Hopefully he won't be out for long as I was really looking forward to putting some miles on him!  Not like there are not a whole herd of others that need it too......  :)  

Such a great photo I came across of my shoeing partner from years back!  

Have a great weekend everyone!


Monday 4 May 2015

Busy busy

Just a quick note today.  We've been super busy the last while.  We brought the cow herd in on Thursday, vaccinated the heifers on Friday and then vaccinated the cow herd early Saturday morning before the branding started.  The branding went really well, with about 350 head getting done in about 4 hours.  Good help makes it easy!  The calves look good, nice and uniform.  I didn't manage to take any photos as I was too busy running around, but I'll post some soon from what other people took.  The Cattlemens Meeting is today as well (and I'm the secretary) so time is pretty short at the moment.  

Was a bad night last night as we lost a heifer on her back, and then there was a calf dead up at the feed ground as well.  Dang it.  :(  The calf probably died from a punctured gut (we loose one or two every year to that).  

Summer Range 

All for now, take care everyone!