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 31 October 2015

Blue Canyon Post #3, Such a Life

This rider admitted that only half of the journal entry was 'fit for general consumption'.  

Riding the eskers in Moose Haven Valley.  

A day on the trail in the Ilgatchuz mountains

12 August, 2015

It was a cold night last night, with frost on the tent in the morning, making the tent zipper difficult to open; ice in the water buckets. It would have been cold in my sack, but for my long johns, Rad pants (which I forgot to take off last night) and my oilskin coat over my sleeping bag. You gotta be tough in the mountains!

The morning warmed up quickly, and we were off before 11 am. Short ride to the trail going up to Blue Canyon. We'd been here last year with Wanda, and this year the view from the canyon rim was even more spectacular because the air was clear of forest fire smoke. Rocky black cliffs, green valley bottom, a meandering stream snaking through the green. Because our camp (Pan Cabin) was closer to the up-trail than last year(Roger's Camp), we had more time at the canyon, and Punky led us up the ridge to the high point, where we had a great view of the Pan and Blue valleys. What a spectacular sight, mountains all around, a valley to the left, a valley to the right - so beautiful. This is why we love the mountains, and riding is so much easier than back packing. After our rubbernecking and photo sessions, we rode down to the trees for lunch and nap, a short nap – only 40 minutes.

Back to camp in an hour, and into the usual procedures, although no bathing by the regulars: tea, roasted garlic on crackers and cream cheese, scotch o'clock, etc. And another delicious dinner. Punky cooked gigantic steaks on the grill, and I mean gigantic! I couldn't get through more than half of mine – I think Punky gave me the biggest. Oh well, leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Also accompanying the meat were scalloped potatoes and corn niblets. Diet, what diet? More camaraderie and talk around the fire, and with darkness, to bed. Such a life.

Fell down or fell asleep?  

And now back on the ranch, we have finished rounding up, sorting, shipping and loading our calves out, and have seen them go through the sale ring.  
I didn't get any photos of the final 'round up' as we had plenty of help so I ended up going on a bit of a journey to see if I could catch up with those few missing still.  And, although the weather has been nothing to complain about, there is definitely ice forming and not melting during the day.  
There is a certain area through thick willow brush that has been nicknamed "the Moat".....  Although the ground underneath is solid enough, you have to ride through up to 2 1/2 feet of water for about 150 yards to get to the other side.  Except, did I mention....the ice.  Luckily I was riding my trusty Riley horse, who is one of the most amazingly athletic and agile horses I've ever had the pleasure to ride.  He is also a total hot head and can be incredibly silly at times.  He takes to the highest level of energy every time.  But he is amazing and has been my 'go to' for a couple of years now.  And this day he amazed me once more.  
We got to the Moat to find that there was much more ice than anticipated.  In fact, it was 'nearly' thick enough for me to stand on.  I sat back, gave Riley his head to have a look and told him that I still wanted to go through there.  He snorted at the stupidity of humans, crouched back on his haunches and started pawing and smashing the ice, slowly moving forward.  As we got in to it, the ice became thick enough that only his foot was going through as he pawed, and not breaking up.  Damn.  So I told him he was an absolute champion, climbed off and we snuck off to the side and crept along for a short while until there was no hope but to get back in the Moat (the bush grows too thick along the sides to get through).  At this point I was having to jump on the ice to break it up for him to go through.  To make a long story short, I got very very wet but luckily the Muck Boots came through and once my feet had warmed the water on the inside, we were good to go for the rest of the day.  Luckily the weather was nice enough.  Unluckily, despite the many areas we trotted through and peeked in to that day, we did not find any more cows.  Riley did have to break a bit more ice for us, but nothing like the Moat.

By the time we got back to the ranch, my old friend was tuckered right out, so I hopped on the 'city boy' to help sort out the culls from the main herd.  Was fun to have my older brother join us riding and sorting as well.  

Grandma wandering through to find the cull cows.  She is very pleased that her mare is finally starting to 'watch' cattle.    

The next morning started very early of course, well before the sun peeked over.  The first job is to sort the calves from the cows.  We do this on foot, and down an alleyway.  It is really quite impressive to watch an experienced sorter.  There is very little to no noise at all, and generally very little movement that an inexperienced eye would be able to see.  But the subtle shifts of weight, head and shoulder tilts, and slight side to side motion makes the job much easier (and safer) than ramming and jamming.  We also pack a 'sorting stick' to block a cow or calf that gets too pushy, or maybe give a poke in the side to help another make the decision to keep going.  Our cattle are used to be sorted like this and it went well.  I was packing my camera and thought several times to take photos, but it really wouldn't show you anything but a person standing in front a herd of cows in an alley way.  I guess maybe a video would have worked, but there was no time for that!    

Next, we 'sexed' the calves, with steers going one way, and heifers another.  This takes a bit more time but there were no problems.  Once counted, we sorted off any steers that didn't fit well into the first two liner loads.  It is good to have an nice average size so we pulled off the biggest ones, and the smallest (both of which went on the load with the heifers.)  By this time the trucks were in the yard and ready to be loaded.  The drivers decided that they would take 112 animals (based on an average size/weight) and gave the directions of the group numbers they wanted them loaded in.  They go in to different compartments (generally no more than 15 in largest) to be sure there is room for everyone and no one gets squished or falls down.  We also glued a tag on the back of Eli and I's cattle to make it easier at the Stockyards to keep them separate (on paper only, they are all sold together.)

Backed up and ready to be loaded.  

Pushing them up the chute.

At the same time, mum and I started to sort the heifers, keeping back the best of the best for replacement stock.  We make sure to not keep anything that we don't like the mother of, and never keep calves from 'first calvers' as there is too big of a chance that they could be bred back to their father.  (We use specific bulls for the youngest cows.)  We ended up keeping more than we had planned, due to limited room, but I'm happy with what we have and can always sell them later.  

I'll get back to the actual sale another day, but I am going to skip ahead to document a big moment......!!  

Taking some of our young stock to FIVE MILE!  Yay, we are finally getting to use our new property!  (Besides the haying we did of course!)  Dad has a bale at the end of the wagon to entice them along and you can see lick tubs piled at the front, which will be put out once the cattle on down in the good 'rustling' ground.  These tubs contain minerals etc and are important for providing essential nutrients when the grass is starting to dry out and lose it's feed value. 

Cheers all,

Saturday 24 October 2015

Blue Canyon, Post #2 and Rounding Up

Ah, another rider has come through and sent me their 'Blue Canyon Day Ride' journal entry!  

Photo Credit, Lisa H.  


Blue Canyon

We went on a day ride to Blue Canyon today. It was quite the climb. I rode P.G. and it was great. Once up on the mountain you could see all kinds of volcanic rocks and there grew all kinds of lichens and even a bunch of little blue flowers.
I handed my three horses that I was holding over to Punky and had a look around too. She was holding about 8 horses for a while, that looked very funny, like they were all having a meeting.
When I arrived at the top of the mountain, all I could say about the view was: »wow!«.
We had lunch, I wrote in my journal and had a mini nap.
Back in camp where Olivia and Wanda were we hobbled the horses and let them go at around 5pm. Punky and Cody led them in the opposite direction then usually at this camp – not crossing the camp and creek – but with Bubbles in the lead they all came running back after a little while. So finally we let them go across the creek to their original grazing spot.
After a great meal (and barbecued garlic on crackers as an appetizer!!!) Olivia and I did the dishes. It was as funny as washing dishes can be. ;) And we got an other puzzle. This time it was about white and red socks.

-> Six pairs of white socks and eight pairs of red socks in a bag. It’s dark; how many times do you have to pull out one sock at a time, till you get two socks of the same color?

I feel like my brain is rusty, rustier by the hour!

Punky had the idea of putting one entry of all of us writing a journal on her blog. All of the same day. Anonymous. Would be cool but I need to edit mine first I guess.

It was a nice evening but it got kinda chilly. Finally I went to bed at 10 pm. Just as I was about to crawl into my sleeping bag I noticed that the zipper was broken and I had to squeeze and pull it all the freakin’ way down to close it again. We were laughing all three of us because it sounded very pathetic the way I told them that my zipper was open »but that it shouldn’t be«!

I got to sleep in today, that was nice.

Photo Credit, Lisa H.  

Cody and I did try and get the horses convinced to go to another small draw.  They stayed for about 10 minutes total and then Bubbles decided the grass was greener....on the other side of the creek!  So away they all went, back in to camp, down the hill, through the creek and over to their favorite spots.  We tried....  

Dealer 'photo-bombing' the tired city boy "Kenny".  

Back here on the ranch at the end of October, we are pretty much finished with our round up.  By the count, we are about six 'out'....and we have a few orphaned calves we didn't expect.  I also forgot to mention that we lost another cow to a bear about 2 weeks ago.  Once again, there is no doubt of her cause of death....massive bruising and trauma to the neck and back area but there is one weird thing.  She is the mother of the first calf we lost to a bear this spring.  Talk about bad luck......

These girls were seen from the air, and I was lucky enough to find them again the same night!  

Five Mile Ranch, with the Itcha Mountains in the background.

So all is well.  We are doing the big move tomorrow, with the majority of the cow to be rounded up and taken from Four Mile to Six Mile.  Monday will begin well before daylight (which is not even that early these days) as we need to sort the cows from the calves, sort the calves by sex, organize the loads for the trucks, and then start loading by 11am when the big liners should show up.  (I'll try hard to get photos!)  

We will have kept between 75 and 100 of our best heifer calves for potential 'replacements'.  

Once the trucks are loaded and off to Williams Lake, we will start sorting the cows again, taking out the ones which will have their second calf next spring.  They will go into a special area with the 'first calf' heifers.  Into that group we will also sort any animal that appears thin for any reason, or any we generally recognize as not being that 'tough'.  The youngest cows are still growing themselves and so need special care.  They are monitored very closely, kept on the best fall feed, and always get the hay bales first when the snow and cold come.  

In to another pen, we will also sort 'cull' cows that will go to market this fall.  These are animals that have been noted in the spring for a variety of possible reasons.  If they are particularly cranky (dangerously so), have a 'bad bag', are becoming chronically lame or are simply getting too old to raise a calf properly, they get a "SHIP" in the record books and are checked carefully in the fall.  It is a bit sad to sell the old girls that have been part of the ranch for so long, but they have had a good life with us and it is part of necessary business to get rid of them.

Anyhow, we have a few long days ahead of us, so on that note I'd better sign off and get some sleep!      

Cheers all,

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Blue Canyon Ride, Post #1

What seems like almost years ago (actually only a couple of months) an idea came up.  There were several journal writers on the trail ride we happened to be on, so I asked if every person would give me an excerpt from their writing from a particular day.  Everyone agreed this would be a fun idea and we settled on the "Blue Canyon Day Ride" day.  

So I finally got one and thought I'd share.  Perhaps this will get the rest of the riders motivated to share their own stories.  ;)  
Squirt waits patiently.......

 August 14th 2015
  Yeh! It is a day ride today to Blue Canyon., ( we got to sleep in). We left camp around 1015 under cloudy skies with sunny breaks, perfect riding weather, not too HOT! Lovely ride to the top of the ridge, ( very uneventful...yeh)! The view from the top of the ridge on the Blue  Canyon side was spectacular, we could view Pan Valley and Blue Canyon from one spot, fab photo opportunity, I got some wonderful pictures today,
 my favorite is Punky holding most of the horses, they all look like they are listening to her.
 Sandy is now on his forth puzzle of the trip, Olivia, Magalie and Jacques seem best at figuring these things out, me not so much. We arrived back at Pan's Camp at 1615; too lazy to go to the creek spa to night,
 seems cooler tonight.
 OMG! STEAK! scalloped potatoes, corn with rocky roads for desert, we do these people pull all the food from???
After dinner many rat stories ensued, way and too much grossness and lots of laughter. I don't think Magalie was too impressed with the rat stories. I doubt the smell of pack rats around the cabins had anything to  do with the stories, ha!
Amazing skies tonight, the view down Pan valley... stunning!

The mention of the 'spa' in the above writing reminded me of these crazy, crazy, CRAZY women!  
You may remember that many months ago, I posted one of my favorite photos and titled it something like "Pan Valley Spa".  Well, this year, it was not so hot, particularly on the day we were in the 'spa' area.  We had gone on a lovely day ride up to the majestic Pipe Organ mountain, but jackets were kept on.  But these crazy ladies decided that it was still a SPA day.  Seriously.  
So while this photo was being taken, I was hunched around the campfire, pretending to help cook so I could stay near the flames, with my toque and scarf firmly in place and jacket done up to my chin.  

These are some tough gals.  This photo still gives me goosebumps!  It was COLD!    

The Pan Valley Spa.  Still beautiful, but a tad cool this day!  

In other news, we are full swing in to 'round up' now.  We've found all the main groups of cattle but are working on gathering the wee groups of 2 or 3 now.  (They are much tougher to find!) 
 Usually we try and get out first thing in the morning so you have a chance of getting to their hideouts before they leave again.  Like finding a needle in a haystack, truly.  We are just starting to put all the cows in to 'one pile' at the moment, so will know by tomorrow evening exactly how many we are missing.  Hopefully not too many as the big trucks show up on Monday!  I have been trying to remember to pack my camera, but the weather has been grey and rainy lately, so I don't really have any spectacular photos to share.  

I've been riding my 'city boy' Kenny mostly.  He is sure turning into a sweet guy to ride.  He has been a lot of work to get there, but really has a heart of gold.  He is finally figuring out how to pay attention to where his feet are (a much safer option) and that just putting his head down and doing his job is much less work than throwing a hissy fit and then having to put his head down and do his job anyhow.  He has covered plenty of country in the last few weeks and is a better horse for it.  I now feel totally safe taking him in to any sort of country by myself.  A far cry from this summer when I didn't feel like he was safe to ride down a hill!  Not that he was going to do anything 'bad' on purpose, but neither of us had any idea or control of where his feet might land.     

Until next time, take care all!  

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Fencing, turkey cake and a celebration!

Photo credit to Lisa H.

Well, now that Five Mile is really 'ours', we are scrambling to be able to use it this fall!  I've probably mentioned that the fences are really terrible, so we are quickly trying to patch up what we can.  We will start to put our own cattle in there right away, but have to fake some sort of barrier so they don't just wander right back to their usual haunts again.  After we feed them there for the winter, they will be more comfortable and willing to hang around.  The feed is plentiful and the cattle will do well there.  
So why no pictures you ask?!  Well, I've not really gotten back in to the habit of taking them!  Not to mention, when it is just Ben and I (this particular time), I've got way to much going on to think about taking photos.  Keeping an eye on a very busy six year old so I don't fall a tree on him, or cut the leg off Dealer dog, who insists on being as close to me as possible, takes my full concentration.  Ben was great help and helped drag rails, find the wire I was constantly leaving behind and kept me entertained with his constant chatter and questions (are we done yet?)

 So I just have the one photo I finally remembered to take of my top helper.  
Snow in the mountains......  

I went fencing again with Magalie and Chloe the next morning and we put in a new bar way to connect the new hay meadow to our range and fixed more fence.  (Didn't remember my camera at all that day!)  That was Thanksgiving Monday and we headed home after lunch as the guys were arriving down from the last hunt and friends and family were gathering for a turkey feast!  :)
We had invited some relatively new friends who have moved to the area, and Amy enthusiastically offered to bring the desserts.  WOW!  She brought a beautiful 'horn of plenty' made out of braided bread, spinach loaves, cheesecake, pumpkin pie, cream puffs and the CUTEST darn turkey cake you have ever seen!   

A true work of art, wouldn't you agree!?
She has certainly set a standard now, and we are looking forward to enjoying more of her cooking!  

We were all admiring it and thinking it was more a work of art than something to wreck by cutting up.  Ben announced instantly "I will cut it, WITH MY TEETH!"   

So the hunting season is officially over.  Overall it went excellently I think, and it is kinda nice to get that first run under our belt.  I don't have Eli's camera yet to put up current photos, but I'm going to add in one of my favorite shots of Jackson, many years ago.

A very impressed young man!

It is always so fun to let the horses loose after a long trip.  We unpack and unsaddle everything and then let them go all at once.  

As many times as we have watched it, letting the horses go is always a highlight and anyone around stays to enjoy the show.

They have a good roll, perform quite an amazing  jump and leap and parade around the tack shed, happy to be free of packs and saddles.  The very ground shakes as even the big draft horses bounce and strut their stuff (likely showing more energy than they have the entire trip) and contently trot off to the pasture.  Very fun.

This particular time they did their usual routine for our entertainment and then went around to the pens to get to the salt blocks.  All of a sudden, one of them remembered they had just finished the last ride of the season and HOLY SMOKES did they tear out of the pens and up the flat like the very devil was on their tail, leaping and bucking and "wahooing!" all the way.   Tinker leaped so high in the air it looked like she was trying (and quite possibly succeeded) to clap all four of her feet together!  There was such a commotion that all the other horses got caught up in the spirit of the celebration and the whole herd raced around in circles, high fiving and congratulating each other.  It was sight to see, I can tell you, and I sure wish I had a video camera.  Makes me grin to just write about it.         

Both photos of the horses having a good roll this summer are credited to Lisa H.

We are getting serious now about 'rounding up' the cattle as we will ship out the calves on the 26th.  Hopefully the weather holds for us....we usually seem to finish up in the snow!


Cheers all, until next time.


Thursday 8 October 2015

One Pay Check

Well, I won't bore you all with why I've been so long since my last post.  I just want to say that I'm very very relieved that the Five Mile sale is finally truly finished and the previous owner and his cows are gone.  And now we can begin to figure out how to integrate the property into our current operation.  'Bout time too, since the first payment is coming up all too quickly!

Looking across the pasture to the Five Mile ranch site.  Ilgatchuz Mountains in the background.  

For tonight I thought I would chat a bit about the ranchers/farmers paycheck.  Once a year.  No, that was not a typo.  We get paid once a year.  

My farmer/rancher friends are have a funny grin and a sideways look right now.  The rest of you can hardly believe me.  
Imagine, working and incurring a years worth of expenses before getting your one paycheck.  

And fully depending on the very volatile markets for that one check.

A freak snowstorm could be the difference between making or breaking your year.  A sudden drop in the American dollar makes a massive difference.  The amount of hay or grain put up in the prairies is hugely relevant.  And God forbid something like "Mad Cow Disease" hits and turns the entire market upside down, for many years.  This I know well.  We bought our ranch and our first cows with calves just weeks before the panic button got pushed in 2003.  We went from paying $1500 dollars to literally having to pay to take them to market, they were worth so little.  Such a political move and so media driven....  Seriously, how many people do you know that have died, or even been affected by BSE ("Mad Cow Disease")?  On the other hand, it did get Canadians  to think more independently and forced us to create a stronger industry.....not a bad thing if you survived it.  Most didn't.  It is interesting to note that while cattle prices are certainly up now, and the consumers are definitely feeling it, beef was far from 'cheap' when the ranchers were getting paid a third of the current price.  Hmmm.... 

So back to the 'once a year' paycheck.  (To be clear, many ranchers have jobs away from the ranch to help support their cow habit.)  

Most local ranchers round up in the fall and haul to the market on a specific date.  Advice is to 'follow the market' to sell, but somehow having to book your cattle trucks months in advance makes that pretty tough.  Just gotta pick a date and go with it. 


So in you go to the auction mart and sit with all the other ranchers nervously chatting, and pretending they are not crossing every digit possible.  You can always tell, even if you don't know them, whose calves are selling.  A look around the ring will show you.  It is the person with the stiff back, the red face (that pounding heart!), the solid stare as calves are recognized, and the intense listening as they will the buyers to pay just that little bit more.    Not that many years ago, when the auctioneer finished selling, there were just  long sad looks, shrugs and hung heads.   I'm delighted to say that these days, it usually ends with a deep breath and a grin, a handshake from a neighbor and the usual conversation about how prices were better last week.  But no one is too sad, really.  

We normally sell at the very end of October, but this year decided to try something just a little different.  There is a relatively new option to sell via a 'video' which is literally set up in the sale ring.  Cattle are bid on exactly as if they were in the ring but you can pick any sale to sell them at.   However, you cattle are still at home (our are not even rounded up yet) as you also choose the delivery date (announced to the buyers of course.)  Generally they are sold as a liner load, so you have to have a fair amount of cattle to do this.

When they are sent in, the stock yards crew will sort of the loads already sold and away they'll go to their new home.  We will sell the rest through the ring as per normal.  

This is a not so good photo of cattle in the sale ring, with the buyers sitting around the outside.  
We decided to put up for sale one load (100 animals) of 500lb weight average steers, and one load (105 animals) of 585 lb average steers.  
And just because our calves were not actually in the ring didn't make my heart pound any less!
We did very well anyhow, and were happy with the prices we got.  Did I mention they were better last week?  Haha!  

So I thought that I would share the video that the cattle were sold on.  Of course, our cattle are mostly being sold on their reputation and it probably wouldn't make a difference if we even had a video/pictures.  

Cheers all, until next time!  

Oh, and by the way, I'll have some hunting posts up soon!  The guys have been doing well this season, and no one has complained about the pink cheesecake!  I'll just wait until I have Eli's photos to share.....