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,

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