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 23 November 2015

Meet Daisy

Have I told you the story about Daisy yet?  No, I think not.  The purchase and naming was longer ago than this blog started.  

So the story starts out about 2 years ago.  We had a bad fire season and had to cancel a trail ride.  But we also got a contract to do some trail cutting in the mountains.  The fire went out (thanks Mother Nature!), but it was too late to continue with the ride, so we decided take that time to cut trail.  I have some talented friends and family that are great with a chainsaw.  None were available.  Not a one.  

When it became utterly clear that "I" was to be the main trail cutter, I announced that I was spending all the money I was hoping to make, on a chainsaw.  One I could realistically pack.  Eli has several chainsaws, but the only end I saw to using his, was cutting my own legs off from exhaustion, or coming home with my knuckles dragging along the ground from packing them. 

 Neither option I was willing to seriously consider. 

 So the next 'town trip' I did some serious shopping (with plenty of advice to still buy a "real" saw, not a backyard hedge trimmer) and eventually came home with a saw I thought I could handle.  Eli gave me the 20 minute run down on how to be a professional faller, I cut down a couple trees under his watchful eye.....and away we went to the mountains.  No worries, right?  We got this!      

There were five of us gals; a niece, my Ontario nanny and good friends Jody and Nikky.  Every one of us is used to being around chainsaws, but in the hands of husbands, fathers and brothers.  Not me so much.   

The trail crew on a side trip!  

Needless to say, we were all careful to the point of paranoia.  Plenty of scrub, fallen trees and limbs were cut the first few days, but not so many 'danger trees'.  At one point Amanda was helping me out and watching me walk with the saw to the next fallen tree.  She said "I've never seen anyone pack a saw like that before".  I laughed until tears came to my eyes.  Her dad is an awesome faller (one I was hoping to bring along).  He is also over six feet tall, is broad shouldered and strong, and has been running a saw since he was big enough to pack one.  Which was a while ago....  And, apparently, he does not pack his saw tucked under his arm, balanced on the top of his hip.  Huh.  Who knew?  Got hips and I'm not afraid to use them!     

Me and my top 'swamper' Nikky.   

We have a little pack horse named "Hi-ho" and he is the most excellent 'saw horse'.  He's short you see, like me.  We pack milk crates on the sides...one which fits the saw, and the other that fits the gas and safety gear.  Pulling the saw out all the time, finding rocks to counter the gas weight and the general pain of it all soon got to be too much, and eventually I just convinced my trusty Riley horse that I could ride and pack the saw as well, across my saddle or on my hip.  He agreed that it was much faster and was very patient with me, especially since getting on his back with the saw in hand is not that smooth.  

Awesome horses!  

A couple days in, we tied up and Nikky and I started out on foot through an area I knew to be full of blow down.  There was also a tree that has been in the way for ever and was full of scars from the box horses have to scrape their way around it.  
This was our first real 'falling job' and we were very careful, to say the least.  Our escape route was cleaned out.  I cut my wedge out very carefully, measuring the angle like Eli had shown me.  As I made the backcut, Nikky pushed the tree just the way we wanted it to fall.  As it started to go down, we both got well out of the way and watched it fall about as beautifully and perfectly as one could hope.  We were quite proud of ourselves, I must say.

Hi-ho puts on some black makeup from the burned trees.  

On our way back down to the trail to get the horses, we had a good laugh.  We decided that neither of us had even once heard any guys synchronize a delighted "WAHOO!" and do a happy dance when a tree fell in the right direction.  (Apparently you get used to it, as we certainly got braver as we got more experienced.  But I still chuckle whenever I ride over that stump during a trail ride!)  
We also decided that 'the saw' was working out too well to not have a name.  And a girly name it should be, since it was doing such a girly job!  A bit of thought and some laughs and Nikky came up the name 'Miss Daisy'.  Perfect.  I did some shopping to pretty her up on my next trip to town......  

The funny part of the whole story is that everyone on the ranch still refers to my saw as "Daisy".  It is a favorite due to her light weight and distinguishable not only by her size, but her now faded 'bling'.

It's not that surprising really, when you consider some of the other names on the ranch.  We have a tractor called "The Hamburger", an old truck named 'Brownie' (also referred to as "Friendly" as her fenders "wave" constantly), and another called Miss Griffith.  Not to mention some odd ball horse names, and don't get me started on the cows!  :P

Take care all!

Thursday 19 November 2015

And now it's winter

Well, as promised, Tuesday brought winter.  Actually, Mother Nature brought 'more', as she often does to this country.  Our 'morning flurries bringing up to two inches of snow" brought more like 8 or 9 inches, and much more in some areas.  Was almost a total whiteout for much of the day.  
But that is to be expected for this time of year, so a person can't really wimp too much.  It's been a darn nice fall overall.  But part of the normal business is grumping about the weather, right?  
The cows certainly had a few complains.  In fact, there was a nearly unanimous decision from the bovine section and it went something like this.  "Feed me."  
It took some serious work (once the snow stopped) to convince them that it was futile to stand at the fences and bawl, and that, yes, they really must head back out.  (The snow is actually a good thing as it keeps them off the stubble of the meadows and short grasses, and forces them out to rustle in the swamps.)  They would rather be fed and made no excuses for it.  
They are back out rustling.  Wore out my husband, my horse, my dogs and my voice, but we got it done!  

Heading back out across the meadow.  

Snow in the trees makes for a cold wet ride.  

Dealer dog is re-considering his profession.  

Bulls are enjoying the sunshine after a -20 night!

Cheers all!


Sunday 15 November 2015

Late Fall

  Even the little camera on my phone does a decent job recording the sunsets we've been having!    

Geez, in trouble again.  I don't mean to not "keep up" with the blog, but the days just run away with me.  Sorry Amy, I'll try and do better!     

Mum and Dad have snuck away to go to the Canadian Rodeo Finals in Edmonton.  Paul and Chloe (the Aussies) and Magalie (from Switzerland) have gone as well.  Sounds like they are all having a great time, and certainly everyone deserves the break!  Mum and Dad have purchased a big stock trailer through a very good friend in Saskatchewan, so they are taking a few extra days to visit there as well.  Perfect.  
Meanwhile, back here in the wild west Chilcotin, things are pretty good, considering.  Usually when half the crew leaves, both the thermometer and the snow start to fall!  It has been great weather up until now.....it's -14 at the moment and falling fast.  But our calves are weaned, healthy and happy with their feeding routine and the cows are back out on good rustling ground, so a few chilly nights (beautiful days!) is not a problem.  We do have to keep a close eye on the cows to make sure they are in good fresh rustling areas.  (After the snow is disturbed, it usually hardens up and makes getting the grass considerably more difficult.)  

The replacement heifer calves at feed.  Aren't they clever to get right in to their feeders?  Argh...  We can only use certain ones for them as they tend to get 'stuck' in those not perfectly suited.  

You can see in this photo how the long grass lays down under the snow, and the cows just nose through it.  The grass stays surprisingly green under it all.  This year is not so great as it was such a dry summer that the grass dried out early,  but they still look great.   

  The main herd of horses has been trimmed and dewormed and kicked out the gate as well (much to their delight) and haven't been seen since.  

One of the groups of horses.  These are the 'not so tough' group, mixed in with a few that need to be kept close by as their work is not quite done for the year.  Left to right is "Blue", "Crow Bait", "Rea", then "Fireball" in the front.  Behind her with the white star is "Smelly Nelly", then you see "Fugly's" white legs and belly. "Sorbay" has the white stripe, with "Cessna" right behind him and "OJ" at the far right.    

My 'little' brother Charley is out here at the moment, which is wonderful.  Not only do we enjoy spending time with him in general, but his experience and expertise with the chainsaw and fencing is sure appreciated too.  With Eli almost full time there and Paul and Chloe's help as well, there is sure lots of fence being built around Five Mile in a hurry!  (But with plenty yet to come!)     

 Sun sets over Kappan Mountain (view from Five Mile)

They never, ever stop wrestling!   

Oh, and the beef bacon and corned beef is pretty much done.  And so delicious!  I smoked it all today and wrapped up the bacon.  The corned beef is still cooking at the moment, but is about finished as well.  So yummy!  I will most certainly share these recipes as they are simple and well worth the effort!  
Must be good as the boys insisted that I  cook a
 'little bit more.... for dessert!"  

Enough beef bacon for a feed or two. 

Alright, on that note I'd better go and check the corned beef, and then if it's finished, I'll sneak off to my pillow!

Cheers all,

Monday 9 November 2015

Plenty of Beef

It is hamburger and sausage making time!  

This year we decided that processing three of our cull cows would be enough.  I'm lucky that dad and Eli do the vast majority of the actual slaughter work.  Ben and Jackson love being part of the skinning etc, 
but I'm just happy to go to work when the beef is 'hanging'.   And plenty of work there is to do.  

Mum is near an expert butcher so we mostly follow her lead as she take the choice cuts off.  All the rest is cut into fist sized chucks to be put through the grinder.  As these are older cows and not 'prime beef', the backstraps and other good cuts are labeled as 'pot roasts'.  We try and get every scrap of useable meat off the bones (enough that even the ravens are giving an evil eye!) and then the grinding begins.  

Jackson and Ben are an important part of the team!   

This year we had quite a production line, with three people helping with the grinding, two wrapping, one taping and one labeling and boxing.  Although we didn't weight it, I'm sure we would have been close to 500 hundred pounds of hamburger done, in a relatively short time.  (We have a commercial grinder.)  

We stopped packaging the hamburger but finished grinding all the meat the first night and went in for a delicious rib dinner.  

The next morning started early again with the sausage making.  I started mixing spices and organizing tubs of hamburger by weight, there were two mixers, one person regrinding and then the ongoing stuffing and packaging line again.  

This time we did both sausages in casings, and plenty just wrapped as though for normal hamburger.  The sausage in casing is handiest for trail riding and hunting, but I love the loose sausage as well.  As it is already spiced, it is perfect for meat sauces, hamburgers, breakfasts wraps or whatever else your imagination can come up with!

Nearly 350 pounds of sausage ought to get us through the next season hey?  

Photo credit to Magalie.  

I really need to get back in to photography as I can already hear several of you grumbling at me for not taking many/any photos......  I'm really going to miss Magalies picture taking!  (She leaves us all too soon now.  I have a feeling getting back to the 'real world' is going to be a bit of an unpleasant shock for her!  She already told me that 'it is weird to think about going riding without a specific purpose!' 

The whole production really didn't even take that long (good crew!) and McGee brought his big pressure washer so we had the shop cleaned out in a jiffy.  

And ready for Grandpa's big SIX OH birthday party.  Even managed to keep it a surprise!  

And fun was had by all!  Always so nice to see so many friends and family gathered in one place.  Although we are small town, we sure seem to scatter out, so everyone enjoys a good visit when we finally take the time to gather up.  Especially great to have my brothers around right now, that is a treat.    

I've taken some of the backstraps to try 'beef bacon' and some round roasts for my first attempt at 'corned beef'.  I have some experience with making the bacon before, but I'm excited to try a friends recipe this time, and on better cuts of meat than in the past.  It's always a fun experiment, but hopefully it works out as I'm 'practicing' on more than 50 pounds of meat!  (If it works out as I hope I'll see if I can get permission to share the recipes...) 

I actually 'borrowed' this photo from 'smokingmeatforums.com'  Mine looked exactly the same except I used a better cut of meat.  

I also smoked some round roasts again, and cooked a little one tonight, seared in butter and garlic and then covered in pepper.  Deliciously divine.  Sandwich meat extraordinaire!  Mum likes to slow cook a smoked one with a 'plain' one.....the gravy is amazing.  (They are just smoked for a few hours during the day, then wrapped and frozen with all the rest.  A bit of something different for once in a while.)        

Oh, and regarding my last post about canning meat.  Why do we do it?  
1)  It is delicious.  I'm not really sure how it turns out so amazing, but you can literally eat it right out of the jar.  Perfect for a quick stew or 'beefing up' a meal when unexpected company arrives.  Eli loves to add a bit of onion, garlic and taco seasoning for an amazing lunch wrap.    
2)  It keeps for a very long time.  As long as the seal does not break, you can store it for as long as you like.  Years even.  
3)  It is totally healthy, just pure meat and a tiny bit of salt.  Absolutely nothing else.   
4)  As it keeps so well and is not effected by temperature, we use it for the extended mountain trips.  While packing the glass is heavy, it is well worth it as then we don't have to even consider fresh meat getting too warm in hot weather.  Makes a delicious stew or stroganoff.

Alright, until next time.......  

Thursday 5 November 2015

Sale Day

Some producers choose to not watch their cattle go through the ring, and on one level, I can understand that.  The price you get is the price you get after all, whether or not you are watching.  However, many producers, ourselves included, cannot imagine having our entire years income be showcased and sold without feeling a part of it.  After all, you've been part of this chain since long before the calf was even born.  Cows raised or purchased, bulls painstakingly chosen, range riding and fingers crossed against predators, feed evaluated and fed out for months, and then calving season.  This is certainly the most intense time of year on our ranch, and keeps someone up pretty much 24 hours a day, especially in cold weather (which of course, we are famous for here in Anahim Lake!)  Trying to keeping the calves warm and vigorous, the cows healthy and nurturing and some semblance of sanity within the ranch family can be quite a challenge some years.  Then we turn the wee ones and their momma's out on to range, ride as often as possible and keep our fingers crossed that all the combined efforts will bring in a strong healthy calf with a strong, healthy and pregnant mother in the fall.  

So, yes, it's true that we cannot predict or influence the outcome of those calves going through the sale ring, but to not be there is unthinkable.
So we wait.  The sale starts at 10am and we crowd in with all the other ranchers by quarter to.  An excellent breakfast is served by the Stockyards Restaurant and we dig in.  The retired ranchers hanging around are always slightly smug, but certainly empathetic of those about to sell.  The jokes run about 'what you are going to buy with all your money this year' and 'the government is going to get everything the banks don't'.  There is the usual nervous discussion about how prices have dropped since last week, the lack of trucks for hauling, hay and grain prices going sky high and the nasty snow or ice storm that is bound to appear.  Slightly after 10am the auctioneer gets started and that's when blood pressures really rise. 

So yeah, that was us.  Once again.  Even though we knew there was no way our calves would sell before noon, there we were.  Nails to the quick by 11am and no where close to seeing our own calves go through.  

They didn't actually make it to the ring until after 2pm, and after that four hours of waiting, it always seems so anti-climatic!  I can hardly hear the auctioneer or the prices as I'm frantically scanning for and counting the tags we put on our calves to identify ours mixed in with mum and dad's.  And it happens so quickly, even faster this year as we had previously sold two loads of steers via video, so only about 120 actually went through the ring.  

And it went well.  Our calves weighted out considerably heavier then ever before, so that was a nice bonus.  We were happy with our prices (although they were better last week of course!), and thankfully headed back to the endless 'town list' to get the rest of business done.  

Phew, another year officially over!  

Hard to believe calving season is right around the corner!!  What?  

In more current news, Mum and I spent the day canning meat.  It is a fairly slow process, but well worth it in the end!  

Meat packed and waiting to be put in the pressure cooker.  

The pressure cooker, which takes 90 minutes to process the meat.  Once it is up to pressure that is!  

Delicious!  And very handy.  

Cheers all, until next time.