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.

Sunday 31 January 2016

Bits and Pieces

First I want to say "thank you" to everyone who read my last post and either commented or wrote a personal email.  Your views are appreciated.   
Our MLA, that I wrote the letter for, wrote back directly and asked to send the letter on to others in government.  I have no doubt it won't do any good, but what the heck, at least I've had my say from my soapbox.  I'd like to write another post to follow up.....but another time.  
    Meanwhile, back on the ranch, life continues.  
Pretty much feeding cows, fencing and chores.  The stock are all look good; it's been a pretty easy winter really.  

Jackson is working on fire while Ben waits impatiently.  Dealer is hoping to share some goodies.  Charley and I had just 'stood up' the fence behind the boys.  

Ben is quite good on his skis behind the snowmobile.  

Salmon, ready for the smoker!  YUM!  

 A good friend and her daughter are staying with us at the moment, and Amy loves to cook!  Very awesome.  She has taken over kitchen duty (oh darn!) so I've taken the advantage of having a bit of extra time and been taking on some overdue home projects......laying laminate floor at the moment.  And then some painting....and making new countertops (we are still on the designing process of that one).....
Before we know it, all this 'extra time' will be a past memory and we will know nothing but cows and calving.....  hard to believe how quickly that is coming around.   

Cheers all!  

Monday 25 January 2016

My Opinion, for what it's worth....

This is a letter I've been working on for a while now (neglecting the blog...sorry....) and have thought hard before posting here.  I hope that readers feel comfortable in the knowledge that this is my opinion only, and I'm quite happy to discuss details further.  

Gateway to one of the neighboring ranches.  I was over helping to brand and vaccinate new stock and couldn't help snapping a a few shots.  

Here is the basis of a letter I've written to our local MLA. 

No one is paying me to write this, no “show your support” button will appear with a link to PayPal, and I don’t have a degree.  I simply have the pride and devotion of being a third generation rancher in this area, and the common sense that comes from a lifetime of hands on work in the outdoors.  

Being in the area for nearly 100 years is not that long in the scheme of things, but my family has seen many changes in their time here in the West Chilcotin.  The information stored in these pragmatic and practical people is interesting to listen to, if attention could be pulled away from social media long enough to hear them.  Most choose not to do so; especially since the information is not what they want to hear.  Of course this information that comes from years upon years of hands on experience can only be called “anecdotal” since no one confirmed their degrees or paid them thousands of taxpayers dollars to write a report.  

It’s been said many times (although not always so directly) that rural dwellers are “asking” for predator problems as they take in more and more of the land and a squeeze is put on predators by over harvesting natural food sources.

How can that be, I ask, when in our area, there are less people, less cattle, less horses, less tourists, less trapping and very definitely less hunting (for sustenance or commercially) than there was even 30 years ago.  And, I might point out, a whole lot more predators.  Maybe that’s anecdotal knowledge.  But we also used to have 30 or 40 head of moose in our hay yards every single morning.  Now we are lucky to have 2 or 3 ‘resident’ moose around the ranch all winter.  And that is a plain fact.   

Should I move to the city?  Because that would have less environmental impact and be more beneficial for the predator populations?  Really?  When ranchers and farmers themselves become extinct due to lack of support, perhaps all these well loved predators will be so kind as to fill our supermarkets.  Interesting to think that once Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Quebec City were ‘wild’ areas where animals roamed freely.  But no one would dare suggest those places are ‘encroaching’, even as they expand exponentially every year.  When one lives in a glass house, apparently one must open the door and throw the rocks at the neighbor, whose is too busy working to defend himself in time.           
At our fall Cattlemens Meeting, the discussion of predators was brought up yet again.  Of course some will roll their eyes at this and think “oh, I can just imagine…”  Of course we are concerned about the welfare of our cattle, there is no doubt.  But just as clear are the discussions regarding the alarming moose and caribou decreases, and the astounding increase in wolves (and bears) over the last 10 years or so.  Remember, these are people that are out on the land every single day.  Not doing a study for a month or two or even a year, but just making a living, day after day, year after year.    

There was a comment brought up about the First Nations harvesting cow moose, and certainly this is not the idyllic situation.  Road access obviously makes a large impact and there is no doubt that industry in general has created huge changes on the land, and most of those changes are less than ideal.  Although I have not personally dealt with mining companies, I certainly feel they need to be accountable for their actions.  I’m quite happy that the logging companies have had to tighten up their environmental impact, and I feel there is a long ways to go with that yet.  Seems strange that I cannot turn a single cow on to range before an agreed on date, because of the damage she will do to the ground, when not so long ago the logging companies were free to work,  as long as they could drag their machinery in and out of the bush with the help of D8 Cats.  But I digress....    

Looking at some of the media driven propaganda these days is quite shocking if you really pay attention.  Human emotions are being targeted in the majority of cases, not facts.  When photos are circulated of a super cute wolf pup with the caption “have you seen my family?” one should wonder at the focus before reacting.  I want to reply with one of a caribou momma saying “Have you seen my baby?  Or any of my baby’s young friends? Or any caribou calves at all?!”  Does anyone care about the quickly diminishing caribou herds?  They are super cute too!  What about the moose?  Maybe we need more photos of those amazingly long legged little buckskinned creatures, wobbling along beside their massive mommas.  Moose have a maximum of two babies (generally one), just to point out.  Wolf mommas average 5-6 pups.  

The fact of the matter is that we can point fingers all over the place (except at ourselves of course, in our wood framed houses, paper everything and endless array of throw away petroleum based gadgets, toys and vehicles), but the balance has been tipped.  We must all do our part to ensure industry is accountable and does their part to minimize impact, but in the meantime we are also accountable for re-establishing the balance that humans have pushed so far out of alignment.  The amount of predators that we are dealing with in BC is not just affecting ranchers, but certainly First Nations sustenance hunters, guide outfitters, and the general public.  At the rate we are going, our moose and caribou populations will be on the verge of extinction soon, and to call that ‘natural’ now is ludicrous.                   

No one, I repeat, NO ONE wants to wipe the wolf population off the earth.  Let me say that again in case someone missed it while on their Facebook feed, “liking” whatever media spun photo or quote scrolled by.  Despite what some so wrongly presume, NO ONE wants to wipe out the entire wolf (or bear) population.  Instead, it needs to be returned to a number that is sustainable and supports all the other animals on the planet they share.  Sadly, that is going to mean some deaths have to be considered, and considered seriously.

Ranchers and farmers often have to make difficult choices, ones they would rather not face.  The old favorite horse that was depended on as a partner for so many years that no longer winters well.  The best friend of man getting a severe kick, doing what he loved to do best, but suffering horribly.  The pet lamb, fed by the kids from a bottle for months, destined for the butcher block.  Decisions made out of common sense and necessity.  Emotion may roll down the cheek, but reality makes the move never less.  

I’m fully aware that I am not going to change anyone’s mind with just one letter.  My aim is to support government in taking the time to thoroughly investigate the current predator problem and not be swayed by social media and uninformed and emotional outcries from the public, who are reacting to photos and sites designed to inflame.  As leaders, I ask you to consider all voices equally, not just based on where the majority of the voting population lives.  The experience and expertise of those few actually living or making a living on the land,  and seeing first hand the damage that is currently being done by predators,  should not disregarded or ignored.    Please, keep all aspects in perspective and make your decisions (even if unpopular) based on unbiased studies, relevant reports and plain common sense.        


Monday 18 January 2016

The Father of the Groom

"Trails End"  photo credit to J. Swift

From the book "Chilcotin Holiday" by Paul St Pierre

The Father of the Groom

WILLIAMS LAKE - A very successful wedding has just been held here.  There was organ music, confetti, a bride and bridesmaids as fair as the dawn, and a big bowl of punch at the Elks Hall.  
     Weddings don't just happen.  People have to plan them.  Not enough of us appreciate this, and it is about time that some of us did.  Consider, in this matter, the dressing of the Father of the Groom. 
     His name is Lester Dorsey.  He has been ranching for forty-odd years in the Anahim Lake country.  He has many horses.  Many, many horses.  In fact, many, many, many horses.  Some of the LD brand are feeding almost as far east as Alexis Creek.  He has many friends, even though he is an old rancher.  
     Although Pan Phillips held over at Quesnel, and some of the other Chilcotin men had to stay home to feed stock, a great many other friends of the Father of the Groom came to the wedding.  They were earnestly intent on doing their bit to make it a success.  It was decided by these friends that the Father of the Groom should wear a white shirt with a stiff collar.  Also a necktie.  The necktie, made of cloth, was purchased at Burkowski's store.  It was colored more or less like latigo, but was cheaper and softer.  A Forsythe shirt was obtained at Mackenzie's store. 
  The dressing of the Father of the Groom took place in Room 218 of the Lakeview Hotel.  Randolph Mulvahill of Chezacut helped to hold him down.  The Father of the Groom had, by God, never worn a white shirt and tie in his life, and before he did, Hell would freeze solid from shore to shore.  Even then, he said, he was prepared to sit around the ice for a spell first.  
     Some furniture got overturned.  A cowboy named George sat on his legs, and Mike Dorsey, Brother of the Groom, also helped.
     After Mr. Dorsey had been placed inside the boiled shirt, and the necktie had been cinched up tight against his Adam's apple which is rather like an old pine-tree knot, his friend Mr. Mulvahill became sentimental about the whole business.  
     Mr. Mulvahill said that he had never realized that his friend L. Dorsey, Father of the Groom and holder of the LD horse brand, has such a natural elegance about him.  Clearly, said Mr. Mulvahill, Mr. Dorsey had missed his calling.  He should have been a stockbroker in Vancouver, or even Toronto.
     Mr. Mulvahill offered to go away into a dark corner of the hotel and sit there all night, worrying about this.  Mr. Dorsey said that Mr. Mulvahill could go right ahead and do that very thing.  
     Mr. Mulvahill then spoke with a deep sincerity of the days when his friend Lester rode seventy-five miles across the mountains to the Mulvahill ranch, wearing an open-neck shirt and thin coat and scarcely anything more, surviving the most vicious winter weather by sheer strength of character.  Times had changed, said Mr. Mulvahill.  
     The Father of the Groom was put into a suit.  A white handkerchief was placed in the upper left front pocket.  There was applause.  The Father of the Groom as dusted, combed, and heavily advised.  
     Randolph Mulvahill wept, on behalf of himself, an ordinary rancher to whom the fused collar and the reversible cuff were unknown.  He suggested that his good friend, the Father of the Groom, once an ordinary rancher like himself, should now slowly wean himself from that lowly estate.  He suggested that Mr. Dorsey might next keep milk cows.  From that he could go to sheep.  He would then be ready to become an insurance salesman or bank manager or some other damn thing of that sort.  
     The Father of the Groom was escorted away from Room 218 and he went to the church and sat there quietly, thinking thoughts that are not known to us.  
     The Lakeview management plan to put up a small plaque over Room 218.  Nothing gaudy.  Just a small piece of bronze.  It will say:
This is the Room
Where Lester Dorsey of the Anahim Country
Got into a White Shirt and Tie
For the First Time
With all this planning, the wedding was, of course, a success.  The bride wore white.  

When the wedding was over, Lester gave me back the shirt and tie.  He said once was enough.  
     The management knew nothing of these events in Room 218 until they read my newspaper column some time later.  To make an honest man of me, they had the bronze plaque put up and tacked it to the door.  It was stolen and they put up another, and then another.  But the plaques kept getting pinched so after a while they gave up and now there is hardly a guest who passes through that establishment who can tell where history was made.         

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Some darn good horses

While going through pictures, I came across a folder I started putting together some time ago, and thought I'd share.  It was some sort of challenge that I never got finished with, but about finding photos of your five best/favorite horses.  I thought that was pretty hard to narrow down and much more difficult of a task than I was willing to take on....digging up old photos from goodness knows where.   As a kid I was lucky to have excellent 'babysitter' horses.  For the most part that is...there was certainly a few learning curves for me.  I started my own young horse at the age of 11 or 12.  It was a learning experience but after the lessons were all through (and broken bones healed) I was certainly a better horse girl and had a great little mare that I was utterly proud of.  Any photos of that little "Nikkers" mare are well buried, as are those of my 'four wheel drive' pony "Lightening" (named because of her amazing speed, of course. but then, it all seems pretty quick when you are six!).  Not to be forgotten either are old Rusty, Mars, Fatty, Troy and Spunky.....to name a few.   A story of lessons learned come with each one of these, and more.      

These are some snapshots from the more recent past and present.     

 This is "Handy".  He was an easy going pretty boy I bought as a weanling.  We used him on the ranch and trail riding for several years before I sold him to another rancher.  After a sold him, the new owners send me a photo back and said "you were right, he will pull anything!"  He now quite proudly pulls a one horse sleigh, as well as calves to the branding fire!   

Two wonderful old horses here, and my bratty pony.  On the left, being ridden by Ben, is Spud.  I had bought him when I was in high school!  He stayed on the ranch and packed many guests in the mountains.  However, I think he was born to be a kids horse as he sure works hard for them.  He used to be darn good at 'messing' with guests.  Nothing bad or dangerous, just annoying.  Like waiting until they were on the rock and ready to put a foot in the stirrup before casually stepping away....or travelling at a snails pace if given his way, or doing his darnest to eat at any opportunity.  With a kid on him, he is so amazingly kind and patient.  I have a photo of him somewhere, standing by a gate, with Jackson attempting an amazing leg split to get on.  Spuds reins are hanging and if he moved even an inch, Jackson would have crashed hard to the ground.  But even in the photo you can hear him saying "you got this, kid!"  Of course he did not move even a muscle (even to reach for that tasty blade of grass!), Jackson managed to haul himself aboard and they started back down the trail, both grinning proudly!

 On the right is everyone's favorite horse "Stormin' Norman", packing Jackson this day.  I started him about 100 years ago and then he was mum's main man for many years.  An extremely competent and confident horse, full of character but totally honest.    He also packed guests for us in his later years and was wonderful.  Guests soon realized that he knew substantially more than them and could be trusted completely.  Norman is now retired and living the easy life with our very good friends in Saskatchewan.  

I'm on my bratty pony 'Percy Sunshine' whom I traded for my City Boy horse this spring. 

 Ah, Kara riding my "Hope" mare.  This mare taught me more about feel and timing than I still even realize.  She certainly has some age now, but you'd never know it.  She is living with Spud in Bella Coola, both of them semi retired.   (I named her "Hope" because I bought her out of a sale.  I just kept thinking "oh, I hope she is sound, I hope she is sound......"  She was.  :)

Me on my amazing and once in a lifetime mount Riley.  Enough said, I've talked about him plenty in this blog.  Nikky is here also, on her great mare Pocket.  We are in the Itcha's with the Ilgatchuz behind us.

One of the greatest horses in the area.  This is "Rea".  She is out of our stock and is a big stout mare with an amazing mind and the most honest heart.  She was mums main steed for many years until her front end started to go.  I got married on this mare, and almost always chose to ride her when I was pregnant and or packing my boys.   Along with being solid as a rock and utterly trust-worthy, she is also very broke and certainly has more experience than most.  I remember once I was packing Jackson and moving cows up a big opening to range, pushing fairly hard to get them moving.  I could see there were two bulls starting to fight and as I started move away, they blew right through the back of the herd and directly towards me.  
Fighting bulls can be exceedingly dangerous as they see nothing but the fight and can have the power of a run away freight train.  I've literally seen them take out trees. 
For a split second, Rea and I both watched the inevitable about to happen.   Then with my frantic nudge backing up her instinct, she crouched and spun off to the side.  I literally felt the one bull rub against my leg, they were so close, and if she had not moved exactly as she did....   Extra hugs that day, and many others.  
Jackson is lucky to be able to call Rea "his" horse (although mum borrowed her back for a while when she broke her wrist last spring) and I'm sure Ben will get a few good years out of her too.  

Makes me feel pretty privileged when I actually stop to think about, and write down a bit about the horses in my life.  

Well, here's to good horses, good dogs and good friends!  And maybe some good long views......  :)

Cheers all,

Saturday 9 January 2016

A truly great day

I have to tell a bit of a story on Jackson first.  
He has been working hard at school, as usual.  One of his tasks was to write down what he was good at.  He quickly came up with quite a list, read it over, and then added one more.  
"Horse riding" 
And then announced that horse riding is not nearly as fun as people think, but he would write that down in case his parents saw his work.  
It really made me laugh when his teacher told me the story, but in a head shaking kind of way.  He really doesn't get to do a whole lot of things 'just for fun' (beside plain play of course) as everything we do on the ranch has work attached.  We don't ever ride for the pleasure of riding (besides in the mountains, but there is still a destination and certainly lots of work when we get there).  Quads are for work also.  Snowmobiles are essentially work machines as well around here, although occasionally they can be convinced to pull a sleigh or a skier at the same time.  Several years ago, Jackson was asked if he wanted to be a rancher like his dad.  He said "no, I want to do something where I get time off, like weekends or something."  

So....Jacksons birthday was January 1st, and his present from us was to go skiing.  So just he and I made a trip in to Williams Lake, for the sole purpose of having fun.  Crazy eh?  We stayed with some good friends Thursday night and headed up to Mt Timothy Friday morning.  Unfortunately, Jackson starting getting sick on our way in and puked all night.  I could not believe the misfortune!  But, by morning he was up, relatively healthy and determined to c
ontinue with his trip.

I had booked him a private lesson for 10am so we got our skis rented and cruised the bunny hill a few times to get our legs under us.  The instructor was impressed with Jackson abilities (even though it was technically only his second time on a mountain) and they soon headed up the lift together.  

I'm here to tell you, it was the weirdest feeling.  I'm often alone, and certainly I don't always have my kids with me, but I pretty much ALWAYS have something I SHOULD be doing.  Standing by the lodge, watching my son and his instructor head up the hill almost gave me a moment of panic.  NOW what do I do?  Pretty funny actually.  After a moment, I came back to my senses, realized there was absolutely nothing to be done but enjoy this beautiful day and headed up the lift myself.  It was so great.  Got a couple runs in by myself and then it was even more fun to ski with Jackson for the rest of the day.  He had a blast, gained a pile of confidence on his skis and did amazing.  And all I did was follow him around and enjoyed the most relaxing day I can remember having in a very long time.      

Though we were in shade most of the day, it was beautiful!  The Mt Timothy staff were pleasant and helpful and the mountain itself was perfect.   

  We have pretty much all of the mature cows over at Five Mile now and certainly the feeding routine is well established.  Everyone is enjoying this 'slower' time of year though and just trying to relax a bit.  Paul and Chloe have headed off to the States, so the house at Six Mile is eerily quiet.  Thing will begin to change again by the end of the month, and we will be back to pretty much a full crew by the middle of February.  Scary to think calving season is coming around so quickly!  WHAT?  I've just started recovering from last year!  

The trail ride season has booked up amazingly quickly this year.  In fact, there is just one spot unconfirmed for the entire season!  And I've had an inquiry on that.....  

Take care all, 

Sunday 3 January 2016

Note to Self

It's still cold, and honestly, there is not much of an end in sight.  Of course the forecast only calls for -21 tonight (-18 tomorrow, -16 the next night, warming to -15 the next and back to -17 .....)  Of course we know we can ALWAYS subtract another 5 to 15 degrees from any forecast (my thermometer already reads -22.7C).  There are rumors of it getting to -40 tonight......hope they stay rumors...  yuck.  

We've given up on waiting for the weather to warm up a bit, and the holidays are mostly over, so we've been moving stock around again.  As I mentioned, the days have been stunningly lovely and warming right up (to a balmy -5 or better). If you time it right, riding is just fine actually, especially if you can stay in the sun.  We moved cows along the road to Five Mile yesterday and it wasn't so warm....I could see the sun in the tree tops but was in full shade most of the time!  But, I'm pretty good at layering up and I'll always walk if I start getting chilled, so I was just fine.  But delighted to hit the sun again!  

We had some friends out for a few days and Miriam rode with me for the afternoon.  The sun started to go down before we were finished our day, and then it DID get cold!  

Beings as my trusty steed was still at Six Mile from yesterdays mini cattle drive, I had to use the snowmobile to move the bulls today.  And what a pain in the rear end THAT is!  Not nearly as mobile as I wanted and needed to be.  Aaargghh....    The snow is getting deep enough now that the dogs have trouble being much help....they tend to want to 'chase' and stay in the tracks, rather than 'go around' through the fresh snow.  So note to self.....when your dog is creating havoc and not listening properly (or maybe can't hear from all the snow in her ears) and is just adding to the chaos, you CANNOT use a metal whistle at -16 without it sticking to the inside of your lips.  
It's actually not funny.  At the time anyhow.    

Luckily my glowing temper at that point heated the whistle before ripping the skin in this very tender area, the dog came to her senses and the bulls decided their best option was to follow the trail we had set out for them.  All's well that ends well, right?  

 I think I should probably invest in a plastic whistle.   

Frosty Dealer Dog!  
No one has more fun than him in any weather, and he could care less about the temperature with his thick coat.  

In other news I'm finally getting to updating our website, so it was nice to look at photos of something besides snow!  

I'll share a few.....

 Photo Credit to Kris A.  

Summer Cattle Drive

 What are they after, do you think?  
Credit to Magalie S.  

Love this shot by Magalie S.  I think I should send it to the Western Horseman magazine.  

Cheers all, and keep warm....I'm off to stoke the fire!