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 30 October 2017

Rounded up and Shipped Out

Two of my favorite cowboys, Jackson and Cody. 

Well, we've ended up doing fairly well with our roundup of the herd.  We are currently missing 14 pairs and hopefully most of those will still show up.  And hopefully they are still "pairs", meaning momma with baby at side.  We are now able to look at numbers a bit closer and seems we got hit harder than we'd like or expect.  Too many calves did not come in with momma.  

Anyhow, the sorting and shipping out went well too.  Our great friend Cheryl (a retired rancher from the area) came out to help and she brings a world of experience, an incredible eye for cattle and her hilarious sense of unfiltered humor.  Everyone grinned when we heard she was making the journey out and she kept us all on our toes, as per normal.   

So the process starts with sorting the calves from the cows.  Easy enough.  We have a long alleyway and sort two ways.  The cows go one way, and the calves another.  I generally work the opposite end of the alley, keeping cows pushed forward for the main sorters and leaving calves behind me.  I never really get any photos sorting.  It doesn't make any sense to do so, as there is nothing much to see.   I should sit on the fence one day and take some video.  A good sorter moves very quietly and hardly appears to be doing anything at all.  Once you learn to watch though, you'll see a thousand tiny moves.  Blocking one cow with a shoulder and allowing another to move by with a twist of the hips, stepping forward to push a cow past and gently backing up to draw another one forward.  It is a quiet, constant slow dance.  We generally do carry a 'stick', but it is used as an extension of your arm, not as a weapon.  And  certainly sometimes the moves have to be quick, (got to block that cranky and determined old gal!)  but generally it is hard to tell the person is doing much at all.  Until you try it yourself, or watch an inexperienced sorter.    

You'll notice the white tags on the rump of some of these.  This keeps ownership organized when they get to the stock yards.

So then we have to 'sex' them, steers from heifers.  That can take a bit more time but with Cheryl as an extra hand, it went very quickly.  Next we go through the steers and pick out anything that doesn't fit in the group or should not go for whatever.  For example, if one is too small, or lame etc.   We put a white tag on the rumps of the calves belonging to Eli and I and then start loading.  Our calves are tagged as they are all sold together (with mum and dad's)  and this keeps straight who needs to be paid for what.  Easier if we can do it at home, keeps the yard crew happy in Williams Lake.  

By that time, the big trucks are usually pulling up.  As the guys are loading the first groups of steers, us gals are usually in the back, sorting heifers.  We go through and hold back the nicest ones for potential replacement, looking at all aspects and trying to remember the details of the mother as well, if possible.  As Eli and I have a smaller herd, I can always remember the cranky mommas, and try to never keep their calves.  Doesn't always work that way, but most times.  Of course we also hold back anything that might be lame, or too small etc.  (These 'misfits' come down to Five Mile for special treatment.  Without having to wrestle for their meals (as they would in the pen of bigger heifers) and with good shelter and grain, they grow up fine.  They are generally pasture raised over the summer and sent to market in early fall of the next year.

Gathering at Five Mile, snowy Itcha mountains in the background.  

As you can guess, it is a busy morning.  We started with the alleyway lights before daylight and all the trucks were loaded and away by 1:30.  

Magalie took this photo as she watched our sale via the computer.  You can just see Eli's foot and hat and Jackson to the far left of the picture.  

Alright folks, that's it for tonight.
I look forward to telling you more soon. 
Make it a good day and don't forget to hug and appreciate your loved ones.  

This sign at the stockyards in Williams Lake made me chuckle.  

Monday 16 October 2017

"Cool" Fall Riding Weather

Crazy how we went from the worst forest fire season in history to......

Uh huh....it's like that.  And stayed (and got, in turns, better and worse) for several days.  Yuck I say!  It's too early!

On the other hand, it sure makes rounding up cows easier!  Few inches of snow and some cool nights and they are quite sure the ol' tractor must be rolling out bales for them.  Wishful thinking.....

As mentioned in the last post, we sold  two liners of steers via the video sale in Williams Lake.  Mum and I usually go in for that sale, but between homeschooling, a hunter coming in and looking for cows, I figured I best stay home.  I did watch it live by my computer though.  This modern world....  We got a fair price and were happy with the sale.  Now we just have to get the cows rounded up and hope the calves meet our projected weights!   

Storming over the mountains.

The other reason I felt I should stay home is that we (mum and I) had taken much of the week before and gone to a Curt Pate Stockmanship Clinic.  What the heck is that....I can hear you ask.  Well, we have a young lady here who has become part of the family, despite the fact she has a Swiss passport.  She is currently taking the Applied Sustainable Ranching program through Thompson Rivers University.  To make a long story short, the program hosted Mr Pate, and as hosts of an international student, we were welcome to attend.  

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Eli said he hoped we would finally be able to figure out how to move a cow by the time we finished the clinic.  A few cross eyed looks may have been exchanged at that. 

Beginning of October compared to mid October.  

It was very interesting.  And I absolutely gained some knowledge.  Sometimes hearing a familiar process broken down by detail can bring about an entire different level of clarification, and from there, the smallest adaptations in technique can make quite a difference.  Many wouldn't really care I guess, but those tiny details are whats fun to me.  And along those same lines, he gave me words, phrases and ideas to be a better teacher myself and to really explain how and why we do what we do when working with stock.  How one person can get a miserable, cranky old cow in the barn with hardly a missed step (and not appear to be doing any more than wandering along behind her), and then next person has the gentlest old grandma cow so riled up she is running calves over and trying to smash fences.    But alright, I'll leave that alone.  I can feel I'm loosing some of you already and those interested in such minute details can find a much better writer than me to read!

It was also a reminder that there is ALWAYS something to be learned, no matter who you are!  I certainly gained more than a few awesome tips regarding horsemanship over the clinic, and I was also surprised to watch a few of his choices and methods.  Not that there was anything wrong with any of it (especially if you are six feet tall and a strong built man), and certainly the job got done, but I guess I somehow thought that many of the techniques that I have been taught over the years were more or less standard procedure.  Goes to show, there are many ways to skin that cat, and I need to get out more often!  But if Mr Pate ever asks, tell him that if you wrap your latigo three times (instead of two) when you are cinching a horse for the first time, it won't come loose, even if you can't get it tied off before he goes to bucking!   

Okay, I'm really leaving it alone now.   Sorry.  Get me talking cows and horses especially and I can go on all day long.  As anyone who has ever spent time in the round pen with me knows too well......   

So back on the ranch.  The boys and I have hit the books fairly seriously and are pretty dedicated to our school routine.  Well, I'm not sure dedicated is the correct word.  More like I'm determined and still the boss.  Haha.  They've been coming out riding with me in the afternoons, grumbling and growling (who isn't, with this snow), but secretly having fun.  It's great to have them with me.  There is nothing quiet about the ride (especially with snowballs to throw!), but entertaining anyhow.  Luckily they have such great (patient) horses and as long as I remember dry gloves and lots of snacks, we are good to go!    

Jackson has somehow snared Grandma's top mount "Ruby" and of course Ben is finely mounted on the one of a kind "Rea".  

We are about to move all the cows we've been gathering (on to our hay meadows) to one central spot.  Once counted in to there, we will really know where we stand with our numbers.  I'm feeling pretty confident that we are getting close to where we should be.  There is always a few old coots that stay out to the last minute and make us search every nook and cranny, but I don't think too many this year.  

Cheers all!

PS  As of this evening, most of the snow is gone again.  Hurray! 


Saturday 7 October 2017

Dearest Sheena

Greetings Sheena!
Thank you for writing and reminding me that I have not been keeping in touch.  It felt like I didn't have much good to say and time just got away from me.  No excuse.    
We are all fine and dandy but has been quite a summer here in the wild west.  Not all positive, that's for certain.  But we have our health and good feed for our critters, so that's a good start. 
You know that the spring wasn't an easy one either, as we dealt with the results of having such poor feed.  I have to tell you, it makes you appreciate seeing those cows so fat and cheeky now!  

You probably heard about the incredible fire season we had over the summer.  It actually started during our Rodeo weekend.  We saw the lightening storm pass by and wow, did it do some damage!  That was about the 6th of July and many parts of BC are still burning now (although as far as I know, everyone is back in their homes and fires are considered "contained").  We were really very fortunate here in Anahim Lake and at the ranch.  The closest fire was about 45km away from us (25km from our town).  It could have gone badly (we did get an evacuation order and many people left), but in the end, we were really quite fine.  Not so our neighbors to the east.  Homes, outbuildings, miles and miles of fence, grazing land, and timber went up in smoke.  Not to mention cows and wildlife.  It really was a nightmare for so many.   

Smoke plumes to the east of Six Mile ranch. 

For us on the ranch, it was eerily business as usual.  Seemed very strange with so many of our neighbors (far to the east) fighting for their homes and livelihoods.  We did help evacuate stock from a neighboring ranch, accept horses and offer pasture, but this far out (and with highways closed in several places), there was not much else we could do.  

The toughest part for us is that the government decided on a blanket closure on all Parks in the Cariboo Chilcotin.  Meaning that we could not take our guests into the mountains.  All summer long.  In early July, here in our mountains, the order was absolutely ridiculous, and incredibly frustrating.  We had snow up there for 2 days before we got the notice.  We are still recovering from last years monsoon rains and as I rode range (always a pleasure) while I should have been in the mountains, I slogged through mud and water, enjoyed beautiful lush grass and incredible flowers.  In fact, it is still green here, although the frost is finally getting the best of the tops of the grass.  This is not the case a very short distance away....drive 50km and beyond to the east and the difference is incredible.....burnt out (from sun, heat and/or fire) and brittle dry still.  Anyhow, it is what it is.  We are thankful to have a home and a business still, some are not so lucky.  Now we just have to figure out how to book two summers worth of guests into one!  Ha!   

Hay fields looking good!

The good part of me not getting to go trail riding was that I spent many hours riding and exploring our new range (and the old ones).  I spent many nights up in "Cow Camp" and usually had the company of either Cody, Magalie or mum.  I do love new country, what fun.  We got lots of miles on the colts too.  

Good help makes all the difference!  Laura and Magalie helping push cows on summer range.  

The BAD part (besides me shoeing all those dang horses for the practice!) is that mum and I both got stuck out in the hay fields WAY more than generally necessary.  Usually we train the new crew and then pack up and head merrily on our way to the mountains.  Not so this year.  It did work out well though, honestly, and we got great hay up.  Such a treat after last years disaster.  I'm almost looking forward to feeding it to the herd this winter, just to prove we didn't mean to feed them such crap last year, that we really can put up quality hay when Mother Nature cooperates.  

Eli figures that he and dad are spoiled now and that we are no longer allowed to head for the hills during haying.  I won't write down mum's reply for fear of turning ears red, but you can about imagine.........  

Wow, this got long quick!  I'll try and makes things brief so I don't loose you.  The fall has continued to be nice and our cows and calves are really looking outstanding.  I am going to attach a youtube link, hopefully it works.  I took these photos and videos about 2 weeks ago.  We sell a couple of liners of steer calves on Wednesday (through the regular auction but this video is what the buyers see.  We will actually deliver them on October 23rd.) 

You should see a colored link on the line below.  Let me know if it doesn't work.  (And I'll do something about that?)

2017 Cows and Calves

I am homeschooling the boys again.  They would love to join the public school (it gets a bit lonely out here), but with that drive 2 times a day, and considering how far they came academically last year at home......  back to mom as teacher.  Poor guys.  

So in most recent news, we are starting to get serious about rounding up our cows.  So far we've pretty much just opened the meadow gates.....that works very well but there are always strays out there that can't be bothered coming in.  Having said that, we've had a few shots of snow in the last week or so, and that certainly brings the cows home!  

Snow in the Ilgatchuz and a bite in the air!

As daylight gets shorter and evenings get longer, I'm going to do my level best to get back to blogging and posting photos consistently.  I often think about writing, and do rough drafts in my head (long rides to the Cabin or miles of hayfields provide that time, but not the time to actually write!)  There is plenty to talk about, good experiences and not so.  I thought I should start writing a country song or poem at one point, but there as so many similar ones I figured it wouldn't fly.   

Oh, did I tell you Dealer Dog suffered a broken leg?  (He is fine now....)  Ah, but another time I'll get in to that.   I'm back at it.  :)

I'm still amazed at the crazy sunsets we get here at Five Mile.

Thanks for your patience everyone!