Photography, Ranch Life

Comfort and Cold on the Winter Plains

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The holidays have come and gone… a time of rich blessings and memories. My boys are at an age where they are understanding, excited, and believe in the magic of it all.  We enjoyed all our favorites, baking cookies, our visiting Elf on the Shelf, time with family and friends.

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While the holidays are ushered out, we have ushered in subzero frigid temperatures. The northern Plains are no stranger to cold, wind, and snow but days of subzero temperatures are sobering and tiring. My kiddos and pets are stir crazy, corraled in the house because just 10 minutes in -21 degree weather freezes paws and delicate cheeks. It is a time to enjoy the warmth of cuddles and heavy blankets, movies and books by dim lights, and warm comfort food in our bellies.

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When we couldn’t stand being indoors any longer we ventured out to help feed. The tractor cab is a little cozy for all of us to fit, but a good time for family bonding and guarantees warmth. Since my childhood, a loud engine, warm cab, and bumpy ride are equivalent to instant sleep for this gal so yesterday’s chores proved a great time for a nap.

We do tractor cab selfies!

Though the temperatures were frigid, the wind has been calm and the sun bright these last few days.  This latest cold is the type that makes your face hurt, like needles. The crisp dry air hits the lungs like a knife. Fogs of expired air surround all those brave enough to venture out. My hubby will be in full-on Jeremiah Johnson beard mode until the warmer days of spring. His red bear is usually sporting actual frost highlights this time of year. DSC_7566 copy

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When I think about our lives here on the Northern Plains, we are surrounded by a beauty. Not the beauty that awes you and smacks you in the face like a Rocky Mountain vista or ocean. There is a subtly to its beauty, a quietness in its presentation. It is easy to look out and see nothing but blades of dry grass amongst a canvas of white. Maybe the beauty is in the somber nothingness of the view, a sort of quiet reflection. There is beauty in the details…the glitter of the snow on the ground, the strong skeletons of trees and bushes, ready to support life in just a few more months.

 

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There are reminders of those that have come to these Prairies before us, an outhouse sits in our yard reminding us to be grateful for indoor working plumbing and running water. 

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Tomorrow is back to official reality. Welcome 2018. This weather is expected to warm, making life a whole lot easier for ranchers and the animals they care for. We have a winter of sledding, snow balls, and ice skating left to enjoy so shape up weather. 

Community, Life Lessons

Quirky Vehicles and the Love We Have For Them

*We have been very distracted by Christmas happenings in our family. I had wrote this blog waiting to take some photos to fit the theme. Since I haven’t posted in a while I thought I would share as is. *

 

I have never driven a brand new car or enjoyed the odor of a new car besides sniffing those little Christmas tree air fresheners labeled “New Car Smell”.  I feel like I have earned a badge of honor for driving my vehicles until they literally become clunkers.

Thru vet school I drove a dark blue Dodge Stratus with a chewed up back seat arm rest (thanks to a bored Brody Lab puppy in the backseat on a 12 hour car ride from Iowa to North Dakota).  We packed on the miles driving back and forth and I swore I would drive that car “until the wheels came off” and that they did. I remember the day I called Brad telling him my right hind wheel was displaced craniomedially and things seemed “broken”. My vet school classmate that happened to be with him to translated  that the rear passenger wheel was broken and the top of the wheel was angled towards the car frame.

So I am no stranger to quirky vehicles. My current ride is an Expedition pushing 200,000 miles and I am proud of how well it has handled our crazy crew of kids and critters. I eagerly wait for the number to roll over to 200,000 so I can Instagram it, as a mother would document a proud moment in her kid’s life! Then one day it didn’t start. My flaking paint, mud coated Expedition was trailered to the shop to await someone to figure out it’s woes and return it to function.

In the mean time, I needed a ride so was lent my dad’s old Explorer..or Exploder with “tinker toy suspension” as my hubby refers. This wasn’t just a turn the key and go sort of vehicle.  It had rules…quirks to tend to for it to function in any sort of way. My dad is a mechanic and the seats are evident of such, black as oil and grease with the matching odor.

The quirks were simple enough:

  1. Most importantly…Don’t lock the doors or they may never open again. A new locking mechanism was worth more than the vehicle or its contents. Do you know how habitual it is to hit that lock button…and so muscle memory took over and I locked the doors…oops.  Rule #1 already broken.
  2. The heater only blows on high or off. If you get too hot just turn it off or open the window.
  3. But the window may or may not close and if it does will take forever to roll back up if you do get it down.
  4. It will shimmy and shake if you go over 65mph but sometimes you can push thru the shimmy if you get it up to 75.
  5. There is no working car charger for your phone so make sure you have a fully charged phone to use when you call for help when it breaks down!

 

Though the loan of the quirky Explorer was kind we  rented a new Silverado to be our ride while our vehicle was in the shop…I even took a picture of the mileage because the number was so small…if my Expedition was nearing its retirement celebration here was a new baby vehicle making its way in the world. It even had that new car smell and not thanks to some little tree shaped freshener. As is our way, we quickly broke it in with a rock chip and red dust covering the dash.  I watched the miles click higher and higher in just our short time with a new realization for just how many miles we log back and forth, up and down the road.

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For me these vehicles that safely get us from point A to B become a part of our family’s story and memories, a familiarity and comfort (I can still remember crying in the bathroom of the dealer as we said goodbye to our family’s Jeep).

I liked the new vehicle…with its fancy back up camera and “newness”. But when I got my old rusty Expedition back I admit it felt right and familiar.  We had picked it up fixed and the roads home were slick and snow packed, but I knew just how it would respond, how the 4 wheel drive would kick in and how it would handle the road ahead . The worn indent in the seat seems almost sculpted to my butt from all our miles together and the wheel is positioned just how I like it. The rear passenger door inner door handle is broke off and the lights of the dash clock flicker on and off in a most unreliable fashion. It has its own quirks!

 

My morning view driving out of the yard.  I have seen some of the most fantastic sunrises and sunsets while driving. 

 

The discussion of whether we should get a new vehicle came up when our old Expedition was in the shop but I don’t think I am quite ready to say goodbye.

So for those hitting the roads this holiday weekend…enjoy your ride! Some of my best childhood memories occurred while sitting in the backseat of a Jeep Cherokee with my sisters traveling down the road. Not to mention all the miles and memories the Hubby and I logged driving back and forth, with music and words to pass the time.

Veterinary Health Topics

Mouse, Mouse Go Away… the Dangers of Rodenticides to Pets

This time of year, more people will reach for a rodenticide (rat poison) to keep pesky mice out of barns and homes. Increased exposure means increased risk….and not all rat poisons are equal in their potential harm to our pets.

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If your pet has been exposed to or eaten rat poison it is very important to find the box and look at the ingredients.  Although it may not always be possible, knowing the type and active ingredient of the poison, the estimated amount ingested, your pet’s current weight, and when the poison was ingested will ensure the veterinary team can provide the best possible treatment available.

Not all rat poisons are equal!

There are 4 main types of rat poison available on the market:

  1. Anticoagulants
  2. Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
  3. Bromethalin
  4. Phosphide rodenticides

The two we most commonly see are the anticoagulants and bromethalin. Of the two bromethalin is the most devastating as there is no antidote.

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Vitamin K is the antitode for the anticoagulant rodenticides and if ingestion of the anticoagulants is caught early it is fairly straight forward to treat with a great prognosis. Anticoagulants cause a failure of clotting and early signs can be bleeding from the gums, bruising of the skin, or bleeding in vomit or feces. Bleeding can continue into joints or body cavities leading to death without treatment.

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Bromethalin on the other hand is a neurotoxin that causes fluid to build up around the brain and spinal cord, leading to signs such as stumbling, mental dullness, seizures, tremors, paralysis, and death.

The signs of both toxins are delayed… with Bromethalin it can be 12-24 hours and signs can continue for days and with the Anticoagulants any signs of failure to clot and bleed may be delayed 2-3 days.

What to do if your pet ingests a rat poison?

Seek veterinary care! Pets seen eating bait or with owners that realize bait was ingested early have the best prognosis. Early decontamination (inducing vomiting) and treatment is critical. If pets are already showing signs of poisoning the prognosis is more guarded. Remember the signs of poisoning are delayed so your pet may initially act completely normal after ingesting the bait. With rat poisons waiting can mean the difference between life and death (especially with Bromethalin rodenticides).

How to protect your pet?

  • Supervise your pet in any unknown location and survey the location for any bait stations or rodenticide left out. Many pets are unknowingly exposed when they go for a run at the family farm or visit a vacationer’s cabin where owners were unaware of the presence of bait.
  • Avoid rodenticide bait and/or ensure no access by your pet.
  • Talk with neighbors and family to encourage them to avoid poisons if your pet may have access to their property as well.
  • Keep cats indoors or supervised if at all able.
  • Do a careful walk-thru of any new properties, home, apartment prior to allowing your pet exposure looking for hazards and bait. Don’t forget basements, cabinets, closets, garages, and around the outdoor areas.

 

Avoidance of any potential rat poison remains the best option to keep our pets safe. The most life-threatening situation emerges when a pet presents with signs after they unknowingly ingested the rat poison. Stay safe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motherhood, Photography, Ranch Life

The Photo Shoot

Last month was school picture time. We can all remember school picture day… my sisters and I seemed to have a knack for picking the trendiest, least timeless outfit from our closets (think puffy paint sweatshirts, Hypercolor, Garth Brooks style western wear with lime green Roper jeans that served as a bra in addition to their function as jeans, and the list goes on).  The Little Cowboy didn’t really get all that excited about “Picture Day”…it was just another day where it just so happens your likeness will be preserved for all entirety only to re-appear in a high school graduation slide show. He picked his outfit and we tried to make sure his hair wasn’t sticking up.

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One of his little classmates brought pictures of herself to share with the class. He quickly declared that he wanted to share pictures too… great… we can cut up this little 1×2″ school pictures where he was positioned just so, with his shoulders off-center to the camera and his smile as awkward as can be. But no, those photos would not do.

In more of a senior photo shoot style, he had plans to share photographs that expressed who he was and what he loved. The instructions were laid out… he needed his pony for these photos. Every good cowboy needs to showcase their horse. He would borrow a toy gun with sound (even though it was a still photo and not videography) from his Grandpa. He had his rope, saddle, chaps, cowboy hat, and vest. He was a cowboy not of the Country Music Signer era with rhinestoned back pockets but of the Old West, where grit not glitter defined a cowboy.

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I learned this summer when we visited the Range Rider’s Museum in Montana (this kid’s Disney Land) and I had asked for a photo that “cowboy’s didn’t have smiles back in that day”. So the Little Cowboy with his infectious giggle and round, rosy cheeks will cross his arms, tilt his hat, and straighten his mouth like the weathered, worn cowboys that rode the range.

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I snuck a smile. 

While the Little Cowboy may be tough in spirit he is still my 5 year old baby boy, apparent when giant tears rolled down his face has he mounted his pony. He remembered his tumble off her when she had put her head down to eat and he was afraid.  His Dad is more patient and knows just what to say to calm his nerves… he asked him to sing one of his favorite songs…

“Sit tall in the saddle. Hold your head up high. Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain’t afraid to die. And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride.”

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His Dad seemed to know that this Little Cowboy needed a job to distract his fearful mind. So off he went to push heifers out the corral.  As it turned out the photo from this moment was his favorite….the “ONE” that would be shared with his entire classroom. “I need nine of this picture Mom!”

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The ‘ONE”

So don’t expect that traditional school picture. Instead you will be getting a photo that truly captures who he sees himself as…a working cowboy mounted on his trusty little pony tending to his stock. It is a picture that could have been taken one hundred years ago and told the same story.

 

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.  

– Aaron Siskind

 

Photography, Ranch Life

Winter has Arrived…Ready or Not!

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North Dakotans know well after mid October that each checked calendar date box is much is like turning the crank of a Jack in the Box…Jack Frost is just ready and waiting to pop out but unlike the fun childhood game it seems once he is released there is no shoving this Jack back in the box until well into spring.

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No matter how surely winter will come I can guarantee we will not be ready. It is always seems a surprise whether snow flies in October or December. There is always a to-do list of projects we hope to complete before ice, snow, and cold arrive. Since our winter is long and weather so irregular in the fall and spring we rarely ever completely pack up all the winter gear in the spring and slowly unpack into the fall. So it was a quick scramble to find coveralls, thicker hats and gloves, and long underwear to layer below.

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On a farm and ranch winter brings inherent challenges…waterers freeze, equipment grumbles at the thought of having to start in subzero temps, and chores that were a breeze in warmer weather take longer. In summer, our kiddos run half feral, with boots and underwear the only guaranteed apparel. In winter, the simple task of readying to go outside takes sooo much longer with boots, hats, mittens, layers and more layers.

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The kiddos love to be outside no matter the weather. Rosy cheeks chapped by harsh winter winds and tearing eyes are a hallmark of our winters.

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The snowflakes falling are gorgeous when viewed from our warm and cozy home but winter came in full force, compete with gusty winds and icy roads and though the thought of hibernating at home seems lovely it isn’t a reality. It was a scramble to find the windshield scraper and remember how to drive on slick roads once again.

The ones most prepared for winter are the animals with their thick, fluffy hair and wool coats.  Dropping temps, shorter days, and hormonal changes prepare have prepared them for the winter ahead.  They seem most content and accepting of the reality of our seasons.

Winter may brings its challenges, but it also brings its own beauty, a reflection inwards, and a time for togetherness.

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

Yoko

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Life Lessons, Motherhood

No means No…or Does It?

*I wrote this one weekend a while back and just let it sit… but I wanted to revisit the topic as we move into the holiday season.*

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My toddler is far less verbal than my first kiddo but one thing that seems perfectly clear is “No”.  He has always been interactive and communicative in his own way and understood everything you say but words haven’t been his strong suite. The toddler just turned two in August and has really come into his own at expressing his clear disagreement with “No” clear as a bell.  In fact he has multiple “No-s”.

There is “NOOOO” with a angry vibrato and deep conviction. “Hey buddy we will need to finish up playing so we can go home soon.” With frustration and anger his whole body will growl “NOOOOO!”.

Then there is the annoyed, how dare you ask “No- aah” with a little toddler sas. “Did you want to play with this toy?” Then the clearly “you don’t understand my preferences and desires Mother” response of “Noo-ah”. This is also a popular response when the suggestion of a nap  is made.

The final most distinct variations is the quick, sharp “No” or “Nope” which is done when he is just too busy and needs to get us out of his hair. While he is busy running around outside, we might ask “Do you want some water?” and without much acknowledgement as he sprints by “No” and he is gone.

That is in stark contrast to my “No-s”?

“Well maybe?”

“We will see.”

“If I have time.”

“I will think about it”

“Probably not”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so.”

“I am not sure…we might have…bla…bla”

There is the “Well actually, umm…”

Or the ignore the request until it hopefully just magically disappears or they forget to ask again…

I was wisely told “Let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”.

Simple enough but it really isn’t. I had to really reflect on how many times my brain and body are screaming “no” but out of my mouth comes some wishy washy answer that implies there might be a chance.

This is pretty evident with my kiddos. The question goes “Can we do X after supper?”. By all accounts there is no way on Earth we are going out after dark to hunt coyotes while sleeping under the sheet they fashioned as a tent when the temperature is 32 degrees. So instead of a “No, let’s do this instead” I say “We will see….” See about what Jessie, about the temperature suddenly warming 40 degrees or the spring equinox coming back around to extend the day light.

Saying “no” is hard because it makes me realize in saying no I might disappoint someone or create conflict that would be easier to push aside.

Saying no is really an art to balance your own personal happiness and joy and the requests that seem to never stop some days.

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I am not an expert (far from it) at saying “No” but here is what I am working on:

  1. Priorities: What do I value? They say you make time for what matters so instead of pushing off requests and invites either they matter enough to say yes or the honest truth is I have other priorities. I realized that the only person I am truly not replaceable to is my family. A client may say they adore me but the reality is they will get their needs served elsewhere if I should drop off the Earth or even just be unavailable for a simple day here and there.
  2. Am I just being nice so I get praise and attention? What is the reason I am saying yes. Will it really bring joy or am I doing it for someone’s else’s approval and attention.
  3. Will saying yes now create a precedence for the future that I am not prepared for. This happens with my kiddos a lot…but yesterday you said we could have ice cream at 11pm
  4. I can say “No” and that be OK. I don’t have guard anyone against the disappointment or emotion that may come with that sacrificing my own feelings.

….How do you say “No”? Are you a “No” means “No” person?

Life Lessons, Ranch Life

Following the Cow Paths

The height of summer when pastures are supposed to be green and lush, instead brought brown and stunted. The growing season was marked by drought. Day after day went by without a cloud in the sky until August. The pasture grasses are shorter than usually this fall, as cows were shifted and moved, moved and shifted from one smaller pasture to another in an effort to best utilize the grass available.

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Highlighted across the short grass pastures are trails, meandering dirt paths taking cows from one desired location to another. From shelter behind the trees to the water tank. From one gait to the next. It got me thinking….why is the path in this location? Our main pastures are fairly level with little terrain to re-route a developing trail. Why does every single cow and calf follow this exact path enough to wear it down to dirt and then a rut, forming a narrow foot wide path?  Why do they meandor like they do? Is not the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B to follow a straight line?

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Turns out a lot of other people have spent some time thinking about cow paths. In fact there is a myth that the aimlessly meandoring streets of Boston were simply paved cowpaths. This myth has been debunked and shifted more towards the failure of human’s in their city’s planning. But interesting none the less to think of cow paths forming our major transport system.

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Researchers (Ganskopp, Oregon State University) have used GPS and GIS to investigate cow paths even further. They found that in areas of concentration, say around a water source, the paths actually braided together. Two or three intersecting trails with a common destination would occur within yards of each other as groups of cattle moved to and from. Cattle prefer to follow major drainages within a pasture. It makes sense they would parallel them but not travel the lowest point where the ground may be rockier and more rugged. They preferred lower elevations and just like us, most didn’t like to hoof it straight up and down a hill but would transverse at an angle across it. Cattle may take a steeper, more rugged approach to a desired destination but prefer a gentler incline and path away. Turns out is rarely the same path to and from the desired destination.

When you see a horse lope or run across a pasture it is this awe-inspiring marvel at nature’s grandeur. When you see a cow or sheep run across a pasture it is a much more utilitarian image. Sheep and cows are prey animals so flight seems a nature response so while utilitarian in appearance it is quite effective. If the need arises, it is amazing how quickly and athletically a cow can transverse rough terrain. Without threat or encouragement they are more content to put their head down and follow.

In business, there is the “Cow Path Theory”. The idea that one cow has created this path and each and every cow thereafter follows mindlessly, without thought of threats or the potential for a more efficient pathway. There is no challenge of the winding path as the cow plods along with its head down.  The idea translates to the business where the original management creates a pathway for business efficiency and management and employers to follow mindlessly follow with failure to evolve.

Sam Walter Foss paints a picture of pastoral life but challenges us to move off the path of repitition and familiarity. Do we accept our path without challenge because it was set forth for us? Do we do things “that way” because “that is always how it has been done”. Do we problem-solve, question, challenge, find new solutions to old problems or challenge our every day hum-drum, the head down “cow path” of our every day.

For men are prone to go blind

Along the cow paths of the mind.

~Sam Walter Foss

The Calf-Path

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.