Community, Life Lessons, Ranch Life

Memorial Day

I sat at the prayer service. There were prayers for the soul of the faithful departed and songs of praise to our Lord. I couldn’t help but think…is this it?! Her time on Earth was done, tears fell from the cheeks of the loved ones, and some said prayers of relief that her Earthly struggles were now relieved. From this perspective, here was this century of life, all wrapped up and concluded with an hour long funeral service.

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Today is Memorial Day, a day of remembrance of lose we have loved and lost and of our brave soldiers that gave their lives to this country. It isn’t a tradition in the strictest of senses but over the years we have found nearly every Memorial Day weekend we visit the nearby cemetery. It is just down the road, around the corner, and north of our home place (The Pioneer Community: The Power of Connection).  We headed to our prairie cemetery as we were, with remnants of breakfast in the corner of the littlest one’s smile, tousled hair and dirty hands, and soiled mismatched clothing. Our oldest brought a bouquet of Great- Grandpa Sam’s favorite flowers, lilacs with some dandelions to complete the arrangement, he had picked that morning.

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Our eldest sang “Proud to be an American” with his hand upon his heart firmly planted in front of the statue of the Crucified Jesus. Though clearly confused, I was proud he had the pieces present of reverence and remembrance this Memorial Day.

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As we walked thru the cemetery, the headstone of one area woman caught my mother-in-laws eye…”Oh Rosemary… you would have liked her!” And stories of her talent and life followed.  This, I thought, was “it”…not a stiff and formal funeral service with a guest book of supporters in your remaining family’s grief. This…these memories that come and go, that come as a part of oral and written history, from our family and those whose lives we have touched in the smallest or largest ones…this is what remembering our loved one’s means.

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Those years of life have meaning in what is left behind, tangible and intangible.  My boys never met their Great Grandpa Sam or Great Grandpa Frank, yet they know the stories and pieces left behind. Just as the memories get fuzzy… just when I can’t quite hear my Grandma’s voice like I used to a moment arises and I hear her words as clear as yesterday. There are pieces of her alive every day in my memories and mind. Every so often I look down to see a little feather amidst the blades of grass and think of her… a lover of angels and I think it is her little way of staying connected.

Being a farm family brings a unique remembrance. The stories of those before us are felt every day as we live on the land those brave pioneers before us settled. I think because we live a life so close to those before us, it is sometimes easier to feel their presence in our every day. My kids see the buildings built by the hands of a man they never knew but speak of regularly. As they climb the aged and towering Cottonwood tree, a quick story from the life of who planted it easily emerges. These simple stories of moments in time long-passed keep that person’s spirit alive.

There is a legacy . The inheritance isn’t in the form of wealth but in a way of life, of appreciation for the land and the creatures that live upon it. It a legacy of character. I am not sure our great grandparents, grandparents, and those loved and lost really put much thought into a formal and grand legacy to leave behind for the generations to come. They all seemed the type of people that got up each morning, did the best they could despite weaknesses and vices, worked hard, and provided for their family.

“Those we love can never be more than a thought away…for as long as there is a memory that lives in our hearts to stay.”

May this Memorial Day find you at peace, remembering the lives of those you have loved and lost. Gone from our sides, they have a special place in our hearts and minds.

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.

Community, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Ranch Life

I Go To Nature

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“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order”.
~John Burroughs

I love sensory bins and experiences…I have Pinterest boards full of bins with beans and rice or water beads…I follow Instagram slime enthusiasts! I do what today’s modern good mother does and sensitize my kiddos!

Yet, the ultimate sensory experience though remains out our front door…in nature!  A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday morning, our little family dressed and hit the dirt road before the sun rose in search of deer sightings.

 

The fall brings warm days but brisk nights. The moon was still in the sky and the air cool as we drove thru neighborhood. The dawn is a perfect time to spot wildlife as they are busy feeding and moving before the heat of the day and bright sun drives them to their beds.

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While Hubby and the oldest headed out to scout and glass along the horizon of the Badlands, the Little One and I headed out on a nature walk.

Sharing nature with a child, allows me to see what my eyes and senses have been blinded to.

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The Little One is always searching for birds in the sky or bugs on the ground. Finding the littlest of ants is cause for the biggest of celebrations.  While the eyes are searching, the feet are exploring the terrain. I have seen the uneven plastic stepping stones to encourage balance offered for sale on Amazon. In the cow pasture, dried cow pies serve a similar purpose as the Little One jumped from one to the next as he balanced on top of the irregular circle of undigested fiber.

 

Sticks, moss, and bark stimilate the developing nervous system as we touch and feel. My favorite grass is Little Bluestem and the hill sides come alive in its vibrant red this time of year. As we walk by and rub the sage with our pant legs, our noses are filled with the pungent earthy odor.

We crawl under and over and thru branches and brush. The Little One tests his strength and balance as he finds his limits.

Being in nature truly engages all one’s senses as we listen to birds sing and the hum of the oil pumper melodically pumping up and down, up and down.

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We went to a new location to scout and as we rounded the road tens of butterflies were disturbed from their feeding on golden rod. As we walked amongst them it was like being in our own private butterfly conservatory.

There is so much nature all around us to enjoy. Here are some things we have cultivated amongst our kids.

1) Encourage quiet observation. In our busy world, slow those little minds and have them truly observe their surroundings. Do you see wildlife? How many rocks are on that hillside?

2) Touch it… why not! Unless it is poisonous or going to bite feel the textures of nature.

3) Don’t forget the sounds… animal calls are big in our house. Beyond “what does a cow say?”  we do turkeys, moose, squirrels, etc.

4) Be careful but not too careful! Explore! Test limits but don’t fall down the ravine.

5) Fresh air is good for the body and mind! Get that heart rate up climbing hills or hiking those trails!

“The senses are a kind of reason. Taste, touch and smell, hearing and seeing, are not merely a means to sensation, enjoyable or otherwise, but they are also a means to knowledge – and are, indeed, your only actual means to knowledge.” 
~St. Thomas Aquinas

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Community, Life as a Veterinarian, Life Lessons, Ranch Life

Windshield Wiper Installation for Dummies

I had politely suggested to my hubby that my rear windshield wiper needed to be replaced. After a number of “suggestions” I decided surely I could handle purchasing and installing a wiper. So I stopped at the local parts store and walked to the counter declaring my needs…. then they asked if I would like help with installation.

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I wanted to DIY this and show my self-reliance but thoughts of  the possible complications that could arise…looking like a defeated fool if I should fail at this, breaking the wiper right off the vehicle, or worse yet flipping the wiper switch while driving down the road only to watch it fly off, hit a passing car, and result in an epic interstate collision. So I said, “Sure” like of course I know how to put a simple little wiper on but why not utilize such a convenience service, hiding my fear and insecurity.

Here’s the thing… I am not a DIYer unless I have been properly educated and received the necessary instructions, certifications, etc. to declare myself “trained”!

Blame it on my decades of life in the educational system. I can remove the ovaries and uterus of a two pound living, breathing creature with ease but replacing my wiper without proper training…well that just seemed dangerous and complicated!

My hubby on the other hand is a very confident DIYer and to suggest we hire someone to roof our house or change our oil is an insult at the core of his manhood. About the only thing he admittedly refused to DIY was the birth of our kids, though he had plenty of experience as a ruminant midwife.

I remember as excited new homeowners we had decided to put up crown molding in the dining room our 1890 “corn crib” of an Iowa home. I was frantically reading the how-to books in the aisle of the Lowes determining what supplies we needed and how this project should be done “properly” while my hubby was randomly throwing supplies onto the flatbed cart.

He is definitely a “Learn by Doing” and I am a “Learn then Do”. 

He even laughs at our veterinary “cook books” he calls them, with detailed pictures and guidance for surgeries and procedures. Turns out the living body is pretty complicated and while you could probably just dive right into a adrenalectomy there could be some serious complications without the correct game plan and knowledge base prior. Many hours are spent “learning and training” with mentorship prior to being set free as a full fledged veterinarian. Of course there is plenty of learn by doing but it rides on the back of a pretty solid education in physiology, anatomy, and pharmacology.

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My favorite “cookbook” as my hubby calls them!

So I carefully watched the parts store woman put my wiper blade on and thought about asking for detailed how-to instructions but settled for the mental how-to. I even thought about lying to my husband, declaring “I did this all by myself!” but he knows me too well and would see right thru the lie. Now if the purchase of “How to Install a Rear Windshield Wiper in a 2010 Ford Expedition…for Dummies” book showed up on our debit card statement he might….

 

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Community, Life Lessons, Ranch Life

When You Fall Off, Get Back On

My Little Cowboy adores his pony, Beauty. She is the perfect pony for the novice rider, with a few decades of life experience, a kind heart, and calm demeanor. Not to say she wasn’t a spunky naughty little pony in her younger years, but her first Little Cowgirl got that all straightened out.

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If you get aboard a horse there will likely be a time when you will exit unwillingly. I can remember my worst fall (though certainly the least dramatic and most unexpected), subsequent visit to the ER, and healing of a broken wrist.

I was walking ahead as we rode to the old corrals. Down the hill the Little Cowboy and his pony went, when Beauty spied some forbidden green (she is a laminitic pony after all) and her head went down. As her head went down, the saddle went up and forward, and the Little Cowboy summersaulted forward and to the ground.

It wasn’t his first fall and won’t be his last. But it got me thinking about that fall. He hit the ground, assessed his wounds…or lack there of. He determined himself not injured and got back on. In fact, I think his little chest puffed up a bit each time he shared the story of his cowboy adventure.

For myself, hitting the ground,while of course it scares me to death, really isn’t the worst part. Call me the opposite of an adrenaline junky, but for me the scariest moment is that time when all control is lost and there is that uncertainty. Will I break every bone, die, or simply bruise my ego? Skiing, horse back riding, roller blading…all the same… it is that fear of the moments of falling…not the fall itself.

In thinking on life, there are many times I have fallen, failed, or my idea hit the dirt. Many times there was relief when I had reached the “bottom”. My confidence may have  been shaken, but the end was present. The best I could do was brush off and ride on to the next adventure.

But what about that failing and falling…when you grab for the saddle horn of stability only to find none. The more I try to control this thing called life, the more I realize I have very little control….and so the saying goes…

“Just Enjoy the Ride”

I have just hoped for more blue sky, green grass trail rides.

That feeling of fear of that unknown landing and lack of control is often present for me. I suppose it my style to be cautious and reserved but sometimes you have to take risks for big rewards. So we all keep “getting back in the saddle and when the ride gets rough and the fall is coming, what’s a gal to do but hope for a soft cushioned landing and to want to reach out for stability or a pick-up man. So if the fall is coming, what if I take a deep breath and don’t fight the lack of control but embrace this bump in the plan. What if I reach for friends, family, or my religion to provide stability, to steady me thru the rough parts. I suppose that is the blessing, that none of us ride truly  alone.

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What builds resiliency for falls off ponies and falls in life?  Here are some that I see:

  1. Confidence… the ability to get back on ready for the adventure. As the Little Cowboy said “I fell but it didn’t hurt so I am not afraid!”.
  2. Competency…the more we practice and become proficient the less fear. Get back in that saddle.
  3. Comfort… when he fell the Little Cowboy turned to me to wipe his tears and brush the dust off his back. Do we have a support system we can turn to?

It was a little fall for the Little Cowboy, but a big reminder of my own fears. It was a little pause to resaddle and regroup, but also a pause for reflection.

How about you? How do you deal with the falls in life? Is there fear or thrill?

Community, Motherhood, Ranch Life

Mud Run Birthday Party

 

 

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Prepare  for a photo overshare! The little wild one turned 2 and we celebrated with a mud run…it was fantastic! Some vowed to stay clean but the temptation of mud was too strong. I was left with a 1″ layer of mud on the bottom of my tub, but priceless memories!

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Homemade ice cream and pizza were on the menu! Thanks to everyone that came and joined the fun. As it turns out many of us grew up in female dominated families but now we are over-run with boys…wild, loud, fun-loving boys!!! Being a boy mom definitely has its perks and mud runs are one of them.

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The obstacles included a rope swing over a pool, pallet climb, tires, spider web…and of course the mud part of the course. I think some of them made a dozen laps around!

The Wild One was a hose spraying maniac. He even got a little glint in his eyes and the entire spectator section also got a little water hose spray down!

 

So. Many. Photos!

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So. Many. Photos!

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“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” – Shanti

Community, Ranch Life

When the Sun Just Keeps Shining

I didn’t physically grow up on a farm or ranch but I wasn’t too far removed from the life. We are still very rural where small talk centers on the weather and cattle or wheat prices. So now I am a rancher’s wife and the world I thought I knew is the world I am learning.


Haying season is in full swing and it very much a goldilocks situation of too much…too little…and always hoping for just right. This year the July air is dry and hot, with record-setting heat in the triple digits this last week. The evening thunderstorms roll in bringing noise and lightening but no rain will let loose from the darkened clouds. We are in a drought.

The grass in the hay fields that was once green and lush, set to grow and be harvested for cattle feed when the winter snow fell, is brown and dormant. Crops that were meant to be harvested have just failed and instead are being hayed and salvaged for cattle feed. The pastures that were meant to last the season are dry and barren and producers are creatively scrambling to find feed and grass for the cattle. Many cattle been taken down the road to the sale barn with producers hoping to make due with a smaller herd forced by this new reality. The dry and crisp grass remaining on the prairies have served as kindle to area fires.


The work still needs done… even though the grass is 1/2 to a 1/3 of the what a normal year brings it still needs to be cut, raked, and baled. The equipment still costs what it costs, the fuel to run it no less, and the breakdowns no less infrequent. My husband sleeps in the tractor waiting for the heat of the day to subside and the nightly dew to come and condition the hay. While the yield is low, there is still a need to produce the best that can be made. Too dry and the hay shatters, too wet and it molds.


I get frustrated with his long hours, inconsistencies, and no guarantee of a paycheck let alone a break even. Though hard work has its place, some days it seems you are just about as guaranteed to become bankrupt as you are to become rich at this gig. Sometimes it just comes down to the goldilocks situation…just enough demand for the product produced ensuring a strong market… good weather….no major breakdowns or expenses…and a blessing from above.


In a world we try to control, farmers and ranchers are the ultimate believers…believers in a merciful God that provides, in neighbors to help, and that their hard work will be enough. I see my husband’s heart and soul poured into a career with no guarantee, no median annual salary, no paid vacation days all with the belief that his hard work will be enough to “make it”.

When training dogs they call it “jackpotting”. The idea of giving a large amount of a reward when the desired response is done…but not every time. There has to be anticipation for that jackpot. The theory is much the same for gamblers. They sit and wait for that one “hit” of the machine. Maybe farmers and ranchers are the same. I sit and worry, ponder a future I can’t predict while the older generation talks of the good years and the not-so-great years. They all talk of the great year…the market high, when there was “just enough” of all the resources they needed. That one great year carries them thru the not so great. They ride out the bad in the hopes of averages…that when it is all said and done and the book cover closes that they will be ahead.

I know it is just part of the cycle…these farmers and ranchers are very in tune to cycles…hopeful and optimistic for the ups and patient and tolerant of the downs. I have a lot to learn from this group of folks…to look at seasons and cycles and take it as a whole not a day. These ranchers gather, arms crossed and leaning around the back of a pickup box to shoot the breeze and discuss how to make it all work when the world seems against success. Yet there is a perpettual optimism. As humans, we all want control…to make our own decisions…be in control of our own destiny…yet here is this group of farmers and ranchers so OK to accept their fate, their hand dealt.


We can’t control the weather. I can’t make those ominious clouds that come and go finally let go of any moisture. But I can live and learn, take pride in the work my family has choosen to do. I can’t speak for my husband but I know he isn’t motivated by a paycheck or pride, but with the quiet purpose of a life well lived, enjoying and sharing a legacy, with reverence for the land and its history.