Life as a Veterinarian, Photography, Ranch Life

Lambing has started.

We have been not so patiently waiting for lambing to start! The official start date was February 7 and I can assure you if we hadn’t been ready they would have started February 4. So we sat and waited and waited.

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I soon decided perhaps nature was smarter than us to wait until the subzero temperatures subsided and unseasonable warmth came. We have been checking often when the weather is cold like this to ensure mom and baby are moved to a jug (think warm, cozy straw filled maternity suite) and out of the cold. Every year the plan is to lamb before the heifers and cows start delivering later in the spring but in doing so we deal with cold.

The lambs are actually very cold tolerant as long as they stay dry and have full tummies. The wet and muddy spring weather can actually be harder on our lambs and calves than the cold of winter.

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Within a few hours of birth, it is critical for the lamb to nurse the literally life-saving colostrum from its mother. Colostrum not only provides much needed energy and calories but also contains very important antibodies. Without these antibodies delivered to the lamb’s waiting gastrointestinal tract in that first day of life, the lamb will be at much greater risk of developing serious and potentially fatal disease due to pathogens.

Nature and all of its inner workings and complexities amazes me. Nature has a plan in place to help ensure lamb survival in addition to a doting mother with colostrum waiting. Lambs are born with brown fat (adipose) tissue. Brown fat is nature’s little miracle to assist survival of these newborn ruminants. This specialized fat, when burned shortly after birth, not only provides energy but heat.

We have been rolling right along with lambing. Most are delivering mid-day attended with waves of a few moms delivering than a lull. My hubby and I are awaiting the big wave…which often occurs with a change in weather. So stay tuned for plenty of adorable baby lamb photos coming your way!

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Life Lessons, Photography, Ranch Life

“I do it”

We are moving out of the “No” phase and into the “I do it!” or “Me Too!” When you are two years old, there is nothing in the world to fear and everything to explore and discovery. Nothing is too heavy, too hard, too much… If I could bottle a toddler’s tenacity and will and take a swig at 3pm when the day is just getting too long I too may confidently say “I do it!”

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I love that I have photos of both of my boys side-by-side with their dad feeding, learning, observing. The biggest lessons and memories they remember are often from the smallest events whether graining sheep, feeding hay to the cows, or picking eggs from the coop.

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Where there is independence there is frustration when our little 2 year old just isn’t strong enough, big enough, fast enough, or coordinated enough. But he tries and that is a great lesson from his 2 year old self to this grown up.

“Practicing his ranching skills on the living room floor.”

The promise of spring is upon us and we are eagerly and anxiously awaiting the start of lambing next week. I mentioned to my Hubby that he seems more excited and anxious for the delivery of these babies than our own human babies. His response, “I didn’t have to build the hospital before their arrival.” There is much to do and prepare before lambs arrive…the barn is ready with fresh straw. The lambing jugs where the newborns will spend their first few days are warm and cozy. Medications and supplies are stocked. The ewes will get sheared in anticipation for a cleaner lambing experience.

It is all hands on deck for this family to ready for what I think is second only to Christmas as the “best time of the year”.

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. 

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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Photography, Ranch Life

Weekend Wrap-Up

 

DSC_5529 copyWinter gets a little pushy this time of year so it was no surprise we woke to a dusting of snow on Tuesday morning. But this weekend, fall was given its time.  Though it is hard to not think of each fall weekend as one step closer to our long and cold Dakota winter.

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I decided to drag my regular camera around a little more on our weekend happenings. The resident animals are winter prepping and looking all furry or fluffy.

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