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.

DSC_1013 copy

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.

DSC_1028 copy

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.

DSC_1023 copy

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.

DSC_1037

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.

Life as a Veterinarian, Pet Care, Ranch Life

A “Tail” of Two Dogs

It was serendipitous…almost seemingly meant to be.  He had been this little fluffy puppy that came for his puppy vaccine series and socialization classes at the clinic. All the staff would alert me when he came thru the door so I could find him and dote on him… I even took some photos (all blurry because he was running like a maniac) when he was just a little puppy.

When his picture and rehoming ad come up on a local Facebook page my phone blew up with tags, messages, and calls. I couldn’t deny all these people that seemed to think we would be a good match so I went to meet the big brown furry guy. He ran to me and I cried.  My heart was full and there was no doubt he needed to come home with me…. and so we added a 1 year old Newfoundland, that the kids renamed Finn (his former name was great but it just didn’t flow for the boys, so we started fresh).

IMG_6840

I had lost my soul dog over a year ago, my Newf Roscoe, who I had  acquired as a return to breeder at around the exact same age as Finn. Though I hadn’t planned it this way, Finn seems to be Roscoe reincarnate! Though I know my house would be significantly cleaner without 100 pounds of slobber and hair,  I just adore Newfoundlands and feel complete to have one in our family again.

IMG_8489

We have always maintained a pack of dogs and fairly peacefully. We went from a pack of geriatrics to adding these two boisterous teenagers with very different quirks and issues. It has been a time of adjusting. We had also lost Shep, our senior former ranch dog, last year (rough year for losses). We got Ripp as a puppy to learn the ways of the ranch and essentially take Shep’s place as a working dog. I have heard some ranchers say a good working dog is worth 10 hired men. Plus they never show up late and their pay is pretty cheap. Though we wanted dogs to fill the voids left by our two former dogs, we hadn’t intended to re-create their near identical likenesses as we seemingly have.

IMG_9471

Ripp, our Aussie, is a more challenging dog.  All the qualities that will make him a great cattle dog make him a bit hard to live with some times.  He’s a bit sensitive and reactive, a bit hot-headed…he has more gas than break. My Hubby adores Ripp and Ripp adores my Hubby. If the rancher is King, his cow dog is the Prince, his right-hand “man” and top adviser. The ranch belongs to the Ranch Dog. He is bred to assist the rancher, to herd the stock, watch the gaits, break up fighting bulls, and tell that bossy cow just what the plan is going to be. It seems to the ranch dog that all other dogs are just a little “slow”, maybe better left to lounge on the deck and guard the yard from intruders and varmint.

As an Aussie, Ripp is intense, always willing and waiting for a job. He has two speeds…Sit or Run Like a Maniac.  Simply walking requires mental effort and impulse control on his part. Since a puppy he came in cocky and in charge and the other dogs in our pack deferred to the new Prince of the Ranch. So adding another dog didn’t seem like it would be that much of a change.

Finn’s initial introduction was great; Ripp had a great new playmate. But Finn wasn’t so sure about his new Prince and didn’t just back-down to Ripp’s instructions as the Prince. Turns out Newfoundlands have their own quirks and ideas on life. If Ripp is “always ready and waiting for a job”,  Finn is more the type to say “Hey, I will be over here sniffing. Try not to bother me”.  I adore the goofiness, slobber, and gentle but often stubborn soul of a Newfie. My Hubby not so much. He adores the tenaciouness, work-ethic, and intelligence of a Aussie. Myself not always so much.

These two pals so opposite in their temperaments start out like two guys sitting at the bar…one big in stature, seemingly friendly but not always on par socially, saying and doing some questionable things and the other guy, small but smart and witty and what he lacks in size he makes up for in tenacity. They have a great ol’ time until the big dim one commits some social faux pau like bumping the little one. The little guy is a bit shorter tempered and puffs his chest “Hey buddy, did you just bump me”. Being a bit socially ackward the big guy just sort of stands there taken aback but willing to stand his ground. But instead of the typical bar scene, we have these two running a ranch.

So here we sit with our new soul dogs, clearly in love with the quirks that make them so. Our pack is restructuring, adjusting and requiring us to step it up to ensure peace and harmony. We have quite an assortment of critters and we adore each and everyone for their unique attributes but they each bring their own quirks and challenges. We are just a week in and we are all learning and adjusting.

When clients bring me pets with behavioral consults, I list the to-dos, things to avoid, tips and tricks…it is easy to tell someone what to do but often the reality of implementing structure and guidance isn’t easy. There isn’t really a magic solution…though we all wish there were. Rarely is a pet or person for that matter, perfect right out of the box. It takes time and patience to become our best selves and change our way of thinking.

Welcome Finn to our Funny Farm!

 

*Update: I wrote this weeks after we acquired Finn and wanted to update everyone on their progress. We joke that our dogs, Finn and Ripp, have a psychologist! We did a consult with a boarded veterinary behaviorist and have started them on medications in combination with behavioral modification.  Ripp is learning tolerance and less reactivity and Finn is working on his impulsivity and perceived poor manners (body slamming, jumping on the other dogs, etc). We are seeing improvement and going slow to maintain peace in the pack. There was question regarding if this is the right path for them and our family and the consult certainly helped with that. They each have their “quirks” to work thru and we remain committed to helping them become the most emotionally stable dogs they can be.

Life Lessons, Motherhood, Photography, Ranch Life

She entered the snow globe and dared not return.

DSC_9292 copy“Mommy.” “Mommy!” “Mommy!!!” The word can be the most precious sound to hit my ear drums or the most mind grating trigger word in the dictionary.

It has been a weekend of errands, travel from Point A to B and back, then to Points C, D, and E. Our littlest family member has been a bear under his mop of blonde hair and sweet little eyes demanding “Eat”, “Water.” “Mommy hold me.”  In the continuance of our novel of first world problems, the wash machine had been broken for weeks  and now fixed but for the annoying chirping noise it screamed as it struggled to keep up with mountain of laundry thrown at it.

DSC_9308 copy

The dishwasher took a lesson from the wash machine and has taken its own spring break. I think you fall into two camps of dishwasher users when the dishes don’t come clean… the first being the ones that take the dirty bowl realizing it is not clean and use the pioneer approach of soap, water, and their own hands to clean said dish OR the second, the one that realize the bowl is still full of scum and just throw it back into the dishwasher again…and maybe again… and again. I fall in the second camp so the dishes have emerged as their own life force from the sink as I admitted dishwasher defeat.

DSC_9334 copyDSC_9341 copy

All this added up to an exhausting weekend….so when the need to check the animals emerged I grabbed my camera, muck boots, and coat and headed out. Spring had offered a glimpse of its return but was kicked out of the picture today by big, wet snow flakes.

DSC_9326 copy

It was magical…heavy, wet flakes fell upon my head only to melt and run to my eyes. The scene was quiet aside from the crunch of my boots and paws of my side kick, Brody. Occasionally, I would hear and feel the sloush of the soft mud and puddles below the accumulating snow as a remembrance of spring that had been present just hours before.

DSC_9354 copyDSC_9377 copyDSC_9387 copy

It was if I had entered my own snow globe… a globe of calm without kid’s demands or visual reminders of my inadequacies as a housekeeper, or racing thoughts of my inability to heal my patients. I felt peace, a clearing of mind as the snow fell, hypnotizing all in its presence. I remember as a child, holding the heavy globe in my hand mesmerized by the perfect little scene made magical by a shake of my hand. I entered my own snow globe and dared not leave.

DSC_9397 copy

In my world of phone dings and anxious thoughts, laundry and dishes I found a moment of peace. I hope in this week ahead you can find your own moments of peace.

“Peace. It doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

 

 

Motherhood, Photography, Ranch Life

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This week we had a spring blizzard resulting in ice and snow. The kiddos and myself had a snow day so that meant the entire family worked to keep everyone fed and warm. The heifers also started calving this week so be prepared for an overshare of calf pictures coming your way.

Things have been busy to say the least…though I still have my camera by my side.

DSC_8784 copy

DSC_8746 copy

DSC_8751 copy

DSC_8614 copy

DSC_8653 copy

DSC_8508 copy

 

DSC_8676 copy

DSC_8741 copy

DSC_8812 copy

DSC_8810 copy1

DSC_8813 copy

DSC_8819 copy

DSC_8829 copy

Life as a Veterinarian, Motherhood, Ranch Life

Little Lamb…Big Prayers

The winter storm warnings started days ago… rain, ice, inches of snow. Warnings to be prepared, especially when newborn livestock lives are at stake. Warnings like this have come before, some living up to their hype and other just enticing worry for nothing.  The lambing boom we have had over the last 48 hours suggest something is in the air.

The ewe lambs (yearlings and first time mothers) have started lambing and there is no “What to Expect When You Are Expecting” manuals for sheep so they require a bit of extra TLC and guidance from us humans to figure out this new motherhood role. It is important for the ewe and lambs to bond and ensure they are nursing well in the smaller jug pens before moving out amongst the other ewes and lambs. But when lambs keep coming the inn fills up quickly.

So the morning was spent processing lambs, ensuring the couple of lambs that had become chilled and hungry thru the night were back on track. One little lamb born a twin to a yearling ewe mother, was adopted to a more mature mother after he became weak and cold (twins seemed just too much for his young mother).

IMG_1552lamb
Our little lamb warmer/cuddler

My little guy and I had gone out to check lambs this afternoon and found two new mothers. He ran to me with elation at his findings and we quickly scrambled to figure out who would move out of the lambing room to make room. I called my father-in-law as back-up (my hubby was sleeping after a exhaustive shepherding night and for the sake of his cognitive ability was taking a much needed nap).

It became apparent that one of the yearlings had another lamb yet to deliver and hadn’t yet done so successfully, signaling trouble. I slipped my hands into the ewe to investigate the origin of the single leg that was emerging from the warm and cozy womb. My little guy came running with his exam gloves on ready to help. We worked together to reposition the little lamb, turning his neck back around and freeing his other leg. My son and I pulled the little legs and held our breaths waiting for lamb to become free of the womb he had known for the past five months.

We waited for that sign of life, a gasp of air, a shake of the head but found none. I asked my little guy to grab a towel to wipe him, as if I might rub the life back into him. Perhaps he was really still alive but I had just missed the signs. As he ran back, my mind raced with all the “what-ifs”, “if-only”, and regrets.

He was declared dead, perfectly formed and ready for the world, only to be taken too soon. The big tears fell down my little guy’s chubby cheeks and he wailed for this dead lamb. My little guy took the lamb wrapped in the towel and cried over him while our attentions turned to the living lambs.

My little guy cried all the way to the house and ran inside to tell his Dad. He hugged his Dad and told the story of the lamb that came dead and his sadness. He said “I even prayed over him.” The decision was made to return the barn as a family to say our good-byes and have a little “service” for the lamb that died when he came out, the saddest way to die according to our 5 year old.

So the limp, cold lambs still wet with “birth” was laid on the rectangular burlap bale filled with wool, as if a lamb on the alter. My little guy stood over the lamb with his hands gently placed on his lifeless body as our family looked on. With sadness in his voice, he prayed…

“Bless us our Lord, and these thy gifts. For which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen”

Turns out there aren’t really any known prayers for the departed lambs, no funeral rites prepared for lambs who never drew a breath. He said the best prayer he knew after his earlier prayers for the lamb to come alive and breath had failed.

The tears dried and the little lamb that died when he was coming out was remembered amongst the others we have lost. Our little guys cheeks were stained with salty tears and barn dirt, as he climbed the wire panel and set off to catch a lamb among the living.

Photography, Ranch Life

The promise of spring…lambing

DSC_8377 copy

Lambing is in full swing… the winters are undeniably long but with each lamb brings a promise of warmer, spring days soon to come. This time of year is second only to Christmas… each little lamb is a personal happy pill for me.

After I was gifted some ewes a few years back, our numbers and sheepy accommodations have grown. My hubby was lukewarm to the idea but has found he doesn’t mind the sheep and I love that lambing is really a family affair. The ewes are gentle and tolerant allowing more hands on from myself and the boys. Most lambs are born about the weight of a newborn human baby (with some longer appendages) making them the perfect size for cuddling by a mother missing her kiddos’ baby moments.

DSC_8190 copy

The hubby built a lambing room with jugs (smaller pens ewes and lambs will stay in for a few days after delivery) with an upstairs “apartment”. This has worked amazingly well for our marriage…instead of a sleepy and grumpy hubby trudging back and forth thru the biting winter air in the middle of the night this allows him to wake, look out the windows and do a quick assessment of the ewes to lamb.

DSC_8398 copy
Scratching his ears

 

DSC_8382 copy

The ewes are quite good at getting their jobs done but with the cold temperatures the lambs can become chilled quickly so do best in the warmer jugs with some monitoring to ensure they are nursing well after birth. I never loose that amazement in nature and the growing and bringing to life of another living creature. Admittedly, when delivering my own first borne human child when fear and uncertainty fought to take hold, it was images of cows and sheep quietly laying down and allowing nature to guide their knowing bodies that became the visualizations that comforted me.

DSC_8117 copy

DSC_8351 copy

“Joy is finding the holy in the small and the sacred in the everyday.” Mary Davis

DSC_8263 copy

DSC_8124 copyBW

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.

lamb 3

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.

lamb

lamb 4

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!

lamb5