What do I say about 2020??
The start of a new decade in 2020 was encouraging in January! I was hopeful that it would be the roarin’ 20’s of the last century, only this roarin’ would be with all the attributes of peace, health and happiness! Little did I know that less than 75 days latter, the Friday the Thirteenth to end all such Fridays would arrive. And with it, all that we thought we knew about planning, safety and security went out the window. Since that fateful day I have never said “I don’t know!” so many times.
Uncertainty and anxiety have been the hallmarks of this year of upheaval. The personal tragedy for some families has been great, with the loss of family members. The societal loss of freedom and responsibility for our own well-being has been staggering. The economic loss around the globe has been enormous. However, there have been some upsides, the earth has had a respite from some of the degradation that humans have imposed on it. People are learning about their own local attractions and outdoor recreation has never had it so good. Folks are going for walks as a family and enjoying the beauties of nature.
There are days when, even though I live in a very safe, rural area, I feel overwhelmed by all the uncertainty! I was a meditator before, now I use this practice to help with the anxiety that seems to arise from out of the atmosphere. I continue to be incredibly grateful for my close contact with all the critters in my life. I have also been blessed, although not as frequently, with visits from family and friends. With the whole world in an isolation mentality, it does not seem unusual to have only seen some of my friends once a month instead of every week. Unfortunately, I do not foresee this situation rectifying any time soon. So, we continue to live with the unknowable and questions without answers.
As usual this blog page is upside down in that the oldest posts are at the bottom and the most recent will be just below.
Blue Moon Halloween
Blue moons are rare, we will have to wait until August 2023 for the next one. Blue moons falling on Halloween are even rarer, and to see this phenomenon again, we will wait until 2039.
It was a gorgeous moon rise on October 31, 2020. The moon appeared, through the tree line to the east of the yard, right behind the bonfire we had created to celebrate all hallows eve. My volunteers rushed to get their cameras and take a few pictures of this unusual sight. One of my volunteers asked what was wrong with the moon, it seemed so huge and close! I was up early enough (8 a.m.) on October 31 to see the moonset and then later witness the moonrise (6 p.m.)
The big dump of snow set the stage for a very White Halloween. It also meant that every branch that could hold snow was heavy laden with the wet, sticky precipitation. Our trail ride route was through the forest south of Nesset Lake on the OLD 304 Highway. I’m not sure when the wind felled a great many trees throughout the forest, since our last ride that way. There must have been some gigantic gusts that left big and small trees strewn across what was once a nice trail.
There was a good reason that I had chosen to ride my favourite, old, trail horse, Dale. I knew that it takes a great deal to stop that old boy! Apparently when I did some “off-trail” riding to circumvent downed trees, there were horses who were horrified that they must now push their way through hazel-brush and willows. Then there were the spruce trees whose branches bent way down under the snow. Riding under them, unsettling the snow hanging there, turned me and several other riders into snowwomen on horseback!
Eventually we stopped for the obligatory photo-op down near the lake. Not out of the shelter of the trees, or my fingers would have frozen as I handled my cell phone barehanded. For some reason at this point, the smallest pony on the ride decided to take exception to the other pony and display her displeasure with pinned ears and angry glare. Earlier the same little pony had told Dale off, and Dale was as startled and taken aback as I was.
A couple of riders who have trail rode at the lake before, knew the trail home crossed a narrow neck between the main lake and the backwater. They were already speculating how that crossing was going to go. So was I. If the ice appeared to be too slippery then we would have to return on the route we had come. However, there was water on the ice so I knew that we could break through and cross. The first couple steps onto the ice Dale was tentative, but then we reached the middle, where the ice was thin, and he went down into the water. That did not deter him, he knew that was the route home, and he was going home!
With some difficulty he scrambled over the thicker ice on the west side, and then we were standing in the snow on Hog Island. I encouraged the rider on Kosmo to come across next, coaching her to look forward at me and keep that big fellow straight in the water where Dale had gone. Brandy scampered across hurriedly behind Kosmo. The next rider on Rocky also focused on me and came across safely, although she said when she reached Hog Island that she was shaking. Our most inexperienced rider was very nervous, so I went back and helped her across. The last to cross was the little pony who very cautiously stepped through the water, only stopping once to paw to see if there was a bottom in front of her.
Now we wound around the south end of Hog Island and up it’s west side. I was amazed to see the beaver have moved into the backwater and are logging around it. We climbed the hills on the west side of the lake without incident. Other than finding the wind chilly as we rode back along Poppa Kim’s trail, we had a pleasant return trip.
After we unsaddled the horses, fed them and put them away we started the bonfire for our evening revelries. Jackie, Jimmy and their helpers joined us around the bonfire roasting wieners/sausages and marshmallows. We enjoyed delicious chunks of the Halloween decorated brownie, made by Deb. To wrap up the evening everyone got “treat bags” given to them by a tong wielding (as set out by Government order) Kelly.
So as the expression goes “once in a blue moon”, Halloween got celebrated in fine style at Winning Ways in 2020.
Lightening, Thunder, Gale Force Wind
It had been a hot muggy day, that July the Fourth, with thunderheads rolling around. Of course, thunder meant that Louvic was hiding down in the basement as far away from thunder and lightening as he could get. It was also a Saturday, so Vinyl Tap was on CBC radio and Randy was playing the great rock ’n’ roll or just popular songs that originated from a classical piece of music. For example, everyone has heard the Lone Ranger theme that comes from the William Tell overture. Randy put on the Glen Campbell version, played on the 12 string. Look it up sometime, it’s great! But I digress ….
Kelly is not usually a cow checker, but timetables had made it necessary for her to go out that evening. She had also been the early morning cow checker too!! Kelly asked her helper, Paul, to accompany her, in case there was a difficulty. Paul chose to ride Slim bareback because it was easier than saddling a horse. For the evening check, Kelly knew that there was a new 755 calf that must be checked, and that there had been an old cow, 713, acting strangely when she had seen the cows in the morning. Kelly was delighted to find that the new calf had come to the East Pen with it’s mom, Hera, and the old girl, 713, that had been acting weird in the morning, was there too.
It certainly appeared that the old cow was in labour, but there were no feet nor a water sack evident. Was something wrong--was the calf a malpresentation and the cow was unable to move it through the birth canal? 713 would moo, turn in circles, then take a mouthful of grass, moo some more, look at the new calves and then go back to circling.
Meanwhile, Kelly decided she must discover if the 755 cow, Hera, was in fact, taking care of her brand-new calf. The calf was laying with the other calves, but Hera was across the paddock. In 2019, Hera lost her calf, possibly through her negligence or through “bad luck”. Kelly found the 2019 calf outside of the fence, very cold and hungry. Kelly fed it and gave it some antibiotics, but the calf did not survive. The Winning Ways crew tried all through the summer of 2019 to persuade Hera that she was going to feed a foster calf. It took a bucket full of oats and a large educational weapon to make Hera stand long enough for the calf to drink. Twice a day!! Crew members were not always happy when assigned the duty of making sure the foster calf got fed.
Kelly sat on her pony, Tex, and watched what happened when Hera was brought over to her calf. Most definitely Hera wanted to guard that new baby calf, but not feed it! She would walk or kick every time the little calf tried to suck. That problem was going to have to be solved at the chute, with Hera immobilized, so the calf could get some food. Kelly sent Paul to open the gates, to get Hera and her calf to the chute. As the evening wore on, the sky got darker, the thunder louder, and the wind more vicious.
While waiting for the gates to be opened, Kelly rode back to old 713 to check if there was any progress. Yes, there were hooves appearing, and the hooves were the correct way up, indicating the presentation appeared normal. Good!! “Get on with it! Before it rains.”
Hera was NOT going away from the herd, toward the chute and tried several evasive measures. Her poor little calf was soon left behind by its fleeing mother. Paul had a long pole, because Hera had shown some aggression when she first started to move away from the herd. Paul used the pole from horseback to push and prod the calf in the correct direction. Kelly on her fleet pony followed the uncooperative beast, until at last, Hera decide to go in the correct direction.
Once in the pen and headed into the chute, Hera was remarkably calm. Of course, she had been through the system several dozen times last year. When Hera was in the chute, the rain started to come down, at first it was not that hard, but as the storm closed in, the intensity grew. Kelly told Paul to take down the side of the chute so the calf could suck and get the calf up to the udder. Kelly decided that it was time to see how 713 was progressing.
Kelly and Tex went out the north gate of the South Front Pen onto the roadway. As Kelly was mounting, she got her foot in the stirrup and stepped up, only to be blown back like a balloon. That is a very strange feeling, when the rider has left the ground, but cannot place themself in the saddle. Fortunately, Tex turned a quarter turn to place his tail to the wind and Kelly could safely land in the now very wet saddle seat. Down the road to the East Pen they went. The thunder rolled in an almost continuous roar and the rain pelted down. There on the ground in front of 713 was a dark critter shaking its little head and moving about. “Very well old girl, now you have to take care of your calf in the rain!”
Back at the chute, Kelly and Paul got the 755 calf up to Hera. It was a very hungry little heifer, once she realized the humans were helping her and not going to eat her, she tried sucking Paul’s hands and arms. Eventually he got her established on the teat and she hungrily gulped milk to fill her empty belly. Paul was very happy that he had been able to get her to drink her first milk. The humans intervened again and moved her to the other side of Hera, to have her suck all 4 quarters and get her belly full.
Needless to say, everyone was soaked and so was Kelly’s saddle. Tex and Slim had gotten oats earlier, so they simply got extra treats before going back with their buddies. The humans got to go in the shower and warm up their chilly bodies. Oh yes, Louvic just looked at us as if to say, “Why did you go out in the storm?”
Paul named his little friend, Margaret, after the Iron Lady from England! He was able to watch the bonding progress between mother and daughter. It took much persistence on the part of Paul and Margi to finally ensure that Hera would feed her own calf. I’m glad to report that Hera and Margi went to the North Ranch and spent the summer together as a cow and calf should.
The story with old 713 was not so good. Later in July her calf went missing, we’re not sure if it was sick or the coyotes were so bold they caught and killed it. In any case she lost her calf, so we used her to keep an injured calf company. UNTIL the day she ran past Michael and out the gate to freedom. She started marching north and no matter who tried to stop her, not even Vawn, she was not to be deterred! We finally got her into the neighbour’s corral and said we would come back with the trailer. The neighbour called a bit later and said she had disappeared. We found her with the herd at the North Ranch! Needless to say, the next opportunity we had to get her in a corral and into a trailer, she went to the Stockyard.
Unfortunately there are no photos to go with this story, you will find out why as you read. :>)
The Tagging Trio
On Sunday we went to Meed’s Meadows for lunch. Several of their helpers had made a roast, potatoes, mushroom gravy, peas/carrots and some tasty cinnamon buns for dessert. Then we sat around and visited. When the girls thought they should get organized to bring Marilyn’s cattle back across the road (they move them to the field every morning and bring them back every night for water and to make sure they don’t go wandering), we went out to load the Winning Ways cows and calves.
Apparently, the helpers, although they have worked at the Stockyards, had little idea of how to move animals! Marc saw this when there were 5 people getting in each other’s way when they went to put the 2 little donkeys and 3 little calves in the barn. Eventually the 3 WW calves were separated from their mothers and put into the front compartment of the trailer. Then it was stand back out of the way, open the gate to let the cows run across the pen and jump into the trailer. Close the trailer door and we were on our way back to the ranch.
At the ranch Kelly decided that first, we should tag the 4 calves that were already in the pen, and then we could tag the 3 in the trailer. We sorted the cows and calves in the pen and then pushed the little critters around to the back of the chute. The heifer calves were easy to do, Marc caught and held them in a corner while Kelly put on the tag and gave them Selenium.
The bull calves were more of a challenge. Marc and the oldest calf were basically the same weight! Although Marc might have gotten him down, Marc was not heavy enough to keep him on the ground. In the end we took the calf down the chute and jammed it up against the headgate crosswise and then Kelly was able to work with it. Tagging and injecting were not difficult, but how to castrate was another matter. Kelly got her “green cheerios” placed on the pliers and began searching for the proper hold on the testicles. Lotte thought Marc was a bit wide-eyed as he made the “snip” “snip” sign with his fingers. Kelly routinely does not ask the guys to do the castration, but the gals do not seem to mind helping with the procedure.
With 4 hands it was possible to castrate the 2 little bulls. Kelly could not see from her position above the calves’ backs. However, Lotte was able to see and helped strategically place the rubber rings high enough on the scrotum with the testicles inside, to be effective. First one bull became a steer and then we caught the second and used the same method. Now there were 4 calves with shiny new ear tags running along the fence bawling for their mommas.
On to the 3 in the trailer. The 2 heifers were again easy to do, except now it was getting dark and inside the trailer it was really dark! Lotte had to hold the light so Kelly could see where to put the tags and the injections. One bull calf was left, and although the floor of the trailer was very “shitty” (upset momma cows are very poopy!) Kelly thought laying the calf down was the best strategy. Now all three people were in the front compartment with one little calf. Kelly and Marc put the calf on the floor, Marc jumped onto his shoulder and with some extra weight from Lotte successfully kept the calf down.
Lotte suddenly said that we should have a video or at least a photo of the three of us working on the calf. She was sort of chuckling that this was another truly Western experience and I started to laugh at the position we were all in. The calf was on the bottom, Marc was being as heavy as possible across the calf’s side and shoulder. Lotte was standing/leaning over Marc but pushing down on Marc to help with the rubber rings and holding the light so we could see what we were doing. Kelly was holding a back leg, trying to hold the testicles tightly and at the same time using the pliers to position the “green cheerios” strategically. Probably a good thing there was no one else to take such a “candid camera” photo!
All of the calves now have ear tags and all the little steers are doing well. The tagging trio did have to throw their dirty coverall in the wash when they finished their chores. Another Winning Ways adventures that ended favourably, and I’m sure the volunteers will tell stories about the experience in the future.