A happy look back at 2016

During the past few years I have found that I really enjoy writing and I'm happy doing it.  I look forward to entertaining as well as informing all my readers who come to this site in hopes of finding out more about Winning Ways.  The 2016 Update is the sixth I've written in seven years.  I very much appreciate that Nancy posted the Update in 2011 when I was taking care of a very ill husband.  I hope that these posts are enlightening, amusing/dramatic and engaging.  My family and friends around the world have an opportunity to catch up on the happenings at Winning Ways.   The stories also give those who have visited Winning Ways in 2016, an opportunity to look back and relive the time they spent here on the ranch. For those who are yet to arrive at the ranch they give you something to look forward too.  Throughout this Update you will only find family members and close friends named.  I believe in privacy for all individuals who visit Winning Ways whether as helpers who join the crew or clients who enjoy our equines and landscape.


Last Winter Solstice a group of friends, of which I was privileged to be a member, sat on the rocks of northern Saskatchewan's Stonehenge and watched the sun rise.  Of course that event does not take place until after 9:30 A.M., so we had to leave here a couple hours before sunrise to reach the field with the huge stones.  A building contractor, who regularly moves large boulders, decided that he would like to build a stone monument in a similar arrangement to that of the famed Wiltshire, England shrine.  He chose his stones with care and placed them so they would align with the solstice sunrises. It seems a peaceful place with only an occasional braying donkey to disturb the quiet and solitude. 

After watching the sunrise we enjoyed food and camaraderie during the day, then returned to the stones again at sunset to watch the slowly sinking orange orb disappear below the horizon. Thoughts of the past seasons were on our minds and dreams for the future were considered as well.  The shortest day, the longest night, the end of fall, the start of winter, from this time forward the sun will return to the sky for longer and longer periods.  The celebration of this time honoured tradition with my friends was a blessing of fellowship and reflection.


On the eve of the Christmas celebrations my daughter and family arrived with their two dogs.  Of course the grandgirls helped with chores and played with the critters.  We enjoyed a couple of family gatherings on Dec. 24, at my brother-in-law's and at the Millar's Two Bar C ranch.  Winning Ways was the scene of a small gathering for Christmas dinner on Dec. 25; on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) several friends with their families dropped in and enjoyed lunch and entertained with Christmas songs.  The grandgirls and their parents returned home later that afternoon and I got to read my new book.


Our New Year's Eve party at Winning Ways was a completely different sort of celebration!  I had obtained a 'fire permit' and we had the hugest bonfire you can imagine.  Earlier several helpers had piled the wood from the old barn into a rounded teepee shape so that it would be highly flammable.  Just to be very sure that we got the wood going we poured on a little diesel fuel and used a few old newspapers as fire starter.  At one point the kids wanted to try roasting marshmallows, I tried to get close enough to do so, but the heat was intense and I could hardly stay near the fire long enough to warm the marshmallows let alone roast them.

We had champagne to toast the New Year at midnight, noise makers and all the revelers shouting "Happy New Year".  It was the most unusual New Year's party I've ever attended and will definitely remain the most divergent--black night sky punctuated by brightly glowing embers flying high, cold white snow melting rapidly in the intense heat of the bonfire revealing warmed bare soil, revelers from 6 to 60 all enjoying the celebration.  What a way to start 2016!


The afternoon of New Year's Day found us dashing through the snow in a two horse open sleigh.  I took the sleigh from Winning Ways to the Millar's Two Bar C Ranch and Howard MacCuish brought his big team.  In a collaborative effort we made the afternoon's activity fun for those who braved the elements.  Of course there was food for all in the house thanks to Marlene and George.  Later January 1 evening we got word that some friends in Meadow Lake had the tragedy of having their house burn, fortunately no one, not even the dog, was home, so no one was hurt.  January 2 saw the Winning Ways crew taking a Trail Ride to Nesset Lake!  Yes the weather conditions were great and there was little snow so our clients and Winning Ways crew enjoyed a view of the frozen landscape from horseback.


Throughout the month of January I continued my preparations to depart on my European tour.  Passport picture proved to be a bit more complicated than I thought but I got my passport, flight tickets, Euro-rail ticket, ferry crossing ticket, cross shoulder safety bag (thanks to my co-grandma) for my new tablet, a wind and water proof jacket, a great scarf (thanks to my friend at Martodam's) and lots of advice from world travelers.  I planned the initial days of the journey, left the middle for adventure and even bought a ticket to the races for Saint Patrick's Day!  I promised that I would keep a blog of all my adventures and I did, from the departure to the return.  The following is the start of the Blog page: If you have newly arrived to this Blog then be aware that there are several days worth of adventures placed one below the other, then I started a new set of days stories above the previous.  It does seem a bit disjointed but it can be read if you are aware that you need to scroll down the page about half way to find the February 14-19 beginning of the story. There are pictures throughout the stories that tell about my European adventures.  I have now filled this page of the site and have started on another:  More blogging posts! Hope you enjoy the stories!


Returning to Saskatchewan in March to find snow and winter conditions was a challenge I had not thought of when I left.  It must be much more of an environmental shock when folks go to the tropics and then return in "real" winter.  Shortly after my return, the wonderful helpers, who had taken care of the ranch for nearly 6 weeks, continued on with their adventures in Canada.  Easter was a celebration at Meed's Meadows with turkey, ham and all the fixin's. Howie, George Millar and his helper accompanied me to the feast.  Things got rather busy after that!  Spring Camp was the last days of March and the first of April.  Several little gals got to ride and enjoy the horses in spite of the snow still on the ground. 


The helper that arrived on April 1 must have thought STC (the bus company) was playing tricks for April Fool's Day because her bus was greatly delayed and she did not arrive in Meadow Lake until midnight!  Some of Meed's Meadows crew came over and helped with chores for a day while I was attending my cousin's funeral.  Of course the long awaited arrival of Missy's foal at Meed's Meadows occurred while I was gone and the girls were here at Winning Ways.  The younger Winning Ways students who were aware of the foaling were excited and some of them went the next day to see the cute little fella.  His story can be found on the "More blogging posts!" page.


Our next adventure was a Cattle Drive that brought the cows from the corn fields at -P home to the elk-eaten bales out in the field to the east.  Yes, while I was gone, the elk had moved right in and chowed down--some of the green-feed bales were only a small pile of straw!! I'm not sure whether the excitement and exercise caused an early delivery or #711 was just going to calve early, but the evening after we had the Cattle Drive, we had the first calf.  That night it snowed so I was prepared to bring in a very cold baby the next morning, but it got up, stretched and complained that mom had to stand up and feed him!


The cows started to calve about a week later but it was never extremely busy, another helper arrived and then it was easier for us to do cow checks.  Unfortunately we did have several difficult births and there were some helpers who quickly learned all about delivering a calf.  We have a couple detailed photo series showing how to pull a calf. Remarkably we delivered all the calves alive and they stayed healthy; every calf that went out to pasture, came back in this fall.


Toward the middle of May, Winning Ways & Meed's Meadows supplied a petting zoo for the Green Lake school.  It was amazing how many of the children had never seen a live calf or pony before.  Haley was a big fan favorite because she assumes the "kush/cush" posture where the legs are folded underneath and she appears to be a big rug with a long neck and head.  She could look many of the children in the eye in this posture and the kids were willing to approach her and the two bunnies that I held in my lap.  Many of the children thought the 1 or 2 month old calves and the ponies were too large to approach.


When the McLean's came in mid-May they joined our Playday on Saturday and then on Sunday they returned home with Teddy, O' & Flynn. With Teddy gone, we acquired another pony, Diego, who was rescued because his feet were in bad shape.  He's a fence crawler if there's no electricity but very respectful when the power's on.  He's too small for anyone over 5 years old to ride.  However, he is a good confidence builder, on the ground, for older children who find a horse intimidating.


A few days later we had a branding where Leonard and Howard did the roping and the ground crew consisted of the helpers from Winning Ways, Meed's Meadows and the Two Bar C. 

Howard invited us all to Tall Timber Trails on the weekend and so the helpers got to see the Meadow Lake Provincial Park "New Branch Trail" from the back of a horse.  We rode about 10 km and saw several lakes, even had a wiener roast at the day's end.  While we were returning home, a noisy thunderstorm erupted and sent Louvic into a terrified frenzy in which he tore the screen off the porch door!  Rain was something that was in short supply so even a few millimeters of rain were welcome.

Our Cattle Drive to the North Ranch was somewhat eventful in that we had a calf run off within a very short distance of the main yard.  Of course it headed right back to the paddock where it last saw mom so at least we knew where it was.  It did present a problem of what to do about its mom--we eventually caught her and loaded her to bring back to the calf.  Usually you don't have a calf join your drive, but we did last spring--the neighbours had moved their cattle the day before and one of their calves had become separated from its mom and was looking for her.  It joined us while it was searching, so it too had to be caught, loaded and returned to the correct pasture.


The girls borrowed some camping gear from Leonard at the beginning of June. They set up a camp, complete with tent and a small horse paddock, out on the top of the hill by Nesset lake.  They weren't sure about staying out there by themselves but they took care of the horses and themselves without incident.  The next day when we were checking a paddock to see how the grass was growing, the spooky horse I was riding, bolted and dumped me in a gateway by some rocks. 


That incident occurred Monday, the day of the Rodeo Parade, so in spite of me being very sore, my crew and friends helped to get the truck, trailer, horses and all the equipment ready, into Meadow Lake and back to the ranch.  I got to sit in the truck, which was decorated and had all the appropriate Winning Ways signs on it. I just had to wave out the passenger's window.  As well there was a group of riders in the parade from the Equestrian Club, Meed's Meadows AND Winning Ways.

The next day I was in more pain so one of my helpers took me to the doctor and Tara took me to the hospital.  The x-rays showed that I had a compression fracture of my lower back.  "Take it easy for the next 6-8 weeks, don't lift, ride a horse, push, pull ........" Yeah!!!  I actually obeyed because I didn't like the idea of further damage.  I got good at finding places to rest and delegating many small jobs that need to be done but I wasn't supposed to lift, push, pull ..... 


George took his crew and the Winning Ways crew to the Bull-a-rama on Thursday and the Rodeo on Friday and they had a look at the dance afterwards. My brother-in-law, Fritz, and my niece & nephew from Saskatoon visited on the Saturday of Rodeo Week.  The guys went to the Lake but my niece was happy to join the crew riding and checking cows. I was able to get around well enough to give a lesson to the newly arrived helper. 

The crew again attended the Rodeo on Saturday evening, and even I went, very carefully with my cane. I also helped the Equestrian Club sell lottery tickets!  I sat right by the entrance and talked to all the folks as they came in, so I had a good vantage point to make my sales pitch.


Toward the end of June we held another branding and this time one of the helpers had progressed in her roping to join Howard and Leonard in the pen.  Again the majority of the ground crew came from Meed's Meadows and the Two Bar C ranches. 

Three days later Winning Ways crew went to the Two Bar C to help round up, sort and brand their calves.  Since I was still not riding, I volunteered to go to the house and help Marlene however I could.  Amazingly it poured rain at the ranch house but a little less than 2 miles away, at the scene of the branding pen, the sky was blue.  So the branding was completed!


Canada Day, July 1, the Meed's Meadows and Winning Ways crews traveled to Loon Lake to participate in the annual Canada Day Parade.  Afterward we went down to the beach, where the riders had a photo shoot, and then enjoyed a barbecue/picnic in the little camp ground. 

The same day the McLean's arrived with their menagerie, 1 guinea pig, 1 dog, 2 rabbits, 3 horses and 4 cats!  Later in the evening we attended the Canada Concert and Fireworks in Lion's Park. 

Even Brownie and his brother joined us for the "light show"!  Brownie had to try out his new camera and took photos of the show and  well lit night sky. 

The McLeans picked up Granny the next morning and headed off on an adventure that Granny had on her "bucket list" for many years.  She had always wished to go with LAMP (Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots) to a northern community and help with the Vacation Bible School programs they provide.  The McLeans and Granny joined a missionary group from Minnesota to bring a VBS program to the small community of Southend in north east Saskatchewan.


The following week we had a rarity--an all boys class!  The Stampeders were all guys this year.  During the Stampeder's week the helpers reported that there was a BULL in the paddock with our cows!!  Earlier in the day our old friend Harry had been looking for some yearlings, but he failed to mention the heifers were with a yearling bull.  Long story short we managed to corral them and the next day they were returned to their proper pasture.  That week we also acquired a pony for training as well as started babysitting "Buttercup" the baby bison.  Oh yeah Winning Ways does provide some unique experiences for its helpers! Buttercup was not sure she liked being in a strange barn with strange humans but hunger won over caution and she eventually drank her bottles of milk.  We even learned that you cannot give a bison calf regular beef/dairy milk replacer, it has to be mixed with a higher fat replacer to give the calf the correct energy level.  Buttercup certainly had energy and I think she would have dearly loved to escape but we kept her under the barn roof until her owners returned for her.


About that time there was a thunderstorm overnight and in the morning Louvic was gone.  I called the vets, the humane society, put messages on the radio and Facebook.  Got some replies that he'd been seen in the Meadow Lake area.  After several days I was very sad and thought we'd lost him, then another sighting near the Stampede Grounds was reported.  I had to deliver a horse that evening and afterwards drove around the Stampede Ground area for over half an hour.  I was sure if he heard "his truck & trailer" he would come if he could.  Feeling very gloomy about his whereabouts, after I picked up the next helper, I returned home.  The following morning, as I made my breakfast, I looked out the kitchen window and there running at top speed was Louvic, bounding toward the house.  The missing dog did indeed return and amazingly none the worse for wear.  He was not thin so somewhere he had been fed and did not appear to have any marks on him so I do not know where he went & returned from.


Our RoughRider Camp was very small this year since I was still basically on the disabled list.  But the students had an interesting evening learning about horse's teeth and watching Dr. Ed & his assistant float many of the ponies and horses.  The best part was that the little people could look inside Diego's mouth and see all the work being done.

Slim gave everyone a fright when he appeared to have quit breathing, his respiration rate was extremely slow after his sedation and so the helper's alarm was well founded.  One evening during the week the crew, instructors and students watched the movie "Jappleoup" which was very good.  At the end of the week 15 riders went on a Trail Ride to Nesset Lake. Although one of the students was very concerned about her Dad's safety and one horse did lose its footing, we had an enjoyable time.

Somewhere in July we turned the red and black angus bulls from George Millar's out with the cows at the North Ranch.  One would think that young bulls when introduced to a herd of curious and "cute" young heifers would be very ecstatic and go around the whole harem investigating who was there.  Not the young bulls that I put out this summer!  They took one look and walked, almost ran, away, like they wanted to go back to their bachelor quarters and forego any encounters with the opposite sex.  The next day they were back with the herd of cows and heifers, which was a promising sign, although they did not seem fully integrated at that point. The next time the cattle were seen there was only one red bull and some of the "Red Bull" herd was not there. 

The older black fellow was definitely busy with his herd and they were all where they were supposed to be.  I think that is the point at which I went back to riding, because I was unsure if the crew would find their way around the North Ranch, without becoming mired in the mud somewhere.  We never did see the second red bull and I certainly searched diligently for him.  However, about a month later the neighbour to the south of the North Ranch reported to George that one of George's bulls had somehow gotten into his pasture.  So now the missing bull was at least found and eventually returned to George's corral.

At the end of July our Equestrian Club held a Working Equitation Playday/Schooling show at the Stampede Grounds in Meadow Lake.  Some of the crew and students from Winning Ways participated in the Dressage and Ease of Handling events that were offered.  It was a learning process for our Club as well as the participants.  Unfortunately the day ended in rain and everyone came home wet.  We did learn a few things about setting up and executing the Ease of Handling portion of the competition.  

Later at the end of August the Club put on its Annual Horse Show and although there were not as many competitors as last year we felt that it went very well.  Again the weather did not co-operate and it poured rain the Saturday night between days and we had to do some rescheduling and change the show ring from a pen of sloppy mud to a level grassy field.  Winning Ways riders definitely came home with many of the prizes and had some great experiences.  Probably the outstanding one was when the "little black & white pair" outperformed the "big black & white pair" in the Pairs competition, where the objective is to be unified in your movements if not your colors.   The little gals on their smaller mounts moved very well together--they practiced ahead of time.  The older gals on their big jumping horses were not together, probably because they lacked practice this year. 

The rest of August had its ups and downs--there was the saga of Baylee's badly damaged leg, which thanks to Dr. Ed's handiwork is healing very well; helper's arrived and others departed; the East Pen water troughs were under constant surveillance as the float system was knocked off several times; helpers took an afternoon to go to the lake; a bonfire was organized as a farewell party for one of the crew; the crew got to watch the Northern Lights several times; several folks from the Autistic Support Group visited; and then there was the morning the geldings were missing but fortunately the crew found them only a short way into the neighbour's field.  All the adventures that make life interesting. ;>)






The crew had the opportunity to attend the Flying Dust First Nations Pow Wow with a friend of mine at the beginning of September. They got to sit around the campfire with some of the dancers.  I think this is one of those quintessential photos that simply speaks of the Saskatchewan experience--northern lights, teepee, dancer, campfire.  

Fall riding lessons started in the beginning of September and were frequently dampened by rain.  Sometimes washed out completely!  Kelton visited the ranch in early September after he had traveled to the west coast to attend a friend's wedding.  He stayed with his sister and family for a couple days before coming further east to Winning Ways.  Vawn brought Kelton to his cousin's near Bonnyville, where I met them, so that we could visit family and greet the latest arrival, who is Granny's namesake.  I think my son is definitely related to his father, "Have you ever been down Highway 21 south of Pierceland?" Me, "Nope and I'm not going down it today, if it's raining."  Well, it wasn't raining so we took the scenic route back to Winning Ways.  Newton always wanted to go on the road less travelled.

While Kelton and I worked on some accounting, the crew took time to go canoeing at Nesset Lake, although they had to bail the canoe out frequently.  Since we had more brawn while Kelton was here, we took the opportunity to brand the last few calves.  We simply put the calves in a pen, caught them individually and the ground crew held them while they were branded, elastated, tagged and vaccinated.  Later that evening all of the Winning Ways crew, including Kelton and I, went to a bonfire at the Two Bar C, where we met with all their helpers plus several more from Meed's Meadows.  It was a case where the Canadians were far outnumbered by the visitors from other lands. 

September progressed with riding lessons, helping move cattle at the Two Bar C, and taking care of the cattle here at Winning Ways Home Ranch and the North Ranch.  The crew got in a photo shoot of the amazing Harvest Moon, a moonlight ride under that moon, a tour of the Meadow Lake Museum with Brownie, an opportunity to ride in a combine, and go on the Fall Colors Trail Ride.  Sometimes the crew got up early and went out for a Sunrise Ride--not near as early as the crew was out at the Summer Solstice! Some of the crew repaired the canoe and then they had more hours of paddling around on the lake.

We started October off by going to the movies, I hadn't been to the theater for years and had a good laugh at the movie we watched.  The next day the crew got to experience the classic Saskatchewan "Fall Supper", which you can attend almost every weekend in October and the beginning of November.  These suppers are usually organized by a church ladies group but any charity may put one on, to fund raise.  There is a variety of salads and vegetables, usually at least a couple of types of meat, potatoes & gravy, and of course many choices for dessert.  The Winning Ways crew helped at the Two Bar C round-up and attended a cattle sale at ML Stockyard. 

Then the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend they got to help harvest the turkeys at our neighbours.  That evening they did some more cultural immersion and went to 'Tosh for the annual October Fest.  The crew had brought home a huge turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner and I cooked it the following day.  The crew, Brownie and I, all went to Meed's Meadows for the Thanksgiving Feast--IN THE SNOW! Actually the power went out while we were on the road to M'sMs and when we arrived they were cooking on a camp stove!  The snow had started on Saturday evening and continued into Sunday.  The power came back on after the food was cooked but it all tasted delicious, no matter how it had been cooked.

We gathered the bulls, an all day event which saw us ride many kilometers to bring the herds to the pen we had created to capture the herd sires.  After I returned the bulls, I gave George  a hand and hauled some heifers to MLS for him.  The -P herd was rounded up and loaded to return to the -P headquarters. 

Thank goodness we got those jobs done!! October 14 there was a BLIZZARD!  We had weather warnings that it was coming so the ducks and dogs were put under cover.  All the other animals had places to hide out of the wind.  

The next day was very white but relatively comfortable.  We had a Winter Trail Ride that went very well, in spite of the heavily weighted snow covered branches that threatened and sometimes did, dump snow on us.



Then the atmosphere did the unthinkable--IT RAINED!! Now we had an ice storm, at one point the big east facing window in the front room was completely glazed over.




Despite the atmospheric conditions, we ventured to the Two Bar C to celebrate Marlene's birthday.  It turned out to be a complete surprise for her and was another tasty pot-luck meal.  

The ice tore down power lines in many places in the North West of Saskatchewan.  The power was out for most of 24 hours.  Thankfully we did not have to resort to looking for a generator as the outdoor temperature was not that low. Instead we ventured out in the 25-30 cm of snow and besides over heating the transmission of the truck and getting thoroughly stuck we also rode several kilometers searching for the cattle herd at the North Ranch.

Thankfully they were happily grazing through the snow, shoving the snow out of the way with their muzzles to find the green grass that lay hidden beneath.  We rescued some calves that had become trapped in a sorting pen and would have been fair game for predators. Later in the week some of the crew helped the -P with their pregnancy check, we hauled some cattle to MLS, and despite the snow, lessons continued in snow suits and mitts.  We returned the partially healed Baylee and dear old Fudd to Meed's Meadows and brought back some of the livestock that had been at M'sMs since last fall.  We had another Winter Trail Ride that again worked out well. 

We had our North Ranch Fall Cattle Drive on the one sunny day in the later part of October.  We again had help from the crews from Two Bar C and Meed's Meadows.  We gathered the cattle in the morning into the holding pen at the North Ranch.  After we had our lunch, we brought the cattle to the highway, and with George's help, brought them to RR 3185 and headed them south to the Home Ranch.  We had prepared a field where they could eat some hay or go out and graze.  Most chose to try the hay but a few were glad to pick at the grass in the field.   

The McLeans came for their annual deer hunt on Halloween weekend. They harvested a young buck. While they were out in the bush they saw 4 wolves just under a kilometer from the yard!!  Needless to say I was uncomfortable about having them around.  The crew and I went to the Pierceland Haunted house on the Saturday evening of the weekend, it was a psychological terror this year.  As usual it was very well thought out and executed. The crew member with me on my walk through, did not trample me, but the young couple we were with, certainly seemed to be in a hurry to get through the "house."  LOL On Sunday morning, Vawn & Chris' sudden appearance in the paddock where there were cows and calves caused a stampede.  Perhaps the predators had the cattle on edge or maybe they just got startled, but they ran over several fences and had to be rounded up on horseback to get them to return to their proper paddock.


Meanwhile the Meed's Meadows crew and Marilyn helped us sort, tag and load calves for the sale on Halloween.  Howard came and hauled a couple of loads and I hauled the rest.  Now the ranch became a very noisy place with cows bawling for their calves.  After going to MLS, I went to the neighbours to retrieve the two wandering, yearling heifers that had spent the summer on the wrong side of the fence. The neighbours had also brought their cattle in, to sell their calves, and could finally sort off my heifers. The calves were sold at about half the price we received last year, the weights were very similar but the price/pound was just down that much.  On the other hand the prices last year were very much inflated and this year there seems to be a great deal of fallout from the exorbitant prices that led to huge losses in many feedyards.