I hope that these annual Updates are enlightening, amusing/dramatic and engaging. With them, 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 2017, an opportunity to look back and remember 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 of "Kelly's Angels" or clients who enjoy our equines and landscape.
My updates usually start with last year's Winter arrival and continue through the seasons until we are nearly back to the present Winter Solstice. No one has scolded me unduly that there is a better way or that I should in fact make a Reader's Digest condensed version. However, if you'd rather skip the factual, chronological items with the occasional silly story thrown in, go right to the end for a summary. Those last paragraphs about the final concert of the season are worth a read. They tell a story that is inspirational and uplifting.
Another series of seasons has completed its cycle and the Northern Hemisphere hunkers down for the longest nights of the year. I'd like wish each of you the Experience of Eudaimonia in the next cycle of seasons.
"Happy New Year"
The greetings go out around the world. Many different reasons for holidays, many different greetings but they all speak to the common human emotion and the longing for the feeling of joyful satisfaction. No matter the reason, we wish each other happiness!
During the shortest day of the year in 2016, marking the end of Fall and the beginning of Winter, Winning Ways had many visitors. We weren't celebrating--I'm not sure we even had time for tea! It just seemed that many of our friends dropped in on some errand or other. The following day we had to find a Christmas tree and off to the North Ranch we went, to eventually bring home a little spruce since there did not seem to be any suitable pines. The McLeans arrived a couple days after the Solstice with their pets, Yellow, the bunnies and 4 cats to spend a week of holidays at Winning Ways.
On Christmas Eve I fed all the animals Mrs Santa Clause style, wearing my big red and white hat! I also joined the Millars for their Christmas Eve celebration which involved a great deal of good food and the tallest of Santas delivering presents at their Ranch. Christmas Day the McLeans, the Brown Brothers and I celebrated together. I think there were a couple of grand girls who got "coal" in their stockings as did one of the Brown Brothers. Guaranteed Mrs Clause had nothing to do with that, she was too busy cooking Christmas Dinner!
The McLeans enjoyed visiting with friends, ski-dooing, and ice fishing (not sure who caught a fish). I seem to remember being treated to a few tasty fillets at some point. We all said our farewells to Auntie Claudie at her memorial service held during that week. Then the McLeans returned to Edmonton so Chris could assist with the parish celebrations for the end of the year.
December 31 found my helper and I comfortably seated in front of Brownie's TV fonduing (with chocolate & fruit), munching on snacks and each sipping a favorite beverage watching goofy old movies. The Russians are Coming provided lots of laughs and so did The Solid Gold Cadillac (b&w except for the caddy). Of course we looked out and watched the year 2016 depart and the appearance of 2017 from Brownie's doorstep. AND we toasted the arrival of the New Year. Quiet evening but filled with pleasurable moments. Happiness.....
The Two Bar C held the annual Sleigh Ride and Potluck that family and friends enjoy attending. Howard MacCuish brings the team and Jan 1 he picked up our sleigh on his way. Good thing the sleigh did not disintegrate before the sleigh ride as he had to take it home and make some repairs before bringing it back to Winning Ways.
The big, silvery Wolf Moon appeared when it was -49 C (with the wind chill). A big bright January full moon is an omen of a good year and so we hoped for an improvement in climatic conditions. In less than 3 days we were at 0 C and then the temperature rose above zero and there was water dripping in January! Call it a Chinook or blame it on global warming but we were very happy to be warm again.
After it warmed up we were able to do some Equine Intelligence Connections allowing the horses to help facilitate human healing. I even took a client down to Nesset Lake and discovered that the lake surface was very slippery under the snow cover on another day that was above zero.
Meanwhile the crew got to experience archery practice, butcher a cow, practice target shooting at a gun range and attend dog sled races where they even got to hold some very young puppies. Happiness......
I thought that my friend Tara was acting unusual when she arrived at the ranch on February 1. She is a great co-conspirator and had been enlisted to surprise me with the return of an alumna who had a few days holidays from her job in Banff. It is so great to create friendships that have folks wanting to return to Winning Ways whenever they have an opportunity. Of course we had to visit our friends and fellow ranchers so the alumna could catch up all the latest happenings.
The WW crew headed into Meadow Lake for the Winter Festival and had an opportunity to take a spin on a snow machine, visit with Morris the Moose (note Roughriders shirt) and watch the Dog Sled Races.
Winter continued to have erratically warm days, Valentine's Day was +7 C and there were 10 days in a row where the temperature climbed above zero. Now if you are not a Saskatchewanite and unfamiliar with our winters, THAT many days of warm temperatures in mid February is very unusual. It allowed us to go trail riding and sleigh riding.
We also attended some cultural events such as a hockey game and an evening of fiddle music with some guitar pickin'. I even took a few days away from Winning Ways to visit the grand girls and their parents in Alberta.
Early in March we arranged the hay, for the rest of the winter and into spring, in the paddocks to the east. Thank goodness it was all set out so that when the snow melted and the ground became very muddy the cows moved to the hay not the other way around. It snowed some more and the wind blew the snow into such big, hard drifts some folks couldn't get out their driveways. (We could.) Then winter came back with a vengeance to show us it was NOT done yet. The temperature dropped and with the wind chill it was down to a bone chillin' -40 C.
When the veterinarian had pregnancy checked the cows in the fall, he determined there were several going to be "early". Probably going to calve in March he said. So from the beginning of March the crew and I were diligently checking cows, early in the morning, late in the evening and periodically throughout the day. I had found a good cow calving video on YouTube and had all my crew watch it so they would know about a calf's imminent arrival. If they saw the first signs of parturition they would know what to expect so if an ordinary delivery did not proceed they could get help. Sure enough a helper found a cow starting to calve March 16 and it arrived w/o incident to a chilly but not frigid world.
Not quite a week later, I ventured to Meadow Lake to have lunch with Granny and shortly after we started eating I received a text that another cow had calved successfully. Great! Then a couple hours later I got another text, there's another cow calving and one acting funny. I hurried with the grocery shopping because the weather was getting stormy! Sure enough by the time I got to the ranch there were two very chilly, little black bull calves, covered in snow, shivering beside their mothers. Then there was another cow acting like a thief trying to steal one of the newborns. That was a sure sign she was also going to calve. We pushed the one calf that able to walk and pulled the most recent arrival in the sleigh all the way to the barn. Of course the 3 cows followed us to the barn as well. Eventually we had to lock the newborns in a small pen in the barn, put their mothers outside in the storm and leave the highly "emotional" calving cow to deliver her calf in the barn.
The amusing part about all this was that the newest volunteer had viewed the cow calving video just the evening before. We had asked if he had any experience with the birth of calves and he said "No!" So we immediately sat him down to learn what to expect. He as very happy that he had the video information before he and the other volunteer got to watch the actual calving cows. There was a fifth cow that we had not even recognized was going to calve that early, who simply did her job and delivered and looked after her bull calf w/o anyone checking on her. Happily cows can take care of their newborns if the weather is not inclement.
We celebrated Earth Hour 2017 by dutifully turning off all the lights and playing Rummikub by candlelight. It was a good way to spend a "dark" hour and we had fun learning a new game. The next day we met our friends at the Bar P feedlot for the Spring Cattle Drive to bring the cows back to Winning Ways from their winter in the corn fields at the Bar P. Ten horses and some riders from Meed's Meadows, Winning Ways and Howard MacCuish cheerfully moved the herd in less than 4 hours.
For April Fool's day we played a joke on Tara, we surprised her with a birthday cake, one day early. She was taking an Equine First Aid course here at Winning Ways so she was completely taken aback when we started singing Happy Birthday and put a cake in front of her. Usually she is the one who is surprising others. The participants in the course all enjoyed the cake as well and learned some new information and techniques such as putting on a hock bandage and protecting an eye.
The next couple weeks we continued to check cows at least 3 times/day but none of them delivered until April 10 and that was another who had the "early" designation from the veterinarian. Vawn thought it was time to play with horses so I loaded up the trailer and took her 4 just before her birthday. She got a couple quiet ones for lessons and couple that needed some training. My trip was an over & back the next day, because I didn't want to leave the crew with a calving cow, nor did I want to be caught in the snow. Note the very dirty "white" horse on the left as I departed the McLean's on April 13.
You've probably heard of the Ides of March (from the Roman calendar) but I didn't know April13 is the Ides of April. I just thought 13 was an ominous number and when it started to rain that day turning an already muddy corral into a mud bog I was sure of it. The poor helper who was attempting to feed the calves was sure she would never get out of the feedlot with her boots still on her feet. To 'add insult to injury' OR add snow to water, the next day it snowed many centimeters and it was still snowing April 15!! Yes we got over a foot of snow in the middle of April. YUUK!
Thank goodness for Brownie and his snowblower on Easter morning! Even though the wheels went down to the mud, eventually the blower chewed & blew the heavy white stuff off the driveway and off the paths to the other buildings so we could get around. The old tractor was pressed into service to trample out the roadway and deliver a bale to the cows. That evening we had Easter Supper at Winning Ways with some friends, enjoying lots of very tasty food and good fellowship. Happiness.....
Shortly after that the cows started calving regularly and the cow checkers felt elation when they could come back and report there were 2 new calves. We even managed to have some riding lessons in the week after Easter, slogging through the mud since the return to warmer temperatures had melted away the snow.
There were uncooperative cows and cold calves that had to be placed in the nursery pen beside the chute. We put the cows in the chute and tried to persuade the calves to suck.
Sometimes we milked the cow and fed the calf with a bottle, other times we saved the milk for another calf that might (and eventually did) need it. While we did not have to deliver any calves we certainly got to know some of them and their mothers very well.
The crew got handy at flanking and flipping calves to put them on the ground for tagging. My job was to act as the defence player on the team, in case any momma got too over anxious and tried to rout the rest of the team who were strategically located holding the calf down or applying tags.
At the end of April the crew went to the Rodeo in North Battleford where they got to see the pros flip the calf and tie it down. Meanwhile I went into the Meadow Lake Tradefair to listen to my friend Linda Nadon recite her cowgirl poetry.
May meant that our enthusiastic little students were out regularly to ride after school. The cows continued to calve so the helpers were doubly busy, however things started to dry up and we could walk on dry ground. Well mostly it dried up, except for a few bog holes along the lanes the cattle had to use to come to the water trough. There was a day when the youngest calf, born the day before, became stuck in the mud. WW's longest legged helper immediately went to rescue him. She got him out but then she was stuck--oh boy, was she stuck. I tried very cautiously to get to her and very nearly became part of the bog too. In the end she crawled out in her bare feet and, after a terrific amount of digging and pulling, freed the boots that had disappeared in the mud.
The boots, that appear as large lumps of dirt in the photo, laid on top of a convenient bale for a couple of weeks in hopes that the rain would wash away some of the very sticky clay that encased them.
Howard MacCuish picked up horses for the M's Ms & WW's crews the first Saturday in May. We had a very eventful ride at Tall Timber Trails! The young people and Howard attempted to go down one trail while Marilyn and I were going to ride around the trails in the opposite direction. The storm that brought a foot of snow in October 2016 had been further assisted in destroying trees by the snowfall in April. The trail simply did not exist where Howard and the helpers attempted to go. Of course when Marilyn and I finally reached the south end of the trail they had attempted, we also found it had vanished under a terrible tangle of broken branches and tree trunks.
We eventually found each other along the river, but we were very sorry that the trail, that had been so much fun to ride on, was completely destroyed.
About the middle of May we held our first little branding. Unlike the other ranchers who want to have one big round-up and do all their calves at once, I prefer to have a few smaller, easily completed brandings. Howard and Leonard do the roping, I brand and the volunteers learn about "wrestling", vaccinating, tagging, record keeping and whatever else needs to be done.
A few days later, with the help of the MacCuish clan, helpers from the Two Bar C and Winning Ways, we held a cattle drive to move the yearlings and branded calves with their mommas to the North Ranch.
On the long weekend in May the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation at Loon Lake held a Pow Wow and the crew went to watch.
At the end of May we had a first-calf heifer with extreme mastitis, that became septic, and despite our best efforts and many drugs we were unable to save her.
Then we had a bottle baby, Franky, to feed. Franky got to milk several cows over the course of the spring as there were several who produced milk in excess of their calves' needs. Of course Franky had to come to the yard to become a "milking machine" so he, and another calf that was a 'runaway', got a ride to the yard.
Initially Franky got a bottle which he sometimes had to share but not very happily.
Dandy, the former milk cow, had a heifer calf, Ici (yes, "I am here"), who was just not capable of, or interested in, consuming large quantities of milk. So instead of the crew having to milk Dandy, Franky was the "milking machine".