Every time I start to write one of these “year in review” essays, I am in a different place in my life. Nature has a way of moving me along, and how I choose to view that path will determine the ride. Most days I enjoy the ride because I remember to see the world for the better. Apparently one of my friends asked another if it were possible that I could be “that naive”? I guess the answer was yes because that is the way I am. I know that I sometimes aggravate my helpers and students by insisting that there are certain rules that must be followed. The rules usually encompass something that is for the person’s own safety. I say that I choose to keep seeing things that are safe, happy and educational.
Recently I spoke with someone and pointed out that if they chose to look at the circumstances in their life just slightly differently it would be a positive rather than negative for them. Within a few minutes of the conversation, the physical pain that had been plaguing the person subsided. “A weight was lifted off my shoulders.” Our minds are most powerful, they allow us to be who we choose to be. Perhaps you have seen the quote from Mike Dooley “Thoughts become things... choose the good ones! ®” I have been choosing to ride the path I can enjoy.
The span of days from Winter Solstice to Winter Solstice has gone through the cycle of season’s once more. Winter, when the landscape is covered in snow and we have a calm time to reflect; Spring, when the earth bursts forth in a renewal of growth and we hurry to embrace it; Summer, when some enjoy the warm/hot days and farmers and ranchers anxiously watch the skies for …. Rain or Sun; Fall, when the harvest brings long hours for those who earn a living on the land. I am one of those who very much enjoys the variety of the seasons and the different gifts each brings to us. I am grateful to live in Saskatchewan where nature is very relevant to most of the population. There may be a few who do not whole-heartedly embrace our challenging environment and are not able to appreciate the wonders that surround us. However, I am an enthusiastic participant in the cycle of seasons.
Winning Ways was a relatively quiet place for Christmas 2017, we celebrated the Eve at the Millar’s and the Day at Meed’s. Even New Year’s Eve we spent at Brownie’s! I did find a Spruce tree branch and turned it into a Charlie Brown tree and of course I had the Winter Lights glowing in the window. New Year’s Day was frigid, and we all hunkered inside our warm houses, no sleigh riding at -33 C!
Top photos: Christmas Eve Santa visited at the Two Bar C; Christmas Day the Meeds Meadows crew had the most charming ornament in their tree!
Second Row: I hope you can read the instructions for Happiness! Of course the real reason for the season is portrayed by the children from Chris' parish ministry in Kitimat, B.C.
Third Row: The Charlie Brown Christmas tree, along with the winter lights in the window.
Bottom: You can tell by the peculiar orange glow that New Year's Eve was cold!
I'm not sure you can see the nocturnal bird on the center stump I photographed early on New Year's Day. I like to think he or she brought good vibes to Winning Ways all year.
I remember that January was COLD, one morning it was -47 C with the windchill!! That led to frozen water bowls and working in the bitter cold trying to get them operational again. Toward the end of January, the first volunteer of 2018 arrived after several eventful days of hitchhiking across Canada in the winter. I’m not sure if he was brave or just unaware of how deadly winter on the prairies can be.
The helpers and I, along with George and sometimes other friends, enjoyed some of the local musical talent at different Music Jams. Some jam sessions were held at the library, others in Sergent Hall and even one, rescheduled on Canada Day, was held in the Arena. We also attended some concerts at various churches and the school. We watched the Flying Dust Pow Wow one evening, and were very glad we had blankets to wrap up in. We are truly blessed in our community with so many cultural events. I guess the local Rodeo would also fall into that category. Rodeo and Chuckwagon Racing are definitely a big part of the Western lifestyle that we are able to enjoy here in Northwest Saskatchewan.
The following Rodeo pictures are Lightbox enabled so if you click on them you get a better view and a caption.
These races were held at Bear Creek Gymkhana Grounds
The grandstand at the Stampede Grounds has been declared OFF LIMITS since it is no longer structurally safe. A committee has been formed to Save our Seats (SoS), which will raise funds to build a new structure that will replace the hazardous grandstand. I was at the founding committee meeting representing the Prairie n Forest Equestrian Club. Our Club offered to help with the first fund raiser and that is why we were found, on a warm day at the end of April, selling $1600 worth of hamburgers in the Co-op parking lot. During the summer the local Lion’s Club along with a group of dedicated Chuckwagon Racers presented a weekend of exciting Chuckwagon Racing at the Stampede Grounds. Of course, the grandstand could not be used, so bleachers were brought to the grounds for a different type of experience for the race going public. I had never sat in the in-field before, to watch the horses/wagons charge around the barrels right in front of me. The new committee had to set up it’s charitable status and do the necessary paperwork to become a registered charitable organization. That status was finally granted this fall and the group held another fundraiser, a Lobster Fest, to keep the momentum going. The Equestrian Club and the Lion’s Club got to hand over the funds, they had raised earlier, to the SoS committee at the Lobster Fest. That’s how I made it onto the page of the Pride! AND I got to enjoy my first Lobster Fest—yummy!
The weather in the early part of April was not nearly as pleasant as the day of the Hamburger Sale, in fact we were still dealing with -33 C windchills. There was also a great deal of snow in the bush, so we had to bring the cows home from the neighbours by truck. Not nearly as exciting as a cattle drive, but much more practical considering the environmental conditions. Calving was not w/o some tense moments, the helpers found a new born stuck in the mud when she had tried to follow her mother through a gate. We got her into the sled, brought her in the porch, thawed her out, named her “Snowflake” (although she’s all black) and took her back to her momma the next morning. The crew also got to bottle feed her once.
The calves continued to be born through the spring w/o much intervention on our part. Except the one young cow who tried to claim all the other calves BEFORE hers was born. I knew she could be a problem from her behaviour last year, so when I saw her chasing after calves that were already tagged, and she had no obvious signs of having given birth, I decided intervention was best. It was evening check; my crew had gone out for the evening to enjoy music at the Legion. It was team penning in the twilight and my team mates were Brandy and Louvic. It is unadvisable to run a cow that is going to calve immediately, but this one made several laps around the pasture, at various speeds before agreeing that heading for the corral was the best option. She wasn’t cooperative about staying inside the fences either, so we made a few detours along the mile or so to the corral. Finally, I had her safely in the feed pen with the gate chained, thanks to my fleet footed team mates. I went back to check on her after I took care of my pony and sure enough, she had a calf. All she had to do was stop running after other calves and lay down long enough to have her own!
This spring we had two sets of lambs. Krafty delivered hers while we were helping at the Two Bar C. She had a pair of ewe lambs, Pepper (speckled ears) and Whitney (completely unremarkable WBF). A bit later at the beginning of May, Shelia was acting uncomfortable one morning. I asked the helpers to keep an eye on her. Shelia did not seem to be progressing in lambing, although I could see a foot. Eventually I assisted her to deliver Goliath (WBF), who was just as large as the two lambs born two weeks earlier. I thought I had better check to see if there was another. I found more feet, just took me a few moments to decide which ones I should pull on, and out popped Spring, who was small and black. Lambs always grow amazingly fast, and their antics are usually hilarious. These lambs would dearly love to climb right out of their pen, all the chicken wire we put up, has been pulled down, by climbing hooves.
Winning Ways has some new equine residents as well. A couple of former 4-H members decided that they wanted to sell their horses in the spring and asked if I was interested. I checked out the bay mare and she seemed to be quiet enough and might make a school horse, so I agreed to purchase her. When I arrived with the trailer, there was a pony tied beside her, and it was suggested that he too was for sale and would I take him in addition to the mare? I loaded both, took them to Dr Dick for their ELISA test and put them in quarantine here on the ranch. Dr Dick told me the little white gelding was the better of the two, which surprised me since he seemed much more nervous than the mare. The test results returned, and the horses could then be introduced to the Winning Ways’ herd.
Maddy, the bay mare, had been the alpha mare at her former home, but now she was at the bottom of the pecking order and not liking it one bit. The little gelding was absolutely beside himself when taken away from his “friend” (she was very mean to him but at least he knew her). Eventually we found the little fellow some horses that did not bite and chase him constantly. Dr Dick was correct, Maddy is very bossy and tries to push people around the same way she would like to dominate the horses. Ryder on the other hand likes little kids and has made a good addition to the school horses. He even went to the Horse Show with one of the students and Caslyn rode him in the baby hunter class. Maddy spent most of the summer lame and is now growing a new sole in her hoof that abscessed.
St. Eligius of Noyon is the patron saint of horses and people involved with horses, according to Wikipedia. I’m sure that horses too, must have guardian angels. This year the saint and the angels must have been busy elsewhere because we had a rash of lame horses. First there was Tawny, then Kosmo , followed by Maddy and Velvet. Tawny and Maddy both had abscesses, Kosmo sprained a superficial tendon in his front leg in June and is still a bit lame. I’m hoping that being out in the deep snow will help to restore the elasticity and reduce the inflammation in that tendon. Velvet came to us with a bit of founder, her feet were neglected badly, and it might be possible she had suffered some digestive upset that caused a fever as well. In any case, Leonard’s shoeing skill is being tested by the farrier challenge and the attitude of the mare.
The following are Lightbox enabled
All our former visitors and volunteers will remember Sir King Hobo, who ruled the house for many years. Unfortunately, in the last year the old fellow became completely deaf which made letting him outside rather risky. Any cat that does not at least raise its head, when the vacuum cleaner comes roaring up to the chair it is sleeping in, has to be totally deaf. He was becoming staggery and having trouble with keeping himself clean. Eventually it became clear that his quality of life was rapidly decreasing and one day while I was in ML I got a text that it was time for the old boy to go. I must again thank the young lady, who was greatly attached to the old fellow, for taking him to the vet and holding him ‘til he was gone. She helped to lay him to rest in the pet cemetery and created a memorial sign for him. You can visit the grave out behind Brownie’s when you are at Winning Ways.
We have added another species to the menagerie at Winning Ways. Wilbur or Piggy is a pot-belled pig who the neighbours wanted to get rid of. The capture and transport of poor Wilbur was definitely stressful for all involved. Wilbur, after several months of being fed by humans that do not try to seize him, is becoming grudgingly more trusting. In fact, I haven’t seen him snap at anyone in a long while. I’m hoping that we can create a pig pen somewhere in the yard for Wilbur next spring and allow him to enjoy rooting and relaxing in the great outdoors. He does enjoy overripe fruit and withered veggies.
Although my foray into raising ducks ended this year, with the death of both the drake and hen, we still have fowl. The fox got nearly all the chickens in 2017 (only two survived and went to Marilyn’s), so last winter the chicken house stood empty. This spring I persuaded Marilyn that she could raise some chicks, so we could once again have laying hens. I love farm fresh eggs and so do most of our visitors. Once the young pullets were nearly old enough to lay, we brought them to Winning Ways. Since then the chicken house has been a busy place. One of the helpers installed a ceramic heater which does not emit light unlike the old-fashioned heat lamps. Now we can regulate the heat and light, so the hens are laying very well.
Winning Ways was blessed by at least twenty visitors/volunteers over the last 365 days. In keeping with all the privacy protocols, I do not mention names of the wonderful folks that stay with us. They will remember a task or chore, mentioned in this year-end review, that they were instrumental in completing. “You know who you are!” We hosted German, Australian, French, Dutch, Belgian, English as well as Canadian helpers. All of them made contributions to Winning Ways whether it was doing chores-outside or inside, riding and training horses, picking up groceries, playing instruments, taking photos, chasing cows, fixing fences, educating students, tagging calves, creating videos, or a myriad other tasks. The critters and the crew at Winning Ways appreciate all the hours of effort that our volunteers put forth. We hope the helpers learned, laughed, enjoyed, overcame frustration, stretched themselves physically and mentally, felt success and accomplishment, formed friendships and made a lot of memories they won’t soon forget. Thanks again to you all!
Brownie spent most of the year doing what he does best, bringing cheer to those of us at Winning Ways. Brother Bob, Brownie’s brother who lives in Edmonton, visited regularly and even fixed up the old yellow and white van for a camper for himself. The Brown Bros., as they are affectionately known, did some sorting of “historic memorabilia” and I think Bob moved some of it from one storage area to another. Brownie shovelled and blew the snow away last winter, kept the grass cut, took out the “compostables”, burned in the burning barrel ‘when there was a favourable wind”, fixed all sorts of things requiring a handyman and generally kept Winning Ways from falling apart.
This fall, when I was away from the yard, but fortunately Brother Bob was here, Brownie took a “header” entering his own door. He was lifting his rather large toolkit through the door and miscalculated where he should place his foot, thus loosing his balance and falling against the doorjamb. Amanda was a good neighbour and cleaned up the “crime scene”, at least that’s what she called it. Head injuries, especially on the scalp, bleed profusely and there was a great deal of evidence of this. Brownie is very robust and told us that at no point was he knocked out and the hospital authorities gave him an all clear as far as any brain injury. I think Brother Bob had much more of an ordeal than did Brownie. (But that’s another story you can ask Brownie to tell.) Brownie was concerned that his injuries might “gross out” some people so I assured him that he could wear a toque or a Santa hat and keep it all under wraps.
Amanda had a great deal of fun over the past year working with her little friend Missy, the mini mare. She got the pony driving very well and borrowed Howard MacCuish’s little cart to go all over the ranch, to a couple of parades and even entered the Free-Style Dressage class in the Horse Show! Job wise, Amanda worked at Extra Foods for the first half of the year, then she was able to get on at the local Tim Horton’s. Amanda had worked for 8 years at Timmy’s in Ontario before she came west and was very quickly back in the routine at the store here. She likes that she has regular hours and a full-time position, as well as being very familiar with the products at Timmy’s.
In the late summer, Amanda’s family drove out from Ontario for a visit and an opportunity to holiday at one of the lakes in the Meadow Lake Provincial Park. They enjoyed the lake and hiking trails near it. Amanda had a few days off and stayed in the cabin with them for a mini holiday. She got to show off her training of Missy to her dad and let him take the pony for a drive. Amanda has a couple new project horses for this winter. She is starting Mr. Big in his harness training and his attitude is “it’s no big deal”. She is also working with Velvet to get her going in harness as well. Velvet’s owner, Loretta, has even had an opportunity to ground drive her.
The McLeans returned from the west coast in the middle of July. They had a full truck when they arrived, their whole family along with a couple of cousins from Ontario. The cousins had ventured out west to attend one of the Winning Ways Riding Camps. There was a flurry of activity from their arrival, until after the local Horse Show, when the McLeans headed back to school. Vawn was happy training horses and riders, the girls were happy to be immersed in ranch life and Chris was happy he got to use some mechanical skills fixing his truck and building a bale mover. Of course, Yellow Dog was extremely happy that his family returned.
This fall Chris returned to University to finish his final year at the Seminary. The girls were able to return to the French immersion School they had attended earlier, and so there were familiar faces and friends when they started back to school in September. Vawn tried unsuccessfully to find a short-term position, but with the present job market, it is tough to convince an employer that they should hire someone for only a few months. Vawn contacted one of the local stables and discovered they were without a lesson coach, so she returned to Winning Ways, picked up Rocky and Tango and started her lesson program in a heated indoor arena. She may be working full time, in the profession that she enjoys most, in the new year.
Kelton has continued to be employed by McMaster University in Hamilton. He is helping to put the students into the Hatch Centre, which is the project that he started on several years ago. Since the University discovered Kelton’s skills as a liaison between faculty, administration, contractors, engineers, and students he has been tasked with facilitating the start of another building. He continues to be interested in Green Power, but his time is taken up with scheduling and construction delays. Kelton will be coming to Winning Ways for Christmas 2018 along with the McLeans.
Winning Ways has been a busy place over the last 365 days. I think I have noticed that the clock spins faster now than it did several years ago. It must be another effect of Global Warming--erratic weather, erratic politicians and rapid societal changes may all be caused by our changing environment. A friend of mine suggested that time flying, was simply that we (baby boomers) don’t move as rapidly as we once did, but we think we should get just as much done. I think I will choose to keep moving rapidly so that I can enjoy the ever-changing environment, weather and society. Choosing to enjoy the variety of life, as opposed to being weighed down by it, will allow me to lead a happier, fulfilling life. Choosing to value respectful relationships with others and looking for the best in others will allow me to be happier. Choosing to be thankful for the beauty, the honesty, the good around me, will allow me to be happy.
Winning Ways has had a good year and I hope that each of you will choose happiness in the next year.
May each of you be blessed with health, prosperity, joy and friendship.
'til our trails cross,
May each of you feel confidence, pride, and prosperity all through 2019!