Watering Trough

You remember those long, deep utility ditches dug all over the ranch this summer?

And all the time and effort Rick and Alex spent running electrical conduit and water lines?

The dirty job of covering up the ditches (even using our favorite neighbor’s tractor) when the water and electrical lines were complete?

And the even dirtier and harder job of covering up the ditches by hand?

The time and expertise of our friend John the builder who designed a very sturdy form for the concrete base the water trough will sit on?

Cutting and bending all the rebar that went into re-enforcing the concrete so cranky bovines wouldn’t damage it?

Tying all the rebar in place so the concrete would be really strong to withstand the cattle?

The big job of pouring concrete?

Setting the heated troughs on the reinforced slab?

Well, after all that time and effort, it turns out our dog Molly likes the new cattle water trough just fine!  All that work and the dog uses it.

Happily Molly is not the only user of the new trough. The new calves use it daily.

And when it is freezing cold outside it shouldn’t turn into a giant ice-cube!  That is a good thing.

Dusty No More

Remember the dusty, dry summer weather we have been having? The driest August / September ever recorded here?

Well it’s not dry anymore! In fact we have received over 8 inches of rain in the past 6 days. This has led to something else we don’t see too often around here.

Puddles! Only a few – our soil is so rocky it drains really well. And according to the weatherman, more rain is one the way.

I think it is really fall now.

The Apple Crop

We have harvested our first “real” apple crop last week. I say that because the past couple of years we got a few apples from our trees, but just a few. One year we had a late spring freeze just as the blossoms had set on and that ruined the whole crop.  This year we had enough apples to fill up the bottom of a box – so I think that qualifies as a harvest. These are Liberty apples and they are delicious!

This Liberty is our best tree by far.

Our Granny Smith apples were pretty good too, though we only got three or four. I think we are really too far north for this variety to do very well.

Unfortunately, not all of our apples did well – this is our Gala apple and it has issues. I don’t know exactly what this is on it, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t good.

So, I have a box of wonderful apples for us in the cold room, and the chickens got the ugly ones which didn’t seem to bother them at all. I guess it worked out OK for everyone.

The Cattle Drive Co-Operative

It is approximately 1,600 miles from our ranch here in Northwest Washington to Muddy Creek Ranch in Montana and back. I know this because we have just returned from a trip there.

It was a co-operative venture all the way. We don’t have a stock trailer big enough to hold all the calves we wanted to pick up. So, on the trip out, we drove to our friends Rick and Shelley at Topline Lowlines in Monroe, WA. We picked up their 20 foot stock trailer loaded with three of their cow calf pairs and drove to Bill and Donna’s Cloverdale Farms in Rathdrum, Idaho. We off-loaded the cattle in their stock pen for the night and then went over to our friends at Idaho Lowline Cattle Company in Hayden, Idaho. Jay and Diana generously invited us to spend the night in the guest house and Diana cooked us a delicious dinner! If you ever get invited to a meal Diana cooked, make sure you accept right away – I guarantee it will be wonderful. She even gave us a loaf of her special whole wheat bread to take on the road. The next morning we drove back to Bill and Donna’s and loaded up Rick and Shelley’s stock in their trailer and headed out for Montana.

We arrived at David and Karen’s ranch in Wilsall, Montana safe and sound and un-loaded the cow calf pairs. They are sold to a buyer in Louisiana who is coming to pick them up in a few weeks.

Then it was time for us to pick out our new calves. When we mentioned our trip to another cattle guy, he asked “Can’t you find cattle closer so you don’t have to drive so far?” The answer is yes, we probably could; however this is the reason we don’t.

See all these calves we get to choose from? Excellent quality animals and many, many of them. Great cattle choices and really nice people, that is why we drive all the way to Montana. Here is one of their bulls, Northern Exposure who is co-owned by our friends Russ and Linda at High Point Lowlines.  He was both the Grand Champion Bull and Supreme Percentage Exhibit at the recent Spokane Lowline Show.

David and Karen had the calf crop for this year rounded up so we could pick the ones we wanted. It is really a little overwhelming to see all those animals and try to pick the best ones. We sorted through them and decided on the calves we liked. This heifer is my favorite one this year. We will be giving her a better name than #23.

We also picked out a new bull calf, and again we had a lot of excellent quality animals to choose from. The calf we chose has a great pedigree – he’s out of Standing Bear, another Muddy Creek bull – and he should be a really good addition to our herd when he grows up.

After we got done with the serious business of picking out our stock, I had time to wander around the ranch and take a few pictures. I love the sunsets in Montana, they don’t call it Big Sky country for nothing.

After a day to recuperate, it was time to hit the road again. This time we used Muddy Creek’s 30 foot trailer so we would have room for all 23 calves. It was a pretty full load.

The return journey was a reverse of our trip out. We drove back to Idaho where our friends Bill and Donna helped us off load our calves in their pen for the night. We spent the night at Jay and Diana’s guest house. The next morning we re-loaded the calves in Muddy Creek’s trailer and headed home. When we arrived and unloaded the calves in their new pasture here at our ranch I don’t know who was happier, them or us. We were as ready to get out of the truck as they were to get out of the trailer.

So, thanks to the cooperation and generosity of our friends, we have our new calf crop here at our ranch which has doubled our herd. Rick is taking Muddy Creek’s trailer down to Topline Lowlines in a day or two. They are driving it back to Montana when they go to a cattle show in Billings in a couple of weeks. Then they will pick up their trailer and bring it home and the circle will be complete.  It was really nice of everyone involved to help us out. We have met some wonderful people in the Lowline cattle circle – they have been very generous with their experience, equipment and hospitality and we truly appreciate it.

What to Do??

There is a lot going with us and round the ranch lately. Many, many things actually happening or need to happen or should really happen or I wish would have happened. Building a shed in the south pasture for the cattle to have shelter from the rain this winter, we’re in the middle of a drought, I went on a Quilting Shop Hop with my friends to Eastern Washington and with all the fires there it was really, really smokey but we still had a great time, Rick was in California for over a week and got a lot done but he still needs to make a couple of follow-up phone calls, fall is in the air and our low a couple of nights ago was in the 30’s, Rick and Alex got the new fence and gate in at the north pasture feeding trough, the minutes of my last board meeting still need to be approved, the potatoes in the garden really need to be dug up and stored, the utility ditch across the yard needs to be backfilled so we can get access to the squeeze and loading chute, I need to send a follow-up email to the wonderful people who have pre-ordered our beef,  we need at least two loads of gravel delivered and spread before the fall steers are harvested, there are two chickens who have learned to fly over the fence every day and scratch around in the garden and we can’t catch them to clip their wings, the guys got the water lines and electrical conduit run to all the pastures so this winter we shouldn’t have to haul water to the cattle even if it is freezing, I need new winter tires on my car, we are renting out our bull to another local rancher and will have to deliver him there, I bought a huge box of Honey Crisp apples while I was on my trip and now need to do something with them, we need to move the cattle to new pasture more often because we are in the middle of a drought and it hasn’t rained in two months and the pastures are not growing back as quickly as they were, I need to start a new spreadsheet to track our beef sales so we know how much we have pre-sold and how much we have left, the whole house needs to be cleaned, I had to write up an addendum to the HACCP plan so we could say “Angus” on our beef labels and I really hope the inspector approves it, we could use a bit more firewood cut and stacked in case it is a long, cold winter, I have a baby quilt finished and I really need to get it sent out but I forgot to get a card and I don’t know where I put the new address, the new chickens we got in the spring are starting to lay eggs and even though they are very small we have five dozen in our refrigerator right now, we got DSL internet but still have a useless satellite dish sitting on our roof, I need to make airline reservations, I wish we had a couple of pigs to harvest because we are all out of pork and it was delicious but we didn’t do any this year, I need to stain the underside of the rafters in the Gazebo that I pressure washed last week before they pour the slab, the fall flowers on sale now are so pretty, but should I get some because how long will they really last before winter, Rick has a conference call board meeting tonight and I am supposed to remind him about it so I hope we both don’t forget, our printer / fax machine died and I need to ask Alex about what kind I should get to replace it because I hate having to buy ink that is so expensive so I want the one that I can get refilled at Costco, our Liberty apple tree has lots of apples on it and the birds are starting to peck them. Lots of things and I can’t find anything to write a new blog post about. It would probably be a bit presumptuous to say I have writer’s block, because I don’t really think of myself as a writer, more a reporter and as mentioned above there are lots of things to report and I can’t really get interested in any of them. So, I say to heck with the words and I will just show you more pictures. Totally random, unrelated pictures with no theme. I hope you all understand – oh and that’s another thing. We got a new computer so my old photo program isn’t available anymore and I had to switch to a new one which everyone says is actually better but I still don’t know how to use it very well so it takes me twice as long to do pictures.