We’re busy around here. Remember, I often use the term “we” loosely. I do help out, like cradling a newborn that’s too cold and the momma can’t take care of it in the beginning. Mostly though, I stand back with the camera. I’m loving being around these little munchkins but it just means a lot of work for the ranchers.
Once the calves are born and have sucked, they get their ears pierced.
It’s not the prettiest accessory but it serves it’s purpose. It helps to pair them with momma if they get separated.
Some are born fast and feisty. That means you’ve got to chase them through the meadows and grab them up when they hide in the willows. They have to get their ear tag and be inspected by the rancher to check their health.
Sometimes milk bags can’t provide so eventually the Rancher becomes the Mother.
Sunset is a favorite time. That means a couple if not a few hours of sleep before it starts all over again.
But it’s not just the ranchers that are busy around here. While we’re calving, the gobblers are strutting and the hens are watching and waiting for their knight is shining armor. I’ll have those photos for you tomorrow.
I’m so thankful the weather is turning and we are starting to warm up. Well, sort of. We woke up to a light dusting of snow yesterday morning but it melted away by noon. The skies were blue then overcast, then blue again.
I went for a walk near the river and noticed the willows reaching sideways. It’s either that they chose to grow this way or it’s because of the 70 plus mph winds we had this winter.
I continued my walk through a couple of meadows toward the hillsides and noticed the grass laying sideways. I tell you folks, the winter winds were vicious here but I think they are on the way out.
Yep, the weather is a-changin’. I’ve taken the rocks out of my pockets. The cows are calving. Deer are losing their winter coats. The hounds are ready for their evening walks.
And I’m getting nervous about swimsuit season. Ugh.
This week marks the one year anniversary of starting my new life here in big sky country. What can I say, I met a cowboy, fell in love with him and the land, and decided that my heart needed a change from the recent sadness I was experiencing in my hometown. Losing my mother to cancer 5 years ago left me with a crushed heart and a great deal of sadness. Life was gray and smiles were hard to come by. My photography lacked spunk and creativity as we just went through the motions together. Two years ago this summer, I came out here for an assignment with a great friend and writer, Jessica W. She was way more cowgirl than me and this type of assignment was right up her ally. Me, not so much. I had no clue what being a cowgirl was all about. But when I stepped out onto the dirt drive of the spacious ranch, the crisp, dry air carried the aroma of sage and manure straight to my head and ignited my senses. A smile appeared on my face for the first time in almost 3 years. The wide open spaces filled my eyes and immediately my camera and I became one again. When I met eyes with the ranch manager, I felt my heart actually skip a beat. Something inside me was brewing.
Jessica and I spent only a few days here documenting life on this working cattle ranch. Herding and branding cattle, cooking meals over an open fire pit, riding horseback and my favorite- a four wheeler ride through the Laramie Plains with Patrick. We woke up to ravishing sunrises and relaxed at the end of the day with the calming beauty of the sun setting over the mountains. I didn’t want to leave. And when I was finally home, I wanted to go back. So a month later I did. And then the next month, and the next. I was fortunate enough to sell my home quickly in the historic district of beautiful downtown Macon, Georgia, and on my 32nd birthday, packed it all up and started my journey across the country. My dad, Matilda and I squeezed into the over loaded 2 door civic and drove 3 days to my new home. I had no doubt that this was what I wanted to do. And I could not have pulled this off without the loving support of family and friends. Not to mention the support of the fabulous clients that became friends in my 6 years of being a freelance photographer for Macon and surrounding counties and cities.
Before mom passed away, she told me that if a great opportunity comes up, different than the relationship that I had in my life at that time, don’t pass it up. Grab hold and don’t look back. Embrace change. Embrace life. And don’t ever quit what makes you happy. Time here is too short to wonder “what if”. Even though she isn’t physically here, her words have guided me to where I am now and I know she would be proud.
PS: Patrick is to thank for the title of this blog entry. It’s just one of the many cowboy sayings I’ve learned while out here. This one was a favorite among my girlfriends that sat through the recap of our first adventure in the wild west. It seemed like a fitting title for this entry.
I’ve got the best job ever…and in a magical land no less. I’m working an ongoing project with a client shooting seasonal shots of their land. Hey, it’s not all that easy. I’ve got to scout out the best light, best locations for that light, all while watching out for lions, tigers and bears. Oh I kid, I kid. Anyway, I wanted to share a just a couple of highlights I’ve captured over the last couple of weeks.
I stumbled on another empty nest. It was in a small bush about knee level. I was careful in my approach just in case it was occupied.
This beautiful land has a small Quaking Aspen forest and once I got through the tangled forest, it opened up to a babbling stream and high cliffs of slate.
On one of my most recent visits, while concentrating on the details of the land, I felt a bunch of eyes on me. Really. I got nervous. When I looked up, I saw this bunch of mule deer peeking over a cliff. They were so curious and stared down at me for a long time. Nice to see I was not alone and among friends. I just love shooting this land. I’m definitly under her spell.
I’m so happy that the color of green is appearing. This pond is near the hay meadows encircled by a jungle of wind fallen trees and tangled willows. It was so quiet except for blue birds chirping and turkey gobbling in the distance.
Hope you are enjoying your first days of spring. And to my friends back east, I assume you are stocking up on allergy medication with all that pollen covering your world. Hang in there. I sneezed a couple times in honor of you this morning.
On a hike after checking the cattle, I heard a gobble in the distance. I followed the sound across the river and through a clearing, I saw them.
I followed, trying not to spook them. They led me through another clearing and then then I saw more.
But this time I saw turkeys and deer. They saw me too but nobody ran. They just stared me down.
This yearling and his turkey friends grazed without even noticing me.
Whoops, turkey crossing.
Harmony. Tranquility. Peace. Ahhh early spring.
To get the calf to recognize her as it’s mother, she will hum. The hum is a low pitch, closed mouth mooooooo, obviously. Then, when they are all mixed up in the herd together, mom can hum and the calf can find her quickly. It is also a way to comfort the calf if frightened by us humans.
I remember one very snowy day last year a calf got herself turned around in an offshoot of a corral and couldn’t find her way out. The mother was already out and was humming to get the calf’s attention. The snow was so high, up to my knees, and the calf started to panic. Patrick instructed me to go in there and hum to her. I did, and the calf turned around. I continued to hum as I led her out to her mother into the corral. I mentioned that here.
I love hearing the hum, it means she’s a good mom and loves her calf.
Yes! It is finally spring around here. It’s warming up and that means very little sleep and hard but wonderful work. Cows and ranchers are all busy. Calving is beautiful and precious but it can also break your heart. Fortunately, it hasn’t been too emotional yet.
The calves that were our early arrivals have become bosom buddies and are so entertaining.
They jump, kick and climb on anything they can get their hooves on.
And they are already munching on a little hay.
While the older ones play and eat all day, little ones are being born and are learning to use their legs.
This little one was born to the heifer (first time mother) I had to watch over the other morning. The calf convinced her that she was his mother and she is now very loving and hums to him constantly. She loves her baby and that is such a relief.
He’s so cute and feisty. I’m so glad he made it. They will join the herd soon but for now, he and his mom will stay in a corral separate from the others. He needs to get more comfortable with his legs.
I woke up at sunrise to this beautiful sky. What a gorgeous start to the day.
After admiring the beauty and singing “Morning has broken, like the first morning”, I went to the barn to sit by and watch the heifer (first time mother) that gave birth under this morning sky. It was obvious she didn’t understand what was going on and what she was supposed to do. All she knows is she had a belly ache and then this thing that looks like a dog is laying on the ground. I spent an hour with her and watched as she licked and simulated the baby. At this point, the calf is smarter than mom because he knows what he needs and will not give up trying to get into “the pocket”. He finally did. Phew!
Then I came in for chocolate chip pancakes. More on the heifer and calf later.
I have pictures of baby calves to share with you but it didn’t seem right to share them right now. Watching the destruction in Japan and fearing the worst for the west coast of the US and other countries that are threatened has put me into a marathon of prayer.
Wishing Japan a peaceful and speedy recovery.
While Patrick was taking shoes off a few of the horses, I was birdwatching by the barn. Since we are mostly covered in snow, I wondered what these little guys were eating.
Dark-eyed Junco’s are birds of the ground. Just look at this chubby guy.
He spotted something on the ground. What you may ask?
Ahhhh, so it seems they are helping the horses eat their grain. And it looks to me like they get a lot of grub.
They fluttered around and were not too concerned with me hanging close by.
I’ve never been a huge fan of birds. I had a bad experience back east when Starlings ripped the backyard light off the exterior of my house and started nesting in my walls. My patio was covered in droppings and they drove the kitty and me crazy. I had to have them excavated and after that, I swore I would never have bird feeders. But out here, I’ve seen so many beauties that I may have to put out a feeder and see who stops by.
A couple days after my morning with the Bald and Beautiful (thanks Mary!), I took a walk down by the river. It’s so peaceful there and I was looking for signs of spring. I picked up an antler shed and as I walked down down the river bank, I saw a little bit of green grass peeking though. Then I saw a feather. And then another, and then more floating among twigs in the river.
I think it is safe to say that the eagle was successful in his hunt.
I’d say he got a duck but I’m not positive. Like Melissa said in the comments yesterday, “It’s easy to imagine it tearing a small mammal apart looking at those talons (and cold eyes)!”
It’s so true. So much for peace by the river. But hey, that’s nature for ya.
There was a light snow falling last Friday morning and I was sitting at my desk with a warm cup of coffee when Patrick called. He said to jump on the four wheeler and head down to the bridge with my camera. An eagle has been perched there since the crack of dawn he said. I figured he’d be gone before I could get on the 5 layers of clothing required for riding in the snow but to my surprise, he was still there. He took flight not long after I arrived.
He landed on a limb way down the river. Can you see him in the distance there?
But I captured this image before he took flight.
I think out of all my shots while out here in the wild west, I am most proud of this portrait above and of the one in flight. Just look at his eyes. The sharp talons. And that beak. I had a hard time focusing because the snow was coming down pretty fast but I persisted. And he was hunting. Turning his head all around waiting for his next meal to come along. It was a difficult shoot and I was so happy to come home with these results.
I hope you like them too.
1) When yer stirrups are too short, your knees hurt. When yer stirrups are too long, yer ass hurts. When both yer knees and yer ass hurts, your stirrups are just right.
2) Don’t dig for water under the outhouse.
3) Never miss a good chance to shut up.
4) Always drink upstream from the herd.
5) Don’t squat with yer spurs on.
And my favorite…
6) Don’t drink prune juice when yer thirsty.
Happy Friday everyone! Remember to always speak your mind, but ride a fast horse!
We woke up at the crack of dawn to a thick fog covering the ranch and the hills that surround us.
Cowboys showed up with horses in tow and I invited my friend Vickie to join me in the ATV.
Yesterday was the day to move cattle from the home place to the South Ranch.
The girls knew something was up when they saw the cowboys on their horses.
They immediately started running to join up as one huge herd.
Vickie remarked on how amazing it is that they line up in single file.
I’m guessing it’s because they know a gate is up ahead.
The fog lifted and we watched as they spread out when in the wide open meadows.
Single file through the gate…
…and through the draw.
This was our view for most of the day. Backsides.
Through wind fallen trees…
…and across the Sybille Crick*.
And finally, under the busy Highway.
After a 5 hour trail ride, we got the ladies to what I call the ‘maternity ward’ of the South Ranch. There is a lot of feed, clean pasture and calf pullers at this ranch. We’re getting ready for a busy calving season.
I can’t wait for the newborn portrait sessions!
–*Crick is cowboy for Creek.
Who else is singing “Walking on walking on broken glass” after that title? No one? Ok, it’s just me then.
Anywho. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and that can only mean that the ice is melting. Chunks of it are being forced onto the banks of the Laramie River.
Shadow and I have to leap, climb, and stomp during our hike.
Look at how thick this piece of ice is. This thickness stretched from one side to the other and often tempted me to walk across. I never got up the nerve.