Howdy! During the last month or so I’ve learned that life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s learning to dance in the rain. Or snow in our case. We have survived incredible blizzards and stormy conditions over the last few weeks.
I don’t believe I’ve seen this much snow in the 3 years that I’ve lived here. And certainly not in the month of APRIL. It was such a whiteout that I couldn’t see where I was going and could barely keep the wheels turning on the four wheeler.
Let me introduce you to Polaris tracks aka, life-saver. Our gracious neighbors let us use this so that we could get things done around here.
What does one have to do in such ferocious conditions you may ask? Well, feed cows for one thing, but I’d like to update you on the changes to the Uprooted Magnolia and the Cowboy. First, you must endure these images like we have endured living through this. Keep in mind, in most places it was knee-deep and in some spots, it was up to my waist. I’m average height.
We were snowed in. But the determined and very responsible cowboy HAD to leave the ranch in order to get his cows and calves fed on the meadows at the bluffs.
As we busted through drifts, snow piled up on the hood and we could barely see our exit.
Then we just couldn’t see anything at all.
So we (Patrick) stopped to clean the snow build-up off the hood and convince ourselves (me) to go further. But what did I do? While Patrick observed the road conditions, I took pictures of the snowed in ranch.
Once we got 6 miles out of the ranch the roads were good and we made it to the bluffs to feed the hungry cows. They were glad to see us. As you can see, they weren’t getting any grub underneath all that snow.
Sunsets over a snow blanketed pasture are always a calming sight.
One of the snowy evenings I saw the turkeys roosting in the trees behind our house.
So now the snow has melted, the skies are clear and the sun has set on our days at Dakota Ranch.
The ranch has been sold to a new owner and Patrick and I are moving on. But moving our home in this springtime blizzard was extremely challenging. Challenging in so many ways.
For the next couple of months we will stay in the hills of Southeast Wyoming and are excited about where life will take us. Some wonderful friends have opened their home to us while they live 80 miles away for the summer. My days are filled with caring for chickens, ducks, goats, a fuzzy pooch, and of course Matilda. My calendar is once again filling up with photo shoots and we are getting settled in to our routine for this spring and summer. We will continue working hard for our new home. This has been a huge year for change, and it’s only April. What else will we conquer? Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be a lot of new adventures.
*Hugs* ~ Leah
We drove off the ranch yesterday to head to the bluffs to check on Patrick’s cows. We branded them this weekend and took them to new pasture and then bam, a blizzard hits when we least expect it. And that’s just tough on the sweet baby calves.
Snow was still falling by evening and blowing across the road.
When we got there, they seemed very spry and excited to see us.
We got out and looked everybody over. They were a little frosty but everyone looked good and healthy.
But looking over the pasture, there wasn’t much grass peeking through and nowhere for them to lay down to be protected from the cold ground. That’s where we come in. Patrick attached 2 chains to the pickup and the hooks on the other end locked into the hay bale so I could pull it off the stack.
We dragged it over to the cows and Patrick got out to cut the strings.
The girls were a little impatient! I backed the truck up unrolling the bale while Patrick helped to pitch off the hay to them. When the bale got smaller, I stopped the pickup and jumped out to help. We pushed the bale and rolled it into the trees so they had something warm to lay on and be protected from the wind.
By the time we were leaving, the calves made their bed on the fresh hay while their mothers were chowing down.
Warm and toasty. Well, not really. But at least they are covered in leather!
We checked on them at about 5 this morning and they still had a lot of hay left and the entire herd was bedded down on the hay. They looked good, just a little cold. We’ll roll out another bale this evening for them to help them get through this crazy weather. At least the sun has finally come out. That should warm them up a bit.
Just another day in paradise y’all!
It was a pretty sunrise while the guys were getting ready for preg check. I got my papers in order and headed down to the cows. We had a successful check and had a great lunch before heading them up into the hills.
We got them through the first gate and up the main road. You may recognize this road from the fall scene I called Country Road. Not so colorful this time of year.
Got through the second gate.
There is always one that thinks she needs to go on her own. She’s a non-conformist.
Again she separates from the herd.
But Patrick can always show them the way.
Patrick was the gate getter.
If you keep them spread out a little and stay at a steady pace, they tend to travel better rather than keeping them bunched up and moving fast.
Sometimes the sound of a swinging rope will straighten the girls up and keep them moving.
We were heading straight west into the hills and into the sun.
I had to shade my eyes just to see the road.
It’s quite the climb up into these hills and we’re prefer they stay on the road. But as always, a few tend to go their own way.
Patrick and I took a group into what we call the rock pasture (this whole place is rocky, not sure why this one is so special) and down into the canyon to water. The other cowboys took a group to the river.
We went back and checked on them the next day and their bellies were full and they were very content. The ladies will enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday in the hills.
I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week. Thanks for hanging out with me here at our home on the range. I am so grateful for each of you.
Our crew from back east took charge a couple of weeks ago and branded the last batch of calves.
They led the mothers and calves out of the calving pasture,
over the hill,
along the fence line,
and into the branding pen.
They sorted the mothers from the calves and led them out of the corral.
Reagan and Marley were great spectators.
These guys were also in the audience. They snorted and stared and were as grumpy as ever.
And then the roping began.
Tommy and Hillbilly worked hard and did a great job of bringing the calves in so they could be vaccinated and branded quickly.
Once they were down, the ground crew swooped in and had them up and at’em in no time.
A couple of days later, the cowboys and cowgirls led the herd up the hill so they could wait for the trucks to take them to the Laramie Plains
One little one tried to get away but Patrick and Jack guided him to the rest of the herd.
They went right in to the corral, with the encouragement from those on horseback, and waited.
On the last day of their visit, Marley’s mom and sister went shopping so we decided to have a photo shoot.
Marley was a fantastic model and we had a blast taking her “cowgirl portraits”.
We dodged a few raindrops and had moslty cloudy skies. But the sun popped out every now and then and we were dolloped with some lovely light.
All in all it was a great visit and even though we put them to work, I hope they enjoyed it!
Did you see the hunters moon this week? It was so beautiful. It is the first full moon after the harvest moon and is named this because it is ideal light for the hunter to hunt and stockpile food for the winter.
I love fall but I dislike hunting season. It opens tomorrow. All year, I get watch these young bucks grow up and graze our meadows only to have them shot and then hung on the wall as a trophy. I knew coming into the ranching lifestyle that hunting was part of it, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
So I whispered to these guys yesterday during my hike,
“Run, hide yourselves. You will be hunted soon”. Obviously they didn’t get it because I saw them this morning in their usual spot.
But hopefully they will hunker down in some tall grass and stay quiet until the gunfire ceases.
This girl can only hope. Until then, I shall accessorize in orange.
Over & Out,
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.
This was my view ALL morning long.
And then this. I had to get away from the rear-ends for a while.
Then, and only for a moment, my view became this.
But then back to the cows. We’re trailing them from the Bealy to the Harris for new pasture.
The haze in these 2 images is dust from sheet grass. When we were done, we were covered from head to toe in this dust.
This bull strayed away from the heard so John had to round him up and bring him back to the ladies.
It took a long time, it was hot and the ladies were not happy with that long trail. But I hope they appreciate where we took them. They gotta love this grass!
I love this pasture. The locals can’t believe we’re looking at grass so green in July. So hot, but so beautiful.
Do you know where your cowboy will be?
While I’m sawing logs, mine will be baling hay.
He waits until the dew is just right on his already 80 acres of cut hay and then bales it into round bales. Being on top of the moisture measurement prevents mildewed hay. Round bales do best to keep mildew at it’s lowest but some ranchers make square bales. Those are best for stacking and transporting for selling.
I’ll take him some lunch mid-morning. I might find him sleeping in the tractor. I’ll keep you posted.
This isn’t a post about one of the greatest albums of all time by Joni Mitchell, although it is one of my favorites.
I was visited by this dragonfly today and I felt like sharing some images of blue.
The Mule Shoe Ranch on the way to town has peacocks out to keep traffic slow around there. I love being greeted by them while coming or going from the ranch.
One thing I enjoy doing with my blue-eyed cowboy is take the hounds (blue-tick and walker) out for a stroll under the blue evening sky.
And then we have Patrick’s hands when he gets home from spraying weeds with a vibrant blue dye. Steering wheels and door knobs mysteriously turn blue during this time as well.
On Fathers Day, it seemed only appropriate to gather the bulls from the distant meadows to eventually put them in with the cows. The calves are growing up so it’s time to make new ones. We don’t want the cows to suffer from empty nest syndrome now do we? On this particular day, the bulls were quite agreeable and didn’t give us much trouble at all.
They marched through the meadows like good soldiers. Except for the occasional snort and kicking of dirt, it was a slow and easy process.
It took a little convincing but they made it through the gate without any hassle.
They stopped for a quick snack of flowering yucca weed.
And they made the turn into the corral nice and easy. But this was only the first set of bulls that needed gathering.
The next day we released the bulls with the cows for a little flirting and baby making.
Fast forward to yesterday when it was time to get the last of the bulls. I thought hey no big deal, just like earlier in the week, we’ll get them right in no problem. Well, I was terribly mistaken. These guys were a lot feistier than the previous group. The fighting started almost immediately.
It got rougher and tougher as time went on.
We started to worry that they might drown. They kind of look like hippos don’t they?
They started to slow it down and just stood head to head in a definite power struggle.
This guy was getting sick of the fighting too. He just stood there bellowing trying to beak them up.
Once they got out of the water, it started all over again.
We did get them into the corral and they will be placed with the cows eventually. It’s a good thing, they need to release that testosterone and fast!
We were invited to a couple of brandings in early May. Yes, you’ll see a lot of Patrick on horseback, you know I can’t resist. But if you were wearing a cowboy hat, you were also focused on closely.
The weather, as I’ve stated before, is so unpredictable out here. I got sunburned at Tom’s on the 5th and we froze our fannies off at the Smalls’ on the 7th. Go figure.
Click the images below to view the gallery of each of these 2 brandings.
Yes folks, this day in May the wind howled and snow fell. Patrick grabbed my camera and took a couple shots of the mountains behind the house.
We worked all day Sunday. The weather was much better yesterday than today. We got 43 mommas and their babies paired up to be trucked to the Laramie Plains today for more grazing.
John’s cow dog, Dixie, did a great job. She perched at the top of the hill until John told her to come. She’s very obedient and works hard.
Dixie and I sat at the top of the hill and watched the cowboys work.
Once in the main corral, we had to make sure the babies were paired up with momma and then put them in separate corrals for the big delivery. They are going to love the Plains. The grass is getting greener by the day.
We needed to get a few more pairs from the meadows. I was told to get behind the fence and DON’T BE SEEN!
My how the years go by. This young lady has been a beautiful subject of my lens for 4 years now. We did her portraits in a friends yard and by the neighborhood lake earlier this week. We had great weather and little Avery was a trooper. Tears streamed once and only for a short amount of time. Otherwise we played and smiled.
She wanted to pet the ducks but they weren’t having any of that. We looked for fish in the lake instead.
This was her birth announcement portrait. I still cannot believe it’s been 4 years.
See you next year Avery!
Branding. It’s exhausting. Not only for the cows but for the cowboys and girls too. We branded at Uncle Tom’s yesterday and Friday we’ll be at Kenny’s.
I’ll have more images up soon but for now, the only shots I’m concentrating on are the vaccines for the babies to keep them well.
This morning it was time to gather the cattle to move them to a new meadow. I took the lead in the Rhino and Patrick and Shadow, the cow dog, brought up the rear on foot. I had cake in the back so they were more than happy to follow me.
It was a beautiful morning with blue skies, lots of sunshine and very low winds.
We got them across the river and into the meadow and it was time for cake. When Patrick isn’t looking, I’m spoiling them.
OOPS! He spotted me and grabbed the camera.
Their tongues and rougher than kitty tongues. But they are gentle when they eat from my fingers.
The last of the calves are entering the meadow. We’ll check tomorrow for any stragglers that didn’t run with the herd.
Next it was time to repair the fences in this meadow. You can spot the Ranch back there with the green roof.
We fenced for a couple of hours, turned around and could no longer see the Ranch. Only a storm coming our way. We high-tailed it back to the house.
I spotted these tiny flowers along the way. If you know what this is, will you let me know?
We got home covered in snow. It only lasted a few minutes before the sun came back out and continued to be a beautiful day.
There has been a steady rainfall here since Wednesday. The cows are wet and grumpy.
I’m not so grumpy because when the sun finally comes out, there will be some beautiful green landscapes to photograph.
Patrick has to watch over the irrigation ditches and create dams in the river so we don’t have a flood.
The water is high and the Laramie River is rushing. It is beautiful.
The wind is howling tonight and snow is in the forecast. Looking forward to what Saturday has in store.
Yesterday we branded 68 calves. We did most at the South Ranch and a few of the wilder ones at the main ranch. It’s always tough to watch the babies be split away from their mommas for their shots and the 5C but it’s only for a short amount of time. When they are released back into the meadow, the mommas are able to find the babies quickly. They mother up and get as far away from the corral as possible.
Remember Munchkin? I finally spotted him yesterday and he’s doing great! He’s too small to be branded yet but he’s nice and healthy.
His momma doesn’t let him out of her sight. She’s taking great care of him. Unfortunately that can’t be said for all the cows out here.
On our way home from the South Ranch we saw lightning in the distance. It was a nasty storm over Glendo and it was headed our way.
We got home just in time before the sky fell. And I mean it poured, thundered, and hailed like I’ve never seen before.
While looking over the grounds today to make sure there was no damage from the storm (there was none thankfully), we came across this horn. Deer lose their horns in December and start sprouting new ones almost as soon as they lose the old ones.
I think this is just the beginning of a stormy spring.
Beauty, sunrise to sunset.
There’s nothing like:
Turkey’s gobbling at sunrise.
And playing peek-a-boo with the hens after breakfast.
And peek-a-boo after lunch. You can’t see but she could not fit another bite in her belly.
More peek-a-boo with wildlife. (can you tell I miss my nephew?)
And sunsets over the mountains.
With a bluebird chirping us along the rocky trail.
I do believe springtime has arrived in Wheatland my friends.
New Arrivals at the Dakota Ranch:
This view is overlooking the South Ranch, a few miles from the main ranch.
We are having many new arrivals everyday and the milk has come in for most of the moms. Except for #3220. She wants to be a good mom and she keeps an eye on her baby but she just isn’t producing milk. Que rancher:
He was so very hungry.
He’ll be fine now. Debbie and John, the folks working at the South Ranch, will feed him twice a day so he’ll get nice and round.