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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Home at last!

My adventures in the wild west have now come to an end and I find myself once again in the big, bustling city.  The last few weeks that I was on the ranch we did a ton of riding. It was turn out starting in May 15th, so that means that all the cattle get moved onto range lands.  I was a riding a beautiful buckskin mare named Divorce (odd name, I know) and she was wonderful! She is now my second favourite horse.  All through turn out I was riding in an australian saddle, which is much like an english saddle.  I believe that this has actually improved my riding slightly, as there is no saddle horn to hold onto, haha!
Before the cows and calves can be turned out though, they must be branded. This is not an option, it is required by the government if you have cattle on range land.  Branding marks the end of the calving season and is a great excuse for a party! They invite all their family, friends and community to come and help in this big event. The week leading up to branding was an extremely busy one.  There was all the cooking for both lunch and dinner to be done, cleaning the house and yard, vaccinating all the cows and getting everything organized around this huge event.  When the day finally arrived, we had a great turn out! I'm not sure the exact numbers, but there must have been about 50 or so people (which is HUGE for Anahim Lake).  It was a fantastic day, got all 450 or so calves branded by 5:00, had dinner around the bonfire, listened to the harmonica and banjo do their thing. It was too cool!  As you can imagine though, the next day was a clean up day :)
The weekend after branding my parents finally made it up to Six Mile . . . and brought the pouring rain with them. I've never seen it rain so hard there, not even kidding.  It was nice being able to finally show them where I have been living for the past year.  When I was finished showing them off, we headed down the Bella Coola hill, explored the town a little and stayed the night with some lovely friends of mine.  In the morning we headed for Spring Lake Ranch, just north of 100 Mile House, where my adventures all began. It was so good to reconnect with them and to ride my Sweetie once more. We stayed the night there and were homeward bound in the morning. The best feeling in the world is coming home! It never gets old. So I am home with my cat and family until June 1st.  One the first I am getting on a plane headed for Gothenburg, Sweden to see my 4 friends over there. It is rather hectic trying to get ready in such a short time, however I am so excited to be seeing them again in a few days. I will be back on August 4th with many new tales to tell, this time from over seas :)
Thank you to all who read my blog for all these months, I have so enjoyed telling you about my life as a ranch hand in Anahim Lake! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A couple weeks ago now, I was able to escape calving for a few days and take a mini-vacation to the Okanogan.  A friend of mine from Bella Coola goes to UBC Okanogan in Kelowna; she is also studying to become a vet. So, I went along for the ride to pick and pack her up after exams.  It was a lot of driving and I saw Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna, Merrit, Quesnel and everything in-between. We live in such a beautiful province!  In Kelowna it was lovely to look out the window and instead of white snow, see lush green grass, flowers blooming and heat rising off the pavement. As much as I loved seeing my friend and having a break from everything, it was so good to see the cows again!
Gloriously, in this past week the snow has completely disappeared in Anahim, hallelujah! And the blustery days we’ve been getting have worked wonders in the corrals, drying up the mud, making it way easier to get around.
Two new additions have been made to the cowherd. A Holstein and Jersey, both milk cows and both so wonderful!  I named the Holstein, Black Velvet and Ben named the Jersey, Jessica. They each have so much personality, are gentle and petable. I have been doing a lot of milking as you might have guessed, but their milk is delicious and rich, so it is worth it. I've hand turned butter and made some ice cream, yummm! I have decided that one day I am going to get a Jersey milk cow and keep her for a pet :)  Milking is excellent exercise for one’s hands.
There are now less than 40 cows to calve, its so amazing! And all the heifers (first calvers) are done calving now. We had a long streak where we didn’t have to pull any calves, which was a nice change.  Nevertheless, one cow came along with a calf that had one leg back.  Since the head and one leg were already out, we had to push the calf back inside. Easier said than done.  The tail block was not working on this cow for some reason. I’m here to tell you, that trying to push against a cow is really hard. But we managed to get him back inside, straighten out the legs and pull the calf out easily enough.  Another exciting thing I learned is how to tube a calf.  So, if a calf is sick and dehydrated, you have to stick a tube down its throat and into the stomach to feed it electrolytes.  At first, I was so scared of getting the tube down the wrong hole and drowning it. But, thankfully I didn’t and am much more confident in tubing calves now. It’s a handy skill to know.
Most people know that last summer I raised an orphaned calf. She was my bottle baby for a few months.  She was small for her age because she was a twin and didn’t get as much milk as she could have eaten. She was sold to a local guy here in town a few months ago. He told me I could come and see her anytime. I went down there last week and couldn’t believe my eyes! My little cute baby has grown into a fair size teenager cow. She is doing well there though and is as nice as ever. It is amazing how fast things grow.
Branding is coming up in two weeks, the biggest event of the year (apart from rodeo). They are expecting around 50 people to show up and we have to feed them, ahhh! I’m up to my eyeballs at the moment in baking for desserts. We’re starting on the cooking soon.  I hope I’m not doing the cooking too, I might give everyone food poisoning or something. Sadly, I have not inherited my mother’s cooking skills. 
An extra exciting birth occurred here a few days ago.  A mare named Jelly Bean had her baby finally!  It is sooo adorable, with its long gangly legs. Three more foals are expected this spring; I just hope they have them all before I leave. 

The octopus calf

The calving has slowed down drastically and our night shifts have changed to every three hours instead of two. Punky and Eli decided it was finally safe to go home for a night, although they left the radio on just incase there were any problems.  I was on the 2 o’clock check.  When my alarm went off, I dragged myself out of bed and went outside.  Someone had put a calving cow in the barn on the 11:00 check. However, when I looked in on her, she had afterbirth hangout out but I couldn’t find the calf anywhere. I was puzzled. I ran her into the chute just to check her out. When I reached in and felt around, I was even more puzzled. All I could feel were three legs and feet (all different sizes), a tail, and no head. Something was VERY wrong and that baby wasn’t coming out naturally. I ran inside and got everybody up to help deal with this thing. Roger said that whatever was inside felt like a ball with legs sticking out of it every which way. It was either going to be a C-section or bullet calf. I called Punky and Eli on the radio and they rushed up to the ranch.  By the time Punky got here we had everything set up for the C-section, so she set to work right away. Once we were in the cow, the uterus wouldn’t flip and come to the outside insition, no matter how hard we pulled. One can’t cut into the uterus if it isn’t in a place where you can sew it up afterwards. I reached my arm inside the cut, went shoulder deep and could feel the bones of the calf through the uterus wall, but it would not budge. There was absolutely nothing that we could do for this cow and her calf, the most humane thing being to put her down. They got the gun and butchered her outside. I went to sleep for a couple hours. When I awoke, everyone said to look outside the door in the wheelbarrow.  So I did and I couldn’t believe what I saw!  It was the most deformed and scary looking calf you could ever imagine. There was not one thing normal or right about it. All of its joints were backwards, it had four joints on some legs instead of three, the legs were pointed weird directions, its face and nose were squashed in on one side, the neck was curved way back so the head was upside down, the spine was crooked, the hip bones in strange places, and the ribs were in the wrong spot (not covering internal organs). Later, I dissected it and the insides were just as weird as the outside. Its liver was all bulgy, it had one shriveled up kidney, the lungs were black, and the stomach was filled with fluid. The heart was normal. However, the liver, heart and lungs were all in the wrong place. It should have aborted long ago, but somehow it had lived all this time. No one had ever seen anything like it.  Although it was all very interesting, I felt so bad for the calf and the poor cow. She had been a good mother in previous years and was very gentle; sadly there was just nothing anyone could do for them. Here is a photo of what it looked like (don’t look if you are easily grossed out). I would post more pictures, but they are rather gory and I don’t want to cause anyone to be sick.