Welcome to our ranch near Canada's west coast in Beautiful British Columbia's West Chilcotin mountain region. Where calling the vet means hollering back at the house to bring your kit, new friendships are formed from the back of a horse and true fun for a five year old is getting a machete for Christmas. Where 'cutting the dinks off' has a totally different meaning than what first comes to mind, Muck Boots are a household name, a hand shake still means something and the coffee is always on.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Hoping and trying....

Remember the post I wrote a while ago, about the rancher I met at the Stockyards, whose comment about ranching being the 'most hopeful business in the world'?  Hoping the weather improves, hoping the market holds, hoping that calf nursed, hoping that old cranky cow calves on her own.....  The comment still makes me chuckle.  I recently had to set up a new account for the combined ranches and, when asked what name to put it under, I honestly thought about telling the secretary "Combined Hope Ranching".  

Hopeful has to go hand in hand with 'try'.   When being hopeful doesn't work out (which so often happens), you best have a Plan B, all the way to F or G.  That generally starts with "Okay then, dang it, let's try......"  

So our calving season has begun, as you may have guessed.  The weather has been less than cooperative (so much for being hopeful there!) and it is more like late January than almost mid March.  Well, I shouldn't say that, the last couple of days have been absolutely gorgeous.  It has seemed over the winter that when it warms up a bit, it snows.  Snow clears and it is beautiful, but teeth gritting cold. 

Our calving season has come on slowly.  We turned our bulls out later this year, and between that and our cows being in less than stellar condition last spring, we are pretty slow getting going.  But they are pregnant and the flood of babies is coming!  The cows are in good shape this year overall, and I'm sure 'hoping' to have a good season.    

It didn't start out that way, with only 1 out of the first 3 surviving.  But thank all that is good that the one that did survive (and thrive) is Jackson's one and only calf.  Grandma gave him his own heifer this spring and he is very proud of her and her little steer calf.  

The first calf that didn't make it was simply born dead, as far as we could tell.  Certainly there was no indication of anything going amiss, besides lack of heart beat.  Eli and Jackson had gone to check on her in the barn and found the calf still lying with feet inside momma, dead as can be.  But you gotta try......they ran in and rubbed and rubbed the calf, puffing air into its lungs and hoped and hoped.  But it was well and truly gone.  
The next calf had a leg back, and looked weirdly puffy.  We easily re positioned the baby and helped momma deliver.  He was hard to get breathing and just wasn't right from the beginning.  The calf continued to puff up and go downhill, and even though we used all means possible, died a few hours later.  (Our autopsy showed an abnormally large heart....)  

2am check when hoping for better weather didn't work out. An opportunity to try and remember why you wanted to be a rancher in the first place!

The next momma to be was brought in and a wee tiny baby easily delivered unassisted.  I figured right away that there was a #2 in there, and sure enough, momma laid back down and went to work again, already licking and talking to #1 staggering around the pen.  She was straining too hard and taking too long and sure enough, #2 was trying to enter the world ears first, rather than feet and nose.  She was easy enough to re position and then nearly landed in my arms with the next contraction.  

So the heifer whose calf had died with heart issues was still wanting her baby and bawling by the barn door.  Knowing it's worth a try, I took the 2nd twin directly to her old pen (without the original momma licking it) and let the sad heifer back in.  She was absolutely delighted with her now active baby and chuckled and chatted away constantly as she licked her shiny as can be.  We made sure both twins got adequate colostrum and everyone was happy.  I actually had to turn the heifer out of the pen unless someone was watching for the first day.  She kept tucking the wee one into her chest with her head and then trying to lay down with it.  Great theory to keep it safe, absolutely terrible in practice when the calf isn't mobile enough to stay out from under her and the chances of being crushed to death are extremely high. 

The photo hardly does her justice but this wee twin easily walks under her long legged mommas belly and imitates a giraffe to nurse.  This is #2, delightedly accepted by the sad momma who lost her own baby.    

Despite hoping we were over our bad luck, Eli found a calf pretty much frozen in the pens.  He picked it up and ran for the hot box, positive it was much too late,  But you have to try.  With the propane heat slowly warming it up, warm colostrum in his belly, a pain killer administered and a whole lotta hoping, he amazingly did come around, although it took all night.  Unfortunately, the cold seemed to have froze the sucking mechanism right out of him, so that was certainly an issue.  I actually think he was premature as well.  He would get up and wander around, but suck?  No certainly will not thank you anyhow I think I'll just starve but thanks anyhow leave me alone nope I don't want any I don't know what you are doing but I'm too smart for that trick no way notta chance.  But we had to try, and try and try.  So now it's been nearly a week of trying.....momma, the bottle and the stomach tube when nothing else works.  Magalie has been getting him out in the sun and who knows if it helped or not, or maybe it was the lamb nipple we tried yesterday afternoon, but miracle of miracles, he nursed the bottle and then his momma!  Hurrah and a fist pump!  Nice when all that trying and hoping pays off.  

Ben and Magalie giving "Frozen" some love and sunshine. 
(Look at the snowbanks!  It's MARCH!)

In overall news, since these stories, we have had plenty of calves who are happy and healthy with no issues at all.  I did want to share these however, maybe just to point out that life on the ranch is not all bouncy calves in the sunshine and riding into sunsets.  Trust me, the romance wears off quickly at 2am with a lineup of issues to deal with.  But you never stop hoping, or trying.  Sometimes you are just trying to keep your hopes up!  

How do these posts get so long? 
I was just going to post a few photos and now here I am, almost late for my next check.  
So as calving ramps up, I will still post, but likely more photos than stories.....as was my intention tonight.  haha
Best run,

Oh, but I have to share a laugh with you.  After each check at night, we write in "The Book" so the next person knows what is going on.  Some choose to write the very bare basics, some are a bit more detailed.  
This is from last year.....  made me grin out loud again!  

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Moving Cows

Greetings all!  
I wrote this post some time ago but thought I would share tonight.  We are busy at the moment with calving preparation. It also happens to be 'end of term' for Jackson, so finishing up his assignments and getting everything handed in is a priority as well.  We are doing a video slideshow for much of it, and it has turned in to a lot of work (of course.)  Seemed like a good idea at the time......   
Anyhow, I thought I'd add a few photos to this post while I'm waiting for the slideshow videos to upload, or download, or whatever needs to happen....   

 I came across some older photos recently and they are fun to share.  On the top you see my dog Ting compared to a set of little wee twins.  Ting is not a big dog and she absolutely outweighed them.  If memory serves me, the smallest was 18 lbs.  But totally healthy!  

  As it happened, we had an abnormally large calf around the same time.  Here they lie, side by each.  

Might think this was momma and baby......instead of the smallest and largest calf of the year.  

I've been asked a few times, and not sure I've answered properly, about why we seem to move our cattle so often.  It's a valid question.  Basically, it comes down to food.  In the summer time, we are constantly monitoring the cows to make sure they are not overgrazing any particular area, and that the bulls are present to do their job.  There is really a lot of feed out here and cattle tend to either a) really scatter or b) really concentrate on their favorite areas.   There are other factors that come into play as well, but good management means being in close contact as often and consistently as possible.    

Our range is very large, with a huge diversity in altitude and environment.  Not only are we mindful of the dates and restrictions provided to us by the government, but we must have a larger picture in mind and use our environment to the best advantage.  For example, it is best to utilize the farthest away grass during the summer as it is very risky to push cattle too far away in the fall.  One never knows when or if Mother Nature will unleash record cold temperatures or allow multiple feet of snow to fall at once.  If that happens (and it does!), it is difficult enough to gather cows that are within a couple of miles of home.  It would be impossible if they were scattered 15 or 20 miles away, especially up in the higher altitudes.  So while it may seem handier to have the cattle closer to the ranch in the summer,  they will obviously eat up all the forage available and you best have a big stack of hay available come fall!  It also helps that, in the fall and winter, our big swamps freeze over and feed that the cattle cannot access in the spring and summer becomes available.  So we move them, and watch them.  Or try.  It's big country and much of it is not that friendly.  

 Be a rancher they said.....it'll be fun they said......  

Now in the winter, when the cattle are all home, we are moving them for a similar reason, although not such great distances.  
I mentioned earlier that we have several ranch sites.  Of course these ranch sites are where the hay is.  And where the hay is, is where the cattle need to be.  Again, we have to think about the big picture, making sure how we are feeding makes sense.  

So, for example, we had a large amount of cattle at Three Circle earlier.  They were left there long enough to be fed all of the lesser quality hay (got rained on) as right now they need to maintain and the hay is plenty good for that.  Once that lesser hay was used up, we moved them again as we will need the remaining "good" hay there later in the year.  Now they need to maintain..... later in the Spring they need the best quality we have as it takes a lot of energy to grow that baby in the final stages, produce the essential high quality colostrum, calve out, milk well and raise a healthy baby.   

From Three Circle we took the majority of our mature cows up to a remote meadow that we have a couple hundred bales put up on.    It is a real pain to do the feeding up there, but it makes more sense to take the cows to the hay, rather than haul it all out over a long rough track.  (About a 1 1/2 hour tractor ride one way.)  We took them up there in two groups as there were too many to handle if they decided they didn't want to go.  It is rough, brushy country and not easy to get around in if things get tough.  Luckily, both groups traveled well, but it meant two very cold days in the saddle, rather than one.  We brought them all home (in one group) and finally everyone was settled at Five Mile for the remainder of the winter.

As the time gets closer for calving (first of March), almost all of them will be moved to Six Mile where our main facilities are.  (And lots of excellent quality hay.)    

Oh, and to top it off, we always keep the first and second calvers separate.  The young cows are still growing and do best with extra care and attention.  They always get the highest quality feed and plenty of it.  Really, they are kept pretty much separate (for calving and then with their new babies, on range and with specific bulls) until they are of the age to have their third calf.  Then, while still young, they are considered 'mature' and go into the main herd.

Clear as mud, right? 

Cheers all!


Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Winter has arrived

SO much snow!  Like much of British Columbia, we got hammered with snow.  It may not be a record for Anahim Lake, but it sure in a pain.  Especially with calving season looming around the corner.  Mum, Dad and Eli have been endlessly plowing snow and the height of the snowbanks is quite shocking.  The best photos are to be taken up at Six Mile because it is a relatively small area where the corrals are and the snow is piled as high as the tractors can get it.  I took the boys up there skiing, but my photos did not turn out at all, so I'll try another day.  

Love this one of Eli plowing snow with the tractor.  

 Not a great shot.  Was trying to get the crazy sky colors, but you get an idea of the snowbanks piled around.  Spring run off is going to be something impressive!  

Don't try this at home folks!  (I mean being so close to a moose.....try the skiing behind the snowmachine!  That's awesome.)  
I normally wouldn't stop the kids this close to a moose (they can be very dangerous).  This guy saw us coming from a long way away and calmly stopped to watch the show. We are hard to miss with me on the snowmachine, 2 kids on skis jumping snowbanks and a pack of dogs stampeding in every direction.  He didn't show any sign of being worried or aggressive (trust me, you know an angry moose when you see one!) so we stopped for a quick snap on the way by.  

My wee sheepies enjoying their morning treat.  

The 'Misfits' getting their morning treats.  These are the leftovers from last fall, ones that could not be sold due to size or injury.  They are all healthy and happy and growing well.  

I've seen more lynx in the past week than I've seen ever in my life.  So cool.  This little one was in a family group.  We saw 2 others and heard one more.  (Look up the noise they make on youtube.....eerie!)  Two days later I watched a big guy cross the meadow in front of my kitchen window, casual as you like.  So amazing how they can handle these snow conditions.  And now, yesterday and today again, I saw two young ones along the road to town.    
(Gotta brag just a little....we went into town today so Jackson could take his CORE written exam.  CORE (Conservation and Outdoor Education) is the course required to get a hunting license.  He rocked it and aced the practical part last week, so he is officially able to hunt (once we get our paperwork straightened out.)  Pretty proud boy, let me tell you what! 

Look at the snow!  We got more after this photo too.  This is Twinkie (aka "Big Momma"), with Fugly in the background.  They are wintering well.   

Hard to believe calving season is just around the corner!  
We will start moving and processing cows this coming week (retagging, vaccinating etc) and then it is basically time to start night checks.  We shouldn't start calving until early March, but somehow the cows seem to ignore the calendar.  They are jerks like that.  :)   

All the best folks.  

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Mountains are Calling

Sitting here tonight, sorting through photos for the web site.....  I just have to share some.  More will be up in the near future on our site.  

There is a saying I've seen (recently on a t-shirt) and it says 
   "The Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go."  

Fitting I think.  

All the best to you and yours.  

Overlooking Moose Haven, Ilgatchuz

 The Lookout, Itcha Mountains  (photo credit to Kerry & Leona)

Heading for the Itcha's (photo credit to Kerry and Leona)  We are riding through summer range for our cattle.  

Photo Credit Lisa H.

Photo credit Lisa H.  

Ack, every time I see a photo of these ladies in their 'spa', it literally makes my skin crawl with cold.  I know the temperature of that water!  Purely glacier fed and said glaciers are NOT far away.  
Photo credit Lisa H.  

Can't ever get enough of this view.  
Pan Valley, Ilgatchuz
Photo credit Lisa H.  

Monday, 29 January 2018

Off to the Flat Lands

Well, the Hatch family done did sneaked away.  (And left our schooling behind us too, apparently.)
Despite fully expecting some catastrophe to fall, everything went better than to plan (pfffttt.......plan!) and we had a great week away.  We got in some lovely visiting with family and friends and a super break overall.  The weather even cooperated and stayed nice and relatively warm, both for on our travels and at the ranch.  Nice.  

The boys both did a 'report' on our trip and they are fun to read and very informative.  They've kindly agreed to let me post them.   For the record, they rough drafted out their ideas and then I typed as they spoke.  It makes for a much more interesting read if they don't have the consider the actual agonizing, soul wrenching, tear jerking, nightmare creating writing part of story telling.  The details and stories are their own and may or may not be 100% accurate.  

I'd say they pretty much summed it up!  I didn't take nearly as many photos as I should have, but I'll share a few anyhow.  

Just outside of Jasper, Alberta 

 Eli's 'new to us' pride and joy.  He has managed a couple good rides on it already since we've been home and it is working out perfectly.  

Ski Hill fun in Red Deer....more a big gully than a mountain, but great fun!

And we think we have 'big skies'....  on our way to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan 

I'm actually a bit shocked at my own lack of photo taking.  I didn't realize I was doing such a poor job of it.  Nevertheless, it was an absolutely wonderful holiday and I truly enjoyed it.  Its so rare that we get away with the only item on the agenda being to visit friends and family, that I truly appreciate it.  Luckily for us,  we have outstanding (and understanding) family and friends that accept our random and unplanned visits without qualm.  "Hey, we're here!"        
I do have to say, that despite the hugely potential and accessible land we drove through, not to mention the beauty, Ben is right.  There is no place like home.  I was anticipating my own view when I drove down our snowy driveway and wasn't disappointed when I turned my favorite corner. 

Our 'easier' time of year is soon to come to a crashing halt.  Hard to believe it, but calving season is just around the corner.  

Cheers all,

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Wow folks, I'm a bit flabbergasted at the response to the blog lately.  Thanks everyone, I totally appreciate your support.  Wow.  But now I've absolutely got writers block and have no idea of what to talk about.  I am going to just post a couple of photos for tonight and maybe call it good.  Get my composure back together for the next one, you guys have me all flustered and discombobulated.  :)    

Long ol' line of moo's.  
Too bad it was such a flat grey day.
  But it was WARM!!!  Can't hardly remember the last time I was able to ride for several hours without frozen feet at the end of it.  Delightful treat.  

Oh, also wanted to mention for those of you that have recently joined in, that earlier in my "blogging career", I did do some copying from my Grandma Dorsey's unpublished book, and from other books and articles as well.  I'll just attach a link here (hopefully), which should take you back to where you can read a bit from her amazing life here in the Chilcotin.  Back when things were a whole lot rougher than they are now.  My goodness, she was one tough lady!

A Taste of Grandma Dorsey's Life

Cows trailing from the feed ground to their favorite bedding grounds at Five Mile.  Has turned cold again, but they are looking and feeling sassy still.  So nice to see.  

My Uncle Dave was up at the ranch the other night and I sure enjoyed having a visit with him.  His memory for long ago events is amazing.  I jotted down some notes and will put them together for you one of these days soon.  One of his conversations that we all really enjoyed was about cutting fence rails with an ax.  He cut rails for and built a crazy amount of fence in this area; there is still some standing fence left here on our ranch now.   I am still amazed when I ride by some of the old fences and see that they were ax cut.  Phew, tougher than me and then some!!  They cut logs for fence the same way, and that is just mind blowing.  If you've ever had to handle the weight of a green pine tree, you'd understand instantly and wince in sympathy.

Anyhow, back to the story.  Uncle Dave said that he was decent ax man in his day and could make good money at it too.  "I could swing an ax pretty good, when most guys didn't want to do that any more.  Too much work, but it was good money.  I could usually do over 100 rails a day, cut and piled.  And sometimes they wanted them 21 feet long, that's tough on a man.  Hard work, really hard work.  But they needed the fence so they kinda needed me, so I had them where I wanted them.  I could make good money at 8 cents a rail, way better than normal wages.  That rancher wanted to pay the usual 100 bucks a month, but I made good money by the rail." 

And earned every single penny of it.  

 We are going to have to start charging for room and board to Momma Moose!  She moves about the ranch almost at will (these photos were taken at about 3pm) but is sure fun to watch.  She was with us last winter as well, but nice to see her with a fat healthy calf this year.  I can hear your question already, but we are quite sure it is the same moose as she is blind in the right eye (it is almost completely white....you can almost see it in this photo).    

Cheers to you all folks!
Thanks for keeping in touch, I much appreciate it.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Cold Rides, Now and Then.

Well, some more photos of cow rear ends for ya.  That's what I've been seeing lately, so it's what you get to see too!  Too bad you can't feel the frozen feet too, just to get the whole experience!  Haha......living the dream.  
I have been doing some writing, trying to explain exactly "why" we move cows so often.  My computer, or this site maybe, has be arguing with me about posting or adding photos lately.  It seems to be working tonight (so far), but I'll finish up that other post later.  For tonight, some photos of recent days of riding.  

Well, I don't know about you, but just seeing this photo makes my shoulders instinctively hunch against the cold.  There is something about cold grey days.  Could be the same temperature on the thermometer but a blue sky and sunshine just makes it that much more bearable.  

I used this photo as a background on my fb page and a friend commented about the lovely 'red ribbon'.  I like it!  Especially with the beautiful snowy Itcha's as a bow over top.  

These next photos are all the same day.  

Cold and snowing.  Lovely way to start out.

But then the sun started coming out.  Isn't this a wild photo?  Magalie took it and apparently the camera was on some sort of funky setting.  Pretty darn awesome anyhow.  She sent it to the Beef in BC Magazine so maybe our cow bums will be famous!  Photo credit to Magalie Steiner

Turned out to be a beautiful day.  But still not to be considered warm.  The weather warmed up AFTER we had all the cows moved.  

 This was pretty neat to see, although the photo does it no justice at all.  The sun was shining on ice crystals in the air (above the cows) and there is a 'sun dog' as well.  That is the rainbow you see to the right of the photo, right over the tractor feeding the cows.  

My very much appreciated Christmas present....  it is a slicker that is fully designed to fit over the front and back of your saddle.  It fits right over my horn and front of the saddle and you can see it fits well over the back.  (I had actually taken one of my jackets off and tied it on my saddle).    Mum has one of these and she refers to it as her "tent".  They are huge to walk around in, but absolutely lovely to ride with when necessary.  So awesome not to have snow in the saddle with you!  Photo credit to Magalie Steiner

I've been reading a handful of memories lately, from a guy that came into this country from the Kelowna area many years ago.  He came into the country in 1938 and although he does refer to himself as "Don" a few times, I can't even find his last name in the pages.  Someone in my family will know though, and I'll try and find out more.  It is quite fascinating as he talks about working at Three Circle Ranch and the surrounding area.  
He says at one point, something along the lines of "When the good Lord made Anahim Lake, He surely forgot to turn the thermostat up!"  

Here is one of "Don's" stories.   

"I had a long ride now every day to feed the cows, about eight miles a day, there and back.  That wouldn't have been too bad if the weather hadn't turned cold, really cold.  Shilling's sixty below thermometer wasn't doing us too much good in telling us how cold it was, as the red was right to the bottom.  We estimated it at around seventy below zero.  Riding up to Four Mile and feeding the cattle was a real trial.  I was happy I had those home made wool socks that Mrs. Smith had made for me.  Those and my buckskin moccasins kept my feet fairly warm.  I had my calfskin chaps over my overalls, my long johns underneath, a flannel shirt, and my buckskin shirt over that.  I had an old flannel shirt that I made a hood out of by sewing up the collar, pulling it over my head, and zipping up the front until only my eyes were showing.  Then, on top of that, was my big cowboy hat.  Even at that, when I'd get to Four Mile, my hands would be so numb I could hardly move my arms, even with a pair of moose hide gloves on.  If you ever had a button come undone, no way could you fasten it up again, so a fellow sure needed to keep his pants buttoned up!
     I'd get an armful of hay pulled out of the stack and it took a sheer effort to get a match struck, but once I got a light into that dry hay, I'd soon have a fire going.  Once I got my circulation going once more, then I'd have to harness up the team and haul out a couple of loads of hay.  Then I'd have to chop open the water holes and give the the team a drink and feed them in the big hay corral there.  Then I'd have the ride home: once in a while a Jack Pine would split, just like a rifle shot."  

  Not gonna lie, it makes me feel kinda wimpy to whine about riding in mere -25 or so.  I haven't seen the kind of temperatures he talks about since I was a kid (and I'm not sad about it either!)    

One of our resident moose (there is a camera shy baby there too).  So nice to see them around this winter, even if they are hard on the hay pile.  They are quite choosy about their hay so when we need a particularly good bale (to feed the colts for example), you always find the "moose approved" ones.  
Anahim Lake style quality control!   

All the best,