Ranching in the Sandhills

Cow on Grass

We have had several (yes- several) days of rain.

Our pastures went from dry and crackly to wet and saturated.

I love saturated.  When you live in a place with porous sandy soil above a giant underground lake (call the aquifer), there is never too much rain.

True, our roads are completely washed out, I worry about the old roof on our “new” house leaking, and the wet dog looks pitiful.

But the soil is saturated- I love saturated.  Post holes will be easy to dig, the grass will take off and grow, the cows will be fat and happy.

Cow on Grass

This cow looks happy, her belly full of nearly mature cool-season grasses and nibbles of young warm season tillers.

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Wee Willy

What’s better than a pony for your kid?

A pony that you borrow!  Once ReeRee outgrows Willy, we will give him back.  It’s a wonderful arrangement- can you tell I don’t like ponies all that much (or goats, keep goats off the place).

Meet Willy!

WillyHe is a paint pony with one blue eye and one brown eye.  Best guess is he is 15 years old.  He has bangs like a ’80’s rock star!

Willy is small, even for a pony.  He is just ReeRee’s size.  After she fell off our big horse, she likes little Willy.

2014 Wee Willy and the boysBut he is just SO TINY!

He holds his own in the horse herd.  It’s your attitude, not your size that matters!

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To Pre or Not to Pre…

To Pre or Not to Pre… that is the question?

ReeRee is just old enough to go to Kindergarten when she is five, or just young enough to go to Kindergarten when she barely six years old.

But she can only go to Pre-School this year, as a four year old.  If we hold her back until she is 6 yrs old for kindergarten, then she won’t be able to go to pre-school next year.

Kite down the road

I am having a hard time deciding.

Part of me wants to keep her in my safe little bubble, with days full of Grammy’s and Daddy’s, and in the evenings- me.  No mean kids picking on her.  Going to garden with Grammy and do chores with Daddy and ride Willy the pony.

But the other part doesn’t want her to become a uber-shy Sandhiller with no social skills.  However, my already packed schedule will become a logistical nightmare- 8 am drop off, 8:30 am office, 11:30 am pick up, 4:30 pm leave work, and then throw in all the days I travel (leave by 5 am, home by 10 pm).

What would you do?  Pre-school or stay at home?

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Note to self…

As a diabetic, I have lived with the fact that there is a good chance I may never wake up in the morning.  Like most diabetics, I have learned to deal with this fact.  However, I never thought about the actual funeral.

Newt and pupsRolling back the clock, look at the three cute puppies and Newt.  Buster is on the left, Torpedo is in front, and Buster’s brother (who we didn’t keep) is on the right.  This was taken back… geez, so long ago I can’t remember… maybe 2007?

Buster grew up to be a great cowdog.  He was more aggressive than Pork Chop.  He had only one master and loved Newt more than anything in the world.  He was timid, but it took a lot to tired him out.

Clouds and BusterUnfortunately, Buster and Pork Chop got bored while Newt was calving.  Dogs + New Babies + Super Protective Mothers = A Commotion of Mooing and Snorting of Dog Tails.

So the dogs decided to look around the country.  The neighbor called from 8 miles away and said they had our dogs.  I said they weren’t our dogs, looked out the window to an empty doghouse, and “well, maybe they are!”

Newt picked them up twice.  Then one day I was driving to work and saw a black and white dog in the highway ditch- nearly 15 miles from our house.  I knew it was Buster, but the car mauled him up and I couldn’t bear to stop.

I called home from the office.  “Newt, I think Buster got hit on the highway.  Can you go pick him up?”  I thought we would take him home and bury him (or at least lay him to rest in the blowout).

The next day, my coworker asked if Newt had “taken care of Buster”.

“If you consider taking off Buster’s collar and throwing him into the ditch ‘taking care of it’, then yes.  Now I have to see Buster every day, twice a day, driving to work.”

Note to self: Don’t put Newt in charge of my funeral arrangements.  I may end up in the ditch with no collar.

PS- this is not an invitation for a puppy.  We have too much going on right now, but maybe later this fall 🙂

 

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Random Ranch Pictures

When I was digging through pictures, I found some neat ranch pictures.

Here is my gallery of Sandhill art.

Title:  Cattle Framed by Wire Gate (the cattle call this: Stop Taking Our Picture-Hurry Up and Open the Gate- We’re Hungry!)

Cows framed by gate

 

Title: Low Winter Shadow  (Newt calls this: Stop Taking Pictures and Help Me Finish Fixing the Hole in the Fence)

Windmill shadow

 

Title:  Stuffed Bunny Goes Feeding  (Bunny calls this: Stop Taking my Picture and Get Me Off the Back Before I Fall Off)

Stuffed rabbit feeding

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How to Close a Gate

I am reposting this for hunting season.  I’m afraid to go outside unless I am in a full garb of fluorescent orange…

Next to the “No Trespassing” sign, I want to hang a sign that says, “Close the Gate D@m^ It!”

If you don’t know how to shut a gate, then ride in the middle of the pickup (the driver’s side obviously drives and the passenger door must get the gate). If you ride in the middle, you do neither. It’s where the smart cowboy sits.

Unspoken rule of the Sandhills: If you opened the gate, you shut the gate.

No excuses, no forgetting, just do it. One of the reasons most ranchers don’t like hunters or other people driving through their pastures.

I will demonstrate how to shut a gate with a lever, if ignorance is your excuse.

First, put the bottom of your gate post into the bottom wire.

Put the bottom of the gate post in the wire holder.

Put the bottom of the gate post in the wire holder.

Push the gate post as far as you can into the wire. You may need to reach down and pull the wire up.

Push the gate post as far as you can into the bottom wire.  This will give you more leverage and make it easier to put the lever on the top of the gate post.

Push the gate post as far as you can into the bottom wire. This will give you more leverage and make it easier to put the lever on the top of the gate post.

Use physics to your advantage. The farther the gate post is in the wire holder, the easier the gate will close.

Now wrestle the top of the gate post close enough to the gate lever. Come on- use that upper body strength!

Put the lever on the top of the gate post (you will see the wear marks).  And push the lever towards the gate wires.

Put the lever on the top of the gate post (you will see the wear marks). And push the lever towards the gate wires.

Once the lever has made it to the top of the gate post, use your muscles to push the lever towards the wires on the gate. PUSH- PUSH!

If you absolutely can’t get the lever over, make sure your gate post is in the bottom wire all the way. Check your lever to see if the chain has been twisted (making your lever shorter and physics is working against you). Check to see if your super-strong husband installed the gate, because he is much more powerful and could shut the gate with his little finger.

Once the lever is over to the wires, snap on the lever. (Double check that your horse’s reins are not in the lever. I did this once. Struggled to shut a super tough gate, only to find my roping reins were inbetween the lever and the gate. Luckily my horse didn’t spook and tear off the gate. Unluckily, I have to open and reshut that darn gate again.)

The snap on the lever can be attached at the top or next top wire.  Sometimes the cows rub on the gate and the snap slips off.

The snap on the lever can be attached at the top or next top wire. Sometimes the cows rub on the gate and the snap slips off.

The finished product should look like this:

The snap is on the wire properly and the gate is closed.  Remember the unspoken rule...  this is what it should look like when you leave.

The snap is on the wire properly and the gate is closed. Remember the unspoken rule… this is what it should look like when you leave.

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The First Snow

We have been blessed with a warm, easy fall.

Our first snow was a beauty, full of needed moisture.

White grass, white hills, white sky.
White hills, white sky

My view this morning.
Snow mailbox

The yellow cottonwood leaves look photo-shopped into the white landscape.
Cottonwoods snow

Snow cottonwood branches

The yuccas cloaked in a white winter robe.
Yuccas in snow

A nice snow. No wind. And it should be melted in a day or so!

The cows left today for cornstalks. The big trucks made it in on the frozen roads this morning before they turn sloppy.

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Slump

As you can tell from the lack of new posts, I have been in a slump.

Writers have “writer’s block”. Painters have blank canvases.

What does a “slump” look like for a blogger who pens about ag subjects?

A slump looks like this….
Slump

What does your “slump” look like?

Categories: Ranching in the Sandhills, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Plant of the Week- Cudweed Sagewort

It looks simple, plain, maybe even a little boring.

But crush the leaf of the Cudweed Sagewort and WHOOO-EEEE! The overwhelming smell of… Thanksgiving?

The aroma of turkey dressing, with flecks of celery, and fragrance of sage. The leaves smell like sage!

Baby cudweed

The name of this plant suddenly makes sense (haha- smelling “scents”- get it).

Loosely translated in Latin, “wort” means “in the leaf”. So sagewort means “sage in the leaf”.

Cudweed sagewort

Above is a picture of the sagewort as a mature plant with small seeds.

Warning: a little gal was doing some plant ID with me and swelled up like a balloon when she smelled the crushed leaves. So if you have allergies like she did, you might want to pass on the smell test.

If you don’t want to smell the leaves, you can identify the plant by its white-silver color. The leaves are also covered with small hairs.

Between the strong sage taste and the hairy feel of the leaves, Cudweed Sagewort is not the cattle’s favorite food to eat.

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Plant of the Week- Sand Bluestem

The Bluestem family covers the entire state, ranging from little bluestem (found in every county), big bluestem (found in wet meadows or farther east in better soils and more rain), or my favorite that lives only in the Sandhills of Nebraska.

Sand bluestem

Sand Bluestem!

Unlike its cousin (Big), Sand Bluestem is a icy, blue/grey colour. (I been reading a lot of Curious George lately and the British spelling is rubbing off on me!) The blue color is actually wax that you can rub off with your finger. The wax keeps the plant from losing water in the hot, hot sun.

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Big bluestem is a deeper, richer green and turns a dark red color in the fall.

Some call it “Turkey Track grass”, as the seedhead looks like a track left by a turkey foot. The seedhead is just starting to “fuzz” out. After frost, the seeds are fluffy and big, like a furry tan cat that licked an electrical socket.

Closeup sand bluestem

For now, the plant is pollinating. I feel sorry for all you out there with allergies. Even the Sand Bluestem is your nemesis!

Sand Bluestem is a vital grass to have on your grazing lands. It is a tall, warm season grass with lots of production in the summer. And what a variety of color for one grass!

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