March Madness…

…And I’m not talking basketball.  March 2011 has been a fairly craptastic month in the life of the Asphalt Cowgirl.  I spent all of 6 days of the month in Miles City, the town in which I am rumored to live and work.  The only person who spent less time at home in March?  My dad, who spent his month in the hospital and rehab hospital after his cow wreck, and he’s not home yet, either.  But here we finally are, on the last day of March 2011.  Good riddance, I say. I’ve never been so happy for April Fool’s Day, and I don’t even have any jokes planned.
Here are some highlights of the month:
·         Around 85% of the cows calved, and I witnessed a majority of those births.  Six sets of twins were born.  Hmm, six sets of twins, six days in Miles City. Interesting coincidence.
·         Gathered a bunch of pairs for branding in a blizzard, which took 4 tries, several different gate configurations, and many words not intended for mixed company. Then, once the calves were in the barn (very wet calves, I might add), it quit snowing. Awesome.
·         Helped service the hay processor in a blizzard.  Twice.
·         We purchased a new-to-us hay processor, which we tried out in a blizzard.  It plugged up with every bale.  It’s a Bale King brand, now fondly referred to as the Bale Queen.
·         In the last 10 days, I’ve been to Bozeman, Dillon, Bozeman again, Helena, Corvallis, Ronan, will go to Eureka today, and then Alberton tomorrow.  For those of you not familiar with Montana geography, I’d suggest a Google maps search with “Miles City, MT to Eureka, MT”.  You’ll be impressed.  Heck, even if you ARE familiar with Montana geography, I’d suggest a Google maps search.
·         I wrote and submitted a proceedings paper to the Western Section Animal Science meetings, all without speaking to my co-authors.  Ah, the miracle of email.
·         I’ve given workshops to around 150 4-Hers at 4 locations in the last 10 days, with two more workshops to go for this week.  These opportunities re-affirm that my career path will never veer into schoolteaching.
·         I received two drunk-dial phone calls at 1 am from a certain ag lender, who shall remain nameless, while the Montana Ag Bankers Conference was going on in Bozeman last week.  When I got there the next morning at 6:30 am for the Ag Lenders Range School meeting, I kicked Ty Wells in the shin.  Feel free to make any connection you see fit.
I hope everyone has a great April Fool’s Day!
Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

The Legend of Wanda O’Toole

This is a story about a calf, now a cow, named Wanda.  She really doesn’t have a last name, and if she did, it wouldn’t be O’Toole  But heck, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day!  Here she is with her very first calf – his name is Wally.  You might notice that Wanda’s ears are a bit shorter than the average cow.
This story has quite a bit of background, so bear with me.  As I (hopefully) have established, I go home to the family ranch every year for a spring break “vacation” during calving season.  Four years ago, during my first spring back in Montana, my folks called the vet to come help with a difficult birth.  This is a very unusual occurrence on our outfit, as we generally can deal with most of these troubles ourselves.  The cow was a first-calf heifer that was very nervous, and so she was christened Wild Woman.  The calf was lucky to be alive, so she was named Wonder Woman.
Okay, fast forward two years.  Mom and I were out checking the pregnant cows in the outside pastures who were supposed to be a little farther off from calving.  It was well below-zero with a stiff wind.  My loyal readers, are you sensing a theme here?  Sure enough, a first-calf heifer had calved out in that cold.  She had done a good job of licking the calf, but the calf was very chilled and Mom and I needed to act fast.
So we loaded the calf in the pickup: front seat, passenger side.  Mom got in with the calf and rubbed her with a towel to get some blood flowing while I drove like a bat across the seventy bajillion frozen cow pies between there and the house.  We laid the cute little heifer calf on towels in front of the stove and went to work on her with the towels and got some warm milk in her.  She was severely chilled and if we had been just a few minutes later, we probably wouldn’t have saved her.  But we did, and she needed a name.  Of course, we couldn’t call her Wonder Woman, as that had already been taken.  And so she became Wanda, a derivative of Wonder.
Because of their exposure to the cold, Wanda froze her ears right off.  So close to her head in fact, that we couldn’t get a tag in her ear.  In this picture, she looks kind of mad about it, actually.  And now, here Wanda is, all grown up with a calf of her own.  But wouldn’t you know it?  It was pretty darn cold when Wally was born, too.  Pretty sure he’s going to lose at least the edges of his ears.  Seems like it runs in the family.
Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

As I wrote in my last post, we have had 5 sets of twins on the ranch so far this calving season.  Normally we might have 2 or 3 sets for the entire spring, so this is a bit unusual.
This cow is 989.  She is the one that needed both my and the vet’s assistance when calving, as her twins were both backwards and the first one was tail-first.  The calf with her is Eenie.
This is 550.  She is 989’s mother.  She and I have history.  Last year, she got mastitis, so she was in for awhile during the 2010 version of my spring break vacation.  She is a very sweet cow and tolerated our doctoring with good humor.
This year, 550’s calf was born dead, so we grafted 989’s other twin, Meenie, onto 550.  Here they are together, out in the pasture after our successful grafting exercise.  As you can see by 550’s tail, we had a stiff south breeze that day.
Yes, that’s right.  550 is raising her daughter’s daughter.  Puts a whole new spin on “grandparents raising grandchildren”, doesn’t it?
Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Spring Break “Vacation”

Wow, what a crazy couple of weeks since I last wrote.  My “spring break” vacation at the family ranch to help with calving started a few days earlier than I had planned, as my dad had a wreck with a cow.  Needless to say, we were severely understaffed from that moment on, so I was sure glad I was around to help out.  He’s healing up well, and will spend a couple weeks in rehab in Billings.  My folks and I have sure appreciated the thoughts and prayers of our friends and family members.
You know how they say that God won’t give you more than you can handle?  There were some times this past week when He had a lot more confidence in me than I did in myself.  I was the Calving Queen, as one of my Facebook friends said.  I always wanted to be queen of something, so that’s as good of a place to start as any.
Here are a few calving highlights…
·         So far, we have had 5 sets of twins.  The first official due date was 10 days ago.  Oy.  All twins at our outfit have to have names, so they are, in order of their arrival: Ace & Deuce, Eenie & Meenie, Miney & Moe, Bonnie & Clyde, and Otis & Olive.
·         Eenie & Meenie arrived with veterinary assistance, as Eenie was tail-first, and Meenie was backwards, too.  A few days later, we had a cow whose calf was born dead, so we grafted Meenie onto that cow.  That cow is also her grandmother.  More details on that in a later blog post.
·         I broke the rope on the calf puller, trying to jerk it out from under the heifer who sat on it, rather than lying down like I wanted her to.  Then I had to pop her head out of the head catch and pull the calf by hand with hooks and chains anyway.
·         I got my annual ranch-girl, spring-break tan.  You know, where your face has color, but your neck is still white because you still need a neck scarf.  It doesn’t matter how warm it gets in the spring in the Madison Valley, the wind is still blowing at gale force!
Later this week, I’ll write more about my calving adventures and post some pictures.  Meanwhile, I’m back in Miles City, working at my real job.  Have a good week, everyone!
Yours in travel,

The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

Sun, Shrimp, and Street Sights

As I write this, it is only a few degrees above zero, and I sure do miss that balmy Las Vegas weather.  Here are a few more stories from my time in the sun.
·    We spent one afternoon at an outdoor challenge course. Montana and Wyoming people were loving the weather, and Nevada and Arizona people were wearing jackets. I got a sunburn. Not that it takes a lot. You know how they say that 50 SPF sunscreen gives you 50 times your natural protection from the sun?  Yeah, 50 times 5 seconds doesn’t get very far.
·    One of the challenge activities involved partners balancing on two beams arranged in a “V” shape.  You were supposed to link hands over your head like “London Bridge” and move down the “V” farther away from each other. The leader guy kept telling us the secret was to tuck our butt in, and when previous pairs of people went down the beam, he would adjust their posture. Physically, not verbally. The first time my partner and I tried, we made it halfway and I stepped off the beam. He told me I was afraid of falling. I told him I was afraid he was going to touch my butt. Poor guy, he probably hasn’t recovered even now.
·    One of the other attendees was a cross-country ski instructor. She said when she was trying to teach little kids to ski, which also involves tucking one’s butt in, she told them to “do the shrimp”.  Of course, this became an instant catchphrase for the entire week.
·    We saw two distinct versions of mimes on the streets of Las Vegas – ones you thought were statues, and homeless guys dressed in camo who jumped out at you from the bushes in front of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant. Toss up for who made more tip money, I suspect.
All told, it was a great conference. I learned a whole lot and met some truly fabulous Extension professionals from all over the West. And dang, the weather was great! Next week, I’ll be taking some time off to go to the ranch and help my folks with calving. In my past experience, from exhaustion comes hilarity, so I’ll be sure to share that – and baby calf pictures – with you all.
Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux