On the Ranch...

On the Ranch Journal
March, 2000
by Cris Paravicini

Two Days Old

2 Days Old

Calving and the serenade of thawing Bog Frogs ...

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March 1 - Blackbirds Return
March 4 - Canadian Geese are Back
March 5 - Killdeer
March 6 - Hauling Hay Bales
March 7 - Hay the Hard Way
March 8 - Breaking out new Feedgrounds
March 12 - Babies will start arriving soon
March 15 - Vaccinated the older cows
March 16 - Calving begins, ready or not...
March 18 - Still dipping to 10 below zero at night
March 19 - Robins, Blue Heron, 3 Sandhill Cranes...
March 20 - All in a day's work
March 22 - Pony Motor died
March 23 - Like chunky little ducks
March 24 - Starlings
March 24 - Snow is melting
March 25 - Getting ready for calving
March 26 - D8 working again
March 27 - 4 babies now...
March 29 - Awaiting the serenade of thawing bog frogs
March 30 - Cow #50
March Journal

Blackbirds Return

March 1 This month came in like a gentle lamb...Will it, later, go out like a roaring lion? And with the coming of the March "lamb," so too, did we hear the first sounds of the returning blackbirds! Ah, yes! The blackbirds' lovely, melodic trill; this is just what I've been waiting for, to sort of give the winter a much-needed mood lift.

The Jump

The Jump

Canadian Geese are back

Saturday, March 4 This morning, I heard a Canadian Honker hollering out as it winged its way upriver. Over the years, I've raised several little wild goslings to adulthood, so the sound of its lonesome honk made my heart sing, and I smiled and said to myself: Well, well, the kids are coming home for the summer.

Mother GooseMy Kids

The Baby


Sunday, March 5 Each day that goes by, more signs of spring come our way. I haven't seen her yet, but there's a lady killdeer running around the calves' feedground performing her twittery song. Now, I'm anxious to see her little quickstep as she checks out the slowly emerging summer playground. And the other day, a friend mentioned that he'd seen a Robin Redbreast hanging out near his Pinedale birdfeeder. Might be a big mistake for the little characters to return so soon. I've seen late spring snowstorms freeze the tenderhearted, little migrators dead in their tracks, and one time, as a storm riled and raged, Rudy brought me a pitiful and scared mama killdeer that had had both feet frozen off. He hoped I could work some kind of magic on her, but I knew in a glance that I could not. The poor, chilled creature would never have been able to stand up again, no matter what I could have done for her. I cried as we quickly helped her get to a kinder, warmer place.

At about 4 p.m., as if to remind me of Nature's indifference to us, the overcast skies began to cry, raining until dark then turning to snow. It was fairly warm most of the night with only a couple of inches of new snow having fallen softly by the sun-filled dawn. No signs of trouble for the "snowbirds." Thank Heavens!

Hauling Hay Bales

Monday, March 6 Three of us (the boss, Rudy, and I) hauled round bales from the Horse Creek Got em Coveredfield a couple of miles away from home base. We're doing this extra work to be certain that we have enough hay close by to put us over the top of spring and into the summer pasture scene. We still have more than a foot of snow, but the roadways across the fields and flats are bearing up and getting a little muddy by midday, so we travel on 'em early in the morning when the frost is still in the air. This morning, we let the cattle trail home behind us from Horse Creek to the home meadow, where they'll prepare for the final countdown before giving birth to more blessings - disguised as work.

Hay the Hard Way

Tuesday, March 7 Hauled more hay. Fed cows. Then the bale feeder had a major breakdown and we had to drag out the pitchforks and flank the hay off by hand. Sweat and softness abound at times like this! Later, Rudy was able to find just the perfect length of iron to weld new life into the much-appreciated machine. 

Breaking out new Feedgrounds

Wednesday, March 8 Hauled the last load of hay from Horse Creek. We're breaking out new feedgrounds every day, which will melt and dry up quicker than the undisturbed snow beds. The more bare ground we can get before April 1 for the newborn calves to lie upon, the wider our smiles will be! 

Looking for Spring

Babies will start arriving soon

Sunday, March 12 Rudy climbed into the D-8 Cat and plowed the one and one-half feet of snow from some of the calving grounds. Won't be long now, till the babies start arriving.

Vaccinated the older cows

Wednesday, March 15 Vaccinated the older cows this morning. It had snowed last night and was still snowing at daybreak. But, by 8:30 a.m. the sun peeked through the dreary skies, and the warmth from El Sol fell upon the cows snowy backs, causing an awesomely eerie effect as the steam drifted, curled, and boiled off their black hides. 

Calving begins, ready or not...

Thursday, March 16 Vaccinated the first-calf heifers and worked out the heaviest of the young ladies. We'll keep a close watch on them during the day (checking them every 2 hours), then bed them in the barn at night. That way we can help them in their labor, if necessary. In fact, as I write this, one of the heifers has started into labor. Could be premature labor, but she appears to have a nice bag with the potential for plenty of milk. Looks like we'll have to get into the calving mood, now, whether we're ready or not.

With National Agriculture Week on the horizon and calving time riding in fast, I'd like to tip my hat to the cowman and salute his way of life in the following poem: (Artwork by my sister, Teresa Shenefelt)

Ode to a Cow 
By Cris Paravicini

Come on all you cowboys and gather 'round me now. 
I'll tell to you the story of a good, ol' momma cow. 
Her tough, old hide was velvet black, her manners very good. 
Her progeny was aptly raised, of course, the way she should.

It was early in the morning, just at the break of day. 
A ghastly storm was on us. It was the First of May. 
The snow was being driven by a southern, angry force. 
And nothing in its path today would be left alive, of course.

We saddled up at daybreak; to the boss we gave a wave, 
Then turned into the blizzard, some little calves we'd try to save. 
The snow was deep, 'twas heavy and wet, it reached my horse's knees. 
Poor, little calves, if you're born today, let your moms have you in the trees.

A cow out in the distance stood hunched up on the willows. 
Our longing glance to the ranch house viewed warm, chimney-smoke billows.
A fragile, little newborn in a storm like this, 
Would probably be frozen, of this I could not miss.

As I most cautiously approached the frigid, windswept pair, 
I could see the little Angus calf had been given extra care. 
All licked till dry and both fronts sucked, asleep up under a bank, 
Earns a tip of my hat to the cow and her calf and thought of the Lord, I'd thank. . .

Again, it's early in the morning and the grass is green and lush. 
As we open up the meadow gate, the cows all make a rush. 
For it is as usual, when we turn them out the gate, 
Seems the cows are always in the lead and their calves are always late.

A cowboy in the lead tries to hold the mommas back, 
As they push for summer pasture, green grass they seem to lack. 
And back there in the wheel, a bunch of riders yell, 
At the mass of baby calves whose numbers seem to swell.

But in amongst the orphan lot, a big, black form appears. 
It's the gentle, good, ol' momma cow that puts to rest our fears. 
For we know that she will surely take, her calf and others, too, 
And coax them down the dusty trail to where the eagle flew. . .

Another frosty, early morn', and toward the weaning corral we ride.
See there, amid a sea of black, is Old Momma with daughter at her side.
For today we close the final page on this cow and calf pair, 
And wean the nice, big heifer that was raised so very fair.

Now, cowboys let me tell you, and you'll be glad to know, 
That heifer's now a momma and in the willows when it snows. 
And no matter where we go and everywhere we ride, 
We are sure to see that good, ol' cow with her offspring at her side.

Bringin Em Home

Bringin Em Home

Still dipping to 10 below zero at night

Saturday, March 18 The weather this past week has been dipping to 10 below zero at night, but warms up enough during the daytime to melt a little snow. We have about 12-14 inches of winter blanket left to burn off. However, if the night temperatures keep dropping below zero, it might take a while for the bumps to start peeking through. 

Robins, Blue Heron, 3 Sandhill Cranes...

Sunday, March 19 More spring birds are returning. Joining the blackbirds, the killdeers, and the Canadian honkers this week are a couple of robins, a bluebird, one blue heron, and three sandhill cranes. I've been anxious for the cranes' return. I really love to hear their warbling song. They haven't hollered out a special tune for me yet this spring, but I sure enjoyed watching the trio pass overhead. 

All in a day's work

Monday, March 20 Trimmed JJ's (the gray saddle horse) feet. 

Turned the chickens outside the coop onto a little bare ground, so they could scratch around in the dirt and get some real sunshine. They were happy campers! 

Put salt in all the feed tubs. Filled the barn cats' pellet tubs. Moved the old horse, Scoop, and Sunny colt into a new corral. 

Rode through the heifer calves to check for sick ones. All is well.4 Moose

Pony Motor died

Wednesday, March 22 The pony motor (starting motor) on the D8 Cat quit working. Rudy had happily been plowing along, pushing, bullying, and rearranging Nature's handiwork, when the main diesel engine stalled. He tried to fire up the "pony" to restart the "big boy" engine, but it just wouldn't cooperate. It's either a valve or carburetor problem or ?? Will need to get help to determine the full extent of the problem. In the meantime, the snow left untouched will just have to wait, or melt. Hoping for the latter. Actually, the backup snow removal plan is to use the John Deere hay feeder tractor, if all else fails. 

Four Moose

Like chunky little ducks

March 23 Worked about 15 first-calf heifers nearer to the barn. They're getting pretty heavy - making bag and waddling along like chunky, little ducks. We'll start running shifts on them every four hours, beginning now, throughout the day and night, so we can help them if they get into trouble giving birth. They'll be spending the daylight hours in the corral, eating hay from the feeder, and then at night, they'll get to kick back in the cozy, warm barn waiting for labor to happen. What a deal! Should have some baby calf pictures for you by next week. 

A cold wind cut across the valley this afternoon. Four moose decided to wait it out behind the protection of a row of willows near my house. Then, when the wind died down, they headed on up the valley toward their spring territory. 

Starlings through the kitchen windowStarlings

Friday, March 24 D8 still dead in the water (snowbank). Calling in the "big guns" for repairs on Sunday. Will use the John Deere to plow today. 

A little flock of what we call "starlings" (somewhat like blackbirds, but way more mischievous and busy) came to my windowsill while I was doing dishes this afternoon and harassed Scruffy and his chickadee buddies away from their dry cereal handout. The brats! Guess they just needed a little TLC, too. 


Snow is melting

Friday, March 24 Snow is settling and melting a little each day. More sunshine than clouds. More warmth than frost. Yes!! A good calving season ahead? Hope!

Getting ready for calving

Saturday, March 25 Polished up the calf pulling apparatus, so it will work smoothly and efficiently. A rusty spot on the extracting bar and jacking unit could mean the difference between life and death for a calf needing that extra nudge into this life.

D8 working again

Sunday, March 26 Rudy got the D8 (the butterfly in the choke on the pony motor was broken) running again and finished plowing the calving grounds.

4 babies now...

Good MamaMonday, March 27 We started night shifts on heifers last night, checking every 3-4 hours throughout the night. Have four babies, now. 

Awaiting the serenade of thawing bog frogs

Wednesday, March 29 Sandhill Cranes (and Robins and Blackbirds) are singing to me this morning! Now, I'm selfishly awaiting the serenade of thawing bog frogs - the last great assurance that spring really is here.

Cow #50

Thursday, March 30 Cold wind out of the north swept across the early hours of dawn. Checked the cows via 4-wheeler at daybreak. Froze so hard, I could run the machine across the snow cover without even making a track. No calves born in the big herd in the meadow, so we were thankful for that. Stiff, cold winds can kill a newborn in minutes, if it doesn't get up and nurse quickly. Takes lots of luck and that good, old mamma cow to give the proper inspiration to the little guys. Each time we're in the meadow, cow #50 looks us up to beg for a hay pellet handout. Mmmm Lunch!What a pet, and at times a slobbering nuisance, as she breaks and runs from the herd with her head, neck, and tongue stretched towards the human with the pocketful of treats. We, however, have to take full credit (blame) for making her the pest that she is today. Drove the remaining heifers from the upper pasture down the highway and into the river lot where we can watch them closer, and rotate the heavy ones into the barn when it's time. The sunset was magnificent this evening. I had to pause for five minutes at chore time, just to watch the Painter change and rearrange His awesome colors. The evening was peaceful and quiet like a summer's eve. Only the Honkers' and the Robins' song of the coming dusk broke the silence, and for a little while, all seemed right with the world.

My Kid

The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 1999-2000. Drawing of Daniel Schoolhouse by Teresa Shenefelt. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 2000.

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