Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer has Arrived...Just ask the cows. They know.

Friday was our last day of homeschooling for the school year! Finishing that glorious day makes me feel like a pile of rocks was lifted off of me. Those last few weeks made me itch with anticipation for summer. I couldn't wait to be free to explore with the kids.  I firmly believe they learn as much in the summer months as they do in the school year.  Books are wonderful, but there's no substitute for hands-on learning.

Our mountain is a summer vacation destination, and it's the time of year that we stick close to home, soaking up that fragrant mountain air, and enjoying the weather that makes the rest of Arizona envious.  With baseball, 4-H, and lots of horse riding, we have all of the excitement we can handle in our own back yard.  There are many big changes ahead with the first of two moves happening in two weeks.  We found a local house that we can rent month-to-month until we find land to purchase.  We have been surprisingly calm with all of the chaos that has ensued around us this month.  We're trying to keep the transition as smooth as possible until the summer is over.

Yesterday, we spent the day irrigating pasture.  We are entering our driest part of the year, and if it weren't for that regular flow of water down the ditch, all of the grass would be dead and brown. The kids love to work when it means playing in the water all day.

The cows don't seem to mind the water, either. They are thankful for the greener pastures and warmer weather. Summer makes them sassy.

June will usher in breeding season for the cows.  We've been studying up the EPD's in the sire books to make this year's semen selections.  We heat synchronize and artificially inseminate our cows, and it allows us to have superior genetics without the cost of really expensive bulls. We are fortunate to have a set-up that allows us to easily go through the process with a really high pregnancy rate the first time we breed the cows, which means that we have a much tighter calving season.  I know this doesn't make sense to do in every operation, but it works really well for us.

Here are some of this year's steer calves at 5 weeks old.  The steer that is closest in the picture below is the current favorite for next year's 4-H project. He's full blooded Angus and the kids are calling him Hercules. The others in the picture are a mix of Angus, Maine Anjou, and Limousine. They have finer faces and will be more moderate framed when grown.

The cattle show world tends to breed for hairier calves that they can clip up easily. You can hide a lot of flaws with hair, but I don't like that one bit. In fact, the hair gene found in some club calves is actually a defect that the show world stumbled upon. Some of the things that go on in the show ring make no sense in the commercial cattle industry, and I refuse to breed cows for "hair quality".  Our kids will show the best calves of our commercial herd. Period.

 *Stepping down off my soapbox for the moment.*

Alright, enough cattle talk. You know I could do that all day long, but I don't want to bore you to death.

I promise my next post will NOT involve pictures of cows, or talk of breeding.

Thanks for hanging with me during this season of spotty blogging. I still have a million things to write about and can't wait until this move is over so I can type the computer keys more frequently.

Let the summer fun begin!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Fishing Derby

What should a family do when they are moving in less than a month? Procrastinate the packing and go fishing, of course!

This weekend my husband's friend invited the whole family to enter a kid's fishing derby held at one of our local lakes.  He fishes competitively and we were so excited to get to spend the morning on his boat.

The derby was for 4 hours, and the kids got to catch as many fish as possible.  They received a drawing ticket for every 1/2 pound of fish caught, and they could enter the tickets for a chance to win prizes.

The kids caught 6 fish, but one got off of the line right before we could net it, so we brought in a total of 5 for the weigh-in.  We caught a mix of small mouth bass and rainbow trout.

My baby looked like a rock-star in those ridiculous sun glasses, but she had a ball, patiently trolling for trout off the back of the boat.

Our son LOVES to fish, and would have been out there all day if he had his way.  He caught the most fish that day.

Here we are at the weigh-in, anxiously waiting for Dad to take all of the fish out of the bag, and onto the scale.  Our son took 3rd place with his catch of the day! Woo Hoo!

After lunch, we cleaned the fish and by "we" I mean mostly my husband and son. We ended up with enough for a nice sized fish fry.

It was a great stress relief from a hectic week.

Fishing is a fun distraction,


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

War: Helmets vs. Cowboy Hats


While it's fresh on my mind, I'm going to bring up a controversial subject in the "cowboy" world: riding helmets.

I can't stop thinking about this, and the subject keeps coming up in conversation.

First, I have to preface this by telling you that I didn't grow up wearing a helmet for ANYTHING. My husband and I have been lenient with our kids in this area as well.  If they're gathering cows, or riding through pasture, they wear a cowboy hat or ball cap.  On the other hand, when we are involved in 4-H activities, our club has a strict helmet rule and all of the kids wear one in the practice arena. Our club is one of  the only ones in our county with a helmet rule, and when we go to invitational horse events, there is a mix of hats and helmets in the arena.

I know many a cowboy who wouldn't be caught dead with a helmet on their kid's head. Whether stubbornness or vanity plays a role, it seems to be the "cowboy way" to take that risk.  In fact, I never really gave the whole issue a second thought until recently.  Last weekend, a young gal in our club was at a horse event and preparing for the bareback class.  (She's an excellent rider.)  Moments before she entered the arena, a nearby train passed and the noise of the train whistle spooked her horse causing it to rear back and fall on top of the gal.  After an ambulance ride and an MRI, she walked away with nothing more than scrapes and bruises....thanks to her helmet that probably saved her life.  She wanted to wear her cowboy hat that day, but her mom made her wear the helmet.  Thank God she did.

I think we all know of horse wrecks that have gone really badly. I heard of a seasoned cowboy who worked at the sale barn for years. One day as he was working in the pens pushing up cows, his horse stumbled, he hit his head on the pipe corral fence and died. A helmet would have saved his life.  I've read of an Olympic equestrian who suffered a traumatic brain injury after her horse tripped, and the rider hit her head. The ability of the rider had nothing to do with any of these injuries, but a helmet would have saved them all.  Horses are big, unpredictable animals that sometimes fall, sometimes spook, and sometimes buck.

 In nearly every other sport, athletes wear helmets. From baseball and football, to biking and English riding. No one thinks twice about protecting their head in these sports. But for Western riding events, there is a HUGE stigma attached to the helmet.  Some associate it with in-experienced riders who fall all the time, and others fear that the judges would mark their child down for wearing one in the arena.  Right or wrong, people have always associated the traditional cowboy hat as part of the proper attire worn when riding.

We've always had trusty, older horses for our kids to ride; horses that are well broke and wiser than the kid on their back.  But now that the kids are getting bigger, they're riding younger, faster steeds and I find myself getting less and less lenient on the helmet rule. When they're competing, they usually wear a cowboy hat, but when we're practicing at home, they wear a helmet.  When I see my precious babies flying down that practice arena on a horse 10 times bigger than they are, it's a little more comforting when they have a helmet on.  On the other hand, when we're moseying through the pasture to check the cows I'm less apt to worry about what they're wearing.  The kids still complain about the helmets every time we make them wear one, and they're still annoyed by the whole thing, but when every other rider in the arena has one on, they don't seem to mind as much.  It's a constant battle.

I read an article the other day that said we may never be able to change the ways of old cowboys, but if we can get the younger generation to start wearing a riding helmet, perhaps one day it won't seem strange to see them in the arena.  When my most precious cargo is out there riding, I'd do anything to make sure they stay safe.

So...... It's apparent that I'm really torn about the issue of helmets. I understand the rich traditions of the cowboy, and the toughness that is associated with the lifestyle. I know first hand how practical it is to wear a big brimmed hat to protect your face, neck, and ears from the blistering heat of the sun's rays. after all, the cowboy hat was born out of practicality and necessity.  I also know that I LOVE my babies and would do anything to keep them from harm's way. I can't keep them in a bubble, and they take risks when riding horses, but if I can minimize the severity of a fall with a helmet, then that makes me feel a little more at ease. If my kids had their way, the helmets would go in the trash can.

My question for you is:

How do you feel about riding helmets? Are cowboy hats a thing of vanity for kids, or a necessity?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

7 Random Things

1. This year's 4-H piggies are weaned and at the house.  Even though we raise beef cattle, I have a soft spot in my heart for pigs. They have so much personality and charm. Not to mention that they are incredibly intelligent! The kids named the Yorkshire (pink one) "Miss Kay", and the Hampshire (black with a white belt) "Uncle Si" from Duck Dynasty.

2. Whenever I'm in a hurry with a million things to do, something unexpected always throws a wrench into the works.  I was prepping for the family to leave for an overnight trip during our craziest time of year, and was busy completing the last of the day's chores. I was filling water tanks and walking through the pasture when I noticed a calf that needed to be doctored. Of course the doctoring box was in the wrong truck, I was alone, and 45 minutes from the house.  Two hours later, with medicine and help in hand, my husband and I roped the calf and doctored it.  We were two hours late getting down to the valley, and didn't have time to wash up from chores, but the health of our animals comes first. Always.  It's a common fact around here that the cows won't escape, give birth, or get sick unless we have somewhere else to be. HA!

3. My brother, also known as "Mega Mind" just graduated yesterday with his PhD!!! We traveled down to hot, sunny Phoenix, deep into Sun Devil territory to witness the exciting day.  Even though I'm a Wildcat, I set my feelings aside to celebrate the momentous occasion. But I did NOT sing the ASU song during the closing ceremonies. You can't make me go that far. Did you know that less than 1% of the population has their PhD? That's a big accomplishment, and I'm so proud of my brother.  He's using his degree to glorify God, and I'll tell you more about it in another post.

4. I have the cutest niece...ever! All dressed up to see her daddy graduate.

5. We are just barely starting to pack things for the big move.  We got everything out of the attic that had been sitting there for a decade, and threw away a truck load full of junk. Now we're on to the garage. It's funny to see how different men and women are when it comes to deciding what stays and what goes.  I wanted to get rid of a box of old pipe fittings but my husband won't part with them because he uses them when he builds gates.  He wants me to throw out all of my unused mason jars but they're valuable for canning and storing food.  If this war over what we should keep continues, it will be a long three weeks of packing.

6. Speaking of mason jars, I'm LOVING the quart and a half size! They make AWESOME drinking glasses that fit into the cup holders in the truck. They're the perfect size; not too big, not too small. We usually use jars with handles for drinking glasses, but I just love these without them!

7. I have to get off of this computer and get busy packing this house, right now.

So much to do... So little time,


Monday, May 6, 2013

Out on a Limb

While on vacation, driving between El Paso and San Antonio, we got a call from our Realtor saying that someone had put an offer on our house for the full listing price. Thousands of miles from home, we found ourselves scrambling to find ways to print off emailed contracts, and fax documents to our Realtor. We used hotel lobby computers, temporary library memberships, and even grocery store fax machines to do business along the way.

Last week was a blur of activity around the house. We had a few minor things to repair in order to meet the inspection requirements, and only a few days to get the list knocked out. My in-laws graciously volunteered to join the work force, and came to the house bearing gifts of food and willing hands to work. My mother-in-law fed the troops and the whole family went to work with shovels, paint brushes, and screw drivers. We got so much accomplished in a short amount of time.

The next three weeks will be critical.  We still have another inspection, the appraisal, and finally, the close of escrow.  As you know, anything can happen in escrow so we are in a place of  COMPLETE dependence on God right now.  The future is completely unknown.

We've been busting at the seams of our little house in the woods for quite some time, and when we put our house up for sale, we knew that it was just the first of many steps to get to where we'd like to be in terms of land and house size.  We also knew we would have to be patient  because Arizona was hit so hard in the housing boom that the real estate market has been extremely volatile.  Lenders are really tight, and good pieces of land are few and far between.

Here's what we're dealing with right now:

Right now we have only three weeks to pack the house, knowing in the back of our minds that if at any moment, things fall apart, we'll have to unpack it all. The good news is that this gives us an opportunity to get rid of the "stuff" that we've accumulated over the last decade.

Right now we have three kids on three different baseball teams, and my husband coaches two teams.  Every evening is filled with baseball, and we must honor our commitments to those teams. My husband is at the end of his semester of online college courses, and he must finish strong.  So on top of our usual commitments, we're trying to prepare for a huge move while working around baseball and school schedules.

Right now we are looking for a rental house to live in while we search for either some land with an existing house, or begin the building process.  The hard part is that we can't sign a contract for a new house until we hand the keys over from the sale of this house.  The farm ground we had our eyes on for the last six months went into escrow just 4 days before our own home went into escrow. Thankfully God opens and closes doors for us, and has a plan, even when we can't see it.

Right now we are preparing to move into the great unknown. We still have all of our pasture land, so none of the livestock will be displaced... just people... and maybe chickens.  Who knows? Maybe we'll throw the chickens in as a free gift with the purchase of the house. HA!

It's truly an exciting, yet stressful time.  We have to keep our eyes focused on Jesus while we're out on a limb, because if we look down, we may be terrified!

Please keep us in your prayers!