Thursday, January 31, 2013

C.S.I. Worland

There’s a criminal in our midst. Indeed, he’s sleeping on my recliner right now, one of this country’s 84 million domestic cats—dastardly bird assassins, nearly every one.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that a feral cat slaughters between 28 and 46 birds every year, while a free-roaming pet cat kills between 4 and 18 birds per year. The numbers for domestic cats are lower because those felines aren’t hungry but only hunt for sport. Besides, the pampered cats stay close to air conditioners, heaters, and woodstoves where birds generally don’t congregate.

Smokey Mew, alias the Terrible Tiger, is guilty as charged, but probably doesn’t bag more than 5 or 6 feathered victims a year. However, his predecessor, Sam, was considerably more bloodthirsty. Like most cats, Sam liked to display his trophies on the front steps, so I think it’s safe to say that he either met or surpassed his yearly quota of 18 innocent Tweeties.

Sadly for us but happily for the birds, Sam disappeared two years ago. Our search for Sam led us to the animal shelter, just in case. We were told that, because of a severely reduced rabbit populace, hungry hawks and owls were frequently preying on cats. The thought of a big old avian eating our dear Sam was dreadful, but we had to admit that, if it was the case, there was a certain justice in it.


“The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” –PSALM 103:6

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Figuratively Speaking

I hesitate to post these photos. At first glance, you may assume they are two pictures of the same bovine. When I tell you that the first is Daisy Mae and the second is Gracie, you may say to yourself, “Oh, I didn’t know that they clone their cows in Wyoming!”

We don’t. Actually, Daisy Mae is Gracie’s mama. The reason they look so much alike, more so than most cows and calves, is that they have a similar metabolic rate. I can’t tell you that exact figure (no pun intended), but I suspect it’s a fairly low number.

“Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].” –EPHESIANS 5:1

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

For Brian and Family

When we lose a loved one, friends, family, and clergy rally around us, offering comfort and casseroles, prayers and flowers, memorials and listening ears. But when the loved one was a dog—even a really, really good dog—we’re, for the most part, left alone to bury him and grieve.

Buddy, we’re so sorry. We miss you so much.

No one read the dog’s obituary in the paper, so they don’t understand why our hearts are so heavy. No one sees our eyes tear up whenever we see his leash or the empty spot in the truck that he loved so much. We know that our dog made the world an infinitely better place, but no one wants to help us say our good-byes with a gracious eulogy, beautiful songs, funny stories, and promises of heaven.

Buddy, you were special—so cheerful, fun-loving, beautiful. You loved us all.

We’re expected to ignore the giant lump in our throats, and to get out of bed and go about our lives as if nothing much happened because, after all, he was just a dog.

Buddy, we love you. If you’re in heaven with Dad, give him our love.

BUDDY (2000—2013)

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”                                 –2 CORINTHIANS 1:4

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Riddle

RIDDLE:  What is green and white and black all over?

ANSWER:  Cupcake, after a hearty breakfast of last summer's alfalfa!

“May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” –ROMANS 15:13

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sneak Preview

Errand day led me to the bank, where Connie, a loan officer and fellow cattleperson, came out of her office to catch me. “Robin, when do your heifers start calving?” As most animal lovers do when asked about their animals, I responded enthusiastically, with more details than Connie may have cared to listen to.

At the grocery store, we ran into Debbie, the gal that does our A.I. work (see It’s Arranged from May 2012). Of course, she asked how the heifers were doing, how many were pregnant, and when they would start calving. We responded enthusiastically, with more details than Debbie may have cared to listen to.

Unlike our other cows--professional calvers and calf-raisers by virtue of practice--the heifers will require more oversight, prayer, and, possibly, help. Even though we know we’ll be overworked and under-slept, we look forward to calving season with eager anticipation—much like parents expecting a new baby.

When calving season starts, you can bet that l’ll be posting about it enthusiastically, with more details than you may care to read about! Just to whet your whistle, here’s one of my favorite calf photos from last season.

“Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” –ROMANS 8:21

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Please welcome a guest blogger, my sister Jenny, as she tells how the newest addition to the family, a West Highland terrier named Olive, has managed to capture her heart.

When we first got Olive and would tell people we got a puppy, the first thing they’d ask is what kind. Sometimes I was embarrassed because some thought she was a little poofy dog. I knew better because Westies are rough and tough, but most people don't even know what they are. A few times I mentioned wanting to get a real dog like a lab or golden retriever someday when Rilee [Jenny’s older golden] goes. Brian always teases me that I love Olive even though she's not a real dog.

The girls want Olive to be groomed all fancy and wear sweaters. They give her baths, but I like her scruffy and natural. When she went to the groomer she came back all white and poofy, reeking of perfume for days. She didn't look like the little brat that digs holes in the yard, chews shoes and electrical cords, and barks at the neighbors and their cats. She loves to wrestle with Brian, jump on top of him, even sleep on him like a cat. She’ll play with her toys by herself, but her favorite thing is stealing Rilee's tennis balls and teasing her with them.

Every morning before he goes to work, Brian splits a stick of string cheese with all three dogs. He taught Olive how to dance, which she does as soon as the cheese is opened, spinning in two circles and then jumping on her back legs. It's really cute, I have to admit. I even broke down and bought her the Christmas sweater in the picture.

“You've captured my heart, dear friend.” –SONG OF SOLOMON 4:9

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Than Enough

Some readers may be wondering how it’s going between Blueberry and Lolli (see yesterday’s “Not Inconceivable”). Since I don’t want to be indelicate, suffice it to say that Lolli has more than fulfilled his purpose for coming here! I’d heard about the ardor of goats, but, well, let’s just say that it has to be seen to be believed. If little Strawberry and Patch aren’t already on their way, then I’d be shocked.

I knew that the hormones had subsided when I saw Blueberry hiding from her Casanova behind the hay feeder this morning. Both have been partaking of more siestas than usual, so I assume they didn’t sleep much last night.

For her part, Meels has uncharacteristically planted herself upon a pile of hay all day, reminiscent of a hen sitting on a clutch of eggs. I can only surmise that she’s trying to look broody, aloof, and unavailable so that she’ll be left alone!

“God has been good to me and I have more than enough." –GENESIS 33:11

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not Inconceivable

If you read last Saturday’s “Perplexed”, you know that I suspected that my goaties might not be expecting kids after all. Enter Lolli, a lame but handsome Nigerian Dwarf buck and living pregnancy-insurance policy.

Even though Nigerian bucks are much more docile than bucks of other breeds, we didn’t want one around because bucks stink. Trust me, Lolli is no exception! After his arrival on Sunday, the horses and cat kept sniffing the air with a curious-but-cautious look on their faces that said, What kind of beast reeks like that? When I first open the barn door in the morning, I pull my gator over my nose and try not to inhale until I can get the big door open too.

Despite the stench, Lolli is very sweet and intelligent. He picked up on the morning barn-to-pen march (and evening switch-up) like he’d done it his whole life. Although Hubby grew up with a recalcitrant billy which his dad used to keep traveling salesmen away, Hubby can’t help but like Lolli.

At first, Blueberry and Meels didn’t. They ran from Lolli whenever he approached. Yesterday, they still kept their distance but showed off by skittering past him with wiggling tails or head-butting each other. Today, Meels is avoiding Lolli like he has the plague, but Blueberry, while still wary, seems a bit flirtatious.

Goat colors are described in different terms than horse colors. I’m much more familiar with the latter, so I describe Blueberry as a blue roan-buckskin and Lolli as a strawberry roan-paint. So it’s not inconceivable that a mating between the two could result in some little cuties named Strawberry and Patch!

God said to them, "I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!”    –JEREMIAH 31:3

Monday, January 21, 2013

Steak and Potatoes

In 1842, a bull was born in Scotland. Named Old Jock, he was a one of the black, polled (hornless) cattle known in the area as Angus doddies. Old Jock became the first registered Black Angus, a breed known widely for its winter hardiness and delicious beef.

Countless Angus bull calves have been born since. Some are assigned registration numbers and names, ordained for the show ring or bull sale, followed by a career of pasture procreation. The vast majority of Angus bull calves, however, become steers and, ultimately, steaks and burgers.

In 2011, another little Angus calf was born to a heifer named Petunia. She was having trouble, so Hubby and I helped pull the calf. I was greatly relieved when the delivery was safely accomplished but disappointed when I saw that the darling calf was a bull.

I knew that the calf would live a happy life here on the ranch. Except for vaccinations and castration, he’d never be hurt. Unlike some cattle, he’d never be hollered at, prodded, hit, overly confined, go without shade or shelter, or go hungry. He'd not be given hormones, unnecessary medications, or corn. He’d be named, prayed for, and loved. But I knew that his destiny was also his purpose—feeding families—and as such, his life would be short.

This morning, Peder, a gentle soul like his mama, fulfilled that noble objective. But Hubby could barely choke down his breakfast, and I cried—am still crying, actually.

“Maybe we should grow potatoes instead of raise cattle,” I said to Hubby.

“He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.”                           –PSALM 136:25

Saturday, January 19, 2013


From what I’ve read, goats proliferate as effortlessly as rabbits. According to Raising Goats for Dummies and other tomes, Meels and Blueberry should have easily become pregnant on their driveway dates.

But around Christmastime, Blueberry launched into a rapid-fire series of 5 to 7 day cycles—21 days is her norm—some of which, I learned, could have been “false heats”. I also read that some goats do that near the end of the breeding season; this contradicts what I read, in several sources, about Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats cycling all year round.

I was sure that Meels was settled, but on Thursday, she showed some signs of flooziness inconsistent with pregnancy, the details of which I’ll spare readers. But she didn’t exhibit all the signs of heat, and the ones that did, didn’t last as long as usual. Perhaps she’s like the occasional Black Angus cow, who can be pregnant but still act like she’s in heat in the fall.

Vanessa, my goat mentor, is kindly loaning me one of her bucks for a month. He’s coming tomorrow. Hopefully, he will know the difference between real, false, and mock heats—because Blueberry, Meels, and I don’t!

I guess I need a book called Raising Goats for Really Dumb Dummies!

“Blessed shall be the…increase of your cattle and the young of your flock.”         –DEUTERONOMY 28:4

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tired Out

Weather forecasters keep promising temperatures that will surpass the freezing point, but so far we have had to be satisfied with highs into the 20’s. With nighttime lows below zero, though, 26° feels positively warm.

The best thing about the milder afternoons is that our stir-crazy cat goes outdoors for a little while. The other day, he found one of the few relatively warm, dry spots on the place, the tractor cab.

Hopefully today will be warmer, so Smokey will stay outside longer. We want him to get tired enough to sleep all night—so we can. At night, Smokey entertains himself by knocking things off the dressers, scratching furniture, banging cupboard doors, and attacking any arm that sticks out from under the covers. One night, it sounded like he was literally trying to climb a wall. 

I wonder if they make cat jackets. If Smokey had one with tiger stripes or leopard spots, he might stay outside long enough to play away his stir-crazies! 

“A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” –PROVERBS 17:22

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snow Art

No matter how frigid the air or tough the footing, I would not think of trading my outdoor walks or runs for more comfortable ones on a treadmill. For one thing, I don’t just enjoy sunshine and fresh air, I crave it. Also, outdoor treks are fun because, just like yard sales and flea markets, I never know what I might find.

Wintry walks may be devoid of growing things, but the snow is like a blank canvas for the wild things to unwittingly draw a record of their comings and goings. Most sketches are made with hooves, paws, or toes, but it’s not uncommon to see a double-doodle drawn with wings, like this one:

This next piece is a puzzler to me though. Obviously, the artist had feathers, but how he or she managed to create this intriguing 24” by 10” abstract is a mystery. It’s so beautiful that I had to capture a photo before the masterpiece melted!

“He will cover you with His feathers,
    and under His wings you will find refuge;
    His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.–PSALM 91:4 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Miss Liberty

Although we didn’t consult the Farmer’s Almanac regarding the best dates to wean the calves, our 2012 weaning was the easiest ever.

In order to minimize weaning stress, we practice fenceline weaning, which means that the only thing that separates the cows from the calves is one fence. Emotional distress is kept to a minimum if mamas can see and communicate with their calves and vice-versa. We’ve yet to have a calf go off feed or get sick.

For fenceline weaning to work, however, the fence must be an effective barrier to travel. Our 2011 weaning was very stressful for us because one of the calves, Yogi, kept escaping from the corral. By all appearances, Yogi was too fat to crawl out and too short to jump out, but out he repeatedly got! (We never caught him in the act.) Recapturing Yogi was an ordeal because his mama, Teddy Bear, was a mean, over-protective Angus menace to society. (Her belligerence earned herself a free ticket to the sale barn.)

Readers may remember, Penelope, our youngest calf, who is a free spirit for whom fences are merely a suggestion. We didn’t expect to keep her in the weaning pen without drastic fortifications such as electricity, barbed wire, concrete, and security guards.

Imagine our surprise when Penelope not only stayed put but took weaning in stride! While the other calves bawled, Penelope munched hay, and while they paced, she napped. Her composure must have had a comforting effect because the misery and noise levels seemed much reduced from previous seasons.

Nevertheless, Penelope still goes pretty much wherever she wants--like right into the middle of the feeder!

“…He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives….” –ISAIAH 61:1

Monday, January 14, 2013

January M&Ms

I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in America, the change of times is heralded by little candy-covered chocolate discs called M&Ms. The wrapping was barely off the presents and the dinner dishes weren’t even dry before the red and green Holiday M&Ms were whisked off the shelves and replaced by the pink, red, and white Valentine M&Ms—even though Valentine’s Day isn’t until February.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national holiday in January. Dr. King’s legacy as a civil rights activist is honored with speeches and closed schools and offices, but as yet, the M&M folks haven’t come out with MLK M&Ms. Perhaps they’re still trying to choose which colors to make them.

Obviously, there would be no black or white M&Ms, but red, which is the color of brotherhood and love. And, as that great song says, we all Bleed Red, no matter what our skin color. But what are the colors of justice, hope, respect, and dignity? Why, sun-gold, of course.

“He rekindles burned-out lives with fresh hope, restoring dignity and respect to their lives - a place in the sun!” –1 SAMUEL 2:8

Saturday, January 12, 2013

No Worries

In the calm after the storm, the moos seemed none the worse for wear. In fact, Bubbles, Annabelle, Dottie, and Daisy Mae appeared quite comfortable as they lounged in their breakfast, chewing their cud. Although the snowstorm has made life tougher for livestock and wildlife (and people whose cats have cabin fever and who have to plow their own roads), the fields and trees will be that much better for the moisture this spring.

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” –PSALM 96:12

Friday, January 11, 2013

Always It

Today’s blizzard and below-zero wind chills were in stark contrast to yesterday’s spring-like thaw of 47°. I have no idea how much snow came down, as there are drifts one to two feet deep right next to bare, icy ground. We fed hay to the cows because the pasture was pretty much under ice.

Instead of their morning nap, the horses played a long, lively game of winter tag. Sugar is faster and lighter on her feet than Solomon, so he never catches her. He’s always It!

“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”                    –ISAIAH 51:11

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Uncommon Cows and Cats

Everyone knows that Wyoming, the Cowboy State, has more cows than people. Some Wyoming cows are dairy but most are beef. Many Wyoming cows aren’t actually cows at all, but cow elk, like these beauties that Zach and his girlfriend, Anna, saw two days ago in an extremely remote area called the Needles. 

At one point in their trek, Zach smelled a dead elk. They’d seen fresh mountain lion tracks in the snow, so he knew better than to follow his nose to investigate the scene of the crime. I’m no elk expert, but I’d guess that the presence of lions probably explains why these cows were hanging out above treeline, where even lions can’t hide!

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.” –PSALM 34:10

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


The other day, I was showing my son Zach a picture of one of our heifers. “Isn’t she beautiful?” I said.

“As beautiful as a cow can be,” he replied wryly.

I was incredulous. Cows are such lovely creatures.

A friend, Blanca, once told me that in her native Spanish language, vaca (which means cow in English) can be used derisively towards or about a woman who doesn’t meet the speaker’s idea of beauty.

I was incredulous. Cows are such lovely creatures. If someone called me vaca, I’d take it as a compliment.

Take another look at Annabelle, for instance. Isn’t she just a vision of loveliness?

“Make up for the bad times with some good times…. Let Your servants see what You’re best at— the ways You rule and bless Your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us.” –PSALM 90:16-17

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mama Mia!

This is Dottie, the calviest-looking heifer. We’re hoping she doesn’t have a litter! Multiple births are relatively rare in beef cattle, so it may be that Dottie, like many pregnant women, has given in to her cravings and eaten above and beyond her recommended daily caloric intake. Only time will tell if we're merely looking at body fat or Lottie and Spottie.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Midwinter Day's Dream

The relatively warm (20° when the photo was taken) afternoon inspired Gracie to take a nap. With her head cradled on a cow patty, she looked downright comfortable! Gracie must have been dreaming because her ears were twitching and swiveling, and when I inadvertently woke her up, she sat up and looked around her as if to say, “Where am I? Who are you?”

I wonder what a weanling heifer dreams about.

“God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” –EPHESIANS 3:20

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hold the Utah State Fruit, Please

Today is the second day of 2013 and, undoubtedly, the beginning of many a New Year’s resolution to lose some holiday pounds. I’m off to a good start, not because of great resolve or discipline but rather a virus that’s spoiled my appetite. But for those fortunate readers who aren't sick, I offer this advice from that clever cartoon cat, Garfield: "Try to cut back. Leave the cherry off your Hot Fudge Sundae."

Speaking of hot fudge sundaes: I hope that a mug of this crazy-faced heifer, Sundae, will bring some calorie-free pleasure today!


“…He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” –PROVERBS 15:15

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Zigs and Zags

I fear that I may have given the wrong impression in last week’s Swish-Happy post. Yes, I love to cross-country ski, but I’m not a ski bunny.

Cross-country is a horizontal sport that requires a certain level of fitness but only the barest minimum of athleticism, courage, and fashion sense. Ski bunnies, on the other hand, are young, agile, daring, and, above all, stylish. Ski bunnies, unlike yours truly, don’t have panic attacks on chairlifts or ski over small children who fall down in front of them. Unlike me, ski bunnies haven’t snowplowed since kindergarten, and they zigzag effortlessly but rapidly down the slopes without even breaking a sweat in their chic, color-coordinated attire.

Two winters ago, I was on crutches with my knee heavily braced. While crutching around town, I was asked, on more than one occasion, if I’d hurt myself skiing. It seems that irrigation pipe lifting and cattle feeding mishaps are decidedly less glamorous than skiing accidents! Of all the witticisms I received, my favorite came from the butcher at our grocery store: “Looks like you zigged when you should have zagged!”

Nevertheless, our place is not without its snow beauties. Ziggy doesn’t carve zigzags down any Black Diamond slopes, but she is black with a cute zigzag down her nose.

“I do not participate in any sport with ambulances at the bottom of the hill.” ~Erma Bombeck