Just The Beginning

Thanksgiving 2015 was a “messy” one for much of the state of Kansas.  Rain, turned sleet, turned ice.

Ice EditedWe were fortunate to be able to travel for one of our Thanksgiving feasts before the weather turned bad.  But, by Friday morning… It. Was. Nasty!!!!

Freezing rain, icy roads and cold animals that needed fed.  Ranchers and farmers don’t get bad weather days.  That’s when they’re needed the most.  The animals rely on us to take care of them when Mother Nature gets ugly.

The weather kept unloading through the weekend.  By Saturday, cabin fever had set in our house. I was going to lose my mind if the kids and I didn’t bust out.

We all bundled up and climbed in the feed truck to help Daddy feed the cows.

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Some of us were still a little sour because it was too slick to be able to get out of the truck.

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While we’re not normally feeding hay this early in the winter months, when the ice sets on like this the cows need the hay since they can’t feed on the ice covered grass.  These girls eat a LOT of hay.  This bale would be gone by morning.

Ice 1  They were so happy to see us.

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Happy, happy girls.

Hopefully, storms like this are seldom this winter.  But…. on the chance that we ARE blasted again, our girls will be well taken care of!!!

 

 

Peace, love and ICE cream!!!!

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Critters…

I’m no stranger to country critters.  Raccoons.  Possums.  Coyotes.  Hoot Owls.  Buzzards.  Snakes.  Spiders.  Mice.  You name it, I’ve encountered it.  (…probably.)  Now, that doesn’t mean I’ve necessarily ENJOYED my encounters.

If you know me well at all you know that among all of the above listed creatures, mice rank at the top of my list for giving me the heebie-jeebies.  That’s a very technical term… heebie-jeebies, you know.  It’s that feeling you get when something creeps you out to the Nth degree. It’s become a comical thing in our household… me and my heebie-jeebies.  There’s even a dance that goes along with a heebie-jeebie attack.  It’s quite comical, as well.

After moving further south I have a NEW “top of the list”.

Friends, meet the Kansas rattlesnake.

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Insert screams, shudders, tingling sensations in the spine, any sort of heebie-jeebie type dance movement that your body may involuntarily convulse in.  These dudes are BAD to the bone.  …and they like to lurk in all the wrong places.

This guy was happily minding his own business in the tall grass next to the hay barn at our house.  Grady happened to be weed eating on this particular day and “got him”.  This is just a little too close for comfort.

As I said before, I’m no stranger to rattlesnakes.  They frequented the yard I grew up in as a child on our family ranch not far from where we are now.  But… that was a REALLY long time ago, back when dirt was being invented, as my kids like to say.  So, it had, OBVIOUSLY, been “a while” since I ran into one.

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This was the very first one we came across since the move.

**Sorry for the gore, but I don’t like to take pictures until they’re good and DEAD.  …and “chopping” them is the only effective form of extermination.**

This guy was under that big rock in a pasture where we have a set of pens for shipping out cattle.  Tucker actually found him, which frightens the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks out of us.  He had been playing out there while he wasn’t needed.  After we were done loading cattle and sent the cattle pots (rancher’s term for a semi hauling cattle) on their way he told Grady that he “thought” there was a rattlesnake under a rock, but wasn’t sure.  Lo and behold he was right!  Mr. Rattles was just chillin’ out under that rock.  We made sure to educate Tucker on what they look like and sound like.

Throughout the summer Grady has come across many more.  It’s routine for him to carry his pistol in the truck for easier extermination.  He tries to bring home the rattles for Tucker, who is fascinated with them.

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I’m really hoping that this collection stays small!!!!

 

Peace, love and NASTY rattles.

I Don’t Even Know What to Say

Truthfully….  this is exactly how I feel.  I. Don’t. Know. What. To. Say.

A part of me feels as though I need to explain away the past 10 months and why I’ve been absent.  Another part of me feels that its not important.  Life happened, is happening and that’s the long and short of it.

A part of me has greatly enjoyed this long break from my daily sharing and yet, another part has greatly missed it.

Regardless of how I’ve felt, the truth boils down to time.  I haven’t had it, not have I felt that I could squeeze it in.  I don’t want to apologize for my absence because that would be false.  I’m sure all of you can relate to the need for a change.

Change…. THAT is the reason that I’m able to come back to you at this point in time.  My, how things have changed.

Three and a half months ago we made a HUGE life decision.  We took on a new adventure that would change our lives.  We were scared.  We were nervous.  Most of all, we were EXCITED.  We uprooted out kids, left my husband’s hometown of 38 years and moved an hour away for an incredible ranch job in the heart of Kansas.  Due to the nature of the calling we felt very strongly that this was a blessing from God.  It has always been our dream to manage a ranch and raise our children the way we were raised.  After years of prayers, trials and tribulations we were given this amazing opportunity.

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Now, I’m a stay at home mom/ranch hand.

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Grady is learning the ropes under the current ranch manager with the title being passed on to him within a year.

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Tucker is in an amazing school district full of country kids just like him.  He goes to school four days a week, which means he gets to work alongside his parents every Friday.

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We have been blessed with AMAZING friends in such a short period of time.  Arms have been open, welcoming us to this community.

Don’t get me wrong.  There have been adjustments.  Being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) was never something I desired.  I love working.  Being at home with Monkey has proven to be a challenge for both of us at times.  I think we’ve finally fallen into a good routine.  Mornings are spent at home and afternoons are spent on the ranch working, unless, of course, we’re needed for the whole day.

The best part…. my EXTREMELY happy cowboy!  He is on cloud nine.  This has been his calling.  He was born to do this.  Seeing him (US) get to do exactly what he (WE) loves/(LOVE), day in and day out, brings great joy to me.  …and we get to work as a team.  I know… this isn’t every couple’s desire, but we do a pretty great job.

So, there you have it.  Our current life in a nutshell.  I hope to be able to keep you updated with fun stories of life on the ranch.

Peace, love and country living.

The Next Big Thing

With Tucker’s summer adventures with Reggie and Papa over until next year, Grady and I felt it very important to keep his skills sharp and the learning on task.  We only had one slight dilemma… Reggie is an hour away and hauling him back and forth to local events could/would get quite pricey.

Papa and I, both, had said that Grady’s trusty steed, Wimpy, might work for the kid.  We just needed to give a try.  Grady has never been too keen on this idea, because Wimpy is an interesting character.  He’s kind of a big turd.  While he’s gentle and sweet and a great horse, he has one small flaw.

He likes to buck on occasion.  If he’s feeling his oats and in a certain frame of mind and thinks he can “take you” he’s going to give it a shot.  Wimpy has been in the family for quite a long time.  There’s been a long standing rule with him.  Said rule is that he has to be warmed up for about 10 minutes before getting down to business.

This small flaw is the reason behind Grady’s reservations for putting his son on him.

Understandable.

But…. it is also known in the horse world that these large gentle giants that can sometimes cause heartburn for their adult riders can and will protect a child at any cost.  ….and Wimpy falls into this category.

He passed the test one afternoon a little over a month ago.  Grady warmed him up in the arena and cautiously gave Tucker his turn.  Around and around they went in the small round pen.  All was well.  Then it was out to the big arena.

Those two were peas in a pod.  Not an ounce of buck in his system.  Gentle, sweet and smooth.  You would have thought they had been partners all summer.  Tucker was full of smiles and confidence.  We knew we had a good horse for Tucker to compete on.  His riding skills and learning could continue on the home front.

Now, it was time to get down to business.  Our local rodeo association would be hosting two separate ranch horse competitions on back to back weekends.  These are competitions in which cowboys showcase their horse’s agility and their training techniques, involving reining patterns, cattle work and roping.  Each show offers a Pee-Wee class for the youngsters.  This class is a reining pattern only, meaning they aren’t required to work a steer in the arena or rope.  It’s a great start for the youngest of cowboys/cowgirls to get their feet wet and to help with their horse handling skills.  Tucker showed interest in learning and we knew this would be a great opportunity for him to work on those skills.

DSC_0292 copyIn the weeks to come we practiced the pattern and how to ride properly keeping his body “quiet” and in his seat.

(I will throw myself under the bus and admit that on THIS particular day Wimpy got the best of this momma and tossed me as I tried to work with him myself.  This was even AFTER Grady had warmed him up.  No worries.  I didn’t let him get the best of me.  We worked out our differences with me IN the saddle.)

DSC_0297 copyMy misfortune is the perfect example of what I was telling you.  These two have always been in harmony regardless of the steed’s occasional ill-manner with grown-ups.

Tuck worked hard over those weeks and his first competition came last weekend.  It was a small turn out of competitors, overall, with him being the only kid to show that day.  As much as I would have loved to have our friends there competing with him it was good for him to do it all alone.  He had 100% focus that day.

DSC_0307 copyHis turn came to enter the arena.  His daddy gave him a few words of encouragement and then it was time for him to show his stuff.

DSC_0323 copyIt wasn’t perfect.  He had flaws.  He has much to improve and work on.

…but, he completed his pattern.  He carried himself well.  He had great control.  As he finished his ride and exited the arena he was shown incredible encouragement by all the cowboys and spectators with a round of applause.  It was an amazing confidence booster and motivator for this guy to keep working and give it another try at the next show.

…and give it another try was EXACTLY what he did.

Yesterday he competed again.  This time he had competition in his class.  His closest friends, Pax and Piper, were there to ride as well.

DSC_0355 copyHaving known each of these turkeys since their days in diapers and to see them grow up together in the saddle is a heartwarming feeling.  It’s exactly what we’ve hoped and dreamed for them.

DSC_0357 copyTuck and Piper had the job of working through the cattle before the show to calm them and get them acquainted with the arena and commotion.  It brought a smile to my face watching him walk through them, moving them around using knowledge and techniques that I was all too familiar with, knowing he learned them from his Papa this summer.

DSC_0359 copyThen it was time for the show to start.  When it was time for his class to show he waited quietly, watching the competitor before him.  He took it all in.

…and then it was his turn.

DSC_0364 copyDSC_0373 copyDSC_0375 copy…and like that, he was done.

DSC_0377 copyYesterday’s run wasn’t as good as the week before.  He knew he made mistakes.  He knew it wasn’t as good.  He knew what he needed to work on.  With all of that said, he placed third in his class, right where he should have been.

Now, to prepare for a whole new type of competition next weekend, an open youth rodeo.  Calf riding.  Goat flanking.  Pole bending.  Barrels.

This one should definitely result in some interesting pictures.

 

Peace, love and broncs!!!

Milestones

DSC_0156 copyThis big, sorrel guy has played a HUGE part of our summer.  Not only did he, successfully, help teach Tucker his way around the pasture and cattle, he shared another “first” with his “human”.

This was Tucker’s first year in 4-H.  To keep it simple we enrolled in the horse project and leather project.  Both were things I did in my own years in the program and were projects that would be comfortable for him.  When we started this whole journey the plan was to use Daddy’s horse, Wimpy.  We had several practices with Wimpy.  Tuck was learning the ins and outs of showmanship and showing his horse at halter.  During his time with Nana and Papa he would practice with HIS trusted steed, Reggie.  The week before the fair arrived and Nana and Papa told us that they thought Tuck would be more comfortable showing Reggie than Wimpy.  It made perfect sense.  These two had been together 3 days a week for several months.  They were practically inseparable.

DSC_0157 copyShow day arrived and while I pushed hard for accuracy and as much “perfection” as I could get from a first year eight-year-old, more than anything I wanted him to have fun and do his best.

DSC_0160 copyTo merely say that I was pleased with their performance would be an understatement.  Don’t get me wrong, they both have LOTS to learn and milestones to reach before I would ever anticipate awards to be won for showmanship.  …but, I was very proud of Tucker.  He kept his calm when Reggie wasn’t cooperating in the arena.  He was confident and well poised and most important, REMEMBERED the pattern.  He was cool as a cucumber even though I know he was a ball of nerves on the inside.  He walked out of the arena with a goal reached.

Then it was time for the Aged Gelding class.  This is a class in which the judge “grades” the horses in the class and their build/muscular makeup and places them according to his/her liking.  We had no expectations.  All we wanted was for Tuck to gain a little more experience.

To our surprise and his Papa’s great delight this was the result.

DSC_0187 copyTuck and Reggie WON his class!!!!  We knew Reggie was a champ in our own hearts, but we were overjoyed when we found out the judge thought so, too.

DSC_0194 copyTo say that this boy’s heart and pride were a little swollen that evening would be an understatement.  I’m pretty certain they were bursting at the seams!

Tuck isn’t the only one who has gotten a few firsts with Mr. Reggie.

DSC_0240 copy 2Monkey got to have her very first “big girl” ride last weekend.  “Big girl/kid” riding equals riding solo in the saddle with Mommy or Daddy (or some appointed adult) in control of the reins/lead rope.  It’s the way all youngsters of this age learn to ride.

She proved, again, to be my fearless girl.

Daddy&EllaThe deep belly giggles from her were priceless.  Her daddy’s heart melted taking this first ride with her.  Her mommy’s heart bubbled over watching and taking it all in.

Without a doubt, Reggie has found his place with these kiddos.  He will be greatly loved as he greatly loves these two and carries them through many more adventures.

 

 

Peace, love and trophies!!!!!

 

Meet Reginold

Passing down our family heritages to our children is perhaps, at the very top of the “Important Things To Teach Our Kids” list for Grady and I. Ranching and the cowboy way of life aren’t skills that can simply be taught in a trade school after high school graduation. They’re teachings that are handed down from the older generations to the next. They are codes of life and work that our youth learn by watching and mimicking their mentors. Grady and I, both, deeply value and respect the way we were raised in this lifestyle and want the same for our children.

At this juncture in our life story we’re not able to provide the ranching lifestyle, but our extended family is.

A few weeks ago we visited my parents for the afternoon. My father had something up his sleeve. He’d made a few “suspect” phone calls earlier in the week requesting measurement information for Tucker. Knowing my father and his innocent “sneakiness” we gave the information and made bets on what he was up to. I was fairly certain I knew, but kept my excitement hushed.

To no surprise, during our visit, Tucker and Papa disappeared for an hour or so and Nana had her guilty grin all over her face. I KNEW I was right. Upon their return Tucker’s face was shining with excitement. I knew my boy… Papa had rebuilt the kid saddle I learned to ride in and had taken Tuck to “test drive” a new horse. My father decided it was time for Tucker to learn to ride, to learn the trade and learn to handle cattle. Upon their return there were big conversations between the two about commitment and dedication to learning. After much reassurance from Tucker, Papa made arrangements for the horse and Tucker to become permanent buddies the following week.

Meet Reginold.

Don’t laugh too hard.  He came with that name.  We find it rather amusing.

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DSC_0175 copyMiss Monkey is already laying claim to the 16 hand gentle giant.  Her day will come soon enough.

My boy spent three days with Nana and Papa getting acquainted with his new steed.  Under strict instructions, Nana documented his accomplishments.

06-05-14 8Getting on is no easy task, especially when your horse is on the HUGE scale.  But… it was always instilled in my siblings and I that if we couldn’t get on by ourselves we couldn’t ride.  It may sound cruel, but if you’re forced to get off your horse in the middle of the pasture and don’t have someone around to give you a boost it’s a REALLY long walk back to the house.  Sooo… with much coaching and encouragement he learned how to climb up the side Reginold using what he had around him.  Resourcefulness…. key lesson.

06-05-14 2I knew he was in good hands and would learn great things.

06-05-14 3 06-05-14 506-05-14 406-05-14 606-05-14 1When I picked him up he had grown up in a matter of days. He held his chest high with pride for what he’d accomplished.

06-05-14 7He was becoming a cowboy.

What he didn’t know was that he has always been a cowboy. Now he has the tools and means to live it.

This is just the beginning of his cowboy adventures this summer. He’ll spend time with Papa and Reginold every week learning, riding, laughing and… making mistakes to learn from.  No doubt, he will come home each time taller, stronger, smarter and with a confidence to carry him many miles.

The joy and pride that his journey brings to his father and I is immeasurable.  Whatever path he chooses in life, the lessons he’s being taught right now will serve him well.

 

 

Peace, love and deep roots.

A Thankful Heart

Sometimes, when life throws serious curve balls in your direction it’s hard to find the things to be thankful for.  It’s no secret that our family has had our fair share of struggles in the past six months.  But… I am trying hard to find the things in our lives that make us BLESSED, the things that we should hold dear and be thankful for.

I am thankful for this man.

DSC_0201 copyThere is no one else I’d rather take this journey through life with.  He puts up with my crazy moods, sets me straight when I’m unreasonable and loves me beyond measure.  He is my rock and best friend.

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I am thankful for this kiddo.

CadeHe may not be mine biologically, but he’s my “first” kid.  He has taught me love, patience, tolerance and above all forgiveness.  We’ve had our fair share of rocky moments, but he has been a riot and joy to watch grow up.  He’s turned into a young man that I’m proud to be “second” mom to.

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Without a doubt, I am thankful for these two turkeys.

1-18-13 095 copyDSC_0115 copyI am amazed every day that God believes in me enough to raise these babies.  Their heart, spirit, sass, creativity, individuality and love overwhelm me daily.  My love for them is immeasurable and indescribable.

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I am thankful to call this place home.

DSC_0159 copyDSC_0215 copyFeet upThis is truly God’s country.  Grassland as far as the eye can see.  Wildflowers of all colors blanketing the prairie. Crickets and locusts singing their lullabies in the late summer.  Cattle calling for their calves.  Coyotes howling in the still of the night.  Peace.  Immense peace and the best place in the WORLD to just put your feet up.

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I am thankful for the newest addition to our family.

MacyWe adopted Miss Macy last weekend.  She was a stray taken in by a family in Wichita who didn’t have enough space for her to run.  When my friend shared her picture trying to help find her a home I fell in love with her face.  …much like I did when I found Jess, the weenie dog.  She’s fallen in love with the kids.  She naps with Tucker, sleeps at the foot of our bed and snuggles like a kid.  She and Jess have become instant best friends and play for HOURS.  We still hurt for the loss of our Harley, but Macy has stolen our hearts without a shadow of a doubt.

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I am thankful for our families.  We are blessed to have Grady’s within minutes from us and mine only an hour away.  They are always willing to help us with the kids or any little thing we may need.  Their selflessness doesn’t go unnoticed.  We love them immensely and are SO lucky to have them.

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I am thankful for the new job Grady will start on Monday.  A better income will help relieve the strain we’ve felt over the past six months.

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I am thankful for the children I work with every day.  I am certain they have taught me far more than I’ve taught them.  I am a better person, mother and friend because of what these kids show me daily.  There is no better feeling than walking into a building and being bombarded with hugs, stories and pure excitement at the mere presence of MY company.

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I am thankful for my community of people who have been so supportive and kind through our hardships.  Small town, America, is where it’s at.

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I am thankful for Thanksgiving.  I LOVE this holiday.  It’s, by far, my favorite.  I love the opportunity to gather with family and feast on amazing food enjoying good company and lots of laughter.  THIS is what the holidays are all about.  Togetherness and giving THANKS!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you.  May your day be filled with blessings, reflections, good food and hearts full of joy.

Peace, love and unseen FORTUNES!!!!