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The Montana Cowboy

Social media makes a small world even smaller. This past January my friend Jesse Bussard, recommended I become friends on facebook with this guy named Steel. Steel was coming to Chico State, from Montana, for a semester exchange. We became facebook friends and made plans to meet for a beer and a tour of Chico when he got here.
We met up at the world famous, Sierra Nevada Brewery for a beer and a beer cheese pretzel. I figured I’d have a beer with this guy, introduce him to some Chico people and that would pretty much be it. He would find his niche in Chico and my life would be no different. I was wrong.

A Montana cowboy meets a California cowgirl.

A Montana cowboy meets a California cowgirl.

We met, had our beer, and started talking about what it was like to grown up on a ranch. It was a good time, we had a lot in common. We both had similar childhoods, we had interests in politics and agriculture. He mentioned that he was looking for stuff to do while he was in town, preferably ranch type stuff. That got my attention. We are always looking for part-time help on the ranch – but it’s impossible finding someone with the needed skill sets. Ranch kids have a tendency to either work on their own ranches or not want to be ranch kids anymore.

I had a ball showing Steel around my area of California. Jesse also joined us for a couple days!

I had a ball showing Steel around my area of California. Jesse also joined us for a couple days!

Steel started coming on out to the ranch pretty regularly. He worked hard. I tried my best to keep up with him while we were working, but I’d have to give it up after a few hours. My prideful pride wouldn’t let me admit that I couldn’t keep up, luckily I was able to say I had to take a break so I could start cooking dinner (I’m pretty sure no one knew, so shhhh). Steel would work all day, doing gnarly ranch jobs like building fence, taking down old barns, and teaching me to weld, for only dinner and beers.
I, in turn encouraged him to start a blog. Agriculture needs all the advocates we can get and I knew Steel would have an unique and educated voice that we so desperately need. I also gave him some cooking pointers and seasoned a cast iron pan, so when he went home he could do more than grill. I also tried to educate him on the finer points of Californian Mexican Food, because Taco Bell does not count. At all. Not even a little.

Steel experienced the whole package from pigs to lots and lots of fence building.

Steel experienced the whole package from pigs to lots and lots of fence building.

Then, as they do, something bad happened and I thought the light had left my life forever. All I wanted to do was lay on my couch watching Gilmore Girls, crying and eating burritos (I did for a week too!). Steel, in no uncertain terms, told me to knock that off. He came over and picked me up and took my on a little day trip to the snow, giving me a pep talk and a chance to get out of my head and see the big picture. It was just what I needed.

I almost got him killed a couple times, no big deal.

I almost got him killed a couple times, no big deal.

Then he made me a ranch hot-tub out of a watering trough and barrel. It’s really hard to be sad when you have an awesome hot tub in your yard.

Ranch hot tubs are the best hot tubs!

Ranch hot tubs are the best hot tubs!

Despite my best effort to introduce him to a lovely Chico State student here so he’d stay, I had no luck and he went back home to Montana. It was wonderful getting to know Steel and I am a better person for getting to know him. However I am now looking forward to delivering a Boo puppy and some pork to him this fall, when I go visit my Montana friends!
Keep an eye on this guy, friends. He’s a wonderful human that is going to do some great things.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, Beef, dogs, Humor, Know a California Farmer, photos, Pigs, Ranch life, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: I Got the Fence Fixin’ Blues

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Payday

How often do you get a paycheck from your job? Once a month? Every two weeks? Once a year?

Dogs, helping with the cattle.

Dogs, helping with the cattle.

For many of us in agriculture it is normal to receive one or two paydays a year. That is it. We must budget those few paydays to last, and with all the unknown variables that are apt to happen in agriculture, that can  be a huge challenge. For us, payday is when we sell this year’s crop of animals or harvest. For farmers and ranchers that specialize in one product, like beef cattle, we work all year for this one day.

Where our cattle live in the winter.

Where our cattle live in the winter.

We sold this year’s calf crop today. As I was sitting at the auction, I realized that not many people outside of beef production, get the chance to experience what I experienced today. I want to show you what a cattle sale looks like.

What an average animal sale looks like.

What an average animal sale looks like.

But first I want to talk about what it took for us to get to this point. This calf crop is the result of almost two years of work. From planning the pregnancies of our Mama cows, to the birth and growth of the calves themselves.

Look at this little cowgirl.

Look at this little cowgirl.

The calves we sold today were almost a year old. My family has spent every day since before their conception with this herd. We selected the bulls we felt would best improve our herd,  we watched as the Mama cow’s bellies grew, we helped them give birth, we spent countless hours watching and protecting them. If you want to know more about the process, please look through the Beef archives to the right of this post.

This is when we de-wormed and vaccinated our babies.

This is when we de-wormed and vaccinated our babies.

When we watch the sale of these calves a whole range of emotions course through us. Part of you wants to grieve for the loss of these animals that you have spent so much time with, becoming attached happens regardless. Part of you feels pleasure, watching these beautiful animals walk around ring. Then you feel thankfulness because you have successfully brought them to market. Often feeling incredibly proud is yet another emotion, the knowledge that I am helping to feed my country is amazing.

This is how we ship our cattle, in huge cattle trucks. The bottom is what they look like inside.

This is how we ship our cattle, in huge cattle trucks. The bottom is what they look like inside.

Needless to the blend of emotions causes a lot of stress, anxiety, but eventually relief and in a good year, joy.

My little cousin was giving me a back rub to help with the stress of selling our cattle today. It was a nice treat.

My little cousin was giving me a back rub to help with the stress of selling our cattle today. It was a nice treat.

Ok, now on to the auction part. If the past we’ve sold our cattle multiple different ways. From video sales in years past to a more traditional way of literally taking them to market.

This is how we sold our cattle today, it is the traditional way of trucking your cattle to market:

This is how we’ve sold our cattle in the past, a video sale:

Each method has it’s pro’s and con’s, but we’ve been very happy with both. Hopefully, this summer I can attend a larger video sale and go more in depth about it for this blog.

Our family is grateful for today to be over. Our emotions have been all over the map and we will talk about nothing else amongst ourselves for the next few days. However, we are thankful that we can continue to do what we love and look forward to many more generations of ranching.

 

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, family, Know a California Farmer, meat, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized, Video

Wordless Wednesday: The Master

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, food, Know a California Farmer, meat, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized, Wordless Wednesday