Waiting on a Chinook, Part I

So I’ve been trying to get this blog published since Daylight Savings Time started over a week ago.

You would think a seven-week-old baby wouldn’t even register that Daylight Savings Time is a thing.  It’s not like the rest of us radically changed our behavior when the clock sprung ahead.  Yet the little man sensed something, and there for a few nights he was bright-eyed ’til 12 a.m.  The good news is that staying up that late means he’s started sleeping for a couple three-hour stretches in the early morning and then snoozing on and off ’til noon.  This is phenomenal sleep for a Blake baby.  I’m not saying we’re sleeping through the night or anything.  But I feel certain that Muggins is the best little sleeper we’ve had, and I can report I’m at least getting enough sleep to stay alive.  Who knows?  Maybe I’m figuring out a few tricks, too, now that I’m on my fourth baby, to help us all have a better night.  (I’m definitely getting a little better at the whole burping thing.  I will maintain until the end of days that burping is the hardest thing about having a baby.)

For his part, Mr. Muggins is just a pretty chill little dude.  Probably helps that he’s been thoroughly imprint trained by his three older siblings.  I also think it can’t hurt that I’ve insisted on referring to him as “our easy fourth baby” since his conception; it’s a little psychological trick I learned from a self-help book:  If you speak it out loud, it’s likely to come true.


One thing’s for sure — Muggins’ snoozing is paying off for him.  He’s growing like a weed.

As for my dear husband Beau, he’s not much help in the nighttime.  Never has been; he’s very difficult to wake from sleep, and even if you can get him out of bed, it doesn’t mean he’s thinking clearly enough to go grab a dry diaper out of the other room.  I learned with our firstborn that waking Beau to help with the baby is more work than it’s worth, and much harder on our marriage than just assuming I’m on my own in the nighttime hours.  (I still love you, though, darling — just in case you have time to read this blog.)


The truth is, Beau has always worked hard enough outside the home that I have to agree he deserves a full night’s sleep once he’s in.  And this winter he hasn’t just worked hard; he’s worked double-hard.

Our 40-year winter is officially over as of yesterday, though thick drifts of the white stuff still command approximately 70% of the view out the window next to my desk.  (Defining “40-year winter”:  most folks of the generation before me agree this is the most long-lasting snow, the longest winter, we’ve seen around these parts in at least 40 years.)


So we’ve had deep snow on the ground, covering pretty much all the grass in pretty much every pasture, for longer than most people in these parts can ever remember seeing before.  You can guess that the PV Ranch, the arid Eastern Montana desert outfit prized by its general manager for economic efficiency, was not prepared to winter mama cows through such extreme weather.  Beau estimates that the PV has fed four normal years’ worth of hay this winter.  (That’s to the mother cows out in the hills; feed here in the feedlot at headquarters has remained steady.)


Beau works with some great folks, and everyone here has gone above and beyond to make it work this winter.  The result:  So far as we can tell, death loss in the PV cowherd through this extreme winter is still far below 1%.  Those bovine lives saved have been traded for gray hairs in the heads of the folks saving them.  Cold and snow make everything harder, so the last couple months have seemed like a daily rat-race from one ranching conundrum to another.  I really wish we’d kept a daily journal of everything that’s happened here at the ranch since late December, but I’ve been busy having a baby and entertaining three other kids…


… while Beau has burned the candle at both ends…


… so there’s been no time for journal-keeping.  Unfortunately, at this point, we’d never be able to remember all the crazy details of this winter, and even if we tried to write it down at this late hour a lot of the extreme hours kept and difficulties encountered would seem impossible in hindsight.


Though our very hands-off general manager has never ventured out to the ranch to see firsthand the difficulties dealt with this winter, he has allowed Beau to procure the extra hay needed; much of it has come in on trucks from Idaho.  It’s been pretty easy to get the hay right here to ranch headquarters, but getting it out into the hills, and into cows’ bellies, has been the real challenge because of county road conditions.  The GM also okayed the hiring of local dirt-moving equipment that regularly busted through drifts on the roads to the cow camps there for a few weeks.  Had those big Cats not been hired, and had the extra hay not been brought in, this story would’ve had a very sad ending.


As you can see in the photo above, snow is no longer the problem when it comes to the roads — mud is.

Right now we’re within two weeks of calving season, and signs of spring are in the air.  It’s been too muddy to feed cows for a few days, but the slowly-receding snow is still too deep for adequate grazing.  The prayer on our collective lips has been for the weather to either freeze hard enough that the guys can get feed to the cattle… or warm up enough to melt the snow and reveal old grass.  Just a few hours of warm wind could free us, finally, from a very memorable winter.  We keep telling ourselves that it could all be over in a few hours.  Any day now.


We’re just waiting on a chinook here at the PV.

To be continued!

© Tami Blake


4 thoughts on “Waiting on a Chinook, Part I

  1. Another great blog post, makes my day when I get a notification from the Prairie mom. We still have a lot of snow on this side of the state, we get mud but nothing like you easteners. Thanks, spring should be around the corner.


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