16 days ’til Christmas

We’re on a couple of different countdowns around here.

For the kids, it’s all about Christmas.  It’s all about counting the days and hours and minutes until Christmas Day is finally here.


For Beau, it’s about how many calves we have left to wean.


We are what you might call really behind this weaning season.  Though an average year would find fall works at the PV mostly wrapped up by the last week of November, today is December 9… and we have over 1,300 calves left to wean and all the cows left to preg-check.

Mother Nature is the big culprit.  Above-average moisture has frustrated agriculture on many levels in our little part of the world the last couple years.  Just ask the local sugarbeet farmers — some of whom I’m related to and some of whom had to leave hundreds of acres of rotten beets in the ground this fall.  And take the feedlot pens here at the PV as another example:  though the custom manure haulers who come each summer to clean the pens worked long and hard as usual, they just didn’t get enough dry days to finish their job this year, for the first time in the history of… well, of my duration.

So the extra moisture, which one should never complain about in this part of the country, is a blessing… but it sure makes everything harder for the folks who work outside.  Excess moisture put fall works behind before they started this October.  Then Beau had to make two sad trips across the country when his dad passed away, and our life was upside down there for a couple weeks.  Throw in our tendency toward tardiness anyway and the long and short of it is that we Blakes — the keepers of the legacy, you might say — are failing at keeping the traditional PV schedule.

Of course, my husband (who was not raised here, like I was, but rather grew up on the other side of the country) has a pretty flexible view of PV tradition.  Without necessarily meaning to do it, he finds regular ways to remind me that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.  My everyday continues to be a conscious effort in striking a balance between 1) honoring my dad’s way of doing things, the ways I learned and trusted growing up, and 2) believing and respecting my husband’s different style and priorities, not to mention his learning curve.

As the unpaid straw boss, I really can’t change much of what happens here on this corporate ranch, so there’s no point in worrying myself about it.  Instead, I work hard at the “we’ve got everything under control / I’m totally chill about all of it” guise.  So we will be a few weeks late finishing up fall works this year.  No problem.  We will also be weaning and pregging cows on separate days for the first time in the history of… well, of my duration (previously we weaned and pregged one bunch of cows all in one day).  But everything will work out just fine.


All that said, this past weekend Beau penciled out a packed schedule for the next two weeks with the goal of finishing everything before Christmas.  That’s right, folks, he’s planning to wean 1,300 calves and preg 3,500 cows in less than 16 days.

Of course, a schedule for a ranch is kinda like a schedule for a baby:  schedules only work for bald-faced liars and/or those who have very little on-the-ground experience.  Take, for instance, today:  he planned to wean a bunch out in the hills plus ship five truckloads of bred heifers to the PAYS Blue Ribbon Sale in Billings.  But freezing rain yesterday meant treacherous roads today; the weaning was canceled and just one load of heifers made it to Billings.

So some of today’s work will be done tomorrow and some will be transferred several blocks down on the ol’ calendar.

But it will definitely be done by Christmas, he assures me.

(I will keep you updated.)

© Tami Blake

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