Isn’t She Just a Cow?

I have lived and breathed cows since I was a baby so needless to say, I love cows! Many people will say to me, but a cow is just a cow!

Not to me!!

This was Ginger, my first cow! She had attitude! Let’s just say, she kept me on my toes when she calved each year!
Next, was Kassy! Now Kassy was the complete opposite to Ginger. She loved everyone as much as we loved her! You could even ride her bareback like a horse!
Our current show heifer is Daisy, who is Kassy’s granddaughter. Daisy has spunk, but she has a soft spot for my oldest son.

Both of my boys have developed a eye for observing cows at a very young age. My two year old son can go into a pen of heifers and pick Daisy out immediately. When my oldest was 2, he told everyone where 19R was at all times!

Each cow has a unique personality and appearance and as cattle ranchers, we use many techniques to pick our replacement heifers and bulls.

We look at the animal’s conformation, pedigree, EPDs, measurements such as birth weight or weaning weight, their temperament and their offspring’s records if they have had a calf or sired calves. All of these factors help us to decide the potential of the animal. Every rancher may look at some of these qualities more than others.

So the next time you meet a cattle rancher, ask them to tell you a story about a cow and I am sure you will get a great one!

The Little Moments that Can Get Forgotten

This past week has been one of those weeks when I am not sure what I have accomplished but I know I have accomplished a little when I look back through my journal.  In order to avoid the smoke, we have been doing a lot of indoor activities in between our chores.  However, Saturday was beautiful so we spent some time working in the garden and the yard.  We even took an evening trip to a local lake for supper so the kids could play in the sand! That’s when you can tell haying season is over!!  Usually we do not get many trips to the beach, as we are spending the hot days in the hayfield.

Indoor time means time for some crafts and lots of colouring. My oldest is in colouring mode right now, so I am printing colouring sheets daily for him. Here are a couple crafts that we have worked on.

We found this cow craft on Pinterest and my oldest was eager to make it!  Here is the link for instructions. https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/paper-plate-cow

We made this neat cut and paste bee, which was also found on Pinterest. I drew the shapes and my son cut and pasted everything together. It made for a great anniversary gift for his grandparents!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/514465957405913702/

It is weeks like this when it reminds me how important it is to enjoy the little moments.  Time goes by so quickly when we are raising kids on the ranch.  The little moments of checking cows together or doing the daily feeding sometimes get lost in the daily chaos of life. I try to remember to journal at least twice throughout the day so that I remember to make notes of these special times.  The moment the boys run through the pasture together checking cows or when the oldest takes the youngest by the hand to go rinse Daisy, our show heifer.  Yesterday, we took a few minutes to fly the kite that has been sitting downstairs for way too long.  I don’t remember my oldest son ever laughing so much! These moments go by so quickly and without photos or journaling, they can be forgotten.

The next time you are rushing out the door, try to stop for a second and take a photo or make a note about something small.  Enjoy every moment as life can run away faster than we would like!

4-H Record Books – A Treasured Keepsake

I have treasured every 4-H record book that I completed over my 11 years of 4-H.  I have record books for sheep, beef, clothing and a self-determined project.   For some, record books are a dreaded task and one that is usually left for the last month of the project year.  For my brother and I, we enjoyed adding to our books each month and using it as a resource for the next year.

For those of you unfamiliar with what a 4-H record book is, it is a financial record and journal of your 4-H year and 4-H project work.  There are many types, such as livestock, foods, cloverbud, senior management or the junior leader record book.  Furthermore, some projects require independent record keeping such as the self-determined project

I believe that personalizing your record book is the most important aspect in order to make it a keepsake and resource for the future.  There are some mandatory components, but you have the ability to add the components that you feel are necessary and important to your project and 4-H year.

Parent support and coaching is also extremely helpful.  My mom guided us through the process each year, especially when we were juniors.

For homeschooling parents, a record book can be a great way to incorporate your school curriculum.  Math, science, language arts, and art can all be incorporated very easily. I have designed a small record book for my oldest son so that he can keep track of the costs and activities associated with his bottle lamb.  As he gets older, I plan to expand his book to include a wide variety of topics. Message me if you would like a copy.

Here are some of my record book suggestions and ideas:

  • Read the instructions carefully
  • Ask people so you obtain accurate feed prices and amounts as prices may change throughout the year.
  • Be consistent
  • Use lbs. or kg. – but stay with one
  • Each project has a different number of days and/or months that the project must be carried per year and your record book should cover that length of time
  • Round all numbers to one decimal place
  • Include all costs, including small ones
  • Remember depreciation (10% or best estimate)
  • Weigh grain ration every time you change the amount so that your record book will reflect accurate costs
  • Make you goals realistic and evaluate them during the year to see if you are achieving them
  • Use pencil or pen, but don’t switch back and forth. Check with your leader about using the computer.
  • Ask your leader or record book marker what their guidelines are
  • Make it original
    • Use stickers, sketches, photos, journal entries and title pages
  • Remember that the record book’s main purpose is as a financial record and journal of your year
  • Ribbons are not suggested to be included
  • Don’t wait until the last moment to complete as it won’t be as valuable of a resource for you and it will be hard to remember all of the details
  • Keep a calendar and/or journal where you can record details until you transfer them into your record book (example: important dates such as changing feed)
  • Have a journal for what was covered at your club meetings
  • Have a workshop session(s) in your 4-H club where you can work on your record books together
  • Ask for help!
  • Put your record book into a binder (preferably with inside pockets)
  • Easier to keep track of items and stay organized
  • Assign approximately 20 minutes at each meeting for answering questions about the record books or for working on them as a group
  • Share ideas between each other!
  • Club photographer could take pictures for members so that they can put them in their record book

Here is a video of my 2005 record book.  I would be happy to answer any questions you have! https://youtu.be/8Ujx1xCMQ0M 

Comment below is a photo of your record book or with your record book ideas!

Our 2017-2018 Homeschool Curriculum Choices

I am excited for September to arrive as it will be the start of our first “official” year of homeschooling.  Over the past year, we have been working through the amazing preschool-kindergarten hands-on program by Winter Promise, called I’m Ready to Learn.  It has been an amazing journey for my son.  We have learned about farming, pond life, zoo animals and garden life through many crafts, videos and other hands-on activities and games. Reading, math, science and social studies are all covered in this great curriculum.

Over the past couple months, I have been doing lots of reading to prepare for this September and I have now selected and planned our first year using Homeschool Tracker. This year we are going to use the following curriculum:

Math U See – Primer
My son was so excited when we received this curriculum that he has already completed the first two lessons.  I love the DVD and manipulatives that are included as each lesson can be tailored to suit any child’s learning style, including the kinesthetic, auditory and visual learners.

All About Reading – Level 1
I believe that reading is one of the most important subjects to get a solid base on from the beginning; therefore, I chose to go with a thorough and comprehensive program that also includes lots of games and activities to make reading fun!

Poetry Teatime and Freewriting Friday from Brave Writer
We are going to incorporate some of the Brave Writer philosophies into our year.  I love these two concepts and we hope to incorporate more of Brave Writer into our curriculum next year!  We will be using the Poetry Teatime Companion manual and a book from Usborne, called Poems for Young Children.

Family Time Fitness for Physical Education
This looks like an amazing program that will teach us more about physical fitness techniques and how to have fun while exercising!

Science
For science this year we are going to be using a variety of resources.  The two main resources are the Usborne 365 Science Activities book and the Complete Zoo Adventure Book.  We are going to be working through the Usborne 365 Science Activities as it relates to our theme each week.  We are going to learn about the animals in the Complete Zoo Adventure Book as we learn our letters in the All About Reading Level 1 program.  We will also be doing a nature study by studying a pond that is located close to our home.  We will be using One Small Square – Pond as a resource along with journaling about what we see as we visit the pond each week.

Home Art Studio – Kindergarten DVD
We can’t wait to start the lessons in the Home Art Studio DVD!  The projects look amazing and I love how much variety there is in the mediums used. I have also added one or two small projects each week from Pinterest relating to our weekly theme, such as weather, seasons, and holidays. I will post these projects as we go along.

Music
We are going to learn the basic of the keyboard using the Usborne My First Keyboard book and I am currently looking for a piano/keyboard program that we can do from home.  I would love to hear your suggestions!

Social Studies
Towards the beginning of 2018, we are hoping to start with Donna’s Ward recommended resources for Grade 1 as my son has a good foundation in his social science requirements for Kindergarten.

One of the main aspects that I like about homeschooling is that we have the flexibility to learn as we experience life or have questions about life.  I have planned our activities each week with the ability to move the schedule around if necessary.  If we happen to go to the pond one day and there is a new animal there, we have the flexibility to learn more about the animal through many mediums rather than be “stuck” in a strict routine.

We would love for you to follow our journey through this year.  I will be posting regularly on our homeschool experience and I will go into more depth about the curriculum as we progress through the year.  I would be happy to answer any questions you have and would enjoy hearing about your experiences!

This post contains affliate links, thank you for your support.

6 Tips to Avoid Chaos in Your Home

Let’s face it, living on a ranch with two busy boys means that dirt and toys are inevitable. Here are a few tasks that I try to do each and every day in order to stay ahead of the chaos.  Does our playroom always look perfect, absolutely not! Here is a photograph from tonight!

However, with these few basic chores it makes it a lot easier to keep a tidy house.

  1. When we wake up in the morning, I go through each bedroom to make the beds, put away glasses and/or books from the night before, and make sure each room looks reasonably presentable before making my way into the kitchen. I also put the boys’ clothes out at this time ready for day.  I quickly stop at the bathroom to make sure there is a fresh towel, toilet paper and the counter is clean.
  2. Do a load of laundry each day, from start to finish. This includes putting it all away in its perspective places.  Yes, as my husband will say, there are still times when he must push a load off the bed prior to going to sleep at night!  Nonetheless, I find that if I do a load a day I don’t always have a huge pile loaming ahead of me.
  3. Sweep the floors in the main living area of the house after each meal and if needed, prior to going to bed. I used to only sweep once a day, but I found that by lunch the crumbs were driving me crazy. Toddlers aren’t always neat eaters!
  4. Do the dishes after each meal. We don’t have a dishwasher so by doing the dishes after each meal it is a very easy way to make sure the counters stay tidy.  I wash the dishes, wipe the counter and quickly put away anything sitting out on the counters.
  5. Put away items as you use them! With children this isn’t always possible, but we try to put the items away after we are finished as much as possible. For example, if we are doing a puzzle, the puzzle goes away before we start playing with lego. Our playroom is the one exception as it is a separate room out the way of the main living space.  If all else fails when a guest arrives, any toys sitting out go quickly into the playroom!
  6. Wipes in the bathroom! Little boys can make a mess of a bathroom quickly! I have started to use bathroom wipes to quickly clean up messes and to tidy the counter, sink, toilet and/or floor if necessary throughout the day.  This is an easy way to keep the bathroom looking relatively clean!

There are times when I get behind in these tasks as life on the ranch speeds out of control, but most of the time these six tasks help to keep the chaos to a minimum.  On a ranch, it is quite common for people to stop in.  By following these daily tasks, I can feel comfortable that my house will be relatively presentable when someone stops in!

A Day in the Life – August

Today started as a quiet Sunday with not too many jobs on the list. We had a quick breakfast and headed out to move a small group of cows to a new pasture. Everything was went well, we found the cows easily and moved them through their pasture to the gate into the next.  Only one cow decided that she wanted to go in a different direction, but she came back through to the others quickly after she realized the herd was leaving her behind.  We chased them down to the water, visited with the property owners and headed on our way to town for a snack while the boys napped.  Last night was a late night of hauling square bales, so both boys were ready for a rest.

We decided that we would check another group on our way home since the boys were still sleeping.  As we were driving to the pasture, we received a phone call to say that the neighbors had a bull and they weren’t sure if it was ours.  Perfect timing, we are only 5 minutes away! Sure enough, one of our yearling bulls decided to venture into the neighbors and seemed quite content with his new group of “girls”!

Back home we went to get the stock trailer, except the last load of square bales needs to be unloaded! We quickly put our show heifer in the barn under the fan, a few hours late, and unloaded the hay.  A quick stop for lunch and then the bull is loaded and back home.

Next, we need to check the fence to see where he got out and to see if any of the cows and calves went with him.  Lucky for me, my parents were willing to check the fence so that the boys had a chance to play. The cows and calves were all in!! The boys and I spent some time playing in the house and then playing outside and checking the garden.

Supper time and then a quick trip outside to rinse our show heifer.  Bedtime for the boys and a few minutes of catch up time and housework for me!

Life on the ranch is never predictable! I wonder what will be on the agenda for tomorrow?

 

The Year of Extremes

Sorry for the lack of writing the past couple months. To quickly update you, we had a very wet spring and are now having an extremely dry summer! This has been the year of extremes, from lots of snow, lots of rain and now lots of heat. Our spring turnout was rushed this spring as we branded later in April when it was a bit drier.  We also had to closely watch the calves throughout the spring as moisture is one of the prime conditions for scours to start.

Luckily the hay crops grew well, so haying season went quite well, other than some equipment breakdowns and needed repairs. I don’t remember many haying seasons where we have had no rain storms whatsoever to slow us down. Looking back, a rain storm here or there is a nice break in order to catch up on a few small tasks in between fields.

However with no rain, the pastures that grew so well this spring are now incredibly dry.  Needless to say the forest fires in British Columbia have been terrible this summer.  Let’s all do a rain dance and hope that heavy rain comes very soon!

In between all the ranch tasks, we have been doing our direct marketing of beef within our local community.  I love being able to connect with our customers so that they can see who raises their beef and answer any questions they may have.

The next month will be a bit different than the past years, as our haying is done. We had planned to do some rail and barbed wire fencing but with it being so dry, we don’t want to use a chain saw or heavy equipment in case they spark a fire. Therefore, we are going to work on staining the buildings, clean up around the barnyard and as always, continue to check pastures while ensuring to stay on roads at all times.

I would love to hear from you on how your summer is going and if and how it has changed due to the weather!

Day in the Life – April

April on the ranch is start of a very busy season!  During April and May there always seems to be a thousand different tasks that need to be done and there are never enough days to get it all done!  Between feeding cows, checking calves, branding calves, fixing fences, harrowing fields, planting new fields and turning out cows, the days are long!

On Wednesday, my day started out by finalizing some details the Kamloops Stockmen’s Association Annual General Meeting that was to start at 3pm.  I have been the secretary/treasurer for the Kamloops Stockmen’s for the past eight years and today will be my last meeting as the secretary/treasurer.  I have really enjoyed the position and now it is time to pass it along to someone new.

I dressed and fed the boys, quickly cleaned up around the house ready to go outside into the snow! Yes, snow! We have been getting a lot of moisture this spring and it is still not very “spring” like! Hopefully the weather will warm up soon so the grass will start to grow.

Next, my parents, the boys and I started the morning chores.  Each morning in April, we feed grain to a few animals, feed hay to the various groups, check the last few cows who haven’t calved, and check all the calves to make sure they are healthy.

My mom and I decided that we would put some fresh straw in the calf shelters since it was so wet outside. One of the last 3 cows to calve (14-63) had a nice little heifer calf the evening before and the calf was cuddling up in the new straw.  When we went to leave, I looked up over the top of the hill and I could see a cow who looked like she had recently calved.  We walk up to find 14-63 licking another little heifer calf! Since it was so wet, we put both calves in the trailer pulled by our Polaris Ranger and took them into the barn to dry off.  Since 14-63 is a young cow (this is her second-time calving), we wanted to watch the calves closely to make sure each of them was getting enough milk.  We made up a bottle of colostrum just to make sure each calf had a good drink prior to leaving for the meeting.

14-63 – October 2016

We headed back to the house to quickly change as the boys had a doctor’s appointment in town before the meeting. My dad met us in town after the appointments to take the boys home to feed the bottle lamb and to babysit while my mom and I attended the meeting.

The Kamloops Stockmen’s Association is a regional livestock association representing the livestock producers in our area.  At this meeting, we have various guests attend to update the members on current issues, events and programs. We have a great meeting with lots of informative talks and a wonderful supper!

When we arrived home from the meeting, we did a quick phone call to a neighbor to update him on the meeting as he couldn’t attend and I put the boys to bed. I had a few minutes to finalize some details and answered some emails and went to bed ready to start the next busy day!

Cattle Record Keeping

Cattle records, what kind of records would you keep on cattle? On our ranch, we have a purebred and commercial herd.  With purebred herds there is always more of a record keeping requirement; therefore, we decided to also keep detailed records on our commercial herd so that we are managing all of our cattle the same.

All of our records are inputted on a daily basis into our cattle management software program, CattleMax. CattleMax has an online program that we can access anywhere by using our computer, iPhones and/or iPads for a small monthly fee. We have been using this program for at least 10 years and it makes it extremely easy to print reports and/or worksheets while managing our herd.


On our ranch, every calf is given a ranch tag with a specific number at birth along with a RFID tag (Radio Frequency Identification tag).  The mother’s number is then written on the back of the ranch tag.  The registered calves are numbered numerically, followed by the letter for the year.  This year is “E”.  The commercial calves are also numbered numerically, starting with the year they were born (“17” for 2017) and then their number in sequence. For example, 17-15.

At birth, we keep track of calving difficulties, medications, management notes and birth weights.  The one book on the ranch that we can’t live without is our calf book!  It tracks the calf number, mother (dam), father (sire) and all the other birth details. Needless to say, my 2017 calf book looks like it has been everywhere with me!


Throughout the year, we must document which cows are bred to which bulls, vaccination and medications as given, pasture movement details for each animal, yearling weights and many other details.


In the fall, we weigh each calf so that we can document how many pounds each cow is raising, details on if the calf is kept over the winter or where it is sold and for how much.

By using CattleMax,  we can easily see which cows are producing the highest weaning weight, the average calving interval, average birth weights for sires and any other detail that we need to look at while making management decisions.

WinterPromise – I’m Ready to Learn

My 4 year old son is a busy ranch boy and I wanted to find a preschool/kindergarten curriculum for him that would be fun and very hands-on! After reading numerous blogs about a wide variety of curriculum, I decided that the WinterPromise “I’m Ready to Learn” preschool/kindergarten would be a good fit for our family! We have never looked back!

We are thoroughly enjoying all of the hands-on activities and my son is learning about the alphabet, shapes, the agriculture industry, sorting, counting and many other preschool skills! One day we may be making a billy goat with a paper plate and the next day we are looking through the house for shapes.  We have made collages from magazines, sang songs together, played games, and watched numerous videos.

We don’t always have large blocks of time to work on the daily lesson, but with this curriculum we can easily fit the activities into our lifestyle.

Prior to starting the farm unit, I wondered if it would be too easy for my son as he is very familiar with “farm life”. However, WinterPromise has included many types of farms so we are learning about pigs, dairy cattle, grain farms and many others. Each week, the curriculum includes some website links to help expand our learning! Today we watch some videos about sheep!

Being a mom and rancher, I don’t always have a lot of time for prep, especially during calving season! With WinterPromise, I have to do very minimal prep each day and supply lists are provided so I can shop for supplies well in advance. Most of the supplies are common household items and craft supplies with the exception of a few weeks where I have had to purchase a few items.

My son and I are looking forward to the next unit, At the Pond, and we will be starting our letter-by-letter book soon!

You can find out more about WinterPromise and all their amazing curriculum options at www.winterpromise.com.

Follow my Facebook page and my Instagram account to see more photos about our daily lessons!