In fact, it’s too cold for my old bones. But the work goes on.
Calving is just taking off on our ranch, with three calves born yesterday. It’s 20o today, with a cold wind blowing snow out of the northeast. Too cold for a horseback ride – yet we did it anyway.
Our two-year-old heifers are out in a field across the river, and these girls are the high-risk group for calving. We needed to sort through them to bring in the ones approaching calving – a job we try to accomplish every five days or so.
My first stop ahorseback was back to the house - where I traded my felt hat for a wool ear-lap cap, and my insulated gloves for mitts with knitted wool liners. Then it is a mile ride out across the bridge and upriver into that wind. (A long trot is 11 MPH; the wind at 11 MPH; total “wind chill” at 22 MPH.
The heifers followed the main trail down across the gulch, but pulled up short at a deep snow drift on the brow of the gulch on the other side. The flow was disrupted as we followed them up the gulch to the road crossing.
We held them up in the “bridge trap”, where we cut out the ones showing “heavy” – that are likely to calve in the next week. There were 8 in today’s cut.
As we sorted, I noted that although most of my toes were numb, I could still feel my big toes. I remember rides where everything below my knees was numb. And today the ride was all within sight of the house!
My little dog Niña abhors the cold. She has the short-haired blue coat of her Blue Heeler father. But she remained right behind my horse until each time I sent her out after a laggard.
On the return trip to their pasture, the heifers piled on down through that snowdrift on the brow. And the horses picked up a lope after we dropped the heifers home and turned back toward the barn. They chose to climb back up through that snowdrift - rather than take the longer, easier way home – and we let them.
I read in my newsfeed that most of the US is shut down. The governor of Montana has closed the schools, restaurants, and bars. My wife reports the shelves of the local grocery stores to be scant.
Looking out my window, however, I see none of this. There is food in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. There are still two rolls of TP in the closet, with a roll and a spare in each bathroom. My discard pile has enough newsprint for months more.
The price of live cattle is down $20 per hundred-weight – but the price of “boxed” retail-ready beef is UP $20! People are suddenly buying less from the restaurant trade and more from the grocery stores – just as they did in my childhood.