Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Weekend Adventure

county fair -

Every year we go to the county fair. I am always thrilled because the youth livestock sale and the demolition derby are on the same day. Our ranch always buys a pig from one of the local kids.

The animal highlights at the fair this year were some brand new baby goats and a few fun fowl. And there was a little chicken that got out of a cage that I caught and put away. Here are some clips from the barns:

This has got to be one of God's prettiest creations:

We also ate our share of fair food...tacos, pizza, bbq pork sandwiches, snow cones, and a funnel cake. We also tried some "old fashioned" soda...not bad.

We bought The Prairie Kid a few tickets for rides. I encouraged The Prairie Daddy that we didn't need to go overboard on this. It isn't cheap and there will be plenty of years that The Prairie Kid will be begging for more. I came up with a plan...let's buy him as many tickets as he is years and he can "grow" into the rides. Even though he's not quite 3 that's where we started...after all, he's close enough. Before we had the tickets bought he had his first choice ride all picked out. Cars! We strapped him in the little seat, waved goodbye, said "have fun!" and left our little boy to ride his first ride all by himself. And, of course, being the Prairie Mama that I am, I videoed.

One of my big confessions is that I LOVE the demolition derby. This secret auto-crashing love comes bubbling out in me. It is crazy. I get so excited. I yell, I cheer, I hoot and holler; it is thrilling. I also secretly wear ear plugs and that makes it even more enjoyable because IT IS LOUD! I put ear plugs in The Prairie Kids ears also. The Prairie Daddy is way too macho to wear them. Anyways, back to the thrilling crashes. Most years the guy drivers are obviously cautious with their cars. They do everything they can to protect their front end. They do their best to back their cars into each other to do the most damage without breaking down. And every year after the guys do all of their driving is the Powder Puff derby. Any cars that are still running and having willing guys are turned over to the hands of the women. The women care a whole lot more about destroying their opponents then the guys and make for a super-fantastic finale to the show.

This year was a bit different though. The guys seemed to have been taking notes from the gals these past couple of years cause they put on a show! They went in whatever direction they could to crash, boom, and bang. IT WAS AWESOME! It was so awesome that there was barely a car really left for the gals at the end however they pulled of a short Powder Puff. I was impressed to see a gal driving in the main derby though...way to go!

I have to admit, even though I have this video for you I think derbies are meant to be enjoyed in person!

We did witness one guy get hurt and we're hoping it wasn't too bad. Here is the clip of his car getting hit and in this his legs got pinned. It was neat to see the guy who hit him climb in the passenger window and help him out and give him some brotherly derby camaraderie.

Here is the crash where the guys legs get pinned:

Here they are trying to get him out. It didn't take too long before they got him free and they went ahead and loaded him in an ambulance and got him out of there.

Here is what demo derby cars look like after several rounds. Not working so well anymore, eh?

We got home late and had a "fair hangover" on Sunday morning but it was all worth it!

It was another great annual day at the fair.

Some Things Just Make A Girl Sad

This morning I was feeling bored and claustrophobic being cooped up in the house for a couple of days. I called The Prairie Daddy to see what he was up to. He said that he would be doing some calf tagging and what not in a little bit between raking hay. He asked if we wanted to come help. It worked out perfect for The Prairie Kid and I to do something out of the house.

We headed out on an ATV to meet up with The Prairie Daddy in the field where our cows just started calving. Yep, we just started calving. The "industry norm" is calving in the early Spring but we keep a consistent supply of calves between our ranch and over where Dad is. Dad does the Feb/March calving and we calve a half of a year later at our place. Summer calving is so much easier too. We don't have to "babysit" the cows as much because the weather is cooperative and makes it easier on the mamas and babies.

Last night The Prairie Daddy did inform me we lost our first calf. He said he found it dead and it had a deformed nose. Poor thing. I never get used to that. However, he also told me there was a set of twins, which means we can take one of the twins and put it on the mama that lost her baby. This would be part of the "task at hand" that I would help with.

After The Prairie Daddy tagged the two newest calves we drove over to the mama and her deceased baby. The mama never left her baby's side. She is a good mama. It made me so sad to see her there, 36 hours later, still with her baby. The Prairie Daddy put the calf on the back of the ATV and slowly drove and the mama followed. We needed to get the mama up to the corral two fields away so that we could trailer her down to the barn. I slowly followed on my ATV. It was just hurting my heart to watch her chase that baby.

After we had her settled at the corral The Prairie Daddy went and got the twin that we were going to "graft" to a new mama. I'll explain grafting in a bit. I met him down at the barn and then we jumped in a truck with a trailer and went to pick up the twin's new mama. We took her down to the barn and got her in the chute where we tried to help the new calf nurse. The calf wasn't hungry at the time. This is where the grafting comes in.

A cow knows the scent of her calf. If you put a mama in with someone else's baby and that baby tries to nurse the mama is most likely going to kick that calf around. Some cows might down right hurt another's baby if they're alone in a small area. So, in order to "fake" the mama out, we put Vick's rub on the mama's nose and on the calf. This masks the mama cow's ability to know the scent of the calf. We're hoping when we check in later they will have taken to each other. Once they take to each other the rest is history! And a mama who lost her own baby can help a twin calf not have to share milk. Everyone wins.

I do have to admit that I was a chicken this morning. The Prairie Daddy wanted me to help get the cow moved up the alley way in the barn and I got scared and ran when she turned back on me. Later, he needed me to move her again and I got scared and jumped up and over a fence. I didn't feel so bad when he ran and shut a gate to keep her from going after him though! She wasn't a happy camper. Who can blame her? I am just smart enough to not take my chances with something that out weighs me by 1700 +/- pounds!

And life on the prairie goes on...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Confessions Of A Prairie Mama

I confess I am addicted to ABC's summer show "Wipeout." You will find The Prairie Family glued to the couch tonight at 7. This show takes the cake for providing a laugh at someone else's expense. It isn't only fun to watch the contestants attempt to run the course but the commentators are witty and hilariously sarcastic.

Okay, this video is really long so when you've had enough feel free to end it. However, I admit I cannot get enough. And the more you watch the better it gets!

A Pseudo Vent Session

I decided to have a pseudo vent post. I am not really mad but I thought it would be fun to share with you things that had the potential to make me mad. I am thankful that these things really don't make me mad even though they are happening. So, here is a little dramatization of what a post might look like if I really was mad.

I have been wanting to put up a post about a fun adventure The Prairie Family had this weekend with video. However, my lovely camcorder software has decided to corrupt itself and I am unable to upload my videos. After a call to Sony today I am going to try to uninstall and reinstall the software so that hopefully I'll be back in business soon. Until then, you'll have to wait for the fun adventure post.

But who wants to stay mad at Sony? Let's get mad at something else for a minute. There is an intruder at our place. She is bold and unrelenting. We have tried to keep her out with numerous different approaches: hairspray, dryer sheets, two types of deterrent from the gardening store, and yelling. These things don't stop her. But she is stopping the lettuce from growing, the beets from thriving, the carrots from having tops, the trees from having leaves, and the birds from their bird feeder. AND she is teaching her baby to be a pest as well! What nerve!

Okay, while I'm at it I might as well show you this:

What else can I say?

Aren't all of the pictures really too cute to be mad?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Close To My Heart

~ If you don't read this whole post at least don't miss the last paragraph ~

15 minutes from our ranch is a Youth With A Mission base. YWAM is a ministry that offers lots of different opportunities for youth and adults. The base in our area is called Western Frontiers. They run Discipleship Training Schools once or twice a year. A DTS is a 6 month (give or take) commitment. The first 3 months are spent at the base studying, learning about rural lifestyle, and doing community/ministry projects. At the end of the 3 months the DTS goes abroad to do a ministry outreach. Since I have lived here I have seen many teams go out for a couple months to places such as Tanzania, Pakistan, and Yemen.

Western Frontiers is also the ministry that hosts the Rodeo Bible Camp that I help with every year. I have developed many friends at or through WF. One of those is Monica the Magnificent. Monica's job for the past 2 years has been to develop a program called Mission Adventures. MA is a program that hosts youth groups at the base for 4 days of training and then takes them to Montana to a reservation where they engage in various projects. Last year I got to help Monica the Magnificent develop some of her paperwork and strategy for MA.

In the past 8 months the Lord has been moving Monica the Magnificent to wrap up her time at WF. This time has come all to quickly for me, since she and I have developed a really special friendship. She is going to be packing up and leaving for California in just a few short weeks. I am not looking forward to the goodbye, however I am excited for her new adventures.

This week at WF was an MA week. Wow, I should have named this post "Acronyms." Monica the Magnificent has stepped into the role of "cook" for MA this summer to allow the new directors to plunge in. She has amazed me with her humility in mentoring and stepping back. I don't know many directors who are so willing to step out of such a role and willingly step into the kitchen. Cooking 3 meals a day for 30-40 people is not a glamorous or coveted position. May God richly bless your humble, serving attitude Mon-i-ki-ya.

The Prairie Kid and I decided to go join in this week in the kitchen a little and hang out during MA. Thankfully there were lots of people to help with The Prairie Kid while I helped cook. And cook we did! And while we cooked we sang and danced, laughed and shared, and had a good ol' sweaty time! I even managed to soak my capris and make myself look like I completely lost bladder control while trying to wash some big pots and pans. I am classy, eh?

I also got to spend time with a few other friends this week. Remember the bride that had the car accident after leaving my house 2 days before her wedding on Easter? Theresa the Tremendous and I were able to spend some quality time together. And some friends that moved away a few years ago are now back! I am really excited to be reconnecting with them.

And last night I got to witness a lot of people get baptized in a horse tank. Gotta love rural Wyoming. Two of those that were baptized were kids that are in the class I teach at church and the girl was in my cabin at Kidz Kamp. I was blessed to be able to see them show their devotion to God in their baptisms last night.

Last but definitely not least, last night my son (who must get his classiness from me) reportedly passed gas quite loudly next to a gal and then looked up at her and not-so-innocently said "What's that? What was that?" He has learned all too early to not take responsibility!

A Heart Like His

I am really excited about a new study that I have started with some other women in my area. We are going through the study "A Heart Like His" by Beth Moore. The study is on David. I have already been challenged even though we're only through one week. I like to be challenged. When I am challenged it means an opportunity to grow. I will share on my blog what I am learning or being challenged by.

This week the challenge came in a way that made me recognize something our culture does and that I have allowed to affect my self-view. David was an extraordinary man. As a young sheep herder he was found by the prophet Samuel through the Lord. And Samuel was directed to anoint him as the upcoming second king to the Israelites. David later was called by King Saul's servants to come to the king and play the harp.

What kind of man plays the harp? One that is tender. One whom is comfortable holding his instrument close to his body. One who is comfortable being alone, like David often was while sheparding.

And on the other hand, David was appointed to be an armor-bearer; he was a brave warrior. He was not afraid to stand up against a fierce enemy and go forward in the name of the Lord. He was even able to put aside the nasty verbal distractions of his jealous older brother. He held strong to what the Lord said about him.

There are two things in this that struck me.

#1: I am easily distracted by the words of others even when I know they are untrue of me.
#2: I am both tender-hearted and strong, like David. But at times I feel that being a woman that is strong is looked down on. And that many tender men are looked down on. This culture has some nasty gender labels.

So, what do I do with these things? I surrender them to my Father that is the author of the truth. I am whole, like Him, when I am both tender and strong. Being strong is not a bad thing. And when I hold onto the truth, I will not be distracted by the untrue things of this world.

Wow. Just one week in and ten to go! I may have some good heart tugging in this study!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Relay For Life

The Prairie Daddy and I were asked by some friends at church if we would be interested in being on their Relay For Life team. We agreed and although we did a shabby job raising money we showed up to play our part last night. If you're not familiar with RFL it is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

The friends that asked us have been closely touched by cancer. The mom has battled a renal cell cancer twice. Renal cell cancer does not react to chemo or radiation. It has to be cut out. She has her blood tested every 6 months to a year and is now doing fine. We ultrasound calves for this family and have enjoyed getting to know them and their daughter and her family as well. The daughter and her hubby have a little cowboy a year older than ours and an adorable little cowgirl.

We had other obligations when RFL started so we missed the Survivor's Walk and what not. I wasn't sure how RFL would affect me since I have lost my dad to cancer. My mom lost her dad to cancer and my dad lost his dad to cancer. Cancer sucks. And so many people's lives are affected by it.

That is what hit me last many people are affected by cancer. The track that we walked was lined on both sides by luminarias. There were hundreds and hundreds of these bags with a name on them and a glowing candle inside. As The Prairie Daddy and I walked I was overtaken by how many names we recognized. "I didn't know that he had cancer..." Some of the bags were "in honor of" for survivors or those currently battling cancer. Others were "in memory of" for those who lost their battle. We also ran into many people that we knew and chatted. It was a time where people talked about the ways cancer affected their life. We learned a lot about some of the people we call friends.

We weren't the diehards that committed to a whole night at RFL but we did end up staying until 1am. Our small community of under 10,000 people raised around $115,000 for the American Cancer Society. I wonder how all of you are holding up that stayed the whole night! Way to go!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Calves Vs. Cowboys: Who Wins?

In the end of the last post I told you that The Prairie Kid and I were off to watch The Prairie Daddy brand a few calves. There were five to be exact. We showed up down at the barn and immediately I was told that I would need to help with vaccination needles so I knew my camera was getting put to the wayside. Before I was needed I was able to catch a quick view of the two teams: The Calves and The Cowboys.
The Calves
The Cowboys team included The Prairie Daddy, his brother, and a hand from the other ranch.

Who would you guess will win this game?
Now usually we use a calf table, like the one from this Spring's branding at Dad's place:

Today the plan was to just wrestle the calves to the ground and hold them down while they were "worked on." Here is a picture from a local branding of a calf being held down "wrestler style."

What's the difference between using a table vs. wrestling? Well, if you ask The Cowboys today it is a bloody nose, lots of bruises and a fat lip. In other words, the table holds the calf in place while the wrestling is, well, wrestling.

The Prairie Kid was safe behind me, and I was safe behind a gate while The Cowboys went and peeled off their first calf. What does "peeled off" mean? Well, they just walk up and move in such a way to get one calf away from the rest and bring it up the alley on its own. After peeling the calf off, they move it into a place where they can trap it with a gate and then they wrap their arms around it and turn to to lay on it's side on the ground (wrestling). One guy holds the upper end, the other the lower end and then one works on the calf.

The first calf kicked The Hand in the face and bloodied his nose, sent everyone somewhat a flyin' and got away. At this point The Prairie Kid started crying in fear and I had to take him out of the area since it was obvious this wasn't going to be a smooth operation! He opted to sit in the truck while we had a rodeo.

Calves 1 Cowboys 0

They got another calf. This one fought but didn't have the strength to pull through a victory.

Calves 1 Cowboys 1

I am not sure if it was the next calf that got through the fence or not but I know one did. Later he lost but that left us at:

Calves 2 Cowboys 1

And another calf managed to get loose and seriously sent The Hand flying into the dirt on his back.

Calves 3 Cowboys 1

Eventually every calf lost the battle and got The Works but they sure gave The Cowboys a run for their money! I'd say overall The Calves won the game. Too bad their trophy was a burnt hip, 3 shots, new ear tags, and the little boys no longer have their family jewels. Man, rough compensation!

I ended up running ear taggers, needles, and nut-cutting-off buckets to and from The Prairie Daddy as the other two tried to keep the calves on the ground. I don't quite know how but I ended up with manure all over my jeans and blood splatter on my arms. It's time for a shower!

To think I almost stayed home to blog instead of going down to The Rodeo.

Hi, I'm Johnny Cash

Man, I love my kid. He is so much fun. Even though he is full of "preschool moments" these days, I am still overtaken by the awesome moments of his lively, humorous spirit. Thankfully, he must have wanted to share these moments with you as well because he allowed me to capture them with the video camera.

Here is a live performance from The Prairie Kid doing his rendition of his favorite Johnny Cash song. You might be thinking, "Prairie Mama has already posted a video of The Prairie Kid and his favorite Johnny Cash song." But this one is a bit different. Notice how he counts up to his performance start. It started with "1, 2, 3..." and then the next time it was a bit longer and so on...

You'll want to scroll up on the right and pause my automatic music before you listen to these clips.

The Prairie Kid loves watching himself in the screen of the video camera. I can turn it toward him and he watches himself as I either keep it on standby or record. Thankfully I had it on record during these fun moments...I love how he discovers self-entertainment in this clip:

He's got his ABC's down pretty well I think. Here is some more self-entertainment.

And lastly, here is what Daisy has been up to at our house this week. She's a lively one!

We're off to go see The Prairie Daddy brand a few calves...the ones that were "oop's" by the neighbors of them is the one we pulled this Spring. Haven't seen that post? You might want to find it in the archives; it was awesome!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not Such A Prima Donna

We have a new house guest this week. Her name is Daisy. When we agreed that she could come and stay with us I expected to have a needy, whiny prima donna on our hands. I have been pleasantly surprised that Daisy is actually very agreeable, easy going, and fun. She has only pottied inside once while being here. And thankfully, it wasn't too hard to clean up, especially for me, since I was sleeping and it is was The Prairie Daddy who found it!

We have been busy this week and today I am home more than I have been. Daisy was a little more needy but so was I so it has worked out well. We cuddled while I worked on some things in the office this morning and while The Prairie Kid and I read some books after lunch.

Daisy will be with us until Saturday and then maybe again for another week toward the end of the month. The Prairie Kid has been pretty excited that she is here and it will be fun to have her again.

Here are some pictures of Daisy:

Monday, July 14, 2008

He Thinks My Tractor's Sexy

I have a new name.

John Doe

Jane Doe

John Deere


On Friday The Prairie Daddy was cutting hay. Hay season is demanding and is weeks of The Prairie Daddy being in a tractor ALOT. The swather, which cuts hay, is it's own piece of equipment unlike the baler or the rake, which attach to the back of a regular tractor. The swather is also the only piece of equipment that has two seats.

I like to ride along when The Prairie Daddy cuts hay so that I can actually see him a little bit. Here is an new "You Might Be A Prairie Mama If...Date Night takes place in the swather."

Last year The Prairie Daddy asked me if I wanted to drive the swather. I did for about 10 minutes. It was frightening, exhilarating, and short and sweet.

As we were riding along on Friday, The Prairie Daddy asked if I wanted to drive again. I was hesitant, remembering the white-knuckled adrenaline rush of fear last year. He and I began to dialogue about what was what. "This is the float. I keep it between 1200 and 1300. Here is how you change it. The higher the number the less pressure on the header."

Lost? So was I!!! It was like he was speaking Yiddish!

"Here is the tilt. I keep it around 10 but if there is a hill or something I will keep it at 8. This is raises the header up and down. I put it half way up to turn around at the end of a row."


"And this is your throttle. I always throttle up and down slowly. I push this button once forward, then to the middle, then forward again, and to the middle."


"And you want to make sure on the turns that you watch your inside tire so that you don't dig a rut with it while you turn."


"Keep the edge of your row between the yellow line and the end of the reel."


"Are you ready? It's your turn."

Plain English. OH CRAP!

So, he coached me as my heart beat and my palms sweat and I cut a row or two. Then, the unthinkable happened.

"Why don't you keep cutting so I can go check the yearlings' water and salt."

My understandable reply in plain English: "No thank you."

But his response was as if I was speaking Latvian: "You'll be fine!"

"No really! No thank you!"

"See ya later. It'll be about 30-40 minutes."

It was 4:30pm.


This is a great opportunity to tell you a little bit about The Prairie Daddy's lack of "timing chromosomes." Somehow he ended up with webbed toes instead of timing chromosomes. You see, he doesn't really know how to calculate how long things will take, or to factor in the inevitable breakdown or detour in plans that normally take place in ranching. And yes, he has webbed toes. He thoughtfully passed on some of these lovely chromosomes to The Prairie Kid. Thankfully, there weren't enough to web, just to fork The Prairie Kid's little toes. Whew.


I stopped cutting hay and got home at about 10:00pm.

The Prairie Daddy did check in with me a time or two and we stopped for a quick supper (hey Ol' Nebraska Farm Boy, thanks for the ribs...).

Here are two clips of me cutting hay. Yes people, especially those of you who think "she doesn't seem like a rancher's wife," THIS IS ME!

And then, on Saturday, I became Jane Deere again! And I cut hay for another half of a day. In fact, I cut 2/3 of the field that is across the street from my house! I even learned to replace a section on the header. What is a section, you ask? Well, it is one of the MANY blades that are run back and forth to cut the hay. When you hit a rock or when they wear, you have to replace them. Here is a video with The Prairie Daddy working on a section:

The Prairie Kid likes to hang out in the swather too. I took some video inside while riding along so you could get an idea of what it is like.

Guess who's hired a babysitter so she can go out and cut hay tomorrow? And by the way, none of the "swather talk" is Greek to me anymore!

I am a rancher's wife (that doesn't have to look like one) and HE thinks MY tractor's sexy!

The Birthday Mini-Series: Part 8: The Finale

The last night everyone was here we had a great steak dinner with The Prairie Daddy's mom and dad and one sister. It was great to get together and hang out. I haven't had that many people for a meal in my house since The Prairie Kid's 1st birthday!

And the next day I had to start giving hugs and saying goodbye to my family and hello to my kitchen counters (anyone who knows me well knows I like my kitchen counters to be seen and things well organized but I'd give them up for company any day! How'd I do mom? I know I mopped once but I wasn't too obsessive was I?).

Saying goodbye was hard. I teared up as I let go of The Sisters at the airport in Billings. Thankfully I was headed out the door to do some shopping for the afternoon so that helped. And shop I did! But I just have to re-cap on what a GREAT time I had with everyone.

My family is...

FUN. Who else do you know that belts out Dolly Parton on the middle of the prairie or smears whip cream all over each other's faces while baking pies for dessert?
And who else do you know that can make fun of their mom all day long and she never gets mad but just gets easier to make fun of? (Mom, please forgive me for posting this picture...but it was too fun not to! I did shrink it down for you though.)

Or who else do you know that can take a stuffed beaver puppet and play with your kid like this?
Or this?
My family is...
FLEXIBLE. Let me just line it out like this:

- 12 people. 1 house. 4 bedrooms. 3 bathrooms. 1 infant. 1 toddler. 1 pre-adolescent. 1 teen. 6 days.

- 12 people. 1 van. 2 car seats. 12 hours.

My family is...

CREATIVE. Great costume. Great gifts. Great surprise. What more can a girl ask for?

My family is...

LOVING. 9 People. 1800 +/- miles. Lots of gas. 4 airplane tickets. 1 rental car. 1 girl's 30th birthday.

I love and miss you all so much already. This was the best birthday ever. There is one word I can use to describe this past week:
Okay, one more:
Well, another:
Okay, I could find MANY words to describe it. But this wraps it all up:

The Birthday Mini-Series: Part 7: Ranch Day

We had enough of being on the road since we had gone to Yellowstone and the hot springs. It was time to play on our place. There were horses to ride, places to see, ATV's to run, and a suburban to get stuck in the mud! And that I did well!

The Prairie Daddy and my mom's hubby, The Ol' Nebraska Farm Boy, went out to rake and bale hay. That was their "ranch day."

Horseback riding was a first for one of our crew. It is so much fun to get to experience "firsts" with people. We only have two horse right now that were usable. We are still waiting for the new ones to arrive. This was doable for a little riding around the barn. Here is my mom, Abuelita (as The Prairie Kid calls her), hanging out with two of her grand-boys. I think The Baby needs a cowboy hat, Tia!

Here is a great example of how our family shares The Baby. Because "sharing is caring!"
This is Jed. This is me saddling Jed up for the fam.
This is The Biggest Nephew on a horse that might be too small for him!

And High Noon is taking The New Sister (aka. step-sister, but I don't like that term so we'll use "new sister.") for a little jaunt.
The Prairie Kid is waiting patiently for his turn and petting Patches.
The Culinary Master had a special bond with High Noon and decided to get on.
And here is the first-time rider. He was a natural!
Tia (Auntie) got to take The Prairie Kid around on Jed.
And this is another Nephew and Jed.
There is a neat spot on our ranch that we call Signature Rock. It is a few miles from the barn. The Prairie Daddy gave me special instructions about a boggy area that I would have to drive through on our way to Signature Rock. I followed them carefully trying to avoid the mud and my vehicle having a fight. We lost the fight. Little did The Prairie Daddy know, the boggy spot moved! And it moved right into the area he told me to drive! I sunk the suburban down to the undercarriage!
Thankfully with cell phones and brother-in-laws we were rescued in a short time. However, even in a short time our family can get hungry and we had just enough time to ransack the leftover bag of s'more fixins' that never made it out of the car the night before! We made it out of the bog with bogged down tummies and ventured on to Signature Rock. I am happy to report we did not get stuck on the way out.

Here is a fun picture of one of my sister's and I enjoying the ATV's.
And this is what Ranch Day does to wears you out! Isn't this picture just adorable?

But I saved the best for last. Please don't hate me forever for posting this picture...I just couldn't resist! This is a good woman enjoying Ranch Day to the fullest! Way to live it up, sis!

The Birthday Mini-Series: Part 6: Hot Springs And Hot Coat Hangers

On Monday we took another great Wyoming adventure. This time it involved swimsuits and hot springs. Less than an hour away from our ranch is a town that has "the world's largest mineral hot springs." Now, the truth of that is up for debate, but nonetheless they're just a quick drive down the highway.

I always laugh at how ghetto this place is that we go to. There are 3 water slides, a big outdoor pool with a high dive, an indoor pool, etc. There are rules posted on the walls but I have yet to see most of them enforced. The "lifeguard" was really a possibly-uncertified guy in his 50's or 60's working on his tan, and one time I have visited this place and they asked if we were lifeguards because they were short staffed and wanted us to lifeguard while we were there!

Anyways, we had a ball, ghetto and all.

We played basketball in the pool and wore ourselves out. I am still adorning a gorgeous knot and bruise on my left leg. We also all enjoyed the slides and playing with both The Prairie Kid and The Baby in the water. And we dared each other to try out the high dive. The first time I went up I looked down, freaked out, and climbed back down the ladder. Later, when my brave sister and husband had courageously jumped I decided to try again.

I hate free falls. Even if they're only 10-15 feet. I can jump off anything if I am harnessed into something. I love ropes courses, climbing walls, etc. I will scale them like spider woman with my long limbs. But you take me out of a harness and I am a chicken.

But I also believe in conquering fear. It grows character and confidence. It is amazing what overcoming fear like this can do for someone.

So I went back up. And I walked to the end. And I held my nose. And I chickened out. But I stayed up there. And tried again. And chickened out. And tried again. And chickened out. And tried again. And chickened out. This repeated itself for what felt like an eternity but was really only a minute or two. And then...

I JUMPED! And the water felt wonderfully warm and I came popping back up and cheered for myself! Hooray! My character has grown! And then my other sister went, and my nephew. Great job guys!

That night we mustered up enough reserve energy to do something that we have never before done on our ranch. We built a bonfire on the shore of the reservoir at dusk. It was gorgeous out. And we took along all the fixins' for s'mores.

At this point I should admit that while waiting in the car for my sister to finish feeding The Baby, I put in an old Dolly Parton CD and we sang. And then some Sillies overtook me in the presence of my sisters and I danced and entertained them. We laughed hard.

Okay, back to the not-so-vulnerable-and-revealing-of-my-silly side campfire. It was awesome. I hadn't roasted a marshmallow for years. I love roasting marshmallows. I like to find the perfect coals, and slowly wait for my marshmallow to puff and brown. I think I should become a professional marshmallow roaster. Do you know of anyone who would hire me and pay me big money for these professional skills?

The night was beautiful. There wasn't hardly a breeze. It was fun. We tried to think up some old campfire songs that we used to sing but they weren't coming to us. The one I could really remember was "I'm an old cow hand from the Rio Grande. And I learned to ride, 'for I learned to stand. I'm a cowgirl who never saw a cow, never roped a steer cause I don't know how. Yippee-yi-o-ki-aye OHHHHH, yippee-yi-o-ki-aye."

I guess I wasn't done revealing vulnerable areas of my life.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Birthday Mini-Series: Part 5: Wild Wyoming

It is so great to live on a ranch in the middle of Wild Wyoming and having all of your city-dwelling family visit. Just like it is so great for me to go to their places and visit.

It is different. Exciting. New. Peaceful. Rugged.

There were some firsts for some of the family that were here. A few had never been to Yellowstone National Park (yes, I am including The Baby in that "few" if you all were counting). And we got to show/teach them a lot of things in agriculture. It was exciting for a few to get to ride in the swather with The-Hay-Cutting Prairie Daddy (and I feel really bad that some of you didn't end up getting to do that. My fault, I hope you will forgive me! Just means you have to come back next summer!)

On Saturday we got on some ATV's and tooled around the ranch. I shuttled a few to and from the swather. Do you know what a swather is? It is a GIANT lawn mower...kind of. It is the piece of equipment used to cut hay. It cuts around 14 feet across at once, piling it into the center of the cut strip creating a windrow. The windrow of grass is left to dry and then later baled. The swather is really fun to ride in (if you take a pillow and put on your seat belt, which I realized didn't happen for any of you who went with The Prairie Daddy. Sorry.) The windshield goes all the way to your is neat. Here, I'll show you what our swather looks like:

We took a trip to Yellowstone on Sunday. This was so fun because we were able to "rent" a 15 passenger van from our friends at a local ministry. Monica the Magnificent was our SUPER-D-DUPERTY driver. It was a long day but we had fun and enjoyed seeing some wildlife and beautiful scenery. Here is a clip at the scenic overlook on the famous Chief Joseph highway. This isn't in Yellowstone but it is on the way to the Northeast Entrance. This clip starts off with some "family scenery: first:

In Yellowstone we did get a couple good wildlife sightings. Some even got to see part of a grizzly bear but he was hard to spot and was quickly out of view.

This was a pretty good sized black bear we watched for a little while. I thought I had better video but I must have had the camcorder on standby instead of record! Oops. Oh well, here is a few fun seconds of him.

And this coyote wasn't disturbed by the traffic. He walked up the road for quite a while.

And one of my sister's really wanted to see a moose. But while in the park that didn't happen. Thankfully, around these parts you don't have to be in Yellowstone to see wildlife.

I love Wyoming. And I love sharing it with others. Need a getaway? We love having company! And now I know my "hotel" can sleep 12!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Birthday Mini-Series: Part 4: You're Really Here?

My birthday dinner request was to go to Shiki...the Japanese restaurant in Cody. They have great sushi and it is a time where I can pretend to experience a little culture in the midst of the not-so-multi cultured prairie. And for those of you who shared this night with me, we really went to Shiki for SHUSHI and TEMPURE-A.

The crew for dinner was The Prairie Daddy, The Prairie Kid, myself, Monica the Magnificent, and the family members who came to town. This included my mom, her hubby, my step-sister, and her 10 yr old son.

Now, I have to tell you the whole story here. We were walking up the sidewalk to the restaurant and I got miffed at The Prairie Daddy. We hung back from the crowd and were having a "discussion." I was really miffed. When we walked in the restaurant I was still miffed. And I was trying to "regain unmiffed composure." My mom came up behind me as we were waiting for someone to come and greet us and she gave me a little "move forward" shove. I did not take this kindly and whipped around and told her not to touch me. Finally, a staff person came up to us and I asked for a booth in the back. I was headed straight for the table because I wasn't composed yet. I walked past the table of people to my right and was beelining it with eyes straight forward for the back. I heard one of the people go "pssssst, psst." I looked over, faked a smile and a "hi" and kept going. For one second. And then I turned in compete disbelief that it was my sister, The Culinary Master, from Seattle! And I looked at the others at the table and it was my whole family! My two nephews, my other sister, her partner... all of them!!!

"You're really here! I can't believe it. You're really here!" And I cried. I was floating in shock for the longest time after that.

And I wasn't miffed anymore.

The Prairie Daddy and Monica the Magnificent didn't know either so they both got to be surprised too!


I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present. We surprised my sister for her 30th birthday 2 years ago. I had this little expectation/desire that they would do the same for me. For several weeks I thought about how I would accommodate everyone IF they came. I would have more people than beds. But I had it all figured out...which was good because we ended up with a house full! For the few days before my birthday I was always thinking "they could be coming up the road" or "I should have my house ready early in case they show up."
Every now and then my mom would say a little something that made me suspicious but I honestly let all those hopes go after my party came and went and they weren't there. Because they came after the fact, it made the surprise part REALLY good.
I did get a bunch of grief for not telling them about my party earlier. They already had all of their tickets booked when they received my invitation quietly in the mail. I know they tried to change their flights but honestly, I would not have been half as surprised as I was. I was not expecting it AT ALL and there they were!
Thank you guys. You made this the best birthday I have ever had. I miss you all so much already.