Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spring Works

It doesn't seem possible that an entire year has already passed and we are once again smack dab in the middle of our Spring Works. For those of you that aren't familiar with that, it means that we are branding the calves and along with Shipping in the fall, it's the busiest time of the year for us. I spend the majority of it in the kitchen since these guys tend to work up quite an appetite when they work this hard. Mornings start at 4:00 am and by 9 in the evening I am passed out. The nights are short and the days are long, but it's also my favorite time of the year.

This spring is unusual as we are running a short crew. The help we had lined up couldn't make it, there wasn't enough time to track anyone else down and we can't reschedule because the calves will get too big. So we are all pitching in just a little bit more than usual and getting it all tended to. Some outfits use a calf table or brand using a chute, but we still drag calves to the fire.

I love to watch the crew work. Everyone has a job and they are amazingly efficient and work well together. They are like a well oiled machine and within seconds the calf has been innoculated, ear-marked, cut (if it's a bull calf), and branded.
Even with only 8 on the crew, they split into 2 teams and work 2 calves at a time:

When the calves are smaller, DD helps with flanking, but when the calves are this big, she runs the syringes. Everyone get a turn at dragging the calves to the fire. We have a friend who sings a song called, "That's My Boy Draggin' Calves to the Fire" and it goes through my head when DS gets his turn at roping.
Working as a family is one of the biggest blessings of living this lifestyle. Since the kids were little, we've all pitched in together.
I get a little bit of a break this week because I don't have a bunkhouse full of men to feed at night. The help we do have are neighbors. We are incredibly blessed with amazing neighbors in all directions.

After this many years of cooking for a crew, I have been able to simplify and organize my week in such a way that I can usually sneak out and grab some photos a couple of days a week. The beef cattle are on the north side of the road so we don't do any branding here at headquarters in the spring since headquarters is on the south side. That means I have to drive about 40 minutes to get to any of the pens with the exception of North Camp. When they brand at North Camp, I make barbecue sandwiches, Cajun potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, stuffed jalapenos, Tabasco pickles and Auntie's Chocolate Cake with ice cream. I can make much of it beforehand, leaving me time to play behind the camera.

It's all too easy for me to lose track of time and before I know it, I've got to scat back to house and put the finishing touches on dinner. I am always reluctant to leave my perch on top of the fence:
We're expecting a cold front tomorrow, but today it was pretty warm although the wind kept it's distance. Actually, it was the perfect day. The bawling calves, the smell of the branding fire, and the sound of the crew's easy banter mingles in the air.:There is nothing like the sounds and smells of branding day. At the end of the day there is a palatable feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done, a second piece of pie, and a good night's sleep waiting around the corner.


Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Wonderful photos and commentary. Thanks. Hmmm... 4 a.m. - 9 p.m. It's a good thing there's a lot of satisfaction at the end. You don't need a lullaby to get you to sleep, either, I'll bet.

Paula Yaussi said...

Okay - So I'm not so busy after all! Loved every minute of it! The photos are great, I'm glad you are able to get a little camera time in all that work! Have a good nights sleep!

Shelljo said...

Dang, I'm homesick for the sights and sounds of working cattle. But I don't envy you the laundry. I know how nasty those jeans are probably looking, and smelling!

Karin said...

Pat ~ you are right, sleep comes pretty easy after the long, work day! You just lay down and pass out!

Paula ~ Not busy?! I beg to differ! You, who is constantly running after twins! Wears me out just thinking about it, but then again you get twice as many blessings from them too!

Shelljo ~ yep, the clothes can get pretty rank although I much prefer manure and blood to windmill grease! One of these days my washer is going to go rebel and refuse to accept the next load of manure-caked britches that I force feed it regularly.

agent713 said...

Great commentary! You definitely love your life :)

newsgirl said...

How many calves do you brand?? How many are done in a day??
I'm always so fascinated by your life... I want to run away from mine and hide out at the end of your dirt road!!

Karin said...

Hi Joy! So glad you stopped by! We are currently running about 1500 head. Half of those are beef cattle and half are Corriente (roping cattle). In the spring we brand the beef calves ~ about 550 this year. We've got a lot of country (200 sections) so much of our time consists of gathering the cattle and moving them to a set of pens. Generally we brand about 100 head in the morning then we spend the rest of the day making sure babies pair back up with their Mamas, moving them back, gathering the next bunch, and checking and feeding the rest.

...and our door is always open so you are more than welcome to hide out here anytime! We'll probably put you to work but we feed well!

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