Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring Branding (repost)

We're branding calves this week. That means I am cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Here's a look into my day when we brand. This is a repeat from an old post back when I had just begun to blog, but I thought y'all might like to take a peek. Funny thing is, not much has changed except for one big thing. Our boy is in Afghanistan and our daughter is now in college. I cannot tell you how much we miss them and I'll admit that revisiting these pictures from 4 years ago made me tear up just a bit.
Hope to get some new shots this year, but I'm still missing the kids so much that I'm not sure I can do that just yet. Y'all might have to wait a bit.

We're breaking things up a bit this year. I usually have 14 days of cooking. That's 10-12 men, three meals a day. No dishwasher here either so I wash A LOT of dishes. Off to make the chocolate cake I mention below!

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. 


Barbara said...

I love reading about this stuff. It's a peek at a lifestyle completely foreign to me. I think I would like it, but clearly, there is a lot of work involved.

Alycia said...

That is too cool! Love the pics... and darlin' two words... paper plates LOL Enjoy your week!

Denise :) said...

Barbara perfectly expressed what I was thinking. It's fascinating and completely foreign to me. Even though we have LOTS of farmers that keep cows here. Just not me. LOL! I hope your week progresses smoothly and without incident! :)

Saska said...

I am going to bring you a dishwasher.

Karin said...

I loved reading your post and look at the pics. That is what I would´ve expect when I read about Ranch Life in the US.

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