Part of what I love about ranch life is the rhythm of seasons. We start out with calving, then move to pairing out for pastures and breeding, and before you know it, fall arrives and we’re looking at weaning and spending a few days (or weeks?) in a corral somewhere.
Over the years, I’ve developed a list for all the bits and bobs necessary to make chute work a little easier. To help streamline prep, I start with an idea of all the supplies we normally need – such as ear tags, pliers, parasite products, vaccines, needles, syringes, and the all-important list of “who’s got a one-way ticket to town this fall.” It was during a review of this list that’s taped to my filing cabinet that I realized the cattle work doesn’t change a lot from year to year, however the humans that make up the work crew perhaps do.
I can now scratch diapers, babysitter, soother, and car seat off my list from yesteryear. Instead, I quickly poll our young students on what they’re working on at school and whether they feel like they understand it fairly well. This is handy information to have when we arbitrarily suspend book-learning and formal school attendance so we can channel our child work force toward the ranch, for a few days anyway, while staying somewhat within societal norms.
Of course, helpers – old and young – need to be fed and watered. There was a time not so long ago that beer and water were the important considerations. Fast forward a few years and I’ve got an entirely different idea of the sustenance required to get us through the day. Do I have Advil? Tums? Ice packs? Hot water bottles? Band-aids? What about the large band-aids? Tensor bandage? A5-35? Ok team, let’s do this!
As well, the ration requirements of people have changed. Our family, friends, and neighbours are pretty easy going when it comes to simple food, however the volume of food that our growing youth consume warrants special consideration. You can never pack enough snacks; this is a simple fact. You may have a full cooler when you leave one corral only to find it is completely empty by the time you arrive at the next. Of course, this all happens prior to 9:00am. For this reason, I like to hide snacks and/or ration them throughout the day. Rumen overload may be a livestock issue, but human overload is a thing too.
Another change from the good old days is that we now take a wiser look at how much we can pack into a day. We used to cram three or four long days into one or two, commenting “yeah, we got another hour or two of daylight.” Then at the end of a long, dark workday, we would go off to meet up with friends and stay out late. The next morning, the alarm would go off, we would jump out of bed without a care in the world, and do it all over again. Don’t get me wrong, we can still put a shift in, but now we spread things out a bit. We allow times for break-downs, unexpected snags, and dwindling daylight and if we happen to be back in the house by a decent time, we can tuck ourselves into bed and be asleep five minutes later.
Whether you are still footloose and fancy free, packing a diaper bag and wrangling little ones, or reaching for the anti-inflammatories, have a safe, productive fall and winter ahead.