Icon awesome-facebook-square
Group 554
Beef & Business

Off Label

Some things need warning labels. Hopping onto a roller coaster, for example, warrants a cautionary tag, as does applying pesticides, or walking on unstable terrain too close to the edge of a cliff, smoking a cigarette (real or electronic), or driving your tractor near an overhead powerline. It could even be argued that perhaps some people should come with a warning label. We all know That Guy who can turn a quiet evening of drinks at the local tavern one minute into an international adventure that involves an airplane trip the next. Spending time with those folks can lead to lasting side effects, and unsuspecting people deserve to know.

Some things do not need warning labels. Ground beef and pork do not need warning labels.

The rationale behind Health Canada’s proposed front-of-package warning label for ground beef is simply not sound. It seems they want to help shoppers avoid consuming products high in saturated fat and are willing to slap a label on ground beef and pork. Meanwhile, other animal-derived products – and more alarmingly – other highly processed, high sugar/high sodium/high fat products such as chips, cookies, and pop, are not affixed with labels at all.

These labels concern me deeply as a consumer, as a mom trying to feed my family the most nutritious and economical meals I can, and also as a rancher who raises commodity beef and direct-to-freezer products.

Does beef contain saturated fat? Like all animal products, it sure does. However, did you know there are three types of fats including unsaturated, saturated, and fatty acids? Unsaturated fats, like poly- and monounsaturated fats, are considered “healthy fats” which provide your body energy and help metabolize fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E, and K. More than half of the fat that beef contains is unsaturated. For people, including myself, who do want to reduce fat content during meal prep, I can simply drain my ground beef after browning it, like more than 90% of Canadians report doing. Or, I can grill my burgers, which again reduces fat content by up to a third.

You know what else beef contains? Heme iron. What’s that? It is the most bioavailable form of iron you can find in a food. This means your body can get ready-to-absorb iron in a smaller serving of beef with fewer calories than other iron-rich foods like spinach or legumes. This is a reason why Health Canada themselves suggests beef as a first food for babies.

Another nutritional nicety of beef is that fact that it can synergistically boost nutrients absorbed from other foods. For example, adding beef to a meal with plant-based proteins (think chili with beans) bumps up the absorption of iron from both the beans and the beef, compared to legume-only chili.

Here’s another fun fact: beef and other meats are considered complete proteins. That means they contain all the essential amino acids we require in our diets, unlike plant-based proteins which don’t contain a full set of amino acids and require mixing and matching in order to meet nutritional needs.

I also could continue to say that beef is an important source of zinc, Vitamin B12, selenium, magnesium, riboflavin, pantothenate, phosphorus, potassium, and so many more nutrients too numerous to mention. And let’s not forget that gram-for-gram, ground beef is the most economical, nutrient dense source of protein currently available in Canada.

Canadian consumers deserve economical, safe, highly nutritious, easy-to-prepare protein foods that are not processed. Ground beef checks those boxes.*

*beef also supports sustainable/functional ecosystems and provides habitat in a way that non-animal protein foods do not but there is not time to address that in this article, okay, thank you.

Worried about labels? Visit https://www.dontlabelmybeef.ca/

Looking for more science-based information on nutritional qualities of beef? Check out:


House & Homestead

Patio Lanterns

The shift of seasons always brings a lot of feelings to light. On one hand, it’s great to be done with winter. On the other hand, the growing season stretches long ahead of us, and this year, it seems especially uncertain.

After a few dry, dusty, windy spring days, I grew tired of being grumpy about the weather and decided to find the joy in spring. Unsure about the promise of green grass or growing crops or even flowers, I tried to focus on a sure thing – it will soon be patio and deck season! Beverages and burgers always taste better in the great outdoors.

To cheer myself up, I scrolled through my phone for inspiration, and even did some virtual window-shopping on Amazon. I found patio lights, tiki torches, outdoor rugs, planters, gazebos, pergolas, extensive collections of furniture, signs, umbrellas… I let my imagination really go to town and put all sorts of different items in my cart which I would delete later on. The sky was the limit and I refused to let the windswept practicalities of our homestead confine my lofty online patio ambitions, darn it!

Well, all good daydreams come to an end, so after a while, I deleted my cart and went back to life in the real ranch world. Of course, over the next few days, any phone app I opened made many purchase suggestions that fit in with my empty cart history. I avoided the clickbait with frugal determination. When the forage and fiscal future seem unclear, it is not in my nature to invest in deck décor that I most likely would have to retrieve from the neighbouring fence line at some point this summer.

I did, however, invest in children’s pain relief medicine, a common household item that we needed to stock up on.

“Your shipment of two bottles of Tylenol will arrive on Monday,” notified Amazon. “Sounds about right,” I thought. “And your 8’x 10’ patio carpet will arrive next Wednesday,” Amazon continued.

What’s that, now, Amazon?

It turns out my empty online cart was a little fuller than I thought. Looking back through the order, I was annoyed to find that yes, I had indeed just ordered 80 square feet of patio adornment. If there were any silver linings in this dusty cloud, at least the cost was in the two-digit price range, and not one of the fancier, three-figure priced rugs I had browsed. Still, I was irritated at my mistake.

True to their word, Amazon delivered my unplanned purchase to our local auto parts store, which accommodates such large, cumbersome, and incredibly obvious parcels. I hoisted the lightweight (i.e., wind-vulnerable) rug onto my shoulder and made my walk of online shopping shame out to my vehicle which was barely large enough to cram the ridiculous rug into.

I tend to be an avid supporter of local shopping, and found one more reason why local is better than virtual: I may not have realized I was buying this item online, but I darn sure would have thought twice before I stuffed a physical tapestry into a 3D shopping cart and wheeled it through the check out.

The carpet is still in the package, tucked away on my deck.

Cheers to a summer of good times on the deck… and if it applies, cheers to awkward, flimsy, unintentional impulse buys.

Critters & Kids House & Homestead Ranch & Real Life

Calendar Girl

When I was creating our holiday cards, I came across a slogan on a template that I couldn’t get out of my head: “What a year.” Like many three-word combinations, they said it all. When I look back on the past twelve months, these are some of the memories that make the highlight reel.

When we flip the calendar to January each year, we enjoy a bit of downtime before diving right in to preparing for calving and bull sale seasons. We had lots of fresh air, rosy cheeks, hot chocolate, and some calm before things hit the fan.

Once February arrived, it was darn cold for a long time, making calving a marathon and sprint. (There were no mosquitos, however). We celebrated the birthdays of a lot of baby calves and also half the members of our household, so in between dressing warm and tagging and chores, we carved out a little time to eat cake.

March brought warm spring winds, very little mud, music festival, and early clothesline weather (if you don’t know yet, you soon will realize – I’m obsessed). Between bull deliveries and outside work, the kids got creative feeding themselves and one another. Necessity (hunger?) is the motherhood of invention.

In April, we branded and paired off most of the herd to pasture, checked fence, picked crocuses, and decorated Easter cookies. I also ripped apart and reorganized the hardest-working room in the house – the porch/laundry room. I don’t function well with a discombobulated house, so I probably yelled a lot, but I believe the results were worth it.

There were baby kittens, optimistic trips to the greenhouse, sorting and hauling more pairs, and rounds around the field planting the crop in May. Branding season started and the kids kicked up their 4H work into the next gear.

In June, we said good bye to a faithful horse, and hello to a couple fresh ones. Achievement Day, baseball games, family milestones and birthdays, the end of school, lots of days in the saddle, and an early start to haying season rounded things out.

Like everyone else who’s been surviving weird pandemic times, in July we got a puppy! (Note, this is the first time we’ve had a pup when I haven’t had a baby to care for simultaneously so I had time to bond with this border collie and channel my inner annoying dog mom). We had family visits and birthdays, swimming lessons, and we put up canola silage for the first time ever. Because, 2021.

In August, we baked pies, took a quick trip to the Cypress Hills, moved cows, and kept our eyes to the skies. Oh, and we picked choke cherries, because that’s what you do. What you do with them after is up to your discretion and if you still have full bags in your freezer, who am I to judge?

September started with school. It was no one’s first “first day,” and no one’s last “first day,” so I got to enjoy an unsentimental return to routine. We weaned purebred calves, sowed a hopeful acreage of fall rye, got really good at hooking and unhooking the water hauling unit, and I snuck away to the mountains for a quick working vacation.

In October, we shipped steers, which is my favourite time of year. With one truck appearing an entire 36 hours ahead of schedule, it made for a memorable Thanksgiving. We got through fall run smoothly and it felt a bit like we got across the finish line, simply making it to this season. There was a lot to be thankful for.

In November, we moved the herd home (a good seven weeks earlier than normal) to optimize feed and water. Later in the month, we took our herd of humans (and a few cattle..and horses) to Agribition. During the day, we reconnected with friends and fellow cattle producers…By night, we would cozy up in our single hotel room and discuss the finer points of who’s turn it was to sleep on the chair.

December saw decorating and dugout skating, catching up at the Medicine Hat Pen Show, chores, little sis’ birthday, and a move to the “big boys’ room” for little brother. We had a quiet Christmas with time to reflect on what happened in the rear-view mirror and what may lie ahead.

In 2021, we may not have seen a lot of pasture and crop growth, but we grew in other ways – in our adaptability and capacity to solve problems. Here’s to a new calendar year, with 52 weeks’ worth of opportunities, challenges, and ideas. May we all enjoy growth in 2022 – both forage and personal.

Critters & Kids Ranch & Real Life

At the Corral – Then & Now

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.


Beef & Business Ranch & Real Life

When the Going Gets Tough….

It’s hard to think about much else right now other than the dry conditions that so many of us are faced with. Across much of the Prairie Provinces and the Northern Great Plains, farmers and ranchers are dealing with drought, water shortages, and pests. Years like ’61 and ’88 are often referenced at the coffee shop and around the kitchen tables of producers who are old enough to remember those times.

The summer is speeding by, yet somehow things also feel like they are at a standstill. One day stretches into the next, another pasture is checked, another scratchpad filled with numbers and figures and plans, another dozen phone calls are made. Tangible and timely solutions are hard to come by yet there is an abundance of questions. How will we get through the year? What about next year? What will the winter be like? Will there be any help?

I’m an (annoyingly) optimistic person and even I’ve become discouraged at times. I don’t have any answers to the hard problems everyone is faced with, but when things seem bleak, I try to shift my focus on what I can control. It’s not precious bales of hay, or tonnes of silage, or subsidies, or even rain that will pull us through (although sign me up for all of that, please and thanks). I’m learning that the most valuable resource we have and need is right in front of me – people.

When the going gets tough, find the helpers. Some people complain and some people figure things out, but now is the time to dip into your network, identify your problem-solvers and stick with them. It’s very easy to get sucked into a vortex of worry and “why me?” but for every fool out there, there’s actually a positive person lurking too, you sometimes just have to work a little harder to find them. There are many farmers and extension folks who are willing to share their experiences, provide insight or tips, ask a question you haven’t considered before, or provide simple reassurance. Putting my energy and time into talking to people who have fresh, innovative ideas or the wisdom that comes from decades of experience has been a good return on investment so far.

When the going gets tough, get a puppy! Okay, perhaps this is not sound advice. Perhaps you should consider visiting family and friends regularly as a feasible and intelligent alternative. But I’m not going to lie, our new border collie that arrived this month has been a welcome distraction. I’m almost at the point of being an obnoxious dog mom, which is highly unexpected behaviour for me. We have also been lucky to connect with some non-furry family members this month, allowing us to recharge our batteries and provide us with some much-needed grounding.

When the going gets tough, focus on what you do have. Low yields and dwindling water might pull our attention toward what we don’t have, but we should remember what really matters. Do we have our health? Are the people we care about safe and well? I’m keenly aware that we are fortunate to check those boxes, but not everyone is. Do we have enough food in our pantry to sustain ourselves? Past generations of farmers who dealt with harsher conditions had to make do with less. We are lucky to not have those worries.

Without a doubt, this year will leave a permanent mark on farmers’ memories and be a defining time for many. As the old saying goes, every drought ends with a rain, and someday, this one will be over too. But the people will endure.

Gelbvieh cattle grazing a pastures in southwest Saskatchewan that is limited by stock water.
Gelbvieh cattle grazing a pastures in southwest Saskatchewan that is limited by stock water.
Critters & Kids Ranch & Real Life

Greener Pastures

I recently posted a few photos of our kids and their horses roping, loping, and grinning. I included a caption about how horses bring another welcome set of eyes and another brain into a situation to help riders tackle whatever job they might be working on. I added that a good horse is more than just a tool. They are perceptive and observant, and teach patience and trust. I trust them to carry our kids, my most precious cargo of all.

Perhaps the only downside of having a good horse for a teammate is that you rely on them to always be there. Whether we go to ropings or brandings, or help neighbours move cattle, or play around in the front yard racing a brother or sister through mom’s carefully planted trees – those are all jobs for you and your horse.

Our kids have formed a strong bond with their horses, I’ve seen them grow together, learn what one another’s strengths and weaknesses are, and how to read their horses’ signals. I’ve observed them have a difference of opinion with their mares, but that gets sorted out quickly as only it can when your behind is in a saddle and there’s work to be done.

When we discovered our son Cameron’s young mare Willow dead in the corral one morning, it was a punch in the guts. His teammate, his teacher, his friend – was unexpectedly gone.

Our kids had just spent a fun few days in the saddle at some neighbourhood brandings, learning things better learned from other encouraging ranchers rather than their own mom and dad. They roped, gathered, scratched ears, combed and patted, performing the familiar rituals with their horses without realizing or noticing what they were doing. After the busy weekend, I was even convinced to let the kids stay home from school on Monday morning, so they could move one of our herds to summer pasture.

I’m sure glad I did.

Cameron took the hard news better than a grown up would. He was comforted knowing Willow didn’t suffer and he was happy that he spent four good years with her. Caring friends and family reached out to let him know they were sorry. His buddy, a fellow cowboy, even painted a good likeness of the grey mare and handed it to him after ball practice one night, which caused me to get a sudden case of “dust in my eyes.”

I will always be grateful to Willow for helping Cameron’s confidence grow. Willow taught him about pressure and release, where and how to get into the right place to turn a herd, how to pull a stubborn bull, treat a sick animal, or just let loose and play.

What’s next? There will be new horses to start and form bonds with, new teammates to learn alongside and the rhythm of ranching will keep going as it will and it should.

Thanks for being a part of our family, Willow. You earned our trust and respect, and you were a good horse and a true friend.

DSC_0239 Cam & Willow DSC_0506 Willow DSC_0668 Ash & Cam & horses DSC_0346 Willow & Cam

Pastures & Prairie Ranch & Real Life

Pasture Lost & Found

If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you. It’s a familiar sentiment that stirs feelings of pride and heritage in most farmers and ranchers. It takes an ironic twist though, when we discover – and subsequently have to deal with – the valuable, worthless, and downright weird artifacts and garbage that appear on our pastures and farmland.

Most of our fields are a couple hundred kilometres from the nearest Tim Horton’s, which helps filter out some riff-raff, yet even so we regularly end up dealing with other people’s junk. For others who live along busier corridors, they have found everything from abandoned camper trailers, tires and clothing, to actual people tenting in their pastures. Other unique findings reported include undetonated explosives, a bathtub full of cement, household remote controls, and a couple risqué items I don’t think can be printed in a newspaper.

After cleaning up after everyone else, it would be nice to find the long-lost phones, pocket knives, and fencing pliers we’ve deposited ourselves over the years but we’re still looking.

Balloons & Boots. Helium balloons are a classic pasture find. Where do they come from? How far have they travelled? Watching a balloon waft across a meadow is enough to create confusion among man and beast alike. Our most recent find was a balloon that said “You’re #1!” and while I appreciate the sentiment, the original possessor obviously wasn’t great at picking up after themselves. Another very common pasture find is assorted footwear, mostly in singles. I’ve recovered fairly new footwear in some remote and untraveled spots. These aren’t settler’s artifacts; these are modern day shoes and boots that warrant an explanation. Did a shoe get tossed out of someone’s saddle bag? Did it fall right off someone’s foot and they somehow didn’t notice? Did it come out of the sky? Or were people trespassing and littering?

Obscure trinkets and treasures. Some pasture finds appear to be potentially lucrative. One person found a safe that had been stolen from a small-town watering hole. Thieves apparently dumped it out and it tumbled to the bottom of a coulee. The landowners were left with a mess to clean up and a trail of six or seven loonies for their trouble. Another person came across a jewelry box wrapped in grocery bags, the owner and origin which remains a mystery. Yet another reported discovering “treasure” of a different sort, this time in some purchased bales. Imagine the farmers’ surprise when they found their cows munching on someone’s collection of R-rated magazines during winter feeding. What’s the relative feed value of Playboy magazine, anyway?

Trash. This is the final, largest, and most frustrating category. Farmers find everything from seemingly benign trash like pizza boxes and beer cases to truckloads of construction waste. It takes time, energy, and money to clear these items out. A broken bottle can start a fire, a pile of shingles or batteries can sicken cattle and cause death. I once found a mountain of moving boxes along our road allowance. It took me (plus two toddlers and an infant) a couple trips to pick and dispose of the garbage. Were the litterers too lazy to take it to the dump? Too cheap? Did they really not think about someone dealing with the consequences? Or did they drive three miles out of town, turn down a dirt road, dump out their trash and simply not care?

Our land is an investment, and something we take pride in. As a rancher, I feel like it’s an expensive but important responsibility to manage ecosystems, filter water, provide habitat, conserve biodiversity, and sequester carbon – all things that benefit society. Society can remember something too – our fields are not a garbage dump. Someone has to deal with your sh…belongings, when you won’t.

Critters & Kids

The Cat Came Back

Over the years, we have adopted many farm cats from several different sources. In spite of providing prime feline habitat, including a barn loft full of fresh straw bales, these cats never stuck around. That is, until Marmalade.

I typically enjoy animals, but I appreciate them even more so when they serve a higher purpose by, say, hunting varmints. Hunting unfortunately isn’t a skillset that seems to come naturally to our orange tomcat. A year into his tenure, we had yet to observe him attempt to catch something – anything – but Marmalade finally got his big break after a harsh, late spring blizzard. The kids noticed a weak, disoriented bird struggling in the unexpected snow. Even Marmalade picked up on the fairly obvious cues this ailing little bird was throwing and he was ready to pounce. Blame it on bad timing or poor aim, but somehow, he missed the bird and instead awkwardly fell off the deck and into a deep pile of wet snow. He did not land on his feet and maybe even used up one of his nine lives during the ordeal. The bird, on the other hand, regained its strength and fluttered away, perhaps to live a long and happy life.

Marmalade has also proven to be unlucky in love. Our resident mother cat, creatively named Marmalade’s Girlfriend, has birthed a few litters of kittens since her arrival two years ago. Even though Marmalade has made numerous romantic advances toward her – hence her name – her offspring resemble a different, moody tomcat, leaving little doubt as to who the sire is and sparking many discussions among the children. While their relationship is complicated, Marmalade remains close with Marmalade’s Girlfriend, who is a skilled hunter, adept at bringing home the bacon for her family, and maybe a morsel for Marmalade too.

My relationship with the lazy feline is complicated in its own rite. A memorable low point came when I was hauling groceries in after a long day away from home. There was Marmalade, casually strolling around the corner of my kitchen, meowing an easy-going greeting to me. Did I mention he is NOT a house cat? How did he gain entry? How long had he been sauntering around, enjoying the comforts of my home? His stint as a house cat was abruptly cut short, and hasn’t been repeated again.

While hunting and romance may not be his forte, Marmalade is great at a few things. He is an expert at marking his territory. There isn’t a vehicle, flower pot, or other random object that doesn’t boast the telltale sign that this is Marmalade’s turf. He is also great at being everywhere, and is forever trotting down the lane, dutifully. When we run to the shop a half mile away, Marmalade is already there. When the kids are waiting to get on the school bus, he’s right there waiting too. Whether we are moving around from the barn to the back pasture or the corral, he beats us to these locations and welcomes us with a cool appraisal as if to say, “I wondered when you’d finally arrive.”

Marmalade is affectionate, he’s always grateful for a scratch behind the ears and is a regular topic of family conversation. We can’t help but cheer him on and celebrate his victories, even if they are few and far between. If a cat can be an underdog, then he is exactly that – Marmalade is our underdog.
Marmalade resized

House & Homestead Ranch & Real Life

Tune Up

March brings warmer weather, a little mud (if you’re lucky), an awakening of gophers (if you’re less lucky), and the piano tuner.

If you were playing a game of “one of these things is not like the other” and had to select a single item from our camp that fit that criteria, most would look to my beautiful grand piano. There is nothing about our home – not the lingering smell of manure, nor the multiple loads of laundry looking to be folded, nor the kids armed and ready with their BB guns – that says “I bet a classical pianist lives here.” Yet, here I am!

Growing up, my parents had a nice Baldwin piano where I plinked away over years of lessons, music festivals, piano exams, and even the disciplined drudgery of theory. Perhaps this inspired my dad who, rather than have the local music festival return the Yamaha back to its city habitat after that year’s event, diverted it to our farm. He had budgeted for a new hay bine for the upcoming season, but instead invested in this musical machine with the instruction that if (when) the old New Holland limped back to the shop for repair, I was to play the piano loud. Dad did upgrade the hay bine a year or two later and I got fairly experienced at operating that unit too.

Like any musical or mechanical implement, the piano needs a little maintenance every so often. I’m sure that piano tuners encounter all kinds of situations when they travel to different homes, and that is a great comfort when I consider some of their experiences here. One time I was expecting the knock at the door to be said tuner, but instead it was a surprising (and welcome) visit from friends. A long afternoon of swapping stories and daytime beverage consumption ensued. Our rowdy cowboy company joked that they could probably tune my piano and I assured them (insisted, really) that we should leave it to a qualified professional. When the expert did arrive to this redneck scene, he was greeted warmly and loudly by everyone on site.

During that session, he recovered numerous odd articles from within the piano, some of which I could blame on the kids. When he extracted a long-lost food item, I had to admit that probably fell under the realm of sketchy housekeeping. Finally, as the he was finishing up this particular appointment, my toddler daughter – who never coloured on the walls before or since – thought this was a great opportunity to make her mark. If this guy was writing a book, he could file this visit under the hillbilly chapter.

To be clear, this tuning service is incredibly professional and most diplomatic, something I appreciate greatly. Subsequent appointments have gone smoothly with delightful musical outcomes. Yet, the memories from that specific day are very motivating for me. I now do a pre-tuning sweep of the interior of the piano as well as a thorough living room clean. And I lock down the kids’ art supplies. And keep the liquor cabinet shut.

The general chaos around our ranch and home can make our life seem off key, but it’s nothing that some fine tuning can’t fix. That, and patience.



Calm, Cool and in Control(?)

Prairie folk love a weather story. We mark certain years, even decades, by memorable weather events, and use storms or extreme temperatures or even winds as a yardstick for recalling other important happenings like weddings or births.

It’s easy to understand our prairie preoccupation with the weather given that it is responsible for making our lives inconvenient, drastically changing our plans, and even putting us or our animals in downright dangerous conditions. Yet weather is one of the few things that is completely out of our hands. Perhaps the fact that we can’t do anything about current weather conditions irks us more than the weather itself.

We can collectively complain or post dozens of photos of our thermometers on social media, but these efforts won’t increase the temperature. More helpfully, people can share their water-bowl-thawing devices (and there are some good ones out there!) but even that isn’t enough to warm the atmosphere. We cannot stop power outages and in spite of our best efforts, we can’t always minimize equipment malfunctions because unfortunately, machines don’t run at their optimum potential when it’s ridiculously cold. In case anyone needs a reminder, patience levels and relationships also don’t function at their peak when a cold front moves in.

While we can’t will the weather to suit our needs, there are a few things that we can manage. For example, we can control our ability to find our block heater cord before we need it. I’ve had two years to source that cord on our family vehicle, yet I found myself fishing around under the hood on the coldest day of the year at the darkest time of night in order to locate it.

As per the old saying that there is no such as thing as poor weather, just poor clothing choices, another thing we can control in many cases is how warmly we outfit ourselves. In our household, the rule is function over fashion and as the temperature decreases, our layers and use of woollen accessories increases. My warm winter chore boots are a wardrobe staple from October through April. My choice of footwear not only keeps my feet warm and dry, but it has been scientifically proven to reduce my cold-feet-complaining by 73% which 100% of my family appreciates.

Controlling our expectations can be a little trickier. On one hand, if we are looking at that long range forecast and already mentally celebrating when temperatures appear to warm up in about ten days time, it’s hard not to be disappointed when – as we get closer – the temperatures not only remain chilly, they actually dip colder. On the other hand, during winter on the prairies, we can’t be generally shocked when we get long stretches of sub-zero temperatures.

One final thing we can control is our weather chit chat and that’s where things can get really complicated. If you say “cold enough for ya?” to someone who has cold-started that engine or searched for that heat gun or hooked up that generator or thawed that water line one too many times, you might find the conversation will heat up before you know it.