Monday, April 30, 2012

The first sunset in four days....

Greetings from Elkhorn Creek Ranch near the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Formation. 

Above, is a snap shot of the first sunset we have had in four days.  Along with the sun setting, you can see the roof of our calving barn to the right and our ranch house to the left (where we spent a lot of time the previous four days).

Weather is everything to families who farm and ranch.  I always try to make an 'urban' comparison in my mind to help make the connection.  The one regarding the 'weather' card goes something like this........

Let's say you take a job with a company (they are offering a much higher salary than any other offer you have received) and they say to you, "Go to the bank of your choice.  Take this letter with you telling them that we hired you and we think that we will be able to pay you $100,000.00 at the end of the year for your work (time, expertise, services).  If everything goes as we think it will at our company, we will deposit that amount into your account at the end of the year.  However, if the company does worse than expected, you will make less.  If the company does better, you will make more.  The bank will probably give you a line of credit for your family living expenses to get you to the end of the year provided you have equity (that the bank will hold as collateral) in assets you own - like your house or retirement fund.  Of course, the bank will charge you 5.0 % interest to borrow their money, so remember, if you want to 'spend it all this year', after you pay your 20% in taxes and your 5% in interest, you can spend $75,000.00 on your family this year."

And that is all fine and dandy, until the company doesn't do as well as they anticipated and you used the $75,000.00 on your line of credit to shelter, cloth and feed your family.

Its not a perfect comparison (because it fails to discuss input costs and expenses beyond family living), but it is close enough to understand that agriculture can be RISKY and three of the largest risk factors are: 1)  input costs / expenses,  2)  market prices and their changes throughout the year,  3) production loss or failures / natural disasters (THIS IS WHERE THE WEATHER CARD IS PLAYED).

Yep, there are tools to manage these risks on the farming side which help cover input costs and allow for 'price' protection and protect farmers from devastating production loss or failure from weather related disasters.  There are less management tools on the ranching side, but still enough to help a person sleep at night.  None of these help keep family living expenses secure, but they help pay the rent / make the payments of pasture and farm land and equipment and pay the bank back for money borrowed to pay the expenses incurred to raise (care for) the crop and the livestock. 

Sooooooooo..... when we don't see a SUNSET for four days because we received over an inch of measurable precipitation over those four days (the first good rainfall event since September, 2011) it is HEAVEN SENT!

The cows and calves on the ranch have an abundance of 'natural protection' - deep coulees with poplar and cedar trees, but after four days of being 'couped up in their ranch houses with their kids' it was time to venture out and enjoy the beautiful sunset much the same as the humans were doing last night.

Below,  these calves where racing up and down Baily's Butte (named after the mare that loved to foal (give birth to her babies) at the top of the butte) last night.  They stopped to pose for me, before racing back to their mothers with their tails up in the air.

So here's to enjoying the rejuvenating moisture and welcoming back the sunset.

From our piece of heaven at the end of road, here's to keeping the cows happy, the calves healthy (and enjoying their first trip to the 'park' in four days), and the horses and humans fit.


  1. Vawnita,
    I can tell you this is going to be one of my favorite sites to visit for pictures and comments. A true pleasure for this city girl from the opposite side of the state.
    Good job!

  2. Thanks Cindy. Appreciate the response very much.