Thursday, December 12, 2013

Catchin' up with the season

Greeting from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

The most wonderful WEATHER time of the year in North Dakota (fall - autumn) has since passed us by and left a large, lengthy space in the calendar for winter… and with the arrival of winter comes the holiday season for us on the high plains.  This will be our first Christmas without a man who LOVED this time of the year.  He loved fall and winter and the daily activities that came with it.  He LOVED celebrating the birth of Christ.  He LOVED being with his large family this time of year.

And so I am conflicted.  I miss him so incredibly much.  As I miss him, I simultaneously watch our 5 year old son in all of his wonder and excitement for the season.  It creates an internal tug-o-war.  Fall back into the past and hang tight to the memories or be present and aware - open to making new, fond memories for and with that precious 5 year old.  It certainly has been a balancing act that has proved more difficult than what it sounds.

And so maybe I share that with you in hopes of creating an understanding for how time can so quickly pass us by.  Certainly, its not that I don't have lots to share of our goings on around here.  Its simply that I haven't found the ever precious time for sharing.  So consider this post a bit of a 'catch up with the seasons'…


Our hay production this year was amazing and the quality was very good.  We are so very thankful to currently have on inventory three years worth of hay (which is a blessing and ALSO  code for):

'HAY FOR SALE' - Quality tested.  Gathered.  Ready to Haul!

With that, a quick shout out to the 2013 haying crew - Uncle Einar Prestangen, Pete, Brad, Lyle, Steve and Kyle/Vawnita (we were a single unit).

In addition to growing and putting up lots of good hay this summer, we also had a tremendous garden to harvest.  Brad was the driving force to get the garden in and maintained it on a daily basis.  Sue, Kyle, Parker Filler and myself were the harvester.  I was chief 'red sauce' maker with several assistants to back me up when my schedule didn't allow… lets face it.  When tomatoes are ready, they are ready...

Parker picking tomatoes before our first 'killing frost'.
Grandma Sue and Kyle picking in tomatoes in a rush to beat the frost.
Over 300 pounds of tomatoes which made over 24 gallons of 'red sauce'
Cooking down chokecherries and wild plums.

Making wild berry jellies and syrups.


The tasks of bringing cows and hay home this fall were made much more enjoyable by the help and company of friends and neighbors.  I will probably miss someone and feel terrible about it, but here goes…

Jerry Kelly, Kent Johnsrud, Perry Ecker, Brian Zingleman, Thane Hollenbeck, Nathan Brenna, Christine (who's last name I never did get into my memory), Phil and C'Dale Jory and Terry Filler.

'The girls' coming home.  We spent the first two weeks of October gathering cows from their summer grass.  On October 16th, Dr J.J. Hovde of High Plains Vet Clinic in Sidney, MT pregnancy checked all the cows and we administered herd health vaccinations for diseases that cattle in the high plains are susceptible to.  At the same time, Dr Bruce Pedersen of the Watford City Veterinary Clinic in Watford collected fecal samples for our disease surveillance program that were then analyzed at the NDSU Veterinary Sciences Diagnostics Laboratory.  
After their 'herd health' day, the cows being moved over to the Kelly place.  Throughout the fall and winter, we rotate our cows from pasture to pasture starting at the Kelly place where a cocktail cover crop (sounds good doesn't it?) - a mixture of radishes, hairy vetch, field peas and oats awaiting them.  As they graze this field, they fertilize it for the upcoming growing season.  Also, the variety of plants in the cocktail are all included for different soil health or animal nutrition reasons.  Radishes root down and break up clay pan and make soil more permeable to water / rain.  Hairy vetch and peas are both nitrogen fixers for the soil and will benefit the 2014 crop that is drilled into that field next spring.  And the oats… cows LOVE oats.

Several of the people I thanked above for all of their help this fall are bringing up the rear.

We periodically find ourselves waiting on oil related traffic for one reason or another throughout the year.  This day there was lots of oil traffic waiting on the cows.  And again, those fine neighbors and friends helping us ride (and do our chute work) can be seen at the back of the herd… This was the third week of October.
This was the first week of December.  Pete is mixing office work with field work taking a call while looking for cows over at the Kelly place.  On this fine day, we sorted off the open (not bred) and late cows who will be sold in February and until that time will be fed over at the development lot (Pesek Farms north of Alexander) that feeds our bulls and replacement heifers.  On this day we also sorted off the heifer calves that were pasture weaned and the bred heifers - all of which will be fed supplement starting in mid-December (before the rest of the cows begin receiving supplemental feed beyond grazing).
Bringing home the cows, heifer calves and bred heifers that will go to Pesek's or start to receive supplemental nutrition at home starting in mid-December.


Well, the weather out here is frightful, but our Under Armor is warm and delightful... Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow!
One of my absolute favorite memories from my childhood was going out, dad with his ax in hand and finding that 'perfect' badlands cedar for our Christmas tree.

Jaden, Morgan and Kyle out sledding AND Christmas Tree hunting!
Sue and Lyle with their Badlands Cedar...
Without a doubt, we have been blessed with many things in 2013.

I love the reflection that is brought about by the warm feeling of joy and love and the caring of others - friends, family and perfect strangers during the holiday season!

Here is wishing you and yours a down home CHRISTmas with the comfort of past memories and the opportunity and awareness to make new ones as well this year.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stories needing voices...

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

It has been a busy one.  It has been a good one!  FALL - the most wonderful time of the year...

I had an amazing opportunity in early October to tell my little story to a group of be-you-tilful rural women from southwest North Dakota, northwest South Dakota, northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana at the Rural Women in America conference held in Bowman on October 5th.  A good friend and RLND class mate extended the invitation and I graciously accepted knowing full well that neither I nor my story are exceptional in any way, but rather that I am willing... to stand in front a room full of people and share the story of a rural woman engaged in agriculture living in western North Dakota (all of which I am very proud of)... and encourage others to do the same - to share their stories.

For far too long we have been crazy busy tending to our marriages, our children, our farms and ranches, our off-farm careers, our churches, our communities.  We have failed to connect with urban and non-agricultural America.  We have not communicated with these folks who have forgotten or no longer know their roots.  That was not meant to be an offensive comment, but rather to point out the fact that today less than 2% of the U.S. population is active in agriculture (food and fiber production) and in many instances Americans are 4 generations removed from their agrarian roots.  In 1960 that percentage was just a touch under 50%, so if you weren't a farmer your brother probably was.  The story didn't need to be told back then because even those living in urban America periodically had an 'on farm' experience.  Additionally back then, marketing and special interest groups weren't constantly pushing products, production models and agendas.  The story of agriculture was being experienced first hand and not being hi-jacked, manipulated or misrepresented.

My advise to these rural women was simple... be hear able, be relatable, be trustworthy, be respectful, be balanced.  Build a platform for conversation.  Open doors and walk through them.  Don't slam doors (even if you aren't sure what to think of what is on the other side).  In doing so, connections will come your way and provide you with space and place to tell your story.

I have made many valuable connections over my 39 years, many I am proud to call 'sister' and 'brother' in agriculture - a couple of them this fall that have provided space and place, a platform to build conversation from:

The Union Farmer     (page 9)

Inspired Woman

I would like to sincerely thank them for that opportunity.

So, (depending on your personality type) I encourage and / or challenge you to tell rural America's story.  The story needs your voice!

Rural Women In America Conference - October 5, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

The chicken saga

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

As usual, things have been incredibly busy around here.  I was talking to a fellow rancher from the west side of the county today at the Farmers Union C-store.  It was self-proclaimed f'real Friday  We both have 5 year olds and the coincidental timing of this weekly event provided us opportunity to basically complain about all of the prosperity that this amazing rainfall total of 2013 brought to a typically dry landscape.  There is just too much fall's work to do.  Too much hay to haul home.  Too much corn to ensile.  Too much winter wheat to plant.  Too many commodity contracts to deliver on.  Too many things to get done before winter sets in.

This end to the growing season of 2013 brought me to the realization that the final chapter in our little chicken saga is soon to play out.

(six months earlier...)

In March I get a phone call from my sister who instructs agriculture classes at Williston State College.  "Vawnita, I was wondering if Kyle wants chickens this summer", she says.  I instantly have childhood flash backs of picking eggs out from under angry pecking hens, being chased by 'the rooster' and pitching 'fertilizer' each spring from the hen house by hand.  Oh yah, and then there was the unpleasant chore that we were forced to participate in which was by far the worst part of having poultry on the ranch when we were growing up.  Harvesting (butchering) them.

My gut response was to firmly say "No.  Absolutely not.  I like my Cashwise Grocery Store eggs just fine.  Thanks for asking but no thank you."

Kyle and my sister Kim the day his chickens arrived.

Kyle with his six 'laying hens'.
Instead, I said "Only if we can get 6 of them.  All laying hens.  No boys.  No broilers.  No butchering chickens."  Kim thought this should be doable with the assistance of her Ag Club students who were hosting elementary school kids from around the Williston area on campus to learn about farm animals (livestock) and how farmers and ranchers care for them, and of course TSC (Tractor Supply Company).

Now, due to the early date of this beginning of April event on campus, these sweet, fluffy, adorable little baby chicks spent the first 8 weeks of their life on the ranch in a stock tank retrofitted into a brooder box in our attached (to the house), heated garage.  Yes, you heard me.  We had chickens in our garage.  One wall away from my kitchen to be exact.

I love my child and I do firmly believe that having meaningful chores for children are important.  In addition to having the daily chores of checking their feed and water, there were two other life lessons that I anticipated.  One, good animal and resource stewardship and two, how fulfilling it is to grow your own food and to share it with others.

What I didn't anticipate was that there would be numerous other life lessons as this saga unfolded.  Now, hold on to your over boots and keep up because there are a lot of side bars popping up in this story of Kyle's chicken herd.


One early May morning I was loading the dish washer.  The house was quiet when all of a sudden erupting from the garage, "Cock-a-doodle-doo!".  Remember, NO BOYS.  That was the deal.  This was bad.  My hope was that there was one rooster.  My fear was that there were three roosters.  This fear was founded from watching them interact in their brooder box - the fact that the three black and white ones picked on each other, had big combs and were incredibly flighty.

We rode and sorted pairs that day and our friends, Hayes and Lonny Feilmeier came out to help.  After we were done, we all came in to the house to eat.  I was going off about this 'rooster' thing that was weighing on my mind.  Lonny, who claimed to be a poultry expert went out to the garage to investigate.  When he came back in he informed me that we did indeed have three roosters.  Which also meant we only had three hens.  Both issues = BAD.

As the chicks got bigger and the weather got warmer... and they had definitely out grown their little brooder box (we had a couple escapes before we finally got them moved outside), the construction of the hen pen was on simultaneously as we were getting the barn ready for our annual customer appreciation supper and private treaty bull display (another post for another day).

The hen pen is a converted stock rack flipped upside down with laying boxes built in and a waterproof roof with netting side walls.  Kyle's lucky little chicken herd spent the summer grazing (and fertilizing) the yard.  During the 'grazing months' the mobile hen pen can be moved from location to location fertilizing and eliminating the labor piece which is typically required for a stick built, non-portable hen house. 

He couldn't take anymore hen pen building / barn time.  Kyle self napping with his private treaty bull catalog on the barn floor as Pete and Brad worked on the hen pen.

The four lessons that weren't foreseen when agreeing to take the Ag Club's chicks after their kiddy day at the college, but that were very valuable for our four year old son were these:  First, there are two things guaranteed to all creatures.  Every creature on earth enters this world and every creature leaves this world.  How, when, where, why... most of these events are out of the control of the being.  It is simply part of life or more accurately, it is simply part of the circle of life.  Secondly, make lemonade with your lemons but don't just make your average run of the mill lemonade.  Make really good, memorable lemonade with fresh, locally grown ingredients when they are available.  Share your lemonade with all who are thirsty and don't waste it.  Third, always remember happiness is in the journey and don't be so wrapped up in a picture perfect, Pollyanna like journey that you can't laugh at yourself.  Life is funny stuff and if there isn't anything there to laugh at, I pity your journey and the poor people that signed on with you.  Fourth, if beauty and function aren't a package deal and you have to choose one, function will serve you much better in life.

Those unintended lessons may have turned out to be more valuable to our four, soon to be five year old son than the 'lesson plan' was... which is likely another lesson.  One for me.


We had the chickens moved out to their hen pen, had them acclimated to that and now were allowing them to 'free range' around the yard.  Have I mentioned that the chickens were all named?  By Kyle with help from his cousin Jaden.  There are Chabella, Big Red Hen and the third one was Salt N Pepper.  According to Kyle, Salt N Pepper was his favorite.  Unfortunately, she was the favorite of the neighbor dog too.  It all happened in front of him and it was a very sad day for both Kyle and the dog.  The chicken didn't suffer very long before I relieved her of her injuries.  I remember my first 'circle of life' lesson as a young child.  It was a twin bottle calf who I fed often and named Barnaby (after Barnaby Jones).  Barnaby was a boy and went on to fill our freezer and sustained and nourish our family and guests to our home.  After having been through them both first hand, Salt N Pepper was easier than Barnaby, but I won't try to tell Kyle that.  Also, it was an important lesson, but I won't try to tell him that either.  He will realize that on his own someday.

On a lighter note, the journey as it played out that day through Kyle's eyes was later revealed to me by our neighbor who was there at the time building some shelves in our basement.  Kyle was sent to the basement by his father after it was realized that he was watching his mother beat the neighbor dog with a dead chicken out the dining room window.  Kyle says to neighbor Jerry who is working away on library shelves and unaware of the events outside, "Oh man Jerry.  My mom is really mad.  She is violating Abby (the dog) with Salt N Pepper".  Out of the mouths of babes.  And no, I don't know where he learned that word and no, I don't think he knows what it means.


There was an expansion to the little chicken herd.  Brad's friend from back home had a couple fancy show chickens that she was willing to send with Brad's mom and grandparents when they came to visit this summer.  This pair had just been crowned Grand Champion laying hen pair at the county fair.  Truly, when they arrived at the ranch I thought to myself "these are the most stunningly beautiful chickens I have ever seen before".  Kyle wanted to name them Pretty Dash #1 and Pretty Dash #2... they were and still are a little flighty.  I had to shut him down on that one.  Instead we did a google search of 'Victoria Secret models'.  Along with Chabella and the Big Red Hen, Kyle now has Gisele and Jasmine.

Unfortunately for Gisele and Jasmine (who both lay white eggs), this was the ONLY day in the last six weeks that we have been able to find two white eggs.  On the other hand, Chabella and Big Red Hen who both lay brown eggs, and who both would be considered 'big boned' and 'plain' each kick out an egg daily like clockwork.

(present day - October 4th)

The three 'stewies' (AKA - The Three Stooges, AKA - The Three Roosters) had a stay of execution this summer when we had an outbreak of grasshoppers around the yard and the hens needed help keeping those destructive critters out of the yard and the garden.  Although they are 'Kyle' chasers (he won't go outside to pick eggs without his handy catch rope (lariat) to defend himself) and incredibly noisy all day and much of the night, they were good vector control this summer and certainly earned their right to stick around through the first killing frost of the season (which is tonight).  Their scheduled time to leave this place and fulfill their destiny is next weekend.  They will go on to feed us and our guests and we will look back at our time with the three 'stewies' and laugh.  They made us laugh; sometimes with annoyance.  OK, mostly with annoyance.  None the less, when they leave, it will be swift and instantaneous.  They will have the death that I hope for for myself and my loved ones regardless of the number of legs they have. It will be painless.  It will be necessary.  It will not be a time to laugh, but it will be a good ending to three lives that were lived well and with purpose... NOW, here is a tribute to those damn 'stewies' and the struggle we faced this summer keeping them out of the 60 feet by 100 feet of the ranch that were suppose to be off limits to them!

Monday, September 9, 2013

How's your horsemanship?

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

It is true!  Ranchers need CE (continuing education).  We need it frequently as the animal scientists of the world are constantly bringing us new and exciting research results that when applied properly, improve our livestock's quality of life.  These things vary from nutrition to vaccines to low stress handling tools and methods to grazing systems to genetic data and the information systems that manage it all.

With ALL of the changes that exist in animal science and the persuit of improving livestock husbandry, my last CE experience was an intriguing encounter and a display of fundamental cowboy culture - a contrast from the sharing of scientific rooted results that make up most CE experiences.  It all started with an email from a RLND friend informing me of an event coming up.  Her family hosts a horse clinician each summer at the Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch -  The clinicians name is Bryan Neubert -

Unlike many other horse clinicians (many of them have shows on RFD-TV (Rural Free Delivery - TV)) I had never heard of Bryan.  That being said, knowing my RLND friend, when she said something was 'worth it', it was.  It appeared as though there was going to be a little break in haying the last week of July between first and second cuttings so Brad and I loaded up our horses and headed down to Medora for the 4 day CE horsemanship clinic.

Each of the four mornings, under Bryan's guidance 14 colts who had never been ridden were worked.  They were all halter broke, but some barely.  Never before had I witnessed someone build trust and confidence in young horses so quickly and efficiently.  His nonverbal communication with them was pure, concise, direct, firm and fair.

How does a person get that good at reading nonverbal communication and communicating back in such an effective way?  My thoughts on this after watching Bryan 'work' and listen to him tell his 'life' stories:

(1) the cowboy way of life is his passion and unlike many who were born in to it, he chose it knowing full well it is a demanding lifestyle and one that doesn't typically come with a high performing 401 K... you do it for the love of it, not for what it allows you to buy...

(2) he was first an excellent student before he was an excellent teacher and he also knows he will always be a student as there is always more that can and should be learned...

(3) this exhibit in horsemanship was an accumulation of his life's work and it reveled the Mona Lisa, Cannon in D or Mt. Rushmore...

(4) he was fair and a good listener and the horses knew it and respected him for it and would follow him ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING for him...

I have not used the term 'horse whisperer'.  I have no specific problem with the term, but the term makes it sound like a gift freely given.  There was more to this display by this incredibly meek, balanced, humble cowboy and horsemen than that of a freely given gift.  There were no whispers being sent to these man fearing animals and it was a life time of skill honing and not simply the exercise of the 'gift of a horse whisper'.  There was however lots of communicating - lots of listening - lots of respect... NO whispering.

I brought dad's horse 'Oops' to ride in the afternoon horsemanship clinic.  He is Kim's horse now and although we both want him to be a good member of the equine society, he is struggling.  Perfectly talented, he has anxiety issues both in the trailer when being hauled and in the sorting pen.  He seems to lack patience's which can snowball quickly and ruin to his day and the day of the person paired with him.  We both have the goal of easing his anxiety, which in most horses has to do with confidence issues (the lack of) and/or trust issues (again, the lack of).  Oops has plenty of confidence AND trust in the humans in his life so this case has been unique and complicated and is taking a great deal of critical thinking on the 'people's' part.

Anyway, Bryan offered to demonstrate a couple items on a 'first time' student.  I offered up Oops to him.  Oops followed Bryan's lead quickly, was a good demonstration, and displayed the calm domineer in his eyes, softness in his face and feet that I often saw when dad was riding him.

In many ways, Bryan reminded me of my dad and possibly that was part of the connection with me.  This horse communicator provided me with one of the best and most memorable 'CE' experiences which totally and completely exceeded my expectations.

From the 'Best Cavy' and the cowboys at Elkhorn Creek Ranch, Thank you Bryan!

Bryan telling stories in the round pen.

Bryan warming up the colts.

The first ride on the colts.

Soooo, if you haven't thought about it lately, it is a good time to ask yourself, "How's my horsemanship?"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oh, Canada... How I love thee!

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken Oil formation!

Summer has just flown by in the blink of an eye and although I have had plenty of material to blog about, the time to do so hadn't presented itself until tonight.  As the men in the house are attentively watching the Vikings and 49ers on this warm Sunday evening I have been moving my iPhone pictures to 'the cloud' and reminiscing on the wonderful summer we have had.

With lots of hay to make this summer (which was a huge blessing for us), there were several short trips out of McKenzie county, but only one out of the state which happened to be an international trip and one that saw Pete and Brad stay home to make hay.

Kim, Jaden, Mom, Kyle and I went to visit Dad's sister Becky Hovet - Neuman and her family in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada the middle of July.  Growing up less than 2 hours from the Canadian boarder, I have visited the country many times and enjoy many Canadian built products in my life from our house (which was built in Manitoba and moved on site) to our barn (which was built on site, but all Canadian products) to our portable cattle panels to many of the clothes hanging in my closet to my favorite pair of boots.  I LOVE Canadian built THINGS and Canadian PEOPLE... who I have found to be friendly, kind, sincere, easy going, realistic and sound in their determination of what is and is not important in life.  I often think that the people (and the politicians) of the United States could learn many things from Canada.

So, without getting too far off point here when we were invited up to Drum this summer to visit we hopped right on that.  In addition to visiting the Neuman's and all Drumheller: has to offer, we also snuck up to Calgary and took in the last day of the Calgary Stampede!  It was a great time and the boys had a blast.

The road trip up to Calgary proved to be too much...

At the Calgary Stampede - a military helicopter presenting the Canadian colors prior to the start of the final go of the Heritage Derby - worth $100,000 to the winning driver.

The Heritage Derby (Chuck wagon races) at the 2013 Calgary Stampede.

Jaden and Kyle taking in a kids class, Fossil Casting, at the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum
Becky's husband Andy (currently the COOLEST PERSON in Jaden and Kyle's life) is the Executive Director of the museum and made darn sure those two had a WONDERFUL two day visit to the provincial complex. 

Kyle excavating 'dino' fossils during one of his 'kid classes' at the R.T. Museum. 

Kyle and Jaden at the R.T. Museum.

Kyle and Jaden telling uncle Andy about their recent fossil excavation class and showing him their 'passports to the past'! 

'Cool' Kyle in one of the Jurassic display rooms at the R.T. Museum.  

Kyle and Jaden - an outlook point at the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum complex.

Kyle, cousin Leah, Jaden and Kim at the community theater's production of Oklahoma! 

Cousin Eric (as Curly) with Kyle and Jaden after the opening night's production. 

Eric giving the boys a behind the scene's tour... Eric was the lead, Becky directed and Andy helped with the set and lighting.
Oh Canada, thank you!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Favorite Florist

Mother Nature is my favorite florist and although her shop often times has no inventory, when it does the price is right.

Yesterday morning I awoke to Kyle's roosters 'cocka-doodle-dooing' (another topic for another time) and decided to take advantage of this beautiful, still morning and the fact that the 'U pick flower shop' was open for business.

Purple cone flowers are one of the many variety of July native flowers in western North Dakota.

The yucca are also impressive this year.

And the painted clay buttes are breathtaking on high moisture years.

This butte on a 'normal' year would bare very little to no vegetation. 

Catching the sun as it peaks over the horizon.

My very inexpensive, U-pick bouquet from Mother Nature's outdoor florist shop.

Adding a little down home feel to our already homey ranch house.

The second visit to the florist on the same day... brought the crew with this time.  They enjoyed their visit as well.
Now, on to Juneberry pickin'!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Because of them..

...we have our freedom.

Arnegard 4th of July parade 2012 - honored color guard member Kurt T. Hovet - veteran of the Vietnam War.
When I took this photo 366 days ago I was incredibly proud of so very many things for many, many reasons.  I was proud to have a parent that was a veteran of this country's military.  I was proud that that old ranch horse tolerated the 'city chaos' his first time to town.  I was proud to be celebrating independence day among family, friends and neighbors in a community that holds 100% of my roots.

I was proud to be an American!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A salute to June, 2013

Greetings from the epicenter of the Bakken oil formation!

It has been six weeks since the last event I blogged about, branding.  In that time ALOT has happened and as they say, "It has been one he#* of a ride"!

Hours after we finished working calves on May 18th the rain started to fall and it fell for the next 4 weeks to an accumulation of ten inches for us.  This was too much rain for many, but ranchers can't get too much rain.  I have farming friends that were able to get only a portion of their crops in and construction friends that saw 1/4 of their North Dakota construction season slip away, but for ranchers in country that only gets an average of 14 inches of moisture (thats snow and rain moisture combined) annually, June has been magical.

It may possibly resemble Brazil in someways right now, however we will be worlds apart again come fall.  So, the ol' girl, Mother Nature has been kind to us in June, providing us with abundant grass and a beautiful hay crop.  In this country, we usually make 5 1/2 foot diameter bales.  Foreign to most, but it is how ranchers in the area determine the 'yield' of their hay crop as it seldom gets weighed.  A normal crop will be a bale to the acre on average.  We cover around 1,200 acres typically and on a normal year, need 900 to 1,000 bales to make it through the winter.  On really dry years, CRP is opened for haying to fill the gap needed to put up enough hay to sustain the cow herd.

So far this year on the first 300 acres we have been running nearly 3 bales to the acre.  Granted this will taper off for many reasons, one knowing the the best yielding hay is already up, but still this is huge for a ranching operation to bank surplus for a dry (not rainy) year (not day).

Below are a couple videos and photos that capture June, 2013's highlights and a few credit roles to the people and businesses that make it possible for us to be out here doing what we do.

This is a corner of three of our pastures and the Newfield location there.  Industry refers to it as an 'enviro' or 'eco' pad and it reduces the grids foot print greatly with far less total pad space, fewer roads and less pipeline infrastructure needed to move product.  The natural gas from these three wells is now online, but this site flared for over six months wasting ALOT of natural gas... NOTE - in Brazil, most of their vehicles run on natural gas.  Now there's an IDEA.  Make it valuable so its not a wasted byproduct that we might really wish we had back in the future!

Eva and I in the holding position while we were gathering cows for our annual June AI (artificial Insemination) and ET (embryo transfer) projects.

Bittersweet to see - Nabors drilling rig #680 being stacked out in mid-June.  The derrick went up on Easter Day evening and is a 'walker' meaning it can move latterly on site to drill numerous holes which greatly increases efficiency.  This rig drills for XTO (Exxon Mobile) who has the lease on the minerals under the ranch.  They were a great crew, many North Dakota boys working hard to make a living, many supporting families "back home" where ever that is for them.
Pushing out the last of the 'Rough Creek (pasture)' cows after AI was finished.
Hoss, Kyle and me rode on the way out to push the Rough Creek cows out.
Kim and Jaden rode on the way home from pushing the Rough Creek cows out... we need another Hoss.
This is Embryo Transfer Day.  Rocky Mountain Reproductive Services from Billings, MT does our work for us and has since 2004.  Our 10 year anniversary will be next year!  They are great and allow us to do things to improve the genetics in our herd much more quickly than we would be able to with out their services.

Brad the 'dude'... We get off the ranch once a week to play sand volleyball on Monday nights.  The first game of the first week Brad sprained his ankle.  We was assigned to the Honda for a couple weeks.

It's a wrap... we had just pushed the last of the cows out to summer grass to the Elkhorn pasture.  It is all in the bull's hands now!
What do ranch kids do when its hot out and their parents won't take them in to the Wild West Water Park?  They run through the sprinkler with goggles on and an umbrella over their head!
The hay crop this year is great!  Brad raking...

Kyle and I baling behind the rake.

Kyle with our new baling outfit.  This is a huge upgrade from what Dad ran and Kyle is very proud of 'Big Johnny' - a 7230 Premium IVT which came from RDO in Hazen.  Geodan and the service department there have been great.  Little Johnny spent a couple weeks there and is just like new again with the exception of 4,700 hours under the engine.

Kyle with the new baler from Anderson Vermeer in Alexander.  Ben and Janelle are great and the area is so very fortunate to have that dealership and service department close and handy!

The yucca is amazing this year.  All it really needs to flourish is 10 inches of rain during its growing season.  To cows, these blossoms are the equivalent of cheesecake to the palette that loves 'rich and creamy'.  We will brave clay buttes and high, steep cliffs to get to them.   
In my personal opinion, the mountains have nothing on the Badlands.
A lost trucker and a beautifully green landscape.

When I speak in this clip about the companies operating here, what I mean is that I hope they understand and are sensitive to the fact that western North Dakota is home to many people that cherish things that oil impact is taking away from them.  I have met some of the most interesting people that would have never experienced wester North Dakota if it wasn't for the oil find.  I immediately connect with the ones that see it for more than a paycheck and I really thank them for 1) seeing how much our home means to 'us' and 2) for taking care of this land as if it were their own home.  We hope that someday it is their home... I also hope that people understand that after the 2013 ND legislative session, what came out of that had a negative impact on relationships between people living in impacted communities (who call them home) and the oil and gas companies doing business here.  A need for a grass roots movement by western North Dakota to change / fix this outcome is needed.  I hope we have the voice to stand up for our home!

This clip is just a reminder of how blessed we have been this year.  The first two weeks of May I was wanting a rewrite on 2013.  It has been a bittersweet year to date.  I know that ATTITUDE is everything and our words have power, so lets make them count... both of them.  I read lots of quotes and many move me so I will close with a quote (which I can not credit) - The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Again, here's to June, 2013 and hoping July, 2013 too wants to have a positive ATTITUDE!