Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 - Reflecting on the many blessing bestowed on us.


Holiday Greetings from Elkhorn Creek Ranch!  
As I sit hear tonight reflecting, the snow calmly falling on the buttes and barns, and my boys lying next to me in bed watching old Star Wars movies, I am absolutely in awe of the blessings that 2015 has brought to us.

Kyle - age 7.  Miss Brengman's WCES 1st grade class.

One Mr. Kyle Best pictured above this December on the eve of his WCES Christmas music program.  Our one and only intrigues me every day with his kindness, thoughtfulness, his curiosity of the world, and his enthusiasm for learning.  He truly is our greatest blessing!

Best Angus and Quarter Horses at Elkhorn Creek Ranch, where tender beef and blue collar horses are our business!

Outside of a dry spring which stunted our grass / alfalfa hay crop, the ranch had an exceptional year.  The fall of 2014 saw feeder calf prices at an all-time high, which provided for strong replacement female and bull markets in early 2015.  We have since come down off that high and settled into a bit of a rocky market this fall, but still a decent one.  We count those financial blessings of 2015 and continue to pray for favorable moisture, which means everything to future success in this typically dry part of county.

Pete sorting pairs the fall of 2015 on his 3 year old, Nick.

Supper on the trail, fall of 2015 with my 3 year old, Rusty.  My dad would have loved this little horse (which makes me that much more fond of him).

So, as I write tonight, our record weaning weights have been logged and reported to the AAA, the calves have been weaned and on feed for 70 + days now, the cows and horses are out on range grazing, and we continue to be able to conserve our hay stockpile.  Life is Good on the ranch!

We took a family trip of a lifetime the week of Thanksgiving.  We cruised the west Caribbean on the NCL ship, the Breakaway, which was built in 2014 for families with children.  All the photos below were from the ports of that trip.

Mayans of Cozumel with their North Dakota captives!
FRESH coconut water
Critters of the Grand Cayman's at Dolphin Cove
Jamaica Mon...

Other 'mentionables' of 2015:

In February we visited Aunt Marcia and Uncle Myron and friends Mike and Mary Zimmerman in AZ and swam.  And swam.  And swam. 

In August we had a Best family trip to Banff and Drumheller and were treated to a VIP / behind the screens tour of the Royal Tyrell Dinosaur Museum by Uncle Andy and cousin Eric.

Pete took several Angus trips.

Brad and Kaley Hagen (Brad worked for the ranch for three summers and two years) moved back home (Minnesota) in April.  Kent and Laura Johnsrud helped us out quite a lot this summer and fall.  Justin Bartholomay, a graduate of NDSU, Animal Science started with us in September.  These folks have all been blessings which we are thankful for, as is our family and our local community. 

The last blessing to reflect on this beautiful evening (before the bustle resumes tomorrow morning), the reason for the season!

Merry CHRISTmas... 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Blue Buttes Fun Day on Throwback Today- remembering the 'Why' of it all.

We attended the 86th North Dakota Stockmen's Association Annual Convention and Membership meeting in Bismarck this past weekend.  North Dakota Stockmen's Association

On Thursday (9/24/15) prior to the start of the NDSA Cattlemen's College there was a marketing workshop.  One of the questions posed by the presenter was "How many of you have a blog?".  I was honest (although I didn't really want to talk about my lack of commitment to telling our Ranch's story the last couple years) when she asked how many followers it had.  "I'm not sure, but I do know since starting it in 2011 there have been over 24,000 page visits with between 200 and 1,500 page views per post".  To be clear, this blog is no Pioneer Woman and neither the topics nor writing quality will draw folks out of the woodwork to loyally follow it.  That being said, I do think that it is important to tell the story of our little lives out here and the story of why we care for the animals and land the way we do.

Ya know, life happens and things get busy.  Priorities shift and in our effort to keep hope alive in an uncertain place in our history things get a little blurry and the signs hard to read (likely due to the number of them and the speed at which life clips along).  We sometimes find ourselves backtracking the navigated path looking for other routes and hoping for a simpler way to get to our destination... and then sometimes our destination disappears or become unrecognizable.

HOME has always been the destination for me.  Providing this 'way of life' for future generations has always been the mission (let's face it, this way of life builds pretty darn good folks).  Being good stewards of the livestock and land and leaving a legacy to be proud of have always been the goals.  So what if the destination disappears, the mission impossible, and the goals meaningless for lack of a 'why'?  And what if consumers don't believe us when we do try to bridge the existing gap with them?  I'm not saying that one little blog can change the future, but I am saying that I refuse to quit trying to bridge the gap and to frame the 'why', which builds understanding.  I want people to continue to be able to keep visiting our ranch and understanding why we do what we do without having to leave the comfort of their lives where ever that may be.

So I will keep posting and hoping for followers and sharers who help spread the word about ranching life and rural ag communities... 'cause like I said before, this way of life builds pretty darn good folks who want to bridge the gap with the folk who aren't out here at the end of the road with us.

In the meantime, let me share a little story about 'folk-building'.  When I was a twelve year old girl and my little sister was seven, the family loaded up a couple of our ranch horses on a crisp fall morning and headed down the road toward Keene County.  Our destination was the Blue Buttes Fun Day at the Willard Kieson arena.  BBFD has a long history and tradition in McKenzie County.  The games were fun.  The kids tough, friendly and competitive.  Shivers, my mom's horse that I got to ride that day was fast.  The H hanging L (my Dad's brand) Ranch brought home hardware that day.

1986 and 1987 All Around Cowgirl buckles which I proudly display in our Ranch House living room still to this day.

The 2015 Blue Buttes Fun Day (BBFD) at the Wesley and Tina Leppell arena.  Jaden hamming it up after the Boot Race.

The 2015 BBFD.  Kyle and Zoey taking a spin around the arena on Taxi.

The 2015 BBFD.  Kyle hanging with Hoss between games. 

2015 BBFD.  Look REALLY close... Morgan climbing through the barrel during the barrel race.  Notice the big boys in pink.  That's right.  They are tough enough to do so.  They were great mentors to the younger 'folk' that day and are always examples of good sportsmanship and 'try'.

2015 BBFD.  Jaden all smiles and Chance struggling to stay awake!
This was a needed day for me.  9/27/15 was a throwback to that crisp fall morning in 1986 headed to the Keison arena.  It was a reminder that HOME does still exist in more than just my mind and that 'good folks are still grown out here at the end of the road'.  AND this is challenge to all the folks out there to keep working to bridge the gap and tell the 'why' of our story.

To the Keison's and the Leppell's, thank you so much for this annual event that celebrates Good Folks, Great Fun, Good Sportsmanship, Tough Competition, Fast Horses, AND FAMILY!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

When greed gets in the way of the future

Game on!

I have left the work of our ranching business completely and totally in the capable and talented hands of Pete and Brad (nearly a year ago now) to work on 'things of community'.  The communities that are facing an uphill battle for future sustainability are McKenzie County (and it's neighboring 'Bakken' counties), and stewards of the surface of the Bakken (farmers and ranchers).  I will try to stay 'off soapbox' and on message, but it is very difficult.

Tomorrow will be legislative day 20.  Last week brought numerous bills relating to oil and gas, the environment, surface owners and their rights (which is minimal and under attack), mineral owners and their rights, gross production tax redistribution formulas and much, much more.

The highlight of the week was the fast track passage of the 'Surge Bill' by the Senate, who sent it over to the House of Representatives a day after the revised revenue projections were decreased by 4 billion dollars.  An important thing to remember is that the funding for the Surge Bill already sits safe and sound in one of many 'rainy day' funds at the state level, the SIIF (Strategic Investment and Improvement Fund). 

There were a handful of disappointments and thus the reason for this post.

The word on the 'ND hill' is that western North Dakota will not see both the passage of the Surge Bill AND the 60:40 Gross Production Tax redistribution formula bill.  During the last legislative session, through a very complex funding formula, a 25/75 split was determined.  But wait.  When the 25:75 split of the 80% of the 5% Gross Production Tax (the state automatically keeps the first 20% and then goes back and keeps 75% of the next 80%) was divided up between Hub cities (Minot, Dickinson, Williston), schools, counties and communities, McKenzie County received 6.8% of the Gross Production Tax it generated in revenue to the state.  Each and every person who either lives out here or spends time out here understands that that level of funding does not come close to meeting the INDUSTRIAL impact happening out here.

The promise was that this session western North Dakota would be taken care of as the higher than expected prices and production overflowed the the +/-13 'rainy day funds' to the point they were all spilling into the Legacy Fund at a rate of 30% of all oil and gas tax revenues going there and parking (not accruing interest, just sitting in a mattress).  Meanwhile, now, in 2015, the Governor's office suggested that Counties and Cities should borrow against their future GPT income.  Unbelievable.  I tell you this because when asked five different times last Thursday and Friday, "since you're not getting both, what would you rather have (60:40 or Surge)?"  My response is "With all do respect, we need BOTH.  Possibly tax relief (which happens to be nearly the same amount as the projected budget shortfall with the new revenue forecast) may need to wait until next session."

Please take action on this and start writing letters to the editor as well as writing members of the Legislature.

Another very disappointing outcome of last week, it was suggested that to achieve gas capture goals, energy companies needed the tool of 'quick take'.  That is the soft term for EMINENT DOMAIN.  I testified on Friday that until there are:
DESIGN STANDARDS with verification, CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS with verification, CONTINUOUS MONITORING with verification, BONDING, and meaningful enforcement options, surface owners will not trust the right of way process.  I am of the opinion that the NDIC should NOT have permitted wells that didn't already have their natural gas pipeline right of ways secured and installed once the success rate of Bakken wells had been established.  We all know that that never happened.  Now, the Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas Division is facing either  (A) exemptions for flaring or (B) the need or eminent domain (AND HEAR THIS, THE TALK HASN'T BEEN FOR NATURAL GAS PIPELINES ALONE) for right of ways (including SALT WATER / PRODUCTION WATER).  I would suggestion no exemptions and reductions in production until gas can be captured.  I personally will trust the process for NATURAL GAS INFRASTRUCTURE as soon as there are REAL STANDARDS (REGULATIONS) and REAL VERIFICATION (INSPECTION) and ENFORCEMENT.  The problem is that there is NO TRUST, especially with the regulatory agencies tasked with overseeing collection lines and spill prevention in North Dakota.

SO, if you don't want EMINENT DOMAIN pushed on you and your land to open it up to spills, trespassing, poor reclamation, and liability to you in the future, you better get on the horn, put pen to paper, or email the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee members regarding SB 2287, which was heard last Friday (January 30th):
The bill:
The committee:



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