Monday, February 18, 2008

Another Day at the Ranch

It's looking like pretty much just a normal day at 'The Ranch'. So, you might be asking, just what does that mean, anyway?

Some definitions:

The Ranch : Approximately 45 acre horse ranch in NW Montana : ranch house, workshop old arena building (48 x 90 arena area, 48 x 30 workshop/tool room), new barn and indoor arena complex : barn 48 x 60 attached to 80 x 200 indoor arena, old barn, 5 outdoor horse shelters, and various and assorted machinery.

The Animals (for 'Animal Check' purposes): Seven horses, 4 dogs, 4 cats, random wildlife.

My wife and I are the major players at the ranch, so as you read through these paragraphs, you can assume that the tasks are shared as time permits. Sometimes, the tasks are performed solo (during separate vacations, sickness or injury recovery, etc.), but most of the time, we each share equally in "the chores".

Well, since I'm retired now, I get to just be 'a rancher'. I can usually sleep in until it gets light. (Winter, that means 'til about 7:30 AM or so; in summer, that might be as early as between 6:00 and 6:30, depending on my morning energy level). The first step after the morning get up routine is to go out for the first 'Animal Check" of the day. This means doing a walk through the workshop where the 'outdoor' cats are and checking their water and food levels. Right now, there is an extra horse that is staying at the ranch. So, I mix her morning grain bin and get some flakes of hay/alfalfa to feed her. After that, it is a walk out to the 'winter pasture'.

Depending on the season, the horses are rotated through four different pasture areas. From about the middle of November through most of February, they are kept in the winter pasture area. It is a bit further from the ranch house and has some trees and hillside for the horses to enjoy. At the first part of using the pasture, there is some grass for grazing and little feeding is needed. After a bit of snowfall, the pasture grass is not as available (and usually chewed down) so the morning feeding there is about a bale of hay. The feeding time gives an opportunity to check the condition of each of the horses. Currently, there are six (two mares, and four geldings) in the winter pasture. After this morning feeding. Us ranchers and the dogs, come back to the house for our feeding.

After breakfast, the routine for the winter is just to read the newspaper or browse the internet for current events and e-mail checking. Sometimes a morning walk with the dogs will take place before the breakfast period. It depends on how cold it is and the weather conditions.

So ... after the morning rest and relaxation period, a mid-day trip back out to the horses is done. Again, like the morning animal check, the horses are fed and looked over to see if any of them need some kind of special care. Usually not, it just ends up being a time to talk to them and see them all up close again.

Chores around the ranch are somewhat seasonal. Normally, during the summer months, the paddock and corral areas are cleaned up (manure pickup) in the morning. During the winter, this usually takes place after the mid-day feeding. A trailer or sled is used to collect up everything and drop it off at a manure pile. (This is later spread back out into the pastures to act as a fertilizer. Just letting it out in the pastures and paddocks was tried for awhile, but breaking it up required multiple passes with the harrow, so, collecting and having it compost for awhile is the current procedure followed here at the ranch).

Ranch projects are done as required and include fixing fences, adding or changing fence lines, and other various and assorted tasks (fixing and maintaining buildings, machines, and stuff). These projects can take up a good deal of the time and are normally what 'ranching' is all about.

Another major day-to-day activity is staying in condition. When there are major ranch projects going on, the training activity is the actual chore. I'm also a marathon runner (I usually do an annual marathon or two. One in June and usually another in September). So, during the "training" period (three or so months) prior to the marathon, a daily run is done. This section might be a topic for an entire blog entry at a later time. The full road-work training will begin soon, but for right now the training activity is a alternating day treadmill run swapped with an exercise bike workout. Normally I throw in a set of situps and pushups as part of one of the other workouts.

The day continues and will vary depending on whether the horses are also getting a workout or training session for a particular day. This again is a bit seasonal and depending on temperatures, snow or ice conditions, and just time involved for other projects, the horse riding and training can be a big time use factor on some days and not much on other days.

Evening at the ranch sees a return to the ranch house if outdoor activities were done as the primary tasks during the day. This normally involves a pizza baking, and just some evening relaxation. This might be some random TV watching or a DVD movie and just a time to wind-down the day.

Jonah at last animal check feeding
Lastly, a final animal check is done. This is normally done around 10:00 pm. Since it is dark in the winter period, it means 'headlights' or other flashlights for the trip out to the pasture to do the final feeding and check.

That's it! That's Another Day at the Ranch.

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