Meanwhile, back at the ranch …

So my health has been an interesting situation. One that has kept me distracted since the end of May. I do believe I’m finally on the mend, and I hope to go home from the hospital tomorrow.

In the mean time, many things have happened in our country life. It was time to let the heifers and their calves into the pasture to eat the grass surrounding our home. Unfortunately, we had taken out the barbed wire fence to plant our trees, and we certainly didn’t want the cows trampling the little seedling trees.

We were undecided on what type of permanent fence we wanted to install, and time was critical, so we purchased and installed an electric fence. The heifers and calves were very curious about the fence and I think every one of them must have tested it out at least once. Each instance resulted in a startled critter jumping quickly away and sometimes bellering.  These “tests” would have made some great video – if I had had the energy to capture it. But it probably would have also drawn negative comments from more animal rights activists, so perhaps it’s just as well that I only have memories of the incidents.

A few times the cow or calf jumped the wrong way and went through the fence. They usually made their way back through the fence, but I think we had to help at least one critter out of the enclosed area. Thankfully, these animals seemed to learn fast as after about a week the fence malfunctioned for a couple of days while we were out of town, and yet all of the cows stayed away.

Besides the electric fence, Handsome Hubby planted the grass seed between our newly planted shelterbelt and our home. He and Sports Girl also planted a garden.

A couple of days later it started to rain. And rain. Even though the mud was a real pain to contend with, the moisture should certainly help all of our new vegetation to prosper. We can already see stalks of grass starting to sprout. Now if the temperatures would just warm up a bit.

The cows were moved on to the next pasture almost quicker than they were moved in, and now they are awaiting their ride to the woods in a semi-trailer. Handsome Hubby’s family has a few different permits from the U.S. Forest Service, and they summer the majority of their cattle in the Black Hills National Forest from mid-June until early October. The arrangement isn’t the most convenient, but it provides an additional source of grass while the family farms for next year’s feed.

We’re still using the electric fence to allow our flock of sheep to graze on a little grass while not worrying about them wandering away. At least now I don’t have to disable the fence and open a gate every time I come and go from home. That’s an inconvenience I really dread, but I try to be a good sport about it. I know how valuable that grass is for feeding those cows. And thankfully, I only have to do it a few weeks out of the year.

End of School Year Proves Hectic, Trees Are Planted

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – I apologize. My excuse? It’s the end of the school year, and life sure has been crazy.

Why is it busy for me as the end of the school year approaches? There have been many school events filling my evenings and daytimes these days including (but not limited to) a band concert, choir concert, piano recital, soccer games, open houses and field trips. On top of these, we are starting to get busy with our 4-H projects and our outside work around our place – caring for and working with livestock, mowing, watering, etc.

Conservation staff plants our trees while riding behind the small tractor.

Conservation staff stick our trees in the ground while riding on the planter behind the small tractor.

They came and planted the seedling trees last Thursday, May 14. Then they came back on Monday, May 18, and put the plastic down to keep the moisture in and weeds down. Handsome Hubby and Sports Girl watered each of the more than 300 trees last weekend. That was an arduous process, so tomorrow we are going to the home improvement stores to price supplies for a drip watering system.

Handsome Hubby needs to plant grass between the inside of the shelterbelt and our house, and we may even plant a little garden in some of the tilled ground this year. If we’re going to be watering and weeding, we might as well have a garden, too.

And so as school comes to a close at the end of next week, our farming efforts are just beginning.

Preparing to Plant a Shelter Belt

We are about to plant a large shelter belt around our country home.

We put our house on a hilltop so that we could have a drive-under garage and a walk-out basement, but as a result, the wind has been relentless. After four long years of being beaten by the ferocious wind, we finally began the process of planting a shelter belt.


Handsome Hubby takes Busy Toddler for a round on the tractor as he works up the ground one last time this past weekend before our trees get planted this week.

Last summer we decided how we wanted the trees to be arranged around our home — five rows forming a semi-circle protecting us from the northwest, west and southwest winds. Then we selected what varieties to plant and placed our order with the local conservation district — Rocky Mountain Junipers, Russian Olives, Ponderosa Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, and Lilacs.  Next we worked up/tilled up the ground — twice — once late in the summer and then again in the fall before the winter freeze. This was done to remove the vegetation and trap the much needed winter moisture in preparation for tree planting.

Handsome Hubby worked up the ground one more time this weekend. This morning a local conservation fellow came and marked where the trees will go with little red flags. Thankfully, I need to keep Busy Toddler away from them for just a few days. The local conservation district has received our seedling trees from the nursery, and they will come and plant them before the end of the week.

We spent a considerable amount of extra money to have fabric placed over the trees. The fabric actually cost more than twice as much as the trees alone. It is supposed to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in the ground so the trees will have a better chance at survival. The fabric should help reduce the maintenance required by the trees, as well.

Of course it will take several years for us to truly reap all the benefits the trees will offer. These include more than just wind protection. Trees offer shade from the sun and produce oxygen to breathe; our shelter belt will serve as a snow fence and will help reduce erosion. We are excited about the start, and after all the snow we received this spring, our trees should get a great one.

I must say that I find rural folks like us, and especially ranchers, to be among the best stewards of the land. After all, what better way is there to improve our environment than to plant hundreds of trees and tend to them as they grow?