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Life on a Ranch

This beautiful spring day started with the sun shining and the birds chirping. Those conditions declared it a yard-working and garage-cleaning kind of day. It’s funny because I have such good intentions of using our “downtime” in the winter to do cleaning projects (like organizing the garage!) But somehow, I can’t bring myself to bundle up and go out there in the cold, just to start sorting. It takes a warm spring day, one where I can throw open the doors and let the sunshine in while I work. The kids weren’t quite as thrilled with the idea of spring cleaning the garage with me. The girls went to the high school prom last night and my parents were also here for an overnight visit. Their visit was a short one—Cooper declared it “way too short” after they took off this morning. It was long enough that he did have time to show off his dirt bike riding skills and talk hunting with my dad. According to Cooper, the biggest perk of turning 12 this year will be getting to hunt this fall. He’s beyond excited and currently spends most of his time after school outside with his pellet gun. We had our friend, Josh, staying with us a couple nights out of each of the last couple of weeks. Josh does masonry and lives in Wallowa County, but was out here working on a project for a local family. One night Cooper came in with his pellet gun and Josh talked it up like it was the best gun he’d ever seen: “Oh man, that’s quite a scope you have on that thing!” And, “I bet that packs a punch!” And, “I would have loved to have had that when I was your age!” I watched Cooper’s chest and shoulders get broader and his head was suddenly being held a little higher while he agreed with all of Josh’s accolades. By the time they were done talking, Cooper was convinced he does, in fact, have the very best pellet gun a guy could ask for. Anyway, back to the garage… while I was cleaning and organizing, the kids were working on some projects—Katelyn was weeding and planting a little corner in the yard and Cooper was putting parts of an old motorcycle together. With the whole thing taken apart, he’s now using random pieces to make new stuff. Meanwhile, Buck was working to get one field seeded, then we had plans to move cows. When the river gets high enough, our winter feeding and calving ground floods in the spring. We just never know exactly when it’ll happen, so we watch, and we try to gauge when to get the pairs off. We do our best to wait as long as possible because it actually has some really nice spring feed…. until it’s completely underwater! So, while Buck was drilling, Lucy was chomping at the bit to get the cows moved. After she drove over to see how high the water was, she called to ask if she could haul the portable corrals, then she wanted to get the horses caught. It was a “hurry up and wait situation.” I know better than to gauge how long Buck will take and I know better than to waste Lucy’s abundant energy, so I wrapped up my garage project and all four of us switched gears to start in on barn clean up. The kids turned music on and I enjoyed listening to their music as well as the sibling-banter I’m growing quite accustomed to these days. For example, one of the girls asked if I had checked my weather app and wondered if it was supposed to rain today. Cooper suggested they look up at the sky and take note of the thunderheads coming up over High Valley: “That big ol’ rain cloud might have more to say about the weather than mom’s phone!” The thunderheads did have a lot to say about the weather and they did move in, but not before Buck got home and we shifted gears again. First, we set up the portable corrals— with all five of us working, we can get both sides set up at the same time and make pretty short work of it. Then, while the guys finished setting up the gates, the girls and I ran home to catch horses. At which point, I’d like to mention, I don’t get the option to drive any pickups and trailers anymore; with two teenage drivers, I’m completely out of that driver’s seat! We caught horses and, besides a small snafu around the fact that all three of us girls had our own plans to ride the same horse, we quickly saddled and loaded the horses. I was a tad bit slower than the girls—I really love brushing horses out in the spring and I might have gotten a little carried away. Anyway, after the cows were in the corral, the kids stayed horseback to sort cows from calves. As we started hauling cows home, those thunderheads rolled right in and we had front row seats to a spectacular lightning show. It was one of the better ones I’ve ever seen with lightning stretching across the whole south side of the valley. Along with the lightning came a torrential downpour and, by the time we finished hauling the last few loads, we were not only soaking wet and muddy, but also really glad we chose today to move the cows. We watched the water rise throughout the day and as we folded up the portable corral and moved the feed truck to higher ground, we’re confident the water will be covering the feed ground by morning. And it’s worth noting, that while the cows have moved out, the birds have moved in. Before we drove out with the corral, we turned the pickup off and stood outside just to listen to the orchestra created by all of the birds. If I could send an audio instead of a picture with this column, I would. You wouldn’t believe how loud the birds are. They’re so loud that we all agreed the cows probably haven’t had a good night sleep since the water started moving in! With that, I’m going to go get a good night's sleep myself. Buck and I have an early morning tomorrow. For an exciting getaway adventure? It might be exciting and it might be an adventure, but not necessarily in a good way. Buck has a dentist appointment in Tri-cities and I’m his chauffeur. With an early start we shouldn’t get home too late, which is handy because I had good intentions of getting caught up on laundry this weekend. After yesterday, the pile didn’t get any smaller and now it stretches to the mudroom where there is a large pile of muddy clothes! Not to worry, it’ll all be waiting for me when we get back home to Union County. -Chelsea

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