Monday, March 29, 2010

So, it does rain in Montana

Well, today is one of those days. You know the kind of day were nothing spectacular has happened and it is highly unlikely that it something will. In reality though I think I can use one of these days. The weather today is a touch on the gloomy side which probably contributes to the general ho-hum feeling around here.
But, really this is a good thing. I feel like we have been going a million miles an hour since we arrived with one amazing experience after another. It has been to this point an amazing ride. So, a cloudy, cold, rainy day where I can hang out in my PJ's and not accomplish anything in particular sounds wonderful to me.
There is however, one little ripple in my otherwise perfectly gloomy day: His name is Colton.
Colton since we arrived I swear has been ramping up his energy level with each sunny day. I believe the combination of endless activity and chore helping along with the bright sunny weather has recharged his inner battery where it has drained mine. Colton of course is nothing other than delightful even with his boundless energy supply. He has largely been my entertainment since we have arrived here.
But, as the afternoon stretches before me I find myself desiring a nap, and watching Colton's great creative mind churn up idea after idea. So, for the time being I'm going to try and keep up.
I am exceedingly grateful for his skills of entertaining himself. I'm told not all children will build entire cities and act out the scenario of their mind alone as well as he does. This skill is largely the reason I can sit here and write with few interruptions.
Even now as I was chasing him down to grab a quick snap shot of his adorable face. He was more concerned about his play being interrupted than anything else.
Still, I am enjoying this lazy day, and I have decided that the heavy list of "things to do" can wait at least for a little while. And whether the sun shines tomorrow or not even a gloomy rainy day in Montana can be enjoyable.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Provision, Faith and the gift of a miracle or two, or three...

A lot has been happening since we moved here there is no doubt. But, one of the most astonishing to me is God's continued provision for our family. There have been many days out here that could cause me to worry. Out here on a small ranch like this every calf counts. They account for a year of paychecks. How many are born alive is important, how many thrive is important. How they gain weight. Even putting up the hay to feed them will determine how we are going to live over the next year, and not just us Mr. & Mrs. H too. But, even when I am tempted to fret, God has been reminding me He has everything under control and that there is no need to worry.
One way He has been reminding me of this, is through his amazing provision with the birth of these calves. God has provided with the twin births we have had, though it has been bitter sweet. With each twin birth we have had a loss. A few days after the first set of twins where born we had a mama cow in labor and things just weren't progressing as they should. When they checked her the calf inside was backwards. Kyle and Mr. H worked on her for quite a while, even a neighbor was called to help. They finally got the calf pulled but unfortunately the calf was dead. It was one of those; there was nothing that you could do situations. The calf probably would have been still born regardless of how soon they would have delivered it. But, God had already provided for this. Kyle and Mr. H were able to graph one of the twin calves onto that mama. Both calves and mamas are thriving now.

The second instance of God working was through a miracle that took place before our eyes. Mrs. H saw a cow out in the pasture laboring for an unusual amount of time. Mr. H brought the cow up and let Kyle know what was going on. Everything seemed to be going according to plan with the exception of one thing. Even as the calv's head was delivered the water bag had not broken. As soon as the calf was out Kyle was by it's side breaking open the water bag. The calf had fluid built up in its lungs and Kyle knew just what to do. He hoisted the calf upside down over the fence and let the fluid drain from its lungs. I watched from the window, praying the breath of life to enter the calf. I watched Kyle work on the calf. He had hoisted it up over the fence a total of 3 times. Then quite suddenly he put it down and walked away. I watched still praying, but from what I could see the calf still wasn't moving. I thought the battle was lost. Kyle came in a little while later. I was bummed out, thinking the calf was gone. I noted that Kyle seemed to be in a fine mood. I said I'm sorry about the calf. He said, "why?" then he got it. He told me the calf was alive, it was just going to be a little delayed because of the ordeal. Sure enough a little while later the calf was shaking its head, and a little while after that trying to stand and nurse. I was amazed. First that God heard my prayers and secondly that God without our knowing it had prepared Kyle for just such emergencies while working on the dairy farm, back in Michigan (a job that he did not thoroughly enjoy.) Had he not acted so quickly The calf surely would have died.

We have also had two more sets of twin births. Unfortunately we have also lost two other calves. One mama simply aborted her calf. In another case a seemly healthy calf came down with Bloat ( See the story of Blueberry for more details) However, even with these losses the twin calves where able to be graphed to the mama cows who had the loss. And amazingly they are bonding.

Then there was the case the other day. It was the same day two of the twins sets where born. along with a bunch of other calves and the cow who aborted her calf (Let me tell you that was a crazy day!) Kyle and Mr. H where down in the barn dealing with one of the sets of twins trying to graph one of them to the mama that had aborted her calf. Colton was restless that day so we went for a walk. I decided I wanted to get a picture of one of the sets of twin calves so I walked down the road toward the pasture (Kyle and Mr. H had not brought up the second set of twins yet.) As I was walking I saw in the pasture a set of legs up in the air! There is a drainage ditch that runs through the pasture. A cow had rolled upside down into the ditch. I turned and came as close to running as my pregnant body would allow to alert Kyle and Mr. H. Fortunately they came out of the barn at that moment. Kyle knew I would not be out for a jog, yelled to find out what was wrong. I yelled that a cow was upside down in the ditch. Off they raced, Kyle in one skilled attempt flipped the cow over and up out of the ditch. (another skill learned at the dairy farm.) It turned out the cow was in labor, they ran her into the barn. The delivery would have been impossible anyway because one of the front legs of the calf was retained. Kyle worked quickly to free the leg, and pulled the calf. Both mama and calf are fine. But, I have no doubt now that it must have been God's promting for Colton and I to go outside, and had we not cow and calf would have surely died. God works in mysterious ways.

We do have one more miracle in progress. It has to do with one of the twin calves. One set (either the second or third, I'm not really sure.) From the day this heifer was born she has just been kind of mopey (We call her, "The Little Red Heifer") She never really got up on her own and never really tried to suck. Since there is usually a dominant and a weaker calf it was not really that unusual. They usually try to graph the weaker calf as the mom usually has already bonded with the dominant calf. The Little Red Heifer was first graphed to the cow who aborted her calf. Well, that cow wasn't really making any milk. So, after Blueberry died they re-graphed her onto that mama. After being graphed twice she just has not been thriving. It came to the point that it looked like we would loose her too. She was dehydrated and bound up. Kyle did some research and started intensive electrolytes over the course of 24 hours. He also, began treating her for scours (a bacterial imbalance that causes diarrhea and dehydration) Within two days she was bouncing back, she was even trying to nurse. The mama she was graphed to had accepted her. It was just up to her to get going. Yesterday she nursed all day and things are looking up. Hopefully she will continue to progress.
This may sound silly but we pray over these cows and calves daily. God has been faithful to answer our prayers. Sometimes in ways we do not expect, but nonetheless He is faithful.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Story of Blueberry - And Colton's first major life lesson

This is Blueberry. The addorible Char/cross calf.

Colton loves the calves, and who could blame him. They are small, fuzzy and playful. Though this calf in particular made an impression on him. Mostly because he was laying so close to the gate and did not scamper away when Colton came up. Colton decided he must be named Blueberry. I personally don't see the harm in naming an occasional calf/cow. But, it is a subject that I debate a lot. Afterall these are not our cows, and furthermore they are not pets. These calves very realalistically are only here temporarily until the fall when they are sold. There purpose in life is for you the consumer to enjoy as your next great cut of meat. Hard reality, but true.

Anyway, I always kind of felt like it was o.k. to name the occasional calf or cow, even though they are with us only temporarily. Mostly because I want to enjoy them while we have them. But, now I'm wondering if it is really such a good idea.

Back in Michigan, we (or Ron & Shawn) always had a cow to raise for beef. We alway's named them. Even after Colton was born we continued on. When he got to talking we started letting him name the critters. It was adorable to hear what he would come up with. We have had a Blueberry, a Rasberry Easter, a Mater, and a McQueen, ( You would never guess he is a Cars movie buff) I think there was one more but I can't remember at the moment. Each time one of the cows left and as he started to notice. My answer to his questions and sorrow has always been that the cows had an important job to do. He has thus far been pretty accepting of this explanation. Though he has not made the connection with the "job" being to feed our family.

Anyway, Back to the new Blueberry. As goes the cycle of life. Not everything is perfect, nor does it run smoothly all the time. Blueberry the other day was just not himself, He was sleeping more than usual and I noticed, not getting up to eat. I mentioned it to Kyle, who checked him out. Turns out he has a condition called Bloat. (If you would like to read more about this please select the following link: ) It is very difficult to treat, and even harder to distinguish the cause.
Mr. H came in awhile later and let us know what was going on. He tried to call the neighbors who had more experience in this area. But, could not reach anyone. So, I did the only thing I could, I jumped online and quickly searched for treatments. Then Mr. H, Colton and I headed to the barn to help. We did everything we could, Mrs. H even came down and help. Colton waited patiently, he helped by holding various items for us. He was very brave, I was so proud of him.

Unfortunetly, we where too late. When it became evident that we where loosing Blueberry. Kyle had me get Colton out of the barn. So, we grabed a piece of rope to play with. Then went for a walk and had our first ever discussion about death. Colton asked when Blueberry would get better. I explained that he had an infection in his tummy that has made him too sick. Blueberry was going to go to heaven. (I don't have an issue with the animals in heaven thing at the moment - Colton is only 3, no need to out Santa Claus yet either) Colton processed this for a few moments. Then he asked, "Why did Blueberry get sick?" I said, "Sometimes animals get sick and we don't always know why." I truely had no idea why Blueberry had gotten sick, so why try to explain what I didn't know. Then the big question came. "Will Blueberry be dead?" Colton asked. "Yes, blueberry has died." I replied.

Colton was quiet for a few more minutes. Then he asked, "Was he hit by a truck and that is what made him dead?" This caught me a little off guard. I said, "No, Blueberry had an infection in his tummy that made him too sick, that is why he died." Colton, looked at me for a minute, then looked down at the piece of rope in his hand and said, "What can I rope?" and that was pretty much the end of discussion. Later, Colton and Kyle talked a little more about Blueberries passing. The only other question he had, had to do with Blueberry coming back from heaven. Kyle explained that there where old cowboys in heaven who would take care of Blueberry now. We haven't heard another word about it.

I'm not sure any new parent really knows how to handle the death card perfectly. I don't know if we handled it right or not, only time will tell. Pesonally, I still feel that my 3 year old son deserves some of my protection from the hard issues of life. He has the rest of this life to learn these hard lessons. I also, don't think lying to him is right either. But, who knows what really happened to Blueberry. I know that biblically speaking animals don't have souls and thus can't receive the gift of salvation and live eternally in heaven. But, its also hard to imagine that they are just done for either. When God creates the new heaven and new earth I would hope we will not make it devoid of animals. And why couldn't some of the animals that are near and dear to us be recreated then? (Please note I do not claim to have any bliblical context to back up this thought. It is just my thought.) Either way, I don't believe it is a matter that will cost us salvation. And when Colton asks for a more detailed and direct explanation and I believe he is ready for the answer I will give it. But, for now my son is 3 and animals can go to heaven.

Monday, March 22, 2010

We're Having a Good Time

O.k. my last few post have been a little heavy so, today I wanted to share some of the fun we have been having.
I think one of the most wonderful things about being out here is not having a rigid schedule. Back home, you get up at a certain time to be to work at a certain time. You leave work at a certain time. There is a scheduled time for play, for work, for rest. Allotted travel time. If you get my meaning its all about time or the lack there of.
Oh, sure here there is a schedule, we need to get up at a reasonable hour, cows need to be fed in the morning. There are lots of jobs that must be done in a day. (Colton and I need a nap) meals need to be prepared. But if there is one thing that we have time for it is taking a moment to enjoy each other and life.
We learned this the first week we were here. Kyle and Mr. H where doing chores and it was a beautiful morning. So, Colton and I decided to go out and enjoy the sunny day. We walked around exploring our new surroundings. Colton discovered that all the little snow hills were perfect for sliding down in his snow suit. Mr. H watched him for a while and decided he needed a sled. So, off to the shop (which seems to have at least one of everything you can think of) he went and came out with an old runner sled. All of a sudden work could wait, it was time to play. It was so wonderful to watch Colton sled down the drive. It was hilarious to watch Mr. H go sledding, and it touched my heart to watch Kyle and Colton play together. I don't know how long they all played but it was wonderful. I'll admit that at first it made me nervous - not the sledding, but I still have some of my Midwesterner mindset and I was worried about Kyle and Mr. H getting behind on everything they had to do that day. I was worried we might get in trouble for goofing off.
Thankfully I now realize how silly that was.

Since then it has been great to watch Kyle and Colton interact with each other daily. Even work can be enjoyed together as Kyle has the option of taking Colton with him to feed cows with the tractor or bring cows in from the pasture. Today, Colton wanted to go out with Kyle and they did some work down in the barn with some calves that need special attention. Colton is so proud of his role as "Daddy's helper."
I in turn am enjoying a bit of freedom to enjoy getting a few things done, or just a moment to relax and remember that I have another little boy growing away inside me. At any rate we are having a great time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When God Closes a Door He Opens a Window

The amazing part of living on a ranch is that we are in the midst of miraculous activities every day. I don't know about you but I can't think of anything more miraculous than birth. Whatever the species. The flip side of the seeing and dealing with the miracle of birth is that sometimes things do not go according to plan and for reasons beyond our control we also have to deal with death.

We had our first experience with the full life cycle of things a couple weeks ago.

If I remember right it was a Sunday morning. Kyle had brought over a cow that was ready to calve. She was a big cow, but something just wasn't quite right. She was nervous and pacey. Sometime mid morning her water bag broke, and we waited, and waited, and waited. Nothing was happening. Kyle called Mr. H down thinking something just wasn't right. They ran her into the barn to check her out. Awhile later Kyle came in to get some supplies and informed me that her calf was backwards. Her labor had progressed to the point they where not able to reach and pull the hind legs out to pull the calf. The cow would begin pushing, but a frank breech (but first) would not be possible.

Kyle and Mr. H came into the house and began making phone calls. A few of our ranch neighbor's had more experience in dealing with a situation like this, and they where thinking a C-section may be the only option. Of course it was feeding time on most of the ranches so getting a hold of someone was going to be difficult. Finally, Mr. H got a hold of one of the neighbors, he said he would be over as soon as he could.

It seemed like hours but, I'm sure wasn't that long and the neighbor came. I didn't know exactly what was happening down in that barn, so I did the only thing I could do: Pray.

Awhile later Kyle came up and said that they had gotten the calf out but it was too late. In fact from the condition of the calf it looked as if it had been dead inside the cow for a few days.

I took his word for it. I had no desire to see the calf. My heart ached for the mama cow though. All her hormones told her she had a baby, but she couldn't find it.

Here's where the title of this tale comes in.

When God closes a door He opens a window. While it was tragic to loose a calf, and bull calf to boot. Gods planning and provision even in the animal world is perfect.

Remember the twins I wrote about earlier. Well, the catch with twins and beef cattle is that they will survive, but thriving is another story. A beef cow is not designed to supply milk for multiple calves and the less dominate calf will usually suffer, and require supplementation.

The blessing in this situation is that we had a mama cow who needed a calf and a calf that needed more mama.

Kyle and Mr. H brought in the weaker of the twins, dusted it with some sent hiding powder, and put the mama who had lost her calf in headlocks and got them hooked up. It took a couple days and slowly but surely that mama and the twin calf grafted (the bovine equivalent of adoption) Both are now completely bonded and thriving. Oh, and the mama of the twins that took the calf from, she is really none the wiser for missing a calf. She from the beginning was more bonded with the other calf.

The only other thing I have to say is God is good, not just to us for providing a calf for one that would be lost anyway, but to even the animals he created.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Let the Calves roll in

When we arrived on the ranch only one calf had been born, and a second was born the night we got there. After Ron and Shawn left it wasn't but a few days and we got to experience calving first hand. Kyle of course was an old pro at this because of his work at the dairy farm. In fact it was probably even easy for him because in most cases he did not need to do much more than watch and wait. I on the other hand was a nervous wreck. I knew nothing (still don't know) about calving. The closest simulation I could come up with was the year I lived with some friends who raised horses. I had seen some equine births but for some reason births of the bovine nature seemed entirely foreign to me. I was wide awake every time Kyle got up at night to do a check. Having no idea what to do or think was driving me crazy.

Thankfully a couple days into it I got the chance to see a cow give birth. Kyle woke me early one morning and told me there was a cow calving in the pen outside our living room window.

I was awake immediately. Binoculars in hand I made a perch in the blue arm chair by the window and prayed Colton would not wake yet.

Its difficult to put to words the experience of watching this cow give birth. She seemed calm and concentrated about her work. She laid there and I watched as she pushed, then she'd get up walk a bit, lay back down and go at it again. Soon I could see two front feet. I thought well that's kind of like a horse. Not long after came a nose, neck, shoulders and then all at once she stood up and the rest of the calf slipped out. She immediately greeted her calf who was already wriggling about, trying to figure out what she was to do with all these legs. The new mama licked and fussed over her checking her all out.

Then something very surprising happened. As I was watching her take care of her calf I saw something drop behind the cow. My first thought was, that must have been the afterbirth - but it sure did look heavy? Almost before I finished my thought the mama cow turned around and greeted a second calf. Twins! I called Kyle who was making breakfast, I think? He came to the window and concurred that I was indeed seeing twins.

It was the longest two hours of my life to watch that mama cow try and balance two babies. It was obvious that the first calf was getting the bulk of the attention. I felt my self growing frustrated with the mama cow for neglecting the second calf. Kyle assured me they would be alright. He called Mr. H and let him know we had twins, and that was that for awhile.

Later that day, mama was still having trouble mastering her new babies. So, Kyle and Mr. H decided best to put them in the barn so they could bond without trying to find each other in a large pen. The first calf you could see was nice and healthy. The second was healthy but slower, but I suppose being born on your head would make for a rocket scientist. Just to be safe they gave the second calf a dose of artificial colostrum, just to give her a boost.

I learned a lot that morning. I was reminded that birth is in all creatures a natural process, that I needed more patience. And that I was hooked on ranch life and calving it was now going to be as much a part of my heart as it was Kyle's - I hoped he could handle it.

Saying Goodby is Hard

Once we got here, Shawn and I set to getting as much in order as possible. I just adored our little valley and house. It was just like what Kyle and I had always talked about. Mr. H set to showing Kyle the ropes and Ron both followed them, helped unpack and hang pictures and spent as much time playing with Colton as he could.

Before Ron and Shawn left the Mr. & Mrs. H took us out to eat at the local hot spot. We where able to meet several of our neighbors. I couldn't get over how friendly and welcoming everyone was around here.

The first four day's passed quickly. Two days before Ron and Shawns departure I watched as a dark cloud seemed to settle over Kyle. He couldn't express what was bothering him, but I could see it went down to his bones. I got more and more worried (I am a worry wort after all) The millions of scenarios ran through my brain. But until he let me in what could I do?
The next day I pulled him aside and had him out what was bothering him. He was worried about Colton saying goodbye to Manna and Papa. They had been a nearly daily part of his life since he was born. He was worried that he would be hurt and sad by their leaving, and he was the one responsible for causing that pain. Kyle said it was his fault we were here.

You know its always hard to say when or how Satan will make his attack, but I was surprised that it came this way. This trip had been so full of every blessing God could bestow and we knew it. In my heart of hearts I had no doubt that God is the one who brought us here - not Kyle. I knew God cultivated this dream in both of us, He showed us the way. He brought us through the red sea (That was South Dakota I'm sure), and He had brought us to the other side safe and sound. I was not about to doubt that we were supposed to do this.

I didn't really know what to say to Kyle to console so I committed it to prayer. I did tell Kyle that I believed he was falling for a lie. That it could be hard for Colton to say goodbye to Ron and Shawn, but children are of all things resilient. He would adjust, and so would we. This was a decision we made for the best of our family. Kyle told me that the past week he had gotten to know Colton so much better and just couldn't bear the thought of him in pain. It was ironic I thought - Wasn't that the point? Didn't we make this great change so that we could be closer as a family? I think the enormity of it all just was more than Kyle expected.

The morning came that Ron and Shawn were to leave. I even found the thought of them leaving difficult. After all, the reality was that Ron and Shawn had been an enormous part of our lives for the past 5 years for me and all of Kyles 26 years of life. Colton slept through the teary departure. We figured all of us crying would be what would upset him the most. So we left him to sleep.

And then they were gone. Kyle and I looked around sort of wondering what to do next. We had never felt this alone before. Colton soon woke up, he asked; "Where's Mana and Papa?" I said they had to go back to their house in Michigan. Colton looked around, then looked at me, furrowed his little brow and said, "I wanted to play with them." and that was it. In his mind his plans for the day had just been interrupted. He asked me to play and that's what I did. Leave it to the child to handle the adjustment better than any of us.

As the next few days passed, we began to settle in. Colton was thriving, loving the snow, his new room/play space, the tractors and cows. The H's took on the role of segregate parent/grandparent types and guided us through the transition with much love and grace. I will be thankful to them forever for that. Kyle settled into learning his new job and slowly the spark and joy of living the dream returned to him. I was already in love with this place.
A few days into it God reminded me of this verse.

For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace,
The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12

And that is pretty much how it's been ever since.

The Welcome Sign

We had been driving for what seemed like an endless amount of time. In reality is was 5 days. We quite often had recounted the task that the pioneers had taken on. The monumental task of leaving every convenience and family known to head west on a hope that they could carve a better life for not only themselves but future generations. Along the way, Kyle and I would sometimes turn to one another and ask, "Who does this?" We were however, very thankful that our journey took less than a week, compared to the pioneer's months of travel.
Suddenly there it was... Butterflies rolled in my stomach as the ranch came into view. In the distance it looked small but very neat. We tried to guess which building was our house. I made Kyle stop when we came to the driveway. I needed time to take it all in... and take some pictures. First I took a picture of the ranch sign. I turned around to take another from a different angle and there in front of me was our mailbox, with big white letters spelling GLEASON on the side. That mailbox may as well have had a big WELCOME sign on it. I felt tears of joy well up in my eyes. This was really where we were going to call home. To top it off we had our own mail box. The people here were expecting us! It felt good to be expected, and perhaps even wanted.

We continued down the drive, (which turned out to be 1.2miles long.) Kyle was taking everything in, the calving pens, the cows, the barns, pastures, and fences. I wanted to see one thing - home. We had seen pictures of the house and ranch from e-mails back and forth with the H's over the past weeks. But here it was in real life, and I thought it looked better than ginger bread.
We pulled up in front of the house and took it in for a moment. The house was a lovely peachy cream ranch style. The yard was fenced and had the cutest little archway and gate with a iron horse hanging and below it said WELCOME. There was no one in sight, we could not see the H's house. There was a note on the door that said; "Kyle, go on in we will be down after lunch."
It felt a little strange to walk into the house unescorted. I don't think you would ever do that in Michigan. We also, really wanted to meet the H's and maybe ask just one more time, "Are you sure its us you want?"
Curiosity, though could not hold us back for long, Shawn and I had to go in. As we walked around I began to get excited, we would have a mudroom! we would have a huge kitchen! Oh, the office was so cute. A built in china hutch! Look at all the huge windows! Two bedrooms - with closets! The sun room will be so nice. Look a basement! Storage, storage, storage, cupboards and more cupboards! Over all, I don't think square footage on the main floor was much bigger than our old house. But, all the storage and the way the home was laid out made me feel like we were moving into a mansion.
Pretty soon Mr. H came buzzing down the hill on his quad. It was so good to put a face with a name. His face was so kind and welcoming. He remarked and apologized that the house was not in better shape, but we could see no flaw. It was beautiful!
Within moments we where cleaning and unloading boxes. Moving in was in full swing. Colton was bouncing from room to room. Kyle and Ron set to figuring out the manly job of starting a fire. The next couple of days of moving in and unpacking where such a blur. I know I couldn't have done it without Shawn's help, that is certain.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Drive

Everything worked pretty much like clock work for our planning to leave Michigan. God showed us amazing things in those six weeks. The only items still waiting to be sold where our house (which we knew would be hard to sell in February) and one of Kyles horses. God faithfully provided the perfect truck for our journey one week before our departure date.
We were all stretched and strengthened in faith through this experience.

By the evening of February 11th we were packed and ready. We tried to sleep in our empty house one last time, Colton is the only one who slept much. We were too excited about the adventure that lay ahead of us. The morning of February 12th at a approximately 4:30am we left our driveway in Michigan for the last time. It was harder than I thought to leave. After all this was the first place we called home as a married couple, the first place to raise our family. In the short five years that we lived in that little one bedroom house it had become... home.

We were of course filled with adrenaline that first day of travel, we survived Chicago, and drove the amazing hills of Iowa and stopped finally in Vermilion South Dakota, an amazing 701 miles from our starting point. Colton was a super trooper traveler. We couldn't have asked for better company. We where elated at our progress. But, as it turned out it was a blessing that we made it that far in one day.
South Dakota in wintertime is never a pleasant trip. I had memories from childhood when we would drive from our home in Idaho to visit family in Michigan, and the images came rushing back as we drove further into the state. Blowing snow, icy roads, and the wind, oh the wind. It would cut right through you, leaving you feeling like an empty shell, and as swept through you it robbed you of any energy you may have possessed. We where only able to drive at most 45mph through the majority of the state. The sick feeling in the pit of our stomach made us begin to question our decision to leave Michigan. We wondered if this would be what the rest of the trip was like. Even the traditional stop as Wall Drug could not be fully enjoyed. Colton also grew restless, though he was still a great traveler. As we reached the hotel, he exploded into a torrent of pent up energy, Shawn, Ron, Kyle and I took turns entertaining and walking the hotel halls with him. Good thing we where pretty much the only ones in the whole place. We wondered maybe if we where the only crazy people who traveled through South Dakota in winter at all. But, by morning there where a few other weary travelers in the breakfast room of the hotel. It took two full days to get through South Dakota, and after the experience we knew there was no turning back. We would not drive through that state again for all the money in the world.

Wyoming put a much fresher perspective on things, the weather was clear and we began to climb some mountains. I was in heaven, I love mountains, as I told Kyle I would rather look up at mountains towering over me than be able to see a hundred miles, the knot I had grown accustomed to in my stomach began to unwind. I wish I could say Kyle had the same experience. Mountains were an entirely new experience for him. And since he was driving I'll take his word for it that curves in the road as we crossed the passes made him pay attention to driving in a way he had never experienced before.

Before long though we crossed the Montana border, we were in the state that would be our new home. I sucked in the mountain air and praised God we had made it this far. We stopped for one more night at a hotel. In the morning we drove what seemed like the short distance to Butte and loaded up on groceries, none of us wanted to have to go anywhere once we were done traveling - at least for a week. The realization that there was only one final mountain pass between us and our new life began to settle on us. We felt nervous and excited at the same time. Colton had even caught the wave of anticipation. He fluctuated from nerves and wanting to go back to Michigan, to excitement about seeing our new house that would have his own room, tractors and more cows than he could count.
As we took the exit on the interstate and began our final leg of the journey to our home, we marveled at the beauty, and swallowed hard at the realization of how remote we would actually be. I prayed and thanked God that we had come so far, and that he would stay close to us through this transition. And then we saw it... The ranch, the place we would call our home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Picture That Changed Everything

Sometime back in September (2009) Kyle came home and told me he thought we needed to post an add online for our family, looking for ranch work. He had been looking for that perfect ranch job off and on for the past 5 years, and wasn't coming even close to landing an interview. The conversations with ranchers where always promising until one question. "So, where are you from." answer of course was Michigan. For some reason many outfits just couldn't get past the fact that Kyle was a born and bred Michigander. Even if he had all the other qualifications they where looking for. Our second road block had to do with relocating a family. I hemmed and hawed the idea of putting up an add for about a month. Kyle kept after me, so one day in October I put the ad online. The website was . The ad was simple: Ranch work wanted - Young family seeking full time position.

I put an abbreviated version of his resume and included that we where a family from Michigan looking for a position in the Northwest and Northern Plains states. I included a picture of our family. As I pressed the "submit" button I began praying for Gods will over our family.

At first we didn't hear anything and we began to assume that it was still not time for our family to make such a drastic change. After all, the housing market was not great and the prospect that we would sell our home was small. We had also recently found out that I was pregnant with our second child. I trusted Gods timing, but my heart also yearned to see Kyle fulfill his dream of working on a beef cattle operation. I began praying not only for Gods will for us as a family but also that Kyle's dreams would be fulfilled or that he would receive new desires and fulfilment in his current jobs.

Then sometime in November the calls started coming in. The first was from a guy in Idaho who had a grow yard with a bunch of Herford bulls or something like that - all the details escape me at the moment. The funny part was that the first thing the guy said was, "Well your wife and kid are pretty decent looking but you are a homely looking guy." (He was referring to the picture of our family from the ad. I personally do not agree, Kyle is a fine specimen of a man in my opinion.) As they talked Colton and I prayed. The phone interview was promising. We where ecstatic, someone thought we where worth talking to! That was something we had never really encountered in past phone interviews.

The next call came a few days later. It was from a ranch in Nebraska, the first comment again was something about us looking like a nice family. This place couldn't have been more than a couple marks off of Kyle's checklist of the perfect job. #1 it was in Nebraska. Kyle had always wanted to work at the Hawthorn Ranch - this was not, but they may as well have been next door. The place was huge something like 40,000 acres. They where planning a 7,000 acre expansion and looking for calving help with about 450 pairs. This was an even more serious phone interview. Then a couple weeks went by and we heard from friends that the family from this ranch where calling around checking Kyle's references. Kyle, Colton and I prayed together.

I had to take a huge breath and seriously swallow the idea of moving to Nebraska.

However, it was not to be. In the midst of all this we got one more phone call.

This call came in one evening when Kyle was out trimming horses. It was from a kindly gentlemen. Who had a small ranch in Montana (my heart skipped a beat. The state of Montana had always left its imprint on my heart, especially the western part.) They thought we looked like a nice family (again the picture made the impression) and wanted to know more about us. I pounced on the opportunity to talk my husband up. Kyle had so many attributes but he is above all things way to humble about his capabilities. As I talked to this gentleman the conversation turned to schools, housing, gardening and the like. We ended that Kyle would call him when he got home.

When Kyle called Mr. H back the conversation went very well. (I prayed) Then Kyle talked to them a couple days later and it went even better. the H's needed help with calving about 150 cows and then in summer there was haying and tending irrigation pipe. Along with other feeding and ranch maintenance jobs. Kyle of course was honest to a fault about his lack of experience with irrigation pipe systems and running hay equipment, but was forthright to insure them he would learn whatever they wanted.

It looked like we could have a choice on our hands; the big ranch in Nebraska was talking about us coming for an interview and this place was also looking promising.

A few days passed, we prayed for Gods leading, Gods best, Comfort for our families if we where to leave. I prayed for wisdom for Kyle in choosing the best job for our family, and I prayed for strength to move to the no mans land of Nebraska.

Then I had the dream:

I dreamt that we where standing in a valley, with mountains all around us. There was a cabin by a creek, I was standing on the front porch waving Kyle off to work.

When I woke I knew we had been in Montana. I told Kyle about my dream when he came home from the dairy farm that morning. The call came the next day, the job in Montana was ours if we wanted it. We had a decision to make. It wasn't difficult, Montana would be our next home. When the ranch from Nebraska called to set up an interview. Kyle told them he had accepted the job in Montana. We prayed a blessing over them for considering us and began planning our exit from Michigan.

In the Beginning

Even though we have been at our new job/place for a month now I figured I had better start from the beginning.

It all started about five years ago, Kyle and I had just been married and where trying to decide how to navigate our newly joined lives. He really wanted to be a cowboy. I really wanted to settle down. I asked for five years of one house one place to call home. Hoping he would change his mind. He never did, instead the idea of life on a ranch grew on me.

We went through a lot in those five years. I know we needed it. God did a major work in both of us, bringing us closer to Him as individuals and closer together as a couple.

We bought our first home, welcomed and said goodbye to 5 dogs, some really good dogs, some well... they just needed a new home. We have bought, sold, traded, and re-sold 11 horses (well we are still trying to sell our last horse) not to mentions the training horses and projects shared with Kyle's parents. Of course now that we are out here Kyle is itching for another horse.
Anyway, Kyle has never felt suited to the life of a Midwesterner. He has always been called by the west and the old order of cowboy code. He has strong passions for vaquero style horsemanship. Something few have heard of in the Midwest and even less understand or appreciate.
Then Colton came along. With the birth of our first born, the pull west became even stronger in Kyle and the pull toward a simpler more natural life rose up in me. As every new parent realizes that this new life awarded them needs the utmost care, nurturing and safest possible environment possible. We slowly realized that the core values taught to us as children and now embraced by us as parents where going to be hard to instill in our son. Not to mention the deep seated desire to raise him in a simple and natural way, the cowboy way would be next to impossible amongst the hustle and bustle of Midwest life, even "rural" Midwest life.
Not to say we where in a bad spot. It may have even been possible. We had a nice little nest, lots of family and good friends. I'm just saying we didn't feel it fit us quite right.
However, we where making it. Me working for my parents, giving riding lessons, and doing some miscellaneous sewing jobs while staying home with Colton as much as possible. Kyle working at a dairy farm and trimming and shoeing horses.
He was working himself to the bone though, and it was not getting any easier.