Hidden By Winter

Snow and dense fog arrived with the new winter storm in the pre-dawn hours. The snowfall, 2-4 inches. Pockets of dense fog added a glazing of ice and invisibility.

North Ranch: draped in snow, cloaked in fog

foggy aura

Throughout the day, our invisibility would slip away, but roll back in a couple of hours later. Tonight, the fog will persist and may become more dense. The barnyard lights will provide an eerie glow.

Most definitely, it will be a night to stay in with a nice fire in the hearth.

 

Side Note

Megan, who’s renting our house in the old neighborhood, she’s been waiting for snow for most of the day. A winter aficionado, Megan rescheduled her day. To say she was disappointed, well, Megan was disappointed. She’s suggested new weather guessers may be needed.

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Winter On The Range

Snow. More snow. And, more snow.

It began snowing in the pre-dawn darkness, Wednesday morning. Three days of light snow. Not terribly much in accumulation, perhaps 3-4 inches by late Thursday afternoon. The cold, not too bitter, staying around 5° F/-15° C during the overnight, around 25° F/- 4° C during the daytime. The skies were partly cloudy at sunrise, this morning. Within a couple of hours, the clouds filled back in and began snowing again.

It does make for some pretty.

Wednesday morning: line shack weathering the snow (JN Ranch/North Ranch, Dec 26 2018)

returning home: wintry, foggy drive into the JN Valley (Dec 27 2018)

Christmastime: candles in the window (North Ranch, Dec 28 2018)

The snow is forecasted to end during the overnight, before returning on New Year’s Eve. The cold is expected to continue for another week.

Christmas Night

A slower, relaxed day. Not really.

It began early as any other day. Laurie had rounds, with three of her patients spending their holidays in the hospital. While she could have tasked it to one of her residents, Laurie said it was the least she could do. One had come into her care in a bad way; the other two, they couldn’t wait until after Christmas, let alone after New Year’s, for their procedures. When she was a young resident, Laurie often drew the short straw for rounds. Her supervising doc said taking on the rounds during the holidays would make her better. If he could see her today, he would be proud of Laurie leading her four residents on rounds – teaching them the finer points of dedication.

Once home, Laurie donned her chocolatier hat. The girls, back from the barn, warmed themselves by the fire. Once warmed, they poked around the kitchen for a quick breakfast. Andrea was giving her older sis, Madelyn, a walking tour of the house. The pups, Will and Jasmine, they were ready for their walks. A fast cup of coffee, and we would be away on the walk. Just another day at home.

Our dinner table was much more manageable this Christmas. My dad and Madelyn were our guests. Tara asked if we, the ‘rents, were wearing the Christmas socks she had gotten us. I said we were. Elizabeth said, “Don’t trust them, Tara.” It didn’t take long for us ne’er-do-wells to be off to the races when Tara checked to see. Madelyn said the three of us were bad.

With the glow of the crackling fire, our home was quieting. “Another great Christmas,” Andrea said softly. Laurie and I nodded in agreement. We continued to watch the dancing flames a little longer. “Hey, you are wearing your Christmas socks,” Andrea said smilingly.

“Aren’t you?” I replied.  Andrea showed us the red socks she was wearing. No Christmas designs, no winter designs.

We hope everyone had a blest Christmas.

 

North Ranch: The First Year

A maze of boxes, small and large, filled every corner of the house. The furniture wrapped with heavy plastic. The first night, studio chairs and sleeping bags. A fast food dinner. With Christmas a few days away, Amanda had cut and decorated a 7-foot spruce as her housewarming gift.

before the boxes: empty view of the kitchen, living room and dining area

The next morning, the dining room table and its chairs were unwrapped. Our food, transferred from their dry ice chilled coolers and boxes into the refrigerator. Cookware, tableware and china unpacked. Bed frames and mattresses moved near to their respective rooms. More moving of boxes to roll out the Oriental area rugs.

boxes and furniture: the living room and front room maze

On Christmas day, much of the furniture remained wrapped. Each of our lives, and the rest of our household, in carefully labeled boxes. The girls and I quickly unwrapped some of the furniture and hastily arranged it near the fireplace. The kits were ever appreciative, able to take a proper nap after playing among the boxes.

Over the months, we have rearranged the furniture a few times to find that certain symmetry and intimacy that says “we are settled.” Similarly, we’ve also rearranged our bedrooms to find that more private, more intimate setting.

Whether it is moving a 50-pound bale of premium hay in the cold, or mucking a horse stall with biting flies on a hot day. Each day, every day, begins long before sunrise, ends long after sunset. We have loved every minute of the ranching life.

The horse riding, our daughters have loved the extra time. Their horses are their lives. They have become better riders for the experience.

As the song goes …

“These are the moments
I know all I need is this
I’ve found all I’ve waited for,
And I could not ask for more”

Notes

“I Could Not Ask For More” – music and lyrics by Diane Warren.

Christmas Ready

A cold evening. A crackling fire in the hearth.

With music cranked to semi-loud, time to decorate for Christmas. The pups, Will and Jasmine, it is their first Christmas. The kits, they are familiar with the season. Bringing a tree indoors is extra special for them all. The lights, the ornaments, both are tempting. “Wait until the presents come out,” Tara says. “The risk of mayhem,” Deborah replies.

Jasmine helping with the lights

Strung with 800 mini-lights, around 100 ornaments, the tree was finished three and a half hours later. There will be a couple more days of fussing with the ornaments, and picking up those that have mysteriously fallen on the floor.

Good news – the tree is still standing.

A little decorating of the barn followed, mostly with more lights and a few ornaments here and there.

Sunrise On The Range

The sunrise, coated in heavy frost, revealed by early light.

sunrise on the range (JN Ranch, Dec 11 2018)

Black angus cattle, from the JN Ranch, grazing on a section of their winter range at sunrise. An idyllic scene, the angus don’t take notice of the hoar frost, the sunrise colors, nor the low clouds in the valley.

With the girls, a brief stop to admire before continuing on our way for their instructional riding session.

Mow and Trim

With the return of the summer monsoon rains, the thirsty valley has been revived. The prairie grasses are greener. The ponds refreshed. The wildflowers in bloom again. It also means a bit of yard work needs to be done.

morning dew on the prairie (North Ranch, Aug 2018)

Much of our ranch land consists of prairie grasses. It is not much different from when the Johnson and Norris families settled the valley in the 1880s. Closer to the house, we have a mixture of buffalo grass and rye grass, which makes for a nice lawn. Both grass types are drought hardy, preferring dormancy when water is sparse. Similarly, the wildflowers are drought hardy too. The wildflowers are a mix of wild asters (white, pink, and purple), black-eyed Susans, wild bluebell, and more.

prairie yellow wildflower (North Ranch, Aug 2018)

A factory reconditioned Kubota B2320 with a mid-mount mower deck, front loader bucket and a rotary cutter keeps our place trimmed. In the more tighter spots, the lawn mower and weed whacker works the best. It isn’t necessary to mow and trim every square inch; it’s impractical. The paddocks receive the lightest of trims, which keeps the more noxious growth away from the horses. In manicured settings, foxtail, thistle, and a few other invasive weeds are more likely to gain a foothold. They become a significant problem if they enter into the grazing cycle. Also,  greener grasses are more difficult for a horse to digest.

Kubota B2320 (North Ranch, Oct 2017)

After the ranch complex has been nicely mowed and trimmed, the next mow and trim may be 4-6 weeks later. It’ll depend largely how much rain falls during the interval.