Tuesday, November 30

Open Country

Well, it's been a while since I've had the time for a post on here. Most of you are friends of mine on Facebook, so you probably already saw the photos of the Christmas tree hunt and the house decorating that took place last weekend. Yesterday I went for my second, and hopefully final, trip to Johnson County for Winter Cattlemen's interviews. The photo above is of Mike and Connie Lohse's horses, with the Bighorn Mountains in the background. Pretty typical scenery for Wyoming... wide open and empty and fresh and clean.

The Lohses were my first interview of the day. I had four scheduled, and they all worked out just fine. They live in a pretty area on the highway that runs from Kaycee to the highway that runs over to Wright.

After we spent time visiting at their kitchen table we went out to a nearby pasture for some photos.

Then I headed to Buffalo to interview Jeff Shelley, who owns/operates Big Horn Meats. Alas, my recorder was not cooperating with me, and I had to take notes the old-fashioned way for his interview. He's standing in front of the wall of his awards for his different types and cuts of meat.

Then I headed back to Kaycee to interview Sam Skiles, the local brand inspector. We met at the Invasion, which is the local bar/restaurant, and visited over a cup of coffee about a wide variety of topics.

Then I met up with Peto Meike and these two women. Peto and his brother Don, along with the women, have worked together to make this ten-unit retirement home a reality for the small town of Kaycee. It's a classy place, and I'd live there!

These girls were moving to their winter pasture while I was in Kaycee. They came down from the north and turned west under the interstate overpass.

So that's what I was up to yesterday. Today I was in the office, working on scheduling December and making sure we're good to go for our week off between Christmas and New Year's.

We now have about eight days to finish up Winter Cattlemen's articles, so that means I need to get my keyboard and Word documents in gear. Hopefully we don't end up with the sheer quantity of articles we needed for Fall Cattlemen's, because that would mean another trip up north for either Heather or myself.

Otherwise, today I stopped at Salvation Army and purchased a nice desk for $7.95. I didn't have my phone in the store with me, or I would have taken a picture. I also picked up some brass candle holders - the old-fashioned kind with the little handle for carrying.

I also stopped by the local YMCA, which is two blocks from our house around the corner, and I think we're going to get a membership for these winter months.

Tuesday, November 23

latest mischief

This is what Scott and I have been up to lately - tormenting the dogs! Sunday afternoon we went to Big Lots for rawhide dog treats, and got to looking at the pet clothing.

Lucy looks like she's wearing a muscle shirt. She really wasn't thrilled, and it sure calmed her down because she didn't want to move with her sweater on.

Foxy's fit her a lot better. They didn't have any extra large, just large.

Her little scarf looks so festive. Alas, though, both of the sweaters will be returned to Big Lots, since Lucy's doesn't fit her. We thought it'd be funny to show up to Thanksgiving with clothes on them, but now I don't think we're taking them to Scott's mother's house in Douglas, anyway.

And Foxy has definitely become our spoiled dog, and she's really warmed up to the idea of being a lap dog. She likes to sleep on her back with her legs in the air. She's gotten to the point where she'll sit next to the couch with her chin on your leg and give you the eyes until you let her up on your lap.

I must say, Link does definitely disapprove of dogs being allowed on laps. And then if Foxy comes up, Lucy gets jealous and wants to come up, too. That is the zoo and circus that is our living area in the evenings. :-)

Monday, November 22

the events of the week

Well, for the sake of a fresh post on my blog, I'm going to post some pictures of what I'm working on for the paper this week. Nothing much has changed around here, in that things are still very busy and my to-do list is never done. We have a short three-day week for Thanksgiving, which means the paper is going to press two days earlier than usual and I have to give everything to Tracy tomorrow morning at the latest.

So the picture above is Wyoming Governor Freudenthal, during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Biosecurity Level 3 (BSL-3) lab there at the State Vet Lab in Laramie. This was last Friday afternoon. Scott had taken the day off, so he rode down with me, and we listened to this formal ceremony, then toured the lab before they lock it down and seal it up. Second from left in the photo is the dean of the UW College of Ag. To the right of him is John Hines, president of the Wyoming Senate. On the far right is Tom Buchanan, president of UW, so all the big-wigs were on hand.

Donal O'Toole was the guide for our little group as we went through the lab. He's a pathologist there, and it was very interesting to hear him talk about how the BSL-3 space will change the way the State Vet Lab can conduct research. Mostly, it means that Wyoming can now work on its own brucellosis cases, as well as plague, which affects rabbits and prairie dogs, and tularemia, another small rodent/cat disease. Those diseases are among those listed as "Select Agents," which were put into this highest security level for research after 9/11.

Brucellosis is a big deal in Wyoming, as producers here continuously struggle to keep the cattle herd free, while it's endemic in the elk population. Obviously, keeping elk away from cattle is almost impossible, so it's inevitable that cattle cases will pop up. A few weeks ago four cases from the same herd showed up near Meeteetse in Park County, so the Livestock Board is dealing with that right now.

The room that Mr. O'Toole is standing in is the dissection space, where the animals come out of the cooler and are cut up before being sent to the appropriate section of the lab for testing.

In other news, the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is from Wyoming this year, and was cut from the Bridger-Teton Forest. It's been traveling the state before heading to D.C., and it made a stop in Casper last Tuesday.

Obviously, you can't even see the tree when it makes its visits. Instead, everybody autographs the signs that cover the outside of the tree's box on its extra-long semi trailer.

There is this one little window that opens up, with holes in it so the kids could reach through and touch the tree. There's a little set of steps that are set up so they can walk up to it. You can't see it in this photo, but there were some mini Christmas lights strung around in there to make it look festive, I guess.

The theme of the tree is Wyoming's state theme: Forever West. People from all over the state made ornaments to decorate it, so I'm curious to see what it looks like when it's set up. Many of the school kids made ornaments, as well as many private individuals.

Other than that, Scott turned 35 last Saturday, and we hosted a birthday party at the house. It was attended by about 20 people, all told, with the last of them leaving at about 12:30 a.m. when the poker game ended. I made two kinds of chili and a yellow and a chocolate birthday cake, as well as PW's bacon-wrapped jalapenos. Everyone else brought appetizers, desserts and snacks to fill in.

Tuesday, November 16

beef stew for dinner

This morning the girls and I woke up early with Scott, and got right after it, cleaning house in preparation for Scott's birthday party this weekend, and putting together a beef stew for dinner tonight.

As you can see, my kitchen does not have much floor space, and each of the girls insists on staking out one of the rugs while I'm working in there. We end up doing the kitchen shuffle, where one or the other has to get up and move when I need to stand in front of the stove, on the left, or the sink, on the right. It works out ok for everybody when I'm doing prep work on the counter in the middle. :-)

Sometimes I get fed up with the whole thing, and make them leave the kitchen. "Leaving the kitchen" means going out past the corner of the refrigerator. Somehow, though, they're very sneaky and quiet and end up back underfoot before I know it.

Lu likes to be in the kitchen, because she's our beggar. Fox really doesn't care. She'll take treats and tidbits if she's offered them, but she doesn't solicit them like Lucy does. And, I'm sure I do the bad thing by giving Lu the tidbits, like this morning when I was trimming the beef for the stew. She loved it.

Lucy also has a severe phobia about her tail being touched, grazed, stepped on, brushed, grabbed, or anything else along those lines. So, if I'm moving about the kitchen and happen to even touch the end of a few hairs, she panics and jumps up and looks at me like she just escaped a near-death encounter. I think she's sensitive about her tail because of how curly it is, because Heelers usually have straight tails.

We were making a beef stew recipe from Emeril Lagasse that's become one of my standby crockpot recipes. I've been making it for several years now, and I love the flavor and the vegetables and the house always smells so good when I get home after it's simmered all day.

And while I put the stew together and cleaned house I sipped on my usual morning coffee, but this morning I had my new Sugar and Spice creamer. Usually I just put a splash of milk in my coffee, but yesterday I finally had the time for an epic grocery trip - since I've been out of town so much it's been about three weeks since a thorough grocery trip, as opposed to just running in for a few things for a certain recipe - and while I was in Safeway I had a weak moment while walking by the special holiday flavors.

The mug is from Jamie's dad's outfitting business, when they still lived at Alcova. We have a set of them, and they're relics now that Sand Creek Outfitters is no longer in business. :-)

Tomorrow I hit the road - yet again - for a two-day annual meeting of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts in Worland, three hours from Casper. Yay for more driving! I think after this week Heather and I will be over the worst of it.

Monday, November 15

a cold weekend

I'm hoping the above photo will convey the chill that was in the air Sunday morning as we worked the Camps' cows and calves at the Association corrals.

We gathered them up out of one of the small meadow pastures and brought them up to the corrals, and my face froze. Then my legs got cold, and then my fingers, and then my toes. And I even had long johns, jeans and chinks, six layers on my upper body, two layers of gloves - one wool, and my new riding snow packs that I picked up on Saturday. Sometimes it's just cold!

I helped push the cows and calves up the alley on my horse, Lad, who belongs to Bob, and then dismounted to help with finishing up the sorting work. That sure helped my toes, and later in the day the sun did come out, the cold wind quit and the snow went away.

There's me in my new boots! I had to borrow a pair of spurs from Scott, because mine aren't wide enough for the insulated boots.

After the steer calves were loaded we went down to the house for a chili lunch and then set about loading the two bull calves from the horse corral. Well, that didn't work so well, because the one of Scott's is pretty skittish, and he jumped clear over Lucy, who was standing between Bob and I. He went by at eye level to me, and being jumped over upset Lucy, so she turned to chase him, and he went right through the corral fence. Popped both top boards clean off the posts, and he proceeded to lead the other bull and a steer calf out the other open gate and up the driveway. That was Lucy's good deed for the day.

Scott and Trav hopped on their horses and got ahead of them to open more gates and steer the calves in the direction of the corrals, which are up the hill a little ways from the house, and it ended up not being too big of a disaster. Lucy did get locked in the horse trailer before I headed up to help work the calves, though.

Vaccinating and branding didn't take long, and soon after Scott and I headed back into town.

The previous day Link and I had the house all to ourselves, and we really enjoyed the wood stove. Out of curiosity for how hot I could get the house, I kept adding to the wood stove until it was 90 degrees. :-) That was a little warm, but about 80 was just perfect. I walked around in my bare feet and tank top drinking coffee while I watched the snowflakes fall outside.

This is what it looked like out my front window. My poor pumpkins were trying their best to look like Thanksgiving, but were coming across as more Christmas.

It was still pretty warm out, so the snow didn't stick on the streets very long, but it did stick on the sidewalks, and Scott was kind enough to shovel last night when we got back into town. As you can see, there are still stubborn leaves on the trees. We really need to rake the yard one more time, if we're going to be perfect homeowners. Maybe we'll settle for 'good' homeowners, though, and let the last of the leaves go. Especially now that they're all wet and snowy and gross.

So while it was all white and snowy outside, this is what it looked like inside. It was so hot in there, that Scott's peanut butter M&Ms were melted, and the butter I had on the counter was super-soft. :-)

For the most part, Link acted like he loved how hot the house was, even going over to lie by the stove in his usual spot. But, I think in this picture he was saying: Did we really have to add that last log?

And then he got so desperate that he went to lie on the cool bathroom tile for a little while. :-) It's a good thing Scott and Lucy weren't home. They never would have stood for it.

That weird orange and red thing on the floor is a half-shredded rope toy for the dogs. There are always toys in various stages of destruction around the house these days, and the dogs have been banned from stuffed toys. Cotton animal guts sure do make a mess in a hurry.

And there's the proof. :-) But, the best part is, all it took to keep the house warm and toasty was a few pieces of firewood. Our antique gas-powered furnace would never get to that temperature, and would burn $100 in gas trying.

That, and the wood smoke smells so much better when I leave the house.

So here's my little house, covered in snow. I'd say I'm still in the process of settling in, but it's getting more and more homey all the time. That's the rear end of "Snowflake," Scott's little white truck, parked out front. He had taken the girls out to the ranch first thing in the morning with his black truck.

Friday, November 12

the christmas horses

my christmas horses photo has become home decor!

way back last christmas morning i took that photo on my way into casper from the association to check the road conditions to iowa. i was trucking along in the snow, talking to my dad on the phone, when i had to stop at one of the cattle guards and take some photos of these guys. they're part of the bucking stock of the triple v rodeo company, and they were hanging out at the lower end of the association. few things are as pretty as colorful horses covered in snow. :-)

when i first put this photo on facebook, my cousin sarah said she liked it and asked for it, and last week she sent me this photo of their living room, with son asher as the model.

i'm flattered that they liked it enough to blow it up to that size and hang it in such a prominent spot in their home. i'm so glad she sent me the photo so i could see it.

how cute is this

this clever person featured on the design*sponge before and after series, took this typical bland entertainment center and re-purposed it into a play kitchen. a very clever idea that, i think, turned out really well.

i especially like the little window with the curtain, and the stainless bowl for the sink, and the mini utensils hanging on the wall. the attention to detail makes me wonder what the inside of the refrigerator looks like?

cody, wyoming

from buffalo and johnson county earlier this week i drove back to casper for the evening on wednesday and watched the country music awards with scott - i didn't last to the end, but he went to bed even earlier than i did. i did some work in the office thursday morning for an hour, and then left for cody, where i am now at the wyoming farm bureau annual meeting.

last night i had the pleasure of going to dinner with friends marvin and janie, who live just outside of town. we went to the irma, the historic hotel of buffalo bill's, which is our habitual landing spot while in cody. it's where most of the locals go to hang out, and it's a very comfortable place.

this morning we're in the midst of putting the paper out, with which i'm helping remotely, and i'm covering the various topics here until 3 this afternoon, after which i'll leave and hopefully make it back to casper by 6:30.

being out of office for four days in a week is a challenge, but we've got the paper almost done and it will soon be history. cattlemen's editions are sure a big project to add to our regular full-time work.

so that's all i've been up to this week - driving, interviewing, writing and editing. tomorrow i have free! scott will head up to the ranch in the morning, and i'll probably go up there tomorrow evening so i can be around to help two of the association members with their stuff on sunday. one will gather and trail his cows into the meadow, and the other, whose stuff we gathered last weekend, will ship his calves and take his cows to winter pasture.

oh, we got our first measurable snow this week. it's about time! not much accumulated, but we've turned the corner from autumn. i picked a great week to criss-cross the state on the highways, but it's actually turned out ok, as the temperatures are still warm enough that it doesn't stick to the roads.

scott and i have talked about our christmas tree, which is exciting. i'm looking forward to have a real one in the house. not that i haven't already said that 348675 times on my blog. :-) we talked about heading up to the association's mountain pasture the day after thanksgiving to see what we can find. although it wouldn't be perfectly groomed, i'd rather have that than one from a grocery store parking lot. unlike iowa, there aren't christmas tree farms in wyoming, at least in most parts of the state, and that's how my family always gets ours in iowa. my plan is still to decorate the house that weekend, which will be here before we know it.

next weekend is scott's 35th birthday party, and i'm planning pineapple chili, regular chili and white birthday cake with white frosting - his request. our guests will fill in the rest with their food contributions. i'll also figure out how to set up a table for cards, which he wanted. not sure yet if we'll use the main dining table, or if i'll move and adapt the craft/sewing table that i know have in the spare room.

that's all the random ramblings for now.... not sure if i'll get any house projects accomplished tomorrow, or just cleaning.

Wednesday, November 10

johnson county, wyoming

abandoned homestead in johnson county, wyoming
recently returned from my first round of interviews to johnson county for winter cattlemens. and today it finally started looking like winter up there! on my return trip i took the side highway instead of the interstate, and was rewarded with several opportunities for photos. up until that point, i had nothin.

curious cows covered in snow.

more snowy cows. they were very interested as to why i was walking around in the snow, in the ditch.

 i like how the tree is silhouetted in the background. johnson county used to be big sheep country.

i pulled over to take a photo of another tree to my right, but then looked to the left and these two were so much more photogenic.

Tuesday, November 9

a sad day

unfortunately, today is the day that i had to have my girl cat lexus put down.

because of her behavioral problems, she would not have made a house cat for anyone else, and having been a house cat for years, she wouldn't have lasted long on the farm or ranch.

her misbehavior was getting out of hand, and now that i share the house with scott, i didn't think it was fair to ask him to put up with it. plus, we have two dogs and a cat still left, which is plenty of craziness.

so, the tough decision was finally made. it was a good three years that i had her, and she was a very quiet and sweet cat.

in other news, i'm just in buffalo tonight, having finished up five winter cattlemen's interviews today, and two more scheduled for tomorrow morning. that's half of my share for the edition, and i'm very excited and relieved that i'm off to such a good start.

Monday, November 8

sad news

according to the national weather service in riverton:

'first measurable snowfall expected across much of central wyoming tuesday.... the mild and dry weather that has been experienced across much of central wyoming during the last couple of weeks will come to an end by tuesday.'

we're supposed to get a strong pacific winter storm that's currently over the great basin. although we won't have much snow accumulate with how warm the ground still is, it will be cold and wet. the mountains are supposed to get more, with up to a foot expected in the winds, the owl creeks, the big horns and casper mountain. although we all knew it was coming... i hate to see autumn leave. it was so pretty.

on a good note, scott, with a little help from me over lunch, got the yard raked today. talk about mountains of leaves! i couldn't' believe how much we had on our little patches of lawn. i really wanted to get that done before it all got wet and plastered to the sidewalk and stuck in the grass.

well, it's 5 p.m., and it's dark out, and scott's got a fire going at home. time to leave the office!

favorite photo

i found this photo while looking at friend joel weeks's photography website in search of an elk photo to run with an elk hunting season article in next week's paper. check out his website, he has quite a few good wildlife photos, as well as landscapes. scott and i already have two of his sunset photos hanging in our house, and i wouldn't mind also having this one.

the last weekend of autumn

Lucy works a lame bull from the 10,000-acre highway pasture into the lower meadow pasture. It was good for her to work him, as he wasn't wild and she gained some confidence in actually heeling cattle instead of just threatening them. She's had problems with some cows calling her bluff.

scott and i left town friday afternoon and headed to the ranch, where we stayed for the next few days. on our way out we picked up my mares, and saturday morning we left the ranch yard to gather one of the association member's cattle and move them down onto a meadow pasture, in preparation for weaning and shipping the calves.

i took my older mare, april, to ride that morning, and one of our tasks was also to pick up a cow/calf pair from the neighboring pasture that scott and i had missed the weekend before. it was good for lucy to work just that single pair, as she practiced where she needed to be in relation to the cow's flight zone, or how close she needed to get to the cow to get her to move.

we put that cow two pastures over where she belonged, and then helped finish gathering the big bunch of cows. by the end of trotting around over the big country out there, both april and puppy foxy were pretty beat. april is starting to show her age.

we stopped for lunch, then headed back out for a shorter job of gathering the rogue bunch of cows from several pastures, grouping them back together, and stuffing them in the same pasture the others just left. last i had heard, they were still there and hadn't run over any fences or gates. i used my other mare, jazz, for that.

sunday morning we headed back out to the meadow pasture where scott and bob's cows were. we brought them into the corral to sort the steer pairs off - the cows with male calves on them. the steers will head to the sale barn tomorrow. the heifer pairs will stick around for a little while, until the heifers get their trip to the feedlot in the big horn basin for the winter. they'll get fed a good diet up there, and come back ready to breed in the spring.

i used jazz to sort in the corral, and was very pleased with how she did. plus, she benefits from that sort of fine tuning every once in a while. she's very smart, but gets a little rough and undisciplined if she's not consistently worked.

so that was the weekend. the weather was beautiful both days - warm, sunny, and calm. i hear that's about to changes, as the forecasts are predicting snow over the next couple days. it was fun while it lasted!

Friday, November 5

johnson county

our next special edition is winter cattlemen's, and we're featuring johnson county for the 2011 edition. johnson county is just north of natrona county, where casper is, and the two main towns are buffalo and kaycee. heather has already made her first trip of interviews up there.

this is a photo that heather recently posted on her blog, double h photo. it would have made an excellent fall cattlemen's photo! i love the orange/gold color. that's the problem with the publishing business.... everything has to be done way ahead of time. i guess if we really wanted to get on the ball, we'd do these editions a year in advance, like some magazines do. but, then we'd lose the current feeling of the articles. so i spose we'll just go ahead with summer-looking fall cattlemen's and fall-looking winter cattlemen's.

it doesn't help that our snow is extremely late coming this year, but heather did also get this photo, with a dusting of snow on the peaks of the big horns. hopefully we'll get a little bit of weather coming through for photos before our deadline, which is dec. 10.

since we had such a hard time getting people scheduled for interviews in fall cattlemen's in fremont county, we're trying to do a lot better with getting going on winter cattlemen's. this afternoon i've spent calling my list of people, and out of the 14 i did get a hold of four, and have them scheduled for next tuesday. hopefully i hear back from more over the weekend, in which case my trip will extend into wednesday. i will be ecstatic if i'm able to get eight interviews done. with more meetings coming up and the thanksgiving holiday with a shortened deadline that week, it would be great to know the bulk of interviews are done and in my files.

as far as i know, coworker jody has not yet started selling adds for winter cattle. it's great when we well a lot of advertising and generate a lot of income with these editions, but i'm also half hoping she doesn't sell as much so i don't have to worry as much about filling the extra pages with editorial! it's something that we can never plan for sure until the last few days when the whole thing falls together and designer tracy puts it together.

i dread the phone calls from tracy, telling me about the holes we have yet to fill. so, we just try to put more than enough articles on our list, and do about a half dozen more articles than i think we'll use, and that usually comes out about right.

Thursday, November 4

basement inspiration

"My husband went out of town for about 36 hrs...so I thought I could put up board and batten, paint and get the Master bedroom I've dreamed of...all within the 36 hr time limit. Why is it when husbands leave to go out of town, every creative juice starts flowing? I think I can re-do the entire house while he's gone. I also think I'm on vacation and I don't have to cook and we can eat out for every meal. He's home now...so I will cook tonight."

excerpt from Pink and Polka Dot. visit her blog to find out which project she's tackled. it's occurred to me that i could do something similar to add more drama to the main bedroom downstairs... right now it's pretty 'blah.' too bad scott doesn't have any more hunting trips planned this fall. :-)

red and powder blue

yesterday centsational girl posted reader suggestions on how to paint perfect stripes on walls. they were very helpful, and this photo - the colors especially - have me thinking i want to paint some stripes somewhere in my house. they're not a wall, but i would love to eventually get my basement steps to the point where i can paint them, banishing the tile.