December and January…

Ahhhhhh the sweetness of the holidays.  They’re full of family, driving, delicious food, and short on sleeping, cleaning, rest, and boredom.  Then January rolls in and the daily grind picks back up even more intensely than before.  In my household this is due to the resuming of graduate work, tax preparation, budgeting, and meetings with bankers, landlords, and accountants.

Here’s a look inside the window of our life.

Bo is the best dog.  The best dog ever.  Both Henley and Becca pull on him, squeal high-pitched squeals which certainly can’t feel good to his ears, and generally make themselves a nuisance to him.  But he bears it all with unfailing good humor and love.  Becca followed Bo all around the room, tugging on him anywhere she could reach.  He eventually just laid down and placed his head onto her belly.  I think he was hoping to keep her in one place and was resigned to his fate of being used as pull-squish-chew-kick-slap-squeal-ride-toy.

Here he is again, playing the pillow for Miss Henley.  Working on Daddy’s schedule must be hard for a cow-dog as well as a cowgirl.

Here is Henley modeling some of her birthday and Christmas presents.  Uncle Tanner got the hat and stick horse for her and Aunt Lexcie got her the cow jammies.  She loves this horse.  And she loves her rocking horses.  And she loves her stuffed horses.  And she loves her real horses.  Horses of all kinds!

And little sister has to have a go with the stick horse.  Becca thinks her ears and mane are the best thing to chew on and run through her fingers.

Somehow I missed sharing this picture months ago, but this is how much of our days were spent during the October and November months.  Becca’s head was developing a flat spot from always sleeping in the same position.  The cranial specialist told us that her flattening would repair itself with more time spent off the back of her head.  So I became the tummy-time drill sergeant.  Henley was my happy helper.  I am amazed each day at how much Henley has fallen in love with her baby sister.  Not once in the busyness and stress of adding another member to our family has she disliked or complained about having her sister.  She may fight against me, or whine to Ty, but she doesn’t place any blame on her baby.  I’m so very grateful for her bond and attachment to Becca.  And for Becca’s attachment to her.

Along with her sister-ing skills, Henley has discovered a new talent…

Don’t ask me how she does it, I’ve tried and can’t do it.  She’s got a special talent!

I’ve made time to make homemade bread several times this last month, and that means making time to grind cups and cups of whole wheat flour.  Henley usually helps me with this job but she was helping feed cows so Becca had to step up.  The ear muffs are for muting the high-pitched whine of our wheat mill.  She didn’t mind them for about fifteen minutes, then she was done, done, done.

Oh these dresses!  My mom bought these as Christmas gifts for my girls and they are adorable!  I can’t tell you the number of people who commented on how cute they were for three Sundays in a row.

This misshapen doll was a project my mom and Henley undertook together.  I do believe I cut out the pattern when I was nine or ten.  My cutting skills obviously needed some improvement.

Here’s Miss Becca in her jammies from Aunt Lexcie.  The jams remind me of the long red underwear worn by the characters in old Western films.  Straight outta Mama’s saloon, drunk on milk!

Oh boy.  When big sister is away, little sister will play!  Henley bought this princess castle off of Craigslist with some of her Christmas money.  She is pretty good about sharing with Becca, but doesn’t usually let her have free reign with the entire castle like this.

We had a fun day of sorting, counting, and more sorting of our calves a couple weeks ago.  Becca and I stood outside the pens counting everything as it ran through the chute.

Henley used her sorting stick to help push the calves through the chute.  She had her first experience of being yelled at by the boss (aka her daddy) and the hired hand (aka her uncle Trayce).  Both times she was left in a puddle of tears because she “knows what she’s doing!” and she “did it like that last time!”  I had to reassure her that Daddy does really want her help while also teaching the lesson that when it comes to working cows, Dad’s instructions are the law and are to be obeyed when he says and how he says.  She pulled herself together and rejoined the work with a little more respect for what Ty instructed her to do.

Here we see the daily phenomenon of “Disneyland Dad” making his way into the house after a long day of work.  I spend all day, every day with my girls and make every effort to create enjoyable, educational, loving, and secure lives for them.  But the second Mr. Rancher walks through that door, it’s as if I don’t exist.  He strolls in, throws the baby around for a few minutes, lets the pre-schooler ride on his leg around the living room, and in less that ten minutes he’s like Santa Claus.  Moms just can’t compete with the roughhousing fun dads so naturally bring to the household.

Literally can’t compete, my 19 pound baby is hard to throw around very much.  I use up all my strength just toting her around the house and dancing “my sillies out” with the three year old.  Thank goodness for Daddies.

We’ve been practicing letters and rudimentary spelling for several months now, and just bought a magnet board to make use of our fun magnetic letters and numbers.  Becca even joined the fun, she made quick work of scraping all the letters from the board and onto the floor.  Babies are just so tidy and neat, aren’t they?

Henley was aghast at first, then she plopped herself down and proceeded with “this is A, this is H, this is Q, this is W…” as she replaced the letters.

*Ahem* there is a serious aversion to pants plaguing our house.  It’s been going on for about a year now.  I’m not sure what to do about it.  For now, I’m content to keep it contained to my house so long as it doesn’t spread to public places.

And look what we have here!  Another mischievous baby rolled and scooted right over to her dog.  Bo knows he’s been caught playing with the baby again.

As always, we’re a very blessed bunch.  We hope the same for all of you!

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Hauling Hay with One Kid

One of the few jobs I could help with, while pregnant and mothering a vivacious two-and-a-half-year-old was hauling hay out of the field and up to the hay shed.  Hay hauling is pretty low impact so long as you keep a sharp eye out for holes or ditches in which you could sink a tire or two of the semi.  The semi-seats are air ride which makes for fairly smooth work for the driver.  The only thing wrong with the semi is that it is equipped with far too many buttons, knobs, and gadgets that a certain little child simply can’t keep her hands off.

Inevitably, though, hay hauling leads to napping in the sleeper of the semi.  It’s a hot and long job and Miss Henley always succumbs to a nap on the pile of sleeping bags in the back.

I just wish our dog Bo hadn’t also taken a nap on those very same sleeping bags.

Summer Happenings

Summer has always been a busy time for the Hawkins family, but this summer has been especially hectic and full.  Obviously an active two-year-old, cows, a dog (who is temporarily crippled, more on that in another post), and a very pregnant wife/mother adds up to a busy household and lots of responsibilities, but that’s not all we’ve had going on.  You see, this year we have had the truly wonderful and incredible opportunity to increase our farming operation big time.  Like quadrupled, maybe quintupled the amount of acreage we farm.  In one year.  That means a quintupled amount of work for Mr. Rancher.  More ground working, more planting, more irrigating, more hauling, more marketing, more invoicing, more bill paying, more bank meeting, more away-from-home-and-family being, and more not-sleeping.  Henley and I have been on our own for most of the summer, and if we did want to see Ty we hauled lunch or dinner to the fields and drove the tractor while he ate.  So while we are all thrilled to have more ground and this chance to really grow our business, it has been a hard summer.

Ty being gone so much has really been tricky with the Little Miss.  We’ve had to get creative about family time and I’ve been solely responsible for caring for her.  Poor kid has been stuck with a largely pregnant mother all summer!  Even so, we have carved out a little time to have fun and make more memories this year than just working around the clock.

Here Henley is in her favorite dress, all ready to go to church.  She felt so fancy in her new shoes, poofy dress, and pigtails.

The Budweiser Clydesdale horses stopped over for a break in my hometown this summer and we got to see them!  They are huge horses and very friendly.  Henley wasn’t too sure about petting this guy at first.  I think something about his monstrous size put her off.

Okay…bragging moment right here.  Here I am 37 weeks pregnant and surfing on the Fourth of July.  If I’m being honest, I only managed to stay up for a few seconds but I did get up!

Mr. Rancher actually made it to the boating party–yay!–and totally rocked surfing.  And don’t even ask about the hat.  He has a weird compulsion that makes him wear it, all the stinkin’ time.

Miss Henley had a blast with her cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.  Her she is chumming with my big sister Ruth.  I love this picture.

We have a very trendy (it’s funny to me that stock tank swimming pools are a trendy thing) swimming pool made from a leaky stock tank that we have patched up and added a filter to that we spend every afternoon in.  It’s been a life saver for me and Henley loves to play in the water.  If I could only keep the dirty cowdogs from jumping in every time they walk by it might stay clean a bit longer.

Muffins!  We’ve made so many batches of muffins and thrown basically all of them in the freezer for when Baby gets here.  Henley is a champ at using this old-fashioned egg beater to mix all the ingredients.  She is my helper–and she has gained enough coordination and focus that she really is helpful around the house.  From making muffins to sorting laundry, she helps me get everything done around here.

Another freezer item: homemade burritos.  Henley’s contribution to this project was eating half the grated cheese while I filled and rolled the burritos.  She’s a cheese monster too.

I sent this picture to Mr. Rancher partially to make him hurry home for dinner and partially to brag on my cooking skills.  Trust me, dinner does not always look or taste this yummy.

Thanks to all the snow and rain this year, the mosquitoes are horrible.  Wretched.  Awful.  They don’t care if you have insect repellent on every inch of your exposed skin.  They will bite through clothes and spray.  Since we have animals and plants and just the basic need to be outside every day, we improvised mosquito-wear from loose button-down shirts–thank you Mr. Rancher–and long pants.  Thankfully, our landlord came and fogged our yard last night and it seems to have cut the numbers down, at least for a little while.

Finally, I bought a paddle board!  I have wanted one for years and found a great deal on Craigslist so I went for it.  I am super proud to report that I can do it, even pregnant, and am actually kind of good at it.  Mr. Rancher prefers rafting.  He doesn’t do so well with balancing…but don’t tell him I said that!  Henley is great about riding with me, though she is still mad about the one time I fell off and left her alone on the board.  Even Bo has ridden on the board with me, though he really gets nervous the further we paddled from the shore.

All in all our summer has been a busy but beautiful one.  We’re all working hard to keep things going at home and on the farm/ranch.  Now if I could just have this baby, that’d be great.  I’m tired of not being able to reach my toes and being a human heater.  Henley is excited to meet her baby sister and has been practicing her baby-care for weeks now.  Ty is so over having a pregnant wife who is cranky a lot of the time (hey, it’s hot, okay? Cut me a break!) and the six pillows it takes me to be any sort of comfortable at night.

Hope you all are having a good summer!

Hauling Hay with Toddler

Every summer we spend countless hours swathing, raking, baling, and hauling the hay we will feed our cows during the winter months.  This process repeats itself three or four times throughout the summer depending on how much water we have and weather conditions.  I love riding in the swather or tractor with Mr. Rancher since I get to sit there and chatter away while he does all the hard work.  Lately though, Mr. Rancher has given me a new job…driving our semi through the field while he darts around with the tractor, stacking and loading the hay bales onto the trailer.  I would like to say that I was surprised the first time Ty suggested I come help him by driving the huge truck, but after three years of marriage to a rancher I know it’s not a question of “if” but rather “when” I will have to operate any piece of machinery we own.

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I even got the semi into gear and moving all on my own!  Shifting into reverse was more difficult and Ty had to get out of the tractor and shift through the window for me.  How was I supposed to know I had the clutch pushed in too far?  Any other manual transmission I’ve driven has to have the clutch absolutely floored to shift without damaging the clutch and I just assumed flooring the clutch pedal in the semi would work as well.  So there.

Shifting aside, driving the semi really was a cinch, except for my passenger.  Miss Henley did not want to sit in her own seat and climbed all over me and the controls for the duration of hay hauling.  For our last load, I thankfully found a partially eaten package of Ritz crackers that kept her seated and occupied until we were all loaded and driving back to the stack yard.  Crackers save the day!

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I just love random, weird pictures like this.  It really captures a lot of the hauling experience.IMG_0746

This load of hay is from a different hay-hauling-day in a different field.  We were so close to being finished and Mr. Rancher didn’t want to make another trip out to the field so he stacked the bales four-high rather than three-high.  He had the good sense to drive the heavily loaded semi up to the hay barn himself and I drove the tractor.

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We made it back to the barn and Henley amused herself with her favorite playmate Bo while Mr. Rancher unloaded and stacked the bales under the barn’s protective, red roof.  I, of course, took pictures and kept an eye out for snakes.  You never know when or where one of those scaly nasties might slither by.

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Bo is the nicest dog.  I’m so grateful he is patient with the Little Miss’s antics and overwhelming attention.

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I think she would’ve sat there all night if we (and Bo) had let her!

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That, in a nutshell, is what it’s like to haul hay with a toddler.  Oh, and it’s hot.  Very very hot.  And dusty…And I think the Little Miss is finally awake so I’ll stop there.

Have a great weekend, folks!

A Girl’s Best Friend

Mr. Bo loves Miss Henley.  He likes to lick her toes, fingers, and cheeks and Henley loves it!IMG_2609

They also enjoy sharing the big denim blanket in the evenings.

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Henley loves to be outside on her big blanket, watching me or Ty work around the yard.  Bo is happy to babysit and enjoy the comforts of the blanket too!
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Our little miss is already an animal-lover…I’m a little nervous to see the various “pets” she brings home in the future.

IMG_2618We’ve been loving the nice spring weather around our house!  Our garden is planted, most of our weeds have been pulled, and our yard is ready for some new grass to be planted.  Henley and I spend most of our mornings in the yard or on a jog/walk.  It’s hard to pass up the sunshine and warm weather we’ve had, plus, Henley is super content when we’re outside.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

Cow-dogs

Hey there!  Hope you all had a fantastic weekend; I especially hope none of you had the same miserable head cold as I did.  Not to worry, after a lot of sleep and countless bottles of water/gatorade, I’m feeling much better.  Still sniffly though.

Today I wanted to share with you a snippet about the dogs Mr. Rancher uses to help move cows.  We, of course, have our dog Bo who is the youngest of the cow-dogs.  Bo isn’t quite trained, but he is very aggressive and persistent.  If only he would work so hard and listen to what we’re telling him to do.  We’ll call him a work in progress.  The other dogs all live at my in-laws’ house and don’t technically belong to Mr. Rancher.  I think he takes credit for all of them though.  Patch is the oldest border collie and he is the best babysitter.  He will fetch anything–a ball, a sock, a stick–for hours on end and doesn’t mind playing with kids.  He’s pretty good about working cows too.  Rex and Fly are the next oldest.  These two are brothers from the same litter.  Ty got Fly as an early Christmas present a few years ago and two weeks later Lexcie got Rex as an actual Christmas present.  Fly is the tiniest of all the dogs and probably the most anti-social.  He really likes Ty and Ty’s immediate family, not really anybody else.  And he hates guns.  Fly is a good worker when he wants to be but tends to be on the lazier side of things.  Rex is, well, the poster child of our border collies.  He’s built and colored the closest to the breed standard–even though border collies can be a very wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes–and is the hardest worker.  He lives to please and loves to work cows.  Stanley is the second youngest of the cow-dogs and is by far and away the largest one.  He is a good worker as well and is the best at playing with any new puppies.

All of the dogs, regardless of their desire to actually work cows, like to go with Ty.  A few months ago Mr. Rancher and I were loading our bulls for a visit to the vet’s office and all of the dogs were there to help us.  Five dogs to load five bulls.  Maybe a little over-board but they all like to help so darn much!

I’m sure Mr. Rancher and I will always have a border collies.  We’re a little biased and picky when it comes to our cow-dogs. and border collies are what we like the best.

This is Rex, the poster child.IMG_2393

Isn’t he gorgeous?!IMG_2395

Such a pretty dog and such a hard worker and such a sneaky thing too.  Rex prefers to ride in the front of the pick-up rather than on the back or in the trailer.  As a result, he’s learned to jump through any open window into the cab and lie very quietly in the back-seat so no one will notice.  A few days ago he did just that and hitched a ride home to my house with Mr. Rancher.  After checking gopher traps we drove Rex back out to my in-laws’ house.  I have no idea how many miles have been driven looking for lost cow-dogs, taking cow-dogs back home, or picking up cow-dogs that fell off the pick-up.  I’m sure it’s a lot though.  These guys are critical components to taking care of the cows and I don’t think we could live without ’em.  IMG_2396

Tagging Calves

Now that our cows are finally having their babies, Mr. Rancher has a bit more work to do.  He has to check the cows throughout the day, and sometimes the night, to make sure that all is going well as they deliver their babies.  Once the babies are born, he tags each one with its mother’s number so that if baby and mama ever get separated we can pair them back up easily.  Tagging can be a tricky; Mr. Rancher has to chase the calf, catch it, get it on the ground somehow, and snap the tag in its ear all while avoiding the mother and any other cows that come running at the sound of a bawling calf.  As you can imagine, Mr. Bo is not at all useful in this process.  As a result, he gets banished to the feed wagon.

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And he puts on his very sad face, attempting to guilt you into asking for his help.

Maybe if he was a touch more obedient, he would get to help!  At his current level of training, it’s best he just hang out on the wagon and let Mr. Rancher get the job done.  This really shows how concerned the cows get when we do any sort of fiddling with their babies.

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The cow on the right is not this calf’s mama, but she is just as concerned as the real mother.  See how she lowers her head?  She can hear the calf’s crying and is warning Mr. Rancher to finish his job and leave that little baby alone.

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Once Ty stands up to leave, she calms down and goes about her business, licking her nose like it’s no big deal.

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Man, I love cows.  They are such herd animals and really look out for each other and the little guys.  It reminds me of a group of moms at the park with their kids.  Each mother takes care of her little ones, and doesn’t worry about the other kiddos, that is until someone gets hurt.  If a munchkin gets hurt on the playground it’s amazing how ALL the moms around rush to the rescue.  It’s seems to be part of our biological make-up to help a crying child.

Apparently it’s part of a cows biological make-up as well.  Hope none of you are offended to have something in common with a female bovine.