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Winter Ranching Chronicles

As many of you know running a ranch in the winter can be challenging at the best of times, keeping water thawed, animals fed, and equipment up and running, and the challenge of that only multiples when it's 40 below with this recent "deep freeze" that's run through Canada and the US... I've been on the fence about talking about this because no one likes a complainer but I figured there would be many that relate and maybe get a chuckle or two at my expense.


Part I: Now I've always been independent as hell with everything if I think I can do it on my own without asking for help and squashing my pride I will try... So that's what I did when the water froze up to the house, now at this point, I was just grateful that the animals were able to be taken care of and the tractor was in running condition and I thought well... if the pioneer woman is what I have to be, then so be it, of course, it beats asking for help. So on the 3rd day after multiple frustrating phone calls to my family in Arizona and attempts crawling under the house, and trudging back and forth across the yard to where the well is I settled into packing buckets to flush toilets and considering how much water I'd have to pack and boil to at least wash my hair. So here we are day 4, still no water, the dishes are piling up and I almost can't stand myself anymore so after a few more meetings of the minds on the phone we decided to give the handy dandy Herman Nelson a try and after 5 hours of blowing heat and no luck I gave up for the day, it was getting dark and I had to get the equipment back to the shop so that I could start the tractor to feed all the critters depending on me the following day, not knowing whether to scream, cry, or laugh and feeling pretty helpless I headed off to put everything back where I got it. Now, I don't know if it was pure luck or the man upstairs decided that I was starting to smell bad enough he'd help me out a little but when I walked into the house after putting equipment away I could hear WATER from every corner of the house because naturally, I had every tap on hoping just one would break loose. I was so happy to see water I barely knew what to do first, but first I headed back out to go find some insulation so this wouldn't happen again... and then I ran around like a crazy person, doing laundry, washing dishes, and having the longest SHOWER ever. Needless to say, never take running water for granted, and always have a shower even if you don't think you need one, you might regret it if you don't. ;)


Part II:

We'll call this one "the week before Christmas"... temperatures have dropped once again to the sub-30s and 40s and of course when the weather gets cold "shit" gets tricky. Now from prior experience, I was taking preventative measures to keep my water flowing, leaving a tap dripping overnight and turning up the heat in the well shed, but at this point, it was cold enough to freeze off even with those preventative measures, but it was luckily an easy fix that takes 5 minutes with a heat gun. I wish I could say the same about the hot water, as it has appeared to become non-existent... and here we go again with ALWAYS HAVE THE SHOWER. Although I was relatively unbothered by the no hot water situation as I felt like I was living a life of luxury still having running water at all compared to the situation last time.

Now when it is this cold it is not just the water for your simple luxuries that you must worry about, it is also whether the equipment will start to feed animals and in this case, it was the tractor that I was concerned about. Now me and this particular "little blue tractor" get along pretty well on a regular basis but this was a day that he really just wasn't feeling like cooperating with me, so after an hour of heat and charging the battery I was stumped... and you guess it I had to ask for help, now thankfully of all days for things to go wrong there was help readily available in the yard and with a few quick turns of a wrench to bleed the air out of the fuel lines (we'll get to the reason in Part III) I was up and away, a few hours behind schedule but critters were being fed nonetheless.

A few days go and the weather is supposed to warm up a bit so I figure why not make the trip to town to run a few errands, mind you town is a minimum of 2 hours away on a good day. So since I wouldn't be home to keep the wood fireplace roaring all day I figured I might as well light the propane one, but it won't light... hmmppffft no propane.... now it had warmed up some and the tank was full so I thought surely enough it cannot be gelled off now, I expected this days ago, but I was wrong. So bundle up like the Eskimo I am and go tarp in and heat up the tank, and after an hour or so we were back in business. I load up and get ready to head out to town but not without having to work on the driver's door of my truck as it was not latching properly, so with a little Teflon and electrical tape I got it rigged up good as new, but now my truck is low on oil, so after adding an unhealthy amount of oil to it I was off. Luckily the town trip proved to be fairly uneventful and I made it back home without a hitch, from here things were on the up and up because my hot water decided to unthaw itself with a warm-up to -25c instead of the -45c we'd been having days prior.

Fast forward to Christmas day, I have decided that I will feed cows this day to keep myself occupied on an otherwise lonely Christmas, this all went great until the jack-stand on the hay trailer decided to break, now this is a challenge to balance it just right and make it stand loaded with 7 bales on less than level terrain, but naturally, I was not about to ask for help and continue to use the trailer as is when I figured out that that was much easier said than done after trying it the next feed day. So with the good graces of my grandfather's welder choosing to start after the recent snap of cold weather and a guy that loves to both weld and plow snow to access the welder we got it fixed and welded solid so that feeding cows is a lot less treacherous.


Part III:

This part of the neverending story is the most recent and definitely makes for another chaotic day to end the year. The weather has warmed up in was a beautiful -15c which is a near-perfect winter day in the north country and I was headed out to feed cows, excited to use my newly fixed hay trailer and enjoy the weather. I hooked on as it was still parked in the house yard and headed for the hayshed, the cows were being quite reasonable and chose not to try and get in the hay yard while I loaded the trailer, but instead, just watch and wait patiently for their food delivery to arrive, much like we would sit by the window waiting for a pizza delivery driver. ;) I was putting along listening to my favorite songs happy as a little cowpoke can be and had 5 bales on the trailer about to load my 6th and 7th and my trusty "little blue tractor" decided it had enough for the day... quitting me right there in the middle of the hay yard and of course directly in the way... son of a bitch Clyde, here we go again. So naturally, I send off a snap to the family group chat "what the ****" well you get the point... and the best advice I got was "it sounds like it's not getting fuel" (which is way above my pay/skill level), "call the neighbor kid", better known as the neighborhood mechanic for the Pink Mountain area, sure enough, he was close by and ironically working on the neighbors' tractor so it didn't take him long to come to my rescue. In the meantime, I figured I would walk back to the yard on the very nicely plowed trails that I definitely said were unnecessary the day before and work on getting the other tractor running, and it is not much of a fan of the cold so that could be tricky, with so two small generators, a Herman Nelson and a battery charger and about an hours wait I was up and away or if you ask my family "back in business baby, the big bitch started". Now, this is where it got interesting because I never claimed to be a very skilled operator of a bi-directional, especially with a bucket and grapple, and a bunch of now impatient cows. I only had about an hour till dark and this was bound to take me all of that, so off I went but the next challenge was getting into the hay shed from the other side because "little blue" was broke down conveniently in the way of the rest of the hay stacks. So after about 20 minutes of fighting with moving the free-standing panel that was blocking my path I ended up doing most of the moving by hand... I think I was frustrated enough I could lift anything at that point. Then to get a hold of some bales, now like I said definitely not a certified bi-directional operator so that caused a bit more frustration, and by this point, my mechanic was back from his tool run and I went to check in for an update. He probably thought I was crazy, red as a tomato and not understanding a word he says mechanically, but it was not good news we needed a part and little blue would be right where he sat for the next day or two. I told him I would order the part and let him know when I had it but for now, I was in a race with the sun to get my feeding done, so after a couple of hours and a few cuss words later I got everything done for the night, and as much as I did not enjoy the tractor all I could think of was the TikTok "pet that son of a bitch and talk nice to him." because without it starting I would have had to ask for a lot more help than I wanted to. Thanks to some great people for grabbing the part and bringing it up the highway for me I did not have to venture to the bright lights of Fort St. John and instead spent the next day perfecting my tractor running skills (still far from perfect but one can dream). New Year's Eve was the day of repair for little blue, after a new fuel pump, some heat, and boosting we were up and running again, but we'll try it out next year. ;) I am happy to report after a few days I finally got to test out my reinforced trailer jack (it works great). The weather is beautiful and things are looking up for 2023.

So if you wonder what I've been up to that about sums it up, I hope you all enjoyed the read and a chuckle or two and if you did stay tuned for more of my daily adventures, I'm sure there will be many stories yet to come.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and wish you all the best in 2023!

- Fallyn

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