My 11-year-old daughter Abby and I heard the spring sounds of birds flying overhead as we trudged through the snow and mud on March 18. We grinned at one another. Neither of us had heard birds for months. In fact, we had not seen bare ground since before Christmas. But warmer temperatures during daylight hours melted some of the snowRead More
It’s budgeting time at A Land of Grass. I’ve been calculating costs, predicting what I think the market will do this year, and setting my prices for beef, lamb, and wool products. It’s been cold and windy, so I have only worked on the most necessary of the outside work. I feed the cattle and sheep every day and fixRead More
I started ranching by working for a cattle rancher on the Utah-Nevada border. The high mountain desert taught me a lot, but not as much as the people who lived there. I worked for the ranch owner when he ran about 300 cows on an area that was roughly 30 miles by 10 miles, along with some rented pasture aboutRead More
If you think the Gods don’t listen to you, just offer up a challenge and wait to see what happens.
The other day, my friend Bob helped me load some steers to take to Lewistown. Snow had drifted through the area around the loading chute, but we cleaned it out with the skid steer. I only got the truck and trailerRead More
Most ranches have a couple of houses, and the Graham Ranch is no exception. When our family moved to the ranch, we used Grandma’s House for storage. That seemed like a poor use for the rustic home built in 1906 and full of heritage and personality so, for 10 years, I worked off and on to fix it up. Finally,Read More
Uncertainty has been added to my daily routine.
It comes with good news, though.
Apparently, the ‘A Land of Grass’ genetics program is working.
For the past 10 years, my husband Steve and I worked hard to improve the maternal characteristics of our cow herd. I will continue to work on improvements, but I think we might have enough early fertility. WhenRead More
My good friend suggested I should learn to meditate.
Another says yoga is the way to go.
A third says an afternoon nap is healthy.
They might be right—I’ve heard experts confirm the benefits of meditation, yoga, and naps. But who would feed the lambs and keep the cattle inside the electric fence while I tuned out? Who would check in with myRead More
That fingernail-sized plastic nozzle on the can of starting fluid… it is the key to open the door of the entire ranch operation during cold weather. Cold weather hit hard and fast last week.
Snow covered the grass, the wind was blowing the snow into drifts, and the temperature bounced around 10 degrees.
The calves waited in the corral to be fed.Read More
Everyone at the Graham Ranch wishes we could have a do-over for last Sunday.
Steve and I had weaned our calves on Tuesday, but as the Sunday sun rose, I spotted calves mixed with cows in the pasture. They had busted down the corral fence, and about two-thirds of them had escaped.
I milked the cow and then headed back to theRead More
The shootings have got to stop.
The lives we have lost and the pain the shooters have caused, we have to stop it.
Of course, the guns didn’t pull the triggers.
Of course, the people who lost their mothers, daughters, sons, and fathers won’t listen to that argument. They can’t hear it through their agony.
But you and I can hear it.
You and IRead More
The jewels of the Graham Ranch hide in the grass that waves in the prairie wind. They lay silent while cattle, sheep, and horses graze, waiting for someone to notice and wonder.
The teepee rings tell of another time, another people, in the same place. The smaller rings are older, noting families that packed their belongings on travois pulled by dogs.Read More
My husband Steve, my daughter Abby, and I went to the Fourth of July rodeo in Choteau, Montana. As we picked our way through the crowd, a young mother came up to Steve. “I think you taught me to shoot a muzzleloader at natural resources camp.”
Steve looked at her and then at me. “I haven’t taught there for about 10Read More
My world shrank this summer.
At first, I quit worrying about Brexit. Then I missed the news of a neighbor’s obituary. My husband Steve and I focused on harvesting our hay, worming the sheep, moving cattle to pasture, and fixing the fence… all before Steve faced his fourth open heart surgery.
The surgeon admitted this one was dangerous. He took multiple photosRead More
By Lisa Schmidt
Lambing season is almost done at the Graham Ranch. That means naïve lambs find danger at every turn.
We have some death camas blooming now, beckoning for a nibble, which will paralyze a 30-pound lamb in about 12 hours. A bite will kill a 300-pound ram. Lambs learn what to eat from their mothers so only a few venture
By Lisa Schmidt
My milk cow, Maija, calved the other day. I was delighted. It had been a long, dry spell while our family waited for her fresh, delicious milk and thick cream for my coffee.
I showed her heifer calf where to find breakfast, milked out the life-saving colostrum to freeze, and went about my business. My business soon became doctoring
Pondering the many ways to shear
By Lisa Schmidt
Some people call this season springtime. I call it Pilates Time.
I find core muscles and flexibility I forgot I had as I bend low to reach a ewe\’s lower hind leg. I hold her with my knees so she stays comfortable while the electric clippers purr under her long wool, hiddenRead More
Hunter\’s Education volunteer Ed Erickson watches as a student checks the action of a shotgun to be sure it is empty. Many accidents that involve firearms occur when a person is taking a rifle or shotgun from a truck so the students in Conrad, Montana\’s Hunter\’s Education class practiced safe handling until they did it right.
Pondering Hunters Education
By Lisa Schmidt
Saving babies… and not
Experts tell us that wind chill will not reduce a body’s temperature below the actual air temperature, but it will increase the rate that the body plummets to that temperature. So when a newborn calf is born wet in 8 degrees on ice in a 15 mile-an-hour wind, the time it takes for that calf to reachRead More
Rambunctious… don\’t you wonder what he\’s thinking about?
And here are the unplanned-for offspring of Rambunctious!
Our latest ram, Rambunctious, is a product of circumstance and a couple of minor management missteps. Well, “minor” might be the wrong adjective in that last sentence.
It turns out that those management missteps had a MAJOR impact on my current daily life at the Graham Ranch.
Unless you live it, you don\’t know that agriculture actually has its own culture.Unwritten rules abound. A classic example comes when an innocent person asks, “How many cows do you have?” and is confused by the uncomfortable, dead silence that follows.
A polite rancher might finally answer, “Too many to feed and not enough to sell.” A less courteous answerRead More