February always seems to be the longest month of the year. I know this is partly because it is usually pretty cold. It is also because it is a busy month of calving heifers and moving herds on the range.
This year we have actually had a very mild winter. Even though these pictures make it look a little chilly. We actually have had some really nice days.
Heifer calving consumes a lot of our time.
Often a heifer will have trouble having her calf on her own, and will need assistance. Usually that means taking her to a corral and putting her in a head catch, allowing the cowboys to safely help her. But there are times things don't go quite that well. This heifer was problematical and had to be roped and helped out in the open field.
Thanks to skill, and experience, it was a successful venture.
We love seeing these healthy babies running around. Unfortunately we have lost a few to coyotes this year. We are working on decreasing the coyote population.
It's winter and we've been taking cows out to the winter range.
December was pretty dry.
We have water tubs we place on the range and haul water into. We move these tubs frequently to properly utilize our range. The cows are always happy to reach the tubs of water at the end of the trail.
It seems like the cows are pretty happy to leave the frozen fields and head out to the desert.
Some of our best employees have four legs.
Sometimes I make the cowboys pose. Our four legged cowboy posed also.
It's important to get a good count on the number of cows we take out to the range.
We went from pretty chilly, yet nice days in December, to kind of frosty and a little colder days in January.
It's important to dress properly for the weather.
When we move the water tubs to a new location, we have to gather the cows and move them as well. So we spread out across the range and each of us gather cows until we eventually come together in a herd.
My horse spotted the others. He had been pretty lonely with just the cows and myself for company.
I love the gather. Being alone and enjoying the peace and beauty all around me.
End of the trail This will be a two day move, however. The cows have pretty sore feet and are pretty slow. We set up tubs about halfway.
The cowboys will move them on tomorrow. They claim they don't need my superb help, so I guess I will stay home and enjoy my warm fire. Hope they don't miss me too much.. haha
The days are short as the year winds down. We still have some cattle work to do before winter sets in.
We just finished up preg-checking all of our cows and heifers.
We've been making up the herds to go onto our desert winter range. We'll take 5 herds to the desert for the winter.
It's hard to get the work done before the sun goes down these days.
But it makes for kind of neat pictures.
Summer is starting to wind down. We have finished pre-conditioning the calves and have been continuing to move cows on the mountain.
When we pre-condition, we give the calves vaccinations to keep them healthy. At this point they are then tuned back out with their moms and in a few weeks we will pull them off the moms and wean them.
We have a small herd of cows on the mountain on summer range. We have to move them about. Mostly due to the fact that they don't stay where they are supposed to.
We had some help from my South Dakota relatives.
They sure were good help. I wish they were around more often.
One day we had this happen. Yes, this heifer has her head stuck in the trunk of an apple tree. She was after that one last apple I guess.
They had to cut the poor girl out using a chain saw. It was tricky. They had to be careful not to cut her.
Instead of being gracious for her life being saved, she was on the fight when she was freed.
This horse is named Sky. She posed nicely for us while we ate lunch up on the mountain.
It's been a beautiful summer. The mountain and meadows are still green.
This calf was sick. The cowboys made sure to doctor it.
It's been a pretty good summer. Fall gets pretty busy with weaning, bringing cows off of the mountain and preg-checking. Stay tuned for more to come.
We had a great spring that ran clear through June. Cool temps and rainy days.
The green vegetation is a sight for sore eyes.
We've been doing some riding. We move cows from pasture to pasture and we have a small herd on the mountain that we need to tend to occasionally.
Yes, it looks a little dusty, but this is nothing for us.
The mountain is full of wildflowers and bright colored brush.
Even in June there was still snow and high flowing creeks.
May and June were cloudy and cool.
I had my sidekick along on some of the rides.
July is proving to be hot. It's time for early morning starts.
This winter seems never ending. It's now April and the high temperature for today is 32 degrees, with a cold, cold North wind. Tonight is supposed to have a low of 12 degrees.
The moisture has been amazing and although we are incredibly tired of the weather, we are excited to see the plants that will grow when it finally warms up.
It's been cold riding, and trying to get the cows onto their spring ranges. We are behind in doing this, due to the snow and/or mud. Getting the water trucks out to the range has been very difficult. We have to haul water to most of our cow herds, as we don't have live water in most places.
We get a lot of wind, and when you combine that with the snow and frigid temperatures, it can be pretty miserable. We stay warm though. We all know how to properly dress for the occasion.
Here I am in my fancy cowgirl attire.
There have been days where the snow has melted causing the water to run on the desert. This is actually water running out on the range. It was muddy.
Don't let the lack of snow in the pictures fool you, it still was quite cold out.
The wind never seems to stop blowing.
We are really hoping this is our last week of super cold weather and things will start to look different soon.
These little ones need a chance to warm up.
No matter the weather, we'll be out there doing what is needed and what we all love.
Heifer calving has begun, right along with the cold wintery weather. So it's time to do whatever it takes to keep these babies alive.
The big equipment was brought out to clear paths, break up snow, create wind breaks and bring in warm bedding.
Last night the wind blew and temperatures dropped to almost zero. Tonight it is predicted to drop well below zero. So it's all hands on deck to prepare as much as possible.
It's a pretty rough start on these babies when they are dropped in the snow and cold. We do all we can to help them out.
There is the truck transport. Of course a load of dogs to assist.
If the calves get too cold, they are transported to this calf heater, or a tub with a heat lamp and when that fills up, they are brought to my house and lined up in front of the wood stove. I haven't had them in the house yet this year, but I'm sure it will happen.
The snow we had drifted, not like the snow that is seen in other parts of the country, but still plenty to freeze a calf.
We not only are taking care of the heifers, but we have other cattle to tend to as well. This herd should be out on the desert range by now, but there is too much snow. They are still in the fields and are being supplemented with protein block.
I'm sure there will be plenty more calving pictures in the weeks ahead. Wish us luck.
We have been in a drought for longer than I can accurately say. Lately we have gotten some moisture, and as much of a pain as it is, and the muddy mess it's created, none of us are complaining.
Well that's not entirely true, This morning we had to gather the cows out of the field and it was like skating on ice. For some reason, my horse seemed to have more trouble walking on it than all the others. So I believe there may have been a little complaining on my part.
It's been a little cold. But also so beautiful.
Whenever we get the chance to chase cows on the weekends we do. This gives our youngest cowboys and cowgirls the chance to come along. And let me tell you, they are tough. No complaining from them.
We took the cows from the fields at the ranch, up and over the hills and into the next valley, where they will spend the rest of the winter.
I'm not riding much these days, as my priorities have changed now that I'm a grandma of two little girls. But it won't be long before we have them out on the range with us.
It was great to be able to go along this day.
Below are a couple more "cold morning picture from the feedlot"
We went from warm fall weather to winter like weather. We even got a little snow!
I may not be excited about the cold weather, but the snow is a sight for sore eyes.
First, it was just cold wind. Not a pleasant day to move the heifers.
The cold day didn't stop this young cowboy from saddling up and helping his dad.
Then the weather got colder, and we got a little snow. The cowboys still work, no matter the weather. Today they were sorting replacement heifers in the feedlot.
I should also mention that the day before this was windy, snowy and cold and they were preg-checking cows. They are tough. I was lucky enough to stay home.
Just for the record, I drove down to the feedlot for these pictures. I wasn't actually working in the cold. I know, kind of cheating. Don't kid yourself though, I have been there, done that. It's just my time for a slower pace. (whenever possible)
They look through all the heifers and choose the best ones. They look at the overall conformation, size and breed of the calves.
The boss was sorting them. He seems to be concentrating pretty hard.
Of course Clay has some say in the choosing of the replacements as well.. He has a good eye.
A good dog is always helpful.
A good horse is also essential.
The calves are doing great and growing fast.
I'm going to keep hoping for more snow.
I started this blog back in September of 2014, but I wasn't sure where I was going with it.
I used to post a lot more frequently than I do now, mostly because I don't work with the crew as much. I am fortunate enough to have taken a less active role in the hard work, thanks to our wonderful crew and our sons.
Recently, I was contacted by a stranger who had seen some of my photograph cards at a local shop. He grabbed my business card, and I agreed to meet with him. He enjoyed the pictures from my blog, and encouraged me to keep posting. "The blog is a diary," he said. "It shows change, as well as the endless cycle of [our] work." He wrote an article about me, which humbled me and made me realize just how special the life we lead is. Here is what he wrote:
High Desert Ranch Wife
Story by Andy Romanoff — Pictures by Tana Baker
Once you leave Hinckley Utah you’re pretty much on your own till you come to the Borderline Casino ninety miles later. I’d been driving for hours on deserted two-lane without passing any signs of life along the way. It’s the kind of road where if you stop to pee you can just let loose anywhere cause no one’s going to see you anyway. Darcy and I were on our way to Great Basin National Park and a motel nearby, but first, we were making a stop in Baker to pick up some supplies.
Baker Nevada is a bend in the road on hwy 487. It’s what’s called a census-designated place, only about 70 people living in a small cluster of homes and a couple of stores. Among them is the Bristlecone General Store, where we stop for food and conversation. And poking around the place I glance at a rack of business cards and spot one that says; High Desert Ranch Wife Photography.
Flipping it over I read; Photos of a real working ranch -- Tana Baker, the real working ranch wife, and there’s a website. Well you know I have to check that out.
Now let’s take a minute here to make it clear how far we are from everything as I’m looking at this card. The nearest town is probably Ely, about 60 miles away. Salt Lake is a modest 229 miles; Carson City is 320 miles if you head in the other direction. So we are not just nowhere, we are in the center of nowhere. And somewhere out here a person named Tana Baker is taking pictures of her life on a cattle ranch and putting them up on a website to show the world. And Tana is not just spending a week or two shooting pictures on the ranch, she’s been telling this story for years. She is living her life in the middle of her story.
For the most part, Tana is not offering us Life magazine photography — the herd and the cowboys beautifully photographed from the edge of the action. Instead, her pictures have been made while riding with the herd; she shows us what it’s like to be in the middle of the work and she shows us what happens in the in-between moments when most people would put their cameras away. That’s different.
What else is different is all the things she shows you about cattle ranching, the parts that most stories leave out. There is dust and heat of course — or snow if you wait a few months, and there are cowboys and cowgirls doing hard things so we can eat a cheap burger. Because one thing that Tana does is make it clear that this is not an easy life. She shows you the details, the hundred little things she sees, and that is what makes this more than a simple essay. One thing I love is that her blog takes you back through the years. As I click through the pages I start to see the rhythms of her life out here, calving and moving herds to pasture, the culling of the weak and the accepting dependence on weather. This is an older way of living she is showing us. One more bound to the cycles of life then we can easily experience in the city.
And one more thing I love is her comments, interspersed between the photos. They are so directly about what she is photographing and its importance to life on the ranch. Weather has life or death meaning, water isn’t a given, her horse so much a part of what she does that she writes … “I always try to include some of my horse in the picture so I can remember who I was riding that day … ”The heifers hunkered down in the ditch to stay warm” … and this which says a lot about the reality of taking these pictures … “I should remind you that every time I take a picture I have to take my glove off, and it never fails, at least once in the day I drop it. I should explain how big of a deal dropping my glove is. For one thing, I am wearing about 42 layers of clothes and warm boots. I also ride a VERY tall horse and for those of you that don’t know me, I am a whopping 5 foot 4. So getting off and back on does have its challenges.”…
It’s not all pretty what she pictures. Corresponding back and forth with Tana at one point she writes to me, “I want to warn you now about some of the things you are going to see. If the sight of animals being roped and thrown to the ground so that they can be tagged or castration or a hundred other things that happen as part of ranching better to move on to the next story” and she’s right of course. But that’s neither the focus nor the point of these pictures; it’s just part of her life and she shows it.
So there you have it, a most unlikely story found in a most unlikely place. I went looking for dark night skies and instead found pictures made by someone far from the photographic world and city life, pictures that are worth looking at and thinking about.
I wonder if there isn’t a gallery owner somewhere who might want to recognize this work and get Tana to mount a show. It’s iPhone photography but it harkens back to the beginnings of photography when people went around the world making pictures to bring the unseen to the rest of us. Better yet some book publisher should explore the story that could be made from all this but I’ll leave it to them to get on with it. For me I’m just glad that Tana Baker has taken the time to show me what her world feels like.
Tana Baker - High Desert Ranch Wife Photography - https://www.highdesertranchwife.com/
Story by Andy Romanoff
Pictures at https://andyromanoff.zenfolio.com/
Writing at https://medium.com/stories-ive-been-meaning-to-tell-you
YouTube Channel at Youtube
My blog has shown the wet years and the dry.
It has shown the cold snowy winters and saving calves from freezing.
It's recorded our unconventional ways of "fixing" things.
I have recorded our compassion and love for our animals.
The blog is a record of the harsh climate and weather conditions we endure.
I have recorded our children growing and learning.
My blog records the journey over the same trails year after year. The changes in vegetation and even the color of the cow herd.
After having a story written about us and what we do, I have come to appreciate it even more. I plan on sharing our life's journey more in the future.
Also, I hope to figure out how to link a page to this blog so anyone who wishes can purchase my cards or photos.
Thank you to all who read my blog.