Drowsy Water

Monday, August 31, 2009

DWR life lesson # 1,456: Makin' Hay While the Sun Shines

You've probably heard the expression "Make hay while the sun shines", right? Do you ever wonder "what the heck is that supposed to mean?"

Well, folks, I can tell you exactly what it means. After a few short years of being married to a hay-man, I've learned the expression's meaning well.

This time of year is hay time. That means if the sun is shining, Justin is out working. Yep, it's time to cut hay, and ted hay, and rake hay, and bale hay, and then cut hay, and ted hay, and rake hay and bale hay, then cut hay and ted and. . .I think you get it.

From about mid-July through September we're responsible for the mowing and baling of approximately 800 tons of grass. It's a good thing we do it, because if we didn't, we'd be buying hay all winter long to feed our cows and horses. And as many of you know, hay is not something you can buy on super-sale at Wal-Mart.

So, to get to my point here, let me elaborate on the procedure. First, we mow the hay. This is exactly what it sounds like: a giant lawn mower cuts the grass and lays it down in the field.

Next, we ted the hay. Tedding fluffs the hay to expose it to as much air as possible and speeds up the drying process. This brings up a point--you can't bail wet hay, it will rot. That's why if it's sunny out, you have to be working. No dilly-dallying, mister, you never know, it might not be sunny tomorrow or the next day.

Then we rake the hay. The rake, like the tedder, turns the hay to ensure the hay is dry from top to bottom. The rows left by the rake are called wind rows. These wind rows make it easier to pick up the hay with the baler.

Finally, we bale hay. We do both small bales and big round bales.

After the bales are made, we pick them up and transport them to a sheltered barn where they stay nice and dry until we need them. During the winter, we'll ration out two or three round bales a day to our cows and horses we keep at the ranch. Additional hay is fed to the horses kept at the Walden ranch.

So, the moral of the story? The saying "make hay while the sunshines" means work hard, very hard, while you can because you don't know for sure if you'll be able to tomorrow or the next day. And all you make while working--save it. Keep it in a safe place so when the snow and cold comes and you need it, you'll have it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Day in the life of a Drowsy Water Ranch Wrangler

Jen Burn, one of our wranglers, is a fine writer. She wrote a little something to give insight to the hard work endured by our wranglers.
A day in the life of a wrangler:
“My alarm clock didn’t go off this morning, but I woke up before 6 on my own, anyway,” is muttered more often that it should be in the Drowsy Water barn during an early morning round-up. Dressed in well-insulated outwear (or multiple layers) a wrangler’s day begins with a brisk sunrise ride to round-up the herd of over 100 horses. If all goes according to plan, the entire herd is waiting at the gate to gallop back towards the ranch (and grain!). But if one or two horses are missing, then the wranglers fan out across the meadow, using their eagle-eyes to spot the telltale brown dots on a hillside (is that a horse or a bush?). Need a gift idea for a wrangler? Travel size binoculars will always come in handy.

Once back at the ranch, the other wranglers are working on their triceps by carrying around 30 pound buckets of grain to different feeding spots: about eight to the stall area, a few to the “skid row”, one to “back five” and one goes across the “log o’death” (a shaky log that spans a deep, raging creek) where the injured horses patiently wait. Once the buckets are in place, the horses paw at the stalls waiting for their breakfast. “Ready? Go!” yells Ryan as the wranglers hoist the heavy buckets and use their proficient skills to evenly divide the bucket into six different portions. Then Ryan counts the horses, while the round-up wranglers wait with baited breath for two magic words – “All here!” Otherwise, back out on round-up again until all the horses are in!

When breakfast is over, the wranglers wander through the herd, catching horses that are in-use that week. After brushing and saddling the guest horses (anywhere from 3-10 horses per wrangler), the wranglers saddle their own steeds for the day. Sunscreen is liberally applied and shirts are tucked in before the guests begin to arrive for their morning ride.

Once on the trail, the wrangler becomes an entertainer, leader, safety personnel, spotter of camouflaged wildlife, and landmark pointer-outer. Telling stories and spinning tall tales are a must, but if all else fails, “Do you guys want to lope?” is a go-to crowd pleaser that is guaranteed to get a smile.

Barn chores round out the day after a morning and afternoon trail ride (or an all day ride). Raking hay, scooping manure off the driveway and checking the tack in all the stalls are done daily. Dusty and sweaty, a wrangler works until all the chores are done before collapsing on a bucket in the barn to recap adventures from the day. Finally, the horses are pushed back out into the pasture, where they spend the night grazing on delicious grass and frolicking in the fields.

--Jen Burn