Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Third Place

I have come across the concept of Third Place recently. It was  in reference to the  popularity of coffee shops as they represent a third place for us to gather. First are our homes, second are our places of work and the third is other places we like to congregate.  The website Psychology Today refers to Third places as happy places. The book The Great Good Place, by Ray Oldenburg is all about the idea of third place. It says there are commonalities with these spots. A Third Place is neutral. People can come and go as they please without penalty. Another attribute is they are level, status differences are not relevant. They are accessible with long hours and easy to get to. Regulars are a critical component. The premises are physically plain and unpretentious. The dominant mood is playful and laughter abounds. Does that not sound like a great place to be? The article states “They contribute to the life worth living, they restore us, they support us. The bottom line is they allow us to be us.” A news clip on tv was referencing public libraries as also being popular spots for people to make “real” connections. In the age of so much techie connections it is important. Communities are a better place when they have a Third Place. For us in the ag community, (with no bias) I think the Exhibition Grounds is such a place. Many of the coffee shops in town also fit the bill. Certainly, The Root Community Emporium also does.  With kids in activities, the location of the activity is likely to be a Third Place, be it a court, a rink or a field. Do you have a Third Place?


“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends…They are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, but sadly, they constitute a diminishing aspect of the American social landscape.” Ray Oldenburg


If Worrying Was an Art….

If worrying was an art, I would be Vincent Van Gogh.

Here on the Canadian Prairies, January can be a very cold time of year.  When the temperatures drop, it just makes sense that we need to be a little more vigilant with our livestock to make sure they have the energy and the shelter that they need to stay warm and healthy.  Horses, cattle, sheep, etc need to have a bit more food and shelter on these cold days.

This means that when the weather drops, we bundle up in as much clothing as we can find and head outside, working long hours to make sure everyone is doing well.

And so I head out to check the herd and feed them a little extra hay on this fine, bright, crisp morning.  The temperature is -43C with the wind-chill.

As I approach the herd, I see something that no one wants to see – a dead cow!

This does not look good....

This does not look good….

So, I begin to ponder all of the tragedies that may have befallen this poor girl.

Did she fall in the night, and now couldn’t get up?  I worry about that, because if only I had known I would have come out and helped her.

Did she have pneumonia or some other form of illness?  Well, at first I know this can’t be true because I would have noticed something like that….but wait….my son fed the cows yesterday, and being 18 and distracted he may not have been as vigilant when looking over the cattle.  In fact, he may not even have noticed.  Or worse, he may have noticed and forgotten to mention anything to me.

Now I am a worried, angry mess.

To completely freak myself out, I begin to calculate what percentage of the herd this cow’s death represents.  Let’s see….I have a little herd of 16 cows, so this is 1/16 of my herd that died this morning.  So to compare, when we had our big herd of 700 cows, this would have been like losing 43.75 cows in one day!!  Oh my god!!  We have never had a death loss like this on our farm.  Clearly I am a total failure….and this worries me.

Oh, wait.  She picked up her head as I went by the pen with the tractor and a bale.

Great!  I don’t have a dead cow, but she’s clearly a downed cow who is too sick to get up.

My Animal Health Technician brain kicks in and methodically tells me in her annoying clinical voice that this is probably impaction.  Due to the fact that these cows are eating hay and licking snow for moisture, her gut has probably become impacted and we need to get her stomach contents moving.  I’ve seen this before, and it can go downhill very quickly.  My clinical AHT voice scolds me for allowing these cows to lick snow for moisture instead of having them on a nice warm watering bowl that I get to thaw and chop at all winter long….even though cattle have been licking snow for moisture for hundreds of thousands of years with few ill effects.  Maybe it hasn’t been that long….I really have no idea of how long, but it’s been a long time.

As I pick up another bale and head toward the gate, I worry over the possible treatments that I can offer to this poor girl.  I decide that the best immediate remedy is to administer a solution of warm water and mineral oil into her stomach to grease up the contents and get them moving south….or more appropriately, ‘West’ due to the direction she is laying.

In my mind, I find the tube that I will use and I take an inventory of our drug shelf and determine that we have a jug of mineral oil there.  I worry and ponder which restraint methods will be best to keep her still while I convince her that oil down her throat is the best thing for her to do this morning.  Surprisingly, cows don’t always agree with our methods when we are trying to help them.

Of course, she’s probably so sick that she won’t even put up a fight and I can just slip in there and take care of business.

Opening the gate, it’s like a miracle has happened.

The cow gets up and has a big stretch….not the actions of a sick cow.

She cocks her tail and moves her bowels ‘West’….not the actions of an impacted cow.

She shakes her head and walks toward the group chewing her cud….

She takes charge and moves the other cows away from the hay so that she can be a big pig and eat more than her share.  Clearly a very healthy cow.

Happily taking command of a 12 foot space so no one else can eat!

Happily taking command of a 12 foot space so no one else can eat!

So, as the day went on and I periodically slipped outside to check and make sure she truly was fine I came to realize that I worry a bit too much….which of course worries me.

On my last check, I knew that she had been fine all along, and was just enjoying the fact that when it’s sunny and -43 with the wind-chill, it’s a good day to be a black cow laying in the sun.

A happy herd staying warm by eating lots of extra calories....just like me!

A happy herd staying warm by eating lots of extra calories….just like me!

As I looked around at the beautiful snow sparkling on such a bright and sun shining day, my eyes fell on our horses….





…I noticed that they had some serious snotsicles….which are like popsicles, but different.

Rocky's frosty nose

Rocky’s frosty nose

And this worried me.

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due.” – William R. Inge


The Doctor Rode Side Saddle – by Ruth Matheson Buck

I don’t know if I feel completely inadequate or totally inspired.  Maybe both.

I read a book one month ago, and I am still talking about it. That’s really saying something, because as anyone in my book club will attest, I read a book and immediately forget what happens in it.  A really fantastic book will impact me in a way that I can sort of piece together a sketchy outline of the plot for one or two days after reading it, followed by a transfer of that information into my long-term memory bank…..which doesn’t seem to exist…..or I’ve forgotten where I put it.

This book is totally different. I have been discussing it in detail with anyone who will listen. It has impacted the way I think about the people who settled the Canadian prairies, the equality of women, marriage and motherhood.

In the year 2013, women are busy.  We have jobs, some of us have fellas and family, some have wives.  We are driving the kids to football in the fall and to karate all year-long. We are doing the laundry and most of the grocery shopping. We are volunteering for causes and organizations that hold special meaning to us. There are exercise classes and pedicures and luncheons to attend. Busy busy busy. We like to call each other or get together so we can discuss how busy we all are.  Oh, that reminds me….there’s also all of those emails to answer and texts to read, and twitter and Facebook to follow. It’s exhausting and a little overwhelming.

Let me introduce you to my friend Elizabeth.

Elizabeth worked to raise enough money to go to school and become a teacher. She married her long time love when she was done her studies and they moved far away from their families in Ontario to start a school for children on the Onion Lake reservation on the edge of the boreal forest in western Saskatchewan.

After teaching for a few years, Elizabeth and her husband John Matheson had bought some cattle and started a ranch of their own. Elizabeth was now a teacher, a rancher, and mother of three girls.

There was inadequate medical service at the Onion Lake reservation at the time that the Matheson family was building their school, their ranch, and their family….so Elizabeth’s husband John suggested that she go back to school and become a doctor. 

It’s beautiful really, that he had this much faith in himself as a father and in his wife…but…I mean, what exactly was keeping him from going to medical school himself?  Elizabeth had three daughters, laundry and a garden, and a full-time job as a teacher! 

Realizing that this was probably a bit much to ask of his wife, John hired a little help for Elizabeth. With a new teacher at the school, she went back to Ontario and Manitoba to get her medical degree. She left her two oldest girls with their dad, but had to take the youngest with her to school. No big deal….I’m sure that studying for your finals in medicine while changing diapers is a breeze.

Elizabeth was able to reconnect with her family during the summers when she was home, and as a result….she had some more babies.  She would leave the older ones with their dad and bring the youngest with her to school in the fall. 

She achieved her goal, and returned to her home and her family as a full-fledged teacher, wife, mother, rancher, and now doctor.

She was the first doctor in the area.
This was in the late 1800’s.  She served a very large radius, including Frog Lake, Fort Pitt and Onion Lake on horseback.
That’s right….no Facebook, emails, twitter or texts.

No power, no telephone, no water, no cars, no snowplows, not even a railway for many years.

The school that Elizabeth and John started also provided room and board to its students. It wasn’t a residential school, this was before the residential schools were started. Students came to school, and stayed with the Mathesons because it was too far for many of them to walk back and forth from their own homes. Elizabeth and John were their guardians, making sure they had food, clothing, a home and an education.

No hospitals…..all of Elizabeth’s EIGHT children were born in their house. The first daughter was born while John was hosting an officer for tea in the next room. Elizabeth served the tea. The lady who was helping her deliver this first baby, quietly interrupted the mens’ visit to tell John that he was father to a healthy and very large new baby girl.

No stores. Every spring John and the other men would haul furs and other goods in wagons to trade in Edmonton…..with horses….along the riverbank…..crossing when there was shallow water or sand bars to walk over.
At the trading post in Edmonton, John would get supplies for his school and family for the following year. Most of their food was grown on the farm and in the garden, but they needed to buy sugar and coffee, and fabric to make clothing for themselves and their students. 

The return trip was probably a lot more fun.  The men would build a scow on the riverbank in Edmonton, and float back down the river carrying their supplies.

Somebody must have taken the horses home, but I presume that load would be lighter, and therefore faster. I’m guessing that a return trip from Edmonton along the river on horseback would probably only take a week or two….assuming you didn’t have any problem with bears or cougars.

So you can see my struggle. As a mere mother of three, a rancher, a sometimes writer and a wife….I feel like a total underachiever.
** Funny side note – my spell check wants to change ‘underachiever’ in this post to ‘overachiever’.  Thank you spell check!  I appreciate that.
However, this book has given a glimpse of a life lived fully, which is something that we are all very capable of. Elizabeth lived her life the way that she wanted to. She didn’t take time to ponder whether the men would accept her as their doctor,  she merely became their doctor.  She was undaunted by making house calls on horseback in a snow storm with her latest newborn arrival bundled up with her.  She considered her family in her decision-making, and ensured that they would continue to thrive while she followed her dreams. She empowered her daughters and she educated her son.

Did I mention that she also travelled to India as a missionary before she married her husband?  Think about that trip for a minute….horseback, train possibly for part of the trip, and a boat with no GPS navigational system or satellite phone.   Say it with me….OMG!  I’ll bet they didn’t even make Gravol back then!

It was about 45 years after she had left Onion Lake that Elizabeth died. Her funeral was at Onion Lake and she is buried there beside her husband. After all of that time, there were very few people who had first hand memories of their doctor and teacher.  However, a hockey game that was being played at the same time as her funeral paused for a moment of silence out of respect for the Matheson family, and the church was full to overflowing with people who wanted to attend her memorial.  That is a life well lived, and a story to be remembered.

This summer I will travel to Onion Lake and find Elizabeth’s grave. I want to see where the school was and where she lived. As a show of respect for her and the life that she lived, I will saddle up my horse….
…and leave him at home! 

Driving in our ‘luxurious’ vehicle on the paved highway, while enjoying the air conditioning, the GPS navigational system and the blue tooth telephone seems like the perfect way to show Elizabeth my appreciation for the progress that she helped bring to the area where I live.

Her story will stay with me as a reminder to move forward without fear and to pursue the impossible, because after reading the true story of a woman who travelled, excelled at two full-time professions, raised 8 children of her own and countless others, and who was a loving servant to her family and her community….without any modern conveniences….

Nothing seems impossible.

“What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.”  – Theodore Roethke


Peasant Bread

Unbelievable IMG_1700but I actually did it and it turned out. I made bread from the easiest recipe you can imagine. I found it on Pinterest. Now I can say I have actually done some of the many things I have pinned. I have tried over the years with a couple of excellent tutors but could just not get the hang of working with dough.

IMG_1698 The blonde curly-haired baker at our house had long ago surpassed me. But the beauty of this recipe is that there is no kneading. Mixing and waiting but no kneading. The recipe came from and it is called Peasant Bread. Now I just have to wait until some taste testers can give me their opinion.


And trust me, if I can do this anyone can.


“How can a nation be great, if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” Julia Child


Grandpa goes to the gym . .. And Grandma too

Chances are if you were born before 1940, working out at a gym is not something you are familiar with, particularly if you are a farmer or rancher. Working out means exactly that. .. go outside and work. But for someone who fits those specs in our family, knowing a younger fellow rancher who actually has a gym on his place and having a discussion on how strength training can reduce arthritic type pain. One thing leads to another and there it is. There are a few other characteristics that make it a perfect spot in addition to the fact that you likely see cows when you drive into the yard. One is actual work out gear. Sorry to the investors and owners of LuLu Lemon, but it turns out you can work out in Wranglers (just like you can go to the the beach in Barbados) and a snap front plaid shirt. Then Grandma (already a serious yogi) was convinced to go. So once a week they head out, work out, have a visit with the cowboy trainer, stop at a small town cafe and have pizza for lunch. They say it is helping and they are getting stronger. The 15 year-old grandson has even gone with them. Kind of cool, to go to the gym with your grandma and grandpa. My hats off to the pair of them for stepping out of the box. Who says you can’t try new things when you get older?

– Kelly

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it does not matter,” Mark Twain.

New Year’s Aspirations

IMG_1651I truly like the idea of reflection and renewal that goes along with the turning of the calendar page. Out with the old, in with the new. But somehow in the term resolution there seems to be a pass/fail or win/lose or did/didn’t element. I am not sure this is helpful. Yet, it needs to be more than a wish list. A level of commitment is required to actually make some changes.
The idea of New Year’s Aspirations seems to hit the mark for me. One definition of aspire is to direct one’s hopes or ambitions towards achieving something. Another is to long, aim or seek ambitiously. So, it is something you really want and you have to put some effort into it. Simply wishing upon a star is not going to cut it. Following the decision to make the aspiration list, is the reflection as to what should be on it. Then, as in a good goal developing strategy, what are the steps we need to take to ensure we achieve it. Some productivity experts suggest breaking a large goal down into smaller, more achievable parts. After all, there is motivation and positive feelings in achievement, no matter how small. The S.M.A.R.T. goal setting theory recommends the goals be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.


Another factor is the process of writing the thoughts down and then sharing them with others. This is thought to increase the level of commitment and possibilities of achievement. “Putting it out there,” so to speak. But different strokes for different folks. One strategy is not going to work for everyone. It needs to be tailored to our own uniqueness and there is only one person truly able to do that. You.
So, as we approach the end of 2012, with the satisfaction of knowing the world did not actually come to an end on December 21, I hope you can find some space and time to reflect on how you hope 2013 turns out.


In the spirit of going first and stepping out of the box a bit, here are some of mine.
I am pleased with so many things going on in my life, but I would like to take some of them to the next level. First on that list is cowtrailsandponytales. Along with that is writing in general. Both of these need to be more often, better and to a wider audience. KT & Company has some great projects but I would like to see more in 2013. Not totally sure what they will be but we do have some great ideas. I really need to improve my technical skills, both for my camera and new Ipad. What would a New Year’s Aspiration list be without something about fitness? Walk more and more yoga and eat healthy, or healthier. And I cannot forget to include some improved organizational skills at home and the office. Here’s to many great things in 2013 – Cheers!


“Celebrate what you want to see more of,” Tom Peters.