Spring, summer and all things woebegone

Doug overlooks our alfalfa field. The alfalfa will be cut, baled and fed to our cattle.
Spring has officially sprung in south central North Dakota. Admittedly, it sprang up days ago; I have been ignoring its presence. But, that is because of the very nature of spring on our ranch.

While swarms of college students flock to warmer, sandier places for spring break, there is no break for farmers and ranchers. Spring is a time of tending to our fields to prime them for planting. This year, we will grow corn and oats, all of which will be used for feed for our cattle in the fall and over winter. The corn will be processed into silage and the oats will be cut and baled. The alfalfa does its own thing; no planting necessary as it is a perennial flowering plant.

Besides field work, we have what looks like a field in our so-called lawn. A rolling landscape of common mallow, field bindweed, dandelion and pigweed; vegetation needing to be cut no matter how hated it may be.

And, even though calving seems to have only wrapped up, we have the majority of our herd bred for next years' calving season. We use a combination of artificial insemination, embryo transfer and bull service to complete mating. To be successful, we synchronize our cattle with the goal of all of the cows being receptive to mating at the same time, or within windows of time. This allows us to somewhat control when the cows will calve in the spring. Because we hold our annual production sale in February and sell yearling bulls, we need to make sure our cows will calve after the sale but before spring so the bull calves will be one-year-old around the next sale date.

With summer around the corner, we are closing in on what we call our slow season. Cow-calf pairs will be in the pasture; the feed lot will be empty albeit a few animals being finished for slaughter late-summer. Chickens will slow down their egg laying; dogs will be napping in the shade. Donkeys will do what donkeys do; cats will deal out more kittens.

I would look forward to all the above-mentioned happenings if it was not for the nagging sense of deja vu. The sun's shadow in the evening reminds me of when the ambulance arrived last year. The way the sun shines in our bedroom window reminds me of my ill-timed nap. The site of the baler makes be balk; the site of Doug struggling with one arm produces water works. June 26 can very well be skipped this year for all I care; that woebegone day can fall of the calendar and never return.


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