Posted By: Jesse Williams
I can’t believe I am writing my last Digital Scrapbook of 2016! Twelve months ago I made a resolution to be more consistent with my blogging in 2016, which included doing a monthly review of life on our farm. I may have been late some months, but I did meet my goal, so can I get wahoo!? My favorite part of these blogs is looking back at my own posts. It’s funny how much you forget in 12 months! If you want to take a look back with us you can watch our 2016 Year in Review video below.
Meet Beatrice the Simmental Cow!
Some of you may know that Clay has a background in raising purebred cattle. Growing up he helped his parents raise Gelbvieh bulls, which his brother and sister-in-law (Flatland Ranch) now excel at. Clay was always famous for saying that he didn’t want to be a purebred breeder, only a commercial cattlemen… Well, insert a wife who grew up showing cattle, and a new barn, and I finally convinced him to buy our first purebred cow to start our Simmental herd. Whoop, whoop!!
This month we purchased SFM RS 16B, which I affectionately nicknamed Beatrice, to be the matriarch of our future purebred herd. Bea is a polled red Simmental second calver who is bred to Skors Casino 53C for a late January calf. We are really looking forward to growing our herd with this powerful, high weaning weight dam, so stay tuned for updates in the future!
Grazing into the New Year
After a very mild fall, winter finally decided to show up in December with some chilly temperatures. A few inches of snow and temperatures in the -30C range meant extra special attention for our livestock. Even with the cold weather, we were fortunate enough to graze our herd for all of December. In order to do so we did need to add extra straw bedding, top up supplements, salt & minerals, and increase supervision to ensure the herd was doing well. During cold snaps ranchers like us bundle up and head on out to the herd even more often to ensure water sources are flowing, cattle have adequate shelter and their nutritional needs are met.
I talk often about our local research association, CARA, in my blogs as they have some great resources. This month was no different as they hosted a CowBytes workshop we attended. CowBytes is a cattle ration building software that you can add your own feed samples into. If you haven’t tried this program before, I highly recommend it. You can build bale feeding programs, grain rations, tub grinding combinations, silage mixes and much more. This program really impressed me because you can insert your own livestock details (breeds, weights, body condition scores, hide thicknesses, etc), change the temperature and wind ranges that your cattle are exposed to, and even input your own water source sample information. Add your own feeding, yardage and forage costs, and you can create the most economical ration that also satisfies the complete nutritional requirements for your particular herd.
Left: This month we finished hauling all of our bales back to our feed yard. These bales will feed our herd from January to May. Right: Our cows grazing the headlands of a canola stubble field.
Progress continued on our new farm yard this month. In between the cold snaps our amazing contractor managed to tin the roof of our house and wrap the exterior (thank you, we are in love with the tin look!). Clay was also busy working on the interior of his shop, completing electrical work, and finished the last of the trench digging in the yard for the winter in preparation for some winter livestock waterers from Legacy Drilling (yes, shameless plug!).
Our new farmhouse at the beginning of December (left) versus the end of the month (right).
Looking Forward to January
Ladies Calving Clinic
Denver National Western Stock Show & Canadian Cattlemen's Young Leaders/ USA National Cattlemen's Beef Association Bilateral Roundtable Discussions
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Fall is my absolute favorite season of the year. I just LOVE the fall colors, the leaves on the ground, comfy sweaters and of course- PUMPKIN EVERYTHING! I tried to savor every second of October but yet another month flew right on by and before I blinked it was November. The most exciting part of this month in my opinion was the progress on our new home- I simply cannot wait to fill it with pumpkin smelling candles ;)
Fall Calf Run
Weaning day came early this year. We wean our sale calves the same day we ship them, which means we separate the calves from their mothers using sorting pens. We then load the calves into trailers to be transported to the auction market, then their dams are allowed to stay in the yard for a few days before going back out to pasture. This process all happened on October 13 this year. In the past we have sold at the end of October, so it was a risk selling our calves two weeks earlier. And to be honest, it was a risk not worth taking. The market report for the last week of October was up in comparison to our sale date, plus we would have had those added pounds. There is no point in wallowing in that decision, however we did decide we wanted to explore alternative marketing options in 2017- stay tuned!
An Albertan Thanksgiving
It is tradition in my family that the men take off to the mountains for their first horse-pack trip of the winter, and all the ladies gather for a Thanksgiving celebration. This year we celebrated at my parents’ ranch. You can read about what we did last year, here. It was a wonderful weekend full of good eats (get my pumpkin pie from scratch recipe here!), great company and way too many laughs.
It was also extra special because I got to sit down with multiple generations of my family to do some sewing. Both my grandmothers were amazing seamstresses and quilters. I remember my cousins and I always being the center of attention with our beautiful home-made skating dresses, flower girl dresses and adorable jump suits. This Thanksgiving was a great time to reminisce about my late Grandma Terry and make more memories with my Grandma Judy.
October was Framing Month on our new home on the ranch! As of the last day of October we have the majority of framing completed, even though there was a slight delay when it SNOWED! I was hoping that our home would be to lock up stage (framed, windows & doors installed) before the snow flew- insert hysterical laughter here- but you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Regardless, we are so happy about the progress on our new home. You just can’t wipe the smile off my face when I am anywhere near the new yard. And that makes Clay very happy (happy wife means happy life, right?!).
It's crazy what can happen in a month!
Happy Halloween from our house to yours! I didn’t get Clay to dress up this year, but here are some fun pictures of Halloween’s past. We hope you had a spook-tacular day!
Looking Forward to November
Farm Fair International & Canadian Finals Rodeo at Northlands
Beef Advocacy Tradeshow Booth Volunteering
Canadian Western Agribition in Regina
CARA’s Cattlemen’s Clinic
Don't miss a thing with these past Digital Scrapbooks...
Posted By: Jesse Williams
The Month We Broke Ground on our Dreams
While there were lots of fun things that happened in September, all I can think about (all I ever seem to think about!) is FINALLY building our new home. And this month we BROKE GROUND on it! Wahoo!! We also were very busy rounding up our cow/calf pairs in various pastures to bring them closer to home for the winter. Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year so September was a fabulous month and October is shaping up to be just as great.
Well, we FINALLY did it! On September 4, 2016 we broke ground on our dream house! It felt like September just flew by. Accomplishments this month included our basement excavation, foundation & floor, plus the beginning stages of framing!
So far the process has been great. Our basement contractor, RMS Construction from Brooks, was so fantastic (definitely recommend them)! I want to send the biggest thank you out to Rick and his team. They worked fast, hard and did amazing, quality work!
We also were finally able to fill up our shop foundation that we moved onto our yard last fall. Our contractor that built the foundation for the shop built it sticking out of the ground a long ways, against our wishes, so we had to find material to fill up the 5 foot hole before we could lay cement. (Read about the shop move here). After we stripped back the top soil (we will put it back after landscaping), the subsoil was moved from our basement excavation into our shop, and out front to create a pad. Clay is pretty darn excited to be seeing progress on his shop after a whole year of it taunting him! We are hoping to pour the cement shop floor in December so stay tuned!
Fall Round Ups
In preparation for October’s calf weaning & selling, the month of September revolved around getting all our cows and calves home. As I’ve mentioned before, we rely a lot on rented grass for our operation, much of which is located a fair distance from our home place.
Our closest rental is the Bullpound Community Pasture. We are super lucky that it is within riding distance for us. We had a 7.5 mile ride in the spring, but only a 5.5 mile ride back home, which was really nice. And I think the cows enjoyed it too, as they were pretty slow the last half mile! The cows that were allotted for this community pasture were bred to Charolais bulls and will have strappin’ tan calves this winter.
We also had two other pastures to bring cows home from. These are about 30 miles from home, so they had to be trucked with stock trailers and liners. It’s always so rewarding to see your cows & calves at the end of the summer, and this year was no different. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what some of our 2nd calvers will produce this upcoming year!
We will be soon bringing all our cows and calves into the corrals for weaning. We sell both our Charolais X tan calves and red Angus/ Gelbvieh X calves on October 14, 2016 at Balog Auction Mart in Lethbridge. Feel free to stop by and say hi if you are in the area!
Cattlemen's Young Leader Program
For all of you that keep asking- no, we haven’t found out who our mentors will be yet, but I will let you all know as soon as I do! I am really looking forward to seeing who the CYL Program matched me up with. In interviews this month I explained I was looking for a mentor who possibly manages a large backgrounding operation as it is something Clay and I are really hoping to ramp up in the next year. My areas of interest include risk management, production economics, innovation, advocacy and using data and technologies to achieve economic returns in my cattle operation.
I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to everyone who watched, shared and discussed the two videos I posted from CYL graduates (Ben’s Ag Career and Penny’s Sustainable Beef Story) and for participating in the Canadian Ag Challenge. The message went far and wide, reached a variety of audiences and sparked great ag conversations. I will post more about this wonderful experience soon!
Looking Forward to October...
House Framing Progress
Calf Weaning & Selling (October 14!)
#AgMonth16 Ag More Than Ever Agvocate Challenge- I am posting one picture per day of my operation to share what agriculture is all about! Join the fun!
Don't miss a thing with these past Digital Scrapbooks...
Posted by: Jesse Williams
2015 was truly a whirlwind of a year for us, both on and off the ranch! We saw some major changes including Clay quitting his engineering gig to start his own water well drilling company,Legacy Drilling (yes, that was a shameless plug!) while I changed jobs to be based closer to home and more in my field of expertise. Clay also earned his Professional Engineering status from the Association of Professional Engineers & Geoscientists of Alberta- an honor he worked hard to deserve.
We FINALLY sold our acreage in Strathmore, after being on the market for over a year and struggling with renters and the challenge that two home bases bring. I was SO excited to sell our acreage that 13 hours (literally) after the ink had dried on that deal, Clay and I bought our forever home, which will be moved in three pieces onto our new farm site south of Hanna in June 2016. Can I get a WAHOO!?!?
We increased our herd size this year, adding more yearling heifers to the bunch. We also added two new Charolais bulls for our cow herd to put some serious pounds on the ground with tan calves for 2016. Our heifers were bred Gelbvieh, a family favorite, of course. We sold our first crop of calves at Balog Auction in October, and were very pleased that they sold in only 3 bunches. Certainly no complaints here!
Our farm site sure looks different now than when 2015 was rang in. We added utilities (gas, water, power), built a calving barn/three-sided shed combo, moved an arch-ribbed shop onto location and now have a passable driveway (yay!). We spent a lot of time cleaning up an old farm/junk site just northeast of our new yard, and hopefully 2016 will bring the rest of it up to par.
Writing down all of the changes that happened this year doesn't seem as hectic as it really felt. I feel like I haven't put my feet up all year! Regardless, this has been our best year yet and we are so happy and proud to have shared it with amazing family and friends. There are so many people that have helped make our year what it was, and we are ever so grateful.
Here is to you & yours. We wish you all the best in 2016 and hope you stop by for a coffee. The door is always open!
-Clay & Jesse Williams
Take a peek at our year...
You may have known that Clay bought me a camera in 2014 for Christmas. Well, I have been snapping photos all year long and decided to put together a snapshot of our year on the ranch to have as a keepsake. Now of course, it is obnoxiously long with way too many cow photos, but that has been the center of our life this past year so I couldn't shorten it up! Have a browse through, as Clay assures me that nobody but us can watch cows for 9.5 minutes ;)
Click here for the mobile version (no music)
If moving a shop onto the farm is step two, you may be asking yourself what was step one? Well, any normal person would just assume step one would be a home, because of course you want to LIVE at your farm, right? Wrong. In some twisted turn of events, my husband convinced me not only to get a barn (step one) before our house, but he also got a shop! But don't worry, I have my fingers and toes crossed that step three will be our home...
Meet our newest addition to the Williams Family, Clay's Shop
Moving versus New
We hadn't really been looking for a shop, and most certainly weren't thinking about relocating an existing shop to our farm when we started the yard building process. We had actually been to a farm auction sale the summer before when we first set our eyes on our new bundle of building. The coal mine that operates nearby had bought out a farm in order to expand their excavation and in turn, the farmer was having a dispersal sale. While the shop was not for sale at that time, Clay had actually mentioned how much he would enjoy a shop just like it (of course because he only had a dumpy "shed"... you can see how it gets annoying, right?).
A few months later we found out the shop was for sale, so we ran some numbers. By purchasing and moving this shop, including a cement foundation, we would save approximately $28,500. We came to that number based on the cost of a 60 x 40ft pole framed, insulated building from the same company that built our barn- Goodon Industries. We also got the added bonus that the shop to move came with wiring, gas lines, the hot water heater and some additional shop supplies. (Wahoo!) So while the shop to move will need more sweat equity and is a bit older, the arch ribbed shop felt like the right choice for us.
Building the Foundation
Here is where we ran into some snags. The contractor we hired to complete the foundation didn't quite meet our expectations. While we booked the contractor before September long weekend, it wasn't until some very forceful/panicking phone calls the week before the move (mid- October) that they started the project. In fact, they only started 7 days prior to the scheduled move. This was a BIG issue for us. The rushed construction really took a toll on our project...
We were told by our basement builder (note that is most definitely a different contractor than we used on our shop foundation), that he doesn't recommend placing a building on an ICF Cement foundation for a minimum of 3 weeks after pouring. We were also told that at the very least, cement should receive 48 hours of curing before any placement on top. In fact, after 48 hours cement only has 75% of its strength total strength...
Well, on day 4 of the foundation build, there was still no cement. I mentioned the impending deadline to the contractors (and by mentioned, I mean full out panicked in their direction!) but because Day 5 and 6 were a Saturday and Sunday, they wouldn't pour the cement until Monday. We set the shop on the new foundation EXACTLY 24 hours after the cement was poured... This is still giving me anxiety as I type, because we won't know the strength of the cement for at least a week... AHHHH! This also meant we couldn't anchor our new building to our foundation... Yes, our new shop, AKA wind sail, is just exposed on the wide open prairie, waiting for the next wind storm to blow it to Brooks... Insert anxiety attack here!!!!
Keep your fingers crossed!
The day before the big move the guys from Wade's House Moving & Heavy Hauling in Taber met us at the shop. The day consisted of un-screwing the existing anchors from the cement foundation, tearing out the old benches, bracing the shop from the interior and loading it onto the trailer. We were very pleasantly surprised at how efficient the Wade's Crew was. They were in and out in a flash! We had no complaints and were very happy that Wade was able to brace the building with minimal damage (some is always to be expected). The only word of advice I would give others, is that you should go through the building thoroughly before the move and do any salvaging/removal yourself. Wade's crew said it themselves, they are excellent at demolition, they are not a salvage crew. They get things done fast & efficiently!
The location of the shop was only about 20 miles from our new farm yard, so the actual travel time was quite short. It took only about 45 minutes all in all. The video shows the shop moving onto Highway 36 and heading north before turning off onto gravel to it's new home!
The only snags we ran into on this part of the journey was that we have two sets of Texas Gates going down our driveway. We had to torch one gate, un-bolt the other and cut some barbed wire fence to get the access wide enough for the 40ft wide shop to fit through. We also had to keep our cows from mixing with the neighbors, and our bulls, but luckily that went smooth (yay for tame cows!).
I am not sure why I thought moving the shop was the hard part, but it was definitely setting it down on its foundation that was the challenge. The shop arrived on location at 10am but the shop wasn't set on it's foundation until 3 pm. I must give kudos to the Wade's Crew. They did a phenomenal job! Here are a few photos of sliding the building onto the foundation...
At the end of the day we are very excited to have another check mark on our list of farm yard to-do's, even with the few bumps in the road. However, we do have a lot of work ahead of us to make this shop workable for the ranch- power, water, gas hook ups, floor poured, backfilling, landscaping and much more! So if you are interested in our adventures keep stopping by- we will have lots to report on!
Posted by Jesse Williams
Today we said GOODBYE to our Strathmore acreage and all signs of life in the big bad city of Calgary FOR GOOD!
As you may or may not know, Clay and I both worked downtown Calgary for THREE YEARS after graduating university. The only thing that kept us sane after a long day of city hustle & bustle was our acreage outside Strathmore (45 minutes from Calgary). While I quit my city job and moved back to Hanna last November, Clay stuck it out as an engineer for 10 more months before we FINALLY sold our acreage. While we still don't have our dream house on the farm (in fact we have a single wide in town, quaintly named the 'Dutch Villa') we are one step closer and are very excited to live in the same vicinity again!
In honor of our new beginning, we are reminiscing about our very first home...
It all started in February of 2012... Clay and I purchased our first acreage & then hopped on a plane with the Baron clan to Peurto Vallarta, Mexico. And so began 5 hours worth of flight time devoted entirely to bugging our family about our BIG plans with the new digs! Eventually April came and we moved into our new acreage on a gloomy, rainy day...
We spent all of our extra time to convert our open 3 acres to a mini-farm where we could pretend we were on the ranch
While we were only here for three years, we did make a lot of memories. Some of the most notable included 2 litters of puppies (one for Pickles & one for Ruger), a small herd of goats (including one goat's stay in the house!), watching our home raised colt grow up, and my very favorite, the arrival of our very first niece just 7 miles down the road.
We had a blast in our very first home and we learned A LOT! We now know that you should look at the baseboards of any new home (and stay clear if they are PAINTED & GLUED TO THE FLOOR!), that plaster ceilings are not fun to chip down, and that staining all of the wood planks on your fence is a terribly onerous job (even if Jesse 'promises' she'll get it done). But most of all, we learned that love is truly what makes a house a home <3
Stay tuned if you want to see what ridiculously crazy thing we did next... (and by next I mean less than 24 hours after we got the offer of purchase on this acreage...). Hint: It's coming in THREE pieces and will live at the end of this driveway...We'll be using the hashtag #buildingafarm on social media, so follow along! ;)
A Blog About Our Life, Love & Lessons Learned on the Ranch