Jim and his dad did a little male bonding on Saturday, playing at being cowboys at the local farm and assisting with the branding of the cattle. In stark contrast to the day the event had originally been scheduled for (when we had the big snowstorm) it was a lovely day with temperatures well up in the 20s. I stayed at home with the puppy and chilled out in the garden and both of the guys returned home from their day on the ranch looking very healthy... if not a little pink!
They had a great day and it turns out they weren't worked to the bone as cheap labour, in fact by the time they got there, there were only a dozen or so cattle left to do. Jim pitched in on a couple, but was not a fan of the rather acrid smell of burning hair that you get a whiff of up close!
Although the photos may make it look cruel, it's important to remember that this is not a sport, but an important part of running Alberta's second biggest industry.
This weekend has also seen the start of the first training exercise here at BATUS. Over the last couple of weeks we've had an influx of about 1500 soldiers and a slow build up of preparations for their departure on to the prairie.
On Friday I went up to the base to an area known as the 'dust bowl' where the vehicles were lining up ready to head out to the training grounds, as you can see from the photo, it was a pretty impressive display of military might!
The soldiers involved in this first exercise will now spend several weeks out in the middle of the BATUS exercise area (which at 1600 sq miles, is larger than Kent!) eating rations, camping out and having little contact with the base.
Many of the full time staff at BATUS are what's termed 'prairie staff' and will be joining the exercise intermittently for long days and even nights. Fortunately Jim is not one of these!