Thursday, 28 August 2008

Calf Roping video

More video for you. This is the long-awaited footage of the ladies team calf roping at the Ralston Rodeo. Yes, one of our team really was dressed as a cow!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Autumn in the air

There is an unmistakable whiff of autumn in the air in the village this week. The days are becoming cooler, the leaves crisper and to cap it all, the ice is going down in the arena next week, ready for the hockey season to begin.

I have resisted some gentle persuasion and decided not to play hockey again this year. I have achieved my tick in the box and I remember all too well trudging out in the snow every week for games and training sessions that sometimes didn't end till 10pm, so I think I will use my time to finish off the quilt I started last winter.

Last but not least for this quick midweek update. Two video clips for you. Firstly, I put together a little video montage of our first year a few weeks ago. I've been playing around with iMovie on my Mac and the results are quite good...

And secondly, this short video clip of the rodeo last weekend. It was shot on my new gadget, a really dinky thing called a Flip. It sure beats the days of lugging round a betamax video camera!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Dog sitting

Another week has passed on the prairie and first mention this week should go to Blackie the cat, who has had a stressful week as we have been dog-sitting a 2 year-old black Labrador, who for her own safety, she had to avoid for the entire week!

Despite this invasion of her home she continues to do excellent pest-control work. Apologies to the squeamish amongst you, but Blackie is a quite astonishingly good hunter and unlike many domestic cats, does not spend ages playing with her catches, but rather dispatches them quickly and then eats them in their entirety! I know that cats catching animals is frowned upon these days, but I'm sure eating local produce is much more "carbon neutral" than me providing her with tinned processed cat food. (I would, but she prefers to eat out!)

Our canine house guest, Hector, left on Saturday afternoon to fly on to meet his owners at their new posting in Germany and once we'd recovered from the devastation of having two dogs for the week (see top right!) we had a few friends over for a barbecue. It was an absolute feast with some obligatory Albertan beef and some huge crabs legs. We were stuffed!

Amongst our guest at the barbecue were Shane, Doug & Ed who were the winning Gentleman's Calf Roping team at the rodeo last weekend. All three were wearing their rodeo belt buckles (worth $300 each) and feeling justly proud of their achievement. Shane has been in the winning team two years running, not bad for a British army officer with no prior experience of ranching skills!

This morning, as has become the custom, we had more guests for banana pancake breakfast. As it's still quite hot (34c today) we drove the RV into the garden to provide shade. It did the job rather well! I'm really not sure what we'll do when the snow comes, it just won't be the same eating them round the dining room table with the heating on!

This weekend we've also found time to do some planning for our forthcoming road trip. My parents are flying out at the end of September and we're heading over the boarder into Montana and then round to Waterton Glacial Park and on to Nipika. We'll be taking the RV and they'll be staying in hotels. We should have a fair amount to blog about I think!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Ralston Rodeo

Yesterday was the Ralston Rodeo. As you will be aware from my last post, I was one of three women who made up the first all female entry for the Gentleman's Calf Roping event.

Earlier this week "The Prairie Lasses" had a training session from a couple of local ranchers who run the rodeo. We didn't get our hands on a live calf, but we had a dummy made from part of an old tyre and some piping and we used that to walk through the different moves, work out what each of us needed to do and practice the special calf roping knot (see photo on the right!)

So yesterday was our big day. The whole rodeo circus rolled into town and transformed the arena on the edge of the village. (see left) Calf Roping was one of the last events and as everything was running late, it was nearly 5pm before we got to have our moment in the ring!

My team mates Claire & Caz who had been roped into the event by me (no pun intended) were getting progressively more nervous throughout the day. There were two groups of 4 doing calf roping. We were in the first group and although each team had their go one at a time, we were all in the arena together awaiting our turn.

We were third to go and when the first two calves were let out of the traps into the arena Claire & Caz both started squealing and dragging me back towards the fence!

When our turn came, the adrenalin was pumping and my team mates were extremely nervous. The calf was let out and all hell broke loose!

Everyone forgot what they were supposed to do, Caz lost her nerve and I got kicked in the arm - BUT - we did manage to get the not-insubstantial beast on the ground and I had a good go at tying the knot. However the whole thing (which was 3 or 4 minutes at most) was so utterly physically draining that I had no strength left to bring the calves legs together for the knot, so in the end we had to admit defeat!

See the photo of us in action on the right. Caz & I wore dungarees from the local charity shop and Claire dressed as a cow "to confuse the calf". I am very proud of our efforts and the crowd absolutely loved us, so at least we entertained!

The whole thing was filmed, so I will post a link to that later in the week. In the meantime, see more photos of the day here

It's been a busy weekend all in all. On Friday, I celebrated my birthday and we went to see Cirque Du Soleil in Calgary. (see left) We spent five hours on the road just to have a night out, but it was good fun!

Jim celebrates his birthday on Monday too and we've got a canine house guest for the week, Jim's bosses dog is staying with us before flying on to a new posting in Germany - so no sign of things quietening down any time soon!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Curry night

A couple of months ago we had a promises auction to raise money for a military families organisation. As the village is quite a hike from local restaurants and cinemas, Jim and I pledged to bring the town experience to Ralston with a "curry and a movie night" in our house.

The winning bidders were Gill & Gary and last night they left their two young children with a babysitter and came over for their night out! Jim spent all day slaving away in the kitchen creating two wonderful curries (whilst I was in town shopping!) and I made chocolate brownies for dessert.

We waited on them all evening and plied them with food and alcohol and then they watched a movie on our projector in the basement. Everyone had a great evening!

Next weekend is the Ralston Rodeo. A dusty arena on the fringes of the village is transformed for one day every August when the animals, cowboys and crowds come here to watch a spectacular display of ranch skills. There are two events which are just for the staff at BATUS, wild cow milking and gentleman's calf roping.

They were struggling for the full quota of teams for the latter event, so in a controversial move, I have put together the first ever all ladies team. Three of us will take on the task of catching, grounding and then tying up a young calf. On the professional rodeo circuit this job is done by one man on horseback in about 20 seconds, so how hard can it be for three army wives?

We have found a local rancher who is happy to give us a couple of hours of training this week (which is more than the men get) and we are reassured that it's apparently all down to technique and brawn has nothing to do with it!

On a final note, tonight I was supposed to be taking part in an overnight prairie trip to see the night time live fire training exercises. The trip was one of several held for the wives so that they can find out more about the work their spouses do. I ducked out of it because I didn't fancy missing a night's sleep and then going to work the next day, but the good news is that the other Ralston blogger Kerry, is going on the trip and you'll be able to read her account on her blog here

Monday, 4 August 2008

The UK and onwards...

Just in case you think I've slipped off the edge of the earth, a quick update from our three week long holiday. We have been in the UK since 24th July, visiting friends and family and for almost all of it we've been blessed with wonderful weather. (which has been a refreshing change from my last trip back in March!)

It has been so nice to come back and see all the greenery in the British countryside. Although we have our fair share of trees in the village, the prairie is yellow for most of the year and even at its best never compares to the lush carpet of grass that covers the UK. Be grateful for the rain in Europe, it has its purpose!

We've also been doing lots of shopping since we've been back, although you can buy clothes in our local town, Medicine Hat does not offer much in the way of fashion and the styles don't seem to change much from one year to the next!

However, one of our most interesting trips was to an RV centre. We popped in to buy some kit for our vehicle and whilst we were there had a nose at some of the RVs for sale on the forecourt - and what a surprise! They were much slimmer than the Canadian versions and consequently appeared taller too. Obviously they are designed for the smaller roads and parking spaces in Europe, but it was quite weird and we left feeling very glad we have opted to try RVing on the 'fatter' side of the Atlantic!

We have a few more days left in the UK and then we return to Canada on Wednesday. Our friends have been busy in our absence, arranging parties at our house (!) so it sounds as though we'll have a fair bit to report back on...