Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Working Facility

With the weather turning warmer and cattle on their way to summer pasture, we took some time to regroup around the ranch. Our holding pen worked great for the few head we had to feed over the winter. But it was destined to be more.

This 30' x 80' corral is designed to be the cattle working facility of our new corral system. We just got it closed in when we had a surprise cow and calf that needed feeding. In order to take it to the next level, we had some clean up to do. 

Once we got the feed wagon pulled out, Dad and his 4010 got to work.

While I cleaned the edges and stalls with the ole pitchfork. I'm more of a manual labor guy. 

We piled up the manure and straw so they could cook down over the summer. Next time we work the field we'll scatter it about. 

A tub and alley system, along with a squeeze chute, are the main pieces of equipment needed to work cattle effectively. I've threatened to build one, but it would take so much time and design. I've looked for used ones, but they are usually worse for wear. Then one day at the Co-op I saw this set up that had been setting around for years. I asked Skip about it and he said he'd make us a heck of a deal, which he did. 

Part of that required us loading it and hauling it away. For a job of this magnitude I called in reinforcements. My nephew Carter came to the rescue. With a good attitude and a love for work, we got the whole system bucked on the trailer. 

There were plenty of parts and pieces, and we really weren't sure how'd it would size up in our little corral. 

I had it all designed in my mind. The tub and alley leading to the chute would divide the corral in two, making two separate pens that could help with sorting. When not in use the shed and water could still be used to house various critters for a short term. Getting the proper placement with the tub before we connected the alley was crucial. 

Once we had that determined and set, we started to piece together the alley. It was necessary that it be dead center of the rest of the corral so that we can get an even workings with rest of the equipment down the line. Three of these segments gives us nearly a 30' run. 

What makes a manufactured alley system almost essential is their engineering to be adjustable. Making the width of the runway as close to the diameter of a cow as possible is necessary for them to flow with ease. Too wide and they constantly try to turn around. Too narrow and they get wedged. This set up, made by Blattner Livestock Equipment in Cimarron KS, adjusts from both sides. Why it is going to work good for us is because at times there will be livestock on both sides of the alley. Most adjustable alleys have big arms and handles that stick off to the side to make them adjust. That is just asking for something to get bent or a critter to get hurt. This unit is smooth on each exterior wall. The adjustment is run by ropes and pins that are hidden behind the bigger frame work. 

This palpation cage will be a nice feature for a whole hosts of scenarios that require a guy to get behind a cow.  

Once a cow is in the chute, throw the door open to the back, which then closes off the rest of the alley. Then palpate in peace. Fr. Zane would find this handy. 

The whole network pretty much lined up without any troubles. Because of a few alterations we made with the tub, we had a bit of welding to do on one side wall. 

Once it was all lined up and pinned together, we moved our old squeeze chute into place. It'll take more work to bolt up more securely, but enough to hold a cow for the time being.

So we went and grabbed a couple critters to see if this dog would hunt. Mom and Andi have been living over at my brother's for the spring. With my move to Buffalo, I don't plan to run cattle the way I have been. So I brought them over to put Dad's brand on them and run them with Luke's bunch for the summer. A Charolais/Red Angus cross makes for one big calf. Andi's still as spry as ever. 

Here's the beauty of a tub. Once they were kicked in the 13' alleyway, with the tub gate already open and the chute ready to catch, then I just walked behind them with the crowding gate and pushed them along so they had no choice but to go down the alley. Makes for more peaceful cows and ranchers. 

This is a bit of an old rickety chute, but it has a self-catching head catch, which allows this whole operation to be a one-man-band (with the exception of Mom to take pictures). To make it even more convenient we used Dad's electric iron. 

Looks good. She's now an official trader cow with three brands all on one side. 

They had already branded Andi earlier this spring, so all she needed was an ear tag. 

Where they are going for the summer, on the southern end of the Big Horns, lends itself to cattle mixups with the neighbors. The more identification markers the better. Reverse L Drawknife in two places should give everybody the hint of whose they are. 

Giddy up. 

It was necessary that we get this tub and alley in place so that we can complete other parts of this corral project. There will be another fence and gate that will nose right into the front of this chute to allow for separate pens when not using the alley and chute, and to help direct traffic when we are using it. Once this working facility has its final touches we can move on to finishing the rest of the corral. Catholic Cowboys don't get ready. They stay ready. On to the next one. 


God's fulfillment continues.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Native Grass

In the badlands of Wyoming, its not so much about the amount of moisture you get, but the timing of it. This has not been an exceptionally wet spring around our home place near Worland, but the native grasses are exquisite. 

This hill top is part of my great-great grandpa Bernard Neiber's homestead. Most everything here you see is native. Some sage brush, cactus in bloom, Yucca plants, which my grandma always liked, and other native grasses in the background. 

This tall blooming bunch grass is what has really caught Dad’s and my attention. 

So I called my buddy horticulturalist, John Flocchini, to get the species on some of these plants. This is what is locally called Needle and Thread. More formally, Hesperostipa comata. We don't recall seeing it this tall and fully bloomed before. Looks great. 

This form of crested wheatgrass also stands tall this year. Big and bunchy. 

Unfortunately, intermingled with some of this native grass is cheat grass. In typical badland country, you have different bunch grass with about 18" of dirt and rocks between the next native plant. Now different noxious weeds have crept in. And in some cases, choked out the native grass. Cheat grass is a fall germinating winter annual grass, which means in gets jump on the perennial grass by robbing the spring moisture. Then it dies out in mid-June spreading it's seed heads all across the country perpetuating the problem. 

I like to focus on the grass though. The thing with prairie grass is that it packs a protein punch. It may be sparse, but there is a lot of nutritional value to what is to be found. Cows and sheep can do real well out here. 

This is the hill I hope to be laid to rest on. My homesteading grandparents, Bernard and Mary Neiber are buried up here, along with other relatives and neighbors. The hillside is so Wyoming, sagebrush, sporadic bunch grass, and a lot of dirt and rocks. I love it. 

Good stuff. Not every spring stands out like this one. But when it does, you better stop and take some pictures. Native grass gives me hope. There's always weeds in the world, our Lord said there would be. But He also says, be of good cheer. I have overcome the world (John 1633). Let's ranch. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024


June 8th marks the calendar anniversary of my priestly ordination back in 2018. I'm forever grateful for my seminary experience. I did four years of college seminary at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon and four years of Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. On my way home from retreat in Colorado, I swung in to reminisce a bit. 

Beautiful. The colors around here both lift your mind to God as well as draw your heart into the reality that He became man. 

St. John Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests. Thanks for the help, pal. Keep the graces coming. 

The chapel is the heart of it all. Here we daily encountered the Lord in the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the Christian life. The main reason we are ordained a priests is to celebrate the Mass. This is probably the manliest chapel I’ve come across. 

The statues and side altars are dynamic, which lead you into the mystery our our Lord's incarnate love for us. 

On this the feast our the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the day I celebrated my first Mass, I totally entrust my priesthood to you, Mary!

St. Joe played a big roll in my personal priestly formation. It was through his spiritual encouragement that I took up wood working again. 

As a parting gift, our class of 2016 made two votive candle stands, one for St. Joe and one for our Blessed Mother. 

They were a fun project, which about three of us embarked on.

The original seminary was named St. Thomas and run by the Vincentians, the religious order founded after St. Vincent de Paul. After their doors closed in the 1990's the Archdiocese of Denver reopened the seminary as St. John Vianney and has been in operation since 1999. 

Along with the chapel, we spent a lot of time laughing and dining in the refectory. 

Over the years, Archbishop commissioned me to build a couple projects. 

The first were these benches to be placed outside the Holy Trinity Center. 

The next were the pews for the chapel inside his residence. 

These guys definitely tested my wood working skills. 

I built them, but another guy stained and finished them. 

What joy it brings me to walk down the hall and see that my buddy Frankie and I finally made the wall of fame. 

I couldn't have done any of it without my formation director Fr. Jason Wallace. Good man and good priest. He could see that I was cut from a different cloth so he made sure I had plenty of projects to keep my hands active. Fr. Jason knows what it means to be a son and a father. Thanks brother for helping bring out the best in me. 

I sincerely love being a priest. It is what I am made for and is my mission in life. This vocation builds on my baptismal identity of being a beloved son of God. I am forever grateful for this proper ordering of formation that I received at SJV. It helped me to learn that the priest God wants me to be is the man he created me to be. Let's ranch!

Friday, June 7, 2024

Sacred Heart Retreat

Every spring the presbyterate of the Diocese of Cheyenne gather for their annual five day retreat. Not having a retreat center in Wyoming we alternate between going to South Dakota and Colorado. This year's retreat was held at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia CO. 

The Diocese of Cheyenne has about 40 active priests and most of us were able to gather along with Bishop Steven. 

The hardest part of the retreat was getting there. Denver traffic on a Monday morning can be brutal. Much time to reflect on my days of seminary down here. 

The Sacred Heart retreat center was founded in 1959. Our diocese has been utilizing it for presbyterate retreats since the 1960's. Beautiful quite area with about 280 acres to roam. 

It is a Jesuit retreat house who's founder was St. Ignatius of Loyola who lived in the 16th century. His spirituality is solid and universal to both priests and laity alike. In seminary we were highly formed in Ignatius spirituality, especially his discernment of spirits. 

Our digs were moderate and very accommodating. 

Anymore, the year we are down here is a silent retreat for us. The chapel was central station for Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and Holy Hour. 

This is only my second retreat here. Cool statues around this place. Good ole St. Joe the Worker. 

Retreats like this allow for as much chill time as prayer time. 

It was a beautiful week of prayer that fittingly concluded on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Fr. Clark Lenz and myself were ordained priests on this feast day six years ago. I love the feast of the Sacred Heart. Always are reminder that God loves us with a human heart. 

The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary always follows the feast of the Sacred Heart. Very fitting, as our Lord's last command on the Cross was for us to Behold our Mother. This statue really says it all. When we totally entrust ourselves to Mary we can stay peaceful as children in her arms, with our eyes always fixed on the Father's will. Let's ranch! 

St. Anthony

 Pray for us!