Workaway: The Horse Ranches, Part 2

Our first Workaway was a bit of a disaster that we cut short by a good two weeks. We were worried about the next ranch we were going to, wondering if our first experience was the norm. But we also know that we have almost catastrophically bad luck, so our first experience being a near disaster was kind of to be expected.

The next ranch used to breed cattle, but the owners had gotten older and had no one to pass the farm to. Now it was just hay and horses. They used to have a lot of WOOFers and others come in large numbers, but now were just looking for someone to help fell and trim some trees.

The new view.

The lady of the house was kind and helpful. She was glad to have the company and the help. I worked with a chainsaw cutting down dead or unwanted trees and trimming back others. Lyndsay and Aurora helped load it into a UTV, then I would drive it over to a burn pile and unload. This was a lot of physical labour, but we worked four to five hours per day split between morning and evening (that was a hot summer and working midday was killer).

I’m not a lunatic, I swear.

There were of course a few problems. The electrical hookup just couldn’t power our air conditioner; it would trip their breakers. This left the inside of the RV extraordinarily hot through the day, and we often found ourselves trying to escape by spending the day at one of several nearby lakes. This increased our fuel bill by a fair amount.

The other problem was their dogs. Unfortunately, rural crime is a major issue in the Canadian prairies. They had two guard dogs. Not dogs trained to guard, but bred┬áto guard. Run and they would chase you down and bite. This meant that Aurora was completely unable to run around in the yard. As they wouldn’t allow strange animals to approach the yard, it meant that Drumpf – previously allowed total freedom to go where he wished – was stuck inside.

Longing for the outdoors.

We were forewarned about the dogs. I’m sure if we’d had a different option we would have gone somewhere else. But as we were trying to get away from the previous Workaway and didn’t want to spend the money on an RV park, we had few options. No other nearby Workaway was interested in taking us.

Despite these problems, the Workaway was mostly pleasant. We worked a fair amount, and the lady of the house cooked supper for us each day and gave us groceries. She was very nice, and if it hadn’t been for the lack of air conditioning and the dogs the experience would have been fantastic. The two weeks spent there were far superior to the two weeks on the previous ranch.

The road to nowhere.

There is nothing quite like a prairie sky. The surrounding land was beautiful, and a short walk away from the ranch yard meant no guard dogs. And right nearby, we found Saskatoon berries.

Berry picking with Abba.

While we were on this ranch, there was a rodeo in a nearby town. All of us went as none had been to a rodeo before. They had pig wrangling, tractor pulls, horsemanship skills, steer wrestling and bull riding, and more. One event was teams of youth working together to get a rider onto an unbroken pony; it was great to watch and we all had fun.

Dalija liked that last one a lot, she said something along the lines of, “Why don’t we have this in Germany?” Because North Americans are far crazier than Germans, Dalija.

Unfortunately, Dalija had a fall just before the bull riding and reinjured her knee. We had to take her back to the ranch. Originally she had planned on continuing on a different Workaway in Alberta, but now she decided to head home so that she could get the injury treated properly. We still talk to her from time to time even these many months later.

There was still one more Workaway to go once we hit Vancouver Island. But after this, we headed back to Winnipeg for one last month, drop Dalija off at the airport, and to say goodbye.

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