Monday, April 26, 2010

Date Night in the Thistle Patch

Sunday late afternoon, a gentle breeze blowing down the river, the golden light settling on vibrant new grass, Bunchgrass Beef cows high on the benches with their frisky new calves...all was well on the Magpie Ranch.

The dirty work of digging out the crawlspace and putting in new conduit for the solar power was done. The first go round on the lawn with the stinky hard-pushing gas mower, whacking it all down before snakes and grandchild had a chance to meet unexpectedly. Another ride on the sassy new mare. The bumpy drive up to Pumpkin Creek to seed grass on the fresh dozed tracks where the road was relocated out of the creek. And in between it all, the non-stop antics of the almost-two-year-old grandson.

Time for a break. Time to sit on the porch, letting it all sink in: the greening range, the merganzers zipping low through the air heading downstream, the current high and silty frothing over the rapids and sucking at the willows, the fruity-sweet scent of apple blossoms and the heady perfume of lilacs. And sun, glorious and warm, bathing red rock and red osier and purple brodia and yellow sunflower.

And what could be nicer than a leisurely meander across the bridge and upriver to the farthest stretch of reclaimed feedground, where the rangeland drill couldn't go, to the broadcast seeding, to see what our efforts had amounted to.

That's how it started, a simple hold-your-hand stroll through the field. But somehow a shovel entered into the picture, and not long thereafter, the uprooting and pulling of a scotch thistle here and there, and then the scuffing and scrabbling of kochia sprouts from among new grass seedlings. Before long I was hard at it in a clump of thistle rosettes with Mike up ahead, gloves wrapped around a stubborn root. When I finally stopped looking at the ground, he was gone, a telltale wire gate left open at the narrow end of the field.

I laid my shovel down and ventured into the lush ribbon of alder, birch, dogwood, elderberry, box elder and rose. Rock rims crowded the channel, towering overhead and casting their cool shade onto the tunnel of trees. I crept under the hanging branches, looking for signs of boot tracks in the new grass. The river churned past, licking the banks, and the fresh leaves of the trees danced around me in the breeze. "ARRRRRRR!" came the inevitable roar as Mike jumped up from behind an ancient upended box elder.

We laughed and then continued on through the green tunnel to the end of the grove where the rims reached the water and cut off the trail. And we stood for a moment on a rock reaching into the current, where we could see a few Bunchgrass Beef cows grazing the spring grass on the far bank, the slant light of dinner time cutting into the canyon. Then we turned toward home, holding hands again, at least till we got to the thistle patch.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef