Friday, November 19, 2010

Hats Off to Customers

Steel blue-grey sky and snow-covered fields outside the kitchen window as dawn creeps into the Wallowa Valley. On this 15 degree morning, I'm thankful the Oval cookstove still has coals in the firebox and all I have to do it drop in a couple chunks of wood to get the fire going again. It's the season of thankfulness and for days now I've been ruminating on how much I appreciate our Bunchgrass Beef customers. 
Cold morning in the valley

Customers--hats off to you! Not only have you supported us financially by buying our locally raised beef, you have been my teachers at Customer College. Your questions have helped me tell our story. Your feedback has given me perspective, everything from how great your cholesterol levels are to how people at your barbecue went wild over the amazing flavor of a Bunchgrass Beef burger. 

I love that you love feeding your families with natural, healthy local beef. I love that you are connected to Magpie Ranch and want to keep family ranches on the land, supporting local knowledge and our efforts to raise food sustainably. 

Packing salt to cattle in the canyon
I love how diverse you are and the many ways you inform me. Why does an animal yield more meat one year than the next? How come my raw burger turns dark after I leave it open in the fridge? How do I decide which "quarter" to buy? What do I do with this big roast? What makes this meat so flavorful? Why are the fats different in grassfed meat? 

When I'm struggling to get a fence back up on the edge of a canyon, or chopping ice at a water hole, or crunching numbers and making calls, your words of encouragement are right there, they are a part of what keeps us going. 

So give yourselves a gold star, for patience, for sincerity, for caring about local food and most of all, for letting us know what you think. And here's a big cowgirl whistle for you too. Plug your ears!

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Over the River

John and Newt below Packsaddle

It's official. The cow herd is on the winter range. Doug and Gabe and Dennis helped us get them to Packsaddle and a couple days later, John and Mike trailed them from the Hall place across the river to Magpie. I bet the cows are as relieved as I am. It's nice to get settled into your home range for the long winter, with all that nutritious bunchgrass spread out across the slopes and benches, the clear fresh water, and plenty of room to wander.

Climbing out of the Hall place

The favorite spot for crossing the Imnaha River
We'll be taking the herd up Pumpkin Creek for a couple months this year. It's been about four years since they were were up there. We've been resting that range since the big fire a few years ago, and gradually getting the fences fixed or replaced where they burned up. As soon as we get a couple big downfall trees off the main fence, we'll be ready to trail the herd the six miles up Horse Creek.

Pumpkin Creek reminds me a little of the Litch Place on Cow Creek.  I love being high up in the big pines, hemmed in by the narrow rims and steep canyon sides, far from the road. The cabin is primitive, but provides the basics, a place to cook, get warm, sleep.

I'm looking forward to spending a bit more time there, exploring, getting to know the trails, cleaning the cabin, fixing things up. I am reminded to thank each hard working soul who was here before me, building this fence, putting on a new roof, clearing a trail to the creek. Every "improvement" out in this vast country is a welcome and valued asset, even if it is just a two room shack with an outhouse and a place to put your horses.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef