Friday, January 14, 2011


Dropping salt on the way to Magpie

It’s definitely a good feeling, knowing the cows are on the home place. Yes we still have to herd and fix fence, but everything is within a day’s reach and the days are getting longer.

Down fence above Magpie

Balancing act
The herd is scattered along the bench and grading up towards the rims above the river. When we first brought them down from Pumpkin Creek, a few head trailed to the south end of the range and found a hole in the fence. Mike and Gabe packed material and spent a day repairing one of the steepest fences on the ranch, a place where it’s hard to stand up, let alone build a rock jack.

I had the cushy job of babysitting and spent the first warm day of 2011 along the river with Dawson, digging in the sand bars, collecting muck and rocks and bones, and riding the “horse tree” in the big Box Elder grove.

Over a decade since the flood, it all comes back when I see places where the river changed course, islands of alders, abandoned meanders, rafts of debris, and the enormous piles of rock and gravel sorted and left behind on the wide bar.  Recently I saw images from the terrible floods in Australia, fierce soil-thick water clawing and sucking a path across the land. I knew what that would be like, the sound alone pushing against you in a deafening roar that threatened to pull you away to your death.

Four foot deep debris raft

Infill in the old eddy, a "20 ton" bridge beam 
New Year’s Eve storm, New Year’s day flood. The only one in my lifetime, I hope. Being at the mercy of the elements gives our lives immediacy, forces us to be resourceful, a part of the place where we live and work.

At the "beach"
The rewards are great, a lazy day in January, water riffling over the shallows and smoothing out across the summer swimming hole, a green shimmer of chervil germinating under the locust trees, sap rising in the willows. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef