Friday, March 11, 2011

Chainsaw Work

Gabe brushing out draw to fix broken water line 
At least it was a warm day when Mike and Gabe tackled the water line after zero degree temperatures at the end of February froze and broke twenty foot of line running up to the spring. The wildfire that raged through a few years back had burned most of the brush out of the draw, but the broken water line was in a staubed-up tangle of brush and dead hackberry. That's when it's so nice to have a son around to handle the chainsaw work. 

While Gabe was at it, we cleaned up more of the dead wood in the orchard-garden. We've been pruning every year since we took over the ranch and it still needs more. I run the loppers and the hand pruners, but it is so satisfying to see a big ol' limb come off like a hunk of butter in the maw of the chain saw. I have not gotten over my sadness at the girdling of the trees by someone who put wire cages on and left them. The beautiful fruit trees grew into the wire and many were dead or dying when we started resurrecting the place. 
Cleaning the orchard

I can still remember picking nectarines and peaches there more than 25 years ago. The ripe nectarines were small and scabby and incredibly sweet, with little jewels of nectar that had oozed from tiny cracks and hardened like sap on the outer skin. Wasps lilted around us in the languid air, and when all the fruit was gone, we shed the stickiness and dust from our skin with a dip in the swimming hole before driving back to town. Now moldered stumps cast a faint shadow in the dry horsetail patch where the nectarines once stood. 

In spite of all those years of neglect, the apricot trees are enormous and healthy, raising plump purple-tinged buds into the crisp air of a March evening. I'm crossing my fingers we'll be picking luscious golden apricots come July, but I know that gift arrives only perhaps one year out of four, so we'll see if the fruit sets this year, or if a late frost will nip the trees along the river. 

It won't be long before the cows begin to calve and the river will be running high and fast. We're still fetching little bunches back every week from where they cross to the west side of the canyon. Let's hope the mother cows are all on the east bench when they start to drop their calves. Once the river rises, it's a slow trail around to the bridge to bring them home. 
At the ford upriver
Driving back to the valley yesterday, Mike caught the sunset over the Wallowas. Another storm just blew through and now it's thawing again. It's a special part of the world that can give us the early green of canyon spring and the bold sunset of the snow covered valley all in the same day. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef.