Monday, May 7, 2012

A Conservation Legacy

Spring rains and sunshine have turned the canyons from gold to green. It is a world of fecundity, from the lush ribbon of trees along the river banks to the verdant folds of the grassy benches. A world that hums and flutters and slithers and splashes. A world of osprey and cliff swallow, gosling and merganser, butterfly and bumble bee, bull snake and river otter.
Balsamroot Sunflower

New calves are popping up everywhere. Their mothers emerging from sheltered draws and thickets with wobbly offspring. The calves soon to be cavorting across the benches with their peers.
Heifer nurses her first calf hidden in a draw

We've been helping the neighbors brand. A bunch of good ropers from upriver waded into the herd and a ground crew of young and old wrestled and worked the calves. The more experienced hands razzed each other over missed throws and hollered encouragement to the kids when they dallied on a calf. From young to old, everyone had a job, and if you didn't know how to do it, somebody showed you.  It renewed my appreciation for the skills and muscle that get the work done, and afterward, for the stories and food that reward our labor. 

Next generation getting the job done
Time for a little wrestling 
At the end of the branding, the rain started up again and the narrow steep road got slicker and greasier. I'm glad a few of the cowboys threw their chains on before hauling their horses to town. It's a reminder to take care, to think things through, to use the tools we have. 

Later that day, I cozied up with Rangelands reading a review of the book Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy, about the ranches that won Aldo Leopold awards. 

It says the most important tools are planning, partnerships, teaching, sharing and hospitality. It says to steward our resources we need multiple generations. Cattle bred to fit their environment. Adaptive management and enterprise diversification. I'd have to say, it sounds just like what we do. So I guess we're reflective of Leopold's agrarian ethic. We are thankful. 

Dawson riding home with Daddy

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef