Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How it Goes

Freeze and thaw. Freeze and thaw. A faint plumping in the catkins. A few green sprouts of annuals, and the bluebunch wheatgrass stirring every time the temperature hits thirty-nine degrees.

 Gabe, Wes, Dawson, James and Luke go fishing

The weather in the canyon finally improved to where the ground is drying out some and the animals are better able to travel. The wet and frigid conditions in December also took a toll on the main road, undermining it near Fall Creek with a dangerous and spooky undercut that sprawled beneath the downhill edge.

Thankfully, the County road crew is working on it this week and has closed the road for repairs. Mike was likely the last one down as he got a late start last night, leaving the valley after truck maintenance that took too long.
Herders, looking at birds, after crossing cattle upriver, Mike, Dawson

Weston in Mike's back pack

Earlier this month, we had the boys for three days while their parents whooped it up in Seattle at the Seahawks play-offs. Wes enjoyed worming his way into our bed both nights, reminding us of just how squirmy a sleeping one-year old can be.

Fisherman Jon R helps between holes

We finally got the new alley, holding box and gates in so we could use the corrals for weaning. Mike and Gabe gathered and sorted, with a couple really long days. For the next month, Mike will be at the river, tending the calves until we turn them back in with the herd.
New alley and holding box, calves gathered and sorted

Guests arrived the last weekend of January, winners of the ranch stay auction item at the Zenger Farm fundraising dinner in Portland. Prairie works at Zenger Farm and encouraged us to help in raising funds to build their Urban Grange. Zenger Farm provides a ton of food education opportunities in the Lents area. Prairie enjoys working with families in the neighborhood, and coordinating outreach to involve schools, families and volunteers in the Farm.

Justin teases a few fish out of a hole

It turned out we had a lot in common with our guests, with many lively exchanges and conversations during their stay. Justin is a fisherman, and Alivia an avid outdoors person, so they were right at home in the canyon. We all stayed up too late, Justin and Alivia slept in, and we enjoyed sharing stories of children, travels, and our questions about the world.

Alivia and Sara hike the bar

The calves are healthy and it's good to be part-way through weaning, another sign that spring is inching toward us. We know we've got a lot of freezing weather ahead, that the norths won't really thaw until March, but the birds, the little patches of green, and even the first caterpillar, remind us of warmer days to come.

Dawson finds the first caterpillar of the year

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Changes and Passages

I've tried to savor every day, every moment, of the holidays this year. Each visit, each walk of reflection, each romp with the grandboys, each evening of candles, the lit tree, the joyful music.

Snow Lady below Maggie Beecher

In the canyon we've had temperatures from single digit frozen days to fifty degrees above zero. The wet weather has made the norths even more treacherous, with thawed ground on top of frozen ground, and ice lingering in the draws. We marvel that the animals can get around at all. Thank goodness it finally did warm up because our water line froze between the spring and the house and turned our cistern into a 550 gallon ice cube. 
My 'birthday present' to Mike

Our two goals the last few weeks were to thaw and repair waterline and rebuild the corrals. Everybody who came to the river put in a lick on one of these projects. Cheryl. Jon and Prairie. Zeke and Gabe. Bashar.  
Prairie cleans up weeds 

Jon hangs a gate
We're getting ready to wean and the corrals need to be done before we can bring the calves in. The improvements to the corrals will make working cattle a lot nicer. 
Some of our new posts

Bashar gears up to go to work 

Bashar, the Palestinian exchange student living in Joseph, came down for few days and it rained and blew. He got muddy and wet, but he marveled at the cowboy gear that kept him relatively comfortable. I am thankful Bashar traveled all the way from Gaza to spend a year learning about another way of life in another country. We are learning from him too.

Hiking back from closing gates upriver, I was thinking of Jack McClaran who passed away this week. When I first met Jack, Mike and I were living at Tulley Creek working for Warren Glaus. Gabe and Prairie were just babies. Later when we worked for Jack, putting up hay along Lightning Creek in summer and wintering at Cow Creek, I got to hear his stories. Stories of growing up, of growing the McClaran ranch, stories that became part of my education on how to work and live in the canyons.

Bashar and Newt - heading back to the house

Now Mike and I are watching our parents' generation pass on as we step into some of their roles.  We have another generation coming on. Marriages, new babies. And we see ourselves trying to find out what our children want to make of the places we've cultivated, the animals we've raised, the opportunities they see. 
Weston tries out snow boots

During the many years we neighbored McClarans, wintering at Dug Bar and summering at the Steen Place, I'd bump into Jack in town and he was always ready with a smile and a hug. He always took time to ask about the children, our jobs, what we were learning, and later, on about the ranch, our cattle and our operation. 

As man who meant a lot to a lot of people, Jack will be sorely missed. 

I will miss him as a man who understood a life in the canyon, a life of neighborliness, of creeks and draws and benches, of high rims and slick norths, of horses sharp-shod and cattle balanced on an icy trail, of a hot cup of coffee on a wet day, of a stop-and-chat along a muddy road and a reminder that life is right here, right now.  

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef