Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Visitors Young and Old from Near and Far

The canyons beckon to everyone seeking the early green world of river fishing, blossoming trees, nesting birds and shirtsleeve afternoons. We've enjoyed a string of visitors, young and old, both local and international. 

Games before breakfast! 

Marcy and Dennis Sheehy arrived from Wallowa with four grandkids in tow. Nonstop games, meals, fishing, art and some amazing domino constructions ensued. The important thing was no work!

Right angle bridging and it worked!

Painting and drawing

Fishing and lots of snagged lures

It's been a tough winter and they were glad to get a break from ranch chores. Fishing efforts yielded a few fish and a few good battles with trees over snagged lures.

Mike and Dennis have worked together as rangeland scientists in Mongolia, so they enjoyed their usual dialogue about grass, technology, herbivores and people.

Dennis and Mike goofing off

I had some help from Jacinda who came down to ride Pumpkin Creek with me. We were looking for a couple pairs of early calvers that we left behind when we trailed down to the river. We didn't find the pairs but we did engage in a little rodeo on the way home.
Jacinda and Chester

Something spooked our horses as we poked along near the end of the day. I lost my right stirrup on the first jump, but managed to stay on through the next couple, and so did Jacinda. We were so close together it felt like synchronized riding.

Aunt Vera and Mom 

Aunt Vera loved the braised beef cheeks

Mid month, the 'oldsters' arrived, from Seattle and North Dakota, Mom, almost 89 and Aunt Vera, soon to be 93. We had a fine time eating delicious meals, playing countless Scrabble games, and lounging in the warm sunshine of the canyon.

Dawson and Great Grandma study birds

The grandboys were glad to see Great Grandma Lorry again and Mom even helped ride herd on Weston a few times. As Mom announced to me one morning, "You've got your hands full, you're doing eldercare AND childcare!"
Great Grandma rides herd on Weston

We have a new pup, Bell, named after our old friend Chuck Gibson's banjo - Julia Bell Swain. Wes likes to feed her, generally spilling puppy chow and then returning it to the dish one kibble at a time. He is learning to teach Bell not to try and herd or wrestle him.
Wes feeds Bell, again....
Mom spoils Bell

Mom loves all animals, and doted on Bell, calling her 'baby' and 'sweetheart'.  As in, "No baby, no sweetheart, you can't chew my shoe..."

Our next visitors came the farthest, from Ethiopia, via Washington DC. The Goodland family are originally from England, though their children have never lived there.

Goodland family at cut bank, first snake! 

Andrew is an economist who met Mike and Dennis through work in Mongolia, funded by the World Bank. After living in Beijing for a number of years, Goodlands are now stationed in Addis Ababa. While in the states, they brought the whole family to Eastern Oregon to visit the Sheehy's and Mike and I. On a hike upriver, they had the exciting experience of seeing the first rattlesnake of the year. The day rounded out with a picnic, a treasure hunt and time on the swing.
Rock skipping

End of a lovely day

We are thankful to have friends and relations making the journey to Magpie Ranch to share their lives with us.  I'm reminded of precious hospitality, how much it means to us in when we are the travelers, and how much we learn when we can host others in the places we know and love. 

Weston  learns the ropes from Sara

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef

Monday, April 7, 2014


Yup, we recently celebrated the big 35. When you get married on St. Patrick's day, it's easy to remember your anniversary and it seems like everyone is celebrating with you! We had a wonderful few days, working - of course, but also eating yummy meals, relaxing, sipping champagne and playing music on the deck.
Hors d’oeuvre for two 

Before dinner, we hiked up Spring Gulch to the Rye Bench hoping to spot six heifers AWOL on the neighbor's. We didn't find any sign of them, but I enjoyed the bright green lomatium in full bloom and the delicate pink phlox springing up in the midst of plump patches of prickly pear. 
Packing salt on our anniversary

Mike gets wayward heifers through rims 
Next day we rode and packed salt, checking on the yearlings we turned out last month after weaning. In the afternoon, we drove up Horse Creek looking for the heifers. This time we hit the jackpot and found them a short distance up from the mouth of the creek.

I thought it looked too steep and rimmy, but Mike said if he could get across the creek, he thought he could trail them up the ridge and home. His creek crossing skills are impressive and I watched him balance on a fallen tree and make his way to the other side, slow and catty.

Gabe adjusts while Wes holds the reins

After our anniversary, Gabe and Cammie helped us gather and trail the cow herd down from Pumpkin Creek. We had great weather and everything went pretty smoothly. Cammie and I rode up to the cabin and the guys rode back and trailed, while Cammie and I brought the truck down with the boys.

Gabe, Cammie and boys head for the fishing hole

We even made it home in time to do some fishing and goofing off before devouring a delicious ham dinner cooked in the dutch oven. The long days are sure nice after the early dark of winter.
Concentration might catch a fish

Mike has started another fence project. Fencing, fencing, fencing, it never ends. But I'll be glad to have this new fence. It will enclose the area between the house and barn, including the bunkhouse, shop and other outbuildings, and tie in with the corrals.
Gabe and Mike fence planning at dusk

Is it deep enough for the post? 

In real cold winters, when the high creeks and springs freeze, the cattle come down off the benches to water at the river. And after drinking, they often loaf around between the house and barn, leaving their calling cards.

The new fence will create a little holding pasture that we can use for a few animals at a time, while keeping the herd a bit further from the house. We'll still see them when they come by, just not have them right outside the kitchen window!

Time with Grandpa 

I'm thankful to have a partner who likes the same things I do, family, meaningful work, wild places.

Every day challenges us to learn, to benefit from science, art, and husbandry in our labors. And perhaps most of all, to listen, to observe, to be mindful of what we use to live and what our actions result in.

I'm also thankful to have a partner who accepts me just the way I am. Swing and all.
A little sketching, a little swinging, a good way to celebrate.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef