Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy Bulls, Baby Elk, Bounty of Apricots

Mike took the bulls out to the Zumwalt to reunite with the cow herd in June. We winter all our animals together on the Imnaha, but we separate the bulls from the cows in the spring time. That way the cows will be bred to calve to when the grass is abundant.
"I'm back ladies!"

Blade bellers and Tank befriends a heifer

The bulls were also eager for a good scratch and rub on the pine bark.
Tank and Blade getting a rub

We saw a lot of cow elk when we returned to the canyon to pick up the last of the horses. Their adorable long legged calves bounced alongside as they moved up the ridge from the river. One cow and her calf took up residence in the box elder grove, visiting the orchard daily and cleaning up the windfall apricots. 
Elk cows and calves at the river

The apricots came on with a vengeance in the hundred degree weather. The fruit went from green to falling off the trees in three days! Luckily the hot weather also made for good river swimming, although the water was still too high and fast to really embrace the current. 
A few of the hundreds of pounds of apricots

Dawson and Cammie water fight

Even with the heat, the water was cold enough that the warm rocks felt good. 
Dawson warms up after his swim

Wes practices rock throwing

Dried, canned and jammed, apricots

We only get a big apricot crop about every four years as frost often nips the buds in spring. Between marketing beef, herding steers, and my day job, the apricot bounty was jammed, canned and dried. We're looking forward to the sunny taste of this beautiful fruit all winter long.

Last evening, we headed out to the steer pasture, hoping to get in a wayward steer who had fallen in love with the neighbor's cow herd.
Mike and Chester, off to bring in the awol steer
 It turned into an adventure, with the steer covering most of the 300 acre pasture. I watched Mike and Chester exhibiting their skills, jumping irrigation ditches, cutting and sprinting to head the steer, riding quietly behind the herd, gently nudging through and poking a small bunch toward the gate. At the last minute, the big steer and a bull charged for the open gate, I swung my bullwhip as Mike surged forward cutting between the two animals. Crack! The bull turned back. Crack! The steer, trying to bolt past me, turned into the next gate and the pasture where he belonged. I was impressed. We got him in, that stubborn steer.

Ten minutes later, with Chester in the trailer, we headed for home, only to see the steer jump a fence and trot back toward the cows. Sigh, we'll be back another day....

The end of my bull whip

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, Home of Bunchgrass Beef

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Branding, Trailing and Family Meeting

No wonder the past month is a bit of a blur. We gathered, sorted, branded, trailed the cows to the summer range, hauled steers to mountain valley pasture, planted the garden, and started on the fruit harvest!
Jordan sorts cattle on branding day

The day  before branding, Mike and I gathered the cattle after I drove down from town. We rode to the southern end of the ranch and down to the riverbar, where the yearlings and two-year olds practiced their shenanigans while we got the herd pointed uphill. Once they climed to the bench they settled into an easy trail down river.
Steers sorted and waiting to head for mountain pasture

Almost home, dusk began to creep in and we saw Gabe and Cammie's headlights coming down the canyon and knew they'd have dinner waiting. Then right above the house, the yearlings and two-year olds staged a mutiny, running everywhere but down the trail, testing the patience of dogs and herders, before they finally climbed off the bench to the river and through the gate.

Jacinda and Zeke, ready to work

Next morning,  Zeke and Jacinda came down and Jordan came and brought a horse. And Jerry and Liz showed up from Flora. And Paul and Molly and 'the doc' in residence from the clinic in Enterprise where Molly works.

Jordan with calmest calf 

It was  hot, but not too hot. We had a good crew and all went smoothly, other than one near-disaster at the end when Mike's horse got a rope under his tail, and set off bucking and tying himself up in knots.
Jerry, 'Doc', Liz, Molly

Luckily, Chester stayed upright and Mike stayed on. The doc didn't have to practice his medicine (he confessed he had no kit with him) and we all got to retire to the shade for a well deserved meal.

Gabe and Bird, Jerry, Zeke and Mike on ground crew

We feasted on pork from Amaranta Farm, salads, cold watermelon and cobbler.
Jacinda and Zeke - after

Weston rides the chow line 

A few days later the cows were topping out. 

Above Log Creek

Prairie and Gabe spent Fathers Day with Mike, trailing to the head of Alder Creek. The temperatures were blessedly cool and the cattle traveled easily.
'Mound scabland' ecological site  

That night we gathered for a family barbecue, the gift of a new wheelbarrow to Mike, and a meeting about the future of the ranch.

Mike and Chester, head of Alder Creek

It felt good to be together, to have accomplished another move from winter range to summer and to enjoy the delicious beef we raise.

Family meeting at Cammie and Gabe's

It felt good to share what is important to each of us, to hear about what the ranch gives to each of us, and what we each give to the ranch.

Wes contributes to the discussion

We listened to each other and we made a few decisions. It was good.  

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef