Friday, December 19, 2014

Dark nights, bright lights

I tried to observe the Geminid meteor shower at the river last weekend, but the night was overcast. Later on the nearly full moon came up and a diffuse light shown through the floating clouds making the sky overhead look like a puffy silver-blue quilt. It was every bit as thrilling and beautiful as watching meteors.

Morning mist

In the morning, wraiths of mist flowed down from the canyon breaks as the sun lit rocky spires above. A magical way to start the day's work.

Mike has been packing salt. I haven't been able to help much as I've been on the road teaching workshops for people who want to move some of their investments out of Wall Street and into businesses in their own communities.
Mestizo packing salt and tubs

He packs blocks of salt to several salt-grounds spread out along the bench.  The salt provides the cattle with extra minerals and is also an incentive for the herd to utilize different parts of the range.
Chester and Mestizo rest after climbing to the bench.

We're gearing up for winter projects.  Mapping and estimating costs for a new drift fence above the river to keep cattle from dropping down and crossing the mouth of Horse Creek to go visit the neighbor's herd. Getting ready to wean our calves, hauling hay and setting up the feeder in the corrals where they will spend three weeks before being turned back with the herd.
Sara headed home from bringing a few cows back from Rye Bench

We need that new fence. A few bunches of cattle keep wanting to head up Horse Creek, toward the Pumpkin Creek range, when we're not ready to go yet. So we ride and hike to bring them back, a few here a few there. Luckily the trails haven't been too greasy. After weaning, we'll take the whole herd to Pumpkin Creek, but that won't be until the end of January.

Bell, ten months old
Bell, is just starting to work a little bit. She still thinks its a game and our goal at this stage is to give her a taste of herding. Safe and easy little jobs that will have a positive outcome.

Head down Punch works, head and tail up Bell plays

A jackpot or bad experience at this age can ruin a dog for work. Bell has plenty of confidence so she can take a firmer hand than most border collies. I say she's a little bit 'coyote', meaning independent minded and tough. And she has a tendency to bark, so she's learning to use her body and not her voice most of the time.

Newt, in retirement
Newt is going on eleven now, and retired. He helps out occasionally, but his old injuries from being run over - at about the age Bell is now - sore him up if he climbs around the canyon too much. So Punch and Ruby do the heavy lifting and Bell is coming up to take on more of the load in year or so.

Mike takes a break after morning herding

We have to fit our many tasks into the short daylight hours. Still we try to make time to rest, write, paint, draw and practice music to share on Christmas eve. And in the afternoon, when darkness suddenly descends, we light the many Christmas candles, honoring hope, love, life and a little good cheer in 'the bleak mid-winter.'

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef