Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Zenger Farm and Zumwalt Prairie

What connects Zenger Farm in SE Portland to Zumwalt Prairie in NE Oregon? Another Prairie, this one of the human kind, as in our daughter Prairie Rose Hale, Zenger Farm Community Programs Manager.

Prairie at Zenger Farm

Prairie grew up in the wilds of Hells Canyon where we worked herding cattle on the winter ranges of the Snake River. She spent her summers on the Zumwalt Prairie, first herding cattle at the Steen Place at the edge of the timber and later at the Buttes near the head of Camp Creek.

Longhorns on the Zumwalt Prairie

I still remember riding up out of the canyon with Prairie when she was just a baby. We'd already trailed the cattle and hauled our gear from our winter camp in the canyon to the summer ground on the Zumwalt. Now we were riding the last of our saddle horses up, a full day's ride. Prairie was only about four months old and I carried her swaddled to my chest, on a steady white gelding named Casper.

Looking into the canyon from on top

The country was new to me. I'd never ridden the trail before, but Mike had. He rode ahead of me with Gabe, not yet two years old, in front of him on the saddle. We crossed a wide open grassy bench, then climbed up the darkly timbered creek toward the canyon rims. The trail grew narrower and narrower until we reached a notch that went right up a steep rock face. The horses lunged forward, their powerful hindquarters launching them up onto the rock, hooves scrabbling for purchase as their momentum carried them up the rock and back onto the trail.

I remember asking Mike what else lay ahead of us and I felt relief when he said that was the worst of it. After that, it was just a long day in the saddle, eating lunches and snacks from our saddle bags, resting under trees, and drinking from springs.

Prairie herding cattle to summer range

Now we run our own herd of longhorn cattle and even though Prairie lives in Portland, she comes home every year to help us trail them out of the canyon to the summer range on the Zumwalt.

Magpie Ranch longhorn calf

We love supporting Zenger Farm and Prairie's work in an urban setting. Raising food, encouraging farmers, helping children and adults in their neighborhood learn about sustainable farming and enjoying healthy food together. And we're glad that some of our healthy beef shares go to feed families in Prairie's neighborhood.

Where kids grow and eat 

We're also excited to be part of building the new Urban Grange education facility by donating ranch stays to Zenger's fundraising efforts.
The urban grange at Zenger Farm

When the folks who bought our ranch stays arrived for their visits, we enjoyed sharing our common enthusiasm for Zenger's mission, as well as sharing a part of our way of life on a small family ranch.

Sara works on fence on Zumwalt Prairie

Now summer is halfway over and the cattle are doing well on the range as we keep a close eye on the water and feed in drought conditions.  We’ve been repairing fence and I’ve enjoyed the early mornings and late evenings out on the Zumwalt. It feels like the prairie is part of my family. I miss it when I've been away in town and I feel a welcoming timelessness when I’m back working there again. It reminds me of all the summers we spent living and working there when our children were little. The smell of tarweed and buckwheat, the calls of the meadow larks, the prairie breezes, the distant mountain ranges of the Wallowas and Seven Devils, the storms gathering and rumbling past. A balm for the soul in spite of wrestling old fences and rusty barbwire.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef