Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Leaving the Zumwalt

We had to bring the cows in off the Zumwalt this month. The drought hit us hard and even though we were able to access some additional pasture by hauling water, once that dried up we made the move to bring the cows into the valley.
Water truck ready to fill pond

So strange to have consistent 80 degree October days, and nights in the 50s.  We kept a close watch on the cattle, grass and water, juggling a schedule that included fencing the valley pasture we were headed to, making our annual trip to deliver our Portland customers' meat, and Mike leaving town to present at the 2015 America's Grasslands Conference in Fort Collins.
Steers on Alder Slope

Any trip outside Wallowa County is a bit of an ordeal. It's at least a two hour drive to the nearest airport and there are limited flights. It turned out we had a bit of a perfect storm with our plan. 

Evening cattle on the Zumwalt

We had the freezer trailer reserved for the trip to Portland, had the cows settled for the week while Mike would be gone, and we had help lined up to move them upon his return. Then the night before we picked up the freezer trailer we checked on the cattle and the water had dropped a lot. Suddenly our plans were in flux. We had to get the cows to another pasture before our Portland trip. We had a place to go for a few days, but it meant gathering and trailing, work we didn't have planned and didn't really have time for. We bucked up and got busy. 

The next morning, Mike drove the hour and half to get the freezer trailer and then to the processor to load it with frozen meat. That's when a trailer tire started going flat. We nursed it 30 miles to the tire store and the rental company paid for two new tires and a spare. At this point we were about a half day behind schedule. 

Mike and Gabe gather cattle off the Zumwalt

Luckily, that afternoon the cattle cooperated and we made it to our back-up pasture in record time. We drove back to the Valley at dusk, and finished packing up for Portland in the dark. Next morning early, we were on our way and by Sunday night, all our customers had picked up their meat. It was a whirlwind of juggling boxes, hugs and hellos, checking invoices, and waiving goodbye to the last car pulling out of the parking lot at Zenger Farm. 

Monday we headed east, five hours later parting ways in La Grande where Mike picked up our car for his drive to Boise and a flight to Denver. When I finally pulled into our driveway, I was so glad to be home. I wished I'd had more time to visit with people on delivery day, that I had taken more pictures, that everything was less rushed. 
Grandboys with 'treasure' - old nails at McClaran corrals

We've faced a lot of change this year, a lot of punting and problem solving. Like most people in agriculture, we are beginning to see some of the long term changes ahead. 

I'm looking forward to getting the cattle to the winter range, but we're still rowing hard to get through fall. There's a new grandchild due to arrive soon, the honoring of elders who have passed on this month, and always grass to monitor, cattle to move, fences to fix. This morning I woke up to a quiet rain and was thankful for a little time to find my center, to slow down, let go, give thanks. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef.