Thursday, May 5, 2016

Stronger and Better with Music

Mike, Mike and Ashley at Lone Pine Saddle

In early April, we hosted Zenger Farm supporters, Ashley Sherrick and Mike Terepka for a ranch stay.  We donate a weekend at the ranch as part of the fundraising auction for Zenger Farm in Portland. Ashley and Mike won the bid and we had a great weekend together, swapping stories of far-away travels and sharing yummy meals, including my favorite experiment of the weekend -- mushroom-laden gravy on slow-grilled polenta.
Another Mike of many songs

With two Mike's who love music, we were treated to singing, and banjo/guitar playing into the wee hours (long after I went to bed). We also had a lovely night-walk downriver along the old driveway trail, each of us hanging onto our partner and bumping into an occasional boulder in the pitch black. The stars in the moonless sky were spectacular. We stood on the edge of a rim above the rushing river and looked for familiar constellations overhead. Ashley knew the most, naming off possibilities I'd never heard of.
"You are here"

I love the relief map we have on the living room wall. It gives a sense of the vastness of the canyons and is a great way to orient visitors to the lay of the land.  I like to use it to point out the many special places we have lived and worked over the years.

Palisades picnic

We lucked out on the weather and picked a sunny day to drive to Cactus Mountain and hike part of the Ni Mi Poo trail. The barrel cactus weren't blooming yet, but the canyon was starting to green up and we saw pink phlox, yellow sunflowers, purple penstemon and white yarrow.

Looking south, towards Magpie Ranch
After Ashley and Mike left for home, we got back to fencing.  Well, I shouldn't say we - because even though my arm is getting stronger and better all the time, I still can't do hard labor. I did help lug material up the steep part of the fence line, but I can't quite hold a stay and pound in staples yet. 

Fence around old sheep ground 


Mike and Ben finished the fence around the historic sheep bed ground above the barn, so it's ready for restoration seeding and rehab. It will be interesting to see what kind of results Mike will get with the restoration. He has collected baseline data on it for a while, but now he'll start experimenting with ways to get more diversity of plants growing on this degraded area. 

Chester at the mouth of spring draw

Ben and Mike also fenced the area around the spring box. Chester had his first experience packing fence material. Mike said Chester didn't like the loading process, but once it was all on there, he did okay. It was a challenging fence to build in the steep narrow draw and I was glad Ben was there to help. 

Rock jack at spring draw

When I think of all the projects on the ranch over the years, I see the faces of the people who helped us do that work. Luke with his bobcat digging out the back of the barn. Zeke running a chain saw prepping for prescribed burning. Pete dismantling rotten corrals. Prairie peeling poles for the new corrals. Julia digging thistles. And so many many many others. Thank you. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef

Sunday, May 1, 2016

That was March

I'm always enamored of the first catkins that bloom along the river. They seem to flower about the same time as the apricot trees. Now the first leaves are appearing and the lilacs are about to pop.


Mike has been planning and building fence for some of his conservation projects. He also replaced the fence along the old driveway. Before the thousand year flood event of '97, the driveway crossed the river on a two-part wooden bridge near the old campground. 

Looking down the old driveway

It was a beastly scary bridge that launched off an abutment part-way out in the river and swooped steeply up onto a rim where the track immediately make a sharp right to avoid crashing into another rock face. In winter the icy sagging timbers made it especially treacherous.

Nice sale heifers 

We kept a few heifers this year, and sold the rest. Sometimes it's hard to choose. One we kept is out of Weston's cow, so it will be interesting to see how she turns out.

Another fish for Dawson

Dawson is getting good at catching and bringing home fish for supper. He is definitely following in his dad's footsteps. When Gabe was five, he and Prairie would pack some snacks and Prairie's 'my little ponies' and go down to the Snake River to catch bass. Gabe loved to fish. If he caught them, I would cook them, but he had to clean them. That was when we lived at Dug Bar in Hells Canyon.
Weston the fish stunner

I had a blast at the Old Time dance and I got to dance a couple waltzes with Mike in spite of my arm still being in a sling. Caleb and Reeb brought the Culley Cut-Ups out from Portland to play the dance and we had a good turn out at the Oddfellows.
Old timey dance at Oddfellows

Culley Cut-ups visit from P-Town

After the apricots, the plums started blooming. The canyons are well on their way to greening and the river is swelling with run-off from the mountains.

Greening and blooming

Mike took advantage of the warmer temperatures to finish painting a new screen door.  It has two sassy mapgies carved by Steve Arment,

New screen door with Magpies

The door commemorates Jon and Prairie's wedding, which took place in 2013. We had planned to host the wedding at the ranch, but were forced to relocate to the valley when a wildland range fire threatened. We still held a private family ceremony at the ranch, and now the new door reminds me of that special day.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef