Monday, August 29, 2016

Away to Me

"Away" is the command we give the dogs to travel counterclockwise around the cattle. It's short for "away to me." Last week Mike returned home after a month in Kyrgyzstan and I found myself willing him toward me. Almost as if I could gather him in. As if some part of me were silently calling 'away to me, away' as his plane hurtled west around the globe. 

Krygyz gelding

And when I finally picked him up at the airport in Walla Walla, at 2 am in the morning, I could relax."That'll do," I thought. The command we give the dogs to quit working, the job's done.

Mike discussing invasive Caragana

After a month of workshops and trainings and management plans, Mike was coming home to a whirlwind of ranch work. I was hoping he'd have a few days of relaxation before jumping into moving cattle, monitoring pastures, harvesting beef and making deliveries. 
Buying koumis from Kyrgyz herder family 

Weston and I made plum, pear, apple galettes as a welcome-home treat. Wes is happy to demonstrate his knife skills, including telling me the first one I gave him was "too sharp." He got to take a gallette home to share with his dad. 
Wes cuts pears

As much as I wish I could give the command to 'stay' I know I'll be sending Mike back across the ocean again soon. His work in Kyrgyzstan isn't really done. In October he'll head off again, making another circle in the big pastoral rangeland world.

Mike,  Wes and Dawson in their Kalpaks (herder hats)

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Adventures with Vehicles

Bell, Ruby and Punch tied in
Our truck has been in the shop quite a bit recently, so I borrowed Gabe and Cammie's truck to head for the prairie and check on the cows. The dogs are used to being in their travelling kennel on our flat bed and I had to improvise a cross tie so they wouldn't fall out or jump out of Gabe's truck and get squashed. 

Dawson organizes snacks for Wes

Dawson and Wes were good company. They have had to put up with several vehicle episodes lately.  Their reward for long waits at the mechanic was extra-long swimming at the lake with friends, many many library books, and fun snacks from M Crow and Co.
Cows happy on the summer range

The cows, calves and bulls were doing good with plenty of grass and plenty of water in the ponds. The boys and I got to see the effects of a late spring cloudburst and gully washer. Along the two-track access road, there were a few big holes that were interesting to navigate, but nothing four-low couldn't handle.

Four bucket picker - don't spill! 

Blackberries have come and gone and I'm glad I made it to the river for some excellent picking with Cheryl. We also tried out a few of our favorite swimming holes after getting super hot in the hundred degree weather.

Swimming hole at old bridge abutment

Unfortunately, on the way out of the canyon, my car overheated and my brakes and automatic transmission both stopped working right. (And that was after we had to change a flat tire.) Luckily we made it through the last few hairpin turns on the steep dirt road and I got the car stopped at the pavement by using the emergency brake. After a cool down, it was driveable again, but now is headed for the shop. 

Cows near the lower pond

Since the truck was still out-of-service with an electrical problem, Patricia drove me out to the Zumwalt to see the cows again. We had a storm on our heels and saw some fantastic lighting bolts and rain curtains on the way home.

Storm behind us

I'm so glad I have friends who know what a cheater bar is, know how to kill a rattler, love hyperactive working dogs, aren't afraid of hairy roads, like to keep an eye on cows, are willing to help lug irrigation pipe, check on a colicky horse, fix plumbing problems and drive me back and forth to the mechanic. 

It's a good thing Mike is coming home soon. I'm half a partnership and barely holding up my end. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Off to Montana to Throw the Hoolihan

Many hours of this view - Dennis driving
The lyrics to this old time cowboy song come to mind when I think of our recent road trip across Montana and into Saskatchewan . Believe it or not the hoolihan is one throw I actually got okay at. It's a loopy overhand throw, and I've used it on horses. I don't know what kind of roping was going on in the song, but on our road trip we weren't off to do any kind of cowboying. 

North Central Montana

Dennis and Marcy and Mike and I were headed to Saskatoon to the International Rangeland Congress, where Mike and Dennis were presenting. Mike gave an oral presentation in the ecosite descriptions and ecoregion classification session. His paper was titled, Developing Ecological Site Descriptions on Mongolian Rangelands to Enhance Monitoring Condition and Trend. Dennis and colleague Dal presented a poster session on the results of their condition and trend monitoring in Mongolia. 

Marcy - girl power accomplice

It was four days of driving and we had a lot of fun getting lost (briefly but regularly), stalling the truck at the border crossing (half in US half in Canada), Dennis getting across the border with his expired passport (grabbed the wrong one), and having a marble-sized chunk of something smash a bullseye in the windshield at 60 mpg (passenger side). I especially enjoyed getting to spend more time with Marcy, telling stories and seeing new country, across the plains and then home through the Canadian rockies.

Mike preps for his presentation
There were about four hundred delegates at the congress, which lasted a week and is held every four years. I think 2020 will be held in Africa. 
Fort Carlton, restored Hudson Bay post

Mike did an excellent job with his presentation and had some great questions from the audience. He presented on the morning of the first day, so after that we were both able to relax and enjoy seeing some old friends and meeting new ones. I especially liked the sessions with a social component, such as the work of Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, the Colorado State University professor who recently won Mongolia's highest civilian honor - the Order of the Polar Star. 
Mongolian delegates and a few US colleagues

Mongolian colleague, Dal, now working at the University of Saskatchewan, hosted a barbeque one evening. There were many many toasts in Mongolian and English, including a nice one by Mike where he concluded by honoring all the women in the world! I think he learned that toast from the Armenians! 

On the banks of the Saskatchewan river

Spending the week with people from countries around the world was a wonderful reminder of our commonalities and our ability to communicate in spite of language barriers and cultural differences. It was a good segue to Mike's departure for Kyrgyzstan (flying through Istanbul just after the coup attempt), reminding me of the good in the world.  

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef