|Mists of May|
The mists of May settled into the canyon this week. All across the benches, the cattle are enjoying the delicious spring range, perfect nutrition as we round into the last half of calving season. Most of the calves are born now and all the cattle, from mother cows to yearlings to two year olds to bulls, are looking slick and healthy.
|Grass happy yearling|
Hallelujah the new bridge is in! Well, it's just new decking on the bridge, but it still feels incredibly good to get this big and much-needed job finally done. This bridge was put in only 15 years ago and has a sturdy steel railroad car chassis for the span, but the quality of the decking materials was lacking. (The previous bridge, located further downriver washed out in the 1,000 year flood of 1997, after 40 years of service.)
|Sad old bridge|
Mike had JZ Lumber mill the new bridge material and Gabe and I treated it last summer when it was still in the millyard. The new material is heavier and thicker and with the treat, the new bridge should last many many years. We hope.
|Work starts on new bridge|
A break in wet weather allowed for two big trailer loads of material to be hauled to the site. The river was running high with spring run-off and I told Mike his most important job was 'safety manager' for the five man crew. The crew worked two full days to put the deck on, and Mike finished up the running boards in another day. There were two casualties and both were wrenches.
|Half a new bridge|
Now we have only the railings left to build. We wanted to get this done a year ago, so I am thrilled to finally have a safe sturdy bridge to drive over, walk over, ride over, or haul trailers over.
|Only the railing still to do|
Prairie and Jon and Harlan came home to help out for a few days. Harlan is really getting around now. He enjoyed the dogs, the horses, the cows and the cousins!
|Prairie, Harlan and Jon checking out the range seeding|
|Harlan and Prairie|
We had yet more rain and the river was bankful, with many areas subbing along the river bars. We watched good sized logs and tree limbs careen downriver through the rapids. Harlan didn't have the opportunity to enjoy the river this time, as all the beaches were underwater and it was too dangerous to let him even get near the water. Instead, he enjoyed the puddles and the mud.
As we start to think about branding and turn-out and all the spring-to-summer chores, it's good to remember we'll have help. Gabe came down and shod horses, taking off the sharps and putting on the summer shoes. We hauled the heifers to town and will be putting most of them up for sale as replacements.
|Abby checks out the heifers in the corral|
Harlan and Abby will each get a heifer this year to keep with the herd. Their mom and dad get to help them pick one out. It's hard to choose, because there are so many nice ones!
|Heifers out at the valley|
Gabe and Cammie and Mike and I headed out to Luke and Callie's to help brand today. The kids rampaged about and roping horses were passed around so anybody who wanted could take a turn. It was a good day to be together with three generations of friends who are like family. Gabe, Luke and Buck grew up together, and now their kids are growing up in the same community.
|Mike helps out at Luke and Callie's|
Hopefully when our branding day rolls around in about a month, it will go as smoothly as it did today out on Swamp Creek. It's a lot of work to organize and prepare, and you never know if the weather will cooperate with the plan. But it's comforting, having your friends and neighbors show up to pitch in on the day's work. Keeping calm, paying attention, problem solving, teaming up.
|Gabe and Mike horseback, and Luke on ground crew|
And afterwards, when we're feasting and enjoying a job done well, there's the telling of challenges and dreams. Somebody's in the hospital, somebody's going back to college, someone's getting married. We come together thinking calves and cattle and we go away thinking lives and loving.
From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef