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Live from the Ranch

This is the official Ranch Journal, a collection of short reports about daily life on the ranch. Postings are made by all ranch staff, but mostly by Tess Leach & Kate Matheson, Guest Services Managers, David Leach, Business & Marketing Manager and Jeff Gossage, Ranch Manager. (Banner photo 3 by Stephen Weaver)

Bison Time
Our annual bison gather is starting this Friday and is one of the most exciting times of the year. The crew from Chico will be coming over to help and we'll be gathering the bison into one big pasture for roughly a week or as many days as it will take.

Everyone has been preparing and gearing up for this time. As I write this Asta and Tess are putting together lists upon lists for everything from food to the horses we'll all ride. Everyone will have their own string of horses that we'll rotate through, possibly one or two times in a single day depending on how far we ride. Jeff and his crew have been preparing non-stop as well, removing loads of sand from the corrals to rigging up a feeder truck to entice the bison into the big pasture with a giant air horn that resembles a train. When they first fired it up and tried it out I had forgotten what they were doing and was wondering how it was possible for a train to be anywhere near us. It's a loud horn and has proven to be effective as the bison associate the sound with treats and can hear it from a long ways away.

The horses have also been getting ready. The Chico crew will be bringing their horses over and I know young Duke has been making sure the horses he'll be riding have been making the rounds on their cattle moves, between different riders, so that they can be in top shape for the gather.

The photography workshop is winding down today and they had a great time with amazing colors in the trees and afternoons where the deer were right by the lodge and the trees were literally raining golden yellow leaves. The horses also took part in the photoshoots. Below is the horse herd heading back after their shoot.

Posted by David L. on 10/25/2011

Days Outside
I've been lucky enough to spend a couple days out of the office these past couple weeks. The first was spent out riding with the Kosmic Kowboys, a group of 12 men from around the US that joined us for a week of riding. We rode on the Medano and the day couldn't have been more beautiful. These guys were all advanced riders, too, so we covered a ton of the pasture and saw all of the different landscapes that are within it.

And yesterday I spent the afternoon with two guests from Maine, Peter and Jen, on the Medano photographing the Sandhill Cranes as they're here now on their Fall Migration. Peter and Jen are coming to the Sandhill Crane Photo Trip in March, so I wanted to show them a bit more of the ranch. We found a bunch of birds, and they were getting very friendly with the bison. It was neat to see such different creatures sharing grazing space, drinking from the same water. When we were in the blinds at Dollar Lake, we saw probably 10 different kinds of ducks, a coyote and a small group of Pronghorn as well. I guess that's why we sometimes feel like we're in a Rocky Mountain Serengeti!

Here's a photo that I took yesterday of Jen photographing the bison. The lens I had didn't quite zoom in enough to get the cranes, so I wasn't able to capture them. However, there are tons of pictures on our Facebook page from last year's workshop!

Posted by Tess L. on 10/21/2011

Thursday, Oct 20, 2011
As I sit here at my desk typing this post, I have 9 mule deer sitting outside my window. One is literally 5 feet awy from my window at most, just staring at me through the window, occasionally digging at the ground for something to eat. Sometimes this ranch truly amazes me! I wish I could get a good picture for everyone, but unfortunately its starting to get darker earlier and the deer are in a shadow.
Its been a busy week here at the ranch, but as always, we've been having a great time! On Saturday we moved the cows across 150 to the land we lease each fall from the BLM, as David posted about earlier this week. Yesterday, Hayden picked up 15 more cows from the Chico that belong with the herd down here, so today we trailed them up to the same pasture as the other cows. Uli, Anne, Lynda, Stephen, Saddiah, and Karen all helped us get them moved- it was a piece of cake. The picture above is of some of the cows at the watering hole in the South Highway pasture that they are using while on the leased land. Then Jeff called to say some of the bison in our managed herd had broken through a gate by the middle water tank, so Saadiah, Ronna and I headed out to meet Jeff with the cake truck. The first group we found moved slowly behind the cake truck, but we managed to get them through the gate- Saadiah and Ronna both did a fantastic job on their first bison move! The second group we found was a bit slow on the start, but then took off running after the feed truck, we just had to guide them a bit. I realized that I needed to gallop ahead to open the gate, as Jeff wasn't going to have time to get to the gate and open it before the bison were upon him. We managed to make it all happen and it was a blast (oh, forgot to mention I was riding one of my favorite horses today, making it all the more fun)!
Tomorrow I am heading up to the Chico to return their new trailer, pick up our trailer and the first load of Chico horses to make the trip down for bison round up- must mean its getting closer! Hayden will be taking Uli, Anne, and Saadiah on the long ride all the way around the Sand Dunes, starting up at Crestone, hopefully there will be some pictures.
Posted by Asta R. on 10/20/2011

Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011
Every year in early November, the Quivira Coalition holds a conference which 500 or so people attend. Quivira is an organization that is based on progressive ranching and dedicated to connecting rural and urban settings to support a more localized economy and relationship. This year I have been asked to speak at the conference in Albuquerque so today I am preparing for it. I’ve never done anything like this before so I am very nervous but also pretty excited.   
Posted by Jeff G. on 10/19/2011

Moving Cattle
This weekend we moved the cattle herd across the highway with a group of guests. It was a beautiful Fall weekend with crisp weather that warmed in the afternoon and changing colors around the lodge. The cottonwood grove as you can see below has completely turned.

The cattle were put into a new pasture that goes under highway 150 and up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This move is a unique one in that the cattle pass under a small tunnel underneath the highway. Jeff put cake (little pellets that the cattle love) at the entrance of the tunnel to coax them through. Eventually they all made it through the tunnel and to the other side and it was a funny sight to see cattle filing into a little hole under a road. A lot of cars stopped to check out what was going on.

After they made it through the tunnel the group dismounted and walked their horses through, and then rode on to check the perimeter of the pasture fence for any breaks.

Here are the cattle moving along in a solid little group.

Here are some bison I saw that afternoon, sleeping in the unusually hot Fall afternoon.

Posted by David L. on 10/18/2011

Thursday, Oct 13, 2011
If you look at the picture closely you will see tractor tire tracks going up and down this 80 yard long and 14 ft. wide alley. Believe it or not, only two days ago this alley was three to four feet deep in sand for its entire length and width. That’s a lot of sand! Today is the third day Rex and Joe have been moving sand with tractors out of our bison pens that blows in during the powerful spring winds during March, April, and May. This is one of many yearly tasks that we must tackle to get our bison facility ready for the roundup. In about a month, these corrals will be full of the 1500 head of free roaming bison on the Medano side of the ranch. Along with the sand removal, we have a lot of preparation for this event such as fence mending and a long checklist to make sure gates, scales, chute, etc. are functioning correctly. So far, my crew and I have making good headway. I’ll give an update next week as to how it’s coming along.
Posted by Jeff G. on 10/13/2011

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011
Star Dune, which is acutally the tallest dune, from High Dune.
Posted by Asta R. on 10/12/2011

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011
The view from the top of High Dune.
Posted by Asta R. on 10/12/2011

Hiking the Dunes

Some of my good friends came down to visit last week, so we decided to hike up to the top of the dunes, in order for them to really experience the dunes. I was amazed at how many visitors were still at the park this late into the year, but the weather was wonderful and there were many families out enjoying the day. We took my pup Hank, and David's dog Bode along with us, though they weren't so sure climbing up to the top was a good idea! The view from the top really is worth the hike, as you can't see just how vast the dunefield is unless you are on top or behind the dunes looking down (most easily viewed from horseback). Above is a picture of our group once we made it to the top!
We are heading out to ride at the park today with the Kosmic Kowboy group- we have had a blast with them so far, and I expect nothing less in the next couple of days! The horses will get a well deserved break on Friday, then its back to work again on Saturday. We are all looking forward to meeting our next bunch of guests, most of whom arrive Friday, but others will filter in throughout the weekend and the following week.

Posted by Asta R. on 10/12/2011

All Natural Grass Fed Bison Meat
It's that time of year for bison harvest. We will have more details available at the end of the week, but if you are interested in purchasing bison meat, from bison completely grass-fed and raised on Zapata Ranch email and I'll email you the info with prices and details once it's ready.

We'll be selling whole animals only. Often times friends or families will get together to split one animal that will yield plenty of burger, steaks and specialty cuts to go around.

Stay tuned for more details and please email if you are interested in receiving more info.
Posted by David L. on 10/11/2011

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011
Right when I walked out of the house yesterday!
Posted by Asta R. on 10/09/2011

Sunday, Oct 09, 2011

Snow covering Mt. Blanca, Twin Peaks, and California Peak.

Posted by Asta R. on 10/09/2011

Well we have had some crazy weather! We had had some unseasonably warm weather up until this past week, but then it took a turn- though hopefully not for too long! On Thursday, a big ole wind storm blew into the valley and made for quite a nasty day. Carla and I were driving home from Saguache and couldn't see anything around us but dark dust. When we stopped in Hooper to get a few things, we could hardly open the doors! It was just like being in the middle of our spring windy season, in October. After the wind finally died down Thursday evening, the snow started spitting down, but nothing significant. Friday started off sunny and warm, but turned cloudy and rainy, finally turning to wet snow Friday evening. We woke up to about 6 inches of nice, wet snow on Friday morning here at the ranch. While it was a bit chilly, we were all happy for the extra moisture, every little bit helps! The mountains were really dumped on, so when the clouds finally lifted yesterday, it was quite a gorgeous day. I took a bison tour at 2 yesterday afternoon- with the mountains covered in snow, the sand dunes covered in snow, and the ranch glistening with snow, it was a beautiful afternoon. Today is supposed to be sunny and in the 50's, with tempartures in the 70s by Tuesday, but just yet it is still cloudy and chilly. Hopefully the weather will warm up for the Kosmic Kowboys group arriving today for the week!

We have a couple mroe busy weeks of riding with guests before our annual bison round up, which will begin Oct. 28th. We also have a photo workshop at the end of October- and if this snow sticks on the mountains, they are sure to go home with some amazing work!

Posted by Asta R. on 10/09/2011

Running on the Ranch
About 6 months ago, my friend Sarah convinced me to run a 1/2 marathon with her in memory of her sister-in-law's mom. After committing, she sent me the training plan, (nice timing, I know), which detailed a physical activity for each day of the week, excluding Fridays. Tuesday's and Thursday's are short run days and Sunday is the long run-- generally double the distance of the short runs. When I started training, there were days that I thought I'd die. Many of the roads that I run along are more like trails and are extremely sandy. Sand is not easy to run through. Now though, I've made it through 5 3/4 months of training, and the race is on Sunday! I'm feeling as ready as possible.

While running, I always carry my phone and listen to music, and also to take pictures. Generally I run in the early morning or late afternoon/evening, and some of the sunsets and rises I've seen have been phenomenal. Here are a few of my favorites:

My plan post-race is to take a week off and then continue running-- perhaps just on a slightly more moderate scale. I know we have a few guests that are runners...Jim Medley, I'm talking to you...but I'd love to run with any of you when you come visit us!
Posted by Tess L. on 10/05/2011

Art Show and Taos
The 11th annual Ranchlands Artist Gathering Exhibition went on display last Friday in the Columbine Showroom in the Denver Design District. The work will be on display for the month of October so be sure to stop by if you're in the area.

The opening party for the exhibit was also on Friday and was a lot of fun with the artists present. The work was displayed among the furnishings in the showroom and with some tasty food and cocktails everyone had a great time.

Earlier last week Tess and I were in another art environment visiting Taos, New Mexico. New Mexico is only about 45 minutes south of the ranch and 30 minutes south of Fort Garland. Taos is a little under an hour from there, so it really is a quick and easy drive.

On the way there we drove over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge that was unbelievable. Driving right over it you could look down and see just how massive the gorge really was and it was impressive. A lot of people get out and walk the bridge and that would have been fun too.

In Taos we did a lot of sightseeing and if you've read the book Blood and Thunder, that is a great history read on America's westward expansion, you'll definitely want to visit Taos. Within walking distance we were able to see Governor Bent's house and Kit Carson's house, each with their own museums. We also ate a lot of great food from a delicious diner and bakery breakfast at Michael's, to gourmet and local everything at The Love Apple.

On our second day we visited the Millicent Rodgers museum on the outskirts of town that is also definitely worth visiting. Millicent was a woman who came from a very wealthy family in New York who moved to Taos and started the art movement there by encouraging her artist friends and acquaintances to travel to Taos to see the beauty of the land.

So all in all if you have time Taos is a quick trip from Zapata and definitely worth a day trip from the ranch or staying a few days on either end of your trip.

*Taos also has skiing just outside of town if you are visiting during the winter.

*Gorge pictures from Wikipedia
Posted by David L. on 10/04/2011

Zapata Lake
Well at last I made the hike up to Zapata Lake- it rather whooped me, but I conquered it! My mom has been visiting for the last couple of weeks, and as I mentioned before Adam and Debbie did the hike last week and their pictures inspired us to do it as well. The sign says the hike is 5 miles each way, though everyone I've talked to who has hiked it believes it to be even more. You start at the trailhead for Zapata Falls, then hike up above the falls, back into the mountains, up to 12,000 feet (almost as heigh as the smaller peaks you see from the ranch). For those who have visited us before, I have likely pointed up Mt. Blanca, which can only be seen from certain places on the ranch. This is one of Colorado's famous "fourteeners," that sits back behind some of the smaller peaks closer to the ranch, such as California peak. Zapata Lake actually backs up to Mt. Blanca (it is the peak you see in the picture above). By the time we made it there, it seemed like we mine as well summit Blanca! (But it wasn't possible from where we were sitting). The lake was beautiful and well worth the hike, so for those who are more amibitous, I would recommend making the trek if you have time during your stay. But I will warn you, it is an all day hike and you will likely be sore the next day- at least we were!
Posted by Asta R. on 10/01/2011

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