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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)



Weather in Colorado
Today was a day that epitomized Spring in Colorado. It started out unseasonably warm-- mid-30's by about 7:30. Slowly the wind picked up and as it steadily increased, the skies darkened and temperatures cooled. The stage was being set for a good, winter storm. Sure enough, ten minutes later a sand cloud engulfed the mountains and soon the skies right in front of us. Before we knew it, the sand changed to snow and we were in a blizzard. The snow was short-lived though, and replaced by a steady wind for the rest of the day. By 2pm, the sun was out in full-force. 

People often ask what Colorado's like in the Spring and Winter and our answer is always the same-- you knows?! If you don't like what it's doing, wait a minute.





Posted by Tess L. on 02/23/2012

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012

As I've mentioned before, we try to take some time during the "off season" to begin to work with our young horses. This season I have a couple that I really want to focus my attention on....
Zoe is little bay mare that I developed a special connection with 2 summers ago, when she was a yearling. At that time, we had a herd of yearlings living on the Zapata, turned out on pasture so they could grow and just be horses. We brought them all in on branding day in May oof 2010, so they could be shipped over to the Chico, where there was more land available for the to graze. One little bay mare came in with both legs freshly cut up by barb wire- we were really concerned about whether or not she would in fact heal. But we kept her down here, kept her seperated in the little pen by our saddlehouse and spent a half hour each day doctoring her legs. After a few months in, her legs were finally healed well enough to be turned out again. And now, her knees are still a little big and she has some old scars, but she is a sound, happy 3 year old. Since she was doctored everyday, we worked her in lead daily, so she became a pro at being caught, lead, and generally lvoed all over (maybe a little spoiled) at a young age. Therefore, she has been relatively easy to start under saddle- she is gentle as can be. This picture is from me first ride on her- she was walking over top of the plastic grain bag and extra saddle blankets we had lying in the round pen without question. Her issue thus far is a lack of energy, or being unwilling to move forward off the leg. A horse that is unresponsive to the leg is at least as difficult, if not more so, than a horse that wants to go too forward. I have been working to use only a small amount of pressure with my leg, then I give her a few seconds to respond, and if she doesn't, I kick her rather hard. It is imperative in these beginning stages that she learns to move off of the small amount of pressure.

Posted by Asta R. on 02/22/2012

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012
I’d like to introduce our newest full time employee, Rex Pearson.   Rex’s job around the ranch is maintenance and, needless to say, we are glad to have him. Rex is a native of Colorado and has a broad hands-on work background. He has been here since October and has spent the time familiarizing himself with the ranch, the shop, the tools, and his responsibilities. He has been a pleasure to work with and is great at fixing, building, tinkering with, and maintaining all the seemingly thousands of things that are in need attention around here. Just to name a few things on his list as he whips this place into shape for the upcoming season are fixing the saddle house roof, building and installing new saddle racks, and maintaining the vehicles and trailers. Rex’s wife Sheri is still living in Walsenburg finishing up the school year as a teacher and will move over to the Valley as soon as summer is here. Rex has two grown kids, one of which manages the San Luis Lakes State Park right next door so it’s great for him to have most of his family so close. Rex has been a great addition and we’re thrilled to have him!
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/21/2012

Friday, Feb 17, 2012
This past weekend, I had a couple friends in town visiting, just in time for a beautiful snow on Sunday. We took a drive out on the Medano and were lucky to find a herd of bison relatively close to the road. Generally visitors come to the ranch in the spring, summer and fall, when the meadows on the Medano are growing or still have good grass in them. So, usually you can find at least 1 herd in at least 1 of the meadows- unless mud or water prevents you from getting up close, we can just about garuntee getting up close to a herd. The winter can be a bit trickier, as we usually don't see them in the meadows, they spread out through the brush country more. Obviously this makes driving up to them a bit more difficult. Add snow on top of that, and you can have a really hard time seeing far enough into the distance to distinguish between bison and chico brush!
Then we drove out towards the lakes, a bit scary when you can't actually see the road. I took this picture of the creek flowing with the ice and snow on the banks. We are so lucky that the creeks within the pasture continue to flow year round, so we don't have to worry about a water source for the bison.
Posted by Asta R. on 02/17/2012

Cranes & a Walk
This morning as I was laying in bed, I heard cranes flying through the sky above the house. Their call is unmistakable-- an almost prehistoric bantering. They fly over the ranch and stop to roost and feed at Dollar and Cotton Lakes, both just West of our house. I've heard that they're migrating early this year...I guess it's true!

Yesterday when I got home I took Curtis for a quick walk and came upon 2 neat things:

The first was a tiny mouse skeleton, mostly still intact. 


And the second was a perfectly round bison patty. 

Posted by Tess L. on 02/16/2012

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012
I have been doing some untraditional but very useful ranch work lately. I have been mapping the ranch on Google Earth. I didn’t realize how valuable this could be until last winter Nick, Carla, and I attended a webinar for ranchers highlighting the ways to use Google Earth. The webinar was put on by Land EKG, a company out of Bozeman, MT who specializes in range monitoring systems. Through Google Earth, I am able to map the ranch’s pastures extremely accurately (you can actually see the fence posts in many cases), map water usage, map intensive grazing and haying projects, plot all our monitoring and photo sights as well as create some really comprehensive maps for our seasonal help during the summer by being able to mark roads, water troughs, fence lines, and buildings. Also, I subscribed to Google Earth Pro because I can get extremely accurate measurements of pasture acreages which the free version does not give. The list of what this program will do goes on but these are a few of the major ways we will benefit. This has been on my to-do list for a year now and I finally made time to get it done. A few more hours and it will be complete. I can’t wait to have this awesome new tool available.
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/14/2012

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012
A picture of the horses settling into their new pasture.
Posted by Asta R. on 02/09/2012

Thursday, Feb 09, 2012
On Monday, Jeff and I headed out around noon to move cattle and horses. It was a lovely day to be out on horses- the sun was shining, the temperature was above freezing, and there was no breeze. The cows have been grazing over at the San Luis Lakes State Park, so we trailered the horses over to the closest gate, then rode from there. Head Lake is one of the bigger lakes in the park, but it is located in the northern part of the park (almost where the ranch borders the park), so it is generally not open to the public. The picture above is of head lake covered in snow- I thought it was a wonderful view. Luckily, almost all the cows were grazing together right near the lake, so it was easy to move them to the water tank and into their new pasture. Riding when the ground is snow covered can be a bit tricky, as it can be hard to tell when there is ice under the snow. My horse didn't fall at all, but he did spook a couple of times when the cattle slid in front of him.
After we finished up moving the cows, we put the horses back on the trailer and headed to the Zapata. The horses had been grazing on the pivot, but it was time to move them to a fresh pasture as well. We have a pasture on the east side of 150 as you are heading to the park that we use for the horses in the winter. It was just Jeff and I, and the horses were a little wound up, but we were eventually able to get them moving in the proper direction. We did meet one car while we were running down 150 towards the gate- I always wonder what people are thinking when there are 40 loose horses running right at their car down a highway....
The horses seem content in their new pasture. There is a fair amount of blue gramma grass in the pasture, which will hopefully help fatten them up for the beginning of the season.
Posted by Asta R. on 02/09/2012

Tracking
 Every morning this week we've woken up to a light dusting of snow that covers tire tracks and leaves a fresh, blank canvas on the ground. When you go outside you can see who's been moving around that morning and where they've been going, and it's amazing to see how much rabbit traffic we have in our yard. They leave funny little footprints at the front, behind two large footprints in the back that make a V when then sit.

Our dog Curtis' biggest hobby/talent/pursuit in life is to watch and monitor the rabbit traffic and with the snow it is easier for him to see them moving in the bushes and standing against the white background. Because it doesn't snow all of the time at the ranch, the rabbits keep a brown fur that makes them easy to spot.

Snow makes for a perfect tracking medium as hunters know and provides a natural comings and goings record in its first few hours, whether its tire tracks coming into or leaving the ranch, or hundreds of rabbits, coyotes, mice or birds hopping around.
Posted by David L. on 02/08/2012

Wednesday, Feb 01, 2012
I’m going to be setting aside a week either this month or next for working with horses. We have two Haflinger ponies that I want to get pulling a wagon really well. They have done this before but not for quite a few years so they will need some refreshing, which mostly equates to time and miles. I also have quite a few things I’d like to work on with Teacup, the new addition to my string. Many of our horses need to be hobble broke and also picket broke too. Pepper is a five year old mare that Nick started last year so she needs some new lessons as well as a refresher. Last but not least I have a mule that I’d like to get riding. She’s had a person on her back before but is plenty rusty. I’d also like to make a pack animal out of her. I think a week of work (two would be better) with every animal being worked every day will suffice, of course being followed up with somewhat consistent work after that. The Haflingers will be used to pull a wagon out to camp this summer as well as branding and other work projects. They are probably what I am most excited about! 
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/01/2012

   
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