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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)

Haiku #1
Haiku #1

Sands whip, cranes fly north.
Snow capped peaks watch quietly.
Trees yearn for spring green.

Posted by Tess L. on 02/28/2013

Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013
It's been exceptionally beautiful on the Zapata Ranch over the past week. I'm not sure if it's the late winter snow we got in Colorado over the weekend or the full moon that reached it's zenith last night. Kate thinks it's that spring is really trying to come through. One day we wake up and it's winter: snow capped peaks with wind rushing through the cottonwoods. The next it's bluebird skies and 70 degrees. Whatever it is, we feel quite lucky to live here.
Posted by Tess L. on 02/26/2013

Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013
We were due to sort heifers today out in the pasture but Jeff predicted a snow storm coming through and wisely had us all out on horseback yesterday. A beautiful day warm enough to peel off the outside layer of winter clothing. We trotted out to the Dixie, Elk and Antelope pastures. The riders split up and each gathered a corner or area. The heifers moved really nicely and we didn't need to push them at all which makes for a nice ride. We held them at the tri tanks and as a few riders held the herd, others rode in, selected a cow and worked her out of the group. As well as getting the job done everyone had fun. We tested our horses, how well they locked on to cows and how fast they could turn back a running cow. These are working horses and when you ride them you can tell they love it as much as we do. The cattle that we pulled off were trailed to the Shedwell pasture, here they will be fed some hay for the coming weeks to help them through the tail end of winter. The snow storm came in last night, the mountains are nowhere to be seen and fresh snow is layering the ground. [ read more ]
Posted by Kate M. on 02/20/2013

Busy Days at the Corrals
Yesterday the temperatures were rising in their 40's and it makes working in the corrals that little more pleasant. I am hoping to get quite a few rides on my horse Black Friday before the season gets in full swing, it just take 20 minutes at the end of the day to stay consistent with him. I've been using Rockey to help work him and get him used to someone above him.
Today we will be gathering the heifers and sorting them in the corrals, it's a full day and the whole team will be involved.

Posted by Kate M. on 02/19/2013

 Gordo helping me saddle up Rocky Top. He and the horses are regular pals now.  
Posted by David L. on 02/14/2013

Black Friday
 Last night Kate had great success with her new horse Black Friday. After several afternoons of ground work and getting used to one another, Kate got on a calm and trusting Friday.

The audience - Tess, Sam, Peter, and me - were all present half hoping for a rodeo, snacking on some beef jerky in the freezing afternoon/evening. We were just as happy all went well and Friday paced around the round-pen, attention locked on Kate. We'll see how this afternoon goes - it should be aces for our Brit friend.  
Posted by David L. on 02/13/2013

 The Blue Dodge didn't want to start today, so it got a solid run around behind little Duke's truck - the pull start worked with great success!

I've never been very mechanical and have enjoyed learning little in-and-outs that are necessary when the machines break down. The malfunctions are inevitable and the hard life machines live on the ranch makes breakdowns a frequent occurrence. Because of this we all become impromptu mechanics, building on the experiences from our last mechanical challenges. It starts slow with learning to plug tires and evolves into welding and inventing your own parts out of thin air (i.e. the scrap pile). 

Around this time last year I visited Duke in Australia on his overseas ranching excursion and got to see impromptu mechanics at their finest. The Australian ranches are typically so far from anything that they're forced to fix just about everything themselves. The majority of the operations also heavily rely on machines to cover a lot of land - airplanes, motorcycles, and monster 4 wheelers with big bull bars. One man there may have the knowledge to do the majority of the work needed on all of those machines and also semi-trucks, tractors, and cattle trailers - impressive stuff. 

The new knowledge and lessons are always fun, I just hope for them to take place around the shop and not in the middle of the farthest pastures, conveniently lacking cell phone coverage for miles - haha! 

Posted by David L. on 02/11/2013

Sandhill Crane Workshop
There are just over three weeks left until one of our favorite workshops of the year-- the Sandhill Crane Photo Trip! For the third year, professional photographers Mike Forsberg and Dave Showalter will join us at the ranch to lead a group of students on a photo-excursion across the valley to capture the 27,000 cranes that migrate through our area annually.

We've just had a last-minute spot open up so give us a call if you want to join us! March 11-15, 2013. Call 719-378-2356 x110 to reserve your spot today.

Here's one of my favorite photos from the first year, taken by Dave Showalter.

Posted by Tess L. on 02/08/2013

Sunday, Feb 03, 2013
On the west side of the ranch are three “circles” or “pivots” of farm ground that we lease out to neighbors who use it to grow organic potatoes and barley.  The field is in the shape of a circle because the irrigation method is a ¼ mile long sprinkler that pivots at the center of the field.  As a rotational crop they plant a fast and tall growing grass called Sudan or Sorghum or a variation of the two.  This crop can be left standing or grazed during the dormant season.  Either way the plant material or a combination of plant matter and manure are plowed back into the soil prior to growing potatoes as organic fertilizer.  This winter our lessees provided us with half a circle of Sudan grass to graze with our cattle, benefitting us with the grazing value and them with the fertilizing value.  To make the most efficient use of the crop we move the cattle once a day using temporary electric fence.  We simply hang the wire on the sprinkler structure and move it for a few minutes a day providing the cattle with a pie shaped area to graze.  The sprinkler, electrically driven, simply acts as a big moveable fence and does not have water running through it this time of year.  The half a circle we grazed this winter has lasted a little over two months for 160 head of cattle.  We will be moving them home to their regular pastures in another ten days.  The cattle will be leaving in great condition, the field is ready for potato planting this spring, and we have been able to save two months of grazing in our ranch pastures.  We have made plans with our lessees for implementing this method on a larger scale next winter.
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/03/2013

Saturday, Feb 02, 2013

This picture shows what form Big Spring Creek and Little Spring Creek take in the winter time- a whole lot of ice.  The shallow stream beds and irrigation ditches freeze mostly solid in early to mid December when the "deep freeze" begins.  The water, continually flowing from its underground source, leaves the frozen channels and spreads out across the meadows.  After a couple of months the meadows look like an enormous ice skating rink.  In late March, the ice sheet will begin to thaw out and the ground will absorb all that water like a giant sponge.  With some more warm weather in April and May, the meadows will take on a completely different form of the most lucious grassland I know of.     

Posted by Jeff G. on 02/02/2013

Friday, Feb 01, 2013
The months of December and January here were really cold and finally, last week, the weather broke.  We have now had several days above freezing and most of our snow has melted.  We had moved our cattle to pastures where the feed was tall enough to stand above the snow and now that the snow is gone we are moving the cattle back to those pastures where the feed was buried.  As the next couple of months unfold, the cattle will be moved closer and closer to the "meadows" where they will calve beginning in April. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 02/01/2013

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