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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)

A trip to Berlin
Duke and I recently took a trip to Berlin to attend ITB, the world's largest tourism show. The show is massive-- over 80,000 participants spread out amongst 26, three-story buildings, but is all appointment based. We had some really great meetings with tour operators, journalists and trade professionals and look forward to attending again in the future.

We did manage to get in an afternoon/evening visit with two past guests to the ranch-- Matthias and his daughter Paula. Matthias and Paula visited Zapata in the summer of 2010, and we really hit it off. Paula keeps her horse, Luna, outside of Berlin and Matthias rides with her every once in a while. So they were ready to go upon getting to the ranch.

Matthias and Paula took us out to their old farm house outside the city of Berlin-- Estancia Melita. After passing through a rickety, green gate you enter into a large, grassy courtyard. The area is anchored by an ancient tree (they're not sure what kind yet) and bordered by a big, pink house, a couple of barns, a milking house, a dairy, and blacksmith shop and a wash room. It's one of those places that really takes you back. 

Back in Berlin, Matthias and Paula took us out for some traditional german fare at a proper Biergarten, PraterGarten. We snacked on Schnitzel, Gurkensalat, Hirschpfeffer and Goulash, and guzzled down the house beer-- Prater Pils. It was great to reconnect with Matthias and Paula, and see the city from a locals point of view. We can't wait to go back!

Here's a panoroma of the Estancia, thank you for sharing it with us, Matthias and Paula!

Posted by Tess L. on 03/29/2012

Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012
Last week, Carla and I went out to move cows with four of our guests- Phil, Annie, Marie and Henry. We didn't actually need to move the cows to a new pasture, but for some reason, the cows hadn't figured out how to cross the bit of water in the middle of the pasture. So we just had to show them the way across to some really nice, healthy grass. Since the cows are grazing on San Luis Lakes state park, we ride out from the old Medano headquarters to the west and cross through the fence into the state park. Right at the border fence, there was this gorgeous lake that I took a picture of. Seeing the water ripple on the lake acutally reminded me of being back on the east coast out on a sailboat- what a different feeling!
In other news, we have been really pleased with some of our new additions to the herd. We still have a few that need some work, but all in all, we are making good progress!
Posted by Asta R. on 03/28/2012

Flower Time
It has been unusually warm for this time of year and the plants are starting to bloom.

Every Spring, Tess and her mom, who is a gardening enthusiast, arrange the flowers and potted plants for around the lodge. Over the weekend I stopped by the greenhouse with Tess and Asta to drop off pots and take a look at what they'll be planting this year. Most plants were not flowering yet so we used the little picture cards that showed each plant in full bloom to gauge what we wanted.

Earlier in the week I went on a ride with Asta and the Second Baptist School group from Houston and had great weather and a nice ride with the kids.

Posted by David L. on 03/27/2012

Mountain Bluebird
We've spent quite a bit of time over the past 2 weeks talking Sandhill Cranes. It starts each March with our Sandhill Crane Photo Trip, where we follow the cranes around the valley watching them interact, court, feed and roost. About 30,000 cranes come through the valley each year on their Spring migration, some headed as far as Antarctica!

Around the same time the cranes start arriving, the temperature gently slides up a degree or two, a few bulbs begin breaking through the garden crust and the Mountain Bluebird appears. This little bird is strikingly blue, and recognizable even to the most untrained of eye. I am not a birder, by anyone's standards, but I can see this guy from a mile away. Welcome, Spring!

Posted by Tess L. on 03/22/2012

Wednesday, Mar 21, 2012

Yesterday I spent the day with a group of high schoolers from Second Baptist School in Houston Texas, that are visiting us for the week. We headed out early in the morning for a photo shoot at the Medano, then ended up at the dunes, before heading back for breakfast. After breakfast, we went back over to the Medano with the horses and headed out on a lovely mid-day ride. The sun was shining and the wind was hardly blowing- quite a nice day for March in the San Luis Valley! In the evening we headed over to the dunes again for an evening photo shoot. We drove the primitive road to the sand pit, where it is a short walk down to where Medano creek is flowing. The constant change of the flow of water and patterns in the sand made for a wonderful photo shoot. Here is a picture that I took with my iphone, not nearly as nice as the photos everyone else took!

Posted by Asta R. on 03/21/2012

Little Surprises
This deer skull nest is one of the many surprises I come across on the ranch. It's been there for a long time and the crew and guests see it everyday as it is located right next door to our saddlehouse. The same birds probably return each year and build it back up. The placement is perfect and gives the deer character and a little bit of a hair style.

Another little surprise - After being away for a month and arriving home I found two headless garter snakes back by my office and one half eaten in our front yard. One was miraculously draped over the top of a gate post and I knew immediately that it was a little surprise from the owl that has been hunting around the house. He's more than welcome to stay and keep on the hunt as we don't really care for the garter snakes that out of the whole 103,000 acre ranch, like to spend winter under our home. As I write this the owl is sitting outside of my office, quietly and patiently, only blinking, waiting for his next meal. He is a quiet, stealth machine.
Posted by David L. on 03/20/2012

Thursday, Mar 15, 2012
During the last week, while the photographers have been busy out taking beautiful pictures, I have been spending some more time getting our horses ready to go for next week. I have been thrilled with all the horses we picked up in Montana last winter- they are quite the gentlemen. I have tried to ride several horses a day, just to make sure they aren't too freash.
We also went through the herd and trimmed most of the horses. It is amazing how well the sand acts as a natural rasp, so we don't have to trim our horses that often. Think of a constant nail file for yourself. This is a picture of Paul trimming Maryanne.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the slideshow from the crane workshop tomorrow morning- the sunrises and sunsets have been beautiful this week! And I know I'm feeling very grateful for the lack of wind!
Posted by Asta R. on 03/15/2012

White Buffalo
We have a bison calf on the ranch right now that has light colored fur and we are always on the lookout for her as we drive around. Tess will come back from a run or a drive and be so excited that she saw the white buffalo. There are albino buffalo that are pure white, but our girl is more of a very, very light tan. Maybe the hide will change as she grows but hopefully it remains and she grows to be a big, strong, healthy beast and we can spend several years trying to spot our white buffalo running about.
Posted by David L. on 03/14/2012

Wednesday, Mar 07, 2012
We have been in for some rather bizarre weather lately! The windy season has certainly began, but we have been lucky to have unseasonably warm temperatures with the wind. The last couple of afternoons, the clouds have rolled in and threatened weather, but none has fallen yet. I thought this picture of the clouds over the dunes was pretty neat.
Carla and I have been spending a lot of time preparing for our first guests to arrive this weekend. One of our main tasks is riding all of our horses- no matter how trustworthy, they can all have a little spunk after 4 months out of pasture. And the constant wind makes our job all the more entertaining! I drove up to Chico today to pickup 7 horses that we bought in Montana in the beginning of December and I can't wait to give them a try tomorrow. Stay tuned, we will need a few new names- I don't think we can handle 3 horses named Joe!
Posted by Asta R. on 03/07/2012

Friday, Mar 02, 2012
It seems that when things break down, they do it all at the same time. It’s uncanny how often this is true. On Monday, I was moving the horses with the motorcycle when some horrendous noises came from the engine and the bike died. It sounded pretty serious and our local ATV guys will let me know soon what the damage is. We got it loaded into one of the pickups and hauled to town on Wednesday. Also on Monday, Joe had been working on some irrigation dams and noticed toward the end of the day, some serious popping coming from the rear differential in the tractor. This too, sounded like a repair beyond our expertise and therefore I started making plans to get it to town to the tractor place. However, the Dodge pickup that I was going to use to get it there did not start either.  The full pump had suddenly quit so the new plan became getting the Dodge in to get the fuel pump replaced, a job more quickly and more easily done by our mechanic in town. I now have the Dodge back and running good again, I should hear a diagnosis on the bike soon, and getting the tractor in is the plan for today. Mechanical issues like these take up a substantial amount of time and money throughout the course of the year, sometimes we fix things ourselves, sometimes we haul them to town. The bumpy dirt roads, deep sand, mud, and the creative ways in which we get any job done using our limited equipment all factor in to maintenance issues I am dealing with this week. The mystery, however, is how it all happens at once, time and time again.
Posted by Jeff G. on 03/02/2012

Wind. Ahh, wind. It's been blowing something fierce lately. Wind is the one weather-type that no one really enjoys at the ranch, I think because there's just no way to prepare for it. You can dress to combat any type of weather, except wind.

Because it's been so consistent lately, I've been trying to find something good about it. This morning, when I woke up to it howling, I realized what it was. I like to take walks in the afternoon or morning in the area surrounding my house. While much of this landscape is covered by prickly Rabbit Brush or Greasewood, there are some bare areas that are 100% sand. After a good wind, or even during one, the top layer of earth is removed, revealing a whole new layer. I've seen some really cool things-- coins dating back to the 1800's, metal bullet castings, abandoned household items from days long ago. Still, I'll stick with as little wind as possible, but when it does come, and we all know it will, at least I'll get a facelift for my afternoon walk.

Here's a cool shot taken by Rocco Altobelli at a Goodrich/Burns photo workshop.

Posted by Tess L. on 03/01/2012

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