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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)

Monday, Apr 30, 2012
We’ve had two Haflinger ponies for several years now that we got for both pulling a wagon and for riding, the latter being what they’ve been used for so far. Just recently, however, Rex has renovated a wagon that was not being used and I just recently hooked the two ponies up. Prior to us buying them they had done some driving but were very rusty. I have been out driving them several times now and it looks like we have a really nice team. They do need a lot of fine tuning, of course, but it’s really nice to finally set aside the time to work with them. One of their jobs will be pulling our wagon full of camping gear out for our weekly campout while guests ride their horses along side. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/30/2012

Thursday, Apr 26, 2012
Right at the moment it seems that everything is coming alive! The grass is greening up, the cattle are calving, the first bison calves have been sighted, the horses are shedding their winter coat, the irrigation water is spread out, our seasonal help is showing up, and the full load of guests will be here soon. The weather has been great; we’ve had some storms that brought decent moisture and the rest of April has been really warm with no wind. Wouldn’t it be nice if May was just like this? 
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/26/2012

Running Water
The water is flowing and the bison are loving it. They've been congregrating around this little creek, sleeping by the water, playing in the water and sticking nearby so they can go in for a dip.

Temperatures will be in the high 70s and 80s this week so the water will continue to run as it melts off the mountains. Jeff and I might try to get some fishing in this weekend before everything gets completely blown out, but it might be too late. We will see.
Posted by David L. on 04/24/2012

Sunday, Apr 22, 2012
We have had a busy couple of weeks- and some whacky weather as well! Last week we had a day of snow, days of 70's and sun, followed by a thunderstorm on Thursday. We have been spending a good amount of time over at San Luis Lakes with the cattle. At the beginning of last week, we rode over to check on a few pairs that had been left behind in the previous move. This time of year when we go to move cattle, some of the calves are too little to make even the shorter moves, so we leave them behind and then go to move them a couple days later. We were able to accomplish this task with the help of the Ellworthy family. On Tuesday, the Lefebvre family and the Cullifords headed out to check on the cattle with Kathleen and I. We wanted to check on the yearlings who are calving for the first time. We ended up seeing a calf being born, which was very exciting for all of us! With the cows grazing at the lakes, but right next to the permimeter of our bison pasture, we are able to ride through the bison to get to the cattle, then back through the bison. On Tuesday, we sat in the Werth meadow by the lake for lunch- we had a herd of elk grazing on one side of us, a herd of bison on the other side of us, and geese sitting in the lake- truly amazing.
On Thursday, Jeff, Carla, Tre, Fred and myself headed out to move the cattle again. At this point we have around 50 calves, so the move was a bit slow. Right as we arrived at the cattle, a thunderstorm blew in- something you don't see often around here. The lightning was fairly spectacular on the mountains, but I was very glad to didn't get any closer! We all probably could have done without the hail....
Speaking of babies, here is a picture of the goofy halflinger I brought with me from Maryland- guess he just wanted to say hi!
Posted by Asta R. on 04/22/2012

Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012
We have a lot of water on the Medano side of the ranch including two year round creeks and one seasonal creek. This time of year is when the ground if finally thawed out and the irrigation season has begun. It’s my job to make sure the water gets spread out throughout our meadows evenly. I’m able to do this through the use of “head-gates”, metal structures that water runs through that have slots that boards can be slid in or out of to manipulate the amount of water going through. Two of these head-gates are placed at any given place in the creek which provides two directions for the water to go. Whichever way you do not want the water to go you simply slide boards in that head-gate. If you want water to go both directions you can adjust the boards accordingly. The Medano ranch has had this system in place for about 100 years so by now it is a highly complex maze of ditches and head-gates. I spend about a day a week in the spring, summer, and fall, riding all the ditches on the motorcycle and adjusting boards in the 50 or so head-gates in the 2000 acre meadow area that makes up the heart of the Medano side of the ranch.
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/17/2012

Morning Ride
When guests go on rides through the park or on the Medano we trailer over with the horses in tow. Just as breakfast is coming to a close, Asta, Carla or one of the crew will pull the trucks and trailers around in front of the lodge. It is a great morning greeting to hear the horses quietly moving about in the trailer.
Posted by David L. on 04/17/2012

Saturday, Apr 14, 2012
Posted by Asta R. on 04/14/2012

Saturday, Apr 14, 2012
Last week we had on of our amazing April snows that are so common here in Colorado. April snows tend to provide a good amount of moisture for us, so we are always grateful for any that falls here at the ranch. We had 3 guests here with us from Monday until Thursday, so they experienced the snow as well. Monday the wind was howling as we tried to ride out to check on the cows during the calving process- unfortunately the winds deterred our progress and we gave up and headed back to the trailer. Luckily Penitente Canyon (located on the west side of the valley) is a bit protected, so we were able to go for a lovely hike. Then Tuesday morning we woke up to about 4 inches of snow on the ground and it continued to snow all morning. It was absolutely gorgeous, so we decided to brave out the snow and go for a ride around 11:00. We took a break at the lodge for some hot chocolate and lunch, then continued out on our ride. At about 1:00, the sun was shining, and the landscape was amazing. The clouds in the sky were very unqiue and the sun glistening on the snow was really magical. We decided to put the horses away around 3 so we could head over to the dunes for some hiking and sledding. It was wonderful hiking as the sand was packed hard- so much easier than normal! And the hard packed sand provided perfect slopes for sledding- I had never gone so fast down the dunes before!
Hopefully we will be lucky enough to have a couple more snows hit before the month is over. It is really nice to see some green grass growing in our pastures!
Posted by Asta R. on 04/14/2012

Friday, Apr 13, 2012
My dogs, Rowdy and Rio, had an unfortunate run in with a porcupine last Saturday night. I found them Sunday morning looking very sad and, needless to say, they were much happier after we pulled them out. They didn’t have any fun during the operation though. It took my brother Keith, my mom, Carla, and myself to hold them down one at a time and pull the quills out with pliers. It’s amazing how strong a 50 lb. dog can be. I noticed today that Rowdy’s face is swollen so apparently we missed one. Asta is coming over with some guests in a few minutes to try again.    
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/13/2012

Spring "Cleaning"
In our home, we do an annual spring cleanse. A cleanse of the home, not our selves, where we deep clean the house, donate our extra jackets and clothing, tidy up the yard and plant the season's flowers, and get ready for the oncoming year. At the lodge, and across the ranch, we're in the middle of doing the same thing...on a much larger scale.

Over the winter, Asta and Carla spent a bunch on time updating the corral area. With Rex's help, they revamped the saddle house, see earlier post for photos, the high-line, the grounds and the tack itself. Liz and Mel deep cleaned all of the rooms and commons areas in the Lodge, Bunk House, Stewart House and Stagecoach House. Mike evaluated the kitchen and determined that we needed a new "sandwich fridge" that was added just last month. 

This week, we've begun with the outdoors-- tree trimming along the road leading to the lodge and in the grove in the lodge campus, and ridding the gardens of the winter muck that piles up each year. We will begin watering our flower beds next week, and our planters will continue growing away in a nearby greenhouse until we pick them up in May, when it will stop freezing at night.

This morning as we were driving in, David and I noticed that the cottonwoods are tinged with green leaves. The mule deer have been wandering in close, something that happens when spring has truly begun. The birds are flitting around in little packs, tweeting the days in and out. Last night we had a brief but violent storm that only shed a couple minutes-worth of rain, but gave us a whole evening of lightening.  Our fingers and toes are crossed that we will have rain in the next couple of weeks to truly usher in spring.

Here's a photo of the back deck last spring, with the planters under a canopy of green trees. Give us a few weeks and we'll be here again!

Posted by Tess L. on 04/12/2012

Mike's Biscuits
Mike's biscuits are my favorite breakfast item at the lodge. Whether they are covered in gravy, jelly or honey, if there are biscuits around I'll be eating them.

Mike gave me the recipe last year and I've made them at home a few times and the recipe is a sure fire success. They are always delicious.

The biscuits and gravy combo Mike makes is hands down one of the best breakfasts I've ever had. I love breakfast more than any other meal and have a lot of favorites, and Mike's B & G's never waiver from the top of the list.
Posted by David L. on 04/10/2012

Night Sky at Zapata
Our latest photo group that we hosted, 8 students from Second Baptist School in Houston, spent a evening photographing the night sky. Upon request, this seemed odd to me. However, once I saw what they had captured, I was shocked that it wasn't a request that we get more often.

Here are a photo taken by Dave Showalter, who was leading the group. You can kind of get an idea of it in the photos, but the night sky at Zapata is unlike any other I've ever seen. While you can see the city lights of Alamosa on the horizon, the sky is vast, bright and complete-- you can see planets, the milky way, shooting stars galore and all of the constellations. I heard from somebody that the Valley has one of the darkest skies of anywhere in the world. I think it might be true.

Posted by Tess L. on 04/05/2012

Monday, Apr 02, 2012
So far the year has started out severely dry, even dryer than last year. We have now completed our third warm, dry winter in a row and are going into our third dry summer too if things don’t change real soon. Because of this, our livestock numbers are very low and therefore our workload in that area is minimal. What that means for us this year is getting a lot done in other areas. The ground is already thawed due to a very warm March and that allows us to start in on fencing and water projects, things we usually can’t start on until mid April. We will spend the summer building fence on the Medano, fences that will greatly help the success of our fall bison roundup. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 04/02/2012

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