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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, Aug 30, 2010
The month of September for me is usually a time to catch my breath, catch up on undone projects, go hunting, and enjoy the calm before the storm!  Right now the pastures look great and so do the cattle.  A few pasture moves and maybe a little doctoring is all we need to do to keep things healthy and growing.  As we grow closer to October the pace will quickly pick up and before we know it we'll be working every day gathering and shipping cattle, getting our bison working facilities up to speed, and finally gathering and working buffs!  I love this time of year.  The wind is blowing in a way that means the season is changing.  For now I will enjoy the even pace and enjoy this wonderful month of September. 
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/30/2010

Ring Muhly Grass
We have many interesting plants on the ranch and one of my favorites is the Ring Muhly. This grass is easily recognized in the pasture because of it's unique growth pattern. Ring Muhly grows in a clump, then dies in the middle to form a ring. We see this grass most often in fully sunlit areas and dry, sandy soil. Ring Muhly is quite drought tolerant so it is a very common grass in this area. This grass can also be identified by delicate stems and small seeds.
Posted by Tess L. on 08/27/2010

Hike up Mosca Pass
This morning I took a little time away from the ranch and hiked up the Mosca Pass trail in the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I feel very lucky to live so close to the park and be able to explore the park on a regular basis. This was the first time that I hiked this trail. It always amazes me how many different landscapes you are able to see in such a short stretch. The trail is 3.25 miles, but within those miles you go through heavily wooded areas, through areas with a huge amount of rock, through wet (and very green) areas, and then come out into these beautiful meadows near the top of the pass. It is a wonderful feeling to come out of the woods and enter into a wide open meadow surronded by mountain peaks. It was a perfect place for me to take a break from our busy lives and spend some one on one time with nature.
Posted by Asta R. on 08/26/2010

Narrowleaf Cottonwood
The Lodge is surrounded by tall Narrowleaf Cottonwood trees. These trees are in the Willow family so are often mistaken for Willows. Because of their deep strong roots, Narrowleaf Cottonwood's are commonly used to prevent erosion along streams, their typical habitat. This tree is native the the U.S. and grows fairly rapidly up to heights of sixty feet by twenty years old. Many different animals call these trees home and use them as a main food source. Some of these include, white tail deer, beaver, squirrels, moose, and, of course, many bird species. Interestingly, horses will not eat it. Look for up at these tall trees and recognize the long narrow leaves next time you visit the ranch!
Posted by Tess L. on 08/25/2010

Dove
When most people think of a dove they think of the white dove, the dove of peace.

One of the most common dove species however is the mourning dove, also known as the turtle dove, which is all over the ranch right now. Every year around this time the dove begin to grow in numbers and feast on the sunflowers that dot the highways and prairies.

This year there are a lot of sunflowers and a lot of really fat dove as a result. Most of the time you can find the dove around water sources and prolific sunflowers and when you go by their favorite spots they flee to safety in huge numbers that continue to grow.



They like the safety of dead tree limbs and power lines to have a clear line of sight at their surroundings.

This is a very cool bird that you've probably seen before or at least heard. These are the birds that you can hear cooing deep and sad songs early in the morning. I always thought they were called morning doves because I always heard them in the mornings, but they are actually called mourning doves because of their sad songs.

In addition to their unique singing abilities, they also make a whistling noise with their wings when they fly. This is probably due to the speed at which they fly - up to 55mph.

They will be gone soon at the first cold snap which usually comes around the first or second week of September. At that point the majority of the dove move down south where they stay until things warm back up, so as quickly as their numbers swell they will be gone and their sweet, sad little songs will be filling the mornings of our neighbors down south.
Posted by David L. on 08/20/2010

Thursday, Aug 19, 2010
While we were out riding yeterday we saw this large herd of elk in one of the pastures near the Zapata headquarters. It was a beautiful sight as they were all standing in a bunch of sunflowers, which are currently growing all over the ranch. Fortunately they all stood still while we all got to take pictures. We were able to see 2 smaller bulls with this herd, but they were maily cows. This time of the year, the cow and bull elk are still living in seperate herds for the most part. The large bulls are living in groups known as bachelor herds. We often see bachelor herds while riding on the Medano. In these cases, we usually see about 5 to 7 bulls. They have massive racks and are very impressive to see. Unfortunately they usually don't hang around long enough to allow us to take any really good pictures, but if I ever get one, I'll be sure to share!
I am looking forward to the rut season which will come in early fall, as we should be able to hear the bull elk bugling. From what I hear, it is a magical sound.
Posted by Asta R. on 08/19/2010

Doctoring Today
Today we went out to doctor yearlings. We had 3 guests, Erika, Brian and Karina join us for the day. They were all a big help and we all had a wonderful day. All but one that we doctored today had foot rot; see Jeff's post below for more info about it.
Posted by Asta R. on 08/18/2010

Wednesday, Aug 18, 2010
There's still a little bit of summer left here but before we know it it'll be fall.  We've been doctoring for foot rots lately, a bacteria the cattle get in any wound on the hoof caused from the abrasive sand.  We are riding through the cattle once or twice a week and rope any heifers we see that are limping.  Other than that the cattle are in great shape and the grass in the pastures is very good thanks to the rain we got in the last part of July and early August.   
Posted by Jeff G. on 08/18/2010

We've been birding!
This past week, I had the pleasure of going out birding for a day with local birder/naturalist extraordinaire John Rawinski and two of our guests, Frank and Sharon Sturgess. We spent all day traversing back roads, looking into trees and over bluffs for birds, and came away with quite a few spottings. 

Frank and Sharon also spent a lot of time birding around the lodge and found the following just outside their room:
  • Meadowlark
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Orange Crowned Warbler
  • Yellow Rump Warbler
  • Pine Siskin
  • White Breasted Nuthatch
  • Say's Phoebe
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Western Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Red Shafted Flicker
  • Barn Swallow
  • Kestrel
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Great Horned Owl

And, they spent a day out at the lakes on the Medano side of the ranch, as well as exploring some of the old structures, and found the following:
  • Mallard
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Pied Bill Grebe
  • Greater yellow Legs
  • 2 Great Horned Owls
  • 2 Swainson's Hawks
  • Horned Lark
  • Prairie Falcon
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Northern Harrier
  • Barn Swallow
Thanks to Sharon for passing these lists along to me!





Posted by Tess L. on 08/16/2010

Specks of Yellow
The brush all around the ranch right now is sporting a yellow tinge across the top. Everywhere you look you see yellow.

This is a really pretty sight that reminds me of Colorado summers and visiting my grandparents. They lived in a little town called Ridgway - close to beautiful spots like Ouray and Telluride. Every summer we would visit them and every summer I remember seeing these hints of yellow scattered around the landscape.

Other things yellow - this is the 1970 Ford F-250 that Little Duke just fixed up and we've been driving around. Painted on the door is the old Rocky Mountain Bison logo, which were previous owners of the ranch.

Posted by David L. on 08/13/2010

The Long Drive Home
Yesterday we moved the 1,000 head yearling herd back to the ranch from the state park where they were grazing. We started from the lakes, moved over part of the Medano, then across Lane 6, through the breaktree pasture and finally to the Dixie. It was a long move, but it was a lot of fun for everyone. The cattle were coming off of really good feed, and knew where they were headed, so they moved very well. Also, we had a lot of riders to help us keep them going. We had 15 guests with us for the move, ranging in age from 10 to 80. The move took us about 6 hours. I was very impressed that our guests still had the energy they did by the end. The picture above is of part of the group trotting out to gatheryesterday morning.
Posted by Asta R. on 08/12/2010

10th Annual Artist Exhibition
The dates for the 10th Annual Artist Exhibition have been announced!

Please join us at the Chico Basin Ranch on Saturday, September 4th from 1-4pm to see the artwork produced by 30 artists on the Zapata Ranch.

Click here for more information, including directions. The below picture was taken by Steve Weaver, one of the original artists from the gathering. 


Posted by Tess L. on 08/11/2010

Monday, Aug 09, 2010

A large part of last week was spent building temporary electic fence and moving the yearlings every couple of days.  The reason for the relatively small paddocks and short grazing periods is to be able to concentrate the cattle and force them to eat overgrown areas.  This stimulates new growth and provides fresh habitat for migrating birds, elk, and bugs which are an important food source for birds.  My favorite part of this project is calling the cattle into the new paddock.  They associate my loud whoooooo with a new paddock full of food and come out of all the corners of the old paddock to follow me through the gate, all 1000 head.  This particular herd has been managed this way since they arrived in early March so by now they are well trained and are used as an effective and efficient land management tool.   

Posted by Jeff G. on 08/09/2010

Monsoon Rain
This past week we've had several big storms that sweep in in a flash in the afternoons. The rain and lightning has been massive and impressive and left us each time with a huge amount of moisture.

The picture above is an example of what the ranch looks like right now - lush and green. The entire ranch is covered with tall green grass, giant patches of wild flowers and the little streams that are almost dry this time of year are flowing strong. It really is an impressive sight to see during the last month of summer and the cattle and bison will be pleased with all of their new food springing up around them.




Posted by David L. on 08/07/2010

Fall Workshops on the Zapata

This fall, we have 2 exciting workshops on the calendar. We're thrilled about both and are working on filling up the final few slots. Call today if you're interested: 888-5-ZAPATA.

SEPTEMBER 17-23: Bobbie Goodrich and Susan Lei Burns are putting on a photography workshop focusing on post-production work, large animals and the diverse landscapes of the San Luis Valley. The two instructors travel around the world for workshops like this. CLICK HERE for more info, or visit Goodrich's and Burns' website.


OCTOBER 10-15: Renowned painter Duke Beardsley will host a painting workshop that's not to be missed. This week will focus on figure and landscape painting, and is a great opportunity for painters of all levels to learn from a pro. CLICK HERE  for more info, or visit his Beardsley's website.

Here's one of Beardsley's paintings--



Posted by Tess L. on 08/06/2010

Tuesday, Aug 03, 2010

Today we moved the cows from the BLM pasture back over to the ranch. With the help of the Lesbroussants and the Ferrands, we were able to have a smooth move all the way. Pierre and Louie may be young, but they ride hard and did a great job helping us out! It is always funny to cross the road while moving the cows as traffic is usually very amused. Everyone who saw us today was very friendly and took a lot of pictures. Thanks to everyone for your help!

Posted by Asta R. on 08/03/2010

Cattle in the Lake

This is a picture of the cows at the lakes grazing. Read about our move below in Jeff's blog post.

Posted by Asta R. on 08/02/2010

Finally Sand Dunes Again!
The trails at the Great Sand Dunes National Park had been closed for several weeks due to a wildfire through the area. They were finally able to open the trails up again a few days ago and we went riding for the first time since the fire today. It was a gorgeous day of blue skys and beautiful landscapes. The Lesbroussants family joined me on the ride; it was a pleasure to spend the day with them. In my opinion, the best part of the Sand Dunes ride is my favorite lunch spot. We go up behind the dunes and sit up on a hill looking out over the dunes to the valley on the other side. It gives you a real perspective of how vast the dune field is. I took this picture heading back toward the trailer on Sand Ramp Trail. I feel lucky to be able to spend my days in such a wonderful place!
Posted by Asta R. on 08/02/2010

   
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