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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)

Thursday, Sep 30, 2010

My week started out with fixing gates, adjusting hinges, fixing broken corral poles, and overall getting ready to ship cattle.  The yearlings we recieved the last day of February are all gone as of yesterday.  Tuesday started out with finishing the fixing of the corrals and then filling them with 979 yearling heifers.  Asta and I spent several hours with the brand inspector counting and looking at the brands on every heifer.  Later that afternoon we turned them all back out to fill up on grass for the evening in a trap (a small pasture) near the corrals.  Just after daylight yesterday morning Asta, Margot, Jess, Duke, Cooper, and I gathered the heifers up one last time and filled the corrals.  Cattle trucks were backed up to the chute, ready and waiting.  After a cup of coffee and a little organization we started loading, everybody taking positions in different parts of the corrals to get cattle sorted for each truck.  Each semi truck can haul 50,000 lbs. of cattle which in our case meant 61 head on each truck.  The trailers are split up into different compartments and each trucker has a different set of numbers to fill each compartment.  I take the numbers from the truckers and relay them to the back:  7, 24,24, and 6!  The correct number is sorted off and sent down the alley.  On their way to the crowding alley they are recounted and sent toward the chute where they file up into the truck one or two at a time.  By the time the first seven are on, the next 24 are ready to go.  The horses key in quickly to the task and before long horse and rider are moving as one being and a quick and efficient system has developed.  The riders in the back are keeping the pens near the alley full.  The riders in the pens are counting and sending cattle to the riders in the alley who take them the rest of the way onto the truck.  
There's no feeling in the world like riding your favorite horse and working with your friends to accomplish a big job.  11 hours later we waved goodbye to the last truck and called it a year for our yearling operation.      

Posted by Jeff G. on 09/30/2010

Morning Moon and Snow
Thursday morning, was as picturesque as they get.

To the West the almost full moon was setting from the night before. The picture was taken around 6:30 in the morning and the moon was lighting up the whole sky. A really pretty sight to see. It lit up the whole mountain range and looked more like a sunset.

Then to the East the Sangres were dusted with the first snow of Fall. We got a lot of rain the night before and the low temperatures made for high altitude snow. As far as colors go, you can't beat the changing leaves of Fall, the light, white snow and the greens, browns and greys of the mountains. Definitely a great week for a photo workshop.
Posted by David L. on 09/24/2010

Photo Workshop Recap
Our photo workshop ended yesterday and was a great success! Bobbie Goodrich and Susan Burns led their 6 participants on adventures out onto the ranch and into the surrounding landscape each morning at sunrise and evening at sunset to capture the valley at its prettiest. Asta ran the horses a couple of times so they could photograph them in movement against the sand dunes and sangres as the background, and a couple of us got up pretty darn early to scout out the bison. AND, we're working on putting together a workshop for February 2011, so stay tuned for dates! I've posted a picture taken by Duke Phillips of the ranch in its winter glory.

Here are some of their shots--






Posted by Tess L. on 09/24/2010

View from behind the Dunes
I was lucky enough to take a gorgeous ride at the beginning of the week and wanted to share a picture with everyone. We often ride Sand Ramp trail in the Park with our guests, but I had never been all the way to Cold Creek before. It is always fun to ride behind the dunes becasue it gives you a totally different perspective of them. We are fortunate to be able to show so many of our guests this splendid view- it is a long hike and relaly nice that horses are able to help us along! As you ride further down the trail, the view gets better and better. The dunes are spectacular and you are able to see the bed of Sand Creek as it runs all the way through the ranch. Also, the Aspens are changing colors on the mountain side, making for a bright contrast between the dunes and mountains.
One more very exciting bit is that I heard Elk bugling for the first time! Very exciting!
Posted by Asta R. on 09/23/2010

Polar Bear In The Mountains
Directly behind the lodge in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range there is a bald spot in the middle of the treeline that resembles a polar bear.

You can see it from all over the valley and it is always a fun thing to try and spot with new guests and visiting friends.

With the changing of the seasons beginning, as Tess talked about earlier in the week, and particularly right now it is easy to explain where this polar bear is.

In the picture above you can see a big bald spot in the middle of the mountain that is just below treeline and the top crest of this particular bald spot is starting to take on the yellow tinge of fall.

That huge bald spot, if you look carefully, is the polar bear. His head is drooping down and to the right, the crest of his back is the crest of the bald spot where the yellow trees are, and his feet are below.

Some have called him an anteater, some have called him a turtle - we like to call him a polar bear.

Posted by David L. on 09/17/2010

Over the past month, the coyotes have been getting increasingly close to out homes. We all have been attributing this to the change in weather, and have been keeping an extra close eye on our dogs. During the day, we often see them trotting through the fields, eating or drinking along side the bison or cattle, and are reminded of the degree of wilderness in which we live.

Here's a picture of one in the full winter coat that they'll all soon have--

Posted by Tess L. on 09/17/2010

It's Fall in the Valley
As I mentioned on our facebook page, we have been away from the office for the past week so our apologies for the lack of recent posts! We headed south to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival (check if out if you don't know about it!) and had a great time. Upon our return, we found that the trees had begun changing, the surrounding mountains were tinted orange and yellow, and the weather had dipped below freezing for a couple nights in a row. 

The surprise surrounding the change of seasons is something that catches us off guard every year and we've found that across the board, Fall is a season above all others that we all welcome with open arms. It brings with it a new landscape of color and a change of pace and direction here at the lodge and on the ranch.

I haven't had a chance to take my camera out to capture the new surroundings yet, but here is a picture that I found online taken by Nathan Ward. It captures the orange glow that the Fall sunset casts upon the valley. I'm planning to spend some time this weekend out in the field taking pictures, so stay tuned-- and Happy Fall!
Posted by Tess L. on 09/15/2010

Wednesday, Sep 08, 2010
Among many other things, we have been getting a few days of cattle work in lately.  On September 1st we pulled the bulls out of the cow herd which had been in for 75 days.  We have about 130 heifers also in with the cow herd and are hopefull that they are bred up when we preg test them later this fall.  The bull to cow ratio we use is 1:25 or sometimes 1:30 bull to mature cows.  With heifers it's better to use a ratio of 1:15 or 1:20.  The bulls are all raised on the Chico Basin Ranch, our sister operation southeast of Colorado Springs.  They are purebred Beefmaster bulls, a breed that originated from a cross between Brahma, Hereford, and Shorthorn.  They have been bred over the years to adapt to there enviroment and thrive in their natural surroundings with little or no input such as feed supplement or wormers.  Any animal that cannot perform under natural conditions is sold and that has been the basis of creating the breed for 60 or 70 years now.   
Posted by Jeff G. on 09/08/2010

Full Circle
The MZ artist gathering came full circle this weekend with the grand art show at the Chico Basin Ranch.

All of the work was displayed on giant hay walls that made a half circle through the cottonwood grove and with perfect weather, adult beverages and nice shady trees, the show couldn't have been better.

This was the first show at the Bell Park and with all of the beautiful open space and room for giant meandering walls it definitely shined in its first show debut.

If you didn't have a chance to make it this weekend don't worry, there will be a winter show at the beautiful Columbine Showroom in the Denver Design Center. We'll let you know the details as soon as the date is set.
Posted by David L. on 09/06/2010

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
In an area surrounded by mountains and a large farming community, the question that is always on people's minds is "How did sand dunes get here?". We do know most of how they got here but research continues, new discoveries about the dunes being made every day. Primarily sand is carried down from the San Juan Mountain. Winds from the south west bring in sand and slowly carry it upwards. Medano Creek brings sand and other sediments downstream to the dunes. It is unknown how long the process of building the tallest sand dunes in North America has taken but is estimated to be between 12,000 and 1 million years. Wind is also blown from the northeast that contributes to the dunes staying in place and produces the straight edges on the top of dune hills. Because of the massive height of the dunes, the temperature of the dunes can reach up to 140 degrees farenheit. Visit the Visitor's Center at the Sand Dunes Park for more information, diagrams, and hands on activities explaining the formation of the dunes.
Posted by Tess L. on 09/02/2010

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