This is the time of year when we hold our breath. We hope all the cows and sheep and various critters for whom we are responsible have enough to eat, enough to drink and enough body fat to withstand the cold weather. We assume that the bulls and bucks have done their jobs. We hope that the Good Lord sticks with us with weather and sends enough snow, but not too much; enough cold, but not too much. We hope that the cows and the ewes are all pregnant, and will hold those pregnancies to term, and raise a baby. We hope that predators–mostly coyotes, but bears, mountain lions, ravens, crows and maybe wolves–will find something else to eat besides our critters. The sheep eat snow and we depend on having the right amount–not so much that it will cover the grass and brush, but not so little that we are chasing drifts in draws. The cows need “wet water” and we expend a lot of energy and resources to make sure it’s available.
It is also the time of year that we try to ensure that we have enough help lined up for spring, summer and fall. Our sheepherders come on h2a visas which allow them to stay for three years with at least three months at home in Peru. We try to plan so that about one third of our crew returns to Peru in the winter, when we need less help. The process is so dysfunctional that we need to request about twice as many “new guys” as we will probably need, because there isn’t much rhyme or reason to who gets approved. Even returning employees are not assured of getting approved, so it is a challenge to plan.
So far, the winter has been cooperative. This will allow us to engage in one of our favorite vacations: traveling to Elko, Nevada–at approximately the same latitude as our home (read Deep Winter) for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. We will be hosting a discussion on Food Policy. After all, to have cowboys, we need cows, and to have cows, we need consumers: the Three C’s. That said, it is nearly a week of solid poetry, music, art and discussion which is nothing but fun.