January cake for Sharon, our neighbor Nikki, and Brian
The past few days have seen several birthdays, so we had a communal birthday party. Here is the cake that Megan made for the occasion. Nikki decided to stay home with her new baby, but her husband John came and we celebrated a combined 142 years of living. We had some discussion of the arrangement of candles.
Today, Tiarnan and I took a walk through the snow. He’s another Aquarian with a Valentine birthday.
Today, we set out by air to look for missing heifers. The runway at the Dixon Airport hadn’t been plowed, but the pilot, Justin, did an amazing job of taking off and landing in quite a bit of snow in what looked to me like the Volkswagon Beetle of small airplanes. Unfortunately, in spite of several hours and lots of miles of searching, we did not find said heifers. We did see a lot of amazing country, elk, deer, antelope, wild horses, sheep (ours) and cattle belonging to our neighbors. If you see heifers with a JO brand, a red eartag and a white eartag, please let us know.
Elk hanging out on the Little Snake River, below the River Bridge
Wild horses at four o’clock (not in a Horse Management Area)
the Headquarters at Powder Flat
Here’s the Chivington Place being “reclaimed” after O&G
Eamon, as we come into the snow-covered runway
Meanwhile, back on the Red Desert, Meghan and Pepe were digging out the corn pile!
After our lambs are born, on the range or in lambing sheds, after they spend the summer grazing on the Forest with their moms (dodging bears and coyotes), after they are weaned, they ride on big trucks to a feedlot near Greeley, Colorado. There they are fed on a natural ration until they become lamb chops, sold through the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative. In the meantime, they are well-cared for by the feedlot folks, who see to their well-being.
Sometimes the lambs share their feed in a sort of multi-species way!
Mid-December brings true love to our ewes and rams. The rams, at least, have been waiting in the wings since, well, last winter. Mid-January brings rest to the bucks, who have been working hard for a month. It is time to bring some of them home. Here are Pepe and Meghan loading bucks for the trip home. You can see that it is deep winter on the Red Desert. We were worried about not having enough snow for the ewes to eat for water. Now we are worried about too much crust on the snow for them to graze. Pepe and the other herders feed them corn every day to keep them strong. And pregnant.
The bitter cold and deep snowfall during the past week has seen critters, wild and domestic, on the move. We decided to trail our yearling ewes and old ewes from the Chivington Place to Powder Flat , where they are closer to the haystack. Likewise, the deer, elk and antelope are all on the move. Here’s some of the migrations we saw today.
Yemy heading up the county road
Yearling ewes and old ewes en route to Powder Flat
The guard dogs have their back
Yemy is keeping his adopted wild horse warm!
McCoy, Sadie and Cora moving the sheep
Feral (unadopted) wild horses on the feed line with our cows
Not all of the sheep trail north to the Red Desert for the winter. The yearlings and the old ewes trail west to the Powder Wash country. All of Wyoming was buried in snow and chilled by sub-zero temperatures. I read that of the world’s ten lowest recorded temperatures, last week, five of them were in Wyoming. Our winter country in Powder Wash lies in both Colorado and Wyoming, but it was equally cold and snowy on both sides of the state line. The elk are on the move, and we are feeding extra hay to the sheep. Winter is well and truly here!
The year dawns new
and full of hope.
gleams of light sparkling
across snowy meadows,
shining up like
crystal glimmers pricking
cool frosting spread
smooth across the fields.
In spring, these hills hide
baby calves with mama cows
Summer hums with
growing hay, and tractors
rolling past midnight,
scheduled by dew upon
Autumn brings lambs,
deer, elk, grazing on
Then the long brown
snow, and silence
and the shimmering
pallet waiting for sunrise–
Patrick and Sharon O'Toole are ranchers in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. They represent the fourth generation on the six-generation family ranch. The O'Tooles raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children on their high country ranching operation. The transhumance operation stretches from north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Wyoming's Red Desert.
Pat has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, the Western Water Policy Commission, and is currently President of the Family Farm Alliance, representing irrigators and water users in the western United States. He is active with several conservation and agricultural organizations.
Sharon is a writer and poet. She writes extensively on western issues, and the relationship between landscape, animals and people. She is widely published as an author, essayist and editorial commentator.
Pat and Sharon have three children. Their daughter, Meghan and her husband Brian Lally, live on the ranch with their children, Siobhán, Seamus, Maeve and Tiarnán. Meghan has also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture and the Environmental Quality Council, She and Brian are active in community service.
Daughter Bridget lives in Phoenix with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in health care communications. Chris works in the food distribution business.
Son Eamon and his wife Megan live on the ranch with their sons, McCoy and Rhen. Eamon is a horseman and natural resource manager, and Megan is a flight nurse. Eamon is a member of the Wyoming Beef Council and is active in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.