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Author Archives: Ladder Ranch

About Ladder Ranch

I am a rancher and writer who lives in Wyoming

Equinox Sunrise

Equinox sunrise
beaming south of Sheep Mountain—
Winter is coming.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2022 in Events

 

Moving Camp to Battle Creek

sheep in the Aspens above Battle Creek

Summer is slipping away for our sheep grazing in the National Forests. We haven’t had rain lately, so the vegetation is drying up. We have been blessed with a rainy summer so there’s feed on the ground. The ewes are getting restless as the sunshine days grow shorter and the nights get colder. We had our first frost this morning and soon the leaves will change the color of the hillsides. A few eager trees are already throwing out some yellow. We move the sheep camps every few days to fresh feed. Today we moved Edgar’s camp from Aspen Alley to the Battle Creek Campground.

Maeve and Sharon with the newly moved camp.

Edgar and Sharon

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2022 in Events

 

Adventure trip with AG

AG and Pat with the handyman jack

Our friend AG Kawamura came to visit us from California, and to represent Solutions from the Land at the AgroForestry tour Pat organized. He had an extra day and we wanted him to have a true range agriculture experience while he was here. AG raises strawberries, green beans and other tasty commodities, so he is a true farmer, but had never tended sheep camp before.

Sure enough, as we were pulling the sheepcamp up the VERY rocky road to Bridger Peak, we heard a bang, followed by dust billowing out to the side. Soon we were looking at a really really flat tire. We had a handyman jack and a spare tire (and Alejandro’s pet lambs, Susan and Cunadita) in the back of the truck.

After a lot of jacking by AG, Pat and Tiarnan, they managed to get the flat tire off and the spare tire on. I was indeed helping by sitting in the driver’s seat with my foot on the brake.

Pat and Tiarnan taking a turn

AG and Tiarnan removing the lug nuts

a teaching moment

AG with the spare, and Susan the lamb

Susan supervising

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2022 in Animals, Family, Folks, Folks who help us out, Sheep

 

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Wool Away

San Antonio bound

We just sold three years worth of wool. In 2020, the Trump trade war with China, and Covid 19, caused the previously decent price of wool to plummet. We decided to keep that year’s clip in hopes of higher prices in the future. We’d heard stories of sheep producers who had held their wool throughout the Depression, then sold several year’s worth for good money when the United States entered World War II and needed wool for uniforms and other strategic goods. In 2021, the wool market and the trade situation had not improved, so we kept a second year’s clip. We have a large shed where we can store the wool, so were not accruing storage charges at a wool warehouse. This year, we visited with the wool buyers, who advised us that the world political situation was not improving, but that prices were up somewhat. We decided to sell the 2020, 2021 and 2022 clips, which required two semis with long flatbeds. The first truck driver was from Uzbekistan, and spoke limited English. He was very cautious and conscientious, and when the wool was loaded, strapped and tarped, it looked as neat as could be. The second truck driver was from Denver, but spoke fluent Spanish, which was very helpful with our Spanish-speaking employees who were loading the truck. He even helped load the bales of wool, which weigh 400-500 pounds each. The wool was secured and headed for San Antonio. Our fine Rambouillet wool is usually sold to another buyer who uses it for U.S. military uniforms. We think this fine wool will end up in mills in Italy. The blackface wool goes on to become blankets and sweaters. The shed looks empty without three years worth of wool bales stacked up.

Aaron with hayhooks

Juan with skidsteer, Aaron ready to load

Juan, skidsteer and bale of wool

emptying the shed

Loading the trailer

Lalo making sure the bales are in the right place (33 on each layer, fewer on the top)

bringing up the tarp

Lalo tarping the wool bales

securing the tarps

ready to roll

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2022 in Events, Folks

 

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Yearling ewes, and Solano, from Badwater to the Forest

Alejandro on the trail with the yearlings

After lambing, we trail the ewes and lambs to grazing allotments on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests, where they find green grass, fresh water, and bears and coyotes. The on-date is the first of July, and we stage the trailing, one day apart–one bunch after another. When the ewes, lambs and herders and settled on their summer grazing grounds,  it is time for the yearling ewes to start on the trail. They have been grazing in the high desert Badwater pasture since shearing in late April. They follow the traditional trails, including the Savery Stock Driveway, to their high mountain allotment in the Medicine Bow.

Solano with his backpack

The yearling herder Alejandro likes to keep an orphan lamb each year, and raise it as a pet. This summer he has two bum lambs, including one which was lost on the trail and picked up by our neighbor, Jock–an avid bicyclist. Alejandro still has his pet from two years ago, Solano. I was startled to see that Alejandro had “repurposed” a dog food bag into a backpack for Solano. I’m not quite sure what he was meant to carry. Solano is quite the sheep. Sometimes he follows Alejandro on his horse, and sometimes he hangs out with the dogs or the sheep. I like to say that Solano is “no ordinary sheep.”

Jock bringing me the lost lamb on his bicycle

Tiarnan with Alejandro’s pet lamb

lamb and Tiarnan

midday break at Loco Creek

Guard dog mom and pups catching a ride

yearlings on the march

 

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Solstice rays

Solstice sunrise gleams,
first rays of dawn portending
shorter days ahead.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2022 in Events, Nature and Wildlife, Poetry

 

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Lambs losing their tails, gaining vaccine

ewes and lambs on Cherry Grove

We’re almost done lambing and it’s time for docking      the lambs and getting everyone ready for trailing and summer’s grazing on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests. Sheep are naturally long-tailed, and if those tails are not cut short early in life, they can have problems later with manure and flies. The assembly line process also includes earmarking, castrating the males, vaccinating for diseases and a stamp with a paint brand. The ewes also receive a fresh brand and everyone is counted. We usually run two docking lines with all hands on deck, and bring up a hot lunch and plenty of cold drinks.

ewes and lambs ready to go

docking crew working two lines

Seamus vaccinating

hats and lunch

after docking

 

 

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Branding Time

McCoy bringing in a calf

 

 

It’s that time of year again. We have lots of baby calves who need vaccines, brands and earmarks before they head up to the Forest with their mothers. We have a great crew this year. Everyone knows how to work together to minimize stress on both cattle and people.

 

calves gathered in the Elephant Corral

Bubba, Tiarnan and McCoy bringing in the calves

Siobhan at the ready

Rhen on the water tank

Bubba and McCoy

branding crew

McCoy and Eamon

 

 

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Pollination

I stand with the bees!
Dandelions’ sweet bounty,
Spring’s ready nectar

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2022 in Animals, Dogs, Musings, Nature and Wildlife

 

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Shearing at Badwater

wooly ewes waiting for the shearers

It’s that time of year again. The shearers have shown up and shearing is underway. Each year it takes a lot of moving parts for fleeces to roll off the sheep and into the big bales. Our shearing crew are contractors who come out of California. We are their last client of the season. This is good because they are not under pressure to move on to the next producer, but nerve-wracking because we want to have the ewes shorn in time to trail to the lambing grounds north of Dixon. Lambing starts around May 10th.

We were fortunate with the weather this year. We had a snowstorm right before we were ready to start. The weather cleared and was warmish and nice for most of the week, allowing us to get through the “main line,” as the wool buyers call the running age ewes. The yearlings were next, followed by a brief, but not killer storm–always a worry for freshly shorn sheep.

Our crew packed up their portable shed–the shearing equivalant of a food truck–and moved to Powder Flat. The early lambers and the rams were there, and soon they too had given up their winter coats. Beulan and Maria the llamas were also shorn, much to their spitting disgust, but they are ready for summer.

wooly ewes with wagons

waiting in the corral

shorn ewes, ready to lamb

Frank and Gramps, son and father, on the job

Modesto and Eamon counting sheep

shorn ewes with birds

Edgar with unshorn llamas at Powder Flat

 

shearer at work

Meghan and Maria

Megan with Beulah

Beulah, freshly shorn

the wool packer baling the fleeces

bales of wool

fleeces in line

 

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