October is one of our busiest months. The cows and calves, and the ewes and lambs, along with yearlings of both species, have spent the summer on the Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests. Our off-date is October 1st, so we stage the bands of sheep and gather all the cows we can find and bring them down to pastures near the Home Ranch headquarters. It has been a warmish fall and some of the cows are hiding out. Eamon and the cowboy crew have been backriding every day, but the best incentive is cold weather, which reminds the cows that it’s time to get the heck out of the Forest. We migrate along with the deer and elk as instinct draws the critters downward. This time of year, all the sheep and all the cattle are close to home. We work them through the corrals. The lambs are separated from the ewes. Often we sell the lambs this time of year, but this year we still have feed so we will keep them a little longer. The lambs are weaned and switched to a different bunch. The calves will be with their mamas a couple of more weeks, and then it will be time for them to be sold, as feeders or as replacements. It’s noisy as night, as the newly weaned lambs and calves call in the night, and the guard dogs who are now close to home bark all night to warn us of various impending dangers. To be fair, usually the coyotes are howling which makes the guard dogs even more on alert than usual. Tomorrow, we’ll start the sheep on the trail to our fall pastures, some 20 miles to the west.
Meghan, bringing down the cows
lambs in the corral at sunrise
Hampshire ewes hanging out with the bucks for March lambing
Theo working sheep
at the Home Ranch corrals
cattle in the Big Meadow
yearling ewes in Loco Canyon, with guard dog
fall colors with the Petite Tetons (the Mountain Formerly Known As Squaw)
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.
Spring is finally springing. It’s been coldish with intermittent snows. Just when we think it’s going to warm up and grow some grass, another snow storm comes through. Luckily for us, we did not get the calf killing Holy Week blizzards that buried North Dakota and eastern Montana. We got an inch of rain at the Home Ranch the other night, which took off our covering of snow. Finally, it’s warming up into the 60’s, which is good because we are expecting the shearers in the next few days.
Today would be my Dad’s 101st birthday, He’s surely smiling down as Eamon and the boys harnessedup this team to feed the heifers. We have a lot of snow, but it’s been warm, making the snow “boggy.” We got tired of stuck tractors, so Eamon found this beautiful team of Percherons, Chief and Commander. We still have harnesses from the days when we used to feed with Fran and Chub. Eamon, Bubba, Chandler, Tiarnan and Rhen harnessed them, hooked them up to the sled, and fed the heifers, just like in the old days. They didn’t get stuck! Happy birthday, Dad!
Chandler on Cora, waiting for the trucks to unload
We plan to run heifers this coming summer (I have faith that summer is coming). We have hay on hand so decided to bring the heifers in now. They are from South Dakota, and are used to cold and snow. I was happy to see their fuzzy coats.
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.