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Category Archives: Sheep

First lambs to the feedlot

Ewes and lambs heading for the corrals

Oscar sorting lambs

This has been one of the driest years on record. Usually our ewes and lambs graze on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forest allotments until the end of September. This year, with much less rain than usual, we are sorting the feeder lambs off early to send them to the feed lot. Most years, we send the oldest (and heaviest) lambs first and the youngest lambs last. This fall, like many range producers, we are bringing the sheep down to the Home Ranch so the lambs can be sorted. This gives us less mouths to feed at home, and they transition onto a nutritous growth ration. All this is happening several weeks earlier than usual. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Each year, we gauge the present and try to predict the future. While our fellow Americans are trying to dry out from Hurricane Florence, we pray for rain, or snow–or both.

the sheep in the newly painted corral

Oscar and Raul’s lambs waiting for the truck

through the corral poles

down the chute

Raul and Edgar bringing up the lambs

a wether lamb with a ewe lamb earmark–marked “capon”

capon in the chute

Eamon counting lambs

They went that-a-way

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Animals, Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

Phoenix Forest

burned trees stand above the regenerating forest

In 2002, the Hinman Fire burned 31,016 acres in the Routt National Forest. It was part of what became the Mount Zirkel Complex of fires. Much of the burned area included trees blown down by a rare high-altitude wind storm with hurricane force gales. On October 24, 1997, it laid flat 20,000 acres and an estimated 6 million trees. leaving a pick-up-sticks matrix on the ground. The dead trees left perfect habitat for pine beetles, which have scourged the area and left millions and millions of acres of dead trees. Many of those beetle-killed dead trunks still stand, with thousands falling every day throughout the forests of the mountain West.

The Hinman Fire burned hot and hard, and left scorched tree trunks standing tall and dead. The trees were diseased and killed by the beetles, providing the “perfect storm” for the fire. It was particularly impactful to us, since we had 800 ewes and their lambs on the Farwell grazing allotment. In a effort that is still legend, our sheepherder Pepe Cruz brought the sheep down the Elk River drainage, trailing the sheep throughout the night, with a sack of new puppies tied to his saddlehorn. He brought all of the animals under his care out safely, with fire burning on three sides.

We still graze on that allotment. The regeneration of the landscape there gives me hope for the rest of the Forest, which has been devastated by beetles. In the burned over area, still marked by the standing spears of trees burned 16 years ago, the vegetation is rebounding and new growth trees are filling in the landscape. The burned area looks verdant and healthy compared to the rest of the Forest. It gives me hope to see the new forest rising from the ashes.

new growth

vegetation everywhere

 

Farwell Mountain

ewes and lambs grazing

 
 

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Maria the cria

Here’s Maria looking out for the new lambs.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2018 in Animals, Llamas, Sheep

 

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Trucking the yearling sheep

Ready to unload

Our yearling sheep remain at Badwater after shearing, while the pregnant ewes trail on to the lambing grounds north of Dixon. The yearlings hang out there on the high desert until the bunches are made up and trailed to their summer grazing permits in the National Forests. Most years, we wait until after the Fourth of July and trail the yearling sheep south and east to their summer ground on the Medicine Bow Forest.

This year, due to extremely dry conditions in Badwater and on the trail, we decided to move the yearlings by truck. It took all day and into the night to get them all loaded, transported and unloaded. We were still unloading well after dark. and everyone made it safe and sound. Many thanks to our intrepid crew and neighbors who helped out!

Off the truck at Cottonwood.

Welcome to Cottonwood

unloading after dark

Seamus on the job

Cole and Autumn

Meanwhile (during the day), the boys played in the lambing shed.

 

 

 

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Storm Over Muddy Mountain

Thunderclouds roll in,
Bring rain to Muddy Mountain–
pelting us with hail.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2018 in Animals, Nature and Wildlife, Poetry, Sheep

 

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Sorting at sunrise

bringing in the sheep

 

 

We sorted two bunches of sheep, starting at sunrise. It was a cold morning, but beautiful.

foggy morning

sheep and crew ready to go

the sheep, the chute, and sunrise over Muddy Mountain

grabbing a snack

 

clouds building

more clouds

then came the thunderstorm over Muddy Mountain

 

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Riding Rough Stock

Rhen practicing for mutton busting

Tiarnan, winning her over with a hug

 

Riding Rough Stock

The rough stock waits in the chute.
Riders tug, straighten their chaps,
screw down their hats, squint and gauge
the critters they aim to ride.

“Now, folks” chants the announcer,
“The third go-round, Mutton Busting.
The riders are six and under,
weighing less that fifty pounds.”

 

Tears flow as a young rider
hugs tight to his father’s leg,
snuffles into the dusty denim.
“Cowboy up!” A brave nod.

A brother and sister–busters both–
adjust the numbers pinned to
their shirts, tug at the safety vests,
exchange cowboy hats for helmets.

This is serious business.
The rider drops onto the back
of the ewe with the wary look.
This isn’t her first rodeo.

Some grab the bucking strap
snugged behind her front legs—
a handhold on the shorn sheep.
Some wrap their arms around her neck.

“Let me tell you about this critter,”
Blares from speakers overhead,
“She’s known as Baaaaad Bessie—
and she’s never been ridden!”

The rider swallows, and nods,
and the chute gate flies open!
The ewe bolts like lightening
spies the white line dusted in the dirt,

And jumps! The youngster tilts
and turns, seeking mom, or dad,
and grips harder on every wooly bit.
The ground looks hard.

Then boom, the dirt rises up,
grit fills teeth, nose and eyes,
suddenly flooded with tears.
The crowd cheers, and claps.

Angelic, the Rodeo Queen appears,
smelling sweet—with hugs and smiles,
and a salute to bravery,
with a dollar bill, a shiny ribbon.

The mutton buster remembers
how the bronc riders do it,
brushes off the dirt and the tears,
and waves to the crowd.

 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2018 in Animals, Family, Folks, Poetry, Sheep

 

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