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Category Archives: Peruvian sheepherders

Trailing the cows off the Routt Forest

Bubba and Eamon conferring with Leo

 

Trailing down, audibly OR The Silence of the Calf

Crunching as the calf dives into dry willows
“Quakey” aspens rustle up autumn, leaves flutter to the ground
“Hup, hup!” I holler, trying to spook the calf out of the willows
A thump on the ground as I dismount, followed by
more crunching as I thrash through the willows
A sigh as I realize the calf has somehow escaped me
“Hey there, pretty baby” as I push the filly aside
“Stand still, I said” to my mare as I mount
We sit very still, listening
to low bird song and the chuckle of aspen
but not the bawl of a calf
“Hey, you guys OK?”—our cowgirl come back to see what’s taking so long
“Holy cow, look at that!”
A smoke plume silently rises, signaling the faraway
crack and crash as molten trees succumb
as animals dash madly from the deadly flames of the Mullen Fire
Another sigh—of relief—that the blaze is far away
“That calf caught up”
“Oh good”
The quick clop of hooves as we trot up to the herd

“Come by! That’ll do!” Reluctantly the Border collie drops back
Mooing—meaning “get over here and stay by me”
Whinnying as the filly realizes her mom and I have moved to the lead
Clip-clopping as she races past the cows to catch up
They watch, knowingly
The distant rumble of cars, trucks, RV’s
The flash of my gloved hand
“Just go slowly. The cows will move. Watch the calves”
“Thank you”
Finally, the clank of chain and squeak of gate
as the cows and calves slip through
to green grass
The dark settles, birds silent

through the gate and off the Forest

headed down from the mountains

 

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Leaving the Medicine Bow

 

September 30 is the off-date for most of our Forest permits. Bridger Peak above Battle Pass is one of our highest grazing areas for the sheep in the summer. Alejandro takes the yearling ewes to the top of the Continental Divide. He had a flat tire on his wagon, so German changed the tire before we pulled the camp down the really rocky road to the highway. Alejandro shepherds the yearlings with the help of his border collies, his livestock guardian dogs, and his pet lamb, Solano. We saw snow on the Divide, and glorious fall colors on the trail down.

through the mist on the Continental Divide Trail

Alejandro and Sharon on WY 70

Alejandro with his sidekick, Solano

yearling ewes on the Savery Stock Driveway

 

 
 

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Tending camp on the North Elk River

Border collie supervising Bubba and Pepe

 

 

The ewes and lambs graze on the National Forests in the summer months. They move through a rotation so that they are not in any area for long. Part of the journey for Pepe’s sheep includes several weeks in high mountain pastures near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. He stays in a tent and we pack in his groceries and dog food. When he drops into the north fork of the Elk River, we bring his camp to him. This involves a drive down a death-defying curvy road to a wonderful mountain meadow. Bubba came along, both to learn the way and to provide the muscle.

 

Pepe’s horse, pine-beetle killed tree

Pepe and Bubba: twins separated at birth?

 

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Stylin’ and movin’ the buck lambs

Wilber showing off the latest fashion for sheepherders

 

We needed to move the buck lambs to a different pasture. Wilber was dressed for the occasion.

Dante and Wilber moving the buck lambs

 
 

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A long dry trail to summer grazing

Yearlings on their way to water

July 1st is the on-date for the forest permits where our ewes and lambs graze for the summer. While the ewes are lambing at Cottonwood, the yearling ewes hang out in the Badwater pasture, some 40 miles to the north. The ewes and lambs are usually settled on their permits for the summer by the 4th of July. The permit where the yearlings graze for the summer has an on-date of mid-July so it’s their turn to trail. Yearlings can move a lot faster than the five miles per day required by the federal agencies, so they usually move right along. This year was exceptional. Due to drought, very little water was available as we trailed. We discussed hauling water, which is difficult and expensive, but Alejandro said he’d rather make more miles and go from water to water. This meant that one day, the yearlings covered about 20 miles, which usually takes three days. They were tired, but really happy to see that reservoir. They are young and healthy and did fine, but I hope we don’t have to do it again. We rested them in our State Land pasture on the lambing grounds, which had feed and plenty of water, then pushed on to their summer permit. They spend the first few days on our neighbor’s private in-holding. We appreciate the extra grazing, and he values the reduction in grasses for wildfire protection. Alejandro did an excellent job in shepherding them through the dry country.

The reservoir’s in sight below Muddy Mountain

Trailing the yearlings onto their summer permit (Yes, that’s smoke in the air.)

Settled at last on Condict’s. That’s a smoke plume from the Morgan Creek Fire on the right.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2021 in Animals, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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Spring lambs!

ewes and lambs in State Land pasture

ewes and lambs at Cottonwood

Cottonwood Creek

Pepe checking his ewes

Pepe at Cherry Grove

 
 

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Heading South

We are heading south on the sheep trail.

 

Now that the sheep are sheared, it is time to head 40 miles south to our lambing grounds. Trailing was held up a couple of days by stormy weather, but the moisture was welcome. We are pushing hard to get there before we have too many lambs on the ground. Now it’s time to pray for perfect weather, no predators and green grass!

The ewes are eager to migrate to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.

Pepe has picked up the ewes with early lambs and one guard dog.

 
 

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A Successful Shearing

shearing underway

2021 shearing went very well. Roland Montemayor’s crew showed up with plenty of shearers and wool handlers, good equipment and on time. The Montemayor crew has sheared for us for several years. We try to shear two weeks or so ahead of lambing, which is easier on the ewes and the shearers, and allows time for the ewes to trail on to the lambing grounds ten pounds lighter.

My only complaint was the howling wind for the first two and a half days. The winds were so strong on the third day that it was blowing the fleeces away. As Meghan pointed out, “The point is to get the wool into the bags.” We called it a day after lunch. We have shut down shearing many times due to weather, but this is the first time we’ve stopped because of high winds. Finally the weather settled down and we were able to finish all the sheep–pregnant ewes, yearlings, the early lambers and the bucks. Roland’s crew moved on and sheared sheep for a couple of our neighbors. Shearing is one of the very most important things we do all year, and it is one which we have little control over since there are so many factors that come into play. Thank you, Roland, Ciro and crew for your good work!

early morning–waiting to get started\

wooly ewes waiting their turn

the first shorn sheep

shearer at work

Tiarnan, Guillermo and Anthony on deck

Siobhan at the chute

 

packing the wool

wool handler on the run

packing the fleeces into the tromper

guard dog supervising

Thomasa–former bum lamb and newly sheared lead sheep

Pepe processing sheep

lunch line

lunchtime

top hand Julio

bells

Badwater base camp

 

view through the hatch

shorn ewes: free at last!

Pat and Roland

ewes through the shearing shed

 

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200,000,008 vaccines on April 21st

Meghan receiving vaccine instructions

President Biden announced today that two hundred million Americans have been vaccinated for Covid-19. The Ladder Ranch crew, including Meghan, made that 200,000,008. Most of our Peruvian employees received their second Moderna vaccine. They were glad to get it, as Covid rages in Peru, affecting their families who don’t have access to vaccine. Meghan received her first shot, so we can go into lambing with one less worry. The Carbon County Health Department sponsored the clinic at the Baggs Senior Center.

Thumbs up! The Ladder Ranch crew, post vaccine

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2021 in Events, Family, Peruvian sheepherders

 

Southering

Ewes ready to leave the Red Desert

We are heading south from the wintering grounds on the Red Desert. The first leg takes us to the Badwater Pasture. The shearing crew has assured us that they will be here in a couple of days, which means we can shear the pregnant ewes at Badwater. This is better for the ewes because they can trail the last 40 miles to the lambing grounds at Cottonwood without ten pounds of wool on their backs. It also means they are shorn well before they start lambing. Some years the shearers are late due to weather, equipment or misadventure, and we see lambs on the ground as we are trying to shear. With luck, all will go well. Stay tuned!

 

Seamus opening the gate

heading under I80

truck above, sheep below

passing through Creston Junction

between I80 and the railroad overpass

the orange flag alerts oncoming traffic

Joel bringing the ewes over the Union Pacific line (the trickiest part)

through the gate and into Rodewalds’ pasture

Pepe and John at Rodewalds’ gate

 

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