After a series of winter storms brought on by the “atmospheric rivers” hitting California, then flowing on towards us, we have more than enough snow. The Snotel near our mountain headquarters is measuring 160 per cent of average.
Our crew at the Powder Flat headquarters, Edgar and Alejandro, have been doing a great job of keeping all the animals safe and fed.
sheep in the corral
2022 lambs on feed
Pat with lambs
livestock guardian dog on the job
Do Not Enter
“Do Not Enter” the road to Powder Flat from the folks building the power line
Maria the llama with her sheepy friends
antelope gathering in a herd–a sign of a hard winter
Faithful blog followers may have noticed that posts on “Ranch News” have been fewer and more basic lately. This was largely due to technical difficulties. My faithful laptop went on to that great recycling center in the sky, and I had to learn, sort of, to post on my husband’s wonderful, but unfamiliar, Mac. When I added the new version of Photoshop Elements, I discovered that the newer and fancier upgrade was likewise unfamiliar. Hence the changes you have observed.
But all this is in the past! After much study, I purchased a new laptop. I finally gave up and called the Adobe help desk, where the nice gentleman explained to me how to revert to the familiar “Classic Editor” posting format, which makes it easy to do more editing.
My new tools allow me to resume my former style of posting lots of medium size photos, with, I hope, enlightening and witty text.
It’s the Sage Grouse strut,
It’s the Sage Grouse stroll,
It’s the Sage Grouse hustle,
We boys are on a roll.
To impress our feathered friends,
we puff and shoot the breeze,
hootin’, “Hey there, ladies—
you’re some fancy chickadees!”
I can thrust my chest out—
like two shiny pearly shields,
I can waggle spotted tail feathers
in these sagebrush springtime fields.
I can flap my grousy wings
with a fancy dancey fly–
that bird with ruffled plumage
can’t even flutter to the sky.
Ten males vying for the attention of the hens
“Hey girls, look here at Big Bird–
Do you like what you see?
I’m the coolest guy out here—
Hey darlin’ chickies, pick me!”
“Just smell that spicy sagebrush,
(you can quit your hiding place)
the hen party should be over,
It’s me you must embrace!
“You may be small and brown,
but you’re winsome as can be–
shake your bootie over here
and make some eggs with me.
“Just ignore that moulty bird
with his wimpy rooster tail.
Take a brushy stroll with me
along this sagey trail.
Antelope hanging out with the grouse
“I’m a’stompin’ and a’struttin’
upon this crowded lek.
Forget your frumpy henfriends—
I’m at your call and beck.
“I’m the coolest cockerel–
see that rooster over there
can hardly puff his chest out,
He’s only suckin’ air.
“That chicken who is struttin’
and a’prancin’ through the sage
couldn’t hardly get a date
if he was dancin’ on a stage,
“and that struttin’ fool you see
is nothin’ but a poult.
if you study him real close
he’s about to start to moult.
“Don’t even take a look–
that cocky dude is not the best.
He’ll love ya and he’ll leave ya
with chicks tucked in the nest.
“Just ignore those other birds,
with their inferior display,
I’m the ace who offers
the best sort of DNA.
“I’m the best grouse on the lek,
I’m a struttin’ fool, you see–
so take the Sage Grouse stroll
through the scented brush with me!
“It’s the Sage Grouse strut
It’s the Sage Grouse dance,
Step right up, you sexy hen,
it’s time for Grouse romance!”
Teacher Cindy Cobb and Wildlife Biologist Tony Mong answer third grade students’ questions. during Greater Sage Grouse field trip. Photographer Noppadol Paothong from the Missouri Department of Conservation documents it all. That ‘s Maeve on the lower right in the pink coat.
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!
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
When I was moving a sheep camp the other day, I saw Mule deer, antelope and elk, all within a few hundred yards of each other. I dove for the camera, but of course the antelope ran off and the elk moved out of camera range. The deer posed.
Mule deer near Baggs
The migration of these three species is about a month early this year. It is dry on the desert, where they winter, along with our cows and sheep. We were trailing our yearling ewes to spring pasture, also about a month early, when we saw the other grazers on the move. We have over 100 per cent snow pack in the mountains this year, so are hoping for abundant pasture in the coming months.
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.