Shearing the sheep is a challenge every year. We are dependent, foremost, upon the arrival of the shearing crew. These skilled and essential crews are more difficult to find every year. For the crew bosses, it is harder each year to put together skilled shearers and to put together sheep to shear. We are dependent upon the weather, which is capricious. This year, now, our excellent shearing crew has started a few days late, due to weather. On Friday, we were able to get in a good days’ shearing. Yesterday it rained all day. Rain is usually good—much better than drought—but wet sheep can’t be shorn. Today, we started again, and managed to get through 50 head. A brief but fierce storm came through, and stopped us. So tomorrow, we try again. We have a lot of ewes who need shorn before lambing starts May 10th or so.
Here’s more photos from sorting the sheep, Who will head north for the winter and who will stay at Powder Flat? The ewe lambs and the younger ewes go to sugar beets and crop aftermath near Burlington. The older ewes and peewee lambs will receive special care at our Powder Flat ranch.
It finally stopped raining long enough to allow us to brand some calves. Clouds were threatening, but with lots of good help, we got through them. They were, as my Dad used to say, “Big enough to get ahold of.”
2018 shearing is complete. The crew showed up in a timely manner, the ewes moved through in an orderly manner, and we thanked our lucky stars because many years bring problems, from weather to a late crew to the late arrival of our sheepherders from Peru.
First the ewes trailed from their winter pasture on the Red Desert to Badwater, which is spring and fall country. The shearing crew showed up and set up their shed and baler. We brought the bunches through, staging them for the trail south to the lambing grounds. We got two days of rain, which was welcome, but finished in time to trail several days ahead of lambing.
We then moved on to Powder Flat, where the ewes who had lambed in March were still in the wool, and the bucks, still in their red “working clothes”, awaited. We had a glitch when my dog, Cora, hit the automatic locks on the pickup as I was hauling the shearing shed to Powder Flat. Unfortunately, the pickup was at the main gate (fondly know as The Portal), and my phone was inside. After several hours, which included a long walk, much unhitching and hitching and dragging heavy vehicles around with a tractor, we were able to haul the shed to the waiting shearers and get started. Pat brought the extra keys, liberating the truck and the dog.
After two half days, all were sheared and ready to head into the spring season and events.
Border collie with sheep Photo by Elizabeth Campbell
Spring has definitely sprung, if not with weather, then with spring work. After a dry winter, we have had series of spring rains and snows. In the meantime, we have lots of baby lambs and calves arriving. We are trailing sheep to spring country and preparing to shear.
Pat’s birthday present was a new set of lenses for his iPhone. Here’s some photos he took at Powder Wash trying out the new lenses. Watch this space for future pics.
If the blackface and some of the whiteface ewes look roundish in these photos, that’s because they will start lambing in a month or so. You can also see how little snow there is. The winter continues to be warm and dry, and we continuously check the weather report for promises of snow. My Dad always said that a wet spring beats a hard winter, so we can hope!
ewes on the feed line
Which one of these is not like the others? (Hint–look at the color of the ears.)
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.
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.
Sharon's father George, 89, passed away December 25, 2010. He lived much of his life in the house where he was born, and remained active in the day-to-day life of the ranch. Mr. Salisbury was a decorated World War II veteran, a former member of Wyoming's House of Representatives, and former President of Wyoming's Board of Agriculture.
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 also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture, and she and Brian are active in community service. Daughter Bridget lives in Denver with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in public relations and he serves agriculture in the food 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 nurse.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.