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Tag Archives: Red Desert

January ewes on the Red Desert

ewes grazing on Cyclone Rim allotment

 

Today was a Goldilocks Day–not too hot, not too cold, and not windy at all. I took our banker, Kim Brown, from the Yampa Valley Bank in Craig, Colorado out to the Red Desert to take a look a the sheep. Conditions were perfect, with enough snow for the ewes to water on, but not so deep that they couldn’t access the dried grasses which we count on for winter feed. Everyone looked happy–the ewes, the bucks, the dogs, and Pepe, Leo and Guillermo.

Pepe unloading dog food–we buy a pallet a week

guard dog checking us out

a curious Hampshire ram lamb, also checking us out

the last of the corn

sheep on the skyline at Chain Lakes

guard dogs on the job

Guillermo, Kim and Pepe in Cyclone Rim

 

 
 

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Winter Romance

Leo with his herd of Border collies

It’s that time of year again. December rams mean May lambs. A sheep’s gestation is five months less five days, and usually we put rams into the ewe flocks on December 15th. A big snow storm was predicted for the 15th. Since some of the roads are scary, especially I80, we decided to haul bucks on the 14th.

The rams wait all year for these winter weeks. A ewe’s heat cycle occurs every three weeks, so we leave the bucks in for six weeks or so. The rest of the year, they are bachelors (except for the lucky few who get to hang out with the early lambers in October). For a few weeks, it’s all romance, all the time!

ewes on the Red Desert

loading the trailer, llamas supervising

rams in their working clothes

Meghan and Pepe unloading the Hampshire bucks

Meghan with Leo’s horse

looking for the ladies

ready to go to work

Guillermo watching the sheep

Guillermo, Meghan and Pepe

Pat, Pepe, Leo and Meghan

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in Dogs, Family, Folks, Horses, Llamas, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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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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January on the Red Desert

ewes at Chain Lakes

The past two winters have been hard winters by anyone’s standards. Conditions were especially harsh on the Red Desert north of Wamsutter, where we winter our sheep. In 2018-2019, the ewes and bucks were snowed in on the Cyclone Rim allotment for weeks, and we couldn’t even get to the Chain Lakes allotment. In 2019-2020, the winter started early, so we found frozen sugar beets in the northern part of Wyoming and trucked the sheep to farms.

Now we are in drought. We have received around 65 percent of normal moisture so far this winter. An easy winter is easier on both livestock and herders, and on us as we drive back and forth to the sheep camps. The sheep depend upon snow for water for most of the winter. We’ve had several days of wind and thaw, which takes the snow and leaves bare sage and steppe. We now wait for a good winter storm, which we hope will bring much-needed moisture. Winter snow brings us spring grass.

Enough snow. Not too much. Not too little.

Joel with guard dog puppy.

Sentinel ewes

Pat and Pepe at Cyclone Rim base camp

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2021 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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From the Red Desert to Badwater

The sheep are making our annual trek from wintering ground on the Red Desert to the Badwater Pasture, where we will shear the sheep before heading on to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.

Seamus and Cora getting ready to cross under I80

heading for the gate

under I80

Fireworks, anyone?

map of the checkerboard

heading for the Union Pacific railroad overpass

the dogs trail too!

some can ride

!

 

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Open winter

Today on the Red Desert
photo by Oscar Payano

 

Almost out of snow,
Last summer’s grass gives nurture,
Corn–but no water.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2018 in Poetry, Sheep

 

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Jumping for joy

ram heading for work

The rams hang around for ten and a half months, waiting for the day when they are called to go to work, fathering lambs for the next season. We put the bucks in over a period of days and weeks. We figure that the first bucks to go in with the ewes are getting tired, so we send reinforcements. They sometimes resent being worked through the chutes, but are happy to jump out of the trailers to join the ladies. When we were loading them, I said, “Hop in boys–all the corn you can eat.” Meghan said, “All the ladies you can breed!” I added, “…and all the wind you can tolerate.” Such is the life of a buck in the winter.

through the chute

Siobhan and Sadie facing a reluctant ram

Avencio

guard dog on the job

guard dog watching his ewes

Avencio, Pat and Oscar

Guillermo and Pat

Leo

Oscar with the dogs jumping for joy

on his way!

Oscar too!

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Dogs, Family, Folks, Horses, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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Romance on the ides of December

Avencio unloading the bucks

 

The ides of December means that it’s time to put the rams in with the ewes. Romance in December brings lambs in May. A sheep’s gestation is five months less five days. I wish we could predict now just when the shearers will arrive and what the weather will be like on the 10th of May.

on their way…

Bucks in their working clothes

romance is in the air

Guard dog checking out his new charges

 

 
 

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Doings on the Red Desert

Pat and Guillermo surveying the desert

Leo and Luis–twins separated at birth

Which one of these is not like the other–flaring from new drilling in Chain Lakes

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2017 in Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders

 

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North to the Red Desert

ewes heading for the Rodewald gate

The ewes have made their annual trek north to the Red Desert, where we have wintering ground on the Cyclone Rim and Chain Lakes grazing allotments. These allotments are part of the vast Great Basin, home to Greater Sage Grouse, desert elk,  riparian plants and amphibians, feral horses, many many antelope and, part of the year, cattle and sheep. The Great Basin is named because it is a closed basin. To the north, the Continental Divide splits and runs in separate ranges until it meets again about 15 miles south of Wamsutter near the Haystack Mountains. The country south of there–Church Butte, Adobe Town, Powder Rim–is likewise amazing landscape, but it is not part of the Great Basin, the Red Desert. It is always a relief when we safely cross the overpass over the Union Pacific line and the underpass beneath I80 and head out across the open country for winter pasture. We are a week later than usual on the trail north. We had to wait for snow, since there’s not much water on the trail. Like Goldilocks, we want it to be not too hot and not too cold!

 

the sheep topping the UP overpass

between the tracks and I80

Almost to the underpass

under the interstate

passing the Department of Transportation shed

Pat and Oscar consulting

new drilling on Chain Lakes

on the Red Desert, at last

 

 

 
 

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