A murder of crows
Seeking garbage, guarding trash,
St. Francis keeps watch.
It’s branding time! We have lots of baby calves who need brands, eartags and vaccine so that they can be ready to head to the National Forest next month with their mamas. We have a great crew this year, which includes a lot of home-grown child labor. Sheep Mountain is a pasture which we graze spring and fall. Sheep Mountain itself is an extinct volcano which has provided us with rich soil and great pasture.
Season’s end draws, dims, slides down to the rest
of the year, where we await winter sleep,
Day’s end presents sundown, darkened nest
where quiet lures, lulls, to somnolent deep
and tempting dreams, where twilight dusk holds sway.
Dawn comes late, with sparking, shimmering freeze.
Solstice rays shoot beams, arrows into day–
Ancients rose, chanted, begged gods to be pleased
and halt sun’s chariot southering drift,
to change its course, to close its dogged lap.
Prayers intoned, begged for light’s return—strong, swift,
No more creeping darkness, to suck and sap
its sunlit balm. Now incline to summer–
swing past the solstice, past darkness’ slumber.
Sangre de Cristo,
blood red against the sky,
smoky crimson sunrise
illuminates the dry
and murky landscape,
grey haze that turns to pink,
and throws a rosy glow
to make night’s shadows sink.
Mountains rise ephemeral,
magic light against their rock,
a brief illumination
shows their beauty with a shock.
of this pink and hazy glow
wrought by fires in the south,
fire in the sky,
and fires bred by drought.
Flames that rise and roar
and eat all before their path,
nature and man’s doings
give way before their wrath.
We watch from distant fastness
as smoky fingers curl,
long tendrils reach with greed
to menace with their swirl,
and spread a grim grey threat
to make us tear and choke.
We wear a gauzy veil
of ash and haze and smoke.
It filters through our valleys
where grass stands stiff and dry,
where leaves hang low and thirsty
beneath this pall of sky.
Tales now come to haunt us
of flames that leave a stark
and ancient calling card,
borne aloft by wind and spark.
We watch and wait and fret
that such could be our fate,
while distant matches flare,
in a tinderbox, we wait.
Such thoughts all disappear
with wonder and with awe,
as sunrise works its alchemy,
paints the country with a raw
and glowing pinkwash,
with a brief and fleeting dye.
Sangre de Cristo,
blood red against the sky.
October 1st is the off-date for our summer grazing permits on the national forests. We spend a lot of time staging the trailing off of both cows and sheep. We consolidate sheep bunches, move them onto private pastures, and bring every ewe and lamb through our corrals and sheep chutes at the Home Ranch. We sort the lambs off the ewes. Some lambs will go to a feedlot to gain more pounds, and some will stay home and become replacement ewe lambs.
The ewes are sorted several way. Ewes with good health and good udders stay with our bunches. The “good old ewes” who are short on teeth but otherwise sound will go to buyers, usually in the Midwest, who can care for them for several more years, in conditions more forgiving than Wyoming’s Red Desert. The “killer ewes” or culls will go to slaughter.
All this involves a lot of moving parts, but when we’re done, we’re ready to move onto other late fall pastures before the long trail to the wintering grounds.