As we suffered through was we consider brutally hot weather (95 degrees), we were told that a huge early snowstorm was on the way. Our new cook, from Alabama, said she was terrified of winter and abruptly left. Sure enough, all over the state, roads were closed, power was off, tree branches were broken. Here’s what the storm looked like for us. Things have cooled off nicely though.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have lot of new baby calves being born. We’ve had some fresh snow, but the temperatures are decent and the mamas are doing a good job. It warms the heart to see these new babies!
Today, Siobhan and I were on a routine drive, all within a mile of home. when we got very stuck. We were checking the horses and the cats. We followed the tractor’s tracks. Alas, we have had approximately two feet of new snow in the last couple of days, and it was actually warm. It was, by any measure, a bluebird day. This meant that the frozen trail, packed by the tractor, was mushy. Sure enough, we sunk into what I thought was a soft drift, and, ahem, spun out and became inexorably stuck.
Siobhan recalled that when gathering cattle from this meadow in sunnier days, her phone had service. I pointed out that we were close to home and could walk there in probably 15 minutes. She convinced me to walk a few hundred yards, find cell phone service, and call home for a tractor rescue. Soon Wilber, bless him, came with the tractor to pull us out. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be, as we got stuck four, count em’, four more times. Finally, with a lot of plowing and pulling, we were on our way to check on Eamon and Megan’s cats, who were very glad to see us.
Bear in mind that it was 44 degrees, and we were within an easy walk of home. It was not comparable to the time that Siobhan and Pat were stuck overnight on the Red Desert, with only gritty M&Ms to sustain them. Siobhan and I did spend three hours of quality time together, and the cats were really happy when we showed up!
In the fall, we send lambs to the feedlot. These are the lambs that we have nurtured in the womb throughout the cold winter months. These are the lambs that we saw into the world in a cold wet spring. These are the lambs for whom we fended off coyotes and ravens and bears. These are the lambs who followed their mothers and grew on sweet summer grass.
Some of their numbers fell to predators. A few fell to the hundreds other hazards that await the creatures that we care for. Now we sort out the ewe lambs who will stay with us and become mama ewes. The others go to feedlots where others look after them. In a few months, they will go to slaughter and provide sustenance, by-products such as insulin, and pelts for all of us. The income they bring helps us continue the cycle of husbanding livestock and caring for landscape.
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.