The sheep, herders, dogs, and horses are all safe and sound on our hay meadows near Dixon. All the grass is still buried under snow, but we can get to them with feed every day, and bring alfalfa and cake to them (except when the highways are closed, which is pretty often). It took several more days to ferry all the sheepwagons, panels and other equipment off the Red Desert and to the Dixon ranch headquarters. It continues to be especially brutal in the area we evacuated the sheep from, on the Chain Lakes allotment. Hay prices are high due to demand from impacted livestock producers and state game agencies. These historic winter conditions stretch through northern Nevada, Utah, northwestern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Wyoming’s Governor Gordon has declared an emergency. Spring still looks like a long ways away!
Tag Archives: winter
We are experiencing the worst winter in decades. We trailed the ewes to their usual wintering grounds on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming. We got there in early December, right on schedule. Most winters, snow falls, then blows into drifts, leaving bare ground where the ewes can graze on dried grasses left from the summer. My Dad used to say that when that country is good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s awful. Well, this year it is awful. It started snowing in mid-December. We were two days late putting the bucks into the ewes because the part of Interstate 80 we need to traverse, between Creston Junction and Wamsutter was closed. We normally just feed some extra corn or cake while the bucks are in, but we have had to purchase and bring in extra feed as the landscape has gotten buried in snow. All our neighbors in the region have been trucking their sheep out of their desert winter pastures to their home ranches. Sometimes in bad winters, it is possible to find a place to take the sheep where they can graze. This year, the bad conditions reach from Nevada to Nebraska. In mid-January, we brought four truckloads of sheep closer to home on the Dixon ranch, where we are already feeding some cattle. These were the thinner ewes. Since then, we have been trying to evacuate the rest of the sheep, but have been unable to line up trucks since they are busy hauling so many sheep. We are grateful to Sweetwater County Road and Bridge, and our neighbors who are plowing in the oilfield.
We were supposed to load the rest of the sheep all last weekend, but a major storm came in and closed all the roads, locally, on the Red Desert, and especially on I80, which has been littered with accidents every time they try to open it. Our sheep truckers are just waiting for the conditions to allow it. As soon as everything is plowed, we will load the rest of the sheep and come to safer grounds. We’ll still have to feed alfalfa and cake, but both the sheep and our herders will be close to home. Here’s some photos of the loading of the sheep in mid-January.
The New Year comes through fortune’s gate.
It gives us hope, and prayers of grace,
with power of time, we await
the future, blank–this unknown fate,
unknown journey to unknown place—
the New Year comes, through one-way gate.
Our dreads, our sins, night fears abate—
the past, the future, run apace
with power of time, next year awaits.
We cast our lot, the dice gyrate,
spin and clatter, hit chance’s space—
write next year’s tome on fortune’s slate.
Earth’s axis tips, while stars rotate.
The waxing moon unveils her face,
marks pass of time, while we await
Through time, through space, sped arrow-straight,
light races on its ceaseless chase.
Now New Year comes, through future’s gate—
through power of time, we await.
Faithful blog readers know that due to extreme winter conditions in the Red Desert, our usual wintering ground, we have trucked most of our ewes north to the sugar beet fields in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. The Bighorn Basin is several hundred miles to the north of us, almost to the Montana border, but is also several thousand feet lower, and less snowy. We have some ewes who experienced “early conception,” probably due to a rogue buck lamb who escaped docking. At Powder Flat, we are set up for shed lambing (usually in March) and have a great crew. Pat and I went up to visit the ewes and herders, and to collect the pregnant ewes and bring them home to lamb. The Bighorn Basin is also experiencing an unusually snowy winter, though for them it is several inches of snow, not several feet. We have a good crew there too–Pepe, Modesto, Alejandro and Joel. It’s a long ways from home, but has feed available for the ewes.
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!
Poor St. Francis,
he never knew such outrage in Italy:
Patron Saint of the Ladder Ranch,
animals, and the natural world.
His statue stands guard in our yard,
watching over birds, even the grouse,
the eagles, the robins, and it seems,
ravens, crows and magpies.
He looks out for cattle, sheep,
horses, dogs, and those wild critters.
He sees deer, elk, antelope.
St. Francis, please care for
the bats, the bees, and butterflies—
maybe not mosquitoes!
No patron saint for them.
So here stands his likeness,
concrete birds upon his fist.
In summer, actual bird poop
paints stigmata hands and feet.
But now, in the depths of winter,
in cold winds and drift
poor Francis stoically endures,
waist-deep in snow-white robes.