A couple of days ago, Pepe called Meghan at the cookhouse. He is tending sheep on our permits on the Red Desert. I heard Meghan say, “gallinas?! domesticados?!” (chickens?! domesticated?!).
Apparently, someone turned loose some hens and one rooster. Meghan called the BLM Range Conservationist, who tried, unsuccessfully, to catch them. The Chain Lakes allotment is checkerboard, with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department owning every other section. Mike, the Range Con, then turned the matter over to the Game and Fish.
They are fowl, if not fish.
What’s amazing is that they haven’t been eaten by coyotes!
December 1st is the on date for our winter sheep grazing allotments on the Red Desert, north of I80 and Wamsutter, Wyoming. The sheep walk a five-day trail from our late fall pasture, Badwater, to the checkerboard Chain Lakes allotment, with the private owned by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. It also serves as critical winter habitat for antelope. We maintain the water and the fences, and provide “boots on the ground.” One band of sheep winters in Chain Lakes and two move on to the aptly named Cyclone Rim allotment. A few weeks ago, this blog showed photos of our search for water holes on Cyclone Rim.
We are still thirsty for snow and watering spots. For almost the first time ever, the sheep had dry days on the trail, although not back-to-back. Normally by this time of year, we have enough snow for the sheep to eat for water. They are very hardy, and most years go much of the winter surviving on snow and without access to fresh water. The sheepherders are asking us for snow, as if we could bring it like firewood and dog food. We tell them, “Do what we do, pray!”
Richar, Afrenio, Timeteo and Christian bringing up the sheep
waiting their turn
The bucks will be turned in with the ewes in a few days, in order to bring those spring lambs. To make sure the ewes are in optimal condition, we decided to worm them in advance of bucking. On this day, it was coldish and windyish, but certainly a relatively pleasant day.
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.