Yesterday, Robbin and I began our 26th year together by making a loop through Greasy to look at the cows and calves, assess our feed conditions and put out salt and mineral. The cattle look great! We got an early start to the grass with November and December rains, but with a dry January and February, we lost our feed at our lower elevations on the south and west slopes. To date, we’ve only received three inches since the first of the year, but the grass at the higher elevations has just begun to grow.
A Border Collie at five months, it was Tessa’s first extended ride in the Kubota away from the house. Channeling her energy has been a challenge, but she’s smart and willing to please. It was good for her to be completely lost away from home and dependent on us for over four hours. Tired before she went to bed last night, she was sitting in the Kubota waiting for another ride.
Not much has changed for us, despite the Coronavirus pandemic. Normally, we do our best to stay out of town anyway. Before we have to get our Wagyu calves in for a second round of vaccinations, we’ve been preparing and planting our garden for the past couple of weeks—it’s what we do this time of year—that in turn will help us stay out of town later this spring.
However, we are not immune to the news as we try to imagine millions of people shut in their living quarters in a big city environment. Our hearts go out to them as we realize how fortunate we are to be free to move around the ranch to get our work done. Having something to do during this crisis is indeed a luxury.
Despite warm temperatures and no rain for nearly 30 days, the calves have grown since we branded last in Greasy on January 9th.
Father and daughter, Garth and Audrey Maze pose before we start.
With a great crew, we made short work of big calves and were down the hill by noon. Thank you all.
On the edge of fog, we’ve been gathering Greasy to brand Thursday, while the forecast for rain varies from from a few hundredths to a quarter-inch from a half-dozen Internet weather sites. Above the fog, we shed all the jackets it took to get there, a true inversion layer. Time to fish or cut bait.
© Terri Blanke
We hate it, but we do it well
before the steel gets too hot
to touch, man or beast—
down the lead-up from the tub
to the hydraulic squeeze,
Enforce 3 and Cylence
for the respiratory bugs and flies,
foxtail relief from flaming eyes,
or whatever else might help
before their gooseneck ride to town,
looking blankly out at cars
and houses, we wish them well.
© Terri Blanke
It’s been a long week with early mornings and warm days gathering another bunch of cows and calves in Greasy. We hauled the last of the calves down the hill this morning to the corrals to wean. From the goosenecks, we unload them onto our scales to weigh, then apply fly spray to not only make the process a little more pleasant for the calves, but to reduce the risk of a pink eye.
The calves have done well but the market is weak and weakening with concerns about this year’s corn crop.
Though we weaned our calves last spring in these pipe pens, we branded our first bunch of calves here yesterday. Earl McKee began construction nearly 20 years ago, and only with my sister’s help could we finish the job. In the upper pen, it feels as if we’re working on top of the world. With the camera on the table, multiple photo credits go to Audrey Maze, Allie Fry, Terri Blanke, Maggie Loverin and Robbin.
To make the handling process easier on the calves, we incorporated a head pen.
We’ve been looking forward to working cattle in our renovated corrals in Greasy, a project started by Earl McKee before our family purchased his ranch nearly twenty years ago. The work was completed last spring after we branded our calves in the old corrals. Today, we sorted cows from calves to be hauled down the mountain to begin the weaning process below.
In the photo, Robbin and the girls are sorting two gooseneck loads for Bob and me to haul, a two-hour round trip. While we were gone, they finished their sort and wormed the cows in our new facilities, pleased with all their options.
Six bunnies in the driveway as the grandkids and I fed the horses yesterday morning, drab Cottontails, but appropriate symbolism that drew excited squeals, yet underscored with knowing looks about the validity of the Easter Bunny. It was a messy feeding, half the flakes never made the manger, each child covered with alfalfa leaf, but the horses didn’t seem to mind the little strangers. In the Kubota, we prolonged the chore by naming the birds we saw, a covey of quail, a dove pair, a lone killdeer and blackbirds grazing the short-cropped green in the horse pasture.
Hoping to expose them to more wildlife, we took the crew to the corrals in Greasy that we just finished constructing, a project that Earl McKee began a decade or more ago. Even though we kept two of the three board pens intact, the interface with pipe required removing some posts and boards and losing an occasional thirty-penny nail. Each kid got a coffee can and the hunt was on for nails worth two-bits a piece, a practice run for plastic eggs filled with sweet surprises that my daughter was hiding in the dark as I went to bed. HAPPY EASTER!
Branding calves in Earl McKee’s corrals has always been removed from the rest of the world, separate from the conflicts and politics that we are bombarded with daily. Never more true than yesterday among a few neighbors and friends at our first branding of the year, most of us going ‘old people slow’ as we got the job done.
February 12, 2015
A black and white macro of weathered wood,
corrals and hills beyond, old guitar song
and chiseled men follow smoke to the ridgeline
and back to the fire and branding iron. A ringing
cell phone colors riders, a black calf stretched
between two sorrels—blue denim action
of men and women, old neighbors dancing,
each genuflecting to a moment on the ground.
“We’re branding calves,” a limp loop
answers from the corner, looking down
canyon past hazy orchards, somewhere town
as if he could see the caller, the papered desk,
stretch the thirty miles. A guy with a drone
reports, “We got ’em all.” Empty white tables
and chair legs licked by green tongues wait
with meat, bread and beans on an oak fire, ice chest
beer below a towel, soap and water, plastic glasses
and fresh jug of whiskey ready on a tailgate.
Close again, the chatter of visiting face to face,
gossip, stories and mysteries unveiled, fading
with cows with calves strung up the canyon home.