Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's Springtime in the Rockies.....

Saturday was a nice day to be ahorseback, and I had some sorting to do. 

We cleared another dozen pairs out of the near field and put them in the ‘gulch’ with the big bunch.  The buckskin mare did a fine job of sorting, and she stood and held the rope nicely as I ear-tagged a calf. 

We brought in the last of the outside cows and sorted off the bulls and a few more heavies, then turned the handful of late calvers into the ‘island’ field.  Then we cut another handful of pairs out of the calving field and into the ‘rock’ field.

These tasks needed to be done, but my mind was beginning to spin with all the other jobs that were suddenly crowding my agenda.  On Monday, I figured, I would take a tractor across the river and harrow the hayfield, bringing in the drill-seeder and the harrow when I returned.

On Sunday I did the afternoon feeding early so that I could make a shopping trip to Bozeman.  I was eager to buy a small harrow set-up for the 4-wheeler, some weed spray, and a part to repair the solenoid valve on my ATV sprayer.  There is a patch of grass that needs to be sprayed out before I plow up the field in front of the house.

On Monday, however, it was mixed rain and snow.  That put off the harrowing for a few days and gave me a chance to assemble both the new harrow and the solenoid valve.  In the evening I went to a meeting of the Watershed Group at the McLeod school to hear the news on the wolf de-listing and to make a deal with a neighbor for enough hay to get me through to green grass.

The country was beginning to take on a green cast, with blades of new grass appearing.  We’re weeks away from grazing yet, even if it turns warm tomorrow.  But it didn’t turn warm – it snowed instead: another 11” and counting.  Again I was feeling my way through the fields to feed, hanging up on rocks that I couldn't see. 

During the winter the cattle are fed on the hayfields.  But with the ground thawed and the plants beginning to put out new shoots, the cattle must be moved off the hayfields to protect the roots of the hay crop.  The outside fields are laced with rocks and coulees that are nearly impossible to see with deep snow and flat light. 

Even the ranch driveway meanders through the field to miss the larger rocks, but there are no features to distinguish its exact placement.  One must feel for the road judging by the list of the pickup into the shallow ditches and the rock "rumble strips" at both sides.

I have turned cows out to pasture as early as the first of May, and I have just enough hay to get there.  But more often it is closer to the first of June before we can quit feeding, and every snowstorm extends our feeding season for another week.

And now all those jobs that I was going to get working on this week are delayed for an undetermined length of time...

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