In these strange and perilous times we’ve found ourselves turning to books for respite and inspiration.
Over the years, apprentices have become front and center to Ranchlands’ operations.
I’m a big fan of chaos. I love trying to make sense of things that are halfway out of control. It is the engine that propels life forward, and the best example of chaos in ranching are our brandings.
Each spring, the Chico begins to see new life as flowers bloom, grasses grow, and calves are born. As spring turns to summer, our newborns and their mothers are gathered into corrals to be branded. Although somewhat misunderstood, brandings are an incredibly important event for ranchers.
I was thinking today about how different spring times can be from one year to the next.
As the days lengthen, drawing winter closer to spring, we begin readying ourselves for calving season, which officially starts for us April 1st and goes into June. In a normal year, eighty percent of the calves come in the first fifty days.
Foraging up on rocky slopes is unusual for normal cows, but not surprising for our Beefmasters cows.
I detasseled corn for four summers growing up in Nebraska. As a thirteen-year-old kid, I walked miles of cornrows, pulling tassels I saw that had been missed by the machine puller. No matter the conditions: mud, rain, horrible humidity, scorching heat, we walked the fields from sunrise until late afternoon. The pay was good for kids my age, and the more rows we did, the more money we could make. I was miserable during so many of those days but what kept me from quitting was the relationships I made with the kids working alongside me in the field. The work became bearable. Then it even became a little fun. Soon a sense of pride developed: working hard, pushing oneself, and walking through it all with others who felt the same way. I’ve begun to feel the same pride for the Chico Basin Ranch, a kind of pride I didn’t expect.
The fire flickered, reaching up to a brilliant indigo sky. Billowing charcoal clouds lazily settled against the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. I sat on the porch of a homey log cabin, with a hearty bowl of homemade bison chili gratefully held in my hands. It was a welcomed comfort after traveling 1,500 miles across our beautiful country. Next to me were 3 young women from all corners of the United States, who had just made a similar journey and were here also hired on as wranglers. We observed in delight our hosts cracking bull-whips, shooting bows and arrows, and setting BB gun targets with equal parts skill and joy. Heeler pups played, and stories were exchanged as we wrapped ourselves in the beauty of the night. There was an air of excitement & engagement that first night, an energy that would not dissipate. We had arrived at our home for the next six months, Zapata Ranch.
My arrival at the Chico was met with a hazy blue sky, land stretching for miles with a color palette that rivals a Wes Anderson film, and a donkey named Pica curiously peeking over the fence in my new front yard.