Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fire is out!

Good weather really helped the crews snuff out the last little bit of fire. Now we can back to work! Today's task, finding where our cattle wandered off to when they got tired of waiting for us to move them to a new pasture :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fire season

It's hot and dry and and it feels like there is fire in every direction I look. Much of the week Lloyd and Nathan have been out fighting our closest fire, the Ward Canyon Fire (est 15,000 acres) along the Antelope Highway. There are also several fires out of Ashwood, Shaniko, Clarno, Maupin and on the Res with many more throughout Central Oregon.

It's hot and smoky down here in my little canyon. Here's a smattering of photos from the last few days:

Fire Season
Ward Canyon Fire starts from dry lightning storm on Sunday July 13th and sends up smoke immediately instead of smoldering until the next afternoon.
Fire Season
Smoke blowing west and meeting up with smoke from the Res

Fire Season
A scattered thunderstorm blows through, barely enough rain to settle the dust.

Fire Season
Next few days are choked with thick smoke, my life has its' own sepia filter

Fire Season
Ward Canyon burning east towards Indian Creek, the disc is hooked on to the tractor ready to drag more fire trails around our crops and property as needed to supplement our seasonal "just in case" fire lines and back burns.

Fire Season
Reflection of flaming pink sun in the roof of the upper granary

Fire Season
Hazy, smokey days

Fire Season
Changing winds give a little break from the smoke

Fire Season
Another incredible fire season sunset

Fire Season
Evening backfiring along HWY 293

Fire Season
 The glow at night

This particular fire, as with most local fires is still burning away. BLM was out here for an evening then got called to more urgent fires. Just us locals and a rural fire protection district for now trying to keep everything in check. As long as it doesn't jump south of Hwy 293, we aren't in any direct danger. The weather is cooler with higher humidity over the next few days, hopefully this will give everyone a chance to get it knocked down so we can all get back to work. I'll share more photos as I can.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Broilers out in chicken tractors

A short video of our new chicken tractors out on pasture. Of course the birds are all piled up at the front of the structures because we just fed them. It looks crowded but in reality they have lots of space even for full grown birds. We opted for box-shaped tractors a la Joel Salatin instead of hoop houses because the flat sees some pretty aggressive winds and being low to the ground is certainly a plus.

Being the crap-hounds that we are, we were able to recycle/repurpose all of the materials for the pens except for the nipple drinkers and the hardware cloth mesh (stronger than chicken wire which many predators can tear holes in). The tractors have two mesh sides for ventilation and two solid sides for protection from the elements. The roof is solid except for a window and peaked for ventilation. The tractors measure 8.5x12 feet, narrow enough to fit on a trailer and drive through the gates but big enough to give the birds adequate space to stretch out. The feeders and waterers are built in to the tractor along the walls meaning we don't have to remove them prior to moving the pens.

For the first week or so, moving the birds is a two man operation. We hook the ATV to metal rings on the front via chain (the rings are also on all sides so we can tow in any direction) and one person slowly drives the ATV while the other shoos the birds along with a long piece of PVC. After a few days the birds queue up at the front of the tractors to eat, drink and check out the new forage.

The location we selected is a pretty good spot - easy access to water, relatively flat, decent stand of grass and not utilized for much else right now. The concentrated manure application should help the fertility of this strip of grass immensely. The plants will benefit from the added nitrogen and put on more growth. We could hay that added biomass for winter feed or just continue to run chickens on it for a few more years to build the soil.

With this new system we are able cut the amount of daily labor caring for the broilers in half, maybe more especially since we can run double the birds per batch and run fewer batches per year. We can feed, water and move two pens of birds in about 15 minutes twice a day. Not too shabby since we are already at the irrigation twice a day moving the wheel line across the alfalfa.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Watering onions

It's the start of garden season around here and we are spending the weekend outside prepping beds for seeds and plants.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Turn out

Today we turned the bulls out to their respective herds - Archie to the first-calf heifers and Jugghead to the brood herd. Cattle have gestation period of about 9 months (283 days) so our turn out day of May 1st will result in calving starting in late February.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beverly's memorial


Camera 8-9-08 249

Our beloved family matriarch Beverly passed away in February. She will be sorely missed but never forgotten. This last weekend we held a gathering in her memory. It was very well attended and the family really appreciated the outpouring of support. I thoroughly enjoyed mingling and hearing all the wonderful ranch stories - from Mike recounting how he used to get to sleep in the Kirkbride shack during hunting season as a kid, to Kay reminiscing about how exciting it was to get to swim in the cisterns as long as you checked for snakes first! There were stories about the fire and the eclipse party and stories about how Chuck and Bev just made the ranch feel like home, whether you were visiting for the very first time or your family had been coming out here for generations.

The ranch is an incredibly special place to so many people, I already knew this. After seeing first hand how Chuck, Bev and the ranch touched so many people over the decades, it just solidifies my resolve, as the one of the caretakers for future generations, to ensure that the special spark that makes the ranch, "the ranch" never fades. Our doors are always open to those that carry a little piece of the ranch and the Forman family in their hearts.

In preparation for the service, we poured over hundreds of images of life on the ranch. Expect to see more vintage ranch life photos on the blog in the coming weeks.

All my love and gratitude,


Friday, April 18, 2014

Sheepies are here!

Eight little sheepies in their new pasture with a new sheepie shed


Thursday, April 17, 2014

New visitors!


A flock of wild turkeys graced us with their presence this week - this photo is of the gully behind Lloyd's house. Twelve hens and two toms, one tom was really big and proudly strutted around. I hope they stick around, it would be great fun to have a resident flock of turkeys. Freda was sure confused to have others speaking her turkey language - they talked and squawked across the canyon all day.