Sunrise On The Range

The sunrise, coated in heavy frost, revealed by early light.

sunrise on the range (JN Ranch, Dec 11 2018)

Black angus cattle, from the JN Ranch, grazing on a section of their winter range at sunrise. An idyllic scene, the angus don’t take notice of the hoar frost, the sunrise colors, nor the low clouds in the valley.

With the girls, a brief stop to admire before continuing on our way for their instructional riding session.


Colorado In Fall: The Cattle Round Up

The colors. Beautiful, sunny days. Cold nights. Frost on the pumpkin. Colorado in fall cannot be any better.

The JN Ranch, our neighbor, it is their fall cattle round-up time. It is moving their herd back from the summer grazing ranges in the mountains, on BLM land, back to the mid-range and winter range on the ranch property. Preparing for the round-up begins in earnest, in early September. The largest piece of the preparatory work is establishing an accurate count and location of their stock. Drone technology and tracking technology have made the round-up a much easier task than before. The round-up, though, is weather-driven. Private weather forecasting has greatly aided of knowing when to move the herd with minimal impact from the weather.

into the fog: the Norris family leaving for the round-up (JN Ranch, Oct 08 2018)
photo credit: Julie Norris – camera: Galaxy Note 8

Their gear ready, the Norris family began their round-up last Monday. The low clouds and misty conditions didn’t make for ideal weather. Yet, the cool temperatures and general dampness weren’t too uncomfortable. Neither the long hours on the saddle become uncomfortable. It is their way of life, a life they love and respect.

With 517 head to bring home, the herd was divided in half. It made the cattle easier to manage on the trail, and added flexibility to the schedule and the 10-14 days earmarked to complete the round-up.

on point: Amanda riding ahead of the herd on a BLM service trail in the mountains above JN Ranch (Oct 10 2018)
photo credit: Amanda Norris – camera: Galaxy Note 8

A dense fog and intermittent rain/snow mix for two days slowed the pace of the first half of the round-up. Yet, they arrived with 225 head of the herd at the mid-range, on Friday, as planned. Comprised mostly of black angus cattle, they were no worse for wear. The same could be said about the Norris family members, but Amanda said she needed a long, hot shower before heading back for the second half of the round-up.

black angus cattle: arriving home on the mid-range (JN Ranch, Oct 12 2018)
photo credit: Amanda Norris – camera: Galaxy Note 8

The second half of the round-up is expected to arrive on the mid-range this coming weekend. Except for cold mornings, and one day of snow flurries, the pace of the round-up has remained on schedule. Once the remaining head arrive, mostly white-faced heifers, another count will be conducted.

Next week, it’ll be a check for strays, and count again. Once the final count is completed, the fall round-up will be over.

Photo credit
Many thanks to Julie and Amanda Norris for their photos. It is very much appreciated.

Mow and Trim

With the return of the summer monsoon rains, the thirsty valley has been revived. The prairie grasses are greener. The ponds refreshed. The wildflowers in bloom again. It also means a bit of yard work needs to be done.

morning dew on the prairie (North Ranch, Aug 2018)

Much of our ranch land consists of prairie grasses. It is not much different from when the Johnson and Norris families settled the valley in the 1880s. Closer to the house, we have a mixture of buffalo grass and rye grass, which makes for a nice lawn. Both grass types are drought hardy, preferring dormancy when water is sparse. Similarly, the wildflowers are drought hardy too. The wildflowers are a mix of wild asters (white, pink, and purple), black-eyed Susans, wild bluebell, and more.

prairie yellow wildflower (North Ranch, Aug 2018)

A factory reconditioned Kubota B2320 with a mid-mount mower deck, front loader bucket and a rotary cutter keeps our place trimmed. In the more tighter spots, the lawn mower and weed whacker works the best. It isn’t necessary to mow and trim every square inch; it’s impractical. The paddocks receive the lightest of trims, which keeps the more noxious growth away from the horses. In manicured settings, foxtail, thistle, and a few other invasive weeds are more likely to gain a foothold. They become a significant problem if they enter into the grazing cycle. Also,  greener grasses are more difficult for a horse to digest.

Kubota B2320 (North Ranch, Oct 2017)

After the ranch complex has been nicely mowed and trimmed, the next mow and trim may be 4-6 weeks later. It’ll depend largely how much rain falls during the interval.

North Ranch: Beginning Anew

It had been in the planning for nearly two years. Our appointment books were filled with meeting dates and times, post-it notes and flagged pages. Certain documents needed to be gathered. Applications were submitted, approvals waited upon. Before a final contract was entered, it was important to reach an agreement on a range of matters.

Once we signed the contract, there were no second thoughts. It is about looking ahead, looking at possibilities. The risks are few, but manageable. While our daughters were developing strong interests in pursuing careers in medicine, it did not change the course or purpose of our plan. Moreover, it would afford them greater options.

After she signed, Amanda invited us into her office. It was a special occasion for her too, taking out the beer she had bought for the moment. “E-Ram, are you allowed?” Elizabeth looked at mom; Andrea nodded yes. “On behalf of the JN Ranch,” Amanda began, “we welcome you. North Ranch is in no finer hands than yours.” A few minutes later, her parents, Tom and Judy, stopped in to offer their congratulations. “You’ll love it here. It’s Colorado from another time.”

the cattle guard view: North Ranch (Jul 2015)

A working ranch, North Ranch will serve as home to Team KRW, our daughters’ equestrian activity. Their primary aim is to develop horses for show jumping. Knowing not every horse is suited for equine sports, another role will be found for them. The secondary aim is to provide support for the working horses of JN Ranch.

Our preparatory work began in earnest, earlier this year. Among the first projects was replacing an older section of common fence with new wire and stakes. Also, a new barn and attendant septic system was constructed. With 15 months allocated for construction and finishing out the ranch complex, the work was largely completed by mid-November, four months ahead of schedule.

finish work: the loft level, new barn (Jun 2017)

inside the barn: new stalls on the floor (Jul 2017)

Rather than waiting until spring to move into North Ranch, we slowly began the process two and a half weeks ago. Several boxes here, several boxes there. The serious moving began over the weekend. Laurie and Andrea wondered aloud if we had enough furniture to fill our new 3,200 square foot house. We do have some in storage, plus Andrea’s baby grand in piano storage.

The North Ranch property is richly steeped in family history. It is the special place where it all began for the JN Ranch in 1883. It is our privilege to begin anew here also.


“Colorado, everywhere I go I’m in your shadow and you’re callin’ to me
Colorado, the sun melts the snow makes the rivers flow to the sea”
from Colorado by Chuck Pyle

Elizabeth: watching the sunset (JN Ranch, Oct 25 2017)

Nothing is finer than being home.