This sunny April morning, my wife and I had our walk checking for new calves. We may not do this for long as a business, but we love to have the limbering exercise to get ourselves coordinated for walking on uneven ground.
This area, which is now a calving ground, is where we are feeding for the last three weeks of winter (early spring). Soon the whole area will be covered in wild roses. Then we will see ourselves walking in that mythical promised rose garden.
The cattle’s job is to keep the forest at bay and deliver us a savannah or, technically, a silvopasture which grows both trees and grasses.
Just before sitting down to write this, I spoke to a gentleman from Vancouver Washington who reads this column in the Tribune. He wanted my email address to send me an article about his cousin who has a missile base next to his ranch in Montana.
I told him the biggest threat we ever had was a longshot possibility that the ore from Mount Polley Mine might be transported via a 30 mile long conveyor to the Gibraltar Mine mill, through the gentle slopes on the alluvial fans which are our upland hayfields.
The thoughts I had then, about having to leave this place because of a 24/7 rumble near our home, were devastating.
Now, as we prepare to turn over the ranch to the next generations, Susan and I so enjoy the peaceful moments in the sunshine with a mid morning coffee. The only noise we could hear this morning was the roaring ephemeral creek that graces our home every spring.
The loons, swans, geese and eagles are hushed for these moments. We spoke of our future on the place which has been our lifelong dream. We will only leave it under some duress, but before we can’t enjoy it and we become some burden.
My wife’s birthday present was some quiet time as her sons built some new garden boxes. You know, the kind that you can seed and weed standing straight up. Grandpa, me, took five of the seven grandchildren out to find some twin calves whose mother had been keeping one at her side at a time and leaving the other.
Teaching a mother cow to “count to two” is not always easy if it doesn’t come naturally to her. Many ranchers hate twins for that reason.
The grandkids want to learn how to catch calves with the shepherd’s hook. After a couple of misses when the caught calf kicks hard and gets away, I caught the calf and a grandson piled on top of it until I could get over and sit to tag and medicate it.
Then the cow came back to protect her calf and the boy holding the calf decided his younger brother was threatened by the mother cow. His decision, and good instinct, was to protect his little brother so he started to get off, at which point I piled onto him and the calf.
The little brother was not in any danger. Eventually the boy got out from between me and the calf on this “dog pile.” The rest of the kids found their calves and the twins being nursed at the same time.
We returned home more agile and dirty as the devil, covered in mud and manure. Three carried a bouquet for grandma’s birthday, made of hazelnut flowers (male catkins and tiny purple female stigma), and cedar boughs.
Silent thoughts of spring are often contemplative, wondering if we are aging youthfully.