Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: The upside of down: climate warming

Mild Cariboo fall is allowing more time for fall-like chores on the ranch

Today I am thankful for this mild fall. The little bit of frost we have is mostly helpful. It allows us to get on some of the land which seasonally floods and not allow us to fix fences.

For the last few years, the flooding has floated out some fence posts and the long heavy grasses have folded over and pressed fence wires to the ground.

The flooding over the fences has resulted in tons and tons of ice which, having frozen to the fence wire, when the water levels rose or fell, took the fence wires with it breaking the attachment to the posts.

This created a deficit in repairs which running up to Christmas we are hoping to rectify. Here is where the fun comes in. I love to take some young helpers with me on weekends and after school.

READ MORE: Reconciling life on the land

On one occasion, five of us were doing great team work with some pulling the wire and others cutting or hand lifting the grass off the wire so it could be reattached to posts. We made great strides for almost a quarter of a mile until these kids discovered what I called a “monkey tree”- a slender tall willow tree that threatened the fence.

It was just too tempting and so up the tree they went until the various stems fell over sending them to the ground amidst much laughter.

It brought back memories of “swinging birches” which comes from a Robert Frost poem. Originally the title was “Swinging Birches” which became just “Birches”.

Knowing this poem, the idea took us to an opportunity to take our children into the birch woods beside our home.

The idea is simply to climb the young birches until they bend over and one can swing to the ground—usually gently.

If this idea intrigues you or your kids, Google “swinging birches”—read the poem and look at the videos.

Here is Wikipedia’s explanation of the meaning of the poem:

“In the poem, the act of swinging on birches is presented as a way to escape the hard rationality or “Truth” of the adult world, if only for a moment.

As the boy climbs up the tree, he is climbing toward “heaven” and a place where his imagination can be free.”

In reality, snow press bends over birches just as much or more than children’s escape to a higher world.

Needless to say, that was the end of the teamwork that day on the fence line. As disappointing as it was about getting the work done, it was a funny outcome.

Make work as fun as possible is a motto around this ranch. Sometimes though necessity tends to take over and we feel the pressure of the pending freeze up and we just want to get the wire hung.

That pasture has a good week of grazing for cattle and horses. One to two tons of hay displaced by extended grazing is a saving of several hundred dollars a day.

I chuckle when I look back on that day. Pulling on the wire myself when they were all climbing, some cutgrass cut my finger. I disappeared without telling them, to get bandaged back at our son ‘s house.

You know they didn’t even miss me. Next time I will take them to the birch grove—not to fix fence — but to swing birches.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake.

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