Tuesday, Sep 03, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Our cattle have nearly finished their rotation out on the eastern part of the ranch. During the breeding season it is crucial that they are on the best feed available and not having to look very hard for it. Because of this, we moved them through the sand at a fairly quick pace trying to utilize the fresh tender plants before they matured and became less palatable. It seems to be working as the entire herd looks healthy and happy. This is not the best photo to illustrate this point but it was the best that I could do at the tail end of the move. The cattle move very easily now after being moved so consistently throughout the summer. We give thanks to Nick for putting so much time and attention into the training, health and well-being of this herd. They are essentially on autopilot because of his efforts and when it comes time to move them, we merely open the gate and seemingly stand back as the find their way to it and move on to the next pasture.
Posted by Duke I. on 09/03/2013

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
It seems its all animals from me this week. I have been rebuilding a dirt overflow tank to store excess water from one of our pipelines in case something should happen to the system in the hot summer months to come. A desperate situation can quickly develop with livestock if something should happen to the water source. By repairing this old dirt tank, we should be able to store enough water to meet the needs of the entire herd for a few days, allowing us to identify and fix any potential problems, without the disaster of being without water. While I was moving dirt around I saw a few salamanders squirming through the damp sand, clearly irritated by the loud noise of the bulldozer. Upon each siting I dutifully idled down the tractor, got down and moved the salamanders to safer ground. Hopefully they are aware that I am working to build them a luxurious pond to replace the shallow mud hole that they were residing in before.

Posted by Duke I. on 07/13/2013

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
Driving out east a few mornings ago I saw 6 box turtles in the road. It is amazing how they virtually disappear for the majority of the year, then at the first hint of moisture they inundate the two track roads in the sand country on the eastern end of the ranch. It had rained just enough to settle the dust for the first few hours of the day but that was all it took to activate the turtles.
Posted by Duke I. on 07/13/2013

Monday, Jul 08, 2013
Category: Live from the Ranch
 This is a Red Racer on the porch of my parents house that I took just before it sped off into the garden. They are great snakes and I have been seeing quite a few of them around lately. Luckily they are not poisonous but like all snakes they can be startling if you come across them unexpectedly. From my experience they vary in color from being an almost vibrant red, to duller shades of pink like this one. No matter, they are a good snake to have around and we definitely appreciate the work they do on the rodent populations around the houses and barns.
Posted by Duke I. on 07/08/2013

Good Mother
Category: Live from the Ranch
I wish we had an entire herd of cattle modeled after this cow. She is one of the first calf heifers that we are watching over at the MZ Ranch and she managed to slip unnoticed under the radar until about two weeks ago. This is a good thing because she was able to have her calf on her own without our help as first calf heifers often need. Unfortunately we noticed her because he calf, after a few days of normal life, became unable to use her hind legs. Her mother would graze nearby watching over her calf during the day, then at night would lay down next to her calf and keep her warm through the night. We brought the calf into the holding pen so we could keep an eye on her and help her out getting her much needed meals. Her mother is punctual and every morning is waiting at the pen so she can stand patiently and let her calf suck. We are giving the calf medicine and extra special care, all hoping that she will recover. Her mother is calmly waiting with us. This is a photo of the cow, her calf sucking (hard to see) and Charlotte one of the interns here at the MZ. As you can see from the photo, she is a very mild tempered cow who enjoys the social interaction, especially when there is some hay involved. We also gave her a blue custom necklace to help identify her among all of the other black cattle.
Posted by Duke I. on 05/30/2013

Branding At Zapata Ranch
Category: Live from the Ranch
This is the time of year that, in the past, would be full of photos and stories about one of our favorite activities on the ranch. Branding. The Chico crew has been flat out with other drought induced chores and we have been forced to postpone our branding until later in the season. I have been living and working at our sister ranch, Zapata, and our branding is in full swing here. We had a successful third branding of the season yesterday and turned 100 or so processed calves back to their mothers at the end of the day. This is a photos of the branding crew, Kate working the rope while others are scrambling to flank the calf and get it back to the herd as quickly as possible. It is a great time of year and I look forward to the start of branding season at the Chico.
Posted by Duke I. on 05/29/2013

Category: Live from the Ranch
I was flying on Sunday afternoon with my mother over the eastern part of the ranch when we noticed a cow lying in an awkward position. I circled back around and saw definite signs that the cow had passed on but curled up against her back was a clean newborn calf. I picked a flatish looking spot, clear of cholla and landed so we might investigate further. We walked the 1/4 of a mile back to where the cow was and sure enough the calf jumped up and tried to clear the area. I grabbed her, hoisted her over my shoulders and headed back to Little Yellow. There is a convenient, calf sized baggage compartment behind the second seat so I cleared a space and hoisted the little heifer in. We pointed into the wind and took off for home. The little calf took to the air like a seasoned pro, not a peep and no struggle. She is now a resident of her very own pen and will soon be attracting a lot of attention. Make sure to stop in and say "Hello" to Amelia the flying calf next time you are in the area.
Posted by Duke I. on 04/02/2013

Wednesday, Oct 19, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
Pikes Peak is the most dominating and recognizable view looking to the front range from the Chico. Rightfully so. It towers behind shallow foothills and is capped brilliantly in white for many months out of the year. This photo however captures my favorite view. The Twin Peaks just southwest of Walsenburg. Cold weather is approaching as the mountains get clearer in the crisp fall air. On really cold mornings the mountains seem as if they are just south of our border fence.
Posted by Duke I. on 10/19/2011

Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
Today's Crew

I got a good picture of the wild lab herd at my parents house waiting patiently while I assembled everything I needed to complete the days task. We loaded up and visited some of the new water tanks on the pipeline. My crew did some serious investigating in the prairie surrounding while I welded the overflow pipes onto the tank. They are not typical ranch dogs that one would picture on the short-grass prairie, but they are unbeatable companions. Rambo is the one sitting, Rocky (his little brother) is laying in front and Jet (Rambo's son) is the pup between.
Posted by Duke I. on 10/12/2011

Wednesday, Oct 05, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
Long day today. I took this shot of my dad, Michael and Allen riding home after moving the yearlings. The move went beautifully and they were happily grazing in the Headquarters horse pasture grazing and waiting on the trucks to arrive tomorrow. They are in really good especially considering how far they have come through this dry summer we have had.

After the ride, Jonathan and I hit the shop to install a new suspension on his truck. It turned into a longer project than we expected and it sits waiting to be finished in the shop as I write. Hopefully we will be able to wrap it up in the next few days.

Posted by Duke I. on 10/05/2011

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
I asked Jonathan to take a picture for me today because my camera is missing. Again. Of course Jonathan tried to take a picture of me so I would have to talk all about myself. Lucky for me, I caught on to his plan and moved the bucket to block the view of my mug just in time. I think the picture turned out pretty well.

Jonathan and I spent the day helping out on pipeline work. We are in the process of setting the last few tanks and are coming to the home stretch. I know everyone is going to be very happy when this huge project is over. Stuart is already talking about a pool party in the next couple of weeks in one of the new tanks. Come one, come all, everyone is invited. Check the blog for further details...
Posted by Duke I. on 09/28/2011

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
Pipeline Mess (I will explain)

Apologies for the unclear picture. It was taken at dusk and there was just not enough light to make it as crisp as I would have liked.

There was a leak in a water pipeline at the well head and water was seeping up from a depth of 40 inches and flooding a low area by my house. Cooper, Stuart and I spent a nice evening digging trying to solve the problem. First we brought in the backhoe to dig through the saturated clay. It would have been all but impossible to do it with shovels. It was tricky work in the backhoe because it is so powerful and pipeline systems tend to be very fragile. The rusted pipe sticking up in the middle of this photo is the well casing. This pipe houses the submersible pump which pressurizes the entire underground pipeline (Aprox. 25 miles). We dug down the side of this pipe (our first hole is the far one pictured) until we found the leak. The leak was cause by a broken 90 degree angle joint the was put in the pipe about a foot outside of the well casing. We had to constantly ladle the water out so we could be in the hole to work on the pipe We cut out the broken 90 and tried to get a new one glued in but the rising water was making this impossible so we decided to dig a new 'drain' hole (closer of the two holes pictured). While digging this drain, I hit the electric line that supplies the pump with power from the house (Black lines sticking out of the dirt in the left center of the photo). Yikes. While the water was draining into the new hole, we turned the power off and spliced the wires back together. Once the water slowed and we took care of the electric line, we tried to fix the pipe again. Our efforts proved futile and it was late so we decided to get at it again in the morning.

The next day we came up with the solution that is shown in the picture. As you can see the pipe comes directly out of the well without any turns. This was much more dirt work the next day but it is more sound solution and will last longer than trying another turn. The pipe is currently holding water and the cattle are happy again. The holes are still full of water so we will have to wait to backfill so that we can get a solid foundation for pipe. The whole project was a bit drawn out but ultimately we got it done so it will go in the books as a success.

Posted by Duke I. on 09/21/2011

Wednesday, Sep 14, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
Fuel Time

This is the other half of the equipment that Elliot and I used to do the infrastructure work out east. It is a big 924 Cat Wheel loader. It was the first time that I had driven one but luckily it was quite easy and we were able to get a lot of work done. It was a newer machine and ran like a  top but was unbelievably similar to a bucking horse when we were driving it between sites down the narrow two track roads. I rocked and rolled side to side, forward and backward. After the first day I came home with lumps on my head and bruises on my knees. Besides the rocky ride, it is incredible what modern machines are capable of.
Like Cooper wrote, our big bad Silver Dragon was a bit of a high maintenance and fragile dragon during the project. After a tire change, and two radiator changes, we thought we had beaten it. But, the project ended up with Elliot and I pulling the truck home behind the loader with two flat tires, a failing started and a burned up fuel pump. Pretty sad for the legendary Silver Dragon. It will be back. I guarantee it. Despite the troubles we were able to stabilize the ground around five tanks. For a few more years anyways. 
Posted by Duke I. on 09/14/2011

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch

Things have been incredibly busy down at the Medano-Zapata so I have been helping out down there quite a bit in the last couple of weeks. It has been great. Working and riding there is quite different from the Chico Basin but I am really enjoying it. I took guests out over a few different areas of the ranch as well as a beautiful ride up around the Sand Dunes National Park. The scenery is gorgeous and the riding companions come from all over the world bringing with them interesting and unique topics of conversation. I made it back to the front range early this week and am trying to get back into the swing of things here. It is usually not hard for me to fall back into the old routine but the heat is making it a touch difficult. We are approaching fall and I am readily waiting for the cooler weather that comes with September.

Posted by Duke I. on 08/31/2011

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2011
Category: Live from the Ranch
Long-gone Lonesome Blues

This is Lonesome Blues. I think this horse has more character than any other horse I have ever seen. He is a very solid ranch horse minus him one minor tick. Here is the scenario:

We are be trotting across the pasture. There is nothing in sight, no bushes, cholla, fences, anything. The only thing is a tire or a mineral tub that is sitting in plain view 100 yards away. As we trot towards the tire, Lonesome is nonchalantly covering ground quickly and smoothly. All of a sudden that tire catches his eye and he is instantly 10 feet left or right. It is frustrating at times but soon the frustration gives way to jokes about poor Lonesome.

He can cover country exceptionally well. He is well versed in all cattle works. He is an incredibly "people horse". Often when we are stopped he turns around to check on the rider. When he turns he always expects to be noticed and given affection. Long-gone Lonesome Blues is one of a kind.
Posted by Duke I. on 07/13/2011

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