It is finally time for our blog to be “up.” It has been an exciting few weeks since we started this endeavor. The best, most exciting, most life changing event has been the birth of our new grandson, Seamus Brian Lally. Our daughter Meghan lives and works with us on the ranch. She graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Farm and Ranch Management in 2001. She married her college sweetheart, Brian Lally, in 2002, and brought him home. He is now a Deputy County Sheriff, and EMT and a volunteer firefighter in our rural community.
Seamus joins his two-year-old sister, whose picture appears on the opening page of this blog. Her Uncle Eamon gave her a saddle for Christmas, and she has both a bouncy horse and a horsy “potty chair,” but we are not trying to influence her! Actually, we don’t need to—she loves Chief and Aveena and rides every chance she gets.
Our usual work this time of year is trailing the sheep and cows onto their Forest grazing permits, and getting them settled for the summer. For the cows, this means going into a grazing rotation system which involves quite a bit of riding, by us and by our ranch hands, in order to keep them on fresh feed and to manage the grass. The sheep are all herded, so each band of about 800 ewes and their lambs go to a specific grazing allotment. We lamb on our private land and adjacent BLM allotments for most of May and June.
Sheep at Badwater, Wyoming. Photo by Pat O'Toole
Generally, our “off date” for the lambing grounds is late June, and our “on date” for the Forest is early July. We have to stage the trailing so that each band is about a day apart, as we move the sheep camps, with their attendant dogs, horses and paraphernalia. After we pass through the “government corrals” where they are counted on, the trails diverge, with four bands going into Wyoming and three into Colorado. (We live on the state line.) In addition, we have to coordinate with neighbors who are on the same trail at the same time.
We have just completed this portion of our “transhumance” year. For the rest of the summer, we typically move each sheep camp once a week in order to keep the sheep on fresh feed and to avoid overusing any one area. It is a big help to have experienced herders who know their allotment. This season we have a mix of experienced guys and new guys. All are from Peru.
An added element to our usual trailing days has been the presence of the Rainbow Family Gathering on our Big Red Park allotment. This has changed our management, as we have had to avoid the Gathering area. We trailed the Colorado bands on early. Our range conservationist, Eric, told us to keep the sheep well away from the Gathering, which lies right in the path of our sheep trail. We did not want any to become unwilling guests at a barbeque, or have conflict with any of the Rainbow’s ubiquitous dogs, heavy on the pit bulls.
They have come and mostly gone. Since 1972, Rainbow Family members have gathered the first week of July. They contend, with court backing, that they are exercising their Second Amendment Rights to free assembly. The U.S. government maintains (also with court backing) that the authorities must issue a permit and oversee the activities, as they would any other group of 75 or more.
The Rainbow Family and the Forest Service played out their annual impasse over a permit. The truth is, short of bringing in the National Guard and risking a Waco-type conflagration, the government could not stop the Gathering.
The Forest Service and local law enforcement had a heavy presence. Early on the Rainbows surrounded officers and hurled rocks and sticks at them. Hundreds of citations were issued, mostly for illegal camping and drug related infractions.
Yet—the same Second Amendment protects the right of all of us to gather—from the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade to the recent immigrant parades.
Where does this leave us, who do have a permit with rights and responsibilities? The Rainbow group has a reputation for thoroughly cleaning up after themselves, filling in their latrines and fire pits, and hauling off trash. They cannot restore the trampled meadows and streams. The grass, in this record drought year, will not come back. The grazing animals, domestic and wild, who depend on this area for fall feed, will not find the grass restored.
So it has been interesting so far, and the summer is yet young!