Friday, December 12, 2008

Restoring a Recycling Antique

Recycling is not new news on a ranch. Manure has been recycled on farms and ranchers long before the recycling movements of the late 20th century and organic material from the remains of harvested crops has long been turned over and back into the soil. Here at the Kurtz Ranch, we’ve always recycled manure for our meadows and gardens. To do so is a daily ritual in the warm months. The manure is picked from the pens, loaded into a wheel barrow, and then collected in the bed of the manure spreader. It’s not glamorous work, but it is essential work to caring for our horses and helpful in adding nutrients back into the meadows and garden soils. Once the manure spreader is full, it’s hooked up to our Gator, an ATV, and spread out over the meadows. The action of the manure spreader’s chains pushes the manure out and through a rotating flail that breaks it up and sends it on its way.

The ranch boasts two antique manure spreaders, one, a McCormick from the late 1950s, and one, a New Idea from the 1940s. The McCormick has been in regular use during recent years and the New Idea has been tucked away and all but forgotten until the McCormick broke down this fall. It may be hard to imagine such antiques still serve a useful purpose on our ranch, but they do and work as well as newer models.

When several links of chains were damaged on the McCormick, our renters and part-time ranch hands, Dawn and Bob, set to work on the project. We were so fortunate that Bob and Dawn found their way to the ranch and our rental cabin a little over a year ago. They moved from Michigan and have found a home away from home in northwestern Colorado. We depend on Bob and Dawn to take care of things whenever we’re out of town and they oversee the place as though it were their own. Bob is also known to gravitate toward anything that needs fixing. So, when the manure spreader needed repairing, they both went to work researching manure spreaders online, sources for new chain links, and then turned their indomitable “can do” spirit loose. After several work sessions, Bob replaced the broken links and the floorboard of the spreader. Once backed into the machine shed, it looks ready for several more decades of recycling work.

Setting out to restore the McCormick wasn’t an idealistic view of saving an antique. It was a practical decision, following in the footsteps of traditional mid-western farm and western ranch practices of making do with what you have, taking care of what you own, and utilizing resourcefulness in the process. Fortunately, this tradition continues to benefit everyone: the ranch operation isn't faced with investing in another piece of equipment and those who restore feel the satisfaction of bringing new life to a valuable and practical recycling antique. Up next, the New Idea manure spreader will be brought back to life sometime in 2009.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Name Game

From Pete's Paddock
(From time to time, Pete will write about things of interest on the ranch. Here's his first entry on the interesting challenge of naming young foals.)

What’s in a name? When it comes to naming horses, more than you might think. Every year we face the task of coming up with names for our new foals. Since we register our horses with the American Quarter Horse Association, every name has to be approved to be sure no other horse has the same name. With hundreds and hundreds of thousands of horses registered over the years, this can sometimes be a challenge.

The traditional method of naming involves using a part of the sire’s name and a part of the dam’s name. The reason for this practice is that it allows a person to get an idea of a horse’s bloodline from its name. Bloodlines are extremely important in the Quarter Horse breed, since certain bloodlines excel in specific areas of performance, like cutting, barrel racing, pleasure, or reining.

An example of this method is the name of one of our stallions. His name is Zan Bar Freckles, his sire’s name is Zan Parr Bar, and his mother’s name is Anniote Freckles. Another example is our show mare, Annabelles Playgun. Her sire is Playgun and her dam is Annabelle Starlight. But many people aren’t content to be so straightforward. They get highly creative, but still include a reference to the offspring’s bloodlines. Take one of the most famous sires available today, Peptoboonsmal, for example. His sire is Peppy San Badger and is mother is Royal Blue Boon.

This naming approach is not required of course, and we are perfectly free to use any name we can come up with as long as it is not being used. Sometimes a colt fits an obvious name and that is what we go with. Many get a registered name, but have any every day nickname as well. We only had four foals this year, so the job was a little easier. While we are still waiting on AQHA approval, this year’s crop includes: Katerina Gold (see photo inset), Zan Bar Snickers, Zans Hustler, and Flirtina.

Here’s where those names came from. Zan Bar Snickers came from our stallion mentioned above, Zan Bar Freckles and our mare, who is nicknamed Candy. Zans Hustler is also sired by Zan Bar Freckles , and his mother is by a famous horse named, Freckles Hustler. Katerina Gold is a beautiful palomino filly with an original name that we just liked and thought would fit her. And Flirtina is an adaptation of a name our son, Andy, saw on a cocktail menu for a martini, a Flirtini. Believe it or not, the name Flirtini was already taken, so we changed a letter and got Flirtina. She will probably be called either Flirt or Tina.

So, in the quarter horse business, a name can tell the story of the family tree and be a powerful communicator of what the foal is bred for and what traits the breeder most desires in his offspring, or it can be a result of the whimsy of the owner. We enjoy this process, one in which the family brain storms for just the right creative choice of names, some creative and some more traditional.

For more information on the American Quarter Horse Association, go to: