Friday, April 29, 2011

Featured Note Card

As a regular feature on my blog, I am showcasing samples of my photographic notecards. This week's featured card is "Horseshoe Hooks," from my Ranch Landscape series.

When kept as a talisman, a horseshoe is said to bring good luck. Many believe, if one hangs it above a doorway with the ends pointing upwards, it acts as a storage container for any good luck passing by.

Please visit my website store to see all four series of my notecards including Ranch Animals, Ranch Gardens, and Winterscapes at:

I think you'll enjoy a rich and colorful peak into our northwest Colorado ranch landscape.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Northwest Colorado Bull Sale

Each April, the Community Agricultural Alliance, along with the Routt County Cattlewomen, and CSU, organize and host the Northwest Colorado Bull Sale, held at the fairgrounds in Hayden, Colorado. This is an opportunity for local and regional producers to sell their bulls to ranchers who need replacement bulls or bulls with a different genetic profile to add to their cow-calf program.

The sponsors of this annual event are proud of the seed stock offered for sale. Cattle raised in this country are considered hardy and healthy. Born on ranch land that is between 6000 and 8000 feet in elevation and covered in snow for four to six months during the winter, young cattle develop a hardiness not seen in other environments. These high altitude cattle have better pulmonary arterial pressure scores (indicating greater resilience) and suffer from fewer diseases.

This year’s bull sale, April 16th, attracted buyers and sellers from all over northwestern Colorado. Thirty-five bulls and a pen of four heifers sold for an average price of $2700 an increase of $500 from last year’s sale. Talk around the bull sale was one of optimism over the vibrancy of today’s beef market. Prices today for replacement heifers and feeder steer calves are 20-30% above recent historical values.

Each year the best part of the sale is catching up with neighbors after a long, hard winter, and this one was exceptionally hard on everyone and every living thing. Conversation fills the sale barn from start to finish. And once all the bulls are sold, sorted, and claimed, attendees walk out into the muddy parking lot and slip into their trucks for the ride home. Although still unsettled and cool, the busiest season of the ranching year has begun.

Photo courtesy Matt Stensland Steamboat Pilot and Today

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sandhill Cranes Return

A sure sign that spring is returning to the ranch is the arrival of the sandhill cranes. These large and delicate birds travel thousands of miles from the banks of the Rio Grande River to a final destination for some, the Salmon River in Idaho. Along the way groups drop off in summer nesting grounds near mudflats, around reservoirs, and moist agricultural areas, finding rich sources of food for survival and safety from human encroachment. And so it is, some groups stop off in the Elk River Valley.

Sandhill cranes, with a wing span of six feet, are a long-necked, long-legged species. Their trumpet is distinctive, sounding much like a French horn. A pair of sandhill cranes always returns to our meadows sometime in April. I usually hear them overhead before I see them. Their coloring acts as a very effective camouflage and makes it difficult to spot them, particularly when they are roaming the meadows.

Those of us who live here always relish this annual return: their arrival reaffirms a still stable rhythm to an increasingly chaotic world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dos Gringas Collection

If you’re looking for a personalized statement of the western lifestyle or a casual look that reflects a blend of both the latest in urban and western fashion trends, look no further than the Dos Gringas Collection.

My son Andy's girlfriend, Alisha Smith, has brought together an exciting and unique selection of western clothing, jewelry, and accessories. In selecting her clothing lines and accessories, Alisha hopes she encourages all cowgirls to “Embrace the Wild and Reckless Cowgirl Within.”

I think you'll find Alisha's love of fashion design and the western lifestyle contagious. Check out the latest exciting addition to her line, Ferrini boots for men, women, and children.

To peruse and shop for that special item, shop online at

Or visit The Dos Gringas Collection on Facebook at

If you'd like to gather all your friends for a fun evening, consider hosting a Dos Gringas home party by contacting Alisha at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Fever

Each year, sometime in March, Pete takes the matter of spring’s perennial late arrival into his own hands. Over a period of a week, he opens the gate to the arena and drives his tractor and snow blower around the perimeter six or seven times and then slowly back and forth across the pen. The auger on his blower powerfully gathers up a couple of feet of snow and throws it to the four winds. Pete actually strategically shoots the snow over the arena fence. Once the snow in the arena is cleared, the ground more quickly drains and dries out and it’s then the horse training season can begin—a sign spring has truly arrived.

The depth of our spring fever after five long months of winter’s confinement is well justified this year. Local weather record keepers report that we’ve received well over 400 inches of snow this year. This doesn’t mean we have 400 inches stacked up outside our kitchen window, but it does mean we’ve had three to four feet of snow on the level for most of the winter season. It means fence posts were buried, feed trails needed blown out and cleared, and more often than not Pete had to clean out the feeding troughs every day before he gave the yearlings their grain.

So, although we encourage winter’s passing one day in thought and action, we know all too well we can easily meet Mother Nature’s certain rhythm and will the next. As much as Pete and I would like to think he has control over spring’s arrival, we relinquish all wishful thinking today as we watch a winter storm blow across our meadows blurring in the distance what was yesterday a ribbon of dry county road. With my Boston terrier, Emma, curled up on the couch in my office, Pete and I concentrate on the perennial lesson of our spring season in northwestern Colorado: patience.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Emma's Cataracts

Last Friday, a recent acquaintance inquired, “You drive all the way to Denver to see Emma’s vet?” I replied, “Yes, but its Emma’s ophthalmologist. I take her to see a specialist for her cataracts.”

I discovered Emma’s first cataract (a clouding of the clear lens of the eye) one evening while fixing dinner. I looked down at Emma in the evening light and saw a cloudy look in her left eye. As soon as I saw it I suspected a cataract. So, I made an appointment with our local veterinarian and she concurred. She referred Emma to the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC) to see an ophthalmology specialist. At our first appointment the veterinarian said to me, “I’ll bet you didn’t even know someone like me existed.” I said, “Yes, you’re right.” The world of specialization is apparent at VRCC with veterinarians specializing in oncology, orthopedics, neurology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, dermatology/allergy, dentistry, and cardiology.

The veterinarian diagnosed Emma with inherited cataracts. Over time, the cataract in her left eye now impairs 90% of her sight, meaning she can see an object as a shadow but she doesn’t know what it is. Dr. Nuhsbaum likened it to looking through wax paper. The cataract in her right eye now impairs 30% of her sight. In time, it too, will fully cloud over.

Dr. Nuhsbaum has recommended we wait until the right eye is also fully impaired and then operate on both eyes at the same time. She said it’s easier on Emma to be put her under anesthesia just once; and the surgery, while 90% successful, does have inherent risk and it you operate on her right eye while it still has some remaining sight and something goes wrong, you’ve given up the sight she had.

Until then, I will treat Emma’s left eye, which is almost fully impaired, with drops of anti-inflammatory medications to keep it healthy and inflammation free; and we will return in six to eight months to follow the progression in her right eye.

Although cataract surgery is expensive, I can’t imagine Emma living out the rest of her life without her sight. If she were happy on the couch that would be one thing, but without her sight, she couldn’t chase Griz, find the tennis ball I threw, or go through weave poles. Emma’s world would shrink and I think her spirit would, too.

For more information on VRCC, please visit: