Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Walking the Dogs

In her book, The Loved Dog, Tamar Geller suggests dogs have seven basic needs. According to her, they include a sense of security, companionship, understanding of the hierarchy, surprises and excitement, food and exercise, mental stimulation, and love and connection.

When I take Emma, Griz, and often Brodie, my daughter’s dog, out for a run or a walk, I have a hunch the outing may meet many of their basic needs; and perhaps that’s why, when I tie up my running shoes, they make such a ruckus.

Emma barks in her bossy, alpha voice; Brodie yips at a high rate of speed while entertaining the idea of actually shepherding me out the door faster than I can go; and Griz, given the opportunity amidst the chaos, will nip at my heels once we round the corner of the garage.

On our way to the pond today, we followed a trail on the north side of the house through a small aspen grove and on out to the county road. In the early few yards of our adventure, Emma always sets the stage with an aggressive style of leadership: growling, attacking, and racing down the road. Brodie attempts to manage the jousting and Griz knows well enough to hang at the back of the pack until she settles down and the journey is underway. I realize I’m already observing their need for and understanding of the hierarchy.

As we entered the trail off the county road I sensed the dogs relax as they joined in comfortable companionship and the security of a beloved routine. Trampling down the trail they turned their attention to exploring recent wildlife activity stopping suddenly to sniff and track new scents. In each discovery I see their need for surprise, excitement, and mental stimulation being satisfied.

Carrying on to the pond we passed through sage brush and oak brush, quite thick at times. Emma ducked under, Brodie and Griz hopped or leaped over depending upon how high the brush. Once there, they welcomed the cool swim in the stock pond. The mom in me cringed at the moss and mud and then Griz sailed by chest deep, swirled around and headed back the other way. I saw bliss in all the dogs and as with my children, I thought to myself, “I’ll just wash them off when we get home.” The dogs obviously reveled in the stimulation, exercise, and camaraderie.

I, too, reveled in the outing, feeling reluctant to turn around and head home. We all, the happy pack, were apparently satisfied with our day when some, if not all, our needs were met and we looked forward to a nice meal once evening drew near.

I believe Geller must have it right.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kitty's Featured Note Card

Kitty basks in the warmth of an August afternoon, watching her kingdom from above; perhaps a blade of grass moves, a mouse sneaks below, and the hunt begins.

This card is one of six in my Ranch Animal Series. To view these and my other note card collections, including Ranch Gardens, Ranch Landscapes, and Winterscapes, go to:

My Street Smart Homebody

Last week Pete and I joined fellow Community Agricutural Alliance members for a summer picnic at the Rockin' Bar Ranch, owned by Doc and Marsha Daughenbagh. Sitting with a young family, new to Routt County, the conversation over our picnic dinner turned to whether or not it was safe for cats to be outdoors in rural areas. The young family had just moved from the city and were now deep into country life with gardens and laying hens. Two women who overheard the converstion quickly jumped in to say that it wasn't a good idea to let cats outside, that there were too many predators: from hawks to coyotes to foxes.

I listened quietly all the while thinking for ten years my Kitty has gone out every night in the good weather months and comes back every morning. Somehow she knows when I arrive in the kitchen and she promptly scratches at the door. Like a dance, I let her in and feed her breakfast.

The conversation did remind me, however, of an essay I wrote several years ago titled, "My Street Smart Homebody," published by Cats and Kittens magazine. In the essay I wrote about Kitty disappearing for a few days and wondering if a coyote had gotten her and had I been an irresponsible owner? The story had a good ending: Kitty returned and promptly went to her cat bed and fell asleep as if nothing were amiss. All her life she's been street smart out on the ranch and a creature of comfort when she's in the house.

I often hear the cautionary statements I heard over our summer picnic and wonder if I would give the same advice. I've decided that I really can't. I may very well have a special forces cat that no predator will mess with. I may also have a cat that has superior intelligence. While I don't know the truth of either of these possibilities, I do know for a fact that Kitty takes great, great joy in being outdoors and I could not in good faith keep her indoors away from her travels, hunts, cool shade, and soothing sunshine. In her eleventh summer she remains my "Street Smart Homebody."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Griz Rides Shotgun

My husband, Pete, often tells me I always write about my dog, Emma, and never about his dog, Griz. He’s right. Although Griz gets a little coverage when I do write about Emma, he’s a little like the good boy who gets overlooked because he’s so darn easy to get along with. But Griz walks through life with as much character as Emma; and we discuss his attributes at length, particularly when Emma or my daughter’s dog, Brodie, test our patience and goodwill.

So, I will share my favorite image of Griz.

Now and then in the evening while I’m fixing dinner, I’ll look out the window and see Pete and Griz headed out to take the mares and geldings to their overnight pastures. As they drive south down the alley-way I see Pete’s head on the left and Griz’s on the right; both appearing to be in equal partnership to the work at hand. While I realize I’m anthropomorphizing Griz, attributing human characteristics to a dog, watching him riding shotgun makes a believer out of me.

When Pete needs Griz’s help moving the horses on these nights or when he needs help with steers in the arena, Griz knows Pete depends upon him for his help and expertise. Griz is ever watchful for Pete’s nod and when it’s given Griz goes to work and is so careful to do it just right. Griz, in my mind, believes he is Pete’s top ranch hand.

I know Griz is not the only ranch dog that has the ability to be such a partner. Stock dogs provide that kind of relationship. And when television commercials advertising medications for our pets say, “They’re more than just pets, they’re family,” they are actually telling the truth. Griz wants nothing more than to love and be loved: he wants to know more than anything else that he is needed and important to Pete and his work. I’ve never been one to romanticize our pets, but I believe Griz feels in his relationship with Pete they are not only working partners but kindred spirits.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pete's Sale Barn

Two Rockin Zannie (Zannie) is a pretty dark red roan two year old filly we have just started. She is very gentle and has been easy to train. With her good mind and sweet disposition, she will make an outstanding all around horse and companion.

For more information, contact Pete at:

Also visit our new website at:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

97th Routt County Fair Begins

Cassidy packed up the live-in horse trailer this weekend and headed down to the fairgrounds in Hayden, Colorado for the start of the 97th Routt County Fair. With starched pants and hangers of dry cleaning tucked away in the closet she's set for a week of work and celebration of the county 4-H youth program as the 4-H Youth Agent.

The fair officially got underway over the weekend with an open horse show and on Monday the 4-H Horse and Dog shows. Wednesday begins weigh-in for livestock animals, the swine show, and check-in for home arts at the Exhibit Hall. Thursday's a day of sheep, rabbit, and poultry shows, and on Friday the beef projects take center stage. Saturday the 4-H kids get ready for the livestock sale and BBQ, the culmination of the 4-H summer season.

Fair time at the Kurtz Ranch was always a high time. After a summer of working with animals and helping with ranch chores, we looked forward to fair as though it were a mid-summer Christmas celebration. Cassidy and her brother, Andy prepared both livestock and non-livestock projects for fair. Andy often completed a leatherwork project in addition to a beef and, or swine project. Cassidy participated in sewing projects, vet science, and beef and horse projects.

From those summers one of my favorite photos accompanies this posting. Livestock animals need to be exercised. In the summer of 1995, Cassidy and Andy got rather creative. You'll see Cassidy driving and Andy leading their steers from the rear of the old jeep we used to plow with. As hard as some of the work was and at times, the struggle to motivate each of them to do the work, the memories remain both rich and fond.

We wish Cassidy and all the 4-H members good luck this week! We here at the Kurtz Ranch know you'll enjoy all the rewards of a hard year of work.

For more information on the fair, visit:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Andy's Headed to the NSHA Futurity

Come Sunday, Andy will load up his horses at the Whitney’s Wild Oak Ranch in Exeter, California and head west to Paso Robles, California for the National Stock Horse Association Futurity. (Futurities are horse show events for young horses and in this case, three-year olds). The NSHA Futurity, held August 14-21, 2011, will include the stock horse competition, a derby event, a classic horse show, and the World’s Richest Stock Horseman event. Over a hundred riders will compete in this stock horse event.

Andy will compete in the stock horse event on his futurity horse, Jane, in the cutting, reining, herd work, and fence work events. He and Jane are preparing for the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada September 19-October 2, 2011. The Paso Robles show gives both horse and rider the opportunity to show in a competitive environment while fine tuning their performance before the futurity in Reno.

Jane and Andy will begin showing on Tuesday with cutting and herd work; then in the reining on Friday and fence work on Sunday. He will also show our horse, Sugar, in the Jr. Cow Horse event. The show will be webcast all week, so for those interested, go to: to watch online.

We’re very excited for Andy, Jane, and Sugar. They’ve been working very hard to be ready to show next week in Paso Robles.

We wish you the best of luck, Andy, Jane, and Sugar!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

At Home in the Elk River Valley Kindle Version Now Available

Although I'll always love the feel of a book in my hand and continue to underline and mark up the pages in my books, I know readers nation-wide are prefering the ease and convenience of ebooks. So, while I'll continue to feel a bit old-fashioned with a traditional book in my hand, I'm pleased to let readers know that my book, At Home in the Elk River Valley, has recently been converted into a Kindle version and is now available on

However it is that we as book lovers continue reading, whether for pleasure, information, or understanding, let us take joy in what a gift they are! For as my ninety-year-old mother often says, "Books are furniture for the mind."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Demand for Hay

A neighboring rancher recently purchased thirty of last year’s round hay bales from us. When he loaded up the last bale, he turned to Pete and said, “If you’ve got any more hay to sell, let me know. Ya know, hay’s gonna’ go high this year.” It’s estimated that hay could sell for upwards of $200 a ton this year, well above recent hay prices.

While we don’t know where our neighbor will end up selling his hay, we are aware that Oklahoma and Texas are suffering through a historic drought that extends through Georgia and Florida; and these areas will, unfortunately, have significant hay demands. So severe is the crisis that the USDA is offering low interest loans of up to $500,000 for Texas farmers and ranchers who have lost 30 percent of more of their pastures or crops to the drought. These agricultural producers have suffered in a number of ways including the added costs of irrigation water; and failure of crops to mature and livestock to put on added weight gain due to poor grazing.

In contrast to the drought crisis in the south we experienced a deep winter and heavy July rains both of which provided for a tall and thick hay crop. And although a good portion of the hay in northwestern Colorado was rained on in July it will still be adequate for cow hay. The dry and sunny weather this second week of August, on the other hand, bodes well for a hay harvest put up without any rain, and that will most likely cheer up any rancher spending his days in the cab of his tractor.

So, we hope the ability of hay producers in this area of Colorado to grow hay with such abundant water might in some small ways be helpful to all those in the south who have suffered so much from this natural disaster.

We wish all the farmers and ranchers in the south our very best for speedy recovery from this difficult crisis.

For more information on the drought crisis in Texas, got to:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pete's Sale Barn

Summer Style, "Summer", is a beautiful yearling palomino filly we are proud to offer for sale. She is the last of five full siblings, all of whom have been super good looking with great dispositions. With their good minds, they are easy to start and train. Summer is very athletic and should be a terrific all around horse.

For more information, contact Pete at:
And please visit our new website at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Local Avian Nurseries

I rounded the garage to change a garden hose near the back deck. A robin flew quickly from the side of the garage to a nearby fence rail – swoosh. Neither of us expected the other and I began re-thinking my assumption that the old bird nest on the electrical box would ever be used again. The recycled nest has been home to numerous nesting’s over the last ten years, but it has been a few years since a mother robin decided it fit the requirements for a safe haven for her young.

No sooner did I digest this discovery when from above me in an old cottonwood there came the tiniest and busiest of chirpings from a small birdhouse our children hung in the tree years ago with high hopes of attracting a mother bird. I do not recall seeing a mother bird ever nest in this birdhouse but this summer a house wren deemed it suitable for her brood. About the time I made this second discovery the mother house wren discovered my observation. She quickly let me know she’d taken notice.

I was a bit perplexed by the newly filled avian nurseries. In my memory mother robins had nested in the nest above the electrical box in June not late July. And I had similar thoughts about the house wren. These could be second clutches, but I hadn’t seen any evidence of first clutches. This seemingly atypical behavior reminded me that our summer season hasn’t been itself either. Everyone agrees that Mother Nature was slow to get the summer of 2011 underway: seasonal temperatures were late to heat up; June rains came in July; and while wildflower growth in the high country is behind it has begun to erupt all at once. Perhaps, the mother robin and the mother house wren heard a more accurate summer forecast which included postponing plans for breeding and trusting that the time will be right when it comes.

While I wish I were writing a happy ending to this posting, as I walked out into a cool dawn this morning I found the birdhouse in which the mother house wren cared for her brood laying on the ground upside down under the cottonwood. I’ve never seen it unhinged from its branch. My first thought was perhaps a predator had taken out the brood. Likely house wren predators may have included cats, rats, woodpeckers, fox, squirrels, and, or snakes. There looked to be some loose bark in disarray at the foot of the tree. But other than that a ladder and bike leaning up against the tree were still in place. I wondered, did the itty-bitty house wrens fly the coop? Had they matured and in their scramble to take flight they'd knocked the birdhouse to the ground? I’ll never know.

I can report that mother robin has four healthy chicks that appear either eager to eat or are fast asleep.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Editing the Garden

Deep into an afternoon of weeding and pruning, with a July sweat growing under my visor, I realized that with my shovel, pruners, and hoe I was editing my garden. The physical work of weeding, cutting, and re-defining garden borders was not unlike editing a piece of writing. Where there was excess, I cut back; where there were interlopers I eliminated them; where there were stragglers, like the Sand Cherry shrub struggling to thrive after five years, I had to make a decision about its role in the scheme of the garden as a whole: should it be saved or not?

Whether editing an essay or a blog posting, as a writer I’m encouraged to courageously cut, slash, and burn even the most favored phrasing, scenes, dialogue, narrative, or lovely descriptions if they do not serve a clear purpose.

I believe I’m a ruthless editing warrior. I can easily give up the excess, the interloper, the confusing and unclear. I think. But I do so only when I am able to see the excess, the interloper and the confusing. I confess my guilt. It’s not always easy to see what needs the slash of my pen or my executive decision to terminate that perfect word, phrasing or scene I’ve just set.

I hadn’t seen the excess in my garden as clearly as I did the other afternoon. The spaces in which the eye could relax and find relief in the West Garden were sorely missing. I hadn’t seen it quite that way until the heat of the day seemed to make the decision-making so clear.

Waging a determined battle with the heat of the day the gardening editor in me cut dead lilac branches and low hanging Canadian Cherry branches. I dug up and ripped out old friends, Snow in Summer and Moss Pinks because they had become tangled up with one another and didn't know when one began and the other ended. I uprooted the audacious interlopers: Canadian thistle, dandelions, arrogant meadow grass, and leggy foreign weeds. I saved a clump of Moss Pinks and will transplant it to the foreground of my newly revised West Garden -- it's purpose clear.

As for the Sand Cherry shrub, it survived the edit. Without it the garden becomes unbalanced. Its counterpart, another Sand Cherry, anchors the north end of the garden. In my mind, if I uprooted it from the south end and tossed it aside, my attempts to create a landscape in which the viewer finds a peaceful sight would fail. For in its quiet, unspoken balance there is a peaceful draw into its setting replete with all the characters now appropriately set on stage.