We spent the last two days in the hills tending fences and cattle. Every fall the electric fences are loosened so the wires relax instead of break under the snow load. And every spring the tightening spools need adjusted to pull the wires tight again. It’s a good way to check the range - and watch for wildflowers. It’s dry, and the usually boggy meadows are more like late summer instead of springtime, but still a diversity of plant life abounds.
When Mark had to ford the creek, I took the 4-wheeler around the long way to pick him up in another meadow. Somehow along the way I dropped his coat, a nice oilskin jacket with supplies in the pocket. I was feeling bad of course and called myself “absentminded.” He just patted my leg. Actually I wasn’t absent, just thinking more about taking photos of wildflowers (to I.D. later) instead of where I was going or what I was carrying.
I just finished Aldo Leopold’s famous A Sand County Almanac. His monthly essays about the wild plants and animals on his Wisconsin property, published in 1949, resonate with me. As he mourned the cost of development to the native landscape, I too mourn the loss of species richness in my western world. I also acknowledge the role cattle and sheep have played in that loss. But I’m a born and bred rancher, and know that grazing livestock fit within this ecosystem. It’s through education, willingness to change, and dialogue with other interests that will keep grazing livestock a part of it.
We saw 4 sage grouse as we left the field just at dusk. Oh, and we found the jacket.
|camas blooms among a forest of California false-hellebore|