We’re back from a two-day grazing workshop in St. Ignatius, Montana. We were in need of a grazing fix and this did the trick. But even without the education opportunity, our visit to a diverse community on the Montana map was a treat.
The venue was spectacular. The town is located in the middle of the Flathead Indian Reservation between Missoula and Glacier National Park, at the foot of the Mission Mountains, where a dusting of snow had just graced the topmost peaks. Emerald green irrigated fields surrounded by rain soaked mature grasses lay out in every direction.
I called ahead to the Sunset Motel so we got one of the remodeled rooms on the ground floor. No, there’s no in-room hair dryer or coffee maker, but Mike, the proprietor, has an espresso shop just off the motel office. That is, if you can wait until he opens at 8:00 a.m.
We had breakfast across the street at the “Old Timer Café.” You bet the morning coffee crew was there! Overhearing bits of their conversation, I thought how the scene and the banter was being repeated all over America. “Did you ever get your hitch fixed?”
The town’s main attraction is the Roman Catholic Mission, an imposing structure built in 1891 by Flathead Indians and Jesuit missionaries. It's open to visitors and we took our turn gazing up at the multitude of frescoes painted by the church handyman and cook.
The workshop was held at the warm and welcoming Amish Community Center, a spacious building of hardwood floors and propane light fixtures with little hand manipulated mantles. The ladies room, complete with a real towel for washing up, adjoins a furnished nursery. Reverence for family and tradition permeates the space.
The Amish women served us fresh homemade doughnuts both mornings. Not the air-filled, super-sweet, store bought kind, but dense bready pastries like my Mom made. This was followed by meat loaf and ham for lunch, homemade rolls and berry jam, pies - you get the idea. I felt spoiled. It was my vacation ideal – good food and "change the world" conversation, grass education and pasture walks.
Sometimes we come home discouraged from events like this. We feel like the sideboards we operate within make excellent grass management impossible. Okay, so we belong to a grazing cooperative where change comes slowly if at all. Yes, we’re surrounded by farmers that don’t like cattle hooves on their soil. We live 45 miles from our summer pasture, etc. The roadblocks are many. We've been through all that and have the bruises to show for our efforts. But for some reason we got past that this time. We can talk now about what we can implement without convincing anyone else to change. And as long as we keep learning, that’s good enough.
|beautiful Mission Valley|
|breakfast with the locals|
|ready for a new pasture break|
note "wasted" grass left behind to feed soil microbes