Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome to the ranching life!

It will be one week tomorrow that I pulled into our drive and was welcomed to our new home by Jigs.
Jigs, is the ranch's newest Border Collie.

We've since completely unpacked. We are downsizing a little so we had to get rid of a lot. You don't realize how much crap you have until you move - that's for sure. We donated lots to the local thrift store, maybe that will warm some folks up to the new city gal in town. For the first few days I was feeling like this before 3pm!
This is "Wito". He is up in the high country right now working all night to keep the coyotes, bear and all other predators away from the sheep.

I knew it was time for an update and considering I had my first real adventure yesterday well, here we go.

In the summer the sheep graze different areas of national forest and are we are required to move 'camp' weekly. This requires J to take supplies (food for the herder, dog food, mineral blocks for the sheep and a few other things) on an ATV, meet at the current camp, load up and move everything to the new spot. This was the 'easiest' of the summer moves and since I'm not working right now I figured I'd go up! We woke up about 5:30am and were out the door by 6:15am. We got to our unload spot at around 8:30am. We loaded everything up on the ATV and began the 2 mile hike/ride in. Jesse and I took turns on the ATV and he rode the more sketchier of areas. We are off trail most of the time so it's not your average trail hike.

There are markers most of the way, J and his Pop do this to make it easier for them, of course. After about a 1.5 hour trek in I see the sheep on a hill and Gringo and Wito (the two guard dogs on the mountain) come running at us! I am so happy to see the dogs! The guard dogs are Great Pyranese and Akbash, are hard workers (Gringo had killed a coyote that was attacking the sheep the night before) but are the sweetest most loving dogs you'll ever meet. Don't get me wrong, they can definitely intimidate especially when they want to 'play'. I would normally partake but with these dogs 'playing' would most likely consist of me getting hurt or at least scratched up.

Wito and Gringo coming to greet us!

We meet with Alberto, the herder that stays with the camp all summer. He stays there all summer with the two guard dogs and two Border Collies and loves it.

We load up his tent and any other supplies he has with him and visit with him for a while. He looks so happy to have someone to converse with for a little while so I don't mind hanging around for a bit. After a while, when it sounds like the conversation is coming to an end I tell Jesse that I'm going to start walking down to the next camp area. I figure he'll catch up to me pretty quickly on the ATV. This was my first mistake. Who the heck am I to think that I know my way around? There are hundreds of miles of forest surrounding me. It didn't take me but 2 minutes to realize that I'm lost.

I could hear the ATV but it was getting more faint by the second. I'm running down the hill to get a better view of my surroundings. I thought by looking up I would maybe be able to see J or Alberto. Nothing. Fear set in and I'm in hysterics. It was like a scene in a really bad movie. At this point I'm frantically running back up the hill, crying, saying things like 'Oh my God, I'm going to die out here' and 'Oh my God, I'm lost, I'm lost, Oh my God'. I could even see (in my head of course) vultures circling around above me. I told you it was like a scene in a bad movie.

Just when I was going to start screaming I see J in the distance and I yell his name to get his attention. I sat down on a rock and sobbed. I just kept remembering all those stories I've heard about hikers getting 'turned around' and 'being stranded' for days on end. I have never, ever been that scared in my entire life. It took me a good 30 minutes to calm down and even still when I told the story to my mother about 5 hours later I was getting choked up. She gave me a good idea...take a foghorn with me next time!

At this point I'm just ready to get home. I'm over the forest, I'm over the heat and I'm over the walking! Turns out I'm in for some more. Alberto catches up to us and tells us there is a ewe that needs to come back to the ranch. Her joints aren't doing to good and if she stays on the mountain she'll be coyote bait. He rounds up the sheep, with the help of Sage, one of the Border Collies and I find myself in the wrong place, again! I realize I'm facing about 700 sheep that are all staring right at me. Not so fluffy and cute when you are outnumbered by that many. These ewes can weigh up to 130 lbs! Thankfully Sage comes and turns the herd around. Phew! Good dog.

Alberto and J wrangle the Ewe, we named her Mama, and loaded her up into the back of the ATV. It was a tight fit for her but she wasn't in any harm. We say our goodbyes to Alberto and J arranges their next meet and we are heading to the car! After what seemed to be hours, J and I make it to the car. Now, the most fun part of the day - loading the 140 lb sheep into the truck. No, we couldn't just load her in the bed of the truck...the ATV took up all the space. So where did we put her? Oh, she went in the back seat! I had to use all my strength to help lift her, I was even getting a little teary eyed because you could tell she was just so scared. We plopped her on the back seat and talked to her, to calm her and we headed home.
Here is Mama, in the back seat. I couldn't resist...the hat was right next to her.

My first (and possibly last) trip to the high country.
So, there you have it. My first 'real' adventure. What did I learn from this experience?

...always wear sunscreen when going to the high country! My face is cherry red today. Might even be getting a blister or two.

A Rancher's Wife (in training)


Sarah said...

I am reading your blog, and all I can say is that I am so proud of both of you. I admire how you are "stepping up." I have to say that I am way out of the loop because I didn't even know that J's dad was sick. I admire your sense of adventure and your positive attitude to take the whole thing on....even with getting lost in the high country, I see you are giving it all your heart and soul, and you are accepting the changes that God has brought in your life. it is inspiring. What is equally inspiring is the way you support your husband and work as a team...if every marriage followed suit, the world would be a better place. I could learn a lot from this blog, and will keep reading it for sure! :-) Be encouraged, you are doing a great job!

Carrie said...

Mama is so cute! Way to go Lady, you are a ranching regular already!!

texwisgirl said...

oh lordy! a whistle, sunscreen, water canteen, etc.! :)