Episode 1 - June 2
As some of you know, I have been working on a ranch in Montana for the past month or so. The ranch, called the B Bar, is located in a little town called Emigrant, the tiny town center consisting of a saloon from the early 1900's, a post office, one adobe house, a church, and that’s it. We are located 6,600 feet up in the Tom Miner Basin, which is in the Galitan Mountain Range, which may help to explain the snow and sleet we are currently experiencing on this fine Memorial Day.
In total, the B Bar covers over 11,000 acres of land. The ranch is completely surrounded by high peaks on all sides! I have never been to a more beautiful place, and feel quite lucky when I am working in the garden and look up to see snowcapped mountains extending as far as the eye can see.
I live in a log cabin on the property with three others right now and two others coming. Technically, I am a seasonal ranch hand, which means that I get to do a bit of everything—gardening, fencing, maintenance, kitchen, etc. So far, I have been working in the garden a lot, which is not only organic but biodynamic, which means that we try to use the rhythms of the earth to help the vegetables and flowers grow healthy without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. So we have to pay a lot of attention to what the planets are doing and the phase of the moon and the soil makeup and weather. The garden is going to be beautiful, to be sure, but this cold weather and snow has been pushing everything back further and further. So far, in the garden we have potatoes, garlic, onions, beets, kale, chard, and lettuce, with everything else still staying warm in the greenhouse. Most of the vegetables will be consumed by the guests we host every now and then, some will go to a local farmer's market, and the rest will be consumed by us!
The ranch also specializes in raising rare-breed cattle and horses, as well as heirloom vegetables. We breed a type of draft horse called the Suffolk Punch, originating in England. There are not many of these horses left in the world, and our ranch actually has quite a big role in reintroducing them. We do a bit of driving with them, but mostly have them simply to keep the breed alive. We also raise Ancient White Park cattle—large, all-white cattle that are also extremely rare. We raise them for meat (all organic) and, along with eating it on the ranch, we sell it at local natural food stores and some restaurants.
There is a ton of wildlife out here as well, and it never ceases to amaze me.
When Justin and I drove up to the ranch in the beginning of May, we were amazed at the number of elk and deer that were just hanging out by the side of the road, barely even giving my extremely loud car a second glance. We hear coyotes constantly, and there is a lone mangy wolf that has been hanging around the ranch. We have to be careful whenever we walk the perimeters of the ranch to watch out for bears and moose, especially those that are with their young’ns. Moose hate people. Besides giving you a very dirty look, a cow moose will easily stomp you to death if you get in her way, especially if she has a baby with her. Last year, my boss came upon a cow moose and her young by accident, and they ended up playing cat-and-mouse around a bush until she tired and he was able to run to cover.
And there are more bears (grizzlies, to be exact) coming down from the mountains this year than usual. So whenever we go hiking or leave the ranch on foot at all, it is of the utmost importance for us to carry bear spray. That’s right—bear spray—pepper spray for bears. Apparently, it is much more effective than a gun, because with a teeny little bullet you have a chance of missing and pissing off the bear. The only issue with the bear spray is that you need the balls to wait until the charging bear is 16 feet from you in order to be effective. I haven't had the chance yet to find out if it actually works but sure hope it does. And they say that, a lot of times when a bear is charging, it's just going to be a bluff and they'll veer off at the last second. The only question is: do you want to wait around to find out? I sure as hell don't. Anyway, a few times a week a bunch of us head up to an outlook up the road from us with our scopes and binoculars to look for bear and we see them most times, lazing about on the green mountainsides.
One of my roommates, Erin, and I got the chance to explore Yellowstone for a few days last week. It was just amazing, though rather unsettling since it truly seems as if the earth is going to spew forth a giant geyser of molten lava at any moment. While we were at the park, a photographer who got too close to a bear and her cub was mauled and airlifted to a hospital. An interesting fact about this man is that this is his second mauling! He was stupid enough to get mauled by a grizzly in 1988 as well. Another interesting fact is that most of the maulings that occur are in fact man maulings. Why is this? And why do our two male roommates choose not to bring bear spray when they go for a run through the woods?
Another interesting excursion we took was to see the Lipizaner Stallions of Spain—those all-white horses (that are born all-black, by the way) that dance and leap and twirl to music while being ridden by humans dressed in old Austrian military regalia. Despite the fact that these Spanish horses were made to dance to all American songs (to please the all-Americans who were there) such as America the Beautiful, it was a pretty amazing show, as far as dancing horses go. They actually seemed to enjoy performing, and you couldn't detect any communication between the rider and her horse. And they were able to stand in place and jump straight up! An interesting show, to be sure—if it ever comes through your town, it might be worth your time.
Okay, folks—that’s it for now, but I will be sure to keep you all posted on happenings at the ranch! Hope all is well in your necks of the woods.
(Hover over the thumbnails for a description
of some of the photos,