Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch….May 25, 2018

  1. So, let me tell you what happened this week.  In one word:  Stoltz. My local friends know what I mean.  For my distance friends:

Timber is big business in Montana.  The second largest employer in the valley is Weyerhauser, a lumber company.  (If you are curious, the largest employer is the hospital.) Our property is bordered, in part, by Stoltz, a smaller lumber company.  Stoltz owns a second tract of land in the westernmost part of our draw, as well. (We are on the east side.) Weyerhauser also owns property on the west side.

This clear cut section was probably a loading area for the logging trucks.

A draw is like a bowl, turned on its side.  So there are three sides comprised of mountains (on the west, north, and east, for those of you who are directionally inclined), and the south side opens to the highway.  There are nine families spread throughout the draw who live here full time, and there are a few more who are in and out during the summer.

Since the weather has warmed up, by which I mean early mornings are 48 degrees or more, I have been rising early and taking Belle, my coffee, and my phone to the back porch, where I check email and my Instagram feed, read my Bible, pray, write in this blog, watch deer stroll by, listen to the birds sing, and ENJOY THE PEACE AND QUIET.

Until it wasn’t quiet.

Decades ago, our property was logged, and the lumber company left this trailer.

Monday, John and I were headed to Gary and Terry’s so I could help Terry watch her toddler grandson.  John was going to run some errands and then visit with Gary. (More info about them here.) At the bottom of the mountain, we pulled over to let a GINORMOUS tree cutting machine pass, and there was a second one pulling into the draw.  Stoltz is back.

This is our sixth summer in the draw, and they have been here one other summer.  So, since Tuesday, the drone of the huge saws is in the background during my early morning quiet time and throughout the day. A neighbor talked to one of the project managers, and they are going to be here for at least a month.

I knew we were buying property adjacent to lumber companies, but I never really thought they’d actually harvest trees.  Silly me!

It could be worse.  They could be right next to us.  They are culling trees from the tract of land at the westernmost side of the draw.  I really feel for my neighbors on the west side.

This is an old logging road on our property that we still use regularly.

Living by timber land isn’t all bad.  The Weyerhauser property used to belong to a local company, Plum Creek. (Pronounced “crik.”)  Years ago, Montana FWP and the two lumber companies worked out an agreement.  FWP would monitor the properties for poachers and wildlife concerns, and in exchange, the timber companies would allow Montanans use of their lands for hunting and hiking.

Weyerhauser bought out Plum Creek a few years ago.  They do not usually allow public use of their land, but when they bought out Plum Creek, they made an exception and continued the agreement with FWP, so the public can still access their lands.

This public access is a boon to us, because it allows us to walk out our front door to hunt and hike on thousands of acres of land.  Even better, the tract of land adjacent to us is mostly accessed from our draw only. Because the access to this land crosses private property and is not open to the public, we draw residents have that tract mostly to ourselves.

Tuesday I ran my usual town errands and traded/sold my eggs.  Six dozen this week! I kept two, sold three and traded a dozen with Zenna for more oregano.

I carry eggs to town in a laundry basket to keep them from sliding around in the Tahoe. Friends save egg cartons for me to reuse.

Hens lay eggs according to the number of daylight hours;  longer days equal more eggs.  We will probably peak this summer at seven dozen each week.  In the winter time it can slow to as few as three dozen. I see this as God’s way of giving the chickens some rest. Egg production is part of the ebb and flow of the seasons, which are very pronounced here.

Increased egg production means more nesting box traffic, and here is what one of our leghorns thinks of this situation:

We have the right proportion of nesting boxes to hens–one box for every four hens, but apparently our hens did not get the memo, because this racket goes on every morning, and there are several unhappy hens.

John asked me the other day how many nesting boxes I want in the new coop, and after observing this behavior for a couple of days, I told him that I want EIGHT boxes.  Enough of this territorial squawking!

I started a new project this week: weeding the area on the east side of the house.  I am embarrassed to admit that it started out looking like this:

It’s supposed to be all gravel, no greenery.

This is what happens when you work full time or part time for five years, and you don’t use chemical pesticides on your land. Weeds.

This project is a bit daunting, and I needed to see some results quickly, so I started by pulling the largest weeds, which are called hound’s tongue.  You may know this plant’s seeds, which are commonly called “hitchhikers” or “beggar ticks.” Yes, those annoying burrs that cling to just about everything, including dog fur and goat hair.

Next I pulled thistle.  You have to get this plant while it is still small, or else it becomes too prickly to handle, even with leather gloves.

John has worked very hard to grow grass in the North pasture, and the goats approve!

Pulling these two plants gave me some visible progress, so, encouraged, I have moved on to uprooting the knapweed.

Oh, knapweed. The first summer we were here, we saw some purple summer wildflowers, and we actually said to each other,  “Aren’t we fortunate to have these beautiful flowers on our property?” My local friends are rolling on the floor laughing right about now.

Common Knapweed
Centaurea maculosa | by Matt Lavin
Images may be subject to copyright.
CC license 4.0

Knapweed is an invasive, noxious weed.  It overtakes indigenous browsing areas for our deer and elk populations.  Goats are the only animals I know of that can eat this plant.  They have special digestive enzymes that not only allow them to safely digest knapweed, the enzymes even sterilize any seeds they ingest, so that the goats don’t spread them in their feces.

Got knapweed?

It is even toxic to humans.  When I uproot it, I have to wear gloves and long sleeves. It is fairly easy to pull right now while the air is cool and the ground is damp, but it becomes virtually impossible to pull in the hot, dry weather.

What I am reading, listening to, thinking about:

Melanie Shankle’s new book, “Everyday Holy” was my Easter gift this year.  She blends her wry sense of humor with insights on holy moments in our every day lives.  She is a favorite writer, blogger, podcaster of mine!

This song by Needtobreathe.

This week on “The Simple Show“, Tsh and Erin discussed a concept that I am embracing: saying “thank you,” instead of “I’m sorry.” While there are a times that only an apology will suffice, many times “thank you” works.

For example, you are running late.  Instead of apologizing, say “Thank you for your patience.”  Instead saying, “I am sorry I talked so much,” say instead, “Thank you for listening to me.”

What’s on your mind this week?


This post contains an affiliate link.  Proceeds help keep the goats in chow and the chickens in feed.  We all thank you!

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