The Highline Blog
August 1st, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 30
To beat the heat this week, we’ve been riding out at the crack of dawn when it’s nice and cool scouring the State Section for cattle and then moving them to water in McKillop. At this point we have moved 187 out of 221, but these last 17 are proving to be pretty wiley. As Shayne says, the last ones are the last ones for a reason!
This week I’ve been riding out with Brenda most mornings who has been teaching me all about the country, different routes you can take, where the tanks are, how to move cattle, where they like to hang out in the State Section, where and when they might spill, where you need to position yourself and your horse etc. She has been a great teacher to me and I’ve learned a lot about a cattle from her
Janice was away last week managing the Buck clinic’s in Kalispell and shared a little bit about the experience. “A few of the ranch staff and interns had an amazing opportunity last week to ride and/or audit Buck’s clinics in Kalispell and Whitefish. Every time I see him ride, I learn something new and his explanations and descriptions have a way of turning on the light bulb with things I may be struggling to improve.
Being from Michigan, before I came out here I had only worked cattle a couple of times in an arena. It’s a lot different being out on the mountain and moving cattle, but I’m finding it to be oh so fun! As I’ve discovered going out this week and really getting to know the State Section and McKillop, the more you know the country, the easier it is to know where the cattle might like to spill. Brenda has told me it’s important to keep the steers going at a steady walk to avoid them spilling, and when we did so the cattle hummed right along through those sticky sections.
These clinics were some of the most advanced he puts on partly because of the class description but also because of the riders participating. It was a stellar group. Buck was thrilled to be able to teach things he may not normally get to in other clinics. We even had a couple of guests join us since they are at the ranch taking advantage of the month long stay. Guests Michele and Anne-Catherine, Interns Sophie, Flora, and Allie, myself, and of course Shayne and Des! We were so excited to be able to ride in it this season, and everyone learned a ton.
The Whitefish clinic was invitation only and with a smaller number of riders it felt more like a private clinic! Buck helped riders individually with setting their horses up for success with flying lead changes, stopping and backing, leg yielding, and cow working It is always sad when these clinics end, but we look forward to Buck’ return- in the meantime we will be studying hard!”
The hay crew has been pumping right along the last two weeks and finally fished off the hay season at the end of this week. It’s been so exciting to watch them work out in the meadows, and turn out all of those nice bales. Our horses are so lucky to have such nice hay to eat all through the winter, and all thanks to Randy, Will, Willy, Nolan, Anna, Kevin and Scott. Hopefully next years hay season will be just as good!
July 25th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 29
Haying season has finally begun here at McGinnis Meadows! This week Randy, Willy, Anna, Scott and Kevin have begun haying our meadows. In order for us to really crank out these bales the weather needs to be consistently warm and dry and it seems mother nature has finally delivered the weather we need with temps getting even as high as 96 degrees! Everyday at lunch we’ve all been watching out the lodge window as the hay crew works their magic. It’s fun to watch all the tractors, trucks and balers cruising around in the meadow. It’s been neat to see how it all works, and Randy runs a pretty smooth hay operation. I personally like to watch the baler pump out our 600+ pound bales. They all look so perfect sitting out there in the meadow. Once the bales are ready to be picked up Anna, Scott and Kevin have been driving in trucks and trailers and picking them all up and stacking them away like big Lego blocks for later use.
While the hay crew has been busy in the meadow Emily, Maddie, Brenda and myself have been up on the mountain moving steers from the State section to the McKillop piece. Something I always forget is how beautiful the country is here at the ranch. Both the State piece and the McKillop are beautiful, but I have to say I think the views riding out to McKillop are pretty hard to compete with. While the views can be quite distracting, riding out is the perfect opportunity to apply everything we have learned in the arena in a real world setting. As we walked out of the arena to go look for cattle the first thing Maddie asked us was “What do we memorize?” and we all cheered, “RATE!” and off we went with slobber straps a swingin’.
While the steers we gathered were a pretty wiley bunch we managed to wrangle them up together and moved them to the lower water tank on the McKillop piece. It’s always important to remember that when moving steers to a new grazing area that we must first show them a water source before dropping them off. The girls were telling me that when it’s hot like it has been this week the steers tend to stay up high where it’s cooler and where there are fewer buggies. This is why we have been hitting the trail in the early mornings to catch them before they head up to the top. There’s always so much to learn when we ride out and move cattle. Everything from what kind of trees we’re riding through, to what to clues to look for when looking for cattle and knowing where they like to hang out. It really does teach you to keep an eye out for even the smallest details. It’s just part of cowboyin, or in Maddie, Emily and I’s case cowgirlin’.
That’s all for this week,
July 18th, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 28
We started the week off with the Binninger’s, as well as the lovely Anne-Catherine getting out of quarantine and joining us in the arena. Jon, Clem, Flora and Anne-Catherine are always a joy to have on the ranch and are more like extended family. We love when they come to stay here at the ranch.
This week in the arena we touched back with the basics and really focused on the importance of rate. Many folks believe rate is something you work on once you’re in the saddle but for a good horseman it starts on the ground with solid groundwork. If you don’t have a good, forward walk on the ground first, you won’t have a good one once in the saddle. You can’t have one without the other. Shayne says, “know what you want, know what you have, and know where you’re going”. This phrase really resonated with me and every time I would feel myself start to get a little lost I would think of this phrase and it would help me get back on track.
During my time outside of the arena, I’ve been learning a lot of things on the ranch. Anna has been teaching me how to drive the feed truck, which we wranglers affectionately refer to as ‘Carl. This big army truck may be from the 60’s, but he’s still kickin! It’s been fun learning how to drive such a big truck and Anna is a great teacher, even when I have to do a 16-point turn because the trees are too tight, ha! I’ve also been learning how the office runs with Janice as well. There is no shortage of opportunity to learn just about anything here on the ranch. I’m incredibly fortunate that everyone here is willing to teach me and share their vast knowledge.
Everyone has started riding out to McKillop this week to check on the tanks and learn the landscape. While heading out the crew is ever vigilant for sick or lame steers as well. It’s important to make sure they’re all healthy and have access to everything they need. Jon and Clem have even been riding out on their personal horses, and I heard their horses have been doing really well!
Emily continues to surpass all our expectations in the kitchen by pumping out great meals every night. This week we’ve had spinach and artichoke stuffed chicken, spaghetti and meatballs (a classic to die for) and even a fancy burger bar complete with smoked bacon cheddar burgers with all the fixins and an ice cream cake to finish up a great night! We are some pretty lucky folks out here that we get to eat as well as we do. She keeps us all fed and happy.
Randy, Scott, Kevin, Anna and Willy are planning on starting haying next week assuming the weather stays nice and hot and dry. Our meadows are looking pretty good, and should yield some nice hay this year to feed our herd over the winter. Hopefully it all goes well, and we’ll be sure to check back in next week!
July 11, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 27
Last week we started moving the cattle from Shayne’s Mountain to the State Piece, and on Monday morning Emily, Preston and Maddie got the last four wiley ones in. Moving cattle is always interesting; it’s amazing how much they feel just like the horses in many ways. You can be pretty far away from them and still add too much pressure if you’re not careful. While we were out there we were practicing our positions, making sure our horses were walking out, even having walking competitions. Maddie did a great job of helping me work on my seat position and working on getting Trump soft in a good walk. Janice helped me learn the right flank, and how to count the cattle as they go through the gate.
After we brought the steers to the state piece groups went out and gathered some that needed to be doctored. Then, Shayne, Des, Maddie and Kevin brought the two steers that needed doctoring into a small pen and roped them so they could be doctored. I’ve been learning when I’ve gone out, what to look for when looking for steers that might need to be doctored. Things like a snotty runny nose, a swollen leg or foot, a swelled up knee, how their breathing sounds. One of the steers they roped this week had a really bad respiratory issue, it’s a good thing we brought him in to doctor him! Watching the roping was cool too and seeing how important it is to be able to do that to help these sick steers.
We’ve been continuing with our projects to make the ranch look spic and span. This week Brenda and I have been spending time in Shayne’s pond cleaning up the seaweed and algae. At least we get to be on the water when the sun gets hot! Meanwhile, Scott has been doing fencing on McKillop getting it ready for the herd when it comes time to move them from the State Piece.
Shayne’s new pump and sprinklers have been making our meadows nice and green, and as the hot weather is finally starting to roll in haying season is just around the corner. Randy, Anna, Scott, Kevin, and Willy will be hard work haying in probably just a couple weeks. Luckily, we have Emily who always makes amazing dinners for us to enjoy after a long day of work. This week for our family dinner we had Mexican night! Enchiladas, carnitas, street corn style cauliflower, and even Tres Leche cupcakes for dessert, a dinner I wish we had every week for sure!
This week was our intern Preston’s last week. Preston has really grown on all of us and we’re sad to see him go, but he has made such commendable progress during his time here at the ranch. This was all new to Preston when he first got here, and always said yes to everything we threw at him as Anna put it so perfectly the other night. As we are like family here it’s always sad to see someone go at the end of their internship, but I’m sure we’ll all see him sometime in the future! Until that time, we wish him the best of luck. Well that’s all for this week’s adventures!
July 4, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 26
Into thin air…
Cattle are interesting creatures. I see them as a blend of curiosity, independence, and a bit of rebelliousness all rolled into one. In that order- whenever they pass by something they just have to investigate. Someone had left a lunch bag on top of a tank out at graze one day while they were stretching their legs and every single steer had to go up and sniff at it. They were like magnets drawn to piece of metal!
They are also independent. Yes, they can often be found in groups near water and mineral but with just as much frequency you’ll see one all alone hiding deep in the lush forested timber, and not another in sight for a long distance.
The rebelliousness shows itself when a steer thinks (or knows) it has you beat… in other words, you were trying to guide him to a specific spot and he had other ideas—or he thinks it was his idea to begin with. That is when the attitude comes out in force, where they run by you and just at the right moment, up comes the hind feet in a buck/kick as if saying “so long sucker”. While I don’t like getting beat, these antics make me laugh every time.
We have had lots of great rides out this past week, with the goal being to gather and move all of the steers from Shayne’s mountain to the State piece. It went pretty smoothly with the exception of 4 remaining, elusive steers that are yet to be located. We know they are there- but where is the question! We look for signs at the water tanks, mineral tubs, creeks and wherever we think a steer might want to hang out. If it is hot, do they go up to higher ground where it is cooler with less flies? Or do they come down low to be in the dense trees and brush? Sometimes it seems like they just disappear into thin air.
Today while out searching for the four, and checking on cattle already in the State piece, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. Finally, it was feeling like summer. Low 80 degree temps, bluebird skies and SUNSHINE- woohoo!
The horses turned out in the West piece enjoyed it as well and could be seen lying flat out on their sides soaking it all up.
In other news, horsemanship continues for our interns and wranglers whether in the arena or out on the trail. Keeping your horse balanced, walking out with energy, and giving them confidence through any trouble spots, is all part of making an educated and safe horse. We are all on this never-ending journey to learn more to help our horses. I think back to when I was a kid (yes, I do still remember back that far!), and just shake my head in wonder at how a horse crazy kid growing up in NY in the suburbs, could ever have found their way to a spectacular ranch like this in Montana. Miracles do happen. 🙂
Happy 4th of July! Until next time,
June 27, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 25
Projects, projects, projects! The last few weeks we’ve been continuing to work on projects all around the
ranch to take care of this place we all call home. This includes a lot of things, one big one we’ve been working on is making sure all our pastures are safe for the herd, like picking up sticks, and de-limbing as we rotate through the different pieces on the ranch. Likewise, Scott has been out working on the fence all week making sure the herd and the cattle are where they’re supposed to be, hopefully we won’t have any escape artists!
Meanwhile, Brenda who does all our vet tech work has been doing a great job of taking care of the herd this week, giving them the extra care they need and we sure do appreciate it! It’s a lot of work to keep the herd healthy and happy, but its all well worth it, happy horses make happy riders.
Speaking of riders, in the arena Des began Monday horsemanship working with us on groundwork, seat position, and really getting our horses to walk out. She even demo’d some groundwork with her little colt Lefty and it was really cool to see how little she had to do to get him to do things. Des did a great job of explaining what she was looking for from Lefty in his groundwork and what she wanted from us in our groundwork. Des then got on Lefty and demonstrated how the groundwork translates to under saddle. It’s amazing how much of a difference good groundwork can make in your ride.
After a long good day of riding, we got to sit down to a good old-fashioned barbecue dinner in the tent that our wonderful chef Emily cooked up. We had smoked tenderloin, smoked salmon, smoked turkey breast, creamed corn etc. and topped it all off with the tastiest blueberry pie I’ve ever had for dessert! Emily never fails to make an amazing dinner for all us folks and even danced for us at the end. Dinner and a show! It was a dinner to remember for sure.
As this week has come to a close, we’re beginning to get excited abut opening up to our month long guests starting mid-July. Just a few short weeks away! We here at McGinnis can’t wait to start welcoming back some familiar faces, and maybe even some new faces. Well that’s all for this week!
June 20, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 24
Interns! We’ve got ‘em. And we love ‘em. We told you that we finally have Alyssa back with us; now we also have a couple new faces: Preston and Sophie- and Flora was able to be with us for a couple weeks as well.
Gotta say, time and again I am impressed by these guys- they have been working tirelessly to ride with quality, gather cattle off of the mountain, and make sure the ranch stays as spotless as Shayne and Des see it fit to be. Preston, especially, has made some major adjustments to his riding as he’s settled into life at the ranch; coming from a background of very limited riding, there was certainly a learning curve but now he’s a huge help and a delight to ride with.
While Flora was only able to stay for a couple of weeks this time she will be back next month for more adventures and horsemanship. And Sophie, fresh from quarantine, was allowed to ride out to gather cattle off of the mountain with Kevin and the gang.
All week long the steers have been gathered off of Ferguson and put onto Shayne’s mountain. Only the stragglers remain. Those sneaky, sneaky steers. Here’s the deal: they don’t want to come down the mountain and by far prefer to stay way up high on the side hills. There’s a reason why these fellas are the last to remain on the mountain: they are impeccably good at evading our efforts to bring them downhill.
We were faced with a similar situation last year when there was one lone steers left on Ferguson. Nobody could catch the stinker. Finally, we left one of the gates at the bottom of the mountain open into one of the meadows so that he would come through to graze on the meadow grass. Once he came through we closed the gate and snatched him right up. Hopefully it won’t come to that this year.
Some of the best times at the ranch are when we can all be together. For me, one of the times when this is most apparent is after our Friday night dinner. On Fridays, Emily concocts a feast of epic proportions for us to all enjoy together as a cap on the week. However, this feast means that there is also a lot of dishes to be cleaned up at the end of the evening. But here’s the fun of it: everyone helps. Everyone squeezes into the back kitchen, washing dishes, putting away food, joking around, and singing to music. It’s a joy to be one of these people.
Alrighty folks, that’s all for this week.
June 13, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 23
Here at the ranch it has been a week of riding ponies and working on projects. A very productive week 🙂
Our cattle are still on Ferguson Mountain enjoying the shady trees and plentiful pasture. On Monday we will start to gather them to take to their next mountain. It is bound to be very eventful- stay tuned for the stories to come!
In other news, our gaggle of interns are settling in nicely to their lives here at the ranch; for everyone that is unfamiliar with the immersive experience of our internship program, I’ll just say that interns are asked to jump right in to the bustle and business of the ranch. Since we have been closed for the past months and continue to put health and safety as a first priority, our newly incoming interns have to quarantine and pass a COVID-19 test before integrating into life at the ranch. This week we were finally able to welcome back Alyssa- you all may remember her from her internship at the ranch last season. Oh the joys of being reunited with friends!
On Friday Emily pulled off another of her fantastic meals- she discovered the power of the smoker! It was delicious and the perfect finale to our week. She made four different varieties of smoked meat and there were sides galore! We were all stuffed and happy at the end of the night. And then she pulled out dessert! Lesson learned: don’t forget about dessert.
Even though it is always anticipated and entirely expected, somehow the sunshine is always surprising to me out here; the sun greets us so early in the morning! Some of my buddies around here regard it with slight disgust because of the interruption to their sleep. Not me! It’s delightful to wake up to such a happy morning! But maybe that’s just me 🙂
Well, friends, that’s all for this week! Hopefully we’ll be able to ride with you soon!
June 6, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 22
Folks, the moment has arrived. We are done with branding.
I know, I know- its been a long time coming. But, it’s finally here. This week we were able to finish the final 40 head of steers and kick them out to Ferguson Mountain. Branding this year was a learning experience for everyone; while we weren’t able to have our usual crew coming in for roping it was a super awesome chance for our McGinnis Meadows team to do it all on our own.
Our ground crew was spectacular- our ropers were on top of the game. Shayne and Des made sure that everyone stayed safe and focused on the job to be completed and with plenty of laughter and lots of dirt we got the job done.
It should be pointed out that the head of our ground crew this year was Anna- our very own strong, brave, and encouraging Anna. For nearly every steer that was roped (221 in total) she was one of the first to help pull him to the ground and get his feet secure. She worked tirelessly and made sure everyone on the ground was safe. One of the reasons we want to point her contribution out, especially, is because Friday was her birthday! She is entirely necessary to the successful operation of the ranch and one of the most delightful people to be around. For myself, I always know I will enjoy myself if Anna is around to chat and make jokes with. For her birthday, Emily made her a GIANT skillet cookie cake- it was exceptionally delicious and a great way to end the week.
In other news, as we get further into this month of June, we are preparing for the coming of guest season even more! Just this morning, Brenda and Emily were outside getting the gardens around the lodge and the cabins prepared and beautiful- there’s hanging pots everywhere!
Though summer is closer every day, we’ve had the delight of experiencing some really fascinating lighting storms over the past week- it is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, because of the magnitude of the storm, we did lose power for a whole day. But, we made the most of it- we rustled up some board games in the game room and all sat around playing an ancient version of Trivial Pursuit for the evening; this may sound pretty boring- but we had a grand old time!
That’s all for this week, everyone. Next week is bound to bring up more adventures and fun times. See you soon 🙂
PS. Demonstrated by our Trump, we present for you: The Progression of a Good Roll
June 1, 2020, Volume 15, Issue 21
Its been a very busy week around the ranch- well, the same could be said for EVERY week but this week in particular did feel like a load. We got another 56 head of steers branded in a couple of afternoons. While our usual number is 25 per afternoon, on Wednesday we branded 31. We’re that much closer to being done! Of our total number of 221, there are only 40 left to brand.
While our numbers yet to be branded are starting to dwindle, the time has come to weigh our growing buddies and turn them out onto their first mountain: Ferguson. If you have ridden with us at the ranch before, you will likely recall that this is the mountain right behind the lodge. Our first day of weighing we successfully completed 75 head. And on Friday we did the rest that needed weighing: 95. It was a long haul.
There is a technique and trick to getting the steers into the scale successfully and quietly. While one person manages the scale house and the doors onto the scale (Janice is the master at this job) another person or two slowly peel off one steer at a time to take into the scale. Sometime they’re bashful about their weight so we need to encourage them to step up inside. But really, the way I like to think about it is to go almost PAINFULLY slow. Some times all it takes to sort one off is the just get in position and sit still so they make the decision themselves rather than chase them around the pen.
On Thursday of this week, after a long and hot day of weighing cattle, doing chores, and riding ponies, Emily decided that we needed a cookout! Just one more reason why we love her; she cooked up a feast for us complete with hot dogs, grilled chicken, fresh corn on the cob, potato salad, chopped salad, and baked beans! It was (obviously) delicious. And it was a much needed moment of rest after a day of hard work. We topped off our meal with ice cream sandwiches. SO GOOD.
Thats all for today, folks.