I am in the Valley of the Skulls. J/k. The Valley of the Skulls is actually about 15 miles west of here. And it’s not so much a valley, as it a ridge. But seriously though there are a lot of skulls around. There is a large skull with antlers mounted on the house, and several on the fences, and the barn as well. It does feel exactly what I would expect to find in Arizona.
But I know what you’re all wondering though, what about the cows? Well, I’ve had some long conversations with Ella, my host, about cows. Ella and her husband Mike have been on this ranch for about 27 years, after they inherited the land, and the 500 head of cattle from Mike’s parents. They are now down to about 60 that they sell primarily direct to consumer. Ella and Mike supplement their income by running a small B&B, camp ground as offering guided hunting trips.
They raise beef cattle that are particularly hearty, and somewhat drought resistant. My first question was “How often do you check on the cows?” To which Ella replied, “Twice a year.” She checks on them during calving season and then again in the fall. They keep a certain amount of mama cows, one bull and then the steers get castrated, then turned into meat or sold at auction. The cows here are organically raised and grass fed, except for a few cows that are finished on grains in order to give them a better marbling.
Ella and Mike gather in their cows by riding their horses and collecting them in. I overheard them discussing their neighbor moving their cattle and wondering if the calves are getting lost before they get a chance to brand them. I came here expecting to get my romantic notions of ranch life dashed and here all my romantic notions are being reaffirmed. There are wild horses that get into the yard, for chrissake. WILD HORSES!
A lot of the day to day jobs on the farm are like the others. Feeding the chickens, picking eggs, cleaning. We get the added tasks of helping out with the hospitality aspect of the farm, which mostly consists of landscaping and collecting trash. My favorite thing to do here is clean out the stream. Water comes in from the river down some canals, but since it feeds the house, they have screens in place to keep larger debris out of the irrigation system. In the fall, the screens get clogged up rather quickly because of the leaves. So, every other day, someone has to clean them out. It’s about a mile and half ditch. So you get dropped off at the top and work your way down. It’s a pretty relaxing morning chore.
We have done everything from make lotion to wine to cleaning out a shed to waiting for the cable guy. Everything here seems to be fitting just fine into my new temporary life style.