Seth!’s Rancher Cuisinternship: Day One
Editor’s Note: Our Rancher Cuisinternship Winner. Seth! Leary, recently completed his week long adventure with Country Natural Beef in Eastern Oregon. Seth has graciously agreed to let us peek behind the scenes of his week. We’ll be posting his recaps over the next several days. Enjoy!
Let me first say that I am glad that there will be no test. I had the opportunity to learn a lot today but how much of it stuck, I don’t know. I suppose that over the next few days, I’ll begin to wrap my mind around all of this. It is already quite clear to me that ranching requires a great deal of common sense but also vast amounts of esoteric knowledge. While most professions require a degree of expertise, I feel that ranching has an even higher bar. The lives of the cattle and the livelihood of the rancher are in the balance every day. There is no failsafe, no bureaucracy to absorb the blow.
I think that this is the appeal for me. The Andersons wake up each morning knowing that their success is on the line every day. Roy and Mary Ellen greeted me at their door at 6:45 this morning. Roy had already been out working; he came back in for breakfast. Their comfortable manner and hospitality put me at ease right away. We ate, got acquainted, and then Roy and I headed out on the four-wheeler to pitch some hay.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I am not a complete city slicker. I live in suburban Seattle now but grew up in downstate Illinois, surrounded by farms. Although there were no real cattle ranches back home, I was not out of my comfort zone today as my boots sunk into fresh cow patties. I was amazed and a bit embarassed, though, by how little I knew about cattle despite my midwest background.
The Andersons have a relatively small ranch by local standards; a couple hundred or so head of cattle. They rotate the livestock through several pastures, including some with just yearlings, others with cows and new calves, and some with more mature cow-calf groups. Frankly, I didn’t soak in all of the nuances but the point is that there ARE nuances. This business is no ‘farmer in the dell’, ‘Old MacDonald’ nursery rhyme. Roy (like his colleages) keeps a book that lists every animal on the ranch and numerous details about it, from birthdate to the last time it had a tummy ache. It’s complex!
I will reveal more about the mysteries of cattle ranching as the week goes on, so here is a summary of today’s activities. After breakfast, we pitched hay along a pasture fence line. Then we loaded large bales of hay onto a haywagon, which was really a large flatbed trailer. Mary Ellen then towed this through other pastures while Roy and I stood on back, pitching hay onto the ground.
At this point, I was reminded that I am allergic to grasses. This could prove interesting as the week wears on. For now, I am typing through severely bloodshot eyes.
After the feeding, we gathered up supplies and went to mend fences. We did this before and after lunch. I enjoy this kind of work but there are always new things to learn. Roy was as expert at explaining how to do the work as he was doing it. I was very appreciative of that and I think I did pretty well, if not as quickly as he would have done. I am cheap labor, though!
I will stop here only because I know that you are getting tired of reading. There is much more that I could say about the day but I will reveal more over the next five days. – Seth!
Useful Terms (as I understand them; don’t quote me):
Yearling: A weaned calf that is not yet two years old
Heifer: A young cow that is, well, not old yet. She may or may not have had a calf already.
Crick: A moving body of water that is larger than a stream but smaller than a river
City slicker: A guy from Seattle who shows up at ranch trying too hard to look the part who doesn’t know squat about cattle
Is any of the information on this page incorrect?