Ranch Diaries: Year in review at Triangle P

Coconut the elk, Clem the colt and big dreams for next year.

 

Ranch Diaries is an hcn.org series highlighting the experiences of Laura Jean Schneider, who gives us a peek into daily life during the first year of Triangle P Cattle Company, a new LLC in southcentral New Mexico. Installments are every other Tuesday.

I’m writing this diary from New York City. I’m missing Sam and the dogs, the wrangle horse we always keep penned in case we need a mount in a hurry, and Mooska and Schwarzie, the two ranch cats, fat and sleek from mice.  But this distance helps me look more objectively on what our first year managing Triangle P Cattle Company has been like. While I’m looking forward to the possibility of hosting interns, not having to calve out five hundred heifers, and getting more connected with our community next year, I think it’s worth mentioning some of the moments that made our job feel especially rewarding.

  • A visit to the weaned calves on pasture.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Cold calf in the camper!

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • My New York minute.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • One of the three abandeoned puppies the author rescued and found homes for.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Sam wrangling horses into the old corrals.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • The author and her sister checking to make sure the distant pay phone works.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • The newest equine, Clementine.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • This year, we trimmed the tail switch from every cow that tested pregnant so they're easy to ID from a distance.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Will this old house have another life?

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Working cattle in the new, improved pens.

    Laura Jean Schneider
    1. While it’s reflective of multiple factors, from gangbusters rainfall, early spring grass, and management, we’re most proud of having 95 percent of our first calf heifers test pregnant. It’s often hard to get brand new mothers to conceive while they’re nursing a calf — they’re still maturing themselves. Our decision to wean early seems to have been beneficial. Now we have a herd of mother cows who know the ranch, entering the winter in good flesh.
    2. To anyone who’s had to work cattle in pens, they know that the sturdier and more animal-friendly, the better. The fall works went smoothly in the new set of steel panel and pipe corrals that Sam welded this summer, with lots of help from his nephew and our fellow partners. We’re about 75 percent done, and look forward to wrapping this project up in 2016. We also overtook a big camp-wide cleanup project, which included removing two dilapidated buildings and the existing wooden corrals.
    3. Sam’s 16-year-old nephew, Owen, was just one of several visitors we hosted this year. It’s ironic that in the smallest space we’ve ever lived, we’ve had more visitors for longer than at any other place we’ve worked on. Utilizing the cowboy tipi made it possible for us to have guests for up to nine weeks, plus many three-day work weekends with our partners and their friends and family camped out in the barnyard.
    4. After cleaning out a room in the house at Cow Camp Two to use for storage, Sam and I felt the whole building had potential. Our new contract with the Mescalero Apache Reservation proposes fixing up the old house at Cow Camp Two. It feels like renovating an existing space, for use by Triangle P crew and beyond, would be advantageous. Crossing my fingers on this one!
    5. Each year brings a host of new creature experiences into our life, some delightful, like finding homes for three stray pups and raising a healthy dogie calf; sometimes barely believable, like when Coconut the elk ate the better part of a garbage bin of dog food that was “safely” stored in the fenced-in yard; sometimes sad. Despite her miraculous recovery earlier, we lost our Jersey cow, Sally this year. She was the first purchase Sam and I made after we were married, and she felt like a member of the family. Our Australian Shepherd lost a leg. Our giant yet gentle rooster, Stanley, lived his last days gloriously with the hens. Toad the mustang wasn’t a team player, so we ended up with a sweet roan colt I call Clem that we’re starting this winter.        

Sam just called me. There’s a foot of snow on the ground at Triangle P and the dogs get to sleep inside tonight as a low of 12 degrees is expected. There will be ice to chop in the morning, and I worry about the chickens staying warm enough in their coop. But despite all that, it just occurred to me I’m awfully lucky to love the place I live and what it stands for.