Artist on a Harley:

Spring is in the Air on the Ranch

“Swappin’ Recipes.” Original painting by Mike Simpson.

[Western Colorado | March 2020 | By Mike Simpson]

Yep. That time of year. Feels like we’re on the downhill side of winter. Of course, there will be a couple more storms roll through, and since March and April are the wettest months of the year for us, some of them could be significant. That’s when we get our heaviest snowfalls. However…there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The moderately warm days are occurring with a little more frequency, and a sunny 40-degree day, sitting on the deck enjoying the view, is quite tolerable. A little sunshine helps a cold winter’s day tremendously. Might even get the bike out for a spin around the neighborhood today.

Out here in ranchland, baby calves are hitting the ground. You don’t have to go far to see those little rascals dotting the pastures. Lots of little critters will be coming into the world over the next couple of months. Always seems there is a big Easter storm every year. Hard on calves.

Before I was riding motorcycles and was a full-time artist, operating a gallery and frame shop, I was on the ranch. Bet you didn’t know that. I’ve got a BS degree in Animal Science and enjoyed many years on ranches in Montana, Wyoming, and California, where I managed a registered Angus ranch. Before that I was in Jackson, Wyoming, on a commercial cow-calf operation.

The ranch in Montana was the largest. Leased land and deeded totaled around 450,000 acres…in round numbers. We used to calve around 3,000 first-calf heifers. That was a job. Mother cows, around 12,000, were on their own…again, all in round numbers. Survival of the fittest, you might say. The heifers were all run through calving sheds. We had three of them. Assistance was provided as needed.

“The Babysitter.” Original painting by Mike Simpson.

On the ranch in Jackson, I used to night-ride the heifers. That was always a challenge, as we had moose hanging around the feed grounds, and sometimes we couldn’t get into the pasture to check on things. The horses were afraid of the moose…with good reason.

In California, on the registered Angus ranch, I did all the calving by myself, but I bred all of the heifers to easy calving bulls, so I didn’t have much of a problem. I only had about 250 head. Not many. Small ranch.

Then, of course, there’s tagging the calves, keeping the records, etc., more so on the registered cows than the commercial herds. In fact, the record keeping on the registered ranch was pretty time consuming. This was before computers, so everything was done by hand.

Spring in the air makes one think in terms of camping, fishing, canoeing, boating, hiking, and painting. Lots to do around here, once the ice comes off and things get thawed out. We were just today talking about going down to the Ridgway State Park for a few days. Weather is warm enough. Maybe cook up a couple of Dutch-oven recipes, sit around the campfire, and plan a motorcycle ride or two for this summer. Talk always turns to whether to have a garden or not. So far there hasn’t been a year missed in a lot of years. Assuming there will be a garden as usual, then the question is what to plant. No doubt it’ll be the same as last year, but it makes for conversation around the campfire.

Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you out there somewhere. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Im Mike Simpson

Artist on a Harley