The Last American Homesteaders: Pt I

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Life in the country is not an idealized peaceful existence unless you subscribe to the following as elements of such; 5AM start times to milk Daisy Bell the Cow, -5 degree temperatures while hopping on a quad with windchill factors in the -20s, your tears turning eyelashes into frozen shelves, your lips taut and crisp, ears and hands burning as if squeezed in a vice just before numbness sets in, and full days in the field, combing the backcountry for livestock and breaks in the fence line. Add to this clearing pathways of 50 foot toppled trees using a 32 inch chain saw or employing the exhaust of your Polaris’ engine to warm freezing hands after removing three inch thick ice sheets from the numerous watering troughs the cattle need to survive during these cold winter months.

To the ranchers and farmers who thrive out here around the John Day river near Spray OR on the east side of the Cascade mountains, these elements feed their deep spiritual and physical connection to the land. Our rewards for their sacrifice are fresh fruit, vegetables, grains and grass fed beef. Their rewards though are profound and pure. Fresh unpasteurized milk, with warm chicken and duck eggs, and turkeys for Thanksgiving. Here life is shared with elk herds that roam the pristine hills, with bears that hibernate in their caves while cougars and bobcats stalk deer and other game through the sparse pine forests of the hillsides and valleys. The setting sun with its darkening sky reveal, in this high desert, an Atlas of stars, shining with a native brilliance undimmed by the light pollution we’ve all grown accustomed to. A moody fog, lit by that brilliance, courses along the path of the frozen John Day below. As day turns to night, the night crawlers fall into their sleep as the daytrippers awaken.

All around the sounds of the natural world play unspoiled by human industry. The meter of this hard but simple life is not kept by a clock, rather, by the dawn’s early light, the shrunken shadows of high noon, and finally their elongated statures as the sun begins to set are, the timepieces of these hills. As the sky’s hues expand and intensify at sunset and the temperature begins to plummet, the body’s hunger will be satisfied in a kitchen where a pot of steaming milk with honey and spices warms and perfumes the air. Here is a glimpse of life in the high country of Spray, Oregon.

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Daisy Bell the Cow being milked in the barn just after 5AM

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At -5 degrees, this 2,000lb mare had no issue watching the morning sun rise

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Tom the Turkey was the stud

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Micheal F. starts the day with his wife at 5AM and as soon as there is light he is off into the backcountry. Micheal provides full-care to ranch owners; managing and operating a ranch, and learning new ways to evolve the farmer’s marketplace.

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Clearing watering troughs requires thick skin, but the breath and the Polaris offer enough relief. The daily high while in Spray was 10 degrees.

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The John Day River below

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Providing mineral and salt blocks in the backcountry

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Juniper trees are weeds in the high country. They are clear cut to make room for grasses in order to form pasture.

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Sunset in the backcountry pasture at an elevation of 4000 feet

Next Post (Pt. II) –>

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Comments

  1. I love the mix of wildlife and landscapes. Also, the shots of the bloke at work are really interesting- it just shows a different way of life than what I have. Thank you ^.^

  2. Thank you for sharing, 🙂

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