The last time I was an agri-tourist was 42 years ago, when I was led inside, outside, through and around a pig farm in Aarhus Denmark, but my memories of it are still vivid and enjoyable. So at this year’s Eagles & Ag event in the Carson Valley (our 2015 Event of the year, which you’ve already missed it unless you were there) Robin and I signed up for the ranch tours.
The water birds, the shore birds, the raptors that are everywhere, and especially the eagles among the newborn calves, get most of the press and most of the attention from the hundreds who attend — this is a photographer’s dream photo shoot.
But as beautiful as they are, the birds won’t talk to you and the ranchers will. There were two ranch tours (as distinct from the barn tours, which are called “Owl Prowls”). On Saturday we visited the Stodieck Farm, selected for its “traditional” profile, and on Sunday we traipsed around another historic ranch, transformed over the past 14 years into a very modern variation on the theme.
The Stodieck Farm is on the east fork of the Carson River, south of Minden between Gardnerville to the east and Highway 88 to the west. Even though it is the second oldest family-operated ranch in the Valley dating from its 1868 purchase by Fred and Betty Stodieck (a previous owner had sold out for a saddle and a horse to put under it).
Comstock Mining Update
Highway 342 through Gold Hill has been closed because of safety concerns, all traffic to and from the south diverted to the truck route. The highway had been built over the top of the Silver Hill mine shaft when it was relocated from the west side of the canyon some 60 years ago. The road has failed here several times since 1968, most recently in 2006. The cap put on the shaft to repair it was designed to use the pressures surrounding it to hold it in place. It now appears that the removal of the earth on the west side relieved the pressure on the cap, and the soil beneath it subsided, cracking the road for weeks before the closure. NDOT recognized the danger and made a mad dash with their hot glue guns before the rain storm, but in vain.
Today’s proprietor is also named Fred Stodieck, and he raises Angus-cross cattle and alfalfa here more or less the way his great-great-grandfather did, but with 21st century twists here and there. His 240 acres of alfalfa grow in laser-leveled fields — he also laser-levels his neighbors’ fields as a side business — and he rents acreage to California garlic growers who start their seed crops here, then transplant them back to California to mature.
“We get the rent money and a tilled field when they leave,” Fred told us. “We also get a lot of garlic that’s left there unharvested and if we leave it there the voles will move out of that field — they hate garlic. And there’s the possibility of white rot fungus, which is hard to eradicate.”
Things are especially busy on the Farm just now, what with the calves coming and repairing damage from the violent windstorm that tore through the Valley a few days before. Eighteen of the towering trees on the farm were downed, he said, and emphasized that the trees are more than ornaments on the landscape, they are also essential bird habitat and valuable windbreaks.
His newborn calves are inoculated within hours of birth with the help of a mechanical “Calf-Catcher”. Laser levelers are commonplace these days, but Calf-Catchers are still a novelty. This one attaches to the side of an ATV but instead of being a side-car, it is a side-cage, with no bottom and a spring-operated gate. The cowboy, or in this case the cowgirl, slips up on the uncomprehending bovines and gathers in the calf like an infielder. Then she can stop the ATV and administer the medications without having to fend off the new mom.
“It’s a safety issue.” Fred says. “There’s no comparison to going out there alone, the cows trying to protect their newborn calves, and you trying to meddle with them. That can be trouble any time, and sometimes it’s big trouble.”
But on this warm sunny afternoon serenity reigned, and trouble seemed banished from the world.
Ed Kleiner moved to the Carson Valley from a crowded acre in an industrial section of Reno 14 years ago.He has spent the years since transforming a more-or-less traditional 19th century dairy ranch into a 21st century agribusiness specializing in native seed acquisition, drought tolerant agriculture, grasses, shrubs and wildflowers. He has experimented in a variety of ways, from a small planting of wine grapes and a constructed wetland that treats the household effluent.
Ed gathers native seed from all over the west, and sells it by the bag to highway departments, mining companies, utilities, reclamation projects of all kinds. He will make up a special blend to order as well as standard mixes for particular locations and purposes, from drab, hardworking erosion-minimizers to exuberant wildflower mixes.
And always trying something new. He planted Franzenac vines to produce Nevada-grown grapes for a nearby Nevada winery. This is how he learned what a micro-climate is, and how very cold his own personal micro-climate is in winter.
Five years ago in the NevadaGram
Our main line of business in San Francisco was to spend some time with our Comstock girls now living in the city — Margaret and Emily from Silver City and Allie from Gold Hill, all recent college graduates,
sharing an apartment in the city together — just like in a tv show. And they are like starlets, these three lively, lovely girls getting along in the big city. I began to think I might not get a NevadaGram out of San Francisco after all.
I didn’t want to subject you to a dad’s goopy writing about his delightful daughter, his charming nieces. What fun is that to read about?
I had almost given up when a friend sent the video below. Its origin isn’t clear, but it has been authoritatively dated (partly from the puddles signifying a recent rainstorm, partly from the angle of the shadows) to the week before the great earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906. It is a movie taken from a cable car moving east along Market Street toward the Ferry Building. This is the San Francisco of our great-great-grandparents’ time, gone forever, and it is thrilling — magical — to see it up close . . . to very nearly touch it. It is our Parting Shot, below
“There are grapevines there to the west, actually up into the foothills a little way,” he told us, pointing it out. “They’re flourishing. But of the 300 I planted here, only 20 survived their first winter.” Not as big a deal as it might have been because while the vines were freezing the winery was suffering reverses and the deal was off. Ah, the country life!
He told us about seeing two gulls in mid-air, furiously flapping their wings and fighting chest-to-chest over a struggling vole. Does he feel like that vole sometimes, I wondered, caught between the unyielding weather and the uncaring marketplace?
And it’s not just the cold. In the next field over he planted a variety of popular annuals, but the dry winds and the dust limited production and prompted him to change to the perennial native blue penstemons which flourish there now.
His livestock are as eclectic as his crops.To show us one of his favorites, an orphan brought out of the southern Nevada desert for him to shelter, he went into a utility room and brought out a cardboard box. He reached into it, pulled out some wadded-up newspapers, and then, like a stage magician, he brought out a hibernating desert tortoise and held it up for us to see. He explained the purpose of the program, which is to move the critters eventually to new habitat, and then he put the slowly twitching tortoise back in the box and the box back into the closet.
|What they’re saying about us: The Guardian came to visit us and noticed our prison program that puts convicts on horseback|
Many of our fellow agri-tourists were ranchers themselves, or from ranching families, and their questions and commentary added to the heft and zest of the event. Jim Woods, (Birding Under Nevada Skies; 775-720-7009) was our shepherd, and gave us the benefit of his knowledge and experience at every step.
Ten years ago in the NevadaGram
. . . and some people write about their Nevada adventures:
I nodded to the rig operator and we took a break. One of our crew pulled out his .357 magnum and laid it on the back of the pump rig. “There might be coyotes around”, he said. The uninvited visitors then left, and as they did the grizzled cowboy with them grinned and waved. —Scott
Brief Notes from Beyond the Mountains — Virginia City has become famous as Parade City, and it sometimes seems as if there’s a colorful procession every weekend of the year. Close examination reveals otherwise however; in fact there are only ten items on the 2015 calendar, the next one is the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s part of the whole St. Patrick’s Day weekend which include the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry and the Ball Breaker Crawl . . .
Newspapers made news around the state in recent weeks. The venerable Sparks Tribune was acquired by Battle Born Media, the company headed by former Las Vegas Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick. The Trib’s new publisher and editor is former Nevada Press Association ED Kent Lauer . . . Speaking of the state’s largest paper, the R-J was also sold. The new owner: New Media Investment Group, owner of 450 publications in 27 states, has swallowed Stephens Media whole . . . but wait, there’s more. We are eagerly anticipating the launch of the famed Territorial Enterprise in its 21st century incarnation as a website and a monthly glossy magazine. The first edition will carry “a whole lot on Virginia City including a photo spread”, according to the new editor. The way it treats the current mining situation on the Comstock will be instructive. Our hopes are high . . . Along with the buying and selling, some of our newspapers are just reporting the news. The High Desert Advocate of West Wendover reported a couple of issues ago that “[So-and-So] was taken into custody for domestic battery with a strangulation enhancement.” Strangulation enhancement? Nice . . . On a happier note, the Advocate celebrates the opening of West Wendover‘s first-ever BBQ restaurant in a former bank building, and I believe it’s W. Wendover’s only non-casino non-fastfood dining option since the Hideaway closed . . . Saturday March 7th and 8th are the dates for the Silver State Chili Cook-Off in Pahrump. The Chili competition, car show, live entertainment, gunfighters show and arts and crafts vendors are at Petrack Park on Saturday. Chili tastings are $5 for ten samples, all proceeds benefiting No to Abuse. On Sunday the Silver State Chili Cook-Off Golf Tournament is at Mountain Falls Golf Club . . .
Parting Shot —