The Cattle Guard

It’s the time of the season for our neighbor to start baling our hay.  As you can see, the fields are lush and green this time of year.  And very tempting for the cattle grazing in adjacent pastures.  You may recall a post entitled Invasion of the Corn Snatchers from last year, wherein I recounted the destruction of one of our wildlife feeders by a marauding herd of hungry cattle that breached our fencing.

When we find neighboring cattle on our land, it can usually be traced to a failure of the barbed wire fencing which surrounds the property.  The black line on the topographic map above depicts 2.25 miles of barbed wire fencing that separates our property from the land of neighbors who run cattle.  Fallen trees or old, brittle fence wire usually account for the intrusions.

Yesterday, we had a different problem.  A few cattle were roaming along our entry road, but there were no breaks in the fencing.  How were they getting in?

This photo shows the (not so) Grand Entrance to our property.  It is a county road, protected by a pipe cattle guard.  The red arrow that I have added to the photo points to the corner of the cattle guard that neighboring cattle were jumping over in order to reach our tempting hay fields.  There clearly needed to be an obstruction added to this side of the cattle guard, to prevent the cattle from hopping the guard with impunity.

Additionally, when I inspected the guard itself, I noticed that years of accumulated leaves and debris clogged the underside of the guard.  The cattle guard is supposed to present itself as a deep, dark, mysterious place to the cattle that make an approach.  The buildup of debris under the guard spoils the effect, and the cattle are no longer spooked by the device.  It needed cleaning, pronto!

With shovels and rakes, and after much sweat and toil on the part of Retta and myself,  the job of clearing out the underside of the cattle guard was finally completed.  Now, to address the problem of insufficient side barriers.  What could we use to block the side of the cattle guard?

Here is a photograph taken 7 years ago in our paddock area, back in the time when we still had a cattle squeeze chute installed.  Notice at the front of the chute there is a red head gate in place.  The head gate is used to hold the head of the cow still, thus immobilizing the animal (usually for veterinary work).  When we removed the squeeze chute from the paddock, we retained the old head gate, just in case we needed it for something in the future (you just never know when a cattle head gate will come in handy)!

Well, the head gate finally came in handy!  By propping it up against the tree, we have eliminated the easy path that the neighboring cattle had used to hop across the cattle guard.  Notice, also, how the underside of the guard is empty and clean – and once again spooky to the cattle.

It isn’t a pretty solution, but it does have a rustic, yard-art type of feel to it, especially knowing that it was once a necessary piece of equipment used here at the ranch.

Problems Plague Previously Prolific Poster!

Help! I need your input to try and debug a misbehaving blog.  Here is the problem.  When I surf on over to my blog URL, I should see a web page that looks like the screen capture seen here –

Unfortunately, that is not what is showing up on my screen.   Here is the page that I usually see these days-

The page does not appear to recognize any formating – the header does not line up correctly, the side-bar has been pushed down to the bottom of the page, the background has disappeared, and the photographs have failed to load.

If I hit the refresh button on my browser, after a few iterations I might get some of the pictures to load, but the header remains missing-in-action, as seen above.

Sometimes, several of the photographs will load correctly, but others will not, as seen in the screen capture above.

And at yet other times, I see a partial header, with no photographs loading, while some of the page formating remains in tact.

I need to try and isolate the problem, but since I have no other computer access beyond my home network, I cannot see what my blog looks like to other readers.   Here is where I need your help.  If you have stumbled across this page by any chance, please leave a comment telling me if the page is formated correctly for you, or whether it is messed up on your screen.

This problem occurs on my computer using either Internet Explorer or Firefox, so I don’t think it is a browser problem.

I am using the standard default Wordpress Kubrick theme, using only a few of the standard sidebar widgets, with no modifications, so I doubt that the Wordpress theme is the culprit.  Also, with enough browser refreshes, the page will eventually load correctly, so this seem to indicate that the problem lies outside the theme templates.

My trouble shooting instincts are telling me that this is somehow related to my web host, and that I will have to deal with their tech resources to solve the problem, but before I embark on that path, I want to try and eliminate the possibility that my satellite Internet provider is not somehow to blame (you would be surprised how many things satellite Internet service screws up)!

PS – It occurs to me that if you are experiencing the same problems with this web page as I am, than the screen captures above might not show up – ain’t technology fun? ;)

The Land of Fire and Ice

Not long ago, while traveling in northwestern New Mexico and looking for scenic alternatives to Interstate 40, I picked up an informational pamphlet extolling the virtues of New Mexico’s Scenic Route 53, also known as the Ancient Way – a traditional route between the Pueblos of Zuni and Acoma.  Examining my map, I saw that this route passed many interesting locations, far more than I could take the time to explore on this particular trip.  But I did manage to devote a few hours at one worthwhile destination – the Land of Fire and Ice.

The Fire

El Malpais National Monument is situated along Scenic Route 53.  As a land feature, El Malpais – “the badlands”- is used locally to refer to lava flows.  Within El Malpais National Monument are many volcano craters, onetime sources of the area’s lava flows.  One such crater, Bandera Volcano, lies on the Continental Divide, and hiking to the site is an easy mornings stroll through the clean mountain air.

The trail to Bandera Volcano begins near the parking lot of this old trading post, built in the 1930’s, when the Zuni Mountain Railroad was operational and logging operations were underway in the area.  Today, the trading post sells jewelry, pottery and artwork of the local tribes.

Scattered around the grounds of the old trading post are various outbuildings, visitor facilities, and relics, such as this old wagon seen at the trail head.

Soon, the trail leads up the side of the crater,  passing beneath the limbs of ancient trees, which include Ponderosa and Piñon Pines, Douglas Fir, and Alligator Juniper.

There are many spots along the trail to Bandera Crater where the vista overlooks much of El Malpais, the Cibola National Forest, and the Chain of Craters Backcountry Byway, as exemplified in the photograph above.

Because of the hard, rocky terrain, trees cannot establish a deep root system.  This results in trees that mature to be twisted and gnarled.  Trees such as this can be seen in many places along the trail.

The trail eventually passes a rest stop, where the breeze blows cool, and the scenery is delightful to view as one relaxes for a momentary breather.

Continuing along the path, the trail rounds a bend, and you are suddenly presented with your first glimpse of the Bandera Volcano crater.

Further along, the trail ends at a viewing overlook, where the cinder cone crater can be seen in it’s entirety.

The Ice

From the old trading post, another trails heads off in the opposite direction from the Bandera Volcano.  This one leads to a feature called the Ice Cave. 

The trail to the Ice Cave passes several more examples of the twisted, gnarly root systems exhibited by the local trees, as seen in the photograph above. 

After a short stroll, the trail leads to the entrance to the Ice Cave.  And what is this Ice Cave?  It is part of an old lava tube that was formed in the eruptive stage of the nearby volcanic crater.  As the surface lava cools and crusts over, the lava beneath continues to flow.  This creates a pipeline known as a lava tube.  The Bandera lava tube is considered to be the longest lava tube in North America, at 17.5 miles in length.

The entrance to the Ice Cave begins by descending steeply into the cave via this initial set of covered stairs.

Once you reach the bottom of the initial set of stairs, you still have to negotiate the second flight of stairs.  This second flight is uncovered, as you can see above.

Finally, you can descend to the viewing platform located at the bottom of this third set of stairs, in order to view the ice at the bottom of the cave from a close distance.

This is what the ice at the bottom of the Ice Cave looks like.  It is a sheet of ice 20 feet thick.  The temperature of this cave never rises above 31 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rain water and snow melt seep into the cave, adding to the ice each year.   The deepest (and oldest) ice in the sheet dates back 3400 years.

The Ice Cave can be considered a perfect natural icebox – 20 feet of ice contained in a well insulated cave shaped to trap frigid air.

Hmmm…… I wonder if I could build something like this back at the ranch?