We have begun to feature a guest on our blog and this is the third in our series. Grace Magruder is a sixth generation farmer in Potter Valley just north of the Mendocino County line. We get beef from Magruder Ranch every other week. The ranch is absolutely breathtaking and Grace and her parents, Mac and Kate, are top notch ranchers and lovely people too. Thanks Grace for this great post!
Magruder Ranch Summer
Summer at Magruder Ranch is not a solitary time. Sitting just northeast of Ukiah in Mendocino County, we are far enough inland that the refreshing coastal breezes get sidetracked somewhere around Anderson Valley and never do us a lick of good. Instead we watch the thermometer climb well past the 100 degree mark for days in a row and our San Francisco friends come flying toward us like moths seeking the heat.
The Big House becomes a rural Grand Central Station with friends and relatives popping up around every corner armed with wine and treats and updates from the more civilized world in which high heels are worn. My mom, Kate, produces vats of quinoa salad to feed the masses and teaches them to “open the windows at night and close them in the morning” – the amazingly effective old-fashioned way to combat the heat in the land of no air-conditioning.
These marvelous people are determined to be useful on the Ranch. They are always very gung-ho to help feed the pigs in the morning, an offer that is usually not provided a second time after they come back down the hill covered in Lagunita’s Brewery mash and smelling of a good IPA. Our piggies (like our guests, actually) spend their days lying in the shade of the huge oak trees charmingly spooning in groups of twos and threes. They greatly enjoy the evening tradition of getting sprayed with the hose and their glee could rival that of any gaggle of toddlers playing in the sprinklers.
In the summer I move our group of younger pigs down into the irrigated pastures. Being omnivores like us, rather than four-stomached ruminants like cattle, the pigs treat the pasture as an appreciated addition to their diet rather than their complete daily ration. They graze like the cows in the evening, seeming to savor their salad as they munch away, tails wagging, nosing up the occasional cow pie. They share these green fields with our herd of “finishing” beef cattle. My dad, Mac, rotates these 2-year old steers and heifers from pasture to pasture every few days so they can munch on the best new growth. He then moves them to a new spot before they can take a second bite of the same plant, thus encouraging healthy regrowth of the fields.
Dad rounds up our guests when it is time to move the cows across the road. Two very important people are charged with the very important job of stopping traffic. They are armed with real live STOP signs and they wield them expertly at the oncoming traffic proclaiming the presence of COWS running down the middle of the road. Those not with signs have the equally important role of standing in the driveway to watch, oohing and ahhing appropriately at the sheer brilliance of the border collies and the sheer awesomeness of my dad.
Not all ranch chores invite the help of our visitors, however. One particularly hot afternoon last week had all the Ranch’s highly capable men (dad, my boyfriend Kyle, and our two ranch hands Mark and Beto) gathered around and under our Ford tractor trying to determine why on earth it was choosing not to run. Tempers were high as there were several fields awaiting a second hay cutting that was getting more rank by the minute. After hours of tinkering accompanied by a theatrical and thorough display of foul language, the culprit was discovered: an acorn shoved in the fuel line by an industrious woodpecker.
The true gift of summer, however, is the river. With the arrival of guests we usually take an afternoon to float en masse down through the Ranch in a gay pink-intertubed flock that draws raised eyebrows from the cows and jealous grunts from the pigs. More typically, however, submergences in the river are woven in throughout the day and it is these frequent dips that balance the rest of the hours we spend marching around like mad dogs and Englishmen.