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June 29, 2018

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Rain Affects

Dear Friends,

In years like this, anyone driving through western South Dakota would think they landed in paradise.  This month (June), we received over ten inches of rain! With the average rainfall for our part of the country being eighteen inches a year, ten in one month is, well… remarkable. 

Equally remarkable is the shifting, moody sky. From orange sunrises, to impressive clouds, to black skies, to rainbows; its quintessential performance has been Oscar worthy.

Prairie Sunrise

The prairie grass is iridescent in the fluctuating light. It ebbs and flows like a sea when pushed by the prairie wind.

Prairie Wild Flowers

Wild flowers bob their heads, daubing the green - with white, yellow, purple and pink.

Prairie Wildflowers

And the water - the water is everywhere. The Cheyenne River is running high, and with a slight roar as it flows to the Missouri.

Stock dams, playas and any indentation in the earth are full after years of, “just enough” to get by. From the air these pools of water glisten like diamonds and if you didn’t know better, you would swear you were looking down at Minnesota.

This past fall, we did some work on our stock dams when they were about dried up. We dug them a little deeper and restructured the levees to improve upon their holding capacity. With this year’s snow run off and initial spring rains - they looked pretty good, but they were nowhere near full. One dam, that required the most repairs, is close to 30 feet deep at the center, and was bone dry until June.

 

Then a week ago, water came spilling through the overflow pipe as designed.  A day later, all hell broke loose as it came pouring over the top. We decided we should buy a boat.

Bison Herd

It’s also years like this when we wished we had two thousand more buffalo. The bounty of grass-filled-pastures awaits the buffalo like a just replenished salad bar in an empty restaurant.

To mimic part of the grazing process during these rain flush years, we will cut the grass for hay and save it for a non-rainy day (year). We cut in rows, leaving half of the grass in place to provide cover habitat for wildlife. And, we also leave many of the pastures, giving them rest and allowing the dry matter to settle into the earth, creating a healthy dose of organic matter to aid in the soil’s health.

Being a large landscape bison rancher, that manages the land for soil, grass, and overall eco-system health, that has an annual limited rainfall, and balancing that with your animal stocking capacity, is a little like walking a tight rope. Because we are not very good at that - we manage for drought.

Buffalo Herd Summer

Every rancher has been through a drought, and it’s during those years that you have to make a decision to either, buy food for the animals, move the animals, or ship them down the road to a feed yard/slaughter facility. The latter is never an option, and buying hay for 700 animals can get you broke fast. This is when we make the exception to our policy of not moving animals. We will either buy animals from a sourcing partner who is in a drought situation and our grass supply is in abundance, or we will sell animals to a sourcing partner if our pastures became too stressed, and our hay supply would run out. These animals will slowly integrate with the herd and be given a good life, and some may be harvested for food after they grow.

Drought years are not much fun and are hard on the people and the animals, but if managed right the land will always prevail.  

Photography is also a bit more challenging during these times, forcing one to look hard for the prairie magic. However, if you look long enough the dried cotton wood stumps reveal themselves as animals from the brown, barren landscape.So go’s the cycles of the prairie, we love the good and try to be prepared for the bad.

This year, things are good - and so are the people and the animals.

As always, we thank you for your sustainable great taste and support - through the good times and through the tough times. Cheers! jill


Comments

George Frantz

June 29, 2018

You are true stewards of the land and your herd. And a damn fine writer to boot.

Liz Aicher

June 29, 2018

Great article, Jill. Hope it’s ok if a steal a few pics for my watercolors! Having driven through SD, ND, MT and WY and having seen the green, green grasslands, it was a bit of a shock to remember the extreme drought we are in, and see the results of that driving south of Pueblo, CO on the way home. I spotted a rancher taking water out to his herd….something one never really wants to see. Glad the gods were good to you and the buffalo this year!

Ken

June 29, 2018

Nice photos
Looking forward to when
More product is available
How about some
Big beef ribs
Keep up the good work
And God bless you and yours

James M. Pierce

June 29, 2018

I love what you are doing for the prairie … I love your photos (Mother’s Day was great) and of course, I love your products

Sheryl Edmonds

June 29, 2018

We will be in your area next month, can we stop by?

Phyllis Welch

June 29, 2018

Thank you for taking your time to sharing your pictures. I really enjoyed them along with cations.

Christina Gray

June 29, 2018

For a few minutes I was carried away to a beautiful place I’ve never seen. After reading your story and drinking in the photos, I closed my eyes and imagined the great and beautiful vistas. Thank you for the peaceful journey. I enjoyed every bit of it.

Chris

June 29, 2018

Really illuminating to see the land under both drought and bounty conditions, thank you for continuing to take the time to educate about real-life ranching; always learn something from each post!

Kathleen Hall

June 29, 2018

Being born and raised in Minnesota, I appreciated your comment:) Having spent many years near Payne’s Prairie National Park adjacent to Gainesville Florida in Alachua County, I though I’d mention in case you weren’t aware of it, that there’s a small heard of bison who roam the prairie and are rounded up once a year by the forest rangers on horseback. Just thought perhaps looking into management of free roam bison in an area of the country with an over abundance of rain and a variety of predators (gators, etc., and now pythons) may be of interest to you:)

Beth Waterhouse

June 29, 2018

Jill, a beautiful photo essay. And thank you for the ecological education about rain on the prairies!

Lucy

June 29, 2018

This is a beautiful photo essay. It made me yearn for the Black Hills and the prairies to the east and south. I used to live very nearby, down the Argyle Road in the Hills, over in Igloo, and way down in Chadron. These essays and photos fill up my heart with gladness.

Oh, and I’m a customer! I’m feeding a growing 16 year old with your wonderful bison meat, and I am sure it contributes to his glowing good health.

Bruce Green

June 29, 2018

Just drove through entire state of South Dakota from East to West. Could not believe how green it was!

Absolutely beautiful. What a great state you have.

🤗

pat

June 29, 2018

Thank you, a wonderful bunch of raindrops, Jill.

Bruce Green

June 29, 2018

Just drove through entire state of South Dakota from East to West. Could not believe how green it was!

Absolutely beautiful. What a great state you have.

🤗

Jerry and Norma Reynolds

June 29, 2018

Thank you for sharing this story and the wonderful pictures of abundance with us. Everything green, lush, and the flowing water; all so very encouraging and uplifting to the soul. We have just received another order from Wild Idea and tried the kippered buffalo for the first time. That is WONDERFUL! I think we could make an entire order of just that. Plan to try your barbecue recipe the bison short ribs for the Fourth. Thank you for all you and your family and associates in your company do to provide a wonderful life for the bison, beautiful pictures and stories of the South Dakota plains for our information and enjoyment, and the wonderful products that come from your herd.

Fee Jacobsen

June 29, 2018

As always….uplifting, inspirational, and truly awesome! Thanks, Jill for sharing your beautiful world. Envy abounds on this end!!

Eirik Heikes

June 29, 2018

We are indeed water wealthy and fortunate! So lovely to see these pictures.

Wild Idea Buffalo Co.

June 29, 2018

SHERYL EDMONDS
June 29, 2018
We will be in your area next month, can we stop by?

Yes, we do offer ranch tours. For details, contact jilian@wildideabuffalo.com .
Thank you for your interest!

Retha Haddock

June 29, 2018

Loved the description , pictures, and education, Jill. By the way, as I was reading the comment about bison in Paynes Prairie we were riding by there, but I’ve never been fortunate enough to see any.

eleanor Shimeall

June 29, 2018

It;s people like you who give me much pleasure in my late years. I’m 95 now Dan, and all my 5 children are in their 60’s. We loved the buffalo roast we had for a reunion. Hard for me to order often anymore, but keep up the good work. Jill those pictures were a treasure.

Rick Sytsma

June 29, 2018

Jill, thank you for another beautiful essay. Last week we spent some windshield time and travelled from our Minnesota lake country to the Badlands of North Dakota. Our experience was the same as you describe. Everything was lush and abundant grass moved in waves across the hills.

What a marvelous land we live in!

Rick

Kathy Jankowski

June 29, 2018

Living in the East, I love getting your newsletters and pictures!

Susan L Wright

June 29, 2018

What beautiful pictures Jill.
I don’t believe I have ever seen it
so lush. Makes me want to return.

Diana Siderides

June 30, 2018

Thanks for your awesome photos, your commentary is perfect and your information helps me to understand more about the Prarie. I love Toro and the Alligator. I take photos of animals & people int the land, rock, clouds and always wood.

Take Care!

Ben Suthers

June 30, 2018

In my eyes, there’s not much that’s prettier than western SD during a wet spring/summer ! But I know it doesn’t look as amazing as your grass does unless it has been managed very well during those dryer years. That must be so rewarding ! Seeing those buffalo grazing on those hills like they always have. Some of those photos I’d love to have on my wall ! I really enjoy reading and learning about your approach to the management of those awesome grasslands, the buffalo, and all the ither critters that all it home ! Amazing job all the way around !

John Cooley

June 30, 2018

Take care of the land…It will take care of you. Ever listen to Alan Savory on Desertification and Healing the land….Looks like you have a great start. Good luck..

Blake O'Quinn

June 30, 2018

Jill, stunning pictures and perfect commentary, I can almost breathe in the fresh air.
you guys are the best.

Chris and Kim

June 30, 2018

Fantastic photos! We are really looking forward to our visit to WIB ranch in just a few days! Thank you for all that you do with sustainable ranching and restoring the great American bison!

Annie servin

June 30, 2018

We recently ate at Lamberts restaurant in Taos, New Mexico where my husband had a wonderful bison tenderloin. We asked the server where the buffalo came from since we purchase your products and was hoping it came from you. All he knew was that it was south dakota some where – hoping you’re supplying them!

Patti

June 30, 2018

Once again, thanks Jill for spreading interesting news about SD and the ranch. I’ve only had the opportunity to visit this area one time about five years ago. I found it fascinating and very different from your “wet” wonderful, presented pictures. Wild Idea is doing great things for the prairie and this is much appreciated by all of us who follow your work. We all enjoy your delicious products; the essays and pictures bring me much joy. Thank you for doing this.

Georgia Clark

June 30, 2018

Wonderful writing & beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing, love seeing as well as reading what is going on, on your beautiful ranch.

Don Meyer

June 30, 2018

Hi Jill – It was nice to visit with you and the phone the other day. I just received 23 pounds of buffalo hamburger to last me another three and a half months, as I eat 1/4 pound a day of the most healthy food on the planet. Thanks for all these wonderful pictures, and I sure wish we had some rain down here as it has been over 100 degrees just about every day for a month and we are in terrible fire danger right now. I think the jet stream has shifted north, and so it is drowning you and avoiding us in New Mexico. The Rio Grande is totally dry down towards Bosque Del Apache, which is not at all good for all the creatures there. Here’s wishing you guys a wonderful summer. I just love you and Dan.
May the blessings be. Love, Don

Georgene

June 30, 2018

Awesome, gorgeous, ethereal, spiritual…nature triumphant – a gift from the Master Architect, beautifully captured by a brilliant photographer. Thank you.

Thomas Carr

June 30, 2018

Beautiful. You paint pictures with your words and the visuals. Thank you.

Lynn de la Torre

July 01, 2018

Gorgeous picture! Makes me want to travel out there! Keep em coming along with your very well written articles!!

Antoinette Hamner

July 01, 2018

You have prepared well and been rewarded.
Vision isn’t given to everyone and you and Dan have taken your gifts and shared them with all of those who have come in contact with Wild Idea, your books, photographs and essays and delicious recipes that come with our orders of beautiful bison. So much gratitude in my heart.
Blessings and good health to you, your children and your grands.

Natasha Thompson

July 01, 2018

So appreciate what you are doing for the environment. Your story has even convinced one of my vegan friends to try your bison! You are doing it all right! Wonderful to see that scare water will not be one of the things you have to deal with this year.
love the pics! thank you thank you thank you!!
hot and dry in Arizona

Penny Gray

July 01, 2018

Thank you, Jill. Interesting about mowing in rows. There’s a big controversy in Maine right now over haying in June, which wipes out the bobolink nests and fledglings. Perhaps the dairy farmers might practice leaving wildlife strips for the birds, sparing at least some of the young. These field nesting birds are declining rapidly and need all the help they can get.

Teresa

July 01, 2018

Beautiful! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it look so green and lush. Wonderful to see rivers and creeks flowing and the stock dams full. We too have received a lot of rain. We always say for the corn to be knee high by the 4th of July, this year it is over my head. I’ve never seen that in my life time. Loving the green as I know it can change very quickly. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures!

Marian Moe

July 01, 2018

Loved, loved, loved the photos and script! Thanks for sharing the often underappreciated beauty of the high plains and hills in South Dakota!

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