Enter our Naming Contest Today!

When Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm put his pigs to work making compost out of the manure and wood chips in his barn, he coined the term, “Pigerator” to describe what they do.

We need a new term to describe the work pigs are doing to one of our pastures at Sylvan Dale Ranch.

The pasture is an unproductive swath of sod-bound fescue just south of our Big Valley Lakes. The forage lacks variety because the fescue chokes out any other plants that try to sprout there. Our cattle graze it every year, but the soil is compacted and the growth is meager. This pasture badly needs regeneration.

The traditional remedy is to spray the old grass with herbicide to kill it, then plow, disk, harrow, reseed, and fertilize, then let the new pasture grow for a year to get established. Unfortunately, this method harms soil fertility. As an alternative, we tried mob grazing with cattle. By packing a large number of 1300 lb. cows into a small area of pasture, we hoped the churning impact of cow hooves would damage the fescue enough to allow a new seed mixture, broadcast on the ground and “planted” by the cows, to germinate and add some variety to the pasture.

It didn’t work. That fescue sod is tough!

pigs-in-pasture-300x169Enter the pigs, courtesy of Spring Kite Farm, a new Sylvan Dale agri-partner. Michael Baute and Meghan are young farmers based in Ft. Collins, Colorado. For several years they have successfully grown vegetables to supply local customers and restaurants, and were looking for more land to lease in order to expand operations and introduce pigs, chickens and goats into their mix of offerings. Sylvan Dale Ranch raises grass-fed, grass-finished beef, along with enough hay to fuel our horse heard and get the cattle through the winter. Why not join forces with Spring Kite Farm and together, create a truly holistic, comprehensive agriculture operation?

At some point during these discussions it dawned on us that pigs might be able to do what the cows couldn’t: churn up the pasture enough to weaken or destroy the fescue as a prelude to re-seeding. Pigs don’t just graze, they root. Those amazing snouts might turn enough soil and gobble up enough of those pesky fescue rhizomes to open up the sod for new plants. Worth a try. We decided to start small to see if it works.

You can see the results in this video. Pretty impressive, we think. Pigs doing the work of machines. What should we call them? What should we call the work they are doing? We’ve started googling synonyms for “plowing” and for “pigs” to come up with ideas, but we haven’t got there yet. Here’s where you come in.

We invite you to a naming contest! Use the “Comments” feature on this blog to send in your entry. A distinguished panel of judges will select the winner!


Sylvan Dale sunset (and first Instagram post!) Photo: Karen Burbank

Sylvan Dale Ranch is now on Instagram! Follow us at “sylvandaleranch.” Use the #sylvandaleranch hashtag to share favorite photos of your Sylvan Dale adventure with the Instagram community.

Sylvan Dale is active in social media, including Facebook, LinkedInTwitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr. Check us out!

mariano-tour-red-ridgeWas this ridge the secret grave site of Lena Medina, the fifteen-year-old daughter of Loveland’s first settler? According to David M. Jessup’s historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing, the beautiful young girl could have been buried in a place like this after her distraught Indian mother stole the girl’s body from their home on the Big Thompson River.

Thirty participants visited this site during the May 17 tour of historic sites depicted in the book.

“Wow! What a ride and what a beautiful place,” said one participant after ascending to the cliff top. “Another said, “it was a very special day for all of us. David Jessup was so knowledgeable of the history of the ranch and of course of his book.”

The tour, sponsored by the Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning at Sylvan Dale Ranch, began with brunch in the ranch dining room followed by a walking visit to the original ranch homestead next to the river. Other sites included the restored Medina cemetery, the old Weldon school, and Namaqua Park, location of the original stage stop and trading post established by Mariano Medina in 1858.

The tour was sold out several days in advance, and a waiting list established for the next tour, to be scheduled sometime in September. To get on the wait list, contact laura@heart-j-center.com. To purchase a book, visit www.davidmjessup.com.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer, is Mayor of HeidiTown.com, where she writes about Colorado travel and festivals. Heidi recently completed a very entertaining and inspiring three part series about her short-stay at Sylvan Dale earlier this spring. Read the series here:

Part 1 “Escape to Sylvan Dale” | Part 2 “Nature Walk at Sylvan Dale”| Part 3 “Playing Cowgirl at Sylvan Dale”

web serverSylvanDale.com and Sylvand Dale’s Colorado Dude Ranch blog were moved to a new, more powerful server last Thursday. Although the migration required service disruption for a couple days, everything is now back in order.

Rocky Mountain Computer Solutions, the company that has provided network systems support to Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, and hosted Sylvan Dale’s websites for many years, managed the migration of the two websites to the new server. RMCS continues to offer outstanding support, and Sylvan Dale’s remaining websites will soon be migrated as well.

Past visitors to SylvanDale.com will find the newly moved website noticeably more responsive and the pages quicker to load. We are excited for the better online experience this change will provide to all of our online guests.

Thanks to RMCS, issues that were ailing the old site (like slow and partial page loading, and occasional blank, “white pages”) should now be a thing of the past, and if you haven’t visited our site recently, we invite you for a ‘quick’ visit!

Filed under Miscellaneous by on #

2013 Big Thompson Fundraiser T-shirt

Big Thompson Fundraiser T-shirt

Cowboy Up and Get Your 2013 Big Thompson Fundraiser T-shirt!

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is trying to recover from the Big Thompson Flood. The funding from the t-shirts will go to cleaning, rebuilding, and getting the their feet back under the business. Do your part and cowboy up with a helping hand.

— David J. Hart

Get your t-shirt here: https://www.booster.com/bigthompson

Editor’s Note: While this entry is by a season member, day guests have always been able to fly fish our private waters with at least a 1/2-day guided trip w/guides available from 12+ shops around NoCo. Support Sylvan Dale in rebuilding, but also local fly shops & professional guides who have also taken a big hit during the Colorado Floods.  Email Fishing@SylvanDale.com for details.

“I enjoyed the private waters of Sylvan Dale on Wed, Sept 25 with fly fishing buddies Frank and Dave. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day with high Big Valley View from Easttemps in the mid 70s and little wind. While other parts of the ranch were hard hit by the flood, including the lower bass ponds and river, the valley was almost untouched, except for some road issues. Read more on Fly Fishing Member: “Get Your Big Fish Fix at Sylvan Dale!”…

Filed under Conditions, Fishing by on #

The Wagon Wheel Bunkhouse, flood 2013

The Wagon Wheel Bunkhouse

Dear Friends of Sylvan Dale,

Shock and awe. Twice in two days.

First came the massive torrent that ripped through our beloved Sylvan Dale Ranch during the pre-dawn hours of Friday, September 13. Linda and I, and Susan and her Dave, couldn’t believe our eyes. How could another “500-year storm” happen only 37 years after the one that menaced our parents, Maurice and Mayme Jessup? This time, unbelievably, the destruction was even greater than the famous flood of 1976. You can view the damage on the video below. Read more on A Flood of Water; A Flood of Support…


September H.O.T.M. — Cowboy

Cowboy, a cream colored buckskin gelding, has become one of the most requested mounts at Sylvan Dale. Born in 1996 out of Judy and by Sylvan, Cowboy enjoys working both in the arena and on the trail with any skill level.

Both children and adults alike love competing in Gymkhana events with Cowboy since he’s such a well-rounded horse. But watch out when you turn that 3rd barrel towards home because he really wants to win that blue ribbon! And since Cowboy’s bloodlines date back to the great cutting horse sire, Doc Bar, he is surely true to his name and great at working with cows.

Cowboy’s full sisters are Jewell and Valley Girl. All three of them love helping to jingle the horses and roundup the cows, pinning their ears back as a message to others to move out of their way.

Visit our Horse of the Month page

What A Race It Was!

2013 USA Pro Challenge Stage 6 Recap

August 24, 2013 will be a busy and exciting day at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch as sixteen world-class professional cycling teams sprint by on the second to the last leg of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge — twice.   We’re Cranked!

USA Pro Challenge Sizzle Video

Staff and guests will get the opportunity to catch all the action of this once in a lifetime event as it passes by twice; the action will come from both directions as the peloton races by on the trek to Estes Park in the early afternoon, and again en route to Old Town Fort Collins, via County Road 27 and Masonville, for the Stage 6 finish.

2013 USA Pro Challenge, Stage 6: Loveland to Fort Collins

…contenders for the Leader Jersey will have only this stage left to make a move or lose it all. The outskirts of Loveland will see the racers off as they spend some early miles on the flat windswept plains passing through Windsor and back to Loveland. Then it’s up Big Thompson Canyon where things will heat up. Split north onto Devils Gulch, the race’s last King of the Mountains competition, before hitting Estes Park and back down Big Thompson. …(USAProCyclingChallenge.com)

Just two weeks to go!

We wish all the riders a safe and successful event, and a good time for all the fans and spectators. Visit the links below to learn more about the race (and the road closures).

Sylvan Dale "Bike" Ranch

Learn More:


August H.O.T.M. — Foxy Trail West

Foxy Trail West, a tall palomino mare with a small star on her forehead and a sizable dark spot on her right hind leg, has become a ranch favorite.

Foxy exhibits a curious, alert, and athletic way of going. When she has the chance to take the lead, she loves to stretch her legs and walk out.

Being that she’s a mare, she sometimes makes faces at other horses, but that is no reflection on her friendly and loving nature as a mount.

Foxy Trail West and RiderFoxy has learned a lot about working with cows and has become a steady, dependable girl. Foxy was born in 2004 and was out of Sun Sails (Cassie’s mother) and sired by Dusty.

Her siblings are Heart-J Lady and Silky. Come out and give her a try this year!

Visit our Horse of the Month page

It’s gymkhana time at Sylvan Dale! For those of you who do not know what a gymkhana is, it is an event in which riders play games on horseback. Each week our guests participate in a gymkhana, and winners receive prizes!

The kids played against each other on the horse they were assigned to for the week. They played games such as pole bending, barrel racing, the boot scramble, the cow pie toss, and an egg and spoon race! Adults competed against each other as well and played similar games with added difficulty.

Where does “gymkhana” come from?

Gymkhana is a term that originated from Read more on Gymkhana Time!…

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch is a great place to visualize patterns and processes of Earth’s history. Earth science students from local middle and high schools as well as the University of Colorado, the University of Northern Colorado, and Colorado State University often use the Ranch for field trips. Patterns of geology are the foundation for everything else, from vegetation to human land use to the awe-inspiring scenery.

Several of the great ages of Earth are on display at Sylvan Dale.

The granite and schist of Green Ridge, Inspiration Point, and Alexander Mountain represent the Precambrian Era.

A view across 1.8 billion years:

A view across 1.8 billion years: from Ice Age Little Canyon of the Big Thompson
to Pre-Cambrian rocks of Alexander Mountain. ⇱

The Paleozoic Era, the “Age of Fishes and Amphibians,” is represented by the Fountain Formation, the oldest of local sedimentary rocks. Most of our sedimentary rocks are from the Mesozoic Era, the “Age of Reptiles.” Cenozoic rocks, from the “Age of Mammals,” are missing from our immediate area, eroded to sandy bits, hauled downstream, gone to rest in the Gulf of Mexico. The last 2 million years, Read more on Earth History at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch…

Craig and Fred, Mother Lake

Craig and Fred, Mother Lake

Ben Miller, professional guide out of Rocky Mountain Anglers and a favorite among guests, enjoyed a day of fly fishing for giant trout this week with his friend Craig (pictured left) and his other long-time friend, Fred (also pictured left ;-).  When he related they had a great day on the waters despite the summer heat, I asked the question all anglers want to know, “What exact fly pattern caught Big Fred? What flies were working well through the day? That is if you divulge your special flies, of course!”

Ben replied, I’m sure sporting a sly, wry smile (though I couldn’t see it through an email), “The fly in question is kinda my secret weapon out there, but I can tell you that large streamers with a fast strip was the answer. Dry droppers worked well in the morning: a juju baetis dropped below a sparkle dun. Small black leeches turned some fish as well on a slow strip.”

Classic answer from a true angling pro!  Ben and other guides who have their own “Secrets of the Hook” at Sylvan Dale’s private fly fishing waters, can be reached at Rocky Mountain Anglers if you want to have a chance at learning that “secret weapon” and other fly fishing skills!

Filed under Conditions, Fishing by on #