March 2012 Archives


By David Jessup

The recent furor over “pink slime” – the unappetizing name given by critics to the filler found in most store-bought hamburger – misses an important point:  the real health danger lurks elsewhere.

Pink slime, or “finely textured beef,” as the industry prefers to call it, is made from beef trimmings from slaughterhouses spun in a centrifuge to separate out some of the fat and bathed in ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.  It makes up over 25% of what you’ve been buying as hamburger in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants.

Ammonium hydroxide raises the Ph level of the meat product from acidic to slightly alkaline, an environment hostile to bacteria such as the E. coli variant that has caused numerous deaths and massive hamburger recalls.

The chemical appears to be harmless – the USDA has pronounced ammonium hydroxide safe, and it’s used in other processed foods.  But no one seems to ask the question, why is the meat so acidic in the first place as to foster bacterial growth?  Read more on “Pink Slime” is the Least of Our Worries…


By David Jessup

Our beautiful Big Valley used to suffer from cow pie pileup.  Mounds of manure, all deposited in one place.  Well, three places really, but concentrated in those spots to such a degree that the beautiful native grass couldn’t survive.  I call them kill zones.  They blighted six to eight acres in total.

One such bovine bathroom was in a little swale on top of the Big Valley East Ridge.  A beautiful spot, rimmed on the north and south with ponderosa-covered sandstone cliffs.  The great plains stretch away to the east; the snow-coveredMummyRangelooms to the west.  A picnic place, a destination.  Except for the cow pies.   The manure reached a foot deep in some places.  Instead of western wheat grass, blue grama and wildflowers, the place became infested with weeds – ragweed, pigweed, Russian thistle.  They grow as high as your armpit. 

Why did our cows chose such a place to defecate?  Our herd – 60 cows, 2 bulls, 25 steers and 15 replacement heifers, spend October through February in theBigValley.  Read more on Cow Pie Pileup – Is it Natural?…


By David Jessup

Time Magazine calls it the “next food frontier.”  Consumer demand for grass-fed beef is growing at a rate of 20% a year.  People are catching on that beef from grass-fed cattle is lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3 anti-oxidant vitamins than meat from their grain-stuffed, feedlot raised cousins. 

But there is a potential problem.  Grass-fed beef can sometimes be tough.  Some producers make this a virtue by labeling it “lean.”  But according to Alan Nation, the Johnny Appleseed of grass-fed beef, the product will never realize its potential until better quality and consistency is achieved. 

If we lived inFrance orArgentina, where people tend to slow-cook their meat, it might not be such a problem.  But here people like fast-cooked, seared meat.  Tender, juicy and well-marbled.  Is there a tradeoff between health and edibility?  Read more on The Grass-feeders Dilemma…

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By David Jessup

Here is an account I wrote in August, 2010, worth posting now that I have a blog!

I caught the biggest trout I ever caught in the Big Thompson River yesterday.  Twenty-one inches.  A huge, fat rainbow, like one from our trophy lakes. 

That big boy came out of the stretch of river in the lower valley where it slows into a riffle above the irrigation dam.  It was about 7 pm.  The slanting light from the setting sun lit up every bug like a firefly, including my size 16 royal trude.  The cliffs above were ablaze, and it was hard to not look at them instead of focusing on the end of my line. Read more on Moby Trout…

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By David Jessup

Grass-fed beef is more expensive than grain-fed, feedlot beef.  At least that’s been the pattern until recently.  Now, it appears, the price gap is narrowing. 

Consumers have been able to partially overcome the price difference by buying grass-fed beef in bulk directly from ranchers.  By purchasing a whole, half, quarter, or eighth, you save between 15 to 26 percent of the cost of individual cuts and an even greater percent over what you would pay for grass-fed beef at the grocery store. Often friends and family will split a bulk purchase to get the best value. (We call it “cow-pooling.”) Read more on Why is Grass-fed Beef More Expensive? Or is it?…

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By David Jessup

On the final night of Sylvan Dale Ranch’s Native American Week a few years ago, Gray Wolf presented one of our young guests with a cobalt necklace he had owned for many years.  Gray Wolf is a Northern Cheyenne who hosts a special program each year at our “tipi camp.”  The guest was a sixteen-year-old girl who had spent the week here with her mother.  Several times during the week she had treated her mother with disrespect.  Up at Cow Camp she actually called her mother a B—-.  One of the wranglers picked up on this and asked Gray Wolf if he might talk to the girl.  Read more on Gray Wolf and the Cobalt Necklace…

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The Tenderness of Wolves, a novel by Stef Penny

David J’s all-time favorite historical mystery set in the 1860s Canadian frontier. A French trader is brutally murdered and scalped. The prime suspect, a lonely teenager with a troubling secret, disappears into the frozen tundra as winter approaches. His world-wise, gutsy mother teams up with a disturbingly attractive wolf hunter, himself a suspect, to track her son down. A mild-mannered Hudson Bay Company agent follows in cold pursuit as the raging, blinding snow, itself a major character in the book, impedes them at every step.

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Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, a novel by Laura Pritchett

LOCAL AUTHOR. Winner of the Milkweed and PEN Center West Awards.

Wonderful interconnected short stories that knit together the lives of Renny and Ben, estranged grandparents trying to preserve their family cattle ranch while daughter Rachel struggles to protect her children from an abusive husband. The family perseveres through a forest fire, a harrowing rescue of an orphaned calf, and a shocking act of violence. Laura is a neighbor of ours, and we vouch for the authenticity of her beautiful descriptions of ranch life.

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A Dog For All Seasons, a memoir by Patti Sherlock

We heard Patti Sherlock read an excerpt from her new book at the Jackon Hole Writers’ Conference, and we’re pleased to host her during her stay in Loveland. People who love dogs and people will be captivated by her book. Author and Animal Behaviorialist Temple Grandin calls it “A moving memoir of a loving relationship with a dog and the trials and tribulations of living on a western sheep farm.  All people who love dogs and yearn to return to the land will love this book.”

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The Meadow, by James Galvin

LOCAL AUTHOR. An American Library Association Notable Book.

Raised in northern Colorado and owner of a ranch in Tie Siding, Wyoming, James Galvin has crafted one of the most authentic (and poetically beautiful) descriptions of ranch life we’ve ever read. You’ll meet Lyle, Ray, Clara, and App, the quirky characters that live along the Colorado/Wyoming border. They try to tame the landscape, but it tames them.

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