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.

View the full letter, photos, and video at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch blog.

Big Thompson River by Jessup Lodge

Big Thompson River by Jessup Lodge

Want to help? Consider a donation to the Sylvan Dale Ranch Recovery Fund

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A couple of years back, we learned about "carbon ranching" at the Quivira Coalition conference, and decided to experiment with adding compost to selected areas of our pasture. Carbon ranching, building up soil carbon, is supposed to enrich the soil, increase forage yields, and enhance water retention. Makes you feel good too, as it pulls carbon out of the atmosphere and helps reduce the planet’s greenhouse gas burden.

First, we needed some baseline data. We sent some soil samples to Kinsey labs, which gave us the percent humus. More samples were taken by Professor Richard Conant at Colorado State University, to measure carbon content. I’m not quite sure of the relationship between humus and carbon, but from these baseline figures, we’ll be able to know whether carbon and humus are going up or down after several years of soil treatments. Read more on Carbon Ranching at Sylvan Dale Ranch…

Can ranches and farms in the Poudre-Big Thompson watershed improve the quality of water used by Front Range urban dwellers?  That question is being addressed by a pilot project at Sylvan Dale Ranch, a 3,200-acre working guest ranch located at the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland, Colorado.  Read more on Water Quality Improvement at Sylvan Dale Ranch…

If you ever get a chance, go to  Crested Butte, Colorado.  Boosters call their town the Wildflower Capital of the World, with good reason.  Our visit, on August 1, was two weeks later than the peak blooming season, but the valley was still spangled with yellow coneflowers, blue asters, red firecracker flowers and scores more.  The Slate River meanders through the flat valley floor,  meeting itself coming and going like a gray snake coiling for sheer pleasure through the green meadows.

My reason for visiting was to give a presentation and book signing at the town’s Old Rock Library.  Book club members had read Mariano’s Crossing and wanted to meet the author.  I was only too happy to oblige.  “Readers in the Rockies,” they call their author series.  Not only are they enthusiastic, gracious hosts, they happily promoted my book to the local “Townie” book store, which bought several copies.  Icing on the cake.

Like many mountain resort towns, Crested Butte’s shops, restaurants, and art galleries draw crowds of tourists.  But celebrity wealth is less on display than in Aspen or Telluride.  It feels more accessible somehow.  The Old Rock Library’s historic, two-story stone walls embrace a thoroughly modern, well-lighted interior, the kind of classy, comfortable place that makes you want to curl up with a good book when those summer rains fall.

David J

Crested Butte Dragon Slayer 180 dpiThis fanciful dragon slayer greets visitors to Crested Butte.  Don’t know what it has to do with wildflowers, mountain biking, skiing or hiking, but it does catch the eye.

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Mr. Alexander

Mr. Alexander

Kolohe Bull

Kolohe Bull

Mr. Alexander and Kolohe joined our Sylvan Dale herd in July 2013.

Some breeds of cattle do better than others when it comes to getting fat on grass.

Come meet our new bulls; Mr. Alexander is a registered Red Devon bull, an English breed preferred by many in the grass-fed beef world for flavorful, tender meat.

Kolohe (Koh-LOH-hay), which means “rascal” in Hawaiian, is a registered Lowline Angus bull, the original angus breed before it was selectively modified over the years for maximum weight on feedlot grain.

Both breeds produce smaller offspring than most cattle used in commercial feedlot operations. This means fewer pounds of meat per animal, but more pounds of meat per acre. The reason: these breeds need a lot less forage to mature.

In other words, they are more efficient in converting grass to meat, so you can have more cattle on a given amount of pasture.

Most of our cows are a mixed red angus breed, also known for tenderness. We’re eagerly looking forward to the offspring produced by this combination. Check back in two years to see the result.

The results are in, and our pure grass-fed beef scored a win.

Every year we retain one small rib-eye steak out of most processed animals to send to a local meat lab to be independently tested for tenderness. Out of forty-one steaks tested, forty scored as tender. The breakdown is as follows:

Very Tender (Shear test score less than 3) 61%
Tender (Shear test score 3-4) 27%
Medium (Shear test score 4-5) 10%
Not Tender (Shear test score greater than 5) 2%

We’re pleased that our Heart-J Beef score high in tenderness, it confirms we’re on the right track in our beef-raising practices. For a more complete discussion of the factors that contribute to tenderness, see The Grass-Feeder’s Dilemma.

Of course, tenderness is a consideration mainly for steaks, about 25% of the cuts in a side of beef. Ground beef—about 40% of what’s included in a bulk purchase—is always tender, because it’s, well, ground.

And the remaining 35 percent of the cuts, mostly roasts and stew meat, are wonderfully tender when properly cooked, slow and over low heat. Six to eight hours in a croc pot is great.

For cooking tips, download our free Heart-J Beef Cooking Guide.

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Sylvan Dale Ranch Heart-J Beef

As of July 24, 2013, we have ground beef on hand, as well as some organ meats.  The ground beef is super-lean, 10% or less fat, and comes in 1 lb. vacuum-wrapped packages.  Ten pounds is the minimum purchase.  Prices are shown below.

10 lbs. – $7.45/lb.  ~~   20 lbs. – $6.95/lb.   ~~   40 lbs. – $6.45/lb.  ~~   80+lbs.  $6.25/lb

Organ meats (heart, liver, tongue) are $4.00 / lb.  We also have some oxtails and some marrow bones at $3.00 / lb.

We are taking advance deposits of $100 on wholes, halves and quarters for beef to be processed this fall.  The demand for grass-fed beef is growing fast, and we are already three-quarters sold out for our fall availability.  Beef is provided in the order that deposits are received.  As of July 24, those who place bulk orders can expect to receive the beef in late November. 

To place an order, please contact Kathi at 970-691-9373, or email Kathi.  More information available at our Heart-J Beef website.

It wasn’t your usual gate crasher. Long legs, big ears and a schnozz the size of Rhode Island. A young moose, big enough to be dangerous, splashed into the end-of-the-week party for fifty guests at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch Friday night.

Moose at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

Moose Swings by Sylvan Dale


 At one point the moose appeared to be headed for the buffet line of fresh rainbow trout and grass-fed beef bar-b-que, but the flashes of cell phone cameras seemed to dissuade it.
Moose swimming in Daddy-J

Loch-Moose!

The moose was last seen heading up the Big Thompson River toward highway 34.

David J

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Sylvan Dale Ranch in Loveland, Colo. has been awarded funding to incorporate new breeding stock into the farm’s cattle herd. Animal Welfare Approved announced the 2012-2013 Good Husbandry Grants which help promote sustainable, forward thinking farming techniques and Sylvan Dale Ranch was among the 42 grants that have been awarded to farms and slaughter plants across the nation. The grants are intended to improve animal welfare and allow pasture-based farmers to increase productivity for their operations. This is the fifth year of the program. Read more on Sylvan Dale Receives Grant from Animal Welfare Approved…