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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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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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

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

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

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

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

What makes grass-fed meat healthier is not the amount of Omega 3 (good fat), but the ratio between Omega 6 (bad fat) and Omega 3.  In a phone interview, Dr. Susan Duckett of Clemson University told me that according to the 1994 Lyon Diet Heart Study, lowering the Omega 6 / Omega 3 fat ratio below 2:1 resulted in a 76 percent decrease in human mortality from heart disease.  Read more on Omega 6/Omega 3 Ratio – What’s that got to do with the health of beef?…

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By David Jessup

While industrial grain-fed beef can increase the risk of heart disease, grass-fed beef does not.  Here are some quotes I found from “You docs” Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their Daily Blog:

  •  “Look for the grass-fed beef that’s making its way onto supermarket shelves. It contains up to one-third less saturated fat than grain-fed beef and has some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, too.”  (May 28, 2009)
  • “Like grass-fed beef, wild game meat tends to have more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (that’s the good stuff found in fatty fish)” (December 26, 2009).
  • Go for grass-fed.  It has one-third less saturated fat than regular beef and some good-for-you omega-3s.” (June 14, 2010)

David J

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Fishing report for a hot summer day in mid-July…

By Steve Musick

I arrived before the Ranch was awake….which is hard to do I grant you.  The fishing permit was fastened to the front porch with a rock.  It read, Musick, info on file, 07/14/2009 with an arrow pointing to the river wanting to be as anonymous as possible today.  Sometimes solitude is the soothing elixir for whatever ails the soul.

I rigged up by the horse shoe pits down by Daddy J pond.  It’ll be a couple of hours before the sunshine hits the water here the fish should be comfortable for awhile.  I ran into Chuck Prather, one of the fishing guides here at the ranch.

Got clients here today? Secretly hoping not.

Naw (whew!),  saw yer car and thought I’d come down to yak a bit.  I see the flow is down from last week but it’s still not low enough to cross.  Tough to work the river from just one side this time of year.  Ya fished it much this year?

Yeah, couple of times early in February and March.  He gave me a pattern he said was working well a couple of weeks ago.  It was a brown and orange body with brownish rubber legs.  Couldn’t tell if he was kiddin’ or not…..crazy thing looked goofy like a clown.  Looking down at my black and white Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes size 15 tied on over my neoprene waders I thought I fit right in.  Clown shoes……clown fly.  I decided to drop a gold ribbed hares ear off the goofy pattern just in case.

There is a real nice glide flat with undercut banks down where the rope is stretched across the river presumably to keep the inner tube “swimmers” from ending up in downtown Loveland.  First good drag free drift ended with a nice cutbow in the net.  Next good drift was a brown.  Both fish took the hares ear.  Maybe the goofy fly started them laughing before they decided to eat real food. Moving slowly I worked all the way to where I was standing in midstream, within casting range across to the undercut bank.  It’s so hard to get a drag free drift in there with the swift water at hip level.  I do a hook set after a slight pause of the strike indicator no movement.  Rats!  I’m hung up on something on the bottom.  Then the bottom started moving upstream causing me to lose my balance.   It was all I could do to keep from getting royally baptized.  I finally catch my balance surely looking like a tight rope walker in a high flying act at the circus (now I am really glad for the solitude.) The big brown is still miraculously hooked to the goofy fly.   Nice male hook jaw with an orange and brown rubber legged morsel hanging out the right hand side of his mouth.  Sure enough he was sittin’ underneath that undercut swam out leisurely to take the dead drifted goofy fly.

I carefully cross the river.  Carefully means that I recheck all the Velcro on every pocket and zip all the zippers in my vest.  Anything falls out crossing today is found by a lucky somebody way way down stream.  Water this deep and this fast wading is accomplished by “seeing” the bottom with your feet.  Upstream leg first followed by the trailing leg all the way safely across.  The fish in the canyon section were all acrobats even the 14 and 15 inch variety.  After the hookset they became tailwalkers.  Catching air for a fish seems as unnatural as me trying to save myself from drowning by diving deeper into a place while I still can’t breathe.  And yet that exactly what the acrobats did that morning.  All the fish were a healthy mix of cutbows, rainbows, and browns.  They took the goofy fly more often than the hares ear.  Thanks Chuck.

The river bends to the right and heads for stream construction pools and glides and runs.  My shoulder was tired of catching fish…..did I just write that???? …It was true:  high stick nymphing in fast water is hard.  Time for some dry fly action.  How about a stone fly?  The hatch has been over for weeks but the fish memories might linger I’ll bet. The construction section of the river by the kitchen is wonderful.  Lots of looking up fish remembering the stone fly hatch well.

I walked past some people getting ready to eat lunch.  Don’t see any fish in your net.  I told her it was catch and release.  She said yeah right.  They were meat fisherpeople probably from Iowa.  I heard them all laughing as I trudged off to eat my lunch in solitude.  Distinctly heard them mention the clown shoes.  Shoulda showed ‘em the goofy fly that enticed most of the fish that day.  Laughter is as good for the soul as solitude is sometimes.

Came for solitude received a goofy fly, acrobatic fish, and a clown shoe clod tightrope act of my own.  A cirque de Sylvan day at the ranch I love.


STEVE MUSICK, Annual member and clown for a day

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