san luis valley

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January 21, 2015


“It’s people that make the difference. Little people like you.”
Frank Shirley

God taught me a lesson about fifteen years ago. I originally went to school for automotive repair. I got a job at a dealership a few years after school. I shared a garage with about ten other technicians. I had to listen to about ten different radio stations all day. That and I always had a customer who wanted to watch while I fixed their

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January 16, 2015

Getting Mobbed by Bison

At this time in the Zapata grazing plan we have the large horse herd out on vacation grazing with our older bison herd. Now and then I ride along with Brett to go and check on them. As we go through the pastures, Brett will feed cake to the bison herd, first sounding the loud train horn to attract the bison’s attention.
They run toward the truck for what is an exciting delivery and we drop grain pellets that we call

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September 12, 2014


We’ve recently had an exciting edition to the Zapata crew. Executive chef Robbie Douglas joined us two weeks ago and has already made a brilliant impact. Robbie’s passions are local produce, seasonal goods and  cooking outdoors. He has already cooked a number of early morning breakfasts over the fire at the corrals while the guests and crew saddle horses before sunrise. Robbie’s wonderful family have moved to the ranch and settling in fast with plans of chickens, ducks, gardens and hoop houses

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August 15, 2014

Simple Pleasures

Today we had a friend visit with her twin granddaughters from Switzerland. One of the highlights for the twins was riding in the back of the truck to the corrals. It’s fun getting to do the things you don’t get to do everyday and some of those things like riding in the back of trucks are always fun.  It feels like you’re going somewhere on a mission, somewhere special, all loaded up to go, exposed to the elements. I think this is

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July 8, 2014

Grazing Games

Cattle are a tool.  Used properly they are an asset.  Used improperly, they are a liability.  Bottom line is, if you use a screwdriver to hammer nails, it’s not the screwdriver’s fault.

Through proper management, grass that is grazed by cattle and then given adequate rest, sequestrates carbon into the soil by collecting solar energy, growing roots that aerate the soil, trapping water and preventing topsoil runoff.

Left unused it simply seeds out and dies.  Because it’s not grazed there is no

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June 30, 2014

Kate and Queenie

If you can’t tell, Kate is more than a little enthused. This is her new horse Queenie successfully checking off the “roping” box at the last Zapata branding after weeks of working up to the occasion.

Kate loves working with horses and it looks like the muscular, stout Queenie will be game for life on the Zapata.

Kate’s other horse is a two year old who might end up outsizing Queenie, revealing a trend with Kate’s preference for horses – big and

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May 30, 2014

Iris Season

It’s iris season at Zapata! Each spring I look forward to the first bloom which always comes sooner than anticipated (mid-end May). All of the meadows on the northern side of the ranch turn purple with flowers that only last a couple of weeks. The iris is commonly called the “Western Blue Flag” or “Rocky Mountain Iris” and is native to CO. It tastes bitter to livestock, so the bison leave it untouched for us to enjoy.

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May 13, 2014

New Pastures

It sounds like a typical western story but after a long hard winter we are in to the growing season and the horses couldn’t be more relieved. We have split the herd in two  so that we can keep the horses we’re using right now closer to home and let the other half have downtime for another week or so further out. Each year we look to see which horses had a hard time keeping condition through the winter, if

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May 5, 2014

Dollar Lake

A time-lapse of Dollar Lake, showing the quick transition from Winter to Spring at Zapata Ranch.

April 10, 2014


Green-up is finally here but just barely.  The cattle, bison, horses, and wildlife are “chasing” the green grass coming up; however, the term “chasing” means precisely how it sounds.  There’s not enough green yet to go around which means animal condition is still on the downhill.  Once a grazer tastes green they will no longer touch the old dormant feed even if it is plentiful and even if they would benefit more from it.  As the ground temperatures raise more

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