After a couple of days of cool temperatures and on and off rain showers, the sun came out this afternoon here at Rock Hills Ranch. I was reasonably caught up on my list of things to do, so I decided to call it a week and take a little walk out through the pasture. My little walk turned in to a jaunt of better than five miles.
As I circled the northwest part of the ranch, I crossed paths with a good number of the members of our grasslands ecosystem. Among them were numerous pheasants, a sharp tailed grouse, a badger, a thirteen line ground squirrel, several ducks, a couple of white-tailed deer, several mule deer, some rabbits, a red tailed hawk, a pair of redwing blackbirds, many western meadowlarks, a number of other songbirds that I was unable to identify, a horse, and a couple hundred cows. I also saw insects of every shape, size, and description and plant varieties without number. All of these organisms– together with the rocks, soil, water, and air– come together to make up the great grasslands ecosystem that we value so highly here on the ranch.
I had plenty of time to think things over while I was out on my walk, and I have three take-away thoughts in particular that I would like to share with you.
1. When the Lord made these hills, He certainly made something very special. When you are sitting by yourself on a rock on top of the highest hill in the back pasture, looking out over miles upon miles of grasslands, it gives a unique perspective on the world and your place in it. These hills have lasted for centuries, sharing their beauty with anyone who would come and look. There is a reason that families live and work here for generations; they have found something special and they aren’t anxious to leave it. These grasslands are a great gift, and we should all take the time to enjoy them whenever we get the opportunity.
2. While they look huge and empty from a distance, these hills are full of life when you are up in them. I mentioned the many creatures that I saw on my walk partly to make a point. There are many different individuals that call the grasslands home, but they are all part of the same biosphere and are heavily dependent on one another. If any one of the many plant or animal populations are depleted, many others are adversely affected. The symbiotic relationships between them are often delicate, but when they all come together they make up the beautiful web that is our ecosystem.
3. As stewards of this biome, it is our responsibility to work to protect and conserve this great gift. There are many ways small and large that we can do this, and all are important. Just this week we have worked on several projects here on the ranch to help keep our ecosystem healthy and thriving. Over the past few days I have installed bird ramps in several water tanks. These ramps help birds and other small animals to get a drink from cattle water tanks without falling in. Should they end up in the water, these ramps help them to escape unharmed. This helps protect many songbirds, and also helps maintain good quality water for other animals to drink. I have also made and set a number of dung beetle traps. We are in the process of trying to get a handle on what dung beetle species we have here on the ranch and what we can do to protect them (I hope to dedicate an entire post to this project next week). Luke has spent a number of days this week spraying invasive weeds to help preserve the habitat of native grasses and promote better grazing areas. Lyle and Luke also planted food plots this week. These will be used for pheasant hunting in the fall, but they are also an important source of food and shelter for countless bird species throughout the year.
I hope that I have been able to convey some of what I saw and thought about on my walk today. No matter how effectively I write, however, it could never hope to take the place of seeing and feeling these things for yourself. So the next time you get the chance, come on out to the grasslands. Appreciate the amazing place that they are. Witness the life that fills them. And do your part to insure the sustainable health of this wonderful ecosystem.