Introducing Melanie

Being at Rock Hills Ranch has put many other things on my mind besides my now-distant life and self from California, but I’ve been told that these are just the things that you, gentle readers, would like to hear about. I reluctantly comply, but add that I would much rather be learning about you, so feel free to contact me or recommend things that I experience. I’ll be interning at RHR until the end of August.


My furry traveling companion and I arrived in Lowry on August 1, having driven over 1,500 miles from San Diego. Ovid, who is named after a Roman poet on account of his scholarly whiskers, behaved mostly poetically on the journey (save for one incident involving a taco); but with hindsight I now see that he was conserving his occult powers for deployment on the ranch. While I was moved by the grandeur of the prairie and fantasies of what it would have been like to see it peopled with the diverse cultures that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans, Ovid was pumped to see Sturgis brewing before the big event. And so it is that progeny stray.













My own interest in the indigenous cultures of the Americas is probably related to my profession as an anthropologist. An anthropologist is a social scientist who studies humans: sometimes living, sometimes dead, sometimes aspects of their culture, behavior, or biology.


In my case, I’m a linguistic anthropologist, which means I study the communicative behavior of living people. I do my research in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, among a group of people who speak an indigenous language called Zapotec, as well as Spanish. Zapotec was spoken in Mexico long before the Spaniards arrived, and is not related to or similar to Spanish.


My research focuses on how bilinguals conceptualize and talk about space, and on how bilingual children acquire spatial concepts in two very different languages. I have spent a total of 30 months living with Zapotec speakers in Oaxaca, gathering video recordings of people communicating in both languages. Although my research topic is specialized, I also teach more general anthropology, linguistics, and writing classes to undergraduate students at the University of California, San Diego, where I am currently in the homestretch of my Ph.D. program. Perhaps in my next post I will say more about my research and how I ended up here in Lowry, but now on to more pressing matters.


Because I have spent time in the Oaxacan countryside, I know at least a couple of things about small towns, and thus would like to issue the following official statement: anyone whoso finds themselves inclined to matchmaking is hereby warned that in addition to being over 30, I can survive scarcely a year without international travel, and my cooking is intolerably spicy.


-Melanie McComsey

Sand’s in the Air

Recently I toured the Sand Ranch in Forbes North Dakota. I started the day by checking cows looking them over for any health problems.  Then Melanie (the new August intern) and I took off for North Dakota. As we arrived we registered and paid our dues for the dinner that was going to be provided! We all piled on to flatbed trailers and fixed our keasters on some good ole hay benches. One of the first things I noticed was the use of permanent two strand high tensile wire fence. They used to have 16 pastures that encompassed 2300 acres. This high tensile wire plus poly wire have turned 16 into 65 pastures in just four years. This then allows them to experiment and have such a cushion of grass. For instance, if they wanted to try using grazing weed control in a certain pasture that has a lot of wormwood they can graze it heavily. If it does not work out then they have 64 other pastures to go into. Their average pasture size is forty acres. Then they use poly wire to make those into twenty acre paddocks. Another advantage to doing this is to use a high intensity stock grazing.  They had three to four herds and combined them all into one herd. By doing this they have seen a large amount of native grasses come back into their pastures along with a vast amount of diversity. 

Cody explaining the water situation. You can see the blue calf water tank in the background."It should of been lower”Cody explained. It was the fabricators first ever calf water tank. The prototype!

Another thing I found very interesting is a twelve foot tire tank with a curb stop floatation device in it. They also had calf water fabricated to allow calves to water. They found that a problem created by this high intensity style of grazing was the capacity of the water tanks for the calves as well as the cows.

Cody and Deanna talked a lot on improving the quality of life, being able to spend time with their family and not letting the ranch run their lives. One of the things that they have done is to put up little to no hay for the winter. Instead they stock pile grass on pasture. They hit the corn fields in the winter and then in the early spring they have grass stockpiled to use before the growing season. Not having to spend so much time haying has allowed the growth of another business, a custom saddle making business.

The familys saddle shop. A great way to improve the quality of life in my opinion.

On the tour we stopped by crop land that the family has owned for only four years. The ground was very mismanaged when they purchased it. The effects of tillage and no cover crop usage caused the top soil on these hills to sluff away, so they have been bale grazing the hills to try and return the top soil and allow grass to grow there.

bale grazing
Bale grazing on the hill to help improve soil health in that area.

It was a wonderful experience to me to see people thinking out side of the box that I feel a lot of people get stuck into. A special thanks to Cody and Deanna Sand for allowing the tour on their place. It gave me a lot of ideas and confidence to go out and try some of these practices out when I manage or own my own ranch.

Till next post “Watch your top knot” Readers.


Sam Newell