Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WWOOFers Meet Bison

We have had a whole lotta fun stuff going on at the farm lately, but I will come back to that later and skip ahead to today, which was our first full day with three young WWOOFers from Pennsylvania, Ross, Evelyn and Anna.  They will be here for two weeks, immersing themselves in farm life for their high school senior projects.

This morning they weeded in the greenhouse, clearing out the grass that has been creeping in from the edges and along the paths. Then we headed to Shepard Buffalo farm for a little adventure.
Last summer when I interviewed Ron Shepard for my Prairie Air radio show, he told me his favorite day of the year is the day the bison are released to the spring pasture, giddy and joyful after the long winter. I asked if I could watch this spring and he kindly agreed. Today was the big day, and Ross, Evelyn and Anna happened to be here for it. The ground was too soft for Ron’s truck, so he built a special platform for his skid loader, for all of us to ride out to the pasture on and use as a viewing platform, safe above the bison herd. We set up our observation post where the bison would run past and then Ron went up the hill to open the gate to the chute.
The bison had been eagerly watching from teh top of the hill, ready to head down to the pasture, so as soon as he opened the gate Ron raced straight back downhill to the skid steer as the bison wound their way through the chute, then down the hill to the pasture.
Ron has about 20  adult cows, the herd bull, plus yearling and two-year-old  animals and 17 new calves so far this year. Some years the  bison run crazily, leaping and frolicking, happy to be in the new pasture, but this time when they reached the tall grass, they stopped and began grazing.
Ron seemed a bit disappointed they didn’t give us a big show, but it was  pretty impressive to us just to see them galloping across the field, and so close.
The calves are so darn cute.
The bison are in various stages of shedding their winter coats.
Contented grazing on lush grass. Surprisingly,  the bison did not really seem to mind when we drove up close to the herd, even with the young calves.
Some waded out into the pond.
The adventure was not yet over... Ron allowed the interns to take turns driving the skid steer back up the hill to the farm yard.
Profile of a skid steer operator.
Ross expertly maneuvers through the gate.
Then they got to  drive the ATV.
Probably nearly as much fun as weeding the greenhouse.
We cannot thank Ron and Bonnie  enough for this awesome experience.
Tonight we topped off a memorable day with grilled bison burgers from Shepard Buffalo Farm for supper-- absolutely delicious! (You can purchase Shepard Buffalo Farm meat at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market on Saturdays.)

Now the only problem is, it is going to be hard to top this first day of WWOOFing!


ron shepard said...

Great pictures Susan. Enjoyed having Ross, Evelyn and Anna at the farm. Chef Don was a nice tag along too. I know your group will enjoy the two weeks at Squash Blossom Farm.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the US Postal Service with Ron for many years and always loved hearing his Bison farming stories. I can attest to his passion to life on the farm.
So thankful to your follow-up story and photos. Maybe he can invite you back next year....after mud season. (Ask Ron)
Joe Schneider Eagan MN