For me, the end of the year is all about celebrating Christmas, and I spend much more time preparing for the holiday than I do reflecting on the accomplishments of the year. Today, I was enjoying a solitary ski on top of Kasdorf, and it was fun to think through the events that are classified as a big deal in our book of 2009.
The most significant one for our family was the marriage of our oldest son, David, to his beloved wife, April. She worked for us in the kitchen for three years, and they fell in love basically over a horse. They conducted an admirable courtship that lasted 11 months, and they learned much about each other that puts them leagues beyond most newlyweds. Their wedding ceremony was on Latigo’s front lawn with the pond and the snowcapped mountains decorating the background of that October day. There were 50 people to help us celebrate the day, many of whom were April’s family from southern Illinois. David and April felt thoroughly blessed by the support from their family and friends, and they’re happily living and working in southern Michigan where David has a long list of appreciative clients who have horses needing his expertise.
It’s hard to top that event in our book, but there were some other great things that happened within Latigo’s perimeter last year. The electric company in our county needed to replace all the power poles that lead to Latigo, and we convinced them that the pole by the fishing pond that’s been obstructing photographic success ever since we’ve been here wasn’t necessary. They agreed and managed to remove it before the wedding. The wires still run high overhead, but they aren’t nearly as noticeable and are pretty easy to erase with digital photo editing – if you are so inclined.
Because the pine beetle blight has killed nearly all of the mature lodge pole pine trees in our area, the forest service contracted with loggers to remove some of the dead trees near us. They cleared the standing dead trees 100 feet on each side of Red Dirt Road, and it makes the drive into the ranch look quite different. I’ve missed the first turn a few times now because it doesn’t look the same.
We also struck a deal with a logger who came in and cleared out 77 semi truck loads of our dead trees. He worked around the cabins, in Doe Hollow, behind the barn, and down in the cliffs pasture. They had huge equipment but were very careful to take only diseased and dead trees. To clear as much as they could, they created some roads through what used to be thick woods, and now we have great new ski trails that will also be great riding trails in the summer. Also, rather than just a wall of pine forest, we now have some great new vistas.
Trees just don’t grow very fast at our altitude, but we think that these cleared areas will increase our pasture capacity, and with all the new sunshine hitting the ground, we ought to see lots of young aspen and pines popping up in the nextfew years. Phil and Barb, who have come every winter since we bought Latigo, told us this past weekend that they weren’t disappointed by the change – “It’s simply as beautiful here as it has always been.”
January 12, 2010 marked the 23rd anniversary of our purchase of the ranch. We can’t begin to tell you how delighted we are to have written our last mortgage check this fall. Business was off last summer and we’re in a tougher spot financially this winter than we’ve been for a long time, but we thank God that we have at least conquered the mortgage.