BARBWIRE BOB – 8-11-22

Recently, I had the pleasure of shopping at a Safeway Store.  They are now owned by Albertsons.  I was very pleased at the selections, and the modern décor of the store.  The meat counter was especially attractive, but beef prices have increased substantially. 

I was also surprised at the price increase of Campbell soup and the introduction of the smaller cans. Progressive brands have also gone up considerably.  In fact, grocery prices have risen dramatically.  

The reasons make sense: supply line challenges, droughts in certain farm areas, the rising cost of farm labor, if any labor is available, and the world conflict in Ukraine and COVID-19. 

I read that Russia is allowing Ukraine to ship wheat from one of the  ports, that is puzzling since the Russians have a fleet of ships in the Black Sea and can seize the shipments.  I surmise that selling the wheat gives Ukraine funds to carry on the war.  This conflict is becoming more complex and confusing as it continues.  I’m speculating that Russia has what they wanted in disputed territory and may be happy with a truce.  However, Ukraine will not settle and will continue the fight, but they are vastly outnumbered.  Time will tell, but the selling of wheat may be a breakthrough to end the conflict.

When I reached the vegetable section of Safeway it is almost astonishing to see onions and potatoes selling  at over $1 a pound.

That brings me back to my ranch gardening days as a youth. We planted acres of potatoes and some onions, but potatoes were a major crop.

To plant a potato, you have to dissect them into quarter-size pieces, always leaving an eye to produce a new plant.  We would dip the pieces in a creosote solution to thwart off any insects before planting.

As I mentioned in my last ranch trilogy, after World War ll ended Ford Motor Company turned their war factories into producing farm tractors.  In a period of five years we had three Ford tractors that were used for all ranch activities, once done by teams of horses.

My creative father invented a seedbox that was placed on the back of the Ford tractor and it would be filled with the processed “spuds.”  My job was to sit on the back of the tractor and pull a lever dropping a quartered potato into a deep plowed furrow of fertile soil.  We could go down the rows and over the five-acre plot very quickly and efficiently.  Another use of the tractors was to harrow the hay fields, spreading the cow manure across the grassy meadows as natural fertilizer.   One tractor came with a mowing machine to cut the hay,  another to pull a hay rake, and we purchased a fourth larger Allis-Chalmers tractor to gather and push the hay to the stacker that was pulled skyward onto the stack with another Ford tractor.  We had a large white gasoline tank filled with Conoco petroleum from the Craig distributor. Fossil fuels had arrived.

The mechanical age greatly increased production.  Horses were only used to “punch” cattle to open range, BLM permits, and private lands located in higher cooler elevations.  Some of the high county lands were called the “Danforth Hills,” located between Craig and Meeker.  In later years, a source of coal for metropolitan cities.

Early in my newspaper career, as a Jaycee member in the Craig chapter, we won the best  project in America for saving elk from Estes Park that were to be slaughtered. With park ranger’s help we trapped the elk with hay in the Estes Park Rocky Mountain National Park area and transported them by truck to those old cattle ranges.  This transplant over the years has helped restart the challenged elk herds in Northwest Colorado. “Saving the Elk” was acclaimed the best Junior Chamber project in the United States.

Around the Fourth of July, my father would surprise us at breakfast with fresh new potatoes harvested from the potato patch.

In later summer, using the Ford tractor with an attached plow, the spuds would be cultivated out of the furrows and hand gathered into sacks.  Some spuds were sold, but most put in our large root cellar in bins.  At today’s prices  we would have made a small fortune.

We had a huge vegetable garden that fed the ranch hay crew and our family for the entire year. Fruits and vegetables were canned and placed on shelves in the root cellar.  It was a great grocery store.

The ranch had entered the mechanical age, driven by fossil fuels making us dependent upon vital petroleum products.  Gas and oil exploration exploded in Western Colorado, giving way to the huge oil field in Rangely, new jobs, and tax dollars flowed to local governments.  America was hard at work as our soldiers came home.

TO BE CONTINUED: