Hi, my name is Drew (2.0) and I’m one of the lucky new interns at Nourish the Planet. My first week as an intern at the Mountain Sky Ranch has come to a close and I can already tell that this is the kind of place where there is truly never a dull moment.
I started on a cold Wednesday morning with a few inches of snow coating the valley. The drive up was slow going, but nothing beats a beautiful view of the snowy foothills and a frozen Carter Lake to get you excited for the day. I had my warm jacket, gloves, and a packed lunch and I was ready to dive into any of the various projects that I knew lay ahead. Day one started with Jeanine and Ben giving me a tour of the facilities and a run-down of upcoming projects.
With three dogs in tow we walked through the snow to the site where Ben plans on starting a vegetable plot this spring. It was hard to imagine that in just a few months there would be a lush garden with many different kinds of crops, when all I could see was the white landscape sprawling in front of me, but I could tell Ben had the schematic in his head and the knowledge to see it through and I felt excited to help make it happen.
After talking through some of the basic ideas for the veggie plot, while throwing sticks for our dog chaperones, we headed back to the “pit,” or the main quarry, where most of the infrastructure for NTP is located. Ben continued to give me a more in-depth tour of the containers that will be used for aquaponics and micro-greens, as well at the seemingly endless supply of tools, building materials, and recycled parts that lay about in the retired quarry.
My mind buzzed through project ideas as my eyes flicked over shelves and shelves of diverse materials, but it was cold, cold for a North Carolinian at least, and it was soon time to end the tour and make a welcome stop in the warm office. I got to work entering some of the back-logged data from the micro-green projects and continued with that for a couple of hours until it was time for lunch, after which Ben told me we were going on an exploratory mission to one of the old RVs in the pit – another welcome change of pace after a morning mostly filled with data entry.
We got bundled up again and went to inspect the RV that hadn’t been on the road since the 1990s and hadn’t been used in who knows how long. Ben, who had just moved to the ranch a week before, told me he hoped to fix up the old RV to have more living space available for other people to be able to come and stay at the ranch, but years of neglect had left it ill equipped for a tenant. We got to work and for the rest of the day cleaned out the forgotten utensils and furniture from the RV and took the first step in its revitalization. At the end of the day I was once again happy to sit in the warm office for a bit and chat with my new co-workers over tea.
Day two, however, was totally different. The warm(ish) sunny day started not at Mountain Sky Ranch but at Cresset Farms in northern Fort Collins, where 40 odd chickens and an old chicken coop awaited relocation. I arrived a bit early and met Oliver, the head of Cresset Farm, and Sarah and Deb from Mountain Sky Ranch as I sipped my morning tea. The goal, I learned, was to load the old coop on a trailer, load the coop with as many chickens as we could catch, and haul the chicken-filled coop all the way back down to the ranch in Berthoud – no easy task. But with the help of Oli and his team and our own NTP members, we managed, after a few hours, to get everything on the trailer and ready for the move. An hour or so later we had the trailer full of chickens back at the ranch and the difficult task of getting the coop from there to its new home in the pasture.
Luckily we figured out a way to lift the coop with the bobcat and were able to place it in its new home in the Alpaca pasture. Before we could let the chickens explore their new surroundings though, we had to set up a temporary fence (although given a week the chickens would be truly free-range and totally unhindered by barricades), and seal up openings to the coop that predators such as weasels could use to get in.
We had a lot of hands helping at that point though, and it wasn’t long until the chickens were out in the pasture and someone had the great idea to hike to the top of the ridge behind the quarry to finish off the day – and what a way to finish my first week at NTP. A fifteen-minute hike, led by our K-9 companions, left us perched atop the ridge overlooking the valley where we work to the East and the beginning of the Rockies to the West. We watched the sun sink lower in the sky as we took in the view and I realized just how lucky I was to be a part of such a great program with these awesome folks.
– Drew 2.0