Thursday, August 29, 2013

Those Pesky Bugs

 Pesticide Workshop

On a Tuesday afternoon, we had just finished our duties working outside. We had been at the same property, Beaver Creek IZ. Richard Nelson gathered his team and brought them in to the conference room. We had not been told prior to this little meeting what we were actually doing. As he put on his glasses, he started passing around papers. He then explained that we were about to have a pesticide class. He wanted all of us to be knowledgeable workers about the chemicals, preparations, and cautions that are absolutely vital when dealing with different products.

He asked us to take notes and take what he was teaching us very seriously. In previous years, we did not have the opportunity to learn about pesticides, so it was fun to learn something new! 

The correct measurements are very important when mixing the chemicals. You have to wear the right equipment such as, goggles, a mask, and gloves. Richard took us to the supply shed after he talked through everything. This was a great example of "hands-on learning" or better put by Cal Poly, "Learn by Doing". After looking at the chemicals, Richard then walked us over to the creek where the weeds are that he was teaching us about. He pointed out what they looked like, and then asked us to distinguish them. It was difficult at first, but then we got a hang of it after awhile practicing! 

After the evening workshop, the team was then all capable of taking turns spraying weeds. On a typical work day, when the team would go to Beaver Creek, usually two team members would stay back to spray weeds all day. So the remainder of the trip, we switched off walking along the creek. We were mainly focused on spraying hemlock, a poisonous plant that would harm the grazing cattle. We had our five gallon spraying equipment, and took our time walking along spraying. It was a tedious job, but a very important job nonetheless! If we skipped just one hemlock plant along the way, that could kill a cow later down the road and the ranch could lose profit. Pressure! But as long as we took our time, paid attention to detail and worked hard, we did not have to worry. 

Five gallon sprayers ready to go after a team member and I finished the preparations. 
Ready to go spray along the creek! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

So Many Tractors

At IZ Ranch, there are so many types of vehicles we used on the job! Most of them were different types of tractors, and I got to drive them all! These included a Catepillar, Skidster, Gradall, and Back Hoe. Each one was large and powerful, so driving them was quite the task.

The Gradall is a tractor I had already driven before. It is shown in the picture below. We used the Gradall to lift piles of wood for the shed, old wood scraps, trash, and even used it to tear down all the old buildings. 

The Skidster was a very important asset on the job. It is small, easily maneuvered and can tear apart, lift and carry items. It is multi-functional! However, because we were dealing with old wood and tearing apart buildings we had nails and old scrap metal everywhere. We had to be very careful to not drive over them! This would have popped a tire. Even though we avoided the nails and metal -- one of our team members got to close to a cement slab we were cleaning up and accidentally scraped the side of one of the Skidster's tires. We had to shut down the work with the Skidster for the rest of that day in order to replace the tire. Nonetheless, we had the Skidster up and running again in no time!

The Back Hoe is an excellent tractor. We used two different Back Hoes at Beaver Creek. One was very old - about 30+ years old. But we were still able to work with it! We used the Back Hoe to demolish old buildings. The team took turns using the Back Hoe to pull off walls and roofs of the white house, barn and different sheds. The Back Hoe has front steering and when parked and stabilized, you spin your chair to the back and use different controllers for "the claw". It almost feels like a video game -- all the controllers! Yet way more powerful and serious!!! 

The Caterpillar is the final huge machinery the team used at Beaver Creek IZ. For team members that had been to IZ before, we had used the three other tractors in previous years. So the Caterpillar was the tractor that was a brand new lesson of equipment to learn. This was very exciting! The Caterpillar was used to grade out -- "squish' -- the old barn once it was demolished. The wood pile was huge! So the Caterpillar drove over all the wood, scraps, and old dirt! This machine is very powerful. The driver must be very focused and attentive to the work they are doing with the Caterpillar. Caution and attentiveness is obviously necessary for all tractors, but the Caterpillar felt even more serious because it is massive in size. 

A teammate driving the Gradall!
The Caterpillar. 

Let's Take a Trip

Each summer, the IZ Ranch recruits a work crew to clean and maintain a specific site for their business. The site I worked on this summer, like I had previously mentioned before, was not the only site. I spent the last three summers working at the IZ Ranch, so I was fortunate enough to see three other sites. Since my grandparents run the business, I am also well in tune with what sort of properties are connected to the IZ Ranch.

On Sundays, we were able to tour the entire ranch! It was very fascinating to see some of the other sites from previous years I had worked at the Ranch and to see how they were making progress. I usually saw the properties at their beginning stages, but many of these sites have gone well past where I saw them at. 

Our first stop on the tour was called Bruce's Corner. This was last year's work site. We had torn up the existing barbed wire fence and built a new barbed wire fence. It looked great! It was amazing to see the hard work continues to pay off, as the owner of IZ is proud of and grateful for his teams accomplishments!

A glimpse of Beaver Creek IZ.

Looking at a water spring at Bruce's Corner.

Another perspective of IZ.

During our tour on the first Sunday we were at IZ, we were driving the back hills and someone spotted elk! I had never seen an elk before! A huge herd was running over the mountains. The road we were on was perfect because we could see them from a distance, and the hills they were running through paralleled the road, so we could follow them for a bit. It was so exciting! We had binoculars that we passed around to each other. The picture below shows the elk running across the mountains. They are hard to see, but the elk are mid- left of the picture. Try to spot them!

Painting the Town

On site at the ranch, there were a lot of other properties other than the one I was specifically working and living on. One of these was the Borge house, and my team was asked to work there to help assist with one single job: painting. It sounds like a light job, just touch up and paint. However, don't be fooled. We were not just asked to paint one thing and touch up a few spots. No, we were asked to paint  the fence, barn, house, shed, smaller house, and corral. Each was a new task in itself, and let me say I am quite the painter now. Maybe even close to a professional painter if there is such a thing!

We had our team of eight, and split up four and four at each end of the corral. Two on each side of the fence, we painted away! We painted the three boards, including the tops and bottoms. The paint is a specific paint that is very oily and very strong in smell in which IZ uses for all its corrals, feeding troughs, buildings and barns. It is a rustic red orange color. The hard part with this specific paint is that it needs three coats total. The base, then a different can called: 2, 3. 

Painting the whole corral took half the day. We also painted the barn, the small house and the shed. This same day we also started taping the windows of the bigger house. Painting in the heat all day long was quite tiring in its own way! It was good to mix up the work days by having a paint day in the middle of the week, but we were all ready to go back to Beaver Creek IZ after this day! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not Just About the Overalls

Our time at the IZ Ranch was not just about the tasks we did out on the field. Although I loved sporting my denim overalls, my time and work there was not just about getting my hands dirty. I learned this summer so much about the other work that had to go into making the IZ Ranch a successful agricultural business. 

On my team, we had to learn to communicate amongst ourselves effectively. With a plethora of personalities and expectations, it was important we delegated tasks and sought out explaining what each person would be working on that day. Our team leader would either inform us before we got to the worksite of what our task would be for the day. Sometimes there would be another job for the day that was not at the main work site (Beaver Creek IZ) so our team leader would tell us before breakfast who those people would be that needed to stay back. 

Not only did we have to communicate with everyone on our team, but we also needed to communicate with our superiors the things we accomplished so they could organize our time and their time to be well spent. They would check on how things were going during our water breaks. During this time as snacks and water was passed around, the whole team was able to connect and discuss what was working and what was not. Our leader would re-evaluate and make adjustments to either the job or the people working on that job. He would do this often in order for everyone to have the opportunity to work with everyone on the team at some point. He mixed us up constantly. Most of the time there were two or three people working on a specific job on the site, so he would rotate people so everyone could learn to work together with every team member.

Learning to work with different personalities was important! I thought it was great that our leader saw the value in creating a dynamic work site through creating the different teams. As a team member, I could tell that our leader cared about our success - not just as hard working, efficient ranch workers, but as leaders of integrity in daily life as well. Our leader would check in with us not just during the work day. Because we were all living together in close quarters, there was plenty of time that we all could have got irritated by one another. It was amazing that there were no 'blow up' disagreements! I truly believe that leaders with integrity who have a servants heart towards those they are leading, has the potential to be so much more effective! Our leader wanted his team to know each other - to not just be co-workers on the ranch, but to be friends who knew about each other's lives. This was wonderful because at the end of the time, we were all such good friends and did not want to part our separate ways and say bye! Our team really bonded through the hard work, which created lasting memories. 

Some of my friends and our team.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Finally Building Something

In previous years at the IZ Ranch, I built numerous structures. I had become very handy with a hammer and nail as well as a variety of other tools and skills in regards to building. With this past experience, I came into this summer with the expectations I would be able to utilize my skills in building yet again. However, as you have read, that was not really what happened. We mostly worked in demolition and a bit of painting. Both completely different than building!

But, my team was assigned ONE lone task to build. I was so excited to be able to use the skills I had from previous years to finally do something I was already good at. We were asked to build a shed from the ground up.

First, we had to lay the foundation. This included a lot of cement work and was hard to get just right. It was important we didn't mess up the foundation so that the shed would last in rough weather conditions as well as without a lot of upkeep. After the foundation had been laid, we built the frame of the shed. In this process, I was able to hone my skills using a nail gun and skill saw. I also measured the frame with my team specifically so all the boards would all fit together. Our leader taught us well, reminding us of proper measurements to make sure it was done correctly. When the frame was ready to go, I helped finish the side paneling and the roof so the other parts of the shed could be added to the frame. After a few solid days focused on the shed, we completed this project! I helped build this shed from scratch, and it was so neat to see something finally be built while at the IZ Ranch this summer. Like I mentioned before, this was the only building project on the our Beaver Creek Site this year!

Building the frame.

Hauling some boards.

Checking measurements. 

Side panels up!

From a distance it's looking good!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Odd Jobs

Demolition was a huge part of my work experience at the IZ ranch this year, but it was not the only thing I did for two weeks! We were also asked to do a few other odd jobs.

The first odd job we had was to take apart a fence. There was three of us working on a fence that was connected to the first shed we tore down. So in order to knock down the shed, we had to tear apart the old rustic fence. At certain points it was quite difficult because the fence used tree trunks as part of the structure. So along the way, we had to push through branches and other bushes. We cut the old wire, and wrenched out the old bolts, collecting the metal pieces as we went along. This job was difficult at first, but putting your head down and focusing was all you needed to see the job done! And our team worked well together - and we finished in no time!

Next, my team took apart a corral! This was similar to tearing apart the fence, but it was much bigger, with a lot more wood boards to clean up. We used the Skidster tractor and the Gradall to pick up our scraps that we tore apart. We also used both of the tractors to rip apart the old corral. Once we had all the boards and nails cleared away, we used the Skidster to pull out the big posts. To pull out the old eroded wood post, we connected a chain to the bucket of the Skidster and wrapped the other end of it around the post. We lifted up the bucket to pull out the post and drop it on the ground next to the hole. This odd job took a couple days. 

Lastly, it was really important for us to clean the property. This meant picking up trash and old boards as well as making scrap piles of wood, trash, and metal to sort out everything. This was an ongoing task. Throughout our time working, we constantly had to clean while we were going. Some days it seemed that was the only job - cleaning up! But because the last owners of Beaver Creek left so much random stuff, we had to sort through everything and get the property organized. The metal scraps piled high! At the end of our time, we would have a tractor come out that drives over the metal pile with a magnet and picks up the pile. How cool is that? So as much as it was a tedious job to sort through the trash, metal scraps and wood pieces, it was well worth it because we want to keep the ranch as beautiful as it can be! 

Trying to keep the Ranch this beautiful.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Days of Demolition

In the last year, IZ Ranch purchased additional property. This was our work site for the majority of our time at the Ranch. The site was called Beaver Creek IZ.

Since the property I worked at had just been purchased, there were a plethora of structures on the piece of land that needed to be taken down. And demolished. They were all in very bad shape and not usable anymore. I had not worked a lot in demolition before, and it was so interesting to learn how to properly take things down and apart. 

The four big projects we had in regards to demolition were a shop, a shed, three larger buildings, and a white house.

The shop.
This building was one of our first jobs on the site. The building was old, had eroding wood, and was full of treasures! We cleaned out the shop; collecting old metal scraps, car pieces, tools and trash we began to sort through everything that was left in the shop from the previous owner. There was so much stuff! We wore masks on our faces for the old dust that has been festering in the shop for quite some time. The process of cleaning out the shop was long and lasted a great time, but it had to be done before we demolished it. We tore off the wood sides of the barn as well - having to take out each old rusted nail! It took major patience! Once we had our piles outside of the shop of wood, metal and trash, we were set to use one of the many tractors we had on site, to pull apart the shop. This building was the biggest out of all that we demolished. It was quite something to see it fall to the ground! It turned in to a huge messy pile. Once it was knocked down, we had to go in there carefully and pull off the metal tin roofing from the wood. This was a job that lasted multiple days.

A shed.
This building was on the opposite side of the property on the other side of the white house. The shed was much easier in comparison to the shop. It was much smaller than the shop and did not have anything we needed to take out from inside. We used the Gradall tractor to pull off the roof first and drove it over, in as much as one piece as we could, and placed it in a new wood pile. Then we knocked down each wall and tore it apart! We tried to be efficient by keeping the wood pile in one area, as we had three more little sheds next to this one that we needed to take down as well.

Three buildings: Dusty, Rusty.
This demolition project was quite productive only lasting a couple days. Three small sheds were in a row next to the first shed. All these needed to be taken down because the ranch owner had no use for them. These little sheds were quite dusty and we had to first prep one of them before we tore it down. This was the chicken coop shed. It had chicken wire and rusted nails that needed to be taken apart so we could separate the metal from the old wood. 

The White House Extravaganza. 
At Beaver Creek IZ, there was an old house from 1892. The ranch owner was going to save the house and just restore its foundation and touch it up. However, this would cost a huge sum of money and the maintenance required to keep it up and running would be tons of work as well. The construction manager of the ranch informed the owner that the foundation is on a creek, so the house literally has an unstable foundation. He explained that the cost definitely outweighs the benefit of keeping the house and restoring it. The rancher owner went back and forth deciding what to do. One day, our team leader would say: "We're tearing down the white house!" And the team would get all prepared and excited to take down the old house. Then the next day, he would say: "Actually we're keeping it!" This carried on like this for about a week and a half. The ranch owner wanted to make sure that it was the best idea to tear it down. In the end he decided to do so, because he could then build a new house for his cowboys and it would be much more functional and practical. 

So the demolishing process began! 

For one whole day the team got to take out windows, take apart doors, take out trash, and punch holes in the wall if they felt like it. The house was coming down! And this job was after we had spent a few days taking out everything that was left from the previous owners. Like the shop, the white house had furniture, kitchen appliances and random house essentials that were left in the hands of IZ ranch. 

The next step was knocking down the chimney. This was the first demolition move from a tractor. One of the team members used the Gradall to tear apart the rock chimney.
We then took turns tearing apart the different walls. 

It was amazing watching our team leader maneuver the Back Hoe to take off walls. We learned there was technique in taking down a house. There were multiple levels in the house, and it was so old that you have to be careful. Also, if you want an organized pile of the demolished house in the end, then going slow is key. 

We took a whole day demolishing the white house. It was very exciting at the end of the day to see our pile of destruction. 

First step was the chimney!

Side lifted by the Gradall.

Starting to come down!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life at the Ranch

Hello readers!

This summer I had the awesome opportunity to work at Beaver Creek IZ Ranch in Oregon! So much happened while I was there! I learned a lot about working with others, the up-keep of a such a large property, and numerous skills needed to keep IZ Ranch in tact. There were definitely ups and downs, but my overall experience definitely helped me understand how such a large agricultural business is productive and successful from essentially the ground up.

For my first blog post, I would love to sort of fan out the basics of a daily routine for working life at IZ ranch. We would wake up every morning at 5:30 am. I know what some of you are thinking, "That is TOO early!" It was a bit rough to adjust to at first, but it was really nice waking up with the intentions of working hard and to see the sun rise. We would get ready, eat breakfast, have a devotional, pack lunches and then be out working by 7:30am. The piece of property I was working at was brand new this year since it was just purchased. With that being said, a lot of things needed to be done to whip this property into shape! We would be assigned various jobs from our "boss", the ranch manager who lives out on the ranch year round. We would not have direct communication from the ranch manager. Usually, our team leader would talk directly to him and then forward to us, his team, the work that needed to be done. Then we would spend the entire day working at our specific task. I will get into these jobs specifically in another blog post, but they were fun and challenging as I was learning a variety of new skills! A break for lunch was permitted as we needed to fuel ourselves into the afternoon. At the end of the work day, around 4:00, 5:00, or 6:00 pm (depending on when the job for that day was complete), we would stop and head back to the headquarters (HQ) on the ranch. Beaver Creek IZ is a thirty minute drive from HQ, so each day after wrapping up our job, we would head back and make the trek back. We would clean up and all eat dinner together. There were 8 team members with one team leader and then two more team members joined the second week. We would enjoy a bit of recreational or free time with our team and head to bed so we could brave the early morning the next day.

This is just a snapshot of IZ Ranch life! I hope you read on to see some of the finer details of my team as a ranch girl!

Two team members ready to work!

At the start of the work day.
Getting the work assignment.