The old west is still alive in them thar hills between Nevada City and North San Juan. Here's our friend John Reader herding cattle. The old family ranch is near Shady Creek on the way to North San Juan. John once told us that during the early days they believed Black Bart (the stage coach robber) used to work at the family sawmill during the summer months...using another name. He'd disappear for a time and then show up, with plenty of money.
Get-a-long little doggies...This brings back memories like the Zanocco's cattle at their place on Park Avenue in Nevada City. Every year they'd herd their cattle past our place on Red Dog Road to summer pasture in the mountains. One Fall the old lead cow decided it was time to return home. She brought the herd home without any help from the cowboys.
Reader Ranch wins award for stewardship of natural resources
(By Trina Kleist Mar 12, 2007 )
In 1854, the great-great-grandfather of John Reader and Fred Langdon settled some land above the South Fork Yuba River, and five generations later, they are proud to still work the property. The brothers manage the cattle operation of the Reader Ranch on nearly 1,000 acres near North San Juan. They run cattle there in the fall and spring. The family also continues an old tradition with one of Nevada County's few remaining cattle drives, when they round up cows from summer pasture near Allegheny and drive them along Highway 49 at the Middle Fork Yuba River and back to the ranch.
Some of Langdon's and Reader's other traditional practices - and a few technological innovations - earned them the 2006 Conservationist of the Year Award from the county's Resource Conservation District at a recent banquet. "It's really, really nice to have the recognition that we really are good stewards of the land," Reader said. "We've worked so hard to earn it. Our great-great-grandfather settled here. We're really proud to be able to keep the ranch and to build on it to the point where it is, with all the environmental pressure." Some of the Reader family's traditional range management practices, such as prescribed burning, went out of favor in the early years of the environmental movement, Reader said. "Now the thinking is starting to go the other way. People see that we have created a fire buffer for the rest of Nevada County," he said. The brothers follow burning with heavy seeding to improve the pastureland and reduce invasive non-natives such as star-thistle and Scotch broom, Reader said.
They have developed springs on the property by digging out and laying rock where the water boils up, diverting the water into a tank at each spring and laying pipes to different parts of the ranch to get water to the cattle. The cows don't trample the springs and fill them with sediment, and the cattlemen can move the animals around with plentiful water sources, getting more efficient use of the pasture. The brothers also are planting the range with native oak, pine and other tree species to shade the cattle and further reduce sun-loving non-natives. The multistoried habitat supports an abundance of wildlife.