Agriculture Magazine September 2015

Page 1

September 2015


In this issue

4-H family Bitterroot thoroughbreds Weed-free hay and more

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Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 3

in this issue

Highs and lows of agriculture........... 5 4-H Chavez sisters.............................. 7 Duces’ Wild........................................ 9 Horse breeding in the Bitterroot.... 11 A steak in ag..................................... 14 Drought in Montana........................ 16 Montana milk rules.......................... 17 Raising weed-free hay..................... 18 Agriculture Heritage notebook...... 20

MAGAZINE How did you like this issue of Agriculture Magazine? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share with us for our next issue? Let us know. Sent comments to: 232 West Main, Hamilton, MT 59840 or Photos on this page provided and by Stacie Duce & Wendy Beye Cover Photo by Perry Backus Agriculture Magazine is published by the Ravalli Republic & Missoulian Newspapers, divisions of Lee Enterprises Mark Heintzelman, Publisher Matt Bunk, Editor Kathy Kelleher, Jodi Lopez, Ashley McGaughey, Sales Dara Saltzman, Production & Design Agriculture Magazine is copyright 2015, Ravalli Republic.

232 W Main, Hamilton, MT 59840

Page 4 - Agriculture Magazine, September 2015

ravalli county museum and historical society photo archives

Digging potatoes on a Bitter Root Valley farm. Johnny Johnson photo from a glass-plate negative, circa 1900.

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Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 5

ravalli county museum and historical society photo archives

Highs and lows of agriculture By stacie duce Ravalli Republic

Marcus Daly’s vision for the potential of agricultural success in the Bitterroot Valley endured long after his death, not only because of the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 and the developers who soon followed, but also because of investments in irrigation that made orchard crops possible. Despite the potential, agricultural production during the last century has never been easy. While arid Eastern Montana attracted homesteaders interested in dry farming and ranching, the Bitterroot was a singular development in the state because of the potential to irrigate in a milder climate, wrote Robert Hadlow in his 1983 Pacific Northwest Forum paper. What followed

was unparalleled boosterism he defined as “the determination of the local people of a particular area to make their communities the most important in the region.” Decades of Ravalli Republican newspaper articles followed the dramatic highs and lows of local efforts to promote and protect Bitterroot agriculture in the first half of the 20th century. From the rises and falls of land developments to the bankruptcies and acquisitions of irrigation companies, as well as the heated competitions between sugar beet refineries, the bitter and the sweet happenings kept agriculture at the forefront of the Bitterroot’s socioeconomic development. Hadlow said an extravagant red carpet was rolled out for wealthy guests from the East who

Page 6 - Agriculture Magazine, September 2015

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might consider investing in Bitterroot apple orchards in the 1920s, while those who had offered up money for 10 acres of trees were left to their own devices to succeed despite droughts. Criminal activity related to water rights was not uncommon, and the year 1918 was a particularly difficult year to keep frustrations in check. One newspaper article reported a Hamilton Heights farmer who found fuel oil and tinder under the wooden flume of the ditch that would have impacted the entire irrigation system on the east side of the valley, not only that season but for the foreseeable future if the perpetrator’s efforts hadn’t been thwarted. The trend of apple orchards and sugar beet fields in the Bitterroot foreshadowed the development and demise of many productive Bitterroot cattle ranches and dairy operations during the second half of the century. Fluctuations in the market, rising costs of operation and land development were part of the challenges for these family-owned livestock operations. Since 2000, annual challenges of wildfire smoke not only has blocked out the sun and affected crop growth, but dairies like MuJuice in Corvallis reported a drop in pounds of milk produced on smoky days in 2013. Today’s agricultural trends have a wide gap. Large operations are getting larger with milliondollar equipment and difficult labor issues, while small operations are finding niches and even online sales to help them succeed. Several garlic farmers in the valley, like Red Gate Garlic, sell their entire inventory with online orders and long-distance shipping every season. New health initiatives and federal funding are aiding farm-to-table eating habits and local produce stands at farmer’s markets across the valley continue to flourish. But current debates over climate, pesticides and genetically modified foods keep the public mindful of agricultural practices and procedures. Agriculture in the Bitterroot Valley will evolve and develop as it has for more than 100 years, but it will never be an industry for the faint of heart.

Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 7


Ashley, Keanna and Alyssa at the 2015 Ravalli County Fair displaying their grand champion ribbons above the stalls for their lambs.

Chavez sisters sweep showmanship By stacie duce Ravalli Republic

One corner of the Ravalli County Fair’s lamb barn might have experienced sagging rafters for a few days as the Chavez sisters of Corvallis hung their hard-earned purple ribbons above the stalls.

In an unprecedented occurrence, all four sisters earned the grand champion showmanship ribbon in their age group: 16-year-old Alyssa in senior showmanship, 14-year-old Ashley in intermediate showmanship, 10-year-old Keanna in junior showmanship, and 6-year-old Alaina in the kiddie lamb class.

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Ashley Chavez also earned a grand champion said. “They’re very passionate about what they ribbon in the market competition during her do.” fifth year in 4H. In addition to the county fair, the Chavez sisKeanna Chavez said the ters show lambs at various secret to success with her jackpot shows across the state lamb Rango was making sure and compete against other he was at a good weight to kids in Montana. begin with and then “smiling “At the last jackpot show of a lot” for the judge in the ring. the season in Lolo, all three In the past, the sisters have older girls were showmanship also shown rabbits and breedchampions, either grand or ing lambs at the county fair, as reserve, so it wasn’t just a fluke well as entered garden proat the fair.” duce for judging. But this year The Chavez family will be they decided to focus entirely traveling to Billings in October on their market lambs – and it for the Northern International paid off. Livestock Expo, otherwise Their mother, Joanie known as The NILE. Chavez, said their efforts to “They can’t wait to compete prepare are year-round. against other kids from around “We own our own breeding the county and other counstock so there’s always sometries,” Joanie Chavez said. thing to be done,” she said. “They also want to check out “From lambing in February other people’s ways of doing and all through the spring, things so they can be more they are dedicated. Then they prepared to sell their lambs bust their butts all summer to other 4H kids. They want to long and dedicate their whole help others set up herds the three months of vacation to same way they were helped their lambs. We don’t do famby my friend Emily. They want ily vacations. We just focus to give back and pass along on what they’re passionate something that makes them about.” very happy.” Joanie Chavez said the She said selling the lambs summer heat and the smoky is always hard since the girls days in August were difficult nurture them from “Day 1 … on the girls and the lambs. but they know the way it has To compensate, she said her to be. They know there will daughters were often up at be new lambs to love next 11:30 p.m. or midnight on January and February and the provided photo summer nights walking their (from top to bottom) Alaina Chavez, Alyssa cycle will start all over again.” Chavez, Ashley Chavez, Keanna Chavez lambs. “There were a few days when For more information on the they’d set their alarms to 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m. so club lambs they now have and will have for sale, they could train in cooler temperatures,” she contact Joanie Chavez at 406-381-5428.

Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 9

Duces’ Stacie Duce



For the love of a goat Our best/worst family pet has gone on to greener pastures. I don’t know whether the water welling in my eyes at his garden-side funeral was triggered by sincere mourning or deep relief. He had been suffering with kidney stones, so of course we were all relieved. But the truth is, even I am going to miss that old goat. Justin and his twin sister Jessica were salt and pepper, complementary-colored pygmy goats that arrived in Montana as newborns to enjoy a new retirement with my husband’s parents 12 years ago. Their introduction to the valley was quite a fanfare. My twin daughters were five years old at the time and donned darling Western wear, tied red bandanas around the necks of the goats, and walked them on a leash in the Ravalli County Fair Parade. After only a few blocks, I don’t know if the

goats were more tired than the girls, but Teresa Roberts and her rodeo princesses had pity and invited them to sit on hay bales in her truck bed. It wasn’t long before the goats took flying leaps and make it clear they would prefer to never be fenced in. For about a decade the sibling goats enjoyed a simple life together with cows, horses and pigs for neighbors. They yelled at anyone passing by and performed a head-butt dance on their hind legs whenever grandma sang their favorite tune. When Jessica passed away suddenly, we knew Justin would be lonely, so we brought him to our house to be companions with our yellow Labrador puppy and to rule over the chickens. The goat established his alpha dominance with such attitude that we soon nicknamed him “POTUS the Goatus” and saluted with carrot

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offerings as often as he demanded. In his older years, he became a carbo-holic, greedily loving the crusts off my daughter’s bread or leftover spaghetti noodles. Lucky for the wildlife, he was a generous dictator. He never turned away a scampering chipmunk, a flock of turkeys or a lonesome deer as they enjoyed his dry feed in hopes that we’d bring him more table scraps. During the summer months, he was tethered to a long zip line that ran between a tall row of cottonwood trees and gave him quite a bit of freedom. During the winter when my bushes were bare and dormant, he was free to roam and often slept under the back porch on the other side of the wall from my daughter’s bed where his baritone snoring also lulled her to sleep at night. Potus often greeted guests from our front porch and was guilty of photo-bombing prom pictures. His mischievous grin has been featured on every social media site – especially Potus the goat. when his long beard was colored pink with hair chalk. The day he arrived at Hamilton High School to be a “Will you goat with me” dance invitation, he proved he still didn’t like to be tied down. My husband and I were near the school office when someone came

running in to say that a goat was loose on the school’s grassy yard. I was never one who likes to be bossed by an animal, so our relationship was mutually perfunctory: He was in charge of eating weeds, and I was in charge of refreshing his water bucket. However, I’ll admit now, that grumpy goat could even melt my heart with his specific communications and nuzzles. During his last days, he crumpled on my son’s lap and whimpered in pain as my son stroked his head and neck. It was heartbreaking to realize his post on the back porch might soon be empty. After a vet advised that nothing more could be done, our Potus was laid to rest with as much dignity as we could muster. Our extended family stood in a circle around his grave, and we each said a few words about 12 years of goat memories before offering a memorial flower or slice of bread. My daughter in college stacie duce/ RAVALLI REPUBLIC even participated by speaker phone. I’m not sure Potus could ever be replaced, but in the meantime, may my flower garden – and his memory – live long and prosper.

Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 11


These horses in Tanya McCluskey’s pasture are thoroughbreds with color, a trait that is garnering her some national attention as a breeder and trainer.

McCluskey breeds colorful thoroughbreds at Del Mar in California, and her parents helped her pursue her dream of raising and breeding horses in Montana. CORVALLIS – Color thoroughbreds have Today, Shining Mountain Thoroughbreds is changed the nature of Tonya McCluskey’s horsebreeding business in recent years, an ironic twist located on 20 acres on the west side of Corvallis where McCluskey is up before dawn to feed for the renowned Bitterroot Valley horse trainer and work with the horses she boards, trains who can’t see color at all. and rehabilitates. In all her years of breeding Blind since birth, McCluskey knew as a child thoroughbreds, she hasn’t sold a single foal to that her life’s path would be spent on horseanyone in Montana – her buyers come from all back, despite the doubters and cynics. Her across the U.S. and, lately, they have loved the grandfather first introduced her to horse racing By stacie duce Ravalli Republic

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rare and uniquely marked offspring. “Word of mouth is good, but it can’t spread nationwide without some help from the internet,” she said. “My online presence with my website and my Facebook page has helped tremendously.” “My main stallion is building a reputation for siring nice sport horses,” she said. “And I’ve found a good market for those horses who can perform, as well as look different and unique. I want to raise horses that can compete with the experts but are amateur-friendly. It’s good for business when I can appeal to the market on several levels.” McCluskey said the boarding service pays the bills and breeding pays for hay. “We’ve set ourselves up so the operation pays for itself,” she said. “That’s been my only goal.” Although she has an 18-stall barn on her

property, she’ll be boarding 12 this winter which is exactly what she can manage for daily turnout and time spent with each horse, especially if some require rehabilitation. Adjoining the stalls is a 100-foot-by-150-foot indoor arena where owners can ride in the winter without tromping through bad weather. Many come to practice English riding and dressage, while others, like Natasha Osborn, run a dog-agility and training course inside the equestrian arena. On a warm September afternoon, not only was the arena cool and well-ventilated, but McCluskey was cool in handling Max, a temperamental dressage horse in training. Four or five days a week, she spends time with Max on the ground, giving verbal cues to change his pace and conditioning. “I doubt he understands my words, but he knows my tone and how he should respond,” she said. “He’s a curious guy and loves atten-

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tion, so we’re working on all of that.” “If a rider is looking down at the horse’s ears, Even with a horse market that’s down, then he’s not realizing what the horse’s back McCluskey is optimistic about the future of her is doing and doesn’t realize how the horse is breeding operation, especially as young foals responding when the rider isn’t looking forward. she has sold in recent Upper-level riding years are hitting the instructors often show rings and addhave students put ing to her stallion’s on a blindfold to reputation. She said get a feel for what her three weanlings part of your body are already sold this is influencing the year, which saves in horse’s body when overhead costs of you ride. I do that “starting under the everyday.” saddle.” In all of She’ll continue to McCluskey’s work assist local veterinarand the challenges ians and chiropracof caring for a pristors with treating and tine horse ranch STACIE DUCE/ RAVALLI REPUBLIC without sight, “I’ve rehabilitating horses because her reputa- Shining Mountain Equestrain Center in Corvallis always figured out tion of accurate diaga way to do what nosis is also building an audience. needs doing,” she said. “I’ve not been willing “Sight can’t fool me,” she said. “Often in to take ‘no’ for an answer whether it’s with the lameness exams, we look for what is wrong, horses or snow skiing, which I also love to do in but I can feel the foot fall when a horse is not the winter. I tried waterskiing once, but I was not in alignment. It may be that a hind foot was meant to walk on water.” affected, but a front foot was the original cause, So, McCluskey will continue to perform daily and all of that can be discovered when you take miracles in her own sphere with many horses, your sight away and use your other senses of riders and owners who are grateful for her hearing and feeling. Vets will ask me when we’re talents and dedication to back-breaking and working on a horse to take him on a concrete sometimes dangerous work. pad and listen to him walk or trot. Once you “I tell people all the time, ‘Whatever you want train your ears to hear, you can spot problems to do, figure out a way you can do it’ since that’s better than you can see them.” what works for me,” she said. She said the same is true for training. “You can feel what a horse is going to do long For more information on Shining Mountain before you see the signs,” she said. “Unable Thoroughbreds, see her Facebook page or go to rely on sight, I have to pay attention to what to for the horse is trying to communicate, and often I photos, information and video clips. get a feel faster than someone who is trying to look.” She applies the similar principles with riding.

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A Steak in Ag

A monthly report by R-CALF USA By stacie duce Ravalli Republic

R-CALF USA may be defined as a nonprofit producer organization, but our work benefits anyone who eats meat and lives in an economy that includes agriculture. We’re more than a producer organization; we’re your organization. Top 10 reasons independent U.S. cattle producers support the mandatory COOL law. 1. COOL creates marketplace competition: Without COOL, packers unilaterally decide when to source U.S. cattle and when to source foreign cattle. With COOL, consumer buying preferences tell packers when they must source U.S. cattle to satisfy the growing demand for USA beef. 2. COOL empowers consumers to decide

whether foreign food safety standards are good enough: The U.S. no longer requires food-safety systems in foreign packing plants to be at least equal to the U.S., and it no longer conducts monthly inspections of foreign packing plants. The U.S. only requires foreign safety systems to be equivalent and inspections to be conducted periodically. 3. COOL ensures U.S. producers a more competitive allocation of beef profits: Without COOL, packers exploit the generic nature of cattle. With COOL, profits from USA beef are allocated directly to U.S. cattle producers. 4. COOL provides consumers with marketplace choices: COOL distinguishes U.S.produced beef from foreign beef. 5. COOL empowers consumers to be patriotic: Only with COOL can consumers direct

their food dollars to support U.S. farmers and ranchers by purchasing beef that is exclusively born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. 6. COOL helps reduce the mounting trade deficit with Canada and Mexico: While it is true that Canada and Mexico are the secondand third-largest export markets for U.S. beef, respectively, it also is true that the U.S. imports far more beef and cattle from Canada and Mexico than it exports to them. 7. COOL eliminates consumer deception: U.S. law requires all beef produced in both foreign and domestic packing plants to be labeled with a U.S. inspection sticker if the plants are certified to sell beef in the U.S. market. This prominent inspection sticker misleads consumers into believing the product is of U.S. origin. Only with COOL can consumers ascertain the true country-of-origin of their beef purchases. 8. COOL empowers consumers to respond immediately to emerging diseases: With COOL, consumers can immediately identify beef prod-

ucts originating from a country affected by a disease and choose to avoid them. 9. COOL helps confine the market impacts of a disease outbreak: With COOL, a disease outbreak in a foreign country could be confined to only products imported from that country, and consumers could continue purchasing beef produced in the U.S. or another unaffected country. 10. COOL helps to stop packers from breaking the U.S. cattle market: With COOL, consumer demand for USA beef can be satisfied only with U.S. cattle, and this will prevent packers from substituting foreign cattle for domestic cattle to satisfy that demand. R-CALF USA is funded solely by donations and membership dues. Please consider becoming a member or giving a donation. For more info or to join, go to or call 406-252-2516.

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Drought disaster declaration extended to 19 Montana counties Associated Press

GREAT FALLS — Four more Montana counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas due to crop losses caused by drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture added Jefferson, Madison, Teton and Toole counties, bringing to 19 the total number of Montana counties declared natural disaster areas. On July 15, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack designated Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders and Silver Bow counties as primary natural disaster areas.

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Milk distributor appeals Montana ‘freshness’ rule challenge Associated Press

HELENA — A California-based distributor challenging Montana’s milk freshness rules as too restrictive is taking its case to a federal appeals court after a district judge rejected the lawsuit. Core-Mark International filed its appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday after U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon ruled the company had no standing to file the lawsuit because it is a distributor, not a milk packager. Montana requires that milk be removed from store shelves 12 days after pasteurization. CoreMark argues that the milk it distributes remains safe for at least 21 days after the pasteurization date. The Montana rules unnecessarily increase costs by forcing the processor to make separate labels and the distributor to make smaller, more frequent deliveries in the state, the company said in its lawsuit. Core-Mark was seeking to label Dairy Gold milk containers with both Montana’s “sell-by” date and a later “use-by” date. That dual-dating system was an arrangement that Dairy Gold and Inland Northwest Dairies had with the state from 2002 until 2008, when the Montana Department of Livestock revoked its exemption. Core-Mark buys its milk from the Spokane, Washington-based Dairy Gold, which pasteurizes and packages the milk. Core Mark then stores and distributes the milk when orders come in. The company claims the 12-day rule discriminates against out-of-state producers. State offi-

cials have seized and destroyed milk that CoreMark sold to retailers that passed the 12-day limit, the company said in court filings. The Livestock Department’s rule, passed in 1980, says no milk may be sold after 12 days of pasteurization, and containers must be marked with that sell-by date. Only the packager of the milk may mark the package with a sell-by date. Haddon ruled that CoreMark is trying to assert the rights of the milk packager, when it is only the distributor. The company has no capacity to sue, the judge wrote in his Aug. 31 decision. “Only the milk packager may seek and obtain permission from the Department to deviate from the administrative rules governing milk container labeling,” Haddon wrote. Company officials did not return a call for comment. Core-Mark also has failed to reinstitute dual labeling through an administrative challenge against the Livestock Department and a lawsuit in state court. A bill that would have replaced Montana’s sell-by date with a 21-day “use-by” date died in a Montana House committee earlier this year. Bill sponsor Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, said then that the change would have led to less waste, lower milk prices and prevented retailers from throwing away “perfectly good milk.”

Page 18 - Agriculture Magazine, September 2015

Miller raises weed-free hay By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic

When Chuck Miller bought his place just north of Hamilton in 1993, his 55 acres of hay meadows had a smattering of noxious weeds. He had been working on getting those cleaned out when state and federal land managers made it a requirement that anyone using

perry backus/ RAVALLI REPUBLIC

pack stock on public lands use weed-free hay. About that time, the county’s extension agent told Miller that he should consider getting his fields certified for weed-free hay. “My fields were already pretty clean,” Miller said. “I knew I could get a premium in price if I went through the process.” Miller was among the first to come on board

Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 19

in Ravalli County when the weed-free hay program started in 1995. Ever since, he’s had standing orders for his hay crop every year. “I’ve always had clean fields and good remarks from the inspectors,” he said. “It takes constant vigilance to keep the weeds at bay. Animals can bring in weed seed. Winds can carry the seed heads. “I keep a constant eye out for any new weed popping up,” Miller said. “I’m able to address any new weeds that appear with my backpack sprayer.” Miller is one of 16 producers in Ravalli County who grew weed-free hay this year, said Ravalli County Extension Agent Katrina Mendrey. The hay was raised in fields that ranged from two acres to almost 100. “Most of the fields fall in the 10- to 20-acre range,” Mendrey said. In order to qualify, the fields have to be inspected seven to 10 days before they are cut. “The timing is really important,” Mendrey said. “People may decide they want to cut theirs in a couple of days, but there are only so many people available to do the inspection. They need to plan ahead.” Inspectors look for any of noxious weeds on the state’s list, which includes spotted knapweed, leafy spurge and houndstongue. The inspection fee costs producers $4.50 an acre for people with more than 10 acres. For those with 10 acres or less, the inspection is a flat $45. Indeed, producers of weed-free hay receive a premium price for their product. Miller said he sells his certified hay for about $225 a ton. Most non-certified hay sells for something closer to $200 a ton. “The price of hay every year depends on supply and demand,” he said. “The supply is not as plentiful this year because the Flathead had a hard time with low water supplies. I usually sell out in advance. Most of the hay I produced this year was spoken for last year.”

It’s hard to know if that demand will continue into the future. While all packers and riders who take their stock onto federal or state lands are required to pack weed-free certified forage, Miller said overall horse numbers appear to be on the decline. “It’s not an infrequent thing to look in the paper and see horses for free,” he said. “You don’t see any free cows though … when I first started doing this, we were getting $175 a ton back in the ’90s. As time has gone by, fuel prices have gone up and cost of the certification has increased too. All the costs of production continue to spiral upwards.” It was a good year for growing hay in the Bitterroot. “I did manage to get more bales this year than last,” he said. “I’m right at 3,000 this year. Last year, it was 2,500. Those nice warm rains we had made a difference.”

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Page 20 - Agriculture Magazine, September 2015

Agriculture Heritage Notebook The Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust

interpretation and affirm cultural values.

works in partnership with families,

The Heritage Trust provides an article for

neighborhoods and communities to restore

each edition of Agricultural Magazine,

historic structures, bring back traditional

highlighting the Bitterroot Valley’s

events and celebrations, encourage

agricultural history and heritage.

Story and photos by WENDY BEYE

I had my eye on the big barn west of Bell Crossing for a number of years, but it was difficult tracking down someone who could give me permission to photograph the grand old

behemoth. Serendipitously, as I was driving past one day, a woman was waiting to turn from the barn’s driveway onto the county road. I jammed on the brakes and jumped out

Agriculture Magazine, September 2015 - Page 21

A view of the south side and gate.

of my truck to talk to her. Her name is Tanya Lueders, and she and her husband Jim now own the barn that I knew was built by the great-uncle of a friend of mine. She was reluctant to give me permission to photograph the inside of the barn without checking with her husband, but she gave me his phone number. She said the barn was in desperate need of repairs, but the cost was beyond the reach of family finances. I promised to send her some information on possible assistance for historical restoration,

and she hurried out to the highway to keep an appointment. A few hours later, with permission from Mr. Lueders, I entered the musty interior of one of the biggest barns I had ever photographed. It was not only tall, but proportionately wide, and built to include three separate haylofts complete with trolleys for hayforks. The doors to the lofts were unique. Instead of opening on hinges, each door appeared to have once been anchored by a rope that ran through a pulley, allowing the door to be lowered

Page 22 - Agriculture Magazine, September 2015

between a pair of guides on the outside of the barn. The blocking boards at the bottoms of the guides were gone, but the doors must have rested on them so the rope could be moved out of the way to allow large bundles of hay to be trolleyed into the lofts. Chains now hold two of the doors in place, while a third has fallen to the ground. Large peaks were built out over the doors to allow the hay forks to reach outside the building. They gave the barn a menacing face. The main hayloft was missing its floor on the north end of the barn, probably to allow for storage of tall farm equipment in the barn’s later years. That area was lined with tightly joined, planed lumber, so it likely Looking up at the main vault. served as a granary when the barn was first built. The ground floor on the west side of the barn showed evidence of once having milking stanchions, with a floor and drainage gutter built of cottonwood planks. The east side had a row of large horse stalls with mangers. Judging from the height of the gnawed marks in the stalls, draft horses passed time there. There were two very large shafts that

extended from the ground floor to nearly the top of the barn, one on each side of the main loft. These appeared to have served several purposes – ladders to the upper lofts, ventilation for the ground floor, and chutes into which hay could be pitched for the animals below. No other barns I have explored have had similar dualpurpose shafts. Sadly, the roof on the west side of the barn was in very bad condition. Many of the old cedar shingles had been blown off by storms howling out of the Bitterroot Mountains. Replacement would be a monumental task, but without repairs the structure will continue to deteriorate as water soaks its bones. Eventually the ridge timbers will collapse, and the barn will implode. It would be a sad passing. Bruce Gould, who grew up on a nearby ranch on Meridian Road, said he used to admire the beautiful Robinson barn that was always painted and well-maintained when it was part of a working ranch. Research turned up some interesting details on the life of Frederick C. Robinson, the original owner of this beautifully-built barn. He

was born in Chatteris, England, and moved to the Bitterroot Valley in 1906. He purchased the property that same year from Jaciphas Million, who homesteaded the land, so the barn most likely dates to about that time. Before he arrived in the Bitterroot, Frederick spent a stretch in Helena, where he met and married Elizabeth “Lizzie” who was a school teacher for 15 years before she married. Frederick also began a business in Helena, perhaps a lumber and hardware business, purchasing property in East Helena from a Caroline Kaltmeyer on a $2,000 contract that carried a 12 percent interest rate. Apparently, the business failed, as he stopped making payments on the contract. Ms. Kaltmeyer sued Frederick and two other men who were somehow involved in the venture. One was Theodore Muffly, a clerk in the Territorial District Court in the 1880s and a chairman of the Republican County Central Committee in Virginia City in the 1870s. He was a partner in a Helena law firm at the time Frederick purchased the business property. The third defendant in the lawsuit was Walter Matheson, who served as mayor and coroner of Billings in the 1870s. He had real estate and mining interests across the state when he lived in Helena. The suit ended in a sheriff’s sale in 1892. Obviously, Frederick Robinson had some high-powered friends in Helena, but he and Lizzie moved on west to begin anew. They were decidedly more successful in their agricultural endeavors than they were in retail. They worked the ranch until retirement in 1955.

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