Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Tack Room: a Photoessay

Circle Z Tack Room 9

There is something special about a well-maintained tack room. The saddles, blankets and bridles look so natural tucked away and in their places. The glow of the leather in the late afternoon sun speaks of trails well-ridden, horses happily nibbling on hay after a day out, all ready and waiting to go again tomorrow.

Circle Z Tack Room -Saddles

Circle Z Tack Room 6

 

Circle Z Tack Room 2

Circle Z Tack Room 8

 

Silhouette of George at Corrales

 

By |April 25th, 2015|Community|Comments Off on The Tack Room: a Photoessay

Nature at the ranch: April Report

Post by Vincent Pinto

April is a unique time for nature at Circle Z Ranch. While the conventional notion is that Arizona is too hot to visit in late spring, this is certainly not the case at here! An elevation of 4,000 feet combined with lush and shady forests strewn along Sonoita Creek afford ample cooler retreats for guests.

The Varied Bunting brightens up the Arizona landscape; Zak Pohlen, Flickr

The Varied Bunting brightens up the Arizona landscape; Zak Pohlen, Flickr

The entire month of April is punctuated by a spike in the numbers of migrating birds, particularly those that travel later from their wintering grounds. Look for Varied Buntings, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Blue Grosbeaks making their first appearances. The Varied Bunting is a “Mexican Specialty” species, much sought after by birders flocking themselves to the ranch. Yellow-billed Cuckoos are riparian specialists, so keep an eye out for them amidst the towering Fremont Cottonwoods and other broadleafed trees lining Sonoita Creek. They often dine upon hairy caterpillars and require intact riparian zones. As such, they are rather rare and are now federally threatened.

The lushness of Circle Zʼs forests are in evidence this May given our ample rains last monsoon season and this Winter. Their cover affords quality foraging and sleeping areas for White-nosed Coatis – tropical members of the Raccoon family that barely enter the U.S. Many guests have been these seeing these special mammals of late, particularly on the old New Mexico and Arizona Railroad bed. Other mammals to look for in May include Coues Whitetail Deer, Mule Deer, Collared Peccary, Arizona Gray Squirrel, and Mountain Lion. Yes, Mountain Lion! Some guests recently spied and photographed an adult Cougar while out on a ride. This is great evidence of a healthy, functioning ecosystem at Circle Z. The ongoing conservation work here has truly paid off with over 5,000 protected acres providing vital habitat for a broad spectrum of flora and fauna.

Gila Monster: look but don't touch! By Dave Govoni, Flickr

Gila Monster: look but don’t touch! By Dave Govoni, Flickr

Plenty of other wildlife abounds at the ranch in April. Many species of lizards can be seen, including Sonoran Spotted Whiptail, Ornate Tree Lizard, Clarkʼs Spiny Lizard, and the threatened Gila Monster. This venomous lizard is the largest in the U.S., but only poses a threat if you pick one up, which is never a good idea! Leave all of the plants and animals at Circle Z to their own devices, taking only photographs and leaving only tracks.

Cane Cholla, by Gem66 on Flickr

Cane Cholla, by Gem66 on Flickr

Despite the dryer weather in April, certain plants literally come into full bloom. Cacti and members of the Asparagus Family in particular have evolved to blossom now. Cane Cholla, several Prickly Pear species, Palmerʼs Agave, and Sotol fall into this warm season flower category, adding color to the landscape.

Truly with one of the highest levels of biodiversity in all of the U.S. the Sky Islands of southeast Arizona and Circle Z Ranch are perfect destinations to enjoy the beauty of Nature – including in April!

By |April 25th, 2015|Nature, Observations|Comments Off on Nature at the ranch: April Report

Circle Z History-Sanford Butte and Sheep Ranching

Visitors to the ranch often use the Circle Z Mountain, looming up behind the corrales, as a landmark while riding the trails. But older maps and topographical surveys refer to it as “Sanford Butte,” a name it was given when Arizona was still a Territory.

DA Sanford 1878 portrait by WL Sbedden Wash DC

A portrait of Don Alonso Sanford from 1878

The butte was originally named for the Sanford brothers, Don Alonzo and Denton, who first homesteaded in the area along the Sonoita Creek in the late 1870s. The brothers had come the Arizona territory from their native New York to make their fortune in cattle ranching. They established what would come to be known as The Stock Valley Ranch, 45 miles east of Tucson.

Denton established the “Sanford Ranch” on the Sonoita Creek in the 1870s. (Riders at the Circle Z can still see remnants of the original adobe ranch buildings on the hill above the corrales.) But his brother “Don” Sanford, as he was known, had other plans for the land near Patagonia. In 1881 he acquired 13,000 head of sheep a bargain price and set out to increase his growing fortune.

Sanford was drawn to sheep ranching for it’s economic potential: sheep were much scarcer than cattle, and had the potential to draw much higher prices. However, this endeavor was not popular with the nearby cattle ranchers. John Cady, who served as Sanford’s manager in the 1880’s, writes in his memoir: 

If There was one man whom cattlemen hated with a fierce, unreasoning hatred, it was the man who ran sheep over the open range—a proceeding perfectly legal, but one which threatened the grazing of the cattle inasmuch as where sheep had grazed it was impossible for cattle to feed for some weeks, or until the grass had had time to grow again. Sheep crop almost to the ground and feed in great herds, close together, and the range after a herd of sheep has passed over it looks as if somebody had gone over it with a lawnmower. 

Cady goes on to relate more than a few “annoyances” that ensued as a result of Don Sanford’s venture: “Sheep were found dead, stock was driven off, my ranch hands were shot at, and several times I myself narrowly escaped death at the hands of the enraged cattlemen.” Whew!

Cady's sheep camp on the Sonoita Creek, built 1884 (photo taken 1915)

Cady’s sheep camp on the Sonoita Creek, built 1884 (photo taken 1915)

Folks were made of stern stuff back then, and despite the hardships Cady stuck with it for the next three years. In 1884 Sanford was able to sell the herd at a $17,000 profit (which would be well over $400,000 in today’s dollars—not a bad profit, but perhaps not worth getting shot for!).

Sanford Butte on a topographical map, showing the Circle Z Ranch

Sanford Butte on a topographical map, showing the Circle Z Ranch

Shortly after that, Denton Sanford died and his brother Don moved his family back east and lived in Washington, DC for the remainder of his life, pursuing various business interests. Despite this, Don Alonso Sanford stayed connected to southern Arizona, returning often until his death in 1915. The ranch stayed in the Sanford family until 1925, when the 5,000-acre spread was sold to the Zinmeisters, who converted the property into the Circle Z (and Sanford Butte acquired the new name “Circle Z Mountain”!).

More information can be found at the Don Alonso Sanford Collection at the Special Collections of the University of Arizona Library in Tuscon. The collection, donated by descendents of Don Sanford in 2011, contains documents and photographs that offer a detailed look at daily life in the Territory of Arizona.

 

By |April 11th, 2015|History|Comments Off on Circle Z History-Sanford Butte and Sheep Ranching

Guest Profile: Sketching the Circle Z

Sketching the Circle Z-Red Mountain-2 by Jane Schwartz

Guests come to the Circle Z Ranch for many different reasons: some simply like to ride horses; others like the scenery, a few just want some peace and quiet. For Jane Schwartz, the Circle Z provides all these things, but the real reason she visits is for artistic inspiration.

Have sketchpad, will travel--Jane Schwartz on the trail.

Have sketchpad, will travel–Jane Schwartz on the trail with trusty artist materials in tow.

Fellow guests might recognize Jane as the woman who always brings artist materials in her saddlebags, and is sketching the Circle Z. An avid rider and amateur artist, she first came to the ranch in 1997 and has returned seven or eight times in the ensuing years. “Red Mountain is my touchstone,” says Jane. “I paint it every time I come to the ranch.”

Art has been Jane’s passion since she was a child growing up in New York City. Although she attended the city’s prestigious High School of Music and Art and later majored in art history at college, her career took her in other directions. Thus it has been while on vacation that Jane has been able to indulge in her love of drawing and painting. “During my travels is the only time I have an opportunity to focus and see a landscape,” says Jane. “I’m always sketching then.” Sketching the Circle Z fits right into Jane’s vacation strategy.

All-day rides are generally Jane’s preferred rides for drawing. “There’s plenty of time to rest during the picnic or cookout, and I can sketch then,” she confirmed. Occasionally on some of the shorter rides she’ll grab a few moments as well. “We’ll go loping for a while, then rest for a few minutes,” says Jane. “My fellow riders have been kind enough to wait and enjoy the scenery while I make a quick sketch for fifteen or twenty minutes.”

Jane likes to sketch during all-day rides. Here she is in the San Rafael Valley

Jane likes to sketch during all-day rides. Here she is in the San Rafael Valley

Late afternoon is also one of Jane’s favorite times of day for sketching the Circle Z. “Red Mountain is easily visible from the lawn, and I can frame out a general sketch, then fill in the colors later. The sun and shadows create changing color patterns every few minutes.”

Jane has worked with colored pencils and pastels, but lately she’s also been working with watercolor pencils. These special pencils, when dipped in water, create a watercolor effect on paper—and travel well in her saddlebags.

Take a look at some of Jane’s most recent drawings of Red Mountain. Most of us will probably never be able to paint it as well as she can. But her work sketching the Circle Z will certainly give us an appreciation for the wonderful play of colors that nature paints on the scenery surrounding the ranch every day.

Sketching the Circle Z-Red Mountain-1 by Jane Schwartz

By |April 10th, 2015|Community|Comments Off on Guest Profile: Sketching the Circle Z