Monday, April 22, 2024

Farm, ranch life on the Rathdrum Prairie

| April 3, 2024 1:00 AM

Recently, I realized that changing landscape can be disorienting when landmarks implanted in our brain no longer exist. I’ve lived here since Post Falls was fewer than 5,000 people and the Rathdrum Prairie between Post Falls, Rathdrum and Coeur d’Alene was 100 square miles of blue grass and hay fields. Now, when I travel Prairie Avenue it’s quite different. Not bad, just different. There are still farmers’ fields, a barn or two but certainly not open prairie as far as the eye can see. Roundabouts? We’d never even heard of such a thing a couple of decades ago.

I also recall in the late 1980s, there would be a day when it would take a couple of hours for hundreds of sheep to be herded on Poleline Avenue from winter to summer pastures. It was a big deal and fun to witness.

In the 1990s, the Jacklin family were the largest producers of Kentucky Blue Grass seed in the world. Yes, world! With growth beginning in Post Falls about that time there was an uproar, and eventual legislation banning the practice of burning the grass fields for several days in August. I recall writing back then that we should be careful what we wish for because if farmers can’t economically farm, the land could and likely would be developed.

The good news is that a multi-generational farm and ranching family on the Rathdrum Prairie is still going strong as they’ve adapted and pivoted through the years. I recall being amazed when Wade McLean told me back in the '90s that people complained, and actually came to his door to complain, that they didn’t like the smell of the acres of mint the McLeans were growing as a replacement for bluegrass.

Just a couple of miles north of Interstate 90’s Greensferry overpass, surrounded by subdivisions but amid about 800 acres of crops and grazing land, four generations of the Satchwell/McLean family make their life and living. Octagenarian Vonnie Satchwell lives next door to her daughter and son-in-law, Wanda and Wade McLean. The McLeans’ son, Mike, and daughter-in-law Jessica own McLean Cattle Company LLC, the sixth generation to farm on the original homestead, established in the 1890s.

It’s calving season for the ranch, which should wrap up the first part of May. The McLeans run about 200 mother cows and own six bulls. So far, the prairie “nursery” includes about 60 four-legged babies with more to come. The family raises hay on 500 acres and run the cow/calves on six different pastures from May-September. They sell custom locker beef, feeder calves, show cattle and replacement heifers. Branching out, the herd includes a small but growing number of Wagyu cattle.

If you see new babies in the fields on the Rathdrum Prairie odds are they’re the pride and joy and bread and butter of the McLean family.

Visiting our friends is like a walk back in time for those of us who may not always remember the beginnings of our town and area, when farmers weren’t a rarity. When teenagers like Wade and Wanda met over a shared involvement in 4-H and have continued that love of the farm and ranch life for over half century of marriage and into the next generations of their family. I hope that there are always crops and cattle on the Rathdrum Prairie and a McLean or two driving a tractor or a cattle hauler.

Here’s to the farmers, growers and ranchers, whose hard work and passion for the land create bounty for our tables.

Follow McLean Cattle on Facebook for a look at life in the cattle business.

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Readers of this column are familiar with Dave and Marnie Fair’s annual spring lambing report. Alas there will be no more. The Fairs sold their small Chase Road farm last year, the property just south of Prairie Avenue now being developed.

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Do you love being visited by hummingbirds? Now’s the time to fill those feeders to make sure the first arrivals are able to fuel up. Mix one part sugar with four parts water until sugar is dissolved. No red dye!

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Happy Birthday today to Liz Montgomery, Doreen Porter, Cameron Dominquez and Cindy Jordan. Tomorrow, Chrissy Wortman, Laura Keck (21!), Marshall Meeks (70!), Nancy Gurno, Keith Hanlon, Duffy Taylor, Ann Fox, Nicholas Kane, Pappy Butler and Toni Hackwith will celebrate. Sharon Stevenson, Terri McTavish, Dan Powers, Sharon Wagner, Kelli Hawkins, John Negaard, Jamie Dallas and Gail Osterson take another trip around the sun Friday. Bruce Hough, Caitlin Hodl and Tyler Bush ring in another year Saturday. On Sunday, Carrie Gridley Shenfield, Katie Keane, Mary Epstein, Melaine Spalding and Eli Gonzales (21!) blow out the candles. Amy Bartoo, Wilma Higgins, Pat Hughes, Greg Prado, Kevin Kram, Veldon Lee and Shanna Riske will put on their party hats Monday. Nicole Medlock, Jodi McKenzie, Kimber Gates, John Hays, Caleb Peck, Carol Graham, Joan Nowoj-Phelps, Cynthia Taggart and Tom Messina mark the anniversary of their birth April 9.

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Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.