Stand up. Stand out. Horns optional.

Most ranchers have a favorite cow. We know this is a bad idea; choosing a favorite often means she’ll come up open, show up lame, or fall victim to a phantom illness reserved only for favorites. Favorites are even known to get undeserved second chances resulting in added expense, headache, or both.

Yet, favorites happen.

While I like some cows more than others in each of our herds, my favorite sticks out like a sore thumb and is about as useful as one. Though she bears no real name, she gets called plenty. You see, my favorite is our Longhorn.

Longhorn cow on the Blum Ranch in central South Dakota.
When you aren’t born to fit in, stand up, and stand out.

From the tips of her curved horns to the bottom of her white speckled coat, nothing about her fits our ranch, which is precisely why I like her. I like her so much I declare our Longhorn my spirit animal for 2019. Perhaps she’s yours too.

This cow doesn’t fit in when it comes to conformation or eye appeal. She isn’t raising show ring champions or market toppers. While she’s a gregarious animal by nature, she doesn’t seek company for the sake of being in a group.

She also doesn’t have to.

Every year, she earns her keep. Her crossbred calves wean well, feed efficiently, and yield a premium via custom marketing channels. She has just enough attitude to be an easy, hands-off keeper but is gentle enough to be handled when necessary. She can independently care for herself and protect her offspring but doesn’t refuse help to do either.

Our Longhorn is unbothered by other cows that don’t think she belongs at the bunk. Instead of slinking away like some of our more docile bovine, she matter-of-factly uses the blunt tips of her horns to remind them she knows her place. The quick learners only need taught this lesson once.

Yep, silly as it might be to some folks, I want to be like her.

If our Longhorn was a rancher, I think she’d be the kind who keeps up with trends and top performers but does the best with what she has until she can do better.

I think she’d be proud of her history and traditions yet adaptable to new environments and ways of work. She’d live in the middle of the road and dabble in untraveled ditches.

As a person, I think the ole girl would be the type others notice and admire even if they felt intimidated by her steely gaze. She’d probably be the kind of person who quietly helped others but not at the expense of her own well-being.

If our Longhorn was human, I imagine she’d get laughed at or looked down upon by some who believe she is less, too different, even antiquated. She would feel the sting of their small-minded disdain. Then, she would use the feeling as motivation to hold her head high. And, if those who deemed her less tried to push her out or demean her purpose, she’d pointedly use the unique tools God gave her to hold her own.

She’d fight for her place at the table.

That’s why I like her so much. I see this misfit Longhorn hold her own in the pasture and at the bunks. She quietly does the job she was created to do, and I am reminded of the purpose in each of us.

Of course, our Longhorn isn’t human. She is merely a favorite cow I’ve personified for illustration purposes, and yes, I know the dangers of personifying animals.

But, there’s a lesson here for all of us.

The reality in rural America can be harsh. Suicide rates are increasing and alarming. Pressure to attain buzzterms like sustainable or transformative or regenerative agriculture is real and growing. Disconnected consumers, rising input costs, generational transitions—you know the list. Throw in the rarely discussed but widely known grinding wheels within our own industry, and it can all feel like an uphill battle with no victor in sight.

Yet, we must not despair.

There’s room at the proverbial table, and each of us must take our place. As agriculturalists, the table is ours. We must hold our heads high. We must let our own perceived shortcomings fuel our growth.

Just as our Longhorn doesn’t bring the same value to our ranch as some of the other cows, I don’t bring the same strengths to our ranch as my husband. I do, however, bring strength. The same is true for you.

Maybe I’m the only one who needs this reminder. I hope that’s the case, but I’ve been around. I listen and watch.

If we individually realize and embrace our uniqueness, our strengths—then collectively gather around the table we not only built but also set—we can hold our own. Each of us brings value to agriculture’s present and future.

Whether you’re a commercial cowboy, purebred cattleman, diversified rancher, or something in between, it’s time to realize we need each other. Our differences can make us stronger as an industry. If we use our horns as gentle reminders and not weapons for power, our industry and livelihood will prosper.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really GREAT make you feel that you, too, can BECOME GREAT.” –Mark Twain

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Wrestling with Ranching

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really GREAT make you feel that you, too, can BECOME GREAT.” ~ Mark Twain

As I worked to meet deadlines and catch up office work, I could hear our two youngest boys gearing up to wrestle in the living room. The older of the two is going into his second season, and the youngest is giving the sport a whirl for the first time.

I expected tears and a fight and was prepared to ref the event. Instead, I heard our nine-year-old offer encouragement as he put moves on to pin his little brother.

Wrestling Ranchers

Nothing motivates greatness like a brother who believes you can do anything.

“Come on, buddy. You can do it. Don’t quit. Keep fighting. We all believe in you. I believe in you. You can do it. You can beat me. Keep going.”

The little one didn’t win. Our middle boy has a giant heart, but he doesn’t quit either😉 However, our youngest believed he had it in him to whoop his brother. He came running to tell me that he almost won. He was so close and didn’t quit.

My mom heart went back to work quite full. The boys’ exchange was one I needed for many reasons. I found it especially meaningful as I think about our ranch life.

We are in a misunderstood, underrepresented industry. No two ranch businesses or families are alike. It can feel like we’re on an isolated island. That’s why it’s so important to surround ourselves with great people.

Each of us has it within ourselves to be great. If you don’t believe it yet, make sure the people around you do. Life is too short for small minds and naysayers. I pray we can all find the kind of confidence and support our boys showed for each other.

#WeAreRanchers #TakeEmDown #fightclub #ranchstyle

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Cherishing small moments

Sharing Proud Moments

The rancher and I rushed from the hustle of daily responsibilities to share in our daughter’s big moment at the dojo.

About 4:30 am, I finally crawled in bed. Visions of at least two sleep-filled hours filled my head. Santa sweetly left a small gift for each child unwrapped, so it was a full three hours before the rancher and I were rattled awake by the excitement only kids on Christmas morning possess!


This morning, we are rejoicing, celebrating our Savior’s birth. We are reveling in quiet, sweet moments of family. And, we’re doing it all–like our fellow ranchers–in the midst of daily cattle care and ranch responsibilities…our lives don’t follow the calendar or clock.

As we wish you a blessed Christmas season, we hope you’ll find some extra time for your loved ones. Share a hug. Have a conversation. None of us knows what the coming year will bring. Enjoy the moments of your life because those small gifts of joy, peace, and love are what carry you through the moments of grief, anger, and frustration.

Merry Christmas all, and thank you for sharing this journey with us!! #WeAreRanchers

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Be the difference

fptbtyHave you ever had so much to say that you remain silent? Has your mind ever been so heavy that your heart can’t sort it out? I nod in agreement to each question! •

The Rancher and I remain here, dedicated to what has been built and committed to all yet to be done. We are busy trying to mute the noise of outsiders while getting the most important work done and not overlooking priceless family moments in the process! •

With the holiday season upon us, I ask you to spread kindness, connect with a neighbor, reach out to a friend. •

I often see folks posting on social media, imploring those who fight against depression, anxiety, and other health issues to reach out. I hope that continues because no one can receive the help they don’t seek. But please, please, please, remember the power of a human connection! •

Smile genuinely at the healthy-looking man in the grocery store. Smile genuinely at the tired, ill-seeming woman on the street. Call the friend you only ever text to say, “You were on my heart today.” Acknowledge each other. •

Life is hard enough even when it’s simple, so please, never underestimate your power to make a difference…to be the difference someone needed in the moment.

#WeAreRanchers #ChristmasSmiles

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“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” ~Mencius

20181014_223932The Rancher and our oldest son bought pumpkin plants in June for $1.50. His mom and our youngest son planted them. Then, Grandma Ruth tended the plants in her garden, and God sent the rain. 🎃

I’m not sure who is prouder of the delightful, huge pumpkins that grew. But, Grandma’s dedication to tending her crop yielded a gorgeous, bountiful garden, and the Rancher’s giddiness is contagious. 🎃

I’m not the fun, light-hearted one on our ranch, but I’m grateful to have a life and business partner who is all that and more.🎃

Life is hard. Sometimes, we make it harder than necessary. Simplify. Smile, and enjoy life’s little blessings … even in the form of giant pumpkins😊 #WeAreRanchers #KeepItSimpleStupid

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Remembering 9/11

The rancher and I have enjoyed several trips to New York City. Our most emotional trip was in 2005. *

We were struggling personally. The ranch was succumbing to one of the worst droughts my father-in-law can remember, and my work sent me east for a conference. It was a needed relief even if it didn’t feel welcome at the time. *

While I was at meetings each day, the rancher experienced the city thanks to tips from locals at hole-in-the-wall bars and cafes. He planned our evenings. Then, on my free day, he planned for us to experience the area once home to the twin towers. *

I still remember the goosebump-inducing feeling in the air. I still remember 9/11/01, but I will NEVER FORGET being in the presence of those spirits lost in the towers … in the presence of those who fought to save others and themselves. *

The area was still quite raw. I took many photos and now share them with our children. But, no photo could capture the feeling I will carry forever. *

America has always been great; it is still great today. However, let’s never forget that on that particular day 17 years ago, America may have been at its greatest–broken, hurting, grieving but still GREAT because of our people. *

Love each other. Be kind to each other. Never forget those who lost their lives and those who gave their lives in the spirit of hope. #WeAreRanchers #AmericaTheGreat

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Take the Picture

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely every hundredth of a second.” ~Mark Riboud 

Rarely can you find a time on the ranch without something needing done. We’re chopping silage and starting to fill yards. My brother-in-law is combining. My parents and brother are weaning. My sister and sister-in-law are busy with off-farm careers. We’re all running kids to activities. Yet, we stopped last Sunday to take pictures, and not one of us regrets the time away from work. ♡

Neil & Brenda Duxbury Family 2018

Imperfectly perfect

These photos do not represent our normal. Our normal is messy–chaotic–fractured. These photos remind us our lives are full–blessed–complete. ♡

Photos don’t have to be professional productions. But, photos are important. Take the time. Snap the picture. Try to capture one moment each day that stirs your emotions when you reflect on it. ♡

This life is short even when the days are long. Savor the seconds, especially when the hours drag on! #WeAreRanchers #LoveTheLifeYouLive

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