Weathering storms together

I read an in-depth article regarding the complex issue of depression and suicide within rural communities across America. The lengthy piece is full of statistics and research but is made very real by the farm families brave enough to share their stories publicly. The author penned an equally worthwhile follow-up.

Have 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 have a feeling many of us could answer a silent ‘yes’ to both questions.

Uncomfortable as this topic is, especially for those of us in rural America, it deserves, even demands, our attention. Folks in rural America—you and I, our peers, neighbors, friends, and family—are dying by suicide at a rate two times greater than American veterans.

It seems if urban America even thinks of us at all, it’s not uncommon for us to be thought of as poor, uneducated souls in need of saving.

I’m not brave or bold enough to share all my personal business in a public forum, and I’m not asking you to be either. Yet, politics, policies, and all else aside, I believe in my soul we can do a better job taking care of each other.

My husband and I are in the thick of daily ranch work just like most of you. We are 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.

I’ve also made the mistake of reading online comment sections on stories related to agricultural hardships, policies, and the like. Don’t do it! What feels like a vast, unscientific majority of those comments prove people in our own backyards are further removed from production agriculture than most of us realize.

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 know exists. But, have we forgotten the power of a human connection?

Do we: smile genuinely at the healthy-looking man in the grocery store? Smile empathetically at the tired woman on the street? Call the friends we only ever text and say, “You were on my heart today.”?

As rural gathering places fade away or become influenced by urbanites who think they can solve our troubles, do farmers and ranchers really acknowledge each other?

Life is hard enough even when it’s simple. What if making a point to positively acknowledge others not only improved their well-being but also increased ours? What if the thread your neighbor is hanging on to is the one you offered by shaking hands after church or patting him on the back after borrowing a piece of equipment?

I know firsthand the terrifying grip of depression compounded by the idea that some people are too blessed to experience such darkness. I’ve felt its burden grow heavier with my own inability to accept help. I understand the crushing weight of isolation despite a system of unwavering support.

I also know the solace in a well-timed text and the relief of a friendly voice when my inner self grows dark.

Agriculture has never been an easy way to make a living. Our hearts beat in tune with the land and animals in our care. Our minds weigh the needs of our souls with the demands of our bank accounts. We are often pawns in games we didn’t ask to play, and it can all lead us to fight internally with the senselessness of two old bulls.

Though we bend and stretch to great limits, we aren’t impervious rubber people. We are breakable, which is why I know we can do better for each other.

Some of us are certainly more susceptible to the dangerous depths of depression and despair than others, and few of us are professionally trained to help. But, we all have moments of overwhelming angst or challenges, and we are all capable of being even a little kinder and more forgiving with ourselves and our neighbors.

I pray the long winter days give way to bountiful green grass and a spring crop of healthy calves. Even more, I pray you have the strength to weather it all, and if strength isn’t on your side, I pray you have a friend or loved one with some to spare.

If you or someone you love needs somewhere to turn, please call Avera’s Farmers’ Stress Hotline at 1-800-691-4336, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to the nation’s leading agricultural health behavioral professional and farmer Dr. Michael Rosman at or 712-235-6100.

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Foul words and deep thoughts

Have you ever noticed the power or meaning of words?

As a writer, I notice words all day. I think about what they mean in different contexts. I marvel at a simple word’s ability to command attention, set a tone, or deliver information. In short, I’m a “word nerd”. 

Lately, I’ve been plagued by a four-letter word I hear often and frequently use without thought. I’m willing to bet you’ve even uttered the word in various situations and thought nothing of its implication. If you know my sailor-worthy vocabulary, you’re probably shuddering at the thought of this four-letter word, but fear not.

This word carries more weight than any profanity. Its implied meaning is embedded much deeper in the fiber of our lives than we realize, and though you should have your mouth washed with soap for saying it, not a single, sane person would ever consider it.

The word? Just.

I know; it seems innocent enough. I mean, it’s “just” a word.  

By definition, just—most commonly used to describe—means “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.” The traditional meaning reads like this: I long for life in a just society. I strive to be a just parent, so our children can grow to become just adults. 

Unfortunately, unless you’re even more of a word nerd than me, just rarely gets used in such a context.  

Perhaps, you’re more familiar with these examples of how we use just today: 

  • You can’t do that; you’re just [a kid, a woman, a farmer, etc.]. 
  • Don’t get bent out of shape; it’s just a word. 
  • I’m just a [rancher, farmer, stay-at-home mom, garbage man, etc]. 

Many of us have readily accepted just as a label for one thing with a value less than another. We’ve even taken to using the word as a sign of humility. In the process, we’ve not only eroded the word’s meaning but also degraded the significance of personal worth. 

There have been countless conversations when I’m asked what I do. Without thought, my response is often, “Well, I’m just at home,” or “I just write a little.” 

I’ve also been on the other side of the word when another person has said to me, “Oh, you’re just at home now, huh?” Like just being at home or writing or ranching or whatever else is somehow less valuable.  

I think it’s high time we take pride in what we do and who we are. Besides, if we don’t have pride in what we do or who we are, don’t we owe it to ourselves, our family, and our industry to knock it off and change gears?

Agriculture is more important today than it’s ever been. Studies indicate people, especially young adults, care more about their food and its production than ever before; yet, those same young adults are the furthest removed from the actual production of food. 

How do we bridge the gap if we are “just” farmers and ranchers? 

Lucas Lentsch, former SD Secretary of Ag and fellow SD Ag & Rural Leadership alum, once spoke at our county ag appreciation banquet. What he shared that struck me most is this: 

“I know the good, responsible, meaningful work you do every day. But, as our society becomes further removed from production agriculture, it is paramount to ensure we are understanding and thoughtful in our conversations. Tonight, I ask you something my dad challenged me with long ago … what are you doing to love your community?” 

Personally, I don’t feel like we are doing enough to love our ag communities if we allow or encourage others to view us as “just” farmers and ranchers. We are the thread binding together our country’s fabric. You know your career is complex. You are a rancher. You are a farmer. You are a partner in your family’s way of life. 

Until we take ourselves and our work seriously, I think others will continue to view us inaccurately. We are valuable, needed members of our communities, and our daily work matters.

Yes, I’m a word nerd. I am not, however, “just” a writer or “just” a stay-at-home mom. I am a writer who works in her family’s ranching business. To make a difference for my community and my family, I need to tackle the hard work of personally believing in the value of what I’m doing … not on the outside, but rather in my heart. 

Maybe you are fortunate and confident enough to know the value of yourself and your work. Good for you! I encourage you to share your story and be part of conversations in a positive, understanding way. And, if you’re more like me, I hope you’ll work on believing in your own value. You have a story worth telling, and the world deserves to hear it! 

“Combine the extremes, and you will have the true center.” –Friedrich Schlegel, German philosopher 

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Clear as Mud

“Clarity is when your eyes and mind see what your heart feels.” ~ Me❤️

When you doubt yourself for whatever the reasons may be, you end up feeling restless. When you aren’t clear about what you want, you’ll likely end up where someone else decides you should be. Indecision is, indeed, a decision to walk a foggy path.

How do I know all this with such certainty?

Because I have lived it. I have doubted my own intuitions and believed a relentlessly harsh inner monologue. I even slip back into it all occasionally.

I am capable of doing many things. I even occasionally say yes to all the things before giving thought to what I’ve done.🤷‍♀️

But, I also believe “I can” doesn’t mean “I should” or even “I want”.

None of this is to imply a life well lived is one where you only do what you want to do while saying to hell with anything else. Life, especially one in agriculture, requires a special level of commitment to what must be done for the greater good while honoring what must be done for the better you.

When I think about times of crystal clarity in my past, I am reminded how much I need and desire clarity in my present.

The Rancher and I went on our first official date 19 years ago. I knew when we met the week before that he was my future, and we haven’t been apart since. I trusted my heart, and it led me home because my vision was clear despite the well-founded doubts of some others. Quieting the noise around and within me is what keeps me here also.

I left my town career 10 years ago, and I know it was the right, clear choice for me. Yet, I found myself judging and doubting my decision for years.

Those years were rough, to say the least. I landed in a wickedly foggy, dark place and stayed stuck in some deeply hurtful feelings until some people I love very much helped me break free. I don’t have 100% of my clarity back, but I’ve got really amazing glimpses of it that keep me moving forward.

Clarity lives within each of us. We already possess all we need to live our best, authentic journeys. Perhaps what is missing for so many of us are the people who help hold us accountable to ourselves.

It’s a philosophical kind of day for me. The kind of day I need in order to reset and refocus. I don’t pretend to know the kind of day you need for the same result, but whatever it is, I hope you know it, embrace it, and make time to honor it.

#WeAreRanchers #clarity

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Gratitude turns mountains to bumps

“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.” ~ Ralph Blum

Living with gratitude hasn’t always been my norm. In an industry where so much is outside our control, negativity finds plenty of fissures to infiltrate. Yet, the single greatest change I’ve made in recent years is making the practice of gratitude my default.

Sunset in a Blum Ranch hayfield.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still cuss like a sailor with fury or frustration occasionally. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad, anxious, or defeated sometimes. Instead, learning to live with gratitude as my default means I’m actually learning to live an authentic life … one full of real feeling and emotion but not controlled by the swings of it all.

Practicing gratitude daily means welcoming a peace I once believed had to be chased. Gratitude doesn’t change the uncontrollable factors in farming and ranching, but for me, it makes those factors less of a mountain and more of a bump. #WeAreRanchers #findthegood #bethegood

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“We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”

~ Virginia Satir💞

I find this affirmation true and meaningful; however, I’ve come to believe the most dangerous, the most limiting perceptions are those we hold about ourselves

Other people do not limit us. We do that to ourselves.

The two pictures I’ve shared are both me.

I enjoy ranch life. I like feeding cattle. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of my husband’s dreams. I am a rancher, and I occasionally get annoyed by it all.

I also appreciate my diamonds, enjoy getting my hair fixed, and make sure my brows are done. I am an empathetic visionary who enjoys chatting about the power of mindset, sharing other people’s stories, and diving deeply into psychology, law, and a bunch of other topics. Occasionally, I feel annoyed by it all, too.

I am unapologetic about my high expectations, and I continue to grow more comfortable moving through disappointment and failure rather than holding on to them. I deeply appreciate moments of quiet simplicity that counter our full life.

The thing is, even though I’ve spent decades not believing this, I get to be and feel all of that and more, and so do you.

I don’t know why anyone really follows this page, but I do know why I share our life on it. We all deserve to find connections — with ourselves, other people, and the world around us. I routinely find meaningful connections thanks to sharing on this page. Maybe you can, too! #WeAreRanchers #nolimits

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Dirty Laundry

Lessons in the laundry

There’s a lot to see in this overstuffed washing machine. I see lessons that will be offered again about sorting clothes and a reminder to unwad socks, but mostly, I see the load of laundry our 10-year-old washed without being reminded or told before he headed outside to play and help with chores.


Each of our kids does his or her own laundry to some degree. They also do their own packing if ever they have a trip away. I’ve even been known to turn over cook duties when it seems the crew has forgotten the value of appreciation. And yes, our kids work outdoors each day in addition to school and extracurriculars. I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that working outdoors or being kids means you are somehow absolved of basic self-care related chores.🤷

Our kids also watch too many videos on their Kindles, repeatedly test me regarding what I allow on said devices, and think I’m the worst mom ever for not allowing them to buy an Xbox, for treating them like babies, and for a long list of other grave offenses. And, in case there’s doubt, they receive help when it’s needed; I still handle 90% of household chores with zero guilt for what I don’t , and unconditional love lives here always.


Our home and parenting style are FAR from perfect, and I highly recommend not using us as any kind of measuring stick regarding your own performance. Instead, I share this as a gentle reminder to see the good in your own life … To know our children are capable of what we encourage … To heed lessons from the little red hen … To know you aren’t alone in your desire to share the burdens of daily life alone. #WeAreRanchers#laundryday

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Oh Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas tree!

For the first time in our nearly 20 years together, our tree is not laden with totes of ornaments tied to memories and stories through the years. Generally, The Rancher preps and places the tree. I fill it with lights. Then, the kids spend a night laughing and chatting as they recant memories and ask for reminders about each ornament while a Hallmark movie or Christmas music fills the background.

This year though we took a vote and found ourselves in agreement. Likely stressed by life, our tree seemed too delicate to bear the weight of tradition. Instead, it will stand tall and shine bright while we keep it watered, enjoy its simple presence, and carry on through the Christmas season.

Maybe we’re the only family who feels like this tree, but I’m guessing not. Though life has stressed us and some ceremonial traditions feel too heavy, we find tremendous gratitude for those dear ones who keep our souls nourished and spirits bright. Thanks to our tree and some quiet time to think, we’ll continue to shine as we’re able in hopes of reminding others to do the same💞 Wishing all who read this God’s peace and good tidings. #WeAreRanchers#ohchristmastree

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Calling BS

You know what happens when you have cows? Shit. That’s what.

Please don’t misunderstand. There is purpose and reward in feeding and supplying the world as cattle ranchers. There are idyllic rides through favorite pastures, picturesque scenes in each season, and memories that can’t be made in any other line of work. There’s also reality. 🌄

Breeding heifers on the Blum Ranch.

Cattle and all they require don’t care if you had a long day or a rough night. They pay no mind to the clock, the calendar, or your plans. Cattle have no regard for your daily intentions and no aptitude for your personal well being. Even our kids know if there are cattle in the yards on the day we die, chores need done; tractors are pretty great places for tears and thinking. 💝

The longer I’m part of this business the more sure I am that, for all the frustration and disappointment, ranching is one of the last great professions. 🐮

Because of cattle, we know quality of life matters more than quantity. We know our attitude is absolutely the only thing we can control. We know the people in our circle matter, and the company we choose to keep either makes our life simpler or harder. Most importantly, we know for all the bad there will be lots of great, and those are the moments to cherish. 💕

As we move fully into the Christmas season, I hope we can all let go of the perfect and ideal. I hope we can embrace the real, the messy, and the beauty in it all. And, because I’m a dreamer, I hope the cattle stay in, the water works, and the tractors start all season long!😊#WeAreRanchers#cows

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Fall Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to J. Vanderwerff, A. Fuhrer, and D. Nesselhuf for winning my random drawing for subscriptions to South Dakota Magazine, The Pioneer Woman Magazine, and a comfy, fun T-shirt from my friend Calee at Blue Sky Boutique respectively!!

Private messages have been sent via Facebook, and I look forward to connecting with each of you before Friday, November 6 in order to get your gifts ordered and mailed out.

Cheers to fall and remembering to be grateful even in times of real change!


Congratulations from The Writing Rancher!!
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Purposeful rest

“Take rest. A field that has rested yields a bountiful crop.”


As ranchers, our first priority is being good stewards of the land and animals in our care. A huge piece of that stewardship is giving rest to fields and pastures. In fact, at our house, we have plans specifically for letting the land rest and replenish.

Do you know how often we apply such a principle to our own bodies and minds? A shamefully rare amount, and it shows most vividly in our interaction with those we most love.

I won’t share the laundry list of work, responsibilities, and obligations staring at us. We all have such a list and most items on it are self-induced ways of avoiding something else.

But, I will share this belief I hold: Our greatest potential, our most meaningful growth comes not from the busyness we choose but from the rest and reflection we allow. Cheers to purposeful moments of rest that lead to meaning-filled hustle❤#WeAreRanchers#rest

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