“Married people should not be quick to hear what is said by either when in ill humor.”
~ SAMUEL RICHARDSON , ENGLISH NOVELIST
😜 Tonight’s photos are brought to you courtesy another date night with Mr. Romantic himself! By the time office work, cattle sorting, chores, and a visit with our auction man were done today, there wasn’t much daylight left for hay hauling. But, we’ll be ready for the hay grinder come morning, and we might even be talking to each other again by then😂 Owning, managing, and working in a business with your spouse isn’t the easiest or wisest choice sometimes, but if both of your hearts are in the dream and your relationship is clothed in mutual respect, even the tough stuff is worthwhile. Stay safe, my friends! #WeAreRanchers #ranchdate #frosty
“We are so busy watching out for what is ahead of us that we don’t take time for where we are.”
~ Calvin and Hobbes
After a full day with chores, wrestling, and even some football, the rancher and I ended the daylight putting hay out to cows and fixing a tank that gave the kids trouble. Thank goodness for a crockpot and helpful kids!
It’s awful easy to get caught up in the busy of our life’s season. Tonight’s gorgeous sky and calm–though wicked cold–air was a good time for us to connect, to pause, to enjoy where we are and who we’re with. #WeAreRanchers#sdbeef
Yes, you—the one who cares for livestock and land. The one who gets up and gets to work every day. The one who ponders the possibility of a beach vacation or night out with friends but refuses to make plans because, well, cows.
Welcome to a new decade!
It’s a time when you’re encouraged to leave behind last year’s baggage and move forward with purpose, with hope, with a blank slate. However, you’re also coming off one of the most difficult years you’ve ever faced. Your baggage clings to you in the form of upgrades you couldn’t make, maintenance you couldn’t perform, progress you couldn’t accomplish.
By the time you got done fixing or recovering from whatever the latest round of weather or markets brought, it was time to face the next round.
You’ve been kicked in the teeth repeatedly; yet, like the steadfast, honorable person you are, you don’t stay down. You get up, dust off, and keep moving.
And right about now, when it feels like the rest of the world is celebrating with a kind of joy you can’t muster, you wonder if it’s really worth the wear and tear. After all, once you dealt with the stress of a ranching business you couldn’t control, there was still the stress of health, relationships, and life in general. It’s ok to wonder if what you’ve been doing remains something you want to keep doing.
But, before you go further into the year, I want you to know this.
Rancher, you are seen, and though the weight of what you’re feeling is heavy, you are not carrying it alone. It’s ok to be proud, be sad, be tired, be worried … but please, take care not to get stuck in those feelings.
Many of us are moving into a new decade carrying old burdens. Burdens we minimize by saying things like, “Well, that guy over there has it tougher, so my troubles are just silly.” I know quite personally and oh so intimately the pitfalls of glossing over those burdens … avoiding the feelings around them … getting stuck in their heaviness.
I can also attest to the power you possess when you share those burdens with someone. Your someone might be God alone, a pastor, a partner, a best friend, a best dog, a favorite horse, or even a professional listener. No one else in the world needs to know. However, you do need and deserve to express and address what weighs you down.
Rancher, read this and know it in your heart.
You matter. You are seen. You are not alone. You deserve to be surrounded by people who believe in your greatness; yet, people who will also fearlessly and lovingly call you out on your BS.
The new year is ours for the taking, Rancher, and I hope we take it all, even if only one day at a time! From our ranch to yours, happy new year; may it be full of hope, strength, and growth.
In 1961, President-elect John F. Kennedy addressed the Massachusetts legislature and became remembered for saying, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
I’m a fan of JFK’s ability to share elegant, intelligent prose; however, in this instance, I prefer the original source for his inspiration:
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”
You can interpret the verse with your heart or brain … neither perspective is wrong. My personal interpretation tends to vary depending upon the circumstance currently requiring me to draw from my stuffed vault of quotes!
Lately, I find this verse speaking right to the heart of today’s cattleman (or woman if you prefer).
We farmers and ranchers are entrusted with land and livestock, but we also have responsibility to future generations … to the children who no longer help milk the cows but rather think butter comes from butterflies.
Go ahead, laugh; I know some of you at least chuckled. But, I’ve lost my sense of humor when it comes to the disconnect between today’s consumer and producer.
Attend most any conference, and you’ll learn not to call yourself a “producer” or your business an “operation”. After all, the consumers may be reading, and you’ll sound like a disconnected bureaucrat whose only interest is making a buck.
Those of us who make a life in production agriculture know the difficulties and rewards, so I’m not going to take space preaching to the choir. However, I do believe the choir needs to start singing.
It’s fair season across the Midwest. Whether you exhibit livestock, participate in 4-H and FFA events, or simply attend your favorite fair as a vacation day away from the ranch, you attend bearing the responsibility of being entrusted with the lifeblood of our country. Whether you’re out in Wranglers, a well-worn pair of boots, and your favorite hat or you’re most comfortable in shorts, tennis shoes, and a cap, you are the face of today’s agriculture.
And yes, I do encourage you to tell your story. Tell it through your genuine, patient words. Show it through your respectful, kind gestures.
You don’t have to shout your value from the rooftops, document your every step on social media, or debate your worth from a keyboard. I’m not suggesting you go-all-out with some grand gesture of agri-tourism. But, I hope you know your value and appreciate your place at the global table even if no one else really understands it.
I hope you take time to listen when asked a question … to hear the yearning for reassurance under the veil of fear. I hope you don’t avoid eye contact with the family who has clearly never been in a barn but desperately wants to “pet a cow”. Don’t tolerate disrespect or look for a fight, but also don’t hide who you are and what you contribute to your community, your state, and your country.
There will be times when the best course of action is to bite your tongue, walk away, agree to disagree. After those encounters, find a friend and have a good, long undocumented discussion about today’s world.
But remember, there will also be times when the kindness you show or the time you take makes a positive impact … when the little girl proudly shares with her friends that she knows real butter comes from cows.
We “country folk” are a dying breed in a growing world of well-sanitized hands. Yet, we are entrusted with more than ever before.
Friends, I’m not all doom/gloom. I don’t consider my husband and I exempt from this little “pep talk”. For all the very real and dangerous stressors in our industry, I view agriculture as ripe with opportunity, but we must stay united.
We can’t lose sight of all we’ve been given, and we can’t lose ourselves amidst all that is—and will be –demanded of us.
We are ranchers. We are strong, capable leaders invested in the future through our land, our livestock, our families. Fight the good fight, friends. And, as the seasons change, I hope you’ll keep one of my favorite Irish blessings near:
May there always be work for your hands to do. May your purse always hold a coin or two. May the sun always shine upon your window pane. May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. May the hand of a friend always be near to you, and May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
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.
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
“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.
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.