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Women in Ranching

A new kind of cowgirl

When I first moved back to my family ranch ten years ago, fresh out of college, I was plagued with insecurities. I had been around ranching all my life, the oldest of two daughters, and my parents were very egalitarian and encouraged us girls to do anything. Anything that is, but raise cattle. I could fumble through a fence repair, and obviously I could drive a stick shift, but I felt as though I would never learn everything I needed to from my dad.

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Keeping it in the family: My start down the path of succession planning

Last summer, I told my colleagues that I would be taking a sabbatical from work to develop a succession plan for my family ranch, a 300-head cow-calf operation in southern Arizona. “Succession plan” was such a nebulous term that I felt like I needed dedicated time just to figure out what it meant before I could create one. It was overdue. In 2013, one week before my son’s birth, my father had an accident while riding that could have easily killed him, and nearly did.

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Birds Got no Beef with Burger

Opening the pickup door and stepping out onto native grass, the sun begins to rise amidst the sound of the dawn chorus. I listen to the melodic tinkling of a Baird’s sparrow (my favorite song, and also set as my morning phone alarm); the downward whirl of the Sprague’s pipit (my ring tone); the buzz of the Brewer’s sparrows, the joyful couplets of the McCown’s longspur. The chestnut-collared longspurs are chasing each other in play, or fight.

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Tenacity + Solidarity + Creativity

One cold, dark, November night, I was lost somewhere outside the small town of Walden, CO, searching for a bison ranch. I had taken time off from my marketing job at Whole Foods Market to help during the outfit’s annual bison roundup. With no cell service, I was becoming increasingly concerned about finding the ranch. Self-doubt kicked in. When I finally had service I called my husband. “Is this normal?! For a 30-some year old woman to be spending her free time showing up at some ranch not knowing where she is going to sleep, what she is going to eat, to learn about a completely new profession?!” My husband replied, “No, but do it anyway.”

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Motherherd

I’ve always doted on the calves, but this year I realize that I am in love with the Motherherd. I love the Mother words: Motherlove, Mothergod, Acequia Madre. Written as compound words, they become icons rather than alphabetic symbols to me, and like an icon, the paint, wood and gilt is believed to be infused with the sacred nature of what it depicts. The word and the herd smooth my skin when I’m rattled or angry.

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With Purpose to Save and Savor

Although we can’t actually do all that is put before us as stewards of community, family, animals and land, I do believe we can do all of it on a scale that is meaningful. We can both save and savor in the living that we do.

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