Yes, you might have guessed it — we’ve been working on a book. Since I’m in one of those the-hurrier-I-go-the-behinder-I-get stages, I thought I would cheat and put up the introduction instead of writing an actual post. Hope you enjoy it! – Bee
How We Got Here
If you’ve ever rigged a temporary pen for baby turkeys out of a cardboard box, covered it with your oven baking racks and weighted it down with a few bricks to keep the cats out… you might be a ranch wife.
I was eight when I convinced my father that we needed a horse. At eleven, I was walking a two-mile round trip at six o’clock every morning to feed the horses we kept across the river, then going home to eat breakfast and head to school. My parents bought a ranch when I was 12, but by then we had already had several years of working weekends and summer vacations at the ranch Dad’s partner owned. We didn’t actually move to the ranch until I was seventeen (in fact, we moved on my 17th birthday, something no one in the family remembered until about eight that evening when my personal chronological light bulb went on; I never did get to celebrate that birthday).
I continued to live in town until I was in my late twenties – through circumstance, not choice – sublimating my ranch-wife tendencies through gardening and spending my weekends on horseback or doing ranch chores at my parents’ place. Not until I was thirty-two did I actually have a place of my own in the country. Our primary ranching activity, outside of the gardening which is as natural in my family as breathing, was raising Quarter Horses, although we also had chickens, geese, ducks and — for a few years — pigs. Since my husband spent much time working out of town (and three years at the South Pole), I was usually the person in charge when the well pump went out or the mares needed to be bred or the raccoons got into the chickens.
My husband grew up in Idaho and had never lived in a town. His father used to catch wild horses in the Owyhee desert, break and sell them. His mother grew up on a ranch. By the time he was 10 years old he had an irrigating shovel in his hand and knew how to use it. He grew up poor in the money sense, so he learned early how to make it, fix it or grow it. They kept a milk cow, grew most of their food and food for their animals, and added to the family larder by fishing and hunting. He’s an expert shot with rifle, shotgun or pistol, can weld all sorts of metal, fell trees, rope a steer or shoe a horse. He is one of the most all-around competent men I have ever met – as long as you keep him out of a city, where he becomes agitated and swears a lot. He spent his teens working for the Forest Service, his twenties running heavy equipment, logging and cowboying. He doesn’t have a college degree, but he has so many salable skills he has never once been out of a job.
We now live on 185 acres of what was an original homestead in the foothills of far northern California, with our daughter and her family. (Said daughter, by the way, frequently declaimed during her teenage years that she was NEVER going to be living on a ranch when she grew up. Now I can make snide comments about how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – she usually sticks her tongue out at me and we laugh.) The ranch had been neglected for over fifty years, which meant basically starting over. We built fences, started gardens, resurrected the irrigation system, cleared blackberries and are still working on regenerating the fruit trees. We now have pigs and chickens and beef cows and a milk cow and sheep; our goal is to be completely self-sufficient as far as food goes.
It’s been an interesting journey and I hope you enjoy reading about our life as much as I’ve enjoyed living it.