Ranch Diaries: On returning home from the city

Whenever I leave, I miss out on big events at the ranch.

 

Ranch Diaries is an hcn.org series highlighting the experiences of Laura Jean Schneider, who gives us a peek into daily life during the first two years of Triangle P Cattle Company, a new LLC in southcentral New Mexico. Installments are every other Tuesday.

Sometime around 2 a.m. last night, I woke to the sound of something rummaging in the dog food bin. I threw back the sheet, pulled on my robe, and let Belle, our Border Collie, slip through the screen door. She took off in hot pursuit of whatever creature had been tempted by the temporary location of the pet food. My headlamp beam exposed kibble spilled onto the ground, but the only eyes reflecting back at me are Mooska the cat’s, and she’s not large enough to have caused the mess.

Belle trots up, wagging her stump tail. I wonder what she chased off. I right the plastic bin and snap the cover securely. I switch the headlamp off. I take a breath. The coolness is a relief after the unusually hot temperatures we’ve had since I returned from Vermont. Then I look up, and I’m stunned. The Milky Way stretches broad and dense as a frothy spring river, cutting a swath of light across the sky. A part of me wishes to never move from this spot.

  • MFA in writing in hand at my recent graduation.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Sam's spade bit.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Beachcombing Boston Harbor during my recent trip east.

    Laura Jean Schneider
  • Hoots holds a calf so Sam and Kiki can brand a straggler on the range.

  • Our partner Albert ropes at the last Triangle P branding of the year.

  • Sorting calves at the last branding.

  • Kiki moving heifers.

    Laura Jean Schneider

Movement. I’m smack in the middle of re-adjusting to the pace and rhythm of ranch life. A sixteen-day trip elsewhere means that when I get back, there’ve been changes, because life here doesn’t halt and wait for me to get home. In some ways I approach it all a bit awkwardly, feeling like a stranger on my homescape. Tinnie the milk cow finally had her calf, a big bull that our intern Kiki named Wiley. She’s now nursing him and two dogie calves and they seem to have worked out their mixed family dynamic without too much fuss. A few of our partners came to help finish branding the last few calves.  The house is freshly painted, inside and out. I pulled up a few of the potato vines and we enjoyed the incomparable taste of new potatoes for first dinner. It’s full-on fly season now. The rains we’ve been expecting haven’t come. Today is Kiki’s last day of work, and she’ll be headed back to Kentucky on the 15th. Sam’s nephew Owen is here to help until our next intern arrives near the end of August.

It’s hard to re-fit myself into these working parts that have moved smoothly in my absence. MFA in hand, I no longer have to divide my time between schoolwork and ranch work. It should feel liberating. While I’m looking forward to swapping desk chair for saddle seat, I feel in my absence that I’ve missed something special. One-on-one time with Kiki before she heads back to her last semester of college. The birth of a long-awaited calf. The last branding of the season, always a milestone. The bright magenta cholla blooms have withered, and there are two lovely teal, brown-speckled eggs in a curve-billed thrasher’s nest that was completed during my travels. The sunflowers in my garden have grown a foot, raising their heliotropic faces in a bright statement of joy.

Tucked in the quirkily illustrated text of a new book on untranslatable words, the Swedish “resfber” snagged my attention: “The restless beat of a traveler’s heart before the journey begins, a mixture of anxiety and anticipation.” This exactly describes the tension I feel about my journey onward. The forward trajectory of the life around me is visible, and I must move with it.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    HawkWatch International seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our awesome team! This position will provide support in all aspects of the department. We are looking...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING IN TAOS, NEW MEXICO www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • HAND CRAFTED LOG HOME IN TETON VALLEY
    on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.
  • ACREAGE WITH HOME, SHOP, BARN FOR SALE!
    Must see for sng/extd fam or corp retreat in pines! $1,030,000
  • WESTERN REGIONAL MANAGER
    The American Forest Foundation seeks a smart and highly motivated candidate to join our Western conservation team. The Regional Manager supports the Regional Director to...
  • TRANSPORTATION PLANNER
    Exciting opportunity to lead the charge on meeting the future transportation demands of our community! This position will develop, coordinate, and implement the Integrated Transportation...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING INSTITUTE (EWI)
    with Robert Michael Pyle September 26-30, 2018, in Missoula MT.
  • REPORTING FELLOW - BOISE, ID
    Boise State Public Radio is hiring a Reporting Fellow as part of a new nationwide collaborative, Guns & America. Based in the state capitol, Boise...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Rifle, CO.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RIVERSEDGE WEST (FORMERLY TAMARISK COALITION)
    RiversEdge West is seeking an entrepreneurial leader with solid nonprofit management skills to lead our high functioning team and help us make an impact on...
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR WITH WRA
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a talented, organized person with great people skills, who is passionate about protection of the natural environment to work...
  • DIRECTOR OF REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
    The Wilderness Society is recruiting for an experienced Communicator for our Northwest Region. This position is located in Seattle, WA. For more information please visit...
  • SALMON RIVER IDAHO WILDERNESS RETREAT HOME
    Here is an opportunity to have a piece of self-sufficient paradise on Idaho's Main Salmon River adjacent to the largest Forest Service wilderness area in...
  • RAMMED EARTH SOLAR COTTAGE
    in 5-home conservation community & botanical sanctuary on 20 acres.
  • MEMBERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation is looking for an enthusiastic and innovative Membership and Engagement Coordinator to help grow and maintain our grassroots voice for wildife,...
  • SR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is excited to announce a Sr Environmental Planner position within the Natural Areas Department. This position will be housed within...
  • HISTORICAL VACATION CABIN
    on beautiful Snow Angel Ranch located within San Juan National Forest near Pagosa Springs, CO. Lakes, fly-fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, horse trails, horse accommodations...
  • FIVE-ACRE VIEW LOT WITH WELL
    5 acres, well. Abuts Carson NF; hike fish ski; deer turkey elk.