Ranch Diaries: An East Coast visitor adds some perspective

Sometimes hosting an outsider is the perfect reboot.

 

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 year of Triangle P Cattle Company, a new LLC in southcentral New Mexico. Installments are every other Tuesday.

Hail bounced from our canvas awning and covered the ground. Between the lightning flashes, I tried not to imagine what could happen to someone caught outside. When the storm passed 15 minutes later, there was more than a half-inch of water in the rain gauge. Just as I was about to pull on my rubber boots and go searching, I saw Sophie approach the camper in the semi-darkness. Her backpack and hat were waterlogged but there was a huge smile on her face. “The sky out here!” she said, ignoring the fact that she was soaked to the skin, “You can see the weather!”

  • Sophie holds first kale this year from the author's tiny garden.

  • Prickly pear cactus in bloom at Triangle P.

  • Sophie gets a taste of moving pairs.

  • The cozy cowboy tipi that Sophie stayed in.

  • Not bad, for a tipi.

  • Baked goods, fresh from the tiny kitchen.

  • Ranch life, baking a tart at Triangle P.

  • Sophie and the dogs exploring.

  • Nature's detail at Triangle P.

  • An early prickly pear treat.

  • Antelope well, where we haul our drinking water from.

  • An arroyo after rain.

  • Sophie Geller, a friend of the author, recently visited Triangle P from the East Coast.

  • A curious heifer stares Sophie down.

  • Amazing ecosystems near Triangle P.

It’s not everyone who’d be willing to rough it out here and live in a tent for three weeks, but my friend Sophie Geller agreed to just that. We met as undergraduates five years ago, and when she called me up this spring to ask about a visit, I was thrilled: It’s not the first place I’d expect a current Harvard Graduate School of Design student to be gung-ho to visit. For the first time, I realized the same remoteness I sometimes resent can be something someone else wants to experience.

With a love of landscapes and a need to reconnect with her newly healed body (she had dealt with a persistent back injury for several years), Sophie wanted to experience firsthand what Sam and I do daily. Once on the ground, she marveled at the relationships Sam and I have with our animals and the intense level of reciprocal trust –between Sam and I, and the animals and us – required for this way of life. “You’re living in it 24 hours a day,” she told me a week in, as we sipped whiskey on the porch after tearing down part of the old corral.

Sophie reminded me that rising with the sun, going to bed when the stars come out, and living every day on a different rhythm is really a luxury – “You don’t need a clock,” she observed. She slept in the cowboy tipi in the same yard that included our orphan calf May Day, two curious cats, and four energetic dogs.

From exploring a nearby lava flow to examining the tiny shell fossils in many of the stones up the arroyo, Sophie helped me look at my surroundings with renewed enthusiasm. “Big and small are equally impressive,” she said, noticing the details in scale, from tiny ecosystems to storms that overtook the entire sky. She felt privileged to access such an incredible space, and I realized that lately I’d been taking this incredible environment for granted.

Frustrations with the Triangle P life were harder to draw from Sophie, but she had a few grievances. The slow Internet, she remarked, the lack of phone service, the arduous drive into town. Rain leaked into her tipi during one storm, then the clothesline collapsed into the mud after she’d hung out her damp bedding. Planning around the weather surprised her, as did the feeling that people weren’t watching her every move.

After nearly three weeks of doing ranch chores, laundry at the Laundromat in town, and getting groceries at Wal-Mart, Sophie remains undeterred. When it’s hot and dusty and the work is hard, it’s difficult to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing.

As the last few days of her visit come to a close, I’m going to maximize the experience by absorbing her wonder and enthusiasm for this place. Sometimes a little outside perspective is a perfect reboot. “I’m taking what I learned back with me,” Sophie said. It was hard to imagine her implementing newfound skills like making jelly from foraged berries, using fencing pliers, and milking a cow, at Harvard, but I think I understand what she meant. Maybe reconnecting with exterior landscapes catalyzes growth in our interior landscapes, whether in the design studio or the pasture. 

High Country News Classifieds
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Native plant seeds for the Western US. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers and regional mixes. Call or email for free price list. 719-942-3935. [email protected] or visit...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking two full time community organizers to join our team. Positions can be based in Garfield County, Montrose...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Join our team as the Association's Executive Director. Working closely with the Board of Directors, take ANWS to the next level of professionalism by managing...
  • FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Development Director who will have the overall responsibilities of leading our fundraising programs and reports directly to our...
  • WATER RIGHTS/ADJUDICATION BUREAU CHIEF
    Job Overview: Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that Montana's land and water resources provide benefits for present and future...
  • CLIMATE CHANGE COORDINATOR
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is seeking a Climate Change Coordinator to play a lead role in shaping our programs to make the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...