Ranch Diaries: Our first intern, branding cattle and renovating an old home

Triangle P cattle know the territory now, so our second summer shouldn’t be as demanding as the last.


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.

I’m sitting at the tiny table in our camper sipping a mug of black tea. Mist hides Pajarita Mountain and the junipers are dark vague shapes in the rain. I’m tired and sore, with blisters on my hands from roping yesterday, and all I want to do is slip back under the down comforter to the hum of the heater and go back to sleep.

  • Putting the men to work and utilizing the branding fire coals.

  • Owen, son of one of our partners, throws a heel trap.

  • Partner Brandon is excited about our branding lunch!

  • Sam mans the irons.

  • Two tribal members, Gordon and Josh, working ground crew.

  • Ribeyes, sautéed mushrooms and yellow squash, and garlic mashed potatoes to celebrate our first branding of the year.

Sam, Jim (who is back for a second season to tend the steers in Lower Elk at the other end of our lease on the Mescalero Apache Reservation), and a friend from Luna, are out horseback in the drizzle, checking to make sure any cows and calves that got separated during yesterday’s range branding have found each other. Three hundred and sixteen: That’s how many calves we’ve branded so far, with a few more brandings to go. While we lost a few cows and calves to birthing complications, the herd is healthy and the calves are vigorous.   

Triangle P’s new four year lease agreement with the Mescalero Apache tribe includes a shared agreement to fix up the old house here at Cow Camp Two. Triangle P will pay for the labor, and the tribe will supply the materials. A check from the tribe has arrived at the local lumberyard, and materials are being put together for delivery to our camp. Preparing lunch for a crew of 13 in the tiny kitchen yesterday, I was reminded that my days of using the floor and sinks for holding surfaces would be over soon. While I can’t wait, it’s bittersweet to think about moving out of our little home.

But the camper will stick around, for now: It will become intern housing as soon as we move into the house. In the interim, we’re setting up a wall tent for our first official Triangle P intern, a young woman from Kentucky who’s arriving two weeks from May Day. A few days after we settle Kiki in, Sam and I are off to Las Cruces to share our stories at the AgriFuture conference for new producers, and we’ll be attending our first Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance (SWGLA) meeting as board members the following week.

Ranching, and the resulting product, beef, is not all about cattle: It’s about people, from producer to consumer. Since the Triangle P cattle know the pastures, gates, and water points now, this summer should not be as demanding as last year was. It’s impossible to project, but barring major natural disasters, we’re heading into the summer months in pretty good shape overall. Kiki, our intern, will be staying for eight weeks; Sam’s nephew is coming for five weeks the third year in a row to help us out. This makes me happy, as I envision Triangle P Cattle Company to be a mini-community: Yesterday, with folks sprawled all over the porch and in camp chairs, balancing plates of sloppy joes and potato salad, it felt just right. Among the folks who helped us brand yesterday were three tribal members, a Cornell graduate, a veterinarian, a seven-year-old girl, the VP of the New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and a milk buyer. There is room in ranching for everyone, and for the future here, it’s my goal to facilitate a space where people can see that in action.

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