The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-girl.

My Best Friend

The past two years have flown by, there was a time that my dog friend’s name was as fitting as could be.  Mouse was the runt of an unplanned litter out of an Airedale/Border Collie female and my husband’s good Kelpie.  She is a devoted companion, an enthusiastic (if not helpful) cowdog, door opening and chair hogging nuisance, who brings a smile to my face everyday.  I can’t imagine life without a canine confidant.

Little Boy Blue, Where are you?

I took a plunge and purchased a Jersey milk cow this winter.  At the time I bought her, “Karey” was an untrained, two-year-old heifer expecting her first calf.  I don’t really know what I am doing.   I’ve never owned a milk cow before, the only dairy animals I’ve encountered served as nurse cows raising bumb calves.  Since this Spring, I’ve successfully halter trained and stanchion broke her, though Karey is not yet a pet.  In May, she welcomed a healthy, bull calf into the world.  “Homer” was a small, doe-eyed critter.  So sweet to behold, he has grown quickly in the past five months into a something resembling a teenage teddy bear.

Homer the Jersey calf

Homer the Jersey calf, May 2015.

The milk drinkers in my household are pleased with the quality of Karey’s output and I enjoy reflective time with her in the quiet of the morning.  I know there are those who would disagree *cough* my husband *cough* but I find milking to be a meditative experience.  It’s the shadowy, stillness in the barn, dust motes dancing in the sunlight trickling through the small windows, in the presence of my cow I find a sense of peace.  I’ve also found forearm muscles, I didn’t know I had.

Mother and son

Mother and son

Now as I wean Homer, I’m spending more time with Karey in the quiet of the barn.  In those quiet moments, between the scooping of feed and manure, I am building a life of intention one deliberate moment at a time.  The cow might disagree.  Much to her chagrin in the past eight months, she has been haltered and led by horseback, made two trips up and down the Big Horn Mountains,  where she was picketed against her will and now I am taking her precious baby away from her.

Wild Mountain Jersey

Wild Mountain Jersey

Welcome Fall

The Fall Equinox graced this part of the world with a cool, clean morning that blossomed into a clear, sunny day.   The following days seem to shimmer with summer heat, but the blackbirds appear in large flocks and the cottonwoods are beginning to turn yellow.  It is undeniably Autumn in Wyoming.  With the change of seasons, comes the gathering and shipping of cattle to market.

I began my chores after I loaded my boy up on the school bus. My chore load has increased this year, with the addition of a Jersey milk cow to our animal menagerie.  Then, I gathered my best pony, Carlo, to work cows.  We’re both a bit chubby and out of shape.  So our trot to the far pasture was a leisurely one ,with lots of alternate walking.  All the better to enjoy, the moisture in the morning air and observe the locals.  We surprised ever-present Pronghorn, a family cluster of Mule deer, and witnessed a kit fox skipping about.  Ears that dwarfed its tiny body and the sweep of his tail were the only visible evidence of his presence in the tall grass.

My crew, Carlo and Mouse.

My crew, Carlo and Mouse.

I was lucky, when I reached the pasture all of my cows were handily grazing in the nearest corner.  It is rare, that it works out so neatly when working cattle.  After checking the water, salt, and mineral, I pushed the cows through the corner gate and headed to the nearest set of pens with them.  As the cattle fell off the hill towards the corrals, the thunder of horse hooves greeted me.  I had unexpected help from our herd of retirees and colts.  Although enthusiastic, they were piss poor cowboys.  The entire bunch of horses managed to stand in the gate long enough for the cows to loose interest in quietly passing through.  Fortunately, with some coercing on my part all parties fulfilled their expected roles and the cattle were successfully corralled.

Thanks for the help, guys.

Thanks for the help, guys.

It was delightfully fun to sort our yearling steers out of my little herd of cows.  I was able to work slowly, because time wasn’t an issue.  I paired cows through the gate, leaving the yearlings in a smaller pen.  I enjoyed every concentrated flick of Carlo’s ears and subtle step that resulted in success.  This is the life I want to build for myself, a life filled with moments that turn into hours free of external deadlines or distractions, fully-engaged in the present.





14 Years


My grandad's windmill.

My grandad’s windmill.

Fourteen years ago, as our country reeled from the tragic events on the East coast, I was a college student in the mountains of Colorado.  Hollow-eyed and apathetic, I was reeling from the tragic and unexpected loss of my beloved grandfather six months earlier.  The grief of  September 11th is etched into our collective memory.  That day the pain of thousands laid raw my already heavy heart.  My grandfather’s death was the first, big loss I faced in my young life.  The pain seemed insurmountable, I couldn’t see a way beyond the hole in my heart and the pain of an entire nation in mourning.

Hollowed out by the shocking circumstances of my loss, the World Trade Center tragedy was further evidence  of a bleak, heartless world.  I sank further into depression and apathy, wallowing in pain and making poor, alcohol fueled decisions. Time passed.  Almost imperceptibly, the tragic filter through which I viewed the world began to shift. No singular “Aha!” moment stands out in my memory; there was no distinct turning point.

Healing begins when you start to notice tiny miracles of the spirit.  The beauty of light, a stranger’s smile, and a passing birdsong.  As I begin noticing and indulging in observing nature, connecting with humans and animals alike, the raw edges of my heartbreak began to heal.

It is no mistake, I noticed the drama of the sunset silhouetting my grandfather’s Aermotor windmill on the anniversary of September 11th.    The possibility of tragedy is the price we pay for the gift of life.  I struggled before I  found the bravery to open myself up to the world, fourteen years ago.  Undoubtedly, I will struggle again.  But I know now, that true grace is found in gratitude and love, in the face of pain.

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