The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-Girl.

25 Things I Want My Ranch Kids to Know

Copyright © 2012 by Rachel J. Lohof Larsen

1. You have chores, because we love you.

They seem tedious, but they are the building blocks for your future.  Responsibility, accountability, and basic life skills begin with sweeping the floor, scrubbing the toilet, and feeding pets and livestock.  We love you, we want you to find success in life.  Success comes from preparation, so we give you chores.

2. Boredom is a choice.

Don’t let me hear you say you are bored.  Boredom is a choice, when your backyard is the whole outdoors, there are chores to be done, and books to be read.  If you can’t entertain yourself with a stick and a bucket full of calf nuts, we’re doing something wrong.

3. There is magic in watching the sunrise.

Early mornings are hard,  we don’t rise as early and as easily as Dad.  Do it anyway.  The beauty you will witness with the awakening of the world is worth sleepy eyes and cold fingers.

4. A pet is more than a companion.

Your cats, dogs, calves, and ponies are more than friends and playmates.  They are lessons in empathy, responsibility, love, and letting go.

5. Grow your own food.

Our world is increasingly rife with poor food choices, the easiest response to unhealthy options is to grow your own food.  I don’t care it’s a single tomato plant or a garden large enough to feed 10 families, cultivate an appreciation for fresh, whole food.

6. Be open to learning.

In horsemanship and life, you will never know it all, never assume that you do.  A humble open, attitude towards learning will lead to new skills and experiences.

7. Dress appropriately for the occasion.

A cowboy’s uniform, hat, long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and boots, evolved out of necessity.  Protect yourself from the sun, wind and weather with the proper clothing.  I nag and question your clothing choices, because you are precious to me.

8. There is a time and a place for bad language.

Sometimes you just need to cuss; spew anger and frustration in one grand verbal barrage.  Smash your thumb with your shoeing hammer/fencing pliers, massive runback at the gate, ringy heifer won’t take her calf?  Yes.  At the dinner table,  the classroom, in front of your grandmother?  No.

9. Feed your help.

Neighbors, friends, or hired men?  It doesn’t matter, sometimes the best way to show your gratitude for a long day of hard work is a lovingly prepared hot meal and cold drink.

10.  Don’t judge, but if you do, judge them by their abilities, attitudes, actions not appearances.

Buckaroo or cowboy, flat or taco, slick or rubber? In some circles these comparisons can lead to heated debates, more often than not based strongly in personal opinion, rather than rooted in truth.  This is true outside of  the ranching world, as well.  Words have power to create divisiveness, do not use them to speak against yourself or gossip about others.

11. Stewardship.

Dad and I choose to be responsible for landscapes and livestock, this lifestyle defines who we are.  Sometimes that means ballgames are trumped by pasture rotations and dinner time is delayed by cesarean sections, it does not mean we love you any less.  I hope you approach the world with a sense of respect and connectedness.

12. Fake it ’til you make it.

You don’t have to be confident in everything you do, but taking a deep breath and acting like you are helps you get through it.  This can be applied in the arena, the sorting alley, to horses or people, and life as a whole.  Stand up straight and look the challenge in the eye, as you gain experience confidence will catch up with you.

13.  That said, don’t mistake arrogance for confidence.

No one likes a swaggering braggart, even if he is a competent swaggering braggart.  There is honor in being unheralded, if you enjoy your work.

14. Low-stress is best. . .

. . .for you and for livestock.   Don’t let it defeat your spirit and energy.  Don’t let it impact your livestock health.

15. The only dumb question is the unasked question.

Where is  the gate?  Which calf? Can you help me?  Ask questions, no one will think less of you.  Clear communication helps prevent misunderstandings.

16. Always do your best.

There are days when your best is better than others, recognize that.  Avoid self-judgement, abuse, and regret and enjoy the process.

17.    “There comes a time when you’re gonna get bucked and you’re gonna need to know what to do so you don’t get stepped on.”  -Betsy Swain, 1875

Do not let fear of pain or disappointment stand in the way of new experiences.  What I regret most in my life are opportunities missed out of fear.  Pain and disappointment are a part of living, learn to take them in stride and keep moving forward.

18. Be polite and kind.

Enough said.

19.  But, don’t be a pushover.

Stand up for yourself, stand up for what is right.

20. Develop a sense of place.

Wherever you may live, learn the names of plants, rocks, and animals, visit old homesteads (or neighborhoods) and educate yourself about Indigenous cultures.  In doing so, you gain roots, a sense of belonging that will lend you stability in all that you do.

21. Break a sweat everyday.

Pound a steel post or take a jog, whatever you do, break a sweat daily.  Your mind and body will thank you for it.

22. Be present.

If you are mindful of the moment, it is easier to catch a mistake before it happens, redirect a broncy horse before wreck, and have better relationships.  It might surprise you, what you observe and what you achieve when you are fully in the moment.

23. Unplug.

Go to cow camp.  Leave the computer screen, TV, and cell phones behind.  Watch the chipmunks and rock dogs, read a book, or share a conversation with your family.

24. Sometimes the hard decisions are the right ones.

We cannot rationalize suffering and pain to animals.  Sometimes the best decision is the hardest one to make, know when to let them go.

25. You do not have to maintain this lifestyle, but please appreciate it.

I don’t expect you to grow up and follow in our footsteps, the long hours and low pay aren’t for everyone.  Carry these early horseback mornings in your heart.


  1. words more people should raise their kids by

  2. Lovely words of wisdom; applies to all aspects of life for the young, mature, through to city slickers and all!

  3. JoAnn Regan-Keller

    May 27, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Hi Rachel,
    Lovely words. May I share them with my daughter’s 4H club?

    JoAnn Regan-Keller

    • rachelwp

      July 20, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I apologize for not responding sooner, JoAnn. Please feel free to share, as long as the work is properly attributed.

  4. Hello, Rachel. I would like permission to reprint your excellent “25 Things…” list in our upcoming community newsletter (the “Flying XTRA”) with byline and link to your blog. Please email if you would like to see sample copies or you can download issues from

    Regards, Ross

    • rachelwp

      March 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Thank you for your interest, Ross. Feel free to reprint, as long as the list is fully-accredited, I am happy to see it widely shared as long as it continues to resonate with folks.

  5. Glad I found this blog! Lovely cow, lovely thoughts to live by here.

  6. So glad I discovered The Sagebrush Sea, and this list. Seems we are both relatively new owners of new milk cows 😉 too. Beautiful photos!

    • rachelwp

      January 28, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Thank you, Laura Jean. I look forward to more High Country New’s Ranch Diaries, it is so refreshing to see someone who shares my interest in modern, ecological ranching.

  7. Thank you for these! They are spot on. It is a lifestyle many will not understand and it is not for everyone, but everyone can take lessons from the lifestyle. Only one thing I’d add…helping a friend or neighbor is a must as the favor will be returned in some way. Hope you won’t mind if I share these!

    • rachelwp

      October 12, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Thank you, Elysabeth. I enjoy hearing from folks who enjoy this list. Neighboring is important, thanks for the reminder. You’re welcome to share away, as long as it is properly accredited.

  8. Hi Rachel.
    Came across your blog and admired your ’25’ gems of wisdom.
    Wondered if these are your own words and if so, would you allow us to credit & print this in our quarterly magazine Genesis please?
    We are mostly farmers, a volunteer non-profit org. dedicated to promoting the heritage farm livestock our country was built on.
    Perfectly understandable if this is not possible. Many thanks, Pam.

    • rachelwp

      February 12, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to ask, I sincerely appreciate the gesture. You are most welcome to share my list, as it has been widely shared the last three years. All the best,
      Rachel Lohof Larsen

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