Sharing Our Story Face-to-Face

At the show in Reno, we were penned by the door. That means we get the most random, non-sheep people traffic. The woman who works in the Casino. The husband and wife who had never seen sheep in real life. The scantily clad woman with an open bottle of Crown in one hand and her cell phone camera in the other asking for a picture with our ewe, Big Bertha.

I know at shows, it’s easy to roll your eyes at people who want to pet the animals or ask questions that we think are stupid. We can feel way too busy for that business.

But if you ask me, this is our best chance to tell our story. Because we can share all the memes and articles and #agtwitter we want, but I will bet you it’s never as effective as a one-on-one conversation. This is our chance to connect with a consumer and give them a farmer or rancher they know.

Also, just because someone doesn’t understand our way of life, that doesn’t make them dumb, they just don’t know. I don’t understand the subway system in New York—that doesn’t make me dumb, I just don’t know information that someone living they lifestyle would.

So I’ll always be up for answering questions about why they have muzzles and explaining that a sheep show is like a cross between a dog show and a body building contest, and snapping pictures of people with our sheep—liquor bottles and all.

Because when they see something about farmers and ranchers on tv, I hope they will think of me. I hope they will remember how we took good care of our animals. I hope they remember I was patient to answer their questions. And if I am ever too busy for that to matter, maybe I better be re-thinking what I’m doing there in the first place.

May Flowers Bring Warm Reminders

Flower power may be a phrase dedicated to the hippie-era, but I witnessed the real thing in 2020.

Last year, as we found ourselves in the midst of the COVID lockdown and I scrambled to find ways to entertain two preschoolers, while still doing my other fulltime job.

Who would have thought that a rangeland plant identification book would turn out to be better than tickets to Disney World for my youngsters?

I quickly realized that this book might allow us to learn about science and force us outside for some great exercise, and to help expend pent-up energy– the all-important mom goal.

We spent hours walking around the pastures with our book in hand, finding all kinds of different forbs and grasses to identify.  The kids took samples and collected flowering plants to put in a vase to decorate the house. They learned which plants were most palatable to cattle and to deer. By the end of the summer, they could spot an antelope horn milkweed a mile away! 

As the calendar turns and we approach May once more, I find myself so grateful for the friend that gifted us that book and the lessons it offered.  No, I don’t just mean the different plants I can now identify on command, although I do enjoy my new-found expertise.

I’ll forever treasure the joy of spending hours together, uninterrupted by trips or meetings. There’s nothing quite like seeing a child’s face light up when they learn something new.  The pride my kids have about our land and the understanding it belongs to them too rests easy on my heart.

Yes, we’ve endured some hard times in 2020, but there were beautiful times too. May those May flowers serve as lifelong reminders of how simple things bloom when we are together.

Follow Your Dreams

I recently had the chance to be a guest speaker in a class at my alma mater, the University of New Mexico School of Law. I loved my time at UNM and cannot say enough about how wonderful the professors were, how kind the staff was, and how many amazing friends I made there. I jumped at the opportunity to be involved there again, even in this small way.

My law school graduation

The professor who invited me to speak said that I was someone who charted my own path, made some unconventional moves, and always fought for the life I wanted. I wouldn’t have ever said those things about myself, but as I told my story, I realized, she was kind of right. When I laid it all out, maybe that is a thread running throughout my career.

I backed out of going to a top 25 law school when I woke up one morning and felt like UNM was right for me. Mind you, it was April. I had turned UNM down, I had a house and roommates and a seat deposit in Virginia. But when I decided it wasn’t right, I made new plans.

I turned down a 6-figure job at a top 25 international law firm. That one was hard to swallow, especially after that firm gave me the summer of my life when I lived in San Francisco as a summer associate. But I knew after that summer that while I will always love San Francisco, and I learned so much about myself in that experience, I wasn’t meant to be a big city girl.

I said no thanks to a federal clerkship. To you lawyers in the crowd, I know this is shocking. It was a great opportunity and it is not lost on me how many students dream of this very offer. I just wasn’t one of them. I already had a job I was excited about lined up that would give me the opportunity to work with amazing people, and clerking just didn’t appeal to me. So despite a pretty solid campaign and pressure from people around me, I trusted myself to know what was the best fit for me.

I left a great law firm job right before huge cases settled for crazy money. I mean, money with enough commas I had to really focus to count that high. I loved that firm. I love those people. To this day I credit them with teaching me how to be a lawyer. I worked hard on those cases. But then…my dream job came open. And there are only about 5 similar jobs around the US, so I knew if I wanted it, I would have to go for it now. Conventional wisdom, and a couple of my mentors, told me I was crazy to leave. But I knew my passions and my heart aligned more with this job than the law firm. So I jumped.

Reflecting back on these events, they were super stressful at the time. But now, a decade or removed from them, every one of those decisions was right for me and led me right to where I am meant to be. Could I have been successful and happy had I taken other paths? Sure, I think so. But I don’t think I would have been as successful or as happy, because I just wouldn’t have been as much me.

My job now (you know, before COVID made everything on zoom)

So that’s the encouragement I offered the students. Follow your heart. Say yes to the things that lead you to your dreams, not the dreams someone else tells you that you should have. Trust your gut. You only get to live this life once, and you don’t want to waste it trying to do what everyone else thinks you should.

A Lump and Perspective

I recently had a cancer scare. A lump. I’m fine—all clear. During the two weeks between the discovery and the appointment, I basically held my breath. I put a lot of things on hold, just because I needed to be sure everything was ok. Everything felt in limbo.

The moment I got clear results from my testing, I finally took a deep breath, and I got busy. I vowed to do all of the things that I had put on hold and silently prayed I would be able to do. Because that prayer was granted.

I’m booking flights to Reno to take my kids to their first National sheep show with their Grandad. I bought new running shoes, grateful that my body will let me continue my favorite hobby. I am researching houses on the sandy shores of the Gulf, to show my kids the beach for the first time.

It has been a dose of perspective for me not to treasure these things I could so easily take for granted.

I’m also aware that there were lots of other women in that center today. Some of them did not get to exhale. Say a prayer for them tonight, will you?

Stand Up. Do Better.

It feels like over the last year, I’ve frequently shook my head and wondered how certain things can be happening in America.

After the murder of several Asian-Americans yesterday and the undeniable increase in hate crimes against Asians in this country, I find myself doing it again. And to compound my grief and frustration, there is the lack of white Americans condemning this violence. One friend of mine said I was the only non-Asian who she had seen post about the killings. That breaks my heart.

We have to do better. People, made in the image of God, living in the United States of America are being brutally murdered because of their ethnicity. We have to stand up for those facing violence and racism and hatred in this country. Full stop. No “but what about” or “yea but also” or “well it wasn’t because…”.

So today…stand up. Whether that looks like a social media post, a prayer, a donation, texting your Asian friends, reading a blog post or social media status of someone of Asian descent to understand how they feel … do something. I’m sick of asking how this can be happening in America and ready to figure out how the hell we make it stop.

Recipe Card: Taco Soup

My mother in law makes really good taco soup, so I recently asked for her recipe. This could not be easier and I love it especially for a Friday night when I am exhausted, but want a good dinner at home.

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 can rotel (I like the one with Hatch green chile)
1 can corn
1 can ranch style beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can (15oz) tomato sauce
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix

Brown the meat and season with garlic, salt and pepper. Drain grease.

Add all the cans (liquid included) and packets. Heat then simmer until ready to serve.

I serve with cheese and sour cream. I like to eat it with cornbread or cheese quesadillas! I also like to add green chile because, well, I’m a New Mexican.

It’s Just What Farmers Do

This was published with the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer magazine.

Recently, we were at a small family gathering. I looked over to find my four-year-old son, pants around his ankles, going potty in the yard. I rushed over to find out what in the actual world he was doing!

He responded, “Well, Mama, it’s just what farmers do.”

After I got over the embarrassment, I got to thinking about his statement and what things farmers just do.

Farmers help their neighbors.  I was fortunate to grow up withneighbors really did feel like family.  When my grandfather suddenly passed away when my dad was a teenager, it was our neighbors who stepped in to help get crops in the ground and to offer advice for decades afterwards.  I can think back on my childhood and remember neighbors helping me collect rocks for my science project, never refusing to buy whatever I was selling for a fundraiser, and being my biggest cheerleaders at basketball games or stock shows.  

Farmers give back to their communities.  I cannot think of a single farmer I know who does not also give back to the community in some way.  Some are members of the volunteer fire department, others volunteer to judge public speaking contests.  Some coach pee wee basketball teams, and others can be found flipping burgers behind the school concession stand.  

Farmers care for the environment and their animals. I learned a lot about respecting the environment from farmers. I can remember being a child standing in the field talking about conserving water and how best to care for our soil. I’ve seen grown men cry when, despite their best efforts, they’ve been unable to save a cow, a newborn lamb, or their favorite horse.

While I trust dropping Wranglers in public is something my boy will grow out of, I sure hope he learns and remembers so many of the other things that are just what farmers do.

Recipe Card: Shephard’s Pie

Shephard’s pie is one of my go-to weeknight meals during the winter. It’s classic comfort food and easy to get on the table quickly!

Ingredients

1 pound of ground beef (I think technically shephard’s pie is made with ground lamb and ground beef is called cottage pie…but used any ground meat you want)

Garlic

Onion (minced or fresh chopped)

Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

3 small russet potatoes

Butter

Milk

Either a packet of brown gravy mix and water directed on package OR 3/4 C beef broth and 2T corn starch

1 can of cut green beans

Shredded cheese

*To spice it up, add green chile to the meat while cooking!

Directions

Heat oven to 350. Brown hamburger meat in skillet adding about 1 clove garlic, onion, 4 shakes Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.

While meat is cooking, boil potatoes until soft. Add milk, butter, garlic, and salt and mash. Set aside.

After meat is brown, you need to add gravy. You can either add in the gravy mix packet and follow directions on water, or you can make your own gravy. To make your own, add about 1/2C beef broth to the browned meat. Let that cook for a couple minutes and make a slurry with the cornstarch and 1/4C beef broth. Add to skillet. Stir until it thickens. If it’s too thick–add more broth.

Place meat mixture in the bottom of a baking dish. Add can of green beans (drained) on top. Then place mashed potatoes on top of green beans. Top with shredded cheese.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and edges start to bubble.

Recipe Card: Beef Tips

Beef tips is one of my go-to recipes. It’s easy and delicious!

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 pounds beef stew meat cut into 1” cubes

24 oz beef broth

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons Soy sauce

1 clove garlic

¼ Teaspoon onion salt (or a couple shakes minced onion)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 green or red bell pepper sliced into strips

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

¼ cup water

Heat oil in large skillet; brown meat on all sides. Stir in broth, Worcestershire, soy sauce, garlic, onion. Season with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer at least 1 hour (I like it closer to 2 hours).

About 20 minutes before you want to eat, add bell pepper and return cover.

Blend cornstarch and water; stir gradually into the beef mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

Sunday Nights Make Memories

This article was published with the Progressive Farmer Our Rural Roots series.

Under quarantine, the days started to run together, and life began to feel mundane. The kids were going stir crazy locked up at home and, if I am honest, so were their parents.

So, in an attempt to find some fun and salvage our sanity, we cooked up the idea of a fancy Sunday dinner.

These days, on Sunday nights, we simply prepare a little fancier meal than normal. In reality, the affair is nothing fancy. But to my kids (ages 4 and 5), you’d think it was dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park.

The menu isn’t complicated. It involves a lot of steak (of course). Dessert is always on the menu.

The kids make paper placemats for each of us. Our son, who is learning to write his letters, often works to write each person’s name and decorate each masterpiece with that person’s favorite animal.

We let the kids choose their own glassware. A wine glass with a twisty straw (because it’s a party!) is nearly always the vehicle of choice. We use the “fancy dishes,” which are honestly just our regular Fiestaware plates, but they feel fancy when compared to the paper plates that often get called into service during the week.

I hope when they are older and they look back on the chaos of the year 2020, my children will not remember too much of the hard. Instead, I hope they remember steak and macaroni and cheese on turquoise plates and apple juice in a wine glass.

I hope they remember the clanking of crystal glasses at least 57 times per meal and the joyous shouts of “cheers” as we raise our glasses high in salute. I hope they remember the real recipe to making things memorable is the simple ingredient of togetherness.