Gust Blog (lol, get it): Marmalade Boots, A Letter to the Wind

I thought I would post this letter from my good friend on this rare still morning under the Crazies! Plus, I almost choked on my coffee from laughing when I read this. Because it’s SO TRUE. — MC

A Letter to the Wind

This past year has been a tough one out on the ranch. We had almost no measurable precipitation to speak of all last spring and summer. And unfortunately this winter has been much of the same. No moisture means no grass; no grass means no cows. We were able to skirt by last summer and make do, but things are starting to look bleak. We need moisture. Instead, we get wind. No rain. No snow. Only wind. Everyday wind. And I absolutely, with every fiber of my being HATE wind. I know hate is a strong word, but I HATE IT! Aww, it feels good to say it. I hate you wind! Sometimes the wind is so infuriating that I just want to spit in its face. But then I remember that it has no face, and it would just blow the spit back in my face. Touché wind. Way to add insult to injury. Because this drought is out of my control, and the wind is out of my control. I am just going to vent. This is my…


Dear Wind,

When I am trying to bring an ornery cow to the shed and all my horse wants to do is stop and turn her back to you…you frustrate me. When I come inside and my hair is so knotted that I look like I just walked straight out of the 80’s…you annoy me. When I’m standing out on the flat, trying to feed our yearlings and you are blowing dust and hay into my eyes and up my nose…you antagonize me. When you make it impossible for me to be outside and enjoy myself on an otherwise perfectly warm, sunny day…you disappoint me. When you shake my house all night long, keeping me awake…you piss me off. However, when you blow all the topsoil off our newly farmed fields…I start to hate you. When you suck the moisture out of the earth around us…I hate you. When you continually blow every storm, every drop of rain or snow away from our ranch. When you blow away every hope we have for moisture …I definitely hate you.

I hate you wind! Seriously, you blow.

Marmalade Boots


The Montana Cowgirl — Shopping with the family

The Montana Cowgirl -- Shopping with the family
As calving season drags on and my wardrobe consists of yoga pants or bagged out jeans covered in calf slime, I like to reflect on what I could have worn today… Enjoy!!
Calf count: 152
Days since I last wore mascara: 97

Calving front lines

Calving season is upon us here on the little island under the Crazies. Although technically we are due to start calving until next week, we welcomed our first baby calf weeks ago and have been getting a handful of calves almost everyday for a week now, translation: let the craziness begin.
In previous years, I would sympathetically night check for Cowboy occasionally on a weekend, only to go back to my regular sleeping schedule all week. It was “fun” and “something different” for me. Unlike my desk jockeying, night calving allowed me to relate and help my man when he needed the most. I could really relate
to his job, might as well be.nominated for best wife of the year award. Ha! Only now that I am night calving for Cowboy full time can I appreciate calving better. Eight hours of solitude has allowed me lots of clarity about calving:
1. I’ve been told night calving is supposed to prepare me to have a baby of my own. If so, thank you Mom. A lot.
2. Last Saturday night, I thought back to last year. Instead of driving around shining a spotlight on the hind ends of cows in cowshit covered overalls, I was partying in the box suite of Dallas Cowboy stadium. Margarita in my hand, Old Gringos on my feet. Who says ranch wife life isn’t glamourous?
3. A cow with tag 13 Orange lost her calf. Cowboy is pretty sure he was born dead and had a “problem”, which is pretty sad. We hate losing calves but it does happen. I was not prepared to deal with the fact that 13 Orange did not leave the spot were her calf had last been for 4 days, including during a snow storm that caused all the other cows to seek shelter. Driving by and checking, seeing her laying in the same spot in case her baby showed back up, I literally had to swallow back a sob every time. Cowboy rolled his eyes at me when I told him that.
4. Turns out that I can stay in my sweats all day and night. And not cute sweats either. I bet Cowboy just loves this part of calving too.
5. God created DVR for calving season because there is nothing but infomercials on between 2 & 6 in the morning. I don’t really mind this part because now I can watch the Kardashians in peace. And Mob Wives. And Smash.
6. The first couple of nights it
appears as though everything is acting suspicious, about to calve any minute. Yeah, they don’t calve for another 2 weeks and the one that didn’t even look at you calves by the next check. Two hours later.

That’s it for now, I am taking some horses back to Bozeman this morning after 3 hours of sleep. I wonder if I can get the horse trailer through the Starbucks drive through…

The Montana Cowgirl — Girls Night Out

Picture 11

Miss Me Jeans with a little bit of flash, red Lane boots and a white tank with a sweater… that’s what Montana Cowgirl dreams are made of. Thinking of what I would like to an engagement shoot followed by drinks with Marmalade boots… and this is what comes to mind.

Ranch Wives and the Super Bowl

wpid-IMAG0542-1-1.jpgI stumbled across this post draft that I started back in June (yes, I am that far behind). I thought it was good to bring it out today as the Dodge Super Bowl commercial has been on my mind, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and almost every conversation in the last two days. For those that missed it, please feel to check it out on Facebook or YouTube.

June 23, 2012

Since the beginning of time, or at very least the beginning of agriculture, there have been men and women ranching. Raising stock and crops, acting as caretaker of the land and the wildlife, the rancher (and farmer) has been one of the single most important driving forces behind civilization. Without providing a full history, let me make my point: Ranching is important. Somehow, mainstream media and culture has pigeon-holed all farmers and ranchers into the category of “Marborlo Man”-esque cowboys or “Old McDonald” farmers. The truth is that ranching and farming is far more that riding horses and driving tractors, though those are certainly a large part of the equation. Truth is, agriculture is both an art and a science. It is equal parts passion and luck, hard work and good timing. The unheralded hero in this equation is the rancher’s wife. Women in general are wired to be social creatures, pack animals if you will. Men are sight and action oriented animals while women have superior verbal and social communication skills, hence a world of women talking at men and men ignoring them. That said, imagine the sacrifice moving from your family with your husband out West, to a sparse patch of ground, and your nearest neighbor is days away. No phone, no internet, no Skype! All you have to talk to is a man… A modern day rancher’s wife has it way better, in ways. Neighbors are only a drive away (5 minutes to a couple of hours), phones lines are usually available, and if you are lucky, there is decent internet, though I suffered for a year with only dial-up internet. In fact it must be said that since we decided to get satellite internet, this rancher’s wife is much happier.

Imagine my glee to see the American rancher featured and downright glamorized by Dodge in a well-made commercial on the biggest stage in mainstream media marketing, the Super Bowl. The best part of the commercial, other than the nod to FFA and God, was that a woman was also shown in a industry often dominated by men. And she looked authentic, not too made up and wearing the a silk scarf. Made you proud to be a western woman, rancher and cowgirl. Turns out that Montana families were featured in the commercial, which honestly makes it even better for me. Below is a snip of the article by MTN News:

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 9.37.45 PM

These folks are a great example of the humble people most farmers and ranchers are. My favorite line is “I told him there is nothing romantic about what we are doing today, it’s just our normal work” — how true is that for so many farmers and ranchers? We forget that this life is foreign to most, even though they interact with the products we produce everyday when they eat. I think that my goal with this blog, as small as it is, is to show that farming and ranching can be romantic and is vitally important to our past and the future . There is a deep and serious love for the land, livestock, and the work. It takes a special breed “So God made a farmer”.



Today was a super productive day, in a destructive kind of way. Lessons learned:
1. Do not leave the mare pasture gate open while feeding.
2. Yelling will not bring those bi#$%&s back. A bucket of grain will.
3. When driving through a tight gate, don’t attempt to tap it open with the bucket of the tractor, this will end badly for you and especially the gate.
4. Calling your Cowboy husband to confess your gate incident while he is in a meeting at the neighbor’s is not a true gauge of his reaction once he sees the magnitude of destruction.
5. Oatmeal chip cookies will help improve his mood a little…
6. Until you tell him that you used coconut oil and honey. He will leave mumbling about how he married a hippy health freak, even though you let the diesel tractor warm up while frying his eggs in bacon grease
7. Even a rough day on the ranch is better than a great day in board room.

– MC


Guest Blog: Marmalade Boots – Montana Cowgirl

I woke this morning to heavy dew filled air and the ever-present mountain backdrop gone. Vanished into the foggy sky. I grabbed my coffee and watched from the window as freshly weaned calves milled around just beyond our front yard. Like opportunistic predators, they check every morning to see if somebody forgot to shut the gate. They seem to sense that newly planted apple trees and other delights await them on the other side of the fence. I smiled to myself and shook my head “not today kids”. This is my fourth fall here and there has been more than one morning spent chasing calves around our house in my robe and slippers. Many things have changed in my life the past few years, but this seems to remain a constant. Like many of us humans, every calf crop feels that the grass must be oh so much greener on the other side. They want in.

It has been a little over a year since this naïve California city girl married the Montana cowboy of her dreams, and the first year of married country life has been everything and nothing like what I thought it would be. I have a lot to be grateful for. I am fortunate enough to be able to work alongside my husband almost everyday. We are not just lovers; we are partners. I am able to ride to my heart’s content (something that is a real joy for a horse lover like myself). I continue to learn more about cattle than I ever thought possible, and to my surprise, find it all fascinating. I am learning to rope. And I have begun to form real bonds and friendships with people in the community. This is a tremendously rewarding life for someone like me. Yet it comes with its own significant set of challenges.

Some days I struggle to distinguish my role on the ranch, and more importantly, my own identity.  My husband and I work as partners and equals, but let’s be frank; I stepped into his world. I long to create something all my own yet I find myself unsure of what that something is or how to obtain it in this unique and remote environment.

I am unsettled by the tensions that have arisen between my in-laws and my husband and me since our wedding. It’s amazing the questions and concerns about control, power, and fairness that come to light after a significant life event. It forces everyone to take a long hard look at their own mortality and the future. It’s a fascinating dance of love, loyalty, passive aggression and open defiance. It is also exhausting. Ranch family dynamics are sooo complex. Somebody should write a book.  Maybe that can by my niche 😉

The isolation can be hard, even for a self-proclaimed loner like me.  Some days I really long for those everyday interactions with strangers that people in cities take for granted. I know because I used to take them for granted. I long to encounter the “new” or the “weird”. I long for the fresh exchange of ideas that leaves my mind energized for days. I long for the anonymity that only a city can bring which paradoxically leaves me feeling connected and relevant. Out in the country it is easy to get lost. It takes a real effort to stay engaged and not let oneself slip into passivity.

I think about these challenges that confront me presently and then I amusingly reflect back on a few short years ago when I faced the opposite affliction. When I longed to leave the city and break the mold. When I desired something physical, something tangible, something REAL. With all the superficial bullshit that permeates a city, I yearned for something to reach out and shake me to my core and fill my heart with truth. And that is exactly what I found on a little ranch in Montana.

So watching the calves in the morning I remind myself of this. Like them, I suffer from the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Ultimately though, I try to think of what feels right in my heart. Where do I find the most happiness? If the calves did manage a yard break-in this morning they would no doubt have a ball. Like kids in a candy store, they’d rub and eat on our trees, trample my garden and shit everywhere. Eventually though, they’d realize that our yard is tiny; a fraction the size of their pasture, and they’d desperately want out. I can relate to this. Yep, I’m comparing myself to a cow. When it’s all said and done, I need room to roam.

In the present day of Facebook where everybody has a forum to advertise their wonderful perfect lives, it is a struggle to remain grateful for what you have. The truth is, nobody’s life is perfect and everybody has their battles to overcome. These are some of mine. Truth is, at the end of the day, I’m a pretty lucky girl. I think I’ll go kiss my husband and ride my horse now J

The Montana Cowgirl — Shipping Cows

The Montana Cowgirl -- Shipping Cows
Fall is approaching, though it’s hard to tell — what with our 70-80 degree temps. It’s been a long, hot summer. For Cowboy, that means constant irrigation, a solid month of haying and a hectic fire season in drought conditions and 100 degree heat. All summer, I was mostly observing this weather pattern from the comfy coolness of my office, and found myself repeating the habit I learned during my time in Phoenix –run from your air conditioned house to the air conditioned car to the air-conditioned store and so on. The good news is that eventually, Montana’s winter will be here.
In the life cycle that is ranching, that means the next phase is shipping. Shipping is the culmination of the ranching year, when those now grown coal black baby calves are sold and loaded up, shipped out to their next phase. A ranch receives its biggest (and for many, their only) paycheck for their year at shipping — an infusion of cash vital to the health of the ranch and the families it supports. This will be our first shipping at the new place — marking one year on the new island.  Although its still a few weeks off, preparation has begun, with preconditioning and gathers filling up the days for the ranch crew. This is also my crazy time of year at work, so I join in on the work when I can, and dream about it at work when I can’t. In the ranch wife’s yearly cycle, this time of year signals an exciting yearly duty: restocking and replacing winter and work clothes for Cowboy (and myself as necessary). That means shopping!
I am loving this Carhartt grey wool sweater. It has such nice texture and warmth. And I love grey as a base for the rich jewel colors trending this fall, as well as to complement neutrals like the Carhartt for Women vest above. A few pieces of sturdy jewelry (yes, jewelry for working cows), a warm hat and gloves are must haves. If it rains or snows, I’ll switch out my most worn cowboy boots for my Muckboots and wool socks. Unfortunately, this isn’t a Carhartt ad. I wish, because I would have saved a bunch of money today.

She will smile

This weekend we lost Cowboy’s grandmother Roxy. After too many years of fighting cancer, Roxy left us to remember her, miss her and love her. For me, as the new addition to the family, it has been my chance to get to know her as the person she was and the family she leaves behind. It has been an incredible honor.

As a rancher’s wife, Roxy did not just watch ranch life happening from the house, she was in the middle of it, pouring her own share of blood, sweat and tears into the land, cattle and children. Her life was not always fair, rarely easy, and often times, less than beautiful, but it was real and meaningful to her cowboy, her family and her community.

I got to know Roxy best in the last few weeks of her life with family and friends gathered and telling stories of her life. This is a lady that could run any piece machinery and back up a cattle truck for loading effortlessly. I laugh as I imagine Jim’s reaction when neighbors started calling to ask if Roxy could help them haul cows the next weekend. What about him? And I will always remember that Roxy and friends once decided that they girls wanted to go to town too one evening but the cowboy husbands had left them without a vehicle, or so they thought. Roxy fired up the tractor and off they went to town. I bet they surprised the hell out of their men. Sounds like something my girlfriends and I would do. The truth is that this ranch life isn’t just about calving, branding, haying, shipping, feeding, and repeat. It’s about family. And life. And mostly, love. It takes love to get out of bed every morning to get chores done. It takes love to work tirelessly for something that may never earn you the respect, admiration or paycheck you deserve. It takes love to face a disease like cancer head on, not once but twice. And it takes love to leave this life with the courage and dignity that Roxy showed us all in her last weeks.

Like all great matriarchs, Roxy was the steady force in her children’s lives, in her husband’s life, in the ranch’s life. She was their rock, the glue that held everything together – in good times and bad, during feast and famine. For my part, I was not finished learning from Roxy. Besides being married to very similar cowboys, I like to think that Roxy and I shared similar artistic inspiration. Roxy painted ranch scenes, many of the same scenes I write about. There are many stories left to tell and many scenes left to paint, but I know that Roxy will still hear my stories and I know that she will still paint.

Roxy said she would live long enough to see our wedding. And she did. We were so happy and grateful for that blessing on our big day. And although we hoped she would be there to see our children born, we know that she will be watching all of us, and she will be smiling. The last time I saw Roxy and we talked, I wanted to tell her all of this but I simply could not get the words out. I wrote them down later to share with her and God in prayer.

Dear Roxy,
Thank you for this incredible family. Thank you for your strength, courage and love. Thank you for fighting as hard as you have so that we would have time to prepare ourselves and learn the lessons we need to in order to carry on. Thank you for the inspiration and memories – I will take good care of them. Thank you for your life and love. I will remember you, our children will know who you were, and I will think of you often.

All of my love,