Why you should leave your hometown

Why you should leave your hometownFresh out of Montana State University in May 2010, I bid my parents and baby niece goodbye and with a lump in my throat pulled out of the ranch.  I wasn’t sure how the ranch was going to make it through AI season without me, but I figured if I didn’t leave then summer would turn into staying for fall cattle work.  Fall cattle work would turn into staying for calving season and the process would repeat itself until I would one day realize I was 30 and had never left Kevin, Montana.

So, I headed for Nebraska.  Partway across Wyoming amidst tornado warnings and a phenomenal thunderstorm, I was sure the rapture was happening.  I nearly missed my exit off Interstate 25 but thanks to the 1980’s Reader’s Digest map my mom insisted on sending with me, I managed to make it to Cornhusker Country.  I arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska where the city driving, the realization that I literally knew no one, and the multiple languages in Wal-Mart hit me like the stifling Midwest humidity.

Six weeks later, I was the newest intern of the Winner Circle Feedyard,

Ben and I

Ben and I both graduated from ‘Class C’ Montana schools, attended MSU together, ended up in Nebraska post-grad, and are now back in our rural Montana areas.

Minatare, Nebraska.  I may have been the employee with the Animal Science degree, but I quickly learned I couldn’t administer an IV to a sick steer like Georgia, pack silage in the payloader like Norman, run the mill like Fred, or sort out a sick calf quite as fast as Juan.  I developed an appreciation and respect for the crew on the ground level.  Even when I backed the feed truck into a gate, the crew was pretty forgiving of my inexperience as long as I kept a good attitude, showed up on time, and kept bringing homemade cookies to work.  (My philosophy that if someone’s mouth is full of cookie they can’t be too upset, is one I still apply to many Extension meetings today.)  I experienced a new sector of the beef industry, I was humbled by the skills of those around me, and I gained a greater appreciation for those I worked with.

Despite my mom’s reminders that I had never wanted to go to Kindergarten or been overly academic, I entered graduate school at UNL.  My confidence grew as I learned what I was capable of through graduate research and courses.  I learned how to think, how to analyze, and how to survive Organic Chemistry thanks to undergraduate tutors.

Summer found me headed to new territory, the Nebraska Sandhills, where I once again had to acknowledge that I knew no one where I was headed.  The cowboys on the UNL

Barta Bro

I had THE BEST intern in grad school, who was far more knowledgeable and experienced than me, but still trusted me to count heifers!  Today, Zach’s a wonderful vet!

research ranch had seen their share of graduate students over the years and I quickly learned that if I wanted to earn their respect then showing up early, putting forth the effort, and more cookies was a good start.

With each move, I found myself in new situations with no connections.  My faith deepened as I depended solely on the Lord for direction and guidance.  My confidence grew as I handled each new challenge.  My circle of friends and family grew with each new stop.

So, why leave your hometown?  For me, it was only when I was away from family, friends, and all things familiar that I truly stepped out of my comfort zone and grew as an individual.  I made mistakes, grew, and matured under other mentors.  For those of us who are the next generation of our communities, we must ask how we can grow the pie of our local businesses and communities, not just look for a slice of the pie.  Leaving the area helped me bring new ideas and perspectives back, along with an appreciation for the people and opportunities here.

Nearly nine years later, I can admit that the ranch continued without me.  That niece who I knew I would miss is now one of my first year Glacier County 4-Hers.  Even though I knew no one where I was headed, I met my husband in a small Nebraska church that I had picked via the yellow pages of the local telephone directory.  And now, there’s two of us to help Dad during A.I.ing back in Kevin, Montana!

5 Golden Rules for Tidying – Applying Marie Kondo to the Corral

Golden Rules for Tidying

While burning a few hours in the airport last month I picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping and read an article on the ‘Five Golden Rules for Tidying.’  It highlighted Marie Kondo who is an ‘organizing guru’ and shared some of her ‘genius tips.’  Given that spring is in the air, I thought I’d take the tips from ‘Declutter Queen’ to the corral as we sorted heifers today.

There were some nice pictures in the magazine of Marie siting on a chair in white linen pants and a kimono cardigan.  I didn’t feel white pants would be appropriate for cattle work in the corral after ¾” of rain this week, so I skipped that part of the outfit.  However, I did have a sorting stick, clipboard, and 8 pages of data for my decision making that Marie was missing, so I figured we’d just have to go from there and start with Marie’s tidying rules.

Apparently, my mother is an organizing student well before her time as right away she pointed out that we had heifers in heat on one side of the fence and enthusiastic yearling bulls strutting and bellaring just across the fence of the sort pen.  Marie’s first rule is to to sort things by category and it seemed that after 39 years on the ranch, mom was concerned that if the facilities didn’t hold true, we might have more than one category to sort during afternoon heifer sorting.

Next, Marie says to make this a onetime event.  “If you tidy just a little every day, you’ll be tidying forever,” Marie says.  Apparently, we like to tidy on the Rimrock Cattle Company.  Either that, or we just need more pen space this time of year.  Sort 1 is the registered heifers from the commercial heifers.  Sort 2 is the commercial heifers to ship from the commercial heifers to sell later.  Sort 3 will be the half dozen heifers who lost their ear tags and are unable to be tidied at this point.

The third rule for decluttering is to keep only items that, “Spark joy.”  That fence crawling heifer certainly does not spark joy, so she was easily decluttered.  Next, I tried to relate this concept to rancher terms by asking Dad if he really loved all the heifers in his keeper pen.  Dad gave me a look and said, “It’s not like we’re married to them, they’ve just got to hang around here a few years!”

Next, Marie recommends to, “Apply Gratitude,” and thank giveaway items for their service before you let them go.  So far, these heifers service to the ranch has been pretty limited to eating expensive hay and testing the fence for green grass.  We decided to instead apply gratitude to the idea that someone else can feed and breed these girls and the haystack might make it till green grass.

The last decluttering rule of Marie’s is to, “Use what you already own.”  Now this rule seems doable given that every heifer we’ll be keeping has been bred, raised, and developed on the ranch.  Maybe we’re more fashionable than we realized?  Or do we still need white pants in order to be fashionable?