A Texas Ranching Adventure
Two friends who are young British math PhD’s were fascinated to learn more about the years my husband and I traded urban chic for ranching. Here’s the beginning.
Driving through the Dark
Driving through the dark on a Texas highway, my husband at the wheel, I pointed my flashlight at the words of a book and read:
“‘…when we enlarged our farm … I thought for a while of buying a second-hand 8N Ford tractor, but decided finally to buy a team of horses instead.’”
I switched off the flashlight.
“We could do that,” I said, holding The Gift of Good Land by Wendell Berry reverently on my lap. “That would be cheaper than a fancy tractor, sustainable, and more interesting.” I was an accountant and a romanticizing writer.
“I like horses,” said my husband the college professor, his teenage memories of helping on a farm dancing in his head. “I’d like to work with animals.”
With those innocent words, my husband and I decided to work toward quitting our jobs in the city to run a small ranch. Our decision shocked our friends and family.
Nevertheless, for three years, we commuted to the ranch on weekends, dreaming, and reading: the 1970s-founded Small Farmer’s Journal and the Work Horse Handbook, both published by Lynn R Miller, and other books.
Saturdays and Sundays we raised and trained a goat herd that came to “goaty, goaty, goaty”; repaired an old stone barn; built and mended fences of wood posts and wire; dug in pecan, peach and apricot saplings; tended vegetable and herb gardens watered by an automatic drip system; designed and commissioned the building of a barn with rainwater roof harvesting and connected storage and irrigation system. We met the locals: a huge gray barn owl, a family of bushy red foxes, a 5 foot elegant black King snake, coyotes who preyed on our goats, raccoons and possums, an ancient catfish in the deepest part of the creek, and a baby gray heron at the pond. We were adopted by an orange feline whom we named Simba. This cat showed up faithfully at our Friday night arrivals and said goodbye by running after our truck like a dog escorting us to the gate on Sunday evenings.
Then one day, we stood on our porch, young and clear-eyed, loving the sweep of light over the grassy flat, the rim of trees along the mostly dry creek bed, expecting our first child and beginning our life there fulltime. A life in a valley where the winter fronts hit biting and sudden, and the summer heat baked the land for months with killing results.
The next three years would be a lifetime in microcosm.