Megan Redmond Family Experiences Ranch Life
After visiting the Newhall’s picturesque ranch back in May, the thought of ranch life intrigued me all summer. When I sheepishly (pun intended) asked Greg if Windy N Ranch would be ever-so-slightly open to taking us on as newbie ranch hands for a trial period, he gave me a resounding “YOU BETCHA!”
What were we getting ourselves into? Over the period of three weeks, staying in their adorably-appointed Western studio on-site, my 12 and 8 year old sons and I traded in our flip flops for boots, feeding everything that walked, from bottle feeding calves to tossing green bales of hay at a seemingly endless caravan of cattle to mixing mineral cocktails for the sheep and goats. It took two of us to lift a bag of chicken feed but, fortunately, we each had enough strength to hoist 5 gallon buckets of pig feed over the electric fence. The boys got crafty at chasing down runaway turkeys and chickens with fishing nets. Who needs Crossfit here?
Most afternoons were spent "stealing chicken eggs," according to my 8-year-old, from pecking red hens. The magical night skies (including a spectacular ruddy lunar eclipse) inspired many an evening walk of quiet contemplation. And good thing we remembered our kites! As we bumbled our way through each day, the Newhalls and team simply smiled at our foibles and, with the patience of Job, always got us back on track with their undivided attention. We were astounded at how much they let us participate above and beyond the basics. The lines between work and fun blurred for the boys, as they delighted in all of the new experiences of ranch duties–the absence of electronic entertainment went almost completely unnoticed.
Greg threw me in the middle of the butchering festivities...not the part of the process we like to think about when noshing on the distinctively delectable meats from WNR. We were even included in the rescue efforts of a large herd of cattle that had escaped from their pasture, learning the careful art of charades with a bull. Bradley offered to let us administer shots to the cattle–a treat we declined but watched up close with utter fascination. One sunny Sunday morning, after milking a cow, the boys donned bee catcher’s suits, a Newhall "hobby," and savored divine honey straight out of the combs. Did we mention Lisha's cherry tomatoes? No need for vending machines here.
With a small crew of fun-loving and hardworking guys, we were astounded by the variety of each day's work. One minute they're welding parts and the next they're swabbing cattle eyeballs with giant Q-tips. We were mesmerized as we watched them lead a gaggle of chickens from one enclosure to another like pied pipers.
All I can say is that no textbook could convey the choreography involved in producing clean and nourishing protein for our sustenance. Yes, we all work extra hard every day so we can afford to spend more for quality, but witnessing the process first hand has given my family a much deeper appreciation for the dedication and perseverance, not to mention painfully strategic planning, required for such a luxury. While I don't think I'm cut out for cattle ranching, I'm definitely up for manning a chicken coop and a pig pen! Thanks so much to the Newhall family for such a transformative experience!