BASTION MOUNTAIN RANCH - TALES OF A FARM FAMILY


My family lived on a Ranch full time from 1993 until 2015. We were a 5th generation family farm.
I am writing this blog to share my experiences living there. It is best to read the blog chronologically by going through the archives, starting with the introduction in January of 2010.
The blog starts with the arrival of my great-grandparents to the farm in 1947 and will follow the families to the present.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

COW GIRLS DON'T CRY

COW GIRLS DON’T CRY

For the last few months we have happily shared our property with a small herd of cattle. It has been a number of years since we have had cattle on our property and it has been absolute joy. I revisited the pleasure of animal husbandry, most of the responsibility and decision making falling to me as I was home the greater amount of time then anyone else in the family. Despite having lived here the majority of my life I have never been in the position of authority when it came to the ranching duties. At the most I have been in the minimal role of a “side kick”, but even that is a generous title.
It was my father, and later my husband, Brent Moffat, that made all the decisions to do with the cattle. A few years ago my Aunt gave me all the letters my father had written to her in Switzerland. I have been reading them slowly and recently came across a passage that spoke to the care of the cattle, as translated from French in a letter written in October 1996;  “As the years go by I know how fortunate we are to have Brent here on the ranch to do the work with the cattle and also to help me with the custom work. I wouldn’t be able to be here without his help. It is a relief to see how he is with the cows and know that he can do all the work that has to be done”. Although I always knew this to be true it was validating to see it in writing. It is challenging to run a multi-generational farm and to support an aging parent with his work in a respectful way. As the only child that moved back to the farm the entire responsibility fell to my family to support the ranching operations. Initially when we moved to the farm there were a number of years where Brent was in an apprenticeship role, learning all that he needed about the care of cattle. The path of the younger generation to assume responsibility of a multi generational ranch is fraught with difficulty. Barbara Kingsolver described it beautifully in her novel Flight Behaviour which featured a young family who lived on the parent’s ranch. As is often the case in farm families they had worked with the parents for many years but were not legally partners. They had bought a park model type house and moved onto the land that they did not own. The protagonist declares that living on the farm with her husband is like being ” kids in the backseat of a car, bickering over the merits of some unknown destination.” These situations need to be resolved using an effective and fair farm succession process. It is not something that can be left until one parent has passed or for a will to address. It has cruel and unfair to have families work daily on a farm that they do not have any legal entitlement to and in the worst case scenario they could be left with nothing after years of investment. 
The challenges of farm succession formed part of the many reasons that I decided to leave the farm. It is now for sale but emotionally I have already left. As part of the decision making process I have examined what made me come back to begin with and if I even enjoy the farming lifestyle. I believe it was more a sense of duty to my parents then wanting to become a farmer. I love animals but I don’t like process of sale and slaughter. After years of gardening I have come to the conclusion that it is only tomatoes, herbs and sunflowers that flourish under my care. I will not drive a tractor. I do not like the isolation.  I don’t like being so attached to a piece of earth and feeling like I can never leave. 
My recent experience with my little herd of cattle helped me to understand that my farming days are over. It has been extremely satisfying to watch over them. moving them about to greener grass, keeping a good eye on their health and reporting back to their owner. However I had not anticipated the attachment, the relationship, and how much I actually enjoyed just being with them. This had not ever happened to me to such an intensity with cattle before thus I was more sad then I could ever believe possible when the owner texted me to tell me that he was going to be picking them up as cattle prices were good and he wanted to take advantage of the strong market. The cattle are going to auction which I know to be a stressful experience, and then for the steers to a feed lot, and then eventually to slaughter. It is heart breaking. 
cow girls don't cryM
My favourite Steer of the herd.
friendly cow
Giving the Steer a good scratch and pulling burrs out of his hair at the same time.
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The rest of the herd is cautious but still very curious.

The garden starts optimistically enough in the spring with vigorous growth, but by harvest time it is primarily tomatoes, sunflowers and herbs.
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One Comment

  1. Posted August 19, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink
    I so love your pictures and your words – – – such a deep process of knowing that land and creatures and also being willing to let it go . . .. . biggest lessons of life i think

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