How We Became Ranchers Overnight – The Kitchen Rag

Remember when you were a kid and you told your cousin you were going to be an astronaut when you grew up and they split their ribs laughing at you. That time you stood there speechless watching them point a mocking finger at you while your cheeks burned with shame. You vowed then you would never mention it to anyone again, not even to your own mama.

As an adult I felt a similar anxiety about our dream of becoming farmers. There was a distant cousin in the form of our bank account laughing any time my husband and I daydreamed about how rewarding it would be to raise our own chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, and cows. I could tell it wasn’t going to happen, so I gave up and moved on, embracing our downtown apartment lifestyle. But my husband didn’t, and I was frustrated by his unwillingness to give up hope. It made me feel like I was being the bully – not our finances – when I reminded him of the stark reality of our lives.

Good News

Three months ago a local rancher contacted Clayton asking him if he knew of a young couple who might be interested in working on his ranch, Spencer Shadow Ranch. My husband was interested but I wasn’t going to put my heart on the line. We had just moved into our new place less than six months ago.

“But we just bought this Ikea closet for the bedroom and built the shelves on the walls.” I snapped at Clayton when he suggested a visit. My husband eyed me incredulous.
“We have an opportunity to live and work on a beautiful, local, sustainable ranch and you’re worried about the closets?”

I was worried about the closets and suspicious of change and getting my heart broken and my dreams shattered. But did I tell him that at the time? Nope! Instead I dramatically told him he wasn’t being pragmatic enough and because of his idealism we were going to live under a bridge someday. Hesitantly, I accepted an invitation to visit and get a tour of the ranch.

The Visit

I wish there was a photo of my face when we arrived at the ranch. This place was gorgeous. Three hundred and forty acres of pasture right at the foothills of our local wilderness park, Spencer Butte. Young heifers eyed us suspiciously as we drove by the fields, pigs rooted cheerfully in their mud. When I got out of the car a few chickens ran up and started industriously pecking at my feet. There was no way this was going to work out. It was too good to be true – another astronaut dream. We had little farming experience, mostly from living in a small village in Moldova and growing my own food. But farms here in US are run differently, even small organic farms. Clayton, with his suburban background, had no experience caring for animals except for what he’s read in books. And yet here we were, vying to be caretakers on a ranch.


After several conversations and a few visits, Doug, the owner of the ranch, offered us the job. Although intuitively I knew we stood a good chance, I went about my life as if nothing would change. When my astronaut dream became reality and we were scheduled to move onto the ranch, I was floored. Coming from an Eastern European background where bad things are just plain more likely to happen than good things, good news is hard to believe sometimes. So instead, like a true symbol of my culture I began worrying about the details – moving and selling some of our furniture, packing our huge library, giving our landlord notice, accusing my husband of not worrying enough, etc.


I’m writing this post while I sit on the couch in my new living room with big windows overlooking the pastures. We’ve been officially moved into our new home for three days now. The cardboard boxes are slowly beginning to disappear and our things are finding their way into the appropriate places throughout the house. We are really here, living on the ranch! I am so grateful for my idealistic husband who pursued his dreams and had more faith in our astronaut dream than me. It has put me in new territory emotionally, a territory where I don’t deal with disappointment but rejoice at success and achievement.

What does this mean for you?

This means I will be posting a lot of photos and videos of our life on the ranch, both on the Facebook and here. There will be more farming posts, recipes, and anecdotes of our daily lives around here. So stay tuned!

Bittersweet Moments

This morning when we went to move the broilers to fresh grass we found a dead chicken. It was laying on the ground in the farthest corner of the chicken mobile, belly up, beak slightly open, eyes shut tight. I had brought my camera to snap photos for this post. My article was going to be full of happy thriving animals that we take care of, and here was this dead bird. We inspected and there was no signs of trauma from a predator, like a skunk. She died just like that. There will be more disappointments and more dead animals in our future. But there will also be much joy and life. They seem to go hand in hand – the astronaut dream and the bully cousin, the constant push and pull of life that I am so grateful for.