10 Hard Life Lessons On The Ranch - February '24

2024 Harvest Reservations Open!

Reserve your Lamb and Beef Before our 2024 Harvest Sells Out! New for this Year, Lamb Orders can be Delivered to a Pick-up Location in Spokane, WA, or Picked up in Colville, WA. Beef Orders this Fall will be Available for Pick-up in Elk, WA. Visit the Ranch Shop for More Details.

Lambing Season is Here! KHSI-Registered, NSIP Breeding Stock Reservations Are Open!

Our first lambs of the season were born this month. These two young’uns (and many more) will be registrable with Katahdin Hair Sheep International (KHSI) and will have their Estimated Breeding Values uploaded to the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) database. If you’re looking to start your own flock or diversify your flock genetics, get more details on Waterloo Ranch breeding stock in the Ranch Shop.

10 Life Lessons On The Ranch

When old and new friends and acquaintances learn of our ranching lives, I almost always get an envious 'wow, that's the dream!' reaction of sorts. I usually just nod and say something like, 'yeah, it's hard work, but it's rewarding and we're enjoying the ride.' And while that's a genuine reply on my part, I confess, I'm sometimes simultaneously thinking about the pervasive naivete around ranch living. The truth is that, despite a new romanticism and a revival of interest in the agricultural life, there are some hard life lessons in this line of work, and if you don't come to this work as an adult with some familiarity with these lessons, this lifestyle is likely to chew you up and spit you out.

As we near the end of winter, it seems like a good time to reflect on some of these lessons in preparation for the exhausting springtime sprint.

Ranch Life Lesson #1:

In the words of Thomas Sowell, ‘There are no solutions, only trade-offs.’ Problems constantly arise here on the ranch, and we can always be sure that the 'solution' to any problem will not turn out to be a pure solution at all. Best-case scenario, our ‘solutions’ come with a handful of second- and third-order negative consequences—some foreseeable, and some less so. The cliché 'no good deed goes unpunished' comes to mind way too often out here. Endeavoring to do the most good and the least harm is truly an everyday, maddening riddle.

Ranch Life Lesson #2:

The easiest way of doing something is usually fraught with downsides that render the method inadvisable. What we end up doing instead is far more tedious, strenuous, and downright frustrating. In fact, sometimes the least harmful way of doing something is so incredibly inefficient that you feel as if you’re making zero progress. Farming and ranching truly require that you remind yourself often to ‘enjoy the process,’ but make no mistake, farming and ranching is a job, and there are aspects of all jobs that just suck.

Ranch Life Lesson #3:

‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’And sometimes, it feels like the word ‘often’ in this saying should be replaced with the word ‘always.’ The reality is, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, and sometimes there’s just a lot that is quite literally unknowable. In particular, the cooperation of Mother Nature and the animals is almost never granted, so for every Plan A, there must be (at least) a Plan B, C, and D.

Ranch Life Lesson #4:

To paraphrase a quote by someone named Simone Elkeles ‘Opinions are like buttholes, everyone has one but they think each other’s stink.’ We will occasionally be confronted with an issue that prompts us to seek out advice from locals, online forums, and online searches. Sometimes this is helpful, and sometimes it just isn’t, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Regardless, in all cases you can be certain that you will get a very wide variety of guidance, with most everyone completely assured in the veracity of their claims, and highly suspicious of all others. The truth is that despite pervasive feelings of certainty among many people on a wide range of topics, a lot of claims are supported by nothing but conjecture. In fact, even much of what we call ‘studies’ and ‘science’ in modern culture are just straight univariate fallacies. At the end of the day, all you can do is take everything with a healthy dose of skepticism and make the decision you feel is best based on an informed-as-possible risk-reward analysis for your unique situation.

Ranch Life Lesson #5:

‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’ In fact, it’s healthy to acknowledge that there is no such thing as perfection. This isn’t to say that we should stop striving for the idea of perfection, and it’s not to say that we should absolve ourselves of maximum effort and perseverance—it’s simply to say that your genuine best effort must give you a clean conscience, or inevitable shortfalls and failures will keep you unhappy much of the time.

Ranch Life Lesson #6:

You will never be finished. In the wise words of Soren Kierkegaard ‘To be thus constantly coming to be is infinitude’s deceptiveness in existence. It is enough to bring a sensate person to despair, for one feels a constant urge to have something finished, but this urge is of evil and must be renounced. The continual becoming is the uncertainty of earthly life, in which everything is uncertain.’

It’s easy to set benchmarks on the ranch and tell ourselves that we’ll be ‘in a good place’ when we get there, but the truth is that the to-do list never gets shorter and there’s never really a moment where you accomplish so much that you experience a sort of sublime relief. It’s great to be motivated by a sense of accomplishment, but ultimately, our paths must bring us joy.

Ranch Life Lesson #7:

‘Inaction is often the best course of action.’ Action has a way of helping us cope with feelings of helplessness in tough situations, so there is a strong urge to do something, an urge to do almost anything, that is sometimes best suppressed. Interventions of all types are almost certainly not purely beneficial, and at times they are a net harm, so some time and a sober mind are necessities before taking action.

Ranch Life Lesson #8:

There is a famous design principle, ‘keep it simple, stupid.’ Complexity and exoticism have their places in the world but ranching and farming (and life) are plenty challenging without adding a lot of zero-return (or low-return) elements to your system.

Ranch Life Lesson #9:

The numbers don’t lie, but many lies are told using numbers. In fact, there’s even a famous book entitled How to Lie with Statistics. A good command of mathematics and an eye for context (or missing context) will help you spot dishonesty and/or delusion when it comes to all sorts of agricultural topics, and it’ll keep you honest with yourself when it comes to true net gains (or losses) on the ranch.

Ranch Life Lesson #10:

Take a few minutes each day to simply look up from your work in the outdoors and appreciate your place. I don’t do this as intentionally or as often as I should, so it usually happens spontaneously, and I’m reminded of how lucky we are to be raising and growing our own food (and food for the community) in such a beautiful place. The way the light hits the mountainsides, and the colors of the river are never the same from day to day, and the incredible quiet impresses me every time I stop to listen. It’s sort of an accidental mindfulness exercise on my part, but it can really recharge me in the middle of a hard day’s work.  

This list of life lessons might seem overwhelming negative, but #10 makes it all worth it.  The challenges of life make it infinitely more meaningful.  This journey has been wonderful in so many ways, and we continue to be excited for our future here on the ranch.

Stay Tuned for More Exciting Announcements this Spring!

We have a lot more news for you this spring so please stay tuned in to our newsletter and follow us on social using the links below. As always, thank you, and enjoy the final weeks of winter.

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