A Little Bit Western


Back in the Saddle Again

Jan 21, 2021

Back in 2014, I started writing a column for a quality local newspaper over a three-year period. During that time, I shared a bit about life on our ranch and what it was like to raise our kids among the daily activities of breakdowns, calving cows, and lost dogs. I covered the challenges and triumphs around our newly established homestead including how to manage one mule’s emotions and my war on gophers. I shared anecdotes about that “one time” I got stuck (and that “other time” I got stuck), and the occasion when my twin four-year-old’s confidently rode away to gather pairs declaring they didn’t need me any longer. I answered the question no one actually asked – why does a woman from treeless southwest Saskatchewan self-identify as a tree hugger? Of course, no self-respecting ranch writer can avoid talking about the weather so that thread wound its way into several op-eds. Crocuses, gender equality in agriculture, love stories, and politics were a few of the completely arbitrary topics I unpacked over the years.

I enjoyed the literary exercise of writing things out and it became a diary of sorts that I like to look back on. I also think it’s important to engage audiences who may be unfamiliar with farm life to help create a connection between them and where their food comes from. And of course, I appreciated when fellow ranchers or parents could resonate with some of my experiences. It’s nice to be back in the saddle again.

The metaphor is also fitting for a new year and a fresh start. January always seems a bit familiar and routine for me, in a good way and it does remind me of saddling up once again after a long time grounded.

This last year has been full of confusion, chaos, and controversy for most everyone. However, I like to think that there were some opportunities too. If 2020 taught us one thing, it’s that we can adapt and switch gears when we need to. Things that seemed so important at one time, suddenly were not as significant as we thought. When society was unencumbered by commitments and schedules and hustle and bustle, the silence was deafening and a little uncomfortable. But sometimes discomfort is okay.

In our household it felt like we were given the gift of more time with our four kids who range in ages from three to ten. We ate every meal together, the kids spent more hours than ever with their animals, they used their imaginations, and learned plenty of real-life skills. As with anything, a little can go a long way though, and more quality time came with some struggles too. (Why is everyone hungry again? What is “new math” and why can’t I carry the one? What is the Zoom passcode? Why am I incapable of baking bread? How many hours until bedtime?).

For me, getting back in the saddle is maybe more about gaining a different perspective. Finding a change in scenery, getting outside of my own head and having a chance to see things from another hilltop, a different vantage point. It’s about being intentional with my time and energy (you have to catch the horse and get it saddled after all), but also staying calm and cool during unanticipated events (for example, when your saddle slides off when you lean too far over to identify a plant because you left your cinch too loose. Yes, this is a very specific example).

You never know what you’re going to encounter when you hop on your horse and head out, but part of the beauty is not knowing. Just remember to cinch up.

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