When I Sound Like my Dad: The RAS Moments

I was in the vehicle with my son the other day and he said he wanted to be a teacher or a veterinarian when he grows up. I started talking to him about what each of those jobs involve and the earning potential. He’s 9. I talked earning potential. I know.

My sister and I refer to our dad as RAS, his initials and the signature he used when he signed birthday cards to us. RAS is a businessman, he is solid, he learned to speak without the accent of his native Louisiana to increase his credibility, he is very successful and he is a serious guy. I was having a RAS moment.

He went on to say that he wanted to give money to other people so it didn’t matter if he made lots of money. I replied that if he made a good living, he could take care of himself and be generous to others as well. I then launched into a lecture about returning to rural communities prepared to create a job for oneself and others and…..then…I stopped…..he’s 9.

So I said he would be a great teacher or veterinarian. He smiled and went on to sing along with the radio.


From the FarmWife Project: A Marine’s Sister, Amber Clay

My 18 year old brother Braedyn Shaw Boronda graduated from Marine Corps boot camp and before his family, God and country; he became a Marine, Bravo Company Platoon 1031. The pride I felt for him as he stood there at attention before us was overwhelming and I had to fight the urge to run out there and hug him.  He was born when I was 20 and for so long, he was my whole world and we were incredibly close.  He has always been an amazing kid, but now standing before me was a different being the Marines had molded.  He’s still the same guy, a good heart, a smart alec who has an amazing sense of humor, incredibly intelligent with an amazing talent for baseball and crazy sports nut. But the way he carries himself is somehow humble and bursting with pride at the same time.  He’s softer and quieter, but bold and strong.  He’s a Marine.

Being a part of the graduating ceremony, cheering not only for my brother, but the 475 other men who graduated today was an amazing experience in which I will never forget.  All of these men standing before me, they chose to defend to defend our God-given rights and this Christian born nation that they love.  They pledged to fight against enemies both foreign and domestic and promised to do so with honor, courage and committment. 

I find that in many ways, we as agriculturists are much like the men and women bravely serving in our military.  God commanded us to be caretakers and have dominion over the animals and earth.  We tirelessly fight to keep that right to protect and take care of the land and animals the way we know they need to be taken care of.  We defend ourselves against predators, both foreign (legislators, HSUS, etc.) and domestic (prairie dogs, coyotes, etc.).  We serve with honor in doing what we love, providing food, fiber and fuel, providing a gross domestic product that serves the whole world. And we promise to do so with honor, courage and committment.

To those of you who have fought in the military, here and abroad, currently serving or serve, we salute and honor you.   For the families who have also made the sacrifice of having a loved one serve, we honor and thank you for your support.  And the families who made that ultimate sacrifice of losing their loved one, our hearts and prayers are with you and we humbly thank you for your sacrifice.  We deeply appreciate all of you who choose to serve your country and answered the call to defend our God given freedoms. 

To my fellow agriculturists, I salute you, my family salutes you.  Thank you for fighting without ceasing.  Thank you for serving our industry with pride and honor each and every day.  It is an honor and a privilege to serve with you.

From the FarmWife Project: Amber Clay

Recently I was asked what question could be asked of me that would leave the inquistor with a feeling of beginning to understand the complexity that is Amber.  I didn’t even have to think about it…What are you passionate about?  The answer is just as easy. 

I am passionate about my God.  I am passionate about my family.  I am passionate about my country.  I am passionate about my agriculture way of life.

A few months ago, when our family dynamics changed and I found myself responsible for the caregiving of a small infant, I became engulfed by that responsibility and began to lose the grip on my identity.  So through some soul searching and prayer God put it on my heart one word: Passion.  And when I found that word and what it means to me, I began to unpeel the layers that is Amber.

I have found in these few short months that when I make it a point every day to do things that fuel these passions it not only makes me feel better about myself, but it makes me a better me.  Better wife, mother, friend and child of God.

When I read my Bible, thank God for the many, many blessings in my life, trust in Him when times are rough I am fueling that passion.  When I act goofy to make Addison laugh,  comfort her when she cries, support my husband, (and not smother him with a pillow just to quiet the snoring), that passion is maintained.  When I show my patriotism, thank a soldier, share with others the true history of our country that passion is sustained.  When I am blessed to be able to communicate with people the true origin of their food, fiber and fuel, take pleasure in a quiet sunset or drive in a truck on an old country road, my passion is preserved.

I thank God for this passion he has installed in me, these gifts he has blessed me with.  I have let them at times go stagnant, not living up to my  fullest potential that I should be living up to.  And I thank God for putting Colorado Farm Bureau and Rachel Vermillion in my life to put a fire under my butt to not just waste my life and just live, but live as God has intended.

My name is Amber Clay and I’ve been married for almost 13 years to my farmer husband, Doug Clay.  We have one daughter, Savannah who is 20 and a granddaugther, Addison born June 2, 2010.  We are currently ‘youngish’ grandparents being second time parents to our beautiful Addison. 

My husband and I have a custom work operation, primarily working for a dairy.  Our ‘livestock’ includes 2 horses, a goat, 4 dogs and a menagerie of barn cats. 

I primarily spend my days taking care of the general bookkeeping of our operation, taking care of Addison and doing some volunteer work for various organizations, including Colorado Farm Bureau and a local clothing bank.  I am on the Colorado State Food Systems Advisory Council and chairperson of the Food, Farm and Fun Steering Committee which is working on creating a working agriculture curriculum for preschool children addressing the misconceptions of Ag and encouraging healthy eating and nutrition.  I am also on the Boulder County Board of Directors and a member of the Front Range Young Farmers. 

From the FarmWife project: Susan Leach

When Rachel asked me what I thought of the idea, I was excited. This would be a forum for women in agriculture throughout Colorado to express themselves. I did not plan to participate – just read and watch. Then Rachel said she wanted me to write also.  Oh no! That is not my real cup of tea.

 The thoughts ran through my head by what seemed to be the hundreds. What would I write about? Who would want to read my thoughts? (Well, John would like to sometimes but he wouldn’t really.) What did I have to offer? I still have those questions, but I committed to Rachel to at least try. She has a way of getting a yes in a very sneaky way.

 Maybe I should say a little about who I am and how I am involved in agriculture. I was born and raised in the north end of the Sacramento Valley in California. My parents came from Idaho and Michigan but spent most of their adult lives in California. Mom and Dad farmed and ranched until my Dad’s passing. Dad ran his own cattle, mostly polled Herefords, but there were always a few odd ones mixed in. Dad’s mother and step-father also ran cattle and we worked them together. Those activities hold fond memories and lots of laughs for me. There were the not-so-fun times. But, hey, I was a kid then.

 But, then as now, many worked off the farm to make it possible to continue the love of the farm and livestock. Dad was a partner in a sawmill when I was born. Of course, Mom was at home tending to the cattle and sheep and kids. Then Dad sold out to buy a ranch in Modoc County. Here they farmed and ranched until he had to move from the area for health reasons. So he worked for an olive orchard owner (This is where the mule was named after me! No need to tell that family story though.) Then he became a ranch manager allowing him more time for his livestock. After the unexpected, untimely death of Mr. Gunn in an airplane crash, Dad went back to growing olives until his death.

 All the time, Dad and Mom had their own cattle operation. Many times Dad would get off work and he and Mom would drive over to check our cattle while on summer pasture. Or it was “up the hill” to the winter pasture. And he always checked Grandma and Jack’s cattle that were pastured close by. Weekends, which were Sundays only, usually involved meeting the needs of the cattle operation.

 So I was a cowgirl with boots and hat and holes in my jeans. But I was also an olive picker and irrigator. Well, I probably played in the water ditches more than I helped. As with most farm/ranch children, by the time I was in high school I had many responsibilities to help Mom and Dad.

 When John and I married we moved onto a small olive orchard to be out of town and we got our rent for free to care for the orchard. Soon we moved to Colorado so John could help his Dad with the salvage yard at Bovina until RB’s death. We lived in Kansas for a couple of years then returned to Colorado. We leased a farm/ranch until he went to work for CDOT. Then we bought 80-acres near Punkin Center and soon had our own sheep operation. After a few years John wanted to get back into cattle, and we did. John also did some custom farming. He got into honeybees, too. All the while he was working a full-time job for CDOT. I tried to pick up those tasks that I could when he was not available.

 In 2004 John inherited his great-grandparents’ homestead near Thurman and we moved here and are still farming and ranching. We have always been the small farmer/rancher. But, we all play a vital role in production agriculture and supplying the food needs of family and the people of Colorado and America. We are proud to be one of those “little guys”.

From the FarmWife Project: Betty Shahan

          I have had my grandson and a friend of his here building a calving shed since Saturday morning, so therefore I have had to cook and wash dishes which is o.k. I do enjoy having the boys here. But I am not a good cook, I’ve always felt like it took too much time and I always get side tracked and something gets burned then I am embarassed. As a girl my mom would not let  me and my sister cook because she was afraid we would waste the groceries. Nor would she let us use her sewing machine because we would waste the material that she had purchased to make our clothes with. A  lot of our clothes came from chicken feed sacks that she had hand picked to make our clothes—usually dresses.  So going to school in Pagosa, I took all the Home Economics classes I could work in and I did learn to sew and I did make myself and my girls clothes from that education.  I was even a 4-H sewing leader and my girls did well.
         A neighbor came to welcome me today and I was so pleased!  She is a sheep lady and has some kind of a self built business with her sheep. Also, she is a single woman living and working on her ranch.  I was brought up to date on a huge water problem in the San Luis Valley that had, just a week ago, been mentioned to me by a classmate whom had also bought property here. My classmate leased the farm and was told by her leasee about the water problem and also informed by him that he may not be able to get enough out of the hay to keep on leasing.  This year of 2011 we will be o.k. but in 2012 they are taking the water away from some of us, as well as raising our users’ fee so high that we will not be able to irrigate. Now I am in a tail spin! What the heck have I done gone and gotten myself into now?  When my neighbor left she said. “get it together and get in to that water office on Tuesday!”

Bio, Betty Shanhan:

         I am 74.  My husband and I were married June 1956.  We worked for his parents on the family ranch  from then until Jan. 1976 when we started buying the ranch from the family.  My husband, Bob Shahan passed away in January 1983.  From then I finished paying for the ranch. In 2001 I put a Conservation Easement on the ranch.  I took the money and purchased a ranch in New Mexico. In 2008, I  decided to sell the ranch in N.M. and get closer to home.  I took the money from that sale and did a 1031 for a ranch between Center, Colo. and Saguche, Colo. on Hwy. 285.  The cows, dogs,horses, and I are on that ranch for the winter. 

         In the spring we will move back to Chromo, Co. to our home ranch for the summer.  The cows will go to the Forest Permit in June of 2011.  I have a grandson that helps me when I need help, such as branding, preg. testing, gathering, shipping etc.
         I belong to the Archuleta County Farm Bureau,( just newly formed ).  I also belong to the Colorado Cattleman’s, (they hold the Easement on the home ranch in Chromo),  a member of  the Archuleta/La Plata Cattleman’s Association. I was a 4-H leader for 50? years, am a Fair Board member in Archuleta County, and am on the Farm Service Board for Archuleta/La Plata, County. 

From the FarmWife Project: Connie Hass


  My girlfriends were flabergasted when they learned that I was going to marry the cowboy that I had met six weeks earlier.  They could not understand why I would move out to a rural setting wrangling cows, riding horses and bucking hay.

           I know now that going in to this marriage, I had a romantic idea of ranch life.  One week not long after we were married, the boss told us that we would be moving the cattle on a cattle drive that would take seven days.  I decided to help on the last two days and let me tell you that it is not as romantic as John Wayne makes it look!  The days are long and dirty. At the end of my first day, my entire body hurt, especially my backside.

          There was romance to be had, though. As the sun set on day one, my cowboy unsaddled my horse, gave me a hug and ran me a hot bath with epsom salt and said, “It won’t be that hard tomorrow, hon”. 

         And so began this wonderful ride we are on.

My name is Connie Hass; I am a ranch wife, rancher and a junior high/senior high math teacher.  My husband, Tony, and I own a cattle ranch 40
miles northeast of Trinidad Colorado. 

We have two children:  Breann, 23, and Matt, 20. Tony has been a cowboy all of his life and I was raised in the city.  I would not trade this rural agricultural life for anything.  I have learned much in our 26 years together and know that we have
the best and most important job in the world, feeding others.

Good Towels

It’s a dead giveaway when there is a bath towel in the kitchen. Well, the real clue is the piglet in the sink, but the towel is a good indication that it’s farrowing season around here.

The reason that there is occasionally a piglet in my sink is simple. It’s cold here during farrowing season. Really cold. We farrow our females in little huts that are better insulated than our home and in a barn that, when filled as the OB wing, is downright cozy. We also monitor the inside temperature and utilize heat lamps to keep the little buggers warm. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, piglets get chilled and we have to bring them inside.

When I’m at my most athletic, I can stick a piglet in my hoodie and make tracks to the house in record time. Once there, I warm the piglet in the sink and then wrap it in a warm towel. I can kick back and watch Dirty Jobs for a while, holding the warming, snuggly piglet. Once the piglet is vocal and squirming, it’s back to the sow. It doesn’t take long and I think they like Mike Rowe.

I went to town today and left Jason to monitor his girls. He was feeding cows when I returned home but I knew what was happening earlier in the day by the towel in the kitchen. I checked on the litters to make sure they were warm and happy. Then I returned to the house to start a load of laundry because, even though we have an awe-inspiring number of crummy towels…Jason keeps using my good towels for the pigs. Sigh.

Out Here: Installation 2

Find the first installation here

  Grady MacNamara had been taking care of business long before I met him. He has carried feed sacks, hay bales, his mother during his father’s decline and my sleeping son at one time or another. He carried me out of my pit to a place of mutual protection. In a country where the wind blows with nothing to stop it, he shelters me from the wind so I don’t blow away.

            In the years before Grady loved me, I had, as my grandmother who was steeped in the sweet Louisiana traditions would have said, dropped my basket and nearly let the voodoo queens take me away.

Facing Giants

A teacher new to a small town school cannot glide into town unnoticed, especially with license plates from two states away. I sat on the bleachers that first winter watching good, solid, down home men coach my son on the finer points of defensive stance, dribbling, rebounding and being a man. My son was enamored, I was thankful and sinking into feeling comfortable even on ancient, creaking bleachers.

            Mothers made conversation with me and told me about their children. They asked enough questions to satisfy their curiosity regarding whether or not I was married. When they were satisfied that I was indeed unmarried, they would nonchalantly ask, “So, have you met Coach Robinson?” or say, “So, you would have been in 4-H with Grady MacNamara, right? He has the home place south of town…he’s not married either you know.”

            When the basketball court cleared and the sounds of kids and the round ball died down, I sat, alone, in the bleachers for a few minutes.

This is not what my life was supposed to look like at 30. I’m supposed to be on solid ground not scrambling to gain ground while facing down giants.

            For months after I finally found the strength to leave my husband, I would hear the growl of a diesel engine, and my heart would plummet, thinking it was him and he was here to strip our child away from me.

            I thought the hard part would be the actual leaving, the rubber hitting the road. But it wasn’t. Hard was sitting on my porch waiting to see his headlights bringing my son home and the light never coming. He’s left the state and he has a six hour head start. I’ll never see my son again, I would think. That was hard.

            Hard was getting a glimpse of my new life in the same zip code as my parents. It was feeling safe and hopeful and a part of a community. It was getting my hopes up and then hearing the Sheriff pound on my door to serve me with papers. Seeing first hand that a father who fails to meet his obligations can still file objections and other scary court documents to try to dash my plans. That was hard.

            Being the mom of the only boy on the football field who doesn’t have his dad there, rubbing shoulders with the other dads and dreaming big gridiron dreams; watching my son look out at the bleachers, at all the moms and him knowing full well that I was on the fifty yard line with snacks at the ready, trying my hardest to be both mom and dad and not getting it done; playing catch with my son and knowing he’s embarrassed that his dad isn’t around to teach him to throw a spiral. That was hard.

            Wearing heels and trying to teach my son how to be a man, that was hard. Sitting by myself and feeling so tired and so used up that no man would ever want me again is hard. Feeling that there is no possible way that I have one more ounce of strength left before I curl up and refuse to face my hand is hard.

            So, no, walking out the door was easy and I’ve not regretted that decision for even a moment, but life afterward wasn’t what I thought.

I went home to lay low, to be in the same time zone as my family and at almost 31, it might have been just what I needed. I was out here trying to fix my dreams. The dreams I had at 22 had blown away somewhere along the trip. I saw it coming but I couldn’t get out of the way.

Hello from Sunny Atlanta

The FarmWife Project Workshop scheduled for Saturday is still on. Hopefully, I will be chipped out of the ice in beautiful Atlanta, Georgia, before then!

The workshop Saturday will be online rather than at the CFB Center. This way, you can stay home in your sweats and still be a part.

Reserve your seat for the webinar at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/794671406 or email me at rachel@lincolncountyfb.com or just give me a ring at 719-892-0210.

My internet is limited, so calling me might be your best bet.

Looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday!