Life on Charro Ranch

My time at Charro Ranch started with a heartbreak, ended with a heart stop, and had me question everything in between. Driftwood, Texas will forever be visceral in its realities of life and death, so long as it’s not gobbled up by concrete subdivisions, and has reminded me often not to take things too personally, because it is never about me and always something bigger. It has afforded me an opportunity to learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and I’ve come to appreciate all my experiences over the years on the ranch, as they race through my mind.

The plan was to meet Reed in Texas after a few days in Chicago, but he never arrived and now it seems quite possible he will always avoid the places I am standing, for reasons beyond my reasoning. It is because of these reasons I spent the time reorganizing my Texas life and preparing for a new direction, one that will include cows, but will not include Reed.

My first day in Texas, I backed my car up the driveway and heard a strange yelp as I rolled up to the house. I paused, looked out my car window and was horrified to see tiny legs kicking under the car. I maneuvered the car away, exposing a whimpering newborn deer who’s head I just crushed. She was still alive when I dropped to the ground and put my hands on her jerking body to calm her, or perhaps to calm my horror and give me the exasperated chance to apologize for killing her on her first day of life.

It was terribly heartbreaking. I was officially a wreck and fought back my tears during my eye exam later that morning, even my eye doctor, bless his heart, paused to hug and comfort me over the unfortunate early morning death of a fawn.

My apologies ... :'((
My apologies … :'((

After she left this world, I placed her lifeless body in a beautiful field of wildflowers I now call Fawn Field.

The days ticked by and it became evident Reed would not arrive. Our phone conversations were awful and ugly, his rage over me being in Texas grew by the hour.

The rains soon arrived and with it came an army of spiders, mud and scorpions looking for higher ground. Electricity flickered and roads disappeared. I was killing scorpions without batting an eye and barely flinched when I awakened a huge 5-inch centipede. On the third day, I could stand it no more and fled to Austin to escape the pounding rains and my saddening heart. Thank God for cousin Noelle; she helps me feel normal in the world again as I follow behind her in malls I am literally a foreigner in, stomping the scorpions away from my mind.

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Texas has always tested me in this regard; its weather and insects always a bit bad-asser and larger than what I’m accustomed, and in hindsight I’ll always be grateful it hasn’t yet killed me, but in fact has made me stronger. I spent many years at odds with Texas; it is arrogant and uppity when you’re not from here, but now she’s in my blood and I love her many people, places, animals and occasional gut-wrenching lessons.

I soon returned to the ranch to finalize the condensing of my life, and spent a stormy sunset with the cows on Swan Lake. They moved in to stand closer, which surprised and delighted me, as the Texas cows have always kept a fair distance, but not on this night. Did they know I was sad and in need of a friend? No, I’m sure they did not but who’s to say if they did?

Sunset moos

Reed was not coming, and in fact he had since exploded in a sea of stabbing words at me, for me and about me; it is time for me to go. There is no point in details because when two people live in entirely different worlds, the details are unnecessary and the truth unavoidable; get out and away before someone gets hurt. Although someone may be hurt.

memories of Bandito
memories of Bandito

The last day at the ranch I was prepared to leave and went to dip my feet in a raging Onion Creek where Bandito Bridge crosses; I have renamed this bridge because I miss that dog terribly and we always had a blast at the river. It’s a beautiful day and I notice everything; I feel so privileged to know this part of the Texas Hill Country; it is magical and raw in so many ways and I think back to when I first arrived in 2005 and hated it with all its bugs and creatures that go bump in the night. I have come so far because now I love to spend time at Charro Ranch and will miss it terribly. But it is time to go. One last visit with the cows …

Bandito Bridge on Onion Creek
Bandito Bridge on Onion Creek

I pulled up to the barn and all the cows were wailing and screaming and mooing like mad, it was an awful, awful scene! I jumped out of my car to see that the calves were in the pen and the mommas were out; the calves were being weaned and everyone was wailing. RayRay the horse was in the pen too, and was more unsettled than usual, pushing the calves around with his nose, completely uninterested in the apple I had for him, heyying and neyying all over the place. “What the hell is going on here??!” I asked as the wailing got louder and cows who normally keep their distance moved still closer to me.

Slow-motion turn, just like the movies.

I turned around and saw “him”. A huge, raging black Spanish bull, a bullfighting bull to be precise, as I have seen many times at the bullfights in Mexico. He had escaped from a ranch down the highway and was crazed with lust. He was panting and grunting, his head darting impatiently and aggressively. Without a moment to think, I hopped on air the 30-or-so feet back to my car — the bull moved towards me and grunted even more. Then he began to run towards me yet turned on a dime just as I reached my car. Fight or flight, I was completely in it and have no recollection of anything for the next several whatever’s, but sat there with my mouth agape completely aghast that there was a raging bullfighting bull on the loose now raping all the wailing momma cows. The bellowing moos still haunt me, as does the fact I’m still alive when a bull bred to kill somehow did not to kill me. Remember this is not personal, Meag.

toro... toro.. toro WTF
toro… toro.. toro WTF

My week at Charro Ranch started with a tearful, dying whimper and ended in an explosion of seething anger, and while it is true my heart is still lodged in my throat, I’m alive with a flush in my veins and more wiser view of the world thanks to this Driftwood, Texas ranch and its owner Reed Burns.

Thank you for all the adventures Charro Ranch, I love you so much xx

I love you so much

 

What is a Modern Farmer

Two years ago, I was hit with a powerful waterfall of emotions and tears as I blurted out I wanted to be a Modern Farmer, in the last hour of the last day of a Sonia Choquette six-sensory workshop. A Modern Farmer, what the heck does that mean?!! Aside from the magazine of the same name, I was very unclear about where this explosion of feelings came from, and laughed and scoffed the entire way home, no way could I be a modern farmer, oh the audacity!

Truth be told, once I uttered those words, I felt as if I had been hit by lightning; the spark had been lit but I had no idea what to do with it. A modern farmer, you say!? Oh stop.

sonia_workshop
Moments after declaring my Modern Farming ambitions

I did spend the first few years of my life on a dairy farm in Huntley, Illinois, although I have little-to-no-memory of it. But now that both my parents were dead, the pull to be in the country was strong, much to my chagrin. I fought it, dug my heels in, as I really believed I was supposed to be in Chicago. I was a Big City Gal, in fact, I was afraid of the country and all its creatures that go boo in the night; the wide open spaces made me terribly nervous. Give me a deserted city street at midnight any time over a quiet country, star-lit night. Once while house-sitting for my brother and his wife in Hebron, Illinois, I called 911 because I heard noises and was certain I was about to be terrorized. After a brief inspection, the policemen said to me, “do you realize that’s the wind?”

I called the cops on the wind.

There had been such tremendous and rapid loss at this point in my life; jobs, addresses, jewelry, my truck — my mom — and through all this I could feel the magnetic pull back to the country. Or maybe it was fear? Or, I know, it was shame, because how embarrassing to lose my everything, so why not run to the country with my tail between my legs? And what was I supposed to do, pray tell, become a tomato farmer? Can I support myself on tomatoes? Maybe a sprout farmer? My track record with plants has never been great and now I think I can be a sprout farmer? Fat Chance. I may have been sitting squarely in the farmlands of Northern Illinois-Southern Wisconsin, but I had a snowball’s chance in hell to become a farmer, modern or old-timey, at this point.

I filed the day dream away and continued my desperate search of WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?!

Days after Sonia’s workshop, it was Thanksgiving, and thanks to a wonderful invite from my generous ex-husband, Reed, I made my way back to San Miguel de Allende and then to Austin, which I now call home. I quickly forgot all about my farming declaration and moved on to the task of cleaning up the wreckage from my past. I was a fairly miserable girl when I was married to Reed and had felt terribly guilty about how our marriage ended. It ended badly. Certainly not the worst divorce in the world, but I never got over the guilt for my bad behavior and selfish ways. The years I lived in Illinois after the divorce were one big alcohol-fueled guilt trip. This was my opportunity to make amends for my harmful behavior.

frida_diego

Whether he would agree or not, I believe I have made amends to the best of my abilities, first and foremost by being kind to the deserving Reed, and then by trying to be there in ways I had not been in the past. Not everyone gets a shot at this, nor would many want one, and even though it’s been messy and painful all over again, I am super-grateful I had this opportunity to make right a few of my wrongs. This has helped me to grow up. I like growing up, it feels good.

In early August of this year, after returning once again to San Miguel, I overheard Reed on the phone making a deal to sell his Mexican cows to a factory farm in Northern Mexico. Wait, wait, whoa, whoa WHAT?! I said as he hung up the phone.

Reed purchased his ranch in Dolores Hidalgo after we married in 2005; there were little or few cattle when he purchased it, and he spent the past 10 years adding to and cleaning up the breed of Limousin cattle to create a fine, handsome, beautiful breed of cattle; in addition to drilling for water and creating a majestic, sprawling, lush, 250-hectare Guanajuato rancho. The sound of the wind is amazing out here; I would never call the cops on it.

RSN
Majestic Rancho Santo Niño

Given my recent experience with a thyroid condition and the need to eat paleo, yet finding little-to-no resources for grass-fed beef in San Miguel de Allende, I chimed in with, “we need grass-fed beef right here in San Miguel and that’s what you have. Why don’t we make meat right here instead of shipping them off to a feed lot, where the cows are mostly wanted only for their arrachera?” Reed responded, “If you can find someone to process the cows, you can have some cows.”

The next day I was at Via Organica, aka, Central Mexico’s Whole Foods, and within two weeks, the team was assembled to produce grass-fed beef.

RSN_cover
The handsome Limousin cattle of Rancho Santo Niño

And so began Rancho Santo Niño.

I had spent the past year living with the cows at Reed’s ranch in Texas; I practiced reiki on them, played crystal bowls for them, and especially loved watching the Texas sunsets with them within an earshot. I loved those cows and had (have) great regard for them. Reed says, “cows are dumb.” I say no they are not! They are amazing mothers and any creature that is a wonderful mother is not dumb.

crystalbowls
Playing the crystal bowls off the back of the pick-up for the Texas cows

While I have great respect for the cows and their place in the world, I do know why these cows are here. They are fuel for the people. Oh but how to get them to the people?!

I think factory farming is an unspeakable, horrible injustice to all the animals churned out through them, in turn turning out sick food; to which some people have responded, yeah but you kill the cows too! This is true, but how the cows are treated until it is their time to become fuel for the people is where I want to do it different. I see the hidden videos of how animals are slaughtered; it bothers me tremendously as well. Have you see the Temple Grandin’s movie? She understood this on an entirely different level.

The hard-working cattle ranchers out there producing responsibly raised grass-fed beef are my inspiration, and I don’t pretend for one moment to be a fraction of a rancher, nor skilled tradesperson that they are, but I have learned amazing things through them and with my own experience of working with the ranchers and butchers of Dolores Hidalgo. I have thrown my hat in the ring of producing responsibly-raised grass-fed beef and this makes me incredibly proud and I am excited as I forge ahead and learn new things everyday. I am in on every step of this process and believe it has made me a kinder person, a more mindful person and the gratitude I feel each day when I drink my bone broth is a feeling I don’t want to shake anytime soon.

Producing grass-fed beef been a profound experience thus far.

Cattle ranching done right can save the world’s global warming demise, so says Allan Savory; his TED Talk is extremely moving and inspiring.

Oh and that declaration I made two years ago? I suppose it came true…

reiki_cows

 

 

New Energy in 15, First Figure 8’s

The day I decided to share all-things-good-energy I’ve been studying: Energy medicine, qigong, t’ai chi, NIA dance, intuition development, reiki, yoga, meditation and raising my vibration… all which have helped navigate my way through grief.