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Life on a Ranch

Sitting at my kitchen table, I’m listening to a steady rain. By noon, it’ll likely be sunny. Mid-afternoon, it could be hailing. And come Tuesday, well, it’s supposed to be 75! That’s spring for you. If you’ve been around here very long, you know that spring is my favorite of all the seasons. I love the fresh start: trees budding out, cows ready to go to grass, seed going in the ground, and all the green stuff- grass, perennials, and yep, even weeds, show up every day. Some years it seems like we wait and wait for spring as we eagerly anticipate all the spring work we have ahead of us. I just looked back at my column from this time last year and we were still looking for a hint of green on the hills. Not this year! Spring came early and it’s been coming in at a slow and steady roll… a few warm days to get the meadows growing and the mountain snow melting, followed by a few cold days to slow it all down. I have no complaints! A few springs ago, we planted several fruit trees in and around our yard. We planted about a dozen and, because of our very high water-table, all but four of them drowned. Thankfully, one of the survivors was an apple tree that originated in Troy. For those who don’t know the story, one day Buck stopped in at the school to have lunch with our girls, along with the schoolteacher, Mr. Byers, and the music teacher, Mrs. Byers. Buck ate an apple with his lunch and inside the apple was a sprouting seed. Mr. Byers, always the educator, saw an opportunity for a science lesson and, later that day, he planted the seed with the girls. They took care of it and watched it grow. And about a year after we moved to Union County, Mr. Byers stopped by our house and left that sprouted seed that, unbeknownst to us, he had been nurturing along. Over time, he repotted it into bigger and bigger pots. Well, we planted the girls apple tree, and it hasn’t grown very quickly, but it’s growing strong and steady. That intro to say, I’m really glad one of our trees is an apple, because apples are my favorite. And our kids actually like to tease me about that. A long time ago, we were having a discussion about “favorite things”…. your favorite animal, your favorite ice cream flavor, etc. Eventually, the question came up about favorite fruits… everyone went around and named their favorite and these came up: peaches, pineapple, mango, kiwi. I listened, and after everyone had declared theirs, I said my favorite: a good ol' fashioned apple. My family erupted, “Apples?! Are you kidding?!” And “What about mango? We know you love mangos!” They refused to take apples for a serious answer and, quite frankly, they’ve never let it go! I explained then and I’ll explain now… I just don’t think apples should be taken for granted! Our family eats more apples than any other fruit—they’re full of nutrients and fiber and they’re a staple in our diet. I pack them in nearly every cold lunch. Paired with sliced cheese, they’re a favorite after-school snack. And while they might not get the glory in a fruit salad, they’re the crunchy foundation of every single one I make. Not to mention, they bake into the very best kind of fruit pie and crisp, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over the top of a warm piece. If I haven’t been to the grocery store and our house is nearly devoid of food, you can still find an apple in the fruit basket. I asked my family and I’ll ask you now: when is the last time a mango did any of that?! Apples have been on my mind lately- not just because we happen to have a basket full of really sweet and delicious Honeycrisp apples right now, but because I think the apples are a good analogy for life. Our kids are currently on spring break. Katelyn is on the Philly/Boston/NYC/ Washington DC trip with a group from school; Cooper went on an adventure to Boise with Trenten and his mom, Natalie, where they’re fitting in every fun thing they can think of. And Lucy went to McCall to see my folks and be reminded and slightly shocked over how much snow they still have. For reference, while I was doing yard work this week, my dad was shoveling fresh snow. Lots of it. Anyway, having all three kids gone for a couple days (Katelyn will be gone for 10!) has been weirdly quiet… and also strangely clean. I’ve been catching up on some work as well as some projects at home, and I jumped in with Buck some, too – feeding cows, shuffling equipment around, and we even got some riding in (not enough!) when we shipped yearlings. As I’ve gone about doing all these things, I keep thinking that our kids are enjoying some of the “fun fruits”… the sweet flavors of traveling and adventure. It’s not unlike the enjoyment we get out of a fresh pineapple or a juicy mango. When the time is ripe, adventure is a welcome reprieve from the daily grind. All three of our kids were ready for a reprieve before they head back to school to finish out 5th, 9th and 11th grades. With the kids all off on their own adventures, it’s a good reminder to me of how much I like, and look forward to getting back to, our daily life. Earlier in the week, when it was the sunny part of the day (the time between micro-hail storms), I was out working in the yard, weeding an area that I have a new plan for. I looked over to see Kit, my cowdog, watching me work. I know dogs can’t smile, but when Kit is really content and has everything on our place under control- she lays on her belly and looks around as if she’s taking it all in, proud of her hard work. And she radiates a smile. When we needed to gather yearlings, I went out to the corral to catch my trusty gelding, Bert. Whenever I walk out there with a halter in hand, he likes to trot around and act like he might just run off, but he always faces up and quickly trots right to me. He's not super fancy, but he’s super willing and always has a great attitude. While I like a good adventure, I really like the sweetness of these types of everyday moments—it’s more of the apple type of sweet—it’s subtle, steady, reliable. It’s easily overlooked and easy to take for granted, but always there to be enjoyed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an apple crisp to make, right here in my favorite place: Union County. ~Chelsea

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