You probably have a friend who is uber strong, self-sufficient, resilient and beautiful. And she knows how to have some fun.
My friend Liza Jane is all of those things–and a rancher. She raises small-framed cattle called Corriente. They are a heritage breed, descendants of the first cattle in the Americas, now used for roping competitions in rodeos and also for beef.
Her 6 Ranch has been in the McAlister family since 1884. Liza Jane’s done a “whole lotta livin” (in her own words) elsewhere, but she is rooted here doing the kind of work that awes a girl like me from the burbs. For example?
Every morning during the winter haying season, Liza Jane takes her flatbed truck you see in the photo there and her Border Collie, Allbe, to feed her black beauties. To spread out the feed hay, she keeps the truck rolling along through the pasture while she plays out flakes of the haybales, then jumps off to keep the truck on track. Then she jumps back onto the flatbed to toss some more hay onto the dormant grasses.
Off, on, off, on, for a coupla hours. Try that instead of your Stairmaster!
I call her in the mornings and say, “Please don’t run yourself over today.”
She laughs. “I won’t.”
Then, I go back to the safety of my computer and she goes back to jumping off and on til the cows are fed and it’s time to tend to the chickens and ducks, milk the cow and 100 other daily chores I can’t even begin to fathom.
This each and every day no matter her mood or the weather or anything else. Every day.
It gets even more interesting during calving season, which will begin on the 6 Ranch in May. I rode with her one morning last year to check on “the babies”–oh my, they were so miniature–and their mothers, sporting fine sets of horns, were fiercely protective of them.
I cowered in the pickup while Liza Jane jumped out to check each calf, and if the mother allowed, pop a tag in its little ear. When charged by a mom, she’d leap in the the pickup giggling.
Year ’round, this girl can shoot and ride and rope. And boy can she dance! Wears her cowboy hat nearly all the time, even when she attended Slow Food’s 2011 Terra Madre event in Torino, Italy.
On top of running her ranch, Liza Jane helped to restore a significant section of the Wallowa River on their property. Then, last spring, Liza Jane built herself a greenhouse and opened a farm stand (pictured above) where non-food-producing folks like me can stop by for duck eggs, local honey, 6 Ranch beef and “bovine nectar” from her beautiful Jersey cow, Jewel (pictured above), and all the produce she can lure from the land–organically.
That’s just one rancher, and there are more like Liza Jane in communities like mine throughout this country.
If you are one, I only have a vague sense of how tirelessly you work. I’d like to thank you with a huge discount on my cookbook Pure Beef (Liza Jane’s daughter Adele–Cordon Bleu trained–helped me test recipes for it, too) so that you can resell it to your customers and make a little profit on the side. Contact me for details.
And if you know a rancher, please pass this on to them–and then give them a hug from me.