“Please write a blog so we can direct people to your website!” says Desi, my lovely wife as well as my marketing manager and compass holder. “You are over a month late!”
Sundance Ranch, our new therapy ranch that we bought in Elizabeth, CO in December is growing fast!
This has been the opportunity of a lifetime being able to build a ‘clinic’ setting based on and within nature and agriculture.
Being a new farmer, rancher, and self-employed homeowner has its’ challenges. Along with constant reading, google searching, and library skimming, I focus on the sometimes small differences in the weather report and the actual weather. A lot of time and planning is based on this, for the clients as well as the animals. But I try not to forget to take a moment to enjoy the breeze, watch the horizon, give my horse my full attention, and play guitar. Joel Salatin, aA leader of the ‘know-where-your-food-comes-from’ revolution, has remarked: “Farming offers the sheer ecstasy of life!” and I couldn’t agree more.
The following are new things that I’ve been doing instead of writing a blog:
1) Feeding and watering lots of animals: 2 horses, 3 pigs, 10 laying hens and 65 chicks. Yes you read that right! Add 2 cats and 2 dogs, with the occasional deer, rabbit and dove and it becomes a juggling act. I hope to avoid feeding the mountain lion that passes through, by keeping a close watch on these animals quite often. I love giving the opportunity to our clients to learn, interact, and truly care for these animals. Each client brings amazing perspectives, ideas and thoughts when it comes to identifying safety, comfort and overall well-being of these animals. Each of our clients show attachment to different animals in different ways; and usually learn new techniques of socialization, identity and self-confidence. (We received the steers June 5th! Woodrow and Gus are fitting in and doing fine!)
- I’m adding this here as an aside: What does an animal need to be happy? According to Dr. Temple Grandin, citing the Bramble Committee via the British government in the 1960s, this:. “The 5 freedoms; (3 about physical welfare, 2 about mental welfare):
*Freedom from hunger and thirst
*Freedom from discomfort
*Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
*Freedom to express normal behavior
*Freedom from fear and distress”
So these are our building blocks to build the ranch. Morality, ethics and the golden rule (not unlike so many of my clients).
2) Building a traditional Occupational Therapy caseload. Having known so many clients over the years, it has been such an honor and a blessing to have families seek me out to provide therapy sessions for their loved ones. I hope it becomes evident that offering these agricultural opportunities in the natural environment, outside, with many of the traditionally domestic animals, is a passionate endeavor. Peace of mind comes with knowing you are doing your best to balance a system, full of life, with increasing reward directly related to effort. Becoming ready to take on more clients has been an adventure in itself, and we are ready and excited about what the future hold for our current and new clientele!
3) Building a chicken tractor. This will move around our pastures, giving the chickens new grass every couple of days and also fertilizing our pasture. One is completed. Number two is on the way! We have a few clients who are great with tools and very smart, who hopes to help us complete the second one. We are excited to have begun using the first one last week! We have 15 young chickens who are loving it! This was originally Joel Salatin’s idea.
4) Managing an electric fence for our pig enclosure (in our garden). We have moved the pigs 3 times since they arrived on March 18th. After they got comfortable, we put them in our soon-to-be garden. They have been rooting up our garden area well, but also some of the nearby areas that maybe we weren’t sure about letting them into yet! Alas, Alexander Hamilton should have been named Houdini. But this is all in safe spaces and good nature as we learn the ins and outs of electric fencing. Better to do this with pigs now, before the cows come!
5) Managing Pastures. Learning a lot. Keeping the horses down to grazing at a maximum of 2 hours each day can be challenging. With my short-term memory failures, they have enjoyed an extra hour from time to time, but we have been diligent. We are doing our best to keep our grass grass, and avoid having a dirt yard. These practices will be of added importance in order to ensure our ‘sustainability’ with the 2 steers that we’ve secured. I plan to rotationally graze pastures and have identified 3 mutually beneficial leasing opportunities nearby. This preparation comes following mentorship from representatives from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Douglas County Open Space Parks, and Hay Creek Cattle Co.* (Becoming a grass farmer is one of my newly identified and highly prioritized occupations that I didn’t know existed in practicality, like stockmanship vs. horsemanship).
6) Hiring a passionate Occupational Therapy Assistant. Bringing an old friend on board makes the work that much more rewarding. Being able to offer a platform for another therapist to follow their own passion and evolve practice, creativity and professionalism is an honor. More to come on this fantastic therapist.
7) Partnering with Strange Craft/Wit’s End Brewery, as well as Elbert/ Douglas County Task Force. They have been able to give us their unwanted grain and expired food feed for our pigs. No need to put it in a dumpster when we have hungry bellies who are more than willing to recycle it! These partnerships are more than food for our pigs; this action goes directly in line with our moral and ethical values and intention to do our part in re-purposing resources, involve our community and find sustainable ways to live the life we love.
8) Training Loretta Lynn with the wonderful Mrs. Patti! A black lab puppy can harness- and release- and enormous amount of energy! Some good friends’ introduced us to a dog whisperer who not only has taught us about the wonderful world of clicker-training, but is also an avid gardener and has caught our vision for Sundance Ranch. With Patti’s help, we may have a viable garden, and Loretta is learning all kinds of commands to become a well-rounded, animal-assisted therapy dog. So far she has ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’, ‘kennel’, ‘bed’, ‘leave it’, needs a lot more work on ‘off’ and ‘heel’, and our favorite ‘be cool’!
9) Visit my wonderful sister and her beautiful 3 week old daughter, my new niece! I’m now an uncle, twice over. To see the growing life all around us is truly a miracle. And to be able to have the opportunity to maintain strong relationships with my family, in Louisiana, and live in the gorgeous Colorado landscape is simply beyond my wildest dreams.
10) Being a good husband. This one is challenging, but it’s going well so far. I have my wife to thank for this life. There’s a good chance this is priority number 1.
I feel like I’ve been busy lately, but I also am excited to get up in the morning and experience the beauty and wonder that is our life. I’m excited to plan a student internship for the summer and return to teaching a class of Occupational Therapy Assistants in the fall. Time flies when you’re having fun! I hope 2018 doesn’t go too fast!