PS. THANK YOU Erika for finally mentioning the 'flaring' of emotions that can be felt when a husband and wife work cows together. All the other ladies I interviewed 'forgot' to mention this part of ranching, even though we ALL know its true! ;)
We run a small commercial cow/calf operation nestled in the eastern part of Alberta.
How long has she been at it?
I have been ranching since I can remember, but my husband and I just started our own operation three years ago, renting in Jenner and now we have a place up in Oyen. I grew up on the family farm/ranch in Jenner. Ranching has been my way of life and passion for a long time and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.
I am a 4th generation rancher. My family has been in the ranching business for almost 105 years. My great grandparents homesteaded in Jenner where my parents and sister still operate. Cody and I branched off and moved to Oyen where we now run our cows. I am proud to be a fourth generation rancher and am excited to bring up another generation into the ranching community.
I have had a few jobs off the farm, be it with my parents or our operation, but since we expanded our family I have been a stay at home mom/ranch hand. Helping when and where I'm needed. My husband Cody does work off the farm as a farrier (horse shoeing and cattle trimming) so when he is travelling it falls to me and the kids to keep things going, and we really enjoy it.
What is your favorite thing about living in a rural community?
My favorite thing about living in the rural community is the honest lessons and values it teaches our youth. Rural life gives the youth great building blocks for the future like responsibility, accountability and basic life skills. They begin with the chores that ranching offers. Also having the cats, dogs, ponies, calves, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, whatever it may be. They learn lessons in empathy, responsibility, love and letting go. They get first hand knowledge and understanding of life and death. And somehow being in a rural environment it teaches most everyone to have respect and be humble.
I honestly can't think of anything I would want to change.
What's one piece of advice you would give other ranching women?
I don't really have advice. I feel like I'm still learning. But I can share what I have learned so far. Know that when you step out of the house you move your status from "wife" to "hired hand", using hired hand loosely. You may not be hired but you're his best hand. Even if its only because you are the only help he has. Don't take things seriously. If tempers flair in the sorting alley, don't take it personal and try to go with the flow. I have heard it takes a strong couple to work cows together and end the job successfully. But it surely can be done.
How do you relax? Any activities you enjoy off farm?
If I want to relax I usually get on my horse and go for a ride, or if the kids won't let me, even just brushing the horses works. I find a strange calming feeling watching a horse eat. I can get swallowed into a trance almost.
Nowadays ranching and kids take up most of my time, so activities off the farm usually include rodeos, jackpots, cow sales, bull sales and visiting with friends.
I would say I chose ranching because its where I came from and its truly what I love doing. Its who I am and who I always will be. It helps that I found a person as passionate as me to share it with!
Right: Erika shows the boys a thing or two in the branding corral when it comes to roping calves!