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Turkey meatballs, Kleenex Chronicles & other ranch adventures

By Mariah Shammel, originally published in Winter 2016 edition of The Spokesman

About three months ago, Little Lady and I were standing at the meat counter in our local grocery story, waiting patiently to order some lunch meat. For those of you with kids, you know that if you’re standing in a spot surrounded by ground-level shelves of grab-able foods with a 20-month old, you’re just waiting for something bad to happen. As we stood there, I noticed a nicely dressed older gentleman with his back turned to us, who had just placed his order. Immediately, I mumbled under my breath and shifted my gaze to my little cohort, hoping she could feel my eyes in the back of her head, warning her to behave.

Just when I thought she was being atypically quiet and still, she ambled up to the meat counter and starting pointing to all the chunks of meat. Her chubby finger pressed the glass in front of the ham roast and said, “Mmmm…pig meatball,” and then took a few steps to her right, pointed to a chunk of roast beef and said, “Mmmm…cow meatball.” After looking over more of the meat in the case, she turned around and said, “Mama, where’s turkey meatball?” The man turned around. I braced myself for some comment about keeping my child’s grubby hands off the glass but instead, he gave me a huge smile and said, “I can’t believe she just said that. I’ve never heard a kid that age talk about meat and where it comes from.”

After letting the blood flow back into my brain from holding my breath for so long, I informed him that we raise cows, so knowing where meat comes from and seeing the process first-hand starts at a young age in our house. He replied that it was great to see and to be sure to continue doing what we were doing. After he walked away, the lady working the counter commented on how rare it is to have people, much less kids, note the connection between animal and food.

I didn’t think about it too much at the time (mainly because I was more worried about keeping a certain toddler contained in the grocery store) but on the way home from picking Little Man up from preschool, I couldn’t help but think of all the kids who grow up with no connection to our type of rural lifestyle. I hear the statistics, that kids nowadays are five generations removed from production agriculture, and I get the memos about “telling our story” but I’ve always assumed that kids around Lewistown, where cows are everywhere and ranching is the number one money-maker would be more in-tune with this vital part of life. Apparently not so much...

I used to have a blog where I would randomly post updates about what was going on at the ranch, why we do things the way we do them and what it’s like to live at the mercy of the weather, the seasons and a bunch of munching bovines. Then Favorite Farmer and I started having kids and almost immediately the blog was put on the backburner. It always amazed me, how many people read and commented on my posts—from my sister’s friends in Nashville to my brother’s co-workers in D.C. and even people I had no prior connection to. It gave them a first-hand look at a lifestyle few get to experience, all from the comfort of their computer screen.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was time to get the blog up and running again. If Favorite Farmer and I can take the time to bring our children with us in everything we do and teach them about our stake in the world, why can’t we share that with everyone else? After all, what better place is there to learn about farming and ranching than from a family who lives it?

I invite you to visit my blog at www.kleenexchronicles.wordpress.com where you can become a part of our family, get familiarized with our day-to-day shenanigans and ask anything you want about our way of life. (No, we don’t wear overalls everyday; Yes, we do use cattle trucks to transport livestock—imagine the trucks as your family Suburban. How else are you going to get cows from one place to another?)

I look forward to re-opening our barn doors to you and giving readers (no matter the age) a real-life glimpse into our fifth generation family ranch! But be prepared, our life is always smelly and messy, usually poopy, sometimes bloody and generally chaotic…and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Happy Reading!