A Family Day at the Ranch
One of the challenges about being a first generation ranching family in California is the lack of available land! As much as we’d love to paint the picture that we lay our heads down right next to the rolling hills where our cattle are out peacefully grazing, this is not the reality of our life! We lease all of the ranches our cattle graze on, and with pasture land becoming more and more limited, we must take what we can, which often times can be far away.
You may be reading this wondering, why is this important?
It simply adds another component to what we do. We know our customers and followers enjoy getting a glimpse into what we do and how we do it, so the idea of blogging about a “family day at the ranch” seemed like a good idea!
When we started Open Space Meats, we had 1 child who was 18-months old. Whenever Seth, the head cowboy, had to head out to the ranch to do things, we’d pack Henry up in the truck, he’d sleep the whole way there, and we would spend the day at the ranch. We’d bring a picnic, check cattle, fix fence, etc., and when we were all done, we’d head back to our house in Newman. As the years have come and gone, so have various leases and ranches. We’ve added two more children to the mix, considerably more cattle, and gratefully, many more customers! As many of you know, the more people in your family, the more activities there seem to be and free time seems to grow smaller and smaller! So now, a family day at the ranch isn’t quite so common place.
This past Saturday we were blessed with the opportunity to go out to the ranch with Seth. It is off-season for everybody’s sports, there weren’t any birthday parties to attend or family events we needed to be at. And thankfully, nobody was sick! So we took advantage of this moment, as well as the beautiful sunshine and packed up the family! Here’s what that looked like. The kids and I stayed at the house and packed a picnic lunch, finished up chores, and other miscellaneous items, while Seth drove to the office to get our ranch truck. He had to pick up the 4-wheeler, load it into the ranch truck and then head back to the house for all of us! We moved car seats into the pick-up, loaded up 3 dogs and everyone’s necessities and we were off!!
It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to get from our house to the ranch in Catheys Valley. It was a beautiful drive, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and for the first time in several years the grass has a green tinge to it!! One kiddo napped the whole way there, the other one read and the oldest looked out the window. When we were about 5 minutes from the ranch gate, the reader got carsick! Luckily she made it out of the car and it didn’t dampen her spirits. Once we got through the gate and up to the ranch everybody piled out of the car and ran around for a bit.
There is something completely freeing about getting out of town and up to the ranch, I can visibly see a load come off the head cowboy’s shoulders and our children act like kids from years past, they amuse themselves in the great outdoors without any screens, devices, toys, etc.…it is a beautiful sight to behold.
As we no longer can all fit on the 4-wheeler, the kids have to take turns helping out Dad. Elle went with Dad first to check cattle; while they were away, Henry, Charlotte and I wandered around the property, exploring, climbing rocks and shooting photos.
After about an hour, Henry got his turn checking cattle with Dad and the girls and I hung out. When the work was all done, we spent the last hour of sunlight enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, watching an amazing sunset and enjoying a day with nothing in particular to do!
Around sunset we packed everyone and everything back into the truck and headed home. It was a mostly quiet drive home, we had worn out kids and worn out dogs.
And like every time we head to the ranch, the head cowboy and I discussed the challenges of living one place and ranching another. It’s not unlike so many who live in the valley and commute to a big city for work, except that we aren’t commuting to a big city; we are commuting to the country! We’ve done this for close to 10-years now and there is never an easy answer. As nice as it would be for the head cowboy and I to pack everyone up and move to the hills, there’s so much we’d miss about where we live. The ranch offers peace, solitude, beauty and a wonderful environment to raise children in. But it doesn’t offer a wonderful school, sports and activities for the kids; Bible study and an amazing church; accessibility to our office and cold storage, like we have where we are. (Not to mention, there isn’t a home available there at the moment either.) So for now, there still isn’t an easy answer, other than to live where we are planted and enjoy it! Raising cattle the way we do is so important to us, that it is worth the long drive, long hours and challenges unique to first generation ranchers. It is the way of life, and the path that we’ve chosen for the moment. We enjoy sharing all we do with you, our friends, customers and followers!
Father’s day is fast approaching and I just wanted to share some thoughts. As many of you know (or at least you should know) we are a family company. Which means everybody participates, right down to the kids. We have three awesome, intelligent, good looking, charming, and above-average children.
As a business owner I have to wear a lot of different hats. Of all the job titles I hold (Cowboy, entrepreneur, meat salesman, truck driver, janitor, customer service agent, and rancher) Dad is the job I am most challenged by, and the most proud of. It is the job that requires the most dedication, the most time the most patience and by far is the most rewarding. The job of Dad takes up 80% the space on my resume and 100% of my heart. It’s important. That is all.
So for Father’s Day may I offer some advice… Don’t get your Dad a tie, chances are he doesn’t like wearing them. No power tools; although they are very cool, they just imply all the work we haven’t gotten done yet. Don’t get Dad a BBQ because as much fun as it is to play with fire it is still work to cook. So what is the solution?
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They are right. Oh… so right. Cook him some steaks and get the man a beer and I promise no Father will be disappointed with that. It always fits just right, he will like the color for sure and you don’t have to fill out a warrantee card.
If you review some of the slogans and names of our major grocers you can learn a LOT about what we value in the food system in America.
- Wal Mart – Save Money. Live Better.
- Winco – Your low price leader.
- Stater Bros. – Where you always get more… For less!
- Food 4 Less… Well, I guess that name tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it?
We value a bargain. And why not? Everybody LOVES to save money and I am no exception. I have even been accused of being, you guessed it CHEAP.
If you stop to think about it though, not one of those slogans say anything like…
- Our food is nutritious!
- It tastes good!
- Our food is GOOD for you.
- Our food will make you smell better! (OK that last one is a stretch but you get the point).
It is not an exaggeration to say that big grocery chains spend millions of dollars on marketing, and they are not wrong to do so. It is important to get the message to your customers that they want to hear. In this case it is what I would consider the lowest common denominator… It’s cheap. Buy some. In fact, buy a whole LOT.
We have seen the enemy and it is us. Only we can change it. Let’s put our “VALUES” into our food system and not just “value”. It is going to cost a little more. But if we as a nation decide we are tired of walking around (sitting may be closer to the truth) fat and sick, then WE must do something about it. It starts with how we spend our dollars. If we want healthy, nutritious food raised sustainably and humanely then we must demand it, and then… Pay for it.
Thanks – Seth
Have an “All Natural Burger”
Recently a major fast food chain launched its own version of “The All Natural Burger”. It boasts no hormones, free range and grass fed. Last year another nationwide chain (that markets itself extensively as a healthy and green option to fast food) announced something similar. I usually like to let this kind of thing slide, but I just can’t keep quiet on this one. I suppose this can be seen as a victory for grass fed beef, it is popular enough now to be seen as almost mainstream. Then again it can be seen as a loss for those of us that have worked very hard to bring all natural grass fed beef to consumers. Let me explain…
Per the press release of that fast food chain, they are sourcing their beef from Australia and South America. Ok. Great. So it won’t in anyway help American ranchers that have worked hard to popularize Grass Fed Beef as a product. Next up, the fact that in MOST of the world’s major beef producing nations grass fed is the normal production method for beef. So they haven’t actually done anything special.
What they did was look at their costs and decide that US beef was too expensive (US beef prices have been setting all-time highs this past year) and need a cheaper option. Soooo…. They decided to buy foreign beef at lower prices and see if they could greenwash that decision by marketing it as something special. Which it is not. What is the carbon footprint on beef shipped across the Pacific Ocean?
You know what? None of that matters. Why? Because we do what we do because we believe in it. NOT because it is a marketing gimmick. NOT because it is suddenly trending on Twitter. Feeding people is a noble profession and we choose to do it nobly. That means holding true to our values. Looking after our animals, being faithful stewards of the land and serving our customers.
So we think you should have an all natural grass fed burger. Just make it from somebody you trust.
Last week, the Republic that we call home compelled us to raise our voices and be heard. I admit it, I like voting. I like to smile really big at the elderly lady volunteering at the polling station, I like knowing that when I pull the curtain behind me I won’t be bothered (sometimes I am tempted to stay longer for that reason). Then I get a sticker that I can wear proudly (like when you got a gold star in Kindergarten). The best part is that no matter who you are, on some, albeit small, level you made your voice heard.
I am a big fan of making your voice heard in very small ways. I know that seems ironic since you are reading this in a blog that reaches hundreds of people. But you, our customers, are what I am talking about when I say making your voice heard! Let me explain, I hear a lot about changing the food system and how our way of raising meat is good, but other ways are bad, etc, etc. And while I don’t mean to diminish that sentiment, because it is very important, but it is just that, a sentiment…until you vote.
When we started this company, it was a vote, a vote to do something different in the food system. We were tired of the business as usual status quo of the beef industry. We voted…with our feet…we decided to do something different. And in that small way we have made a difference in the food system. And so do you, as our customers, because you have been there to support us. When you buy beef from us it is casting a vote for sustainable agriculture, for family farms, and for local products. When you cast that vote it is a referendum on who we are and what we do. So far you, our customers, have enabled us to continue doing what we love to do! We thank you for your vote and hope you continue to help us make positive changes in our food system!
My favorite time of year is Autumn. It’s easy to like the springtime when all things are new and the world wakes up from the winter, but liking the fall season takes optimism. It is the time of year we are the most hopeful. For us, we are just bringing cattle back from summer pasture and we are just seeing the rain start and grass in California is starting to come on.
As ranchers, our fall calves are being born and the green grass season is in front of us. We still have the whole grass season to go and nothing can go wrong. This year (we think) is going to be a great year. At this time LAST year I knew deep down we were going to have 20” of rain and green grass up to your stirrups. The cattle were going to be healthy and fat the creeks were going to be clean and full and all the bills will be paid on time. If you want to be a rancher you HAVE to believe it; that optimism is what allows you to take the enormous risks we take with little to no guarantee of success. That is not what happened last year, but enough about that.
This year I KNOW for sure that we are going to have 20” of rain, the cattle are going to be fat and healthy and the calves are going to run and play in the green grass. The creeks will be full and clear and the feed will be up to your stirrups. The Packers are going to win the Super Bowl too. I can feel it.
Here’s to optimism. Thanks for reading.
So about a year ago, I sat down to write my first blog. I was nervous, sad and excited! Nervous, because while I’ve always loved to journal and write, I’ve never put my writing out there for the public to view; sad, because our youngest had just started kindergarten, and excited because I was venturing into new territory – having more time to devote to our business and put some of my own touches, creativity and expression into it. Long story short, I found myself pregnant with our 3rd child about 2 months after school started and life changed again!
So here I am a year later, sitting in our office with our 3-month old daughter sleeping next to me while I type. I still hope to get back to being more involved in the business, but it’s going to look a little different than I thought it would! I’m coming to realize that nothing is ever perfect, the timing for things is never just right, and circumstances are usually different than we think they should be…at 37, I’m a slow learner and it has taken me a while to realize all this.
We’ve noticed that with the onslaught of social media, everyone is bombarded with how their lives should look, how their spouses should act, how well-behaved and successful their children ought to be. So at Open Space Meats and in our own home, Seth and I have decided to embark on real life; we’re calling it #showusyourmess. We encourage you to get out there and enjoy what you have and make the most of it. Then if you feel like sharing, post it and tag us! We think by living real and sharing this experience we can do more good than by faking a perfect existence (which we weren’t doing anyhow!)
So here’s the view in my office right now. The desk is a mess, I haven’t cleaned up my lunch yet, but the baby’s asleep, I’ve paid all the bills, invoiced our customers and feel somewhat accomplished. I hope this day finds you as good as can be!
It’s Summer and it time for those AWESOME Summer movies. So we here at Open Space Meats made kind of a Western and kind of a Documentary. It’s a Docustern? or Maybe a Westentary. Who cares? call it whatever you like. We LOVE to tell people where their beef comes from (especially if it’s our beef). So we made another Ranch Tour video, this time on the summer pasture in Western Nevada. This is only PART I. Since we knew we had a huge hit on our hands we went ahead and shot the sequel (PART II) while we were still on location. Pretty smart huh? Check it out and tell us what you think. We love to hear from you. Here is a link: http://openspacemeats.com/ranch-tours/
I am going to make this post short and sweet.
In my last post I let you in on a little family news for the Nitschke’s. I also said my next post would hopefully be GREAT news. Well… I wont disappoint. On Wednesday 6-11 at 9:46pm we welcomed the newest member of our family to the world. Charlotte Grace was 6 lbs and 15 oz. and 19 inches long. Mom and baby are doing great and are now at home.
If you have been trying to contact us and we haven’t gotten back to you right away; now you know why. Sorry for that things will get back to (what we refer to as) normal very soon.
There you go. Short and sweet as promised. Just like my newest little girl. Yes, this Dad is pretty proud.
Some of you know, but many of you don’t; that we are expecting our 3rd child really soon. That being the case Mica is going to be taking some well deserved and much needed time off from blogging when the new baby arrives. So I (Seth) will try my hand at blogging in the interim. We want to keep you guys informed as to what is going on at the ranch and with our family; because if you didn’t care where your food came from you wouldn’t be buying it from us. But you do care. That’s why you are reading this.
So what does this mean? I am saying this in order to apologize in advance for… bad grammar, spelling mistakes incomplete sentences, bad paragraph form, dangling participles (what ever those are) and the entire litany of stuff I will most certainly screw up. Was that a run on sentence? I don’t know. I am told I write like I speak and should shape up a bit. To that I say; I do not write like I speak, I don’t cuss even half as much as when I write. Hey you wanted the cowboys perspective. Careful what you wish for.
Mica will definitely be back when she is ready and I have offended enough people that it has started to affect business.
In all honesty and seriousness though, we thank you for being our customers and allowing us to do what we love to do. We raise cattle responsibly and feed people, and do it with integrity. I will hopefully be posting again very soon with great news.