Sharing the heritage and lifestyle of ranchers, farmers, horsemen, artisans, and youth throughout the Southwestern U.S.
Western Ag Life Magazine is filled with one-on-one interviews, how to tips, and stunning photographs; each issue captures the heritage and everyday joys of families who live in harmony with nature and earn a living from the land.
~ June ~
SUMMER - Western life in Summer means the sun rises early and sets late. More often than not, equating to a long and hot work day.
But fear not, it’s not always a dusty doldrom. The kids are home from school, shadowing their heroes, learning to make a hand in the world of Agriculture. Together families find time to watch a summer storm roll in while sipping sun tea on the porch, quenching the heat with a dip in the ‘ol storage tank or cattle pond, and then there is watermelon!
Marking our one year anniversary, we are pleased to release the Summer edition of Western Ag Life Magazine on Fathers day weekend.
We encourage you to pick up a copy and enjoy all that summer has to offer.
THE LIFE OF A RANCH WIFE, By Kate Sanchez (Page 28 :: Summer 2019)
We all know the lyrics of “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys”. What’s most amazing about this song is that everything that’s mentioned, those things perhaps thought to be some of the downfalls of these men, is exactly what makes us all fall for that baby who grew up to be one.
As I’ve written about before, I come from a place with few cowboys, if any at all. Upstate NY doesn’t boast a population of Wrangler or Levi wearing, straw hat sporting, pearl snap shirt type of men; not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just fact. So, when I moved to Portales, NM over 10 years ago, I was not only in for a culture shock in terms of location but also because of how people treated one another, especially this breed of men who were around every corner.
I remember walking into the dorms on campus one afternoon, after a long tiring day of soccer practice (had I mentioned that I attended ENMU on a soccer scholarship?), and having a door held open for me, by someone my age, for the first time in my life. I thanked the gentleman, and he said “yes, ma’am”. Now, looking back I understand, that was an eye-opener moment to me which would only become more common in my life.
When I met my husband I quickly learned that manners and respect weren’t just a façade or tall tale about cowboys. Everything you read about them is pretty accurate, the songs that are written about them ring true in many instances, and when you hear someone say that they are a rare and dying breed, take heed to that.
Majority of the time, being men of few words, cowboys only say what they mean, but always mean what they say. Silence is golden to them, and if it’s not worth saying, they don’t bother. Often approaching life with reckless abandon, some might call them drifters, ruffians, or men with a “gypsy soul”; but they experience life in a way that very few ever can. When they rise before the sun every morning, they may not always know where they’re headed or what they’ll be doing; but you can guarantee that they’ll be breathing in the dust of their biggest dreams. Whether it’s on a wagon for spring works, or just out in the pasture on the land assigned to him, a culture of men has been developed like no other. They’re kind, light hearted, and often witty, but level headed and realistic. They approach life one instance at a time, because they know if they do too much planning ahead that they’ll be two steps behind the rest of the day.
In a world where respect, honor, and dignity are becoming so lost, they continue to be time-honored traditions of these men. Not only do they tend to the land, the cattle, and horses and everything that goes with it; but they pay attention to detail, are courteous, and always punctual. I’ve been present more than a few instances when I’ve seen these men take the time out of their busy schedule to help a young child work on their roping skills. I’ve seen them gather up a newborn calf and pack it several miles on their trusty horse because it’s too weak to make it all the way with mama. I’ve been there when a young man, new to a ranch or operation, listens and takes advice from an elder, who shares his wisdom of the country and the cattle; how to work with a crew, and how to utilize the tools provided to the best of the newcomer’s abilities.
And I’ve been there in what could be the toughest of times for these men who seem so bullet-proof. When their best dog, and best friend of several years must be put down, or when a calf is lost in the middle of a snow storm. Perhaps it’s when their biggest role model, the one who has shaped them into the person they are, passes way, and the tears aren’t held back any longer. No matter the situation, I’ve been fortunate enough to see the cowboy in many different lights, and good or bad, the world could use more men like them.
It appears legend has it that a cowboy will never settle down, that he’ll be wild his whole life…. maybe only part of that is true. The same man who is compassionate about his job, the land and livestock will treat you that same way. He’ll be attentive, a nurturer and a provider. You’ll be guaranteed lots of laughs, quite a few tears too; and while there may not be a white picket fence surrounding your front yard, your heart will be full. You’ll always know you’re loved by a cowboy…you’re loved by the very best. So, mamas, I plead to you: please let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
~ March ~
SPRING - The Desert West comes alive in the Spring. If the region benefits from El Nino, Tropical storms or just a few sprinkles, the desert floor comes alive with flora and fauna. February can be the coldest temperatures all winter, but typically by March Madness the blooms are bursting and the fillaree carpet nearly complete. If you are new to the West or an Old Timer, Spring never disappoints; the landscape can be covered in snow, blanketed with lush moss-like greenery or scattered with the most neon color from cacti and wildflower blooms. And just like the season, our Spring issue won’t disappoint. Here is an expert from page 13.
RED STEM FILLAREE, By Patina Thompson (Page 13 :: SPRING 2019)
It may come as a surprise to some that filaree (Erodium cicutarium) is actually an invasive species from the Mediterranean and Asia. Also called redstem filarree, storksbill, or purple filaree, the forb is very adaptable and drought tolerant, and found at elevations below 7,000 feet. Redstem filaree is the most common seen species in Arizona, but is found in all of the lower 48 states, Canada and Alaska. White stem filaree (Erodium moschatum) and Broadleaf filaree (Erodium botyrs) are also common species found in the lower 48 states.
The plant stems are hairy and red in color, with fern-like leaves that are opposite and divided. The five-petaled pinkish-purple flower clusters resemble geraniums, fitting because they are in the Geranium family. Even more interesting are the fruits produced by the flower. Each flower will produce five long-lobed fruits that are erect and resemble a stork’s head and beak. With its tendency to grow low to the ground in large, dense rosettes, it can prevent germination of native species
To add to its arsenal, the seeds of filaree have the unique ability to tighten in dry conditions and loosen in humid conditions. When dry, the long tail of the seed coils tightly into a spiral shape, enhancing its ability to burrow into the soil and take root. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years. Seeds are also transported on the fur of domestic grazers and wildlife. Filaree also provides valuable seasonal forage for rodents, desert tortoise and deer. The seeds are eaten by game and non-game birds alike. Filaree prefers sandy soils and grows well along roadsides, in grasslands, rangelands and in agricultural field or disturbed sites. In some areas of the Mohave desert, filaree is the first to emerge and can dominate an otherwise sparse landscape. Young plants can survive a light fire, whereas moderate fires kill mature plants. Because the seed is driven into the soil, they are usually protected from fire.
While these adaptations place it in the invasive category, filaree is known to be a highly beneficial forage plant on the range. It appears as early as February when rains and soil temperatures permit, and can be great feed for livestock, especially cattle and sheep. With up to 17% protein and fiber, the flowering plant is a valuable source of nutrition in early Spring. Redstem filaree can withstand a heavy stock rate and has excellent range durability.
While the plant characteristics of filaree can be aggressive, it’s a welcome splash of green and purple on rangelands after the winter months, and an invaluable source of feed for livestock.
WINTER - The December issue is full of sunshine, snow on cacti and local folklore. Like the story of little lighted paper bags.
LIGHTING THE WAY, By Joel Johnson (Page 14 :: WINTER 2018)
Every December, my three older sisters and I would look forward to the evening our parents would load us into our mini-van with every blanket we owned, a thermos of hot chocolate, and a handful of Bing Crosby discs. We would wind through the streets of Tucson for hours, hitting all the old standbys—Disney Lane, Winterhaven, and any neighborhood that caught our eyes on the way.
We would ooh and ah at the holiday lights, sing Christmas songs, and whenever we passed a well-organized display of electric luminarias, my Dad would turn around from the driver’s seat. “And what are those, kids?” he would ask mischievously. “FAKERS!” we screamed at the top of our lungs.
My father is a self-described luminaria purist. If it’s not an unattended fire hazard, it’s not Christmas. Anything more extravagant (or up to code) than a paper lunch bag filled with arroyo sand warrants vigorous condemnation.
According to some, the birth of the luminaria can be attributed to the journal pages of a Portuguese Conquistador. Gaspar Castaño de Sosa attempted to establish an unauthorized colony in New Mexico at the end of the 16th century. In an entry dated December 3, 1590, Sosa mentions that his compatriots lit small bonfires to guide a scout into their camp. Luminarias, or “little lights,” he called them. The legend goes that although Sosa’s dreams of establishing a colony dissolved, the idea of a luminaria, a fire lighting a path for the wayward, stuck.
However, a deeper look at Southwestern history reveals the word was already in use well before Sosa’s ill-fated expedition. Franciscan monk Toribio de Benavente Montolinia, known as one of the original “12 Apostles of Mexico,” describes the little lights as early as 1568.
“The Indians celebrate the feast of the Lord, of Our Lady and of the principal Patron Saints of the towns with much rejoicing and solemnity,” Montolinia notes. “The Indians place many luminarias in the patios of the churches and on the terraces of their houses. Since there are many flat-roofed houses and these extend a league or two, the scene resembles the starry skies.”
In his book Christmas in old Santa Fe, the late New Mexico historian Pedro Ribera-Ortega explains that luminarias date back even further than the arrival of Montolinia and his brothers in New Spain. Some historians believe the tradition began during Roman occupation of Spain, when elaborate festivals celebrated Roman gods and goddesses with bright bonfires on hilltops.
When Santiago, or St. James the Greater—one of the original twelve disciples, brought the Christian gospel into Spain, the practice of building festival fires was given a new meaning. The fires became a reference to the hogueras, or bonfires that shepherds would light to keep themselves warm and protect their sheep from wolves—a nod to the appearance of angels on that first Noche Buena.
While some of the origin details are still up for debate, Ribera-Ortega’s writing attempts to set one thing straight: “faralitos are not luminarias!” Depending on your geography, you might hear either of these words used to reference our cherished holiday paper bag displays (from Santa Fe north faralitos, or “little lanterns,” is used, while from Albuquerque down you will likely hear luminarias). However, the difference is not a small one to Ribera-Ortega.
“The distinction,” he explains, is not a “vain attempt at being pedantic,” but rather “to enhance the beauty of both the farolitos and the lumarias by setting their origin in their proper historical and cultural perspectives.”
The paper bags my father loves are, according to Ribera-Ortega, farolitos. The festive ornaments made their way to the dry deserts of the Southwest through a trade connection between the Spanish Philippines and China. There, Spanish traders first witnessed Chinese paper lanterns. Captivated by their beauty, they brought them to the Philippine Islands, then Mexico, and eventually the American Southwest. The expensive and delicate paper lanterns were replaced with cheap, American paper bags when they became available on the Santa Fe Trail. The modern farolito was born.
But a true luminaria is a bonfire of squarely stacked wood, approximately three feet tall, and ideally covered in pine-pitch. Whether lighting the way for the holy parents, mass attendees, or a misplaced member of Sosa’s party, the open framing and sap allows the fire to burn long and bright, also giving off the quintessential scent of piñon we associate with Santa Fe at Christmas.
Regardless of their origin, farolitos and luminarias alike have engrained themselves in Southwestern culture. This December you will still see small bonfires illuminating the gates of Southwestern churches and cathedrals, or lighting the path to Christmas Eve mass. Luminarias (or farolitos) have become a welcome addition to doorposts and rooftops during Las Posadas, a nine-day festival that culminates with a Christmas Eve walk representing Mary and Joseph’s journey to the manger.
For many, these lights are the sight and scent of the Southwest. Indeed, “No one can visit such places as Truchas, Cordova, Trampas and Chimayó and not sense the timeliness of the luminaria,” Ribera-Ortega muses, “not only as festive lighting but as the spiritual need for belongingness.”
Whether you’re a faralito fanatic, or a true, pine-pitch covered purist, Ribera-Ortega leaves us all with this Christmas thought: “on seeing these hogueras, the warmth-giving bonfires, the mind and the heart and the soul are elevated to meditation on the most important event in the history of the world, the fruitful coming of the Messiah.”
FALL - The perfection of fall , Cowgirl Sass and Savvy by Julie Carter (Page 8 :: FALL 2018)
In my book, fall is about the most perfect of the year’s four seasons. It is the time when all things that make cowboys, aggies and assorted combinations thereof the very happiest.
At the ranch, it's payday time. Cattle buyers resurrect from out of nowhere and all eyes, ears and cell phones are on the markets. Whether the crop is yearlings or fresh-weaned calves, every year is a new episode of "let's make a deal."
The blooms on everything green, nurtured by summer rains and sunshine, are at their peak of beauty. Flowers abound both in the yards and thanks to the rains this year, also in the fields and on the hillsides.
While your cowboy might not be big on posies, I guarantee you he's happy with the tall grass and practically gleeful over the fat cattle lying in that grass, bellies full and hides licked slick.
The camouflage corps have their binoculars focused and their weapons of choice tuned while they dream dreams of the perfect hunting season(s). Let a hint of crisp slip into the morning air and hunters everywhere trade in their hammocks and barbeque tools for game calls and camping gear.
Cattle trucks start rolling down the highways between the ranches and the wheat fields or feedlots. Every small-town café has a parking lot periodically filled with flatbed pickups pulling stock trailers along with other pickups loaded with 4-wheelers, coolers and all the trappings of a Cabela's made-to-order hunting camp.
Here in the Southwest, throw in the smell of roasting green chiles to complete the fall ambiance and life is just about as perfect as you can get it.
If that isn't enough to paint a picture of the best of the year, add to the mix some pre-season football that seamlessly morphs into a regular season of high school, college and professional games. Whether football is your "thing" or not, the onslaught of sports-mania permeates the air, unsurpassed by anything including politics.
Neighbors helping neighbors to get all the fall cattle work done is a jewel in the crown of ranching. Calendars are full of marks on dates for the ranch up the road, the ranch down the road and another one an hour or so away.
Those days will be dedicated to the time-honored custom of "neighboring" -- where the work and the fun, and there is always some of that, is shared with folks that know you'll be there when they need an extra man, horse and help.
Now is the time for all good men ... and horses, dogs, kids and ranch wives ... to rise to the call of long hours, dusty corrals, sunrises that bless the "waiting on daylight" mornings, rattling trailers, ready ropes, the smell of sage and cedar, hot coffee poured from a campfire pot and the camaraderie of cowboys working a vocation they wouldn't trade for anything.
The life is not all that glamorous or romantic, but it does have an intangible something that anchors men's souls to the land.
Whether they own it or hire on to be part of it, it transforms an occupation into a belonging and an existence into a passion for living.
Julie, steeped in fall nostalgia, can be reached for comment at email@example.com
SUMMER - The kids are out of school, the livestock are thirsty, the grass is growing and Americans celebrate Independence Day. Our summer issue includes; regional reports, a summer style guide, ranching in Texas, fixin' fence in Pima County, Arizona's Open Range Law and so much more. Click HERE to see the issue!
SPRING - Paul Ramirez, world renowned auctioneer has announced the official launch of a new business and website www.westernaglife.com. This new business focuses on the agriculture lifestyle, regional history and the personalities who are forging the future in the Southwestern United States. This announcement coincides with National Ag Day, March 20, 2018, a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.
According to Mr. Ramirez, the new enterprise offers the agriculture community a printed publication and media company with a team that understands their livelihood. The publication, Western Ag Life Magazine, will be printed in Tucson, Arizona and designed by Kelli Toledo, edited by Dean Fish and managed by Renée Bidegain. The publication will be available at select retailers in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. Along with the traditional in-hand copy, a digital version will be available online at westernaglife.com.”
Through his travels as a professional auctioneer Paul Ramirez solidified a kinship with those working off the land. Western Ag Life Media is a career dream of his: integrating the agriculture industry with the public. “Today more than ever consumers are in search of the pathway that brings agricultural products from producers to retailers” Ramirez says. “Our new publication features one on one interviews, how to tips and stunning photographs. Each issue captures the heritage and everyday joys of families who live in harmony with nature and earn a living from the land.”
Every year producers, agriculture associates, corporations, universities, government agencies, and countless other across America join together to recognize the contributions of Agriculture on National Ag Day and that is why owner Paul Ramirez decided to launch his latest business on that day.