Mountain Life: A New Chapter Begins

Sep 12, 2021 | Farm & Ranch, Renovation

We are the new owners of a ranch in Carbondale, Colorado. It’s a 450-acre working agricultural property, forty-five minutes from downtown Aspen. For decades the property has been home to an Angus cattle operation. Now, as we take the reins, the land and buildings are in need of restoration and repair. And so we begin a journey that will be, it’s fair to say, our life’s work.

My husband, Brendan, has worked in ranching his whole life, doing cattle work and producing agricultural crops. Our vision for the new ranch combines sustainable agriculture and my work with horses, life coaching, and meditation teaching. We’ve begun the process of planning the horse facilities needed to bring my Natural Lifemanship practice to the property. I’m inspired by the vision of working with horses and clients in one of the most peaceful and majestic places I’ve ever experienced.

Most of the land sits on a sweeping mesa that slopes gradually upward to meet over 12,000 acres of preserved public land. From nearly every point on the property, views of iconic Mount Sopris rise to the south, with oak-brush hills to the east, the river valley and rolling mountains to the west, and in the north, hayfields and distant red cliffs. Snowmelt from Mount Sopris feeds our irrigation ditch, and a spring fills two small ponds.

It’s already heaven—and will become even more so as we repair, renovate, and bring the land back to health. It’s been over-grazed, so the first thing it needs is a rest. And beyond that, the work required is apparent at every turn.

The scenario feels familiar, because my Connecticut farm presented a similar challenge: stunning natural land, with a long history of disrepair throughout the buildings and property. That experience was one of enormous initial excitement, which evolved into significant stress and struggle mixed with moments of satisfaction, when I was able to see some of the improvements I’d dreamed of come to fruition. I did see the farm transform, but at the time I sold it, the project was only partway realized. It was a challenging time in my life. And I learned a lot that will serve me now.

In the process of buying this ranch, I felt some waves of fear, remembering the struggles of my old life. But a beautiful thing has also unfolded: the ever-deepening realization of what a different place I’m in now. In my old life, I’d felt largely alone navigating the farm project, in terms of planning, solving problems, and figuring out how to get the work done. I felt it was all down to me in the end. And seeing myself as capable of tackling it all, I didn’t fully realize how unhealthy that solitary burden was for me.

Now I’m embarking on the ranch project with the feeling of being in a true partnership. First of all, I happen to be married to just the man for the job of restoring and running a ranch. Brendan is in his element doing this work, and his knowledge and skills run the gamut of old-school and modern-day ranching in the mountain west: fixing tractors and trucks, running irrigation, welding pipe fence, cutting and baling hay, raising and butchering pigs for organic pork, hunting elk and deer, operating excavators and other heavy equipment, building and fixing all manner of structures large and small, riding horses, managing cattle, even riding bulls at the rodeo (thankfully, only in his teenage days). Given all this, and the fact that he also used to hurl himself off of Olympic ski jumps, it’s fair to say he’s not daunted by much.

Brendan and his two employees have already done some intense cleanup, and the impact of their elbow grease is significant. The place already feels better-kept, and it’s beginning to feel like ours. There’s also been a lot of work repairing and running the side-roll irrigation system on the hay meadows, plus baling hay from the second cutting.

And along with the complimentary skills and experience we both bring to the project, it’s also the quality of mutual support that deeply transforms how I feel about what we’re doing. Yes, it’s a lot. And crucially, it’s not all on my shoulders. We’re truly in this together. The sense of partnership is something we’ve cultivated, in an intentional way, as we’ve built our life together.

We chose this property for its enormous potential and beauty, and because it can become home to each of our passions and pursuits. Brendan has moved his metalwork and fabrications shop onto the ranch, and he’ll be back to guiding hunters this fall. And working on the land, out in the fields, is one of his primary happy places. It will take some time before we’re set up for my work, but it will be well worth the wait. I plan to see clients for Natural Lifemanship, teach meditation, and eventually host retreats.

For now, we begin the design, restoration, and work on the land. Each day I spend on the ranch, my excitement grows—along with the feeling that we’re right where we’re meant to be.

Brendan and George the dachshund baling alfalfa yesterday:

More views of the ranch:



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