Pastured Everything from our family ranch to your doorstep.

Fun Things to Do with Dry Ice!

Five Marys meat boxes are all packed with a package of DRY ICE to ensure that the meats arrive frozen. Dry ice is CO2 in solid form and solid at a temp of -109 degrees F, that’s cold! It helps to bring down the internal temperature of our boxes and keep the meat frozen until it arrives at the destination.

The dry ice will sublimate (right into gas form from solid - never as a liquid!) in the first 12-24 hours so it may be normal for your dry ice bag to be empty by the time it gets to your house, but it there is any left… we have a few fun experiments for you!

Safety Notes:
*Never TOUCH dry ice with your bare hands, it will burn your skin just like a heat burn!
*Never put dry ice in your freezer - it lowers the temperature so much it may break the condenser!
*Always handle dry ice with thick gloves or tongs.

Disappearing Ice

Place a regular ice cube and a cube of dry ice side by side on separate plates and watch to find that the dry ice will mysteriously disappear! Unlike the regular ice cube, the dry ice will disappear without a trace of water as it sublimates right into the air without going into liquid form.

Smokey Water

Place a piece of dry ice in warm water and watch as the dry ice transforms into a cloud of CO2 and water vapor. With the proper safety precautions, this cloud is safe or you to touch, just be sure to not touch the dry ice. Eventually the dry ice will cool the water, and the cloud or smoking effect may lose its shape. You can add more warm or hot water to keep going until the dry ice is gone. Also kind of fun to drop it in the toilet!

Smoke Bubbles

Combine warm water and add a few drops of liquid dish soap in a tall glass or cylinder. Carefully place the dry ice into the soapy water using gloves or tongs. With the liquid dish soap in the mix, the soap in the water traps the CO2 and water vapor to form a bubble. Add some food coloring to the water for colorful bubbles in the mix. You can also add a neon glow stick into the water for some fun!


Exploding Glove or Balloon

Put a small-medium sized piece of dry ice in a latex glove or balloon and watch it inflate while it sublimates!

The CO2 sublimates and the vapor fills the balloon or glove - possibly to the point where it pops!

Frozen Bubbles

Freeze a soap bubble over a piece of dry ice. The bubble will appear to float in the air above the dry ice. You can pick the bubble up and examine it too!

Floating Dry Ice Bubbles

Put about an inch of warm water in the bottom of a large box, glass container or aquarium. Add a few pieces of dry ice (using tongs or safety gloves). During this process, the dry ice will appear to be smoking as it transforms into a combination of CO2 and water vapor. You can blow bubbles into the container or aquarium using a bubble wand and a bottle of bubbles. The bubbles will appear to be floating in midair inside of the container, but these bubbles are actually floating on CO2!

Bubbly Beverages

Add dry ice to the punch bowl to make a fun spooky beverage - this is fun anytime of year but especially around Halloween!


Make It Sing

Place a small piece of dry ice against a metal spoon or metal surface - listed as it vibrates and “sings”!



October 6, 2018  by Kylie Mazon-Chambers

Fort Jones, California  

September 21, 2018 – September 23, 2018 

A few weeks ago I was privileged to experience how one family made a mindful return to small farming.  Mary and Brian Hefferman did just that, establishing a family farm called Five Marys in Fort Jones California. A little over four years ago they left their more traditional life in Silicon Valley where they owned small businesses including restaurants and a law firm, and moved their four young daughters up to live on the roughly 1,800 acres of farmland they purchased in Fort Jones, California. Why the sudden change? The couple owned family-friendly restaurants but couldn’t find ethically sourced meat that tasted the way they wanted. The weekend getaway turned into a full time lifestyle. Now their farm supplies direct to customers looking for high-quality meat raised with care. 

I am both a meat eater and an animal lover. My experience at Five Marys helped me to reconcile those two seemingly contradictory points of view. While it can be hard for some people to see (and sure it may turn some into vegetarians) I think that observing the process through from start to finish gives one an appreciation for the food that we eat. I try to eat smaller portions of high quality and better-sourced meat, from farms where I know that the animal has had the best life it possibly could have had. I don’t want processes to be hidden because I want to know that the food I am eating has been raised the best possible way. 


I have been working with the American Lamb Board for almost a year now. They hosted me and about 15 other women who are involved in blogging, butchery and other meat related industries at Five Marys Farm for the weekend to learn more about where our meat comes from and the best practices in the industry. The American Lamb Board aims to encourage consumers to opt for domestic, American-raised lamb rather than lamb imported from places like Australia and New Zealand. Simply put, lamb that is raised and harvested closer to where you live means you eat it sooner, fresher and therefore it will taste better.


Going into the weekend my knowledge of life on a farm was incredibly limited. I was amazed at all of the work the couple does maintaining and running their business every day. From waking up to feed all the animals, sell the meat, run their restaurant and store in town, take care of their four daughters, to even birthing calves, I have no idea how they manage to do it all. But they do it with such energy and care that it is inspiring to be around. You can follow their adventures on the farm on their Instagram where they have amassed quite a following. Mary posts stories from both the good and bad adventures living and running the farm.


We spent the nights “glamping” – a more upscale version of camping and really the only way I will do it! The canvas cabins included hardwood floors and surprisingly comfortable beds. It’s the best way to feel one with nature while still sleeping in a bed under layers of blankets. The head chef from their restaurant, Chef Hunter cooked us dinner at camp in their full outdoor kitchen. Over the weekend Chef prepared braised lamb with polenta and barley salad for dinner Friday, lamb merguez shakshuka with pita bread for breakfast and whole spit-roast lamb for dinner on Saturday night.

On Saturday morning we joined Mary and Brian for a tour around the farm. We happened to be visiting during calving season, when baby calves were being born every day! On the farm there are 300 Navajo churro ewes (a heritage breed), they get just under 400 lambs each year. In their herd of Black Angus cattle they have 180 mom cows. Fun fact: prior to having babies they aren’t called cows they are called heifers. Each member of the herd is tagged so their health and history can be tracked. They also have Gloucestershire pigs, chickens and horses around the farm all protected by two guard dogs.

Every so often cows will abandon their babies and the Heffernan girls will take the calf in and bottle-feed it. Around the fire the girls were talking about their calf at the same time they were referencing some imaginary friends so we assumed they were making it up too – nope! They really had a baby calf in the back of their truck! Living on a farm gives one an interesting perspective on the circle of life. The girls casually talked over what they would name the calf if it lived the night.

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People should know where their food comes from. I have tried to be more mindful about the conditions in which my meat products are raised and harvested. The way the animals are raised affects the taste and quality of the meat. The high demand for cheap meat has led to an industry where animals are often treated poorly and workers and ecosystems are taken for granted, but Five Marys believes there are no shortcuts and they seek to provide people with meat that is never treated with antibiotics or hormones, organically minded and GMO free whenever possible. It’s important to point out that if an animal is in pain or in need of antibiotics they will treat it, but they will find another use for the animal, it will not become a part of their meat program. The cattle are grass fed and finished with barley – in California grass doesn’t grow all year so they believe this method ensures the highest quality meat. They even ship their products in sustainable packaging, not single-use Styrofoam. 

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I am so grateful to the American Lamb board for a memorable weekend with amazing women on Five Marys farm. 

A huge thank you to Five Marys Farm and the American Lamb Board for hosting as well as Hayfork for providing the wine!



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Sisters/MD/Generations Retreat (adults)

May 11-13 (Friday-Sunday)


Mother-Daughter Retreat

May 18-20 (Friday-Sunday)


Couples Retreat (memorial day weekend)

May 25-27 (Friday-Sunday)


Womens Retreat

May 30-June 1 (Wednesday-Friday)


Couples Retreat

June 15-17 (Friday-Sunday)


Womens Retreat

July 13-15 (Friday-Sunday)


Mother-Daughter Retreat

September 7-9 (Friday-Sunday)


Father-Daughter Retreat

September 14-16 (Friday-Sunday)



Womens/Couples retreats : $1400 per person

Mother/Daughter : $1400 per mother, $800 per daughter

Deposit $500 per person, balance due 2 weeks prior to retreat date

To reserve a spot:

5 One-Pot Dinners to Make with Ground Beef

Great post on One-Pot Ground Beef Dinners from The Kitchn!

If you're stumped about what to make for dinner, having a pound of ground beef in the fridge or freezer will most definitely help you to figure it out. The affordable protein is a pantry staple for us since it can be transformed into so many simple, crowd-pleasing meals. These five recipes are proof of ground beef's power. Even better, these recipes only require one pot or pan, so cleanup is sure to be a breeze. (link to original blog post at HERE.)

 (Image credit: Todd Coleman)

(Image credit: Todd Coleman)

1. One-Pot Weeknight Beef Stroganoff

This one-pot wonder comes together in under an hour, thanks to just a handful of simple, quick-cooking ingredients. The best part is that it calls for Greek yogurt, instead of the usual sour cream, which is useful since it's usually an ingredient we already have on hand.

2. Chunky Italian Wedding Soup with Pasta

This comforting soup is filled with all sorts of good things like diced tomatoes, wilted escarole, pasta, and, of course, tender beef meatballs. You'll definitely want to make a double batch and freeze half.

3. Crispy Orange Ground Beef & Veggies

Inspired by a takeout favorite, this quick and easy recipe features ground beef that's cooked until the edges are nice and crispy, stir-fried veggies, and a sweet and savory orange sauce. The only other thing you need to make it a meal is some fluffy rice.

4. One-Skillet Cheesy Beef and Macaroni

This dish is comfort food at its very best. It's sure to make the whole family happy! The pasta is cooked right in the beef and tomato sauce mixture, which means this is truly a one-pan affair.

5. Sloppy Joes

This classic sloppy Joe sauce freezes incredibly well, so it's worth tucking some away for another day. Leftovers also make an amazing pasta sauce, if you're looking for a way to reinvent it.

Five Marys on YouTube!

We just launched a YouTube channel to save and share some of our everyday "ranch life" videos in addition to some new cooking tutorials and recipe inspiration! Our goal is to post at least one video a day - subscribe to our channel and follow along if you'd like!



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Mary Heffernan has gone from competing in equestrian vaulting to playing polo internationally to running restaurants in Silicon Valley to now raising livestock and running a small store in Fort Jones, California.

“We weren’t really like, Let’s make a huge change and do something different,” Mary says. She was running businesses in Menlo Park, and her husband Brian was a successful lawyer at a firm for nearly 13 years. “We just were growing more disheartened with raising our kids in Silicon Valley.”

Around the same time, they had started searching for a ranch to raise livestock to supply their restaurants. “We really believed in this long, extended dry-aged meat and barley finish with the grass-fed animals and we couldn’t find a small farm doing it, so we naively thought, Well if we buy our own ranch, we can do it ourselves. Then we’ll have a place to go on the weekends that has a little more space.”

Although both had some familiarity with livestock (Mary from competing in equestrian sports; Brian from growing up on a farm), neither had extensive experience raising cattle, sheep, or pigs. They purchased the historic Sharps Gulch Farm in 2013 and within months realized that they couldn’t be both farmer and restaurateur. They packed up their four daughters, all named Mary, and headed north to Fort Jones — to Five Marys Farms.

Now, the family is fully embracing farm life and duties. Their daughters help with the daily chores, including feeding and tending to the livestock — their eldest daughter even showed a steer at the county fair this year. Brian works the livestock, and Mary sells their meats and products online and ships out weekly directly to customers across the country. The daily routine is never the same, but one thing is sure. The Heffernan family is in it together.

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How has the farm changed since you’ve taken it full-time?

We can finally see [the change]. It’s a beautiful piece of property. The infrastructure needed a lot of improvement and upkeep. We’ve put in a lot of fencing so that we can do a rotational grazing program with our cattle. We’ve put up hay barns so we can grow our own hay and store it all summer until we feed it in the winter. We put in new corrals. We’ve built our retreat area with our outdoor kitchen and entertaining area. We’ve done a lot on the ranch.

The only thing we haven’t done is build a house, which is what I thought we would do immediately upon moving there. And we are still in our little 780-square-foot ranch house and somehow still loving the simplicity and the back-to-basics lifestyle that a small house gives us. When we come from a long day working, we’re all right there together. The house is easy to keep and everything is on woodstove heat in the winter when we get down to negative six degrees. It’s really just — Again the whole perspective has changed from living in the suburbs and feeling like you always need to go bigger and get a bigger house and buy nicer things. And when you are out in the country working and taking care of animals, your priorities really change.

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What’s been most rewarding?

I think it’s just the lifestyle change really brings everything into — puts a different lens on life — hard work, the satisfaction of a days work. You know at the end of hard day’s work, you’ve taken care of all these animals and solved all these real problems on a ranch, and your kids are right there working with you and your husband is right beside you, and you are eating the food you’ve made yourself. There is such a raw satisfaction in that that I think we were really missing in our old life. We might have been working just as hard, but when it is your own land and your own family and your own animals, there’s really a satisfaction that comes out of that that I think is the greatest reward that you could really ever hope to work for.

How involved are your daughters with running the farm?

They are very involved. People always ask us, “How many people does it take to run your ranch?” Well it’s us and our four daughters, and Brian kind of has a right-hand guy, Johnny, and I kind of have a right-hand girl, who is also by chance named Mary, but we couldn’t do this without our kids. We love that they’re in it with us because it gives them such great experience and learning opportunities in life, but honestly they are so involved in it because it is necessary. … We are doing it together, and there is never a question of like, “Mom, this is gross” or “Do I have to do this?” We know it’s a bigger picture beside ourselves. And the kids know that — that our animals are more important than our trivial needs that we take care of them first. It’s pretty cool to experience to those things together as a family.

Now that you are doing retreats, do you hear guests say they want to leave their city lives behind?

Totally. There’s a whole movement now where they want the lifestyle, they want to have their kids outside, they want the homestead, they want the chickens and the small animals. I get so many people who ask me how they can change their lifestyle too. I do a little questionnaire before the retreat ladies come with why they are coming and little bit about themselves so I can get to know them before they show up — and half of them are just saying, “I’m coming because I want to see if this is feasible for my family. This has been our dream.” I’m just shocked at the number of people who you wouldn’t expect that have a perfectly happy, cushy existence in suburbia who just have this desire for an urban exodus and just get out there and change their lifestyle.

What’s the best advice you give them?

You’ve got to be willing to work hard, stop getting manicures and get down and dirty. We tell them you won’t regret it as long as you’re willing to work hard. It’s a total lifestyle change, but the benefits are better than anything you are giving up. So we tell them to go for it as long as they have it in them.

Chef Tyler's Recipe Inspiration : Homemade English Muffins

Tyler's English Muffins



  • 12 g. (2 Tbl+1 tsp) Active Dry Yeast

  • 50 g. (1/4 c.) lukewarm water

  • 400 g. (1 3/4 c.) buttermilk, lukewarm (microwave or heat slowly on stove top)

  • 600 g. (4 c.) Bread Flour

  • 50 g. (1/4 c.) sugar

  • 22 g. (1 Tbl+2 tsp) Kosher Salt

  • 70 g. (5 Tbl.) Unsalted Butter, room temp

  • Cornmeal as needed for dusting

  • Veg oil or Clarified Butter as needed for pan frying

  • Veg spray for bowl



  • Combine yeast and water, dissolve in mixing bowl.

  • Add buttermilk, flour, sugar, salt and mix for 3-4 min.

  • Add room temp. Butter a Tbl. at a time.

  • Knead by hand for 7-8 min.

  • Spray large bowl and add dough cover with damp towel or plastic wrap let dough rise for 1 hour punch down, then put in fridge for 30 minutes or overnight

  • Scatter out thin layer of flour and roll out dough cut as thick as you want, remember they will proof (rise about double) Cut as big as you want.

  • Warm up oil in cast iron or enamel crock on med low heat/setting.    Turn on oven to 250F

  • Cut Muffins put on a sheet tray with corn meal sprinkled bottom and on top. Cover with damp towel and let rise until nice and spongy.

  • When crock or cast iron is nice and med heat place muffins delicately & fry in cast iron until golden brown and flip put on sheet tray and bake until cooked through about 10 min.


Mother Daughter Retreats!

Announcing our first Mother-Daughter Retreats on the ranch!

Session I : September 8-10 and
Session II : September 22-24
at Five Marys Farms!!

Join us for a weekend of cooking, campfires, ranch chores, collecting eggs, canning, hiking, helping with the animals and learning about life on a working farm together with your daughter or granddaughter (or niece or goddaughter or friend!), ages 8 years and older - adult daughters welcome too!

Cocktails for adults crafted together with me and DIY lemonades for the girls taught by Francie and Maisie and amazing healthy meals prepared by Chef Tyler.

It's a great time of year because we will calving too! Help us make the rounds checking on all the newborn calves and watching for moms in labor or delivering - my favorite time on the ranch and we can't wait to share it with you.

More info and sign ups in the link below or email me with questions. We are only taking 12 mom/daughter combos so make sure to sign up before it fills up!

Details & Sign Up HERE!



Maisie's "Cuts of a Cow" poster

Maisie made a poster for her 4H presentation with the "Cuts of a Cow" on black butcher paper and a few customers said it would make a great print so here it is! 

You can purchase and download it HERE to print on your home computer instantly, or download and send it out to a printing service like Zazzle or UPrinting or anywhere you like.

The 8.5x11 poster is $10 and the 16x20 poster is $12.

Maisie says "Thanks for supporting me and buying my Cuts of a Cow poster! I am putting the money in my savings account for my 4H animal next year I will raise for the fair. Thank you and I hope you like the cow poster!" 

Purchase and download the poster HERE!

Happy 2017!

We've been busy on the ranch so far this year.....

Our lambing started about six weeks EARLY (a ram escaped and got in the with ewes before we planned on it!) so we've had lots of new births and some bummer lambs living in our living room, and as lambing goes a few that didn't make it. It's always an intense time but there really isn't anything better than an fluffy little bummer lamb in your lap to make you smile.


We also released a 2017 Five Marys calendar!  I might have been a little behind and not gotten them back from the printer until Feb 1 but they are here and we still have 11 months left!  

ALL ORDERS with Five Marys meats this month get a free calendar! 

Or order one here for $10 (free shipping anywhere in the US)


Everyone's favorite BACON is back in stock! We've recently switched to a new cut-and-wrap facility for our pork and our packaging has gotten an upgrade! We are fully stocked on bacon, sausage, pork chops, pork roasts, pork tenderloin and spare ribs. 



Your very own Cow Shares are now available in limited supply! We have sizes for every household from a small-freezer friendly "Family Share" to a 100+ pounds 1/4 Cow Share. All of our beef is dry aged 28 to 40 days for a fantastic marbling and flavor that can't be beat. Customers tell us time after time that Five Marys beef is hands-down the BEST they've ever had. 



And some super exciting news... we are working on summer plans for a few FIVE MARYS RETREATS! Join us on the ranch this summer with other inspiring women (21 and over) to experience an overnight or full weekend of #ranchlife, help out with some chores, enjoy some great meals cooked over open flames, learn all about meat cuts and basic butchery, some cooking classes and family dinner recipe inspiration... as well as some time to sit around the campfire and 'craft cocktail 101'! Details coming very soon.....


*Our chickens are starting to lay again after their natural winter molt and we will be restocked on Five Marys Farm Fresh Eggs in the next couple weeks in Menlo Park (at Academic Trainers 1075 Curtis Street downtown) and our at new Farm Store downtown Fort Jones! 

As always, you can stop by the ranch on Eastside Road and pick some up at our roadside egg stand too. 


We are shipping every week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays so order anytime for a quick turnaround! Most deliveries arrive to Northern CA within 24 hours (48 hours to Southern CA and the PNW and 48-72 hours everywhere else in the US unless overnight or 2 day delivery specified)


Real Life on The Ranch

We had the opportunity to host Joy Prouty of Wildflowers photography last week to help us capture our life on the ranch. We wanted to be able to show our customers what life is like for the animals (and people!) on a family-run ranch on a daily basis. She fit right into the hustle with her sweet 4-month old blue eyed baby boy strapped to her chest and it was such a special day for us to remember this time in our life!

Her photography style and belief is that you get the most real life by living beside a family for 24 hours for what she calls a Harvest Session to catch the ordinary and extraordinary moments in everyday life. She is so genuine and heartfelt, it felt like being with an old friend and it was a treat just to have her here on the ranch. She really got to know each of us and saw the personalities and unique qualities of each our girls so well, even in that short time. 

She asked me to write a little about our girls and life on the ranch related to how we parent them, noticing that our girls are fairly independent for their age because of our lifestyle and that they each have very different personalities that we relate to in different ways. It was a little out of my comfort zone to write this, I'm more of a documenter than a feelings writer!  And I'd never really thought about our parenting style more than just winging-it-with-what-works day to day, but I guess ranch life does lead to some unique parenting by necessity (maybe a little too free range and unstructured for some!) but I tried to write a little bit about raising free range kids and each of our four Marys with their different personalities.... so here goes.


When Joy asked me to make a list of the sweet gestures I did with my girls so she could make sure to capture them in our Harvest Session, it made me stop and think about it (and almost worry for a minute! Do I have those?!)  I realized I'm not one of those cuddle up and read with your kids every night moms - and they aren't needing me to be either. I don't bond with them the best over snuggles and quiet moments, as much as I do in other ways. My best time with my girls is when we are working together, side-by-side learning and doing things together.  And our four daughters all have very different personalities and interests so how we work together and find our special moments of one-on-one time manifests in different ways with each one. We also live a lifestyle that requires them to work with us on a daily basis; moving cattle or collecting 250 eggs a day, branding and castrating calves, helping a momma sheep or a pig deliver her babies or feeding 72 bales of hay off the back of a feed truck. They learn a lot through these experiences and we honestly couldn't do it without them. I think some of our parenting is born from a desire for them to be independent and to be problem solvers... and some of it is born out of necessity living on a working ranch! 

Our eldest, MaryFrances or Francie, is 8 years old and much like myself, we are both strong willed 'oldest children' who like to think big and makes things happen. When she has a whim to change everyone's sleeping arrangements in our tiny house, I have to push aside the "oh geez this is going to be so much work" thoughts and let her do it. I try to say yes whenever it's a creative idea or something she is passionate about in the moment, before that moment passes.  When she says she wants to start an egg selling business or a dog washing station and I respond "great idea, maybe next week" and her eyes fall and she says carefully "well I was actually thinking today"... I have to remember those moments in my childhood where I wanted to do something similar and couldn't imagine WAITING (as oldest children we also lack the patience gene together :) so I switch gears and tell her ok. My mom always let me execute my crazy ideas and I'm so glad that she did! I really try to do the same with Francie even though sometimes I don't feel like I have the time to devote to it to help her, or clean up the aftermath, so she has learned to figure out how to make it happen on her own.

It isn't always easy to say yes, especially when I have 10 other things on my chore list that can't wait (like feeding animals!) so I guide her to get started in her project or idea and remind her that if it leaves a mess in it's wake, I won't be as willing to say yes next time. But I think my un-involvement in helping her every step of the way fosters a sense of empowerment for her and lets her know she can do anything she wants to in life as long as she takes responsibility for it, including talking her mother or whoever is going to tell her "maybe later" into letting her just do it now! And I'm usually pleasantly surprised with how well she creates something new and does clean up the mess (at least 90% of it :)

Our second daughter, MaryMarjorie or Maisie, is 6 and an old soul who can be quiet and reserved, but even as Joy keenly observed in the time she was here with us - Maisie is very intentional and sincere and careful about what she says and who she opens up to. She loves babies and babies love her (Smith tagging along was the highlight of the session for her). She is artistic and thoughtful and has a caring heart for animals and animal husbandry. She sleeps most nights on the couch so she can hear my husband's coffee maker go off in the morning to jump up, put her chaps, boots and cowgirl hat on and head out to help him with morning chores.  She'll stay out for hours in the hot sun helping Brian put in 400 feet of water lines, priming each piece of PVC pipe herself. She'll jump in the truck when she hears there is a problem that needs attention before we even know she's in there and she'll sit patiently and wait if it's too dangerous for her to help out. But if it's not, she's right there in the mix. Last week we were docking tails and castrating lambs and she did a lot of them all by herself, something most grown men wouldn't attempt!

She makes me slow down and listen to what she has to say, sometimes in a whisper so much that I have to stop what I'm doing to really listen.  She will ride around with Brian on my four-wheeler doing chores all day and then hop in with me and sit in the middle seat right next to me. We get our one-on-one time working together feeding and watering animals or caring for a sick animal. I sometimes take it for granted how much of a help she is but am reminded often when I turn around needing something while we are feeding chickens or birthing pigs or moving cows and there is Maisie knowing exactly what needs to be done and making it happen and she always remembers what we need to follow up on. I have to take time to appreciate her for that or it might go unnoticed because of her quiet, unassuming ways.

Our third daughter, MaryJane or Janie, is in that in between spot between wild child and still wanting to be a baby. She is still home with us while big sisters are in school and is not so thrilled with the idea of Kindergarten next year.  She knows she has a pretty good gig at home - she sleeps in until 9:30am, plays with her baby dolls and her pony and gets to tell her little sister what to do all day. She has a huge imagination and is always setting up some game or make believe world in the trees or on the pastures while we work. She is great with the bottle feeder lambs and calves we always seem to have at the house (or IN the house) and has a wise understanding of life and death as we lose some of the baby animals that she has cared for or slept next to all night long.  She can be a big help when she wants to focus on it and usually does best when it's just her helping.  She has some new found independence with a little kid sized quad she can operate fully on her own and she'll walk the 1/4 mile down the the shop, strap on her helmet and drive around the barns until the thing runs out of gas, waving and honking the horn with a proud smile to anyone she passes.

With Janie, I have to put aside my tendencies to ask her to mature faster than she wants to. She still sleeps with a binky at night sometimes (when she can find one!) and after we did what we thought parents were supposed to do and took it away at 2 years old. She found an old one and the habit kicked back in at 3. Now she's 5 and you know what, we have to resign ourselves to the fact that she'll give that thing up when she is ready! I asked her what she thought about it and she said "Mom I know I have to give it away someday, but for now it just makes me SO happy." Can't argue with that. I love that Janie goes in between playing "the mom" in her game of house and bossing everyone around to curling up in my lap for a nap. We just try to swing those emotions with her and let her be whatever and whoever makes her happy.

My youngest, MaryTeresa or Tessa (aka Tiny), is a spitfire and the quintessential youngest of the family. She is three years old and still requires "uppies" from mom or dad when we go anywhere off the ranch around new people (and when I think back to Francie at this age she was already a big sister twice over and we would never think of carrying her!) But the baby eats up her role as the youngest. She tell jokes and holds snakes and has no fear of ranch life and all the dirt and wildlife that comes with it.  She is a budding comedian and loves to use big words and recite funny things she hears.  Tessa was better known as "Tiny" for most of her life up until now but has just recently declared she's not Tiny she's big and prefers to be called Tessa Kate. She keeps us on our toes and still finds her way into our bed most nights. 

Tessa is the most strong willed and has taken the most patience from my husband and I on follow through. When we ask her to do a simple chore like put her PJ's in the laundry basket, she will often just say "nope" or "um that's Ok, I don't want to." (excuse me three year old?!) or she'll get in a little tiff with her sister, and we have to take the time to get her to come around - which can often end up with a few minutes on "the sister step" where they sit until they can both explain why their feelings were hurt or they acted out, say sorry with kind words and hug. This is the hardest for Tessa but she's getting there :) She is very sweet when she wants to be and will often stop you and say "Ummmmm can I just tell you some-thin? I think you are FANTASTIC." We think you are pretty fantastic too Tess.

Sisterhood is a pretty special thing and my girls are lucky they have each other.  There are often times we have to deal with cows that got out or a birth that needs assistance or a broken water pipe and they have to take care of themselves while we are working.  They learn to rely on each other for help making dinner or rice krispie treats or just for company - and they have to work things out if they have an issue between them.  I think it helps that they are so close together in age to have such a strong bond this young.  My sister, Ann, is 8 years younger than me (with 2 boys in between) and my best friend now that we are grown up but was always more of my baby doll than my friend. My girls are fascinated by our age difference and always ask me how old I was when she was born or was in kindergarten or their age, they can't believe I could have been her babysitter.  I hope my girls are always this close whether they are in fancy party dresses or covered in mud... or both! ; )

We try not to listen to whining or tattling or bickering if they come to us with a "my sister did or didn't do this to me" complaint - mostly because there isn't a lot of extra time to engage in this kind of thing. We try to tell them "I'm sorry, that isn't something I can help you with, you'll need to talk to that sister about that." and we try to get them to work out their issues themselves (saves us valuable time in playing referee but also lets them figure out how to do this in life.) If they are really having trouble resolving an issue, they ask us for "some tools" to help work it out with a sister and we can give them some words to use with that particular sister to get them back on track without letting either party hear the satisfaction or hurt of being told on. 

I think they also have to get along pretty well because of our cozy living quarters!  They usually all sleep in the same bed, since we only had room for one double mattress in our ranch house when we moved here!  I built them these triple bunks so they could each have a little space to call their own, and they now have little nooks they call their rooms in the attic we finished off, but they still end up piled together in the same bed most nights (or on a chair in the living room or the floor on a window seat cushion somewhere! They are all night owls and sometimes Brian and I fall asleep before they do and find them sleeping somewhere in the morning, which has made for a moment of panic when we can't find someone once or twice!)

Our family motto (my husband coined) and the girls remind each other of often is:

"Be Kind.

Don't Whine.

Be Tough.

...and be patient. And don't race people on the stairs."

(Tessa added the last part :) 

We don't know what we are doing any more than any other parents out there but a lot of our parenting comes from necessity and the fact we lead a busy life working on our ranch from sun up to sun down, 7 days a week. There are no shortcuts or breaks when you are caring for so many animals. We don't have extra time to indulge them and we need them to be contributing members of our family operation. They have to be independent to help us make this all work! They will tell you "we don't eat our dinner until we feed all of our animals dinner" and I think they learn a lot about service to others and responsibility from knowing this, even though it's not easy.  I hope they continue to grow as independent thinkers and problem solvers as we watch them grow into young women, just hopefully not any sooner than they have to!

And I feel very fortunate to have this guy by my side for this adventure - parenthood and ranching and everything in between. He is the patient one, the wise one, the hardest worker I know and I don't know what I would do without him. :)

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