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How did we get here? Starting a Ranch when we didn't know we wanted a ranch - Yes, we want a ranch!

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6/24/2023, By Julie Van Hise

With all of the critters now running around we decided it was was time to become a ranch, even though we didn't know we wanted a ranch! It just kind of happened! If you read the previous blogs, there was not much mention of building fences and things of that nature - why? Well, because today, as I write this, we are still working on the infrastructure for all these critters!

Hi! I'm Julie Van Hise. My husband, Chris, and I are 1st generation ranchers and owners of 4 Bear Ranch - a ranch that not only provides for our family but provides for the local community as well. In 2017, we bought our home unknowing of what it would transform into in 4 short years. From mountain wilderness to mountain ranch wilderness - we have lovingly worked hard in building our dream! How did we get here? Starting a Ranch when we didn't know we wanted a ranch? It's actually kind of strange really...everything just kind of fell in place and landed at our home. When we looked around it really was, and still is, like we found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In May of 2021, Chris and I finally determined, that yes, yes we want a ranch! We want to learn the ins and outs of land management, animal management, making a positive income, and how we can eventually work solely as ranch owners to support our family, while also providing tasty and beautiful products to our community!

Have you thought about becoming a farmer or rancher full time? It is certainly a tricky business to navigate, and is a ton of hard work, 7 days a week, no breaks, and no holidays. You must learn the ins and outs of animal care - at times being the veterinarian when your veterinarian can't come on out. Overcoming obstacles and developing solutions to problems. Understanding life and death, and the joys and sadness of owning livestock. You've got to love the land you own, the house you live in, the animals, and your family to work full time as a ranch. Now, we haven't taken the full plunge yet - Chris still works as a field service engineer and well, as long as I am alive, we will have my military retirement pay. However, our end goal, is to be able to work full time with the ranch, before we are like 85 years old.

Oddly enough, all those millions of classes I completed obtaining a Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate in Business Administration, Management, and Computers has been extremely helpful in this whole process. Not at all what I had imagined the degree would be used for, though all of the classes were useful while I was concurrently serving active duty. I just figured I might be teaching business at this point; instead, I am using the skills that I have learned. Though, one never stops learning, so I am also learning very much about ranch management, farming, agricultural business applications, and on and on and on.

There is so much information out there, it can be overwhelming, but enlightening as well. You see, there is so much flexibility in areas of agriculture, in terms of combinations of what works and what doesn't, that you get to experiment. Sometimes the results are terrible, and other times they are wonderful. What works for some, might not work for others. There is no one method fits all scenario when it comes to agriculture. Sure, some of the basics can't change, like livestock needs water, food, and shelter. But what can change is how water is supplied, food provided, and shelter created. Learning to work with the livestock as nature intended and the mountainous area in which we live in a natural manner is our goal.

And as exciting as the ranch aspect of the business is, there is a whole lot of regulations, laws, and legaleze on the administrative side. Setting up the business, getting a business name, insurance, taxes, obtaining a brand, navigating public health, and developing operating agreements are just a few items required by regulation. Then there is marketing, social media, websites, blogs, and simply determining what you want your business to be and how you want customers to perceive it. And then there is time: how does all this get done on top of the physical ranch work? I can certainly say, this list of to-dos is miles long, especially when adding home renovations into the mix.

I would be remiss if I did not mention family and individual care as well. You must find time for both. In the end, the ranch is about building the life that we as a family want to live. We are certainly spoiled on home raised mutton, pork, beef, chicken, duck, and turkey...I am not entirely sure we could go back to store bought from large production farms. The taste difference is amazing.

The work is hard - it is no wonder why ranches and farms are dwindling in places. It is also no wonder why ranchers and farmers stick together through the various obstacles presented to them. Owning a ranch is expensive - thank goodness for my retirement check and Chris's job. Navigating rules and regulations is time consuming. Maintaining the ranch itself is time consuming. Writing this blog is time consuming. However, sharing our life with our friends, family, and community is rewarding and fulfilling. And when all of this piles up and gets a bit overwhelming, we stop, look around, and realize, we are living the life we want to live. And when the physical ranch infrastructure gets in place a bit better, we will be able to do a bit more Montana adventures. For now, we will continue to slowly work fence, work the land, work the house, play with the animals, take care of ourselves and each other. Cause it's not all work...and for now I must I must go milk Miss Lulu...and remember, we are living in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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