History in the Making: Nevada Standoff

Credit: Reuters/ Jim Urquhart www.reuters.com

Credit: Reuters/ Jim Urquhart
www.reuters.com

We were born and raised in the west. We are descendants of Nevada and New Mexico cattlemen. We were taught to love our God, our country, and our Constitution. We believe in being honest and upstanding. We believe in doing good and in doing right for right’s sake. We do not seek after fame, power, and wealth. We want justice and equity. We want freedom and agency to choose the better part.

We were also taught not to trust big government. The forefathers of our country warned of the evils of big government. Our religious leaders warned of the evils of big government. Our grandfather said, “Believe none of what you read and only half of what you see.” We are cautious. We’ve seen things like this happen before.

Our families each settled in the barren deserts of the west. They settled there because they wanted to have peace to live life as cattlemen without interference from others. In the end, it was the very desolation of their land that did them in.

I’m far too young and too removed to know the stories firsthand. I’ve heard them. I’ve talked to my relatives that were there, but I don’t have the words in front of me. Nevertheless, the standoff in Nevada reminds me of a family story that took place in New Mexico. The standoff hits close to home. It feels personal. Our roots run deep in Nevada. At one point in time, the standoff could have involved us instead of Cliven Bundy. I’m sure that’s how many of those men and women that blocked the BLM felt–“It could have been us.”

Many years ago, before I was born, my family ran cattle in Southern New Mexico. They’d settled there after trekking across the Southern United States. Every time they’d settle a new place “the horse people” would move in. When that happened, they’d pack up and move further west. Finally, they moved into New Mexico. According to the story, the two brothers stopped atop a ridge overlooking the Tularosa Basin. One brother looked at the other and said, “This is it. Nobody will follow us to this God-forsaken place.” And so they settled.

Very little grass grew in this desert that they called home. They ran something like 200 head of Cow/ calf pairs on a million acres (I hope I’m telling that right). As the world moved forward and technology moved with it, the Federal Government began testing nuclear warfare. New Mexico (and Nevada) were optimal places for such testing; they were sparsely populated. As a result, the Federal Government exercised its “right” to take the land that my family ran cattle on. At first, the government agreed to lease the land back to my family with the promise that they would give my family ample notice before testing in an area where the cattle were grazing. In my uncle’s book, he recounts a time when the government did not make good on its promise. The ranchers went out to check on the cattle after the testing. They found some of the animals dead and others dying with radiation sores riddling their bodies. The ranchers cried. What else could they do?

We have other stories. We know of other people who have lost at the hands of government. In many cases, if the citizen does not cave to the pressure (and accept a pittance–mere pennies on the dollar–as a settlement), the government will just condemn the land and deem it unusable in its present state.

My heart goes out to Cliven Bundy. I’m proud of the men and women that stood behind him. I’m thankful that this time the citizen won the battle. If we do not stand for right, if we do not stand for the precepts of the Constitution, if we do not protect the independent ranchers and farmers upon whose back this country was built, then eventually we will all lose the things we hold dear. I’m proud of my heritage. Proud to call myself a westerner. And proud to call myself a Nevadan–Harry Reid be damned!

A Trip to My Hometown

My son and I took a trip to my hometown and birthplace this past weekend. We traveled 1000 miles each way. We left Friday afternoon and drove much of the way at night. We stopped over in Ely, Nevada to get some sleep. I wanted to take a side trip to visit my grandparents’ hometowns–Lund and Preston, Nevada–but, because of time, I didn’t. Now, I regret not taking the little extra time to do it.

Preston and Lund Nevada barely visible in the distance.

Preston and Lund Nevada barely visible in the distance.

We spent Saturday afternoon packing up mementos from my dad’s house. We even took a trip “downtown.” I was surprised to see most of the store fronts open and conducting business.

Tonopah, Nevada November 2013

Tonopah, Nevada
November 2013

 


Tonopah, Nevada November 2013

Tonopah, Nevada November 2013

 

Erie Street, Tonopah, Nevada November 2013

Erie Street, Tonopah, Nevada
November 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dad lived near his grandparents when he was very small. They lived off the land as most people did in that era. In 1949, he moved to my Tonopah. They lived there for a few years and then moved out to Peavine, Nevada.

My grandfather had pigs and sheep and chickens just like we do. In fact, it was my grandfather’s hog operation that inspired me to pursue Red Wattle Hogs. I wish I could go back in time as my adult self to visit my grandfather. There are so many questions I want to ask him and things I want to learn from him.

Courthouse, Tonopah, Nevada November 2013

Courthouse, Tonopah, Nevada
November 2013

We headed home Sunday morning. One of the famed “sites” in Nevada is US 50, “The Loneliest Highway in America.” We drove 167 miles, from Tonopah to Ely, without any chance of gas or services. I can only imagine what it was like when the pioneer families and the gold and silver miners headed across Nevada. Although it is sparsely populated and desolate in areas, Nevada has many beautiful landscapes, mountains, and canyons.

Devil's Canyon, Utah

Devil’s Canyon, Utah

 

 

Utah is similar to Nevada. I-70 is the only interstate highway that was not built close to an existing road or old pioneer trail. Like US 50, there is a long stretch of highway without population or services. Also like Nevada, Utah is beautiful. I spent much of the drive pointing out amazing landscapes to my son. We stopped at Devil’s Canyon for a brief break and I snapped a few pictures.

 

 

Devil's Canyon, Utah

Devil’s Canyon, Utah

 

Devil's Canyon, Utah

Devil’s Canyon, Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wanted to drive as long as we could before stopping for the night. We thought we might drive straight through. However, my grandpa’s pickup, which we were bringing home, had different ideas. We had a flat in Gunnison Canyon. It was our second flat and we were without a spare. We clambered into our pickup and drove the 10 miles into Gunnison and stopped for the night. In the morning, we changed the flat and headed the rest of the way home.

Morrow Point Reservoir Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

Morrow Point Reservoir
Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

Morrow Point Reservoir Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

Morrow Point Reservoir
Gunnison Canyon, Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At home, my dad wandered around snapping pictures of all the animals. He and my husband commented to each other that we were ranching as he had ranched as a boy. Of course we knew when we opted to raise animals in a diversified system (sheep with pigs with chickens) that we were doing things as the pioneers did. Still, it is a comfort and an added blessing to think that we are also preserving a piece of our heritage and our family history.

 

 

 

JNP Ranch Adventures with a 3-Year Old

photo 2

This is my favorite 3-year old. A couple of weeks ago, she and I had the opportunity to get feed together. We had such a great time. Here is a recounting of our day:

I spent the day with my favorite 3-year old today. We started off with the usual–getting ready and eating breakfast. Of course she had to put deodorant on when I did and she wouldn’t let me brush her hair because she “can do it herself.” 
 
We had oatmeal for breakfast. She ate surprisingly well–she doesn’t usually eat much breakfast. Then she asked if I would put more raisins in her oatmeal. Ahh, there’s the secret.
 
She kept me laughing all day with the little things she said. First, I told her I needed to do one more thing before we could leave. When I climbed in the pick up, she asked, “Did you do one more thing?” 
 
We stopped at the gas station for gas and our requisite Diet Coke and slushy. She wanted to get a snack (a donut). We ended up getting three. When I reached into the bag to grab one, she clutched the top of the bag tightly and informed me that they were her donuts.
 
We drove to Longmont, and she squirmed and giggled all the way and begged me to call her a silly chicken. She told me she was tired about 15 minutes before our stop at the feed mill and took a short nap.
 
On the way home, she was having a drink of our water bottle. She asked me if I would like a drink and I told her I would. While I was drinking she said, “Don’t drink it all or I will be so mad at you!”
 
I was using Siri to listen to my text message and reply, so she had me tell Siri to send “I love you” messages to Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, and Mamie. 
 
When we got back to town, we stopped at Sonic for lunch and an ice cream cone. After bouncing up and down, looking out the rolled down window, and checking herself out in the side mirror–while eating a hot dog–she settled down for the ice cream cone. Then, she took a lick of her cone, looked at me, and said, “We should go get feed again tomorrow.”
 
We had so much fun! I’m such a lucky Nana!

 

Exciting New Changes at the Ranch!

As you know, one of our primary goals at JNP Ranch is to provide the SE Denver metro area and surrounding communities with a quality, natural product. We do not believe in large scale “factory farming” or in using hormones, growth additives, or antibiotics.

After many years of research and experience, our quest to bring natural products to our customers has led us to heritage breed livestock.

How did we decide that heritage breeds should be our focus?

As I was telling my daughter the other day, I feel like my desire to live off the land is innate. I grew up reading Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder and like many young girls, I wanted to be a pioneer girl. In 1990, I married the love of my life, whose lifelong dream was to be a farmer.

Fast forward to the spring of 1997…

In 1997, I read a book called Simple Living. This was not the first research I’d done on provident living or living a healthy lifestyle, but the teachings in this book stayed with me. Then in 1998, we began ranching. My husband and I knew that one of our primary goals was to raise our animals humanely and  naturally–the way nature intended it. As we grew and experimented with pork and grass fed beef, my husband became interested in pasture poultry. We had a small egg flock and he was interested in raising meat birds.

In the spring of 2012, we made a trip to New Mexico and visited with a successful pasture poultry operation. He was raising Cornish Rock chicken for breast meat and the American equivalent of the French Label Rouge as a healthier, more natural alternative. He also raised heritage turkeys.

After our visit, we came home ready to duplicate his business here in Colorado. We raised a flock of Cornish Rocks alongside our American Reds. I immediately saw a difference in the attitude and heartiness of the two groups. The red birds seemed more lively.

I also wanted to raise turkeys. Following in the footsteps of our mentor, I chose to research heritage turkeys. Well, one thing led to another; I found the niche we had been looking for during our entire journey. We now consider ourselves heritage breeders and a part of the heritage breed conservancy effort.

What are heritage breeds?

Heritage breeds are pure breeds with unique genetics that have a long history in the United States. There is not a standard definition for “heritage breed,” however, most heritage breeds are also endangered breeds and appear on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s watch list.

Why heritage breeds?

Heritage breeds have not been genetically engineered or modified. Most livestock raised for consumption in the U. S. comes from a few breeds that have been bred and genetically selected to produce more product, whether that be meat, eggs, or milk.

Heritage breeds have distinct characteristics that make them well-suited to a particular environment. All environments are not equal and some livestock breeds are better suited to one area of the U. S. or another.

Heritage breeds reproduce naturally. Most turkey consumed in the United States is of the broad-breasted white variety. This bird has been bred and genetically engineered for a large white breast. As a result, the broad-breasted white cannot reproduce naturally. Reproduction must take place through artificial insemination.

Heritage breeds maintain genetic diversity.  When we rely on a relatively small number of breeds for our food, we may be setting ourselves up for future catastrophe from a superbug or other diseases. Genetic diversity ensures that all of our genetic eggs or code are not in the same basket.

It’s about nature and animal welfare. Most of the animal products consumed in the U. S. originate on the large industrial farm. When we began ranching 15 years ago, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to provide a better product in a more natural and humane way. We love our animals–all of our animals. We believe that our animals deserve to live as naturally as possible. We believe that happy, healthy animals translate to healthier products for our consumers. Most heritage breeds are raised on sustainable farms and ranches that engage in natural or organic farming practices; so they were a natural choice for us. And, as an added bonus, heritage breed meats usually have better flavor and texture–definitely another trait we were looking for.

It’s about conservancy. Just as many wild species are endangered or extinct, domestic species are also dwindling. There are fewer breeds of cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry than there were five years ago. Every time an animal becomes extinct, their genetic code is lost forever. We cannot get it back. The only way to save endangered domestic animals is to raise awareness and to consume them. Think about it: the higher the demand, the higher the production.

Our Brand

Our brand, JNP, and our name, JNP Ranch have deep roots. Many years ago, at the turn of the last century (1900 not 2000), a young man traveled across the United States and settled in the Nevada desert. Like many others, he made his living ranching in the White Pine Valley. His name was Niels Peter Jensen and his legacy lives on in our brand. While the brand JNP is still owned by his grandsons in Nevada, here it belongs to us. It is very special to us because it signifies not only our attachment to the past and our families (and our great Danish stock), but also our union and commitment as we became Jensen and Penry or JNP Ranch in 1998.

A little history…

We became JNP Ranch in late 1998 when I came home with 5 head of hodge-podge cattle. I ventured up to Northern Colorado to the weekly auction with my wife and three kids, and we came home 4 head richer. What started out as an opportunity for my wife and I to give our children a chance to experience a bit of country life soon turned into an adventure for friends, children of friends, neighbors, extended family, and now grandchildren. We feel so fortunate to have built a lifetime of memories that involve so many people we hold dear.

We intended to raise our cattle for beef, but soon discovered that one of our heifers was bred. Although her calf did not survive, we knew then that we were destined to breed and raise animals. Soon, we had 18 head of cattle and a bull. Two of our favorite cows were our first young mother (we called her Baby) and another ravenous cow my daughter dubbed Honey. Honey was so interested in eating, that my daughter soon had her eating out of her hands. Our legacy was born and you might say the rest is history.

We didn’t just happen upon our ranching experience by accident. Both my wife and I come from strong agricultural stock. I spent my summers on my grandparents’ farm in Iowa and still return to Iowa each fall to help my cousin with the harvest. My wife’s families are tried and true pioneers that helped settle the Wild West. In fact, our name and brand is passed down to us from my wife’s great-grandfather via her father.

Over the years, we have had animals in a few different pastures, but the majority of our time has been spent at our current location in Parker (the Southeast Denver Metro Area). There, we have cavorted with a variety of livestock–cattle, hogs, poultry, and sheep–and a variety of wildlife as well–rabbits, various carrion birds, owls, hawks, coyote, snakes, frog, and deer.

We love Colorado–the beautiful scenery and fair weather (but not the mud in the spring). We’ve weathered the proverbial storm–pitching hay in a snowstorm, digging springtime ditches so the muck will flow, swatting flies while fixing fence, and of course, freeing various vehicles from ditches, snowbanks and mud. We can’t imagine a better way to spend our life. We are excited to welcome you into our family and hope you enjoy the adventure as much as we have.

Welcome!