For this Walk Down the Dirt Road I'm featuring Alyssa who blogs over at Love Crosses Borders. If you don't already follow Alyssa you're in for a treat! She and her husband live on a working ranch in Mexico! I have enjoyed following Alyssa's blog the past year. On her blog she has gorgeous pictures, tasty recipes, and a new aspect of ranching. So go check her out and give her a follow!!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in Mexico?
I am originally a Colorado native. After graduating college with an accounting degree I went to work for a meat packing company, which is quite ironic now that I am on the opposite side of the industry and raise cattle. I really appreciated my "Corporate America," experience because it makes me grateful everyday I wake up to enjoy the smaller more simple things in life, like the sunrise. Now for the "How I ended up in Mexico," part. The short answer is love. In the summer of 2011 I bummed into a good friend from college and from that very second something told me he was the man I was going to marry. You know what they say, sometimes the best things in life are right in front of you. The only problem was, he is a ranch owning cowboy from Mexico. After falling in love and dating long distance for several months I gave up everything and moved to Mexico to see if the love we had was real and enough to make a life in a foreign country. I am pleased to report love was plenty to keep me here and this past summer we were married. So ranch life and Mexico are now home.
Talk about your ranch, garden, and many pets.
My husband is the 5th generation to take over and manage his families ranch. Our ranch is quite large compared to most in the United States. We run a cow calf operation on a little over 10,000 acres. Our ranch is located in a desert climate comparable to New Mexico. We are recovering from a four year drought, the same one that hit the US severely. We had to de-stock from 800 cows to 250. Currently, our totally head count is around 300 animals. Our primary breed is Beefmasters. We have planned breeding and calving seasons. Since our rainy season is in the summer time we calve in July, August and September. Those are our "green" months. We don't get a lot of winter moisture so we don't practice spring calving. We find pastures and grasses are too dry and brittle for a lactating mother cow. I do enjoy gardening and growing as much of my own food as possible. Since our climate is mild I am able to garden 9+ months out of the year. I have tried to grow just about every vegetable and herb imaginable. Most things do great, except in the dead of summer when it is too hot. The things that do best in the summer is chillies, melons, and squash. We also have a small fruit orchard and have had great success with figs and pomegranates. I do have many "pets." I don't know if they can be classified as pets, but we have the typical ranch or farm animals. We have 100 chickens and sell the eggs every week for extra income. We have several horses, of course, that are working horses. I also have three black labs that are my "kids." A ranch dog had a litter of puppies a while back and we kept three males. The father dog is also and lab and is a ranch resident. So I have my hands full with four dogs.
Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging purely to keep my family and friends informed about my life and to share pictures with them. However, since starting my blog it has become so much more than that. I am blessed to have followers and people who have magically found it all around the world. This way of life is totally new to me, I grew up a city gal, so I use it to share my day to day ranch life, adventures and experiences. The blog title is pretty self explanatory, Love Crosses Borders. I thought it was cute and catchy!
How is ranching in Mexico different from ranching in the United States?
I think the biggest difference is land size. Our ranch is over 10,000 acres and that is considered small compared to other ranches. In north Mexico, which is the area we live, it is primarily an export region given the proximity to the United States. This means most people have cow calf operations and there are few feed lots or finishing operations. Another difference I have noticed in Mexico is that ranching is viewed as a side business. Most ranch owners do not live at the ranch and only go once a week to check in with their workers to make sure everything is running smoothly. We are one of the few families to live at the ranch. The role and female presence is also very different in Mexico vs. the United States. In Mexico agriculture is viewed as a mans business. So I am changing that stereotype and confusing a lot of men little at a time!
What are some of your hobbies?
If being a wife could be a hobby I think I would include it on my list. I like to cook and spend time in the kitchen canning and baking. I also love photography, writing, gardening, catching up with friends and family on weekends and snuggling with my puppies and chickens! When time allows, I enjoy reading other blogs and relevant cattle and agriculture articles. I try to stay informed.
What has been the hardest thing to adapt to while living in Mexico?
The hardest part has to be learning Spanish. My husband and I have always spoke English to each other, since he studied and we met in the Untied States. Plus, his whole family is fluent in English so it does not force me to speak Spanish. I think I am getting better. I try to study when I have time and it is a high priority and goal of mine to be fluent. I can understand most conversation but to speak the language I still get tongue tied. Everything else has been very easy.
What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you?
Oh man I can't recall an exact moment or piece of advice. However, if I could give someone a piece of advice it would be to never live for anyone else's happiness except your own. People were skeptical of my decision to move to Mexico and give up my career, apartment, sell all my furniture, walk away from a weekly paycheck, and move away from a life I had always known surrounded by friends and family. Had I listened to those individuals I would have robbed myself of a life full of love, passion, lessons, and happiness like I have never known. I also believe I would have lived my life everyday in regret. So live like there is no tomorrow and take a leap of faith if the moment ever presents itself!
Since you are an excellent cook, what is your favorite recipe?
This is the trickiest question of them all because I don't follow recipes! I actually enjoy studying recipes and reading cookbooks then I take bits and pieces of recipes and flavors and put them together. My family then gives me the thumbs up or down. I joke they will never have the same meal twice since I don't follow recipes. I don't even have a favorite recipe because I love all food. But here is a nice and useful canning recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce. I like to use it on pizzas and in Spanish rice.
20 lbs of tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp chicken broth powder (or they come in cubes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion chopped
One head of garlic minced
2 tbsp oregano (dried or fresh)
2 tbsp parsley (dried of fresh)
Sprig (stem) of rosemary
Spring (stem) of thyme
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
2 or 3 dried chilies for spice (optional)
2 cups fresh chopped mushrooms (optional)
1. Wash tomatoes and dip them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins start to split. Dip them in cold water and slip/ peel the skins off. Cut any bad sections of the tomato, including the stems and set aside. Once you have skinned the tomatoes process them in batches in a food processor. Depending on how chunky you like your tomato sauce will depend how long you pulse them in the processor. (I use an assortment of tomatoes, basically whatever is fresh from the garden. I use cherries, Roma's, beefsteak, orange beefsteak, heirlooms. I always try to skin the big tomatoes but with the little ones I am not as worried and picky about peeling the skins off.)
2. After you have processed all the tomatoes put the mixture into a large pot. Add the wine, sugar, salt, pepper, and chicken cubes. Start simmering on low to medium heat stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom does not burn.
3. Sauté the remaining ingredients with the olive oil in a separate pan. If you do not have all the herbs just improvise and add the flavors and spices you like. Sauté together for 15 minutes on low heat then add it to the tomatoes in the large pot. Your kitchen will start to smell amazing during this step!!
4. Cook the tomato sauce for at least an hour with the lid off. The long it cooks the more flavorful and thicker the sauce will become. Once again stir occasionally. If you like your sauce extra thick add some tomato paste. I like to keep my sauce as natural as possible so I don't add any but many recipes call for tomato paste. It all depends on personal preference. I try to cook my sauce for 2 hours.
5. After the sauce has cooked to your liking it is ready to serve for dinner or can and save for a rainy day.
6. To can, ladle the hot or boiling mixture into clean mason jars allowing 1/4 space at the top. Put the lids on and place them in a boiling pot of water to "hot water bath," them. Keep them in the boiling bath for 15 minutes. Take the jars out and make sure the lids are tight. ** If you are not familiar with canning or the hot water bath process be sure you research it to make sure your products don't spoil.