Will Work For Food


There are times on the ranch when there is more work than hands, especially, capable hands. The extra work is often a gift from Mother Nature, such as, flooding, wind or drought. In this case, the job that needed doing was caused by heavy rains, which had washed out a significant area of newly disturbed soil. 

Last year, we built a studio to be used as a guest and entertaining facility, as well as a place for me to work out of. We chose a side hill that faced the river as the location. It turned out just great, and the view is spectacular. Unfortunately, winter came too quick to finish the necessary outdoor dirt work.

So when spring came, I was eager to get after it, as I wanted to seed the area with native wildflowers. Dan did the initial dirt work, and I shoveled and raked it into place. I then proceeded to seed the new areas with $400.00 worth of native prairie seed. I got in way over my head. First, planting native seeds is complicated - many required soaking for days and others stratification. What the heck is stratification? (A quick google search helped me through it.) Second, there was no way I could care for that much ground, let alone get water to it. And third, my physical abilities (or the lack there of), specifically my arms, which were wrecked for two weeks after.

Then the "rare" rains came, and came and came. The rain runoff cut the earth in veins and ran right around the front of the studio and underneath the building close to the footings. Not good. It was clear that we would need to build some retaining walls and move a lot more dirt. We called professionals, but the earliest a crew was available was October. The issue was too important to wait.

Then one Sunday, our friend Jared was visiting the ranch with his family. He saw the situation and volunteered to bring some friends out and tackle the project. All I needed to do was feed them and give them a tour through the buffalo. “Deal.” I said.

My four knights arrived around 8:30 am, armed with shovels and pix-axes. They got to work straight away in the already rising heat. The crew was made up of Jared Chrisman, Primal Roots Wellness Coach, Hans Nelson, Director of Corporate Relations at BHSU, Bjorn Nelson, Chiropractor at Nelson Chiropractic, and Ed Dykstra, owner of Good Earth Market in Spearfish, SD. These talented guys (all with building skills) had taken a day off from their day jobs to come out and lend a hand, get dirty and experience the ranch. 

For lunch I fed them Pulled Buffalo BBQ Sandwiches with Firecracker Coleslaw, Antipasto Pasta Salad, and fresh fruit. After second helpings, the crew was satiated, fueled up and ready to get after round two.

Retaining walls were built, dirt was moved and a corner garden was put in. The last board went into place around 3:30pm, just as the clouds started to gather.

I whipped up a pitcher of gin and tonics to wet everyone’s whistle and we were off for a tour in the Zeburban, through the buffalo herd. The tour was greatly enjoyed and all wished that their spouses or partners could experience it too. Their work was certainly worth another meal, so I invited them to come back for a little celebration with their significant others.  

We returned back to the studio to admire the work done and to have one more BBQ sandwich on the deck. We lingered, enjoying the wildlife entertainment. The coyote's howled and sounded so close that we might be able to reach out and touch them. And the Night Hawks put on an arial acrobatic show, swooping down, making their whirling-swishing sound.

It’s times like this when you realize how important it is to be a part of a community. Sharing or trading what we have or our talents, not only gets a job done, but it can also build new friendships and fill one’s spirit with great joy. 

 So - thanks guys. I'll see you Sunday.  


  • Posted on by gail bickel

    what a bunch of great people you all are. And, that food…oh my goodness! I hope all that work fixed your problems.

  • Posted on by Michelle Crawford

    I love reading all about life on your ranch and the amazing efforts you are putting into returning the land to it’s original grandure. From the moment I picked up Dan’s book, a random pick from the approved reading material for a book report assignment in a Natural Reasources Appreciation class. I had no idea what I was about to discover, only that the title had the word “buffalo” and that was enough for me. One of the best books I have ever read, I couldnt put it down. I am in my second year of my associates studinging conservation and will be heading on for my BA in enviornmental sciences. I recently learned the bison is one of my 9 native american totems. I have always been very drawn to them so it came as little surprise to learn. Cattle had boggled me from the time I was young and had always seemed unnatural to me for our land…Iowa. I cant tell you how tickeled I was to learn my instincts have always been spot on and the validation I felt reading your accounts of changes for the better you witnessed with not only the land but the animal life as well. It gives me hope and inspires me daily to chase my love of all things wild and spend the second half of my life doing what I am most paasionate about. I would love to visit your ranch someday. Not only to be able to expeirence the herd but maybe the chance to see a Perigrine falcon too. So, so, so much light and love to you and yours. Keep sharing. It makes my soul smile. Many many blessings.

  • Posted on by BLAKE O'QUINN

    Jill, I think your perfect layout repeats the teaching of how to extend love to each other better than just about anything else. it’s sorta like a smile passed quietly between friends. beautiful work, thanks.

  • Posted on by Lee Myers

    Having enjoyed a night in the second floor bunkhouse, I trust it is still used. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the Wild Idea.

  • Posted on by pat

    Bless the Rain and Workers. Thank you.

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