Smoke & Mirrors

“Is it really possible to tell someone else what one feels?”—Leo Tolstoy

My dearest readers, hello, how are you? In not visiting this blog and devoting the time here to sculpt some thoughts, I’ve neglected a little piece of myself where I get to just revel in all things farm, love, and Montana. I’m sorry to you, and myself. I’m back.

I’ve learned more about myself in the last eight months than ever before, and in a lot of ways I’m learning how to just “be” in a few different lives—a wife, fatherless, a Montanan, an editor. The grand fabric of your life appears so perfectly stitched together until you actually get to the parts that have to come together and do the stitching. It’s been difficult, I think, for a long time, but I’m facing the music and letting you know something important: things aren’t always as they seem. I think this is another thing to work through—social media. The perfection of lives other than your own and the constant stream of their existence. We are never without comparison. Just feel good in knowing that you’re a witness to someone’s perfect day in a mess of other not-so-perfect days.

So, at last, here we are at the tail-end of winter. I feel raw and achy and vulnerable. Winter, however mild (which this one was), always seems to rob me of (apologies for the vulgarity) having my shit together. I tend to lose all my shit throughout the winter. It totally shakes me and I gradually lose all the things that fill me up—riding horses in the warm light of sun, breaking a sweat while breaking my back, tending to my animals and smelling the earth. It’s almost as if I don’t know how to “be” in the winter. Perhaps that’s also what I am: summerless. It’s also a time for holidays and family, which draws me closer to the hurt and big love in my heart where my father is. The pain of realizing that he’s gone strikes me like an electric shock, time and time again throughout these darker months and I guess somewhat of a depression follows me around despite any distractions. I miss him terribly, and it’s a bit of a double edged sword, to have experienced such a deep love and loss—it becomes the standard to which I compare all other relationships, which can be devastating.

But with faith comes great surprise. I can hear Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel in the back of my mind as I write this. And look, He did. Entirely a surprise, my female goat had twin baby boys—two bucklings. They have saved me. The week before their birth I was ready to list both of our goats for sale. I was ready to relieve myself of some responsibility, feeling undeserving of so many things, and this miracle did just the opposite. I feel filled up. I am able.

The days, weeks, and months to come will be a practice in staying true to my own happiness. It’s the bravest thing any of us can do. It’s good to be back, lovelies. I hope you are blooming, thriving, filling-up.


Sweet baby, Twix

Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 8.08.57 PM

Mama Shadoe, and her kiddies

Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 8.12.33 PM

Sweet baby, Tres (leches)


Papa, Willoughby



My dearest, Raven


Gang’s all here



Piper and Derby 




Despite All Things


“As long as it’s a regular day, not too rough to begin with, the ocean is pretty smooth once you make it out past the first set of waves. That’s why people are afriad to swim in the ocean. They try to jump over those waves and get slammed down to the bottom and pulled across the sand like a piece of shell. You’ve got to go throught them, dive under just when they’re rising up for you, set your direction, close your eyes, and just swim like hell. Once you get throught that, you’ll find there isn’t a better place for swimming because it’s the ocean and it goes on forever.
― Ann Patchett

I woke up early today, got dressed to feed the critters, and while wheelbarrowing over to the barn I noticed one of our windows from the wedding was on the ground, collecting shards of fallen icicles. Under it was a mouse, fearfully circling where it had nested and clawing its way under my boot. How naive, like a deer looking to a hunter for refuge. I lifted my toe until the dogs passed by and she or he scurried to safety under our horse trailer.

The promise of a New Year comes at the most opportune time. For me, it always seems to come as a life raft of sorts―a light of renewal, hope, a fresh start―during the depths of winter. The holidays are gone, the cold is still here, the work week resumes, and I’m hopeful that this will be the year where everything gets better, even if it’s not wrecked.

And yet, having a hopeful heart isn’t always without punishment. There’ll sometimes be that squall with a family member (one week into the New Year!), tears shed over something from the past, love loss, tragedy, sacrifice. I feel so sorry for our country, having carried so much hurt throughout this year and yet, also having to carry the burden of hope despite all things. We’re a little bruised, a little vulnerable, lashing out via social media and “unfriending” folks for some misdirected thing they said. It recalls a quote: It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.

And maybe that’s the truth― the end of the story for 2017. My favorite stories never have perfect endings.

Today, I’m headed to the grocery store to fuel up with more greens and less sugar. I’m cleaning the house and working in my office, and excitedly, I’m continuing progress on my very first book―a work of fiction. There have been dozens that lived a short life, but this one feels different. Maybe it’s the one.

See you on the other side, readers.








Tell Me Something Good

“Don’t quit, and don’t give up. The reward is just around the corner. And in times of doubt or times of joy, listen for that still, small voice. Know that God has been there from the beginning—and he will be there until…The End.”
― Joanna Gaines

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving, it dipped deep into the negatives. Chris and I had just moved into our home a few months prior and we were still getting to know all the gadgets within our space, including the stove. I love the photo we have of that holiday―me holding our uncooked, dressed turkey (my first!) wearing ear warmers and a vest inside. I couldn’t shake the cold that year.

This season has seemed to creep in on us, nearly over and my festive attitude is a little late to the party. I’ve found it through decorating our home for Christmas. Lights, greenery, ornaments, ribbon, wishing and waiting. And through our first snow. It happened on a Sunday, slow and beautiful like living inside a painting, and best of all―having to go nowhere.

As I write this, I’m sit in the dim glow of our Christmassy kitchen―lights strung across our windows, spray from our tree on the table, a poinsettia tucked away in some gold foil―and I know Chris will laugh when he comes home to find me with no added lights. Even though daylight savings time has stolen away our sun, I’m loving the coziness of dark and forcing myself into a little more downtime.

As for big, good news, I received my grandest promotion at my magazine job―editor! I have so much love for that little magazine. I was so fortunate enough to know it and be part of it only a few months into its beginning and in a way it feels like we’ve grown together, both of us having started our Montana journey in 2015. While living in New York, the epicenter for publishing and all things journalistic, I did very little writing. I like to think of those years as my reading years, which are consequential to good writing, but I couldn’t be more grateful to this magazine for housing some of my favorite stories and being an outlet for so many folks to learn, share stories, and grow closer. I’m so honored to be its guide for the people of our valleys.

I’m also celebrating twelve months of blogging! What fun this has been. While it’s been a great outlet to catalogue our happenings throughout the year, it’s also been forcing me to photograph our life. I still look at the photos we took earlier this year with Murphy, our late Miniature Pinscher, and think I wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for my blog. So it’s moments like that―it’s my why. I’m so glad to share it with you. I hope y’all are having a phenomenal holiday season. Much love from the Agros.

P.S. I do love this little tea cup, pictured below. We found it when an excavator dug the ditch for sewer and electric leading to my mom’s tiny home last year. It must’ve survived a few decades or more beneath the rocky soil and look, here she is today, sitting pretty and clean in the window, holding a pinecone like she’s been waiting a lifetime for this.



My morning elk herd on the last day of hunting season. 


The hands-in-the-pockets sigh of lights not lighting.


My mini-me helping me pull the tree!


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you from us!

Blue Light, Blue Mountain, Black Horse

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert

The mornings since we’ve returned from Texas are a cold blue, the symbol of winter closing in, slowly. By mid-morning the sun breaks through the frozen fog and relieves us with its warmth and we all, animals too, close our eyes and soak it in while it lasts.

Of course, I’ve been able to closely monitor the passing of the day because I’ve been suffering through a common cold for the last several days. Well, not exactly suffering. It’s the best it can be, surrounded by our dogs―happy to have me home―and enjoying hundreds of cups of tea. Also, my mom and stepdad have made it to Montana for the winter!

Already, a year has passed since their tiny home was parked on our property. It’s a whole new adventure having them to talk to, in person, day to day―something I starve for each week. We have friends, yes, but it still feels like we haven’t completely made our place here yet, in the social realm. I’ve spent the past two years burrowing deep into home life with Chris―improving our property, our home, tending to our animals―that I suppose I’ve neglected this part of our lives. But then, you never know what new relationship is around the corner. I shall be patient!

In the same tune, being in the arms of friends and family in Texas was just what we needed. These people are entwined in our growing up, and it felt good just to be near them.

This week has been filled with tissues galore, lots of couch sitting, and tending to Raven, who never fails to get into some trouble before a trip away from home. She spent our vacation at the vet’s office due to a swollen hock and while there, decided to get an abscess in her hoof. To cut costs, we took her home and made an outdoor stall for her in the goat enclosure. If you’ve ever had Nubian goats, in rut, in with horses, you know this is enough to drive a person mad!

Raven has been a trooper though, always knowing that she needs to be patient and let us poke and prod her with all sorts of vet magic. Hopefully today will be the end of a very long, very expensive three week endeavor. No matter what the setback, I’m always thankful to have found such an amazing veterinary team so close to home and so genuinely devoted to the best course of action.

Hopefully it’s back to my cattle ranch job tomorrow and closer to normalcy! Dear readers, I hope you all are well and gearing up for the holidays with great cheer.


Home sweetest home.


Sweet Raven, telling me what she thinks of this outdoor stall situation.


How many of us can fit on grandma’s tiny home porch?


Piper, always posing!


The best of buds, gosh these two crack me up!


Can you let me out of here now? Please?


Ah, a view I’ll never tire of. 

Moonlit Pony

“What makes me so unhappy? People walking away, dressed in winter clothes, the sky the same gray as their coats, the branches of the trees around them, black-gray and skinned. And in my heart of hearts, I know that the tree Minn loves best will be bare by morning. Already, a gown of gold gathers at its feet.” —Dean Bakopoulos

I’ve learned—especially looking back on past blog posts—that my emotions fluctuate like the weather. It’s evident in my favorite line from my favorite author’s book, My American Unhappiness. Ironically, it’s a rather hopeful book despite its title. Zeke, the main character, is a hopeless romantic and soaks everything in, so much so that he’s constantly bubbling over. I feel like that, more so around this time of year. Beauty is fleeting.

Our line of poplars has been completely exposed by the harsh winds. Slowly, our world is getting a little grayer. Luckily, it’s been a golden fall, spoiling us with long-lasting color, most of which still stands by the river edge. It’s easy to see people retreating back to where they came from—the locals settling in, fluffing their nests. At my cattle ranch job, the fields have gone tan and I already miss the blasts of sage from brushing a boot by their branches. I already miss the Bitterroot flowers and their little pops of pink along the dirt, the rush of the drainage ditch where I swam when the heat beaded up on my face.

Most days it is me, alone with the voice of Chris Stapleton singing in my ear. It’s me with the constant shuffle of dogs at foot, horses stretching out across an eaten down field. It’s me lunging Lucy, our mustang, against the fading light of day until I can barely make out her silhouette in the moonlight, me enjoying the song of the coyotes like clockwork each night.

Chris has been readying us for winter—finished the new chicken coop, chopped wood for our stove, cleaned the garage to make room for our vehicles, bought another stock tank for the horses. It feels like closing time for our little home in the valley. But next week, I’m taking Chris’s hand and a little black dress and boarding a plane to Austin to witness our friend marry his counterpart. That’s where we’ll be, warm in love. Texans, for a few days at least.

IMG_6665 (1).jpg





Faces Of Fall

“I had closed my eyes and seen a place I hadn’t known existed. There was no anger, no loneliness, no jagged icy fear gnawing at the wires of my body. For that one moment, the noise inside my head had turned still and silent. If hell was real and true and all around us, then heaven was too.”
― Aryn Kyle

Thankfulness isn’t a season. I usually have to remind myself of this but the weight of the world has grown in size, getting harder to manage, like a full bucket of water that bumps against your leg and soaks your pant. Only worse.

I’ve stopped loading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, and now, stopped blogging several times to play with Piper. She is utterly in love with me like no animal has ever been. She lives just to have fun, has no fear in her heart. She makes me full-belly laugh multiple times a day. I, too, am in love with everything that she is. I, too, am so grateful just to be here, alive, to be able to care for her and all of our animals. It’s too real of a thought to think you could go to a concert and never return home.

So I interrupt everything, and play. Happiness like this is right here, pawing at my jeans and nipping at my sleeve. I am so grateful.

We had a party on Sunday and it was so nice to visit with friends, eat, and just be merry. I wish I’d snapped a photo of all four chickens lined up on Willoughby’s back when I was showing him off to our realtor. There’s always some sort of shenanigan going on it seems, and I love it. I’ve always thought our little place to be a magical hiding spot from the world, more true now than ever. This place saves me every day when I drive past our entrance gate. I see our two horses with their ears perked, our goats call to me as if to say hello, our dogs show their teeth and yelp and bounce in excitement. It is home, happiness.

This is us, another turn of the season, brightly lit with fleeting color. Soon all will be gray and white and hushed but for now, this is us, still showing some skin, still soaking in the fading warmth with our faces to the sun.



Lucy & Raven against the prettiest backdrop of autumn


I swear he was snacking on a branch and not hissing at me. Steve!


Our favorite chicken, shhh don’t tell the others


Little Whitefish snagged on the Bitterroot River


Our girls! Timber, Derby, Piper


Miss Shadoe, such a love


Piper, same size as the hens!


Willoughby kisses!


Hubs casting away with our adventure girl, Timber

Last Best Farm

“They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live.” ―Wendell Berry

A friend recently made a comment about Piper winding up at “the farm”―you know, the place where ma’s and pa’s used to send the family critter when an accident came up, or the reason why the good dog never came home. But of course she meant it in the idyllic way, the way of it being heaven on earth, a dream, an endless blue sky. She meant our farm.

My favorite thing about bringing a new pet home is realizing how much more love you can give when you thought you couldn’t possibly love any tighter, bigger, wilder. On Tuesday, I attended an effective livestock handling clinic for work and later that evening Chris and I went to the volunteer & foster family appreciation party at our local humane society. The day was filled with continuous realizations that we are an animal loving community, we make a difference.

I also watched a mini documentary on people finding purpose this week, part of the Humans of New York series, and it felt like a dream I had once―living with Chris in NYC, on the hamster wheel of success, dealing with the way my life got turned upside down after my father died. Maybe he, too, went to “the farm.” Ours. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, I needed to be here in this place. There’s a little space in me that smiles at the notion of some acquaintance asking where we’d gone―to live on a farm of course.

In the last two weeks we’ve received our first mountain snowfall. It’s thankfully snuffed out the majority of our mountain flames and rid our skies of smoke. And all at once it feels like winter―warm hats, brisk winds, icy hands, frisky and furry horses and goats.

We are readying the chimney for our months of use that will begin any day now, our night lows dipping into the twenties and the snow gradually making its way down the mountainside to our valley. It always feels like a race to get things ready, to take mental shots of all the fleeting color. It feels like we’re embarking on another journey, locking the windows for rougher waters that may lie ahead. Ahoy!


See those snowy mountains? Happy Fall!


Mustang Lucy and Willoughby, our Nubian buck, hanging out together, per usual


Steve, finding safe higher ground in our chicken coop, away from Piper


Timber, sneaking in a nap


My Raven, soaking in her grand view


Living room love


Mighty Piper, amongst all the soft things. Those ears!

IMG_6382 (1).jpg

Beautiful Derby, always regal, always wanting to play ball in the house


The last of my summer blooms. Isn’t she pretty?


Our favorite driveway, welcome home