Wide Open Spaces

Thank you Herewith Magazine! 

Wide Open Spaces
January 6, 2017

Like so many before her since the Gold Rush, Lauren Malloy felt the calling to move out west, she wanted wide open spaces and to feel the great Pacific. At 22 she packed her bags said goodbye to her native Vermont family and headed West. Today Lauren is quite possibly living the California Dream. Lauren Malloy grew up in a rural town with her parents and two sisters. As a kid, she worked on a dairy farm and rode horses in her backyard. In college, Lauren received a bachelor’s degree in animal science and conservation biology. She then went off to Africa to work with cheetahs before graduating. After College she worked at the California Wildlife Center before traveling and producing films with her now husband, Keith Malloy. Lauren has been involved in a number of projects ranging from movies like “Come Hell or High Water” to creating projects like Patagonia’s Worn Wear. Her recent collaboration is Women’s Heritage Skillshare (WHS) a range of homestead workshops and a natural beauty product line she started with her friends Ashley Moore and Emma Moore. WHS is a project bringing women together teaching elements of the homestead into everyday life, like welding, fermentation, and herbal medicine.

 Lauren is truly a modern day cowgirl. Not only does she care for her family and animals, but she does it while maintaining her career. Aside from her being a mother of two, surfer, and equestrian, Lauren is witty, direct, and passionate about her life. She knows what needs to get done and she does it. Lauren’s many diverse experiences are held together by her passion for community and animals. Today, Lauren Malloy lives on a working cattle ranch in Central California, where she gets to live out her childhood dream of learning ranch skills and gathering cattle on the wide-open range. Although Lauren didn’t learn to herd cattle until she was 30, she grew up with an ardent interest in cows and horses as a kid. Lauren mostly helps gather cattle for a nearby ranch. With this rare opportunity to learn, one that she dreamt of as a kid,  Lauren hopes to pass on these skills to her daughters. Aside from learning to ranch, Lauren’s been experimenting with breeding and raising dairy cows, now she raises her own beef cows and pigs for meat for her family. 

Every morning and evening Lauren is tending to her animals, shoveling muck, feeding, training, and tending to their care. Her 4 horses are a great reflection of her care and training. Lauren and her daughter Milly attend local rodeos, barrel racing and mutton busting. A few times a month, she’ll pick up her daughter from the school bus, over the hill and through an oak forest with the horses. Lauren enjoys teaching her children a way of life around caring for the land and animals. Her upbringing allowed her to wander and explore the forest behind her childhood home, something she teaches her daughters to do but to also beware of rattlesnakes, poison oak, and the wandering neighborhood bull. Lauren was so kind to invite me to her property, where we took off on a back country adventure to pick up her daughter from the bus stop, sharing stories about family, horses, and surfing.

What was it like growing up in Vermont? 

Growing up in Vermont was pretty ideal. My two sisters and I grew up in an old farmhouse from the 1800’s, that my parents still live in.   There is a large barn, a cellar, an attic, so many fun places to play as kids.  The land behind our house is in a Land Trust and we got to run wild and adventure on hundreds of acres.  When I think of my childhood I think about wide open spaces and the fact that our parents let us be so free to explore the woods and fields on our own. My parents are big cross country skiers so winters were spent at our local ski lodge “Prospect Mountain” where everybody knows each other and it is a tight community of like-minded folks.  A lot of time was spent skiing beautiful trails in the woods and then warming ourselves by the fire drinking hot cocoa. My family laughs that I live in California now as I never did like to be very cold! The California coast has now replaced my love of the woods and my skis have been replaced with a surfboard and though I miss aspects of living in Vermont, I now could not live far from the ocean! I am trying to raise my two daughters the same way I was raised being outdoors, appreciating nature and being free to roam!

Did you grow up raising farm animals?

I grew up with horses and worked on the dairy farm up the road from about age 8-18. I began bottle feeding the many calves and cleaning their pens and then worked with the farmer to milk and by age 13 I was milking a barn of about 60 holsteins by myself. I have a love for cows and there was no place I’d rather be than at the dairy barn where there was always something exciting going on! I love horses as well and was lucky enough to grow up riding freely on the acreage behind my house. Cows and horses were a major part of my everyday life (and still are).

When did horses come into play? How did you learn to herd cattle?

I had horses growing up, but then I went off to college and moved to California. I didn’t get back into riding until I met my husband Keith 10 years later.  He also grew up with horses so it was really fun to get back into riding together!  I had always dreamed of gathering cattle, in fact, I grew up riding English in a Western saddle!  So when we moved to a working cattle ranch about 7 years ago it was only a matter of time before my husband and I got involved.  For me, there is nothing like working cows with horses, it is literally my heaven, it is two big parts of my life combined!  You have to be so in the moment when dealing with so many animals and the partnership you need with your horse, to work together is profound. However, it is not always easy and I have so much more to learn.  I work with a crew of people looking to get a job done, so there is pressure to do my best and not make mistakes, as one mistake can affect everyone else! I am incredibly lucky to work with the cowboys and cowgirls that I do, they have been very patient with me and have taught me so much.  I look forward to a lifetime of learning and honing in my skills.

You currently live on a small ranch in central California, What’s an average day like for you?

We live about 40 minutes from the store, so I’d say we have a pretty rural lifestyle. Every day is different as I have two young daughters and my husband’s work takes him traveling often. We do have a nice rhythm, though;  taking care of animals and our property. We have 20 chickens, 3 dogs, a pig, 4 horses, 4 cows (with one on the way) and a cat, so there is lots of feeding and cleaning that goes on.  I love raising my kids around the animals, my daughter Milly who is 5, has a horse of her own and has even gathered cows with us and June who is 2 loves feeding the animals and is always trying to more hay in their feeders!

We also live near the ocean and are surfers, so we spend a lot of our down time enjoying the sand and water together. When and how did you learn to surf?

I moved to California when I was 22, never having surfed before. It took me a couple years to get out there, but once I did it was all over.  For my first session I paddled out at Swami’s in Cardiff, it was sunset and there were dolphins jumping and playing, I realized then I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.  I spent a couple years getting pounded in the shore break and trying to learn about the ocean. It was when I moved to a right-hand point break and surfed the inside cove day after day that it all started coming together for me. What I love about surfing, besides being submerged in mother nature, is there is always something more to learn!

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

I would give the same advice to my 20-year-old self that I give my 35-year-old self.  Follow your heart and passions. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe. Don’t judge people! Be patient.

I notice you road trip a lot with your family, What are some of your favorite trips? 

Yes, we love road tripping! Both my husband and I have done a lot of abroad travel, so we love jumping in the car (instead of on a plane) and seeing parts of our own country we haven’t seen before.  Last month we went to Sedona, AZ and went to several Native American sites. We went to Oregon this past summer and absolutely loved it up there too.  We have an airstream which makes it so sweet, you have everything you need to go anywhere you want.  The kids love the adventures too and are already asking what our next one will be!

You were the founder of the Worn Wear campaign at Patagonia, How did that come about? 

“Worn wear” started as a blog that celebrates the stories of clothing.  So many of us have favorite pieces of clothing that have become an important part of who we are. The idea originated from a blue Patagonia fleece that my mom gave me when I was 12 years old.  Every time I wear it memories come flooding in. Once the blog took off it was amazing to see how many people wanted to share their stories and photos.  From lost and found stories to generational hand me down stories, the connection people can have with one piece of clothing in today’s throwaway culture is so inspiring.  Today “worn wear’ has taken on much more and is also the repair and recycle program for Patagonia.  

What is Women’s Heritage?

Women’s Heritage is a blog and a series of workshops (so far sold out!) that inspire women to bring elements of the homestead to their everyday, modern life. We have also just launched an organic beauty line and are currently working on designing an apron line. On our blog we share recipes, how to’s inspiration and tips to help women find their passions and explore things such as making sourdough bread from scratch to welding to making your own herbal remedies to raising your own chickens to foraging.  So many of the skills our grandparents knew have been lost in modern day society.  In today’s busy world it can seem daunting to learn a new skill, so I hope our classes and blog support women to find new skills they maybe didn’t even know they are passionate about!

What inspired you to start Women's Heritage?

My partners Ashley Moore, Emma Moore and I started WHS. We were on a trip in the Sierras and realized each possessed different skills that the others wanted to learn. Ashley is a folk herbalist and Emma is an amazing chef and I have a degree in Animal Science, so we decided to bring those elements together. We began with Emma teaching a class on how to make your own sourdough bread and the response was amazing. Our community was so interested in learning and seemed women really craved this time together, so we came up with more and more classes! We wanted to start the blog to empower and inspire those who could not make it to our classes and grow our community.  

What have been some of your favorite skills/classes?

I have fully enjoyed and learned so much at each of our classes but I would say my favorite classes have been the welding class and the wreathing class.  The welding class was extraordinary not only because I have always been interested in welding and our teacher was a badass and the ranch location was incredible but also because I watched women who came to the class so nervous, leave so empowered and proud of themselves. The wreathing class was a joyous celebration of all the senses. We had it at a beautiful winery and we had foraged so much greenery that the room was overflowing, the eucalyptus smelt so good, the wine tasted so good and to create something with our hands to celebrate the season together felt so good. 

Who or What inspires you? 

I feel inspired by different things every day, but I find usually seems it is mostly passionate women who are willing to share their knowledge and themselves that inspire me most.  

How can women be more involved in their community? 

Sharing your passions and your skills with your community seems like the perfect place to start,  no matter what it is, you can find some niche that helps support others! Going to community events and supporting what others are doing is also so important and often overlooked.

Story By: Gilda Hariri

Photography by : Gilda Hariri, Chris Burkard, Lauren Ross, Jocelyn Noel