A Redlands Buffalo makes a living close to the land.
by Michele Nielsen ’99
At Johnston, Michael Moon ’89 often could be found in a stairwell at Bekins Hall, composing songs. Today, he and his wife, Dawn, share their original music around the campfire at Home Ranch, a 4,000-acre working guest ranch in the Elk River Valley of Colorado about 18 miles from Steamboat Springs.
Michael and Dawn met while working at Home Ranch over 20 years ago, having music in common. “We sat together around the campfire and sang before we even dated; music has remained an important part of our relationship.” Over the years, their path has taken them to Ecuador through the Peace Corps and to other ranches, including the Nature Conservancy’s Matador Ranch in Montana, the Quivira Coalition Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Chico Basin Ranch in Colorado. Along the way they had four kids, Aidan (19), Ruth (16), Cole (13) and Eli (11). Now they’ve come full circle, back to Home Ranch.
Michael’s position as ranch operations manager and land steward for Home Ranch allows him to focus on things he is passionate about: effective environmental stewardship of ranch lands and pasture management and sharing his love of livestock, specifically horses, with ranch guests. “Ranching is head and hands, it takes both. We have to improve our ability to develop better sustainable and regenerative use of land,” he says, and adds that Home Ranch offers a chance to talk with and show guests that working landscapes and working wildernesses can be managed well.
Over his long career as a ranch manager, Michael has cared for large properties of 88,000 acres with many head of cattle and smaller properties like Home Ranch where horses are the predominant animal. “The same principles apply regardless of the size of the property or animal. Livestock must be moving in a natural pattern of grazing mimicking wild herds. I love that aspect of my work. Caring for the land and caring for the horses.”