Deborah Hajda revels in the challenges that come with raising a family and operating a business in the country
Deborah Hajda, her husband, David, and their five boys had a bit of a problem when they moved to a 101-acre property on TX 29 several years ago. Their backyard pool, which overlooked lush green pastures, came with a den of rattlesnakes.
One night, David decided to rid their little oasis of the venomous pests. Deborah was determined to help. She shined a bright flashlight from the opposite (and safe) side of the pool. After David bagged a particularly large snake and placed it in a barrel, Deborah came over with the light to investigate.
Just as she leaned over to look at the rattlesnake, something struck her stomach. She screamed and threw the light. David screamed, too.
They never caught the June bug that got her. But they did kill twenty-seven rattlesnakes that first year.
Killing snakes, corralling stubborn cattle, and surviving Texas storms are a few of the challenges Deborah’s overcome living in the country. Mixed in are a handful of life lessons, a lot of hard work, and a rhythm of life that, at times, has stretched this former small-town girl. But Deborah wouldn’t have it any other way. For the past fourteen years, she’s lived her dream life.
Deborah grew up in Smithville, Texas. Her house was a block behind Main Street, and her dad worked for the railyard that ran through town. “There was a real small-town vibe,” Deborah remembers. But sometimes Deborah would get a taste of country living when her family visited friends on their ranch. On Wednesday nights and Sundays, the ranchers hosted rodeos in their arena. In place of neatly laid-out town streets, pastures seemed to spread for miles. Everything was so open and natural—and of course, all the animals!
“We spent a lot of time out there. I fell in love with the horses, the rodeos—the whole bit,” Deborah says. “It captivated me.”
She also loved witnessing a family with three boys work together to make life happen. Having children of her own one day was a big priority. After high school and a bit of traveling, Deborah looked for a career that would give her flexibility to go on class field trips and spend lots of time with her kids. She chose court reporting and attended the Kussad Institute in Austin.
One of her classmates introduced her to a man who had never worked a nine-to-five job in his life.
David was a fourth-generation row-crop farmer and rancher from Granger, Texas. He grew up riding tractors and horses, learning the science of animal husbandry, and scheduling life around planting seasons. In 2002, Deborah and David got married, and along with his two young boys, they became a family.
But as her family of four grew into a family of five and then six, Deborah realized that her chosen career didn’t allow her enough time with the kids. “I had parent guilt. It was always my kids who ended up suffering when I couldn’t be everywhere at once,” Deborah explains. “I’m one of those women who can’t have it all. I can only do so much. My husband can probably juggle nine hundred things, and I can juggle ten.”
Deborah decided to stay home with her boys and dived headfirst into the country life she’d been around but never a part of in childhood. Deborah learned to ride a horse and drive tractors and plows. “I got fired from the plows pretty quick,” she admits. “I don’t drive straight enough, and I’ve been known to hit things.”
Maybe plows weren’t for her, but Deborah picked up the rhythms of her dream life. Springtime brings marathon planting days when David leaves early in the mornings and doesn’t get home until late. Deborah usually takes him lunch. The hay fields need cutting, and Deborah’s happy to hop on the baler and get it done. In August, the harvest stretches their days. And always, animals need tending and machinery must be fixed.
Though Deborah has learned the rhythms of farm life, over the years, David has taught her much more. “What David has modeled more than anything is patience and a lot of faith. I almost had none when I got into this life,” Deborah explains. “I just felt like you could do anything overnight, and David would shake his head at me.”
Over the last fourteen years, Deborah’s perseverance and determination have been rewarded. She and David have five wonderful “cowboy-tough” boys ages six to nineteen. The boys help with cattle roundups, take care of animals, ride horses, and drive tractors and other equipment—even six-year-old Colt drives the big lawnmower. Their family works together to make life happen.
Deborah and David also harvest crops on 1,800 acres of land, provide custom hay-baling, manage Rowe Valley Events, a wedding and events venue, and own Raising Five Cattle Company.
That last endeavor has a special place in Deborah’s heart. When David was still in high school, he began building his herd of cattle. Around 2004, David and Deborah started expanding their herd, trying to get better stock and more cattle. “David’s been the brains behind the science of the cattle. His experiences, the way he grew up—you can’t get that in a college education,” Deborah says.
After a few years, Deborah began listing their beef on Craigslist after reading an article in Men’s Health about the boom in demand for all-natural, grass-fed beef. In 2009, she and David officially gave their beef a label and a website.
The name—Raising Five Cattle Company—combines Deborah and David’s input. “I’m raising five kids. The ‘five’ was everything. Everything we did was for them,” Deborah explains. “’Cattle Company’ was an homage to one of David’s favorite TV shows, Lonesome Dove.
“Once a month, we have to do a roundup of 800-pound calves that are like charging teenagers. There’s a lot of dancing going on,” says Deborah. Raising Five sells beef directly from the business’s website and in a nearby grocery store.
Today, as she raises her younger boys, ranches, manages an events venue, and runs a growing cattle company, Deborah loves the life she’s built with David. Her life doesn’t revolve around a typical weekday schedule; it ebbs and flows as the seasons change. But that doesn’t mean her chosen life is a slower life.
“It’s not slower. It’s a different hustle,” Deborah explains. “You don’t catch your breath in this life. But the lesson for me—maybe I traded one stress for another—but I am with my kids more. . . . And that’s a big deal for me.”
To learn more about Raising Five Cattle Company, visit www.raising5.com.