Whether tracking wolves across the Pacific Northwest, or shepherding cattle across California’s coastal prairie grasslands, Doniga Markegard aims not just to tend the land but to become one with its inhabitants.
Doniga’s 2017 memoir, Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild details all of the ways this intrepid tracker-turned-rancher has tackled the fundamental question of nature connection, from the tumultuous adolescence which led her to wilderness survival training, to professional wildlife tracking, to holistic land management, and eventually to the idyllic rolling hills where the Markegard Family Farm continues to grow and expand just south of San Francisco.
She’s got a great story and a really unique perspective, and it was such a pleasure for me to be able to visit the Markegard’s ranch and pick Doniga’s brain for the better part of an hour about life out on the coastal prairie.
As you’ll hear, our conversation was recorded in two parts: I arrived in the early evening, and we sat down at Doniga’s kitchen table for the first half. Before sunset we took a break so Doniga could take care of evening chores with the animals, and by the time we were ready to start up again the family had gotten home and taken over the house, so we moved to the barn from there, and you’ll hear chest freezers humming behind us.
In the first half we get a sense of who Doniga is and what she’s all about, and in the second half the conversation shifts focus to the hazy elephant in the room: the wildfire smoke that was blanketing the ranch and the entire region during my visit.
Thankfully, despite the hardships Doniga had some really encouraging and optimistic thoughts to share, and that’s always a relief to hear from someone with boots on the ground doing the hard work of restoring land on a pretty massive scale.
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