Life didn’t turn out quite the way Ree Drummond expected. She lives “in the middle of nowhere,” and her “days are spent wrangling children, chipping dried manure from boots, washing jeans and making gravy.”
But, she loves it. So much so that five years ago she launched a blog — The Pioneer Woman — to tell the world about life as a ranch wife. That endeavor can best be described as nothing short of an Internet sensation and has taken her life in another unexpected direction.
Drummond grew up near the seventh green of the country club golf course in Bartlesville, Okla. Following high school she headed for Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California, “then got a job and wore black pumps to work everyday. I ate sushi and treated myself to pedicures on a semi-regular basis,” she says.
On a visit home she met the cowboy who would become her future husband, Ladd Drummond, a fourth-generation rancher whose family operates the Drummond Land & Cattle Co. in Osage County, Okla., one of the state’s largest.
Drummond says it was 2006 when Ladd took the four kids out with him to do ranch work that she sat at the computer and opened her first Blogger account to share photos with family and friends. A year later she started blogging about food, documenting the cooking process step by step as she made dinner for her family.
“I had been teaching myself photography,” Drummond says. “I was getting ready to cook my husband a steak, and I thought, ‘I’ve blogged about every other thing I’ve done, so I’ll blog some photos of the steak. I wound up posting 12 or 13 photos and the response was really favorable. Even if somebody already knew how to cook a steak, they enjoyed watching it unfold through pictures.”
The formula for Drummond’s blog — described by one writer as “one part recipe instruction, one part food porn, one part Drummond’s down-home wit” — became the foundation of a hobby that has blossomed into a thriving enterprise. Today, The Pioneer Woman is as well-known in food circles as many celebrity chefs, but she still hasn’t stopped scraping dried manure off boots.
The Pioneer Woman was an early entrant into the world of food blogging, but her readers kept returning and her blog was named Weblog of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2011 by the Weblog Awards, the world’s largest blog competition. Today the site is one of the most popular food blogs on the Internet, and it regularly attracts 2 million women who click in to 20 million page views per month. Technorati ranks The Pioneer Woman on its list of the 100 most powerful and influential blogs in the world.
Drummond’s success with The Pioneer Woman encouraged her to publish a cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, which became a No. 1 best-seller and was ranked No. 1 on Amazon’s preorder list in the Cooking, Food and Wine category.
After that first cookbook became a success, Drummond was contacted by the Food Network about a possible TV show. The first six episodes began airing in late August and appeared on Saturday mornings. This is how the Food Network described the show: “Take one sassy former city girl, her hunky rancher husband and a band of adorable kids, an extended family, cowboys, 3,000 wild mustangs, a herd of cattle and one placid basset hound and you have The Pioneer Woman. The Pioneer Woman is an open invitation into Ree Drummond’s life: The award-winning blogger and best-selling cookbook author comes to Food Network and shares her special brand of home cooking, from throw-together suppers to elegant celebrations. The series, set against the incredible story of life at home on the range, is the next best thing to actually sitting on a stool in Ree’s kitchen.”
Fans of The Pioneer Woman, however, know there is much more to her life story than cooking, kids and dirty boots. Drummond candidly describes her romance with her cowboy-husband, referred to on the blog as “Marlboro Man.”
The popularity of the Marlboro Man on the blog prompted Drummond to write Black Heels to Tractor Wheels — A Love Story, which debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list for nonfiction. And the rights to that book have been purchased by Columbia Pictures, and Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon has signed on to play the lead as Drummond.
When the deal with Columbia Pictures was official, Drummond tweeted to her followers: “Confirmed: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (the book, not the blog) was optioned. Think Green Acres meets Harlequin Romance meets Forest Gump.”