Upon completing our first chapter of life together, working internationally in Architecture and Real-Estate Development, we longed to remove ourselves from the fast pace of big business in order to homestead a parcel of land and begin a simpler family lifestyle.
We desired to raise our children (and ourselves) in a peaceful, healthy environment while developing the land into a spiritual retreat site where other families could visit in order to enjoy special family time together within the peaceful realm of God’s creation.
So we set about searching for land in Northern California that would be conducive to living in peace and sharing it with others. We looked for land that settled at the end of the road for privacy, that extended both local and distant views for majestic scale, that contained a variety of habitats for wildlife diversity, and that flowed with plenty of water in various sources, just in case we ever wanted to farm a little. ☺
After three years of investigating areas, reviewing countless properties, and engaging dozens of realtors, we just never could find that peaceful place that satisfied our criteria… until the century turned into the year 2000 when a very kind, elderly gentleman said, “I just might have the land you’re looking for, but it’s never been listed on the market before and I’m not planning on selling it – but maybe if I find a nice family that loves it as much as me?”
So the following week we strapped in the two car seats for little Ty, who was three years old at the time, and her younger brother Zach, who was just eighteen months, and we drove out to meet ol’ Bob Reeder, who greeted us on his secluded parcel of land in Nevada County, California.
He was a calm, wonderful host who began showing us creeks and waterfalls, hills and woods, meadows and springs, agricultural irrigation canals, and everything we could ever imagine for our dream of living a simple life in the peace of God, and sharing it with others.
And wouldn’t you know, it just happened to be at the end of the road sheltered in a private oasis surrounded by hills, replete with a wide variety of natural habitat, with extended views across the Sacramento Valley to the Coastal Mountain Range.
So as we looked back at each other silently saying, “Wow, this is it!” – we glanced up at Mr. Reeder who was about ten paces ahead with Ty walking next to him, her hand clenched around his pinky finger. His heart was just melting, and so were ours.
Afterwards, through a series of non-coincidental events, we experienced several episodes of Divine Intervention, like watching scenes unfold in a movie, leading up to the purchase of that one hundred seventy three acre parcel of land that is now affectionately called, “Our Lady’s Ranch.”
And our little family began to grow and prosper in the midst of God’s beautiful creation…
So we proceeded to clean up the property, build roads, dig wells, extend utilities, and relocate a small modular home to the property. We began holding small retreats while continuing to develop the land, build infrastructure, and start a small garden.
By the time we started construction on the main House for our family (four years later) we enjoyed growing some healthy vegetables and fruits along with starting a massive livestock operation of two cows.☺
Well, two cows turned into four, then eight, sixteen and thirty-two, and meanwhile, our little family went from four to seven to nine.
And as the children began to grow bigger, we became more concerned about providing healthy food for them, but couldn’t really find much, so we decided to grow it ourselves.
Of course, in the beginning of our farming operation, we were forced to learn in the school of hard knocks. So getting back to basics, we read much literature and attended several conferences to research holistic-sustainable agricultural practices that yield healthy, tasty food. Then we immediately got busy establishing those family-safe, environmentally sound, healthy food growing methods in our new “Family Friendly Farm,” at Our Lady’s Ranch, right here in Grass Valley, California.
We began our livestock operation with only cattle, mainly for our own consumption along with a few friends. Then a funny thing happened – We knew the food that we were growing and eating was nutrient-rich and super healthy, (for doctor visits ceased and the kids weren’t even getting colds) but we didn’t expect everything to taste so good… even potatoes have unexpected flavor.
And as we increased our ranching/farming experience and improved our livestock operations, the finish products continued to become tastier and now more tender as well. Then our friends began to request more and more meat until finally they started suggesting that we open up sales to the public.
So with our seven curious kids and our inquisitive selves, we all jumped in the family full-size van… well, some of us jumped and some were carried – ages one to eleven at the time (Yes, seven kids under the age of ten at one point, but that’s another story ☺).
Anyways, we drove out to the local farmer’s market and would you believe – that was the first time that any of us had ever been to a farmer’s market (That seems funny now because the kids have since all grown up with the Market as an ordinary part of daily life). Well, that first day we all thought wow – this is great! It was festive and happy and entertaining and informative and… we came home with lots of great food.
We then glanced at each other thinking, “Okay, what do we do now?” So we procured the necessary licenses, including a cooked-food vending license so we could have a barbeque next to our sales booth for prospective customers to sample the meat. And that is still the best part of our farmer’s market booth – watching these good, unsuspecting folks put that first bite of good ol’ fashioned real beef in their mouth. Their whole face lights up with an excited smile and then the conversation begins –
“How? What? Just… Wow! – Okay, what should we get for dinner tonight? Do you sell in bulk?”
And thank goodness for all those continuing encouragements like, “Thank you for doing this,” and “We want to support local Ag,” and “Your kids are so amazing.”
And now, “We’ve watched them all grow up – it’s so nice to see you each week.”
…Well, Thank You All Too!
Well then, here’s what happened next… Many folks continued asking us where they could get healthy pork or lamb or chicken. In that first year, we tried to refer them to other farms, but they came back disappointed for one reason or another, and most of them asked us to grow it for them. We were already getting more familiar with the advantages of raising several livestock species together and the symbiotic benefits of combined rotational grazing practices. So we added pigs one year, then sheep the next, then threw some chickens in the mix and thought… “Okay, are we really Farmers now? – Or Ranchers? – Or Parents? – Or… ?”
Well, we’re certainly not stressed-out business executives anymore! Actually, we have humbly yet diligently embraced praying, parenting, ranching, farming, cooking, teaching, and building Family Friendly Farms into an entertaining, educational, and spiritual activity at Our Lady’s Ranch.
By the way, we find it quite interesting that as we live in peace and share it with others, most retreat activities and family visits here now revolve around farming and food… the one common element that unites all ages, cultures, and religions. Food is usually at the center of our holidays, festivals, and gatherings, so we really enjoy helping you all center your special family events around the love and peace that is poured into every morsel of food from our Family Friendly Farm.