By Mary Charlebois
Turning east on Curly Road, my quest for tranquility and a simpler life begins. The crunchy gravel lane passes rolling hills and pastures bordered by forest and wetlands. Flocks of sheep graze meadows and laze in the shade of Cypress trees. Horses roam in the distance. Turning into the driveway, chickens forage near the wool mill. Rambunctious terrier puppies bark and chase my truck to the ranch house. Raised gardens are filled with culinary and medicinal herbs. The scene is bucolic. Yes, immersing myself in a California farm stay at Casari Ranch seems just what I need.
A California Farm Stay Reconnecting People To Land
The Navajos believe sheep is life. This is also the guiding philosophy on the 532-acre agricultural preserve, Casari Ranch. Sheep are farmed here for meat and wool. Raised organically, all Casari animals are certified 100% grass fed. No antibiotics, hormones, corn or GMO products are ever used.
Spread between the Pacific Ocean and Mendocino County Forest, Casari is home to four breeds of sheep. The Navajo Churro are an endangered breed, while the rare Horned Dorset and Shetland sheep are heritage breeds. The heavy-coated Rambouillet are treasured for their fleece.
Casari’s owners, Ariana and Casey, are both lifelong California ranchers. Casey grew up on a fourth-generation sheep ranch in Valley Ford, while Ariana grew up in a valley at the foot of Mount Tamalpias. When they discovered Casari Ranch was for sale, they knew it was exactly the place they would fulfill their mission.
“We are passionate, creative naturalists, who thrive on re-connecting people to land and nature and the art of living simply,” explains Ariana.
Ariana and Casey work with the land using sustainable practices. While wool and meat are the primary products from the ranch, other crops are supported to keep the ranch in balance and operation.At Casari #Ranch in California, #sheep are life. Here's why. #travelgood Click To Tweet
The Flock & Its Bounty
Accomplishing most livestock work themselves, Ariana and Casey begin each day at sunrise. Gates are opened and closed to create pathways that give animals access to new grazing territory. Individual flock members are observed for condition. Impending or new births and loss from predators is noted. All ranch animals are fed and watered. Daily ranch life follows the ever-changing rhythm of seasons, weather and animals.
As someone looking to decompress from my fast-paced routine, I find this fascinating. To be able to live in such harmony with nature that your days actually transform with the blooming of new plants and the cooling of summer just seems so healthy; so logical. To be able to work the land with your own hands, to become more in tune with the animals and landscapes; I imagine the fruits of your labor become that much more rewarding.
Nature also influences the sheep, who live in natural flock formations, or family groups. Each flock has several rams representing fathers, sons, uncles and nephews. These family units are pasture-raised and grass-fed just as their life would be in the wild. Rams stay with the flock year-round unlike standard sheep-farming practice where rams are only allowed with the flock for breeding.
Shearing time is an industrious event twice a year. Organic fleece is shorn by shearers that visit the ranch and give the flock a haircut. Because Casari sheep are ethically raised, the resulting wool is free of residual chemicals and GMOs. Casari wool is organically processed in the on-site mill, creating a fiber that doesn’t retain dust mites, doesn’t mold or mildew, and is naturally fire resistant.
“Sheep do not require nearly the amount of water to grow like cotton and hemp. Yes, wool does require water during washing,” admits Ariana, “but all fibers require water for washing. Wool also wins when it comes to less water consumption during production. Sheep and wool ease the burden on our water resources.”
Wool Mill Touring
A tour of the mill shows the involved process and complex equipment used to transform fleece to yarn, cloud-like batting or waterproof felt. I really begin to see — and feel — the difference between breeds by handling the wool. Some wool fibers are short and soft, others are long with great tensile strength.
Using wool from different breeds for specific products is a significant factor when choosing wool fiber. For example: short soft fibers make lofty bedding, while long tough fibers become long lasting rugs. Fleece colors vary from white to almost black. While on tour, I see wool from other farmers, artist and craftsmen. They bring their wool for processing at Casari, the only wool processing resource in Mendocino, Marin and Sonoma Counties.
Two to three times a year Casari offers grass-fed lamb. The lambs are organically and humanely raised with their natural family group. No antibiotics, hormones, corn or GMOs are ever used. Spring lamb can be purchased in Casari’s farm stand, a highlight of the visit. Excitedly, I fill my cooler with eggs, feral and cultivated herbs, veggies and flowers. Artisanal cheeses also get plopped into my basket, the perfect addition to my al fresco ranch picnic.
Farm Stay Or Day Trip
Visitors are welcome to immerse themselves in millwork, ranch work, explore the meadows, woodlands and forest or simply sit and watch the sunrise. A family farmhouse or camping in the shade of a giant cypress grove is offered for those that come to use the mill, enjoy a California farm stay or attend an event.
To reap the therapeutic and educational benefits Casari offers, an overnight stay is in order. I choose the farmhouse, or maybe it chooses me. The moment I walk through the backdoor I feel at home. Picture a china-hutch with a Japanese teapot, brightly colored plates on open shelves and pots of herbs in the window overlooking the side-yard. Outside, chickens fulfill their role of natural insect control.
Sunsets here are postcard-worthy. Birds and ranch animals settle in for the night, the sound of light rolling and bah’s slowly falling into a still quiet. Sitting on the front porch nibbling at my cheese while wrapped in a woolen blanket, I’m protected as gorgeous yellows, pinks and purples fade into an evening chill. There’s no doubt I’ll sleep content tonight.Have you ever done a #farmstay before? Here's why you should! #travel #local Click To Tweet
An Immersive Tour
The next morning I awake early; no alarm needed. Thoroughly refreshed, I set out to tour the property with Ariana.
Now, this isn’t just any tour. I hold on tight, steadying myself for the beautiful, bumpy ride. The 4-wheel-drive vehicle crosses sheep-filled pastures, deep green ravines and wind-swept hilltops. We say hello to donkeys, horses and llamas, ravens, hawks and gulls. Our ocean view begins to disappear as fog fingers cover the headlands. Ariana shows me bubbling springs, lush wetlands, her favorite tree, old homesteads and the best mushroom picking spots.
A very special stop on my journey is natural aromatherapy in a fragrant forest. “Get ready to inhale deeply,” Ariana instructs, as we make a sharp right turn. Wind rushes past carrying a pine perfume that fills my nostrils with woody sweetness. I’m smiling wide.There’s something about inhaling a natural scent in its natural state — vs from a bottle — that make the curative benefits really sink in.
My stay at Casari Ranch is healing in itself. It allows me to spend time away from daily hassles to see the benefits of a slower pace of life. It helps calm my mind as I connect with the land, its people and the animals. It rejuvenates me as I remember that before iPhones, Ubers and that never empty inbox there was this; and that this place exists for me to visit whenever I need to be reminded.
Casari Ranch is located at 42900 Curley Lane, just off CA Hwy 1, about .25-mile south of Point Arena California. Once on Curley Lane, drive 1-mile, cross the cattle guard, and turn left into the second driveway. Go along the white fence to the mercantile. They are open Wednesday – Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 3pm.
For more information about Casari, special visits and tours, products, programs and lodging, phone 707-882-1885 and visit Casari’s website.
Explore More Of Point Arena
Point Arena is a tiny town rich in friendly, laid-back people, locally produced organic meat, fish, wine, beer, veg and fruit. Availability is very high in local markets and restaurants. Recreation such as camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, surfing, fishing, horseback riding, immersion in nature, art, music, entertainment and relaxation abound here.
Some recommendations include:
- B Bryan Preserve is a 110-acre breeding and conservation preserve for African hoofstock. Giraffes, zebra and antelope live on the ocean view property. Daily tours and family cabins for overnight stays are available.
- Point Arena Lighthouse is a 115’ tall, operational light station. Learn the history, watch migrating whales, picnic or spend the night in the old light keepers quarters.
- Arena Cove was once a thriving port for logging operations along the Mendocino Coast. Today the picturesque cove is home to fishing, kayaking, surfing, sunset watching, picnicking plus great local seafood, beer and wine. Turn west on Port Road on the south side of Point Arena.
*Featured image courtesy of tpsdave/Pixabay
About Mary Charlebois
Mary is a freelance travel writer, photographer and videographer. Coastal Mendocino County California is her home base.
She explores small towns, villages, farms and ranches, teasing out individuals, places, culture and spirit. When visiting cities, she delves into neighborhoods and community events. She pokes around local’s picks for history, entertainment, food and beverage. She loves discovering the unusual, unexpected and off-the-beaten-path.
Sustainable travel that considers local environment, culture and economy are important aspects of any destination. Mary’s interested and how sustainable practices are developed and implemented. Researching and developing arga-tours for travelers is a new and favored pursuit.
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