McFarland Ranch near Galt. Any ideas and
On April Fools Day 2000 the Union newspaper ran an
their senior section about us and our sawmill. That morning Mr. Kylie, a
free lance writer who used to write for the LA Times, read the
article and called us for an interview. He hoped to write a story about us
for a magazine. Very fitting...on April fools day? Whether or not it was a
joke, we spent about an hour with him and then went back to getting ready
to move to a job near Galt. Mel figured it would
take about a week to complete. He pulled the sawmill (and
supplies) behind his pickup and I drove the small RV we'd be staying in.
Somehow the Galt Historical Society (and Sacramento
County) found out we had a portable sawmill and needed one to
mill some timbers into corral boards. They were restoring the
old John McFarland Ranch. The plan was to make it a "living
ranch" to show school children and tourists where and how milk,
cheese, butter, eggs etc. are made. While rural people might
shake their heads in disbelief, the origin of most products has
been largely overlooked by masses of city dwellers who take
these basic foods for granted. Since they come from the
supermarket, who needs ranchers and farmers.
The timbers for milling came from the old Alta Mesa
Bridge that had been torn down. Mel loaded the pickup and towed
the sawmill, while I drove the motor home to the McFarland ranch
where we stayed until the job was finished.
The old house was pretty big, but the most interesting things were
the high ceilings and tall doors. The stairway below was fairly attractive, but steep.
They left the door open for us to use the bathroom if we
wanted, but old, musky deserted houses are very spooky,
especially after dark....Doubly so when you are married to a
joker who likes to say "boo!" in the dark. All I had for
light was a small flashlight that didn't cover much area.
Getting even was fun.
During the day I had the feeling of being watched...and
it wasn't long before I discovered why. No, the place wasn't
haunted. I caught glimpses of many little heads peering
through the tall weeds in the walnut and oak trees behind the
There were dozens of ground squirrels, and a family of several little cotton-tail rabbits cavorting on the lawn.
A lonely butterfly enjoying this fragrant lilac
The grounds had many great old trees that provided
welcomed shade for the mill and men working with the lumber. Mel
had the sawmill running promptly at 7:am every morning and kept
it running steady for 10 hours a day...with a half hour off for
lunch. Most of the steady helpers were volunteers from the Galt
Historical Society, and around our age. Towards the end of the
week I mentioned to Charlie (off bearing lumber) that at first
it feels like you're going to die, but before you know it you
feel great. He said he was still waiting for the great part.
Ron Jacobson, Charles Freeman and Earl Gieger.
Ron moved the timbers and milled lumber with his tractor. Mel commented that another week of this routine would drive him nuts. He prefers variety and change of scenery.
These were the timbers to be milled and below are
the corral boards.
John McFarland was a 49er gold miner who brought the
first running water (by flume) into Placerville. In 1852
he bought 1,800 acres near the Cosumnes river (eventually
totaling 2,000), where he became a successful rancher and grain
farmer. He named the city of Galt after his former home town in
Canada. His heir, Beatrice Orr Smithson bequeathed the ranch to
the Nature Conservancy with the understanding that the old home
would not be destroyed. Although the conservancy kept the land
bordering the Cosumnes River, it sold 105 acres with the house
to the Sacramento County Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
That's when we came into the story. It was an
interesting experience with nice people who exposed us to
more California history. The McFarland Ranch is
considered a "Living History" ranch that will provide a tangible
way for visitors to learn about farming as it was in pioneer
days, and times in history that are no more.
(Friday October 17, 2008)
Today we received a wonderful
email from Donna Mann (the
great grand niece of John McFarland) who added some welcomed
history, and a family photo of their last Thanksgiving in Galt.
What a delightful surprise!