1877, January 1 Very dry, no rain for 7 weeks…people are expecting a drought, and people are becoming uneasy. (Excerpt is from William James Pleasants’ journal, as are the rest of the bolded texts)

As so it is today…and with the exception of 2017, we’ve experienced a few years of hard droughts with the walnut trees suffering from drought complications. Many trees will have to be removed. Evaluations of the property continue and will help determine the best use for the ranch’s land.

And yet, good things come out of hard times such as a grant awarded to develop a natural spring that could provide water for not only cattle but wildlife and the fauna as well. In the spring’s ‘development,’ a backhoe was digging out the area in preparation for a spring box when a wood tunnel was discovered that went back into the mountainside 40 feet. Entries from WJ Pleasants’ Journal confirmed the finding. 1883, October 12 I cut a frame for the tunnel.  10/24/83 Chinese laborers and I worked on the spring and finished the spring part and tunnel part, having timbered up 40 feet in good shape. Wood is in perfect condition and no nails were used in its 40 foot long construction. The tunnel was preserved and the spring now supplies water to a holding tank that feeds a watering trough. A ramp was put into the trough to allow any animals that decided to take a dip, a way to escape. This completed endeavor fulfilled two of our goals, that being to help conserve land and waterways and to provide a habitat for wildlife and native plants.

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Spring tunnel

Victorian foundation mortaring

Solar array installs

October and November entries of 1885 detail cutting of the foundation stone for the Victorian home, with the following entry in on Nov. 14: Mr. Ball came up and showed us what length to cut the stone for the foundation of my house, and he advised us to get it out any length without any regard to where the stone was to go except under the bay window. Several Chinese workers did a lot of the cutting. On Dec. 23rd: “Mr. Thurber and Clinton finished cutting stone today, having worked a total of 73 days getting out making in all 118 days at $2 a day for a total of $236. (The stone we think either came from this property or from Putah Canyon).

The Victorian home’s stone foundation is still in excellent shape. This past fall, some of the stones were leveled and loose mortar was removed and replaced. Also, couple of Porch railings were reinforced and a few tongue and groove flooring boards were replaced.

With no electrical nor central heat and air, in a crisp November air, WJ Pleasants’ first born child’s wedding, November 7, 1877…commenced at 7 PM and (lasted) until 3:30 AM (!)

Can’t imagine a celebration in November that went way into the night with no electricity! So, as the ranch went from candles, to lanterns, to carbide gas fueled lights, to electricity, and the ranch has now launched into the 21st century with the installation of a solar array by Sunworks.

In the past three years, the Joyful Ranch Foundation has hosted joyous occasions (with electricity!) such as a First Northern Bank mixer, the Solano Land Trust’s annual Sunday supper, and a baby shower. A few other events were held, including a third grade class studying California Indians and a Fortnightly Club of Winters learning about ranch history.

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3rd grade class

Fortnightly Club

Foreman’s cottage

June, 1877 I went over to Horse Creek to see about building a shanty for the sheepherder. I came home at noon and picked apricots. Vacaville burned down today. …WJ keeps it short!

So, not building a shanty, but restoring a foreman’s cottage that was built around 1899 will be our next focus for maintaining historic buildings, yet another one of the 13 buildings on the National and State Historic Registers. It is currently in the review and evaluation stage for this restoration and is located near the historic buggy horse barn that was restored five years ago.

As WJ Pleasants raised and harvested apricots (and numerous crops), and as one of our goals is to promote agriculture, the best use of the land is a continuing search with cattle currently grazing the countryside and bees buzzing at their hives. Well-water samples are being tested, and the results will help determine the next planting …could be almonds, walnuts or, maybe even apricots.

Likewise, we experienced a fast moving fire in 2015 that moved quickly with mandatory evacuations in place. Some pastureland burned, but no buildings and no lives were lost. This past year the fires in Santa Rosa posed no immediate threat, but voluntary evacuations were in order. We are so grateful for the first responders who made it safe for us.

Dec. 31, 1911 This is the last day of the year, my little book….May your silent little pages some sweet day in the future be read by someone who has not forgotten the writer though he is in heaven. Always embrace the past as we look to the future, as the future begins with the present.  And, as WJ Pleasants kept a diary each year, our ongoing project is writing the history of this ranch. Hopefully this endeavor will be completed within the next two years. So things have changed since 1877, and yet many things are the same: joyous times, challenging times, times of opportunities, times of work, and times that give pause for all the blessings we have.

By preserving historic buildings, securing habitat for wildlife and nature plants, conserving land and waterways, supporting agriculture, and maintaining scenic vistas, we constantly strive to embrace and preserve the rich history of this ranch and provide a place for spiritual renewal. As the future begins with the present, we, the Joyful Ranch Foundation, thank you for your encouragement and support!

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