As the owner of more than 25 wonderful trail horses and one of the lucky women who can live their dream life, I must say that riding horses is only a small part of the ranch life I love.  My ranching dream life is largely equestrian, but is still better described when also including components of self-reliance, rural living, gardening, animal husbandry, home-making, and more.

culinary skills developed at the dude ranch

gardening, canning, home-crafting, all part of a complete ranch experience

Our dude ranch guests come to the ranch to also experience the “Western Life”.  They love everything about the ranch and are hungry to experience all the different and varied aspects of Western/Frontier living.  Many of them own their own horses or have access to horses in their daily lives.  What they don’t have is access to are all the many other experiences that come with living rural and western.  While living this remotely is not for everyone, I find that most of our guests at least love the dream and concept of remote rural life and enjoy the opportunity to just give it a shot for a short period.

So what’s so great about frontier rural living you ask?  I think it is different things to different people but for me it is the ability to live a more full life.  Granted some might think our life is too full of physical demands, but we are never bored.  Everyday brings new challenges, new experiences, new opportunities to stretch and grow, and plenty of opportunity for feeling the joy of a life well lived.

While most of our guests do come to the ranch for the opportunity to ride horses in our magnificent surroundings, they also come to enjoy the thrill of rafting down a wild and scenic river where they often get the opportunity to see things like Bear, Deer, Elk, and Eagles in their natural habitat.  They also come to try their hand at frontier skills such as shooting, archery, and throwing tomahawks.  Our guests leave the ranch with a connect to our western heritage, and a better understanding of traditional western frontier skills that our ancestors needed for routine survival.

Bear Cubs in a tree

seeing wildlife in a natural setting is a good reason to visit a rural western ranch

We find that many of our guests choose to come to Marble Mountain Ranch because of the wide array of activities we offer, but then really fall in love with the ranch because of the ranch life style.   Living remotely means we have no public utilities available.  Little things like power and water that our guests take for granted in their city lives take on a whole new meaning here at the ranch.  We work everyday to generate our own power using an environmentally sound hydro-electric plant and to purify our own water using large slow sand filters.  It’s the best tasting water anywhere and we don’t depend on municipalities to bring it to us!

Here at the ranch we still practice the old pioneer skills of planting, harvesting, and canning/drying what is needed for the winter.  We keep two large organic fruit and vegetable gardens as well as approximately 60 fruit and nut trees.  The constant pruning and garden tending can be daunting, but our harvest is a rewarding payback.   Our guests are always welcome to lend a hand in the gardens and have the opportunity on one of the afternoons to try their hand at canning, baking, juicing or outdoor cooking.

Branding is an important herd management task with western cattle ranchers and we use this tradition as an opportunity to connect ranching “dudes” with this tradition.  We do this by teaching our guests the branding tradition, using an authentic forge but they brand cedar wood planks (not animals) to create a sign for their home.  The kids really enjoy making signs with their names for their rooms, dads brand signs for their wine cellars, and moms brand street signs for their home and every other conceivable purpose.

Living on the Western frontier meant living a life of self-reliance.  There is now a strong movement to preserve and teach these often forgotten skills of “cowboy self-reliance”.   We take pride in sharing much of what we know from our rural ranch life.  In addition to growing a good deal of the fruits and vegetable that we need, we also raise chicken for their eggs, harvest honey from our own beehives, grow healing herbs and lavender for use in our homemade salves and in original cooking recipes.

Honey Bees on the farm

Honey bees, part of a self reliant rural life-style

At the end of a long day our ancestors did not have a television to get lost in.  Instead, they spent time talking around their fire, playing games with their families, sharing musical talents, and of course taking time to dance!  Enjoying all that life had to offer was the joy and blessing of life in the American west.  Although they loved their horses, especially when they needed to travel great distances or work cattle, they spent more of their time working with their hands, staying close with their families, and also helping their fellow rural neighbors raise the new barn.

We hope you can join us and share a piece of the western frontier life both on and off the back of a horse.

Heidi Cole