and Sustainable Agriculture
Our objective with Marble Peaks Ranch is to be commendable stewards of our land. While we have legal ownership of the land, we view it as guardianship, with a responsibility to care for the land and its native inhabitants. We are committed to sustainable, low-impact agricultural practices appropriate to our remote rural property in northern California.
Sustainable agriculture on our ranch begins with irrigation. Our ranch employs traditional flood irrigation, which means that our water flow is powered by gravity, not by electric pumps. Our irrigation water is distributed through ditches we dig and maintain ourselves. This is manual labor, with shovels, rakes, and grass shears. Our water source is Miners Creek, a tributary of the Scott River. We installed and maintain a fish screen on Miners Creek to prevent native salmon and steelhead from being drawn into our irrigation ditch. To conserve water, we divert only the amount of water necessary to irrigate one primary pasture. In the late summer, in cooperation with the Scott River Water Trust, we cease irrigation and return our entire allocation of water to Miners Creek to enhance juvenile salmonid survival.
In managing our pasture, we rely on natural methods. We pull and cut weeds in the pasture by hand. We never apply chemical herbicides or pesticides on our pasture. To improve fertility, we cultivate nitrogen-fixing legume species and a utilize a harrow rake to distribute sheep and cow manure. We constructed cross-fencing on our primary pasture to divide it into four paddocks. We rotate livestock between paddocks to prevent overgrazing and optimize forage production.
Our goal is to operate our ranch with minimal impact on wildlife populations on our property and the adjacent National Forest land. In order to raise sheep in a environment with an abundance of wild predators, we rely on our Anatolian Shepherd Dogs to deter predators from entering the fenced pastures. The Anatolians patrol our pasture's boundaries day and night. Their physical presence, their barking, and their scent marking warns off coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, and black bears. By direct observation and detection of scat, we know these predators are active nearby, but they have never killed a sheep on our land. We make the additional effort to move our sheep inside our barn every night to further reduce risk.
We retain eighty-five percent of our 450 acre property in its natural state. The majority is forested with a mixed community of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, incense cedar, sugar pine, and black and white oak. We incorporated wildlife corridors into our fencing plan so that large mammals such as mule deer, Roosevelt elk, and black bear can safely cross the property without injuring themselves jumping fences. Our ranch sustains over a mile of thriving riparian habitat along Miners Creek. We created a seasonal wetland that serves as a successful breeding location for Pacific tree frogs and Western toads each spring. The forest, woodland, and riparian habitats on Marble Peaks Ranch support an array of California wildlife including black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, gray fox, raccoon, striped skunk, Roosevelt elk, mule deer, black-tailed hare, porcupine, western gray squirrel, California ground squirrel, golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, great horned owl, wild turkey, California quail, mourning dove, great blue heron, mallard duck, common merganser, American crow, Stellar's jay, scrub jay, black-billed magpie, cliff swallow, acorn woodpecker, downey woodpecker, northern flicker, killdeer, western meadowlark, western bluebird, American robin, Pacific diamondback rattlesnake, gopher snake, garter snake, rubber boa, western fence lizard, alligator lizard, western skink, western pond turtle, and many more.