Here at the Wine Down, we aren’t afraid to dream big. It’s not everyday that empty nesters leave their hometown to take on 2,100 acres of timber, cows, and hay farming as a “retirement” project as my parents did.
So when I uprooted my conventional post-college life to follow my feet on the Pacific Crest Trail, I wasn’t at all surprised that they led me back here to the Ochocos and the unreal beauty of the canyon right outside our front door. The landscape stole my heart. I had to jump in on my family’s ranching dream.
The thing about a really good dream is, it never comes easy! Even now with three sets of hands working on the ranch, we have more than enough work to fill our time. Happiness comes in the form of 300+ annual days of sunshine, green fields, healthy forests and a hard day’s work in the fresh high desert air. (Not to mention any excuse to chug along on a tractor!) This year, we take on a different kind of grassroots growth for the ranch: producing a festival!
Moonshadow Festival originated with my mother, Mary Beyer. When she agreed to become a rancher with my father, she also brought a vision of turning what was previously Demaris Ranch (named for the family that held the land for 3 generations) into a guest ranch. Married with her passion for wine (her Italian roots run deep) and her love of being an impeccable hostess (AirBnB reviews don’t lie), the Wine Down Ranch was born a destination for anyone looking to “wine down” and enjoy this beautiful slice of creation.
Toss in a major celestial event and the chance to share our land, and it felt like a vocation to celebrate the National solar eclipse in August with a festival that many can experience. I will take some credit, though. I DID come up with the name.
A great thing about tending land like this is, even when you have months of event preparation to cram into one dwindling summer, ranch work always needs doing when it needs doing. May is the start of our irrigation season, and though we got a boon with the wet winter, the water here never lasts too long. We need to capture what we can to produce the best hay for our livestock.
For us, that means preparing the ditch irrigation system that waters our fields. As we let the first waters run through the irrigation ditches while raking out the cattails, grass and debris, I was blessed by the sight of the water. We don’t take a gift like this for granted in the desert, and before we know it, it will be gone again ‘til next season. But for now, let it flow!
As the sun gets heavy on the horizon, I find myself gazing down at the beautiful slope that will soon provide the footing for our new friends and fellow eclipse-chasers to enjoy a weekend of sun, music, dancing, laughter and wonder. People will come together. Memories will be made here. Wild Ochocos as our backdrop, starry heavens our canopy, beauty will surround and move through us all.
Alia “Windsong” Beyer