Mike and Sally raised their three kids in Hawaii and were very happy there. But when her mother offered Sally the family ranch in Chileno Valley, she accepted the broken-down ranch and the challenge to bring it back to life. Mike and Sally left their rainforest community, canoe club, the opera, and many friends, and embarked on a journey to restore this 150-year-old family treasure.
Chileno Valley Ranch has been in Sally’s family since 1862, when her ancestors, Carlo Martinoiya and Katerina Traversi, bought it from Henry Halleck, who then moved back to Washington, DC to become President Abraham Lincoln’s Chief of Staff.
The restoration of the ranch presented Mike and Sally with a daunting task. A cow gate barred animals from entering the front entrance; the front door hung askew. There were holes in the roof, the ceilings and the floor. Bay windows were falling off the house without foundations. Foxes and raccoons were living in the house. Birds flew in and out. Teenagers from town left broken windows and punctured walls. In short, the house was a mess.
Mike and Sally began work in 1993. The fields were fenced and springs were developed to water the cattle. Electricity and water were brought to the house. Barns were repaired and a century of junk was removed.
By 1996, the house was restored and their cattle grazed the hills. The creeks were fenced and trees were planted in the enclosures. Gardens were developed around the house and an orchard was planted.
In 2004, two young musicians approached Mike and Sally about hosting a wedding at the ranch. This was a new idea, but the wedding was so successful and the couple so happy that they decided to pursue more weddings the following year. The number of weddings was kept small so Mike and Sally could engage in a more personal relationship with each of the families. This model has served everyone well; many happy couples have said their vows on the ranch to date.
The commitment and the relationships continue. Married couples keep in touch with Sally and Mike, bring their children to meet them, volunteer at the U-Picks, and have started coming to the ranch to celebrate their friendships with other married couples. Their children play together, running up and down the orchard rows and climbing the hay bales.
The revenues from hosting weddings has helped maintain several rose gardens, a greenhouse, perennial gardens, 17 varieties of apples, as well as contribute to the care of the sheep, chickens and cattle.
This old ranch will be here forever, thanks in part to the couples who choose Chileno Valley Ranch for their wedding ceremony.
Mike and Sally are delighted to offer couples the opportunity to get to know this incredible, heritage ranch, to share in its magic, and to contribute to its legacy.