The original pioneer home is still there with a 100-year-old Eucalyptus growing next to and through it. All of the buildings from the early bunk house, to the late 1800’s 2-story Victorian home, are still standing and are now just beginning to be renovated. With this renovation comes change.
Judy Butler bought this ranch 30 years ago (1979) and raised her two daughters here. Along with the farm animals came dogs. When Judy began to accumulate sheep, she started working her Rottweiler, Matisse, on stock dog skills. They both had such a good time that she started entering sheep herding trials. Up until May 2007 this ranch was used for many sheep herding trials that various dog clubs sponsored – AKC trials, ASCA, French Herding and the German style HGH - Herdengebrauchshund. Judy is considered an authority on the skills of stock dog herding and offers stock dog training to people and their dogs.
This may seem like a romantic place, and it is in some ways. However, running this ranch is a 7-day-a -week job, 24 hours a day job. There are dangers from wildlife, as well as the nouveau riche buying adjacent properties that do not understand the delicate environmental complexities of this peaceful place.
Sometime in 1982, prior to Ansel Adams death, he drove up Stage Road and stopped to photograph the ancient eucalyptus tree that stands near the Victorian house. Morley Baer was assisting Ansel and helped set up his camera. Ansel Adams spent some time photographing this tree and then did some work in her barns. He was very elderly at this time.
It has been our great privilege over the last 12 years to become Judy’s friends and to have the opportunity to photograph this ranch during all its seasons. Donnasue also got the sheep-herding bug and has trained our German Shepherds and my Rottie, Sunny (whose grandma is Judy).
Willowside Ranch is truly a special place and hopefully will be preserved and treasured before too many modern renovations destroy the historical value of this ranch.