Hi Hines Family!

Ali and I were really sad not to make it to the family reunion out in CO this year.  We've already blocked off the calendar for next year so count on seeing us then, if not before for some of you!

We have a fun story:

A few months ago all the Beck boys, our wives, mom and dad, and Grandma were in Santa Barbara having breakfast.  Somehow Highland Ranch came up so we started to reminisce about all the old stories we had on that particular piece of land (Tom breaking through the trampoline, le Tour de Ranch, Char (or was it Tom?) diving in the frog pond, flipping the blue dock, putting crawdads in Dave's bed, me screaming like a little girl after Dave tried to get revenge...and of course all the wonderful memories sitting around the fire playing music, sharing meals, and being together as family).  We wondered what happened to The Ranch after it changed ownership so we looked it up.  The property was renamed Blackbird Farms and they had a website and a phone number.  Well, last week I called them...

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...and a couple days ago Ali and I drove up to see what Blackbird Farms was all about.  We were greeted by staff all under the age of 35, with the manager being in her mid 20's.  This was a shock to me because I didn't picture a bunch of young 20 somethings running a guest ranch.  It turns out a lot has changed.

Blackbird Farms is a guest ranch but with roughly half of the rentable cabins available compared to when we were there.  The rest of the cabins have to be staff housing to maintain the farm, yes the farm, they now have on the property.  The new owners of the property started a homeschooling program that is country wide.  Nine months out of the year the farm is used to teach students who are at risk of not graduating (hence all the young staff/teachers).  The students learn all about the importance of gardening, eating healthy, and the value of being outside.  Some students they bring in have never spent a night away from home, let alone milked a goat or, in rare cases, walked on dirt roads.  The homeschooling program sends students here who need five more credits to graduate and they can receive those five credits by staying at the ranch for 11 days.  We thought this was a pretty cool idea!

The manager gave us a full tour of the property (this felt a little pointless but I remained happy sitting in the back of the John Deer golfcart as I breathed in the old ranch dust) and then, as we were about to say goodbye, I asked if we could park our van for the night  and camp (expecting a "that is against our policy" talk) to which we received an enthusiastic, "Yes!  Just stay by the pool, use all the facilities, jump in the hot tub, whatever!"  I asked what we had to pay and she insisted that we didn't but if we wanted breakfast it would be five dollars each.  So generous!!

Ali and I had a wonderful time picking vegetables and fruit from their Certified Organic garden, making dinner, listening to the crickets and frogs, and watching deer lay in the grass a stones throw from us.  I've included a few more photos below  as well as a couple pictures of Great Grandma's tree, which I am so happy to report is alive and well :).

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Not much has changed on the inside or outside!  The manager told us they have a box of old photographs that were left on the walls and by the windows.  I asked, if the box were ever gone through, that our old family photo could be taken out and sent to one of us.  Also, no more tennis court!

(this is a gallery bellow so you can click to navigate through the photos)

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This was their newest cabin.  It went in place of the one the Beck family stayed it after it burnt down.  My question is, why didn't we get THIS cabin the whole time??

(this is a gallery bellow so you can click to navigate through the photos)

Blackbird Farms added a pool house with two showers, an outdoor kitchen, a pizza oven, a garden, and....

(this is a gallery bellow so you can click to navigate through the photos)

...a HOTTUB in the middle of that gnasty poop pond.

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Here is where Ali and I slept.

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Naturally I had to fish the lake.  Ali took another great photo of Great Grandma's Tree.

(this is a gallery bellow so you can click to navigate through the photos)

We had a wonderful time and will definitely be going back to stay a few nights!  Unfortunately it looks like they can't provide the amount of housing we need to make something work for our whole family but it sounds like Colorado had a nice thing going for it!    We are excited for next year!

Love you!  Hopefully this sparks some fun memories for you all :)

-Sid & Ali

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I've made all the photos downloadable at this link: http://sidandali.passgallery.com/-TheNewHighlandRanch

Just in case any of you wanted one of GGma's tree :)