“Somehow, I always end up holding the nut bucket,” explains Keith Malloy while giving a tour of the 200-acre Malloy ranch dubbed J2. “Branding, castrating, tagging, giving them shots—it seems like a pretty cruel thing, but they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.” The “nut bucket” Keith always gets to hold is the receptacle bulls’ balls fall into after being castrated. Ah, the life of a rancher.
Located almost an hour north of Santa Barbara, the ranch is the real deal, not some greenhorn yuppie imposter. There are the aforementioned cattle, a small lake stocked with rainbow and brown trout—including a behemoth named Moby Dick that only older brother Chris and ranch hand Adrian have caught (they practice catch and release)—every type of fruit tree imaginable, and gardens loaded with potatoes, Maui onions, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelon to name a few. “At one time or another, depending upon the season, there’s everything out here,” states Keith.[IMAGE 1]
Upon entering the single-story ranch-style house, the first decorations encountered are four animals “sleeping” on the wall. A coyote, opossum, raccoon, and rabbit were all the victims of “blood poisoning” according to family patriarch Mike Malloy, as he glances over toward a shotgun and rifle casually leaning against a wall. “We’re animal lovers around here,” claims Mike, “we love to eat ‘em.” Animal-rights activists can begin writing their letters now.
Although the ranch is located just a couple of hours from mega-city Los Angeles, it feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle. There are no close freeways, few cars pass by, and the nearest neighbors live almost a mile away. In fact, the only man-made noise comes from the military helicopters that infrequently fly over. And no, this isn’t some landlocked, surf-free ranch, either—fifteen minutes away are world-class waves, which the brothers Malloy love to rip apart.
“If I’m home for a month, I’ll spend half the time up here,” says Keith. Not only an idyllic retreat for the boys, the ranch has been home to some awesome miniature music festivals with the Malloys and friends such as Jack Johnson playing tunes well into the night and retiring into tents at the end of the festivities. This August, Chris is getting married at the ranch on a platform above the small lake, basically the most serene place imaginable. If you want to visit this California slice of heaven, next time you see Keith Malloy, tell him you’ve got a nut bucket and aren’t afraid to hold it.—J.C.