Cool Ranch: This Family's Animal Farm Will Make You Want to Move to Southern California

Malloy homestead
Victoria Pearson

It was the early days of the pandemic when Lauren Malloy's father, a Vermont physician, called his daughter in California to urge her and her husband, Keith, to stock up on supplies. "Like any loving dad, he was worried about us," says Lauren, who had just given birth to the couple's third child, Clay. "I said, 'Dad, remember where we live? We're better prepared than most!'"

Indeed, the Malloys, who call four acres in bucolic Santa Barbara County home, were already remarkably self-sufficient. They had a cow (and therefore fresh milk on tap), chickens (for eggs and the occasional roaster), pigs (more meat), and a vegetable garden teeming with kale, cabbages, herbs, and much more. And in the kitchen, Lauren even had a soon-to-be-coveted quarantine staple: a trusty sourdough starter. "If I was worried about running out of anything," she recalls, "it was probably toilet paper."

Not that Lauren and Keith claim to be "real" farmers. "We don't make money from the farm," says Lauren, who is a partner in Women's Heritage, a brand celebrating modern homesteading. "We're more like hobbyists." Married since 2010, Lauren and Keith both grew up with a passion for the outdoors. Lauren worked at a neighbor's dairy barn as a teen in Vermont and went on to study animal science and work in wildlife rescue. Keith, a native of Ojai, California, grew up surfing, riding, fishing, and hunting. Along with two of his siblings, he's now a filmmaker and one of the celebrated trio of Malloy brothers who've been surf influencers since the 1990s. Twelve years ago, the couple moved to Gaviota, a locale they chose not only for its close proximity to the ocean, but for its "wild, wide-open spaces," perfect for raising a young family in tune with the rhythms of nature. And it's here that their children—Milly, June, and Clay—are growing up alongside not only cows, pigs, and chickens, but also four horses, one miniature mule, three dogs, and a cat.

Lauren's enthusiasm for back-to-the-roots living was the impetus behind Women's Heritage, the venture she started as a lifestyle blog in 2016 with two friends, Emma Rollin Moore and Ashley Moore, sharing advice on animal husbandry, cooking, fermenting, crafting, and herbalism. Two brick-and-mortar Heritage Goods & Supply shops (where you can take weaving classes or buy live baby chicks) followed, as well as a book, The Women's Heritage Sourcebook ($35, Of course, some might merely dabble in this ultra-DIY world, or see it as a passing thing. But for the Malloys, it's no flash in the pan. "I'd rather buy feed than a new pair of shoes," Lauren says. "And I love that when the kids have friends over, I can tell them, 'Go out and play with the animals.'"

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Range Rovers

Malloy family and farmhouse
Victoria Pearson

Built in the 1980s and renovated in 2014, five years after they moved in, Keith and Lauren Malloy's red-wood-sheathed farmhouse sits on four acres in rural Gaviota, California. A 35-minute drive from the nearest store, their property also has a barn, a pig house, and a chicken coop. Here, the couple with their children, June, 6; Clay, 1; and Milly, 10, who's seated astride Trigger, their quarter pony.

02 of 12

Cast of Characters

white calf
Victoria Pearson

Sugar, the Malloys' newest calf, strikes a pose in the barn.

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Keith and Clay

Keith and baby Clay
Victoria Pearson

Keith, a professional surfer, and baby Clay show off their innate balancing skills.

04 of 12

Please Come In

Milly riding horse
Victoria Pearson

Milly and Trigger greet Moose, one of the family's three dogs, at the front door.

05 of 12

Care and Feeding

basket of chard
Victoria Pearson

Lauren carries a basket of just-picked chard, cabbages, and radishes from the garden.

06 of 12


red piglet
Victoria Pearson

Milly hand-feeds Flame, a three-month-old piglet.

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Ruler of the Roost

barred Plymouth Rock chicken
Victoria Pearson

A barred Plymouth Rock chicken, one of 10 birds in the family's flock, struts her stuff.

  • How to Raise Backyard Chickens
08 of 12

Egg Duty

Milly and June chicken coop
Victoria Pearson

Milly and June handle egg duty at the coop. The Malloys don't employ any farmhands, so Milly feeds all the horses every morning before school, June collects the eggs and feeds the dogs and cats, and Keith and Lauren do everything else: "A lot of it involves cleaning poop," says Lauren with a laugh.

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Land of Plenty

Malloy family picnic
Victoria Pearson

The family spreads out for a picnic bursting with ingredients grown or raised on their land, from the greens in the salad to the beef (from cattle the Malloys keep on a separate property) in the carne-asada tacos.

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Sweet Stuff

jars of honey
Victoria Pearson

Jars of honey from the Malloys' beehives stand next to homegrown Swiss chard.

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Tortilla Time

Milly and Lauren press tortillas
Victoria Pearson

Milly and Lauren press corn tortillas in the kitchen.

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Queso Fresco

queso fresco and jun tea
Victoria Pearson

Queso fresco, which Lauren made from a Farm-Steady kit sold at Heritage Goods & Supply stores, and jun tea, a fermented beverage containing green tea and lots of raw honey, are ready to serve; the tea recipe can be found at

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