By Katherine Minkiewicz
Waking up early on a cool, crisp morning, sitting and waiting for the coffee to brew listening to the drip, drip of the coffee maker and pulling on a pair of old black boots to begin her day of chores at the Crossroads Ranch is one of Kristine Sheets Stewart’s favorite ways to enjoy her day. However, the Penngrove resident’s work in several community volunteer projects is also one of her favorite ways to busy herself and make a difference in the neighborhood.
Stewart who grew up not far from Penngrove in Lucas Valley, Marin County, volunteers for not only Sonoma County Regional Parks, but also volunteers for Mentor Me, a Petaluma based nonprofit that helps at-risk children achieve their best with after school mentors. She also devotes time for allowing local kids to visit the ranch and enjoy watching the plethora of animals.
The kind and bright eyed animal lover also plays host to Jessica’s Haven, a San Rafael nonprofit that works with bringing special needs adults together with rescue dogs. Stewart lets the program come to the ranch so that participants and their dogs have a wide open space to play and enjoy the green pastures. She also is the horse leader for the Penngrove Club for the horse project of Sonoma County.
Most recently, Stewart also played a big role in helping rescue trapped farm animals in burn zones during the October wildfires, making multiple trips with her trailer to help retrieve all sorts of farm animals from horses to sheep and goats.
“We hooked up the trailer and would get dispatched into different areas and I did that for two weeks,” Stewart said.
She estimates to have rescued around 20 animals during the week of the fire. She also purchased $500 worth of hay at a local feed store and donated it to the Santa Rosa fairgrounds where many of the evacuated farm animals were being held.
Stewart also talked about her other volunteer duties and how she became involved in the community.
“I volunteer for the Mounted Assistant Unit (at Sonoma County Regional Parks) and what we do is wear a vest and a helmet and ride into the park and go for about two hours up to Taylor Mountain and help anybody who’s lost or needs help with trails. We also report any damage on trails or if there are downed trees,” Stewart explained outside her barn on a sunny Monday. “And for Mentor Me, I do it at Penngrove School and I also privately mentor a student at the school.”
And in regards to letting kids come and tour the five-acre property, Stewart said, “The kids will come out and spend time with the animals, horses and sheep and just get a chance to see everyone.” Stewart likes to have the local families come out to enjoy the variety of animals, the lush grass with its sweet scent and the peaceful environment.
Yet among her countless volunteer activities, she also has to devote time to carrying out her daily duties that come along with raising sheep and maintaining a working ranch. The sheep are either raised for meat or for pasture pets for those who have a lot of land and are interested in sheep. She also gets fresh eggs from her various chickens and vegetables from their garden, which her husband tends to.
Stewart’s day starts around 6:30 a.m. when she gets up for the morning feeding of her animals in her pajamas, hat and down jacket.
“I do my rounds and feed the horses first and let my chickens out, get my feed in a wheelbarrow and feed all the moms (ewes) grain and some hay and make sure everybody is nursing and healthy (Stewart’s Suffolk sheep ewes gave birth to several lambs around two weeks ago) and turn them out (into the pasture). Around 4 or 5 p.m. I put them inside for the night to be safe from the coyotes,” Stewart said.
How does she have time to run the property and commit time to all her volunteer efforts? According to Stewart, she has to carefully balance her busy schedule. In the spring she will devote time to the Mounted Assistant Unit and helps with the kids in Mentor Me on Sundays and will allow kids to visit the ranch weekday’s afterschool and on Saturdays.
“I’m always looking for something to do and someone to help,” Stewart said
Before moving to Penngrove, Stewart spent time nannying for a Marin family, raising her children and working at a drugstore in Lucas Valley. However, she says she has always loved animals and wanted a farm ever since she was a little girl.
But what drives her to give back to the community and work endlessly, is her passionate spirit and wanting to make the most out of life after overcoming several life challenges such as cancer and Type 2 Diabetes. From Stewart you get the sense that what also drives her is the goal of showing kindness to others and letting others benefit from the serenity of the ranch — its tranquil sounds of frogs, crickets and sheep and appreciating the simple things in life.
“I am the animal girl. My mom told my husband when we met, just warning you, she brings home everything,” which can be said about her array of animals and array of volunteer work and people that come to her home to just be outside.