What was life like on a Rancho?
Each estate was virtually self-sustaining. Any luxuries could be obtained by trading with ships at the port. When the ships were in the port, it was a time of great excitement. The hides and tallow were loaded on carretas and driven to the port. It was not unusual to have a captain come to Rancho for dinner. It was the custom to open your casa to a traveler. The families made their visitor feel welcome. They were not charged for the hospitality and could stay as long as they liked. Guests always entered through the front door.
There was an abundance of food, adequate shelter, a limited supply of cloth, lots of Indians, from the decaying missions. They were vaqueros. Many Indian families lived on the rancho in huts near the main adobe casa, others lived in rancherias, small villages scattered on the rancho.
The Indians also took care of the domestic chores. Some served as personal attendants while others were involved in food preparation, laundry, as well as spinning and sewing.
Washing was done at the springs, the women put home-made soap from tallow on the clothes, dipped them in the springs, and rubbed them on the smooth rocks until they were white again. Then they spread the clothes out on the tops of low brush to dry in the warm air. It was the pride of every Spanish family to own a lot of linen. Mothers and daughters always wore white. During the rainy season, laundry would pile up for several weeks, before the weather permitted a washday. Many times this became a family event where all came, washed, and socialized by enjoying a picnic or cookout.
Family life was one of dignity and ceremony as well as affection. Children were brought up to respect their elders. It was the privilege of the elder to correct or punish the young people. Each child was taught the history of the family and reverence toward religion. Although books were scarce, most homes had at least one, these were usually hand written. Children were not allowed to read novels until they were grown.
The mode of transportation was horse back or oxen driven carreta. A roughly made cart with two wheels without tires, many wheels were nearly one foot thick, a tongue was hitched to the oxen, usually lashed to the oxens horns, and stripped branches fastened with tule served as the frame work. The carts were low to the ground and could be mounted and dismounted without stopping the oxen. The axle was lubricated with soap, a bucket of soapsuds was always carried along. Generally, the carreta could travel about thirty miles a day.
Each rancho had its caballada or band of carefully trained horses. These horses were used by the vaqueros in the round up for roping and cutting out cattle. The California horses were from Moorish or Arab blood, they were small, finely formed, agile, and capable of incredible endurance. Herds of wild or unbroken horses roamed the ranchos, the caballada were chosen from there. The roundup of horses was called a recogida. The horses were driven into corral in groups of twenty to fifty where they were examined and parted.