A rather unique property, situated on a large hill four miles outside of Murphys on Sheep Ranch Road, overlooks the manzanita-, pine- and oak-studded foothills of the Central Sierra. And it’s up for sale.
Since 2004, owners Mike and Mary Jo Macfarlane have run a high-end bed and breakfast out of the hilltop complex known as Querencia.
The couple designed, built and decorated the buildings, and have run the facility for years as cooks, hosts and staff. Now they have put it on the market.
“There’s a lot of maintenance involved, and we’re in our mid-70s, and it’s just too much, you know,” Mike Macfarlane said.
On the approach to the main building, it appears to be comprised of three separate small buildings perched on the top of the hill. But a closer inspection reveals a massive structure partially dug into the hillside.
“The property is 40 acres – 40-acre minimums up here. The house here, if we include our residence, is 8,500 square feet. It’s a little big. We built it with big aspirations,” Mike Macfarlane said. “Actually, it was a residence to begin with, and when our children moved farther away from us, we tried the bed and breakfast.”
Querencia was a dream come true for the Macfarlanes. They built it as their dream home, and it later allowed them to fulfil their dream of running a high-quality bed and breakfast.
Mike Macfarlane opened a door and called to his wife, but received no reply. “She’s somewhere else,” he said. “That’s one of the difficulties of this place. If you don’t know where the other person is, and they don’t carry their phone with them, they’re hard to get.”
The main entrance leads to a large staircase that curves around a massive rock waterfall feature and reflecting pond and drops into the great room. Abundant windows let in light and provide views of the surrounding countryside.
A heated concrete floor, designed to look like tile, stretches across the cavernous room from the show-kitchen to the large rock fireplace to the waterfall feature.
“All of the rock is off of our place,” Mike Macfarlane said.
An antique sleigh, purchased in Sonora, sits near the center of the room. “The only place you’ve seen a sleigh as an accent piece,” he said, smiling.
The great room was built of steel and ferroconcrete.
“What that gives is a really, really strong house. I mean, you could drive a D8 out on this,” Mike Macfarlane said. “The guy who built it used to build bridges, and has to measure things in fractions of an inch … He had this excitement of building the way he thought it would look good.”
Mike Macfarlane contributed much of his talents to building the structure as well.
“I put all of the electrical in it, two miles, and I’m not exaggerating,” he said.
Numerous glass fixtures light up the large room.
“A lot of the lights came from Chaos Glass,” he said. Chaos Glassworks produces handcrafted glass from its location in Sutter Creek.
A door from the main kitchen leads to the commercial kitchen. “We were the only bed and breakfast that was legal, that is to say we had a commercial kitchen for caterers to use it, or we could use it. We were licensed and inspected,” Mike Macfarlane said.
The game room sits in a hallway leading to four bedrooms used to house guests.
After joining the tour, Mary Jo Macfarlane approached a bookcase and pulled it back to reveal a hidden door to the wine cellar.
“We had the chance to do the hidden door, and this is 14 feet below grade, so there’s dirt behind this retaining wall,” she said.
Throughout the building, local goods are intermixed with exotic items that the couple and their family members acquired on their travels, including rugs from South Asia and Venetian masks.
“We have done a lot of traveling,” Mike Macfarlane said.
“We did more before we opened,” Mary Jo Macfarlane said, laughing.
Each of the oversized bedrooms has its own theme, and include fireplaces, bathrooms, patios and views of the countryside. Two of the showers, both eight feet in diameter, feature mosaics with local scenery.
Instead of a shower, the master bedroom contains a two-person jacuzzi tub, with a view overlooking Blue Mountain.
“This is where Mary Jo got tired of the round showers, so we built a bathtub with a view,” Mike Macfarlane said.
Almost every aspect of the building has a story to tell: the fountain that a local glassmaker made in exchange for the Macfarlanes hosting his wedding at Querencia; the twisted steel table that got its builder on the cover of Ironworker Magazine; the gate made by a former Disney set-builder from an old piano harp.
“(A lot of people) really enjoyed building this,” Mike Macfarlane said.
From the west, the free-form ferroconcrete gives the building a natural, stone-like appearance. A garden is situated down the hill, as well as a platform built into several oak trees.
A patio for outdoor cooking is placed a little further down the hillside. There is a pizza oven, a tandoor (Indian oven) and a regular barbecue grill.
Fire has been an understandable concern for the Macfarlanes since they purchased the land in 1989. In 1992, the Old Gulch Fire came close to wiping out all of the progress that they had made on Querencia.
“We were in the geographic center of the fire,” Mike Macfarlane said. “We had left on Sunday; saw a little plume of smoke and thought it was nothing. And then when we heard about it on the news, we called the spotter pilot, who is a friend of ours, and we said, ‘Is our place still standing?’ and she said, ‘Not only is it still standing, but you’ve got eleven engines around you. It’s the headquarters for fighting the fire.’ It was the command post for CDF.”
Another close call came in 2015. “The Butte Fire came within a mile of it. Fortunately, the wind shifted,” he said.
In addition to the main house, the property contains a cabin, a barn and a library. The tour ended with a visit to the library.
“I had about 10,000 books … now I have about 9,000,” Mike Macfarlane said.
One special section of the library contains books written by Mike Macfarlane and members of his family.
Mike Macfarlane has worked in software engineering since the late 1960s, and has written several books on the subject. Next to these are science fiction stories written by his father, and plays written by his mother.
A new addition to the collection was a book titled “Querencia,” by Mike and Mary Jo Macfarlane.
The book tells the story of acquiring the land, building the structures, and running a bed and breakfast at Querencia.
The final passage from the epilogue reads: “Querencia has been a long journey, full of accomplishment, family, friends, and recognition. And fun. We remember most the fun of it all, and the support, help, love and stories of people along the way. Remember to live whatever time you’ve got to the fullest. This is not a practice life. Don’t die with regrets. And be careful what you wish for – you may get it.”