This is Rancho Venada, and for all its isolation and ostensible inhospitality, it is the place that this state’s governor, Jerry Brown, is gravitating to as he approaches the end of his 50-year career in politics. These 2,514 wind-swept acres have been owned by the Brown family for almost 150 years, since the governor’s great-grandfather August Schuckman, a German immigrant, traveled to central California on a wagon train.
For the past year, Mr. Brown, 77, and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, have adopted this land as something of a mission. They sleep in the tiny cabin many weekends, rebuilding barns piled with garbage and pockmarked with bullet holes, organizing family reunions and laying plans to create a library here documenting the history of the ranch and this politically storied family. They may even live here after his term ends in 2019.