By JUDY SHERARD
STOCKTON -- When Carrol and Marian Conyac married in 2001, Marian told her husband that if he deeded her some acreage, she would put up a home there for the two of them.
Carrol Conyac, a life-long resident of Rooks County, deeded a 3.5 acre tract nestled in the hills south of Stockton to his bride.
"I built the home, and it was so peaceful out here, I thought I'm going to landscape and make it so pleasant that people from the big cities could just come and relax and enjoy the quiet of country living."
Under the Sons Bed and Breakfast welcomed its first guest in May 2003.
When Marian Conyac started, "it looked like an abandoned farm. It's only because of God that I'm here. I said if He would enable me to do this bed and breakfast, then I would honor Him. So that's how the name originated."
Carrol Conyac died in 2013, and Marian's sister, Joni Godenir, came from Canada.
"She's been living with me since, and I would never been able to make it (without her) because we were having baby goats in that cold, cold December, January and February."
Besides goats Under the Sons is home to a llama, guineas, donkeys, goats, chickens, four dogs and a lamb named Sweet Pea.
"Two sisters and four dogs is what we ought to call this place," Conyac joked.
Conyac and her sister live on the main floor of the house, and the walkout basement gives bed and breakfast guests their own space and entrance.
"It has a country charm," Conyac said. "It's nothing fancy, but it's very comfortable."
Some of the decor came from auctions, and some are family pieces.
"I don't keep up with the styles. I just buy what I like," Conyac said of the homey atmosphere she created.
With its wood burning stove, the family room provides a cozy spot for relaxing. The music and game room has space for groups to gather.
Each of the three bedrooms is decorated in a theme -- the cowboy room, the Oriental room and the Southwest room.
There's also a bath and "ultra micro-mini kitchen," Conyac said.
Some hunters who were B'n'B guests, cleaned the birds they had shot in the bathroom sink.
"That made me nauseous," she said.
So she converted the storage space into a kitchen area.
Conyac said she did most of the landscaping herself. Before his death, Carrol Conyac drove a semi and often was gone, so "the Lord and I did 98 percent of it."
The heat and drought have taken a toll.
"The water table was so low, you had to decide do you want a nice lawn, or do you want water out of your tap, so I just let it die," Conyac said.
At one point Conyac "turned on one of my hydrants, and sand was coming out. That was very scary."
Recent rains have improved the landscape.
"You can water, and it just barely keeps it alive," Conyac said. "When God sends the rain, it becomes the oasis."
The bed and breakfast is down in a valley, and Robert's Roost Creek nearby adds to the pastoral setting.
Guests "can come out here and not hear cars whizzing by," Conyac said. "All they wake up to is the crowing of the rooster and the braying of the donkeys."
Clematis tumbles over a fence, and roses, black-eyed Susans and marigolds bloom in flower gardens tucked away along the pathways.
"I would be sitting; then I'd get an idea and implement it." she said,
Besides the flower gardens, Joni Godenir has an herb garden.
She also helps with the livestock, especially the chickens.
"Those are my little ladies," Godenir said.
"They love her because, boy, they lay a lot of eggs for her. She goes out and talks to them," Conyac said.
Conyac recently began work on a 10-by-10-foot structure with a 14-foot overhang that was intended to be a chicken house.
"As it progressed, people said that's too nice for a chicken house, so it's going to turn into a bunk house for overflow (guests)," she said.
The bunkhouse will be insulated and have a screened porch, an area where guests can barbecue and a courtyard.
The number of guest bookings varies throughout the year, but the rustic atmosphere is popular with wedding guests and hunters alike.
Owning and operating a bed and breakfast keeps you tied down, Conyac said, but that really doesn't bother her.