Thursday, September 4, 2008

Joni's Impressions

The item below is what Joni wrote to a friend of hers. It's fun to see Joni's impressions of our new life. Thought I'd post it, as I like the writing:

We had a no-car day on Labor Day, taking a wonderful hike to the bottom of the canyon we sit atop - the West Branch of the Feather River features some of the most challenging, and difficult to reach, white water kayaking in the country (during spring). At low summer flow it is absolutely spectacular, with weirdly shaped boulders carved by high water, deep clear pools filled with trout, shallows for wading with plenty of rocks to skip. The pup leaped right into the river and swam around joyously, but we decided to just wade and save the deeper swimming for when the girls have become stronger swimmers - never know about hidden currents. We had the entire canyon to ourselves - a National treasure in our 'backyard.' It was about a 6-mile round trip hike along dusty roads through tragically scorched forest (our neighborhood sits in a 'mohawk' of green atop the ridge - all the more miraculous after seeing how hot the fire burned all along the west side of ridge, as well as the east.) We were proud of both girls doing the entire hike without any whining. The uphill was long and dusty, but we made it! I'm so grateful to be able to handle day hikes - can't wait to explore more around here.

To answer your questions: Yes, the girls are with us, at least for another year. Their attorney recommended such, and Belinda/Malcolm dropped their efforts to end the guardianship. The girls miss their parents and would like to live with either of them eventually, but for now they are enjoying rural life, for the most part (it will be easier when we have a bit more space - 320 sq ft is too little for 4!) They are enjoying their new school (Jazzy's in grade 2 and Kylie, 3rd) and making many friends - a hurdle they were concerned about. They have a long bus ride (1 hour each way) to school, but like the time to socialize. They go to the pool with school MWF and I take them to Oroville for gymnastics on T and Th afternoons - an amazingly well-equipped gym!

One neighbor couple are raising their grandkids, too, along with alpacas, pot-bellied pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, turtles...the girls enjoy visiting and playing there often. We'll be getting a couple of goats soon to help with brush control and to provide some milk and cheese, plus they will hopefully give Angel (our Lab pup) some companionship once I start picking up some substitute teaching work - decided that would be a good way for me to wade back into the work world and get to know the schools and community a bit better.

We continue to be amazed at the variety of human culture here in this rural place: red-neck 'white trash,' Rastafarians, Christian fundamentalists awaiting the Rapture, retired laborers, marginally 'disabled' folks of all types collecting Social Security checks and hangin' around the water hole getting drunk and/or stoned....common denominator is that everyone is trying to eke out some sort of living on limited income - that's what drew us here, a place we could afford! But politically, we haven't found anyone as 'alternative' as we are - perhaps except the Rastas, but we haven't actually gotten to know them. Still, despite vast differences in world views, within 6 weeks of moving up here, we knew the names and a bit about all of our neighbors on our ridge - something that didn't happen after years in Calistoga.

People are friendly and take time to stop and chat frequently. Angel plays often with the Golden Retriever pup of similar age across the street. Most folks have built their own places here, or live in manufactured homes (mobile homes). Since we're all off-grid, everyone is power self-sufficient, relying on gas or propane generators, with some solar and one wind generator, too.

We talk about the nuts and bolts of rural life: surviving the heat, defending against bears, mountain lions and marauding pit bulls, fixing broken generators and cars, sharing vegetables from gardens and eggs from chickens - good folks, for the most part, but not all 'nature-lovers' as we are, surprisingly. One group of Christian fundamentalists just toss garbage and human waste over the edge of the canyon, since 'this Earth won't matter after the Rapture....' Hmmm...and they wonder why the bears bother them!

So we're the oddballs that had a load of straw bales delivered during the height of fire hazard season - and plan to build a house of straw...people are curious, some have seen or heard of such, but we are quite a novelty. I look forward to sleeping cocooned in the sound-proof (and bear-proof) straw bale bedroom - cool in summer and cozy-warm in winter, or so we hope...and yes, it very well could take a year to complete. But the post and beam structure, and roof, should be done by month's end! Then the fun begins with straw and mud...bit by bit. Hopefully, we won't have the 90mph winds of last winter, since tarp-covered walls will be part of our lives for some time!

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