Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Deja Vu (April 2008)...The First Two Posts of this Journal...

The cabin in the summer of 2007:

Summer: 2007

Seeing as we are getting close to completing the first stage of this project (the Post and Beam), I thought it would be fun to re-post the first two entries of this journal. Reading this again is nostalgic for me; it gives a fairly good outline of why we attempted to do this. Fun for me to read this again.

And for those who have stumbled upon this site (and don't have the fortitude or stomach) to read the whole journal--it's a good re-introduction...albeit a little stilted.

On the first of July, in the year 2008, my family and I will move to what I affectionately call: The Solar Compound. It is essentially a cabin, located on a ridge top, on the edge of a canyon where the Sierra meets the Cascades. An adventure.

The property itself is "off the grid". Three acres. Part of an "off the grid" community of eccentrics: retired libertarian autoworkers; disabled folk living cheaply on social security; rednecks squatting in trailers; four households of 7th Day Adventist Apocalyptic RN's who expect Jesus to finally return after a 2,000 year hiatus; Whole Earth Catalogue refugees---and various other non-conformists and cheapskate ner-do-wells.

At the age of 47, why do this? Many reasons. Seeing as my spouse and I aren't Trustfunders we either have to rent (which we currently do in the hoity-toity Napa Valley); go deeply into debt on the downhill slope of our life expectancy (not advised)---or be very creative in finding a place to call our own.

We chose creativity over mortgage slavery.

It took two years to find this place. Our criteria was that it had to be within four hours of the ocean. It had to be beautiful. It had to be inexpensive. It had to be within a few hours of a major urban area (even homesteaders want to attend a concert now and then, or hear a favored author speak). It had to have solar potential. It had to have at least an acre of level land for a garden. And it had to be in California.

Sometimes life conspires to give you what you want.

The only problem is that the cabin currently has only 320 square feet of living space. There are four of us.Joni (whose claim to fame is that she has the longest prison sentence in Colorado for sitting in a tree); Me (Allan---a lazy, underachiever with no claim to fame); Kylie aged 8 and Jazmine age 6 (Joni's grandchildren--my step grandchildren---who have been living with us for four years).

So what's a left wing, wine loving, soft living, semi-granola head with no carpentry, plumbing, electrical, masonry or construction skills to do? (I actually got a D minus in Shop in the seventh grade---something I haven't admitted to Joni yet). Why, build an addition, of course!!

And never mind hiring some professional to do it. We'll do it ourselves. After all, how hard could this be? (gulp).

This is our journal of the construction of a Family Room and Two bedrooms. This may not be very pretty. We plan on making mistakes (lots of them). Go ahead: Laugh. Or groan. We hope for very few casualties.

We plan on building this addition in two months; using recycled materials obtained at junk yards and "Craig's List". It will be built of Mud and Straw. Nouveau Third World Style. Our budget is $23,000. The labor will be provided by a hodge/podge of family and a few deeply deluded friends who either love us, or who owe us a favor, or both.Follow along.... This should be a fun ride...


So why buy something so far off the beaten path? A desire to escape the broken humanity that my job as a Psychiatric RN has subjected me to over the last sixteen years?This place is remote. Isolated. Twenty miles to the nearest substantial town. No lattes within a half hour's drive.

Blame the Eco-poet, Gary Snyder. Someplace I read that Gary lived in the Sierra Foothills, and commuted to his teaching job in Davis, California. An idea started to incubate. Could I do something similar?

Then I read the classic by Scott and Helen Nearing in "The Good Life":

"We maintain that a couple, of any age from twenty to fifty, with a minimum of health, intelligence and capital, can adapt themselves to country living, learn it's crafts, overcome it's difficulties, and build up a life pattern rich in simple values and productive of personal and social good."

Scott was 47 when he bought his homestead in 1934. I'm 47 now. And as for a couple being between 20 and 50, Joni and I just snuck in under that one. Gosh it seems, according to the Nearings, we only have a few years left to do this.

As for the "minimum of health". Yup. Got that. Just the occasional kidney stone, middle aged sprawl, some sciatica, a few broken ribs (from wrestling with psychotic patients), and two broken arms from falling off my bike, have haunted me over the last couple of years. I think that fits into the minimum of requirements. Barely.

You can make your own decision regarding the "minimum... of intelligence" part. Somehow I think my brother might believe this is my shortcoming. Darned siblings!

The Nearings only did what my Peasant, Norwegian ancestors did for thousands of years. I come from a long line of non-regal paupers. What Scott Nearing did by choice (educated radical that he was), my own Grandpa K. did out of necessity. When my aforementioned Lutheran Pastor brother asked me (yet again perplexed by some silly venture of mine) why I wanted to do this, I told him: "Because I want to live like Grandpa K."And when good ole Grandpa K. died back in the 70's, some of his last words to me were about his sadness that there are no farmers left in my family...and more importantly...that he fully expected me to carry on the tradition. I hope that a few fruit trees and a substantial garden satisfies his request.

So with Gary Snyder, Helen and Scott Nearing, my Grandpa K., and not to mention that the solar compound lies within about forty miles (as the bird flies) from one of Edward Abbey's famous fire towers, where he and other literary giants used to gaze for fires while scribbling their craft----well, that's good enough inspiration for me.

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