How I came To Live In
The Middle Of Nowhere
By Elisa Miller
My husband and I were living a pretty happy life in the coastal city of Santa Cruz, California. We were renting a cute little house within walking distance to the Pacific and within biking distance to the redwoods. We were both commuting an hour each way to work but it seemed worth it to live in Santa Cruz, at least for the short term. Then the “it’s time to stop renting and look for somewhere to buy bug” hit us. Why keep making our landlord richer.
We started our house hunt in good spirits. After viewing several seriously ugly homes within our price range, which was about $250,000 we realized buying in Santa Cruz was going to enslave us for life. To get anything decent we would be paying off at least a $200,000 and more like a $300,000 mortgage. It meant commuting for the next 20-30 years, as good paying jobs are practically nonexistent in Santa Cruz. It meant goodbye to the dream of staying home with my future children. It meant goodbye to any kind of alternative relaxed lifestyle. We just couldn’t commit ourselves to this vision of the future. So ……..
I had some friends, whom we originally had classed as crazy, who were living off the grid, 45 minutes from the nearest town out in Southern Trinity County. We went to visit them at Christmas time. The weather was beautiful, the views spectacular, the air clean, and the land most attractively affordable. Within days we made the quickest, perhaps rashest decision of our married life together. We decided to relocate.
This was the kind of decision that if we had given it too much thought, we would have checked ourselves in for some psychiatric help for even considering such a move. But instead we acted. We bought 27 acres for $21,000, quit our jobs and moved. We didn’t even need to take out a loan. Life off the grid in rural California began quickly.
We bought a 31 ft. trailer, a backhoe and dug an outdoor toilet (the throne) and we were ready to move in. Our first project was putting in water lines. This involved Greg, my husband, pushing the ditchwich and myself and our neighbor Rob laying the water line and manning the shovels. We even got to be our own road crew and lay the line under the road. Things are much more relaxed out here — the real road crew couldn’t be bothered to come out and do the job. I got to feel the power a Stop sign wields as I stopped enormous logging trucks with my hand.
It was all very exciting from the start and I never once felt like going back to Santa Cruz (at least not for a year or two). It was the easiest living transition I have ever made. I think it was because we were busy from day one making our piece of land livable. It also could be because as a goodbye present someone broke into our Subaru on our last night in Santa Cruz to steal our CD player. It seemed like a private message to get out of the city as quickly as possible. It took till 3 p.m. the next day to replace the window and then we were gone. We moved up officially in the beginning of July and by the 15th were laying the foundation of our home.
We were particularly attracted to the piece of land we bought because of its building site. The spot we picked to build on has an incredible view to the East across the valley. It is a supreme sunrise and moonrise viewing area.
We built a Post and Beam, Passive Solar Home. (Actually I didn’t build much of it as I found my ability to hit a nail in straight is about as good as my ability to draw a straight line. Our neighbor Rob and a good friend of ours, Jeff, helped with the building.) By the time we were laying the plywood floor, Greg had installed our Solar Power System and we were operating on our own power.
It took till April to move in and we are still finishing up. After four years of living in our home, I am proud to say all that is left to be finished is the floor, paint and trim in the kitchen, the trim upstairs and baseboard throughout. Of course now that the end is in sight we have added some renovations onto our list of projects. On the whole though we live a very nice life in a beautiful home somewhere close to the middle of nowhere.
Living in Southern Trinity County is not for everybody. You need to be able to tolerate extremes in weather from snow and excessive rain in winter to boiling hot in summer. Our summer solution was to build a pool as air conditioning is out of the question on solar power. On really hot days I dream of air conditioning. The winter solution is to grin and bear it. One winter a skunk and a stray cat decided to make their homes underneath our house. Whenever they met the skunk would spray. We were often awakened by the stinky smell of skunk. Some friends visited us from New Zealand during this time period and I can only imagine what they tell people of their stay in rural America. Wasps invade our home in summer and this winter they seem to be sticking around. We haven’t found a good solution yet, but we are working on it.
Living out here can also be isolating and challenging. You have to drive for any real community, a good restaurant and any kind of medical care. Work is a challenge for creative minds and you literally have to do everything yourselves. Nobody will travel out here to clean your house or baby-sit your child, or even just to visit you very often.
Yet when our son was born in January 2000, and I was able to take an indefinite leave from my teaching job in order to be at home with him. Living here does enable me to live a lifestyle I enjoy without the pressures of living in the rat race.
We are looking for other like-minded people with children to join our community in the boondocks of Northern California. Check out the area, and if you are interested in living in rural California, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Big Foot Meadows, Wool Mountain (Zenia), California.
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