Mountain Cleanup

There are about forty households in the three miles up here at the end of our road. Over the years outsiders have used this steep terrain to dispose of things they needed to ditch (literally!). About thirty of us met at our house up here at the end of the road and spent the day working our way down and cleaning up the ‘hood. One neighbor had a large trailer, another a small bulldozer. We roped ourselves down steep hillsides and found more than we expected–including an empty open safe, an old toilet, a sports car hulk from which the motor had been removed, an old entertainment center and enough old tires to outfit FedEx.

I took pictures and put them together into this video. Although I intended it just for the neighbors, we were able to use it to get the County to waive the considerable cost of dumping this trash. They also recognized us at a Board of Supervisors meeting and gave us a plaque.

Sandy’s Yurt – a jewel in a golden setting

My friend Sandy built a yurt on her beautiful property in Butte County in California. I spent a weekend helping paint the exterior. Her yurt came from YurtPeople. It is small (just under 600 square feet) but spacious and gorgeous. The components arrive ready to assemble. The sixteen sections are held together with a cable that circles the ring that holds the skylight and another cable that circles the perimeter.
Here are a few pictures that do not come close to doing it justice.

yurt02This is a view looking in from the front door. The kitchen, which has a beautiful view of the Sacramento Valley, is just beyond the living and dining room. To the right is the bathroom, bedroom, and closet. (Yes, those are my shoes that I abandoned in the middle of the floor.)


The bedroom is just beyond the short wall behind the beautiful old fold down desk. In the wall alongside are jacks for telephone and dsl connections. The walls have been plastered with mud-colored plaster, which is available in 35 earthy colors. They are gorgeous! The insulation is cotton and ecologically friendly.

yurt05The bathroom has a shower stall on the right and shelves on the left. You can see a hint of them in the lower left corner of the photo. An on-demand water heater provides ample showering comfort.
In building this haven, Sandy has found people who share her vision. They have added unique touches and provided valuable advice. If you are interested in knowing more about the products and people she found to help her, you may send her an email.

The yurt has windows that permit expansive views of the beautiful golden hillsides and valleys that stretch in all directions. Part of an earlier Spanish land grant, the land was used in former times for timber and cattle grazing.
yurt07Dry creeks dot the property. It is peacefully shared with wild turkeys, deer, coyotes, snakes and a variety of wild life. One of Sandy’s dogs rests in the shade of an oak.

Over the Edge

Photo graph of road curving through treesAs I rounded the bend, there it was. Off the road caught by a tree, a white car was hanging onto the slope. If it were not for the brush on this precipitous drop into the ravine that carried the creek, the car would have rolled and rolled. coming to rest at the bottom of the canyon. The driver ahead of me had stopped and was looking down to see if anyone was inside.

But the event had happened earlier and there was a bright green sheriff’s notice on the window on the driver’s side, a window that was almost horizontal as you looked down into it. Arrangements were, no doubt, being made. The car was empty.

The other driver and I exchanged speculations, told of other events we had seen, and continued on our way reminding ourselves to be careful.

About a decade ago I saw a car off the road at about the same spot. A green car hung suspended on the asphalt curb that marked the edge of the road. All four wheels were off the ground, the front wheels dangling down the slope with the weight of the engine lifting the rear wheels off the pavement. How had anyone managed to leave the road at such an angle, I wondered?

The car was gone by evening.

The next night I returned home late. As I rounded that bend at close to midnight, I found a towing service and sheriff’s car parked on the road. I waited as the mangled remains of that same green car were hoisted out of the canyon. The driver had not survived this second trip over the edge, and that had been her intent all along.

For almost three decades I have traveled this road every day, five miles up through twists and turns that in some places have narrowed to a single lane where the hillside has crumbled or slid into the canyon below. If it’s winter with a storm pounding the mountain, the house I arrive at beyond the end of the road is sometimes without power–occasionally for days at a time. Our well has run dry; fires have threatened; there are rattlesnakes, coyotes, and evidence of mountain lions, and there is no corner store to run to if we are out of milk. Why do I live here? There are many who think I am crazy.

And maybe I am. When someone new moves to the mountain, we all wait and see how long they will last. There are really only two possibilities: less than two years or forever–on this mountain or another.

But a move to a mountain is only one way we humans put ourselves to the test. There are others as well. Some do it through work, some through athletic endeavors, some through art, music, dance, knowledge. How far can we go? What is beyond the bend? Is it a road we want to continue to travel the rest of our lives? Is there a place to turn back?

And always there is the fear–or allure–that when going around a bend a little too fast, we just might go over the edge.