Dear friends, family and others who read this and may become friends or like family,
I should have done this from the very beginning. I know. I know. Frankly, Dave and I got slammed. There was so much work to do, so much we had to learn. There wasn’t any time to really think much less write. We just had to get the job done–dig wells, lay pipe, cut trees, build rock retaining walls, mend fences, fix the fireplace, plant some flowers and trees, try to make a nice, shady place to sit on a summer’s evening, deal with West Nile carrying mosquitoes, with meat bees, and with the rattlesnakes who’d called this place home for so many years. There was snow in the winter, something we hadn’t seen in the thirty-five years we’d lived in Berkeley; there was summer heat. In B-town the fog rolls in about five pm. Here, once the sun gets low, we move onto the patio with a gin and tonic in hand–Sierra foothill air-conditioning–and wait for the house to cool down so we can sleep. Okay, so it could be worse. Still, I wish I’d been like my new idol Pioneer Woman and taken pictures of all the before, because, believe me, it was a real challenge for a couple of academics from Berkeley to get this place up and running. Still is I guess, but the dust has settled a bit.
Above is a picture of our new home. We call it Blue Oak Hill—not to be confused with the other Blue Oak hill in Santa Barbara. The Sierra foothills have a lot of blue Blue Oak covered hills. We’re happy to be living on one of them!
But to begin at the beginning as Dickens said…
To the left, friends, is what it looked like when we bought the place—basically a pit, a dump. The real estate agent wouldn’t even come in the house. I said it should be bombed, and I still have no idea what gave me the courage to take on this project.
Maybe it was this–
The view. Or this–
Or the starry nights and the absolute quiet. Maybe Dave and I misplaced our minds as a southern family member says, but we did it. Sold the big house and moved to the ranch.
Look, my (cowboy) hat’s off to Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. She plunged into a huge ranch in the middle of nowhere but, hey, her husband is a rancher from a ranching family. My guy Dave is an astrophysicist—a theoretical astrophysicist. He is now a chainsaw-wielding, cattle-herding, theoretical astrophysicist. Let us pray.
Anyway, after we signed our lives away at the funky, little real-estate agency double-wide near Dunlap and headed back up the mountain for a couple of celebratory bourbons (cowboy xanax, in other words), our friend Dottie told us about a builder, Dave Woolsey, who might be able to help us. “You’re lucky. He raises horses, but if a job interests him, he might take it. He has the ranch next to you—The Rising Star—Why don’t you give him a call?”
Folks, I do believe there is a God. If Woolsey hadn’t said yes, Dave and I would now be flatter than a run over cow-pie. Not that there haven’t been days when I pretty much resembled that. Gone are the $140 dollar haircuts on Maiden Lane in San Francisco. Gone are the makeovers at the Chanel counter at Saks. Gone are the designer clothes. Gone, gone, gone. But, here’s a little secret—I don’t really miss ‘em. If you are the kind of girl who reads Country Living in the supermarket line and—like me—loves hanging your sheets outside to dry in the sun, if you’re the kind who fills mason jars with wildflowers and wants to pick your own dinner from your garden, you won’t miss your city life either. You just have to be brave enough to try.