A Look Back, a Look Forward

2016 opened with Dani and me quite a ways apart from each other. On January 1st I said goodbye to Green Gulch Farm of the San Francisco Zen Center. I had spent five days there as a rogue (unnofficial) volunteer in the kitchen, clandestinely sleeping in a very frigid Charley where I wasn’t even supposed to park overnight. I had performed a pilgrimage to  one of the two burial sites for the ashes of Alan Watts. As I left Green Gulch behind that day I headed to the other burial site: Druid Heights. I was the guest of the last original residents of Druid Heights, the sublime Ed and Marilyn Stiles.

As Ed made me coffee and regaled me with  stories of the light and the dark side of Alan Watts my thoughts drifted to Dani who was still at her meditation retreat. Dani never had the joy of meeting Ed and Marilyn, which is a tremendous shame. We now live on opposite coasts of the country and they have had many health challenges. Our hearts go out to them and we hope 2017 will be wonderful to them in spite of the challenges.

On January 2nd I picked up Dani from her retreat. We don’t like being apart from each other for very long, so the ten days we were separated were not easy. But joyously reunited, the Ambling Full Tilt journey continued with trips through the redwoods and a return to our Mecca: Yachats, Oregon. The remainder of the AFT journey was spent half expecting to find a parcel of land for our micro farm. We drove over most of Western Oregon in that search with a major base of operations at Ecolodge Gardens with our friend and benefactor Marcel (whom Ed had introduced us to remotely).

With a lot of work we managed to fail in finding anything that we could see through. It was with feelings of disappointment that we wrapped up the AFT journey in an anti-climatic fashion – nothing went according to plan the last few days.  In early February we re-adjusted to our new lives not-on-the-road back in Boise.

Through April we continued our search for our future home in earnest, including two trips to Nevada County, California, where we made offers on two different pieces of property. The deals each fell through for various reasons, all the more painful because of the time and energy we put into the process. As a consolation exercise we started searching for land in Maine with zero expectations of finding anything. How wrong we were…

There were enough promising leads and contingency options that we decided to move.  I drove Charley back to Nevada County, CA to pickup a trailer we had purchased as a tiny house foundation and left there thinking we would find land nearby before too long. We were wrong. I picked up the trailer and had a harrowing drive to get it over Donner Pass in the Sierras during a blizzard and far enough across Nevada (pitch-dark in pounding rain) in order to rendezvous with Dani and her fully-laden U-Haul in Wyoming the following day. Thus began our sprint across the continental United States.

In early May we landed in Dani’s parents sun room where we lived for another two months as we searched for land. And searched. And searched… But, as you all know, it happened: we found our future home. At the beginning of July we moved in and began the word of setting up a homestead and micro farm.

Even working ourselves to exhaustion I think we finished only half of the things we had hoped for in 2016. Progress is slow when you have to learn everything from the ground up! Once the snow started flying we both enjoyed an excuse to have “couch” days; to spend time just reading, writing, and pursuing individual leisure activities. We were both surprised at how quickly late November and December flew by!

Yet the winter was always going to be our planning time for the future farm. As the snow gently buried us on the last evening of 2016 we knew we could have one last day of fun and quiet celebration on new year’s day; but then it would be high time to get back to work.

So on this second day of 2017 we have both been diligent in our work pursuits. The to-do list is tremendous. We need to complete our full build-out plan for the farm, develop budgets for each phase of construction, then decide what infrastructure projects can be funded and executed this year. The house’s post foundation has two bad spots that need to be repaired, which will be a very big project. We need a garage and shop. We need to decide on the extent of raised bed construction for this season and develop our crop rotation plan. We then need to start the seeds, which will require growing infrastructure indoors. We have to finalize the plan for chickens, coop, run, paddock and chicken garden. We have to devise a comprehensive fencing plan. We hope to do all the major earthworks this season even if we don’t have the farm built out for several years. I want to start growing hay, feed and green manure crops outside raised beds. That means hay and feed storage must be figured out even though I have no idea how any of that works beyond “there’s a reason haystacks were a thing.” We need to devise a plan for growing season extension and expand our food storage program. We also hope to develop cottage industries like a farm stand and value-added culinary products like spice blends. I’m rather smitten with blacksmithing and we want to build an outdoor kitchen. Therefore I’m devising a plan for making my own charcoal out of hardwood I harvest on the property. Further I’d like to build at least one solar oven. Our two day power outage has convinced me that some kind of wood heat solution needs to be implemented before next winter – a huge undertaking.  And, of course, more winterization work needs to be done on the house; the cold and the snow prevent it from being done now. And all construction work needs to be funded so we’re looking at ways to raise money for that. Cottage industry will help, I hope to self publish a couple of small books soon, and I’m putting the word out that I’m available as an unskilled worker…

So there is a lot to do! But we’ve got our living expense budget figured and it should be funded soon, we’ve got almost all of our reference materials assembled, we are reading through our reference materials, creating the high-level plan, and formulating strategies for the specific tasks. And today we managed to work on all that as well as doing the laundry (line-drying is interesting in below-freezing temperatures!), we shoveled all the snow that needed shoveling, and got the generator buttoned up and back in storage mode.

I hope all your dreams for 2017 come true! But dreams don’t come true without a lot of hard work. C’est la vie. At least it’s a labor of love.

Happy new year!!


2 thoughts on “A Look Back, a Look Forward

  1. I know that in your deepest inner consciousness you are very aware that life is a journey, so forgive this reminder to keep the journey in the present when you think of how much you still want (need) to do on your self sustaining farm.

    You are two of the most likely travellers to successfully live in the moment.




    • Indeed, Marcel! As Alan Watts once said: Planning for the future is only useful for those living in the present. Of course “now” is all there really is, but sometimes it’s fun to recognize it for the cusp it is between memories and hopes. There is so much to do and only so much time and money, they must be managed, too. It’s all a delicate balance. Hooray for enjoyment of trying to live a life skillfully!


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