In 1992 we lived for one long summer in an old homestead ranch in northern California.
Out in nowhere, some 12 miles south of the tiny town of Hayfork in the middle of the Trinity National Forest, it was the most romantic place we could imagine. No neighbors (except of one guy far away who wanted to be by himself), surrounded by pristine wilderness, no fence, no power (only very simple solar electricity for lights), no phone, only very primitive road access, gravity fed natural water.
A river guide we knew had homesteaded there on an old plot from the pioneer days and built it. The relationship with his wife had fallen apart and he had to move away in order to make a living elsewhere. It had not been lived in for a while.
From a distance you can only see a clearing in the endless forest, which once had been a pasture but is partly an apple orchard now and a wild meadow.
The house is a cozy rustic little self-built log home.
Inside everything is low-tech, hand-hewn, and practical.
Over the kitchen on the loft is a romantic bedroom.
But we also had a bedroom outside under a beautiful tree full of personality.
Next to a wood-burning stove was the library.
The stove easily heated the house …
… but also heated water for a cute bathtub.
The piano was a little out of tune, but I can’t really play anyway.
The huge garden was very neglected, but we got it going again, and things grew. It was fantastic.
We had pretty much everything and rarely needed to travel (by motorbike) to town for supplies. You could sow out any seeds and in a few weeks all would grow like crazy.
We were like children turned loose in the wild and we absolutely loved it. We didn’t see people for weeks, just wild animals. The bears and snakes had to be convinced that we actually wanted to stay. The deer and the owls stayed with us. At first we thought we were taming the wilderness, but soon we ourselves felt tamed by the wild.
There was of course no mail delivery, we never got bills to pay, we hardly needed money. For news from the world we had a shortwave radio and listened to BBC , but it seemed blissfully irrelevant. We had already traveled enough to be deeply aware of the outside world, but it felt unreal, compared to what we saw there every day.
We are salad addicts, and here we finally could “pig out” without restraint. We grew many varieties of lettuce and of course herbs, and we had so much of it. We had so much basil for example that we made salads almost entirely of basil. Can you imagine the aroma?
We built a sitting place by the meadow with a big wood slab (still from the pioneer days) for a table.
Out there we would sit in the cool evening hours while the bears and the deer came for company.
Making “Dolme” with fresh grape leaves.
This was the original spring ½ mile up the mountain. A primitive plastic pipeline ran down to the house. The bears chewed it up all the time, but I repaired it, and it provided enough pressure for a sprinkler system irrigating the garden.
The little creek next to the meadow ran all summer long. Further down, back in the day people had found gold in it …
… we only found crayfish.
There was of course no shortage of firewood.
Lots of scorpions in it.
Here is a scorpion with a bunch of babies. Scorpions carry around their newly born young ones on their back for a while. The babies need the proximity of the mother for maintaining the necessary body temperature while they are going through several moltings.
A snake just swallowing a lizard.
We had many encounters with rattle snakes and gradually got used to them.
Big toads around the pond.
The squirrels wondered what these two-legged creatures were all about.
One time in late summer we had a forest fire very close by. Pretty scary for us greenhorns. Watching the big airplanes drop water and fire-retardant was a spectacular show.
A helicopter came to fill its bucket in our pond and dump it on the fire, in the evening the pilot landed and we drank beer with him. He couldn’t believe how well we lived out there in the wilderness.
Of course we had a cat.
Still a young kitten, she was a bundle of joy. She was fascinated with my writing, watching my pen scribbling over the paper and trying to catch it. On this picture you can actually see the yellow English dictionary I was still using then all the time to learn English.
She was the ultimate editor.
We had a huge apple orchard. Not cared for but producing fruit like crazy. The bears and deer would take what they could, but there was more left than we could possibly use. We made apple juice – oh, the best I ever had. It doesn’t keep very long, so we drank until we burst.
Then we started a production of dried apples. Boy, we made so many bags of sun-dried apples, we had them for years.
This was pretty much 20 years ago – our first attempt to settle down. But we hadn’t really explored America yet, we were still so restless, so much to do, so much to see. In these wonderful months all by ourselves in the wild we felt fulfilled, we had it all, and yet, in a mysterious way, we were not ready yet. When fall set in, when the rain came and the temperatures dropped, we got itchy. As much as we loved the wilderness we also missed some contact with people. The few weird hillbillies scattered throughout the forest were interesting but difficult to deal with. We stayed until the first snow clouds came rolling in and packed up and left for Baja.
* * *
Klaus Aug. 25. 2011