One Step at a Time
When I finally do decide to write a comprehensive novel, it will not be fiction, because I have no interest in that endeavor. I have written “bits and pieces” of a book (let’s say around 200,000 words) chronicling three generations of my family, and its ongoing objective of migrating north, out of the LA Basin, to eventually achieve self-sustainability, here in Northern Mendocino County.
Of our nine middle-generation siblings, five ended up owning property here on the ridge. That doesn’t mean all five ended up living here, but it was a united effort to launch the project. We blazed the trail, and now the third generation is kicking into gear. Our oldest, Casey, had the excavator out here the other day, to continue the process of “stepping” the sloping south-facing land, below the home he built over the past five years. Our twenty-acre parcel is long and narrow, about three hundred feet wide, and 3,000 feet long, and it is rolling hillsides.
In a perfect world, we would be growing hillsides of any of the following agricultural commodities: Christmas trees, olive trees, grapes (shudder) sculpted manzanita trees, and many fruit trees, though we are too high in elevation for citrus. In terms of other growing options, we have asparagus, strawberry, and garlic, which allow us to take advantage of seasonal rainfall, and grow very desirable products which command good prices.
However, accessibility to the lower half of the property, is still only via all-terrain vehicle, or the more popular hiking method. In an effort to better utilize that, which we have, Casey has been emulating the Incans, much of it by hand, in creating long steps, cut into the side of the slope, so as to be able to have a three-to-four-foot wide, perfectly flat row, with a drop of between 24 and 36 inches to the next step. Each of these steps might be as long as two hundred feet. You can plant a lot of tomatoes in a row that is two hundred feet long.
When Casey had the excavator fellow here, a grizzled old codger, who had come once before, about three years ago, and carved the initial steps when Casey began planning the CSA gig, the old guy was impressed by what he saw. This included the additional work which had been done by hand, with a pick and a shovel, by young adults, both male and female. He made suggestions and also shifted vast unlimited quantities of topsoil, to better create the desired effect. One step at a time.
Casey and Amber began a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program this past year, in which the farmer supplies the consumer with a basket of fresh seasonal produce, in exchange for being paid all, or portions, of an annual fee in advance. It costs twenty dollars per customer per week. Initially, Casey hoped to be able to go at least fifteen weeks, so it was a three-hundred dollar commitment. The idea is that the farmer now has an income to sustain his family, all year, instead of just at the end of the season.
As it worked out, the fifteen week cutoff never happened, and the program has run successfully since the inaugural week. I think he peaked at eighteen weekly customers, with others turned away-for this year. In our neck of the woods, in this very rural county, there is no immediate CSA competition. Casey’s ultimate goal is to begin carrying some of the basic necessities, up here on the ridge, so that people do not have to go all the way to town, for us a half-hour commute, down five miles of dirt road, and eleven miles of highway, to get essentials.
Annie and I are thrilled that one of the three boys has settled on the property, and is developing it. I had enough energy to make the move and build our house, working in the carpentry and masonry field, until my body started to fall apart. I then went back to school to get my teaching credential, to carry me over until retirement.
The other night we had a meal of lamb, (well, no lamb for me) potatoes, salad with lots of fixings, and applesauce, all produced from here on the ridge. It is a frequent occurrence that we accomplish this feat, and when the root cellar is completed, we will enhance our ability to continue to provide the table with meals produced here. Our root cellar is being carved out of the side of a north-facing hill, and we are doing cinder-block walls, with a roof which will correspond to the side of the hill, and will be covered with a thick layer of soil, to ensure that we maintain as cool a temperature as possible. It is all too beautiful for words.
We are proud of what we have accomplished, though we still have a long way to go. With the development of my current knee issues, which took me by storm this fall, it is obvious that my role will be gradually curtailed, as far as physical labor is concerned. I struggle to accept that I no longer will be required to lift those twenty foot long, two-by-twelve, GREEN chunks of fir, weighing enough to anchor the Queen Mary in a hurricane.
It’s a tough role, but someone’s got to do it. From now on, I am the sawyer, and will no longer see more than a six hour work stint, at any given time. The third generation is taking over, just like they’re supposed to. Says so in the manual, page four, paragraph three, sub-section c. Meanwhile, I’m off; it’s past my nap time.