“You are so lucky; you’re living the dream.”
I heard this sentiment expressed dozens of times over this past weekend, while working in the 215 section of the Kate Wolf Festival, in the HappyDay Farms booth. The dream referred to is, of course, the living off of the land, the growing and selling of vegetables and medicine and the ability to navigate the turbulent white waters of cannabis regulation.
|The 215 area was backed up |
against the Revival Stage.
My dream was to relocate to rural NorCal, to escape the ever-expanding population growth, first down in the San Gabriel Valley, and later, in the Bay Area. After searching for a year and more, my siblings and I found Paradise. Under the right circumstances, it’s paradise with an ocean view, since we can see the ocean in three separate places, when we walk up the Bell to Blue Rock.
So yes, without question, we are living the dream. However, that being said, living the dream has not been as easy as simply drifting off to sleep, and then, “Dream on.” No, while gliding down that lazy river of sleep, we have encountered our share of dreamlike issues, that are filed under “nightmare.”
How about water? From having to go down to the rest area, three miles north of the bottom of Bell Springs Road, in order to fill a 55-gallon drum with water, to our current pond, we have seen it all:
No water, period.
Water, but not running water to the cabin.
Running water, but not hot water.
No water because of frozen water pipes.
No water because of frozen water pipes, and then the pipes burst.
|The Iceman Cometh and|
Freezeth our pipes...
No water because the heat has caused an air lock.
No water because a line has burst and drained the tank.
No water because a valve was left open.
No water because it’s cloudy and the solar pump won’t work.
How about electricity? Being off the grid, with no option for conventional means of electricity, we have had to get creative. We started off with simply a 12-volt system, and charged the deep cell batteries with a generator. Eventually we got our solar act together, but that still means we rely on it not being overcast.
We now run two huge refrigerators, and a chest freezer off of our solar panels, not to mention the rest of our household. There are a few of civilization’s offerings, that we have chosen to do without: dryer, microwave, dish washer (except me) and air conditioning, so our power needs may not be as great as the “average” household.
There is very little about our farm that would be considered average.
Nonetheless, let’s talk the logistics of living five miles up a gravel road, with a minimum of a half-hour commute, to get a cup of coffee or a quart of milk. Think of those five miles as an extended driveway, if that helps. When I first moved up full-time to our land, I swore I would never drive five days a week to town, in order to work.
Instead, I ended up driving into town six days a week as a teacher, always needing that extra day for the first five years I taught.
All those years (without the internet) we sweated whether or not to move the truck the quarter-mile up our driveway to Bell Springs Road, in case it snowed. Being at 3,300 feet, we can get dumped on-and buried-faster than you can say, “I wish we had parked up on the Bell. Sigh.”
Otherwise, with our two-wheel-drive Chevy truck in the early years, we were snowed in. Then we got our Trooper, with 4WD.
On the other hand, for all of those years I drove into town, with the three boys, a lot got done. I remember Ben-Jam-In taking advantage of the commute to work on his lines for first, Friar Lawrence, in “Romeo and Juliet,” and then Don John, in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Every morning and afternoon, for two months, he read and reread those lines so many times, he accomplished the job of memorizing them, and he produced a polished performance when the time came.
How about helicopters? When we had our home and twenty acres seized by the federal government, in 1985, for the dastardly crime of growing 33 cannabis plants, we were under the gun for nine months to the day, before the lawyer we hired took care of business. Living the dream meant losing a lot of sleep, at times.
Finally, you want nightmare? How about the task of trying to get a handle on cannabis regulation, at the state and county level, when there is nothing in place whatsoever? How many thousands of hours were spent in meetings, sharing, educating and working to put together something that all factions could work with?
Is everyone happy with the final result? No, unquestionably not. However, if you know someone who is unhappy, ask that person how much time and energy he or she devoted, to providing input while the process was taking place? How many Board of Supervisors meetings were attended; how many comments were made? How many letters were written? How many hours conversing with others, attending workshops, and working to become educated and educating others? How much money was contributed, to help the process along?
These questions frequently work well when contending with those who are unhappy. If you did nothing to further the process, then you have nothing to snivel about. All of this and more, came up for conversation this past weekend, in addition to a lot of respect.
So yes, Paradise comes with a price tag, both monetarily and physically. We grow cannabis to defray the heavy artillery, as far as paying the bills, but we provide fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and much love, to all who choose to partake of our bounty.