Love Creek — Getting Real

26 08 2015

Today I hired a contractor. Well, a team of them, that will manage the total remodel of this giant leap of faith that we are calling Faeriewood Hill. The man that I met with this morning, is roughly my age and has the demeanor that embodies most of the reasons why we are choosing to move to the San Lorenzo Valley.  He is kind, straightforward, makes eye contact, he’s friendly, polite, but, most of all, he is authentic.  In the hour and forty-five minutes that we spent together we, of course, addressed the can of worms we are lovingly calling “the house”, but we also talked about marriage, family, community and, my personal obsession, mountain lions. He also owns 27 acres on this same road.

His family moved to the San Lorenzo Valley back when it was first being settled in the 1880’s.  He is fifth generation here and knows everything there is to know about the landscape, the trees, the wildlife, the people that populate this region. As we walked around the house, he pointed out one the redwood trees that is, what they call, surging.  The root ball has grown up out of the ground. He bends down to touch the base of the tree then laughs, “That’s about a $10,000 burl you’ve got there.  If you ever need a college fund for your kids, that’s it right there.  And that is Grade A burl, you can tell by how tight the structure is.”  He points to another part of the tree a little higher up, “See, this is Grade B.”

I joke with him that after he gets done with us we will likely need to harvest and sell the tree.  He laughs in a way that lets me know that I’m right. I think he has convinced me to let his team do all of the work and in an order that makes the most sense to them.  I want things done efficiently, correctly and by someone that uses primarily local materials and labor.

He tells me that he used to march for gay rights back in the 90’s.  That I will adore his wife, and he gives me her cell phone and asks me to call her and introduce myself. She graduated from UC Berkeley and is now a massage therapist. They have twin 10 year olds that will end up going to school with Kaherdin one day. He tells me about a gay organization in Santa Cruz and that he’s helped put on the Gay Pride parade in town. I tell him we’re terrible lesbians.  We have very few gay friends. He laughs and says he’s straight but that the majority of his and his wife’s friends are gay. He says eight out of the ten families on his son’s Little League Team had same sex parents.

I take Him over the two foot bridges up to the sunny hillside to get a quote on a concrete slab.  He keeps looking around himself and saying, “This place is neat.” Once we reach the top he asks how big of a slab we’ll need. “Twenty by thirty-four,” I tell him. “That’s huge! What is it for?”  I tell him we got a Quonset hut half price from a place up in Canada, that we also managed free shipping. “What are you planning to use it for,” he asks. “Because if it’s just for hay storage, then I’ll just pour a straight slab.  If it’s meant to be something really structural, then I’ll have to put a footing wall and then back fill it.”

I pause and consider whether I’m about to give away too much. “Well, to be honest, the hut is not for the goats, it will be a guest house, but mostly it will house a pool table, an air hockey table…you know, it will be a hang out space.  And right in front of it, I want to put a small pool.”

He looks at me then starts laughing.  “You guys would be really fun to be friends with.  This would be an AMAZING spot for a pool!” I laugh with him, then I say, “Then be friends with us.” He nods his head.

Suddenly he smells weed. I do too. I ask, is that someone smoking it, or is that plant? He says confidently, that’s plant. He already confirmed what I suspected, that the nice Christian woman who owned the house, the woman who was so “Christian” she refused to shake our hands when we met, then virtually ignored us the entire time we were at the house together (she said it was because she had just touched her dog, but still refused to shake even after we revealed that we don’t care because we’re dog people), the woman with the giant cross over her fireplace (that will be demolished on Monday), had a grow operation on site. Given the age of the outlets, probably an illegal one.  The room in the garage that will be my office has no fewer than 12 electrical outlets lining the walls.  Nothing says “starter room” like an over-abundance of outlets in a windowless room. I suddenly realize that what our realtor described as her “garden” likely wasn’t referring to vegetables. I make a mental note to scour the weeds for weed.

Before he leaves, we talk about the rain that we are supposed to get this winter.  We both comment on how desperately we need it. I joke that I should be careful what I wish for, now that we have a house that is perched on a hillside.  At this point, he takes the time to show me the specifics of the topography and how we will never have to worry about mudslides.  He keeps repeating, “You are going to love it here.”

He has to go.  He has a 4H meeting to go to.  He says it’s a great program, that there is also a very active CSA produce collective, a very active farm-to-table community and a training farm we should check out in Boulder Creek.  Again, this is one of those moments when I can’t believe what we’re walking into. It just gets better and better.

We review the house plan. I repeat that I understand this is not a million dollar property, so safety and functionality are key before aesthetics.  He says, “Yeah, but this is going to be a million dollar property. You guys are going to love it here.”

As he is leaving, he walks down the deck stairs to his car.  I call out after him, “I like you. And as difficult as it is for me, I’ve decided to trust you.” He smiles, “I will never take advantage of you.”

At this point, after weeks of searching, I want to have faith that this is true.  This whole endeavor has been about faith.  Faith that moving away from the Silicon Valley is the best thing for my family. Faith that a San Lorenzo Valley upbringing will ground my children through tight community, small town life, summers in swimming holes, hiking and living in the redwoods. Faith that the 13 redwoods that surround our house, and the hundreds more (along with oaks and firs) that forest our property, will act as sentinels for our well being.

Today is the first day I have spent an entire day alone at the house. I don’t want to be inside.  It is awful in there. Work will start Monday, and day by day after that it will get better. So, today, I’m sitting out on the deck getting used to the sounds and smells of what will be our new home. The sound of leaves falling. The creaks of tree branches rubbing against trunks. The breeze rushing down the mountain in the valley of the seasonal creek. The Blue Jays. I am wishing I had a hammock right about now.  If I could just get horizontal, I am confident I could fall right to sleep for two and a half hours until Danae and the kids get here.

Note to self: Buy hammock.

Yeah, we’re going to love it here.

I spend the rest of my time alone shoveling the remnants of Kaherdin’s demo into bags and hauling them, Santa style, down the stairs to the turnout where we are creating a massive dump pile.

Danae and the kids show up around 4:30 with some sushi and hard cider.  We sit for a bit on the deck and enjoy the moment. A man, white haired, in hi mid-50’s, walks by with his dog and excitedly asks if we are the new owners. He introduces himself as John, and his dog as Sandy. He lives the next road over on Vineland and takes regular walks, usually with his wife and their other dog, up Love Creek Road. He says, “You’ve got a great group of people up here,” then proceeds to describe everyone he knows on the road. He says he’s already spoken to Bradd (our realtor and neighbor) about us and Bradd had mentioned we have goats. He says he’d love to see our set up. We tell him we’ll invite he and his wife over once we’re settled in.  A few minutes later, a young guy drives by in a Subaru hatchback. He sees the kids up on the deck and stops to say hi. Again, he asks if we are the new owners. He introduces himself as Phil and says he’d love to hang out once we settle in. He also asks if he can take the useable wood scraps from the dump pile. We enthusiastically invite him to take whatever he likes.  Whatever he can use will ease our dump burden.

The kids then go up to their rooms while I show Danae the plans for the house. Danae and I then take a walk up to the top of the hill. It seems that every time we go up there, we discover something new.  In discussing where the goat run will go, I notice yet another clearing in the trees. We walk down to it and discover yet another small clearing next to the seasonal creek, then I see something that looks like it was, at one time, a road.  We walk over to that and hike it up to the logging road where we discover another two small clearings.  The possibilities are too numerous to even consider.

It’s getting dark and the mosquitos are out in force.  Something is rustling in the brush.  Having discovered two hollowed out log stumps that seem to have been dens at one time or another (pathways leading to, worn floor inside), we decide to get back to the house. Once back, we discuss the final layout for the kitchen — one that includes a proper pantry — and imagine how the new bathroom will be laid out.  By this time it’s 7:00 on a school night and we haven’t had dinner yet.

The more time I spend at the house, the more I just want to stay there. I’m excited that, aside from the work Jim has been doing on the upstairs, the bigger work will begin downstairs on Monday.  From then on, every time I come back to the house, it should start looking very different.

We get in our cars and head back to Garden Street.  Hard to believe that in a little less than three weeks, the house we’ve called home for fourteen and a half years, will no longer be a place we can return to.




2 responses

26 08 2015

This sounds like a pretty perfect choice for you all, and I am very excited to read the news. Congratulations!

15 09 2015

Thank you, Frank.

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