When I first moved to the San Francisco suburb of East Palo Alto in 2001 my motivations were few — houses were affordable and EPA was close to both work and family.  My partner and I had fewer reservations than most people about moving to a city which, in the early 90’s, had the highest per capita murder rate in the country.  We had been the victims of an owner move-in eviction in San Francisco and the timing seemed right to start the suburban chapter of our lives.  My partner and both worked in Palo Alto but financially couldn’t touch even the smallest condo within those city limits.  We both wanted children so we knew that we wanted a yard and East Palo Alto offered us close proximity to Palo Alto while also offering us a housing market we could, at the very least, enter.  So when we bought our first house, we were pleased with the size of the lot (6000 or so square feet), but we didn’t give a second thought to how sunny the yard was or what the quality of the soil was like beneath the crab grass.  Over time we began to take notice.  The apple tree that we planted when our daughter was born (in 2002) not only took root, but went crazy and every February the weeds in the untended parts of the property would grow well above our heads.  Just inches beneath the crabgrass was a soil that was black and moist, nourished by the water of the San Francisco Bay just two blocks away.

I became interested in gardening and, in 2010, after completing my graduate certificate to teach college composition, I decided the garden needed something more — a goat. What I didn’t know at the time was that goats are very much like tattoos. You get one and it’s a slippery slope to another and another. From those goats my business, Faerie Goatmother, was born.

Over the years I felt myself grow busier while at the same time less satisfied with the quality of my life.  Things hadn’t turned out as I had planned. I began digging deeper and realized that place can have much to do with the inner voices that tell you that your life isn’t enough. No matter how much I tried to shut out those voices, I found that the values of the community that surrounded us were not just speaking to me, but shouting in my face (spittle and all). The final straw was when my daughter began adopting the values of the community — becoming the typical Palo Alto kid — stressed out beyond belief by school and, even in seventh grade, fixating on how her quarter grades might affect her future. We needed to get the hell out.

It was a puzzle to figure out where we could go that was affordable, comfortable and commutable for my partner. We settled on the Santa Cruz Mountains where we now have five acres and a very comfortable home. While here, we are doing the very important work of deepening our connection to nature, our children and ourselves. My new life, while not easy, is both interesting and satisfying. The problems I solve here have a direct effect on my quality of life and the quality of life for my family. I love this.

What started as a casual interest in gardening has become a way of life — a personal passion, a political act, an act of love.


6 responses

16 04 2010
Frank Farm

I am loving these stories. Keep ’em coming! And thanks for that link at the end — so heartwarming and inspiring!

19 05 2010

Julianne, you’re a great writer! Keep posting. I look forward to your adventures.

16 06 2010
Frank Farm

Hey, what happened to the right-side navigation that lets me get to the older stories? Thx…

16 06 2010
Frank Farm

Maybe it was never there before and I only imagined it. I realized all the stories are in one long list on the home page so I got what I needed.

23 01 2012

Hi just came across your blog while looking into raw goats milk.
Oh My God! You guys Are living the dream! What a blessing you have… a home, family and raw nutritious milk, honey, vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, eggs! Wow! You guys are even helping the bees (LOL well not @ 1st when u dropped the lide thing) but u guys are doing it. That’s just Awesome.
Well, all I can say is Congratulations! Your living the dream and that is a blessing.
Good luck & keep it up
V ®_®

23 01 2012

Thanks for the affirmations! Raw goat’s milk is a magical elixir, I hope you find a good source. It’s funny how living a sustainable lifestyle feels more like “real” life than anything else I’ve ever done. Tons more work and responsibility, but a world more satisfaction!

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