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Mule Deer Searching for Graze

Dear Heart — Good luck preparing. I spent my childhood doing grueling high Sierra hikes and horse packing trips with my mom and dad, grew up in a big forest (albeit in the Oakland Berkeley hills), and camped all over the place. When my new husband informed me we would be leaving Malibu mountains forever and coming to the Pacific NW to live on totally raw land and do everything from scratch, I had about a year to prepare, and read every homesteading book written by a woman I could get my hands on. What I didn’t do was realize I would still have to work because we weren’t rich and our savings wouldn’t last very long. I also didn’t realize that salaries here would be about one-third of what I was making in LA. Or that the entire County we were moving into would be Republicans and church-goers who were shocked when I dared to wear anything red (it inflames the men, don’t you know?). Or that, at Christmas, I would be sent out of the law office for wearing little Christmas-print ankle socks with my black spike heels (a current fashion in LA at the time) and my office-suitable, high neck, long sleeve dark green jersey dress. Or what 12 feet of snow actually looks like, when it threatens to cover your mobile home’s doors and windows, you are trapped and have run out of everything, lamp oil, food, cigarettes, beer, and have to tunnel through the snow to fetch firewood (our only heat) and feed the animals. Or that the County doesn’t bother to plow until it stops snowing, and never plows if the schools are out. Or what cabin fever can do to a relationship, no matter how passionate. Or that the flock of chickens we raised from day-olds in Malibu and brought with us would disappear during the first couple of months, the prey of great horned owls and coyotes and bobcats. Or that our nearest (a mile away) farmer neighbor would shoot my precious puppy who had run off, because that’s what happens to unknown dogs in the country. Or a million other things. I wouldn’t go back, and I love it here, but it did break me in lots of ways, especially physically. If you and your love decide to move, my best recommendation is that you go to the place you are considering and spend at least a couple of weeks there, getting the feel of the people as well as the landscape. Go to local coffee shops and listen to the conversations. Chat with the girls in the grocery store. Ask questions. Because now, where I live, since retirement I am alone with my thoughts, my books, and MOOCs and Medium, being the wild-woman infidel California liberal that I am perceived to be. We’ve been here almost 30 years, and are still considered the “newcomers from California.” Well, you asked …

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