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Perspective

 

IMG_1256The bathroom was huge on this flight. Usually they’re cramped, right? But this one felt like home. No more, and no less space than the bathroom at my house. Serious airline upgrade, I thought to myself. But then remembered that Rachel and I moved into an Airstream trailer with the kids in May.  So, yes, same size as my “house.” Felt great.

Our destination also was an exercise in perspective. If you had told the natives of this country centuries ago that they could vacation in a tent, they would have been unimpressed. Even a fancy tent with a fireplace would have been a tough sell. But today, a tent-inspired vacation phenomenon sweeps the country. Mobs of people leave cities each weekend to live outdoors, in tents, or small huts. The weekly exodus is particularly interesting because the mobs leave comforts and luxuries at home that they work hard to afford.

When Rachel and I arrived at Huttopia in Sutton for our anniversary weekend, we were issued the key to a tent, and the opportunity to purchase firewood to heat said tent. We cooked over open flame, leaped off the deck and ran wooded trails along mountain streams, and talked with the excellent staff. But mostly we talked to each other. We talked about life and dreams and challenges, all the things that were easier to keep up on three kids ago. We talked about raising kids and growing business. We ignored our phones, except to take a few pictures. And we collected ideas with open arms for use at our own take on simple living, our Airstream at Six Sigma Ranch.

We landed late on the flight back, and booked a Best Western near the San Francisco airport. The bathroom there was glorious, even bigger than the plane. But the room came with a thermostat, and little opportunity to roast marshmallows.

Meanwhile back in Sutton, another slightly frazzled couple prepared to take over our tent. I bet they ran the trails, talked about life and dreams, and cooked over an open fire that also heated the tent.

And just like us, I bet they loved it.

Christian

 

 

 

 

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Simplified

IMG_1241I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, going through a box. It was a keepsakes box that had been packed and taped for 10 years. There were papers and pictures, letters from childhood friends, nick-nacks and homemade creations that I had no memory of making.

Simplify.

It was the mantra I had to keep telling myself. Simplify. I had to simplify because Christian and I had decided to move ourselves and the kids into a 200 square foot Airstream trailer and all this stuff was not going to fit. I had recently been inspired by some amazing people in history. Mother Teresa and Gandhi and Jesus had very few possessions.   They didn’t spend time on maintenance activities. All effort was poured into their cause. They inspired me!

They inspired me until I pulled out the lime green porcelain vase boot that my grandmother had given me. I held it in my hands for a while. My grandmother had touched it. This was not a family heirloom. It was not valuable. It was not even pretty. But my grandmother had touched it.

Simplify.

I had to do something. I had to set up some sorting criteria or I would continue to keep and collect stuff in boxes. I chose to only keep things that were uplifting, valuable or inheritable. That meant family pictures could stay and that pictures of my 12 year old boyfriend had to go. That meant letters from my grandmother would stay but cards that were only signed by people would go.

Simplify

I finally put the vase boot in the box labeled thrift store. It was not valuable and my kids would never want it. And I havepictures and actual letters from my grandmother that are golden. In the end we got through all the stuff. We packed our family into the Airstream, and any remaining nice furniture into a 10×10 ft storage shed.

Simplified.

And I feel somehow lighter. The battle is not over. Stuff still piles up and from time to time I have to purge. But I’m hoping that lifting the burden of stuff will give me time. Time is my most valuable possession. If I have more time I can pour it into my family and my cause.

Rachel

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2 Week Airstream Update

 

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It’s fun to watch faces when people ask “sooo, how’s it going?!”

They are referring, of course, to our full-time Airstream adventure.

We woke up the first morning when the sun popped over Jim Dollar Mountain at Six Sigma Ranch. It lit the inside of our shiny dwelling to a golden glow, and breakfast began.

The decibel threshold for sending kids outside is lower in the smaller space. So they end up riding more bikes, and finding more treasures and dragon flies, than they did when we lived in a “normal” house. We also end up on spontaneous family hikes, and the occasional fishing trip. (Real fisherwomen don’t need waders.)

Home repairs and maintenance adventures are different, but no more complicated. (Review of the “Water Wizard Toilet Wand” to follow ; )

It takes just a few minutes to sweep the coach, but no less time to clean the bathroom.

It takes longer to do the dishes, with less counter space and no dishwasher. So we’re stuck talking to each other as we work. On the same note, it’s possible to communicate at a conversational volume from anywhere in the rig.

This tiny home thing isn’t for everyone, but it’s probably less difficult than you think.

Christian

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Lake County… Join My Soap Box

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(This article originally published in the Lake County Record Bee.)

I startled the woman at a local hospitality establishment. She made some comment that business was difficult, hinting that it should be expected because this is, after all “just Lake County.” She expected me to join in, lamenting about the challenges of doing business in a depressed rural economy.

I didn’t.

In short, I told her that any depression in our rural economy is caused by people like her.

You see, more than 3,000 people came to our little winery last year.  They drove over a mountain to get here, and down a rustic road. But they came smiling, with high expectations, based on what their friends had told them.  Some had read a glowing review in the San Francisco Chronicle, or Sunset Magazine, or Wine Enthusiast, all of which have published substantial pieces on our region in the past few months.

The moment they got here, they started to look for an answer to the question: Do I dare recommend this place to my friends? Many of them did dare, because many that came were friends of friends.

What the woman I first introduced doesn’t realize is that she creates the story that guests see when they get here.  If she tells people that this is, after all, “just Lake County,” the people that visit believe it. But if she tells them about the incredible hike up Mt. Konocti, or the world-class bass fishing on Clearlake, or the outstanding guest experience at one of the many wineries or local hotels, or even the resilient nature of our community following fires, those are the stories guests tell their friends, and locals tell each other.

Now, does Lake County have challenges? Of course it does. We have homeless people, and we have an extraordinary climate for growing cannabis, which competes with what some consider to be more noble crops.  But do other great regions of the world have challenges? Are there homeless people in New York and San Francisco? Sure there are. Yet those places foster a great sense of local pride, a sense that is beginning to take charge in Lake County too.

One club member at our winery is a young woman who works in the tech industry. She lives in a beautiful home on Cobb Mountain and works remotely. She lives here because she wants to,  and makes a fine living that pays taxes into our local economy.

Let’s imagine her first visit to Lake County, before she decided to move here.  I assume that it was a positive experience, or she wouldn’t have bothered, right?   But she did bother, and she brings up friends from the bay area, and her presence here improves the experience of the region as a whole.

What if that bitter woman behind the counter had ruined her first visit? She wouldn’t have come. And thus the woman’s message is a self fulfilling prophecy. If she tells people that this is a discouraging region, it becomes just that. But if she shares the beauty of the region with enthusiastic people who come here expecting to see great things, it becomes a beautiful region with a focus on great things.

If the bitter woman wants to improve this region, the best thing she can do is leave! Or even better, pretend it never happened, and change her tune immediately.  Talk about the great things that surround us, and we will see more great things.

Let’s call out the negative, magnify the positive, and harvest the result of a beautiful place to live, shall we?

Christian

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Full Time Airstream Life

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So we did it. We sold the house and moved into the 31 ft. 1983 Airstream Excella.

The move has become a conversation topic beyond expectations, with inquiries from 3 distinctive camps.

Most who ask about our Airstream move are encouraging, albeit confused about our motivation.

Another camp comes charging, seemingly offended on a personal level, as if our defiance of the cultural order they have in mind is a personal attack on their own status within that order. This group surprised me, especially when I realized that the questions to us come following a series of conversations they’ve had already with others about our living situation. I’m honored, I suppose, that they care enough about our family home to discuss it to the point of personal offense.

And the last camp is my favorite. Often married to the personally-offended camp is someone at a level beyond encouragement. As their spouse drills us on the practicalities of space and laundry, this person becomes increasingly starry eyed, finally confessing that tiny home living for them would be a dream-come-true. The couple wanders off to begin what might become a defining conversation of their marriage about hopes, dreams and expectations for life.

Meanwhile, we’re enjoying the vineyard view and simplicity of life on the hill above Six Sigma Ranch. In the first week, we’ve had the mechanical challenges one would expect from a coach built 2 months before I was born. And we’re still running a constant dialogue on topics like “hey, if we move the chocolate powder from the pantry to the tea drawer, we won’t have to unload the baking supplies to make the kids a drink.”

The space is small, and requires constant thinking. But it also takes just 20 minutes to clean, and makes life feel like a constant vacation.

Most amusingly, we towed the rig to stay with my brother this weekend. Instead of packing, we spent 20 minutes getting hitched and securing the cabin for takeoff. Several times during the trip, we had that jolt of “hey, did you pack the…” each followed by an “oh yeah, we’re pulling our house. If we own it, we packed it.”

Christian

 

 

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Be Awesome at Social Media

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Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily uses social media to spread the word about chickens and eggs. Amazingly, she stars in a TV show, writes a newsletter with more than 35,000 subscribers, writes a blog, and regularly posts to Twitter, Instatgram and Facebook.

Her FB page with 676,868 likes does the following in a month (August, 2016).

She:

  • Posts 77 times. Yes, 77!
  • Posts 54 pictures including chickens/eggs/veges/fruit.
  • Posts 12 pictures including people.
  • Links her blog 5 times.
  • Posts events 5 times.
  • Finds time to give you 9 small chicken farmer tips.
  • Shows off her chickens via video 4 times.

In the end you know her chickens. They have names and, I’m sure, a group of fans who worry about them. Her FB page could be labeled “A Day in the Life of a Backyard Chicken Farmer.”

Here is August for two other popular farmer FB pages:

Second place (by random research) belongs to Long Meadow Ranch with 51,135 page likes. The farm/restaurant/winery posted 50 times and featured peaches the whole month of August. Twenty of their pictures integrate peaches. Peach cobbler, peach lemonade, peach salad, etc, etc. Loads of pictures.

And in 3rd place, White Oak Pastures with 16,175 page likes and 26 posts. The meat and farm product producers love showing pictures of their pigs.   Twelve pictures include animals.  Animals rule.

My lessons: Post often (preferable more than once a day), post pictures, and make sure your pictures tell the story of who you are.

-Rachel

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We’re getting hitched. Again.

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The project started as a ridiculous idea that wouldn’t go away. You know, ideas like “we should move to El Salvador, live in a grass hut and restore a dilapidated coffee farm into a national brand,” or “hey, if we sold the house and bought a vintage Airstream trailer, we would never have to pay a mortgage, and we could park it anywhere with a great view and awesome farm surroundings!” That second one, actually, is the idea as it appeared. It came up over tea six months ago, and yesterday we bought the vintage Airstream.

As previously confessed, we won’t defend the plan as normal or even reasonable. It’s not. But when we began to talk about it, we realized it would be fun. And it would certainly be a challenge, and an opportunity for growth. Not normal, but an adventure.

That adventure started with an extensive search of Airstream options, from the gutted 1930-somethings to the $150,000 yacht-style 2017 models. Our capacity for handiwork eliminated the first, and our bank account eliminated the latter, so we settled somewhere well below average on a 1983 Airstream Excella that reaches 31 feet from hitch to tail lights. We picked it up on the coast of Washington, and hauled it 781 miles home, where Six Sigma’s trusty Ford Diesel pulled it to the top of the gravel infested hill above our house.   There Rachel and the kids are cleaning it out as I write.

While any plan involving a 248 square foot living quarters and 3 kids is subject to alteration, here is where we’re at: Sell the house (the sign is up), fix and paint the rig, test it on a few weekend tours, and then downsize our belongs to fit in the plethora of cubbies and overhead storage compartments. After that, we plan to move in, and experience the many views of Six Sigma Ranch, along with a selection of farms across Northern California.

Christian

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