Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time have seen me go from a suburban earth mother to a rural forest dweller. We joined a lot of other SF Bay Area retirees, here in the foothills of the Sierra, for the lifestyle, turning our backs on the noise, pollution and congestion. We do visit the Bay Area, once in awhile, but find that there is a lot of destressing and deep breaths happening, when we begin the drive "up the hill" as we get past Folsom.
HE is retired from corporate life but I have never worked harder, in my life, and love it. We came here to fulfill a dream of having some room to breathe deeply, with nature all around us and traded that little suburban rancher on a quarter acre lot for a bigger home on 8 acres, building a "granny flat" as they call the little homes for Great Grandma, for my mother. The transition from being those transplants/city kids to rural is finally taking hold, as 5 years into this adventure, I finally feel like a part of the community.
That being said, we are still a bit different from the natives or folks who moved up here decades ago. We are not Tea Party members, for one thing, and we don't have an arsenal of guns. We just have to listen to what I call Redneck Fireworks; shots fired up in the woods.
Being rural does not mean that you don't have neighbors and this place is the newest in this neck of the woods, meaning that our neighbors used to use this land as they wished, before it was reshaped for a house. They remember the thick forest and gouge scars left from the history of placer mining, before the scars were filled in and the trees thinned. We are the Newcomers, who have to prove that we belong here.
Our Down The Hill neighbors are a young family, in the main house, and the extended family in the other two dwellings. Their dog, a sweet but unruly German Shepherd, has had no training and spent way too much time up here, chasing Trixie and being chased by Tank, as well as sneaking up on me to hump my leg. Annoying, to say the least.
Our Up The Hill neighbors are in their late 70s and feisty. Bill likes to tell us how he used to pan for gold in our creek and how he is building a gattling gun. Oh yes, and he likes to do target practice up there. He and his family use the road, that comes much too close to our house, to walk down to Weber Creek and while it is surprising to see someone walk by, we wave and go on our business. They know who we are and where we live and what we have done around the place. They have a grove of trees between our place and theirs and we have never seen where they live because you just don't go visiting, if you catch my drift.
A couple of months ago, Bill called to say that Trixie, had gotten loose and was up at his place, running the fences...disturbing his chickens. Chickens. We had no idea that they had chickens and this worried me. He told Rod that he has a rifle and would use it on her. Yeah, rural life. Guns.
Both Rod and I were stricken, knowing that we could no longer let her run around loose, in the yard, like our "annoying neighbors" down the hill. WE were THOSE PEOPLE and had to do something to remedy the problem. Living in the suburbs, you fenced your property, so that your dogs could race around in a confined space but up here, on 8 hilly and wooded acres divided by creeks, it seemed impossible. We were gutted. The following morning, I awoke with a plan and a place. I told Rod that we could fence in a portion of the land between the two houses, making a BIG dog run, that is probably bigger than what our fenced area in Lafayette. I told him that we needed to get someone to build it, because his days of building huge long fences, anchored in rocky clay were over.
It has been done and it works. It keeps our dogs in and big run area for their exercise and business and we can get them running before they settle in with me, when we "go to work" in the studio. No, I don't shove them in there and leave them out but I think that they will love it in the summer and I will be able to have them outside while I have the studio doors open wide. I won't have to attach them to long leads, to keep them from wandering. Safety.
So...chickens. We had chickens in Lafayette and I miss having their noises and company but everytime that I lust after chicks at the big feed store, I remind myself that there are foxes and all other manner of wild animals out there in the woods, at night, and I get over it, preferring to buy eggs from people at the Farmer's Market. Chickens...
Here comes the Chicken part of the story. I worked in the studio yesterday and by lunch time, Rod and I decided to head "down the hill" to Folsom, to Costco. We got ourselves cleaned up and bundled up and as I was outside, waiting for him to get his car keys, I heard it. It was the familiar sound that a chicken makes when fluttering up to or jumping down from something. Bagockabugga. I saw a flash of auburn feathers and told Rod to find Bill's number and tell him that one of his chickens was down here. I didn't see which way it went (wasn't sure if it was a rooster) and kept craning my neck to see if it headed down the driveway. No chicken. No worries because Rod could not find the number. Oh...I saw HER, heading over to the Little House and onto the porch. I just kept making chicken noises (when you have had hens, you just do this) and sure enough, this beautiful Rhode Island Red was just strolling around on the porch, over there. She did not seem the least bit afraid of me and jumped up onto the window sill, peering into the windows at the colorful yarn, acting like she had been inside a house and wanted in, now.
When Rod came out, to tell me that he could not locate Bill's number, I decided to scoop up the hen under my arm, as I did quite often with mine, and began the forced march up the hill to Bill's house. Rod followed and we both made the lung searing walk up the hill at double time, trying to get the hen up there and to alert Bill that she was on the loose. We had never ventured onto his property and had never seen his place. No real chicken coop but a fenced area, where the gate was open and another Rhodie standing on top of a truck. Interesting. We called out, not wanting to get SHOT but no one was home. (Rod peeked through the front door windows and pointed out the rifle by the door...sweet.) I decided to let the hen go, there on the porch, and we noisily left Bill and Betty's compound, walking down the hill to get into the car and on our way.
As we were heading down the highway, I noticed a blood spot on my hand. I knew that I had not scratched it and she was a perfectly docile hen, in her tucked-under-my-arm position, as I was petting her beautiful and shiny feathers. Weird. I got a tissue and wiped off the blood spot and then I saw another and more and noticed that my red winter jacket had droplets of water beading up on the right side. I thought nothing of it, because we had been walking through the forest and had a few snowflakes fall on us. Nope, not water...blood. Here and there, droplets of blood, all on the side where I had carried her, tucked under my right arm. She had come down here because something had injured her! She is Bill's issue now but all that I could think of was how his chickens were running loose and very vulnerable in this environment, but NOT, thankfully, in danger from my dog and since we told our other neighbors that Bill threatened to shoot OURS, Sawyer is now under much more control, down there. Rural Life, guns and chickens...
I really do miss having hens but after yesterday, I know that it would be something to worry about, instead of something pastoral, and so the fantasy of bringing my suburban lifestyle to the woods is over. I hope that my new friend will heal and be ok but I am not venturing up to Bill's house to find out...