Saturday, September 1, 2012

Give Me A Brake!

The area around Lake Siskiyou in Northern California is blanketed by smoke from wildfires located very near our destination.  As we descended into California' Central Valley, I-5 was about the craziest driving I have been in since I can remember.  Lots of semi-trucks, lots of people going somewhere in a tear ass hurry on roads that invite a little reticence.  In my own car I would probably be right with them, but the Land Whale's lack of nimbleness and plowing tendencies keep my constantly checking my mirrors to see who I might be pissing off and who might take a shot at passing us from a blind spot behind the Whale Tail.  One of Paul's readers warned me to take care, and I am glad I did.  Engineers working on the flight control systems for the Space Shuttle described their problem as having to "fly a brick."  Many times at the wheel I have been reminded of that description.

On the way down I-5 we stopped at the little railroad town of Dunsmuir and had breakfast. The town's origins were rooted in the need for railroad trains to need "pushers" to get over the pass.  I believe the town was originally known as Pusher.  Anyway we ate at a lovely, funky Cafe called the Dogwood Diner and, during our breakfast, Paul and Jocelyn and Eivind and I recorded a podcast on non-chemical ways to do house chores.  Be looking for it among Paul's future podcasts--it will be as amusing as it is informative.  I would like to do a shout out to the artists of Dunsmuir whose art graces the community at every turn.  Finally, a shout out to our friendly, attentive server.  If the Land Whale was all about picking up passengers on an ad hoc basis, I would have found room for you--you seemed to have a spirit that would have added to the Tour.   I suspect you and Eivind might have found something to talk about.

The farm we visited is very remote and required taking the Land Whale up a winding canyon road, to an unbelievably winding side road (with logging trucks, no less) onto a short road that was barely wide enough for the Land Whale to the farm itself.  I made the final looping turn in anticipation of our departure this morning and when I went to stop, the brake pedal went right to the floor.  Imagine my surprise.  Paul said, "Don't worry, they are probably just hot from all the use they got today."  Me:  [WTH?] These are the brakes, after all, and I don't like systems that fail when they're hot.  We are in California and it is wildfire hot.  Those brakes seem important to me, especially since we had to backtrack all the way to Redding to pick up I-5 again.  As the Tour driver, I told Paul my job was to 1) have everyone arrive alive and 2) get where we need to be on time, provided #1 is met.

In the mean time, we had a great visit with the couple who own the farm, The Dell Artemis Farm. [I don't know what to make of the naming of farms.  It is one of the VERY few things farmers get to do for free.  How do you pick a farm name?  Does it speak to you?  Do you grow up thinking, "If I ever own a farm, I am going to name it---?"  Do you make it speak to your hopes or dreams?  Is it part of your marketing scheme?]

Robert and Marina are raising, chickens and pigs, vegetables, etc.  That they have chosen to build their place from the ground up is very impressive.  I mean, there was nothing there when they started but the land itself.  They have lived in a cramped cabin structure for quite some time but are building more suitable quarters, as well as shelter for their animals.   They have a pretty impressive gravity fed water system for irrigation and consumption, solar shower, an amazing root cellar, and other improvements that belong on a farm.  They are 21st century pioneers, plain and simple.   Yes, they have the internet and telephone service, power tools, and farm vehicles, but they have not chosen an easy path.  It seemed they are working toward a dream and fulfilling the  dream is giving their lives meaning and joy.  They are employing human initiative, problem solving and creativity in their work on their farm.  Every farmer does that, I suppose, but they are going to own their place body and soul when they are done.  Not relying on chemicals as fertilizer or herbicides means they have to find different ways to accomplish agricultural results that are sustaining and profitable.

While there, Paul recorded a couple of podcasts.  The first, over wine, was about philosophy, getting along, good fortune, etc.  You will have to wait for the edited version before you can be certain anything insightful was said.  Finally, before we left, Paul did another podcast with our hosts about their lives, experiences, approach to farming as well as other topics.  THAT one will be worth listening to, I believe if nothing else than to demonstrate that not everyone lines up entirely in line with Paul's views.  Marina knows how to push back.

So, we have worked our way further south and east.  I am writing this from the deck of the Land Whale docked here at the Chaffin Family Orchard outside of Oroville, California. I am in need of a little not-driving time to myself.  The rest of the band is off touring the place and learning how they operation works and Paul is no doubt making observations and suggestions.  That is what he does.  Later we will head to Woodleaf Farms near here.

Oh, and about those brakes.  It seems they were just hot yesterday because today they worked fine.  I am lobbying for a complete inspection/tune up, etc. in the Southern California area before we head across the desert to Phoenix.  I am enjoying the driving and the things I am seeing, but safety first.

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