If you stand on our ridge top and do a three sixty, you might easily believe that the surrounding densely- wooded hills hold but a scattering of homes. Jenn and I certainly thought this when first we landed on Gualala ranch. At that time there were no three sixty degree views, just an unhealthy tanoak forest; SOD was creeping it’s way into Sonoma county, combined with the wild fire of ‘78, poor advice from USFS and several years of drought, it was a forest in need of much love. But that is a story for another blog.
As we started to sink our roots into this landscape we came to realize just how big the community “out here” actually was, far more than a handful of full time residents. We knew a few of our nearest neighbors in those early days but we had yet to find ourselves truly connected. The key to belonging presented itself through our local VFD when a neighbor mentioned a proposed Halloween fundraiser. With a combined 50 years of experience in the food industry it seemed only logical for Jenn and I to offer our services catering. The fundraiser was such a success that the Halloween bash is now an annual and seriously fun event and we happily provide catering services each year. Thus, by cooking in costume, we became not just residents, but active members of our ranch community.
Now that we were “in” myriad ways to participate beyond the VFD presented themselves and barn raising became one of our favorites. In this neighborhood chock full of quasi-hippie back-to-landers work trade is a time honored tradition. Over the years we have joined many a work party; projects ranging from an olive harvest to bridge building, each and every one offered a learning experience and were loads of fun. When we hosted our first work party, (stuccoing our house), we had more volunteers than work. Neighbors, young and old, newly transplanted or grand fathered- in, showed up with smiles and helping hands and we knew for certain that we now belonged and had found our way HOME.