It was 2004 when I found this gem – a one bedroom, two story cabin rental in a small town called Boulder Creek, in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was literally in the middle of the forest, off-the-grid, at 1700 feet with well water and solar electricity. The views were breathtaking as you can see from the image above. The majestic redwoods, oaks, and madrone trees provided shade and homes for an abundance of wildlife: deer, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, the occasional mountain lion, jack rabbits, squirrels, and other rodents, quail, finches, wild turkeys, skinks, salamanders, snakes, lizards – both alligator and blue bellies, scorpions, spiders, and so many more.
I still remember the ad that was in the back of the free publication, Good Times. It read:
1 bedroom cabin $950/mo 1st mo free. Views of Monterey Bay. Must have 4wd, be quiet & clean. No smoking. Fenced yard. Pets? 555-1234
My friend, Callalily and I had just finished eating lunch at the Boulder Creek Brewery. C, as I call her, actually lived in Boulder Creek and said that she’d help me search for a place. We had looked at a few places already and left messages. When we were leaving the brewery, which has the best raspberry iced tea, I grabbed the Good Times.
I showed C the ad and then called the number. Dee answered the phone and our conversation, not verbatim as this was about 16 years ago, went something like this:
Me: Hello, I’m calling about the ad in Good Times.
Dee: Yes, it’s still for rent. May I ask why you’re moving from your current place and how long you’ve been living there?
Me: I’m living in a duplex and have been for the last seven years. The lady who owns it is 90 years old and if she dies, I’ll only have 30 days to find another place. I have pets…
Dee: Well, we’re looking for a long-term tenant. How many pets do you have?
Me: (whispering into the phone) I have nine. (Louder) I work at a veterinary hospital.
Dee: Oh my (laugh), that’s a lot of pets. What kinds are they?
Me: I have six cats and three dogs – a pit bull, an older mixed breed dog, and a miniature pinscher.
Dee gave me the address, after making sure that I did in fact have a 4 wheel drive vehicle. C and I drove up there, taking her AWD Subaru as she had GPS. Except back then, GPS didn’t work so well. Even while I gave her directions, without any street signs, we still got lost. We drove the main road to the first sign and made a left, then drove until we came to a “1301” posted on a white sign and made another left up another dirt road, then when we came to the fork, and made a right. The next fork in the road, we made a left up the hill. Those were our directions as the roads were not marked with signs. With eight miles of roads in between, and “driveways” veering off to the left or right, it was very easy to get lost in the woods. These roads were not paved, they were more like fire roads. There were no houses like in a typical neighborhood, just pure forest. When we drove up the hill, we saw a brown painted clapboard house off to the left, enclosed in a huge yard. According to the directions, this had to be the place, but for $950/month? It looked huge! In comparison to the dinky two bedroom duplex that I had been living in for the last seven years, this place was huge!
We drove down to Dee’s house, which was grand, and retrieved the key to the cabin. We got a tour of her house – there was an atrium in her house with a wood plank walkway that curved around the atrium into her office. There was also a tree in her house! Wow! 😮
The entire downstairs was wood flooring – the front door opened up to the dining area with the kitchen on the left hand wall. Then there was a long hallway that led to the stairs on the left, and the original part of the cabin which was the living room and a full bathroom that was added on later. The living room and full bathroom had laminate wood floors, whereas the rest of the downstairs had pine wood floors. There were huge double pane windows that made up the whole right side wall of the dining room, along with one corner area where the propane stove was. The living room was wood paneling and had one large double pane window next to the sliding glass door that opened out to the deck. The deck didn’t have a railing around it, nor did it have stairs. There were 8 inch wide by 2 inch thick planks of wood that were about 10 to 12 feet long that sat on either side of the deck and were angled down to the yard. There was a claw foot tub in the bathroom with a pedestal sink. There was also a very small wood burning stove in the corner of the living room, nearest to the bathroom.
The upstairs consisted of the bedroom, a narrow hallway, and a one half bathroom that was as big as the downstairs minus the living room. The bedroom had light beige carpet, the narrow hallway leading to the half bath was turned into a closet on one side, but no doors. Speaking of doors, there were absolutely no doors inside the house – no door to either bathroom and no door to the bedroom. There was also no heat in the bedroom. (This wouldn’t be added until about eight years after I had been living there.)
After looking at the huge bedroom, the large yard, and knowing how little rent I’d be paying – I wanted this place! No walls to share with my neighbors, the location was closer to work, and it was just absolutely peaceful there. Dee called me a week later and said the place was mine if I wanted it. 🙂
Home Sweet Home
Throughout the years, Dee’s husband, Monte built a wood shed for me, replaced the tiny wood burning stove with a larger wood burning stove, built a carport, and stairs leading down to the yard from the deck. I supplied the fencing for the railing around the deck to make it safer because having a deck about ten feet off the ground with absolutely no railings of any kind around it is absolutely terrifying if a child or animal falls off of it. One night I was sitting with my legs dangling off the deck, and my Miniature Pinscher, Gwenyth was sitting on my lap. Well my Pit Bull, Bradley, came over and was nuzzling Gwenyth and he nuzzled her right off my lap, and she fell off the deck! Ten feet down and hit solid ground – boom! She lay there very still. I was scrambling to get my butt off the deck to run down one of the board planks to check on her, but then she shook herself off and was OK.
After eight years of living there, I even got a heater in the bedroom. (Mind you, I didn’t realize that this was a mandatory thing in California.) It was cold in that bedroom. In the winter, it would get to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit in that bedroom! Brr. My bed had fleece sheets, a thin blanket, an electric blanket (but it never worked right with the solar electricity,) a thicker blanket, and two down blankets. Not to mention, I would go to bed with socks on my feet, dressed in fleece pajamas, and wear a beanie on my head, and mittens on my hands. It was that cold! Having all of my pets snuggled in the bed with me just to keep me somewhat warm. The heater in the bedroom was a godsend.
But despite all of the problems with this house, it was my home. It was the longest place I’ve ever lived in my entire life. I loved it there. It inspired me to create jewelry. It inspired me to write poetry. It inspired me to learn how to draw. Dee and Monte didn’t care how many pets I had. They, at one time, were like my second parents, taking care of me – when I was their only tenant. They bought me a cord of wood one year, which isn’t cheap. They didn’t raise my rent for years!
And then 2017 happened… 😭
Next blog: Winter 2016-17