Sunday, March 23

Neighborhood gathering

Today there was a gathering of most of the neighbors in our little valley for a pot luck get together. Several interesting people that we hadn’t met were there, and some old friends we hadn’t seen for awhile except maybe as we pass on the unpaved roads around here. One, a retired machinist who used to take the ideas of the physicists at UC Berkeley and make them into working objects, lives on a nearby hill and is totally off-grid, solar powered! Just like us. Except being on top of a hill, he isn’t actually in the valley and gets a whole two or three hours of sunlight per day more than we do. We found out from him that the local utility will install power lines for $22.50 per foot! That means that at our current location, we would have to pay almost $120,000 for the privilege of getting a big power bill every month.

Another neighbor, who raises show champion llamas (one of hers is second in the nation), informed us that the local telephone company can get DSL to her place, the first in our valley. I’m hoping we can get it, but I think even though we could almost see where the fiber optic line ends down here, we are still too far away as the wire goes. As the crow flies, no problem. Hm-m-m. Maybe we can work something out where we use our ravens to get us connected. Nah, they’re too lazy.

Another neighbor will soon be retiring from the Park Service. He worked in Montana and Alaska where he owns two houses he built himself without government involvement or permits. He’s getting a taste of California and especially Madera County bureaucracy. He wants to build a house and is finding out about all the hoops you have to jump through to do anything around here. After paying $15,000 he is now in the position to apply for a building permit, which will cost plenty more. But it will only take seven months. Normally it’s a little over a year, but nobody’s building houses anymore so things have sped up. I mentioned that we had spent about $4,000 and a year to do what would have taken me a sharp pencil and five seconds to do. We wanted to make what is called a lot line adjustment on our property. There is a 40-acre parcel that sticks out and is well defined on the property map. We wanted to break off that 40 so we could build a house on it. One four-inch long line is all it takes. But no, it had to be surveyed. All the buildings we have over a mile away had to be measured and plotted. What it really comes down to is the local surveyors had to be given work to do!

We found out from another neighbor that the county is considering putting water meters on all the private wells!! Whoa! Break out the sledge hammers, boys. You break mine, and I’ll break yours. And pity the poor meter reader when he gets on these back roads where trees could fall onto his truck unexpectedly or he could get back in his truck and sit on a rattlesnake. Or a fully-charged cattle prod.

Another neighbor, a retired physician, was stuck in her house for two days because the wild pigs had torn her driveway up so much she couldn’t get her little Volkswagen out to the main road. When the pigs are onto something, they leave the place looking like land mines have gone off.

You can certainly learn a lot at a neighborhood gathering.

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