Jim has several riverside acres in a small valley in Humboldt County. There’s a general store, a bar, a post office, and a lot of peace and quiet.
He has a huge garden of zucchini and hooknecks and onions and garlic and melons and strawberries and apples and I don’t know what else. He has a little old mobile home we call the Spackle Palace, which overlooks the river.
Matthew and I spent days lounging on the porch reading, or watching the Mattole sluggishly drift by, very low in this extreme drought. We rode with Jim to Ferndale, along a road known to hardy and fearless locals as “the Wildcat.”
We picked fresh apples. We helped Jim care for his garden. We talked and laughed for hours. At night we watched Spinal Tap and Chinatown, then slept like the dead in our tent on Jim’s grass, falling asleep to crickets and night birds and owls, with the Milky Way coasting along above us, and the Mattole gurgling sleepily off to one side. Jim is so kind to share this with us.
It’s the kind of place I ache to live, the kind of land I dream of owning a home upon. A little two-bedroom house, with a yellow kitchen, one shed for Matt’s bikes, and another for my textiles. And some apple trees.
With Jim’s permission (and blessing) I spent some time clearing his garden of conveniently invasive yellow dock for dyeing. Also with permission, I harvested some lichen from his twenty or so 80-year-old apple trees, a little bit from each.
This harvesting from one’s land, whether of apples or strawberries or dock or lichen, pulls at my heart. The sun on my face, the dirt on my hands, the sweat on my body, the learning and noting of dyeplants, the digging, the removal of stones, the wet legs from watering plants—I love it. The textile work won’t feed my body, but it still feeds me nevertheless. As much as I appreciate the neighborhood I live in, I ache for more of this kind of life.
Lichen harvesting is controversial, first because lichens grow so slowly that it takes years to replenish a colony, and second, because many lichens are threatened. I therefore went about my harvesting prudently.
I didn’t clear cut any lichen colonies, just looked for where it was growing most thickly, and took a portion of that. I also looked at it as a one-time experiment. I figured if If loveloveloved the way the dyes come out, I’m kind of doomed.
Well, guess what? I’m doomed. I LOVE these guys! Photos soon. (: