News from Serenity Valley, June 2014


I can’t believe it’s already June. Time seems to be flying by faster and faster these days. I wonder what they’re putting in the water… Anyway, it’s time for a long over-due update, and I’ve got some big news!

The first piece of news is, as you can see in the photo above, I finally got my property deeds! I’d sent in my last payment last summer, but it took a while for the deeds to get to me, probably because I hadn’t kept the seller up to date on my mailing address. But, I have them now, and the property is officially mine for ever and ever. It feels great to have that taken care of. For as long as I can afford to pay $500/year in property taxes, I’ll have a patch of ground I can call home.

The other piece of big news is that I quit my job (again)! I’d been working in San Francisco as the Chief Technology Officer of a startup for the last couple of years, and recently decided it was time to move on to my next adventure. So what’s my next adventure, you ask? Well, that’ll have to be another post, but for now, I’ll just say that I anticipate being able to spend slightly more time on my property, and having more time for blog posts, and definitely more adventures (for starters, I went on a 7-day 85-mile backcountry backpacking trip!).


As far as other updates go, the rain barrel I set up late last year (and finally hooked up earlier this year) managed to capture over 800 gallons of water off my cabin roof, despite it being a severe draught year. So, I decided to plant another tree (the cherry tree I planted a couple of years ago died last year). This time I opted for an apricot tree, and I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to keep it alive, assuming the irrigation system works properly while I’m away.

One thing I’ve been trying to figure out, is how to make decent dirt. I’d like to grow more plants and vegetables in the future, and I’d like to avoid buying soil if possible. But the native soil is this dusty red dirt that compacts into a hard lump when moistened and dried, and hardly has the texture of soil. After some experimentation, I’ve found that mixing a naturally occurring mulch-like substance from a decomposing tree along with sand into the native dirt produces something that has the texture and water absorption properties of proper gardening soil. I’m currently experimentally growing a couple of squash plants and a tomato plant in this home-made soil (with a small amount of commercial planting soil around the roots), so we’ll see how they do.

Other than that, I’ve got a bunch of projects or project ideas, so I’ll keep y’all posted on those as/if I make progress!

13 thoughts on “News from Serenity Valley, June 2014

  1. As to your soil problem. We have a very different problem. our time for gardening is limited but somehow we’ve worked out a method for producing compost that is working well. We are in wendel ca and could provide you with a feed bag of same for the price of you shovelling them full. If you want it, its yours. Non-meat food compost from a pile going back years.

  2. Check out vermicomposting. You can do this while at your place in the city, even in an apartment. It may not be loads of compost from the waste of a one person family, but every little bit helps. Good to see you are still around, hadn’t seen a post in a while.

  3. Get yourself a powered/non-powered composting toilet system. A little goes a long way. Human waste makes great fertilizer, and the composting process completely decontaminates it.
    Very good tip for use… Avoid urinating in it. Solid waste only.
    (I know that’s difficult in the Winter at 20 below) I devised a simple, and cheap, solution to that.

    Try Lehman’ for a look at their equipment They have a rather large selection of non-powered products including bio-degradable paper for your new fertilizer manufacturing toilet system.

  4. Glad to see it’s all going forward! There is lots of good info on the web about enriching/moistening the soil– dead wood holds moisture very well and I’ve seen lush dirt-covered mounds of deadwood in arid areas; I’d recommend putting a high ring of this around your trees in case of irrigation failure. Careful using conifers for soil addition, though– they have chemicals in them to discourage plant & bacterial growth so they stunt plants and stop the soil from composting. If any of your neighbors have farm animals, composted manure is a great additive to the soil. Also.. neat to see you’re hiking the PCT; I did the lower 1/3 solo on horseback 10 years ago. I wouldn’t say it was fun, exactly, but very satisfying! Good luck with everything.

  5. So glad to hear from you again, Sir. I’m happy for the changes you’re making and I’m hopeful we’ll hear from you more often.

  6. so, they make it clear on the deed that you are not married. Does this protect you in the future if you do marry? Just wondering the implications? Congrats on owning your own estate 🙂 Rich

    • Yep, it establishes that even after I get married, I retain sole ownership of the property because it pre-dates the marriage. When married couples buy property in California, they co-own it by default.

  7. Congratulations on your deed, glad to hear about your progress on your place. We are looking for a place to call home ourselves but have yet to find it.

    Keep up the posts and good luck!


  8. Congrats Ryo, hope the pace slows down a bit and let’s you enjoy the Serenity. Thanks for keeping up the shares. I think of you every time I drive past the local tobacco shop and see their acronymed roll your own sign out front. Be good!

  9. Oh one other thing, I work for a multinational that makes dirt, I won’t say which one, and the best thing I can tell you about making dirt is to add compost with sand and pile it up under a thick coating of grass clippings. The grass will burn hot and turn the pile quickly into soil with minimal turning of the pile. Many cities have drop off points for grass clippings an such and you can pick up a hundred pounds easily. Also, check with the larger municipalities to see if they offer soil and compost left over as solid waste from ther water treatment plants. It’s usually cheaper than anything from the big box stores. My advice is to buy a small amount of sand and mix with compost and grass clippings and make your own soil on site. Of course, the price of hauling components out to your place might be prohibitive, YMMV.

  10. My best solution to “making dirt” is to get yourself a couple of goats and a small flock of sheep. I do realize that you might not want to or be able to do that if you aren’t living on the land full time, but livestock (manure) can be a great asset. Keeping animals WILL tie you down though. Congratulations on your free and clear ownership of your land.

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