“Every winter we talked about moving from Alaska to the Lower 48. But you can’t move in the winter. Then summer came and we were captivated by Alaska all over again.” Hope and Dave Salmon have lived in a number of places, mostly in the West. They raised their four children in Alaska in a large suburban house. Dave is a social worker. In 2012 he left the State of Alaska penal system for a US State Department position in South Sudan. Hope stayed behind with their youngest daughter, a high school senior. While Dave was away, Hope finally made the move to California. They went to Redding first, and eventually settled outside of Crescent City.
Last winter Hope and Dave bought a two-acre parcel with three structures and dozens of fruit trees for $75,000, less than three miles from Dave’s job. Dave explained, “The man who lived here died. The property sat vacant for five years. When we bought it, we didn’t know where anything was – the well, the septic. We’ve had to figure it out as we went along.” Hope added, “We didn’t know if we could live in the house, it was in such bad shape. But we worked on it for a few months and moved in this past June.”
Hope and Dave are still living amidst construction as Dave insulates the walls, replaces windows and installs a new roof. They are also enjoying the bounty of their property – Hope made delicious squash soup from their garden.
What struck me about Hope and Dave’s transition from large house to small, landscaped property to working property, was that they do it with little fanfare. They didn’t talk about simplifying their life – they just did it. They bought a house without a mortgage, they grow food on their land, they are living in confusion while they repair, over time, a property that had fallen into disuse.
Dave recalled a conversation he had with his daughter’s boyfriend. “He said not everyone has the luxury of two acres of land. Most people live in cities and we have to find ways to be sustainable in cities.”
It’s a valid point, but Hope and Dave are not holding out their live as a model for all. They are simply living it, wit a much smaller footprint than they did previously. When I compare their modest yet productive two acres with most houses on two acres I see across the United States – mini-estates with ornamental landscapes and lawns maintained by riding mowers – I think they are on to something good.
How will we live tomorrow?
“This is basically how I grew up. Living in a small house, growing our own food, consuming less.” Hope Salmon
“We will live more simply out of necessity because we’ve depleted most of our resources. We can’t keep up our first world habits. We need a third way.” Dave Salmon