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Country Living

In mid April 2010 we marked the 20th year in our San Ramon house. When we moved to San Ramon in 1990 the population was about 12,000, and the city had a small town feel. Twenty years later the population was 60,000 and was expected to grow to 90,000 in five years. Traffic was increasing and the city was planning to widen the major street that passed close to our house to accommodate plans to build an additional 5,000 houses on what is now pristine ranchland. The small town we moved to twenty years ago was no more and we decided to start looking at other, more rural areas.

After a few months of looking at houses, including some real dumps in the $500,000-$999,000 range, Julie found a house that looked too good to be true. In fact, at first she thought the listing was a mistake. Nick had a learner’s permit for driving, and needed more practice, so he drove Julie to the house, figuring one quick glance will show why such a fantastic sounding house would be relatively so inexpensive. They went with the idea that they’d hate it, but came back very excited, and in fact, immediately fell in love with it. We arranged to meet our realtor at the property one evening with the hope and expectation that we wouldn’t like the house (it was more expensive than we really felt comfortable with, and figured it must be a dump inside, along with most of the other houses that we had seen). The opposite occurred and all three of us loved the house at first sight. After a harrowing and stressful 46 days of dealing with banks, inspectors, title companies, and more and more and more requests for copies of documents and letters of explanation explaining ludicrous items, during which we felt like we aged many years, it was ours! As we write this, we have moved what we could to the new house, have items in a few storage lockers, and have just the sale on our San Ramon house. We dream of being fully unpacked, but at the present, that is a daunting task.

So, what would have prompted us to sell a perfectly nice house in San Ramon with no mortgage and move after twenty years? Well, the new house is just what we’ve been looking for and dreaming about for years. It’s a large, 5000 square foot house on ten acres at the end of a private road on a hill overlooking the Alhambra and Diablo Valleys. The main view is towards the east and has great vistas of Mt. Diablo and the rising sun. Although it’s difficult to see in the photo, each major living area has access to decks that face east and provide a quiet place to watch the world go by.


Aerial View

Since we’re out in the country, we don’t have the utility services that city dwellers do. We have two wells on the property and three 5,000 gallon tanks for water storage along with an elaborate pumping, softening, and ozone purification system. We have a septic tank rather than a connection to a sewer system. We’ve quickly found that both of these require maintenance to keep them in operating condition. We’re connected to the local electric power grid, and we have a 12.5 kW solar array (the solar panels are the four dark rectangular objects visible to the right of the house in the photo above) that often produces more power than the house uses, which reduces our electric bill accordingly. We also have a 500 gallon propane tank that supplies gas for the stove, water heater, and furnaces.

Needless to say, the area has plenty of wildlife. In the short time we’ve been living here we’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, possums, gray foxes, newts, vultures, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, woodpeckers, and a great variety of other birds. Many of these are nocturnal, which can make negotiating our narrow, steep road an adventure at night. The horse population in the area outnumbers the human population by at least three to one. There’s a two-horse stable on our property, but since neither of us are horse people, we’ll probably convert it for storage.

Top Floor Plan

Top Level Floor Plan

The property is without building restrictions of any kind, and Jerry is looking forward to putting up a large tower for his amateur radio antennas, something that he’s wanted to do for thirty years but didn’t have either the room or the permission of the local authorities. We have turned one room into a theater, and that room also doubles as a guest room.

Whenever we get overwhelmed with the unpacking, house repairs, or bills, we just have to look out any of the windows for a brief moment. We can get lost watching anything from a hummingbird to a vulture, watch the fog hug the hills and valleys, watch the beautiful sunrise, watch the train round the corner, sometimes appearing to be a toy train on the hill below us, or turn into the house and cook up a storm in the beautiful kitchen (when not distracted by the view all the while), or contact far away places via the HAM radio, or bounce laser beams off the hills across the way. In warm weather we enjoy our outside spa, and when Julie gets chilled to the bones (which doesn’t take much), she is looking forward to stepping into the sauna. We keep wondering if we’ll wake up and it will all be a dream. In the mean time, this is the life!