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Hilary Hodge: Housing in Nevada County, Part 1: Relocating

Hilary Hodge

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series looking at housing in Nevada County. Today’s column focuses on relocating, while parts two and three in coming weeks will discuss renting and buying, respectively.

I remember staring at the wood floor of our second-story Sacramento apartment. The spring heat felt like summer. An antique desk stretched across the large windows that looked onto the street.

It was a Friday night and the sun was still out. Our windows were open. I heard groups of people walking along the sidewalk below our apartment, talking excitedly in the heat.

We sat in our tiny living room and discussed moving. The buzz of the weekend was about to begin. My friend and eventual wife stared at the computer and typed in searches.

We were talking about a big decision. We were looking at rentals on Craigslist. I was working in social services and the agency’s funding had been cut. She had been working in Nevada County and commuting for over three years. My job in Sacramento was about to run out.

“If we are going to move to the country, I want to learn about beekeeping,” I said. I was reluctant. I grew up in the Bay Area and had lived in California’s Capitol for 10 years. I loved the hub of government in Sacramento, the diversity, and the endless list of things to do. I loved our building and neighbors, but I was also ready for more space and something more affordable.

According to a census report, the reasons households relocated fell into four different categories: housing (48 percent), family (30 percent), jobs (19 percent) and other (2 percent).

We scheduled an interview with a farmer for a small rental in a segment of a converted garage. It was on a 20-acre property with organic vegetables, bees, a diverse orchard, and lots of chickens.

The living space was tiny, about 200 square feet. It was so small that we could hold a pot on the stove while sitting on the toilet if we left the bathroom door open. But the land was large and the view was beautiful. The owners were master beekeepers.

Moving made sense for us because my partner had a job in the area. I knew I had transferable skills so I didn’t worry about finding a new job.

We left downtown Sacramento for a tiny apartment on an organic farm out on Dog Bar Road.

I wish I could say that finding a new job was easy. It wasn’t.

We didn’t have internet at home. I had wrongly assumed that since the owners had posted their ad on the internet, the internet would be available. I drove into town for an amenity that had become a basic utility and integral part of the job market and economy.

I had assumed that local merchants, small businesses and large companies would post their “help-wanted” ads publicly in order to find the best candidates available. I was a college graduate with both tech and management experience but I came to discover that unless I already had a foot in the door, it would be incredibly hard to get hired. Most job listings weren’t posted publicly and many jobs were filled by word-of-mouth, rather than by interview and skill set.

I began to volunteer.

I put my efforts into a local food distribution center, a local farm organization, and a local business education center. I dropped off food to the local food bank. I planted gardens for low-income households. I helped entrepreneurs start new businesses locally.

I was hired as Sierra Commons’ executive director in part because I had worked for the organization as a volunteer. The board saw my skill set and hired me. In my first six months, I took the organization from red to black. I authored several grants that made the great nonprofit even better.

In order to make ends meet in Nevada County, I have supplemented my income with remote work in the online gig economy. Today, I work with several out-of-town clients providing original web content, social media marketing support and light graphic design.

We spent a year on the farm and learned a great deal. We fell in love with Nevada County, its terrain, its culture and especially the people. We moved to a different rental after our stint on the farm and then, a little later, to a place in town.

It took some trial and error. We made a few mistakes. Today, we love our apartment, our landlord, and our neighbors. We have high speed internet at home. We still have bee hives and continue to grow vegetables.

Hilary Hodge lives in Grass Valley. Her column is published by The Union on Tuesdays. Contact her at hhodgewriter@gmail.com.

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