Categorized | Camping, Northern California

The Not-So-Simple Life

A few years ago I went with my friends Alice (of the Tomales Flea Market and Street Fair) and Teresa (of countless road trips and crazy adventures) to the Not-So-Simple Living Fair in Boonville, California. I am not sure how this happened, but somehow we decided to be vendors because there was no vending fee and it also included free admission to the festival.  

entrance sign resized

So that worked for us.  Alice brought a pop up canopy and we all brought tables and chairs. It was a goofy time and we actually sold quite a bit. In addition to customers, we also ended up with a variety of folks hanging out at the booth, sitting in our extra chairs or laying on the grass behind the booth and chatting it up. I taught one guy how to knit a hat. I guess we were friendlier than most vendors. 

composting toilet

An outdoor pit toilet on display. It was suggested to move it every year or so and plant a tree where it had been. Hopefully not a fruit tree.

We camped for two nights there. It was very hot – in the 90’s during the day and probably in the low 50’s – high 40’s at night. Plus really damp outside. The last time I was that cold at night was during a trip Teresa and I took up to Patrick’s Point.  The morning after the night we spent in the Emerald Forest Campground, we headed to the Kmart in Eureka where I bought a new sleeping bag. 

It had been several years since that trip to Booneville – and I wanted to go again. Neither Teresa nor Alice were able to go this time. My friend Sydnee of the Fresno road trip was planning to go with me, but then got invited to a wedding, so I was on my own.

Was a little bit nervous about this trip.  This would be my first longish road trip by myself since before I got sick. On the bright side, my stamina has been improving as well as my critical thinking skills, so I decided I was ready to do this on my own.

I got my camping gear out of storage and made sure I had plenty of warm clothes and blankets for the night.  I packed up some food and some dishes since this was a “zero waste” event and by 5:30pm on Friday was on my way.

bring your own dishes booth

If you did not bring your own dishes, you could purchase them at the fair. This was a zero waste event.

The fair is held on the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in tiny downtown Booneville.  The fairgrounds are small – relative to other fairgrounds I have seen, but nice and intimate.  I got my parking and fair pass and parked in the camping area – which is basically a grassy field with a cinderblock bathroom at one end (the bathhouse is by the barn, a short walk away).


Camping is in a grassy area in the fairgrounds.

I set up my tent, threw my sleeping bag in there and went to explore.

tent interior

I forgot my pillow. However, I was warm and cozy in there.

The Not So Simple Living Fair is a celebration of homesteading and rural living skills. There are a smattering of vendors, some great bands and music, and a huge potluck on Saturday night. Plus all the great classes and workshops. It’s easy going and informative.  Plus the 500-600 folks who attend are extraordinarily nice.

A class in herbal medicine

A class in herbal medicine

Getting the fire pit ready

Getting the fire pit ready

I’ve decided that I need three things for a successful camping trip.

  • A good bathhouse with hot showers
  • Internet access
  • A nearby cafe with non-dairy lattes

I am happy to report that all three of these requirements were met.  The bathhouse was a little walk away (by the barn area) but the shower was great and since I got there early, I was always alone in there.

sheep shearing

The bathhouse was right across from the barn. Somebody does not look happy about getting sheared.

Internet access: No problem.  We were in town.

Non dairy lattes: Mosswood across the street from the fairgrounds.  Inexplicably, on Saturday my latte was $4 and on Sunday it was $3.75, but they were both good.

latte at the mosswood

I always bring my own latte mug.

On Sunday morning I sat outside at the Mosswood and someone passing by made the observation that the three cars parked up the street had a combined value of more than half a million dollars.  I photographed them and have duly placed the photographs here. All cars look alike to me.  I have no idea if a car is work $200,000 or $5,000.  And I don’t care.  But for those who do care – voila:

Workshops are held all over the fairgrounds.  I took a bread making class that started out under the trees in the morning where we talked about starters and dough and ended up in the kitchen where we watched about a dozen loaves of bread being prepared and baked in dutch ovens. The teacher, Doug Browie, is a sculpture and sculpture teacher in his other life.  His bread making reached that same level of love and commitment. The loaves were gorgeous.

Teacher Doug laying the bread out to cool

Teacher Doug laying the bread out to cool

This year I skipped the 600 person potluck and opted instead to eat at my campsite.  I had purchased a small mason jar filled with homemade three bean salad from the fermentation vendor.  Together with some homemade tomatoes and a few slices of avocado, I had the perfect dinner.

fermented canned goods

The three bean salad from this vendor was outstanding.

The next morning, things were getting a little nervous.  I needed to recharge my phone and since I brought an electric kettle with me, I thought that I would do double duty and make myself some tea and some top ramen noodles at the same time.  Right after my shower, I headed out in search of an outlet – and was guided by a kind fairgoer to this outlet.  The phone got charged, my teapot got filled with hot water, and I enjoyed a breakfast of ramen.

electric teapot

Got my phone charges and my hot water taken care of.

For Sunday, I decided to take a morning class on rug braiding.  It was a double class and would take us through to lunchtime. It was beautiful to sit under the trees and learn the art of turning wool scraps into rugs.  We rooted through the baskets of colorful wool fabric that the teacher had brought and started ripping strips and braiding rugs.  Mine is started and I will finish it in October, when I visit my friends Alice and Lea.

braided rug

There were more speakers and another round of workshops, but I felt like I was done at that point. The morning under the trees had been beautiful and relaxing. It seemed like a good time to head home. I packed up my tent and managed to get it back into the tiny sack it had come in. Everything else in the car, I was ready to go.

The Traveling Hookah Lounge

The Traveling Hookah Lounge

On the way back, I decided to try another route.  When I had come on Friday, I had seen a sign that said “253 to Ukiah”. At the time I thought that it might be fun to give that a try. I did have a moment of doubt on Sunday afternoon as I was waiting to turn left from 128, but the cars that were coming off of 253 looked to be intact, so I figured I was safe.

California State Highway 253 (as I later found out) took me north of where I needed to be and added about 30 minutes to my trip home.  But it was a beautiful drive that cut directly through the Mendocino Range mountains.  It actually ends up being a little lower than Ukiah and can take you right onto the 101, which is what I did.

Evidently California State Highway 253 was once known as the Ukiah-Boonville Road. It has been in use as a road since at least 1897, when “it was the scene of the robbery of a stage coach carrying the payrolls for a coastal lumber mill” (according to Wikipedia). It was added to the state highway roster in 1963.

I almost forgot to tell you about something

Setting up camp on Friday was a little challenging.  I had only used my tent about five times in my life and had never put it up by myself. It’s a cheap and simple one that I bought at Walmart in 2010. I got into camp and pulled the tent carefully and slowly out of its carrying case. The case is really tiny and tight and I wanted to remember how the tent fit in there so I could get it back in at the end of the weekend (which I was able to do, fortunately).

As I was setting up the tent, I realized that I should have brought a hammer to put the stakes in, so I kind of slid them in at an angle. There were a couple of tent pieces that I didn’t know exactly what they were for, so I just left them hanging off the tent. The tent appeared to be fine and hung in there all weekend.

On Sunday, after rug making I came back to camp and started pulling down the tent.  At that point I realized that at some point during the weekend, someone had spent some time at my tent.  All the little pieces that I didn’t know what to do with and which had been hanging off the side of the tent were correctly put into the places they belonged.  Someone had taken all my stakes out and re-hammered them into the ground. They had seen I was short a stake and gave me another one, since it didn’t match the ones that I already had.

I don’t know how to find the person who did this. I don’t know who did this. All I know is that I am very, very grateful for the incredible kindness of people – a kindness that inexplicably seems to follow me wherever I go.

camping tent

My tenting skills leave a lot to be desired.



One Response to “The Not-So-Simple Life”


  1. […] year I spent the weekend in Boonville at the Not-S0-Simple Living Fair.  One of the highlights of the event was the fact that at some point during the weekend, an […]

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