On Nov 8th, 2018 the Camp Fire fire ravaged Paradise, CA and surrounding communities. We lost our entire town, we lost all of our cherished mementos and heirlooms, and our beloved pets died as a result of this horrible wildfire. In spite of those challenges and the heartbreak we were facing we made a very conscious decision, days after the fire started, to look for positives - to find the opportunities for rebirth and embrace them.
A few weeks after the fire, Chris started engaging with a group of Butte County residents looking to coordinate initial aid efforts as well as long term planning for the community. Over the following months they formed an official non-profit and formed a multi-stakeholder collaborative made up of a network of local and national aid organizations, policy makers, local businesses and entrepreneurs. This group is called the Camp Fire Long Term Recovery Group and Chris got elected as the Vice Chair of this new organization. Their services pick up where federal aid leaves off and they work to help the entire area reshape itself after this deeply disruptive event.
In Spring, after months of searching, our family found a piece of property that we fell in love with. The land had been burned but it had all the bones of what we were looking for: springs, creeks, a well, a garden site, a partially burned - but fixable - septic tank, and stunning views that knock your socks off. It was enough for us to make a fresh start. We purchased the property and moved an old RV onto the property. The RV came from Chris’ grandma and happens to be the 30 year old trailer that he used to go camping with them in as a little tyke. We have turned that trailer into our first home.
The RV will not last as a home forever. It is only 240 sq feet, and squeezing a family of four - including our two growing boys Danny, 12, and David, 7 - has had it’s challenges. Now that we’re settled for the moment, it’s time for us to start planning for our house. We’d like to break ground on our new home once the ground dries out after winter. We are planning a fire-safe strawbale insulated home, a large organic garden & fruit orchard, an outdoor kitchen to process garden produce, an outdoor shower and bath, and of course grassfed livestock. As we get our projects underway we plan to host classes on alternative building, permaculture, organic gardening/farming, holistic management & planned grazing. Everything we do is couched in the concept that we need to get our family back settled permanently, but at the same time we contribute to our broader community.
We need some tools and down payments on some bigger items and we are hoping that our broader community might once again be able to help us. We would not have been able to get back up on our feet without you guys! Our family will never be able to thank you enough! In this next phase of our journey, $30,000 would really help speed up our ability to get under a roof next year.
Things we accomplished this year:
- Kept our kids in school - drove 4 hours round trip for close to 5 months.
- Found a property that matched what we were looking for
- Purchased property
- Moved RV onto our property and made it into a functional home for our family of 4
- Started living off grid
- Got well-water piped to the trailer
- Installed septic pipe
- Started a YouTube Channel
- Unimaginable amounts of weedeating and chainsawing
Goals for coming 3 months:
- Get solar panels and battery system installed to the trailer so that we can go off generators and have better heating over the winter
- Grade roads and pad for barn
- Get shipping-container-barn built - we desperately need dry storage
- Acquire woodworking & construction tools to prepare for upcoming projects
- Get professional plans drawn up for the house to be approved by the county
- Begin construction on perimeter fence in order to get goats next year
- Purchase or rent bandsaw mill and start milling lumber for homestead project
We DEEPLY believe people belong in rural landscapes. Despite a world that is becoming increasingly urbanized - we believe that living in connection with the land that supports us, being a part of a close-knit community, and celebrating people that provide healthy food and quality textiles still has a place in society. The economics of small rural towns is broken, it needs to be reinvented. We are beginning to think of towns impacted by natural disasters as new sandboxes to cultivate new paradigms. Starting with affordable, attractive, resilient housing seems like the best first step. And that’s a journey that we can start in our own backyard.
In all of this we want to demonstrate to our young boys how adversity and challenges absolutely will define you, but that you have every opportunity to make sure it defines you for the better. As a family that prides ourselves in taking care of ourselves, it’s difficult to ask for financial assistance but if you can afford to donate money, it will go a long way towards serving our family and our vision. Any gift cards would also be greatly appreciated - places like Lowes and Home Depot will really help in the next phase of our journey. And as always, prayers, positive thoughts, chants, good juju, encouraging rays of light – whatever you believe in – any and all warm wishes are so greatly appreciated.
People continue to ask where they can send things and this is our new mailing address:
Chris and Kelsey Kerston
PO BOX 4052
Oroville, CA 95965
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