I’m starting this blog off while I’m feeling a lot of anger and uneasiness. I work hard to express the negative emotions I have in the most positive way possible, putting myself to action in ways where I don’t displace my anger or sadness on to others. But right now, I feel like the people who may read this will know that IT’S OKAY to not tolerate the things that make you feel unsafe, uncomfortable and out of place. Respect existence or expect resistance.
Yesterday, I left to pick up Gooby in Tehachapi around 11am. It was around 6pm that we arrived back at home and immediately went back to our regular routine: I was out working in the garden and taking care of the dogs, Gooby was inside making dinner and cleaning up. This is what we’ve been doing since we both got here – taking care of the property, the house and our animals. It should be seemingly obvious to anyone whose noticed our presence that we’re making our place here – we’re creating a home.
Apparently, that is not as obvious to others as I would’ve liked to hope. Or, they are utterly confused or have malicious intent. Either way, I’m not happy with the welcoming of our neighbors and our local authorities.
While Gooby and I were taking care of our regular chores last night, both of us heard the neighbors closest to us a lot more louder and clearer than normal. We have a good quarter of a mile distance between the houses, with a piece of abandoned property in between our dwellings. We can hear them in the distance occasionally but last night, I think they crossed their property line on to the abandoned property to come closer to our place and get a better look. We could hear people so loudly, both from the greenhouse as well as inside the house (a good 500 ft distance in between the two) that we both looked around our immediate areas to see if anyone was around. We didn’t see people, but we weren’t really looking to see if anyone was watching us. It wasn’t our concern that people might be scoping us out – for what reason, we can’t be sure.
Without giving it much thought afterwards, we continued on with our evening into the night and at around 10:30, 11pm Gooby went into her room to go to bed and I stayed out to spend time with the dogs until I was ready to sleep. Between 11:30, 11:45 I was sitting on the couch petting Earl when I happened to look out the back door and saw a light shining in at me. Staring at it for a few seconds to try and grasp the situation, I started screaming for Gooby when the light, that I could see was ON MY PROPERTY, went out .
In the first minutes of panic, I went and grabbed my shot gun, every dog was barking and trying to get out the back door and Gooby turned on every light outside and inside of the house. It was THEN that the people in my backyard made themselves known as Sheriffs of Mono County. They did not drive up the driveway – they walked. They did not knock on the front door – they crept around to the backyard. If I didn’t see their light first, I don’t know how they would’ve approached our house to make themselves known.
Gooby and I went outside and spoke to the two sheriffs for about 20 to 30 minutes. They took our licenses and ran our names and asked us why we were there. They initially told us that our neighbors have been watching our house since we moved in at the beginning of July and could see a faint light from our place every night. For some reason, this made them suspicious that we were squatting here (taking over a house with no tenants without paying rent or having any legal attachment to the house).
I’m going to reiterate – we’re about a quarter mile away from them. The faint light they’re seeing is our back porch light, that isn’t directly facing them but I’m sure they can see the afterglow of it. We don’t use the front porch lights because we don’t use the front door regularly. Even still, our front door/yard is obvious as you come up the driveway and why the officers didn’t come to that door and knock is beyond me.
I explained our situation to the officers and they could understand that us owning the house for 3 years but not living here until now, as Dad gets closer to retirement, made sense. I have to assume that lots of people move here when they retired – it’s a good place to be financially and environmentally.
But, before they finally left, they asked us numerous times if we were screaming for help before we knew that they were on the property. They told us that they heard screaming for help and they were concerned for our safety.
No one was screaming for help in our house. Gooby was asleep and I was petting my dogs. No TV’s were on, no music: the house was silent. Both Gooby and I were very confused as to why they made these claims.
Then they left.
I will say that the fundamental idea of our neighbors watching the neighborhood to make sure that the people around are the ones supposed to be here is a good thing and should make me feel safer. I told the officers I appreciate them checking up to make sure that we’re not squatters and appreciate the concern of others.
But when I woke up this morning and took some time to reflect on the situation as a whole, I don’t feel appreciation, nor do I feel comfortable or like my privacy has been respected.
The officers came on to my property without any warning, what so ever. They parked their car on the street and opened my CLOSED gate and walked up the driveway. They did not call out from the street, as they were walking up or even when they turned the corner to the back yard. Gooby opens the windows every night to let the cold breeze come in, so we would’ve been able to hear them. We can hear each car that drives by normally on the highway. But if someone is scoping the property with the intent of not making their presence known, that can easily be accomplished here in the dead of night.
The fact that the officers came at nearly midnight is a red flag to me as well. If the neighbors called earlier in the evening, when they were over their property line, it took the officers 5 hours to get to our house. While there is no Sheriff or Police station in my town proper, there a substations nearby that are less than an hour away. Coming here that late at night was done on purpose and there’s no other way to think about that.
I’m concerned over their final questions/comments to us, about them hearing the “screaming for help”. Once again, I reiterate that our house was silent. It was time to go to bed. IF someone was screaming for help in our house, why did the officers not approach in extreme concern for our safety? Why did they quietly go around the house and try to make themselves not seen or heard? How would that have helped us if we were in danger? IF someone in the surrounding area was screaming for help, they went unaided. The officers spent a good amount of time talking to us (all the while, we heard no screaming) instead of inspecting for someone in danger somewhere else.
So after really thinking about all of this and how these officers approached the situation, I have concluded that they chose a very dangerous and unsettling way of handling the circumstances. I feel that they trespassed on my property and I feel that they put us in danger, instead of making us safer.
If someone came on to your property in the dead of night, purposefully being silent and not wanting to be seen, would you not react defensively?
I had my gun and they are lucky I did not pull it on them when I didn’t know who they were. I would be within every right to do so – there was people on my property who didn’t make their presence known and I feared for my life. I could’ve shot them, they could’ve shot me. It would’ve been so quick for lives to have been taken in a moment of panic because the PEOPLE IN AUTHORITY DID NOT HANDLE THE SITUATION APPROPRIATELY. No one should think they have a right to sneak around someone elses home and not be thought of as a danger.
I had all the dogs out with me – what if one of the bigger dogs broke loose and ran at these cops? They would only be doing what they’re trained to do – protect their house and humans. Those sheriffs could’ve shot and killed my dogs in defense of themselves, all simply because they gave NO WARNING of them coming on to the property.
I feel like they blatantly lied to us about them claiming to hear screams for help. That line has not only been used on me before by officers in SLO county, but there was no evidence to corroborate their claims and they didn’t react as people should when they hear people in danger, especially from an officer’s perspective. No one was screaming, they were just making up excuses for their unlawful actions.
I called the sheriff department earlier to voice my concern over the situation. The officer in charge was on patrol and unable to speak to me in the morning, so I have been waiting for him to return once back from patrol and lunch. It’s 1:30 as I’m typing right now, and I have heard nothing from them yet.
After having to call them back, I finally got a response from the sheriff’s office. From the very beginning of the conversation, the officer on the line had to make a comment about every little thing, continuously talking. There was very rarely a moment where he was not talking over me. Overall, it was an uneasy conversation for me and I got flustered and didn’t get to say all that I wanted to.
I don’t understand is how the cops couldn’t run our address before coming on the property and realizing it is in fact, owned and occupied. When they came here and when I talked to the officer this afternoon, they told me “they had no way of knowing whether the house was owned, rented, abandoned, etc.”. I don’t get how that can be when we’ve owned the house for 3 years, have our mail delivered there, pay our taxes under that address…. What is the point of their police database in this case? I was able to call the County Tax Assessor and get the name and address for the people who last owned the abandoned property just to the north of us. How can the police not be able to access the same kind of information at their will?
The officer on the phone told me that the way they approached the situation would be the same exact way any of their officers would. They got the call late at night – not early in the evening when we heard the neighbors close by – and the neighbors told the officers that they saw “unnatural lights coming from the house, like flashlights or candles” making them assume we were squatters. So the officers wanted the element of surprise to survey the scene and so that they could be on the offense.
In the end, there was no way for me to clearly communicate to this specific person how terrified the whole situation made us. He did apologize, but said it should not and would not have been handled in any other way. For being out in the middle of no where, I can understand why they are uneasy of situations in the outskirts of the county. We have a lot of room to get away with bad things if we wanted to. But in the aspect of public safety and their own safety, they created a tense situation to find out what was going on.
For people who are supposed to protect us, they have made us feel more in danger and have made us feel violated. In the next few days, I am going to call back the sheriff’s office and get the names of the two officers who came out to the property and the name of the sheriff who I spoke to on the phone. After a few more days of reflection, if I still feel so strongly about my violation of property and privacy, I will write a letter to the sheriff’s office. It probably won’t do much, if anything at all, but it’s my right and I am going to exercise it.
The sheriffs didn’t come out here unprovoked. Our neighbors called them; the neighbors who have seen us here for over a month, setting up the property. We’ve built a greenhouse, put up fencing, cut down dead trees and so much more. Even being a quarter of a mile away, they can see enough to grasp that we live here.
I’m unsure what their real intent was of calling the sheriffs but because of the whole situation, I am now feeling discontent with people living closest to us. We moved out here for isolation and we’re getting scrutinized by the locals. After being cat called numerous times, not having very friendly customer service at most places I’ve been to and now the neighbors making rash assumptions or just acting like complete fools by calling the cops on us, we’re getting fed up. We’ve been nice. We’ve been respectful. We’ve come out here to establish ourselves and create something beautiful – compassionate businesses based off of sustainability and humane ethics, all while trying to inspire others. We really just want to be treated with respect and left alone.
But if that’s not going to be the case, which it doesn’t seem to be, I will not only express myself and my concerns with the sheriffs; Gooby and I will also be expressing ourselves so the neighbors can clearly see that we are indeed here and we’re not going anywhere!
I already have been making simple plans for a meditation garden out by the orchard and the pump house. It’s that area that is closest to the neighbors and most clearly visible. My plans for my permaculture area is going to be for over there too, so we’re really going to focus on that area a lot now. We want to put in plain sight that we are establishing ourselves and we’re not going to fit in with the local people. We smile and look people in the eyes and we’re going to make our property magical. Those are things that I haven’t seen from people around here very much at all.
I’ve got tapestries and some art work we’re going to put outside and Gooby is going to start putting her extra energy into making yard art. Penis fence posts may be in our future and I’m 100% cool with that. The area by the orchard is going to be turned into a faerie land and we’re going to walk around our property naked if we want to, because we can. Dad is bringing us home lots of flood lights and motion detector lights for the property so people can’t sneak up on us so easily without warning and tonight, Goob and I put up the Christmas lights we had available around the trees on the fence line to clearly annoy the neighbors. I bet they’re getting the idea.
We’re not going to feel uneasy in our home and on our property, and we’re not going to demonized because we’re new to the area and different. I’ve made myself and (some of) my opinions known to the sheriffs already and may choose to continue if I still feel the same in a week’s time, and we’re making ourselves known to the neighbors so they understand that we’re here and we belong here. This is our home and I’m not going to feel out of place here because people are confused or weird. I won’t tolerate the bullshit.
It’s been over 12 hours since I started this blog post and I’ve felt a lot of emotions and have thought about a lot in that time. I’m still confused about the best way to go about feeling about the neighbors and the community, how I’ve been treated and how it will inevitably change with time, but into what, I don’t know. I’m unsure of how best to act – to be thick skinned and bite back when snapped at, or to go to the extreme opposite and kill everyone with kindness, enthusiasm and a lot of energy and dedication. I’m not sure what will be best for us in the long run. And only time is going to tell.
Me experimenting with bright and obnoxious clothes to try and really freak people out around here.