I’m king of this sidehill
The science-fiction of the 60s and 70s by Asimov pitied those primitive worlds that were energy-constrained. The future would have terraforming, fission plants in space, energy from magma, an entire planet enclosed in domes with controlled lighting and air conditioned to an unremarkable temperature.

Some other smart aleck from the 70s once said that “planning would be contrary to our national genius.” I suppose that we can blame it on that - we just didn’t plan for this. We all thought our future would be more like Asimov’s stories and less like Frank Herbert’s Dune. You know, the parts where people on the dry planet spend their time harvesting the dew and rioting over the water consumption of new non-native trees. We just didn’t plan on the lack of a magic bullet for our problems.

Most nights about this time, I sit and look out at the bowl to the West and think about how lucky I am. I came up here to run this forest back when people were still hot on the idea of biofuels from trees and the temperatures in the city were only 110ºF. Everyone agreed that it couldn’t get hotter than that, although of course it did. I look down through the QwikGro pines at the few remaining lights in the valley and wonder how long they’ll continue to flicker on.

When I first moved up onto the mountain, I missed the convenience and closeness of the city. Having a drink with friends after work, taking long showers without checking the level in the tank first. And it took a little while to learn to sleep through a windy night. I put two concrete foundations as deep as I could dig but the other end of the cabin is mounted thirty feet up two pine trees sticking straight up out of the steep slope below. At first a wobbly cabin on a near vertical sidehill seemed like a joke. But as temperatures rose and the aquifer level fell in the city,  I started to get some neighbors.

A few years after the tree farm went bust, I was tromping through the woods one day when I found the spring. It ain’t much, but I figured it would be much better than collecting the three and a half inches of rain water a year from my roof. If I could get some help laying the irrigation pipe that is.

So when some friends wanted to build a cabin near me, I said great - let’s put it just uphill of mine. And before we start building let’s tap that spring and lay some pipe straight down the hill. And let’s just build a kitchen cabin between us - I hate it when bears break in and wake me up looking for food. (Before I kept a box of firecrackers near my bed to throw at them when they did. But it was a pain.)

They say monarchs make the best urban planners and luckily I’m king of this sidehill. Aligning each of my new neighbors to branch off of the main artery of spring water has sprouted all sorts of fruit: from the bluegrass on the kitchen porch keeping the cooks company down to our graywater drip irrigated tomato garden.

Our mutual/vertical arrangement would have seemed bizarre to those used to single family houses aligned in horizontal rows. But with about thirty buildings on this little hillside now it’s clear that something about our realigned lives works for us here. Better than the hardpan down below anyway.