Promise Of Paradise

3:30pm Thursdays
  • Hosted by Sarah Reith, Alice Woelfle, Kate Magruder, Laura Hamburg


Welcome to Promise of Paradise, Back to the Land Oral Histories of Mendocino County.  We are working to document an experiment that began roughly fifty years ago all across the country. In the 60’s and 70’s, young people began to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.” Anything was possible. College-educated hippies began to stream away from the cities and into the country, to put a modern twist on ancient homesteading skills. We’ll hear about the sense of exhilaration, the resilience, and how these now aging hippies recall their rush towards freedom and responsibility.

We’ll also hear about how the lack of boundaries led to tragedy and disillusionment; the racial insensitivity; and how the back to the land experiment altered Mendocino County.

Who were these people, why did they come, and what mark did they make on this county’s history?

Promise of Paradise is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, California Humanities, the Arts Council of Mendocino County, the Judy Pruden Historical Preservation Fund of the Community Foundation of Mendocino County, the Mendocino Institute, StoryCenter, and Grace Hudson Museum.


Promise of Paradise Episode 18: Les Boek

Mar 16, 2019
Les Boek

March 14, 2019 — Les Boek is a musician who moved to Redwood Valley in 1971. He and his wife still live in the same house, where they’ve spent years raising chickens, goats, and an expansive garden, according to an agreement they made when they first met.

We’ll hear his memories about how he fell in love with bluegrass and learned how to keep the freezer full while bringing up three boys.


Promise of Paradise Episode 17: Diana Wiedemann

Mar 6, 2019
Diana Wiedemann


Today we’ll be hearing from Diana Wiedemann, an Albion architect and Fifth District Mendocino County Planning Commissioner. In the early 70s, Weed, as she’s known, helped found Trillium, an all-women’s commune in Albion.


As a girl in the 50s, Weed was forced to give up her dream of becoming a professional athlete. And as a college student in the late 60s, she saw how men, white men, came to dominate the anti-war movement. It was a time, Weed says, when the playing field for women was very narrow.


Promise of Paradise Episode 16: Renee Vinyard

Mar 4, 2019
Renee Vinyard

Midwifery was an important aspect of the back to the land movement. Expectant mothers wanted to deliver babies in their own homes, into the hands of people they trusted. Renee Vinyard was one of those trusted midwives, taking calls on a CB radio, traveling to handmade homes, catching babies as they came into a changing world.

Today we’ll hear her stories about planting trees, harvesting bullfrogs, and what to do when you’re delivering a baby and the entire fire department shows up.


Promise of Paradise Episode 15: River

Feb 20, 2019
"Dwelling" published by Freestone Publishing Company

River began her journey as Sally Shook, a 1950s Washington DC suburban housewife who had a longing for something much more.

She found it in Mendocino County in the late 60s in the feminist revolution that produced Country Women Magazine, she found it in the book she wrote, "Dwelling:  On Making Your Own," and on the Salmon Creek Farm commune in Albion, which she helped establish.  

Now 83, River lives in a Vermont retirement community.

Promise of Paradise Episode 14: George Montag

Feb 14, 2019
George and Donna Montag

February 14, 2019 -- Today's story comes from George Montag, who was born in Hungary, grew up in New York City, and came to California for the Summer of Love. In 1971, he arrived in Elk, with his young son and two cardboard boxes that contained everything they owned. He tells the story of how he found a job setting choke chain, fell in love with the woman who ran the nursery school, and helped found the Jewish community. We'll hear about Passover muffins, the hexagonal house, and if he thinks his generation managed to pass the back-to-the-land ethos on to the next generation.

Episode 13: Nancy Peregrine

Feb 7, 2019
Nancy Peregrine

February 7, 2019 — Nancy Peregrine, an herbalist and healthcare practitioner carved out a spot of wilderness for her homestead in Whale Gulch - located in the furthest northwest corner of Mendocino County.

Episode 12: John Schaeffer

Jan 31, 2019
John Schaeffer

Jan 31, 2019 — Today we’ll hear from John Shaeffer, owner and founder of Real Goods, now in Hopland. John is the epitome of the old-fashioned entrepreneur, with an eye for innovation. As a communard who worked on computers for the county during the mid-seventies, he was in the unique position of straddling the old and the new: embracing primitivism while using cutting-edge technology.

Episode 11: John Mayfield

Jan 24, 2019
Leah (Mayfield) Ford

January 24, 2019 — Today we’ll hear from John Mayfield, Jr. whose entire family relocated from Oklahoma to the “Orr Springs country” right after WWII to help build and run Mendo Mill and Lumber Company.  John describes his adolescence at the one-room schoolhouse near Comptche and his redoubtable teacher, Ruth Mannix, who made sure he had a superlative education. John recalls Ukiah in the 50s and 60s, his emergence as a conservative business and political leader, and his perspective on the 1970s “in-migration” of “hippies” who felt that the rules didn’t apply to them.

Promise of Paradise - Episode 10: Lisa Grant

Jan 17, 2019
Lisa Grant

January 17, 2019 -- Today, Lisa Grant of Greenfield Ranch will take us on a tour of her sixteen-sided "sculpture house," which her former partner John Stevens built in the late 1970's. We'll peer at the carving of a lizard in a support beam, look through pictures of Grant and her family, and hear tales about a vicious pony, wild goats, and her mixed-race family's experiences with racism.

Episode 9: Sheilah Rogers and Jamie Roberts

Jan 10, 2019
Jamie Roberts

January 10, 2019 -- In this episode, we'll hear from Sheilah Rogers, who moved to Redwood Valley in the 70's after a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer. She took a job at West Company and worked hard for years, helping local women figure out how to make a living.

We'll hear next from Jamie Roberts, who wrote a letter to a stranger, asking if he could rent and develop a piece of property in Elk. By building his own cabin, he picked up the skills he needed to embark on his life career as a carpenter.

Episode 8: Wendy Jackson

Jan 3, 2019
Wendy Jackson

Jan 3, 2019 -- For our first episode of 2019, we'll hear from local carpenter Wendy Jackson, who came to Potter Valley with her husband from San Luis Obispo County in 1979. Both were formally trained  carpenters, and were well prepared to find work and build their own home. But once they got going on their nautilus shell shaped house, they ceased to be 'bored carpenters,' or the kind who live by right angles and straight lines.

Promise of Paradise - Episode 7: Meca Wawona

Dec 27, 2018
Meca Wawona

In this episode, we'll hear from Meca Wawona, a tireless environmental activist and homesteader who was instrumental in founding the California Conservation Corps on the philosophy of humanity working in concert with nature, rather than in the "Man versus Nature" mode she saw at the time. Wawona homesteaded on McNab Ranch, then at Greenfield, where she inculcated the next generation with the values that were so precious to her.

Laura Fogg

Dec 20, 2018 -- In this episode, we'll hear from quilting artist Laura Fogg, who lived into a multi-generation home in Redwood Valley, and writer and musician Mary Buckley, who came to Ukiah as a single mother in 1981 and made her home at the headwaters of Robinson Creek. Both storytellers recall raising their children on the land, working in the gardens and on their homes, and the role that art played in their lives.

Episode 5: Tom Liden and Marylyn Motherbear Scott

Dec 13, 2018
Marylyn Motherbear Scott

In this episode of Promise of Paradise, we'll hear Kate Magruder's interviews with Tom Liden, a photographer who came to Mendocino County and built a his dream home; and Marylyn Motherbear Scott, who raised a large family at Greenfield and wove her psychedelic insights into a reverence for the land.

We've got short pieces with both, the full episode, and long, lightly edited interviews with each guest.

Episode 4: J. Holden

Dec 8, 2018
J. Holden

J. Holden is a local poet and clinical psychologist who showed up in Mendocino County  just as legal LSD and the State Hospital in Talmage were winding down. He shares his memories of how back to the landers changed the way that life and death were done -- while finding their way back to traditional practices.

We'll hear about the wisdom of a rattlesnake, how water flows downhill, and what Holden learned about building homes and marriages.