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 19: Donna Montag

Mar 21, 2019

Donna Montag grew up in a wealthy catholic family in upstate New York.  After college she worked as a portfolios analyst on wall street, but was dissappointed with the dishonesty she experienced in that job. Searching for honesty and community she hitchhiked west to a commune in Oregon and never looked back. She arrived in Elk when she was twenty-six, met her husband and begam living off the land. When she gave birth to her daughter the idea of natural childbirth was gaining popularity, and some doctors were advocating for a natural approach to birth in hospitals.

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.